Red Tailin’

I’m notoriously bad at setting high standards, and thus, I am often let down. After I saw the trailer, I was ridiculously excited for Red Tails. I think you know where this is going.

Red Tails wasn’t really a bad movie, as long as you don’t go into it expecting it to be the next Top Gun, which it certainly was not. Now I’m no Ebert, and my favorite movies include the aforementioned Top Gun, just about anything Michael Bay (particularly Transformers and Pearl Harbor) and a narrow collection of RomComs (particularly Love Actually and Uptown Girls), so you might want to take my review with a grain of salt.

Coming from a girl who finds the line in Pearl Harbor where Ben Affleck says, “I’m not anxious to die, sir, just anxious to matter,” to be epic, it takes a lot for me to find movie scripts to to be cheesy. Red Tails had a lot of lines that really did that for me. For example …

“I sure hope we get their help again!”

“We fight, we fight, we fight!”

“My God, those pilots are African!”

“We’ll get them on the way back.”

Even I, a girl who favors RomComs and Michael Bay, found the storyline’s predictability unforgivable.

My poor taste in movies is why I’m not suggesting you just take my word for it. Check out reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, the Red Eye and the Chicago Tribune and decide for yourself!

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Guest Reply to “Take Me Out to the Movies”

**This is Kenny’s guest reply to my earlier post “Take Me Out to the Movies”**

My lovely girlfriend is perhaps too generous in her assessment of my taste in movies. Insofar as I think awards provide a good place to start looking for movies to see, I’m the kind of person for whom you write movies that win awards. Insofar as a good, exciting preview can get me in the theatre, I’m the kind of person for whom Michael Bay writes (Armageddon and Transformers are some of my not-so-guilty pleasures).

I’m not sure I see movies for the sake of the art; it’s more for the sake of enjoyment. Of all the movies discussed below, the only one I would classify as a movie I saw looking for “art” would be Shame. Going into the movie, I had a decent idea of what tone to expect, and so I knew to focus and think while I watched, something I would typically hope not to do after a week of law school. Usually, I go to the movies looking to be entertained and so that come award season, I don’t find myself thinking “damn, I really have a lot of movies to catch up on.”

I’ll provide my comments on the same films as Emily, and I think all will find we agree more than she expects. After these short reviews I’ll discuss the roots of the areas where we don’t agree.

Shame

I liked it.

When Emily first wrote her post, it had my feelings on the movies, and she branded me a lover of Steve McQueen’s cinematic tale of a sex addict on the brink of self-destruction. I liked it, but didn’t love it. I loved the realism of the long shots, and unlike Emily, I enjoy the feelings of tension brought on by the awkward scenes. Most importantly, I thought the climax of the film was wonderfully structured. Where some will no doubt see shock-value scenes, I saw a brilliantly directed depiction of a man on a bender. It walked a fine line, but I thought it walked the line well.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

I thought it was okay.

Tinker is quite noir, which was my least favorite aspect of it. I didn’t find myself connecting with any of the characters or caring about them beyond what was told to me. I enjoyed the spy story though! I’m a geek for this spy stuff, it really is as simple as that.

The Descendants

I thought it was okay.

I cared more about the characters in The Descendants than in Tinker, but the plot was lacking. Clooney did an impressive, but not award-worthy job. Moreover, as Emily pointed out after the film, his skills weren’t used to anything near their full range. What’s worst is that I believe I missed the big metaphor in the film, and if I didn’t then I just have no idea what the writers were going for.

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol

I loved it.

(See Emily’s description.)

Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

I liked it.

I read the book. Didn’t like the pacing too much, but generally it was an exciting thriller worthy of a watch. Good books like this probably deserve the two-part treatment more than they get it. I thought the Harry Potter 7 breakup — a slow road movie for the first part and an epic battle for the second part was ideal. Something similar for Dragon Tattoo would have been good. A more emotional drama culminating with Lisbeth branding her attacker as the climax of the first part (which could end on a cliffhanger revelation) and a fast-paced, more detailed thriller mystery for the second part would have been how I went.

Arthur Christmas

I liked it.

Great kid movie. The eponymous (*proper use*)  Arthur is annoying, but the supporting characters make it a funny and enjoyable movie.

New Year’s Eve

I thought it was okay.

My comments must be getting boring by now. These movies with six stories at once are pretty much guaranteed to give you exactly what you expect. With that many stories, they can’t go deep into the characters, but they’re given 12 characters for whom to write 6 relationships, and that guarantees enough room for some one-liners and for every audience member to fall in love with one story (even if it is the one where the nurse shows off her sexy dress via webcam to her boyfriend serving overseas — only in a movie like this could that catchall be thrown in to win over any doubting audience members).

J. Edgar

I liked it.

Jeez, I’m forgetting these older ones. I’m not a Clint Eastwood fanatic, so I went into this one unsure what kind of style to expect. I was disappointed with the make-up for making the characters look older, and this film provides a great example of where I found a scene many probably thought cinematically masterful to be awkward and misplayed. Why a “like” then? J. Edgar was a deep character, and while Eastwood might have displayed his depth more subtly (perhaps I missed the subtlety), I found myself intrigued throughout the film.

The Ides of March

I loved it.

I’m a philosopher at heart, and that means I ignore most of the grime in the pipes when I analyze politics — I look at the machine as an ideal, abstract system. Unfortunately, politics is about people, and people are imperfect; we’re corruptible. Ides of March captures the dark side of politics in such a fashion that we can’t help but believe the story is at its heart rooted in truth. Idealism clashes with pragmatism, and both clash with the most basic flaws of man.

Moneyball

I loved it.

What isn’t to love? 

It should be a bit clearer now that while Emily and I don’t see eye-to-eye on every film, we also aren’t so far from each other. I have a higher tolerance for the awkward, the out there, the uncomfortable, which helps explain why I liked Shame much more than Emily. I also recognized the film as one to be appreciated through reflection, something Emily doesn’t care much for when it comes to movies. Like she said, I like the game of analysis. I’m interested in why a cartoon plays on a TV in the background during one of the more tense scenes of the film. She simply doesn’t care, it doesn’t interest her. I don’t think my interests make me more thoughtful, however. 

Finally, you might look at how our differences reflect our backgrounds in other areas of life. I, for example, have spent my adult life studying mathematics, philosophy, and law — three of the disciplines most concerned with abstract structures. I see many, many pieces all around me and have a great passion for understanding the rules that govern their fitting together. Emily is a journalist, she sees stories to be told in the world around her. It is with good reason, then, that she should be frustrated when a storyteller makes it painstaking to pull some meaning from his work.

I hope this has been enjoyable — er, “emjoyable”. Hopefully Emily will have me guest post in the future, but on the off chance that you’re interested in my take on current events or the law, you can visit me over at klslawblog.tumblr.com.

Take Me Out to the Movies

To say that Kenny and I have different tastes in movies would be like saying that a notebook is different than an iPad. We watch the same movie, but we see two totally different films. I’m very surface-level, while Kenny is much more thoughtful. It’s not a real surprise, though. Kenny and I see our worlds in totally different ways.

He likes the “game”. He enjoys finding the meaning and purpose in film and cinematography, and I rarely dive below the plot line (largely because I often have a hard enough time figuring that out). He is the person for whom you write movies that win Oscars for. I’m the girl you write movies-that-no-one-remembers-in-three-years-except-me-because-I-was-the-only-person-who-bought-the-DVD for. I (unashamedly) like Michael Bay action movies and really sappy romances with Brittany Murphy. 

If you didn’t know me, you’d probably assume that Kenny and I would never go to movies together. You would be wrong. Kenny really enjoys seeing movies for the sake of art, and I really enjoy seeing movies because I really enjoy doing cute and cliche things. So we go to movies all the time — every Friday to be exact. 

Here’s a look back at some of the movies we’ve seen lately and my thoughts on each of them, so you can start to understand my taste in movies.

Shame
I hated it.
I did note and even kind of appreciate the long camera shots, but that’s about the extent of what I enjoyed about the movie. I felt really uncomfortable and awkward the whole time and found the whole movie very dull.  

Tinker Tailor Solider Spy
I hated it. 
I can’t even really comment on this movie because I have no idea what it was about. I tried to figure it out for a while, then I think I fell asleep for a while and then someone got shot and it was over. I do remember thinking it was very Film Noir. Sorry I’m not much help on that one. 

The Decedents
I hated it.
I thought it was incredibly boring, anti-climatic and sad. I think that the girl from Secret Life of an American Teenager (Shailene Woodley) did a great job in her role, but she was the only character I really got attached to. I feel like the movie was a bunch of really sad stories sewn together with a few surprisingly really funny one-liners.

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol
I loved it.
I had never seen any of the Mission: Impossible movies before, but I thought this one was fantastic! It was so intense! I loved all the fancy equipment and Jeremy Renner was hilarious! The scene at Burj Dubai was incredible on IMAX! I had a blast. I totally acted like a secret agent when I left the theater.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
I loved it.
I don’t know that I could watch this movie again, some scenes were really hard for me to watch the first time, but I thought it was riveting. It’s important to note that I did not read the book, but I was on the edge of my seat the whole time. I haven’t been really sucked into the world of a movie in a long time, and this movie really did that for me. After the climax though, the end seemed to drag on a bit.  

Arthur Christmas
I loved it.
“I can wrap anything with three pieces of sticky tape! Three!” I thought it was freaking adorable and not just because I’m a sucker for Christmas movies. It was this delightful mesh of Miracle on 34th Street and Mission Impossible. I thought it was a fresh take on Christmas, and I really wish that it was a bigger hit. 

New Year’s Eve
I (obviously) loved it. 
It was cheesy and predictable and pretty and perfect! Okay, not perfect, but I still loved it. It had all the makings of a perfect chick flick: a few pretty faces, a love-to-hate-then-back-to-love relationship and some well placed bad jokes. It was refreshing compared to some of the movies we’ve seen lately.

J. Edgar
I hated it.
I got really confused about the timeline on this movie, which comes back to the fact that I often have a hard time even following the basic plot of a movie. I thought this movie was pretty boring, too. No real story arch, just walking through J. Edgar’s life. I did think that Leo did a great job as an old man though. 

The Ides of March
I liked it.
This one was a while ago, so I don’t remember the details, but what I do remember was thinking that the ending was really abrupt and disappointing. I don’t really remember loving or hating it. It was your typical political drama.

Moneyball
I loved it.
I love baseball and I love Brad Pitt, so this one was an easy A. It was a heartwarming story about the little guys coming out on top. I love rooting for the underdog! I also didn’t know a lot about the actual Oakland team, so I felt like I was actually living the season as it happened. I thought it was great.

Music Showcase

I’m a sucker for live music. Unfortunately, I’ve been pretty broke lately so my show seeing has been kept to a minimal over the past few months. Luckily, my adventure Sunday at the Dave Barnes show reminded me just how much I love seeing live music. On top of that, I read a single, very short blog post that planted a very lovely thought in my head. 

“One of the most gratifying things for me as a songwriter is hearing a crowd sing a song back to me. The thing I love about simple pop songs like “Best Thing” is its ability to release people’s inhibitions and unite a group of otherwise strangers.” — Steve Moakler

Other than music being the soundtrack to our lives, music is capable of bringing out so much more in people. It can make this girl dance, and that’s no easy task. The point isn’t to tell you about how great music is or it’s impact on our lives, because everyone already knows that. The point is to share with you to a few artists that I’ve developed a soft spot for, and how recent events have led me to new loves and reminded me of old ones.

Steve Moakler
Steve (yes, we’re on a first name basis) opened for Dave Barnes at the concert last week and ended up to be a great find! I still haven’t been able to come down from the high of seeing him play live. Be sure to check out “Best Thing,” “This Ain’t Rock ‘n Roll” and “Hesitate” for the full range of his awesomeness. 

Angels & Airwaves
On Valentine’s Day 2010, the former (and I guess kind of still) punk rocker Tom DeLonge released an album rightfully called LOVE with his band, Angels & Airwaves. Not only is Angels & Airwaves by far the most amazing band name ever, but they also happen to be my favorite band ever. They are intelligent and constantly questioning what music is and what it means. The best I can describe them is “spacey.” On November 8, LOVE II was released and I can only image how epic it is bound to be. (I don’t have it yet because I thought it didn’t come out till 11/11 because I’m silly.) I will definitely keep you posted. In case you live under a rock and haven’t heard AvA, check out “Young London,” “Distraction” and “Everything’s Magic.”

Deas Vail
This adorable band that I used to be head-over-heals obsessed with actually fell off my radar recently. However, after announcing an upcoming tour called “Oh Christmas Tour,” you bet your bottom dollar that they jumped straight to the top of my list! A little back story on these guys is in store. The pianist is the cutest girl on the planet and married to the lead singer, and they wear their rings on chains around their necks when they play! Adorbs! Think it can’t get cuter? Look at this band pic!

Despite being adorable, they’re also incredibly talented. Bordering on indie-hipster music, Deas Vail breaks out of that mold with a dynamic song selection and an unmistakably unique voice. I’d recommend “Shoreline,” “White Lights” and “Birds.”

I’ll leave you with that for now! I want to be sure you actually listen to all these bands/artists, so I don’t want to overload you! Who should I check out!? (Other than the new AVA album, obviously.)

XOXO EmJoyable

Before today, I hadn’t seen an episode of Gossip Girl since January, when I was sleeping on a blowup mattress in my brother’s basement in NYC. So when I stumbled upon Season 4 on NetFlix this evening as my man was on his way out the door for the night, I knew exactly what was in store for my night: several solid hours of trashy TV served along with a side of cold pizza and a frosty glass of Grey Goose and Crystal Light.

As tempted as I was to push my blog aside for the night and indulge in a few of my guilty pleasures, I figured I’d just capitalize on my hours spent in front of the TV and post it here. I’ve decided to share with you the five most important things I learned from Gossip Girl over the years. 

5. Almonds with Yogurt 
I had heard of yogurt with granola, but yogurt with almonds was a GG gift. I never would have thought of the combo if it wasn’t for the episode when Jenny starts going crazy and sends her minions off to get her skinless almonds on her yogurt that she ends up dumping or Eric’s head. Either way, I came out with my new favorite breakfast — probably the best thing Jenny ever did for anyone.

4. Fashion 
I’ve never claimed to be very fashionable. I like simple things, like solids, stripes and bows. However, GG confirmed my beliefs that high-fashion isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be. Sometimes seeing the things these girls sport makes me feel like my navy cable-knit sweater (however boring it may be) reins superior. 

3. Tights
We all know how I feel about tights (and if you don’t, catch up here). So while I’ve always had a thing for this darling winter accessory, GG taught me to be a little more saucy with them. On top of my standard black, grey and sweater-knit tights, GG gave me the inspiration to add red, plaid and dark purple to the line-up. 

2. Fancy Cocktails
Since the GG bunch were sophomores in high school, they were sipping on top-shelf martinis in long-stem glasses on the steps of the Met. I’ve never quite had the pleasure of doing quite that, but I am such a sucker for anything that ends in -ini: appletini, frostini, flirtini, etc. A perfect night out requires a pair of black heels, freshly applied mascara and a drink with at least 3 different fruit-flavored liquors. 

1. Good friends
I know as well as anyone that best friends fight, sometimes even more than good friends. I have had my share of stay-up-crying-till-2AM, call-each-other-every-name-in-the-book, stomach-wrenching fights with really, really great friends, but it happens. But it shouldn’t happen weekly for five years. Even though Serena and Blair have had some really great friend moments, I would never push my best friend in a fountain. Sometimes you need to be around really crappy people just to feel better about your own life, and GG really fills that role for me. 

Blink 182 – Neighborhoods

When I was a freshman in college, I applied to be a reporter for the music section of buzz magazine — the arts and entertainment weekly at the University of Illinois. As part of my application, I had to write an album review of my favorite album (which back in 2007, was of course Boys Like Girls’ self-titled debut). I remember writing that review like it was yesterday. I sat in my dorm room, door locked, music blaring, typing away feverishly at my chunky desktop computer. I had no idea what I was doing, but what I did know was that I was going to a music reporter for Rolling Stone within the decade.

I got the job.

From the moment I got hired as a music reporter, I was planning my next steps to reach that goal at Rolling Stone. The first step was to be music editor at buzz. So I applied, I put together a (fairly pathetic, looking back) resume, poured my heart and soul into my cover letter, put on a pair of heels and went to my interview. 

I didn’t get the job. I ended up having to do that three times before they finally hired me, but come January of 2010, I got my access card and I was (finally) music editor. I was living the dream. 

I wrote a lot of album reviews, went to a ton of shows, developed some decent writers and a great (or at least much better) taste in music — and then I realized I didn’t love it. My heart wasn’t in it and I realized I didn’t know enough about the mechanics of music to be great music writer. What I did know was that whatever I did with my life, I wanted to be great at it. If music writing wasn’t it, I was going to cut that chord early and figure out what “it” was. 

That was all well and good until I picked up the new Blink 182 album, Neighborhoods. The gears started turning and familiar questions started coursing through my veins. I started reading up on the album, Tom DeLonge and the influences of his other band, Angels and Airwaves, on the album. So I wanted to write an album review for old times’ sake. Let’s see if I’ve still got this…

Blink 182 – Neighborhoods

By the time you’re 30, you better fucking know who you are and have something to say, otherwise you’re going through life not doing anything. — Tom DeLonge

If ever there was an album that so clearly demonstrates growing up, it would be this one. While victim of much harsh criticism (we’ll come back to this later), the album is much less “fifteen” and a lot more “thirty.”  The album doesn’t just explore new lyrical depth, it boasts experimental musical qualities (clearly remnants of DeLonge and side project, Angels and Airwaves) previously much less common with Blink.  It’s clear right off the bat that the punk-rock boys of Blink 182 are now men. 

It’s worth noting my relationship with Blink 182 and Angel’s and Airwaves, as it’s led to a fairly neutral perspective on both bands, especially in the aftermath of Neighborhoods and the soon-to-be-released Love Part II. I was hardly a punk-rock kid — despite my short stint with some pink hair in college — so I never had that connection with Blink 182 growing up. In fact, it was probably late high school/early college before I truly became a fan (2006 – 2008 range), and by that point, AvA was already alive and well. At the time, the two bands had a fairly clear line between them that has since grayed a bit.

This is important because I didn’t love Blink for helping me find myself as a lot of punk-rock kids did. I didn’t love Blink for being punk rockers, I loved them for songs like “I Miss You” and “Feeling This.” I loved blink for their edge that I so clearly did not have. They said “fuck” a lot and I didn’t — they were cooler.  Then I looked to AvA when I wanted some thing more, something a little deeper both lyrically and musically.

 Neighborhoods is this weird mesh of them both. There’s songs like “Hearts All Gone” that is very classic Blink, songs like “Ghost on the Dance Floor” sound like they belong on the new AvA record and then “Natives,” that sounds like a perfect offspring of both bands. Any teenager who wanted another hardcore album was naive if they seriously thought that would come out of this band after what they’ve gone through over the past few years. They’re not the angry, screw-the-corporate-system kids that made Take Off Your Pants and Jacket. After the break up, they hated each other! While that’s all over and done now, you can’t go back to where you were before that without changing. To produce another album that was the same would denying the years that they’ve been through — no one stays fifteen forever. 

People didn’t like that though. Fans wanted the old Blink. To those fans, I suggest reading a great interview with DeLonge on Absolute Punk. Basically, he reiterates the growth that went into the new album, the purpose behind it and the relationship between Blink and AvA. He’ll say it better than I could.

Despite the critics, who will always be there no matter what you do, the album cuts to an important truth. The purpose of music as a whole is to give people something to think about — use a lot of words, notes and rhythms to bring meaning to things we can’t always understand, things like “love” and “pain.” While this album might not be as hard or ground breaking as their old albums, it still has the same purpose that Blink has always had: helping people figure shit out. It’s honest, which at the very core, is what Blink has always been about. 

The “Em”my’s

I realize that I am by no means qualified to make a sound argument about the ranking of TV shows, given that I had never watched a full season of TV (other than Dawson’s Creek in 7th grade) before I started dating my boyfriend in February 2010, but it will not stop me from trying. I figured I could provide a different spin on the traditional Emmy winners, and give out my own “Em”my’s” (Get it? Since my name’s Emily? Too much?). In the past year and a half, I’ve watched more TV than my whole life combined. I’ve picked up on a few things here and there, I’ve developed a mild criticism for character and plot development, and most importantly, I’ve learned what I like and what I don’t like.

                    

So in the eyes of a self-diagnosed “newb,” I present to you the winners of the first (possibly) annual “Em”my Awards.

Best Show That I Totally Missed: Grey’s Anatomy
I’m not sure what I was doing in 2005, but I was among the few people not falling in love with Meredith Grey. I hear the show gets bad, but so far I’m only at the part where she gets all cute and doped up on Morphine (S3,E5).

Sneak Attack: Lost
I thought that Lost sounded like the dumbest concept for a show in the history of the planet. I never expected to like Lost, and in fact, I almost didn’t ever get the chance to find out since the crash scene in the pilot almost made me throw up. But I powered through it, and it soon became the first TV show I watched in full — and I loved it.

Most Addicting: 24
I swear there were a few seasons of 24 that I only moved to get food and coffee or to shower.  

Most Overrated Series: Breaking Bad
I just could not hop on this bandwagon. There was barely a character on the show that I could even tolerate (and she died!), let alone one that I actually liked. The season-long arch’s were underwhelming and the “craziness” of the show just never really appealed to me. Pass!

Best Comedy: Modern Family
Apparently even the real TV critics agree with me on this one, so no need for me to state the obvious.

Funniest Comedy: Wizards of Waverly Place
Alex is so witty! It just never gets old! I’m not even embarrassed about this one. Salena Gomez and I would totally be friends if she ever gave me a shot.

Most Lovable Character: Leslie Knope (Parks and Recreation) and Claire Littleton (Lost)
I had a really hard time deciding this one. While there are no ties in the real Emmy’s, there are ties in the “Em”my’s and the winner is BOTH of these lovely leading ladies. Leslie Knope for her adorable energy and dedication to cute things — that’s my kind of girl! Claire for being adorable, Australian and the only one willing to give Charlie a real chance — she’s just genuinely nice, and I support that.

Boomerang: How I Met Your Mother
 HIMYM
started out phenomenal, went through a dry streak, but managed to come back strong this season. The show is finally starting to get back to the roots that it strayed away from last season, including Ted’s hopeless romanticism. The comedy is funnier, the story lines are stronger and season is already better than all of last season combined — and it’s only just starting.

Best Drama: Mad Men
Mad Men was a weird one because I was never particularly excited to see the next episode, but as soon as I started one I couldn’t turn away. It’s also just really pretty to watch. This show is really proof of how little I know about TV; I can’t pinpoint why I love it or what makes it good, but I just know that it is. 

Guilty Pleasure: Gossip Girl
I will always love Serena; Blaire and Chuck belong together; and I miss Jenny Humphrey before she went dark-eye crazy. I love the he-said-she-said bullshit because it makes me feel better about my life. I think that’s okay. 

Show I Really Need to Finish: Damages
I only watched the first season, but it was fantastic! I hear that the later seasons aren’t as good, so I’m hesitant to move forward, but I really do need to watch it anyway.

Cutest Couple: Troy and Abed (Community)
Come on! They’re hilarious! I’d say they’re one of the main reasons I love Community. Those bits at the end of the credits? Solid gold.

Thanks, folks! See you next year!