Movie Review: Contagion (2011) The Long & Short of It

The short review: All human beings are selfish and will try to make a buck off of anything; the selfless will die unless immune. Oh, and wash your hands, cook your meat, and do not commit adultery. Thank you.

A longer review:

One cheating woman almost brings down all of civilization while one virtuous one saves what’s left of it in Contagion. As much as contagion is the story of an outbreak of a disease, it’s also the story of how crisis reveal our true nature as human beings, and it’s not always from our best sides.

The movie begins with one sick (literally) woman on her way home from a business trip overseas with a stop-over to meet up with her lover. Once she is home, she greets her husband and son, infecting more folks, then proceeds to get sicker. Queue montage of people in China (where she is coming back from), Chicago (where her layover was) and somewhere in Minnesota (where she lives) getting sick and dying.

Once this epidemic comes to the attention of the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization, things only get worse. The CDC decides to play it cautious, telling everyone to wash their hands and other practical things people ignore every day. The WHO tracks the dissemination of the disease to the cheating wife (played by Gwenyth Paltrow) in China. Both send women (Kate Winslet for the CDC and Marie Cotillard for the WHO) out to find those infected, disseminate information, set up treatment facilities and quarantine areas, and report back to their bosses. Meanwhile, back at the lab, brillant minds are months away from a cure while a vicious virus is eating its way through humanity at an alarming level.

Enter an annoying journalist, played by Jude Law, the CDC director played by Laurence Fishburne, his young fiancée played by Sanaa Lathan, a bewildered widower played by Matt Damon, and all the faces of humanity trying to survive. People begin to do the usual things we do in crisis (at least in the movies): kill, loot stores, take advantage of people, barricade ourselves in our homes; you know, the usual.

It seems that the real disease in this movie is not so much the virus as it is the politics of those who oversee disease control and world health, their selfish motives and political maneuvering, as well as the way we not only tend to look out for ourselves in a crisis, but we tend to try to sabotage everyone else. But then there are those whose compassion and caring help others, who keep their humanity. These people either die or get sabotaged.

What worked in this movie: This movie had some great actors doing great acting. The acting fleshed out a pretty linear story and gave it some heart. Jude Law and Kate Winslet really stood out among the best actors in the movie.

What didn’t work: The rushed explanation of what actually caused the outbreak. At that point, I didn’t really have to know what caused the outbreak. Certainly the health organizations hadn’t figured it out. Once I knew what it was it made sense, but if they were going to show it…I don’t know. I just feel like it could have been done better.

Plot: This movie is pretty low on plot. It’s more of a character study of who people really are with the right motivation…or the wrong motivation. People get a virus and then they die. Some people that work for the health bureaus try to find a cure. Panic ensues. –Your plot in a nutshell.

However, this works for this movie. It’s not the movie to see for fast paced action, but it works if you want to see a good movie that provokes thought.. and gets people to wash their hands.

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Source Code (2011)

Source Code is a movie starring Jake Gyllenhaal as a soldier who wakes up in another man’s body aboard a train that is going to explode…a lot.

The premise of this movie is that some government group has discovered and developed a technology that allows them to access a mental source code–the eight minutes of photographic memory & the synaptic pathways of the brain that, when accessed, can allow someone to “live” someone else’s last eight minutes. But that’s all high level and besides the point. The point is, the person who gets to live this other person’s last mentally recorded moments has to be the same height and build and have very similar synaptic pathways in their brain, and it’s lucky for us that Colter Stevens fits the bill.

You see, the bombing on the train was just the first target. Now they’re going after the city of Chicago. It’s up to Colter to keep reliving this man on the train’s last eight minutes until he can find the bomber so the next attack can be prevented.

Before my review, two things: 1) why is Chicago now the go to city to destroy/blow up? Is it sensitivity to the 9/11 ten year anniversary, or the quest to make new buildings go boom that we haven’t seen ten thousand times? and 2) Ever since Vantage Point, I’ve seen too many movies use this continuous loop of slightly different action. It was innovative in Vantage Point; now it’s just annoying.

If I had to choose an actor to act in a box, it wouldn’t be Jake Gyllenhaal. If I had to pick a soldier to act in a box–still wouldn’t be him. The movie could have benefit from a different casting choice in this central role. Not that Gyllenhaal was all that bad–he has just enough fight and scrappiness to make his meager allotment of story work– but it all depends on him being confused about what’s happening through the most of the film, and his selfish desires through the rest. I grew weary of him interrrupting the pressing quest to find the bomb with his side mission to…well, if you watch it, you’ll see. He conveyed the right emotions, but in a few places, it was a little wooden, like a dancer whose face reflects that they are counting in their head.

The supporting characters were great, even if ninety percent of them had no clue what was going on and were just in the last eight minutes of some random guy’s life.

The action was a bit subpar. They didn’t exploit the tension of the time constraint enough, nor were we able to see a protracted explosion shot. The special effects of things going boom were a bit cheesy in places.

What saves this movie from blah is the supporting cast, hemmed by Michelle Monaghan & Vera Farmiga. These two women, one clueless to what’s going on and one who knows more than everyone else, made the movie enjoyable. You desperately wanted one to be saved and the other to…well, you’ll see if you watch the movie.

Short review: I hated the loops and there wasn’t enough action, but the acting made the movie worth a rental.

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Something Borrowed (2011): The Long & Short of it

The Short Review: This movie sucked! A few good laughs, but no substance. That is all.

The Long Review: Something Borrowed is the story of how Rachel is pulled in two different directions when she falls in love with her best friend Darcy’s fiancé, Dex. I had heard bad things about this movie, but a) I love romantic comedies and b) it has the girl from He’s Just Not That Into You, who does awkward/embarrassing romantic comedy girl SO much better than Katherine Heigl. The story is based on a best selling book, which I heard was wonderful. Also, since it was Tuesday, it was $.75. I could have gone to see Limitless or The Lincoln Lawyer, but where’s the fun in that, right?

I wanted to like this movie. I really, really wanted to. I did like some parts of it. The supporting cast who played Ethan, Marcus, and Carla were hilarious. But in the end, the story just wasn’t right.

It was a stretch to believe that these two had been pining for each other for over six years–well, to believe that he’d been pining away for her. The romantic tension wasn’t there. Neither was anyone’s shame. It didn’t seem to bother Dex to go from sleeping with Rachel to sleeping with Darcy (in loud pornographic stereo). He seemed to be more concerned with what his father thought (and then only marginally so) than he was with Darcy’s feelings. The movie seemed to be saying that since Darcy was self-centered and attention seeking, it was alright to creep behind her back. They tried to make Darcy just as culpable as these two, who had a lot of time to decide whether or not to date before Darcy entered into it. By not having them seem torn about what they were doing, it was hard to make it believable there was anything standing in their way of being together.

Dex (played by a taller, blue eyed version of Tom Cruise in Top Gun) was robotic and stiff. Darcy (played by Kate Hudson) was played a little over the top. Somewhere, Hudson lost that loveable quality she had in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. I didn’t feel properly sorry for her. When I mentioned this movie, one of my coworkers likened the premise to My Best Friend’s Wedding. I immediately remembered how likeable Cameron Diaz was as the bride to be, how that made this whole thing all the worse. You couldn’t completely root for Julia’s character–she was wrecking a nice girl’s life. Then again, she’d loved him since childhood. Then again…All of that was missing here, when it should have been even more prevalent, as Rachel was the BRIDE’s best friend as well as friends with the groom.

Thanks to the supporting cast, I laughed a lot during this movie. But I didn’t feel the romance. I wasn’t sold on Rachel being with Dex, or Dex ending up with Darcy. The dilemma they tried to create for Dex wasn’t gripping. I’ve never seen or read The Notebook, but the tension in that love triangle thing glimpsed in just a short preview blows this out of the water.

I didn’t feel they did a good job of ending the movie either. There were too many loose ends, such as Dex’s situation with his family, and the friendship between Rachel & Darcy. This movie didn’t finish; it just ended.

Yet another weak offering in the romantic comedy genre. I’m still waiting for a return to the classic storytelling and well rounded characters the genre used to have.

Overall Rating: C- (points for great supporting characters)

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What I’m Looking Forward to: Rizzoli & Isles

The summer isn’t my favorite TV season; in fact, the summer is when I switch to movies. I am all about the summer blockbuster: rippling man muscles, action, adventure, CGI overload, random product placement, all covered in movie theater butter for my enjoyment. But TNT always manages to throw in a mid-summer sleeper show that makes it on my must watch list. Usually, it’s The Closer (I mean, come on, who can resist Kyra Sedgwick as Brenda Leigh Johnson?), but I’ve had to add another this year: Rizzoli & Isles.

I remember watching the first episodes of this show when it premiered. I already knew the show would be a success, starring two of my favorite women from other shows (Law & Order and NCIS). Even though I think he’s on another show this season, I am still holding out hope that Donnie Wahlberg will come back and make my life complete as a love interest on this show (there’s just something about Donnie that I like on TV…even if he doesn’t have Mark’s abs).

In case you want to tune in with 2blu, Rizzoli & Isles returns on July 12th to TNT (they know drama, lol).

I haven’t read up much on the new shows, but I’ve heard really good things about Jada Pinkett Smith’s hospital drama, HawthoRNe. I saw one episode last year sometime and it looked great, but like something I need to see from the beginning (hello, Netflix queue!). My DVR is waiting, so tell me, who or what are you looking forward to this season?

P.S. I finally got my massive DVD collection from Michigan, so look forward to some throwback movie reviews and posts on my favorites!

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Jumping the Broom Movie Review

Cover of "The Inkwell"
Jumping the Broom is this…with a wedding. Cover of The Inkwell

Source

Jumping the Broom tells the story of a young woman, Sabrina Watson (played by Paula Patton) who just wants to fall in love and get married, but always ends up with losers. She makes a hilarious promise to God if he will just send her the one. Her prayers seem to be answered when she hits the perfect man, Jason Taylor(played by Laz Alonzo) with her car. After a whirlwind romance, they get engaged and decide to marry at her parent’s home on Martha’s Vineyard. Her parents (Angela Bassett and Brian Stokes Mitchell) love him. She loves him. There’s just one tiny issue; they haven’t met his family.

If you’re like me, you are wondering how someone can neglect to meet their future in-laws until a day or two before the wedding. Don’t worry about this; you’ll find out eventually. In the beginning, allow yourself to be carried along by the movie. The filmmakers do a wonderful job of setting up the tensions and conflicts, showing you where there may be secrets without giving away too much of what those secrets are. It adds to the shock of the revelations as they slowly but surely come out.

Jumping the Broom is a character study in intraracial relations and the things that divide us. This film touches on socioeconomic divisions within the Black community in a way I haven’t seen since The Inkwell. The movie explores the different traditions, foods, and education of the Black elite versus the Black working class. The bride’s family speaks French, goes to Yale, and vacations in Martha’s Vineyard. The groom’s mother (played by Loretta Devine) is a postal worker in Brooklyn who is known for her sweet potatoe pies. It’s rare that you get to see both of these sides to Blacks and our culture onscreen. We are finally presented not as a monolith, but with the diverse socioeconomic and sociocultural characteristics that African-Americans encapsulate.

Although both matriarchs can come off as archetypal at times and the two lovebirds are emotional weathervanes, swinging from love to angry resentment with each little tiff, the supporting characters are, for the most part, well fleshed out. I was skeptical at the thought of Mike Epps and DeRay Davis in the same movie. I thought for sure that tomfoolery the likes of which would make even Tyler Perry shake his head were going to ensue, but both of these gentlemen surprised me. They showed more depth than I gave them credit for. It was also nice to see the former CSI castmember, Gary Dourdan, again as the chef for the wedding and Percy Romeo Miller (formerly known as Lil’ Romeo) as the cougar chasing Yale student. Sidenote: Why is Tasha Smith playing a cougar again? I know she plays it well, but I’d love to see her do more.

The great importance that this movie gave to the tradition of jumping the broom is understandable, but I don’t think they did as good of a job of conveying anything more than the passion the mother’s personal request. What does it mean to Black people as a whole? To be honest, I’ve only been to one wedding where they jumped the broom, and all I know of it is the where it comes from. How many of us do it?

I liked the opening montage of all of the couples getting married (and I clearly spotted the eighties picture–long live the jheri!). Other minor touches I loved were Geneva (played by Valarie Pettiford, Big DeeDee from Half & Half), the wedding planner, and the opening scene.

I would give this movie a B overall. At times, there were a bit too many subplots moving at the same time. They could have done without the subplot between the Watsons. Scenes between Geneva and Mrs. Watson were a little melodramatic and strained. There was a misstep or two in the dialogue there. Other than that, I found this to be a thoroughly enjoy movie.

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Watch Instantly on Wednesday

My other new thing will be this Watch Instantly on Wednesday Netflix watch instantly selection each week. Since I hadn’t thought of it until I saw they had a particularly great movie yesterday, I’ll give you this week’s movie today. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to watch this movie by Wednesday and leave your thoughts in the comment section. We will be discussing the themes of the movie, the best scenes, the best performances, whether or not we liked it, and whatever else you want to say about the film.

This week’s selection is: The Burning Bed. This movie is based on the true story of a Michigan woman. It contains some scenes of intense violence and will probably make you all types of mad. Farrah Fawcett proved she was a serious actress with this one. It was originally a made for TV movie. You can start sharing your thoughts as soon as you’ve seen it, and I’ll remind you on Monday to watch and comment.

Don’t forget about the Tune in with 2blu inaugural participation contest over the weekend. There might be a giveaway involved!

P.S. Who’s down to watch Rockadoodle with me? Anyone?

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Tune in With 2blu!

I’m starting a new tradition: Tune in with 2blu. It’s kinda like Watch with Kristin, but a) it rhymes and b)It’s not relegated to TV only. I watch a lot of things and I want some interaction, so here’s my first attempt to blog regularly and get your opinions on things. That brings me to this weekend.

Finally, the movie gods are smiling on me. There are actual movies I want to see coming out this weekend! Yay! 😀 Here are my top three picks for the weekend:

1. Jumping the Broom: Finally, a positive black romantic comedy/predominately Black cast without Tyler Perry (I appreciate you, Tyler, but I’m estatic to see a new type of comedy)! Not only that, they have Angela Bassett AND Loretta Divine. Paula Patton is also starting to grow on me, after seeing her in Just Wright.

2.) Thor: I love these superhero action movies. Whether it’s Iron Man, The Green Hornet, Batma, Hancock, X-men, or Spiderman, me and the boyfriend see it in theaters. Whether or not the story is good, it’s guaranteed to be special effect laden and have great crowds opening weekend.

3.) Something Borrowed: Even though I haven’t read the book, if you say romantic comedy and give me a good enough story line, I’m in. Throw in that girl from He’s Just Not That Into You (who’s always adorable), Kate Hudson, and Jon Krasinki (sp?), and I will gladly spend a couple hours laughing and sighing along.

Of course, I  probably won’t get to all of those this week. So I need your help with this first Tune in with 2blu. Which of these movies are you/would you go see? What should I spend my (the bf’s) money on?

Since we’re going to the movies together, who wants to stop at Coldstone’s after? To let me know you participated, just send me a picture of your ticket stub(s), a thumbs up/thumbs down, and your Coldstone creation (should you indulge) by Monday at 5pm, and I’ll feature you on Tune in with 2blu Tuesdays! Just leave a link to your post about it in the comments, or send picture(s) to: 2blu2btru4u@gmail.com.

This is going to be so much fun!

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New TV Obsession: Mob Wives

VH1 wanted in on the Housewives action that everyone seems to be cashing into these days. They started out with the usual formula of rich women who aren’t necessarily wives that get together and cause drama with Basketball Wives and Football Wives. They moved into the music arena with Love & Hip Hop. But they have added a twist with their latest batch of wives on the reality show, Mob Wives.

The first thing you may notice about Mob wives that’s a little different is that all of the men are incarcerated. Even though not much is made of men in other housewife-centric shows, there aren’t any men in this show at all (René’s husband, who was free, is arrested in a recent episode). These women are raising children and getting into drama alone.

The second thing that’s different is that René is seen going to therapy–a lot. I’m sure other housewives on other shows have been to therapy, but for them most of their therapy advice either comes from their girlfriends or their spouses. Aside from Drita and Carla, the other women don’t talk to each other much. Each one is dealing with their own issues with few people to turn to.

A description of this show that I read said it was Jersey Shore meets the Real Housewives of New Jersey. There’s only one problem with that: these people are real mob people. Most people know who Sammy “the bull” Gravano is. I happen to know who René Graziano’s father is. Carla’s husband is in jail for a white collar stock-related crime (what this has to do with the mob, I don’t know, but I don’t doubt it could be related) and Drita’s husband went to jail for bank robbery (this time; we don’t know what he went to jail for the first time). This women are hard women. They curse like sailors, fight like men, and lead their families. Maybe one New Jersey housewife is like that, but as far as we know, she’s just a coddling mother, not a mob wife. And what about them says Jersey Shore? I don’t watch JS, so I don’t know.

What works with this show is the fact that the drama is real. I don’t mean “real” as in “authentic” (it is still reality TV). I mean “real” as in it’s not petty stuff (so far). René has conflicting feelings of loyalty to the lifestyle she was brought up in and what she really feels in her heart about Karen. Karen is searching to make sense of her childhood and growing up as Sammy “the bull’s” daughter. Drita is dealing with the possibility her husband may not come home for more years than she bargained for. Carla is ending her marriage and trying to shelter her kids from the reality of where their father really is. There aren’t any petty fights (again, so far) about someone’s dress, spreading rumors, whether or not someone is a golddigger, when someone got pregnant, if someone really is rich…Now, the drama between Karen and Drita that’s simmering over the man issue? Well, I am still wrapping my head around that one!

What doesn’t work as well for me is…well…Carla. I’m just not liking her. I don’t think she’s authentic. I think Drita could possibly be the person on camera. The same with René. Karen is a little over the top sometimes, but I feel like that bravado is because she can’t afford to appear intimidated. But I just can’t warm up to Carla. She seems manipulative and two faced sometimes. Also, René, stop talking to A.J. as if he’s your counselor/friend and be his mother! And why are you letting him talk to you like that? The scenes with the therapist, while different, could mostly be cut, too. But that’s just my opinion.

Overall, it’s interesting enough for a slow television night. If you like any of the other housewives shows, you should give this one a shot.

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New TV Obsession: Pregnant in Heels

Photograph of abdomen of a pregnant woman

Image via Wikipedia

*First of all, I would like to acknowledge how hard it’s been for me to stay away from reality TV shows on this blog! It’s ridiculous, really, to purposefully exclude them. I watch a lot of them, and I’m sure you do, too! I don’t like the game show ones, like The Bachelor or Survivor, but I love other ones.

The minute I heard the concept for Pregnant in Heels, I thought to myself “self, how in the world did they find someone to do that, and why would I be interested in watching her?” Well, I should have known the answer to the former question. Where do we get people to do the services jobs we don’t want to do these days, like raising our children, answering our door,  or teaching us how to get a job? England, or course. They have such dignified and competent servants over there. Those people understand how to cater! *I am not being racist, or country-ist, with that statement. I love English people. Some of my favorite actors are Englishmen and women, and my high school friend is marrying someone from…oh, wait, no, that’s Wales. moving on…*

When I saw Rosie Pope, I knew I would love her and her show. She combines some of the best things I like about all of those British Nanny shows: she’s tough, she’s firm, her main interest is the baby. She’s fashionable and cute. Her staff is quirky. She takes every request, no matter how zany, completely seriously. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Pregnant in Heels is a show that follows the life of Rosie Pope, maternity concierge. If you have no idea what a maternity concierge is, you are not alone. According to the show, Rosie designs maternity clothes and has a maternity boutique. She realized there was this hole in the market in regards to pregnant women and decided to expand her business to fill it. *I suspect the hole was there because no one but OB/GYNs, prenatal yoga instructors, private pre-school administrators, and expectant fathers want to deal with spoiled hormonal pregnant women.* What exactly does a maternity concierge do? Whatever an expectant mother wants, like developing a think tank and a focus group for a baby name, or bring in a counselor to help a mother get used to the idea of sharing her space and her life with a baby. She could help you find a personal assistant. Whatever needs doing before baby. She also visits and snuggles newborns.

The backstory to the maternity concierge herself is compelling as well. Something is wrong with her uterus (it’s heart shaped, I believe). She has one miracle baby, a two year old son, and is trying for another using IVF (in vitro fertilization). The show makes much of the irony of a maternity concierge struggling to get pregnant. My counselor aunt would have a field day.

What works for this show is that you can see Rosie’s heart. She really cares for these people and their baby. She looks deeper than just the surface issue they come to her with. She also has an English sense of humor and comes up with creative ways to address any problem.

What doesn’t work for me is that assistant, the one with the hair. He is too much of a lot of things, I tell you. Why do we never see the woman who works for Rosie do anything but calling Rosie? But other than those minor details I’m enjoying this show.

This show is like Runway Moms with more structure and a story arc. You get to see the struggles that successful women have (most with reality) when trying to prepare for baby. I love babies (no, I don’t have any, and I’m not planning to any time soon, but I love them), so any show about them that doesn’t involve commands to push and doesn’t show lots of blood and babies with alien head (or, “new born, ‘my skull is still soft and flexible’, ‘I’ve been squeezed out of a really tight place and look like an alien’ ” head) is a winner in my book.

Another of my reality favs, which I may write about, is hinted at in the related articles. 😉

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TV on DVD Made Simple–Thanks, Netflix!

A little while ago, Netflix decided to change the way they organize their TV on DVD watch instantly selections. Before, you used to have to look up each season individually to see what Netflix had available and/or to watch the next season of your show of choice. Now that’s a thing of the past. Netflix began putting the seasons of TV shows together in a more user friendly bundle. Now, when you click on Lost, for example, all of the episodes that are available to watch instantly are all there in one place–every season flowing one into the other from the same page.

This is big new for someone who spends a lot of time catching up on TV through Netflix. This makes Netflix the best place to catch up on episodes. I can go from episode to episode across seasons without leaving the viewer. My On Demand doesn’t allow me to do that. Now if only CBS would stop ruining my life and allow episodes of their shows to be available to watch instantly, my life would be complete (I mean really, why should I have to wait for episodes of The Mentalist and NCIS in my mail? That’s preposterous!)

How do you get your TV? Do you go on to the official website and stream? Do you use Hulu? Do you use On Demand or DVR episodes? Do you use Netflix? Or do you watch TV the old fashioned way–on TV at the time it airs?

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