Over the last week, I’ve watched a bunch of movies, from the sublimely good to the sublimely awful …

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

This is one of my favorite movies of all time, and it’s about half of the reason that I first fell in love with Richard Burton.  I saw it for the first time in high school; we saw it in our psychology class as an example of a love-hate relationship.  In simple terms, this is the story of an older couple that invites a younger couple over to their home.  All of the action takes place during one night, and it ends as the sun is coming up, kind of like Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night (which is something else I first experienced in high school and grew to love).  In more complicated terms, this is an emotionally gruelling story.  I can only handle watching this film once every couple of years, because every time I do I feel like I woke up in a ditch after being run over by a car the night before.  I rented this movie from the library for two reasons — because my boyfriend had never seen it (!!!) and because we’re going to be seeing the play on Broadway in January.  And yes, I’ll probably need him to carry me home from the theater … or at the very least we’ll need to stop at the Shake Shack afterwards to lift my spirits and repair my psyche.

Mansome

I’d been hearing about this documentary for a while now, mostly from the Adam Carolla podcast, and when I saw that it was available on Netflix instant I decided to give it a try.  Much of the film is composed of interviews with ordinary men and women, barbers, actors, musicians, sociologists, fashion consultants, professional wrestlers, and even a competitive beard-growing champion (yes, there is such a thing).  A lot of celebrities appear in this movie, including Morgan Spurlock, Will Arnett, Jason Bateman, Adam Carolla, and Zach Galifinakis.  This film is both entertaining and educational, and definitely worth checking out.

Katy Perry: Part of Me

Before you start complaining that I’m wasting your time with such a fluffy movie, first I’m going to tell you to hush and then I’m going to tell you that it was work-related.  I was planning to show this film at a teen movie program at my library, and we’re supposed to watch the DVDs first to make sure that the disc works and that there isn’t any “objectionable” content.  Well, I was pretty sure that a PG movie wasn’t going to be too objectionable, but I watched it anyway just to make sure that the disc was okay.  What I found was a sweet, sad, and uplifting movie that gave me a better sense of who this person was while exposing me to more of her music.  There were a lot of great songs, which I expected, and there was also a lot of crying, which I didn’t expect.  But the film covered her life while she was on tour, and it was during that tour that her marriage to Russell Brand fell apart.  And those shots of her crying transformed this from a simple and fluffy movie about a pop superstar to a portrait of someone who pushed herself to live up to her fans’ expectations while dealing with grief and exhaustion.

Birdemic: Shock and Terror (RIFFTRAX LIVE!)

Birdemic: Shock and Terror is one of the most painfully funny bad movies out there.  By which I mean … bad acting, bad editing, bad sound, bad directing, bad special effects … you get the idea.  Going to see the live satellite feed of the Rifftrax crew tearing this abominable film apart, while surrounded by hundreds of bad-movie fans at the Regal Union Square theater, was a singularly hilarious experience.  Birdemic is already a laugh-out-loud movie, but seeing it this way just made us laugh harder.  BTW, if you’d like to recreate the experience we had, you can order an mp3 of the Rifftrax commentary (you’ll have to get your own copy of the movie, though).

Cloud Atlas

I spent the past two weeks reading this book in preparation for watching the film this weekend and then discussing it on a movie-review podcast.  First off, reading the book by David Mitchell was both an amazing and exhausting experience.  I understood the concerns that critics thought this was an “unfilmable” book, and honestly I haven’t had to concentrate so hard on reading a book since I was in college.  It’s hard to even summarize what the book is about, other than to say that it’s a series of stories that take place at different times in history, spanning over centuries (sometimes you’re not exactly sure what year it is, and you’re hazarding your best guess).  The stories are connected in different and often surprising ways.  I can’t even tell you that this book has a happy ending or a sad ending, because some stories end well and some end tragically.  But in the end, my mind felt expanded, or at the very least stretched out into new directions.

Anyway … on to the movie.

Pick up a copy of the book.  Rip out all the pages.  Then reassemble the pages.  That’s the jist of the movie.  There are some other differences — a few of the storylines get happier endings, and there’s an extra framing sequence added to the beginning and the end of the story.  The chronology is more precise (you at least have a better sense of WHEN the action is taking place).  My favorite storyline in the book, the one about the fabricant named Sonmi 451, was still my favorite in the movie.  And as an added benefit, it was absolutely GORGEOUS to behold.  Overall, I enjoyed this film a lot, but I didn’t love it.  I think that my familiarity with the book was both a help and a hindrance — a help because I understood more of the story, but a hindrance because I was flustered by the order in which the story was told, and kept thinking things like, ” … but … I didn’t find THAT out until page 400!”  While it’s not a perfect film, I definitely recommend watching it because it is both awesome and … you know … AWESOME.  Just try to keep your mind open and flexible when you go to the theater, and you’ll definitely have a unique movie-going experience.

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