Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Movie Review: Green Street Hooligans (2006)

Movie Title: Green Street Hooligans
Alexi Alexander
Actor(s): Elijah Woods, Charlie Hunnam
Language: English
Subtitles (on dvd): English, Spanish, French
Rated: R (violence, language)
Genre: Drama/Indie
Run Time: 109 mins
DVD Release Date: 13 June 2006
My Rating:

Synopsis: A wrongfully expelled Harvard undergrad moves to London, where he is introduced to the violent underworld of soccer hooliganism.

**The following review may contain SPOILERS**

My Review: Okay so many of you may be wondering why I am reviewing this movie. Green Street Hooligans is one of those rare gems that I have heard other people talking about here and there but never got around to watching it. I was in FYE the other day and saw the dvd sitting on the shelf for $6.99 and figured it was a sign since a few months ago I couldn't get the movie for under $12.99 (hey, I am a collector so I know when to be cheap and when to suck it up and buy a flick, hehe).

That being said, while I am years late in watching the movie, I am at least proud of myself for viewing it within 48 hours of its purchase. Many of you already know that I have a habit of buying a movie or book and then it collects dust on my shelf until the mood strikes. =/ Well the mood was definitely there and I have to admit that the two main lead actors are part of the reason for my quick watch time.

Elijah Wood (of Lord of the Rings fame as well as many older films in which he starred as a child such as The Good Son) plays Matt Muckner, a talented Harvard grad student that is wrongfully expelled two months before he is supposed to receive his diploma. I am not going to get into the reason for his expulsion because that would be giving away too much of the plot. Suffice to say, after this devastating blow he has nothing better to do then to take a trip to London where his sister Shannon resides with her English husband and their toddler son. While his sister is happy to see him, there is definitely a tension between them and it is revealed that the siblings have had a rough childhood together with the loss of their mother and their almost estranged father.

Before the siblings can really get reacquainted, Shannon's husband Steve comes home from work. He doesn't seem to have any issues with Matt's sudden arrival but tells him when they have a moment alone that he had something special planned for him and his wife. And this is when we are introduced to Charlie Hunnam's character, Pete, Steve's younger rebel brother. Pete comes through the back door into the kitchen like a storm, without knocking and without hesitation. He is there to ask his big brother for some money, something that you can tell he does quite often. Steve is obviously annoyed because of the tension Pete creates in Shannon and the dripping sarcasm he uses towards Matt. But Steve gets his little revenge by making Pete "babysit" Matt so that he can spend quality time with his wife. On the way out the door he gives Matt money and tells him no matter what, do NOT give Pete the loot. Within seconds of both young men venturing outside and down the street, Pete tries to intimidate Matt in giving him the cash. Surprisingly, Matt holds his ground even when it turns a little physical.

Pete says, " So I'm guessing you're not much of a fighter?"
Matt's surprised reply: "Fighter? That's probably the first fight I ever had."
"You call that a fight,"
Pete says with amusement.

Although Pete tries to get Matt to stay behind, he allows him to tag along. From that moment on, the Alpha and Omega become nearly inseparable. Pete's close knit friends are not so accepting, however, when Matt seems to be invited to not only their favorite pub but to football (aka soccer in the US) games. It is one particular football game that changes not only the views of Pete's friends but how Matt views Pete. After watching the West Ham United v Birmingham City match, Matt decides to go home instead of hanging with the group after the game. On his way, Matt soon realizes he is being followed and is accosted by some thugs. He is relieved when Pete and the gang appear and a bloody fight ensues. It is during this fight that Matt discovers this is no ordinary skirmish and Pete is no ordinary rebellious punk. He is brutally introduced into the world of 'firms,' football team followers that show their loyalty by finding ways to humiliate the other team's firm and vicious fighting in the streets. And Pete? Leader of the GSE, Green Steet Elite 'firm'.

While most of Pete's 'firm' begin to grudgingly respect Matt after he proves himself in a brutal fight, Bovver, Pete's closest mate seems to seeth with jealousy. He feels that Matt, who is American, cannot be trusted and even goes as far as to accuse Pete and Matt of being gay since they are always seen together. Pete being the bold leader that he is defends Matt and tells Bovver that he is getting tired of his accusations and wasted energy. However, Bovver's animosity proves fatal...

One reason I gave this movie a 5 out of 5 star rating is because of the two lead actors. After Elijah Wood starred in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, there is no doubt that he could have continued to do high budget movies with fluffy scripts (not saying LOTR is fluffy). Instead, Wood chose to carve his own path in the acting world by picking scripts that challenged him. I think I read a review from a critic that said Elijah Wood was not a good casting choice for Green Street Hooligans because he seemed out of place. Umm, well, I must disagree because...isn't that the point? The movie is about an American Harvard student that moves to England and gets involved in the violent, mysterious world of football firms. Elijah Wood IS American and in real life would seem out of place if he were to go over to England for a visit. I mean the movie wouldn't have been believable if they had chosen..say, Orlando Bloom to play the part of Matt Muckner. Sometimes I really wonder about about critics...

Who fascinated me more was Charlie Hunnam's performance as the GSE leader Pete. For those of you who have never heard of Charlie Hunnam, you may recognize him as that famous hot biker Jax Teller from the hit FX television show Sons of Anarchy. I guess the reason why I am so blown away by his acting is because I first saw Charlie in a little British television series called Queer As Folk (a very controversal show that later prompted the US to create their own provocative Queer As Folk series). He played Nathan, the young underage virgin who falls for and catches the eye of playboy bachelor Stuart. Yes people, Charlie Hunnam played a very daring role as a gay teenager. Even though this is where I first saw him, I did not recognize him as Jax Teller in Sons of Anarchy for quite awhile. Charlie obviously is older now and sports an American/Californian (where the show takes place) accent in his current role. It wasn't until I had gone onto to check out his filmography that I put the connection together. Charlie Hunnam is a prime example of an actor that has gone "gay" and still maintains a successful career. I hate to even bring that up since I am a big fan of gay cinema but let's face is, while it is a little more common now for big actors to accept gay roles, 10 years ago it was not so common or even accepting. Then again, I have to keep reminding myself that Charlie is from England and people in Europe generally do not have the issues we do when it comes to gay cinema. Anyway, I point is, Charlie Hunnam is an actor that is not afraid to go from one extreme to the next. He blew me away in Queer as Folk and Sons of Anarchy, two completely different shows and characters and I have to admit that he is probably one of the biggest reasons why I wanted to see Green Street Hooligans. While SOA and GSH do share some similarities, it was interesting to see him back in a role where he is in his own country with his own accent (well, sort of his own accent since I know that different parts of England have different dialects). And yes, I do know that Green Street Hooligans was shot a few years before Sons of Anarchy but I have been so imersed in his character Jax Teller that I easily forgot his background. He is that believable as an actor and while SOA Season 3 is on the horizon (September 7th baby! Woohoo!) I can't wait to see the outcome of other projects he is working on. B-)

While the actors are largely responsible for my 5 star rating, the original script and gritty scenes make up the other half. In an era where movies are either remakes, sequels, or book adaptations, I'm sure not the only one who somehow feels jaded going into a film. I'll be the first to admit that I sometimes have that "I've seen em' all" attitude. At times I will sit at the computer for hours, searching for that one movie that sounds different, looks different, feels different. I know some people have compared this movie to Fight Club and I do see the similarities. However, up until this film, I had no idea what the hell a 'firm' was. And if it wasn't for me watching the 2010 World Cup I probably wouldn't have known how serious football (aka soccer) is to the people of England. The way Americans feel about baseball and football is the way they feel about soccer. We just don't have baseball or football firms here...or do we? I can remember quite a few times watching a baseball game and the camera shooting to a fight that broke out in the stands or hearing on the channel 6 news that fans were arrested at a game for getting too out of control. Hmm, I wonder if this is a phenomenon that somehow the American government has covered up >=)~

I could sit here and complain about the low budget but I went into it knowing that GSH is an Indie flick and most if not all Indie flicks are low budget. This may sound strange but sometimes when I know I'm about to watch a movie that struggled to be made because of the lack of funds, it takes some of the pressure off. Instead of me focusing on the visual affects and the special affects, I realize the only thing that is going to hold my interest for the next 90 minutes (or more) is the story that's about to unfold and the acting that brings it to life.

Green Street Hooligans brings something fresh and originial to the screen because of its mysterious and talented main lead actors and ability to keep you interested despite its obvious low budget, Indie feel. Oh and going back to my comment about sometimes feeling jaded while watching movies...this film also has a couple of surprise shockers that I did not see coming. I could blame that on being tired since I did pop the movie in at 2:30am but I'd like to think I was genuinely surprised.

**Note** Just to give you a heads up before I forget, the "Cockney" accents (no offense intended) in this movie may be hard to follow especially if you are tired going into this movie as I was so if you have the dvd you can put the English substitles on.


Saturday, July 24, 2010

Movie Recommendation: INCEPTION!

While I know I am an educated, intelligent young woman-- I am also smart enough to know when to just leave things alone. The point I am trying to make is this-- rather then me make an ass out of myself by rambling on about how freakin' amazing this movie is/was, I am just going to tell you all one thing-- GO SEE INCEPTION. Holy BLEEP! Finally a movie worth seeing this summer (I still love you Twilight Saga: Eclipse!) Inception is original, mind-blowing, and constantly has you on the edge of your seat. LITERALLY! Totally not joking, people. I wouldn't be able to give this movie a proper review, so if anyone wants to get an idea what they are getting into, the current Entertainment Weekly magazine has a great break-down of the movie, interview with the Director (Christopher Nolan of Memento and The Dark Knight fame), and even gives you some insight on how the hell they actually did some of the crazy intense action scenes!

Okay, I am done. Go see it. Right now. No not later, I said RIGHT NOW. Oh, and see it at least twice. Yes, it is THAT good!

Peace out!


P.S. Damn, I guess I did still ramble on about how awesome Inception was, huh? >=)~

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Movie Review: The Private Lives of Pippa Lee (2009)

Movie Title: The Private Lives of Pippa Lee
Director: Rebecca Miller
Actor(s): Robin Wright, Winona Ryder, Keanu Reeves
Language: English
Subtitles: n/a
Rated: R
Genre: Drama
Run Time: 98 mins
DVD Release Date: 2 March 2010
My Rating:

Synopsis: At fifty, Pippa Lee (Robin Wright) positively glows with female serenity, the devoted wife of a brilliant publisher thirty years her senior, proud mother of successful twins and a lovely and adored friend and neighbor. But, when her husband spontaneously decides that they should leave New York for a retirement home as a "pre-emptive strike against decrepitude," Pippa finds her beatific persona unraveling in alarming ways. The truth is, the gracious woman of the present day has seen more than her fair share of the wild side. She has finally found love and security in a family of her own. And now, that cozy world, too, is in danger.

**The following review may contain SPOILERS**

My Review: Since this movie has such a long title, I am just going to refer to it as Pippa Lee in this post. I bought the dvd back in March of 2010 after reading about the film and the Oscar Buzz surrounding Robin Wright over her performance. I'm not quite sure why the story intrigued me when I read about it in Entertainment Weekly. Maybe it's because of the many actors that I heard were in it-- Keanu Reeves, Winona Ryder, Alan Arkin, Maria Bello, Robin Weigert, Julianne Moore among the few. Nevertheless, I bought the dvd and it sat on my shelf, collecting dust until last night.

Like the synopsis explains, Pippa is a middle-aged woman married to an established publisher, Herb Lee, that is 30 years older then her. She speaks softly and eloquently, dresses properly, and within the first few minutes of the movie, you get the impression that she is your stereotypical well-to-do "housewife." But there is a sadness in Pippa's eyes as she sits around the elegant dinner table (obviously a housewarming dinner party) among her close friends, grown son, and Herb. Only the movie viewer seems to notice because all of the attention of the dinner guests seem to be focused on Herb. It is this way throughout most of the movie-- people do not come to visit Pippa but her popular husband. No matter how involved she tries to be, whether it is asking a direct question to the couple's company, or having a say in her daughter's dangerous yet interesting career choice (you soon find out that their is a wedge between Pippa and her daughter) it all somehow comes back to Herb. She always seems to be a small speck of dust in her husband's very large shadow and perhaps was content to be that way for years. But not anymore. Something has definitely changed by the time we meet Pippa, and through her first person narrative we get to see glimpses of her previous life-- or should I say the many, "private" lives that this intriguing woman has lived to get her to her current state of mind.

Because they moved from the fast, busy life of the city to the quiet, somewhat sterile retirement home in the country, you can feel Pippa's boredom. Her children are grown and out of the house, her husband is retired, and she no longer has the city lifestyle to keep her distracted. Now in this new environment, her only responsibility is to maybe get involved in a charity, cook, and take care of her husband which requires checking his blood pressure several times a day due to multiple heart attacks (which most likely has forced him to retire). Despite her husband's advancing age and health issues, he is by no means an invalid and even himself is bored. Herb has pride and the viewer gets the sense that he does not like Pippa hovering over him. In Pippa's new liftestyle, she has plenty of time to reflect and I think that is why this movie is so relatable. Most of us know what it is like to have too much time on our hands and how that can lead to productive activities or destructive thinking and behavior.

I gave this movie a 4 out of 5 star rating for a few reasons such as the colorful cast of well-known actors, the neatly woven flashback scenes, and the ability to keep an element of surprise. I have watched countless movies in the past that incorporated flashback scenes. Some worked well while others have left me bored or scratching my head in confusion. In order to find out why Pippa has such sadness in her eyes, or why she married a man 30 years her senior, or why there is such a rift between her and her daughter, seeing glimpses of her past are essential. I actually looked forward to the flashback scenes because they were not only well done but the character portrayals were executed nicely by well known actors. Pippa's mother, Sookie, was played by the talented Maria Bello of Coyote Ugly, History of Violence, and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor fame. I don't want to get into too many details about Pippa's mother since it is their complex relationship that sets off a series of events which eventually brings us to our present day Pippa, but I will say that Maria Bello did an amazing job. It was really nice to see her play such a dramatic role.

Two other actresses that surprised me were Robin Weigert who plays Pippa's Aunt Trish and Julianne Moore as Kat, Trish's lover! I first saw Robin Weigert in the HBO hit television show Deadwood, playing the infamous Calamity Jane. The actress just blew me away in that show (if anyone knows anything about the real life Calamity Jane or has watched Deadwood, you will know exactly what I mean) so to see her in something completely different was a delight even if she did not have much screen time. The beautiful Julianne Moore also surprised me by playing the bold lesbian lover of Trish who sort of gets the teenage Pippa into a little trouble. Why I was shocked that Julianne Moore played a lesbian is beyond me since she has proven over her long successful career that sometimes it is the smallest roles that leave the biggest impressions after the credits roll. (Plus I have recently found out that Julianne Moore has played another lesbian in a recent movie called The Kids Are All Right which has been getting some great reviews. I want to see it but it is currently only playing in select cities. Grrr!)

Another actress worth mentioning is the eccentric Winona Ryder who plays Sandra, the much younger friend of Pippa. Sandra is unhappily married to an older (but not quite as old) friend of Pippa's husband Herb. They come over for dinner often so it is quite obvious how close both couples are. I can't give away too much detail but I do have to comment how dreadfully thin Winona Ryder looks in this film. At first I seriously thought it had something to do with her character Sandra. I kept thinking, okay, by the end of the movie it will be revealed that she is starving herself or she has some sort of eating disorder because of her unhappiness and constant negative responses her husband gives her. None of this happens of course and while it can be left open for interpretation, I still can't get her skinny image out of my head. (Winona has not starred in any big blockbuster movies in recent years, staying in indie flicks and usually playing minor or supporting roles like Pippa Lee. I do have the 2008 movie The Last Word in which she plays the main lead so when I get around to watching it, I will write a review for it.)

Okay, lastly and definitely not least, I must say a few words about Keanu Reeves performance. Keanu plays Chris Nadeau, the enigmatic son of Pippa and Herb's neighbor and friend Dot Nadeau. Before Pippa is ever introduced to Chris, Dot comes by to talk to her about how upset she is with her 35 year old son who must move back home do to his current divorce and lack of job. Dot feels that at his age he should have a career and seems to blame him for his failed marriage. She seeks out Pippa's council since everyone thinks that Pippa is wise and graceful and filled with all the right answers. Pippa finally meets Chris at the Nadeau residence to pay her respects after Dot's husband passes away. She is invited in by a guest or relative and I couldn't help but notice that the walls of the living room were painted a bubblegum shade of pink which I thought was kind of odd. Pippa goes to find Dot in the house and hears arguing coming from one particular room (which you soon find out is Chris' room). When Pippa knocks on the door to announce to Dot that she has arrived, Chris yanks it open and I think her spoke volumes. At the door is a shirtless Keanu Reeves--I mean Chris--with a huge tattoo of Jesus that spands from his collar bone down to his stomach/abdomen. It's so in-your-face that it left Pippa and even myself, speechless for a moment. Then of course I asked myself, when, why, how? It just made Keanu's character even more intriguing. Besides the shirtless, irritated Chris and the obvious argument that he was having with his mother, the other thing that you can't miss is the drastic change in color. Instead of bubblegum pink, Chris' room is a bright green and his bedsheets are yellow. There may be a few people that think I'm crazy for this analysis but within those few minutes--from the time Pippa enters the house to when she comes face to face with Chris--something told me that Chris' issues somehow stems from his childhood. I'm not saying Dot is a bad mother because you can tell she genuinely is concerned for her son,'s just a feeling I got from the extreme color schemes in the house. Like Winona Ryder, Keanu Reeves is another one of those actors that you really don't see much of in recent years. Despite this, I really like and enjoy his acting despite critics saying that he has no range.

Okay now for the minor reasons why I didn't give this movie a perfect rating. While I absolutely loved the flashback scenes and the pertinent information that is given to us so we as the viewer can fill in the gaps in Pippa's life, I feel that some things could have been elaborated on. Again, I don't want to give away too many details but one thing that bugged me was Pippa's father and brothers. Her father was a reverand and she had at least 3 or 4 older brothers. I understand that her mother had issues and that it lead to Pippa moving out to seek refuge with her Aunt Trish. But why didn't her father step in? Why didn't any of her brothers, who most likely were out of the house and living on their own offer her a place to stay? Okay now hold that thought and let me go back to Aunt Trish and her lover Kat. Without giving away too much detail, Kat sort of causes a little trouble between Aunt Trish and Pippa. In my personal opinion, a 16 year old Pippa should not have been held accountable and I was shocked when Pippa was dumped on the street to fend for herself. Why didn't Trish reprimand Kat? Why would she be mad at an underage Pippa? And going back to her brothers, why didn't she go live with them? The movie made no mention of a fight with her brothers or even her father. I just could not understand or find it believable that not one brother kept in touch with her, even later in Pippa's life. I wish the script had elaborated a little more on her relationship (or lack there of) with her brothers.

The Private Lives of Pippa Lee is one of those movies that may be sitting on your shelf collecting dust or you have passed several times at the video store because you just aren't sure if you are in the mood for a drama about a middle aged woman going through a sort of midlife crisis. But it is much more then that. With a great array of actors and a few surprises here and there that keeps you interested until the very end, this is definitely one of those movies that is worth giving a couple of hours of your time to. (Especially on a rainy day or with a friend or mother!)


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

It's Been Awhile...

Hey hey! I know it has been forever. My last post was back in 2009 and that really bugs me because with everything going on in my life right now, I truly need to be writing. I decided to set a small goal for myself. For starters, I plan to post at least once or twice a week, whether it is me reviewing a movie/book, or just to blow off steam. I've been wanting to get back into writing stories-- I have so many ideas swirling around in my head that I finally wrote them down so they are not forgotten. I'm tired of making excuses-- oh I am too tired, damn I have a bad case of writer's block, etc., etc., etc. I figured that if I can start small by keeping up with this blog, then maybe it will inspire me to finally get some of these story ideas out of my head and on paper.

That being said, I have been reading like a demon (okay, I know, totally makes no sense since I'm not sure if demons actually read but hey, it sounded cool lol) and since I have been home due to a serious back issue that has had me basically incapacitated, I've been watching lots of movies and television series. My point is, there is much for me to write about, so many reviews that people are just dying to read-- yeah right! I don't think anyone has been following my blog, and if by some chance someone had checked it out back in 09' I'm sure they have given up on me posting anything new.

Well, I'm back, baby! It's sooo going to happen. Actually, I plan to write a couple of reviews right now!!! Umm, well, actually, I need to pee and take a shower so....right after I get done my nightly ablutions I will work on some reviews.

Peace out!!!

<3 Mia