At long last, the most enduring, consistently horrible winter since the last Ice Age has come to an end. It only took until the second week of May. After just barely managing to survive six Siberian months, the sun is shining, everything is in bloom and it feels just glorious. I predict that there will be a mass exodus from Western New York to warmer climates before the next winter begins.
It's graduation weekend, which means one hectic last hurrah before our population takes a nosedive and everything quiets down. Then, this town is restored to the rightful hands of its year-round residents (as I prefer to be called).
OBSERVER?Photo by April Diodato
A flowering tree in bloom in Fredonia.
I have a few reviews for you this week, one new release and two DVDs. Let's start with the big screen and finish with the small.
Like an extraterrestrial crashing to Earth from another realm, the summer blockbuster season has begun with a colossal bang. I can't believe I'm saying this about a film featuring a warrior from another planet fighting "Frost Giants" and traveling through space by way of a rainbow bridge, but I absolutely adored "Thor." It may have something to do with the fact that the God of Thunder could more accurately be called the God of Hotness, but that's not all.
The previews for "Thor" looked incredibly lame, didn't they? Surprisingly, this paid off instead of featuring the best action scenes or the most amusing quips, all of the good stuff was saved for the paying customers.
The best comic book movies are the ones that own their cheesiness and that is exactly what "Thor" did. It was the perfect mix of some extremely exciting action scenes enhanced by spectacular special effects (see it in IMAX 3D if you can), with humor. The talented, extraordinarily good-looking cast also helps Chris Hemsworth may be the most attractive man alive and with Natalie Portman as the smart, beautiful scientist, the result is an otherworldly, unbeatable combination.
If the rest of the big-budget action movies are anything like "Thor," I'm optimistic about the summer 2011 movie season. It's about time.
Two movies on my "to rent" list, "Blue Valentine" and "No Strings Attached" (don't judge, I'm a diehard Natalie Portman fan), just came out on DVD Both were about the evolution of a relationship across time, both lead actresses were nominated for Best Actress in 2011 (Michelle Williams was nominated for "Blue Valentine," and Natalie Portman won but "No Strings Attached" definitely wasn't winning accolades). Aside from those few similarities, the two movies were like night and day but interesting to watch back-to-back in a cold-medicated haze. As I envisioned it, "No Strings Attached" was like the shiny, polished, upbeat cousin to the dark, rough, misanthropic "Blue Valentine."
Quickly, my assessments:
A critically acclaimed indie that never made it to a local cinema in fact, its release was riddled with controversy, at first receiving an NC-17 rating -- "Blue Valentine" takes a harsh, unflinching look at a couple falling in and out of love with each other. Alternating between past and present, it tells the story of Dean and Cindy, a couple suffocated by the unrealistic expectations commonly known as the American Dream; unfortunately, a wedding, a baby, a family and a house do not always equal happiness. Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling were outstanding in their roles but the film is one I'd only like to see once; it was occasionally hard to watch. I'd consider it a more realistic, modern version of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"
"No Strings Attached"
Just in case you weren't sure if a friends-with-benefits arrangement ever works out, watch this film or ask anyone who's been there it doesn't. A romantic comedy starring Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman, "No Strings Attached" is not as charming or as funny as it could be.
A good cast makes it watchable, with most of the laughs coming from supporting actors, especially up-and-comer Greta Gerwig and Mindy Kalling from "The Office" as Natalie's roommates and co-workers, Kevin Kline as Ashton's hard-partying Hollywood dad and Ophelia Lovibond as Ashton's British floozy.
DRINK OF THE WEEK
Do you like your shots in semi-solid form but are in the mood for something chocolaty? Forget Jell-O shots try pudding shots. My sister forwarded me this recipe in an e-mail; the origins of the recipe are unknown.
Ingredients include: 1 package chocolate instant pudding, 3/4 cup milk, 1/4 cup vodka, 3/4 cup Bailey's and 1 container Cool Whip. The directions are simple: Mix together and fold in one container extra creamy Cool Whip. Serve in small plastic cups.
Here are some variations:
April Diodato is the OBSERVER Lifestyles editor. Send comments and events to firstname.lastname@example.org