Sunday, December 30, 2012

3 Thoughts on Killing Them Softly

1. I wasn't all there - I saw the movie with a mild concussion.  A few days before, I hit my head on a metal object. I didn't realize how bad it was until I started having some memory problems (and the nausea started to set in).  I hesitate writing about the movie, because I honestly don't remember all of it.  My friend had to remind me that we even saw it.  A few weeks have gone by and I've been racking my brain trying to put all the pieces of the movie together, at least enough to decide that it wasn't amazing.  It was good (and obviously, I will watch it again at some point), but it seems like most of it has been done before. 

2.  Something went wrong - It's hard to pinpoint what that is, but it's a movie that has all the elements to be great.  Yet, it wasn't.  Brad Pitt, Richard Jenkins, James Gandolfini and Ray Liotta were all incredible.  The plot was engaging.  Some of the shots were sublime.  I guess that leaves the pace, which was a tad too slow and the dialogue, which could have used some humor.  From the trailer, it seemed like more of a black comedy, but all of the funny bits were shown in the trailer - the rest is very serious. 

3. It was a little too obvious - The in-your-face commentary on Capitalism was unnecessary.  It could have benefited from a little thing called subtlety. 

*I realize this is probably the worst post I've ever written about a movie, and it's a bit unfair to judge it based on my situation. I will certainly give the movie a second look once it is released on DVD. 

Thoughts on 5 Films

1. Your Sister's Sister - Even with the implausible plot, the movie is successful in many ways.  The acting is superb (however, I am still not a fan of Mark Duplass as an actor).  The three main actors, Duplass, Emily Blunt and Rosemarie Dewitt, are credited as "Creative Consultants" on the film and that can be heavily seen in the movie.  There was a natural connection between them, the playful banter flowed beautifully, and if I didn't know better, I would believe that Emily and Rosemarie are sisters in real life.  The movie also has some really funny moments ("I'm emotionally allergic to butter." ). I have seen this movie on several "Best of 2012" lists, but I don't think the genuineness (is that a word?) of the movie is enough to make it great.  There are several plot issues that surrounds this love triangle story.  *spoilers ahead* First, as soon as they introduce the male and female as "best friends", I knew it would turn into a love story between them (so frustrating).  Second, what is so great about this guy that he has two of the most stunning women after him (one is just using him for his sperm - but seriously, why do you want his sperm?).  The film fails to make him special - he isn't funny, attractive, witty, honest or pleasant to be around.  He just mopes around with his Justin Bieber hair cut; he actually reminds me of Jimmy Fallon's Bieber impression.  Third, if you are a lesbian who is desperately trying to have a baby, but you don't want to have a relationship with a male (and you don't want him to have a relationship with the baby), then why would you pick your sister's best friend?  Fourth, why poke holes in a condom???  There are less manipulative ways to have a baby.  Last, "AAAAAAAHHHHHHH!" That was just me releasing my frustration with manipulative female characters. 

2. Magic Mike - I really, really, really, really, really did not want to watch this movie.  Absolutely dreaded it.  It wasn't as bad as I imagined, but it wasn't a good movie by any stretch of the word.  I've said it before and I'll say it again, I like Channing Tatum.  I don't think he is as "sexy" as most women think, but I think he seems like a good guy, he is a decent actor and an extremely talented dancer (as can be seen in the "My Pony" scene. Damn.). However, I hate Alex Pettyfor.  HATE.  The rumor that he is abusive to women is not the only reason for this hate - especially since it is all just a "rumor" (however, my instincts usually speak the truth).  Judging on his acting, he is incredibly bland (does anyone even remember I am Number Four?). He is bland here as well, considering that he had a major role in the movie, his character is mostly forgettable.  The girl in the movie is also incredibly lifeless (not Olivia Munn, of course, the other one).  She just seemed like the most miserable, uptight, judgemental bitch alive.  Her jaw was clenched through the whole movie and even when she laughed, it was the fakest laugh in the whole world.  I didn't root for any character, especially Mike (Tatum) after he says the line "look at what she is wearing.  She wants to be bothered.". Unacceptable. The rest of the dialogue consisted of a lot of "bro's"and "dude's" (I counted 3 "bro's" and 2 "dude's" within a one minutes scene). The film is typical for a "stripper" movie, with Mike saving his money to follow his dreams - proving that he is more than just a "stripper".  It does differ greatly in that it portrays male stripping as a profession that is fun and lucrative (which is very different then how female stripping is portrayed).  I'm not a huge Soderbergh fan, but this isn't his worst film. 

3. 2 Days in New York - I adored 2 Days in Paris. It was very Woody Allen-esque (which usually I hate, unless it is actually Woody Allen), but from a female perspective.  Julie Delpy has a very clear voice as a filmmaker, a knack for humor and language, and she is gorgeous.  My real reason for loving 2 Days in Paris, though, was mostly because of Adam Goldberg.  He does the whole miserable, whiny, complain-about-everything type character really well (and by "well", I mean that even though he is annoying as fuck, he is still really funny and entertaining to watch). Even though the movie was about a couple who endlessly bickered, you still wanted to root for them.  2 Days in New York does not work as well, mostly because of Chris Rock.  I hate to blame the entire failure of the movie on him.....but, well, I can't think of any other reason as to why it doesn't work.  He just doesn't have that lovable quirky presence, instead he's just kind of an asshole.  There were parts of the film that bordered on genius; like the underlying racism from the sister's French boyfriend; he asks Mingus (Chris Rock, and yes, that is his characters actual name. Mingus.) if he likes Salt-N-Pepa and tells his sister that she looks like Beyonce (she doesn't).  The culture clash with her French family started to border on absurd (there is a difference between miscommunication and downright bat-shit crazy), but it was still pretty entertaining.  The most genius part of the whole movie is when the buyer of the soul is revealed.  I won't ruin it for anyone, but it is sublime casting. 

4. Killer Joe - The film is described as a "twisted, redneck trailer park murder story" and for personal reasons, I have a hard time watching something like that. Since I heard so many good things about Killer Joe,  I couldn't ignore it.  All the good things are true.  Matthew McConaughey is the best he's been since A Time to Kill.  William Friedkin created another film that is not only bold, but a tense, shiver-inducing, claustrophobic nightmare.  Gina Gershon acted her ass off (I honestly didn't know she could act). She was definitely aided by the excessive eye make-up during "the scene" (and I laughed out loud with "Sharla, your mascara is running"), but she really impressed me. The whole KFC thing was a bit overblown, in my opinion. Let's just say, it could have been worse, and leave it at that.  It won't make my top 10 list
this year, but I can definitely see why others have included it in theirs.

5. ParaNorman - The beginning is quite cute, funny and entertaining.  I found myself smiling through the first 1/2 hour.  "That statue just pissed at us!"  I laughed so hard, still laughing.  Ah, but soon the laughs ended and it became difficult to pay attention to.  The animation was cool, and it probably would have been a blast in 3D (for people who like 3D.  I'm told these people exist, although I've never met any of them).  It wasn't a bad movie, I'm sure kids will be entertained by it, but I just can't see remembering anything about it a few weeks from now. 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Thoughts on 5 Films

1. Beginners - I can't believe that I forgot all about this movie!!  Last year, a friend of mine recommended it to me, adding that the girl in it reminded him of me.  I was extremely confused when I realized that the girl is Melanie Laurent, who is a french actress, with blond hair and green eyes and is a hundred times prettier than I am (ok...a thousand times).  We have no similarities other than being petite.  Then, I started watching the movie and I realized that he was referring to her character, Anna.  It's weird to discover how others perceive you, but I can see what he means.  She is low-key, quiet, observant and emotionally cautious.  There is a deep sadness to her, even when she is smiling and you can tell that she has been hurt before (not necessarily by love, but by life).  The scene where she reveals something personal about her father, in this really unexpected way, is exactly something I would do.  I tend to reveal things about myself specifically to see how people react and this is how I know if that they are someone I want (or don't want) in my life.  It's weird that the movie isn't about her at all, but I felt a deep connection with her character, so I guess my friend is right.  I think she is totally adorable, so I am going to take it as a compliment (even though i have a feeling, that he didn't mean it that way.  Whatever.).  I would like to think that I am a little less disheveled, but I'm probably not.  Anyway, enough with the personal rant,  the movie is incredible.  It would have made my Top 10 list of last year (and probably would have broken into the top 5) had I seen it earlier in the year.  This is my kind of love story.  One that is about more than just love - it's about dealing with loss and finding out what truly makes you happy.  It's really just about living.  Ewan McGregor is fantastic (and I don't think I've ever said those words in the same sentence before).  It is a very understated and subtle performance, but I think a lot of people can connect with his self-sabotaging ways.  "I don't really believe that it's going to work and I make sure that it doesn't work".  I know so many people like this and it baffles my mind.  I never want to live my life wondering "what if", so I make sure I give it my all.  If it still doesn't work, at least I knew that I did everything I could. It's very contradictory of my cynical nature, but as I said above, I am very cautious of who I let into my life, so once I've let someone in, I would hate to push them out. The movie is really sweet and charming, but doesn't shy away from the complications of love and life.  It even had a happy ending, and I am completely ok with that (!!!). I know the film garnered attention due to Christopher Plummer's work as an elderly man who reveals that not only is he gay, but he is also dying of Cancer. He deserved the Oscar (for his impersonation of house music, alone), but I think the other performances and the screenplay should have been recognized as well. 

2. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter - It's a movie about Abraham Lincoln killing vampires!!!  That sounds like some awesome, albeit silly, fun.  It's not.  I think I am most disappointed because it is from the same director as Wanted - which was awesome, albeit silly, fun.  It even copied the same sequences from Wanted (the becoming an assassin sequence, the train sequence), yet it was really dull.  I didn't even recognize Mary Elizabeth Winstead, as Mary Todd.  I've never seen her so lifeless before.  Then, I was super excited to see Anthony Mackie, because he has incredible screen presence, but just like Miss Winstead, there was no energy at all.  Even worse, the star of the movie, the guy who plays Lincoln (I'm too lazy to even look up his name) was so blaaaaah (I've run out of words for boring).  The movie sort of reminded me of Cowboys & Aliens, in the way that it has this completely preposterous plot that could be gloriously entertaining, but it just weighs itself down in all this serious dialogue, choppy editing and forgettable characters. It's not even bad enough to be memorable, it's just bad. 

3. Savages - Expectations were lowered, and I think that was a good thing because I was completely entertained by it.  I wouldn't call it a good movie, but there were parts of it that were done really well. It's much more fun to talk about the bad parts, though - like the laughable dialogue, problematic casting and Benicio Del Toro's mullet wig (which was far more distracting than it should have been).  It clearly would have been a better movie with stronger lead actors.  Blake Lively is absolutely beautiful and I am completely jealous of her perfect body, but her acting isn't strong enough for a movie like this (yet).  I was impressed by her in The Town and even like her sometimes on Gossip Girl (tonight is the last episode! Sad face.  Not really, that show should have ended 3 seasons ago), but she was pitiful in this movie.  Her voice is monotonous, which is problematic since she is the narrator of the story.  Aaron Johnson really irks me, for no reason in particular.  And, Taylor Kitsch, poor Taylor Kitsch.  I really want to root for him, but this movie was a disaster for him (as was John Carter and Battleship).  The supporting cast, Benicio, Salma Hayek and John Travolta did their best to make up for the bad performances, but it just wasn't enough.  Worse than the acting, though, was the dialogue.  Lively's character says things like "I have orgasms, he has wargasms" and describes the differences between her two lovers as one is a "Buddhist", the other is a "baddhist".  For real.  I did love the portrayal of a non-conventional relationship, but the movie made it clear that it's not a relationship that would work (and if the movie doesn't believe it, then why should I?).  The odd double ending, was just that.  Odd.  Like, what the fuck?  The first ending was satisfying enough. 

4. Rock of Ages - Truly horrific movie.  I don't think I could possibly think of anything nice to say about it.  I didn't really expect to like it, but I didn't think I would be tortured by it.  I've never seen the Broadway production and this movie makes sure that I will never see it (although I am sure the stage version is much better).  As someone who is a huge fan of Glee (or should I say "was" a huge fan.  I actually stopped watching the show.  I can no longer defend it's awfulness), I thought that I would find some humor in Rock of Ages, as they do a lot of the same covers of rock songs on the show.  However, it made me long for the talent that the cast of Glee has, because the actors in this movie CAN NOT SING.  I'm surprised that my ears didn't start bleeding.  Tom Cruise and Malin Akerman completely butchered one of my favorite songs "I Want to Know What Love is" (greatest rock ballad ever!!)I've always disliked Akerman, and this movie didn't do her any favors.  Now I actually hate her.  Tom Cruise was clearly trying to prove something (what that is, I'm not sure).  I appreciate that he gave 100% of himself into the role, even if it was still a disaster.  His "rocker" character was just a bad combination of Axl Rose and Bret Michaels.  Julianne Hough seems like a nice enough girl, but I am not sure why she was picked for a role like this - she can't sing (she does do an amazing hair flip thing).  Catherine Zeta-Jones had the worst role in the movie, as the "bitch" who wants to ruin all the fun.  So, she protests rock music, by singing rock music (makes total sense).  I truly feel bad for Bryan Cranston and Paul Giamatti because they clearly don't belong in this trash.  The only saving grace is Mary J. Blige, who can actually sing.  She made everyone else like they were singing karaoke during amateur night.  Aside from the singing, the movie is extremely dumb.  Girl moves to L.A to follow her dreams of being a singer, falls in love, gets her heart broken, becomes a stripper, etc., etc., etc. 

5.  Vamps - I was excited for a new Alicia Silverstone/Amy Heckerling movie, but also Krysten Ritter is in it as well!!  I loved her on Breaking Bad, and she is really hilarious on Don't Trust the B* in Apt 13 (although the show isn't that funny - it would be if it was just about her and Dawson).  Vamps is about two fun-loving vampire "besties" who stay out partying all night and sleep all day (obviously).  It's campy, cheesy and cute but it should have been much funnier and wittier.  I was expecting Clueless-type dialogue, but this movie just regurgitates the same "I can't keep up with the times" dialogue.  It didn't help that they were supposed to be college students (sorry, but no).  It had some fun moments and represents a friendship between two females that isn't catty, which is rare.  Thumbs up for the Un Chien Andalou clip. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

3 Thoughts on Silver Linings Playbook

1. I love Bradley Cooper - I've written about this love before, but I can't express how happy I am that he has succeeded.  As an Alias fanatic, I adored Will Tippin, although I was totally in love with Vaughn (Michael Vartan) and man, don't get me started on Sark (David Anders) - sexiest bad guy ever.  Anyway, I've followed Bradley Cooper's career post-Alias, and he has done some solid work.  His TV show Kitchen Confidential was hilarious (and canceled waaaaaay too quickly), he was a super douche in Nip/Tuck and of course, shot to movie-stardom with The Hangover.  Silver Linings Playbook is his best work to date.  It's Oscar nomination good.  With the film taking place in his home town, he seems really comfortable; exuding a natural ease with the role while still displaying an emotional exposure that is unguarded and wonderful to witness. With this, he's proven he can do it all from comedy, to action, to this little quirky drama.  I'm going to ignore the fact that Channing Tatum has the new title of "Sexiest Man Alive" and just pretend that Bradley is continuing the title for a second year.  He's got the talent, the looks and the confidence (yes, it's a cliche, but confidence is always sexy. Fact.). 

2. I love Philly - There aren't too many movies that come to mind that truly get the "essence" of Philly.  Sure, we have the Rocky movies that made Philly famous in the movie world and there is M. Night Shyamalan that always films his movies in or around Philly.  But, when I say "essence" of Philly, I mean movies that really showcase the city and all of its eccentricities and quirkiness.  This film made me really miss Philly (I lived there for a few years).  It's a very neighborly place. Those rejected from the fast pace of NYC and the pretentiousness of Boston are welcomed into Philly with open arms.  The whole football aspect is done really well, because the movie is really not about football at all.  However, the Eagles are a big part of Philly life and whether you like it or not, they are in the background of life there, everywhere you go.  Literally, EVERYWHERE.  Grocery store, restaurant, the DMV - inevitably someone will start the Eagles chant. E-A-G-L-E-S...EAGLES!!!  I remember sitting in the theater, watching Spider-Man 2, and someone started the chant in the middle of the movie.  It's annoying as fuck, and I am not a fan of football at all, but I love passionate people and that is what Philly and this movie are all about. 

3. I hate the ending - *spoilers* Now that I've gone on about Bradley Cooper and Philly, I guess I should comment a little on the movie.  I loved it.  Funny, touching, and memorable with incredible performances from every actor (while Bradley has my heart, I would say Jacki Weaver was the stand-out performance). It will most likely be in my top 10, but it would have been much higher on the list if only it didn't end on such a super positive note.  I didn't really mind the love story, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence have great chemistry and did a fantastic job of getting me to root for them.  However, I didn't need the whole "I wrote that letter a week ago....I'm in love with you" sappiness.  These are two people who have a history of mental disorders (bi-polar, depression etc), so it is a bit realistic for them to be on a "high", but I felt like the movie should have ended with at least a hint of the "low", instead of a happily ever after.  Mental disorders don't magically disappear because people fall in love, in reality they often get worse (and this deep love for someone is what sets Cooper's character off in the first place).  It needed to be addressed, in my opinion, and the opinion of my movie partner, who said "fuck that ending" when the movie was over.  He took the words right out of my mouth.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Thoughts on 5 Films

1. Take This Waltz - I'm not sure if this movie qualifies for a 2012 release, since it was released in Canada in 2011, but it might make my "best of 2012" list.  It's an odd little movie splattered with imperfections, but I am sort of in love with everything about it. Michelle Williams is always an extreme hit or an extreme miss for me, but she nails this role.  The character, Margo, is immature, selfish, needy, silly and somehow incredibly relatable.  Her relationship with her husband, played by Seth Rogen (who has never displayed this much vulnerability in any role), is so simple and honest, yet flawed and realistic.  They have a connection, but inevitably this connection isn't enough and boredom sets in.  Margo becomes infatuated with her neighbor and eventually falls for him.  In most of these types of movies, someone (usually the woman) is portrayed as evil or the clear "villain", but in reality, let's face it - shit happens.  People fall out of love a lot easier than we like to admit and if we are completely honest, the thought of a "new love" is always enticing.  As it is pointed out in the movie, the "new" will always become "old".  It's rare for a movie to point this out, and for someone, like myself, who doesn't really believe in "love" (at least in the sense that others do), this incredibly refreshing.  There are so many scenes that I love, that it is hard to narrow down - but three stand out.   First, the most "stand out" scene is the one with the Scrambler ride. Absolutely stunning. The way it was shot, is sublime.  Another one, is the scene with Margo and Daniel, when she asks him, rather shyly, what he would do to her.  I do not find that guy attractive in the least, but after his answer, I would totally go back to his place.  And the fact that he burst into laughter after an answer like that, made it all the more perfect.  It's very obvious from that scene alone, that the movie is written by a woman (Sarah Polley), because guys like that don't exist in real life (if they did, the world would be a much better place). I also love the actual "waltz" scene, which perfectly equates the physical "dance" to a literal "dance" of life, it's so well-done that it gave me chills. Plus, the scene where she sees Daniel's work (he is an artist, of course) and she asks if he shows it anywhere.  His answer: "No, because I am a coward." The way he states it, so matter-of-factly.  It's just perfect. Ok, that was 4, not 3, and I could continue, but I will stop. To be fair, I will admit that not all of the movie was perfect. Sarah Silverman had some painful dialogue to work with - her entire character was problematic.  She could have been cut altogether, with no loss to the movie.  That's really my only complaint.  There are other imperfections, but none of them matter.  Sarah Polley did a superb job. 

2. Sound of My Voice - Brit Marling has a presence that is hard to ignore.  Another Earth was one of my favorite films of last year, and this film is pretty fantastic as well.  Even though it differed in subject matter, the films are similar in a lot of ways.  They are both small movies, with huge sci-fi ideas grounded in reality with unsettling, melancholic tones.  Sound of My Voice is based on two people trying to infiltrate a cult to "expose" the corruption and lies that the cult is based on.  Brit Marling is the cult leader, Maggie, who claims to be "from the future".  It's all very interesting, even if it is unbelievable.  The scene where the new members question her "story" and she begins to sing a song from the future is creepy, hilarious and absolutely brilliant.  It was fun trying to guess which one of them would be convinced by her story, because inevitably one of them would.  The ending, with the handshake thing, was definitely interesting.  It wouldn't be enough to convince me, but I could see how others would be swayed, though.  Especially people who are desperately seeking meaning to their life and feel the need to belong to something.

3. The Campaign - Really not funny at all.  Ok, I admit I laughed once, when Zach Galifianakis is described as looking like the "Travelocity Gnome".  But that's it!!  The movie came out in a timely manner, right before the Presidential election, and acted as a commentary on the Democratic process.  But that is giving the movie far too much credit.  It's much too dumb to be considered a political satire.  Both Zach Galifianakis and Will Ferrell are funny guys, so it's disappointing that a movie with them is this weak.  Most of Will Ferrell's movies are considered over-the-top, and for me, it just doesn't work that often.  This isn't nearly as bad as Blades of Glory or Semi-Pro, but it's still a big waste of time. 

4. Safety Not Guaranteed - I had high hopes for this movie, but unfortunately it didn't live up to those expectations.  The heart is in the right place and the plot is, thankfully, original.  The story revolves around Aubrey Plaza (or her character's name, Darius, if you are convinced that these are 2 different people - I am not), who is an Intern at a newspaper.  She joins her colleagues on a research trip to investigate a man who placed a wanted ad, searching for someone to travel to the past with him.  Aubrey/Darius is the typical socially awkward, sarcastic, loner type who begins to let her guard down once she meets this man who claims to have made a time machine.  The beginning of the movie is sort of endearing and cute, but it starts to border on annoying about mid-way through.  This "time traveler" is played by Mark Duplass (who wrote and directed the incredibly sweet movie, Jeff, Who Lives at Home), and honestly, I am not thrilled with his acting. As an audience member, for the film to work, I should form some sort of bond with him and root for him, but I actually hated every scene he had, every line of dialogue.   To make matters worse, *spoiler alert*, the film becomes "love story" territory, which was unnecessary.  Two people can form a bond, without falling in love.  I did adore the ending, but not enough to make up for the rest of the movie. 

5. Seeking A Friend for the End of the World - Love the idea of this movie.  With all the talk of the end of the world, most movies dealing with the subject matter turn to the "disaster movie" genre.  It's a great concept to have the "disaster" as a catalyst for a romantic comedy.  *slight spoilers* Like Safety Not Guaranteed, this movie would have been much better without the "love" part, but I was able to tolerate it much more in this movie.  I actually didn't know it was a love story, considering that the title refers to "a friend" and I was really surprised that the two main characters, played by Keira Knightley and Steve Carell,  had casual sex towards the beginning and seemed pretty content to leave it at that.  The movie went into a downward spiral the second she began to feel jealous of him searching for his lost love, with her pathetically and silently pining for him. Females can, in fact, have sex without forming emotional attachments, the cliche that we can't is tiresome.  Aside from the fact that Keira and Steve have ZERO sexual chemistry, I think the film could have been more effective if it was about two people finding comfort in one another, instead of dying alone.  Although, personally, I would rather die alone, than in the arms of a complete stranger, but I am weird like that.  The film also contained at least a dozen editing mistakes (not even obscure ones, like-in-your-face-obvious mistakes), so a new Script Supervisor would have been helpful.  And a new location scout was desperately needed.  For a film that is supposed to take place in NJ, a place where I currently live and the guy that I saw it with has lived his entire life, we both didn't recognize that it was even supposed to be NJ until 1/2 way through.  It was CLEARLY Southern California.  The biggest error was the beach scene, which showed cliffs and bright blue ocean water (which was supposed to be somewhere in Delaware, but such a place does not exist in the North East).  I know I am nit-picking but I am just a little confused as to why the filmmakers even bothered to have the location as NJ, when the location isn't essential to the story at all.  It literally hurts my brain to think about. 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

3 Thoughts on Life of Pi

1. "Believe the unbelievable" - As an atheist, claiming that this story will make me believe in God, is obviously intriguing.  It failed on every level, but I give the writer credit for trying.  I really loved the beginning, the way that religion is questioned by the protagonist.  He points out that with so many different religions, so many different "Gods", he is unsure of what to believe.  His father responds to this with the most amazing advice ever, which is to trust logic and that if you believe everything blindly, then you might as well believe in nothing.  Then, the film proceeds to convince us to believe in God (and is never clear on which one), which is ultimately frustrating.  This is clearly an allegorical film, dedicated to convincing people that may question their faith, but I doubt it will change the minds of the already decided. 

2. It's not for kids or animal lovers- I blame myself for seeing a movie that is marketed as a "family movie" the weekend after Thanksgiving at the Garden State Plaza (one of the largest malls in the country) for the terrible experience I had, due to the insufferable audience members.  Not only did I endure someone kicking my seat the entire movie (an adult, for fuck sake), someone in my direct eye sight filming the movie with his phone, and a couple in front of me talking through the entire thing; I also had to listen to kids crying because they were absolutely terrified.  I can't argue with the PG rating, but that doesn't necessarily make it appropriate for children.  I would have been traumatized if I had seen this movie at a young age (considering that I am a little traumatized by it as an adult).  Just consider for a moment, that there were other animals that were rescued by that small life boat and you can guess what happens to them when they try to co-exist with a tiger.  When the kids were not being traumatized, I am sure that they were bored out of their mind.  The themes of spirituality and self-discovery would probably go right over their head, as would the jokes about the mathematical value of "Pi" and Columbus setting sail to India.  As an animal lover, I find the movie terribly offensive.  The message that the film sends - that what separates humans from animals is a "soul", and that animals have no feelings, it's just humans projecting their own feelings on to them, is a HORRIBLE message to send.  Certain animals, like tigers, are not meant to be caged or domesticated (or trapped on a life boat in the middle of the ocean), so it may seem like they are "soul-less" but I refuse to believe that is true.  It's also convenient story-telling that the family are vegetarians (separating themselves from carnivorous "animals") but most humans are not vegetarians, so what message is that sending about humanity?  It's all a little contradictory and insulting (even to a fellow vegetarian). 

3. "Unfilmable" - Technically, the movie is spectacular.  I didn't see it in 3D, which I only regret slightly because I doubt it would be worth the headache, but even in regular old 2D, it was stunning.  However, as visually exciting as it was, it felt really superficial. With all of the effects (especially the CG created tiger) and the bold, intense colors, it loses it's realism and turns pure fantasy.  It doesn't really work for a story that tries so desperately to be "believable", but then again, to make it a "believable" story it would have to be a little more gritty and I think that version would be truly "unfilmable".  I didn't hate the movie as much as this post may let on; I was in awe of it's beauty and scope, fully engaged in the story and impressed by the effort.  It's just not my type of movie, I guess. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Thoughts on 5 Films

1. Detachment - An extreme disappointment. There is a distinct anger and passion that is felt throughout the movie, but none of it is ever fully explored and it doesn't say anything new.  The title refers to Adrien Brody's character, as a substitute teacher, who purposefully avoids responsibility by remaining "detached" from his students.  Instead, he becomes weirdly attached to a teen prostitute, who is played by the girl from Blue Bloods and is perhaps the least believable prostitute I've ever seen in a movie.  The "interview" style interludes were supposed to evoke some sort of realism and emotion, but it felt too artificial to be taken seriously.  With a cast like this (check it out for yourself: ), I expected to be blown away by the acting alone, but everyone was really bad.  Lucy Liu was probably the worst offender, her performance is actually appalling.  Also, the most aggravating part (and a bit spoilery), is that when one of the students commits suicide, the substitute seems to blame himself for not making her feel important, which is supposed to be a "lesson" for him to learn about the dangers of his "detachment", but it really shows a lack of understanding of mental disorders. It's all a bit narcissistic and self-aggrandizing. It really irked me. 

2. Snow White and the Huntsman - I was expecting much worse.  The movie is completely watchable; interesting update to the Snow White story, impressive cinematography, stunning effects and gorgeous costume design.  The missing ingredients are a strong lead actress,  believable chemistry between the characters and a coherent plot.  Charlize Theron transcends the film and therefore feels out of place.  Kristen Stewart as "the fairest one of all", is laughable when compared to Charlize (I'm not trying to be mean, but the truth is that Charlize is one of the most beautiful women in the world - only a handful of women are in the same league. Fact.).  It was a brilliant idea for Charlize, as The Queen, to be more obsessed with immortality and therefore Snow's "youth" because at least that makes sense (sort of).  There were some painful displays of bad acting on Kristen Stewart's part - that motivational "let's kill her" speech was cringe-inducing.  I'm still trying to get the hype that surrounds her, so I am still giving her another chance - but if she fails in On the Road, then I am done. 

3. Intruders - Not really a horror movie, more of a psychological thriller - and a disappointing one at that.  The poster image is super creepy, but the film never lives up to this image.  The parallel stories don't really work together cohesively (although it is obvious as to how they are connected).  By the time the "revelation" occurs, I lost all interest.  I always thought of Clive Owen as a solid actor, but this movie made me question that.  Looking at his body of work, I realize he isn't all that great and he plays the same character quite often (I think his best work was in Trust - there was some great subtlety in that performance that was quite heartbreaking).  Here, he is pretty bland which blends in nicely with the rest of the movie. 

4. The Raid - Crazy, intense action movie.  It's a bloody, brutal, adrenaline pumping, completely awesome movie.  The only problem with a movie like this, one that is non-stop action, is that it becomes a bit redundant and one becomes desensationalized and detached from the violence.  The plot is pretty simplistic, there is barely any character development and the "twist" is predictable, but it hardly matters for this type of movie.  It's all about the choreographed fight sequences and the epic and unapologetic gore. It's a spectacle, for sure, and if that's not your thing, then don't bother watching it. 

5. Tower Heist - Aside from the fact that the plot is absolute lunacy, it could have been a fun action flick with some minor adjustments.  First, get rid of Ben Stiller's awful NY accent (I think that is what it was supposed to be).  Second, get rid of Eddie Murphy (who played the offensively stereotyped, angry, black criminal).  Third, fix the dialogue ("back up before I put a cap in your ass" is actual dialogue from the movie).  Fourth, (*Spoiler Alert*) tone the foreshadowing down a bit.  If you didn't realize that the car is a major plot point from the second it appeared on screen, then you probably enjoyed the movie more than I did (and you might want to have your cognitive skills checked.  Yes, I just called you stupid. That was super mean of me.  I'm in a bitch mood.  Deal with it.).  I could probably go on and on, but then I will have made too many adjustments and it will just be an entirely different movie.  So, I will just point out one more thing - I am able to suspend belief when watching ridiculous heist type movies like this, but a car dangling from a sky-scraper is just too much.  Also, the fact that no one in the crowd of people below noticed this car dangling above them- even though they were all looking up at parade balloons - is mind-blowingly stupid.  On the plus side, Casey Affleck and Michael Pena made me laugh. 

3 Thoughts on Skyfall

*This entire post is a bit spoilery. Sorry.*

1.  The beginning - I was super worried in the beginning. The whole beginning chase sequence was tedious and underwhelming (fighting on top of a moving train? really? That's the best you got?).  We all know Bond is going to survive, otherwise there wouldn't be another 2 hours to sit through.  So the entire sequence felt pointless.  The film became extremely problematic for me when Bond participates in a drinking game that involved a scorpion, as I have a terrible fear of scorpions (when I say "terrible fear", I mean panic-inducing, can't breathe or think, kind of fear).  I obviously can't fault the film for my own phobias, but I have to admit that I have no idea what happened for the following 20 minutes or so.  When I was finally able to bring myself out of panic mode, I realized that I hardly missed anything important.  It wasn't until the appearance of Javier Bardem, as the super creepy villain, Silva, that the film started to get interesting.  Although, I would still argue that the plot was incredibly simplistic - even the villain's motives were border-line stupid, but at least the performances and intensity began to thrive (there were also some very beautiful shots). 

2. "Skyfall" - First, the Adele song is really boring, but I did have it in my head for forever (it's still there).  The song is actually, literally, perfect for the movie ("Let the skyfall, when it crumbles, we will stand tall, face it all together" makes much more sense if you know what "Skyfall" is).  The song fits perfectly with the opening credit sequence, which is AWESOME.  Like the song, this sequence is much more effective after you've seen the entire movie.  Second, I love that "Skyfall" represented something very personal for James Bond, since the movie felt more personal than the ones before (thanks to Sam Mendes, as director).  I avoided reviews of the film, like usual, but it was hard to ignore the numerous tweets comparing Skyfall to Home Alone, which seemed preposterous.  I forgot about the comparison while watching the movie, that is until they arrived arrived at Skyfall and started booby-trapping the house.  I could not stop laughing.  While I wouldn't go so far as "comparing" the two films, it was a hilarious (and probably unintentional) nod to Home Alone, that I wouldn't have noticed if twitter hadn't pointed it out. 

3. The end - As the film came to an end, I admit I was a little disappointed. I was looking forward to "the best Bond ever", as some proclaimed, and I didn't see it.  It was certainly a more visually cohesive Bond film than Quantum of Solace (which I actually liked), but it hardly compares to Casino Royale. However, I am happy with the direction that Skyfall ended with (and the introduction of some well-loved Bond characters).  The ending felt like a "reboot", which makes me excited for the next chapter. 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thoughts on 5 Films

1. The Raven - I can appreciate the high concept script, but it failed to be a memorable movie.  Not bad at all, but it's all very mediocre and never reaches any kind of peak.  It would have been a better movie if it went into full-on horror mode, instead it teetered between horror gore, historical drama and an oddly placed love story. The plot is about a serial killer who is inspired by the works of Edgar Allan Poe, so naturally the investigators recruit Poe to help them solve the identity of the killer.  It's both genius and absolutely ridiculous.  You will probably enjoy it more if you are actually familiar with Poe's work (I, myself, am not well-versed.  I think I read "The Raven" but I'm honestly not entirely sure.  I do own a gigantic book that contains most of his work, so I have no excuses).  I'm not sure that John Cusack was the best casting choice (as I've never been convinced that he can play anyone but John Cusack).  However, he did a great job during the whole "confrontation/realization scene".  I would have preferred for Alice Eve's character to have more depth than the typical "damsel in distress". 

2. Moonrise Kingdom - What the fuck. I totally don't get the love for this movie.  I'm not a huge fan of Wes Anderson films, but most of them I would rate as above average (my personal favorite is The Royal Tenenbaums and my least favorite is The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou).  All of his films are quirky, stylish and engaging.  I would say that Moonrise Kingdom is still quirky and stylish, but it is hardly engaging.  It lost me at the whole 12 year old kids "in love" plot.  I far more prefer a cynical view of love (or what I like to call "realistic". Ahem.), so it's hard for me to care about kids falling "in love".  There is also a scene in which these two KIDS explore their sexuality in their underwear, which is highly disturbing. It's not sweet, heartwarming, charming or compelling - although most critics seem to disagree with me.  It doesn't help that the two kids are horrible actors - everything they said felt really forced and unnatural (which is in typical Anderson style, but it's harder to pull off with child actors because I don't think they understand things like "tone").  I didn't laugh once through the whole thing, or even smile.  I just sat there, baffled by the whole experience.  The more I think about it, the angrier I get.  So, I am going to try and never think about it again. 

3. The Lucky One - Not my type of movie at all, but every once in a while, if I'm in the right mood, I can enjoy a good romance.  I fully admit that I saw The Notebook in the theater and I enjoyed it (although I own the DVD and it's still in the plastic wrap; never had any inclination to watch it again).  The Lucky One doesn't come close to the "epic love story" that it pretends to be, instead it is rather dull - mostly due to the fact that there is a distinct lack of chemistry between the two main actors (Zac Efron and Taylor Schilling).  Although Zac Efron is technically an adult, he still seems 17 to me (probably always will) and I really like Taylor Schilling as an actress (she was fantastic in the cancelled television series, Mercy), but she is far too mature for Zac Efron (yes, I realize they are only 3 years apart).  The story is more stalker/creepy than it is romantic.  I never really felt like they had any real connection.  He is more obsessed with the idea of her as his "savior" and she is more obsessed with herself (she is also a raging bitch to him, but I guess that is supposed to be "love").   Plus, the emotionally abusive ex was unnecessary (and under-developed).  It will probably end up on my "worst list" for the year; it's definitely the most boring and pointless film of the year. 

4. Battle: Los Angeles - I didn't hate it, but I found it terribly exhausting to watch.  The term "exhausting" should never really be used to describe an action movie, so it pretty much failed on every level.  The characters had no discernible personality (even the main actor, Aaron Eckhart, and the usually amazing, Michael Pena, faded into the background), the shaky action scenes were repetitive (kill the aliens!!) and the dialogue could have been cut altogether.  I'm not even sure how it maintained my attention, but I guess I went in thinking it would be stupid and it was, in fact, stupid.  So, nothing gained; nothing lost. 

5. The Deep Blue Sea - Absolutely beautiful film from beginning to end.  Just stunning.  Rachel Weisz is superb as a woman torn between two relationships - one provides passion, the other provides stability.  However, the more interesting part of of the story is the internal struggle of a woman who simply loves too much without getting enough love in return.  I can relate to her downward spiral, isolation and loss of self-worth.  It's certainly a depressing story, but melancholy is often beautiful to watch on-screen. 

3 Thoughts on Wreck-It Ralph

1. It was cute, but a little too cute - The best way to describe Wreck-It Ralph is that it's super-duper cute and cuddly, warm and fuzzy, with hot fudge and sprinkles and a cherry on top.  The trailer is a bit misleading, in that it depicts a movie that is geared towards an older generation (the generation that grew up with Super Mario Bros. and Pac-Man), but it is very much a kids movie.  And for a kids movie, it is great.  The kids that were in the theater were having a ball, laughing the whole way through.  Surprisingly, it is geared towards young girls, more so than young boys (which is AWESOME!!!).  For me, however, it was fun, but way too sugary sweet.  Once the nostalgia factor wears off, it becomes a little taxing to watch. 

2. The cast was perfect, but a little too perfect - John C. Reilly as the dopey outcast; Sarah Silverman as the sarcastic but lovable brat; Jack McBrayer as the "gee, golly, shucks" good guy; Jane Lynch as the kick-ass, take-charge leader.  All are spot-on.  So spot on that it feels like a cliche.  After about an hour, all of their voices annoyed the shit out of me. 

3. It was funny, but not funny enough - The only reason that I wanted to see this movie was because the trailer made me laugh.  I didn't really laugh out loud at all and that is the most disappointing part.  The scene that is featured in the trailer with the bad guy support group (that led me to believe it was geared for an older audience) isn't funny after you've seen it multiple times. The movie needed to have more of those moments, though, instead of all that heartwarming, mushy stuff. 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Holiday Movie Preview: 13 Films that I am Excited About

1. Silver Linings Playbook (11/21) - I should be SUPER excited about this movie.  It features a top-notch cast (Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro) and is directed by David O. Russell, who directed one of my favorite comedies (I Heart Huckabees).  However, the trailer was severely underwhelming.  It seems like a predictable romantic comedy, that represents mental disorders as something to laugh at.  Since it has already won a slew of film festival awards (and even has some "Oscar buzz"), I trust that it is actually good, but I am only mildly excited about it.   

2. Life of Pi (11/21) - I never read the book; knew nothing of the movie except that Ang Lee directed it. Sorry, not interested.  Lee makes some beautiful movies, but they are also really looooong and really booooring.  Then, I saw the trailer and everything changed - THERE IS A TIGER ON A TINY BOAT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE OCEAN!  Sold. 

3. Hitchcock (11/23) - As a fan of Hitchcock and a film fanatic, I feel like it is necessary to see this movie. However, I have trepidations - mostly about the casting.  Scar Jo as Janet Leigh is an insult and Jessica Biel has never been in a good movie (nor has she been good in any movie).  Anthony Hopkins certainly looks the part, but I hope he doesn't get lost in all that make-up.  Helen Mirren will likely be the saving grace, as Hitch's wife.  I read the book that the film is based on, "Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho", and as far as Hitchcock books go, it is my least favorite.  Love the tagline though: "Behind every great Psycho is a great woman". 

4. Rust and Bone (11/23) - Another movie that won some festival awards this year, and I've read nothing but rave reviews.  Marion Cotillard is stunning, but she was so disappointing in The Dark Knight Rises (the worst part of the movie), so I would love to see her in a role more suited to her this year. 

5. Killing Them Softly (11/30) - I already wrote about this film in my "Fall Preview" post.  I'm not sure why it got pushed back a month, but I am still excited to see it!!

6. Save the Date (12/14) - Lizzy Caplan and Alison Brie in a movie together.  That is all. 

7. Zero Dark Thirty (12/19) - The Hurt Locker was one of my favorite films of 2009, so I am very excited for Kathryn Bigelow's next venture.  The Hurt Locker was not only structurally flawless, it also reinvigorated the "war" genre (a genre that is undeniably male-centric).  Also exciting, is the casting of one of my current favorite actresses, Jessica Chastain.  She's one of the few young actresses that can portray "strong" and "feminine" with a natural ease.  The only downside is the awkward title (yes, I know what it means, doesn't make it any less awkward to say). 

8. The Impossible (12/21) - Just mentioning the 2004 Tsunami brings tears to my eyes (and I am hardly an emotional person).  I honestly don't know if I can make it through a whole movie based on the tragic event, especially because I cried during the trailer (you can't use the song "One" and expect me not to cry!).  I'm going to fight my emotions because the movie looks damn good.  It's an amazing true story, of a family who were separated during the chaos and their struggle to find each other in the aftermath.  I am a little confused about the casting of the film, considering that the story is based on a Spanish family, casting Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor is slightly offensive, no?   It's also described as an "English-language Spanish drama", uummmm....what? 

9. On the Road (12/21) - I am a little on the fence about this one.  On the one hand, I am already confident that a film adaptation of the Kerouac novel is bound to be a disappointment.  But, on the other hand, the novel is a classic and I'm surprised that it even took this long for it to be adapted.  The fact is that this movie will likely inspire the younger generation to actually read a book (and not a book about vampires or wizards) and that is never a bad thing.  I am not a fan of Kristen Stewart as an actress. However, she was decent in Welcome to the Rileys, so I am willing to look beyond her expression-less acting from the past and give her a second chance.  Maybe she will surprise me. 

10. This is 40 (12/21) - I was one of the few people that didn't think Knocked Up was the funniest movie of 2007 (HELLO..... Superbad!!! Much funnier.).  It's hard to enjoy a comedy when you hate the two main characters (and the actors playing those characters - Seth Rogen is awesome in small doses only, but don't even get me started on Katherine Heigl).  Judd Apatow had a genius idea to create a movie following Pete and Debbie from Knocked Up, as they deal with getting older.  Leslie Mann and Paul Rudd are hilarious together, so I am all in.  I know for a fact that the movie will make me feel old as well, especially since I can remember sitting in the theater watching Clueless, 17 years ago (one of Paul Rudd's first films).

11. Les Miserables (12/25) - Oddly, I have never seen a stage production of Les Miserables (It's odd because I was a Drama major in college).  It's always been on my list, but for some reason it just never made it to the top.  I have read the novel, know all of the songs in the stage production and I am pretty sure I saw the previous film version (although I don't actually remember it), so I am not a complete failure.  Once I watched the featurette that was released a few months ago, I became overwhelmed with excitement for the movie.  The film is breaking ground for the musical film genre, by having the actors sing live during filming (rather than recording the songs, then lip-syncing to them as the scene is filmed).  It's weird that this hasn't really been done before because it is usually my biggest pet-peeve when watching musicals.  I have a feeling that Anne Hathaway is going to blow me away.  Can't wait!!

12. Django Unchained (12/25) - I'm going in blind on this one - haven't watched the trailer or read anything about it.  I know it's Quentin Tarantino and that's all I really need to know.  The only Tarantino project that I don't like are the Kill Bill movies. I know it's weird, and by all accounts I should love them, but I just can't get over how awful Uma Thurman is (I didn't always hate her, she just hasn't been good in anything since Gattaca.). 

13. Promised Land (12/28) - The trailer is awfully cheesy and preachy, but I can't pass up another Gus Van Sant / Matt Damon collaboration.  Also, John Krasinski co-wrote it (with Damon) and I am really interested in his work as a writer, since his first feature, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men - an incredibly fascinating movie. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

3 Thoughts on Argo

1. "3 for 3" - Said by many to describe Ben Affleck's third venture behind the camera and I wholeheartedly agree.  Gone Baby Gone and The Town are both solid films, but Argo is damn near perfect.  I find it very easy to pick apart films, even films that I love (which is why I would never consider being a professional film critic.  I would end up hating movies).  After I watch a movie, I usually wait a full week before writing down "my thoughts" in order to let it really sink in.  After watching Argo a full 3 weeks ago, I can't come up with a single flaw.  Remember that tension filled scene in The Town where James (Jeremy Renner) runs into Doug and Claire (Ben Affleck and Rebecca Hall) as they are eating?  Well, that is how this whole movie is (especially the last 20 minutes or so).  I had to keep reminding myself to breathe.  I thought Affleck's strength was highlighting Boston, but with Argo he proves that his real strength is story structure and creating tension. Argo is a triumph in every sense of the word. 

2. "Argo fuck yourself" - I'm sure that the people who haven't seen the film are really sick of everyone quoting from it, but "Argo fuck yourself" is not only the strongest quote from the film, it's also the one that describes the film best.  For a film about such a strong and polarizing historical event, it is surprisingly funny (and fantastically sarcastic).  Nothing would make me happier than Alan Arkin accepting an Oscar, ending his speech with "Argo fuck yourself". 

3. "Based on true events" - First of all, the fact that this crazy story happened in real life BLOWS MY MIND.  Second, because it is a historical event, people are going to inevitably point out the inaccuracies.  I think that people get confused about what "based on a true event" means.  It doesn't necessarily mean that it is a factual account. Even though Affleck did an amazing job at making it feel like "fact" with his impeccable attention to detail, it's still a fictionalized tale of a historical event.   Personally, I think Affleck did a great job of giving factual information about the event (and even offered views from both Americans and Iranians), but focused the energy of the movie on this almost heist-like plot - which is what made it a joy to watch. 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

3 Thoughts on Seven Psychopaths

1. It's a brilliant mess - I don't usually pay much attention to reviews.  I tend to casually skim through a few critics here and there, after I've seen a film.  But, since this is my favorite film of the year so far (yup, big words), I am really interested in what others have to say.  For the most part, reviews are good and it seems that the only real criticism is about the third act.  While I agree that the tone of the film changes drastically, I hardly find that a fault.  First, the characters actually warn you about this tonal shift, so I was prepared for it.  Second, some of the scenes in the third act were the most hilarious scenes in the whole movie.  Third, ultimately, this is a film that is intended to be a self-reflexive, deconstruction of the mental state of a writer during the writing process.  So, if you critique the film as manic, unbalanced and too satisfied with its own cleverness, I would call that a huge success.  I simply can't complain if a film succeeded in everything it seems to want to achieve. Martin McDonagh displays his insecurities with such refreshing wit, that calling out a "flaw" in the film becomes pointless.  He created a film that is completely unexpected, layered, memorable and intelligent. There are a lot of comparisons being made to Charlie Kaufman (who did something similar with Adaptation, but it was much less amusing) and Quentin Tarantino, both are fair assessments.  If you are using these comparisons as the sole reason to criticize the film, I think that is just plain lazy.  Also, there are an alarming amount of reviews, in which the reviewer clearly wasn't paying attention.  I read one where the reviewer got two plot points completely wrong (and still gave it 4 out of 5 stars.  Fucking bizarre.).  If you think the main plot is the theft of a shih tzu, then you've completely misunderstood the film. 

2. Sam Rockwell steals the movie - I really wasn't expecting that to happen.  I loved Colin Farrell in In Bruges.  It is one of my favorite performances of his.  I remember being ecstatic that he won the Golden Globe for it and incredibly disappointed that it didn't translate to an Oscar nomination. Farrell did a great job here, but he was playing an Irish alcoholic - not exactly a tough role for him.  Christopher Walken is, once again, a perfect parody of himself and Woody Harrelson portrays the most obvious "psychopath" to a satisfactory degree.  They were all completely over-shadowed by Sam Rockwell, the most unpredictable "psychopath".  Rockwell adds a perfect amount of heart, enthusiasm, charm and impeccable comedic timing to his role.  Phenomenal performance. 

3. The problem with women - *very slight spoilers* As part of the theme of self-awareness, McDonagh addresses the issues that arise when writing female characters for violent, dark comedy/crime thrillers.  Often they are easily identified as "the naked prostitute" or "the manipulative but hot girlfriend" and both of these characters appear in this film.  Is it frustrating?  As a feminist, I would say "HELL, YES".  Does it effect my overall enjoyment of a film?  Usually not.  I obviously don't speak for all women.  There were 4 walk-outs during my viewing of this film - all females (although, I assume that these women had no idea what type of movie they were about to watch, instead they saw Colin Farrell and said "oooh, let's see that".  I also assume that they walked out due to the graphic violence and not due to the excessive use of the word "cunt".  I could be wrong, but I doubt it).  What McDonagh does towards the end of the film to reveal his own frustration with female characters is rather brilliant.  He recreates "the naked prostitute" into a character that is a feminist's dream; one that is intelligent, cultured and fully-clothed.  The genius behind this, is how incredibly ridiculous and out of place that character becomes.  The scene itself is hilarious (heightened by narration from Walken) and probably my favorite of the film. Well played, McDonagh. I feel like we had an argument over the use of strong female characters....and he won.  

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Thoughts on 5 New TV Shows

1. Elementary - There has only been 2 episodes so far, but I think this will be my favorite new series this season (which is actually quite sad because I'm not in love with it).  As I predicted, Jonny Lee Miller is a perfect Sherlock.  I love that Watson is not only a woman (Lucy Liu), but that she is his hired sober companion.  It gives a nice update to the story and gives an interesting dynamic to their relationship.  There's the sarcastic camaraderie that is typical for any Sherlock adaptation, but there is also a bit of sexual tension (although the creator promised they would never get together. Excuse me for being skeptical of that.).  I appreciate that it takes place in New York City, but that Miller keeps his accent (I get annoyed by shows taking place in NYC, where every character has the typical New York accent - that is not a realistic portrayal of the city at all).  The show is in line with the consistent CBS procedural programs, which are usually not the type of shows that I watch.  However, if it keeps with the pace of the first 2 episodes, it will keep my interest. 

2. 666 Park Avenue - The first 2 episodes were iffy, but wow the third episode was absolutely solid - complete with bleeding doors and a creepy dead girl.  It's difficult to set up a horror atmosphere and introduce a dozen characters that we are supposed to care about, therefore the first 2 episodes felt cluttered, but at least it seems to be heading in the right direction.  It was a genius move to have the actual address as 999 Park Avenue, but when the sunlight hits the numbers right, the shadow creates the 666 number (because who in their right mind would live at 666 Park Avenue??  Haha...).  The show has all the right elements in place - great characters, genuine creepy moments, intriguing back-story, humor (a character gets attacked by an elevator door.  That was supposed to be funny....right?).  But, honestly, my reason for enjoying the show (for now) comes down to the actors; all of whom I love (with the exception of Vanessa Williams.  I don't dislike her, but her whole "bitch" routine is tiresome).  Terry O'Quinn, who will always be referred to as "John Locke" but will remain "Kendall" to me (Alias trumps Lost ), is fantastically mysterious as the owner of the building.  The impossibly stunning, Rachael Taylor seems to be the star of the show, as Jane, the architect/historian that is compelled to uncover the secrets of the Drake building.  Of course, my favorite character is Henry, played by Dave Annable, who is the perfect combination of hot and awkward (I love the way he talks out of the side of his mouth).  Also, the Brothers & Sisters fan in me, can't help but smile at the fact that 666 Park Avenue is paired with Revenge (Justin and Rebecca!!!).  There are so many other actors/characters that are a bit sidelined right now, but I think all of them will play an important role in the series (if it doesn't get cancelled first).  I would love to see more from Erik Palladino (fantastic television actor). 

3. The New Normal - I watched the first 6 episodes, but I can't torture myself any more.  I laughed once, and oddly it was at a scene with the 2 characters that I hate the most on the show (Bryan and Shania).  The part I laughed at was when he was talking about how expensive his pants are and she says "They don't look like it".  It's not even funny.  That's how bad this show is.  I always hate when people criticize shows for stereotyping people, but in this case I agree.  My usual argument would be that stereotypes exist for a reason, blah blah blah, etc and so forth.  To use a stereotyped character on a television show, however, is tricky.  If this is a character that we are supposed to invest our time in getting to know, there has to be something more than just the stereotype.  The problem with The New Normal is that it is intending to give us something "new," as in revolutionary, but this show is a step backwards from the well-rounded gay couples that have existed in recent network television shows (think Kevin and Scottie on Brothers & Sisters.  It's weird to have made two Brothers & Sisters references in the same post, but hey, what a fantastic family drama that show was!).  I think as a society we have moved past the gay couple that consists of the "super gay" one and the "not gay" one. The other characters are just as simplistic, the Tea Party grandmother who spews hate whenever she can, the dumb blond who literally has no personality at all other than being a dumb blond, and a precocious child who is the voice of reason.  There is no depth to any of them and the best part is that they are all RICH!!  And they flaunt it.  Apparently "the new normal" can afford to buy designer baby clothes and throw fake weddings for children.  I don't know any of these people. I've never met anyone like them.  I wouldn't call the show offensive, but it certainly isn't as progressive as it thinks it is. 

4. Revolution - I really enjoyed the pilot episode.  The premise is original, the characters are interesting and the pace moved really quickly. It even had some humor - "I used to work at this place called Google, 80 million dollars in the bank and I would trade it all for a roll of Charmin".   It's a shame that I haven't liked another episode yet, but I'm not going to give up.  Although, I'm nervous it will get cancelled.  Especially, if it keeps it up with those dull sword fights.  I'm over it!!  I'm also getting frustrated that they haven't "discovered" that the mother is, in fact, alive, yet.  We all know that if a show casts someone like Elizabeth Mitchell, then that character will be an integral part to the show.  Why pretend otherwise?  Audiences aren't stupid.  I'm not really a fan of any of the characters (or any of the actors for that matter- except, of course, Giancarlo Esposito), nothing that I can quite pinpoint but I think there is a severe lack of chemistry and I can't really say that I am rooting for any of them.  That is quite problematic for a show like this.  All of these issues can be fixed, if NBC allows them the time to do it. 

5. Animal Practice - Just cancelled today!!  Replaced by the horrific show, Whitney (Why, oh why did NBC choose Whitney over Community?).  I can't really stick up for Animal Practice, other than saying it was a cute and satisfying comedy.  Hardly anything spectacular but I was entertained while watching it.  I think the cast is better than the script, so I guess it's a good thing that these actors can all move on to something more substantial.  I guess there is no point in saying anything else. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

3 Thoughts on The Master

1. My expectations were too high - I was hoping for There Will Be Blood type brilliance, but I would rate the movie slightly above other Paul Thomas Anderson films like Boogie Nights and Magnolia (both of which, are good films that I'm just not too crazy about).  The Master has very clear moments of genius, compelling characters and extraordinary camera work.  Specifically, the tracking shot of Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) with the boat in the background that keeps going in and out of focus is absolutely breathtaking.  The ambitious film raises some interesting questions about religion (said to be specific to Scientology, but I think it is commentating on all religions), but there are so many other themes and undertones that it all becomes a bit overwhelming.  I can't pinpoint any flaws, but when I ask myself certain questions about it - like "Do I want to watch it again?" and "Will I remember it years from now?" - My answer is a resounding "No". 

2. Joaquin Phoenix has never been better - I've never seen him in a bad performance, but I've never been stunned by any of his work either.  This is stunning.  I felt every moment of pain and confusion that Freddie felt. Considering that Freddie is not the type of character that I usually connect with, I would call that a huge success.  The rest of the cast is sufficiently fantastic, as well.  I wouldn't be surprised if Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams were nominated for an Academy Award.  But, I am predicting a win for Phoenix. 

3. Fucking end already - My only real "problem" with the film is the length.  Usually, when films are too long for my liking, I can pinpoint exactly which scenes could have been cut.  I can't do that with this film.  I can see the importance of every scene, every line of dialogue.  However, as an audience member, I get really annoyed when films seem like they are ending but instead keep going (on and on and on).  The Master felt a lot longer than it's 2 hour and 18 minute running time, because it kept giving us and "end".  It was teasing to the point of frustration.  It wasn't just me either; I could hear the loud sighs and seat shifting of the other audience members.  I can't help but think I would have been more satisfied with the film as a whole if it were 30 minutes shorter. 

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Thoughts on 5 Films

1. Kill List - Totally weird and creepy.  I was completely invested in the story, the characters and the mystery. We get a clear indication from the beginning that there is something going on in the story, underneath the one that we are watching.  It takes the entire movie for it to unfold, but it's worth it.  The reason it works so well is because the presented story is a very complex domestic drama about an assassin who has severe anger issues. It's an intriguing tale on its own, that you almost forget about the horror undertones in the beginning. The pace doesn't let up (which is amplified by the sound design - absolutely brilliant) and it has a truly horrifying ending. I would say it's probably the best "genre-bending" film I have seen in a long time.  I don't know what else to say; it's just something you have to experience for yourself. 

2. What to Expect When You're Expecting - A toddler gets hit in the head with a beer can!!  HILARIOUS, right??  Other "jokes" include a woman offering sexual favors to get her partner to do what she wants (always funny) and Jennifer Lopez still trying to convince everyone that she's an actress. The intersecting of different narratives is reminiscent of Valentine's Day/New Years Eve movies, only this one features the common thread of women vomiting (Yeah!!). The single most offensive line in the whole move comes from Elizabeth Banks towards the end: "I just wanted to glow, like the pretty women on the covers of the magazines...". The assumption that women believe that pregnancy is all a "glowing" miracle is a tad ridiculous.  If you aren't aware that pregnancy is a trauma to a woman's body, then I question whether you should bring a child into the world.  I would rather watch a film that is blatantly misogynistic, then one that pretends not to be.  The female characters in this movie are stupid, shallow and manipulative.  In fairness, the male characters are pretty lame, as well.  The scenes with Chris Rock and the other "fathers" were just sad.  Worst film of the year.  Game over.

3. The Pirates! Band of Misfits - Really cute and clever animated flick.  I was entertained through the whole thing and I think kids would get a kick out of it too. It's surprisingly educational (some nice little science and history references). There were some great recognizable voices (David Tennant!!  Oh how I miss him as The Doctor.  Watching Doctor Who is a such a chore now). Hugh Grant was surprisingly amazing as The Pirate Captain; he should definitely consider doing more animated tales.  My favorite character was The Surprisingly Curvaceous Pirate (voiced by Ashley Jensen).  That made me laugh.  I think it's probably one of those movies that has a lot of hidden jokes here and there; the more you watch it, the more you pick up.  But, even on first watch, I laughed quite a bit.  Any kids movie that has Charles Darwin as a character, has my approval. 

4. Battleship - At no point in the film does anyone say "you sunk my battleship", which I think would have made the film 100% better.  At least it would take the "serious" level down a notch and infuse some fun.  If you're going to make a Michael Bay movie, then get Michael Bay to make it. Battleship literally stole parts from Armageddon, Pearl Harbor and Transformers and combined them into one story (for the record, I was completely entertained by all three of those movies; I don't care what anyone says!!).  The lack of fun and the desperate rip-off plot are not the films only mistakes - they also cast Rihanna.  Disastrous.  The rest of the cast was decent.  I feel a little bad for Taylor Kitsch.  He obviously needs a new agent.  I was really happy to see Jesse Plemons (another FNL alum; luckily this is his only post FNL dud so far.  He seems to be popping up everywhere - Breaking Bad, The Master. I hope it never stops.).  His sole purpose in this movie was to provide some much needed comic relief and he succeeded ("He's not dead. Not dead!!!").  I also don't mind Brooklyn Decker.  She is physically flawless, like a Barbie doll.  People are going to hate on her, but so far she has been satisfying in all the roles she's been given (she was also probably the best part of What to Expect When You're Expecting).

5. The Five-Year Engagement - I was super excited to see Chris Pratt and Alison Brie within the first 5 minutes.  My hopes and expectations for the movie automatically shot through the roof.  They were easily the best part(although Alison's British accent??  oooof.  That was rough.); the rest of the movie was bland and uninteresting.  The relationship between the main characters (Emily Blunt and Jason Segel) felt honest, with very realistic problems, but it just went on, and on, and on for about 40 minutes longer than it needed to.  A little editing could have made it a decent chick flick.  There was some funny stuff, but the unfunny stuff is what ended up sticking (like the whole deer scene and the "experiment").  Mindy Kaling was under-used and since I had issues with the entire plot-line that she was involved in, I think she could have been cut out, altogether.  Also, the girl who looks like Jess Weixler but amazingly isn't, described Emily Blunt's character as "old".  Um....what?  She's 28 and is stunning.  It's too ridiculous to be funny.