Monday, June 18, 2012

3 Thoughts on Prometheus

1. The Good vs. The Bad - I have to respect a film that not only tackles big questions, but also creates a whole other "world".  It's often advised for writers to "write what you know", but I am far more impressed by writers (and filmmakers) who imagine the "unknown".  It's a daunting and ambitious task to create a future world that still feels relevant, realistic and cohesive - some things fall through (in this case: dialogue and character development).  I don't think anyone would disagree that the film has some flaws, but overall the "good" of the film far outweighs the "bad" of the film.  As for the "plot holes" that people are claiming exist, it doesn't bother me in the least.  I think every "hole" actually has a theory behind it that is left for the audience to figure out for themselves.  There are several websites that are now explaining a lot of these "holes"; I haven't decided if I want to look at them yet because I simply don't have the desire to see if my theories are correct.  I understand that expectations were high and it left a lot of people disappointed, but I think focusing on the flaws is a mistake.  Prometheus is a film that missed being a masterpiece by a few inches.  Visually outstanding, thematically bold and cinematically intense. 

2. Technology vs. Humans - In this world that Ridley Scott created, technology has won.  We are introduced to a group of people that are embarking on possibly the greatest discovery by human-kind and yet they are all pretty fucking stupid.  So, yes, it was frustrating when one of them did something so blatantly stupid that you want to yell at the screen.  However, all of their actions can be justified if you think about how reliant we are on technology now and then imagine how reliant we will be in 80 years.  Sadly, I imagine that human instinct will be obsolete.  Common sense, problem solving and learning through observation are already diminished concepts. I am reminded of the astonishingly dumb Zooey Deschanel iPhone commercial "is that rain?" and of the people who start crossing a street because the walk sign tells them to and not because they checked to see if cars were actually coming. The film is a great commentary on just how truly stupid humans will become.  The evidence is not just in the characters actions, but also with the character of David (an android, played to perfection by Michael Fassbender).  They rely more on his expertise than their own knowledge and trust that he will be able to maintain a dialogue and understanding of the "engineers".  They become a little too trusting, not realizing that he has his own intriguing agenda.  I am disappointed that the other characters weren't as interesting, which is mostly a dialogue issue because all of the actors are proven talent (yes, even Logan Marshall-Green.  Also known as Trey Atwood from The O.C. - That's proven talent....right?).  Although, their lack of personality may have been done on purpose to show how diminished the human brain has become?  Just a theory. 

3. Creation vs. Evolution - "We want answers!!!"  ~ The human race.   The biggest "message" that I took away from Prometheus is this:  Our incessant need for answers will destroy us. It brings to light the age-old debate between creationism and evolution, but goes beyond by giving us a third option - an option that blows apart both theories, but oddly combines them as well.  The film also questions whether science and religion can, in fact, co-exist, although it seems to answer that in a very Lost-like manner (Christianity prevails).  It doesn't answer it outright, but I think it is heavily implied, while the answers to everything else are left for us to figure out (at least until the sequel, anyway). Personally, I sort of like not knowing. 

Thoughts on 4 Films

1. The Grey - Things I knew about this movie before I saw it: Liam Neeson punches a wolf. The end. So, I was pleasantly surprised that there was an actual plot and even more surprised that it was incredibly tense and suspenseful. On the surface it's about a group of guys who survived a plane crash only to face a pack of wolves in the icy cold Alaskan terrain. But, it's much deeper than that and can be felt from the very first scene with Ottway (Neeson) uttering the words "I want to see your face, feel your hands in mine, feel you against me...but I know that will never be". This, coming from an actor who dealt with the sudden loss off his wife a few years ago and has drown himself in work ever since, hit me pretty hard. The film became more about dealing with loss, fighting to survive and accepting death rather than the whole "wolf punching" bit and it was quite beautiful and poetic.

2. Coriolanus - If you are a huge fan of Ralph Fiennes and/or a huge fan of Shakespeare then you will probably enjoy this, if you're not I would say skip it. It's an impressive debut for Ralph's first time behind the camera - the modernization of the play works really beautifully and the film is visually exciting. However, I did feel like it was a bit of a vanity piece for Fiennes, overacting through it's entirety. The other actors were considerably dialed back, which, to me, felt awkward. The film could have definitely used more Gerard Butler (sexy man).  The story isn't that interesting (to me anyway),  and far from memorable.  I don't actually remember reading the Shakespeare play but I know that I did at some point.   Overall, I was left feeling a bit disappointed. 

3. Chronicle - Totally awesome superhero origin film. It's everything expected from this genre - clever, original, fun and compelling. I was skeptical of the found footage gimmick, but it is used really well and provides for some awesome shots, especially when the camera is operated via telekinesis. And that shot of the spider!! Wow. So fucking cool. The 3 young actors were also very impressive (Dane Dehaan reminds me of a young Leo - like The Basketball Diaries young). If you like the show Misfits then you will like this (and if you haven't seen the show Misfits stop everything and watch it).

4. Terri - Extremely boring. I am utterly baffled at reviews that call it "funny" because it isn't in the least bit humorous. It's really just another high school outcast tale, offering nothing new to a story that's been told a million times. The only bit of credit I can give it is for casting a realistic "outcast" actor for the part (instead of casting an adorable Michael Cera type actor). He was painfully awkward to watch, which I think was the goal. The film, however, was just painful - specifically the scene with Terri, Chad and the girl. The scene was just over-the-top ridiculous and it lasted FOREVER.

Friday, June 15, 2012

3 Thoughts on Headhunters

1.  It's better than the inevitable Hollywood remake (probably) - Sadly, the remake talks have already begun.  Is it really that hard for people to watch a film with subtitles?  I find it funny because when I watch a movie at home, I put the English subtitles on (for all movies) because it is actually easier for me to understand and absorb information through reading.  I know that is odd, but it works for me.  Anyway, if past examples are any indication (Let the Right One in), a remake is unnecessary, especially if the rumored casting of Mark Wahlberg is true.  That's just preposterous. 

2. It's extremely clever - Are there plot holes?  Probably.  Do I care?  Not in the least.  I'm sure that there are people who feel the need to dissect every inch to prove that they are in fact smarter than the movie, but I just don't find that necessary.  I just enjoy that it is a film that made me think, put the pieces together, pay attention to every detail and then blew my mind by the way it all came together. The beginning of the film is predictable, at least that is what the audience is led to believe.   For the first 30 minutes or so, I was convinced that I already knew the film - it felt like every other "heist" film that exists.  Then the story takes so many unexpected turns, that by the end I began to question if it can even be considered a "heist" movie at all.  

3. The character motivation isn't believable - The only thing I would fault the movie for is the presented reasons for the characters actions. I would almost prefer for the film to give us no motivation (leaving the audience to come to their own conclusions) than to give us ones that don't make sense. I find it hard to digest that the motivation behind Roger's actions is simply his insecurity about his height.  There has to be more to it than that....right? Although, in thinking about it, anytime someone asks me to describe the perfect guy, the first thing I say is "tall" but that is just because I assume they are trying to set me up with someone, so I just describe Cory Monteith "tall, Canadian, drummer, totally awkward but confident in his own awkwardness, former bad boy, has a passion for hockey".  I keep going until the person stops me - "wow, Michelle, that is incredibly specific".  To which I reply "yup, I'm really picky....but if you find that guy, you can totally set me up with him".  Sorry, for the tangent but my point is that "tall" doesn't actually matter.  It's weird to me that a guy would feel the need to overcompensate for that reason alone.  Also, (*spoiler ahead*) it is revealed that his wife does in fact love him (we are led to believe that she is materialistic and only with him because he buys her things), but there is no reason as to why (which in this case, we need a reason).  He spends the entire movie treating her like garbage, it would have been nice to have some sort of justification behind her love (otherwise she would need some help, psychologically).  The "villain" is a bit too one-sided, plus his actions seem a bit extreme for his motivation (which I won't give away).  He just doesn't seem human at all. 

Friday, June 1, 2012

Thoughts on 5 Films

1. In the Land of Blood and Honey - An admirable effort from writer/director, Angelina Jolie, but I can't help but feel that something was missing.  The beginning is incredibly impactful, but the rest of the film left me feeling disappointed.  Taking place during the Bosnian War, the film focuses on a love story between two people on opposite sides of the war.  It's obviously a complicated relationship, to say the least, but it is also completely unrealistic.  The chances that these two would meet not once, but twice during this violent conflict is practically impossible.  As the film progresses, their motivation comes into question - Is she using him to guarantee her survival? Is he using her to maintain a part of his humanity?  The ending is fucking brutal and intense, yet I still felt nothing for either of the characters.  On a sidenote, I absolutely love the poster - how the blood splatter creates an outline of the two characters.  It's really beautiful. 

2. Contraband - First of all, why does Kate Beckinsale have blond hair?  She's such a gorgeous woman that, of course, she still looks fantastic, but definitely a billion times better as a brunette.  Second, I can't tell you how many times I have confused Giovanni Ribisi and Ben Foster.  I love them both, but they are pretty much interchangeable in my eyes.  Good thing Ribisi did this weird, indistinguishable accent so I didn't confuse their characters (anyone have any idea what that accent was supposed to be?).  Third, this movie was fucking dumb.  Period. 

3. We Need to Talk About Kevin - Tilda Swinton is at her very best here, and that is saying a lot considering how amazing she has been in past performances.  She was absolutely mesmerizing and I just can't fathom the fact that she was snubbed for an Oscar nomination (that she probably should have won).  Ezra Miller was also fantastic (however, I met the kid before and I instantly received a very memorable, very eery and very creepy vibe from him  - so I think it was just the product of perfect casting).  Aside from the performances, the film was a bit underwhelming due in part to my extremely high expectations.  I think my problem is with the narrative.  Usually, I like when a story is non-linear, as this film was.  The film is comprised of Eva's (Swinton) memories and the audience is supposed to put the pieces together.  However, the story is pretty straightforward so there wasn't anything to put together.  Still, the film is worth watching in all of it's unsettling glory. 

4. Albert Nobbs - I didn't like this film at all.  It's an interesting story, but that's about it.  It hurts the film that the two characters that are pretending to be men are played by well known actresses (Glenn Close and Janet McTeer) because the "reveal" that they are actually women becomes pointless.  I also think that the point of the film was missing.  At least I didn't see any.  I also didn't really understand why "Albert" was trying to force Helen (played by the lovely Mia Wasikowska) into a relationship that she clearly wasn't interested in.  She was forcing her own unhappiness onto someone else, but we were still supposed to root for them?  I think? 

5. Pariah - I believe that this is the first time ever, that I felt like a film was too short.  When it ended, I actually thought there was something wrong with the DVD.  I enjoyed the film, all 87 minutes of it.  It was compelling, raw and emotional.  The performances were so on point, that the beginning could be mistaken for a documentary.  Kim Wayans, usually known for her comedic talents, was surprisingly intense as a mother struggling to come to terms with her daughter's sexuality.  As short as it was, I really liked the way it ended.  "I'm not running; I'm choosing". 

Television: The Good, The Bad and The Canceled

The Good - Television definitely took a tumble this season.  Good shows were hard to find.  Especially, new shows.  The only real "break-out" show, for me, is Revenge.  It was really the only show that captivated my interest through the entire season.  The writers were smart to push up the reveal of who was shot in the pilot to mid-season, instead of dragging it out to the finale.  The second half of the season was able to re-invent the story to prove it's longevity as a series.  A few "older" shows shined such as Fringe, which is possibly the most consistently awesome show currently on tv, Mad Men, this past season may just be it's best and Southland, even though it didn't have any "standout" moments the season was still solid.  On the comedy front, Community remains utterly brilliant.  Happy Endings, Parks & Recreation and Cougar Town all had a satisfying season.

The Bad - There are some new shows that were shockingly bad, yet still received a renewal. Specifically, Smash and Hart of Dixie.  While, Smash had a decent pilot, the rest of the episodes were downright terrible.  I fast-forwarded through the musical numbers and laughed at how ridiculously predictable the plot became.  I predict that Hart of Dixie will be the CW's new One Tree Hill (you know, the show that should have been canceled after the first episode but instead became a running joke amongst pretty much everyone and lasted a whopping 9 seasons).  It's simply terrible and the fact that it was renewed is offensive.  There were some new comedies that were sometimes entertaining like, New Girl, Suburgatory and Two Broke Girls that will live on to next season, but I'm still not sure if I will be watching. They just weren't funny enough to be "must watch tv". Also, not bad, but surprisingly mediocre, were two of my favorite shows, The Vampire Diaries and Glee.  TVD's third season devoted much of it's time to the mythology of the "original" vampires and it bored me to death, while Glee became repetitive and downright annoying.  Also, what the fuck happened with The Killing?  The first season was pretty good, but the second season barely makes sense and they still haven't figured out who the murderer is?  Way to drag things out painfully. 

The Canceled - While we said a sad "goodbye" to a few loved series like Chuck and Desperate Housewives,  I think we can all agree that their time was up.  It was another year of introducing a billion new shows and canceling 90% of them. It's a good thing that I already stopped watching most of these canceled shows (in parenthesis are the amount of episodes I made it through):  The Secret Circle (about 10 episodes), Awake (1/2 of the first episode), The River (4 episodes), Ringer (about 12 episodes), Terra Nova (6 or 7 episodes), Person of Interest (3 episodes), Alcatraz (5 episodes), Are You There, Chelsea (1 very painful episode) and Pan Am (I think I actually watched the whole thing, which is just absurd).  So, I decided that I am no longer investing my time in new shows.  It's a waste of time, really.  Better to wait it out and see what survives. 

3 Thoughts on The Cabin in the Woods

1. *Spoiler* *Spoiler* *Spoiler* - Ok, I'm not actually going to spoil anything.  But holy fuck were people flipping out about being spoiled!  I don't see what the big deal is, considering there isn't a "big twist" in the film, but rather a "slow reveal".  You are introduced to this reveal from the beginning, so I don't think knowing what it is would actually ruin anything.  I think, if knowing a "spoiler" ruins a film for you, then it probably wasn't a very good film to begin with. 

2. It's awesome, from beginning to end -  If you go in expecting a horror movie, you may be disappointed.  It's much smarter than that.  Instead, it flips the horror genre on it's ass, recognizing all the cliche's and gives the audience a satisfying reason behind these cliche's.  Totally awesome. 

3. Casting Problems - I would say that my only problem with the film lies with the casting, but since the film sort of answers why these "actors/characters" were cast, it's hard to fault it. I loved the casting of Dollhouse alums, Fran Kranz and Amy Acker.  Plus, Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford stole the movie.  However, I do think they could have found more charismatic actors for the rest of the group. 

3 Thoughts on The Avengers

1. The first half of the film - Joss Whedon had the daunting task of creating a film for a universal audience that centers around six superheroes (plus three other seemingly important characters and a villain).  Some are more "known" than others, but all of them got this awkward "introductory" scene that was tedious to sit through.  Some of it worked, like Hulk's introduction.  Some of it didn't, like Thor's introduction (my friend, who is not into "superhero" movies, turned to me and said "why is that dude carrying a hammer?" To which I replied " talking.").  For me, the only heroes that were remotely interesting were Iron Man, Hulk and Hawkeye.  It's interesting that the actors portraying these characters (Robert Downey Jr, Mark Ruffalo and Jeremy Renner, respectively) are considerably more established actors (and have all been nominated for Oscars.  Coincidence? Maybe.).  Let's face it, the other three actors, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson were hired because they're pretty and therein lies the problem.  There is an argument to be made for Scarlett's acting skills, but it's a thin argument and it certainly isn't why she was hired as Black Widow.

2. The last half of the film - So, after all the characters are introduced, there are all these hilarious moments of bickering between them.  They all need to prove themselves and show off their "power". This is where Whedon's knack for dialogue shines through, but ultimately began to get a little repetitive. Luckily, there is a point in the film, that is hard to pinpoint, when it goes from being mildly entertaining to completely awesome.  They eventually come together to form "The Avengers" with a shared goal - to overpower Loki (a villain that I wasn't particularly thrilled about).  The last half of the film is a non-stop spectacle of grand proportions.  It's what the term "blockbuster" was made for.  It's just a tremendous amount of fun and I wanted it to last forever. 

3. "one of these things doesn't belong" - There is an obvious problem with women in superhero films (too sexualized, too weak, and they always rely on a man to save them).  Joss Whedon has always done a kick-ass job at writing strong female characters, but I was disappointed with this.  Black Widow really only had one decent scene (her first introductory scene, although it was a complete rip-off of Alias).  Her other scene, involving Hulk was incredibly painful to sit through (I felt like I was watching a Lifetime movie about domestic abuse).  It became obvious that Black Widow was, indeed, the weak link at the end when they form a circle and the camera pans around them.  Black Widow stands there, looking so tiny in comparison to her male counterparts and clicks her gun into place.  I actually laughed out loud. She just doesn't belong.  I went to see the movie straight from work, without a chance to change from my "work clothes".  I didn't really notice how out of place I was in my dress, trench coat and 5 inch heels, until I was leaving.  You see, I forced my friend to stay with me until after the credits, along with approximately 30 other audience members (all male), to see the infamous "shawarma scene" (not worth it).  When it was over, I carefully made my way down the theater steps, when one of the lovely guys yelled out "one of these things doesn't belong".  I looked up out of curiosity and he said "yah, you!".  I laughed it off, but it got me thinking.  Maybe, he's right.  Maybe, we just don't belong in superhero movies.