Thursday, July 19, 2012

3 Thoughts on The Amazing Spider-Man

1. The Raimi films vs. the "reboot "- I don't think it is necessarily fair to compare the films, but it is inevitable.  I have fond memories of Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2 (the third one doesn't exist in my world).  Before seeing Spider-Man in the theater, I didn't really pay much attention to the superhero genre.  There were some films that I enjoyed (X-Men and Batman come to mind) but not enough to consider myself a fan.  I was in awe of Spider-Man, although a lot of that awe came from the fact that I saw it in NYC, at a time when post-9/11 emotions were still running high.  I know that these emotions surely effected my thoughts on the film back then.  It was an overwhelming feeling to watch a superhero fighting to save NYC and I was simply blown away by the sheer scope of the film.  In that context, The Amazing Spider-Man clearly has no shot at being the better film, for me.  I tried my best to be impartial, but I would be lying to claim that I succeeded.  Spider-Man ignited my love for superhero films (a love that later grew even stronger with the sequel and Batman Begins), while The Amazing Spider-man is a film that was created simply to keep the franchise going and that is all it will ever be.  It's a satisfying film.  I'm even tempted to call it a good film.  Will I remember it 10 years from now the way I remember Spider-Man? Not a chance in the world. 

2. Color me confused - So, knowing that I wasn't a superhero film fan in my earlier years, you can probably guess that I never read comic books either.  Both Spider-Man and The Amazing Spider-Man are origin tales of how our hero came to be.  I expected some minor differences in the plot to keep it interesting.  However, some of the differences are just too big to ignore.  Like, which "first love" came first, Mary Jane or Gwen Stacy?  And why is there no mention of Harry Osborn (Peter Parker's best friend).  I have a ton of these type questions, but most of them are too spoilery (still not sure if that's a word, but I use it often). Which one of these versions is closest to the original comic book?  Or are there different versions of the story there, too?  It was a big distraction for me while watching the film and honestly, it was kind of annoying. 

3. The characters - Andrew Garfield was really impressive (I think Tobey Maguire was just as good).  His enthusiasm for the role was evident and his natural awkwardness (I say that it the nicest possible way - I adore awkward guys) made Peter Parker irresistible. I would only fault Garfield for the awkward one liners he shouts out while in action as Spidey.  The lines are already cheesy, but they are cringe-worthy when they are combined with a really thick, really bad NY accent (although it was really the Director, Marc Webb's choice to use those lines....sooo...).  Emma Stone, as Gwen Stacy, was as lovely as ever, but I feel like she could have been used in a smarter way.  She has perfect comedic timing and a natural dry wit that should have been displayed more. The character of Gwen Stacy is a nice representation of the "perfect girl" character, so why not focus on her smarts instead of dressing her in knee-high socks and making her all "cutesy".  I'm just saying that it would have been refreshing to see Peter Parker fall for the girl because of her brains rather than her kindness. Denis Leary, as Captain Stacy, was another distraction because he looks practically identical to Willem Dafoe (who was in Spider-Man as Norman Osborn).  Why would they do that???  Who else was in the movie?  Oh yeah, there was a villain, played by Rhys Ifans, who was terribly unmemorable. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

3 Thoughts on Brave

*very slight spoilers*

1. The comparisons to other Pixar Films - Truth be told, I'm not really a Disney-Pixar film fan.  I know, I know, that is considered blasphemy amongst film folk. I have nothing against them, but I would never rate any of them above 3 out of 5 stars.  As you may have noticed, I don't really do the whole "ratings" thing. Not only is it too difficult for me to do, but it also seems like such a definitive way to view a movie.  Reducing a film to a numerical score is a disservice to the film (and also to your own writing).  Sorry, you have to read actual words to know what my thoughts on a film are.  For me, Brave was more enjoyable than any other Pixar film before it, therefore I would "rate" it above the others, but from a critical standpoint it isn't necessarily better than any of them. 

2. The "feminist agenda" - I thought that I didn't care about the whole feminist aspect of the movie; Just because it is the first Pixar film centering around a female character didn't mean it would be a great feminist tale. The film is about Merida, voiced by the always delightful Kelly Macdonald, a princess who reaches that crucial point in her life where she must choose a husband in order to preserve the traditions of her kingdom.  I assumed it would follow along the lines of similar fairy tales (i.e - in the end she ends up marrying for love instead of what her family wants).  But in fact, there is no love story. Let me repeat that: THERE IS NO LOVE STORY!! Um.....what?! Crazy...right? Even when I think about some earlier Disney animated films that had strong female characters, like Mulan and Pocahontas, they always featured a love story in some way.   It's not surprising to me that there have been debates about Merida's sexual identity even though absolutely nothing in the movie gives reason for this debate to occur, except, of course, that she doesn't want to get married. We all know that if a woman doesn't want to conform to the marriage ideal, then she must not like men (where is that sarcasm font that everyone keeps talking about?).  Her sexuality is a moot point (a "cows opinion".  If you don't get that reference, we probably can't be "friends"). The point of the movie is that Merida is challenging tradition instead of accepting it.  As she says "Our fate lives within us.  You just have to be brave enough to see it." The film's message is to encourage people to think for themselves, come to their own conclusion and follow their own path.  In all honesty, the main character could have been male and the same story could have been told (but it has been...many times). 

3. The twist - The second half of the movie is a bit unexpected, which was a really nice surprise. That's all I can really say because I would never dream of ruining someone else's viewing experience.  I applaud the person that made the decision to not show the full plot in the trailer.

Best Films of 2011 **Updated**

I realize this is super late, but it really took me this long to see all the films that I wanted to see from 2011.  So here is my final "Best Films of 2011" list (probably...).  All of my thoughts on these films can be found on this blog. 

1. Drive
2. Super 8 
3. Melancholia
4. The Skin I Live in
5. Bridesmaids 
6. Midnight in Paris 
7. 50/50 
8. Another Earth
9. Moneyball 
10. Attack the Block 
10.5. Warrior 

Friday, July 6, 2012

Thoughts of 5 Films

1. The Artist - This was the only film left on my "must watch" list from 2011.  I was waiting to update my "best of" list until after I watched this, assuming that it would make the cut.  It totally doesn't.  The movie is enjoyable and all, but it's not remarkable in any way.  It's just one of those films that you can't really say anything bad about, which is why it earned a ridiculously high 98% on the RT TomatoMeter and therefore, must be amazing. If it didn't have the gimmick of being a silent film, I honestly don't think anyone would have noticed it.  The film is littered with all these life lessons like "beware of your pride" but it doesn't really evoke any sort of emotion.   There were a few really beautiful scenes, the acting was decent (not Oscar-worthy) and it went a little bit darker than I was expecting but overall my best assessment is that it was cute. 

2. This Means War - I can appreciate a film that tries to combine genres. Bringing together an action/adventure tale with a rom-com is a challenging concept.  McG does a satisfying job at balancing the explosions with the relationship dialogue, but the movie is a complete disaster.  The problem lies more with the script than anything else. It's offensive and disturbing on so many levels.  Two CIA operatives (Tom Hardy and the guy from Star Trek) fall in love with the same woman (Reese Witherspoon), but instead of handling it like sane adults, they decide to compete for her love in the most psychotic ways possible.  They break into her home, spy on her, and then use the information they get to pretend that they are well-rouned individuals.  The two men are opposite in nature, Hardy portrays the "nicer" one (and he's waaaaaay hotter, too.  This makes the entire plot pointless. The choice is obvious from the start: Don't pick the less attractive douchebag. Duh.).  The ending bothered me the most because it was sort of like a "fuck you" to the audience (meaning that it doesn't end how it should end).  Reese's character needs some serious therapy, not the mind-numbing advice from her best friend, played by the never funny Chelsea Handler.  I enjoy Chelsea when she interviews celebrities because she is very good at throwing them off their game, but as a comedian she is just not my idea of funny.  Conversations amongst females in movies often makes me cringe, but the ones in this film are distressing.  Women don't talk like that in real life, even the most vapid of women have more depth in their conversations than the women in this movie. 

3. Newlyweds - I'm not really a fan of Ed Burns as a writer/director; The Brothers McMullen, Sidewalks of New York and She's the One all bored me to tears.  Yet, I LOVE Ed Burns.  I love him as a New Yorker, as an actor and as a passionate filmmaker.  It is evident that he makes movies because he loves making them.  He is always true to his own style and I have nothing but respect for him.  Newlyweds was a film made for under $10,000 that was released online and marketed through social media sites like Twitter.  It was a charming little movie and is certainly my favorite of his.  The story felt very authentic.  I have never been, nor will I ever be a "newlywed", but I can still relate to the problems that relationships face once family members become involved.  I love the point of view that is given, which is that modern marriages have a shelf life and that even if a marriage is ending after 18 years it should be considered a "success".  It was refreshingly honest, only slightly contrived and a bit funnier than I was expecting. 

4. Jeff, Who Lives at Home - What a nice surprise this movie was.  I was expecting a more slapstick comedy about a guy who still lives at home and can't get his shit together. Instead, it was a film that raises the ultimate questions of destiny vs. free will.  Jeff, played to adorable perfection by Jason Segel, is a bit obsessed with following his own destiny, so much so that he is too afraid to live a productive life.  He allows for "signs" to control his actions, which at the start of the story is the name "Kevin".  His story unfolds as he follows these "signs" and it really is just about the sweetest story I've seen in a while.  I really liked Susan Sarandon (as Jeff's mom) in the film. Her story arch was a bit unrealistic (as was most of the film), but her acting was superb. 

5. New Year's Eve - I will never understand why a film like this attracts so many actors (oh yah...$$).  I admit, I went in with a bad attitude, knowing full well that I would absolutely loathe it.  I couldn't even process the thought of keeping an open mind after watching the similarly themed Valentine's Day, especially when such terrible actresses like Sarah Jessica Parker, Jessica Biel and Katherine Heigl are cast in the main story lines.  It was dreadful.  Too many plots, not enough development and cringe-worthy dialogue like "May the best vajayjay win".  I was hoping the highlight would be Lea Michele belting out a song, but for some bizarre reason her voice was considerably dialed back.  I'm hoping she gives up this "I want to be a movie star" mentality and goes back to Broadway.  The actual highlight of the film is a bit surprising and a bit embarrassing to admit, but I have to be honest: Zac Efron.  Simply adorable and held his own against Michelle Pfeiffer (who was either phoning it in or miscast, I can't decide).  Also, did anyone else notice Alyssa Milano? She had like 1/2 a line of dialogue.  Was it supposed to be a cameo or did the rest of her scenes get cut?  So awkward.  The end credits showed the cast having fun while filming their scenes. It's too bad they couldn't bring this fun to the actual movie.

Ted: 3 Reasons to Watch it; 2 Reasons to Skip it

Reasons to watch it:

1. If you laugh at "Family Guy"... - And really, I'm quite skeptical of anyone who doesn't laugh while watching Family Guy.  Even my mother calls it "stupid" and "crude", but every time I put it on at her house, she ends up in a fit of tears from laughing so hard. So, yes, Ted is stupid and crude but I laughed through the whole thing, so who the fuck cares?  It takes a special talent to make rape jokes funny and Seth MacFarlane has it.

2. Mark Wahlberg - I don't know why I enjoy him in comedies as much as I do.  I think he just has a very serious presence to him, so watching him be funny is probably more entertaining than the actual funny stuff.  I'm not sure if that makes sense, but my point is that he knocks it out of the park.  Plus, he lays it on thick with his Boston accent, which always makes me smile. 

3. Giovanni Ribisi - "I Think We're Alone Now".  One of the funniest things I have ever seen. Ever. Even if you hate everything else about this movie, it would still be worth watching just for this one scene.   

Reasons to skip it:

1. It feels long - A film like this really doesn't need to be 2 hours long.  There was about 1/2 an hour of melodramatic bullshit that could have been dropped.  Also, the whole kidnapping plot could have been cut altogether (although then we wouldn't get the Ribisi in that case...leave it alone). 

2. It's the same old story - It's the same cliche of "bromance" vs. "romance".  It just uses a teddy bear to define itself as "original".  Mila Kunis, plays the girlfriend who suddenly decides that after 5 years in her relationship, she wants more.  She wants him to "grow up", start thinking about a career, marriage, etc. So, naturally, she gives the ultimatum: "It's me or the teddy bear".  I say dump her ass.  The obvious flaw in the plot is that if you had a talking teddy bear you would be a millionaire (problems solved!!).