Thursday, August 23, 2012

Thoughts on 5 Films

1. The Hunger Games - Even after all the hype and the mostly positive reviews, I just couldn't get excited about this film.  I pictured it to be Twilight-esque and I hate all things Twilight.  I was wrong.  It's good.  Really good.  I thought the whole film was just a bunch of kids running around the woods hunting each other, which is what the last hour was, but the first hour leading up to the big "game" was really engaging and tense.  The last hour, the "game", suffered a bit from convenient storytelling (Katniss and Peeta's survival was based mostly out of convenient timing), which was frustrating.  The ending felt a bit rushed, but overall I was completely entertained and captivated. Having never read the books, I am clueless as to how the story continues but the movie left off at a pretty interesting moment in time.  I am intrigued by the relationship between Katniss and Peeta.  Surely, they will have a life-lasting bond after suffering such trauma, but is that enough to sustain a relationship?  I am now a fan of Jennifer Lawrence; she did an outstanding job.  It is a shame, though, that as much as I enjoyed the film, I still have no interest in reading the books. 

2. John Carter - I actually had a somewhat positive attitude towards this film, before watching it.  I knew that it was a box office disaster and that it had generally bad reviews, but it also had some surprisingly positive ones as well.  It also sat at the top of my Netflix queue with a "very long wait" message for over 2 months, so there is obviously interest in it.  After about 20 minutes in, I realized that it is, in fact, a terrible movie.  There were some decent scenes and the general story is interesting.  I think it just got lost in its own epic-ness that the narrative became confusing (at least it wasn't boring, though).  I thought, at the very least, that the effects would be really cool, but that was probably what I hated most about the film; everything looked extremely fake.  The acting wasn't horrible, but I can't look at Taylor Kitsch and not think of Tim Riggins.  I really like Lynn Collins, ever since I saw her in Uncertainty.  She is stunning (although I could do without the fake tan).  I don't think either of them can be blamed for the failure of this film.  I would blame everyone else. 

3. Margaret - I watched the 2 1/2 hour studio version, not the 3 hour director's cut.  It was still way too fucking long, but with such a powerful character study, I hardly noticed.  I didn't really know what the film was about, so I was a little taken back by the tragedy that sets the story in motion.  It's a wonderfully complicated story about the choices one makes in life and how those choices effect other people.  The film revolves around Margaret, played by Anna Paquin, but has a shitload of supporting characters that fill the screen at different points in the plot. At one point in the film, someone says to Margaret "we're not the supporting characters in your fascinating life", which is ironic, because that is exactly what they are. Some were really strong and necessary characters but some could have been cut out completely without notice (like Matthew Broderick's character).  I really, really, really don't like Anna Paquin as an actress - she seems like she struggles to get the words to leave her mouth and she has these weird facial twitches that drive me insane.  If she wasn't a successful child actress, I can't see her getting a job in the present day.  However, I will hesitantly admit that her annoying traits worked for this film.  Personally, I think the film would have had more impact with a stronger actress, but that's just me being overly critical. 

4. Being Flynn - This film was incredibly depressing to watch but I can't say that it had any resonating impact.  It deals with several heavy issues like depression, abandonment, homelessness, addiction etc., but never really digs in enough to become unsettling.  The acting is solid, with Paul Dano holding his own against Robert De Niro.  It's almost impossible to make me feel sympathy for someone who abandoned their child (even more so if that person is also racist, homophobic, narcissistic and arrogant), but De Niro almost did it. I can't help but think that many of the scenes with Lili Taylor were cut out of the film because she seemed like a glorified extra (I'm too lazy to look into it).  Overall, I think the film is worth watching, if only to gain insight into the fragile mind of a writer. 

5. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows - The first one was fun, but terribly unmemorable.  This one is less fun and even less memorable.  As in the first one, Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law seem to be have more fun making the film than the audience has watching it.  Their chemistry and banter is the only thing that keeps the film afloat.  I like Guy Ritchie (for the most part), but he seems to be stuck on a repetitive loop.  I'm all for a director sticking to a signature style, but they need to mix it up a bit to keep it interesting.  There was one cool scene - the forest scene, but it was still typical Richie style (slow-motion bullet's abound).  Noomi Rapace was a miscast - I don't buy her as a damsel in distress for one second. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Fall Movie Preview: 14 Films That I Am Excited About

1. The Words 9/7 - So, it may not seem like the most original idea- the plot revolves around a writer taking credit for someone else's work. It's a tired plot that has been used most recently in Woody Allen's You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger and an episode of 90210 (Yes, I totally watch that show).   However, the trailer makes the movie look a lot more interesting than the plot summary.  I love the exploration of human desperation and the lengths that someone would go to for "success".  Also, Bradley Cooper.  I'm not just jumping on the bandwagon; I've been a fan of his since his Will Tippin days. 

2. Bachelorette 9/7 - 3 reasons I am excited: 1. Lizzy Caplan and Adam Scott in the same movie!!!  Party Down, you guys!!  2. I have a mini-crush on Isla Fisher.  She makes me smile.  3. Entertainment Weekly described it as "The Hangover by way of Heathers".  There are also plenty of reasons that I am not excited as well, like that God-awful trailer.  It is horrendous - I seriously didn't laugh at all.  The cliche that female friends are catty and jealous of each other seems to be the dominant joke. That makes me a little nervous.  I'm also not a big fan of Kirsten Dunst.  But,'s Party Down, you guys!! 

3. The Master 9/14 - I haven't watched the trailer and skipped over the Entertainment Weekly article, so I can't really say much.  I want to watch it with a blank slate. I was never really a Paul Thomas Anderson fan until his masterpiece, There Will Be Blood.  I realize now that his other lauded films, Magnolia and Boogie Nights, came out when I was in high school and I have a strong feeling that I failed to grasp the genius behind them.  I will plan a re-watch soon.  Anyway, if The Master is even close to the brilliance of There Will Be Blood, then it will probably be the best film of the year. 

4. Trouble with the Curve 9/21 - I have a soft spot for Baseball drama's ever since I was forced to watch Field of Dreams over and over and over again.  Although I am still not convinced of its greatness,  I do love Moneyball, A League of their Own, Angels in the Outfield....the list goes on.  So, I will give this film a shot. 

5. Looper 9/28 - Speaking of Angels in the Outfield, everyone remembers how freakin' adorable Joseph Gordon-Levitt was in that movie...right?  He was definitely one of my first "crushes", I always knew he was going to be a success (although, I also thought my other "crush" Jonathan Taylor Thomas would be as well.  See, I'm not always right).  I've seen every project he's ever done and he's only disappointed me once (Killshot - absolutely terrible performance).  Now that we are adults, I no longer have a "crush" (he's way too hipster for my taste, but still adorable), but as an actor, I think he's the best of my generation.  One of the films that convinced me of this was Brick, which is a bizarre film to say the least, but also insanely original.  I'm glad that JGL and Rian Johnson are teaming up again for this film, which from the trailer looks fucking mental.  I have a feeling that I am going to love it.  If you are a fan of Brick, I suggest you also watch The Brothers Bloom, which was also written and directed by Johnson. 

6. Argo 10/12 - Huge fan of Ben Affleck in a director role.  Both Gone Baby Gone and The Town were on my list of best films during their release year. He also gave a fine performance in The Town and The Company Men.   I can forgive his mistakes (pretty much everything after Good Will Hunting, which remains one of my favorite movies to date).  Those rumors that he will be directing a Justice League movie? I am in.  Screw the haters.  I am glad that he is making a conscious effort to step away from his comfort zone (i.e Boston) and I really think he is going to surprise everyone.  I was trying to avoid the trailer for Argo, but it played before Total Recall and I couldn't look away.  The story is fascinating (how has this not been made already??) and the film looks incredible.

7. Seven Psychopaths 10/12 - Colin Farrell, Woody Harrelson, Chrisopher Walken and Sam Rockwell.  That is a cast!!  Plus, writer/director Martin McDonagh!!  I loved his first feature, In Bruges; it was dark and clever and definitely featured one of Farrell's best acting performances.  It was an odd coincidence that I searched for the Seven Psychopaths trailer a mere 5 minutes after it was released.  My twitter timeline was all a buzz!! The trailer is hilarious (I laughed much more than during the Bachelorette trailer) and how cute is the little shih tzu?? 

8. Smashed 10/12 - Aaron Paul!!  It's about alcoholics in love, word of mouth was good from Sundance and it is supposed to be "real".  It also promises a bit of humor (Nick Offerman is also in it).  Blah Blah Blah......Aaron Paul!!! 

9. Killing Them Softly 10/19 - So far the marketing for this movie is spot on.  I was interested from the poster image alone, then the trailer was released complete with a Johnny Cash song and I was sold. I really enjoyed The Assassination of Jesse James, so I am interested to see more of Andrew Dominik's work. 

10. Wreck-It Ralph 11/2 - I had absolutely no interest in this movie, until I inadvertently saw the trailer.  Soooo cute!!  I love the sound of John C. Reilly's voice (although I automatically think of him singing "Mr. Cellophane" - breaks my heart, every time).  I laughed so hard at the video game "bad guy" support group scene.  It made me miss the days of going to arcades!!  Do those still exist?  Aside from Dave & Busters (which is always too crowded with drunk teenagers)?  Anyway, it's been a long time since I've been this excited for an animated film.

11. Vamps 11/2 - It is really hard to find any information on this project except that it is from writer/director Amy Heckerling and it stars Alicia Silverstone which translates to: Clueless reunion!!!!  Fuck Yeah!!  17 years later and I still quote Clueless more than any other movie, even if it is just the little quotes like "oops, my bad", every time I cut off another car while driving.  I find it is the best way to combat road rage from other drivers - just smile, wave and yell out "oops, my bad!".  Clueless captured a generation, I doubt Vamps will make such an impact (or if it even attempts to).  I'm just hoping for some clever vampire dialogue. 

12. Lincoln 11/9 - There are so many reasons to be excited for this film - the main reason being Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln.  I don't think anyone doubts that his performance will be anything less than stunning.  I'm not a big history buff, but Steven Spielberg tends to make things interesting (that's quite an understatement...).  However, I am most excited for Tony Kushner adapting the screenplay (he is, quite possibly, my favorite modern playwright).  Also, I know everyone is enamored by DDL, but let us not forget that JGL is in the film as well!! 

13. Skyfall 11/9 -
I enjoy the Bond films, but I have to admit that they all sort of blend together.  I've seen every single one but if you asked me about a specific scene, I would have trouble remembering which film it came from.  Casino Royale is probably my favorite, which I think would give most Bond fans a heart attack.  I really like Daniel Craig as Bond, so I will keep watching them (although I would probably watch them anyway).  The trailer was sort of boring (kind of "been there, done that" feeling), but I find it interesting that Sam Mendes directed it.  That's just baffling - he makes beautiful films but they are always complicated, human tales.  Bond just isn't that complicated.  It makes me sad to think that he was working on this, instead of something more interesting. 

14. Anna Karenina 11/16 - I have mixed feelings about Joe Wright.  The first half of Atonement is stunning, the second half makes me want to scream.  I've never loved & hated a movie at the same time before, like I do with that film.  His other films (The Soloist, Pride & Prejudice and Hanna) are all decent enough but left me feeling indifferent.  I still just can't get over the first half of Atonement, though.  It's the reason I will always watch his films with a bit of excitement, hoping for some of that brilliance to shine through.  Anna Karenina looks like a beautiful film and reunites him once again with Keira Knightley (who is also someone I have mixed feelings about).  I've never read the book, nor do I have any interest in reading it, but maybe the movie will change my mind? 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

3 Thoughts on Total Recall

1. The remake potential - I'm not totally against remakes.  Sometimes it is fun to see how an updated version of a film will turn out with new technologies and a different cast.  It's just rare that it actually turns out to be good or better than the original. I watched the 1990 version of Total Recall only recently, for the first time.  The nostalgia factor from seeing it 22 years ago was missing for me. Therefore, I was able to view the film with wide eyes, thinking of how cool a remake could be.  The potential is there, it just didn't work.  The new version updated enough of the story to break free of its roots and included some nods to the original but the most glaring problem was that all the fun was missing. Action films should be fun. Period.  I was bored.  Period. There was a strange disconnect between the movie and the audience. It felt like I was watching someone else play a video game and I was told that I wasn't allowed to play.  It was just one chase scene after another, strung together with cheesy dialogue and a cast with absolutely zero chemistry.  It is definitely the worst film that I've seen in theaters this year, so far.

2. Colin Farrell is awesome, Jessica Biel is not - If Colin wasn't in this movie, I am pretty sure I would have wanted to walk out.  He probably should stop participating in remakes but I usually end up liking his movie choices and he always has my attention.  My love for him distracted me from the movie (luckily) and I ended up spending a good amount of time remembering the film The Recruit.  I replayed parts of it in my head and couldn't wait to get home so that I could watch it, only to realize that I only own it on VHS (and no longer own a VCR).  What a fucking disappointment that was.  Anyway, he is the best part of Total Recall, while Jessica Biel is easily the worst.  I have been referring to her as "the most boring actress alive" for years now.  I honestly have nothing against her, I just think she lacks a personality and a screen presence, which are both pretty important for an actress to have.  Kate Beckinsale really had very little to do, acting-wise.  She was just there as the never-ending threat, like a fucking machine (I actually thought that maybe she was a machine, which would have been awesome).  Bryan Cranston is barely in the film, so don't go see it based on his appearance. 

3. There is really nothing else to talk about - I can't even muster up my usual minimal "3 thoughts" -that's how fucking boring and pointless this movie is. Oh, and I really hope the critics are bashing the unsubtle use of lens flares in this movie because J.J. is endlessly attacked.  It's only fair. 

Thoughts on 5 Films

1. Immortals - If you love Greek mythology and enjoy films like 300 and Clash of the Titans, you still won't like this film.  There are some battle scenes that are beautifully choreographed but not enough to make the film worth watching.  Most of the film is rather dark (like actually dark in color, I had to strain my eyes to make out what was going on) and the plot is hard to follow (not because it is complicated but because the editing is very messy).  For the record, I'm obsessed with Greek mythology, love 300 and Clash of the Titans (the original), so if I don't like the film then I can't think of anyone who would.  Henry Cavill has yet to impress me.  He faded into the background amongst a fantastic group of actors in The Tudors and he failed to command my attention in this film.  But really, none of the actors had much to do.  It was all about the set design, visual effects and that weird helmet worn by King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke). 

2. The Future - With so few female filmmakers in existence, I have to admire Miranda July.  I use the words "have to" purposefully because I don't really feel like I have a choice in the matter.  I think some might fault her for following and capitalizing on the whole "hipster" trend, but if you look into her background you will understand that she isn't following the trend, she is the trend.  So, even though her overly artsy, self-indulgent, quirky aesthetic isn't really to my taste, I still enjoy the passion that she displays in her work.  The Future wasn't as interesting as her first film, Me and You and Everyone We Know, but it had some aspects that worked really well.  The best part of the movie was the cat.  Hearing the thoughts of a stray cat on the verge of being rescued just about broke my heart.  I have a lump in my throat just thinking about it. 

3. Wanderlust - Fantastic first 1/2 hour or so.  Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston captivated me from the second they appeared on screen.  The dialogue was witty, the pace was perfect and the character dynamic was wonderful.  The plot unfolds as our main couple buy property in NYC, only to lose it weeks later, forcing them to move in with his brother in "Hot-lanta".  Cue a hilarious road trip montage of the couple bickering, singing, sleeping and bickering some more.  The road trip ends when car trouble leads them to stop at a cult-like commune.  I thought this would be where the film begins to falter with it's stereotyped characterization of this culture, but instead it was still funny, like when the mixed-race couple announce "we're just as much in love as if we were the same color".  After spending the night with these surprisingly enchanting people, our couple continue on their trip, reaching their destination.  The hilarity continues with Ken Marino (ah Party Down, I miss you so) and Michaela Watkins, who had some of the funniest (and saddest) lines in the movie, like "If you smile all the time, you can trick your brain into thinking you're happy".  It's really when the couple decide to return to the commune that the film begins a deep, downwards spiral.  I stopped laughing and more importantly, I stopped caring.  It doesn't help that Malin Akerman is featured more later in the film (I really don't like her.  It's totally unjustified.  I'll try better next time). Also, Justin Theroux used to be a favorite actor of mine but he hasn't done anything substantial since his role in Six Feet Under (which was 8 years ago).  He was absolute shit in this movie.  The story ended in a predictable nature and left me feeling very disappointed as to what could have been.   

4. Mirror Mirror - This is the second Tarsem Singh film that I watched recently (he directed Immortals, as well).  I was actually a bit surprised that these films were directed by the same person because they could not be more different. Like Immortals, Mirror Mirror is visually beautiful,  but unlike Immortals, it bursts with bold color and brightness.  Most fairytale "updates" try to modernize the tale by darkening the story and putting a damper on the fun, so I commend Singh for keeping the "fairytale" look.  The narrative is fairly simple and obviously familiar but surprisingly it never got boring. Julia Roberts shines as The Evil Queen, as expected (she's fantastic at being evil - i.e My Best Friends Wedding).  There was a nice Marie Antoinette style extravagance to her character that made her fascinating to watch (she even delivers the line "Tell them bread is cake").  In comparison, the rest of the cast is rather dull.  While Lily Collins certainly looks the part, her acting skills need some serious development.  She took the part way too seriously, while everyone around her was clearly having fun.  I wouldn't really recommend the film to anyone I know, but it's a decent kids flick. 

5. The Vow - Not as bad as I expected, but still pretty bad.  It's actually a decent plot and the fact that it is based on real events make it all the more interesting.  I just wish they took the story and made a film that explored the psychological trauma that this woman endured.  After a car accident, she lost the memory of 5 years of her life, yet the only part the film explores is the love story.  This exploration is terribly uninteresting.  For a "real" love story, it feels incredibly fake and contrived.  The hardest part to believe was that during this 5 years time she changed so dramatically that she didn't recognize herself.  People change, yes, but that drastically?  Hardly.  Also, the reason that we are given as to why she no longer talks to her family has to be more complex in reality. ***spoiler***  Her father cheated on her mother with her best friend.  So she disowned her entire family and group of friends???  That doesn't make a bit of sense.  I don't know how much longer I can tolerate Rachel McAdams.  She was so good in Mean Girls but she hasn't been good since (and that was 8 years ago!!).  She needs to step up her game and take on a challenging role.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Thoughts on 5 Films

1. Man on a Ledge - I was in the mood to watch a mindless but fun action movie.  Man on a Ledge certainly filled the "mindless" quota but it was not nearly as fun or action-filled as it should have been.  The plot is incredibly lacking of any suspense, intensity and believability. The worst part is that it is really predictable, which turns the "mindless" aspect to "boring". I really, really, really want to like Sam Worthington.  I thought that I did after Terminator Salvation, but he has been increasingly more awful with each film he does.  The unnecessarily large supporting cast was hit or miss. The men: Anthony Mackie, Ed Harris, Ed Burns, Jamie Bell = hit.  The women: Elizabeth Banks, Kyra Sedgwick = miss.

2. Just Go With It - I went with it, I really did.  It just wasn't funny. At all.  Quite lifeless, actually.  The plot is probably one of the dumbest plots of recent memory, but it has potential for some humorous situations.  Too bad the film doesn't present any of them.  Jennifer Aniston is one of those lucky women that just gets more beautiful with every year that goes by.  To pretend that she is anything less than stunning is ridiculous, which is what we are meant to do for this film.  We are supposed to see her as an average, plain-Jane kind of gal, which just makes insecure girls everywhere want to hide under the covers.  The scene where someone mistakes Brooklyn Decker's character as her daughter made me actually shout "OH COME ON!" out loud in disbelief.  While it technically can be true based on age, physically they practically look the same age.  Both of these women are sexy, but when Nicole Kidman appears on the screen, they both become ridiculously orange looking.  Speaking of, why on Earth was Nicole Kidman in this movie?? She was so out of place with the rest of the cast. Brooklyn did a decent job with her first "real" acting gig, but she needs to take on a role that doesn't rely on her looks to impress me.  Jen needs to go back to television (I can't say this enough).  Nicole needs to stay away from comedy. Adam Sandler needs to be stopped. 

3. Incendies - Be prepared: the film is very long (and feels about an hour longer than it actually is), the narrative is a tad confusing and it takes a lot of energy to follow, but in the end, it is worth it. The story of two siblings forced to discover their family's tragic past is rightfully devastating, but it is also surprisingly intense and memorable. The Greek tragedy type twist in the film blew my mind, mostly because I wasn't really expecting a twist at all. In retrospect, it's a very obvious conclusion, which makes me think that maybe I wasn't paying as much attention as I should have, but it is much too exhausting and brutal to watch again. 

4. Machine Gun Preacher - Solid story about a complicated man based on real-life events, Machine Gun Preacher should have been powerful, inspiring and resonating.  Instead, it was mediocre, frustrating and forgettable. I like Gerard Butler for the most part, but I don't think he did this role any justice at all. Also, who is the woman who played the doctor?  I can't find her name on IMDB, but she was absolutely awful. When she delivered that line "That's how Kony started", I actually cringed. My biggest problem with the film is that it felt too self-congratulatory - it's just a big ego trip about one man fighting against evil, while everyone else in the world sits on their ass. It's an impossible task for one man, who desperately needs to be saved himself.   He is so desperate for salvation, in fact, that he builds his own church and declares himself to be a preacher (part of the story that should have been elaborated).  The film is designed to make the person watching it feel guilty for doing something as mundane and unimportant as watching a movie instead of helping those in need.  The problem with that is that people don't respond to guilt, they respond to inspiration and passion.   I, personally, don't want to watch a film that is going to make me feel bad about myself. It's ironic that at the end of the film, pictures of the real people that are involved in the story appear, all with their names labeled for a "who's who" effect, except, of course, the Sudanese children.  If this was, indeed, a story about saving these helpless victims of unspeakable crimes, shouldn't you give the audience their names? 

5. Cedar Rapids - Cute story. A bit dull, but still cute.  There were some funny and interesting moments dispersed throughout to keep it interesting.  Ed Helms was perfect but he really should move on to more complicated roles.  It was distressing to see Alia Shawkat as a hooker (NO, Maeby. Just No).  Other than that, the supporting cast was sufficient - even Anne Heche (normally don't like her).  It could have used some more laugh out loud moments and really only one reference to The Wire would have been satisfying enough.