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. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

3 Reasons to See Looper....NOW!

1. It's something different - If you want to support original, smart, bold and creative film-making, then go see this movie in the theater!!  Like Brick and The Brothers Bloom, Rian Johnson created something fantastically bizarre.  I don't want to over-hype it, because it isn't a perfect film by any means, however, it is extremely entertaining brain candy. 

2. JGL and the rest of the cast - If you read this blog, then you know my love for JGL.  I wouldn't say this is his best role, but he keeps the sci-fi elements grounded in a very realistic character.  It seems from most reviews that I have read, people don't seem to mind the physical transformation made to his face to create the younger Bruce Willis effect, but I would have to disagree.  I felt it was terribly distracting and unnecessary.  It also seemed to limit JGL's facial movements, which I think was detrimental to an otherwise terrific performance.  Bruce Willis is awesome as Bruce Willis (like old-school Die Hard Bruce Willis).  Emily Blunt, Jeff Daniels and Paul Dano all make up a brilliant supporting cast.  The real star of the movie is Pierce Gagnon (the little boy).  Seriously, the whole plot of the film rests on this boys shoulders and he was astonishingly creepy. Like, horror movie creepy. 

3. You'll want to watch it again - It's a sci-fi tale about time travel (and other "powers"), yet on first viewing, it was very easy to understand.  Everything that was necessary to create a believable future world was explained without becoming too simple (although it was very clear that the couple sitting in front of me had no idea what was going on, as they kept explaining the plot to each other).  However, I am certain that when I watch it again, there will be several moments that I missed with the first viewing, scenes and dialogue that will work on another level, etc.  This is what makes a great movie. 

3 Thoughts on Arbitrage

1. It's not a thriller - First, if you have any intentions of watching this movie, I suggest you avoid the trailer.  It not only gives away most of the plot, it also describes the movie as "a crackling thriller" (also seen on the poster image above).  It would be better described as a cliched drama.  *slight spoilers ahead* (although if you have seen the trailer, then you are already spoiled) The plot is about a wealthy, businessman in NYC who is in the midst of selling his company, due to some shady dealings.  He, of course, has a wonderfully luxurious life complete with a wife, children and grandchildren.  He is also, of course, having an affair with a much younger, french, art gallery owner.  The beginning set up was like watching the A,B,C's of a typical lifestyle of the so-called "one-percent".  But then, the thrilling twist happens; while driving with his mistress he gets into an accident that ends up killing her.  Let me repeat, AN ACCIDENT.  He did not murder her.  Yet, he flees from the scene because the controversy could jeopardize his business deal.  The controversy of an affair.  At this point, is having an affair really even a controversy anymore?  Also, I'm sure with the "power" that he has, he would be able to cover up his relationship with this woman as a "business affair".  Instead, he spends the entire movie covering up this ACCIDENT, which also involves getting an innocent guy caught up with his crime (of fleeing the scene).  I will admit that the film was an interesting commentary on the prejudice of the justice system, concerning race and class.  However, it didn't really tell me anything that I didn't already know.  There was absolutely nothing "thrilling" about the plot at all.  I guess, we are supposed to be on the edge of our seats wondering if he will get caught, but I couldn't give a fuck.  The film ends with an ambiguous, cut to black ending, which has been done to death lately.  It can work beautifully with some films (A Separation, Take Shelter), but in most cases it feels lazy (like this movie). 

2. What's an "Arbitrage"?  - The best thing about this movie?  I learned a new word.  Arbitrage means "the simultaneous purchase and sale of the same securities, commodities, or foreign exchange in different markets to profit from unequal prices".  When I left the movie, I heard several audience members question what it meant.  While the word describes a major plot, it's probably not the best idea to use a word that many people don't know, as the title of your movie.  Just a thought. 

3. Brit Marling was miscast - While most critics are praising Richard Gere's performance, I think the best performance was from Tim Roth, as the investigating officer.  Gere was satisfactory, but he still played Richard Gere (has he ever played anyone else?).  I really liked Brit Marling in one of my favorite films from last year, Another Earth (which she also co-wrote), but she did not fit this role.  The character was written as unrealistically naive, but combine that with Marling's soft and sweet demeanor, it becomes really hard to believe that she would thrive as a powerful businesswoman in NYC.  Also, someone should tell the costume designer that no woman in NYC would wear a white shift dress with an off-white coat.