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.