Sunday, March 31, 2013

Thoughts on 5 Films

1. Bachelorette - I think if I wasn't expecting something funnier, I would have enjoyed this movie more than I did.  I was under the impression that it was laugh-out-loud hilarious, but it had more of a dark, subversive humor that I wasn't expecting.  There were really only a few really funny moments and most of them came from Lizzy Caplan (and probably just because I LOVE HER).  Her and Adam Scott in the same movie together just makes me smile (big Party Down fan, if you couldn't tell already).  The movie suffered from one-dimensional cliche characters (the "type-A personality", the "ditz" and the "sarcastic rebel"), but at least the actors did the best they could with these characters to make them interesting (and extremely unlikable).  I can relate to their age group (they graduated high school 1999, as did year ever!) and that feeling of wanting to grasp on to those crazy nights that make one feel young again, but I can't relate to anything else in the movie.  I don't want to get married, I don't hold onto feelings for someone from 10 years ago, I don't make fun of my friends behind their back and I don't have low self-esteem (at least as low as some girls).  It all seemed a little bit immature and mean-spirited, which, again would have been all fine and dandy if it were funnier.  It went back and forth between being a raunchy comedy and a depressing character study, but then ended with a boring sentimental (and tidy) ending.

2. For Ellen - Such a bland movie.  It reminded me of the Sofia Coppola movie, Somewhere, which was about an actor trying to reconnect with his young daughter.  Except that movie actually did it better (and no, I didn't like that movie either).  I don't buy Paul Dano as a "rock star", maybe because he usually plays the loner, writer-type character.  The movie had very little plot or substance.  It was really challenging to pay attention to.  Usually movies like this only work for me if the performances are stellar, or there is some intricate camera-work, but there is literally nothing to comment on.

3. The Sessions - Great writing, strong premise, interesting characters and a memorable performance from John Hawkes.  Surprisingly, I found the weak link to be Helen Hunt.  I like her a lot (Mad About You!!!!), but I think that Oscar nomination was very generous.  Her "outside Boston" accent was  incredibly distracting (sometimes she pronounced his name "Mark", sometimes with the thicker accent "Maaak").  It felt forced and awkward.  On another note, she is stunning at 50 (and not plastic!!!).  The story is a bit of a touchy subject, and if it wasn't written as well as it was, could have been a complete disaster.  Instead, it was very honest, touching and light with a few moments of genuine awkwardness and humor.  It was nice to see a mature "adult" story about sex and relationships that wasn't boring.

4. Bernie - I was a little skeptical of the supposed great performance by Jack Black in this movie.  I'm not really a fan.  He's mildly funny, but mostly annoying.  I can see the buzz about his performance, mostly because it was different, but that doesn't mean it was amazing (I even read "Oscar talk", which is just absurd). I am, however, a huge fan of Richard Linklater (and I think his first collaboration with Jack Black, School of Rock, is easily the worst in his filmography.  No wait, Me and Orson Welles was pretty bad.  Interesting that he didn't write either of these movies.).  Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly are on my extremely long list of favorite movies.  Bernie had some wonderful elements, but overall was disappointing.  The repetitive "Bernie is amazing!!" chatter was mind-numbingly repetitive.  It didn't really get good until the "twist", which if you've seen the trailer (or read the Netflix description), then you already know what it is.  I didn't know anything about the movie (aside from Jack Black's performance), so it took me by surprise.  It's definitely dark....and...different. Also, it is very clear that Matthew McConaughey is trying to shed his romantic comedy roles.  I had written him off as a terrible actor with one lucky role (A Time to Kill), but this is now the 5th movie in a row where he is excellent (I'm including Lincoln Lawyer, even though I didn't like the movie).  I'm really looking forward to Mud.  

5. Anna Karenina - I don't think a director has ever frustrated me as much as Joe Wright.  Sometimes he is absolutely brilliant (the first half of Atonement) and sometimes he is disastrous (the last half of Atonement).  I had similar feelings with Anna Karenina, except that it was more sprinkled through-out the film instead of divided in two.  Wright knows how to make a beautiful film; I don't see how anyone could argue with that statement (but I'm sure some do anyway).  Some of the tracking shots in this film are sublime (although none can touch the tracking shot in Atonement. That's one for the history books.). All of the elements are there for a perfect period piece -  the intricate set design, the dazzling costumes and the poetic dialogue.  I actually liked the "staged" setting and the way the story transitioned between scenes, as I can always appreciate a "thinking outside the box" spin on a classic tale. It was weird, but it kept me interested.  Yet, for one of the greatest love stories of all time, it is severely lacking in emotion and passion. I don't think I read the Tolstoy novel, but everything about the story felt very maybe I did? I was never a big novel reader; always preferred plays (I have read every Chekhov play that exists, so that could explain the "familiar" feeling).  I really liked the movie about Tolstoy, the one with James McAvoy (I'm too lazy to look it up. Also...mmmmm....James McAvoy...where has he been? He's been missing from my life.); the whole cult-like followers are completely fascinating.  I've been meaning to read more about him and his work.  After watching this movie, I wasn't too impressed, but then I read the Wikipedia summary of the novel and that made me want to read it.  I guess it says a lot about the film, when it leaves less of an impression than a Wikipedia entry.  I think I would blame the lack of chemistry between the leads, which is partly a director issue, but mostly an acting issue.  Keira Knightley is perfect for roles like this (I almost always hate her in modern roles), but she didn't amaze me here.  Also, Jude Law > Aaron Johnson, therefore the love story automatically doesn't work.  Aaron Johnson is just soooo blaaaaaaah.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Thoughts on 5 Films

1. The Bourne Legacy - Not as terrible as I was expecting.  I love the Bourne movies but I feel like a 4th installment is completely unnecessary.  I was excited by the casting of Jeremy Renner and, in all honesty, he is really the main reason to watch this movie.  It was just 2 hours and 15 minutes of him running around screaming "Where are the Chems?? I need the Chems!!" and I am ok with that.  There were some stand-out action sequences, especially towards the end, plus one really intense scene featuring Rachel Weisz and a workplace mass-murderer.  Other than that, the whole movie felt a bit pointless.  As an action movie, I would rate it above average, but compared to the other Bourne movies, I wouldn't rate it at all.

2. End of Watch - I enjoyed this movie very much.  It is very similar to one of my favorite current television drama's, SouthLAnd.  Gritty, intense, action-packed filled with unapologetic dialogue that puts the audience members directly in a "day in the life" of an LA police officer.  It almost makes one understand why cops are such assholes (seriously, I would not want to deal with what they have to deal with on a daily basis - it would probably make me an asshole too. Then again, one almost has to be an asshole to be a cop, so the question is which comes first? I'm generalizing, of course.).  Phenomenal performances from the two main actors, Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena.  I have been a HUGE fan of Michael Pena for a while; I'm hoping he gets more roles like this to showcase his talent. The only critique that I have about the movie is that it became a bit repetitive: dangerous scenario, followed by racist banter, followed by a cute moment with Anna Kendrick. Repeat. Also, the ending was a bit contrived and unrealistic (compared to the rest of the movie, which felt very real).

3. Holy Motors - Describing this film with words would never do it justice.  It's an experience.  An incredibly odd, what-the-fuck-am-i-watching kind of experience.  The concept of one man experiencing life through role-playing/acting out others wishes/fears etc. is a complex one to put on film, and the narrative is hard to adjust to, but it's absolutely mesmerizing.  The "appointments" become increasingly bizarre and reality is blurred but it all felt really personal.  Denis Lavant accomplished something on-screen that I don't think can be compared to any other acting performance, ever.  It's something I would classify as performance art, as opposed to acting.  My favorite scene is probably the accordion scene, but the choreographed motion-capture scene was also pretty mind-blowing.  You can watch the accordion scene here: .  If that scene doesn't intrigue you, then you probably won't enjoy the film.  It's not a movie for the average movie-goer, but it is definitely a movie for people who love film as an art form - I can see this movie being dissected by cinema studies programs (as well as acting programs). Figuring out what it all means is a task that would involve multiple viewings.

4. For a Good Time, Call... - For a movie about phone sex operators, it is surprisingly sweet and cute.  It's also crude and raunchy, but it's a movie about phone sex operators!! The vulgarity should be expected.  The sweet and cute part comes from the chemistry between the two main characters.  The friendship between them is refreshing and reminiscent of my relationship with my best friend.  As the two girls in the movie, my best friend and I became "BFF's" because we had mutual friends and we were forced into living together (in college).  We are completely opposite in nature, but for some reason it was an instant connection.  It works because we use our opposite-ness (not a word, I know) as a complimentary connection instead of an opposing one.  The two girls in this movie realize that they can only benefit from each-others strengths and the bond becomes unstoppable.  Female friendships are often portrayed as catty and judgemental; it's about time for a change. If your best friend doesn't want you to be the best version of yourself, then she's not your best friend.  Ari Graynor is hilarious (and always under-used), so it is nice for her to get a starring role.  I didn't really care for the other girl, Lauren Anne Miller, who also co-wrote the movie.  She was pretty bland, but admittedly she grew on me by the end of the movie.  I also can't stand Justin Long; I don't understand how anyone finds him funny. There were some unexpected delights, like the cameos (it's somehow really funny to use famous people for cameos, just to have them masturbate), the "undercover agent for the lord", and the scene featuring Martha MacIsaac. Laugh out loud stuff.

5. Flight - Solid adult drama with a fine performance from Denzel Washington.  I didn't really have any interest in this movie; seemed a bit heavy-handed and by all accounts it is.  However, Washington really did give an outstanding performance and his nomination was well-deserved (I had doubts).  I think his performance is the sole reason that the movie held my interest. The movie is less about a plane crash and more about the destructive forces of addiction, but it's all a little too obvious (someone does drugs with the song "Sweet Jane" in the background - that's how (un)subtle this movie is).  The initial crash scene is done really well and is rightfully intense.  The aftermath, however, was a little slow-moving and repetitive.  Even with the complexity of the situation, it could really only end one way.  If it ended another way (less "clean"), it probably would have made a stronger statement on addiction, but it was clear from the beginning that this is not the type of movie it is.