Sunday, June 30, 2013

Thoughts on 5 Films

1. Oz the Great and Powerful - Really cool idea with some interesting references to The Wizard of Oz.  The movie tackles all kinds of questions that one might ask about The Wizard of Oz and answers them. Some of these answers are downright genius. However, that's all the positives I can think of.  It's a terrible movie.  The beginning is torturous.  I find it hard to take James Franco seriously after his appearance in General Hospital (yes, I watch that show. I have been watching it for over 20 years).  He's given some great performances in the past, but this isn't one of them (neither was GH; truly horrific).  In fact, despite a fantastic group of actors, most of the acting was horrendous.  Rachel Weisz is the saving grace.  I've never hated Mila Kunis before, but this was a terrible performance; her crying scene was rough to watch.  Also, it seemed like it is supposed to be a surprise as to who the "wicked witch" is, but Entertainment Weekly gave that shit away months ago when they plastered her on the cover.  The basic plot of the movie is how the witch turns "evil", and of course it's because she is heartbroken - "I want him to know he made me this way". Fucking stupid.  Visually, it is also a bit disappointing.  CGI overload.

2. Deadfall - The movie has a lot of potential, but there are too many things wrong with it.  The plot is really strong - a brother and sister rob a casino, but during their escape they get into a car accident near the Canadian border, during a white-out blizzard.  The beginning starts off really intense but the inconsistencies are obvious right from the start.  I questioned their accents - Olivia Wilde was doing a Southern accent, while Eric Bana was trying to hide his Australian accent (First, taking away his accent is taking away half of what makes him great. Second, I'm still not sure what accent he was going for.  Even worse, by the end, I think he gave up altogether).  I assume they were in Michigan (that's the only place that makes sense) and the Michigan accent is pretty distinct.  Sure they can be from somewhere else (should have been addressed), but if they are siblings they would have similar accents.  I was also really distracted by the dried blood stain on Bana's forehead (which can be seen on the poster) because it kept changing in size and consistency.  Things like that drive me insane.  The reason that I was able to focus on all these little errors is because the movie (after the initial crash) is really boring.  Then the end picks up and goes way over the top.  I'm sure I won't remember anything about this movie a year from now.

3. Safe - Really boring for an action movie.  I hate movies that have people fighting, but you have no idea who they are or why they are fighting each other.  I love action movies, but I like my action movies to have a basic plot.  I gathered from the trailer that this movie was about this tough guy protecting this young girl from mobsters.  This is, indeed, part of the movie but it feels more like a subplot with the main plot being fight scenes that have no point.  I seriously questioned what was going on at least 3 times.  Sure, I could have paid more attention but it's the movies job to hold my attention and this one didn't.  I really like Jason Statham, but I rarely like movies in which he is the star.

4. Beautiful Creatures - The consensus seems to be that it's "better than Twilight", but I don't think that is saying much.  It's practically the same thing just switch the gender roles, swap "vampires" with "witches" and set it in the deep south.  It reminded me more of True Blood than anything else and I hate True Blood (amazing concept, poorly executed and acted.  I actually gave up watching it after the second season and it takes a lot of terrible for me to give up on a show).  In regards to the cast, the actors are a thousand times stronger than the Twilight crew (which I think accounts for the "better than Twilight" comments). The main guy (don't care enough to look up his name) is actually more creepy looking than attractive, but his acting was decent.  The supporting actors included Jeremy Irons, Viola Davis, Margo Martindale and Emma Thompson - all of whom should have been doing something better.  I don't like Emmy Rossum (it's an unjustified dislike. I have no solid reason, but she has yet to change my mind).  The movie overall was pretty dumb and predictable, but I did laugh when the kids were doing the Civil War reenactments and one of them said "Do you want to just kill each other?".  That made the whole movie worth watching.

5. The Call - Unfortunately, this is a disappointing movie as well (that's 5 for 5! Usually, I like at least one of the movies in these posts. Sad face.).  It's a shame, because the first hour of this movie is excellent.  It felt like something different.  Has there ever been a movie that focused on 911 operators?  Because it's actually a really interesting (and stressful) job. Halle Berry plays Jordan, an operator who makes a totally understandable, but devastating mistake that effects her psychologically and emotionally.  Then, she comes across an emergency call from a teenage girl who wakes up in a trunk.  Jordan comes up with some pretty fantastic ideas to try to save this girls life (I was taking mental know...just in case).  There were some frustrating moments, of course, *slight spoilers ahead*, like if the car got off an exit and they know which exit, then a helicopter would have definitely been able to spot them.  Also, if you have a chance to scream where someone might hear you, then ALWAYS SCREAM.  You're going to die anyway.  And, if you light a match and throw it in a gas station, the fire wouldn't be contained - the whole station would go up in flames.  OK....I'm done picking apart the plot (I wrote down 7 other things that bothered me...but it's unnecessary to nitpick any further).  Despite all these things, like I said, the first hour is completely entertaining and intense.  Then all of the sudden, it becomes another movie. It's a fast decline into what-the-fuck territory. The the last minute of the movie will make you hate everything that came before it.  It's also completely unnecessary to have Abigail Breslin in her bra for the last 20 minutes. She's 17 and it isn't essential to the plot at all.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

3 Thoughts on Man of Steel

1. My overall reaction - I think very highly of Zack Snyder. He's shown true moments of genius. Seriously, watch the beginning of Watchmen. Sublime. Even with Sucker Punch, a movie that was on my "worst of 2011" list, I can't deny that it has moments of sheer beauty (again, the beginning).  I went into Man of Steel expecting, at the very least, a moment that blew me away.  Instead, the whole movie felt very average (parts of it are even above average, but nothing spectacular).  There's nothing wrong with it, but I didn't find it any different than a typical summer blockbuster.  Part of my disappointment also lies with the cast.  Henry Cavill just didn't do it for me.  He's in the same category as Chris Hemsworth (Thor) and Chris Evans (Captain America) - the "hot but bland" category.  I was informed that I was going to love the bad-ass female villain (because I love when strong women are represented in movies), but I didn't really see what was to love.  A machine could have played that role; she barely even had any lines.  I like Amy Adams but she was practically forgettable as Lois Lane - it was clear that they were trying to do something different with this type of character, by making her stronger and less of a "victim", but they also took out her sex appeal.  There is a way to create female characters that are both "strong" and "sexy", but most male directors can't figure out how. Michael Shannon is probably the best part of the cast, because even though he was a bit over the top, at least he was interesting to watch.

2. My views on the destruction - I think it's really weird that people are criticizing a movie like this for its depiction of collateral damage.  I'm pretty sure innocent people are killed in most summer blockbusters.  Why is it such an issue now? Some of the critics are citing 9/11 sensitivities, but I'm calling bullshit on that.  There have been dozens of films since 9/11 that have scenes in which cities are destroyed.  It's no longer an issue (yes, I realize, for some, it is.  I know someone who will not watch movies like this, but that is her personal decision.  We can't create movies based around the sensitivity of others). Also, superhero movies have thrived in a post-9/11 world because people have witnessed real life destruction and long for a "hero".  How can we create a fictional hero without destroying something first? Isn't that how heroes are made?  Some critics are also claiming it's not in Superman's character to be a part of such mass destruction, but I think that is something that is going to be addressed in the sequel, so let's all chill the fuck out.  This movie felt like an opportunity to "go big or go home".  They went for it, destruction and all.  I think it was a satisfying re-introduction to Superman and I am convinced that the sequel will actually be stronger.

3. My state of mind - Sometimes my enjoyment of movies depends on my state of mind, which unfortunately in this case, I think affected my thoughts on Man of Steel negatively.  I realized this when the movie was over and my friend claimed to "love it".  When I said, "eh...I don't know", he was really surprised.    He knows my taste really well, so I think it all comes down to my mind-set.  First, I was really looking forward to this movie for over a year, but as it grew closer to being released, I actually dreaded sitting through it.  I knew that it would remind me of someone that I am trying my best to not think about (I fail miserably, everyday).  Spending two and a half hours trying to not think about someone is taxing on the brain.  Second, I purposely tried to avoid the crowd by waiting to see it until a week after the release - seeing it really late on a Thursday night at a theater that is usually empty seemed like a good plan.  Yet, the theater was way too packed for my liking.  I was distracted several times by the couple in front of me, especially in the beginning when the girl turned to her boyfriend (I presume) and said "wait...Superman is an alien?", to which he replied "yeah...he's from Krypton".  Her response was golden. "I knew that he was from another planet...I just didn't know he was an alien".  He was stunned into silence for a few minutes, but then spent the entire rest of the movie explaining the plot to her (clearly, she needed help. At least she was cute.).  Third, as much as I love loud, obnoxious, blockbuster action movies, this one gave me a headache within 30 minutes (and I didn't even see it in 3D!). I suffered with a pounding headache for the next 2 hours, praying for some silence. All in all, not a great combination for watching a movie.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Thoughts on 5 Films

1. Mama - I'm not big on supernatural horror movies, especially modern ones, so I guess it puts this movie at an automatic disadvantage for me.  However, I can usually keep an open mind, plus I adore Jessica Chastain.  It's a well-made movie, for sure, but it just didn't captivate me or scare me in the least.  There are some beautiful shots, Chastain is excellent (minus that awful hair cut) and I was pleasantly surprised that the super hot bad guy from Headhunters is in it as well (or if you prefer, Jaime Lannister from Game of Thrones. I'm sure he has a real name and one day I will learn it).  The movie just lacked intensity and aside from the creepy kids, I just didn't see anything all that scary about it.  I was pretty bored for most of it, waiting for the conclusion to wrap things up (no surprises there).  It started to pick up at the end, but really, how fucking stupid is that ending? Really fucking stupid.

2. Promised Land - Allow me to gush over John Krasinski for a minute.  He's always been super adorable as Jim on The Office, and I thought Brief Interviews with Hideous Men was really fascinating, moving and thought-provoking (he wrote and directed it).  Then, John went on Jimmy Fallon and did the best lip-syncing contest ever and I fell in love (I've searched and searched for the video and it has been erased from the Internet. WHY!?? Stupid legal crap).  When I first saw the trailer for this movie, I thought, "really, John Krasinski is going to out-charm Matt Damon? No one out-charms Damon, except maybe James McAvoy (because...duh!)."  But he does. And he does it well. I think it was the "Dancing in the Dark" performance that really sealed the deal. Best part of the whole movie!!!  Speaking of the movie, I guess I should write about that now. There are some good elements and some bad elements.  I appreciate that it took on a topic like fracking and delivered more points than just "fracking is bad".  It's actually a much more complicated issue than that, especially when you have these farming towns that are dying - we say that money shouldn't be a factor, but when you put it in non-materialistic forms (i.e better education, better health care, etc - sadly, in this country, you need money for those things) it's hard to ignore. I think the film did a great job at exploring why people would consider the option.  It also did a fantastic job at stereo-typing a group of people (that's sarcasm).  It's an extremely offensive depiction of people who live "2 hours outside of any city" (also if you drive 2 hours in the other direction from Philly...guess what you hit...NYC!).  It's disappointing and insulting, but I guess it's supposed to be funny to laugh at non-city folk.  There is also *SPOILER ALERT* a huge fucking twist in the movie that I wasn't expecting. I won't say what that actually is, but I think saying there is a twist is a spoiler (although some people are so fucking sensitive, saying the movie is about fracking is probably a spoiler, too).  I really liked the twist; it made the film a little less black & white (and also, strangely, more black & white).  The biggest thing that kept the film from falling into complete mediocrity, is the cast. Matt Damon, Frances McDormand, Rosemarie DeWitt and of course, John Krasinski, are all superb.

3. That's My Boy - I watched it out of curiosity.  I'm always interested to see how truly bad a movie can be.  I, like a lot of people, used to be a fan of Adam Sandler.  Happy Gilmore, The Wedding Singer, Big Daddy - all hilarious!  Sadly, I would describe his comedic attempts now as "unwatchable", which is exactly how I would describe this movie. First, his annoying baby-mumble voice combined with the atrocious attempt at a Boston accent was really hard to get through. Second, I don't know how funny it is to have the whole movie based around a teacher having sex with her student (and it wouldn't have been made if the gender roles were reversed because that wouldn't be funny...right?  So, why is this? It doesn't make any sense to me).  Third, who really thought that a Vanilla Ice cameo would be funny? Like, really...who?  Fourth, are three "waaassssuuuup" jokes necessary (it's a joke from over ten years ago! TEN!)? Fifth, this movie definitely wins the top spot on my worst movie of last year list (previous winner was What to Expect When You're Expecting).

4. Gangster Squad - This is a case in which I was expecting something much worse than what I got.  I heard terrible things about this movie, but honestly, I was entertained.  I think people were just expecting something more serious and dark, but instead it is a cartoonish take on the 40's gangster movies.  At first, it's a little jarring (Is it supposed to be funny? Why does everyone look like they are playing dress-up? Why is Sean Penn over-acting his heart out?), but once I got used to it, I found myself immersed.  The rest of the cast is top-notch (I'm a huge Sean Penn fan, so I am just going to ignore this misstep and move on).  The "gangster squad" includes Josh Brolin, Anthony Mackie, Giovanni Ribisi, Michael Pena, Robert Patrick and of course, Ryan Gosling.  Probably my favorite group of men put together in one film, in a long time.  Ryan and Emma Stone have a very natural chemistry, so it was fun watching them together again.  Also, there is a scene with Ryan in a tight white t-shirt that had my attention.  Seriously, I think that's the only thing guys should ever be allowed to wear.  Also, if you've seen the trailer, then you've seen the whole movie.  I hadn't seen it before, but then it played on the Cloud Atlas DVD, which I watched the next night.  It shows the entire movie!!  I probably wouldn't have had nearly as much fun as I did, if I had seen the trailer first.

5. Cloud Atlas - 2 hours and 52 minutes.  I repeat. 2 hours and 52 minutes.  After the first 30 minutes, I knew I was going to have a hard time making it through the whole thing.  Don't get me wrong, there is a lot of beauty to it, visually and thematically.  However, the acting is horrendous, the makeup is distracting and the editing is annoying.  Tom Hanks can not do an Irish accent or a Scottish one for that matter - he attempts both (at least, I think that's what he was going for).  Halle Berry just looks lost for the whole movie.  I'm guessing she has no idea what the plot of the movie is - because there really isn't one.  It's several stories that span time and space, none of them seem very cohesive, until the last hour.  Things start to come together, ideas are expressed more uniformly and it actually becomes a good movie.  It just takes sooooo long to get there.  I would love to sit down and re-edit it (I would actually consider film editing a "dream job" if it didn't involve sitting down and looking at a computer all day).  Having the same actors portray different characters is an interesting concept, but the novelty of it wears off quickly and I don't think it works visually.  I had a hard time with Jim Sturgess as Hae-Joo Chang, because it looked like Jim Sturgess with a creepy mask on.  I found the whole thing distracting.  Like I said, though, visually it is quite stunning.  There are some beautiful scenes, especially the "future" ones.  What I appreciate most is the different themes - all of them are ambitious to put on film, but the one that is done really well is the idea that "each encounter suggests a new potential direction".  I think about that everyday - how meeting one person can change your entire life (or not meeting them).  There is a nice broad theme of the evolution of a killer into a hero, but I'm not sure it entirely worked, considering that it was more based on circumstance than morality.  There are also quite a few scenes in which I have no idea how they relate to the movie at all, so I feel like a second viewing is necessary.  I would love to do that, if it wasn't 2 hours and 52 fucking minutes long, of course.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Thoughts on 5 Films

1. Jack Reacher - Satisfying and fun action/thriller.  I probably would have enjoyed it more if I liked Tom Cruise, but I am not a fan.  I am most certainly not a fan of him as a person, but I can separate the art from the artist (case in point: Woody Allen).  However, Cruise hasn't impressed me since the early 90's; most will probably argue that he was great in Magnolia, but my response to that is: it's not hard to play an egotistical douchebag, if you are an egotistical douchebag.  He's not bad in the Mission: Impossible movies (especially the most recent one) and he's not bad here.  It just would have been a better movie, for me, if I liked the central star of the movie.  Also, I don't think I've seen Rosamund Pike in anything other than Wrath of the Titans, and I thought she was bad because of the writing, but she was really bad here, as well.  I can't blame the writing because it is a solidly written screenplay by Christopher McQuarrie (known for writing The Usual Suspects, but he also wrote and directed one of my favorite action/thrillers, the criminally underrated, The Way of the Gun).  The story is tense and interesting, the pace is fast and the dialogue is mostly witty (my favorite part: "I can't afford you".  "I'm not a hooker". "Well, then I really can't afford you.").  Yes, there is a fair amount of cheesiness and implausibility but that doesn't make it any less fun.  The only part that really bothered me, plot-wise, is when Reacher is running from the police and the crowd hides him.  I screamed "HE COULD BE A TERRORIST! SEE SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING, YOU FUCKING IDIOTS" at my television.

2. John Dies at the End - I struggle coming up with ways to describe this movie without it sounding awful. "Incoherent mess" comes to mind, but then it seems like I didn't like it.  I did.  It's a fun and wacky, incoherent mess.  Combining horror and comedy with some genuine gross-out moments, it's certainly never boring.  The plot was a little too complicated, but I think that will only be enhanced on multiple viewings.  There's multiple dimensions, alternate universes and a drug called "soy sauce," creating a fantastically chaotic environment that you just can't look away from.  I can't really say anything else, because honestly I'm not sure I understood all of it, but I did have a ton of fun watching it.

3. We Bought a Zoo - I cried. I cried hard.  I can't remember the last time I actually cried real tears during a movie (every once in a while I get a little emotional, like with The Intouchables, but I can usually hold back the tears).  I thought I would get emotional with all the animal stuff.  I get really upset even thinking about animals in zoos. I refuse to go to them, because watching wild animals confined to small spaces is not my idea of a good time.   However, I was actually able to contain my feelings on the matter.  The part that made me hysterical (seriously, it was a flood of tears) was the last 5 minutes of the movie; the "20 seconds of courage" story about Matt Damon's character meeting his future wife.  What the fuck?! Why did I cry about a love story between humans?! What is wrong with me? Really though,  Matt Damon is just too good within the scene and the real reason it made me cry is because it reminded me of the scene in Good Will Hunting with him and Robin Williams ( - makes me cry. Every time.).  I think it makes me cry because I can't imagine anyone ever loving me that much.  That sounds really depressing, but it's totally true. Anyway, in regards to the rest of the movie, other than Matt Damon, the acting is horrible. The movie makes a great case against Scarlett Johansson, as an actress.  She's awful. Like, truly terrible. I honestly don't understand how no one else sees what I see.  Don't get me wrong, she's an absolutely stunning girl and in interviews she seems nice, intelligent, funny and well-spoken.  She just can't act. Also, the kid that plays Damon's son looks just like him (and a little like a young Brad Pitt, as well), so I understand why he was cast, but I cringe thinking about his emotional scenes.  The movie bordered on made-for-television territory for its entirety.  If I caught it on the Family Channel, I might be impressed; but it's not too impressive for a feature film.

4. Upstream Color - Kudos to you if you actually understood what was going on in this movie without looking it up.  I understood the first part fine, and it is an amazing concept, but the second half started to lose me. I looked it up after I finished the movie, and I still don't fully understand.  If you tell me you do, I honestly won't believe you.  It's obviously meant to be abstract. Even without a full understanding, it is still mesmerizing. Actually, hypnotic is probably a more apt word to describe it. I don't think the audience is meant to fully understand the science behind it; otherwise we would be able to pick apart the flaws in logic. Instead, we can focus on the beauty and intrigue of it all.  There are some really intense "horror" moments as well, which makes me question which genre it really belongs to (Psychological horror? Science fiction drama?).  The sound design is intoxicating and definitely enhances the creepiness.  It's absolutely gorgeous to look at, with themes of human behavior, psychology, post-traumatic stress disorder, genetic manipulation and so much more, this film is surely going to end up in my top 10 list for 2013.

5. Struck By Lightning - As a former fan of Glee, I really want certain stars of the show to succeed in a post-Glee world.  Lea Michele needs to go back to Broadway (when this happens, I will be there. Front row.).  Cory Monteith is a movie star (Trust me. I'm right about these things 95% of the time.).  I really like Chris Colfer, so I was excited to hear that he was doing some writing (this screenplay and he has a book deal, with one book already published).  I thought this movie would be a cute, cheesy high school movie with a great message about accepting people for who they are (that seems to be his thing), and that's what it was.  It just wasn't any good.  Colfer struggled a lot in the main role, because he seemed to be fighting his Glee character so much (a character that was created around Colfer, himself) but instead of becoming a different character, he is still Kurt, just with more snark and attitude (making him unlikable, instead of lovable).  He also stole a lot from Glee (the same type-cast characters, the blackmailing of students to write for the literary magazine).  He seems to think he is much more clever than he actually is, because he really isn't saying anything profound or new about the high school experience.  I hate to say it, but the whole thing is just a bit of a mess.  It's amateur screenwriting, at best, that would never have made it past the interns desk and onto the desk of an executive, if it wasn't for the power of Glee.  The film also, somehow, attracted some great actresses for supporting roles - Allison Janney and Christina Hendricks.  However, their story-line is just plain ridiculous and over-dramatic to even pay attention to.