Sunday, July 28, 2013

Best Films of 2012 **Updated**

Time for me to update my "Best Films of 2012" list. I was trying to wait until after I watched Amour, but it is taking waaaaaay too long to be released to DVD. Honestly, it doesn't really seem like my kind of film anyway.  So, here it is: 

1. Seven Psychopaths
2. Argo
3. Zero Dark Thirty
4. Rust and Bone
5. The Dark Knight Rises
6. Take This Waltz
7. The Cabin in the Woods
8. Looper
9. The Grey
10. Django Unchained

I had a really hard time making this list, this year.  There are a lot of great movies that are left off - Headhunters and Silver Linings Playbook both got bumped off the original list, plus there are several movies that I debated adding; Robot & Frank, The Intouchables, Holy Motors, The Master, God Bless America, and Jeff, Who Lives at home are all worthy contenders.  I hope I have the same problem for 2013. 

3 Thoughts on Only God Forgives

1. It's so pretty - There have been many (not so) valid complaints and critiques of this movie, but I think everyone can agree on one thing: it's fucking beautiful.  Every single shot; every single scene. Yes, even the violence is beautiful.  This is the same exact feeling that I have about Drive.  When someone first mentioned the violence in Drive to me, I actually had to stop and think "oh yah...I guess it is pretty violent", but when the scenes are so visually stunning, the violence is hardly noticeable, for me.  When someone can take all of the ugly things in this world and turn it into something like this, I call it "art".  Nicolas Winding Refn has my full attention (and no...I haven't seen Valhalla Rising yet. I know. I KNOW! Stop yelling at me).

2. Ryan so pretty - This is what my dreams are made of: Ryan Gosling. Scruffy. White T-shirt. Not talking. When I told my friend I wanted to see this movie, she commented on the fact that she was "so over" his whole "silent brooding thing".  First, who cares?! Do you not have eyes? Are you really going to complain about looking at Ryan Gosling for 90 minutes?  To be honest, I never even considered him as "hot" until Drive. I thought he was a fantastic actor and yes, he was attractive, but I don't think he maintained "hot" status until recently.  He's definitely getting more attractive as he gets older, as most men do (and I would argue that most women do too. For example, Jennifer Aniston and Sandra Bullock. Oh and speaking of Sandra Bullock, remember like 10 years ago when she dated Ryan?  The gossip mags called him her "boy toy". This woman is my hero.).  I know how awful my objectification of him might sound, but it's really not just based on his looks. There's just something about him (and yes...I totally just sung "there's something inside's hard to explain..." as I typed that). Second, as far as the whole "silent brooding thing", I'm not "so over" it. He does it well, and every actors best asset is to play to their strengths.  I LOVED him in this movie, mostly because he had this smirk on his face through the whole thing. It was the kind of smirk that I have on my face when I'm pretending to listen to someone, but instead I'm thinking in my head "I hate every fucking thing about you".  I think the smirk was appropriate for his character in relation to the other characters, but it also had this slightly personalized feeling.  It's as if Ryan is in on the joke; he knew that his performance would be widely criticized and this smirk is a big "fuck you" to everyone.  It makes me love him even more. Also, The Huffington Post had an article about how Ryan "wrote" the dialogue in the dinner scene with his mother"girlfriend", which is awesome if true.  That's my favorite scene of the whole movie!! It should also be said that Kristin Scott Thomas is unbelievable in this role.

3. Everyone is crazy - It's fine if you don't like the movie. Everyone has a valid opinion and obviously that is what makes the world so much fun to live in. Blah, blah, blah...whatever.  However, I've heard some downright baffling comments about it. Words like "empty", "soulless", "unwatchable" and my favorite, "one-dimensional".  Personally, I think if that is how you describe this movie, you belong in a loony bin!!!  It's classic Greek tragedy stuff and everything in the history of story-telling can be linked back to Ancient Greece.  If you don't like it, then you don't like movies!!  I realize that not everyone is as obsessed with Greek literature as I am (in high school I translated the Iliad from the original Latin. For fun. And no, I wasn't a geek; I was actually quite popular), but I think everyone can appreciate the layers of drama that unfold within these tragedies.  This is not a simple movie. It will take time, energy and several re-watches to absorb all of it.  I loved Drive when I first saw it, but after several viewings I found so much more depth than I initially thought.  I would now describe Drive as a "perfect movie".  I don't see myself ever loving Only God Forgives in the same way, but one never knows.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Thoughts on 5 Films

1. The Oranges - Fantastic cast and an interesting story somehow ended in a mediocre movie.  Two families (who are neighbors and lifelong friends) have their lives uprooted when Nina, the daughter of the one family, begins an affair with David, the father of the other family. It's especially "icky" because the original intent was to set Nina up with David's son AND Nina was best friends with David's daughter when they were kids. It's also a hard relationship to root for, no matter how much they try to spin it.  I simply can't root for people that are completely selfish; unfortunately there are some cases where you have to put your feelings aside and think about how your choices affect other people (especially your children).  There is absolutely no reason David should have ever pursued this relationship. EVER. However, the film remains interesting throughout, due to the amazing cast. While I didn't see any particular spark or chemistry between Leighton Meester and Hugh Laurie, I still love them both.  It was also strangely comforting to see Allison Janney and Oliver Platt as a happily married couple; especially after having just watched a very intense scene with them in an episode of The West Wing right before I popped this movie in (pure coincidence).  Of course, I love Adam Brody more than words can ever express (HUGE fan of The O.C.).  He plays the same role in every project, but I am completely fine with that.  I think the movie could have worked better if it went either in a complete all-out comedy or an intense, complicated drama; instead it straddled the line of being mildly amusing, but not really saying anything meaningful.

2. Not Fade Away - Honestly, I never heard of this movie until recently.  I heard it mentioned a few times during conversations about the sudden death of the great, James Gandolfini.  I added it to my list without giving it much thought, but then I heard it was written and directed by the creator of The Sopranos (David Chase) so I instantly moved it to the top of the list.  While The Sopranos isn't my favorite drama, it is certainly near the top of the list and, more importantly, it paved the way for my favorite, Breaking Bad, and my second favorite, Dexter. Gandolfini is a force of nature as Tony Soprano, a character that will live forever, and seeing that I live in Northern New Jersey, he is a character that I hear quoted on a daily basis. However, my personal favorite Gandolfini performance is from True Romance - where he is both absolutely terrifying and mesmerizing. His performance in Not Fade Away is definitely the best part of this movie. I mean, it's miles above everyone else's performance, most of whom are terrible - especially the main guy. I don't even want to know his name. That's how bad he is. The story takes place in New Jersey (surprise!) in the 1960's, during the rise of the "British invasion" of music. There are some fun clips of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones etc., but the rest of the movie is pretty dull and predictable.  It seems from the poster that it is supposed to be a romantic movie; yet it's horrifically unromantic. The hatred of women is apparent (and appalling - "Once a conceited bitch; always a conceited bitch" is an actual line the guy says to the girl that he is supposed to be in love with.).  I'm not saying that is necessarily a flaw in the movie. If it was done well, I wouldn't have an issue.

3. 21 & Over - If you took The Hangover, set it in college, and took away everything funny about it, you would end up with this movie.  The plot is simple: guy turns 21, celebrates with his friends, gets too drunk, hijinks ensue.  I don't think girls celebrate the whole "turning 21" thing as much as guys do because girls don't get carded as much getting into bars/clubs (at least when I was around that age they didn't. In fact, I celebrated my 21st at my "regular" bar - A bar I had been going to every week for 2 years).  I remember it always being a huge issue when I would try to go places with my boyfriend because he would get carded.  Actually, come to think of it...things have definitely changed because I get carded more now than I ever did when I was under-age.  I guess that's a good thing, however I think the drinking age should be lowered (to 18 at least, but I would even go to 16).  I don't think kids would drink so recklessly if it was legalized. Anyway, back to the movie.  Many of the actors seemed really familiar to me, but I couldn't quite place their faces.  I realized that Miles Teller is in Project X (which is weird because this movie was compared to that movie, but I don't really see the comparison. It's certainly not as excessive).  Then, Skylar Astin is a dead ringer for Dane Cook (also his name is extremely similar to the name that I wanted to name my future non-existent daughter, Skylar Austin. He's lucky that I don't actually want to have kids.) and Sarah Wright looks exactly like Alice Eve, so they aren't actually familiar faces, they just look like other people. All of the actors are really entertaining and charismatic; it's the dialogue and plot that disappoint.  I did laugh twice though, so that's a step ahead of the next two films in this post....

4. Movie 43 - Obviously, I already knew this movie was going to be terrible.  I don't always trust reviews, but I didn't hear any positive remarks for this movie. Not a single one.  In fact, most of the hate seemed really intense.  It was pretty hard to believe.  I mean, how can it be that bad with a cast like this? Is it like Valentine's Day bad?'s worse than that?  Really?  Yes. Really.  It's disastrous. It's an odd phenomenon because it seems like the intent is to be a bad movie. The plot (?) is about a screenwriter, pitching his terrible movie idea to a studio executive. The pitch is told in visual form, so essentially the audience is forced to sit through this terrible movie idea. The irony is spelled out for us, as the executive says "Kate Winslet is not going to make a movie with a guy with balls hanging from his neck." , yet, she is in the fucking movie.  I guess that's supposed to be the funny part, but instead it feels like a really bad SNL sketch. Try to think of the worst SNL sketch you've ever seen and then multiply it by infinity and then repeat it 10 times. That's this movie.  I did laugh once, with the iBabe sketch ("Don't fuck it."), but that is mostly due to my hatred of Apple products.  This movie will be #1 on my worst of 2013 list. I have no doubts in my mind.

5. Identity Thief - I just watched this movie last night. Usually I wait at least a few days before I write down my thoughts on a movie, in order to let it sink in.  I don't need any more time to decide that this is a terrible movie.  It's disappointing because I just saw The Heat the night before last and I really enjoyed it and Melissa McCarthy in it (a post will follow soon, but overall reaction is: surprisingly funny). She is really, truly terrible in this movie, as is Jason Bateman. They have zero comedic chemistry, which is what I blame this disaster on.  The plot is interesting and relevant, but then it just turns stupid. If you're going to go into stupid plot territory, then you need the leads to really sell it and Bateman and McCarthy just don't.  I did love Eric Stonestreet because every time I see him on something besides Modern Family, I remember how good of an actor he is on Modern Family.  

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

3 Thoughts on This Is the End

1. The cast - I was really skeptical of the premise of getting all of these actors, most of whom are irritating, and having them play themselves.  It sounded incredibly obnoxious.  Luckily, it works really well, for the most part. The plot of the movie (aside from the whole "end of the world" thing) is that Jay Baruchel (mildy irritating) is visiting his best friend, Seth Rogen (super irritating, although not entirely his fault; instead it is mostly due to the fact that my neighbor sounds exactly like him and somehow thinks it's OK to call me "babe", so I hear "Hey, babe" in Seth Rogen's voice pretty much every day of my life. It's my own version of Hell.). Jay isn't exactly a fan of the L.A "scene", and his friendship with Rogen has been strained due to Rogen's burgeoning career. Rogen convinces him to go to a big bash at James Franco's house where we meet the rest of the group. Franco (on-and-off irritating) is a particular highlight with his somewhat creepy obsession with his former Freaks and Geeks co-star (Rogen), while Jonah Hill (the least irritating of the bunch) is hilarious as the nicest guy in the world.  Craig Robinson (not memorable enough to be irritating) and Danny McBride (the absolute height of irritating) round out the main cast. I've never liked McBride in anything and this is no different. He's just not my idea of funny at all.  I would have preferred to see more of Michael Cera (love him!!); although, I didn't really think his whole "coke-head" thing was very funny and neither was his bit with Rihanna.  Speaking of Rihanna, let's talk about all those cameos!

2. The cameos - I was really looking forward to some amazing cameos. I heard they were there and I heard it's better if you don't know who they are. This is a lie. The trailer shows the main sequence in which 90% of the cameos happen. My entire knowledge of this movie was based on the trailer and one clip that played while Jonah Hill was on Jimmy Fallon to promote the movie. Yet, there is only one surprise cameo (two if you count the cameo at the very end; but that was foreshadowed like crazy. I would have been surprised if that didn't happen.).  How disappointing is that?  I'm very confused as to who everyone was raving about. Sure, Emma Watson was pretty funny - but it was IN THE TRAILER!  People were quoting "Hermione just stole all of our shit" way before the movie was even released.

3. The apocalypse - It's weird that I am more impressed with the story than with the comedy. There are plenty of laughs, but none of them are very memorable. In fact, I saw this movie almost 2 weeks ago and I can't remember a single thing that made me laugh. This is similar to how I've experienced previous Seth Rogen movies, except, of course, Superbad (which is one of the funniest movies ever. I don't care what you say.).  What I will remember is that the movie goes for it; apocalypse and all.  It's not about them trying to save the world from "the end"; instead it's about the actual apocalypse - you know, the one that's in the Bible. It's actually really funny to think about it actually happening; like if the "good" people were "saved" by being sucked up into Heaven. I'm surprised it hasn't been done before, mostly because it's the most ridiculous thing ever.  It works perfectly for a comedy, especially one that's based on actors (most of whom think they are somehow "better" than the rest of humanity).  Overall, I enjoyed watching This Is the End; it's definitely the best comedy of the year, so far, but it's far from the "masterpiece" that some claimed.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

3 Thoughts on World War Z

1. The intensity - Holy crap! From beginning to end, this movie is freakin' intense. I was on the edge of my seat for the entire running time.  It's non-stop thrills.  It baffles my mind that some criticize it as boring and slow, when I found it the complete opposite.  I was actually hoping for some slow moments, so that I could take some proper breaths.  There are some scenes that I would even describe as having Jurassic Park-type thrills (and that is meant as a huge fucking compliment).  Sure, it gets to the point where it's unbelievable that our protagonist would find himself in so many "oh my God" scenarios, but it's meant to be gasp-worthy so I can look past the unbelievable parts and just have fun with it. If you can't, I feel bad for you.

2. The trailer - My biggest complaint is that I saw too much already with the trailer.  Several of the key scenes are shown in the trailer (and/or during other promo clips).  It's weird that the marketing department was so oddly against using the word "zombie" or even showing them, yet they thought it was ok to ruin some of the best scenes in the movie.

3. The ending - The movie is absolutely nothing like the book (I already expected this).  If it was titled something else and the book was never mentioned, I wouldn't even see a correlation between the two.  The reason that I liked the book so much is that it focuses on humanity, as opposed to the individual. The movie, however, does the opposite.  I'm tired of the "hero" being a "hero" only because he is concerned with his family, as if he wouldn't want to save the human race if he wasn't married with children.  It's almost offensive to think about.  The ending of the movie, although not a complete ending, was so dissatisfying because it was focused on this one family having a happy conclusion.  I found out tonight that the ending we received was not the original ending. I knew they did a lot of re-shoots, but I never read about what they were about.  Apparently, the original ending is less of a happy one and would have been much more satisfying.  I also learned that Matthew Fox is in the movie! Who knew??! Apparently, everyone else but me!

Thoughts on 5 Films

1. A Good Day to Die Hard - I'm a fan of the Die Hard franchise. Not like a huge fan (a "die-hard" Die Hard fan?), but I find all of the movies entertaining.  The first one is obviously the best, but the rest have been sufficient fun.  I was planning on watching A Good Day to Die Hard in the theater when it was released on Valentine's Day, but the terrible reviews deterred me.  I don't think it was as bad as the reviews suggest and I even preferred it to the previous one, Live Free or Die Hard (mostly because I can't stand Justin Long). The plot felt a little lazy and the dialogue consisted mostly of John McClane yelling out "But I'm on vacation!!", but the action is fun and that is really all I was expecting. It's clear that this was an attempt at setting up Jai Courtney to take over the franchise. No thank you, he's no Bruce Willis.

2. Spring Breakers - Overall, I like this movie.  I'm not sure I agree with the praise that it has received (I've seen it on several "Mid-Year Best of 2013"), but I do agree that visually, it is stunning.  The beginning is basically a really beautifully shot "Girls Gone Wild" video. There are some really cool shots throughout, my favorite is the shots of the girls in the hallway with their legs against the walls.  I didn't like the repetitive dialogue, but now I understand why people constantly quoted the film. It definitely gets under your skin.  As soon it was over, I actually turned to my cats and asked "why y'all actin' 'spicious?". While the film is commentating on the current state of our youth, it conveys a bit of contradictory sentiment.  While it criticizes youth (and mostly women), it continues to glorify guns, violence and rape culture, instead of delving into any real depth of the problems in our society.  The whole "spring break" thing is not really my scene (shocking, I know), so it left me a little confused.  I spent a lot of the movie going "wait....what?".  For instance, "wait...what..." they are in college?  I thought spring break was a high school thing? These girls seem really immature for college (one of them is carrying a backpack that is a teddy bear. I don't understand.).  Another, "wait...what..." do they think James Franco as "Alien" is hot??? ew. I don't even think he's hot without the gangster getup.  I agree that Franco really went all out for this role and he killed it.  One of the best performances he's ever done, but if he was supposed to be "hot", then he failed miserably.  Also, "wait....what...." why the constant Britney Spears references?  I've thought about this one, at first I was confused because I think of Britney as being "my" generation and not the current generation of young girls, but I realized that these young girls were actually the ones that grew up with her (while I was already in high school).  It all makes sense now and it is actually a brilliant commentary on the sexualization of young girls.  It also gave us the greatest scene in the history of movies: James Franco singing "Everytime". Absolutely fucking brilliant.  Last one, "wait....what...." is that Heather Morris from Glee?  How did I not know she was in this?  (Unavoidable side-note: Speaking of Glee, I woke up to some terrible news this morning with the death of Cory Monteith.  If you look under the "Glee" tab at the top of my blog, you will see my love for Cory. Writing about Glee was just an excuse for me to gush over Cory. I am heartbroken.  Seriously.  I'm not one to get upset about the death of someone I don't know, but this one hurts.)

3. The Giant Mechanical Man - I appreciate that the title is explained within the first 5 minutes of the movie.  I really like the idea of this movie; its main theme is finding what you love, be passionate about it and find someone that appreciates you for your passion.  It's not as easy as it sounds. Tim (Chris Messina), finds this out when his girlfriend tells him "I never believed in you Tim, I just thought it was charming".  Jenna Fischer plays Janice, a woman who is struggling to find her passion.  You can guess how the story ends and in all honesty, there isn't much to the movie.  The whole thing is boring and obviously predictable.  The actors are likable enough.  I really like Chris Messina, he's one of those typical, genuine New York guys. Every time I see him in a movie or show, I think, "wait, I know him!" but I don't.  Topher Grace is probably the most memorable part because he plays the creepiest of all creepy guys (a motivational speaker).  He gives advice like "If you don't know what to talk about, then talk about yourself". Worst advice ever.

4. The Imposter - This is one crazy, unbelievably real, true story.  I'm not a huge fan of documentaries.  As a Film Studies student, I had to take 2 classes on the subject and I referred to those classes as "nap time". I'm usually fascinated by the story, but I just hate the style in which the story is told.  What struck me about this film, is that it plays like a typical documentary, but then there is a twist!  It's quite thrilling to watch, and it held my interest for its entire run time. I guess, it's not a twist if you know the story, but I didn't, so it all played out very well for me.  The story is about this guy, Frederic Bourdin, a French man who pretended to be a missing child from Texas. The beginning will leave you baffled as to why his family would believe that this man is their child.  None of it makes sense. The family isn't really portrayed as being at all intelligent - the sister actually asks the question "isn't that like across the country?" when talking about Spain. But really, the missing child had blue eyes, blond hair and a Texas accent - he comes back 3 years later with brown eyes, dyed blond hair and a French accent and they believe him? No one is that stupid. Then, the film reveals some theories that make a whole lot of sense, although we still don't know what actually happened, which is ultimately frustrating.

5. Dead Man Down - I was really excited for this movie.  Colin Farrell, Noomi Rapace and the director of the original The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo; I thought it would be a slam-dunk.  I wanted to see it in the theater, but it was gone before I could blink.  I didn't think that meant it was bad, just that it was poorly marketed.  It wasn't really bad; it just wasn't all that exciting.  There's a whole lot of tension, but none of it develops into anything memorable.  The film suffers from bad lighting - most if it takes place at night, so most of it is really dark.  How are we supposed to see how hot Colin is when everything is so dark!!! Also, while Colin does a decent American accent (and actually it's supposed to be a Hungarian accent that is pretending to be American...which had to be difficult), he's just not as hot.  I have huge problems with Noomi's story line.  She is supposed to be a disfigured woman, from a tragic car accident, but painting some scars on her face hardly makes her a monster (plus you barely see the scars because everything is so fucking dark!!). She is definitely supposed to be seen as physically flawed (kids throw stuff at her and call her names), but she is still more beautiful than an average woman (scars and all).  I can't relate to her need for revenge, instead I see her as being ungrateful and vain.  His need for revenge was real and gut-wrenching, hers was petty and unnecessary.  The movie could have easily fit into a compact 90 minute action-thriller and it would have been a much better movie.