1. Lay the Favorite - So. Much. Awfulness. I don't even know where to begin. With a respected director and a strong cast, I wasn't expecting it to be anywhere close to this bad. I'll start with Rebecca Hall, since she is the "star" of the movie. I first noticed Rebecca Hall in the movie, Starter For 10 (yes, I only watched that movie for James McAvoy). A few years later, shestood out in Vicky Cristina Barcelona - which is hard to do considering her co-stars were Penelope Cruz and Scarlett Johansson. Then, she was absolutely amazing in The Town. So, you can say that I am definitely a fan of hers. However, this is one of the worst performances I've ever seen. Her accent was so awkward, mixed with the very unsexy baby voice and incessant hair twirling, she became one of the most annoying characters of all time (I read that this movie is based on a true story and that these are characteristics of the actual woman it is based on. If that's true, then I guess, Rebecca did a great job at being the most annoying woman of all time). She wasn't the only failed (?) performance, though - Laura Pepron made a fool out of herself with that Texas twang. The plot of the movie mostly revolves around high stakes gambling, and could have been interesting if the focus weren't on this idiotic girl who "dreams" of being a cocktail waitress in Las Vegas. No-one dreams of being a cocktail waitress in Vegas. I'm not knocking the profession (and some of them make bank), I just think that's really a stepping stone for other things or some end up in it out of chance/coincidence and end up enjoying it. Her "dream" lands her as an assistant to a sports gambler, and she ends up finding something she's good at - even thought the film fails at convincing me that she is actually ever good at it. Bruce Willis and Vince Vaughn are sort of interesting characters (that is, if your brain hasn't exploded from listening to the most annoying girl in the entire world. Ever.). But the only truly good thing about the movie is Pacey. He always makes me smile.
2. See Girl Run - Adam Scott and Robin Tunney?? I am in. I really miss Robin Tunney (I was a teenager in the 90's - The Craft, Empire Records, Niagara, Niagara...). I realize that she's been in stuff, and apparently has been on the television show The Mentalist for years (I don't even know what that show is, but it's been on for at least 5 years. Weird.). I saw this little indie movie listed on Netflix Instant, and I was immediately interested. It seemed like something I would really like. Unfortunately, it's really not that good. I enjoyed the beginning, the way it tricks you into making assumptions about each character. It has a strong message about marriage and the loneliness that people suffer (even when they are in relationships). The movie also has a strong message about exploring the "what ifs" in life, but then the ending is absolutely the worst. I'm not sure I fully understood Adam Scott's character, other than he's obsessed with frogs. It's weird and endearing. There is something really off about their relationship; mostly because it seemed really immature. I don't really get the "games" behind relationships. I'm really bad at playing them, because I'm too honest for my own good. I don't understand what's wrong with just saying what you're thinking. Makes life so much easier for everyone. The whole plot wouldn't exist if everyone just communicated like mature adults. Also, on a side-note, Jeremy Strong reminds me of Giovanni Ribisi. I actually looked it up to see if they were related somehow.
3. Pain & Gain - Half of the reviews for this film fault it for its crassness and moral indecency in telling a story about true life criminals, while the other half praise it as Michael Bay's "best film", admiring it for the witty dialogue and black comedy storytelling (in fact, it's rated at exactly a 50% on Rotten Tomatoes). I agree with both arguments. It makes light of violent criminals, glorifies this violence on behalf of "the American Dream", and uses women as props. It's also very funny and subversive in parts. However, I don't watch Michael Bay films for the dialogue; I also don't expect a female character with even half of a brain. The problem with Bay films are that he became so criticized for the things he does well (action scenes, explosions etc) that he became too much a of a parody of himself with his most recent movies. However, you will never convince me that movies like Bad Boys, Transformers, and The Rock aren't pure entertainment. I even enjoy both Armageddon and Pearl Harbor (to a very basic extent). It's obvious from this movie that Bay is trying to convince us that he can do more, but I'd prefer if he just stuck to what he is good at (and the haters can fuck off. I find the biggest Bay complainers are also the first ones in line to see his movies on opening day). The cast did a good job in their roles - I love Anthony Mackie; He's sure to be a household name after his role as The Falcon in the next chapter of The Avengers. I didn't hate The Rock, this is the first role I've seen him actually attempt "acting". He didn't quite win me over, but I appreciate the effort.
4. Much Ado About Nothing - This is one of those movies in which, the more I think about it, the more I like it. When it ended, I thought "that was a really sweet and cute adaption", but now I admire the simpleness of it and the strong directorial choices. Whedon kept the complicated Shakespearean dialogue, but everything else is stripped down. It's in black & white, the location is actually Whedon's house, and the cast speak the dialogue as if talking like that is second nature. Much Ado About Nothing is definitely one of Shakespeare's easiest plays, making it a perfect choice for a modern adaption - it's basically a bunch of people trying to trick two people into falling in love. There is a "second" story as well, in which the "villain" tries to trick Claudio into thinking his fiance has cheated on him. Both stories are intertwined and given equal weight within Whedon's version, keeping things interesting. The cast are all from former Whedon movies - Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Nathon Fillion, Fran Kranz, etc. and they have a very strong chemistry together. Everything about this movie, just works really well together.
5. After Earth - Not the worst movie of the year, but pretty damn close. When you take into consideration how much money this movie cost to make, it's definitely the biggest "flop". I can't defend it in any way. There are two things that are horribly wrong with this movie. First, it felt very amateur. If this were coming from a new director (who didn't have millions of dollars of technology in his hands), I wouldn't criticize it. I'm not one to harp on camera angles, shots, etc but I did take many classes, as a film studies major, where I literally had to break down and analyze these things (over and over and over again). Usually, when I am watching a movie, I focus on the story and the acting - and when there are beautiful shots, I take notice; otherwise, I overlook a lot of the technical stuff (making a movie is a ridiculously hard thing to do, I respect anyone who even tries). However, when an established director uses drastic zoom in and out shots to create a sense of disorientation. it is distressingly bad (and no, I don't think that was an attempt at an ode to Hitchcock). The second biggest problem is the star of the movie, Jaden Smith. I've never seen him in anything, so I didn't realize how bad he is. I don't know if that's his natural way of speaking, or if that was another bad directing choice - but his pronunciation of certain words drove me bonkers (the ones that stand out: effort was "effote", coward was "cowood" and sir was "suh" - if I didn't have the captions on, I don't think I would have understood half of what he said). I feel bad, if that's the way he actually speaks, I would hate to criticize someone for a speech impediment, but I would argue that maybe acting isn't the best career choice (the pronunciation of words is kind of important). There are a lot of other problematic elements of the movie - the plot doesn't make much sense (at night everything freezes, yet all of the animals are fine), aside from the "ursa", the kid never seems to be in that much danger - it has similar themes as The Happening (man vs nature), and I HATED The Happening. Will Smith is stripped away of his natural charisma and given a robotic personality (why would anyone think that's a good idea?). I was also sort of expecting a "Shyamalan twist", and I even thought of a few as I watched the movie (that would actually help the plot make sense), but instead we were given a very flat ending. What a disaster.