Monday, December 30, 2013

Thoughts on 5 Films

1. 2 Guns - I watched this directly after The World's End and I laughed more in the first 20 minutes of this movie than I did for the entire length of that whole movie.  Mark Wahlberg and Denzel Washington have amazing chemistry together.  The scene with the chickens had me in a fit of tears ("They are torturing chickens!!" "What are you eating?" "Chicken."). The movie moves really quickly, has some surprising twists and turns, and it's a hell of a lot of fun. There's really nothing more to say.  I'm surprised that it didn't do better in the theater, but I think the title is off-putting.

2. Lovelace - I wasn't expecting to like this movie at all.  I thought it would be cheesy and over-dramatic.  The story of Linda Lovelace is hard to tell, especially since no one really knows the truth (aside from the people involved). Lovelace's version of the events are tragic and my instinct is to believe her, but some of the things that she claimed have been proven lies. No matter what the "truth" is, it's clear that this woman was abused in some way and that she was taken advantage of. I also think a lot of drugs were involved.  The movie did a fantastic job in the structure of the story - showing the glitzy, glamorous life of a porn star; then it reverts back to tell Lovelace's version, which is harrowing. In her version, watching any of her movies, is akin to watching her being raped. It really makes you think about the porn industry as a whole. I've never been a big fan of Amanda Seyfried, but she is excellent here; Really strong, memorable performance. Sharon Stone is unrecognizable as her mother. If I didn't know she was in the movie, I wouldn't have known that was her. And ADAM BRODY! What the hell?! I really didn't want to see Seth Cohen doing porn. So disturbing. 

3. Prince Avalanche - I saw this movie on a few "Best of 2013" lists, which surprised me because I never even heard of it. It seemed to come out of nowhere.  Obviously, I was intrigued.  I have to say....I don't get it. It's not a bad movie at all, but out of all of the amazing films that were released this year - this wouldn't even make my top 50.  Paul Rudd does a fine job (as always), but Emile Hirsch is absolutely awful. I used to hate him, but he won me over with Into the Wild and Milk.  He's just one of those actors who is either really good, or really awful depending on the role (like Matthew Goode).  His crying scene in this movie is laugh out loud funny. The movie is about as boring as their job, which is to paint the yellow stripes on a deserted road.  Male bonding is boring. Sorry, guys. Actually, I take that back. It can be a lot of fun if it's done well (see: 2 Guns).

4. Sightseers - Loved everything about this movie.  Ben Wheatley has an amazing way of structuring a movie. The way he puts scenes together is breathtaking. My favorite is *spoiler* the part where Chris kills the other camper. It's juxtaposed with a cult-like ritual and the campers wife cutting her foot on a piece of a broken plate that Chris purposely broke. It's sublime. *end spoiler*  The movie can easily be described as a UK version of God Bless America. He kills obnoxious people or as he says "he's not a person, he's a Daily Mail reader".  This is exactly the kind of movie that sticks in my brain. Dark, funny, subversive.  It's a great character study on gender and relationships.  It's definitely an insight into the male brain - once he finds someone who loves and supports him for who he is (knowing that he is a murderer), he begins to resent her and pushes her away. The ending is awesome. I laughed so hard.  I think I'm including this as a 2013 release, even though it is listed as 2012. Technically it wasn't released in the states until this year. It will be on my top 10 list (which is now a top 20 list).  

5. The Guilt Trip - I had some extra time on my hands because I called out of work due to a nasty cold. I wanted to watch something mindless; something I didn't have to pay attention to because my brain was cold-medicine fuzzy.  I don't know if this is the reason I found this movie to be really cute. It's not a good movie and I would never watch it again, but I was never bored and I even laughed a few times. Seth Rogen and Barbra Streisand play a very realistic mother and son. I knew how it was going to end because I spotted Adam Scott in the credits and he didn't appear in the entire movie until the end. That "twist" could have been easily avoided if he just checked date of birth when he was doing his research. Anyway, cute movie. My mom would have loved it.  On a side note, the purse holder thing that she uses is sold at my work and it is a ridiculously popular item.  

Thoughts on 5 Films

1. The Hunt - Absolutely stunning movie. It's going to be so tough to make a Top 10 list this year because I've stated "this movie is definitely going to be in my Top 10 list" at least 20 times this year!  I'm going to say it for The Hunt as well, and heck, if need be, I might just make a Top 20 list instead!  The Hunt is like the movie Doubt (which is a terrific movie), just minus the doubt.  A teacher is accused of sexually inappropriate behavior based on a child's malicious lie - a lie she tells because she is upset and confused.  The teacher that she "confesses" this lie to obviously has to take this accusation seriously. This person is villainous from an audiences point of view, simply because we know the truth.  From her point of view, though, it's a tough spot to be in.  It's hard to believe that children would make up a story like that, but they do (especially children who are neglected and seek adult attention).  To watch a mans entire life fall apart from this "innocent" lie, is horrifying. Mads Mikkelsen is perfection in the role, as his life is unraveling before his eyes. The whole movie can be summed up with the look that he gives the father at church (this is the look on the poster). Then, the end is so amazing that it gave me chills. This mans life will forever be altered. He will always be looking over his shoulder.

2. Violet & Daisy - Not nearly as fun as it should be. I read the description about two teenage female assassins and I assumed a fun, action flick with two bad-ass females. I was also expecting Vamp like campiness. It's campy, for sure, but it's just not fun at all. It's rather boring.  The leads are strong young actresses (Saoirse Ronan and Alexis Bledel), but they do not sell this film at all. Plus, this is one of James Gandolfini's last movie roles, and it was disappointing (still the best part of the movie, obviously), but I feel like he played the same role as he did in Welcome to the Riley's. The movie is absolutely forgettable and that is the worst thing I can say about any movie.

3. Red 2 - The first one was ok for an action movie, but I felt like it should have been a much stronger movie with the cast involved.  I was expecting more of the same, so I wasn't left as disappointed with this sequel.  I really like the characters and the actors, so it makes it fun to watch.  The plot struggled a bit, mostly with too many obvious twists. I think we were supposed to be surprised at each "reveal" but I just stared blankly at the screen, shrugging my shoulders. I assume that the first one had the graphic novel image interludes too, but honestly I don't remember the movie at all.  I really liked the artwork in this one, maybe it was more prominent or maybe I was paying more attention (no idea).  I also love Helen Mirren and John Malkovich in their roles. I wish the movie was just them because they are hilarious. I've been disappointed with Mary-Louise Parker's movie roles. She's one of my favorite actresses (her performance in Fried Green Tomatoes is still one of my favorite female performances ever).  Maybe she will find another great television role soon (like Weeds).  Catherine Zeta-Jones ruins every movie she is in. I'm not even exaggerating; I honestly think she is one of the worst working actresses working today. The only exception that I *might* consider is Chicago. Adding such a terrible actress to such a strong cast just accentuates her awfulness.  

4. Fun Size - I was in the mood for something cute and harmless and this movie is exactly that. It's Josh Schwartz's first time behind the camera (he's the writer behind The O.C., Chuck, Gossip Girl etc.), so I expected some serious sarcastic wit, but it was lacking in that department (it's obvious that he had no part in the writing).  I've never seen Victoria Justice in anything before. She's super cute, but forgettable. Chelsea Handler as her mom, though?? Really? Mind-blown. She actually did a very good job. I LOVE Jane Levy (can't wait for Suburgatory to come back!) and I LOVE that she played the "sex kitten" role. The whole story takes place on Halloween, which is apparently a very popular holiday in whatever town they are supposed to be in. Seriously, the town is PACKED with trick-or-treaters. I've never seen a suburban street that busy.  I liked the family stuff in the movie, I think it's a cute movie for the "tween" age group - not too crude but still has a little edge. 

5. Red Dawn - I've never seen the original.  It's been on my list for ages, but I think it's coming soon to Netflix Instant, so now I may FINALLY watch it.  The remake was interesting. I really like the plot, but I felt like they left out any and all character development.  There are some decent actors in this movie; but none are used to full potential. Josh Hutcherson is my favorite among the cast - I wish he was featured more. Instead, the story focused on the two brothers (played by Chris Hemsworth and Josh Peck), who were pretty dull. The other actors who I don't recognize (everyone who is not featured on the poster), I assumed they would die quickly so I didn't really pay much attention to them.  I got severely bored after an hour.  Again, I really like the plot, so I'm interested to see if it was explored better in the original.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Thoughts on 5 Films

1. Scenic Route - There are parts of this movie that I really, really like. The brutality, suspense and the commentary on masculinity and male friendships are all really well done. For a low-budget, character driven movie featuring two actors and one set (for most of it), it is very satisfying. It felt like a modernized version of Waiting for Godot. It's also probably the only time where I feel like Josh Duhamel attempts actual acting and he's pretty good.  However, I am not fully convinced of the plot. *slight spoilers* I can't imagine that anyone would purposely strand themselves in the California desert or that anyone who would stop to help them, would then leave them there (without calling the police).  Also, Duhamel's character has a wife and kids, so she would definitely be looking for him. *end of spoilers*  On a side note, I have huge anxiety and terrible childhood memories about California deserts, so this was actually really hard for me to watch.  This probably helped the "suspense" factor for me.

2. Shadow Dancer - My crush on Andrea Riseborough continues to grow. This is probably her best performance yet (she was a stand-out in both mediocre movies, Oblivion and Welcome to the Punch). In this movie she plays a woman who is forced to spy on her own brothers - all of whom are heavily involved in the IRA.  The story is really tense, complicated and dense.  I'm not even going to pretend like I completely understand the politics behind it, but the story is focused on this woman's struggle to protect her son, hide her "informant" status and stay out of prison.  The ending is definitely a "wow moment" that I wasn't expecting. Clive Owen is a little dull; I feel like he's played this role before and it was dry and repetitive.  He's been excellent before (my favorite performance of his is from Trust. Superb.), but I think it's time for him to step out of the box.

3. The Canyons - To my surprise, there is actually a worse movie released this year than Movie 43!! I never expected that. For some reason, I thought I would actually like The Canyons.  I heard plenty of bad things, but I also heard a few really positive things. I will never understand how anyone can say anything positive about this movie. I can't think of one thing. Acting, characters, writing, editing, cinematography - all of it is truly terrible.  Lindsey Lohan received a lot of flack for her acting here, and I can see why, but I don't blame her one bit. The entire cast is terrible and the dialogue is horrendous, so she blends in just fine.  The main guy, an established porn actor, who shamelessly calls himself "James Deen". is the worst actor in the movie and I'm pretty sure we are supposed to think he's hot.  The part that really bothered me though is the sound design.  There is actually a part where you could hear the character say "Hi Christian" twice because of the sound editing. Plus, some of the dialogue sounds muffled and echoed.  It seems like such amateur filmmaking; I am actually surprised I didn't catch a shot of a misplaced boom mic. Honestly, this is not only the worst of the year; it's one of the worst I've ever seen.

4. The Conjuring - Even though I didn't really enjoy this movie, I can understand why other people did; especially those who love the horror genre.  It's a very well-constructed horror film.  There are some stunning shots (my favorite is the scene with "something" under the girls bed - the way the camera flips around is AMAZING).  The cast is fantastic- Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Lily Taylor and Joey King (does anyone else see her resemblance to Elizabeth Moss? They could be sisters).  There are some very creepy scenes, but I'm just honestly never scared by ghost or exorcism stuff.  A lot of people seem to think the whole "doll" thing is super scary, but IT'S A DOLL! How is that scary?  I tend to think that people who are scared of stuff like that must live a very good life - they must have no concept of actual scary stuff that exists in real life.  I'm generalizing, of course, but it's just beyond my understanding. Also, is "Hide and Clap" an actual game? I've never heard of that before.  That scene was, again, really well executed. If I wasn't expected to be scared; I would probably be more impressed with the movie as a whole.

5. The World's End - This was such a disappointment for me. I love Edgar Wright. Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and Scott Pilgrim vs the World are all AWESOME.  Despite the fact that the trailer for this movie was really stupid, I was still expecting to enjoy it.  I didn't. It's not a bad movie, but it's just blah. The characters are boring, the plot is repetitive and I didn't really laugh at all. Then the last third of the movie is just plain stupid and over-the-top ridiculous. When Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Paddy Considine, Martin Freeman and Eddie Marsan are in a movie together, I expect to be entertained. The only thing that interested me is the actual pub crawl. I would love to do that - there is no way I could drink 12 pints in one night, but it would be fun to try.  I have a high tolerance (Irish blood), but I have high tolerance for a female who weighs less than a hundred pounds - 12 pints would kill me. Do people still do this crawl? Or is it just a bunch of annoying American tourists?

3 Thoughts on Dallas Buyers Club

1. The performances - While the movie won't make my Top 10 list for the year (maybe top 20), the performances are outstanding. Matthew McConaughey should be a double Oscar nominee this year for Best Actor (for this movie) and Best Supporting Actor (for Mud and possibly The Wolf of Wall Street at the rate he's going). The best part of the movie, though, is that the supporting actor is just as strong. I hold Jared Leto up on a pedestal after his performance in Requiem For a Dream, which 13 years later is still one of my favorite performances ever (and one of my favorite movies ever, even though I've only seen it once. I don't need to see it again. Its images are burned in my memory forever.).  The two of them are astonishing in this movie, as the pair form an unlikely bond.  Both of their performances can be described as bold, vulnerable, raw and complex - but in completely different ways. Their relationship is the foundation of the story and it is what held my interest. Also, I'm happy to see Jennifer Garner in a role like this, instead of the crap she's been doing (like that other movie she was in with McConaughey, the one with the ghosts. Horrific.).

2. The AIDS epidemic - This is the kind of subject matter that is very hard to give justice to. There is a fine line of "look how far we've come" and "we still have such a long way to go".  With the film taking place just as the AIDS epidemic began to burst at the seams, it's an unapologetic and depressing insight into how society dealt with the disease. It's based on a true story about an actual "buyers club" that was formed as a response to the FDA and pharmaceutical companies controlling patient care.  The problem is that this is still happening! I'm going to go along with the conspiracy theorists on this one and declare that I fully believe a cure for AIDS exists, but there is just too much money to be made off of the disease. The only way we can stop this disease is through education, because the health care system is never going to give us a cure. Then, the problem is that many religious/conservative people still try to fight against sex education in schools. It's a never-ending cycle of fighting with people who don't care about humanity (only themselves and their personal beliefs).  I think this is the kind of story-telling that is jarring enough to open some closed minds, but unfortunately, I don't think that the close-minded will actually watch a movie like this.

3. The 80's - Oh the 80's. Wasn't it just fantastic? Haha...I'm kidding. The problem that I have about modern movies that take place in the 80's, is that I find myself laughing at the ridiculous outfits, the gigantic technological devices (phones, tv's, etc).  It always ends up a distraction for me. However, this movie did it very well. It felt genuine and natural.  Nothing felt out of place, allowing the characters to really capture your full attention. I'm not sure what this movie did differently, but whatever it is, it worked.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Thoughts on 5 Films

1. What Maisie Knew - This movie broke my heart on so many levels.  The story is about a little girl, Maisie, who is forced into the middle of a custody battle amid her parents divorce.  I was expecting courtroom drama etc., but instead it's really about Maisie and the information that she absorbs around her.  I can relate to all of it.  Not necessarily the divorce aspect (I think a lot of people can relate to that), but the need to understand something that is incomprehensible for someone so young. I think adults forget how much information children retain, and how even the littlest moment can shape their life.  The movie has a somewhat happy ending, which is slightly disappointing because it's not really true to life.  However, even with this ending, it is clear that the psychological damage is already done - this girl will grow up with deep abandonment issues and I think that's the part that really gets under my skin.  The aftermath of this movie is soul crushing.  The little girl who plays Maisie (her name is Onata Aprile) is stunning.  Julianne Moore is also fantastic; probably the best I've ever seen from her.  This movie makes me really want to read the novel that it is based on, by Henry James.  Several of his novels have been made into movies (The American, The Wings of the Dove, The Portrait of a Lady), and none of them have made me want to refer to the original source.  I think that says a lot.

2. The Internship - Mediocre and dull, with very little laugh-out-loud moments which is pretty much what I expected with the reviews that it received.  I think the only time I laughed is in the beginning when they are loudly singing along to Alanis Morissette's "Ironic" in the car. I love Rose Byrne and I didn't realize she was even in this, so that was a nice surprise (plus she gets to keep her Australian accent - double win!).  The character of Lyle was entertaining; his rhymes made me smile.  Other than that, everything else was kind of annoying. It seemed really outdated and repetitive. There is a whole scene with the Harry Potter broomstick game, so there was a whole scene in which I had no idea what was happening. Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson have great chemistry together, but I don't think they took full advantage of that.

3. The To Do List - If you are seeking some 90's nostalgia, then this movie will please you. That's the only positive thing I can say about it. There are references to Marky Mark, Phish, "Free Tibet", Hypercolor T-shirts, plus the music included "Let's Talk About Sex" and "Fade Into You" and the absolute best part of the movie is Rachel Bilson doing the Roger Rabbit! The movie, however, is really terrible. I'll be really surprised if it doesn't win a spot on my worst movies of 2013 list.  I adore Aubrey Plaza on Parks and Recreation, but her acting in this movie was one of the worst performances ever. It makes me question her acting ability, as a whole, because she is perfect on Parks and Recreation, but she seems to play a characterized version of herself (and she played the same character in Safety Not Guaranteed). This was something different, and she really failed.  It doesn't help that her character is super annoying and stupid (especially for someone who is supposed to be smart).  She doesn't really pass for a teenager, either. Actually, none of them did.  I appreciate that the story is about young women exploring their sexuality, especially among the hordes of movies with the same topic featuring young guys. I was just expecting something funnier and wittier.

4. The Way Way Back - I love this movie! The more I think about it,  the more I love it.  I think it's one of the few movies from this year that I actually want to own and watch over, and over again.  It's such a simple story, but it's just written so well that I instantly fell in love with the characters.  Nat Faxon and Jim Rash prove to be a fantastic writing team (they also wrote The Descendants, which won the Oscar for adapted screenplay. I wasn't a huge fan of that movie.  I liked it; but I wasn't in love with it like I am with this one. However, I can't argue the fact that it was written extremely well).  I was a Production Intern on a movie that co-starred Nat Faxon (waaaay back when), he was a very sweet guy (and I felt really bad for him because 90% of his part was cut from the movie).  It's nice to see decent people "make it" in such a cutthroat industry.  Aside from the writing, the cast is the best part of the movie.  Toni Collette is one of my favorite actresses; she plays the grounded character here, while everyone else is more intense.  Allison Janney and Sam Rockwell are the real standout performances.  Janney nails the boozy, loud-mouthed, gossipy neighbor ("They called me a c-u-next Thursday to my face!" - hilarious).  Sam Rockwell plays one of my favorite type of people - the kind that do whatever it takes to make other people smile and instantly gives someone a boost of confidence.  Rockwell is consistently good; but here he excels (he was also the best part of my favorite movie of last year, Seven Psychopaths).  I would love to see a Supporting Actor nomination come Oscar time.  Steve Carell is also really good as a complete insecure asshole.  Again, the writing is brilliant because the audience will instantly hate him ("I think you're a 3." I wanted to punch him in the face).  The whole movie is just charming, funny and downright irresistible.

5. R.I.P.D - I was prepared for the worst and that is pretty much what I got.  As you can tell from the trailer, it is a direct copy of Men in Black (and as my friend pointed out, a little bit of the brilliant show Dead Like Me), but the plot was actually identical to the movie Ghost.  It's disgusting that this passes as an "original" tale, while blatantly ripping other movies.  I get that most stories are inspired by other stories, etc., but there is a point when it is just too much and this movie goes beyond that point.  It's a shame that they got decent actors to be a part of such trash. Mary-Louise Parker, Kevin Bacon, Jeff could any of them willingly participate in this movie? I would be embarrassed. Even the special effects and makeup were horribly bad.  It's definitely at the bottom of the barrel of worst movies this year (although I don't think it's as bad as After Earth or Movie 43).