1. Runner Runner - I really wasn't expecting this to be as boring as it was. Dumb? Sure. Cheesy? Yes. Not boring! It's a great plot, that is actually original (ish), with a great cast. So, what was missing? A script, for one. There was no point to any of it. It seemed like they had a beginning and an ending, but got lost along the way. You know who the good guy is and you know who the bad guy is - and it just makes its way from A to B, without any ounce of entertainment. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Justin Timberlake doesn't belong in movies. He's got charisma and stage presence (obvi!), but he's just not a solid actor. He's been good in some smaller roles, but overall his talent should be utilized on a stage (not necessarily singing/dancing - he's excellent on SNL and he's great on talk shows. He'd make a great Oscar host one day.). Since this script is so bland, we really rely on, at the very least, likable characters but Timberlake is so robotic in this role. Even more blah as "the bad guy", is Ben Affleck. This reminded me of the time period when he made one bad movie after the next. I hope this isn't the start of that trend again.
2. As Cool as I am - This is pretty much the same movie as the Eva Mendes movie from 2012, Girl in Progress, about a young girl growing up while her mom is also "growing up". I think we will see an influx of these type of "teen-mom" movies over the next few years, and it would be nice if at least one of them got it right. As for this movie, it focuses on this teenage girl, who just seems like a spoiled brat to me. Another young actress may have made the teen angst thing work, but Sarah Bolger is really awful. I don't really understand why she thinks her life is so difficult - because her parents clearly care about her, even if they are focused on other things (like their own happiness). But I would argue that having parents who are at least trying to live happily is much better than having parents who walk around miserably and do nothing about it. *spoiler* I'm also a little disturbed at the fact that she is raped by an acquaintance from school and then...it's dropped, as if it never happened. She yells at him about learning what "consensual sex" is and then it's never brought up again. It's as if the film is making a statement about this young girls sexuality (and how confused she is) being directly related to bad parenting (sure, I can understand that point), but being raped has nothing to do with how you grew up. It's another case of blaming the victim (and her parents). I'm not sure if that's the stance the film is trying to take, but that's certainly the impression it left on me. Claire Danes did a lot of her famous ugly cry face, and James Marsden barely made any impression. The whole mess should be avoided.
3. Compulsion - This movie is actually much more successful than I first gave it credit for. I watched it a few weeks ago, and thought "blah", but then it's been stuck in my head ever since. I think it would have been much better on a stage, since it took place in a confined space, and felt very personal and claustrophobic. It's about two women; one is obsessed with cooking (as a way to make people happy), while the other is obsessed with her appearance (as a way to make people happy). On the surface, it's a simple story - and even a little boring. When you look deeper, though, it has a lot of relevant commentary on how we view women in society. First, my obvious initial reaction was "there is no way Heather Graham's boobs are that big", which led me on an internet search of her boobs (they aren't - she actually wore heavy padding to look like she gained weight, which is also interesting because as an actress, shouldn't they have asked her to actually gain weight for the role - like many men are asked to do? Instead they padded her breasts, stomach and butt, so that she still had a thin face and sticks for arms - in other words, she is still skinny.). Her obsession with keeping people, specifically men, happy so that they love her is the equivalent to the old adage "the only way to a man's heart is through his stomach". She imagines a life in which she is a famous "sexy" chef, with hordes of men ogling her all day. Heather Graham isn't the best actress, but she does do "crazy ex-girlfriend" amazingly well - just look at the poster! She looks like a complete psychopath. Carrie-Anne Moss has a pretty relevant role; considering that in real life she went from playing a kick-ass action star to a mom within a few years, as an actress. Her role in this movie is of an older actress who has developed an eating disorder because she is trying to compete for roles with 20 year olds. It's all a bit depressing to think about (as a woman). The themes in the movie stuck with me, but I just wish it was an overall better movie. The dialogue is a bit cheesy and repetitive, and the intimacy between these two women is laughable. I can't really recommend it, but the psychology behind it is, at least, interesting.
4. The Spectacular Now - I am in the very small minority of people who are not impressed by this movie. I don't get it at all. Genuine, heartfelt performances don't make a great movie. So, yes Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley are great; and yes, they deserve the glowing reviews. The story doesn't though. It's incredibly predictable; the "tragic" moment is foreshadowed like crazy, but even worse than that, is that there are absolutely no consequences for his actions. *spoiler* Am I supposed to feel bad for someone who drives drunk on a regular basis, putting other peoples lives at risk, just because his father abandoned him? Does that give him a justifiable reason to act like an asshole? And why is this girl so fucking stupid? She's not actually stupid, because she plays the "geeky" girl but the story just reaffirms that smart girls should stop being smart if they want "popular" boys to love them. And let's just say that he truly believes his mother is to blame for his father leaving, isn't he old enough to realize that if his father wanted to be a part of his life...then he would be? He obviously doesn't; so then why would you force the situation? Are we really supposed to support the happy ending? I mean, he should really be in jail. I would rather if it ended with this smart girl, realizing how incredibly fucking dumb she was for falling for this guys bullshit, going off to college and finding someone who appreciates how smart and interesting she is. I just don't connect with it at all. That's all. Rant over. *Takes a bow*
5. Fruitvale Station - I liked this movie. Maybe not as much as I was hoping to, but it's a solid story with some wonderful acting performances from Michael B. Jordan, Octavia Spencer and Melonie Diaz. I've loved Michael B. Jordan since Parenthood (and of course, Friday Night Lights, but I watched FNL after it was already off the air). He was so good on Parenthood, though - I used to cry during all of his scenes (who am I kidding, I cry through every episode of that show). Plus, I am a huge Melonie Diaz fan (A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, Itty Bitty Titty Committee), I've been waiting for her to get noticed for a while now. The story is based on the true story of Oscar Grant, a young black man who was shot in the back and killed by police officers, after getting into an altercation on a train with fellow passengers. Jordan is absolutely fantastic in the role; creating a character who isn't perfect, and therefore highlighting his humanity instead of the symbol that he has become. I do have some issues with the way that the story is told (there are things added to "soften" Grant's personality), as if an audience wouldn't sympathize with the actual true story (it's clear by the protests and media coverage that we already do). I'm not saying it isn't necessary for us to care about our main character; of course, we should. The film (and true story) takes place on New Years Eve, which is extremely relevant to Oscar Grant's story. He, like most people, spent the day wanting to better himself - resolving his past errors. Unfortunately, Grant didn't get the chance to better his life because it was cut short. This is all we need, as an audience though, we don't need the "filler" scenes. I also wish the film didn't end with his death - the aftermath is really interesting (the police officer that shot him claimed he meant to get his taser...so he's either a liar, or just a really stupid cop). From the cellphone footage caught by other train passengers, to the accounts that I've read, and even from the testimony of the police, it's clear that something went very wrong - not only should someone be held accountable, but systems need to be in place so that it never happens again. If you're not incredibly angry after watching this movie, then you weren't paying attention. On a side note, did anyone else even notice the actor that plays one of the officers is Chad Michael Murray??!!?? How the fuck did he get that job? Worst actor on the planet.