Monday, October 27, 2014

Thoughts on 9 new Shows

1. Gotham - This is the show that I was most excited for this fall season, and so far, it has been satisfying. I am clearly biased, as I am in love with Ben McKenzie, and would continue to watch the show with enthusiasm, even if it turned out to be the worst show ever. I am glad that it's not. It's actually a lot of fun. It feels like a comic book show, as opposed to Agents of Shield, which feels like a spy show featuring comic book characters (a very tedious one, at that). The characters in Gotham are over-done and very stylized, but it works. Another good point to the show is that it is getting better with every episode. "The Balloonman" episode is probably the strongest episode yet, and I am hopeful for more episodes like it. I love that the show is creating a world, utilizing lesser-known villains, and balancing dark and fun with every episode. I'm all in.

2. How to Get Away with Murder - Wow. This is so much better than I was expecting it to be. I don't know why I am so surprised - both Grey's Anatomy and Scandal started off spectacularly. The first episode was really intriguing and smart, but I was iffy on the character development. They all seemed to have a "defined personality" (they gay one, the type A personality one, the meek one - basically they were all characters from Glee).  However, with each episode, the characters are really developing nicely. I question how the show is going to sustain itself, with the whole "murder" plot - we are going to need an answer fairly quickly, otherwise it will get tiresome (like Revenge). Yet, if they give away the mystery, then what will the show rely on? For now, though, all I can say is "wow". The fourth episode is one of the strongest episodes of drama that I can remember - the first shock of the guy/window scene was "holy shit!", and then...the end. THE END. It left me speechless.

3. The Flash - Another show that I really like! It's definitely the same style as Arrow, which is what I was hoping for, but it also feels a bit like Spider-Man - the way he "discovers" his super-powers. Grant Gustin is just perfect for the role (and soooo adorable). The rest of the cast is quite good too. I knew I recognized the actress that plays Caitlin Snow, but it took me a while to figure out why (Piranha 3DD - yes, I totally watched that). I appreciate how funny the dialogue is ("lightning gave me abs?"), and that it doesn't take itself too seriously. I also love the little bit of mystery that builds with the end of each episode.

4. Red Band Society - They can't all be winners this season. This is probably one of the worst pilot shows that I've ever watched. It was so depressing and boring and stupid. I couldn't even bare to watch another episode, so I immediately removed it from my DVR. I am literally in shock that it wasn't the first casualty of the season (and that it STILL hasn't been cancelled).

5. Stalker - Another show that I really don't like, however, it's not as bad as Red Band Society. I still continue to watch it, because I like the premise and I like the actors. They just get it wrong. Sooo wrong. It's not nearly as scary as I was hoping for. The bigger problem, however, is the deeply misogynistic sentiment that seems more accidental than on purpose (I think the writers genuinely don't realize how problematic some of the stories have been). They insinuate (on 2 separate episodes) that the way a woman dresses has a direct effect on stalker behavior (blaming the victim) and one can make assumptions of guilt based on a woman's wardrobe (said to a girl who is "cute" and "wears a crop top": "I think you're good, but I don't think you're innocent".  Seriously. Actual dialogue. She also says the words "no judgement" twice, which clearly shows that she is, in fact, judging her.). The "twist" of Dylan McDermott's character stalking his ex-wife is clearly stupid. She threatens to call the police if he doesn't leave "in 2 weeks" - um....clearly she isn't that scared of him. These are little kinks that can be worked out, but I'm not sure if the writers realize these kinks. The series did get picked up for a whole season, so hopefully it can work out the problems and become the strong series it has potential to be.

6. The Affair - The pilot episode is stunning. One of the best pilot episodes I've ever seen (I put it up there with Damages, Breaking Bad, and Six Feet Under - which are all in my top 10 dramatic shows of all time). I enjoyed the first half immensely, but then it switches to Alison's version of the story and I was blown away. Her version is completely different!! It throws off the whole balance of the show and the audience's perception of characters and events. It's one of the best concepts for a television show I've ever encountered. I read a few reviews of the pilot, pointing out that women tend to believe Alison, while men tend to believe Noah, which I find incredibly condescending. However, at first I believed Noah, but after analyzing some of the subtle changes, I think Alison is more truthful (not because she is a woman, but because her "truth" seems more realistic). Obviously, "the truth" probably lies somewhere between the two versions. I don't really know though, and that's what makes it interesting. Maybe they both actually think they are telling the truth - sometimes, perceptions of situations are very different. I'm also on the edge of my seat wondering who is dead. We only know it's a guy, and it doesn't seem to be anyone that close to either of them. The cast is fantastic - Dominic West, Maura Tierney, Joshua Jackson (my heart hurt so much with his first "aggressive" scene, but then....maybe he turns out to be the "good guy"?? It's so hard to know the truth!!! AAAAHHH) are superb, but Ruth Wilson absolutely takes me breath away. She was so good on Luther, but she's upped her game for this. I highly recommend this show. It's the best of this season.

7. Gracepoint - This is has been sort of an up and down show for me. I really liked the first episode, but haven't been too excited about it since. I love the cast, but David Tennant with an American accent, just doesn't feel right. Anna Gunn is the highlight of the show; I love that she is strong, but also really sensitive to the murder and the people around her. She stands up for herself and her right to react in an emotional way. I didn't even know Michael Pena was in it, and I love him. I feel like he is a bit underutilized as of right now, but I think he will play a more important role soon. The show is very similar to The Killing (minus the rain), and is even marketed the same - the "who killed Danny" campaign is eerily similar to the "who killed Rosie Larson" charade. That can obviously be problematic, because in the case of The Killing, the murder wasn't solved right away - instead it was dragged out for 2 whole seasons before it moved on, and the show suffered for it. Most of its audience gave up, which is a real shame because season 3 & 4 are superb. Anyway, I think Gracepoint will sustain itself longer than The Killing did, but I'm not sure if Fox is going to give it that chance.

8. Marry Me - Really cute show. Does it fill the void of Happy Endings? Certainly not, but it's a step in the right direction. I really, really, really love the actors, but I really, really, really don't love the setup. The whole "marriage" thing is just painful to watch and the big sweeping statements like "every girl wants to get married" are just ridiculous for a present day show. However, there are some really funny moments. My favorite so far: 1. "You keep me grounded - like Sandra Bullock in real life" "She seems so approachable". 2. Save Princess Di (inappropriate, but oh so funny). 3. "It's an only child thing" "Only children are monsters" (HEY!! Hahahaha....still funny).  Happy Endings wasn't that great when it first started, it took a while for the momentum and characters to build before it became nearly perfect, so I am glad that Marry Me is here and I am willing to stick with it.

9. Manhattan Love Story - This wasn't on my original list of shows that I planned on watching for the fall, but then I saw that the guy from Greek and the girl from ANTM were the main stars and I decided that could be interesting. It's not. It's terrible. And it was the first show cancelled this season (blows my mind that Selfie is still going strong, though).  I won't waste time talking about it, but I do hope that these two find another project because they are adorable.

3 Thoughts on Kill the Messenger

1. It's a 90's kind of movie - Yes, the movie takes place in the 90's, so that makes sense, but I am talking about the feeling of the movie. It's a cautionary thriller about the dangers that journalists face to obtain the truth, when it's something that the government is purposely hiding. It's an obvious story, that has been done many times, and I feel like we are past that point. It's no longer shocking that the government is lying. So, the story relies on other things, like the pace, the acting and the cinematography - all of which are average. I liked the movie; I was interested while watching it. I just couldn't help but think how great it would have been if it came out in 1999, instead of 2014.

2. Jeremy Renner returns to acting - While it's a satisfying performance, it's nothing to rave about. However, I am very happy that Renner has returned to a dramatic acting role. With the latest string of Avengers, Bourne and Witch Hunter roles, I was getting incredibly nervous for his career. He is such a strong actor, I was afraid we were losing this talent for the "big blockbuster" roles. He was strong in American Hustle, but that performance (and the movie) felt a bit "showy" to me. And we was in The Immigrant, but it wasn't really memorable at all. Do you remember his performance in The Town? Because it was fucking brilliant. I still get chills from that scene. Of course, there is also his sublime performance in The Hurt Locker, as well. THIS is the Jeremy Renner that I want in my life, on the big screen.

3. The ending - *spoilers, if you don't already know the story* - Even though the story is obvious and well-known, I wasn't really familiar with it. So, I kept thinking - how do they corroborate that this is, in fact, a "true story". It's told mostly from his perspective, so we only know what he is telling us, yet his "facts" have been disproved. As an audience, we are supposed to believe him, but it would have been a much stronger story if it were all a lie. The movie ends with a written narrative of what happens after the movie - and boy, is it depressing. First, some of his findings are found truthful - and fully admitted by the government, but it was overshadowed by Clinton's controversy. Second, he committed suicide! Man, what a soul-destroying fucking ending. Not really very motivated for the truth-seekers of the world.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

3 Thoughts on Gone Girl

*Slight spoilers*
1. It's a Lifetime movie, with slightly better acting - Okay...that seems a bit harsh, but that is honestly how I felt while watching it. My initial reaction to the movie was utter disappointment, but I like to let movies sink in, give them a chance to fully develop into my brain. I thought that after a week (or 2) that I would feel differently, but I don't. I really, really wanted to like it and I thought that I was going to love it. So my disappointment comes as a HUGE shock to me. My problem with the movie is the story, itself. I guess I should have been more skeptical, since the book was such a huge hit with the "masses". I haven't read it (and now I absolutely never will), but I assume it is written the same way as this movie (since Gillian Flynn wrote the screenplay) and it feels very condescending. It's feels like the same people who enjoy the book are the same people who are portrayed as idiots in the movie (the idiots who make snap judgments based on little proof and spread gossip based on hearsay).  I don't know about you, but I like to think that I am smarter than that. My disdain for the story had a huge impact on my general feelings towards the movie, but when I step back and analyze it, I will admit that there are some incredibly captivating shots, some wonderfully dry humor and a strong performance from Ben Affleck. Why everyone else is focusing on Rosamund Pike, I'll probably never understand. She is adequate, but not nearly the "revelation" that she is being praised as. I think the performance would have had a much stronger impact if she had a warmth to her; something that made me connect with her and understand her (in the beginning) so that the *twist* would have been a bigger shock. Although, I'm not sure if her character is written that way or if she was directed that way; so it may not be her fault. This brings me to my next thought:  

2. Is it misogynistic? - The truth is, I don't really care. I don't think that this is what the story is about. However, I do think that there is a clear problem that people have when writing female characters. I'm supposed to believe that this down-to-Earth type guy falls head over heals in love with this woman because she is smart and sophisticated. Yet, she is never, ever, shown as being the least bit nice or friendly (and in contrast, nice and friendly women are often portrayed as ditsy or "messes"). Is it too complicated to write a female character who is both? And to have a male character fall in love with a female character who is smart and nice? Back to the "misogyny" of it all, the reason I don't think it's something this film can be analyzed for is because it's simply about a crazy person. Crazy is a lighthearted word for an absolute complete psychopath. Just because the movie is about a lying, cold-hearted, murderous female, I don't think it is implying that all women are like this. I think the story (the horrible, endless, dumb-as-rocks story) is more about the media sensationalizing murderers and the impact that the media has on our justice system. It's also about the disintegration of a marriage based on lies, financial trouble, jealousy and resentment - and both the female and male characters can be blamed for that.

3. The third act - *major spoilers, obviously* - I don't get it. Are we supposed to be surprised that she is alive? There wasn't one moment in the movie that I didn't think she was alive and that he was innocent. So, I assumed that revelation wasn't actually the big shocking twist. The third act plays out very similar to how I expected it to. The foreshadowing of the previous rape accusation, the fact that her ex is wealthy and still obsessed with her, the pregnancy talk about him giving a semen sample - it's all there, right in front of your face. (side note: can we please stop having female characters lie about being raped? It seems like it's a running trend right now.) Then, the very end is obviously frustrating, but also probably the only thing I actually didn't expect - because it's ridiculous!!! Even if he is feeling the responsibility and guilt of being a father, would he honestly let his child be raised by a psychopath who lies about being raped and oh yeah....SHE MURDERED SOMEONE!?! There are clearly some MAJOR plot miscalculations. The biggest two that bother me are: 1. The girl that she bonds with doesn't recognize her because she puts on glasses?? HAHAHAHAHAHA. Is she Superman? 2. If there are cameras recording every entry way - wouldn't they have picked up her arrival (which was days/weeks (??) after she went missing) and wouldn't they see that she went into the house willingly? The whole story is just so fucking dumb, I can't even think about it anymore.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Thoughts on 5 Films

1. 3 Days to Kill - I love Amber Heard. I repeat, I love Amber Heard. She's the ONLY reason I wanted to see this movie. From the trailer, it appears that she is an important role in this story, but sadly, that is not the case. She barely even exists - just shows up from time to time, looking fabulous and reciting vague threats. The movie actually revolves mostly around Kevin Costner trying to bond with his ridiculously bratty daughter. It didn't help that the daughter is played by Hailee Steinfeld and she is AWFUL. How did she ever get an acting job (and even more baffling, how did she get an Academy Award nomination??? It had to be a fluke. I still haven't seen True Grit). Her entitled upper-middle class white girl whine is really grating ("the kind of kid who never had a father to teach her" to ride a bike. Waaaaaaaaaaaaa. Shut.It.). She's definitely the downfall of the movie, but the dialogue is a close second. I actually could predict the next line of dialogue (and I did so, out loud 6 times). The ending didn't make much sense, either - the whole scene was supposed to be the girl's prom, but there were a shitload of adults there (and not just chaperons). It's just plain stupid. It's co-written by Luc Besson and directed by McG, and honestly, it may be the worst thing they both have ever done (and that is saying a lot).

2. Odd Thomas - I was expecting something dark and twisted; something inline with the Dean Koontz books that I used to read as a teenager. The movie is cute. A little too cute. It confused me a bit. I haven't read a Koontz book since 1997 (roughly) and the ones I am familiar with are super thrilling and intense. This movie felt like it was made for pre-teens. Is that how the book is? Did he change his style? Or did the movie just go in a different direction? Anyway, aside from my confusion, the movie is okay - nothing very memorable or special about it. Anton Yelchin is charming and witty in the lead role, but the movie just feels very small and inconsequential.

3. The Double - I really, really love this story - based on the Dostoyevsky novel, which I've never read but now I really, really want to (and actually, I've realized that I've never read ANY Dostoyevsky!? Isn't that weird? Shouldn't I have read Crime and Punishment at some point in my life?). I think the movie is let down by the lead actor, Jesse Eisenberg. I have enjoyed Eisenberg in many roles, but he doesn't have range as an actor. He can play the fast-talking, awkwardly sarcastic asshole better than most, but that's about it. This is a challenging role, and I appreciate his effort but it just doesn't work for me at all. The two characters that he plays feel EXACTLY the same (instead of having subtle nuanced similarities, which I believe is the intention). I do love Mia Wasikowska (she's such a strong presence that I don't even have to look up how to spell her name anymore!), and she always chooses challenging roles and executes them with grace. The movie (directed by Richard Ayoade) is superbly dark and beautiful; haunting and fascinating, had it starred a different actor it surely would have ended in my top 10 of the year (it still might make the top 25). Side note: How cool is that poster?

4. Le Week-End - I love Jim Broadbent, and him dancing to "How Does it Feel" is just so touching, and beautiful - it makes the whole movie worth watching. The movie felt like a future sequel to the Before trilogy, except not quite as well written. I'm not a fan of romantic movies being set in Paris (with the exception of Before Sunset, of course). It just doesn't seem like a very romantic place; it's just like any other big city - too many tourists, all experiencing the same thing - seems very unromantic to me (and if you're wondering: Yes, I've been to Paris and it was very blah). I do like that this movie is about an older couple who are realistically analyzing their relationship. AND he is still sexually attracted to a woman his own age (that like never happens in movies). It's a really sweet, well-acted movie with some insightful dialogue on aging relationships. It must be tough thing to do...imagine being with the same person for 20, 30, 50 years??? Seems so impossible to me.

5. Obvious Child - I thought this was going to be *my* kind of movie. A story challenging a controversial topic with a smart, funny and feminist approach. Then, the beginning happened and my heart sank. What the hell kind of feminist story starts with a woman getting dumped (by an asshole), causing her WHOLE LIFE to be ruined? Have we not come to the conclusion, by now, that most women don't revolve their entire life around men? She literally shuts down, gets completely drunk and leaves him stalker-ish, obsessive messages on his voice mail - leading into "women are batshit crazy" territory. Instead of feeling sympathy for her, I start to conclude that she probably deserved to be dumped because she is a fucking lunatic. Good for him for escaping her crazy train!! I think the writer (too lazy to look it up) is just a little confused. I get that she is purposely comparing a young woman to a young man - as a "child-like" character (men are often written like this and it is somehow acceptable). However, she just seems kinda whiny to me - and extremely dependent on other people (like a child - as the title claims: it's that obvious) and it's hard for me to feel anything but frustration towards her. I was deeply heartbroken and distraught for the first 30 minutes of the movie. Then, it starts to get a little bit better. Not much, but a little. The abortion issue is handled with care and respect; it's presented as something that many (most?) women HAVE to deal with, instead of villainizing it. Although, again, I think the writer is confused. Gabby Hoffman's character goes on a pro-choice tirade about her rights as a women, which include not telling the man who got her pregnant that she is, in fact, pregnant. While my overtly feminist thoughts are clear in most of my posts, one can conclude that I am pro-choice (which is true), but I have a deep, personal, moral objection to the act itself. I know many women (friends and family) who have had abortions and I do not judge, but I would never consider the option for myself. In this complicated view of the topic, my solution is simple (not really, that was sarcasm...but in my head it seems simple): sex education & free condoms (and Christ, can someone invent the male birth control already?). So, while I do agree that it is a woman's choice, I do think it is her responsibility to make sure the man is aware (and that in keeping with "equality" he pays for half of it - and he sits his ass in the waiting room and suffers as much as he can with her). Anyway, I like Jenny Slate a lot, but this script doesn't serve her well - and if that was her actual stand up routines, then I can safely say, I am not a fan of her as a comedian (like really painful). She is really likable, though - and, as she is described, "unapologetically herself". Her performance felt genuine and that is something that I can appreciate. I like the guy too (again, lazy); I really like that he turns out to be a "good guy" (but then again, we saw her crazy in the beginning, so part of me wants to tell him to "RUUUUUUNNNNN!"). Overall, this movie is a clear disappointment for me, but there is some good stuff in there.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

3 Thoughts on The Skeleton Twins

1. It hit me hard - The best thing I can say about any movie is that I have an emotional connection to it. I feel like I ramble sometimes about how I can personally testify to an "issue" or subject matter of a movie; and I don't always know if that's a good thing or not. However, I purposely don't write "reviews" of movies; instead I write my thoughts down - and obviously my thoughts are going to be more personal than critical (although, I do offer a critical and objective perspective sometimes as well). For me, this movie was tough to watch (in a good way). I didn't expect it to hit me as hard as it did; simply because it's about siblings reconnecting and I am an only child. I don't really fully understand a sibling relationship and I never will. However, I didn't know that the movie is also **slightly spoilery territory ahead** about suicide and depression. I had someone who I was very close to (and probably the closest person I had to being a "sibling" while growing up) commit suicide and I will never wake up in the morning and not feel guilt. No amount of therapy or people telling me that there is nothing I could do will EVER change my mind. I know deep down in my heart that I could have helped. It caused a deep separation in my family because I was not made aware of the situation; and also because, in some way (that no one will ever admit), it should have been me. I am the one with the fucked up childhood; I am the one who is introverted and "depressed"; I am the one who chooses to live alone and has no plans of procreating. In my family's eyes, I would have been an easier (expected) loss. From a very young age, I realized that depression and addiction is in my blood and I was never going to let it control me and I think this is why I am still alive today. I made a decision (at the age of 5 years old) and I stuck to it. While watching this movie, I realized that I connected with both siblings in different ways. With Maggie, my insides screamed "seeeeee this is why I choose to be alone". Maggie chooses to conform to ideals (like marriage) knowing full-well that these ideals are not who she is and it almost kills her. There is so much pressure for people to find a partner, get married and have kids (it's 2014 for fuck sake!) - that people automatically assume that one who doesn't live like this (or want to live like this) is "depressed". Guess what? That's a big, fat lie. I live my life EXACTLY how I want to live my life - and I do this to avoid depression. Like I said, it's in my blood - so coming home to a quiet apartment, popping in a movie and cuddling with my cats is self-preservation. It's what keeps me sane. With Milo, I connect with his expectations for life. I love that he addresses the "it gets better" mentality that is instilled in children now. Um....NO IT DOESN'T. If I grew up thinking it was going to get better; I would probably be dead by now. The older you get, the more chances there are for bad shit to happen. People you love are going to die. Chances are, you won't have your dream job and if you do, it probably won't pay enough to support the lifestyle that you want. You probably won't find your soul-mate and if you do, they will probably disappoint you (or die). AND you will continue to meet shitty people who are ignorant assholes every single fucking day. That's the world we live in; the challenges we will face. I'm not implying that we shouldn't teach our children to dream of a better world for themselves (I'm a big believer in the dreamers of the world). I just think we need to set realistic expectations for what lies ahead. Instead of feeding lies to young people, why not re-direct our energy? My theory is: "it's not going to get better unless YOU make it better". Do what you love. Support and respect the people you love. The end.

2. The chemistry - The reason that this movie works so well, and that I connected to it so much is because of the chemistry between Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader. It's absolute perfection. I honestly felt like I was watching actual siblings. I've discussed my recent love for Kristen Wiig before, so I will focus on Bill Hader. Wow. This is a game-changing performance. In the same way that Wiig impressed me with Bridesmaids (the reason that movie was successful is because of the emotional performance from Wiig), Hader goes from sarcastic wit to heartbreaking and soul-crushing depth within seconds. I know he will never be "officially" recognized for this performance, but to me, it's in the same league as other stand-out male performances from this year (McAvoy, Law, Hardy). Another surprising performance is from Luke Wilson. His character is described as a Golden Retriever (or wait...was it a Lab? Doesn't matter), and he plays the role with a perfect amount of aloofness. He is sort of an innocent bystander to it all. Of course, the writers (Mark Heyman and Craig Johnson) should be given proper credit, as well. Their words jump off the screen with the perfect amount of cynicism, humor and insight. It's a simple story, but it's told really well and acted superbly - sometimes, that's all a movie needs.

3. The song - Clearly, the best part of the movie is the lip-syncing scene featuring Starship's "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now". Part of it is featured in the trailer; and it pretty much sealed the deal about my excitement for the movie. It's super cute. I was happy that the scene in the movie is actually much funnier than the little clip in the trailer (and obviously longer) and that the scene , itself, really captivates the relationship that these siblings shared as kids. After I saw the trailer, the song remained in my head for months (it's such a good song - I can't believe that I completely forgot it existed!). I thought it was a coincidence that I heard it twice in one day about a week before I saw this movie, but now it's clear that this movie is bringing this song back. I've heard it another 6 times on the radio since watching the movie (about 2 weeks ago) and I don't even listen to the radio very often (just to and from work - which is only 2 miles from my house). It's a song that will forever be linked to this movie from now on. A smile appears on my face just thinking about it; and I honestly can't wait to watch it over and over again in its entirety.