Sunday, November 30, 2014

3 Thoughts on Interstellar

1. The ambition - I will never understand how anyone can criticize a movie like this for its "science fiction" not being "realistic". For me, if a movie builds a world and sticks to the rules of that world, then the so-called plot holes do not exist. I would much rather a story-teller imagine and create something new and not worry about certain realistic logistics, than re-tell me a boring, safe, scientifically accurate story. Plus, there are so many things we don't know yet, about space, time-travel, black holes, other dimensions etc., how can we criticize a movie for not being accurate, when we are still learning the intricacies of the universe? The only thing I would criticize the movie for is the acting - I'm a fan of Anne Hathaway, but she was not good in this movie. It wasn't just her, though. There was something off about all of the acting, except with Jessica Chastain - she's fantastic. Although, I don't see it as a movie that relies that much on acting. I mean, none of the acting was terrible or anything; it just wasn't as spectacular as the rest of the movie. Interstellar may well be my favorite Nolan film (I've liked all of them, to some degree). It's thrilling, intellectual, epic, and bold. Like whoa.

2. The surprises - *Do not read if you haven't seen it* - I don't know how, but I managed to avoid everything about this movie. Never saw the trailer, never read any reviews and I changed the channel every time a commercial came on. The only information I knew was, who the 3 main stars were and I read a whole ton of twitter snark about the science behind it (but I never clicked on the articles). Going in blind for this movie, definitely enhanced my enjoyment. For one, I had NO IDEA about that mind-blowing surprise cameo. I'm not even going to spoil it; even though I prefaced this with a spoiler alert, but I think knowing that there is, in fact, a huge cameo, already ruins the surprise factor. I've read several articles, since watching the movie, that argue this character isn't necessary in the movie, but I say "WHAT?!" to that. His character is the catalyst for the end of the movie. Second, I knew it was a movie about people in space, but I had no idea why they were in space. The whole "Earth becoming uninhabitable" is a fantastic (and scarily realistic) idea for a movie. The beginning of the movie is so engaging; the idea that technology and science has ruined Earth - so much so, that text books have re-invented History to encourage the younger generation to become farmers?!? That's a crazy idea to digest. Like whoa.

3. The emotion - It's so hard to really describe or critique this movie, because it's all about the emotion behind it. As I watched it, I enjoyed the story, and was dazzled by the special effects. Then I went home and bawled my eyes out. It's such a "big idea" movie, that I didn't really connect with it emotionally while watching it. It wasn't until I absorbed all of the information and personalized the theories that are presented, that I really "got it". Behind all of the space travel, adorable robots, and surreal images, the movie is really about this untouchable, mysterious idea of  "destiny". I think I cried so much because it reinforced my theory about "gut feelings". Sometimes, I just "know" when something is right; like everything in my life has led me to this moment. What if this "gut feeling" is another dimension "me", leading me in the right direction? Isn't that just overwhelmingly uplifting and emotional to think about? Like whoa.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Thoughts on 5 Films

1. Edge of Tomorrow - From the trailer, this movie seemed to be a mediocre, predictable action thriller, but the reviews argued that it was one of the most original action movies in years. I felt bad that I missed it in theaters, because I love to support originality, but honestly, I don't really get what everyone is talking about. It's Looper, Groundhogs Day, Deja Vu, and Source Code all rolled into one movie. I wouldn't call that "original". However, I did have fun with it. Its quality action sequences and witty dialogue had me engaged through its entirety. I just don't agree with most critics describing it as "unexpected" and "surprising". It played out exactly how I expected it to. I did appreciate that most of the repetition is implied, so we don't have to sit through the same scenes over and over again. Tom Cruise gives it his all, as usual. I'm not really a fan, but I can't deny that he can hold an action movie. I love Emily Blunt (I mean, who doesn't?), I would love to see her STAR in an action movie instead of relegated to the side-kick role.

2. Begin Again - I wasn't expecting much with this movie; just a cute, light move. It's actually quite good. First, I was in complete shock the second I heard Keira's voice. It's so beautiful; sort of sounds like Jill Sobule (and I LOVE Jill Sobule). Second, the movie is really, very funny. I laughed out loud several times and it was totally unexpected. Third, I love Mark Ruffalo. He is so perfect in roles like this. It reminded me a bit of his role in 13 Going on 30. Just really authentic, charming, self-deprecating, smart and witty. It's so weird to think that last year's "Sexiest Man Alive" is in this and he doesn't even compare to Mark. (and really, what the fuck were they thinking with this year's choice? Does personality count for anything these days?). Speaking of the guy from Maroon 5 (I can't even think of his name right now. That's how boring he is), he is a TERRIBLE actor - clearly the worst part of the movie. Also, I didn't really like the scene where they walk around the city with earphones listening to the same songs - first, it's weird and a bit disturbing that he would re-enact something that he did with his ex, and second, they were supposedly listening to each other's "guilty pleasure" songs, and no song by either Frank Sinatra or Stevie Wonder should ever be considered "guilty pleasures". Those are, like, legitimately great songs. The movie is a commentary on the fall of record companies and the ever-changing music industry. The only thing needed to become successful is a little bit of luck and a really amazing idea - and recording a live album on the streets of NYC is actually a GENIUS idea. I could see that being a huge hit.

3. Bad Words - I love Jason Bateman. He can be hilarious (Arrested Development), but when he is faced with bad material, he's not good at overcoming it. This movie isn't necessarily bad, but it's not really funny. The entire beginning of the movie is featured in the trailer, which I thought could be a good thing - maybe they saved all of the funny stuff for the actual movie?! But no, it's just not funny. I found the end slightly amusing (when they keep spelling the words wrong), but then it repeats the joke too many times. The whole motive behind his ridiculous charade of entering a spelling bee contest is really obvious (and dumb). There are some seriously funny women involved, Kathryn Hahn, Allison Janney, and Rachael Harris, so it's sad that they couldn't scrap some of the lame jokes and give these women some material worthy of their talent. The part that bothered me the most is the Office Space type montage featuring a white male wreaking havoc while a hip-hop song played in the background. So cliche it hurts.

4. Lucky Them - I didn't really hear anything about this movie, but I saw a trailer for it and was instantly intrigued by the cast - Toni Collette and Thomas Haden Church! I will watch anything with Toni Collette, and THC is probably at his oddest/funniest role since Wings (awwww...remember that show? I loved it.). He cracks me up in this movie, especially as he remembers the only music he likes (*spoiler* it's Bryan Adams! LOL). Also, Ryan Eggold shows up playing the guitar! Yes, please. The movie is really cute, but ultimately forgettable. That is, until the end, because there is a surprise cameo that will blow your mind. It's actually a really perfectly cast role, but completely unexpected. Now I will remember the movie solely for the cameo (and the shirtless Ryan scenes).

5. Sin City: A Dame to Kill For - I could go into a long-winded account of how much I love the first one, but I'm sure it's all already been said before. Visually poetic, beautifully violent film noir. It was my favorite film of 2005, and it's still currently one of my all-time favorites. I'll still be the first to admit, it's a little late for a sequel. I'm over it; the world is over it. It's pretty much what I was expecting; except the editing is TERRIBLE. It makes me wonder if the first one is like that, and I just didn't notice. I haven't seen in it probably 7 years, and I didn't really pay attention to editing until I worked directly in films (I went to school for Film Studies, but it was mostly theoretical, not hands-on). I worked a little bit as a Script Supervisor about 5 years ago, which is the person that the Editor relies on the most and now it's hard to enjoy films with mistakes and rough editing (which is why I decided not to continue. I love films too much and working on them made me hate them). This movie was actually hard to watch because of the choppy editing (for instance; the Juno Temple sex scene - she takes her top off, as in bare skin, and then suddenly she is wearing lingerie. WHERE DID IT COME FROM?). There are still some really cool shots; but nothing as memorable as the first. The plot is typical revenge movie territory (but I wasn't exactly watching this movie for the plot, anyway). I would recommend it if you were a fan of the first, because it brings some closure to the original plot and some characters.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

3 Thoughts on Nightcrawler

1. Jake Gyllenhaal's finest performance? - For an actor who has had very little career missteps (The Edge of Tomorrow and Prince of Persia), it's weird that I never really rated Gyllenhaal as one of my favorite actors. He's been a strong presence in many movies, and has been on a career high over the past couple of years, but I think this performance has really sealed the deal. It's an astonishing, Oscar worthy performance. While most refer to the "creepiness" Gyllenhaal instills as Lou Bloom, I didn't really find him creepy at all. Instead, I thought his performance came off as a really complicated sociopath, with aspects of undiagnosed Asperger's syndrome. I really, strongly wish that the scene in the beginning didn't exist because I think it set expectations about his character. If that scene didn't exist, we would see his descent into a vicious monster as a result of a societal effect. As he discovers his interest in crime "journalism", he is praised for the images that he is capturing and the line that he is crossing - someone with personality/social disorders would take that praise and continue to push the envelope. It's a fantastic character study and Gyllenhaal takes pride in the role. It's impossible to look away.

2. Where has Rene Russo been? - First, can we talk about the fact that Rene Russo is 60 years old?! Holy cow, she looks incredible. Stunning, in fact; It seems she hasn't aged in 20 years. The real question, though, is where the fuck has she been? Other than the Thor movies, she hasn't acted in anything in 10 years and I am baffled as to why. She's such a strong actress; and she makes a gigantic impact in this movie. I hope her break from acting was her own decision and not because she wasn't getting roles. This movie proves that the acting world needs her.

2. It's Taxi Driver meets Drive meets Network? - Um, no, no, no, 10,000 times, no. I get the comparisons. The sociopathic character study can be compared to Travis Bickle; the pulpy, noir L.A vibe can be compared to the atmosphere of Drive; the edgy, unapologetic view of journalism ethics can be compared to the subject of Network. Just because it can be compared to these masterpieces, doesn't mean it should be, though. Every review that I've read has referenced one of these three movies and it is mind-boggling. Before I saw the movie, I read several one-line reviews that simply said "this year's Drive" (apparently by people who loved Drive, but may have worryingly misunderstood it). If you go into the movie expecting this; then you may be severely disappointed, as I was. If I hadn't expected a masterpiece, I may have enjoyed the movie more. It's still a strong movie; with even stronger performances, and it sits just outside of my Top 10 of the year, so far. It just doesn't come close to a masterpiece, for me.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Thoughts on 5 Films

1. The Fault in Our Stars - While everyone praised recent teen angst movies like Perks of Being a Wallflower and The Spectacular Now, I was sort of unimpressed by both. I lumped this movie in the same category before watching it, which now I realize is a bit unfair. There is an obvious "sympathy vote" in the previous movies, which frustrates me. Sure, the characters in both of those films have legitimate issues, but when a character is crying out for sympathy, I get really annoyed. Everyone has issues, it's so conceded to have a "feel bad for me because of A,B and C" attitude. With The Fault in Our Stars, the main character, played by Shailene Woodley in her best performance since The Descendants, has terminal Cancer, yet, I never feel her craving sympathy. She's accepted her fate, with grace and wit, hoping to spend the rest of her life the way that she wants to spend it. I don't know, some may think she is "negative", but I find her to be a breath of fresh air. In contrast, the boy that she meets is more "positive" about Cancer, and life in general - and they both fill a void in each other. I love that he woos her and that he is kind of dopey. It's actually really sweet - and I'm totally not a "sweet" kind of movie person. There are very few that get to me, but this one did. I can't say that I was surprised at the end, *spoiler* but I love that he does lose his humor and positivity in the end; because that just made the whole thing that much more devastating. I actually felt very emotional during a few scenes ("The great and terrible 10" almost broke me).

2. Godzilla - *spoiler central* I've never seen a Godzilla movie in full, just some clips here and there. I've never really had any interest, but I thought an updated version with Bryan Cranston sounded like a solid plan. I missed seeing this in the theater and I really think it would have had a stronger impact on the big screen, but I'm still glad I didn't waste my money. It's really boring. I appreciate that they gave a history of the monsters and focused on the mythology a bit; instead of just throwing in a random monster to destroy a city. However, most of the action was really dumb and the story is just all too convenient (the kid finds his parents among the MILLION other people there...seriously?). Plus, the only reason that I wanted to see it (Cranston) fucking dies 40 minutes in!! What the fuck?! Aaron Johnson is such a mediocre actor - he can not hold a movie (although I didn't hate him here as much as I usually do). It really did nothing to separate itself from any other disaster movie. While it may be a better made blockbuster movie than say, Transformers or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, I would much rather watch them again than this movie - at least they were fun. The ending is really spectacular, though. That last roar?! Epic.

3. Cold in July - This movie was a big surprise for me. I expected to like it, and I did - just not in the same way that I thought. The first half followed the way I thought it would, but then the second half just goes in a completely different direction and I have to say...I totally dug it. It's really interesting and fast paced, but also has a slow burn effect (which is a contradiction, I know. Yet, that's how I felt watching it). I actually thought that it was adapted from an Elmore Leonard story - it definitely has that feel to it (it's not). There are some genuinely funny moments (like when the one guy goes to fight the guy in the car and then sees how big he is, "We can split it.". I laughed out loud at that one)Michael C. Hall is my absolute favorite television actor (from two of my all-time favorite shows: Six Feet Under and Dexter). I didn't love him in this role, even though he did a solid job - I just feel like the role is a bit dim-witted, and he usually plays more complex roles, so it is a hard adjustment. I would love to see him in more movie roles, or another outstanding television series, and I am totally going to see him on Broadway (in Hedwig and the Angry Inch).

4. In a World... - I like this movie, I like Lake Bell, and I like the story. It's not as amazing as I was led to believe, but I do think it is extremely interesting; especially if you are fascinated by all things movie related (and you can probably relate to it, if you are a woman). It's so weird that something like voice-over work is a male dominated industry. When you think about how iconic the words "In a world" are featured in trailers, and that it's considered a controversial stance to have a female voice utter those words, it becomes a little ridiculous. It's also a really sad commentary that someone like her own father wouldn't support her (and even try to steal the job from her). This is what women have to go through in the workforce and I appreciate that it's a feminist story that deals with an actual feminist topic (not "I broke up with my boyfriend and now my life is miserable until I find a new boyfriend"). Lake Bell really makes the movie enjoyable, though. It's so refreshing to have a story like this from a female perspective, instead of a male writer/director appropriating and assuming how a woman should feel. I love that Bell can make fun of herself and that rapping scene is just glorious. You can't NOT smile after watching that. The only issue I take is with the featured line "women should sound like women, not babies who answer everything with a question". The intent is a harmless joke about women who think it's sexy to play dumb, yet there is a high connection linked with the "baby voice" and sexual abuse as a child. It's not something that is proven (because most women won't admit to the abuse they've endured), but it's hard to ignore it as a symptom. I know two women who do the "baby voice" thing and both have admitted sexual abuse to me (and both have obsessive over-eating disorders). The psychology behind it is the exact opposite of what Bell is making fun of; they do not want to be seen as sexual beings. Like I said, I think Bell's intent is innocent, but she has to understand that words do damage; it's disappointing to have a strong feminist movie, still judge certain women. It's pretty much the worst thing you can do as a feminist. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: If women just supported other women, we would rule the fucking world. Let's get it together, people.

5. Sex Tape - The best thing I can say about this movie is that it's watchable (except for the full minute when Jack Black recites porn websites. A FULL FUCKING MINUTE).  Plus, Rob Lowe always makes me laugh and he is definitely the best part of this movie (Literally!). I think the only part of the movie that I laughed at is when he yells, "Hakuna Matata", as a dog command. HILARIOUS. The rest of the movie is pretty bad, but not nearly as painful as I was expecting it to be. I liked the insightful child "when will it end? won't I get bored doing this stuff again, and again, and again?". I wish she was featured more. I think the movie will still end up on my worst of 2014 list, simply because it should have been better. Two funny leads, fantastic supporting actors and a timely story should have been one of the funniest movies of the year.