Sunday, April 26, 2015

Thoughts on 5 Films

1. Rosewater - The reviews for this movie were mostly good, yet I didn't see, nor did I hear, anyone talking about it. Now I can see why. It's a good movie, but there really isn't much else to say about it. It's an interesting story, well-acted, and it's surprisingly humorous considering the material. It just doesn't feel severe enough. It's sort of fascinating that a story like this can be told in a way that evokes absolutely no emotional response, but because of this, there is also no emotional resonance. Gael Garcia Bernal is one of my favorite actors - I would say top 10. He is awesome in this, as Maziar Bahari, a journalist who was captured in Iran and accused of being a spy, largely because of a segment featuring him on The Daily Show. Sounds absolutely ridiculous...right? However, it's a true, and pretty well-known, story. I think the best part is the humor, because it highlights the absolute absurdity of the situation. Plus, it highlights Jon Stewart's strength as a storyteller. I loved all of the references to NJ, too. The "Porn?" "The Sopranos." "Porn?" scene is hilarious, as was "Yes, of course, everybody knows what happens in New Jersey" line. I just felt like I should, you know, feel something after watching it and I felt nothing.

2. A Most Violent Year - Oh man, one of the biggest film disappointments I've had in a while. I really thought this movie was going to shoot up my Top 10 list to my favorite movie of 2014. It has all the potential in the world. Solid writer/director, JC Chandor (Margin Call), really talented cast, and the trailer just blew me away. So what went wrong? I think my biggest problem with the movie is the story, itself. It's just really not that interesting. I really like quiet, subtle movies, but when the story is also boring, it just doesn't work. It's really beautiful to look at; stunning, in fact. However, I found my thoughts drifting more than once. I'm a huge fan of Jessica Chastain (isn't everyone?), and she is fantastic. However, I haven't jumped on the Oscar Isaac bandwagon (yet). He's a decent actor, but I constantly read really boastful critiques of him (mostly, for Inside Llewyn Davis, which I didn't really like). He just hasn't impressed me, but I'm waiting patiently for it to happen.

3. Maps to the Stars - Another film that I thought would shake up my Top 10 list, but unfortunately missed the mark. I liked it, though. It just wasn't strong enough to make an impact. I love David Cronenberg movies (like, soooo sooo much), but this didn't feel like a Cronenberg movie. It felt more like a David Lynch movie (not necessarily a bad thing). It's a black comedy/satire about fame and the Hollywood "machine", and it's oddly structured and paced. There are some really strong, chilling moments - mostly with Julianne Moore. I'm surprised she wasn't nominated for an Oscar for this performance. She would have been competing with herself, but still, this is definitely a worthy performance, and something completely different for her. I also love Mia Wasikowska. She is just an incredible young actress. My biggest problem is the young boy; his name is Evan Bird, and he can't act at all. He absolutely ruins an all-star cast of superb acting. I don't understand how no-one noticed that this kid didn't fit in. I thought for a moment that maybe it was part of the bigger picture, but in the end, I just can't justify having a horrible kid actor ruin a movie.

4. Big Eyes - What an absolutely fascinating story! Seriously, how did I not know about this? You would think in all the classes I took about Art History or Women's Studies, that this would be a part of an important lesson about sexual politics. Also, is this how commercialized artistic prints started?? That's crazy! I LOVE when a film teaches me something; causing me to frantically research everything about the subject matter (I haven't had the time yet to do so, but it's on my list - yes, I have a list of things I want to learn about. I'm a weirdo.). While the film has obvious commentary on sexism, it also has some commentary on the "mass appeal" of art. The idea that once something gains attention from the masses, it is no longer good. The cast is brilliant, especially Christoph Waltz. He just oozes this natural charisma, that he uses in this completely smarmy way. The scene when she confronts him about the Cenic painting could be used as an example for an acting masterclass. It's that good. This is probably the first Burton film that I've truly enjoyed since Big Fish. 

5. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Movies I expected to change my Top 10 Films of 2014: Maps to the Stars & A Most Violent Year. Movie that I didn't expect to change it: A Hunger Games movie. Boy was I wrong! I don't know why I am still surprised when I like a Hunger Games movie, considering that I really liked the first two. I think the reason why I liked this movie so much, though, is that it didn't have the actual "games", which I found was the worst part of the first two movies. I love all of the political & social commentary within this story and that is all this installment covered. I see from reviews, that the fans and critics don't like this movie as much as the first two, but I am in the complete opposite camp. I loved this one. I love that they use her as propaganda for the rebellion, I love that Elizabeth Banks gets to really showcase herself, and I love the ending. Also, I didn't even realize that the hauntingly beautiful song, "The Hanging Tree", is Jennifer Lawrence, or that it was from this movie (is that weird? I'm sure that was a highly publicized thing that I missed), but I adore that song and her voice is really pretty. Right now, this movie sits at #10 on my Top 10 list (but that could change, when I reevaluate in July). There are a few things I didn't care for - Natalie Dormer, for one. I just really can't stand her. She is such a terrible actress. I just don't get it, and I sincerely hope she isn't featured even more in the next one. Also, a minor thing, but the hair dye (or wig) that Jennifer Lawrence uses is really distracting. It's so unnatural.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Summer Movie Preview: 13 Movies That I Am Excited About

1. Avengers: Age of Ultron (5/1) - The first one was a ton of fun. I haven't watched the trailer for the sequel yet, but everyone was FLIPPING OUT about it, so I take that as a good sign. I did read that Scarjo has a bigger role, which, for me, is not a good thing. I thought she was the weakest link in the first one. I'm also not really looking forward to Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Quicksilver, because one, I hate him and, two, Evan Peters did such an awesome job with the role already in X-Men: Days of Future Past, there's no way he can compete. Anyway, I'm sure the movie is still going to rule the summer and I'm hopeful that it's going to be a blast. In Joss, I trust.

2. Welcome to Me (5/1) - I really, really love Kristen Wiig. She's quickly becoming one of my favorite actresses (especially after The Skeleton Twins). She has the perfect balance that is required for "dramedy" roles. I could see her being nominated for an Oscar soon. I also kind of love that Linda Cardellini is making a comeback (she didn't really go away, she's been doing voice work). With Mad Men, Bloodline and this movie, I am hopeful she stays in front of the camera (she's also the first person listed for Avengers: Age of Ultron on IMDB, which makes me laugh. Some intern is clearly behind the ball on that one).

3. Mad Max: Fury Road (5/15) - I saw the trailer for this before American Sniper, and HOLY SHIT! It looks completely insane. I've actually never seen any of the Mad Max movies (at least that I can remember), so I have no preconceived notion of it. I really have no plans of watching it, but maybe if I like this one, I will give it a shot.

4. Tomorrowland (5/22) - This movie looks pretty cool. There's some solid talent involved (Damon Lindelof, Brad Bird, George Clooney) and a pretty solid newcomer (Britt Robertson - who I really loved on two really awful CW shows - Life Unexpected and The Secret Circle). I know people shit on Lindelof, but I think he's a fantastically imaginative writer. So, there.

5. Aloha (5/29) - Bradley Cooper! Emma Stone! Bill Murray! Directed by Cameron Crowe! Sign me up!

6. Spy (6/5) - I think Melissa McCarthy can be very funny, but I also think she can be very not funny, as well. I wasn't really that excited for this; saw the trailer and it's not exactly laugh out loud....BUT, ROSE BYRNE (Love her so much) and JUDE LAW and ALLISON JANNEY?! Now that has potential. Plus, I laughed my ass off with both Bridesmaids and The Heat. 

7. Jurassic World (6/12) - The movie that I'm most excited about this summer!! While I didn't really like either of the sequels, I am a HUGE fan of Jurassic Park. It's the movie that made me love movies. It's the first big cinema experience that I can remember clearly. I was 12, and had seen plenty of movies that I loved dearly, but none had been this big. When it was over, I turned to my mother and said "AGAIN!". From the trailer, it's clearly trying to set up a "reboot" to the franchise and it seems to copy the same things that made the original so great (which could be terrible....or genius?). My only trepidation is Bryce Dallas Howard, because she is a horrible actress (seriously, she is the worst part of every movie that she is in).

8. Ted 2 (6/26) - I thought the first one was pretty hilarious. I mean, for a movie about a talking bear, it's pretty fucking good. I love when Mark Wahlberg does comedy. I don't know why, but I just think he's so funny. He's just such a naturally serious guy, so it works well when he breaks away from that.

9. Irrational Man (7/17) - Not only is it a Woody Allen film (already sold), but it's Allen working with one of my favorite actors, Joaquin Phoenix. It's an odd pairing, but I think it might work brilliantly. I love how awkward and odd Phoenix is, and I think the Allen dialogue is going to really bring out these features.

10. Ant-Man (7/17) - I know absolutely nothing about Ant-Man. I will always watch superhero movies with an initial glee, though. I actually like when I don't know the history behind the character, because then everything is a surprise. I love Paul Rudd, but I think he's an odd choice for a superhero. I guess we'll see how it goes (although I was infinitely more excited when Edgar Wright was the director).

11. Southpaw (7/24) - I'm not really big on boxing movies, but when they're good....they're really good (like The Fighter). Plus, Jake Gyllenhaal hasn't had a misstep in 5 years, so I trust he's continuing his trend of meaty roles.

12. Fantastic Four (8/7) - The Fantastic Four movies are pure garbage. Seriously. However, in the new land of superhero movies, a reboot is inevitable and the only thing that is going to peak my interest is the casting. And boy, did they knock it out of the park with the casting for this. I mean, they are actually young actors who can....*gasp*...act! Miles Teller, Michael B Jordan AND my favorite Kate Mara! I am soooo freakin' excited. Plus, I really liked Chronicle, so I am excited to see what Josh Trank has in store for us next.

13. The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (8/14) - I'm excited for a Guy Ritchie movie that is not Sherlock Holmes related. Plus, I love spy stuff that isn't Bond related. It's win, win, really,

Friday, April 3, 2015

Thoughts on 5 Films

1. Foxcatcher - I liked this movie more than I thought I would, but I'm not sure it was strong enough to be an Oscar contender in 2014. There were just far stronger films, in my opinion. I couldn't care less about wrestling, but I was interested in this story. I looked up the true story that it was based on when the movie was released into theaters (I couldn't help it; several people called the ending "shocking", so I was curious). It's really creepy and tragic. Just like he did with Moneyball, Bennett Miller made the movie more of a quiet psychological drama instead of a "sports" movie. I liked that it was sort of a distant look at this man, John du Pont, a man who clearly suffered from a dangerous combination of a mental disorder and too much money. Steve Carrell did a fantastic job, but it's really about the way the movie is written/directed that gives his performance such intensity. For example, his response to Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) saying "you can't buy Dave" is an icy stare (that will pierce your soul), instead of the expected comeback of "I can buy anyone". It's that sort of subtlety that really holds an impact and makes the movie memorable. On another note, on The Tonight Show, Channing Tatum talked about his "cauliflower ear" injury during the making of this movie and that is ALL I could see when he appeared on screen. It's really gross...*shivers*. And why was Sienna Miller even in this movie? Did she even have any lines aside from the ending? How weird is it that Sienna Miller appeared in 2 of the Oscar nominated movies from last year?

2. Whiplash - Another unexpected actress to appear in an Oscar nominated movie? The annoying girl from Glee (Segue for the win!). Seriously, though, how is this girl a thing now? She is a terrible actress. Other than that, this movie is terrific. It's definitely in my top 10 from last year (not top 5, though) and it's definitely the best movie that was nominated for an Oscar. I didn't really like the beginning because it felt very predictable and overdone. I don't think I really got into it until the scene where he has dinner with his family. The way they treat him, and vice versa, is just so fascinating. ("Isn't it subjective?" "No." - sums it up nicely, I think). The movie then dives deep into "striving for greatness". You really start to question whether this really awful, awful man has actual good intentions. There have been several successful people who credit their "bullies" to their success (Christina Aguilera is a perfect example). For some people, being told you're not good enough is incentive to do better, while it breaks others - but then maybe the ones that it breaks really just aren't good enough or don't want it bad enough. If everyone tells you you're the best; will you strive for better or will you plateau? This is all explored in the world of drumming, something that I never knew was so physically (and apparently psychologically) draining. It blows my mind that people are capable of that much passion for something. It's crazy and beautiful. The ending is so intense that I think I stopped breathing, because I found myself grasping for air at the end credits. Then I sat, unable to move for 10 minutes, then I cried my eyes out. The emotions were totally unexpected, raw and unforgettable.

3. Top Five - I love Chris Rock. As a comedian, he is one of my favorites. His stand-up routine about bullet control is genius ("there'd be no more innocent bystanders"). As a person, I also think he's pretty great. It's not like I know him personally or anything, but he literally lives 10 miles up the street from me - so I see him out and about a lot. He shops at the mall that I used to work at and he was always very friendly to everyone (once there was a woman who went into labor and he tried to calm her down by telling her jokes and the entertainment headlines the next day were "Chris Rock rescues pregnant woman at mall". It still makes me laugh.). Anyway, this movie made me laugh, mostly at the beginning - the cab screeching to a stop...I died laughing, and at the end - the stand-up routine is perfect and then the best cameo I've ever seen *spoiler* DMX singing "Smile (Though Your Heart is Breaking)" is actually perfect. I also loved Rosario Dawson giving several shout-outs to SUNY Purchase (my alma mater). It's weird that this movie title refers to ones "top five rappers" list (as opposed know...comedians?), but here is mine: 1. Biggie 2. Dr. Dre 3. Kanye 4. Eminem 5. Marky Mark (HAHAHA! I'm kidding...or am I??).

4. The Theory of Everything - Sorry, but this movie is booooooriiiiiing. They focused waaay to much on the sappy love garbage. This man is the one of the greatest scientific minds of our time, and more than half of the story is about his relationship. And it's boring. Did I mention that? It also makes him seem like a complete asshole. I do like her story, though. Felicity Jones does an incredible job, but I really like the character (assumingly based on the real person). She's feisty and confident; challenging his ideas with wit and grace. She's the whole "behind every great man is a great woman" idea (she's the Alma Reville of Science). Other than that, I have nothing else to say about this movie. Oh, I guess Eddie Redmayne should be mentioned. He does a great job too, and I like him (he was the best part of Les Miserable). But Best Actor? Should have gone to Bradley Cooper.

5. Horrible Bosses 2 -  The first one had its moments, but a sequel is totally unnecessary. My biggest complaint about the first one: Too much Jason Sudeikis (not funny), not enough Charlie Day (always funny). I just love Charlie Day soooo much. He makes me laugh. There aren't as many standout scenes in the sequel but him shouting "fuck you, I love Sandra Bullock!!" when Speed is insulted (how DARE they!) made me laugh out loud. Also, the scene where they do a slow motion walk to a rap song is fucking genius!! That gag always drives me insane in movies like this and I was about to groan so loud; until I realized they were in on the joke. HAHAHAHA! Chris Pine is in the movie way more than I expected him to be and he does a pretty good job with his comedic timing, but I would still prefer more Charlie Day. Always more Charlie Day.