1. Cake - I really, really, really want Jennifer Aniston to give up on the movie star thing. Someone please give her another great television role! I appreciate that she tried to do something challenging, but when actresses "challenge" themselves by portraying "normal" people, it's a little demeaning (and narcissistic). Plus, it's even more annoying that even with no makeup, dirty hair, and scar across her face, she still manages to attract super hot guys (it's not like she has a winning personality, either. She is a miserable shrew of a person). The story is a little interesting, but I think it will be frustrating for people who suffer from chronic pain. They sort of take the "it's all in your head" route; which, in this case, it may be. She is suffering a much greater loss; using her physical pain as a way to punish herself, is a coping mechanism. That's all fine and dandy, and a story that will hit many people close to their heart. However, as someone who suffers from endless back pain (hit by a car when I was 10; fell off of an 8 ft ladder when I was 20), I can certainly attest that it's not "in my head". And to think that there are people who suffer from chronic pain, and don't even know why! That must be an even more frustrating experience. The other difference is that she is wealthy. They say that money can't buy happiness, but it can buy a maid to clean up after you, a beautiful pool that you can relax in, and, let's face it, better medical care (the only medical care I receive is a doctor prescribing me Oxycodone, even when I tell them that I don't want it). She has so much more than any "normal" person will ever have. I can feel sympathy for her - no-one should have to experience such a loss, but I certainly can't empathize with her. Wait...did I mix those up? I always forget sympathy vs empathy. Oh well, you know what I'm trying to say (all 10 of you). Also, Sam Worthington! Remember him, you guys?! I had so much hope for him, but he is just sooo boring.
2. Men, Women & Children - Oh Jason Reitman, what is happening??! This is his second inexcusably awful movie in a row (and I wasn't really a huge fan of Young Adult, either). I should clarify that this isn't nearly as bad as Labor Day, but it's still really disappointing. First, I hate when a movie has a voice-over to tell the audience what a character is feeling. That's like poor screenwriting 101 (coming from someone who just wrote "like" in a sentence). Second, I adore Jennifer Garner. It's really hard to take her seriously in this role, though, because her character is so utterly ridiculous. Third, I don't like the girl who plays Hannah. She was terrible in Rescue Me and Terri, and now this. Fourth, teens don't talk like this. Seriously. Wait...do teens talk like this? Someone please tell me that teens don't talk like this! Fifth, OH MY GOD...teens don't remember 9/11. Thanks for making me feel old. Okay, those are all the reasons I didn't like it, but there is some good stuff. There is a nice debate about social media, and how much is too much for children to participate in it. There is a debate about over-protecting your children versus letting them experience life and learn from their mistakes. There is a depressing depiction of relationships and marriage, which still begs the question - why on Earth do people do that to themselves? I just wish these debates and depictions weren't so heavy-handed and extreme. It makes it hard to relate to, which seems like the opposite of its intent.
3. Chappie - Speaking of heavy-handed....wow, this movie should win a medal for it. A lot of people/critics had harsh words for this movie, but I assumed that expectations were just too high for Blomkamp, and that Chappie could be nowhere as terrible as everyone made it seem. I was wrong. It's really terrible. That doesn't mean that I've lost hope in Blomkamp - I still see great things in his future. However, this movie will be a stain on his filmography. The best way to describe this movie is if you take the scene from Short Circuit 2, in which Number 5 hangs out with the Los Locos gang and then returns knowing gang chants, and made it into a 2 hour movie. It's cheesy, racist, and unoriginal. It's about several terrible people, doing really terrible things; there is literally no-one to root for, except maybe Dev Patel's character (that's a stretch, though). Plus, it's really stupid. Chappie can search the internet and learn anything instantly (humans can do that too, you know), yet he believes that stabbing someone just puts them to sleep. Um....ok. I'm done with you, Chappie.
4. Focus - If the two leads weren't Margot Robbie and Will Smith, this would have been painfully bad. The charisma of the leads save it from the disaster of a script. I honestly couldn't even explain the plot of the last 30 minutes of the movie (the race car con part). The twists and turns became hard to follow (or maybe just too boring to follow?). There is a great, tension-filled scene that involves betting at the Superbowl, but it drags on for what seems like an hour. Other than that, I have nothing else of interest to note, so I will just stress, again, how perfect Margot Robbie is. She is just mesmerizing; I couldn't take my eyes off of her. I can't wait for her to star in a movie in which her love interest isn't 20 years older than her (or maybe she doesn't even have a love interest! Okay, calm down, Michelle. One step at a time).
5. Miss Julie - I've read this play dozens of times (Drama Studies major), and it is, to put it politely, not one of my favorites. While we can credit Strindberg (among others) for the naturalist movement in theater, a movement that focuses on character development over plot, I find his work extremely dull. Ironically, I enjoy present day stories that focus on character over plot, so I obviously appreciate his innovation, but I can still hate his work. Of course, his unwavering and outspoken stance against feminism *could* be muddling my judgement, but whatever. The play is largely about class warfare (and of course, catty women treating each other like shit), with heavy dialogue (and what we now refer to as "slut-shaming"), with limited production value and set design. The only reason I would sit through this story again, is for Jessica Chastain and Colin Farrell. While Colin isn't at his best here (perhaps the misogynistic dialogue was too much for him to stomach), Chastain is a freakin' queen. *That* scene is breathtakingly beautiful and she nails it beyond perfection. Probably the only reason to watch this movie.