1. Into the Woods - I wouldn't really call myself a big fan of musicals, but there are a few that I absolutely adore (Chicago springs to mind first), so I watch them with an open mind. This just isn't the type of musical I enjoy - the songs all sound the same and it's really just dialogue that is spoken in a sing-songy way. I have a hard time paying attention to this type of musical because it just feels like one never-ending song. When they first started singing the "Into the Woods" song, I thought "well, this is cute", but then it just kept going and going and going...and going. I think I would have actually loved this story without the music. It reminded me of the tv show Once Upon a Time, which is a show I used to enjoy (but it became completely ridiculous and hard to follow, and I gave up on it! Can you believe it? I actually quit a television show?! Go me!). It takes all of these fairy-tale stories and mushes them together to create something new; connecting plots and characters and adding depth to them. Then, the story ends how one would expect it to, and THEN it gets interesting. It kind of crushes and subverts the happily ever after ending, in favor of something much darker. I dug it quite a bit until it started to drag. I would love a re-edited version done without music (I'm basically just making up my own movie, really). The cast is excellent, I wouldn't change a thing there. Even the kids are great, and that's something I usually struggle with (kid actors usually ruin everything).
2. 50 Shades of Grey - Oh boy...where do I begin? I'm actually a bit surprised that I don't have a lot to say; the movie doesn't hold enough weight to get under my skin. It's just really, really, really stupid. Also, extremely boring. There is no chemistry between the leads and the guy from The Fall (shit, I forgot his name again) is so very pretty, but he is bland as fuck without his wonderful accent. I think the controversy around the movie far exceeds the actual controversy in the movie - it's actually pretty tame. I've read that the movie tones down the sex stuff from the book, which is odd since that's the thing that made it popular. Anyway, I obviously have issues with the plot. It is justifying abuse. There is a huge distinction between BDSM and an abusive relationship and this movie is very, very confused on this distinction. I'm not going to pretend that I know anything about BDSM; I don't. It confuses the fuck out of me. However, I am a product of an extremely violent childhood, so if someone so much as raises their voice at me, they will likely never see me again. I think it's pretty normal, though, to have certain sexual fantasies and to act out fantasies with someone with whom you trust. And that's the key word that this movie misses: trust. It's clear that Ana does not trust this man; and instead of backing down as any sane man would do, he stalks her, coerces her, and manipulates her. The problem, that many people have brought to attention, is that it seems to be acceptable behavior because he's handsome and rich (and white). This amuses me, because as a perpetually single woman, I find that my greatest enemy is this exact description - there is nothing scarier than a wealthy, white male, who is used to getting his way. So for me, this movie is simply about a predator who successfully captured his prey. The end, that is left wide open, as interpreted by me, is that he kills her and goes about his business until he finds his next victim (and her friend, Jose, is dead about half-way through the movie). If E.L. James recognized that this is, in fact, the story that she wrote instead of insisting that it's a "love story", then everyone could just ignore it and it would GO AWAY! But, alas, James is obviously a very smart woman, who realized she wrote a shitty book that she needed to sell - so she slapped the words "love story" on it, and the world fell right into her trap. Also, I did catch the implied notion that Christian was abused as a child, but that just opens up a whole other can of worms and IN NO WAY justifies his actions. I guess I have more to say than I thought I did because I still have more to say in regards to the actual movie. As I stated above, it's beyond stupid. Ana is a wide-eyed giggling idiot, who has apparently never seen a tall building before (even though she goes to school within driving distance of this big city - and she graduates in the movie, so she spent at least 4 years never venturing to this city?). She's apparently never talked to another person before (at least that's what it seems like with her first interaction with Christian) and she really enjoys sticking pencils in her mouth. She has moments of genius, like when Christian tells her "I'm used to getting my own way", and she responds "that must be very boring". FUCKING YES NOW RUN AWAY RUN FAR AWAY!. As I also stated above, the movie is pretty tame. The sex scenes are very boring - and what's-his-name doesn't even get naked (isn't this supposed to be a sexual fantasy movie for straight women? Why is she the one that gets naked?). And correct me if I'm wrong, but after Ana "negotiates" his sex contract - is there really anything left for them to do but, like, "normal" sex? I mean, it's kind of embarrassing to make a movie about kinky sex that leaves the audience asking "is that it?". Lastly, who in their right mind thought it was a good idea to have Christian say the line "I'm fifty shades of fucked up"? I almost died of laughter.
3. Tracks - **HUGE SPOILER** The fucking dog fucking dies. That's the biggest thing I will remember about an otherwise pretty great movie. The odd thing is that even though I didn't really expect it to happen, I foreshadowed it in my head right from the beginning. I thought to myself how selfish it is for this woman to bring her dog with her on such a dangerous venture. If you want to risk your life, that's all fine and good, but to risk your innocent pet is shameful. Then, even worse, she kills wild animals because they get too close to her. Um...you're in their territory! Ugh...the whole thing just makes me angry. Other than that, I really liked this movie. It was sort of like Wild, but instead of hiking for redemption, the main character, played to perfection by the utterly perfect, Mia Wasikowska, is hiking for self-discovery. She is hiking to absorb the loneliness, to prove that she is worthy enough, to force herself into unpredictability. The starkness of the desert is beautifully captured; the heat can be felt during every moment. The best part, though, is the end, when the audience is treated to these gorgeous photos of the real life adventure. It's these photos that really captured my attention to think "wow...she really fucking did that!".
4. Laggies - Just to get it out of the way quickly, Keira's American valley girl accent is woefully terrible. While the movie is painfully simplified, I can sort of relate to it - and that is not something I say often about female coming of age stories. I graduated high school and continued a relationship with my high school boyfriend for another 3 years before realizing that I need to move on. It was a tough decision that I kept putting off making, but I realized that I would never be able to become the person that I wanted to be, if I didn't allow myself to become me (without "him"). I think this movie does a good job of capturing that phase that a lot of women go through - a phase in which "commitment" scares the shit out of us. Yes, it's not just a male thing. Women are just as scared; we are just used to hiding our fears better. We don't often see stories about emotionally stunted females. It's similar to the recent movie, Obvious Child, except I would argue that this is more of a "feminist" movie, because the catalyst in Obvious Child is that her boyfriend dumps her (so her life falls apart, naturally). I liked the chemistry that Keira has with Sam Rockwell, although, I wish he was featured more because he's the best part (duh!). I absolutely loathed the ending, though. *spoiler* She encourages this teenage girl to dance with her crush at the prom - but that's not the problem. The problem is that it's incredibly selfish to not consider his date. Why ruin someone else's prom? That just seems rude and unnecessary.
5. Beyond the Lights - I didn't really have any interest in this movie, but then I read a really strong review about it as a powerful story about how women are portrayed in the music industry and Netflix predicted that I would give it 5 stars (really, Netflix? I rarely rate any movie above 4 stars). It's a 3 star Lifetime movie. Fairly predictable, mediocre story about following your dreams and remaining true to yourself. I don't really feel sympathy for celebrities in the mainstream media because most of them crave the attention. I do think that the media goes too far (especially when children are involved), and that we, as a people, are far too judgmental of celebrities. It's sad that someone with actual, legitimate musical talent, needs to put up a show and create a "personality" in order to "make it". I don't really relate to movies about women who allow men around them to treat them like shit. It's not really a great feminist story because she basically rides the coattails of a man who is famous, and she relies on a man to save her (from her inner demons). She does, however, learn from this experience and open up about her depression, which is a powerful message. Gugu Mbatha-Raw is a star. Her performance transcends the movie and her voice is raw and soulful. The scene where she sings "Blackbird" is stunning (but you can save yourself some time and just watch the clip online). The most shocking part of the movie is Nikolas Cassadine from General Hospital is in a small scene! It's extremely jarring. He's been on GH for FOREVER (maybe 20 years?), and I've never seen him in anything else.