Friday, December 23, 2016

Thoughts on 5 Films

1. The Finest Hours - What an oddly forgettable movie. It kind of baffles my mind because it has a great cast, a suspenseful and incredible "based on a true" story, and satisfying CGI storm sequences. Yet, somehow, it's just not registered in my brain at all. I read a few quick review quips on Rotten Tomatoes, and two things stick out - one critic (Katie Walsh of Tribune News Service) absolutely nails the feeling of the movie - and that is that it feels like a "parody of a prestige film" comparing it to the fake Oscar trailers in Tropic Thunder. LOL. Yes, that is exactly what this film feels like. Another critic (Robert Denerstein of Movie Habit) describes it as "an acceptable--if not great--piece of January entertainment". This is an odd statement, but I think it's widely known that movies released in January aren't held to the same standards as those released towards the end of the year (i.e Oscar season). So basically, it feels like a movie that was intended for the Oscars, but they realized that it's not nearly good enough. I remember seeing so many trailers, and tv spots for this so I think they were trying to milk it as much as they could, but then when it was released I literally heard nothing about it. ZILCH. I think the only think I will really remember about this movie is that in a group of really strong male actors (Casey Affleck, Ben Foster, Eric Bana, Chris Pine, the guy from that tv show Dirt), a woman stole the whole damn thing - Holliday Grainger is a star. I expect to see a lot more of her in the next few years. She reminds me a lot of Gretchen Mol. And I LOVE Gretchen Mol.

2. Sausage Party - I was actually looking forward to this movie - I thought it was going to be hilarious. I've heard the most mixed reviews of any movie this year - some calling it the "funniest movie I've seen this year", to others calling it the "worst movie I've ever seen".  Unfortunately, I agree more with the latter. It's really, really, really stupid. Like, one of the worst movies of the year stupid (nothing will beat Dog Eat Dog). First, it's not funny. I don't think I laughed once (and I usually like Seth Rogen/Evan Goldberg written comedies - Superbad is one of my favorite movies EVER). Second, if you are going to make that many Jewish jokes, please, at least make a few of them funny. I'm not super-sensitive to politically incorrect comedy, but it was just non-stop - and ultimately, as someone who is half-Jewish, I found myself really annoyed by the trivialization of the Israel/Palestine conflict. Like I said, if it was at least funny, I probably wouldn't have been so annoyed. Instead it was repetitive, and stupid. Also, Ed Norton's Woody Allen impression is baffling. Like, WHHHYYYY did this even happen? The whole movie is just over-cooked and ridiculous. I hated every second of it.

3. Pop Star: Never Stop Never Stopping - Now THIS is a funny (albeit stupid) movie. I laughed out loud SEVERAL times, and that's all I ask for with movies like this. I fully admit that I adored the late 90s burst of pop music - *NSYNC was my jam. I was in love with Justin Timberlake (still am a little bit). And it's because of this, that I don't come down too hard on Justin Bieber/One Direction fans (I don't get "him" or "them", but I get "it"). Anyway, this movie gave me that pop group nostalgia - although I think this boyband phenomenon is still happening, I'm just too old to know who any of them are anymore. This movie is the perfect parody of how ridiculous it all is. I also admit, I don't really get The Lonely Island or Andy Samberg (although he is great on Brooklyn 99). The only funny thing they did was "Dick in a Box" (and that was more bc of Justin, really). But this is funny. The song about being "not gay" - HILARIOUS. The cameos are insane - there is one every other minute (for real). Questlove is my favorite (always and forever), although Justin was funny too (but expected). Chelsea Peretti and Will Arnett killed it as the TMZ "journalists" - I can't. I almost died laughing. My favorite line is "the only time I remember being that sad is when they killed Josh Charles on The Good Wife" LOL and also AWWWWWW now I'm sad. (sidenote - I've never really talked about The Good Wife on here because I was never caught up on the show, but when that episode aired, my mom called me screaming "he's dead! he's dead!" and I honestly though a family member had died. I've never heard her so upset. After I finally watched it, I totally get it. Probably one of the saddest deaths in television history). Anyway, I enjoyed this movie even though it's dumb - they got it right, while Sausage Party just got it all so very wrong.

4. Cafe Society - I expected this to be low-bar Woody Allen (like his last two movies - Magic in the Moonlight and Irrational Man). It's not - it's a little bit better (medium-bar Woody Allen, if you will). I don't think a more perfect person could have been cast as a "Woody Allen" type character than Jesse Eisenberg (and if anyone does an Allen biopic, I hope they realize he is the ONLY choice for the role). Also, has Parker Posey been in a Woody Allen movie before?? Because she fits his material oh so perfectly. I'm not too keen on the rest of the cast - Steve Carell and Kristen Stewart felt really out of place - the dialogue just doesn't suit them at all. As I've stated before, I adore Blake Lively (and she's never been more gorgeous), but even she was a little muted in this role. However, I like the story - even if it's a bit predictable, it's still told well. The love triangle aspect is the least interesting part, but I liked Stewart's character - her motivations/intentions are confusing and muddled, but I felt like it was fairly realistic. I also enjoyed the overall look and nostalgia of the movie, the wardrobe design is perfect, and the sentiment is sweet and satisfying.

5. Star Wars: The Force Awakens - So, earlier this year (or maybe it was the end of last year? My memory is broken), I FINALLY watched the original Star Wars trilogy. FOR THE FIRST TIME. Yes, yes, I is that even possible (especially as a child of the '80s)??? I can't give you a satisfying answer, other than I never really had anyone introduce movies to me - no one in my family was really into movies (aside from my paternal grandfather who exclusively watched old Westerns and The Twilight Zone), so I had to seek everything out on my own. And Star Wars was never at the top of the list. I tried watching Episode IV a few years back and I fell asleep (I WAS TIRED!). So I designated a full day to watch them, and I am happy to say that I really enjoyed them. I wouldn't exactly call myself a full-fledged Star Wars fan, but I get the obsession. I was going to designate another day to watch the prequels (even though I've heard mostly poor things about them) before watching The Force Awakens, but I haven't gotten around to it yet and since it wasn't really necessary I decided to watch this now. I really liked it. The cast is fantastic. Although Daisy Ridley is practically Keira Knightley's twin so much so that it distracted me greatly. John Boyega is wonderful. Oscar Isaac and Domhnall Gleeson still bore me, but they were ok in this. Adam Driver is probably my favorite among the cast (which is SHOCKING for me, because I find him horrid in most things). BB-8 is wonderful, and adorable, and I WANT ONE. The original cast inclusions were done really well (even Harrison Ford, UGH). Overall, I had fun with it and I'm excited to see the next part of the story - I *may* even see it on the big screen!

Monday, December 19, 2016

3 Thoughts on Office Christmas Party

1. The cast - Holy Hell, what a group of funny people - and they are all perfectly cast. Jason Bateman as the straight, boring dude; Jennifer Aniston as the uber elitist bitch; T.J. Miller as the lovable fuck-up; Olivia Munn as her Newsroom character (just swap genius economist with genius coder); and Kate McKinnon as the weirdo HR lady. It's all perfect. There's also plenty of smaller roles as well - like Jillian Bell as a pimp (LOL) and Rob Corddry as literally every character he always plays (still LOL). Overall, they all work really well together, have impeccable comedic timing, and all steal the spotlight at some point in the movie - I would argue that Munn is the highlight performance (dry, subtle wit will always win for me), but I think most would argue that it's McKinnon. However, just like she did in the new Ghostbusters, she over-sells her character. It's like she's still performing on SNL - instead of becoming a character, she just is a character (does that make sense?....she just doesn't feel like a "real" person to me). She's still hilarious, but I just don't like her style of acting.

2. The ridiculousness - Holy Hell, what a ridiculous plot - it's funny, but sooo ridiculous. In order to keep their company, they need to get this super important guy (another sterling performance from Courtney B. Vance) to sign on with their firm (which does Internet stuff?? I guess?) so they decide to throw a massive (i.e expensive) Holiday party to show him how fun they are as a company. Because that's what people with millions of dollars care about - fun. Like I said, sooo ridiculous. However, it never quite crosses the line that I think it wants to cross, instead it's rather pg rated (aside from the eggnog fountain. And the orgies.). It's not as wild as The Hangover, Project X, etc. However, they stuck with the plot, had some sweet moments, a satisfying conclusion and some great one-liners. I would call that a success!

3. That one line... - Holy Hell, what a funny line - I can forgive this movie for any faults simply because it had this one line that I will remember for all eternity and quote on a consistent basis. A line that made me laugh so hard that I had to force myself to stop thinking about it in order to pay attention to the movie. And that line is "this isn't my first rodeo" (with rodeo pronounced like "Rodeo Drive"). It's not even that funny, but it's the fact that he says it in such a matter-of-fact manner, and that no-one corrects him, that made me laugh. And laugh. And laugh.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

3 Thoughts on Nocturnal Animals

1. Tom Ford's aesthetic - Tom Ford is obviously known for his sleek, sophisticated fashion designs - and more specifically, he made people take interest in men's suiting (the most boring item in all of fashion). However, he made a stunning first feature film with A Single Man. Released 7 years ago, I described it as "stylish, tailored, and timeless" and even though I've only seen it once, I am pretty sure it would make the cut if I created a best films of the last decade list. I eagerly awaited his next feature, and literally squealed out loud when I read about Nocturnal Animals earlier this year. While I don't love this film as much, it's still fucking beautiful. There is something so elegant about it, yet it's designed to make the audience uncomfortable. There is something so fascinating about a fashion designer making a film about materialism and consumerism; its irony and introspection is where the real genius lies. Which is why I don't think the mass audience is going to necessarily "get" it. That sounds extremely condescending, I know, but I saw this movie with my mother - someone who has a very basic knowledge of film, and an extremely limited knowledge of fashion. She has no idea who Tom Ford is, so the intimacy of the movie was lost on her (she still liked the movie, until the end because she was expecting a twist - because that's the kind of movies that she watches). It doesn't mean she didn't understand the different depths of the movie, but I don't think she appreciated it as much as I did. While it's inevitable to compare this to A Single Man, and in that respect, I would consider it a disappointment, Ford still made another beautiful movie that is my second favorite film of the year (10 Cloverfield Lane is still my favorite - the only film I see beating it is possibly La La Land).

2. The story within the story - I think the reason this movie worked so well is because of the novel within the story. It's set up from the very beginning to be a fictional tale - obviously the film itself is fictional, but I think it's always expected of the audience to comprehend the story as "the truth" unless we are told otherwise - and that is what this film does. It made me less likely to question motives because it's just "a story". And a downright disturbing story. While Adams' character reads this novel, she imagines it and the audience sees her visualization of this story. It's interesting because we only see her interpretation of the story which she imagines is being told about her own person, but what if that wasn't the intention? What if it was just a really disturbing story about a family on a road trip from Hell? This interpretation only intensifies her own narcissism in a really brilliant way. It also intensifies her regret of choosing a wealthy (miserable) life over love; it asks the question of whether she should be punished for this decision. Adams does a beautiful job of internalizing her regret, but it's really the actors in "the story" that shine - Gyllenhaal is brilliant as expected (and somehow gives my two favorite male performances on the year with this and Demolition), but fucking Aaron Taylor-Johnson BLEW MY MIND. I've never given him any credit for his acting abilities because he's been mediocre in everything. When he first appeared on screen, I even sighed out of utter disappointment, but he played the "bad guy" with such a fucking creepy, weird, and unpredictable ease - it's a performance that will be in my mind for a long time. Michael Shannon also delivers another quiet, inevitably under-appreciated role.

3. The climax - The story within the story is intense, disturbing, and keeps the audience in suspense. It contrasts beautifully with the pretentious, sterile, and ultimately dull life that our protagonist is living. The mixture of these two stories start to intertwine and overlap, and it's a bit expected for it to boil over and explode. Instead, it ends quietly and a bit unresolved. It's left up to interpretation as to what it all means, which I think will leave some feeling unfulfilled, but for me, I love how unexpected it was. The beauty lies in the build-up and not the climax, and if you think of the rhythm of the story as a metaphor for sex, then the last scene becomes even more stunning. I'm not sure if that's the intention - but I think we (the audience) are meant to feel unfulfilled and unsatisfied.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Thoughts on 5 Films

1. Nerve - Surprisingly, this was a much better film than what was advertised. It seemed like it had a very Millennial "too cool" attitude to it, but instead it was more like an episode of Black Mirror (not nearly as good, of course). I really like the concept of having social media produce a visible effect on society, and specifically our youth. Having your every moment documented via pictures, videos, tweets, etc., HAS to change the way you live your life. I've always been a bit weary of social media - I stick to twitter, and I don't even communicate with anyone I know in real life. It's mostly just film buffs discussing the latest releases (and the nice ones, not the assholes with film superiority complexes). This movie takes the whole social media frenzy to a higher degree, with a website that offers a high stakes "dare" type game in which one is given a dare, which they must complete (and film) in order to win money - they don't win the money until they complete each dare, and with each increasingly more dangerous dare, the amount of money becomes more enticing. It's fascinating to see what people will do for money, but I think this movie exaggerates this to a ridiculous degree. It works though, because it held my interest. Dave Franco is excellent (as usual), and I adore the kid from Parenthood (I have no idea what his name is, but he's so adorable). Also, I was really excited to see Soso from Orange is the New Black because she's a great actress, but then I SCREAMED OUT LOUD when Poussey shows up too. How wonderful to have then in the same movie (and heartbreaking....UGH...). I'm not the biggest fan of Emma Roberts. I used to like her, and I want to still like her, but she's so awful on Scream Queens that it kind of ruins her whole persona. She just annoys me now. I definitely don't think she's ready for a starring role like this. Overall, though, I enjoyed this movie up until the ending - which was clearly trying to tidy up everything, but it's just so dumb.

2. Swiss Army Man - Aw man, I really wanted to like this movie. I thought for sure that I would simply because every review that I read used words like "imaginative", "clever", "absurd". Also known as "the farting corpse movie" which is hilariously accurate - and really, it's not much more than that. I think it tries really hard to accomplish more - like tackling loneliness, depression, male friendship, etc., but really, it's about a guy who is a creepy fucking stalker and the audience is made to empathize with him (at least until we realize that he is a creepy fucking STALKER). The whole farce is actually really annoying and made me pretty angry. I think I'm so disappointed because I used to work with two of the producers, and I really love the choices and risks that they have been taking lately. And also, because this could have been a great story - first, make it a stage play, and second, make it about isolation, masculinity, survival, literally anything other than a story about a guy who takes pictures of a woman that he doesn't know without her permission. Literally ANYTHING ELSE. Sure, Paul Dano does a great job, and Daniel Radcliffe is doing a wonderful job of washing away his Harry Potter character, but overall, this movie kind of sucks.

3. Dog Eat Dog - Oh my goodness, what a terrible movie. Worst movie of the year - and the competition isn't even close. I'm usually always game for an insanely stupid Nicholas Cage movie, even though no-one can ever convince me that he is worthy of his cult-like status. This movie is among his very worst. It's poorly acted (Willem Dafoe at peak Willem Dafoe), poorly edited, and half of the story is left completely unresolved. The most laughable part, though, is Cage comparing himself to Carey Grant (and even trying to imitate him...LOL). I can't even write anything else about this movie because I'm trying to block it from my memory. The best thing I can say about it is that hopefully it's forgettable.

4. Bad Moms - The trailer for this looked a bit weak - a mixture of The Hangover and Project X but without the humor. I'm happy that I was completely wrong about it. It's actually really funny, sweet, and heartfelt while also breaking into unconventional domestic territory. There's been comedy, criticism, and opposition to the "soccer mom" - but I can't think of any other comedy that tears it all down in such a positive way. While it's about motherhood, it's more about how women judge other women (a debilitating action in our society - an act that hurts feminism just as much as any other oppressing action). The pressure for women to be "perfect" specifically in how they care for their children is very real, and as this movie points out, it's not exactly good for the mental health of the next generation. There is this over-coddling that's happening and Mila's character just stops and says "enough is enough" - there is a specific scene in which she tells her perfectly old enough children to make their own breakfast and it gave me a big sigh of relief. I can't imagine being a mom; it seems like the most difficult job in the world, but I also think it's about time parents stopped babying their children. Maybe it's because my mom was very much a "hands-off" parent. She didn't drive me to school (it's called a bus), or go to PTA meetings or bake things for the school bake sale (I don't even think those things really exist), but she did raise a very independent, competent, and confident individual. While I enjoyed this movie, and laughed quite a few times, there are a few things that bothered me - like how she's only 32 years old and has her shit together - gigantic house, super trendy job, etc. Even her breakdown about not being a perfect mom comes off a bit false simply because they LIVE IN A GIGANTIC HOUSE AND SHE HAS A SUPER TRENDY JOB, and oh yeah...she's one of the most beautiful women on the planet. This brings me to my next critical point - It's super depressing to watch a movie in which someone cheats on Mila Kunis. That's either extremely unrealistic, or there is NO HOPE for any of us normal looking women. There are also many really successful moments - Christina Applegate listening to "I Wanna Know What Love Is" - "my DVR stopped recording Castle!", the dog in the bike helmet, "Kent and I have sex every Friday night after Blue Bloods. All of these moments made me laugh out loud. The good definitely outweigh the bad, and overall I think it's a very successful comedy, and definitely my favorite comedy of the year (so far). P.s. How hot is Jay Hernandez?!? Super hot. Oh and P.s.s How adorable were the mother/daughter interactions during the credits? Super adorable.

5. The Invitation - I watched this movie without really knowing much about it. I saw a few people give it high ratings and included it in their top movies of the year (although it is a 2015 release...), plus it has Logan Marshall-Green. He will always be Trey Atwood to me (or according to others, a Tom Hardy lookalike, which is also acceptable). This movie is very weird. Much weirder than I was expecting. Also, a little boring. I like slow-burn, if it's done well, but I felt like this lacked the intensity and depth that slow-burn stories need to have in order to succeed. I don't really understand why the cult showed the group a video of someone dying?? That's not exactly the best way to convince others to join your mission...right? And wouldn't your natural reaction be to leave? I guess I just don't get it. Cult stories can be fascinating (Sound of my Voice comes to mind), but this one failed at convincing me anyone would be this stupid and/or obvious. It lacked motivation from every character angle. The acting was pretty solid though, so that's something. I guess.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Thoughts on 6 New TV Shows

1. Speechless - This is a really well-crafted family comedy, while still maintaining a modern edge. It kind of reminds me of Roseanne mixed with The Wonder Years (if The Wonder Years was a sitcom). The focus isn't just on the one kid having a disability; instead it's about how the family supports him and the difficulties that they face as a family. They don't shy away from these difficulties, and they also poke a bit of fun at themselves. The cast is great, especially Minnie Driver, and I laugh out loud at least a few times with every episode. That's really all I ask for in a comedy.

2. This is Us - As I said before, I watched this show because of its comparisons to Parenthood, and that is exactly what I need in my life right now. There aren't too many family oriented dramas on television right now. This one reminds me more of Brothers & Sisters than Parenthood, but that's not a bad thing. I like all of the characters and their complicated relationship with each other. I like that there are little twists in every episode (the biggest one is revealed in the pilot episode); it keeps the viewer engaged. The actors are all really great, and become more and more likeable with every episode - my favorite is Randall (Sterling K. Brown). He's so dorky and funny. I feel like this is definitely a show that has long-lasting potential with characters that we want to see grow every week.

3. Atlanta - Really wonderful show like nothing else on television right now. It's odd, funny, sad, sweet, and captures an authentic vibe of a particular city that is rarely seen on screen. My favorite episode of the season revolved around Vanessa and her relationship with a friend who she feels is less than "real", and is ultimately a bit jealous of (which works both ways). The way the episode ends is ironic (and tragic), but most of all, unexpected. It kind of represents the entire show in a way, nothing really goes the way you expect it to, but everything still works out (for now). I'm excited to see the continued story of these characters in season 2.

4. Designated Survivor - I'm not really into this show. I like Kiefer Sutherland, and the rest of the cast all hold their own, but I just find myself doing other things about 1/2 way into every episode. Like, all the sudden, I am washing the dishes, and I forget that I'm even watching it until my DVR asks if I want to "save or delete". I end up deleting and then just catching the important things I missed in the episode recap before the next episode. It's just not capturing my attention, and I can't really explain why, but perhaps, it's just not what my mind wants to watch with all of the craziness happening in the real world right now.

5. The Great Indoors - I watched for Joel McHale, and I will continue to watch for Joel McHale, but boy is it painful. The whole millennials vs old people is a tired plot-line, but it's also disturbing because Joel is not that much older than I am (and I am technically considered a millennial to some - the starting point varies between 1980 and 1982 - I was born in 1981). It kind of works because McHale's character has been away traveling and surviving in the great outdoors, but they just exaggerate his "out of touch" ideas way too much. It's amazing that a comic legend like Stephen Fry would be a part of such a mediocre show, which has me a little hopeful that it might get better. Maybe??

6. Better Things - Definitely my favorite show of the season - it's perfect. There are so many little moments that will stick in my head forever, and that is truly the mark of a great show (and wonderful writing). One moment is when Sam (the sublime Pamela Adlon) tells off her friend's husband (boyfriend? I don't remember) - and calls him out for being a lazy, ungrateful asshole. It's just so good. This is the same episode that features Lenny Kravitz telling Sam that she should have warned her mother that she was bringing a black man home for dinner. It's just so good. I love her relationship with her 3 children, and that they are very much their own identities instead of just typical adolescents. The whole season, although very short, is filled with quality.

Holiday Movie Preview: 5 Movies that I am Excited About

1. Jackie -  (12/2) I've heard wonderful things about Natalie Portman's portrayal of Jackie O, most critics are saying she's a lock for a best actress nomination. I believe them because when Portman is "on", she is fucking terrific (for example: Black Swan). I'm excited to see it, just for her performance, but also because Jackie's story is fascinating.

2. La La Land -  (12/9) This looks spectacular. A musical starring the dream team of Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, combined with that glamorous old Hollywood feel, I just simply can't wait. It's already received strong reviews, and Oscar talk. I have a feeling it might be my favorite movie of the year (*crosses fingers*).

3. Office Christmas Party - (12/9) I just really like the cast - Jason Bateman, Jennifer Aniston (I really wish these two would star in a tv sitcom together. Wouldn't that be wonderful?), Courtney B. Vance, Olivia Munn, T.J. Miller. I've seen a few commercials, and it seems like it could be a fun holiday movie.

4. Fences - (12/25) "Directed by Denzel Washington" is all I really needed to know, but "starring Denzel Washington and Viola Davis" is icing on the cake. A reprisal of their roles on Broadway, in which they both earned Tony awards for, is sure to be fantastic.

5. Live By Night - (12/25) Written, Directed and Produced by Ben Affleck - I am looking forward to this the most, because he's never let me down (as an actor, now that's a different story). Argo, The Town, and Gone Baby Gone are all among my favorite films. I'm hopeful that this movie meets the high standards that he's set for himself.

Thoughts on 5 Films

1. Ghostbusters - I like the original Ghostbusters movie just fine, but I don't hold it to such high esteem as others seem to. It's a fun, silly, 80s movie that can definitely benefit from a modern take. I like Paul Feig and what he is doing for women in comedies. So, I expected to enjoy this movie even though the trailer was a bit iffy. And I did to a certain degree, however, I think it could have been A LOT better. It was all sort of "meh" and forgettable. The jokes were super cheesy, and didn't even make sense (the whole Chinese food thing was dumb; there are literally hundreds of Chinese food places in NYC, why would one keep ordering from the same place if they are not happy with the service?), or they were repetitive (how many times do they test out a new "ghost weapon" only to have it backfire?). The only time I actually laughed out loud is Kevin wearing glasses without the lenses. And speaking of Kevin, how in the fuck did Chris Hemsworth outshine these four incredibly talented and hilarious women? Like, what the actual fuck!? Even in the poster, he is outshining them with his finger guns (LOL). I am a big fan of Kristen Wiig (not on SNL, though. I don't get her sketch comedy, but as an actress I think she is aces) and Melissa McCarthy is hit-or-miss (better in small doses like Bridesmaids). I'm not really familiar with Leslie Jones or Kate McKinnon because I don't watch SNL anymore (it hasn't been funny since probably the late 90s). They both were mediocre in this (I don't get the praise for McKinnon in this role - she seemed unnaturally awkward to me). The original cast cameos put a smile on my face and were utilized appropriately except for Sigourney Weaver - way to leave it for the last possible second. The absolute worst part of the movie is definitely the updated theme song. I mean, it's so bad I thought my ears might bleed.

2. Everybody Wants Some!! - It's a very typical Richard Linklater film, which, in a way, is a good thing (I adore most of his movies), however, in this case, it feels a little bit forced. It's still a very good, well-acted film, but I just didn't find anything special about it. I don't really relate to it either, but obviously I am not the intended target audience, so I didn't really expect to (it would have been a nice surprise if I did, though...). The cast is fantastic - Blake Jenner is bound to be a huge star. He's perfectly charming and introspective while still portraying that cocky frat-boy athletic star vibe. Ditto for Glen Powell (I barely even recognized good ole Chad Radwell from Scream Queens - aka, the best part of that dumb-ass show). It's also a super nostalgia induced late 70s/early 80s retro story (1980 to be precise), filled with fantastic music, hilariously short shorts, and free-spirit ideology. The gist of the movie (if there is one) is finding where you belong - the group finds themselves partying with the disco crowd, the drama kids, and the country line-dancing crew all in the name of having a good time. It's all very crowd-pleasing and fun to watch, even if it goes nowhere.

3. The Shallows - *Spoilers ahead* I thought this was going to be a trashy B-rated shark movie (in the same vein as Piranha - don't judge me; I totally like that movie), but it's not. It's actually really good. The premise is pretty terrifying (sharks don't scare me, but they are super scary in movies!), and Blake does a terrific job. I thought it might get dull with the story just focused on her sitting out on a rock by herself, but they smartly added a scene-stealing seagull to keep the audience interested. I think it's pretty dumb for someone to go out surfing by themselves, but people do it all the time - I guess it's part of the whole adrenaline rush that some people yearn for. When I was a kid, my cousin used to take me out surfing with him before the sun would rise and it was terrifying. I just remember the waves hitting me so hard and not knowing which way to swim because there was no light. I have a lot of respect for surfers - it's a lot harder than it looks and the waves and rocks just beat your body to shreds. It's super weird that she's a Texas surfer because I literally had a conversation with my boyfriend about Texas surfers the day before I watched this movie (he brought up something about someone surfing in Texas and I laughed because that seems so unnatural but I looked it up and it's totally a thing!). Anyway, back to the movie, I love that the main character (although dumb for surfing alone) does some pretty smart things to try to save herself. Ultimately, she is saved by someone else, but it's only because she did something smart. I knew from the beginning that the guy that drove her there would be the one to rescue her (when he says that he lives nearby - ultimate foreshadowing moment). There are some very effective moments - the image of the shark inside the wave is super cool, and the fact that we don't really see that much of the gruesome shark attack - just Blake's reaction to it, and the aftermath. The only thing that ruins the movie a little bit is the cheesy ending - she's the witness to a horrific tragedy of watching three men brutally die, suffered a trauma herself, but sure, a year later, she's a doctor and ready to get back into the ocean. It just doesn't work.

4. Sing Street - There is massive amounts of praise for this movie (97% RT score)....and I...I just don't get it. There is always one movie every year that is universally praised that I don't like, so I guess this is this year's gem. A lot of people compared it to Begin Again (same writer/director), which is a movie that I enjoyed, so I am surprised that I didn't like this. It's not a bad movie, by any means, but it's just really dull and cliched, and the acting is a bit off, and the wardrobe department had a freaking field day with over-the-top 80s outfits, and the main couple have zero chemistry, and the songs are pretty awful, and...I'll stop now because I think I've made my point. The plot is pretty idiotic - he starts a band just to impress a girl he *just* met (not because he's passionate about music). Sure, it can be argued that he is using this whole band idea to avoid real-life problems like his parents separating and being bullied at school, but that feels like an afterthought, and some of it is dropped altogether - like, what happened to the whole "black shoes only" thing? Product of some choppy editing issues, perhaps? Or did I miss something? I admit, I was bored, and when I'm bored, my mind wanders. Anyway, the most mind-blowing part of the movie is that the brother is played by Jack Reynor - yes, *that* guy from the last Transformers movie who was the worst part of the movie (and that's saying a lot). HOLY HELL, he's not actually *that* bad.

5. Amanda Knox - Fascinating documentary. I'm not really a fan of the genre because I feel like the stories are all a bit skewed propaganda by the filmmakers masquerading as "truth". I think we are going to see a lot more of these types of stories with the popularity of Making a Murderer and the resurgence of interest in the O.J Simpson case, etc. This wasn't a story that I followed very closely - it seemed like a tabloid story - young women are murdered all the time, I didn't get why this one was so heavily publicized. I understand it a bit more after watching the documentary. It's fascinating that the Italian investigators participated in this so willingly, and still seem to fully believe that what they did was right. They really slut-shame this girl to submission, right? She *might* like kinky sex, so she *must* be a murderer, seems to be their line of thinking and it's quite disturbing. It's also disturbing that a journalist would admit ON CAMERA that he did not fact-check his sources. His excuse is that he didn't have time and someone else would scoop him. JESUS CHRIST. Although, I do feel like Amanda still has some mental issues, and may in fact, be a bit psychotic. If it's true that she was making out with her boyfriend at the crime scene and did cartwheels during the first interrogation (both of which she doesn't deny), that's a bit mental, right? She describes herself as "awkward", but that's beyond awkward. It doesn't make her a murderer though. And there seems to be very little evidence of her guilt - her DNA would be all over the murder scene unless it was sterilized, and it wasn't. It's still kind of hilarious that the United States would criticize Italy's mishandling of the evidence (I mean, we've fucked up murder investigations since the beginning of time). The documentary is certainly enlightening, but it is very one-sided - pointing to Amanda's innocence (which according to the courts, she is), which is exactly what I expected.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

3 Thoughts on Doctor Strange

1. The effects - Absolutely phenomenal special effects. The only way to describe it is a little bit M.C. Escher, a little bit Christopher Nolan's Inception, and a whole lot of "WHOA!". My mind was fully blown right from the very first scene. You can kind of see the effects during the trailer, but it's so much more beautiful in full sequences on the big screen. I rarely like watching movies in 3D, but I have a tinge of regret at not watching this in IMAX 3D because it's probably even more spectacular.

2. Benedict Cumberbatch - I think I've made it clear in the past that I'm not really a fan. He's okay. I don't really get the hype and I really don't get the whole "Cumberbitches" thing. I don't see anything above average enough for him to have such a cult-like following. And yes, I've seen Sherlock (it's decent but Elementary is a hundred times better, as is Jonny Lee Miller in the role of Sherlock). He's alright in this role, but the whole narcissistic, self-involved asshole turned superhero has been done before and in much better hands (*cough* Robert Downey Jr.). I never really feel like at any point in the movie he overcomes his own indulgence to transcend dimensions. He's told over and over again by The Ancient One (the always spectacular Tilda Swinton - someone who seems to transcend dimensions in real life) that "it's not about you"; and yet it's still about him even through the end. The supporting cast, though, is near-perfect. Aside from Swinton, there is Mads Mikkelsen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Benidict Wong - all are perfect. The only reason it gets downgraded to "near-perfect" is because of the mediocre Rachel McAdams (I like her, but compared to the other actors, she is the obvious weak link).

3. The MCU - A lot of people commented on how different this movie felt from other films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but I disagree. It felt very on-par with the Thor movies, which were also based more on fantasy and "different" worlds than our current world. It's far better than the Thor movies, but it's still as ridiculous (and I say that with love). I prefer the stories of Iron Man, Spider-man, etc.; the stories that, although are fantasy, still take place in the "real" world, not some alternate dimension with mythical creatures, spells that can reverse time, etc. I guess I just prefer science over magic, which is exactly the opposite of what this movie/character represents. That being said, I still love Guardians of the Galaxy, so if it's done well, I will embrace it. I just didn't connect with this one on any level whatsoever. It will be interesting to see how all of the movies connect, though.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Thoughts on 5 Films

1. Trumbo - Bryan Cranston is, indeed, excellent - I'm not sure it's an Academy Award worthy performance, but it's definitely a solid portrayal of Dalton Trumbo. The famous blacklisted screenwriter is a great person to focus a film on, but this movie was pretty disappointing for me. I don't really feel like it told me anything that I didn't already know, and I don't really think it depicted the intensity of the issue. There was one really strong scene (where Trumbo compares rounding up Communists to rounding up Democrats) that stuck with me, but I just feel like a story of this importance should have many more of those moments. It was just a linear, factual, and very dull story. The supporting cast was filled with talented people - Diane Lane, Helen Mirren, Alan Tudyk, Elle Fanning, and Louis C.K. Plus, the guy who played Kirk Douglas was scarily spot-on.

2. Now You See Me 2 - I think I liked the first one. I remember it having a good ending that I should have expected, but for some reason I didn't - which I guess is the whole point of movies like this. I love the cast - especially Dave Franco (he's one of my favorites ever since he was on Scrubs). They lost Isla Fisher (whom I adore), but they gained Lizzy Caplan (whom I also adore), so no complaints from me. I don't think this one was as clever as the first, but I like that the story seemed like a natural progression to the first one; It made the sequel seem necessary. I really enjoy Daniel Radcliffe - especially in this role as "the bad guy" (and an uber prick). I like that you don't really know who is on their side, and who is not, up until the very end. They did a good job with the twists, but I just think it was expected to not trust anything or anyone, so it loses the audience investment.

3. The Neon Demon - I loved it. Like really loved it. I think people get turned off by NWR's style because they just don't get it. Yes, it's not subtle. But who says that it's supposed to be? Who cares if the story is so simple if it's told in such a stunning way, isn't that really what matters in the field of film-making (and art, in general)? It doesn't need to be abstract to be odd and beautiful, and I think people confuse his style as something abstract, when in fact, it's really obvious. The story is about a young, beautiful, and innocent girl who moves to L.A to become a model. She encounters three women in the industry - one is jealous of her youth, one is jealous of her beauty, and one jealous of her innocence. And they literally try to steal these things from her. It's really that simple. However, through the use of beautiful imagery, poetic dialogue and a gruesome turn of events, the story becomes really compelling. And oh so gross. Sooooo gross. It personifies the ugliness of jealousy and narcissism. The cast is stunning - Elle Fanning is perfect, but Jena Malone somehow manages to steal the spotlight. I like that it's a female story with men relegated to supporting roles - and the only seemingly "nice guy" is the one that's knowingly dating an underage girl (pretty strong statement there, I think). This movie will definitely be in my Top 10 of the year (right now it's number 4).

4. London Has Fallen - The only thing I remember about Olympus Has Fallen, was the ridiculously brilliant line, "Why don't you and I play a game of fuck off. You go first.". I was hoping for something as ridiculous with this movie, but no such luck. I mean, the whole thing is definitely ridiculous - in order to pull off this terrorist attack they had to infiltrate the police, the EMTs, the Queen's guards, etc., and an actual line is "it must have come from someone inside". UM FUCKING DUH. The only truly shocking thing about this movie is how they get actors like Jackie Earle Haley and Melissa Leo to participate in such nonsense. They don't even get to do much, just stand around a room and act terrified. I enjoy Gerard Butler very much because he's either really great in a role, or really hilarious in a role, but either way, I am entertained.

5. Zootopia - I don't actually enjoy animated movies as much as most seem to. The last one I really liked was Brave (Inside Out did nothing for me. I know, I know...I'm a monster). I LOVE this one - love so much that it might make my Top 10 list of the year. It's so relevant to everything that is happening in our country right now (and around the world). It's an allegory for the BLM movement, immigration, sexism, the societal effects of bullying, and just so much more. I think everyone can find a way to relate to it (specifically for me, it's when she walks into the police precinct with all of the animals that are bigger than her - this is how I feel on a daily basis. I'm very tiny, and people don't take me seriously because of this). The messages are extremely overt and obvious - which it needs to be because it's for kids. There are still some great moments for adults, though - like the sloths at the DMV. Kids will laugh because of the simple humor of sloths being slow, but they've never experienced the painfulness of dealing with the DMV. It's just hilarious, and super cute. Also, Jenny Slate has a terrific voice for animation.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Thoughts on 5 Films

1. Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates - Some funny moments, but ultimately a forgettable and unoriginal comedy. I feel like ever since Bridesmaids succeeded with the "raunchy funny females" type comedy, some movies just really try to out-do the raunchiness but they forget the essential part about being funny. Aubrey Plaza - raunchy but not funny at all. I really, really want to like her (and I ADORED her on Parks & Recreation), but every role she's done is just really terrible. She's not a very good actress. Luckily, the other actors (Zac Efron, Anna Kendrick & Adam Devine) are all strong enough to make up for her performance. The storyline, however, is a bit all over the place, and unbelievably ridiculous. And none of the characters are likeable in any way whatsoever, which is weird for a movie like this. Literally all of them ruin someone else's life in some way during the course of the movie, but all is forgiven in the end. There is no sensible character motivation other than getting to the next plot-point. It's just dumb.

2. Demolition - I wasn't expecting to connect with this movie in the way that I did. I mostly watched it for Jake Gyllenhaal. I've never really found him attractive (the whole puppy dog eyes thing just doesn't do it for me), but he just gets better with every movie - and his talent is definitely attractive. He's excellent in this movie - probably my favorite male performance of the year (so far). The movie was about loss, but it is so much more honest than most movies dealing with this subject. He is a man whose wife is tragically killed in a car accident, yet he doesn't feel her loss like everyone expects him to. Through his use of angry letters venting to a vending machine company, we learn that he wasn't really in love with his wife. He cared for her, yes, but he remembers her telling him that he never paid attention, and now that she's gone, he agrees. He doesn't really know who his wife was because he was self-involved, and his need to be loved was more important than loving someone else. It's deeply honest, and almost destructive for him to come to this realization but it lifts this invisible weight off of him. The movie goes a little literal with this idea by having him demolish random objects, his home, his relationships, etc., but it's very effective. Overall, that's how I would describe the movie - very effective. There are a ton of little moments and connections, stunning imagery, thoughtful dialogue, and it's all just very effective.

3. Dirty Grandpa - Coincidentally, I watched this movie the day after Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates not realizing that it also starred both Zac Efron and Aubrey Plaza. And again, Plaza is really awful. Her lines are cringe-worthy so it's not entirely her fault. I was expecting an over-the-top raunchy comedy, but actually, this movie is very sweet. The "message" is don't spend your entire life living up to someone else's idea of "happy". The "dirty Grandpa" (Oh, De Niro, please stop), is just trying to rescue his grandson from living a life of mediocrity and disappointment because he missed the opportunity to save his son from it. I wasn't really expecting to get anything out of a movie like this, so that was a pleasant surprise. They could have made a solid comedy with this plot, but they ruined it by soaking it in crude (and not funny) jokes. The movie is just filled with really low points (pedophilia is never funny), but there are also (very) few really high points (Efron doing the Macarena...naked). Also, I forgot that Efron can sing! I try to blackout his High School Musical phase, because it's so terrible and he's so great now.

4. Eddie the Eagle - The trailer for this movie was just so typical '90s feel-good, sports-theme movie, I just HAD to see it. It has everything you expect from this type of movie - the underdog, the disenfranchised coach, the training montage, etc. Plus, Taron Egerton is sooooo HOT (but, umm...., not in this movie. Not at all. It's so weird.). It's such a cheesy, predictable movie, but it's exactly as it was advertised. The story is pretty interesting, but they definitely made it more dramatic for the screen. It's weird that this happened during the same Olympic games as the famous Jamaican bobsled team, but also, I think these stories probably occur during every Olympic game - everyone has a story, it just takes someone to write it...right? It's also interesting that they actually changed the qualification rules so that this never happens again. And, really, it shouldn't. I mean, people spend their whole lives training for this event. It's unfair to have someone undermine all of their hard-work. I know we're supposed to root for Eddie, but I kind of agree with the "villains" on this one. Otherwise, it's a super cute, super charming movie.

5. Star Trek Beyond- I enjoyed the previous two Star Trek movies. I don't fully understand the mythology behind it all because I've never really been a Star Trek fan, but overall I find the movies enjoyable. I didn't realize that Justin Lin directed this one until it was over, but that totally makes sense because it felt more action-packed than the previous ones - and the action is spectacular. It's similar to Lin's previous work (The Fast and the Furious franchise) in that it just gets straight to the point, and straight to the action. I love J.J. but his directorial style is a little all over the place. I feel like this and X-Men Apocalypse are the best blockbuster action movies of this year, and yet nobody is talking about, at all. I loved seeing J.J. Abrams favorite, Greg Grunberg, in a quick blink-and-you'll-miss-it scene. I love that J.J. still supports his early team of actors (Grunberg is from Felicity). This is the first film in the series, in which I actually like most of the characters. I guess getting to know them a little more helps. Chris Pine really annoyed me in the first two, but he was tolerable in this one. I like the back and forth between Bones and Spock, and I really like the character Jaylah. Overall, this is simply just a fun, action-packed summer blockbuster. Expectations = met.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Fall TV Preview: 6 New Shows to Watch

I'm a little late with this post - I usually post about new Fall TV shows in early September, and by now some of these shows have aired one (or more episodes). Life has been busy, which I guess is a good thing, but I'm still going to be making some time for some promising new shows!! 

1. Speechless - Minnie Driver is a great actress who never really got the credit she deserves. Hopefully this is a stronger platform for her to showcase her talent. I'm watching this show mostly for her, but also if this show is successful, it could be a huge step forward for people with disabilities within the television industry. Diversity doesn't always mean race or gender; it just means showing real people. The first episode aired already, but I haven't caught it yet (it's one of the many shows on my filled DVR), but it seems to be getting some good reviews.

2. This is Us - I wasn't planning on watching this show, but then I saw many people on Twitter comparing it to Parenthood and then everyone on Twitter flipped their shit when the twist was revealed at the end of the pilot episode, so obviously I became intrigued. I have to say, the twist is great - and while I expected all of the characters to be connected in some way, I definitely didn't see that coming. The cast is excellent; especially newly minted Emmy winner, Sterling K. Brown. This is a perfect step for him. Plus, Mandy Moore is perfectly sweet and cheesy (although Scrubs ruined her for me - I will never NOT think of "that's so funny" when I see her in anything). It's not even close to Parenthood (and I don't foresee that happening), but it's still very promising.

3. Atlanta - Donald Glover is a genius. While I saw his comedic talent along with everyone else during his run on Community, it was his first rap album (as Childish Gambino) that I really took notice. It felt so different from every other rap album out there, and no, I'm not a rap connoisseur or anything, but usually when I see people rave about a rapper, I'll listen to a few songs and lately (as in the past 10 or so years), I've been very disappointed. Camp is probably my favorite rap album since Kanye West's debut. It's powerful, honest, and poetic - everything that rap used to stand for. This is exactly what Glover has brought to television - a powerful, honest, and poetic voice that is under-represented in the entertainment industry. Every episode has been perfect so far.

4. Designated Survivor - I just watched the pilot episode and I am definitely intrigued. It could really go either way, but I'm hopeful it doesn't go the way of other recent shows like The Blacklist, Quantico, and Blindspot, where it's just one twist after another until none of it makes sense anymore. I love Kiefer Sutherland, so I will probably watch no matter what, but it would be nice if it were actually a great show, right? The plot is pretty interesting (and surprising that it hasn't been done before, really), and I love the supporting actresses - Natascha McElhone and Maggie Q. I kind of feel like I already know who the "bad guy" is - and I won't spoil it, but I feel like it's really obvious (it's the same bad guy in every movie).

5. The Great Indoors - IT'S JOEL MCHALE. I miss him so much. I watched The Soup every week and I miss seeing him on my television every week (and it used to be twice a week with Community). This show looks dumb, but I don't even care. Also, McLovin is in it too. He's the very definition of adorkable.

6. Better Things - This will probably be my favorite new show of the season. I love Pamela Adlon so much, and I'm so happy that she is finally getting her due. This show is basically a female version of Louie, which is a fantastic idea. I almost wish they played together back-to-back because it's wonderful insight into the loneliness that comes along with being a parent, and also being famous - whether male or female. It's one of those shows that make you laugh, but then you feel bad for laughing. I'm in love with it.

Thoughts on 5 Films

1. The Nice Guys - I knew this movie was going to be ridiculous, but the question was if it was going to be good ridiculous or bad ridiculous. It's good ridiculous. Very good. The perfect amount of dark humor, laugh-out-loud moments, and a whole lot of heart. There are so many brilliant and witty moments that this movie just shoots right up into my top 10 of the year. Sure, there are also parts that are bad ridiculous - Russell Crow as an Irishman? STOP IT. Also, as much as I loved the focus on a father/daughter relationship that wasn't angsty, the daughter needed to be saved way too many times. She's supposed to be intelligent, but she does some very dumb things several times in the movie. It's still all in good fun, though. I also felt like it was about a 1/2 hour too long, but I don't know what could have been cut because there are so many pure gold moments that I would hate to lose. Gosling was the highlight (as always). His comedic timing was on point. I really like Shane Black's style. This movie definitely lives in the same universe as Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and that is a very good thing. There was something very retro about it - not just in setting, but also in the production. It felt like it came from the 70s with a modern twist.

2. Keanu - The trailer for this movie made me cry with laughter (and ohmygod cuteness!). The poster is one of my favorite posters ever ("Kitten, please"). The movie, however, just doesn't live up to my expectations. All of the cute kitty stuff is in the trailer (and I watched the trailer so many times I could practically recite it). And I don't really know Key and Peele. I've always heard great things, but I don't really see it. They were cringeworthy during the MTV Video Awards (yes, I watched that. And yes, it was a very, very painful experience) and they were kind of boring in this. Again, all of the good stuff was shown in the trailer; otherwise it was just dull. I did like that they address the different comedic tropes in movies that feature different races; they try to break the stereotypes in a very amusing way. There are some funny moments, too - Anna Faris saying she was in "Scary Movie 1,2,3,4, but not 5...too old". Also, the gang sitting in the SUV, listening to George Michael, and sharing stories made me giggle ("I stole a ring pop" "How old were you?" "22"). I just wish the kitten was featured more. Like, a lot more.

3. X-Men: Apocalypse - I wasn't expecting to like this movie. I really didn't hear much about it at all this summer. It was like it was released to slightly critical reviews and then forgotten about. I liked it. I felt like it was a much cleaner X-Men movie compared to the last few (which I also liked, for the most part). Mostly because the timeline was linear, so I didn't get confused. The plot was clear and concise. The villain was the weakest link of the movie (which is my issue with almost all superhero movies), but at least it made sense. Some of it didn't work - like Sophie Turner as Jean Grey (seriously, who thought that was a good casting call?). Jennifer Lawrence spent the entire movie as if she were bored to death. And Olivia Munn had one line in the entire movie?? How awkward is that? The young cast is great, though - Ty Sheridan, Kodi Smit-McPhee, and Evan Peters are among the best young actors working today. The biggest highlight of these movies will always be James McAvoy, though. He's just wonderful in everything. Plus, Rose Byrne.

4. Legend - I believe in Tom Hardy. He doesn't always succeed, but I'm confident that he gives it his all with every performance. He does an excellent job portraying London's notorious gangsters, the Kray twins. His performance, along with the always stunning Emily Browning, is the only reason to watch this movie. Otherwise, it is slow and dull, painfully predictable, and somewhat annoying. The voice-over by Browning is a disservice to the story (and it doesn't make sense - how does she know all these insights into their crimes if she wasn't there?). The sub-plot with her being unhappy in her marriage has been done so many times and this film doesn't offer anything new. married a gangster, and are surprised when he is an abusive asshole? *rolls eyes* I think they could have focused her story in a better way by showing more of her relationship with her mother - her mother states "the reason I have a boring life is because I gave up my life for you", which becomes even more disheartening when her daughter marries a gangster. Hardy does a fantastic job at giving each twin a different voice and personality; I definitely "forgot" that it was one actor playing both parts. And man, that fight scene between the twins must have been really difficult to film - it was excellently choreographed. I wish the film just moved quicker and gave us more insights into their lives instead of the obvious. You know a film about gangsters is boring when all you can focus on is the costumes - I want every single outfit that Browning wore. So gorgeous.

5. Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising - I re-watched the first one directly before the sequel so I can confirm that I love the first one so much. This one, is okay. It's safe to assume that I would appreciate the feminist movement that happens within the movie, but I think the first one already conquered a feminist issue by having the wife not be the "nag" of the movie. They had a true relationship/partnership and it is lovely. I can't get behind any kind of sorority - I don't care if it considers itself feminist or not. The whole point of a sorority/fraternity is to be exclusive and uphold traditions, so if you want to break away from that, then don't join one. I don't really think a comedy like this can really get to the roots of how oppressive sororities are and still be funny, but they tried and for the most part it worked. Although, their "version" of a sorority was minorly offensive (they sit around watching chick-flicks and talk about their feelings. Gag me with a spoon.). There were some very funny parts - and the obvious highlight is Rose Byrne (once again). Zac Efron is also hilariously pathetic - I like the realistic story arc for his character. I also like that they are terrible parents. I mean, not actual terrible parents, they are very realistic parents, but for movie parents, just awful.

3 Thoughts on Suicide Squad

1. Harley Quinn, Deadshot, and...everyone else - I have a lot of problems with this movie and I'm one of the few who refused to listen to the critics. I went in with an open mind and a hope for a good, fun, summer blockbuster. Unfortunately, it was a mess. And that's putting it lightly. The biggest issue is that the movie only focuses on two of the "squad" - Harley Quinn and Deadshot. Given that Will Smith is the biggest "star" in the movie, I guess this makes sense, but I was expecting an ensemble superhero movie and that's not what was presented. Harley Quinn was heavily featured in the ads, but I thought that was just because of the sudden popularity of Margot Robbie. Instead the movie was just really about them, while everyone else just kind of stood next to them shouting out throw away lines. And it's set up that way from the very beginning with Amanda Waller (the usually spectacular Viola Davis who was the blandest she's ever been) summarizing her group of bad guys (and gals). She gives in depth details about Quinn and Deadshot and then glosses over the entire rest of the group. And since they were never really given any real material, I can't even decide whether I like the rest of the group (Diablo seemed the most interesting of the bunch, to me). But I can fully stand firm in my complete dislike of Harley Quinn. I know nothing about the comics - so this is my only source of information about her, and man is she really fucking annoying. I don't find her empowering for women at all, and yet so many women idolize her. I just don't get it. Also, I love Margot Robbie, but this was not her best work. I know she *can* do a NY (Brooklyn) accent, but it sounded AWFUL here. I think it had to do more with the combination of the awful dialogue and the accent that made it so much worse, but it was horribly distracting. Her relationship with The Joker was intercut between scenes in a really awkward way, and it was all very vague - glossing over the abusiveness of it all (as expected). Leto was an interesting Joker; not necessarily good, but at least interesting. Also, does Quinn not have any powers or abilities? Is her bat a super bat? Because that tiny woman swinging a bat wouldn't really do much damage to someone twice her size. It's just dumb, especially compared to other characters who have actual abilities.Will Smith was probably the highlight (if there was a highlight...).  I liked Deadshot's story, I liked his abilities, his intelligence and his dialogue was easily the least cheesy of the bunch.

2. The Musical Cues - I admit, I am a sucker for a great musical cue. The ones in this movie, though, really bothered me. In particular, using Leslie Gore's "You Don't Own Me" to introduce Harley Quinn. The song itself is one of the greatest feminist songs of all time and describes literally nothing about Quinn. It's a song about independence and not being "put on display", while Quinn spends the entire movie attached to Joker (mentally & emotionally), and she is literally put on display several times - she is the epitome of the "male gaze". I thought maybe it was supposed to be ironic, but no-one else got ironic intro music, so that doesn't really make sense. Plus, I think her first intro song was "Superfreak" which makes much more sense. And the bigger problem, she got several "intro" songs. The whole movie was just one song cue after another. It was like they realized they had a shitty movie, and they tried to distract the audience by copying off of Guardians of the Galaxy, which had fantastic music, but it complimented the movie instead of creating a distraction.

3. The plot - I'm not sure it made much sense. I mean, it definitely lost my attention around the middle, so maybe I just missed some important plot points, but I don't understand the whole Enchantress story - wasn't she introduced as part of the Suicide Squad? So how did she suddenly become the "bad guy"? And is Amanda Waller a "bad guy"? They didn't really make that clear. Why was the Suicide Squad's mission to save her instead of stopping Enchantress? If they stopped her earlier, then Waller wouldn't have needed to be rescued...right? And where were the "good" guys? You know, Batman? Wonder Woman? The Flash? (he was shown for a second, but not when it actually counted). It wasn't like the squad was called as extra reinforcements or the "good guys" were captured, they just weren't mentioned at all when it counted. The whole thing is just really dumb.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Thoughts on 5 Films

1. Love & Mercy - This is going to sound really dumb, but I had NO IDEA that this movie was about Brian Wilson. I guess I never really paid much attention when it was released. I saw it on a few "Best of 2015" lists, and I read some great reviews of Paul Dano's performance. And I knew it was about music because I remember seeing a still of Dano in a production studio. And to make me sound even more dumb, I had no idea Wilson had such an interesting (and really fucked up) life and that the Wilson sisters from Wilson Phillips are Brian Wilson's daughters?? WHAT?! How did I not know that? I LOVED Wilson Phillips growing up. So aside from the story BLOWING MY MIND, I really enjoyed it. The acting is superb - especially Dano, Elizabeth Banks, and of course Paul Giamatti. He is the perfect sleazy douchebag. The story is told with just enough intensity, that I actually felt like something might actually happy to Wilson (even knowing full well that he is still alive today). It's so disgusting that people leech off of celebrities - and there are so many instances. The movie really forces that disgust on the audience, and hopefully, people will start being more proactive like Wilson's wife, Melinda, and stand up to these monsters. Had I seen this movie earlier, it surely would have made my top 10 of last year.

2. Mustang - So I watched this move directly after I watched Mistress America, and the stark contrast between the two is startling. While Mistress America is an extremely immature tale of white women who have no concept of what real world problems are (more on this below), Mustang showcases how backwards a lot of the world is in regards to women's equality and ability to enjoy life and make her own choices. It's a devastating watch, and in all honesty, as much as I enjoy films in any language, I wasn't in the right mindset for a foreign film. I did my best to adjust my brain, but I feel like I missed a lot of the subtlety and nuances in the story. I had to actually look up what they were getting in trouble for (i.e the catalyst to the whole story) because it is subtle, but it's also so innocent in our modern times. To watch these five young women have their lives destroyed because of one innocent moment of fun, is a really had concept to accept, and yet, this is what is happening to Turkish women (and women in many other cultures). It really makes me feel lucky and appreciative to live in this country. While we have our opportunities when it comes to equality, at least we're moving forward.

3. Mistress America - UGH. Just UGH. I like Greta Gerwig, but I'm getting tired of these immature roles she keeps doing. It's the same thing over, and over again, and it's nothing new (it's basically a long episode of Girls). It's ungrateful, self-centered, privileged, angsty women convinced that they suffer more than everyone else. That's not to say that these women don't suffer from some sort of depression (everything is relative), but it's not very interesting to watch. There is no substance to these movies. I've liked some films from Noah Baumbach, but I'm getting bored by them. Or maybe I just enjoy when there is a bit more bite or sarcasm to these types of stories. Like if the characters did a little bit of self-reflection, I might like them more, or at least, empathize with them. Instead we have characters who say idiotic statements like "I wish we were back in Feudal times when if you were a peasant, you just had to be happy with who you are". I mean, what kind of narcissistic asshole would wish for that and why is there a movie about her story?

4. Green Room - I enjoyed Blue Ruin - it was an extremely well-made indie movie especially for a newcomer. I've heard some ridiculously high praise for this movie, and I think it deterred my enjoyment a little bit, because I just don't think it could live up to the expectations. Especially with Imogen Poots in the cast. I know a lot of people dig her, but I find her acting atrocious. She was better in this movie, but still the worst part of the movie. Anton Yelchin will definitely be missed. He was one of those actors that I always trusted would take interesting roles. Like when I read a summary of a movie, I might be thinking "eh", but then I see Yelchin is in it and my interest peaks. It's so sad that he is no longer with us to perform these interesting characters, but he is leaving a minor legacy of top-notch roles behind for us to enjoy - and this is one of them. This movie is hardly as terrifying as I was led to believe, but it is another extremely well-made, smartly written film for Jeremy Saulnier to add under his belt.

5. High-Rise - Another movie that was extremely praised, that I just couldn't really get in to. Ben Wheatley is hit or miss for me (Sightseers is a stunning movie, A Field in England is sooo dull). High-Rise feels like a Wheatley film, and that is an incredible thing. For a director to be an auteur they need to have distinction, and Wheatley nails it every time (good or bad). This film is gorgeous and demented, violent and subtle, chaotic and structured - a combination of contradictions. Plus, Wheatley intercuts seemingly unrelated scenes like NO ONE else in the industry. It's just extraordinary. However, I just found this film to be a little cluttered, and boring, by the time the anarchy began, I was already over it. I still don't get Tom Hiddleston. He was decent in the new series The Night Manager, but I can think of a dozen other actors that could have nailed that role even better. Plus, the supporting cast was almost interchangeable. There was no distinction between them, which I found to be a huge part of the problem.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Fall Movie Preview: 17 Movies That I'm Excited About

1. Sully (9/9) - So, first a funny story: The store that I used to work in sits along the Hudson River. A few years back, we had some tourists shopping. As they looked out the window they were surprised to see a spectacular view of NYC (why this is a surprise for people is confusing - NJ is across from NYC people!) and one lady asked "is that New York City?"(with her very cliched Southern accent). I replied "yup!". "So, wait, is this the Hudson.....WHERE SULLY LANDED??!" Her excitement was shocking. I had never really thought of the Hudson River as now being famous because of Sully for the rest of the world (for us it's famous for the dead bodies - Again, I live in NJ and The Sopranos is REAL. Also, sadly there are dead bodies from jumpers off the GWB). Anyway, EPIC RANT (I know you missed those). Sully isn't necessarily the type of movie that I look forward to (my mom, however, will be first in line), yet the trailer does a fantastic job of humanizing a hero. And that could be very interesting.

2. Bridget Jones's Baby (9/16) - As much as I bitch and moan about romantic comedies and the Bridget Jones movies are the epicenter of all that is wrong with so-called "chick-flicks"; I fully admit: I FUCKING LOVE BRIDGET JONES. She's hilariously real and uncomfortably awkward and it's fantastic to watch. I'm excited to see the next step in her life.

3. The Magnificent Seven (9/23) - I don't care that's it's a remake of a classic (of a remake of a classic...); it's Antoine Fuqua and THAT CAST. Holy shit...cast of the year! I'm not a big fan of Westerns, but some of my favorite films are Westerns, so when they are done well, I appreciate the beauty.

4. Deepwater Horizon (9/30) - I feel like this movie will be super cheesy and dumb, but I will always watch Mark Wahlberg in anything. I also like that they are focusing on the events of the actual disaster and putting human faces to the lives that were lost - we tend to talk about the effects of this disaster, but I know nothing about any of the people involved. Hopefully, they are respectful to their story.

5. The Birth of a Nation  (10/7) - Controversy aside, the film looks fantastic and received a standing ovation at Sundance and broke a record for highest selling film. It's automatically on my list. So, let's talk about the surrounding Nate Parker rape controversy because it is important. It's important for many reasons - first, it seems as apologetic and remorseful as Parker seems to be, he never acknowledges his guilt. Second, he was never actually found guilty. Third, why, as a society, do we pick and choose who to hold accountable for their actions and who we let slide because of their talent? I include myself in this discussion, because I will still support projects from such talent as Sean Penn (who is actually one of my favorite actors despite the fact that he allegedly physically abused Madonna), Alec Baldwin (who was allegedly so abusive to Kim Basinger that she became a shut-in), and Woody Allen (who is widely known as a child molester; yet was never charged with anything). Yet, I won't watch anything with Charlie Sheen or listen to any Chris Brown songs. In my mind - they plead guilty to abuse and therefore are the lowest form of humanity and should be shut out of the entertainment industry. It's a fine line - but if there is a conviction, something that's black or white, I feel like my protest is justified. However, in my heart, do I think Penn, Baldwin, Allen, and others are guilty? Yes, yes, I do. And as a society, we need to stop supporting these horrific actions, by allowing them to make millions off of their art. And maybe one day we will.

6. The Girl on the Train (10/7) - Last year, I went on a cruise to Bermuda. As I lay out in the sun, I read my book of choice (Tina Fey's "Bossypants"); I looked around at the surrounding books being read and every single one was "The Girl on the Train". Seriously, it was like an episode of The Twilight Zone. Usually, I don't really follow the crowd when it comes to my reading habits, but it did leave me intrigued. I figured there would be a movie soon, so I would just wait it out and I was right! Plus, the movie stars the heavenly Emily Blunt.

7. The Accountant (10/14) - Ben Affleck as a super genius accountant who uses his skills for bad things? Sounds like one of his movies from his "awful movies phase", but then I saw the trailer and it is FANTASTIC. The movie could still be awful, but I'm willing to hope for the best.

8. American Pastoral  (10/21) - I don't know much about this movie, and I haven't read the novel, but it's Ewan McGregor's directorial debut and the cast is pretty great (McGregor, Jennifer Connellly, Dakota Fanning) and the summary of the story seems fascinating.

9. Keeping up with the Joneses (10/21) - I adore Isla Fisher. She's right up there with Rose Byrne as hysterically funny women who don't get as much credit as they deserve. Plus. Greg Mottola made one of the funniest movies ever (I repeat: if you don't like Superbad, we probably won't be friends). I have extremely high hopes for this being the funniest movie of the year. Too bad Galifianakis is in it (he's great in minor roles, but overkill as a headliner).

10. The Handmaiden (10/21) - One name: Park Chan-wook. I am there. No questions.

11. Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (10/21) - Jack Reacher was a satisfying movie. Not bad; not great. Tom Cruise always gives it his all, though. I'm in for a sequel.

12. Doctor Strange (11/4) - Ugh, I seriously don't get the Benedict Cumberbatch explosion. He's okay, but I just don't get the hype. This movie, though, could prove to be a really cool addition to the superhero genre. Plus, Mads Mikkelsen and Tilda Swinton? In a superhero movie?? I have to see it to believe it.

13. Arrival (11/11) - Denis Villeneuve has created some really stunning movies (Enemy, Prisoners, and Sicario). If anything, I'm confident this will have some incredible shots, distinct to Villeneuve's direction. Plus, Jeremy Renner.

14. Shut In (11/11) - I'm interested to see if Jacob Tremblay's performance in Room was just a fluke, and I really, really, really hope it wasn't. I hope he is representing the next generation of actors. I don't think this movie will be held to the same standards as Room because it seems like a throw-away psychological thriller, but it also has Naomi Watts (one of my favorite actresses), so I don't really know what to expect.

15. Nocturnal Animals (11/18) - I can't even put into words how happy I am that Tom Ford has finally made another movie. It's only been seven years, but it feels like forever ago. A Single Man was fantastic, but it's also one of those movies that has stuck with me as one of the best movies of the last decade. It's just so stylish and beautiful and not overdone - it proves that film-making is, in fact, an artistic endeavor (and so is fashion). I know nothing about this movie other than the cast (which is perfection - Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, & Michael Shannon) and I plan on keeping it that way.

16. Manchester by the Sea (11/18) - I have a feeling this will be a big movie come awards season. And I'm hopeful that Casey Affleck gives a performance that will finally get him recognized by the Academy.

17. Allied (11/23) - With inspiration from Old Hollywood starring Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard  - I can't think of anything more perfect.