Saturday, January 23, 2016

Thoughts on 5 Films

1. Mortdecai - Obviously, after seeing the trailer, and reading the reviews, I wasn't expecting a good movie. At all. However, it does have an intriguing cast. I know everyone hates Johnny Depp now (not me; never will), and I know he hasn't picked the best roles lately (although, I haven't seen Black Mass yet, I've heard it's a "return to form" role). He's still entertaining to watch; he definitely dissolves himself into every role, whether it's good or bad, so I don't really agree with the criticism that he's "given up" and "only in it for the paycheck now". I thought that him and Gwyneth Paltrow were an odd pairing, but it could work (it didn't), and the supporting cast is awesome (Paul Bettany, JEFF GOLDBLUM, Ewan McGregor). The movie is sort of fascinating, to be honest, it reminded me of those cheesy 90s movies like Once Upon a Crime (and fuck yes, I LOVE that movie in all of its cheesy glory); it just wasn't funny enough to really hit those levels of "so bad it's good". The running joke was about his mustache and it wasn't funny, at all. The plot was all over the place, and it didn't seem to make sense, although, I was pretty bored so I found it hard to pay attention to any of the intricate details that may have helped the plot. Bettany was, by far, the best part of the movie; he has some great reaction scenes. Overall, though, it's catastrophically awful, and even worse, a gigantic waste of money.

2. Dope - I adore this movie. It's so much fun. I think the biggest reason that I enjoyed it is because it reminded me of the movie Go, and that was one of my favorite movies when I was a teenager. It's completely different in tone and structure, but it has that same plot points and pace. Someone recommended this movie to me, based on my love of independent movies; I didn't really know anything about it and I really haven't heard many people talking about it, which is a shame. The cast is excellent. The dialogue is smart and hilarious (my favorite scene is when he is arguing against the metaphor that is being thrown at him - "I wouldn't order a Macklemore CD. That wouldn't happen."). My favorite aspect of the movie, though, is the story of this kid, a minority, who lives in a bad neighborhood, and is raised by a single mother, absolutely refuses to use it as an excuse, and furthermore, he refuses to use it to gain sympathy on his Harvard application. He deserves to go to Harvard because of his hard work and determination; not because of his "story". The second best part is the music. At first, it's a little jarring because he's listening to 90s hip-hop (on cassette), and dressed like DJ Jazzy Jeff, but then the dialogue refers to bit coins (which I still don't understand) and Justin Bieber (ditto). It's like he's the hipster of hip-hop. He talks about Summertime as a "classic" song, which is true and is in clear contrast of "new" hip-hop, especially during the club scene when that God-awful song is playing (it literally just repeated "these girls let it pour" over and over again. What does that even mean?? Wait...I don't want to know.). The third best part of the movie is that it is memorable. I will remember the scene when he is being seduced by the beautiful, naked stranger who questionably offers to take his virginity because it is such a cliched, unrealistic scene that is in every teenage coming of age story, and then it taints the whole thing in the grossest way possible (I won't spoil it, but it's definitely memorable). I will also remember the last line of his Harvard essay (which should have been the last line of the movie, but they ruined it with an unnecessary scene), because it stings so much. And lastly, I will remember the credits because I could not stop watching him dance; it made me smile literally from beginning to end.

3. Infinitely Polar Bear - I think I built my expectations up too high for this movie. I figured it had an interesting subject matter, a bipolar man trying to care for his two daughters, and it had one of my favorite actors (favorite might be too strong of a word, but certainly one of the most likeable actors), Mark Ruffalo. The movie is just ok. There really isn't any depth to it, which is a shame because it could have definitely dug a little deeper into this complicated mental illness. It did show the ups and deep downs that this character suffered through. It did show the effect that his illness has on his family; and that, in some small cases, domestic abuse isn't always black and white (trust me, this is hard for me to admit, but there ARE certain cases where mental illness is a huge factor, and if you love someone who suffers from one, and you know they love you, etc...). I think they did a good job of showing that this person would never truly mean to be hurtful; he loves his kids (even when he is screaming at them and giving them the finger. I honestly laughed so hard). I didn't really like the wife's story. I don't know; I understand her motivation to give her kids a better future, but you have to consider their "present" before their "future" and leaving them in the hands of a mentally ill person while you go to school in another state doesn't seem like the best idea. I just question the whole plot (he comes from a very wealthy family, I highly doubt they would let those children starve). I think the bigger picture is just too problematic, but there are some nice small moments that work really well.

4. The Walk - I think if you've never seen the documentary Man on Wire, then this movie might be of interest (but I highly recommend you watch the doc instead of this movie). It's such a well-known story, especially in NY, the movie just doesn't play out with any sort of excitement. Visually though, it is better than I was expecting. The ads and trailer looked horrendously fake, but it works somehow as a whole film. I love JGL, and I don't think I've said anything bad about his acting, ever, but there is a first for everything. The accent? ATROCIOUS. The movie was difficult to watch because of it. However, I definitely understand why he was cast. He is this type of entertainer - one who is passionate and determined (if you want proof, search his opening number of his SNL episode.). The movie tries to tell the story of "why", but it doesn't actually answer this question, other than this man wanted to achieve the impossible. I guess it must be an amazing feeling, to defy the odds, it would make one feel invincible. But, honestly, I still don't get it.

5. Sicario - I was really looking forward to this movie. I was quite upset with myself for not having seen it in the theater, but again, 2015 was a tough year for me (2016 is amazing, so far, FYI). Denis Villeneuve teaming up again with Roger Deakins, is an automatic win. Villeneuve is definitely moving up on my list of favorite directors (Incendies, Prisoners, Enemy are all very solid movies). Plus, a fantastic cast of Emily Blunt, Benicio del Toro, Josh Brolin AND Victor Garber (I know, I know, not many people include Garber when talking about this movie, but I adore him always and forever.). The story seems pretty straight-forward at first, the plot is actually a little bit dull in the beginning, then the middle bit is a little hard to follow, but THEN the last 40 minutes are spectacular. I should have expected a twisty story, considering Villeneuve's previous films, but I didn't really know where the story was going. There is a very shocking scene, that I think most filmmakers would shy away from, which is exciting (and stomach-turning at the same time). I like that it just ended without any particular resolution, but instead, an impending sense of doom. Overall, I wish the whole movie was as intense as the third act, but it's still one of the best movies of the year (but probably my least favorite of Villeneuve's films).

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

4 Thoughts on The Golden Globes

1. The Host - I really don't care what anyone says, I think Ricky Gervais is hilarious. And mean. Very mean. I'm considered a nice person (and I'm often criticized as being "too nice", to which I say fuck right off. I'll be as nice as I wish.), but I often roll my eyes at celebrity hi-jinks. I feel like Ricky calls out the bullshit. A perfect example is Jennifer Lawrence and her "essay on feminism". As a feminist, I will admit that it's absolutely necessary for all women to speak out about the injustices of the pay gap that still exists. HOWEVER, when you're throwing numbers around that exist in the millions, the message gets lost. It's absolutely ridiculous for someone making 52 million in one year to complain about any type of money issue. If she wants to make an impact, then I suggest she donate to the millions of women who live in poverty because they can't afford to pay a babysitter, and therefore have a hard time maintaining a job. I'm on one of my epic sidetracks now, but my point is that it's hypocrisy at its best (worst?). Ricky making fun of her is essential, because some of these celebrities live in clouds - and sadly they are the ones with enough money to make an impact. I feel a similar way about the Caitlyn Jenner fiasco. Sure, transgender role model, but she KILLED SOMEONE, so human role model? Um. No. I love that Ricky pointed out that she "didn't do a lot for women drivers" (and is he really getting flack for saying that? That was in no way criticism of the transgender community, but a comment on how that family is so popular that they are essentially above the law. If anything it's a joke about female drivers, which isn't a new joke, and it's true. Women are shitty drivers.). So, needless to say, I enjoyed Ricky as the host. Keep those "mean" jokes coming, Ricky.

2. The Show - Last year, I watched the Golden Globes on an hour delay so that I could fast-forward through all the boring parts. This year, I didn't even watch it until the next day. It just doesn't feel like an important awards show anymore. I know, I know "important" and "awards show" doesn't really go together. But, as someone who loves movies and television, I love to see talent awarded, and I used to love the Golden Globes. I appreciated that it didn't really take itself too seriously. Now, though, the Hollywood Foreign Press just doesn't seem to be inline with my opinions (doesn't make them wrong, but I mean, they did nominate The Tourist. Nope, still not over it). I like that the show doesn't really have any sketches or gimmicks. It's just a host and presenters. You think, it would move pretty quickly, but nope. The main reason for this is that almost all of the presenters obnoxiously tried to steal as much stage time as possible. They need to limit who gets to do elaborate jokes, and they should do a better job of approving said jokes, because Jonah Hill dressed as the bear from The Revenant is a severe waste of precious minutes. And, what the fuck was with Amy Schumer and Jennifer Lawrence? Why did they start talking all whiny like that? Was that supposed to be funny? Sexy? It wasn't either. The only presenters I enjoyed were Brad Pitt and Ryan Gosling (because duh), and Amber Heard and Jaimie Alexander (also, because duh). There really wasn't even any good speeches, either. The worst (by far) was Quentin Tarantino accepting the award for Ennio Morricone, and he made the win all about himself (that's soo Quentin). Even Denzyl Washington seemed clueless on stage accepting an award that he knew he was going to win. Oh, I did like Taraji P. Henson's "I've waited 20 years for this" shout at the orchestra. Those poor people, they tried their best to play off every single winner to no avail. They even (had the nerve) to play off Leo. That's brave, orchestra people. I think the best part of the show was all of the audience reactions that were caught on camera. I know Leo's face when Lady Gaga bumped his arm is the one that became instantly popular, but the one that made me laugh was Alan Cumming's reaction after the banter between Ricky and Mel Gibson. Plus, it took balls to pan the camera to Harvey Weinstein when Ricky was talking about producers paying for awards. I mean, it's a known thing, but still...He's right there! And he owns Hollywood. I wouldn't mess with him.

3. The Winners - 2015 wasn't one of my favorite years in film. The Big Short is a landslide for my favorite movie of the year, so I would have liked to see it win for Bale and for Comedy. And speaking of comedy, let's get this out of the way, because it was continuously joked about - The Martian is not a comedy in any way, shape, or form. I wouldn't categorize The Big Short as one, either, but at least, there are very funny moments. I didn't laugh at all during The Martian, although I did hear of people laughing (was it the disco thing? Because that was just the same joke, over and over again. How is that funny?). I think the whole reason that I ever liked the Golden Globes is because they separated comedy and drama. But, it defeats the purpose, if they are just going to fill the comedy category with dramatic movies. I can't really comment much further on the movie side of the awards, but the television side was straight up crazy. First, how did no-one tell me that one of my favorite actors, Gael Garcia Bernal, is in a television show? HOW?! (Also, how do I watch it? I loathe Amazon. Is there another way?). Second, how did Mr. Robot not win? WAIT, WHAT?! They actually awarded the best show of the season?! HOLY SHIT. Kudos, Hollywood Foreign Press, you may have gained my respect again. Another one they got correct is Maura Tierney. I've been a huge fan of hers since NewsRadio, and of course, E.R., and I am in complete shock that this is her first Golden Globe nomination (and win). She definitely stole the show in season 2 of The Affair. It made me sad that someone like Rachel Bloom (who might be very talented, I don't know), can win such an award so quickly (off of a 1/2 season of a show that not many people watch), while it took Tierney 20 years? It kind of puts the whole ridiculousness into perspective. Third, how did Ben Mendelsohn not win? I love Christian Slater, but Ben deserved the win. Plus, Lady Gaga is alright on AHS. She's better than I thought she was going to be, but award-worthy? No fucking way. Overall, though, I can't complain about a show that gives an award to Leonardo DiCaprio AND Kate Winslet (Titanic fangirl forever).

4. The Fashion - There were some really beautiful dresses this year. My favorite is surprising because I usually like more subtle dresses, but I thought Kirsten Dunst looked absolutely stunning. The shape of that dress is just perfect. I think it's impossible to look at her in that dress and not say out-loud "DAMN, GIRL". I also liked Brie Larson's goddess dress and Alicia Vikander's white dress, which are both things that I usually don't like. I really didn't see any stand-out dresses that I didn't like, and I don't really care to look through the sea of pictures to find one. The guys were all pretty handsome, too. Brad Pitt looked like late 90s/early 00s Brad Pitt (my favorite Brad Pitt). And Christian Slater! I never really thought he was hot like most girls my age, but now, at 46(!), he's really handsome. Orlando Bloom looked real good, too. I didn't realize he was coming back to the POTC saga. I feel like he's kind of disappeared. The worst was Channing Tatum's hair, which was much more disturbing that Jonah Hill as the bear from The Revenant. 

Sunday, January 10, 2016

3 Thoughts on The Big Short

1. The cast - The main (i.e. ONLY) reason I wanted to see this movie is because of the cast. I will see anything with Christian Bale. ANYTHING. He's always fascinating. In this, he plays Michael Burry, a socially awkward genius with a glass eye and a penchant for heavy metal music. And like always, he's the best part of the movie. He's one of the few actors who gets completely lost in a role; I never see Christian Bale in any of his characters, and as much as I love the other actors in this movie, I can't say that about any of them. Brad Pitt is always Brad Pitt in some way. Ryan Gosling is always Ryan Gosling. Ryan has the most charismatic role, which is why several reviews cite his performance as the highlight, but the reality is, he just has the best lines. To me, the highlight, aside from Bale, is the supporting cast. Specifically, the trio of Rafe Spall, Hamish Linklater and Jeremy Strong. All are incredible.

2. The story - The part that I wasn't that excited about was the actual story. I'm really not into financial/Wall Street type stories because I don't feel like I ever truly understand what is happening; instead I usually just know when something is "good" or "bad" based on character reactions. I did enjoy the recent movie Margin Call, which had a similar theme, but I will fully admit that I didn't understand every detail. The brilliance of this story is that the filmmakers understand that the general audience probably doesn't "get it", considering that people who do this for a living don't fully "get it". So, they dumb down the financial aspects, use terminology that anyone can understand, and pause the story to explain the plot (more on this in the next section). While I fully understand how this tactic isn't for everyone, it completely worked for me. COMPLETELY. Not only did I enjoy the movie, I learned a lot about what happened during the financial crisis of 07-08. Before this movie, I could tell you that people defaulted on their loans and the big banks went into debt and the government bailed them out; which is essentially what happened, but this movie explained why it happened and how the banks should have been held responsible for their own corruption. It's always amazing to me to see so many people living above their means, not able to afford their mortgage and car payments, and I always blamed them for their own greed, but really it's the banks that are allowing this to happen. If you're giving a loan to someone who has no income and/or proven bad credit history, what do you expect to happen? It's completely fascinating. It's also fascinating that there are people who predicted this housing collapse, and no-one did anything about it. It's interesting that the author of the book (that the movie is based on) also wrote Moneyball, because that movie did a great job of explaining the politics and history behind baseball. The combination of this intelligent story and director Adam McKay (known for comedic movies), is absolutely perfect.

3. The editing - As I said above, the movie uses a lot of different tactics to help the audience follow the story. First, it uses celebrity guests to explain certain situations (my favorite *spoiler* - Margot Robbie in a bubble bath). Yes, this is a little disruptive to the plot. Yes, it's a little too condescending. Yes, it still works, brilliantly. Second, it defines financial terms in the bottom left corner of the screen. Third, it uses different editing and sound techniques for the four main plots/characters. Again, yes, it's disruptive. But I would argue that this is what kept my attention for the entirety of the movie. Each part felt like a different movie, therefore avoiding any dragging plot-lines. I'm actually finding it hard to find a flaw, and trust me I've spent the last 3 days trying. It's by far my favorite movie of 2015 (and yes, I still have a lot to see).

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Thoughts on 5 Films

1. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. - I had really high hopes for this movie. I usually like Guy Ritchie films, with the exception of the Sherlock movies (which are still decent). Snatch is one of my favorite movies ever. Ritchie has a really fun style, not only aesthetically, but with his use of dialogue. It usually movies really quickly, with lots of throwbacks to previous scenes, forcing the audience to pay attention to every detail. I liked the look of this movie from the trailers, it seemed to be Ritchie back in form, but I think the actors fail to sell the dialogue, and therefore, it falls flat. The back and forth banter felt forced and awkward (the accents, although necessary, were a disservice to the pace that the dialogue should have followed). I'm not a big Henry Cavill fan (pretty, but blah), but Armie Hammer and Alicia Vikander have interesting chemistry. It was probably the only thing that kept me entertained through the entirety of the film. Although, I did look at the clock at one point and gave a heavy sigh that I still had a whole hour to get through. The end did pick up, and had some surprising twists and turns, but overall, it's just a very pretty movie, with very pretty people, with very little fun, especially if you compare it to the similarly themed movie, Kingsman: The Secret Service, also from last year.

2. Tangerine - There is always one movie every year that is critically praised to an extreme (currently at a 96% RT rating), that I absolutely loathe (see The Grand Budapest Hotel from last year). This is that movie. I am absolutely baffled as to how anyone enjoyed this movie. I can appreciate the very basic level of enjoying the fact that it's starring characters that are under-served in the film industry, but it's a really annoying movie with annoying characters who basically run around creating drama and yelling at everyone around them. It's literally just two people walking around the dirty streets of LA, screaming. That's it. As I watching in astonishment that something like this can receive critical praise, I started to read about the movie (because anything was better than actually watching it) and I discovered that it's all filmed on an iPhone. So, yes, that's pretty impressive, too. However, creating a film about horrible, conceded, self-absorbed people who YELL AT EVERYONE and create chaos everywhere they go and presenting them as the "funny", is disturbing to me. And if you think I'm exaggerating, watch the scene when they are screaming at each other at the donut shop at the end, in which one of them is holding a child who is screaming out in fear and confusion while the adults around her are fighting. That child's scream was real and I strongly feel everyone involved should be arrested for child endangerment. And if it wasn't real, someone give that kid an Oscar.

3. American Ultra - I'm not a huge fan of Jesse Eisenberg or Kristen Stewart, but I thought this movie looked fitting for both of them and the trailers were pretty interesting. It's a great concept; it's been done before but not really in a stoner setting. I really liked her character - she supports him and loves him, and most importantly, believes in him. She makes a conscious choice to stay with him, even though he tries to push her away. I think it's increasingly hard to find female characters that are like this. The movie is a little silly at times, and not nearly as funny as it should be, but I did enjoy it for the most part. The twists kept me interested and it features an awesome supporting cast - John Leguizamo, Connie Britton, Topher Grace and Tony Hale - all are perfectly cast. It's written by Max Landis, who also wrote Chronicle (which I loved). He seems to be a pretty controversial person on social media recently, but you can't knock the fact that he has a knack for creating something new out of old concepts. I don't really understand the hatred towards him.

4. Ricki and the Flash - My mother begged me to see this with her in the theater, but I refused. It looked absolutely ridiculous and cheesy. The title alone, is off-putting, but then the trailers....ugh...the trailers. I thought for sure it would make my worst list, but good news, it's not awful. It's mediocre, and yes, absolutely ridiculous and cheesy. Meryl Streep will always be praised just for being Meryl Streep, but she's certainly earned her reputation with some stunning performances. I like the choices that she makes, and this is certainly a different role for her. But singing Lady Gaga? No thanks, Meryl. Her daughter, Mamie Gummer, who plays her daughter in this movie, is usually someone I enjoy, but I think they both overdid their roles here. Also, I can't take Rick Springfield seriously in any role except Dr. Drake from General Hospital. I hated the whole feminist aspect of the story. Ricki declares "if I were a man, it would be ok if I left to be a rock star". There are plenty of people with abandonment issues because their father left (for whatever reason). Sorry, this is NOT a feminist issue. This is a "you're a shitty parent" issue. Surprisingly, the part that I liked was with the guy that all the girls love from Captain America (Bucky!). I don't actually like him (IT'S CARTER BAIZEN FROM GOSSIP GIRL), but he was super cute in this movie.

5. Tig - Wow. If you are having a shitty day/week/month/year, then I suggest you watch this documentary on comedian Tig Notaro to put some things into perspective. I knew of her because she became famous after her breast cancer diagnosis. She infuses her diagnosis into her stand-up, and to be honest, I was skeptical. Without having seen the sketches, I assumed that she exploits her situation (a situation that millions of women are dealing with, and aren't as fortunate as Tig), to gain fame. After watching this documentary, and absolutely bawling my eyes out, I want to kick myself for assuming the worst in humanity. The cancer diagnosis is actually the third horrific event that happened to Tig in a series of extremely unfortunate events, and it was her breaking point. She never meant to use the diagnosis as a way to gain attention, it just sort of happened that way, because her now infamous routine hit the audience and fellow comedians with a wave of inspiration. The documentary explores this surprising reaction, but also Tig's apprehension to continue talking about it, and also her struggle to follow it. It's incredibly inspirational to see someone who has experienced the worst kinds of pain, pull herself out of depression, determined to discover the joys of life, such as love. As someone who suffered from depression last year, and am proud to say that I survived it, I can't explain in words how much someone like Tig effects my mindset. I'm glad that she shared her story.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Best and Worst Films of 2015

For the past 4 years, I've written my best and worst list on New Years Day, but this year, unfortunately it's a little incomplete. My movie viewing schedule has practically screeched to a halt; partly because television shows have surpassed the quality of most films and partly because 2015 hasn't been the best year for me, which limited my free-time that I usually use to go to the theater. I can't say that I truly loved any movie I've seen this year. I've enjoyed several, but to do a "best of", I feel like I just haven't seen enough. So, here is a list of my top 5 movies of the year, but if you're interested, check back in July when I do an updated list - it will surely be more comprehensive. 


1. The Martian
2. Ex Machina
3. Kingsman: The Secret Service
4. Mad Max: Fury Road
5. Jurassic World 

Now, as far as worst films, I've seen a ton of shitty films this year. It's actually hard to narrow it down. 


1. Serena
2. Blackhat
3. She's Funny That Way
4. Chappie
5. Terminator: Genisys
6. Aloha
7. 50 Shades of Grey
8. Unfinished Business
9. The Loft
10. Focus