Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Thoughts on 5 Films

1. Creed - Expectations were beyond high. I've heard nothing but rave reviews for this movie and several people I trust included it in their 'best of last' year lists. I liked it; certainly among the best of last year, but it's doubtful it will make my Top 10 list, once I re-evaluate in July. The strongest part of the movie was the acting and it's reliance on nostalgia of the Rocky films. I'm a big fan of Michael B. Jordan (have been since Parenthood), and Tessa Thompson is a fantastic up-and-coming young actress (see Dear White People). I've always liked Sylvester Stallone. Maybe not as an actor so much, but I like his personality. He seems like a genuine guy who is appreciative of the life that he's been blessed with, plus he doesn't take himself too seriously. His role as Rocky is perhaps one of the most iconic roles in the history of films, and this was a nice end to the character. The story is pretty expected and predictable, but it still held my interest. I think I was expecting more, though, because when it was over, I was left feeling a little disappointed. I don't think the movie was deserving of any Oscar talk to be honest; It was a very typical boxing movie. I think people confuse the Oscars with what is liked by the masses, but there are other awards shows that cover that. The Oscars are supposed to be reserved for excellence and ingenuity in film-making; this was just a well-made movie - nothing more, nothing less.

2. The Night Before - I didn't really hear much about this movie, which was disappointing because it seemed like it would be really funny. I'm glad I didn't watch the trailer or hear anything, because it kept it all fresh for my viewing. I laughed a lot. Plus, it's really genuinely sweet and heartfelt, and it actually has a great Holiday message. The cast is perfect - JGL is one of my faves, Anthony Mackie is even more charismatic than JGL (didn't know that was possible), and there is a perfect amount of Seth Rogen (too much Seth Rogen can ruin a movie). Then there is also Lizzy Caplan (I love that everyone is jumping on the Caplan train, but I've been there for a while now. Watch Party Down if you are a fan), Jillian Bell (who was probably the funniest character in 22 Jump Street), and Michael Shannon as the creepy drug-dealer. This probably isn't a movie that would hold up on multiple viewings, but I still dug it. The best part is that they don't villainize the women; they aren't the shrews that the men are trying to get away from for the night. The other best part is the end when they legitimize the Miley Cyrus "Wrecking Ball" song because it's such a superb song. It's probably among my top 10 favorite pop songs of the last 10 years. And this is coming from someone who does not like Cyrus, at all. The song is just so fucking beautiful, though. Anyway, overall, I thought it was a pretty solid Holiday comedy.

3. Truth - Someone recently told me about the existence of this movie; a movie about the Dan Rather controversy. Initially, I thought it sounded interesting, then they told me about the cast - Robert Redford, Topher Grace, Elisabeth Moss, CATE BLANCHETT!! How did this movie receive absolutely zero advertising? So, then I assumed it was probably a terrible movie. I still added it to the top of my list (because CATE BLANCHETT). It's not exactly terrible, but it's just really bland. I vaguely remember the story, but I guess I never realized that it really didn't have much to do with Rather; instead it was her fuck up. As the producer of the segment, she was responsible, and she was fired for it, but she's not really a household name, so maybe that's why I didn't know the details. I think the film could have been a little more interesting if they focused on the blatant misogyny that she suffered as a result of a mistake (a mistake that has been made by many journalists). Really anything that gives Blanchett more to work with would have helped the film. The last monologue that she gives is better than the entire movie.

4. Freeheld - I really liked this movie. I looked at some reviews after I watched it and was surprised by the lack of praise. It has a great (and still relevant) story, it's well-acted (especially from Julianne Moore), and it highlights the importance of supporting humanity over our own interests. The story is based on the true events of a lesbian couple in New Jersey who were domestic partners (but not married, because it wasn't legal); one finds out she is dying of cancer and unfortunately she had to fight the "freeholders" in order to have her pension transferred to her partner. What I liked (and what it was ultimately criticized for) is that it involves getting the support of the other police officers, her work partner, in particular. He is played by Michael Shannon, and I found his role the most essential to the story. Sure, I understand that it is frustrating to have a straight white male, who is clearly uncomfortable around gay people, as the hero. However, this is who minorities and under-served communities NEED support from. He speaks to the hypocrisy of the sanctity of marriage and even threatens to marry the dying cop just to collect her pension and then give it to her partner. A fake marriage is still considered more legitimate than a real same-sex marriage, and that's the biggest key to the marriage equality issue. He also speaks to the fact that she, as a notably strong police officer, would never compromise her integrity and she shouldn't have to. If more straight white males started speaking out to the injustices in the world, maybe people would start to listen. Anyway, I did find some faults in the movie. It would have been a stronger film if they focused a little more on the connection between these two women - their chemistry was non-existent, and the story didn't really give us any reason as to why they fell in love. The characters were a little one-note, and not really that interesting. However, it still held my interest the whole time, and it made me angry (a good angry; a passionate angry).

5. Bone Tomahawk - This movie is fantastic. A really, really well done modern western. It's not really a genre that I'm a fan of, but if it's done well like this, then I love it.'s terrifying. I mean, I would classify it almost as a horror film. There are moments that are really intense, especially at the end. And there are moments that will be burned in my memory forever (if you've seen it, then you know one particular scene that I'm referring to. UM OMG I CAN'T EVEN). The story is so simple - rescue the girl - but it's just done so masterfully. It's bloody and violent, but still quiet and reserved. Plus, I love Kurt Russell (who doesn't??). The other actors are all fantastic - extra points for Richard Jenkins (I didn't even realize it was him until the last act. He just embodied a completely different person. Incredible.), but also a few negative points for Matthew Fox. He wasn't terrible, and he did fit the character (the arrogance was spot-on), but he just seemed so dull compared to his co-stars. There was no passion in his acting. Anyway, that's probably my only criticism. It will likely make my top 10 list of last year. I'm definitely feeling better about 2015 movies, now that I've been on a fast-track of catching up. There are some really strong films that I've enjoyed recently. This is definitely one of them.

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