Friday, April 29, 2016

Summer Movie Preview: 13 Movies That I'm Excited For

1. Captain America: Civil War (5/6) - While I'm not as excited about this movie as everyone else, I'm not not excited. I'm looking forward to the introduction of Black Panther and I've already heard great things about the new Spidey. Also, the last Captain America was far better than the last Avengers movie. However, I still don't really like the idea of superheroes fighting each other. I feel like they already covered that idea in Age of Ultron and it was one of the reasons as to why that movie was so dull. I think it's interesting that most people claimed "team cap" way before the movie was released, because as much as of an asshole that Tony Stark/Iron Man is, I'm pretty sure he is on the right side (morally), while Steve just wants to save his friend. I still don't really get the whole Bucky thing, but man, people really take that shit seriously.

2. Money Monster (5/13) - The title of this movie is so off-putting, but the trailer looks pretty intense (and gave away the whole story...grrrrr). It looks like one of those Denzel Washington movies from the 90s (John Q comes to mind. Was that 90s? I'm too lazy to look it up.). The talent involved is pretty great - Roberts, Clooney, directed by Jodie Foster - but, I'm really excited for Jack O'Connell. He's picking some really challenging roles, and he is KILLING it. He will always be Cook from Skins, to me, but he is super talented, so it's nice to see him succeed.

3. The Nice Guys (5/20) - I don't actually think this looks very funny. I've seen the trailer twice, the first time I was mildly entertained, but didn't really understand what everyone was laughing at; the second time, it was almost painful to watch. The jokes just don't land at all. But it's Ryan Gosling. So, I'm there.

4. Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising (5/20) - I LOVED the first one. I thought it was hilarious. It even made my first installment of top 10 movies of 2014 (but it eventually got cut). I'm surprised that I only saw it one time so far, because there are so many moments that are burned in my memory. That movie made me a Zac Efron fan. He did such a great job, along with Dave Franco. Rose Byrne was obviously my favorite part, so I hope her amazingness continues here. I didn't even know they were making a sequel until I saw the trailer, and it had me in a fit of laughter (particularly, when the girls are jumping on the car and Rogen is quietly protesting.).

5. X-Men: Apocalypse (5/27) - I'm so lost with the X-Men universe, but I've seen every movie. There are too many timelines and too many generations and too many characters. Yet, I tend to enjoy each movie to some degree. Probably because of the cast (*cough* James McAvoy). There are even more characters being introduced in this one, with Olivia Munn as Psylocke (yes, please) and Oscar Isaac as the villain (meh...). But my favorite newcomer to the series is Tye Sheridan as Cyclops! He's awesome!

6. Swiss Army Man (6/17) - Oddly referred to as the "farting corpse movie", I am only really interested in this movie because I used to work with the producers. They've made some interesting choices lately, so I have faith that this will be interesting as well. I don't really know anything else about it, and hopefully I can keep it that way (it's definitely easier with smaller films to stay in the dark).

7. The Neon Demon (6/?) - I'm going to try my best to not watch the trailer, but I will probably break soon. I'm a big fan of Nicolas Winding Refn - his films are always interesting and beautiful, with Drive being a rare "perfect" film. I'm also a big fan of Elle Fanning - she was wonderful in Super 8, I'm excited to see her in a young adult role.

8. Independence Day: Resurgence (6/24) - I don't know if I can fully get on board an Independence Day movie without Will Smith. And then, they went and re-cast Mae Whitman's role as the president's daughter?! What the fuck. I almost want to boycott it for that reason, alone. But I won't. I'm a sucker. Of course, I have to see this movie.

9. Ghostbusters (7/15) - Okay, okay...I sort of get the outrage. I don't really think a remake for this movie is necessary, and an "all female" cast is just as sexist and exclusive as an "all male" cast. The thing is, Paul Feig has done incredible things for women in comedy, with both Bridesmaids and The Heat, I don't know why he (or they) felt the need to "announce" that this movie was going to be "all female". Making it into a big thing, has made it a big thing. He could have just been like "I'm making a Ghostbusters movie and this is the cast". I hate the whole "separate but equal" thing that is happening with the feminist movement. I just want to be equal. I don't need Huffington Post to send me a link of the funniest things that women said on the internet. I don't need for people to declare that they are watching 52 movies made by women this year. It's really grating. Anyway, back to the movie. I saw the trailer, and I really didn't think it looked very good, but I'm still curious. I love Kristen Wiig so much (she is one of my favorite actresses right now. Yes, seriously.) and Melissa McCarthy is great in ensemble comedies. I don't know much about Kate McKinnon or Leslie Jones (I haven't watched SNL in forever), but I admit that every time I see a still shot of McKinnon, I think it's Elizabeth Banks, and then I get really disappointed that it's not.

10. Jason Bourne (7/29) - FUCK YES!!! I'm so glad that Damon is back! I didn't mind the Renner one, but it's just not the same. The Bourne series, as a whole, is incredible; each movie really has its own strengths, but there is a cohesion among them (even the Renner one) that brings them all together. I'm excited for the story to continue.

11. Bad Moms (7/29) - I don't really know much about this movie, but it has Mila Kunis and Kathryn Hahn, so I'm instantly interested.

12. Suicide Squad (8/5) - I was super weary of this movie, but then the trailer arrived and I instantly jumped on board. It's now probably my most anticipated movie of the summer (it's a strong tie between this and Jason Bourne). Like most people, I adore Margot Robbie - to think, just four years ago she was a supporting role in Pan Am, now she is EVERYWHERE. I don't really understand the obsession with Harley Quinn, but I don't really know that much about the character so I'm willing to give her a shot. This definitely has an interesting cast - I would never expect Will Smith to do a role like this, it's such an ensemble role. I love Jay Hernandez and Joel Kinnaman. I'm extremely nervous about Jai Courtney and Cara Delevingne (both are not good actors). And Jared Leto could go either way, really. I really hope the tone of the movie is the same that is featured in the trailer.

13. War Dogs (8/19) - Jonah Hill has really stepped up as an actor, and this movie looks like another strong step. Partnered with Miles Teller (YES!), this story is a crazy one, and it definitely looks like it will make for a fascinating movie (and hopefully darkly hilarious, as well).

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

3 Thoughts on Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

1. Batman v Superman - To be honest, I'm not very keen on the idea of two superheroes fighting each other. To have two people who are trying to do good in this world, work against each other, forcing us to root for one of them to fail, just doesn't sit right with me. The film does a decent job of setting up a realistic reason for these two to be at odds with each other ("realistic" is a relative term in this case). And, just like any sane person expected, it is because of the destruction that occurred in Man of Steel. I was one of the few who couldn't care less about this destruction - it happens in every superhero movie, Man of Steel just emphasized it more. But it was nice to have some closure - and give people a reason to root for Batman (as if he needs it). I, for one, root for Batman, in this case, just because Ben Affleck did an AWESOME job of filling the cape. His Batman was different - darker, wiser, and a bit psychotic. Meanwhile, Henry Cavill still bores me as Superman. I hate using the word "boring" when describing Superman, because as a character, he is far from that, but I just don't think there has been a modern take on the character that has nailed the role. Cavill is so stiff and emotionless, and my interpretation of Superman is far from that (which is why I am LOVING the Supergirl tv show - it perfects the love that Supergirl has for humans and this planet).

2. DC v Marvel - Again, I don't understand the competition between the two. One can enjoy both, right? One can also have genuine criticism of either of them without it being part of an agenda, right? I would consider myself "new" to the comic book universe that lives on film - because I've never read any comics, all of my knowledge comes directly from these films. Although, I would say that my favorite superhero is Wonder Woman (I watched the tv show when I was a kid, and I love Greek mythology. I don't know her history in the comics, but I know her history as a feminist icon). If I were to base it solely on superheroes on film, I would say that my favorite superhero is Spider-Man. I love the first Iron Man movie, as well as the first Avengers movie, but I found it hard to sit-through several of the Marvel movies that followed (the Thor movies, the first Captain America movie, the second and third Iron Man movies). I absolutely love Batman Begins, but I have genuine criticism of both The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight rises. NONE of my criticism comes from whether I prefer DC or Marvel, it has to do with my love of films. So here is my criticism of Dawn of Justice

3. Logic v Stupidity - It's not nearly as bad as some critics made it out to be. It's waaaaaay too long, it suffers from some poor editing choices, and the plot is a little all over the place, but overall I enjoyed it for what it was. I don't know where the hate for Zack Snyder came from, because he has such an interesting aesthetic; the one thing I can always say about his films is that they are so stunning to look at. The beginning of this movie was just so gorgeous - the images evoke emotions that are hard to imagine considering we've all seen Bruce's parents murdered several times. How did he still make that interesting? It's such a successful moment, that I have a hard time criticizing something so powerful. What I can criticize this movie for is the absolutely ridiculously dumb plot. First, if Batman was in Metropolis, then why didn't he help Superman defeat Zod? That would surely negate the whole purpose of this film, if, you know, they just worked together to begin with. Second, what the hell was the whole Africa thing about? Superman was framed for murdering people in Africa? Um...why? He's Superman, so he doesn't need a gun to kill people (which is how these people were murdered). Why would anyone believe that he did this? Third, don't even get me started on the "Martha" thing. Fourth, it seems like Superman always knows where Lois is, which is why he's always there to save her (blergh), ok fine, maybe he has some sort of sixth sense, right? But then why can't he figure out where Lex took his own mother? Fifth, the introduction of Wonder Woman was indeed awesome, but definitely felt unnecessary. Her entire part could have been cut and it wouldn't be a disservice to the film (it might actually help it). And why does Batman act like he doesn't know who she is at the end? He says "I thought she was with you", as if he hasn't already looked into her past. Sixth, as much as I kind of liked Eisenberg's Lex Luther (it was super weird and uncomfortable to watch, but at least it was interesting), I have no idea what it was that he was actually trying to do. Was his whole evil plot to create Doomsday? Because that felt like it was an accident. Anyway, I can probably list another 20 or so things wrong with the film, but I could probably do that with EVERY superhero movie. Instead, I choose to have fun with it. 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Thoughts on 5 Films

1. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 - So, unlike most people, I liked the first Mockingjay movie more than I liked the first two films of the series (and overall, I've enjoyed them all). I really liked how much the story evolves and becomes bigger than the "games". However, I do see that the Mockingjay part of the story was really stretched out in order to fill two movies, and this was completely unnecessary. They could have easily made a really solid, concise 2 hour movie - and it could have been fantastic. Part 2 felt so repetitive and slow, which somehow effects my thoughts on Part 1, so it's almost a disservice to the strong film that precedes it. It's also really predictable (and I've never read the novel). I felt like I knew every sentence before Katniss says it, and it was obvious that the whole point was to stop the "cycle" - and it's clear who is keen on continuing this "cycle", and it's not Donald Sutherland (I don't remember his character's name...Snow? Maybe.). As a series, though, this is such a surprisingly incredible tale, with themes of survival, sacrifice, violence and death as a form of entertainment, political upheavals, propaganda, the media's influence on war and politics, love, friendship and so much more. It far exceeded my expectations, and opened up my mind on the potential of YA novels. Jennifer Lawrence is at her very best, and never falters once through all four films. The rest of the cast left very little imprints in my opinion (except maybe for Josh Hutcherson and Elizabeth Banks). It's not that they weren't good, but I just had to keep reminding myself of who they were and how they related to the story. As predictable as the ending is, it is perfectly executed and wraps up the story nicely.

2. Miss You Already - I think it's odd that I didn't really hear anything about this movie. It was an independent movie, but it has a fantastic cast - Drew Barrymore, Toni Collette, Dominic Cooper, Paddy Considine. The only reason I knew anything about it was because Barrymore did promotion for it on The Tonight Show. I think any girl my age loves Drew Barrymore. She was everything when I was a kid (Firestarter was one of my favorite movies when I was young, it also scared the Hell out of me). As an adult, I get compared to Drew a lot (not in looks, obviously, but in personality), which I personally think is super weird and a distorted view of my personality. I'm certainly not the "free-spirit" that Drew presents herself as. I do, however, love to laugh, and I think most people see her as this really awkward, but really confident person - and I guess that is me. The older I get, the more I understand the comparison. Anyway, Toni Collette is one of my favorite actresses. I've never seen her falter. I love this movie for one reason: It's about two best friends who are complimentary of each other. They are not in competition with each other, instead they are supportive. They do not fight over a love interest (this is the plot device in most movies about two female best friends). And they would drop everything to be there for one and other. I felt it was a really honest and true depiction of best friends who are more like sisters. The rest of the movie is a little too sappy for my taste. It's like an modern version of Beaches, but just not as memorable. I really didn't like how the husbands were portrayed, considering how "right" they got the female characters, I don't think either of these women would put up with these assholes. Catherine Hardwicke (the director) is most known for Twilight, which is sad because I had such high hopes for her after Thirteen. I think she can gain her clout back if she does more personal stories like this.

3. Carol - Stunning imagery, sublime performances, absolutely boring movie. I'm sorry, I just don't get the praise for the film, as a whole. And it just moved so slowly. I know people were upset that it was nominated for 6 Oscars, but shutout of Best Picture and Rooney Mara, but I think it's exactly how it should be. The movie looked like a moving Edward Hopper painting (which is a good thing, obviously). Every scene was just so wonderful to look at, so a Cinematography nomination is very well-deserved (and I wouldn't even argue a win). Cate Blanchett is a goddess. She just keeps getting better and better, which seems impossible. She's in a league of her own, at this point - untouchable. There were some surprising supporting performances (Sarah Paulson, for one - who absolutely killed it in The People vs OJ), but Mara is probably the weakest link (and also not really a "supporting" performance). I like Rooney, but I never really agree with the high praise that she receives. She's a good actress, not great. In this film, she looks like she's in pain the whole time (like physical pain, not emotional pain). The part of the movie that I did like is that this woman chooses her daughter over her love interest (yes, it's a horrible position to be put in), but then she ruins it by letting her ex-husband have full custody (he obviously has anger issues and should not have sole custody of a child). I just don't understand the motivation behind that decision at all. So, I'm not fully on-board with the story, either. Anyway, on a side note, how beautiful is this poster?

4. Bridge of Spies - I enjoy some Cold War stuff. For example, The Americans is probably the best show on television right now (it's an extremely close tie with Mr. Robot). However, some Cold War stuff is extremely boring - like Tinker, Tailor, Snoozefest. It's hard to judge a film/tv show based on the theme of the "Cold War" simply because it's such an expansive time period of 40+ years, so for me, I tend to enjoy stuff based on characters, which is why The Americans is so successful. It's an American show that has us rooting for the enemy because we care about the characters. It puts a human emphasis on violence and the impact it has (no matter what side you're on). Bridge of Spies is similar in the way it shows empathy for the enemy. Steven Spielberg is the perfect person to put this story on the big screen and make it feel epic. Tom Hanks is a national treasure, and his performance here is perfectly "Tom Hanks" - and yes, you know exactly what I mean. Mark Rylance deserved the Oscar nomination (I would have voted for Christian Bale for the the win). However, the film, overall, just didn't do much for me. The first hour is excellent, but it starts to trail off and I felt my mind wander. All of the sudden, I realized that I had no idea what was happening with the plot because I couldn't even force myself to pay attention. Then, the ending picks up again, and is super tense. I think it's odd that the end notes that this man (based on a true person) was responsible for the release of 9000 prisoners from Cuba. I mean, that seems like a much bigger story, no?

5. Spotlight - Of all the Oscar nominated films that I missed last year, this is the most disappointing. Probably because it won best picture, I expected it to be, you know, the best picture. It's not (that would be Room, although I still have yet to see The Revenant). It's a good movie, I guess. I just don't really see anything special about it. It's a compelling story, but the impact of it is lost because I don't think anyone in 2016 is surprised by this cover-up. It's all very well-known, so the story about uncovering this needs to have more to it - like depth to the characters, for one. I don't think I could tell you anything about any character in this movie. Aside from the obvious, they are the reporters who uncovered this massive story. I think the only thing that was interesting is that it was pushed into smaller stories because of the "bigger" story (9/11), but that isn't even explored, really. It's just sort of thrown at the audience and then it moves on. I was surprised the most by Rachel McAdam's nomination (because, really, whaaaaat?!), and after seeing the film, I am still surprised. She's not awful (I don't think she's ever awful), just dull. It's a great cast, but I don't think any of the characters were particularly hard or interesting to portray. The film is just very cut and dry - and it doesn't take a whole lot of talent to take a story like this and turn it into a "good" movie.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

3 Thoughts on Midnight Special

1. Small stories vs big stories - Not only is Jeff Nichols now "3 for 3" with this movie (his two other films, Mud and Take Shelter, in which he wrote and directed, are both sublime), he's creating something special in terms of the types of films he's making. While all three movies are completely different in subject, they are similar in tone and scale. They are individualized stories, focused on developing character and building emotion, within a bigger worldview. It's taking the narcissism out of storytelling. Mud comes from the perspective of a child's view, but as audience members, we know that there is so much more information that is directly effecting the plot. Take Shelter focuses on this man, who from an outside perspective is failing at providing for his family, yet his focuses is on the bigger picture - its symbolism is a little more obvious, but it's still the same in terms of focusing on the individual within this gigantic universe. Midnight Special is even more extreme in its universal scale, but again the focus is on one family, and more specifically one man's relationship with his son. It's beautiful, even when it turns ugly, and it's complicated, even when it seems easy.

2. Michael Shannon and Adam Driver - Michael Shannon is something special. This collaboration with Nichols is even more special (he's been in all three films, although his appearance in Mud is comparatively tiny). It's rare to find an actor who has a large screen presence, but also shines in his ability to be subtle and introspective. Going into this movie, I knew very little about it, and was only aware of Shannon as the star. I was pleasantly surprised by Kirsten Dunst (who has my newfound respect after Melancholia, and more recently her stunning performance in season two of Fargo). Also for Joel Edgerton who had probably my favorite role as the loyal friend, he has no idea what is happening, only that he is part of something bigger than he can ever imagine. Then, fucking Adam Driver shows up and my eyes almost bugged out of my head (I internally screamed "NOOOOOO" the moment I saw his face). He is one of the worst current working actors today. I know he has a big fan base, and I haven't seen the new Star Wars movie yet, but I've seen him in plenty (the first season of Girls, This is Where I Leave You, While We're Young) and I've tried so hard to see what others see, but I just don't. Luckily, this is the first time, I didn't hate him. When the movie was over, I thought, "ok, I still don't like him, but at least he didn't ruin the movie for me". However, I got home and started reading some reviews of the film, and a few people described Driver as the new Jeff Goldblum, and it blew my mind, as the most perfect description. And I LOVE me some Jeff Goldblum, and I love him because he's odd, nuanced, and deliciously awkward. I'm not entirely convinced that Driver is as talented (he needs to work on timing, which is something Goldblum has perfected), but this comparison opens up my mind to the endless possibilities of Driver's career.

3. The ending *spoilers, obviously* - If you've seen Take Shelter, you can guess how this movie will end. Nichols does not shy away from following through with "unrealistic" possibilities. So, the entire movie builds up the fact that this child could possibly be an alien (no other scientific realities are even offered), or, as the cult believes, a God. For a story that is based in our reality, neither is "believable" and yet, the ending, is perfect. It's a jarring spectacle, but that's what makes it so special. The best part is that this is the fourth 2016 movie that I've seen in a row, in which I would be surprised if it didn't make my Top 10 of the year! This year is starting off spectacularly.