Monday, February 6, 2017

Thoughts on 5 Films

1. American Honey - I was really excited about this movie, until I saw that the runtime is almost 3 hours, which seems TOTALLY unnecessary for this story. I read some really strong reviews, most of which is praise for Sasha Lane, while also addressing the length - most claim that it "flies by". I agree with Sasha Lane; she is spectacular, especially for a debut performance. The length, though, is the films detriment. I felt every single second of it. They could have EASILY edited it by at least 30 minutes without effecting the film at all (first step - get rid of most of the scenes inside the van. One or two would have sufficed). I don't want to focus on the negative, though, because I get why it is dragged out, repetitive, and a little dull in parts - to emphasize this "life on the road" lifestyle. And in that sense, I think that it is successful. They also get the whole American "trash" life very authentically (I was raised in that lifestyle for part of my childhood, and I still embrace it - but probably because I got out of it. I can look at it and appreciate what I've learned from it). Lane and Shia LaBeouf have wonderful chemistry. I will once again point out that LaBeouf is a fantastic actor, and he is more in his element in smaller, independent films like this (and A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints - if you haven't seen it, get on it NOW). He will always get shit on for the Transformers films, and because he's always been a garbage human being (who is currently redeeming himself), but I will always stick up for him, as an actor, anyway. He plays this charming leader of this cult-like door-to-door sales team, and he perfectly embodies someone that would earn your trust due to his likeability and ability to convince people that they are special. The film is littered with these oddly beautiful shots, combined with a similar narrative structure, it definitely reminds me a lot of Spring Breakers, which a lot of people loved (I liked it); it's probably not as memorable, though.

2. I Am Not a Serial Killer - I didn't really know what to expect with this movie, and just taking the title as literally as possible, I assumed the movie was about a guy being accused of murder, and him convincing us that he didn't do it. That's not really what it's about at all (LOL). *slight spoilers ahead* It's about a young man, who realized at a young age that he has the same tendencies as homicidal maniacs, trying to live a "normal" life by setting rules for himself to keep himself from murdering people - it's basically the beginning of Dexter before he starts murdering people. The title is almost his mantra, if you will, his need to convince himself ,"I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER". Things start to fall apart for him when a series of murders start to happen in his town. He investigates, and finds out who the murderer is and then tries to stop him from murdering people. It's interesting as a horror movie, because it actually offers an interesting, original plot (I honestly thought all the possible horror plots have been used), but it's also even more interesting as a character drama because it relies on the notion that you can change who you are. You can become someone other than yourself. The idea that someone can sacrifice their own personal need to murder, and instead become a hero, is incredibly fascinating (and oddly) heartwarming. There is also a really awesome sci-fi twist to the story, and I loved every second of it. I miss Christopher Lloyd. I feel like I haven't seen him in anything in years, and honestly, this might just be his best work yet.

3. Bridget Jones's Baby - I'm a big fan of Bridget Jones. It's the only role I've enjoyed Renee Zellweger in (oh and Chicago, but I'm convinced it's only because the movie is awesome - I mean, even Catherine Zeta-Jones is good in it, and that's saying something). I have to admit, though, I definitely saw the second one, and liked it, but I have no recollection of it whatsoever (in my defense, I've only seen it once and that was 12 years ago!). This one starts with her being single (so I guess her and Mark break-up at some point in the second one??), and Daniel is dead (wow...that's not funny, and side-note did everyone else think he was going to appear at some point? Why would they note that the body was never found? That's odd foreshadowing that never went anywhere...), and she is struggling to date at 44. It starts off in the right direction - with Jones switching from Celine Dion's All By Myself (a song that is synonymous with Bridget Jones) to House of Pain's Jump Around - making me feel sufficiently old (THANKS). But then, it just gets dumb - Jones and her friend attend a concert featuring the very famous Ed Sheeran and don't recognize him (my mom is 55 and describes him as having "the voice of an angel"). There is no way someone who runs a news program doesn't know one of the most famous singers in the world. Anyway, that's just one example of the ridiculous "out of touch" plot. While I applaud the story for being about a woman having a baby at 44, and embracing her age at every turn, it felt a little too forced - her doctor describes her as "geriatric", a term used for elderly people; sure, it's funny to see her reaction, but there is no way a DOCTOR would describe a 44 year old as "geriatric". It's just dumb. Then, there's the whole triangle thing between Mark and a new love interest - McDreamy (he's always the rich, handsome, "McDreamy" character), and it's obvious as to who she will pick (and obvi that's whose baby it will end up being). It gets really boring and repetitive around the half-way mark, so I'm sad to say that this whole endeavor was just a waste of time.

4. Love & Friendship - I've read amazing reviews for this movie, some citing Kate Beckinsale's performance as award-worthy. While I adore her, I found the praise for her, and this movie,  a *little* hard to believe. First, as I've said before, I'm not really a fan of Jane Austen. All of her novels are the same - catty women and asshole men eventually find themselves in love with each other. Second, Beckinsale is great in the Underworld movies, but when she's in a serious role, she's a little bland - to pull off this dialogue, I think a stronger actress is needed - someone with more of a presence. And after watching this movie, I stand by these two things. As an adaptation of Lady Susan (no, I've never read it and it's unlikely that I ever will), it's exactly like every other Austen story. And, to me, it's just sooooo boring. And it doesn't even make sense - like none of these people are in love, it's just all for show and money. I just couldn't get into it at all. There were some amusing moments, and witty dialogue, but not enough to make me like the story, or root for any of the characters. Or pay attention to it after an hour. Beckinsale is charming and sweet, but it's no different than every other actress who has performed in an Austen adaptation. I guess, with all of the praise, I just expected something exciting. Something different.

5. Triple 9 - HOLY SHIT THIS CAST. Casey Affleck, Anthony Mackie, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Woody Harrelson, Kate Winslet, Aaron Paul....should I go on??? OKAY....Gal Gadot, Clifton Collins Jr, Teresa Palmer, and a tiny but memorable appearance by Michael K. Williams. INSANE right?! And obviously, it's not a good movie. If it were a good movie, with this cast, it would have been MUCH more popular. Instead, I barely heard of it, other than a few whispers in the film twitter universe. It's an interesting movie, with a decent, inventive plot, but it just goes nowhere and is edited terribly. The casting choices...were interesting, to say the least. I mean, Kate Winslet is one of the greatest working actresses today, but a Russian mob leader? Um...I don't buy it at all. It was incredibly distracting (although I did like that the "bad guy" was a woman - a terrifying, "no holds barred" woman). I also was really disturbed by Aaron Paul's over-acting white trash "fuck-up" of the group - a role that he should seemingly excel in based on past roles - but he was terrible. Casey Affleck, Anthony Mackie and Clifton Collins Jr. kept my interest, they stood out in every scene among a huge ensemble. Ejiofor is inconsequential, which is ultimately problematic considering it's really "his" story for the most part. I enjoyed this movie, parts are intense, parts are surprising, but overall it's not cohesive and disappointing for a cast of this caliber.

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