Friday, July 14, 2017

Emmy Nominations: The Good, The Bad, and The Snubbed

The Good: 

-Honestly, it's ALL good. Television is great. I love it all. Better Call Saul, Westworld, Veep, Stranger Things, Atlanta, Feud, Black Mirror, Master of None. The list just continues to grow.

-While The Americans slipped this past season (it went from my favorite Drama on television to not even in my Top 10), Keri Russell is still incredible.

-This is Us getting nominated makes up slightly for the years of Parenthood snubs. Sterling K. Brown is fantastic, but it's a supporting performance (as is Milo Ventimiglia who should not have been nominated at all). Why is Crissy Metz in the supporting category, while the males are for lead? It doesn't make any sense. Although, it was smart on Metz's behalf, because she could not compete against the female lead competition.

-How great would it be for Donald Glover to win Actor, Writer, and Director for Atlanta? I would love that so much. Although, Aziz Ansari definitely deserves the Writing win for Master of None because the second season is pure joy.

The Bad: 

-This was easily the worst season of House of Cards. The only nomination that I'm sort of ok with is Robin Wright

-Stranger Things is great, but a nomination for Barb? A character that is only remembered because of an Internet meme? Oh, do fuck off.

-People being angry for Modern Family nominations: You can fuck off, too. I'm glad the Emmys have continued to nominate this show even in the face of criticism. It's still one of the funniest shows on television - and it still feels fresh. That's hard to do after so many years in this television climate.

-I know it's a weird thing to complain about, but there is simply too much television! It's impossible to keep up. I haven't seen The Handmaid's Tale, The Leftovers, Big Little Lies, The Crown, Transparent, or The Night of. I need them to just stop making new television for like 3 months so I can catch up with everything.

The Snubbed:

-The biggest snub of the year is easily Michael McKean, who probably should have won the category. I adore Jonathan Banks (Mike has always been a favorite character of mine), but McKean owned this season of Better Call Saul.

-I haven't seen The Leftovers yet (I KNOW), but I trust the majority - and everyone seems to be saying that this was the best television had to offer this year (which is a huge statement)

-Nothing for Brooklyn Nine-Nine, really? Andre Braugher, Terry Crews, and Chelsea Peretti are a given. My comedy category always seems to defer from awards shows (mine would be: Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Better Things, Mom, Master of None, Atlanta, Modern Family, and Speechless, and Veep. Yes, I know that's 8. I don't care!).

-I'm surprisingly ok with Mr. Robot getting snubbed - I don't even remember the second season at all

3 Thoughts on Baby Driver

1. The technique - This seems to be a film that is universally loved, although I have seen a few people claiming it doesn't live up to the hype. But I think everyone can agree that technically, it's brilliant. Like, a stunning piece of film-making. Most are talking about the practical effects used for the car chases (which is why it seemed so real, as opposed to the Fast & Furious franchise) and/or the use of musical cues for action sequences and editing scenes. But, I for one, am obsessed with a well done long tracking shot, and this film has several. One even competes with Shame, as it has Baby walking through NYC, and I just smiled for its entirety. This scene alone won me over. The rest of the movie is filled with spectacular car chase scenes, beautifully quiet character-driven moments, and downright genius musical cues. To set the pace of a film along with music - and not in a soundtrack way because the music is an integral part of the story, is probably the most creative thing I've seen done in a film in years. It will be hard to top this as my favorite movie of the year.

2. The cast - Another thing that won me over is the cast. I was a big fan of Ansel Elgort in The Fault in Our Stars. He displayed the perfect amount of positivity and vulnerability, and it literally broke my heart. However, I kind of assumed that I liked him just because I connected with that movie so much (I *still* use the "great and terrible 10" as a guide for painful experiences). I didn't actually believe that Ansel was ready for a lead role. I think I described him as "dopey" back then, and my description still stands. Yet, he absolutely killed it in this role. Jon Hamm was unexpectedly really fun, while Jamie Foxx and Kevin Spacey played more expected roles (still fun to watch). I was on the fence about Lily James (she was boring as Cinderella but great in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies), but damn if she wasn't trying to perfect a modern day version of Alabama Whitman, she did it anyway (more on this later). And to round out the cast, Eiza Gonzalez is stunning (from the series of From Dusk Till Dawn, I knew I recognized her!!). All actors displayed the perfect amount of grit and cheesiness. And it was all extremely fun to watch.

3. The influences - I think everyone's initial reaction is to compare it to Drive. But it turns out, it's nothing like it at all. In fact, remember how upset everyone was initially about how misleading the Drive trailer was? Well, this is the movie that I think everyone was expecting Drive to be. It's fast, thrilling, non-organic, and the complete opposite of Drive in every way. The only real connection is that it's about a driver who doesn't talk much. For me, this film had more of a retro True Romance vibe to it. I've seen a few other reviewers describing it that way, as well. Sure, it has many other influences (Heat, Reservoir Dogs, The Driver), but the overlying plot point is the romance - and it is pure Clarence and Alabama love. I've also seen many (female) critics take issue with this love, and this female character (OH HEAVEN FORBID IT DOESN'T PASS THE ARCHAIC BECHDEL TEST), but the movie is not about her. She's not part of the group - her existence in the plot is to give Baby a reason to get out; to survive. Every character is an archetype, so it's not problematic that she is too. Honestly, a multi-dimensional female character would have felt out of place in this film - none of the characters, with the exception of Baby, were given layers.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Best Films of 2016 ***Updated***

Here is my updated Best of 2016 list. I don't think my updated list has ever changed *this* much in the span of 6 months - a total of 7 new movies added (and therefore 7 movies dropped - but that doesn't mean I love them any less!).

1. Train to Busan
2. La La Land 
3. 10 Cloverfield Lane
4. Captain Fantastic
5. Arrival
6. Manchester by the Sea
7. Nocturnal Animals
8. The Handmaiden
9. Hacksaw Ridge
10. Deadpool 

Unfortunately, I was still not able to see everything I wanted to see before updating my list - I still need to see Hidden Figures, Loving, and The Edge of 17, but I think this is a pretty solid list representing the best of last year!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Thoughts on 5 Films

1. Kill Your Friends - This is a terrible movie. Just terrible. The best way to describe it is as a wannabe American Psycho mixed with Filth, except with awful acting and a really dumb plot. There is a scene in which the main character violently kills someone accompanied by the song "Smack My Bitch Up". That's how obvious and cliche this movie is. It's about A&R execs at a major record company in the late 90s (which is relevant because that's when record companies were relevant), and they are all very evil people. I interned at 2 major record companies about 5 years after this movie takes place, and I can say from personal experience that people working in the music industry (even on the corporate side) are not this menacing at all - especially in the A&R department. These people tend to LOVE music, and have a passion for discovering talent. Yes, they also party a lot (it's part of the job), but the way this movie represents this whole process is very disturbing. I realize that it's not supposed to be realistic and that it's "just a movie", but I can't help but call bullshit. The audience is obviously not supposed to like the main character - he says things like "I have zero interest in her sexually, so she doesn't exist" about a female co-worker and, oh yeah, murders people. But you're not supposed to like the main characters from American Psycho or Filth, and yet through the writing and acting, I was able to still enjoy watching these terrible, evil people. With this film, I cringed every time Nicholas Hoult spoke and I just wanted to whole thing to end as quickly as possible. Plus, it has James Corden in it, so...I mean, that says it all really.

2. The Infiltrator - Nothing memorable or special, but a solid 3 star movie. Great performances by Bryan Cranston, John Leguizamo, and a stand-out performance from Diane Kruger. Perhaps my opinion of this movie is marred by the existence of the Netflix show Narcos because it's basically the same story but not done nearly as well - although it's actually 2 different true stories told during the same time period. This is interesting to think about, because there were so many different operations going on to take down Escobar, and many of them ended up impeding each other. Too many cooks in the kitchen, as they say. Anyway, this movie had several editing issues, and a ton of plot discrepancies, but the biggest issue I have with it is the nagging, bitchy, jealous wife character. It's never a good sign when you root for an innocent character to be murdered by a drug lord. I guess there really is nothing left to say, except, maybe watch Narcos? I was dragged into a Narcos binge for days and it is totally worth it. I can't wait to see where the story goes after the last finale, because it changes the whole course of the show (which is genius).

3. 20th Century Women - Hmmmm....I heard very good things about this movie, so expectations were quite high. I didn't love it, though. In fact, it was exactly what I feared - a movie about entitled white women, who think the world revolves around them. Which is odd, because the movie is supposed to be about how these women come together to help raise a teenage boy to be respectful of women, to communicate his feelings, and to question societal and social expectations (in other words, be a decent human being). I liked the idea that a young male brain can benefit from female interactions and role models, instead of the typical story of a single mom trying to find a "father figure" for her son. However, I don't think gender is really that important in raising children. I feel like this movie was very subtly shunning masculinity, and that is problematic for me. There is a difference between being "masculine" and displaying "toxic masculinity". There is nothing wrong with being masculine, just as there is nothing wrong with being feminine. I also think it's a little idealistic to think that just because this boy is surrounded by complicated women that he will automatically be empathetic to the female story. Aside from that, I did really like the female stories - Elle Fanning is just more and more spectacular with every movie she does. This is no exception. And I even liked Greta Gerwig (playing the exact same role that she always plays, but boy does she do it well). Of course, Annette Bening is wonderful. I think the poster really has the best way to describe the movie - "A rushing river of gorgeous moments". That is definitely true. The moment when her son declares "I am not all men. I'm just me", and she replies "well yes, and no", is just perfect. The menstruation scene is just glorious, as well. So, there is a lot of good in this movie. Maybe after analyzing it more, I might find even more beauty in it, because just writing this short paragraph about it actually made me appreciate it more. Hmmm...we shall see.

4. Don't Breathe - I'm actually a bit shocked at how much I disliked this movie. It's not a bad movie, at all - decent acting, interesting plot, strong pace and editing. But it's just so unlikable. This is the only type of horror movie that I usually connect with (anything that seems realistic - and psychopathic murderers are extremely realistic). It reminded me a lot of Hush, and similarly just like I felt with The Infiltrator and Narcos, Hush did it MUCH better, so I have no choice to be disappointed. So first, let's talk about the good stuff. Jane Levy is perfect. I need her to explode into stardom, like, yesterday. The kid from 13 Reasons Why (too lazy to look up his name), is really good too, as the "voice of reason" character (even though he turns out to be just as dumb as the rest of them). There are also some really cool circular tracking shots. That's all I got, because even though it has a strong premise, the actual plot is dumb as fuck. Let me break it down: *spoilers ahead obviously* These 3 teenagers (?) decide to break into the house of a man who received a large settlement due to the death of his daughter. They decide he *must* have this money in his house...just because (?). He's also blind. So, these 3 people are the worst that humanity has to offer (they are willing to steal from an old blind man who lost a child). They've broken into homes before bc the "good guy" (?) has a connection to an alarm company -- so they use that to their advantage bc they can just walk out through the front door without any signs of a break-in. However, for this, they break a window (so...obvious break-in) but the guy who is blind, and has other heightened senses doesn't hear a window break (?). He does eventually wake up, realizing that there are people in his house, chaos ensues - along with several gunshots that no one in the neighborhood hears (?). Then, the kids discover *Major spoiler ahead, in case you are still reading and you shouldn't be* that this man has a woman locked in his basement, and that woman is the one responsible for killing his daughter (accidentally). His intent was to get her pregnant, have a new child, and then let her go (?). They obviously had to make him a bad guy too, because otherwise we would root for him to kill the other 3 awful people. Then, the "final girl" gets away, and then gets captured, then gets away, lather, rinse, repeat another 4 times, until she finally does "get away", only to learn that this guy is being seen as a hero for killing 2 intruders into his home. Because apparently he was able to clean up all the blood, the broken ceiling glass, his entire torture chamber in the basement, etc., within 5 minutes of police arriving - all while being BLIND (?). How fucking stupid.

5. Masterminds - Predictably dumb, but also kind of interesting that it's based on a true story. I'm fascinated by people who commit crimes in such a dumb way, and actually believe that they will get away with it. I mean, this guy robbed an armored car company but didn't destroy one of the main cameras! LOL. It's also really dumb that the "masterminds" stayed in the area, and spent all of the money so extravagantly. If I were to illegally obtain money, I would move somewhere off the grid for at least a few years. Also, I realize how jaded I am by living in NJ when 17 million doesn't even seem like that much money. I instantly questioned their lifestyle, but then reminded myself that it took place down south. That mansion alone would cost at least 10 million up here. It could have actually been a good movie, if the characters felt more real. Instead, Zach Galifianakis did his weird dude act, and Kristin Wiig did a mild version of one of her SNL characters. So it's a bit odd that a movie about real people felt really fake. Oh, and it wasn't funny. At all.

Friday, June 16, 2017

3 Thoughts on Wonder Woman

1. The movie - Overall, I loved this movie. I was very skeptical going in. I found the trailers very dull, and Wonder Woman's appearance in Batman v Superman was really unnecessary. My skepticism had nothing to do with the DCU, though, - I liked both Man of Steel and Batman v Superman (and I like Marvel movies, too! Crazy, I know.). Patty Jenkins did an amazing job creating a film that was an origin story for Wonder Woman, but it didn't feel as formulaic as previous "origin stories" for other characters. It had humor, a sense of wonder and hopefulness, and two very memorable battle scenes (the one on the island of Themyscira and the now famous "No Man's Land" scene). Is it the greatest movie ever, as some are claiming? Well, no, that's a ridiculous claim. Does it have problems? Well, sure, I have eyes, I can see how terrible the third act battle scene looked. It also drives me insane when people from foreign countries speak English with their accent instead of being subtitled (one of my biggest pet peeves in movies). But I enjoyed every second of it, and I came out of the theater grinning from ear to ear. That's what matters to me.

2. The woman - When I picture Wonder Woman, outside of Lynda Carter, the woman I picture is Gal Gadot. When they made the cast announcement, I, like many, did not know who she was. I googled her image, and thought, "Yup, that IS Wonder Woman". She is perfect. She is able to display innocence and naivete without seeming dumb (I think that's hard to do well), but also, obviously, has this immense amount of strength and power that is necessary for the role. Probably my favorite casting of a modern superhero role - it's right up there with Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, and Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, and Christian Bale as Batman (and yes, those are the only three that I would say are iconic - everyone else is replaceable. Fight me.). She had a great supporting cast, as well. Chris Pine has never been better.

3. The impact - I don't think that men get it. Even the ones that say they do, don't. And really, how could they? Yes, I can think of several iconic female roles on the big screen - of women that were strong and powerful - like Ripley, Sarah Conner, and Lara Croft. Although, I think the small screen was even stronger for women - Buffy, Sydney Bristow, and of course, Wonder Woman. And personally, I looked up to women who were a bit more "real" like Ellie Sattler, Chris Parker (from Adventures in Babysitting, DUH), and Annie (from Speed, DUH). But, the point is that we, as women, had maybe one or two dozen female characters that we truly admire and see ourselves in, while men had literally hundreds. Things have been changing very slowly over the past few years, but with Wonder Woman, it's like this huge sigh of relief - like, there is finally a movie that is going to change the course of film history for women. It's such a wonderful, emotional thing to think about - little girls growing up now have this character - a female character who is sensitive, inquisitive, intelligent, independent, funny, and fierce. A female character who stands up for herself and will fight for what she believes is right. But more importantly, a movie was made about this character that is universally loved and made a shitload of money. FUCKING FINALLY.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Thoughts on 5 Films

1. The Purge: Election Year - Enjoyed the first one, the second one was actually pretty good, but this one is just terrible. The first one had a shitload of problems, but the second one fixed a lot of them. Yet, the second one didn't explore the story enough, so I was hoping that the third one would have learned from both previous films and would give us a solid story - and a satisfying trilogy of films. It doesn't. At all. This one takes place during a big election (how fitting) and it makes the same mistake as the first - which is - WHY wouldn't this politician take the ultimate precaution and lock herself in a panic room? Like, why rely on this huge group to "protect" you, when it's already been made clear that you can't trust anyone during The Purge? And why would this guy have a plan in place to escape if things went bad, but not a place to actually escape to? Also, it doesn't make sense that The Purge is used as a way to save government money. Since it's a government funded event, wouldn't it cost them money to clean up the country afterwards? They show these big dump trucks that are cleaning up dead bodies, and just think of all of the fire damage!!! Are we supposed to assume that everyone has "purge" insurance? I'm pretty sure that would just make everyone broke. And, one last thing that bothered me (out of about a dozen), why not just throw a mask on and carry a flamethrower through the streets? Everyone participating in "purging" would just assume that you are "one of them" and leave you alone. Anyway, even on a basic level of a horror movie, I didn't find any enjoyment out of it. There were no intense scenes or moments, no surprise kills, no jump-scares, nothing memorable at all.

2. The Birth of a Nation - I have a lot of conflicting thoughts about the controversy surrounding this movie. On one hand, I feel like it's necessary to separate the art from the artist, and it's hard to know "the truth". If we protested against every actor/director based on accusations or even in some cases proven criminal acts, we would have to avoid every movie starring Sean Penn, Alec Baldwin, Mark Wahlberg, Johnny Depp, Christian Slater, or directed by Woody Allen, Bryan Singer, Roman Polanski, I could literally go on and on, but I think you get my point. The common trait among these men....yup, all white. So, yes, I do think that race had a large influence as to why people turned on this film so quickly. The buzz for this movie was incredibly high until the Nate Parker story surfaced, and it all came crashing down. It was going to be an Oscar contender, among the best of the year, instead it was quietly released into mostly independent theaters and never spoken of again. On the other hand, I'm so fucking sick of men not only getting away with raping and abusing women, but are then also allowed to continue to make millions of dollars and becoming more and more powerful. It's disgusting. So, I watched this movie with a lot of preconceived hatred in my heart for the world that we live in. Of course, the subject-matter of the movie only solidified this hatred. There are a lot of wonderful aspects to the film, in particular, the acting. Aja Naomi King is astonishing. I've only seen her in How to Get Away with Murder, in which she is also very good, but it's not a particularly hard role to play. But this performance I really hope she starts getting lead roles very soon. Armie Hammer is also really good (possibly his strongest performance ever), and I was relieved that his character did not turn into a "white savior" character. The end of the film is filled with some harrowing images that will crush your soul (if you're human). There are a lot of things that I feel this film misses the mark on, though - and not surprisingly, one of them is the representation of women. I realize that it's not a female story, but maybe it should be? Or maybe, they should have been given more dimensions other than being victims of rape and a catalyst for male revenge? I appreciate that the rape isn't shown onscreen (very smart), but I'm just exhausted by this representation. I looked up a few things about this real-life rebellion, and it seems the revolt happened because of Nat Turner's deeper involvement in religion and interpreting scripture; not because of the raping of female slaves (although, this was common practice). It would have been a stronger story to show the women as part of this rebellion instead of silent victims. Overall, I think a lot of the story is over-simplified, and even without the controversy, I don't think it was one of last year's best.

3. Jackie - Honestly, I am severely disappointed. While I was unsure of the movie, I thought that Natalie Portman was going to blow me away. And while she is really, really good - it's not spectacular, or even among her best work. It's certainly not the best of last year (that would be Soo-an Kim from Train to Busan, followed closely by Jessica Chastain for Miss Sloane). Jackie O has this really distinct accent that is definitely hard to repeat without sounding like a bad impression - and Portman definitely gets it right, I was worried that it was going to be more like Michelle Williams trying to portray Marilyn Monroe (I know, I'm the only one who hated this performance). However, just because she gets the accent right, doesn't mean the whole performance is noteworthy. I don't think I'll remember it at all a few years from now. I was also expecting to be impressed by Mica Levi's score (because Under the Skin's score is unforgettable), but I found the score to be incredibly distracting and it didn't fit the tone of the film at all. As for the rest of the movie, it's really quite boring. The editing is purposefully choppy, the story offers nothing new, and it focuses on these "grand" moments that just scream Oscar-bait, and it's really unsubtle. I was actually really happy that they didn't show the assassination, instead they focused on the aftermath...but then they did, and it ruined the only thing I liked about the story.

4. Lion - There is a lot I like about this movie. The story is incredible, and as devastating as it is, it's probably a relatively common tale (which is confirmed in the end - the credits state that 80,000 children in India go missing every year. I repeat, 80,000. Just let that sink in.). Having just visited India a few months ago, I can completely understand how this is so common. It's a very overwhelming place - the best way to describe it is "sensory overload". And if the train stations are anything like the airports, then yeah, children can disappear very easily. Personal space does not exist, lines do not exist, politeness does not exist. However, this story becomes incredible because this little missing boy finds his family after 25 years (sorry, is that a spoiler? I mean, he obviously finds them, otherwise a movie would never have been made about him...). He uses Google Earth to locate his small town, which is really fascinating. I love that technology is shown as something great (as opposed to most movies - technology = scary!). I think Dev Patel was great, but that little boy (Sunny Pawar) definitely stole the movie. People seem to be loving Nicole Kidman nowadays, and she seems to be EVERYWHERE right now, but I've always been a fan. I'm hoping she just continues to take challenging roles and not ones like Bewitched. She always comes off as a little bit cold to me, but for the most part, that works for the roles that she plays. This role required a warmth and a hopefulness, and she far succeeded the challenge. I think that there is a GREAT movie within this story, but I'm not sure this movie really explores it enough - and therefore, I don't think it's an Oscar-nomination worthy film. I wish they explored more of the brother's story, and how difficult it was for his parents to handle the extreme differences in their personalities/experiences. I think it would have been stronger to focus on his family than his girlfriend. I found Rooney Mara dull in the role, but I also just found her whole character unnecessary plot-wise. It's weird that she's even featured on some of the poster designs considering how inconsequential her character is. I get that the intent was to show how his experience has made him closed off, and how his obsession with finding his real family had taken over his life, but that could have been shown with his interactions with his family. Anyway, I liked the movie a lot, but I think it could have been better.

5. John Wick: Chapter 2 - Very satisfying sequel. I was very nervous considering that the whole reason the first one worked so well is because it was about getting revenge for the murdering of a dog. I mean, they can't just murder another one of his dogs - that would be dumb. They did find a satisfying reason for the story to continue, though. For an action flick like this, there are a surprising amount of layers and interesting characters. I would love for a spin-off for several different characters. Winston or Bowery King would be the most obvious, but I would even enjoy prequels for some of the characters that died, or even some of the smaller characters like Charon. Really, an entire universe exists in this story and it is all so fascinating. The action sequences are obviously perfect, just like the first one. There were only 2 scenes that bothered me - the one that took place in the fun-house mirror museum. It was just so stupid, and reminded me of a bad horror movie. The other one took place in the super white transit station because I thought it was really terrible to pretend like such a clean place exists in NYC, but then I felt really stupid after I looked it up and found out that it is actually the new Oculus station at the new World Trade Center. I obviously have yet to visit, but it is sublime looking. It's only a few years old so just give it time for NYC to dirty it up.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Summer TV Preview: 9 New Shows to Watch

Let's face it - television has taken over. I barely have time to watch movies nowadays because I'm on a never-ending quest to catch up on the next "best new television series" (it's seriously like every single one is declared as "THE BEST"). Usually the summer time is a nice quiet time in the land of television - making it easier to catch up on films (or go outside, if that's what tickles your fancy). BUT NOT THIS YEAR. According to Entertainment Weekly, there are 75 shows airing this summer (new and continuing), which is insane. It was hard for me to narrow it down to just 9 shows, but I have to have some semblance of a life. Here are the new shows that I will be watching:

1. Friends From College (Netflix) - I usually separate out Netflix and other streaming services from prime-time and premium channels. I don't see the point of doing that anymore because watching Netflix shows has become just as prevalent as watching any other show. Friends from College is my most anticipated show of the summer. Mostly because it stars Fred Savage - and I think he's great. But also because it's about 6 friends living in NYC. No-one has been able to pull that off successfully since Friends (Happy Endings came close), but if anyone is going to do it, it's Netflix.

2. GLOW (Netflix) - If you weren't a little girl growing up in America in the late 80s/early 90s, then I'm not sure you understand the significance of GLOW. It was the greatest thing ever. It was the only show that featured all women (of different ethnicities and backgrounds - even if it was cliched and stereotyped) being strong, funny, and beautiful. It was so over-the-top ridiculous, but as a child, I LOVED it. I have very fond memories of when my cousin and I used to watch the show and then wrestle each other. This show will be pure nostalgia for me, but I'm also really happy that it stars Alison Brie, because she is super, and that Jenji Kohan is an executive producer (Weeds is still among my favorite shows ever).

3. Still Star-Crossed (ABC) - OhmyGod, so ridiculous, but I HAVE to watch it. I'm a Shakespeare junkie. And even though Romeo and Juliet is not my favorite - I'm sort of obsessed with all of the adaptations. This show is about the "aftermath" of the ending of this love story, and that is actually a fantastic idea - and something completely unexpected for Shonda Rhimes to be a part of. Her shows are having less and less of an impact for me - mostly because they get dragged out too long (Grey's Anatomy is barely watchable these days), but Scandal remains a "must-watch" - and I'm soooooo relieved that they are ending it next year. It's much better to go out on top, in my opinion. Anyway, I think this will be one of those fun summer shows that's not meant to be anything more than that.

4. The Sinner (USA) - Well now, if you told me I would be excited for a new television show starring Jessica Biel, I would never believe it. I've seen Jessica in several movies, and every single time, she is the weakest link of said movie. However, I am always open for performers finding their groove, and this looks like it could be "the one" for her. The premise is excellent - it begins with a woman at the beach with her kids who suddenly violently kills a "stranger" sitting next to them at the beach. It sets up a really cool mystery about finding out who this woman actually is, while also knowing that she is obviously guilty. I'm intrigued.

5. Ozark (Netflix) - A Jason Bateman and Jennifer Aniston sitcom has been the dream for a while now, but I'll settle for a Jason Bateman and Laura Linney Netflix drama. In the same vein as Breaking Bad (still my favorite show ever), it's a story of a man trying to provide for his family and getting mixed up in bad shit. I'm not used to Bateman in a serious role (I know he's done them, and yet nothing comes to mind), so that could be hard to get used to, but Linney is always fantastic - right up there with my favorite actresses.

6. Gypsy (Netflix) - And speaking of favorite actresses - Naomi Watts in a Netflix Drama?!? HOLY SHIT I AM SO IN. The series description reminds me of In Treatment just with a female therapist instead (and speaking of, I don't think I ever finished In Treatment, but I did like it. Something I will have to look in to...). But you know what, it doesn't even matter. I will watch anything with Naomi.

7. Will (TNT) - Again, Shakespeare junkie. I will totally watch a ridiculous summer drama about his life (described as his "younger, rowdier days"). I'm not sure that there is an audience for these type of historical biography shows - there a few of these type of shows making the rounds and I don't hear anyone talking about them (most recently with Genius - the series was on my list, but I've literally heard nothing about it, so it must not be good...right?). It's interesting that they picked a complete newcomer for the starring role of Will. That's a bit of a risk nowadays considering that most series' are now getting acclaimed, award-winning actors to star. It's exciting though. I'm rooting for him.

8. I'm Sorry (truTV) - First, what the fuck is truTV? I've never heard of it. Second, Andrea Savage is hilarious, so I love that she is starring in a new show. And Third, I really, really, really would love to see Tom Everett Scott hit it big. He's such a great actor, and proved that he can carry a movie with That Thing You Do!, but then his career never really took off - instead he was cast in bit parts here and there (most recently in La La Land, in which I don't even think he had more than 3 lines in the whole thing). I doubt this is the project that is going to get him acclaim (again it's on a network that I've never even heard of), but maybe if it's good, people will take more notice of him.

9. Marvel's The Defenders (Netflix) - This could go either way, really. If it's anything like season one of Daredevil or Jessica Jones, then I will be really happy. Season two of Daredevil was horrible (mostly because of Elektra - seriously, fuck her), Luke Cage killed off their best character waaaaaay too soon without having a solid replacement, and Iron Fist was really boring. I will happily watch this series though, and wish for the best.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

3 Thoughts on Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

1. As a sequel - It's a challenge to make a sequel to a film like Guardians of the Galaxy. There was something about the film that just works and it's hard to pinpoint exactly what that was. The first one was filled with snappy dialogue, fun action sequences, lovable characters, and a strong villain. But the biggest difference for me, compared to other superhero films, is that I wanted to watch it over and over again. And I didn't get sick of it. I'm happy to say that this sequel is just as good, and that I look forward to watching it again. It felt like a true sequel to the story, a natural progression of events. My only complaint is that there are too many characters. Don't get me wrong, I love them all (even Gamora grew on me), but with so many of them taking up screen-time, we lose focus on Star-Lord. It would be more acceptable if the screen-time was focused on another one of the original "Guardians", other than Baby Groot. I loved Groot in the first one, and Baby Groot was even *more* adorable, but it was really overdone (clearly fan-service). Plus, with the additional focus on Yondu and Nebula, and newcomers Mantis, Ego, and Ayesha, there was little-to-no room on character development. Yet, even with that being my only complaint, I still love every.single.character. 

2. Within the MCU - With this sequel, I can confidently say that the Guardians are my favorite superheros within the MCU (the new Spider-Man could change that). It's the only sequel that I like just as much as the first (while I did like Winter Soldier better than the first one, but I'm not a big fan of Captain America - and Civil War was really an Avengers movie, anyway). I am absolutely dreading the merging of these characters with The Avengers. WHYYYYY?! I don't care if they are all part of the same universe, it just feels so different. It's just so unnecessary. I thought that we would get a hint of how it was all going to come together during the after credits scenes - I mean, there were 5 OF THEM - one of them could have at least had a point. I just know that I'm going to hate it, so I am going to focus all of my energy being excited for Volume 3 instead.

3. Among an audience - Unfortunately, I saw this movie with a very disrespectful and annoying crowd of people. It's so devastating that movie theater etiquette has been shunned and these obnoxious, rude, self-absorbed people have taken over. I used to love going to the movies, but now, I barely go. Instead, I wait for films to be released for home viewing via streaming services or blu-ray. When I do go to the theater, it's usually for a big movie, such as this - and it's usually with these big movies that the crowd is the worst. We arrived for this movie super early (as I always do), but due to an inefficient theater staff, I almost missed the trailers while waiting in line at the concession stand Luckily, the person I was with got the perfect seats while I was waiting. Then, as the trailers played, the group behind us talked through every trailer. LOUDLY. One of them, LOUDLY, complained about "ANOTHER SPIDER-MAN" movie ('re at a Marvel movie. That's what they do). Then, the young girl behind me started kicking my seat. Instead of causing an argument (I tend to be non-confrontational), we decided to move from our perfect seats. We could still hear the group - who continued to talk through the movie - but, no-one else seemed bothered. Because EVERYONE was chit-chatting. The entire audience made overtly obnoxious "AWWWW" noises every single time Baby Groot did something cute, and loud (almost fake) laughing noises at every single joke. I'm not exaggerating - every single joke. And the movie is joke after joke, so it was distracting. You want to hear an audience enjoy comedy, but this felt more like people trying to feel superior (like HAHA I GET THAT JOKE). This experience, honestly, makes me never want to see a movie in a theater ever again. And that is heartbreaking.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Thoughts on 5 Films

1. Miss Sloane - Everyone bow down to Jessica Chastain for this powerhouse performance. It's shocking that she wasn't nominated for an Oscar. I would argue that it's because the movie under-performed and was underwhelming, yet, Meryl Streep was nominated for Florence Foster Jenkins and, really, how many people watched that? Emma Stone was my favorite female performance of last year (I have yet to see Jackie, though), but Chastain is so stunning in this role that even Stone is like 10 notches below her level. Like I said though, the movie is just okay. It reminded me a lot of Thank You for Smoking simply because it's about a lobbyist of a controversial issue, but it's not nearly as fun. In fact, it's a little tedious to sit through. From the commercials that I saw, it gave no indication that this story was about fighting for stricter gun laws (although, I didn't see the trailer). I think we are meant to be surprised by the twists and turns, but I found most of them either obvious or inconsequential (meaning I didn't really care). I did appreciate the Newsroom reunion between Alison Pill and Sam Waterston.

2. Knight of Cups - Oh my God, this is just downright painful. Terrence Malick has a unique (albeit very beautiful) knack for telling a story in the slowest way possible. This didn't even feel like a Malick film, though. It felt like a parody of one. The narration is insufferable. The acting is wooden - which says a lot considering the talent. Bale is probably my favorite working actor of his generation (based purely on skill and dedication to his roles), but he is so bland and boring in this. The only part of this movie that brought me joy was that they got Kelly Cutrone for the photo shoot scene. That woman is hilariously straight-forward. I was waiting for her to turn to the camera and say "this movie is bullshit".

3. Florence Foster Jenkins- While I think Meryl Streep did a fantastic job with this role, I don't think it's an Oscar nomination worthy performance. Also, it's a cute movie, but the fact that it's based on a real-life person kind of makes me want to throw up. It's feeding into this disgusting epidemic that rich people can do whatever they fucking want - literally. This rich woman wants to sing Opera at one of the most prestigious concert halls - Carnegie Hall - so she does. Does she have talent? NOPE. But she's rich and she wants to. Everyone just tip-toes around her, feeding her narcissism *just* because she has money. It kind of reminds of that time when that wealthy real-estate mogul turned reality star wanted to be President of the United States just *because*. I mean, imagine if everyone just went along with it and allowed that to happen?!? All joking aside, I feel like this movie is just a gigantic metaphor for the current political climate - it even addresses how some of the "press" was in on the secret, but went along with it because it gave them access to high society. Then, the reporter from the NY Post was supposed to be seen as a villain because he insists on reporting the truth. It's all eerily familiar, and lately I have depended deeply on movies/TV to keep me distracted from the shitty catastrophe that is the presidency and this movie just reminded me of why I need this distraction.

4. Moonlight - So, I don't necessarily agree that this is the best movie from last year. I'm not sure it's even among my top 10 (pretty sure it will be like 12 or 13 when all is said and done), however, it is a beautiful, moving, and powerful story. And Mahershala Ali is wonderful. Back in January, I watched The 4400 (it's a sci-fi show from 2004) and Ali is one of the many cast members, but one of the few that stood out. I didn't even make the connection that he was the same actor that is now getting all this attention and praise (for this, and also Luke Cage). I like that the story is told in 3 parts in a "slice of life" type of way so a lot of it felt unfinished, which can be frustrating for some, but I think the point is focused on these life-changing/defining moments that occur. I do think that the first part is the strongest, while the second part is the weakest - causing the third part to feel a bit disconnected. I didn't really see a strong connection between Chiron and Kevin in the second part, and I realize that's part of the point (toxic masculinity and all that), but it just felt more like a sexual curiosity than a romantic longing. Although, I do feel like I might pick up more on the "longing" part if I watched it a second time (perhaps). Also, I've seen this poster a million times, especially towards awards season, and I never realized it was 3 different faces! LOL. Genius.

5. Denial - It blows my mind that there are actually people in this world who believe that the Holocaust didn't happen (they are even worse than the people who believe that the Earth is flat). I didn't hear much about this movie, but I saw the trailer and it looked powerful. Based on a true story, one that I'm not familiar with, but extremely relevant in today's world. There seem to be a lot of people in this world who want to believe in conspiracy theories and willingly submit themselves to falsehoods all for the sake of....actually, I'm not sure. Entertainment? Attention? It doesn't really matter. To me, most of these people are hateful, ignorant, and dangerous. Weisz portrays a Holocaust historian who is taken to court for refusing to debate a Holocaust denier - causing him to accuse her of libel and slander because she declares "I don't debate fact". It seems that often people claim "freedom of speech" when one wants to spew hatred and lies, but she never denies him his right to speech. It's clear he has no case, but the fascinating thing is that she has to prove that the Holocaust happened (apparently in Europe, the burden of proof lies with the accused...interesting.). Aside from Rachel Weisz's performance, the movie is disappointing. I think it could have gone a lot deeper than it did; instead just focusing on the court case. They could have explained better why they didn't want to have Holocaust survivors as witnesses. They briefly explain it as not wanting to subject them to such hatred, but if the survivors are asking to tell their stories - it seems wrong to me to deny them of this experience. I recently watched the harrowing documentary The Last Days, which is about survivors from Hungary telling their stories, and the thing that struck me the most is the need that they have to tell their stories as a way of healing and closure. Of course, not everyone wants to tell their story, my grandfather was held in a concentration camp (as a Jewish-American POW - even though he was born in Germany. It's complicated), and he NEVER wanted to talk about it. Anyway, back to my point, if they just let them speak, the case would have been easily closed.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

3 Thoughts on The Circle

*Contains spoilers*

1. What's the point, exactly? - I honestly have no idea. I keep thinking about the movie; thinking that maybe I missed something. Maybe it's not dumb, maybe it's just so intelligent that it went right over my head??? Because, to me, it felt like it was trying to be intelligent, and almost condescending, but it's not. If it were made in the 90s, then some of the ideas would be downright scary. But now? Everything the movie tells us about technology And all of it has been done before - from The Truman Show, to every conspiracy "the government is watching you" movie (there are literally dozens, but I'll choose Conspiracy Theory for this example), to reality TV shows like The Real World. Yes, all of these examples are from the 90s because that's when this movie felt like it took place. I was waiting for this movie to tell me something new, to have a point. It doesn't. Yes, constant surveillance could prevent crimes and yes, constant surveillance could also cause catastrophic events. That's not new information - that's just information. And it's the reason that it's such a controversial issue. The "big" scene in which her friend is killed by civilians trying to film him and "capture" him, was just about the most obvious scene in the movie. Was that supposed to be a lesson? Because I think we already learned that in real life with Princess Diana.

2. Forgotten plots or poor editing? - There are so many little interesting points to the film that are just suddenly dropped. It's almost jarring. The biggest example is with Mae's friend - the person that helps her secure this seemingly wonderful job, but more important health insurance for her ill father (now, THIS would have been a timely storyline to pursue, but it's dropped). This friend is one of the higher-ups in the company, and inexplicably lets Mae into a restricted area (something that happens way too often - oh hey new girl come see this cool restricted stuff!). She is obviously caught (um bc there are cameras everywhere duh...and this is the reason the entire end of the movie DOES NOT WORK), but when Mae is confronted and admits that she had been in the restricted area - the plot is dropped. Her friend should have been fired - wouldn't that have caused a more dramatic effect??? Instead the next time we see Mae's friend, she is looking pale and ill from working too hard (are we just to assume that maybe they are overworking her on purpose as a punishment? That would at least make it better) and then suddenly she is back home resting in Scotland. Um...ok...what's the point? Also, are we really supposed to believe that Mae, this "nobody" girl, is the catalyst for this gigantic corporation to consider making The Circle mandatory? I thought that maybe "the bad guys" had planned it to make it look like she came up with it (planting the idea in her head) so that the "public" wouldn't fear it as much, but that's never really clear. Anyway, those are just 2 examples of plot-points gone awry, but the movie is filled with at least 5 more.

3. Can Emma Watson act? - I'm certainly not convinced by this movie. She was awful in the Harry Potter movies (to be fair, so was everyone), but she was young. This is a big "adult" role for her; No-one else in the movie really has much to do, so it all falls squarely on her shoulders and she is terrible. She is adorable, I'll give her that. However, she is not able to convey any king of emotional resonance. Tom Hanks is featured waaaay too much in the trailer considering he is a very minor role (important, yes, but barely in it). And this was a terrible role for such a strong up-and-comer actor like John Boyega. He barely had any lines (or personality). I think this is due to the terrible editing as mentioned above, but I feel like this is a crucial movie for him (to get his name out there aside from the Star Wars universe) and it's almost embarrassingly bad. The "saviors" of the film (acting-wise) were Karen Gillan and Bill Paxton. Gillan's been good and bad in the past, but she excels here. Every scene she was in, my eyes were glued to the scene. I wish her plot wasn't edited so terribly, but that's not on her. Did the creators purposely downplay the fact that Paxton is in this (and that it's his last film role)? I had NO IDEA. And I understand why. He plays Watson's father, who suffers from MS, and it is deeply sad to watch. Obviously, the role, itself, is sad, but it's also devastating to be reminded of Paxton's endless talent. I think he always got credited as the "everyman" character in big-budget action movies, but I will remember him most for his more complicated, emotional roles - like Big Love. He will be missed.