Saturday, May 25, 2013
1. The good stuff - This is definitely a movie that is filled with both good and bad elements, so let's start with the good: First, Baz Luhrmann knows how to throw a party. He is the perfect person to bring Gatsby's grandiose, extravagant celebrations to life. I didn't see it in 3D, but I imagine that this is where the 3D was used (I can't imagine it being useful for anything else in the movie), but even in 2D, it is in-your-face spectacular. There was so much detail and depth to these scenes that I wanted my own personal pause button in order to look at every frame in detail. Second, the biggest reasons that these party scenes worked is because of the amazing soundtrack; I've had it on repeat for weeks. The music kept the film afloat, keeping it fresh and modern...and alive. It was also, sometimes, very jarring (the best example of this is when when a car, from the 1920's, whizzes by blasting "H to the izz-O...". It made me laugh for hours). Third, Leo is absolute perfection as Gatsby.
2. The bad stuff - I usually try to convince myself that the "good" of a movie will always outweigh the "bad" of a movie, but in this case, the bad just weighs down the movie. The worst part is Tobey Maguire, and this is coming from someone who is usually a fan. He gets criticized a lot for being "awkward", but for me, his awkwardness is usually appropriate for the roles. It's not, in this case. Instead, it is painful. His narration just caused even more pain. Second, obviously, the novel would be edited for the movie version, but I'm not sure I liked what was added (the psychiatric hospital) and I absolutely hate what they took out (Nick's relationship with Jordan - who is, by far, a more interesting female character than Daisy). Third, like the novel, the movie just takes way too long to get to the point. The ending is superb, but by the time it comes around, I hardly care anymore.
3. Everything in between - First, I would say that aside from Leo's fine performance and Tobey's flat-lined performance, everyone else lands in the middle. Joel Edgerton was a little too caricature-like as Tom Buchanan, while Isla Fisher was miscast completely, but she did her best. And, I FINALLY figured out why I am not fully on board the Carey Mulligan express train!!! I like her, I really do...but there was always something that bothered me about her. While watching this, I have come to realize that she is one of those girls who ALWAYS seems like she's on the verge of tears. I picture her as one of those really annoying girls that get super emotional and attached after sex, and I have a hard time relating to girls like that (I would still totally have sex with her, I would just ensure that I had an exit strategy). This underlying sadness works with the characters that she plays - and it works here too, it's just such a repetitive character for her, at this point. She did a fine job with the role of Daisy, but nothing spectacular. It's probably because I've never been a fan of the character to begin with - a weak, indecisive, self-important, spoiled girl that I just want to shake some sense into (this is also why I am disappointed with the cutting of Jordan's role. I love the contrast between these two women). Second, I was really hoping for more! Much more! I wanted to be blown away and I left the theater feeling really empty. I liked it, but I don't think I would recommend it to anyone unless they are a fan of Luhrmann. It's also not a movie I would watch on multiple viewings (unlike Romeo + Juliet, which I have seen at least 100 times).
Sunday, May 19, 2013
1. The kids - The reason this movie works so well is because of the kids. Fantastic characters; fantastic actors. Sure, the movie is titled "Mud" and the poster is plastered with McConaughey, but the story is told from the perspective of these two young boys. Two young boys, Ellis and "Neckbone", who don't quite understand the way life (and love) works. Tye Sheridan, as Ellis, is one of the best young actor performances I've seen in a while. He's everything you want him to be - tough, courageous, inquisitive, vulnerable. While, "Neckbone", played by newcomer Jacob Lofland, is there as more of a comic relief character; he still displays layers to his character with beautiful subtlety. I rarely like kids in movies; even though my favorite movies include Stand By Me and The Goonies. Nowadays, kids are boring on-screen - too tech-savvy, too spoiled, too materialistic (with the exception of Super 8). I miss the kids that go on adventures!! They're still out there and they are far more interesting.
2. Mud - Matthew McConaughey is on a role. A fucking role. Why on Earth has he wasted so much time making movies like Fool's Gold?? He is perfection in this role. You could tell he reveled in the role, I mean, he is practically shirtless, dirty and sweaty for the entire movie, which is pretty much a description of McConaughey all the time in real life. I loved that we never get any definitive information about Mud - he is a mystery and will remain that way. I was surprised by the ending of Mud's story, considering that all that we know about Mud is what the kids learn about him (plus I expected more of a Take Shelter ending); but then I thought maybe this ending is what the kids interpret his ending to be - and that makes me love the movie even more.
3. The misogyny - There are many themes of the movie - some say it's a story of love and heartbreak. Others, say it's about a loss of innocence (a coming-of-age story). For me, the movie tackles a big question: Why do men hate women? I actually don't think that is writer/director, Jeff Nichols', intention (and that is part of the problem), but from my perception of the story (aka a feminist perception), it's a tale of men learning to hate women at a very young age. There are three women in the film; all three are villainous, especially from the perspective of these kids. Sure, there are actual gun-toting "villains" in the movie, but in the grand scheme of things, women are responsible for the events that unfold. The most obvious representation of this is in Juniper, Mud's "true love". Juniper, played by Reese Witherspoon (aka the weak link of the movie), is a troubled woman who, as told in stories, attaches herself to abusive men and then tricks poor Mud into saving her. She's given a "manipulative" woman trait and is never given the opportunity to explain herself. We are given one glimpse of pure emotion from her, that hints to Ellis that there is, in fact, more to her story, but does he really understand that? From a kids point of view, she is someone who has deceived Mud instead of loving him. Women in cyclical abusive relationships aren't in these relationships because they enjoy it; and this story is clearly placing blame on the wrong gender (as in real life). Whether it is because of abuse, molestation, rape, etc, as a child or young adult, women are like this because a man fucked them up. Instead of focusing on the consequences of male aggression, we teach young boys that women will destroy their lives, and the cycle begins. Ellis is also dealing with his parents divorcing because his mother wants a better life. For most of the movie, she has no other characteristic, other than crushing his fathers dreams. We only get a small glimpse of her side of the story - the fact that she has spent her whole life living for him, instead of herself, and he has done nothing. Even though we get these small glimpses of something more complicated, I don't think it's enough. These female characters represent a clear hatred of women all disguised as "love" - you know, women are evil, but don't give up on love because you'll find one who is worth it. To be clear, despite what it represents, I LOVE this movie.
Thursday, May 16, 2013
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2r_OgEbTzPg). I wish he had a bigger role in this movie, but he barely has any lines. He just sort of stands in the background of a few scenes. I still don't really get Kristen Bell's popularity (I tried watching Veronica Mars once. Painful experience). She's cute, but not very memorable. Her character doesn't really make much sense; she is a non-violent conflict resolution expert, yet she is perfectly o.k with her boyfriend racing through the streets putting the lives of everyone else at risk (yes, he is a professional driver, but everyone else around him, is not). But then again, there isn't much that makes sense about this movie. Her ex-boyfriend protects her....by putting her life at risk. The main couple spend the entire movie bickering, even though there are much more important things going on...like people shooting at them! There was very little research done about the Witness Protection Program, because everything about it was wrong. You get the point. Just watch it with your brain shut off and you may be mildly entertained like I was.
Monday, May 6, 2013
1. Part 1 - Overall, I would say this is a solid film. However, the narrative is broken into 3 distinct parts; the first part is sublime, the second part is good, the third part is so bad it hurts. I could watch the first part on a continuous loop for days and be perfectly happy. It's centered on Ryan Gosling's character, Luke, a role similar to The Driver in Drive - mysterious, quiet, introspective, with little to no background information. The catalyst of the story is Luke finding out that he has a newborn son with an ex-fling, Romina, portrayed by Eva Mendes; determined to do the right thing, he quits his job as a traveling motorcycle stunt driver and decides to stay in town to help raise his son. There are several powerful scenes over the course of the first 40 minutes, the only thing to do is watch in complete awe. The height of perfection is a scene that takes place at Romina's work (a diner), where she begins to question how exactly he plans to take care of them. It's an emasculating question, and you can feel his internal struggle (as well as hers) because he doesn't actually have a solid plan. It was at this point that I thought, "wow, this is going to be my favorite film of the year". The momentum continues with Luke, partnering with a new friend, Robin (Ben Mendelsohn), committing local bank robberies (totally solid plan..). These robbery scenes are perfectly intense and thrilling, because at this point, I was reminded "oh yeah, Bradley Cooper plays a cop, and will probably show up any minute". The first part of the movie, ends boldly and abruptly (it's not exactly original, but it did surprise me) and the focus shifts to Cooper's character, Avery. Sadly, it all goes downhill from there.
2. Part 2 - Back in 2001, we saw the release of the television show, Alias, one of my all-time favorite shows, co-starring Bradley Cooper and we had the release of the movie, The Believer, which is the film that really launched Ryan Gosling's career. Both of these guys have been on my radar for 12 years, and when I heard the news that they were going to be in a film together, I had to remind myself to breathe. That being said, unfortunately, after the dynamic performance from Gosling, Cooper is a bit of a letdown. Part of it has to do with the story-line, which I won't get into details because it would spoil part 1, but mostly it has to do with his presence (or lack there of). Why do I root for a bank robber (who let's face it - is also sort of an asshole), over a cop (who falters, but ultimately does the right thing; even if it is for selfish motivation)?? While Gosling exudes a natural charisma and coolness, Cooper gives some wonderfully emotional scenes, but lacks a personality. The second part of the movie drags a bit and is more predictable, but it is still good (although compared to the first part, it's not even in the same league of cinematic brilliance). Then it all comes crashing down in the third act.
3. Part 3 - Let me start off by saying that I appreciate what writer/director, Derek Cianfrance, did. The Place Beyond the Pines is an epic story, with classic Greek tragedy themes, while still feeling real and scaled back. It's not easy to do, and again, overall, I would call the movie a success. I just can't get behind this third part. Nothing about it felt right; starting with the casting. First, the absolute worst part of the movie is Emory Cohen, as AJ (Avery's son). Everything about him didn't fit; he looks nothing like Bradley Cooper or Rose Byrne, he talks/dresses/acts like he is from the Jersey Shore and he looks like he's in his 30's (he's not; he's 23, but he is supposed to be 16 - some guys can pull this off. He can't). Someone who is born and raised in Upstate NY would not be like this (I'm from Upstate NY and I've never encountered anyone like this, unless they came from somewhere else). I might have forgiven this odd choice, if the guy could actually act. I was so put off by this entire character, that I spent the last 30 minutes praying for the movie to end. Second, Dane Dehaan is an excellent actor, but his character didn't really fit for me either. He is supposed to take after characteristics from his dad, Luke, but instead of an effortless cool, he is the awkward loner. The main theme of the movie is obviously the importance of a father in a sons life, but I'm bothered by the fact that he doesn't appreciate that he has a father-figure in his life, who clearly cares about him (therefore, I don't sympathize with the character, at all). Third, the pace of this last part was horrendously slow. I actually began to ask myself whether I was watching the worst movie of the year. It's just such a drastic drop in quality from the beginning, it makes me sad to think about. Last, I recommend this movie, but maybe just leave before it gets really bad (you'll know exactly when, I promise).
Thursday, May 2, 2013
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N_NzAvUCZ1M), then you might want to have your pulse checked. Omar Sy smashes this role, as Driss - the most charismatic guy ever to appear on screen (exaggeration are fun!). The movie is based on a true story about a friendship that forms between a multi-millionaire quadriplegic and his new ex-con caregiver. They obviously don't have much in common, but they form a bond based on humor and honesty. It's really just a fun, heartwarming movie (in a good way, not in a cheesy way), and very moving (I actually got a little emotional in the end...a very rare occurrence for me). I might include it in my updated "Best of 2012 list", when I get around to watching everything I want to watch. Also, I totally want to go paragliding...like RIGHT NOW! I always wanted to go skydiving, but now I don't know - that looks like more fun.