Sunday, February 23, 2014

Thoughts on 5 Films

1. All is Lost - I didn't really know what to expect with this movie; the only thing I was aware of was that Robert Redford gives an amazing performance while being stuck on a boat. I read an article that compared it to Gravity (I don't remember where...sorry), which peaked my interest because I enjoy stories about loneliness and survival. Redford is good (as he always is), I'm not sure it is award-worthy (especially this year), so I don't agree that he was "snubbed". I wasn't expecting the film to have no dialogue - I think there are maybe a few sentences in the beginning. For me, it was hard to pay attention to because of this. If I were in this situation, I know I would talk to myself. I think that is why people are giving Redford so much credit; conveying things without dialogue is tough. However, I think we understand what he is thinking due to the external elements he is facing not because of his performance. There is nothing internal about his performance - we know very little about him and that is problematic for me. I still liked it though. It felt claustrophobic, watching this man battle against nature is certainly intense, and I loved the way it ended.

2. Adore - This movie is incredibly fucking ridiculous, yet I couldn't look away. Some thoughts while watching it: 1. It's really icky. The age difference between these people is already taboo (but is love. As long as everyone is a consenting adult, I can't judge), however, dating your best friends son? Someone that you've watched grow up? I consider my best friend part of my family (and these women seem extremely close), so it's a bit incestuous. Also, it could potentially end very badly, which would hurt everyone. Would someone take the chance of ruining a friendship just because they can't control their hormones? (I already know that answer to this) 2. Sorry to be superficial for a second, but the guys in this movie are not hot at all (and yes, they are definitely supposed to be). Even worse, they are both really bland. I need a personality; any personality will do. Give us a reason as to why these incredibly gorgeous women (Naomi Watts and Robin Wright) are attracted to them. 4. Why all of the not-so-subtle anti-gay comments? 3. I want to live where they live. So fucking beautiful.

3. Touchy Feely - Great cast but unfortunately a really unmemorable movie. The story is of a "free spirit" massage therapist, who suddenly loses her "touch", while her brother, who is more of a conventional man, begins to let go and he finds success. The movie touches on a persons energy and how that energy can have an effect on your life and others around you. I do believe in some of this stuff to an extent - I practice yoga to clear my mind and release stress (and it helps my back tremendously - more so than any pain medicine ever could). I try my best to surround myself with "positive energy" and force myself into positive thinking, but this can only take you so far. The movie has some interesting elements, but it all feels a bit pointless. In the end, it's just a waste of talent - Rosemarie DeWitt, Allison Janney and Ellen Page are much better than this movie.

4. Carrie - The remake (or "re-imagining of the novel", as it was advertised to avoid the original comparisons - sorry, everyone, if there is already a movie based on it and you create another one - it's a remake.) is satisfying in almost every way, yet it doesn't have the impact that the original film had. I don't hate on remakes as much as most film people do, but I do believe that the only way it works is if it is relevant. I love everyone involved (Chloe Grace Moretz, Julianne Moore, Judy Greer and director Kimberly Peirce), so I had an extremely open mind for this version. Plus, I haven't seen the original in well over 15 years, and I think I read the book even before that. Carrie is a relevant story for today; kids getting bullied in school has gotten significantly worse since the first film was made (and since the novel was published), so I thought a modern take could work. The problem is that you need to actually "modernize" the story and this film did not do that. How does Carrie live in present day and be so innocent to life? She lives in a suburban town, surrounded by people her own age and I assume technology (maybe not at home, but certainly at school). Sure, her mother is a religious psychopath, but how did Carrie survive up until this point? Also, as much as I love Chloe Grace Moretz, I think she was very weak in this. I was still entertained on a basic level, and the ending is over-the-top fantastic.

5. Enough Said - Really sweet movie. It's odd that it's the second movie I watched in a week about a massage therapist; it's not really a profession that is portrayed on film too often. It's also odd, to me, that women confess their whole life to their masseuse, hair-stylist, manicurist etc (I wouldn't know....seems like a waste of money to me), but I know my mother tells her whole life story to her hair-stylist, so I guess it's realistic. I love the beginning of this relationship between the main characters. She's not instantly attracted to him, but falls for his sweet personality; that's much more true to life than love at first sight. I was never really a fan of Julia Louis-Dreyfus until recently - I am not a fan of Seinfeld at all (and yes, I've seen most episodes, not by my choice). She was certainly the best part of the show, but I never really gave her a chance to impress me. She impresses me here. She's really natural and funny, but there is also an undeniable sadness to this role (the line where she says "I'm tired of being funny" made my heart hurt. It's most definitely commentary on how women are routinely judged.). Even though she is 20 years older than me, I can relate to all of the "middle-aged" talk (I always feel much older than I actually am). Catherine Keener and Toni Collette steal every scene they are in, but James Gandolfini is absolutely brilliant. This movie is proof that he had so much more to give to the acting world and it's devastating that we won't be able to witness it. Overall, I was extremely entertained from beginning to end and I think that is quite successful, considering the story is a very basic romantic comedy set-up.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

6 Shows Everyone Should Be Watching

1. Bates Motel - I hesitate to praise a show after only one season (which is the case for 3 shows on this list), since many shows lose their way. I think (and hope and pray) that Bates Motel is going to continue being great, so I recommend catching up now, before season two starts in March. The first season was able to captivate my attention, by building suspense and successfully twisting the story in unexpected ways. The show is just plain odd - like nothing else you will see on television. It's the story of Norman Bates as a teenager, way before Psycho takes place, yet the story is told in present day (and surprisingly, it works!). Vera Farmiga, as Norma Bates, is my favorite performance on television right now. She's so chilling, yet soft and feminine. It's incredible. So, even if the show goes to shit in season two (which I doubt), it is still worth watching the first season just to see her shine. Max Thieriot is so hot; he reminds me of Ryan Phillippe (a.k.a the sexiest man alive), but he's also really good on this show. The weak link is Freddie Highmore, as Norman Bates. He's a terrible actor, cringe-worthy even. However, the story is so strong and the surrounding actors are so good that it almost highlights Norman's character as an "outcast". I stopped focusing on how bad he is by the third episode and just went with it.

2. Arrow - This show is one of my favorite things on television right now. I had no interest in watching it, as I am not a comic book reader. I appreciate the art form, but it's just not for me. I do, however, love several movies based on comics and I'm a huge fan of superhero stories. The concept of Green Arrow seemed really dumb to me, though, so when the show first aired, I decided to give it a miss (even though I usually watch all CW shows. I'm such a sucker for teen drama). A few months ago, I started reading really great things about Arrow, everywhere from twitter to Entertainment Weekly, the show seemed to be exceeding expectations. I was a little annoyed at first (come on, the first CW show that I don't watch, is actually good! Of course.), but after watching the first episode I was hooked. It's so much fun!! The story moves really quickly, the dialogue is sharp and witty, the back-story is continuously intriguing and Stephen Amell is fucking hot. The supporting cast (minus Katie Cassidy) is also fantastic. The best part is that season 2 (so far), is even better than season 1!!!  The show raises the stakes by focusing much more attention on other characters and even set up a nice introduction for The Flash (which will be another CW show; I believe beginning this fall. Grant Gustin (from Glee) is so perfect for this role). I admit that there are probably a lot of references and relationships that fans of the story will understand better than I do, but I sort of like being in the dark about where the story is going and how the characters will develop.

3. Hannibal - If you are a fan of Bryan Fuller shows, then you HAVE to watch this show (and really, if you're not a fan, it's probably because you've never seen any of his shows. Dead Like Me, Pushing Daisies, Wonderfalls. Watch them). Hannibal is stunning; visually poetic and beautifully dark. Hugh Dancy and the rest of the cast are all above average, but Mads Mikkelsen, as Hannibal Lecter, is superbly creepy. I never imagined that someone would be able to fill the role as well as Anthony Hopkins, but Mads is fantastic - and it's not a direct copy, either. He made the role something completely different, but still obviously psychopathic. Like previous Fuller shows, every episode feels like it belongs on a big screen enabling the audience to absorb everything, it's all a bit overwhelming for television (and shocking that it's on network t.v., with some of the gore that is shown). Fuller's shows tend to get canceled quickly (2 season curse), mostly due to production cost, but this show seems to have a stronger and more active fan-base than his previous efforts, so here's hoping that it lasts! I would love to see what he can do, if given the time to really develop a series.

4. Almost Human - This show isn't perfect....yet. I think everyone needs to start watching it, though, so that it gets a chance to improve. It has potential to be epic! The relationship between the two main characters, John and Dorian ( if you don't think of Scrubs, well then, you probably have never seen Scrubs. What's wrong with you?), is so fantastic. At first, their banter was mildly amusing but in the most recent episodes, it's actually laugh out loud funny. Also, the technology is AWESOME! The show is set in the future, but doesn't feel so far away that we can't relate to it. I would love for the show to go a little deeper into a "mythology", which is what I'm used to with Bad Robot productions, but the case-by-case episodes are working for now. The biggest issue that needs to be resolved, is that they have no idea how to use their female characters. So far, Lili Taylor had one really strong plot (contained to one episode) and the gorgeous Minka Kelly spends most of the episodes standing around looking adorable (like, really fucking adorable, but still...enough is enough.). It's a glaring problem that could easily be fixed. I first noticed Karl Urban in The Bourne Supremacy and I specifically remember walking out of the theater wondering who that really hot guy was. I feel like this is the first project where he can show a little personality - a dark, brooding, sarcastic personality, and I fucking love it.

5. Parenthood - The best show on television right now (ok, aside from Mad Men, but that's almost over and I want Parenthood to last forever!). It is assumed that the show is canceled pretty much every year, especially last year, but it just keeps tugging along. I'm not a particularly emotional person, some things hit me hard, but I'm not really an emotional viewer. Yet, I cry during every single episode of Parenthood. Once, I made it through an episode without tears, only to bawl hysterically at the preview for the following weeks episode. I think the show gets under my skin so much because this is how I envision "family". They're not perfect, they don't always agree, but they are there for each other 100%. I always dreamed of having a big family, and on occasion I have been a part of some (my mother has been married a few times to guys with big families. And I've found that I am attracted to guys who come from big families. The problem is that it's never felt like a permanent situation. I am always the outsider, peeking in at this extraordinary human connection that people have). I connect with Amber the most, because of her fucked up father situation (and man, her relationship with Ryan just crushed me. Ryan is EXACTLY the kind of guy I would go for - he's like an even more fucked up version of Ryan Atwood. When he confronts her mother about his family situation and says "not everyone has a family like yours"; seriously, a flood of tears like never before). However, in all honesty, I find myself connecting with every character. They all have something to relate to and care about - and no one is ever made out to be "the bad guy"; instead everyone is just a complicated human being. Peter Krause is my second favorite television actor ever (Michael C. Hall is my first. Obviously, I am a huge fan of Six Feet Under.), but every actor on this show has become a favorite of mine. Mae Whitman and Monica Potter have given Emmy-worthy performances. I'm hoping the show continues to quietly be the best show on television for years to come, because I don't want to live in world without the Bravermans.

6. Raising Hope - This is a show that has been on for a while now (it's in the middle of its 4th season, which is quite a success, in this day, for comedies), but I don't think I've ever mentioned it on this blog. It started off as an okay show, but more of a time-filler for me; something that I would put on while I cleaned my apartment or wrote on my blog), but at some point it grew into must watch television - and I'm not quite sure when that shift happened. I think the best way to describe it is as a "modern day Roseanne", but I'm not sure that gives it justice. I feel like Roseanne was a little more cynical and depressing, while Raising Hope is a very happy and heartwarming show. Virginia and Burt are a hard-working couple who are very much in love (which is refreshing to say the least - a happy, drama-free couple on television is almost unheard of nowadays) and they are happy with their life. Don't let the fact that the title refers to raising a baby (Hope), deter you, because it's really just about family. A really funny, lovable family.

*This list is in addition to shows I've already written about in previous posts including: Parks and Recreation, Scandal, The Americans and Archer. 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Thoughts on 5 Films

1. Runner Runner - I really wasn't expecting this to be as boring as it was. Dumb? Sure. Cheesy? Yes. Not boring! It's a great plot, that is actually original (ish), with a great cast. So, what was missing? A script, for one. There was no point to any of it. It seemed like they had a beginning and an ending, but got lost along the way. You know who the good guy is and you know who the bad guy is - and it just makes its way from A to B, without any ounce of entertainment. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Justin Timberlake doesn't belong in movies. He's got charisma and stage presence (obvi!), but he's just not a solid actor. He's been good in some smaller roles, but overall his talent should be utilized on a stage (not necessarily singing/dancing - he's excellent on SNL and he's great on talk shows. He'd make a great Oscar host one day.). Since this script is so bland, we really rely on, at the very least, likable characters but Timberlake is so robotic in this role. Even more blah as "the bad guy", is Ben Affleck. This reminded me of the time period when he made one bad movie after the next. I hope this isn't the start of that trend again.

2. As Cool as I am - This is pretty much the same movie as the Eva Mendes movie from 2012, Girl in Progress, about a young girl growing up while her mom is also "growing up".  I think we will see an influx of these type of "teen-mom" movies over the next few years, and it would be nice if at least one of them got it right. As for this movie, it focuses on this teenage girl, who just seems like a spoiled brat to me. Another young actress may have made the teen angst thing work, but Sarah Bolger is really awful.  I don't really understand why she thinks her life is so difficult - because her parents clearly care about her, even if they are focused on other things (like their own happiness). But I would argue that having parents who are at least trying to live happily is much better than having parents who walk around miserably and do nothing about it. *spoiler* I'm also a little disturbed at the fact that she is raped by an acquaintance from school and's dropped, as if it never happened. She yells at him about learning what "consensual sex" is and then it's never brought up again. It's as if the film is making a statement about this young girls sexuality (and how confused she is) being directly related to bad parenting (sure, I can understand that point), but being raped has nothing to do with how you grew up. It's another case of blaming the victim (and her parents).  I'm not sure if that's the stance the film is trying to take, but that's certainly the impression it left on me. Claire Danes did a lot of her famous ugly cry face, and James Marsden barely made any impression.  The whole mess should be avoided.

3. Compulsion - This movie is actually much more successful than I first gave it credit for. I watched it a few weeks ago, and thought "blah", but then it's been stuck in my head ever since.  I think it would have been much better on a stage, since it took place in a confined space, and felt very personal and claustrophobic.  It's about two women; one is obsessed with cooking (as a way to make people happy), while the other is obsessed with her appearance (as a way to make people happy). On the surface, it's a simple story - and even a little boring. When you look deeper, though, it has a lot of relevant commentary on how we view women in society. First, my obvious initial reaction was "there is no way Heather Graham's boobs are that big", which led me on an internet search of her boobs (they aren't - she actually wore heavy padding to look like she gained weight, which is also interesting because as an actress, shouldn't they have asked her to actually gain weight for the role - like many men are asked to do? Instead they padded her breasts, stomach and butt, so that she still had a thin face and sticks for arms - in other words, she is still skinny.).  Her obsession with keeping people, specifically men, happy so that they love her is the equivalent to the old adage "the only way to a man's heart is through his stomach". She imagines a life in which she is a famous "sexy" chef, with hordes of men ogling her all day. Heather Graham isn't the best actress, but she does do "crazy ex-girlfriend" amazingly well - just look at the poster! She looks like a complete psychopath. Carrie-Anne Moss has a pretty relevant role; considering that in real life she went from playing a kick-ass action star to a mom within a few years, as an actress. Her role in this movie is of an older actress who has developed an eating disorder because she is trying to compete for roles with 20 year olds. It's all a bit depressing to think about (as a woman). The themes in the movie stuck with me, but I just wish it was an overall better movie. The dialogue is a bit cheesy and repetitive, and the intimacy between these two women is laughable. I can't really recommend it, but the psychology behind it is, at least, interesting.

4. The Spectacular Now - I am in the very small minority of people who are not impressed by this movie. I don't get it at all. Genuine, heartfelt performances don't make a great movie. So, yes Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley are great; and yes, they deserve the glowing reviews. The story doesn't though. It's incredibly predictable; the "tragic" moment is foreshadowed like crazy, but even worse than that, is that there are absolutely no consequences for his actions. *spoiler* Am I supposed to feel bad for someone who drives drunk on a regular basis, putting other peoples lives at risk, just because his father abandoned him? Does that give him a justifiable reason to act like an asshole? And why is this girl so fucking stupid? She's not actually stupid, because she plays the "geeky" girl but the story just reaffirms that smart girls should stop being smart if they want "popular" boys to love them. And let's just say that he truly believes his mother is to blame for his father leaving, isn't he old enough to realize that if his father wanted to be a part of his life...then he would be? He obviously doesn't; so then why would you force the situation? Are we really supposed to support the happy ending? I mean, he should really be in jail. I would rather if it ended with this smart girl, realizing how incredibly fucking dumb she was for falling for this guys bullshit, going off to college and finding someone who appreciates how smart and interesting she is. I just don't connect with it at all. That's all. Rant over. *Takes a bow*

5. Fruitvale Station - I liked this movie. Maybe not as much as I was hoping to, but it's a solid story with some wonderful acting performances from Michael B. Jordan, Octavia Spencer and Melonie Diaz. I've loved Michael B. Jordan since Parenthood (and of course, Friday Night Lights, but I watched FNL after it was already off the air). He was so good on Parenthood, though - I used to cry during all of his scenes (who am I kidding, I cry through every episode of that show). Plus, I am a huge Melonie Diaz fan (A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, Itty Bitty Titty Committee), I've been waiting for her to get noticed for a while now. The story is based on the true story of Oscar Grant, a young black man who was shot in the back and killed by police officers, after getting into an altercation on a train with fellow passengers. Jordan is absolutely fantastic in the role; creating a character who isn't perfect, and therefore highlighting his humanity instead of the symbol that he has become. I do have some issues with the way that the story is told (there are things added to "soften" Grant's personality), as if an audience wouldn't sympathize with the actual true story (it's clear by the protests and media coverage that we already do). I'm not saying it isn't necessary for us to care about our main character; of course, we should. The film (and true story) takes place on New Years Eve, which is extremely relevant to Oscar Grant's story. He, like most people, spent the day wanting to better himself - resolving his past errors. Unfortunately, Grant didn't get the chance to better his life because it was cut short. This is all we need, as an audience though, we don't need the "filler" scenes. I also wish the film didn't end with his death - the aftermath is really interesting (the police officer that shot him claimed he meant to get his he's either a liar, or just a really stupid cop). From the cellphone footage caught by other train passengers, to the accounts that I've read, and even from the testimony of the police, it's clear that something went very wrong - not only should someone be held accountable, but systems need to be in place so that it never happens again. If you're not incredibly angry after watching this movie, then you weren't paying attention. On a side note, did anyone else even notice the actor that plays one of the officers is Chad Michael Murray??!!?? How the fuck did he get that job? Worst actor on the planet.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

3 Thoughts on American Hustle

1. The "hustle" - As much as I love writing about movies, I would never, ever want to be a professional film critic. One reason? Some (most?) film critics are condescending assholes. Just because you've studied film (I have, too) doesn't make your opinion any more "right" than someone else's. Sure, a film critic can probably reference editing and camera technique, and may even have a better understanding of story structure, but in the end, does it really matter? Film (and all art) is very personal, so instead of looking for "critical praise", I have a few people (both critics and non-critics) who I trust with film opinions, simply because they have the same taste as I do. With American Hustle, a film that is widely praised by the "critics", a huge backlash occurred against said critics, by other critics - pretty much calling them stupid for liking this movie. There is an article that was circling twitter about how the critics were "hustled" by this movie, I won't bother to link it because it's just plain rude. I also read a comment on twitter from a person who is passionate about film (not a critic, but someone who I trust firmly with movie opinions), claiming his love for this movie, and a "wannabe" film critic responded "oh no, you were tricked into liking it, too?" (ummmmm...ASSHOLE....cough...cough). Then, there were the pretentious critics dismissing American Hustle as "Scorsese light", as if a filmmaker getting inspiration from one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, is somehow a crime. The funny thing is, Scorsese films (for the most part) are extremely violent, dense and dark, if you take those things's not Scorsese anymore. American Hustle is actually very "light" and comedic, with a very simplistic plot, in comparison and therefore, nothing like a Scorsese movie. I think that many of these critics assumed O. Russell was copying Scorsese simply because of the style and the feeling that the trailer invoked, but the film is very much its own thing. I was fully invested in the heist, and while it may not add anything new to the canon of American crime films, I still had a great time watching it. That is all that matters.

2. The style - The best part of the movie is definitely "the look" of it. When the first pictures from the production were released, all anyone could talk about was Bradley Cooper and his perm, Christian Bale and his comb-over, or Amy Adams and her cleavage (it's not really cleavage though, is it? There has to be a different name for the naked chest area that flat-chested girls have when they wear low cut tops/dresses. Hmmmmm....I'll have to look into that.).  Really, major kudos to the costume designers, stylists, makeup and hair department. They are crucial in creating these iconic characters. You know they've succeeded, when they can take a questionably iffy decade for fashion and make it extremely sexy. I want every single outfit that Amy Adams wears (and I'm pale and flat-chested too, so I can totally pull it off!!). Also, Bradley Cooper, even with that awful perm? Fucking sexy - especially that scene when him and Amy dance together. I thought I was going to melt in my theater seat. Aside from the fashion, the production design also felt very authentic. Even with the modern day technology, it felt like a film from the late 70's.  I think the best way to describe the look of film is as pure "eye candy".

3. The Oscars - In another, less competitive year, I think this would be Oscar-worthy filmmaking. In 2013, however, it's hard to compare it with such masterpieces as 12 Years a Slave, Gravity or The Wolf of Wall Street and I think this is what's causing the backlash against it. Sure, I can think of plenty of movies that I would prefer in the Best Picture category (Stoker, Mud, Her, Short Term 12) but I just don't feel the need to bash a quality movie, just because there were better movies made in the same year. It's still a smart, witty script, with fully-developed characters made into a lively and fun movie. We should celebrate that! As a film lover, I am genuinely happy that there were so many great films and performances last year, even if that means that there was, inevitably, talent that was snubbed. Isn't that better than the other way around? However, I do have some problems with the amount of attention the acting is getting. This is the third David O. Russell movie in a row that attracted heavy Oscar attention for the cast, so it seems like a trend (where were the acting nominations for I Heart Huckabees and Three Kings?), but I don't think anyone did anything extraordinary aside from Christian Bale. I didn't really agree with Jennifer Lawrence's nomination last year (let alone the win), but a nomination for this film really baffles my mind. I've seen a lot of people defending her by saying that she was "too young" for the role, but that's no excuse. If she is that strong of an actress, she could overcome that obstacle. I don't think she was bad, or anything, I think she was sufficient for the role (i.e not Oscar-worthy), but I think her level of talent isn't on par with Christian Bale (or Amy Adams), so every time she is on-screen, she is the worst part of the scene (and that is problematic). I still like her, and oddly, I think her best performance is in The Hunger Games. As much as I adore Amy Adams and Bradley Cooper, I really didn't see anything special in their performances either. But, man, Christian fucking Bale is ridiculously good. He just knows how to truly embody a character; completely transforming not only physically, but mentally, by absorbing his surroundings. It's a masterpiece performance for him, and he's given us several.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Thoughts on 5 Films

1. A Hijacking - First, I have not seen Captain Phillips yet, so I can not compare the two (it's an inevitable comparison. Honestly, I had no interest in Captain Phillips, but I will definitely watch it with all of the buzz it gained during awards season. I am just so absolutely sick and tired of the same freaking clip over and over and over again - "I am the captain now". Seriously, stop.). Second, this film is incredibly tense, the pace is perfect, the actors are fantastic.  Third, it was released in the USA in 2013, so it's yet another movie that I will have to adjust my "best of" list for. Fourth, I didn't even realize that it was written and directed by the same guy who also co-wrote another one of my favorite movies of last year, The Hunt (Tobias Lindholm). What an incredible year that guy has had! Fifth, how much is a human life worth? That's the question at hand, and the answer is brutal. When the movie ended, I had this huge pit in my stomach of disgust and outrage.

2. Kick-Ass 2 - I think that I am one of the few who thought Kick-Ass was a pretty mediocre movie. I enjoyed the Hit-Girl character, more than anything else in the movie, but I wasn't as "wowed" as most people. I remember the character being so controversial at the time, but I didn't really get what the big deal was. I felt like the film set out to "shock" an audience, instead of being good. Now with the sequel, it seems even more underwhelming and repetitive. Hit-Girl is still the best part, simply because Chloe Grace Moretz is awesome.  Aaron Johnson, on the other hand, is terrible. I don't get the appeal. I don't think he's hot at all, and he really isn't a very good actor (you can't watch that funeral scene and tell me I'm wrong). As far as the story is concerned, it's really stupid. The villain is a joke and the overall story is actually very boring. Plus, the misogyny is even more appalling than the first one - "Act like a bitch, get slapped like a bitch" is actually a quote that is used on official merchandise to promote the movie. While I have very little issue with depicting misogyny in movies - as movies are a reflection of society, I am also well aware of the reputation Mark Millar (who created the Kick-Ass graphic novels) has and his comments about the rape scene (he compared it to decapitation - you know, because the millions of people who have been decapitated have a really tough time, psychologically, watching other people on-screen be decapitated. What an idiot. If you don't understand my point, then you're an idiot too. Sorry.). This seems to be a case where the creator doesn't even realize his story is misogynistic and that is unnerving. The other controversy, regarding Jim Carrey refusing to promote the movie because of the violence, is a little misguided, in my opinion (again, movies reflect society; it's not the other way around.). The weird thing is that I watched the movie and then thought, "wait, I thought Jim Carrey was in that"....I didn't even realize that was him through the whole movie! That's craziness!

3. The Lone Ranger - This movie took a beating with the critics (and the box office, if you consider the budget).  I really don't think it's that bad. I was really into it for about an hour, and then it turns into a mess. It's a lot of repetitive actions scenes and it just lasts foreeeeveeeerr. Gore Verbinski just needs to let the editor do his/her job in order to make a concise story. I understand the attachment that directors have to certain scenes, but there comes a point where one has to let go. The other big problem, is that they marketed it as a "summer blockbuster" - it had to be done that way, considering the budget, but I think it caused a lot of disappointment from audiences. I don't think the acting should have been criticized at all, everyone, including Depp, did a satisfying job. I remember watching The Lone Ranger television show with my grandfather when I was a kid, but I didn't really remember the myth behind it. I like the way the movie reinvents the story a little and some parts of it are really funny (again, during the first hour). It's not something I would ever watch again, and I wouldn't recommend it to too many people, but it's not as terrible as some people made it out to be. I could have done without the scene with the scorpions (yikes! fear of scorpions, which I just learned is actually a form of arachnophobia; it's odd to me because I'm not at all scared of spiders. I don't even care if I see one in my apartment, I usually leave it alone).

4. I Give it a Year - Sometimes I watch a movie, solely based on the cast and nothing else. I will watch Rose Byrne in anything and hope for the best (she's much more awesome than most of the movies she does). Plus, a supporting cast including Anna Faris and Stephen Merchant, seems like a good idea.  I was expecting something much funnier, but it was pretty dry overall.  Thematically, it's very similar to Drinking Buddies, which I watched earlier that day (and it's nowhere near as good as Drinking Buddies is, so that doesn't help my overall impression).  There are some parts that are done really well, and I think it touches on some of the issues I have with the concept of marriage. I don't think people enter into marriage with a clear understanding of what they are committing themselves to.  I also think that once people have gone through with the marriage, they become scared of admitting they might have made a mistake. The movie is cute, a little predictable, but still an interesting watch.

5. Short Term 12 - Be prepared: I can't write about this movie without comparing it to my personal life. I knew it was a story about a girl who works at a foster care facility, so I didn't really expect to relate to her. The story, though, vaguely dives into her background and the psychological effects that she suffers because of her past. We know that her father is in prison (and that he belongs there) and we know that Grace is trying her best to live her life without talking about her past. She spends her life compassionately helping kids who have no-one else to care for them, and focusing on everyone else instead of herself.  Her life comes to a breaking point, when she learns that she is pregnant and her boyfriend proposes. She also learns that her father is going to be released from prison soon. This forces her to confront her situation, and it is heartbreaking. There's a lot going on, in such a quiet story and if you've lived a life similar to hers - like I have, it will force you to confront your own situation. I spend my life, quietly trying to avoid talking about anything from my childhood, but it's much harder than you'd expect. The inevitable question always arises when you meet someone new - about your family. I try my best to avoid it, but I'm also not very good at directly lying if someone asks me a specific question about my father - I have to say "he's in prison".  It shocks most people because I've been told I give off a "girl next door" vibe which is really laughable to me. Most people are smart enough to not ask further questions, but if someone asks "why?", I just say because he's a "bad person".  I will never give specifics. Ever. Grace is lucky enough to find a guy, who seems genuinely nice and understanding of her needs, while also expressing his frustration that she doesn't confide in him. I like to think of a future, where I find someone who I feel comfortable enough telling everything to (and maybe I already have, but other obstacles are in the way), but another part of me doesn't want to put someone else through it. It's extremely refreshing to have this girl find a nice guy, instead of the tiring cliche that girls with "daddy issues" will end up with assholes. I've never dated an asshole, and I never will. The fact that she's pregnant is forcing her to think about things that not many people can understand - it's not just about whether she is strong enough to be a mother (she clearly is), but it's inevitably about genetics. There is a terrifying reality that your child could carry the same evil traits as your father (it's the nature vs nurture debate - and I'm honestly not sure where I stand).  While the story in Short Term 12, doesn't delve into this subject, it's clear that Grace is having trouble with all of the thoughts in her head (and I believe this is one of them).  She focuses her attention on a new troubled girl who moves into the facility. A girl with whom she can relate to and confide in, causing her to come to a devastating breaking point. I would not be able to do what she does, my mind is just not that strong. I try to give back to the community and help people who have suffered, like I have, as much as I can, but sometimes I just can't. It's too much for me to handle. It's nice that the story ends positively, with Grace beginning to heal but the story is much more than just this confined space and time. I have to think beyond the ending, the fact that her father will be a free man, it will continue to destroy her sanity (I cried through the whole movie, but I cried even more hysterically when it was over, just thinking about her future). The film, itself, consists of incredible acting from Brie Larson and a tight, effective script. It's probably my favorite movie of last year, solely because I've never been able to relate to a character as much as Grace. There is a lot more to the movie than just Grace, though. It's a story of building relationships, after being abandoned and/or neglected, and I think most people can relate to that. I've seen it on quite a few "best of" lists, so from a critical standpoint, I think it stands on its own - even if you don't relate to the story.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Thoughts on 5 Films

1. Fast & Furious 6 - As a whole, I am a fan of this franchise - the only one I didn't like was the Tokyo Drift one. I enjoy it for what it is: super awesome car chases, hot people, cheesy dialogue, and more car chases. I like that women are a part of the action, and even the female character who doesn't participate as much in the action, is still a supportive female presence, instead of a nagging one. It's surprising that a movie like this actually gets female roles right, but it does. Plus, how can anyone resist watching a fight between Michelle Rodriguez and Gina Carano? Fucking aaaaawsooome! I actually like Gina Carano, even though I wasn't impressed with her in Haywire (I think her performance was a result of bad circumstances - the altered voice, the over-choreographed fight scenes, the awkward dialogue = disaster), however, she proves herself here and I've seen her in a few interviews where she seems authentic. Also, I really like Gal Gadot - I'm not sure why everyone is freaking out about her playing Wonder Woman (the biggest complaint seems to be that she's too skinny, which is ridiculous). You may wonder why I am focusing on the female characters in an action movie geared towards men. I don't have a reason, other than because I want to. The only other comment I have is that watching this movie, after the death of Paul Walker, was a bit of a downer; certainly not the ridiculous fun that was intended. I tried not to think about it, but it was inevitable.

2. The Family - Horrible movie. It's certainly not the worst film of last year, but I would vote it the "dullest film" of last year.  How do you make a mob story starring Robert DeNiro and Michelle Pfeiffer boring? It has to take a certain talent to make something this disastrous. It honestly baffles my mind that the same person who created Leon: The Professional, also created this. It makes no sense!!! The biggest flaw in the movie is Dianna Agron - she has absolutely zero personality (no surprise there) and her story line barely makes any sense. The plot of the movie is all over the place, with no direction or motivation. There is no character development, or any understanding for the actions that they take. Plus, it takes place in France, but all of the French people speak English (with a French accent). Stuff like that always drives me insane.

3. Prisoners - I like this movie a lot. This is the type of movie that I know if I watched it again, I would pick up on something else that serves the plot; something brilliant. I thought it felt too long, but after I really absorbed everything, I realized that every single scene is an important piece to the puzzle. There's a lot more depth than I think people give it credit for after a first watch. However, I do think it's a little convenient - the way it ends, makes no sense (*spoiler - didn't the cops do a search of the house? They said they did. I realize that part of the story is the investigative approach of a cop versus the intuition of a father, however, the main cop, is definitely invested in the case - wouldn't he ensure a thorough search?). There are also, at least, two other plot points that I take issue with that are hard to ignore. I'll try my best though, because with a film like this, the good parts are much stronger than the weak parts. I love the theme of being obsessed, i.e a prisoner of your own obsessions, and the moral ambiguity behind it all. The cast is incredible, headed by Hugh Jackman, but consists of fantastic supporting performances as well.  If this movie was released during the Holidays, I think we would be seeing a different Oscar race (at least in the performance categories).

4. Lee Daniels' The Butler - This could have been a good movie; it's a fascinating story that spans decades of American history.  The problem is that because it spans so much time; a lot of important information is glossed over. It felt really unfocused.  Also, I find it weird to base a story on a real person, but add an additional (and very important) character to the story; his son, the one who joins The Black Panther movement, doesn't exist in real life. The character was just created as a story-telling device. It does a disservice to the story, though, because it's basically stating that the "real" story, isn't all that interesting (it is, if they told it right). The other problem, the bigger problem, is the casting. Truly laughable casting - in a film that is supposed to be serious, it is really distracting. It's confusing because it almost seems like distraction is the intent ("this movie sucks...but look who we cast as the Kennedy's!").  I was also extremely distracted by Yaya Alfia because I spent an hour trying to figure out how I know her. She seemed so familiar, but when I checked her IMDB page nothing stood out. Then I thought "maybe...I actually know in real life", which led me to look into her background further only to realize she's from America's Next Top Model (I'm a huge fan of ANTM. Go ahead, judge me. I deserve it.). I didn't realize she started acting - good for her, she is one of the few credible performances in the movie. On a side note, this poster I used is a much stronger image than anything in the entire movie.

5. Drinking Buddies - This movie was a nice surprise for me. I wasn't expecting much; hadn't really heard much about it.  I expected a cute, cheesy, romantic buddy comedy.  None of those words in that sentence describe the movie at all. It's a mature, authentic depiction of friendship, love and lust. The biggest highlight is Olivia Wilde - I love her; have been a fan since her O.C days.  I am ecstatic that she absolutely kills this role. I like Jake Johnson on New Girl, but I think he does the same character here, so it's hard to judge his acting ability.  He is very likable, though, and that is necessary for this role. In fact, it's necessary that all of the characters are likable and easy to relate to (they all are), because it makes everything more complicated. None of the characters are depicted as bad people, even though they all do hurtful things - which I think is more true to life. Shit happens, you know? People change, feelings change and will continue to change. It's the only fact of life: change.

3 Thoughts on Her

1. The "future" of love - While the film is set in the near future, it's easily considered a "modern day love story". A beautiful, touching, smart and soul-crushing story of a man in love with an operating system. A lot of things have to happen, in order for the audience to buy this love story. First (and most important), we need to relate to it. I thought this is where the film would falter, especially for someone as cynical as I am. Spike Jonze brilliantly creates a future that's not really that much different from today. Instead of distracting the audience with super cool technological advances, futuristic set designs or weird fashion choices, all of the "future" references are relatively subtle.  Yes, there is some super cool tech stuff and, while the fashion choices may seem odd, it's actually really brilliant, if you know fashion (the biggest fashion fact: everything is cyclical). As far as the romance is concerned, it's 100% believable.  If I saw this, say, 4 years ago, I would have laughed through the whole movie. That just proves how quickly social media is advancing and bringing people together. There are online relationships, like this, forming everyday. The thing I really appreciate about this story is that it highlights the idea, that while these online relationships may be relieving us from the pain of loneliness, it may in fact, also be enhancing this same loneliness. It's really quite depressing to think about. The future of love, seems pretty bleak.

2. The "end" of love - *contains spoilers* The second thing that needs to happen for this story, is an understanding of the "other" perspective.  We are following this story from a male point of view, which is problematic for me, because it could fall into the same boring, misogynistic tale of a man who can't find the perfect woman, so he creates one. We can understand his love for her; she makes him laugh, she's smart, she sounds sexy, and let's be honest, the biggest reason - she's "his".  So, I can watch this movie with my feminist brain turned off, and think "awwww, how cute" or I can turn my feminist brain on and think "what's in it for her?".  It's hard for me to turn my feminist brain off, so I had this sinking feeling that I was going to be aggravated by the end. I was so wrong and I love it.  We can tell from the beginning, probably even before the movie starts, that this love story isn't going to end well.  However, it doesn't end because it's a "doomed romance" as expected, instead it ends because this woman, who was basically "born" in the beginning of the movie, begins to grow and change, as women (and humans) do. The movie, isn't actually a love story at all. It's a story of a woman who decides her life doesn't need to revolve around one man. It's a story of a man learning that women are actually "people" and not something to possess. It's fucking glorious.

3. Joaquin Phoenix and "the voice" - The third essential part of this love story is the acting. The leads need to really believe in it and sell it. Joaquin Phoenix is absolutely outstanding. In a competitive year for not only excellent films, but also for phenomenal performances, Phoenix is a standout.  I've been a fan of Joaquin Phoenix since Inventing the Abbotts (love that movie!), but he really floored me with The Master.  I'm still upset that he didn't win the Oscar for it. I'm really surprised that he's not even nominated this year, but I don't know who I would omit (I haven't seen Nebraska yet, so I'll go with Bruce Dern for now).  I've made my feelings about Scarlett Johansson's acting ability very clear on this blog (not a fan) and I've also given credit to her when it was due (Don Jon). She deserves some credit here too, as she makes you care about a character who you never see. However, I would give most of the credit for that success to the writer, Jonze, and also, on her looks. Yes, the fact that Scarlett Johansson is a recognizably, stunning woman is an important factor - and it's proven by the fact that Jonze replaced the original actress, Samantha Morton (who is also very beautiful, but not recognizable to the average movie-goer). It's essential that the audience know what she looks like, otherwise we (or at least, I) would dismiss it. We can pretend all we want, that looks don't matter, and that is the great thing about dating on social media - we can get to know someone instead of basing an attraction on looks, however, physical attraction will always be important. When the character is masturbating to a voice, he's most likely envisioning someone with Johansson's features, the same person that the audience is envisioning. It's ironic that a movie that seemingly doesn't rely on Johannson's looks, is actually the movie that relies on it the most.