Sunday, March 30, 2014

Thoughts on 5 Films

1. The Counselor - Some people question my "watch everything" philosophy, but this is exactly the reason why I believe in it. This movie was completely trashed by critics and audiences - some calling it one of the worst movies they've ever seen. Guess what? I liked it. It's odd and dark, but beautiful and poetic at the same time. It has a solid, interesting story that moves quickly and features some jaw-dropping scenes, performed by a strong, talented cast. What's not to like? People were so focused on the scene in which Cameron Diaz fucks a car, which I admit, is a bit ridiculous, but when you combine it with the dialogue from Javier Bardem describing this scene ("like a catfish") - it is truly fantastic and hilarious. I'm not trying to oversell the movie, it's not amazing - however, I'm glad I ignored the masses telling me to avoid it. I stand by decision to watch everything and decide for myself, and I encourage everyone to do the same!

2. Mr. Nobody - After being released internationally and in limited theaters since 2009, this movie finally became available to me! I really, really liked it. It's being compared to Cloud Atlas, because of its expansive themes and narrative structure, but I found it much better than Cloud Atlas. It wasn't as expansive and had a clear cut general theme of time, morality and destiny versus free will. There are a few different timelines, each with their own "sliding doors" effect (side note: I love that movie!). Instead of showing which timeline is the "correct" one, the story concludes with the theory that all paths are the "right path". That being said, one will choose their own path - it's not chosen for you. I think this is probably the closest representation of how I feel when I evaluate my own life decisions. When Mr. Nobody questions the love of his life, why she waited for him, she responds that she renounced "all possible lives for one only...with you".  Now that is a love story - realizing that any other path will be the right path, but choosing to wait instead. It hits close to home, because I don't really believe in destiny or soul-mates, but I do believe in love and I find that most people don't understand my version of love. This movie is my version. There's also a fantastic theory about time as "the thing that happens so that everything doesn't happen at once" and that there is, in fact, an "end point" in time, which happens at the end of the movie - it's an absolutely brilliant ending so I won't spoil it. There are a ton of flaws, none worth mentioning (ok...maybe the old person makeup - the makeup is great. I just don't like this used as a device; I would rather an older actor play the part. The makeup hinders facial expressions which are necessary for acting, in my opinion), but this is definitely a movie that I will remember forever and that is a wonderful thing.

3. Inside Llewyn Davis - I thought I was going to love this movie, but I only liked it. Maybe the hype killed it for me, but it's definitely not a movie I would put on my best of last year list. I found the story a little bland and predictable, plus Carey Mulligan's character irked the hell out of me  - I know she is supposed to be a bitch, but that's sort of the problem. The character is so one-sided and it just screams the same old misogynistic crap that women are "get a real job" dream crushers. Guys, seriously, if you are with a woman who doesn't want you to be passionate about your life and your work, then dump her! Then again, I've never been the type of person who wants someone else to take care of me, so that kind of thinking is beyond my comprehension. Anyway, the movie is cute and smart with some beautiful music, but it wouldn't have worked at all without the cat! Greatest cat  acting ever! He didn't even flinch with all of the subway noise, and he even looked at the camera when he was supposed to! Now I want to teach my cats to act.

4. Paranoia - I think the only reason I wanted to see this is because of Amber Heard. She's just so absolutely gorgeous; I wish she was the star of the movie instead of relegated to the "girlfriend" role, but I think she's on her way to some big starring roles soon.  I also thought that maybe Gary Oldman would bring some quality acting to the table; but like the rest of the movie, he is pretty dull. I actually like Liam Hemsworth; more than I like his brother (rare, I know), but he still falls into the "pretty but bland" category for me. He did a decent job with this role. The script is definitely what failed this movie and also some pacing issues. It's a pretty forgettable and generic thriller, only an acceptable movie for a lazy day when you want to watch something that you don't have to think about.

5. Kill Your Darlings - This movie was a nice surprise for me. I wasn't expecting too much; I thought it would be similar to the other recent "beat generation" movie On the Road, which I absolutely hated, with better actors. It's so much better, though. First, the cast is incredible - Dane Dehaan, as Lucien Carr, proves he is worthy of his current "it boy" status. Daniel Radcliff even surprised me as Allen Ginsberg - he can actually act (so why is he soooo bad in the Harry Potter movies??). The supporting cast includes Michael C. Hall, Ben Foster, Jack Huston, David Cross, Elizabeth Olsen and Jennifer Jason Leigh - all of whom make a strong mark on the film. I wasn't really familiar with the story behind Lucien Carr; I knew that he was imprisoned for murder, but I thought it was self-defense. I had no idea he used the "Honor Slaying" defense and that his fellow writing colleagues backed him up. I also didn't know the circumstances behind the actual murder - it all seems pretty suspicious to me (of course, I did a ton of research after I watched the movie - it's fascinating!). Aside from the whole murder (and morality) aspect, the story focuses on the budding nature of these famous writers - insecure, passionate, and challenging the "normal", they sought out their own identity and created a movement that is still relevant today. I loved every minute of it; it may even make my top films list of last year when I reevaluate.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Thoughts on 5 Films

1. About Time - This movie could have been a complete disaster for me. I'm about the only female in the world who does not like the movie Love Actually (same writer/director). This story is about a guy who can travel back in time (a genetic gift that he inherited from his father); so he uses this magical power to get (and by get...I mean trick) a woman to fall in love with him. There is a lot wrong with that sentiment, but the movie does its best to gloss over that fact. Instead of falling into romantic comedy tropes, the movie focuses on a really sweet father/son relationship and also, refreshingly, puts a nice, positive spin on marriage, having kids and living a "normal, ordinary life". I'm certainly not the "ordinary life" type of person (and I don't even believe that marriage should be legal), but it's really frustrating to constantly see movies like this shit on this lifestyle and then end by glorifying the whole "happily ever after" message. Not every movie has to be cynical about love. About Time is a charming, sweet love story with a moral lesson of enjoying every second of your life and living in the "present day" - and it's completely unapologetic about it. That being said, I still have some issues with the story. First, the obvious one mentioned earlier, using this power to manipulate someone is morally disgusting. Second, I hate when a beautiful woman, like Rachel McAdams, plays someone who is supposed to be insecure and mousy. I mean, I'm sure beautiful women have insecurities, but it still sends the wrong message to young women who don't look like movie stars. Also, Margot Robbie is in this!! She rightfully portrays a woman who is drop-dead gorgeous ("she's so beautiful, that if you had sex with her, you would die" - totally accurate). Third, we are supposed to believe that this guy has a chance with either of these women? Come on....really? He's cute, in an awkward sort of way - but he has NO PERSONALITY. And last, I spent the whole movie going "but couldn't he just go back in time and change that???". The plot holes are so gaping that it's really just one big hole - the logic disappears completely.

2. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire - Just like the first one, everything outside of the actual "games" is awesome. I love all of the social and political implications behind the story, the build up of intensity before the games begin, and the glorification of our "hero" is fantastic to watch. Then, the games begin and it's all a bit dull and repetitive. Having never read the books, the ending is superb, though! It's a huge twist that I wasn't expecting - and sets the tone for the next movie. Which, if we're lucky, will not feature any more "games" and will instead focus on a revolution of epic proportions. I love Jennifer Lawrence in this role - if you've read previous posts from me, then you know, I'm not absolutely memorized by her every move like everyone in the world seems to be. But here, she excels. Also, I want that 1/2 sweater/ 1/2 poncho diagonal thing she wears in the beginning. I'm surprised I haven't seen every retail store copying the design, as soon as they get on the ball with that, I am buying one. The rest of the cast is outstanding as well, and I just love the way the story shows the negative ramifications of the "pretend" love story. It's all just brilliantly done.

3. Ender's Game - Other than the controversy behind the writer of the novel, I didn't hear anything about this movie. It seemed to come and go rather quickly and quietly, which doesn't necessarily make it a bad movie. I thought it could have some interesting sci-fi behind it. Unfortunately, it is really, really unbelievably boring. So boring, that I couldn't bother to pay attention to it after about an hour. I never turn movies off; I'm a bit of a completist (I need help!), but I really wanted to press the "stop" button. The movie wants to make a statement about children and war; but it never really makes it. It also has something interesting to say about the effects that video games have on developing minds, but again, it doesn't actually follow through with anything solid. I've never really been a fan of Harrison Ford, other than The Fugitive, I can't really say I've liked anything he's done (and YES, I realize what I am saying. Movie geeks attack!!). He does the same dull, curmudgeon shtick here that he ALWAYS does, and I just can't be bothered. As for the kids, they are also pretty terrible, mostly because they are very dull. I was actually surprised to learn that that was the much praised Hailee Steinfeld. She looked like she was reading off of cue cards; I find it hard to believe that she ever gave an Oscar nomination-worthy performance (I still haven't seen True Grit).  I would put this movie on my worst of last year, slightly below After Earth - and that's only because After Earth was bad, but still entertainingly bad.

4. Blue is the Warmest Color - I like this movie, and the more I think about it, the more I like it. I just really wish it wasn't 3 hours long. It doesn't need to be - it could easily be edited to 2 hours (still too long) without losing the integrity or depth of the story (lose all of the shots of Adele sleeping, for one). The one thing that I wouldn't cut at all, surprisingly, is the extremely long, drawn out, graphic sex scenes. The movie basically turns into a porno for what seems like forever, however, it is all necessary for the story and it is meant to be a stark contrast to the straight sex scene earlier in the movie. It's also a stark contrast to 99% of straight sex scenes on film. Love, passion, lust and sex are all very different things - when they combine, it can be magical, and that is what is represented in this sex scene. Often during sex scenes, I find myself wondering if it was supposed to represent good sex or not. This is certainly not the case here - it's a bold choice, but I think I understand the intent behind it. I know there are a TON of articles around about the fact that this is a lesbian love story told from a male perspective, and that the actresses involved were put into uncomfortable situations, and now that I have watched the movie, I plan on reading them - I'm just waiting for the movie to fully absorb into my brain (it takes a while for me), so I can fully accept my own conclusions, before I let the opinions of others try sway me. I will say that I find the way the story turned (spoiler alert), with Adele comforting her own insecurities by sleeping with a man, extremely problematic - it's basically reinforcing the idea that lesbian relationships are "missing something". However, again, I see the intent behind it - Adele is seeking comfort and is in need of reassurance that she is desirable, something any man would be willing to give her. There is a lot of depth to this woman, perhaps because the movie is 3 hours long, we get to fully understand her, and also perhaps, because Adele Exarchopoulos is absolutely superb in portraying her naivete, while also letting her change and grow within the story. The scene where she breaks down after the children leave the room is heartbreaking, and so perfect. Her annoying character traits make her more personable and realistic (and also made me wonder if it is part of the character or if these are her actual traits - the way she kept putting her hair up and taking it down and the fact that she never closes her mouth, not once). I'm actually surprised that she didn't get an Oscar nomination for it - I know that the film wasn't eligible for the foreign category, but if I understand correctly, it was eligible for all other categories, and it received zero nominations. Very odd.

5. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 - Super cute and clever animated movie. It's not my favorite genre, but if it's done well, I am fully entertained. I enjoyed the first one a lot - it's smart, original, visually captivating and it has a cute message for both males and females. The same can be said for this one (I especially like the message that your girlfriend is ALWAYS right. It must suck for guys, but it's totally true), but it did feel a little repetitive and it's also strangely creepy in the way it humanizes food (if I were a child watching this movie, I would never want to eat anything again, ever). There are several laugh out loud moments, though, so all is forgiven - my favorites: "There's a leek in the boat!", "It's fooooooodicide" and "You got the special sauce".

Sunday, March 16, 2014

3 Thoughts on The Lego Movie

1. It's super cute, but not thaaaat super cute - I had no interest in seeing this movie; especially paying to see it in a theater, but the amazing reviews just kept pouring in and I was swayed. It's a cute movie, really charming and witty. Is it worthy of the the praise, though? I'm not so sure. It's one of those movies that is hard to criticize, but that doesn't necessarily make it the best movie ever. I should have known when people started comparing it to the Toy Story movies that I wouldn't be as enchanted with it as most people- similarly, the Toy Story movies are hard to criticize so people praise them beyond belief. It's movies like these that make me feel like an outsider (which is the exact opposite of the feelings that should occur), simply because it's aimed at gaining nostalgia from an adult audience about their childhood toys. If you are a child who didn't grow up surrounded by toys; these movies are pretty depressing (I did have a few toys growing up, but I certainly didn't have any attachment to these toys. The only toy I was attached to was a stuffed "Littlefoot" from The Land Before Time. I was a super lonely child.). I just don't get a sense of nostalgia from toy stuff (80's that's another story!) and I don't think I've ever played with Lego's. I just honestly don't get it.

2. The song from Hell - If you think everyone is annoying as they shout "EVERYTHING IS AWESOME", after seeing this movie, then just wait until you see it yourself! It's the most annoying song ever - and guess what? It's supposed to be annoying...and meaningless. It's the ultimate irony that people are enjoying this song; a song that is essentially representing how robotic, vapid and conformed our culture is. It's a glossy pop song that can be interchanged with any other glossy pop song currently on the radio. I feel like if you enjoy the song, and even worse, repetitively quote the song, then you've sort of missed the point of the movie.....right? It's even more depressing that it's Tegan and Sara singing it!! WHAT?! WHY?! They are AWESOME...this song is not.

3. The "cameos" - The part of the movie that I absolutely love is the "cameos", so to speak. Sure, there are a ton of famous voices, but the roles I'm talking about are the appearances of Batman (who actually has a large part), Superman and Green Lantern (voiced by the 21 Jumpstreet duo Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill, and they are hilarious together), and both Michaelangelo, the teenage mutant ninja turtle, and Michaelangelo, the painter - just to name a few. It made the movie a lot of fun to watch, but also made every second of it essential viewing. Don't blink or you'll miss something!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Thoughts on 5 Films

1. How I Live Now - There is just way too much stupid in this movie for me to fully enjoy it. However, the idea behind it is fantastic and there are some really strong, disturbing images of war, and it slightly touches on the effects that such a war would have on our current generation. The story takes place in the UK, but the main character is American. It is clear that the writers are not American, and their research on American teenagers stopped at the 90's. Not only did she seem outdated, she is also a narcissistic cunt, who truly believes that everything bad that happens in the world is because of her. Her whole "I'm a curse" shtick got old quickly. I really like Saoirse Ronan, but this is the third movie in a row that I saw, in which she is terrible (The Host and Violet & Daisy are the other two). Plus, just like The Host, her inner monologue is hard to listen to - so painfully monotonous. Her character is not only a bitch, but she's also stupid and vapid (yet, she somehow apparently has a map of the UK memorized in her head....seriously, how does she have any idea where she is walking to? I don't know many American teenagers who can navigate another country with a map, let alone without one.). I think the book is probably waaaaaaaaay better, and this is one of the movies that I would love a "do over", because in the right hands it could be incredible.

2. Diana - So, obviously I was expecting a terrible movie. The reviews are all very harsh and many people warned me "don't watch it", but I love Naomi Watts so much, there is just no way for me to totally skip this movie based on other opinions (I don't really avoid any movie, I watch everything!). I admit, though, this is a huge waste of time and it is offensive on pretty much every level. The filmmakers decided to take the whole "people's princess" approach by showing Diana doing "normal" activities (like making her own toast). They also did the exact opposite of what they promised (I read that the film avoided her paparazzi past and focused on her work. LIES, ALL LIES!!). The entire focus of the film is on her personal life and her relationship with Hasnat Khan, which was a "secret" love affair, and how she used the paparazzi to make him jealous. There is a disgusting anti-feminist sentiment in this movie that actually claims Diana would be nothing after her divorce, if it wasn't for Khan's influence and it basically accuses her of her own death (since she was the one that was leaking stuff to the paparazzi, it's her own fault). The tactics that Diana used to control the paparazzi, are used today by many celebrities (leak information, give them what they want, so they may leave you alone for other activities. She also used them to give attention to places and people who needed help). It's certainly not her fault that these vultures needed more than she was willing to give. I am not one to stick up for celebrities who seek attention and then complain that they have no privacy, however I've seen the paparazzi first-hand and they are out of control (A few years ago, I was walking on Melrose during my lunch break and Britney Spears was shopping in one of the stores. The swarm of people with camera's was overwhelming and I was trampled - like knocked to the ground with no regard. One of her "people" came outside to see if I was o.k - none of the paparazzi people apologized or even acknowledged that they did anything wrong). Anyway, I want to see a movie about Diana, not a movie about a pathetic, love-stricken, emotional wreck that this movie portrayed her as. Naomi Watts looked the part (it helped that they re-enacted many iconic images), but she seemed really inauthentic (which is the opposite of Diana), and her and Naveen Andrews have zero chemistry. Diana was a role model for many women, including myself, and this movie diminishes her work and her strength. I feel like the filmmakers owe me an apology.

3. Captain Phillips - This movie was so much better than I was expecting. I don't know why, but I was dreading watching it. I honestly had no good reason. I love Tom Hanks, I love Paul Greengrass, and it received overall good reviews (and was even nominated for an Oscar!). Not only did I really enjoy it, I agree with the people who claim Hanks was snubbed for an Oscar nomination. He was excellent throughout the movie, but so were a lot of actors this year. Then, in the last scene of the movie, he absolutely blew me away. It's possibly his best acting scene ever. Since the story is based on the actual event, of course I had to read about how accurate the movie is (the consensus seems to be pretty accurate, except for a few who claim the captain wasn't as brave as the movie claims, which isn't all that surprising - of course our main character would have heightened heroism). It's interesting how prepared they were for an actual pirate event, and Captain Phillips seemed to take all of the necessary steps. It's just so different when something terrible is actually happening and you are the one responsible for other peoples lives - nothing can prepare you for it. The film also sets up a narrative for the Somalians. We understand why they are doing what they are doing, even if it is morally reprehensible. Greengrass is one of the few directors who can use the handheld shaky camera thing properly, in order to intensify the action and the immediate threat of the situation. The movie grabs your attention from the beginning and doesn't let it go until the very end. By the end, I could barely breathe.

4. And While We Were Here - In contrast to Captain Phillips, this is a movie in which I am completely baffled by the use of the shaky cam. How is it effective for this movie? Is it enhancing it in any way? The answer is no. While, I doubt this movie will stay in my memory for very long, I did enjoy it. Kate Bosworth is this role - she's just so....classy. I would love to see her play a role where she is completely disheveled and/or disturbed, but she continues to play it safe. I'm not really one for a love story, especially one that depicts an instant connection, but it works here. I can see why she is interested in this younger man - he's cute, fun to be around and he makes her feel good about herself (which is a strong contrast to the man that she is currently dating). I also enjoy that this relationship makes her realize some things about herself; one of them being that she has no idea who she actually is. It ends exactly how it should end. Overall, I was entertained, but it lacks a certain "specialness" (not a word, I know) that movies like this need in order to be memorable.

5. The Croods - How on Earth was this movie nominated for an Academy Award? It's not bad or anything, but there is absolutely nothing amazing about it. The animation is ok, but seems a little flat. It made me smile a few times, but it was hardly laugh out loud funny. The "moral" is kind of stupid - it's basically saying "don't listen to your parents". The voice actors are terrible - Nicholas Cage struggles to show emotion using all of his abilities, just imagine how terrible he is when he is reduced to using just his voice?! Emma Stone has a super sexy voice, but it's that low, smoky kind of voice - not the voice of an eager teenager. And don't even get me started on Ryan Reynolds. I don't understand how this guy is famous - and if it's just because he has nice abs (that's literally the only nice thing I can say about him), then what's the point of him doing voice work? On the other hand, my cat seemed to enjoy the movie a lot; she didn't look away from the screen during its entire run-time, so I guess that's.......something (she also loved Rango, in case you're interested).