Sunday, April 27, 2014

3 Thoughts on Under the Skin

1. The human experience - I haven't read too much about the movie yet, as I'm still processing it, but I did skim a few articles about Under the Skin being a "feminist sci-fi" film. As a feminist and a film fan, I can pretty much find feminist or anti-feminist subtext in any film in existence. This film is a little more obvious in its "empowered female" role, however it also has a subtle hint of anti-feminist sentiment (a woman who is comfortable in her own sexuality and seeks men out, is obviously a psychopath). However, I don't think that is what this movie is all. It's about the human experience; the loneliness, the confusion and the strange connection we all share as "humans". The story develops into the female experience, as the character is in a female body, and what's the one emotion that females share? Fear. While the main character is alien, it is the one with the power; it is something for men to fear. As soon as it begins to embrace its human form, which is female, she no longer has the power. She has someone take advantage of her - this man that "helps" her, as nice as he seems, also expects sex in return. Then, she is forced into the world, alone and confused, only to experience true evil. Sadly, this is the human experience for about half of the population.

2. The human experiment - One of the most interesting things I find about this movie is its use of "real people". I didn't know this while watching it, but it answers a lot of questions I had. One being, why make Scarlett Johansson wear that awful, unflattering wig? It makes sense that she was "undercover" in a way; seeking out real men to give her directions. The other question I had while watching was, why Scotland? The location works for a few reasons - first, as much as the wig hides Johansson's bombshell appearance, her face is still so unique - I don't think they could get away with her being "undercover" in America. Second, I don't think many people in America would stop for her. We are way too suspicious of people (for good reason), a beautiful woman offering a complete stranger a ride is most definitely a trap. Third, Scotland is a fucking beautiful backdrop for a movie. The only issue, for me, is that I had a hard time understanding the accent. I have a hard time with dialogue of any accent, anyway, it's not a hearing issue it's more of a brain issue. I don't know if it's considered a form of ADD, or what, but I have a hard time focusing on dialogue, I understand films better when I can put subtitles on. So, having the characters talk in a thick Scottish accent was a really frustrating experience for me (my friend couldn't understand it either, so that makes me feel a little better). Most of the dialogue that I couldn't understand was about directions, so I don't think it matters, but it's still annoying. Even though I had a hard time with it, I really like that most of the people talking weren't talking for an audience or a camera. The idea of using real people, who have no idea that they are being filmed, is a completely fascinating experiment that worked absolutely brilliantly.

3. The human involvement - In order to really experience this film, you have to immerse yourself in it. It's so bizarre and unique; if you just watch it for a basic level of entertainment, I don't think it will work for you. The film relies on sound, more so than dialogue (which is good, for the reason above, and also Johansson's accent equals terrible) and it's incredible. The music is hauntingly beautiful, and it will figuratively get "under the skin". It's also really visually beautiful  - there are some elements and images that I guarantee you've never seen before and you will never, ever forget. The first "seduction" scene blew my mind - so creepy, so stunning. The whole movie is simply indescribable.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Thoughts on 5 Films

1. Nebraska - Out of the Best Picture nominees for 2013, this and Philomena are the two that I was really not interested in watching, even though I've heard wonderful things about both. Still haven't seen Philomena, but I absolutely loved this movie. Alexander Payne movies are always good, but a bit slow for my taste. The fact that Nebraska is about old people in middle America and it's in black & white, made me really nervous that I would find it depressing rather than enjoyable. It is a little depressing and heartbreaking to watch this man convinced that he has won a million dollars, but the story is mixed with a lot of humor and sweetness -combined with the sassy sarcasm of June Squibb, I just fell in love with everything about it.

2. Out of the Furnace - I saw the trailer for this movie and it was fantastic, but it came and went in the theater so quickly. I didn't really even hear much about it, which is surprising considering the cast (Christian Bale, Casey Affleck, Woody Harrelson, Zoe Saldana and Forest Whitaker). I assumed it was mediocre, but I actually really liked it - especially the first hour. I loved the relationship between the brothers, and I had no idea where the story was going to go (well, I had some idea...because the stupid trailer already told me!). The first scene is really hard to watch; but it also reminded me of how good Woody Harrelson is as a bad guy. Whenever I see him, I automatically think of him on Will & Grace doing his "happy dance" and I smile and laugh to myself, but this role may have changed that image forever. Christian Bale is excellent (as always), and I think he forced Casey Affleck to really up his game. Forest Whitaker is an odd casting choice, in my opinion, for several reasons; the biggest being that he's far too interesting of an actor to play such a "normal" role. There is some controversy over the depiction of the Ramapo mountain people - living so close to the area, I've heard some of the rumors - but this movie really depicts them as awful people (I don't really see it as a justifiable reason for a lawsuit, though). The editing of the movie could have been a little tighter, I started to get a little bored by the end - which could have easily been fixed. The ending is really, really, stupid but, luckily, not stupid enough to ruin the movie.

3. Thor: The Dark World - I wasn't really a fan of the first one. It was okay; nothing really memorable about it. I would say that out of the Avengers movies, it's definitely my least favorite one (closely followed by Captain America - speaking of, I keep hearing the sequel is AMAZING...I am intrigued). The biggest problem, for me, is Chris Hemsworth. In theory, Thor should be my favorite superhero - he's a character based on Nordic mythology, which can be traced back to Roman mythology, and I used to be super obsessed with Roman & Greek mythology. Hemsworth does nothing extraordinary with the character. I'm convinced that a stronger/more charismatic actor could have reignited my passion for all things mythical. The rest of the cast, I adore. Natalie Portman, Kat Dennings, and *sigh* Jamie Alexander - three talented actresses who command the screen more so than the main character. I did enjoy this sequel a lot more than the first - it moved a little bit faster, and had some funnier one-liners. Also, Loki became a far more interesting character than the first, considering his major role as the villain in The Avengers. 

4. The Past - I really love A Separation. It's one of those movies that is so quiet, yet so tense and complicated - I thought about it for months after watching it. That alone had me excited for this movie - I really knew nothing else about it, aside from it being the same writer/director. It's a very similar movie; an intense domestic drama about family and divorce. And, just like A Separation, I felt like I was watching a thriller with the way that it builds up the small moments. The Past isn't as strong of a story, but the way that Asghar Farhadi directs it, it becomes a strong story. I couldn't figure out where the story was going or why the young girl was so against her mother's new boyfriend, so the revelation is unexpected (*slight spoiler* and also a relief - I was assuming so much worse. I mean, it's bad, but at least he's not bad). The acting is superb; especially Berenice Bejo (didn't understand the fuss over The Artist, but I hope to see her in more roles like this) and Pauline Berlet. It's going to be really hard to reevaluate my 2013 Best Films list because there are so many films that I want to add, including this one.

5. Best Man Down - I saw the trailer for this and thought it looked interesting. At least the story seemed original, and character driven. I can't stand Justin Long (he's not funny. I don't understand how anyone can disagree with me), but he didn't really bother me here (probably because he's not supposed to be funny). I am intrigued by Jess Weixler, though. She's from the movie Teeth, which was 7 years ago and I've never seen her in anything since. It's a really strong, memorable performance so I'm surprised she hasn't been in bigger movies yet, but I guess her time will come. I liked her in this movie too, but her character is a bit annoying - $3000 for a wedding dress??? AAAAAAHHHH! Such a waste of money. Also, if your best man dies at the wedding (not a's what the movie is about.), don't complain that you can't go on your honeymoon. Really, her husband just lost one of his best friends and she gives him attitude. I can't sympathize with a character like that. I did like the movie, though. It's a sweet movie about odd human connections.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Summer Movie Preview: 15 Movies that I am Excited About

1. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (5/2) - I was pretty indifferent on the first movie in the reboot of the Spider-Man franchise. It was an adequate story and Andrew Garfield is adorable as Spider-Man, but the villain was super weak (I honestly don't even remember who it was...). I think this will be a stronger movie - the marketing for it seems more confident and I love the addition of Dane DeHaan (as Harry Osborn). It seems that they have solved the "weak villain" problem - you know, by adding several "supervillains".

2. Neighbors (5/9) - I think this movie is going to be hilarious. I don't know why, but I have a really good feeling about it. I've liked Zac Efron in several movies, but I'm most excited for Dave Franco. He's so hilarious and I can totally picture him as a frat boy douche-bag. Also, Rose Byrne is in it too - she's proven that she can be hilarious (Bridesmaids, Get Him to the Greek), so I hope they utilize her properly (although I predict she will probably be relegated to the nagging wife role....*sighs*).

3. Godzilla (5/16) - Going blind on this one - well, not really because it's Godzilla. But, so far, I've avoided all of the sneak peak trailers and snippets that have been circling around. However, I've seen ALL positive feedback - all signs seem to agree that this movie is going to be fucking awesome. Plus, Bryan Cranston (minus, Aaron Taylor-Johnson. Fucking horrible actor).

4. X-Men: Days of Future Past (5/23) - The last time I truly enjoyed an X-Men movie was way back in 2000 (with the first X-Men). I enjoyed X-Men: First Class to a small degree; mostly because of James McAvoy. It was definitely an improvement over the awful sequels, but it was still mediocre - and there was some awful acting (ahem...January Jones. I ADORE her, but she was terrible in that movie). I'm excited that Wolverine will be a major part, as opposed to a cameo appearance, because I love Hugh Jackman in this role (but not enough to sustain a whole movie - not a fan of the Wolverine movies, either.).

5. Cold in July (5/23) - Michael C. Hall is my favorite television actor ever (he deserves every award ever for both Six Feet Under and Dexter). I can't wait for him to lead another television series (I've heard the Netflix Daredevil series rumors...that would be awesome!), but I'm excited that he's taking on some movie roles in the meantime. He did really well among the ensemble of actors in Kill Your Darlings and I think he will do well in a starring role.

6. Filth (5/30) - JAMES MCAVOY!!! I've heard that this role is batshit crazy and that McAvoy nails it (like he always does). It's based on the novel by Irvine Welsh (Trainspotting), so I am expecting sheer lunacy and chaosIt was released in the UK last year, but we are still waiting for it in the states. Good thing that I am patient. *waits patiently*

7. 22 Jump Street (6/13) - People really loved 21 Jump Street. I liked it. I was expecting to like it, though, so I didn't get the same shock that some people found. While everyone else in the world fell in love with Channing Tatum, I was already there. So, overall I found 21 Jump Street good, but a little repetitive. I'm still excited for a sequel but I'm also nervous that it's just going to be more of the same. Haven't seen or heard anything about the trailer, though. Is it up yet?

8. Transformers: Age of Extinction (6/27) - I don't care what anyone says - I will always be excited about a new Transformers movie. I LOVED the first one and was completely entertained by the second one. I admit, the third one was a little rough. I'm glad that Michael Bay is shaking things up a bit by changing the cast - and Marky Mark is the perfect addition. I did watch the teaser trailer for this (couldn't contain my excitement) and it is ridiculously good. I. Can't. Wait.

9. Snowpiercer (6/27) - I don't know much about this movie, but I've seen it mentioned more than a few times on my twitter feed and it's been mostly glowing comments about it. I'm interested in seeing Chris Evans do something dark and serious. Plus, I love Tilda Swinton - she's one of the best actresses around right now.

10. Begin Again (7/4) - I really liked Once, although I don't really remember it at all (that can't be a good sign...right?). "Falling Slowly" is still a song that regularly appears on my playlist - such a beautiful song. John Carney's new film seems to be just as musically inclined, plus it stars Mark Ruffalo (love) and Keira Knightley (I also love, just not usually in modern roles - maybe this will change my mind?).

11. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (7/11) - I was really skeptical of the reboot/prequel Rise of the Planet of the Apes, but I ended up enjoying it. I was impressed by the special effects, the heart of the story and it left me actually wanting more. I love that we get to see the apes actually take over the planet - that seems really cool.

12. Magic in the Moonlight (7/25) - Woody Allen's new film starring Colin Firth, Emma Stone and Marcia Gay Harden set in Paris during the 1920's. Yes, please.

13. Guardians of the Galaxy (8/1) - I really had no interest in this movie - it peaked once Bradley Cooper was cast, but then I realized that he's a CGI raccoon, so I was left disappointed. Then, the trailer came out and people flipped the fuck out. It made me a little interested, but then I watched it and now I am definitely interested. The trailer is hilarious. I'm glad to see Chris Pratt becoming a huge star; he's so funny on Parks and Recreation, but he's also an alum of The O.C (therefore, I automatically root for him). The movie doesn't seem to take itself very seriously, which should make for a great time watching it.

14. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (8/8) - Love Michael Bay. Love Megan Fox. Love the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I haven't seen the trailer, but I did see the pictures and I admit, they are not good. The turtles look pretty creepy. I also just saw an article in which Megan Fox describes her character as "strong, not sexy"

15. Frank Miller's Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (8/22) - I don't think we necessarily need a sequel to Sin City, but once I heard one was in the works, I was intrigued. Then, I waited for 9 years!!! Honestly, I'm sort of over it, but I think if I revisit Sin City again soon, I will get excited again. I LOVE that movie so much.

Thoughts on 5 Films

1. Oldboy - Sure, an Americanized remake of this movie is completely unnecessary. I still tried to watch this movie with a "blank slate" attitude; judging it for what it is, instead of instantly hating it like some people (ahem). For the most part, I enjoyed it. Josh Brolin and the rest of the cast give really strong performances, it moves really quickly and it holds up the level of intensity that the original has. However, there are parts that are really poorly done - like the long tracking shot fight scene. This scene from the original movie is among the best long tracking shots in the history of film-making; choreographed to perfection. Lee's version is over choreographed, not very well (there are several punches that didn't even come close to landing), and the pacing is completely off. It's embarrassingly bad. Plus, the end is such a crazy twist, but if you already know it, then it just sort of lands with a thud. I wouldn't really recommend it, unless you absolutely refuse to read subtitles, but it is entertaining nonetheless.

2. Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom - I'm not really a fan of biopics - probably my least favorite type of movies (along with documentaries). There have been a few that really stick out in my mind (Milk, for example), but otherwise I usually find them dull. This movie is a typical biopic - I felt like I could have just read Nelson Mandela's Wikipedia page and I would have learned the exact same information. It's a remarkable story about a remarkable man, so it shouldn't be that boring. The story did, however, peak my interest in Winnie Mandela. Her story is interesting and their relationship (and gender dynamic) is fascinating. I love Idris Elba, but I didn't love him in this role. He really looks nothing like Mandela, but that's not the biggest problem. I don't think he did a good job of embodying his spirit at all, and I'm not sure if that's really his fault. It's rare to find a picture of Mandela without a smile on his face ("Appearances matter - and remember to smile"), but Elba let the serious nature of the story show too much in his expressions. He barely smiled at all; instead he seemed muted and detached. Just look at the poster! Nothing about it reminds me of Mandela. Also, that U2 song is shit.

3. Rush - The trailer for this movie made it seem like the dumbest movie ever (and seemed to show the entire story), but I read a ton of good things about it  - words like "exhilarating" and "emotional", some citing it as one of the best of 2013. I thought that maybe it was just a case of a bad trailer, so I actually convinced myself to get excited for it. I don't understand the praise at all. It's exactly what I was originally expecting (and, yes, the whole movie is in the trailer). I admit, I'm not a car racing type of person - watching a bunch of cars speed around in a circle is not my idea of entertainment. I fully believe that you can tell everything you want to know about a guy, by how he drives a car, and "fast" is not something I look for...*cough*, so I don't see the sex appeal of these characters at all (I also don't think Chris Hemsworth is hot; I mean, he's traditionally "hot" but he's just soooo boooooring). For me, the movie is just about two assholes trying to out-asshole each other. Also, even though Natalie Dormer has a very small role in this film, I will take this time to declare how much I hate her. I think she is a terrible actress, and I don't find her attractive at all.

4. Passion - I was looking forward to some Brian De Palma trashiness, but this movie is just a little too silly and not nearly as fun as it should be. The story is nothing better than Lifetime material, and it is completely miscast. Flipping the actresses would have helped the movie tremendously. Noomi Rapace is not meek or pathetic in any way; and I don't buy Rachel McAdams as a high-powered backstabbing bitch - she just does a grown up version of her Mean Girls character, but it doesn't work at all. The story is twisty, but none of the twists are worthy of the build-up they receive. There is an incredible amount of foreshadowing; so none of it is very surprising if you pay attention to obvious plot points (like the scarf, or her twin sister story). The story is horrendously anti-feminist (see this is exactly why women don't get paid the same as men; because they are catty, backstabbing, unprofessional bitches...), but for the most part, it's just dumb. Side note: the poster for Rush and the poster for Passion are practically identical.

5. The Big Wedding - After the first scene, I knew I was in for a terrible movie. It just gets worse and worse. Aside from the fact that the movie is about a wedding (ugh...weddings), it's also about people bickering and lying to each other. The plot is outlandish and contrived; the characters are hard to relate to because they make decisions that make no sense - like Jared (Topher Grace), who is a 30 year old virgin (okay...), but he suddenly decides that he wants to have sex with someone he just met (and spends the whole movie trying to woo her). Did I mention that this woman is his adopted brother's sister? Yeah...that's how bad this movie is. I didn't like anyone in this movie; I didn't root for any of the couples; I didn't care what happened to any of them. The most troubling thing is that it's supposed to be a romantic comedy!! I didn't even realize until I looked it up on Rotten Tomatoes (I was curious to see how low it scored on the Tomatometer), and it is described as an "uproarious romantic comedy". Hahaha....what?!? There is absolutely nothing funny about it...and what was supposed to be romantic? The plot of the movie is basically stating that everybody cheats. I mean, it's true, but I certainly wouldn't call it "romantic".  The nicest thing I can say about this movie is that Katherine Heigl isn't the worst part of it.