Monday, July 28, 2014

3 Thoughts on Snowpiercer

1. The plot - I went into this movie with extremely, impossibly high, expectations (thanks, Twitter), and those expectations were not met. It's a good movie. Would I recommend it? Yes. Is it the best movie of the year? No way. It's in my Top 10 as of right now, but I highly doubt it will be there by the end of the year (if it is, it will be a shitty year for movies). The extraordinary thing about this movie is the plot. I can't deny it's incredibly original. Among the dozens of post-apocalyptic released every year, Snowpiercer manages to do something completely different. It's atmospheric and stylish, bold and edgy, and completely captivating.

2. Tilda Swinton - She is amazing. Stand-out performance. However, her performance is so bizarre, it doesn't really match the rest of the movie. She's so mesmerizing, that when she isn't on the screen, the movie becomes very dull in comparison. Which begs the question - why isn't anyone else as bizarre? Why is she like that? It's one of the many things in this movie that don't make any sense, which leads me to my next talking point...

3. The "go with it" attitude - I prefer movies that build their own world and take me out of my comfort zone; a movie that takes me out of my mind and into the mind of its characters. My issue with this movie is that it builds a world, but doesn't stick to the rules of its own story. There are just too many moments in the movie that make no sense and it felt a little lazy to me. I hate to nitpick someone else's hard work, but I have a bit of an OCD brain. I can overlook a few things, but this movie just bothered me from beginning to end, with so many flaws and continuity errors I thought my brain was going to explode. It is a movie that I would love to watch again, because I am sure that some of the things that bothered me are explained in subtle ways that I may have missed. But on a first watch, the movie left me more aggravated than impressed.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Thoughts on 5 Films

1. The Wolverine - I like the Wolverine character in the X-Men movies, but his standalone movies are just so blaaaaah. The only thing I remember about the first one is how much I hate Ryan Reynolds; I remember nothing about the plot at all. I watched this one about a month ago, and it is already a blur. I did like it better than the first, mostly for the action and fight sequences. It felt more like a samurai flick than a Marvel movie, and that's probably why I got a little bored. While all of the fight sequences are beautifully choreographed, my brain turns off when there is no focus on pushing the plot forward. The beginning is really strong and I really like the end, it's the entire middle that bored me to death. Also, the post-credits sequence is actually good (an intro to Days of Future Past), which is rare.

2. The Frozen Ground - Forgettable crime thriller, however, I was expecting something much more cheesy. Instead, it's a very dark, atmospheric and, for the most part, well-acted story. John Cusack is a terrific bad guy - he has always been a little bit creepy to me. If I saw him in real life, even knowing that he is John Cusack and not a serial killer, I would still walk swiftly in the opposite direction. And honestly, I usually can't stand Nicolas Cage. He's been given a pass for his terrible acting skills by being in super fun movies, but I don't think he's been in a truly awesome movie since Face/Off.  I've enjoyed a few other films along the way, but not enough to give him the God-like status he has among movie fans. Here, he obviously takes on a more serious role (which he has done before and has not been successful - except, perhaps, in Adaptation, although I would have enjoyed that movie much more if it featured a stronger actor) and he does a decent job. Not great, but decent. It's really Vanessa Hudgens who ruins the movie. I feel like she is so desperate to get rid of her High School Musical persona, that she took the role just for that reason alone (desperation). She is similarly terrible in Spring Breakers, but it works for that movie. When you have a story that is "inspired" by real life events about a serial killer who raped, tortured and murdered at least 17 young women, having an actress who is desperately trying to shed her good girl image portray one of the victims is sort of offensive. The only thing I knew about the movie beforehand was that Vanessa Hudgens plays a stripper/prostitute and that, for me, is problematic. It would be different if she actually did a good job, but it is an embarrassing performance. Also, I can't stand the whole cliched relationship between an older man and a young prostitute. It's one of those relationships depicted in films that causes me to roll my eyes so far into the back of my head, that a headache will inevitably ensue.

3. RoboCop - I don't hold the original up on a pedestal like some people do. It's a good movie. I think I was a bit too young to really "get" it when I first watched it, and then by the time I watched it again so many movies had copied it that it didn't hold the same effect. I didn't have any issues with a remake being done - it had potential to be really cool. They did a great job casting terrific actors - Gary Oldman, Michael Keaton, Jackie Earle Haley, Michael K. Williams and.....Joel Kinnaman? I admit, I was surprised at that one. He's awesome on The Killing, but I could not see him in a big action movie, like this. His perfomrance is okay, but still an odd choice. Another questionable casting choice: Abbie Cornish. I had an unjustified hatred towards her, but with this movie, she actually won me over. There are a few scenes in which she held my attention more than the rest of the actors, or the story did. The movie is decent - some nice action sequences, nods to the original, and some cool technology to gaze at. It's not as dark or as cynical as the original, which isn't a bad thing. My only real complaint would be about Samuel L. Jackson. Because, really? What the hell was he doing?

4. Byzantium - I didn't really hear much about this movie, but I love vampire stories (that aren't True Blood or Twilight related - always have to clarify that.), so I thought I would give this a shot. I really wanted to see Gemma Arterton in a great role, and this might be it. She still reminds me of Sydney Bristow (especially when she is wearing the stripper outfit - I'm pretty sure Sydney had that same outfit when she was "undercover"), which can only be a good thing (one of my favorite characters ever). I was pretty excited when Caleb Landry Jones showed up - I'm still thinking about him in Antiviral. And then...Jonny Lee Miller appeared too! I AM IN! The story ignores the traditional lore of vampire tales; instead it tells a compelling story of a single mother trying desperately to protect her teenage daughter who is on the verge of rebelling. It's a story that can be told without the vampire stuff and it would have been just as interesting. There are some genuinely terrifying moments, all in all a solid film.

5.  Joe - I heard this movie was similar to Mud, which was my second favorite movie of last year, so I thought I would love this as well. I'm not the biggest Nicolas Cage fan (as you can see from above), but again, I heard that he does an exceptional job here. I'm going to have to disagree on both accounts. First, this movie feels like Mud in its location, mood and it shares the same young actor, Tye Sheridan, but it lacks substance. Mud was actually about something; Something real, something important, with characters who engage sympathy (or at least empathy) from the audience. This movie is about a man, who is, by all accounts, not a good person who connects with a young boy. He doesn't become a better person by this connection, and the boy doesn't seem to get much out of it either (a truck? Is that supposed to signify a father-figure? Because that's just plain dumb.). Sure, Joe is a better father-figure than his real father, but that's not saying much. Second, Nic Cage did not give a "powerful performance", as it says in the RT summary. It's mediocre and mostly one-note. With such a character driven story, like this, the main star has to be more than what Cage gives. Tye Sheridan is good, but not as "wow" as he was in Mud. The actor who outshines both of them, surprisingly, is the man who plays his father, Gary Poulter. I'm not sure I like the idea of taking a real homeless person and using him (yes, I'm purposely calling it "using him") as an actor in a movie, in a very important role. It sort of makes me sick to my stomach (especially after you read his tragic story). I don't know, something about it just doesn't sit right with me. I will admit that there is one scene in this movie that will stand-out as one of the best movie scenes of this year, and it features the father. It will literally take your breath away. Other than that, this movie is pretty bland and empty.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

3 Thoughts on Transformers: Age of Extinction

1. Transformers forever - I don't care what anyone says, the first Transformers movie is fucking awesome. I've seen in a dozen times, and I will never get bored of it. Yes, the sequels are shit in comparison, yet I don't think they are as bad as 99% of movie critics do. I actually enjoyed the second one, more than the third one (a minority opinion, I know). I still had fun watching them, though, and I had fun watching this one too. I hope that one day, Michael Bay will make one as good as the first one, but until then, I will watch the Transformers movies with zero cynicism and just plan to have a good time.

2. Marky Mark forever - Oh Marky Mark. I will always be a fan, but I really didn't want him in the Transformers franchise. He's not someone that can pull off cheesy dialogue well - he usually just makes the dialogue worse (like The Happening). Here he plays Cade Yeager, an inventor (LOL), and father of a 17 year old. While this can technically be true - it's hard for me to wrap my head around that. I still see him as Marky Mark, the guy I had a poster of in my locker in high school. I'm happy to report that Mark did a really good job with this movie - he embraces the cheesiness well, and it works. I like the girl that plays his daughter, Nicola Peltz (from Bates Motel), although I don't think she will get the big push into fame, like Megan Fox did. Stanley Tucci is ace (as always). The only awful performance is from Jack Reynor, who couldn't decide on an accent, and seemed a little brain dead (maybe constantly being referred to as "Lucky Charms" got to him? I'm pretty sure enough people hate Michael Bay, why does he insist on getting an entire country to hate him?).

3. The movie goes on for forever - It doesn't need to. There is plenty of "story" there to split into 2 movies - I know, I know, no-one wants more Transformers movies, but face it: there will be more. There comes a point in the movie, when I thought we were getting close to a conclusion but then I remembered the big draw to this franchise entry is the dinobots, and they were nowhere to be seen. In fact, they don't show up until the very end (whaaat the fuuuuck!). When big action movies like this go on forever, the action scenes start to blend together and become underwhelming and tiresome. I would have had much more fun if it was an hour shorter.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

5 Summer Shows to Watch

Summertime is pretty rough for television, but these shows fill the void until fall. 

1. Suits - I started watching this show when it first began because of Gabriel Macht, but I stayed because of Patrick J. Adams. I love him. The show was on a repetitive cycle of "will Mike get caught?", for 3 seasons but surprisingly flipped the plot upside down with its 4th season and I am loving every minute of it. It went from a "guilty pleasure" summer show to a legitimate nail-biting drama within a few episodes. Everyone on the show is above par; and, even though she is a straight up copy of Joan from Mad Men, Donna (Sarah Rafferty) steals every episode. It's not a show you can just jump right into, because it's the relationships and tensions between the characters that make the show so intense, so if you are looking to binge watch something this summer, I suggest you watch this show from the beginning.

2. Orange is the New Black - Probably the only non- "guilty pleasure" show on the list (and by that, I mean it's critically praised, as well). I absolutely loved the first season of this show, as I expected to (it's from Jenji Kohan - the creator of Weeds, a show that's in my top 20 favorite shows of all time). The entire cast is flawless, and several deserve Emmy nominations for their work (Taylor Schilling, Taryn Manning, Uzo Aduba, Kate Mulgrew, and Samira Wiley just to name a few...). The second season isn't as good as the first season, but it's a hard season of television to live up to. There is more focus on the supporting characters, which at times, can be amazing (Morello's story and Miss Rosa's chemo trips), but we lose Piper's "outsider looking in" status. As for Piper, she's a bit tougher and more cynical, as she adjusts to her new life in prison, but we still do get that glimpse of fear, when she is threatened with a transfer. If you judge it on its own and not in comparison to season 1 (it's hard, I know), season 2 is still a great season of television - funny, emotional, honest and, once again, filled with amazing performances (Yael Stone, Barbara Rosenblat and Danielle Brooks stand out most this season, for me). The episodes fly by - easy summer binge television.

3. Rookie Blue - This is a pretty simple show: rookie cops solve crimes. However, with the show entering its 5th season (HOLY SHIT, REALLY?!), the "regular" cast members are no longer rookies (but they still solve crimes). It's not a show you need to watch from the beginning, nor do you really have to pay much attention. The crimes are way over the top, and the amount of times one of the main characters is in danger is practically embarrassing. Plus, there is no consistency (one cop gets shot in the neck and 2 episodes later she doesn't even have a scar). However, it's amusing - the banter between the characters is written really well, and the relationships feel real. Plus, I really like Missy Peregrym (she was Andi in Reaper). She is able to display a nice balance of tomboy cop and feminine sensitivity (and she is stunning). The rest of the cast is enjoyable to watch, too - although some character traits are inconsistent. Overall, I think the show is fun and easy - and sometimes, that's just what I'm in the mood for.

4. Hank Med  - Okay, the show is really called Royal Pains, but seriously how awful is that title? This is another show that one can jump in at anytime. You just need to know that the main guy is a doctor who makes house calls to rich people in the Hamptons. Divya is his intelligent and beautiful assistant. His brother (the sassy one) helps run his business and is engaged to the beautiful blond. The other awkward guy is another doctor (he spends every episode just being as awkward as humanely possible...I love it). That's it. Every episode is a new "case", in which the doctor saves a life. I watch it mostly for Divya - sure, she's smart and gorgeous but truth be told, I love her for her accessories. Anyway, as repetitive as it is, it's still a perfect summer show - especially all of the gorgeous shots of the beaches. Who knew the beaches in Long Island are so beautiful? (They're not - those are all private ones; the public ones are just as shit as the Jersey Shore beaches. Sorry, I'm a west coast beach snob).

5. Wilfred - There is no other way to describe this show other than fucking weird. It just gets weirder with every episode. It's a bit of dark humor, as it's about a manic depressive who imagines his neighbor's dog is a person in a dog costume, mixed with laugh-out-loud humor, mixed with "did they really just do that?" shock-value humor. When it first aired, I really didn't like the actor that played the dog - I found his comedic timing off and his accent a bit annoying, but he has grown on me. It's a show that will never be described as "dull" or "predictable" because I honestly have no idea where the story is going or how it will end, but I keep watching out of sheer intrigue. Also, if you're a fan, and you're wondering why you're DVR didn't record it, it's because it's moved to the new FXX network.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

3 Thoughts on 22 Jump Street

1. Sequels suck - That's the big message here, with Deputy Chief Hardy's (the always brilliant, Nick Offerman) constant reminder "just do the SAME THING again!". In the same way that the Scream franchise piles on meta references about horror films and sequels, 22 Jump Street excels at making fun of its own creation. The biggest reason it works, though, is because it's consistently laugh-out-loud  funny. I enjoyed the first one, maybe not as much as some people, but I remember laughing a lot. However, I think I had much more fun with this sequel. There are a few moments in the movie in which Channing Tatum had me in tears. He is freakin' hilarious (and no, I'm not just jumping on the bandwagon. I was already on the bandwagon before there was a bandwagon). This is one of his best performances yet, because he seemed more confident in his comedic timing. When the movie ended, I wanted to watch it again...immediately (I didn't), and that's the first time that's happened in a looooong time.

2. A series of unfortunate events - I saw this movie on opening day (which is very odd for me), and there were quite a few distracting moments when I thought "oof bad timing". Three very unrelated events happened in the few weeks leading up to the release of this movie: Tracy Morgan was involved in a car crash that killed one person and left him in critical condition, Maya Angelou passed away, and Jonah Hill yelled a homophobic slur at a paparazzi person who was harassing him. So, when a brief impression of Tracy Morgan was used as a joke, it was awkward, but easily shrugged off. Then, after Hill does a hilarious impromptu slam poetry session, he is referred to as "Maya Angelou", I thought "how unfortunate" (although it's repeated several times and it becomes more and more distracting). Then, towards the end, Tatum gives a heartfelt speech on the importance of words, and the pain that can be caused by using homophobic language. Um....can we say....awkkkkwwwarrd.  It wasn't even a short quip, either; it was long and thorough. Definitely unfortunate timing.

3. The "bromance" - As with the first one, the worst part of the movie, for me, is the whole "bromance" bit. It's too sugary sweet and it's so repetitive. It works a little better in the sequel because there is a "third party" that is a threat to the bromance, but it's all just a little too sentimental for me.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Best Films of 2013 ***Updated***

I've officially watched every movie that I wanted to see from 2013, so here is my updated "Best of" list: 

1. Stoker
2. Mud
3. Short Term 12
4. 12 Years a Slave
5. The Wolf of Wall Street
6. Her
7. Only God Forgives
8. Before Midnight
9. Gravity
10. The Way Way Back
10.5. Nebraska 

The list looks much different than the original, with the inclusion of 4 new films added to the list. Overall, it was another fantastic year for movies. 2014 needs to step it up!! 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Thoughts on 5 Films

1. The Monuments Men - The trailer for this movie looked downright awful, but I love Matt Damon and I love George Clooney - together they are magical. I was hoping that their charm (along with the rest of the awesome cast) would make for an enjoyable movie experience, but this is definitely the worst movie I've seen this year. I think my biggest problem with the movie (aside from the fact that it is boooooooring) is that I can't connect with the story. I have an appreciation for art, but I can't help feeling disgusted at the implications of the story - as if art is more important than a human life. If you are going to sacrifice yourself, wouldn't you want to know you saved a human life instead of a piece of art? I feel as though the movie sort of downplayed the actual war that is surrounding them. I get the impact that these people had (it's based on a true story) and that it is really about saving "a culture", but something about it just doesn't sit right with me. The movie is really slow (and booooooring), the dialogue felt unnatural, and it was really hard to pay attention to.

2. Labor Day - I have so many issues with this movie; I don't even know where to begin. I guess, let's start from the beginning: This seemingly agoraphobic woman goes grocery shopping with her son and at this very public place, a gentleman threatens to harm her son (he doesn't even really threaten, it's just an implication) unless she helps him, so she does. Problem #1: This would never happen. No mother would put their son in harms way like that. No-one would believe that they are going to be safer by taking a strange man into their home with their child. Then, she connects with this man - he seems nice, teaches her how to make a pie, helps her clean her house and plays catch with her son. Problem # 2: All of her problems are solved! A man came into her life, even if he threatened his way into it, she is now a happier person (because women need men to feel fulfilled...duuuuuuh). As he becomes closer to her, her son becomes attached, and is also much happier, which leads to problem #3: The message here: Every son needs a father-figure, even if he is convicted felon (who broke out of jail and threatened a child and his mother). Then, we learn this guy's back-story, which I think is supposed to create some sort of empathetic feelings from the audience. Problem #4: *spoiler* He killed his wife, but it's okay because he didn't mean to kill her (and if you truly think something that like can be considered an accident, please seek therapy before you "accidentally" kill someone. It's murder, any way you slice it). The only redeeming quality of the movie, is the fact that they address the fact that the mother could potentially be charged with delinquency to a minor if she told the truth, but the fact that she doesn't own up to her own mistakes is definitely problem #5. Aside from the obviously flawed story, the cast is good - nothing noteworthy, but the direction seems a little scattered. I think Jason Reitman may have realized the flaws in the story, and he tried really hard to gloss over the problems to create a dramatic love story, but it just doesn't work at all.  

3. Last Days on Mars - This movie looked promising - it seemed like a cool little Sci-Fi thriller, but I didn't really like it. I don't really have a specific reason, it is just really generic and lifeless. It took at least a half an hour for the story to even become slightly interesting. Liev Schreiber and the rest of the cast did a great job, but that's the only positive note about the movie that I can make. I know it's hard to make an original horror movie nowadays, but I am still always shocked by the mediocrity of some stories that get green-lit. The only reason a movie like this was made is because someone just owed someone else a favor - because there is no way a script-reader gave this positive coverage.

4. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit - I actually like all of the "Jack Ryan" movies (The Sum of all Fears is definitely the worst one, but it's still entertaining). Oddly, I've actually read most of the books, as well (my grandmother was a huge Tom Clancy fan) and I found them all entertaining. Generally speaking, I usually dig CIA/spy-type movies and TV shows. I thought it would be interesting to get a little bit of a background to the Jack Ryan character - getting to see how and why he was recruited into the CIA (reminded me of The Recruit with Colin Farrell and Al Pacino - which is not a great movie, but I love it anyway). It's also interesting that it's an origin story with no novel behind it. Last year, in theaters I saw an "extended clip" for this movie, instead of the typical trailer, and it was terrible. I kind of knew instantly that the movie would be a dud, but I still wanted to give it a chance. Unfortunately, it's a big fat dud. Chris Pine really impressed me with People Like Us, but I'm not sure I like him in big blockbuster type movies. He isn't terrible, but I don't think he has much of a screen presence. The absolute worst part of the movie is Keira Knightley. It's hard to believe how terrible she is. I want to like her; I really do, but she isn't doing herself any favors. I think she needs to stick to her natural accent, first of all. Her American accent isn't terrible (I mean, I've definitely heard worse), but I felt like her voice was so flat and robotic because she was uncomfortable with the dialogue. I don't understand how Kenneth Branaugh (who directed the movie, and stars in it as "the bad guy") can sit across from her during a scene with a straight face. I mean, I would consider him an acting "connoisseur" of sorts (he overacts, for sure, but that's his signature style). Aside from the terrible acting from Keira (she definitely downgraded the movie from "okay" to "awful"), the plot is predictable, the story is unoriginal and the action is over-choreographed. Like I said - big fat dud.

5. Texas Chainsaw - So, I saw this movie on Netflix Instant, and the only reason I pressed play was because of Alexandra Daddario. She is a really beautiful, talented up-and-coming actress. Obviously, I knew her "talent" wouldn't be showcased in this type of movie, but a lot of young actresses find their footing in horror franchises. As I pressed play, I realized that I've never seen a Texas Chainsaw movie! I always assumed that I had, at the very least, seen the original, but then I started reading about the plot and it was completely unfamiliar to me. How weird is that? This is probably not the best way to be introduced to the franchise, but I didn't hate it. Of course, I could nitpick most of the plot, but I was entertained for most of it. I realized after, that it was shown in theaters in 3D, so now it makes sense as to why there are a ton of shots of the chainsaw pointed at the camera (which is probably even more irritating in 3D). *Spoiler Alert* The only real issue I have with the movie is the way it ends. I don't really understand why she would have any sympathy towards him - he killed her friends (I guess since her BF and her BFF were having an affair, they deserved to die??). I don't really get the whole "family bond" thing. He's a serial killer!!!