Sunday, September 21, 2014

Thoughts on 5 Films

1. Need For Speed - What a stupid fucking movie. Excuse me, I mean a stupid fucking LONG movie. It lasts for FOREVER. I'm not sure why Aaron Paul would choose this garbage as his follow up from his multi-award winning performance in Breaking Bad. He had to have thousands of screenplays thrown his way. Why choose one of the dumbest films of the year? There is nothing redeemable about it. I thought I didn't like Imogen Poots in another terrible film this year, That Awkward Moment, but now I know that I definitely don't like her. She is supremely annoying in this movie. The movie is hollow, generic and, worst of all, boring. I actually like dumb action movies (like The Fast and the Furious franchise), but this is just too dumb and the action just wasn't interesting enough. Nothing that hasn't been done before. This will definitely be on my "worst of 2014" list.

2. Dom Hemingway - Super disappointed by this movie. It's still good, but I just think my expectations were too high. I love Jude Law; I think he's one of the best actors working right now. He is excellent in some of my favorite movies (The Talented Mr. Ripley, eXistenZ, I Heart Huckabees, Gattaca). However, recently he's made some poor choices in movies (minus Side Effects, which he is fantastic in). This movie is perfect for him to showcase his talent; and he does. That's really all the movie has going for it, though. Just a really strong central performance. Otherwise, the movie is a little full of itself. It's not nearly as outrageous as it pretends to be - it's actually pretty dull. It's also disturbing that Emilia Clarke plays Jude's daughter! AAAAAHHHH. That makes me feel so old. It's unacceptable, really.

3. Captain America: The Winter Soldier - I'm not a super huge fan of the first Captain America. I didn't hate it or anything, but I wasn't overly fussed by it. Chris Evans isn't my favorite in the role. I like him in other things, but he bores me as Captain America. He's a little bit better in this sequel, but he also shares the screen much more (which helps tremendously). I've seen so much talk about Sebastian Stan as The Winter Soldier, but I didn't realize that he's the same guy that plays Carter Baizen from Gossip Girl. Hahaha....that's who all the girls have been freaking out about? Sorry, I don't get it. I also had a lot of the movie ruined for me because I watched Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as it aired - and they did the whole "Hail Hydra" thing during the release of this movie in the theater. To be fair, it's my own fault for not seeing it in a timely manner, but then again, if I wasn't a huge fan of the first, I didn't really see the need to see this during its theater run. I did start to get intrigued by all of the positive reviews, but it still wasn't enough to drag my ass to the theater. I did like this movie - it's 100X better than the first movie. There are some really intense scenes (mostly involving the famed Winter Soldier), it takes a lot of risks, and the dialogue is a lot snappier ("all the guys from my barbershop quartet are dead").  I'm not a fan of Scarlett as Black Widow, which I've stated several times, so I won't dwell on it....but she is terrible in this movie. So boring. I know I'm supposed to be happy with a female superhero getting this much attention, but she's so fucking dull. I can't even feign excitement for her character. I wish Falcon was featured more, because I love Anthony Mackie, but I think he is going to be featured heavily in future Marvel movies (hopefully).

4. Nymphomaniac: Volume II - Most of what I wanted to say about von Trier, I said with my Volume I entry, but I wanted to do a separate entry for Volume II since it was so different. I am happy that the film focused more on Charlotte's character as an adult (which equals more Charlotte, whom I adore), but I am really disappointed by Volume II. While von Trier focused the first volume on a young girl exploring her sexual awakening/obsession, the second volume explores a woman trying to gain sexual sensation after she falls in love (and then went numb for unexplained reasons). Her answer is to resort to BDSM - and it's not erotic, at all. It's a dangerous implication that women with sexual issues need to be dominated and have violent acts performed on them in order to lesson their guilt. There is a thin line that links violence and sex/ pleasure and pain - and von Trier crosses it. About half-way through this volume, I was done. I just had enough of the story and felt like it just became so repetitive and boring. I understand von Trier's need for two separate movies; and I actually like the way the stories are separated but the first volume is a much stronger entry.

5. Non-Stop - It's a silly, forgettable thriller, but it had my attention the whole time. Liam Neeson is always watchable, in my opinion. I think it's a little out-dated with the whole "let me show you how unsafe airport security really is". We already know that it's terrible. However, I got thrown by the multiple twists and turns - although I fully expected the "bad guy" to be 1 of 3 passengers (you know, one of the famous people). They did throw me off by having several bigger names in small roles. First, I saw Corey Stoll, and thought "bad guy duh", but then Scoot McNairy appeared and it threw off my instinct. Plus, Michelle Dockery and Lupita Nyong'o as flight attendants, both with very little to do, I thought that one of them may be involved. And of course, the obvious one - Julianne Moore. She's an A-list actress in a bit part, so....she's gotta be involved. So, while the film can be criticized for not utilizing it's all-star cast, it actually served the suspenseful plot well. In the end, I gave up on the guessing game and just got caught up with the plot - genuinely surprised at the outcome. However, the reason the "bad guy" decided to kill people in order to prove his point, is absolutely the most ridiculous, absurd, and just plain stupid reason of all-time. It ruins the movie a bit - making a solid 4 star movie, an iffy 3 star movie.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Fall TV Preview: 8 New Shows

1. Gotham - The show that I am *most* excited for this Fall. I can't say I'm that excited about the Fall television season, as a whole. I think I've given up on the Networks - continuously introducing good shows and then cancelling them before they gain an audience (ahem...Almost Human).  I was excited by the announcement of Gotham as a television series, because the whole "prequel" to Batman can be a really cool idea. Then, they announced Ben McKenzie as one of the leads, and I squealed with joy. Sure, I am completely biased - Ryan Atwood is probably my favorite male character of all time (and my soulmate) - but McKenzie really gained my respect with his role in SouthLAnd. It was a completely different role, in which he struggled at first, but by the end of the series he was giving Emmy worthy performances in every episode. I can see this show succeeding if they tell the story well, and develop the characters (basically, be more Arrow and less Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.). However, the show is on Fox, so it must be good right away because Fox will never give it a chance to grow (yup, still bitter).

2. How to Get Away with Murder - I'm not super excited by this show, but it's a Shonda Rhimes show. I'm a huge fan of Scandal, and I used to be a huge fan of Grey's Anatomy (I'm still a fan, but I think the show has just worn out its welcome). Also, Viola Davis is an incredible actress. It's a huge step forward for television to have a Thursday night lineup of female-driven dramas and they are advertising it as that. It's genius and I think this show is going to do very well.

3. The Flash - I'm obsessed with Arrow, and I love the episodes that introduced the Flash character. Also, Grant Gustin is absolutely perfect. He nailed his role in Glee and brought some life to that series, before it went full brain-dead. He will shine as the Flash. I like that the creators realized that they didn't need another muscle-bound tough guy for this role (nothing against Stephen Amell. Nothing at all. I enjoy those shirtless workout scenes immensely). Since the Flash has actual super powers, the traditional super-hero casting requirements are not relevant. I hope the series follows in the footsteps of Arrow, in that it moves quickly, has surprising turns and maintains witty, realistic dialogue.

4. Red Band Society - I really don't know anything about this show. I saw one commercial and it featured Octavia Spencer, and I thought "eh...maybe", but then I realized that Dave Annable is in it. I LOVE him. He grew up in the town next to mine and we are very close in age - I feel a weird loyalty to him. I want him to succeed. I loved him in Brothers & Sisters and I liked him in 666 Park Avenue (another show that was canceled before it found its footing). Anyway, I'll watch the show out of loyalty, but I don't expect it to last (because it's on Fox. STILL BITTER).

5. Stalker - New horror show from Kevin Williamson? Yes, please! I know that The Following is absolutely ludicrous, but I enjoy it anyway. Also, I like Dylan McDermott (what happened to his last show, Hostages? I assume it was also cancelled? I liked that show. Damn.) and Maggie Q is alright (I don't know if she can hold a show. I gave up on Nikita about 1/2 way through season 2, which is rare for me). Having recently dealt with a stalker, this show will probably scare the crap out of me. Someone remind me not to watch it alone at night.

6. The Affair - PACEY!!! Joshua Jackson will ALWAYS be Pacey - even though he did branch out in Fringe (an amazing show), I even started to refer to him as his Fringe character name, but I don't even remember what that was now....Jonathon? Justin? Something with a J maybe?.  He's reverted back to Pacey. And I will follow him anywhere. I'm glad this show is on Showtime, because it pretty much guarantees it will be good. Have they made a bad show? Genuine question.

7. Gracepoint - Another show on Fox, so I'm obviously nervous about its survival, but wow....David Tennant and Anna Gunn. I don't see this show going wrong. I've had Broadchurch on my "to watch list" since I heard about it (more for Olivia Coleman), but it hasn't been available to watch in the U.S until very recently (and as of now, it's only on disc - can't find it streaming anywhere). I will still watch the original, but I am excited by this remake since it has Tennant reprising the role and I think Gunn is a satisfying replacement for Coleman. Although, it does seem much easier for them just to release the original American remakes always seem weird to me.

8. Marry Me - The new comedies this season look atrocious (case in point: Selfie), but this is the one that I'll watch. I'm not usually one for shows or movies about a couple getting married, but it's Casey Wilson (of one of the best recent comedy series Happy Endings) and Ken Marino (of many things, but also from another one of the best comedy series Party Down). I think I would watch anything that starred the two of them. It's also from the same creator as Happy Endings, David Caspe, which is super-duper exciting. I miss that show so much.

3 Thoughts on Lucy

1. It's bat-shit crazy - I thought Transcendence would win the title for craziest plot of the year, but Lucy takes the cake. The plot, of using all of the human brain instead of the "10% average", has been done before (Limitless, Chuck, Kyle XY), but it's never gone this far. Lucy follows in the same footsteps as Transcendence, in that it takes this plot and goes full-throttle. It accelerates to a point in which it's so bat-shit crazy that I forgave all of the things that don't make sense, and are just plain silly - and my mind just went straight to the "fuck it; just go with it" attitude. It's an experience that one is meant to get lost in. I can appreciate that to an extent. However, once it was over and analyzed, I can't defend it. It's purely bonkers and stupid.

2. It's also kind of brilliant - The real message of the movie is hidden behind this whole bat-shit crazy plot. It's pretty simple: The key to human existence is time. In the end, it doesn't matter how much technology advances or how much the world changes. The way for human survival (even at just a 10% brain capacity) is to use our time on this Earth wisely and pass on the knowledge that we learn. The film essentially asks "now that you know this, what are you going to do with this information". Well, for me, nothing. I've always considered my "time" more important than anything else in my life - for example, I made more money in my previous job, but with my current job I have a much better quality of life outside of work - and I am sitting in less traffic, and have less stress outside of work - therefore when I compare the two I feel like I am being compensated better at my current job. My time is much more valuable than money. I think if more people thought like this, it would be a much happier world (I am shocked by the positions people take - one of my co-workers took a promotion for $2 more an hour at a job that is an extra HOUR commute. That's two hours a day - not including traffic - that she will not be paid for. Plus, extra gas & tolls. It doesn't add up at all. And she is miserable). Anyway, I've gotten a bit sidetracked now, but the point is there aren't many movies that emphasize time as the most important part of human existence and potential. I'm not sure that many movie-goers really understood that point, though. It's hidden behind bizarre shoot-out scenes and sci-fi lunacy.

3. My problem with Scarlett - Yay! A female-driven action blockbuster movie!! Even more exciting: the movie could have starred a male and not much would have to change (I can only think of one scene that would have to change slightly). Even extra more exciting: It made money! I even appreciate that the main character isn't overtly sexual (kudos to Luc Besson for showing restraint), and is very straight-forward in her personality. You don't have to like her. Scarlett is strong in this role. However, she rarely brings personality to any role - and that is my problem with her. She is having an amazing 2 years - Under the Skin will likely end up as my favorite movie of the year, but I'm still hesitant to give any accolades to her acting abilities. It's not hard to play a role with no personality. I feel like Scarlett may even see her own limits and is choosing these roles (with no charm, no wit) on purpose (which is super smart). The roles in which a personality is essential, like Black Widow, she fails.....hard. I like her, as a person - at least the person that she projects in the media. She's smart, opinionated, funny and obviously beautiful, but I still can not get behind the praise she receives for her acting.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Thoughts on 5 Films

1. The Immigrant - Jeremy Renner, Joaquin Phoenix and Marion Cotillard - that's pretty much a perfect cast right there. The poster image for the movie is so off-putting, though, that I actually dreaded watching it - much too costumey (probably not a word, but you get what I'm trying to say). Anyway, luckily, the movie is nothing like I was expecting. I thought it was going to be a cheesy, romantic, period drama. It sort of is, but it goes beyond the normal, boring "love triangle" plot and has some surprising insight into the difficulties of not only immigration in the 1920's, but mostly the difficulties of being a single woman in a big city; with no money, no job, and no reliable family - there are very little options. It's a strong, well-told story with an emotional central performance from Cotillard. I appreciated the third act, because it is unexpected and bold. I think my only problem is Phoenix - he's a very specific actor, meaning that he's just not right for certain roles (like this one). He wasn't bad (I don't think he's ever been bad); it just doesn't work, for me.

2. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 - I liked the first one. I didn't think it was spectacular or anything, but I found myself entertained and I enjoy Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone. The villain was the biggest problem with the first one, so I thought if they fixed that it could be a solid spin for the franchise. With the sequel, they fixed the villain, but everything else sort of fell to shit. First, I was super bored by most of it. Second, a big part of the plot is spoiled in the trailer - so I was expecting it to happen (I did assume it happened at the beginning of the movie, as the catalyst to the plot - which would have been a million times better). Third, Peter Parker is a an asshole of a boyfriend. So unsupportive, so....stalkerish (he redeems himself with "we're not on different are my path", but still.). Fourth, while the (main?) villain is stronger - his motive is really dumb. They tried to fix this by introducing a second villain - which is actually a much more interesting story, but it is squished into the last act. The ending feels so rushed and the editing is so choppy and spastic. All of these things combined, really ruin the movie. However, there is some good stuff - the chemistry between the leads is still strong (and adorable), and, while I don't think Andrew pulls off a NYC accent (at all; it's really, really terrible), he's still a strong Spider-Man, and an even stronger Peter Parker. I like that they explained Harry Osborn's absence from the first movie, because that was really bothering me. I LOVE Dane Dehaan. I didn't really see the Leo comparisons until this movie. I see it now. Also, *HUGE SPOILER THAT YOU PROBABLY ALREADY KNOW ABOUT WARNING*, the scene when Gwen dies is absolutely stunning. It's so well done - the way her body snaps; it's breathtaking. I wish I could say that about the rest of the movie, but overall, I'm not a fan.

3. Nymphomaniac: Volume I - I was originally planning on writing about both volume 1 & 2 as one entry; treating it as one movie, but after thinking about them, I realized it's best to treat them as the separate entities that they are. I should start by saying I am not the biggest Lars von Trier fan. I find all of his movies to be deeply misogynistic, disguised by strong feminist characters. My biggest problem, though, is that his movies are just plain boring and pretentious. However, I loved Melancholia and I even have an appreciation for Anti-Christ. I guess my issue is that his exploration of female sexuality comes off as demeaning, and while I can't speak for all women, I don't find myself relating to any of his female characters. If you don't know me (and actually even if you do know me), then you could probably just assume that I haven't lived the lives of these particular characters, but unfortunately I have. I have suffered trauma as a child, and as an adult, that has effected me psychologically, emotionally and sexually - because of my trauma, I don't connect sex with love (and I don't need a therapist, and certainly not a male film director to tell me this). In theory, I should connect with his female characters. However, just because I've survived trauma (most of which is directly related to being female), I don't feel ashamed. I don't feel self-hatred. I don't feel responsible. I don't feel guilty. Again, I don't speak for all women who have suffered trauma (and to be clear *most* women have suffered trauma), but I do have a voice and it is in direct contrast to what von Trier conveys as female sexuality in his films. I appreciate that von Trier is attempting to understand and explore female sexuality, but his exploration sets a dangerous precedent. In Volume I, he explores a teenage girl's sexuality as a sin - and again, self-hating. He also seems to think it's a revelation that a young, attractive, female can literally go anywhere and have sex whenever she wants (the character describes it as "shockingly easy" - no female is shocked by this. We are trained at a very young age that sex is everywhere, all the time). Volume I ends with the other "shocking" revelation:  "the secret ingredient to sex is love", which is an exact contradiction to everything that came before it. So, our female character falls in love and suddenly felt "everything at once", so she went numb (we don't really get why...because she is incapable of true love? because she feels guilty? because she is unable to be happy? because she is psychologically damaged? because she prefers sex without love? all of the above? none of the above?). Let's just face it: as a male, Lars will never understand the intricacies of female sexuality. His vision is a lost one. Aside from this fact, I did like the movie. It's an interesting study, and I like the way in which it is told. I love Charlotte Gainsbourgh. She is one of my favorite actresses; I just find everything about her incredibly fascinating. I don't think the girl playing her younger version is a strong actress at all; and I don't think they look anything alike. I also can't stick up for Shia Labeouf in this role (I usually stick up for his acting ability), his accent is horrendous in this movie. And just the thought of him having sex is gross, so having to actually watch it is stomach-turning.

4. Only Lover's Left Alive - I love "the look" of this movie, but I wish the story were a bit more interesting. Cool vampire stories are totally my thing; and I love how this movie is about vampires just struggling to survive but not in a violent, inhuman sort of way. The plot is just a little light and I am not impressed by Tom Hiddleston (yes, I realize that I am alone on this one - he's awesome as Loki, but that doesn't automatically make him a solid actor in my eyes. He bores me.). The saving grace is Tilda Swinton - always a memorable, interesting performance, and Mia Wasikowska - who literally stole the movie, in my opinion. I was glued to the screen every time she appeared, which sadly, is not enough. For the first 30 minutes, all I could think about was how beautiful every frame of the movie is, but I was bored out of my skull. There a few scenes that are absolutely mesmerizing, like the last scene with the young woman singing in Arabic (I think), but again, even the most beautiful scenes thrown together don't just create an interesting story. Also, cutting 30 minutes, would not have hurt the movie at all.

5. Blue Ruin - I didn't know anything about this movie; I'm not familiar with the main actor, nor am I familiar with the writer/director. In fact, I never even heard of the movie until it appeared on Netflix Instant, and suddenly my Twitter feed was filled with several people claiming it to be "one of the best movies of this year". I wouldn't go that far (and I wouldn't include it with 2014 releases anyway. It's very clearly a 2013 release for the United States). It's a really strong, smart thriller, with a fantastic central performance. I can connect with the main character; I know what it's like to have someone who has done awful things to my family released from prison (see above). It's an emotionally devastating experience. There is a feeling of helplessness, anger, revenge and many other emotions in between. The main actor, Macon Blair, did an amazing job at conveying these emotions, with subtlety and depth. I like that the story moved really quickly, and it is, for the most part, very intense. However, I also found it a little bit predictable and a little bit ridiculous. If you were surprised by the young boy's connection to the story, then you probably don't watch many movies (or understand what foreshadowing is). The plot can be boiled down to one sentence of dialogue from the movie "just because my dad loved your mom, we all end up dead". If the characters understand this, then why do they still insist on killing each other? I'm also unsure of the "Blue Ruin" title - I assume it is supposed to reference the car, but it looked like a rusted white color to me. Nothing else makes sense, though. Little things like that bother me to no end.