Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Thoughts on 5 Films

1. Blackhat - I'm not a huge Michael Mann fan, but I usually find most of his movies at least entertaining, to some degree. He's got a clear sense of style, which I can always appreciate, and his movies usually feature some interesting casting/acting choices. I was disappointed, already, with the cast of this movie because Chris Hemsworth (as the lead) is so dull. Sure, he's handsome, and the Australian accent is sexy (but not even close to my favorite accent). He's just got no charisma or screen presence at all. In Blackhat, he is stripped of his accent, he has the weight of making computer hacking interesting on his shoulders, and he fails miserably. As you may know, I usually watch movies at home with subtitles on and most of the movie can be described by these two subtitles that exist throughout the movie: "keyboard clacking" & "computer beeping". I was so bored, and I honestly lost track of the plot because I don't understand computer hacking, and this movie didn't convince me enough to even try to learn about it. There is one stand-out, amazing, "wow" moment in the movie involving typical Mann-style explosions and shootouts. My eyes were glued to the screen for it, but then I lost interest again. Overall, it felt pretty passionless on all levels, making it my worst movie of the year so far.

2. Adult Beginners - I watched this for Joel McHale, so I was pretty disappointed that he's only in it for maybe ten minutes. I'm confused as to why he is even featured on the poster. He did have the very best line of the whole movie ("You're not an appropriate place for a child!!" - was the way he said it). The movie isn't all that funny, but I liked parts of it. I liked that it was about siblings; instead of a love story. It was sort of like The Skeleton Twins, but much, MUCH, much lighter (you know, no talk of suicide). I liked most of the cast (McHale, Rose Byrne, Josh Charles, Bobby Cannavale...), but the main guy, Nick Kroll, is very dull. I don't really think I've seen him in much, but I guess I always assumed he was funny. He's not funny in this. I like that it took place in Westchester, and that it felt like a very Upstate NY movie. Kroll is from Rye, NY and he created the story, so it felt very genuine. Them going to the local bar and dancing to that Toad the Wet Sprocket song is just soo....perfect. I felt my mind flooding with memories; not only of living in Upstate, but of going back after I left. I liked this movie, I just wish it had a little more substance; something to make me care.

3. Two Days, One Night - I waited and waited and waited for this movie to be released, and as I waited, expectations increased. It's really not what I was expecting. Still good; just not anything spectacular. I think the reason that I didn't enjoy it as much as I was hoping is because it is very repetitive. The plot is that this woman, after taking a leave of absence due to depression, learns that her job is being eliminated. Her colleagues have a vote and if they vote her out, they would receive a bonus; if they forego the bonus, she can keep her job. Now that is a pretty shitty decision to make. She spends the movie tracking down her colleagues, trying to convince them to vote for her to keep her job. It's pretty much the same conversation, over and over again ("gee...I kind of need the money", but more eloquent and French-like). Marion Cotillard is superb, as usual. She is quickly becoming one of my favorite actresses. I really liked the end, but after it was over, I realized that it would have had more of an impact if it ended differently (*spoiler ahead*). She gets the offer to keep her job, however, someone else will lose their job, and she declines. While, it's a "nice" ending, to insist that there are people in the world who aren't selfish assholes, but in reality, she should have taken the offer (and the only reason I say this is because she has kids). It would have emphasized the moral "grey area" decision-making that the struggling working class has to deal with every day. We would love to believe that our decision-making is always based on compassion, but sometimes that is not reality.

4. Dear White People - This is another movie that I had really high expectations for. It won a lot of praise at several festivals, and the trailer was refreshingly honest. Overall, there are some really strong points made in the movie. It invokes dialogue about racism that clearly needs to be addressed in this country, NOW. However, the movie is a little bit dull and unmemorable. I think it's problematic that it takes place at a seemingly wealthy private college. That already isolates more than half of the audience. I understand the motive behind it (the tagline is "a satire about being a black face in a white place"), but I don't think many people will. It takes away from the white privilege argument because all the white guys featured are elitist assholes. One can easily counter-argue that they are privileged because of wealth not because of race. Wealth is not something that most people in America can relate to, so I think the impact is lost. Personally, I think it's scary that there are white people who refuse to believe they are of privilege. I learned this at a very young age. *story time* When I was 10, I was caught stealing from a convenience store along with my two black friends. The store owner called the police, then waved for me to go. I was terrified and really confused. One of my friends, Jessica, was older and obviously understood what was happening, turned to me and said "Michelle, nobody cares about a pretty white girl stealing. Just go". So I left. With a bag full of stolen goods. (and to address the stealing part, I have no excuse except that I was 10 and I was hungry. It's not something I'm proud of or ever did again). When I think about defining moments in my life, that is one memory that always springs to mind, because it's a moment in which I wish I could do over. I should have stayed and faced the consequences. I should have spoken up. But now I do and I will continue to until the day I die. I am white. I am privileged because I am white. This is not the way I want my country to work. I think it's natural for people to look out for their own interests, and that's where the problem lies. It takes a lot of fortitude (not the word that I'm looking for, but I've literally spent 20 minutes trying to think of the word that's at the tip of my tongue and honestly, that's far too much time. I barely spend 20 minutes writing a whole post) to step back and think of what's best for the human race. My first instinct, when voting for a political candidate, is to look at where they stand on women's issues, so it's understandable that a wealthy, white male would vote Republican. The whole country needs to step back and stop thinking "me, me, me". Anyway, I think the movie did a commendable job in showing different view points, asking questions, and utilizing thoughtful dialogue, but it just doesn't go that extra mile to really dig deep into racial injustice.

5. Catch Hell - I'm such a huge Ryan Phillippe fan, so I was excited for this movie that he co-wrote and directed. So, first, I will focus on the positives. 1. I like that it is somewhat of a personal story. It's about an actor who is not as popular as he once was, taking a job he doesn't really like just to stay relevant (and earn money to maintain the lifestyle he has become accustomed to). There are a lot of references to Ryan's real life - working with Clint Eastwood, starring in a teen movie where all the teens fuck each other, etc. The character has the same initials, R.P, and Ryan even films some of it in his own home. It made me wonder if he actually feels guilty for fucking some guys wife, or if him cheating on his own wife was a little "too" close to home (sidenote: I couldn't give a fuck that he cheated on his wife. He's still perfect.). 2. It's rare, but interesting, to see a movie about a male actor worrying about getting old. He's told that he didn't get a role because "they went younger", but I don't think that's the norm for male actors. Most male action stars are over the age of 40. I don't know why Ryan's career went cold for a little while (there is definitely a resurgence now), but perhaps it was because he chose a different path than some actors would. He didn't play the game that the media wanted him to play (while you can find images of him with pretty blonde actresses, most images are of him doting on his two adorable children or walking his dog - not exactly headline making images). He's never said a bad thing about his ex-wife, and when they were married, he never responded to the incredibly misogynistic articles about her being the "bread-winner" of the family. In fact, he is a self-proclaimed feminist, and did I mention that HE IS PERFECT? 3. There are some lovely shots at the end of him reflecting on his life, shirtless and soulful. So, now, I will focus on the negatives. There are too many too count, to be honest. It's not a good movie at all. The plot is absolutely LUDICROUS and not believable in the least. There is a scene where an alligator (or crocodile. I don't know the difference) is strangled, then skinned and cooked (fucking groooossss. No-one needs to see that.). The camera-work feels amateur; almost like a home movie. But worst of all, it's homophobic. I don't think it's intentionally homophobic, but that doesn't make it ok. Come on, Ryan, you are better than this.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Thoughts on 5 Films

1. Clouds of Sils Maria - I heard so many great things about this movie, but I don't really think I liked it as much as everyone else did. I do think parts of it are great and I absolutely love Juliette Binoche. She is stunning in this movie, as an actress confronted with aging and accepting the younger generation. I read a lot of praise for Kristen Stewart, but I don't think this is her strongest role (she was better in Still Alice). I appreciate that she accepted a role like this, though; A role that puts her own history with the media in focus. I think she has untapped potential, but she needs to push herself into new territory. I feel like her own personality taints every role she's been given, so far. I can also appreciate that this is a movie about two women who respect and support each other. I actually worked as a personal assistant to an actress/producer for about 3 months (she is not famous, but she could be soon as she is a producer on a VERY popular indie movie that was just released). She was not very nice to me, but honestly I wasn't very nice to her either. It wasn't a job that I wanted to do, but I did it because her actual personal assistant needed time off to make a documentary that she was very passionate about. Now that I think about it, though, it's a job that I'm very good at. I love organizing other people's lives. I'm a bit side-tracked now. Back to the movie. I think Chloe Grace Moretz is a bit over her head in this movie. I really like her, but I think she's been really bad in the last couple of movies I've seen her in. Overall, I liked what this movie had to say and I wouldn't argue any awards love that may come Binoche's way, but I've seen it on many "Best of 2015 so Far" lists and it's not even close to being on mine (also, it's a 2014 release...).

2. Unfinished Business -  I thought that maybe Dave Franco would save this disaster of a movie and make me laugh at least a few times, but sadly there is no saving this movie. At first, you are meant to think he plays this really naive 30 year old who is sort of annoying and ridiculously under-developed, but then you realize that he is a special needs adult who just got his first job and therefore everything that you are supposed to laugh at, is uncomfortable. The two things that I found interesting about this movie are: 1. Sienna Miller, because it's such a different role for her, and 2. the fact that Vaughn's character actually likes his wife and kids (I feel that's rare for movies like this). Other than that, this was hard to watch. I don't even have anything else to say about it.

3. The DUFF - I've been a HUGE Mae Whitman fan since precisely 1996 with the little known movie, One Fine Day (and of course, the other little known movie, Independence Day). For years, she would randomly appear in tv shows and movies, and I patiently waited for her to get "big". Even her role on Arrested Development was the butt of a series long joke (Her?), but then with her role on Parenthood, she really proved herself. She shined bright in a show full of talent (seriously, if you haven't watched Parenthood, please do that now. Be prepared to cry and have your life changed forever). The DUFF is her first starring role, so that excites me, but I was put-off by the plot. She's supposed to be the "designated, ugly, fat, friend"?!? How fucking dare you, Hollywood! She's beautiful, and interesting, and funny, and smart (The BIFS?). Luckily, this is addressed in the movie (otherwise I was going to kick some ass). The movie is still sort of offensive, but they explain that she is "the DUFF" because she "friended up"; meaning that she's not necessarily ugly, but her friends are super gorgeous. They also reverse the whole "ugly duckling gets a makeover and gets the boy in the end" by having the super hot guy prefer her without the makeover (he actually seems a little put-off by her with a dress on). I like that it subverts stereotypes. It's not a great movie, but it fills the void of high school movies. I don't think there has been a great one since Superbad (?). Also, now I know who Bella Thorne is! I feel like I hear that name every other day.

4. Serena - Obviously, I already knew this was going to be a bad movie. It was released straight to VOD, and for a movie that stars both Bradley Cooper AND Jennifer Lawrence, you know it has to be really terrible for the producers to avoid a theatrical release. I would love to say that it's not that bad, but man, it's fucking terrible. Worst of the year (and honestly, I didn't think anything would beat Chappie for that title. I was hopeful, anyway). I will always watch anything with Bradley Cooper (no exaggeration...I've watched some really shitty movies just for him). I'm not sure where this movie went wrong, but it goes from a "nothing" plot to "everything happening at once" plot in a matter of seconds. I feel like I missed something. The beginning was this kind of awesome (but boring) feminist tale of this woman in charge; their marriage was a partnership and they supported each other, then she *spoiler* has a miscarriage and she literally goes batshit crazy. The plot then insinuates that she was always batshit crazy, which comes out of nowhere. And then he gets eaten by a panther. No, seriously. I'm not kidding.

5. Spring - *spoilers* I can see why this movie is on several "Best of 2015 so Far" lists (and's very clearly a 2014 release...), but I am a little more reserved in my praise for it. It's basically Before Sunrise with a sci-fi twist, which theoretically, sounds awesome. There are parts that I love. The actors are strong, the dialogue is smart and thoughtful, and it's really, really beautiful (how can it not be with Italy as a backdrop?). I love what it is trying to do - theorize about love, spending eternity with someone, following your gut, taking chances, etc. There are just so many little things that irk me about the movie, that I wasn't able to fully embrace it. The big challenge is that it is from a male fantasy perspective. He is a very generic male (ok...he's pretty cute), with no discernible reason for this extraordinary woman to fall in love with him. I think the story confuses its point because it was about him accepting that she is a supernatural being, but then it's really about the fact that this supernatural being gives up eternity to be with him. And the question becomes "Him...really?". So she gives up eternity and he gives up...smoking? It just sort of perpetuates the high standards placed on women. We have to be extraordinary to win over the most ordinary of guys. There is also some really hateful dialogue about skinny women, which is extremely contradictory because she is skinny, even though she is also curvy. She makes a comment about being "heavy" which blew my mind, but even worse he claims that most guys are not attracted to skinny women, even though the "sympathy fuck" girl he almost sleeps with in the beginning is a stick. Guys, it's not necessary to bash a woman's body type. If a girl is complaining about being too "heavy", just tell her you think she's beautiful. That's it. We are already aware that guys will literally fuck any girl who shows interest. We don't need the lies. And why is he wearing a jacket for most of the movie while she prances around in a skimpy dress? Is it hot? Is it cold? We will never know.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Fall Movie Preview: 16 Movies That I Am Excited About

It's been a pretty rough year for movies, so far. I've barely even made it to the theater at all. Nothing has really inspired me or captivated me. However, the Fall movie season is usually the best of the year, so here's hoping...

1. Sleeping with Other People (9/11) - This movie can go either way for me. I love Alison Brie & Adam Scott, but I hate Jason Sudeikis (ok...hate might be too strong of a word. I just don't think he's funny or attractive). I like that it's about a friendship between a guy and a girl, but ultimately they will likely end up together in happy ending sort of situation (boooo!!! hiss!!!).

2. Sicaro (9/18) - I'm so in for this movie. Movie fans have been clamoring for Emily Blunt to be given a starring role and it is finally here. Plus, Denis Villeneuve is the director (Incendies, Prisoners & Enemy are all strong films). I'm especially intrigued by his comment in Entertainment Weekly that he "didn't want a woman who acted like a man" instead he "wanted a woman who would find her strength in a masculine world". I'm interested to see the female protagonist that he creates.

3. Black Mass (9/18) - Johnny Depp's return to actual acting! I'm there. The images of him as Whitey Bulger are freaky.

4. Everest (9/18) - I don't really want to see a movie about this tragedy, but I love the cast. And Jake Gyllenhaal hasn't had a misstep in years. Although, I haven't seen Southpaw yet, and I haven't heard the greatest things about it. But it's Jake AND Josh Brolin, Robin Wright, Keira Knightley, John Hawkes, Emily Watson, Jason Clarke and Sam Worthington (LOL). Now, that is a cast.

5. The Walk (9/30) - I really liked the documentary Man on Wire. This is basically the "movie" version of the historical, death-defying walk that Philippe Petit took on a wire between the two towers. It's all sort of fascinating that people set these types of "impossible" goals and then spend their lives trying to achieve them. I love JGL, too.

6. The Martian (10/2) - I predict that this will be my film of the year. I knew it had a great cast (Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kate Mara, Michael Pena, Kristen Wiig. The list goes on.), but I didn't really know anything else about it. I recently saw the trailer and I was blown away. I'm deciding if I want to read the book before (I've heard it's amazing), but I don't really want the movie ruined for me. Maybe I will wait until after I watch it. Anyway, it's a Ridley Scott movie, adapted by Drew Goddard. Dream come true.

7. Suffragette (10/23) -  I didn't really want to see this movie, until I had to hold myself back from bawling during the trailer. It's so good. These women risked everything to secure the right to vote for women and it's so disgusting that many women don't even realize how important it is for them to exercise this right. You know what else is disgusting? That Entertainment Weekly's "Fall Movie Preview" focuses on the costume design. I mean, seriously, with such important subject matter and a group of talented women, please tell me more about these "vintage finds". Fuck off.

8. Burnt (10/23) - It's like a movie version of Kitchen Confidential!!! I'm so freakin' excited!! Bradley Cooper is so hot, but he's like 100 times hotter as a chef.

9. Our Brand is Crisis (10/30) - Looks like a nice, meaty role for Sandra Bullock. It seems like a movie that is perfectly timed along with the beginning of the 2016 presidential election, but I hope everyone realizes how corrupt the whole process is without needing a movie to tell them so.

10. Spectre (11/6) - I'm not a huge Bond fan, but I've seen all of the Craig ones in the theater, so I feel it's necessary to see this one as well. The reason I say I'm not a "huge" fan is because I've seen every single one, but to me, they all blend together. I couldn't tell you a plot point of any of them. If someone who considers them self a "Bond fan" starts talking to me about the movies, I usually have no idea what they are yapping about. Yet, I always enjoy them while I'm watching them. Go figure.

11. By the Sea (11/13) - I think Jolie is capable of making a great movie; we just haven't seen it yet. This movie, starring her and Brad Pitt, has been compared to Revolutionary Road, which is a devastating movie about the perils of marriage. It's fascinating that a real-life married couple would put themselves through such an emotionally charged movie like this. I'm in.

12. Carol (11/20) - I read a lot about this movie when it premiered at Cannes because it was praised for the performances from Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara. I think Cate might be my pick for best actress working today (formerly was Naomi Watts, but Blanchett has been incredible lately). I'm interested in Blanchett's take on the movie; that it's about "the feeling of falling in love" and that it's not just a "lesbian romance".

13. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 (11/20) - Mockingjay Part 1 is my favorite of the series so far. I've actually never seen any of the movies in the theater (because I hate crowds), but I might venture to see the last one on the big screen. I really loved the movies so much more than I ever expected to. I'm excited to see how it all plays out (no I haven't read the books, and I don't plan to).

14. Secret in their Eyes (11/20) - I haven't seen the original, but I've heard great things about it. I love when Julia does serious drama. I think a lot of people see her as overrated, but I think she can be incredible and mesmerizing on-screen when she is given the right part. I'm intrigued that the original was a male part and that they changed it to a female role (especially because this is the same thing that happened with Bullock's Our Brand is Crisis). Is this the new way for women to get parts? The only thing is, both of these women are already their own "brand". They can demand roles more than other actresses can. I'm interested to see how this effects storytelling in Hollywood, though.

15. The Night Before (11/25) - The only comedy on my list! How weird and disappointing. I liked JGL and Seth Rogen's chemistry in 50/50, plus they re-team with director Jonathon Levine. And they add Anthony Mackie. He makes me laugh. He's got that charisma thing that is missing from so many actors in the Marvel movies. I'm rooting for him to be a huge star.

16. Victor Frankentstein (11/25) - I'm not even going to pretend that I have any other reason to see this movie except James McAvoy. I would sit through anything starring McAvoy (luckily for me, he usually makes good movies).

Thursday, August 6, 2015

3 Thoughts on Ant-Man

1. The Marvel Universe - I don't really pay much attention to the Marvel versus DC stuff, to be honest. I just like (good) superhero movies. I'm always game for a new character, because really how many times can I sit through Robert Downey Jr., bored as fuck, spouting out one-liners for a paycheck? In general, I think I prefer DC stuff because I find the material a little bit more complex and the characters have more depth. However, there are several Marvel movies that I love because they are a blast (like the first Iron Man and Guardians of the Galaxy). I didn't know anything about Ant-Man going in to this movie and honestly, the idea of the character sounds a bit....stupid. But, they made it work, I guess. It's a much better character introduction than both Thor and Captain America received, in my opinion.

2. Michael Pena is the best - If you didn't already expect Michael Pena to be the best part of this movie, then you may have been watching movies all wrong. He's the best part of EVERY SINGLE MOVIE he's been in. I listed him in an "underrated actor" list all the way back in 2009 (I can't believe I've been writing on this blog for that long). He's absolutely hilarious in this movie. He steals every scene, to the point where I was anticipating his next scene so much that I forgot to pay attention to other characters. The rest of the cast was strong, as well, but Michael just brings the charisma to an all-time high. I've been a fan of Paul Rudd since Clueless (which was 20 FUCKING YEARS AGO YOU GUYS!!!), but I was nervous about him in a superhero role. I was also nervous about "Freckles", because I've never seen her in anything but Lost, but they both exceeded my expectations. The only fault I would find with casting is that Judy Greer is not given enough material (which could be said for Jurassic World as well). When is this woman going to be given a starring role? Also, if you are a fan, then you should be watching Married. She rules. And I didn't even realize that was T.I., until after the movie. I couldn't figure out why I knew him, but his voice sounded really familiar. Ha! How dumb am I? Seriously.

3. The post-credits scenes - For the first time ever, I actually felt like it was worth staying for the post-credits scenes. The first one was a brilliant take-down of the non-existence of female superhero leads. It was oddly aggravating watching Evangeline Lily get constantly told she can't wear the Ant-Man suit. There isn't really a credible reason for this, other than an over-protective father. The fact that he realizes that she is an adult who can make her own choices, and that she is more than capable of superhero status is a check in the win column for feminism. Although, it would have been a bigger win if she just said "fuck it, I'm doing it" without her fathers "permission", but I'll take what I can get. The second scene is a preview into Captain America: Civil War, which shows a captured Bucky. I wasn't too excited, because I really don't get the love for this character, but then Falcon says he "knows a guy", referencing Ant-Man. So, Ant-Man is going to be in Civil War....? AWESOME! Wait, he's bringing Luis with him...right?

3 Thoughts on Jurassic World

1. Reboot vs sequel - I could go on and on about how much I love the original Jurassic Park, but I won't. I will say that I watched both sequels and I don't remember a thing about them. Obviously, they weren't very good. The reason I was so excited for this one, though, is that it seemed like more of a "reboot", yet it takes place 20 years after the original - so, technically it is a sequel. Yet, it carries a parallel plot as the original - so, a "rebooted sequel" if you will? There is an awareness of the love for the original, while still acknowledging that a modern day audience needs more (just like the park-goers; we need bigger, better, scarier and no, we didn't learn the first time).

2. Give in and enjoy it - I don't really understand why one wouldn't. It turned out to be everything I wanted it to be. It's a fun summer blockbuster, with just the right amount of nostalgia to put a smile on my face. Is it as good as the original? There is no way that would ever be possible. Jurassic Park was a true original blockbuster - it was literally like nothing that had been done before. I think Jurassic World does a great job of realizing what it is, and decides to have fun. A perfect example of this is taking the most terrifying scene in Jurassic Park - the raptors/kitchen scene, and flipping it on its ass by utilizing the raptors as the "heroes". Did you ever think you would be saying " cute!" about those same animals that probably previously gave you nightmares? It's actually genius, if you think about it.

3. Opposites don't attract - I've never been a fan of Bryce Dallas Howard, but this is probably the best I've seen her (and yet, she is still the worst part of the movie). She plays the uptight, emotionally distant woman very well. But, am I really supposed to believe in a romance between her and Chris Pratt's character? There is no way in Hell should these two people be a couple. I liked that they flipped the gender roles. Howard is professional, cold, and calculating, while Pratt is warm, impulsive and down-to-Earth. Her character has come under attack as anti-feminist, which I totally get. However, I don't really see it that way. There are women who don't like children (gasp! what a monster!) and take their careers very seriously (gasp!). I just don't think they developed the character enough, so she plays out sort of villainous. I don't think that was the intention, though, because surely, if she was a villain, she would have been given a glorious death scene. I think she's supposed to represent someone who realizes that life is worth living. Someone who kicks off her heels (ahem... metaphorically, of course) and fights for human life. She is a badass, yet she is never given that credit (and maybe that's where the problem lies). I think it's disappointing that they didn't get a female protagonist/hero exactly right, simply because the original gives us one of the best female action heroes ever, Dr. Ellie Sattler (she also gave us the best line in all of the Jurassic movies - "Dinosaurs eat man, woman inherits the Earth"). Can you think of any other female action star of the 90s that is as smart, strong-willed, and fully-clothed as Ellie? No? Can you think of anyone in present day movies? Hmmmm....? It's pretty tough, isn't it? I'm glad that I had someone like Ellie to look up to. It would have been easy to "reboot" her character, but they chose a different character. And just because she is different, doesn't make her anti-feminist. However, just because she starts to worry about her nephews (a little too late), doesn't suddenly make her ready for parenting. And just because these two people work together and survive disaster, doesn't make them a believable couple. The kiss made me cringe.