Thursday, October 29, 2015

Thoughts on 6 New TV Shows

1. Scream Queens - The show that I was most excited for this Fall, and in turn, is the show that is the biggest disappointment. The first episode was so awful, I almost didn't make it through the whole thing. There is a fine line with showcasing problems like racism, homophobia, sexism, etc., by utilizing dry humor and sarcasm, and Scream Queens just crosses it with an overwhelming sense of meanness. Chanel, by all intensive purposes, is the star of the show, and she is just a disgusting human being. Her general personality relies on the fact that she's "rich and pretty" so it doesn't matter how mean she is or that she, you know, "accidentally" murders someone. Emma Roberts is part of the problem; she just doesn't really scream "perfection" to me, instead she seems really awkward. I feel like she tries to overcome her own awkardness to a cringe-worthy degree. The first episode felt more like Scary Movie than Scream, and that wasn't what I was expecting. One character even live-tweeted her own murder. I mean, seriously. Lea Michele is under-utilized (and OF COURSE she would get a makeover, and become a bigger role, because she is a queen and should always be in the spotlight. ON BROADWAY, NOT ON THIS DUMB-ASS SHOW.). Jamie Lee Curtis deserves better than this - her role is an embarrassment to the horror genre. Once I made it past the first episode, the next few have had moments of genuine brilliance, but overall, I kind of hate it. The third episode featured the best scene so far, the Backstreet Boys scene, which came just at the point where I wondered if I could really take any more torture. I thought, "well, damn, I HAVE to continue watching now! Fuck.". So, I'm still watching it, just waiting for every single character to die a horrible, bloody death.

2. Quantico - It's Grey's Anatomy meets The Recruit. I wasn't even going to watch it, but then I saw a few familiar faces among the cast, all of whom I like ("small eyes" from Cougar Town, the super hot guy from the Crash TV show, the other hot guy from Rookie Blue). The first episode was a direct copy of Grey's, just replacing medical interns with FBI recruits. However, the mystery behind who is framing Alex is driving the show, but for how long will that last? The reason Grey's works is because it's about the characters and the relationships; it doesn't need a mystery (and it's lasted for 12 years for this exact reason). Once the mystery of Quantico is solved, which should happen soon, because I'm already aggravated, what's next? I just don't see it sustaining for very long. I do really like the cast. Aside from those mentioned above, I also like the lead, Priyanka Chopra, she has great screen presence, and Johanna Braddy, who looks identical to Naomi Watts. They all have great chemistry together. The only one I don't like is Yasmine Elmasri. She always looks like a deer in headlights, and I thought maybe it was part of her character(s), but after several episodes, I think she's just a bad actress. Overall, I think the show has potential, but in the 5 episodes so far, I haven't really been too impressed.

3. Limitless - I don't know why, but I just can't seem to get into this show. The cast is excellent, with some of my all-time favorites like, Ron Rifkin (Arvin Sloane from Alias) and Jennifer Carpenter (Debra Morgan from Dexter). I love Jake McDorman, he was on that show Greek, and last year's Manhattan Love Story. The show has utilized really thoughtful guest stars too, by having McDorman's Manhattan co-star, the super adorable Analeigh Tipton, as his ex-girlfriend, and Desmond Harrington, another Dexter alum as Carpenter's love interest. Plus, having Bradley Cooper show up a few times doesn't hurt. I think the plot is just a little boring, and the way each episode feels exactly the same just doesn't hold my interest. It feels like a CBS show. Lately, I have forgone my "no CBS shows" rule because some have been great (Elementary, The Good Wife), but this is a very typical show for them. You don't really have to pay much attention, the character relationships are really predictable, the crime that needs to be solved is really easy to solve, etc. So, I guess I do know why I can't get into it, but I'm still watching it because it could get good. It's from the producers of Alias (which is why the cast is so great), and even as a die-hard Alias fan, I can admit that the first few episodes aren't that great. Some shows just need time to find its groove.

4. Blindspot - Another show that hasn't really grabbed me. I liked the first episode, aside from the fact that it was an overload lot of exposition. Pilot episodes are tricky, especially for high-concept shows, but it felt a little like desperation. However, the concept is solid, and a lot can be done with it. I'm still unsure of the direction it is going in, because I think a lot of the twists have been misdirection to distract the audience from guessing the "real" twist. Jaimie Alexander is a fantastic lead actress, this is her role to shine in. The rest of the cast, though, is really awful. The lead guy, I don't even want to know his name, is bland as fuck. And Ashley Johnson still acts and looks like she's 12 (I could never see her as anything but Chrissy Seaver). The first few episodes were just "Jane" arguing to be a part of the mission, he would tell her to wait in the car, she would disobey, then she would save the day, on repeat. I'm glad that she has become part of the team, because that was getting really annoying. I think the only way the plot is going to work is if they add a sci-fi element (like someone who can predict the future and utilized her to help the FBI stop terrorist attacks). Otherwise, none of it is going to make any sense. You know what also doesn't make sense? That every single terrorist attack seems to happen in NYC. I know, it seems petty, but a show like this should be more international (Sidney Bristow traveled the world to stop terrorists.)

5. The Grinder - I wasn't planning on watching this show, but I realized that I have very few sitcoms to watch anymore. This one looked like the best of the new ones, so I gave it a shot. I'm glad I did, because I like it a lot. It's not like hilarious, or anything, but I think it's really cute and sweet, and I do laugh a few times with each episode. Rob Lowe gave life to an already funny Parks and Recreation, and he really excels in the spotlight. I really like Fred Savage, as well. Of course, growing up with The Wonder Years, I think everyone my age feels the same way, but I like that he took the director route. He's directed some of my favorite sitcoms (It's Always Sunny, Party Down, Modern Family, Happy Endings). Lowe and Savage play really well off of each other, as brothers who are the complete opposite of each other. Mary Elizabeth Ellis (from It's Always Sunny) plays Savage's wife, and William Devane is their father, so needless to say, the cast is great. The kids are great too. There have been some really memorable moments like "hashtag teen life" and the Ray Donovan DVR episode, "We tried to watch Ray Donovan!" *dead silence*. OH AND they made a Summer School reference. I LOVE THAT MOVIE!! I feel like it's a show that can only get better with time, and since it's already good, the potential is sky high.

6. Supergirl - I am so happy to say, I actually really liked the pilot episode. I was skeptical, especially with Melissa Benoist, but it's really fun. I was surprised at the supporting cast - was it announced that Dean Cain was in it?? Because I squealed out-loud "SUPERMAN!". And Ally McBeal?! There's also the guy from Smash, which made me think there might be some showtunes in the future (with him and Benoist coming from musical shows). I'd be ok with that. I wish they didn't have it set in the publishing world because that plot's already taken, but I guess it's part of the formula. The biggest surprise is that I actually really like Benoist in the role. She's sweet, smart, and seems genuine. Maybe Glee just wasn't the right role for her? I like the twist with her sister, and I like that they reference Superman. There's only been the one episode so far, but it was definitely my favorite pilot of the season. I hope the rest of the series continues this way.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Thoughts on 5 Films

1. Creep - So, I've always thought of Mark Duplass as really sort of creepy. I think that's why I've never liked him in movies that I'm supposed to like him in (Safety Not Guaranteed, The One I Love). Needless to say, this is a PERFECT role for him. The movie is told found-footage style, about a guy who answers a Craigslist ad (HAHA! What??) as a Videographer for the day. The uneasiness is built in right away with this mixture of "this guy is creeeeeepy" and "aww...poor guy". He explains that he is dying and he wants to record a video for his unborn son (he references the movie My Life, and OHMYGOD remember that movie? I think I cried through the entire thing). The whole beginning of the movie relies on unnecessary jump scares, which is really annoying. I began to think that they didn't know any other way to scare an audience, but then the last 30 minutes of the movie are BRILLIANT. The scene where he is sleeping with the camera on and it starts to move! AAAH! So unsettling. Then his last mea culpa ("I only need a friend and you're the last chance I have"), actually makes you feel bad for him. And THEN, the last scene. My mouth actually dropped open and I stared at the screen for a solid 5 minutes after it was over. It makes the whole movie worth watching.

2. The Duke of Burgundy - I've seen a lot of high praise for this movie, and I didn't really know what it was about so I watched it with a very blank slate, which I think worked. However, I don't think I can praise it as highly as everyone else. I did like it. There is a lot to praise, but overall, I was a little let down by certain aspects. It's beautifully shot, with some stunning use of mirrors and reflections. It deals with the subject matter, BDSM, with respect by showcasing it within a relationship that is built on love and intimacy. It also shows the intricacies within this fetish by questioning which one in the relationship is actually in control. I did like the parallel butterfly discussion, although I feel like I need to study butterflies to really understand its relationship to their relationship (I didn't even know that the title is in reference to a certain type of rare butterfly until after the movie. Was it mentioned? Maybe I missed it.). I think my reservations for the film are because of the very basic, simple fact that I just don't get it. I don't connect with either character (I don't like being told what to do, nor do I like to tell others what to do). And, I really find the character, Evelyn, insufferable and immature...and spoiled...and an overall bad human being. So, I don't really root for her to have a happy ending. But, again, it's very beautiful to look at. It's well-acted. It's interesting, and there is even a bit of humor to it. If I were to judge it purely by an "everything I learned in film school" mindset I would probably praise it highly, but, seriously how boring are those people?

3. Cinderella - It's a very "expected" movie. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but I have to wonder, if there isn't any value added to a story, then why tell it? It seems like a useless exercise, but one that kids and young teens will probably enjoy. I wasn't a huge fan of Cinderella when I was a kid, but I LOVED the mice (I almost named my cat "Gus", but I named him "Simba" instead). I used to sing the "Cinderelly" song ALL THE TIME ("used to", as in I still do, just not in front of anyone but my cats. It's sadly not in this film). It's a sweet story, that focuses on the two lessons "be kind" and "have courage". I always liked the way Cinderella stayed true to the "kindness" even when faced with the true evilness of her step-family, but I think I knew it would be a mistake to believe that "kindness" would actually get me anywhere, and therefore, I always called "bullshit" on the story of Cinderella. I mean, you should be kind, yes, but don't expect a prince to fall in love with you because of your kindness (being cynical will keep your heart from being broken, now there is real life lesson for you. You're welcome.). Anyway, aside from the mushy-gushiness of it all, it's a very pretty movie. Some scenes looked like they were straight out of a Monet painting (in fact, I'm pretty sure one shot is a direct copy, but I looked into it and I found nothing.). The acting ranges from fantastic (Cate Blanchett and Helena Bonham Carter - both are literally perfect in their roles) to blah (Lily James - kind does not equal boring). Overall, it's a very average movie.

4. Spy - I have no idea why anyone is raving about this movie. Really, I read so many amazing reviews, and it has a 93% on RT, which is high for any movie, but especially a comedic spy movie. I watched the trailer, and I wasn't really impressed, but I had high hopes for the supporting cast. I shouldn't have been surprised that I didn't enjoy the movie, because I think, deep down, I knew it wasn't going to be good. People seem to be surprised that Jason Statham is funny (Um...Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels? Snatch? Anyone?). He definitely steals a few scenes here, but it becomes repetitive. The highlight for me is Rose Byrne (and Jesus fucking Christ, please don't tell me people didn't already KNOW that she is hilarious). She goes so over-the-top as the villain. I think it's funny because she kind of calls out the ridiculousness, by being ridiculous. Jude Law (as "Bradley Fine" Ahem.) has his funny moments, as well. Yet, overall, I didn't really laugh out loud. The plot is really fucking stupid and so OBVIOUS. Rule # 1 of the spy genre: If you don't actually see someone die, then they aren't dead. I'm not a Paul Feig hater, I laughed like a crazy person at both Bridesmaids and The Heat, this just didn't do it for me.

5. Child 44 - There are two really fascinating stories that are told in this movie, but jumbled together it becomes so confusing and hard to follow. One story is about a relationship set in 1950's Russia, between a police officer (soldier? general? I have no idea.) and his wife. He tells a tale of "true love", while her version is one of a frightened woman who was taught not to say no to people in power. She is claimed to be a traitor (no idea why...), and he refuses to denounce her, causing them both to be exiled. A whole movie could be made out of this plot (I would focus on her story, but either way works). The second story that is intertwined is about a serial killer who is killing young boys. Apparently, in Soviet Russia, the theory of communism does not allow for serial killers. Communism is "paradise", and murder only happens in a capitalistic society. Therefore, murders are hidden, and disguised as accidents. So, a serial killer is on the loose and no one is doing a thing about it, until this police officer (soldier? general?) decides to investigate. Now that is a great plot. Why not just focus on this? Can I call for a redo? Two separate movies with different actors. Don't get me wrong, it's a fantastic group of actors, but none of them felt right for the part. I mean, Tom Hardy just gives it all he's got with the accent, but And Gary Oldman reminded me of his guest star on Friends. I just kept picturing him spitting on people, which was quite distracting.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

3 Thoughts on The Martian

1. Science over faith- With the recent string of films about space travel (Gravity, Interstellar), I found the biggest highlight of this movie was its consistent reliance on science. While other movies of this nature rely on the character "believing" in something that isn't tangible (destiny, a higher power, positive energy, their own "will" to survive, etc), Mark Watney, played by Matt Damon, basically states "I'm not gonna die here" and then uses every scientific resource that his brain can generate. And you know what? It is fucking awesome. And you know why? Because it really doesn't matter how much you "believe", if you are facing a deadly situation, like being stranded on Mars, you're going to need to utilize your brain. I did find the plot a bit repetitive (problem, *light bulb*, solution, repeat), but if you have the slightest interest in learning things, then you will have fun with this movie. The question remains, would any of it actually work? I mean, he describes, in detail, every move he makes, but until someone actually does any of it (on Mars), we really don't know.

2. Drama over simplicity - The reason that I'm not completely in love with the movie is related a bit to the repetition, because it all seemed a little too dragged out for dramatic effect. *Spoiler, if you don't know how movies like this work*, he obviously lives. His team goes back for him and they save him (only after he saved himself multiple times), and we already know this is what is going to happen as soon as it is mentioned as an option. Therefore, the drawn-out ending became really tedious and really didn't achieve the suspense that I think was intended. After the second failed attempt at his rescue, I was already like "ok, really, just fucking rescue the guy already". They tried to lighten the mood by injecting some "humor" - that's in quotes because I didn't really think any of it was funny, like the running gag with disco music (because apparently only one person brought music and she only listens to one genre of music - disco. Is she a robot?). Even with its faults, it's still a solid 4 star movie, and my favorite of the year, so far.

3. Talent over charm - I'm not referring to the star; Matt Damon is the king of cinematic charm (he shares his kingdom with James McAvoy). He relies on this charm, as he spends most of his screen time on his own, talking to an imaginary audience. I'm referring to the two female characters, Jessica Chastain and Kate Mara. These are two actresses who have both been critiqued for being "cold". In fact, I very recently read a twitter conversation about how Mara "needs to put a smile on her face" (a woman said this, btw). I'm sure these actresses are used to ridiculous things being said about them, but it's so insulting to critique someone for actually being realistic (she is an astronaut who survived a horrible tragedy, in which she thought her friend/co-worker died, and now she must put her life in danger again to save him - WHY THE FUCK WOULD SHE SMILE??). So if you are seeing this movie because you want "eye candy" females laughing, smiling, and charming their way through space, then this is not the movie for you. Gender is never even addressed, even with Chastain in the "leader" role. Her decisions are questioned and judged, but not because she is female, but because she is human.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Thoughts on 5 Films

1. The Divergent Series: Insurgent - I remember liking the first movie, but oddly, I don't really remember very much from it. And even more oddly, I don't remember a big part of the plot that is essential for this installment. *spoilers ahead* Apparently, Tris killed Will (who???), and is now facing the consequences, both politically and emotionally (we know it's emotional because she chopped her hair off. DUUUUH. Her hair looks terrible, btw.). I can't really say that I liked this sequel, but I didn't hate it. It's sort of just "there" to serve a purpose of propelling the story forward to the next chapter. It's like the really boring middle part of a movie, but extended for 2 hours. I was surprised by some of the cast. Was Jai Courtney in the first one? Because I don't remember him at all (although, that's not surprising)). And I know Naomi Watts wasn't in the first one. The question becomes how the fuck did Jai Courtney end up in the same movie as Kate Winslet and Naomi Watts?!? Also, I need someone to explain the difference between the "factionless" and the "divergents". They explained it in the movie, but they still seem like the same thing, to me. I also don't really understand how the divergents are going to save the world, but I guess that will be explained in the next one?

2. The Loft - I'll admit, this movie has some excellent twists and turns that I didn't see coming. I watched it for the cast - Karl Urban, Rachael Taylor, Wentworth Miller, Matthias Schoenaerts, Rhona Mitra etc. I was expecting a cheesy, predictable thriller. However, just because it has a good twist doesn't mean it's a good movie. The script is obnoxious, infuriating, misogynistic, homophobic, fat-phobic, and ridiculous. I think many women will be put off by the premise - five guys sharing a loft for the sole purpose of cheating on their wives. I'm not actually too bothered by it. Men cheat. Big whoop. (Women cheat, too.). The parts that bothered me is that these men are actually bad people. One of them assaults and rapes a woman, but apparently it's okay because his father was abusive. So, his "bros", stand by him. Another guy consistently calls a woman he has sex with "dumpy", which is never ok, but it's certainly even more absurd when he's not even fit, himself. I won't say why the other guys are awful (other than the fact that they don't call the police after their friend rapes someone) because it would ruin the twists, but I think you get my point. The characters are confronted with a "punishment", which could have been really satisfying if it were real, but the twist negates the punishment. Overall, it just made me angry, because a film this bad shouldn't have an impressive twist.

3. What We Do in the Shadows - I was not expecting to laugh as hard as I did. I didn't even really know anything about this movie; other than it got pretty good reviews. I knew it was about vampires, but I was expecting a moody vampire movie in the same vein as Only Lovers Left Alive. I guess I wasn't really paying much attention, was I? It's fucking hilarious and best of all, ORIGINAL! It actually made my stomach hurt from laughing so much. The best part is obviously the "werewolves not swearwolves", but I really loved so much of it. There are so many quotable moments ("If I had a penis, I would have been bitten years ago"), and memorable scenes (when they circle around him yelling "shame! shame! bad vampire!"). I would LOVE to watch it again, and again, and that is a rare feeling. I hate that it's technically a 2014 release, because if it were a 2015 release, it would be my number 1 movie of this year. That's not really saying much, though, because my best of list is pathetic so far. I'm so excited that there is supposedly a spin-off in the works about the infamous werewolves; I can't fucking wait!

4. Furious 7 - I'm a fan of this series; have been from the beginning. Not as big of a fan as some, but overall, I think they are fun action movies. I knew this one was going to be a tough one to watch. Paul Walker has become synonymous with this franchise, not just because he was the star, but because it is where he excelled. He seemed to enjoy making these films, and the cast had a real camaraderie that kept the franchise fresh and different. The relationships between the characters were just as important as the action and that's what kept the audience interested. That and, you know, flying cars through buildings. This film served as a touching tribute to Paul. I didn't realize how much of the movie was already filmed, so I was expecting his character to die during every life-threatening sequence (*spoiler* he doesn't, which was really, really smart). I do have to admit that I am a little disappointed in the fact that the movie takes a step back from the badass female characters that were featured in the previous one, but I understand and accept the reason behind it; It needed to focus on the original main characters (it was always a "bro" movie, anyway). There are some FANTASTIC action sequences, all relating back to "cars don't fly". Some of the action sequences were real, and not CGI, which is really hard to believe (the cars dropping from the plane scene, for one). The final tribute scene, is so heartbreaking. I fought back a tear (or two). I can understand why some are calling this one the best in the series, but I prefer 6 (and probably 1, but I would need to watch it again to be sure).

5. The Maze Runner - Eerily similar to the Divergent plot, but told in a much more concise way. I feel like this movie did what both Divergent movies did, but in just one movie. It's even more odd that this movie ends in almost the exact same way as Insurgent (what's on the other side?). I watched them only two days apart, so I noticed the similarities more that I might have if I saw them further apart. I remember seeing the trailer for this movie, and I was surprised at the intensity, but then I forgot about it until the sequel was just released. I feel like all of these movies are overshadowed by The Hunger Games (rightfully so), but this one definitely had some interesting ideas and surprising outcomes. It's like an updated version of Lord of the Flies. The plot focuses on this group being placed inside this "maze"; they learn to civilize, and accept the terms in order to survive. Then, one day, someone is dropped in the maze, and questions their complacency. He demands action, which could have dangerous results. It really stresses the differences in humanity (those who accept injustice and those who fight against it). There were some great effects, and some really intense scenes, especially if you're claustrophobic (I'm not, but I imagine this movie might be hard to watch if one is). I love the cast, too. Kaya Scodelario has been on my radar for a while now (since the first series of Skins). There's just something about her. I don't think I've ever seen the main lead guy before (Dylan O'Brien), but I really liked him. He sort of reminded me of Paul Walker. The best part of the movie is that I actually look forward to watching the sequel!