Wednesday, February 24, 2016

3 Thoughts on Deadpool

1. Ryan Reynolds - To be honest, I'm not really a Ryan Reynolds fan. I never have been. He's not a great actor and I don't think he's hot at all. I think he just has a really great manager and publicist; somehow he was thrust into the spotlight without really deserving it. That's not to say that I haven't liked some of his films. Actually, I like most of them; I just find him "meh" in all of them. The first film that made me think differently was The Voices, which I saw at the end of last year. Reynolds was actually fantastic as a likable murderer. It was the first time I felt like he was attempting something different. And maybe this is his specialty - a likable bad guy. After all, Deadpool is certainly not your typical hero. He's an asshole, who is concerned with seeking revenge - not the usual "saving the world" superhero. As Deadpool, Reynolds is absolutely his very best. Perhaps it was his enthusiasm and investment in the movie itself, but he just really goes for it and it's a perfect performance.

2. Valentine's Day - Has there been a marketing campaign *this* good in recent years? Because nothing comes to mind. It's nothing short of genius. First, I feel like I've been hearing about this movie for YEARS. Second, they made an adult movie (rated R) and clearly marketed it as that. Third, they gave it a release date of Valentine's Day. This may seem odd, but when you think of the intended audience (adults), how do you make up for the "loss" of the teenage audience? You make sure that it is advertised to all adults. Capitalize on the Valentine's Day date movie. The odd part, though, is that it actually is the perfect Valentine's Day movie. It is a love story more than anything else, and it is romantic. It's also hilarious, which is always a good choice for a date movie.

3. The "game changer"? - There has been a lot of attention placed on the success of Deadpool and what it all means for the future of superhero movies. I don't really think it's going to change much. It's not as innovative as people are making it out to be. There have been several superhero movies that focused on humor (most recently Guardians of the Galaxy), and there have been ones that are rated R (Kick-Ass). The success of the movie is simply because they made a great movie. The pace was incredible, the dialogue was smart, the story was interesting, the characters were fully-developed and best of all (what is usually missing), the villain was a strong part of the story. Actually, no, the best part is definitely the jokes. It's joke after joke and 99% of them are hilarious. It's meta without being annoying or repetitive. It's vulgar without being offensive. If it has a flaw, I didn't see it.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

3 Thoughts on Hail, Caesar!

1. For the love of movies - I feel like this movie was specifically made for movie lovers; People who have studied film, worked on film sets, screenplay writers & readers, or just self-taught cinephiles. I don't know if an average moviegoer audience will fully embrace the old-school film techniques, or the silliness of the dialogue, or the abrupt but classic Hollywood dance sequence. I think it's just perfect. I love the optimism, along with the combination of black humor, subtle humor, and laugh out loud humor. It all works incredibly well, and had me smiling through the whole thing. I wouldn't be surprised if it ended up on my Top 10 list of 2016 (and it's technically the first movie I've seen so far this year, so hopefully this is a fantastic start to a great year for movies).

2. The Coen brothers - I don't know if I've ever really discussed my thoughts on Coen brother films on this blog before, so here it is: I have mixed feelings. Some of their films I absolutely adore - Hudsucker Proxy, Fargo, No Country for Old Men, and, Burn After Reading. Some of their films I find mediocre (and the dreaded word in film criticism, "overrated") - The Big Lebowski, O' Brother, Where Art Thou?, and, Inside Llewyn Davis. And then, there are some of their films that are so bad, I try to forget about them - Intolerable Cruelty and The Ladykillers. This one falls between "adore" and "mediocre", even though it was closer in theme and tone with the "so bad" ones. I love that they have a signature style and approach to film-making, and they have a knack for those "small moments" that I refer to as "pure Coen Brothers genius".

3. The star - In watching the trailer, or just looking at the cast list, one would assume that the "star" of the movie is George Clooney, right? Well, it's not. Also, the other bigger names, like Scarlett Johansson, Channing Tatum, and Jonah Hill are in two or three very small scenes. The "star" in my opinion is Josh Brolin, but even more important, the scene-stealer is absolutely Alden Ehrenreich. He's fantastic. Every scene he is in, is a highlight of the movie. I think it must be a difficult thing for an actor to pretend to be a bad actor...I mean, it goes against every natural instinct. He's definitely the memorable character of the movie, which is a huge compliment considering the A-list actors involved. Tatum was also a stand-out, mostly because he nailed that dance sequence and the comedic ending of the movie (two things he excels at: dancing and comedy. Please stop giving him action movies).

Thoughts on 5 Films

1. Ted 2- Really disappointing sequel. I thought the first one was pretty hilarious, at least for a movie about a talking bear. I expected it to be more of the same vulgar, politically incorrect humor, but instead it felt like the same jokes over and over again. I didn't laugh once in the first 40 minutes. The only part I enjoyed was the reprisal of Giovanni Ribisi's character. He was the funniest part of the first one, and they definitely acknowledge that in this one by recalling the hilarious "I Think We're Alone Now" scene (this time in a Ninja Turtle costume!). There are two other parts that I laughed at - when Ted can't help but sing "Sweet Caroline" (absolutely brilliant) and Amanda Seyfried (as Sam L Jackson) saying "I put a frown face on Facebook! How am I supposed to explain that?!" after she thought Wahlberg's character was dead. Seyfried is growing on me, but I did feel the absence of Mila Kunis (only because I love her). I think the story is obviously problematic; it was easy to forego a realistic story in the first one because it was told in a "fairy-tale" style, but this one is just ridiculous.

2. Burnt - I was expecting a pretty terrible movie, but I actually didn't think it was so bad. I really wanted to see it because I was a huge (and possibly the only) fan of Kitchen Confidential (I even own the first and only season). Bradley Cooper as a sexy chef is a dream come true (insert heart eyes emoji). Honestly, it was hard for me to be impartial, because he's just so perfect, so I'm not really sure if the movie was good or not, but it certainly wasn't terrible. My biggest problem with the movie is all of the food shots. Most images of food makes me sick, and I lose my appetite, and I cringe out of sheer disgust. In other words, I don't like knowing how my food is prepared, and I don't savor in the image of food sitting pretty on my plate. Also, do fancy chefs really cook stuff in plastic now? I don't understand how that is safe? Doesn't plastic release chemicals when it is burned? And why is so much food wasted just because it doesn't look or taste "perfect"? It's disgusting. Anyway, Cooper is perfection (obvi), Sienna Miller does a great job, as does the rest of the cast. And the betrayal at the end? WHOA. I didn't seen that coming at all, but it made perfect sense. It could have been a better movie, if it dug a little deeper into the obsessive nature of being "the best" at something, but it stayed pretty much at surface level.

3. Time out of Mind - The subject matter of this movie is extremely depressing, but it needs to be told. It's about a man struggling to come to terms with the fact that he's homeless. It's great insight into the many problems that cities have with dealing with the homeless population. When you're young (and/or naive) you may wonder why homeless people don't just go to a shelter, right? Well, as seen in this movie, it's a bit like sentencing oneself to prison. You lose your freedom, and in turn, your sense of self-worth. Then there's organizations like the Salvation Army that help homeless people after they admit that they need to be "saved" by God. It's all a bit depressing to think about. There are also mothers who refuse to get "help" in fear of being separated from their children (which if she is homeless might be the best thing, but it's a devastating decision still, no?). Anyway, I think this movie could have gone even further to show the problems with "the system" (after all, our main character is a white male - he is treated far better than minorities are). However, it's still a heartbreaking situation that highlights how easy it is to suddenly be homeless. The moment when he questions "am I homeless?" is just soul-crushing. Gere is at his best; straddling the line between naivety and an aging stubborn male. There is a scar on his head that is highlighted, but I believe, never directly referenced, indicating a possibility of a head injury. I sort of like not knowing his full-story because it emphasizes the humanity of the strangers we pass on a daily basis living on the street; doing their best to survive. We don't know their story, but assumptions are made, and this needs to change.

4. Sleeping with Other People - I thought this had a different (better) concept than the one we are given. I was under the impression it was about a couple (who are also best friends) who are in an open relationship. In theory, it is, it's just that the characters never really acknowledge that they are in a relationship. The are just presented as friends (without benefits) who discuss their relationships with other people to each other, even though they are clearly in love with one another. I think the worst part of the movie is the fact that it's written by a woman. Here are the 3 reasons why I assumed it was written by a man: 1. The first scene with Jason's character getting pushed into a moving taxi because he cheated (and bitches be crazy...). 2. The "I'm going to teach you how to masturbate" scene. Yes, there is actually a scene where a MAN teaches a WOMAN how to finger herself. 3. This same man claims that every woman he's had sex with (which we assume is a big number) has had an orgasm and it's never questioned. All 3 of these things usually come from a (delusional) male brain. BUT NOPE. Women can be just as fucking stupid. Anyway, there are some parts of the movie that I genuinely like (a lot). I do like their relationship; but I'm a crazy person who believes that friendship is the most important part of a relationship. Sudeikis and Alison Brie have great chemistry together (even though I think Sudeikis is fucking booooring. It's hilarious how he describes how boring the guys she's in love with is. It felt like he was talking about himself.). Plus, I laughed out loud a few times, especially at the end credits. Literal tears were streaming down my face from laughing so hard. Overall, the movie is very successful, I just can't understand how it came from a female brain.

5. Hitman: Agent 47 - So incredibly dull, generic and derivative. I'm not a huge fan of Rupert Friend, probably because I'm not a huge fan of Homeland (it's a good show, not great), I was interested in seeing him in something different, though. He didn't impress me; especially if you make the obvious comparison between this character and Jason Bourne. The movie is a bit like the Bourne movies in that it's about turning humans into weapons, but there's no style to the character. It's very one-note. Also, the supporting cast is rough. The girl from that terrible show, Betrayal, is the female star (the one that needs to be rescued several times, even though she is a trained weapon, as well. Makes sense.), and she is just as terrible here as she was on the show. And Zachary Quinto is NOT an action star. He was so awkward in those scenes - and obviously *spoiler* he is the bad guy because FUCKING DUH. The movie isn't necessarily bad; it doesn't even make it into my 2015 Worst List, but it's just sort of pointless. I won't remember a thing about it in 6 months. Guaranteed.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

3 Thoughts on Joy

1. Jennifer Lawrence - I like Jennifer Lawrence, just not usually in David O. Russell movies. I think she received way too much credit for Silver Linings Playbook (Cooper carried that movie full-force), and she was the weakest link in American Hustle. However, I think Lawrence shines in this movie. Oscar nomination worthy? NOPE. But, still much better than her previous collaborations with O. Russell. She seems more reserved and mature in this role than in her previous efforts. The performance isn't as "showy", except at the very end, which is so bad it almost ruins everything. I don't think that's her fault, though. I blame O. Russell on that atrocious ending.

2. David O. Russell - There has been a definite shift in O. Russell movies. I admit, I miss the days of Three Kings and the absurdity of I Heart Huckabees. I think part of his problem lately is definitely the casting. It's like he's stuck on repeat and it's getting really boring. His current obsession with Lawrence is insufferable; He doesn't even put her in parts that are right for her. I also believe that his films have been a little more serious in theme, and his biting sarcasm has been toned down. However, he is still an incredible filmmaker and storyteller. Anyone could have made a biopic about Joy, but O. Russell created a story involving fact-based events with a sense of dazzle. It has his signature stamped all over it, and that's a great thing.

3. Everything else - It's very telling that I saw many people (mostly men) writing this movie off as "the mop movie", as if the subject matter is instantly dull. In reality, it's the story of Joy Mangano, an incredibly successful businesswoman/inventor, who created items that changed the way "home-makers" (who, even in this day and age, are mostly still women) cleaned and organized their home. She came up with an idea that would make her life easier, and busted her ass to get it made and into the homes of millions of people everywhere. If you don't find that fascinating, then I don't have words for you. The style of the movie is also a highlight. It's not as obvious as American Hustle (which was still perfect for that story), but it feels genuine of that time period. There are several negative aspects of the move - the pace is a little too slow, the editing is choppy and distracting, and as stated above, the ending is ridiculous (there is nothing worse than a strong female character, after getting burned by humanity, deciding that chopping off her hair will solve all of her problems). So, in the O. Russell canon, this is probably one of his worst films - but I don't really think that's an insult. It's still better than 90% of the crap out there.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Thoughts on 5 Films

1. The Last Five Years - I had this on my list because of Anna Kendrick, but then I saw that it has the guy from Smash (who is now on Supergirl), and I really like him, so I watched it immediately. I didn't like it, for a few reasons. First, I like some musicals (Chicago, Moulin Rouge, Once), but this was hard to pay attention to. It reminded me of Into the Woods (also starring Kendrick), because it just sounds like they are singing the SAME song for the entire movie. Second, I hated the story. In a way, I actually really like the concept because it's about a marriage that disintegrates within five years (I'm a sucker for a realistic approach to marriage), but it's the way that this marriage falls apart that I have a problem with. It boils down to him being an asshole and her being an unsupportive bitch. It's hard for a writer and an actress to find success in the real world, so if one of them actually does, then wouldn't the other one be ecstatic? I don't understand jealousy/resentment of someone that you love. After becoming successful, he has a world of opportunities, and in turn, temptation, which is probably the best song in the movie - the insight into his conflicted mind is interesting, but if he feels this way, I question his "love" for his wife. It seems like he settled because he couldn't do better, and now that he's famous, well, all bets are off (and *spoiler* then he cheats on her). However, maybe if she was supportive of his success, he wouldn't feel the need to stray? She is essentially living off of his success, the least she can do is support him. The whole story is just really obvious that these two don't belong together. I did appreciate the lyrics to the songs; if you force yourself to pay attention, there are some lines that are real gems ("these are the people that cast Russell Crowe in a musical") and I appreciate how difficult it is to film a musical like this.

2. Straight Outta Compton - YOU GUYS, I'm sorry, but I don't understand. This movie is nothing more than a made for television movie but with swearing and mild violence (and I mean the old school *cough* terrible *cough* tv movies). I was slightly too young to really consider myself an N.W.A fan; my rap days started with a solo Dr. Dre and Snoop, but really, I was a gigantic Biggie fan (I cried the day he died). So, as someone who knew very little about the N.W.A saga, I thought this movie would give some fantastic insight and it fails. It doesn't tell me anything that I didn't already know even in my limited knowledge (except that Dr. Dre's brother died). I mean, the whole movie is about how they got screwed by their record execs (*GASP* NO WAY! THAT DIDN'T HAPPEN TO PRETTY MUCH EVERY ARTIST THAT EXISTS. Quick someone make an *N SYNC/Lou Pearlman biopic and enter it in the Oscar race). They did a terrible job of presenting the *only* interesting/relevant story which is the history of police brutality against the black community. I mean, the fact that this is still happening almost 20 years later, is disgusting. It's interesting when life effects art (as they state "art is a reflection of our reality"), but it's more interesting when art effects life - and in the case of the N.W.A, they didn't really effect anything, did they? According to the actors introducing the film at the SAG awards, they claim that the N.W.A "started a revolution", but I'm not so sure about that. The Rodney King verdict happened after the N.W.A became popular, and race relations among the police force hasn't changed (and is arguably worse). I personally think it's a mistake to not at least address this. The other part that I found problematic (and essentially poorly written) is Jerry Heller, portrayed by Paul Giamatti. At first, he is seen as a very generic white savior character (they could have easily focused their success on their hard-work, their instant popularity in local clubs, their talent, etc., instead it's because a white guy discovered them? Um...ok). Then, he is turned (almost instantly) into the villain of the story. I just think there has to be a lot missing from those sudden turn of events (and I think it's interesting that Heller filed a lawsuit because of how he was portrayed). Anyway, it's not a bad movie. The cast is decent and it has a few really great moments. I just don't see anything to rave about.

3. Irrational Man - (*spoilers*) I wasn't really aware of what this movie is about. I just knew it was a Woody Allen film with Joaquin Phoenix and Emma Stone. That's enough to excite me, but unfortunately, this movie is really bland. Allen tends to go through phases, for me, of super highs and super lows. With this, To Rome with Love, and Magic in the Moonlight, I'm afraid he is on a super low (I'm ignoring Blue Jasmine because I'm not sure that movie would have been as good without Blanchett's sublime performance). So, here is why I hated this movie: 1. Emma Stone is no Scarlett Johansson. That would usually be a compliment coming from me, because I'm not a fan of Johansson. However, I think she's excellent in Allen's films. He brings her to life. He has the opposite effect on Stone. She is usually so charismatic and adorable onscreen. But with this and Rome, she is almost unbearably boring. 2. The romance is unsettling. She falls for her (older) professor, essentially choosing him over her more "appropriate" boyfriend. I think this is supposed to be seen as a mistake, but they set the boyfriend up as a jealous, insecure asshole from the very first scene, so honestly, he needed to be dumped. I think some women do tend to fall for more "damaged" guys (no, I don't understand the psychology behind this), but this guy is a psychopath. It should be called Psychotic Man and the Irrational Woman who Falls for Him. 3. This man is a GODDAMN PSYCHOPATH. Allen has definitely written immoral characters before, but usually there is a motive, or at least an understanding to character actions. This guy is not only self-destructive and narcissistic (both common Allen character traits), but he plans a murder of someone he doesn't even know based on the words of a stranger. That's psychotic. And, here's one reason I enjoyed this movie: Parker Posey. The end.

4. Fantastic Four - Oh Lord. I just don't understand how something this terrible gets made and then actually released. Especially when you have a cast that's this good. I don't remember the original Fantastic Four movies being any good, but I know, specifically, that I didn't like the cast (at least for the roles that they played). Remaking it with a group of talented, up-and-coming actors seemed like a fantastic idea, but I think they forgot about the script. I mean, there is no story whatsoever. It introduces characters who then spend the next hour of the movie doing "science stuff", they get super-powers from a freak accident and then....??? They fight off a bad guy (whose name is Victor Von Doom. For reals) for like 5 minutes. That's the whole movie. The bad guy is probably the worst villain I've seen in a long time. He has no motivation to be bad and he says dialogue like "there is no Victor, only Doom". This is obviously meant to set up a series of movies, but if you fuck up the plot, dialogue and characters this bad, then no-one is going to want to see more. So, believe the reviews - this movie is absolutely terrible.

5. The Diary of a Teenage Girl - I had really high hopes for this movie. Not only did it receive tons of festival praise, but I used to work for two of the producers back in the day. I am so happy this film was so successful for them, because they have a knack for picking great scripts. Hopefully, they will continue to see success (which seems likely, since this year they are producers on the famous "Daniel Radcliffe farting corpse" movie). This was advertised as a  "groundbreaking" teenage girl "coming-of-age" story, which actually is the only thing that irked me. There were plenty of these stories when I was growing up (Now and Then and My Girl spring to mind the quickest), but I guess after seeing the movie, I realize that this was definitely more sexually explicit for a female story. There is usually a lot of build-up towards "the first time", and then the story ends. This story begins with "the first time" and continues exploring a teenage girls brain. I don't think I've really seen many stories of young women actually enjoying sex - it's more of a mid-life story that's told, so it's definitely refreshing. It's still not necessarily something I connect with. I honestly don't think I was ever as needy as this girl is (and many girls are). I never really cared if guys found me physically attractive; and I never really cared what guys were thinking about me. That's not to say that I didn't have crushes, I did, but I was just a very independent person. My crushes didn't control how I felt about myself. So, I can't really connect with the story. It escalates from "I just had sex" to "I'm doing drugs and giving blow-jobs to strangers for $15", which kind of negates the healthy "normal" sexual awakenings of a young woman. I feel like someone who is anti-sex before marriage would use this story to prove their point. I'm not judging her, but I don't think that's her proudest moment (but sure, we all have our moments, so I appreciate the boldness of having a character who lapses judgement because of her own insecurities). However, I also find this girl extremely selfish. Sure, she's young and she is disgustingly manipulated by her mother's boyfriend, but she's old enough to realize the damage and hurt that this inappropriate relationship would do to her mother. Plus, any girl who jokes about being raped, is not someone I will ever relate to. So, as someone who doesn't relate to really anything in the movie, I still enjoyed it. It's a strong story, the dialogue is poetic, and the actors (specifically Bel Powley and Kristen Wiig) are excellent. It's definitely one of the best movies of 2015.