Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Thoughts on 5 Films

1. Love & Mercy - This is going to sound really dumb, but I had NO IDEA that this movie was about Brian Wilson. I guess I never really paid much attention when it was released. I saw it on a few "Best of 2015" lists, and I read some great reviews of Paul Dano's performance. And I knew it was about music because I remember seeing a still of Dano in a production studio. And to make me sound even more dumb, I had no idea Wilson had such an interesting (and really fucked up) life and that the Wilson sisters from Wilson Phillips are Brian Wilson's daughters?? WHAT?! How did I not know that? I LOVED Wilson Phillips growing up. So aside from the story BLOWING MY MIND, I really enjoyed it. The acting is superb - especially Dano, Elizabeth Banks, and of course Paul Giamatti. He is the perfect sleazy douchebag. The story is told with just enough intensity, that I actually felt like something might actually happy to Wilson (even knowing full well that he is still alive today). It's so disgusting that people leech off of celebrities - and there are so many instances. The movie really forces that disgust on the audience, and hopefully, people will start being more proactive like Wilson's wife, Melinda, and stand up to these monsters. Had I seen this movie earlier, it surely would have made my top 10 of last year.

2. Mustang - So I watched this move directly after I watched Mistress America, and the stark contrast between the two is startling. While Mistress America is an extremely immature tale of white women who have no concept of what real world problems are (more on this below), Mustang showcases how backwards a lot of the world is in regards to women's equality and ability to enjoy life and make her own choices. It's a devastating watch, and in all honesty, as much as I enjoy films in any language, I wasn't in the right mindset for a foreign film. I did my best to adjust my brain, but I feel like I missed a lot of the subtlety and nuances in the story. I had to actually look up what they were getting in trouble for (i.e the catalyst to the whole story) because it is subtle, but it's also so innocent in our modern times. To watch these five young women have their lives destroyed because of one innocent moment of fun, is a really had concept to accept, and yet, this is what is happening to Turkish women (and women in many other cultures). It really makes me feel lucky and appreciative to live in this country. While we have our opportunities when it comes to equality, at least we're moving forward.

3. Mistress America - UGH. Just UGH. I like Greta Gerwig, but I'm getting tired of these immature roles she keeps doing. It's the same thing over, and over again, and it's nothing new (it's basically a long episode of Girls). It's ungrateful, self-centered, privileged, angsty women convinced that they suffer more than everyone else. That's not to say that these women don't suffer from some sort of depression (everything is relative), but it's not very interesting to watch. There is no substance to these movies. I've liked some films from Noah Baumbach, but I'm getting bored by them. Or maybe I just enjoy when there is a bit more bite or sarcasm to these types of stories. Like if the characters did a little bit of self-reflection, I might like them more, or at least, empathize with them. Instead we have characters who say idiotic statements like "I wish we were back in Feudal times when if you were a peasant, you just had to be happy with who you are". I mean, what kind of narcissistic asshole would wish for that and why is there a movie about her story?

4. Green Room - I enjoyed Blue Ruin - it was an extremely well-made indie movie especially for a newcomer. I've heard some ridiculously high praise for this movie, and I think it deterred my enjoyment a little bit, because I just don't think it could live up to the expectations. Especially with Imogen Poots in the cast. I know a lot of people dig her, but I find her acting atrocious. She was better in this movie, but still the worst part of the movie. Anton Yelchin will definitely be missed. He was one of those actors that I always trusted would take interesting roles. Like when I read a summary of a movie, I might be thinking "eh", but then I see Yelchin is in it and my interest peaks. It's so sad that he is no longer with us to perform these interesting characters, but he is leaving a minor legacy of top-notch roles behind for us to enjoy - and this is one of them. This movie is hardly as terrifying as I was led to believe, but it is another extremely well-made, smartly written film for Jeremy Saulnier to add under his belt.

5. High-Rise - Another movie that was extremely praised, that I just couldn't really get in to. Ben Wheatley is hit or miss for me (Sightseers is a stunning movie, A Field in England is sooo dull). High-Rise feels like a Wheatley film, and that is an incredible thing. For a director to be an auteur they need to have distinction, and Wheatley nails it every time (good or bad). This film is gorgeous and demented, violent and subtle, chaotic and structured - a combination of contradictions. Plus, Wheatley intercuts seemingly unrelated scenes like NO ONE else in the industry. It's just extraordinary. However, I just found this film to be a little cluttered, and boring, by the time the anarchy began, I was already over it. I still don't get Tom Hiddleston. He was decent in the new series The Night Manager, but I can think of a dozen other actors that could have nailed that role even better. Plus, the supporting cast was almost interchangeable. There was no distinction between them, which I found to be a huge part of the problem.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Fall Movie Preview: 17 Movies That I'm Excited About

1. Sully (9/9) - So, first a funny story: The store that I used to work in sits along the Hudson River. A few years back, we had some tourists shopping. As they looked out the window they were surprised to see a spectacular view of NYC (why this is a surprise for people is confusing - NJ is across from NYC people!) and one lady asked "is that New York City?"(with her very cliched Southern accent). I replied "yup!". "So, wait, is this the Hudson.....WHERE SULLY LANDED??!" Her excitement was shocking. I had never really thought of the Hudson River as now being famous because of Sully for the rest of the world (for us it's famous for the dead bodies - Again, I live in NJ and The Sopranos is REAL. Also, sadly there are dead bodies from jumpers off the GWB). Anyway, EPIC RANT (I know you missed those). Sully isn't necessarily the type of movie that I look forward to (my mom, however, will be first in line), yet the trailer does a fantastic job of humanizing a hero. And that could be very interesting.

2. Bridget Jones's Baby (9/16) - As much as I bitch and moan about romantic comedies and the Bridget Jones movies are the epicenter of all that is wrong with so-called "chick-flicks"; I fully admit: I FUCKING LOVE BRIDGET JONES. She's hilariously real and uncomfortably awkward and it's fantastic to watch. I'm excited to see the next step in her life.

3. The Magnificent Seven (9/23) - I don't care that's it's a remake of a classic (of a remake of a classic...); it's Antoine Fuqua and THAT CAST. Holy shit...cast of the year! I'm not a big fan of Westerns, but some of my favorite films are Westerns, so when they are done well, I appreciate the beauty.

4. Deepwater Horizon (9/30) - I feel like this movie will be super cheesy and dumb, but I will always watch Mark Wahlberg in anything. I also like that they are focusing on the events of the actual disaster and putting human faces to the lives that were lost - we tend to talk about the effects of this disaster, but I know nothing about any of the people involved. Hopefully, they are respectful to their story.

5. The Birth of a Nation  (10/7) - Controversy aside, the film looks fantastic and received a standing ovation at Sundance and broke a record for highest selling film. It's automatically on my list. So, let's talk about the surrounding Nate Parker rape controversy because it is important. It's important for many reasons - first, it seems as apologetic and remorseful as Parker seems to be, he never acknowledges his guilt. Second, he was never actually found guilty. Third, why, as a society, do we pick and choose who to hold accountable for their actions and who we let slide because of their talent? I include myself in this discussion, because I will still support projects from such talent as Sean Penn (who is actually one of my favorite actors despite the fact that he allegedly physically abused Madonna), Alec Baldwin (who was allegedly so abusive to Kim Basinger that she became a shut-in), and Woody Allen (who is widely known as a child molester; yet was never charged with anything). Yet, I won't watch anything with Charlie Sheen or listen to any Chris Brown songs. In my mind - they plead guilty to abuse and therefore are the lowest form of humanity and should be shut out of the entertainment industry. It's a fine line - but if there is a conviction, something that's black or white, I feel like my protest is justified. However, in my heart, do I think Penn, Baldwin, Allen, and others are guilty? Yes, yes, I do. And as a society, we need to stop supporting these horrific actions, by allowing them to make millions off of their art. And maybe one day we will.

6. The Girl on the Train (10/7) - Last year, I went on a cruise to Bermuda. As I lay out in the sun, I read my book of choice (Tina Fey's "Bossypants"); I looked around at the surrounding books being read and every single one was "The Girl on the Train". Seriously, it was like an episode of The Twilight Zone. Usually, I don't really follow the crowd when it comes to my reading habits, but it did leave me intrigued. I figured there would be a movie soon, so I would just wait it out and I was right! Plus, the movie stars the heavenly Emily Blunt.

7. The Accountant (10/14) - Ben Affleck as a super genius accountant who uses his skills for bad things? Sounds like one of his movies from his "awful movies phase", but then I saw the trailer and it is FANTASTIC. The movie could still be awful, but I'm willing to hope for the best.

8. American Pastoral  (10/21) - I don't know much about this movie, and I haven't read the novel, but it's Ewan McGregor's directorial debut and the cast is pretty great (McGregor, Jennifer Connellly, Dakota Fanning) and the summary of the story seems fascinating.

9. Keeping up with the Joneses (10/21) - I adore Isla Fisher. She's right up there with Rose Byrne as hysterically funny women who don't get as much credit as they deserve. Plus. Greg Mottola made one of the funniest movies ever (I repeat: if you don't like Superbad, we probably won't be friends). I have extremely high hopes for this being the funniest movie of the year. Too bad Galifianakis is in it (he's great in minor roles, but overkill as a headliner).

10. The Handmaiden (10/21) - One name: Park Chan-wook. I am there. No questions.

11. Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (10/21) - Jack Reacher was a satisfying movie. Not bad; not great. Tom Cruise always gives it his all, though. I'm in for a sequel.

12. Doctor Strange (11/4) - Ugh, I seriously don't get the Benedict Cumberbatch explosion. He's okay, but I just don't get the hype. This movie, though, could prove to be a really cool addition to the superhero genre. Plus, Mads Mikkelsen and Tilda Swinton? In a superhero movie?? I have to see it to believe it.

13. Arrival (11/11) - Denis Villeneuve has created some really stunning movies (Enemy, Prisoners, and Sicario). If anything, I'm confident this will have some incredible shots, distinct to Villeneuve's direction. Plus, Jeremy Renner.

14. Shut In (11/11) - I'm interested to see if Jacob Tremblay's performance in Room was just a fluke, and I really, really, really hope it wasn't. I hope he is representing the next generation of actors. I don't think this movie will be held to the same standards as Room because it seems like a throw-away psychological thriller, but it also has Naomi Watts (one of my favorite actresses), so I don't really know what to expect.

15. Nocturnal Animals (11/18) - I can't even put into words how happy I am that Tom Ford has finally made another movie. It's only been seven years, but it feels like forever ago. A Single Man was fantastic, but it's also one of those movies that has stuck with me as one of the best movies of the last decade. It's just so stylish and beautiful and not overdone - it proves that film-making is, in fact, an artistic endeavor (and so is fashion). I know nothing about this movie other than the cast (which is perfection - Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, & Michael Shannon) and I plan on keeping it that way.

16. Manchester by the Sea (11/18) - I have a feeling this will be a big movie come awards season. And I'm hopeful that Casey Affleck gives a performance that will finally get him recognized by the Academy.

17. Allied (11/23) - With inspiration from Old Hollywood starring Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard  - I can't think of anything more perfect.

3 Thoughts on Independence Day: Resurgence

1. The '90s disaster flick - When I think of '90s movies, I think disaster flick. There were just *so many*. As a teenager in the '90s, and a film lover, I was very accepting of these movies - even the bad ones can be saved if they're bad enough to be hilarious. However, one thing can be said about Independence Day, is that it stood out from the rest. It was the disaster flick to aspire to. It had everything - explosion scenes never seen before (THEY BLEW UP THE WHITE HOUSE), characters with charisma and chemistry, dialogue so smooth that the foreshadowing was perfectly subtle while still being in your face, and a cheesy "the good guys won" ending so great that it solidified Independence Day as my favorite American holiday (true story). So, what do I think of Independence Day: Resurgence? Let's just say it is missing every single one of these elements. Every. Single. One. (ok...the initial attack was very cool visually - but scientifically absurd). This is just a disposable blockbuster movie. It's the exact opposite of the original.

2. The "Will Smith" element - When I heard they were making a sequel to one of my favorite movies ever, I did not throw a hissy fit like most. Instead, I though "that could be cool" - especially with the original directer Roland Emmerich involved. Then, I heard that Will Smith would not be involved and my whole Independence Day world exploded. It's a huge mistake to not realize the importance of not only Will Smith, but his character. He was the "everyman" that the audience could relate to. He wasn't a scientist, a government official, etc. Sure, he was a pilot for the Marine Corps, but he still represented "us". Plus, Smith was at the beginning of a stunning career and this cemented his blockbuster status. It's essential for the audience to still see him thrive as a character, and as an actor. Whether, he turned the sequel down for money issues, or for scheduling issues, or because the script was shit (which I believe is the case, even though it was a different script when sent to him to include his character); it doesn't really matter. He turned it down; therefore you don't make the film.

3. 20 years later - *spoilers* So now you're going to make an Independence Day sequel without the star of the film? The next best option: focus on the surviving kids! But wait, let's recast them and hire terrible actors instead. Ummm....WHAT?! WHY?! I will concede that Ross Bagley isn't very well-known (but neither is the guy they recast him with...), but Mae Whitman?! She's a very successful actress! Maika Monroe did a great job in It Follows, but she was AWFUL in this. The "next generation" plot was so headache inducing not only because of the acting, but the actual storyline was just dumb (we were friends, but now we're enemies, *punches in the face*, but let's be friends again). Plus, how is it a good idea to kill off all of our favorite characters? Like, really, who wants to watch that?? At least they didn't kill Jeff Goldblum because I would have literally thrown a true film-geek hissy fit.

Friday, August 12, 2016

3 Thoughts on Jason Bourne

1. The point? - The Bourne Trilogy is probably my favorite film franchise ever. I didn't hate the fourth film. It didn't really add anything to the previous films, but it didn't ruin anything either. However, this film, sort of ruins everything. I was perfectly happy with the end of Ultimatum. It answered just enough questions, without over-explaining or being condescending to the audience. This film, did the exact opposite. We were beaten over the head with answers, that we didn't even ask for. I guess we are supposed to feel closure for Bourne, since he apparently spends his time after Ultimatum joining a fight club (soooo Ryan Atwood of him), where as I liked to believe he was living peacefully on an island somewhere. Also, *spoiler* by the end, he is turned into a cold-blooded murderer. Cool, thanks for ruining one of my favorite characters, assholes!

2. "The Girl" - Never have I ever cringed this much during the course of one movie. The biggest reason for this cringing was the CIA Director (played by Tommy Lee Jones) constantly referring to a CIA agent (played by Alicia Vikander) as "the girl". It's clearly meant to highlight his necessity for being in control and yes, he also refers to Vincent Cassel's character as "the asset" (but that's actually the list for his character name, and Vikander has an actual name in the movie). And, as much as I "get it" (because I was beaten over the head with it. Seriously, he must have said "the girl" at least 20 times), it's still really frustrating to watch a female in power being consistently down-graded as a trivial, weak and naive "girl". The other times I cringed, in case you were wondering: Every time Vikander spoke - her American accent was so stiff; she sounded like a robot (which, for me, lessons my initial thoughts on her excellent performance in Ex Machina), and also, the entire beginning scene with Julia Stiles. Was Julia always a terrible actress, and we just forgave her for it because she was in awesome 90s movies? Is this why she never really took off into A-list status? I was actually horrified by her line delivery here and rooted for her death just so she could get the fuck off of the screen.

3. The Strip scene - The Vegas Strip car-chase scene, that is. This is probably one of the greatest action sequences in the entire franchise. First, they SHUT DOWN the Las Vegas Strip (which, I'm pretty sure has never happened before and must have cost a shit-load of money). Second, the odd choice of a gigantic SWAT vehicle pays off so much the second you see it literally plow through a line of cars. The Bourne chase scenes have often used smaller or sportier cars (or motorcycles) - and have mostly consisted of intensely weaving in and out of traffic and narrowly avoiding death. This final scene is like "fuck it, let's just destroy it all". AND it's awesome to watch. I would recommend watching this movie *just* for this scene alone.