Friday, February 17, 2017

Thoughts on 5 Films

1. Sully - The Hudson River has always been a part of my life - I grew up in Upstate New York, in a town along the Hudson, and up until 2 months ago I lived a block away from the famous river (and only a few miles away from where the plane landed). It's well know for its views of the Hudson Valley (especially during the Fall season) and of course, for its view of the Manhattan skyline, but once you've been around it your whole life, the views get lost and you think of all the ugly things (DEAD BODIES). I was always scared of walking the path along the river for fear of discovering something traumatizing. Now, it's famous for one thing: Sully. I remember the crash well ( was only 8 years ago; isn't it too soon to make a movie out of already?), but I never really paid attention to the media circus that occurred afterwards. While I still feel this movie is a little unnecessary, I did enjoy it. It felt a little like they were trying to convince the audience that Sully is indeed a hero, but apparently people questioned this fact, so I guess the convincing is justified. The whole investigation seems excessive, to me, considering that no one died, but I guess they need to do these types of investigations in order to keep other people from trying such heroic acts unless absolutely necessary. Sully absolutely did the right thing - when his choices are possibly crashing into Manhattan buildings (something I don't think NYC could live through again), possibly crashing into New Jersey (a heavily populated state - especially near Teterboro), or "crashing" into the Hudson River, I think the answer is pretty clear. The film very clearly tells the story of a hero, and of many heroes who came to the aid of the passengers stranded in the river - it's amazing to learn that it only took 24 minutes to rescue everyone! Truly the best of NY/NJ was shown that day. The only thing that disturbed me was the woman holding the newborn baby....WAITING IN LINE to be rescued. Did that actually happen? Did people not let a woman with a newborn baby get rescued first?? That's disturbing (and not the best of NY/NJ!).

2. Jack Reacher: Never Go Back - The first film was decent, but hardly memorable. I actually had to refer to my post on here to see my thoughts, and boy, was that a mistake! I got stuck in a void of reading old posts, and wincing at the grammatical errors, run-on sentences, and sidetracked thoughts (much like this exact sentence! How ironic!). As you can probably tell, I don't edit. I just write. It's much more fun and cathartic that way. Anyway, this sequel isn't all that exciting. I'm sure I will forget it even quicker than the first one. However, I might remember the girl who plays Reacher's "maybe" daughter because she is a terrible young actress. I'm talking really, really awful. She's young, and it could easily be blamed on the cheesy dialogue, but I think a stronger actress would have had more fun with the dialogue instead of stiff and awkward. It did seem like this film was *trying* to do something empowering for women by having Colbie Smolders as the female lead - and maintaining her character strong-willed, smart, and not traditionally "feminine", even having her as a possible romantic interest for Reacher is refreshing. I'm not really a fan of Smolders (I know, I know, Marvel fans seem to love her but she's bland to me), but she played the role well. The story was pretty predictable, and there are no memorable action scenes, which is pretty disappointing because that's all I really look forward to with movies like this.

3. Finding Dory - Again, I have no recollection of the first one. It's one of those animated movies that I just don't understand why it's so praised (others I don't understand - the Toy Story trilogy, Frozen, Ratatouille). Unfortunately, it came out before I started this blog so I can't even read my thoughts to remind myself. However, as soon as I started watching Finding Dory, I started to put the pieces together - first, I remember liking Dory, but I realized that a story that revolved around her would probably be super repetitive (and I was right). Second,....wait...I have nothing else to say. I would love to say that I enjoyed this, at the very least, for what it was - an entertaining kids movie, but when something as wonderful as Zootopia is released in the same year, I just couldn't help but be disappointed. It's just not very fun, special, or memorable at all.

4. 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi - I'll be honest, I don't know much about the history of Benghazi. It was turned into an online meme, and an excuse for people to not vote for Hillary Clinton. The only thing I really knew was that it was a raid (battle? attack? not really sure of the proper term) that put our troops into unexpected danger, and there were a lot of questionable calls from our government. It's all pretty vague. The film does a little bit to clear up the story behind Benghazi, and also, obviously, humanizing it, but I still don't really understand why it happened. Or how it could have been avoided. Or how it was Hillary Clinton's fault (ahem). I was looking forward to this movie because I love Michael Bay (always and forever), and I love John Krasinski even more. I'm waiting for him to get an A-list role, and I was hoping this was it (it's not). Bay is often accused of "ruining" blockbusters but, I think he's a great director. He takes a more serious, and restrained tone for this film that feels appropriate, but also keeps the intensity at just he right level. I thought Krasinski would be more charismatic, but he's kind of dull - as are the rest of the actors, which consisted of a ton of familiar faces (James Badge Dale, the guy from my cat's favorite show Grimm, Edie Falco's husband from Nurse Jackie, David Costabile, and "Pornstache"), all of whom are interchangeable.

5. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot - The trailer for this was really painfully awkward, and unfunny, so my expectations were leveled, but I still thought it would be funny. It's Tina Fey! And produced by Lorne Michaels! While it had some funny moments, overall it's not very good and waaaaaaaay too long. There are so many little side-plots that seem really unnecessary to the point where I stopped paying attention (only to realize that it does all come together in a cohesive way - so I suggest you pay attention if you can bare it). I think the part that I'm most disappointed by is *spoilers ahead* that Margot Robbie's character falls into the bitchy backstabbing friend cliche. I actually really liked her character - and the friendly competitive relationship between her and Fey's character. It's rare to see female friendship among professional women so I was excited (and not surprised because Tina Fey is always very supportive of other women) but then they went and ruined it all. Such a shame because it was totally unnecessary. I actually did like the main plot, too - with her shaking up her life by taking a job in Afghanistan. Talk about getting out your comfort zone! It could be inspiring and motivating if it wasn't so Goddamn boring! Maybe I will read the book?

Monday, February 6, 2017

Thoughts on 5 Films

1. American Honey - I was really excited about this movie, until I saw that the runtime is almost 3 hours, which seems TOTALLY unnecessary for this story. I read some really strong reviews, most of which is praise for Sasha Lane, while also addressing the length - most claim that it "flies by". I agree with Sasha Lane; she is spectacular, especially for a debut performance. The length, though, is the films detriment. I felt every single second of it. They could have EASILY edited it by at least 30 minutes without effecting the film at all (first step - get rid of most of the scenes inside the van. One or two would have sufficed). I don't want to focus on the negative, though, because I get why it is dragged out, repetitive, and a little dull in parts - to emphasize this "life on the road" lifestyle. And in that sense, I think that it is successful. They also get the whole American "trash" life very authentically (I was raised in that lifestyle for part of my childhood, and I still embrace it - but probably because I got out of it. I can look at it and appreciate what I've learned from it). Lane and Shia LaBeouf have wonderful chemistry. I will once again point out that LaBeouf is a fantastic actor, and he is more in his element in smaller, independent films like this (and A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints - if you haven't seen it, get on it NOW). He will always get shit on for the Transformers films, and because he's always been a garbage human being (who is currently redeeming himself), but I will always stick up for him, as an actor, anyway. He plays this charming leader of this cult-like door-to-door sales team, and he perfectly embodies someone that would earn your trust due to his likeability and ability to convince people that they are special. The film is littered with these oddly beautiful shots, combined with a similar narrative structure, it definitely reminds me a lot of Spring Breakers, which a lot of people loved (I liked it); it's probably not as memorable, though.

2. I Am Not a Serial Killer - I didn't really know what to expect with this movie, and just taking the title as literally as possible, I assumed the movie was about a guy being accused of murder, and him convincing us that he didn't do it. That's not really what it's about at all (LOL). *slight spoilers ahead* It's about a young man, who realized at a young age that he has the same tendencies as homicidal maniacs, trying to live a "normal" life by setting rules for himself to keep himself from murdering people - it's basically the beginning of Dexter before he starts murdering people. The title is almost his mantra, if you will, his need to convince himself ,"I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER". Things start to fall apart for him when a series of murders start to happen in his town. He investigates, and finds out who the murderer is and then tries to stop him from murdering people. It's interesting as a horror movie, because it actually offers an interesting, original plot (I honestly thought all the possible horror plots have been used), but it's also even more interesting as a character drama because it relies on the notion that you can change who you are. You can become someone other than yourself. The idea that someone can sacrifice their own personal need to murder, and instead become a hero, is incredibly fascinating (and oddly) heartwarming. There is also a really awesome sci-fi twist to the story, and I loved every second of it. I miss Christopher Lloyd. I feel like I haven't seen him in anything in years, and honestly, this might just be his best work yet.

3. Bridget Jones's Baby - I'm a big fan of Bridget Jones. It's the only role I've enjoyed Renee Zellweger in (oh and Chicago, but I'm convinced it's only because the movie is awesome - I mean, even Catherine Zeta-Jones is good in it, and that's saying something). I have to admit, though, I definitely saw the second one, and liked it, but I have no recollection of it whatsoever (in my defense, I've only seen it once and that was 12 years ago!). This one starts with her being single (so I guess her and Mark break-up at some point in the second one??), and Daniel is dead (wow...that's not funny, and side-note did everyone else think he was going to appear at some point? Why would they note that the body was never found? That's odd foreshadowing that never went anywhere...), and she is struggling to date at 44. It starts off in the right direction - with Jones switching from Celine Dion's All By Myself (a song that is synonymous with Bridget Jones) to House of Pain's Jump Around - making me feel sufficiently old (THANKS). But then, it just gets dumb - Jones and her friend attend a concert featuring the very famous Ed Sheeran and don't recognize him (my mom is 55 and describes him as having "the voice of an angel"). There is no way someone who runs a news program doesn't know one of the most famous singers in the world. Anyway, that's just one example of the ridiculous "out of touch" plot. While I applaud the story for being about a woman having a baby at 44, and embracing her age at every turn, it felt a little too forced - her doctor describes her as "geriatric", a term used for elderly people; sure, it's funny to see her reaction, but there is no way a DOCTOR would describe a 44 year old as "geriatric". It's just dumb. Then, there's the whole triangle thing between Mark and a new love interest - McDreamy (he's always the rich, handsome, "McDreamy" character), and it's obvious as to who she will pick (and obvi that's whose baby it will end up being). It gets really boring and repetitive around the half-way mark, so I'm sad to say that this whole endeavor was just a waste of time.

4. Love & Friendship - I've read amazing reviews for this movie, some citing Kate Beckinsale's performance as award-worthy. While I adore her, I found the praise for her, and this movie,  a *little* hard to believe. First, as I've said before, I'm not really a fan of Jane Austen. All of her novels are the same - catty women and asshole men eventually find themselves in love with each other. Second, Beckinsale is great in the Underworld movies, but when she's in a serious role, she's a little bland - to pull off this dialogue, I think a stronger actress is needed - someone with more of a presence. And after watching this movie, I stand by these two things. As an adaptation of Lady Susan (no, I've never read it and it's unlikely that I ever will), it's exactly like every other Austen story. And, to me, it's just sooooo boring. And it doesn't even make sense - like none of these people are in love, it's just all for show and money. I just couldn't get into it at all. There were some amusing moments, and witty dialogue, but not enough to make me like the story, or root for any of the characters. Or pay attention to it after an hour. Beckinsale is charming and sweet, but it's no different than every other actress who has performed in an Austen adaptation. I guess, with all of the praise, I just expected something exciting. Something different.

5. Triple 9 - HOLY SHIT THIS CAST. Casey Affleck, Anthony Mackie, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Woody Harrelson, Kate Winslet, Aaron Paul....should I go on??? OKAY....Gal Gadot, Clifton Collins Jr, Teresa Palmer, and a tiny but memorable appearance by Michael K. Williams. INSANE right?! And obviously, it's not a good movie. If it were a good movie, with this cast, it would have been MUCH more popular. Instead, I barely heard of it, other than a few whispers in the film twitter universe. It's an interesting movie, with a decent, inventive plot, but it just goes nowhere and is edited terribly. The casting choices...were interesting, to say the least. I mean, Kate Winslet is one of the greatest working actresses today, but a Russian mob leader? Um...I don't buy it at all. It was incredibly distracting (although I did like that the "bad guy" was a woman - a terrifying, "no holds barred" woman). I also was really disturbed by Aaron Paul's over-acting white trash "fuck-up" of the group - a role that he should seemingly excel in based on past roles - but he was terrible. Casey Affleck, Anthony Mackie and Clifton Collins Jr. kept my interest, they stood out in every scene among a huge ensemble. Ejiofor is inconsequential, which is ultimately problematic considering it's really "his" story for the most part. I enjoyed this movie, parts are intense, parts are surprising, but overall it's not cohesive and disappointing for a cast of this caliber.