Sunday, September 17, 2017

Thoughts on 5 Films

1. The Founder - Not a bad movie, but a very forgettable movie. It's just a very straightforward biopic about the "founder" of McDonald's. It's an interesting story of passion and ultimately betrayal (LOL it totally sounds like I'm describing a romance), but I didn't really invest much in any of the characters. I love the resurgence of Michael Keaton. He's a wonderfully nuanced actor, and he does a great job here. I actually remember as a little kid, my grandmother used to drive by this gigantic mansion (the biggest that I've ever seen in person) in Southern California and she used to tell me that it belonged to the founder of McD's (I think it was maybe his wife's, though? Ray Croc would have been dead at this time). My grandmother also used to bring me to McD's as a treat and I used to cry - I hate hamburgers. They smell amazing, but every time I take a bite it makes me nauseous. I do love their fries though. I rarely get fast food, but when I do - it's McDonald's french fries and a chocolate shake. Anyway, I don't have much to say about the movie, and that's never a good sign.

2. The Love Witch - Such a weird little movie. Purposefully made to look like a 60s/70s exploitation film, it's fascinating from beginning to end. It works for two reasons: The main star, Samantha Robinson is captivating, and it's directed by a woman, Ann Biller. The first is essential for a movie like this. Robinson portrays Elaine with a sense of wonder, a little innocence mixed with insanity. But the audience empathizes with her, and wants to see her happy. Oddly, she reminded me of Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's (which is a compliment of the highest order). The second is also essential, in that it feels like an exploitation film, but it's actually not - our star is never exploited; instead she is empowered. And while, I don't necessary think gender matters when directing stories, most male directors fail to get this balance right. They also fail at small details that only women get (I highly doubt a male director would put the tampon scene in, and I also think it's genius to show her putting in her hair extensions because women's hair does not naturally look like that!). All in all, it's a really fun movie. Odd and beautiful. Completely mesmerizing.

3. Paterson - I was honestly really disappointed with this movie. It's extremely boring; which can be said about several Jarmusch films, but I can usually find connections with the deeply personal stories and explorations of human nature. Plus, I love stories where a person is intrinsically linked to his/her town. However, I didn't connect with this at all. The movie is about Paterson, a bus driver from Paterson, who writes poetry, which is a nod to the famous epic poem "Paterson". That's as interesting as it gets. First and foremost, let's talk about Paterson, NJ because I don't really think this film represents what the city is like today. I, myself, can't speak for Paterson because I DON'T GO THERE. It's not a great area at all. In fact, it's one of those areas that if you accidentally find yourself in, you lock your doors and don't make eye contact with anyone. I've only been there purposely a few times a few years ago to help build a house for Habitat for Humanity, and the organization was very specific to tell us NOT to leave the area. But while, I can't speak too much for it, my BF owns a business in Paterson and he has nightmare stories of drug addicts, dealers, dudes walking around with machetes (for real.). None of this is shown in the movie, instead it feels like a quaint, quirky little NJ town, one where a 10 year old white girl is just hanging out by herself (it just wouldn't happen). Also, speaking of race, there are way too many white people featured. Paterson is less than 10% white. It's largely hispanic, with Spanish as the most commonly used language - so this film feels really inauthentic on every level. Plus, his bus is practically empty during every trip - finding an empty NJ transit bus is like finding a unicorn. Anyway, next subject. This guy is a dick. I appreciate that he's introverted, and that he doesn't talk much, but the way he treats his girlfriend is horrible. He doesn't share anything with her, and patronizes her art work as an act of whimsy. Also, his poetry sucks.

4. Song to Song - I honestly don't know why I bother. I haven't liked a Malick film since The Thin Red Line (actually, that might be the only Malick film that I like...). I can appreciate his passion for cinema as an art form, but I feel like his films have become very repetitive. They all feature the same fish-eye lens, the overbearing voice-over, the poetic but almost nonsensical dialogue, and it's all very boring. He sucks me in by having such an amazing cast - this one features Ryan Gosling, Michael Fassbender, Rooney Mara, Natalie Portman, and Cate Blanchett. I suddenly realized while watching this, that his recent films are all about the same boring, entitled, wealthy, beautiful, white people - and none of them feel like "real" people. There are just random shots of them dancing in front of a scenic background, or jumping on the bed, or like, doing nothing but contemplating their very boring lives. Real people don't have time for that shit. I don't even really know what this movie is about. It takes place in the Austin music scene, about some couples who cheat on each other and then date each other, and switch partners. I don't know. Just all bullshit, really. I read a review that called it "cinematic masturbation" and LOL because that is spot-on.

5. Baywatch - Revamping old television shows can be tricky, but if they can make 21 Jump Street work, then I fully believe it can be done with anything, really. I was looking forward to this movie simply for the nostalgia factor, but I admit, once the reviews came in, I decided to wait until home release - no sense wasting money on the theater for this one. I think it's weird that controversy about critics was created by The Rock because he blamed critics for the failure of the movie, but come on man, it's a shitty movie. It's really terrible. It deserved the critical beating, and critics shouldn't be blamed for its failure. The people who MADE THIS SHITTY MOVIE SHOULD BE BLAMED. It's common sense. There was nothing funny about it, it wasn't fun and campy like the original series, the plot was dumb and predictable. I don't like The Rock. He seems like a great guy (I like how he interacts with fans, and I always read about him donating his time to charities and such), but he's a terrible actor. He's alright in action movies because there isn't much acting involved, but he is not funny. Zac Efron is actually pretty funny and charming, but his personality was to be the asshole in this and it was painful to experience. I do really adore Alexandra Daddario - and she's probably the best part of this movie, along with Kelly Rohrbach. This is Kelly's first film role (known more for modeling), and she has "it" - that screen presence that you just can't look away from.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Thoughts on 9 New Shows

1. Friends from College - I was hoping for funny, and it's not (although Billy Eichner complaining that it's "very loud" made me laugh for days). The cast work really well off of each other, but the characters are all pretty awful people - none of them are actually "friends". They are lying, back-stabbing, snarky assholes. It was all a little too dramatic and over the top, especially the finale episode. However, it was a show that was easy to binge, has some amusing moments, and can easily continue for many seasons. I really, really, really liked Cobie Smulders in this, and that's the first time I've been able to say that (and I also just learned that her name is not, in fact, "Colbie Smolders" which is what I truly thought her name was. LOL.). While I don't think season one was groundbreaking television, and I would even hesitate to recommend it to anyone, I can see it continuing and possibly getting better once the characters develop more.

2. GLOW - By far the best show that was released this summer. It's pretty close to perfect, and Alison Brie is sublime. I had very high expectations, especially after all of the positive reviews, and it exceeded these expectations in every way. Brie proves that she's more than just the cute, funny "girl next door" type character. Her character is layered, relatable, a little pathetic, determined, and still cute and funny. I also LOVE Betty Gilpin. I only knew of her from Nurse Jackie and I didn't really like her very much on that show. She is excellent here. The show made me care about several characters, it's easy to binge, and it brought on the perfect amount of nostalgia. As I said before, I used to be an avid view of the original GLOW, and this show does it justice. I can't wait for season two.

3. Still Star-Crossed - I somehow managed to make it through 3 whole episodes. It was terrible, and barely made sense. The last I heard, it was moved to Saturday nights (aka "soon to be cancelled"), which is a shame - not because it was good, but because it *could* have been good. It's interesting to tell a continuation of a famous story (and arguably one of the most famous stories of all time), but this show was hard to follow. It starts off recounting the story of Romeo & Juliet, but nips it down to 30 minutes so everything is botched. It would have been better to just start it at their death (I mean, it's not like anyone choosing to watch this show doesn't already know the story). Also, it was just really boring, especially for a Shonda Rhimes show. On a side note, I am super excited for a Shonda Rhimes/Netflix collaboration. I can't believe that ABC let her go because she is the only thing holding that network together. Anyway, I'm pretty sure I will never hear of this show again, so let's not waste anymore time discussing it.

4. The Sinner - So far, so good. I'm definitely intrigued. The acting is strong - Jessica Biel isn't terrible (she's still not great, but this is a definite improvement for her). I think the first episode would have been more shocking if the ads didn't give it away. I already knew the catalyst for the series, and I sat watching the first episode just waiting for *that* scene, and I also knew that I had to pay EXTREMELY close attention to every detail. I still don't know the "answer" but it's obvious that the song that was playing is important - like maybe it is a trigger of some sort. Some of the story doesn't make sense (am I supposed to believe that a waitress remembers who she served *5 YEARS* ago?). The best part is the line "what makes you think I want my old life back?", I think that line is the key to everything, but we shall see.

5. Ozark - Ok, so this show is okay. I think it was falsely advertised as a Breaking Bad replacement and it is nowhere close to that high standard. The biggest reason it fails is because I finished watching it a few weeks ago and I already have trouble remembering anything other than the general plot (and I can remember very specific lines and scenes with Breaking Bad, and I've only seen the whole series once - as it aired. I have yet to re-watch because I might find imperfections and I don't want to ruin it. It would destroy me.). Also, I would not compare this character to Walter White in ANY WAY. Bateman pretty much portrays a greedy asshole, someone who is already successful but WANTS more so he CHOOSES to break the law and therefore deserves everything he has coming to him (and his wife is complicit, so she deserves it too). So anyway, if I forget this ridiculous comparison, I can find some enjoyment in the show. In particular, the two main stars, Jason Bateman and Laura Linney are great. There are some subtle moments between them that is pure heartbreak. I don't think the supporting cast is very strong - at all. In fact, the daughter is downright terrible. And all of the "locals" overdo their "localness" (I know that's not a word, but you get it...right?). And there are some terribly cliched scenes (come on - someone walking backwards into a street is going to get run over by a truck, OBVI.).

6. Gypsy - I finished this series this morning, and I'm not really sure how I feel about it. There are certain things that are done really well. The acting is wonderful - Naomi Watts is perfect and she is the major reason I even wanted to watch the show to begin with. But then BILLY CRUDUP SHOWED UP! I have loved Billy Crudup since his first movie role, Sleepers. He is so good in this show. All of the supporting actors are great too. Some of the plot is interesting - the way she inserts herself into her patients lives and manipulates them; the impulsive need for drama that some people crave is fascinating. However, some plots were ridiculous. In particular, the plot with her husband and his assistant - they literally have a conversation about how cliche it is, but then continue it as a plot device. So weird. Also, the plot with the drug-addicted teenager is really overdone and not very realistic. I did like how multi-dimensional the characters are, and that the story is layered and detailed. I would have been interested in a second season because there is still so much story to tell, but Netflix has given up on it already (to be fair they are introducing a fuck ton of new content - they are going to get to the same point as network shows in having to cancel shows before giving them a true chance, which sucks).

7. Will - Ugh...two Shakespeare based television shows in one season, and both of them suck. I couldn't even make it through the pilot of this one. I fell asleep about half-way through. It was just all over-done. Too many characters introduced (and everyone looked the same). And the set design seemed amateurish. I haven't heard anyone talking about it, so I assumed it's either been cancelled or will be soon.

8. I'm Sorry - While I think GLOW is a better made show, this is my favorite new show of this past summer. It's hilarious. And the best part? It feels real. This feels like a show about a "real" woman (and I hate when people refer to "real women", bc of the implications, but I use the term here to refer to how fictional women don't feel "real", but this character feels like someone I know). She says inappropriate things, causes awkward situations, and reacts to these things and situations in the most hilarious way. I love that it subverts stereotypes a bit, too. Like how her friends are mostly male and it's not made into a "thing". She plays poker with the guys, but it's never really addressed; it's just normal. I love that she is raunchier and funnier than her husband, and that he's kind of in the background. The show is witty, sweet, and just downright lovely. I have always been a fan of Andrea Savage, but this has intensified my love for her times a billion. Plus, her chemistry with Tom Everett Scott is perfect. I love him in this - it's the perfect role for him to show off his charm and comedic timing.

9. Marvel's The Defenders - I've only watched the first two episodes, and um, it's not great. I'm already pretty bored. I feel like it jumps around a lot in order to continue everyone's story and then rush them into a group setting, but so far, it's not working for me. It's a stark reminder of how great Daredevil and Jessica Jones are compared to Iron Fist (Luke Cage is alright...). I love the addition of Sigourney Weaver, though. She'll keep me watching (oh who am I kidding, I'm already too invested in the Marvel Netflix universe to stop watching).