Tuesday, December 18, 2012

I literally haven't seen a movie since my last post

But I still thought of you guys when I saw this video. Pretty much sums up why I hated The Avengers, and the fact that no one else was bothered by these as much as I was is why it remained so popular (not correcting that run-on).

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Cloud Atlas Starship

The title of the post comes from the fact that the Wachowski siblings, formerly two brothers that were responsible for The Matrix trilogy, has since changed their moniker to the Wachowski Starship following a sex change for one of the brothers. Yes, formerly Larry, Lana Wachowski is one-half of the production team. The movie is based off a book, and one that I plan to read since I've heard nothing but amazing things about it.

Today, we have our second guest writer! A fellow blogger (click here to follow his past two+ years while in Peace Corps service in Panama), as well as a contributor to PolicyMic, Jack is a good friend dating back to sophomore year at Boston University. Seeing as how my local movie theater just got power back yesterday from the storms here in NJ, I've been seriously lacking on movies and thus reviews. Jack was kind enough to willingly contribute his two cents on Cloud Atlas. He's successfully convinced me to give the movie a shot; hopefully it lends itself useful to you, as well. Enjoy!

Before seeing Cloud Atlas, the most common review I heard from both peers and critics was, “ambitious.” One word, with a clear negative connotation. As in, “too ambitious for its own good” or “swing and a miss.” People mentioned multiple stories, multiple directors, stunning settings and the same actors playing different characters, and claimed that they tried to do too much with the movie. But the trailer made it look so damn intriguing...

When I'm on the fence about a movie, I have only two places that I will turn: Ila and Rotten Tomatoes. Every time I ignore an RT rating, thinking that I'll get something out of the movie that they didn't expect, I have been wrong.  I never see a movie that receives below an 80 on RT. Cloud Atlas got a 76. (I've never questioned Ila so I'm not even sure what would happen if I did.)

Thing is, some of my favorite movies, like Snatch and Sin City have multiple stories that converge, along with distinct styles; you would probably describe each of them as “ambitious.” Ila hadn't seen it yet, so I was left to battle my temptation to submit to the vague, but tantalizing trailer, or stick to my 80 rating rule and see something else. Figuring that this would be the type of movie that you have to see in theaters, I went for it. And for the first time ever, I disagreed with the RT rating.

Bottom Line: If you are at all interested in seeing Cloud Atlas, then go see it now, while it's still in theaters. I didn't see it in iMax but it would probably be worth it. If you decide to skip it in theaters, then definitely skip it at home, because it needs the gigantic visuals to compensate for the shoddily connected stories and inconsistent acting.
I usually try to choose a relevant picture, but since I still haven't seen it, here's the poster!

Here's what I really liked about Cloud Atlas:
  1. The future – Every part of the dystopian future was badass, visually incredible, and definitely the most exciting and disturbing part of the movie. And the Korean lady killed it.
  2. The editing – Some seemed to find it too frantic, but I liked the way the last hour of the movie was edited – lots of cuts between settings that reinforced their karma connection.
  3. Jim Broadbent – I think he makes a strong case for a Best Supporting Actor nomination in this movie. He is the only actor that plays all of his roles well and his adventure in the old folk's home is the clear highlight of the movie, carried by his performance (though massive kudos to Hugo Weaving for his role as the female nurse).
  4. The creation of The Cloud Atlas Sextet – Ben Whishaw absolutely rocks his only significant character in the movie across from a fantastically maniacal and manipulative Jim Broadbent.

Here's what kind of sucked about Cloud Atlas:
  1. Everything about the island future: The setting was strained, the acting was blah (even from Tom Hanks...and I don't say that lightly), and all actors bungled the unusual future-speak. (Kudos again to Hugo Weaving for being genuinely and convincingly creepy.)
  2. Inconsistent acting: Every actor in the movie, besides Jim Broadbent, had at least one uninspired performance as one of their characters (Whishaw is immune from this since he only really had one character). The movie was well cast and I was particularly disappointed with Halle Berry and Tom Hanks's inconsistencies. It was a difficult task, no doubt, but they should have been able to handle it.
  3. Shoddily connected stories: Maybe I'm not as intelligent or astute as I think I am, but I thought the connections between settings was pretty vague. Basically, good people become better people and bads stay bad? That's all we get after three hours? The last two futures were intimately connected and the entire movie had the Cloud Atlas Sextet running through it, but otherwise I thought the connections didn't quite cut it. One of the best examples of multiple stories connecting is, as I said, Snatch. One of the worst is Babel, which felt like three completely unrelated stories that were hastily and lazily connected after they had been written. Cloud Atlas is between these two, a little on the Babel side. 

Note that I did not mention the length, nor the 'ambition' in things that I didn't like about the movie. It deserved slightly higher than an 80 on Rotten Tomatoes, but I wouldn't put it any higher than 83.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Skyawful...kidding! it's Bonderful!

The latest, record-setting Bond movie came out this weekend, and there's nothing more I can add to all the hype it's already received. Skyfall, the 50th anniversary timed release and third Daniel Craig led Bond movie has pulled in the best opening for any Bond movie. With an amazing 91% on Rotten Tomatoes, I will not be dissagreeing with anything you've seen or read about the movie thus far.

First of all, the plot is so cohesive that I need to specifically mention it. I've never been big on Star Wars or LOTR, not because I don't enjoy them, but because I don't do well juggling many different and changing plot lines. I get lost in why he's going to a planet or why she's fighting that species. That usually is the case with Bond movies. Skyfall has a very straightforward villain and linear conflict. Much like my problem with Taken vs Taken 2: Taken Harder, the former has 1 established and direct plot while the latter bounces around between different villains and conflicts. Although Skyfall has mulitple acts, it's all cohesive. 

Bardem is a blond mastermind with one end in mind. I literally can't say more without giving away the tiniest bit of plot so I'll leave it at that. 

Stylistically, I very much enjoyed viewing this movie. This sounds lame, but the lighting and colors I thought were amazing. Each fight scene felt like it was filmed in a different style and with different colors being accentuated. The angles you viewed the shots at kept the movie feeling fresh, even with a run time of 143 minutes.

Two of the pivotal fight scenes
I saw it in IMAX, and without having seen it in regular, peasant-style screens I can't really compare. I would venture to guess that paying a few bucks more for the bigger screen is probably worth it. I know it was for The Dark Knight Returns.

Ok, here's my own little aside that I feel will hurt my street credit in the movie biz that I'm so much a part of... the movie felt very influenced by the Nolan Batman trilogy. There, I said it! It's very Bond-esq, don't get me wrong. But in light of the successes of Batman, I feel like there's some unconscious, maybe conscious, duplication. The villain was a madman that wanted to watch the world burn. The hero had to dig into his past to be able to beat the villain. The old vs new argument in age and abilities was brought up a lot between Bond, Q, M, and Silva (Bardem). Stuff like that. I don't think it was a copy or anything, it just was one of those things that I kept feeling like there were similarities between the two. It was like Batman meets Die Hard meets Bourne plus a lot of Daniel Craig shirtless (yes!).

Check out the opening credits while it's still up. The Adele song is even sweeter with the visual

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Monday Movie Suggestion

You know these suggestions are genuine because for this selection, I just made my boyfriend watch it while we were on vacation. It mostly stemmed from the awe that he had never seen Clueless and needing to rectify that immediately.

Clueless, currently on Netflix Instant, is a total time capsule of the 90's with so many quick referrences you probably won't even notice them all. For anyone that doesn't know the premise, Alicia Silverstone is a rich, LA high school student. Her ex step brother is Paul Rudd (!). The main plotline is her helping Brittany Murphy to fit in to the rich Beverly Hills scene and the melodramatic events that follow.

The story is actually based around Jane Austen's Emma. So now you can feel better about watching since it's based on such a classic novel.

I don't know why, but it's a really good movie. It's very over-the-top but in a completely fun way. It's just a silly movie and one that everyone should say they've seen at least once. Plus it's always on tv and the edited version is hardly different so you aren't missing out!

Cast of Donald Faison (Turk from Scrubs), Jeremy Sisto (guy that almost played Jack in Titanic), Brittany Murphy pre-OD, and Breckin Meyer that you'll recognize from every movie and tv show ever

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

"Monday's" Movie Suggestion

I would watch a two hour movie of just this

I'm going with something a little off the beaten track here, but I stand by it: The Men Who Stare at Goats. It has an absolutely stacked cast but didn't do very well at the box office. It's kind of out there but I adore it.

The cast: Clooney, Spacey, McGregor, Bridges, Swanson (slash Offerman if you know his real name).

The plot: Ewan McGregor is a reporter who is just out of a failed marriage and travels to the Middle East to cover the war. He meets George Clooney, who claims to have telekinetic powers, such as being able to explode a goat with his mind. These powers came from training under the tutelage of Jeff Bridges but is in danger due to the bad goat (PUN!) of the program, Kevin Spacey.

I think that sounds amazing. The humor is very Arrested Development-y because you aren't looking for any sort of Ba-dum-cha set-up/punchline. It's just the little nuances of Clooney's crazy eyes or random outbursts. It's the idea of a military general like Bridges turning into a complete hippy and sitting in a hot tub getting high. It's not knowing whether the story you watched actually happened or whether it was some story made up (the movie is based on a book and the author or the book is Ewan's character-he claims all this stuff is true...but do you believe him?).

It's basically what would happen if Wes Anderson combined with the Coen Brothers. It's O Brother (probably a future Monday suggestion) meets The Royal Tenenbaums. And it's definitely a movie that falls into that "better-with-each-viewing" category since with each watch you pick up more and more subtly hilarious moments.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Arg'nt you going to go see Argo?

Although I'm probably the only (non-lesbian) person to associate Argo with Xena's horse (hilarious video, you should click on that link), this Argo is actually the new Ben Affleck movie based off recently declassified real-life events. Mini history lesson: under President Jimmy Carter, Americans at the embassy in Tehran, Iran were held hostage for 444 days (I have a Master's, folks). The movie follows six Americans who were able to escape and hide at the Canadian embassy. Enter: Ben Affleck...'s beard to the rescue.

I've been very excited about this movie and the hype around it has only intensified as it got closer to the release date. I've been trying to convince my roommate #chrysanne to come, but it was only after NPR did a segment on how good it is that she agreed to go.

I forgot what it was like going to a movie on movie night, as I've been seeing most of my films in the middle of the day with the other one or two weirdos that see movies in the middle of the day. I also especially forgot what it was like to see a movie that old people enjoy seeing. Lots of nose blowing and loudly asking EH, WHAT'S HAPPENING? during relatively simple plot points.

Anyway, the movie is fucking AWESOME. I'll begin with the cast:

Ben Affleck took great pains to make the actors look as true to form as the people they're portraying. He also replicated exact moments from photographs taken at the time. As the credits role they show you the side-by-side comparison. Taking into consideration how great each single actor was AND how realistic they looked, the casting director and make-up/costume people did a commendable job. Alan Aarkin and John Goodman play the wise-ass Hollywood professionals that help Ben's character create a realistic cover story. Bryan Cranston plays Ben's superior, and with only one Heisenberg-esq freak out, does a great job of being a hard ass and good guy. Victor Garber, who played Ben's real-life wife's fictional TV dad on Alias, was the heroic Canadian ambassador with cool hair.

The rest of the cast is pretty much unknowns...except...wait a sec...is...is that CHRIS MESSINA?? AKA THE GUY I'VE MENTIONED IN THREE SEPARATE POSTS AS AN UP-AND-COMER. NAILED IT, ILA!!! HIGH FIVE!

Screen shot of my computer as I reference IMDB as I write. The only highlighted name from previously being clicked on? Chris Macho-Man Messina

Ok, so as for the plot and rest of the movie...equally superb. As Steven Soderbergh did with Magic Mike, Ben Affleck took a story that could have been filled with the typicals (CIA fast-talk and crudely tensioned-filled spy flick) and made it into something unique, realistic, true-to-life, and genuinely suspenseful. During the climax people were actually unable to contain their inner dialogue and were mumbling "just go!" just as I was tapping my foot and rubbing my hands thinking the same thing. I purposefully didn't research the real-life events so I wouldn't know how things turned out and I highly recommend doing the same. At the conclusion the things I heard just from within earshot were people clapping, "amazing" and "that was so good" being bantered about.

I cannot recommend this movie enough. Plus George Clooney co-produced it with Ben Affleck. I don't know why, but that just automatically makes people consider seeing a movie more than when they didn't know Clooney was involved. 
Cranston convincing Affleck to try the goatee look

NOTE: I DID NOT MAKE THE ABOVE LINKED YOUTUBE VIDEO. I know most of you think otherwise, but that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Note note: I just noticed FilmDrunk has a similar title for their blog on Argo, which proves I should do this professionally.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Taken 2: Taken as a video game

I mocked Taken 2 when the trailer came out. I was confused by subsequent trailers as to who was actually being taken. And now after viewing Taken 2, I stand by everything I previous said.

So the problem with really good movies is that sequels have to be better. It makes what Nolan was able to do with the Batman trilogy that much more impressive and awe inspiring.

Taken was a really, really good movie. It had a fluid plot involving Liam Neeson taking logical and realistic steps to find his kidnapped daughter. His character had intense training that enabled him to do things an average joe couldn't. That makes an awesome action movie. It's like a toned-down Bourne.

Taken 2 uses the same premise but without the fluidity and realism that made it's predecessor so entertaining. It plays out like a video game in the sense that it's very disjointed and it feels like there are levels with individual crime bosses that Liam must take down on his way to the main boss. Basically, one person is taken and then another person and then one of them is found and then another is taken but then a different boss takes another person and then they kill that boss while a different boss takes a person that was previously taken.

The film is only an hour and a half but feels much longer. The first taken/found sequence is entertaining enough but it feels like it's the end of the movie only thirty minutes in. Then the second sequence occurs and you're a little less into it. And then it just keeps happening until you're finally glad the movie's over.

Funniest scene in the movie was watching Liam yell at his daughter to get her fucking shit together while driving a clutch through the streets of Istanbul

Now, let me make it clear that Liam will always be entertaining. And this movie is still entertaining. The difference is that Taken is sweet and Taken 2 is just another action flick. Plus Liam's 4 years older and even though he's in great shape for a sixty year old, it did seem like he wasn't quite all there for the fight scenes.

There were also many more questions throughout the movie that are kind of nit-picky but weren't present for the first movie. Here were some that went through my head:

Where did he get that leather duster jacket after just being kidnapped the scene before?
How does she know how to drive a stick after being unable to pass her driver's test in a Toyota Camry?
If they're going to shoot at him, why do they continue to hold the wife hostage?
How are five men shooting machine guns without any single bullet hitting him?

Taken 2 is a typical "wait-for-it-to-be-on-netflix-or-tv" movie. Is that an expression yet? I was going to say to wait for it to be a rental but where do you rent it from anymore? Whatever, the point is, is that it's not worth the money to see it in theaters and since the plot and action is so similar to the first movie you're really not missing out. However, if you feel like watching Liam fight humans instead of wolves, then definitely save Taken 2 for a stay-in movie night.