Sunday, December 30, 2012

Young Adult. Last of the Mohicans.

Young Adult

Young Adult is about Mavis Gary (Charlize Theron) a young adult ghostwriter who visits her hometown and tries to win back her old high school sweet heart Buddy Slade (Patrick Wilson).  Mavis is one of those girls from your high school- the pretty, popular, petty girl who's always powdering her nose or spreading nasty rumors about everyone else.  Theron does a good job playing Mavis who is so petty and hasn't really changed that much from her high school days.  There are sides to everything, there are friends like Matt Freehauf (Patton Oswalt) who are still too uncool to associate with in public, and anything said by anyone needs to be thoroughly analyzed in high school girl speak.  E.g. He said this to me does that totally mean that he's still in love with me?

I know that a lot of people had problems with this movie because of the lack of growth from any of the characters.  While I found Mavis's character extremely frustrating and at times cringe worthy (especially when you see her so deluded and out of touch with reality), I found it more frustrating and unbelievable that there are so many others in her hometown who were just as set in their high school personas.

Last of the Mohicans 

Warning: Video contains spoilers

Last of the Mohicans (it's supposed to be based on the classic book but it's made many liberties ) follows the three last Mohicans: Chingachgook (Russell Means) and his two sons, Uncas (Eric Schweig) and adopted Nathaniel Hawkeye (Daniel Day Lewis), during the French and Indian War as they escort the daughters of British General Webb to a nearby fort.  There's conflict and hints of unrest from the colonists, who are forced by the British to help them fight the French.  There's revenge led by Magua (Wes Studi) and the Hurons against Webb and his daughters.  Hawkeye and Uncas also fall in love with the general's daughters Cora (Madeline Stowe) and Alice (Jodhi May).

It takes a little bit of time to get into this movie, but it picks up nicely once it becomes clear that it's not going to be an easy journey to the fort.  The score is absolutely beautiful and possibly one of my favorites.  The last half of the movie is absolutely breath-taking.  It blows you away.  All of the setup and implications from the first half really come to fruition and it's epic, it's tragic, it's beautiful.

I had trouble finding good clips of this movie that capture it well without spoilers.  While the clip on top does contain spoilers, it happens relatively early in the movie.  The clip below is one of my favorite sequences in the movie and does contain a lot of spoilers so proceed with caution.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Amazing Spiderman and The Artist

The Amazing Spiderman

After hearing that Spiderman was getting a reboot, I was one of those people who thought a Spiderman reboot wasn't really necessary.  It looked decent from the trailers but it wasn't a movie I was super excited about.

I was pleasantly surprised by The Amazing Spiderman.  The Amazing Spiderman is another origins story for how Peter Parker becomes Spiderman (Andrew Garfield).  It maintains a different voice and tone from the original movies.  It's less corny and while many of the story elements were similar, it's like a really good remix that stands strongly on its own.  I really liked Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker/Spiderman.  His Peter Parker is still smart and witty but maintains more of a sharp, rebellious edge.  Tobey Maguire's Peter was a dork (and that wasn't a bad thing at all since it fit those movies well), while Garfield's Peter is more like that smart, mysterious loner who does his own thing.  I do like how Garfield's Peter doesn't go into being Spiderman with the best of intentions but learns along the way to become a hero.  He and Gwen Stacey (Emma Stone) also have great chemistry.  I like that Gwen does get to take more of an active role than Mary Jane has in the past movies.

That being said, there are plot holes and sketchy sketchy biology.  One of my favorite parts of the original Spidermans was Peter's relationship with Aunt May, and while she's still supportive and Peter's only family, isn't she remotely curious or deeply concerned about how often and how badly Peter gets hurt sometimes?

Despite the plot holes, Spiderman is still a fun, superhero movie to watch and I am looking forward to what they do next.

The Artist

The Artist, which won best picture last year at the Academy Awards, is about George Valentin, a famous silent film star (Jean Dujardin)'s fall into obscurity as the silent film industry dies down.  Meanwhile, Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo) an actress he helped out during his prime rises to fame as speakies, movies with sound and dialogue, rise to their prime.

The Artist is a black and white film with very little dialogue.  Most of the little dialogue that was in the movie is done in silent film style - with quotes and captions shown after the scene.

A lot of The Artist is very predictable.  It's filled with these storylines that you've see over and over again and they all turn out as you expect  but despite all that, it's still very charming and very well done.    
It reminds you of the power of visuals and music and that you don't necessarily need much or any dialogue to tell a good story.  There are so many great movies that are kind of downers (and I do love my downers, I really do).  At the same time, though, it's refreshing once in a while to see a movie that's happy where all the characters genuinely have their best intentions at heart.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012



I was pleasantly surprised that Lincoln, unlike the name suggests isn't a sweeping biopic, but an intimate look at the events leading up to the Thirteenth Amendment.  There's a lot of accolade given to Daniel Day Lewis for his portrayal of Lincoln and he deserves all of it.  He isn't so much as playing Lincoln as being him.  

Lincoln is like that beloved professor who tells the best stories, but not the professor you want to run into at the end of the day when you're just trying to go home because it takes him a while to get to his point (my favorite story that Lincoln tells is the George Washington story).  You really get the sense that Lincoln is so empathetic, really *loves* the people even if he doesn't know them personally, and is just full of so much compassion.  It works well for him as a public figure but in a lot of ways, there's not enough of him for his own family.

There's a really fantastic supporting cast, including Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln, JGL as Robert Lincoln, Lee Pace as a staunch Democrat against the amendment, Jared Harris (Lane Pyrce lives!) as Ulysses Grant, and many many others.  Field is memorable as Mary, who really gets your respect when you see how pulled together she is just moments after breaking down.  My personal favorite out of the supporting roles, though, was hands down Tommy Lee Jones as abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens.  Stevens probably has some of the best lines and zingers in the movie.  He's extremely tough and even unsympathetic when you first meet him (even though you agree with his philosophies whole heartedly)         but he really grows on you as the movie goes on especially when he's asked to compromise some of his values for the Amendment.

The House of Representatives in Lincoln is extremely dramatic and extremely entertaining to watch.  Another one of my favorite storylines is Bilbo (James Spader) and company, Lincoln's secret "seedy" vote negotiators who help Lincoln secure the 2/3s vote he needs for the Amendment.  If they ever did a spin off of this movie, I'd love to see one about them.  Or maybe I should just go ahead and see that other Lincoln movie.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Skyfall and The Master


     Skyfall is no Casino Royale, but it's an enjoyable movie.  It pays homage to a lot of older Bond films.  One thing that I've really appreciated about the Daniel Craig Bond films is that they're trying new ways to tell the Bond story.  While Quantum of Solace with a Jason Bourne-feel didn't work too well, Skyfall does a great job incorporating and adapting classic Bond elements for a modern era.

     Craig as Bond is still as sullen, moody, and sarcastic as ever.  (It looks like our current Bond compared to the others is the best at drinking.)  He's a bit slicker in terms of his fighting compared to his brute force in Casino Royale.  This Bond is really at his best when he's exchanging quips with either M (Judi Dench) or some of his new associates.  I was afraid that for this movie, they'd revert Craig's Bond back to an extremely suave killer a la Pierce Brosnan's Bond, but Craig's Bond is still the same "rough instrument" from Casino Royale, howbeit he's feeling a bit older and outdated.

     Skyfall features a strong supporting cast.  Judi Dench as M is fantastic as always.  I've always enjoyed her relationship with Bond.  I almost wish that they had a chance to test it a bit more in this one.  Q (Ben Whishaw) and Eve (Naomie Harris) were also great new additions.  Mallory (Ralph Fiennes) is a bit stiff but he's not really given terribly much to do.  The same goes with Silva (Javier Bardem), the main villain, who has so much potential, especially after you just meet him.  Bardem does a fantastic job with Silva and I really wish they'd developed him more and made him more more prominent in the movie early on.

The Master 

     I saw this one a while ago and I'm still not quite sure what to make of this movie.  The Master is the latest from Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will be Blood).  The movie follows Naval veteran Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix) as he meets Lancaster Dodd (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), a cult leader, and joins their cause.
    The best part of this movie was hands down Joaquin Phoenix.  Freddie Quell is just insane, wild, and off the rails- an id personified.  It was fascinating to watch him because you can't quite guess what crazy thing he was going to do next or what small thing will set him off.  I also liked that although this movie was known as "the cult movie," it didn't mock cults and really tried to show the movie from their perspectives.  They delve a little into cult tactics (but most of it is about the mentality) and it's engrossing and genuinely creepy, especially the eye color scene.  The cinematography is also gorgeous.  Landscapes seem to play a large role in Anderson's movies and The Master is no exception.  

    I have mixed feelings about this movie because it meanders, seemingly directionlessly.  The character development is fantastic but I'm not sure what any of it means in the end.  There are repeated words and phrases like Dodd claiming that he's sure he's met Quell before but we don't ever get a resolution on what he means.  I can see film critics getting excited about this movie and all of the Freudian implications and there are a lot in this film, but at the same time, each of the characters, especially Quell have memories grounded in reality that it's hard to reconcile that with the explanation that the three key characters in the movie (Quell, Dodd, and Dodd's wife played by Amy Adams) are supposed to be Freudian manifestations.  Anyhow, The Master is certainly an interesting movie but also extremely baffling.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Freaks and Geeks

Freaks and Geeks

I just finished Freaks and Geeks and I think I'm a little heart broken as I always am after finishing something really good whether it's a movie, TV show, or book.  I don't feel ready to leave that world yet.

What's really fantastic about Freaks and Geeks are the characters.  They feel so real; they don't always make the best decisions even though you really hope that they do.  Everyone's a little lost, and I like how the show really took it's time with the characters.  You're still learning something new about each of them as the show goes on, and it's a pleasure to watch the relationships between the characters grow and change.  I don't think I've had a character grow on me as much as Kim Kelly (Busy Phillips) did since Logan Echolls from Veronica Mars.  The characters also don't behave as you expect them to and it just makes them all the more human.  I particularly liked the scene below where one of the freaks, Nick, does something unexpected when one of the nerds starts singing a religious song at a party.

Freaks and Geeks is about Lindsay Weir (Linda Cardellini), a smart high school student who used to be a mathelete but starts hanging out with the "freaks" or the "burnouts" and her brother Sam (John Frances Daley) who is a geek but wants to be cooler.  The other freaks include Daniel Desario the bad boy (James Franco), Nick (Jason Segel) the dreamer, Kim the bossy one, and Ken (Seth Rogen) the sarcastic one.  The geeks included Bill (Martin Starr) and Neal (Samm Levine).

It's hard to pick out a single great performance because everyone in this is really fantastic.  I don't think I ever fully understood the appeal of James Franco before this show...but now I do.  He comes of as one of those impossibly cool guys from high school but as the show progresses and as Lindsay gets to know him better, she learns that he's also kind of lost and directionless just like everyone is.

Cardellini is fantastic as Lindsay.  She's the heart of the show and grounds it.  She makes Lindsay a relatable protagonist you really root for.  It's a joy seeing her become more confident and outspoken.    I think that in some ways had Lindsay been portrayed less aptly, she could have easily come off as annoying and unsympathetic.

Starr as Bill, the shy nerd who loves TV is another standout.  He's probably my favorite of the nerds and has some of the *best* moments of the show including the scene below:

One other aspect of the show I really appreciated was how they depicted the nerds.  They really show the broad spectrum of nerds.  Some of the nerds like Sam and Neal are interested in joining the cool crowd while Bill and Gordon know where they stand and are content with it.  There's also Harris who's the rare breed of nerd that you hardly ever see depicted in fiction: he's confident and totally content with his geekiness.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Fall Movies!

Fall isn't really known for having great films but this fall I've had the chance to catch two really great movies and one mediocre one.


Argo is fantastic and everything you hope for from a premise like this: During the Iranian hostage crisis, six Americans escaped from the US embassy and hid in the Canadian Ambassador's house.  The CIA gets them out by posing them as a Canadian film crew for a fake science fiction movie called Argo.  It's the "best" bad idea they had.  

You know you're in for a treat when you see the intro which is one of the most creative and engaging openings for a movie that I've seen in a while.  There's a fix of real footage from Iran interwoven with story board drawings of the events in Iran.  It sets the tone for the movie- a tense, taut political drama with lots of really great humor throughout.  The CIA and Hollywood components are both enjoyable.  And throughout Argo, it maintains a really warm tone without being cheesy.  The climax of the movie does go a bit overboard, but otherwise it's a great movie.  Ben Affleck is really becoming a fine director.


Frankenweenie is Tim Burton's newest movie about a modern day (or 1950s- it's hard to tell with the bland suburban neighborhoods) young Victor Frankenstein who brings his dog Sparky back to life after Sparky's untimely death.  The movie is cute and it seems really more geared towards kids.  It doesn't really get going or find even footing until the second half of the movie when it starts thoroughly exploring Victor's science teacher's warning: science can be used for both good and evil.

While Victor and Sparky are very nice characters, they're frankly a little boring.  I liked Victor's classmates more like the creepy pale girl with a "clairvoyant" cat and Edgar, an Igor-like slightly hunchbacked boy.  
There's also a great scene displaying the gap between scientists and the public when the kids' science teacher attempts to explain himself at a PTA meeting.

All in all, a fun movie but not particularly memorable.  It doesn't grip you with really unique and touching stories as Burton's earlier Nightmare Before Christmas and Corpse Bride did.  Maybe it's the black and white (yes yes, it's a homage to older horror films) or maybe it's the lack of catchy songs but somehow it doesn't seem quite as lively.  

Seven Psychopaths

Seven Psychopaths is a blast!  It's very meta and self-referential but it does it well and with a great sense of humor.  What I liked most was how it jumped between being absolutely ridiculous, hilarious, and crazy to being seriously magnificent and bittersweet.

Seven Psychopaths is hard to describe but I'll try my best here.  There are so many loose threads at the beginning that you're not sure how and if they're meant to connect (but they do and it's fantastic).  There're two dog kidnappers named Hans and Billy who want to make some easy money (Christopher Walken and Sam Rockwell), an alcoholic screenwriter Marty looking for inspiration (Colin Farrell), a wronged gangster who just wants his Shih Tzu back (Woody Harrelson), and a crazy murdering psychopath running around.   
I just wish there was more room for the development of female characters in this (some of the characters in this movie do quip that the storyteller isn't very good at developing female characters beyond eye candy and love interests), but I think Linda Bright Clay as Hans' wife is wonderful, holds her weight for the female characters, and makes a very memorable impression with her scenes.

This movie's going to become a quirky cult classic in a few years.  

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises

Spoilers Below!!!

I just came back from The Dark Knight Rises.  Hearing about the recent news of the shooting at a TDKR premiere was rather chilling given some of the things that happened in the movie.  

The plot is kind of all over the place and the movie didn't really have any of those signature scenes Nolan is known for- those scenes that you jump to again and again when you see the movie again.  For The Dark Knight, it was the first spree of Joker killings and Batman and Joker's face-off in the police interrogation room.  For Inception, it's when Ariadne first meets Mal, the final series of kicks, and the ending.   For Batman Begins, it's that practice fight scene on the ice between Bruce and Henry Ducard.

There are plot holes that pulled you out of the Batman world like how did so few people not connect Bruce Wayne becoming a hermit and the disappearance of Batman.  The ultimate plan is also rather convoluted.  I wish they made us care about Miranda Tate more.  And why did they put Bruce in a pit (how did Bane and company have time to transport Bruce out of town?).
It's a mess of action scenes at some point (that serve some purpose to plot) and I wish they'd addressed the consequences of the Harvey Dent act.  Choas just breaks out and while cops are hunted...what about the cops makes it okay for them to round people up?  I wish they'd addressed that more and I miss how in TDK there were more ambiguous gray areas- even the super blatant prisoner's dilemma with two ships (one with prisoners, one with normal citizens).  

But that being said, I did enjoy the movie and left feeling very very pleased with it.  It's not going to reach the status of Batman Begins or Dark Knight Rises but it's a fine movie regardless.    

Hathaway as Selina Kyle was fabulous.  Alfred and Lucius Fox were all a pleasure to watch as well.  One of the things I missed in The Dark Knight was how it was more about Batman than Bruce Wayne and I'm glad we get to see plenty of Bruce in this one.  And in the end it's more about Bruce Wayne than Batman.  We are reminded again why Bruce Wayne is our hero - beneath the costume.  I also liked that we got to see Bruce and Alfred interact more (Alfred, oh Alfred).  As brief as it was, I also loved the Steven Crane aka Scarecrow cameo.    

I wanted to like John Blake more- I really did.  And I wish they'd made him the boy from the narrows Batman gives one of his gadgets to in the first movie (but the aging wouldn't have quite worked out).  He's a hot headed idealistic cop and while JGL does a good job (and is nice to look at :)) it's a character that we've seen many many times and there's not anything terribly new that Blake adds to the equation.  I wish there was also a more subtle reference to Robin- Tim Drake maybe would have been great.  

I wish there was more time spent on Gordon and the results from him telling the truth.  I think a lot of the movie is about telling the truth and also about Bruce's love life to an extent- Selina who's perfect for Batman and Miranda who's more suitable for Bruce Wayne but it didn't really come across well.  That being said, I did enjoy Kyle's chemistry with Wayne.        

I like where we end up.  I really like where we end up.  

Quirky Romantic Comedies

I'm not a fan of romantic comedies, so the ones that I end up watching have to promise a little something extra than the usual rom-com.  I was hoping Crazy, Stupid Love and I Love You Phillip Morris would fit that but both movies have their issues.      

Crazy, Stupid Love

I was really hoping to like this one because it received such positive buzz and it seemed like it could be one of those comedies that were genuinely funny and touching at the same time like Bridesmaids, my favorite movie last summer, and Forty-Year Old Virgin.  Crazy, Stupid, Love has some funny moments in it, but in the end, it really tried too hard to be touching and meaningful and that unfortunately, really weakened the movie and made it more generic and romantic comendy-esque than a fun comedy.  It really was at its best when the movie put the characters in really ridiculous but believable (in the realm of their world) situations.    

Crazy, Stupid, Love centers around Cal (Steve Carrell) and Emily (Julianne Moore), a couple who've been together forever, who suddenly break up when Emily decides she wants a divorce.  Cal mopes around and starts hanging out at a hip bar where he meets the ultimate ladies' man, Jacob (Ryan Gosling).  Meanwhile, there's a very awkward love triangle between Cal's thirteen year old son Robbie (Jonah Bobo), the baby sitter Jessica (Analeigh Tipton), and Cal (who does not realize that Jessica has a crush on him).  There's also Hannah (Emma Stone), on the side, the one girl who wasn't charmed by Jacob's charm.

The first half of the movie is great.  The best laughs come from the most unexpected scenes.  E.g. Cal sneaks back to his old house periodically to maintain the yard.  Gosling is especially really great in this- he's featured in possibly the hottest pizza eating scene ever, and I really wish they'd just gone with the comedic aspect of the movie more.  I'd read reviews that the kids' stories would be somewhat featured too and wasn't really looking forward to it, but they handled it well.  Robbie (Bobo) comes off as creepy yet sympathetic.  And Tipton as Jessica does a fantastic job.  

Somewhere in the middle though, when too many coincidences arise and when it tries to fit everything into a neat little package, the movie really starts trudging along until it, alas, falls into generic rom-com land, where everyone's happy(ish) but it feels synthetic and overly sweet.  I'd save this one for Netflix or Amazon instant streaming.      

I Love You Phillip Morris

I was intrigued by this movie when I saw the trailer.  It looked like a fun movie and had an interesting premise.  I've also wanted to see Jim Carrey do more than be the over the top funny guy in a generic summer comedy.  I was really impressed by his performance in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.  I Love You Phillip Morris has a good performance from Carrey- he's over the top but his character is supposed to be this flamboyant liar who is great at breaking out of prison.  I was hoping for something more from this movie but the pacing was odd and it seemed like it couldn't decide if it wanted to be a drama or a comedy.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Summer Update

I've seen quite a few movies this summer, some older, some newer.  I've wanted to write more about them, but they've either remained as drafts that I never ended up posting or ended up as very short blurbs. Anyhow, I've decided to consolidate them into this one entry.

The Fall

I haven't seen a movie like Tarem Singh's The Fall in a long time.  The Fall reminds me of one of those stories you'd read in English class that would pleasantly surprise you- it's one of those stories that you wouldn't ordinarily seek out, but having read it, you really end up enjoying it immensely.

The Fall isn't exactly the type of movie I'd seek out but having watched it, I really liked it.  The Fall is about a young girl Alexandria and her friendship with a very depressed paraplegic Roy Walker (Lee Pace).  It jumps between real life and Roy's fantastical epic adventure story.  The movie is told from Alexandria's perspective so it takes a while to learn what's really going on.  I liked that Alexandria was a fully believable kid and not some sort of overly precocious child who makes all the right decisions.  

I also liked that The Fall was unabashedly epic in many regards.  It reminds me of the 90s (The English Patient, Titanic) when it was okay to have movies that were sweeping epic romances.  The Fall is also one of the most beautiful movies I've seen in a very long time.  Alexandria lets her imagination run wild and there are just so many scenes that are breathtakingly gorgeous.  

Battle Royale 

Battle Royale really is the original Hunger Games.  It's grittier, rougher, unapologetically violent, and fantastic.   Battle Royale follows a class of Japanese high schoolers who have been selected to participate in the Battle Royale initiative- they're trapped on an island and forced to kill each other.  It's grim but there's also this great undercurrent of dark humor.  e.g. Everyone is given a weapon or tool at random to use- our protagonists are unlucky and given a pot lid and binoculars.

I'm sure the original manga goes into more detail on each of the students but I wanted to learn more about each of the participants.  We get to catch glimpses of some of their pasts- Mitsuko, one of the main antagonists, as well as the protagonists' Noriko and Shuya's, all had particularly haunting pasts.

The Fantastic Mr. Fox

The Fantastic Mr. Fox is an absolute delight.  It's quirky, funny, and heartfelt.  After Mr. Fox (George Clooney) starts a family with Mrs. Fox (Meryl Strep), he promises not to go back to his past stealing ways.  Mr. Fox learns that it's hard to do so especially when you have three human neighbors with lots of food.  The animation is strange and it takes a little bit to get used to but give the movie a few minutes- it'll grow on you and in a lot of ways, the zany animation really contributes to the fast paced storytelling.  It's a fantastic, entertaining story with memorable humorous characters and really more of an animated film for more mature audiences.   


Rango's another quirky animated film that I really enjoyed.  Rango is a chameleon who finds himself in the desert town Dirt, which is short on water.  It's a Western and full of homages to many other movies including Chinatown.  Rango also comes with a very amusing (Greek style) chorus of singing owls.  Rango reminded me of one of my all time favorite Simpson episodes El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Jomer or the one with Johnny Cash where Homer eats the hallucenegenic pepper.  It starts off funny but at the end of it, you find yourself in more serious territory and genuinely moved.

Movies Worth Watching 
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy 

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is about British espionage during the Cold War.  I think that Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy definitely merits a second view.  I appreciate that the director and writers assume the best out of their audience- that we are intelligent and watching the movie with our full attention.  However, I did find myself confused especially about which character was which, what was everyone's motivation, and whether the timeline is all in the current time (it is for the most part) for a good portion of the film.  It wasn't until the end that everything fell into place and started to make more sense.  I was extremely impressed by Tom Hardy's performance as Ricki Tarr in this movie.  It wasn't until Ricki Tarr's story that I felt myself engaged or even caring about what was actually going on.  He was so charismatic and really brought the movie to life- I can't wait to see what he does with Bane in The Dark Knight Rises.  My movie buddy describes this as the ultimate movie about introverts, and I think he's right for the most part.      


I wanted to like this movie a lot more than I did but it's still a great movie, definitely worth checking out.  It's a very quiet movie (it has more silences than dialogue) and has a really neat retro feel to it.  Drive is about the mysterious unnamed Driver (Ryan Gosling) who works as a stunt driver during the day and as a getaway driver at night.  It starts off with a wonderfully tense car chase- one of the best chase scenes I've seen in a long time.  I was hoping the whole movie would have the mood of that first chase scene, but it doesn't ever reach those heights again.  I know many people raved about how great Albert Brooks as a mobster was but I really enjoyed Bryan Cranston as the Driver's limp boss- you really felt for his character.


50/50 is another movie that I'd heard really great things about and I was really hoping to like this one more than I did.  The performances are great and it does a good job of balancing humor and drama.  50/50 is about Adam (JGL) who gets diagnosed with cancer in his 20s and how he and his family and friends (Seth Rogen) cope with it.  I like that it never really becomes melodramatic and maudlin.

I think that one of the problems I had with the movie was how polished it felt and how it tried to tie everything in a neat package at the end.  Mainly, I had issues with the movie making Adam's therapist (Anna Kendrick) a love interest.  I enjoyed their rapport and budding friendship but steering their relationship towards a romantic one felt odd (she's his therapist!) and awkward.

Movies to Eventually Check Out on a Slow Day 

Brave is Pixar's latest venture.  It is about Scottish princess Merida and her relationship with her mother.  Merida and her mother butt heads when it's time for her to get married.  Merida really doesn't want to get married (at least not yet) and would rather go on adventures in the forests.  

Brave is cute but as a whole it really felt like a story that was churned out of a formula (Come on Pixar we know you can do better!).  Not all of the pieces fit well or flowed together and there's too much exposition in some parts of the story, especially when Merida flat out makes a long speech about the main points of the movie somewhere near the end.  At some points of the movie, it seemed very much like "oh it's time for humor- let's insert Merida's brothers doing something amusing or her father for comic relief."  I did enjoy the animation- it's top notch and the scenery in this, all the forests are lush, green, and gorgeous.  

IP Man 1 and 2
I did enjoy the Ip Man movies and if you are in the mood for a martial arts film, these are great movies to watch.  They're well made, have really awesome fight scenes, and they still retain more meaning than the average  mindless blockbuster.  They, however, feel highly simplistic and are filled with one-dimensional characters with the exception of Ip Man himself (Raymond Wu) who plays Ip as an old school humble, honorable martial arts grandmaster who really believes in Spiderman's mantra "With great power comes great responsibility".  The Japanese are the evil villains in the first one, while the British are the evil villains in the next one.  The first Ip Man works a bit better than the second one (where there are a number of fight scenes that just feel a bit tacked on and excessive).

Saturday, June 16, 2012

It's been a while...

It's been a while but I should have more posts coming up.  

I did write a review for The Avengers recently.   

Upcoming Movies 
When I went to see Prometheus, there was a teaser for Life of Pi, directed by Ang Lee (!!)  I was *excited* to see something from Ang Lee- he hasn't had a new movie in years, but I wasn't too impressed  by the teaser.  The teaser features Pi and the tiger stranded at sea when suddenly, a barrage of fish fly into boat, and Pi establishes his dominance over the tiger.  It's a critical scene, for sure, but everything about it seemed off.  The sky and water are too blue, the life boat is too polished looking for having been at sea for ages, and Pi also just felt unnatural.  Everything is too blatant and unsubtle.  

But then again, Life of Pi was about stories.  In my mind, the "real" story of what happened in Life of Pi, is the one Pi tells at the very end- the grim one he goes over quickly where there were no animals, just people, including one extremely aggressive cook.  I hope Ang Lee's approach is to view Life of Pi  through the stories that people tell themselves to cope, instead of the literal and fantastical tale about a boy stuck on a life boat with a tiger.   


I've been looking forward to Prometheus since I saw the trailer for it.  The trailer is eerie and tense - almost claustrophobic.  While Prometheus doesn't quite deliver on that intense claustrophobia and the eeriness, it's a decent movie.  It's certainly engrossing and I like that it sparks conversation about the Alien universe and back story.  

The visuals are also stunning in this one.  I haven't seen a movie this gorgeous in a while.  I like that for a change (minus Pandora in Avatar), the alien planet they land on isn't just barren rock and gravel, but a mountainous, lush terrain.  The visuals in this movie really are fantastic and probably one of my favorite parts of the movie   

With that being said, one of the weak points of the movie are some of the characters.  This isn't to say that there isn't character development.  There certainly is great character development for quite a few of the characters, but the decisions that most of them make are idiotic, foolish, and unreasonable.  Even though a lot of them are supposed to be intelligent, logically grounded scientists.  Prometheus seriously features some of the worst, dumbest scientists that I've ever seen  depicted on screen (in a serious manner).  

I really wanted to like Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace), the protagonist, but found her frustrating.  Shaw along with her boyfriend Charlie Holloway, are the scientists leading the group's expedition to find life.  While I liked that Shaw was a strong female character, it was difficult to buy her as a scientist since she is so dead set on her beliefs.  She's essentially a creationist.         

I usually never root for the antagonists, and while no one is really a villain (there are "monsters" certainly but no real villains), I found myself rooting for the primary two antagonists David (Michael Fassbender) and Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron).  David is an andriod and he is one of the most fascinating characters in the movie.  You're not quite sure of his motives and Fassbender does such a great job portraying David- you never doubt he's an android b/c there's just something un-humanlike about him (he's too calm).  Vickers is probably the most reasonable character in the whole movie.  She has her head in the right place and even though she's brutal, her actions made sense.  Another stand out was Idris Elba (Janek), the ship's captain.  I really wish the movie spent more time on him since he was so much more interesting than the main protagonists Dr. Shaw and Dr. Holloway.  Elba really does a great job making Janek have more development than just a peripheral character.  Janek seems like he has a fascinating backstory- I only wish we got to hear it.

Prometheus doesn't live up to what it promised but it's still a decent movie.  Worth seeing in theaters for the visuals.      

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Hunger Games and Stage Fright

The Hunger Games

(Mild Spoilers)

It's been a while since I've seen a movie in theaters.  It's been an even longer while since I've come out of a newly released movie and just been unabashedly excited about the movie.  The Hunger Games is awesome!  However, I have not read the books so I am very curious to hear what fans of the book think of the movie.

The movie is well crafted.  It draws you into the dystopian reality of The Hunger Games immediately.  You can tell that there are rules, customs, and traditions to the world: the contrast between the capital and wealthier districts and the poorer districts, the mocking jay, the horrendously bright fashion of the people in the cities, the sick tradition of the Reapings, and the games themselves.  It also does a good job building the suspense.  Even though I knew something was going to pop out from the woods or that the countdown clock was going to get to the start soon, I was nervous for the characters for what was going to happen next.

Katniss Everdeen is a fantastic heroine.  She's genuinely tough (nicely played by Jennifer Lawrence)-rough around the edges.  I appreciated that she was motivated by her family to make it through the games.  It's refreshing to see a heroine motivated not by romantic love but by something else- the sheer will to survive and familial love.  I wish we got to see more of Gale (Liam Hemsworth) and I'm interested to learn more about him as the series progresses.  He had a very natural chemistry with Katniss.  And then there's Peeta (Josh Hutcherson).  I appreciated that early on, they establish Katniss and Peeta as having different strengths, and in many ways their strengths are complementary.  (On a side note, don't you love the unstated rule of how YAs have characters with fascinating names?)  Another little thing I also appreciated was the nod to fans and fandoms.  There're the viewing parties as well as the snarky note from the parachute for Katniss and Peeta ("You call that a kiss?").    

I'm not sure how great of a movie it'll be on a second viewing.  It tells a good story well, but I feel like knowing the story already takes away from the excitement of the initial viewing.  I am, however, fascinated by the world in the Hunger Games and I want to learn more- I want to learn about the background- how did the districts come about?  Why hasn't there been an uprising already?  Overall, great movie and great performances.  I'm excited to see what happens in the series (if I don't pick up the books before then).  

Stage Fright

I caught this on TCM the other day with the movie about 30 minutes in.  Not knowing the name of the movie or too much about it, I was drawn in.  I was even more captivated when Hitchcock popped on the screen in one of his signature cameos.

Stage Fright is about Eve Gill (Jane Wyman) who involves herself in a murder mystery when her friend Jonathan Cooper (Richard Todd) comes to her with a problem: the police suspect Jonathan of murdering his lover-actress Charlotte Inwood's (Marlene Dietrich) husband.  Eve is convinced of Jonathan's innocence and sets out with her father (Alastair Sim) to gather evidence to prove Jonathan's innocence.

The characters are all well developed and likable.  In particular, the female characters in this film were really great.  Eve's a great heroine to root for- she's plucky and smart.  And Charlotte, just when you think you know her, you see another facet of her and you almost feel bad for her in the end.  I liked the relationship between Eve and her father- in many ways, it reminded me of my favorite father-daughter duo Keith and Veronica Mars.  The only character who didn't really work was Ordinary Smith, the detective, who for plot purposes was important but generally just felt flat and one-dimensional.  He seemed to get more boring as the movie continued.        

There are some really gorgeous, well made scenes in this movie.  One of my favorites is when Jonathan finally hugs Eve-it's all she thinks she's wanted for a long time, but right then and there, all she wants is to hear Smith play the piano again.  While Stage Fright, for the most part, maintains a humorous tone, you also learn why Hitchcock is known as the master of suspense.