8.26.2011

It's a very thin line..

A key element that all films rely on is the hope that their audience will have the ability to suspend their disbelief for the length of the film's runtime. Some truly great concepts can be born up on the screen and the ideas in them can teach and/or entertain the audience in a truly revolutionary way. But sometimes...you might be asking just too much of an audience. Some material is just too weird, bizarre, far-fetched, etc for an audience to want to accept. Such was the case for me and the film The Beaver. Now, I'm a true believer in the "sum of all its parts" saying. I can recognize that the film does have strengths, including its strong cast (Mel Gibson does give a very good performance, as do the rest.) But the script feels uneven, and the concept lends itself to some scenes that were just too bizarre for me to swallow. I watched the film with my brothers Sean and Clayton, and Clayton's wife Kim. The verdict was split evenly across the board. Sean and Kim could suspend disbelief enough, but Clayton and I just couldn't.

This certainly wasn't the first time this has happened to me. In terms of a weird concept rooted in an otherwise realistic movie, the film really reminded me of Henry Poole is Here....which coincidentally also happens to be a favorite of Kim's. (Sorry Kim....I just couldn't get into either of these.) Sometimes an overly weird concept just puts you off from embracing something (Also Henry Poole put me off because the neighbor character was just too irritating and I, like the main character's first impression, saw her as more delusional than faithful). I don't know what exactly it is. I often love movies that combine some realism with off the wall ideas...Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Big Fish, TiMER all did this to an extent (and even the cat narrator movie I'm dying to see, The Future messes around with similar weird concepts)...but in those films when it was fantasy it was expected you knew it was completely a fantasy concept...the audience gets that. It's the weird stuff being embraced as reality that perhaps I don't love...that disbelief I just can't suspend.

Then alternatively, it's funny how a film with such a similar concept to The Beaver can turn into something that is actually really likable and insightful: Lars and the Real Girl. I remember after seeing that movie that if I tried recommending it to anyone by explaining the plot, I definitely had to choose the right words. But the gimmick of that plot is a means to an end that explores deeper issues....and while The Beaver seeks to explore issues too....for me it never overcomes its gimmick....it is just a bit too inseparable from it....don't ask me why. In fact...Roger Ebert's review is right on with how I felt...and I'm going to quote the end of what he has to say. Beware spoilers:

"What sort of movie would have resulted with the same characters but not the Beaver? We will never know. But without "The Beaver," we would never have witnessed a sexual threesome involving a hand puppet. Foster and Gibson must have gone through some serious times while making this film, but don't you suppose that while filming that sex scene they had to suppress the urge to giggle? That is the fatal flaw in this sincere endeavor. As good as Gibson is, his character is still caught between the tragedy of the man and the absurdity of the Beaver. Fugitive thoughts of SeƱor Wences crept into my mind. I'm sorry, but they did. "

As I said, I completely agree. Too hard for me not to be fully aware of the gimmick at all times. But still...you could probably do worse for entertainment these days...but you can definitely do better. I liked the cast a lot, and the side story of the son's character held the most interest to me. Like Ebert said...it's a shame you can't see the cast in a different film minus the beaver. But at least the two young leads I can see together again. I'm excited to see Anton Yelchin and Jennifer Lawrence reunite for Like Crazy. They had some great chemistry here and I hope they brought it to their second project as well.

Anyway boys and girls...the moral of the story is that the movie has to be as good as its concept...and the concept can't be too outrageous...otherwise the audience just won't want to suspend their disbelief. And then where will you be? Probably a beaver puppet in a dumpster...that's where. I give The Beaver 5/10 beaver puppets, purely for the efforts of the cast.

8.22.2011

Don't cheat the audience!!

WARNING: Long post follows. Proceed with caution.

As usual, I've been watching several movies as of late. In theaters, I finally got to see The Help and One Day. I also rewatched two films that made my top ten lists for '09 and '10 respectively: Up in the Air and 127 Hours. And I also checked out a movie whose trailer I randomly found on youtube called The Good Guy starring Alexis Bledel (no, she did not play the titular character haha.) Now since these movies are spread pretty well all over the board..I can't really speak for them collectively. But did come to some interesting insights in comparing and contrasting them that I feel the need to rant about...I mean share.

Obviously I once again enjoyed the films that made my top ten lists, but I also quite liked The Help. More on the good ones later.

Right now, I'm going to talk about what was reallllly lacking from both One Day and The Good Guy. Both films had likable actors in the roles, decent storyline and plenty of potential. But they forgot one important thing (okay probably more than one thing...but that's beside the point...they forgot the most unforgivable one) the importance of giving your audience a payoff. If the point of your movie is to get two characters together after tons of conflict and other factors keeping them apart...you know it's good for the audience to actually SEE the moment and hear the dialogue that makes that event actually happen. That's what the audience has been waiting to see and you choose not to show it?? That's the point of these sorts of movies! You can't cheat your audience out of the payoff they deserve and sat through your movie to get. And if you do....well that really won't endear you to them. It'd be like watching The Empire Strikes Back seeing Luke leave to battle with Vader. Then the next scene he comes back with his hand chopped off and informs everyone that not only did Vader do it...but he's his father now too.

Or 127 hours...if one moment James Franco was there pinned to a rock and the next scene he's in the hospital. The audience earned the moments of reward. You can't not show them!

Both One Day and The Good Guy made this mistake. I won't go into too much detail because it'd be pretty spoilery. But, if you see either one you'll know the moment where you can't help thinking the editor forgot to include a scene (very important scenes at that)! But, like I said the movies both had plenty other flaws. The Good Guy was just cheaply made...it had some decent performances and even some interesting things to say (ie: Just because they're the narrator, you shouldn't always trust them,) but the script in other areas was just lacking.


One Day, on the other hand, had no excuse. This movie, with all the talent behind it...should have been good. Instead, it felt like another go round of the Nicolas Sparks merry-go-round....complete with a maudlin plot twist. Even before the dreadful third act something was lacking...there wasn't enough earnestness or eagerness that made you long to see the couple together. The beginning starts off well enough, but it loses steam before the disaster end. It's funny though because it really all is about execution though. Good plot turns should throw the audience for a loop. They shouldn't be able to see them coming because there's nothing left to happen. They should serve the story well and not betray or manipulate the audience. Now don't misunderstand me....that's not to say they shouldn't make the audience feel something. They most certainly should. And Up in the Air is the perfect example of one done right. It feels like a punch to the gut to the audience because it feels so for the character...NOT because some hack writer went in there and devised some tragedy because he didn't know where to take the characters from there.

That's the quite the opposite of The Help, 127 Hours and Up in the Air which have very well thought out character studies. It doesn't hurt that the films all feature very strong performances and tight scripts either. I read up on the real life facts of Aron Ralston, and it certainly makes you appreciate all that he overcame even more. The film is incredible and James Franco is magnificent. In Up in the Air the three leads all give excellent performances as well, and there's just so much going on with the dialogue. It's not the easiest movie to watch, but it sure gives you a lot to think about in regards to work, economy, love and relationships. And finally, I'd have to say I really enjoyed The Help a lot. There is not a weak link in the ensemble cast...many of these performances are award worthy! The film is incredibly entertaining and though I have seen people excusing it for being not the most racially sensitive/PC I would have to say I had a great time and liked it a lot.



Sadly, there's not a lot coming out this weekend that I'm interested in. It's going to be a long Fall. But luckily the t.v. shows are coming back! Maybe I'll have to start reviewing new series if the movies are still lacking! I am looking forward to the show with Zooey Deschanel in it...for obvious reasons.

One last thought. It's funny to me that both One Day and Crazy, Stupid, Love both drew from ideas from movies before them....and those movies did what they wanted to do so much better. If you want to watch a movie with two friends taking several years before realizing they're right for each other....go watch When Harry Met Sally. Seriously...it's a wonderful film. And the whole playboy learning to let relationships become a part of his life and let even the most unusual relationships form as a result of having a protege...well that was done a lot better in About A Boy. Just my two cents. Maybe one day someone will actually be able to improve on an idea...but until then....stick with the better films I guess!

8.18.2011

Magic Movie Moments

So one of my favorite things to DVR for quite some time has been this show on Reelz Channel called "Hollywood's Top Ten." They make top ten lists about every sort of theme ever or compile the best ten works of any actor. I have a love-hate relationship with the show since it's the fans who determine the rankings... (Top Ten Franchises of all-time....Star Wars comes in at #5 and TWILIGHT is Number 1??? Outrageous.) Recently they had a list entitled "Top Ten Movie Moments." A category I often love to think about myself. Unfortunately...once again they kind of had an outrageous list. Don't get me wrong...there were some great moments on it...but Jack and Sally falling in love in The Nightmare Before Christmas and the entrance of the titular character in The Corpse Bride both taking spots was too much. Looks like someone's got a claymation or stop motion or whatever the heck it was fetish. You can check out some of their lists HERE
My brother Sean dropped off a far more reasonable listLinkHERE
In retrospect, thinking that Ign's #1 was completely absent from Reelz's list is, again I say, OUTRAGEOUS. haha. But that list (though containing 100 contenders..) still had a few moments missing. The writer must have been anti-James Cameron....which I certainly can understand. I was glad there wasn't anything from Avatar...though very shocked too. But even more shocked that the moments at the front of the ship in Titanic didn't make the list. AND very disappointed nothing from the Terminator series either. I also couldn't believe the plot twist from The Sixth Sense was absent. I think it takes a very special recipe to make a movie moment magical, lasting and iconic. For it to be just that perfect it must touch audiences (old and new) every time they see it, and as such, it then usually seeps its way into pop culture lore.


I really really did love the IGN list. It was almost comprehensive...almost. Feel free to share some that you think they may have missed in the comments. Or share some of your favorites from it. Some of my favorites, were.....well obviously their #1 pick...which I won't spoil. Citizen Kane's rosebud, Jaws' first appearance, and the shower scene in Psycho (which was the moment that came in #1 on the Reelz list) are all fantastic....a part of movie history as well as instrumental to each film's successes. The subway scene in The Seven Year Itch is the iconic image almost everyone thinks of when they think of Marilyn Monroe. The dance in the rain from Singin' In The Rain and many of the dance sequences from West Side Story always fill me with awe and really set the standard for musicals in their respective times. The finale of the 1930's King Kong, for its time was incredible...and set its own standard for all special effects that would follow. 26 years later, the chariot race from Ben-Hur continued to set a precedent for action sequences in a film. And in 1993 with the brontosaurus reveal in Jurassic Park (a scene that STILL never fails to give me goosebumps) you could see how far the technology of special effects has really come.


I suppose in that reflection I see that not only are great movie moments memorable, but they're revolutionary. They become a part of history because perhaps they change a part of film forever. How cool is it that one of the entries in the list was The Jazz Singer....the first film ever to be a "talking picture" Now I haven't seen the film myself (and I have heard that there are racist accusations galore...) but really, how great is the line "Wait a minute...wait a minute. You ain't heard nothing yet."? Those lines of dialogue couldn't have been truer....as they changed the face of cinema forever. Wow. look at me geeking out at film history! It's always been one of my favorite things to learn about...big surprise.


Now finally, while we're on the subject of movie moments....I have to also mention movie moments I loved so much that I either have lived...or are determined to live. Okay, I didn't necessarily intend to relive so much of (500) Days of Summer....but I certainly have gone through my own Reality vs. Expectations (another incredible movie moment), as well as the overall feeling of the dancing in the streets and strutting along next to the fountain thing when things were going well. That was life for me I guess. Oh and also the "GET A ROOM" thing once things fell apart. Felt like that more times than I can count. I mentioned the Chicago day felt a little Ferris Bueller (which reminds me...the parade scene is another one of my favorite moments...though I did not experience it! Ha!) I did have an epic lightsaber duel with Anna Hawkins once in our apartment complex 3 years ago. I'd do that again! I also attempted a Julie & Julia night once...with fantastic results. The food was delicious. That reminds me..I still need to make the pies from Waitress. But the moment I am DETERMINED to recreate...would have to be my all-time favorite movie kiss from Breakfast at Tiffany's. Cute guy + me + rain + orange cat = win.



8.14.2011

It's the part I was born to play baby!

So this morning as I was getting ready, my mom was in the other room watching The Music Man. She remarked that Robert Preston was "the only one who could have played the role," that he successfully portrayed that his character WAS a con-man, but likable enough that the audience roots for him as a character and desires him to change and do the right thing. This lead to a discussion on other characters who never could or should be played by anyone else.



My recent blog post on Ferris Bueller came to mind. I don't think anyone else could have carried off the character and made him as likable as Matthew Broderick did. Marty McFly could only have been played by Michael J. Fox, as evidenced by the Eric Stoltz casting mess. Fox has his own unique charm and comic timing that makes a lot of the movie. Harrison Ford does the same thing in both the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises. What would Darth Vader be without the voice of James Earl Jones? Could any other child actor pull off the pain that was required of the role of Cole Sear in The Sixth Sense. The pairing of Bruce Willis as John McClane and Alan Rickman as Hans Gruber made Die Hard the classic it is....otherwise it would just be another generic action film. Their charisma is what made it work! (I'd also mention Alan Rickman in Harry Potter)

Only a few actresses really stood out to me: The Devil Wears Prada, while not my favorite movie of all time by any means...would be NOTHING without Meryl Streep's performance. Enchanted wouldn't have worked with anyone else but Amy Adams. She wasn't acting like a princess in that movie...she became one. I don't know another actress could have played Nina as Natalie Portman played her in Black Swan.



Classically speaking, we agreed on Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, Jimmy Stewart in It's a Wonderful Life  and Audrey Hepburn's turn in Breakfast at Tiffany's. Each role is central to their respective movie, and each actor pulls off every aspect that is necessary to their character.





Then the next question was about roles played by several actors and who played it best. Elizabeth Bennet, Jo March, Sherlock Holmes, Mr. Darcy, Superman, Lois Lane, Batman, the Joker....everyone's got their opinions on who played best, and conversely what actors have been miscast! For me, one of the worst is Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane in Superman Returns. One of the best was one I thought was miscast when I heard the casting...Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight. It's funny how some casting choices can make or break a movie huh?

What do you think are some of the best and worst casting choices of all time?

8.10.2011

Monkeys and More!

Last Friday I went to see the last of the summer blockbusters: Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Probably one too many "of the's" in the title...but honestly...that's probably one of the only things the movie doesn't get right! It's funny, I think me and everyone else in the world had absolutely no belief this movie would be anything other than ridiculous. I don't think one person would have guessed that this would be one of the best and most entertaining movies of not only the summer, but the year. Top 5 fave summer movies...in no order: Super 8, Harry Potter, Captain America, X-men: First Class and Apes.

The film not only reboots the decades-old franchise The Planet of the Apes, but acts as a nice prequel to the series as well. The film stars James Franco as a scientist looking for the cure for Alzheimer's Disease in hopes of aiding his father (played by Jon Lithgow,) who has been suffering for years. But before they can test it on humans they have to test it on...you guessed it...the chimps. But the movie is really not about James Franco at all. It's all about the chimp they take in (which my brother Nephi insists is parallel to what would have happened if I kept this adorable stray kitten and raised him.)


Who wouldn't want to live in a world overrun with kittens?

The movie is surprisingly fascinating the entire time, and again just completely entertaining. As weird as it is to say about a prequel/reboot....I don't know that I can think of many films quite like it. Hats off again to Andy Serkis who makes this character absolutely real and...well...human. The rest of the cast was fine too. I mean...not a lot had too much to do *cough Freida Pinto had a pointless role but is lovely anyway cough* It definitely must be mentioned that Tom Felton AKA D Draco Malfoy has a role. The kid is gonna be typecast as the whiny brat kid I'll tell you that....but I found him pretty hilarious. All in all...it's fantastic. A thrill ride with some truly jaw-dropping moments. I think....I'm gonna give it a 9 and say see it in theaters for sure!

With that done what's left to look forward to? Well, of course, there's more to movies than just blockbusters and luckily there are a few I'm really looking forward to. Including, but not limited to:
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30 Minutes or Less
- Another comedy from the director of Zombieland and once again featuring Jesse Eisenberg, as well as Aziz Ansari. Looks hilarious. But so far has only gotten decent reviews (but there's still plenty of time for the reviews to go back up...)

The Help - Basically everyone I know and their dog has read this book. I'm not really that interested, but am a little intrigued by the hype the book has generated...  I'm sure it will be good enough.


One Day
- I'm iffy on Anne Hathaway with an English accent...but this is by the director of An Education...so I'm thinking there's probably mo
re depth than meets the eye here. The latter half of the trailer I think is really good (the first half I probably just didn't go for the voice over narration...I'm kind of over that in trailers...) Plus I think Jim Sturgess is pretty likable. I think this could be good.

Apollo 18 - Haha! I've been waiting for this one forever just for its terrible tagline
and plot alone. I'm hoping this is a so bad it's a good one....but could just be bad.

Restless
- This looks like a more age appropriate Harold & Maude...but I thought it looks good though! My jury is still out on Mia Wasikowska though I think..

50/50 -
Yess! What a cast! Featuring my lovable guys Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Seth Rogen...with my beloved JGL finding out he
has cancer. I also really like Bryce Dallas Howard and Anna Kendrick. The trailer here looks really good and I think this one could be an amazing flick...as long as the crude humor doesn't completely take over.

What's Your Number?
T his probably will end up as a by-the-numbers thing....but as long as writing is decent enough and the actors are likable enough I'm game. We've got half of it down because I like Anna Faris...and...you know my feelings on Chris Evans.
Take Shelter - I've seen this preview a few times in front of some indie
films this summer. It looks like it could be pretty crazy...that reminds me...I still need to see Tree of Life

Dirty Girl
- Haha ...okay the title is iffy. But this looks like a charming little indie flick. Perhaps this year's Juno character...minus the pregnancy thing. Ha

Like Crazy - The two trailers I've seen for this film are absolutely beautiful. I wanted to see this one back in Sundance...especially after it cleaned up pretty well at the selections at that festival. This movie looks just incredible. Real, fresh and honest. The story of two college students, one British and one American..and the visa that complicates their lives. But then again....I've thought that with several trailers of romantic films through the last little while....maybe the trailer editors of Hollywood are just getting more and more talented at making movies look good. Going the Distance, Something Borrowed and Crazy, Stupid, Love all had pretty great trailers (the latter because it didn't include hardly a scene with the stupid 13-year-old kid...if only the movie had been so wise)....so here's hoping I don't get burned by falling for this movie based on its trailer. again.

That pretty much covers the fall flicks. We'll get into the holiday ones when it's time....but dang I can't even think about that. I don't want to lose the sunny weather!

8.04.2011

Movie Catchup!

It's time to post a few mini reviews of some of the films I've been watching recently. I've been a busy girl. Captain America, Cowboys & Aliens,and Crazy, Stupid, Love. To explain my feelings on the movie I have the most ranting to do, I would like to quote one of the best pieces of wisdom I've ever come across when reading Rotten Tomatoes. When reviewing Avatar, a critic named Rob Vaux said:

"Nothing destroys a decent movie more than calling it great, and while this one's a little better than decent, it's definitely a long way from great."

Seriously. I can't think of a truer statement that reflects my pet peeve when people overwhelmingly embrace films full of flaws, and then proceed to gush about it being the best of its genre good. Bugs the CRAP out of me. While I found this statement incredibly true for Avatar, I'm also finding it very accurate for one of the summer's most recent releases: Crazy, Stupid, Love.


I'm finding that this film is a critical darling and a real people pleaser. Even people whose opinions I normally value are fawning over this one. I just don't understand it. Don't get me wrong. The film is not without its merits. I love Ryan Gosling, and he was great in it. I liked the comparison of he and Carrell's character who was fine enough...though when he gets in "everyman" mode it basically just seems like Dan in Real Life 2.0 and bits of Michael Scott always seems to creep in. But whatever. I also loved Emma Stone. A kid at work said I have a "girl crush on her." maybe he's right. But I definitely felt the film could have benefited from more of her presence.

Honestly though...I just thought the whole movie was a mess. There's a very central plot-line that drags down the whole film for me, and has a Grease-esque type message (not the same message, but the same type quality/tone of message.) That I'm like "Okay so the moral of the story is just to stalk someone until they like you? Oh great! Is that all??" Great one for the kids. For me I honestly can't understand all the love this movie is getting. Just because a little more effort than usual was put into it and people crave that, still doesn't mean it's good! It just goes to show that the competition is even worse! I'm afraid this is another Emily vs. The World type movie where I am the Elaine Benes who tries to convince everyone that the English Patient sucked. Anyway...I give it a 6.5 and say it's worth a dollar movie or a rental in redbox. Meh. But don't listen to me...because I may be the only one besides Kent Dunn and also Courtney and Paige Wightman (holler) who hates this one.

Moving on.
I also watched Cowboys & Aliens right before Stupid Love (oops did I forget to spell out the whole title? Goodness me!) What to say about that movie. It's certainly fun while you're watching it. But...it's pretty forgettable. It just is. Not going to change your life, but it will entertain you for a bit.However, once it's done it will leave you with no thoughts...except apparently for a group of imdb users who talked extensively about Daniel Craig's rear end! Haha. And when did Harrison Ford become so crotchety? I certainly loved parts...but I think it could have been more...it had a lot of potential. I would probably give this a 6.5 as well and ditto the dollar movies/redbox.

As some of you may recall from my summer preview list, I mentioned that I was a... ahem... a fan of Chris Evans. Haha! Well, I certainly got what I wanted from Captain America! Haha I jest! But I'm not gonna lie...it does bump things up a bit for me. I did love the period piece feel of it. And Steven Rogers is definitely a noble hero. Sure...he doesn't have as much personality as Evan's other counterpart...Johnny Storm aka the Human Torch (which btw I was reading that in the comics there was a few stories where the two interacted. crazy that he played both!) but he's very sweet and likable nonetheless...but maybe I'm biased. I really liked the romance in the film, and was surprised to read afterwards that what happens with them is very true to the comics...I can't say more but I want to. It made me the most excited of any of these Marvel films for the prospect of The Avengers...the whole movie was basically a set up of it...but an entertaining setup nonetheless. I think I'll give it a 7.3 and say it's worth a matinee.

Also this week to attempt to slowly get Ann back in the real world we watched Tangled. I've seen this a few times now, but I never get over what a sweet and adorable film it is. I heard rumors Disney was done making animated films, but I sure hope not because Tangled really is wonderful (even if it means my niece equates me with the villainness in the film! ha!) I also finally got around to watching Let Me In, the American remake of the Swedish film Let The Right One In. It's a story about a 12 year old boy who befriends the 12 year old girl vampire next door. Sure that plot sounds like something out of Goosebumps...but it was pretty much amazing. Very well done and very thought provoking. Honestly, I thought it was fascinating and truly suspenseful.

One final thought. Who knows why some movies resonate with us and others turn us off completely. Another quote that I love (besides the first one I shared) comes from Shakespeare "Expectation is the root of all heartache." You can replace heartache with disappointment...or unhappiness or whatever. But truly....expectations color a lot of how you feel about something. I had very high expectations for Crazy, Stupid, Love. I adored the trailer and all the marketing (honestly...they put the best/funniest/most poignant moments in them....so once you'd already seen it there wasn't too much more the film had to offer...though don't get me wrong there were things..) so I hoped this could be like my next 5DOS...so...expectations can be a tricky thing when you get far from what you wanted. The thing about Captain America and Cowboys & Aliens? No one called them great. I had lowered expectations for Captain America after some friends' reviews...so in that case, since they were low I had plenty of room to be surprised. Funny how that works huh? I guess that's why it's best not to try to have expectations at all...but then where would the fun be in that?