9.13.2013

Retread or Worthy Successor?

There's a general rule that remains true 99% of the time with horror movie sequels. Of which rule do I speak? Horror sequels are a big let down; an unoriginal retread of a superior first film that is generally forgettable on its own ....not to mention awful. Besides that, the genre hasn't really had that great of luck in even coming up with buzzworthy original films in a long time...let alone sequels to said films. Three years ago an unexpected surprise came in the form of Insidious. The low budget indie horror film managed to score the thrills it needed to while simultaneously being a modest success with audiences. Those factors in its favor, the film begged for a sequel. But besides that it made sense financially, the story was left on a complete twisty cliffhanger and needed its resolution even more. Thus, a sequel was born. Could Insidious' second chapter defy the odds and be in the one percent of films in that genre that AREN'T that way?? Well the results on that front seem to vary from critic to critic...so the consensus still seems to be a bit unclear (though seemingly more on the negative side,) I have to say as far as I'm concerned it absolutely is the exception to that rule.


Now you might disagree if you hold the first movie in a VERY high regard (read my original review HERE)....or if The Conjuring gave you sky high expectations of what James Wan would do this time around. But for me, who has yet to see The Conjuring,  and who liked Insidious a lot, but felt that it had some flaws (Darth Maul the demon for one...who I had a hard time taking seriously but happens to be completely absent from the sequel,) I really enjoyed what Insidious Chapter 2 brought to the table. It has its moments of retread, but for the most part I felt it was really fresh and worked even better was an homage to some of my favorite horror classics than the first film did [SPOILER highlight to read] definite traces of The Shining and Psycho in there which I loved every moment of! [/SPOILER] Basically, I feel that there was a lot more backstory given to the ghosts...they weren't just random like they were in the first movie and I appreciated that. Plus I found the tension to be extremely high during the whole film, even if there were quite a few moments of comic relief to break it up (the "ghostbusters" take on a more comedic role this time around.)

Yes, this film abounds in cliches, but the way it revels in them is just too fun for me to roll my eyes at. There might not be any BIG scares, but the relentless tension made up for it for me. Patrick Wilson's creepy performance that was set up nicely by the predecessor is one of the highlights to be sure. He definitely managed to terrify me a few times. But the tension was pretty balanced from the back story, scenes in the further, moments in a truly haunted house, flashbacks, as well as the present story. I also enjoyed the way they were able to bring back a certain character from the first film...even if the dubbing of her younger self was quite awful.

So all in all, it might not be THE horror film of the year, but Insidious Chapter 2 is a beyond decent entry in the horror genre and one of the few sequels that isn't an abomination to the original's memory. MY RATING: 7/10. Bring on October

9.09.2013

Casting a Miscast

With the one-two punch of the reactions over Ben Affleck as the new Batman, combined with the uproar fans are causing over the 50 Shades of Grey leads, a blog prompt came my way. The subject? Miscasting. For the casting of the first onscreen pairing of Superman and Batman, they picked Affleck? What? How? Why? I....I just don't understand. Affleck's new thing is that he's a pretty fabulous director! And now he wants to take on (and possibly dare I say ruin) one of the most iconic roles there is? Stick with what you're really good at Ben! It's just too soon. It was a mere YEAR ago the world had OUR Batman. Couldn't you have thrown enough money for him to return?? And really? Affleck is the best you could get? I mean as of late he has been decent, but after his first superhero outing as Daredevil...he's got a lot to prove, and Christian Bale set the bar REALLY high.  The pick definitely is a gamble. I firmly believe that there are a few choices that would have put the people more at ease right from the get go (Michael Fassbender anyone?)



As for the 50 Shades of Grey casting? I admit I could not care an iota about this...but find it quite amusing nonetheless. Charlie Hunnam is a dashing enough guy...but when I saw who the fans wanted??? Well....I can't say I blame them. Laurie described him as "the perfect male specimen." Indeed. (Do yourself a favor and IMDB Matt Bomer.) Unhappiness over Dakota Johnson I can see more. I've never realllly gotten her appeal, but you never know, maybe she'll channel more of her Grandma (Tippi Hedren) than her mom (Melanie Griffiths.) And maybe their chemistry will be just electric and exactly what is required. I won't know or care because I will probably never see it...but the point is...sometimes weird casting choices work. And sometimes they fail miserably (but so do ones that seemingly made sense too.) With that, I've decided to present a list of 5 surprising choices that worked, and 5 of the biggest blunders. Enjoy!

5 ODD CASTING CHOICES THAT WORKED: 


DANIEL CRAIG IN CASINO ROYALE - I remember hearing that this guy was gonna be the next James Bond? Him? But....he's...gasp. BLONDE. And from what I thought then (which I know is blasphemy now...) he didn't seem all that attractive or James Bondy. I mean...where's the tall, dark and handsome in Daniel Craig? But when I actually saw the movie? What a Bond! Perhaps even my favorite... But the man definitely brought something new to the role and played it smoothly. Now I can't even picture anyone else in the role...for the time being at least!


JIM CARREY IN THE TRUMAN SHOW AND ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND- Who knew the goofball actor would be able to do anything else beyond Jerry Lewis style comedy? The Truman Show was so unlike anything he'd ever done. The man was just down to earth and an everyday fellow. There was a real person there...not just a caricature. Then he managed to do the same thing again in Eternal Sunshine, but somehow even rawer. These two performances were completely unexpected and probably remain the highlight of his career.

HEATH LEDGER IN THE DARK KNIGHT - This one is the most obvious of all...because it was the most shockingly good of them all! When I heard they picked HEATH LEDGER as the joker. I was absolutely flabbergasted. Everyone was! This former teen heartthrob whose last role was playing a gay cowboy (with a ridiculous accent) is somehow gonna be transformed into Batman's greatest nemesis? I didn't see it...AT ALL. And magically....he did just that and turned in one of the most chillingly villainous performances in cinematic history, earning him a posthumous Academy Award. His joker was an instant classic, ranking up with the likes of Hannibal Lecter, Darth Vader, and Norman Bates.

KEIRA KNIGHTLEY IN PRIDE & PREJUDICE - Keira Knightley was one of the most sought after actresses following her introduction to the world in the first  Pirates of the Caribbean. But after the flop of King Arthur, it kind of remained to be seen how great of acting chops the girl actually had. Then you go and cast her in one of the most iconic literary female roles of all time? Plus...Keira Knightley is breathtakingly beautiful...Elizabeth Bennet is supposed to have the beauty to be sure, but she's not the one to first be noticed in her family! Could they play down her beauty enough? Did she have the fierceness to handle the role anyway? I was definitely skeptical. While her performance might not have one over the people still obsessed with the 6-hour snorefest (haha sorry guys I'm saying it..) I think she did a fabulous job capturing the essence of one of my favorite characters...AND the Academy thought so too. (Special mention, her counterpart Matthew Macfadyen could have been added on here as well because in the previews I was DEFINITELY not sold on him...though no I can't imagine anyone else.)


ANNE HATHAWAY IN THE DARK KNIGHT RISES AND LES MISERABLES - For some reason, Anne Hathaway seems to be one of the most hated actresses working today. Whether it's her public persona alone or the fact that she doesn't pull it off with people in her roles...she just doesn't have people loving her. When it was announced she won both of these roles, people seemed to be in an uproar....especially since her latest was the awful One Day in which she sports a HORRIBLE British accent. How is she gonna pull off Catwoman or Fantine?? But she proved the haters wrong and made an excellent Catwoman, and then received both raves from the critics Oscar gold for her powerhouse portrayal of Fantine.

HONORABLE MENTION: MATTHEW MCCONOUGHEY IN BERNIE AND MUD.

5 HORRIBLE CASTING CHOICES THAT DIDN'T WORK:


GEORGE CLOONEY IN BATMAN AND ROBIN - Maybe this made sense to someone. He definitely comes off as a playboy bachelor in his personal life so why can't he make a convincing Bruce Wayne...or his alter ego? Was the directing to blame? The over-focus on Robin? The cartoony villains? That bat suit... Well, all of it combined to make a pretty spectacularly BAD movie. But George Clooney definitely had something to do with it. He just...wasnot Batman. I don't know that I can express why in words. But...he just wasn't. That I think is what people fear in Affleck's casting, but we'll have to wait and see if he follows in Clooney's footsteps.

JAKE LLOYD IN STAR WARS EPISODE I: THE PHANTOM MENACE - No I'm not gonna mention his successor in the role, haters can take care of that for me even if I'd rather they didn't. Let's just focus on young Anakin. I've seen the screentests, and they were SOOO close to picking the kid that could have nailed it. Even in the audition you could see how wooden Lloyd was. It was purely the look of him that won him the role. But there's more to casting than just looks I'm afraid.


KATIE HOLMES/MAGGIE GYLLENHAAL IN BATMAN BEGINS AND THE DARK KNIGHT - I make it no secret of my disdain for this character regardless of who is playing her. But somehow, both of these actresses were so unbelievably miscast! Katie Holmes made a believable love interest...but a believable DA? Not in this life. Then they decided to overcorrect and find a believable DA...but this time forgot about the love interest part. Sure this isn't the most important role in the world...and I honestly could have come up with far more serious offenses than these. But...these casting choices REALLY bug me. Much like the one below.


KATE BOSWORTH IN SUPERMAN RETURNS - When will the big screen take a few cues from the small screen in how to get the character of Lois Lane right!? I almost even considered adding Amy Adams along side Bosworth, but resisted since she at least attempted to act spunky. I suppose it wasn't her fault they didn't give her a believable romantic arc with Superman...or tried to make her actually physically resemble the character, so we'll go back to the problems with Bosworth. The girl does not make a believable Pulitzer Prize winning journalist firstly. And secondly can you get any more blah? Lois is fiery, fierce and fun. Bosworth's Lois was just there. If only Parker Posey had gotten her role instead.


MICKEY ROONEY IN BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S - If there was ever once a miscast that came close to ruining an entire film, it was this one. This casting is wrong in every single way possible. Why is Mickey Rooney playing an Asian? The look and the voice were....pretty horrible. By today's standards of course everyone rips it apart, and well it's hard not to justify that. Luckily the movie has much more going for it than this awful performance, so it's best to try not to remember it exists and still love the movie anyway.

HONORABLE MENTION: VINCE VAUGHN - PSYCHO, PIERCE BROSNAN - MAMMA MIA. 

Oh and one more honorable mention is found HERE. Which I must admit really cracked me up. Now I know I most definitely scratched the surface and there are far worse miscasts in the history of film, but these were some of my least favorites. You're welcome to share your thoughts on mine, and some of yours in the comments below.

9.08.2013

Calling All Geeks!

Over the weekend, I attended my, as well as my state's, very first Comic Con. What was the experience like? Utter chaos and claustrophobia meet every nerd's wildest dream. What do I mean? Well, let's just say that almost every single geek, nerd and film buff alike in Utah all had the same plan to be in the same tiny city all at once. But then...once they got there it was a mecca of geekdom. Everywhere you looked people were in costume and sometimes I must admit I didn't even know what the heck they were supposed to be from...and for me, that's weird. There were entire fandoms that were a mystery to Amelia and I..though I must admit it made me feel pretty good to claim ignorance. But somehow I guess it was a place where every geek could show their love for the things they're obsessed with....which leads me to my collage to the right...



As the top picture suggests, I was all too delighted to find that while there were many bizarre fandoms that I hadn't even heard of represented, one fandom that everyone knows and loves...my Star Wars fandom, was exceptionally represented. A life size R2-D2, as well as the droid  Uncle Owen almost bought  (he's got a bad motivator!) a Han Solo frozen in carbonite, a golden Threepio, Stormtroopers and of course Darth Vader were all there on hand. As you can imagine, all of this made me a very happy girl. I was too sheepish to wait in the line to get my picture taken with Vader and the stormtroopers, but around the corner I saw a game called "Shoot a Stormtrooper for Charity" Only a dollar? Yes, please. But besides the replicas and characters walking around there was oodles of Star Wars art to be found in the various booths. I bought a few mini postcards, as well as some fridge magnets to help spice up my apartment (trust me...it's not completely a Star Wars shrine...I promise!)

They look afraid don't they? That's because they know Princess Emily is the best shot in the galaxy.

My brand new magnets!

But Star Wars wasn't the only thing the Con had going for it. There was a cool Lord of the Rings prop shop, a Dr. Who elevator, some awesome lego displays, cool booths everywhere and....minor celebrities. Haha well, not all minor. I did catch a glimpse of Henry Winkler, Lou Ferrigno, Dean Cain, Kevin Sorbo (somehow I find that one the most humorous...) and David Prowse. Annnnnnd Mr. William Shatner and Adam West in a fun little panel where they interviewed each other. At first it was kind of rambling, but it got to be pretty entertaining when some guests from the audience got to ask some questions. Two of my favorite tidbits of the weekend came from that. One was Shatner revealing he likes to reenact his Twilight Zone episode, "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" for flight attendants during airplane rides. The other was when a fan basically convinced Shatner to guest star on an episode of The Big Bang Theory by applause alone. If news breaks of a guest appearance on the show for this upcoming season, we all know who to thank! The other panel we tried to get into was a "Star Wars vs. Star Trek and the Rise of JJ Abrams," but unfortunately we underestimated the power of getting in line early. So instead we settled for a panel on the horror genre: what works and what doesn't. You can only guess the whole thing with that panel, combined with the costumes I saw everywhere...I'm getting ready for Halloween! But back to the Con, all in all I must say I had a great time at my first Comic Con...and it definitely made me only more eager to check out the Mother of all Cons in San Diego!

9.05.2013

The Coast with the Most and the City by the Bay

CAUTION: LONG POST AHEAD!!

Time to recap my latest adventure...while it's still fresh in my mind! Two weeks ago my friends and I embarked on a journey to San Francisco, Santa Cruz and Big Sur...locations that are very familiar in the world of film, so naturally I'd been dying to pay this part of the country a visit (and really who can say no to cheap airfare?) I'd been to San Francisco before, but probably a good 15 years ago. I loved it then and have been dying to go back ever since...especially when I happen to watch a film set in SF. Some favorites that come to mind in case you want to try and relive our trip cinematically are: Vertigo, Just Like Heaven, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, The Bachelor, The Birds and the newest addition: Blue Jasmine. Coastal Cali wise check out Ruby Sparks, Mother and People Like Us...for the scenery only on the last one. Oh and finally Shutter Island, because it REALLY reminds me of Alcatraz. And if THAT isn't enough...check out Courtney and Amelia's posts on the subject. Courtney's HERE and the first part of Amelia's HERE. Oh and check out #CAbyconvertible on Instagram or twitter.

There's a lot to cover... but here are some of the highlights. I'll go with expectations (based on the movies) vs. reality once again. Oh and before we start I'd like to thank Courtney for letting me raid her photos!!

The Journey Begins...

OUR RIDE
Expectation? First and foremost, there would be well-behaving hair as the sea breeze would gently tousle our manes...for stylish purposes only.  It would always be warm as the sun would beat upon our skin. We would drive in luxury and at our leisure as we took in the coast. Amelia would have a scarf that blew in the wind. And there would be PLENTY of room for everyone involved. REALITY? Well it was definitely an experience I'm glad we got to be a part of (really it WAS a lot of fun,) but my GOODNESS I was having nothing but bad hair moments this trip due to our vehicle that I hadn't really considered would be a problem beforehand. [Side note: yes I know To Catch A Thief wasn't set in SF.]

Don't believe it's a coincidence I couldn't find any pictures of me with my horrible hair while riding in the convertible....I wouldn't allow myself to be photographed in such a manner!!




BY SEA
Like our experiences in the vehicle, our cruise around the bay would be similar! Our hair would most certainly behave (my bangs would never resemble the silhouette of Homer Simpson's head...but maybe the problem here was that I didn't take Mark and Leo's cue to get myself a hat.) And it'd be warm...and perhaps sunnier than the picture reflects. But in actuality...the picture was kind of right as SF is an incredibly foggy place! But going past Alcatraz was almost like floating past a movie set. Shutter Island is spot on regarding that one.

Seriously...doesn't this just look like a movie set??

THE CITY BY THE BAY
San Francisco is just magical. Filmmakers know it, and so here there was definitely the least discrepancy in reality vs. expectation.... aside from certain parts of the city being unfortunately FLOODED with tourists. We really only had an afternoon, but I took the time I had to admire the uniqueness of the city, with it's great architecture and overall beauty. As I said, we didn't have time for much, but what we did I must say I enjoyed immensely. You can see how a city like this could be the setting for so many different stories... whether it's Full House or Vertigo. San Francisco could be the backdrop for anyone.

First view of the city is a lovely one!

Per my mother's request..

Everywhere you look...

HOME SWEET HOME
Earlier in the summer my sister stayed in a beach house, and I must admit I became taken with the idea. It's so cinematical! Such a different experience than a hotel. Plus Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind...and um every Nicholas Sparks movie in existence seems to be quite taken with them too. There just seems to be something lovely and peaceful about a house on a much more private beach that not everyone knows about. Thankfully everything worked out and we were able to stay in quite a lovely one that rivaled some pretty nice cinematic ones! I must say the private beach filled with sand dollars was my favorite. I could spend eternity there...

Our Condo! Looks kind of like the Eternal Sunshine one huh??

To the beach from the house. I wish I could wake up every morning walking over to this!

AMUSEMENT? DON'T MIND IF WE DO.
Ever since the movie Like Crazy came out that had a large portion set at the Santa Monica pier...I've been DYING to go to visit an amusement park pier beach. My wish was granted when we decided to spend a day in Santa Cruz. But the fantastic park wasn't the only thing that area had to offer... Cute colored beach houses that lined the sand in Capitola was our first stop. Next came the rides at the pier, followed by a swim in the ocean. After that, we visited a gorgeous hidden beach in Davenport. The sight there were stunning and reminded me of New Zealand. Once we had our fill of the beach we ate dinner at a restaurant that I will crave for the rest of my life. Later we checked out an anti-gravity spot and simultaneously I got to enjoy feeling like I was on the forest moon of Endor with all the redwoods that surrounded me! Then we finished off our loooong day with a stroll along another coast!

This place was just adorable. 

I love how the beach and the park are side by side!

I could do a whole blog dedicated to this beach!! If I lived there, this would be my spot.

BBQ Bacon Cheeseburger on Sourdough with Garlic Parmesan Fries. I want this so bad..

The only thing that would make this better would be speeder bikes!

We were too tired to climb down, but now I'm wishing we had!

YES SUR!
The next day we departed to Big Sur! But first we hit up the tiny town Carmel for a quick picnic and unintentional trek from our parking lot to the beach. The day as all the others was extremely foggy so the sky was almost as white as the sand...but I thought it was a pretty beach all the same! Soon after we left that town, the REAL drive began and the stunning views were just as breathtaking as they had been portrayed in the films that made me long to do this in the first place! One of the beaches that I wanted to see the most was closed (the one where From Here to Eternity was shot..) but driving along Pacific Coast Highway through Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park was grand enough on its own. While we were there we stopped to see McWay Falls and were utterly captivated by its beauty. The waterfall crashing on the beach made it seem to be one of the most exquisite beaches in existence...but, unfortunately, impossible (and illegal) to step foot on. We ended the day with the combination of Point Lobos and Monterey (in which we received roses at our fancy lil seafood restaurant on the wharf.) Vacation: successful. I only hope I get a chance to spend more time there someday.

Carmel. I loved the white sands!

I probably should include this one to prove Amelia Martinez also came on our trip..

McWay Falls. Candidate for most beautiful beach award! This picture has no filter!!
Unlike this one which is heavily filtered but still cute right??

The Monterey Wharf. Simply adorable. 

Goodbye Cali. You were wonderful. Hope to see you again soon!

If you stuck with me til the end I'm impressed. Now go home. The movie is over!