8.29.2014

Fall Fever

Now that the big films are done until November, I'd like to present ten smaller films coming out this fall whose trailers have caught my eye.

FRANK

 
Frank first debuted at Sundance and is out now in limited release. This fall the film should make its way to more theaters and I can't wait. The trailer is so uniquely crazy that it looks like it could be a lot of fun.

THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ELEANOR RIGBY

Ahhh! This is my type of movie. This trailer has already doomed me to having sky-high expectations that this could be on the (500) Days of Summer level of honestly portraying relationships. I love the whole two sides of every story concept (last effectively used in Flipped, and in a different way with He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not) and I can't wait to see it used here. Plus Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy? What a great pairing. I can't wait.

GONE GIRL

Both trailers for David Fincher's next film Gone Girl about a husband whose wife went missing and the investigation around him looks fascinating. This could be one of the finest of the year.

 LAGGIES
Laggies also premiered at Sundance and was one of the top ten I was looking forward to at the fest. It finally comes to theaters now, and the trailer looks like a perfect dramedy. Plus Sam Rockwell makes anything instantly better!


THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING

Who knew that a biopic of Stephen Hawking would be one of the films I'm most looking forward to this winter! The trailer is beautiful and I can only hope the film is too. Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones, you guys better bring it!

GOD HELP THE GIRL

Hey, guess what? I already saw this one back at Sundance! Here's my original review HERE.
What can I say? I heartily enjoyed it then and I can't wait to see it again when it is released widely.

THE JUDGE

This movie could either be really great or really predictable. Maybe even a bit of both. I like the feel of the trailer though, plus the movie benefits from a pretty solid cast. Aside from Downey Jr, I really love Vera Farmiga and Robert DuVall. Here's hoping it's good.

WHIPLASH

Okay, so I already saw this movie at Sundance too. Original review HERE
I think I felt more tense at this movie than any summer blockbuster...or any movie really in quite a long time. It's something else.

BIRDMAN

This black comedy about a washed-up, movie star looks really intriguing. Plus it's got people buzzing about an Oscar nom for Michael Keaton. It's definitely got my attention.


ST VINCENT 
Okay so yes this does kind of look EXACTLY like a remake or sequel to About A Boy, this time starring Bill Murray. But is that really a bad thing?

So those are the ten I'm most looking forward to but leave it to the indies to have more come out that fly under my radar!
 

8.27.2014

Summer Cinema Summary

The summer is drawing to an end, and so has the blockbuster season. I decided to do a retrospective on some of the best and worst films that summer 2014 had to offer. For an alternate wrap up of the summer check out Showtime Showdown's list HERE


BEST: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Original review HERE. Apes narrowly beat out three other contenders to earn this title. It's a solid film that wins because it feels so different from every other summer blockbuster. I mean, the fact that they can focus on the tension between a couple of primates for a good solid hour is beyond impressive. And don't even get me started on those downright incredible special effects.


WORST: Maleficent. Original review HERE. I still am honestly shocked that anyone could and does like this garbage, let alone love it. I thought the movie looked dumb when I saw the trailers, but I couldn't have imagined in my wildest dreams how awful it would truly be. All beauty, no substance and desecrating one of Disney's most beloved classics and most iconic villains. Ugh times a billion.

MOST DISAPPOINTING: Godzilla. Original review HERE. The previews for this film made it look like they finally got Godzilla right. And perhaps they did… but they sure as heck didn't get the humans around him right, which to make a lasting film is just as crucial. Incredible action, at the end of the day, should be secondary to memorable characters. When you don't care if they live or die, it doesn't make you as a member of the audience feel very invested in the movie. Shame. The previews really showed its potential.

MOST OVERRATED: Guardians of the Galaxy. Original review HERE. Every time this movie is praised, a fairy dies... Or an angel loses its wings. Actually what really happens is that hacks are rewarded while creativity and originality are pushed to the side. This movie is the exact same movie as The Avengers! Do you not noticed this, or do you just not care if you get the same thing repackaged a billion times over? If you don't that's fine...just don't act like this is God's gift to the cinema when it is nothing more than a couple of entertaining hours.

MOST UNDERRATED: The Amazing Spider-man 2. Original review HERE. So many haters of this movie. You may not have liked the villains, but that doesn't take away from how great the human drama is from the main characters. They make you care about this story more than you probably should, and to me that kind of connection to a character in the film is invaluable. It's not so much the love story as the feeling that these characters are actually human… Which is so rare to see in almost any film released now, let alone a comic book movie. Yet people can't get past the villain(s) or pacing. Didn't stop them from liking Guardians...

MOST SURPRISINGLY GOOD: Edge of Tomorrow. Expectations truly are everything. From the trailers this honestly looked like the most genericly stupid movie, so I was more than happy to discover how wonderful it actually was. Unexpected humor and strong characters, combined with a fun story and great action, made this one of the best movies of the summer. Not to mention one of the most original. Too bad not that many people saw it… maybe if it had had the Marvel label on its name (grumble)


MOVIE I'M MOST ASHAMED I HAVEN'T SEEN: Boyhood. There goes all my street cred for not having seen the most critically lauded film of the year right? I will eventually, and I can't wait. You don't get much better than perfect scores from Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic. Plus everyone I've talked to has only overwhelmingly good things to say about it.

BEST MOVIE YOU'VE NEVER HEARD OF UNLESS YOU FOLLOW THE CAREERS OF THE HARRY POTTER CAST: Belle, What If. Review for What If HERE. Malfoy plays his usual sniveling type in the wonderful period drama Belle. Meanwhile, Harry Potter himself can be found in the romantic comedy that I earlier reviewed this week, What If. Both films are incredibly solid, and draw you in. I only wish that more people knew about them.


MY 5  FAVORITE MAJOR RELEASE FILMS OF THE SUMMER: 


1. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.  Can't wait to see where the franchise takes us next.
2. Edge of Tomorrow. Loved this so much I saw it 3 times.
3. X-men Days of Future Past. Original review HERE. This film was so much fun and wins the best film sequence so far this year. What's his face mutant was AWESOME.
4. The Amazing Spider-man 2. Marc Webb brings the heart to this Spider-man and I can't get enough.
5. The Fault in Our Stars. Original review HERE. You can hate on this film all you want for being a melodrama, but there is some sincerity and earnestness here that you don't find much in cinema today.


Farewell summer cinema. See you this time next year.

8.25.2014

What If I Stay

Last weekend, (locally at least...) two films made their debuts in theaters that both focused on romantic dilemmas and both happened to have really bland, yet similar titles. So I decided to review them side by side, just for the sake of a good movie title mashup (see blog title. Also RIP Jeff Vice, whose favorite game this was.) So without further ado, I'll give you my thoughts on What If, and If I Stay.

We'll begin with the more mainstream option: If I Stay. The movie centers on a character (I'm not gonna lie....I already forgot everyone's name in this...) played by Chloe Moretz, who happens to be in a coma. Her and her family were in a serious car accident and were all rushed to the hospital, and SPOILER ALERT(highlight to read) none of her family survives. /SPOILER ALERT. The nurse tells her, it's up to her if she wants to live or not, she's just gotta fight for it. So she recalls everything going on in her life to evaluate whether she should pass on or keep fighting. Right before the accident, she was caught between wanting to pursue a musical education at Julliard and following her heart of course. Very inconvenient when the possible love of your life lives across the country amirite? If I Stay has its moments. It certainly poses some interesting ideas and questions to the viewer. But it was definitely too long, and for me... a little overly schmaltzy. Something was off too in the casting of the family in particular. Chloe Moretz did a fine job, but everyone around her was kinda hard to buy. Minus the girl (from Flipped) who played her best friend. The movie could have used a few less make out scenes, and more of the BFF. I give it a 6/10 on a generous day.

My biggest issue with the movie was the wardrobe crew for giving her a tiny skirt to wear in THE MIDDLE OF WINTER!

Now let's talk What If? I heartily enjoyed this movie....and I gotta say if Daniel Radcliffe had been switched out for JGL, this might be one of my new favorite movies! That's not to say the guy doesn't do a fine job....it's just, well... he shouldn't really be a romantic lead (even if he DOES fit the character of someone who would be friend-zoned.) For a romantic movie to work when one of the characters has two viable romantic options, the audience should naturally come to the same conclusion of which one she or he should be with. That's not to say the choice shouldn't be complex, or something that can be argued; but generally it should be clear enough. Their chemistry makes up for it, but all I'm saying is at times it was pretty hard to buy. However, that didn't really detract me from liking the movie when in other cases it could have. The writing makes up for it, as does Zoe Kazan. I already liked her work in Ruby Sparks and happythankyoumoreplease, and once again she's one of the best things about the movie she's in. But luckily these two didn't have to carry the whole movie. What If benefits from a strong supporting cast, which I think is huge in rom-coms...or any movie really. The only thing I would change (besides some of the language I guess..) is some of the attempts at whimsy. Zoe's character is an illustrator and every now again her weird illustrations pop up, and the volume at which they did so was odd. Either go full on out with whimsy like Amelie, (500) Days of Summer or Annie Hall. Otherwise, stick to the realism. EMILY RATING: 8/10.

8.04.2014

Evolution of Film

Last week on twitter, I came across a question that was retweeted by one of my fellow movie bloggers. The question was: Could you tell the history of Hollywood in only 10 movies? I thought the challenge was fascinating, and after reading two sets of answers to the question...I decided to throw my own picks into the hat. You can read the post that caught my eye HERE and the original HERE. Now, the history of Hollywood is a pretty broad topic... do you choose purely films that represent an era? Do you choose those considered "greatest" of the greats? Many options to consider here, and I'd love to hear any thoughts... but I decided to choose films that illustrated the evolution of how a story was told by the medium. Or more precisely, films that paved the way for the movies that we know today. The other authors chose not to go with some of the more "obvious" choices... but there were a few that I just couldn't pick alternatives to. So without further ado, let's start with the oldest.

THE BIRTH OF A NATION - There were many noteworthy films that paved the way to DW Griffith's civil war epic that are probably better and less ahem...racist, but this film almost single-handedly created the idea of film as a business all on its own. While others such as Georges Melies and Edwin S. Porter were trying to utilize the idea of film as a narrative, (that shots could be pieced together to create a story...) they still kept those stories relatively short. The stories they told kept their ideas slim and their visuals broad and indefinite. Here DW extends the idea of a short film suggesting a simple idea, to a feature length narrative that tells a story with much less interpretation. The other huge thing this film marked in history that absolutely lead to the beginning of Hollywood as we know it? That movies meant money. DW showed that a film was a forced to be reckoned with by spending a whole lot of money on them, and expecting a profit in return. Up until then, this film was the most expensive ever made because he saw his budget as an investment...and he planned to charge people much more than they had been paying in order to see it. Well, it all paid off and a million dollar industry was born.

THE JAZZ SINGER - From silent feature-length narratives we come next to the advent of sound. Yes, this is another dated film in its' sensibilities when viewed in a modern context....but it's undeniably monumental in film history. The use of sound changed EVERYTHING in how a story was told because suddenly there was a whole new world that had to be taken into consideration when creating. Before heavy visual emotion was relied upon, but now it was all about what people said and how they said it.

KING KONG - I never cease to be amazed at how much filmmakers were able to do during the dawn of movies. Cool and incredibly creative special effects certainly existed before King Kong (see A Trip to the Moon)... but this was a landmark in that almost any story a person could imagine could find a way to the silver screen, even if that story contained a gigantic ape. Even if it seemed impossible, King Kong found a way to manipulate what the audience saw by the way they chose to film things. These tricks became a part of a film and from this point onward, they would never stop evolving!

THE WIZARD OF OZ - Just as how the Jazz Singer introduced sound, the introduction of color to film similarly changed the landscape of the movie making business forever. This along with Gone With the Wind was two of the earliest and most notable feature length color films. GWTW was such an epic in its own right and just missed edging out Oz on this list, and while being a huge milestone in cinema for a myriad of other reasons, I think it's The Wizard of Oz that I'm going to pick to be the representation of the color change. After all, we literally see the main character move from a colorless existence into a bright, beautiful world of not only wonder...but opportunity. It's almost a perfect parallel of the change to color in the film itself. So many possibilities were opened up in how the look of things could be, and consequently now a million other factors were to be taken into consideration before a story was told. Set design, costume, makeup, and above all cinematography now had to really shine.

CITIZEN KANE - Yes this movie was kept on the other two lists for being too obvious, but sometimes things are obvious for a reason, and, therefore, there's no better example. So far we've covered that a film could be a story, the story can be told with sound, visual effects, and color. Now is where we get to the fact that this visual story can be a layered art form filled with symbolism. Every element of filmmaking is working toward its underlying theme in Citizen Kane. On the surface, we see a biography, but through the visual space between the characters and the hollowness of the sound....we know there's much more going on here. We see a mystery unfold. The method of storytelling and the use of each filmmaking aspect in creating art set a standard of filmmaking.

RASHOMON - Okay maybe I'm cheating since this is a foreign film, how can it define Hollywood history? Well, it does so by bending perceptions of how a story is told and who it's told by. Here things unfold piece by piece, and the standard chronological and sequential story template we know and are comfortable with is shattered. The other brilliant thing we see here is how the same moment can change depending on whose perspective we see it from. Basically, Rashomon moves us into a whole new world of complex storytelling and film would absolutely be all the better for it.

ON THE WATERFRONT - So while filmmakers are constantly becoming more daring, there's still something generally missing at this point: method acting. Actors still generally follow the guidelines from the silent age that their actions need to be big in order to be expressive. Marlon Brando was one of the first to try something a little different: to be someone new in everything you saw him in. His performances had a subtle beauty, and his famous speech here would only inspire other actors and screenwriters alike to step up their game.

2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY - With Citizen Kane we saw how film could be used as an art form to tell a story. 2001: A Space Odyssey marks how film could become the type of piece that's art for art's sake. Kane had an objective underlying theme told through film elements, whereas 2001 presents something far more abstract and subjective told through a series of random (or seemingly random from your perspective...) images and sounds. It allowed for film to be something that was discussed and interpreted, rather than seen for entertainment and forgotten.

STAR WARS - I could have easily swapped this one with Jaws in terms of the birth of the blockbuster, but I think Star Wars had a much more lasting cultural effect (that and I'm terribly biased to the galaxy far far away....) In the late 70's, film shifts to becoming a mass crowd pleaser and popcorn flicks emerge. The movie landscape changes forever with successful franchising, and ILM shows that even battles in space can be told on screen and look believable. With the release and reception of Star Wars, the sky was the limit and blockbusters thereafter would follow suit.

TITANIC - And now we come full circle. With Birth of a Nation, creator DW Griffiths poured countless money into a film that he hoped would make a profit. He showed that having a big budget was something to be embraced if you had enough confidence of a return. James Cameron did the same thing in 1997 with Titanic, a film with a colossal budget that made its money back....and THEN some. From here, box office receipts and how a film performed meant everything....even at expense of the quality. As long as something is a moneymaker that's all that matters. Hollywood has always been a business, but from here a real shift has occurred that we've never been able to bounce back from. That shift has influenced our summer and winter movie lineups ever since, and allowed for more popcorn films being considered as serious fare.

Well. I obviously couldn't cover it all (I didn't even get to animated stories, in which I would have included Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, as well as Toy Story...) But tell me, which ones were grave mistakes to leave off the list? Or tell me what your ten would be!

8.01.2014

For the Geeks of the Galaxy

I've been putting off writing this review for almost two weeks now....because I know I'm bound to make some enemies. So...I suppose if you can't handle someone finding flaws in something you're bound to love, maybe go read one of my lists instead of this review. Let me get something off of my chest right now: I don't understand the unending positiveness around EVERY Marvel Studios film whether it's Iron Man 2 or Captain America: The Winter Soldier. No matter what Marvel churns out it is always positively received by not only audiences...but critics too! And why not? They're fun, harmless popcorn films, right? For the most part yes, but if there's one thing I HATE it's overpraising something that's merely average. Overpraising and refusing to acknowledge flaws downright pisses me off (see Avatar,) and makes what would be a decent enough film something I can't stand....merely because of its reception. So I'll admit, all of that clouds my opinion but yet as I sat in that screening and my audience ate up every last line and action sequence I knew history was repeating itself as it does with every Marvel release.

Let's take a look at my expectations of this particular film: this film boasted something I was a bit more excited about than any recent Marvel film, namely the inclusion of an amiable warm lead in Chris Pratt. Now, I love the looks of Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth as much as the next red-blooded straight female, but neither of them are the greatest comedic actors on the planet....or the galaxy haha (side note: what's with Marvel hiring so many guys named Chris?) Pratt, on the other hand, constantly cracks me up no matter what he's in...and thankfully the same is true here. His introduction to the film was the best part and set the tone for the whole movie. I was excited from his first scene while he bops around listening to a mixtape full of 70's music. I did go into the movie with low expectations, but after this scene I honestly thought I was gonna be proved wrong. But then at some point I just felt the whole thing ran out of gas.


I'll be fair, there were moments and scenes that I absolutely loved. That setup as I mentioned was great, but other touches were appreciated as well...yet somehow the vanilla Marvelness prevailed in the end. If there was ever a movie that was just going through the motions, it's this one. The first half held my interest, and then I realized how "paint by numbers" everything was. My good friend Kent perfectly described it...yet left it out of his review, that the movie was funny...yet wasn't actually FUN. In my review of Captain America: The Winter Soldier (which like this, everyone and their dog love but me...) I mentioned how the screenwriters seemed to feel that no character depth was needed; instead they could rely on previous characterization we've seen without building them up further in the current installment. This time the characters are all brand new, yet somehow every single one of them still just felt copied and pasted; you could predict everyone to a tee because they're nothing more than concepts. Honestly, you've seen it all before. But I'm sure you liked it then and you'll like it now. However, I can't completely hate a movie that coins the term "pelvic sorcery" because that's gold. I have plenty more thoughts....but I think I've ranted enough. EMILY RATING: 6/10