1.30.2015

Sundance Review: Mistress America

Sundance is winding down, but I've still got a few reviews left in me. Wednesday night I was fortunate to have tickets to the delightful Noah Baumbach/Greta Gerwig collaboration Mistress America. This movie might be criticized for being a too precious indie film at first glance (akin to its predecessor Frances Ha which I also did, in fact, like,) but I actually found the film to be extremely true to life in the characters and ideas they presented. Maybe that's because one of my best friends reminded me of her with her constant crazy schemes for restaurant ideas (most specifically "I'll have what she's having") It's a tough call between this film and Dying Girl for my favorite film I've gotten to see at the festival, I seem to flip flop every day! Both resonate and are incredibly funny, but Mistress is kinda breezy while Dying Girl is more weighty. So really it depends on what your mood.

The plot follows a lonely girl named Tracy in her first semester of college. An aspiring writer, she finds it hard to find friends... other than a guy she bonds with through writing short stories who quickly friendzones her. Her mother urges her to seek out a friendship with her soon to be step-sister named Brooke to fill the void. Once meeting the vivacious daughter of her mother's fiancee, Tracy finally has a muse to base her short stories on. It's really as simple as that on paper, but a lot more to it because of the characters. What I love most about Mistress America is that these characters seem lived in. Just the smallest touches from Tracy's disheveled hair to the broken iPhone screen.. these feel like real people we all know.



That realness and relatability aren't the only things it has going for it though. It also has in its favor that it's incredibly funny, witty and quotable. I'm paraphrasing here, but a line like "I can't wait to fast forward to the part of my life where everyone realizes I'm a genius." had me in stitches. Unlike previous Gerwig movies, she comes across as more human here and less with the pontificating voice. In fact there's hardly time for such slow pondering as many of the scenes at the end are spoken so fast it's hard to keep up with them (but fun to try!) My only REAL complaint is that I guess it had more cat stealing like was promised in the Sundance official description. Sad day. EMILY RATING: 8.5/10

1.29.2015

Sundance Review: The Witch

It's no secret to long time readers of my site that I'm a big fan of the horror genre (if done well that is.) I wasn't completely sure what I was getting myself into when I decided on the spur of the moment to get a ticket to this movie. Since it was premiering in the drama category as opposed to the special horror section, the water was muddied in trying to classify what The Witch was. Would this end up being a historical horror film like I secretly hoped? Or was it merely a psychological period piece drama? On the one hand, a name like The Witch had to promise a scare right? The promo photos and the setting of puritanical New England had me very encouraged. But other than that there wasn't much for me to go off of. So what exactly was it? Well, your mileage may vary, but personally I consider anything with [SPOILER highlight to read] possessions, infant sacrifices or communications with Satan [/END SPOILER] to be firmly rooted in the horror genre.


So let's get one thing straight. This movie is MESSED. There were more "what the? why... howwww.. um... OH THE HUMANITY" moments than I can count (and sadly I was by myself so I couldn't share such wonderful moments with the ones I love...instead I settled for a really funny old couple next to me.) This movie was... well evil. In that horror genre way where I kind of love it but it freaks me out at the same time. It gave me everything I hoped for in utilizing its setting (after all I'm always lamenting that there aren't more Salem witch trial focused movies..) and yet managed to completely surprise me in how far it was willing to take its themes.



That's not to say all of the risks worked. Two instances, in particular, that were meant to be huge gasp moments I found to be kind of humorously amusing. One involves a bird and the other involves a random shapeshift. The first one especially is never fully explained either.. but I guess we can come up to our own conclusions. To me, neither moment builds up to as much as was hoped... but there are plenty of other scenes to make up for that. And what make the really effective scenes work is no doubt the suffocatingly freaky music. Even in the beginning when the action hasn't happened yet that score is ever present and just makes you feel unsettled. That feeling basically never lets up. There are no big name stars in The Witch, but the story draws you in so much that you easily forget about that. It doesn't hurt that everyone gives pretty good performances too. Also, I'm not sure if this is to the film's strength of detriment...but it features two of the most annoying children characters I can even recall. Tonally this is a very moody film from the cinematography, performances, the general look, and that spooky score. Whether or not you find this movie to actually be scary depends on your horror genre tastes. There's not exactly torture porn in this film or anything... but it has its own messed up stuff. One thing is for sure: this film is gonna be a must for Halloween viewing. EMILY RATING: 8.5/10

1.27.2015

Sundance Review: Brooklyn

This is the first of two reviews of films I saw at the Sundance Festival Tuesday (look for my review on The Witch sometime tomorrow hopefully.) Brooklyn follows the story of an Irish immigrant named Eilis who leaves her family and her country in the 1950's in hopes of making a living for herself. From the promo pictures released of this film you'd be led to believe that Domhnall Gleeson (the lovable lad from About Time, Frank, and The Force Awakens) and Saoirse Ronan (Atonement, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Hanna and that awful Host movie) share equal screen time and it's "their story." These set of expectations were thrown for a loop when it turned out to really and purely be Saoirse's movie and [SPOILER highlight to read] Domhnall doesn't even really appear until the last 40 minutes or so... he is actually relegated to being the disposable love interest. sniff. [/END SPOILERS] Saoirse is a lovely actress and gives the role her all. However... I just always found myself liking every side character more than her. As much as Ronan does most of the heavy lifting, she has quite the supporting cast to fall back on... and they're what make the movie for me.

Besides the cast though, what really drew me to this film was the fact that the screenplay had been written by Nick Hornby (though based off a novel by Colm Toibin.) I consider About A Boy to be a witty marvelous gem of a film... and I'm also fond of An Education as well. Brooklyn is not an About A Boy for me because I just don't love the main character. But it does share quite a lot of similarities to An Education. Like that film, it's a bright and beautiful mid-century period piece that's certainly fun to gawk at. I definitely heard a few collective "Ooohs" over some of the shots of New York. Both lead characters also happen to be young women who make some questionable choices with regard to their love lives that make the more experienced viewer cringe. Unlike some Hornby written films though, I'm not sure I'm given as much insight into some of the characters choices. I mean on a surface level I can understand some of the choices she makes, but without verbalizing her inner thoughts a lot of her actions toward the end of the movie feel out of character. This makes parts of the ending feel unearned (though the moments that are earned are very beautiful.)

Essentially for me Brooklyn is a good film that was tempered by my expectations (to be fair...when someone is second billed you expect them to be the second biggest character.) I suppose though if I had the choice to give any one character more screen time though it wouldn't be either of her love interests! Instead, I'd pick to have far more of the silly 8-year-old brother of her American suitor. As I said though, the story is Saoirse's character and there's more to it than just a love triangle. I really enjoyed seeing her journey of learning how to survive so far away from her home...and how in fact she could create a new one. Brooklyn is a solid film that if nothing else...is incredibly beautiful to look at. EMILY RATING: 8/10

Sundance Review: Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

The Sundance film festival is in full swing and I finally have a review to show for it! Last night I went to a screening of Me, and Earl and the Dying Girl. There are some Sundance movies that I love immediately (The Way, Way Back, and Liberal Arts) and others I know I like an awful lot.. but I need time to ponder just how much (God Help the Girl...which shortly after reflection I came to love dearly.) Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (which from here on out we will refer to simply as Dying Girl) fits into the latter category. I found a lot I absolutely admired, but like the main character of Dying Girl, I guess I have a hard time fully embracing something without the certainty of love? That's not to say I didn't like the film. The fact is, I really really liked it. I just don't know if I can say THE L-word (no not lesbians.) But as with the case of God Help the Girl, I am sure my affection will grow for this film with time.



Dying Girl follows the story of Greg Gaines, a high school boy with a desire to exist peacefully and somewhat invisibly, among the many cliques that surround him. If he can't identify himself as one particular type he can't be really be rejected; he's content to keep people at arms length. His status-quo is thrown a wrench when his mother forces him to befriend a neighbor girl named Rachel who has just been diagnosed with leukemia. The film acts as a chronicle of their friendship while also acquainting us more with Greg's issues. Also along the way we learn of Greg and his "co-worker" Earl's fondness for filmmaking (akin to the protagonists of Son of Rambow and Be Kind Rewind.) The sequences that showcase their many collaborative efforts were undoubtedly the biggest crowd-pleasing moments of the night. But as much as I love film and appreciate those homages, for me it was the quieter moments that are sticking with me.

The first half of the film is absolute fun as our narrator paints the portrait of his life and burgeoning friendship with Rachel... but it wouldn't really work without a main character we like as much as Greg. He's funny but flawed and his self-deprecating humor is endearing to all who see shades of ourselves in him. The other two character represented in the title have much depth to them as well, with Earl being the less developed since the focus isn't really on him. All three though are given real moments to shine and make their characters become three dimensional and they all succeed. The first half is kind of frantic, but when it slows down there's a quiet power in two scenes in particular. The framing of the shot shows both characters on screen, neither one looking at each other really... Just showing their reactions to the conversation, they're having and the shot just lingers on and on. It happens twice and it was just beautiful.

Though it may seem like a standard cancer movie, it is told any way but conventionally. I really liked the visual style... But after too much it also gave me a headache. The camera is always moving and is almost a character itself. I normally love these kinda shots and it seemed as though it was done to make us all feel like we were in the story...but really the amount of it all just made me dizzy. This headache fog wasn't helped by the fact that the narration set me up with a set of expectations for how much plot there was left to go which made me constantly aware of the run-time. I appreciate its dramatic purpose and no I didn't have a problem with what happens... I just was constantly thinking in my brain what was left to happen to meet the narration and it overwhelmed me. These two things (as well as an over enthusiastic lady sitting next to me..) are what's keeping me from saying the L word just yet. Repeated viewings (and sitting further away to help reduce the headaches from the constant camera movements,) I'm confident will help. EMILY RATING: 9/10

Emily Edit: Now after seeing it three times before its release, I can say with confidence....I love this movie. And I've upped my rating to a 9.

1.20.2015

Dinner & A Movie: Toasters

Time for another recap of a recent dining experience! Today's restaurant du jour is named Toasters and it specializes in one of my favorite kinds of sandwiches: paninis. Like The Green Pig Pub, I'd suggest that Toasters is more of a "lunch & a flick." than a real eat out dinner option. Toasters have three locations in Salt Lake City, but the location I chose to dine was at 30 East and 300 South. 

PRICE: 
$ = 5-10 avg. per entree 
$$ = 10-15 avg. per entree 
$$$ = 15-20 avg. per entree 
$$$$ = 20-30 avg. per entree 
$$$$$ = $30+ and above per entree.

Toasters is $



RATINGS: 1 star = Poor, 2 stars = fair, 3 stars = good, 4 stars = very good, and 5 stars = AMAZING. 

FOOD




Soooo. Fun fact about my Toasters dining experience... I actually spread this restaurant post out over two visits. The first time I went with my friend Shauny, I was so hungry I had eaten my whole sandwich before remembering I was supposed to be blogging about that particular sandwich. Oops. I mean... At least I got the pic of her salad before she dug in, but I guess I couldn't wait any longer to eat my sandwich. So to make up for it, I went back and tried another sandwich so I'll be reviewing two different items today. The sandwich on visit the first was the prosciutto sandwich that I held all the veggies off of... so it was simply prosciutto, balsamic, mayo and cheese. It was simple yet delicious. The second was a grilled chicken, bacon & avocado panini. I love avocados and throwing bacon on top of them is always a good idea. Both sandwiches were solid lunch options and very tasty. EMILY RATING: 4.


SERVICE

As I mentioned in the last section, I came to Toasters on two separate occasions and the service was very different both days due to how busy it was. The first time was incredibly empty and thus the service was perfectly fine. The second time the line was insane and the stress of the workers showed. It's a bit harder to judge the service of this type of restaurant since your interaction with the workers is much more minimal. Here you'll order at the counter, then find your own table and they'll bring you the food when it's ready. It's hard to get that kind of interaction wrong and for the most part I wouldn't say they did. However, one of the workers did glare at Amelia when she attempted to clear off a table for ourselves since there weren't any others that were ready. Glaring employees? Not so good. EMILY RATING: 3.5 combined rating. (4 for visit #1, 3 for visit #2)


AMBIANCE


For a casual lunch place, the ambiance of Toasters is really quite perfect. When you walk in there's a nice little couch waiting area; so if you're meeting your friends for lunch and they happen to be late you can make yourself comfy while we wait (which I may or may not have had to do on one of these visits haha.) Overhead the ceiling's air vent is covered in colorful bumper stickers and everywhere you look there's something to catch your attention. But my FAVORITE thing to look at? The AWESOME European candy selection right at the front counter to tempt you to add an unnecessary dessert to your meal.  EMILY RATING: for a lunch place.. I give this a 5.

Would you just LOOK at those chocolates??

SHAUNY SAYS: I enjoyed my experience at Toasters. The restaurant was clean and welcoming and the service friendly and timely. I ate the strawberry walnut salad with a tangy house vinaigrette. Everything in the salad was fresh and crisp. I enjoyed the unique blend of flavors and textures. The salad combined crisp lettuce, sweet strawberries, tart cranberries, ripe avocado, delicious feta cheese, and tomatoes. I would stop in again and recommend it to friends.

COURTNEY SAYS: I like the cute little area up front with the cute couch and artwork. It's great for a lunch place, especially the candy station!! And in the summer they even have a patio. Every time I go to Toasters I order the roast beef panini and I love it. For that, I give the food a 5. It's unique and there's the chocolate.

AMELIA COULD NOT BE REACHED FOR COMMENT. Sources theorize that Amelia was so upset at that glaring employee and just generally underwhelmed that she did not want to add her two cents.

The verdict? Toasters is a reliably good lunch place. The sandwiches are superb and the chocolate options are wonderful. 

& A movie. I may regret using this one up so early into my Dinner & A Movie series... but for a sandwich place I've got to go with When Harry Met Sally. One of the most iconic scenes of a film takes place in a sandwich shop, so there's no better movie to watch if you've taken a recent trip to Toasters. Out in theaters, of course, there's the surprising blockbuster American Sniper, the surprising critical hit Paddington... annnnnd this weekend begins the Sundance Film Festival. 

1.14.2015

Sneakin a Sundance Peek

One week from now the Christmas for movie lovers begins. Just as every January rolls around, so with it comes the Sundance Film Festival. And as usual there are oodles of movies that have piqued my interest. I'll be attending four this year (with the final one to be the best of fest, and thus a wild card..) which is the most I've ever done! Watch out for next year though... I may just go all out. For now though, here's the top ten films I'm most excited about this Festival go 'round.


10. Z FOR ZACHARIAH. Sundance Summary: In a post-apocalyptic world, a young woman who believes she is the last human on Earth meets a dying scientist searching for survivors. Their relationship becomes tenuous when another survivor appears. As the two men compete for the woman’s affection, their primal urges begin to reveal their true nature.

What caught my interest: The premise and the cast! Margot Robbie (Wolf of Wall Street, About Time,) Chris Pine (Star Trek, Jack Ryan) and Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years A Slave) are all solid performers and I'm incredibly intrigued to see how they'd all play together in this post-apocalyptic love triangle film.

9. THE BRONZE.  Sundance Summary: In 2004, Hope Ann Greggory became an American hero after winning the bronze medal for the women’s gymnastics team. Today, she’s still living in her small hometown, washed-up and embittered. Stuck in the past, Hope must reassess her life when a promising young gymnast threatens her local celebrity status.

...they create a lovably loathsome character who makes Tonya Harding look like Grace Kelly. Featuring a star-making performance by Rauch, unforgettable scenes, and many quotable lines, The Bronze is comedy gold.

What caught my interest: Who doesn't like bratty entitled former Olympians? Here there's only one cast member I recognize is the talented Gary Cole who is wonderful in pretty much everything he's in. But really.. that synopsis of that film pretty much sells me.



8. THE WITCH. Sundance Summary: A colonial family leaves plantation life and attempts to reap their harvest on a fledgling farm at the edge of an imposing ancient New England forest. Soon, superstition and dread set in as food grows scarce, a family member goes missing, and the children's play takes on a frenzied and menacing undercurrent. As they begin to turn on one another, the malevolent machinations of an ethereal presence from within the woods exacerbate the growing corruption of their own natures.

What caught my interest: I'm of the opinion that there need to be far more stories about the Salem witch trials and the scandals around the 1600's so I was thrilled to learn of this movie's existence. I'm not familiar with any of the cast or crew... but I hope it's great.

7. BROOKLYN. Sundance Summary: Set on opposite sides of the Atlantic, John Crowley’s Brooklyn tells the profoundly moving story of Eilis Lacey, a young Irish immigrant navigating her way through 1950s Brooklyn. Lured by the promise of America, Eilis departs Ireland and the comfort of her mother’s home for the shores of New York City. The initial shackles of homesickness quickly diminish as a fresh romance sweeps Eilis into the intoxicating charm of love. But soon, her new vivacity is disrupted by her past, and Eilis must choose between two countries and the lives that exist within.

Based on Colm Toibin’s acclaimed novel, director Crowley and writer Nick Hornby craft a deeply effective, sweeping romance. The sumptuous filmmaking vividly depicts a rapidly progressing world. Surrounded by a stellar cast of supporting characters, Saoirse Ronan gives a captivating performance as the luminous Eilis. The heart of this highly accomplished work evokes a timeless portrait of leaving home and the excruciating decisions one must make.


What caught my interest: The involvement of writer Nick Hornby (Fever Pitch, About A Boy, An Education, Wild) definitely put this film on my radar. But the fact that it pairs Saoirse Ronan and Domhnall Gleeson made me pretty darn excited too. As I'm writing this I'm thinking I might have to find a way to see this movie even though I didn't order tickets for it!


6. ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL. Sundance Summary: Greg Gaines is an awkward, self-deprecating high school student determined to coast through his senior year as anonymously as possible. Avoiding social interactions like the plague, Greg spends most of his time remaking wacky versions of classic movies with his only friend, Earl. Greg’s well-meaning mother intervenes, forcing him to befriend Rachel, a classmate who's been diagnosed with leukemia. Against his better judgment, Greg concedes. Both Greg and Rachel are surprised—even shocked—to find out that they actually like each other. Tentative at first, this unlikely duo becomes inseparable. But when Rachel gets sicker, Greg’s well-fortified world is changed forever. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl will tickle your funny bone and tug at your heart.

What caught my interest: This plot. Also the fact that Nick Offerman is in this and the last Sundance movie I saw with him in it was The Kings of Summer, which I LOVED. But really I always love movies about filmmaking so that angle intrigues me. Hopefully, the other stuff isn't too schmaltzy. But this sounds like it could be another Son of Rambow, which is a very good thing.



5. THE D TRAIN.  Sundance Summary: Dan Landsman is the overly enthusiastic head of his high school reunion committee and also the group's laughingstock. To impress his so-called friends, he vows to convince their most famous former classmate—Oliver Lawless, the star of a national Banana Boat TV commercial—to attend the reunion to increase attendance. Dan travels to Los Angeles and spins a web of lies, igniting an intoxicating excitement for the first time in his humdrum life. In exchange for Oliver's precarious friendship, Dan sacrifices his relationships with his wife, son, and boss, and loses himself in his obsession for approval and recognition.

In their bold directorial debut, Andrew Mogel and Jarrad Paul tell the story of a man desperate to fit in at nearly any cost. Jack Black's Dan Landsman is both lovable and pathetic in his quest to prove his self-worth to others. As played by James Marsden,Oliver's charm and good looks are alluring, yet his vanity and apathy are dangerously manipulative. These surprisingly relatable characters remind us that our desire for social acceptance goes way beyond adolescence and can plague us well into adulthood.


What caught my interest: Okay really all that needed to be said were the names Jack Black and James Marsden.


4. DIGGING FOR FIRE. Sundance Summary: Young married couple Tim and Lee have planted the seeds of a family in their East L.A. duplex. Three years after the birth of their son, they’re still adjusting to the joy and pain of life with kid, navigating potty talk at the dinner table, disagreeing over preschools, and putting off doing their taxes. For a change of pace, they decide to house-sit for one of Lee’s Westside yoga clients. Once there, Tim discovers something suspicious in the yard that gets the wheels in his head turning, and Lee, worried that he will become obsessed with digging deeper, decides to drop their toddler off with her mother for a much-needed night out on the town. Sans-wife, Tim invites his buddies over, and a “boys-will-be-boys” scenario ensues, full of drinking, awkward joint-passing, and perhaps getting a bit too close to a girl who isn’t the mother of his child. 

Under Swanberg’s direction, Rosemarie DeWitt and Jake Johnson deliver dead-on portrayals of parents on the verge of a nervous breakdown that will ring true to anyone who has ever juggled parenthood with keeping a marriage exciting.


What caught my interest: I'm really not sure what it is about this movie that has me so intrigued. I guess thinking of Jake Johnson, Anna Kendrick and Orlando Bloom all being somehow in the same movie?

3. DON VERDEAN. Sundance Summary: Don Verdean is a man of faith who has devoted his life to biblical archaeology, scouring the globe in search of artifacts that back up the teachings of Jesus Christ. Now, traveling from town to town, he and his devoted assistant, Carol, spread the gospel by peddling books and DVDs out of his shabby RV, while his Holy Land contacts, Boaz and Shem, do the digging from afar. When evangelical preacher Tony Lazarus offers to bankroll Don’s modest roadside operation, the escalating pressure to find increasingly significant relics leads Don and his team down a less-than-righteous path. With more than just the word of God on the line, Don finds himself in the midst of a spiteful feud between two opposing congregations, leaving him to question what is truly important in life.

With a fantastic ensemble cast in tow, director Jared Hess returns to the Sundance Film Festival with this hilarious and biting satire that explores the thin line between faith and fabrication.


What caught my interest: Jared Hess can be pretty hit or miss. His first two films were cult classics, but his most recent was AWFUL. It's been 5 years since that and in between his wife directed Austenland... so here's hoping it's more on that end of the spectrum. Also I love Sam Rockwell. So there's that. (That said... Sam Rockwell was in Gentlemen Broncos too.. ehhh.) Really hope this film is not terrible.

2. MISTRESS AMERICA. Sundance Summary: Tracy, a lonely college freshman in New York, is having neither the exciting university experience nor the glamorous metropolitan lifestyle she envisioned. But when she is taken in by her soon-to-be stepsister, Brooke—a resident of Times Square and adventurous gal about town—she is rescued from her disappointment and seduced by Brooke's alluringly mad schemes. Mistress America is Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig's new comedy about dream-chasing, score-settling, and cat stealing.

What caught my attention: movie about cat stealing? COUNT ME IN. Also I really enjoyed Greta Gerwig and Noah Baumbach's last collaboration was the amusing Frances Ha. Greta Gerwig seems to specialize in playing awkward women and thus I feel I sort of relate with her.




1. TRUE STORY. Sundance Summary: On-the-rise New York Times Magazine writer Michael Finkel receives troubling news from his editors that he is accused of falsifying part of an investigative piece on child laborers in Africa. Jobless and disgraced, Michael retreats from the city and falls into a depression. One day, he hears startling news that a fugitive accused of murdering his family was captured in Mexico claiming the identity of "Michael Finkel of The New York Times." Intrigued by the story, he travels to interview the accused, identified as Christian Longo, to help save his name.

Rupert Goold’s shrewd first feature pits Jonah Hill against James Franco in a psychological cat-and-mouse game obscured by many "truths." As the two calculating men share their stories in private, their similarities become clear while their motivations are less so. David Kajganich scripts Finkel’s memoir into a subtle portrait of an unlikely friendship.




What interested me:
 Wow what a plot! And even crazier it's a true story. This sounds absolutely fascinating. As much as I enjoy Franco and Hill in comedic roles, I do enjoy their serious work as well and this sounds like it could be a great film for both of them.

To find out more about these films and others that are screening at the Sundance Film Festival click HERE.

1.13.2015

The Underrated, Undiscovered and Unappreciated of 2014

PROCEED WITH CAUTION: VERY LONG LIST AHEAD. No, still no sign of THE Top Ten yet (that is..my Top Ten Favorite Films of 2014.) But in the meantime to balance out my hater lists of the worst and the unwatchables, I've decided to celebrate the good films of 2014 that got the shaft for one reason or another. Whether critics gave them a bad rap (the underrated), audiences failed to connect with them and/or forgot about their existence (the under-appreciated), or people just plain never heard about or saw these films (the undiscovered)

THE UNDERRATED


THE GIVER. The Giver had a LOT to live up to, both in my expectations and thousands of others who held this book dear to their hearts. For many, the problem was liberties that were taken with the book. For others, it was that this was a movie that did too much pondering and contained not enough action. But for me? I think there's a lot to really like about this movie. For one thing, it's got some really nice cinematography. I loved the gradual introduction of colors to the palate we see. Yes I wished some of the dream sequences were a little less lazy and more like the first couple we see... but that doesn't change how great those first few memories were. Personally, I felt it was a respectful adaptation with much of Lois Lowry's wonderful themes on full display. Yes, I wish some things had been explored in more depth no doubt, but was it deserving of its incredibly low score on Rotten Tomatoes? Absolutely not. RT SCORE: 36% EMILY RATING: 7/10



THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2. Original review HERE Poor unfortunate movie. Critics hated you, and audiences didn't seem to like you much either. Yes, you made a lot of money, but now your studio is shaky on your future and this Andrew Garfield Spider-man loving girl couldn't be more depressed. I've heard the complaints. The villains weren't as strong as they could have been. For the record.. Dane DeHaan was great and I didn't mind Jamie Foxx's campy take. At least they were memorable villains and had some personality. You can't say the same for the last 5 Marvel movies (save Loki only...) but who said superhero movies were only about villains anyway? This film has such great human characters! We have a superhero with a pulse and a sense of humor... but somehow no one can appreciate it. Heaven forbid it's a superhero movie that tries to have its own personality instead of conforming to the Marvel formula. RT SCORE: 53% EMILY RATING: 8.5/10



ROBOCOP. Original review HERE. I saw this last winter expecting it to be truly awful. To my surprise, it was actually incredibly entertaining. Maybe expectations are everything... but I have a hard time thinking anyone expected this to be SO GOOD that they were actually disappointed. It explores interesting ideas of its premise and makes the most of them. It features a great supporting cast and some awesome special effects. For an action film, it goes down easy and doesn't make you feel TOO stupid afterward! RT SCORE: 48% EMILY RATING: 6.5/10




MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT. Perhaps coming off of the fantastic Blue Jasmine, a breezy comedy like Magic In the Moonlight was destined to disappoint. But it's a shame in my book because I found this movie to be absolutely delightful. I was constantly laughing, smiling and enjoying every minute. But besides that, the movie had some good things to say from old Woody Allen about what he considers the mysteries of life...and if there is, in fact, any magic to it. I thought it was a charming film and very undeserving of its mixed reception. RT SCORE: 51% EMILY RATING: 8/10




WORDS AND PICTURES. With this film, I expected a light fluffy romantic comedy with a touch of drama. I think that's what other critics expected too. Instead, it was actually quite drama heavy, and kind of romance light. Even though it wasn't what I was thinking it would be, I always found myself engaged. I didn't know the focus would be on what a mess these two people are (one in particular...) but as a person who enjoys character studies I dug it. RT SCORE: 42% EMILY RATING: 6.5/10




WISH I WAS HERE. Poor Zach Braff. His first project in nine years was killed by critics before it could reach its arrival. I don't know anyone who actually saw this because of the word of mouth. Curious that the critics were being a tad too harsh I went and checked it out on my own and found I was right. I always find it a little funny when films get criticized for being sentimental.. why is it so wrong to get some kind of sentiment from a film?! Don't we want movies that can touch us and make us feel something? Not that I'm saying this is a perfect film by any means... but I absolutely appreciated some of the things that Braff wanted to say and a lot of it really resonated with me. RT SCORE: 46% EMILY RATING: 7/10


UNDER APPRECIATED

THEY CAME TOGETHER. This film was critically well received, but you wouldn't know it from it's poor IMDB rating of 5.4/10. This satire is silly from start to finish and I can see how it wouldn't be EVERYONE'S cup of tea... but not how it could be as hated by some as it was. There is an audience for this movie, but unfortunately they didn't really get to see it (probably due to the fact that this movie was rated R when they should have shot for a PG-13.) Remember this post I wrote about fake movies in movies? They Came Together is basically like getting a hold of a full copy of one of those movies and watching it. It may get a little old in stretches but I couldn't help but smile at the endless rom-com tropes it blows through with ease. EMILY RATING 7/10




BIG EYES. Original review HERE. I really enjoyed this movie... and most of the people who saw it have for the most part too. Critics and audiences have been generally favorable.. but their comments are usually qualified with some type of restraint. "Oh, it was good but..." This film has a lot going on in it and I'm not sure how many people realized or appreciated that. EMILY RATING: 8.5/10




WHAT IF. Original review HERE. Okay I realize that I myself had a few reservations about this movie when it came out (truth be told I still do.. they just don't matter as much to me anymore.) This movie is definitely the best romantic comedy to hit the screens in 2014, yet it has been mostly forgotten by those who actually did see it. Many people didn't take the opportunity to see it as this film made hardly a thing.. but I'm surprised it hasn't really received much love from anyone while reviewing the year. EMILY RATING: 8/10 (originally) now bumped up to 8.5/10 



BEGIN AGAIN. Begin Again is a breezy, pleasantly heartwarming story about how a song saved two peoples lives. It was both critically and publicly well received... but again seems to be largely forgotten in a year full of some great movies. This film was incredibly amiable with its easy listening tunes filling the soundtrack. The fact that it had two incredibly likable leads in Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightley didn't hurt either. EMILY RATING: 8/10

UNDISCOVERED

THE ONE I LOVE. There are maybe 5 people on this earth that know about the existence of this movie and two of them stumbled upon it while searching Netflix. This movie is pretty much like an episode of The Twilight Zone, but a pretty freaking good episode. A couple in marriage counseling go to a secluded cottage to work on their marriage.. and instead find idealized versions of each other there. The question becomes, can I accept my spouse as they are or do I want to be with the PERFECT version of them. This movie was fascinating and trippy all at once. I really enjoyed it. EMILY RATING: 8.5/10




BELLE. This was an elegant film with a great story and a nice little romance. I remembered seeing comparisons of it to a Jane Austen story when it came out and after seeing it I have to agree. While not the exact same era, the rules are still the same with regard to women's place in society and how they were expected to find a husband. But there's more to the film than that as the attitude toward race at the time is examined at length. This film is incredibly engaging and we're given a likable lead to guide us the whole time. EMILY RATING: 8/10




GOD HELP THE GIRL. I saw this film last year at Sundance, but did the rest of the world ever get that opportunity?? Very few of them it seems. I love this movie. From the music, to the characters (yes even the biatchy Eve,) the choreography, costumes and everything going on in the story... to me it's all great. It may have taken a few viewings for everything to come in focus in terms of my appreciation for it... but I just can't help but find this movie entirely likable even though unfortunately few others have gotten to experience it. EMILY RATING: 8.5/10




LAGGIES. This movie was purely on my radar since I follow films that go to the Sundance Festival. Otherwise? I don't think I ever would have heard of it. There was virtually no advertising for it and I'm not even sure when it actually hit the theaters here. I finally got to see it once it reached VOD and while I wished that one storyline in particular wasn't rushed, I found the rest to be pretty good! Maybe I can just relate with the main character ten years out of high school interacting with high schoolers and evaluating her life. Some of her discoveries resonated with me and everything else just entertained me. Plus I REALLY like Sam Rockwell... Keira Knightley and Chloe Moretz are also favorites of mine as well, but that Sam Rockwell I just like that guy. EMILY RATING: 7.5/10




ENEMY. Wow this movie is a TRIP. Very similar to the Sundance film I saw last year called The Double, this movie explores some similar territory. This time though we switch out Jesse Eisenberg for Jake Gyllenhaal. I'll be honest... once the movie was over I was incredibly confused and I had to watch a subsequent youtube video interpreting the movie before I went "whoaaaaaaa okayyyyy." Haha. So keep in mind this is a movie you have to absolutely be willing to interpret and go with and if you do you'll be rewarded. Or just watch it and be dumbfounded, then search for the answers on youtube. EMILY RATING: 9/10

PLEASE FEEL FREE TO ADD ANY I MISSED IN THE COMMENTS BELOW!

1.08.2015

Top Ten WORST OF 2014

My apologies readers. I WAS planning to get the underrated films of 2014 out before this one to counterbalance the judgment of the unwatchables list. Unfortunately, I just haven't been able to finish that list quite yet. That said... I can't have you waiting for a list that IS already done even if I didn't want to post it yet. So I guess I'll continue on my hater streak and finally tell you about the worst movies I saw in 2014.

10. ENDLESS LOVE

Riddle me this. What do you get when you take every romantic movie cliche possible and mix it with two charmless actors? The answer: Endless Love. This movie desperately wants to join the Nicholas Sparks club of sappy predictable romances (we'll get to him next..) but somehow manages to be more boring and forgettable. Most likely because EVERYTHING is by the numbers

9. THE BEST OF ME

Speaking of good ol' Nicholas Sparks... the man has done it again. Somehow his movies went from being annoying and formulaic to downright preposterous. The last three, in particular, all managed to confound me in the absurdity of certain twists. This time? Let's just say with The Best of Me ol Nick must have been watching Return to Me and pondering to himself how he could make it more depressing. Also, it mUST be said... the guy they got to play the young James Marsden looks NOTHING like him. It's an insult to his likeness. Like really. 

Really. In WHAT universe does this guy grow up to be James Marsden?? They look nothing alike.

8. A MILLION WAYS TO DIE IN THE WEST

This is the first of two films on the list that I admittedly fell asleep in. Is it really fair to put it on this list? From what I DID watch I say yes. When I saw the trailer I remember thinking this was a funny concept. Back in the old west people's mortality was far more fragile and the ways in which this is evident are plenty. Unfortunately, that is basically the only joke this film has to offer. It's basically like a stand-up comedian's set on one joke about people dying in the old west stretched out to a full-length movie. And a movie with one solitary joke isn't very funny.

7. I FRANKENSTEIN

Here's the other movie I might not be fully qualified to judge. But you see.. this time I almost FORCED myself to fall asleep to escape from the drudgery that this movie offered. But while I was awake I couldn't believe the stupidity I was witnessing on film. Aaron Eckhart, you're better than this. In this case, though I asked my viewing companion if I was right to judge the film so harshly once I finally woke up and she confirmed my suspicion.. so I stand by its ranking. Below enjoy some of
Amelia's witticisms while I slumbered.



6. OUIJA

Original review HERE. Ouija... you're the kind of crap that makes people look down on the horror genre. Look, I'll admit that there was a part of me that I enjoyed this film for the "so bad its good component." I mean it's definitely an unintentional comedy but yeah... I've seen Are You Afraid of the Dark episodes that were scarier than this film. 

5. HERCULES

What do I REALLY remember about this film? Seeing it in the Drive-in with Amelia where she actively live tweeted it.. but I was so bored I ended up looking at my phone for the majority of the time and then taking a long trip to the snack bar. Sooo boring and un-engaging! Even my tweets were pretty boring.



4. THE LEGEND OF HERCULES

Now to the Hercules film this year I actually DO remember. (And on that note thanks Hollywood for feeling the need to tell this story twice and not giving us anything good either time.) This one though was absolutely the more ridiculous of the two. I mean that scene with Zeus impregnating Hercules' mom alone made it a sure lock for this list. Like Ouija, this movie was unintentionally hilarious.

3. 3 DAYS TO KILL

Original review HERE. When Courtney and I saw this we were in utter disbelief at how asinine this film was. The tone of it is ALL over the place, but my favorite thing had to be the dubbing of new dialogue over a shot of people clearly saying the old dialogue. I couldn't believe that this film made it to the theater in its condition. Like the trend of other films on the list, I can't say I wasn't entertained... just not in the way the movie wanted me to be entertained.

2. WINTER'S TALE

Original review HERE. This movie is epically bad. It's almost mesmerizing how this movie takes its giant leaps and fails in such spectacular fashion. Years down the line, college courses will be offered dissecting this film's fascinating awfulness. I'll never forget that this film introduced one of the most ridiculous causes of death I've ever seen put to film [SPOILER HIGHLIGHT TO READ] death by Colin Farrell sex. [/END SPOILER]

1. TIE: LEFT BEHIND

This Nicolas Cage film about the rapture may, in fact, be the WORST movie I've ever seen. And no that isn't hyperbole or a phrase I say flippantly. Unfortunately, he doesn't give the same level of hamminess to this role  as in The Wicker Man, (I'm sad to report that here, Cage kinda phones it in...) but the movie itself?? Oh gosh. Even crazier. At first it seems lame but innocent enough.. and THEN... everything changes. And the film cannot return. You can pinpoint the moment where it all goes to pot and it's fabulous. But the worst of all, its portrayal of religion might be the worst I've ever seen. Especially for a film that is trying to promote Christianity. Instead, it does quite the opposite.

1. TIE: MALEFICENT
No Maleficent, I won't keep quiet about how bad your movie sucks.

So what could tie with perhaps the WORST movie I've ever seen? Only my favorite movie to rant about all year. Yes, Left Behind is inarguably the worse film by default... this movie was undoubtedly the film I hated the very most in 2014. This movie does a huge disservice to the film it was inspired by and basically takes a giant crap all over that classic movie's legacy. Instead, mindless little kids from here on out will think of Maleficent as a wronged hero instead of the awesome villain that she was. I wish I could put a curse upon all the firstborn babies of everyone who made this movie. Original review that rants even better on the subject can be found HERE

The whole movie's purpose is summed up below: