8.11.2017

Summer Movie (& Life) Recap!

Hello dear readers, long time no write! My deepest apologies for not having written in about...um... five months or so, but my life has been INSANELY busy. See, back in March when I last wrote I had just gotten engaged and life was quickly turned upside down by all the wedding planning (and yes it made me want to write a list of the best engagements in film which I'll have to actually do sometime soon.) Then, in April I spent three weeks traveling in Europe, of which I will also have to write a recap on. When I came back, the wedding planning took over again and life has been pretty crazy ever since. Now that the wedding is over and things are getting settled, I finally have a chance to breathe. But don't you think for a second that I haven't been seeing almost every big movie that's come out (Atomic Blonde being the only one I regret not being able to write a recap about.) I just haven't had the chance to write about them is all. But now that I do have a moment, let's take a look back at what Hollywood offered this summer, in order of when they were released, and I'll tell you what I thought about it.

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOLUME 2 

Why is Emily bothering with a Marvel movie you may ask? Because my husband (unfortunately) happens to love them. Everyone and their dog loved the first Guardians of the Galaxy except myself so I certainly wasn't looking forward to this, however, I actually enjoyed this one much more than the first one... mostly because they didn't rely on the "I am Groot" gimmick quite as much. Baby Groot was definitely more tolerable than his adult counterpart. The movie was empty popcorn fun that made me laugh a couple times, but the plot boiled down to its core was pretty much the equivalent of a 90s sitcom if you think about it. For example, replacing its characters with those of Full House, a plot described as "that episode where Kimmy Gibbler finds her long lost father and Michelle gets in trouble for stealing something" seems more suited for the small screen sitcom than a big screen blockbuster. EMILY RATING: 6/10


ALIEN: COVENANT

 I had such a fun time with this movie. It was like the horror equivalent of Jurassic Park (or maybe The Lost World with the monster hunting in the field...), which means that once it started going it was an absolute thrill ride. Plus, it features an amazingly fascinating and off the wall performance by Michael Fassbender that makes you incredibly excited to see where the franchise could go next (supposing Fox actually LETS Ridley Scott keep creating his vision, even though recent rumors suggest rebooting the franchise.) I definitely hope this is not the case because i cannot wait to see what happens next. EMILY RATING: 8/10


WONDER WOMAN

Wonder Woman was probably the most delightful blockbuster of the summer. Gal Gadot brought this famous heroine to life and she was so much fun to watch. I found the fight scenes empowering and the human scenes warm and amiable. Her chemistry with Chris Pine is really what made this film work and I loved all of their interactions with one another. And I know the fish out of water thing has been done a lot, but seeing Wonder Woman in 1910's London was really fun. EMILY RATING: 8.5/10
THE MUMMY

I was a little apprehensive about a Mummy remake when I heard about it since I quite liked the 90's version with Brendan Fraser. But I like Tom Cruise enough in action flicks, so I gave this the benefit of the doubt...however, it was kind of a hot mess. I never found myself hating this movie, but it certainly had its fair share of eye rolls. It was hard to take seriously....not that the movie wanted me to. In fact, I'm not really sure what tone the movie was going for because it could never really make up its mind. So... I didn't hate it but thought this one could have been much more focused. EMILY RATING: 6/10


47 METERS DOWN

Last year brought us The Shallows, and now to top a hunting by killer shark movie on the ocean, we set the action UNDER the ocean and add a couple more sharks. This movie was totally a guilty pleasure and I had a blast watching it. It was tense throughout and held my attention all the way through. I'm actually pretty impressed how far the filmmakers took such a simple concept. While the ending could have used a bit more thought, it will be a great edition to Shark Week movie marathons for years to come. EMILY RATING 7/10


BABY DRIVER

From the first breathtaking sequence that opens the film, I knew this movie was something special. In fact, when it was all said and done, Baby Driver happened to be my favorite movie of the summer and perhaps the year. Now it's not like robbery/heist movies are anything new or revolutionary, but this particular story is told so freshly and so unique it almost feels like the only film of its kind. Most of that is due to its characters. Ansel Elgort turns in a career making performance that has to make Lucasfilm a little regretful that they didn't tap him in the young Han Solo role. I absolutely loved this film and its soundtrack and honestly, I can't rave about it enough. EMILY RATING: 9.5/10


THE BIG SICK


I tried like crazy to be able to see this movie during Sundance. I even got my car stuck in a snowy canyon trying to see this film. Sadly, none of the screenings ever worked out for me, but months later when I got to see it at a critics screening I was happy to discover it did not disappoint! The Big Sick is both hilarious and heartwarming. Critics categorize it as a rom-com, but while placing it in that genre is truthful, it's also very misleading. The comedy focuses much more on the relationship between a man and his love interest's parents than the love interest herself. Based on a true story, the film feels real and honest though the romance is atypical...especially for what you'd find in most rom-coms. I thought this film was incredibly funny, refreshing and charming. More films like this reaaaaaallllly need to be made. EMILY RATING: 9.5/10


SPIDER-MAN HOMECOMING

 A couple years ago I wrote a blog post about how I was REALLY against Marvel and Sony coming to an agreement to let Spider-man appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It attracted many Marvel fans to argue against me and my whole life flashed before my eyes. But my stance then and now remains the same, and even more so after seeing the film they delivered in their collaboration. The first twenty minutes or so was nothing more than all the kids at Peter Parker's high school having constant conversations about how cool The Avengers are. I don't know. I got a little tired of how much they would pat themselves on the back about their other movies. "But Emily, that would happen if those kids lived in that universe. They WOULD all talk about those heroes." Yeah, well it doesn't make it any less eye roll enducing for me to sit through. Besides that, I also wasn't a fan of replacing the iconic Uncle Ben and his death by using Tony Stark as a place holder for guilting him in behaving better, who also comes in to save the day since Peter had to fail constantly. Oh and also making him essentially a mini Iron Man. Okay, I'll stop ranting. On the positive side, Tom Holland was likable enough and Michael Keaton was solid as always. EMILY RATING: 5/10.

WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES 

The prequel trilogy of the Planet of the Apes has been one of the most surprising and solid franchises of the century. I loved the first two films and had incredibly high expectations for this one. While this is the bleakest entry of the series, and not quite as thrilling as its predecessor, I can't really say that this movie disappoints. It tells its story just the way it should and enriches the mythology of the rest of the series. Once again, I'll never cease to be amazed that they can craft this trilogy around the amazing digital performance by Andy Serkis. He brings his Ceasar to life in a way that not many actors even do with characters they themselves portray. His story continues to be worth telling, and I love that though we know where this story heads, it is still told in a way that lends for surprises. EMILY RATING: 8.5/10


DUNKIRK 
Okay. With this one let me just get into my expectations okay? Look. Christopher Nolan is one of my favorite directors working today (if not my favorite and most trusted.) I've loved pretty much everything he's done (though I did feel a tinge of disappointment with The Dark Knight Rises that I did feel better after a second viewing.) When I heard he was doing a World War II film I was really excited to see what he brought to the table. So excited that I even went to a preview screening of this film the day before my wedding. Perhaps this viewing circumstance was a mistake as the film had to compete with a million other things going on in my head, as well as with incredibly high expectations. With that in mind, I couldn't help but leave Dunkirk feeling pretty disappointed and having expected more from my favorite filmmaker. Dunkirk is an amazing visual experience and a film that puts you in the place of these men. It's a tale of survival first and foremost, and in that avenue it's told well. I just wanted a little more heart and some characters I could love and cling to. That's not what the director was envisioning in the way he told his story and I get that, but I still felt like something was missing. EMILY RATING: 8/10 


VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS

Unlike Dunkirk, I didn't have any expectations as to the quality of Valerian other than that the film probably contained impressive visuals. The film got incredibly mixed reviews, and so I went into it pretty open minded. I discovered that the film it's easiest to compare to is Avatar, a film I passionately hate (before it was cool to hate I might add.) So it might be a surprise to reveal that I actually quite enjoyed watching Valerian (though admittedly I fell asleep a couple times, but that was due to a late night showing coupled with comfy recliner seats.) This film really shows me that expectations and hype really are everything. Unlike Avatar, I didn't have a bunch of people hyping up this film and selling it as the next end all be all, though I did see a select few praise it. Like Avatar, it does a fantastic job of world building: the movie presents us with a galaxy that is incredibly creative and the kind you delight in visiting. Also similar to Avatar, the detail in world building comes at the cost of the story, characters, and plot structure. In this case I was bothered much less, mostly because no one was acting like this film was perfect. EMILY RATING: 7/10


THE DARK TOWER


So I didn't really have any expectations about this movie one way or another....until the Rotten Tomatoes score came out and totally trashed this film. My expectations plummeted, and I was pretty sure this was going to be absolutely awful. I went to see the film anyway and was pleasantly surprised that it wasn't as bad as I'd heard, at least the first 20 minutes anyway. But........then I fell asleep and woke up at the very end. So I'm going to allow my husband to take over this review and give his opinion. So from here on out, these are Brod'ys words.The Dark Tower has many flaws that drag down what could have been a great movie. It shoved way too much into the movie which resulted in rushed pacing. Idris Elba's performance as the wounded Gunslinger was the one good thing this movie had going for it.  McConaughey's performance was ultimately forgettable and his intentions for trying to take down the tower was essentially nothing more than because "I'm Evil!" I was hoping McConaughey would deliver more as he has really blossomed as in actor in recent years. Having said all that -- I walked into the movie with expectations of seeing the worst film ever. But I can say that I had a good time with it. All the easter eggs to King's other works were a nice treat.  BRODY RATING: 6/10


ANNABELLE: CREATION 

Apparently I'm one of the few people who enjoyed the Annabelle spinoff. It wasn't perfect, but I had fun with another tale of this creepy doll. So now, we delve further into the story and once again I enjoyed myself. This film definitely upped the tension and creepiness of its predecessor and as far as scares go, felt about on par with The Conjuring 2! The backstory should have been more fleshed out than the brief explanatory scene we got near the end, but I enjoyed seeing this group of orphan girls in the very familiar "move into a new creepy haunted house" trope. When it's done well I really can't complain, and this Annabelle prequel was done right! EMILY RATING: 7.5/10

3.17.2017

Beauty and the Remake


Over the years, as Disney has begun remaking each of their former animated classics, I've discovered that my reactions to these remakes fall along a wide scale. There's the one I detest (Maleficent) and the one I adore (Cinderella,) and everything in between (the ambivalence of The Jungle Book and Alice in Wonderland falls here.) From the previews, I got the sense that this film, unlike Maleficent, stayed incredibly true to the source material...so that had to be a good thing right? But the more I saw, the more it seemed that the film was just a literal reenactment of the animated film with little else to offer. After finally seeing it, the best thing I can say is that I didn't feel outraged as I watched it that it was a total ripoff....but I definitely didn't fall in love with it like I did Cinderella either.

Beauty and the Beast is a mixed bag. There are things that it gets right (such as the production design and costumes which really bring the fairy tale to life) and many things that made me scratch my head. Time to air some grievances. Emma Watson certainly makes a likable enough Belle, but she really isn't much of a singer. In fact, some of the musical sequences are the weakest part of the film because they're either TOO much like the original (the opening song Belle being one of the greatest offenders,) or they're new songs that don't manage to resonate or recapture the magic to belong alongside the other classic tunes. Too often the new songs are used to compensate for character development, and in a live action film that just didn't work for me. In many scenes, these new songs are used as placeholders for why characters make certain decisions, or why they feel a certain way...but it just comes across as hollow when some well thought out dialogue could have done the trick and shaved off a few more minutes from the runtime. Other random complaints include that the beast's CGI is a bit all over the place, Emma Thompson plays her part as if just doing a terrible impression of Angela Lansbury, and some of the CGI designs of the furniture just are kinda ugly (again sorry Mrs. Potts.)

The film is best when it's trying not to rely too hard on its source material (minus the new songs), but when in doubt, it is certainly what the filmmakers fall back on. It feels a bit lazy, but at the same time....it's not exactly an unpleasant film experience. I never found myself hating it. I'm sure that's not the greatest praise, but to be honest, I expected this to be as bad as Psycho 1999! Of course I wish it took more risks like Cinderella did, in just making the story their own, yet still honoring the classic its based upon. I feel like ditching the musical aspect of this would have helped, but alas. The filmmakers were too scared to do anything but pay respect to the animated film. EMILY RATING: 6.5/10

2.24.2017

My Top Ten Of 2016


My absolute sincerest apologies for not getting this list to you sooner. I had fully intended to post this back in January before I was hit with all the Sundance craziness, but that just didn't happen. Before I knew it, I had like 15 reviews to write, and no time to find to put this list together. Since then, I still figured I needed to catch up on everything  I could...and yet, I still didn't have time to watch everything! Still, as usual, I had a hard time narrowing down some movies, so I cheated and added in a few ties. So this isn't so much a top ten as it is a top twelve. With all that in mind, let's get started shall we?

10 TIE: SILENCE & HELL OR HIGH WATER
Originally, I had planned to give Rogue One a spot on the list due to wanting to finally give some Star Wars love after my disappointment with The Force Awakens, but then I ended up seeing these two films and let them steal a tying spot. Silence and Hell or Highwater both feature male duos. However, the duos of each film couldn't be more opposite. Silence focuses on the difficult experiences that two priests have during their mission to Japan in the 1600's. Hell or High Water focuses on two brothers in modern day Texas who rob banks. The films couldn't be more different, but I honestly couldn't choose which film deserved the #10 spot. Silence was an incredible spiritual experience of a film that was very thought provoking and well made. And Hell or High Water was tightly made and highly entertaining. Both are solid films with fantastic performances by their leads. Original review for Silence HERE

9. THE EDGE OF SEVENTEEN
The Edge of Seventeen isn't totally a movie that everyone will connect to, or be featured on everyone's top ten list, but it was an extremely personal one for me. The film follows the lead character of Nadine, who certainly wasn't the most likable protagonist, but her lonely high school experience after a fight with her best friend really resonated with me. The Edge of Seventeen felt like a representation of youth that was honest and fresh. I was honestly surprised how much I loved this film, and can only wish for more like it. Original review for The Edge of Seventeen HERE.

8. 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE
Speaking of surprises, 10 Cloverfield Lane had to be the biggest one of 2016. The movie came out of nowhere and ended up being amazingly good. I saw it three times in theaters and it totally held up every single time. It's so gripping and well done, I easily could have given this spot to some of the more Oscar bait films I watched at the end of the year, but this one just won me over and I wouldn't budge. Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Goodman shine in this movie, and Goodman, in particular, does some of his best work in years. 

7. LION
Lion is definitely one of the most heart-wrenching films of 2016. The film kinda puts you through the ringer as you witness the true story of a four-year-old Indian boy who winds up miles and miles away from his family and no way of knowing how to get back to them. I found his plight (and the consequences of it) very gripping, and also fascinating. The performances here are also fantastic, and by the end, I found myself (and my mother and stepfather) sobbing. 


6. NOCTURNAL ANIMALS
Two stories are being told in Nocturnal Animals. One focuses on Amy Adams's character as she receives a manuscript from her ex-husband (Jake Gyllenhaal) that he asks her to read, and the second is the actual story inside that novel of a man heading out on a family vacation with his wife and daughter that turns insanely violent. The second storyline was what hooked me, because it was basically an absolute nightmare turned into film. The film is so gripping, and it left me thinking about it for days afterward. There's so much to dissect here, and that was almost half of the fun.

5. TIE: DON'T BREATHE & THE WITCH
What a year for horror it was. Even though I saw The Witch two years ago at Sundance 2015, it wasn't released until February of last year, so since it hadn't released to the general public yet, I didn't feel like I could include it on my 2015 list. I was very happy to see it finally released a year ago and get the praise it deserved from film critics and lovers of the genre. It's honestly such a great and unique addition to the horror genre. It's a very slow and moody film that builds up to the incredibly tense finale. But that wasn't all for the year in horror. Don't Breathe, which was released last August somehow managed to be equally wonderful, yet a very different brand of horror. While The Witch took its time to revel in the world it created, the tension in Don't Breathe never lets up and it's an absolute thrill ride. I seriously loved both of these horror films and had to include both on my top ten list. Original review for Don't Breathe found HERE. Original review for The Witch found HERE.

4. ARRIVAL
Every year for the last four years, we've had some sort of space movie come out in the fall (see Gravity, Interstellar and The Martian.) Arrival doesn't take place in space but somehow fits among these films. In particular, Arrival felt like a spiritual sibling of sorts to Interstellar. That not be something that everyone loves, but as someone who adored that film, I felt similar adoration with Arrival. The film is beautiful and it works on many levels, but it owes pretty much all of its success to Amy Adam's fantastic and sincere performance. Arrival felt simultaneously realistic and fantastical. Almost as if, should that type of event (the arrival of aliens) really occur, this is how it would go down. This grounded approach was refreshing when the film easily could have felt redundant. Original review of Arrival HERE

3. MANCHESTER BY THE SEA
Manchester by the Sea is a deeply disturbing tragedy that is quite frankly a masterpiece. The film is so incredibly beautiful, yet affectedly heartbreaking. It works because of Casey Affleck's performance of a man so removed from feeling, that we can't help but feel disconnected with. We know there's more beyond the surface, but never does he want to engage with anyone enough to show it. Michelle Williams too in her small screen time is amazing, and their scene together near the end of the film (you'll know the one) is one of the most personal scenes ever filmed. Honestly, this is just a perfect movie. Original review for Manchester By The Sea HERE.

2. LA LA LAND
If Manchester By The Sea is a perfect movie then what other two films can beat that? Just a couple  of other perfect ones. There has been quite a bit of backlash against La La Land, but I refuse to bend to it. I saw it back in November, far ahead of its release date, and was able to appreciate it for what it was before too much of the hype had gotten to people's heads. La La Land is a beautiful film about relationships, and if there's one thing I love, it's a movie about relationships (*cough 500 Days of Summer cough*) It's also about following your dreams. This movie didn't truly GET me until the epilogue, but that ending solidified it as one of my favorite movies about relationships. And that's a big deal to me. 

1. SING STREET
For much of the year, Sing Street had retained the number #1 spot, until La La Land had knocked it to #2. But the more I thought about it, the more this movie was MY movie. I just love everything about it. It's so watchable (it's like my new The Way Way Back,) and has one of the best soundtracks in recent memory. Like La La Land, it too is all about following your dreams and the ending here is just absolutely wonderful. It also features a wonderful brotherly relationship that is one of the highlights of the film, and Jack Reynor just steals every scene he's in. I honestly can't recommend this movie enough, nor stop singing its praises. I just love this movie so much. Original review for Sing Street found HERE

HONORABLE MENTIONS: ROGUE ONE, JACKIE, HACKSAW RIDGE, MOONLIGHT, BATMAN V SUPERMAN (sorry haters), FENCES, A MONSTER CALLS.

2.10.2017

Everything is Batman


Three years ago, The Lego Movie came out and pretty much surprised everyone. Unfortunately this time around, the surprisingly good factor wasn't something that could really happen with The Lego Batman Movie, since Batman ended up stealing all the scenes in The Lego Movie. Basically it was hard for anyone not to have expectations. Because of this, I didn't think there was any way for The Lego Batman Movie to live up to the movie it spun off from.

The Lego Batman Movie chronicles the adventures of Bruce Wayne, and his altar ego Batman as he constantly saves Gotham City from crime. His world is turned upside down when Commissioner Jim Gordon retires and appoints his daughter Barbara, who has a much different view on Batman being the sole person the city relies on to solve their problems, to take his place. Batman prefers to work alone and doesn't want to have any attachment of any kind, or to allow anyone into his life. But when Joker unleashes a terrible chaos onto the city (featuring almost every villain you can think of,) Batman must reconsider the value of being a part of a bigger team.

The Batman Movie is an incredibly funny and enjoyable film. Any Batman fan will totally enjoy this movie because there are homages galore to all of his past movies. However, as fun of a protagonist that Lego Batman is (and yes there's a reason he was one of the highlights in The Lego Movie,) we perhaps get too big of a dose of him here. He was a great supporting character, but having him as the lead wasn't quite as fun as having the more humble everyman Emmet from The Lego Movie. Still, Arnett is absolutely hilarious in this role, and it's fun to see him interacting with his Bat family. Michael Cera's Robin was a fun addition too and brings a good dynamic between the two, but I found myself a little underwhelmed by Rosario Dawson's Barbara Gordon. Still, there's more than enough hilarious cameos to rival the first movie...and it's just really fun to think that the Lego Movie universe is one where almost any single crossover is possible (aside from Marvel....and yes the "Iron Man Sucks!" joke was one of my favorites.) The action that results because of these combinations is seriously fun and it certainly makes me excited for any future Lego installments. So while everything is most definitely awesome, it doesn't quite surprise you the way the first one did. But it's still solidly fun and enjoyable in its own right to be sure. EMILY RATING: 8.5/10

Sundance Review: Crown Heights

Crown Heights is all about the real life story of a man who was wrongfully convicted for murder in the 1980's. His best friend knows that he is innocent, and spends a few decades of his life trying to prove it. The filmmakers behind Crown Heights wisely decided to capitalize off of the success of Serial and Making a Murderer in deciding to tell this story, that it's no surprise a movie about wrongful imprisonment won the Audience Award at Sundance. Seeing one more injustice in the world is something that resonated with audiences, and the efforts one man made to make it right are definitely inspiring.

The story was told a little differently than I expected, with a lot less focus on his original trial, and a lot more about his many years in prison. The second half of the film shifts the focus even further, as the best friend working on his case almost becomes the new main character. At first it was a little odd to me to have the trial over so quickly and not knowing where the film would go, but towards the end as the film concludes its story, I appreciated that decision. It allows the climax of the film to be a lot more impactful, and a lot more interesting.

Crown Heights is a solid film. It features great performances and a simple, but fascinating story. The two men's plight, one in prison, and the other in his own mental prison until he frees his friend are definitely stories worth telling. Another thing I was intrigued by was that our protagonist was in fact a criminal, just not a murderer, which took the film to other interesting ethical dilemmas. Crown Heights will definitely make an impact on those who view it, but probably isn't one of the strongest winners to come out of Sundance in recent years. EMILY RATING: 8/10

2.08.2017

Sundance Review: Rememory


Rememory takes place in a distant future where an invention has been made that can extract pure, unfiltered memories. Unfortunately, the creator of the invention dies under mysterious circumstances before it is released to the public, so a man named Sam Bloom (Peter Dinklage) who has a vested interest in the machine, takes it upon himself to solve the puzzle. After befriending the inventor's widow and "borrowing" the prototype machine, he looks through the recorded memories for clues to figure out what really happened, as well as to solve some of his own inner demons.

Rememory is such a great concept that it's a little disappointing that the filmmakers took it in the easiest route that they could: a simple whodunnit. That doesn't mean it's not an interesting or good film, it's just that it doesn't live up to the potential of its premise. There are so many more fascinating places that this film could have gone with exploring the power of memory. The film definitely touches on some interesting ideas, and in particular, the revelations in the latter half of the film are good. I just couldn't help but wish I could see more movies set in this world, with much different genre focuses.


Still, for what the film actually is, I do feel that it was well made and entertaining enough. It's just not something that's going to stay with me for a long time like it could have. Peter Dinklage certainly gives it his all, and of course, it was nice to see Anton Yelchin again in one of his final roles even if it wasn't the most fleshed out part. EMILY RATING: 7.5/10

2.07.2017

Sundance Review: A Ghost Story



Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara play a young couple whose love story seemingly ends abruptly when he dies in A Ghost Story. Affleck's character, who is simply listed as C in the credits, discovers his existence still continues after death, but unfortunately, it consists of witnessing life silently under a sheet. Restricted to the confines of his house, he's forced to watch his former lover grieve extensively. If there's one thing to know about this movie upfront, it's that all scenes (and shots really) are incredibly drawn out and the film really revels in its simplicity and taking its time.  In an early scene in the film, we witness the couple cuddling and it seems so earnest and sincere, and the length of it makes the audience feel uncomfortable--like we're intruding on their intimacy. It's the type of film that asks a lot of its audience because most of the scenes give you plenty of time to think. Also, when discussing Affleck's performance, it's hard to know what to say where his face isn't visible for  90% of the movie. Nor does he talk either. The film is practically a silent film as there is maybe only 10 minutes of dialogue total all throughout.



A Ghost Story is absolutely not a film for everyone.  In fact, I'd definitely say that there is a very small audience for this film. It definitely knows it's an artsy movie and embraces that to a degree that is definitely alienating to a mainstream audience. But Ghost Story definitely doesn't care. However, even indie-loving audiences might find the constant long drawn out scenes to be pretty tedious to sit through. I can certainly understand audiences finding A Ghost Story to be a frustrating film experience, but at the same time, I can't help but admire its boldness and uniqueness. When it comes down to it, even if it wasn't the easiest film to sit through, its true originality is much preferred to some of the more uninspired offerings from Hollywood as of late. EMILY RATING: 8.5/10

Sundance Review: Brigsby Bear


Brigsby Bear is the bizarre tale of a man (Kyle Mooney) who was kidnapped as a baby, and raised by his captors in a bomb shelter. He learned about the world and proper morality through watching his favorite television show, "Brigsby Bear." His life is turned upside down when he's rescued by the cops and discovers that he is the only person in the world who has ever seen or heard of Brigsby, as it was a show that was lovingly produced just for him by his captors. Struggling to cope in life in the real world (or as he sees it, a Brigsbyless existence,) he seeks for closure by creating a film to conclude Brigsby's adventures.


Brigsby Bear could have been taken in a lot of different directions. It would be easy to make the film a full-fledged comedy and err on the crass and outrageous side. Fortunately, the filmmakers kept it more honest and warm, while still managing to be pretty funny. I think this decision was the right one, as the combination of humor and drama is able to leave a more lasting impact on the viewer. The film has a capable cast and everyone seems to be having a great time. Nostalgia for 80's tv series abounds whenever we get glimpses of the protagonist's beloved show and you can just sense the care that was put into every aspect of this movie.

The movie definitely has the familiar feel of a quirky, clueless but lovable fish out of water type, akin to Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Elf and Enchanted, but luckily, it manages not to feel tired. Some of that comes in combining that indie with another indie: the making a movie indie (as previously seen in Son of Rambow and Me & Earl & The Dying Girl.) Brigsby Bear accomplishes the rare feat of making a far fetched story feel grounded. It manages to be light hearted and serious all at once, but most importantly to note, it's a fun film. EMILY RATING: 8/10

2.05.2017

Sundance Review: The Discovery

Imagine a world where scientific proof of the afterlife has been discovered. Such a world is where the film The Discovery takes place. Human life has considerably altered since the discovery, as many people's views on suicide have evolved. Pure curiosity has enticed people to take their lives, not to end them...but to see how they continue on another plane of existence. Jason Segel plays Will, the son of the acclaimed scientist Thomas Harbor (Robert Redford) who changed the world with his findings. Will has always been skeptical on whether or not his father's evidence should be accepted as fact, and when he meets Rooney Mara's Isla, his beliefs are put even further to the test.

Several films that came to the festival this year had really cool premises, but The Discovery might have explored theirs the very best. The world director Charlie McDowell creates is a fascinatingly bizarre one, yet somehow seems simultaneously seems like a plausible one. He masters the tone of the film in keeping it mysterious enough that the audience isn't sure whether to doubt along with Will or to believe like everyone else. He poses a lot of questions in the film and the joy comes in waiting for the answers.

Jason Segel and Rooney Mara make a strange pair, and occasionally it's hard to buy. Fortunately, though, both actors were dedicated enough to make it work, and their efforts were not in vain. But The Discovery isn't so much about the characters as it is about the journeys they take. I'd heard some mixed reception to the film before I saw it about how they didn't care for the ending, but when I saw it I felt that it only made everything stronger. The Discovery is an interesting film that takes a concept and explores several different facets of it and does it well. Thankfully for those clamoring at the bit to see this film, it will debut in March on Netflix...so you won't have to wait all year to see it. EMILY RATING: 8.5/10

2.03.2017

Sundance Review: Band Aid

Hearing the premise of Band Aid it's easy to imagine the film being a broad comedy. The film centers around a married couple who always find themselves at each other's throats. They are helpless to know how to resolve these fights, until one day when one of them decides to use their arguments as inspiration for songwriting. And so, the two of them, along with their kooky drumming neighbor, form a band and use it in getting their anger out at each other. With the people involved (Fred Armisen, Adam Pally and Zoe Lister-Jones,) I definitely expected it to be hilarious, but I found myself caught off guard by its realness in its more serious moments. The sweetness that underlies in some of the more dramatic instances in the film make it more rewarding and memorable than if it had just been a straight comedy.

Band Aid is a very well rounded little film. It's light and funny when it needs to be, but it definitely can pull a dramatic punch. In some of the fights near the end, I was very stunned to see how real these fights were portrayed and how cutting their remarks were to each other. It certainly shows the power of words and how much they can destroy. Band Aid also makes a commentary of the differences between men and women with how they deal with conflict, stress, and grief. I found it all strangely comforting.

I also, of course, must mention the musical aspects of the film. Lister-Jones amazingly was able to pen up lyrics and melodies that managed to be catchy, creative, and funny all at once. The songs are certainly one of the highlights of the film, and seeing how they come up with these songs. You definitely wish there were more of them. I'll definitely be looking for the soundtrack when it comes out. EMILY RATING: 8/10

2.01.2017

Sundance Review: Thoroughbred


The simplest way to summarize the plot of Thoroughbred is to say it's a film where two teenage girls strike up an unlikely friendship, then later plot to kill one of the girl's stepdad. The film stars teams up two former Sundance darlings Anya Taylor-Joy (star of The Witch) and Olivia Cooke (star of Me and Earl and the Dying Girl,) and it also happens to be the very last performance of the late Anton Yelchin. Already excited by its cast, I soon saw that Thoroughbred was getting a lot of positive reviews and some modest hype. Many people labeled it a "twisty thriller" and I was surprised to find myself in disagreement to the type of film I thought Thoroughbred was, namely, a more straightforward dark comedy.

Thoroughbred feels like it starts in the middle of a story, which is cool because the characters feel lived in. Cooke's character, Amanda, doesn't have many friends because of her past, as well as the fact that she puts people off because of her inability to feel feelings. She claims she's never experienced fear, sadness or joy and her frankness is a welcome change of pace in the eyes of Taylor-Joy's very polite Lily. The two are almost polar opposites as Amanda always says what she thinks, while Lily is much more the type to want to appear that she's calm and collected. After Lily lets slip her negative feelings towards her stepdad, Amanda nonchalantly suggests to Lily that she try to murder him, and before too long the idea has taken hold in her mind. Amidst the planning, Anton Yelchin's lovable drug dealing character Tim gets shoehorned into the action. Yelchin isn't in the film nearly enough and I have to wonder if he died before all his scenes were shot. He feels set up to have a bigger role in the film, and then he pretty much disappears, and I have to say the film suffers because of it. Luckily though the two leads are terrific and carry the film.

I'll be honest, from what I read prior to seeing the film, I was expecting a little more than what I got from Thoroughbred. That's not to say the film wasn't good or well-made, I just was expecting a very different film. What I got was one that was more simple, but very fun, and one that I wished had a lot more Anton Yelchin in it. EMILY RATING: 8/10.

1.31.2017

Sundance Review: Manifesto


Manifesto isn't so much a film as it is a piece of art. And come to find out, that's exactly what it was to begin with. Manifesto wasn't conceived as a feature length film, but rather thirteen separate mini films that artist Julian Rosefeldt created as an art exhibit. The films all featured Cate Blanchett playing different fictional people all reciting various real life manifestos on art that were given throughout history. But it's the settings and situations these people are put in that makes the words they're saying pop and whether the speech fits the situation that it truly makes an impact. Each of these videos were places as separate installations, all unified in theme playing at the same time. Somewhere along the way, someone must have felt that Cate's performance should be seen by a bigger audience and so the footage was re-edited into a feature film.

Knowing Manifesto's history is crucial in being able to appreciate the film on any level besides admiring Cate's versatile performances. It would be easy for most people who saw the film to come away being awed by Cate, but not appreciating the film for its own merits....namely because the film doesn't really act like a normal film. For one thing, there is no storyline in Manifesto, rather we as an audience merely witness several different situations. Also it should be said that while Cate plays every part amazingly, not all of the situations or manifestos recited in the film are created equally. Nor is Cate really playing well-developed characters, but rather character types. Some scenes work better than others, but when Manifesto works it's wonderful.


Manifesto succeeds if you view it more as an art piece than a film. I found much of its experiment to be incredibly fascinating and mostly pretty well done. It was especially interesting to see how these words transformed when recited by these character types and said in their various situations. From drunken rants, to funeral speeches and dinner table prayers, it was truly impressive to see how each manifesto fit. However, if you go into Manifesto expecting to find an incredible narrative where Cate Blanchett morphs into thirteen different characters, you will very much be disappointed. EMILY RATING: 8/10 as a film and 8.5/10 as an art piece.