Thursday, January 31, 2013

This week in movies...

Friday: Tonight, I've just watched Reservoir Dogs by Quentin Tarantino. And I've got to say I was taken aback by it. And I'm not sure if in a good or a bad way.

In one aspect it was beautifully done and in Tarantino-fashion. Lots of blood, lots of "F" and "N" words but wonderfully showed the grittiness of what it means to do a "job".

Maybe it's due to the last few of his movies I've seen are his quote-on-quote best movies, that I built it up as going to be just another Pulp Fiction but with more mobsters.

Hopefully if I watch it again in a few weeks or so, I'll appreciate it more... Of course I enjoyed when Blonde cut the cops ear off- the pacing of it was so well done that my ear only hurt once I saw the ear in Blonde's hand.

And like always, the soundtrack was on point... And I loved Orange's references to Marvel... made my night.

Saturday: This afternoon my boyfriend and I saw Gangster Squad. He wasn't sure on whether we should see it or not since the website, Rotten Tomatoes, gave it a low score. I usually hate what most critics say about a movie so I finally beat the whole "But Emma Stone is in it!" to a pulp and we finally got to see it.

It wasn't that bad. Now, I enjoyed Josh Brolin bash peoples' faces in and Ryan Gosling in a fitted suit but it was a movie you have to see at least once. The story telling was sub-par but it was still a good gangster movie. Brolin's wife in the movie was one of my favorite characters and the fight scenes were always exciting. 

Don't spend your money on the movie while it's out in theaters- wait till it's either at your $2 theatre or until it's at RedBox. If you like Ryan Gosling and gun fights, might as well check it out.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Game of Thrones

     The highly anticipated season for Game of Thrones is going to premiere its first episode for season 3 March 31, 2013.  HBO speaks highly for the new season of the favored show.  All of the talk from the producers and directors is about how this season was the one they wanted to do the most.  Being a big fan of the show, like many others, I sit anxious for the premiere and expect nothing less then the season blowing my mind away.  I don't know what this will mean for future seasons; but with the reputation that HBO has and the sales for the Game of Thrones books, I am sure future seasons will also be as epic.

     The anticipation for this season comes from all of the new characters that are being introduced and the amount of new locations.  Scenes were shot in many countries including northern Ireland, Iceland, and Morocco.  The sets are talked about as being vast and absolutely unbelievable, the costumes and designs all look 500 years old, the characters are clashing and there is just so much more danger and risk.  Fans are holding high expectations for season 3 and I believe those expectations will be filled and then some.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Django Unchained and Christoph Waltz

Over the holidays, I managed to make it to the movies three times. Two of those three times were to see the new Quentin Tarantino spaghetti western flick “Django Unchained”. Django was an absolutely brilliant film, combining all the qualities you expect from a Tarantino flick and then some. You were given the proverbial Tarantino gore, witty banter, and slew of absolute brilliantly written characters, but also saw the intertwining of an unforeseen amount of humor (the KKK scene? BRILLIANT) with a compelling love story that drove the film’s protagonist throughout this entire elaborate and entertaining plot. All while taking place in the cruel and slavery infested era that is the 1850’s south.

What made “Django Unchained” even more incredible, and what I personally loved about it, was the absolute exceptional casting and performance by the actors. While they were all brilliant, Christoph Waltz (Dr. King Shultz) was on another level as far as I’m concerned. What astounded me about Waltz’s performance was that he was not only able to portray this very intellectual character so fluidly with his unconditional charm and enunciated vocabulary, but also capture the roughness and danger that is the bounty hunter. As you know, he won the Golden Globe for best supporting actor for this performance and still awaiting to see if he can go for two for two with his Oscar nomination in the same category. Waltz won the Oscar two years ago for his role as “Hans Landa” in Inglorious Basterds. I think it’s safe to say that if Waltz should work exclusively on Tarantino films for the rest of his career, well he’d be just fine.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Why I Also Wish DeeVee Was My Son

Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! is probably the most inexplicable guilty pleasure of mine. It is the weirdest, weirdest, weirdest (there are literally no more adjectives at my disposal to describe it) show that I have ever seen. Its bizarre (hey! here's another adjective) parodies of public access television have garnered it an immense cult following.

Allow me to break down exactly why I have been singing "A Song for Dee Vee" everywhere I go, and what exactly makes their Chrimbus Special so special:

  1. 0:05 - Right off the bat, the first funny thing is that they are singing a song for someone named "Dee Vee", and that someone happens to be a bizarre yeti-baby monster. Also: hilarious costumes. In context of the whole Chrimbus Special, they are celebrating a fictional holiday called "Chrimbus". One celebrates this holiday by keeping their "Chrimbus Bush" "trimmed and wet".
  2. 0:10 - The song is about them wishing "Dee Vee" was their son. That in itself, is a joke, but Tim and Eric are above just making a joke. That's too obvious: they need to also make a hilarious face while singing. 
  3. 0:13 - They dissolve to a shot of Dee Vee (a DVD monster), standing nobly as he is serenaded. Throughout this sketch (and all of their shows), they so perfectly parody the stupid, archaic whiz-bang tricks done while covering an in-studio performance. Dissolve to Camera 3, the shot of the strange munchkin ape-demon Dee Vee.
  4. 0:16 - Tim has an incredible singing voice, and also makes a funny face. Funny faces = comedy. Write that down.
  5. 0:20 - "You hairy boy, you need a trim. I'll get you wet for Chrimbus swim." I think at this point, it really sinks in that what you are viewing is absolutely absurd. Also, their harmonies are just as tight as their Chrimbus jumpsuits.
  6. 0:32 - Tim sings "Oh, Dee Vee! I love you more than him." This in itself is a joke, but again, Tim and Eric are better than that. The real reason this is hilarious, Mom, is that Tim makes a gesture during the line. Realize how perfect that gesture is, and how completely it parodies beautiful time-honored singing events.
  7. 0:40 -- the end - Watch this video. I cannot stop singing this song. I think any television student or hardcore enthusiast could at least see the value of how well the parody the stupidity of television events, programming, and commercials. If you do not fall into those categories, watch it anyways. Tim and Eric are the kings of surreal satirical humor (and anti-humor).

Friday, January 25, 2013

Bad Storytelling

A few years ago one of my first Media Professors told my class that knowing how movies are made takes the magic out of them. I hate to say it, but she was right for the most part. Unless a movie captures my attention fairly quickly, I spend how ever long the flick is cataloging camera movements and editing techniques. Today the only way a movie can really capture my attention is through its plot. Prometheus (directed by Ridley Scott) is one of the most recent movies that I've seen, but it has one plot hole that makes no sense and another that stretches believability past the breaking point.
The first plot hole is found within the first fifteen minutes of the movie. It starts with a humanoid alien distributing aggressive DNA into the primordial ooze that humanity supposedly sprang from. He essentially disintegrates himself to do this, without ever leaving any physical mark of his presence on Earth. Flash forward several million years, and the audience views archeologists discovering a cave drawing of a certain cluster of stars in Scotland. The whole premise of the movie is that this drawing matches several others from unconnected ancient cultures, and a bunch of scientists goes out into space to see what's there.   
To reiterate the humanoid alien left no mark of his presence on Earth, and there were no humans around at the time to know about him or where he came from. So what inspired those ancient civilization to create the star pictures in the first place? This lack of connection makes the rest of the movie, the discovery of the planet, the encounter with the aliens, the big reveal of corporate espionage, null and void.
 This plot hole bugged me through most of the movie. Admittedly some of the characters were fairly likeable and interesting. The bits where the scientists were exploring the planet were good as well. However, another mark against the movie (and the second glaring plot hole) was the scientists first interaction with the aliens. The characters actions were just utterly and completely stupid! No scientist, (especially one that didn't work with animal biology) would get up close and personal with an unknown animal that they could barely see!!!
In conclusion, it was okay. Some parts of the movie were interesting, in other parts I was cataloging what was going on. Therefore I give this one five stars out of ten.

The Green Mile

It is never a bad thing when SPIKE is showing an absolute classic on a Friday night. The Green Mile combines some sci-fi elements with Frank Darabont's great ability to tell prison stories. Darabont of course made his imprint on the film world with another prison movie, The Shawshank Redemption. Although The Green Mile takes place in a similar setting, the two movies couldn't be more different. Shawshank tells us a story of how different inmates get themselves through the extremely tough times they face while in prison. Whether the troubles between them and the guards, each other, or just the obvious trails of solitary confinement. And the story finally ends with an elaborate escape by the films main character that you aren't completely expecting. Although The Green Mile touches on many of the same prison struggles, there are other elements that come into play that separate it from Shawshank.

The one scene that only sticks out to me when watching this movie is the scene where Michael Clark Duncan's character seems to transfer little bees from his mouth to the mouth of one of the troubled guards. This is the sic-fi element that I spoke about earlier that really makes this a unique film. We learn that John Coffey (Duncan) actually has all sorts of amazing powers. He has the power to heal others as well as the scene I talked about earlier. Coffey actually purposely attacks the guard so he will in fact attack another prisoner who we find out is actually responsible for the murder that Coffey has been sentenced for. His healing powers come into play a few times in what is a remarkable twist to what appears to be just a typical prison movie in the beginning.

The Green Mile was nominated for four academy awards and somehow didn't win a single win. Michael Clark Duncan was nominated for best supporting actor and despite a performance of a lifetime didn't win the award. The final scene of the movie where we see John Coffey finally being executed on the electric chair somehow makes us actually feel sympathy for someone that supposedly was a rapist and a murderer. That is one constant that Darabont brings over from Shawshank. That sympathy for prisoners that have committed some awful crimes, and yet the audience feels like they don't deserve to be punished like they have.

The Green Mile was an instant classic and a must see for all movie lovers.

This is 40... This is awful!

      I recently saw This Is 40 and I have never been more disappointed in a movie theatre. The movie is basically a sequel to Knocked Up but with a different cast. The main "plot," if you could call it a plot, was about the struggles of an upper middle class marriage. To begin, the cast is really not likable and the supporting cast members are a constant reminder about how dull the main characters are. I think that the casting was poorly done and casting is one of the most important aspects of a film. The character development was very weak which made it hard to follow throughout the movie.
      The length did not help at all. A slow comedy like this should not be just shy of two and a half hours long. My friends and I were almost praying for the end to come, but the film just kept adding more and more inner stories to the major story. There were a lot of forced conclusions to the inner conflicts. I think Judd Apatow was trying to be too adventurous with this film and it did not pay off. Plus, every humorous part was shown in the credits, so there were barely any surprising laughs throughout the film. I do not understand why a movie would spoil itself before it even premiers. I think that there were a lot of unnecessary scenes that did not move the plot along at all. Along with a lot of unnecessary plot lines, there was also a lot of forced humor, which is very unlike Judd Apatow's movies.

      I was truly excited for this movie, but it really let me down. In the trailer a critic said that "This is by far a Judd Apatow's best movie!" It was the worst by far. The movie was just like a hear beat monitor. It went up then flatlined, then up and flatlined again throughout the entire movie. I wish the film settled on a certain genre instead of switching between a comedy and a drama the entire time. If you could not tell, I was very dissapointed and I really want Judd Apatow to surprise me with a great film in the future.

There is still hope.

A New Hope?

Recently there has been big news in the Star Wars world. JJ Abrams has been chosen to be the director of the next installment in the Star Wars franchise. Is this a good decision for the recent buyers of the franchise, Disney. How will the fans react; this being the first film to not be directed and overseen by George Lucas.
 Article in question

With all of the controversy surrounding The Phantom Mencae, The Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith it will be interesting to see if the force is with Abrams and Disney on this. Hopefully they can breathe life into a franchise that has beaten a dead horse to the point that all that is left is a pile of glue, sticking together the discarded dreams of Star Wars fanboys.

Abrams has quite the filmography, and is very well liked in the film and television world. He recently produced a new Star Trek film with an entirely new cast, aside from a cameo by Leonard Nimoy, and the reviews and reactions were for the most part good. In my opinion, as someone who has seen Star Tek but was never a loyal fan, I thought he did a great job. But will his success in one Star carry over to another?

The newest film will take place after the events of The Return of the Jedi, and i think this is the right way to go. There is no more expanding that could be done on the side of the clone wars, and i think the only right thing to do is move forward. But the question arises, after the empire was destroyed, the Emperor and Darth  both killed, and the galaxy finally in a time of peace, what will be the next threat that the Jedi must deal with. Will the Sith be brought back to fill the role of villains, or will Abrams and the writers come up with a new threat to the galaxy, only time will tell.

As master Yoda would say, "excited, I am, for this." I think Abrams and Disney have the potential and can take this franchise in the direction it needs to go, without veering off the path of course. The tools are there, high tech cameras, CGI, and a pool of some of the best actors to date can make this film one of the great ones. My hope is that they don't fall for the dark side and make the same mistakes the aforementioned three did, I.e comic relief in the form of Jar Jar Binks, a story line that is both predictable and at the same time confusing, and the casting aside of emotional character connections and life lessons for the flair of space battles and flashy light saber fights.

Incredible Short Film: La Culpa

Last year, Youtube tried an experiment.  They launched their own film festival, online, open to anyone.  It was called "Your Film Festival", and judging by the results, I'd say it was a success.  They had over 15,000 submissions, of which 50 were chosen as finalists for the world to vote on.  The top ten were then shown at the Venice Film Festival, and voted on by a panel.  The winner was a short film entitled "La Culpa" ("The Guilt"), by director David Victori.  I would suggest watching it fullscreen in HD.

This is a stunning piece of work.  It has an intriguing story that draws the viewer in, told with a minimum of dialogue.  All the technical aspects, the camerawork, the lighting, the sound, art direction, and visual effects, enrich the story and contribute to the emotional depth.  However, they do so in such a way that they never distract from the story, in fact, the technical aspects are almost invisible on the first viewing.

On closer inspection, it is all these small technical details that create such good visual storytelling.  The camerawork, in particular, is used to display the characters' emotions without any dialogue.  As the intensity builds, the camera motion becomes more and more erratic, which echoes the emotional turmoil and confusion that the characters are feeling.  There are also some great shots where a character snaps into focus right when they have a realization or change of heart.

Overall, this short film is extremely well done, with great writing, acting and production.  You can check out David Victori's other films on his Youtube channel, and the other finalists at Your Film Festival.  No word on whether Youtube will be hosting this festival again in 2013, but here's hoping!

Zero Dark Thirty: The final scene

Kathryn Bigelow’s latest film, Zero Dark Thirty, is the story of the courageous CIA agent Maya, played by Jessica Chastain, who is pushed to her limit over ten years attempting to find Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden. Throughout the movie, Maya drives herself into the ground interrogating terrorists, travelling through the Middle East, and finishing paper work while trying to stay out of the line of fire. She loses friends, colleagues, and almost her own life in her struggles to stop the man responsible for plotting the September 11 attacks.

While the climax of the movie is one of the final scenes where Navy S.E.A.L. Team 6 enters Bin Laden’s compound, the final scene of the film shows true emotion of those that were part of the real event. In the final scene, Maya walks onto the empty plane, sits down in her seat, and as they close the door, she begins to cry. Throughout the entire movie, Maya is perceived as the tough, dedicated agent who does not care about anyone else’s opinion of her. In her eyes, her job is to find Bin Laden, which she dedicated her first twelve years in the CIA to doing. But, after finally catching him, she is so overcome with relief that she cannot help but to cry. Her experiences during her time in the Middle East could be contributing factors, but from my perspective, the pure relief of finding that one thing she was looking for takes over.

It is the last scene of the movie, but I think it was one of the most revealing scenes of the film. This is the first time we see the true emotion and damage that this impossible search put on her life. It is also the first time she lets down her tough fa├žade and we see an emotion that is not anger or determination. It revealed what was building up inside of the mind of each person on the task force in Pakistan. While I believe the acting was phenomenal throughout the entire movie, this scene in particular stood out to me because it reflected the feeling of the actual agents in their position.  

This entire film was amazing, and I highly recommend it. 

Let the viewings... BEGIN!

As a "Classic Films" fanatic, I've always been trying to watch all of the movies that I can. Over winter break, I watched a Cary Grant marathon on TCM since it was his birthday. One of my favorites of his is Arsenic and Old Lace. I mean, how can you not just swoon over that face?!

So to continue on my quest to have seen all of the "classics" I've composed a list of movies that I'm determined to watch by the end of the semester. Is it way to long? Probably. Will I even watch all of them? Hopefully. But hey- that's what weekends are for, right?

And here it is: LIST OF MOVIES I NEED TO WATCH (in no particular order)

  • Death Proof
  • Grindhouse
  • Kill Bill I and II
  • Reservoir Dogs
  • How The West Was Won
  • Grapes of Wrath
  • Citizen Kane
  • The Godfather
  • Casablanca
  • Raging Bull
  • Singin' in the Rain
  • Lawrence of Arabia
  • Shindler's List
  • Vertigo
  • North by Northwest
  • The Man Who Knew Too Much
  • To Catch a Thief
  • Rear Window
  • Dial M for Murder
  • Notorious
  • Mr & Mrs Smith (1941)
  • High Anxiety
  • Silent Movie
  • The Twelve Chairs
  • Monkey Business
  • I Was A Male War Bride
  • Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (I've already seen this one but I just love it so much!)
  • Bringing Up Baby
  • Alice in Wonderland (1933)
  • Nosferatu
  • Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923)
  • A Doll's House (1917)
  • The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
  • The It Girl
*Phew* Well then... That's a lot of movies... and a bunch of random ones at that. Hitchcock, Lon Chaney, Tarantino, Brooks... I guess I'll be having marathons in my bed every night! 

Huge Jackman!

Best known for his role as Wolverine or Logan in the X-Men series Hugh Jackman has come a long way from Australia to being nominated for an Academy Award with one of theaters most proud plays, Les Miserables.  I like Jackman as an actor and I believe he fits the role of Wolverine perfectly which is why you don't see his face in many other places.  When Hugh tried to play the role of Van Helsing the critics did not like him; not having seen the film since it came out in 2004, I have no opinion on his role.

Unfortunately for Jackman many directors and producers have not seen him in playing a lead role in a blockbuster other then Wolverine.  But he was given a chance as Jean Valjean in Les Miserables and has been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Lead Role.  If he gets it, not only will it promote the movie even more but it will give Jackman another chance at other lead roles besides Wolverine.  Jackman has been considered for many other roles for other comics but continues to be turned away for other stars or up and coming actors.  The role of Wolverine is one that is going down in the record books for one of films favorite characters and for Jackman for playing the role consistently over 5 films, beating Christopher Reeve as Superman for 4 films.

More Than Just a Silver Lining

Recently nominated for 8 Academy Awards, Silver Linings Playbook tells the story of an unlikely friendship between two people recovering from mental illnesses.  Going into the theatre I had my hopes up high after friends, parents and critics praising the film.  Surely I was not disappointed.  This touching, and emotional roller coaster allows the audience to see the frustrations and struggles of people living with these disorders.  Having only seen Bradley Cooper in movies like The Hangover, and Valentines Day, I was not expecting a strong, heavy hearted, leading male performance from him.  I was surely mistaken after Bradley carried the film impressing me with his acting and his on screen chemistry with all of the characters.  He played "Pat" a man living with bi-polar disorder who was recently released out of a mental health facility into the care of his parents Pat sr. (Robert DeNiro) and Dolores (Jacki Weaver) whom also gave wonderful performances in the show.

The film really picks up once Tiffany, a recovering sex addict played by Jennifer Lawrence, steps into the picture and befriends Pat.  Her performance was stunning and even won her the Golden Globe for a leading actress in a comedy or musical.  Both Lawrence, and Coopers ability to convey so much emotional depth within their facial features, especially their eyes and their necks, is unbelievable. I could not take my eyes off of either one, when either of them were on the screen.  I think both of them have reached new heights in their acting careers.  It's impressive to any actor who can steal the show away from Robert De Niro who still have a more than perfect performance.

The film is nominated for all 4 acting awards, best editing, best adapted screenplay, best director David O. Russell (nominated in 2010 for The Fighter) and best picture at the Academy Awards.  I think this film deserves all of these accolades.  The movie was a spectacular creation and beautiful tale of unlikely friends coming together.  After seeing the film I couldn't help but think if even a few things about the movie were different it could have been just another rom-com and not this beautiful work of art.  Don't get me wrong, I love rom-coms, but change Jenifer Lawrence with Katherine Heigel, have Gary Marshal direct instead, and it could have been a very different movie.

All in all, Silver Linings Playbook was a wonderful journey, and a stepping stone for film makers everywhere to show that even the most simple of plots can have the most lasting impact on audiences.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

A Perfect Blend - Theatre and Film

As I mentioned in class on Wednesday, I am a big theatre dweeb.  So of course, when Les Miserables hit theaters this past December, I had to see it.  As much as I love theater and film, I have never been a fan of when the two are blended together.  For example, I'm not the biggest fan of RENT which hit Broadway in 1996 and movie theaters in 2005.  Why?  Well, I could go on for a while for a lot of different reasons.  But one of the biggest reasons, which I know many will disagree, is that casting Adam Pascal and Anthony Rapp was a mistake.  As we discussed in class, theatre acting and film acting are two very different things.  I think that Pascal and Rapp are phenomenal actors on stage and on film, but being thrown together with the rest of the broadway cast makes the film more "broadway" and not "film"- making the story seem fake and pieced together.

But back to where I was before, I think Les Mis was one of the BEST films I have seen that has been based on a musical.  What stood out to me was the audio.  There was no lip syncing which was impressive for the performer and the audio crew as well.  The sound was crystal clear.  I remember watching a scene where it was raining, and I felt like I could hear every single rain drop hit the ground perfectly.  Not to mention that since there was no lip syncing, it made the story feel that much more real.

Also, I need to talk about Anne Hathaway.  By far- one of the most compelling performances I have ever scene from an actress.  Her dramatic 25 pound weight loss to fit the role was only step one of her commitment to the role of Fantine.  Her emotional portrayal, particularly in "I Dreamed a Dream", was one of the most beautiful performances I have ever seen.  She nailed it.

Needless to say, I saw Les Mis twice, and wish I had time to see it again.

Best Director?

The nominations for the 2013 Academy Awards came out earlier this month and as always there quite a few movies that were left out. I think the biggest snub of all the nominations was that Ben Affleck was not even nominated for the Best Director category. I found it shocking that Affleck, who won Best Director at the Golden Globes and his movie Argo won Best Picture, was not even nominated for the Oscars. He seemed like the front runner to win the Best Director award but I guess the Academy saw it differently. Argo is a brillant and excellent film about a CIA agent who helps six American fugitives in Iran escape the country during a revolution. It stars Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin and John Goodman. I think Affleck did an incredible job and him not being nominated is a shame. Personally, I think Argo was the best movie of the year I'm rooting for it to win Best Picture at the Oscar's.