Posts Tagged ‘movies’

Entertainment Recap: The Best (So Far) of 2014

Sunday, March 2nd, 2014

Here’s a recap of everything you’ve been missing in the entertainment-sphere if you’ve been hiding under a rock-no judgment here.

Downton Abbey’s U.S. premiere of season 4 just wrapped.  The furtive, longing glances were just as good as ever.  I won’t reveal any spoilers but the important thing is that Mary has 50 suitors (just a bunch, no big deal) and poor Edith is still alone.  #feelinlikeedith

This awards season is truly exciting, with fantastic, dynamic performances from the ones in 12 Years a Slave to American HustleJennifer Lawrence is still supremely charming and my vote for girl crush-if only she actually ate as much as she professes to, then she would be perfect.  Lupita Nyong’o is the most beautiful being that has ever appeared on this earth, on point with all her fashion choices.  If they don’t make a Barbie or some sort of doll-replica of her soon I’ll be shocked.  Matthew McConaughey’s random speeches add to the fun although they are slightly grating (here’s to hoping Leo takes the Oscar).  “Alriiiiight, alriiiiight, alriiiiiiight.”

One award that Matthew McConaughey should win for his immense comeback?  An Emmy.  He is brilliant in HBO’s True Detective, a show with as intense and dark an ambiance as McConaughey’s character himself.  Seriously, though, that Quaaludes scene alone makes Leonardo DiCaprio deserve the Oscar.  His extreme difficulty going down the stairs reminded me a bit too much of myself after midterms.  Can’t. Make. It. To. Dorm. Too. Defeated.  If Pink does some of the acrobatic wonders she did at the Grammys I am going to cry tears of wonder and jealousy.  As long as it’s not like that year Beyonce sang every single nominated song.  I’m not sure Ellen DeGeneres (host this year of the Oscars) will push the envelope as much as Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, though.  Must I remind you of the now-classic lines: “’Gravity’ is nominated for best film. It’s the story of how George Clooney would rather float away into space and die than spend one more minute with a woman his own age.” And, of course: “”Like a supermodel’s vagina, let’s all give a warm welcome to Leonardo DiCaprio.”

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After the sad excuse for an Olympics I’m looking forward to the return of new episodes.  Then I’ll finally be able to stop hating myself for watching The Bachelor’s Juan Pablo.  Don’t judge man, it was between that and curling.

Like air hockey, but sadder?

An exciting book-to-film is coming out this summer!  No, not Fifty Shades of Grey, I do have some dignity…it’s The Fault in Our Stars!  Shailene Woodley plays Hazel (or as Augustus lovingly calls her, Hazel Grace)-proving that one can star in an incredibly banal show, The Secret Life of the American Teenager, and still be a good actress.

Speaking of ABC Family shows, there is no shame here when I recap the latest on Pretty Little Liars.  It’s the most tweeted about show, I’ll have you know.  Basically, Ezra, the high school teacher, turns out to be just a regular creepster, not an evil genius creepster, which was incredibly disappointing and infuriating.  He did provide possibly the best excuse of all time though (which I will be using as I write my final papers): “I was writing a true crime novel.”  KThx.

Aria finds out what a bad writer Ezra really is.

If you’re actually looking for a smart show, may I recommend The Good Wife?  With its spitfire writing, power-house acting, and complex turns it may be the smartest show on right now.  That’s saying a lot, as TV is more like a stimulating lube tube right now for the mind, with provocative shows like Girls, Breaking Bad, and Homeland, than its previously condescending title.

If you’re looking for some cute/smart fun Parks and Recreation is still the most underrated quirk of a comedy gem The Mindy Project is also back with a vengeance this season, funnier than ever with absurd shenanigans-including a sexting fiasco gone wrong.

So true, so true.

Finally, I would be remiss not to mention a couple of things that are guaranteed to brighten up any winter blues.  I mean guaranteed.  First off is The Lego Movie-one of the most clever and genuinely funny animated films in a long time.  Second, I have two words for you:  Broad City.  My sister turned me on to this new show, full of the most awkward hilarity, basically an unpolished Girls.  Perhaps the best episode so far is “Working Girls” when Abbi, one of the main characters, goes to retrieve a package for her apartment crush.  The lengths that must be traveled-man we feel you (fake cough Student Services, just saying).

Alas, we come to the end…of my procrastination.  Enjoy the Oscars tonight!

Current Films Not to be Missed!

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

Three films that are worth seeing all deal with survival in environments and times that are most trying.  It is in these instances, it seems, that we discover who we truly are and what we are willing to fight for.

Prisoners is the story of two young girls who are kidnapped and how their families crumble after the tragedy.  Hugh Jackman is brilliant as one of the grief-stricken, tortured fathers.  His physicality drives his performance to another level.  Jake Gyllenhaal gives one of his best performances ever as the detective who is trying his best to solve what seems like an unsolvable crime.  The film’s intensity leads to further discussion and reflection on what right and wrong means and how far are we willing to go in order to save those we love?

Gravity has been well-received by critics almost across the board.  And it does not disappoint.  Alfonso Cuaron, an incredibly talented director (Harry Potter and the Prizoner of Azkaban and Children of Men), directs a stunning, breath-taking piece of art that overtly illustrates how beautiful life is.  Sandra Bullock delivers the most nuanced, dynamic performance of her career, full of vulnerability and strength.  She plays Dr. Ryan Stone, a Mission Specialist, who finds herself in a life-or-death situation and must use all of her faculties in order to survive.  The religious overtones are not subtle but the themes of loneliness, damage, and loss are so sincere that it is easy to overlook this.  The score is haunting and the effects are nothing short of spectacular.

Captain Phillips seemed a little underwhelming if you were to judge it solely by its trailers.  However, the trailers are to its detriment as it is a solid film and should not be counted out.  Tom Hanks gives a strong performance, one that is finally fitting of his talent, unlike the ones he has been given in recent years (let’s all try to forget Larry Crowne and never speak of it again).  Tom Hanks drives the film the way he commanded Cast Away, making it into an intense, thrilling story.  He plays the title character whose ship is hijacked by Somali pirates (based on the 2009 true events).  Look out for Barkhad Abdi, who takes a great turn as Muse, the leader of the pirates. 

12 Years a Slave and Catching Fire reviews to come soon!

Less than Masterful: Paul Thomas Anderson Fails to Recruit Us Into His Vision

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

I should’ve known I wasn’t going to like The Master.  I cannot say I have loved all of Paul Thomas Anderson’s work, including There Will Be Blood.  Daniel Day-Lewis was excellent at yet another incredibly unlikable, unhinged character.

On the topic of unhinged and unlikable, enter The Master.  Joaquin Phoenix plays Freddie Quell, a troubled, destructive man dealing with the aftermath of returning after fighting in WWII.  Quell is also fighting against his own personal demons.  He is self-prescribing by drinking horrific alcoholic concoctions (paint-thinner in one).  All in all he’s in a bad place when he comes across Lancaster Dodd (played by Philip Seymour Hoffman), aka the “Master” of, let’s call it what it is, a cult.

It becomes hard to know what is real and what is not as Freddie imagines things that have not happened.  As there is no character evolution it is painful to watch Freddie and Dodd’s destructive behavior.  There is no one to root for.

Sure, there are complex questions about man and sexuality, and man versus animal.  Quell and Dodd seem to be two halves of a whole as Dodd recognizes in Quell.  It’s easy to wonder, is man truly that base?  It is interesting that Dodd claims that humans are not part of the animal kingdom yet he insists on there being a leader of men (in this case himself as the Master).

The performances are excellent and may even be recognized come awards season.  There was a definite void when Joaquin Phoenix was pretending he would never act again.  His intensity is finely matched by Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams (who plays in my opinion the real Master here, Dodd’s quietly domineering wife).  Hoffman has mastered, no pun intended, this type of slick character who is not what he seems (expertly done in Doubt and even The Ides of March).  Adams is a fierce force onscreen.  Her sweet, doe-eyed look is a stark contrast to the strength and steel she brings to her characters.

I couldn’t help but want The Master to end.  After it all was done I couldn’t believe that was what we were left with, no redemption just a bunch of questions, confusion, and a headache.

 

 

“The Dark Knight Rises” Tries too hard, fails

Monday, July 30th, 2012
Bane choking Batman

Like the Lebron of old, Christopher Nolan choked this summer. Here, Bane does some choking of his own.

With The Dark Knight having been as awesome as it was, I went into The Dark Knight Rises with very high expectations. The former had managed to find the fine line between drama and comic book movie (a line which I didn’t know existed, mind you) and one could only imagine that Christopher Nolan would create something even more magical, having found this cinematic sweet spot. Unfortunately, Nolan, being aware of how great The Dark Knight was, decided to make its successor essentially a clone of itself on steroids, weakly building on its strengths while exaggerating its weaknesses. TDKR tried to capture the subtle brilliance of TDK’s lengthy dialogues, the eerie believability of its action scenes, and the sensitivity of its more delicate moments, yet managed to be somewhat cheesy in its rendition of all three. It felt somewhat synthetic, as if the strengths of a great movie were being bulked up for a box office-smashing sequel. It’s sort of like the Mitt Romney of this summer’s movies; from afar, it seems to walk the walk but is much more staged and awkward at closer examination.

Don’t get me wrong – this was still close to as good as a comic book movie can get. The sheer awesomeness of the first two in this series makes us forget that we are still dealing a film in the same franchise as Jonah Hex, Green Lantern, and a few other disasters. Having not seen the first two Batman films, I would maybe even have clapped at the end of this movie as 200 people at the premier I went to felt compelled to do. However, knowing the ability Christopher Nolan possesses to create a film which is both visually and intellectually thrilling for the entirety of its runtime, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed overall and even slightly cheated at times. Please excuse a quick caps lock moment – ****SPOILER ALERT**** – alright, presuming I’ve scared away those who haven’t seen it yet, let me more specifically discuss what I mean:

Simply put, the movie was too long. Action movies need not (should not?) be 2 hours 45 minutes. I don’t think the adrenal gland – action movies’ best friend – is designed to keep grooving for that long. It felt as if Christopher Nolan had set a hard goal on this number, because I feel a lot of the movies’ problems could have been solved by cutting down some of the more mundane parts. There were dialogues and sequences in the middle of the movie that felt excessive and superfluous, and plot twists which featured the unfortunate double-whammy of being both difficult to follow and difficult to stay awake for.

I wanted to appreciate the heartfelt monologues doled out by Alfred numerous times in the movie, but found my more perverse Batman-fan side yearning to see stuff get blown up. I wanted to understand what the deal with the prison-well thing was, but couldn’t figure out for the life of me why every single person wasn’t escaping from the prison if you just needed to jump. (You’d think they’d be doing squats in their free time) I tried to calculate how long it would take the Federal government to do something about Bane in the absence of any law and order in Gotham, and decided it would have been much shorter than the months it seemed that a crew of rebels and deadbeats had the city on lockdown. I even wanted to believe that Bruce Wayne appearing at the very end after seemingly sacrificing himself, the ultimate okey-doke in feel-good action movies, wasn’t just Christopher Nolan securing future revenue streams with a disappointing and sickeningly predictable plot twist.

Instead of shooting each other with their assault rifles, the Good Guys and Bad Guys ran at each other all Lord-of-the-Rings-like. Bizarre.

Even the allusions to the struggle of the rich vs. poor felt half-hearted. While Catwoman’s various comments throughout the movie are clearly a parallel to the Occupy Wall Street movement, I’d prefer it was either discussed in more detail or not mentioned altogether rather than such a nuanced and controversial topic be glanced over as carelessly as it was.

Again, all of these are examples of things The Dark Knight did well. TDK managed to combine well-written and well-executed dialogues, a plodding narrative which took the perfect amount of time to develop, bits of social commentary that felt honest and genuine, and non-stop action which made the hair on your neck stand up, due to both how breathtaking it was and how real it seemed. The newest version tried to one-up itself on all of those measures, leaving much to be desired and a sense of Christopher Nolan having missed his chance to think outside the box.

In fairness Catwoman was cool, but ends up playing an awkward part-time role in the film, sort of like a summer intern at a big company. It’s a shame, because I would have really liked to see her and Bruce Wayne/Batman get weird. Just saying.

Movies With Heart: Capping Off Valentine’s Day

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

As this Valentine’s Day is coming to a close why not wind down with a movie or two, or three?  Don’t worry, these aren’t the usual Nicholas Sparks picks.  Here is a quick list of movies, quirky and poignant, that won’t add to your toothache or your heartache.

“Lars and the Real Girl”:  Ryan Gosling is at his best (and his best is pretty darn good) in this touching, quiet movie.  This sleeper was overlooked and underrated.  Gosling plays a man who is painfully shy and must come to terms with being an adult with the help of his brother and sister-in-law, some kind friends, and a girl who is not entirely “real.”  One of the funniest parts is when Gosling quickly chucks a flower away in order for the girl he likes not to assume it was for her.

“Sense and Sensibility”:  “Pride and Prejudice” (the BBC version of course) is wonderful as well, but Emma Thompson arguably did a better job with “Sense and Sensibility” than Austen herself.  The cinematography is beautiful and sweeping, as is the soundtrack.  Kate Winslet and Thompson play Marianne and Elinor, sisters and best friends who are navigating the waters of upper crest society and marriage in a time when women were not able to even dream of becoming anything that they could call their own.  Elinor aptly states that it is “a bit bewitching” to think that one’s happiness rests on another person.  In this case, it is not hard to imagine and it is wonderful to watch.

“Once”:  This movie is a great surprise.  “Once” won the Academy Award for Best Song for the beautiful “Falling Slowly.” Falling Slowly, Once Lyrics The song could describe what one feels while watching the movie itself as two underdogs struggling to find their way find each other instead.  “Once” shows how we can indeed make a difference in someone else’s life, even if it is just through passing by.  Another strong aspect of the film is the music.  The lyrics are haunting, describing everything from heartbreak to discovery of self.

“Lost in Translation”:  Ships passing in the night seems to be a favorite subject in literature and films alike.  Sofia Coppola manages to do this subtly, though.  Scarlett Johansson (in her strongest role, possibly) and Bill Murray are two Americans who have trouble adapting while visiting Tokyo.  They both feel lonely in a city crowded with people and find some solace in each other.  These two have a connection right away even though the odds may not be in their favor.

“Roman Holiday”:  There has to be at least one classic pick, right?  “Roman Holiday” is full of fun and truths as well.  Gregory Peck (sigh) plays a journalist who believes he has landed a big story when Audrey Hepburn (playing a princess) lands on his doorstep.  In one day they find that they can relate to one another and learn to really care for each other.  The most memorable scene?  Watch it and find out (it is at the end). (more…)

Oscar Nominations 2012: Shock and Awe-ards

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

This year is one of lightness, not in the real world, but in the world of cinema.  The dresses on the red carpet are not the only things that are prettily pastel.  It is also a year of snubs.  As the 2012 Oscar nominations were announced the Academy seemed to be saying, “Hah!  We are not going to do anything you think.  We are rebellious and like to make people angry.  As such, we cannot even stoop to find a tenth movie for Best Picture.  Oh and by the way everyone’s songs sucked, so take that Madonna and Elton John…you can stop fighting with each other now.”

My family, who likes to make a competition out of guessing the winners of all the movie award shows (for the Golden Globes just put your bets on what you think possibly could not win and that will be the winner) is at a loss for the Oscars.  We thought that they would correct what the Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild Awards did strangely but instead they may have made it worse.

I am not really sure what happened with the Oscar nominations.  All I know is people are angry and every prediction and guess is altered now.  Let’s start at the top and throw in some Golden Globes comparisons for good measure.

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