Round up them little flicks

24 Jul

It’s been a busy summer what with working and wedding planning and attempting to socialize so I haven’t been keeping up with regaling you all with my movie reviews as much I should.

Begin Again

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This is an excellent little film about two people who meet each other in their own times of crisis and something wonderful develops from it. Mark Ruffalo plays alcoholic dad and music producer Dan who meets Keira Knightly’s character Gretta just after he’s been fired. Gretta has been dumped by her rocker boyfriend whom she followed to NYC and is one mouse click from booking a flight back to England when a chance meeting throws Dan and Gretta together. Dan convinces her to make an album on the streets of NYC and such begins a journey of connection and healing through the power of music. This is such an interesting film because it’s story is non linear and it doesnt follow romantic comedy tropes. Really, it’s for anyone who loves music and has been moved by it and formed relationships through it. It defies the temptation to be a typical romance and has an excellent supporting cast. I highly recommend it.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

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I really did not want to see this movie because I so disliked the first but Ken was chomping at the bit to see this and I didn’t want to abandon him to brave the cinematic experience alone so I went, expectations low. I can’t say if James Franco was entirely the reason I hated the first but it was definitely a big part of it.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes finds tens years passing since Caesar left the lab and the intelligent apes started a colony of their own. A virus has wiped out much of humanity but a small settlement survives in San Fran. However they are about the run out of power and the apes colony is blocking access to a dam that can restore power and continue to keep human society stable. The apes and humans do not hit it off, to say the least.
This movie has a rather epic scope and carries it off very well. There are two family dramas brewing, one in the apes and one in the family of human protagonist Malcolm, and these two dramas parallel each other harmoniously. The themes of trust, betrayal, looking past appearances to trust who is worthy and not just familiar ring authentic throughout the film. The special effects are awe-inspiring, especially in the way that they don’t detract from the film, just make it possible to exist and be believable. The only critism I had was that Gary Oldman’s part was a little distracting and unnecessary but still, it’s Gary Oldman and I can make exceptions.

How to Train Your Dragon 2

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Dreamworks sequel to the first film finds Hiccup and Toothless exploring new lands together, while Hiccup shirks his father’s intentions to have him become the next chief. The further the pair travel, the more they find they are not alone in their corner of the world, and dragons possess more magic and complications than they ever thought.
There is a lot to love about this movie, but really Toothless pulls the whole thing off for me. I don’t know if everyone’s dog is like Toothless but mine is and it’s incredibly adorable and endearing. The film really goes for Hamlet levels of family drama which I don’t think it pulls off very well because it tries to jam way too much family drama story in with the message it’s also trying to send about respecting different species and taking advantage of power. It feels way too long at points and places where it feels like it would be a good idea to wrap the story up, it just tramples past it and goes on and on. For me, Toothless and the dragons are really the saving grace for the human malarkey.

The Fault in our Stars

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I read the book so I knew what I was in store for with this cry fest. Because I read the book it’s hard for me to separate the two but there isn’t much need because it was adapted pretty well. Hazel is a teenager with cancer who meets Augustus in a teenagers with cancer support group. Augustus likes her immediately and she is charmed by his charismatic personality and willingness to read her favourite book. After Augustus reads the book and finds it as puzzling and frustrating as Hazel does, the hunt to find the author is on.
The book is deeply philosophical and pulls it off incredibly well for a young adult novel. Judging by the fact that almost everyone in the theater was crying I would say the movie managed to touch hearts and evoke attachments to these characters as well as the book. If you need a reminder how precious and short life can be, don’t miss this movie.

Maleficent

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This Disney film follows the life of young Maleficent, powerful fairy and friend to her magical community. One day she meets a greedy human, Stephan, but grows to love him anyway. Ultimately her heart is broken and she suffers a terrible betrayal by him when he steals her wings. Many years later she curses his daughter to die when she pricks her finger, and the little princess is sent to live with three incredibly incompetent fairies.
This film has some fascinating characters, such as the raven who becomes human, and of course Malefient herself, but the humans are utterly boring. While the special effects are spectacular, they are distracting and mostly irritating. One of the worst choices the movie made was to try to make the three guardian fairies humorous. The attempts at comedy come across painful and made me grimace in embarrassment for Disney. The movie is way too long for the kind of narrative here and lacks charm where it should be leaking with it. If you enjoy a highly stylized movie with little plot, this may be your dish.

22 Jump Street

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Schmidt and Jenko are back in this hilarious movie about friendship and law enforcement. The pair must go undercover at college to find a drug distributor, but that’s just a side story because what the movie is really about is friendship and the different struggles that come along with it like growing apart, jealously, exclusion, and trust. 22 Jump street is self referential to great comedic effect (seriously don’t bother watching this until you’ve seen the first) and mixes fun actions sequences with unexpected plot twists. Terrifically funny and smart, I highly recommend this film.

As far as the rest of the summer, I am incredibly excited for Guardians of the Galaxy, the One Hundred Foot Journey and What If. Hopefully I’ll be so excited about GotG I’ll just run home and write a review!

Edge of Tomorrow Melts Minds to Become First Great Movie of 2014

8 Jun

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Tom Cruise is Will Cage, an arrogant public relations officer in the U.S. military. He is sent over to the front lines of combat in a war humanity has found itself in with creatures of a extraterrestrial nature. He dies the next day on the beach in a massive slaughter, one of the final stages of the war which humanity will lose and ruthless aliens are apparently destined to win. Then he wakes up the next day to the same people saying the same things until he finally finds Rita, solider who had this time loop power but lost it. With Rita’s guidance he advances further and further, still dying everyday until his skills improve. This happens again and again until he has only one day left to get it right and save the world.

I went in to this movie knowing very little about it, perhaps even on the reluctant side especially after seeing Source Code which I thought had similar premise. While Source Code was repetitive, boring in its overcomplicatedness and ultimately forgettable, The Edge of Tomorrow is an edge of your seat, thrilling adventure that has you rooting for Cruise, and laughing in all the right places to keep you engaged. Edge of Tomorrow has flawless editing that allows the story to move forward smoothly without irritating the audience too much having to hear the same dialogue repeatedly. I’m not a video game person but I understand the premise is the same as many games where you advance until you are killed then have to start over. The pacing of this film was perfect and I’ll tell you how I know; because my mind did not wander. The minute your brain withdraws from a movie like this and starts clicking into other things, grocery lists, plans for the next day, previous encounters of the current day, you begin the process of withdrawing from the movie and that’s not what any film maker should want. That is not what I, as the viewer, wants. I paid my 15 bucks (thanks price of 3D) and I expect to be whisked far away from my routine life. Although this is ultimately a simple story about a man trying to save the world, all the other details are what makes this film great. Everything falls into place to make this the perfect summer blockbuster. 

The special effects were fantastic and very rarely blurry. Though many of the battles are fast paced, you don’t feel as if you’re lost in the chaos. There have been an extraordinary amount of different cinematic aliens that come in all shapes, sizes and colours with many abilities but these creatures were a fascinating hybrid of spider and beast and far enough removed from any humanistic qualities that the audience isn’t asking questions like “why can’t they reason with them? What’s driving them to take over the planet anyway?” Those are the kind of questions I’m usually asking in films like this but this time I wasn’t compelled to question the motivations of something that doesn’t seem to have basic human emotions. 

Cruise is excellent here and part of the reason this movie works so well. There are so few leading men who can pull of a role like this that needs charm, charisma and subtle character development. It is a testament to Cruise that I can watch this movie and forget what I know about him (he’s batshit crazy) and love his character, root for this character and empathize with him. Blunt is wonderful here as well. I’ve always liked her because she makes great choices about what which roles she chooses, and she’s such an unconventional beauty with a fierce attitude. She is a fantastic actress who picks interesting roles which defy boring stereotypes.

I hope this review will make you excited to see this movie without raising your expectations to unrealistic heights. Please watch the movie then come back and we can just talk about how amazing it was in the comments! I am fearful this movie will not get paid the attention it deserves because it is among so many summer releases, and Cruises’ stock has plummeted recently. However, this is a do not miss movie! Everything comes together perfectly to leave you feeling exhilarated upon leaving the theater and that’s all I can ask for in a summer blockbuster.   

Movie Round-up!

30 May

It’s time for round-up. Imagine all these movies I see are little sheep running around the vast pasture that is my mind. Sometimes it’s so hard to capture them and shave them of their precious wool. They flit around and bahh and sometimes they’re so annoying but they however long you leave them you still need to harvest that wool. I realize this is kind of an abstract metaphor but picturing sheep is pretty great. Here, I got one for you Image

 

Haha, man that is great. Those sunglasses are just perfection. Some people say that 90’s style isn’t retro chic yet but what does this glorious sheep care? We should all aspire to be more like him. I guess you want some of those sweet sheep movie thoughts. Can I just say for a second how cumbersome it is for me to explain the plot of a movie here? Just watch the trailer and you’ll get it. You’ll also probably know if it’s a good movie for you to see. I’m going to do a streamlined plot because you need to take some responsibility yo. (I’M KIDDING PLEASE DON’T GO I’LL EXPLAIN IT ALL. WHATEVER YOU WANT.)

Noah

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I liked this movie because it was ambitious and epic, while being grounded in an interesting family drama. It has elements of fantasy which I really enjoyed (you really think Noah built that ark without some supernatural help?) but the real power comes from Noah’s family; his wife, three sons and adopted daughter. This movie recounts the incredible pressure put on Noah to make choices that will determine the fate of humanity and Crowe does a great job at expressing the strength and vulnerability that kind of stress puts on a person. Though it feels quite long at times, overall I have to recommend this movie because its great on so many levels. We see a fascinating tale of the downfall of humanity, the small moments between people that can redeem us, and our effect on this planet we share with so many other lifeforms. Beautifully shot and wonderfully acted I highly recommend this film.  

 

Neighbors

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Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne are new parents who have the misfortune of living next to a frat house. Initially they start out on the right foot with Dave Franco and Zack Efron’s party boys but a miscommunication leads to an all out war between the sleep deprived couple and the whippersnappers who don’t give a shit. This film touches on some really interesting themes about growing up, becoming parents, learning to let go of the nights of partying, and feeling that strange lack of familiarity with people who don’t seem that much younger than you, but who you are worlds away from after having a child. Some great laughs here as well but a bit of a dissatisfying ending, especially for Efron’s character. 

 

The Other Woman

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Diaz stars as a successful woman who finds out the man she’s dating is married and ends up bonding with the wife of the married man. This role really couldn’t work with anyone less charming than Leslie Mann as the wife. As soon as Diaz learns her boyfriend is married, she calls it quits but aloof Diaz doesn’t know how to deal with Mann’s character, who is whinny and needy but incredibly sweet, friendly and kind.There are some great gross out gags, slapstick bits and amusing situational comedy but the movie starts to stumble with Kate Upton’s presence as a third woman who is a victim of the cheating husband. I would say the strength of the first half of this movie is enough to recommend it on, but the second half really could have been a lot better. Like many romantic comedies, it’s very nice to look at but becomes a bit unbelievable when you have someone like Diaz wishing she had a body like Upton. I suppose the message is supposed to be that all women feel insecure to some extent but that feels a little unrealistic and pandering in this case. Someone who looks as great as Diaz knows how hard it is to maintain so I call bullshit.  It’s so rare to get a good romantic comedy; I’d say there’s about one a year. Two of my recent favorites are Crazy, Stupid Love and 500 Days of Summer. Movies of that quality are so hard to come by for some reason. 

 

Godzilla

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I wasn’t sure I’d like Godzilla, but there was something so exhilarating about this film. The movie is grounded in a family drama about a husband losing his wife, and his obsessive pursuit to find the truth about what happened to her. Really though, this movie was about giant monsters fighting and the rest was just built around to support the showdown. I’m not going to elaborate but my favorite line in the movie is “let them fight.” Such wise words. Just a great summer popcorn movie. 

X-Men: Days of Future Past 

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I’m not going to tell you the details of the plot of Days of Future Past are easy to understand because they aren’t. Any occasion where a movie starts playing with time travel there are bound to be a ton of plot holes. The gist is that many years in the future mutants and humans have been obliterated by these cyborg machine things and this chain of events was set off by Mystique killing a man named Trask in 1973. Logan is one of the few survivors and is sent back in time to prevent this execution from happening. There are many great scenes in the movie, and it’s fantastic to see so many characters together in one film. Personally I was a big fan of this new mutant that can send people through worm holes. Keep an eye out for my favorite scene in the movie with a new mutant called Quick silver. My biggest problem with this movie is that the villain, Trask, the reason everything terrible has happened, doesn’t get a back story. Why does this guy want to destroy mutants so badly? We are told that though Trask respects them he sees them as a threat that needs to be eliminated. So he makes unstoppable machines that can kill anything. In what universe does that seem like a good idea?? I need more of a reason than that as to why the world is in utter shambles. Perhaps others do not but part of the reason I found The Avengers and Thor movies so compelling is because Loki is a first rate villain. Overall this film had the humor to keep us laughing, and the visuals to dazzle with the characters that we love but the story is a bit flawed. It’s up to you to decide how much the bothers you or if you’ll let it fly because Hugh Jackman’s muscles are so damn defined. 

Some movies that you may be interested in: opening this week we have Maleficient and A Million Ways to Die in the West. I have intentions to see both of these though I did not care for MacFarlene’s last movie Ted. Later this summer we’ve got 22 Jump Street, Guardians of the Galaxy, How to Train Your Dragon 2, Lucy (though I think it looks like a bad off shoot of Limitless, I can’t resist an ass kicking Scarlett Johansson), and especially The Fault In Our Stars which is coming out June 6th. 

I beg of you to comment even if it’s to tell me this is worst trash you’ve ever read. No one want to shout into a void. 

The Amazing Spiderman 2

9 May

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NO. JUST NO.

If you wanted to hear a little more detail; there are too many villains, the plot is dumb, I don’t like Andrew Garfield as a leading man and this movie is insanely long and feels it. They tried to cram too much story, too many characters and not enough charm into this film. I am sorry because I really really wanted to like it. I did. 

Divergent intrigues with great story and decent cast

8 May

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I read Divergent by Veronica Roth a while ago, a few months before the movie came out. It is in the same vein as the Hunger Games, but not in the same league. While the premise is almost just as fascinating, unfortunately Roth isn’t the same caliber writer as Collins and therefore her characters aren’t as well rounded. I was extremely frustrated by the end of the book because Roth appeared to be knocking off characters right and left for the sake of her unquenchable blood lust apparently. Uhh spoilers I guess, but you don’t know who soooo….

Divergent takes place in a dystopian future where people live in one of five factions which emphasize one characteristic over all others. The five factions are split into groups which value kindness, honesty, selflessness, knowledge, or fearlessness. Each of these factions working together should create an ideal society, if only human nature could be denied (spoiler: it can’t.) Beatrice is the hero of our story and she is anxious for the day she has to choose which faction she will live with and dedicate the rest of her life to. Luckily there is a test which will guide her decision through hallucinated scenarios in which Beatrice will find which quality she embodies most. The test does not go normally and her results are inconclusive, making her a danger to the authorities which value simplifying people and creating a strict order above all else. Beatrice is forced to make a choice without much guidance and her decision takes her down a dangerous path that challenges and frees her. 

I really enjoyed this movie, which I was a little surprised about because I was not fond of the book. I actually didn’t even read the last couple pages and had no interest in pursuing the two other books in the series. However such an interesting premise, with decent screenwriters, good actors and decent production design was quite satisfying to watch. I’m not overly fond of the new “it” girl Shailene Woodley but she is a competent actress and brings as much to Beatrice as the script will allow. One of the things I liked about this movie is that after Beatrice chooses her faction, she encounters a lot of hardship. She isn’t some genius savant that is immediately good at everything, impressing her new community. She’s actually pretty terrible at her new life but this really made me root for her. Of course she had to be a special little snow flake in some way but at least we get to see her butt kicked around a bit first. 

Some people may say this is the poor man’s Hunger Games, what with the Hunger Games boosting a cast of Oscar winners/nominees, grossing millions and being first to draw mainstream attention in the now wildly popular YA dystopian genre. However Divergent has some great moments and an interesting enough plot for this critic to recommend. I might also add the Ken was excited to note that this book/movie does not have a love triangle. Personally I can never get enough of a good love triangle but it was nice to see that archetype absent for this tale. 

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, no no! Its a….new post!

22 Apr

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hELLO. Hey that just came out like that. I’m going to leave it. Wouldn’t it be funny if I didn’t correct the spelling/grammar in this post at all? Man that would be embarrassing. It certainly has been a while since I’ve updated but I’m feeling very….groovy tonight from an invigorating violin practice so I’m going to toss this out for you. I’ve seen precious few movies in the last few months but my lack of posts might indicate to you that I’ve seen none! I’d like to correct that assumption and tell you I’ve seen Grand Budapest Hotel, Captain America; Winter Solider, as well as the Lego Movie, which is better left unsaid frankly. 

I’ll start with the Lego Movie because I have very little to say on it. It’s got a cliche story line, but it’s a nice message for families (read:kids). It’s bright and colourful and the animation is very detailed, but almost all the jokes fell flat for me. It just wasn’t my cup of tea and we probably shouldn’t have seen it. 

The Grand Budapest Hotel, on the other hand, was a treat. I actually haven’t seen very many Wes Anderson movies but I enjoyed The Fantastic Mr Fox tremedously and I was greatly looking forward to this. I was not let down. It was just as weird, quirky and delightful as I expected it to be. The story is kind of a story within a story, within a story, which I thought was fun right off the bat. There is a very fine hotel up in the mountains, which is in the heyday of its glory in the 1930’s. It is run by the incomparable Ralph Fiennes as Gustave H, a man so dignified, sophisticated and civilized even in the 1930’s he is considered more high class than most. Gustave welcomes all the wealthy patrons to the hotel, and treats them like royalty, even catering to their more base desires, no matter their age. A woman Gustave has treated well passes away and leaves him a priceless painting called Boy with Apple. Gustave enlists the help of his dear friend and lobby boy Zero to go retrieve it, despite the wishes of the woman’s conniving family. Of course there are a host of familiar faces like Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Jude Law among many others and its such fun to see them show up on screen briefly, serve their purpose, then take off to be replaced by another new, interesting character. I enjoyed everything about this film from the wacky comedy, to the story within a story device, to the abrupt violence, which I always think spices things up. The only thing that was a bit sad was the ending, but one must take it with a grain of salt and recognize the sadness of the ending lends the film a fine sense of nostalgia. 

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is everything that you have come to expect Marvel movies to be; grand, exciting and funny, while also capturing a more meaningful message by embracing themes and issues that non-super hero people can relate to. Steve Rogers is a lonely man, still working with SHIELD and Nick Fury to bring down the bad guys. Things start to go topsy turvy when Fury is attacked and suddenly nobody knows who to trust. Can Rogers count on Black Widow, or is she in on it too? Who is the winter soldier? This movie deals with themes of corruption in corporate organizations, absolute power in the hands of people who may not know how to use it, and the alienation Rogers faces as a man with very few people he can trust, and fewer he actually likes. Captain America has always been my least favorite Marvel hero because he’s a bit too straight laced for me. Why have a boy scout when you can have hard-drinking, womanizing, demon filled Tony Stark? Or, even better, Loki of Asgard! (Somebody get that man a movie, I’m serious, shut up and take my money.) But I sympathize with Steve’s loneliness, his isolation and his desire to seek out black and white right and wrong in a grey world. Winter Soldier has a pretty neat twist in it which I think few will see coming. The relationship dynamic between Steve and Natasha is fun and sexy without forcing a romance that would undermine Black Widow and Hawk Eye (who are a super awesome pairing, face it.) It’s also great to see a strong female presence from Cobie Smulders as Agent Maria Hill. No, I don’t watch Agents of Shield but it is on my radar if I can ever stop watching Supernatural. Overall, another hit from Marvel, and even if, like me, Captain America isn’t your favorite hero, you will still enjoy this well-made blockbuster immensely. 

Since spring is here it’s time to start getting excited about the summer blockbusters we have coming to us. I don’t think it will surprise anyone that the majority of this list is super hero movies. I don’t know what to say, I fucking love super hero movies. I wish I was a super hero, I wish I lived in a super hero universe, I want to be them and be ON them simultaneously. It’s a lot of emotions to deal with, that’s why this blog exists. My top picks for summer blockbusters are Guardians of The Galaxy, X-Men Days of Future Past, Maleficent and The Amazing Spider Man 2. For non super hero movies I like The Fault in Our Stars, and, trust me I never thought I’d say this, but A Million Ways to Die in the West. I HATED Ted, and I generally don’t think Seth MacFarlane’s brand of humour is that great but the trailer had me laughing my ass off.   

Her features Great Performances and Provokes with Challenging Questions

24 Jan

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Alright, alright, alright (if you read that in Matthew Mcconaughey’s voice you’re doing the right thing) it’s time for a new blog post! This week’s movie is called Her starring Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson and Amy Adams, directed  by Spike Jonze. Joaquin plays Theodore, a man lonely after separating from his wife. The story takes place in a futuristic L.A. where computers and artificial intelligence are interwoven into our daily lives. Theodore buys an A.I. system which has the ability to grow, learn and adapt, and has its own personality; it is called Samantha ( voiced by Johansson). 

So starts a story which aims to explore the nature of human relationships, and does so admirably. Theodore is a lonely man, a bit socially awkward, but very sweet, sensitive and romantic. Samantha is highly intelligent and knows everything there is to know in theory, but she has a spirit of child like wonder about the world in its reality. Frankly experiencing the world without a body isn’t really experiencing the world very well at all but Theodore tries valiantly to communicate the human experience to her.

I love how this movie paints such a beautiful picture of the value of human connection, the excitement of new relationships, the pain of old relationships burdened with all the wounds that holding someone dear brings, and the general tenuousness of human connection. One of my favorite things that director Spike Jonze has done is to create a fascinating juxtaposition between the bleak loneliness inside Theodore and the bright pastels, the cheerful colours and the general light which composes the film’s landscape. Usually futuristic movies go for a style which is about sleek surfaces, hard angles and metallic colours so it was so refreshing to see this bright and fresh colour palette in this kind of film. 

This movie raises many questions about the concept of a human having an intimate relationship with a machine, whether connection of the mind and spirit can overcome the obstacle of a lack of physical presence, and how people will form an attachment with anything that gives us a sense shared experience, and lessens that feeling of loneliness.

I am sure you will find this film sweet, funny but mainly thought provoking, as I believe that is the central purpose in its design. Though I commend this film on its many strengths, I did find that the plot fell apart a bit in the third act with the inevitable separation of Theodore and Samantha.  However, I think you will find, as I did, that the questions are more important than the answers in this film. 

Next week, in my quest to see all the best picture nominees, I will be reviewing Dallas Buyer’s Club. I have yet to see Philomena and Nebraska. If you are interested, my favorite picture of the year is 12 Years A Slave, which remains one of the most moving films I have ever seen. I couldn’t say whether it will win Best Picture this year though I hope it will.