Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Hail, Caesar!

Essentially a day-in-the-life movie about a film studio producer and "fixer," Hail, Caesar! follows Eddie Mannix (a guy whose name and vocation is true to real life -- who knows about the rest) played by as he goes busily to and fro various movie sets, smoothing wrinkles and covering up scandals.

Hail, Hollywood!

Set inside of Hollywood's golden age of bright cheesiness, 1951, this latest caper from the Coen Brothers has gobs and gobs of distraction on it's surface. So much so that you might not even notice that it actually is about something underneath all that cheese and glam. Mannix is mulling over the idea of leaving his hard job of long hours for something else that is tempting, but he feels is lacking in some way. Then one of the studio's biggest actors (and star of their new epic "Hail Caesar," a story of Christ told from the perspective of a Roman soldier), Baird Whitlock, () goes missing! He's actually been kidnapped by commies -- a bunch of Hollywood writers who came up with a ransom scheme to get the money they believe they deserve. They sit around and fill Baird's head with communism while Mannix continues to take one problem at a time.

This one thing at a time attitude is where the distraction comes in. Every time Mannix visits a different film set, we get a lengthy view into the world of filmmaking, which may or may not be your cup of tea, but it sure was mine. Water sets, tap dancing scenes, cowboy flicks, period drama romances, all with their own thing going on and their own problems. Played for comedy, and really quite amusing. I was almost disappointed at times when we didn't get to see a second take -- or the third take -- and instead had to move along. Here we are introduced to the film's wide spread of big-name talent, most of whom are really no more than a fun cameo. Like 's very amusing part, or ' humorously refined but irritated director. Everyone is some stereotype or another. was unexpected in a part that reminded me slightly of Lena Lamont of Singing in the Rain. 's duel-role was brilliant. And was... well, more then I expected.

Hail to the guy who leads?

Some of the characters felt unnecessary if you think about it. But, at the same time, I wonder if you go even deeper, would they all eventually make some kind of sense? I certainly get the feeling that the film is very purposeful; more purposeful than meets the eye. To get to the theme and the message of the story I had to go deeper than I expected to considering the style of the storytelling and the fun and quirky atmosphere, but there it is. Maybe Tilda Swinton didn't need to play one, let alone two characters, maybe she did, but some of these characters do play into a purpose, and drive home a rather abstract, but interesting idea.

Of course this is most obviously found in our lead Mannix. Josh Brolin hits the perfect key with this guy, by the way -- as he always does. He's a great lead, and the character is a powerful guy; he has respect and authority, but he also is very religious going to confession every day. He tries very hard to make people happy, especially his wife (Zelda Fitz-- I mean ) who wants him to quit smoking. He seems very much like the boss, but of course he has a boss of his own, albeit an absent one. Then there's Baird. He's not a really likable character and Clooney plays him well in that vein. He's a huge actor. Mention his name and people go "Ohhh!" But he's an empty coconut if ever there was one. He has an influential voice but his words are given to him -- by a script, or by a commie, or couple hard slaps upside the head. He's importance in on the surface only.

Hail to the guy who looks like the leader?

Then there's the guy who you wouldn't think is important but really is. That's as Hobie Doyle. Hobie is a smaller-time lead; the cowboy guy. He's always in the pursuit of doing something right, whether it be a handstand on a horse, or, when he's moved over to the posh romantic drama, saying that line just as he's supposed to. Maybe he doesn't have the talent for certain things, but he's a dedicated worker and does everything he's given to do the very best that he can. And in the end that devotion makes him a pivotal character to the plot. Ehrenreich of course is a delight to watch which helps even more -- he has that screen presence that makes everything he does twice as interesting, and then he actually does quite a lot of interesting things! He's a dedicated performer himself, learning those lasso tricks. And he was the movie's scene-stealer, hands down.

And Mannix himself, as high up as he is, is only a background worker. The movie studio would fall apart without him, but he gets very little of the glory. However he (and we) discover the importance of the way things work, and get a reinvigorated belief in the importance of the work being done. (A little bit of a love-letter to film never hurts!) The movie's multiple layers of the movie within the movie is neat and draws some interesting parallels, but at the same time, there is a jumbled aspect going on that is difficult to see through, with all those distractions of so many films being placed together in this one. I was impressed at how neatly everything tied together though, in the end. I expected it to be more pointless going in.

If only it were so simple. If only it were so simple. If only...

I can certainly understand criticism of this film, as it is very unusual, and not what one might naturally expect it to be. It has the plot of, I guess, I popcorn flick, with it's bright-and-breezy entertainment qualities, and what seems like a main arc of trying to recover the missing actor. That's something that could very easily go action-y in the final act, but instead the film at the surface stays the same; light and inconsequential. Underneath builds the mildly abstract and not exactly prominent ideas of power, authority, and dedication that is driven by characters; characters, who, for the most part, don't get it any more than we do. For them, it's just another eventful day. But it was an important day, and this film does have some interesting things to say, in typical, understated Coen fashion. It may not a be a masterpiece, but if you want more from it than a plethora of quirky performances, hearty laughs and light, colorful entertainment, it's there for you to find.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Intern

Spoilers.

In this chick flick by , the writer and director of one of my favorite rom-coms, is Ben, a recently retired widower who gets a job as an intern for a up-and-coming online clothing store run by Jules (), a young and inexperienced but dedicated businesswoman.

... Who rides he bike through the workplace to save time. Cute, but those poor people who have to run after her!

Since I liked The Holiday so much, I thought this would certainly be worth a look, considering the nice cast, and the quirky trailer that promised a lighthearted good time. And as it started out it delivered on those promises. The setting in the open floor-space of the business gave everything a breezy feel, so there's a comfortable flow, and a few neat quirks to make it all memorable. It was like a happier, more modern The Devil Wears Prada. Anne Hathaway comes across as a good boss; friendly and kind, if also a perfectionist and not extremely personable. Robert De Niro's Ben is an unfailing optimist and a very classy gentleman, and he pulls off the adorable-old-man vibe perfectly.

I thought that I'd mirror the movie with this review. I started out with some promise and a few positives that seem to be leading in the right direction, but now I'm going to make you wonder how good this review might actually be. That's what the movie did next. As Jules doesn't warm to Ben, things start to stagnate. The super-positive work environment sometimes comes across as insincere; I would feel unnerved like something sinister was going on, or would be very aware that I was watching a movie. We find out that Jules has a family, which seems like an odd rabbit trail. I started liking the supporting characters more than the leads. Then, Ben wins Jules' approval and things appear to head back in the original direction.

Yay felonies! Or is it a misdemeanor? Either way, yay!

That's when the robbery takes place. Sure, in the movie it's just breaking and entering to delete an accidentally sent email, but it sure did feel like a robbery to me. Suddenly the movie's relaxed charm was gone and replaced by unfunny situational comedy that served no other purpose than to extend the run time. In one scene this film went from cute-little-flick to tonally confusing and borderline disaster. But don't worry, it doesn't end there...

It gets much worse! After the original airy tone was discarded, a new one was quickly set in its place. Fortunately, it wasn't the dumb comic one you might expect considering the scene that brought on the change. No, it was actually what I'd call a haphazard melodrama. Either there was not enough girl power in the character of Jules, a woman who built up her own company from nothing with dedication, style, and grace... or too much. I'm not really sure. Which is it when you take a confident businesswoman (who's fair to her employees and so hands-on that she gives out her cell number to clients in case they have problems) and turn her into a weepy mess of indecision and neediness? What is the goal here?

Her face is my reaction to all that. Followed by an eye roll and a face-palm after what happens next.

Eventually, all this movie wants to do is preach to us about feminism, and sexism, and gender roles and things like that. I have my own opinions on those subjects, but no matter what perspective I look at it from, it's not good on a storytelling level. It's not entertaining or compelling here. Jules' home life falls apart because she spends every waking hour working, and then her husband Matt () "makes a stupid mistake" and cheats on her. Whoops! This very efficiently turns him into that character that typically the female lead is dating at the beginning of the rom-com and eventually is happily rid of, except his speech about how he'll do better actually works. She forgives him, but she continues to work just as much, so everything's hunky-dory, but nothing has changed.

The message the film brings to this is that it wasn't Jules' fault that Matt cheated, which of course is true; so obviously true to me, that I thought it was odd and unnecessary how big a point they made out of it. However, just because Jules' constant absence isn't a free pass or even a bad excuse to cheat doesn't mean that it was okay for her to be such a workaholic, and it's presented that it was. Seriously, in every movie where a man is never home and obsessed with work he's invariably put in a bad light and either is a flawed character that must change, or is an actual villain -- and those morals ring true. Are we really supposed to accept that it's fine that Jules values her job over her family?

I didn't want to get into the politics, but I guess I just did. Oh well.

Back to criticizing the entertainment aspects: Around when the political agenda is heating up is when the entertainment takes the backseat. There's very little comedy left, and everything melts into a puddle of tears -- and unconvincing, unmoving ones at that. Sad characters drag the movie down. Drama appears out of nowhere and tries to pull the plot in awkward directions. Jules' character arc set up at the beginning is abandoned for a cheap, flimsy one, and the problem set up at the beginning of the company needing a CEO is suddenly not nearly so urgent and is dismissed with a wave of the hand. Ben also loses a lot of interest, but does remain the film's most consistent and best character throughout. Other characters are completely forgotten, like Becky () who feels undermined and underused, and her suitor () who's trying to get back into her good graces.

is in the movie. (I'm just trying to think of some pros.) He's a part of one sequence that is quite funny where Ben is being interviewed for his position and almost none of the questions apply to him. But that was at the beginning of the movie; when it was a good movie with fun and quirky potential. It sure did all fall down fast. And the charming appeal of the beginning only made its speedy and uninspired decline all the more disappointing.

Friday, August 5, 2016

5 Favorite Couples Tag

Rules:
Pick one couple from each category
Tagging is optional
Link back to Revealed in Time.

Thanks to Ivy Miranda for creating and tagging me to do this! Time to let my romantic side run loose! I'll steer clear of spoilers for the plots of the movies/TV shows these characters inhabit, but there may or may not be some spoilers concerning the characters, individually and as a couple. Also click the links on the titles to read my reviews of said movies/TV shows! Let me know what you think of my picks in the comments, and participate in the tag if you want to! I'm not going to tag anyone, but would be delighted to see anyone's answers! On to it...

Categories:
1.) Period Drama Couple
2.) Sci-Fi/Fantasy Couple
3.) Superhero Couple
4.) Preferred Couple (from a love triangle) 
5.) Couple Ended Too Soon


Period Drama Couple:
Lizzy Bennet and Mr. Darcy
 "By you, I was properly humbled. I came to you without a doubt of my reception. You showed me how insufficient were all my pretensions to please a woman worthy of being pleased.” -- Mr. Darcy
 
Film-wise I do prefer the 1995 version (as you may be able to tell...) but this couple is more a credit to Austen's book than anything else. Lizzy and Darcy might even be my most beloved fictional couple of all time. First of all, the fact that I actually love both characters individually is pretty unusual. I love Lizzy's spirit and teasing nature, and how she delights in the ridiculous. And Darcy has that appealing sense of mystery to him, but then once the mystery begins to unravel he only gets more interesting and lovable with his heart of gold. Then together, especially in the novel, they fit together better than any other couple I can think of right now. Darcy is naturally serious and intimidating, but once they are engaged Lizzy gets right to him with her playful teasing and sharp wit in a lovely scene in the book that didn't make it into any film adaptation. They bring each other down from their lofty proud perches while raising up and enhancing their better qualities. A hate-turned-to-love relationship for the ages.


Sci-Fi/Fantasy Couple:
Jim and Selena
"That was longer than a heartbeat." -- Jim

This one could have gone to almost any number of couples. Sci-fi and fantasy genres have no shortage of cute couples after all. I decided to go with these two for one main reason: Often with science fiction, the point isn't really the romance. There can be great romances, but most of the time it's the sci-fi itself that really takes front and center. And that's certainly what you'd expect out of a zombie horror film. However, Jim and Selena's relationship ties directly into the theme of the film and becomes one of the film's most prominent features in the end. Jim is new to the zombie world and hasn't become a hardened survivor, but Selena has. She knows what it is to kill loved ones about to turn and we see her do it without hesitation. She tells Jim that she'd do the same to him in a heartbeat. She's become jaded, and survival has become the only thing left in her eyes. However the two develop a cute friendship, and Selena begins to see more than survival in like. And just as Jim completes his journey to becoming a hardened killer to survive, Selena regains her heart. When she thinks Jim is infected (but he isn't) she hesitates. And that says it all.


Superhero Couple:
Peggy Carter and Daniel Sousa
Agent Carter (Season1) (Season 2)

Sousa: "Nothing to say? No quick comeback?"
Peggy: *giant KISS*
Sousa: "...Good point."

This one's maybe a bit of a stretch since neither of these two have actual superpowers, but they are Marvel characters, so I'm gonna go with it! And it's not that I don't like Peggy's brief romance with Captain America in The First Avenger, but we all knew that could never last. From the very first episode of the first season of Agent Carter, I thought that Daniel would be perfect for her and hoped that they'd get together and that he would be confirmed as the husband she refers to in The Winter Soldier. I got one wish granted when they finally happen at the very end of season two. And as much as I would have been all for a third season, everyone knows that a happily ever after doesn't make for good drama, so at least they got that with their future being unexplored. Though I would have loved to see them together and happy a little longer than that brief make-out session -- they were all kinds of adorable even before they were a couple!
 

Preferred Couple (from a love triangle):
Jonathan Byers and Nancy Wheeler
Jonathan: I guess I'd rather observe people than... you know...
Nancy: Talk to them.
Jonathan: I know. It's weird.
Nancy: No!
Jonathan: No, it is! It's just, sometimes... people don't really say what they're really thinking. But when you capture the right moment, it says more.

This category is the reason I took so long to make this list. All the love triangles I knew of I was tired of (like The Hunger Games) or weren't really fair, having a clear correct winner. But then I saw Stranger Things. Jonathan (left), Nancy, and Steve make up a very well-balanced and amazingly realistic triangle and are the most interesting side plot of an incredibly interesting show. Jonathan is the weird, unpopular loner who's too busy trying to be the man of his house to engage in high school social drama, and Nancy is a nice girl well on her way to becoming a grade-A jerk, dating the charming but wild and worldly Steve. But when she and Jonathan are thrown together by certain plot events, the friction between the two quickly turns to sparks of romance. Nancy leaves the path to becoming a popular snob, and Jonathan opens up to her. They bring out the best in each other, and there are so many sweet moments to appreciate. But, in a wacky twist, their friendship opens Steve's eyes to his less-than-commendable ways, and he improves his character as well, with a surprisingly awesome redemptive turn. And suddenly there's no clear frontrunner. Jonathan is my favorite character on the show (or in the top two, at least) so he's my pick, but really the two sides are so evenly balanced that I may be swayed in the future as plot and characters develop. We'll see where season 2 takes them!


Couple Ended Too Soon:
Morse and Joan Thursday
Morse: "Well, there are coppers and there are coppers."
Joan: "And what kind are you, then?"
Morse: "I'm the kind that sees young ladies safely to their door."

Poor Morse and his relationship woes! I've been shipping Joan (the daughter of Inspector Thursday, Morse's boss) with Morse ever since their first meeting -- as I'm sure we were meant to -- and in the most resent season we got as close as I fear we ever will concerning them. That is of course, because Morse has eternally bad luck with love -- to his increasing endearment, and in spite of his being one of the biggest hopeless romantics of all time. And Joan seems like a perfect match for him; a young girl in need of a direction and an influence, and whenever she is influenced by Morse she doesn't seem so lost. And Morse always needs someone to care for, and Joan almost constantly provides that for him. The both of them obviously have crushes cultivating, but Morse doesn't do anything about it for so long. Who knows why; maybe he's scared of Inspector Thursday. But when a life-changing event occurs that prompts Morse to finally declare his love, that same event drives Joan further away than she's ever been. Over as soon as it began. Just another step in the steep staircase of Morse's tragic love life. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Stranger Things

Spoiler-free.

Stranger Things is a Netflix original series created by brothers and . A sci-fi mystery set in 1983 suburban Indiana focusing on the disappearance of a neighborhood kid, Will Byers (). The local police Chief Jim Hopper (), Will's mother Joyce (), his brother Jonathan (), and geeky friends Mike (), Dustin (), and Lucas () all look for him in their own separate but interweaving missions.

The three friends led by Mike also discover and befriend a girl called Eleven () with buzzed hair and strange abilities who ran away from a secret research facility run by an unsettling doctor (). Slowly these few, along with Mike's older sister Nancy () begin to realize something sinister is haunting their small town. Where is Will Byers? And to what lengths will they go to get him back?

Here we have the young protagonists Lucas, Mike, Eleven, and Dustin. Dustin is the greatest. "MIKE! I FOUND THE CHOCOLATE PUDDING!"

It's incredibly unusual for this to happen, but I went into this having never even heard of it before. I saw it on Netflix, saw that it had five stars, saw the 80's style poster and the write-up, and that's all I needed. And after the first episode I could have sat there and watched all eight of them in a row -- which is what I did for my second viewing! This show is something quite amazing, and it starts and ends with the 80's vibe. No cell phones getting in the way of the plot really is a wonderful thing, but this goes way beyond that. It's 80's inspiration goes right down to the core, and is what makes this show stand out so spectacularly.

Soft synthesizer music is the score (whenever the occasional 80's classic isn't being featured) which complements the suspense to a T. It's also an effortlessly sci-fi sound. The three friends evoke a Stand by Me/Super 8/Goonies type dynamic with their easy chemistry and camaraderie. They are a delight and a riot. And their neighborhood reminds me of my childhood home (though I was born in the 90's) so I often got a whiff of personal nostalgia to boot. The show also borrows and pays homage to a large mishmash of elements from classic and cult films of the 80's, like that of Steven King and John Carpenter; and Spielberg on the less dark and edgy side. And there's no shortage of 80's pop and geek culture nods and references, from Lord of the Rings to Star Wars to Dungeons and Dragons, to many winkingly significant movies posters.

The older teens, Jonathan, Nancy, and Steve ().

Science fiction, mystery and horror are the most prominent genres, but whenever the show dips its toe into anything else -- romance, adventure, teenage comedy, (angsty teenage drama), chase thrillers, and most importantly plain old drama -- they are all done with the same amount of devotion given to the rest. Sometimes they're mixed, to striking results. Whatever Stranger Things does, it's always the best thing it does. At times there's something like seven plot lines going on, and normally in a show doing that, I would only be really invested in one, just waiting for my favorite to come back around. Here, no matter where we were and what we were being shown the mystery was always slowly being pieced together and kept me constantly glued to the screen.

It helped, of course, that each plot line contained at least one great character that was absolutely worth getting behind and investing interest in. That was possible, because this show is just as full of great characters as it is with characters at all. As every character serves a purpose, every character is fleshed-out and has a journey to complete and obstacles to overcome. I wish I could explain what I loved about each character and their journeys, but since I'm trying not to spoil anything... Let's just say that Hopper is the best lovable grump; the toothless Dustin is a genius and awesome; Winona Rider gives a great performance as the distraught and desperate mother; and Millie Bobby Brown steals every scene and every moment she's in. But everyone is fantastic -- actors and characters alike. And even the smallest characters get memorable personalities and don't feel as though they're only there to further the plot.

Chief Hopper. If any one person carries the show -- which they don't, but if they did -- it'd be him. "Mornings are for coffee and contemplation."

As great as this show is as a whole -- what with the way everything works together in that broad, complex weave -- it's in the individual moments and specific elements that its brilliance is found. Moment, by thrilling, terrifying moment is how this show wins you. The filming style is hauntingly beautiful, and full of foreshadowing; individual shots are framed so cleverly, and everything is edited together with incredible precision. And I was surprised at how effectively beauty and wonder was used to enhance the fear and dread. The way this story was written and presented is masterful, and each moment is so brilliantly crafted to amaze and scare and to tell its story with otherworldly effectiveness. Normally scary is not my thing -- but this is. This knows how to makes the scares invaluable to the entertainment quality.

For quality horror, you must first draw the viewer in, so they're invested in characters and involved in the story when the scary parts come around, and I was fully immersed within seconds of starting an episode. It grabs you and doesn't let go for even a second. Then scares are not cheap jump-scares or gore, but come through an elegant and carefully cultured tone of suspense that manifests in brief moments that leave your eyes wide and your heart racing -- and me clutching a pillow in gleeful agony. Never relenting on suspense, never a moment where your nerves aren't in tattered frays. But the best kind of tattered frays you could ever hope for. And of course there is the occasional but very effective moment of relief via comedy. Actually there's a lot of quite epic but subtle comedy too, that I didn't notice so much until my second viewing.

And finally Joyce. Until you watch this you will never know the unbelievable mixture of wonder and horror that colored Christmas lights can evoke!

When I started it I was hoping that it would be an anthology series (it's a great name for an anthology series!) but it's not. But I've come to terms with that -- I read in an interview that The Duffer Brothers plan to quit telling the story when it's done, and not drag it out, and that makes me very hopeful. As long as they can keep this great thing going with the same loving dedication, I'll be delighted and thrilled to stick around in good old Hawkins, IN until the story is told to completion.

So, basically, this show is ideal viewing for anyone who doesn't hate sci-fi or the 80's. But if you actually love science fiction and its retro heyday... this is a magnificent treat that is new and original, yet inviting and familiar. Stories don't get much more satisfying and perfectly fitted to the niche than this one, with its small town of ordinary folk going up against incredible, mysterious, and terrifying forces with nothing but their bikes and their brains and their brave determination. Stranger Things could hardly be more dated to the 80's if it were actually made in the 80's, but, as with the best films of that era, when loaded with heart and told with such personal care, some stories just can't help but feel ageless.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Upcoming Movie Roundup - August

Movie-wise, July offered no surprises -- I saw Star Trek Beyond, it was almost exactly what I was expecting, and I thoroughly enjoyed it! Check out my review here! Not-so-great reviews for Jason Bourne kept me from jumping in on opening weekend, but (especially considering that I liked Legacy which has the same RT score) I'm still interested to catch it in theaters. Just need to do it before Suicide Squad comes out!

However, there was a fantastic surprise that I never saw coming in the TV category. That is, one day whilst browsing Netflix I came across a Netflix original show that looked very interesting, and one night my brothers dad and I plunged in. The show is called Stranger Things, and if you've seen it you know that, well, basically our world was turned upside down. It's a science fiction set in the 80's and revolves around kids, much like Super 8 -- but darker. We watched the last of eight episodes last night and I'm still reeling. A review will probably be forthcoming.

What did you watch that was good in July? And are you planning to see anything in August? Here's what's on my radar:


Suicide Squad
Aug 5th; PG-13
August's big event movie is it's first movie. Suicide Squad is very highly anticipated by superhero fans, and promises big things for DC, which has been struggling for a long time to recover and find a voice again after Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy. I don't think Suicide Squad is guaranteed to be a great film, but no matter what, I do think it's a bold step in the right direction. It looks like DC version of Guardians of the Galaxy, and that seems very much like a good thing. I'm also surprised that it landed a PG-13 rating, but not disappointed -- I'm sure they can go dark enough. The trailer is equal parts fun and edgy, its got the cast, and its got the hype. Hopefully the Squad hits their goal!




The Little Prince
August 5th; PG
This is an interesting case. You might remember that back in March I included this film in my list -- but it never actually released. Instead, a week before the release, Paramount dropped the film completely and without explanation. Now Netflix had picked it up and it will be streaming on the 5th. Very strange. But that said, I'm still interested in seeing it, and since I kinda doubt I would have seen it in the theater anyway, I don't mind that it'll be free to watch at home in a couple days. It's still got its large, top-notch cast, and I still think it looks like a good watch.




Pete's Dragon
Aug 12; PG
I remember watching and liking the original when I was very young, but that's no real incentive for me to watch this remake. I'd just as soon have it stay a fond memory. And honestly, this movie doesn't even look like it'll be that good, even if it is supposed to be a kid's movie. I'm not surprised they're trying it, but it really seems like a left-field idea. However, the animation will definitely be better this time, and the cast includes Bryce Dallas Howard, Wes Bentley, and, most importantly, Karl Urban. And I will literally watch anything that has Karl Urban in it. So I can pretty much guarantee you that I will watch this someday.




Anthropoid
Aug 12th (limited); R
I will also watch anything that had Cillian Murphy in it. This WWII spy film is different from the above though, because it looks like the kind of movie I'd be interesting in and enjoy even if it didn't star one of my favorite actors. The trailer is very intense and suspenseful. So it has my interest doubly.




Edge of Winter
Aug 12 (limited); R
And this one has Tom Holland! I think it's actually getting a lot more attention than a film like it normally would because of his presence. It's certainly not the sort of film that could really attract me without a familiar cast. But even with Holland this isn't a movie meant for a wide audience. It looks very psychological and disturbing actually -- in a way that is very intriguing, but also a way that could maybe be depressing in the end. but if I ever find it streaming somewhere, I doubt I'll be able to resist -- Holland, or my curiosity.




Ghost Team
Aug 12 (limited); PG-13
Maybe this is what I'll see in lieu of Ghostbusters 2016. An original ghost hunters comedy! With Jon Heder! The trailer makes it seem like the balance of scary and funny will be really good. The comedy in the trailer isn't laugh-out-loud funny to me, but it has an amusing and appealing natural flow to it. Looks like it could be a quirky and goofy modern-day Ghostbusters-type little flick. And that sounds nice to me!




Ben-Hur
Aug 19th; PG-13
Oh good grief! Just stop with these remakes that do nothing but try to ride the coattails of the originals already! Based on the trailer, this movies sole purpose for existing is just to to that chariot race... so just think up an original idea that allows for chariot racing and do that. Please. This this just pathetic.



The Hollars
Aug 26th (limited); PG-13
Aww, this movie looks so cute! That kinda sounds like a terrible thing to say, but really this trailer just evokes a calm, charming, and casually funny vibe that is really appealing to me right now. A lot like John Krasinski's normal vibe actually, which totally makes sense since he's the star and director! There's also Sharlto Copley, who is awesome, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and Anna Kendrick. Sounds like a worthwhile family dramedy to me!




Saturday, July 30, 2016

Mad Max: Fury Road

Spoiler-free.

What this intense, non-stop action thrill ride of apocalyptic proportions lacks by way of meaning, it makes up for with style points. Style points for days. This film's fuel is style points, and it came prepared for a very long road trip. With style.

Visually, 100% epic and 100% beautiful.

Okay, I think I overdid it now. This movie's plot requires too much explanation to explain and isn't exactly important anyway, so I'll just go with this: is Max, and he spends a lot of time with , , and some hot girls, during what is essentially a two-hour-long car chase through the open orange desert of post-apocalyptic Australia.

And seriously, the style is the best thing about this film. It was nominated for every academy award it qualified for except those for acting, scripting, and scoring. And it won 6 out of 10, so that should tell you a lot. Scoring I almost never really notice, but I didn't think this one was particularly good or bad. Acting was not Oscar-worthy in any way, but that hardly means it was bad. But the writing was certainly this flick's downfall -- comparatively, anyway. Since it's a huge action film I seriously doubt it was trying to achieve a whole lot on those fronts it doesn't make much of a difference, but they're worth mentioning all the same.

Nicholas Hoult had the surprise best character of the movie. "What a lovely day!"

For the leads, the acting was just underused. I actually really enjoyed Nicholas Hoult's performance quite a lot. He was unexpected, amusing, and, as Hoult's characters always are, charming. However, he wasn't written as interestingly as he might have been when it came down to the end. Really, the only character who makes it through the third act without diminishing their interest was Max himself. And that was because he had no actual drama until then in the first place. Tom Hardy did a great job with the action side of things, but never got a chance to try anything more. Therone made a good lead for the emotional side of the film with her hardcore and stoic one-armed woman, but never goes beyond that. Still it's an action film with a huge emphasis on action, so it really was more than good enough.

His movie in name only.

Writing also slacked a little in the plotting of the drama. The overly-dramatic and serious drama didn't annoy me or anything -- it worked for the tone and rating of the film -- but at the same time it was never able to bring me to truly care. I wasn't invested in the lives or the success of the endeavors of the characters. And honestly, that did matter a little. I was still able to appreciate the style points that were everywhere, but style can only get you so far.

But, because of this film, we now know exactly how far style can take you -- because this film set the new standard. Everything that is required to make a great, thrilling action flick, this barreling fireball has in spades. It really says a lot about the action when it can hold your attention for a whole hour-and-a-half with a grand total of only two brief pauses and never breaks a sweat. This is no Michael Bay or Zack Snyder film where the longer the battle goes the more bored you get; and Fury Road knows how to intertwine the plot into the action to keep the momentum going, and mix things up without ever applying the brakes. On that score, the writing is impressive.

His guitar shoots flames, and that is everything.

The best quality though, is the visuals. Constantly, consistently, dazzlingly brilliant and sharp, the special effects, the visual effects, and just the whole look and way the action was presented here is striking, and extremely memorable. It was filmed very cleanly, so you always know what's going on and don't get left behind with the fast pace. The coloring is incredible and the world equally shiny as it is gritty. And the stunts -- all the moves and tricks are all so unique, there was multiple times when I just burst out laughing out of sheer enjoyment of the craziness going on onscreen. Sometimes a movie doesn't need anything besides an excuse to go for a thrill-ride, and the means to make it a memorable one.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Star Trek Beyond

Spoiler-free.

When the trailer released, I was one of few people who thought it promised good -- a promise that needed to be made for the fans nervous about J. J. Abrams handing over directing reins to Justin Lin. Through that admittedly iffy trailer I saw where I thought this film was headed, and I liked it. Still after a while my excitement took a beating, and I was hesitant to see the film as soon as I did. Not because I thought it wouldn't be good anymore, but because I thought I wouldn't be able to enjoy it as it was meant to be enjoyed. But I was right where it mattered and wrong where it mattered; Beyond does everything that I expected it'd do, and was able to put a smile on my face.

The third installment of the rebooted franchise dials back on the scale, and narrows its focuses to character and action for a pleasant episodic feel. Jim Kirk and his crew are cut off from the federation, stranded on a strange planet in the far reaches of the galaxy, and face a mysterious and intimidating threat which they face with bold determination.

This movie isn't perfect, but it's going in the right direction. So boldly go!

Firstly, more than just the directing reins changed hands. This time round, and Doug Jung did the writing, rather than J. J.'s regulars. The reason I had so much confidence in this movie from the start was because of Simon Pegg. Certainly less known as a writer, but anyone who knows his writing work knows that it's the type to inspire confidence. And he didn't fall short; to the uninitiated this film is indistinguishable from the last two. There's the same sharp action, the same comic relief that is actually funny and elicits a real laugh, the same serious tone used carefully to add depth and urgency, and those same "Star Trek" moments that cause cheesy grins.

But to those like me who are compelled to look under the surface, there are some differences. And differences I was all for, but these were not purposeful deviations from the formula, but rather elements that were attempts at copying previous successes that just don't land quite as confidently. Paying attention to the plot progression, a more than typical number of plot holes are distinguishable, and too much of the dialogue is used in exposition, trying to explain holes away. And there are a few contrivances that were necessary for the plot to work. There did seem to be a handful of moments of genuine inspiration -- and they were all kinds of fantastic -- but for the most part the plot exists to serve the action.

The best the plot does is create situations for the characters to shine.

There was no shortage of memorable action set pieces though they were sometimes worked into the story less than gracefully. There were two shots where the CGI was noticeable and almost humorously bad, otherwise the special effects are fine, though not exactly evoking of awe either. It also loses a sense of sophistication that the previous films had, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. This film has a ragtag aura that is interestingly appealing. The only thing the more blunt action caused that I didn't like was that the fighting and action was filmed too close, and often with too low lighting for us to get the full effect. But not quite too much that you can't tell what's going on. The grandeur and beauty of the setting seems to be only shown off because it's obligatory; it's still got some great artistic imagery, but it doesn't linger like I found myself wishing it would.

The themes are simplistic and not particularly thought-provoking, but there is a charm to experiencing an action flick that doesn't try to shoehorn its themes. There's friendship and camaraderie going on that feels like it wasn't even done on purpose it's so natural. Give Justin Lin a large cast of oddball characters, and he can make them mesh; and these characters take to his treatment like they were made for it. Captain Kirk battling the odds with his two opposite sidekicks is sometimes the only thing we need. And when Bones and Spock have scenes together, which they do often, they lightly bounce their opposing worldviews back and forth with a casual depth that is subtly epic. Their scenes are also the most consistently funny, in a true, organic way.

Two sides of the same coin if ever two people fit the bill.

has found that perfect balance of determined logic and suppressed but genuine emotion with his Spock. I doubt he'll ever be my favorite character, but the respect keeps going up. Bones is already one of my favorites though, and won't be losing his place any time soon. always has been, and continues to be a fantastic Bones. The rough, sarcastic edge, the way he embraces his humanity (the good with the bad), and his innate lovable charm is all effortless from Urban. He gets even more to do this time around, and proves he deserves it and more. This time it's Uhura () and Sulu () who fall slightly to the wayside -- comparatively. They still have whatever they had from the last movies, but don't really add anything new or fresh.

I'm sure they'll come back around soon.

Ever underused is Chekov. Especially now, considering this is the last film in which the adorably quirky character will make an appearance. He was my favorite ever since he had all that trouble pronouncing his V's in movie one, and the Star Trek franchise won't be half as good in my eyes without him. Here he gets more to do than ever, but still isn't there nearly enough. The way the camera glances past him is maddeningly reminiscent of real life, but made the best of the part as he always did, and made the character unforgettable with his cute and awkward mannerisms, accent, and unconcealable charm. It's never pointed out to the audience even slightly, but I don't think I was seeing things when I noticed Chekov crushing on Jaylah, and it nearly broke me with adorableness. Chekov is an irreplaceable character -- there will be a gaping hole in every single installment to come.

I never knew you, but I'll miss you, and the characters you brought to life onscreen.

Now Jaylah () is the obligatory new allied character, and is the best yet. That chic totally rocked. I loved her attitude and her unique, yet familiar persona. She's like a sullen, hardened teenager, yet is an alien with some naive and disarming fish-out-of-water qualities. She was cool, and funny, and had a great arc with a good amount of depth. I'd love to see her again. She hangs out a lot with Scotty, and they make for some sharp scenes together. Who knows if it was a temptation, but Simon Pegg didn't abuse his writing powers and give himself anything more to do as Scotty as he did before; but Scotty has always been a character worth devoting a good amount of time to, and he did match that. He's capable of holding down scenes by himself, and does it with that patented Scottish attitude and wit to spare.

Her makeup is epic. And I love that Scotty calls her Lassie. And she calls him Montgomery Scotty!

Am I missing someone? Ha -- just kidding. In movies like this, the lead is rarely the character I love most, but 's Captain James T. Kirk will always be a character worth admiring, rooting for, and revolving an entire movie around. Here his arc was fairly predictable, but an avenue worth exploring and was handled well script-wise and performance-wise. There are no huge emotional scenes, but that doesn't matter with Pine. He mixes the subtle depths of Kirk evenly into every moment and brings an important weight to the story and his loyal, smirking, and heroic Captain. The villain he faces was a surprising downside. brings the intimidation and the turmoil, but unfortunately was landed with the side of the script that was dotted with holes. In the end Krall was too flimsy to be convincing or memorable. He got the job done, but only just.

He belongs in that captain's chair.

In fact, that's a pretty accurate description of the film as a whole: it gets the job done. Not glamorously or impressively or mind-bendingly, but with a solid amount of fun and excitement, and a decent amount of throwing back and respect for what it is continuing. And the job really is to showcase the characters. What surrounds them may not be as spectacular as it has been before, but the characters themselves are every bit as worth spending time with as they ever were. The plot may not be terribly smart, but the smartest thing the film does was a great choice; to pair off the characters into groups were they brought out the best, and the most interesting sides in each other.

Beyond is an enjoyable caper into the unexplored reaches of space; comparatively inferior in quality to the installments actually helmed by Abrams, but for fans of the new franchise, no less worthwhile by its own right. In a few ways it is flawed superficially, but at its heart holds onto what makes these adventures worth the trip -- the iconic and lovable captain and crew of the USS Enterprise.