Sunday, September 27, 2015

5 Male Characters Tag

1.) List 5 of your favorite male characters (book or screen)
2.) Tagging other people is optional
3.) If you are tagged link back to the person that tagged you
4.) Link back to Revealed In Time (preferably using the link to this post)

Choose one from each category.
1.) Hero
2.) Villain
3.) Anti-hero
4.) Best book-to-screen adaption
5.) Best character perception

Thanks again to Ivy Miranda -- who also hosted the 5 Female Characters Tag a while back -- for tagging me in this! I had a bit of a harder time with this one in general, because I have more favorite male characters than female. In the end, I decided to feature a character in each category who has recently impressed me with his greatness. Here they are:

Private Reiben
played by Edward Burns
in Saving Private Ryan

Basically, if I really like a character, I consider him to be a hero is some way. I could feature almost any of my favorite characters here. I picked Private Reiben from Saving Private Ryan, because he is the hero who was most recently introduced to me. (Yes, I only just recently saw Saving Private Ryan for the first time.) Reiben starts out as quite the antagonist (though not villain) in the movie, being irritable and careless and callous, and resentful to Ryan for getting special treatment, but every great hero needs an origin story, and Reiben's was my favorite part of the fantastic movie. He jumped out at me as an early favorite by looking and sounding like Edward Burns, kept the attention by being the source of much dramatic conflict, and eventually made an undeniable and moving turn to the heroic. The moment pictured above was my favorite: while waiting for the battle, Reiben watches Ryan, and you can SEE him change his mind about hating him. By the end I was very impressed, and glad for arbitrarily choosing such a great character with such a unexpectedly great heroic journey to invest in.

played by Sharlto Copley

Strangely, this was the hardest category for me to make a choice in with trying to include only my most recent favorites in all the categories. After way too much thought, I discovered that I haven't been too keen on any villains recently. But a little more thought brought me around to Kruger, from Elysium. Kruger is a villain to the core; a gleeful embodiment of a guy who just loves being bad. Occasionally terrifying, surprisingly often very funny; epic South African accent; all thanks to the delightful Sharlto Copley. What I love most about Kruger is his fun-loving, laid-back attitude. He seems to put style above all else and relishes his villainous position. This guy makes evil look cool, and overshadows everyone else who appears in this movie. Even Matt Damon -- and that's saying a lot.

played by Dan Stevens

With this category I was very tempted to pick a character that I mainly consider to be a hero, just with one or two flaws that are cleared up by the end. The definition of an anti-hero is a protagonist who lacks heroic qualities so I would have been within my rights, but instead I decided to go to the opposite side of the spectrum, and that landed David from The Guest in this place. David is certainly the protagonist of The Guest. Interestingly, he is also the villain, and confusingly, he is for the most part, well-meaning in his villainy, making him a perfect, complicated anti-hero. Dan Stevens' performance of this strange and crazy character, is so incredibly perfect that I was literally laughing at his awesomeness many, many times. The balance of creepy and charming is still mind-blowing to me, and his expression changes are to die for.

Best book-to-screen adaptation: 
played by Dylan O'Brien

The Maze Runner series has just passed The Hunger Games as my favorite YA Dystopian series with the second movie installment, The Scorch Trials, in which Dylan O'Brien plays the hero, Thomas. In the books, Thomas never bothered me, but neither did I really ever feel particularly sympathetic towards him or get involved in his personal plights. O'Brien's performance of him in the first movie was very good adapting work, as he was obviously Thomas, with no real character changes, while actually improving on the character's likability. In The Scorch Trials he continued that trend, and is now a really, very involving character. He's still not my favorite character in the series (I still like Newt and Minho better personally) but I do like him way better than I ever expected to -- all thanks to some super great adapting and acting work.

Best character perception: 
Benji Dunn
played by Simon Pegg
in Mission: Impossible III, Ghost Protocol, and Rogue Nation
For this category, I easily decided on a Simon Pegg character. But then I had an incredibly hard time choosing between Benji Dunn of the Mission: Impossible franchise, and Shaun, of Shaun of the Dead. Characters who surprise you by being better than you originally thought is one of my all-time favorite things. It gets me ever time. I'm a total sucker for it. And it's something that Pegg does amazingly well. Benji won out simply because our changing perception of him took three movies (so far -- who knows what will happen next!) to get where we are now, and that's just awesome. Even though his brief appearance in M:I3 was hardly more than a cameo, the character was nailed immediately; as Benji earns his stripes by passing his field exam and going on missions with the legend Ethan Hunt, and eventually becoming his best friend, his base is always that nervous, geeky tech guy. But then we witness him beat a polygraph like it's no more than a slightly hard level on a video game, or passionately telling Ethan that he is perfectly willing to put his job and life on the line to help Ethan with an important but unsanctioned mission -- and we realize that Benji always was a lot more and a lot deeper than just the quirky comic relief.

I believe everyone I would tag for this has already been tagged, so I won't bother. But if you haven't been tagged yet and want to fill out his list, please do! I'd love to see your answers! What do you think of mine?

Friday, September 25, 2015

Anticipating The Martian

Okay, so I'll admit: the first time I saw the trailer for The Martian, I wasn't too impressed. It looked to me to be another Gravity which I consider to be one of the most annoying, contrived, grossly overrated movies of all time. I am not exaggerating. Read my review if you doubt me.

Fortunately, The Martian had just enough publicity going on around it to not let me forget about it, and eventually I discovered that it was based on a book. (Written by Andy Weir.) That changed my first judgment because I seriously doubted that anyone could write a book as bad as Gravity, and then even if they did no one would want to make it a movie. I found recommendations for the novel, saying that it was good, that it was gripping, and that it was realistic. I believe it was the last bit that sealed the deal for me. I bought the book at my first opportunity, and immediately... held on to it for two and a half weeks. I had just started another book, and I can't read two books at once. I hurried through the other book way faster than I would have otherwise, and very often glanced longingly at the striking orange cover of The Martian as it sat on the corner of my desk.

It surprised me how much I had flip-flopped. One day I wasn't even interested enough in the movie to think that I might want to see it in theaters, the next I was too anxious to know how the story went to even wait for the movie's release. But it really is simple: I decided that I wanted to be interested, and then I was. I gave my capacity for anticipation full range, and it ran wild. After buying the book I avoided spoilers from the movie like the plague, so I could enjoy the novel's twists as much as possible. And after I finally finished the 10-hour-read, The Romance of the Forest, I gave myself a few days off to cleanse my reading-palate (it's a thing) and then got started. I should have waited longer, because I finished in four days (it was 8 1/2 hours of reading time) and now I'm dying to see this movie that is releasing a week from today. I might not last that long.

I wanted to take all -- or at least most -- of the eleven days I gave myself to read so I could take my time and savor it, but as it goes with gripping books, I really just couldn't put it down. I when I had to I just spent all my time thinking about it, and gushing to my (annoyingly only-mildly-interested) family.

I won't go into spoilery details, but the book was downright incredible. I've never read anything like it. First of all it had more profanity in it than all the other books I've ever read combined (though that's really not a hard feat) but I was able to forgive that easily. Probably because of how realistic it was. Oh my goodness, it was so realistic. Math, physics, electronics, etc, etc, were all thoroughly explained. I admit I didn't understand some of it, but it all made sense, if you know what I mean. Besides that, it was extremely well-written with a very unique style, great humor and a great sense of action and excitement. And it was full of many, many, fantastic characters, which I didn't expect with it being about one man alone on Mars. I loved every second of the 8 hours and 30 mins it took me to get to the end.

And now it's movie time. I remembered from the trailer that Matt Damon was in the lead as Mark Watney, and also that Jessica Chastain and Michael Pena were in the cast. It was easy enough to guess who they were playing (and they absolutely perfect fyi). But I just looked at the whole cast list and who everyone is playing, and with each name I got more and more excited: "Chiwetel Ejiofor? Perfect. Jeff Daniels? Alright! Kate Mara? Right, totally! Kristen Wiig? Ohhh, yes! Wait a minute, Sean Bean???? YES! He's exactly Sean Bean! And what? Sebastian Stan? Did that say Sebastian Stan?!?!? OH MY GOSH THIS CAST IS AMAZING!"

And, also, you know.... Ridley Scott is directing.

I adored this book. It is currently my favorite book, though once my excitement over it settles it'll likely land at number two. And today marks the beginning of my week-long wait to see it in movie format. I'll try not to get my hopes up too high. I'm sure they'll have to at least leave some things out, after all. But if I'm honest with myself, my hopes and expectations have already gathered up all my excitement into a huge rocket and blasted off toward the skies. Mars, here I come.

The Martian opens on Oct. 2nd, and currently sits at a very promising 93% on Rotten Tomatoes!

Have you read The Martian? Are you planning on seeing the movie? How excited for it are you, and what are you expecting? Let me know in the comments!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials

This review is Spoiler-free.

Armed with a bigger budget, a wider scope, and the confidence that comes from a successful first part of a trilogy, Thomas and Friends, guided once again by Wes Ball, brave the real, harsh world beyond the maze. Here, solar flares have scorched the Earth, and there is a terrible virus called the Flare, that turns its victims into angry zombies known as Cranks. Thomas, his friends, and many other kids from other mazes are immune to this virus, and the organization WCKD needs them in order to develop a cure. When Thomas discovers that WCKD is killing kids to manufacture temporary cures out of their blood, and that he and his friends are next, they escape through the scorched desert to find safety. There, they battle with Cranks, not immune survivors, a pursuing WCKD army, and the dreaded middle-chapter syndrome.

They may look scared....

As for the middle-chapter syndrome, The Scorch Trials doesn't go so far as to feel like a stand-alone film -- requiring the first as a setup, and ending in a setup for the final chapter itself -- but absolutely successfully beats the problem by being, quite simply, not boring. And that's putting it mildly. The relentlessly exciting non-stop pace of the first movie is continued here, picking up right where it left off like there wasn't even a whole year break in between the two movies.

With the same director on board, who leaves an incredibly uniquely styled fingerprint on his work, the film's electrically gritty tone, style, and defining quirks all match the first film perfectly -- and good thing too, because plot wise, it could hardly be more different. The horizons have broadened past the manufactured medieval simplicity we had in The Maze, and have turned into, basically, a zombie movie -- with a plot. I was actually taken off guard by how prevalent and legit-zombie-like the Cranks were. They were fast, mean, and very creepy. And the upped thrill-factor of them from the book's Cranks poses some interesting questions for adaptation changes for the third book as well. It's not fundamentally a bad thing -- the improved Cranks are ideal for the tense, thrilling film -- but it does make me wonder... and excited.

"Hanging out" jokes in 3...2...

Though I enjoyed the books thoroughly, I was and am completely open to any changes the movies might offer, and that was a useful mindset to have here. There were so many changes, even down to the basic plot level, that I was occasionally almost as confused watching it as I would have been if I'd never read the books at all. I'll probably have to give it one or two more re-watches before I can decide which way I like better, or if there's really any changes that caused the exclusion of anything I wanted to see, but I'm fairly sure that if I find that I am disappointed in any aspect, the amount of new, fun and exciting additions I liked will balance it all out.

Only one problem bothers me right now: only that I wish there was more character development to be had for the guys. The cast is considerably smaller the time round, but character moments still take a backseat to the action. Dylan O'Brien as the lead is an exception though, since Thomas' character and motivation is definitely important to the story. He is very well characterized and continues to grow impressively, and to make an ideal, engaging, and winning lead for this franchise. As the movie kicks it up a notch (or two), so does he.

Must every picture that includes my three favorite characters also include my least favorite??

I was most underwhelmed to see Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) and Minho (Ki Hong Lee) be slightly left out of the character depth-distributing. Don't get me wrong -- they're still both fantastic, mostly because they are perfectly cast -- but as my favorite characters, I missed moments that would have deepened their characters even more. However they are still deep enough and cool enough to stay favorites, and though I may wish for more, they each had a fair turn in the spotlight. Because of the perfect casting and the talent of the actors, their more under-the-radar development is effortlessly smooth, and headed in expected and promising directions.

Returning also are Winston (Alexander Flores) and Frypan (Dexter Darden) who don't disappoint in any way, and Teresa (Kaya Scodelario) who I never liked and still don't, but I do think that the performance has improved a little at least. New kids include Jacob Lofland as Aris, a great addition that I'm looking forward to seeing more of, and Rosa Salazar as Brenda -- finally a girl I do like, and she rocketed up into "main cast" category with ease. And, there are actually adults in this movie! Aidan Gillen with his smirking face and subtle Irish accent makes a great and memorable villain, temporarily overshadowing the main villainess Patricia Clarkson, who's still of course very good.  Giancarlo Esposito as Jorge made himself stand out and be heard, and I enjoyed seeing Alan Tudyk and Barry Pepper make their appearances.

Safe to say that this is my favorite teen-dystopia film series right now.

Two hours and ten minutes of running, and I was never for a moment tired (never mind that I wasn't the one running). It was thrilling and fun from start to finish -- the teen dystopian zombie adventure that the world didn't know it needed until now. In some ways it feels like a traditional story. It certainly used plenty of traditional tried-and-true action/zombie flick gimmicks to great effect. But then, I can't think of any other film it is like -- or even copies from. I said last year that The Maze Runner stands on its own two feet, and separates itself from other YA dystopian stories, but now The Scorch Trials has taken it even further. I'm not even tempted to defend it against the likes of The Hunger Games or Divergent anymore; it really is its own thing; going determinedly in its own direction, and brilliantly not playing by the set rules. And I for one can't wait to see where that independent spirit takes us next.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Europa Report

This review is Spoiler-free.

As they pass our moon, six brave, adventurous souls become the history-making humans who have traveled further away from their home than anyone ever before. And every second after that moment only adds to their success... until things start to go wrong.

They start out their 4 year space voyage excited and hopeful. Their mission is to land on one of Jupiter's moons, Europa, to take samples for studying. The moon is frozen, but studying from afar had found evidence of the possibility of water under the frozen surface, and with that, some even hope to discover some form of life. But six months in, the first thing goes wrong that starts a slow downward spiral -- their communication with Earth and mission control is cut off, and they are left all alone, to boldly go where no one has gone before.

More like to tensely where no one has gone before.

The team of six is made of two pilots, Rosa (Anamaria Marinca) and William (Daniel Wu), two engineers, James (Sharlto Copley) and Andrei (Michael Nyqvist), and two scientists, Katya (Karolina Wydra) and Daniel (Christian Camargo). By the end of the movie all of them had distinctive characters, but some more than others and some sooner than others. Rosa comes across early as a leader, (though technically William is the captain) and qualifies as the lead protagonist. James, besides being very cool simply because he's Sharlto Copley, is the fun one, and the most sympathetic one being the only one we know has a family back on Earth. Katya is the overly-emotional one; Andrei is mentally unsteady; and William and Daniel were the least defined.

But this movie isn't a character piece. All of them were mostly only developed as far as they needed to help the story along, and anything extra was just a nice treat. I was glad James got a little extra, because the reason I actually got around to seeing this was because of my new favorite Sharlto Copley. However, once his presence got me in the door, the movie itself is what I enjoyed most.

The crew of Europa One. Left to right: Daniel, Andrei, William, Katya, James, and Rosa.

The film was done in a Mockumentary/found-footage style, and very strictly. Cameras were mounted around the spaceship and elsewhere, like on the shoulders of spacesuits for a POV look, and one inside the helmet for a shot of the face -- all done for documentation purposes. So often the shot wasn't the "best" angle, with people's faces being half cut out, or having their backs to the camera. This style created a really great effect of wanting to see more, like I was craning my neck the whole time, but not so much to be annoying, only add to the suspense.

And suspense was the order of the day. Though, very interestingly, nothing was a surprise. Somehow or another I always knew what was going to happen before it happened, and it was done on purpose. It was interesting, because I still felt the tension of the moment every time. It wasn't all in chronological order, the time-jumping first of all making you have to pay attention, and also allowing for the perfect slow burn of the suspense. That suspense and the plot started out promisingly ominous, and building to a dizzying pitch before coming to an abrupt and shocking halt that left me still not totally surprised, but with eyes wide and jaw dropped.

Even with the restricting filming style, I was still wowed by Europa's landscapes.

Understated sci-fi is a genre that has never failed to impress and entertain me, and Europa Report was no exception, but a fine and realistic addition. Because I enjoy the genre, I enjoyed the film, and chances are, if you do too, you will too, but if you don't, you won't. In the light of day and reality it was perhaps a little silly for being so serious and trying too hard to be profound, but that to me is just another sign of its success at being as convincing and involving as it was in the moment. This film was masterful with that dangerous but useful tool called "suspense," and crafted a simple, but slick, sharp and very memorable journey into the far and foreboding reaches of space.

Saturday, September 12, 2015


This review is Spoiler-free.

Elysium is Greek mythology's name for heaven, and in the orbit of Earth in the not-too-distant-future, the populated satellite called the same is aptly named. It is beautiful lush and rich, rotating to give artificial gravity and filled with every luxury. Only the wealthy and the important live there, the rest of the human race still live on Earth were conditions are grim. Los Angeles is little more than a slum, and the dismally poor and sick residents are so desperate to go to Elysium to receive healing that they regularly risk death trying to sneak shuttles through Elysium's well-guarded air space.

Awesomely designed and beautifully rendered. I'd definitely live there.

From this world, comes Max. As long as he's been on Earth, Elysium has been in the sky, and like everyone else, he dreams of going there. But for now he just tries to keep out of trouble, something he's unreasonably not good at for a reformed car thief. A work accident leaves him more desperate than ever to get to Elysium, so in exchange for one of those risky tickets, he agrees to help his old partner in crime with a job.

Matt Damon plays this desperate everyman, and hero of the whole show, but doesn't succeed in making a particularly compelling character out of Max. His arc was the tried and true formula of reluctant hero, so it wasn't bad, but neither did he stand out from the pack with it, or divert from the predictability attached to it. Still he was likable and easy to root for, and Damon gave it plenty of gusto.

Nice suit, nice haircut, nice tattoos. Still not as cool as Jason Bourne.

He is easily overshadowed by the villain though. And no, not Jodie Foster's character -- her evil overlady's character arc matched the typical quality of the hero, and was overshadowed too, by the real main villain. Kruger. Where there is Neill Blomkamp (this movie's writer and director), there is Sharlto Copley, and where Sharlto Copley goes, awesomeness follows in his wake. Here he is crazy and psychopathic assassin Kruger who does the dirty work to keep Elysium clean and clear of poor ruffians and vagabonds. Kruger isn't a character arc kind of guy, he's more the "fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants-have-fun-and-don't-forget-to-laugh-manically" type, and it's all kinds of great, resulting in the film's best and most defining moments and scenes. He may be the villain, but he's also the hero -- saving the film from an melodramatic and unmemorable demise by pulling it out of that safe little bubble it had no business being in as an R-rated sci-fi movie. Without him there still would have been plenty of language to earn the rating, but he makes it feel worthy of the R.

Kruger knows how to cut loose. And blow things up. Literally, and figuratively -- but mostly literally.

The inside of that bubble, where the movie spends most it's time is not all bad of course, but it is a pretty mixed bag-- er, bubble. The message and politics was the low point. It was very heavy-handed and forced, resulting in several obvious holes, and very little sense. For just one example: are we really expected to believe that all the rich people are so evil/ignorant/self-absorbed that they couldn't even donate a few magical-healing machines to Earth? Why are there no good, kind rich people? A sadly large number of plot points are similarly contrived or looked over. Fortunately, the cool and entertaining parts of the film distract from the problematic bits well enough to tip the balance in its favor.

On the action and purely entertaining side of things, there were no problems. The gimmicky appeal of the performance enhancing exo-skeleton suit Max wears, plus other futuristic weaponry gadgets and slick, innovative filming style of the brutal fight scenes all kept things interesting and exciting. Things were particularly exciting and exceptionally memorable, as you may imagine, when Kruger was around. I cannot stress enough how much he helped give the action that gritty, disturbing, unpredictability it needed. The action was never bad, and always the best part of the movie, but when Kruger was involved, it was downright great.

Max reloads the gun as fast as he can, but Kruger still walks toward him, because you know what? Hurrying isn't as cool, and being cool is the most important thing.

At the heart of this piece there's not much more that what you would expect to find inside that previously mentioned safety bubble; stale air. The failed attempt of making an emotional connection with the audience never detracted from the movie, so for me it's totally neutral. I went into this film wanting to see a hardcore futuristic shoot-'em-up showdown between Matt Damon and Sharlto Copley, and since that's exactly what I got, I never felt the loss of the half-hearted heart.

Neill Blomkamp's second feature film may be a letdown in comparison to his astonishing first, District 9, but judged as it should be, for its ability to entertain as a sci-fi action movie, there's more to be admired and entertained by than admonished and bored by -- with it's totally original if occasionally contrived plot, thrilling action, cool hero and even cooler villain. Elysium is a plenty exciting and fun action-filled sci-fi adventure, even without quite reaching its heavenly goal.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

District 9

Major Spoilers. 
I saw this movie cut for TV.

I heard this film was mind-blowing and amazing back in 2009 when it released, but for some reason I was still surprised when, six years later, I finally watched it, and yes, it blew my mind.

There is basically nothing bad to say about this film. It's extremely creative with its premise, and its mockumentary filming-style; very well thought out, and convincingly realistic. Although it was undoubtedly a no-brainer for the South African filmmakers, the fact that it's set in Johannesburg, and has no big, famous actors (well, at the time) in its cast sets it apart from your typical alien fare wonderfully.

This is one memorable movie.

So there's this amazingly realistic (because anything that could be real really was) science fiction, wholly new kind of alien invasion story, that is interesting enough to be a movie all on its own, and for the first act I was even tricked into thinking that was all it was. There was not one character that seemed fitted to be a leading character or hero; there only appeared to be neutral side characters or villains. I thought the film was being original by not giving us a human character for us to root for, to force us to concentrate on the (granted, very interesting) alien's problem. But as interesting, thoughtful and remarkable the base plot was, in the end it only serves as a complex background for one of the most unexpectedly amazing character pieces I've ever seen.

Sharlto Copley was a producer, not an actor at the time when he took on the role of Wikus van de Merwe for his director friend Neill Blomkamp, but the moment he became Wikus, he became not only an actor, but one of the best in the business.

"My name is Wikus van de Merwe... and what we do here at this department is we try to engage with the prawn of behalf of MNU, and on behalf of humans." With general idea of what to say, Copley and other cast members would just improvise their lines.

Wikus starts a caricatured stereotype of a government employee; dorky, shallow, unremarkable, a jerk, and perhaps slightly endearing, but mostly because you feel sorry for him that he doesn't know how annoying he is. He's obviously overjoyed at getting to be such a main focus of the documentary -- he puts on his best face for the cameras and talks to them incessantly and happily while doing his job, which was sometimes so cruel it made a disturbing contrast. Like the scene where he casually and gleefully oversees the murder of alien eggs as part of population control.

Then, when Wikus's world is turned on its head (as literally as something can figuratively be turned on its head) we see the real him, and he's not a very likable guy either, (much like the first one, only even less nice). Though we do pity his terrible, bizarre situation and admire his desperate fight against it. Still his self-mindedness gets in the way of his reaching a hero status... until the end. In the final climax he enters that exo-suit a desperate coward using up his final thread of hope, and emerges it a brave, selfless, straight-up awesome hero.

I cannot get over how cool this is! And I am becoming have become a fast fan of Sharlto Copley.

I found it very interesting and strangely profound that for the entire movie, this guy would never shut up -- he was seriously talking almost constantly, every chance he had, and to anyone he thought might listen -- but in his last scene, once he has finally become the hero we never imagined he could ever be, he never says a word.

District 9 was a bit of a sleeper for me. It took me whole week to soak it in and realize how blown away I was. Then I had to watch it again to confirm my being blown away, and was blown away again -- by the world, the character, the physical transformation from man to beast, and the heroic one from beast to man; and the incredible performance that made it all convincing. It really is one of the most remarkable movies I've ever seen, with one of the most deceptively extraordinary, mind-blowing heroes at its core.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Before We Go

This review is Spoiler-free.

In Chris Evans' directorial debut, he is Nick. Nick is in NYC for a reason and a sign. He had a reason to be there, but didn't want to go only for that reason, so he waited for a sign. The sign was an audition to play the trumpet for a jazz band he admires, so he's there; but the reason is happening first, and he just can't get himself to leave Grand Central. Not, that is, until he sees a panicked young lady run by him, dropping and breaking her phone. Brooke (Alice Eve) was in New York for business, but she had her purse stolen, missed her train and then even broke her cell phone. She has no money and no way to get home, and it is vital to her that she get home by 7:00am. The time now is 1:30am.

Let the adventuring begin!

The movie takes place in those few hours on that one night, as these two people wander the streets of New York in the early morning, trying to find a way home for Brooke; strangers at first, slowly becoming closer as the night progresses. It is so much of a simple and traditional premise for a romance, that it actually felt totally original to me. The plot may be predictable and simple, but then the indie-flick side steps in, with a little bit of a deep side, and an nontraditional romantic side, and things start to go places that I would never expect a rom-com to go, but have always wished they would.

Our two leads, who basically run a two-man show here, are both very, very talented actors. Their chemistry is easy and their dynamic throws back to your basic "Pride and Prejudice"-style formula; original dislike leading to snarky quips and insulting banter, which leads to honest discussion, that leads to... well, you know. It's the tried and true rom-com formula. It's a throwback though, because the "perfected" formula also requires sub-par acting (even from capable actors) slapstick, and awkward-type comedy, and mounds of cheese -- things you will not find in this movie. Chris and Alice give real life to their characters, and make them banter, argue, goof off, open up, and fall in love in a way that actually seems plausible.

Still, no one's skimping on the romance either.

It doesn't go too gooey and sappy with the romance, and boldly and gracefully skirts around the hogwash pitfalls that so many rom-coms have gleefully jumped into. Sentimental silliness like fate, soul mates, love at first sight, or that magical moment where "you just know" are all disposed of, and replaced with selfless love, characters who actually get to know each other, and the controversial notion that you can choose to love someone. Most romances preach "you can't choose who you fall in love with" like it's universal fact, so I particularly appreciated that idea being questioned here.

For a rom-com, it does occasionally lean heavily to the side of drama, but I must say that when there is comedy, it is really, actually good comedy. Every time I burst out laughing from an unexpectedly good line or joke my impressed level went up. Even with the drama I laughed more than I would at a normal rom-com, though that's not too hard a feat -- and neither did I laugh as much as I do at straight comedies. They never skimped on quality, original, smart comedy, and it was well-balanced with the engaging drama.

The cuteness. Oh, the cuteness.

Though the general audience seems to like this movie as much as I did, I'm surprised at the dismally low critic score this one currently has on RT. It is by no means the best movie ever or anything -- it's very minimalistic, sometimes felt shallow (like rom-coms are apt to do), and had some parts that could have potentially been improved, but neither is it even close to a failed attempt at a good movie, as those critics would like you to think.

It won't be winning any Oscars, but it's a romantic comedy; it's not meant to. What it is meant to do, it does -- thoroughly, capably, stylishly, and with great sincerity. It entertains, it charms, it makes us laugh, and think, and get involved with its characters; it tells a story -- a story that is told well, and quite enjoyable, and is strangely familiar, yet strangely unexpected. Before We Go is a lovely balance between the quirky, hand-crafted independence of indie films, and the traditional, romantic fun of old, heyday-classic romantic comedies.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Upcoming Movie Roundup - September

August releases for me sadly saw no movies worth the theater trip after the embarrassingly giant flop of Fantastic Four (or Fant4stic) that completely ruined my interest in seeing it, and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. being pretty tempting, (I'll certainly see it on DVD!) but not quite as tempting as a second viewing of Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation (review), which is the best movie of the year (so far) and %100 the best movie of the summer!

September has a nice little bit of varying interest, but for me, if the one movie I'm really excited for turns out right, it'll easily overshadow the others.

Have you seen Rogue Nation yet? Cause you need to. And which movies of September have your interest?

Before We Go
Sept. 4th (limited); PG-13
Two strangers meet and fall in love while staying up all night and wandering around New York City in this romantic dramady directed by and starring Chris Evans with Alice Eve. This movie seems like it would be a no-brainer for any girl having a hard time waiting for Captain America: Civil War to come around. I fall into that category, by the way. I hesitate to be too interested in this though, because of the few but unanimously negative reviews currently up on RT. Rom-coms very rarely get great scores, but I worry that this one might be worse than normal. All the same, I'll be keeping an eye on it, and will very likely be watching it as a rental someday. -- After writing that, I actually found this movie on Demand for rental and watched it. I'll review it later, but for now lets just say that when more reviews come in, a significant number should be significantly more positive.

Black Mass
Sept. 18th; R
This one's more a case of me really liking the cast than the idea of the movie itself. We have Johnny Depp going unrecognizable again with the prosthetics, creepy blue eyes and the terrible comb-back as the real-life super criminal Whitey Bulger. Bendect Cumberbatch plays his brother who was a senator, and Joel Edgerton is the FBI agent that gets in way too deep with him. There's also Corey Stoll, Kevin Bacon, Peter Sarsgaard, and Adam Scott. But if it weren't for the cast I would have no interest at all in this real-life crime story, even if it does turn out to be as well-made as it wants us to believe it will be.

Sept. 18th (limited); R
This one is very similar to the one above. The cast list is smaller -- Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro -- but very interesting, and the plot seems only to be the carrier of the performances. Though this one looks heavier on the action, and isn't based on a true story. Emily Blunt is the main source of interest, and as awesome as she is, it may not be enough to put this one up on my list.

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials
Sept. 18th; PG-13
This is my must-see of the month. What kind of reviews it gets doesn't really factor in here, because the first Maze Runner movie was great, but got middling reviews. So I don't trust critics to not give this movie bad score just because they feel that the movie is unnecessary -- being a dystopian movie that isn't a Hunger Games movie. I like these stories a lot, and as far as I can tell, this film looks to be even better than the first film, and even better than it's source book. Everyone's here -- Dylan O'Brien, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Ki Hong Lee, Kaya Scodelario, and even some guys who had bit-parts in the last film. Then there's the addition of a few important girls, and Jacob Lofland (of Mud) as the new guy. It looks like there will be some changes from the book, mainly ones that increase action level without diverting from the main plot line -- which would be ideal, and therefore is what I'm expecting. It's an exciting month for the Maze Runner fans!

The Intern
Sept. 25th; PG-13
This one just oozes cuteness. An old, retired man gets a job as an intern at a young and hip company, and of course amusing situations and witty banter follows. Robert De Nero stars with Anne Hathaway, and a few familiar names supporting. This has the feel of a good movie that will easily charm and amuse, and hopefully it lives up to that impression!