Monday, May 22, 2017

Confessions of a Film Lover! -- Tag

This tag converts movie quotes into movie questions, and yes, did require some confessing on my part.

1. "Yeah, well, that's just, like, your opinion, man." - The Big Lebowski 
Your most unpopular film opinion:
That Captain America: Civil War was halfway a terrible movie. I've seen it three times now, and can enjoy it well enough to continue watching it whenever the situation calls for a huge superhero blockbuster, but that's only in spite of the issues I have with it. Seeing it in the theaters it felt like being pelted with backhanded insults for two and a half hours, (read: IT WAS NOT FUN) and as the credits rolled I sat with my head in my hands confused as to whether I wanted to start yelling expletives at the screen or just cry. Yet I wasn't at all surprised when everyone else in the group I saw the movie with (save for my youngest brother who's even more of a film cynic than me, and generally doesn't like MCU movies) absolutely loved it.


The problems I had with it were enhanced by the other half of the movie being exceptionally well-done what with all those spectacular fight scenes and a bunch of lovable characters, and basically boils down to this: The plot was painfully contrived, and it forces characters to do things out of their established character; and to cover it up, the film attempts to emotionally manipulate the audience. Feeling like my emotions are being purposefully manipulated while watching a film is probably my biggest movie pet peeve, which is probably why I dislike this movie so much more than most. Check out my review of Civil War here for a more in-depth explanation of my opinions!

2. "The limit does not exist!" - Mean Girls 
A Guilty Pleasure film you can watch over and over again:
I thought about this, expecting it'd end up being some girly flick similar to Mean Girls, like maybe Clueless, which I love; but I realized that all the girly rom-coms I love I don't feel guilty over. The movie I rewatch the most and feel movie-guilt for enjoying is actually Peter Jackson's King Kong. You may say it's a great film and I shouldn't feel guilty over it (or the opposite!) but that's not the point. The 2005 King Kong is my biggest guilty pleasure film -- possibly just because the rest of my family hates it, but there you go. In many ways I think the movie is genuinely an excellent film. The technology used for Kong, the cast, the scenes before the island... it's main problem is the dinosaur chase sequence which did not hold up animation-wise, and it does have that sappy, overly-dramatic tone going on at the end too. That's what King Kong is though, and I really enjoy it. I don't even mind the runtime!

3. "Are you not entertained?!" - Gladiator
A film that is universally loved that you found boring:
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. I'm not sure if this movie counts fully as universally loved, but when I first saw it and found it boring it certainly did seem that way. My brothers and I were all quite bored watching this, and even had a hard time making fun of it's overly serious and depressing tone. Since then I re-watched it alone and was able to appreciate the motion-capture performances of the apes -- mainly Koba, Toby Kebbell, who I was just starting to pay attention to at the time. Recognizing the actors behind the apes was interesting in it's own way, but I still maintain that the movie and its plot is overall very boring, building glacially up to a war that we'd have to wait 3 years to see. (Read my review for more ranting on the subject!)

And even then Koba's dead so who cares?

4. "Sorry! My Prada's at the cleaners! Along with my hoodie and my 'f*** you' flip-flops, you pretentious douchebag!" - The Social Network
The most pretentious film you've ever seen:
Oh that's easy: Gravity. As a lover of scifi, I am, of course, perfectly capable of suspending disbelief for the sake of enjoying movies that don't completely respect the laws of this world. Like physics. How. Ever: Gravity gets no such pass, because it was marketed and presented and acclaimed as the most realistic space-set scifi film ever made. And yes, it looks pretty darned realistic -- until their blatantly ignoring the laws of physics and general reality gets in the way! All done, I might add, to propel a plot that otherwise couldn't have made it an inch off the ground. It's pretty, yes, but if you're gonna be that smug over the greatness of your film, maybe make it actually as great as you claim.

For your viewing pleasure: CinemaSins! My biggest issue with this one is mentioned at 2:48, but honestly I agree with them all.

My second biggest issue isn't mentioned in the CinemaSins though. It's actually the scene where Stone is in the ship crying, and the tears drip off her face and float slowly towards the camera. Back to emotional manipulation again, because in reality tears in zero-g will just accumulate on your eye in a bubble, as demonstrated in this neat video:

This fact that the movie did what it did instead of adhering to the laws of reality is evidence that its true motivation was not to be realistic, but simply to market a trite and contrived story under the guise of being groundbreaking in film realism. Read my review of Gravity here for more unrelenting bashing.

5. "Draw me like one of your French girls." - Titanic
A film that describes your aesthetic:
Disclaimer: I have no idea what "aesthetic" is. I know the proper definition, and I've certainly seen it used as a kind of exaggerated meme, but I don't know what "my aesthetic" is, or how a movie could describe it. So I'm just going with a movie that has a tone and visual makeup that appeals to me. (Which is probably exactly what I was supposed to do!) And that movie is Mud. I won't even attempt to describe the aesthetic except to say the director Jeff Nichols said that he wanted the film to flow like the Mississippi River (an important backdrop in the film) -- and it did. You can read my review of the film here (which I wrote before I fully understood the complete reasons why I loved it) and I'll leave you with a compilation of its cinematography:

6. "That's a bingo!" - Inglourious Basterds
A director who has never let you down:
Jeff Nichols. It's a high standard to live up to, and the more film's you've made the more likely it is that you disappointed in some way. I immediately thought of him, but then thought there had to be some other director who's done more than five movies who never let me down, but no. I still haven't seen his fifth film, Loving, but even with four he still wins. Shotgun Stories, Take Shelter, Mud, and Midnight Special are not only films that have merely not let me down, they in fact all blew me away in one way or another, and are all among my favorite films. Click the links to read my reviews of each of them!

The posters look so good together too.

7. "Don't believe his lies." - Memento
A film you were told was bad but you loved:
This one I'm giving a tie because both the movies have the same set of circumstances. The Brothers Bloom, and The Darjeeling Limited; both considered by the general movie-going audience to be the worst movies of their respective directors, Rian Johnson, and Wes Anderson, but are actually my favorites from them. (Though I haven't seen all of Andersons films.) The Brother's Bloom (review) has a few plot holes, but is of a fun and underused genre, is very funny and incredibly charming, has a great cast playing great characters, and (to me at least) is decidedly heartfelt.

(I know neither of these movies are commonly considered bad. This is the best I could do.)
(I just realized both these films star Adrien Brody. I wonder if that has anything to do with anything... ....

For The Darjeeling Limited the biggest criticism I hear is that it has no plot or makes no sense, but that is the appeal of Wes Anderson in the first place for me, and for some reason this one's particular brand of ambiguity resonates rather deeply with me. It does have seemingly pointless moments but also some meaningful ones too, and I like it all. I love watching the relationship of the brothers (oh hey -- both these movies focus on brothers too!) and their journey to find something that maybe they do find, but can't quite put their finger on what it is. For me, it works. Plus I love the music, and it's often hilarious. 

8. "It's only forever, not long at all." - Labyrinth
If you could only watch one film for the rest of your life, what would it be?
I'm gonna go with The Lord of the Rings trilogy on this one because I can get away with it counting as one film. Extended editions too, of course. Obviously if I could only watch one movie the rest of my life I'd want it to be a long one so it'll grow old more slowly, but really, if I could only watch one movie for the rest of my life I would spend a whole lot more time reading. In which case, I might pick The Way Way Back (review) because there's no book version of that.

But no -- let's not get complicated -- Middle Earth wins.

9. "Were you rushing or were you dragging?” - Whiplash
A long film you thought was perfectly paced:
To be honest I like long movies, and as long as I find the plot or the characters interesting I'm hard to bore. So how about this: It's technically a mini-series, not a film, but the 1995 Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth. It's five hours long, and so well structured that I cannot leave the room for even two seconds without pausing it to prevent my missing anything good. Read my enamored review here!

"You can never get a film long enough, or a bowl of popcorn large enough to suit me." -- Me, plagiarizing C.S. Lewis a bit.

10. "As you wish." - The Princess Bride
Your film dream team. (Directors, writers, genre, actors, music, whatever.)
Right now, after a bit of daydreaming, I would like to see Damien Chazelle write and direct a scifi noir film. I love the genre mashup of noir and scifi, and I think he absolutely had the ability to capture the right tone. His movies have a palpable energy to them and I'd love to see how that marries with subtle and dark tones like that of Blade Runner, Dark City, or Gattaca. The music could be jazzy since he likes that.

And because I've been noticing and enjoying these two a bunch lately, it should star Toby Kebbell and Vanessa Kirby. Neither of them get many leading roles -- that is to say, almost none -- but I absolutely think they have the talent for it, especially if the characters are not your typical leading types but more character-types. I bet Kirby could pull off the mysterious woman/possibly femme fatale excellently, and I know for a fact that Kebbell can do that hard-boiled-but-surprisingly-soft-on-the-inside type.

Since it's a Chazelle film it should have J.K. Simmons in an important supporting role too. Something for him to have fun with, or surprise with. It could be set in space, or the distant future, or just an alternate reality altogether; and I'd probably prefer if it focused mostly on character and intrigue, but had some good action in it too. With all those elements in place there would be no way the movie could disappoint me.

Now I'm depressed because it won't never exist!


I got this tag from Kyle Gaunt -- check out his YouTube channel here, and follow him on Twitter @kg_moviereviews! And if the tag seems fun to you, don't hesitate to participate! I suppose you can actually tag people if you want, but it's more of a loosely-structured thread. I hope you enjoyed reading my answers and weren't offended by my opinions which are definitely the only right opinions to have! Just kidding -- leave me a comment and tell me where I'm wrong! Or if you agree. Or just your thoughts in general. Thanks for reading!

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2


Well , you've done it again. It's been three years for us, but for the Guardians it's only been about a month. They're using their status as "Galaxy Savers" to get odd jobs of general protecting/guarding around the universe, and when Rocket () takes advantage of their proximity to valuable objects, they get in trouble with an uber-race of pretentious gold people (led by ). A mysterious man appears to help them out of this situation, and then reveals himself, telling Peter Quill, AKA Star-Lord (AKA the one and only ) that he is his father, Ego ().

But -- did he look like Kurt Russell to Peter? Or does Kurt Russell not exist in this universe? Or does Kurt Russell not look like Kurt Russell? Asking the deep questions here.

This is of course huge news for Peter, and becomes the center for the movie's plot and heart. That the movie has this center is important to the film's quality as from it is born every exceptional aspect the film provides. Ego himself is the best character here, in that his character arc is the most natural, yet also the most intricate, and is most closely tied to the center of the film. Kurt Russell does his part brilliantly and with the ease of a practiced veteran, sometimes making less confident performances from his cast-mates more noticeable by comparison; sometimes elevating performances along with his own. Chris Pratt gets both sides of this.

I love Pratt, and I love Star-Lord, and I love the premise of the journey he goes on with this adventure, but none of it played out as well as it should have. He has that suggestive flirting scene because that's the Peter we knew, but it doesn't make sense anymore once we're told that he's going after one girl now -- Gamora () -- now it's out of character for him to flirt with other women like that. His father provides a ton of fodder for character drama, with multiple stages of their relationship for varying emotions to expound on. Only one stage had time spent on it; the rest were breezed over in one swoop. To utilize them would have meant a re-haul of the film's events and pacing, but it would have been to the benefit of Peter's character. As the film is, Peter at best only gets equal benefit as every other character.

It all needs to come down to this guy. Or else, what is the point?

Every returning character is developed equally and in distinct pairs. Gamora and Nebula () dig deeper into their relationship of sisterly hate. Drax () is paired with newcomer Mantis () for some wonderfully effective scenes of meaningful comedy. Mantis benefits greatly from being new; her unique character is established, and calls for nothing more. And Rocket and Yondu () bounce off each other to push along their edgy characters. Baby Groot () is never too far from Rocket, but is developed by himself, and also Kraglin () who gets bumped up the character ladder. By themselves, these pockets of characters are perfectly sufficiently compelling; when put into the film and viewed as a whole, they feel like more of a distraction. The thread used to tie them all to the film's center is too thin and too long, so though everything is technically connected, they might as well have not been, for the significance they add to the heart of the core.

I understand the idea. Fans love all these characters, as I'm sure James Gunn does, and the desire to focus on all of them was just too great. Sadly, that decision, made with the best of intentions, was the film's downfall (such as it is), because with the focus so widely spread, no one gets the attention they deserve. The original Guardians focused solely on Peter, and through him the others were also developed. That was impossible to do this time with the plot as it was, so perhaps it was as good as it could have possibly been -- it still pales in comparison with the groundbreaking first.

It's a conundrum with no easy fix.

So while the film had a heart in place as a source for grounding the emotional journeys and creating a common theme, the film's focus was too widespread to properly utilize it -- thus the film felt disconnected. The problem traces back to not showing the story through the sole eyes of Peter -- that is the root of any problems this films has. That being said, I enjoyed this movie like nobody's business. After it was over I had to come to terms with its domino-effected shortcoming, but in the moment I was all in, %100, let go, tickled to the core. The visuals (perhaps over-the-top at times) thrilled me; the jokes and gags landed (though they were generally of a slightly lesser quality there were more of them); the twists and plot developments involved me (they were, in fact, unexpectedly well done, and grounded in the film's darker core) and the music compelled me to be open to every bit of character-love I could glean. That was all I asked for and more; I was satisfied.

Who knows if a second viewing will be so carefree and eagerly open, (it's one thing to ignore and push aside issues; it's another to deny their existence) but no matter what I'm glad for the one I had. If nothing else I want to give a hearty "thank you" to James Gunn for the scene where Peter is asking the other Guardians for tape. That is half of the embodiment of why I love The Guardians of the Galaxy in the first place. The other half is the unexpectedly deep heart hidden under that kind of fun and humor -- here, it wasn't embodied in one thing, but wasn't completely absent either, you only have to scrounge around for it.

"I can still hear you sayin', you would never break the chain..."

Too much of a carbon copy of the original where it didn't matter, not enough of a spiritual copy where it did, Vol. 2 is a traditional Marvel sequel; more of the same on steroids. It both creates problems and brings back the sources of our original adoration. Its success is drawn out of that of the original's, and with the doozy of an original this one had going for it, it's no surprise it features such a cosmically high concentration of fun -- if only all that fun substance could have been applied to a more concise and well constructed framework, to better enhance the fun and the thrill the characters and the heart alike. Two-time Galaxy-savers? Absolutely -- but repeating the past can only get you so far.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Upcoming Movie Roundup - May

In April I was right about there not being any must-see new releases for me, though I am still interested in most of them for a someday/rental view. I did get to the theater twice, though, to see some repeats -- Kong: Skull Island, and La La Land -- and both were every bit as good the second time!

May has my most highly anticipated movie of the year (!!!!) plus a couple big releases that I'll certainly see eventually whether or not I go out of my way for them. The blockbuster season is beginning!

How does the month look for you? Anything you're particularly excited for? Let me know in the comments!

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
May 5th; PG-13
Do I even need to say anything? This has probably been my most anticipated movie ever since the day I saw the first Guardians of the Galaxy. I have a great amount of confidence in James Gunn, and his ability to write and direct something that is not only entertaining, but also unique, moving, and set perfectly to classic music. Then Chris Pratt is still the greatest thing since sliced cheese, and all this movie needs to win me is him and the other guardians, a handful of good jokes, some splashy visuals, and some groovy tunes, and all those things are already guaranteed. At this point, it's only a question of how good it's gonna be. Saving the galaxy again? You know it!

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
May12th; PG-13
What's going on here? King Arthur getting the superhero treatment? Excalibur appears to have actual magical powers. Also, filmmakers continue to try and steal from the Lord of the Rings. So here's the thing: Guy Ritchie undoubtedly makes visually unique movies, which gives this one a good bit of appeal, and the plot doesn't look like the worst thing (although I'd bet it falls apart in the end a bit). I like Jude Law, but (as I mentioned last month) don't care for Charlie Hunnam. And it really looks like this trailer is desperate for attention. It certainly looks like the better side of casual popcorn-y action flicks, but probably won't be able to compete with the next Pirates film let alone the Marvel one. There's a little curiosity, but not much hope.

Alien: Covenant
May 19th; R
I recently watched Alien and Aliens for the first time, and then Prometheus, so now this film almost seems like required viewing -- so of course it has to push that R-rating further than I want to follow. Prometheus's disappointment was in not being so much of an Alien movie, but was otherwise very effective, so since this one truly features the aliens, it looks like an ideal blend. Visually modern, but referring back to the originals. I won't be seeing it in theaters, but now that I'm in the franchise... I don't think there's any escaping.

Everything, Everything
May 19th; PG-13
This month in sappy kiddie romances.... This one's based on a YA novel that I came across in a store and was surprised at how short and large-printed it was. More like a tween novel. But you gotta adapt those teen novels, so here it is. It's got Rue from The Hunger Games all grown up, Nick Robinson, and the lady from Nacho Libre, and looks just about as sappy and fluffy as they come. I looked up spoilers out of curiosity and it cemented those thoughts even more. Probably fans of the book are looking forward to it, and fans of the genre will watch it, but if it makes any kind of splash I'll be super surprised.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
May 26th; PG-13
So here's how I'm reasoning right now: there's no way this franchise could get any worse, so maybe this one is actually good? No way to go but up sort of deal? Well... "good" is maybe pushing it, but it certainly does look better than the last one, and the one before that, so maybe a Dead Man's Chest level of good? I'd be up for that. Sides of appeal: a young Jack Sparrow, Javier Bardem, Brenton Thwaites, and Kaya Scodelario. Plus the animation doesn't look as messy as it has before. The trailer says "final adventure." Does that mean this is the end?