Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Movie Digest: Academy Awards 2012

Like many of you, I watched the Oscars, which is to say I watched the first thirty minutes of it before my DVR changed the channel to Walking Dead and I went to bed.  In the morning, much to my dismay, did I see the expected winners win.  Daniel Day-Lewis I can’t argue with.  I have yet to hear how Lincoln spoke, but I suspect he became Lincoln for that movie.  Christoph Waltz was the same person from Inglorious Basterds, if you ask me, but I guess that’s how things shake out.  Anne Hathaway probably does deserve an award for just losing that much weight and being able to sing, but you’d have to pay me to watch Les Mis. 

The most confounding moment was Jennifer Lawrence.  I don’t even mean the falling on your face, though good on Hugh Jackman and Bradely Cooper for coming to her aid.  But really, since when has playing in a romantic comedy earned someone an academy award nomination, let alone a sweep through the Golden Globes and Oscars?  I mean, really?  I think I may have lost all respect for the reputable institution after this move.  Yes, JLaw was great in Winter’s Bone, but that doesn’t mean you need to give a ‘make-up’ award for a laughable performance in a mildly diverting rom-com.  I just can’t understand it.

After sitting through many of the best picture movies this past weekend, I found my mind unable to wrap around how anyone in that cast, let alone the writers and producers, getting any credit for writing a romantic comedy.  I do realise that ‘As Good As It Gets’ did this exact same thing years ago, but really, the Academy was just giving Nicholson an award, and his trip down mental illness seemed much more believable than either Lawrence or Cooper.  Jessica Chastain deserved that award and while I’m happy she’s happy, I’d be spitting nails if I were her.

And while I have your limited attention, despite what the Huffington Post tells me, I don’t think Seth McFarlane was that bad.  I thought his monologue could have been shorter, sure, but I think it was entertaining and didn’t steal from the show.  Yes, his jokes can be off-putting, but if you’ve never seen anything he’s done, then that might surprise you.  He isn’t Billy Crystal, no one is or ever will be.

If you want, here are links to all the movies I reviewed over the weekend: Beasts of theSouthern Wild, Dark Skies, Lincoln, Silver Linings Playbook and Zero DarkThirty.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Movie Review: Zero Dark Thirty

The final movie in AMC’s all-day viewing was Zero Dark Thirty.  The story follows the search for the greatest known terrorist to America, Osama Bin Laden.  The main character, Maya, is transplanted from a cushy job with the CIA in Washington, DC to Pakistan and parts unknown.  She searches with a small team, using any means necessary to discern the truth from captives, those known to associate with Bin Laden or those he works with.

As this plays out in recent history, it was much easier to follow the timeline, meet characters we’d heard about only through reports after their deaths.  Seeing the terrorist acts replayed in a movie was a lot to take in, especially some that feel, literally, too close to home.  I still feel like talking about 9/11 is too soon, but that might just be me.

Jessica Chastain deserved more than a nomination for her role in this movie.  After watching Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook, I was more convinced of this, but I’m not an Academy voter, so my voice doesn’t matter.  There was one great scene were Chastain lays into Kyle Chandler’s Joseph Bradley.  The intensity in that scene alone was eye-catching and worthy of an Academy Award.  The story was still, to me, steeped in conspiracy theory.  Even when the big reveal occurs, as a movie goer, I was no more convinced of who had been killed than when it happened in real life.  Bigelow is masterful in her storytelling and she should have been given more credit for her work as well.  This is a tough movie to watch, but well worth seeing.

Movie Review: Silver Linings Playbook

The story begins with Pat getting out of a mental hospital after having a breakdown.  It is quickly revealed that Pat has been suffering from bipolar disorder, making him occasionally insensitive and not having the same filter that most people have.  On his road to recovery, to restore his marriage, he meets a good friend of his who invites him to dinner and he meets a woman who is a little loose with her morals, Tiffany. The two don’t quite hit it off, but they get along enough to help one another.  Pat lives with his parents who are ardent Philadelphia Eagles fans (something I personally find abhorrent).  After the incident, Pat has a restraining order and a personal cop assigned to him.  He lives with his parents and trades help from Tiffany to speak to his wife.  In return, he must participate in a dance competition that Tiffany has no partner for.

The story is comical and entertaining, but the depth of it is greatly lacking.  I felt the caricature of mental illness was just that for both Bradely Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, the latter winning dozens of awards for what I’d argue isn’t a stellar performance.  I found myself scratching my head as to why so many critics were falling over themselves to give Lawrence some reservoir of credit for a role in what is basically a romantic comedy.  Since As Good As It Gets, mental illness has been a great harbinger of awards, but that doesn’t mean it was done well or should be sensationalised.  The movie was entertaining, but to see awards being given out for a romantic comedy is, in and of itself, laughable.

Movie Review: Lincoln

In what would have been the third movie of the Academy Award docket at AMC, was the second for me as my friend and I skipped Life of Pi due to there being no pie in the movie at all.  As the title would suggest, Lincoln follows the former US president as he tries to get the thirteenth amendment passed prior to the end of the Civil War.  The story sets the state of Lincoln in an almost comical fashion contrasted with a quiet control that manages to accomplish things that seem impossible.  Knowing the overall ending of the story did make it a bit of a cheat, but the movie was very entertaining with very memorable performances from everyone in the cast.

My expectations going in were that I’d be bored to tears.  It isn’t that I don’t care for American history so much as I like a good story, a good adventure, and I didn’t think I’d get either in this movie.  I wasn’t wrong, per say,  the story is very focused on dialogue and little action.  The subtlety of the story grows on you as it goes on, making it seem accessible and for once making history not feel so tiresome.  I can’t say that I liked all of it.  I felt like there was so much going on, a stouter cast might have gave a better impression of the scope of things, though I can appreciate that the president of the United States does indeed have a far-reaching influence.  I have seen a lot of Joseph Gordon-Levitt this year and I felt like his inclusion was a bit much and felt forced.  Sally Field and Daniel Day-Lewis were superb, as was most of the cast.  I don’t know that I’d ever recommend a movie like this, but it was worth watching.  I would never have seen it if not for it being included in AMC’s all-day event.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Movie Review: Dark Skies

In the same vein as almost every other horror movie out there, Dark Skies sets up a chilling story of aliens and abduction, a sense of helplessness that makes the movie work.  The characters are somewhat wooden at times, they all fall into familiar tropes.  In almost every horror movie, the father is a disbeliever who turns when he finally begins to see that something is amiss.  The youngest son has an imaginary friend, the older son trying to be strong and be himself all at once.  Kerri Russell leads the haphazard cast through a somewhat dizzying story, bringing the family heart that didn’t seem apparent.

The story wasn’t surprising, the twist I predicted only a few scenes before the ending.  What makes horror movies so compelling, to me, is whether they can pull you out of your comfort zone, give you something to believe, no matter how unbelievable.  The idea of the movie revolves around alien abduction, something clear from the very first trailer.  I’ve long held a great fear of aliens, mostly due to the unknown about them, whether or not we, as humans, are alone.  The idea is terrifying and this movie plays well to that.  However, if you don’t find that fear holding any sway over you, this might be an absolute pass.

Movie Review: Beasts of the Southern Wild

The first movie in the Academy Award schedule at AMC, Beasts of the Southern Wild follows the story of a young girl who faces great adversity in a bayou community, presumably in the Louisiana area.  Hushpuppy lives with her father in a small farm-like space, there doesn’t appear to be any running water or proper homes, as most people would expect.  Her mother is out of the picture and her father is very ill.  The pair stay in their home no matter the weather, despite the danger when storms come through.  They are joined by a few other folks who also stay in the bayou, unafraid of the impending chaos a flood creates.  The people band together through a tough storm, only to be forced out of their homes by the government once the place was truly no longer safe.  After a short stop in a shelter, they all break out, the father trying to send Hushpuppy on without him, but she refuses.

What is striking about this movie is not just the young actress, Quvenzhane Wallis, who plays Hushpuppy with such heart, it is both stirring and heart-breaking.  The story is quite compelling from the very beginning.  The relationship between the father and daughter is both familiar and yet not so.  The father was left to raise the girl on his own, and he does an admirable job, though questions rise if he had chosen to move, how much easier, relatively speaking, would their lives have been.  The supporting cast was quite competent and had passing moments.  Unfortunately, the movie ends in a bittersweet sort of way, leaving you hoping for more, almost thankful there isn’t more at the same time.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Movie Review: Beautiful Creatures

The trend these days is to take successful, and I use the term liberally, book and base a movie off of it, a young adult book, specifically.  In the void that Twilight left, we have Beautiful Creatures, a tepid love story that is overly predictable and tiresome, despite some big A listers joining the cast, such as Jeremy Irons and Emma Thompson.  The young cast, minus the always lovely Zoey Deutch, Kyle Gallner and Thomas Mann, I was utterly unimpressed.  The two leading actors Alden Ehrenreich and Alice Englert lacked any sort of sympathy from the very beginning, despite the various attempts that the story made to make them both seem likable.  I found Ehrenreich was just blah throughout the movie, trying to reach some higher level of connexion with the audience, but never quite making it.  Englert played the damsel in distress passable, but I found them both obnoxious and difficult to watch.

What makes this movie so unbecoming is that nothing ‘new’ happens, the story is so predictable, it was like I could have written it as I watched it.  There was nothing to the story, less to the acting, and even the cinematography didn’t have much to it.  As I watched the movie, you could feel there was more there, probably worth reading, but the movie was just not well done.  For $6, I can’t complain, but I’d never recommend it either.  If you liked the books, maybe, but if you’re looking for something to fill the YA hole in your heart, keep moving.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Movie Review: Identity Thief

If you know me at all, you know I may enjoy a good comedy, but I rarely, if ever, pay money to see one.  The first trailer had my interest, but I knew there might be something more and committed to seeing it.  The story isn’t quite as coherent as I would have liked it to be, and the ‘change’ that happens at the end was somewhat predictable yet not so.

Jason Bateman plays Sandy Patterson, a man named after Sandy Koufax, the famous baseball player.  Melissa McCarthy plays Sandy Patterson after she steals Bateman’s identity and charges his credit cards to their max.  Bateman decides to take matters into his own hands to find her and cart her back to Denver.  Of course, this doesn’t go without a hitch and McCarthy is being pursued by a credit bounty hunter and criminals for bad credit cards she duplicated.  The story spirals out of any sensible way quickly, but the laughs are fairly continuous and rather hilarious.  A rather stout comedy and McCarthy and Bateman deliver some great scenes that are well worth watching.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Movie Review: Warm Bodies

Zombie movies have been done and done to death in recent years, but in this new twist, the zombies aren’t just out to devour us, most of us anyway.  In this zombie movie, R, who no longer remembers his full name, narrates his life as a zombie, giving hilarious insights into things we probably all wonder about, like why zombies generally move in packs and how slow they are.  When finding some humans to eat, R sees this girl and is utterly dumbstruck.  He saves her from the other zombies and takes her to his hideout, which is an old plane.  He keeps her hidden there for some time but she ultimately has to go back home.  While they are together, he becomes less and less zombie-like and more human, being able to almost speak coherently.  The rest of the zombies become infected with this awakening and the story continues as you might expect.

The idea for this zombie movie is very cute, but the story could have made greater strides with a surprisingly gifted cast.  There was a lot of potential, more awkward scenes of the zombie becoming human-like, but in the end, they focused on the love story for the most part.  For a romantic comedy with a zombie twist, the movie was quite entertaining, but forgettable once I got home.  Certainly worth seeing, but at what price, I couldn't say.