Monday, December 7, 2015

Movie Review: Krampus

Christmas is one of those times of years where most of us spend time with family, whether we like them or not.  Since I don’t celebrate Christmas (minus the gift exchange and not going to work), I don’t have the same kind of issues with my family that others have, even if I do see most of my extended family a few times a year, if not more.  The center of the movie Krampus is about wanting to have positive family time instead of everyone sitting in stony silence hating one another.

The movie follows the youngest son of the family (parents Adam Scott and Toni Collette) and how he wishes Christmas could be like it was before, when he was younger and there weren’t so many issues between everyone.  His letter to Santa (he’s about 10 or 12) is spotted by one of his uncouth cousins and read aloud, much to his embarrassment.  After fighting for the letter back, he throws it away, losing hope in Christmas and Santa Claus.  This action prompts Krampus to appear and wreak havoc on the family.

While the story could be construed as heartwarming, I found myself bored at varying intervals and having a hard time seeing (as if the movie was too dark, and as always, too loud).  This does beg the question, why do movie studios feel the need to blare the sound out?  Is it really necessary?  It is nice to feel a dull thump from a dinosaur foot, but at some point the overuse of sound just assails the ears.  I digress, I know.  The movie was mildly diverting, at best.  The acting was decent, the story came together in the end, but I still just didn’t feel scared or invested in any of it.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Movie Review: Brooklyn

I rarely get the chance to write reviews just after seeing a movie, but Amazon has a couple Black Friday deals that are coming up, so I’m looking for reasons to stay online for a bit.  In all honesty, this is not the type of movie I would never see.  As the trailers rolled, I was reminded of this, as not one of those was catering to me in any substantive sort of way.  It might have been in my best interest to read some of the reviews just to get a better idea of what I was getting into.  Having said that, I still enjoyed the movie, to a degree.

The movie follows the story of a girl who has no prospects, financially or romantically, in her home of Ireland and moves to America, with the help of her sister.  At first she hates it in America, being homesick, until she meets with priest who enrolls her in night school.  As she gets acclimated to life in Brooklyn, she meets a boy and much to my surprise, he was an actual gentleman (something we seem to lack nowadays).  The unfortunate happens, as is often the case in these sorts of movies and her sister dies suddenly and when she goes back to Ireland, everything seems both foreign and unfamiliar.


Without spoiling the crux of the story, the viewer is taken on this adventure with the young protagonist as she tries to make sense of her life.  What I thought startling was how selfish I viewed her behaviour (in concert with my mother’s views).  Nothing the young girl does really benefits anyone but her and while that does seem to be the American way, her family helped her make a life abroad and one would think she’d show some accountability for that.  In that respect, I found her greatly unsympathetic, at times wondering when the movie would be over.  I did eat an entire bag of popcorns (large) and that was both impressive and troubling.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Movie Review: Peanuts

Raise your hand if you thought I would have since this on opening night.  I should have, but I was running a race in FL, then the next week a race in CA, so I couldn’t quite find time to dedicate to the Peanuts crew.  If you grew up on Peanuts or are new to the characters, the movie picks up almost from the beginning, as if the audience has some idea of who the characters are, but it doesn’t seem heavy-handed in the least.  The movie follows the story of Charlie Brown, the hero of the piece, and how he struggles with what is usually a lot of bad luck.

This is a kid’s movie, so I don’t feel like a huge plot synopsis (SPOILERS) are really needed.  The animation was a nice mix between CGI and the classic structure that Schulz is known for.  It was interesting being able to almost see the fur on Snoopy and the feathers on Woodstock.  While the voices had changed, which was a little strange, I really did enjoy the movie.

The movie centers around Charlie Brown trying to work up the nerve to speak to the Little Red-Haired girl.  For those of you that aren’t familiar, this is an ongoing struggle for Brown in the comic strips.  I don’t remember ever seeing her in the comic, but the audience is treated to quick glimpses of her before seeing her fully.  In most of the comic strips, Charlie Brown is the unlucky, unlike one.  This movie took much of that away, which was an interesting dynamic.  No longer was he the butt of every joke, but just unfortunate circumstances.  In a wonderful scene at the talent show, he has to give up his shot to impress the Little Red-Haired girl to save Sally, his younger sister, from complete embarrassment. This isn’t the old Peanuts, but a newer version that somehow still felt right.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Movie Review: Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 2

I’ll give it to AMC for hosting a double-feature for the final two movies.  I honestly didn’t remember what happened in the last movie.  I read the books, years ago, and beware there are SPOILERS ahead.  The biggest spoiler, though, is knowing that the movie stayed pretty closed to the characters who don’t make it to the end credits.  Some of the details I was a bit fuzzy on, but that’s to be expected with a book I wasn’t crazy about.

If you’re not familiar, the world of Panem is under fire and our heroine, Katniss Everdeen (played ably by JLaw, for once, I’m not a fan), is losing her mind and has to decide whether to continue to back the morally questionable President Coin (Julianne Moore has an Academy Award).  The two are often clashing, but the story does focus more on Katniss trying to save Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) as well as overthrowing that little thing called the established order in their world.  The novel was much more concise, in some ways, even if I skimmed the last 50 pages of the book.

While the special effects are beyond belief, especially given the rich world Suzanne Collins has created, the story still seemed empty.  And while I’m not a huge fan of Jennifer Lawrence, this was, by far, her best performance in this series since the opening movie, and even that entry was passable at times.  The supporting cast seemed to meld better together, or perhaps the story came together better, I’m not sure.  I can’t say I enjoyed Mockingjay Part 1 all that much, but this one was nice just to have closure.


With these bigger blockbusters, I can’t help delving down the well-trodden path about diversity.  For those of us that have read the books, Katniss wasn’t supposed to be white, so there’s strike one for this series from the beginning.  That isn’t to say that Lawrence doesn’t do a good job bringing Katniss to life, but it does make one wonder how Hollywood couldn’t find someone to match the book.  I also do take some issue in the fact that Katniss seems to only be romantically interested in people based on how useful they are or have been to her.  It isn’t until she sees Peeta completely destroyed because of her that she gets an ounce of self-awareness.  The whole movie reeks of Twilight vibes in a lot of ways.  Yes, I do realise there is a major political undertone in the books, but the movies focuse on whether Peeta or Gale will win Katniss over?  How is that not Twilight?  This series could have been great, could have been Potter great, but it got lost somewhere along the way.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Movie Review: Paranormal Activity Ghost Dimension

Yup, another horror movie.  I believe that the horror genre is too broad a term to describe a lot of these movies.  I read an interesting article last week about Crimson Peak.  It was a ghost story, not a horror story.  The two are actually quite different.  In a ghost story, the story should frighten you because of the contents, not have you jumping out of your seat in surprise because something flashed across the screen.  A horror movie should deliver the latter, but should also put you in an uncomfortable state of mind with respect to something supernatural or unnatural, in most cases.  A ghost story is something that makes you shudder.  A horror movie makes you check that there is nothing behind your opaque shower curtain.  With that said, Paranormal Activity and all of the movies associated with it are unquestionably horror movies.  The movie will make you feel uncomfortable, and if you’re like me, you’ll be covering your eyes because you’re afraid to see the unseen.

SPOILERS AHOY!



The premise of this supposedly final installment in the Paranormal Activity series centers around a new family with a little girl who happens to share the same birthday with Hunter, the child who was kidnapped at the end of the second movie(PA2) and was the errant little kid from the fourth movie (PA4).  This fifth movie circles with the third movie more than any of the others.  The family in this fifth movie end up moving into what used to be the house from the end of the third movie (if you haven’t seen it, the girls end up with a woman who isn’t their mom after their mom and step-dad get killed by ‘Toby’).  The movie starts out slow.  The dad’s brother is visiting for Christmas and weird things start happening, then the find a super old video camera (the same one used in PA4).  The camera is souped up and has all these extra features, allowing the dad and brother to see all this stuff that the other cameras aren’t picking up.  At first it just looks like dust, but then the dust moves around, continuing to follow the young daughter around.  The camera begins to pick up more and the daughter starts acting weird, trying to bury religious stuff and burn her mother’s Bible.  At this point, both parents, the uncle and some random woman who is living with them (I never understood why she was there), start to really notice that the kid is not right and not long after, they call a priest and things go from bad to worse to the usual ending of these movies.

This movie is composed of mostly jump scares and little more.  What little it answers, more questions remain.  The story is tied to the main story of PA4, with a few references to PA1 and PA2.  PA4 and PA5 seem like footnotes.  I really tried to look for a tie back to PA5 (the last movie) and never found one, but the movie moves at a rapid pace.  There was one element that I thought, if the creators had thought this through with PA3, they could have tied the sequences together better.  I hate to give away huge plot points, but even in the trailer, the audience watches the characters from PA6 watching a video of the girls from PA3 and there could have been a lot more there that could have made the viewers see the story tie together.  In the end, this movie was mildly diverting, but still worth seeing.

The use of children in these movies has always been one of the best draws to horror that anyone can imagine.  Much like Children of the Corn, the idea of kids being bad or evil or possessed creates a certain amount of unease in anyone.  I often like this series to The Omen and how the kid was just plain bad (and not just possessed by the diablo).  For the horror genre, not enough can be said about what the Paranormal Activity Series has done.   Blair Witch Project started the shaky cam idea, but the ghost hunter shows opened up this new avenue and the PA folks exploited it perfectly.  While the lore for this series was never fully explored in a coherent manner, at least from what I could discern, it still made for entertaining movies.  The idea that a group of witches would summon a demon and over the course of twenty years their goal would be reached is quite an accomplishment for the filmmakers.  Even if the acting is middling and the special effects are more pronounced with each iteration, the movies still entertain and frighten.  That’s all one can expect from such humble beginnings, I think.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Movie Review: Crimson Peak

The horror genre knows no bounds.  It also seems to not know how to bring something original or new to the audience.  Crimson Peak, while visually wonderful, is lacking in any compelling characters or premise in the least.  The movie centres around a girl who has once seen the dead.  That one experience spurs her to be a writer, though she doesn’t seem to flourish at this either.  A man visits her father to look for funding for a project and the two, of course, are drawn to one another.  It isn’t long into the movie where one can predict exactly what’s going to happen.

The best thing I can say about this movie is that it is visually stunning.  There is nothing that happens that really has the viewer jump.  I will fully admit the gore was a little over the top and I covered my eyes not to see certain parts, not because I was scared, but because it was just disgusting.  There’s a great article I stumbled across that really summarises the shortcomings.  There are so many, it is hard to choose just one.

If you’re a long-time reader of this blog, you may have noticed how I have started to focus in on specific things and if a movie is lacking, I can’t help but notice it.  I realise this was a period piece, but the only people who were not white were the help.  I don’t presume that the director/writer could force that in, but much like Jurassic Park, the lack of substantive roles for minorities was very apparent.  On that same note, the two female leads were typical.  The one girl, young and naïve, the other, cold and manipulating, and what was at the centre of their quarrel?  A man, of course.  Yeah, this could not have been more insufferable.  The only way the naïve girl could be saved is if a strong, strapping man came in to save her.  Thank goodness Charlie Hunan was there to do that.  From this perspective, there is little to induce a person to see this movie.  I expected more from Guillermo del Toro.  Many of his other movies are well balanced that this one stands out in stark contrast.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Movie Review: The Visit

I think the last M. Night Shyamalan I saw was about trees killing people or something like that, so I had to really take a deep breathe before plunging into another one of his movies.  I liked Sixth Sense, but really, Unbreakable and Signs are my two favourites of his.  This movie was a far cry from any of his previous work, but it was also a reminder that he is still a masterful storyteller, even with no special effects and a virtually unknown cast.

The trailer gives the impression that the kids are terrorised by the grandparents, but that’s not exactly what happens.  The mother decides to send her two kids to see her parents after she hasn’t seen or spoken to them in fifteen years.  The kids arrive and the grandparents are predictably old and a little odd.  Their behaviour continues to escalate from unusual to strange to terrifying.  It isn’t until the kids have the breakthrough revelation that they know something is amiss that things go awry.  I won’t SPOIL the movie for you, but I had an inkling of what was happening and was correct on my guess.

The heart of the story is really what sticks with you, if anything does.  The idea that the mother walks out on her parents at nineteen, then sends her kids back for a week, gives the impression of today’s society of broken families and broken lives.  More than that (SPOILER), there is a distinct undertone to doing good deeds.  The real grandparents had been volunteering at a local hospital, which is how they ended up garnering the attention of two whacked out old coots who killed the real grandparents and posed as them to spend time with kids.  It is sick and twisted and the ending almost mocks the seriousness of the two children killing their fake grandparents.  In many ways, this movie is probably far more disturbing than it is played off to be.  I’m not sure I can recommend it, but I did give it 4/5 stars on Rotten Tomatoes.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Movie Review: Sinister 2

Me and horror movies, like I even have to say it.  When the first Sinister movie came out, I had no idea what I was getting into.  In a way, the first entry of almost all movies are just so original, it seems impossible to top it.  I felt like the other Ethan Hawke horror movie, The Purge, did a better job of this than Sinister.  The story continues with the deputy from the first movie having left his job with the force and doing private investigation, researching the horror when he has free time.  In some ways, it is impressive that he’s figured out a great deal of the mystery, yet the trouble lies with his inability to find a viable solution.  Once he finds the homes, there is no clear answer as to what to do next.


Horror movies can be a tough sell.  Jump scares (things that take you by surprise) are easy enough.  To tell a story that leaves the viewer flummoxed is far more challenging.  This movie had the chance to do the latter.  It did not.  The Paranormal Activity movies vary from this sort of movie by adding to the lore and giving the viewer more to digest.  Those movies aren’t done perfectly and some of the sequels have been a complete and utter waste of my time.  This sequel to Sinister falls somewhere in the middle.  The deputy is able to unearth some new truth, but it also leaves much of the story untouched.  It is hard to suspend disbelief and not believe that the deputy couldn’t have found someone to help him diagnose the larger issue.  I would say this is worth a matinee price, not an evening price.  It kept me diverted for a little bit, but didn’t do as much as it could have.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Movie Review: The Gift

Suspense movies that masquerade as horror movies are still scary, though never nearly as scary as they could be.  The story behind The Gift isn’t terrifying on the surface, but the idea of a bully being bullied has a certain ring to it that makes all of us that were bullied, even a little, feel some justice, while shining a light on what happens to those people when they grow up.  The acting was middling.  The main actress, the one the story seemed to hinge around, never drew me in.  Jason Bateman pretty much plays himself in whatever movie he’s in, though he was more of a jerk in this one, but still the atypical mean white guy.  Joel Edgerton was quite sympathetic, even when the story reveals itself, I still feel more badly for him than anyone else.

I can’t say I’d highly recommend this movie, but I do want to stop and sort of digest what I saw.  The critics, to some degree, raved about the pacing and suspense, but the only thing that kept me engaged was the devolution of Joel Edgerton’s Gordo.  What happens to someone when they get bullied to the point that he’s pulled out of school?  What happens to the kids that do the bullying?  The real turning point for me, and the wife, was the reveal that Bateman’s character is a bully in all facets of his life, thus beginning the question of how the wife never noticed what a sleaze she was married to.  I mean, do bullies just always win because they’re bullies?  I know where I work, the worst person is the one running the show and she does just bully everyone.  Even if you stand up to a bully, that doesn’t stop that person.  There are so many people who just bulldoze their way through life, I often wonder what makes their needs and desires more important than mine.  Why do I have to acquiesce, to fold like a wicker table, to other peoples’ demands?  And somehow, in society, I think people would still root for Jason Bateman’s bully because he’s a ‘winner.’  Kind of like Tom Brady, to some degree.  You have to be a jerk to win at life and bullies are just jerks, aren’t they?  Regardless of what causes them to act that way, they just think it’s okay and we just ignore or do what they want to make it stop.  This movie had me thinking more about bullying than the horror and that says something.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Movie Review: The Vatican Tapes

I can sum this movie up in a couple words: don’t waste your time.  The found footage movies have a certain flare to them, but in this case, some lazy producer and director, maybe writer too, threw together what I can only imagine is the loosest plot I’ve ever seen.  The acting was not even passable, even Dougray Scott (dude, what happened to him, right?) couldn’t carry scenes.  The boyfriend was almost okay, but I expected more from Michael Peña.  The guy was even in Ant-man (Lay, you were right about that!) and he seems to have such comedic timing, but the drama of the horror movie seemed to elude him at times.

What frustrates me about horror movies is that the idea, the concept is sound.  The idea that the Vatican would keep a repository of instances of the Devil on earth seems reasonable.  To make a movie about it also seems reasonable.  To make this movie leaves me wondering what intern dropped the ball on getting the writer a latte at the right time or what.  This movie was lazy in every sense of the word.  The situations were tired and overused and there was not one original element in it.  If you saw The Last Exorcism, you’ve basically seen parts of this movie, as well as any other exorcist-themed movie.  I feel embarrassed for Hollywood.

On a related note, Dougray Scott, are you really lamenting missing out on X-men right now?  I mean, he was in line to play Wolverine if not for Mission Impossible 2.  Looking back now, I bet he is regretting that choice every millisecond, more so if he sees the amazing success Hugh Jackman has had.  Really, don’t we all remember the Drew Barrymore movie we were introduced to Scott in, Ever After.  I feel sad for Dougray Scott, even if he’s certainly making more money than me.  This movie was an embarrassment and he should never have been in it.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Movie Review: Ant-Man

Well, I guess I’ve hit my limit for Marvel movies this summer.  This movie was amusing and instantly forgettable.  For $10, seeing it in 3-D was a little more entertaining, but I think Marvel is really starting to scrub the bottom of the bucket with stories and super heroes.  I like a good superhero movie, sure, but at some point enough is enough.  I had zero expectations going in and came out wondering if I should have found a better use for my time and my $10.

The story of Ant-man is like most other superhero stories.  A ne’er-do-well type gets out of jail, after performing some sort of Robin Hood like crime, and can’t find work because he’s an ex-con (I did have an Orange is the New Black – Tastee moment, but let’s not add something to the movie that isn’t there).  Ultimately , he ends up turning back to crime, but lo and behold, the person he planned on burgling ‘let’s’ him steal and he’s been chosen to be the new Ant-man.

The story could not have been more tired.  Sometimes, like with Chris Pratt, an actor can make something feel interesting and new.  Paul Rudd and Evangline Lilly are not those actors.  I really struggle with the latter, as I loved Kate from Lost, but the last few movies I’ve seen Lilly in, she’s been just bland.  I’m not sure what to attribute this to, but I just didn’t feel any of her performances resonated.  Bland is probably the best word to use.  More than that, she and Rudd were just uninteresting, even if he had some witty lines.  The supporting cast stole the scenes they were in.
Marvel has really contrived this story out of nothing, more than Guardians of the Galaxy.  A different cast might have had a different outcome, but for the most part, I want my two hours and $10 back.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Movie Review: Minions

This should come as no surprise that I opted to see this movie, in 3-D, but that didn’t actually work, but at least AMC gave me my money back.  The trailers really delivered basically what was going to be in the movie. There isn’t really a plot for me to spoil.  The story is supposed to be an origin story, leading the audience through the Minions finding Groo.  What happened was really an hour and a half of slapstick, sometimes crude adult jokes and little else.  For an adult, it was entertaining, for a kid, it will be memorable for doing physical comedy with others and little else.

What made the first two Despicable Me movies so memorable wasn’t the Minions by themselves, but the family factor from Groo and the girls.  Without that, the Minions are truly sidekicks, as the movie shows.  It isn’t that the Minions aren’t fun, they are.  A movie where they are front and center, with their piecemeal language, is impossible to follow.  The movie never made sense.  My cousins and I spent much of the movie trying to figure out whether they were speaking Spanish, Italian or French and the consensus is that it was a mix of all three.

The idea of the movie was great, and I do love the Minions, but for $15, I’m not sure this movie is worth seeing in the theatre.  It had a few good laughs and the main Minions that are followed are very entertaining, but they can’t hold the loose plot together much, if at all.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Movie Review: The Gallows

Here with another horror movie review.  It seems like I average one a month.  I have been watching a few horror movies on TV, like As Above, So Below and Paranormal Activity 5, neither of which were groundbreaking movies, but diverting.  The Gallows, like most horror movies, has some promise, but the ending saps any value from the movie at all.

The movie opens with the tragedy that occurred twenty years prior and picks up with the school performing the same play (which befuddled me as no school should be performing a play that had an accident that killed a kid).  The cast is unremarkable, with the jock turned actor, the pedigree thespian, the jokester and his blonde girlfriend.  I was really convinced there were more kids based on the trailers, but only four in the chaos actually does serve to make the scenes tense.  The jokester convinces his jock friend to destroy the set because the jock can’t act and when they go to the school with the girlfriend in tow, they run into the thespian who the jock kind of likes.  It is the formulaic horror movie, never deviating from the well-worn script.

There are moments where the story almost could have been something more, or the middling acting of the kids could be tolerated, but the heavy handed story really doesn’t give much room for enjoyment.  AMC dropped their prices, so I feel better knowing I paid less to see this movie than usual.  The concept was solid, and that’s what frustrates me.  The idea of being locked in a school with an unseen killer who is recreating his own death had a lot to offer.  Yet, at the end of each sequence, you could have predicted the outcome.  Despite that, I did jump, a lot, and the main ‘villain’ did wear a hangman mask, adding to the scares.  Overall, I can’t, in good faith, recommend this movie to anyone, unless you’re just really bored or don’t have anything better to do.  I should have seen the Minion movie instead.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Who is Piper Chapman?

Throughout the course of books, TV shows and movies, characters that audiences fall in love with, or love to hate, often evolve.  In a strange series of events on my part, I’ve been clearing my DVR of Fortitude (I’ve still got a ways to go) and I’ve been reading The Hunger Games and Philosophy.  On the same night, I viewed the Fortitude episode in which one character (POSSIBLE SPOILER if you’re planning on watching or if you haven’t seen/read Hunger Games or plan on watching Orange is the New Black or Fortitude) states that she’s not the same person she was seven years ago because over the course of seven years, all the cells in your body are replaced.  In her definition, she is focusing on her physical presence, not her spiritual or emotional one, which one could argue isn’t just housed through the cells in your body.  Later that night, I read the essay Who is Peeta Mellark in the aforementioned Hunger Games book and it discussed the transformation of Peeta from the sweet boy who is in love with Katniss into the disillusioned one at the end of the book.  The focus of the essay was on both the emotional Peeta as well as physical.  Peeta was tortured by the Capital to forget the positive things he knew about Katniss and believe she meant him harm.  The boy that is rescued from the Capital bears little resemblance to the boy we first met, yet it is the same person.  This had my mind rolling in a few directions and as I thought about it, it lent me to the character evolution of Piper, and Alex, in Orange is the New Black and the relationship between the two.

In the beginning of Orange is the New Black, the audience is introduced to the affluent Piper Chapman who is incarcerated for the part she played in carrying drug money through customs for her then-girlfriend Alex Vause.  The timing of the offense occurred ten years prior and the audience witnesses Piper’s transition into being a free person as being someone who can work within the system of the jail.  The contrast from seasons one to three are quite stark, the tipping point being the end result to fellow inmate Stella.  Is the Piper the audience first meets the real Piper, or is the Piper at the end of season three the real Piper?

The sense of self is a long-argued point amongst philosophers.  There are many branches to this argument and the one that makes the most sense for the aforementioned characters to me is the idea promoted by David Hume.  In his writings, Hume asserts that there is a bundle theory of self.  The idea being that a person today and a person a few years prior may be drastically different, but is the same base person.  In a way, or the way it helps me to understand this concept, is like a painting, you have a base layer and you may add or subtract, but at the end of the day, even if the painting isn’t complete, your idea of the painting is still the same, the product is still the same product you had when you started, even if elements of it have changed and may yet change again and be weathered and worn over time.  Hume (from A Treatise of Human Nature) phrases it as follows:


We are never intimately conscious of anything but a particular perception; man is a bundle or collection of different perceptions which succeed one another with an inconceivable rapidity and are in perpetual flux and movement


The sense of self is a combination of many varying elements and despite what Alex says to Piper in season one (while they’re playing cards), she probably isn’t nearly as consistent as she believes herself to be.  The Piper and Alex that the audience meets before the series started (through flashbacks) are not the same pair we meet in season one nor the pair that ends up in two very different places at the end of season three.  Each action and interaction affects them both in different ways.



When Piper first arrives in prison, she has a very naïve outlook on life, wary of everyone at prison, but still not smart enough to be silent when she needs to be.  Some of her first interactions with the other prisoners are cringe-worthy, like her foot-in-mouth insult of Red, the prison chef.  And while Alex tries to help her (and is punished for offering said help), Piper quickly learns and adjusts.  Even after one day, the Piper the audience meets is vastly different than the Piper from the second day.  Which Piper is the real one?

Hume asserts that both are Piper.  A person grows each day, adding something to their outlook on life, their behaviour.  Even if Piper, when she rekindles her romance with Alex, states that she “feels like 23 and no time has passed.  I’ve changed so much.”  Alex counters that she hasn’t changed at all, which the audience also learns is false as Alex dabbles in drug use and learns from it.  Change is inevitable, but does that change make you a completely different person?



Another great philosophical reference is the Ship of Theseus analogy.  In the story, a group of Athenians were keeping a boat from breaking down by replacing the boat piece by piece as it needed to be repaired.  Each piece was replaced with an identical piece, yet one could argue the boat that set out was not the same boat when it returned as all the pieces had, at some point, been replaced.  

When we are introduced to Alex, through the lenses of Piper’s prejudice, she is untrustworthy and unscrupulous.  By the end of season three, Alex is a lot more honest with Piper, at least, despite the ending of their relationship.  Through flashbacks, we see Alex as being somewhat naïve, even if she was knowingly working for a drug cartel.  The fear and paranoia she exhibits are wildly drastic from the untroubled Alex viewers met in season one.  In a way, Alex and Piper move in two opposing directions, the control between them shifting between them like a wave.  If the characters are meant to be together, I expect the waves to settle in the upcoming seasons, which would be a nice contrast to the contrivances we’ve endured over this last season.



A different way to view this would be an eye-test of sorts.  Would Piper from season one even speak to Piper from season three?  The two may share the same history and backstory, but once Piper enters prison, she ceases to be the never-incarcerated Piper.  To some degree, I believe that when your worldview begins to change based upon your surroundings, the chance is so profound that you truly are a different person, a person the previous you might not be able to identify with on any level.

In essence, the Piper from season one to season three is a completely different person.  The same can be said about Alex, though for slightly different reasons.  The character development for Piper, as the central character, was far greater than any other character.  As the show has progressed, each of the characters have been fleshed out, and the strong, sarcastic Alex has been boiled down from her high, looking very much human.  It does say something about both characters that neither are pleased with the change in the other, stating that neither is pleased with the new “version” of the other.  The recognition of the versions belies itself to my theory.  They recognise the change and realise they are two different people.  I’d like to believe, at the core of their relationship, they still do care about each other, as Alex states in season one “When you have a connection with someone, it never really goes away…you snap back to being important to each other because you still are.”  Despite the changes the two characters evolve into, maybe they are the same and we’re the ones who’ve changed our views.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Why You’re Not Watching Orange is the New Black (But You Should Be!)

If you know me, you know I’m a fan of all things orange, so it might surprise you that I’ve only just now started watching Orange is the New Black.  I’m not sure what exactly triggered it, but something about a commercial or teaser drew me in.  I partially blame the direction the world is going in, not as a bad thing, but with people being more open with different types of people in every way possible, a show that displays that should be lauded and not shunned.

Netflix Subscription

This was the first turnoff for me.  I pay way too much to DirecTV right now and I couldn’t begin to wrap my mind around the idea of paying for more TV.  I mean, how much TV can one person watch?  But let’s be honest, how many of those additional channels do I even watch?  Since I’m not an HBO junkie, I can clear that off my list and the rest of the movie channels really just regurgitate the same movies over and over again.  With Netflix, you get a wider variety of movies to choose from.  I already saw The Babadook (a horror movie) that hasn’t been on any of the movie channels and added a few more items to my Watch List.  For $9 a month (for the middle tier), that’s $108 a year for a few more channels and I can cut about $90 per month when I get rid of the movie channels.  Yes, that math computes.

Gratuitous Scenes



Once you’ve gotten past the cost (and you can free trial the first month), the next thing I feel like people get turned off by certain types of scenes.  I’m not going to sugar coat this in anyway, because I never would, there are a fair amount of Lebanese scenes (my Golden Girls code word).  The main storyline, for the first season centers around protagonist Piper(Taylor Schilling) going back to jail because her ex-girlfriend Alex (Laura Prepon) was a drug dealer that got caught and may have fingered her as an accomplice.  At the same time, Piper is engaged to Larry (Jason Biggs).  There is a bit of both straight and not-straight storylines and characters and if that’s something that makes you uncomfortable, I can understand your reluctance.  At the same time, I feel like opening your mind to new ideas isn’t a bad thing.  I challenge anyone who watches the show not to root for, to some degree, the rekindling of the relationship between Piper and Alex.

Depressing



Let’s face it, the show is set in prison.  But it isn’t Oz.  I feel like Mean Girls is kind of a good reference point for the concept.  Even the characters cite how prison is a lot like high school with cliques and gossip.  Everyone knows everyone else’s business.  There are no secrets because everyone is living on top of each other (not literally).  There are both uplifting and devastating moments throughout the three seasons.  The show is seen, at first, through Piper’s eyes and as an upper-class, affluent person, the challenges she faces are very realistic.  The fact that she insults the cook on the very first day and has to find a way out of it or she won’t get fed is a situation that is both dire and still somehow amusing at the same time.

There are so many instances where we are reminded how bad choices lead to consequences.  The backstories for each character are fleshed out, some more than others, and there is a character for everyone.
The reason you should be watching:

Cast



This is where diversity really hits a stride for OITNB.  I have yet to see a group not well represented, except perhaps for men, who are really painted one-dimensionally for large chunks of the story.  The main story, and the first season, serve mostly to introduce the audience to the prison and go through the ups and downs with Piper.  Throughout the course of the first season, there are a variety of characters introduced and over time, more is revealed.  No matter what race you are (save Indian, like me, no Indians in jail), there seems to be some general representation. The show even pokes fun at this through an appointed council that is basically populated by a representative from each group: White, Black, Latino, Golden Girls and Other.  If you look past the main white cast, the talent spills over with everyone else.  Uzo Aduba won an Emmy for her performance from the first season, and there were a lot of other nominees besides her.

Story



I wish I could put into words what kept me coming back, but I can’t.  At the same time, I’m already re-watching the entire series, trying to pick up on things I might have missed.  The show is rife full of pop culture references, mostly though Tastee and her love for Harry Potter and reading.  If that doesn’t do it for you, there is a story with a Latino family and an impregnated inmate, something straight out of a soap opera.  The overarching villains for seasons one and two are memorable, but more so as we watch the evolution of season one’s Pennsatucky grow increasingly sympathetic as the seasons wear on.  Her character evolution is one of the starker ones, next to Piper’s fall into darkness.

Relationships



The idea of prison is terrifying, at least to me, you might not be phased by it.  The fact that every single person incarcerated in the show, at one point or another, admits to doing something wrong to end up there, but at the same time finds solace from others there as well is what is fascinating.  Even if the groups seem separated (white, black, other, old), the groups are still mixed and the mixing creates for some very compelling viewing.  When Red loses the kitchen in season 2 and is forced to join the old people table, the viewer sees people who might be forgotten by most, but can still contribute.

Consensus

I probably have a lot more blogs in me on this subject, but this is really scratching the surface.  A lot of fans have mixed feelings about season three being slightly aimless, as opposed to the conventional narrative in the first two seasons, but I’d argue the third season ties it all together, especially if you’re just now watching the show.  A lot of loose ends are tied together and while some parts were slower than others, I still watched it without stop and could keep watching it.

Is like: Lost, Buffy the Vampire Slayer




On: Whenever you feel like watching – no waiting!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Movie Review: Jurassic World

The first trailer for this movie gave me goose bumps.  I can still remember seeing the first movie almost twenty years ago.  I remember being more terrified of the Raptors than the T-Rex.  I also remember having nightmares of Raptors coming after me.  I don’t remember being that little when seeing it, more so when I subtract twenty years from my current age, then I might seem like a scaredy cat, but it was the first scary type movie I’d really seen.  If you haven’t seen the original Jurassic Park, do take the time to see that before seeing this.  The subsequent entries did play a very small part of this movie, but it was mostly Jurassic World paying homage to Jurassic Park.

If you haven’t seen the trailer for some strange reason, the movie basically starts with the park having been open for some time and bringing in customers for years.  The place is packed and as two kids embark on a vacation with their aunt (Bryce Dallas Howard), she pawns them off on her assistant so she can do her best to sell the park’s next greatest attraction, a genetically engineered dinosaur.  I was pleasantly surprised to see Dr. Wu (from the first film), had returned, aged, but was still in charge of the genetics at Jurassic World (no longer Park after what happened in the first movie, I presume).  Unsurprisingly, the genetically engineered dinosaur surprises everyone and manages to elude any captivity and get into the park, despite the hero, Chris Pratt’s Owen.  Without giving away the rather obvious happy ending and obvious deaths, the movie is a lot of fun.

Today’s culture dictates that a movie of this magnitude is expected to meet certain needs.  Diversity in Hollywood is woefully lacking and other than the aforementioned Dr. Wu, there was only one other minority, Pratt’s sidekick, Barry, who was black.  The hero was a white guy, Pratt, and Howard played the damsel in distress who wore heels throughout the movie, in terrain that definitely required something else (I partially say this from experience after wearing wedges to the Grand Canyon and knowing how uneven the footing can be outdoors.  How Ms. Howard managed to run in heels is beyond me) and she was also white.  In this day and age, why is Howard’s character depicted as being money-hungry and work focused, unable to have a serious relationship with the charming Pratt?  Why is her ambition portrayed so negatively that you’re almost rooting for Pratt to save her because you know she can’t possibly save herself, even though she ultimately does save the day?  Why is Pratt portrayed as the Everyman character who is infallible, perfect in every way and utterly irresistible.  Pair this with the fact that it was two brothers (vs. two sisters or a mix of siblings) as the child focus, I found this bothersome.  I accepted it at face value, but it made me feel like everyone in the movie was white and male save for Howard.  What made Jurassic Park so amazing, and still outpaces this latest movie, is that it had a mix of everything.  Perhaps Crichton wrote the original book this way, but the movie makers would do well to allow some other races and genders be represented.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Movie Review: Spy

I am not usually drawn to comedy movies, the endings often feel empty, but Melissa McCarthy is a magnet unto herself.  The first trailer I saw I knew I had to see it.  A little free time and I might have missed all the previews, but I don’t feel like I missed much.

The premise of the story is pretty self-explanatory in the trailer, but Melissa McCarthy plays the role of meek, mousy, behind-the-desk spy operative for the CIA who is hopelessly in love with her assigned field agent, played by Jude Law.  When Law passes away, McCarthy is given the chance to jump into action with hilarious results.  I don’t want to spoil the turns through the story, but the trailers do not do the movie justice, not even close.

McCarthy, initially, doesn’t play the usual foul-mouthed heroine, but that comes through as the movie progresses.  After seeing a few of her movies,  I feel like I know what to expect from her, but in this instance I felt like McCarthy showed a much wider range of emotions than we’re used to seeing.  This was more obvious by the stark contrasts around her, none more than from Jason Statham.  I don’t know much about him outside of the Fast and Furious movie I saw him in, but he was over the top and very entertaining.  Rose Byrne also played against her usual type and that was positively delightful.  There isn’t more good than can be said about Miranda Hart, who was delightfully awkward.  This may not be a movie to see with the kids, but between this and Pitch Perfect, girls are indeed taking over the world!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Movie Review: Insidious Chapter 3

I know, another week, another horror movie.  I don’t know what it is about the summer, but a ton of horror movies tend to come out over the summer, perhaps because kids are out of school and like that sort of thing?  Last week’s Poltergeist was almost laughable compared to this week’s movie.  I’ve now seen all three Insidious movies and without a doubt, this is by far the scariest.  I credit much of that to the Rear Window where the Jimmy Stewart character is trapped in a wheelchair, creating a different kind of scare.

In the very first Insidious movie, the viewer is introduced to a family and a young son who falls comatose for reasons they can’t understand.  In the second movie, the same family is followed through much of the same story, but from a different angle.  In this third movie, much like Annabelle from that was spawned from The Conjuring, this movie takes place before the first two Insidious movies.

The real treat for the movie comes from Lin Shaye, who plays the medium of choice.  In a short article I read about her in Entertainment Weekly, she got a late start to acting and she has done a lot with her fifteen minutes of fame.  The early jitters for her character are surprising as we see her being far more confident and sure-footed in the following two movies.  She also plays the villain in that terrible Ouija movie I saw last year, fun fact for those still reading.

The third movie starts a few years before the viewer is introduced to the Lambert family (Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne).  A young girl keeps trying to contact her mother who passed away a year ago and she has summoned something else to her instead of her mother.  The girl reaches out to Lin Shaye’s character, who initially rebuffs her, but she gets involved without really meaning to.


Without giving away huge spoilers, the movie is scary.  I had my eyes covered for long sequences of the film.  The villain was shrouded and often just out of sight, but this sort of filming made every sequence, practically from the beginning, that much more tense.  Worse yet, because the girl, Quinn, I think, is incapacitated for most of the movie, and so she is either stuck in bed or in a wheelchair and when something approaches, there is nowhere for her to run.  Even though the first movie had this element, it wasn’t told from that perspective.  I normally don’t give such ringing endorsements, but this is one horror movie that delivers and is very much worth seeing.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Movie Review: Poltergeist

A horror movie is really the same beast, just dressed up in different clothing.  I keep trying to convince myself that I’ll see something new or amazing, some new angle for a story that makes me stop and think.  It happens once in a while, I’d say one out of every ten horror movies I see something interesting.  This was not one of them, and not surprisingly.

If you’re born in the 1980’s, or a horror buff, then you’ve certainly seen the original Poltergeist movie, featuring Coach, or Craig T Nelson, as he might be known by.  This movie didn’t have any known names and the story was a retelling of the original with a few slight changes, a few interesting mixes of the modern horror genre mixed with this classic.

The Poltergeist movie centers around a family that moves into a new home and strange things quickly ensue.  In this iteration, the father has lost his job and is looking for work and the mother is an author who isn’t writing.  This leaves the family open to the desperation you might see if you watch A Haunting, which is a really solid one-hour show on Destination America, if you’re interested.  In so many of those episodes, the hauntings are exacerbated by the fact that the family is trapped both by the entity as well as the inability to move out, financially.  This holds true for this movie as well.

The hauntings in the story escalate faster than it did in the original and the story is also focused on the little brother more than the rest of the family.  Possible SPOILERS ahead.  Once the youngest daughter vanishes, the story shifts to the little brother realizing he should have protected the little sister instead of being a coward.  Much of the story, and the changes to it, unfold around that caveat.

Overall, I can’t say this was a bad movie.  It kept my interest and had a good number of scares that were wholly unexpected.  At the same time, it felt like I’d seen this before and in a way I had, because I’ve seen the original and some of the sequels.  



The one difference I feel worth noting was the inclusion, for the youngest daughter, of this stuffed animal, a pig-a-corn.  There is a point in the story where one of the academics who is helping the family is trying to explain, to the son (again), how his sister is both here and not here, by drawing a circle on two sheets of paper and overlapping them.  In some sense, a pig-a-corn is a lot like that, it is two things at once, though neither can exist.  You can tell how engaging this movie was if I was able to come up with this observation.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Movie Review: Pitch Perfect 2

Remakes and sequels seem to be al Hollywood has to offer these days.  I was late to the party with the original movie, Pitch Perfect, but loved it when I did see it.  I look back now at Twilight and reflect on how well Anna Kendrick has done for herself.  She beat Kristen Stewart to an Academy Award nomination and given Stewart’s body of work, that’s no small feat.

The movie doesn’t quite start out where we left off, but it does have the beloved Barden Bellas performing for President Barack Obama in the opening.  The trailer gives away what happens and the Bellas are forced to go to drastic measures to reinstate themselves into the annals of acapella groups.  The story doesn’t drive the movie as much as the characters do.  As with any sequel, the returning characters are paired with newcomers.  That might be the only detraction I had.  When Glee started cycling old characters out for new ones, I felt like the show slowed down and in some cases, that was true in Pitch Perfect as well.  After the Bellas get in trouble, they aren’t allowed to take in new members, but a legacy member (a child of a former Bella) can audition and be accepted.  It is this character that is the lynchpin for the story and is the only predictable element of the story.

I won’t ruin the story, which is hilarious from start to finish.  The jokes are fast and furious and if you’re not paying attention, you will miss some real gems.  While the songs aren’t as catchy, the return of “Cups” and the original song sung at the end of the movie are both fantastic.  There was also a wonderful moment, while watching, that I realized that romance nor men were taking center stage in the movie and I was emboldened by it.  This isn’t a feminist movie, by any means, but it does deliver some pop to Hollywood.  This is the first recent movie I can remember that is helmed by a female director with an almost all female cast and few men, or one of the few featured being quite the misogynist (played perfectly by John Michael Higgins).  The fact that this is all secondary to a strong movie, a multi-talented cast, is what is that much more stunning.  There is no reason to stop and think about this, but there it is.  Perhaps Hollywood will take note that Pitch Perfect outdueled Mad Max and Avengers this weekend and give women more of a chance to stand on the same stage.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Book Review: Gone Girl

The phrase ‘throwing stones in a glass house’ often crops up in my mind when I review books.  In many cases I am impressed, floored that someone can get a book through the rigorous process of being published.  In a lot more cases, I scratch my head and wonder how a book got through so many edits and how so many people fell in love with it when I didn’t like anything about it.  In this case, that was the point.  It took 400 pages for me to realise that I’m supposed to hate the characters in all their self-indulgence and egotism.

The novel Gone Girl is not the first novel Gillian Flynn has published and the polish on this novel shows that.  From the very first page I hated her main characters.  Nick was the quintessential frat boy type, the one you expect to read about in Rolling Stone, but couldn’t get into UVA.  Amy is amazingly naïve and yet brilliant in her psychosis.  Her parents, as Nick states, created a monster.  The story unfolds in dramatic fashion as Amy goes missing and Nick quickly becomes the main suspect based on clues Amy has left to frame him.  The extent to which she commits herself to her task is impossible to believe, thus breaking the first wall of disbelief for me.  I also found the ending utterly implausible.  I can’t imagine a person like Amy, or Nick for that matter, not being held responsible for their reprehensible behaviour.  In Nick’s defence, if I can even stomach saying that, the worst he did was cheat on his wife.  Amy, on the other hand, is quite the practiced manipulator.  I still struggle to understand how she learned how to behave this way and commit to it so flawlessly.

The story is intriguing, it keeps the reader guessing throughout.  While the movie cast the role of Nick perfectly (I’ve never known a human being to look more arrogant than Ben Affleck), I’m not sold on Rosamond Pike.  She doesn’t seem nearly as insane as Amy, but then again, Amy hid her madness with ease.

This is one of those books I found maddening to read.  I hate Nick from the beginning.  I hated Amy almost from her first diary entry.  Both were insufferable know-it-alls and I felt like they deserved a much harsher fate than being stuck with one another for the rest of their lives.  I struggled to not be disgusted with Ms. Flynn’s style of writing.  The book is written from the first-person perspective and while both characters are former journalists, the writing is beyond pretentious.  Every sentence drips of Ms. Flynn being enamoured with her own writing, not just the characters’ self-love.   Each new page was a new exercise in forcing myself to read this book, to see how she made it a best seller.  I’m still not sure. 

Friday, May 1, 2015

Movie Review: Age of Ultron

I often go in for the special double features at AMC and while I may have meandered into another movie to avoid seeing the first movie a second or third time, the mainstay feature was the one I’d come for.  I wanted to like this movie, but I think I’ve had my fill of this sort of superhero movie and while I am a huge Joss Whedon fan, and the dialogue is wonderfully done, the movie just felt flat to me.  The forced romance between two characters was obvious.  The tension was forced and the laughs were expected.  Overall, I just didn’t feel wowed by this movie and I wonder if it has more to do with me than the movie itself.

The story is built around Iron Man and The Hulk creating artificial intelligence and that AI running amok.  The story had a few fun twists and turns, most notable for Hawkeye, the story never seemed to draw me in.  I felt like the movie would never end until it finally did.

I will cite that after hearing the comments Jeremy Renner and Chris Evans made about Scarlett Johansson’s character, even if they were joking, really rankled me.  In this day and age of feminism, I just find myself disgusted by their behavior and comments and while their acting was decent, it didn’t allow me to forget what had been said.

If you’re a fan of superhero movies, you’re going to see this movie.  I’m telling you now, waiting a week or two or more to see this won’t take much away and there isn’t much to miss to begin with.  This might be the end of me patronizing these sorts of things.

Movie Review: Unfriended

In this day and age of social media being the God of our times, this movie is long overdue.  The movie is filmed solely through web cams and Skype.  The characters are a group of teenagers, presumably, though they looked like they could have been in college, or a little older.  The story unfolds as the characters start getting messages from a friend of theirs who committed suicide after a video of her went viral.  The friends apparently teased her and this is a topic that is in the news a lot lately.

The idea of this movie was brilliant.  What would a group of idiotic teenagers do against a villain you can’t see that gets you to do things without you realizing.  The idea of a kid being bullied coming back from the dead (SPOILER – sorry) and killing each person in turn after they admit what wrong they had committed.  The suspense for the story is built up quite well with the use of the webcams and I did find myself covering my eyes at regular intervals.

What the story gains from originality it loses with the tired horror delivery.  What made movies like Paranormal Activity or It Follows so unique was that it didn’t give you something you’d seen before.  While there is no, expectedly, positive outcome, the movie delivers a few cheap scares and ends with an unsatisfying conclusion, it might be worth seeing for a few bucks, but not more.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Movie Review: Furious 7

There are some staples of Fast and Furious movies: fast cars, scantily clad people, senseless fighting and harrowing action sequences.  All of these things were in high form in this latest entry and I can’t say it wasn’t what I expected.  The most unexpected thing in this movie was the number of people who were at the 9.30 show.  It was sold out, and on Easter Sunday no less.

The movie leaves off where the last movie ended, with the antagonist of Furious 6 having his older brother vow vengeance on those that put his brother in the hospital.  In SPOILER fashion, the Asian guy gets it first, the audience sees his mangled body before the Jason Statham character promises to come for Vin Diesel and co.  The next few hours are basically a culmination of sequences where the characters barely survive all kinds of insane combinations of things, such as cars being ejected from a plane and slamming a million dollar car through one building into another from forty floors up.

The cinematography for the movie was, at times sickening, and at other times just unbelievable.  There was this shaky cam thing that kept going on during fight sequences and it had me reeling at times.  The cousin I brought with me (yeah, different cousins, how many do I have?), commented on it and I was like, you know, you’re right, it did make me feel a little off.  The bigger action sequences with the cars were done at a different angle and those cars are just outrageous.  What I wouldn’t give to just try those once.  Though, I have a mustang, so I could soup it up, but I think that might end in far more speeding tickets than I’d like.

I can’t say this was a great movie, or that the story was original or the acting top notch.  I am always impressed by how well Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson (the rock) do comedy so well.  Michelle Rodriguez as the really only powerful female lead is always fun to watch and she has an entertaining fight sequence between her and Ronda Rousey.  I’m glad I saw the movie and the montage at the end of all of Walker’s scenes was a tear-jerker.  If you’ve watched a few of these movies, you need to see this latest one.  If you haven’t seen any of these movies, you may not feel like you missed much, but these movies are something of our culture that shouldn’t be missed. 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Movie Review: It Follows

Rarely do I come across a horror movie I don’t want to see.  This was hyped as a sleeper Indie movie and I was intrigued.  The last few Indie’s that blew me away include Paranormal Activity or the Orphanage, both of which stopped me from sleeping for days after seeing it.  Actually, with Paranormal Activity, I think I didn’t sleep for a week.  Yeah, I’m a scaredy cat.  Also, in a side-note, there was a trailer with Thomas Jane in it and the sister of KStew from Still Alice who’s name escapes me and there were butterflies and I leaned over and told my friend I straight-up couldn’t see that movie.  Butterflies, nature’s silent killers.  Mark my words.

The premise of the movie doesn’t truly reveal itself until about twenty minutes into the picture.  The story sets up as a random girl goes running from her father and ends up being found dead on a beach. The movie picks up to a girl getting into a pool and seeing two neighborhood kids watching her.  I made the mistake of thinking these were the same girl, but they weren’t, as my friend pointed out.  My eyes were covered at some points, for those of you wondering.  It is safer to watch horror movies that way.  The story continues with a girl going on a date with her new boyfriend and he does something slightly odd, but covers it up well.  The next date they have, they sleep together and that’s when the story begins to truly unfold.

My friend stated it best, I think, it is basically an STD curse.  The idea is that the curse can be passed from one person to the next by sleeping with them.  There is an X-files episode similar called gender bender, but not quite the same.  The guy gave her a fake name and romanced her for a little while before sleeping with her and then she begins to see a person that no one else can see.  He warns her that she can’t let the person, or whatever she sees, touch her.  The first time she sees it she is with the guy and it appears as a naked woman.  Why naked?  I don’t know.  I didn’t do anything for me and made it seem that much more confusing when it was seen with clothes on.  Regardless, the thing keeps coming and she confides to her sister and friends and while they don’t disbelieve her, they can’t see anything.  The cool neighbor sleeps with her, in an attempt to pass the curse, and while it works for a short period of time, he ends up getting killed and it continues after her.

The suspense in the movie continues to build and the girl and her friends try varying activities to kill the thing, but they don’t really know what they’re dealing with and thus all of their attempts fail.  I found it curious that none of them thought to do any research to see if they could figure it out.  The movie was dated for sure, set in the 80’s or 90’s just based on the clothes and the TVs they had.  I didn’t get quite as scared as I thought I would, but the story held my attention and kept me engaged, even if I kind of wanted the main girl to die because I found her kind of annoying.  The movie did get me thinking what someone would do given the same circumstances.  I mean, the message of the movie might have been as simple as no sleeping around, but I might be over-thinking it.  As horror movies goes, this one held true to the teaser and I think most horror fans would enjoy it.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Movie Review: Still Alice

When an actor receives an academy award nomination, let alone a win, it sticks out in my mind and I feel like I need to take the time to see the movie.  Lucky for me, AMC was still showing this movie and I got the chance to drag my seventeen year old cousin to it.  I don’t know that I was in the right state of mind while watching this movie and while the entire 6-person audience, minus me, was brought to tears, including the aforementioned cousin, I found myself laughing at sequences that probably were meant to be gut-wrenching, which made my cousin imply I was cold-hearted.  Being a huge fan of Charmander, I find this hard to believe, but let us not digress.

The premise of this movie is based off of a book where a woman suffers from early onset Alzheimer’s and how her family deals with it.  The hints are quite subtle, Alice forgets little things, words or locations of things, but the panic starts to set in at a rapid pace and it is quite clear that something is seriously wrong with her.  The story isn’t a new one, per say, but it was one that was compelling and terrifying.  The depiction of the fall into lost memory is horrific to watch.  The very idea of not being able to rely on your mind, your memory, is one I don’t want to imagine.  It is a literal case of not being able to trust anything.  At one point, Alice goes inside to go to the bathroom and can’t find it and goes in her pants.  I didn’t laugh here, but it was a sad state of affairs for any adult and I can’t imagine watching a loved one suffering from this.

The performances from the entire cast were on point throughout.  The somewhat supportive husband was just as frustrating to watch as the children who didn’t want to be inconvenienced greatly save for the youngest daughter, played by Kristen Stewart.  At this point I have to admit that part of my curiosity for this movie was the always amazing Julianne Moore and the unending praise I kept hearing about for Stewart.  I try to give all the kids of Hollywood (Twilight, Potter, etc.) the benefit of the doubt and Stewart has, by and large, been the best of the entire bunch.  A lot of criticism for her comes from her seeming to play the same role again and again.  I’d argue she doesn’t do that at all, but I need to see more of her work, which there is a lot to choose from.  She was in about 25% of the movie and the parts she was in had excellent foreshadowing and chemistry between her and the rest of the cast.  I continue to be impressed by Stewart and I want to see what more she can do as she gets more comfortable in her own skin.  I wish that Emma Watson or Jennifer Lawrence could execute these types of performances, but I have yet to see it from either, let alone any of the boys, like Dan Rad, who has a lot of growing up to do.

Now, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention what had me so distracted throughout the movie that while others were brought to tears, I was amused, laughing.  Early on, the audience’s first view of Stewart, she is wearing a t-shirt with Snoopy on it.  Again, if you’re reading this, you know I’m a Snoopy fan too.  Yeah, I like a lot of cartoon characters.  I was just so amused.  After the movie was over, I realised there was more to the tee than just Snoopy and Woodstock.

Stewart in a Snoopy t-shirt

I’ve included a pic, but the text, I believe is: “Sometimes the donut dunks the bird” and the image is Woodstock in a coffee mug and the donut not in the coffee.  It is a really cute shirt, one I might need to find/acquire.  The movie is about life getting the better of a person, and in many ways, I’d argue that the t-shirt is foreshadowing what is about to happen to Alice as well as her daughter Lydia (Stewart).  Alice is overcome by life, just as Woodstock is overcome by the donut in the t-shirt.  My cousin thinks I’m over-thinking this, but I really think I’m onto something and hope that someone from the movie stumbles upon this humble blog and the wardrobe person realises that at least one person noticed the attention to detail.