October 26, 2013

Girl in Progress (2012)

Eva Mendes, Matthew Modine, Patricia Arquette

Before I start to talk about the movie itself, I want to rant about Matthew Modine. For one thing, I often hear his name and think he is Matthew Morrison, which turns out to be highly disappointing when I see who it actually is (this is a personal problem, I realize). Secondly, Matthew Modine just looks like a douchebag. Seriously. Some actors will always be relegated to bad guy status; he's one of them. This movie is no different.

The movie itself is a pretty over-done story: an irresponsible parent/caregiver with an overly mature child who assumes the adult role in the relationship and all the problems that accompany that dynamic. But what makes this movie different (from say, Uptown Girls) is the approach the kid makes in changing this dynamic and the ability of this movie to find humor in what is actually a very tragic (and common) situation. (And, of course no Brittany Murphy and her insanely annoying voice. I know people get riled up when you say bad things about people who have passed, but come on there's no denying her voice was grating.)

As for Mendes, this role isn't a huge stretch from her usual "sexy" roles. She's still playing a rather shallow woman whose main attribute is her looks, but she does add some dimension to the character and it's nice to see an actress who can properly cry on screen. So bravo for that. (Because seriously, there is nothing worse than watching an ugly crier and/or someone who is unconvincing when they cry. It really saps a moment of its meaning.) 

The daughter does a great job in her role and I'm happy to see a movie with two Latina main characters hit the big screen, even if it only recouped half its production budget in ticket sales (ouch!). It may take some time, but between Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato on Disney and now movies like this, I have a feeling an explosion of Latina movie superstars are coming. Now if only we could find someone to carry the Asian torch for Lucy Liu...

Final word: A cute rework of the classic coming-of-age story.

October 21, 2013

The Heat (2013)

Sandra Bullock, Melissa McCarthy

I have a confession to make: I am a Boston Red Sox fan. [pause for booing] I always have been, even pre-2004, when they were always disappointing and it seemed they would never shake the Curse of the Bambino. This is both relevant and important because:

A. The Sox are back in the World Series, and
B. My subsequent mocking of Bostonians won't seem like unjust bias

So about Boston...I've only been once, but my experience was work-related and didn't allow me to really explore whether or not the movie depictions of the city and its people are justified. But judging from the sheer number of movies that show Boston as full of trashy people with annoying accents (The Fighter, The Departed, anything from Ben Affleck...), I'm beginning to believe this portrayal must be accurate. It's sort of like Jersey - watch enough reality TV and you have to believe the whole state is full over over-tanned meatheads. One of the highlights of this movie is its consistent depiction of that Boston um, class.

The rest of movie, however, plays like a roast of Bullock and McCarthy themselves. Each plays a character almost exactly like so many of their others. In the case of Bullock, it's like a bad version of Miss Congeniality. For McCarthy, it's hard to tell how her character is any different from the one played in both Bridesmaids and Identity Thief.

There are funny jokes, to be sure - most of them being derogatory comments from McCarthy's character (I mean seriously, the addition of an albino character was genius), but the overall plot is just so basic. You strip away the 10 or so funny moments and you're left with a cop version of a romantic comedy. However, I do want to give some props for making a non-romantic comedy movie starring 2 women. It still played into some stereotypes that career-oriented women have no time for romance and that men generally dislike them, which is annoying, but I suppose I should just be grateful they didn't cast Katherine Heigl. (Looks like Hollywood finally got my memo on that!)

[On a added note, I watched the "unrated version" as opposed to the "theatrical version" and I can almost guarantee that I can pick out exactly what was edited for the theaters. I don't know why people think "unrated" somehow equates to "better." It just means a longer movie, filled with scenes that weren't good enough to make the final cut. End rant.]

Final word: Makes a better trailer than a movie.

BTW, this was the DVD I was given. Who needs both a regular version, a Blu-Ray version, AND 2 hours of bonus "extras?" Who has the time to watch 2 hours of extras from a mediocre movie?? Is this supposed to be a selling point? For $21.99? Really??

October 15, 2013

The Great Gatsby (2013)

Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Tobey Maguire

Along with a slew of other books I don't remember, I had to read this for high school English class. I remember exactly two things about it:

1. There were a lot of parties, and
2. My English teacher told me that some have suggested a homosexual angle to the relationship between Gatsby and Carraway

So naturally, I spent the first third of the movie searching for signs of a secret longing on the part of either of the main characters. I didn't see any hint of that, so thanks for ruining a perfectly good story, Mr. Kuzma.

Beyond that, this movie has been thoroughly Baz-ified. (yep, I just turned Baz Luhrmann into a verb.) It contains many of his usual signatures like a musical score composed of popular songs, overwhelming colors, and that weird, fast-forwarded-type movement of people he also used in Moulin Rouge. Except sadly, this movie didn't have Ewan McGregor singing Your Song to Nicole Kidman, allowing me to imagine that he's really serenading me.

It did, however, have both Leo and Carey Mulligan, whom I adore (despite some questionable movie role choices in her past). And Baz's choice to use large portions of the text word for word helped me overlook the casting choice of Tobey Maguire as the main character (although really, after trying to make him a superhero in Spiderman, anything else is more convincing). [As an aside, does anyone else sometimes have trouble differentiating Amy Adams from Isla Fisher?]

BUT (and this is a biggie), there are portions of the movie that are just flat out slow. For instance, the first 20 or so minutes. And a solid portion in the middle. Considering the movie just clears 2 hours, that's a sizable chunk that's completely forgettable. But I judge a movie more on how it ends, rather than how it begins (if I make it to the end), so I was pleased with its strong finish. Now if only Leo could snag an Oscar, he wouldn't feel the need to keep going out of his way to play every neurotic character available to prove he can act.

Final word: More like, "The Good Gatsby."

Let's all be educated and go ahead and read the book.