December 21, 2014

Divergent (2014)

Shailene Woodley, Ashley Judd, Kate Winslet and what James Franco and Chris Pine's baby would look like with huge lips

I've been dying to see this move. Not because it looked good, but because I wanted to talk about how annoyed I am about Shailene Woodley popping up in what seems like every movie nowadays. She's like a teenage Jennifer Lawrence. (And yes, I realize she's in her 20's, but her face and her acting make her seem like she's about 16.) I don't like her. I can't quite put my finger on why, but I just don't like her. She did a decent job in The Descendants, but there, she was a supporting character who mostly just made pouty teenage faces the whole time. So I guess she's good at that.

What she is not good at, however, is convincing me that she is an action star. Look, I get that Hollywood needs to mix things up. And I appreciate their willingness to experiment in casting to try and diversify the pool of predictable action heroes. I even love that this series stars a female action hero. And yet... not every experiment goes well. Look at Toby Maguire as Spiderman (or Andrew Garfield as Spiderman, for that matter) or Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Looper. Shailene Woodley is not the next female action star. (Though that won't stop the studios from making this three book series into a four movie blockbuster! Woo!)

Speaking of questionable casting... why is Miles Teller in this movie? And as a bad guy? Talk about unconvincing! Add to that the fact that three other guys in the movie looked vaguely like him and the fast action sequences shot in dark settings and it was difficult to tell who was who. It just added an unnecessary layer of false complexity to this movie, which was already trying really hard to be deep.

It's just really hard to watch this movie and not think "B-Squad Hunger Games." I know I probably think that because I happened to read The Hunger Games first, but the whole 'dystopian society with factions ruled by a ruthless leader' thing is really overplayed now. I didn't get around to reading the Divergent series, but if this movie is any reflection of them, I think I'm better for having skipped them. I mean, if I thought the characters in The Hunger Games were underdeveloped and miscast...

The plot hurts my head. It really does. Completely ignoring the giant, gaping plot holes, the entire first half of the movie reads like a high school drama that happens to have guns. I mean, how does it even make sense that you cannot interact with anyone outside of your faction? How are we supposed to believe that the vast majority of people are so one-dimensional that they easily conform to their faction? Is the author really telling us that at our core, we are only one thing: honest or smart or fearless or giving? Why do the people in Dauntless need to run to everything? Is it really necessary that the train never stop so they have to run/jump to get on and off of it? And what's with all the ridiculous initiation rituals? Why would it make sense for a "harmonious society" to purposely kick people out of Dauntless, making them faction-less, then turn around and have to patrol these same people? I mean, it's hard to even take the "leader" of Dauntless seriously because he is such a caricature of what a bad guy would look like. I'm sure the other factions are equally ridiculous, but we wouldn't know because they are basically never shown. I realize this partially violates my ethics of not giving anything away in a movie, but I'm pretty confident if you watched the trailer you'd already know what was going to happen.

The second half of the movie does stop being quite so ridiculous and becomes more of a regular, predictable action movie. And while both the acting and plot are painful, it's still semi-enjoyable to watch because there is so much action happening (even though much of the action is questionable as to why it's necessary). 

Final word: [trying to keep a straight face] The world definitely needs 4 of these movies.

December 16, 2014

The Other Woman (2014)

Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann, Kate Upton

I recently read a book that quoted the catchphrase, "embrace the suck." This movie is sort of like that.
Going in, it's not like anyone thinks it's going to be Oscar bait. I mean, Kate Upton is actually named on the movie poster as one of the stars. Nicki Minaj is in the movie. As an actress. And yet, I still came out feeling disappointed somehow. I think Cameron Diaz just has that effect. (Ahem, Sex Tape, Knight and Day, The Holiday, Bad Teacher.... shall I go on?) So I guess to enjoy this movie, you really have to be able to embrace its inherent suckiness.

Just try and convince me this is what women
do and not what men hope we do.
I am a strong advocate for more female-led movies, but this movie felt like it was made by a man, for women. I mean sure, it's pretending to embrace female empowerment by having them exact revenge on a man and by having them actually befriend each other instead of compete, but why play into stereotypes of having Leslie Mann constantly frazzled, whiny, and out of control? Why have the women comment on how hot the other women are? Frankly, it all felt like a portrayal of what a man would imagine women would do in that situation, rather than what they would actually do. (And yes, I realize the screenplay was written by a woman, making this all the more pathetic.)

In some ways, I almost feel badly for being so hard on the movie because again, it's not like any rational person could sit down to watch this movie and think it was going to be good. But it was just so reminiscent of The First Wives Club, but done badly, that it hurt. I mean, when a thirty-something can relate more to Diane Keaton and Better Midler than Cameron Diaz and Leslie Mann, I think perhaps something is wrong.

Of course, there were a few amusing parts. Kate Upton managed to not be the worst actor in the movie (that honor goes to the fake Harry Connick Jr. who played the cheating husband). And I think Leslie Mann did a good job with what she was asked to do, but her ridiculous over-the-top antics pushed the movie from average lame to almost offensively so. (Though I'm shifting blame from her to what I imagine her character was supposed act like, which is really the root of the problem). And the ending? I kept hoping it was one of those "alternative imagined endings" like in Wayne's World because it was so stupid. But I suppose it was just keeping with the theme of the rest of the movie.

Final word: Feels like it was made for men, except that no man would want to watch this.

December 9, 2014

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part I (2014)

Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Donald Sutherland, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, Elizabeth Banks, Woody Harrelson

First of all, I would just like to say that every movie theater should convert their seats to leather recliners ASAP. I watched this movie in a piece of furniture more comfortable than my own couch and didn't feel the least grossed out about the fact that likely hundred of people had cozied up in my exact spot before me (probably with their shoes off too). If that's not a successful movie outing, I don't know what is.

The leather recliners really helped boost my anticipation of the movie, considering this book was the worst of the three in a series that had already shown how bad its movies could be. But in light of recent events (the Ebola outbreak, Ferguson), this movie suddenly seemed relevant and exciting and not just the Hunger Games book without the actual Hunger Games.

However, I was distracted by several things:

1. Watching Liam Hemsworth and constantly thinking about John Oliver's rant against Chris Hemsworth being named 'People's Sexiest Man Alive' stating, "He's not even the sexiest Hemsworth brother!" I debated this assertion in my head throughout the movie. I still haven't come to a conclusion.

2. The convincing reality of Jennifer Lawrence's wig. And the fact that this movie kept trying to show Katniss' evolution as a person by having her wear her hair down instead of in the "trademark" side braid, which frankly, didn't look great. Some people were just meant to wear their hair up.

3. The complete lack of an authentic relationship between Katniss and her sister. I know the book doesn't exactly give a lot to work with and it's not possible to just cut her character out since she serves as the catalyst for this whole series, but seeing Jennifer Lawrence suddenly call her "little duck" while cuddled in bed during the four times they interact the entire movie feels disjointed and awkward.

4. The horrendous North Korea-esque uniforms of District 13.

5. The long and slow pans of scenery that were likely employed to eat up time so that this could be long enough to be considered a movie in its own right, even with little action because that's all being saved for Part II. 

But on a high note, the-most-miscast-actor-in-recent-memory (aka Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark) was again noticeably absent from this movie. I was almost impressed with the extreme weight loss he pulled off, until I Googled it and found out it was just CGI. He can't even do that right. Sigh.

Final word: It would have been a lot better had it been just one movie.

November 25, 2014

Sex Tape (2014)

Cameron Diaz, Jason Segal, Rob Lowe

Can I take a second and point out how crazy our culture has become in that the pervasiveness and commonality of watching Internet porn is such that movies like Zach and Miri Make a Porno and Sex Tape can even be made for mass consumption? Don Jon was genius because it took an almost satirical look at it and combined it with good ol' make-fun-of-New-Jersey humor. This movie, on the other hand, feels like, well, a Jason Segal movie. Like every other Jason Segal movie.

Speaking of Jason Segal movies, is it necessary that he sing in absolutely every single goddamn one? It's like, you can automatically tell if he helped write the script based on whether or not he sings in it. It's ridiculous. It's not like a situation where we pretend Christina Aguilera is an actress in Burlesque but compensate for it by having her sing. Jason Segal can neither act not sing. So why add insult to injury?

In case you think I'm biased against Jason Segal, the answer is I am. But I tried, people. I really tried. I even binge-watched five full seasons of How I Met Your Mother, despite my contempt for CBS, in an attempt to understand why he keeps getting cast in things. I thought perhaps he showed some range in the show that doesn't appear when he plays the same "lovable loser" over and over and over again. Surprise! He doesn't.

I could go on and on about my dislike of Jason Segal and his naked body, but this movie rested equally on the [giant] mouth of Cameron Diaz. No, but seriously, her mouth frightens me. If they ever bring the feminist revolution to re-casting Batman, Cameron Diaz should be first choice to play The Joker. Her mouth might otherwise be a minor problem, except that this is a movie about sex and there are a lot of close-ups on her kissing. And frankly, she looks like a bad kisser. I don't blame her, considering she's having to kiss Jason Segal, but it's unpleasant to watch.

You know what else is unpleasant? Having flashbacks in the movie that require the audience to pretend that Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz are 20 years old. This wouldn't be quite so offensive, except that they're nude in these scenes too. So we're just supposed to act like it's not weird that their bodies look exactly the same 10 years later. Oh, and that they're both 30 years old for the rest of the movie. (News flash: Cameron Diaz is 42 in real life.) Add to that the complete implausibility that Jason Segal lands anyone who looks like Cameron Diaz in real life...

Ok, beyond that seemingly insurmountable challenge of casting the wrong people in the movie, the plot reads like a bad version of Horrible Bosses with its over-the-top frenetic pace and wacky side characters. I'm not sure why Rob Lowe leaves every single television show because of his ego but is ok playing a hybrid of "super creepy Rob Lowe" and "painfully awkward Rob Lowe" in this movie.

Yet again, this is a movie with a funny premise that fails to deliver all the humor that could have been. Instead, we're left with the awkward nudity of Jason Segal, whom no one wants to see naked, and some crazy storyline that makes you feel less sorry for the characters and more like you want to sit them down for a lesson in how to use technology. I never thought I'd utter these words, but they could have taken a cue from Judd Apatow and made this is a little more like This is 40 and a little less like they were trying to appeal to 20-somethings. 20-somethings would know how not to upload their sex tape onto the Internet.

Final word: I might actually rather sit through a friends' actual sex tape rather than watch this again.

November 18, 2014

Ride Along (2014)

Kevin Hart, Ice Cube, John Leguizamo, Laurence Fishburn

Remember when Ice Cube used to be cool? You know what I mean, before he made Are We There Yet?--both the movie and the TV show. Well, this movie is not signaling his return to that former status.

This movie almost felt like one of those SNL commercials. You know, where it looks and feels like a real commercial, but it seems to be a parody of of something? (Side note: the recent SNL parody of Mathew McConaughy's Lincoln commercial might be one of the funniest things I've seen in a long time.) This movie felt like one long parody of Training Day, which I suppose is sort of funny in and of itself, since Denzel is really just begging to be spoofed with his over-the-top intensity in every role. But honestly, after Ice Cube had a show on TBS (a network whose current line-up includes reruns of The Big Bang Theory and Cougar Town), it's hard to take him seriously again as a street tough guy.

And Kevin Hart is... well, Kevin Hart. You either like him or you don't, since his humor varies little from movie to movie. I tend to prefer him in supporting roles because he can become a bit much after a couple of house, but he managed to play a more sympathetic and relatable character here instead of just providing a steady (and sometimes overbearing) amount of comic relief. What I'm trying to say is, he's not the annoying one in this movie.

The plot is fine and predictable--nothing really noteworthy here, other than maybe seeing Laurence Fishburn in a movie again. (Seriously, where has he been?) At best, the movie is sporadically funny. Then again, so was Ted. Just about anything can have it's funny moments. And in the realm of cop comedies, not everything can be Beverly Hills Cop. I mean, hey, this was still better 21 Jump Street. (Which I guess means this will get its own sequel too.) 

Final word: For the viewer, more aptly titled "stuck and unable to escape."

November 14, 2014

Big Hero 6 (2014)

Uh....... this guy. And Damon Wayans. And a bunch of randoms.

First things first: I wish I had known this movie was loosely based on a Marvel Comic book. That would have saved me a lot of confusion over the title. As it was, it really wasn't explained until the end of the movie. Not that big of a deal, I realize, but if you're going to make a trailer as vague as this, at least the title should tell you what the movie is about.

Now, let's talk about how happy I am Disney did another movie with Asian characters. Considering 60% (yes, you read that correctly) of the world's population lives in Asia (so not even counting those of Asian descent who live elsewhere), you'd think they would have more than just Mulan and The Jungle Book to show for it. Oh right, and Russell from Up.

But disregarding its penchant for movies about white girls, Disney knows how to make a movie feel authentic. Set in the fictional city of San Fransoyko, the movie take pains to mix the architecture and skyline of both San Francisco and Tokyo. And though Hiro and Tadashi could have looked more Asian (I love Hapas, but why make them mixed at all?)), Disney at least made sure to omit the famous Caucasian "eyelid crease" and casted actual Asian people to voice the Asian characters.

This might be the teacher in me, but I absolutely love the focus on science and technology and making it cool. It reminded me of Meet the Robinsons in that way (both movies also excelled at awkward humor), except that no one watched Meet the Robinsons and Big Hero 6 managed to debut at #1 at the box office. It managed to capitalize on the current superhero craze without making everyone in the audience think, "oh f*ck, it's the Avengers, but Japanese!"

But honestly, that's really what the movie is--it's an action movie with a group of people with varying talents.  Of course, these are man-made talents and not divine powers, but it's basically the same idea. And it's about as predictable as the average action movie.
Where this movie distinguishes itself is the fact that there is a plot beyond "beat the bad guys." And of course, Baymax (seen left) is an awesome addition. He's a bit un-PC because, you know, he's fat and there are plenty of jokes surrounding that fact, but I suppose it's less offensive because he's a robot and not a real person. But still, the connotation is there.

In the end, the movie manages to be both exciting (minus a flight sequence that goes on for far too long) and heart-warming throughout. As always, Disney balances the attention spans and humor level of both children and adults seamlessly. And of course, having one of their cute little animated shorts before the movie makes it even better.

Final word: Disney. Asians. Robots. Superheroes. There is just no going wrong.

November 5, 2014

X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender

Let me start by saying I cannot in good conscience endorse a movie in which Michael Fassbender is hotter than James McAvoy. Why the hell does Professor X have that hideous hair for his younger days? Are they trying to compensate for the fact that he spends his entire adult life bald? James McAvoy is already has that Johnny Depp dirty-hot thing going--he doesn't need scraggly hair and a 5 day stubble to push him over the edge into just dirty.

I also have an issue with prequels - I think everyone does. It's tricky to keep a movie interesting in which everyone already knows the ending. It can occasionally be successful, but for every Monsters University, there is a Oz the Great and Powerful. Or Dumb and Dumberer. But a prequel's sequel? What is this, Star Wars?

Despite these shortcomings, the movie does a number of things well. The visual effects are excellent, the premise is actually pretty interesting, and Ellen Page doesn't annoy me for once. And this is probably the first movie I've ever watched that used time travel in a way that made sense. That's no small thing, since movies love to use the time travel angle to make them seem smarter, but don't generally pass muster with anyone who's brighter than a third grader.

Where the movie loses me, however, is with its pace. I found it to be excruciatingly slow for an action movie. I hate to even say it, since it's actually a "smart" action movie and not just a movie that blows sh*t up. But I fell asleep watching this. A couple of times. And guess what? I woke up a few minutes later and nothing had happened! Again, isn't this supposed to be an action movie?

I don't know, maybe the stars weren't in alignment for me or something while watching this movie, but I really don't see what everyone was hyping here. Maybe other people are able to overlook the bizarre casting choices in which all that was required was a British accent. And good for the casting agent for looking past the fact that Peter Dinklage is an unattractive little person and making him a character in which his height plays no role, but like Jennifer Lawrence, can he not be in everything? I guess I just don't love comic books enough to watch anything and everything that features a Marvel character, which doesn't bode well for me for the coming months...

Final word: Please stop making these.

October 28, 2014

Gone Girl (2014)

Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Tyler Perry

Even if you're a person who doesn't mind spoilers, trust me - this is one movie you do not want to know the ending to. I know this because I actually read the book. So watching this movie lost quite a big portion of its appeal, seeing as it's a mystery and all.

The book is split into three parts: Part I is so intense you can't put it down; Part II is when the story really unfolds; Part III was disappointing. As in, it sunk the book from being excellent to mediocre. A story is only as strong as its ending, as we all learning from watching Unknown.

The movie spends the majority of its time on Part I, which is smart because it's really the most compelling part of the story and what hooks you into the story. Part II, while interesting, has been condensed into the highlights through a tidy little summary. But where the movie really shines is through its portrayal of Part III. It keeps the same ending, but somehow makes it less... lame. The pacing of this movie is just very well done by focusing its time on the best parts of the book and keeping the disappointing portions mercifully short.

It's difficult to say much more about the movie without giving away key plot points, but I will say it does an excellent job with casting. Ben Affleck draws on his qualities of being attractive but approachable while simultaneously keeping enough smarmy to make you wonder if he is, in fact, a murderer. Neil Patrick Harris, despite looking nothing like I imagined the character would while reading the book, manages to be a complete scene stealer and lends an additional layer of creepiness to the movie. And Tyler Perry doesn't dress up as a woman, so that's a bonus.

I also like Rosamund Pike. Likely because she played Jane in my beloved Pride and Prejudice, but whatever. I like her look. And considering the pleasant but simple characters she plays in Pride and Prejudice, An Education, and Barney's Version, her transformation into a a complex lead here is both well executed and long overdue. Do I think someone else could have done a better job? Possibly. But Pike brings an understated quiet and dignity to the role that is good in its own right.

Final word: Not only an improvement on the book, but a better movie if you've never read the book in the first place.

October 21, 2014

Begin Again (2013)

Keira Knightly, Mark Ruffalo, Mos Def, Adam Levine, Catherine Keener

There are obviously so many movies released every year you could never watch them all even if you were so inclined. But if it has Keira Knightly in it, I make an effort to see it. Sure, her repeated "I'm not beautiful and I never wanted to be a star" claims get a little annoying, but I do actually still think she's beautiful and she's one of my favorite actresses regardless. I am also a total sucker for period pieces, which she does a lot of.

I like her so much I've been a staunch defender of her severe under bite, saying it doesn't detract from her acting. But I had never watched a movie that featured her as a singer. That is, a movie that repeatedly showed close-ups of her mouth in action. It's bad, folks. Knightly's singing is actually quite pleasant, but it was hard to focus on with the camera staring at her mouth so often.

Under bite aside, the acting in this movie is solid throughout. Mark Ruffalo still has his disheveled look and personality thing going on, but takes it closer to The Kids Are All Right level of loser-dom, which is perfect for his character. Even the daughter in this movie isn't super annoying. And even though Adam Levine made me want to puke every time I saw him on screen, I give him credit - he is able to play a character at least as douchy as he appears in real life. (I feel compelled to repeat the line from the article I liked to: "Adam Levine, aka the human equivalent of testing positive for chlamydia." It's just so hilarious. And true.)

This movie was very reminiscent of Chef with its indie charm and feel good story. I think the industry would call this movie "heart warming." This translates to a plot that takes you to the edge of eye-rolls with it's cheesiness, but that you still somehow enjoy. It's probably unfortunate that I watched this movie when I did because while I walked away from Chef thinking it was a good movie, I found this one to be a little less impressive, despite the fact that I like both Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightly better than Jon Favreau. I guess indie charm wears off after one viewing.

Final word: Substitute music for food and you have Chef.

October 18, 2014

Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt

Tom Cruise is 52. On one hand, he doesn't look a day over 46 (it's amazing what Botox can do!). On the other, I find it shocking he's not older. Doesn't it seem like he's been around forever?!? I mean, he was in The Outsiders!! (Don't you remember reading/watching this in middle school?)

With Hollywood's new trend of casting older men in action movies (think: Liam Neeson), it actually didn't seem weird to have Tom Cruise still running around, blowing up stuff in this movie. Of course, this means he'll take it as a sign to make Mission: Impossible 6 or something, but I suppose someone's got to keep Ving Rhames employed. And I haven't heard news of Baby Boy 2 coming any time soon.

The problem with sci-fi movies is that they often do one of two thing:

1. Over-focus on making it look so futuristic it becomes cheesy and cliché (see: In Time). Or,

2. Make the plot overly complex in an attempt to prove how "smart" sci-fi is (see: Cloud Atlas). And an over-wrought plot is just that, no matter how cool the special effects or wardrobe.

Add to that the fact that both Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt's last attempts at sci-fi were underwhelming and I was a skeptical viewer. But this movie manages to stay both interesting and exciting from start to finish, which is a rarity in any genre. There are very few lulls in the action, but it's also not non-stop explosions, giving your senses some time to breathe. The Groundhog's Day repeating plot doesn't feel played out here--instead, it is a perfect match for the video game look and feel of this movie. Because I don't know about you, but I need that secret video game code that gives you unlimited lives...

Also looking great in this movie, Emily Blunt's body is to die for. She could be a fitness model for those P90X videos that try and convince you it's not gross to work out and sweat all over your living room. They force her to keep doing this awkward cobra yoga pose, probably because some guy thought it'd be sexy, but her arms look so fantastic that you almost don't mind seeing her subject herself to it over and over again. And normally it would gross me out that she's paired with Tom Cruise (because of the awkward age difference), but considering she's the competent badass of the movie and not some impressionable young woman looking for a man, I guess it's ok. Still not ideal, but better than pairing her with Shia LeBeouf or something.

And if nothing else, it's great to see Bill Paxton in movies again! I mean yeah, yeah, he was in Big Love, but who really watched a show based on the premise that Bill Paxton could get three women to marry him, let alone at the same time? To me, he'll always be the used car salesman from True Lies.

Final word: Surprisingly good.

October 9, 2014

Save the Date (2012)

Lizzy Caplan (aka Linday Lohan's angry friend in Mean Girls), Alison Brie, Geoffry Arend

The reason indie films are so beloved is that they're supposed to be labors of love. They stress acting and realism over special effects (of any kind) and trust the audience won't be bored by long periods of silence. I often find myself annoyed with this commitment to reality, as I want my movies to be entertaining, not reflections of what I see in everyday life.

Relationship indies, however, are where I change my stance. I think the reason regular romantic comedies are so annoying is because they follow the same ridiculous plot formula that is so unrealistic to life (see the breakdown here). But no matter the variations, they all have one thing in common: the grand romantic gesture. You know, the Say Anything moment of the movie where someone does something out of the ordinary to prove their love, because that one moment obviously erases any previous problems the couple had.

This movie had that realness. It was, actually, one of the more realistic movies I've seen about relationships, in terms of the way people interact with one another. They do boring things like brush their teeth together and have conversations about mundane things. That's what shows real intimacy and comfort. This doesn't necessarily make for the most exciting movie, especially since I don't think it's necessary to listen to two people talk about their farts together, but I'm sure there are plenty of people out there who have had that conversation.

I also think the character development in this was decent, at least in the main character. Sarah (Lizzy Caplan) was one of those girls I'm sure everyone has known (or been) in their lifetime - a girl who likes dating but absolutely refuses to commit, and who can turn cold and unresponsive when necessary to protect herself. She is a character I think many women can relate to and one that men will be confused and frustrated by.

Speaking of frustrating women... her sister! She seems like a judgmental bitch on first glance, which would normally raise my feminist hackles at a woman being portrayed so one-dimensionally, but in thinking about it, I realize that some women really just lose their f*cking mind when planning a wedding. I don't understand it, but I've seen even the most rational, normal women morph into self-centered bridezillas as "their day" approaches. I don't know how to make people understand that no one else actually cares about your wedding, let alone whether or not the color of your napkins match the ribbons on your bridesmaid's bouquets, but I do believe in excusing my friends for their temporary insanity, provided it passes after the big day. So really, her sister might just be one of these women whose self-centeredness is a byproduct of wedding ridiculousness. Or I might just be making excuses for her.

Where the indies lose me is their completely unrealistic portrayal of people who are always artists or writers or whatever and live in these fabulous lofts there is no way they could afford on the money they make. Not to mention, I think Sarah's drawings are stupid and in no way believe she would get an entire gallery show to herself. But if opting to sit through a movie of this type again, I would choose Lola Versus every time.

Final word: Indie chick flick through and through, right now to the musical selections.

October 1, 2014

Austenland (2013)

Keri Russell, Jennifer Coolidge, Jane Seymour, the guy from Flight of the Conchords, and the gay friend from Bridget Jones' Diary

In order to explain why this movie was made, I first need to try and explain the female population's obsession with Jane Austen. Like millions of other women, my favorite book is Pride and Prejudice, and has been since the first time I read it. I've watched the Keira Knightly movie so many times my husband can quote along with it.

To put it simply: Jane Austen understands women. She writes with a woman's voice, from a woman's perspective, and shows the men from a woman's point of view. She makes each heroine an individual who women can both relate to and aspire to be at the same time. And the leading men are representations of either the cads women actually meet, or the ideal man women dream of meeting. And Mr. Darcy is the perfect man because he is intelligent, handsome, honest, can admit when he is wrong, and just a bit mysterious.

And so, slews of movies based on/around Jane Austen's books - and Austen herself - have been made. And I watch them all. Clueless? Check. Jane Austen Book Club? Check. Becoming Jane? Check. Bridget Jones' Diary? I even sat through the sequel. And I'll probably watch the third, if it ever gets made. I can't help it. I love Jane Austen. And Mr. Darcy. Even if the movies inspired by her work are tragically bad, I still watch them. If Austenland were a real place, it would be my dream to go. Think of it as the female version of a man's dream to have an "immersive experience" in the Playboy mansion.

The movie itself, however, is not quite as brilliant as the concept. It's still a romantic comedy, after all, which means there are predictability issues and more than one scene of squeamish cheesiness. But there are some positives, like:

1. It embraces Jane Austen's feminist theme. Sure, the heroines of her books mostly just talk about whom to marry, but in their time of limited options, they are so bold as to wish for love (instead of  only security) and exhibit personalities contrary to what is always acceptable and "amiable." They take charge of their own lives, which is also what Keri Russell's character does in the movie.

2. There are some decent looking people in this movie. Granted, they really only look attractive in their 19th century wardrobe, but I'm now a believer that Brett McKenzie should just continuously bale hay in a loose shirt and some trousers. These guys are what make this story believable, because honestly, who would spend their life savings to be wooed by unattractive men? It's a fantasy, people!

3. Um, well, that's it. I'm pretty sure the director intended for Jennifer Coolidge (aka Stifler's mom) to be the comic relief, but considering she plays the exact same person in every single movie, it's sort of like ehhhhhh...

At the end of the day, I can recognize it's not a very good movie. But did that stop me from enjoying it? Not any more than when I watched Letters to Juliet.

Final word: Totally fun to watch. Just do it alone, and don't tell anyone about it.

P.S. I could never actually go to Austenland because I wouldn't be able to resist trying to use a British accent the whole time, which would be unbelievably obnoxious.

September 22, 2014

About Last Night (2014)

Kevin Hart, Michael Ealy, Regina Hall, Joy Bryant, and Shooter McGavin from Happy Gilmore. Seriously. Shooter McGavin.

Let's just get the shallow stuff out of the way: Michael Ealy needs dental work, stat. His teeth are distractingly bad. And to make matters worse, he has the largest mouth/jaw I've ever seen outside of a professional wrestling ring, so his teeth continue to be a distraction even when his mouth is shut. I swear, I can see his crooked teeth through his closed lips!

That being said, I was pleasantly surprised that it was he, and not Kevin Hart, who was the main character in this movie. I watched Kevin Hart's stand-up movie, Laugh at My Pain, and while it had it's funny moments, it mostly convinced me that I never want to sit through 2 straight hours of Kevin Hart's jokes again. Call him the black Will Ferrell. (Side note: the sidekicks are joining forces in the upcoming Get Hard. God save us all.)

The real scene stealer, though, was Regina Hall. She managed to outshine even the perpetually loud and outlandish Kevin Hart while maintaining a semblance of reality as the slightly unbalanced friend. This was very much like Wedding Crashers, where the interactions between Vince Vaughn and Isla Fisher are so much funnier and more interesting than the "main" relationship that you start to dread seeing Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams come onscreen.

For a comedy, this movie was actually a little depressing in the way The Break-Up was. Comedies are funny because they are based on relatable problems, but when the plot becomes a little too true to real life, it stops being funny for people who have lived through these problems and suddenly makes them want to pick up a pint of ice cream and the phone to call their ex. Someone explain to me why this movie was released on Valentine's Day?

The comic relief to all this depressing relationship stuff consisted of awkward sex scenes and jokes about sex. Or genitalia. The problem of this being, the movie was not created for fourteen year-olds. Superbad was funny when it came out because something about the crassness and vulgarity of loser teenage boys trying to get drunk and have sex was shocking and hilarious. But watching 30-somethings doing the exact same thing felt, well, pathetic. 

Final word: It attempted to disguise a sub-par rom-com as an edgy adult comedy with a barrage of curse words and sex references. 

P.S. to Kevin Hart - don't try to remake Rob Lowe movies. Just don't.