February 27, 2014

American Hustle (2013)

Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence

Since American Hustle is apparently considered to be the second coming of Titanic with its ten Oscar nominations, I figured I would address each of our leading stars individually, starting with Batman himself.

Christian Bale is great, naturally. We've come to expect it from him now that it's almost routine. Of course, it's still unsettling to me to see my dearly beloved Teddy from Little Women as such a smarmy con man with the most epic combover in movie history, but then you remember he's so bloody brilliant as an actor you can forgive him for just about anything (including that creepy rapist voice he uses as Batman). That being said, I don't think this was his best performance. He's great, but after The Fighter, everything he does will always seem a little disappointing. And that's the problem with being a great actor - you can't always measure up to yourself.

In comparison, Bradley Cooper looked more like the guy who starred in All About Steve than the guy who got an Oscar nomination for Silver Linings Playbook. Not really, of course, but more to the fact that I'm completely baffled as to why he got an Oscar nomination for this role. He's perfectly fine, but I have a hard time imagining the Academy couldn't come up with a single actor who was more deserving of that nomination. Maybe they just really wanted this movie to get its tenth nomination? Oh, and thank god Amy Adams makes a joke about Bradley Cooper's hair in this movie because it's embarrassingly awful. I mean, I know the movie is set in the 70's, so bad hair is everywhere, but I can never un-see Bradley Cooper in mini curlers.

Back to the good: Amy Adams. Despite my absolute and unbridled love for her, I was starting to question her judgement in movie choices after watching lame, predictable, and even pretentious and empty films. I mean, I still like Kate Hudson and I'll watch her movies, but it doesn't mean I have to respect her as an actress. So this role came just in time to remind me why I fell in love with Amy Adams in the first place. For one thing, she can transition between an American accent and an English accent so seamlessly you forget how weird it is that her character is even using two accents simultaneously in the first place. For another, I find her to be as much a chameleon as Christian Bale that she is equally believable as both a stripper and as a high class con woman (though some might argue there's not much difference between the two). Either way, there's a reason she's been on absolute fire with the Oscar nominations in recent years.

And then we have Jennifer Lawrence (who, by the way, should not be called JLaw. It's a terrible nickname and it's very confusing because the first time I heard it I thought someone was talking about Jude Law). I like her - I really do. I feel the need to clarify that because everything I'm about to say might seem contrary to that. First of all, I don't think she should have been last year's Oscar winner. Yes, I loved Silver Linings Playbook, but I don't think she was the best actress of the year. Not by a long shot. And Oscar wins are some sort of future-fulfilling prophecy - once you win one, people just believe you are a legitimate force that should be nominated again and again (someone should really go tell Cuba Gooding Jr.). Anyway, before even seeing this movie, the one thing I kept hearing about was Jennifer Lawrence's performance, which is weird because she's in the movie for a total of about ten minutes. I'm not saying you couldn't be a scene stealer in ten minutes, but I'm not seeing how you can win an Oscar for 'supporting' a 2 hour, 18 minute movie in which you appear in less than 10% of it. I don't care how hot she looks in the movie, that's just bad math. I'm against it on principle.

The movie itself is entertaining enough, but largely propped up by its big name cast. It has a killer soundtrack and some great styling, but beyond the superficial stuff, it lacks the real grit and drama that would make it an enduring Best Picture in American cinema.

Final word: Rent the movie, buy the soundtrack.

February 26, 2014

Captain Phillips (2013)

Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi

Show me a movie lover who doesn't love Tom Hanks. Seriously. Sometimes it feels like the man can do anything. Lose 55 pounds and play a gay man? Check. (side note: reading this description makes Matthew McConaughey's role seem slightly less impressive now. Whoops.) Grow a gnarly beard and befriend a volleyball? Check. Pretend to be a small child trapped in a man's body? Check. Play a disgusting, washed up excuse of a man we all expect baseball players end up to be in real life? Check. Confidently sport one of the most mocked hairstyles in cinema history while somehow maintaining respect for the movie itself? Check.
It doesn't get any more
American than this.

But this is Snarky Movie Reviews, people. And here, no one is safe. Not even Tom Hanks, everyone's favorite American actor. (er, I don't really know if he's everyone's favorite, but he seems like a really All-American choice.) Because for every Big there is a Cloud Atlas. And not even Tom Hanks could save Cloud Atlas, my friends.

So what's my gripe about Tom in this movie? His accent, of course! (In my next life, I'll come back as a dialect coach.) Granted, I don't personally know anyone from Vermont, but they can't possibly speak like that. It was distractingly bad. Like, his hair in The DaVinci Code bad. Freddie Prinze Jr.'s accent in Summer Catch bad. (Ok, maybe that was too low. I mean, Tom Hanks is a two-time Oscar winner - I shouldn't compare him to Freddie Prinze Jr..)

Tom's accent aside, the selling point of this movie is the fact that it's "based on true story." Now, my not knowing the real story of Captain Phillips can make it difficult to know exactly what is factual and what is "artistic enhancement" for the movie rendering. Except in this movie. Some of the plot points were so outrageous I was certain they had to be Hollywood's doing because no one could be that stupid. And yet, I kept hearing that tiny voice in the back of my head squeaking, 'based on a true story! Maybe it really happened!' I hate that voice.

So of course I googled it the second the movie ended and sure enough, all the moments of the movie that I hated were completely fabricated and never happened, so Hollywood ruined a perfectly good story just to try and make it more dramatic. I guess that's what happens when you market a movie as "from the director of The Bourne Ultimatum." You a get a movie that tries to be like The Bourne Ultimatum, even if that's not how it really how the story went down.

BTW, if you think my last post reminded me of home, I couldn't watch this movie without a big shout out to my home state of Minnesota (aka New Somalia)! Personally, I think Barkhad Abdi did a better job in his big screen debut than Jennifer Hudson in Dreamgirls. (I'm not just saying that because they're both black, in case that's what you thought. That's just the first person who came to mind who won an Oscar for their first movie.) It remains to be seen whether or not that will earn him an Oscar, but I thought he was pretty impressive for someone who was a working as a chauffeur when he got his big break. (An actual chauffeur - not like people in LA who claim to be actors, but actually spend the majority of their time and earn all their money at jobs like, well, chauffeuring.)

Final word: Like a March Madness underdog, it's a strong first half player who fades down the stretch.

February 25, 2014

Nebraska (2013)

Bruce Dern, June Squibb, Will Forte

I get that black and white movies are like, so trendy again (thanks, Frances Ha), but the beginning of the movie really just made me think it was trying too hard to be The Grapes of Wrath. Which, by the way, I don't understand because I really hate that book. I know it's supposed to be a classic and everything, but it's really effing boring. I mean, all I can remember is that the entire second chapter is about a turtle crossing the road. And it's about Oklahoma. Coincidence that it somehow also blows? I think not.

This movie doesn't make Nebraska look much better, however. Beyond the stretches of absolute nothingness (that, by the way, look even drier and more depressing in black and white), at one point, they actually drive past a sign that reads: "Nebraska: Home of Arbor Day." Really? 

That said, I do think a lot of the nuances of the movie can probably be better appreciated by people that have lived in the Midwest. I may not have grown up in a small town, but I don't believe my San Francisco-born brothers and sisters can ever understand what it's like to grow up in a place where people drink because there is nothing else to do, have an irrational love of pick-up trucks, and always, always "buy American." So to me, watching this movie was a bit like going home. Of course, I moved away from my beloved hometown the moment I turned eighteen, so my nostalgia here is really all rhetorical...

In a way, this movie reminded me of Big Fish - a story of a son just trying to get to know his dad a little better through an adventure while simultaneously living the mundane, everyday life. You could see why the relationship was strained and couldn't decide to whose side you felt more sympathetic. Of course, I'm partial to Ewan McGregor and things that have been Baz-ified, but this movie was pretty darn good too. Just less colorful.

So, thanks Academy. Your Oscars may just be a ploy to make me watch movies I wouldn't otherwise give a second thought to, but it worked. It turns out, the Academy voters sometimes know what they're doing. (Key word: sometimes. I still want an investigation into that year Rene Zellweger won for Cold Mountain.)  The Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Supporting Actress were all well deserved.

Final word: This may bring the state more visibility than Arbor Day.

February 19, 2014

Dallas Buyers Club (2013)

Matthew McConaughey, Jared Leto, Jennifer Garner

Years before it became cool to eschew cable for streaming Netflix, I lived in a little studio apartment with no cable and - you guessed it - only a Netflix subscription. I split the subscription with my then-boyfriend, allowing him to choose one of the three discs we would receive at a time. 

The extra money I spent each month for the extra DVDs was worth it, since it was nearly impossible to predict what mood I'd be in by the time Netflix shipped out whatever movie was next in my queue. And no matter how many countless hours I wasted at work, managing my queue, scouring the site for movies I might foreseeably watch one day, there was never any way I would ever actually get around to seeing 954 movies, including a number of Oscar-nominated documentaries that seemed important to watch, but perhaps not particularly exciting prospects on a Saturday night.

So then that fateful day arrived. My boyfriend had ordered Brokeback Mountain. We both stared at it. It was a serious, critically acclaimed film. An Oscar contender. A film we should see. An important film. We just kept staring at the red paper cover. Finally I said, "It just seems like such a serious movie. I'm not sure I'm in the mood for such a serious movie right now." He seemed to breathe a sigh of relief and we quickly put on one of our other choices.

So it sat. For months. It's hard to say how many, but I would estimate close to six months. From time to time, we would half-heartedly pick up the disc to suggest it, then just as quickly, suggest whatever movie had come in that day. Eventually, I realized the shame that was keeping me from returning the movie, unwatched, was too deep and I cancelled my Netflix subscription all together. I've never had Netflix since.


At this point, you probably think I'm a homophobe. I'm not. I would list all the "gay friendly" movies I've watched (and enjoyed), but that would just make me seem even more homophobic, like those racist people who say things like, "I'm not racist, I have a black friend!" I just don't generally look forward to watching movies that have a socially conscious or politically motivated theme to them. I don't like feeling like I am being manipulated to feel a certain way on an issue, even if I agree with the the director's view of that issue. Call me stubborn.

Anyway, so when my husband brought home Dallas Buyer's Club, I felt some of those same feelings of dread creeping back in. But I refused to relive my shame (and fought off the urge to yawn) and forced myself to pop the disc in. And you know what? I'm glad I did.

Like some of the other Oscar contenders this year, it isn't the most groundbreaking story ever told. And this is apparently the year of the biography, with five of the nine Best Picture nominees based on true stories. But it is vindication for every crappy romantic comedy Matthew McConaughey has ever starred in (hello, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past! Which ironically, also stars Jennifer Garner, who is not vindicated in any form for her acting here). I've always believed Matthew McConaughey (yes, I need to continue to use his full name) could be a serious actor ever since I saw him in A Time to Kill and it's always mystified me as to why he kept choosing to star in movies like Failure to Launch. I mean, I know everyone likes money, but does pride really count for nothing?

But like I said, he is as excellent as everyone has been buzzing about. It's not just the weight loss, though that alone is pretty impressive. He and Jared Leto make the movie. I was never a big My So-Called Life fan (I know, I know - I'm going to have to turn in my 90's child card in right now!!), so I really don't understand what the big fuss is about Jared Leto and his dreamy eyes or whatever, but he does make one hell of a trans woman. In fact, I think he may have looked better as a woman than as a man...

But that's about where the accolades stop. Because then Elektra - I mean, Jennifer Garner - enters the picture. She doesn't ruin it or anything, but she adds nothing to the movie, which is unfortunate because with two powerhouse performances that will likely net two Oscars, she's the only other main character in the movie and you could remove her and it would practically be the same movie.

And my final complaint? Matthew McConaughey's mustache, of course! You didn't think I could go the entire post without a comment about being grossed out by it, did you? I don't care if it was the 80's and he's a cowboy! It's bad enough I know in the back of my mind he doesn't wear deodorant! To have him weigh 143 lbs and have that mustache? It's safe to say I will probably never again find him attractive. I will never be able to get this image out of my head.

Final word: Not for the easily offended, but worth guilting yourself into seeing.

February 16, 2014

Despicable Me 2 (2013)

Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Benjamin Bratt


That pretty much sums up the movie. This movie was made knowing that everyone really only goes to see the minions and tried to build a plot around that. The problem with that, of course, is that you end up with a movie that has some funny parts, really cute minions, but the rest is really just throwaway. Like, garbage throwaway.

Much like every other sequel out there, it takes every quality that made the first movie successful and beats it to death. Anges' adorableness and love for unicorns? Crosses the line into shrill. Gru's awkward charm and sensitivity? Bordering on homeless puppy levels. And of course, the minions? It's as if hundreds of baby pandas were cuddled in clouds on cotton candy while having a tickle fight or something. They're so cute Morgan Freeman is going to narrate their upcoming movie.

But all that is really a recipe for disaster. Because if I have learned anything from watching my kid's same goddamn Strawberry Shortcake: Cooking Up Fun video on repeat for the last two weeks, it's that recipes don't work without the right amount of each ingredient! (I'll spare you the song that goes with that hokey saying) What I'm trying to say is that by trying to make this movie so cute by amping up everything that worked in the first movie, they essentially destroyed it. It's like eating a
baklava that was made with 3x the amount of honey. A good idea in theory, but really just makes you sick after eating it. (Don't ask why I know this.)

In summary, it makes me ashamed that this movie was:

A. Made
B. Named their "favorite movie of all time" by approximately half my sixth grade student body
C. Nominated for an Oscar alongside a serious animated piece of work like Frozen
D. Made into a 3D movie, somehow asserting that minions holding ladders at funny angles and throwing stuff at the screen equates to the same inflated movie price ticket that the *visual effects* of Gravity commands

Final word: I can't even give this a mediocre rating. Even for a cartoon. Even with Pharrell singing the theme song.

*that was for you, +JDGObviously

February 14, 2014

Blue Jasmine (2013)

Cate Blanchett, Sally Hawkins, Alec Baldwin

One of the hallmarks of the American high school experience is taking a foreign language class and getting to pick your "foreign name." I distinctly remember mulling over my choices for a full class period before settling on Estelle, thinking it was so beautiful and posh. I could almost envision myself sitting at a bistro, snobbishly not eating a baguette and looking amazing in a pashmina doing so.

Sadly, my vision was short lived as I went home that day and my sister told me it was an "old lady's name." But I had already committed to it and therefore had some unspoken contractual obligation to keep it for the remainder of my high school years. And so it was.

My best friend, on the other hand, chose the name Jasmine (in French, pronounced Jaz-meen). So while I had inadvertently chosen a name that relegated me to a walker with tennis balls stuck onto the bottoms of the legs, my friend had stumbled upon a name that promised all the glamour and glitz of a movie Parisian lifestyle.

My objective in relaying that extremely long and seemingly pointless story is this: names matter. If they didn't, people wouldn't go out of their way to make up ridiculous baby names like "Hashtag." I can relate to Blanchett's character a teensy bit more, knowing she changed her name from Jeanette to Jasmine to seem more glamorous. I'm just saying, I get it.

So now that I've thoroughly covered the title of the movie...

[short disclaimer: this review is going to be a little scattered, like how I imagine Woody Allen's little brain to be (but not nearly as creepy). If I'm lucky, everyone will love me and everything and I say anyway, just like him.]

One of the aspects of the movie that excited me most was that it was set in San Francisco. Obviously I am partial toward my beloved city, but also because it is a major US city that for some reason, gets very little cinematic love. I was even more excited when Ginger, Jasmine's sister, was shown to live on South Van Ness and 14th Street, a gritty little neighborhood that is more representative of the "real" San Francisco than the towering Victorians on Nob Hill. But it shows Ginger, who is supposedly a grocery bagger, living in an apartment I could only dream of renting, even in this stage in my life. And while both Andrew Dice Clay and Bobby Cannavale acted their parts well in this movie, they seemed more like the Jersey guys I've been watching lately than prototypical "San Franciscans."

But let's get to the good. Because the good is oh-so-good. And the good is Cate. Cate is seventeen shades of crazy in this movie. She's the kind of crazy she doesn't even realize she's crazy. She ranges from average San Francisco mutter-to-yourself crazy all the way up to, well, this:

And she's just such a bitch! There's just really no other way to say it. You somehow hate her and feel so sorry for her all the same time (because she's crazy) that you can't bear to watch her, yet can't wait to see what she does next. (Is this why people watch The Real Housewives?) She's more addicting to watch than that gif I pasted above!! She's like that train-wreck of a friend you can't get rid of because you feel too guilty about what would happen to them if you cut them out. (Although you probably need to examine your friend circle more closely if you have a both this friend and the friend who tells stories from this movie.)

Sally Hawkins is also oh-so-good. I remember forcing myself to sit through Happy-Go-Lucky because I read all these rave reviews of her in it. I walked away with only the annoying phrase en-ra-ha running through my head. But now? Color me impressed!! The accent alone has made me a convert. It may not seem like a lot, but watching countless actors butcher American accents has convinced me it must me more difficult than it seems. (And don't get me started on the Americans butchering British accents...) So when I can focus on the quality of the acting instead of obsessing over the awkward pronunciation of random words like 'privacy' and 'schedule,' I'm happy.

Lastly, I find myself frequently addressing other people's criticisms as of late. I guess because it's Oscars season, it seems only fair to discuss some of the controversies surrounding the nominated films. The complaint about this one is that it is a rip-off of A Streetcar Named Desire. So here's what I have to say about that:

No one is trying to deny that it is an "update" of A Streetcar Named Desire. It's not like Avatar, when James Cameron tried to claim he wrote an original script (um... Pocahontas except with blue people??). And since when did it become unacceptable to re-do movies in Hollywood? Because someone should really tell that to the people who have been releasing horrible versions of classic movies on us lately like Robocop, Carrie, and 21 Jump Street (which of course, is getting a sequel).

Besides, this movie is not a remake - it's an interpretation of it, so to speak. More like how Bridget Jones' Diary is an interpretation of Pride and Prejudice, yet no one would accuse Helen Fielding of plagiarizing Jane Austen. Yes, I realize this means I am defending Woody Allen (and yes, it's kind of making my skin crawl), but we can't go looking for reasons to attack his movies just because he's a creepy old man. Let's give credit where credit is due.**

Final word: I don't always watch Woody Allen movies, but when I do, I prefer he not be in them. 

**update: I just realized Blue Jasmine was nominated for Best Original Screenplay, not Best Adapted Screenplay. Yet Before Midnight was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay, despite being based on completely original characters. How the hell does that make any sense?? Who is running the show over there??**

February 10, 2014

August: Osage County (2013)

Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, et al

I'm from what people refer to as a "fly over" state (which is actually quite stupid since no one goes out of their way to fly north over Minnesota unless they are flying to Canada). My point is, this offensive term was coined by people living on the coasts who think they are somehow superior just because they grew up living closer to an ocean.

That being said, I have been to Oklahoma in the summer (an actual fly over state, where this movie takes place), and it really is a hellhole you want to skip right over.

An actual picture from an Oklahoma summer

I recently ripped on Martin Scorsese for not walking on water. This time I'd like to talk about Meryl Streep not being God's gift to actresses. Nominated for 18 Oscars? Really? 18?? I know she's talented, but shouldn't the movie have to be enjoyable for us to consider her performance in it? Because I'd like to take her Oscar for The Iron Lady in 2012 and beat her with it until the accent she used to get nominated for Julie and Julia comes out of her brain.

"Oh I forgot. It doesn't matter if no one liked the movie.
I'll get nominated for an Oscar anyway."

Random thought: when the movie Philomena came out, did anyone else think that it sounded like someone was trying to say the word "phenomenal" but couldn't? No? Just me? Well anyway, Meryl Streep was philomena in this movie. Really. I know she's been nominated for a lot of Oscars (too many, as I've just covered), but I think this performance handily beats out her recent nominations. (Though again, we'e contending with movies like Doubt and Adaptation. Ugh.)

Now, normally I wouldn't address the complaints of other critics because, well, I don't get paid enough to care what they say (or at all). But I've heard multiple times that this movie suffers from overacting, to the point of performance. To which I say, duh.

This story was originally a play. Plays are meant to be overacted. That's why thespians are so annoying. They need to exaggerate the actions and project their voices so that the audience can hear them. This is why I never understand people who become infatuated with actors (besides the fact that they're complete strangers). Don't you realize they are probably just taller versions of the uncool people you didn't like in high school? So yes, this play has been adapted into a movie, but it still has the feel of a play. So the over-the-top theatrics don't feel out of place. Instead, they make you feel like you're uncomfortably trapped in the dining room of the Weston family, watching an absolute train-wreck of a family say all the things to each other you may think in your head but would never dare to say aloud to your own family.

At the end of the day, the plot isn't anything groundbreaking. It's your average dysfunctional family storyline with the obligatory plot "twists" to try and keep you surprised. It's also so packed with famous people you begin to wonder why some people are even there (I'm speaking directly to you, Ewan McGregor). And while pretty much everyone in the movie is at least recognizably famous, there are also some unfortunate famous people, like Abigail Breslin, this chick, and the guy who plays Khan from Star Trek Into Darkness. (I can't be bothered to learn all their names I hate them so much. I mean, the random chick I linked to was on Law & Order: Criminal Intent, which speaks for itself, and I can't take Benedict Cumberbatch seriously as any character but maybe Voldemort with that nose. And that name.) Oh, and don't get me started on the title...

But even with all those seemingly giant negatives against the movie, all credit to the thespians for pulling this one out. I thought the acting was compelling enough to keep me engaged, interested, and thoroughly impressed. Maybe it's just my penchant for depressing movies, but even the annoying Law & Order: Criminal Intent girl couldn't screw this up for me. 

Final word: Watching this movie will make you go home and hug whatever family member you have around just to prove you're a better person than Meryl Streep.

February 6, 2014

Her (2013)

Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson, Amy Adams

It's not a totally, completely, wholly unbelievable premise. Really, it's not. Despite the fact that I spend half my time cursing at my computer, not making love to it, I interact with it enough to understand how people feel like they could have a relationship with it. And I've certainly known enough weirdos that spend so much of their life with their face buried in an electronic screen they might as well be making out with it. Hell, after watching Don Jon, where the main character prefers watching porn to real sex, I believe just about anything is possible when it comes to unconventional relationships. So I can see why people want to like this movie.

But you just can't.

Never mind that seriously, the dude falls in love with his f*cking computer (and has sex with it?? really?? was that really necessary??), but we're all supposed to accept that this is common practice in the future? I know this is labeled as a sci-fi movie, but it was not believable enough as such.

For those of you out there who may think I've missed the point of the movie, you're just looking for excuses to refute my position that this movie is lame. I get that the future is going to be full of lonely people and that we are increasingly walling ourselves off from each other and getting lost in our own technology. I understand that love is complex and that movie wants us to think differently about how we experience and express emotions and whether those could translate into an artificial being like an operating system. I've said it before and I'll say it again: a semi-interesting premise does not necessarily equal great entertainment.

And I may not be a Pulitzer Prize writer, but let me be clear - not a single letter he writes in that movie is even halfway decent. And that's supposed to be his profession? They dedicate like, a solid 20 minutes of screen time to him writing letters! All of which sound like he's in a freshman literary comp class where he's trying to impress some girl sitting next to him by writing the deepest thoughts he can summon at 9 am on a Thursday after staying out all night the night before.

In the interest of time, let's summarize the remaining points, shall we? There's no point in turning this review into an existential essay on the unknown when the movie already pretended to be deep enough of the both of us!

  • Scarlett Johansson does a decent job throughout most of the movie, but can't speak above 80 decibels because her voice starts to crack like a 14 year old boy going through puberty. If that's not a negative for the movie, I don't know what is.
  • Though Joaquin Phoenix does a great acting job, he is overshadowed by the large squirrel residing on his upper lip. I thought this movie was supposed to take place in the future, but apparently Joaquin thought it was the 70's. It's all very confusing. 
  • Not to keep harping on the mustache, but Joaquin already kinda looks like a creepster (no offense, Joaquin). I really do like him as an actor, but he's pretty weird and making him a loner dude with molester mustache was a really bad touch. It's hard to even look at him. Except that entire movie is looking at him. In close up detail. For two hours.
  • Every girl in this movie is too hot for Joaquin Phoenix. Every. Single. One. Amy Adams? Too hot. Rooney Mara? Borderline, but still too hot. Random surrogate date chick? Too hot. Olivia Wilde? Come on. Is this movie sci-fi or fantasy??
  • Though the overall plot is perhaps plausible, the overall awkwardness over having your girlfriend also control every aspect of your life is too much to overcome. 
Lastly, let's address those pesky artsy people who keep yapping about the "design" or whatever. Is the movie shot beautifully? Sure. But it reminds me of a particular Friends episode where Joey goes on a date with Kristin Davis and asks Rachel to get rid of her in the morning. When he gets back that afternoon, he discovers Phoebe and Rachel have befriended her and have their hopes set on making the two a couple. They are listing all her attributes to Joey to convince him that Davis is a catch and Phoebe says to him, "She speaks four languages!" He looks back at her in mock amazement and says, "Man, do you know what guys want!"

Pretty much sums up that argument for the rest of the viewing public.

Final word: Like our college freshman writer referenced above, this movie thinks it's much deeper than it really is.

February 3, 2014

Gravity (2013)

Sandra Bullock, George Clooney

Quick: name a successful movie that stars Sarah Jessica Parker that isn't Sex and the City (or Girls Just Wanna Have Fun). How can someone so popular not translate into a movie star? Because, as it turns out, the quirks that make her a lovable Carrie Bradshaw make her a really annoying lead actress.
Like the way she always presses her palm to her chest when she's
saying something earnest or vulnerable or the way she gestures
with her hands when she talks. 

You may think I've gone off the rails and started reviewing the wrong movie, but bear with me.

Sandra Bullock reminds me of Sarah Jessica Parker in that she is great as a romantic comedy actress. She's funny as that same uptight but slightly frazzled character who is prone to freak outs. She does it so well she makes me at least sit through to the end of lame movies, like The Heat. So on a comedic front, I believe she is a good actress.

I do not, however, believe that automatically makes her a good dramatic actress. Call me controversial, but I think she had no business winning that Oscar for The Blind Side. Which brings me to this movie...

I'm going to just come right out and say it - she ruined Gravity for me. Granted, there wasn't a lot there for her to work with, but she managed to work just enough of her personal quirks in to remind me it was her playing the part and not a "brilliant medical engineer." (riiight... that's believable...) Every time she panicked in this movie (and it's a disaster movie, so there were plenty of opportunities), I was reminded of how annoying her voice is and it took me out of the moment and reminded me of her fluttering her hands saying 'oh my God oh my God' in Speed... and Demolition Man... and The Net... and Two Weeks Notice... you get the picture...

Beyond Sandra's personal traits that detracted from the movie, I found her character to be totally unlikable. I found it nearly impossible to either relate or sympathize with her. She was whiny, self-pitying, and, in my opinion, lacking some serious common sense. I mean, I know it's a movie, but if I were lost in outer space and my oxygen supply were low, I probably wouldn't waste precious breath chatting with coworkers. But hey, what do I know?
And then, of course, there are the massive technical, space/science flaws, too long and infuriating to discuss.

That being said, there were some really amazing things about the movie. The CGI is up there with Life if Pi (with the added bonus of not making the company go bankrupt in the process). The shots of Earth alone were enough to make me want to go enlist at NASA (if only that were actually an option). The hype about watching the movie in 3D was not overblown. It was worth every extra penny to get those plastic little glasses. The only real downside is that every 3D movie hereafter will probably suck in comparison to this one, yet still rake in all that additional revenue from unnecessary 3D screenings.

Basically, this movie could have been a lot better with pretty much anyone else starring in it. Except maybe Katherine Heigl.

Final word: Visually stunning, but emotionally lacking