June 28, 2015

Jersey Boys (2014)

Christopher Walken

Funny story: I actually went to see Jersey Boys on Broadway. It was fantastic. I don't think I ever realized just how many of Frankie Valli's songs I knew. So the play ends and I turn to my companions to excitedly talk about what we had just watched, when their blank faces remind me that they are both foreign and have no nostalgia whatsoever tied to this music.

This is to say, the music really makes the story. And the music is always more exiting live. (That's what the hipsters say anyway.) So this movie, even with the exact same running time as the stage show, feels at least twice as long.

In summary: this movie is boring. Even trying to write a review of this movie feels boring. The story is a your classic underdog-meets-fame type of story, but Jersey-fied, with the mafia, thick accents, and greased hair. Even if you don't know the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, this still somehow doesn't feel fresh or engaging. You're basically just passing the time between musical numbers. And even those are performed with mediocre enthusiasm. I don't know if it's entirely Clint Eastwood's fault, but it sure feels like it.

Final word: Save your money for the real thing on Broadway.

June 22, 2015

Fifty Shades of Grey (2015)

Jamie Dornan, Dakota Johnson

Sadly, I missed the theatrical release of this, so I was instead forced to watch it at home while awkwardly sharing a couch (that was not nearly big enough to make it less awkward) with a girlfriend. And yes, there were cocktails involved.

So we settled in, ready for laughs, which came easily right off the bat. I mean, the girl's name in Anastasia Steele. I know this is basically soft core porn, but is it necessary she have a porn name? A guy's porn name? So that, coupled with the incessant zooming on Anastasia's lip biting in an attempt to imbue sexiness, and we had to hit pause and rewind several times to hear the amazing dialogue we missed during our peals of laughter.

With all the supposedly controversial sex stuff, Anastasia's lip biting was actually the most offensive. I know they were trying to show a buildup of sexual tension while simultaneously showing Anastasia's naiveté, but the best they could come up with to represent all that was lip biting? Not only did it look awkward and forced, but then they had Christian keep commenting on it with lines like, "I'd like to bite that lip." Maybe I'm the naive one here, but I expected a little more than Twilight for people who are no longer tweens.

Of course, it didn't stop with the lip biting. The sexual metaphors were so heavy in this movie I could have written a college thesis on it. Like the fact that Anastasia goes from dressing like a fourth grader (Overalls? Really?) and speaking only in whisper to some confident sex kitten in form-fitting dresses and heels the minute she has sex for the first time? They might as well have had her talking about blossoming into a woman while showing her reading a Judy Blume novel or something.

And though the stilted dialogue is ultimately what brought the movie down, the acting itself was also not stellar. Nor was the casting. I mean, if acting ability wasn't a requirement for the movie, they could have at least found more attractive people. Jamie Dornan is ok I suppose (in a generic kind of way), but not someone hot enough to get [literally] whipped for. And while I get that Anastasia's character is supposed to be a bit of a mousy type of girl, they must have had better options than a lesser version of Selma Blair. Though I will say, kudos to both actors for clearly working out a ton before shooting this movie because both their bodies look great. Even though because of the R-rating, they show very little besides a couple of butt shots and way more nipple than I ever want to see in my lifetime. Like, so much that I can skip watching any artsy indie movies for awhile.

So this movie is terrible, of course, for all the reasons I listed above. And the fact that there is way too much face touching. But it also wasn't as terrible as I thought it would be.

Laughs aside, the movie tries to be sexy. It really does. And while that doesn't sound like much, when was the last time you watched a movie that was truly sexy? It's a pretty hard thing to pull off. What's sexy to one person will always be cheesy and awkward to dozens others, especially in group settings. Don't believe me? Go watch Out of Sight with JLo and George Clooney with your mom and tell me you don't find it to be kind of ridiculous. It's all in the context. I mean, there's a reason this book was as popular as it was. Obviously people reading it alone found it to be sexy and this movie tried to take a real shot at re-creating that. So for that, I applaud it. I imagine it's much more difficult to maintain that sexiness when creating something for mass consumption--especially then those consumers will be packed into a theater, elbow to elbow, watching it. And while the movie actually does BDSM a bit of a disservice by implying only emotionally damaged people engage in it, it likely jumpstarted the sex lives of countless older married couples. So it has that going for it.

Maybe I'm giving the plot too much credit, but if you simply re-imagine Anastasia as a sixteen-year-old girl (which she essentially is, emotionally), it's much easier to believe and invest in the story enough to care what happens to her in the sequel. (Because come on, there's always a sequel.) Many of her decisions are cringe-worthy, to be sure, but what girl hasn't made a string of bad decisions for some guy? It's as much a part of growing up as sneaking out and drinking underage. So I am sort of looking forward to the sequels to see Anastasia stand up for herself and stop being so stupid and annoying.

Sadly, instead of internalizing the message of empowerment and standing up for yourself, I'm sure a whole generation of girls will instead tell themselves "he can change" and believe that they will be the catalysts for that change. You know, rationalizing why they keep dating a**holes who occasionally do something nice. But I guess that's part of growing up too.

Final word: Terrible in so many ways. Mostly in a train-wreck-you-can't-stop-watching sort of way.

June 16, 2015

Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck (2015)

Kurt Cobain has been called "the voice of a disaffected generation."

I was on the young side of that generation, but part of it nonetheless. I was that teenager that thought Kurt Cobain spoke directly to me. Of course, he was dead before I ever got there, but you know, the music, man. I remember visiting the EMP Museum in Seattle right after it opened and seeing all the Nirvana guitar and song notes they had on display there (because you know, Seattle). It seemed so cool at the time, like I was getting up close and personal with Nirvana itself. My teenage self was oh-so emo-ed out about it.

My point is, I spent 4+ years of my life listening to Nirvana non-stop and even I had a hard time sitting through this documentary. It wasn't just the rapid-fire imagery (that made me feel like I was on heroin alongside Kurt), but my discomfort at being shown such private moments of his life.

Before the movie began, it flashed the little list of warnings: N, AC, AL for Nudity, Adult Content, and Adult Language. I instantly knew the nudity was going to be Courtney Love's boobs. I was not wrong. My problem, however, stemmed more from the fact that those videos (that only occasionally did not involve Courtney Love being naked) were private home videos -- memories for his family that seemed almost like a violation to watch. Granted, I'm not famous, but after my death, would I want people who didn't personally know me to watch videos taken in my home, of my kids and me? Add to that, the fact that Cobain was outspoken about his want of privacy and shunned the fame that came along with his success, and I can't help but think he would not want his private moments or thoughts from his diaries shown in public either.

Maybe it's because I'm not a teenager anymore that I feel celebrities are not public property. I don't think we have the right to know everything about someone just because we buy their music or watch their movies.

That being said, the documentary does offer a lot of insight into Cobain's thoughts by highlighting clips of his journals. It is tragic to see his obviously brilliant, yet disturbed mind in his own words. (Though again, without his personal commentary on the matter who knows how out of context things were taken.) And while I'm glad it showcased interviews with Courtney Love, his band mate Krist Novoselic, and his family, I wonder about the conspicuous absence of Dave Grohl. Also, not to further pull down Courtney Love (because Lord knows she's put up with enough hate in her lifetime), but with only her word and her videos shown about their relationship, you can't help but wonder if she used this as an opportunity to paint herself in a better light. For example, saying she was already clean and off heroin by the time she met Kurt and he pulled her back into it? Anything's possible, but you know, hard to trust the source when she's saying things on camera that her daughter will hear...

And while the additional commentary from Cobain's former girlfriend Tracy Marander was an unexpected bonus (for me, not having watched previous Nirvana documentaries), she would have been more helpful had she used any kind of animation in her voice when talking. Like, any. At all.

Ultimately, the whole thing goes for too long, especially without a narrator or some kind of framework to guide us through. The musical interludes are great because if you're watching it, you obviously like Nirvana, but there is too much of that and not enough actual information being presented. I know the director wanted Cobain's stuff to "speak for itself," but then I probably could have read through this same stuff in less time than it took me to watch this movie.

Final word: Unless you are a die-hard Kurt Cobain fan (just Cobain, not Nirvana in general) or a really artsy, aspiring filmmaker, you can skip it.

June 12, 2015

Second Annual Snarky Awards

Maybe you read last year's Snarky Awards, maybe you didn't. To recap: I watch a lot of terrible movies. So terrible, in fact, that I decided I needed to give out my very own awards. The Snarky Awards. But since this is my blog, I can do whatever I want, so my movies are based on what I've watched for the past 12 months, not what was released in that time period. What can I say? I'm a grown-up. I'll do what I want.

I've been blogging for 3 years. NBD.

I also have a brand new award this year, which I'm very excited about. If you saw The Hunger Games, then you'll know what I'm talking about.

The Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark Award 

for the least believable casting choice for a character

Adam Driver, This is Where I Leave You

The Katherine Heigl Award 

for the actor who attempted to single-handedly ruin a movie 

Ellar Coltrane, Boyhood

The New Year's Eve Award 

for the worst ensemble cast movie

The Hangover Part III

The Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen Straight-to-DVD Award 

for the worst movie you've never heard of

Baggage Claim

And of course,

The White House Down Award

for the movie so terrible it was hilarious


Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments! And if you have category recommendations for next year, send them to me at TheSnarkyReviewer [at] gmail [dot] com.

June 5, 2015

112 Weddings (2014)

I don't like weddings. Despite my love of romance movies and anything involving a costume with corsets, I oddly don't care for the spectacle of a wedding. Maybe it's that I find watching two people profess their undying love for each other sort of boring and cheesy, or maybe I just don't like having to sit at a table all night with a bunch of people I don't know, hoping at least one is semi-normal. I did go through the spectacle myself, and if I could go back in time, I would elope.

Despite my cold, blackened heart, I actually quite enjoyed this documentary. I've always had a problem with movies ending on the couple finally getting together, leaving us to assume they live happily every after. I've always wanted to see a movie that showed what happened after the wedding. (Which is probably why This is 40 is the only Judd Apatow movie I've found palatable.) The fact that this movie showcased real couples, talking about their marriage, only sweetened the deal.

If I had watched this movie earlier in life, or before I had kids, I'm not sure I would have been quite so interested in it. I do think that being married for a number of years and having kids gives you a much better perspective on relationships as a whole. Or maybe just being older and more mature does that to you too. Either way, I think this is a documentary for those who have already experienced some of the trials of marriage/long-term partnership and not for those about to embark on the journey.

So of all the couples interviewed, I cared the least about the couple who was not yet married (though I didn't much care for the first couple that only talked over each other either). I get the reasoning behind it--that they provide the perspective of a couple not yet married, and that it offered a contrast to those who had been together for years--but I just really didn't care about them. And I really wish the documentary hadn't ended on their wedding. I guess after all the doom and gloom from the married couples, the director wanted to end on an optimistic note?

I do wonder that out of the 112 weddings the director filmed how many of the couples he was actually able to track down. I assume he chose to profile the 8 he did because they showed a range of experiences and length of marriage, but some of them seemed a little reluctant to talk and therefore didn't add much to the discussion for me. If those were truly the best 8 he could find, then ok, but I definitely thought maybe he could have searched harder for some more couples who had more to say than "marriage is hard." Pretty sure anyone who would choose to watch this documentary in the first place already knows that.

And obviously, feeling as I do about weddings, I could have done with less footage of the original weddings, even though it is a very artful contrast to use those videos as a backdrop to the couples talking in present day. And fun to guess how long they had been married from looking at the footage and the style of whatever dress was chosen. Oh, the 90's!

Final word: Might cast too much of a pall for the newly or not-yet married, but is otherwise a thoughtful documentary.