I wasn't going to see this film in theaters, because I figured any audience I watched this with would be 99% female, and sure enough, it was. But then I thought, why not, whatever. The film's all Steven Soderbergh through and through. Sobering, distancing, meticulously crafted, and overly clinical. It's right in step with the kinds of films that he's been making lately, which is good for his credibility and overall consistency. Worries about him making the "stripper movie" were probably unfounded. He does more with the material than many contemporary directors working would have I'd imagine. I did feel bad for the ladies in the audience who were anticipating nonstop titilation and man-ass here, and instead got what they got. Whatever high energy they had at the beginning of the film was pretty much gone by the end. I think the final act eventually wore them down, and not in a good way. "Magic Mike" is the anti-"Showgirls" (though I know it's not fair to label all of them as wanting/expecting that, or knowing so little of the director going in as to expect a hackjob or campfest). Channing Tatum has star charisma and some aces dance moves for sure, but I wasn't as sold on many of his dramatic scenes, especially with Cody Horn being as bad and self-conscious as she was and bringing him down throughout. I found Tatum to be more effective in "21 Jump Street" from eariler in the year with his unexpectedly great comic timing. He had nice rapport with the supporting male cast though, who I hoped would have been better fleshed out characters in general. This is the first time I've seen Alex Pettyfer act in anything. He made a solid first impression I guess, but his character's arc was so telegraphed that I lost full investment in him by the end. As for Matthew McConaughey, he was indeed as electric and sexualized as I've ever seen him before. If he gets nominated for this role, I won't begrudge him for it. But it will likely be a collective "great year you had!" type nomination for this and his other films (if they hit in any sort of genuine way). It'll take a lot of support to get him there, b/c I can't picture the old, stodgy while male members of the Academy popping in their screener of "Magic Mike" to check him out just because unless they're forced to by the critical assault, and even then they could ignore the film and him. That's something I'd regret seeing happen, since McConaughey is probably the only reason to bother watching this, and to see what Soderbergh is still up to.
'Why Stop Now' (2012) Dir.- Phil Dorling, Ron Nyswaner
'Why Stop Now' (previously known as 'Predisposed' when it debuted at the Sundance film festival) starring Jesse Eisenberg, Melissa Leo, and Tracy Morgan is about a piano prodigy (Eisenberg) trying to get his drug addicted mother (Leo) into rehab before he goes off to a prestigious music program at a Boston school. Morgan plays Leo's drug dealer whom they need to score some coke in order to get her high so she can get into rehab; she lacks insurance, thus she needs dirty urine to be admitted without. The film is kind of a mess tonally, with Leo's performance going over the top often times and at the expense of adding more shades to her character. Morgan gets to be the whacky comic relief as the drug dealer Sprinkles who needs Eisenberg's character to go with him to get the drugs from his hispanic supplier because Eisenberg can speak Spanish. Morgan does his typical shtick, but he does get a few key moments to tone it down and comes away showing some new sides of himself. Luckily, with things getting chaotic at times and with more than a few moments requiring suspension of disbelief, Eisenberg is really great here. There are times where he could've easily gone over the top or played things very broad, but instead he gives a nuanced performance and deftly handles both the darkly comical moments as well as the drama. It's just a shame he couldn't have been working with a better script as it's a film that could've shed some light on a serious topic, but opts instead for a series of quirky moments that just put more roadblocks in Eisenberg's character's way. As I said, the film is a bit bipolar tonally, but it's worth watching for Eisenberg's strong work here.
The film is kind of a mess tonally, with Leo's performance going over the top often times and at the expense of adding more shades to her character.
Shocking! -- not. Leo's entire Oscar-winning performance in THE FIGHTER was one great big scenery-chewing hamfest... Why should she play subtle when playing over-the-top is apparently the right winning strategy?
SHAME (Steve McQueen, 2011) This is the first of many films I have the time to sit down and watch since I am currently unemployed. This was certianly a downer to get started w/due to me feeling sad about unemployement. This is the second collaboration between McQueen and Fassbender and I have a feeling that these two could be the new dynamic duo. Fassbender gives a brave performance, but I can see why he wasn't nominated. It is a very uncomfortable performance and film to get through and I am no prude, but there were times during the film that I was saying this was too much (that sequence w/Brandon and the hookers! Jesus be a STD test, b/c yikes). Carey Mulligan surprised me, because I didn't know she had the ability to pull of a kind of performance she gave. The direction was sometimes excessive w/some of the long scenes, but from what I have gathered it is a McQueen staple. Sometimes it was effective (Brandon and Sissy's confrontation) and other times it was much (NY, NY!). The cinematography and editing were crisp and the score was haunting and beautiful. I wouldn't recomend it to my real life friends, but for any of my fellow posters who want to see something different, I recomend.
It's a shame that Danny Boyle will probably be remembered mostly for SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE due to its Best Picture win, when in fact his best movies are his first two: TRAINSPOTTING (1996), and the one before that, SHALLOW GRAVE (1994), which Boyle himself called his best movie; a darkly comedic, very twisty, very bloody, very nasty little thriller that might remind you of early Coen Bros. movies. Grade: A-
<<Anyway, back to "Avatar." I still don't think the story holds up, not because it borrows its plot from "Pocahontas" and "Fern Gully," but because it lacks a sophisticated argument>>
Actually, Dances With Wolves for me is its most obvious steal - and I didn't care for the plot there either. Avatar has many great things in it, but where it fell short of Titanic for me is the lack of dynanism and inventiveness in the plot.
These examples are sound, but maybe the clearest reference is to Samuel Fuller's Run of the Arrow (1957).
Well, UNDERWORLD: AWAKENING certainly looks like $70,000,000, but maybe they should have spent a few more dollars on the screenplay, which seems written around the fact that they couldn't get Scott Speedman to come back as "Michael," the vampire/werewolf hybrid. Unfortunately, there's no Michael Sheen or Bill Nighy to provide some comic relief either in this vampire vs. werewolf saga, although Stephen Rea (looking very uncomfortable) and Charles Dance are present in what might be described as thankless roles. And Kate Beckinsale is back, of course, as the indestructible vampire Selene, now saddled with a maternal instinct (groan). I don't know if I should read too much into the vampires having blue eyes, and the werewolves having brown eyes, and just be content to be stupified by all the mindless bloody carnage, certain to be one of the highest bodycounts of any movie this year. (2012) Grade: C
Friends with Kids 2011 Director: Jennifer Westfeldt Starring: Jennifer Westfeldt, Adam Scott, Jon Hamm, Kristin Wigg, Maya Rudolph, Chris O'Dowd, Megan Fox and Edward Burns.
SPOILER ALERT: CONTAINS PLOT DETAILS INCLUDING ENDING!
YOU'VE BEEN WARNED: SPOILER
A charming if not understated comedy that deftly marries the traditional romantic comedy with the indie film. Westfeldt and Scott star as decades long platonic friends who are the last remaining single and childless among their group of mid-30's friends; so they make a drastic decision. They will have a child together and raise it together without the complication of marriage. Ultimately this movie veers exactly where you believe it will, but does so with enough humor, subtletly and warmth that you can forgive the director for making some rather conventional choices in what was clearly marketed as an indie film with a "anti-romantic comedy" vibe.
Adam Scott has never been better than here. He's charming, alluring, attractive and frankly, you understand why Julie (Jennifer Westfeldt's character) would fall for him. The supporting cast is mostly underused, but serves their purpose well. Jon Hamm managed a convincing performance with little to do. Kristin Wigg and Maya Rudolph both played pretty straight-characters, which for me was odd as they weren't given any chance to go overboard or go broad. Megan Fox had a small, pivotal role and actually came across as charming and seemingly talented in a role that frankly anybody could have played.
So basically to me this was a mixed bag.
Overall Grade: C+
Keri Russell deserves an Emmy, she is long overdue!
Hard to believe two "mice" as gorgeous as Rita Hayworth and Kim Novak fighting for the affections of Frank Sinatra in PAL JOEY, but you gotta admit that he does have a great voice (Sinatra plays a nightclub singer here, and I am pretty sure he says "ring a ding" at one point). The film was made using the Technicolor process and is breathtakingly beautiful (those gorgeous San Francisco locations don't hurt either) and was nominated for four Oscars including art direction and costumes. The songs by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart are wonderful and include the timeless classics "The Lady is a Tramp," "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered," and "My Funny Valentine." (1957) Grade: B+
One True Thing 1998 Director: Carl Franklin Starring: Meryl Streep, Renee Zellweger, William Hurt, Tom Everett Scott, Lauren Graham, Nicky Katt and James Eckhouse.
Based on a novel by Anna Quindlend this movie earned Meryl Streep the trifecta of nominations for Golden Globe, SAG and Oscar and help cement Renee Zellweger as a respectable and capable actress. This is a movie that is clearly imho, a product of it's time period, and likely would not be made today. It's all about performance first and plot is basically secondary. The good news is that those performances are very strong, exceptionally strong. In fact, Streep, Hurt and Zellweger are so superb in their roles it actually hurts to watch this family destroyed. Zellweger gives one of the finest performances I think she's ever given, and probably wouldn't even be able to give today. She's so changed from when she first broke out in a big way with "Jerry McGuire" in 1996 (though that was far from her first role), and I doubt she'd be able to strip away the vanity and give a performance this raw and true now... Meryl Streep for me stopped being Meryl Streep and fully became this woman, who is diagnosed with cancer which forces her ambition, career centered daughter to give up her New York Journalism job and become nurse maid to the mother she was rarely close too and in fact wanted to be nothing like. This was forced by her pretentious professor father who was too busy to care for his wife or to notice how his family was crumbling.
The writing was clearly the weak link in this otherwise moving movie. Characters were not fully fleshed out and motivations often seemed unclear at best. The direction tended toward the sappy side, with the predictable music queues and the grand moments at exactly the right moment. I am actually surprised it took me this long to finally see this movie, but overall I'm glad I did. Not only are all the performances worth the price of admission (in my case 2.99 as an I-Tunes Rental), but it actually gave me a lot to think about as surprisingly some of the emotions felt by Zellweger's character (and others) relate in some ways to things I'm feeling now. Granted, I'm not dealing with cancer or any death in my family; but a lot of what is said in this movie is eternally relatable.
One issue with this film, is that it's supposed be set in 1988, which is not something I even really noticed until mid-way through. I think the costume designer could have done a better job of making the time period pop more. I think this movie though moving and effective is somewhat of a fantasay; with the setting of an upper-middle class family in a perfect little small town that decorates trees in town for Christmas and bakes sweets for each other. These kind of places seem unreal to me. The waspy characters seem at times false and made up, with siblings that both go to Harvard to follow their father's footsteps and a group of do-gooder women called the Minnies who do good deeds for each other and the town and never have near a negative or catty word to say to each other.
This movie ultimately is good, but not fantastic. Strong performance anchor a rather mundane script.
Overall Grade: C+
Keri Russell deserves an Emmy, she is long overdue!
ON THE ROAD: I never read the novel, so I have nothing to compare. I liked this movie a lot, I love road movies, and the script was sharp and interesting for most of the time, some characters come and go really fast, but they are worthy of being seen even if they aren't that developed. Salles did an awesome job directing the movie, he knows what shoot to make us be inside that world, the score of Gustavo Santaolalla combined with the sceneries were beautifully perfect for the movie (the score conducted the movie in the last half with perfection). The cast was great: Viggo Mortensen, Kirsten Dunst, Elisabeth Moss, Amy Adams (too funny) and Steve Buscemi were all good even if they don't spend much of time on the screen; Alice Braga and Terrence Howard were, almost, forgettable, Tom Sturridge made his presence being noticed, and I have to say that the three leads were all great; Stewart never was so alive, free and comfortable in scene, Sam Riley was a convincing lead with charm to carry the movie, but is Garrett Hedlund who sparkles every moment in the screen, his character is amazing, and he didn't let me down, very very impressive, he surely deserves some recognition. The movie put me in a trip that was pleasant enough to not regret.
Sorry if it's too hard to understand, I'll keep trying to let my english better hahahaha