Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Jeff, Who Believes in Signs: An Uplifting Indie Movie What?

When I first got this from my local Redbox the other day, it wasn't really at the top of my list.  I was more excited to see We Need to Talk About Kevin (I was in a crappy mood, shush) and Casa de mi Padre (which I still haven't watched because my remote-less DVD player won't automatically put on subtitles). But having a few hours to kill on Sunday, I turned it on to clean my room and I was so mesmerized that I ended up sitting down and watching the entire thing while my dust bunnies held their breath. What an uplifting movie.

The story starts with Jeff (Jason Segel) talking about one of his favorite movies, Signs, and saying how inspired he is by the fact that the little girl has always had a problem drinking water and that that is what ends up killing the hostile aliens (oops, spoiler alert?). So sets the stage for the rest of the movie, which is balanced between Jeff's almost childlike belief in signs and his pessimistic brother (Ed Helms) Pat's problematic marriage.

"Hey, this is Fate. What's up?"

Thrown together by fate, they spend the day trying to decipher what it is that fate is trying to tell them about their respective lives. A cute side story (which becomes surprisingly more relevant as the film moves along) is also Jeff's mom (Susan Sarandon) Carol's day at the office, which is lightened by the hope of a secret crush.

The camera work in this movie is surprisingly innovative. Instead of dead-pan camera typical to indie films that I've been seeing lately, the camera moves more similarly to reality TV shots, with abrupt zooms and pans aimed at characters' facial expressions and reactions. The camera doesn't stop moving the entire film and it keeps you on your toes.

The real reason to watch this movie, though, is for its resounding theme of hope. In current times where there is so much focus set on getting jobs, making money, paying bills, and societal image as a way of normalcy, Jeff sheds some light on the fact that maybe that's not all there is to it right now. This movie dares you to believe in a higher power, and not just because it's cute, but because it means something. And not in a crazy Jehovah's Witness version of a higher power either, but something without a name, or maybe an old name like "fate" or "destiny" before those words got watered down by bad pop songs.

Ah, or soft porn romance novels...

A really inspirational movie, especially for a generation such as ours that, for the time being, just has to keep on chugging along. This movie's message helps us remember important things that can sometimes get swept aside by the pettier and materialistic things in life. So good job, Ray and Mark Duplass, you created a gem that had me bawling my eyes out with happy tears by the ending. (Seriously, the ending is one of the best that I've seen in a really long time.)

Friday, July 20, 2012

Thoughts and prayers go out to the families and friends of victims injured and killed in the recent Aurora shooting.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

We Need to Talk (or Else Severely Repress Memories) About Kevin

We Need to Talk About Kevin? We need to talk about how I never want children after seeing this movie.

Seriously, man. Nothing funny to say about this movie. It's so upsetting and disturbing and sad and creepy. Beautifully and thoughtfully constructed but...damn.

Kevin is the son of Eva (Tilda Swinton) and Franklin (John C. Reilly) and he has been a sadistic son of a bitch since the day that he was born. Crying from morning until night while with his mother and then calm with his father, Kevin constructs a behavioral pattern that sticks with he and his family throughout the rest of the movie. Acting like a normal teenager in front of his father, Kevin seems to live to mess with his mother, testing her every reaction with some sort of violent or emotionally abusive act. The film follows the relationship that Kevin has with his mother his entire life before holding his high school hostage and killing several students inside and eclipses this story with Eva's life after the tragedy.

That description should iron out a bit of the sadness and the tangible tragedy of Eva's entire life after Kevin. Punishing herself throughout her post-shooting experience, Eva does things such as purposefully eating scrambled eggs with the shells in them, and letting people get away with slapping her in public for the things that her son did.

It would be too much to take if it weren't, at times, for the bizarre up-beat soundtrack that follows her around as she goes through her day. It plays as almost a manic denial to the reality which is her life; as if she turns her brain to happy music just to get through a day. And the cinematography in this is actually very poetic and well done also, very stark and blunt when showing the details of Kevin and Eva's past and yet very cerebral and trippy at times when we see Eva's current life. Ugh. Heartbreaking.

This ending will be stuck in your head for days, as it has been in mine.

If you're looking for a true horror movie that won't be leaving you looking for the boogie man or listening for ghosts, this is your film. Kevin gets under your skin with an uncomfortability that suggests that it is sometimes simply the nature of human beings to be evil and sadistic and that it could happen to anyone. All within the framework of an artful and well thought-out film. Interesting mixing of genres.

Someone give me a Disney movie--quick!

7 outa 10 stars.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Anyone Ever Just Feel Like...

Currently watching Hamlet 2 and getting a kick out of Steve Coogan as a down-and-out drama teacher creating an absolutely terrible play.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Babycakes: "I Just Keep Thinking About the Dinosaurs..."

Oh my god. Ok. To preface this movie, let me tell you all a story.

Once upon a time, my sister was in 10th grade, having an awesome day, and happened to watch a movie on Lifetime called Babycakes. She enjoyed it and promptly got on with her life. Several years later she happened upon it on Amazon or some such site and decided "What the hey? I'll buy it!" After receiving said movie, she popped it into our DVD player and she, my mother, and I all began to watch it. After about half an hour, we were all splitting our sides at this absolutely awful "feel-good movie". Babycakes has lived on in my family (and probably my family only) as a hilarious and hammy classic.

"Love means never having to say--"
Oh, my bad, "Love doesn't come in sizes"

The plot revolves around Grace (Ricki Lake pre-weight-loss): a shy, obese cosmetician for a mortuary. (Yup.) Her life seems to kind of just move along until, after enduring some verbal abuse at her father's wedding reception, she spots her dream guy (Craig Sheffer of One Tree Hill) at a local skating rink. Afterwards, acting like a complete normal person, she stalks the absolute shit out of him. Invades his work place to get his schedule, gets a new bed with satin sheets, gives herself a complete makeover, and steals his skates in order to meet him.

Yes, yes, candy is the way to his heart...

After an incredibly bizarre introduction over some banana splits, she gives him her address and tells him the elaborate dinner that she's going to cook for him. After suddenly getting creeped out that she's asking him over (or perhaps hesitant because his fiancee is away?), he leaves and says he might show up (after she presses his answer like twelve times). Ah and then the fateful dinner. He stays at a bar with some friends and gets totally smashed and shows up at her house five hours late, after she has eaten all the food and totally trashed her own apartment as a result of her disappointment. Rob (yep, his name's Rob) then proceeds to pass out and thus begins their attraction and impending romance (don't worry, I'm not going to spoil all the details for you).

Ah, love at first pancake.

If that description doesn't make you want to see this abysmal riot of a movie, I frankly do not know what will. If what I just summarized makes you think that the movie ends with her being a psychopathic killer, you are thinking of the wrong kind of Lifetime movie. In fact, despite all of her creepiness (ah, the days before Facebook), the movie seems to make her endeavors seem totally and completely normal. And I cannot possibly count the weird tangents in this film, which include an extended metaphor to the dinosaurs being extinct, a "crawling eye", an incredibly catchy keyboard theme song, the excess of pastels, and the interesting ten-thousand-layer outfits that Grace wears.  Not to mention the completely inexplicable 180 that Rob's character seems to suffer. In fact, Rob goes from being a totally normal-seeming fellow into a grown 5-year-old with ADHD. Is this what love does to people? Is this attractive? Apparently.

As a side note, I'm glad that Lifetime's producers were pioneers in making movies about guys who don't mind a little extra weight on their girls. But holy crap, couldn't they have run into each other on the street without her using binoculars and crazy to win him over?

So good and so funny, please see this movie. It'll warm your heart and make you both hungry and paranoid. How many movies can you say that about? Precisely.

(Also, Grace's scrunchies and hair accessories should've gotten their own credit in this movie. There are a ton of them.)

Wish there was a color photo of this pink sweater. 
And no, that's not a wedding veil on her head.
...Or is it....

Couldn't find a trailer but (LUCKY FOR YOU) the entire movie is on YouTube! Enjoy!

Alright, additionally, I have been looking all night for this DVD and it only exists on Amazon for upwards of a hundred dollars. True story. So if you've seen this movie on youtube and you wanna own it as badly as I do, write to Hen's Tooth Video (on their website at henstoothvideo.com) and make em re-release it!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Shopgirl: Rom-Dram?

When I first saw Shopgirl on the shelf at Blockbuster a few years ago (wow I'm old), I thought it would be a hilarious romantic comedy with my favorite Steve Martin character, Jason Schartzman as the awkward goofy guy, and Claire Daines as a cool love interest.

Then I read the book last month. Little did I know that I had the complete layout a little skewed.

Shopgirl isn't really a funny movie. It's actually sad for a good portion of the novella and Steve Martin, you can tell, took pains to see that the movie closely followed his original work.

Observe, the original work.

Claire Daines plays Mirabelle, a shopgirl working at a glove counter in the couture department of Saks Fifth Avenue in LA. Yes, glove counter. And no, Mirabelle hardly ever sells any. Her life is dominated by tedium and her shy demeanor doesn't really give her much wiggle room in terms of making new friends.


While things look up for a brief time when she goes out with a man named Jeremy (Schwartzman), Mirabelle's future looks a little bleak. But Mirabelle's life gets turned on its side after she receives gloves from a stranger named Ray Porter (Martin) and the rest of the movie follows a map of human complexities and romantic interpretations.

Love stinks. Yeah yeah.

The movie is actually very beautiful. While seeing Steve Martin as this new complex character is a little throwing at first, he carries the role gracefully. The chemistry between Mirabelle and Ray Porter is a little stiff, but not unbelievable when compared to their characters, and their comfortability at some points in this film is almost heartbreaking when compared with their labeling of their relationship. The fragility of Mirabelle's poor little self is also a little sad. This is a sad love story for the majority of its duration. Mirabelle and Ray are both hopelessly flawed without any real idea of how to fix each other and without any real depth of understanding as to the other's entire personality.

Ah, l'amour.

But fear not, dear friends, because this movie ends on a high note (I won't ruin how). A very moody, poetic film typical almost of French cinema, Shopgirl keeps you pensive, breaks your heart, and renews your hope in love all in one sitting. Good job, Steve.

Six and a half stars.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Greatest Gatsby

Holy crap. How did I not know about this months ago? One of my favorite directors, the almighty Baz Luhrmann, the King of Fast Editing, the creative genius behind Moulin Rouge and Romeo + Juliet, and The Man in general, is directing the American classic novel The Great Gatsby.




Yes. Please.

I am going to find any way that I can to be at the first showing for this one. It's been about five years since Luhrmann last came out with a film and that was the underwhelming Australia, which was a cross between Dances With Wolves and Out of Africa. Shmeh. Not my cup of tea. But I'm excited to see how he pulls together this stylish drama because unfortunately the only other film version features Mia Farrow who I hate.

You look like a mouse.

Watch the trailer and get as stoked as I am what what!!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Scots and Gingers and Bears--Oh My!

Bill and I hit up the Frank Theater in Rio Grande last Wednesday in pursuit of a certain Pixar movie that just came out last week: Disney and Pixar's Brave. I know, I'm awful, it took me a while to get around to writing this one because I was running back and forth between Philly and home a lot last week and this week and whenever I'm home I have the delusion that I'm on vacation. So OBVIOUSLY I couldn't write a blog post when I was on vacation...

But I digress. As usual.

So really having nothing to go off of from the preview except for that looping phrase, "If you haad the chaance to cheenge yer feet...would yew?" I was just kinda putting my faith into the Pixar logo, as so many of us do.

Or is it "Breeeeve"?

The plot of the film, if you got the vibe from the previews better than I did, is that Princess Merida is being forced to choose a husband with which to rule her father's kingdom. The three neighboring clans (who don't get along very well) all come bearing their sons in hopes of winning a competition and therefore Merida's hand. But Merida is an unruly and adventurous teenager who doesn't feel ready to be married. Kept in line by her proper mother, despite taking more after her father, Merida is dying for the chance to just be herself and live outside the princess rules that weigh her down.

In order to change her fate (cheenge her feeet), Merida is led by whisps (mystic Scottish things that look sort of like oversized misty water drops) to an old witch that can help her change her mother. But the results of the witch's help leave Merida with something that she had never asked for, and now she has to fix what she's done before it becomes permanent.

Or I guess they kind of also look like jellyfish...

So, first of all, let me get the obvious out of the way and just say: holy crap this movie is gorgeous. I don't know how the hell they pack so much detail into their sets while maintaining the mysticism of the era and adding cartoon-like characters that nonetheless are heartbreakingly realistic and wonderfully hilarious. Also the fiery vibrance of Merida's hair in contrast to the lush green of Scotland's landscape really reels her in as the focus of this movie. Lighting, sounds, and design are all breathtaking in this film. Once again, Pixar, well done. Ya did good, kids.

You really have to click on this sucker to do it justice...

In terms of plot, I was pleasantly surprised at how much the movie made sense after being a little befuddled about the vague, adrenaline-filled preview. I understand now that they wanted to keep the plot a bit under wraps as this movie is shorter than most Pixar ventures at only an hour and a half. However, I will say, that Pixar must be used to taking their time with plot points because this one took a small while to get going. You kind of end up feeling like they set out to make an epic adventure, but shortened it in the name of the children watching. No offense, Pixar, but I think you should've either kept the length or just  gotten right into the real story a little bit faster. Everything ends up being kind of necessary, but...I dunno, it just felt a little off its game. I think also, after re-watching the preview, that Brave sets itself up to be an epic adventure tale of GARGANTUAN proportions when really it ends up being an above-par folktale that really centers on the children audience for once. (Also, for the weepy, don't worry there aren't any heartbreaking scenes like in Finding Nemo's beginning or like in Up! when Ellie finds out she can't have kids. So that's good.)

In short, this film isn't bad at all, but its brevity leaves a little something to be desired for the older crews. For kids' films in general it's a beautiful adventure tale, but for Pixar, it seems to be down there with Cars.

7 and a half outa 10.

OMG, I forgot! If you need a reason to see this, though, please PLEASE see it for the ADORABLE short that prefaces the film. It's literally one of the cutest things I've ever seen. Seriously.