Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Supermarket Says It's Halloween, So Here's Some Scary Movies

Around this time is when I start getting my seasons muddled. The calendar says it's August, the weather is telling me it's time for back to school, and my supermarket says that it's Halloween.

Flag or treat! Happy Labor-ween!

However, since I'm feeling particularly autumny today, I thought I'd share some trailers that I'm looking forward to scheduled to come out between now and Scary Movie Season.

Passion starring Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace
Release date: August 30th

I mean, first of all, it has Rachel McAdams in it. Second of all, it has Noomi Rapace in it. Also it looks like a corporate murder drama that reminds me of both All About Eve and American Psycho.  Got okay reviews, but I'm mostly just curious to see how it ends. Who doesn't like a good murder mystery?

Insidious 2 starring Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne
Release date: September 13th

If you haven't seen this trailer yet, you clearly haven't been in a movie theater and/or in front of a TV in quite a while, have you? Well, either that or you can't handle the trailer and so shut your eyes/change the channel. This latest installment of the highly creative horror movie follows Mr. Lambert as he struggles to eliminate the dark spirits that have followed him after the first movie's conclusion. I'm dying to see what the deal is with that freakin' horrifying old woman.

Gravity starring Sanda Bullock and George Clooney
Release date: October 4th

Different flavor of horror film a la Open Water. Sandra Bullock is an astronaut that gets hit while repairing something on the outside of a space station and is left to drift in open space waiting for someone to rescue her. Not a bad idea, but I'm curious to see how they'll take a nightmare like this and stretch it out over an hour and a half without losing the audience. Also a little hard to tell from a teaser preview like this though. Disclaimer: not for the motion sick.

Carrie starring Chloe Moretz and Julianne Moore
Release date: October 18th

Mixed feelings about this one. If you've ever seen the original movie, it's going to be hard to warm up to this remake. I'm especially confused about why they picked Chloe Moretz for the title role. That girl's pouty mouth and pretty face hardly harken to the image of the original scrawny ginger, Sissy Spacek. Still, I'm intrigued by Julianne Moore's role as Mrs. White. And the special effects in this one should be a step up from the original for sure, which should make for some pretty scary stuff.

Oldboy starring Josh Brolin and Elizabeth Olsen
Release date: November 27th (okay, maybe not Halloween season, but still the fall, right?)

This movie. So torn. I feel like similar to Let the Right One In and its American remake, Let Me In, this one is going to get rave reviews at the expense of a movie that's already been made. The original Oldboy, a South Korean masterpiece of creep-cinema, is the finest case of cinematic mind-fuckery (pardon my language, but really, that's the only way to put it) to date. It will be interesting to see if Spike Lee can deal with the fact that the fans will be watching his every move. I'm also really interested to see if he'll keep the original ending. If you're ever looking for a movie that will leave you uncomfortable for an entire week, watch the original.

Welp! That's all I got. Why is it that scary movie season is getting so sparse these days? What a serious bummer! More scary movie reviews in the archives and foreign horror also found on this post:

 Also, dear readers, I am always willing to take suggestions from you guys. If you think there's a horror movie coming up that I've missed that you'd like to see reviewed, let me know. Last year I ran out of horror movies so if y'all could help a sister out this time around I'd be much obliged. Thanks!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Spectacular Now: SO Many Emotions.

Those of you that have been following me a while should notice that there aren't a lot of emotional dramas on here. (Unless they're free. Then I'll see whatever's thrown at me.) But if I'm paying for a movie, I'm not trying to walk out of it all puffy eyed and have to go home and listen to Adele for a few hours. This being said, I did not really want to subject myself to The Spectacular Now. But my friend Lauren really wanted to see it and I admit I was curious because it got such rave reviews. All told, it ended up being pretty good.

The poster that emo hipsters will post up in their lockers
this back-to-school season

The plot surrounds high school senior Sutter Keely (what a great name) as he tries to transition from high school into adulthood. Sutter begins as a fun-loving party kid with a drinking problem and, after meeting a girl unlike anyone he's ever met before, ends up having to question aspects of his life that include his estranged father, his drinking, his plans after high school, and the general way that he lives his life.

Goddamnit they were adorable.

The acting in this was superb. Sutter, as played by Miles Teller (who seems like a hybrid of Jonah Hill and Vince Vaughn) , is so believable as a kid that doesn't want to grow up. He reminds me of a bunch of guys I knew in high school. So happy to be in the "spectacular now" that they don't realize that actions have consequences and that youth doesn't last forever. When he first meets Aimee, he keeps her at arms' length as he tries to win back his ex-girlfriend, Cassidy. Which is a total dick move. But then as the movie goes on, you realize that this guy purposefully keeps things from being serious in his life. A fear of rejection by those he loves and a sort of adorable naivete keeps him living life with uncertainty and without plans. He is then faced with the decision of whether to keep living for fun or to live for something with depth.

Or to live with recurring hangovers.

His girlfriend Aimee, as played by Shailene Woodley (who I freakin' loved in Descendants), was also amazing. Starting out as a shy overlooked girl, she is completely charmed by Sutter and (small wonder) falls head over heels in love with him. Their chemistry almost hurts your heart in the way that only uncomplicated high school love can. Oh god the feels.

So many feels.

I liked this movie because it comments on so many different aspects of what millennials seem to be having trouble with, myself included. We are marketed to by popular culture (anyone see dem VMAs?) to live life in the moment because #YOLO (kill me.) and party our heads off and drink and not worry about the future. But Sutter's story sheds light on the fact that you really just can't live like that. His relationship with Aimee for example, which is something with a lot of depth, is something that he takes for granted until it's almost too late. This movie reminds you that while it's fine to be a charismatic person with a tendency towards partying, everyone should have their limits and realize that the worthwhile things in life take a little cultivation

8.5 out of 10. A really introspective movie. So many feeeeeelings.


Let me also say that I know that high school kids nationwide are going to take this movie and turn it into a big stupid quote-machine for reasons why people should live in the "spectacular now," but keep in mind that the title is a little ironic. It had to be said.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

For a Good Time, Call: Phone Sex and Friendship

Welcome. Bet you found yourself reading this post because of the title.

I saw the trailer for For a Good Time, Call and thought it looked kind of fun a while ago, so when I saw it on HBO tonight (yes, I'm fancy), I was pleasantly surprised. Now, even though the movie's two main characters start a phone sex line, it's not really all about the phone sex. Let's get into the dirty (not really) details.
Like clean undies. 
Not dirty...just suggestive.

Katie and Lauren (most common names ever) meet during an unfortunate scenario in college. Katie is hammered and Lauren is not (who hasn't had one of those situations before?) and gross things happen involving pee. Potential for friendship has been shut down. Fast forward ten years later and Lauren, whose boyfriend has just dumped her, is looking for an apartment. One thing leads to another and she ends up having to live with Katie. Despite a rocky beginning, Lauren and Katie's friendship starts to grow (strangely enough) after Lauren discovers Katie's phone sex business. Lauren, having difficulty finding a job, uses her organizational skills to help Katie grow the business and pretty soon their friendship becomes as profitable as their phone sex line.

Which apparently ends up making $12,000 in two months
Career change anyone?

This movie was raunchy for sure, but it ended up being a hilarious look at modern friendships between girls. It's set up as a love story, but the love story is about female friendship. Even though (spoiler alert!) Katie ends up getting a boyfriend and Lauren learns to be independent by the end of the movie, their friendship almost gets treated like it would in a romance movie. They finish each others' sentences, they share secrets, they parade around naked, they worry about each other, they fight, and they make up. Kind of shows you that even though romantic love is intimate, sometimes nothing can be as personal as a friendship between two girls. We tell each other everything and we understand our own. Even though there have been a lot of chick flicks in the past that have touched on this, I thought that For a Good Time, Call was surprisingly the most accurate I've seen in a while. I like that movies are turning away from the sappy "WE'LL ALWAYS BE SISTERS *cries silently*" kind of girl love that we've seen before and have turned it into a more realistic and less eyeroll-worthy kind of romp.

Chest bumps are more fun than listening to
 characters overanalyzing their love lives

Highlights of the movie:
-When they reenact the choreography from Dirty Dancing
-Katie's huge confession to Lauren
-Justin Long as the gay(?) friend
-Cameos from actors like Seth Rogan, Kevin Smith, and Ken Marino as the clients
-The "I love you" scene
-What Lauren gives Katie before she sets out to meet one of their clients in the flesh
-The pink phones. I want one.

I need.

Lessons in career decisions, making the best out of life's lemons, trying things that are out of your comfort zone, and being a good friend.

7 out of 10, surprisingly. Light comedy with a raunchy finish, but sweet and actually pretty funny.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Elysium: What a Coincidence!

What else to do on a Sunday but go to the movies? Just discovered that the theater near where I've just moved is craaayyyyy. I kind of felt like I was in a movie theater from the future. The concessions stand had a digital soda fountain and the seats are assigned. Not to mention the fact that the seats are CUSHIONY RED RECLINING THINGS.

Seriously, how the hell did it take so long for 
someone to think of this?

But after I got over the initial shock of this spaceship facility, I settled down to watch tonight's feature, Elysium.

Elysium takes place in the future, 2154 to be precise, and at this point in time, Earth has been abandoned by the wealthy in favor of living in a space settlement called Elysium. While Earth is covered with disease, bad air, filth, and overpopulation, Elysium is immaculate and convenient, complete with robot servants and total healthcare machines that can cure anything from a paper cut to leukemia. We are shown the life of a guy that lives on Earth named Max. Raised by nuns, he grows up to become a bad boy stealing cars, but by the time we catch up with him he is reformed from all that and trying to make an honest living working at a factory that makes droids. After he gets stuck in a room where he's exposed to high levels of radiation one thing leads to another and he ends up hijacking the mind of an Elysian and being the one man that can change the futures of the people that live on both Earth and Elysium.

The wheeel in the skyyyy keeps on tuuurrrrniiiinnn

So woah, right off the bat there's a LOT of stuff going on in this movie. It got off to a pretty good start; they show you that robot police keep the citizens of Earth in order cruelly and without humanity, that people rely on thieving to get by, and that there's little to no promise of upward mobility. Interesting commentary. But then they introduce plot point after plot point and things get a little...over-ambitious.

Parallel to Max's story is the Elysian president's, focusing on her ruthless way of fighting refugees from gaining illegal access to Elysium, which is by blowing them up before they can land there. We also see   a whole string of events involving illegally employed agents from Elysium sent to "take care of" Max and other refugees, Max's childhood friend and her daughter, and computer hackers.

Another case of Could Have Been Cool But Wasn't. Sometimes you can't squish everything into a two-hour movie and this was definitely the case here. Instead of the story flowing as we get to know a little bit more about the characters, it seems to jump from conflict to conflict and coincidence from coincidence. Like:

"Oh crap, I have radiation poisoning, get me to Elysium, please!" 
"Well that is certainly convenient because I happen to have this chip where I can hack into the minds of the wealthy! I'll send you to hijack the vehicle of an Elysian and maybe we can find something useful in their minds to use for our own benefit!"
"Great! Let's get her installed!"
"Glad we could accomplish that despite the rampant disease and obvious lack of hygiene in this establishment (not to mention your progressive death from radiation poisoning). You have survived the installation of mind-hardware and mechanical exoskeleton!"
"Hooray! Let's hijack this gentleman!"
"Quite! My goodness, his mind is full of hacker software that will overthrow the entire political system of Elysium!"
"Again, sir, I say how convenient!"

So easy we should've done it two hundred years ago!

As the guy sitting next to me put it "Well, that's all very convenient isn't it?" It was just kind of like they worked a little too hard to find a happy ending. And each progressive event just felt a little too good to be true.

Thematically it's a very interesting commentary on our world and the United States. Earth citizens are so desperate for healthcare that they pay a fortune for the chance to fly to Elysium and break into the homes of the wealthy to use their health machines. Also an interesting commentary on immigration as the Earth citizens we see all speak a mixture of Spanish and English while the Elysian elite speak a mixture of clipped English and French. Their philosophy of keeping people out (blowing them out of the sky) is met with little controversy and, at best, a slap on the wrist. What does that say about us as a country? Makes you think about the different methods people talk about to "keep people out of our country brawrawrarwaarr."

Bet that healthcare you got is pretty convenient... :X

Anyway, cinematically political agendas aside, it could have been really really cool. It made an excellent social commentary on the United States (Are we Elysium? Or are they making statements about big business in the US?) but too convoluted to be good.

5 outa 10. Sorry, Matt Damon.

Also it bothers me that in the trailer they make it seem like his hydraulics are what make him special. That has nothing to do with how they're going to overthrow Elysium. Just sayin.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Blue Jasmine (Seriously Blue. And Also Crazy.)

Had a "me party" yesterday and went into Philly to see such sites as the Philadelphia Art Museum, Ultimo Coffee's new coffee shop on Catharine St, The Continental, and (of course) The Ritz 5 movie theater, where I saw Woody Allen's latest Blue Jasmine.*

May I firstly say that I love Woody Allen as a director? The jazz music, the black and white 20's style intertitles and alphabetical credits, the funny/tragic realistic characters--you had me at Small Time Crooks. He is truly a craftsman and I tend to love everything that he puts out. Even To Rome With Love, haters. (Although, as a side note, I frequently ignore all of his 80s-90s films that include Mia Farrow as a headliner. Except for Hannah and Her Sisters.) I kind of pre-loved Blue Jasmine right after I saw the trailer. So let's get to it.

Jasmine (née Jeanette) has just moved in with her sister. She has just suffered a nervous breakdown following her husband (Alec Baldwin) being charged with fraud and subsequent prison suicide. After a life of luxury (Actual luxury. Like five houses and a personal jet.) she is staying at her sister's lower-middle class apartment and trying to figure out her life. But Jasmine has never had to do this before. She states more than once throughout the movie that Hal, her husband, swept her off her feet before she could graduate from college.  Resultantly she doesn't have any life skills. And has never had to be a real adult.

Pre-real life. Like an episode of Downton Abbey.

After a friend of Ginger's finds her a job as a receptionist at a dental office, Jasmine begins taking computer classes with the dream of eventually getting a degree in interior decorating online. But when one thing after another happens at the dentist's office, she quits and approaches a WASPy friend with the question "Do you know any men?" The rest of the movie is spent with her quitting everything to become a rich man's girlfriend, lying to him about her past and masquerading as a qualified interior decorator, which (predictably) doesn't end well. Her story is also cut up with vignettes from her past life, hosting parties, telling friends how she and her husband met, talking to their adopted son, listening in on deals that her husband was making, etc.

This movie was fascinating for a number of reasons. In some ways it reminded me of The Queen of Versailles, the real life tale of the Segiel family and their fall after the recession. But Jasmine, in a lot of ways, is so much more pathetic. Here we have a look at the inability of the rich to function in lower-middle class life. Relying on the increasingly imaginary "American Dream," Jasmine originally plans to pull herself up by her bootstraps and go back to school. However, faced with the harsh reality that school costs money, she then realizes that she has to fund it by getting a job appropriate to her resume (which is presumably blank).

Don't we look ravishing today.

After becoming uncomfortable with things at her menial job, she moves onto the only thing that she knows how to do: relying on a man. And this method of survival, which is pretty archaic in this day and age, does not end up panning out. We see her struggle through her life in denial of her surroundings and acting a bit like lost child looking for her mom. Or, rather, a lost wife looking for her husband.

By contrast, her sister Ginger is totally happy being a member of the lower-middle class. She bags groceries, she has two nice kids, and a boyfriend who is a mechanic. When Jasmine comes in like a tornado of judgement, though, Ginger starts to falter and question her romantic and lifestyle choices. It's a hard road back to reality for Ginger, but she gets her happy ending. Jasmine not so much.

It's ok though. She's got her vodka.

This movie seems to be making an interesting commentary about women's options today. Whereas in the 80s women may have been excellent trophy wives, it seems to be less and less acceptable for a woman to function today without an actual function. Even stay-at-home moms do more than Jasmine does. And while she's not a bad person, she doesn't seem to have the first idea as to how to pick of the pieces of her life. It also tells the eternal moral: money isn't everything.

Excellent excellent acting by Cate Blanchett. I totally believed that she was going off the deep end. If for nothing else, I would recommend the movie for her excellent acting.

8 outa 10. 

I literally had to go through this entire post and delete all of the times I'd written Blue Ivy. Thanks Jay-Z and Beyonce. Rude.

Monday, August 5, 2013

IN A WORLD...(Where Lake Bell Creates Movies)

Running behind a little this week, guys. But last week I had the privelege of getting a sneak peek of Lake Bell's new movie, In a World..., which she wrote, directed, and starred in herself. Also (if my Twitter strategy is working) y'all should know that she also made a personal appearance with a Q & A after the film as well.

This is how she got to the's not a shot from the movie..probably...

So the plot of the movie surrounds Carol, a voice coach with a less-than-impressive resume and the daughter of the go-to guy in movie trailer voiceovers. After she gets kicked out of her father's house, she gets the opportunity to promote her own voiceover work and takes off--totally unexpectedly. When the opportunity comes up to voice over the high-profile trilogy of a popular book series (much like The Hunger Games), both Carol and her father chomp at the bit to prove to themselves (and each other) that they are relevant to the extremely competitive industry. Running along side this main plot line are three love stories: Carol's sister hits a snag in her marriage; the ethics of her father dating a woman her own age; and her escapades with two men in the industry.

Wait a second...everyone's mismatched...

So the cool thing about this movie is its subject matter. It doesn't get much more obscure than the land of voiceover. It's only briefly touched on in The Holiday and I really can't think of any other movie where I've even heard it mentioned. When I asked Lake Bell during the Q & A after the movie as to why she picked this as the main subject matter, she basically said that it was just that that has inspired her. Being someone who had briefly tried her hand at the voiceover gig, she knew how competitive the industry was. Not only that but she was inspired because she had never heard a voiceover done by a woman. With the neo-feminism that's taking the nation by storm right now (more into seizing femininity than burning bras), I thought that it was a really cool idea. They even tie in a feminist message at the end, telling girls to take themselves seriously and not to neglect something as impressionable as their voices. In a world (see what I did there?) where girls talk like Kim Kardashian (Omg, kill me. She reminds me of a drunk squirrel), she puts a spotlight on the importance of intelligent speech. A big fat THANK YOU, LAKE BELL from all of my fellow grammar nazis out there.

Omg this picture.

The only things I wasn't crazy about in this movie were the sort of understated humor. While it's subtle and cute and funny, it becomes borderline unexciting. There are chuckles, sure, and plenty of awkward moments with Carol. But it got me wondering at a few points whether this movie was going to take a turn for the worse. Maybe that was its intention? Additionally, the side stories are a little distracting. When Carol's sister's marriage takes a dramatic turn, they create a huge problem and then fix it. Same with the marriage between her father and his thirty-year-old girlfriend. She has a really sweet scene at the end and yet it goes unacknowledged by the two sisters.

I noticed it, girl. I noticed.

It was not bad, it was a pleasure speaking with Lake Bell herself, and I'm anxious to see what other kinds of things she comes up with. However, I would probably put this movie on while doing something else. Like playing Candy Crush. It has a lot of "OOOHHH!!" moments, but in the way that a gossipy magazine does.

6 and a half outa 10. Not bad for your first movie, Ms. Bell!