Monthly Archives: August 2012

Lawless

As Prohibition dawned over the south, moonshine and bootlegging became inevitable.  Lawless is a portrait of the three Bondurant brothers, Howard, Forrest and Jack, and their fight for survival as the law becomes more corrupt.

Oh Tom Hardy, teach the lad your ways of wonder.

At first I was skeptical about this movie, especially after seeing that Shia LaBeouf somehow still has an acting career, but then I knew I had to see it after I learned that the screenplay was written by the one-and-only Nick Cave (adapted off of a book, as it were).  As a result, well, I guess one could say that this film was adequate.

Though I often give LaBeouf a hard time, it’s really he’s not a bad actor, it’s just he doesn’t really present anything memorable.  Jack Bondurant is a character almost similar to Michael Corleone: he’s caught between following the family business (which he seemingly wants to) and surviving on his own.  I’m not sure if he’s supposed to be childish and arrogant, but that’s definitely the vibe I got from this character.  Needless to say, this performance was certainly nothing special.

This picture’s irrelevant, I just like looking at his beard.

Now as for the other brothers, Forrest (Tom Hardy) and Howard (Jason Clarke), Forrest is really the only brother worth paying attention to, if not the only character.  Forrest is a man shrouded with myths and legends of his own endurance.  It would seem that he lived up to these legends, being that he’s so stoic he only speaks in grunts and utterances.  Regardless, I wouldn’t mess with this guy.  As for Howard, he’s just the dumb brute of the family.

As for the remaining supporting cast, I also was hoping for great things from Jessica Chastain who played Maggie Beauford.  As the only prominent female character in the film, she proved to be tough and sexy and all that stuff, but if you look at this poster and then saw the movie expecting a kick-ass gun-slinging chick, you’d be sorely mistaken.

Though Gary Oldman was only in the film for maybe five minutes, I will commend the movie for referencing more larger-than-legend gangsters in this manner: though you only see him for a little bit, you know everything you need to know about them with just an expression.  Lastly, we get to Guy Pearce’s character, Dept. Charlie Rakes:

This guy.

Look at this fricken guy.  Have you ever seen anyone more sleazy and loatheable in your life?  And what did they do with Pearce’s eyebrows?  We aren’t given much on Rakes’ character, but he’s portrayed as every parody of a crooked cop you can find.  Part of me is almost fascinated with this person – I want to know his background and why he’s so dang prissy.

I want to see a movie on The Curse of Millhaven.

Lawless presents us with a gritty murder ballad of family and faux pas.  Though it shows us that blood is indeed thicker than well, let’s say moonshine, I feel that there’s a fine line between tribute and parody that is crossed way too often.  On the upside, the score/soundtrack is worth checking out – it definitely has a bluegrass-O Brother Where Art Thou? feel from it, but there’s still that extra element that makes it that much more enjoyable.  Was it Mr. Cave’s doing?  Most likely.

Final Grade: B-

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WYSHW: Sunshine

Ah Sunshine, a lovely little Danny Boyle film that I still find myself telling people about.  Alrighty,  here’s the skinny:

“Total light envelops you. It becomes you.”

Forty-five years from now our sun will begin to die, causing a solar winter to devastate the earth.  Our only hope of survival lies in a mission to reignite the sun with a bomb with a mass equivalent equal to Manhattan Island.  As the crew of the aptly-named Icarus II approach their destination, they catch a distress signal from the Icarus I, which was thought to be lost.  When Capa (Cillian Murphy), the crew’s physicist, votes to check the Icarus I for survivors, this motion sparks a surge of events that will forever change the lives of the crew.

Let’s see, we have 1,2,3, oh 8? Yeah, good luck with the whole surviving thing.

At first glance, this film almost comes off as being fairly generic – especially because the trailer almost looks like this was going to be some kind of alien flick.  Almost.  I think probably the most generic thing about this movie is that you know that there are going to be a lot of crew members dying off.  And really all things considered, that’s not that bad.  What I love about this movie is that there’s so much more than meets the eye.

Trivia: These reflective suits were specifically designed to make the actors feel claustrophobic in order to heighten the performance.

Sunshine is another one of those special sci-fis which not only has an interesting and enticing story, but also provides enough substance to all decent psychological and philosophical discussion about well, Life, the Universe and Everything.  Even the mentioned deaths were either beautiful or ironic – in some cases, both. Not to mention, the cinematography is gorgeous while still providing enough mystery for terror to kick in when it needs to.

Like many greats (okay, one in particular) Sunshine is another to attempt to grasp the concept of the infinite.  If I were to rank this movie somewhere in an imaginary list of philosophical-commentary-ridden sci-fis, it would be a place above Moon and a place below 2001: A Space Odyssey.  More action and substance you need to dig a little for.  Sunshine is sincerely another remarkable work from Danny Boyle, and it’s just another thing you have to see to believe.

Next time, more Cillian Murphy in the cosmos.

Living is Easy with Eyes Closed

Like yeah, man.

Let’s move up a decade, shall we?  Last time on Don’t Quit Your Day Job, we looked at a retrospective portrayal of the 1950s…sort of.  So I thought it would be appropriate to move on up to the 1960s with Julie Taymor’s musical mystery tour, Across the Universe.

For anyone under a rock who has yet to see this movie, Across the Universe is a loose web-of-life love story set during the 1960s, narrated by means of Beatles songs.  I shouldn’t say narrated, I need a stronger word of great influence – everything is Beatles – even all of the characters have names based on songs.  So if you’re one of those few terrible people who hate The Beatles and still manage to exist, this is not the movie for you.

A circus lead by Eddie Izzard of course.

Now looking at this movie from an objective standpoint, it’s not very special: guy looking for himself finds girl, they fall in love, they fight, they lose each other, they reunite.  Also the lax hippie learns about life’s cruelties and the lesbian joins the circus.  Oh, and there’s confused Janis Joplin (really, Jack instead of SoCo?) in the mix who has a fling with Jimi Hendrix.  I think I covered everything.  It’s a good thing that I ignore objectivity, because this movie would probably kinda suck.

As cheesy as it is, I love this movie.  Because it doesn’t suck.  Then again, I also love The Beatles.  Though some may think that Across the Universe butchered some classic songs, I beg to differ.  All Julie Taymor did was put familiar songs in a different context – and in my opinion, it worked.  These songs have been transformed to create a different meaning, which doesn’t mean that the original feels have gone anywhere.  Just look at “Let it Be”:

True, they kept a heavy song heavy and making it a gospel only made it 1,000 times more heavy.  Now if you just heard it, one would probably think, “Woah, what the hell?  What did they do to ‘Let it Be’?”  But when you add the context of the film (especially with the Detroit riots, oh man) we get a much more powerful, tear-jerking moment.  And this is really just the tip of the iceberg.  Now here’s my personal favorite, “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)”:

This is a great example of transforming the song.  Totally different context, same words – it’s just different and there’s nothing wrong with that.  Additionally, in that great way that only musicals can do, through the song the character Max expresses his internal conflict and journey.

I like this look on Bono.

It also doesn’t hurt that this movie is just so darn good-looking.  Say what you want about Julie Taymor (okay, except anything about Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, we don’t talk about that), but this lady knows what she’s doing visually (I know I’m gonna have to cover Titus sometime later on What You Should Have Watched).  Taymor made this film trippy, gritty and beautiful, providing an almost synesthetic experience.  Really, come for the music and stay for the substance.

There’s just so much going on in this movie, and the characters encompass nearly every element of the decade – it wasn’t all free love and rainbows, there was also wars and riots.  So though, like most period-based pieces, there were many romanticized aspects, the bad stuff wasn’t left out either – there was still some reality to this acid daydream.  Just tune in, turn off, drop out, drop in, switch off, switch on, and explode.

ParaNorman

This toothbrush. I want it.

ParaNorman is the story of Norman Babcock, an eleven-year old boy who was born with the ability to speak with the dead.  Naturally, everyone thinks he’s crazy – especially because he’s one of those hooligans who loves old zombie movies and has a mild obsession with the mentioned undead.  Unbeknownst to Norman, he isn’t the only one with this gift, and soon he will be put to the test in order to put an end to a 300 year-old curse on the town of Blithe Hollow.

This is honestly a movie you cannot afford to miss.  It’s just that good.  The story and characters are interesting and dynamic, and there were honestly bits that had me laughing out loud.  Not to mention, there were some moments that were also legitimately creepy.  And even though this film seems to beat you senseless with the importance of empathy, that didn’t manage to make it any less touching (which is a rarity nowadays).

It broke my heart when I learned Henry Selick didn’t have a hand in this. Then I just shrugged it off.

True, I did not see the movie in 3D, the visuals were still absolutely stunning.  Perhaps I’m biased because I simply adore the art of stop-motion, but this film’s aesthetic completely blew me away.

I need to stop myself before I gush on how pretty it was: go, see ParaNorman, have fun, I hope you like it as much as I did.  If you didn’t like it, we’ll just have to agree to disagree.

Final Grade: A

WYSHW: Moon

I was originally under the impression that a grand majority of people have seen this movie being that though it was a more independent release, it still received high regards from critics and the like.  Alas, like many assumptions I have been proven wrong, so I thought I’d share the love from this trippy little opus from newcomer director Duncan Jones.

His father would be proud.

Now for a movie like this, a simple synopsis from yours truly would not do you folks justice, so if you haven’t seen it, here’s the trailer.  Take it all in.

This man deserves more props.

I love this trailer.  It’s perfect.  It’s shrouded in enough mystery to get you interested – especially because the premise is just so bizarre.  What’s even better is that the film itself does not let you down.  You as the viewer are given enough time to connect with Sam and empathize with his predicament.  My only complaint is how nonchalant he is when he finds the other Sam.  Granted, Sam has had enough time to himself he probably learned to cope with more bizarre happenings to the point of being desensitized.  Or perhaps his desensitization is a result of his extreme isolation.  Either way, it’s an easy complaint to shrug off.

Moon is one of those movies you simply have to see to believe.  It’s masterfully shot, well-written and edited, and Sam Rockwell gives a breathtaking performance.  Just check out the scene where he plays ping-pong with himself – it’s pretty impressive.

Next time on What You Should Have Watched, we went to the moon so now it’s time to check out the sun.

How We Thought The Fifties Were

Rather than starting out with one movie at a time (which will be the format in the future), I decided I needed to start this Don’t Quit Your Day Job with something more bold – an example of a concept done wrong and done right.  Unfortunately, as usual, the shameful example comes out on top.  So here’s my bold statement ladies and gentlemen: I hate Grease.

Meh.

It is not the songs I hate – they’re kind of catchy, despite some of them being about potential date rape.  And to be honest I liked some of the side characters – though they were total jerks they were at least entertaining.   What irks me so intensely about this film is the “love story” between Danny and Sandy.  If we just look at their first rendezvous, it’s kind of sweet: a pair of strangers fall for each other just to be torn apart by the school year.  But then when they discover they go to the same school – uh oh!  What will my greaser friends think about me having legitimate feelings for a goody two-shoes?

NO, NOT MY STREET CRED!  ANYTHING BUT THAT!

Who needs a positive self-image when you have a hunky illiterate man?

And then Sandy, the new girl, she’s totally fallen for a jerk and then her only friends make fun of her for being so innocent.  So what does she do?  She doesn’t stand up for herself, she totally succumbs to peer pressure and starts dressing like a 1980s hooker and smoking to impress this guy.  It would be one thing if she already had some sort of negative feelings about her self image, but this is a result of ridicule.  After all, if he doesn’t publicly admit he likes you, make him admit it rather than moving on to find someone who happily appreciates you for you.

Also does it bother anyone else that none of these people look like high schoolers, and the majority of the plot revolves around a rumor about the wrong baby-daddy?  Jeebus it’s almost as bad as MTV!

Marry me.

I honestly don’t know why this became such a hit, but who better to ruin it than John Waters?  Twelve years after Grease, he made Cry-Baby-  a musical about teen idols and fanaticism set in the 1950s.  At first glimpse, it almost looks like a Grease knock-off: we see a greaser and his motley crew and then a preppy girl who catches a glance at Cry-Baby Walker, and knows at that moment that she was born to be bad.  Here’s what’s awesome already: Allison, the preppy girl, totally made this decision herself.  Granted, she had a pretty solid social standing, but she decided to go after what she wanted herself  without being forced by her peers.

Let’s see: Johnny Depp, a porn star, a talk show host, and a gal that goes by “Hatchet Face.” Awesome.

The rest of the movie is as outrageous as any other Waters flick, so no need to go into much plot-wise.  The songs are just fun, and even though Johnny Depp is lip-syncing it really doesn’t matter.  The movie just emphasizes how ridiculous  teen fan-culture is (perfect for Depp, being that he was through with 21 Jump Street at the time) – does it do more than that?  Not really.  You just need to sit back and enjoy the ride.

The Campaign

After an embarrassing scandal, North Carolina district congressman Cam Brady (Will Ferrell) has become less popular with the public, let alone big CEOs interested in the district.  In order to land a major “in-sourcing” deal, said CEOs turn to a new candidate to bring in the votes.  In a bout of desperation, they turn to Marty Huggins (Zach Galifianakis), the black sheep son of one of their oldest associates.

There’s a bad Metal Gear Solid reference in here somewhere…I know it.

The Campaign is basically what would happen if Man of the Year didn’t suck (or lie to us for that matter).  However, I have noticed a basic pattern with Will Ferrell characters, no matter what the movie – we get a hotshot who does something ridiculous, allowing him to leave the spotlight for some time, and then he returns a much better person (for the most part).  It’s a simplified and overused version of the basic initiation-seperation-return plot, as evident it movies such as Talladega Nights, Anchorman, and Blades of Glory to name a few (granted Anchorman was quite the exception – though a parody it used the formula none-the-less).

I’m not sure if it’s just that if Ferrell doesn’t have a character that uses this pattern he will got to some sort of static character limbo, but really I feel as if Cam needed a little more umph.  Maybe I’m not giving Ferrell enough credit – after all, he was in the whole political-thing for so long, that just became who he is, and we do get some glimpses of life before campaign-hood, which was probably my favorite part of his character.

It’s just like My Fair Lady.

Now Marty, on the other hand, I loved this character.  I don’t know if it’s because I have a thing for Zach Galifianakis and pugs or what, but I totally fell for the empathy this guy was presented with.  Marty is a man who learns that he is way out of his league, and with the help of his manager Tim Wattley (Dylan McDermott) he becomes a new man, for better or for worse.

On that note, though it was a blast watching a pair of comedy giants duke it out, what won this movie over for me was the side characters.  Other than McDermott, I also really dug John Lithgow and Dan Aykroyd as the fore-mentioned CEOs, as well as Brian Cox as Marty’s father, Raymond.  I honestly think this movie is worth checking out for these actors alone, which also includes a hilarious performance by Karen Maruyama.

They have my vote.

Overall, this movie’s worth checking out – sure the antics sometimes get a little old, but like I said, it’s worth checking out for the characters – including a cameo from Uggie of The Artist.  Or just stay for the pugs, Muffins and Poundcake, who I personally hope to see again.

Final Grade: B+

WYSHW: Martyrs

J’adore les français.

I’m not the biggest gore junkie in the world, but it’s not something I shy away from.  In fact, I love a good scary movie, gorey or other-wise.  The most important thing is the story.  Granted, that could be said with movies in general but I’m just talking about horror right now, especially because lately I feel as if mainstream horror has become a throwaway for teen flicks and torture porn – just cheap thrills and tits.  So here’s a small tiny taste of what’s going on elsewhere outside of the mainstream and dive into Martyrs.

Martyrs is a French torture flick that has made its mark on the New French Extremity movement, a film movement which focuses on human transgression often through violent means.  And I won’t lie, this is why I find Martyrs so incredible.  The story is about a young girl, Lucie, who escapes from a seemingly abandoned warehouse horribly abused.  Taken into an orphanage, she grows close to a girl named Anna to whom she confides in.  As it turns out, since her escape Lucie has been followed by a horrible being hell-bent on killing her unless she finds the people who took her in her youth.  When Anna is thrust into Lucie’s nightmare, she unravels a world of secrets, faith, and transcendence.

She chose martyrdom over taking part in the remake.

I need to find more New Extremity films, because I fell in love with Martyrs.  As dark as this film is, I found it inexplicably beautiful.  I was so relieved that there finally was a more prevalent reason for this agony, but the ending is so profound, let alone thought provoking, it’s impossible to ignore.  And with the ending the way it is, it’s something to discuss over and over – even I can’t even make a solid statement on what I think the final words meant.

Now, what truly disgusts me is that this film is yet another perfectly good foreign movie that is to be imported to  the US.  That’s not the bad part.  Other than the fact that the producers of Twilight are behind it, it seems that Daniel Stamm, the alleged director, completely missed the point of the film, having said the following:

Martyrs is very nihilistic.  The American approach [that I’m looking at] would go through all that darkness but then give a glimmer of hope. You don’t have to shoot yourself when it’s over.

Now, if he actually saw the movie, let alone understand the premise, I think he’d eat those words.  Because of course the director of The Last Exorcism knows it all when it comes to fantastic endings. /sarcasm

Next time on What You Should Have Watched, a low-budget sci-fi that you really should have seen by now – Sam Rockwell is amazing.  Now excuse me but my jimmies need to be un-rustled.

An Announcement

In the wake of some afterthought, discussion and deliberation, I have decided not to continue Superhero Sundays.  I simply do not have enough time or experience to devote to more articles on various superheroes and their films.  Instead, I’d rather do something that I’m more comfortable with.  Starting next week will be my new feature, Don’t Quit Your Day Job, in which I discuss and musicals – underrated, overrated or just okay, whether stage adaptations or otherwise.  See you then!

 

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Superhero Sundays: Batman

Welcome welcome to Superhero Sundays, where I discuss the good, the bad, and the awesome about various superhero franchises. This is something that I’ve been toying around with for a while, so let’s see how this goes shall we?  Feel free to comment and what-have-you – I’m not the biggest comic reader, so I’m just looking at the movies as well as possible series.  I know, I know, they’re not exactly film, but this is my blog so I do what I want.  I thought I’d start off with Batman because he has always been my favorite hero: he’s mysterious, intelligent and really just an average guy with awesome resources.  He’s a character caught in two worlds and torn by his past.  He also had the craziest and most interesting villains.  Okay, without further ado, let’s get down to some Batman.

Two incredible actors, one character, two completely different outcomes.

The Good: Batman, Batman Returns, and the Nolan adaptations

I love the two Burton films and the Nolan movies because they are so starkly different but at the same time, well done and well developed.  When Burton was addressed to direct Batman in 1989, production companies were apprehensive at first, because a) this would only be the young director’s third feature film, and b) he wanted Micheal Keaton, a comedian of all actors, to be Batman.  Well, to me it looks like there wasn’t much to worry about.  The construct of Gotham City and the Caped Crusader quickly departed from the campy 60’s technicolor dance party to a stylishly drab and dreary urban-goth drama, while still keeping familiar elements – i.e. Joker’s personality straight out of the comic books while his chaotic schemes remain terrifying.  And Keaton did a good job at being Bruce Wayne, maybe he was a more awkward Batman, but he remained a dynamic, conflicted character.  And I know some people would disagree with me about my stance on Batman, but it is what it is, and the 1980s were a time of much craziness and even more Prince.

Sex and politics are never a good mix. Except in this case.

Having earned his own liberties for the second movie, you can tell he had all the stops pulled out for Batman Returns (1992).  There were actually three villains in this one: Catwoman, Penguin, and Max Shreck – the middleman.   Though this many villains has proven messy before, I think this combo gave Batman a great run for his money.  This after all was the film that expose Bruce Wayne’s double-identity to a world of new issues, as well as his place in Gotham.

To be honest though, I think my favorite aspect about this movie is the villains, especially Catwoman.  As the audience we get enough time to see her side of the story and get into the mind of this severely damaged character.  She is a vigilante turned antihero and we empathize with her journey.  As a whole Batman Returns tells a strange and wonderful story of power, identity loss, love, revenge, and utter madness.

Now, Nolan’s movies on the other hand, I’m not going to go into as much detail about – which doesn’t make them any less important, it’s just I don’t have much to say that hasn’t already been said.  I’ll make it brief: Batman Begins is an apt beginning to a gritty reboot with enough psychological turmoil in combination with action to keep all audiences hooked; The Dark Knight shattered Bruce’s beliefs and brought a new terror to Gotham; The Dark Knight Rises, though it wasn’t my favorite, still served as a great ending to the legend – Bruce was challenged by his people and then rose to protect them.  Gritty, epic, real.  That’s it.

The Bad: Damn you, Joel Schumacher.

I hate you.

Batman Forever and Batman and Robin have happily remained the horrid stain on a great franchise.  At first Batman Forever seemed innocent enough, until you realize that you’re not in Vegas but Gotham City.  And I really, really, wanted to like Jim Carrey’s Riddler.  I truly did.  But just the combination of his mugging, with Tommy Lee Jones’ embarrassing contribution (which also threw me off because Harvey Dent was played by Billy Dee Williams in the original), it’s just a hot mess.  It was just a bizarre and messy turn from the previous two.

Then, of course, there was Batman and Robin.  There’s no way I can cover everything that’s wrong because not only would that take too long, but also because I don’t think I could top Nostalgia Critic on this.  I mean, if you really need a recap as to why this movie took Batman down a few pegs, look no further:

Sure these puns are so bad they’re awesome, but I’m not counting irony points.  But as for something truly awesome, here we go.

Excuse me while I nostagiagasm.

The Awesome: The Animated Series

What makes Batman: The Animated Series so awesome?  Well, how about everything for starters.  The animation is gorgeous, as is the score, and the stories are amazing.  The series only lasted 3 years, but it was enough time to encompass some incredible stuff.  I know it also spawned a feature film, which I still have yet to see but I hope to eventually.  It was a show fit for people of all ages and it still holds up today – thank you Hub and Toonami Aftermath.  If you grew up watching this you had a great childhood.  If you didn’t, you can still catch up.  Life’s pretty sweet that way.

 

So this was my shot at Superhero Sundays – I hope you were entertained.  Next  Sunday, everyone’s favorite Kryptonian.