Monday, July 11, 2011

2011 films to look forward to

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2... FINALLY!
Captain America: The First Avenger
Cowboys & Aliens
Crazy, Stupid, Love
Attack the Block

Rise of the Planet of the Apes
30 Minutes or Less
One Day
Our Idiot Brother


The Ides of March
The Skin I Live In
Red State
The Rum Diary

A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas (eh, why not)
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
The Muppets

The Sitter
J. Edgar
Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
The Descendants
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
We Bought a Zoo
War Horse

There's also Jason Reitman's Young Adult, Sarah Polley's Take This Waltz, Whit Stillman's Damsels in Distress, Todd Solondz's Dark Horse, and once again, still haven't seen Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life.

So there are plenty of films to look forward to this year, there may not be too many no-brainers, but the outlook is promising.

Allow me to quickly amend my previous top 5 of 2011

1. Bridesmaids
2. X-Men: First Class
3. Super 8
4. Win Win
5. Source Code

Don't worry, bitches, I have a few more things to cover before I'm done updating for the day.

Two Short Reviews: X-Men: First Class and Bad Teacher

X-Men: First Class

What a movie this is! This is the kind of film you get when you have a real director behind a decent script and a great ensemble cast. A film that gets all the action beats right, lets the actors shine, and ultimately gives a very satisfying, electrifying conclusion. Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy are great as Erik aka Magneto and Charles Xavier, respectively. Fassbender especially captures the inner turmoil of his character and you actually feel compelled to side with him by the end even though he becomes the eventual villain. It's too bad this film came out six years after Star Wars Revenge of the Sith... X-Men First Class shows you just how to turn a bad guy into a good guy without any embarrassment. Kevin Bacon, Jennifer Lawrence, and Rose Byrne are also great in this film. Bacon is his usual slimy self whereas Lawrence and Rose Byrne both are able to hold their own with the rest of the strong cast. Overall, the film's plot is one of the most interesting and compelling ones that I can remember in a superhero film. This isn't just typical good vs. bad here, there's real conflict. The film is not without its faults, of course. A good number of the side characters are fun to watch just to see what types of powers they have, but ultimately, only about half of them are truly compelling. Plus, January Jones is quite disappointing in her betrayal of the White Queen. While she's pretty to look at, her character feels weak and underwritten. Still, the director Matthew Vaughn does a fantastic job here and the '60s setting really adds to the atmosphere of the film. This is the best of the summer superhero blockbuster crop, by far. Rating: 8.5/10

Bad Teacher

Though there seems to be a mixed reaction towards this film, at least with the critics, I actually found Bad Teacher to be a pretty funny film. It's fun to watch Cameron Diaz play a character with such low morals while Justin Timberlake, John Michael Higgins, and Jason Segel work very well with her. Segel has some of the film's funniest lines and he's unfortunately way underused in this film. However the film has enough jokes and is enough of a good time even when he's not on the screen. I really thought they could've gotten a better supporting actress than Phyllis Smith (of "The Office") who is just completely flat in this film and her character goes too far into the pathetic category to really enjoy. Also, Lucy Punch does an admirable job as the villain of the film, but the writers made her out to be way too cartoonish and one-dimensional. There was also a missed opportunity with the kids. Cameron Diaz is supposed to be a Bad Teacher and yet there's simply not enough interaction between her and the kids. Regardless of this, the good still manages to outweigh the bad and the writers create enough enjoyable moments in its 90 minute frame to keep you satisfied throughout. Overall, it's a pretty enjoyable flick. Rating: 7/10

Part 3: the mid-way point

Since it's the middle of July, I thought it'd be cool to give you my thoughts on my favorite films of the year so far.

Top 5 films of 2011 so far:
1. Bridesmaids - It's with great pleasure and no shame that I place Bridesmaids at the top of my list for the year so far. I think it's an excellent comedy with a lot of heart with a number of funny characters that are worth caring about. Tremendous film, the only film so far that is a lock to be in my top 10 films of 2011.

2. Super 8 - I may have jumped the gun on giving Super 8 an 8.5 and I even state as much in my review. But Super 8 is thoroughly entertaining and always fun to watch.

3. Win Win - Perfectly sound comedy-drama featuring great performances from Amy Ryan and Paul Giamatti. A movie that may be perhaps a bit too nice and heartwarming but it's still a very good film.

4. Source Code - An excellent Hitchcockian suspense film from young, up-and-coming director Duncan Jones.

5. Cedar Rapids - This is a very funny film featuring a great cast that includes Ed Helms and John C. Reilly. It unfortunately went under the radar earlier this year which is a shame because I think it could've been a hit if they actually gave it a wide release. Strange marketing strategy there.

Honorable Mention: Midnight in Paris - notable in that it's a really good, solid Woody Allen film

I still haven't been able to see Tree of Life which is sort of looming over my top 5 list. Also missing is X-Men First Class of which I will see very soon.

As far as the rest of the year? We'll see.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Horrible Bosses: a formulaic, yet solid comedy

Horrible Bosses features a great ensemble cast: Jason Bateman (he plays Nick), Charlie Day (Dale), and Jason Sudeikis (Kurt) who are friends and are the hardworking, oft-harassed employees of their horrible bosses: Kevin Spacey (Dave Harken), Jennifer Aniston (Dr. Julia Harris), and Colin Farrell (Bobby Pellitt). After becoming increasingly annoyed and tortured by their bosses, they decide the only solution to their problem is to have their bosses killed. With the help of a murder consultant, Motherfucker Jones (played by Jamie Foxx), they begin to (poorly) devise plans to kill each other's bosses.

The movie premise may not be particularly original as they actually reference the two main films that the plot closely resembles (Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train and Danny Devito's Throw Momma From the Train), but the movie actually works as a fun comedy that manages to throw you enough curveballs to keep you from figuring out exactly the fates of each character. What also helps is the darkly comedic, yet relatable tone that is established throughout. This is the most structured, formulaic comedy that you will see and it is a good example of how to do a formulaic comedy right. You have the setup, then comes the premise, and then the action/pratfalls. And you know what? It works just right in this film.

Now you can argue that certain characters are underused or that Jennifer Aniston "isn't sexy or devious enough," but she is batshit crazy enough for you to feel for Charlie Day's character even though this character could only ever exist in a comedy such as this (although maybe I underestimate women these days). Horrible Bosses, though, basically gets everything right and that's really all you could ask for in a summer comedy. It's the rare R-rated comedy in that it has plenty of tasteless and crude jokes and yet the jokes never get in the way of the plot and the movie carries along in a tight, brisk pace.

As far as the acting is concerned, it is refreshing to see Jennifer Aniston in a real movie. You know, a movie that isn't her usual rom-com bullshit. Colin Farrell is just hilarious as the balding cokehead overprivileged boss. Kevin Spacey is in the role that he was always born to play (and has played before): a slimy douchebag of a boss. Meanwhile Bateman, Day, and Sudeikis work quite well together and the chemistry among them remains fresh throughout. Then there's Jamie Foxx. It would've been nice to see him have a bit more fun in the movie because his character is actually pretty awesome.

There are a couple of instances in the movie where you felt they could've done more with this or more with that, but I must say that I personally did not find much to dislike about the movie. Everything is pretty sound and it's a fairly successful comedy. It never goes too far beyond its premise and there's nothing about the film that particularly stands out for me, it's just a solid comedy with a fun cast. What is most refreshing about the film is that the main three characters aren't just bumbling idiots that exist for the sole purpose to say stupid things. These are real characters with relatable problems and you want to see them succeed... in a perverse way.

rating: 7.5/10

A trilogy of blog postings for tonight, part 1

Foolishly staying up late on a work night because it's hot, I'm thirsty, and I feel like writing.

This week is my last week in the State College, PA area. Writing this blog for a year and a half now, living in State College the whole time, I've reviewed over 50 movies. By this time next week, I will be living in Brooklyn, NY. I don't know if the move will change my perspective on things or if it will change anything at all, but as someone who loves film, loves to write about film, loves to make films... I anticipate exciting times for me. I hope to get a good paying job while actually making this a much more active blog. As my taste for summer blockbuster tentpoles continue to wane, my selection of movies to review may become even more selective as I'll be able to see anything I want.

Let me explain in regards to that, however. I find the divide between critics and audiences to be quite fascinating which is partly why I made this in the first place. You see, I consider myself an avid moviegoer. I like all types of movies and I tend not to favor one particular genre over another. But, I must say, once I started to evaluate films and started taking a more analytical approach, I find myself wanting more. It takes a lot within yourself to shrug your shoulders on a film and just accept its crappiness. People say the way to enjoy a movie like Transformers 3 is to not expect a great movie and just enjoy the stupidity and special effects. But after films like Thor, Pirates of the Caribbean 4, The Hangover Part II... how many times throughout the summer can we go on like this? We dedicate a whole season, from May to August, to films that aren't challenging in anyway and are just special effects machines. Personally, there's only so many times I can subject myself to that and so I sort of have to pick and choose which films are going to be enjoyable without having to constantly check my brain at the door.

Is that right though? Shouldn't I give Transformers 3 a chance? Fact of the matter is that people on give it a 6.8 which is a full point higher than the second TF. 90% of audiences on rottentomatoes approve of the film whereas only 36% of critics liked it. Most of the other 74% pretty much hated it. Truth be told, I haven't seen one Transformers movie and I honestly don't plan on seeing them anytime soon. But such an audience divide kind of makes me wonder exactly where I fall. I don't consider myself a critic, I feel that I'm still just an audience member who likes to write about the films he sees. Although, of course, when you give a score/rating to a film, that kind of pigeonholes you into the critic category. One thing I don't want to do, and what I wouldn't do, is derail audience members who do see the film. Even if I saw it, wrote about it, and would up hating it, I would never want anyone to think that I was just going along with the critic crowd or that I didn't allow myself to enjoy it for what it is. I actually consider myself very generous with my reviews because I often try to look at both sides of the picture which is why I've never given a film below a 4/10. Not only because I don't deliberately go out to see bad films, but also because I'm not out to talk shit about films. What brings me more joy is seeing a film that I really enjoyed and being able to express the enjoyment with the public.

So, what I'm trying to say here is... don't be surprised if I seem to be avoiding films like Transformers and at the same time, it would never mean that I'm better or above films such as those. Honestly, what this place is about is films from the perspective of one person, a nobody, me. I do this site out of sheer enthusiasm not to get a rise out of people. I may have biases and I would never pretend to be unbiased because that wouldn't be honest to you. What I really wanted out of this site was to refine the quality of my writing. In fact, I probably will get rid of this site if I ever wind up seriously becoming a filmmaker. Ok, I may not get rid of this completely, I'll just delete all my negative reviews. Sure, I want to be honest... while I'm poor! I'm totally ready and willing to be the dishonest, jerky Hollywood type!