Sunday, March 2, 2014

Cinderella Mans Best and Worst of 2013

Before we sit down and take in the highest honors of the year for Hollywood and beyond, let's take another look at what sucked and what didn't. Now granted I didn't watch every film that came out and certainly not every film that got a nomination. Unfortunately in our age of On Demand and Netflix I feel the need not to subject myself to astronomical ticket prices, overpriced concessions, and most of all annoying idiots who feel the need to be a-holes and ruin it for others. So..................enjoy!
10. Spring Breakers
Now when I first saw this, I hated it. I'm done with Franco, he's so overhyped. And a couple of Disney girls gone bad? Ok. But I let it sit for awhile. Talked about it. Sat for a little more. And then I said, ok! Three white girls pull off a robbery and take their friend to spring break. A little too much partying lands them in jail and they get saved by a white rapping drug dealer. Their friend goes back home and the 3 white girls live his lifestyle and eventually get away with murder. Literally. This blew my mind. And Franco, well he did a good job, better than most of the crap he does. The soundtrack is one of my favorites, featuring Skrillex.
9. A Band Called Death
I know, it's a Documentary. It's not even nominated. And I was told by another reviewer that it was a very good Behind the Music episode. Such simple minds. Detroit had such a rich legacy, so finding out the birth of punk started and effectively was killed there till the "rebirth" in the late 70s wasn't suprising. After you hear Death and then listen to the Ramones, Sex Pistols, Bad Brains, and Living Colour, how could you not think that there wasn't some conspiracy going on? Another story of geniuses way ahead of their time.
8. The World's End
The end of the "trilogy" and hands down the best. Sorry, Shaun of the Dead was crap, Hot Fuzz helped cover the crap, and The World's End shoveled up the covered crap and made everything shiny and clean again. Hands down my favorite role of Simon Pegg's career. And who doesn't love a pint or 12!
7. The Wolf of Wall Street
I debated long and hard if I really wanted this film in my top 10. First, it was too long. Second, this seemed more like a Tarantino film and not a Scorsese gem. I expected better from Marty. But the performances were incredible. Jonah Hill now gets my respect and admiration. His performance was flawless. DiCaprio also brings that role alive. How could you not crap yourself laughing at the fight scene on Quaaludes? This is one of 3 films on here where the performances in the film saved it and elevated their rankings and appeal to me.
6. Inside Llewyn Davis
The Coens almost fucked this up. This would be the second film where the performances saved the movie. Before I saw this, I made the fatal mistake of predicting this to be my favorite film of the year. The only flaw, and a big one, was the story itself. Six days in the life a failed folk singer? Well, thank God the actors pulled together and made this a worthwhile film. Oscar Isaac could easily win a Best Actor award in my mind. The cinematography also hit its mark and made it visually beautiful. And once again T-Bone Burnett put together a soundtrack to die for.
5. Gravity
I honestly didn't think this movie could be held together for the most part by one actor, Sandra Bullock. But she did it and did it well. The visual beauty of the cold, dark aloneness that is space; I remember holding my breath for periods of time during it. I can see why it's almost a lock for Alfonso Cuaron to win Best Director. Visually stunning sir. Well done.
4. Pacific Rim
Jaeger, Kaiju, Idris Elba, oh my! I don't care what anyone else says. Besides one other film yet to come on this list, no other big budget action flick came close to this. Yes, that includes Thor: The Dark World. Could have been better, sure. But you know what, Guillermo Del Toro put together a Robot vs. Monster flick that gave me everything I wanted. Who else couldn't resist saying "batter up" when the Kaiju got clocked with an battleship "bat"? Great stuff. Can't wait 'til Pacific Rim 2!

3. American Hustle
Here is the third film on my list whose collective of actors saved this boring and uninteresting story. Silver Linings Playbook was my favorite film last year and American Hustle couldn't hold a candle to it. I have to say Amy Adams and Christian Bale hit it hard and hit it perfectly. Hands down my favorite role of Adams. Bradley Cooper did what was needed. Jeremy Renner......well he's Hawkeye. My only issue is Jennifer Lawrence. Now I love me some Jennifer Lawrence. Her science oven scene is hilarious, but I felt her time and role weren't enough for a Supporting Actress nominee. She was a delightful topping but not filling enough. Sorry Jen, but you'll forgive me in 15 seconds....................

 (co-)1. Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Told you Jen. Now I had a hard time this year deciding between 2 films. This was one of them. I had a hard time finding fault with this movie. When I left that theatre I knew I had seen one of the best films of the year. Jennifer Lawrence elevated her role from the first movie and found some confidence with the newly won golden lady. Josh Hutcherson dusted off the stink from the first movie and impressed me. And Thor's brother got some much-needed screen time. If I have to have a disappointment from the movie it's the much anticipated appearance in the sequels of Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

1. Her
Well Joaquin, if you pull that Andy Kaufman shit again there are no more second chances. Your performance was.........mesmerizing. Where did that come from? I didn't think you had it in you. An OS love story was due and this was a superb telling of it. I just want to say Scarlett Johansson can be in my head anytime and stay there. What a sex kitten. Just hearing her voice was even more erotic than I thought. I'm just being honest here, people. Don't hate. Interesting vision of the "future." Love the high-waisted pants.

There are some special mentions that didn't make the list:
Dallas Buyers Club
Ender's Game
The Great Gatsby
Now You See Me

Now to the Worst of 2013

These could have been so much more, but instead they decided to crap in a bag, light it on fire, stomp it out, and then crap in another bag and did it all over again!

Well, folks, that's all I've got for you this year. I'm not sure what to expect for 2014. I hope the mega blockbusters perform. Thor and Star Trek and the Hobbit gave lackluster performances. Here's to Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain America, the last installment of The Hobbit, and Mockingjay.


Thursday, March 29, 2012

Review time.......again.......

Yes, we are back, and hopefully with more frequency. This will also be a dual review. I will be coming from the point of view of having not read the book, and Kristen having read it. 

Overall the movie was satisfying. I didn't go into it with any expectations or hoping they didn't leave anything out, as I did with the Harry Potter movies. The only complaint that I had, and apparently the opposite reaction of others, was that it was too long. I could see and hear the young tweens and teens getting restless. The buildup in the beginning before the "Games" started could have been pared down, but in the same breath the "Games" could have been longer.

There were some surprising cameos, namely Lenny Kravitz and Woody Harrelson. Woody has yet to fail for me since he left Cheers all those years ago. Kravitz played a good role as Cinna, but apparently his character is a bit more involved in the book.

Peeta played by Josh Hutcherson seemed to be playing two roles, and I'm still unsure if that was intentional. It's obvious that he was being coached behind the scenes, but his genuine love for Katniss still confuses me.

Jennifer Lawrence (Katniss) was for the most part, amazing, continuing her strong, independent role. She moved splendidly from her role in Winter's Bone to Hunger Games, and completely made me forget her role in X-Men: First Class. I do hope that her unfortunate impending Hollywood-manufactured love triangle will be handled with care and not be made into another Bella/Edward/Jacob horrocity!

I think I will be picking up the book, in order to read what was left out and to get a better handle on certain things. The movie satisfied and I would also like to say I enjoyed the level of death/blood/gore that was displayed. This story in its essence is based around a society of violence and voyeurism. It could have been bloodier and probably should have been, but it was done without being childish.


Happy Hunger Games! Like so many I could not wait to see the first (and best) of Suzanne Collins’s YA trilogy come to life. I have more good than bad to say about it, and overall, I credit it with being one of the better adaptations of a novel I’ve seen. I’m glad William saw it before reading the book, because now I know from him that the movie succeeds in its own right. (And now I can say for sure that the guy who wrote this is a moronI asked William each of these questions, and he answered every single one perfectly, just from seeing the movie.)


-The acting! Jennifer Lawrence! (Whatever, William, I liked her in X-Men.) I was thrilled when she was cast, and she did not disappoint. The role of Katniss Everdeen was made for herin a way, this is just a dystopian Winter’s Bone. If I have any criticism, it’s that she’s a little too perfect. I would have preferred Katniss a little more raw, a little more flawedeven physically dirtier pre-Capitol makeoverbut Lawrence gets it right where it matters. The other standout performance comes from Woody Harrelson, who actually adds depth and improves on his character as written in the books.

-So faithful to the book! Say what you will about what was omitted, what was glossed over, and what was hurried along. I’m honestly impressed that the filmmakers adhered so closely to the source material and included all the necessary information without dividing this into two movies, as much as some of us would have loved that (let’s face it, no mater how much money these make, they’re not making six of them). Director Gary Ross showed a lot of respect for fans of the book by not taking too many liberties or cutting out anything that would truly matter to them. Even better, he gave his (mostly young) audience enough credit to reveal important details in subtle waysthrough hints, looks exchanged between characters, and quick, grainy flashbacks that never take you out of the action for too long, but give you all the information you need (if you’re paying attention). We don’t need an entire continuous sequence recapping Katniss’s early life, the loss of her father, the mental decline of her mother, and her own struggle to hold her family together. That would be to dwell, and Katniss does not dwell. The past comes back to her in flashes, so that’s how it comes to us, and it’s just enough.

-The visuals! The Capitol looks fantastic, and the arena overwhelms in its scope. I thought it was a nice touch to show the gamemakers manipulating the arena behind the scenes. It’s a very cool contrast between the primitive fight for survival happening in the woods and the high-tech, soulless world behind it all.

-Every scene involving Katniss and Rue! I've heard complaints about the lack of emotion in the movie, but how could your heart not break for poor little Rue?


-The pacing. The flip side of cutting virtually nothing is that the scenes march by a bit too rapidly, which gets the story told, but the viewer never quite has time to feel the desperation and hopelessness the book evoked. Too much is time is spent building up to the Games, and not enough on the Games themselves. Since the main characters avoid the violence as much as possible, the adversity they face is more about endurance than the physical fight. This can only ring true if we see it happen over an extended period of time.

This is also problematic because it misrepresents Katniss as someone who trusts others quickly and without much difficulty. We don’t get to see how hard-won her loyalty to Peeta is, how wary she is of forming an alliance with Rue. Cinna says one kind word to her and immediately it’s as if they’ve known each other forever. At the heart of her character is someone who's almost more wild animal than girl, and her only true loyalty is to her pack. She’s not in the Games to make friends; she’s there to survive for her family, and to let someone else in means to leave them in danger. In the movie, however, she seems to have very little difficulty giving her heart to others.

-Peeta. Snore. Wooden and ΓΌber smarmy. He's the only character I feel was miscast in an otherwise outstanding ensemble. Doesn’t he know he’s supposed to be likable? After this, I’m fully Team Gale.

-Buttercup the cat is supposed to be orange....really, would that be such a hard detail to get right?

-Wasted opportunities. Some scenes in the book were hard to visualize, and fans were eager to see what the magic of modern-day special effects could do with them. It seems like all things have been made possible by today's CGI. One of these key moments was the flaming costumes, and another was the mutant dogs. Sadly, both were letdowns. The fire was “meh,” and the dogs were just big ol' dogs, missing the crucial aspect that gave the book such a dark and disturbing climax.

On a side note, for anyone looking for an emotional element that was lacking in the film, I suggest heading to iTunes and downloading The Hunger Games: Songs from District 12 and Beyond. This beautiful, contemplative collection captures the brutality of daily life in the poorest district in Panem. "Daughter's Lament" especially, a folk song written about Katniss's family tragedy, turns her life into legend. Sample lyric: "spoke up, spoke a mockingjay/up from a willow tree/saying you had a father in the mines/who's gone this day from thee, thee,/who's gone this day from thee."

Katniss is truly getting her due.