Sunday, February 7, 2016

Mad Max: Fury Road

Much like Bridge of Spies, I never would have bothered to see Mad Max: Fury Road if it wasn't nominated for Best Picture. I haven't seen any of the Mad Max movies. When this newest installment came out during the summer, the previews didn't make me clamor to see it. Even the many positive reviews didn't make me want to see it.

And now I've seen it (thank you RedBox) and my life isn't any better for seeing it. I thought the movie was pointless and plotless. Dialogue was mumbled. I had no idea what was going on, but didn't care. The movie was just one incomprehensible car chase interspersed with moments of stopping to sort of talk about things so the characters could get moving to the next car chase scene. The "car chase" scenes aren't like Fast and Furious or the Bourne series car chase scenes, which either show off cool car stunts to cunning maneuvers through a city. These "car chase" scenes are really a band of weirdos chasing after a rig inhabited by the characters we're supposed to care about.

In a way Fury Road is similar to The Revenant in that both are very in love with their visuals - that sand storm was kinda cool - but the former is far less reverent about it. Both are "Hey, look what I can do!" concoctions of their directors (although George Miller is less showy about his in interviews and such).

Also, I am honestly baffled as to why Tom Hardy keeps getting these plum roles in huge movies. He is utterly unimpressive to me. This could be that the only movies I've really seen him in require him to wear a mask, but I just don't get the love for him.

This movie might be at the bottom of my Best Picture list this year...

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Inside Out

Saturday night I checked out the "dollar" theater again to finally see the Pixar summer-hit Inside Out. The film is incredibly clever and lots of fun. I love the concept of different personality traits as actual figures in our head trying to work together. Joy, voiced by Amy Poehler, is the one in charge, but she has to work with Anger, Disgust, Fear and, rather importantly, Sadness (who is perfectly voiced by Phyllis from The Office) to make Riley a functioning person.

This movie is a such a delight and really hits all the important aspects of being a person - joy, anger, disgust, fear and sadness, along with core memories, imagination land, dream world, personality islands. It also gives a little insight into the crazy life for pre-teens and teens - their emotions are just all over the place! It definitely a tough time (a few of my nieces and nephews are teenagers now, and dang was there a change when they hit 13!).

Definitely see this movie.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

That's Not My Job (It's My Hobby)

Sometimes I wish that my life was just watching movies and talking about them. This usually happens after I've had a weekend of seeing awesome movies, such as the recent MLK weekend when I saw Brooklyn and Room. Last week I had a conversation with a co-worker just about movies and the Oscars and the attached controversy to this year's telecast. This week is the Sundance Film Festival and I wish I was in SLC just watching movies all week long.

Then I realized that the last five of seven blog posts was about movies. So, yeah, a lot of my life is movies. It's just not my job. I'm pretty happy that I have a lot of free time outside my 8-5 job to see movies.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Bridge of Spies

I had absolutely no interest in seeing Bridge of Spies. Had it not been nominated for Best Picture it would never have been seen. But it was, and I lucked out that it's still playing in the dollar theater here in Denton. I went in hoping I would be pleasantly surprised and at least a little entertained.

I was not. This film could not capture my interest. Tom Hanks, to me, was phoning it in. Spielberg didn't do anything unique or interesting. Neither did his frequent collaborate, D.P. Janusz Kaminski. I understand the decision to shoot the film in monochromatic greys, but the over use of white light at the windows really bothered me. The film looked incredibly dull to me.

I didn't particularly care about any of the characters. I know I'm supposed to, but I didn't. I am supposed to care about the pilot, Gary Francis Powers, and the detained student, Frederic Pryor, but the film didn't spend a lot of time establishing them as characters to care about. I needed more than "They are Americans." I also wasn't particularly invested in Jim Donovan, the insurance lawyer chosen to first defend a Soviet spy and then negotiate a swap of prisoners. I know he has a wife and a family, but I never quite connected with him as a character.

The film is straightforward and lacking in subtlety. Donovan actually says, "Every life matters." I believe that too, and I appreciate what he did. but every thing was a bit too on-the-nose. The film was written by the Coen brothers, which surprised me when I was watching the credits. They are generally better at creating interesting characters and thoughtful dialogue.

Bottom line: I don't really recommend this movie. However, the people in the theater with me all seemed to really like it; they even laughed. . They were also all a lot older than me, so I think the demographic skews older.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Room

I did a double-header on Monday and saw Brooklyn (again) and another Oscar-nominated film, Room. This was my first time going to the Angelika Film Center in Plano and I was very impressed. I believe I will be making more trips there (although, I'm also quite impressed with the Cinemark in Denton to get a fair share of the so-called "indy" movies).

Room is the story of a woman and her son, she taken against her will and held captive in a 10'x10' shed for seven years and he the child born to her while living in captivity. They live in Room. Well, Jack is living but Ma is just surviving. She has created a world for Jack in Room; she's taught him to read and wonder about things. But it's clear that she is near the end of what she can handle.

She devises a daring escape plan, and I admit that my heart was POUNDING as it all played out. I was so concerned for Jack and if he'd make it out. Then I was concerned about Ma and what would happen to her. I was scared for them, and then overwhelmingly happy for them when they were reunited.

I went into the movie not knowing much about it, and I'm glad that only half of the movie was in Room. I was already starting to get bored of it and wondered how the film would spend the entire time there. Thankfully we get the second half of the movie, wherein Ma and Jack adapt to the world outside of Room. The real world.

And I'm glad the film goes this way (based on a book, so I guess I'm glad the book went this direction), because the conflict and sadness of the outside world is moving. Jack can't believe this whole other world exists, but he seems to be adapting well. Ma, known as Joy in the real world, is the one who really struggles. And why wouldn't she. She is the one who knew what was outside Room, what was happening to her inside Room, and was psychologically beat down.

The film is emotional and I cried quite a bit. I always like William H. Macy and his role as Joy's father is terribly sad. Joan Allen is wonderful as Joy's mom, Nancy, as is her boyfriend, Leo, and his dog. When Nancy is cutting Jack's hair and he says he loves her my little heart burst and tears of joy ran down my face. Love is love.

I especially like that the film is seen through Jack's perspective. His voice overs were my favorite part, as they so perfectly captured the world as seen through a five year-old's perspective. I think it's a shame he wasn't nominated for an Oscar - his performance is marvelous.

When this movie and its star, Brie Larson, started getting a lot of buzz, I confused her with Alison Brie. The names are similar, and even though everything said "Brie Larson" my mind still went to Alison Brie. So when I saw a picture of Brie Larson getting an award for this film, I had to do a double-take. My instant thought was, "That's not Alison Brie!" Then I realized I had the wrong actress.

Bottom line: this is an emotional story that I think is done quite well. I'm glad it doesn't spend too much in Room. The performances really make this film worth it.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

A Year in Denton

You guys, I've been in Denton a whole year. A year to the day. Where does the time go?

It's amazing how fast a place you had never heard of until you applied for a job there can become home. How fast you can love the place you live and all the people in it. Sometimes I feel like I got so incredibly lucky to end up here that I just can't believe it.

I have been lucky that each time I've moved to a different state a family member has helped me. My mom and sister helped me move to NYC. My sister helped me move back to SLC. My mom and niece, Ivy, helped me move to Topeka. And my dad and amazing bosom friend, Janae, helped me move to Denton. Each time my helpers boarded a plane and left me alone in my new city I cried or was sad.

Except in Denton. Perhaps it was because I'm an old pro at this now and moving and living away from family and friends is easier to deal with. Maybe I'm just meant to be in Denton.

Here's a few photos of Denton landmarks - the sign at the train station, the famous Campus Theater at sunset, the landmark Morrison's Corn Kits, the Courthouse on Flag Day, and the shoe shop off the Square.


Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Brooklyn

Last week on the day Oscar nominations were announced I crossed another Best Pic nominee off my list: Brooklyn. After seeing it I simultaneously wished I had already seen and that I could see it again (which I did on MLK Day).

That's how much I love this movie. I love literally everything about this movie. I love the sweet, beautiful, charming, real story it tells. I love the actors who so fully portray these characters that are living life.

This film so wonderfully captures what it's like to feel homesick. Like Eilis, I, too, left my family and moved to a city where I didn't know anyone. Granted, I didn't have to travel by boat and I definitely did not meet a charming Italian, but I felt those feelings. I love when Eilis is talking to Father Food and he tells her that "homesickness is like any other sickness - it makes you feel wretched and then it moves on to someone else."

I have been writing this review for a week now. I'm just going to make bullets points of everything I loved:
  • when Eilis is on the boat waving goodbye to her sister I got super emotional. My sister came to visit me one time when I lived in NYC. When she left and I was alone at the airport, I found the nearest bathroom and cried in a stall. Yeah, I feel that scene
  • the love story just plays out so naturally. There's no added drama.
  • I adore Jim Broadbent and Julie Walters in their small but wonderful roles. 
  • I love that Eilis and Tony both wear watches. 
  • I love that there was no villain. That's pretty rare for a movie. Usually there is some person in the story who makes life difficult for our heroine, someone who is mean and nasty. And I think that is rarely the case in real life. 
  • I kept expecting something bad to happen, like Tony being a creep or abusive or something. That's what I expect from movies now! But he wasn't. He was perfect. 
  • I love the scene when Eilis is talking with one of her roommates in the bathroom. It's funny (I for real laughed out loud when her roommate said, "No, I want to be single and share a bathroom forever." Ha! 
  • I love the scene when Eilis is helping to feed the old men on Christmas Day and that one gentleman sang. So beautiful. I loved how Saorise Ronan displayed all the emotions of missing home on her face. 
  • I love the scene of her leaving the church on Christmas Day, with the lightly falling snow and Eilis wearing a red coat. 
  • I love the image of Eilis in the mirror as she ate at the diner. It was beautifully framed. 
  • I love that Eilis took time to assess her feelings and be smart. I love that she knew what she wanted. 
  • I love the beautiful costumes.
  • I love her boss and that she was kind and helpful. It could have been an opportunity to create a villain but instead they went with making her a normal person. I feel like life is full of people willing to help, not villains.  
  • I love that Coney Island scene, when they show up wearing sunglasses and looking so cool. 
  • I love the ending scene and Eilis' voiceover about discovering where your life is. 
  • I love that there is so much love in this movie.
I'm just going to share some quotes from people who reviewed the movie, because for some reason I am utterly failing in writing my own:
"Brooklyn is a very nice movie. It’s an arthouse picture for people who don’t frequent arthouses—a tale of cultural displacement so sanitized and swooningly romantic that film buffs could recommend it to their parents and grandparents without hesitation. All of that may sound like a slam, but it’s not meant to be. It’s not easy to make a movie as beautiful as Brooklyn, where the stakes are low but the outcome really matters. This is an old-fashioned entertainment, but one so masterfully crafted and heartfelt that it’s hard not to love." From The A.V. Club

"People have spoken about how understated and old-fashioned “Brooklyn” is, to the extent that it might come across as a pleasant innocuous entertainment. Don’t be fooled. “Brooklyn” is not toothless. But it is big-hearted, romantic and beautiful. " From RogerEbert.com

And my favorite (although I dislike his line in the review that refers to Eilis being "shy and virginal"; I think both are an incorrect characterization of Eilis)
"There will be bigger, wilder, weightier movies this year, but none lovelier than Brooklyn. I relished every moonstruck minute of it." From Rolling Stone.
 

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