Monday, January 28, 2013

John Dies at the End (2013)


I'm not really sure how to describe this movie. It's kind of a weird combination of different genres but I saw it as a mix of Supernatural, Ghostbusters, Shaun of the Dead, the weird parts of Across the Universe, and a generic horror B-movie. It's a comedic-horror film but it's mostly comedic. Don't let the spoiler of a title deter you, it was definitely great to watch despite having a confusing plot and not making much sense at times. John Dies at the End is a cool little indie film with a couple big names but mostly new up and coming actors.

IMDb tends to usually do a pretty good job at summarizing things into a line or two so I'll let them do the work:

A new street drug that sends its users across time and dimensions has one drawback: some people return as no longer human. Can two college dropouts save humankind from this silent, otherworldly invasion?

The two college dropouts are David (Chase Williamson) and John (Rob Mayes) and despite being the titular it is not John, but David who is our main protagonist. The events of the movie are being recounted by David to a journalist Arnie Blondestone played by the brilliant Paul Giamatti. Sprinkled throughout their crazy journey are weirdos Roger North (Doug Jones) and Dr. Marconi (Clancy Brown). The fate of the dimension rests on their shoulders to defeat the creature Korrok (voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson).

John Dies at the End is not for everyone. Saying it's a weird movie is an understatement but I think it has a cool supernatural quality with an interesting time-travel like twist. From the description above if it sounds unappealing then don't bother watching it. However, if you're anything like me and love weird movies then  go check it out and enjoy this strange potpourri of film elements.  

Notes: 
- Poster image obtained from www.impawards.com
- You may remember Doug Jones from Guillermo del Toro films Hellboy and Hellboy II: The Golden Army as Abe Sapien, as well as in Pan's Labyrinth as the creepy eye monster. 
- Most people won't recognize Clancy Brown but he is the voice of Mr. Krabs from Spongebob Squarepants amongst various other voice roles.
Kevin Michael Richardson is an amazing voice actor and the only time I've seen him act live-action was in a season 4 episode of How I Met Your Mother.
- For some reason I was thinking that Rob Mayes looks like a cross between Liam Hemsworth and the late Heath Ledger
- Also Jimmy Wong, an avid YouTuber and aspiriing actor, plays the role of Fred Chu. He is the younger brother of YouTuber Freddie Wong.
- You can purchase John Dies at the End through their website and also through iTunes, Amazon, and the like.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Safety Not Guaranteed (2012)


I've been watching a lot of Parks and Recreation and The League lately and I stumbled upon this weird little movie that stars Aubrey Plaza and Mark Duplass. If you don't understand why that sentence makes any sense, don't worry about it. It just means you aren't cool like me.

Darius (Aubrey Plaza) is a college grad who is disappointed in what her life has been after school and she currently interns at a Seattle magazine. Jeff (Jake Johnson), a writer for the magazine, finds an interesting ad and wants to write a story about the person who posted it.

Wanted: Somebody to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. P.O. Box 91 Ocean View, WA 99393. You'll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. Safety not guaranteed. I have only done this once before.

Darius is tasked to get close to Kenneth (Mark Duplass), the man who posted the ad, and as much as he seems somewhat normal, he's created a story that seems too far fetched to be true. But is it true? 

A comedy-drama that is an endearing, quirky film that surprised me a little bit. I don't really feel like filling this space with useless crap like I usually do so I'll leave you with a few short tidbits. Safety Not Guaranteed I think is more of a statement regarding life and how you have to take chances and don't wait on life to hand things to you. In that sense, life can be scary and you're not always going to be safe, you're going to get hurt but it's an adventure. The movie is kind of awkward at times and Mark Duplass isn't your typical leading man but it's definitely worth a watch. 

Notes: 
- Poster image obtained from www.impawards.com

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Silver Linings Playbook (2012)


I'm a real sucker for romantic comedies, but when it involves very damaged characters, it's definitely a winning combination in my book. Unlike some comedies, Silver Linings Playbook tends to be funnier from the natural traits of the characters involved and what may naturally come from situations. It is based on the 2008 novel of the same name written by Matthew Quick

Pat (Bradley Cooper) suffers from bipolar disorder and is trying to get his life together and get back with his wife Nikki, after having stayed eight months in a mental health facility. He is finding it hard to stave off violent episodes but has a positive outlook on his rehabilitation and tries to find the "silver lining" in things. Pat meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) at a dinner party who has recently lost her husband Tommy and they find each other as unexpected and rather damaged friends. There's more to it but I really think you should watch it and I don't want to spoil it for you.

When I saw the trailer for this movie I was very skeptical about the Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper pairing, mainly due to the age gap. I'm always glad to be proved wrong. Despite Cooper being 15 years her senior it really didn't seem like that big of a gap. Lawrence played a lot older than she is and the age discrepancy wasn't anything that was that apparent. Of course that is just my opinion. The two leads have great chemistry and it really showed on screen. Robert De Niro delivers his usual great performance as Pat's father, Pat Sr. De Niro is looking like an old man these days, which is fine because he is in fact old. I just keep picturing him in his earlier tough guy roles. Jacki Weaver does an amazing job as Dolores, Pat Jr's mother and Pat Sr's wife. Why do people name their kids after themselves, it makes it so freaking confusing? I haven't seen Weaver in many roles but recently she's been in The Five Year Engagement (2012), a rather underrated movie (well it's underrated for what it is). Chris Tucker finally has a role that doesn't annoy me. 

The "Playbook" part of the title is in reference to the role football has in the plot. The "Silver Linings" I've already told you about. Now it's not a movie that is going to shock you with any plot twists that you won't see coming from a mile away but it's real. It's real because of the people involved. Romantic comedies always have more or less normal people as the protagonists that fall in love but people aren't normal. Albeit Lawrence and Cooper are ridiculously attractive and are not a great representation of a typical couple, but would you watch it if it were just some random people?....Yeah, I thought so. Each character has their own huge flaw and in many ways very similar to Pat and Tiffany. This drives home a fact I very much enjoy, the fact that people with mental illness are just people. There is still a stigma surrounding mental illness and this movie does a little bit to help with it.

This movie is more of a romantic dramedy (as much as I hate fusion words) rather than a true rom-com but it will make you laugh, it might make you cry, and hopefully it teaches you something. Probably my favourite romantic film of the year, just saying.

Notes: 
- Poster image obtained from www.impawards.com
- This is the second time Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro have worked together. The first time being in Limitless (2011).
- Director David O. Russell has done some great work in the past like I Heart Huckabees (2004) and The Fighter (2010).


Sunday, January 13, 2013

Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

We will never know the exact details of the operation to kill Osama Bin Laden but Zero Dark Thirty gives us and over dramatized version of what could have happened. The plot is so simple that I've summed it up in the first line. However, most of the film revolves around the gathering of intel and not much about the preparing of the mission at all. In that respect I was a little disappointed. I think showing the Navy Seals running drills and preparing for arguably the most important raid in US counter-terrorism, would have been cool. Instead all they show them doing is barbecuing and playing horseshoes.

There are a lot of great reviews about this film but I wasn't blown away by it. The acting was superb I'm not debating that, Jessica Chastain definitely deserved the Oscar nomination for her performance, but it just didn't resonate with me. Perhaps it's because the film and the events aren't quite as symbolic as if I were American but it just didn't do it for me. It was a wonderfully made film and Kathryn Bigelow did another great job but I definitely thought The Hurt Locker (2008) was a much better film. 

I also found that it made the CIA and SEAL Team Six (DEVGRU) appear sort of incapable and at times cruel and unprofessional. They didn't portray them in the most flattering of lights and I'm not sure if it was meant to be that way but I'd like to think that the CIA has a little more control than it does in the film. Also the main character Maya was said to have been recruited right out of high school and from my estimates worked for the CIA for three years and the age of 21 was tasked to work in the small group to take down Osama Bin Laden. It just doesn't seem believable to me. I'm not sure if I'd trust a 21 year old high school graduate to basically run an operation costing billions of dollars of taxpayer money. The movie ran on hunches and guesses about certain intelligence and I highly doubt that would ever be the case with something of that magnitude. 

There are a lot of amazing actors that didn't really have big enough roles to really do much with. Chris Pratt and Joel Edgerton played two of the Navy Seals but didn't really have anything of note to say. Mark Strong appeared about halfway through the film and he definitely looks weird actually having hair. There are more small bit parts but you can just watch it and see for yourself.

There has been a lot of controversy surrounding this film, the torture scenes in particular. They are pretty brutal and a lot of people say they are justifying torture if it gets them Osama Bin Laden. There is are a lot of political implications and all that jazz, you can read about it on your own time. It's very important stuff to talk about, but I don't really care for it.

With all this ranting I still enjoyed the film but at a little over two and a half hours it seemed a lot longer than it was. There was some slow progression and if you're anticipating seeing an high octane action movie about the raid that's not what this is. It has the same feel as The Hurt Locker but it didn't quite do the same thing for me. The bottom line is that it's not fantastic but I'd still go to see it. Although a screener version has already been leaked so I wouldn't recommend actually paying for it.

Notes:
- Poster image obtained from www.impawards.com
- Proof reading is for chumps and I'm sure you can tell that I never do it for these posts.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)


A lot of you have probably already seen it and that's cool but for those who haven't you're really missing out. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is based on a novel of the same name written by Stephen Chbosky. Chbosky also wrote the screenplay as well as directed the film. I'm not sure how faithful it is to the book but if I were to take a guess, I'd say it was pretty close.

Now this is a real teen movie. My knowledge is still quite limited and stunted when it comes to certain movies and movie eras but the teen movie, in my experience has had some major ups and downs. I think the genre really started to bloom around the Brat Pack/John Hughes 80s era. The movies in this era tended to hit hard on the issues that plagued teens that never had much attention in film before and it really stuck with a lot of people. I grew up a little after this era but enjoy these movies nonetheless. Why? Because they are timeless and are still relevant to a lot of insecurities, family issues, and fears that teens face on a day to day basis. For example, The Breakfast Club (1985) could have been written in today's world and barely any of it would be different. The 90s saw a shift towards the more stupid and comedic which was fine because they still resonated with a lot of teens but in a more lighthearted way. Some of my favourites are Can't Hardly Wait (1998) and 10 Things I Hate About You (1999). In my opinion the 2000s were a major let down and the genre slid a little too far down the stupid ladder, hitting every rung on the way down, so I had lost some faith in Hollywood. Suffice it to say it's been a while since I was genuinely excited while watching a teen movie and that's where The Perks of Being a Wallflower comes in. 

It has a Breakfast Club type feel, covering a lot of bases when it comes to teen problems and again it is rather timeless. I mean it's set in the early 90s so many of the themes are similar to the great teen films of yore, but the setting doesn't exactly matter because it isn't the focus of the film. It does mainly look at an outsider's perspective on the high school experience but I truly believe that almost any teen, in fact any adult, can relate to some part of this film in some way. It talks about being insecure and afraid, not having friends, messing things up, all the great moments that shape a person throughout their adolescent years.

I think the cast is great and works really well together. I personally enjoyed Ezra Miller's role of Patrick, he did a really great job and you should check it out if not for the film itself then just for his performance. Emma Watson got the American accent down pretty well but it will never be quite right because in the back of my mind she's Hermione Granger. In interviews she's said that this is exactly the thing she wants to avoid. Hopefully in time I, as well as everyone else, can suspend the image of that brilliant little witch from Hogwarts for a couple hours to fully enjoy some of her films. For some reason I was not a fan of Logan Lerman before this film, probably because that Percy Jackson film just looked terrible to me. In any case he did a good job, he's still young and from the looks of things he's got a bright future as long as he doesn't pull a Lindsay Lohan. The rest of the cast ties things together but I've already talked enough as it is so I'll just leave it at that.

I think this movie is beneficial for anyone to watch. Even if by some minute chance there is nothing in this movie you can relate to, you can have a better understanding of what other people you know might have gone through, or maybe are still are going through. Hopefully you enjoy it as much as I did.

Notes: 
- Poster image obtained from www.impawards.com
- Kind of a weird fact but the three main actors in the film were all born in the 90s. Watson, Lerman, and Miller in '90, '92, and '93, respectively. Perhaps a new "Brat Pack" will form one of these days and the teen dramedy will return with a vengeance. Well I can only hope.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Taken 2 (2012)


So I finally mustered the courage to watch what was bound to be a terrible sequel to a decent film. Sadly my expectations were met with this mess of a Hollywood action film. 

With that being said I was still entertained with Taken 2, there are very few films that I don't actually enjoy. It's just that the plot was old news and the events along the way made even less sense than the original. One scene that really irked me was when Bryan (Liam Neeson) was about to be taken along with his ex-wife Lenny (Famke Janssen). The bad guys just let him take out his cell phone and complete a call to his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace). He told her how to escape and hide and they didn't do a damn thing about it despite wanting to kidnap her too. It is mind-boggling what the screenwriter or director, or whoever had the executive power over that scene, was thinking. Taken (2008) wasn't perfect by any means but it was at least more original and there was some semblance of logic to actions in the movie. 

Rade Serbedzija is back to fill in the generic Eastern European role that he does so well. That being said he never sounds any different in any of his films. I can't really distinguish between Eastern European languages that much but he's played a lot of different ethnicities that just happen to have the same accent. Liam is good as always despite poor writing and a subpar movie.

I did enjoy the inclusion of the song Too Close by Alex Clare over the final credits but the ending itself was a bit random, as if nothing had happened at all. When the whole movie has a badass like Liam Neeson killing countless henchmen, blowing stuff up, and getting into epic car chases and the ending involves a laugh with his family and her daughter's new boyfriend over some milkshakes? Well that's just pathetic. The boyfriend had no bearing on the movie at all, except that it filled up the first 10 minutes and made the ending fit for a rom-com.

I almost forgot that I didn't tell you about the plot, you can read about it here. Oh I linked you to the wrong movie? Actually if you think about I really didn't.

I don't feel like talking about this movie anymore, it's making me depressed. If you have some time to kill and want to see some mindless action, you can give it a watch but there are much better movies for just that purpose. In any other case, save your money, save your time, save your bandwidth, it's just not worth it.

Notes:
- Poster image obtained from www.impawards.com
- You may not recognize Rade Serbedzija's name but you may remember some of his work
     - Boris the Blade from Snatch. (2000)
     - Homeless guy receiving coat from Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins (2005)
     - Tibor, that guy in Bratislava in the movie Eurotrip (2004)
     - In any case he's typecast pretty badly these days as any character that sounds vaguely Russian

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Liberal Arts (2012)


Josh Radnor is back in the director's chair as well as his usual on-screen Ted Mosby-like leading man in Liberal Arts. This is his second film as a director after happythankyoumoreplease in 2010.

Radnor's protagonist in his directorial debut was a struggling writer living in New York a little lost and trying to find direction in life. This time around Radnor plays Jesse, an admissions officer and literature snob living in New York a little lost and trying to find direction in life. Which is completely different from Ted Mosby in How I Met Your Mother, who is an on-and-off architect, literature and culture snob, and college professor living in New York, a little lost and trying to find a wife. I think it's safe to assume Radnor has a few of these characteristics.

Anyway, let's cut to what the movie is about. Jesse is a 35-year old admissions officer who has returned to his Alma Mater to see an old college professor (Richard Jenkins) who is retiring. Along the way he meets Zibby (Elizabeth Olsen), a 19-year old sophomore taking Drama, who he seems to really connect with. Jesse struggles with the fact that, although they get along well, he is 16 years her senior. 

I laughed pretty hard in this little scene where Jesse tries to justify a relationship with some simple math.


We also see small parts from Allison Janney (playing one of Jesse's old professors), Zac Efron (a hippie who befriends Jesse and possibly not even a real person), and Elizabeth Reaser (a girl working at a bookstore). 

Now this film is far from perfect but I think that two movies into the directorial game, Radnor is doing alright. The plot is a little random at times because although there is a defined plot line, there are also a lot of bits and pieces just shoved in. I loved Elizabeth Olsen in this film she does a great job and I think she is probably a lot more normal and grounded than her two older sisters. Either that or she is a better actress than I thought.

It's definitely a funny movie but it doesn't overpower the issues it tries to tackle. I think these kinds of films always give me a little more insight into my life, it's usually something I already know but it reinforces it and makes it a little more concrete. This movie is about love, life, and finding what we love to do in life and how  to hold on to it. If you like indie films and don't mind seeing Josh Radnor keep playing Ted then I'd seriously recommend this film.

Notes: 
- Poster image obtained from www.impawards.com
- Zac Efron plays Nat, a kind of....I guess "angel" I'll refer it as, a minor character who doesn't really do much directly but seems to push the plot forward. If you remember Rowan Atkinson's character in Love Actually....same thing. 

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Django Unchained (2012)


I've really been slacking with writing about movies I see, I mean I saw this movie way back in 2012. Don't worry I'm still watching an unhealthy number of movies, I just haven't been writing anything about them. Hopefully that will change in the new year.

Django Unchained is Quentin Tarantino's latest gore-filled creation. Trying to recreate the spaghetti western feel of the days of yore, it follows Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), a former German dentist turned bounty hunter and his companion Django (Jamie Foxx), a former black slave freed in order to aid Schultz in bringing in a bounty. Django also must rescue his wife who has been sold to a different slave owner.

At 165 minutes this movie is long, not LOTR long, but long for action movies these days. Fortunately, there is enough humour and action for it not to be unbearable.

Now this film may be offensive in a couple ways. Firstly, the "n-word" is used very freely (for historical purposes) but it can still offend. Also, as much as there are ridiculously fake gory and violent scenes, there are some pretty intense ones that may make some viewers uncomfortable. It's not for everyone and some people may overhype the movie so be weary. If you can get past these things then you're in for a hell of a ride.

I'm not even close to being an expert on Tarantino films but while they are hilarious, gory, and violent, they all take a different approach to things and in my opinion difficult to compare directly. Definitely one of my favourites of his and I'd have to rewatch them all to give you a definitive answer.

I loved the acting by Waltz and Foxx, they seemed to have an interesting on-screen chemistry. DiCaprio was downright creepy in the best sort of sense and Samuel L. Jackson has the most ridiculous and out of place role in the film but that's the beauty of it. Kerry Washington played Django's wife and was kind of annoying actually but her acting isn't the focal point of the film so it doesn't really matter. There were also some pretty hysterical cameos by Don Johnson and Jonah Hill in a scene that not many film-makers could get away with even with the comedy. Tarantino appears in the film as well but his scene is rather forgettable. 

Also I hear there is something at the end of the credits, although I don't think it's much. I wanted to stay until the end because that is my tradition but I had company and didn't want to keep everyone waiting. So keep that in mind.

I was probably one of the best films I've seen this year and I'll definitely watch it again. Just prepared to watch a nearly three hour movie. I'd also suggest not seeing it in 3D. It's a gimmick that hurts your eyes and is definitely not worth the extra few dollars tacked onto your ticket.

Notes:
- Proof reading is for chumps.
- Poster image obtained from www.impawards.com