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Is this supposted to be the section where we put our main blurb? Sigh.
Well, I like movies. Does that suffice?
Ok, ok. I also like music. And literature. And writing. And dreaming. And believing. And seeing...
In general, life is one hot mess, and movies make an excellent escape from the madness.
Carrie did not need a remake. Nor did I really want a Carrie remake. But since they greenlit it, and flopped it into my hands, I gave it a fair shake.
Having not read the original Stephen King story I cannot comment on which version is closer to King's.
The added scenes here (which are relatively few and minor) aren't too bad. Conversely, I didn't really feel like it was missing anything. Mostly this flows like you'd expect the story of Carrie to go; abusive mother, terrifying school-life, discovery of telekinesis powers, revenge... and then revenge.
It's been long enough since I've seen the original Carrie film that I don't want to draw too strong of a parallel between the two. However, Sissy Spacek is far better at conveying the character of Carrie. The mental anguish, the ensuing breaking of the mind. She puts the exclamation on the whole ordeal. Chloe Grace Moretz just can't compare.
That said, Moretz does a better job than I expected. One of the reviews I saw before watching said that Moretz "hasn't a victim's bone in her body", which may be an accurate representation of her, but underplays her performance here. She doesn't need to be completely cowed by everything that moves, just represent an unsure, abused teenager, and she does that.
Also acceptable is the Judy Greering of the teacher-character. It's definitely a different flavor for the role, but it comes off well. She conveys both concern for Carrie, as well as a take-no-prisoners fury as needed.
Gabriella Wilde is the standout, however. As the "good" peer in the movie, she's the one character who goes through the largest, most complicated swing. (In fact, I'd love to see a Carrie remake that is seen solely through her eyes--Hollywood, get on that.) And Wilde plays her with a tenderness that delivers the proper genuine touch. We root for her, even though we know how everything turns out. (Incidentally, her boyfriend is also played fairly well, though gets overshadowed by the strength of Wilde's performance.)
Incidentally, Julianne Moore should probably play a villain in more horror movies. She can be downright suffocating on screen.
The biggest problem with this version of Carrie is how flashy it tries to be. Whether it is Carrie testing her telekinesis or the bloodbath violence at the end, director Kimberly Peirce doesn't go the route of subtlety. This seems like an ill-advised attempt to appeal to modern horror fans, but the added visual "Oomf" just feels crass.
Still, the "updating" does showcase one of the strengths of this remake: modern technology. If you're going to update a movie, update it right, and Carrie (circa 2013) does this right with judicial use of cell phones and video. And they use this technology appropriately within the narrative. Bullying happens today as much on the Internet as it does in the classroom, and Carrie showcases to great effect.
There's worse ways to spend three hours than watching The Wolf of Wall Street.
Unfortunately, that length is the biggest detriment going for it. Because for all the good wrapped in these hours, there is a lot of room to fill. It's repetition--how many hookers do you need to see banged? How many lines of coke snorted? Ludes popped? The Wolf of Wall Street goes swimming in excess to the point that we as viewers become numb to the whole exercise.
Then there is the hearty speeches delivered by Leonardo DiCaprio. He stands addressing his employees, delivering motivational speeches, and it's all the same BS, and they creak on and on, filling up these precious minutes.
There's something to be said for painting a deep, intimate portrait of the character of Jordan Belfort, but I don't know that The Wolf of Wall Street actually succeeds in doing that. Instead we get the standard rise-and-fall story--it's all surface-level. Actions that beget actions, arguments that fall into other actions, and actions that fall into arguments or hugs or what-have-you.
And maybe there isn't anything to the character of Jordan Belfort except excess--but that's not a person that a 3-hour movie can sustain.
But despite the length, and the excess of excesses, and utter shallowness of everything, The Wolf of Wall Street maintains a sort of flow that works. Sure, it should have been an hour less--cutting the excess and some unimportant scenes would do a world of good--but every actor seemed to put their heart into their roles.
Watching them on screen is just nice. It's comfortable. DiCaprio? He's always good and he's very good here. Jonah Hill finds himself excelling in a role that isn't a teen stoner comedy. Go down the list of actors with major screen time and it's just a pleasure to see them on screen.
And so even as the collected whole is a lumbering piece of cinema unworthy of 3-hours of film, unworthy of the praises and accolades piled on it, the individual scenes fly by.
Entertaining without being substantive, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit checks the box next to the cliches of every action / political-thriller movie without every really contributing anything by itself. While that technically makes Jack Ryan a "bad movie", it does what it does solidly enough to keep the viewer's attention.
In a lot of ways Jack Ryan is a cliff-notes version of the action / political thriller. It does a lot, it does a lot quickly, and it does a lot without ever overstaying its welcome.
You start off with the kid in school, the action that drives him to join the navy. You've got rehab, attractive doctors, men in suits tracking him, and a lucrative dual-identity offer. Throw in some foreign locales, scary men with guns, some computer hacking, car chases, Quick Thinking, and a surprise visit.
And so the nice thing about Jack Ryan is that the movie doesn't throw in its lot completely with one cliche, driving it into the ground. No, it takes them all, throws them into the blender, and lets it come out.
The chemistry between Chris Pine and Keira Knightley isn't fantastic, but it's good enough to keep us from checking out of their relationship. Likewise, Pine and Kevin Costner are fine together as "new recruit" and "mentor", but it's a dynamic that has been portrayed much better in other movies. But as with everything about the movie, it's hardly on-screen enough to matter.
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is the perfect sort of movie to check out of RedBox for date night, or to have playing while your buddies are trying to beat each other at air hockey.
I've been thinking recently that Tom Cruise is on the precipice of a career revitalization. It's weird to think like that since I don't think most of America thinks of Cruise as anything less than a money-making A-list actor.
His journey from biggest actor in Hollywood to couch-jumping crazy was remarkably short. It's been a long time since that Oprah appearance--over nine years. But the second that Oprah episode ended, everything sort of changed. The Tom Cruise mystique had been stripped away. Instead of being the "it" actor, he was just a guy who was crazy. His Scientology religion didn't much endear him in the public eye, either. And it seemed as though he and Katie Holmes just shriveled out of public view to start their life.
Which isn't to say he hasn't been around since 2005. Mission Impossible III released in 2006. Tropic Thunder in 2008, while a small roll, showed that he still had screen charisma. MI: Ghost Protocol rolled in as a nice nostalgic film. Little could be looked at on his IMDB page between 2005 and 2011 as being much more than a former star getting random roles. Nothing sticks out as being anything other than the slow, grinding halt of a once massive career that no longer exists.
But over the last couple of years something seems to be improving. You could say it started with Ghost Protocol, though a 4th installment of a series still looking to top the first Mission Impossible movie is hardly the best example, though it does make for a fine stepping stone. No, the more interesting movie is Jack Reacher from 2012. While not an amazingly creative film, Jack Reacher showed us again what makes Cruise such an engaging action hero. And then Oblivion in 2013 reminded us that he's had a long history with edgy sci-fi films.
Which brings us to the awkwardly titled Live Die Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow.
It's a mixture of Groundhog Day and War of the Worlds. And it's not perfect; leans too heavily on some shifty logic. But it's hard to care while watching.
Live Die Repeat showcases an awe-inspiring sequence of events, encased in a gritty sci-fi/war environment, and Tom Cruise making us feel like it's 1996 again. The biggest downside is that despite the high ratings, it seems like most people are ignoring it like they've ignored most of Cruise's stuff in a post-2005 world.
Still, despite how fun Jack Reacher and Oblivion were, Live Die Repeat is a movie that is not only fun, but just really good in most respects. Hopefully it portends good things for Cruise movies in the future.
The big problem with The Lords of Salem is it is frustrating to watch Rob Zombie tackle the subjects of Salem and witchcraft (subjects not unfamiliar to cinema, of course, though it's not been mined to death like zombies have), subjects ripe for his visual aesthetic and looney-duck ability to create an insane cast of characters, only to see all of that go by the wayside in favor of cheap horror imagery.
In fact, when you throw in the music connection here, it seems like it would have taken more effort for Zombie to screw this up, yet here we are.
The premise is basically Rosemary's Baby, except with grungy adults instead of prim, high class, perfect-American-dream-representatives. And that could be cool, but as with everything, the devil is in the execution.
Right from the beginning this starts to feel like a shady ride, with a much-too-long ritual scene, marked by being completely stereotypical, ridiculous, overblown, and in-your-face.
These are problems that mark many of the scenes here. They go on too long. They lack subtlety in every way (except how they contribute to the plot of the movie). And they fail to really get into the characters and let them stand out. Zombie seems comfortable allowing the surface level be the person. Sometimes shorthand like that works when the rest of the movie is done really well. Certainly not the case here.
Sadly, the biggest arena in which Zombie earns his stars here is through the music. Several well-placed Velvet Underground songs, not to mention the droning sludgefest that (seems to) jumpstart much of the plot here. ("Seems to" since there's nothing intimately linking anything in this movie.) But even this Zombie bungles since it could have used much, much more of the music. Accentuating music culture (beyond some radio station scenes, which are largely more annoying than anything) would have gone a long way in presenting a more sensible tone for this movie.