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The Greatest God Damn City on the Planet (San Francisco)
Movie Character You Most Identify With
Donnie Darko (lol, "overrated" my ass, Driver. You're the one who likes Requiem for a Dream)
Favorite Line From A Movie
"I just think you're the fucking Antichrist." -Donnie Darko
Favorite Scene From A Movie
1) Truck chase: Raiders of the Lost Ark. 2) Donnie torches the pedo's house: Donnie Darko. 3) Any scene from The Big Lebowski. 4) "Shiiit, negro! That's all you had to say!": Pulp Fiction. 5) Final sequence of Fight Club. 6) Industrialization and men's fashion: Die Hard. 7) The shootout: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. 8) Any scene from Lawrence of Arabia. 9) River kicks the shit out of the Reavers: Serenity. 10) "YOU'RE AN INANIMATE FUCKING OBJECT!": In Bruges. 11) "I was cured, all right!": A Clockwork Orange. 12) Deckard is a Replicant?: Blade Runner. 13) The Bride VS The Crazy 88s: Kill Bill. 14) Flight of the Valkyries: Apocalypse Now. 15) "I'm sorry Dave, but I'm afraid I can't do that.": 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Raiders of the Lost Ark, Donnie Darko, The Big Lebowski, Fight Club, Pulp Fiction
Jeff Bridges, Kevin Spacey, Jake Gyllenhaal
That one guy who hated Hugo and Up
Best Movie Seat
Favorite Movie Watching Snack
Nacho Cheese Popcorn
Favorite Movie Watching Drink
Chocolate milk with butterscotch and whipped cream
Let's overlook the obvious: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay is a blatant cash grab sucking dry the wallets and purses of easily manipulated teenage moviegoers. It is another in a long line of films that think being "dark" or "bleak" can act as substitutes for actual depth. It is lazily made, boring, and (as most young adult novel adaptations that bring to life the first half of the last book are) almost entirely uneventful. Even ignoring these major tresspasses against intelligent filmmaking, this movie is terrible. Which is really saying something, as the bar for young adult novel adaptations was already set astronomically low by Divergent, the Twilight movies, and most recently, The Maze Runner. It's time to give up on expecting actual artistic craftsmanship, good acting, or even passable scriptwriting from these kinds of films. They simply are what they are. And what they are is about as close to literal fecal matter as you can get before you start throwing heaps of manure at the audience.
"The Hunger Games: Mockingjay" is a 390-page book that, for marketing purposes, was split into two films for its silver screen treatment. However, what the geniuses at Lionsgate failed to realize is that stories follow a certain arc-- even the third installment in a franchise has a buildup, a climax, and a short aftermath. There is no climax halfway through the novel "Mockingjay," so therefore one would assume that there is no climax in this movie either. Well, it just so happens that one would assume correctly. This film is essentially a patchwork of unimportant scenes that do nothing to further the plot of the franchise, with an unsatisfying sequel-bait ending that will undoubtedly compel millions to waste their money on Part Two next year. It's simply impossible to craft an entire movie around one half of one third of a story, but studio heads will milk this franchise for everything it's worth or die trying.
Aside from the fact that this film is a soulless and bitterly cynical display of greed and disrespect for its audience, it has absolutely no redeeming qualities to elevate it above its already bad reputation. Jennifer Lawrence has proven herself a passable actress in several other films, but she's not a miracle worker, and needs to be given at least a mediocre script in order to shine. The script for Mockingjay does not fit this bill, and over the course of the movie, she spouts off every imaginable action movie cliche in the book. It also doesn't help that her big obstacle to overcome for the first half of the movie is her inability to act for a propaganda video, leading to a scene in which Woody Harrelson attempts to give her acting lessons. Good thing, too-- she needs them.
The rest of the cast works well together, but every character, including Lawrence's, is woefully underdeveloped. The film's villain, President Snow, is played by Donald Sutherland, who clearly relishes in his role as a despotic tyrant attempting to maintain control of his empire by crushing Lawrence's rebellion. However, even his gleeful maniacism gets old fast, as it becomes readily apparent that the character will never be fleshed out enough to warrant actual hatred. He's nothing more than a face on a screen for most of his appearances in the movie. Woody Harrelson and Philip Seymour Hoffman are typically strong, but are very underused, appearing in few scenes and speaking even less. The real turkey in Mockingjay is Julianne Moore as the boring and uncharismatic leader of the rebellion, who spouts such memorable lines as "Today, we free the tributes... tomorrow, Panem!" before halfheartedly thrusting her fist skyward in a feeble attempt to show some enthusiasm. Perhaps the character was supposed to be a bland, uncaptivating wimp, and her ineptitude will play a crucial role in the next (and mercifully, final) installment. But we'll have to wait another year before we find out.
Things happen in this film, yes-- it's easy to be entertained by it, in fact. A dam blows up, people drop out of trees and beat one another senseless, and altogether there are a good number of explosions, monologues, and witless diatribes to maintain some level of suspense. Yet once it ends, you can't help but feeling somewhat robbed. This film's events could be summed up in just a few sentences, which begs the obvious question: What were those two hours even for, anyway? The answer is simple. They were padding. That's what this entire movie is, really-- two hours of filler to kill time before the real event rolls around next year. Characters move around from point A to point B to point C, but by the end of the movie, they're back where they started, nothing has changed, and you've wasted eight dollars and two hours of your life on it.
Final Score for CockingGay: 2/10 stars. Hopefully the finale will wrap this franchise up into a neat little bundle, but with a penultimate installment as shoddy as this one, that seems very unlikely. The Hunger Games franchise fixed most of its problems with Catching Fire, but now it's found entirely new ways to disappoint. Shaky cam has been replaced by boring visuals, contrived exposition has been replaced by groan-inducing cliches, and teens killing each other has been replaced by adults killing each other. It's long, it's exhausting, and nothing actually happens in it-- in other words, it's just what you'd expect from a film adaptation of the first half of a young adult novel.
There's a strange trend going around right now that needs addressing: Why are teen movies romanticizing the worst and most uncomfortable aspects of life? Twilight was basically an abusive relationship between an easily manipulated girl and her creepy stalker boyfriend, but it was passed off to audiences as "beautiful teen love." It was the same in The Lovely Bones, The Host, and now If I Stay, a movie about a girl who becomes comatose after her family dies, and is then forced to choose between willfully dying and not going towards the light. Excellent romantic material right here, to be sure. Some of the blame lands on the writers, to be sure, but they wouldn't pump out such drivel if they didn't have an audience.
I'm going to be honest. I had absolutely no hope that this film was going to be any good, and it met every single one of my negative expectations. Still, I'm going to do my best to write this review without going completely off the rails. So here we go: If I Stay is a 2014 film directed by R.J. Cutler (lol) and starring Chloe Grace-Moretz as Mia, a teenage girl trying to get into Julliard while also doing her best to hold onto her boyfriend. This film follows two parallel stories-- Mia's life before her car accident, and her out-of-body experience in the hospital during the aftermath. With these basic facts, this movie is already painfully close to the abomination known as The Lovely Bones, in which a young girl is murdered by a psychopath and then goes off to an overly-rendered CGI heaven. If I Stay isn't quite as grating. But it's still damn awful.
Grace-Moretz is not an actress. This has become painfully apparent after her performances in numerous high-profile roles, from Martin Scorsese films to comic book movies. However, it's not for lack of trying, and she truly gives it her all in If I Stay. Sadly, that's not good enough, and she comes across as another generically enthusiastic romantic lead in a teen movie. Mia leads a ridiculously charmed life, so when the car accident happens, it causes a drastic tonal shift that makes the film's two halves clash awkwardly with one another. Besides, the crash itself is just a plot device to make us feel bad for Mia. There was no way to sympathize with her beforehand ("How sad, this privileged white girl has to choose between her handsome and witty boyfriend and her prodigious career as a cellist! Oh, the humanity!"), so the movie was constructed around a completely bogus plot contrivance in order to give her some actual hardships to overcome. Sorry, I'm not going to buy into it.
The film also relies heavily on the question of whether or not Mia will fight hard enough to live, which makes her character even less relatable. If this film were about a child in Syria who was in critical condition in a hospital being shelled by rebel forces, I'd at least be able to see a plausible reason for the character to not want to go on living. But Moretz's character has everything going for her, and the fact that she doesn't appreciate that makes her very cold to audiences. There is no human touch to this character, and since the entire movie is built around her, there's no way to make a connection with the film in general. The supporting performances are even blander and more unmoving than hers, and it often feels as if the film was cast with the understudies from other melodramatic young adult movies. Overall there's very little effort put into this film.
There are far more flaws outside the acting, however. This is not a very cohesively made movie, and sometimes gives the impression that two different scripts were thrown together to create it, resulting in this hamfisted and cheesy mess. It's also a two-hour movie that could easily have been shaved down to the length of a short film, if anyone involved in its creation cared about pacing. The final product is long and drawn out, with several scenes that could have been cut and others still that could have been edited heavily. There are repetitive scenes of Mia and her one-dimensional boyfriend going on dates, and then her inevitably complaining about how she "doesn't belong" or "hasn't found her people." Things like these tell us nothing about the character other than the fact that she's a normal teenager. Which is really the main problem with movies like this: They seem to think that the only character development needed is "typical teenage girl," nothing more and nothing less. After all, it's worked in the past, and undemanding teen audiences have demonstrated overwhelmingly that they're willing to settle for flat, lazy characterization, as long as the character in question has the same vague complaints about life that they do.
Final Score for If I Stay: 2/10 stars. This is the kind of movie that's so exhaustingly bland that you can't help but hate it. Nothing about this trite and unconvincing exercise in supernatural romance is even remotely interesting or engaging. The acting is terrible, the direction is almost equally bad, and the entire affair reeks of manipulative trite. Even the story is formulaic-- Another teenager who's mildly dissatisfied with her life? What else is new? At least the movie understands how indescribably boring this is and attempts to take it in another direction, but it does so in the worst way possible; with an out-of-body experience. At this point, If I Stay works more as an unintentional comedy than anything else, and I wholeheartedly endorse a drinking game constructed around the number of times Mia yells "No!" But all dramatic elements of this film were lost on me, and will be similarly lost on any viewer who takes a moment to think before blindly swallowing this incomprehensible claptrap.
It's a difficult thing to craft a protagonist for a movie, and nearly every genre seems to have a trope it falls back to whenever the creators are lazy. In romances, it's the indecisive white girl. In action films, it's the boring protagonist who's often upstaged by his more eccentric partner. Whatever the case may be, it's almost universally agreed upon that the main character is the glue that holds the film together. So when a movie creates one so twisted that it almost dares you to continue watching, you sit up and take notice. Few films are capable of pulling this off, as some antiheroes rub the audience the wrong way (and no, Ocean's Eleven doesn't count-- a bunch of dapper casino robbers are not hard to root for). But some, like this year's Nightcrawler, can make you watch in sick fascination as you watch-- and root for-- a sociopath.
Nightcrawler opens with Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) stealing metal from various Los Angeles construction sites to sell to scrap yards. When he is confronted by a security guard, he immediately sizes him up, figures him out, and beats him over the head, knocking him out. Lou steals the man's watch and wears it for the rest of the film. The watch becomes an eerie reminder of the truth behind this character. He is nothing like what he seems. He puts on a persona of a well-adjusted, mild-mannered businessman, but there is something far darker to him that moves its way to the surface every once in a while. He is soulless and truly quite evil. People like him are a force of nature-- they can't be stopped, and that's made clear from the beginning of the film. There is no conceivable outcome in which Lou doesn't come out on top.
Almost all of the credit is owed to Gyllenhaal, who delivers the performance of a career and quite possibly the best of 2014. He lends an animalistic edge to Lou, and with his high cheekbones and bugged-out eyes, he gives him the looks to match as well. I'm convinced that Gyllenhaal didn't blink once throughout the entire filming of this movie. The supporting cast is good, and would be perfectly serviceable in any film, but with him driving the whole package, the movie is elevated far and above a typical thriller. The flip side, of course, is that Gyllenhaal completely overshadows his fellow cast members, but it's not as if they need to be great. He's in every scene of this movie, and the other characters exist only to be toyed with and manipulated by him.
There's a serious level of subversive social commentary here as well, on two major levels. After Gyllenhaal sees an amateur news crew filming a car crash on a freeway, he buys a camcorder and gets the plot rolling, using a police bandwidth radio to prey on other people's misfortunes (at the end of the film, he says "If you're seeing me, you're having the worst day of your life"). But as he becomes increasingly ambitious, he begins to alter crime scenes, even moving a body at a car crash to get a better shot, and later starts staging his own incidents. Director Dan Gilroy has a pretty sick sense of humor, I would assume, as this aspect of the film is almost a commentary on filmmaking itself. Lou learns the tricks and nuances of cinematography quickly (he's a fast learner), and clearly has an eye for the craft. There's a reason the movie was filmed in Los Angeles, after all.
And throughout Nightcrawler, Lou spouts mindless little platitudes about succeeding in business (which he picked up from an online course), a recurring theme that he uses not only to manipulate his lone employee, but to justify the deranged things he does. And Lou really is running his own little business-- granted, it's the business world equivalent of the Manson family, but it's still a tight little operation. The film pulls no punches in its brutal assessment of the competitiveness of business. A few years down the line, it?s not hard to imagine Lou giving a corporate seminar on how to succeed in the world of shock TV, or write a piece of pulp detailing how to run your own start-up company. It may be true that people are promoted to their level of incompetence, but they're also promoted to the level of their cunning. By this measurement, Lou would make a very good president.
Final Score for Nightcrawler: 9/10 stars. Far and away one of the best films of the year, this movie has a shockingly good central performance as well as provocative underlying themes. Its tagline reads "The closer you look, the darker it gets," which could not be more accurate. Watching this film is like drowning in an ocean of immorality, but somehow, it's impossible to not take some pleasure in watching this character navigate these waters like a shark. Nightcrawler is both innovative and beautifully twisted. Quite the viewing experience.
WARNING: Spoilers for Fury abound in this review. If you have not yet seen the film, I advise that you wait to read this until after having watched it.
There's been an obnoxious trend in movies recently in which filmmakers put all their effort into building up to a powerful climax and then forget to construct a third act for their films. Examples of this include The Dark Knight, The Maze Runner, Prisoners, and Fury. Up until the end, this World War II film chronicling the exploits of a tank crew is gritty, well-acted, and features heaping helpings of dark comedy. Sadly, the film's finale (which I will do my best not to spoil) ends up neutering the rest of the movie's message, and inundates any power it might have had with generic war movie cliches.
Fury is the story of a tank crew's push deep into the heart of Nazi Germany in the final months of the war in Europe. During battle, one of their members is killed, and they are forced to take on an inexperienced recruit who's fresh into the war and knows nothing of battle. The most frustrating part of this movie is its unoriginality-- we've got the tough guy leader, the newbie, the token minority, the religious guy, and the nutjob. It's the five staples of action movie characters. Hell, I've more characterization in a Call of Duty game. But the performances behind these stock characters are strong enough to keep the film afloat. Brad Pitt gives it his all as the group's unflappable commander, and Logan Lerman makes a convincing spineless wimp (no offense to Mr. Lerman, but hey, I call it how I see it). Even That Guy Who Used To Be Famous is able to contribute an uncharacteristically reserved and nuanced performance, despite his limited screen time. All in all, the cast is great, but the story they're serving is terrible.
Fury has been called "bold" and "original," but there's not much that happens in this movie that can't easily be predicted. Lerman comes across a young woman in a German town, and after a few minutes of passionate lovemaking, is forced to watch her die during an air raid. Scenes like this are precisely why war movies get so much flak. If you weren't sitting in the theater predicting the next plot development in your head, you must never have seen a war film before. At the end, the characters are killed off one by one, and in the most insufferably simplistic ways possible. A character will get shot, and then during the next thirty seconds, all sounds of gunfire and bullets are drowned out as we are given close-up shots of the remaining characters reacting to it. If this were a true story, and had to adhere to real events, this would be passable. But when the story can be taken in any direction the writers want, there's not much to excuse this laziness.
But Fury is definitely to be commended on one front. It showcases the brutality of World War II in a way that not many other movies have. When one thinks of wartime atrocities and horrors, one usually thinks of the Viet Cong's guerrilla warfare or the burning oil fields in Iraq and Kuwait. This is because World War II has been romanticized over the years, and we've forgotten that simply because it was for a good cause, it wasn't at all a good war. There are no good wars. In one scene, Lerman spies a young Hitler youth in the bushes off the road, and in that split second, he freezes up, giving the boy time to blow up the lead tank in their convoy. Pitt's character reprimands him, but it's clear from the get-go that there was no good choice he could have made. Fury isn't exceptionally bloody or graphic, but the psychological elements of it get into your head and stick with you. If nothing else, you'll walk out with images of it still in your mind-- not ones of mindless gore or violence, but perhaps ones of young women splayed out dead beneath a pile of rubble and a sobbing German soldier pleading for his life on his knees while a bullet is driven through his head.
Final Score for Fury: 6/10 stars. This film isn't particularly new or inventive, but it's the kind of movie that gets into your head and stays there whether you like it or not. I initially balked at its shoddy characterization and mediocre script as examples of its overall poor quality, but I'm not one to put down a film with a passable story when the main event is its story and the way that story makes the audience feel. There's a science and an art to brutality on the silver screen, and director David Ayer seems to have perfected it here. The film is not great, and doesn't quite reach the heights it aims for, but it's certainly worth a viewing for those who can stomach it.
WARNING: Major spoilers for Interstellar abound in this review. Cinema purists, look away.
In terms of most-anticipated films of the year, few movies have it over Interstellar, Christopher Nolan's first post-Batman directorial effort and a new showcase for last year's Oscar winner Matthew McConaughey. Bearing early comparisons to 2001: A Space Odyssey and other visual masterpieces in pre-screenings, this film looked as if it would be Nolan's magnum opus-- a cultural phenomenon that even his detractors could get behind. So when it began to receive mixed reviews, many were surprised. The truth, however, is that Interstellar is a very divisive film, and compelling arguments can be made for or against it. Yet despite some interesting themes, walking out of the theater I couldn't shake the nagging feeling that I'd been duped. The film might be smarter than your average blockbuster, as most Nolan efforts can purport themselves to be, but that doesn't make it as intelligent as it thinks it is.
Interstellar takes place in the distant future, when food resources on Earth are running out and dust storms sweep the planet. To save our race, an engineer-turned-farmer (McConaughey) leaves his son and daughter behind to embark on an interstellar voyage to find humanity a new home. This premise is one of the most topical and resonant of the year, and addresses very real problems with the world. It doesn't even push a political agenda (like last year's Elysium did), and instead of featuring global warming as its natural disaster (which I must say I fully expected), it uses blight and famine. In fact, the only agenda it pushes is one that we can all get behind: A sense of wonderment with science and space.
The creators of this film must have had this feeling of awe when they dreamed up the visual splendor of the alien worlds that the characters visit, or the black hole they travel through to get there. Yet for a film that so clearly pays respect to the science of its story, it glosses over key elements on a regular basis. There are scenes where characters receive life-altering information (such as, "We think aliens put a black hole near Saturn for us to travel through") and brush it off as if it's nothing. This is mostly because it's hard to imagine what real people would do in these situations. But it's more than a little obnoxious that the movie doesn't even try to shoot for realistic human reactions. I for one have no idea what I'd do if I found a gravity distortion in my room and discovered that it was using morse code to send me a message. But I doubt I'd pack up and drive out to wherever it was telling me to go without batting an eye.
Matthew McConaughey, however, almost makes the whole affair worth it. In one scene, he loses decades of his life to time when a black hole causes him to age differently than his children back home. Upon returning to the ship, he watches his kids grow up before his eyes in one of the most emotionally gut-wrenching scenes of any film this year. And it doesn't hurt that McConaughey is a truly great actor-- He conveys entire characters simply with his tone of voice and his body posture. The rest of the cast doesn't quite drag him down, but they don't do much to bolster him up (aside from a minor Matt Damon role, there's not much else to see here acting-wise). Anne Hathaway does an excellent job playing Sandra Bullock in Gravity, and Michael Caine plays... well... Michael Caine.
Overall, the film is agreeably entertaining for the first two hours (if brutally slow), and manages to hold the audience's attention, at least for the most part. But with a nearly three-hour runtime, one expects the climax of the film to be particularly spectacular, and after the end of the second act, it becomes abundantly clear that the movie just doesn't know where to go next. It has the kinds of ideas that one would expect of a daydreaming third-grader, such as a planet with waves as big as mountains, or a robot that looks like the box a plasma screen TV would come in. Yet there is no coherent narrative or linear plot to it. Every ten minutes, there seems to be a new crisis or plot device of some kind, which makes it feel more like a serialized space adventure than a serious sci-fi movie. And what really drags it down is that, at its core, there is very little heart to this movie. Characters die and miss each other and cry about it, but the direction is strangely detached from them, and it doesn't help that their dialogue is exceptionally poor ("Love is the only thing that transcends time and space!"). Good lord, try saying that with a straight face.
The movie's aimless meandering comes to a head at its climax, which is somehow both confusing and predictable. Interstellar attempts to pull off a 2001: A Space Odyssey-style ending, in which McConaughey is sucked into a vortex and spat back out to another dimension. But Nolan missed a key part of 2001's greatness in this, and that was the ambiguousness of it. The ending of 2001, and its overarching themes in general, can be interpreted any number of ways, but Interstellar makes the mistake of continuing its exposition long after the wheels have come off. When a movie has its character quite literally strumming the strings of time, yet still tries to pretend as if it has some semblance of realism to it, it has crossed from the imaginative into the idiotic. And even then, why choose 2001 as the film to so obviously mimic? It's like making a film about an amusement park featuring cloned dinosaurs-- it needs something miraculous to be better than Jurassic Park, the film it will obviously be compared to. And sadly, Interstellar just didn't have that extra something to set it apart.
Final Score for Interstellar: 5/10 stars. This is a very divisive film, and in a way, I'm divided on it myself. It's got incredibly good elements to it, and is certainly one of the more imaginative science fiction ventures I've seen in recent years. But it's distinctly lacking in a human touch (not to mention a third act), and the emptiness of it comes to a head at its conclusion. Its visuals, its plot twists, and its characters are all curiously barren and lifeless in equal measure, much like the planets they explore. There is, simply put, very little joy to this movie. Its main goal is not to connect with its audience emotionally, or even to engage them intellectually-- it's simply to confuse them with a series of plot twists and acid trip visuals. Nolan fans will be amazed. I advise all others to stay away.