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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
Trilogies are difficult things to make. Normally, story arcs can't easily be stretched out over three installments-- just look at the Hobbit films-- but every once in a while, it works well. For every Two Towers suffering from middle chapter sluggishness, there's an Empire Strikes Back that breathes new life into the franchise. A good trilogy needs to have chapters that have their own sets of subplots, so that instead of just being a vessel to bridge the gap between the introduction and the ending, they are their own stories, with a beginning, middle, climax, and finale. Sometimes though, a movie is able to squeeze through these qualifications by the skin of its teeth and still be a good movie, despite the fact that it doesn't truly live up to the standard set by its predecessor and successor.
Before Sunset is one such movie. This film doesn't stand alone nearly as well as the other two installments in the Before Trilogy, but as a way to connect the two films, it works moderately well. However, there's nothing new or different here. Linklater knew this when he made Before Midnight, as he somewhat altered the film's premise and tone in order to keep audiences on their toes. This movie, however, is basically the same thing as Before Sunrise. Despite the fact that this isn't really a complaint (as Before Sunrise was a great film), I went into this movie expecting a little bit more out of it. The dialogue's pop and freshness has gone out of the film, leaving it a far duller affair than one would have hoped. However, it's difficult to truly dislike a movie with these characters in it.
Taking place eight years after the events of Before Sunrise, Before Sunset continues the story of Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) in their long, complicated story of how they ended up together. In this film, Jesse has written a novel about their night together, and after hearing about his book signing in Paris, Celine decides to track him down. After meeting up, they once again wander the streets of another ancient city, talking about philosophy, life, and the energy crisis. But it's all less emotionally resonant than in the first film. The fire went out of these movies right when the fire was just starting in these character's relationship, and what ended up happening was the the film that could have been the best ended up being the worst of the three. Linklater pulled it out of the dive with Before Midnight, but this movie still is one big blob of meh.
However, you can't deny the movie's charm. Even if it is the same thing over again, it's a great thing over again-- Hawke and Delpy are just as spectacular as ever (seriously, I refuse to believe that these two aren't actually in a relationship in real life), and the writing is still strong. There are a few points where the dialogue falls flat, but the acting talent on display here is such that it doesn't really matter. Ethan Hawke couldn't keep my attention reading a phone book, I suppose, but when presented with less-than-inspired dialogue, he almost always finds a way to make it work (exception: Getaway, but only because there was no real dialogue in that movie).
But the most interesting part about this film is the confused morals. In Before Sunrise, Hawke and Delpy just happen across one another and spend the night together, but here, they each have a significant other that they're trying not to betray, while still remaining true to themselves. By the end, the emotional stakes are raised enough that the minor trip-ups through the rest of the film can be excused. These two characters experienced love at first sight, but didn't know it at the time, and now they have to go about remedying that without hurting anyone in the process. When something as important as this is at stake, is it worth throwing everything away to start fresh, but this time the right way?
Final Score for Before Sunset: 7/10 stars. This movie is a bit of a disappointment, mainly because of the aforementioned "middle chapter" problems that trilogies often come across. However, it manages to fully make up for a weaker beginning with a truly great ending that marks the only finale that I would call a romantic cliffhanger. The film isn't satisfying, but now that the trilogy has been completed with Before Midnight, it's easier to fulfill the desire to know what happens without becoming bored with the story while waiting for its conclusion. This movie was never made to stand alone, that's true. But as a simple, well-crafted bridging chapter between two superior films, it succeeds.
Roger Ebert once coined a term called "Star Magic Syndrome," describing those unfortunate actors who fall prey to the idea that a film will be successful simply because the lead actor is successful. Well, it seems as if the latest victim of SMS is Denzel Washington, a reasonably talented actor in his own right (as he proved in 2012's tour de force Flight), but not a good enough one to carry another generic action movie like this one. I swear, if I have to see another movie about an ex-CIA agent called back into action because of a young girl who then gets him in trouble with a bunch of Russian bad guys, I'm gonna drive down to Hollywood and start cracking skulls. These people are professional screenwriters. They can do better than this, right? Right?
So yes, The Equalizer is the tale of ex-CIA agent Denzel Washington who is called back into action because a young girl (Chloe Grace-Moretz) who also happens to be a prostitute is in need of his help. After killing her pimp and a few of his cronies, the upper tiers of the Russian mob in Boston come after him... because I suppose there's a Russian mob in Boston (?). Side stories include corrupt cops, a fat guy trying to become a security guard, and Grace-Moretz's storyline, because after the first twenty minutes, she becomes a subplot (even though she's the one who sets everything in motion). It's as if the writers forgot she was even in the film until the last five minutes, at which point they said "Eh, fuck it, let's just write her in at the end. Nobody'll notice she was even gone."
This film isn't perfect (that goes without saying), but when it does things right, it really nails it. Literally... there's a scene where Washington kills a guy with a nail gun. But gore and silliness aside, this is a very well-made movie. Up until seeing this film, I had very little appreciation for Antoine Fuqua's direction (the man made Olympus Has Fallen, for Christ's sake), but he really does have a strong presence in his movies. As long as they're devoid of rushed, shoddy CGI, he brings a certain style to his movies, with excellent scene framing and color schemes. The action sequences in this movie are also noticeably strong-- I had an idea a few years back for an action sequence inside a Home Depot using only improvised weaponry, and although I'm a little disappointed that I can never use it now, I'm still impressed with how well it was pulled off in this film. Altogether, the movie has a very unique look and feel to it, which makes it a little more than just another revenge movie.
But still, when you strip away all of its flash, that's all The Equalizer is: Another revenge movie. This film is extremely predictable, and its villain is taken straight from the action movie playbook of every film like this ever made. Russian? Check. Prone to senseless violence? Check. Shady backstory that reveals his motives in a faux-subtle way that allows us to understand him, yet still makes us root for the good guy to kill him? Big check. Denzel Washington is strong, of course, but at the end of the day he's just playing Denzel Washington. It's another "Don't mess with the old guy" movie (in the vein of Harrison Ford and Clint Eastwood) that allows the star to play to his strengths-- it works, but only because Washington isn't challenged by this role whatsoever.
Final Score for The Equalizer: 5/10 stars. I enjoyed watching this movie, but I couldn't really recommend seeing it in theaters, based simply off of the fact that you could watch any number of movies of its ilk and get a similar experience. The only thing that really exceeds expectations in the film is the direction, which is a truly pleasant surprise. Other than that, there's not much that's original or particularly interesting in this generic, by-the-numbers revenge drama. Fans of the genre (or of Denzel Washington) should check it out, because they'll know what to expect, and this movie delivers exactly that. But unless you're extremely interested in seeing The Equalizer, it's a definite Netflix movie.
Despite the fact that I saw the latest installment in the X-Men franchise several months ago, it's taken me a while to actually sit down to write this review. The reasoning behind this being that I'm still a little blown away by what I witnessed in this film. I love superheroes-- you wouldn't know this from the ratings I give their movies, but I do. That's why, when I see films like The Dark Knight or Guardians of the Galaxy, I get very annoyed, because I am forced to decide what part of my critical personality to listen to. On the one hand, my geeky self tells me to love these movies unequivocally, which I try my best to do. Invariably though, my other side (the movie buff side) reminds me that pure coolness cannot compensate for bad dialogue, plotting, and acting. However, X-Men: Days of Future Past is a rare beast. It didn't make me choose.
X-Men: Days of Future Past unites the actors from the original X-Men films and the prequel film First Class in a time travel plot taken from the Uncanny X-Men comics of the 1980s. In the "not-too distant future," machines called Sentinels have taken over the world and are on a mutant killing spree, attempting to eradicate not only mutants, but humans who carry dormant mutant genes that could be passed down into future generations. To stop the Sentinels, Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellen) send Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back in time to alter the past and prevent the Sentinels from being created in the first place. But before he is able to do so, he has to win the trust of the two men's younger selves (James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender, respectively).
The premise is not only intriguing, but it's original. Marvel's movies lately have been an indistinguishable parade of galaxy-saving heroism, in which some evil device (usually one that glows with an eerie blue light) is in the clutches of a villain who plans on using it to destroy literally everything. Why? Well, we don't know. But Days of Future Past is able to bring the futuristic and sci-fi aspects of the plot into a more grounded, realistic series of situations for the characters that gives the movie real depth and weight. Of course, the fate of the world still hangs in the balance, but at times the audience is allowed to forget that, and they're caught up only in the fate of these few well-crafted characters.
The acting and dialogue is also far better than in previous X-Men installments. Hugh Jackman is clearly still relishing in his role as Wolverine, inarguably the best character in the franchise and one of the series's better casting choices. He was sorely missed in First Class (part of the reason why that film was such a dud), and so his return to the silver screen here is more than welcome. Meanwhile, the plethora of uninteresting, underdeveloped characters from previous films have all vanished, allowing us to focus in on four very good characters: Wolverine, Magneto, Xavier, and Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), whose ill-fated assassination attempt is the centerpiece of the plot. With Peter Dinklage giving it his all as Bolivar Trask, the diminutive creator of the Sentinel program, we have a total powerhouse of acting behind characters several films in the making.
I've been asked just why I found Days of Future Past to be so much better than other Marvel outings, and I suppose I could go through their other films one by one, detailing where they failed in places that this movie succeeded. However, the short version is simply this: Days of Future Past is the first X-Men movie in which I've enjoyed the storyline as much as the characters. Even at its best points, this franchise has been very weak when it comes to substance and story. The first X-Men film was about a mutant-making ray and a fight to the death at the top of the Statue of Liberty. X-Men: First Class incorporated mutants into the Cuban Missile Crisis. And after all this crazy, haphazard stories and loosely thought-through subplots, this fun little yarn about time travel is comparatively tame.
Final Score for X-Men: Days of Future Past: 7/10 stars. Sure, there are a good number of quibbles about dialogue and character development in this movie, but it's undeniably well-made, even looking better visually than its predecessors. This is a superhero movie done right-- No cartoony aliens, no space battles for the fate of the universe, no witless, tongue-in-cheek banter-- Just stripped-down, quality entertainment. Hopefully, the X-Men franchise will continue in the direction it's going right now, and not stumble into the pitfalls that the other, less polished films of the series did (ahem, X-Men Origins). And with Bryan Singer returning to direct the next film, it looks as if Marvel is picking things up a bit. It's not perfect in any way, but I'll give it this: This is the best superhero movie made since Iron Man. And although that's not saying much, I think it counts for something.
I like to think that I give movies from all genres fair shots at being good films, but I have to say that going in to The Expendables 3, it was very difficult for me to remain objective. I knew exactly what I was getting into as soon as I first heard about it-- A franchise revamp that would go to great lengths in order to gain the title of the "worst of the franchise." This movie, unlike the previous two Expendables, is PG-13, in order to target a broader audience and make more moolah. The toned-down violence is evident even in the trailers, as is the usage of that awful "Come with me now" song, both obvious scams to con the MPAA into a lenient rating (as well as to con younger moviegoers out of their money). Thankfully, this move backfired, as the film was leaked on Megashare weeks before its release, leading to a massive dent in ticket sales. So the good news is that we probably won't have to put up with another one of these films. The bad news? Well... this movie exists.
In The Expendables 3, everyone's favorite team of aging, washed-up action stars is back, led by Sylvester Stallone and consisting of an ever-changing group of interchangeable toeheads. This film also stars Jason Statham (I think), but you wouldn't know it due to his mere 20 minutes of screen time. Anyway, the big draw of these films is that they keep topping the previous one, so this time, the franchise brings in Harrison Ford and Antonio Banderas, as well as Mel Gibson as the villain. Unfortunately, instead of seeing these staples of action films go up against each other, we're given a boring and predictable plot in which Gibson is Stallone's old war buddy who was presumed dead, then became a war profiteer. I really don't know what else can be said about a story this lazy, other than that it's ineptly crafted and extremely generic. Arms dealers are the number one go-to villains in bad action movies-- Just ask Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The film's stupid plot becomes so insufferable that after a while, you start to welcome the bludgeoning action it delivers. And oh boy, does it ever deliver it. I'll give this movie credit on one front: A lot of people shoot a lot of other people in it. Oh, and things blow up too. However, when it comes to caring about the characters getting shot at, knowing why they're shooting at anyone else, and generally understanding what in the holy hell is going on, the film is decidedly lacking. And it ends up undercutting its promise of old-school action with a techie aspect to it that just doesn't work. At long last, the Expendables franchise has been dragged into the 21st century, kicking and screaming. And what an unpleasant affair it was. Everything about this movie, from the modern-style building the characters rappel down to the new, hip technology expert, begs for relevancy. It would be funny if it weren't so sad.
What really kills this film, however, is the futility of it all. This may be the last generation of real "action stars," and they're on their last leg, soon to be replaced by CGI (hell, it already happened to Arnold in Terminator 4). The jobs these guys did were shoddy at best, but I have to give them credit for at least giving it their best shot. Nobody's going to single out Bruce Willis in Die Hard 2 or Arnold Schwarznegger in The Terminator as a truly great performance. Yet there was always a certain charm and demure they brought to the table, despite the fact that a trained monkey could have acted better than them. What's so sad about this movie? It's the swan song of a bunch of old farts who now have nothing to do but sit around collecting paychecks for playing the same character they've been in since 1982. I found this movie to be a total bore, but I bet Stallone & Co had fun making it. After all, at least on that screen, they're still young men at the height of their careers, capping off bad guys and having a good time while doing it.
Final Score for The Expendables 3: 2/10 stars. I think it's safe to say that this is one of the worst films of the year. Almost nothing works here-- The action (which, let's face it, is the only reason why people watch these movies) is incoherent. The dialogue is recycled. The acting is laughable; the plot is artistically bankrupt. Basically, this movie represents what I think is the beginning of the end of an era. The dumb action films of old are slowly dying out. Now the question is, what will replace them? Will American audiences have a cultural revolution of sorts and realize that a movie does not require an explosion every five minutes in order to be entertaining? Or, on the flip side, will the void be filled by something even more vapid and shallow (cough cough MICHAEL BAY cough cough)? I know what I'd prefer. But it's entirely out of my hands.
There's a certain genre of film that there should be a word for (but there isn't) in which the protagonist is a disciple of the more interesting and complex character. And yes, there should be a word for it, because movies like this (Fight Club and The Grand Budapest Hotel come to mind) are consistently spectacular. Not only do they give great creative leeway for writers to invent characters, but they also give a sense of detachment from the character who is the central focus of the film. This is highly effective in giving these characters the appearance of being something more than human-- There is something elusive about them, in an indescribable way, and much like the genre of film they star in, there isn't a word for them either.
Frank is one such film. This movie is told from the point of view of an aspiring musician who comes across the enigmatic Frank, a "cutting-edge" songwriter who wears a fake head. This premise might seem weird or unrealistic, but if you think that this level of avant-garde artistic self-righteousness is too silly, I have two words for you: Daft Punk. Frank is certainly a confounding individual. He seems to be a perfectly normal, functioning member of society, save for the fact that he wears his fake head all the time. Showering, eating, singing, sleeping-- He never takes it off.
This begs the obvious question: What the hell is wrong with this man? But Michael Fassbender, who gives a spectacular performance from beneath Frank's mask, brings such depth and emotional realism to the character that you often forget he's supposed to be crazy. The film's dark humor is also spectacular; some of the best to hit theaters since In Bruges. It juggles themes about fame, death, and mental illness, all while maintaining its quirky tone. The film's protagonist, Jon, drives the plot forward as he influences Frank and fills his head (no pun intended) with thoughts of fame. Maggie Gyllenhaal also does a fine job despite her cabbage-patch face, and plays a band member who straddles the line between eccentric and downright batshit insane.
Still though, it's Fassbender who truly shines in this movie. His fragile personality makes him one of the most saddening and relatable characters to grace cinemas this year. At his core, he's just a guy who wants nothing more than to be liked. He is so easily swayed by the ebb and flow of popularity that you have to wonder just how on Earth he made it this far in life. And then the obvious answer is staring at you in the face (literally). His mask. Like a turtle's shell, Frank's mask acts as his personal home; his happy place. He has gone through his whole life cooped up inside the head, and has therefore never had to truly go through a stage of isolation, loneliness, or hardship-- Whenever he's scared or sad, he can retreat back into his shell. And as a result, he's never grown up. Frank is like a child trapped in a grown man's body.
The musical score for this movie is also great. Somehow, the writers were able to craft half a dozen songs for Frank that sound just weird enough to be pop songs but are still edgy and demented enough to work for the purposes of his character. While listening to the songs ("I Love You All" stands out to me specifically), it was hard for me to formulate an opinion on them. They were weird and quirky, yes, but were they actually good? I don't know. Others may not have had the same reaction, but personally I thought it contributed a lot to the ambiguity of the film. Is Frank a musical genius? It's really difficult to say.
Final Score for Frank: 8/10 stars. This movie is quite an experience to watch, and its glorious weirdness and quirkiness place it high in the running on my Best Films of 2014 list. Even when it hits the occasional lull, Frank is never boring (how could it be?). No, every minute clicks along with deliciously original dark humor and compelling characters. Truly a must-see film for all those seeking to track down the best movies of the year.