I love Eddie Redmayne, and he ostensibly stepped into the role of… MoreI love Eddie Redmayne, and he ostensibly stepped into the role of Stephen Hawking both mentally and physically (if a bit Austin Powersly). His dragging feet, spinal curve, and slurred speech were not just acting but embodiment. However, I can't say I'm fully wowed, and I wonder if it's Redmayne's performance (adept though somewhat...overstudied...?) or the oblique script molded around his performance.
For a movie about Stephen and Jane Hawking's young, transcendent love, there's very little development over why they fell for each other in the first place and how their ideological differences over science and religion informed their relationship. Redmayne and Felicity Jones just stare shyly and longingly at each other, but the chemistry generated is merely surface heat between two beautiful actors.
The most tension-filled parts of the movie are with Charlie Cox (whom I adored in "Stardust" but haven't seen since) as the lovelorn widower in the Hawkings's chaste menage. Jane and Jonathan getting together is a better love story than Jane and Stephen's, partly because Stephen's motives in divorcing Jane are unclear. The script makes it seem like he was callously leaving Jane for Elaine, but it had to have been an act of mercy, thanks, and apology, right? Even though it would have been too Hollywood, I would have liked a scene of Stephen and Jonathan, with the former basically telling the latter to give his wife a better life.
Really quite lovely. I didn't like Nick Hornby's book due to its… MoreReally quite lovely. I didn't like Nick Hornby's book due to its multiple narrators schtick, but the cinematic treatment only switches once per character and at very opportune spots too so that each person's reasons for committing suicide is evenly plotted out. The scene stealer for me was Imogen Poots, an ingénue with an unfortunate name but a face that is jubilant one second and numbly crestfallen the next. I love that scene when Jess comes out of the hospital in her open-backed gown - all cheeky bravado (literally and figuratively), striking a rockstar pose, then all hot, snotty, mascara-streaked mess as she tries to explain away her accidental overdose.
Toni Collette is also brilliantly reserved and makes maternal instinct look like a matter of course. Pierce Brosnan - not usually lauded for his acting - plays the aging playboy with sleaze yet gravitas. Martin's monologue about feeling humiliated felt both emotionally and physically painful, as reflected in Brosnan's taut jaw and gritted teeth. Aaron Paul is Aaron Paul - intense, swaggery, serviceable.
No GG nomination for the McConaissance?!?! Bullshit! I was so sure… MoreNo GG nomination for the McConaissance?!?! Bullshit! I was so sure he could be a back-to-back Oscar winner! That scene of him balls-out bawling while watching backlogs of Tom's video messages is just so...I don't even know! Our facial expressions are so heavily influenced by how we THINK we should look based on emotional representations in visual media. Is this how people look when they're experiencing emotions? Even if not, I just wanna look like Matthew McConaughey all the time!
"Interstellar" is the only Christopher Nolan movie I've liked since "Memento." This sprawling space and time saga is set in the nearly apocalyptic future where food is scarce, farming is an essential though still blue-collar career, NASA has become SNASA (Secret NASA), and the smoonlanding (secret moonlanding) is thought to have been faked. Cooper is an aeronautical pilot tapped for a dangerous mission of indefinite duration to find new life-sustaining planets. His young daughter never quite forgives him for leaving, and his quest is one of survival and return.
I especially love the scene of Coop driving away in a cloud of dust, underscored by the space shuttle countdown. Mackenzie Foy as young Murph is sweet and teary, and Jessica Chastain deftly takes her into adulthood as a tough yet tender space crusader. Surprise Matt Damon (the best kind of Matt Damon) is tender and menacing as the "destroyer of worlds" - a recurring motif that I enjoy in Nolan's work.
The movie has its nonsensical flaws, of course. Wes Bentley's character is killed off way to quickly and anticlimactically because emotional plot point. The one equation to save humanity is a mere deus ex machina McGuffin. It's not explained in any plausible, scientific manner; we just have to roll with it. And dat Anne Hathaway doe. So melt-your-face-off-brilliant in "Les Miserables," yet so full of nothing in this. Dr. Brand has gumption written into her, but Hathaway can't infuse enough life into a character with no compelling purpose or motivation beyond blah-blah-save-the-human-race-blah-blah-love-conquers-all.
Half-assed and a quarter. Aubrey Plaza really phoned this one in with… MoreHalf-assed and a quarter. Aubrey Plaza really phoned this one in with her higher whiney vocal range instead of her lower "give no fucks" vocal range. She could have even Janet Snakeholed it up a bit in the dramatic fantasy segments, but nope.
Megan Charpentier is pretty natural for a kid actress, and Russell Peters as the inciting incident Santa is the highlight of this weird, embarrassing effort. The metatheatrical jokes are awkward and annoying, but they kinda won me over in the end, especially with the dig at Lifetime's typical programming.
I have to say though, I'm pretty much over the Grumpy Cat pheno-meme-on. Tardar Sauce isn't grumpy; that's just the way her face is shaped (http://vimeo.com/groups/184633/videos/54953791), and her owners can't pretend that the genesis of her name isn't obviously an off-color joke.
All the Hunger Games movies so far have gotten 3 stars from me.… MoreAll the Hunger Games movies so far have gotten 3 stars from me. They're good enough that I wish they were better, which is what I say about Kristen Stewart, yet ironically, I gave all the Twilight movies 3.5s - probably because they were better than they had any right to be, given the source material.
My criticisms of this film are pretty much the same as for "Catching Fire." Media and critical darling JLaw (now fresh off her nom for sassy yet so-what Rosalyn in "American Hustle") over-emotes a little bit (or is edited badly), but her deadpan snark is still winning and her singing voice is nice and Appalachian. Peeta is still criminally under-represented. Make-up and costuming could have done more to show signs of torture and starvation right from the get-go so that when Katniss first remarks on his changed visage, I would have thought, "Yes, he does look thinner," instead of, "Huh? He looks exactly the same." And once again, I'm not sure if Josh Hutcherson is just not meeting my expectations acting-wise, or if the filmmakers aren't giving him enough direction, but the last scene of trackerjacked and straitjacketed Peeta thrashing around on the bed in that white room is so one-note. He's just shrieking and flailing aimlessly. I expected Peeta to catch a glimpse of Katniss through the glass, freeze, smile or grimace maniacally, then resume shouting muted epithets at her. Give him something to shriek and flail AT.
Anyhoodles, out of all the YA franchises that have chosen to split the last installment into two, this one seems to have been the most ill-advised decision. The pacing is slow, each plot point is unnecessarily drawn out, the peaks are high but the valleys are too low, and there are hardly enough events left to make part two a whole movie on its own.
David Fincher's adaptation of Gillian Flynn's suburban crime thriller… MoreDavid Fincher's adaptation of Gillian Flynn's suburban crime thriller is a suspenseful piece of work. Amy Dunne disappears not entirely without a trace, and her husband Nick becomes the prime suspect. The atmosphere gets more and more stifling as the days tick by, and the culture of media vultures is cleverly satirized with casserole-toting trophy wives clamoring for selfies with the handsome though seemingly brutish potential wife-killer. The costume/props departments don't skimp on "oh my god" moments either (like Desi's mid-coital demise and Amy's Carrie-like visage afterwards), and the bookend shots of the back of Amy's head present a creepy, cryptic visual riddle.
That's where my accolades stop though because by the end of the movie, I couldn't make heads or tails of it (or the book it's based on, which I haven't read but hear is remarkably similar). With the incredible (both extraordinary and unbelievable) power imbalance at the end, I didn't know what to take away besides confusion over the zeitgeist appeal of such a misogynistic story. We have a pretty basic portrayal of a sadistic femme fatale - the crazy woman who will ruin a man's life. As such, I find the message of the movie irresponsible at best and reprehensible at worst.
Fans of book and film would counter that the story is a feminist satire on marriage with a brilliant, psychopathic genius who comes out on top. To the "brilliant, psychopathic genius" part, I have to say from a narrative standpoint that Amy is not that brilliant, and it's the filmmakers' machinations that make her seem otherwise. If she WERE such a genius, she wouldn't have brought ALL the money she had in the world in a loosely clipped fanny pack to mini golfing where shady neighbors could see and covet. If the movie weren't pulling the strings, Amy's headshot would have been flashed all over the evening news, and trashy neighbor would have seen through the insultingly easy Clark-Kent-glasses-disguise, perhaps leading Amy to get the hell out before she stupidly answered the door when aforementioned covetous and violent neighbors came a-calling. But of course, all that needed to happen in order for Desi's romantic hostage plot to occur.
The movie also deliberately makes everyone else dumber. Nick should have notified Boney when he found that the scavenger hunt led to the yardbarn of goodies. He was already going to come forward with the affair, so he had nothing to lose on that front. Also, the products were clearly mint, and the clue cards and Punch and Judy puppets with the missing blackjack are too cooked to have been Nick's plan all along. And it's rather farfetched that Margo didn't realize Amy had been stashing stuff in her shed for years. After Amy's bloody homecoming, Nick should have bugged the house before she returned from the police station because even that little pre-shower exchange of her being suspicious of a bug is incriminating enough. He has proven to be pretty savvy with his television interview, and Tanner Bolt, the lawyer who's well-versed in subterfuge, could have at least thought of that too. The third-act must-happens just require too much suspension of disbelief.
From a philosophical standpoint, I disagree that the story is a feminist satire on marriage and relationships. Amy claims that men want the "Cool Girl" - a common societal problem, sure - so she put on the "Cool Girl" costume in order to reel Nick in. The problem is there really is no "Cool Girl" in the movie, at least in the romantic options. Amy is urbane and posh, not down-to-earth or low maintenance. Neither is bubbly and capricious other-woman Andie. The only arguable Cool Girl (sans demanding physical requirements) is sister Margo, whom Nick has (seemingly) no choice but to reject, proving Amy's satirical point moot.
Amy's misanthropic speech on how marriage is two people eventually killing each other with vitriol and manipulations is also too much too late. It's dark and hip to inject nihilistic philosophy into the movie, but it's also too easy and not entirely true. There is no real refutation that holds a mirror up to society to show us our faults, nor is their a nod or wink to the intended satire, which makes all this a base revenge fantasy. The most effective satires aren't revenge fantasies. Even in movies with devilish female characters, satires eventually reveal their true solutions to societal problems (like in "The Shape of Things"), or they eventually recognize the absurdity of events leading up to this Mexican stand-off (like in "Closer" or "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf"). The solution in "Gone Girl" is to beat one's spouse into submission through murder and mayhem. If the movie is actually winking at us and saying, "No, that's just an extreme; we don't actually want you to do that," then Amy shouldn't "win" in the end. Both Nick and Amy should end up dazed and confused at the prospect of having to spend the rest of their miserable lives together just to save each other's hides. Hatred layered on top of hatred is a simplistic plot device. Hatred layered on top of love? Now THAT'S marriage.
In "If U Seek Amy: the Grim Grossness of David Fincher's 'Gone Girl,'" writer Wesley Morris claims that Amy's "greatest power is to cry wolf," and since I've enumerated the ways in which she's NOT a diabolical genius, I have to agree. Amy is a dangerous character to champion in this day and age of rape apologists and friendzoned men who think many more women cry wolf and put men in the friendzone than are "legitimately raped" or truly just friends. Amy displays a history of sexually deviant behavior that started long before Nick. Some may claim that she has always been put into a box, what with her mother's Amazing Amy book series, but "mommy issues" seem like an easy scapegoat for such an extreme pattern of sociopathic self-abuse and emotional manipulation: harming herself to pin rape on that one guy and continually putting Desi on the hook, expecting him to save her when she needs it but then disposing of him when the plan fails.
Amy's lies and machinations eventually lead to the undermining of the only two female characters who have any substance at all: Margo and Boney. All the other women are either annoying or flat: the thief is a duplicitous vagrant; the neighbor is meddling and dumb; the casserole woman is obsessed with fame; the bouncy co-ed is needy and totally not cool. Margo, the one person who has any kind of emotional intelligence, begs tearfully for Nick's reconsideration, but he won't/can't. He essentially breaks up with his own sister, leaving her heartbroken. Boney, who up to this point has been a one-note lady-cop, knows something is fishy with Amy's story, but she is cut off by an older male who probably knows enough from sensitivity training classes to say the right thing to a rape victim, "Don't blame yourself," but he's actually being hoodwinked. Amy's undetected deception may reaffirm rape apologist's notions of the friendzoning, heartless woman, "Oh women can be abusers too!" When media focuses on female perpetrators of domestic abuse, the public then latches onto it and thinks the ratio of female to male perpetrators is equal when it's not.
Another insidious affirmation is Amy's reclamation of cunt: "The only time you ever liked yourself was when you were trying to be someone this cunt might like." Like with the controversial piece in "The Vagina Monologues," Amy's hella empowered in that moment, but she's still fetishizing the word (making it simultaneously dirty and sexy), which might make some viewers (of any gender) think it's okay to call others (of any gender) that word because it's not so insulting anymore if a woman identifies herself as such.
In the end, the one woman we are left to admire is a brilliant psychopath (arguably), the witchy woman, the ice cold manipulative harpy, and I think that's a weak support for feminism. She's the femme fatale, and that's still a type - one that there are plenty enough of, from "Fatal Attraction" to "Basic Instinct" to "The Last Seduction." Woman has been painted as temptress of Man since the original Eve. The movie upholds the stereotype of the evil woman who will ruin a man's life. That's not to mean all female characters should subscribe to the tenets of the Eternal Feminine. That'd just be the virgin/whore dichotomy all over again. We can have a strong and complex female character with flaws, but Amy is larger than life. If she has flaws, they don't figure into the plot because she lives outside the morals of the "normal world." She wins, but does she really? Is this really a win for feminism?
Todd VanDerWerff in his article, "Gone Girl is the Most Feminist Mainstream Film in Years," claims that Amy is a "Frankenstein's Monster," cobbled out of all the oppressive societal expectations for women, and that the film is feminist because by the end, she relegates Nick to the very type of supportive wife character that women are called on to play in scads of male-centric stories. (Sidebar: Is this actually a female-centric movie at all? Only Ben Affleck appears on the poster, and he's the one most sympathetically portrayed throughout the film. Any character who is kind to an animal pretty much gets an automatic pass.) However, I'm afraid that assessment gives exactly the wrong impression of feminism that most feminists seem to argue for. Many males and females alike already think feminism is about hating men and overpowering them. If feminism is really equalism, then my aforementioned ending of them both being stuck and unhappy would be a fairer representation of what happens after the facades fall. The power imbalance clearly tips toward Amy, so if the film IS feminist, it's a very radical, unequal feminism.
This echoes the privilege issue of why many activists say Men's Rights can't exist or White Pride or Straight Pride can't exist. The systems in power can't "rise up" any higher than they are; they are the ones oppressing minorities after all, whether or not they know it. They are recognized as the default...even though minorities strive to rid that rhetoric of "default" or "normal." But then where does the cycle of victimhood stop? Is it fair to cheer for this woman beating a man because women currently have less power than men? Is that justice or revenge? If we cheer more for a woman's victory over a man, aren't we still underselling women by thinking it's so impressive and out of the ordinary to beat a man? The double standard still exists, like with any multitude of sins that one gender can commit but is frowned upon if another gender does (in the vacuum of a two-gender world, of course).
All in all, "Gone Girl" is taut and suspenseful with some sick twists and turns, but it's not particularly smart in its characterization or plotting, nor is it vanguard when viewed through critical lenses. It lacks the emotional vulnerability and true social satire of effective domestic dramas that came before, and it only shines when it's exercising (instead of exorcising - zing!) every incredulously negative behavior of the femme fatale trope.
Strangely not enamored by this. I like Chris Pratt's Andy Dwyer on… MoreStrangely not enamored by this. I like Chris Pratt's Andy Dwyer on "Parks and Recreation," and his buff transformation is impressive and hath had no detriment yet upon his humor, but the movie was kinda meh. It tried to be different from other comic book movies, but it tried too hard - relying on tried-and-true soundtrack hits, milking the cuteness and emotional climaxes, and wedging in melodramatic backstory to give depth to the waggish protagonist. Perhaps it was overhyped. Incessant postings of "I am Groot" must have ruined me.
UGH ALL THE FEEEEELZ!!! Seeing this YA spectral romance in a crowded… MoreUGH ALL THE FEEEEELZ!!! Seeing this YA spectral romance in a crowded theatre of college undergrads hooting and hollering at their screen idols was certainly an awkward yet nostalgic celebration for the eve of my 30th birthday.
Mia is in a coma from a car accident that claimed the lives of her parents and brother, and she hovers in the in-between as her friends, extended family, and totally-dreamy-grunge-rocker-ex-boyfriend complicate her choice whether to move on or to stay. The backstory is evenly parceled out, introducing her kooky and loveable musical family and the tumultuous yet realistic relationship with aforementioned ex-lover Adam, played by the winsomely wounded Jamie Blackley.
Mia describes Adam as someone who is already the person he is meant to be, and that seems like such a YA cliché, but it's pretty well represented in this story. He knows his abandonment issues, he knows his passive-aggressive tactics, he knows his limits in a romantic relationship, and he knows Mia underneath her Debbie Harry get-up. Papering Mia's bedroom ceiling with the replica of the audition hall's ceiling is the sweetest thing evar, and apparently, it wasn't even in the book!
Chloe Grace Moretz is grounded and mature as Mia, but the high-stress moments (such as the Ghosting after the accident [not the pottery one] and sprinting through the hospital halls after Teddy dies) tested CGM's indignant/furious/afraid facial expressions - all of which were kinda similar. I almost expected her to yell "Fuck!" when she collapses in the hall (she being no stranger to blue language), but alas, MPAA rating and whatnot.
Not what I expected! This looked to be a typical summer blockbuster… MoreNot what I expected! This looked to be a typical summer blockbuster featuring a stock badass heroine played by fresh-off-of-Avengers Scarlett Johansson, but it's actually a remarkably cerebral and visually stylish, globetrotting race against human mortality. Like "Limitless," there's a drug that enhances the human brain's capacity to function past the mythical 10%. However, the unwitting drug-mule Lucy's quest isn't just one of revenge or power or pleasure; it's a self-sacrificial quest for mortal experience and immortal knowledge - which may be selfish in the Faustian sense - but still, Luc Besson's sci-fi parable is challenging and enigmatic.
ScarJo is rather good and comical in her robotic blankness, yet also achingly human in that one phone call monologue to her mom about being able to feel every single experience she's ever had. I also especially enjoyed the many references to my recently viewed "2001: A Space Odyssey": the drug-induced kaleidoscopic chromolume, Lucy visiting her hominin namesake, and of course, the monolith turned jump drive - now shrunken down to the littlest, blackest metaphor.
Not particularly memorable, scary, funny, or quotable. Floppy-haired… MoreNot particularly memorable, scary, funny, or quotable. Floppy-haired Omri Katz is very likable as Max, the skeptic protagonist, and young Thora Birch as his sister is impish and adorable. The blossoming friendships between Max, Allison, Dani, and Binx are more compelling than the witchy Halloween lore.