A fascinating take on a real-life topic, True Story examines… MoreA fascinating take on a real-life topic, True Story examines journalistic integrity, lies, the court of public opinion, and adherence to the truth. Jonah Hill and James Franco display restrained character actor skills as two frauds who have more in common with each other than would appear at first glance. Felicity Jones has a notable scene or two as a cold, direct Greek chorus - clarifying the opinions of the filmmakers toward Christian Longo and his attempts at redemption. I was struck how blunt, simple, and unpretentious True Story manages to be for its entire runtime, despite the fact that I'm sure half of the events on screen are exaggerated or entirely fabricated. (Ironic, isn't it?) I will recommend it, even if lacks the oomph or staying power that I'm sure it would have had under David Fincher's twisted hand.
Unfriended is another example of a modern horror film that is more… MoreUnfriended is another example of a modern horror film that is more interesting than it is entertaining or well, scary. The concept of an entire movie taking place on a teenage girl's laptop sounds gimmicky at best and the trailer seemed to confirm that this was going to be a laughable shitfest. But that was not the case and this movie does have some element of mystery and tension. There is some spark of creativity and vision here in that we are as isolated and helpless as the protagonist while her friends are subjected to the unseen hand of brutal righteous vengeance. (It has much in common with The Blair Witch Project - for better and for worse.) And the acting was quite impressive considering the fact that each one was probably alone, yelling and crying at a blank computer screen. Oh yeah, this movie is mostly attractive white people arguing and screaming into webcams and then dying in B-horror fashion. Yet it works, and you could do far worse as modern horror films go, even if most people will be bored and take umbrage with the ending, the unlikeable characters, and gigantic plot holes. But I fear that this format will soon be used in lesser sequels, spin-offs, and rip-offs much in the same way how the original (and mostly decent) Paranormal Activity was followed by completely pointless and shit sequels. In that case I would have to recommend the truly excellent and underrated It Follows instead.
A strong, underplayed and unpretentious horror film, It Follows… MoreA strong, underplayed and unpretentious horror film, It Follows harkens back to scare flicks of yesteryear (the late 70's and early 80's specifically). It ironically has more in common with Drive than it does any recent entries in the genre, as it comes complete with a synth soundtrack, long organic takes, and a strange dreamlike feel that set it apart from anything else you will see. It was quite refreshing to see a cast of characters and a female protagonist who were surprisingly sympathetic and relatable, even if they were irritatingly and laughably stupid (a convention of the genre they don't subvert). The first half quite honestly put me on edge and had me scanning the screen for the silent, supernatural, and unstoppable Terminator-esque killer. The tension died down a bit in the second half and I seem to not be alone in this regard. It suffers from an ambiguous non-ending and a slow pace that general audiences will not forgive it for. It personally didn't bother me. At the end of my screening there were outbursts from loud dipshits - "THIS IS BULLSHIT! I GOT RIPPED OFF!"; "MAN THAT WAS FUCKIN BORIN! WACK ASS MOVIE." Even a seemingly more restrained older couple were less than impressed - "I just thought it would be well...more...exciting...or something." At least the underground horror community have something to celebrate and cherish among themselves. Because the studio-produced PG-13 shlock of today definitely does not have them in mind. They have my sympathies.
Not every well-intentioned, well-acted drama manages to make a splash… MoreNot every well-intentioned, well-acted drama manages to make a splash and Men, Women, and Children is an unfortunate example of this. Based on a Chad Kultgen novel I have not read, it concerns teenagers and their parents falling into sexual immorality and disaster as technology becomes their primary form of communication. The narration by Emma Thompson is exquisite, along with the intercutting of Voyager drifting out of our Solar System, which is there because...reasons. Adam Sandler acts his ass off here and I look forward to the day I see him leave the low-brow comedy rut he's found himself in these last few years. Honorable mentions are in order for Elena Kampouris, Dean Norris, and Ansel Elgort. But truth be told, both Jennifer Gardner's and Will Peltz's characters should have been taken out in the back and shot. (Let's just leave it at that.)
Men, Women, and Children has been treated rather unceremoniously for a fall season drama, and that may lie in the fact that its message leans a bit on the puritanical side, which might not sit right with today's admittedly permissive yet awkwardly self-conscious sexual culture. As I like to say, it's about as subtle as a flying brick, on fire, smashing through your windshield. Upon picking it up, you may find a message attached that reads THE CASUAL WAY THAT YOU AND YOUR CHILDREN USE SEX AND THE INTERNET IS LEADING TO SOCIETAL MORAL RUIN. Now that argument lies perilously close to a slippery slope, and I have no intention of evaluating that - I'm just noting the controversy. I think this film deserved more attention so this message could receive its fair day in court, rather than be casually dismissed. Overall it is an artistically crafted film that ends up being more interesting than actually entertaining or enlightening. Take from that what you will.
Addendum: After having read the actual novel and overall liking it, I uphold my opinion as stated above. However, changing the character's age from Middle School children to High School teenagers reduced the punch and gravity that the Kultgen novel had. It also would have created controversy which would have attracted some kind of attention and therefore commercial business, something this movie lacked on all fronts. Furthermore, while Jason Reitman is a capable director and this was a passion project of his (he personally loved the book), he is too quirky of a director to adapt what was an essentially cold and nihilistic treatise of lonely people stuck in a small town and their desperate quest for sexual fulfillment and happiness. Spoiler: It doesn't end well for very many characters.
The latest flop from the Wachowski twins, Jupiter Ascending is an… MoreThe latest flop from the Wachowski twins, Jupiter Ascending is an attempt to merge fairy tale elements with overblown space opera - neither working together quite well. The short version - Jupiter Ascending kind of blows. The plot is completely nonsensical and dull, the CGI overwhelms the experience, and there really doesn't seem to be a true purpose to this movie at all. (Not even to create a franchise or make money. Just nothing.) Mila Kunis is a competent but not exceptional actress who keeps being shoehorned into shit movies and her general lack of enthusiasm for this project shows. Channing Tatum and Sean Bean seem to be the only ones having fun, kicking ass in most of their scenes. Both have played in plenty of shit action movies over the years and know how to deliver poorly written dialogue or work an overlong set piece without embarrassing themselves. Eddie Redmayne blows it as one of the lamest villains in cinema, whispering and mumbling his dialogue while staring blankly at the green screen in front of him and almost never the character he is talking to. It was enough to make me want to punch his face in and take his Oscar and hand it to its rightful owner - Michael Keaton. (Yes I went there. Bite me.)
There are brief moments of fun, such as a montage of our main characters dealing with a fantastical bureaucratic system from hell that resembles the one seen in Brazil (Terry Gilliam makes a cameo here) or the 2008 indy film Franklyn. And I have to admire the existence of a female-centric big budget space opera with an original screenplay, not based on any preexisting franchise. Even if it is a hodgepodge of different ideas and almost feels like a YA book adaptation aimed at 14 year old girls. I honestly don't recommend it, and where Cloud Atlas is slowly becoming a cult classic, I have a hard time envisioning an audience for this.