The same movie again but still good
Paper Towns (2015): After an all night adventure, Quentin's life-long crush, Margo, disappears, leaving behind clues that Quentin and his friends follow on the journey of a lifetime.
Man am I a sucker for the coming of age film. So first of all, let me point out that I am writing this review with my brand new keyboard, and it is gorgeous. I'll throw in a picture at the bottom of this review, but it is a mechanical keyboard, and it is wonderful for typing. If you are looking for a new keyboard this holiday season and you type a lot, do yourself a favor and look into mechanical keyboards. So to say I am in a good mood is definitely an understatement! And, fortunately for me, I am able to talk about a movie that was actually pretty good today! So the young adult novel genre is an absolute mess right now. There's no doubt. However, we often get about one film a year from the genre that is a phenomenal film. Films like If I Stay and The Fault In Our Stars are past year winners. This year's winner is very likely going to be Paper Towns. While this is kind of damning with feint praise, it's still praise nonetheless. Why? Because it's pretty much the exact same film as the ones I just mentioned. So, let's jump into it, shall we?
So let's first highlight the good stuff. The acting! The acting is excellent. This film went the route of using relative unknowns in the main roles, but they won't stay unknown for long. Nat Wolff and Cara Delevingne were excellent in their main roles, and I also really enjoyed Justice Smith in his supporting role as Radar. Everyone else, though, was just ok. The comedic relief character was extremely overwhelming, and his love story is rather poorly written and seemed to be just thrown together at the last minute. Speaking of story, I actually fairly enjoyed this one. Yes, it's pretty much the exact same story as previous young adult novel films. Ok, maybe not pretty much the same. It's exactly the same. I'm sorry guys, but everyone must admit that these young adult novels are pretty much exactly the same. But it's still fun to me! (Maybe that's why they make so much money) Margo is an extremely well-written main character, even though I would never buy that that character would actually exist in high school for a second. College maybe, but not high school. But I'll let that one slide. Ok I'm probably gonna let a lot of things slide with this movie. Moving on.
Well, let's now focus on the bad things. First off, the film is pretty visually boring. There's no editing whatsoever, and the b-roll is pretty lame. The film supposedly took place in Orlando, but the city is featured so little it really could've been any city. I would've had no idea it was Orlando were it not for the main characters mentioning it over and over. But the main problem with this film is that it is not even remotely new. As I said, we've seen this story over and over. The novelty of this genre has long worn off, and that's definitely going to turn some people off. But I'm fine with it. So suck it.
Honestly, there's not a whole lot else to say about this film. It's a good film, in my opinion, but it's only good because I enjoy the coming-to-age film within this heavily overused genre. It's pretty freaking hard to screw these stories up for me, and thus this is the best film this genre has to offer this year thus far. Maybe The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 will change my mind, but the whole PART TWO: THE EPIC CONCLUSION PART SEVENTY thing really pisses me off so I won't hold my breath. But that's all I got here. If you like a good coming-of-age film, then this one's for you. If you don't care, then don't bother. You're welcome. Just saved you 109 minutes.
The Critique: Yet another entry into a saturated genre, Paper Towns attempts to separate itself from the pack by doing the exact same thing as the rest of them. However, it's still good.
The Recommendation: If you care about this genre you've probably already seen this film. If not, if you're looking for a good coming-of-age film definitely go out of your way to see it. If not? Don't bother.
Rewatchability: Moderately Low
The Verdict: 7/10 Good.
Beware the Crimson Peak
Crimson Peak (2015): In the aftermath of a family tragedy, an aspiring author is torn between love for her childhood friend and the temptation of a mysterious outsider. Trying to escape the ghosts of her past, she is swept away to a house that breathes, bleeds - and remembers.
This is why I should never hype myself up for a film. Because I'm inevitably going to be disappointed. Crimson Peak is a tale of two stories. On one hand, this film is visually stunning. I know I probably throw that statement around more than I should, but if anything should be taken away from this movie, it's that director Guillermo del Toro is, quite simply, the best director in Hollywood when it comes to using the latest technology to create a stylized film. What I mean by that is that while the effects of this film aren't the "most realistic" or anything, they are used by him better than anyone in the business right now. The cinematography here, combined with the visual effects make for one hell of a visually stimulating experience. And boy does Toro know how to build a set. But more on that later. The problem here is.....the story sucks! It just sucks. This story is del Toro's worst story since.....well.....ever. This just might be the worst story del Toro has ever written. And while it is beautifully acted by the three main characters in Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain, and Mia Wasikowska, (and not-so-beautifully-acted by Charlie Hunnam) even Jessica Chastain can't save this terrible story. So let's jump into it, shall we?
You know how this works by now. Let's talk about the positives. As I said, this film looks visually stunning. While the style choice of the main "ghost" of the film didn't really agree with me, I can appreciate the reasoning behind the choice del Torro went with there. Yes, it's a mise en scene thing. Which is awesome mind you, given how vastly underused mise en scene is today, but it made the ghost look a little....silly. Anyway, moving on. The house looks spectacular. Can we get a film just about this house? Because when we get exterior shots of it it looks absolutely huge, but we hardly get to see any of it. There were clearly a lot more rooms that we didn't explore and I want to explore them! Dear Guillermo del Toro, can we please get a sequel just about the house? Pwetty pwease? Additionally, holy crap did the costume department show up. The costumes in this film are absolutely stunning, and definitely well worth a nomination. Although that and set design may be the only things this film is nominated for. But costumes? Definitely a 10/10. Well done there, guys. Finally, we have the acting. Mia Wasikowska was....good. That's really all I can say about her. She's asked to do a lot, and she delivers it, but she doesn't do anything out of the ordinary. As for Tom Hiddleston.....boy did I miss Benedict Cumberbatch. He definitely would've been a better fit here. That said, Hiddleston was still ok. Loki would've been better, but if this film confirmed anything for me, it's that Hiddleston is too good at playing Loki. Because that's all I saw. But then there's Jessica Chastain. Holy crap there's Jessica Chastain. Guys, you need to realize this. Chastain is on a freaking roll. She is having the best year of any actress OR actor BY FAR. She is doing a huge variety of roles, and she's nailing all of them. Chastain is mysterious, intriguing, and terrifying. She takes this otherwise EXTREMELY lackluster story and, combined with the visuals, holds it up with her bare hands. Her final encounter with Mia's character is easily the best scene of this film, and the only point where the film tries to be scary in a way that isn't just a standard pop scare. And I really feel like she improv'd most of this scene. She and the visuals are absolutely worth the price of admission, but for those of you who think this film is really scary don't worry! It's not. And that's just one of many problems I have with this film.
See that? I did a transition! Well, you know what? Let's finish the acting thought, because Charlie Hunnam is terrible in this film. Look Toro, I understand you really liked Hunnam in Pacific Rim. I did too! He was awesome! But there are some people who just can't do 19th century dialogue, and Hunnam is absolutely one of them. His delivery was laughable at best and cringe-worthy at worst, and you absolutely should've seen that in his audition. Nice "oops" moment there. Anyway, back to that "flawless" transition. So this film is officially labeled as a horror film. Least that's what I thought it was going to be labeled as. All the trailers made it look like it's going to be this super-scary film. Well.....it's not. All the scary bits were given away in the trailers, and those are just lazy pop-scares! C'MON DEL TORO! Y U NO INNOVATE? Some of you may remember that article I wrote on the rut the horror genre is in today earlier this year. (If you haven't, check it out here!) I was really hoping that Del Toro was going to bring some innovation back to the genre and deliver something scary that didn't involve the incredibly overused pop-scare. Something like what It Follows did! But nope! We get like 5 scary scenes total as is, and all of them are just pop scares. Well, that's ok, it's a Steven King-esque thriller then, right. Like The Shinning or something! Gripping story, right? WRONG! This story sucks! It is ridiculously predictable. About 15 minutes into this 119 minute film I predicted the ending. Which I very rarely do, because it ruins the fun. And from that point forward I was praying to the movie gods that that wasn't going to be the ending. They didn't listen. If you're going to be a thriller, then you need to keep your viewers on the edge of their seats. They need to be, you know, thrilled. But God is this film so predictable! And some of the lines are just....so.....bad! Even Jessica Chastain can't save it. Well, that's ok, long as the film is scary right? Oh, wait.....it's not....
In conclusion, Crimson Peak is my biggest disappointment of 2015 so far. Plain and simple. I had such high hopes for this film! I even included it in my Films to Watch for This Oscar Season article I wrote a few months back! I believed in you, Crimson Peak! But what I got was a visually stunning mess. A visually stunning mess I want to see a sequel of, no doubt, but still a mess.. But Guillermo del Toro, why couldn't you hold this film to the same standard as your previous films? I loved Pacific Rim. I loved Pan's Labyrinth. I loved Don't Be Afraid of the Dark. Maybe I just hold del Toro and his films to a higher standard. Because I know he can do better than this. Unfortunately, Crimson Peak is not the horror film we need. It is a painfully average mess.
The Critique: While Jessica Chastain and the incredible set design attempt to carry this film, it cannot save Crimson Peak from an incredibly lackluster story. It is my biggest disappointment of 2015 so far.
The Recommendation: Still worth a watch if you're a del Toro fan. Or love stylistic horror films. Or want to see why I love Jessica Chastain so much. Just....don't be as hyped about the film as I was going into it.
The Verdict: 5/10 Average.
Oscar Talk: Set Design and Costumes/Makeup should be almost sure-things. Everything else though is unlikely. Which sucks because I wanted this to get a Best Picture nomination! Oh how naive I was.....
PS! On a totally unrelated note, it is a sad day for me. I've written a ton of reviews on this blog over the past 3 years. (Holy crap 3 years) And my trusty Macbook Pro keyboard has been the keyboard that's been there for all of them. Well, today, with this review, I retire this lovely keyboard. Tomorrow, I will receive my beautiful new mechanical RGB keyboard, (the Corsair K95 RGB if anyone's interested) and while I am extremely excited to enter the world of mechanical bliss, I have certainly appreciated this surprisingly awesome keyboard. That'll do, Macbook Pro keyboard. That'll do.
A Science-ier Version of Gravity
The Martian (2015): During a manned mission to Mars, Astronaut Mark Watney is presumed dead after a fierce storm and left behind by his crew. But Watney has survived and finds himself stranded and alone on the hostile planet. With only meager supplies, he must draw upon his ingenuity, wit and spirit to subsist and find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive.
Man those IMDB descriptions are getting longer and longer. Anyway, before you think that caption implies I didn't like the movie, I loved this film. Well, mostly. If you felt that Gravity was awesome but lacked basis in science, or Interstellar wasn't good enough because it lacked a bases in science, then The Martian is the movie for you. You've probably already seen it, as I do acknowledge that I'm coming into this review a little late. But, did you notice the part where I said mostly loved this film? Ya, I said mostly. Once again, we get a 144 minute film where the second half of the movie cannot keep up with the first half. This has been a serious trend in Hollywood recently: filmmakers set up a phenomenal film, but cannot follow through and deliver a week third act. Unfortunately, The Martian is no exception.
Again, pleaaaaase don't think I hated the film. I most certainly did not, and even though the final act was lackluster, the first half of this film is still awesome, and there are plenty of other things that are awesome here too. For example, the cast here is awesome. I was honestly worried I was not going to be able to get past the fact that Matt Damon played an astronaut, you know, last year, but I was pleasantly surprised. This Matt Damon astronaut was nothing like the last one, and I quickly forgot about that horribly written character altogether. (Nice shot at Interstellar there I know) While the rest of this cast doesn't really matter.....like at all....we still get wonderfully acted performances from Jessica Chastain, (one of my favorite actresses in the business right now and also in last year's Interstellar fun fact) Jeff Daniels, (who's basically just playing his character Will McAvoy from The Newsroom) Michael Pena, (how can you not love this guy) Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Kate Mara. The big losers here are Kristen Wiig and Sean Bean, who are in this film for no other reason than to be looked at and to not die for once in a film, respectively. Yes Kristen Wiig is only in this film for eye candy, as her biggest scene in the whole film she just happened to wear the most skin-tight dress on the planet to work that day. And yes, I did say Sean Bean doesn't die for once and you may think that's a spoiler cause Sean Bean always dies, but he only has like 6 lines so trust me....no spoiler there.
Another plus? The cinematography. The film gets a 10/10 from me on cinematography as it makes Interstellar's view of space look like Legos. The film's view of Mars and of space is absolutely stunning, and it's worth several watches (as well as one in theater if you haven't done so already) for this reason alone. Yes, to me the cinematography is worth the price of admission. But now let's talk about the bad stuff. Which involves the story. At first I was loving the story. It was freaking awesome to see this much science being explained to you on-screen at one time. Problems that Matt Damon faced including how to make things grow on Mars, how to communicate with NASA, and how to make a space rover travel much farther than initially designed were mesmerizing. However as time went on, this level of detail clearly could not be maintained in a single 2+ hour film. But when the movie stopped providing as much detail is when it became an extremely standard run-of-the-mill rescue film, complete with the standard BS line of "trust me, I did the numbers, they're right." line that you get in every film that realizes it doesn't have time to adequately explain something. And the rescue itself? Some of the things that happen there are absolutely unbelievable, which is amplified tenfold because of how believable the first half of the film actually is.
That said, again, I did enjoy this movie. Turning my brain off towards the end is not what I was hoping for going into it, but even still the cinematography and acting was more than enough to keep me invested even when my brain was turned off. Ultimately, The Martian is a good film. Nothing special, but still good. I certainly don't expect a sweeping of the Oscars or anything, but I definitely DEFINITELY will predict a nomination for Cinematography. But other than that? I wouldn't be surprised if it didn't receive any other nominations. Sorry, I guess? Sorry if you were hoping that I was going to say The Martian is the greatest film ever made, but sometimes being good is.....fine. It certainly is here. Welcome to the Oscar season ladies and gentlemen.
The Verdict: While beautifully shot, The Martian suffers from several late flaws that prevent it from being anything more than good.
The Recommendation: Definitely for science fans as it is one of the most science-y films ever, and definitely for Matt Damon fans as well. I'd say it's a sold October release worth checking out in a theater on a cold and rainy fall afternoon.
Rewatchability: Moderately High
The Verdict: 7/10 Good.
Oscar Talk: I have a feeling Matt Damon is not going to get a nomination for Best Actor. Every year that field is just too densely populated, but I do expect a nomination for Best Cinematography and effects. Other than that? Nada.
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