For the beauty of the craft
If Beale Street Could Talk (2018): A woman in Harlem embraces her pregnancy while she and her family struggle to prove her fiancé innocent of a crime.
Barry Jenkins is a master filmmaker. Plain and simple. He can take any story, no matter how crass, and craft it into a mesmerizing work of art. That's what If Beale Street Could Talk is: an overbearing (and at times slightly insensitive) story composed by one of the true masters of the craft in Hollywood today. We are truly blessed to be in the presence of Barry Jenkins, who, unlike someone like Adam McKay, proved that his breakout film was no fluke.
The calling card of this film is the filmmaking itself. Director Barry Jenkins displays an extraordinary ability to make any scene captivating, regardless of circumstance. Barry Jenkins brought back most of his crew from Moonlight and excelled in the cinematography, editing, and score: all three are very close to the best I've seen in 2018, with the later being the best I've seen BAR NONE. Nicholas Britell follows up his amazing score for Moonlight with an equally captivating and memorable score. But this time, it also packs an emotional wallop that brought me to tears at several points. That's right: the SCORE of this film made me emotional. It's that good. Barry Jenkins personal cinematographer, James Laxton, crafts an incredible work of art with the camera lenses. Shots feel beautifully intimate while carrying an undeniable gravitas to them thanks to the intentionally out-of-focus backgrounds. Various scenes have a beautiful rhythm to them thanks to the constant and subtle camera movement. I honestly cannot believe Laxton was snubbed a Best Cinematography nomination. Performance-wise, Regina King leads the way, (and received a deserving Oscar nomination) but this is certainly an ensemble film. People like Bryan Tyree Henry, Diego Luna, Finn Wittrock, and Pedro Pascal only have a scene or two, but all of them do the best with what they are given. Especially Bryan Tyree Henry. Oh my GOD he's so good. He gets literally one scene, but his performance is unforgettable. When Sharon Rivers (King) finally gets her moment, though, she doesn't let it go to waste.
That said, I've been beating around the bush of the somewhat major fault of this film, and now we gotta talk about it. The story here is…..mediocre. It's overbearing and it hasn't aged particularly well. There are some voiceovers scattered throughout that do nothing but act as a crutch and overexplain things to the viewer, and the subject matter of this story feels a bit inopportune given the #MeToo era we currently live in. Barry Jenkins does a fairly good job at walking the tightrope between two very real problems, (and I, being the straight white man that I am, certainly don't claim to have any firsthand knowledge of either) but there were a few moments where I found myself a little uncomfortable at the approach. The voiceovers are the bigger culprit, though it doesn't detract too much from the overall film, because even as we see an overbearing voiceover, we're still looking at some gorgeous craft. But, sadly….. this story is no Moonlight. Nor does it even deserve to be used in the same sentence.
In summary, the craft of this film was exquisite to watch, but it does surround a screenplay that is both crass and oppressive. Barry Jenkins makes this film great with his technical mastery, but the film is held back by it's subject material. Oh, and it's main characters. I haven't mentioned them at all to this point because Tish and Fonny are a tad forgettable The chemistry between them is…..uninspired. But when the craft is so intoxicating to look at, it's hard to care. This will be a phenomenal movie to watch in film class down the road, because this is exactly how movies should be made.
My number: 8/10 Great.
One of the best movies I have ever seen
Phantom Thread (2017): Set in 1950's London, Reynolds Woodcock is a renowned dressmaker whose fastidious life is disrupted by a young, strong-willed woman, Alma, who becomes his muse and lover.
This initially started as a "Raw Thoughts" piece, which came to you from Darkness Brewing immediately after the second viewing of the film, but have since been edited after watching the movie for a third time. This is the best film of 2017, so it's too good for just a "Raw Thoughts" piece!
Phantom Thread….is a masterpiece. The great Paul Thomas Anderson is back, and this time he's paired, once more, with the legendary Daniel Day-Lewis. Their last film, There Will be Blood, is widely considered one of the best films of the 21st century, so to say there was some hype behind this one is something of an understatement. Anderson’s last film, Inherent Vice, was a rather messy endeavor that was a little too incoherent and loose with its style for my tastes. But I think P.T. Anderson realized that, too. This time, his cast is waded down to three from the enormous supporting cast of Vice. This allows Anderson to intimately focus on the intricate and dynamic relationship between the leads of this film, Reynolds and Alma.
Let's start there. These two are the reason to see this movie. Their relationship is the centerpiece, and these characters are played masterfully by Daniel Day-Lewis and Vicky Krieps, both of which put in the best performance of 2017. Freaking Vicky Krieps, guys. We all know Daniel Day-Lewis is one of the greatest method actors in the history of Hollywood, and he reminds us why (again) here. That's honestly assumed at this point. He may win an Oscar for this performance, (probably not - Gary Oldman has been sweeping the awards season so far) but when Daniel Day-Lewis decides to put himself in a film an Oscar is basically the bar for him. But I can't even imagine what it must've felt like to have to play opposite of a man as intense as he is. (Apparently Daniel Day-Lewis insisted on meeting Krieps for the very first time on set filming their first scene together.) Well, Krieps more than holds her own and creates an utterly fascinating character in the process. There's so much intrigue and depth to her character, and the relationship between her and Reynolds is intoxicating. The whole film is about their back-and-forth power struggle, and Alma's transformation from shy waitress to muse on equal footing with the demanding Reynolds is simply incredible. And, of course, it's absolutely marvelous to see Daniel Day-Lewis on screen once more. He spent a year studying couture preparing for this role, and his attention to the most minute of details are ever apparent. The relationship between these characters will be analyzed for years to come, and every scene involving the pair, even down to a simple look between them, is mesmerizing. Daniel Day-Lewis has said this is his last role, but as one star rides out into the sunset in triumphant fashion, another rises to take his place. Welcome to the top of the world of A-list movie stars, Vicky Krieps. What an incredible casting choice from Paul Thomas Anderson. The sheer unknown that comes with Vicky Krieps as an actress is undoubtedly a strength of the film, but having to play opposite a man of Daniel Day-Lewis's caliber.....well, it has certainly proved to be too much for people in the past. Fortunately, though, Krieps knocked this one out of the park and rocketed herself into stardom in the process.
You know who else is really interesting in this film? Lesley Manville as Reynold's intriguing sister, Cyril. There's at least one thesis paper waiting to be written on the relationship between her and Reynolds. Despite how demanding Reynolds is, both Cyril and Alma find their own ways to have power over him, and it's simply magnificent to watch. GAH! I love this film, if you can't tell. It has this alpha male lead with Reynolds, but it's really all about the women in his life and how they find various ways (some more extreme than others) to get him to do what they want. It's amazing. On top of their incredible and dynamic relationship, you have, well, EVERYTHING else. Like the set design! Everything about this set is meticulously chosen by P.T. Anderson. The costumes are brilliant and tell their own story. The freaking food choices from Reynolds tell their own story. Everything has a purpose here. I've seen this film multiple times now and I know there are still dozens of details that I've missed! And the score. Holy Jonny Greenwood the score! Hey, Jonny: can you PLEASE wade into Hollywood films more than just in P.T. Anderson flicks? Because this is easily the best score of 2017, and it comes from Radiohead's lead guitarist. I mean, who needs John Williams, right? It's mysterious and memorable just like Alma, and demanding and intrusive like Reynolds. On the second viewing I already found myself humming along to it, too. I freaking love it! I'm going to be listening to it for months and years to come. I haven't liked a score this much since Junkie XL's haunting score for Mad Max: Fury Road.
About the only complaint I have with this otherwise perfect film is with the third act. There's something of a pointless MacGuffin thrown in as “jealousy” is seemingly introduced into Reynolds and Alma's relationship, but it doesn't really go anywhere. However, this fault is well into the third act and relatively minor overall, and I'm sure it does serve some purpose that I just haven't figured it out yet, so it's not enough to take away from this masterpiece of filmmaking. In conclusion, this film is the very definition of the (often overused) word "masterpiece." It is the best film of 2017, and is every bit worthy of the hype it has garnered. Take the opportunity to go and see this one in a theater, guys. I think 10 years from now you'll wanna be able to tell people you saw this one when it first came out.
The Critique: Featuring an intoxicating relationship between its marvelous leads, Phantom Thread is Paul Thomas Anderson at his best and is easily the best overall film of 2017.
The Recommendation: Easy. An absolute-must see for all!
The Verdict: 10/10
A beautiful and mesmerizing love story
Call Me by Your Name (2017): In Northern Italy in 1983, seventeen year-old Elio begins a relationship with visiting Oliver, his father's research assistant, with whom he bonds over his emerging sexuality, their Jewish heritage, and the beguiling Italian landscape.
I love this movie. Simply put, it is spectacular. It is gorgeous in every sense of the word: it features breathtaking cinematography and production design, wonderful dialogue, fantastic colors, and beautiful chemistry between its leads, Armie Hammer (as Oliver) and Timothée Chalamet. (As Elio) Every second of this 132 minute film had me completely entranced. I love it when a film sucks me into its world entirely, and no film has done that better than this in 2017. The hype is real, guys. Call Me by Your Name does have a few faults, but overall it is one of the strongest and most engaging films of 2017, and it's well worth your time.
There isn't much that I didn't like here, but that's where I'll start. This film reminded me of 20th Century Women in a lot of ways. I felt a similar style of dialogue between the films, as well as ties between actor Michael Stuhlbarg (who plays Elio's father) and Annette Bening's portrayal as Dorothea Fields, (the mother in 20th Century Women) and similarities in the editing. 2 of the 3 of these I don't have a problem with. (Stuhlbarg is spectacular as the father) But, like in 20th Century Women, director Luca Guadognino employees the rainbow editing style a few times, and I'm still just not a fan of that. It takes me out of the moment, and I haven't been able to fully comprehend and appreciate why it's utilized since I first saw it in 2016. Someone REALLY needs to explain this to me! It's part of a filmmaking style I think, but it's tough (for me, at least) to identify the style while it's being developed. There's also some issues with the pacing. Shots will linger for just a hair too long, and the film does choose to focus on a few things that seem, well, less-than-important. I think the length of the movie is just right, but it's about 10 minutes too long in the second act then 10 minutes too short in the third. However, the rest of the film is fan-freaking-tastic. Almost as fantastic as this gif of Armie Hammer dancing, which is applicable in literally EVERY situation. Peace in the Middle East? Well, it's funny that you should ask.....
I'll be honest with you: I could stare at that gif allllllllll day. (I even have a shirt of it which I maaaay or may not be wearing right now as I type up this review) Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet, though. They are the best things about this film. I've been a huge fan of Hammer's since he played the "Winklevii" in 2010's The Social Network, but it took until 2017 for him to finally show us what he could do. Equally as impressive is (relative) newcommer Timothée Chalamet. I hadn't seen this kid in anything before 2017, but all it took was his complex performance in Lady Bird and this to convince me that he's a star. Both Hammer and Chalamet are marvelous together. They have great chemistry, and their story arc is simply beautiful. These are very demanding roles that they have to play, and honestly it looks like they could do them in their sleep. It was wonderful. The supporting cast is small, but the one member that really stands out is Michael Stuhlbarg. He plays this whimsical, pragmatic, and wise character that almost steals the show for me. His heart-wrenching monologue to his son at the end of the film may very well be my single favorite movie moment of 2017. It alone is worth the price of admission.
As if the superb acting wasn't enough, this film is also GORGEOUS to look at. Filmed on location in northern Italy, (aka one of the most romantic spots in the world) this movie utilizes its landscape, its time period, (early 80s) and its production design to a mesmerizing degree. Look at that picture at the top of this review. Look at all the colors used on the set. The color of the costumes. Every decision here from director Luca Guadagnino was meticulous and a spectacular one The cinematography was terrific too and told the story of these characters in their own right. Kudos to Sayombhu Mukdeeprom, as this is some of the best cinematography I saw in 2017. And, finally, there's the soundtrack. "This is Me" from The Greatest Showman may be getting all the Oscar buzz for original song, but if you want a FAR better song about being different and still trying to be yourself while falling in love.....look no further than this film's major original song, "Mystery of Love." Sufjan Stevens delivers not just the best song I've heard in film in 2017, but one of the best songs I've heard all year, period. He has two other original songs here, and all of them are, like the rest of this film, mesmerizing. There are a lot of other great songs used here, too. After all..... any film that makes The Psychedelic Furs an integral part of its story is going to be good. It's impossible for it to not be!
While this film does fall just short of perfection thanks to those rainbow edits and the (slightly) muddy pacing, it doesn't change the fact that this will end up being one of the best films of 2017 and well worth your time to see this intimate, heartwarming, earth-shattering love story. Put it on the list, for sure. Now, excuse me while I go stare at that gif of Armie Hammer dancing for just a little while longer....
The Critique: Full of joy and heartbreak, Call Me by Your Name is one of 2017's best films and features dynamic performances from its male leads.
The Recommendation: May not be for everyone out there but I think this is an absolute must-see
The Verdict: 9/10 Awesome.
A beautifully unorthodox love story
The Shape of Water (2017): In a 1960s research facility, a mute janitor forms a relationship with an aquatic creature.
Oscar season is (finally) in full swing. I have a lot of movies I have yet to see, but if the early awards season is any indication.....The Shape of Water will be making some serious waves (tehe) this year. After seeing it, I can understand why. The brainchild of the great Guillermo del Toro, (and almost certainly his best work to date) The Shape of Water shows us an imaginative love story between a mute and an amphibious creature. That's really all you need to know about the story going in. The greatness of this film is with the relationship of its lead characters, its spectacular visual effects, and its wonderful production design. So, without further ado, let's dive in and discuss The Shape of Water! (Don't worry I'll be here all night with these water puns)
Sally freaking Hawkins. I must admit I am not very familiar with this talented actress. Heck since starting this blog I've only seen her in Godzilla and Blue Jasmine, and she didn't really stand out in either of them. So I feel like I can't say this is "the performance of her career," but I will say I can see why many other people (people whom are more familiar with her work) are saying that. She gives Ross Lynch in My Friend Dahmer a serious run for his money in terms of the best performance I've seen in 2017. Hawkins plays a mute, and the fact that she couldn't speak didn't slow her down at all. She conveys so much emotion throughout this film with just her face it's incredible. Like, Nicole Kidman in Lion kind of incredible. There's one scene in particular where she's yelling at Richard Jenkins's character, and even though she can't talk.....you really feel like she's yelling at him! It's one of many fantastic scenes throughout the film. Doug Jones plays the mysterious amphibious creature, and he does an outstanding job too. The freaking visual effects, man. Dunkirk has some company for the best effects of the year. You get almost as much emotion out of the creature as you do Sally Hawkins, and the scenes where it's just the two of them are simply terrific. Del Toro and company did an incredible job here showing off what you can do in 2017. Man have we come a loooooooong way. Additionally, the supporting cast is not only strong, but they have some great character arcs as well. Richard Jenkins leads the way. He plays Hawkins's neighbor, and has a wonderful story arc himself as a man struggling to cope with his homosexuality in the 1960s. He may make some waves this awards season with this performance, as it's certainly one of the best of his distinguished career. Octavia Spencer, Michael Shannon, and Michael Stuhlbarg are great as well. Honestly this film may make some waves for the ensemble award as the SAG Awards, because all of these actors are great and each have (mostly) good character arcs on top of it.
Finally, this film also features terrific production design, as well as one of my favorite scores of the year. Alexandre Desplat (who's been a busy man recently with a whooping six film scores) adds another fantastic score to his portfolio, which certainly adds to the ambiance of the film. It also reminded me a lot of the opening of Up, and anything that makes me think of one of the best sequences ever made is certainly a good thing. While there have been some other great scores this year, The Shape of Water will almost certainly be a tidal wave this awards season in this department. As for the production design.....the freaking colors, man. The film looks very grimy and worn down, and every choice of color adds to this. I think there's a good essay somewhere about del Toro's color palette, and why certain colors were used in this film. (Looks at every college student studying film)
THAT SAID. There are some imperfections here. Most notably in Michael Shannon's character. I get that this is a fairy tale, but his character has some cartoon villain-esque traits that make him not feel like a real person. Shannon plays the villain spectacularly well, and his character is written with a LOT of ties to modern America, which I appreciated, but still. It just felt a little too over-the-top for me. (Though I expect many will disagree.) Michael Stuhlbarg was also a little underdeveloped for how prominently he's featured in this film, and his character's arc ended in a really disappointing fashion. He became a plot device after starting out as a major supporting character, and that irked me a tad. Also. (Warning: I'm going to throw a spoiler in here, but it occurs within the first ten minutes of the film and doesn't impact it at all later on so it's minor) I appreciated the ties to modern America, (of which, there are many) but......did we really have to get full frontal nudity (in rather excruciating detail, I might add) of Sally Hawkins within the first five minutes of the film? That sequence felt awkward and out-of-place. It doesn't last too long, but to me it felt like nudity for the sake of objectification. Ugh! Fortunately, this sequence doesn't last very long and I was able to move past it.
All of those complaints, though, are relatively minor in scale. This film is one of the great movies of the year, and deserves all of the awards hype it is receiving. Guillermo del Toro has crafted his best work to date in the style that only Toro himself knows best, and is well worth your time. Check it out!
The Critique: Buoyed by fantastic visual effects and a spectacular performance from Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water is a charming and unorthodox love story that will keep you engrossed from start to finish.
The Recommendation: If you like a good love story.....what are you waiting for? Check this one out!
The Verdict: 9/10 Amazing
UPDATE: So I originally gave this film an 8/10, but then I saw The Greatest Showman and saw how poorly it handled some of the ties to 2017 and realized that The Shape of Water did this part so much better that it's borderline hilarious. So I had to up my score a bit for my own sanity.
The Strongest 1/10 a Movie can ever Receive
The Room (2003): Johnny is a successful banker who lives happily in a San Francisco townhouse with his fiancée, Lisa. One day, inexplicably, she gets bored with him and decides to seduce his best friend, Mark. From there, nothing will be the same again.
Look at that IMDB description. LOOK AT IT. Doesn't that make you want to drop everything and see it? It's so engaging! I just love how they felt the need to add the word "inexplicably" in that description. It's completely unnecessary, but it's still.....mysteriously beautiful. Actually, that's a great way to describe The Room: completely unnecessary, yet mysteriously beautiful. This film is routinely referred to as "the best worst movie ever made," and I can see why. It's TERRIBLE, in every facet, but you will be rolling on the floor laughing at just how bad it is. I figured I would take a minute to talk about this film with The Disaster Artist going nationwide this week, because that's as good an excuse as any to talk about this cult classic. It's no wonder this film is a favorite among certain circles. This movie is a GREAT party watch, which has led to many theaters having sold-out midnight screenings of it to this day. If you've never done one of those and you like The Room......oh boy do you need to change that. I was lucky enough to see this film for the first time in a midnight screening, and it is honestly one of the best movie watching experiences I have ever had. You haven't seen The Room until you see it like this. No wonder people see it in the theater dozens of times. But how does one analyze it? How has this film lived on and garnered so much attention to the point that there's an Oscar-worthy making of film coming out about it right now? These are some really good questions that I don't know the answer to right now. Let me go out and toss a football to myself and get back to you beautiful people.
Ok I know that was a frisbee and not a football but just go with it, ok? Whatever. I don't care.
So now that I'm back from tossing my frisbee I MEAN FOOTBALL, let's talk about The Room! I have seen some pretty terrible movies in my life. Heck for my 10,000/100,000 view specials I reviewed Manos: The Hands of Fate and Night of the Lepus respectively. But those movies are so bad they're unwatchable. This film, however, is an absolute blast to watch. Why is that? It's hard to find a rational explanation for why The Room is a significantly better a viewing experience than something like Night of the Lepus. Why does The Room garner massive midnight screenings while Birdemic (to list another of the historically awful films out there) does not? I think it starts with the allure and (to this day) shroud of mystery that surrounds the director, writer, producer, financier, and lead actor of The Room, the legendary Tommy Wiseau.
So do me a solid and look at that picture real quick. That is Tommy Wiseau's official headshot on IMDB. You can spend hours and hours on IMDB and not find a more ugly picture of an actor anywhere. Even John Reynolds, the....uhhhh..... actor that was allegedly high on LSD during the entire filming of Manos: The Hands of Fate just doesn't have a picture of himself on IMDB! And yet there's Wiseau's horrifically disheveled face. Right there for the world to see. We know criminally little about Wiseau and where he came from, but legend has it that he spent five million dollars of his own money to self-finance The Room. How did he get that money? Why did he come to Hollywood and try and be an actor when he had enough money to finance his own movie? He has to be well off if he has five million dollars lying around to blow. How did he look at this and say, "Sure. This looks good. Let's release it to the world!" Who knows. We may never know. This man is so mysterious that his Wikipedia page has to quote a Howard Stern interview he did this year in which he says he can speak French and is Catholic for his "Personal Life" section. In an age where we know absolutely everything about every major star, and tabloid journalists follow actors around like hawks scouring for the latest scandal, the ability of Tommy Wiseau to still, to this day, remain a complete mystery is unprecedented. It tears me apart, man! I just want to know more about him!
It also helps, in building the allure of Wiseau, that for me personally, his performance in The Room is, simply put, the worst performance I have ever seen in a movie. Everything about this performance is awful. He switches tone with his character on a dime for no explicable reason! One second he's furious at Lisa, the next it's "Oh hi, Mark!" in a playful, excited tone. When a kid he's supposedly a mentor to tells him he's in love with his fiance, (did you know Lisa is soon to be his wife?) he responds with, "Go on." He yells at himself in a very unconvincing way, then suddenly says "Oh hi, Mark!" And his laugh. His laugh is so. Just so. Freaking. Bad. It is the best worst laugh in the history of Hollywood cinema. ALSO. He also has no control over his hands and other extremities. Also this. Ricky Bobby would be proud.
The other actors in this film aren't that great, but dear GOD they look like superstars next to Wiseau. And yet.....I still love this performance. There's just something so lovable about Tommy Wiseau. He's terrible, but he's still trying to live his dream in this movie, and that's something I can respect. Heck that's something a lot of people can't say. He's just really, REALLY bad at it in a great way.
Outside of Tommy Wiseau, there are just a lot of problems with this movie. Problems with the script, (what about Lisa's mom having breast cancer? Or that drug deal that goes south with Denny?) problems with the set, (throws spoons in the air) and problems with character actions, (and they enter and exit and play football and enter and exit.....) to name a few. But you already knew that. You wait for these moments and the famous moments of the script because even though they're terrible......they're still awesome in a mysteriously beautiful way. Miiiiiiiiinus the soft-core porn sections littered throughout the film. Those are just baaaaaaaaaaaad. This film comes in at 99 minutes long, but it really feels like at least 20 minutes of that is just soft porn. Oh ya! Also, also.... some of this film isn't even in focus! Oh! And the audio gets de-synced a few times! Wiseau and company failed in SPECTACULAR fashion in every facet of filmmaking with The Room. It's really quite amazing how thoroughly someone can fail at something, but you won't care. You'll be laughing along every step of the way. Despite its epic failure, Tommy Wiseau and his lovable cast of misfits managed to craft a movie that is a timeless classic. A movie that still brings people together almost 15 years later. I have to give this film a 1/10 because yes. It is terrible. But there's no doubt this is the strongest 1/10 I can ever hand out. Now I sure do hope that Lisa's mom is doing ok.....
The Critique: The best worst movie ever made, The Room is a lovable, timeless classic that still brings people together 15 years later to marvel at how much someone can so completely and utterly fail in every aspect of filmmaking.
The Recommendation: It gets a 1/10, but I will still call this movie an absolute must see for everyone. Because it is. Somehow.
The Verdict: 1/10 Lovably horrific
As lively as a zombie
Pride + Prejudice + Zombies (2016): Jane Austen's classic tale of the tangled relationships between lovers from different social classes in 19th century England is faced with a new challenge -- an army of undead zombies.
First off, can we call this film what it really is? Pride + Prejudice + Motherf***ing Zombies. I mean how can you not love the idea of having zombies invade 19th century Victorian England? The idea of using swords and single shot muskets, the emphasis on going for the headshot and raising the stakes because if you miss the one shot you get with your gun, you're (un)dead, it's so cool! And then you sprinkle the classic Pride and Prejudice tale on the side and you have one great idea for a story. I mean how can you possibly screw that up? Well by filming all the action sequences in close-up so we can't see anything and lose all resemblance of spatial awareness, by making the one likable male character the villain who we're supposed to hate, by never giving Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcey the chance to earn their character's story arc, and by not letting us understand what's going on in the zombie war at any given moment, that's how. Seriously. I know it's early, but this film is already asking to be on my biggest disappointments of 2016 list. I really did not see this coming, because after all how could you possibly screw this up???
So let's talk about the good first. Lily James is great. This is only the second film I've seen with her in it, (the first being the terrible Burnt) but I heard she was really good in Cinderella as well, and she is very likable as Elizabeth Bennet here. While her performance isn't on the same breakout level as Daisey Ridley's in Star Wars, she's still gearing up to be a superstar, and it's quite obvious that's the case here. Let's see what else.....um the costumes are good. I mean these movie studios better have some awesome 19th century attire lying around so it's basically impossible to screw that one up, but fortunately for us they didn't screw that up. And I mean I guess there's the fact that this is a female-lead film. That's awesome. We don't see that enough but I really shouldn't have to point that because it should be happening way more than it actually is. But at least this is a story about the women and not the men. Aaaaaaaaaaand ummmmmmm some of the lore of the zombies was fascinating? Ya I guess. The idea that a zombie "transforms" when they eat their first human brain and can delay this transformation by eating non-human brains and be civil in the meantime is cool and something different from the usual zombie repertoire. Buuuuuuut where they go with this plot point is a huge waste. Like the rest of the film.
Ok so where did this film go wrong? It starts with the cinematography. This film is sooooo poorly shot. The action sequences aren't as much action sequences as they are someone swiping a sword at the air and you having to believe they just struck at a zombie. I mean even by the dreaded "PG-13 rated violence" standard this film is bad. Let me give you a good example: so there's this idea throughout the film that there's several different classes of martial arts training that everyone partakes in to defend themselves from zombies: the rich are trained in Japanese martial arts while the "wise" are trained in Chinese martial arts. Sounds interesting, right? So we're gonna get a scene where two characters trained in the different schools go up against zombies and maybe the one trained in Japanese martial arts is killed or hurt or has to be saved by the one trained in Chinese martial arts, right? Or really any scene where these two schools of training get showcased on the battlefield? Right? WRONG. This training element is brought up in the opening monologue of the film, and the ONLY time it's brought up afterwards is when the rich judge the (supposedly) wise for training in China instead of Japan. That's it. And when we do get fight scenes, they're shot in such uncomfortable close-ups that we can't actually see the fighting styles in action AT ALL. There's a scene where a few of the daughters are training and fighting each other and it was set up to be this great scene where these fighting styles are really showcased but instead it's shot in a dark basement in extreme close up and you have no idea where anyone is or where anyone else is and GAH IT'S SO FREAKING FRUSTRATING.
Not to mention the cliche last-second saves. Ya those moments just made me cross my arms and sigh. Actually really the entire 3rd act is a disaster for that matter. The one likable male character in the film (who is a made-up character, by the way, and not in Pride and Prejudice) is of course the bad guy, and he's played by the EXTREMELY talented Jack Huston (of Boardwalk Empire acclaim) who really should've played Mr. Darcy because holy crap the guy playing Mr. Darcy was bad. I mean no offense to Sam Riley, but this is my first impression of him and he's never gonna get that one back. I'll cut him some slack because he's given literally nothing to work with here from a writing standpoint, because aside from everyone sounding proper the script here is only good when it's a carbon copy of Pride and Prejudice, but every scene between him and Lily James I just felt like James was just dragging him along as she did essentially all the acting herself. Oh ya, and did I mention that Lena Headey and the great Charles Dance are in this film too? Both of them are obviously cash-grabbing here, as Lena Headey's criminally limited performance can basically be summed up as "Cersei Lannister with an eye patch." Dance is given nothing to do either, but at least the most entertaining moment of the film for me came when these two were together (for one brief scene) and I kept hoping for Headey to just blurt out "Shut up dad!" to Dance.
I could go on, but I figured I'd save you the trouble of putting up with my rantings. The few good moments of this film are surrounded by buckets and buckets of crap, and thus make this, well, crap. Even though Lily James is charming and there are some interesting ideas presented with the zombies, I couldn't help but think "Where the zombies at?" whenever they weren't on screen during the 108 minute film because every male actor besides Jack Huston is awful. And when the zombies were on screen I couldn't see what was going on enough to actually appreciate it. In short, Pride + Prejudice + Zombies is a misfire, one which I hope gets corrected someday. There's some awesome potential here. After all how can you not love the idea of zombies invading Victorian era England? That's so freaking badass! And instead of a class system, you have different styles of fighting defining the rich and the poor. That's cool! There's a hugely fascinating story in there. But it's not here. This film gets the unfortunate distinction of being the first real disappointment of 2016, and I recommend everyone avoid it like the plague. Ha. Get it? Plague? Like zombie plague? Ok I'll go home now.
The Critique: A fascinating premise wasted, Pride + Prejudice + Zombies ultimately fails because of a weak script, bad acting from almost everyone outside the lead, and terrible choreography. Sadly it is the first big disappointment of 2016.
The Recommendation: Don't bother. Go watch Pride and Prejudice again and pretend there are zombies everywhere. It'll probably be better than watching this.
Rewatchability: Moderately Low
The Verdict: 3/10 Bad.
A heavy-handed film that somehow earns it
The Danish Girl (2015): A fictitious love story loosely inspired by the lives of Danish artists Lili Elbe and Gerda Wegener. Lili and Gerda's marriage and work evolve as they navigate Lili's groundbreaking journey as a transgender pioneer.
I am so conflicted about this film. On the one hand, this film is blatant and obvious Oscar bait. Every aspect of this film screams it and it's full of heavy-handed "well, now you should feel like this now" moments, and everything is played as safe as humanely possible. The film features an obviously Oscar-bait-y performance from Eddie Redmayne, and honestly? The whole film feels very pretentious. And yet.....I was suckered in. Damnit Tom Hooper. This film's subject matter is so engrossing, and the main character's story is one that is emotional no matter how pretentious the environment around it is. Within 5 minutes I could tell this film was Oscar bait. And yet 119 minutes later I didn't care. How did this happen?
Well, let's switch things up and talk negatives first so I can get them out of my system. First off, I really did not like the cinematography. This film only shot its characters from straight on, and to me here it feels like "art for the sake of art" and very superficial. This is not Snowpiercer or The Grand Budapest Hotel where nearly every shot in the film is shot from left to right or straight on for a reason. Here only the dialogue was, and it just felt like they did it to say, "Oh look at me, look at how important I am." I also hated the extraordinarily obvious music cues. The music would swell at an emotional moment and die down elsewhere, further adding to the, "you must feel like this right now." vibe that seeped through this entire film. Really the vibe that seeped through this film was pretentiousness, and had the film been shot with a bit more respect for its subject matter it might have been one of the best films of the year.
As I said, this film is very heavy-handed. And yet.....even though I knew it was trying to make me feel emotional at any given moment, I still felt myself becoming emotional. It takes a lot for a film to be able to obviously say to me, "Hey, I'm going to make you feel emotion right now." And then actually make me feel emotion at that moment. Arguably the biggest reason for this was Alicia Vikander. If there's any takeaway to be had from this film, it's that Alicia Vikander is a freaking movie star who has inserted herself squarely into the Hollywood elite. For me, she almost single-handedly carried most of this film as (wait for it) the Danish girl: a wife struggling to cope with her husband's transformation into his true self. If Eddie Redmayne's performance felt super pretentious, Vikander's felt the exact opposite. Her performance was extremely grounded and flawless, and were it any other year when the Supporting Actress category was filled with, you know, only Supporting Actress performances, I'd say she'd be guaranteed an Oscar for this performance. But no, Rooney Mara's harrowing performance as the LEAD in Carol is in this category so we'll see what happens.
But it doesn't end there. While Redmayne was Oscar-ing it up, his character arc was fantastic. What Lili goes through to become her true self in this film is heartbreaking, and by the end I was certainly rocking the ugly cry. This film is one that should be watched by everyone who is struggling to find their true identity so that they can realize that they are not alone. Not only that, but Vikander has an excellent story arc she goes through as well. The supporting cast is limited, but the two other biggest characters are also played excellently by Ben Whishaw (I freaking love this man) and Matthias Schoenaerts. Finally, the costume and makeup crew were outstanding, providing some much needed depth to an otherwise (relatively) shallow film. Why there's only 3 makeup nominations every year is beyond me because it locks out some otherwise worthy candidates like The Danish Girl. Please fix this Academy!!!
Ultimately, The Danish Girl.....well, The Danish Girl has evoked more thought out of me when writing my review than almost any other film has this Oscar season. I mean I've gotten to this point in the review and I STILL have no idea what number I'm going to give this film. Most of the time, obvious Oscar bait films can't get past the part where they're obvious Oscar bait, and I have no problem picking apart these pretentious films. Just ask Trumbo. Yet I couldn't help but enjoy The Danish Girl because its story is inspiring no matter how you portray it. I think I'm gonna cop out and say this was a good film. It truly TRULY could've been a perfect film had it not been filmed in such a pretentious manner. Had the Oscar bait feeling not seeped through its pores. But this just holds the film back from reaching its true potential, and what we end up getting is merely a good film. I hope one day this story gets retold and is treated with the respect it deserves. But this film is definitely a good start.
The Critique: Despite its pretentious Oscar bait nature, The Danish Girl is an emotional and courageous story featuring one of the year's best performances from Alicia Vikander.
The Recommendation: Definitely a great date film as well as one that should be watched by the entire LGBTQIAP+ community. Really, I think anyone who knows someone who might by transgender should watch this film so as to try and see the human side of it.
Rewatchability: Moderately High
The Verdict: 7/10 Good.
By: Joseph Kathmann and Peter Kosanovich
A Wonderful Nod to Classical Filmmaking
Carol (2015): An aspiring photographer develops an intimate relationship with an older woman.
Hey guys! We are mixing it up today at Enter the Movies. Today, I am joined by a very special guest and periodic guest writer on the site, Peter Kosanovich, to talk to you about one of the "important" films of 2015, Carol. So, is it as good as it's been made out to be? Read on and find out!
Peter: Starring Rooney Mara as main character Therese Belivet, the movie tells the story of Therese in 1950’s New York City during the holiday season, as she comes into contact and eventually develops a relationship with the eponymous Carol, portrayed by Cate Blanchett. Therese, a 20-something aspiring photographer/seasonal shop worker, first sees Carol one morning shopping for Christmas presents for her daughter, before the title-character approaches her for gift advice. Through calculated moves, Carol is able to invite Therese to her house as company, a guest for an afternoon, to interact with her and her daughter. It is then revealed to Therese that Carol is in the midst of a divorce from her husband Harge, and their relationship is strained. Without giving away too much of the specifics, as you should really see this film, Therese and Carol embark on a bit of an adventure together, during which their relationship is able to blossom and develop into a form of lust and love.
Joseph: I love this film. I need to get that off my chest right off the bat. One of the things that was really enjoyable to me was the innocence of Rooney Mara's character. Innocence is, to me, a central theme of this film through the first act and part of the second act. Therese is able to see that Carol is in the middle of an ugly divorce, but she, to me, looks at it from a very innocent perspective. A "what could possibly go wrong?" sort of way. And Rooney Mara really conveys this in spectacular fashion-both she and Blanchett put in two of the best performances of the year in this film-and sucked me in immediately.
Peter: Looking at many movies today you see bigger and bigger, more expensive, more CGI and special effects – more, more, more! Carol is a precious little film, for it does the exact opposite. It is a simple film, beautiful and tragic, yet nothing over-the-top or ridiculous. What makes this movie so wonderful is in the intimacies and nuances it gives to the individual performances and the camera work. None of the shots are overly complex, but are instead very simple, and illustrate exactly what needs to be seen, while at the same time deliberately focusing on key elements in a shot or scene for the audience to pay special attention to – a glove here, a hand there, the color pink. There is no unnecessary motion to the camera, only what needs to be done to appropriately fit or enhance the moment.
Joseph: I couldn't agree more. The camera work orchestrated by cinematographer Edward Lachman and director Todd Haynes is phenomenal throughout the 118 minute film. Buuuuut there are a few exceptions. A few times throughout the film, the cinematography was almost....too good. There were a few shots that were shot that made me say, "Did you really have to do that?" and it would take me out of the film briefly. While these moments were few and far between, they were just enough to say this film is not perfect, because with the exception of this complaint it is.
Peter: At the same time the performances given by these women, as well as Kyle Chandler and Sarah Paulson in supporting roles, are completely genuine and to a T. Mara is able to be impressionable and naïve while still showing herself as a capable and functioning adult. She portrays Therese as a very “proper,” 1950s, traditional girl who is always doing as she is told, but then evolves into a heartbroken and yet remarkably self-sufficient woman. This, while at the same time Blanchett makes Carol appear seductive one minute and incredibly motherly the next, she is able to balance complete control and immense vulnerability. Carol showcases incredibly grounded characters that tell a beautiful and sad love story.
Joseph: They really are grounded roles. I think this is the most down-to-earth performance we've gotten out of Cate Blanchett in years. Not only that, but her wonderful chemistry with Rooney Mara is there right off the bat. And thanks to the incredible attention to detail from the set crew and costume/makeup department, this will fall into a category of being a truly "timeless" film. The tragic love story is a phenomenal one to watch unfold before you, and it is worth every second of your time. Expect to hear this film's name called a lot this award season.
Peter's Critique: I’ve already used these words, but I don’t more accurate words could describe this film than beautiful and tragic, yet refreshingly simple. A wonderful film.
Joseph's Critique: A great tribute to classic filmmaking, Carol is a tragic love story done right. Featuring some of the year's best performances from Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara and great attention to detail in the 1950's setting, it is certainly one that should not be missed.
Peter's Recommendation: Though it is a slow-paced movie it never felt like it dragged, you feel completely engrossed in the 1950s setting. But because it is slow, I would not necessarily recommend it to everyone. I would recommend that people should watch it though, as it really is an excellent movie.
Joseph's Recommendation: There could not be a better date movie out there from 2015 between this film and Brooklyn. Guys, put your desire for action aside and watch this with that special someone. Do it.
Oscar Talk: We would be shocked if either Rooney Mara or Cate Blanchett didn’t receive nominations for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress. Mara already won (tied) Best Actress at the Cannes Film Festival this past year. That being said, The Academy doesn’t always like to reward films that premiered at Cannes, so we wouldn’t be surprised if it did not get a best picture nomination, though it really should. (Joseph: I do believe this will receive a Best Picture nomination because ever since the field expanded to 10 there's always been one "indie" film that makes the list. I think this year that film will be Carol.) Also expect a Best Original Score nod to Carter Burwell. The film is also based the book The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith, so we would expect a nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay as well.
One of the best films of the year so far
Brooklyn (2015): An Irish immigrant lands in 1950s Brooklyn, where she quickly falls into a new romance. When her past catches up with her, however, she must choose between two countries and the lives that exist within.
Holy crap I love this movie. It's kinda nice, honestly. To be watching something other than Star Wars for a change. I mean, don't get me wrong: I love Star Wars. Obviously. But there's a lot more to the wonderful world of movies than Star Wars, and this film is a fantastic reminder of that. Fantastic direction, writing, and acting all come together to create one of the most emotional films of the year. Seriously, guys, I rocked the ugly cry on more than one occasion, including a moment pretty early on. It takes a truly special film to emotionally wreck me within the first 15 minutes of it. Come to think of it, there's really only one other film that's done that to me, and that's the opening of Up. That's a high compliment to Brooklyn for sure.
There are three main reasons this film does so well: great writing, directing, and acting. The writing is obviously going to be good. It is based off the popular novel from Colm Toibin, after all. I don't know much about books unfortunately, but I know Brooklyn is a standout novel, and one which will become more important as the 1950's drift further and further away. The directing, from John Crowley, is also exceptional. A relative newcomer to Hollywood, I am definitely excited to see what Crowley delivers next. However it helps when you cast Saoirse Ronan as the lead in your film. This young actress first caught my eye in her standout role in The Grand Budapest Hotel. Well, now she's back with a career-defining and Oscar-worthy performance. Ronan is asked to carry a significant part of this movie by herself, and she does so with flying colors. Much of this film is done in close-up, which fails most of the time because the actors involved cannot convey the emotions they need to with just their face. (This was one of the big problems I had with 2012's Les Miserables, by the way.) However incredibly, everyone in this film manages to put in spectacular performances from the chest up. And I don't want to take away anything from Ronan's male counterparts. While she completely steals the show, Emory Cohen and Domhnall Gleeson are also outstanding as her love interests. While I know very little about Cohen other than the fact that he had a passing role in 2014's awful The Gambler, he was very natural in his role. And Domhnall Gleeson! This guy has been putting on a show since Harry Potter, and he continues to impress me in everything he does. Well, now, almost everything. Thanks Star Wars. Jessica Pare (from Mad Men) and veterans Julie Walters (also from Harry Potter) and Jim Broadbent (from Moulin Rouge! and Cloud Atlas) round out the cast of notables, but they are all excellent, even though they are mostly one note characters.
That's both the best and worst part about this film. These characters are placed before Ronan's character in a pretty obvious way: the film is very heavy-hitting, with a clear agenda about how you should feel at any given moment. But thanks to that emotional early scene, I found myself invested in Ronan's character to the point that I didn't care! And, even though I initially felt like Ronan's return to Ireland later on was pretty forced and that the things that happened to her initially when she returned were a little too convenient, as time went on I found myself more and more on the edge of my seat wondering what she was going to choose between New York or Ireland. This film really is a beautifully written and directed film, and I have very few qualms with it. But let's not leave the other departments out of the praise party! Because this film looks gorgeous on top of actually being gorgeous. The costume crew and cinematography department were both exceptional. The costumes of this film really helped add to the various colors captured by cinematographer Yves Belanger. Who has been on something of a roll recently between this, 2014's Wild and 2013's Dallas Buyers Club. I mean at this point that is a mighty impressive last couple of films. Demolition is next on this man's list, due out in 2016, so we'll see if he can continue to keep this seemingly unsustainable trend going. I'd probably praise him more were it not for what Emmanuel Lubezki has been doing these past few years out of the cinematography department.
In conclusion, this is a ridiculously good film. The 111 minute runtime is a little long because the film sags a bit heading into the third act, but the events leading up to Ronan's return to Ireland, and the events that occur as her stay there progresses as well as her final choice more than makes up for it. Couple that with Ronan's incredible performance and the superb writing of both screenwriter Nick Hornby and novelist Colm Tolbin, and you have one of the best films of the year so far. Honestly, and, I'm gonna get a little political here for once, this film could not come at a better time as it emotionally shows the anguish of an immigrant's journey to America. There are a lot of people who could use a reminder that not every immigrant crossing the pond wants to kill us. If you know one of these people, you should definitely recommend this film to them! That's it. Political statement done. Moving on. Awesome film. Go see it. Star Wars isn't the only film that's good this year.
The Verdict: One of the best films of the year so far, Brooklyn is an emotional roller coaster piloted by an Oscar-worthy performance from its lead, Saoirse Ronan.
The Recommendation: My first true must-see recommendation for 2015, this film is worth every second of your time, especially if you have a significant other, parents, or grandparents. Or loved ones, really. Or that friend who thinks every immigrant is trying to kill us. So, you know, a lot of people. Just be ready to cry.
The Verdict: 9/10 Awesome
Oscar Talk: I expect a few nominations for this film, including Best Actress (which, holy crap is Best Actress gearing up to be a crazy category this year) for Saoirse Ronan, Costume, and maybe even Cinematography. I do also expect a Best Picture nomination for this film, especially since the field is 10 and not 5.
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.
50 Shades of Grey (2015): Literature student Anastasia Steele's life changes forever when she meets handsome, yet tormented, billionaire Christian Grey.
I did this for you. I want you to know that from the beginning. I watched this movie for you. I put myself out there for 125 minutes for you. I stepped well out of my comfort zone to see this film. For you. Now, it is so easy to bash this movie. It does, after all, glorify abuse. But, my job is not to judge a movie based on its morality. My job is to judge it as a movie. And, I'm here to tell you that 50 Shades of Grey, while not good, is not bad, either. It is merely below average. And yes, I can't believe I just said that. But this movie has great direction from female director (keep that in mind, by the way) Sam Taylor-Johnson. This movie also, upon further investigation of how loyal the film is to the book, has a BRILLIANT adoption to the cinema by screenwriter Kelly Marcel. Marcel is a relatively new writer in Hollywood, but so far has three great credits to her name: the wildly underrated show Terra Nova, Saving Mr. Banks, and now 50 Shades of Grey. It's hard, no, damn near impossible, to adopt a screenplay such as this and have the fans of the novel like the movie more than the source material. Think about it: almost everyone who watched The Hunger Games movies, the Harry Potter movies, the Twilight movies, and even Divergent all say that the books those films are based on are better than the actual film. (Assuming they read the book first.) Well, maybe there's some exceptions in the Twilight movies, but that's irrelevant. My point is that the vibe from those who have read the books is that not only is this movie better than the books, it's better than the books by a mile. Almost incomparably better. That said, there are still a huge amount of flaws to discuss with this movie. And it all starts with Jamie Dornan.
So, as you might remember, Charlie Hunnam of Sons of Anarchy and Pacific Rim was originally slated to play Christian Grey. He dropped out of the project, and likely saved his potential career by avoiding the hate he would've inevitably received for playing the character. However, I wish he would have played the character, because Jamie Dornan was TERRIBLE as Grey. Oh my God I might make a worst performances list at the end of the year just so that he could be at the top, because HOLY CRAP was he bad. I think it's tough for one person to completely torpedo a movie with their performance, but this is performance is down there with Shelley Duvall's in The Shining. It's that bad. He's stiff, has no chemistry with Dakota Johnson, and honestly looked scared in the role. Scared! The intimidation that you were obviously supposed to feel whenever Christian Grey was on screen was not there AT ALL because all we got was this stiff and shy underwear model who only looked somewhat good when his shirt was off. Dakota Johnson tried to make up for it with an excellent performance of her own, but it was all in vein. When it comes to a romance flick your movie is only as good as your leads are. And when one of the leads is awful, the entire movie suffers as a result. There isn't a lot to mention in terms of a supporting cast. Most of this film is just Dornan and Johnson. Which is why it's such a killer for the film that Dornan is awful.
However, the rest of the movie is kind of good. And again, this is the result of great direction and great writing. The movie looks beautiful under Sam Taylor-Johnson's guidance, and the film's production value is also outstanding. Because of this, I almost wish we could've gotten a movie starring Hunnam instead. I wish he would've just powered through and torpedoed his career, because the movie would've been SIGNIFICANTLY better with him at the helm. (Yes, I know how ridiculous that sounds) But look, here's the other thing: for all the controversy surrounding the book, this movie played it about as safe as it possibly could when it came to the sex. And that's the other major problem with the movie. The "steamy, sexy" part of the film was not this at all. Yes, it was awkward cause Dornan was terrible, but it was also awkward because Taylor-Johnson just did everything she could to make the sex PG-13 quality, despite the fact that the movie was going to be a hard R (lol) no matter what. Why couldn't you just own the sex like Martin Scorsese did in Wolf of Wall Street? Don't shy away from it, embrace it! Look, here's an example that isn't really much of a spoiler. So, Dakota Johnson is trying to connect with Grey. That's basically the whole purpose of the film. One night in the film, she tells him to do his worst to her. He goes into his "arsenal" of whips and everything, and we get this huge display of these really elaborate whips and such, and instead of pulling out one of the super elaborate and crazy whips, he pulls out the most plain whip you will ever see. I mean seriously? This is 50 Shades of Grey, man! Own your stereotype! Grab the biggest, baddest thing you can find and go at it! And yes, I do feel terrible for saying that. I'm avoiding talking about the controversy because yes, I was very uncomfortable as a human being while watching this film glorify sexual abuse. However, it's times like these that I have to keep my human being side and my film critic side separate, because obviously a HUGE number of people are going out and seeing this film. When a movie is coming into a stereotype, it is important that the film does not shy away from that stereotype and instead embraces it. Take John Wick, for example. That movie was an action flick starring Keanu Reaves. There is clearly a stereotype created when "action flick" and "Keanu Reaves" are put in the same sentence. And the movie embraced it by letting Reaves play his stereotype while taking down the entire Russian mafia. Because of this, it was one of my favorite films in 2014 and definitely was a ridiculously fun ride But, it's also important to remember that 50 Shades of Grey, like other controversial films like Selma and American Sniper, is just a movie. It's nothing more than that. Nothing more. As a movie, there was clearly effort put into creating this film, and it does deliver a fairly decent ride for what it is. However, the terribleness of Dornan basically single-handily torpedoed this film. Universal obviously wanted to release this film on Valentine's Day in an effort to increase sales, but I think in the long run the film would've done better had they waited a few months in order to find a better actor to play Grey once Charlie Hunnam backed out. But that's just me. Now, we have at least two more films based on the same stories starring an actor who can't act to save his life. Can't wait for those.
The Critique: A horrible performance by lead Jamie Dornan torpedoes an otherwise decent film, making it below average at best.
The Recommendation: Well, I think by this point those who wanted to see the film have already seen it, and those who don't want to see it haven't seen it. Well, I'm here to tell you that your time is definitely better spent elsewhere, particularly on Valentine's Day. Go watch When Harry Met Sally or something for a real rom-com. You absolutely cannot go wrong with When Harry Met Sally.
Rewatchability: Moderately Low
The Verdict: 4/10 Below Average
When Harry Met Sally....(1989): Harry and Sally have known each other for years, and are very good friends, but they fear sex would ruin the friendship.
Hey guys! Enter the Movies is here to keep you company on this lovely Christmas day with a quick review of When Harry Met Sally...! I'm keeping the tradition going of reviewing movies that you don't necessarily associate with Christmas (like Die Hard from last year) but are very connected to the holiday, as the final act of this movie takes place on Christmas day and New Years day. So how is the movie? It is fantastic. I feel like 2014 thus far hasn't been the strongest of years for movies (of what I've seen so far) so it's really nice to sit down and watch a classic. And believe me, this movie is a classic in every sense of the word. Everything about it is perfect, from the story (written by Nora Ephron) to the direction of Rob Reiner. This is honestly one of the best movies of the 80s, and is the perfect beginning to what would become the golden age of romantic movies.
A romantic movie is only as good as its leads, and to say Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal are great together is something of an understatement. Their chemistry is undeniable from the first moment they get in a car on a cross-country trip all the way through the conclusion of the 96 minute rom-com. From the highs of the plot to the lows, I was with these characters and cared about them from start to finish. And yes, this movie is a comedy and one of the best I've seen in a long time. I cannot emphasize enough how much fun this movie is. Even in its saddest moments there was always a wonderful joke to bring you back up. This movie is a classic in the truest sense of the word, and a very fitting movie to watch on Christmas. Check it out!
Well it's a bit of a short review today and there is a ton more stuff I could talk about, but we all have things to do today. I hope everyone has a wonderful day and a Happy New Year to you as well! And don't forget to have what she's having when you're at the dinner table tonight.
The Critique: A rom-com at its best. Fantastic acting, a great story, and humorous subplots make this movie a classic to the fullest degree.
The Recommendation: I recommend this to anyone, regardless of whether you have a significant other or not. It is a must-see.
The Verdict: 10/10 Perfect
Thanks for spending some of your time here at Enter the Movies today! I love you all!
Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966): Um....f*ck it. Here's IMDB: A family gets lost on the road and stumbles upon a hidden, underground, devil-worshiping cult led by the fearsome Master and his servant Torgo. SO MUCH INTRIGUE RIGHT?
First of all, thank you for reading. Damn. 10,000 views. If you told me back when I started this thing in September 2013 that I'd hit 10,000 views I would've just laughed. See I started this thing just for my own personal amusement. I just wanted to remind myself of these movies so that I could have a conversation about these movies whenever I needed to with people. Just be like hey! I saw that movie once! Let me see what I said about it! And whip out my phone. Since I was just writing for myself basically, I didn't hold back with what has come to define Enter the Movies: my incredibly weird and unusual writing style. Now, it's here to stay. However, over time, people started approaching me saying that they liked my reviews. I was surprised, because I didn't think anyone even knew that they existed, much less enjoyed them. Now, an article from the local paper (thank you Madeline Rafi!) and an endorsement from a local athlete (thank you Nikki Newman!) later, as well as a lot of support from Reddit, my blog has become...well, a thing. So thank you everyone Thank you. I now do this for you. To entertain you. If I put a smile on your face, then I did my job. That said, let's celebrate by watching the "movie" Manos: The Hands of Fate! Because that sounds like a good idea....should get the smile part done at least....
Supposedly made on a bet between friends, Manos: The Hands of Fate has reached cult status, but not in a good way. This movie.....where do I even begin? Seriously. Let's talk about Grown Ups 2 really quick. That was the worst movie of 2013 due to bad acting and a terrible story, as well as horrid directing. However even in this movie there is a level of competency with the making of the film, as the editing, cinematography, and sound are at least decent. There's a certain level of competency you expect in any movie, right? After all if it's made it to the big screen it should be at least, well....made properly. This movie, however, fails on every aspect of movie making. In my junior year of high school, I made a 20 minute(ish) movie called What Is Justice? I'm not trying to self-promote, because after all there is only one copy, but my movie, hastily made in about 2 hours on Movie Maker software with stock Movie Maker sounds, is better than this piece of sh*t. A f*cking gorilla could make a better movie than this. Every aspect of filmmaking is completely nonexistent here. From random illogical editing cuts, to incredibly distracting music, to the fact that this movie is shot ENTIRELY in hand-cam fashion, to the fact that ALL of the actor's voices were dubbed in post-production by THREE people, this movie is the worst movie ever made. Done. How did no one step up and tell the director, insurance salesman Harold P. Warren, that this was a bad idea? Oh wait, was Harold P. Warren also the lead actor, writer, and producer? .........yep. That'll do it. He had no one around him to tell him that it was a bad idea. That just allowing this movie to exist was a bad idea.
Here, let me give you an example of how bad this movie is. So, this is meant to be a horror movie. So Warren and the female lead, played by Diane Mahree, are looking at a very "creepy" picture. They are having a conversation, with the distracting music behind their conversation, when all of the sudden, without warning, there's a cut to their character's daughter holding a (clearly untrained) dog. Everything stops as we watch this girl struggle to keep the dog from jumping out of her lap. And the music stopped. So, basically, we go from a very loud conversation and just overall noise to silence in.....instantly. Because f*ck you. Seriously, this movie deserves to be the blunt end of a would you rather question. It's so bad that it's not even funny bad. It's below that! It's like this.....there are good movies, and there are bad movies. Then there's 50 feet of crap. And then there's Manos: The Hands of Fate. (Thank you to my inspiration, Hollywood writer Aaron Sorkin, for that reference.) Here, I'll get the would you rather questions going. Would you rather watch Manos: The Hands of Fate, or sit through an hour-long sermon courtesy of the Westboro Baptist Church? Spoiler: if you pick Manos, you're wrong. At least Westboro will give you a good laugh. This is comparable to hearing fingernails on a chalkboard. Or dying. The one saving grace of this movie is that it is disgustingly short. While most of the time I would criticize a movie coming in at 74 minutes, here it is welcome, even though those 74 minutes CRAWLED by. I had to take breaks to finish this. I'm not even kidding. I HAD TO TAKE BREAKS TO COMPLETE THIS. AOEIFAJWEOIFJABNADFLKADAKLDALKDSF I DON'T EVEN WANT TO TALK ABOUT THIS MOVIE ANYMORE. NO YOU CAN'T MAKE ME. I DON'T WANNA I DON'T WANNA....
Ok I'll say one more thing. The only thing even remotely memorable about this sh*t show of a movie is the character Torgo. He is played by John Reynolds, who supposedly did LSD before his scenes in this movie and as a result was constantly twitching uncontrollably throughout his performance. All it did was lead to a few good laughs. We got to laughably bad a few times, guys! Whoo! Oh ya, and his death scene is hilarious, as he is seemingly massaged to death by a bunch of women. Spoiler? F*ck you. The biggest crime of this movie is that not everybody is dead by the end of it. Bite me.
The Critique: The worst movie ever made.
The Recommendation: A MUST SEE FOR EVERYONE. FEEL MY PAIN PLEASE.
The Verdict: 0.1/10 That 0.1 is for Torgo. #TORGOCOMEBACK2014
Her (2013): In the not-so-distant future, a man falls in love with his operating system, an A.I. named Samantha. Many dramatic/comedic moments ensue. And it is beautiful.
Wow. I should just end the review with that one word. Wow. Director/Writer Spike Jonze has been flirting for years with the home run ball. He has a solid repertoire with Where the Wild Things Are and Being John Malkovich, to name two, but he has never hit it out of the park. Well, we can now say that he has. Her is a masterpiece. Easily one of the best films of 2013, Her takes a concept as (seemingly) ridiculous as a human being falling in love with an OS and makes it believable. Makes it real. Makes it grounded. It's a truly heartfelt story, with many unexpected turns throughout. Jonze does a great job avoiding the easy cliches that frequently occur in romantic movies. As a result this is going to be the extent of my thoughts on the story, because I don't want to spoil anything for you, since half of the fun is watching their relationship develop and mature in front of you. It's masterfully told, and, as I said, wonderfully grounded and believable. This is without a doubt the best date movie of the year, and right there with 2012's Perks of Being a Wallflower for best date movie of recent memory. In my humble opinion.
Time to talk about acting. A lot of people may be turned off from this movie because of Joaquin Phoenix. And rightfully so, since some of his past roles have been rather over the top and quirky. Well I'm here to say this is the most relatable role I have ever seen him play. His character and his falling in love with the OS is totally buyable, and this is thanks to him playing a very grounded character. He definitely sold me on this role. And his role is not easy. He has to fall in love with a voice. He has to maintain a relationship with a voice. He has to argue with a voice. He has to have sex with a voice. (Yes, this happens, but it is beautifully shot with a simple black screen while it occurs) And this is without seeing the fact that the voice is Scarlett Johansson. Who basically anyone would fall in love with let's be honest. Scarlett Johansson? Also phenomenal. She has to create a very real and human character with nothing but her voice, and she nails it. Honestly this movie was going to sink or float based on her performance alone, and she definitely kept it afloat. Incredible amounts of emotion from her voice while also not overacting is located throughout the movie, from her trying to get Phoenix out of bed to the arguments the two of them have. There's only a small supporting cast, primarily Amy Adams, Chris Pratt, and Rooney Mara, but they are also very human and believable characters. Once more, Adams puts in a great performance, one which is a complete 180 from that of American Hustle. Her character also has an OS, and has a very different experience than that of Phoenix's character. But again, I totally bought it. Also there are some surprising cameos in this, like Bill Hader, Brian Cox, Kristin Wiig, (she has a provocative and very brief part towards the beginning) and Olivia Wilde. Honestly the one who gets a little lost here is Rooney Mara, who, despite her incredible talent, was just kind of a side note, even though her character is a very prominent one.
So there are so many other things that are beautiful in this movie. The directing, editing, cinematography, and score particularly. But there's too much to cram into a short review. Seriously, just go see this. Oh and I should bring up the fact that the movie takes its premise very seriously. Yes it's a ridiculous concept, one which tech nerds will love to analyze, but it is definitely told in a grounded and convincing manner. As in I definitely bought the development of the OS. To the point that I do not feel the need to overanalyze her by the end. So don't let this hold you back from seeing it. Everyone should see this. Really I had one simple complaint. It's a 126 minute romantic comedy/drama. While this is not a bad thing, this does mean that an element or two may be introduced that may not make a huge amount of sense. Towards the end of the second act, a surrogate human being is introduced for the OS to inhibit. While Phoenix responds to her in the logical way, her whole character was unnecessary, and really didn't do anything for the story besides have me briefly overanalyze the logic behind it. But Phoenix quickly moved on. And so did I. A trivial complaint. In short, go see this movie. Now.
The Verdict: one of the best movies of 2013, Her masterfully blends comedy, drama, and romance into an original and rather unexplored idea, one which will resonate with you for quite some time, as it's concept is not really all that ridiculous.
The Recommendation: for the love of God, go see it. It's the perfect date movie. But there's something here for everyone. And try to see it in a theater because it is beautifully shot.
The Verdict: 10/10 Perfect
Oscar Talk: I don't know. I'll say score, director, cinematography, and original screenplay. SUCH A GOOD YEAR FOR MOVIES this one honestly may not have enough buzz around it to generate an Oscar push. Hopefully I'm wrong.
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