Carrie (2013): A retelling of the 1970's version (by the same name) based off a Stephen King novel tells the story of Carrie White, a young woman gifted with psychic powers and trying to fit in. However, her overly-religious mother and classmates have different ideas, and all hell breaks loose because of it.
Ok so first thing I'm going to say: I have not seen the original version of this movie. One of the biggest complaints about this movie from the critics is that it is far too similar to the original. To the point that critics are questioning the very existence of this film. But I can't comment on the similarities/differences because I haven't seen the original. Which as I understand is a very good movie and one of the better must-sees for those dealing with bullies (or for those who are ones themselves) and obviously it was good enough to warrant a re-make so....this point will not factor into my final say.
Ok now that that point has been made let's assume you haven't seen either one. So....Carrie. I feel like Stephen King-based movies need to have their own genre, because after 40+ years of Stephen King novels-turned movies, all the ones I have seen (which is a fair amount) all feel the same. Which is sometimes good, and sometimes not. Here? Not so much. What I am saying is that this movie felt outdated while I watched it in the theater today. Which is somewhat impressive when you think about it. But there were just things happening in this that felt like they were bigger issues in the 70's than now, despite a modern setting, and thus I didn't buy at all. Like the people who were bullying Carrie had no motivation to do so (initially) whatsoever. And they quickly evolve their bullying to criminally illegal levels in the span of a few weeks. I mean talk about escalating quickly. As I sit here and write this I'm thinking to myself that this is not as big of a deal as I initially thought, but while I was in the movie, I was just thinking to myself....really? Also the whole part where everyone besides for exactly two(2) students were in on picking on Carrie was ridiculous as well. We are talking like a hundred plus students all picking on someone for no real reason whatsoever besides for the whole concept of a group mentality. There was one person who started it (who was a freaking psychopath in the movie and so freaking evil) and everybody followed her because somehow she was the most popular girl in school. I can buy group mentality taking over for a scene or two, but it can't count as the primary motivation for a hundred people for an entire movie. It just feels like a crutch as opposed to a smart tool used to forward the plot.
But here's the thing: it's a double-edge sword, because the fact that everyone picks on her allows for me to buy her actions in the third act. AKA it DOES forward the plot! Which I can't really talk about without spoiling. Even though it's in the trailers. But because this movie is so unknown (there was virtually no publicity to this movie whatsoever) I feel like it is a spoiler, so I'm going to avoid it. But it is a fucked up third act. The fact that I added the word fuck there tells you just how messed up it is. Just saying.
Another issue I have: Julianne Moore is a talented actress, but she just couldn't get me to buy into her character. I just didn't buy that someone would be as religious yet inherently ridiculous/radical with her beliefs to even be alive at that age much less somehow have had a child. They do explain the origin of Carrie but I still didn't buy it one bit. I mean she (Moore's character) takes one look at a guy and cuts herself how the hell did they even get into the same room consensually?
So far I've hated on character motivations. Probably too much. But when it comes to the fact that it's a Stephen King story I'm allowed to analyze it! Especially as long as The Shawshank Redemption exists. Also can I just say that I feel like a much better movie with a very similar premise is already out there in the form of Chronicle? I would recommend watching Chronicle before watching Carrie. I know Chronicle came out after the original (obviously) but it really hits on the bullying theme just as much if not more so than Carrie. It even has Alex Russell in it! Carrie, that is. He's the incredibly evil popular kid's even more evil boyfriend. A total 180 from being the voice of reason for Dane DeHaan in Chronicle. But there is one thing this movie has....ready for my big plug for Chloe Grace Moretz? Ready or not, here it comes...
So the actress who plays Carrie is Chloe Grace Moretz. If you don't recognize the name, (which is a damn shame if true) she's most popular for playing Hit-Girl in Kick-Ass, as well as Isabelle in Martin Scorsese's Hugo. She is my favorite up-and-coming actress (I call all child actors up-and-comers, no matter how good they are) but she just needs that one movie that allows her to push her career to the next level. Emma Watson got that in the form of The Perks of Being a Wallflower. She was given the opportunity to truly flesh out a character in spectacular fashion, and it has elevated her career into being the current big thing. But I'm still waiting for it from Chloe. She's still the next big thing. But seriously....you need to get on the Chloe Grace Moretz bandwagon. She is without a doubt the best part of this movie, single-handily bringing me back into the movie in the second act. This is when, like in Kick-Ass 2, this movie briefly becomes a high school drama movie, and I was shocked at how much she was able to suck me back into it. And they asked her to do a lot in this movie, like being comfortable in exposing herself in various scenes. You don't see anything, but she still looked very comfortable in her skin, despite the part where she's 16. I bet I felt more uncomfortable watching them than she did filming them. After this movie I'm sold on what I want from Chloe next: a Mean Girls-type high school drama movie. And if Hollywood didn't notice how good she is at that after Kick-Ass 2 they will with Carrie. They better because I want to see this girl in movies twenty years from now. She needs her Perks of Being a Wallflower type movie. Please make it happen Hollywood!!!! Ok Chloe Grace Moretz plug done.
There really isn't anything else to talk about here. The movie looked good. The telekinesis moments looked good for the most part (there were a few that looked fake) and the story had me occupied enough but I mean c'mon...when the best part of a thriller/horror movie is the high school drama portion of it, you are not going to get a good movie. Go watch Chronicle first before you check this one out.
The Critique: Chloe Grace Moretz dazzles, but it's not enough to get past the overall lack of direction in this movie. But still, an average journey. Better than other recent horror remakes....but that's damning with feint praise.
The Recommendation: still a good case study into bullying and bending a person to their breaking point, but now that Chronicle exists and it's so incredibly similar/better....watch that first. But still a decent ride. And a must-see for Moretz fans. (Hey that's me!)
Where to See It: Just wait until this one comes out on DVD and Redbox/Netflix it. It won't take long for this to be on the instant queue.
The Verdict: 5/10 Average.
Oscar Talk; Special Effects maybe. Otherwise I would be shocked to see it anywhere else. But the fanboy within will be rooting for Chloe to get nominated for Best Actress. Absolutely won't happen but I can dream right?
Captain Phillips (2013): Tom Hanks plays Captain Phillips, the captain of a ship in Somalian waters that gets taken over by pirates who hold them for ransom. Oh and it's based off of real events that occurred in 2009, if you somehow didn't know that.
Ok so....good, but not great. That's the sum up of this movie. Tom Hanks is obviously brilliant, and the story is awesome, but there are just aspects here that didn't work for me. For example....the shaky cam. Oh man this is such a crutch for directors used to build tension. It works in the scenes that actually had suspense behind it, but in simple dialogue sequences? I mean I get that they are on the water but there's a way to keep the camera unsteady to simulate the feeling of being on water while simultaneously not making it distracting and disorienting. Paul Greengrass directed this, and I feel like it's important to say that because he has a history of making movies based off of huge real-life events. His previous work was United 93, which I loved. But he forgot to include aspects of that in here. One of which was with the pirates themselves. There's only four of them, but with the exception of the leader, the other three are basically interchangeable. You have the generic angry guy, the generic too-young-to-be-here guy, and the driver. Who I forgot existed even during the movie. This is very different from United 93, which did actually humanize the terrorists to an extent.
Other than those two complaints, albeit major complaints, it was a good movie. Hanks was phenomenal as Phillips, taking a character that starts out as relatively unlikable (an all work no play boss that doesn't identify with his crew) and really fleshes him out and turns him into the hero by the end that you really feel for. The entire ship sequence with the pirates taking over are (in my opinion) the best scenes of the movie. Everything Greengrass did throughout the movie came together brilliantly in these sequences, with an incredible amount of tension built up with the shaky cam and the overpowering score as the pirates used Phillips to search for the crew on the ship. Then once again when the Navy intervenes everything works, but there's a lot of movie in between where it just didn't do it for me, leading to an incredibly uneventful second act. Also Catherine Keener is in this, playing Phillips wife. This is way too big of an actress to have in exactly one scene in this movie, so I'm guessing there was a whole "how the family is reacting" portion of this movie that got taken out due to time. And the movie is still too long. Greengrass definitely could've benefited from cutting out like another 20 minutes in here, particularly in the awkward second act where the pirates and Phillips are in the lifeboat being chased by the ship they were just on. Seriously, there was like a 10 minute chase sequence on the ocean in the middle here that was relatively unnecessary.
Ok so I know it sounds like I'm hating on this movie, but it was still good! The story is absolutely phenomenal and Hanks is brilliant, but there's just too many bad directoral decisions in this movie complement with an awkward middle act that prevent it from crossing that threshold into great. But it was still enjoyable.
The Verdict: Hanks dazzles in a suspenseful retelling of the first American piracy incident in two centuries, but not without its flaws.
The Recommendation: the younger crowd that doesn't necessarily care about modern events retold on screen won't find this enjoyable, but the older crowd most certainly will. I would still recommend it in general. Oh and a must-watch for Hanks fans. This may not be his best performance, but it was still very memorable.
Rewatchability: Moderately Low
The Verdict: 7/10 Good
Oscar Talk: Best Adoptive Screenplay, Best Actor, Best Picture (only because of the massive field)
Gravity (2013) A medical engineer (Sandra Bullock) and an astronaut (George Clooney) work together to survive after an accident leaves them adrift in space.
Wow. Just....wow. It is absolutely incredible what you can do with movies nowadays. There is no way anything like this is even attempted just a few years ago. This movie is a technical masterpiece. Not just in its special effects, which makes Inception look like it was done with sock puppets, but also in its sound editing, and, most importantly of all, its cinematography. I have no idea how this movie was shot. Absolutely none. I tried investigating this after I watching, and was left more confused because of it. At one point I was even contemplating the thought that maybe they went up into space to shoot this. Well the answer to that is no. No they did not. I don't like using absolutes, but I will make one here: this is the best depiction of space that has ever been seen in a film. Nothing is even remotely close here.
So I will try to avoid spoilers, but I must talk about the first 15 minutes. Director Alfonso Cuaron is an absolute genius here, (well he is for the whole movie but that's irrelevant) as he does an incredible job using technical aspects of moviemaking to show the vastness of space. He throws almost every rule of cinematography out the window and brings us a single wide shot for 15 minutes. This wide shot expertly and flawlessly takes us back and forth between Clooney, Bullock, Earth, space, the sun, the space shuttle they are around, the accident, and everything in between. Man....the accident. This scene left me absolutely breathless. I'm not going to talk about it but man....watching explosions in space is a spectacularly terrifying thing. Another technical marvel were the flawless transitions between 3rd and 1st person views. Actually, there was no transition. It was a single take from 3rd person to 1st person and then back to 3rd person. And this is not an easy thing to do. It's not just CGI here, as sound has to get in on the fun as well. And man...it all comes together so beautifully that I was left sitting in my seat for a solid 5 minutes afterwards just trying to digest what I saw.
The acting is outstanding as well. George Clooney is essentially playing space Danny Ocean, but since I LOVE that character, that is certainly ok for me. And Bullock really holds her own here. There are a couple (like 2) lines from her that feel a little forced but I quickly moved on from them. This is my one and only complaint about this movie. Oh, you know what else was beautiful? The sound editing. Everything about the sound in general. This movie was not just gorgeous to look at, it was gorgeous to listen to as well. There's even a score! And it's a pretty good score too, doing exactly what it needs to do to set up the mood.
Overall, as I said, this movie is a technical masterpiece. I know there are so many movies left to see this Oscar season, but man its going to take a hell of a masterpiece to dethrone this movie as my frontrunner for best picture. The only thing that might hurt it is how early it still is. Ya. Go see it.
The Critique: the best space film ever made. A modern masterpiece that puts on a clinic for how good movies can look in this modern digital age.
The Recommendation: A must-see for anyone, whether you like movies or not.
Where to See It: For the love of God, see it at a movie theater. In IMAX 3D, if you are fortunate enough to have one of those. If not 3D, as this certainly added to the sensation of viewing this.
I'm going to add two things here nestled in between the verdict. One will be here forever (Rewatchability) and one is here just for the Oscar season.
Rewatchability: Very High
The Verdict: 10/10 Perfect
Oscar Nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Cinematography, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Special Effects (easy win...could even beat Avatar if they came out in the same year)