Rec Thursday: Movies

Have I mentioned that I have a goal of watching three movies a week this year? Well, I do. And it’s going rather successfully so far. Here’s what I’ve recently added to the been there, watched that list:

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Oblivion: Y’all remember this sci-fi film starring Tom Cruise that came out last year, right? I never got around to watching it. Even though I know it’s based on a graphic novel. I even forced Jimmy to go on a man-date after I read the horrible reviews. But HBO has the thing On Demand currently so I sat down and got through it. I liked the visuals. I liked Tom Cruise. I liked the premise. But the storytelling was all over the place. A better script could have raised this film to a whole other level.

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Blackfish: This documentary has been all the rage lately. Thankfully, Netflix allowed me to quench my curiosity. The film examines the lives, treatment, and trainers of the SeaWorld whales in light of the most recent killing of animal trainer Dawn Brancheau. Documentaries often bother me because they all have very one-sided agendas, but I liked Blackfish. I got the feeling that the film tried as hard as possible to tell a complete story. Many tears were shed, though, so beware.

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The Spectacular Now: Yet another on-screen adaptation of a book I haven’t read. It was on a recent list of best underrated films of 2013 so I rented it from my local Redbox. It’s a teen romance set against the backdrop of alcoholism. The story is bleak and hopeful, gritty and endearing. I loved the actors – particularly the drunken father played by Kyle Chandler. It was filmed in Athens, GA where I went to college so that was awesome as well. A quiet little movie with a lot to say.

June Movies!

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I recently posted a vlog over on my YouTube channel wrapping up all the movies I saw in the theater during June. Nothing fancy, just a quick rating and a couple of thoughts on each. So click below if you want to know how I felt about the following films:

Man of Steel
World War Z
Before Midnight
Much Ado About Nothing
This is the End

The month’s best film award went to a surprising choice!

Movie Review: The Great Gatsby

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We got early tickets to see Gatsby Thursday night. As y’all can imagine, I was ridiculously excited. The theater was packed with many people dressed up which was so much fun to watch. Unfortunately, our theater had many technical glitches and they never could get the curtains to open all the way. Thankfully, the viewing experience wasn’t really affected and we got free movie passes as a bonus. Win.

The movie itself felt a lot like attending the circus. That’s what I kept saying. That’s what my gut automatically felt – like we were in a giant, colorful bigtop with Gatsby as our ringleader. And I’m still not sure what to say beyond that. I’ve been mulling over my thoughts for quite some time and think I might not fully comprehend my feelings until I’ve had another viewing. But here’s the randomness that has crossed my mind.

All of the actors were enjoyable, but Leo, Edgerton, and Mulligan take the cake for me. I had heard that Mulligan’s Daisy was often overacted, but I really enjoyed her performance so that was a surprising positive. When all of our main characters were in a room together, the movie shined. When the film was concentrating on green screening everything, I totally lost interest and was completely taken out of the story. Perhaps the plastic, fake look of the green screen was supposed to be a commentary on the absurdity and frailness of Gatsby’s world, but it didn’t work for me at all.

And while I adore the soundtrack on its own, in the movie the music was often jarring. There’s one scene in particular that could have played out in any nineties rap video starring Biggie Smalls. Nothing about that says 1920s to me. My husband even leaned over and was like WTF? The costuming, makeup, and jewelry were gorgeous and so faithful to the time period. Loved seeing everyone all dolled up.

In the end, I think I liked it more than disliked it. However, I’m not sure I have any sort of emotional attachment to what I watched. The ridiculous over-the-top imagery really detracted from the emotional depth and character development. Everything felt more like a plastic production than a movie focused on the humanity (or lack thereof) of its characters and the idolization of the American Dream. I think this version of The Great Gatsby will attract fans not familiar with the book and a much younger target audience. Perhaps some viewers will even find the book through this movie which is always a great thing.

I definitely want to hear what y’all think! Let me know in the comments. So far, most people have been very mixed with their opinions. Some love it desperately, others find it trite and shallow. I think I’m still on the fence.

Bonus:

I loved the humor! So many hilarious moments played wonderfully by Leonardo DiCaprio!

At the Cinema: Breaking Dawn Part II

The_Twilight_Saga_Breaking_Dawn_Part_2_posterI finally got around to getting Breaking Dawn Part II from Redbox Thursday night and giving it a little look-see. It was the perfect movie after a long work day and horrendous commute. Plus, Jimmy was in Raleigh so I wouldn’t be forcing anything Twilight related upon him. He is super thankful for this thoughtfulness of mine, I assure you.

My relationship with the Twilight saga is a mixed bag. Love/Hate with more hate than love – both in movie and book form. Most of the movies, in my opinion, have been almost completely un-watchable. With that being said, Breaking Dawn Part II was most definitely the best in the series.

I know so many readers loathed the fourth book in this series, but I enjoyed it. Don’t quiz me on anything that happened since I remember next to nothing about my reading experience. What worked for me in the fourth book is vampire Bella. What didn’t work for me throughout most of the series was human Bella. I hated human Bella. The weakest, most absurd female character I might have ever come across in literature. Vampire Bella finally grew a pair and stood up for herself.

That reasoning plays a large part in why Part II was my favorite of the five films. She’s just so much more likable dead – errr, undead. Sorry to all you Bella apologists out there (totally not sorry).

What else does BD Part II get right? The kooky vampires that Carlisle and family gather to witness for them. Loved seeing this strange family reunion. Particularly loved seeing Lee Pace. I think if the writers of Pushing Daisies had just made Pace a vampire in the series the show might have been saved.

The epic battle at the end was also well played. All the be-headings, oh my! Loved it. Finally a sense of urgency, fear, and action in this droll film franchise. And the twist was fun. It made sense.

Now, this wouldn’t be a Twilight film without some glaring problems. The CGI is still hit and miss. I’m sorry but after millions upon millions of dollars made, you cannot convince me there wasn’t a way to make wolf-shifting far more realistic looking. Shame on you, Twilight. Jacob still can’t act, the dialogue still has cringe-worthy moments, and that Nessy/Jacob story line is still creeptastic.

Let’s end on a positive note, shall we? The music is awesome. I’ve always thought the soundtrack to these films were superb, especially for the younger audiences these movies are supposed to attract. Something else on the pro side? There will (fingers-crossed) never be anymore K-Stew Twilight movies ever again. You’re welcome, internets.

At the Cinema: Schindler’s List

tumblr_mbvrq3Bkg91rvp3zlo1_400I really wanted to film my reaction to watching Schindler’s List immediately after watching, but decided y’all really didn’t need to see me do my version of the ugly cry. I’m fairly certain I look worse than Claire Danes when she ugly cries, which is really saying something. However, I do want to take a moment and discuss my emotional response to watching this film for the first time.

When I saw that the 20th Anniversary edition of this movie was being released on Tuesday, I knew I had to order it and add it to my ever-growing collection of purchased films. And I knew this without having ever seen the movie. I’m glad I waited or was just never exposed to Schindler’s List until now. I’m not sure I could have appreciated and had such a visceral response had I viewed as a child or teenager.

Steven Spielberg knows how to direct a movie, how to gut us emotionally and leave us reeling yet filled with hope. As I cried my eyes out at the bittersweet end to Schindler’s story, I couldn’t help but be filled with joy at all the people he had saved and all the generations that had come to be due to his compassion. Schindler is such a flawed protagonist. He begins his journey greedily – out to make money and nothing else. He views the Jewish plight as a means to an end and monetizes their suffering to grow his wealth. But somewhere along the way, the people he is unintentionally saving save him as well.  Through their thanks, kind eyes, and relief to be alive, they show Oskar just how effective one man can be, even when he’s not trying. They show him that one man can overcome the cruelty of the many. They show him that one man can change himself as well as the paths of so many lives. While so many Jews were losing their sense of humanity, Oskar was finding his own and continued throughout the war to diligently return the favor – restoring humanity so wrongfully stolen.

Was that babbling? Did that make sense? I found Schindler so compelling and Liam Neeson did a beautiful job portraying this historical figure. As did Ralph Fiennes playing his perfect foil. As Oskar grows more human, Amon turns more evil – an oddly pure evil without conscience. He even tries to do the decent thing and stop his murdering ways, but simply can’t as it’s not in his nature. The atrocities men, women, and children suffered at his hands were gut-wrenching and nearly impossible to watch. I covered my eyes multiple times. Spielberg and his creative team definitely don’t shy away from depicting these horrors in such a bluntly realistic manner.

Filming the movie in black and white was also a stunning and winning decision. It gives the film a timeless feeling – you literally have no idea whether the movie was shot years ago or just last week. The contrast between the light and dark also resonates heavily and adds a layer of depth to the movie beyond the brilliant script and acting.

Needless to say, I loved the movie and believe there aren’t many movies I’ve ever seen that can hold a candle to it. Not an easy movie to watch, not one you can sit idly on the couch and watch repeatedly, but an important film, a necessary film. If you’ve never watched it, do yourself a favor and find some time. You won’t regret it. And of course, I need to get my hands on the book is was based on!

With two movie posts in a row, it’s time to get back to book blogging! This week is dedicated to that very purpose. You can look forward to such dandies as my reviews of Swoon and The Night Strangers along with my Vanity Fair wrap-up post!

At the Cinema: The Artist, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, and Playing by Heart

This week’s movie roundup comes to you from our home cinema! We decided to take a break for spending a ton of cash on theater visits to watch some movies we had on hand or that were cheap from RedBox. Enjoy!

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The Artist (own on bluray) – This film was a blind buy during Black Friday. It was priced really low and won the freakin’ Oscar so I was fairly certain it would be worth my money. I didn’t get around to watching until recently and I was both entertained and disappointed. The movie is definitely entertaining and cute. The actors are all beautiful people and the dog is a scene stopper! However, the movie never moves past cute for me. I think the gimmick of a black and white silent film in the 21st Century is what won this movie so many awards. I expected more.

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Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (rented on RedBox) – Oh boy. We watched this movie Saturday night. Jimmy was very impressed with the action, but kept nitpicking historical inaccuracies. I was just mind boggled that this film could ever have gotten made. I suppose when Tim Burton throws his name into the game, anything can happen. But geez. I guess it’s a fast-paced romp and a fun take on alternate history tales, but Abraham Lincoln is entirely dismissed as a superhuman action hero in this flick. Know what you’re getting yourself into before starting this one and don’t expect anything more than what you’re given!

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Playing By Heart (own on dvd) – One of my favorite movies from high school. I was such a Gillian Anderson fangirl at that point that I’d watch anything she was in. There is nothing particularly brilliant about this simple little romance, but I appreciate its ability to show real relationships – flaws and all. Worth a watch if you’ve never seen it! Besides Anderson, it stars Sean Connery, Angelina Jolie, Madeline Stowe, Jon Stewart, and many more!

Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

9475392My introduction to Warm Bodies came in the form of its movie trailer and to say I was slightly mortified at the idea would be somewhat of an understatement. Once I discovered the premise was actually born in a book, my resolve started softening and my interest was piqued. Ordering Warm Bodies took a couple of pep talks with myself about how a zombie love story might actually work in some odd universe. After all, zombies are fantasy creatures anyway – they don’t exist and therefore can be whatever someone imagines. I chastised myself on being so small-minded. Zombies must surely deserve love, too. Necrophilia be damned.

So, yes, I placed my order and apprehensively awaited the book’s arrival. In the meantime I read numerous reviews which seemed defiantly positively slanted to the complete mystification of the reviewers themselves. Had Isaac Marion managed to hit a homerun with this absurd little Romeo and Juliet re-telling?

Finally, Warm Bodies appeared in my mailbox and I greedily opened its pages and by the time the first chapter had ended I was ready to buy myself a Team R t-shirt. Screw sparkly vampires, love sick zombies are the shiz.

In Marion’s world, the traditional zombie apocalypse has ocurred for one reason or another – he never really gives too much back story, just dumps us in the middle of the aftermath. Humans are hanging on by a thread and zombies are enjoying abundant amounts of BRAINS. Then there’s Rrrr…he doesn’t quite remember his name, but thinks it perhaps started with an R sound. R’s problem is that he’s starting to question this whole dead corpse thing. He’s beginning to believe there’s more for the zombie afterlife than stumbling and groaning around abandoned airports. On a visit to town for, you guessed it, more BRAINS, R eats the brain of one particular teenage boy, Perry. While munching on the chewy morsal, R is inundated with images and memories from Perry’s past. These little snipits of human life awaken something in R’s dead heart, specifically those memories of Perry’s girlfriend, Julie. R’s in love.

Marion’s zombies are almost unrecognizable in Warm Bodies. He’s in no way staying true to zombie lore so purists will be disappointed. Zombies who are able to think and who’s very humanity is finding its way back will probably read fairly offensively to those who are unable or unwilling to purge themselves of this FICTIONAL mythology. What hasn’t changed from the zombie norm is Marion’s continuation to use these rotting bastions of humanity as topical cultural commentary. Instead of roving through the reasons the human race has destroyed itself, Marion alternately chooses to explore how humanity will be saved. Felt like a breath of fresh air during the current zombie craze.

The novel’s comedic timing and dry wit also helped win me over. I laughed out loud multiple times and grinned through probably half of the novel. Marion’s also a superb writer. His turns of phrase are both brilliant and sharply honest. He’ll make you see life and self-discovery in new ways. R is an utterly charming lead with quite a unique perspective on both his dead and living peers.  The love story’s oddity doesn’t distract from the potency of R and Julie’s connection, but rather strengthens it and leaves you with this satisfyingly sweet relationship. A relationship that should not exist, that should not work, but does while simultaneously warming up all those frozen, dead hearts readers can sometimes harbor within their chests. In some weird way, reading R’s story almost felt like reading for the first time.

I wish my review could just end there with y’all believing that Warm Bodies was quite possibly the most perfect book written this century. However, that would be dishonest and make me a bad blogger! Marion’s story starts off super strong, but hits a point somewhere in the middle where the pacing goes a bit wonky and everything slows down. The ending is also less that stunning and with some largely gaping plot holes and moments of extreme suspension of belief that bothered me. I also never felt particularly attached to Julie. Perhaps she just paled in comparison to the awesomeness that was R. He’s a hard zombie man to live up to.

Luckily, none of these problems was enough to deter my overall happiness. This story was one that had my imagination working overtime. I kept trying to play the scenes out in my head or trying to see the stadium where the humans lived in makeshift shanty tower-like structures. Isaac Marion’s world manages ironically to feel so very alive. I couldn’t put it down and could not wait to go see the movie. Which I rushed out to do IMMEDIATELY upon finishing! Highly recommended!

The Movie:

Go see it. Even if you haven’t read the book. It’s a perfect Valentine’s Date movie or any other date movie. The comedy is spot on and my entire theater laughed many times. Even the guys – perhaps even the men more so. And Nicholas Hoult as R was the perfect casting. All the charm oozed. I think I liked movie Julie better than book Julie to be honest. Not a Twilight rip-off or even closely related. I’ll even go so far as to say the movie’s ending, while still somewhat lacking, felt better constructed than the novel’s. That’s high praise, folks. It is what it is and somehow, it works.