At the Cinema: Haywire and Man on a Ledge

Watched these films Sunday night and you can probably guess that Jimmy got to pick our selections!  I do enjoy a good action film from time to time so I tend to go in with an open mind.  I’m just often left disappointed due to lack of story.

First, we watched Haywire, a high-action, rescue-operation-gone-wrong spy movie.  And if that sounds fun to you, then you’ll probably enjoy this film.  It stars newcomer and MMA star (mixed martial arts), Gina Carano, who doesn’t appear to be the world’s greatest actress, but has the awesome ability to kick major bad guy ass.  It’s refreshing to see a powerful, female action hero and would suggest the movie on that basis alone.  The supporting cast is also shiny – Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor, Michael Douglas, Channing Tatum – so there’s plenty of eye candy.  Unfortunately, the story falls a bit flat, the third act is kind of lame, the story has plot holes galore, and the acting can be rather stoic at times.  So give it a watch, but make sure to have no expectations.

Man on a Ledge definitely won the award for most entertaining movie of the night.  Sam Worthington claims to be falsely accused of stealing hella expensive diamond, escapes prison, and perches his cute butt on the ledge of the Roosevelt Hotel in NYC to prove his innocence.  Fun concept.  Elizabeth Banks plays the negotiator trying to literally ‘talk him off the ledge’ and I love her!  Another kick ass female role so we were 2 for 2 on the night.  Granted, the plotting of this film is outrageous, but the emotions behind the crazy are genuine.  I love heist movies and this one has some fun heist-y moments between a bickering girlfriend/boyfriend that lends the movie some comedic relief to break the tension.  So many people gave this movie bad marks, but I enjoyed it as did Jimmy.  We had lowered expectations which probably helped, but would watch this again – even the terribly cheesy ending.

Final verdict (Skip, Rent, Buy):

Haywire:  Rent

Man on a Ledge:  Rent/Buy – if it’s your thing!

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At the Cinema: Let Me In

I’m really enjoying watching movies and recommending them to everyone.  It’s also a great filler topic for when I don’t have a book I’ve recently finished to discuss.  So be prepared for this feature to become a blog norm – after all, movies are stories just as much as books are.  The title isn’t perfect since I didn’t actually see this film ‘at the cinema’, but you get the general idea.

Let Me In was released a couple of years ago and is a remake of the 2008 Swedish film Let the Right One In.  The Swedish movie was also based off a novel of the same name.  What initially drew me in was actress Chloe Grace Moretz who I happen to enjoy immensely, plus she’s from Atlanta and I feel some weird need to support hometown successes.

The movie follows a young boy, Owen, growing up in small town New Mexico during the early 80s.  His parents are divorcing and he’s struggling with being a loner and being bullied by some particularly heinous kids at school.  Owen needs a friend, badly.  When Abby and her father move into the apartment next door, he thinks he’s found not only the perfect friend, but also his first girlfriend.  The sweet, innocent smiles that pass back and forth between Owen and Abby are endearing, subtle, and remarkable in actors so young.  The chemistry and relationship between these two characters is absolutely what makes this movie so wonderful.

Abby, of course, is not what she seems.  I’m not really spoiling anything as most everyone knows this is a vampire movie since it was marketed as such.  She’s not a ‘Twilight’ vampire by any means.  She must kill to survive, can’t go in the sunlight, must be invited into your home, and sees vampirism as a curse – something she wouldn’t wish on anyone.  Owen loves Abby, but does struggle with what being a vampire means and the idea of evil.  But he stays by her side until the end and the audience wouldn’t have it any other way.

This movie is definitely a horror film and there is some gore.  The gore, however, is never indulgent.  Beautifully shot, this film is quietly and darkly gorgeous – slow-moving, deeply engaging, and morally poignant.  Let Me In is a genre film with substance and heart.  In the same frame, it will creep you out and break your heart with no apologies.  Such a rare kind of cinematic treat and I highly recommend to anyone who enjoys a great film, even if horror isn’t your cup of tea.

Another Movie: Triangle

If you are at all interested in psychological thrillers with twisty endings that make you think – Watch this movie immediately!  You’ll want to watch it over and over to try and figure out how everything fits together and theories as to what is actually going on.

Triangle is a little indie Australian/British flick that is often promoted as a horror slasher film which is just dead wrong.  There is a little bit of gore, but much tamer than the slew of gorefests that are made these days.  Melissa George does a great job in her role which is important because the movie is told through her POV and we never leave her side.  And if you’re a Liam Hemsworth fan – he’s in the film far more than he was in The Hunger Games, though his character is still pretty devoid of depth.

I really don’t want to get into the plot much since this movie is best viewed cold.  In very slight terms, Melissa George goes sailing with some friends, they get capsized, and then find themselves ‘rescued’ by a cruise liner where things start to go really crazy.

The movie is free for those who have Amazon Prime memberships – not sure if it’s on Netflix streaming or not.  But very, very good stuff!

Hello Monday!

So I’ve been AWOL again from the blog.  The Hubs has begun his intense traveling season at work so we only get to see each other on Saturday and Sunday for the foreseeable future.  Since the weekends are normally my writing days, I’m going to have to figure out a better schedule.  I’m not reading as much either for the same reason.  But I do have some book club reads and TLC book tour reads to tell y’all about soon!  What I have been doing is watching movies and getting into the idea of reinvesting in my movie collection.  The Hubs is a huge movie buff and the collecting and watching is something we really bond over.  It has been put on the back shelf with the craziness of work and real life.  This weekend, however, we watched a ton of films and had an absolute blast.

We hit up Redbox Saturday night and rented Rise of Planet of the Apes.  I was wary coming off the last ‘remake’ in this series and James Franco bothers me.  My worries were for naught because this film was fantastically entertaining, emotionally smart, and a great prequel to the franchise.  Franco does a superb job as an emotionally invested scientist and his relationship with his father, played by John Lithgow, was very well developed.  And Caesar, the Ape lead, was superbly written and created.  The film’s special effects were mostly amazing baring some obviously fake shower steam which made the Hubs and I giggle.  Overall a great story, beautifully shot, and a well-crafted film all around.  Plus, Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) is back to his old evil ways!

Another thing Rise does well is play homage to the original 1968 Planet of the Apes film.  The original was one of my favorite films to watch when I was home sick as a kid so I’m extremely partial to it.  I think the best viewing experience  of either Rise or the original Planet is to now watch them back-to-back.  So many references and shout-outs tying the two films together – really just delightful.  And the intense shift from humans being the developed, civilized species to the apes replacing us in the future will get you thinking and garner some great discussion/debate.

This Wednesday I’m hosting a movie night for the Litwits and we’ll be viewing the 2005 Pride and Prejudice with Keira Knightley.  Obviously, I’ve seen the film a million times, but it will be interesting to discuss with others so that recap will be up sometime later in the week.

I hope everyone had a fantastic weekend and a Happy Mother’s Day!

The Avengers: A Must See Movie

 

Seriously – Must. See.  I’m not a comic book geek, honest.  Not because I dislike them, but because I would never stop reading once I started.  No room left in my life for new obsessions.  So I depend on film versions to get my superhero fix. And Joss Whedon has done the impossible by making The Avengers one of the best, most entertaining movies I have seen in years.  Not that I expected any less.  I do, after all, own a ‘Whedonist’ t-shirt.

What does this movie get right?  The pacing is perfect.  Sometimes these movies can overstay their welcome, especially when they have running times exceeding 2 hours.  But honestly, I’d have stayed in this world with these characters all night.  I never wanted it to end.  I had fun from beginning to end with no slow spots.

Each superhero (besides maybe Hawkeye, but for good reason) is expertly handled and given equal importance throughout the movie.  I will say that the character development wasn’t the movie’s strong point, but how could it be with so many characters?  Instead, Whedon does a fantastic job at making each hero feel relevant and smart.  We may not get super in depth with their story lines, but we know they are three dimensional characters with complex back stories and motivations.  I’m perfectly fine with leaving those stories for their individual films.  Kudos, as well, to all the actors who did a superb job making their particular characters all very human.

The Hulk steals the show.  Joss Whedon has done what no one before him (in recent memory) has managed to do.  Enhanced by Mark Ruffalo’s amazing performance,  the Hulk is no longer the red-headed stepchild.  Everyone left the theater gushing about the Hulk.  Give this man his own movie, pronto!!

The dialog is just spot on.  And hilarious.  Some think the movie filled with too many quips, but I don’t see the flaw in a laughing, happy audience.  We have Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies for dark and serious.

Joss Whedon writes the best female characters ever.  Loved Black Widow.  ScarJo kicked some serious ass.

And finally, Loki as a villain was awesome sauce.  He’s so petulant and whiny, yet seriously ominous and foreboding.  That takes talent.  And his relationship with brother Thor is endearing, believable, and makes both characters far more complex.  Up until now, I had avoided the Thor movie because I just thought it would be too cheesy.  Ordered it as soon as I got home from the movie Thursday night.  Can’t wait to see more Thor and Loki – plus, no one told me Idris Elba was in the film!!

Go see it!  Even if you don’t think you’ll like it.  I promise you’ll laugh and leave the theater feeling lighter.  We all need a little pure entertainment once in a while.  Treat yourself.

Movie Review: The Hunger Games! (As told from a non-reader’s perspective.)

Saturday night, my husband and I along with several members of the Litwits went to see The Hunger Games.  The movie is particularly special to my book club because The Hunger Games was the first book we ever read as a group.  Before watching the movie, I spoiled myself on all the book to screen changes so I wouldn’t spend the whole time moaning and groaning and instead could just enjoy the movie.  And enjoy it, I did – immensely.  Far more than I thought I would.  I think most of my enjoyment comes from having read the books though.  Together, book and movie are excellent companions and each medium enhances the experience of the other.  I loved the additions to the movie outside of the Katniss-only POV and didn’t miss the omissions as much because they live firmly in my imagination as supplied by the book.

That being said, halfway through I began to wonder what viewers who had never read the book were thinking.  And I had the perfect candidate for questioning – the HUBS!  Jimmy doesn’t read – or at least, not books – so he was going into the story almost completely unspoiled and virginal.  As soon as we got into the car, we immediately proceeded to have it out because he wasn’t a fan.  It was like someone calling your kid ugly.  I felt personally offended which may not be rational, but I’ve never claimed rationality as a strong suit.  I had sad panda face for a long time after our discussion.  So, what didn’t he like?

He never felt compelled by Katniss as a character/hero.  Nothing seemed super terrible about her upbringing.  He gets that her dad died, that her mom sucks, and that’s she’s been hunting for their food ever since.  He really does – but he thinks her hunting in the woods, joking around with her super buff BFF, and being obviously not starving doesn’t paint a particularly convincing overcoming the odds type of story.  The flashback with Peeta giving her the bread was also lost on him because he didn’t get that they were supposed to be younger and that she was on death’s doorstep.  And how could he?  It wasn’t portrayed well at all to non-readers.

As for the games themselves, he also found Katniss and her struggle for survival weak and watered down.  He felt that physically she didn’t struggle that much – just hid out, walked around, and waited a whole lot which, in his opinion, doesn’t make Katniss a particularly striking face of rebellion.  He wanted more action and a lot more violence/blood/visual grimness to truly believe she had beaten crazy oppressive odds to be the victor.  He wanted to see her struggle finding water and food, to have more injuries, to battle more with the Careers (he hated the Careers – didn’t see what was so fierce about them – all they seemed to do was talk).

Listening to his complaints, I can’t really argue with them – I tried, but he was never convinced.  My best argument was that many of his wishes were handled much more solidly in the book.  He countered that a movie should adequately subsist on its own merits outside the confounds of the book or it fails at visual storytelling.  He understands that readers will be part of the audience, but that the movie isn’t made specifically for readers – but for moviegoers regardless of their reading status.

I think another disconnect between our viewing experiences exists in what kind of stories we are drawn to.  He loves action, suspense, super obvious background story, and very little emotional drama.  I love a nuanced story, great character portrayals, emotional depth, and need very little flashy action.  Rue’s death scene made the whole movie worth my while because of how sad I was at her senseless slaughtering and how distraught Katniss was at her loss.  Jimmy was upset because Katniss didn’t kill Marvel more impressively out of revenge and then set off to seek further revenge on the other Careers.

For now, we’ve agreed to disagree and have found a certain level of peace.  He believes the movie was “fine”, but has no desire to see the next film.  Since he’ll be seeing it regardless, out of his undying devotion to me, he only hopes they ditch the shaky camera technique because it makes him sick.  In contrast, I can’t wait for Catching Fire next November! Finnick is one of my favorite characters and I’m anxiously awaiting his casting.

Anyone else not so impressed by the movie?  Or end up fighting over varying reactions afterwards?

Movie Rec: Midnight in Paris

Not a Woody Allen fan?  That’s okay – me neither, but don’t avoid this film on his behalf because you would be doing yourself a great disservice.

Owen Wilson plays a guy who abandoned his dream of living in Paris and writing a Great Novel many years ago.  Instead, he sold his soul to Hollywood as a screenwriter and earned great success. Several years later, he finds himself on a business trip to Paris with his fiancee’s parents, dream renewed, trying to convince Rachel McAdams to move their life to Paris so he can finally be the writer of novels he always wanted to be.  Rachel is not too keen.

One evening Owen takes a lonely stroll through the Parisian streets, gets lost, and as the bells chime midnight is beckoned by a rowdy group of party-goers to join their escapades.  Owen, thinking nothing of getting into a strange 1920s car with drunk people, climbs aboard and sets off back into 1920s Paris.  He does this time travel several nights – meeting the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald and wife, Zelda, Hemingway, Dali, Picasso, Cole Porter, and one lovely young lady he falls instantly in love with.

So who would appreciate this premise?  I believe, almost anyone.  The movie is a love story to Paris, the 1920s, the ‘Golden Age’ of thinking, Art, Music, and Literature.  You’ll want to visit Paris immediately – the cinematography is gorgeous and does the city all kinds of justice.  The lighting, the costuming, the writing – all very well done.  You’ll be enthralled and delighted from the opening scene through the end credits.

Some have described the movie as a romantic comedy, but I feel the film is much more about Owen Wilson’s quest to appreciate the present through his love of the past.  And for those who think the movie sounds a bit too ARTSY, the choice of having Owen Wilson play the lead counteracts any pretentiousness that could have existed – Owen is far too much the average guy – funny, humble, and sincere.  Kudos to the casting peeps.  Also, Rachel McAdams plays an alarmingly excellent vapid bitch of a woman.

Did the movie deserve its award nominations?  Yes and no.  I’m glad Allen won the writing Oscar as the script was super deserving and refreshingly original.  However, I’m not sure the film was Best Picture material.  The acting wasn’t amazing and nothing felt GREAT in the way that The Artist experimented with silent filming.  The movie was a tad too ‘cute’ for such an honor, but an utter delight to watch nonetheless.