Wednesday, July 31, 2013

1877 - Orange is the New Black: season one

Right from the trailer I was super excited about this.  I enjoyed Jenji Kohan's Weeds enough, so wanted to see what she was up to next.  It was fun to see some of the actors that appeared in the last seasons of that series show up here - and now it explains why Natasha Lyonne was in the Weeds finale!
The best television series give us a window into a world we don't know, and present us with some form of unique family unit - this does both in spades.  They could have gone really cliched with the fish-out-of-water stuff - but Piper, as she states, learns about becoming herself in prison - and that's part of the point of the show, I think.  The tone here works quite well, it's light in moments, but it's always grounded in a little bit of a harsh reality.  The more the series goes along the more layers of relationships we get and it's really really worth investing the time in.
I'm a fan of the way that Netflix releases their series.  There's some beauty in waiting for another episode, but it's nice to also go through a story at your own pace.
So if you've got Netflix and you haven't started on this series then you've got absolutely no excuse.  It could very well be my favorite of their originals so far.  Do yourself a favor and check it out ASAP.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

1876 - Before Midnight

In a way, I've aged with Jesse and Celine, though they are a few years ahead of me, their lives and where they're at aren't all that far off.  When we first met they were idealistic and romantic as was I.  Then at our second outing was just as their lives were about to shift and become more serious - it was right around the time that I met my now wife - and now - they have been together all these years with two children, as am I, with a beautiful marriage that is not perfect - but with a journey to understanding if perfection is even real when it comes to relationships.
This feels like a much welcome addition to this franchise, and I think in terms of their arguments and conversations it hits home much harder, because their issues and views aren't far off from my own.  My wife and I shared evil laughs at each other through the course.  The one thing this film is missing that makes the others really work is a sense of urgency.  In both the previous films there's a time limit coming - there's a race to find meaning before they have to part - that absence is felt here.  We believe that they could go on squabbling for forever.  And if I'm honest I have to say that the ending felt a bit anti-climatic.  I know that the previous films left with question marks, and I'm fine with that - but the resolution here just felt like it came out of nowhere and wasn't completely earned… And I have to say that the cynic in me questions if this film could stand on it's own at all, or if it's completely dependant on being part of a series - not that that's a bad thing.

That said, I'm in if they come back sometime near the end of the next decade.  Delpy and Hawke have created a beautiful couple that lasts, and I do hope we continue to see their adventures together.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

1875 - The Giant Mechanical Man

Netflix recommended this to me, and I could argue with the cast!  The story of two lost souls finding each other is nothing new, but this puts a bit of a fresh spin on it with the street artist storyline.  I guess my big gripe with the film, is like some of the detractor characters, I didn't fully understand what Messina's character's ultimate goal with his street art was.  Or if he had one, or if that mattered.  I would have liked to have seen that explored just a little bit more.  The other problem being that all the other characters just felt super unlikeable, and there's on purpose to some extent, but it also just doesn't present any kind of balance.  And as much as I enjoyed Topher Grace playing a bit of a douchebag, there was never any real belief or concern that she would end up with that guy over Messina - it would have been nice to have a more credible risk to their growing relationship.
Sounds like I'm bagging on this film but I really did find it to be quite charming.  If you like Jenna Fischer or Chris Messina than it's absolutely work checking out at some point.

1874 - Safety Not Guaranteed

I've been trying to think about how to start talking about this film, but it's difficult - there's so much to like.  The premise is really charming and lovely.  The film is heartfelt and charming.  And the cast is delightful.  I fell in love with Aubrey Plaza in this film whereas I'd always just enjoyed her in the past.  She was so fantastic.  Duplass was enjoyable as always as is Jake Johnson - who some might say just does the same schtick in every film, but it works damn well for me :)  And I also don't agree with that - he's not trying to be a character actor by any means, but there's a nice dimension amongst the roles he's played.  I dig him.
If you don't know anything about it, it's about a magazine assignment to do a piece on a guy who claims he can go back in time.  I don't want to give anything away because it's such a great story, and a really fantastic ending.  If you like heartfelt comedy, this is a perfect fit for you.  Really really lovely film.

1873 - In Time

Apparently I was on a Justin Timberlake kick last night.  Mostly I just wanted to watch something high-concept and entertaining, and this was a pretty decent pick.  It got some picky reviews, but I think that centers around the fact that it's so hard sci-fi, which means that it's a morality tale, and as such it's going to be a bit heavy handed in places - I'm fine with that.  As I was at a take-out place this morning it even sunk into me, the beauty of having a world where time is the currency - is it really so different from real money anyway?  You need it to survive, it dictates so many things.  It's a solid concept and they do well enough by it here.  The action isn't there just to be awesome like it is in so many films now.  It's a very solid genre piece, not going to be for everyone, but if you like hard sci-fi you could do a lot worse.  Timberlake does the part justice and Seyfield is pretty darn enjoyable herself.  It's on Netflix.

Friday, July 26, 2013

1872 - Friends With Benefits

It's nothing new, but more romantic comedies aren't really funny.  They aren't heavy dramas, so they get lumped into another category without really having to early the 'comedy' banner.  They're more amusing, and sometimes delightful, but I can probably count on my two hands how many "rom-coms" I've laughed out loud at.  This, sadly, wasn't one.  However - I did like it - because it was entertaining, and amusing - and that's not a bad thing at all.  Kunis is pretty damn delightful and Timberlake is a perfect match for her here.  They spend a good chunk at the beginning mocking the traditional rom-com format before succumbing to it themselves - which is just an odd-meta choice.
If you're in the mood for a decent modern rom-com, this one fits the bill nicely.  If you laugh out loud at it, please let me know.

1871 - Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

I've seen this film a few times, and I always think that distance will make me like it more - but I can't separate it from the books as much as I would like.  Here's the thing - I dig this film - I appreciate what a visual feast it is, I like the tone.  The cast is a who's who of a lot of my favourite actors.  My beef is the heart of it.  It's…. missing.  The big difference between this and the comic is that the comic takes place over the course of, I believe, two years.  This takes place in, maybe a week or so.  So the story is richer in the book and more about how hard it is to be in a relationship.  And I like Mary Elizabeth Winstead as an actor, but she plays Ramona Flowers as far too indifferent to make me invest in any way in the relationship.  

I'm absolutely sure that I'm too hard on this film, 'cause it's a shitload of fun - but there was a heart to the books that really spoke to me and my own experience with relationships - and mores than the awesome fights and quirk, that's what I wanted this film to nail.  Alas.  It's still a ball of fun, and a beautiful shout-out to Toronto.  If you haven't seen it you should just because there's almost nothing else like it.

Friday, July 05, 2013

1870 - Hall Pass

The irony is that I'm watching this film while my wife and kids are out of town.  This film is quite charming.  I'm a fan of pretty much the entire cast, so that's a big plus right there.  The premise is simple and fun.  I like where it goes and does with the premise.  It could have very easily been a different kind of film in the hands of other filmmakers.  The plot, for those that don't know, is two married men who can't get sex off their brains are given a week off from marriage to get it out of their systems.  Hilarity ensures.  To be honest I didn't find it laugh-out-loud funny - but I was smiling through-out and entertained, and I'm happy to recommend it for that reason alone!

1869 - Raising Hope: seasons 1 & 2

Somehow I forgot (I think) to write about the first season of the show here.  This is a show that my wife and I watch when we just want to veg.  That's not giving it a lot of credit because we quite enjoy it - it's charming, funny, and has some strong characters.  I like Garcia's previous show "My Name is Earl" but I found the premise limiting to a degree - so I really like the openness here.  He took the tone from that show and allowed himself a more open ended premise and really trusted his character work and I think it's paid off quite well.
For those who haven't seen it yet, it's about a young man who impregnates a serial killer right before she's caught, and then has to raise the baby with his inept family.  Beautiful.
The show is on Netflix, the first two seasons anyway, so it's easy to catch up to.  If you like comedy that has fun with randomness, but also has a heart to it, this will be right up your alley.

1868 - World War Z

I never for a second expected much similarity to the book.  So there's that.  And, to be honest, given that the book takes place 10 years after the outbreak having it take place during it's inception makes a lot more sense.  Also we're so used to zombie stories that take place within small groups of regular people, it's fun to see a globe trotting zombie adventure and a different side of that tale.  Everyone's going to have their opinion on the zombies, but I thought they worked well for what they were going for.  The chattering teeth one was wonderfully creepy.  There's some really fun, smart, inventive things going on here on both sides of it.  A zombie action adventure film with a big old heart.  I liked it.

1867 - Man of Steel

I like Superman, despite his limitations as a character.  In a conversation today a good friend brought up a really strong point about the different between DC and Marvel characters.  With Marvel it's about the person and their flaws and who they are, and then the hero gets added.  At DC it's all about the hero, and the real person is an after-thought or non-existent.  

Before I get too far in, I enjoyed the film for the most part, it was a ride.  But I just had some weird issues with it.  First - what's the obsession with seeing massive destruction of cities?  I spent most of the battle sequences wondering just how good of a job was Superman really doing given that he was tearing the shit up of Metropolis and everywhere else?!  I get that we want to see the brute strength - but we get it.  He's strong, so is Zod.  I'm going to get into spolery things here, so bare with me.  I like that Lois knows his real identity.  I like the little nods to Smallville and LexCorp.  I don't buy for a second that he's spending time on an oil rig.  Also - and this is a big one - the whole plot of the film revolved around the idea of Superman wanting to save earth - but why?  Outside of his parents everyone was pretty shitty to him.  What was so redeeming about humanity outside of his adoptive parents?  I didn't get a sense of that from him.  I love Amy Adams, but Lois felt out of place, like they tried to wedge her into the action.  My list of nit-picks is a little bit longer, but I really don't want to focus on that.  Is it a good Superman film?  Shit yes.  Is it a great film in general?  It's fine.  So there's that.  If you're going to see it, do it on the big scene - that much I'll say.  But oh!  The wonderful Julian Richings had a little part in the beginning of the film, which was a lot of fun to see!  Woot woot!

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

1866 - Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist

I don't know why exactly but I really felt a strong desire to revisit this film.  And I can't recall my first reaction, but I think that I liked it a lot more this go around.  It's got a pretty great soundtrack, and both Dennings and Cera are charming in their roles.  Jay Baruchel gets to play a douchebag, which is pretty goddamn fun to watch.  If you never got a chance to check out this little coming-of-age romantic comedy it's absolutely worthy of your time.  It's the kind of film that just puts a smile on your face.  The world is shy some great real-life adventure films like this one, and I'd love to add my own stamp at some point.  It's sweet, it's funny, what more can you ask for.  I highly recommend this bad boy, especially since we're (hopefully) past the point where everyone wants to bag on Michael Cera.  Give it a go if you haven't already - and if you have - it's absolutely worth the re-visit!

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

1865 - All American Orgy

Okay.  I don't say this lightly, or easily.  This is not a good film.  Three couples, unhappy with their current relationships, decide that an orgy will fix all of their problems.  Originally this film had a more indie-friendly-title and that fits it a lot more, than the romp that they're trying to sell otherwise.  The film isn't particularly funny - the characters are all a little one-note.  All that I can take.  The biggest problem is that when the film gets around to the 'orgy' portion of the film it's a lot less fun sexy times, and a lot more… rapey…. yes.  That's what I said.  The most this film gets into an orgy is when one man, essentially, has another rape his wife while everyone watches.  Talk about a hilarious moment! (I'm kidding, obviously). 
Look.  I'm no prude, I like my comedy dark and edgy, but this was just awkward and weird and uncomfortable.  Even outside of this the film had a creepy feeling to it.  The characters aren't exactly the kind that you root for, to are about to change, and so you have to ask yourself - why do I care about them - why am I watching this?!  I watched this as a reference film, and I have to say it made me feel a lot better about what I'm working on.  I can't even casually recommend this as an off-shoot.  There is no good reason to watch this film, sadly.  It's just… ugly.  If that's your thing, then maybe you'll be into it.