Sunday, January 27, 2013

Silver Linings Playbook

Honestly, I have been very impatiently waiting for Silver Linings Playbook to get to its wide-release date and, as a result, wishing that I was in a bigger city, where I would be able to watch films when they are actually released. But, for now, I'm here in South Mississippi, and I'm a deprived movie buff. Nevertheless, although I thought the trailer was a tad underwhelming, I had high hopes for Playbook, with all the Oscar hype and whatnot. I was afraid that they might overwhelm me with a sappy love story, but I was hopeful that Bradley Cooper and Robert DeNiro's humor would be enough to keep me laughing, even through the lovey dovey parts. So, once it finally made its way to Hattiesburg, I went to see Silver Linings Playbook.

I think most people would agree with me that there are very few film characters that are more interesting than those who are psychologically unstable. In Playbook, almost every single character has some sort of mental issue, big or small, and that makes for an amazing story. Even the romantic parts are interesting, because the relationship between Cooper's Pat and Jennifer Lawrence's Tiffany is interestingly odd and warped. The unique characters made for an unpredictable storyline and many, many hilarious moments. While there were many emotional moments, I think I probably laughed more than I have at a film in over six months, so kudos to David O. Russell for that.

Without a single doubt in my mind, this was the greatest ensemble of 2012, from the lead performances by Cooper and Lawrence, to the smaller roles of Chris Tucker and John Ortiz. While Les Miserables was phenomenally cast, Silver Linings Playbook put it to shame. Once again, kudos to Russell.

The one and only character that I did not absolutely love was that of Dr. Patel (played by Anupam Kher). As Pat's psychologist, Patel just didn't fit what the role should have been, in my opinion. It was the only aspect of the film that I felt was overdone. Patel was unnecessarily funny in a few situations, and I didn't care for that,

For starters, Bradley Cooper was phenomenal! Because I am a Hangover fanatic, it was hard for me to take him seriously at first, but the role was perfect for him and he for it. Once I got over the fact that it was Bradley Cooper, I was able to see how great the performance truly was. Although she wasn't as good as Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence was great in her role as Tiffany, and I have a great amount of respect for her as an actress. I don't know if she is going to make my best list this year, because there were so many great performances in 2012, but she is certainly deserving of her Oscar nomination. In addition to the two leads, I was also greatly impressed with Robert DeNiro, as Pat's father, and John Ortiz, as Pat's close friend. Both performances were hilariously great, and I think almost anyone would agree that they were great compliments for Pat's character.

The number of great films released in 2012 is so massive that even The Academy isn't sure what film will take home best picture this year. So, I don't know how I'm supposed to choose my favorite film from 2012. I keep thinking that I have seen the last of the good films, but then another film like Silver Linings Playbook comes along and screws up my list! The best thing is that I'm not even done reviewing all of the films that might find themselves on the list this year! So, hold on... there is more to come! However, I would much rather be in this boat than one in which I struggle to find any film or actor worthy of recognition. Anyway, I say all that just to reiterate how great this film was and how it shook up my (previously settled) lists for best actor/actress/film for 2012. Playbook was the perfect blend of humor and drama, accented by amazing performances and months of waiting to watch. I give Silver Linings Playbook 4.13 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Zero Dark Thirty

There were definitely mixed emotions from my end, as I headed in to watch Zero Dark Thirty. On the positive side, I knew the film was receiving ample amounts of praise, which is always a good thing. Also, I was intrigued to see what happened with the events surrounding the death of Osama Bin Laden. Not that I trusted the film to be 100% accurate, but I trusted that they would not sway far from the truth. However, there was a huge negative that stood in the background. The truth is that I was not at all a fan of The Hurt Locker. I found it boring and odd from beginning to end, and I figured that Zero Dark Thirty would be extremely similar, considering that they share the same creator. My hope was that my interest in the story would outweigh any similarity to The Hurt Locker...

Well, I can't really criticize the events surrounding bringing the world's most wanted man to justice, but I will say that I didn't really enjoy the vibe that the film gave off. I know that a "vibe" is a very undefinable aspect of a film. However, I would say that most people agree that all movies, TV shows, music, etc. have some sort of vibe, which is usually a good or bad thing. The Zero Dark Thirty vibe was almost exactly the same as that of The Hurt Locker, and I would certainly say that did not help the film at all. There were many suspenseful moments, as was with The Hurt Locker, but the way that those moments were dealt with was far from dramatic. Normally, I would like the telling of a raw story, without all of the glitz and glam, but I believe that Kathryn Bigelow just lacks the ability to keep me interested, however valiant her efforts and torture scenes.

While there were other important characters, the majority of the film focused on Jessica Chastain's Maya, who was at the center of the CIA's hunt for Osama Bin Laden. The CIA teams were portrayed as these workaholics who were hell-bent on finding Bin Laden, and there was really nothing else as far as character depth. I know this story was not about the characters, but I would have liked a little bit more from the individual characters' storylines in a movie that was well over 2.5 hours.

As I said, in general, there were plenty of low points character-wise, but the performances were not bad, so I won't dwell too much on the negatives. I will say that my least favorite character was that Osama Bin Laden guy. Although he had zero lines in the film, I could tell he was up to no good.

Regardless of how shallow her character was, Jessica Chastain gave an amazing and hard-nosed performance. I certainly wouldn't have wanted to cross her. Although her performance was not the best of 2012, in my opinion, she is deserving of the Oscar that she is probably going to win next month. I was also impressed with Kyle Chandler's performance as Joseph Bradley, who was some head honcho with the CIA folks. From the previews, I didn't think he was going to really fit the role, but he did quite well.

While I greatly appreciate the suspense and the telling of this historic story, I wasn't overwhelmed by the way the story was told. Rather than revolving around Osama Bin Laden, the story truly revolved around Chastain's Maya. In the end, I didn't get that "Merica!" feeling that I wanted. It was more like "Maya!". There is no problem with telling that sort of story, but it did not meet my expectations for the Oscar nominated film. I know I have been a bit harsh, but I don't want to overly discourage everyone from checking Zero Dark Thirty out. I just don't want you to go in with the same expectations that I had. Also, begin praying that this film does not win best picture, because I would rather almost any of the other nominees take that award home. Something about Kathryn Bigelow just makes me not want her to win. Anywho, I give Zero Dark Thirty 2.77 out of 5 stars.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Les Miserables


As I've said before, musicals are not my favorite. However, the trailers for Les Miserables absolutely blew me away, especially Anne Hathaway's "I Dreamed a Dream" short trailer. Hearing her sing that song had me hooked instantly. Still, I was worried, because, no matter how great that one song was, the entire film was still going to be a musical. I just didn't think I would be able to get over that. Also, before I go any further, I just want to let you all know that this is my first time to ever experience the story of Les Miserables. My small amount of culture does not contain this classic story, as I have never read the book or seen any version of the musical. So, not knowing what to expect (aside from a ton of singing), I traipsed off to the theater to see Les Miserables. Also, from here to the end of the review, I want you to sing every word that I have written. It will put you in the musical mood!

Because I was a Les Mis virgin, the story was quite intriguing to me. However, I was not too hopeful for a happy story, considering the title of the film and its nature, and my hopes were just right. In fact, I was quite surprised at the ending, as I expected complete and total sadness. I have had a few people tell me that the entire film was too depressing for them, but I don't agree with that. As an avid moviegoer, I really enjoy both sad and happy, life and death, good and bad, when it comes to movies. I may be alone on this soapbox, but, if you get happy every time, there is no need to watch a movie, because you know exactly what will happen. Nothing is more exciting than a film that keeps you on your emotional toes, and I believe this version of Les Miserables would do that for you, regardless of how many times you have read or seen the story.

With the Oscar buzz surrounding Les Miserables, I focused more on each individual character than I usually would, so my critique of each character may be a bit more detailed than usual. Overall, I was extremely pleased with the casting and the performances.

Everyone has been so rough on Russell Crowe, and I guess I'm sort of chiming in. I feel really bad for the guy though. His performance as Javert was probably the worst in the film, and most have been dogging him for his singing abilities, which I believe is harsh. To me, his singing was fine. It wasn't great, but that made the film a little more realistic in my opinion. Just think about it this way--if you randomly pulled twenty people off of the street and told them to sing the rest of their lives to one another, what are the chances that all twenty would be able to sing amazingly well? My problem with Crowe was the amount of emotion that he put into his character. He just didn't act mean enough to me. No other performance was really bad, but I did not like the character of Eponine. Samantha Barks gave a great performance, yet I thought her character was completely unnecessary to the story and could have made the film at least fifteen minutes shorter. But, who am I to mess with such historical characters?

Anne Hathaway is almost a lock to win best supporting actress for her role as Fantine, and she is certainly deserving of the praise that she is receiving. Her performance was absolutely amazing, mostly because of "I Dreamed a Dream." You will be hearing plenty of praise coming her way over the next two months, so just get used to it. Additionally, Hugh Jackman will likely merit a nomination as the lead character, Jean Valjean, and, just like Hathaway, Jackman is deserving. I'm not sure if he will make it on to my list of bests from 2012, so you will just have to wait and see. Nevertheless, he gave a great performance and has an amazing singing voice. In addition to the two obvious performances, which I have already named, I also thought Sacha Baron Cohen's performance as Thenardier was brilliantly funny. In a very serious film, he brought some amazing comedic relief. The kind that only Sacha Baron Cohen can bring. Finally, Daniel Huttlestone's Gavroche was great as well, as I am the sucker for child actors.

As I have said before, a great film is not easily forgotten. A week later you are still thinking about it, and, in this case, singing its songs. I absolutely fell in love with this film and these characters, which is something that has never happened for me and a musical before. Honestly, I think what made the difference was the constant singing in Les Miserables. In most musicals that I have seen, there is a lot of speaking and then they just randomly break into song, and that frustrates the crap out of me. I just never understood why someone would randomly break into song or how that could be entertaining. Les Miserables, on the other hand was sung from beginning to end, and it made a little more sense. It didn't seem like they were trying to make the music work, and it just flowed a lot better. With all that being said, kudos to director Tom Hooper for making a musical that I absolutely loved. I give Les Miserables 4.05 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Notscars 2012

While 2012 got off to a pretty rocky start movie-wise, the end of the year was quite good, which made it difficult to really come up with a whole list of the worst of 2012. Also, this year, I've done a much better job of picking movies to watch that I know I will enjoy. So, unlike last year, I'm not going to list everything out categorically. Instead, I'm going to give out some random awards to various actors, actresses, and movies. These awards are meant to be funny, so please laugh, if only to make me feel accomplished!

The Stupid Avenger
Chris Hemsworth - The Avengers

Worst Steve Carell Movie EVER
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

Forgot How to Act
Anna Kendrick - Pitch Perfect/What to Expect When You're Expecting

Worst Five Performances in One Movie
Tom Hanks - Cloud Atlas

Finally Picked a Bad Role
Joseph Gordon-Levitt - Lincoln

Waste of Funny
Jason Sudeikis - The Campaign

Sings WAY Worse Than Russell Crowe
Paul Giamatti - Rock of Ages

Twilight Was Ten Times Better Than You
Snow White and the Huntsman

Worst Sideburns/Beard Ever
Wes Bentley - The Hunger Games

Worst Performance of the Year
Cobie Smulders - The Avengers

Worst Film of the Year
What to Expect When You're Expecting

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2

What to say... What to say? I'm just not a fan. I've tried a little, and I'm just not! I have absolutely nothing against people who do like it, and I even understand why they try to shove their love for it down my throat, because I do the same thing for movie series that I love. Somewhere out there is someone who doesn't like Batman, and I'm sure they got sick of me talking about it, just like I got sick of hearing about Twilight (3 or 4 years ago). So, I'm not bitter! I just want to make that clear. My expectations were low, because I have seen the first fifteen or so movies, and they were not to my liking. However, all of my critical comments are solely as a movie-lover and not as a Twilight-hater. I hope I'm not hung after this review...

Without a doubt it my mind, this film had the best storyline of any of the Twilight films. The twisty ending absolutely stunned me, probably because I really liked the fake part. No mass of teenage girls would have loved a book or movie that ended that way though, so I guess we had to have a freakin happy ending yet again! Oh well, at least I got to enjoy Twilight for ten minutes or so. My biggest complaint concerning this film is the lack of presence of the bad vampire guys in the earlier films. I know they were there; and I knew they were going to be important; but were you really worried about the bad guys when Jacob and Bella and Edward were all falling in love with each other? NO!

The character end of things has always been the kicker (in a bad way), for me at least, when it comes to the Twilight series. We all know how much the teenage girls love each and every character on the show, mostly because of their actor's attractiveness/paleness/Indian tan. I am pleased to let you all know that I am not a shallow person, nor will I fall for a movie because of some hot girl in the film. Because of the lack of positives, I have decided to avoid the positive/negative contrast in this review. I will tell you that I believe Robert Pattinson will have a very bright future in acting and may be able to win an award or two along the way. As for the rest of the cast, I have nothing positive to say, and that is all.

Although Breaking Dawn Part 2 was no where close to being as good as The Avengers, it was even further from being as bad as Breaking Dawn Part 1. The fight scene at the end would have made for better ending if it had been true, but, as I said, no girls would have enjoyed that. If that would have been the true ending and the girls would have enjoyed it, then I would have a greater hope for humanity. However, my hope remains the same. But wait! Guess what! The best news in the world just popped in my head as I was finishing this review! I have watched a new Twilight film for the last time!!!!!!!! Let us all rejoice, at least until they remake them, and let's begin praying (right now) that better actors are on board for the remake. But, let me end with a kudos to the filmmakers for the tricky ending. I give Breaking Dawn Part 2 2.01 out of 5 stars.