Sunday, August 25, 2013
Even for a 21 year old, I was super late to jump on the Woody Allen train, and, honestly, I have not seen enough of his work to be considered any sort of "Woody Allen expert." Regardless, I will say that I have never seen anything of Allen's that I did not care for, and Midnight in Paris is one of my favorite films of the last few years. So, after hearing how great Cate Blanchett's performance was in Blue Jasmine, I couldn't help but march over to the theater and watch the next bubbly production to merit critical acclaim for the great Woody Allen. Even with my desire to see the film and my love for Woody Allen, I must admit that I am not prone to enjoy films with female leads. Am I sexist?... Maybe a little. But, I like my movies just like I like my music--manly and unique...
With the critical acclaim that Blue Jasmine has received, I expected the film to feature a fantastic storyline, especially considering that the critics tore apart last year's To Rome with Love, which I thought had a pretty neat storyline. Unfortunately, Blue Jasmine's plot was pretty boring and felt sort of like driving from state line to state line through the state of Texas... Sure, you'll see some cacti and nice subdivisions, but you'll never be entertained without a car full of friends, a DVD player, or a father who says, "If everything's bigger in Texas, we need to find a Hooters." Yeah... My father said that... and yeah... we were entertained! The film, which focused on Cate Blanchett's Jasmine, never really took off, dramatically speaking. Sure, her life was very interesting, but it was only interesting because she made it so. The events of her life were very simple and boring. We've all heard the cheating husband, annoying sister story before... right? That's pretty much all you get, topped off with a great performance by Blanchett.
Lucky for us, as we continue our drive through Texas, we come upon the wandering Cate Blanchett, who got sick of Peter Jackson and needs a ride. Tell your friends to be quiet, throw your DVD player out the window, and order Hooters to-go, because Cate Blanchett is about to give you all the entertainment that you will ever need! Really, I was SO SO SO impressed with her performance as leading-lady, Jasmine, and I didn't want the film to end, because it was really fun to watch her struggle.
Alec Baldwin is usually a very entertaining actor to watch on screen, even though he kind of gets on my nerves. However, as Jasmine's husband, Hal, Baldwin wasn't very impressive. I think his talent was wasted on a role that could have been filled by pretty much anyone. Another actor that was extremely underutilized was Louis C. K. There is no doubt that Louie is hilarious, but he wasn't given very much screen time, which was quite disappointing.
Let me say one more time... Cate Blanchett was great! As for the rest of the cast, it was actually pretty great as well. Specifically, Bobby Cannavales's Chili was such a great character, and Cannavale's performance was equally as great. After being nominated for two Emmys and giving this fantastic performance, I really think Cannavale should be considered for an Oscar. He is quickly becoming a great, well-respected actor.
Throughout the year, I keep a list of my favorite performances in every film I watch, in order to avoid missing anyone when I compile my Above Average Awards. Before watching Blue Jasmine, my list lacked a single dramatic actress, but, now, Cate Blanchett is the easy favorite to top that list for 2013. There's no doubt that her performance carried this film and caused the critics to go easy on Woody Allen's dull script. She single-handedly saved Blue Jasmine from the same fate as that of To Rome with Love. As Allen nears 80 years old, I hope that he continues to create these wonderful films. Whether he does so with great acting or great writing, I could care less. I know I was a bit harsh on the plot, but I promise that the film was quite entertaining. He always entertains me, and that is all that matters. I give Blue Jasmine 3.15 out of 5 stars.
Thursday, August 22, 2013
Way back in 2009, Neill Blomkamp and Sharlto Copley absolutely blew me away with their cheap, simple science ficiton hit, District 9. Not only was District 9 one of my favorite films of that year, it somehow merited an Oscar nomination, which totally surprised me and I'm sure many others. I've since seen the film at least 20 times, and, each time, it blows me away. My college literature professor even had us watch the film as part of our course work a couple of years ago (he was a huge sci-fi fan). Needless to say, the film made its mark in my life and really gave science fiction its first hope of actually receiving critical acclaim in a very long time, because we all know that Avatar was an underwhelming attempt at the same. With Blomkamp and Copley both involved with Elysium as well, I could barely contain my excitement for the film. In fact, there was no summer film that I was looking forward to more than Elysium, and that is saying something. So, of course, my hopes were high, even with the mixed reviews and the border line freshness on the Tomatometer.
As far as killing people in unnecessarily gory fashion is concerned, Neill Blomkamp has a chance to quickly become the Quentin Tarantino of science fiction! In Elysium, people were blowing up left and right, as was the case with District 9. Maybe it was a bit too much, but I must say that I really enjoy watching people explode into hamburger meat, as long as the story is obviously false science fiction (not in your case, Quentin!). As evident by my hamburger meat excitement, I did enjoy the action in Elysium, which was very similar to District 9, just on a $100 million scale. On the other hand, Elysium's plot was not quite as moving as the intricate transformation story of District 9. There were so few intricacies to the story that the entire plot became vague and predictable, and there were many things that didn't quite make sense, even in a made up world. However, I still enjoyed it! Maybe I just have some sort of premature love for Blomkamp's films? Who knows! But, there was no point in the entire film that I was not completely wrapped up in the action onscreen, even when I was not being impressed by the storyline...
I like to think that most people have a list of actors whose films they tend to enjoy, even though they are rarely impressed with the actor him/herself. For me, Matt Damon is one of those actors, along with folks like Leonardo DiCaprio and Emma Stone. I just don't ever think of Damon as being invested in the character that he is playing, and his role of Max in Elysium was no exception in my thinking. Hopefully, one day, Damon will blow me away, but, for now, I must continue to wait.
Jodie freakin Foster!!! What happened!!! Usually, in contrast to Matt Damon, I enjoy watching Jodie Foster do her manly-woman thing, but I guess her lifetime achievement thing sucked her acting ability right out of her. Personally, I don't think she was even a bad choice for the role of Delacourt, but she just didn't bring it! Maybe Neill Blomkamp was too scared to correct her or something. Regardless, it was purely awful. There were a few other negatives, but none were on the same level as Foster's, so they will go unmentioned.
Sure, Sharlto Copley is a bit odd, but there is no denying that the man can act. If you've seen District 9, you know how easily he connected to the audience as an innocent civilian. In Elysium, however, Copley's Kruger is completely, 100% opposite of D9's Wikas, and I loved him just as much. Kruger is a hard-nosed, government-assassin type guy, who tends to enjoy creating the aforementioned hamburger meat. Although I have yet to see many of the Oscar contenders that were released this summer, Copley's performance was one of my favorites thus far in 2013. Say what you want, but this guy is impressive!
I know a lot of this review was "in comparison to District 9," making the review less significant to any of you who have yet to see the 2009 thriller. Let this serve as an encouragement to go watch it! If you have any love for movies with underlying meanings that are not so underlying, I promise that you will not be disappointed with District 9. As for Elysium... Even with the weak plot and the weak Jodie Foster, I really liked. Was it anywhere close to perfect? No... But, I was intrigued throughout the entire film, and that is something that rarely happens for me in thriller/action films. Kudos to Blomkamp for continuing to impress. Maybe everyone just set their expectations a bit too high, after the greatness that was District 9. I give Elysium 3.68 out of 5 stars.
Sunday, August 11, 2013
Instead of writing a typical review for 2 Guns, I have decided to share a funny story with you. Hope you enjoy:
When I was in the 9th grade, some 7 or 8 years ago, my mother made the decision to disturb my high school social climb by not allowing me to go a movie at a theater across town. You see, at the time, I was 15 years young, and, like most good mothers would have been, mine was frightened at the idea of me riding on the busy highways of South Mississippi in the car of a 16 year old girl who I had not been friends with for more than 6 months or so (and we really were just friends) (and my mother knew that) (and she didn't care). Because there was a theater at the local mall (where we happened to be), my mother did not understand why we would want to go across town (2 miles max) to the brand spanking new theater and meet up with other friends. Unfortunately for me, I was left behind by said 16 year old girl, because she was going to the good theater across town, and I cannot blame her at all. Not long before this happening, my mother had expressed to me her strong desire to see the Christian film Facing the Giants, a movie that became quite a hit down here in the Bible belt. After being deserted, thanks to my mother's issues with my own responsibility (and the fact that I was 15), I retaliated against my mother by marching into the crappy mall theater and watching Facing the Giants all by myself. Did I want to see the movie?... No. Did I enjoy the movie?... No. But, when she and my father came to pick me up from the mall, I felt as if I had just sneaked the sneakiest of all sneaky paybacks ever sneaked in the history of sneaking.
This week, for the first time since that sneaky night, in which I did exactly as instructed by my mother, I, Tanner Jones, went to a movie all by myself! That's right, as many times as I have looked at that big screen over the last 7 or 8 years, never once have I done it without someone by my side. When I got to thinking about that, it made me realize how many times I have had to drag folks to the theater, just so I would not become lonely. Maybe I only did it so that I would not have to relive that horrible experience from my otherwise satisfying youth. Who knows? But, looking back, I figured it was time to put that horrifying night behind me and move forward with my movie-going life. Since that night, many things have happened. The theater in the mall has closed down, leaving only one option for Hattiesburg moviegoers. My mother now allows me to ride (and even drive) wherever I so choose, mostly because I don't live at home anymore and I'm 21. And, most importantly, that 16 year old girl, with whom my mother did not previously trust my well-being, is now my fiancé! That's right, the moral of this story is that, if you stick one to your mom, you might find your future spouse! or something like that. To the two women with the lead roles in my life, this one's for you.
As for the movie, it wasn't all that bad. Because I really had no clue what the movie was about, I was quite surprised with the results. The characters were quite typical for any action duo, but Denzel Washington just makes acting look so easy that I was still mesmerized by his simple character. Bill Paxton stole the show, in my opinion, with his ridiculous Texas accent and toughness that was a good bit unnerving. If you want some cheap laughs and unsatisfying action, 2 Guns would probably wildly exceed your expectations. The story, which revolved around one "Gun" needing the other, was quite fitting for my loner situation. That's the main reason I couldn't give up telling my story. Sorry I didn't offer up much about the film, but I thought you might enjoy something a bit different! I give 2 Guns 2.88 out of 5 stars.
Tuesday, August 6, 2013
Quirky, coming-of-age movies are undoubtedly my favorite of all of the many types of movies that exist in this world. Last year, The Perks of Being a Wallflower was my favorite film of the year, furthering my love for coming-of-age tales. Maybe it's because of my place in life? Maybe it's because of the brand of humor? Maybe it's because the movies are just so great? Who knows?!? Luckily for me, there are many coming-of-age films coming out in 2013, from The Kings of Summer to The Way, Way Back to The To Do List, and I can't wait to watch each of them. Of those three films, The To Do List was the one that I was least excited about, probably due to the fact that it is a female tale. Nevertheless, I was still quite excited, and, while the other two have yet to make it to my neck of the woods, The To Do List became the first coming-of-age tale for me to knock off of my watchlist in 2013. The biggest concern I had with the film was my own accepting of Aubrey Plaza as an 18 year old (she's really 29). However, I loved Plaza in 2012's Safety Not Guaranteed, so I was willing to attempt to overlook her age difference...
While I knew that The To Do List was an R-rated comedy, I didn't realize that there would be SO MUCH comedy or SO MUCH R-ratedness, but there is no doubt that this was a true blue R-rated comedy. There were a few things that were a bit too much for Plaza's character, Brandy Klark, but the laughs kept me from being too analytical of the inconsistencies that came with Brandy's conversion from goody-goody to goody-whoremonger. Although I went for the story, I left pleased mostly with the humor. Because the film was totally comedic, it did not quite deliver on the high expectations that I had for a coming-of-age tale. Fortunately, the hilarity was well worth my misinterpretation of what the film would actually be. Just to warn you, The To Do List is quite a raunchy tale, so know what you're getting into!
With a star-studded cast, I was scared that some of the stars might fall by the wayside and lose their significance. Thankfully, with Plaza's Brandy at the center of the entire film, it was ok for the others to lack much significance. The only problem I had with Brandy was her aforementioned inconsistencies that at times did not fit her awkward, nerdy, Sheldon Cooper-like personality. Sure, she was trying to explore her sexuality, but she didn't have to be so straightforward with it. It would have been funnier if she would have had more issues with her list. I'm trying to keep this post close to PG, so I apologize for the ambiguity.
The film was cast very well, so the negatives were few and far between, but they were there. Andy Samberg, who I usually love, was totally unnecessary and random as rock band member, Van. This character was the one place where the cameos went a tad overboard. Also, I did not care for Connie Britton as Mrs. Klark, Brandy's mom. I'm so used to seeing Britton play a responsible motherly figure in Friday Night Lights and American Horror Story, and I couldn't get over that, as her character was a bit of whoremonger herself...
Johnny Simmons' Cameron provided the most laughs, by far, throughout the entire film. After seeing him play a more serious character in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, I wasn't sure how funny he would actually be, but he blew me away. Another actor that blew me away with unexpected hilarity was Clark Gregg, who played Brandy's dad, Judge Clark. That's right, folks! Agent Coulson can be funny! I promise that, if you watch this film, you will laugh at Agent Coulson.
Although The To Do List was nothing like I expected, it was second only to This is The End as far as 2013 comedies are concerned. Kudos to The hilarious Aubrey Plaza and crew for making me laugh so hard at such a raunchy and uncomfortable film. Plaza's career is just getting going (ten years after her character's), and I can't wait to see what she does next. While I hope that The Kings of Summer and The Way, Way Back have a lot more drama, I'm glad that The To Do List surprised me. There is nothing like being pleasantly surprised by a film. It's actually better than really liking a movie that you expected to really like. If you have a chance and are willing to sacrifice your innocence for a couple of hours, go watch The To Do List. You will not be disappointed. I give The To Do List 4.16 out of 5 stars.