The trailers for Spike Jonze's Her looked a bit too artsy fartsy for my taste, but something about a man falling in love with his computer is very interesting to me. But, folks, no need to worry!... I am engaged to a girl, and she is MUCH better than my computer!... I'm not a huge fan of Spike Jonze's previous work, although it always manages to get me thinking. His stories are so weird and unique, and I can easily say that I would be frightened to be in his head for more than five minutes. But, even with the craziness, there is something so intriguing about this storyline, and, regardless of how absolutely insane Joaquin Phoenix may be, the man can act. Sometimes, weird movies, like Her, are able to surprise me, but, at the same time, weird movies can end up as total disasters. Who knew what was coming with Her?...
As expected, the film was quite artsy and trippy, but neither was the least bit overwhelming, which was a pleasant surprise. The artistic, visual focus (which I tend to not care for too much) was quite nice and accented the realistic fantasy that Jonze and Phoenix created. You might ask, "Tanner, how does a film manage to be a realistic fantasy? Those words are antonyms." To you people, I just ask that you take my word for it or go watch the movie! Honestly, there were a few inexplicable, technological advances in Her, and it is difficult for myself to imagine falling in love with my computer. However, at the same exact time, nothing about the technological and societal advances were too extreme to make them seem unattainable. Wait, wait... I take that back! In Her, nobody ever wore a belt, and I really don't see the market for belts collapsing drastically in the near future. So, there was that! Also, as someone who considers himself a bit of an introvert, I could actually imagine somebody out there falling in love with a computer, if that computer was the Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson) that Phoenix's Theodore Twombly fell for in the first half of the film. Personally, the idea is not appealing, but I don't believe it to be too far-fetched. So, anyway, I say all of that to help you realize that Her is not as whimsical as the trailer made it out to be. The film felt very, very real, and I thoroughly enjoyed the way that Jonze told the story. The plot itself was not ground-breaking, but the film really opened some gaping questions about seclusion, as a result of our computer-loving, introverted future-selves.
Pretty much everything about this film revolved around Theodore Twombly, and I do not believe that there was ever a significant, on-screen moment that lacked the presence of Joaquin Phoenix. With that being said, pretty much everything that I said in the plot about the film can be carried over to Twombly's character. He was THE man in this film, and he wasn't nearly as much of a social recluse as the trailer made him out to be, which is probably why I was so surprised that he was so realistic. Sure, he was a bit awkward and introverted, but he was NOT socially inept. Phoenix did a brilliant job, as we've come to expect, regardless of how crazy he may be. Additionally, Scarlett Johansson did an amazing job with her voice acting, although I did not like the fact that I was picturing her the whole time. If I did not have a face to associate with her voice, I think the film would have been even better, because I would have felt a bit more in touch with Theodore's perception of her. Finally, Spike Jonze himself provided one of the funniest moments of 2013 films, with his voice performance as the foul-mouthed Alien Child. I was rolling throughout that entire scene! I think the Alien Child is deserving of his own film... Anybody with me on that?
Her was so surprisingly real that I still don't know if I've fully grasped how great the film was, and I watched it like two weeks ago! My expectations were absolutely destroyed! Of the 2013 Oscar contenders/nominees, I don't think there is another film with anywhere near as much creativity or intrigue in its story... Maybe Bad Grandpa? Ha Ha Ha!!!... Anyway, I encourage everyone to check out Her. Is it odd?... Yes! Is it unique?... Yes! Is it possible that you will hate it?... Yes! But, there is a chance that this film could sneak up and be your favorite film of 2013. Do not be afraid! Let me be your encouragement! Go watch Her! I give Her 4.00 out of 5 stars.
Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Wednesday, January 15, 2014
Of this year's Oscar contenders, there was no film that I was looking forward to more than Inside Llewyn Davis. Not only am I a huge Coen brothers fan, but I am also a huge fan of folk music, which makes a movie about a folk-singer quite enticing. Honestly, I didn't need much more to get excited about the film. I was just ecstatic that Inside Llewyn Davis had finally made its way to Hattiesburg, Mississippi. You better believe I hurried my butt to the theater...
Like every Coen-made film, Inside Llewyn Davis featured a lot of quirky dialogue that accented the direct storyline. There wasn't a need for a super complex storyline, but, as the story progressed, it became very easy to predict what would happen to Llewyn, because nothing good ever happened to him. I would have preferred a bit more excitement and wonder, as the story progressed. Additionally, Llewyn Davis' tendency to lack any positive life events cut into the effectiveness of the quirky/fun moments and, at times, just sucked the joy right out of the theater. Was I interested in the film?... Yes, but I just didn't have that "wow, I never could have thought up this story" feeling that I love. However, I did enjoy the music, which was well-placed and just good music. If you listened to my favorite Pandora channel, the songs from this film would likely pop up at some point. I know that's more of a personal bias than criticism, but I can't help sharing my musical preferences!
While Oscar Isaac was great as Llewyn Davis, the rest of the cast really brought that Coen brothers feel to the movie. Honestly, I don't think I could possibly remember all of the great characters that spent just a touch of time on screen, but I will try to highlight a few of my favorites in the positives section below. All around, however, the acting was great.
The only character that I remember despising was Garrett Hedlund's Johnny Five, who said very little and contributed even less to the story. Additionally, I didn't really care for Jeanine Serralles, who played Llewyn's sister, Joy. Unlike Hedlund's, her character was great, but I thought she should have had a larger role.
My favorite performance and character were both merited by Adam Driver and his simply entertaining Al Cody. Not only did he provide some laughs, but his character helped drive the story in a way that I was not quite expecting. Another performance that I loved (although the character was rather pointless) was that of Stark Sands, who played a robotic, hick, soldier that was somehow able to sing pretty darn good. His character was one of the most memorable of the entire film. In addition to those two great male performances, the funniest performance was a result of the amazing work of Sylvia Kauders, who cracked me up as the very random recording-studio secretary, Ginny. She brought out that great Coen brothers humor that I love so very dearly! I was also impressed with Carey Mulligan, who I usually don't care for very much. Also, finally, one more shout out to Oscar Isaac for a great performance in the lead role. Ok... I'm done!
There seems to be a pattern developing with these 2013 Oscar-contending dramas, as the acting continues to carry the load, with the stories lacking in excitement and originality. I may have been a bit too critical of Inside Llewyn Davis, but I did really enjoy it. I just wanted it to be waaaay better! If you like good music, you should definitely check out the soundtrack for the film. It won't ruin the film for you either; it's just good music! (I just used a semicolon, guys... mark it down!) While it wasn't my favorite Coen brothers film or my favorite film of 2013, Inside Llewyn Davis was entertaining, and, if you love the Coen brothers like me (few do), you are sure to enjoy their latest work. Lastly, let's hope that Oscar Isaac is able to get an Oscar nom in the wee hours of tomorrow morning! He deserves it! I give Inside Llewyn Davis 3.45 out of 5 stars.
Sunday, January 12, 2014
Each year, there are a few films and performances that stand out... in a very bad way. Unfortunately, much of 2013 was engulfed in mediocrity, featuring very little that stood out in any way, bad or good. However, I was able to compile this short list of 2013 negatives... The 2013 Notscars... Enjoy...
The Hangover: Part III
And I Thought I Couldn't Get Enough of You:
(The Hangover: Part III)
(The Hangover: Part III)
Most PG-13ish R-rated Movie:
21 and Over
Where the Mutants Is?:
Let's See How Many Times We Can Play Our Trailer:
World War Z
Worst Performance of the Year:
Friday, January 10, 2014
Of all the December-released movies that I wanted to see, I probably wanted to see Saving Mr. Banks the least. Not to say that I expected bad things, but I have no special connection to Mary Poppins nor was I blown away by the magic-filled trailers for a film that looked as if it would shove Disney down your throat until you could no longer bare it. However, I knew that Emma Thompson's performance would be impressive, and I was intrigued to see how well Tom Hanks handled Walt Disney (even though I don't really a preconceived notion of what Walt Disney should act like). Also, I usually enjoy dramatic, non-cartoon, non-action Disney films, such as The Odd Life of Timothy Green, The Rookie, and Remember the Titans, so I figured I might enjoy Saving Mr. Banks...
Although I knew the story would eventually end in the making of a Mary Poppins film, I must say that the path to the making of the film was quite intriguing. I don't know how true the story was, but I didn't really care. I just wanted to be entertained, and that I was. Thankfully, the amount of Disney-shoving-down-the-throat was minimal. Sure, there was a lot about Disney, but I wasn't overwhelmed by the praise that landed on the shoulders of Walt Disney and his love of all things him. With the good, there was some bad, however, and that bad came in the form of flashbacks to the childhood of Emma Thompson's P.L. Travers. Each and every time that the movie cut to Travers' childhood I just couldn't help but cringe. Not only did I not care, but I also hated the fact that the interesting story was being continually interrupted by an uninteresting story. If they had a spent a moment at the beginning of the film explaining her childhood, I would have been content. If they had spent a moment late in the film allowing her to tell the story of her childhood, I would have been content. But, instead, they interrupted the movie every ten minutes and revealed what was the slowest unfolding of a flashback that I have ever witnessed. Everyone may not have the same opinion as me, but I just couldn't stand that part, and it was a huge portion of the film.
Saving Mr. Banks was certainly well-cast, and the performances were quite impressive. However, they weren't quite as impressive as I expected them to be. In fact, I wouldn't expect a film of this kind to be getting so much Oscar praise, but what do I know... Sure, Emma Thompson was good, but I don't think she was amazing. Luckily, however, there were a few actors who shone bright...
Ruth Wilson's Margaret Goff was one of the most shallow characters that I have ever been meant to feel sorry for. Although Collin Ferrell's character was supposed to cause her grief, I really didn't care about her whatsoever. Additionally shallow was Aunt Ellie, played by Rachel Griffiths. Her character was quite important, in the grand scheme of things, but she was only on screen for like 5 minutes, which was quite disappointing. If they were going to flash back and forth 300 times, they could have at least included her a bit more. I can't really explain who all these people are without ruining a large part of the story, so just take my word on these two.
As I said before, I don't have a preconceived idea of the true Walt Disney, but I will say that I was quite impressed with Tom Hanks's performance. The way that he was able to make me care for Disney and avoid shoving Disney down everyone's throat was quite impressive. Without his performance, I think the film would have failed... big time. The only other character that I loved was Paul Giamatti's limo-driving Ralph, who really helped bring out the best in Emma Thompson's performance. Giamatti is one of my favorites, and I love it when he finds a role, such as this one, that is so well suited for him.
Going in, I thought Saving Mr. Banks would be a bit of a one-woman show, but, as it turned out, the men really carried the film. Tom Hanks was absolutely great, and, if you take his performance from Captain Phillips and ad it to this one, he might make my list of best actors in 2013. You will just have to wait and see! Saving Mr. Banks was a nice family film that any Mary Poppins fan would thoroughly enjoy. If I was a Mary Poppins fan, there is no telling how much I would have enjoyed it. However, as far as being an Oscar contender goes, I don't understand what all the fuss is about. Usually, I can at least see what the Academy likes about a movie, but that is not the case with Saving Mr. Banks, which suffers a bit from that sappy Disney feel. Unlike Remember the Titans (one of the greatest sports films of all time), Saving Mr. Banks is not one of the greatest sports films of all time... In case you couldn't figure that one out on your own! But, oh well! I give Saving Mr. Banks 2.83 out of 5 stars.
Sunday, January 5, 2014
If a film can work the words "Wall Street" into its name, there is a darn good chance that I'm going to get excited about it, and The Wolf of Wall Street had the two words, plus a great cast and big time Oscar buzz. I mean, rarely do movies come along that can fulfill my desires for a film and feature sophisticated financial gab. Even more rarely (in fact, never before) do those movies feature one of my favorite actors, Mr. Jonah Hill. No man can carry an entire movie for three hours, which I knew would make Hill's role as Donnie Azoff extremely important in the determination of judgement for the lead, Jordan Belfort (played by Leonardo DiCaprio). Although I hate to sound like a broken record, DiCaprio is but a mediocre actor, in my opinion, and I can't understand why people are upset about his lack of an Oscar win. The Wolf of Wall Street had a lot going for it, but I wasn't completely sold. So, I figured I better go watch and see for myself...
Drugs, Sex, Money... There really isn't too much more to say!
Was the story interesting? Yes... But, after three hours of extravagance and blatant immorality, I could not wait for the movie to end! On top of that, there was very little financial gab, which really made me mad. In fact, on one occasion, Belfort began to explain what an IPO was, as he talked to the camera, but, after a few sentences, he noted that no one really cared what he was talking about. At that point, I wanted to jump up in the theater and yell "I CARE!!!!!... PLEASE TALK ABOUT IT!!!!!" It just frustrated the crap out of me, because my expectations were gradually plummeting, as they journeyed along for three full hours. I may sound discouraging, but there were some very hilarious moments and great performance... The story just wasn't for me.
While The Wolf of Wall Street, as a whole, may not have been my favorite, the actors' performances really blew me away. From Leonardo DiCaprio, as the lead, to the smaller roles, played by Henry Zebrowski and P.J. Byrne, the cast was spot on. The extravagance and blatant immorality (which I previously denounced) allowed for some intense performances that provided many laughs and exciting moments that had me quite impressed.
The only real negative that I found was Kyle Chandler's FBI agent, Patrick Denham, who just couldn't quite pull off the emotions that I believe he was supposed to be displaying. I'm not sure, though, because I could never tell what he was feeling or thinking or anything. If he would have been cut out of the film, it would have gone along just as well.
There were so many outstanding performances that it is very hard to narrow this down to a small section, but I will try my best. First, although his screen time was very, very limited, Matthew McConaughey's Mark Hanna was absolutely great. In fact, he was the only one who really had anything to say about the financial markets and how to take advantage of them, and, on top of that, he was quite a cutup. Second, Jonah Hill, who is one of my favorite actors, blew me away, yet again, as he continues to prove his versatility. Hopefully, Hill will merit a second Oscar nom for this performance. I'm certainly going to be cheering him on. Finally, the main man, Leonardo DiCaprio, gave what I believe to be his greatest performance to date. I've never been a huge DiCaprio fan, but with this performance, along with his amazing role in Django Unchained, DiCaprio looks to be headed in the right direction. He certainly put everything he had into this film and is deserving of any recognition that he may receive.
NEWS FLASH: Leo is going to have to wait one more year for his first Oscar, as 12 Years a Slave begins to overcome the awards season. Regardless, it was nice to be impressed by a performance of his, and the entire cast was quite impressive. Unfortunately, the length and mass of rediculousness failed to accent the great performances, which was quite disappointing. I have been waiting for The Wolf of Wall Street for quite some time, making it's mediocrity a tough pill to swallow. I know that many folks really enjoyed the film, so don't let my comments discourage you completely. If you have three hours to sit there and watch people pop pills and rob people, The Wolf of Wall Street will be the perfect film for you. For the rest of you, go watch Walter Mitty (no pills or robbing) or American Hustle (no pills, plenty of robbing). I give The Wolf of Wall Street 2.71 out of 5 stars.