Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Great Expectations: August 2014

This week, I'm camped out in a beach town, playing golf and chillaxing! I may take time to watch a movie or two, but, for the most part... golf!!! It has been quite some time since I've had the chance to play, so I kind of suck. However, I'm having a blast and keeping the game in business by losing dozens of balls in the water/bushes. So, kudos to me, on behalf of golf ball manufacturers, for keeping them in business!

As we head into the final month of summer movies, there is no doubt that Guardians of the Galaxy will rock the August box office. In fact, I will be surprised if it doesn't turn out to be as big as Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which was released in April. While I am excited about Marvel's risky venture, I'm even more excited for some smaller-releases that I suspect will impress me. Check out the trailers below. You might even find one that you want to see!

Get On Up
(August 1)
About Alex
(August 8)
(August 15)

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Purge: Anarchy

The entire premise surrounding The Purge really fascinates me! In fact, I've considered doing some research to see how such a radically new law/anti-law would impact the national and global economy. I know, I know... I'm the only one who would turn a slasher film into an economic issue! But, regardless, I'm drawn to the idea, and (this is NOT a statement of support for the creation of a real-life "purge") conceptually, it makes sense. That said, I actually enjoyed the first film quite a bit (review here), and I couldn't wait for the inevitable sequel, which came just as quick as can be expected from the folks at Blumhouse, who are also behind the ever-abundant Paranormal Activity franchise (of which I have never seen a single film). Heading in to The Purge: Anarchy, I didn't really know what would be the focal point of the film, but I did know we would get a look at a different dynamic of the purge, after the first film was presented from the perspective of a upper class, suburban family. All I knew was that I would continue to be fascinated by the concept and what it could become...

The first film was quite dumbed down and simple, and, considering both the small budget and the complexity of the film's concepts, it was done just right, in my opinion. If they had tried to dive too deeply into the politics of the event, the film would have been a rushed disaster. However, after seeing Anarchy, I'm a little worried that the unveiling of the purge's beginnings and motives may be coming along a bit too slowly, considering that there was very little mention of politics in a movie that was completely and totally focused on the rich dominating the poor. Even after bringing in three or four separate storylines, there was never any true mention of government conspiracy. I was kind of hoping that one of the characters would be the child of a "New Founding Father" or something, but oh well. Nevertheless, the story was still quite intriguing, particularly the 15-minute fight scene that was basically an R-rated (and better) version of The Hunger Games. Add to that the predictably fun end-sequence, and you have yourself an entertaining summer slasher!

With a broader range of characters, in comparison to the first film, Anarchy gave us a chance to look more at why different people purge and get purged. However, not all of these characters were necessary or useful, at all.

Zach Gilford's Shane and Kiele Sanchez's Liz were quite possibly the most useless part of any film of 2014. In fact, there characters could have been completely left out, and the film would have gone along just as well. For Sanchez, it was another Paulo/Nikki situation that will never make sense to anyone...

On the other hand, I really loved the dynamic mother-daughter storyline between Carmen Ejogo's Eva Sanchez and Zoe Soul's Cali. Additionally, the grandfather character, played by John Beasley helped to make this family storyline the best of the many that were placed throughout the film. They were really the only characters that I gave a crap about, so... success!

Although I did enjoy The Purge: Anarchy, I've come to the realization that the entire Purge franchise should actually be a TV show. Think about it... We could get many different perspectives, all at once. We could watch the politics unfold, throughout. We could still have a lot of killing (think The Walking Dead). I mean, it makes sense to me, but, regardless, that won't be happening, so we must fight on! And, even though the second film was not quite as spot-on as the first, I'll still be checking out The Purge: Double Anarchy in a couple of years! I give The Purge: Anarchy 2.56 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Begin Again


Last weekend, my fiancĂ©e and I took a day trip to New Orleans, and, considering that our typical weekend consists of watching Netflix, going to the local theater, and eating cheap pizza, it was quite an exciting day. At the same time, I've lived within an hour and a half of New Orleans for pretty much my entire life, meaning that I've done pretty much all there is to do in The Big Easy. So, in order to throw something new into the mix, we decided to check out this fancy dinner theater with chairs as large as the couch on which we typically watch Netflix. The theater was suggested to us by my soon-to-be in-laws, who similarly love the movies. However, of the films playing at this theater, neither of us really found a film that we had been longing to see. So, we landed on Begin Again!

Honestly, I really didn't know that much about Begin Again. In fact, I skipped over the trailer because Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo just don't really go together, in my opinion. Of course, we did watch the trailer before buying tickets, but it was still quite a unique situation, in that I really had no idea what to expect from Begin Again...

Begin Again focused on a worn out music producer (Mark Ruffalo), who, much like myself, really lacked in the department of expectations, and a talented songwriter (Keira Knightley), who played second fiddle to her up-and-coming-musician boyfriend (Adam Levine). The use of music to move the story along really hooked me into the plot, which went well beyond music and into the real-life struggles of these artists. Personally, I rarely listen to music for the emotional nature of lyrics and melodies. Instead, I'm a sucker for a catchy tune, and, if the words are nice, that's just an added bonus! Begin Again really made me consider the importance of music, from a lyrical perspective, much like I tend to consider the importance of dialogue and stories told through film. Kudos to the filmmakers for giving me a chance to draw some parallels between life, movies, and music.

Early in the film, I couldn't quite take Mark Ruffalo's Dan seriously, because I automatically see Ruffalo as a likeable guy. Similarly, there were moments when I couldn't take Adam Levine's Dave as seriously as I believe he was meant to be taken. Between the two, there were a few inconsistencies in character that may have been the fault of the actors, but, overall, the cast was a lot of fun and interacted very well together.

Miriam, the estranged wife of Dan, played by Catherine Keener, was a bit of an awkward character, in my opinion. The relationship between Dan, Miriam, and their daughter, Violet (played by Hailee Steinfeld) made sense, from a dramatic standpoint, but the revelation of the depth of their struggles with one another was revealed waaaay too slowly. I can't say too much about it without spoiling a good bit of the film, but I just couldn't quite figure that bunch out, which I believe was because of Miriam's critical free spirit.

The best relationship award (in a film that was mostly about relationships) goes easily to the friendship of Keira Knightley's Gretta and James Corden's Steve. With Corden giving one of my favorite performances of the year, Steve was just such a likeable guy and a true example of a friend, if there ever was one. Kudos to both Corden and Knightley for subtly giving us an attitude of friendship to strive toward on a daily basis.

One day, I hope to take the time to write a screenplay or book, giving you guys the chance to share in a story of my own. However, I could never, ever write a song! And, for that reason alone, I was quite impressed with Begin Again for being able to tell a story through film and music, simultaneously. I mean, if you want to impress me, just complete a task that I could never possibly complete. It's as simple as that! Whether its writing a song or building an impressive piece of furniture or changing brake pads, completing a task that I am not intellectually capable of completing just really blows me away. Begin Again really blew me away with its simple story-telling and relatable characters, and I truly believe that anyone would enjoy it. Was it the greatest thing ever? No... But, every single moment was satisfying and filled with feels (that's going to be my new line!). I give Begin Again 3.34 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Casting Re-Call: The To Do List

Last month, I wrote a post where I completely re-cast The Fault in Our Stars to better fit who I thought should have played each character in the film version of John Green's fantastic novel (in a perfect world). You can check out that post, here. Not only did that post get a good number of hits, but I really had a blast writing it. So, although it hasn't been very long since I wrote that Casting Re-Call, I decided to do another during the slow movie-month of July.

Although it flew well under the radar of most moviegoers, The To Do List was one of my favorite comedies of 2013. In fact, the film ended up taking third place in the Best Comedy category of my 2013 Above Average Awards, which is my list of the best in film from each year. If you have yet to see The To Do List, I would definitely encourage you to check it out! However, there is a good amount of perverse humor, so just be aware...

If you want, you can check out my review of The To Do List, here. Now, let's move on.

I'm sure you are asking yourself "Why would he want to re-cast one of his favorite films of 2013?" which is quite a valid question. The answer lies in the fact that not every good film is a perfect film, and, certainly, not every good film is perfectly cast. And, when it came down to it, many critics disliked The To Do List for just one reason... the casting! So, in an effort to appease the naysayers and also improve my own assessment of the film, I went back and watched The To Do List, picking the cast apart and coming up with a new cast that would have made a good movie even better...

First, let's take a look at the decisions that the filmmakers got right:

Character: Cameron
Actor Chosen: Johnny Simmons
Why?: Johnny Simmons was the only actor from The To Do List to make my Above Average list last year, and he was certainly deserving of my praise, even after watching the film a second time. Not only was Simmons hilarious, but he did a great job of hitting the goofy, emotional moments as well. Hopefully, Simmons will stick to comedy, because he could certainly have a promising future!

Character: Judge Klark
Actor Chosen: Clark Gregg
Why?: Today, Clark Gregg is known solely for his role as Agent Coulson from Disney's Marvel Universe, but people should really check out his other work, because this dude can bring on the laughter. This innocent father character was absolutely perfect for Gregg in The To Do List. Watch it! You'll love him!

Now, for the not so positive casting decisions:

Character: Brandy Klark
Actor Chosen: Aubrey Plaza
Ideal Actor: Analeigh Tipton
Why?: Personally, I think Aubrey Plaza is hilarious, and, because I find her funny, I quite enjoyed her performance in The To Do List. However, there is no denying that the casting decision was not perfect. In my opinion, Analeigh Tipton would be able to pull of the awkward, cocky-nerd school-girl a little bit better than Plaza. Tipton's comedic range is much larger than that of Plaza, who is good at dry and rude and not much else. As the focal point of the film, Brandy Klark shifts her attitude and personality a bit throughout the film, which is something that Plaza struggled with a bit. I'd be interested in hearing other candidates, but I think Tipton is quite funny and would be a great option, in my opinion.

Character: Mrs. Klark
Actor Chosen: Connie Britton
Ideal Actor: Michaela Watkins
Why?: Connie Britton is great! Connie Britton is NOT funny! On the other hand, Michaela Watkins might be the funniest person to ever walk the face of this earth. The free-spirit that Mrs. Klark turns out to be would be perfectly represented by Watkins, even if she did have to tone her usual stupidity a bit. If you've never seen Michaela Watkins, check out Wanderlust and, of course, Trophy Wife, which was recently axed by ABC (stupid ABC!).

Character: Rusty Waters
Actor Chosen: Scott Porter
Ideal Actor: Any guy who has taken steroids and isn't supposed to be the paralyzed former quarterback of the Dillon Panthers
Why?: Jason Street is a likable guy, and, although I've not yet finished all of Friday Night Lights, I can't look at Scott Porter without thinking that he is supposed to be QB1. Unfortunately, the character of Rusty Waters is a jock/jerk, which was just a bit awkward for me. Really, anyone with a big, buff body could have played Rusty, and Scott Porter wasn't a poor decision. To me, however, he is supposed to be a good guy, and it just didn't quite fit.

Character: Willy
Actor Chosen: Bill Hader
Ideal Actor: Jake Johnson
Why?: I don't know if there is another person who can make me laugh as easily as Bill Hader. In fact, I cannot remember a time when I watched Bill Hader do something without making me laugh! Unfortunately, the role of Willy (the pool manager) just didn't allow Hader to be his normal, funny self, and I believe that Jake Johnson is better suited to play a laid-back pool manager. The options were plentiful, as I considered Sam Rockwell and Dax Shepard, but I settled on Jake Johnson, because he's just a fun guy!

Character: Van
Actor Chosen: Andy Samberg
Ideal Actor: James Franco
Why?: Andy Samberg is a funny guy... at times. But, his short cameo in The To Do List was not one of those times. Also, if you're going to have someone do a cameo, go all out! In my opinion, James Franco would have fit the role and the opportunity much better. I'm sure they would have had a hard time getting Franco to show up (it's not his group of guys), but one can dream...

There you go, folks! That's my ideal cast of The To Do List. Feel free to chime in with your comments, and, also, I would love suggestions for other movies to re-cast. These posts are a lot of fun!

Happy Summer!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Transformers: Age of Extinction

To describe my relationship with Transformers as a guilty pleasure would be quite an understatement. The film critic side of my brain knows that there is very little about the film series that could be considered even remotely noteworthy or mentionable, but the other side of my brain, which really loves watching cars turn into robots, really enjoys many things about these brainless films. For example, I love the humor that Shia LaBeouf, Kevin Dunn, and Julie White brought to the first three films. Also, I like to watch cars TURN INTO ROBOTS!!! In fact, I even loved Revenge of the Fallen and Dark of the Moon, which were both hated by a majority of critics. So... Let's get to Age of Extinction... With Shia LaBeouf and crew removed from the storyline, I was quite leery of how the human side of things would pan out in this fourth franchise installment. However, regardless of the success of the newly installed Mark Wahlberg (who I am not a huge fan of), I clung to the fact that cars would be turning into robots. I mean, how can you screw that up???

While I didn't expect Mark Wahlberg's Cade Yeager to live up to LaBeouf's Sam Witwicky, I had hoped that I wouldn't hate him quite so much. Unfortunately, the lack of humor really sucked a lot of the life out of a film bordering 3 hours in length. As expected, when the film focused on the autobots, I was quite entertained, but I just didn't care about Yeager's financial struggles or his unexplained desire to shelter his daughter. The only human-based storyline that I did enjoy was that of Stanley Tucci's Joshua Joyce, although this film was quite unworthy of Tucci's excellence. However, Joyce's fascination with the technology of the transformers did feel appropriate and actually brought up a few questionable social issues that the real world will soon be facing, when it comes to techonological advances. Overall, the awesomeness of Optimus Prime kept me entertained, but, unlike the past three films, there were many moments where I wondered how much longer the film was going to be dragged out. If only the film had been solely about the government, technology companies, and alien robots (yeah, just three big things), it probably would have been a lot better (and at least an hour shorter).

As I've now said 50 times, the humans were disappointing, and the robots were awesome! While Tucci's storyline actually fit into the film quite well, it still wasn't perfect, and there is no doubt that everything would have been better without Marky Mark and his family coming along for the ride. In fact there were multiple occasions where they were unnecessarily brought into scenes where robots were fighting or plotting, which ended up being really awkward. Additionally, the only truly comedic human in the entire film was T.J. Miller's Lucas. While Miller always cracks me up, his absence from the majority of the film was quite a disappointment to me.


Alien Robots

As my movie-watching habits and expectations have matured over the past few years, it's not hard to believe that my desire for Transformers-esque films has greatly decreased. At the same time, I have become much more appreciative of action flicks that can get it right, such as The Avengers, X-Men: Days of Future Past, and Star Trek. Unfortunately, the Transformers franchise has not quite been able to keep up with my heightened expectations, and, as long as Mark Wahlberg is involved, I don't think that will change. Even so, I still love all things Transformers, and the film was not a complete bust. The cars still turned into robots, so... AWESOME! I'm hopeful that the franchise will improve with the inevitable fifth film, but, either way, I still have three awesome movies that I can watch over and over! I give Transformers: Age of Extinction 2.54 out of 5 stars.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Great Expectations: July 2014


Unfortunately, I have yet to watch Transformers: Age of Extinction, due to my being out of town this past week, but I did find this picture, which I knew I had to share with you guys. With the release of the summer's biggest film behind us, things at the theater will start to slow down in the month of July. Sadly, the Fourth of July week/weekend features very little worth mentioning, and I don't care for anything Planet of the Apes related, so I probably won't get to watch a July release until The Purge hits theaters mid-month. However, I am hopeful that a few smaller, limited-release films will make their way to Hattiesburg, this month. Who knows?... July may be better than expected...

(July 11)
The Purge: Anarchy
(July 18)
Wish I Was Here
(July 18)