Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Movie Small Talk: Three For One Special

[Who wouldn't want to see these three in a remake of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly?]

Over a couple days, with some free time just askin' to be filled, this gal settled in for a movie watching marathon of sorts.

The three flicks that made the cut had nothing in common, other than their availability to be played in my living room.

Do you know those things called DVDs? I may be the only one left on this planet who uses Netflix for a movie rental service, so I had one of those just waiting in that little red envelope. Also on hand was a copy of a horror classic that had been thrust into my hands several weeks earlier. The owner of the DVD, a co-worker, was shocked upon hearing I hadn't seen it and had no choice but to let me borrow it. The last choice was a carryover from awards season. I happened to find that one on Netflix Streaming - my one shot at being more technologically advanced.

So, what were they? Let's find out!

The Streaming

Last year, independent film circles were all talking about Brie Larson. She had previously co-starred on Showtime's United States of Tara, but this was her first buzz as a big time movie actress. 

In the movie Short Term 12, Larson plays one of the employees at a housing facility for teens who are troubled for one reason or another. Some of the kids are between foster homes or need a place to live while they work through anxiety's and issues away from home. Larson's character manages most of the day to day life at the facility. She does everything - from chasing down kids who are trying to escape, to being a sounding board for their heartbreaking problems.

All of this sets the stage for the realization that it isn't only the youngsters who have lived through traumatic situations. Just because adults are, well, adults, doesn't mean they have gotten over their pasts. As an audience, we quickly see that Larson's character exhibits severe pent-up emotion. Not much of her story is told verbally at first, but it is evident through her downward gazing eyes, little ticks, and hunched, pained, body language.

It's very clear why people were talking about Larson's performance. She plays her character's wide range of emotions perfectly. Both passion for helping the kids and dread at facing her demons is balanced in a way that feels real to how we all cope with continuing to face our daily routines even at the worst of times. "Just keep living", as McConaughey would say.

Troubled teen movies aren't anything new. In fact, all the causes of pain the kids in Short Term 12 are facing, we've all seen done plenty of times before. However, this movie stands out in the way of its earnestness and simplicity. The story takes place over less than a week, so we don't have enough time to see the kids turn their entire life around and, say, win the big state championship at the end. That's all well and good for another movie. In the case of Short Term 12, we get to see the little victories, and in day to day life, that's all that really matters.

The Rented

Once in a generation, there is an iconic event that later we look back on and ask ourselves, "Where were you when?"

The JFK assassination. The sinking of the Titanic. The finale of MASH. The OJ Simpson car chase.  Mariah Carey losing her mind on Total Request Live. Those are all exactly the same caliber of importance in history. 

Ah, I still remember that fateful day. It happened while I was at a friend's house after school. TRL had a special guest. Mariah came from backstage, pantsless (per usual), rolling out a cart full of ice cream. Her eyes were all a glow just a couple months before the release of her first starring role in a major motion picture. At that point no one knew how much that flick was going to stink up the cinema. Based on her antics on TRL, we all should have seen it coming. Even at the age of 15, I felt bad for her.

Not keen yet to the whole appreciation of bad movies, I never ended up seeing Glitter when it was released that fall in 2001. Mariah openly blames the terrorists for making her movie bomb at the box office. She also disapprovingly wags her finger at the director. Let's say she has half of that accusation right.

Oh, brother. Anytime the plot in a movie has no reason to exist, we've got a problem. Mariah isn't even the worst part! Judging by the fact she still gets acting roles in legitimate pictures, I think others agree. Plus, Ms. Carey has the voice for the ages. We're talking about the powerhouse singer behind timeless classics like, "Always Be My Baby",  "Heartbreaker", "Emotions", "Fantasy", and many more. She should have held out for better, since a super fun and interesting musical could have been made for her at some point. That's the lesson kids - never accept less than you deserve.

First of all, the whole story makes no sense. It all kicks off with Billie Frank (Mariah) getting taken away from her lounge singer mom as a child. Years later, she and her gal pals (one of which, importantly, is played by Da Brat) are asked to be backup singers after a "famous" singer, Sylk, catches them dancing in da club. The fact that they were dressed in head to toe leopard print definitely lead to them getting the gig. Sylk is played horrifically bland by Top Chef host, Padma Lakshmi, but discovering that she tried to be an actress at one point is my gleeful takeaway from the movie.  

In a twist of fortune, Sylk  turns out to be a terrible singer. Guess who fills in? That's right, Billie to the rescue and a star is born! Then someone gets shot. You'll have to tune in to find out more. And, oh yeah, if it's not evident enough,  Glitter is highly recommended. Especially for people who enjoy a good laugh.

The Borrowed

Eerie fog filled nights are upon us and Halloween is just around the corner. Everyone would agree that this is prime scary movie watching season. Being creeped out at horror movies during any other time of year just doesn't seem quite right.

There are a bunch of new flicks from this genre coming out in the next couple weeks, including a movie based on that staple from teenage girl sleepovers - a Ouija board. Boo! Yet, there is still nothing quite like the offerings of scary cinema from the 1970s.

They tend to be only rated PG, so the gore factor isn't there, which I prefer. They make up for it with the chills accomplished with old timey techniques, like shadows, creaky doors, and high pitched screams.

Invasion Of The Body Snatchers succeeds on all those bases, including incredible stylistic use of shadows displayed on buildings. True suspense is built around this whole story that delves into paranoia and conspiracy, much like another horrifying movie from the same era, Rosemary's Baby.

Several citizens of San Fransisco definitely start to question their sanity when the people around them start to act differently. Unbeknownst to everyone on Earth, the area has been polluted with some sort of extraterrestrial organism that is slowly infecting the population. Nobody changes in appearance, but inside, nothing is the same.

Like I mentioned before, anyone looking for a slasher flick with heads flying off, this one isn't for you, but the "ick factor" is still high. Don't even get me started about those pods "birthing" out the body snatchers. Disgusting! But pretty cool.

All of the above is a good enough reason to watch Invasion of the Body Snatchers at an All Hallows Eve movie night, but don't forget this flick also stars Jeff Goldblum. This might even be him hamming it up at his most "Blum-iest".

New movies, old movies, bad-good movies - there are endless amounts to check out! Have fun, like I did, hunting down some that are a little off the beaten path.

Until next time.

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