Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Movie Small Talk: Reviews On The Run

Movie centric blogs feature a lot of long form reviews. Hell, I do the same thing here. Though, I normally put a lot of thought (too much thought, most of the time) into each one and so it is difficult to crank those out on a daily basis. 

In the end, I watch a lot of movies that I write nothing about. But that is about to end. Even if I don't have the time to go in-depth about every movie I see, that doesn't mean I can't say a little somethin', somethin'.

I'm pleased to present some quick critiques of all the movies I've seen in the last month.

A Long Way Down (Netflix Streaming)

Nick Hornby knows how to craft wonderful stories, which then quickly get transformed into movies on a regular basis. From About A Boy to High Fidelity, these flicks are always a critical success. Well, the pattern had to end eventually.

Having not read Hornby's, A Long Way Down beforehand, I'm only guessing that his intriguing tale about a group of Londoner's who met while each contemplated suicide, was well written in book form. The movie on the other hand is a frustrating example of a script with utterly terrible story progression. Most of the time what happens to the characters comes out of nowhere and doesn't even make sense. Maybe the book is just as bad, but I doubt it.

Toni Collette and Aaron Paul are specifically great in this and the movie does have some enjoyable moments, but that's all lost in the shuffle of a confused plot line. It was a real disappointment - something I do not usually say about movies.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo 
(2011 - David Fincher)

Due to all the journalistic elements of Stieg Larsson's series about a feisty girl with a dragon tattoo, I was all about reading this series several years ago.

Lisbeth Salandar is a badass female character - she is tough and smart, both qualities not normally attributed to a women in literature. With all this in mind, I was excited to see the original Swedish films and then got totally on board once visionary director, David Fincher, announced he would direct another version.

After being really excited, I only saw it for the first time recently. How has it already been three years since this was released?

What I found out - I'd rather just read the books. Fincher movies are always beautiful looking and largely focused around very dark elements. He is after all famous for that whole, "What's in the box!?" scene. So, even though it should be expected when watching one of his movies, the intensity in this story is just too much for me to handle in a visual form. Differently phrased - I don't want to actually see all of the awful things that happen to Lisbeth.

Dragon Tattoo is definitely worth watching once to enjoy the mysterious story, plus, because of Fincher's eye, it's a beautiful looking movie. Other than that, I can't say I'll ever watch it again.

The Skeleton Twins

Comedians starring in movie dramas is one of my favorite things. All through The Skeleton Twins, Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig are so much fun to watch because they can smoothly perform a hilarious lip sync scene together and then do a complete turn to have an extremely intense argument with each other. They are all (including their wonderful co-stars also known for comedy,  Luke Wilson and Ty Burrell) believable playing all ranges of emotions

The whole movie plays like that. Even with all the hilarious scenes, the story turns out to be rather dark. That's not a bad thing either, just unexpected. There is a underlying storyline brought in with the introduction of a character played by Burrell (mostly known as the loveable Phil Dunphy) and that's when things get even more serious. All of that makes it more impressive that the two leads used to be mostly famous for doing sketch comedy. They're real, big time actors now!

Monkey Shines (Netflix Streaming)

When How Did This Get Made did an episode on Monkey Shines it gave me hope that one of my dreams will come true - a simple wish that everyone will refer to Stanley Tucci as "The Tucc" (pronounced, "Tooch"). 

This movies cool points are increased by the fact that The Tucc plays a doctor in this wreck of a "horror" movie. I say "horror" lightly since, it's not really scary. The first hour is entirely focused on a man becoming paralyzed and the monkey friend brought in to assist him. It's only in the last 40 minutes that people start dying.

Don't watch this close to Halloween expecting to be frightened. Instead there will be many laughs.  You will also definitely spend much of the movie "oohing" and "awwwwing" over the adorable monkey. The lesson: monkeys don't kill on purpose - she just really loved her owner.

The Great Gatsby 
(1974 Edition, Netflix Streaming)

Many thought that Baz Luhrmann's bombastic recreation of The Great Gatsby was over the top and didn't stick to the story. There's a reason why Luhrmann's version was done perfectly - without all that pomp, circumstance, and Jay-Z music, The Great Gatsby is terribly boring to sit through.

Anyone who has attempted to watch the version from 1974, with Robert Redford as Gatsby, can attest to its deathly slow pace. To be honest, I didn't even watch the whole thing. That is coming from a person that always finishes movies. I was bored out of my mind, even with Redford in all his handsome glory. Another highlight was seeing Hershel from The Walking Dead, playing a character with a head of hair, who isn't being chased by zombies.

Now I know that when it comes to Gatsby I need to be reading the actual vivid words penned by Fitzgerald or watching the screen literally sparkle with the help of Luhrmann.

The Blair Witch Project (Netflix Streaming)

When it comes to movies that were spoofed, The Blair Witch Project has to have been parodied the most. Since those skits have been so inundated in our culture, it is easy to forget why the actual movie scared people for years.

I hadn't seen this found footage, box office blockbuster since the early 2000s. Even through time, there is still plenty to freak out over. At one point the three "documentary filmmakers" yell at each other incessantly, which gets tired real fast. Other than that though, the simple tricks (people pushing in tents from the outside, all those weird rock formations) really do create a chilling atmosphere.

Even if you aren't scared of "The Blair Witch", there is a good chance the movie made you worried about getting lost in the woods. Who needs elaborate slasher flicks when real world fears like that are even scarier.

The Big Chill (Netflix Streaming)

The Big Chill has become an iconic movie, known for capturing the feeling of a certain generation hitting their mid-life. Not to mention its best selling soundtrack that will be found in every home throughout time.

While the story depends heavily on all the great performances from a cast of well known actors, much of the emotional details could get lost on those who aren't in their thirties or married, or those that don't have to worry about kids. The movie can be enjoyed on its own, but it is probably more intriguing for people who directly see themselves in the characters. All I can relate to is thinking Kevin Kline is charming and delightful. There is that perfect Goldblum factor as well.

What is entirely relatable through the generations though, is the general idea of a group of old friends gathering together. That atmosphere everyone can recognize - that no matter how much time has passed, everyone falls right back into place as if they had never been separated at all.

Sleepaway Camp

This Halloween season for me was all about discovering ridiculous scary movies. None of which fits that definition more than Sleepaway Camp

Teenagers in the 1980s getting murdered at their summer camp seems like an overdone storyline. Yet, none of those other flicks would dare include death by boiling water, bees, and a curling iron (I think).

Anyone looking for a laughable horror movie has got to put this to the top of their list. I hadn't even heard of it before and now I can't believe people don't talk about this on a regular basis. I could literally go back to college, sign up for a film course, and write a 20-page thesis just on the bizarre mom (seen above in that tasteful outfit). The paper would obviously include the mom's ties to the truly insane final scene.

Someone watch this soon and let me know - I've been dying to talk about that horrifying freeze frame that ends the movie.

It's funny putting all those movies together - what a random assortment! If any of these at all sound intriguing, I'd agree that you should check them out. Even if it's one I didn't like too much, that could become your new favorite. Prove me wrong.

Until next time. 

(P. S. I also saw the fantastic Nightcrawler, which I talked about a couple days ago.)

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