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30 June 2011 @ 01:17 pm
Film: That Thing You Do [1996]
Director: Tom Hanks
Writer[s]: Tom Hanks
Stars: Tom Hanks, Charlize Theron, Liv Tyler, Tom Everett Scott, Johnathon Schaech, Steve Zahn, Ethan Embry

That Thing You Do is a very cute film about a band that makes it big with a hit song, "That Thing You Do." Written and directed by Tom Hanks, the film is set in 1964 and is full of the color and feel of the era. The soundtrack is catchy and fantastic; perfectly fitting to the film and the era it depicts. "That Thing You Do," especially, is a song that begs to be played on repeat.

What I really love about the film is the script. It's full of witty, funny lines that bring the film to life, helped along, of course, by the actors, who all do a wonderful job. The band members especially seem to pop to me, most notably Lenny [Zahn] the guitarist, who is serious about the music but not so serious that he doesn't have fun with it; T.B. Player a.k.a. The Bass Player [Embry], who is simple yet also brought a smile to my face [especially when he goes to Disneyland! ;)], and, of course, Guy a.k.a. Shades [Scott] the drummer, who is the real talent and lover of the way the instruments are played. Jimmy [Scgaech] is the lead singer, and he cares too much about being the leader singer and writer; he's just so serious, and, ultimately, too much of a jerk to be liked. He can't seem to have fun with the music, and he's too arrogant to stay in the band so he quits.

I also have to make note of Tom Hanks' character, Mr. White the music executive. I expected him to be portrayed as a money-grubbing business man, but I was pleasantly surprised to find he was almost the complete opposite. In the writing as well as the acting, Hanks did a fantastic job with the character. He cares about the band and about getting them where they should be, but he's also a serious music man. As I said, I was not expecting to like him at all, but I did.

That Thing You Do is yet another film I think is a gem from the 1990s that deserves a bit more recognition than I've heard it has. It's not an Oscar film, but it's certainly a heartwarming, fun-loving escape to the pop music world of 1964.
current drug of choice: That Thing You Do--The Wonders
30 June 2011 @ 12:16 am
Film: Empire Records [1995]
Director: Allan Moyle
Writer[s]: Carol Heikkinen
Stars: Anthony LaPaglia, Debi Mazar, Maxell Caulfield, Rory Cochrane, Johnny Whitworth, Robin Tunney, Renée Zellweger, Ethan Embry, Liv Tyler

Empire Records is a cult classic film about a day in the life of a group of employees in an independent record store. The film captures a glimpse into the lives of each character as the day goes on. At the beginning of the film, while closing up the store for the first time, Lucas [Cochrane] discovers that Empire Records is about to be converted into a large chain store called Music Town, and in an attempt to save the store he takes all the money to Atlantic City and accidentally blows it all. Joe [LaPaglia] the manager is in a rage upon finding out.

On top of that, a former teen idol [Caulfield] is visiting the store, much to the delight of the female employees like Corey [Tyler] and Gina [Zellweger]. Meanwhile, A.J. [Whitworth] wants to tell Corey he loves her by exactly 1:37 [an excellent time, says Lucas, lol], Gina and Corey fight over the guest, and Debra comes to work with bandages on her arms from attempting to kill herself the night before. Mark [Embry] is clearly there mainly for comic relief, and his subplot is much smaller in comparisson to the others, but he's one of my favorites

As the film moves through the plot, the characters that were once all at odds with each other come together as they learn about each other and grow in their unity against Music Town. It is very much a coming-of-age film, and though clearly cliche at it's root, the characters and the story itself are woven in a way that is original and irresistible - one cannot help but fall in love with them, and the film itself. At least, I couldn't. It is easy for me to see why this film is a cult classic, too - it's an understated, relatively unknown 90s film, but once you've seen it you'll love it. It's packed with stars before they were really stars as well, especially in the young cast [Whitworth, Tyler, Zellweger, Embry, etc], which adds a certain charm. To ice the cake, this film has a decent, understated soundtrack - as would be expected.

This film is sweet and quirky, witty and funny. I would highly recommend it to anyone. Being a cult classic is truly part of its charm, but I definitely think this film deserves more recognition than it seems to have. Really a great script, great cast, great direction. It literally warmed my heart watching it. All around fantastic film.
current drug of choice: Liar--The Cranberries
26 June 2011 @ 03:32 pm
Film: X-Men: First Class [2011]
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Writer[s]: Ashley Miller
Stars: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Kevin Bacon

This movie, an action summer blockbuster film, was amazing. As an X-Men film, from the point of view of comic book fans, it was absolutely disgusting. I am not a true X-Men fan, so although it is noted that the film didn't stay entirely true to the comics, this review is based on the film itself.

I have to start with the all-star cast. The original X-Men film and it's follow-ups had a pretty killer cast, but since this was a prequel and an entirely different generation of X-Men, it was an entirely different cast. The could not have chosen better, however; James McAvoy gave an excellent performance as Charles Xavier, Michael Fassbender was absolutely brilliant performance as Erik/Magneto [not to mention he was pretty damn hot ;)], and Jennifer Lawrence proved her talent yet again as Raven/Mystique. Along with that brilliant trio, the rest of the cast measured up just as well, especially January Jones [Emma Frost] and Nicholas Hault [Hank McCoy/Beast]. And of course, Kevin Bacon is Kevin Bacon. He never disappoints, and here he played a pretty awesome villain.

The other reason I loved the film was the plot. It was set first during WWII, then during the early 60s when Kennedy was president. There were even shots of Kennedy giving speeches, and ... suffice to say, the Cuban Missile Crises played a huge role in the plot. It was a nice, gripping plot.

And just in general, it was really, really fascinating seeing Xavier, Erik, and Raven before they were Professor X, Magneto, and Mystique. Erik/Magneto was especially riveting to me; seeing the reasons he became the villain that he did, the revenge he was desperate to achieve. He'd be a really interesting character to psychoanalyze. And of course, finding out why Professor X is in a wheelchair.

In summary, the film was fantastic as far as films go. The plot was great, especially the way it was woven around historical events and such, and the characters were all pretty interesting. It was an entertaining movie all around.
current drug of choice: Hot Blooded--Foreigner
Film: Pirates of the Caribbean: ON Stranger Tides [2011]
Director: Rob Marshall
Writer[s]: Ted Elliot
Stars: Johnny Depp, Penélope Cruz, Geoffrey Rush, Ian McShane

The Fourth installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean series was ... not disappointing, but unnecessary. It was slow-moving, and it didn't feel as action-packed and thrilling as the previous films. The real plot didn't start until at least an hour into the film, and there were many things that seemed odd, didn't add up, or just felt unnecessary completely [such as the sideplot with the missionary and the mermaid].

This one also lacked Keira Knightly and Orlando Bloom as Will and Elizabeth, and Knightly's absence, at least, was missed. Penélope Cruz was hot as always, and her performance wasn't lacking in any way, but she wasn't the strong female lead that Knightly always managed to bring to the films. I don't want to say that Cruz's presence added nothing to the film, but I will say that what she did bring just was not enough. And Blackbeard [McShane]? Poor, I think. Blackbeard was mediocre at best; he didn't command power and fear as I imagine Blackbeard would, so the performance fell short in my eyes.

As for Captain Jack [Depp], well. As always, Captain Jack made the film. His crazy antics and hilarious trouble-making did not disappoint; Captain Jack was, I'm sure, the reason people went to see the film [he's certainly the reason I did - him, and Keith Richards playing his father again], and he's the reason people liked it. If all you care about is Captian Jack making trouble and getting away with it, then you will enjoy this film. If, however, you're looking for the magic of previous Pirates films, you will not find it here. At least, I didn't.

Also. There seemed to be unnecessary religious overtones to this film, and I'm not quite sure why. It was subtle, but it was there, and it made me at least slightly uncomfortable mostly because it seemed ill-fitting and I didn't really see the point. To a certain extent, yes - like with the Spaniards and their reasoning for destroying the Fountain of Youth - but mostly I just didn't see the reason. Perhaps as an atheist I'm more sensitive to that, but still. It just did not seem like it was really needed for the overall plot of the film, that's all. [shrugs]

I love this series, I do; I absolutely adore Captain Jack, but I sincerely hope the saga ends here. As far as I'm concerned, it's already begun to roll downhill, and from this point it can only be a steep fall to the bottom. I'd hate to see that happen to one of my favorite film series.
current drug of choice: What I Got--Sublime
03 June 2011 @ 02:08 pm
Film: Casanova [2005]
Director: Lasse Hallström
Writer[s]: Jeffrey Hatcher [screenplay], Kimberly Simi [screenplay and story], Michael Cristofer [story]
Stars: Heath Ledger, Sienna Miller, Jeremy Irons, Natalie Dormer

Casanova is the film version of the story of the infamous Italian man who is said to have bed lots of women; the term "Casanova" is used nowadays to describe a man who is "good with the ladies." IN the film, Casanova falls for a Venetian woman who does not return his affections, and thus he embarks on a search for the true meaning of love and, of course, to win her heart.

I'm sure just from the description you can tell how cliched and predictable this movie was set up to be. Unfortunately, it did not break these cliches; Casanova falls for the woman he cannot have, he pursues her, and in the end she falls for him as well, and he realizes that sex alone is no the true meaning of love. Of course.

It was just far too predictable for my taste. I had hoped there might be some interesting spark to the film; at the very least, even it was predictable, there might have been witty dialogue or clever scenes to at least somewhat make up for it. Or, at the VERY least, Heath Ledger would be so stellar that it would be at least slightly worth it to see him as Casanova. None of the above occurred. From the moment they begin to dual, and you know before she takes off her mask that it's a woman he'll fall in love with, the film is rather dry and dull. It follows the same romantic story arc, and even Heath Ledger was a bit disappointing to me. Natalie Dormer's role was miniscule, which was disappointing as well, as she's an amazing actress who could have done wonders if she'd been given a bigger role. In fact, judging by her performance as Anne Boleyn on The Tudors, I think it would have been far more interesting to see her play Francesca, rather than Sienna Miller.
current drug of choice: Use Somebody--Kings of Leon
20 May 2011 @ 10:18 am
BACK after another long break yet again. Sorry; the end of my second year of college pretty much ate me alive and then spat me back out. BUT I SURVIVED. And I finished a book.

Eating the Dinosaur by Chuck Klosterman was not my favorite of his books. I would say that of the ones I've read, it's just above Chuck IV, but under all the rest. This was another collection of essays, so some of them were interesting to me and others not so much. I skipped a football one entirely, which I found amusing because I skimmed it briefly, in toward the beginning he recommended skipping it if you don't like football. Waaaay ahead of you, Chuck. haha.

Still, it didn't entirely disappoint. It doesn't seem, to me, to be as quotable as Chuck usually is, but there were gems here and there. For instance, he mentioned the song "(Don't Fear) The Reaper" by Blue Öyster Cult, and in the footnote he said "Gratuitous sidenote: I find that '(Don't Fear) The Reaper' significantly increases my fear of the Reaper. This song is a failure." LOLOLOL. XD But, I find that this is one of the few hilarious lines in the book, whereas I'm used t a plethora of them.

I don't know. Maybe it's because I'm growing tired of him [not likely]. Maybe it's because he's growing tired of writing about pop culture [possibly likely, in a subconscious sense - he mentioned how one of his friends said he should stop writing, but he didn't want to give it up]. Maybe we're both just getting older, and he's already talked about everything I really care about in the pop culture world [most likely]. Whatever it is, I simply did not enjoy this book as much as some of his others.

Now. I have Jim Morrison's biography, No One Here Gets Out Alive, but I think I want to go back to fiction for a bit first. This means it's on to The Stand by Stephen King [which means the fiction will probably last significantly longer than "a bit" - then again, I do have a whole week free. We'll see.].
current drug of choice: (Don't Fear) The Reaper--Blue Öyster Cult
28 March 2011 @ 08:38 pm
Film: Into the Wild [2007]
Director: Sean Penn
Writer[s]: Sean Penn [screenplay], Jon Krakauer [book]
Stars: Emile Hirsch, Vince Vaughn, Catherine Keener, Marcia Gay Harden, Kristen Stewart, Zach Galifianakis

Put simply, this film is amazing. It is a very rare occasion when I like a film more than the book that inspired it [The Devil Wears Prada is the only other film that comes to mind], but the film had a beauty to it that I don't think the book achieved. I quite liked the book, and I definitely found it beautiful and poignant, but there was just something ... eerily beautiful about the way the entire film was made.

I first have to commend Sean Penn not only on his direction, but on his screenplay writing. One thing I really loved about the film was that it stayed very true to the book. That's something of a pet peeve of mine, which is generally why I like movie-versions less than books, but this screenplay was wonderful and the direction of the film was simply amazing. There were certain shots that simply let me in awe: like the first real shot of the film, after all the credits have gone through and we finally get the first scene. Most of the shot was negative space; the truck, and the main character, were in the far bottom left corner, and the rest of the shot was snow. All of the action was in that corner, so your eye and your mind were drawn there, but the fact that there was so much negative space drew you in, too. It was just the kind of shot that made me think and really touched me in an artistic way. It wasn't the only shot by far, but it was a great way to open the film and set up the rest of it in that manner.

Emile Hirsch was quite frankly amazing. His performance was just so real and raw; it was two and a half hours that didn't feel like two and a half hours because it felt like real life. The fact that it's a true story probably helped, but I have to say that the acting and the whole feel of the film definitely helped with that.

Another thing that I think really added to the film overall was the narration, and the written text of Chris' letters to those he met on the road. It was just another small thing that added to the overall picture.

Vince Vaughn and Kristen Stewart are two actors that I generally can't stand. Sometimes I can handle Vince Vaughn, but most of the time he bothers me a lot. I had not been able to sit through an entire performance of Kristen Stewart's without wanting to rip my hair out - until this film. It was probably in part because both of their parts were small, but I couldn't help but feel that they actually added to the film rather than took away from it.

I reviewed the 1998 remake of Hitchcock's classic Psycho, in which Vince Vaughn took on the serious and difficult role of Norman Bates [one of my favorite film characters of all time] and did a horrible job, in my opinion. The case was not so in Into the Wild - Vince's character wasn't as serious as Bates, but it wasn't his normal comedic slapstick either. And I was able to watch him and not be annoyed or disgusted.

The same goes for Stewart. I was fairly surprised by her performance in this film, actually, because she showed a level of emotion I have never before seen her convey, not even when she played Joan fucking Jett in The Runaways. There was close-up shot of her face as Chris McCandless was leaving her character, a girl who had fallen for him in the week that they spent together, and the power of that shot was one I had not thoguht possible for Kristen Stewart. Granted, it still wasn't a shot that chilled me to my bones, per se, but I have to admit that she shocked me with her performance in this film.

As I said, overall, it was a really good film. There is nothing negative I could say about it. It goes down in my mind as one of the best films I've ever seen, and certainly one of my favorites. It's worth owning, and, it almost goes without saying, worth watching. If you have not already, seriously, please watch this film. You won't regret it.
current drug of choice: Nothin' But A Good Time--Poison
21 March 2011 @ 05:23 pm
It has been ENTIRELY too long since I posted here. I've gotten swept up by school work and giving a lot more campus tours during the Spring semester, so I have fallen behind on keeping up with this. >.< I'm hoping to get back into the swing of things soon. I've seen quite a few films since High Art, and I want to try and get to them all, but I may not. Here's a start, though, with the most recent film I watched [yesterday]:

Film: Monster [2003]
Director: Patty Jenkins
Writer[s]: Patty Jenkins
Stars: Charlize Theron, Christina Ricci

In this film, Charlize Theron plays serial killer Aileen Wuornos, a woman who killed seven "Johns" in Florida between 1989 and 1990. Wuornos had been a prostitute since she was 13, and the first man she killed had actually raped and was about to murder her. She shot him in self-defense, which is probably why she was only tried and convicted for six of the seven murders. From there, however, Aileen escalated, killing almost all of the Johns she picked up before any real sexual act had even occurred. She was sentenced to death and was executed by injection in 2002.

For her performance in this film, Theron won a very well-deserved academy award for Best Actress. One thing I was really struck by was that by no means was Charlie Theron recognizable throughout the film. It wasn't just because she looked nothing like herself, but they managed to give her an uncanny resemblance to Aileen. More that her appearance, though; Theron embodied the personality and mannerisms of the serial killer so well that at times I forgot I was watching an actress and not the actual woman. It was really just an incredibly performance.

I always find that I like Christina Ricci in whatever role she plays, and this was no exception. She played Wuornos' lover, Selby, and though the performance was nothing that particularly stands out, it was nonetheless a good one.

What I think this film did best was protray Wuonos' escalation. At the beginning of the film, as a viewer you almost feel for Wuonos; you're on her side, considering all the hardships of her life and especially when the first John actually does rape and nearly kill her. It is easy to not judge her, or at least to not judge her so harshly. However, as the movie progress, and she escalates, you start to distance from her. It becomes ugly to watch by the time you've reached the final man she kills, who actually wasn't even a John but a man who simply picked her up on the side of the road because he wanted to help her. She shoots him execution style, and that is the moment that I, at least, truly felt nothing more for the character and when it was obvious that she had become a "monster." The film did a brilliant job of showing that transformation, and in that manner I think the title really ties in with what you watch.

For those interested in crime, psychology, and, to a lesser extent but nonetheless prevalent, sexuality, or all three, I recommend this film. It isn't for the faith of heart, however.
current drug of choice: We're All Gonna Die--Slash [feat. Iggy Pop]
18 January 2011 @ 08:52 pm
Film: High Art [1998]
Director: Lisa Cholodenko
Writer[s]: Lisa Cholodenko
Stars: Ally Sheedy, Radha Mitchell, Patricia Clarkson

In High Art, Ally Sheedy plays a lesbian photographer in retirement who has just moved back to New York from Germany with her German girlfriend and former actress, Greta [Patricia Clarkson]. Radha Mitchell's character, Syd, works for a photography magazine called Frame and finds out that this amazing photographer, Lucy, lives directly above her. Syd is infatuated by Lucy's work and her lifestyle, and they develop a friendship. Syd convinces Lucy to come out of retirement to do a spread for Frame, on the condition that Syd be Lucy's editor. As they work on the project together, Lucy and Syd work up to an affair; meanwhile, Greta has a heroin addiction that's killing her relationship with Lucy and Syd'd relationship with her boyfriend, James, is not exciting enough for her; that coupled with her infatuation with Lucy lead to the affair.

That is the basic gist of the film. I think the true art of the whole thing comes in the ending, but I won't spoil that for you. I'll just say that the end is both tragic and slightly predictable in way that's almost poetic - in the way that I think true art usually tends to be. I think that is what I like best about the film. It is very artsy and liberal, and the end wad predictable in that manner but no less fitting or uninspired.

All three ladies - Ally, Radha, and Patricia - gave pretty good performances. I wouldn't say the film was amazing, but I certainly enjoyed it because it's the style of film that I really like, you know? I don't have anything particularly good or bad that I want to say about it other than that I enjoyed watching it, personally. If I were giving stars I would probably give this one around 3 or 4. I would definitely recommend it, especially if you're like me and like this sort of thing [art, sex, drugs].

/lame review
current drug of choice: Meet Me In the Bathroom--The Strokes
17 January 2011 @ 08:44 pm
I've seen three films this weekend that I now need to talk about on here, plus one I saw a couple weeks ago that I've still not talked about there: High Art, Easy A, The Fighter, and Black Swan. I think I want to start with Easy A:

Film: Easy A [2010]
Director: Will Gluck
Writer[s]: Bert V. Royal
Stars: Emma Stone, Amanda Bynes, Penn Badgley, Alyson Michalka, Stanley Tucci, Patricia Clarkson, Lisa Kudrow

Easy A is a basically a modern spin on Nathanial Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, except that the the "slut" in this case never actually did anything slutty, but the high school rumor mill blew things way out of proportion. The film is both predictable and not; it is cliche in areas, but it isn't afraid to embrace that.

I think what honestly made the movie was Emma Stone. She was the perfect cast for Olive; she has amazing line delivery and just general quirky awesomeness. "A is for awesome!" Yes, Emma. Yes it is. ;) And I have to say, the rest of the cast was pretty fantastic too. I've realized that I'm pretty much always a fan of Stanley Tucci, and he doesn't disappoint here; his role as Olive's father is small but definitely adds spice to the film, as does her mother played by Patricia Clarkson [who I knew I recognized from something I'd recently seen but couldn't place it - it turned out to be High Art, which I'll probably review next]. The pair of them were just so outrageous and fantastic. If I didn't think my own parents were awesome, I'd want those two. ;)

I'm also a fan of Alyson Michalka, have been since her Disney Channel years. She was pretty funny in this film, too, as Olive's outrageous and slightly slutty best friend. The way she and Emma played off each other was great. Amanda Bynes was, of course, a bit over-the-top but still pretty funny as the Jesus Freak. As for Penn, I have to say I like him best when he's not really around, and that's how he was in this movie [although even I have to admit he's pretty good-looking in a perfectly pretty-boy kind of way].

The other thing I think this film really had going for it was the actual screenplay itself. There are so many funny, memorable lines. And in the end, there's obviously a bit of character discovery, but it doesn't necessarily play out in a totally cliched and in your face way, it's very understated and subtle, but it's there enough to make you smile, you know?

The only thing that really bothers me is something that generally bothers me with all high school films: as much as I love the cast, none of them could pull off 16, 17, or even 18. I want to say this would be much more believable set in college, and it would as far as the actors go, but the story definitely wouldn't. There is no school-wide rumor in college, I'm sure not even in the smallest of schools, because by the time you're 20 no one outside your immediate circle of friends really cares about who you have or have not slept with. But, just, I don't know, these particular actors all together at once just seemed glaringly out of place in "high school," so that was the only thing that bothered me. Obviously it wasn't enough to ruin the film, just something that caught my attention.

In closing, I have to say that I would definitely recommend this movie. It's quirky and hilarious and light-hearted with just a hint of seriousness; the balance is perfect. Just all around GREAT film.
current drug of choice: My Way--Sid Vicious