Thursday, April 23, 2015

Guardians of the Galaxy - Good, Clean Fun

Movie: Guardians of the Galaxy
My Rating: 4 stars

This was a pretty exciting movie.  And, I had a good time watching it.  But then, everyone else did, too.  By the time I finally got around to watching this one, I had already heard way too much about the plot, and about how much everyone LOOOOOOVED the movie.  So, I was already a little over it.  That’s the only problem when one of these big blockbusters turns out to be any good—kinda like The Avengers.  Because, it pretty much ensures that I’ll have the movie ruined for me before I get to see it.  I have moderately more success in avoiding too many details about really good, new, horror movies (like The Babadook), because that genre is still pretty niche.  But, with movies this popular, I essentially need to go see it opening week if I want to preserve the magic.
But, I did like this movie despite all the commercial hype—enough so that I think I want to watch it again to see more details.  All the actors are very charismatic.  Chris Pratt is very loveable, and you can’t take your eyes off Zoe Saldana.  Bradley Cooper is doing his thing.  Plus, I thought it was really fun to see Karen Gillan as the bald, ruthless, alien assassin.  (Although, I honestly don’t understand everyone’s fascination with Vin Diesel’s Groot.  The joke really isn’t that funny).  But, what I liked the most about this movie was how everything was totally new.  I hadn’t ever heard of these characters before, and the story line was pretty unique too.  And, with all the big studios just rebooting old franchises over and over again, I really enjoyed seeing something fresh.  But, the world it created was so new, the scale so epic, and the action so busy that I’m actually having a hard time remembering exactly what happened in the story.  I know it was something about a hand-held, metal, ball with cosmic, space powers inside.  And, some bad guys really want it.  But, the rest is a little fuzzy.  So, I’m definitely going to have to rewatch the movie.

You should probably see this movie at some point (if there are even any of you left out there who haven’t seen it already).  It’s big, rowdy, summer fun—definitely a popcorn movie.  From my track record, you already know that I’m clearly not a snob about movies.  Everyone needs that kind of thing every once in a while.  And, the studio really didn’t spare any expenses making the movie look great.  But then, you already knew that.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

First Period - Wacky, Campy Fun

Movie: First Period
My Rating: 3 stars

This is a really fun movie.  It’s a spoof of those generic, 80s era, dramedies about high school misfits trying to curry favor with the cool kids.  And, this one adds a new twist to the mix by prominently featuring gay themes.    The two protagonists in the story, Cassie and Maggie, are played by a pair of outrageous and vivacious, cross-dressing men—Brandon Alexander III and Dudley Beene.  And, I have to say, they really do capture the essence of awkward, insecure (yet strangely confident) high school girls pretty well.  I think it’s their characters’ cluelessness that breeds this confidence to just go for their dreams.  And, the script also pokes some fun at the kind of latent, sexual tension that sometimes exists between, cool, macho, football player types, that they are never socially allowed to acknowledge.  This kind of guy dates the popular, beautiful, bitchy girls because that’s what’s expected of him.  But, in his heart all he really wants is to just make out with his “bros.”
This description might make it sound like the film is pushing a pretty heavy social agenda.  But, the story really doesn’t take itself too seriously.  The tone of the movie is very light and fun.  And, it actually features a hilariously dark sense of humor.  I like it when comedy is particularly raw and cutting.  And, the best part is that no subject is too sacred to make fun of here—women’s bodies, sexual politics, social hierarchies, feminism, responsible parenting, substance abuse—you name it.  And, Cassie and Maggie are there to focus their fabulously critical eyes on each one of these things –all while rocking their hot pink, leopard-print leggings and enough makeup to spackle a house.  And, I can’t emphasize enough how adorable these two actors are as high school girls.  They’re just precious.  They’re so unapologetic about their tastes, and bodies, and desires—and so brazen!  The girls’ wardrobes in particular are pretty spectacular.

This movie is silly, sexy and funny.  But, it’s definitely not for anyone who is easily offended by any kind of raunchiness.  Because, this movie gets pretty lewd.  But, who likes that kind of pearl-clutching scold anyway?  Certainly not me.  I’ve always been a fan of silly, rude humor.  And, the movie is all in good fun.  I’d recommend it if you’re in the mood for something light, fluffy, and gay-friendly.  Heck—gay affirming!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Purge: Anarchy - Total Chaos!

Movie: The Purge: Anarchy
My Rating: 4 stars

I really like the first Purge.  It was so dark, and brutal, and there were so many possibilities.  But, that first story was on a very small scale, focusing on the trials of one specific family.  So, I was really glad to see that another film was in the works.  The premise is so rich that there are so many other stories to tell—so many different paths a person could take on the one night of the year when all violent crimes are legal.  And, this second installment obligingly expands the scope to explore not only the psychology of the hunters, and the distress of the hunted, but also investigates the kind of rotten, corrupt government that would be capable of enacting such a cynical and pragmatic program.  It’s an excellent second look.
In the first film, a family is attacked by a band of psychotic teens who are trying to break into their heavily armored home.  But, this movie joins a group of people who are unwittingly caught outside when the Purge begins.  Now, I’m not the kind of person who would ever go on a last minute grocery run right before the Purge.  There’s so much that could go wrong.  One flat tire, and you’re done.  I’d go into hiding days in advance.  But, for the sake of this story, there are stupid people out there who are perfectly happy to roll the dice like that.  And, thus begins the longest night of these idiots’ lives.
Although, we learn pretty early on that these dolts aren’t entirely to blame.  They’d like to believe that anyone safely shut in his home would be safe from the rampaging hordes outside, but nothing’s ever that simple.  On this crazy night, life has a certain price.  And, there are plenty of entrepreneurs out there who are ready and willing to exploit the possibilities.  And, then there are the corrupt politicians to take into account.  They’re the kind of power-drunk, narcissists who just can’t be trusted.  I was really excited by all the new directions this movie took.

I liked this movie a lot—maybe even more than the original.  But, that might be because I think Ethan Hawke is kind of weasely, and couldn’t identify with his character.  But, really I feel like this second movie was willing to try more things.  And, that’s just the kind of thing you’d hope for from a sequel.  I definitely recommend this movie to people who are into violent thrillers.  It’s probably best if you watch the original movie first, just for some context, but it’s not totally necessary.  But, this movie is a wild, tense, suspenseful thrill ride.  You’ll feel every minute of the terrifying night these poor souls are trapped outside, and that’s not a bad thing.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Edge of Tomorrow - Time Travel and Aliens!

Movie: Edge of Tomorrow
My Rating: 4 stars

This is a pretty great movie.  I had heard that it was a sleeper hit, but I wasn’t expecting to like it this much.  Because, you know, Tom Cruise is full-on crazy.  But, the idea is new and interesting, the writing is really good, and Emily Blunt is just a delight.  She’s so strong and sexy in this movie.  She could have saved just about any stinker with this performance.  Plus, I really love it when a woman gets to play the super-tough, military bad-ass in a sci-fi context.  I’d love to be that competent.  (But, I’m so lazy!!!)
I also really liked this movie because I’m a sucker for time travel stories.  And, this film is a permutation of the genre that I hadn’t really seen before.  I guess Groundhog Day is pretty similar.  Characters keep living the same day over and over again until they get things right.  But, this script actually attempts to explain the “science” behind why this phenomenon is happening, whereas Groundhog Day wanted us to just accept the fact as the basic premise.  Also, the main characters in this story are in a futuristic, high-tech military and they’re fighting off an alien invasion.  They have big muscles and even bigger guns.  That helps to boost the excitement level a little.
I also really enjoyed the cinematography and pacing.  Director, Doug Liman, manages to perfectly capture the mix of hope and despair that being in this kind of time loop would create.  Characters always have the chance to go back and fix their mistakes.  What an amazing opportunity!  But, they’re up against such a powerful enemy that they only make tiny bits of progress each time they run through a day.  So, they have to replay the same moments an uncountable number of times.  Even that idea is completely exhausting!  And, the movie actually does a pretty good job of simulating the passage of time without having to take us through all the different reruns.

I really loved this movie.  Sure, it’s pretty fluffy, despite how tough and sciency it tries to hold itself out as being.  But, that kind of thing is so fun!  We don’t have to only watch dour, serious, Danish movies to feel good about our impeccable taste.  Living in the post-modern era means that we don’t have to feel bad about ourselves for liking crappy art.  Not that this movie is crappy.  But, it’s satisfying, and we’ve been taught that emotionally gratifying stories are for children.  But, I’m here to give you permission to cast off society’s judgment and to let yourself revel in an exciting, bullet-filled, sci-fi, feel-good movie (with sexy, sweaty Emily Blunt).

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Higher Ground - Hippies and Religion

Movie: Higher Ground
My Rating: 2 stars

This is a very strange movie.  Vera Farmiga stars as a woman who has been caught up in a evangelical, Christian, hippie cult.  Well, I guess it’s more of a “planned community” than a cult.  It’s like an old-folks village for these ultra-religious types.  Families all live together in their own little town, they go to church, and do all their socializing together.  Doing things differently or questioning practices is severely frowned upon.  Farmiga’s character is having serious doubts about this lifestyle—mostly because as a woman in this fundamentalist environment, her desires and opinions are completely discounted.  And naturally, the community is trying to make her feel like the bad guy.  This is a very difficult position to be in—having your whole community turn its back on you.  It’s a real soul-searcher of a story.
This movie has some pretty interesting points despite the heavy subject matter.  I always imagine these kinds of devoutly religious people to be very uptight and conservatively dressed.  But, with this story being set in the 70s, the fashion is very “flower child” and groovy.  So much hair!  And, so many crocheted vests!  It’s pretty funny.  Of course, once the village matrons get their controlling hands on Vera, it’s all high, frilly collars, and floor-length dresses for her.  Yikes!  Those outfits are horrifying!  And, thus begins her character’s gradual alienation.  Another interesting thing about the movie is that Vera Farmiga’s real daughter, Taissa Farmiga, plays the younger version of her character at the beginning of the film.  The resemblance is pretty amazing.  I didn’t know about this casting ahead of time, but the two look so similar, that I had to go look it up right away.  That kind of detail is always fun.

All this being said, I don’t think you need to see this movie.  It has its interesting points, but I can’t say I enjoyed it enough to recommend it to anyone.  The pacing was too slow, the mood too heavy, and the story too dark for my tastes.  The depression is unrelenting.  Of course, you should always just follow your instincts when deciding whether to watch a movie or not.  But, I was alternatingly bored and infuriated by this story.  It’s not the best combo.  You’ll feel pretty terrible after all that.  And, there isn’t even a satisfying ending to redeem the story at all.  So, take my advice and steer clear from this one.