Life After Beth - 2014 - 4/5 - Directed by Jeff Baena - starring Dane Dehaan and Aubrey Plaza
"We really should let Beth know she died."
Life After Beth is a zombie/comedy film, but don't confuse it with something like Shaun Of The Dead, because although both films after similarities, there's ultimate major differences that are pretty visible in both. Life After Beth is a quirky, indie horror comedy film that keeps everything rather low-key in terms of tone and doesn't go for something it isn't. It's both funny and scary, but scary in a sort of weird, quirky way. One day, Beth Slocum (Aubrey Plaza) goes out on a hike by herself and is bitten by a snake which ends up fatally killing her. This leaves her boyfriend, Zach Orfman devastated, and seeking solace from Beth's parents, Maury and Geenie (John C. Reilly and Molly Shannon, respectively). A couple of days after Beth's funeral, The Slocum's start distancing themselves from Zach, not answering the door for him or returning his calls. Finally, Zach gets inside their house and sees that Beth is alive and well. Is it a hoax, Zach tells himself, since they were having relationship issues. Visiting her grave he sees that there's a large hole in ground, indicating that she dug herself out and has returned in the form of a zombie. However, while Zach may be getting a second chance with Beth, stranger things begin to occur around town with others. Is the dead coming back to life?
It's definitely a weird film, but in no way a bad weird. Zombie-Beth is not like your average zombie. She retains memories and can still function perfectly, she's just a little, off. Okay, she's back from the grave and really fucking weird. While to Zach this is great, it's also strange as he feels she should be notified that she did in fact die, but came back, resurrected as a zombie and not Jesus. This is a conflict for Zach as he doesn't know if it's worth telling her or not. Beth's parents insist not to, fearing it could lead to trouble. In the end it leads up to everything going to S*** and becoming practically full-blown Night Of The Living Dead, but it still doesn't let the film stray too far off. Life After Beth is certainly a fine addition to the genre after pretty much being dried to that one AMC television show, and breathed some fresh air into the scene. I feel today's generation of undead/zombie fans sort of screwed it up with The Walking Dead, so having a different type of zombie film come around is nothing more than a warm welcome to me. The acting is great all throughout with the emphasis focusing heavily Zach and his relationship with Beth. Dane Dehaan is great as the leading role, though he could come off as nearly being borderline emo, it's justifiable though, being that his character is a young adult (18-20) and there's really no real way to cope with the loss of someone you love. I've always been a fan of Aubrey Plaza's sarcastic, deadpan humor and I think she was absolutely perfect for Beth. Seeing her further zombie transformations throughout the film is hilarious to watch.
I can definitely say that I deeply enjoyed Life After Beth. It's a nice addition to the genre and works on many levels. It's greatly developed, well acted, and darkly humorous. Definitely worth a watch.
"Things are really complicated between us, you know? Like kind of f***** up. Now, I just kind of wish she would stay dead."
Birdman - 2014 - 4/5 - Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu - starring Michael Keaton and Edward Norton
"You're not an actor. You're a celebrity."
Well this film really completely took me by surprise. I went in to Birdman as the youngest person in the theater auditorium as well as having seen no trailer. I saw a twenty second ad on television once, but even then it didn't peak my interest. It was really the high praise on Letterboxd and others that made me consider seeing this. I think Alejandro González Iñárritu is a good director, but he's definitely not my favorite by all means, I think he has some good films, but they've still left me wanting a bit more from them. Here with Birdman he really goes all out and creates a darkly humorous, practically borderline tragedy film. Not to mention it's the Michael Keaton comeback we've all been waiting for.
Riggan Thomson is a washed-up Hollywood actor one the major downside of his career. He's best known for his portrayal as the superhero "Birdman" in three blockbuster films, but he's striving to be different and to ultimately distance himself from Birdman. He takes to the theater stage by writing, directing, and starring in Raymond Carver's short story "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love". Dealing with money issues and conflicts (both inner and outer) with himself and others, such as extreme method stage actor, Mike Shiner (Edward Norton). With disaster during each play rehearsal, Riggan continues to make efforts on putting on a good show all while dealing with the voice of Birdman from inside that mocks him.
Getting this off the bat first, the plot to Birdman is really basic. There's just not a whole lot to it. That's not necessarily a bad thing at all. It's almost as if the film plays out like a dream from the way it's told in a single-take style of filmmaking, to the narrative structure, and even the obscure powers that Riggan seems to posses (flight and telekinesis). At times, the film is quite contradictory to it's own story, and often buys into it's own pretentious nature a bit too much, but it is still in good fun, At least for me. I don't by all means hate it, but I felt there wasn't enough or even at all, an emotional power throughout. Birdman is essentially an actor's film. I think it gives in too much to it's pretension. While it tries to be a satire on "real art" and struggling actors over the likes of say blockbusters, I think it ultimately fell flat.
Where the films shines the most is by far in the acting aspect of the film. It's a high profile cast, and there are no terrible performances at all. Michael Keaton delivers a comeback of the ages and reminds everyone to shake off their Batman and Beetlejuice cobwebs as he reminds them that he truly is a great actor. Edward Norton has always a been a great actor, but it's been forever since he's given a great performance, and he plays off of Keaton quite well. Zach Galifianakis who plays Riggan's best friend and Lawyer was actually quite well in this, which surprised me. To go from playing bumbling idiots in the films like Due Date and The Hangover to this is nice to see, but he's not bad of an actor. Emma Stone actually surprised me as well, if not more than Galifianakis. She's definitely has moments where her acting is weak, but she was great. Much better than playing Gwen Stacey. Only issue was that I really had not connection to any of these people in the film.
The look of the film is an interesting one. It's all one take, or rather one lone manipulated take. In the beginning of the film it took a bit to get the hang of, but then it just took me away. Emmanuel Lubezki's cinematography is outstanding and the editing is outstanding as well. However towards the end of the film, the mesmerizing feel it had on me in the very beginning began to wear off and became clear that this was more or less a gimmick. While it was nice to see it utilizing the frantic back-stage work on a stage play, that was it. There's definitely some nice shots throughout the film, but it didn't have the same effect on me towards the end. The score though by Antonio Sanchez, consisting entirely of drums was perfect though. It perfectly set the mood for the setting and for the overall tone. I definitely think that Birdman is far from being anywhere near a masterpiece to even, near-perfect. I'm glad It's been a while since I've seen this, as if I wrote this review right when I got home, I probably would exclaimed it to be a masterpiece. Taking the night off and actually sleeping on my thoughts of it really didn't hinder my overall enjoyability of the film. No, I still think it was absolutely hilarious and well made in the acting department, but the aspects that were supposed, or rather inclined to dazzle us and submerse us in the film didn't work on me. Really getting to think over the film's nature, I got too fully see the mocking and the pretentious nature, as this film just tries a bit too hard to be smart, or clever.
Having said all of that, I still found it to be entertaining, which is rare because after writing all of that you could probably assume I'm going to call the film disappointing. Well, in some parts, yes, it is a bit disappointing, but I still found it to be very good. I might be giving it too high of a rating, but that's what a rewatch in the future is for. To see if I can justify it. There's no doubt this film will be all over the Academy Awards, which is a shame, because though it's primarily an actor's film, I just see this getting too much unwarranted love, that I think it truly doesn't need. Then again, aside from all the Oscar Bait films that have been released lately, Birdman is definitely much, much better than them.
"Popularity is the slutty little cousin of prestige. "
Exodus: Gods and Kings - 2014 - 4/5 - Directed by Ridley Scott - starring Christian Bale and Joel Edgerton
"Follow me and you will be free. Stay and you will perish."
I'm a fan of Ridley Scott, and I probably always will be. He's created some visually stunning masterpieces and violent epics, as well as truly divisive, yet fucking perfect films. However it seems as though in the last five to ten years, he's sort of lost his touch. I disagree, as I believe Scott is is making films from a storyteller's perspective. After all that's what a director does, right? His films as of late seem to be either you love 'em or you 'hate em. While I'm slowly appreciating Prometheus and I'm part of the few that just absolutely loves The Counselor, Exodus: Gods And Kings is yet another visually stunning film from the legendary director.
Ridley Scott's film is the interpretation of The Exodus. It takes place in 1300 BC and follows Moses (Christian Bale) a general and member of the royal family and brother to Prince Ramesses (Joel Edgerton). A prophecy is told to them that one will save the other in battle and will become a leader, and as it turns out, Moses saves Ramesses' life in battle. Moses is then sent to the city of Pithom to meet Hegep (Ben Mendelsohn), the man who oversees the Hebrew slaves. It is then where he meets Nun (Ben Kingsley) who informs him that he is the child of Hebrew parents who was sent by his sister Miriam to be raised by the Pharaoh's. Moses, upset leaves and returns to Egypt, where Seti (John Turturro) has died and now Ramesses has been crowned the new Pharaoh. Hegep arrives and tells Ramesses the true story of Moses, after two Hebrew slaves overheard Nun's story. Conflicted, Ramesses doesn't know whether or not to believe the story, and instead of killing Moses, he instead exiles him. Having been banished from Egypt, Moses starts a new life as a shepherd and has revelations with God, who tells him to rise up against Egypt and to lead the enslaved Hebrews out of there and to freedom. Strange occurrences also begin to happen to Egypt, as the ten plagues start to affect Egypt.
One thing is for sure, Exodus: Gods And Kings was definitely better than Noah. Now, Ridley Scott surely knows how to deliver great epic films, and this film is surely not exempt from that. If there's something I've noticed with Scott now, is that being an atheist (Scott), he presents a crystal clear line of religious themes in films such as this and others. He doesn't try to completely change the story, but rather do his spin on it, but still keeping everything in tact. With a film like this, Scott likes to look at the characters more so, humanizing them. In time like this in ancient Egypt, man ruled like Kings, but believed themselves to be much higher than that; Gods. The kings believed in Gods, but to them, they were no match for the power they had. In the beginning we have scene of Moses exclaiming to Nun that his God is not right and essentially doesn't exist, further reiterating that Man was God. Moses was a Hebrew, and it always made perfect sense for God to showcase his power to him as well as choosing him to lead the enslaved Hebrews out of Egypt. Moses was always a natural leader.
At two and a half hours it's certainly an interesting film as Scott tackles on various themes and conflicts in characters. While Moses is the sole leader and hero of this film, we are always lead to believe that Ramesses is opposite, the sole villain, which to an extent, is true. However, Scott shows Ramesses in a different light, in a conflicted light. We know that Ramesses rules with an iron fist, however he's portrayed as this sympathetic character. He was never meant to be the ruler, that wasn't the way the prophecy went. He never wanted to kill Moses, nor expel him, Moses is his brother (adopted). Ramesses is capable of being a good man, a loving man, but ultimately his ruling and his power of wanting to be a God, led to his downfall. Technically, this film is absolutely fantastic. The cinematography is some of the best in a Scott film in recent memory. But what really shines is the visual effects. Now, I'm not entirely keen on CGI, but I do feel that if done what and only when it is necessary, it can truly be wonderful. The trailer made this seem like some sword & sandals, 3D disaster film, but ultimately it didn't turn out that way. The effects on the plagues were just visually stunning, like the rest of the film. Scott truly has a visionary eye and while to some he may not have a clear cut style that is worthwhile consistent, It's how he uses his visual eye, and with large scale films, it's definitely evident. While it's disaster, it's also tragedy. Now I'm just starting to ramble on, but Ridley certainly knows how to do visually stunning, large scale films.
The acting all around is great, as Christian Bale is ever so great as Moses, and his performance in this is certainly better than it was in last year's American Hustle. For me, the absolute best performance was by far Joel Edgerton's turn as Ramesses. He really captured the character well and showed him different views. The rest of the cast is rounded off by John Turturro, Sigourney Weaver, Aaron Paul, Ben Mendelsohn, and Ben Kingsley, who all turn in great performances. Call it whitewashing all want, but to me, I thought they all did there job very well, though it was a bit iffy seeing Edgerton as Ramesses at first I ultimately fully accepted him in the role.
One of the biggest flaws in the film is by far the narrative structure. The film spans several, several years, but the first act is by far the worst. The editing just feels atrocious as it pretty much cuts and chops it's way through what would feel like crucial scenes that lead to overall story and depth development, just to get to Moses' exile and the ten plagues. While it's certainly engaging, It just doesn't feel like it flows when you compare the first act to the last three. It feels very disjointed and jarring. Now I heard that the first cut of the film was just over four hours long, so to me, that tells that there was definitely a lot of stuff cut out. I've always been a long fan of Ridley's Director's Cuts. No matter what was added in or changed, I find them to be overall better than theatrical cuts. While The Counselor just added in a few filler scenes, I still liked it, and I definitely prefer the Director's cuts of American Gangster and Gladiator over the theatrical cuts.
As a whole, I enjoyed Exodus: Gods And Kings probably just a tad more than I did after watching it and now putting my thoughts on this together. While I have some issues with structure of the film, as well as minor gripes, I still think it's a solid film and a nice addition to Scott's filmography. I can see why this is dividing some, but it's really not that bad, and it certainly nowhere near as divisive as Scott's last film The Counselor. Scott is still a terrific director, and I still will go out and see his work.
"You can stop living like a king. You're not one."
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - 2014 - 0/5 - Directed by Jonathan Liebesman - starring Megan Fox and Will Arnet
Back in 1990 when the live action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film came it, it was a giant success. It was campy as can be, though it was still pretty entertaining and hilarious for people of all ages, and most importantly it stayed grounded like the original comics were. While the sequel wasn't nearly as great, I did find myself enjoying the 2007 CGI animated TMNT immensely. I've always felt that if another Ninja Turtles film was too be made it should just be animated, as I don't think live action can truly do the justice now, like the 1990 film did. Well, Michael Bay's produced reboot is pretty much what I expected it to be. Absolute garbage and a slap in the face to classic franchise.
The film is set in present day and follows Channel 6 news reporter, April O'Neil (Megan Fox) who finds herself interesting in researching for a case on the Foot Clan. One night at the docks, she sees the Foot Clan unloading cargo, only to be ambushed by unknown vigilante's. She tells this to fellow coworkers but no one believes her story. Later, the Foot Clan attack a subway station and hold hostage as a means to lure out the mysterious vigilantes, and it turns out that they're teenage mutant ninja turtles. April eventually teams up with the turtles to put an end to the Foot Clan's reign of terror on New York, as well as learn more on these mysterious turtles.
If there was just one good thing about this film it's easily Will Arnet, though his role is pretty much resorted to the obligatory human comical relief character, but Arnet is the S***. Everything else, was like Michael Bay and Co. strapping me in a chair and pouring acid on my eyes. That's no exaggeration. The funny thing is, Michael Bay didn't direct this, only produced, but director Jonathan Liebesman's style in this film is literally, the same as Bay's (see Transformers 1-4). After watching this, I feel that Liebesman was just a ghost director and Bay really was behind the camera yelling action. Probably BS, but Jesus Christ, this had no sort of individuality to it. It probably could be set in the same universe as the Transformers films, just based on the visual filming style alone. It's as if Liebesman was contempt on making this look like typical Bay flare.
The biggest slap in the face is easily the change in how the turtles become ninjas. Originally a mysterious ooze is poured into the sewers and it spills onto the turtles and it mutates them. Here, they're the products of mutation experiments. While I could see this as being much more plausible and easier to pass by than the ooze, I feel like Bay also slapped me in the face (in addition to pouring acid in my eyes). I understand that sometimes, certain origins should be changed, or at least modified, but here it felt so cliche, like you've seen it a thousand times. Not to mention, I don't care how much CGI was used on the turtles, they look so damn cartoony, especially Splinter. I'm still not keen on CGI being excessive and I understand that in 2014, actors in turtle suits would be a joke in a blockbuster like this, but it's like the effects artists didn't care at all how they looked.
There was once a time, back in my early high school years where I had a massive crush on Megan Fox (go ahead at pelt me tomatoes, I deserve it.), now in my twenties, I don't know what I was thinking, as Fox most certainly can't act, which leads me to ask this: Who at Paramount thought it was a good move to cast her as April O'Neil? She has zero charisma as the character and to mention, the film overall plot is focused more on her than that of the actual turtles. Yes, there's indeed turtle action to probably satisfy certain people, but It's mainly emphasized on O'Neil. Also worth mentioning that all the comedic moments, particularly from Michelangelo fell completely flat and came off more annoying than actually funny or clever. Then there's also the fact the entire film is predictable as can be, which only makes it worse.
Sounds like I watched this with the idea of already hating it, but that's not true. Like most films that looks underwhelming or just plain awful, there's always the chance that it'll turn out to be good. That wasn't the case here with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. This is probably the worst film, or at least one of the worst films of the year that I've seen. I think next time I'll just TMNT, as I have huge soft-spot for that one. As for the rest of you guys, you probably have the right mind to stay away from this, and that's exactly what you should do: STAY AWAY FROM THIS.
Batman: Assault On Arkham - 2014 - 3.5/5 - Directed by Ethan Spaulding & Jay Oliva - starring Kevin Conroy and Troy Baker
"I'm here, b******! And I've got favors for everyone!"
I usually try and stay away from most animated films, especially straight-to-video ones that are only from existing properties from such comic film studios. Not to mention, a lot of animated films now just have a rather boring look to them. Well, I have to say, I was surprised by Batman: Assault On Arkham very much, as it pleased me on several levels.
The Riddler is on the run after escaping Arkham and Amanda Waller, only to be caught and returned to Arkham by none other than the caped crusader, Batman. Amanda Waller calls together the Suicide Squad (Deadshot, Harley Quinn, Killer Frost, Black Spider, Captain Boomerang, King Shark, KGBeast) for a mission to infiltrate Arkham Asylum and steal valuable information from Riddler. Meanwhile, there's a dirty bomb in the city of Gotham, placed by The Joker that has Batman on his own agenda.
When it comes to animated Batman series', the 1990's animated series is by far my favorite. It had phenomenal episodes with awesome writing and voice acting, as well as a nice mature overture to it, while still being fun for kids, but maintaining a sense of brood to it. Assault On Arkham may have the dark knight himself in it, but this honestly isn't his animated film. This one belongs to the Suicide Squad, and I'm perfectly okay with that. Batman has his few moments, but we really get to see the mischievous gang of villains do their work. It has humor in it which was a nice addition, and Harley Quinn really takes the spotlight in this one with not only her hilarity, but overall bada**-ness (then again, I've always been a Harley Quinn fan). The story, for not having Batman as the focal point, was actually quite well, and it's got a lot of nice action moments to it. Another great factor for me was the actual overall animated look and feel this had. It had a very 90's - anime look to it, which I was able to connect more with, than most animated films out there. Part of that has to do with the fact that I've grown up with this style, but I just found it to be visually appealing. It's also very violent too for an animated film, especially one from DC Comics, which I loved as well. It's a load of fun.
Overall, Batman: Assault On Arkham is quite a good animated film for featuring a minimal amount of Batman, and it gives a nice focus on the Suicide Squad. Definitely worth a watch for comic fans, this was a nice treat.
"The Joker has a dirty bomb? That gives me the chills."
Dumb and Dumber To - 2014 - 2.5/5 - Directed by The Farrelly Brothers - starring Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels
"Show us your t***!"
I'll be honest here, I wasn't really a major fan of the first Dumb and Dumber film. It has it's moments and can be funny, but it just isn't my cup of tea. It's not that I don't hate it, but I don't like it either, I just think it's got a few moments, but nothing worth writing home about. When the sequel was green-lit, all I really could think was "why?". Well as it turns out, Dumb and Dumber To was pretty funny and slightly consistent with the original, if not being a blatant rehash, though it's far from being laugh-out loud hilarious.
Taking place twenty years after the first film, Lloyd Christmas (Jim Carrey) has been committed at a mental institution and has been cared for by Harry Dunne (Jeff Daniels), until one day he realizes that Lloyd has been pranking him all this time. Harry tells Lloyd that he needs a kidney transplant so they go to Harry's parents but as turns out (again) Harry is adopted and needs one from a blood relative. As he sorts through some old junk mail he finds a postcard from Fraida Felcher (Kathleen Turner) that she's pregnant. They go to Fraida, but it's too late, by about twenty-two years. With a piece of mail, they travel to Maryland to find that Harry's Daughter, Penny (Rachel Melvin), is the daughter to a rich-scientist who is now traveling to El Paso, Texas to give a speech and the two set out to find her.
For what it's worth, I'm definitely rating this probably half a star too high. It's been twenty years in between films, and I really enjoyed seeing Carrey and Daniels snap back into characters like it was yesterday, considering how much time and other projects have passed. Though I was not a fan of the original, it had some moments to it. That's pretty much the same with this sequel. It has it's moments where it is indeed funny, others where it falls just shy of being and the rest of being just simply flat. It's definitely a bit more cruder with the sexual jokes, which I don't remember being entirely in the first film. I think one of the absolutely worst parts of this film is the third act. It's just cliche-central and forces a twist on you which I feel wasn't necessary and it just felt as if there was no end to it.
All in all, This probably could have been a bit funnier, but then again I was never a fan of the original. This has some decent funny parts in it, but the rest is just not all that appealing. I would only recommend watching this if you're a fan of the original film.
"You either go home and face the music, or you suffocate in your own pee."
Pompeii - 2014 - 1/5 - Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson - starring Kit Harrington and Emily Browning
"For those of us about to die, we salute you. I die a free man!"
I had tried watching this one several months ago but couldn't stomach no more than fifteen minutes or so. It was that awful. So why did I come back to this? Well, I had a long week so I guess why not. No particular reason. Anyways, It probably helped with Pompeii as I didn't think it was one of the worst films I have ever seen (it's pretty awful), but there was still some enjoyment to it. It was still bad though. Set in A.D. 79, Pompeii follows Milo (Kit Harington), a gladiator who comes from a tribe of Celtic horsemen who had been brutally wiped out seventeen years prior. A Slave owner, Graecus (Joe Pingue) is impressed with how Milo makes quick work in the battlefield, and brings him and fellow slaves to Pompeii. There, Milo slowly develops a relationship with Cassia (Emily Browning) as well as Senator Corvus (Kiefer Sutherland) working with Cassia's father, Severus (Jared Harris) on re-developing the city of Pompeii. Milo is thrust into the gladiator arena where he develops a close friendship with Atticus (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje). However, little does everyone know that the mountain near Pompeii, Vesuvius, is about to erupt, sending everyone to their impending doom.
Now, when I say this had some enjoyment, I'm merely talking about the cheese factor in this film. Director Paul W.S. Anderson turns it all the fucking way up, creating a melodramatic, romantic-disaster film that tries to channel its inner Titanic. The acting is incredibly hilariously, both in a good and bad way, and the action scenes are just terrible. Maybe I'm feeling those drinks I had still, but do NOT mistaken me for liking this film. I didn't like it. It just happened to be big budget, cheesy B-Movie. At times it's ridiculous where it's borderline "So bad, It's so good" and the rest just utter crap. Kit Harington pretty much reprises his role of Jon Snow from "Game Of Thrones" so there's that. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje is just as bad** and cool as he was as Mr. Eko on "Lost". Then there's Jack Bauer, Kiefer Sutherland. I'm not a fan of the show "24" or with Sutherland's blatant yelling as acting, but my god was he so... Hammy in this. His accent, his overacting, everything. He is the epitome of cheese in Pompeii.
Pompeii has several things wrong with it though, and one of which was the large amount of aerial shots. I get it, you're showing us the mountain. The villa(s). The city. The arena (etc.). You don't have to make every other scene begin with a damn aerial shot. Yes, you're trying to show a representation of this once royal, ancient city, but it's highly unnecessary. The editing isn't bad, unless it's the more suspense filled/action sequences, then it's just absolutely horrible. It's as if the editor didn't know how to properly cut a fight scene in half, but still make it interesting. It was so jarring during those scenes and laughably bad. The romantic angle of the film felt incredibly forced, I'm supposed to believe that an angry, pissed off gladiator who is frustrated with the world and wants vengeance will just stop momentarily for the girl? I don't buy it. It felt as if it was put there as a means to make it different from most sword & sandal films. Oh, and the horse whisperer scenes were appalling.
In the end, I ask myself, "Did you really need to sit down and watch this? Of all films and of all days, this?". No, I didn't. Pompeii is horrible, but I did get a few laughs out of it. As for Anderson. I'm still not a fan. I like the first Resident Evil film immensely, but that's about it.
"It is the gods. They have a plan for us all."
Two Days, One Night - 2014 - 4/5 - Directed by The Dardenne Brothers - starring Marion Cotillard and Fabrizio Rongione
For Two Days, One Night It'd been in my watchlist for some time, as well as recommended to me by a friend. I've heard nothing but great things about this film Belgian/French film, and I have nothing but great things to say about Two Days, One Night after seeing it. Marion Cotillard plays Sandra Bya, a young wife and mother who has taken time off from her job at Solwal, small solar-panel factory in the town of Liege, Belgium. During her time off, the other workers are able to cover her absence by working slightly longer and the management staff propose a bonus of 1,000 Euros to 16 workers, if they can all agree that Sandra isn't needed. Sandra returns to work to find out about this and that she's just been laid off essentially. However, her boss, Dumont (Batiste Sornin) agrees to hold another ballot for the staff to determine if Sandra can keep her job. The only problem is the Ballot is just a little over 48 hours away. Sandra decides to pay visits to each of her 16 co-workers in attempts persuade them to reject the bonus and voter for her to keep her job, so her family doesn't have to struggle.
This drama film actually was gripping, or rather emotionally gripping. Can you put yourselves in Sandra's shoes? Could you pay visits to all of your co-workers and try and reason with them to reject the bonus to keep your job? Bonus money that possibly might need due to being in dire straits themselves. For me, No, I couldn't. I consider myself to be a strong-willed person, but I couldn't do what she did. Why? Anxiety being the biggest, I don't possibly know how to just ask someone to vote against a bonus that they deserve for their hard work just I can keep my job. I would just take the gamble and hope it'd go in my favor. For Sandra, she does exactly what I wouldn't do, and I call that courageous (maybe the wrong word). It takes a lot of will to persuade someone to do something like that, and we see the emotional effects in the film. It effects Sandra in many ways, such as when someone says yes, she gets a glimmer of a sort of hope, but when it's no, she's just ready to give up. That's not a bad thing since I'd want to do (should I do so), which leaves her family being the driving force, specifically her husband to pick her up and put her back on path.
We also see how some co-workers, despite needing the money will just vote for her not out of pity, but because it's someone's job on the line. Someone's way of making ends meet and providing for their family. A situation they've been in before. Then there's co-workers who will do it for the love of Sandra, because she is a good person, and her job and welfare matters more than a bonus. Then we see how for others persuasion, or rather begging to them, isn't good enough. They won't budge at all and to them it's just tough S***. Deal with it. For being a rather basic film, it does get repetitive, but not in a way that would suggest it becoming predictable or boring. You don't know what each co-worker will say. Throughout the course of the 95 minutes duration, your rooting for Sandra and you want to hope that each 16 co-workers will say yes, but the film plays out to realistically and you know that just isn't possible. That's to me what made this all the more enjoyable and overall great. Not to mention Marion Cotillard's performance is worth watching this alone. She carries the film so well and her acting is outstanding, along with the rest of the cast.
In the end, Two Days, One Night is a superb film that is emotionally provocative, and definitely one of the year's finest films. I greatly enjoyed watching this.
Foxcatcher - 2014 - 5/5 - Directed by Bennett Miller - starring Steve Carell and Channing Tatum
"Coach is a father. Coach is a mentor. Coach has great power, great import on an athlete's life."
Foxcatcher is a film that first caught my attention several, several months ago. Looking further into it I realized this was about John du Pont and the Schultz Brothers, something that has already interested me from a story point of view. I've always thought of du Pont as a very interesting person, even after his incarceration. A rather erratic, misunderstood, and paranoid man. Yet there was always something about him that interested me deep down. I really couldn't put it into complete perspective until now, after watching Bennett Miller's film. Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) is an Olympic wrestler who is mentored and trained by his older brother, Dave (Mark Ruffalo). Mark lives a really simple life which consists entirely of just training on the mats. He has a quiet, normal life, until one day he receives a phone of John du Pont requesting a meet with him on his Foxcatcher farm. There, We are introduced to du Pont where we learn that he is a philanthropist, ornithologist, and a philatelist. Among others, he is an avid enthusiast of wrestling and he wants Mark to train at his Foxcatcher wrestling facility on his ground, assemble a team and a win an Olympic gold medal for him.
Foxcatcher is essentially another biopic film, however I would argue that it is one that is done more than well. Bennett Miller's film carries from the opening shot to the last a sense of dread. Almost like an impending doom. Those that know the real the story will know how it ends, those who don't will be in a shocker of course. Foxcatcher is a dark film in a minimalist sense. It's definitely far from being an average biopic as Miller pretty much throws the book on making an average biopic right out the window. Instead, what we get is a true crime film that is much more disturbing. Miller never goes out of his depth for sheer shock or rather for our amusement. He keeps the film grounded very well and doesn't stray off of what the basis of the film is. He presents us our characters and leads them along the way perfectly, especially du Pont. John du Pont was not a very good person, as evident in the film and the real life incident. Miller notes this and while he doesn't try to make us sympathize with du Pont, he rather wants us to know that this person this character is deeply disturbed. Like I said, I've always found him to be an interesting man, and you see that in this film, but you also see how he can be a rather terrifying one as well, not through sheer violence for that matter of effect, but through just presence alone.
The acting alone is worth watching this, as Steve Carell totally encompasses the screen as du Pont. Under layers of make-up, Carell looks literally unidentifiable as du Pont and he really captures the essence of the disturbed nature behind du Pont and really brings this character and how he was true so brilliantly. Hard to believe this is being done by the same guy who rose to quick fame from being The 40-Year-Old Virgin. That aside, The biggest surprise of the film was seeing Channing Tatum take a dramatic turn. We saw glimmers of it in Soderbergh's Side Effects but it doesn't compare to this film. I would say that Tatum, at times, sometimes surpasses his fellow cast mates, including Carell. He really proves that under great direction and writing he can truly shine. Mark Ruffalo who plays Dave Schultz is also utterly fantastic in this as well. Simply solid acting throughout. For a biopic film, it was incredibly atmospheric, something I don't normally find in most biopics. It's a very dark (I need to stop using this word) and sinister film as it goes on, and the atmosphere just gets bleaker. Technically speaking this film is just flawless, every shot is carefully orchestrated and done so beautifully. The wrestling scenes are shot extremely, though I attribute those more because of the editing, which I felt was great during those. There's several beautiful moments in the film, though they lie under something more dreary of course. There's something that's just haunting to look at in the film, and I just couldn't put my tongue on it. Greig Frasier's work here is seriously outstanding.
You know it's funny, after this was over I had a million things I wanted to talk about regarding Foxcatcher. Since I've opened up notepad to begin writing my review, I just find myself having a harder time trying to express how I feel about it. I though Denis Villeneuve's Enemy was hard to review (still do to, though I love the film), this felt harder and I feel as if I'm just forcing thoughts together. Maybe that's because Foxcatcher is just one hell of a film and left me nearly speechless. I don't know. Honestly, don't take my word for it. See it for yourself. This is one film I know I'll be coming back to. Goddamn you, Bennett Miller.
"I am a patriot, and I want to see this country soar again."
Paranormal Activity: The Marked One - 2014 - 1/5 - Directed by Christopher B. Landon - starring Jorge Diaz and Andrew Jacobs
I totally forgot about this fifth Paranormal Activity film and saw it while I was scrolling through Netflix on my tv in the middle of the night. Still not entirely sure why I ended up choosing this, but whatever. I'm not a fan at all of the Paranormal Activity films, and I find each of the subsequent sequels to really test my patience. With this installment, they producers thought it'd be a great idea to change the setting and just overall introduce us to new characters and a new surrounding. What we get instead is pretty much that as well as a slight retread of the previous films and racial stereotypes. June 2012, Oxnard, California, recent high school graduate, Jesse (Andrew Jacobs) lives in an apartment complex with his father and grandmother. Below him lives Ana (Gloria Sandoval), a woman that everyone believes to be a sort of witch, and one night she is murdered in her apartment as well as a former classmate, Oscar (Carlos Pratts), who flees from the apartment. Jesse and his friends Hector and Marisol (Jorge Diaz and Gabrielle Walsh, respectively) then head into her apartment and discover strange cultist and witchcraft items. Afterwards, little by little strange occurrences begin to happen to Jesse and everything is of course documented along the way.
Like I stated in the beginning of the review, I'm not fond of the franchise, however the idea of a new setting and characters did intrigue me so I figured why not. And as usual it was bad, though not entirely bad, but still bad (sorry for being a tad confusing). The new setting is in a predominately Hispanic neighborhood and for the life of the film, it can't stay away from stereotypes. For being a film that was made to target Hispanic audiences it really covers practically all stereotypes, no joke. As a Caucasian male with Hispanic heritage (among others) in my family, I'm sort of offended actually. The acting as usual is atrocious, so that's not new, and while it's new setting/characters, It is keen on babying us the entire first act by practically rehashing everything we already know. What was good was the fact that there were a few more suspenseful moments. Whether they worked or not isn't really a factor, it's that for once the filmmakers were finally working on adding in more tense-like scenes instead of "DUDE, I'M FILMING WEIRD STUFF, LMAO", and not just saving the last twenty minutes to go all out. However, everything was too predictable as always and too formulaic. Instead of being a sort of one-and-done installment, it still insisted on trying to thrust itself into the main story arc. It delves, or dips rather into the same cult of the main story but that's it. It still doesn't really provide more answers, but more questions. There's some things in this installment that will tie into the main series as well. So why not just call it Paranormal Activity 5? Why give it a subtitle and say it's not directly related when it is? Who knows, all I know is that Oren Peli's wallet is fatter than mine.
If you're a fan of this franchise then I suppose you should check this out, if not, you're not missing much. Just another found footage "horror film".
LOOKING FORWARD TO: (Most anticipated are highlighted in bold and red)
The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies
RoboCop - 1/5
Need For Speed - 4/5
Sabotage - 1.5/5
Nymphomaniac - 4/5
300: Rise Of An Empire - 0/5
Takedown: The DNA Of GSP - 4/5
Captain America: The Winter Soldier - 3/5
Neighbors - 0/5
Godzilla - 2.5/5
X-Men: Days Of Future Past - 5/5
The Raid 2 - 0/5
22 Jump Street - 4/5
Deliver Us From Evil - 4/5
Under The Skin - 5/5
Edge Of Tomorrow - 4.5/5
Non-Stop - 3/5
The Monuments Men - 1/5
Locke - 4/5
Enemy - 4.5/5
The Purge: Anarchy - 3.5/5
The Expendables 3 - 2/5
Lucy - 3.5/5
Joe - 4.5/5
Snowpiercer - 4.5/5
Noah - 2.5/5
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit - 1.5/5
Guardians Of The Galaxy - 3.5/5
Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes - 3.5/5
Dom Hemingway - 3.5/5
Transcendence - 2.5/5
The Grand Budapest Hotel - 5/5
Chef - 4.5/5
The Signal - 3.5/5
3 Days To Kill - 1/5
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 - 0/5
I, Frankenstein - 0/5
Boyhood - 5/5
Sin City: A Dame To Kill For - 2/5
Houdini - 3/5
Maleficent - 1/5
Brick Mansions - 2/5
Into The Storm - 0/5
Let's Be Cops - 3.5
Gone Girl - 5/5
Wolf Creek - 3.5/5
Stretch - 4.5/5
Open Windows - 3/5
Dracula Untold - 2/5
Annabelle - 0/5
The Town That Dreaded Sundown - 4/5
Interstellar - 5/5
Nightcrawler - 5/5
A Most Wanted Man - 4.5/5
The Rover - 4.5/5
Fury - 3.5/5
The Salvation - 2.5/5
Sex Tape - 2/5
The Equalizer - 2/5
The Judge - 4/5
John Wick - 5/5
Ouija - 0/5
Hercules - 3/5
The Giver - 2.5/5
Maps To The Stars - 5/5
This Is Where I Leave You - 3/5
Automata - 1.5/5
Transformers 4: Age Of Extinction - 2/5
Left Behind - 0/5
Get On Up - 3.5/5
As Above, So Below - 3/5
The Guest - 4.5/5
The Zero Theorem - 2/5
Jersey Boys - 3.5/5
The Babadook - 1/5
The Theory Of Everything - 3/5
St. Vincent - 4/5
The Drop - 4.5/5
Tusk - 4.5/5
Predestination - 4/5
Still Alice - 3/5
Camp X-Ray - 3.5/5
Horrible Bosses 2 - 4/5
Mr. Turner - 2.5/5
Goodbye To Language
Horns - 3.5/5
Life After Beth - 4/5
Birdman - 4/5
Exodus: Gods and Kings - 4/5
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - 0/5
Batman: Assault On Arkham - 3.5/5
Dumb and Dumber To - 2.5/5
Pompeii - 1/5
Two Days, One Night - 4/5
Foxcatcher - 5/5
Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones - 1/5