Whoops, I guess I lied when I said I won’t be going to a theater anytime soon. Turns out I’ll be going out to the movies more times in December than I have all year. My family makes a tradition of going out to watch a movie on Christmas Day, and this year we were torn, so we all got together and watched the trailers for a handful of new releases and then voted on which we’d want to watch. The options were Sing, Moana, Lion, and La La Land. Based on the title of this post, I’m sure you’re smart enough to deduce what we ended up seeing.
La La Land is the third full length film from writer/ director Damien Chazelle. “Hmmm… Damien Chazelle, how come that name sounds kind of familiar?” I hear you say. Maybe it’s because he wrote the cartoonish Grand Piano, or the dour and intense 10 Cloverfield Lane. Maybe it’s because his last directing effort was a little movie about drumming and throwing chairs called Whiplash. Chazelle has only been on the radar for a handful of years, but apparently he’s only able to crank out the hits.
La La Land is a very simple movie with a very simple premise. Ryan Gosling plays Sebastian, a jazz pianist aspiring to own his own jazz club and keep jazz alive and thriving in the L.A. scene. Emma Stone plays Mia, an aspiring but struggling actress who is trying to navigate her way through the Hollywood minefield to make a name for herself. They meet, and fall in love. Life ensues.
It’s been a while since my last post. Between finding a new job and Pokémon GO, I haven’t had much time for anything.
Sam Raimi is one of my favorite directors, ever. Some people dismiss him as just a B-movie schlock director and lots of people hate him solely because of how Spider-Man 3 turned out, but he holds a special place in my heart. Sam Raimi comes across as a guy who just loves making movies. He’s like a demented Spielberg, focused on making movies fun and entertaining rather than just churning out cash grabs for an easy paycheque. More than a decade before 2002’s Spider Man, Raimi took a crack at the superhero genre with his first Hollywood film, 1990’s action/ comedy/ drama flick: Darkman.
Peyton Westlake (Liam Neeson) is a scientist researching synthetic skin cells to be used for skin transplants or reconstructive surgery. His cells are perfect replicas of regular skin cells except for one major flaw. If exposed to light, they only last 99 minutes before dissolving. His girlfriend, Julie Hastings (Frances McDormand) is an attorney that comes across a document that incriminates some of the city’s untouchable gangsters. Once word gets around that Hastings is keeping the letter hidden, mob leader Durant (Larry Drake) and his goons go looking for it and find it in Westlakes’ lab. After finding it, Durant disfigures Westlake before blowing up him and his lab. Left for dead and transformed into a hideous monster or a person, the scientist formerly known as Westlake goes on a roaring rampage of revenge, using his scientific knowledge to help him destroy everyone who was a part of ruining his life all while trying to reunite with the love of his life.
When I wrote about John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13 I made a small observation that a lot of the movies I’ve discussed on this blog were from 2013. As of writing this I have fifteen movies from 2013 on my to-watch list, and I’ve now seen five of them. I don’t know why 2013 was makes up so much of the list. 2015 is the only year that exceeds it with 19 movies. Maybe I just didn’t get out much those years.
Locke is a bottle movie starring Tom Hardy and a bunch of voices. It’s directed by Steven Knight, who wrote the fantastic Cronenberg film Eastern Promises, and follows the titular character of Ivan Locke in an hour and a half long drive down the M6 motorway in the United Kingdom. As the night goes on and more and more kilometers are being put between him and his home, Ivan’s life slowly begins unraveling around him.
Locke is sometimes described as a drama/ thriller, but honestly I would strictly call it a drama. It explores Ivan’s relationships with the different people in his life, from his wife and kids to his co-workers and more. The main vessel for the narrative of this film is Ivan’s conversations over the phone. Like I said earlier, Locke is a bottle movie taking place in Ivan’s BMW X5, but it distinguishes itself by also being a real-time and one-actor film. You’d think that sitting in a car with a single person talking over the phone for an hour and a half would be boring, but let Locke be further proof that Tom Hardy is one of the best actors working today. Hardy keeps you involved and engaged in the film despite it being a very simple, almost minimalist concept. He slips into the role of Ivan Locke so well you feel like he’s a real person dealing with real problems.
Oh-ho! Caught you off guard didn’t I? You thought all I did was write about ’80s slasher flicks or pretentious arthouse films, didn’t you? But here I am, writing about a family movie. And a good family movie at that. Not a kids movie mind you. A family movie. A lot of people lump media for kids and media for families together, when they are completely different beasts. Sure, the two of them usually have bright colors and silly characters but when you dig in to the actual content of the film or television show or whatever, family-oriented ones usually have more to offer. A kids movie is something like the 2004 Spongebob Squarepants movie (I love this movie, but I can recognize that it’s a dumb movie for dumb kids), a movie that is made to entertain children only. The jokes are juvenile and there’s not really anything to gain from its story or characters. Parents buy the DVD or Blu-Ray or stream it on Netflix just to shut their kid up for an hour and a half while they take a nap. Family movies are movies that are meant to entertain kids and adults, and usually contain more delicate and real life themes that can actually teach kids something or spark an actual discussion afterwards. Sometimes they even throw the parents a bone, and slip some mature jokes in that would fly over a child’s head. Prime examples of movies and TV like that would include titles like:The Legend of Korra, The Lego Movie, Martyrs, and Disney’s newest box office crushing movie: Zootopia.
Zootopia is essentially a buddy cop crime drama that happens to involve goofy looking anthropomorphic animals. It was directed by Byron Howard, Rich Moore, and Jared Bush, all super talented guys who have been involved with directing or writing in projects like Big Hero 6, Tangled, and The Simpsons (from ’89 to ’98 in case you were wondering).
This film is about a young, country bumpkin rabbit named Judy (Ginnifer Goodwin) who moves to the bustling metropolis of Zootopia to become a cop. She’s the first ever rabbit to become an officer and being new and different to the force lends Judy to face discrimination and prejudice from the rest of her co-workers. She eventually bands together with a sly con artist fox, Nick (Jason Bateman) to solve a series of disappearances around Zootopia. Adventure ensues. (more…)
Contrary to popular belief, I don’t only watch horror movies. Sure, dudes in masks wielding machetes who chop up promiscuous teenagers tickles my fancy some, but every now and again it’s nice to step out of the coffin and experience something a bit different. While I’d definitely call myself a fan of sci-fi, I feel similar about that genre as I do most comedies. I think a movie in the genre needs to be executed impeccably if it’s going to stand solely on the tropes and stylings of genre. A prime example in the comedy genre would be Airplane, a movie that spends literally every frame setting up or paying off on a joke, and every joke sticks its landing perfectly. It doesn’t need compelling characters, narrative, or conflict because the movie can stand alone on the strength of its jokes. My favorite sci-fi movies and shows definitely cannot stand on how “sci-fi” they are. They need something else to synergize with the sci-fi setting. Take Robocop for instance. Unarguably the greatest movie ever made, its political and social satire works with the sci-fi setting, not just along side it. Their power together makes it a great movie. Battlestar Galactica is a political thriller/ drama that just so happens to take place in space and involves evil robots trying to eradicate humanity. The sci-fi (spaceships, faster than light travel, Cylons) does not get people watching it episode in, episode out. The fleshed out characters, their relationships, their struggles and flaws, and how they overcome those struggles and flaws make the show worth watching. For me, sci-fi needs a human element to grasp on to in order to elevate it to something really worth thinking about. Good sci-fi asks questions and pokes holes in convention. A movie that fits this description to a tee, is Her.
Her is Spike Jonze’s fourth feature length film about Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix), a man going through a divorce who begins a relationship with Samantha, an artificial intelligence operating system (voiced by Scarlett Johansson). It sounds like a quirky indie drama, and while it does fall into a couple of the traps of a schlubby-guy-meets-manic-pixie-dream-girl movie, it deftly soars above a majority of the clichés and keeps you on your toes and guessing what will happen next. Spike Jonze is known for making quirky and weird movies, but Her is definitely an accessible film (unlike the last movie I saw starring Scarlett Johansson, Under the Skin). I know I’m late to the party for Her, but understandably I was a little overwhelmed by the ridiculous amount of praise this movie had going for it when it came out. It seemed almost too hyped. It was winning every award ever, and nothing but perfect or near perfect reviews came spilling out after its release. At the time it felt like manufactured hype or Oscarbait, but now that I’ve watched it, I can safely say…