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Una Noche: Lost Dreams of Havana’s Youth

17 Sep

Una Noche is a phenomenally well made film that explores what lies at the heart of every person – the innate desire for something more.  Directed by a friend I met while attending NYU, the film makes use of brilliant cinematography, fluid editing, and the sheer power of storytelling to bring us the tale of Elio and his twin sister Lila.  Elio (Javier Nunez Florian) works in a hotel kitchen, cooking for tourists who pass through Havana on vacation.  His twin sister Lila (Anailin de la Rua De la Torre) is his constant companion.  The two explore Havana together, running amok with other teenagers.  Early on, we learn that Lila cannot swim, which foreshadows a major event in the plot.

Elio, dissatisfied with his dead-end life in Havana, is planning to make an escape from the island to Miami with his friend and co-worker, Raul (Dariel Arrechaga).  Raul hopes to soon be reunited with his father in Miami.  Together, Elio, Lila, and Raul comprise a set of Havana youth that are privy to the disappointments and hopelessness that often accompany reality.  This film is not a fairy tale.  Una Noche, without giving too much away, is a realistic story of just how bad life can get.  This film documents desperation, and the measures that people will take to escape it.

Una Noche resonated with me on a personal level due to the fact that part of my heritage is based in Cuba.  My maternal grandfather grew up in Havana, and his family managed to make their way to New York City prior to the Cuban Revolution.  The Cuban economy would deteriorate over the next few decades, largely in part to their trade dependence with the Soviet Union.  What struck me so deeply while watching the film was how lucky I have been in my life to have not been privy to some of the things that my grandparents and their parents endured.  I’ve mostly lead a privileged life, attended private university, and worked cushy office jobs.  People like Elio, Raul, and Lila are representative of the vast majority of the world’s population.  There is a world out there that is much bigger than consumerism and folly – people are ill, starving, and fighting to live.  Una Noche is a stark reminder of just how good many people have it, but always forget out of convenience.

What Una Noche documents very well is the crumbling and tense state of Havana.  It is a place where white foreigners come to bask in the sun on the beach, but the natives, who vary in complexion from light to caramel to dark brown, are relegated to the parts of Havana that no tourist would dare venture to.   What touched me the most was how happy the children were, despite living in abject poverty in the slums of Havana.  For me, this film was as much about social issues as it is about the power of hope, and what lengths people will go to in order to change the course of their lives.

The fates that befall Elio, Lila and Raul result from an encounter Raul has with a tourist.  Once again, the power of the foreign other is what pushes the three to the brink of a life or death decision.  The opening of the film introduces the voice of an English tourist proclaiming, “this is their story, not ours”.   A poignant touch to an otherwise startling, breathless film.  This is indeed the story of those that will very rarely be told.   The young actors who played the three main characters are very naturally gifted, and they embody their characters completely.  Lucy Mulloy, in her directorial debut, proves that she is a consummate storyteller and a voice for the voiceless.

Una Noche is currently playing in Los Angeles at the Laemmle Royal Theater at 11523 Santa Monica Boulevard, and in New York City at the IFC Center, located at 323 Sixth Avenue at West Third Street.

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Django Unchained: “I Like the Way You Die, Boy!”

27 Dec
DJANGO UNCHAINED

Leonardo DiCaprio as Calvin Candie

Django Unchained is an exercise in restraint for Quentin Tarantino.  Although some scenes of the film rival the bloodiest that Tarantino captured on film in the past, the fact remains that Django, like many of Tarantino’s films, lacks the high levels of violence typical of your Kill Bill or your Reservoir Dogs.  We meet Django (Jamie Foxx) as he is being transported between plantations.  The entrance of an eccentric alleged dentist, Dr. King Schultz, played by Christoph Waltz, allows Django a chance at tasting freedom and the possibility of being reunited with his wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington).  Waltz, channeling his Hans Landa that made Inglourious Basterds a delight, makes a charming bounty hunter seeking three overseers whom he determines Django can identify. Django, tasting the possibility of freedom, throws away the tattered blanket covering him, and a pronounced shot of his back, scarred by a whip, fills the screen.  Schultz trains Django in the art of bounty hunting and gunfighting, realizing that Django, as we will see throughout the entirety of the film, is unlike any slave to be found in the South.

On one of their first bounty hunts together, Schultz offers Django a beer.  Django shows his delight in tasting the beer, clearly symbolic of his “tasting” freedom for the first time. Django then accompanies Dr. Schultz on a series of bounty hunts, collecting one third of the bounties the men make.  Eventually, Dr. Schultz learns that Broomhilda is likely on a plantation referred to as Candie Land, owned by Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), who is a known Francophile but cannot speak a word of French.  Dr. Schultz and Django then pose as slavers seeking to buy a “black Hercules” to use for mandingo fighting, the practice of forcing slaves to fight to the death.  DiCaprio plays Candie, his first villain, with an awareness of just how ridiculous his character is.  Naturally, the film peaks with Django fighting for his beloved Broomhilda, though those details are best left undiscussed.

Django’s discovery of how good he is at killing can be summed up in one line from the film: “Killing white people for money? What’s not to like?” It’s that daring, overtly racist yet unforgiving attitude that places what Django is really about in focus. It’s a film about exploring a legacy that has left the U.S. in an eternally divided state, focused on the power of race.  Race is huge in this country and Tarantino’s daring in exploring this issue is commendable.  The fact that he is a white Italian filmmaker trying to make sense of the white black paradigm is good on him, despite many protesting these efforts (Spike Lee among them).

Overall, Django Unchained is a massive effort by Tarantino to continue to outdo himself in terms of story, scale, and retelling history.  For me, Inglourious Basterds wil remain my Tarantino masterpiece.  It will be interesting to see what he will do next, as it seems that his tendency to make films in homage to other films is becoming rather tired. Django Unchained places Tarantino at an artistic crossroads of sorts, and it will be his choice to break free from the chains of his own art, much like Django succeeded in doing within this film.

Rating: B+, for effort and creativity.

The Master & Other Things That Make Middle America Uncomfortable

28 Sep

Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman in The Master.

After reading various inadequate reviews of PT Anderson’s The Master, my urge to comment on what I believe is one of the most subtly brilliant films of the year is more pressing than ever.  When I saw the film last night, several people in the theater proclaimed that The Master was in fact “the worst movie” they had ever seen.  Let us keep in mind that I saw this film at a Cinemark chain theater in suburban Colorado Springs. When I saw PT Anderson’s last film, There Will Be Blood, it was in a room full of aspiring filmmakers and writers at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.  These are extremely different environments for watching film, and I suppose my privilege is showing when I say that watching a film at NYU’s premiere arts school is much preferred over sharing a room with baby boomers whose biggest concern is living long enough to be able to collect their Social Security benefits.  My mother, bless her sweet soul, said she “should have seen the new Viola Davis movie about the teachers.” Sorry mother, but not every movie is about feeling good, nor should it be.

The Master opens with a stunning shot of an ocean’s blue-white tide, stirred by the engines of a World War II naval ship, the USS Missouri.  Freddie Quell, an emaciated, decidedly creepy-looking Joaquin Phoenix, is aboard the ship, at one point laying in a crooked Christ-like repose on the bow. Quell, we learn right away, is a severe alcoholic and a sexual deviant of sorts. In one of the opening scenes, Quell climbs atop a nude woman molded from the sands of whatever Pacific beach he and his fellow seamen camp out on, thrusting excitedly, much too excitedly for the amusement of his peers.

When Quell gets discharged from the Navy as the war ends, his mental state is evaluated by a Naval officer.  The officer shows Quell a series of Rorschach ink blots, with Quell’s descriptive answers consisting of “a pussy, a cock going into a pussy,” and a “cock upside down”. Something is wrong with this guy. Perhaps we should already know that, considering he drained the chemicals out of a warhead to get drunk.

When Quell returns to civilian life, he gets a shit job as a photographer in a department store, forced to experience the happiness of others through a lens. One day, he loses it, and gets in a fight with a male customer who says the picture is for his wife.  Quell, perhaps feeling tinges of jealousy due to his lack of real intimacy with a woman, attacks the man and runs away, embarking on a journey that will bring him to the mercy of Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman), the charismatic leader of The Cause. Stumbling onto a party yacht carrying Dodd and his family on the eve of the wedding of his young daughter Elizabeth (Ambyr Childers), Quell imbibes amongst the group until he blacks out, not recalling that he inquired of Lancaster whether any work was available.  What happens next is the beginning of an odd tale of love and commitment, acted out between two very different men.  Dodd, subjecting Freddie to his introductory methods of questioning known as Processing, asks Quell a series of questions, often repeating them until he elicits the response he wants. It is at this point that we learn some deep dark secrets about Quell, although they are not exactly shocking.

It should be remarked that at this time in the film, it is 1950.  The way that year is repeated throughout the film by various characters, though especially by Dodd and his wife Peggy (Amy Adams). 1950 is a hallmark year in movements for self-improvement.  In 1950, L. Ron Hubbard published his work Dianetics, which would lead to the establishment of Scientology as a formal religious movement. The parallels between Dodd and Hubbard are not glaringly obvious, and although The Master is called “PT Anderson’s Scientology film,” the movie does not insult Scientology nor make any overt comments on it.  However, Dodd and Hubbard can both be seen as charismatic, elusive individuals. As the film unfolds, we see Dodd questioned by several supporting characters, perhaps mirroring Hubbard’s experience as being deemed a charlatan in his formative years.  Hubbard, initially a writer of serial pulp fiction articles, was once quoted as saying, “writing for a penny a word is ridiculous. If a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion.”

Dodd, perhaps taking a page from Hubbard, promotes The Cause as a method of self-improvement for man, a way of separating oneself from animals.  Dodd refers to Quell as an animal at several points in the film, further indicating the connection of Phoenix’s character as an id. Dodd, quite naturally, acts as the super-ego attempting to control the wild Quell.

Another interesting item of note is PT Anderson’s choice of casting redheads in the three main female roles – Adams, Childers, and Madisen Beaty, playing Doris, the inappropriately-aged love interest of Phoenix – are all pale redheads. However, in spite of the presence of these women, the real love story is between Freddie and Dodd. Both men form a dependence on one another, although the connection seems stronger for Dodd.

The Master is a veritable example of acting at its best and its worst. Not only do I feel Joaquin Phoenix deserves one of those little gold men we call Oscar, but I also feel it’s clear that his performance in The Master is one almost specially crafted for that express purpose. There is always something irritating about those films that arrive every fall and feature period costumes and people staring intensely at one another; almost in an attempt to make staring a requirement for winning acting awards.

The deep symbolism of The Master is too much to comment on in its entirety, but it is important to note that many critics do not adequately explore the symbolic and metaphoric meaning behind films today. Instead, they often pander to audiences who may find films completely enigmatic.  One critic, Lisa Kennedy  of The Denver Post, actually wrote in her review ‘Why are these women naked, you may find yourself asking.” Really? Are people asking this or do critics simply not give enough credit to filmgoers today? The scene Ms. Kennedy references has Quell envisioning the women at a party scene entirely naked, including Amy Adams, the pregnant wife of Lancaster Dodd.  This scene further solidifies Quell’s unshakeable status as representative of the id which Dodd so greatly despises. Quell, ever the animal, views this party as little more than an opportunity to get laid.

Perhaps the most-asked question about The Master is whether or not the film is about Scientology. Yes, and no. The many hints made by Seymour’s character toward a cult-like religion birthed from a book are quite enough, but they never cross the line into specificity.  To continue discussing the finer points of PT Anderson’s The Master would be a pointless exercise. Anyone who can find the motive to see the film in the first place is likely inclined toward dramatic, complicated films. However, if you find yourself walking out of the theater while saying “This is the worst movie I have ever seen!”, Dredd 3D will likely be playing a few screens down.

A Trailer That Will Make You Crap Your Pants with Joy

23 May

Baz Luhrmann fans, rejoice! Leonardo DiCaprio is Jay Gatsby and Robert Redford can turn it in now.

And there’s a Kanye West/Jay-Z song!!!

Oscar Predictions 2012: A Very Boring Show, Indeed

26 Feb

Just in case you didn’t see any of those things they deemed “movies” last year, you probably had no idea how boring the film season was in 2011.  Tonight’s Oscar telecast is likely to be one of the most boring of ALL TIME! OF ALL TIME! (Kanye West emphasis added.) Billy Crystal is hosting AGAIN, which means there will be numerous corny jokes about Brad Pitt and George Clooney’s “relationship,” and the comic gold that was City Slickers 2: Curly’s Gold. Everything about this year’s ceremony screams of boredom, including this awful poster advertising the awards. Why does Forest Gump look so confused? Does the inclusion of Driving Miss Daisy hint at the Academy’s wish to give awards to (gasp!) black people playing servants this year?

Here are my predictions of winners for the major categories of the night, along with who I think should win:

BEST PICTURE:

The Artist

The Descendants

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

The Help

Hugo

Midnight in Paris

Moneyball

The Tree of Life

War Horse

Will Win: The Artist. Should Win: Midnight in Paris.

Academy voters like The Artist because it brought back the form of film most of them watched as children: silent films.  Midnight in Paris was the best film I saw last year but it will not win because films made by creepy perverts do not get trophies, unless they are made by Roman Polanski.

BEST ACTOR:

Demián Bichir

George Clooney

Jean Dujardin

Gary Oldman

Brad Pitt

Will Win: Jean Dujardin, The Artist  Should Win: Jean Dujardin, The Artist

Apologies to Brad Pitt, but Moneyball was terribly boring and deserves a Razzie instead. Also, get over yourself, George Clooney. We get that your life is fabulous and that you have opinions. No hard feelings.

BEST ACTRESS:

Glenn Close

Viola Davis

Rooney Mara

Meryl Streep

Michelle Williams

Will Win: Viola Davis Should Win: Rooney Mara

The Academy is due to give an award to a “person of color” this year. Every so often the Academy voters pat themselves on the back by awarding a minority actor. And who better to awards than a black actress who dared to play a maid!

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:

Kenneth Branagh

Jonah Hill

Nick Nolte

Christopher Plummer

Max von Sydow

Will Win: Who Fucking Knows Should Win: Nick Nolte?

Jonah Hill might win an Oscar. This sentence blows my mind.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:

Bérénice Bejo

Jessica Chastain

Melissa McCarthy

Janet McTeer

Octavia Spencer

Will Win: Octavia Spencer or Berenice Bejo Should Win: Berenice Bejo

The fact that Melissa McCarthy is nominated for playing a crude fart machine in Bridesmaids shows exactly what is wrong with the Oscars this year. Is nothing sacred anymore?

BEST DIRECTING:

The Artist

The Descendants

Hugo

Midnight in Paris

The Tree of Life

Will Win: Whoever directed The Artist. Should Win: Whoever directed The Artist.

Once again, Woody Allen is not Roman Polanski.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY:

The Artist

Bridesmaids

Margin Call

Midnight in Paris

A Separation

Will Win: Midnight in Paris Should Win: Midnight in Paris

This is hands down my favorite film of 2011, and it deserves all of the recognition possible.  One of Woody Allen’s finest films since Annie Hall.

Live-Blogging the 2011 Academy Awards

27 Feb

The Oscars are tonight, and it’s a bit of a weird thing, especially since many movies were absolutely terrible this year.  I can only think of a few movies that stood out as being award-worthy, but alas, the show will go on!

Return at 6 PM Mountain Standard Time for my Oscar live blog!

And the show begins!

6:00 – 6:30 PM MST: The Pre-show for the Oscars brought us a lot of bad fashion and a lot of good fashion. And hello? Red was everywhere!!! Who looked good? Gwyneth Paltrow, Hailee Steinfeld, Jennifer Lawrence. Who looked awful? Sandra Bullock showed up with what could only be described as a hairstyle one should only wear to mop floors. Scarlett Johansson wore a doily. Anne Hathaway also looked terrible – she needs help now!

Jennifer Lawrence, good.

Sandra Bullock - okay dress, awful cleaning lady hair.

Natalie Portman, cute.

Hailee Steinfeld - age appropriate in Marchesa.

Amy Adams - not so much. Better luck next year.

Did someone else get the red memo? This looks horrible on her tits.

Did anyone else think this dress looked like herpes glued on some chiffon?

Fit for a table top!

6:30 PM: The opening montage features the films nominated for Best Picture.

6:32 PM: The prerequisite film spoof montage has begun. James Franco just looks like he just doesn’t give a shit. Also, Alec Baldwin is there with no reason explaining why.

6:33 PM: “Tell the Winklevoss’s to stop giving me the stinkeye!”

6:34 PM: “I loved you in Tron. And this movie.” – Franco to Jeff Bridges.

6:35 PM: “I have good news from the future. Microphones get smaller.” – Anne Hathaway in The King’s Speech spoof.

6:38 PM: Anne Hathaway and James Franco step onto the stage to host the awards. So what, who cares? James Franco doesn’t care. Not one bit.

6:40 PM: James Franco’s grandma looks exactly like James Franco as a little old woman. “I just saw Marky Mark!”

6:42 PM: Tom Hanks is out to present the first two awards. Cinematography and art direction.

6:44 PM: Winner of Best Art Direction: Alice in Wonderland. Meh, that was the only good thing about that movie.

6:47 PM: Hanks: “These envelopes are works of art in themselves.” What I wouldn’t give for an Oscar envelope. Winner of Best Cinematography: Inception. I concur.

6:51 PM: Wow, Kirk Douglas can walk!!! Ooh, Best Actress in a Supporting Role! So we have Amy Adams, Helena Bonham-Carter, Jacki Weaver, Melissa Leo, and Hailee Steinfeld. I want Hailee to win!

Kirk Douglas: “Colin Firth is not laughing. He’s British.”

6:56 PM: Melissa Leo in The Fighter. Sorry, wrong!

7:00 PM: Is this woman done talking? What an awful speech!

7:00 PM: Why is Justin Timberlake saying that he’s Banksy? Apparently Banksy is supposed to show up at the Oscars sine his film Exit Through the Gift Shop is nominated. Winner of Best Animated Short: The Lost Thing. Never heard of it. Who cares?

7:05 PM: Best Animated Film winner: Toy Story 3.

7:12 PM: Um, what the hell are Josh Brolin and Javier Bardem wearing? Those white tuxes look like shit. Ugh, my uterus is disappointed!

Best Adapted Screenplay winner: The Social Network (Hells yeah!)

Best Original Screenplay winner: The King’s Speech by David Seidler “My father said I would be a late bloomer.”

7:23 PM: Anne Hathaway: “On my own, because someone is a huge jackass.”

7:25 PM: James Franco dressed as Marilyn Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes: “I just got a text from Charlie Sheen.”

7:27 PM: Russell Brand and Helen Mirren present Best Foreign Language Film: In A Better World (Denmark).

7:29 PM: Reese Witherspoon presents Best Supporting Actor. Nominees: Christian Bale, John Hawkes, Jeremy Renner, Mark Ruffalo, and Geoffrey Rush.

Winner: Christian Bale – a sexy, sexy, sometimes ungrateful man. I want to know who Boomer and Carlos are.

7:40 PM: Oh, great. Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman are giving us a history lesson on sound in movies. Blah. And do we really need a live orchestra to play the scores of every movie ever made? Again?

Best Original Score winner: The Social Network. Yay! The same man who wrote the lyric “I want to fuck you like an animal” now has an Oscar. I love America.

7:46 PM: Matthew McConaughey (tan much, Matthew??) and Scarlett Johansson present the award for Best Sound Mixing: Inception.

Best Sound Editing: Inception. Yay sound.

7:54 PM: “Congratulations, nerds.” – James Franco really hates everyone, it seems.

7:56 PM: Best Makeup: The Wolfman – Rick Baker. He’s so good!

7:59 PM: Best Costume Design winner: Colleen Atwood for Alice in Wonderland. This movie needs to stop winning awards.

8:01 PM: Let’s ask a bunch of people what their favorite Oscar-winning songs are! Let’s ask Barack Obama! Ooh, he chose “As Time Goes By”. Props!

Ew, “We Belong Together” from Toy Story 3 is such a horrible song!

This song from Tangled might be even worse! Ugh, it fucking sucks!

8:13 PM: Jake Gyllenhaal and Amy Adams present Best Short Documentary: Strangers No More.

Best Live Action Short Film: God of Love

8:17 PM: “NYU! What’s up!?!” – James Franco. I also want to give a shout-out to my NYU Graduate Film peeps – Safiya, Lucy, Rauzar and Yared! Big ups!

8:19 PM: It pains James Franco to utter the words, “Oprah Winfrey.” So painful.

8:21 PM: Best Documentary Feature, as presented by Oprah: Inside Job. Wall Street bad. Oprah good.

8:28 PM: “Bob was exactly what an Oscar host should be – a really sexy movie star. (pause) Drink it in Hugh, drink it in.” – Billy Crystal

8:31 PM: Robert Downey Jr. looks fucking good. Yes, please.

Achievement in Visual Effects: Inception.

Achievement in Film Editing: The Social Network. (Yes! Another prediction correct!)

8:41 PM: “I’m a little offended by the titles of some of the titled of the films nominated tonight. Winter’s Bone. Rabbit Hole. How to Train Your Dragon. That’s disgusting.” – more gold pouring straight out of James Franco’s mouth.

8:44 PM: Please stop singing, Gwyneth. I promise I’ll keep subscribing to GOOP.

8:46 PM: Randy Newman wins for Best Original Song. Deb says it’s only because “he’s about to drop dead.” Well, he’s been nominated 20 times, and he’s won a whopping two. Just two. Get off the stage, Newman.

8:52 PM: And finally, my second-favorite moment of the Oscars! The “In Memoriam” section! People only respect you when you’re dead! Remember that!

Pete Postlethwaite died? Hmmm….

9:01 PM: Hillary Swank is out on the stage presenting Best Director….with Kathryn Bigelow. Meh, who cares.

Winner: Tom Hooper for The King’s Speech. This means that there is a 90% chance that The King’s Speech will win Best Picture.

9:05 PM: James Franco’s makeup looks awful. He looks like Eddie Munster. And he just seems to care less and less.

9: 11 PM: I’ve decided that James Franco is stoned out of his mind. I love the glassy eyes and how he didn’t even bother to open his mouth when he said, “Jeff Bridges.”

And now, the nominees for Best Actress in a Leading Role: Annette Bening in The Kids Are All Right, Nicole Kidman in Rabbit Hole, Jennifer Lawrence in Winter’s Bone, Natalie Portman in Black Swan, and Michelle Williams in Blue Valentine.

Prediction: Natalie Portman, Black Swan

Winner: Natalie Portman, Black Swan! Duh.

9:19 PM: Sandra Bullock emerges to present Best Actor in a Leading Role. The nominees are: Javier Bardem in Biutiful, Jeff Bridges in True Grit, Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network, Colin Firth in The King’s Speech, and James Franco in 127 Hours.

Prediction: Colin Firth, The King’s Speech

Winner: Colin Firth, The King’s Speech

9:25 PM: “I have a feeling my career’s peaked. I must warn you I have some stirrings in my abdominals that may manifest in the form of dance moves.” – Colin Firth

9:32 PM: And now, the man who owns Hollywood (literally): Steven Fucking Spielberg.

The nominees for Best Picture: The King’s Speech, 127 Hours, Toy Story 3, True Grit, Inception, Black Swan, The Kids Are All Right, The Fighter, Winter’s Bone, The Social Network.

Prediction: The King’s Speech

Winner: The King’s Speech

So, so predictable.

Ah, yes. Yet another year of rich white people presenting other rich white people with shiny awards. Thoughts? Grievances? Leave a comment on Fixed Air.

Redundancy in Hollywood: No Strings Attached and Friends with Benefits

21 Jan

Following the critical success of Black Swan, both Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis chose to make what appears to be the same movie to kick of 2011. Despite the high chances that Portman will win the Best Actress Oscar, her next movie is the fluff piece, No Strings Attached, opposite Ashton Kutcher. The film follows a simple premise: two close friends, a guy and a girl, try to use each other only for sex. Of course it’s a terrible idea and when people attempt a friends with benefits situation, and will always backfire. At least one person (though it usually will turn out to be both) will begin to have these strange things called “feelings” for the other person. A fuck buddy situation is a recipe for disaster.

The first film, No Strings Attached, which I already saw on Friday, follows the recurring meetings of Emma (Natalie Portman), a freshly-out-of med school hospital resident, and Adam (Ashton Kutcher), an aspiring television writer struggling through a “career” as a production assistant on a crappy tv show for teens and living in the shadow of his famous father (Kevin Kline).  I think the movie offered some great laughs and a barrage of lines that will become classics (“Blow is blind”, “It’s like a crime scene in my pants.”) The movie also has a cast of great feminist actresses: Mindy Kaling, Greta Gerwig, Olivia Thirlby, Lake Bell. Overall, cute movie, a little overly sentimental at the end. Here is the trailer:

The second movie documenting an awkward friends with benefits situation is the blatantly-titled Friends with Benefits, starring the less-talented Mila Kunis and the seemingly endlessly talented Justin Timberlake. The only thing I can say for this movie so far is that it portrays oral sex performed on a woman – a much welcome change in Hollywood’s typical fare that indicates men are fearful of down there.  One rule of thumb for whether you should keep a man is if he goes down on women – real men always do, and enjoy it. Losers are scared by cunnilingus. Anyway, JT is looking fiiiiiiiiiinnne in this movie. The trailer for Friends with Benefits:


Inception: Bringin’ Sexy Back

17 Jul

Whatta man, whatta man, whatta man...

I looked forward to Inception for a really long time. Was it worth the year countdown I started when I first saw the trailer last July? I’d say so. The movie is practically one big mindfuck, but can I dare to say that I understood the mindfuck completely? The conversation I had with friends following the movie involved a lot of debate over what was going on. And what exactly was going on? In my mind it’s very nearly crystal clear, but I won’t spoil it for you.

Leonardo DiCaprio (looking extremely masculine and sexy as hell) is Cobb, a former architect of dreams who is offered a huge job by Saito (Ken Watanabe) to plant an idea in the mind of a young man, Robert Fischer, Jr. (Cillian Murphy), set to inherit his father’s energy empire. Cobb is struggling with the memories of his wife (Marion Cotillard) and his goal of eventually being able to see his children again, so he takes the job. In order to plant the idea in Fischer’s mind, he needs an architect to construct a dream so layered that Fischer’s subconscious will not be able to penetrate it. He hires Ariadne (Ellen Page, looking like a fetus amongst great men) at the whim of Michael Caine, who taught Cobb what he does (extracts secrets from people’s dreams).

When the team is finally assembled, experiments with sedatives and wild dreamscapes fill the screen. The visuals were near-perfect, and the cinematography magnificent. For me, the only thing lacking was a more deep, emotional story. It could have gone further on that level. And because it’s a Christopher Nolan film, it simply gets more complicated from there. But the ending, oh boy, the ending is where Nolan really fucks your mind.

Please see this movie. It’s a welcome relief from the crap that has been coming out of studios this year. I don’t have much more to say. If I said anything more you’d probably dislike me for ruining something. I will say one more thing. Joseph Gordon-Levitt (playing Arthur, Cobb’s longtime partner in the extraction business) is an extremely lithe man. Good for him.

I’m likely going to see this movie at least one more time, just to get my theory straight. Check out the trailer, just in case you haven’t watched a TV in the last five months:

Grade: A-

Knight & Day: Tom Cruise is Somehow Still Hot.

7 Jul

Tom Cruise, somehow still hot.

While viewing the latest offering from Scientologist/professional couch-jumper Tom Cruise, I could not help but think: damn, Tom Cruise is still hot. I was truly shocked at how well he has managed to preserve both his face and body. (And it hopefully has nothing to so with a weird Scientologist anti-aging practice – eek.) At 48, Tom still has “it,” whatever that “it” is.

Looking at Cruise’s IMDB page, he hasn’t really been in a lot of movies. Apparently, he’s only been in 33 movies in the last 29 years. That seems a little unbelievable for someone who has been called the biggest movie star in the world. I think my favorite Tom Cruise movie has to be a tie between Interview with the Vampire and Mission: Impossible (the first one). Despite what many people may think, Tom Cruise can actually act, and I am definitely looking forward to Mission: Impossible IV (his next movie, due out sometime next year).

But what is Knight & Day about, you ask? It doesn’t really matter. Basically, Cameron Diaz plays a woman who likes restoring cars trying to go home to Boston for her sister’s wedding. And Tom Cruise is a highly-skilled spy who intervenes in her life only to make things much more complicated. The movie also involves a high-tech item that a bunch of bad guys want (typical), Peter Sarsgaard as a villain (even more typical), and lots of explosions and non-believable jumps from far distances (most typical). This movie was very entertaining and did not need to be anything else, really. Plus, it raised my opinion of Tom Cruise, which had been very low for some years now. It was the Scientology recruitment video that had lowered it for me, in addition to the rumor that he stood no more than 5’7″ and wears massive lifts in his shoes. But he was married to Nicole Kidman (a fellow Amazon goddess) and they never looked too ridiculous together in pictures. Katie Holmes is also around 5’10”, so it can’t really be that bad. Cameron Diaz is also very tall, but she and Cruise look at each other eye-to-eye throughout the movie.

Oh, I also wanted to mention that Cruise still does a lot of his own stunts, which impresses me very much for someone who is considered an old man by Hollywood standards. He also has a really good body and the same cute face he’s had forever. I know how gross this probably all sounds, but if you’ve ever had even the smallest inkling that Tom Cruise was at some point and time attractive, Knight & Day will re-confirm that notion for you. Also, it’s just a good summer movie in a sea of failure that Hollywood is dead set on shoving down our throats this year. It has some pretty funny lines and a lot of Tom Cruise action sequences a la Ethan Hunt.

So God bless America for giving us Tom Cruise, his smile, and his bod. But not so much for the craziness.

Grade: B+

Kick-Ass, Feminist Style

19 Apr

Hit Girl will fuck you up.

The trailer for Kick-Ass did no justice to an amazing piece of comic book movie.  After seeing the trailer at least five or six times, I still had no desire to see this movie. I’ve been disappointed of late in Hollywood’s offerings, though I did thoroughly enjoy Hot Tub Time Machine. I had to be dragged to this movie, but now I’m quite glad for it. It even had one of my favorite actors from Hot Tub Time Machine, Clark Duke. If you don’t know him yet, please Google.

Kick-Ass surprised me immediately – the first scene of the movie reveals the dark humor at play in the movie. I wish I could write a lot more about exactly what happens in the movie, but I’m afraid of giving too much away. Here’s what you need to know: Dave Lizewski is a nerdy high school student living somewhere in New York City. He constantly wonders why no one has ever tried to become a superhero. One of his nerdy friends tells him straight up: “It’s impossible. You’ll be dead in like, a day.” After getting mugged and noticing that someone watched but did not offer help, Dave orders a wetsuit online and invents his own superhero persona, Kick-Ass. Kick-Ass gains popularity when a YouTube video of Dave intervening in a fight makes it online. Dave then creates a MySpace account for people to contact his superhero persona.

I really don’t want to give away any more than that, but I did want to mention the character that completely steals the show. Hit Girl, played by Chloe Grace Moretz, is a 12-year-old ass-kicking powerhouse. Trained by her vengeance-seeking father, Big Daddy (played by a cheekily awkward Nicolas Cage), Hit Girl is the main attraction. From her scary abilities with knives to her tendency to call bad guys “cunts,” Hit Girl exemplifies the powerful feminist message that can often be found in comic books and graphic novels. There has been a bit of controversy surrounding Hit Girl’s potty mouth and unrelenting violence. Many critics have called Hit Girl’s character “morally reprehensible,” but why is that?

Kick-Ass is very much a violent movie, and for a movie based on a comic, it certainly pushes the limit on superhero violence. Before the story of Batman was retold by Christopher Nolan, the violence depicted in the previous films (See: Batman Returns, Batman Forever, Batman & Robin) was very much sterile – there was no blood, and bad guys would get completely knocked out by just one of Batman’s punches. Kick-Ass seems to be commenting on the superhero film from within an insulated superhero meme. The violence that is central to a superhero film is turned completely upside down in Kick-Ass. Dave’s desire to become a superhero is mocked by his friends because, indeed, no one can be a true superhero.  The violence utilized by Hit Girl, Big Daddy, and the rest of Kick-Ass‘s cast is simply the best they can do in order to fight crime. In the case of Kick-Ass, violence is necessary to defeat an impasse of real drug dealers with real guns, and the heroes are required to reciprocate. Hit Girl’s use of knives, guns, and her own bare fists should impress any superhero fan. Hit Girl is the comic book stock character of the strong female fighter on crack. Though I would not recommend taking your pubescent daughter to Kick-Ass (which is rated R), I imagine that every girl close to my age will feel inspired by Chloe Moretz’s character, at least on a minimal level.

I would predict that many will be more shocked by Hit Girl’s use of the word cunt before they even blink an eye at her dazzling knife skills. I found Hit Girl’s prowess to be truly inspirational, and her status as a comic book heroine realized onscreen is something to look toward in future superhero films. Perhaps the forthcoming Wonder Woman movie will take a cue from Kick-Ass and provide Diana Prince with more clothing and a stronger ability to kick ass without a silly lasso of truth.