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La La Land Was Bad

31 Dec
LLL d 41-42_6689.NEF

Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone looking very bored in La La Land.

Wow, people really seem to love La La Land.  People love this movie so much that it was actually difficult to find a decent seat in a theater in LA the last few weekends to see it.  What’s going on here?  Why do people love La La Land? What am I missing?

Here’s the thing with me – I often find myself unable to find the suspension of disbelief necessary to properly enjoy a musical.  I am a bit of a misanthrope and I simply find it difficult to believe that humans would jump into song and dance at any moment.  This is for good reason, as I have never seen anyone jump into song and dance in my entire short life.  I have never seen song and dance routines taking place in the post office, restaurants, or on the freeway in traffic.  However, if a song and dance routine played out upon a Los Angeles freeway sounds intriguing, La La Land is the film for you.

Damien Chazelle’s brightly colored film centers on the story of Mia Dolan (Emma Stone), an aspiring actress who works as a barista in a Warner Brothers lot cafe, and Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), a brooding aspiring jazz musician who pays the bills by playing corny piano tunes in restaurants.  The opening scene of the movie is a song and dance routine enacted  by the bored motorists of Los Angeles.  Not only was the song forgettable and useless, but the scene bothered me for another reason.  Apparently the only freeway that Chazelle was able to shut down was the 105, which runs east to west and is located several miles south of Pico Boulevard, running west toward LAX.  Pico Boulevard is relevant here because the people in the film most likely would balk at the idea of traveling south of that street.  They are that lame and self-protective.  To see a collection of people singing and dancing atop the 105 freeway, which runs atop one of the most dangerous and deadly neighborhoods in all of Los Angeles (Westmont), is truly disturbing.  The routine ends when Mia fails to realize that traffic is moving ahead, and Sebastian, perhaps in the only realistic moment of the film, cuts her off and unwittingly gives his future lover a dirty look.

One of the themes of this film is of course love, but I think what is most important about the twist in La La Land is that it does have some cynicism within it.  If anything, this movie would have been better with even more cynicism.  There was something so boring about both Mia and Sebastian, and when you put them together, it’s like watching two pieces of toast fall in love with each other just because the other one is there.  Mia wants to be an actress (duh) and Sebastian wants to be a jazz musician (okay so why isn’t he in New York), but they both are boring and flat characters with no real motivations for doing anything.

Perhaps the most pointless scene in the film comes when Mia gets angry with Sebastian for having to tour with a band nearly nonstop.  She asks him if he likes the music that he’s playing.  Sebastian isn’t sure.  The scene then escalates over this nothingness of a conflict.  Mia is mad that Sebastian will have to keep going out of town while making a living playing music.  Who cares if he doesn’t love what he’s playing?  Who is paying the bills in this relationship?  Is Mia’s job as a barista supporting them?  It makes no sense as to why this scene would serve as the rising action of the film.  Mia is mad at Sebastian for being a responsible adult.  Horrifying.  It then gets even worse, but I will leave the rest of the details a mystery.

There are some redeeming, enjoyable scenes.  The dance scene that took place in Griffith Observatory is perhaps the most memorable.  Most others are forgettable and lacking imagination.  Throughout the film, Chazelle appears to be paying homage to the film musicals of the past, but never quite as strongly as the actual musicals originally did it.

boring-la-la-land

Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling look very bored here.  Appropriate!!!

La La Land also appears to have been slapped together in a short amount of time.  The choreography is very basic and both Gosling and Stone seem stiff.  The ending of the film is perhaps the only redeeming sequence and the only part that gave me some inkling of emotion.  However, I do not think many people will be satisfied with the ending.  In fact, the woman next to me let out a big shrug and exhaled deeply, like she was glad to be done with something taxing.

It did not feel as anyone in the audience was moved throughout this film.  There is a very strange disconnect between the audience and the characters of Mia and Sebastian.  Let’s face it – Mia and Sebastian are carbon copies of stereotypes of stereotypes of what women and men in LA are like.  They are self-absorbed, boring, vapid, and singularly focused on their alleged careers.  This stereotype is true for the most part – people in LA are self-obsessed.  And the ending to this film, in a way, confirms this.  This is perhaps the only redeeming moment of the film – the ending.

Overall, I give La La Land a 4.5 out of 10.  Would not watch again unless it was on TBS ten years from now and nothing else was on.

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Mystery: is Jared Leto Attractive?

15 Aug

Yesterday I saw the new DC Comics movie Suicide Squad.  Overall, it wasn’t very good.  In fact, I have a lot of problems with it.  Perhaps my biggest problem after seeing the movie is that I am now faced with a dilemma that haunts me: is Jared Leto attractive?  I have never been attracted to Jared Leto before.  I had zero opinions on Jordan Catalano.*  I saw him in Fight Club when I was twelve, but my loins only burned for Brad Pitt.  I saw 30 Seconds to Mars live in 2012.  I bought all of their albums and enjoyed them.  But was I attracted to Jared Leto as he sang in an allegedly haunted old theater in Colorado Springs? I don’t think so.  No, in fact, I know so.  I have never been attracted to Jared Leto.

But yesterday, something changed.  Perhaps it’s a visceral change that took place within my body, in an involuntary manner.  But it finally happened.  I was attracted to Jared Leto.  He was in costume.  He was in full-body makeup.  His hair was dyed lime green.  He was wearing a very strange silver “grill,” as the kids would say.  He had a face tattoo that said “damaged”.  There was no denying it in this moment.  I was in love for two hours.  I am upset that most of the Joker’s scenes were cut from the movie.  I want to know more.  I need to see more. I yearn, I pine, I scream inside, for this….

Jared Leto Joker 1

I forgot about this too…

Jared Leto Joker 2

Let the record show that on August 14, 2016, I, Heather Marulli, was finally attracted to Jared Leto.  This is a day for the history books.

*I did, however, have very strong opinions on Heath Ledger and I probably watched 10 Things I Hate About You and A Knight’s Tale hundreds of times because he was indeed, an undeniably beautiful man.  However, I did not find Ledger attractive as the Joker.

Tarantino and His Love Affair with the N Word and “Bitch” in The Hateful Eight

8 Dec
Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Bruce Dern in The Hateful Eight

Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Bruce Dern in The Hateful Eight

Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight is now playing in theaters, and the film raises numerous questions about the director’s goals and messages intended in this work.  The film is being shown in 70 mm film, in line with Tarantino’s love of the medium, and it also stars several of Tarantino’s favorite recurring actors, including Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, and Samuel L. Jackson.  What I took away from this film is that Tarantino essentially wants his audience to be disgusted by the things they are amused by.  This includes the use of racially-tinged language, violence against women, and rape.  Tarantino wants us to look at ourselves in a way that he first hinted at in Inglourious Basterds.  Unlike the revenge films of Tarantino’s earlier canon, The Hateful Eight is modeled more on a mystery whodunit.

Many people are already saying that this film is racist and misogynist.  However, Tarantino’s message is exactly that our society is racist and misogynist.  The action of the film follows John “The Hangman” Ruth (Kurt Russell), a bounty hunter who captures Daisy Damergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh), for murder.  Ruth’s intention is to take Daisy to Red Rock to be hanged for her crime, but a blizzard impedes their travels, causing the two to have to seek shelter at Minnie’s Haberdashery.  We never really learn any of the details of who Daisy killed, which is key to the understanding of how Daisy is supposed to function.  Leigh plays Daisy as a disgusting, foul-mouthed wretch, and within the first few minutes of the film, Ruth elbows her in the nose, calling her a “bitch” who needs to “shut up”.  This moment should frighten the audience.  Our hero character, Ruth, may not be trustworthy in this moment, and the remainder of the film is a slow-burning mystery that is not revealed completely until the last scenes.

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from this film is that the audience is made to feel uncomfortable in various ways.  The most obvious way is Tarantino’s use of the word “nigger,” which appears around seventy times in this film.  It’s not simply the use of the word that is bothersome, it is the comical and drawn-out manner in which the word is uttered by several of the actors that makes it unpalatable.  Several actors pronounce the word more like “niggaaaaahhh” to place strong emphasis on what they are saying.  This choice may appear to be insensitive, but I found it very purposeful and indicative of the way that Tarantino wants his filmgoers to question the use of language.

The treatment of Jennifer Jason Leigh’s character is also highly effective in drawing out Tarantino’s intended messages on misogyny.  We never learn the nature of the murder that Daisy commits, nor do we really know anything about who she is, except for small hints of a colorful personality.  John Ruth intends to take her to Red Rock to be hanged, but in the interim, Ruth has no problem with striking Daisy with brute force, calling her a “bitch” each time.  The first time Ruth hits Daisy, a game is established.  The other characters use Ruth as a punching bag.

Tarantino certainly does not hate women. He is not a misogynist by any means, as we can see that from the numerous examples of strong women in his previous films – Mia Wallace in Pulp Fiction, The Bride and O-Ren Ishii in Kill Bill, and Shoshanna Dreyfus in Inglorious Basterds all come to mind.  Tarantino worships these women, and his characters are strong and multi-faceted.  Daisy is no different, who is strong in her own way.

Near the end of the film, the crux of  the action is revealed by a character.  Oswaldo Mulberry (Tim Roth) delivers some very critical lines about justice versus frontier justice.  When speaking to Daisy, he explains that when there is a murder and a trial takes place, followed by a hanging, that is true justice.  However, if no trial takes place and the people take control of the matter, simply hanging the accused in the town square, that is “frontier justice”.  This film is thusly more about the application of “justice” and how we apply it to the violence of today.  Is it right to simply go ahead and hang someone without knowing their intentions or the validity of their guilt?  Or is it more wise to hold a trial and act fairly?  This is the question that the audience is left to ponder, and Tarantino is making a very valid point.  Should we flay the filmmaker for his use of jarring images and offensive words?  Or is he trying to deliver a deeper message?

This is a very difficult film made by a director and writer who does not shy away from difficult subject matter.  For hardcore Tarantino fans, this film will be appreciated as a part of his canon for years to come.

Mistress America is Us; We are Mistress America

17 Aug

Brooke Cardinas

The new Noah Baumbach-directed comedy Mistress America is a hilarious reflection of our current narcissistically focused culture.  Written by Baumbach and his girlfriend Greta Gerwig, who takes a hilarious turn as the overwhelmed and thinly spread Brittany Cardinas, Mistress America is a quick-witted take on the life of a 30-year-old woman struggling to make something of herself.

We first meet Tracy, an 18-year-old Barnard student with aims of making the literary society.  She finally meets the inspiration she needs in the form of Brooke, who is due to become her stepsister when Tracy’s mother marries Brooke’s father.  After calling Brooke, the two meet up and Tracy becomes entranced by the confident and seemingly very worldly young woman who will become her stepsister.  Tracy begins researching Brooke, finding out that she moonlights as a SoulCycle instructor and schmoozes with the who’s who of New York’s creative scene, jumping onstage with bands and name-dropping people she knows.  Tracy’s fascination results with her writing a short story based on Brooke, describing her as a young woman “dragging the corpse” of her youth behind her as she tries to make something of herself.  The title of the short story lends itself to the title of the film.

Brooke’s focus for her future is an investment in a restaurant she wants to call Mom’s.  Her rich boyfriend Stavros, who never appears onscreen (lending to the possibility that he does not exist) is helping Brooke with her portion of the investment.  When Stavros pulls out of the investment, Brooke is left to scramble for $75,000.  She immediately consults a medium, who tells Brooke that she has unfinished business with someone with the initials M.C., who turns out to be Brooke’s former best friend, Mamie-Claire, who stole an idea for a flower print t-shirt from Brooke, reaping the profits, and also married Brooke’s former boyfriend, the very rich and Falstaffian Dylan.

Mistress America

The resolution of the plot comes following an extended scene in Mamie-Claire and Dylan’s modern manse in Greenwich, Connecticut, which Brooke deems as an awful place.  What is most impressive about this film is the committed performances by each actor, but most especially Greta Gerwig, who gives Brooke a boundless energy punctuated by ridiculous dialogue and wayward glances.  Lola Kirke, the younger sister of Girls actress Jemima Kirke, is capable in her role as Tracy.  Another highlight is Heather Lind as the clueless and rich Mamie-Claire, who admits to stealing Brooke’s t-shirt idea of a “hard flower” print.

The dialogue in Mistress America is nearly breathless, with each character, although especially Brooke, spouting endless gems.  At one point, Brooke, almost quite elegantly, describes how as time progresses, our wants become greater and the possibility of fulfilling those wants appears to become less likely.  Gerwig gives her character a moment of quite reflection as she stares off into the ether, saying that “all we have left is wants”.

Brooke Cardinas stands as a symbol for young women (and even some young men) who wish to do something with their lives, yet face endless challenges to getting on their feet.  Mistress America is really a portrait of the struggling millenial who hopes to one day make a living at something they love, yet continues to see that possibility shrink with each passing year.  We are all Brooke Cardinas, in some way.

Although Mistress America is out only four short months after Baumbach’s While We’re Young,  this film shows exactly the reach that he has as a director with his real-life girlfriend helping him with both the screenplay and her performance.  Alongside Greta Gerwig, Noah Baumbach is truly reaching his apex as a filmmaker.

Mistress America: 8.5 out of 10

Question: Is Overboard the Greatest Movie of All Time?

24 Apr

Overboard

Answer: it is quite possible that Overboard is the greatest movie of all time.  There are several reasons for this, which will be outlined below in a convenient listicle.  For those readers who may be unfamiliar with the 1987 Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn comedy, I feel nothing but sorrow for you.  This is a film filled with hilarity, life lessons, and a great 1980s-style switcheroo plot. HBO Go was recently streaming Overboard, which means you have no excuse to not watch it immediately on some type of streaming platform. DO IT NOW.

For those of you who have not seen Overboard, the film tells the story of Dean Proffitt, a widower father of four crazed boys who works as a carpenter by day and in various odd jobs at night in order to support his family.

On a fateful day, Dean is called out for a job to build a closet on the yacht of a very wealthy couple, Joanna Stayton (Goldie Hawn, in her comedic and physical prime), and Dean Stayton (Edward Hermann).  Joanna, wearing some of the most ridiculous 1980’s fashions and constantly berating Dean, is a classic rich bitch.

After she refuses to pay Dean for not building her closet to her standards, Joanna falls OVERBOARD her yacht when she drops her wedding ring and attempts to retrieve it. Joanna is then found the next day, but she is suffering from amnesia and has no idea who she is.  Dean, seeing the news report on Joanna, goes to the hospital claiming that the woman is his wife, using knowledge of a birth mark he saw on Joanna’s bottom as proof that he knows her in the biblical sense.

Joanna, renamed Annie Proffitt, then learns the real hard knocks of life, including raising Dean’s kids, cooking, cleaning, and more.

Here are solid evidentiary reasons why Overboard just might be the greatest movie of all time:

1.  The reasoning behind the use of cedar closets, as told by Goldie Hawn’s character, Joanna Stayton, pre-amnesia:  “Because one would think that you would know that closets are made of cedar…the entire civilized world knows that ALL closets are made of cedar.”

2. “I’m a short, fat, slut”. – Goldie Hawn realizing her new reality as Annie Proffitt while wearing one of Annie’s oversized dresses.

3. Goldie Hawn’s outfits before she falls “overboard” her yacht.

Goldie Hawn as Joanna Stayton

4. Kurt Russell’s bulging muscles.

Kurt Russell

5. Amnesia – what was more funny in the 80’s than a good old-fashioned case of amnesia and the comedic effects of a switcheroo?  This is second only to body-swapping films of the 1980’s.  (Does anyone remember Kirk Cameron and Dudley Moore in Like Father Like Son?)

When you really think about it, the plot of Overboard would really never happen, because what Dean did is kind of creepy…but he gets away with it because he’s hot.  Ah, the 80’s – a time I barely remember because I was an infant.  Please watch Overboard for a dose of nostalgia!

Things I Am Thankful for This Holiday Season

21 Dec

We are at the end of another year as the inevitable passage of the invented construct of time barrels on. At times,  it can be very difficult to set aside one’s ruminations and neuroticism and simply acknowledge all of the things that we can be thankful for.  This holiday season, here are the things that I am thankful for:

1. Comedy

This year I finally decided to try stand up and I have been going onstage several times per week since January.  Stand up is an art form that I appreciate for its bravery and honesty.  Plus, I am willing to talk about almost anything onstage, including my relationship (which is not the best) and my family background (also not the best).  In 2015, my goals include performing at more venues and entering submissions for comedy festivals.

2. Film

Chef Poster

This year brought us some interesting films, although I would not say this was a landmark year for movies.  Some of the films that were highlights in 2014 were Chef, The Skeleton Twins, Fury, Interstellar, Whiplash, and what I would say was the best movie of the summer, the little-seen Tom Cruise action movie Edge of Tomorrow.  

3. Bacon and Egg Bagel Sandwiches

There is little more heavenly on earth than a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich.  Put that on an asiago bagel, and you will be making love to that thing with your mouth. In 2015, I plan on cutting back on these pieces of heaven.

4.  Podcasts

Mental Illness Happy Hour

I recently started listening to podcasts at work and they can be a great way to make yourself feel like you are not totally slaving away for someone else.  Some of my favorites are: The Mental Illness Happy Hour hosted by Paul Gilmartin, which should be required listening for any adult wanting to improve themselves or discuss the battles in their heads; Lady to Lady, hosted by LA comics Tess Barker, Barbara Gray, and Brandie Posey, which features a guest and hilarious discussion about all things lady-related; Serial, the hit Sarah Koenig-hosted podcast discussing the murder of 18-year-old Hae Min Lee in Baltimore in 1999 and the murder conviction of her ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed; Girl on Guy hosted by Aisha Tyler and discussing all things pop culture, comedy, life, and stuff guys dig.  If I had to choose one, it would be The Mental Illness Happy Hour.

5. Employment

We all hate our jobs at some point or another, but being steadily employed for  a long period of time is something that we should be thankful for in this volatile world.  Many people also live in poverty, and those of us who have the fortune of being able to work and support ourselves need to think of this when we complain about silly things like someone getting our coffee order wrong.

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.

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.

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-