mag·nif·i·cent/magˈnifəsənt/ (adj.)

1. Impressively beautiful, elaborate, or extravagant; striking.
2. Very good; excellent.

Synonyms: splendid - gorgeous - grand - superb - glorious

WARNING: Some spoilers may be bound but I try to keep them light.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Pitch Perfect (2012)

"Nothing makes a woman feel more like a girl than a man who sings like a boy."

Pitch Perfect (2012) is the latest in the raunchy for-girls comedies that has recently followed Bridesmaids (2011). The story revolves around "alternative" girl Beca, who wants nothing more than to drop out of college and DJ in Los Angeles, as she enters her first year at Barden University where she surprisingly gets wrapped up into the unique world of singing a capella teams on campus. This may sound like a heartwarming drama but it's actually a very raunchy comedy and a modern and new take on the musical.

The comedy in this film is really good. Some jokes are overplayed and some are even too "punny" even for a pun-lover like myself but for the most part the jokes hit the mark more often than not and I found myself constantly laughing out loud at the jokes, situations and humor in this film.

I also enjoyed the references to and subplot involving The Breakfast Club (1985) even if it's kind of predicable I thought it was included kind of nicely and added a cool layer to the film.

Personally I really like Anna Kendrick but I do not think she was cast well for this part at all. Beca is really just a poorly written chalk-line of a fictional character to begin with, but she doesn't even fit that! She passes, it didn't ruin the movie for me and wasn't horrible in my opinion but she really doesn't fit any kind of a bad ass, rebel, dysfunctional girl at all. Seems like a weird combination of bad writing and horrible casting all in one.

The drama in the film, though I appreciate the effort, seems kinda half-assed and doesn't really ever pay off. Namely the whole deal with Beca's dad, Beca's fight with the love interest Jesse. And some of the things really don't come across like they're intended, like every scene with Jesse's roommate, the leader of the Treble-maker's dropping out at the last second and I could have done completely without the quiet Asian girl who turns out to be this awesome beatboxer...?

And lastly there's a couple of really nasty scenes including vomit, that really kind of stick out as things they put in the film just because they could and because there's not enough dirty chick flicks. But Bridesmaids worked it in naturally, the gross parts in this film seem very fake and arbitrary.

The soundtrack in this film is really magnificent, I really enjoyed the wide range of songs used not only in the a capella songs but also in the between moments in the film, I actually wish the soundtrack had some of the other songs in the film besides the a capella

But the one reason above all the others to see this film is Rebel Wilson as Fat Amy. You may remember Rebel from her small but memorable role in Bridesmaids where she was a roommate (kind of) to Kristen Wiig, and she was actually my number one concern going into this film. The trailer made it seem like she was going to be this annoying side character with stupid lines, but I'm very happy to say that she's actually the very memorable side character with all the lines that really make the movie! There's jokes that are over used in this film and then when she gets a crack at it and puts her own spin on it and suddenly they're funny again! Fat Amy is a such a memorable and really hilarious role, it's not often a side character alone makes the movie worth the price of admission.

Pitch Perfect (2012) is one of those rare films where technically there's a lot wrong with it and this and that could have been done better, but this didn't actually bother me that much and I still found the film super enjoyable and entertaining, which at the end of the day is all that matters. 4/5 Stars.

Happy watching!

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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

House at the End of the Street (2012)

"I like the way you see things... I like the way you see me."

House at the End of the Street (2012) is poorly reviewed horror film that is a little confused about what it’s trying to do/be. Elissa and her (newly?) divorced mother just moved away from their previous home in Chicago, into a house somewhere (?) in the woods, they find an house that’s apparently really cheap because next door, years ago a little girl killed both her parents then went missing. Elissa soon discovers the girl’s brother still lives in that house and is treated like crap by everyone in the town.

The film has a good twist, not a great twist mind you, and nothing that hasn’t been done before but it’s at least decently carried out. And although it’s not written well but I also appreciated the attempt to build up and develop the back story and characters.

I found the acting of the two leads to be pretty decent. I really like Jennifer Laurence and this is her first attempt at being a scream queen, I think she did pretty well, but the poorly written script holds her back quite a bit. I was actually really taken by Max Thieriot’s performance as the surviving brother Ryan. He really showed a lot of great subtlety and some good range with very little dialogue. And the two of them have some really decent chemistry onscreen, that’s probably what I liked most about this film. (Pretty bad if I'm saying this and we're only in The Good!

The camera work/editing is interesting, it does some interesting things which I appreciated but often they landed too far off the mark and just seemed like “let’s do this" or "it’ll be cool if…” decisions rather than decisions with any meaning behind them.

The worst thing about this film is it’s about as subtle as a sledge hammer to the skull. House at the End of the Street takes place in a world where people just blurt out things randomly to move the story along, no build up, no reason, no attention to how people actually talk and almost worse there’s many times during this film where people just kind of walk into other peoples houses and do whatever they want. Hey filmakers, I don’t know if you know but… THE WORLD DOESN’T WORK THIS WAY, and it’s also super distracting. Script falls back on a whole lot of horror film clichés (including jump scares, reason-less shakey camera, torture porn settings, serial killer-isms etc.) like so much so that it really just loses itself. A majority of the film plays out closer to a drama that’s just shot like a horror film then the last third of the movie is stuffed full of horror clichés so much so that it’s actually amusing how unoriginal it is. This just all adds up to really lazy writing.

Also negative points because the film builds you up to believe that it’s going to have some profound message (or at least something to say) about bullying and picking on people but then it just drops all that and turns the victim into another faceless psycho. Yay.

Another big problem I had with this film is it just feels like it was trying too hard to be clever, this film attempts to build a “new” Norman Bates or Jason and someone somewhere must have thought that would be a profound thing, the rest of us can see through that.

Sorry to say there’s really nothing I could find magnificent about this film, unfortunately it’s another case of trying too hard to be more than it is.

House at the End of the Street isn’t a horrible movie, but it’s not great either. If it just tried to do it’s own thing more, I think it would have been a lot more successful. Learn from this horror movies, you can’t find success copying what others before you did. 2/5 Stars.

Happy watching!

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Monday, November 19, 2012

Lincoln (2012)

"We're stepped out upon the world stage now, with the fate of human dignity in our hands..."

Lincoln (2012) is a historical film that is very relevant to today, this film has been Steven Spielberg’s dream project for a number of years. Unlike what you might assume from the title or trailer this film isn’t a biography of Abraham Lincoln, it just revolves around the struggle Lincoln had and the strife he went through trying to get the 13th Amendment passed during the last four months of his life.

With an icon like Abraham Lincoln it’d be tempting to want to show how he got that way or things earlier in his life that impacted him and changed the ways he made his decisions. But I really like how Steven Spielberg just focused in on one small part of his life and told a story just around the 13th amendment. I also appreciate how the film made not attempt to canonize Lincoln, he made mistakes and he make choices that weren’t favorable or honest but the film made you look behind his eyes and show that all of this had a huge impact on him personally and this was something he felt was absolutely right and necessary.

Also the film is (obviously) highly historical and very highly political. This could have easily been a big problem for the film attempting to explain some of these things to audiences. But the film does a really good job at breaking down the political process to simpler terms and not attempting to explain who every person in Lincoln’s life is, instead (for the sake of the story) the film breaks down all the major characters into simpler terms, almost showing moral character and stance on the objective more than who they were and what their job was. Which I appreciated because I personally am not by any stretch a history buff, civil war junkie, or in love with the political process but I’m sure if you do fit into any of these categories the film has some extras in store for you.

There is some small things and minor specifics and small things that may be hard to understand for the average viewer but for the most part as I said above, this isn’t the case for most of the film and you will at least understand the "gist" of anything you don’t understand fully.

I really loved the depiction of Abraham Lincoln by Daniel Day-Lewis. Almost instantly you forget you’re watching an actor and you’re immersed the story before you. You can tell he and Spielberg did their research about this historical figure that is so iconic and did their best to depict him as true as possible.

There's a few times in the film where absolutely nothing is happening in frame except people sitting and listening to Abe tell a story or anecdote, but yet it's done in a way that is so captivating and interesting.

I was really blown away by Steven Spielberg’s direction of this film. It was such a subtle and soft movie, mostly the film is just inside with people talking over tables (so if that’s not your thing you might want to skip this but) personally I was just so interested. I enjoyed the very limited use of a soundtrack, used only for impact and to build slowly to a point. And I’m not sure if this was Spielberg’s intention but honestly I don’t think this film could have come out at a more relevant time. I recently discovered that the best Science Fiction stories aren’t actually about the future but more of a statement about the events of the day and state of things when the story was written. I believe this same theory applies to Lincoln this film is HIGHLY relevant to today with the topics of today and the recent 2012 American Presidential Election. I go to a movie usually to escape my day to day but it was very interesting to find a story waiting for me that is so topical and relevant.

Lincoln (2012) wasn’t what I was expecting at all and I really found myself enjoying it. Part biography, part history, part art-film, character study and partially a look at our own political process that I found to be very relevant to today, even 147 years after these events took place. 5/5 Stars.

Happy watching!

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Friday, November 9, 2012

Young Adult (2011)

"Matt, don't you get it? Love conquers all. Have you not seen the graduate or like, I don't know, anything?"

Young Adult (2011) is a character study of someone stuck on the "what ifs" of the past. Mavis is a "successful" writer of a popular series of young adult novels about high school romance, but she's constantly plagued by the thought of her high school love Buddy, that didn't work out. One day something clicks and she decides to return to her hometown and try to win him back despite the fact he's married and has just had his first child.

I really enjoyed the story in this film. After seeing this film I was amazed that no one has ever written about what happens to the popular girl after she leaves town and her high school golden years are over. The script feels a bit different than most of Diablo Cody's screenplays, to me this character seemed a lot more sensitive than most of her other strong and brash females, but it still has a lot of the things that people come to see her movies for also. The script is hilarious and has a lot of really memorable lines and moments that will stick with you long after watching.

This film is going to rub some people the wrong way, but that's part of the intent. I really enjoyed it, and I didn't have any problem with it personally, but I could see how a whole film following Mavis who is a complete and utter mess would turn off a lot of people.

Also the story reaches a point at about the climax where you will realize, there's really not a lot of more places this story can go. And therefore the story pretty much drops off significantly after a certain point. But that being said, I still enjoyed the film immensely.

Young Adult is the second film written by Diablo Cody and Directed by Jason Reitman, some of you may have heard about 2007's smash hit indie drama Juno. You wouldn't almost connect the dots though, this film is tonally quite a bit different than Juno and has a completely different direction and approach to it's story. I adore Jason Reitman's films and like his others', Young Adult is stylish, interesting and has a heartfelt character story at the core of it. This film does an amazing job of seamlessly dancing between pure comedy and pure drama without cheapening one or the other at all. This is something that's not easy to do at all and this is the reason most comedy films these days a) don't sell well and b) aren't critically well thought of either.

The whole cast in this film seems perfect for their roles, but Charlize Theron really seals the deal. She does such a good job of playing a complete mess of a character while likewise showing that she can also spiff up and impress people and be genuinely sexy when she wants to also.

Young Adult (2011) is the result of a collaboration of a great screenwriter, an awesome director and amazing actors. It's story may not be for everyone, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. 4.5/5 stars.

Happy watching!

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