Monday, December 19, 2016

On Jackie

(Spoiler alert: spoilers ahead)

Who is the real Jackie Kennedy?  This is the question reporter Theodore H. White (Billy Crudup) and the film presumably want to answer.  As the reporter finds out, and the film argues, the answer is...complicated.

Like many of the best biopics, Jackie focuses on a representative chapter of its subject's life rather than skimming through the entire story.  This movie depics White's interview with Jackie Kennedy (Natalie Portman) in the time following the assassination of JFK.  But as we soon learn, this interview, like every aspect of Jackie's life, will be carefully filtered, trimmed, and polished.  Jackie puffing a cigarette while declaring that she doesn't smoke, combined with Portman and Crudup's acting, firmly establish the Jackie as White's one and only editor.

Friday, December 16, 2016

On Collateral Beauty

(Spoiler alert: spoilers ahead)

There's a point in Collateral Beauty when Will Smith tells Ed Norton, "I'm disappointed in you."  That's exactly how I feel about everyone who signed on to this disaster.

Collateral Beauty is the kind of movie you want to like!  The cast is spectacular.  The trailer gives the appearance of a sappy, Oscar-bait movie that nonetheless uplifts you with warm and fuzzy feelings.  Unfortunately, the Collateral Beauty trailer is one of the most deceptive trailers I've ever seen.  After seeing the movie, I tried to describe the plot to my girlfriend; she initially assumed I was making it up, because there was no way actors of this caliber would possibly agree to make a movie so catastrophically nonsensical.  This movie's plot is, quite literally, unbelievable; unfortunately it is all too real, and the kind of movie that's only worth your time if you're a fan of the "so-bad-it's-good" genre.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

On Cafe Society and Ghostbusters

(Spoiler alert: Spoilers ahead)

Cafe Society
In retrospect, it seems pretty crazy that Jesse Eisenberg didn't star in a Woody Allen Movie earlier.  Eisenberg's condescending neuroticism is exactly what Woody Allen oozes, and what Allen spent years trying to wring out of other actors.  Even if i'm not the biggest fan of Eisenberg's mannerisms, and even if I was only lukewarm about his character in the movie, it was fun to see Eisenberg make it feel like a young Allen himself was on screen.

Friday, June 17, 2016

On Finding Dory

(Spoiler alert: Spoilers ahead)

Sequels of all-time classics are really hard to pull off.  What made the original a classic is usually some combination of finding unexplored territory within a genre and executing flawlessly; those hard enough to pull off a first time, and even harder to pull off a second time.  For every Toy Story 2, there are 100 sequels that are made to greatly diminishing returns.  While Finding Dory is probably better than your average movie in the latter group, it definitely is not part of the former group.

Friday, June 3, 2016

On The Nice Guys

(Spoiler alert: spoilers ahead)

Usually the thrill of a Noir film is in its protagonist(s) constantly succeeding in escaping sticky situations.  The Nice Guys manages to create an appeal out of seeing the protagonists constantly fail their way in and out of said situations.  It's a nice play on formula that works because of how good the acting is.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

On "Mr. Right"

(Spoiler alert: spoilers ahead)

It takes a lot to make me intensely dislike a movie featuring Anna Kendrick; she's one of the few people for which i'll watch a movie just to see her.  That makes it all the more disappointing that Mr. Right is such a colossally inept film.  Nobody should waste money on this trainwreck.  The plotting is inane, the characterizations are inconsistent at best, baffling at worst.  Several moments in the film made me audibly groan, or throw my hands up in bewilderment.  This is one of the rare times where you wonder how exactly someone greenlighted a script this misguided.

Monday, March 28, 2016

On Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice

(Spoiler alert: Spoilers ahead)

There's a moment in the titular fight scene of Batman vs. Superman in which the camera pauses on Superman's face.  It briefly appears as if he's had a moral realization and might try to reach for something deep.  Instead he returns to his pointless, CGI-filled fight with Batman.  That scene more or less summarizes my frustrations wit Dawn of Justice.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

On Zootopia

(Spoiler alert: Spoilers ahead)

There's a scene in Zootopia in which red fox Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman) wants to join the animal equivalent of the boy scout troop.  He shows up for his first meeting, only for them to tie him down, put him in a muzzle, and taunt him mercilessly.  The other animals are prey, whereas Nick is a predator.  In this scene, the supposed prey verbally assume the worst in the supposed predator, but their actions paint the prey as the true aggressors.  The bullies are accusing the bullied of being too dangerous.  It's a metaphor for the some of the ways minorities are oppressed in America, and a nice encapsulation of the movie's central conceit that outside appearances rarely tell the whole story.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

On Hail, Ceasar! and Deadpool

(Spoiler alert: spoilers ahead)

Hail, Caesar!
In an act of not so subtle foreshadowing, Hail, Caesar! opens with crisis-management "fixer" Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin) giving confession, followed by driving through heavy rain to put out a fire involving one of the actresses at the studio for which he works.  The rest of the movie bathes in the resplendent Southern California sun, but raindrops keep falling on Eddie's head.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

On the 2016 Oscars

The Pics
(Spoiler Alert:  Spoilers Ahead)

In high school, I remember reading about how when Upton Sinclair wrote The Jungle he aimed for the public's heart and instead hit it in the stomach.  To me, Concussion suffers from the opposite problem - it makes the viewer feel heartbroken when it should've tried to make us feel queasy.  I badly wanted Concussion to be a great movie, because the it covers a story that has deserved more attention for a long time.  Unfortunately, Concussion is an absolute mess of a movie.  On a micro scale, Will Smith's accent is all over the place, and its bizarre obsession with super close ups of the characters' faces is downright claustrophobic.  On a macro scale, I was disappointed because the movie is more focused on being a character study of a quirky outsider than on blowing the whistle on institutional atrocities.  It only pays lip service to the NFL's biggest villains - from the film alone you would never know that Paul Tagliabue and Roger Goodell were zealous participants rather than passive onlookers in suppressing concussion research.  The film wastes time on subplots about Dr. Omalu's personal life that could've been spent taking the NFL to task for its ruthless internal workings - and even when it tries to do this, the dialogue is too woefully subdued to match the real life stakes it aims to depict.