Sunday, June 17, 2018

Up in the Air (2009)

Director: Jason Reitman
Writers: Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner; based on Water Kirn's book

Cast:
Ryan Bingham- George Clooney
Natalie Keener- Anna Kendrick
Alex Goran- Vera Farmiga
Craig Gregory (oh yeah, never trust a dude with two first names)- Jason Bateman
Ryan's sister, Kara- Amy Morton

Ryan's sister, Julie- Melanie Lynskey
Jim, Julie's fiancé- Danny McBride

Awards and Nominations:
nomination-OSCAR- Best Picture (lost to The Hurt Locker)
nomination-OSCAR- Best Supporting Actress- Anna Kendrick
nomination-OSCAR- Best Supporting Actress- Vera Farmiga (lost to Mo'Nique- Precious)
nomination-OSCAR- Best Actor- George Clooney (lost to Jeff Bridges- Crazy Heart)
nomination-OSCAR- Best Director- Jason Reitman (lost to Kathryn Bigelow- Hurt Locker)
nomination-OSCAR- Best Adapted Screenplay (lost to Precious)
Golden Globe- Best Screenplay
nomination- Golden Globe-Best Supporting Actress- Anna Kendrick
nomination- Golden Globe- Best Supporting Actress- Vera Farmiga (see above)
nomination- Golden Globe- Best Actor- George Clooney (see above)
nomination- Golden Globe- Best Picture- drama (Avatar took them to the cleaners! ...oh yeah, that was the year RDJ won for Sherlock Holmes)
nomination- Golden Globe- Best Director- Jason Reitman (lost to James Cameron)

...
some mild spoilers ahead...
...

First off, I’d been meaning to do this post for a while. The motivation has always been the same and I’ve meant to do it around this time but I’d always run out of time or another project caught my attention. But currently going through traffic coming home from the shore house (riding shotgun so you don’t get the idea I’m typing and driving) I’m making time to do it finally.

Have you ever had a movie where you completely see yourself in it, saying “this character is living my life”? While it isn’t a perfect 100% DNA match, my dad loves this movie because George Clooney spends as much of his life on the road as he does. And he can relate to the business of flying so many days out of the year, being efficient about packing luggage, getting through security in a timely manner and, of course, racking up as many frequent flyer miles as possible. It’s all about the miles. While my dad goes internationally (mainly Asia with the occasional sidebar to Europe- not on the same trip, of course) to sell product as part of the metalworking industry, Clooney racks up his miles domestically in a completely different business- firing people.


Watching the movie this latest time, I didn’t even realize that it was inspired by the unemployment crisis that kicked off in 2008 when the housing market collapsed... it's been 10 years now and now that I’ve been working consistently for a couple years now that it’s easy to forget the past. But now recognizing that Clooney’s line of work in this movie is connected to that and I think some of the people in it that were fired weren’t actors but people who’d gone through this rough transition period, it gives me a little more appreciation for it. (According to IMDb, the real people were people that didn't have dialogue with the main actors in the movie).


So this business flies people around the country to various corporations where they fire employees for said corporations (to paraphrase what Clooney says in the narrative) because they are too cowardly to do the firing themselves and leaves them with a packet and words of wisdom like “anybody who ever built an empire or changed the world sat where you are now and it's because they sat there that they were able to do it” (I had to double check I had this quote exactly right because it's important).

The movie starts to kick into its plot because of Anna Kendrick. She plays a college graduate who has the idea to revolutionize this business- using video conferencing to fire people rather than flying people around the country. Of course Clooney hates this idea because it threatens his way of life. He has family that he isn’t particularly close with and is a confirmed bachelor and he travels to avoid having any serious human connection. He also does motivational speeches about avoiding commitment where you stuff all of the things in your life into a backpack, feel how heavy it is and that alone is reason enough not to have any attachment to anything. Moving is living. One speech involves things/objects and the other involves people in your life starting with casual acquaintances and working up to spouses and children. And one involves you setting the backpack on fire and realizing how invigorating that is- don’t worry, he does clarify this.
So he has Anna Kendrick along for the ride and shows her what they do. While she’s working on an algorithm to simplify the process, as brilliant as it sounds in theory, dealing with people in person isn’t as easy as one would think. Along the way, Clooney also meets Alex (played by Vera Farmiga in the first role we all saw her in) who seems to lead the same life he is.


The core trio of cast members are all brilliant at their roles and earned Oscar nomination. While Clooney is cynical, the idealism of Anna Kendrick does get through to him later in the movie- for better and for worse. It does kinda help him develop and change as a character but for me, one aspect of the movie gets ruined in the final few minutes.
The spoiler is about Alex and the truth about her life that comes out when Clooney makes this grand gesture to see her at home to say how he feels. (Why does it always seem like these grand gestures always derail these movies?) To this day I still don’t understand it...
He goes to see her and find out that she’s married and has a family. She calls him up from a parking garage days later and has the nerve to tell him off, saying he could have screwed things up for her. Not once does she even mention this to him...seriously, why? And why doesn’t he say that he has nobody back home that he’s cheating on with her? It’s no wonder she got cast as Norma Bates because that’s totally something she would do.
With all that going on, he finally achieves a goal he’s been working towards, the business needs to reconsider Anna Kendrick’s idea when something tragic befalls one of the hundreds of people they fired, he’s at a bit of a crossroads at the end of the movie...but it offers a lot of interesting possibilities where you can fill in your own blanks- much like the people at the end that are collectively interviewed about their transitioning period.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Theatrical Review: Solo- A Star Wars Story

Date: Sunday June 3 2018
Location: Cinemark Theater at Stroud Mall
Time: 11:35am
Party: 3 (my mom, sister and I)

Director: Ron Howard
Writers: Jonathan and Lawrence Kasdan
Composer: John Williams

Notable Cast:
Han Solo- Alden Ehrenreich
Kira (ok, it's spelled Qi'ra officially, but I don't care)- Emilia Clarke
Chewbacca- Joonas Suotomo
Tobias Beckett- Woody Harrelson
Lando Calrissian- Donald Glover
Dryden Vos- Paul Bettany
L3-37- Phoebe Waller-Bridge (she'd never forgive me if I left her out- you'll see why later)


Duration: 135 minutes (+ 7 trailers... that seems to be a common thing now, 7 trailers at this place..)

Opening Remarks:

Two weeks after this movie came out (and the day after we saw it), the local DJ rejoiced "Star Wars is dead!"... stating how poorly this movie did at the box office and drawing attention in particular to the sharp decline from the first to the second weekend... The first weekend it only made around 90 million and the following week, it was closer to 30.

I'll start in saying this movie wasn't THAT BAD. And box office numbers aren't everything. It's just that not as many people are going to the movies anymore, whether they'd rather just stream or wait for it come on cable or they're just sick of movies in general... unless of course they're from the Marvel universe or Deadpool :P

It was the second week and there weren't many people in the theater. Maybe a dozen... and we were there early enough to get good choice of seats.

Trailers:

:sigh: almost all of these were the same trailers at the Avengers movie... so that annoyed me from the get-go. It's hard to be excited about new movies if it's the same trailers all the time.

Venom, Jurassic World, The Incredibles 2 and Ant-Man I'd already commented so, so I won't add anything more to that.

Mile 22 was a Mark Wahlberg movie and I think it's about a deadly weapon that gets stolen and needs to be retrieved... I don't remember much about it, but it's not my type of movie anyway

Mowgli, I don't know if it connects to the Jungle Book live action movie. Although they do have Cate Blanchett voicing the snake again, so I think they are connected. And he's living with man, but is also trying to figure out his identity and place in the world. It looks kind of intense for something based on an animated Disney film, but it also looks impressive.

Then there's a Queen/Freddie Mercury biopic called (what else) "Bohemian Rhapsody"... now that looks impressive. I've already heard some good things about it in passing and how the guy playing Freddie Mercury really nailed it.
...it also makes me hope that they never do this with Prince... he already did a biopic, it's called "Purple Rain"... ok, it's semi-autobiographical and the people in it are only one side of the personalities of those people in real life. Even Prince is playing a version of himself, but not being completely himself. The story itself has some truth to it, but the actual events that happened in the movie didn't actually happen in real life... yeah it's complicated, just no biopics for Prince, please, he deserves better...

The Main Event:

As one could expect, this is a prequel and origin story of sorts.
We find out how Han Solo got his name (well, his last name anyway), we get early glimpses of himself inability to follow orders and so on. Pretty much everything we know and love about our favorite scruffy looking nerfherder.
There's also a love story arc, but it doesn't go quite the way we expect. Like with a lot of this movie, I don't want to go into full details because you should probably experience it for yourself.
We also find out how Han met Chewbecca... and it's not the way I personally pictured it. I think my mom said in the book series that talks about the characters that Han rescued Chewbecca when he was young. I'm not entirely sure about this, I'm sure she'll correct me once she reads this.

As a whole, the movie started out as very relaxing for me. Which is a weird thing to say about an adventure film. But the fact is that we know Han Solo would survive this no matter what happens had me just hanging back and enjoying everything at face value.
The highlight is Han Solo himself. I'm not as in love with Harrison Ford or the character like my mom is, but I do like the guy. And there was no mistaking this was the same character. It's hard to explain, but this guy just has a certain swagger and self-assuredness that was very easy to like... even when he goes against the flow no matter who he's working with. That guy is just such a natural leader that it's difficult for him to follow anyone's orders other than his own. Heck, he even says to Leia in the first movie "I only take orders from one person: me"

His childhood friend/love interest Kira is an interesting piece of work herself... you never really know what's going on with her. They're both on this planet at the start where runaways are forced into slavery and they're trying to get off the planet. He gets off and she doesn't and he's trying to get back to her. But in the midst of his newest gig, working with Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson pretty much being the typical Woody- but he instills early on how you can never trust anyone and if you expect everyone you know to betray you, you'll never be disappointed... and boy does that become true later on...), he finds her in the quarters of their employer, Dryden Vos (his voice sounded so familiar that it took me a while to figure out it was Jarvis from the Iron-Man movies... of course I also know he was in movies like A Knight's Tale and A Beautiful Mind).
So Kira did get off that planet, but she doesn't seem to be completely free either. And she also comes with Han and Beckett to complete a job. They need to find some valuable raw material and make the Kessel Run in fewer than 20 parsecs to get it somewhere to be refined so it doesn't explode. In order to do that, they need a fast ship and Lando is the one who has it.

Then there's the end of the movie where you don't know where anyone stands... everyone is betraying everyone and all of it seems to be self-motivated... there's also a cameo in the movie and Kira is talking to him via intercom...  this movie is supposed to take place 10 years before A New Hope and this guy died at the end of the Phantom Menace... so I'm a little confused about that... reading the trivia, it sounds like he survived the Phantom Menace.
Maybe this will come to fruition in some sequel in the future, but based on this movie's box office numbers, I'm not sure how much of a possibility that is now.


This movie also dwells into some social commentary... almost a little too much for my tastes...
there's a story arc with this droid L3-37 that works with Lando and she's very into droid rights... there's a scene where she's decrying droid fighting and it made me think about Battle Bots and what it'd be like if these robots actually had thoughts and feelings of their own. She also talks about Lando having feelings for her that she could never return, but also subtly hints that sex is possible between humans and droids... the Internet lost its mind when the people on the movie announced that Lando was pansexual. I'm not saying that I don't want different sexualities explored in movies, but I don't like it when they're doing it to fulfill an agenda.
I will say, though, that the scene where she frees all of the droids, that was pretty epic.

There's also a heavy theme about slavery. How runaways are enslaved on that planet Han and Kira are from. The thing with the droids. But Wookies as well. Chewbecca was a prisoner when Han met him and the two of them escape together and their lifelong friendship formed from that.

As for the Kessel Run... there was talk about it in passing in the first Star Wars movie where Han is asked if his ship is fast and he says "it's the ship that made the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs"... it was kinda cool seeing how that claim came to light.
And also how the Millennium Falcon got to be called a piece of junk by everyone to lay eyes on it throughout the series :P there was actually a point where it looked gorgeous. Then Han got to drive it and he did kinda ding it up a bit.
And true to form as well, Han won the ship from Lando in a card game... but it isn't necessarily the first game the two of them play. Let's just say that Han learns a thing or two from the scoundrels he hangs out with.

Also- it took me until the credits to find that Kira was played by Daenerys from Game of Thrones... I just don't recognize her without that wig :P I'd also only seen Game of Thrones a handful of times... my whole family is really into it, even my dad who isn't really into this stuff... I think I've seen 3 episodes EVER...

Grade: B

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Theatrical Review: The Avengers- Infinity War

Date: Saturday April 28 2018
Location: Cinemark Theater in Stroud Mall
Time: 1:40pm
Party: 3 (my mom, sister and I)

Directors: Anthony and Joe Russo

Cast... oh boy... I might just copy & paste this whole thing

Tony Stark/Iron-Man: Robert Downey Jr.
Steve Rodgers/Captain America- Chris Evans
Thor- Chris Hemsworth
Bruce Banner/The Hulk- Mark Ruffalo
Black Widow- Scarlet Johannson
Peter Parker/Spider-Man- Tom Holland
The Vision- Paul Bettany
Black Panther- Chadwick Boseman
Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch- Elizabeth Olsen
Loki- Tom Hiddlestone
Heimdell- Idris Elba
Star-Lord- Chris Pratt
Gamora- Zoe Saldana
Rocket- Bradley Cooper
Drax- Dave Baustisa
Groot- Vin Diesel
Mantis- Pom Klementieff
Doctor Strange- Benedict Cumberbatch
Sam Wilson/Falcon- Anthony Mackie
Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier- Sebastian Stan
Okoye- Danai Gurira
Thanos- Josh Brolin

Unless there are more people that come up in the movie, that's going to be the majority of them...

Duration: 160 minutes  (+ 7  trailers... trailers started on time, but the actual movie didn't start until 2:02pm)

Write-up:

Introduction

Man, I've been really bad at keeping this blog updated, but I really haven't been to the movies since 50 Shades back in February. Ever since our local theater burned down, I've felt less need to go to the movies and there've been a few I've wanted to see. Isle of Dogs for starters. And with all the success it had, I kinda regret not going to see Black Panther. There'll be another chance, I'm sure... when it comes on DVD and my dad sees it in-flight.
I also have yet to see the new Spider-Man movie. Having RDJ in it wasn't even enough incentive to get me to go. I guess I'm just sick of them trying to remake Spider-Man when Tobey Maguire did it right the first time.

With this movie, I don't have a whole lot of expectations. I've been disconnected from the Marvel universe for some time. It's been a while since the last time I saw an Avengers movie and I gave up Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. after that Ada story arc and the alternate universe. It just drove me too nuts that much of the series was about the team being split apart and fighting all season to get back together. Almost as frustrating as Once Upon a Time always starting a new season with a new memory-wiping curse... I really did love that show and I miss watching it, but it broke my heart one too many times.

And now I'm rambling...

I'd purposely avoiding spoilers, but it's getting rave reviews and on Twitter, I get the impression it's very dark ("and they call DC dark" I think was the quote). There's also talk of a lot of characters being killed off... I mean, losing Tony Stark would be emotional for me, but I'm dying for RDJ to do something other than Marvel. It does sound, though, he is working on a new Dr. Dolittle movie. It has an all-star cast, but of course, he's the only human among them, lol.

Getting into the movie...

This was a first for me. If our local theater hadn't burned down, I'm not entirely sure this would have been avoided. BUT we get there close to 12 for the 12:20 show... they have an electronic sign behind the ticket counter with all the movie times. I noticed within minutes the 12:20 flashing saying "sold out"... I'm like "whoa..." so we immediately get tickets for the next showing and are promptly told to get in line an hour beforehand so we'll get a good seat. An hour beforehand was half an hour of free time... but the line actually wasn't bad and we got really good seats.

Gotta say this for the Avengers crowd at the first weekend of a movie... you'll never find a better movie crowd. They care about everything so much that they will laugh at all the appropriate times in unison and will collectively stay silent when something serious is going down. Hell, I got shushed once during this movie when I was complaining how Spider-Man calls these movies he's referencing "old"... I did not appreciate that. It's not like I was like those little kids at the Beauty & The Beast movie last year that were chatting much of the movie and were promptly shushed when the big song came on. But I guess it's been a while since I'd been in a crowd like this and I'd gotten way too comfortable with interacting with movies. It's not like I do it ALL THE TIME in theaters. (Although I couldn't help but do so when I saw "Let's be cops" and "Ghostbusters" cuz I was the only one in the theater... best time ever)...

Again, I'm rambling...

Then there was the ending where everyone just fell completely silent and whether we said it aloud or not, we had all a sense of "that was it?!"

Trailers

I was able to ID these movies within 10 seconds so I was able to type them into my phone and lock so I could enjoy the rest.

The trailers have been around, but I finally saw Deadpool 2. And it seems like he's trying to put a league together of superheroes. Gee, I wonder where he got that idea... X-Men (which Colossus has been recruiting him for) or Avengers (cuz, you know, it worked so well)... Anyway, it looks like this movie has more of a budget than the last one and I hope they don't try to overachieve too much just cuz they know they have a good thing going.

Crimes of Grindewald- the newest installment of the Harry Potter "Fantastic Beasts" franchise. And it appears Jude Law is Dumbledore... I love Jude, but I don't know if I completely buy it. Cuz Harry Potter is born in 1980 and goes to Hogwarts in the 90's. This franchise takes place in the 20's and maybe 30's... Dumbledore looks A LOT younger here than he does in the Harry Potter franchise. Unless his inevitable duel with Grindewald ages him A LOT, I don't quite see that making sense. But it sounds like Dumbledore is asking Newt Scamander to kill Grindewald because he can't do it. J.K. Rowling said after the books were done that Dumbledore was gay and hinted that he and Grindewald might have been a thing... so I interpret his plea to Newt as "it's not that I can't do it, I just don't want to"...
but it's very exciting for this next movie to come out... too bad it isn't for months.

Mission Impossible: Fallout... WHY?! We don't need anymore of these movies. I'd rather see Jeremy Renner's next Bourne film (that's not a jest, I really do want to see another of those movies from him...)... I didn't know about this movie until ET trailers talking to Tom Cruise about his MI injury and I'm like "another injury?"... this trailer just made me want to see the new Jack Reacher movie that should be on HBO soon.

Venom with Tom Hardy playing the title role... I didn't know about this until I saw the movie posters and we promptly saw a trailer. This looks DARK and terrifying. Something I really have no interest in seeing. Supposedly there is this Indian guy running a company that's experimenting with something called Symbiants, which is some dark substance that takes refuge in the human body and is the next step towards evolution. Tom Hardy gets infected and this substance actually talks back to him in this deep threatening voice and sometimes black fluid comes out of him to attack people around him. Supposedly Venom will become an anti-hero. I know that people are disappointed with how Venom was treated in Spider-Man 3 (among other things...) but completely darkening it up is too far for me. I don't know or care enough about this character (or Tom Hardy for that matter) to proceed.

Solo- we saw this trailer on my dad's iPad ,but this had far better lighting. Woody Harrelson is in it as Han's boss, saying something like "if you expect everyone you know to betray you, you won't be disappointed"... which tells me someone betraying him is why Jabba the Hutt puts such a huge price on his head. And there's a scene with Lando and a card game and supposedly that's how Han gets the Millennium Falcon. My mom of course is excited cuz she loves Han Solo and Harrison Ford and she kinda likes this guy as well, but we'll see when we see the actual movie.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom... going back to dark and terrifying... OH MY GOD... this movie goes way beyond all the previous Jurassic movies. Not only is the island full of dinosaurs being threatened by a volcano, but Blue, the last of Owen's trained raptors gets captured and experimented on and of course, B.D. Wong has to create a new dinosaur (because Indominus Rex worked SO WELL in the last movie). There's a scene where the new dinosaur is in a girl's bedroom... so yeah, this is scary. And is this girl supposed to be Owen and Claire's kid? Why not bring back her nephews from the last movie? (I guess after the last movie, their parents don't want them anywhere near the island or dinosaurs again)...
anyway... it looks terrifying and like nightmare fuel (I'd been saying that a lot lately, although I don't really have nightmares all that much), but cuz I'd seen every Jurassic movie in theaters, I have to see this one. It's tradition.

Incredibles 2... I didn't like the last one that much, so I'm not really looking to see this one either... but the theme is that some organization wants to change the perception of superheroes and they want to use Elastic Girl to do it. Meaning Mr. Incredible is emasculated and has to be a stay-at-home dad. Meanwhile his daughter is going through, what the Quickster called "adolescence" (this franchise I think was closer to PG13 than other Pixar movies, so that's as family friendly as they can put it... although I think "Inside Out" did mention puberty towards the end) and Jack-Jack has a lot of different powers firing off at the same time.

Yikes... now I get the feeling I'm going to be saying more about the trailers than the actual movie. Sorry if that's disappointing...

The Actual Movie

Here's the tricky part... so much happens in this movie, good and bad... that I really don't want to go into every detail. It's one of those movies you just have to see. Especially if you love these movies.
I admit I'd been experiencing "Marvel fatigue" lately with all the movies that had been out... I think mostly because RDJ is stuck doing these movies when he could be off trying to win Oscars... for me, the latest Thor and Guardians installment were kinda disappointing because they either stepped way too far from what made the franchise great or just too dark a turn that I kinda lost faith. "Civil War" was really good and one of the better ones, but it's not the greatest feeling that not like Tony Stark and siding with Captain America when I'd always leaned one way more than the other.
This movie or less took all that fatigue away and now I'm dying for the next volume to come out... because this ending needs to be salvaged and reconciled.

I don't really want to give away which characters run into who because that's part of the fun. And also where they end up going.

Tony Stark and Pepper seem to be planning their wedding... which is amazing to me because in "Civil War," I thought they'd broken up so I have no idea how they reconciled. But needless to say, the events of this movie will put a further damper on things.
And he also winds up confronting a lot of his fears that have been with him since his moment of sacrifice in the original "Avengers" movie... so that's really good closure for his character. Meanwhile, the tech in this movie is RIDICULOUS... how advanced Tony's suit is and all of the extra features his suit for Spider-Man is... it was blowing my mind.
Gotta hand it to this franchise, they step up their technology every time and it's incredible how far we've come in the last 10 years.
Yeah, Iron-Man was released 10 years ago and I don't think any of us could have predicted all this.

Of course one thing people have been clamored for and RDJ had hinted about it on his Facebook page... the two Sherlocks (Downey from the Guy Ritchie franchise- where is Sherlock 3?!! and Benedict Cumberbatch from the PBS series) getting to have actual screen time together. It's pretty awesome. And it reminded me how I really should get Doctor Strange on disc at some point cuz I hadn't seen it since the movies.

On the other side of the galaxy, we have the Guardians. And in true-Guardians fashion, their arrival is announced by a change in music :P and they interact with a couple of different Avengers throughout their screen time. And of course they go how you expect them to... which includes another melee (that was a highlight of the first Avengers movie, so why not?... too bad the timing of it isn't exactly preferable).

If you view this movie in the canon of the whole franchise, seeing it right after the latest Thor movie... let's just say things get very dark, very fast.
Thor is in need of a new weapon to replace his beloved hammer and he gets to visit the forge inside a dying star that Mjolnir came from. I won't give away who he meets there, but let's just say Game of Thrones fans will be VERY happy. And his new weapon is extremely bad-ass.

Then there is Thanos... who had been hyped up since the end credits scene as the ultimate villain of this franchise... you'd think his motivation was just galactic/universal domination. But he has a very interesting motivation that falls almost in line with Dan Brown's Robert Langdon book "Inferno"... his concern is overpopulation, so he wants to obtain all of the infinity stones to rectify that. As far as motivations go, it's actually not too bad. It's well-thought out, actually. In the Pokémon video game franchise, the theme of Black & White was about separating Pokémon from people because certain characters truly believed that they did not benefit from their captivity. That fell in line with the critics of the series that said it was akin to dog fighting. When you really think about it, the antagonists might have a point and if you were in their circumstances, you might believe the same way. However, you have to resist and hold onto your ideals because it will get in way of your happiness and way of life.
I think my overall point to this is that you can side with Thanos and agree with where he's going... but you really don't want to because the price needed to be paid is way too high. Losing people you love and care about.


It was established in the first Guardians movie that Gamora was adopted by Thanos and left him to join the Guardians. Like with Tony Stark, everything kinda goes full circle for her as well and we see how she came into the care of Thanos.

As far as action goes... it's nearly relentless. We get some lulls where there are some good laughs and pop culture references and so on. But the fact the Stan Lee cameo is very early in the movie suggests that things will get pretty dark later on. (and yes, I know I used that word 9 times already... I'll try to stop).

It's incredible to watch, though. It keeps you on your toes. I audibly screamed once or twice because something came out of nowhere. (But in my defense, that has happened a couple of times recently, including one episode of Shadowhunters). The technology is insane and so cool to watch. Just when things look bad for the heroes, others show up to join the fight. We have a scene where all of the female characters get to fight against a common enemy. That was a pretty awesome moment, but I can't help but feel that was planted to pander to a certain demographic. Kinda like this latest trend of having diversity just for the sake of it. Whitewashing in a historical movie where it involves a certain culture or demographic is one thing, that's bad... but feeling the need to include non-white actors and actresses into movies so you can claim "hey, we're diverse, we're good"... to me, it comes off a little forced.
What we need is more good roles written by and for non-white characters. Like Randall in "This is Us" and the movie "Girls Trip" where the writers, director and main cast is black... that's a step in the right direction for sure. "The Good Doctor" also had an interesting episode where one character threatens to sue for unlawful discharge, proclaiming racism and the head of surgery (as black) berates him for an improper use of "the race card" (he was fired because he assaulted another doctor cuz another student said he was inappropriate with her)... he went into a little more detail than that, but I thought that was an interesting moment.

So the fact I am doing a lot of sidetracking kinda suggests I don't really want to talk about certain things in the movie.
As a general rule, I REALLY don't like it when villains are unbeatable. All of them have to have one weakness that gives the good guys a chance to overcome him. Certain parts of this movie were like that, but the camaraderie between heroes and the last minute saves helps with that. But ultimately, that emotional rollercoaster was just toying with our emotions.
The body count (if you can call it that) is substantial. But considering how many of these characters have upcoming franchise installments, it's hard to be completely devastated. Not to mention they did bring a couple S.H.I.E.L.D. agents back from the dead, so it's impossible to kill anyone off, really...

And the fact I'm not a complete wreck but merely just felt numb in all my extremities after the movie ended... that's kinda telling of one of the survivors...
And for those curious, there is a post-credits scene, but it's after ALL of the credits. (Made me wonder how much of the lengthy run time was for credits alone). And it's more fallout from the end of the movie. But there is hope because back-up does get called, but all they give us is a symbol and I have no idea what it is. Who else is there left? Unless they actually bring the cast from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. into the movie as well... that'd be something.

Grade: A (if not for the somber ending, it'd be an A+ easily... probably the best of the whole franchise)

...oh and another thing... why the heck is Black Widow blonde in this movie? Were the movie runner afraid we'd confuse her with Wanda? I'm sorry, that aesthetic change just doesn't work for me.
And the dynamic with Bruce Banner and The Hulk gets even more interesting in this movie-- somewhat of a reverse of how things went down in the latest Thor film. Some of its kinda frustrating, but it also has its entertaining moments.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Theatrical Review: 50 Shades Freed

Image result for 50 shades freed

Date: Saturday February 17 2018
Time: 12:20pm
Place: Cinemark Theater in Stroud Mall
Party: 3 (my mom, one of her friends from the community, and I)
 
Director: James Foley (I looked it up and he is the same James Foley who almost directed Purple Rain- he turned it down and suggested Al Magnoli who went on to do an amazing job with it)
Writers: EL James (novel), Niall Leonard (screenplay) (fun fact: they're married! mind=blown)
Composer: Danny Elfman
 
Cast:
Anastasia Steele- Dakota Johnson
Christian Grey- Jamie Dornan
Jack Hyde- Eric Johnson
Elliot Grey- Luke Grimes
Mia Grey- Rita Ora
Taylor- Mark Martini
Jose- Victor Rasuk
Kate Kavanaugh- Eloise Mumford
Dr. Grace Gray- Marcia Gay Harden
Gia Matteo- Arielle Kebbel
Sawyer- Brant Daugherty (of "Pretty Little Liars" fame)
Prescott- Kirsten Alter
Boyce Fox- Tyler Hoechlin
 
Duration: 105 minutes (+3 trailers)

Write-up:
my review of the previous movies for those who are interested... then maybe you'll get an idea of what kind of review is about to follow
 
Opening comments 
 
A couple of firsts came with this movie.
First, my mom and I had someone else in our party this time. Funny that the other day, she asked if we should include my aunt (who saw all those sci-fi/superhero movies with us) and I said no... and then she comes back from happy hour and says one of her friends wanted to come. I thought for sure it was going to be super awkward, but we were driving in the car on our way there (hit a little traffic, but luckily missed nothing) and she made that same comment and we agreed.
I think what kinda helped was that she sat next to my mom and I was on my mom's other side and I was kinda reacting to the movie on my own without much conversation between us. The funny thing is that instead of us seeing it in our local theater (which burned down a few days after we saw "Despicable ME 3"), it was in a big movie house and yet, the experience was simultaneously being part of a large group and intimate. If that makes any sense...
 
I will say that I didn't care much for the TV promos for this movie... pretty much every one montaged all the scenes where Anastasia was answering to "Mrs. Grey" or saying to call her that... yet in the books, she wasn't so quick to adopt her new married name and it was a point of contention between them. And don't get me started on the use of that Demi Levato song, argh!!
 
As for the actual movie trailers...well, after traffic, and having trouble finding a parking spot (it felt like it was a Black Friday situation except I'd never been to the mall on Black Friday-- must be the President's Day weekend sales), we were stuck in line for a bit because people in front of us wanted to do more than just buy a movie ticket and go... what a pain... luckily a second cashier showed up to take care of us...
Anyway, we were in by the end of a trailer. One of the actors played Morgan in "The Mindy Project" (that was such a great show...). From there, there were 3:
 
Ocean's 8- Sandra Bullock is out on parole like George Clooney was and she's getting a group together to rob from a fashion show. Mindy is in the cast along with a lot of other bad ass chicks of various backgrounds. It looks like a lot of fun.
 
Book Club- it's about women in their 60's and 70's wanting to rekindle the sex in their lives after they read 50 Shades of Grey... this was the PERFECT trailer for this movie, I swear :P not sure if we'd see it in a theater because my folks are mad about something Jane Fonda was politically involved in years ago... but it'd be fun to see on HBO when it comes there.
 
Mamma Mia! 2- I'd heard about this, but had no idea how they could do another movie or what it's even about. I was afraid that Sophie had cheated on Skye with 2 other guys and she was in the same situation as her mom. It is actually following the model of the "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" sequel where they went into how Tula's parents met. The young girl in the trailers is actually Donna and how she met Sam, Bill and Harry and Donna and the Dynamos became a thing. A bunch of us are still mad about Meryl Streep's political comments, but we still like her in movies like this. It also appears that they recast Harry Bright cuz that does not look like Colin Firth. Too bad they couldn't recast Pierce Brosnan and get someone who can actually sing...
 
:sigh: much like I'd been doing all this stuff to put off doing some Prince-related writing (summing up why my favorite songs and albums are my favorites)... I'm putting off getting to this actual movie... it really wasn't that bad, but it's not Oscar-worthy cinema by any stretch of the imagination.
 
Book to Movie Adaptation
 
I did this for all the other movies, so I might as well do it now. I think this was a faithful adaptation. There were some R-rated details and uncomfortable dialogue that they did not put in the script... I think there was a scene during the honeymoon where Christian told Anastasia not to use the bathroom before sex because it'll make for a better orgasm. Something like that... although I've heard (not that I'd personally know- still a virgin and in no hurry to change that) you should do so after you have sex because it cuts the risks of UTIs.
 
And then... well, the trailers do spoil the fact that Anastasia gets knocked up, that's not giving much away... there is a scene towards the end of the movie where they do stuff in the red room while she's pregnant... seriously, WTF? Then he makes some other comment that just made me wanting to shout obscenities at him. But then again, I spent much of this book doing that. It's a strange thing, though, because my plan in life does not involve having children, yet whenever a man gets possessive of a woman and pregnancy is involved, I flip out on them. It's about her and the baby, it's not about you and your so-called "needs."
 
I don't know if it's that feminine instinct or I was really wronged by a man in a previous life... I've got a lot of weird opinions about a lot of random things. And there are some Prince songs I don't like to listen to because the lyrical content conflicts with those opinions... less than 10 out of 100's of songs...
 
Moving on... already WAY off topic.
 
 

The Main Event
 
Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey get married in a nice ceremony and there's a montage with the opening credits showing all their honeymoon exploits. (Which are more about collecting Pandora charms than sex scenes-- but they did manage to squeeze one in there... because why not?).
However, getting married has not deterred Christian from being possessive and controlling. If anything, it's gotten worse. I will give him the fact that Anastasia potentially winding up in a tabloid because her being bare-breasted on a nude beach... but everything else after that... there's a reason RED is the safe word here. A lot of red flags. As much as he is willing to compromise and he's compromised a lot over the last movie, there are still issues I have with him that will likely never go away.
 
Much of the movie is about the two of them adjusting to the married life, dealing with the underlying threat of Jack Hyde (Anastasia's former boss who attacked her in the previous movie) and an unexpected pregnancy.
 
For the sex itself... they did up the ante a bit compared to the previous movie.
It's like this... the first movie was about the two of them getting to know each other. Likewise, their sexual identity as a couple was still trying to find itself. The second movie brought more communication into the fray and this movie has more focus on the S&M bondge and such. Like it's a regular thing for them now and she's ok with it. And compared to the previous two movies, there were more sex scenes. At least one or two more that I can remember.
 
Not counting the honeymoon montage and one of those scenes where there's a look exchanged and the next scene she's asleep in bed...
 
1- handcuffs on her wrists and ankles... a bit of dialogue that was missing, though... in the book, after they finish, he's very apologetic to her because the handcuffs left marks on her skin and he'd been too rough on her... this is one of those points where the book harkened back to Twilight where Edward was really apologetic to Bella after they have sex because he left bruises all over her body. It bothered me how some people said that their relationship was abusive and that scene was an example of that. It was not intentional at all. Whereas I'm pretty sure the handcuffs were Christian's idea and he regretted it afterwards.
 
2- there's a car chase scene... a really cool one... and for whatever reason, Anastasia got such a high off that adrenaline rush that when they pull over into a parking lot, she climbs on top of him and they do it right there... I don't remember that scene in the book at all (the chase scene or the sex)... I don't know what everyone else was thinking, but I was kinda like "yeah, ok..." not really sure what to think. Also, the way it was shot and acted out, it was a little clunky and awkward. Almost like a scene from Showgirls where the actors were positioned in a such a way where there is no conceivable way that penetration could have occurred. Actually, there wasn't just one scene in Showgirls like that. (I hadn't seen the movie myself and don't plan to, but I had seen a couple of videos of people reviewing it or just pointing out all the CinemaSins committed)
 
3- the "frustration" scene where Anastasia actually uses her safe word... on the third book and it FINALLY happens... as she puts it afterwards, "that was not love, that was revenge"... I remember reading that scene in the book and cheering that she took a stand. But I don't remember it involving a vibrator. That was another of those awkward scenes to kinda watch. I have a feeling that it'd be the kind of scene where, if I was younger, my mom would send me out of the room and to come back when it's over. (That happened years ago when she was watching The Sweetest Thing and I think it was an oral sex scene... I think I saw it years later when I was old enough and she was the one on the receiving end).
 
4- well, let's just say this scene kinda ruined Ben & Jerry for everyone :P ... the only cliché that was missing out of it... the two of them were getting busy on a tabletop in the middle of the night... I was so waiting for the following scene to be the next morning and everyone was having breakfast at the same table... they had that "boob land" dialogue in the nude beach scene yet they couldn't push the super cheesiness of this movie to that extent?
Minus Ben & Jerry, that scene kinda made me think about a Prince lyric "I'd rather wait 'til everyone's fast asleep and do it in the kitchen on the tabletop"... "Shh" is such a great song if only for the guitar solos alone...
 
5- there's a montage that occurs in Anastasia's mind when she's musing over a cup of tea of them having sex...
 
I might be missing another, but that's the basic gist of it.
For the most part, though... the positions really didn't vary a whole lot... some might find that lame and boring... but I guess as far as the awkward vs. erotic debate goes, this movie probably has the most awkward sex scenes of the franchise. It's almost like they stopped caring about not hamming it up too much. They knew the material wasn't the greatest and just wanted to get through it.
 
I know this franchise is meant to be about... as Anastasia puts it in the second movie.. "kinky fuckery"... the best parts of it weren't about it so much as the villain.
I don't know why, but I kept calling Jack Hyde "Eric" in my head... maybe cuz he reminds me of Eric from "True Blood" despite not having seen much of it... or cuz his actor's name is Eric... but yeah, the threat of them coming after them felt really real. And the adrenaline involved with that was a good high. Not to mention it means something interesting is going on.
There were a few laughs during the movie at some inappropriate times (never during the sex scenes, so that was good), but there were some good timed laughs. One of them was when Jack gets reprimanded by the bodyguards and they say how they don't have anything to hold him. Anastasia says that they have things to use... it's like... yeah, we ALL know what she's talking about. And it's a good use of that equipment for sure.
 
However, the ultimate climax of the movie... it maybe borrowed a little too much from Twilight... the female protagonist having to meet someone dangerous and keeping their movements secret from everyone else they care about... but it was a good conclusion to this. And Anastasia gets to have one more bad-ass moment I had to cheer for- even if I was the only one in the theater to do so. (The Twilight movies really did not give that to Bella at all and that's a tragedy... she's much better a character than she's given credit for, I think).
 
Beyond the sex and the action, this movie is ultimately character driven and it's about our two main characters and their relationship. They're not going to buy into it unless you feel invested in them. Some people aren't, but I am for some odd reason I really can't explain. I just hang on the edge of my seat (despite knowing what happens) to see where things go with them.
 
The biggest issue I had with Christian Grey throughout the books boiled down to his overreaction over Anastasia's pregnancy.
But the way it comes about in the books, maybe I was reading too much into things, but I was under the impression that someone at work was purposely not fielding calls from Anastasia's doctor to her about certain appointments and that's how she missed getting her birth control shots.
 
However, in the movie, she gets sick and sees a doctor and just finds out she's pregnant and just simply forgot to go for her injections. And then Christian loses his shit over that.
:sigh: see, this is my big issue... somewhere in the 2nd book, he makes a comment that he hates condoms and has her see a doctor to get a certain kind of birth control that is a monthly injections. If this relationship is ultimately his idea, why the hell is it her responsibility to be on birth control? If it was a mutual thing that both of them did, that'd be something else... but him losing it with her just infuriated me. In the book, they were having sex practically every chapter. Not so much in the movies, but really... all that sex, what do you expect is going to happen?
Not in the book, but in Breaking Dawn part 1, I also took issue with Edward's reaction to Bella wanting to keep her pregnancy. Because this human-vampire hybrid baby was practically killing her, he said that they were supposed to be partners after being married and she had decided without him to take herself away from him forever. Men (living or undead) can be real jerks sometimes when unplanned pregnancies occur and it just infuriates me.
 
But when the two of them (back to Anastasia and Christian) talked about it and she really gave him a piece of her mind about his overreaction to what happened... that was just so good on her. I was proud of her just telling him how she felt and not letting him off the hook for his behavior.
That was something that the third person in our party admired to. She said how she kinda didn't like the actress in the previous movies, but she really liked how she stood up for herself. In a world that has become so about girl power and women being able to stand up for themselves... not a lot of the movie really speaks in favor of that, but there were scenes like this that supported it. And I thought that was good.
 
Not sure of what any of the songs were, but there were some really good songs in the movie. And of course, I got a little emotional when "Love me Like you do" made a comeback at the end in a very predicable fashion... I just love that song so much and I had since put it to a figure skating montage. Not someone I have romantic feelings for, mind you, but his skating just kept coming to mind when I listened to it to the point I just couldn't avoid doing it. It's not as good as the montage I did with a Depeche Mode song (which really told a good story through the footage I used), but it went all right.
 
As for grading this movie...
I guess I'll give a B+.
There were some good points in the movie I really liked, but there were some low points where I either hated Christian Grey or just thought the sex scenes were awkward to watch. Or just really bad cheesy dialogue.
 
One thing he did that I liked... after doing something that made me very unhappy... Anastasia commented how she never got to spend time with her friends anymore. The next scene, her friends get to come with her on a weekend getaway and she gets some good time with them. And somewhere in between, Ben & Jerry becomes the third party of a three-way. I'm not the type of girl who needs to get a pint to eat my feelings about things, but it will be a while before I get myself another pint :P