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Playing It Cool (2014)
Quite A Revelation!!!
CAUTION: PROBABLE SPOILERS!!!
I expected to enjoy Chris Evans as I am a fan since around 2010 or so, but with a title like Playing It Cool, I figured I was in for a very fluffy comedy, perhaps like the mediocre Nanny Diaries, or the sexy and funny What's Your Number?
But this film, while it gave me a laugh or two in several moments, was more poignant than silly, more deep than fluffy. I am not even certain Evans' character has a "name" in the film, but the voice- over narration keep you close to his existence. He is extremely human, thus extremely flawed. But you're given such a fleshed-out, fully realised character that you understand why he is fiercely protective of what's left of his heart. He has a circle of friends, a writer who believes fully in the miracle of love (a brilliant Topher Grace), a performance artist whose feminist gore is quite jarring (Aubrey Plaza), a married but obviously bitter (and I'm afraid annoying and quickly tiresome) guy pushing 50 (Luke Wilson), a guy who lives in his van (Martin Starr), his loving Granddad (a warm and potty mouthed performance by the great Philip Baker Hall), and his enthusiastic agent (Anthony Mackie) who has gotten him a gig writing a romcom involving multiple personalities. Our nameless protag argues that he'd rather write action movies, but the agent promises that if "Me" comes through with the RomCom, he'll have the action movie job shortly afterward.
"Me" meets "Her" (Michelle Monaghan, and I'm unsure whether a name is mentioned for her either. And suddenly, this film is overflowing with tons of cleverness and imaginative visuals. That's what really makes it a strong movie for me. All the storytelling visual styles. Of course this dreamy, perfect woman is engaged to "Stuffy" (Ioan Gruffudd), the clichéd boring, snobby fiancé. Sometimes the story works in this arc, sometimes not. We're not given much of a look at "Stuffy", but I guess we're meant to route for "Me." It's not even "Her" story. It's "Me's" story, entirely from his POV. I loved how Evans submerged himself into each short story role, especially the Korean transsexual lovers' story. I also love that this movie is so LGBTQ friendly. It's very poignant in some places. I kept waiting for Evans to cry after the hits just kept on coming for the character. Even though I saw no tears, I could see the pain. He never disappoints as a true actor. The film is a very realistic look at the reality of love. Many times you will fall in love with someone who doesn't feel the same attraction you do. Mallory is in love with "Me"; "Me is in love with "Her"; "Her" believes she's in love with "Stuffy", but is also confused; She says he's the most "stable" thing in her life. Scott is in love with a guy who doesn't seem to get the hint for a long time; Lyle hooks up with a hot older woman Beverly D'Angelo) in his van, and is that the extent of his "love" life?; Samson is married but again, seems jaded, bitter and believes love is a crock; Granddad says, "Go after the woman you love, even if she says she doesn't love you." I would say this is bad advice because No means No. But "Her" does respond favourably to "Me's" kiss, and later out and out cheats on "Stuffy" with "Me." So it's not nonconsentual.
It's flawed, but it's also surprisingly clever and fun to watch!
Fail-idae is more like it :(
I'm unable to comprehend the fact that the majority of viewers of this film give nothing less than perhaps a 6-8 out of 10. I finally watched it. I am a cat lover. I'll get that fact out of the way right now. I am also pushing middle age (46 this October), so by no means am I a kid, alright?
I thought this was a crock of excrement. And it really didn't have to be. It could have been SO many things. THE PLAGUE DOGS? THAT is a compassionate statement against the evils of humans using, enslaving, exploiting, torturing and murdering animals.
They wanted to make a movie about cats and have it be realistic with some disturbing content? It could have been a historical account of the evolution of cats, from their glory in ancient Egypt to their persecution during the ages of superstition to present day.
I'm not opposed to "adult animated" flicks. I rode my first dragon at the age of 12 when I watched WATERSHIP DOWN and THE SECRET OF NIMH for the first times. And both of those movies fascinate me to this day. I just re-watched the bunnies the other day and they still hold up. John Hurt rocks!
I am not a prude. I write erotica, and as a matter of fact, I found the kitty style scene LOL funny, especially when they both...um...finish...and yell out, "Aw yeah!" Besides, what do you SEE? No boobies or man-bits, right? The sex was so much less offensive to me than the other content. I found it hilarious that some reviewers have praised the gore and violent images but said the mating scene went "a bit too far."
Not even some of the gruesome imagery or nightmarish visions that Francis had were so horrid that they bothered me. At least not the nightmares. We'll go further on that in a moment.
OK so what's my problem? My problems are multiple with this film:
First and most obvious, is that unless Francis suddenly changed his name to Freddy Kreuger, there's no way he could EVISCERATE Pascal/Claud, with ONE swipe of his claws. It is ABSOLUTELY LUDICROUS that a cat's guts will spill out everywhere, and that you can see his rib cage, AND THAT HE IS STILL TALKING!
I love and respect cats, and I find them clever, personable, even trainable in some cases, but a cat "learning" to type on a computer by watching a human? A cat keeping a DATABASE of all the cats in the neighbourhood? JUST HOW MUCH DOES THIS "FILM NOIR" THINK IT CAN INSULT MY INTELLIGENCE? I wish I was allowed to cuss on IMDb because I have a few choice words. It is an understatement to say that this movie is an inconsistent spazz. It can't decide what to do with itself. It wants to be a murder mystery, a horror, a eugenics sci- fi...WHAT?! A super-intelligent cat who made a premeditated decision to kill a human, then constructs a plan to "breed out" all inferior cats, and take cats back to their "roots"? Give me a break!
As if we didn't have enough crazy to contend with, a completely different character is a cat "preacher" who leads some cult of cats who worship some deceased legend. These felines gather in honour of their diety and yell out, "Hallelujah!" and some of them commit suicide by throwing themselves into some electrical shock device...And I thought the Jonestown and Heaven's Gate people were nuts.
Yet a couple more characters are supposed cats depicted in idiotic fashion. One of them, Kong (how original) looks more like a mutant bulldog, his lower jaw hanging way past his upper. And pray tell, are the "neutered" cats INTENTIONALLY drawn to look like inbred, cross- eyed psychos? What is this film trying to say to everyone? That spaying/neutering is "immoral"? Believe you me, I've had psychos TELL me that! I poop you not!
I had no problem with the plot. New cat moves into neighborhood, meets a gruff neighbor cat named Bluebeard. Francis appoints himself the neighborhood "Sherlock" and interviews different cats, has some horrific visions, learns about Darwinism, meets a seductive but odd looking cat who tells him that her kind are a breed both "old and new".
Intriguing stuff, honestly, but the execution of this story is FAIL. It's like 2 films I like (WATERSHIP DOWN and NIMH) got together and this mutant child came out. This movie was trying so hard to be "dark, twisted, gory, adult," etc. It was so transparent how "cool and edgy" the film was trying to be, using a few cuss words and clumsy dark humour.
I'm not an idiot. I know when there is a sincere use of gore to tell a story and when gore is being used purely for shock value. And why a gruesome decapitation of the sweetest, most likable character in the movie???
Cats might be clever and independent and retain some feral qualities even in their lives with humans, but cats don't type, don't read, don't spell, and don't concoct elaborate plans to conquer or destroy humans, they don't go around "murdering" because someone "knows too much".
Megan Is Missing (2011)
I give it a 6 because it just seems like it's bordering on an exploitation flick. Not nearly as bad as some of Larry Clark's stuff, but instead of really good acting from frightened parents, we get bland, almost constipated facial expressions. Don't these parents give a crap? For reals?
As for the 2 main characters, at first, they are your typical little spoilt brats. It almost seemed like THIRTEEN, with the popular, slutty, troubled one and the virginal, unpopular, introspective one. I don't mind that a lot of ichatting was used. It's one of the most popular ways that teens communicate these days, and movies are a visual medium. I was irritated when the girls began to chat with "Josh", who claims that his brother, then his dog, broke his webcam. I wanted to scream at these kids, if you can't see him, turn the camera off! You don't see Josh's face thruought the entire movie, but he is an internet predator, and these girls are unfortunately just lonely, insecure and naive enough to stumble into his trap.
I have a particular hatred for shock value gore, and the horrifying fetish photos of Megan posted on some porn site were really upsetting to me, and unnecessary. We know the girl was victimized by a sexual predator/sadist. Is it necessary to strip her of every last shred of her dignity by including a simulated photo in a movie? That's why I was so angry at the publicised photos of the victims of serial killer Robert Berdella. When you show the public every last screaming moment of a victim's life, it just seems so demeaning to me. But maybe that's the point. Maybe these kinds of things are meant to make me so angry that I want to put every serial killer on the planet into a rocket and aim it at Jupiter.
It's a disturbing film. Very unpleasant. Not sure if I think it's exploitation or not, but I won't be watching it again.
Amber's Story (2006)
Still waiting for Justice for Amber
I'm not here to nitpick about accents. Elizabeth Rohm gives a wonderful, emotional performance of a brokenhearted, angry mother. All of the actors are great, but Rohm is the one who has to carry the film, and she does so successfully. The second half of the film, which intercuts from future to past, displays how the "Amber Alert" system operates today. It was a very creepy person this working mom chose to watch her daughter. It was riveting, very horrifying at times, and of course, a fitting tribute to a little girl who was stolen from her family by an amoral coward.
I hope the coward is caught one day. If he did it to one child, he's done it to another.
Jesus' Son (1999)
A long strange trip
This is a strange film, a combination of goofy, sad comedy and profound tragedy, but it is a very pleasant film nonetheless. FH (Billy Crudup) is a drug (mainly pills) addict who seems to have a life devoid of any direction or purpose, and yet he has odd abilities and premonitions, along with an "everything will be okay no matter what happens" attitude. He hitches a ride with a family, all the while knowing a car accident will kill most of them. He rescues the infant member of the family, and it strangely coincides with the fact that his girlfriend Michelle (Samantha Morton) had an abortion around that same time. FH lives through the horrible suicide of Michelle somehow, and begins to try to get away from drugs and have a life that makes sense. There are bizarre scenes involving baby bunnies, being able to put a hand through a glass window as if one were a ghost instead of flesh and blood, and an ensemble of characters whose lives FH touches in one way or another, played by Jack Black, Denis Leary, Holly Hunter, and Dennis Hopper. There is no solid "plot" as it were. It's just a tour through a lost, lonely soul looking for a place in the world where he belongs.
A very different kind of film, with a cryptic story and main character, but it feels like a refreshment compared to many movies being made today.
Itty Bitty Titty Committee (2007)
Great in the beginning, a bit "been there, done that" towards the end.
I once tried to submit my review a couple of weeks ago, but somehow there was some glitch about "gender" being one of the prohibited words. So I will try once more.
I mostly enjoyed this engaging story about a small sect of feminists and lesbians who call themselves the C(i)A. In fact, that really would have made a better title for the film, which was more about the whole of feminism and equality than women altering their bodies to appease some societal standard. Ana (Melonie Diaz) is a young lesbian trying to get over a recent breakup. She works in a cosmetic surgery clinic. She doesn't really love her job, but she's undecided about what to do with her life, so she just goes with it. One night, she hears someone spray-painting her building with feminist slogans and tries to call 911, but when the beautiful and enigmatic Sadie (Nicole Vicius) struts up to her, Ana falls in love again, and is quickly swept up into the C(i)A's political demonstrations and takes their message into her heart.
But maybe a little too much. There is nothing wrong with being a lesbian, and there is certainly nothing wrong with being a feminist, but when Ana begins acting bitchy towards her older sister, who is getting married, talking about how marriage is a stupid and useless institution, she is being ugly and inappropriate, hurtful and disrespectful. Remember, Ana, many people still believe in marriage and want it in their lives, even lesbians and feminists. I presume Ana has taken the influence of Shulamith (Carly Pope), the no-nonsense leader of the C(i)A who often takes angry, confrontational stances on things, but where Shulamith is mostly controlled and constructive, Ana is just being bratty. In fact, Ana, being the main protag, is kind of unlikeable in many ways. She has an annoying habit of putting "Ahhh" on the ends of many sentences/names/words, i.e. "Sadie-ahh! Please-ahh!" It's just an annoying habit, like nails on a blackboard. The other thing that made me mad was how she used Lauren Mollica's character, Aggie, during a fight with Sadie. Sadie was less annoying than Ana, but her constant battle with "obligation" vs. ending a relationship with an older feminist (Melanie Mayron) that is no longer viable is irritating too. The supporting cast is mainly what makes this film fun and engaging. I am in lust with Daniela Sea, who plays Calvin, and I love the character Meat (in spite of her being named after a balding guy playing a high school jock in the Porky's movies!), played by Deak Evgenikos. Good cameos/small roles include Melanie Lynskey, Jenny Shimuzu, Leslie Grossman, and Guinevere Turner.
The ending seemed way too contrived. Attacking the white phallus in Washington? Didn't seem plausible at all. It would have been so much more fun and realistic if a cool pirate or indie TV station had caught the girls in one of their milder stunts and interviewed them on TV. The could have all sat, smiling, their faces on screens all over the country, saying, "You may not like what we have to say, but we're saying it anyway." A good effort for the most part.
Stage Beauty (2004)
If you love you some beautiful period drama, this is a great choice!
Ned Kynaston is the most beautiful "woman" of the London stage. This is the kind of role that I've always admired Billy Crudup for. He plays an actor in a time period (1600s) when only men were allowed to act on stage, even if the character portrayed is female. Kynaston is an actor so dedicated to his work that he has taught himself the graces of mime and can alter his masculine voice to sound like the most elegant and refined woman in the world. In his private life, he has a lover in the Duke of Buckingham (Ben Chaplin) who insists Kynaston don his wig when they "make a beast with 2 backs" in bed on the stage. On the sly, Kynaston's dressing assistant, Maria (Claire Danes) has been watching Kynaston's acting career and wishing she herself could not only be legally allowed to perform, but could do it with the same natural grace as Kynaston. She practices his mime, steals his beautiful frocks and wigs, and begins performing the very same role of Desdemona from Othello in a small nightspot in town. Things begin to go awry when it is discovered that Maria is acting illegally, but the King (Rupert Everett) is so moved by Maria's acting that he decides to reverse the ban on females acting on the stage. Kynaston, both jealous and angry that she has been stealing his thunder, screams in rage at Maria in front of the King's mistress, and suddenly is a disgraced man out of work. He gets beaten up by what I believe are 17th century bigots (I might be mistaken though.) After he recovers from his injuries, he tries to audition for a "male" role, but is unable to shake the habit of moving and speaking in feminine mannerisms. He flees in tears, and ends up being looked after in a boarding house by Maria. I really loved the "almost" love scene and the discussion that lead up to it.
That's all I'll say for now. The movie never stops being entertaining, nor interesting to look upon, with its lavish costumes and production design. There is a scary moment towards the end that almost made me throw my laptop on the floor because I'd thought the movie was ruined, but luckily, I loved the film from beginning to end. Bravo!
Waking the Dead (2000)
Unbearably wrenching...I don't think I could watch it again.
This movie had me in tears just about every 2 minutes at least. While a young man maps out his ambitions for the future, he meets a woman who sees the world with eyes that are similar to his, but a bit more outspoken. They fall in love, and would be the perfect couple if not for their conflicting political views and family traditions. While Fielding (a beautiful Kleenex-box devouring performance by Billy Crudup) works for the Coast Guard and then thru law school, Sarah (an equally wonderful Jennifer Connelly) is an independent Peace-Corps worker of sorts, working for the Catholic church in different and dangerous situations that take her far from home into hotbeds of political strife.
Fielding's life is shattered when Sarah and 2 Chilean diplomats are killed in a car bomb in 1973. For the next decade, he tries to move on without her, and presses on until he becomes a candidate for public office. Suddenly, he begins to...hallucinate? Dream? Have visions? of the woman he loved. He begins to believe he is losing his mind, and it affects his campaign.
The one thing that confuses me and kind of pees me off is when Sarah suddenly seems to reappear for real, first via phone call and second, with a surprise visit. She apologizes for hurting him, and if what she's saying is true, she really did nearly kill him by faking her death. Did she fake her death because of the Chilean Resistance? Or did she want out of the relationship because though they love each other, their beliefs and politics don't match. Fielding wakes up the morning after this cryptic 'visit' and wonders if even this was a reverie. But somehow, the fact that he never has visions or hallucinations of weird phone calls ever again, says to me, Sarah had been alive all these years and had faked her death for one reason or another. I really should watch this again to get a better clarity on exactly what her motives were, but I cried so much that I don't think I can go through this again. The one consolation is that Fielding won the election and began to help make a difference in people's lives. Sarah influenced him in a major way, but I was so sad to see that they couldn't have a life together working side by side.
Alien: Resurrection (1997)
As a standalone, fun & surprising, as a part of the ALIEN legacy, kind of silly!!!
PLEASE, BE SMART. IF YOU WANT TO SEE THIS FILM AND DON'T WANT SPOILERS, DON'T READ THIS REVIEW!!!!!!!!!
ALIEN: scifi, drama, horror, with a first-rate cast and very spare dry comic relief. ALIENS: scifi,action, horror, with a VERY likable cast, and some fitting comic hysteria from Bill Paxton. ALIEN 3: scifi, drama, horror, a very gifted first time director, and again, very spare comedy, almost no comedy at all, and acting wise, surprising for all of its other disappointments.
ALIEN: RESURRECTION...hmmmm...as a standalone movie, this is kind of a treat as a scifi, horror, camp-comedy. Some pluses: Like ALIENS, it has a lot of action and gunplay, and like ALIENS, it has human villains and hordes of vicious aliens. And I LOVE John Frizzell's score. Completely awesome, evoking horror and suspense. The only score I like better is Jerry Goldsmith's from ALIEN. The cast is pretty good, though I thought a few characters were pointless.
As a member of the ALIEN franchise...perhaps not so much. Minuses: I hated Michael Wincott's sleazy and uninteresting Elgyn and was happy to see him offed early. Kim Flowers' Hillard was pointless as well. Ron Perlman's Johner was insufferable in his character and dialogue: "So Ripley, I heard you, like, ran into these things before...So, like, what did you do?" Winona Ryder. As with Ash, there is a big "reveal" scene with Call. But she absolutely has no place in this kind of film. Why would an android complain about being "disgusting"? Just no.
Pluses: I liked Dominique Pinon's Vriess most of the time. I liked Gary Dourdan's Christie, but he was one character whose death was not only too damn early in the film, but totally ridiculous. Was it a suicide to save Vriess' life? Or did an alien grab him once he hit the water and take him under and kill him? Hitting the water from a ladder is not instant death, but the way Vriess was wailing, "Don't do it, Christie!" you would swear it was!
More pluses: Brad Douriff played the 2nd most evil scientist I have ever seen in history. J. E. Freeman narrowly exceeds him. This movie is a great scifi illustration of pure instinct vs. pure evil, and Wren is one evil bird. I have always seen the alien xenomorphs as instinctual creatures, not evil ones. Like lions, tigers and bears, they will kill you, but it's not because they are evil, it's because that is what they are hardwired to do, by God, by nature, by evolution, or whatever. Douriff, Freeman and their cronies? Evil as hell. The unholy glee with which these people watch the facehuggers attacking a crew up KIDNAPPED men is very sickening. So, see below...
Big minus: It was bad enough to realize the scientists are evil, no doubt seeking to build an alien army that would strike fear in the hearts of anyone opposing some fascist government somewhere. For this same reason, it was hard to really empathize with any of the pirate crew. The humans are the more evil of the villains.
Big plus: The aliens are only animals...at least until now. Sigourney Weaver delivers again, though I'm not sure why anyone felt this film had to be made. Maybe because ALIEN 3 was so dark and ultimately depressing.
And most certainly, it's preposterous to think the evil scientists could clone an ALIEN queen, as well as a Ripley, but she is great fun nevertheless. Anyway, this ain't the Ripley who died. In their evil experiment, the scientists created a Ripley who has lots and lots of alien DNA in her. In short, she is an alien who is physically a lot more strong, and mentally, a lot less kind-hearted, than her deceased human ancestor. She has just enough of the real Ripley in her to almost remember Newt, but otherwise, she grins instead of frowning when the evil scientists horribly overestimate their ability to "tame" and to "train" the aliens, and horribly underestimate the aliens' endless capacity for ingenuity. Because these aliens are also descendants of a human being, Ripley, they are "smarter," and not above killing one of their own and using it as a means of escaping their cells. Of course, the alien in ALIEN and the aliens in ALIENS were descended from humans as well.
Ripley 8 is like the aliens, half innocent predatory animal, half intelligent and kind of evil human. She only begins to realize how awful those scientists are when she meets her seven "sisters" in the medical lab, how they heartlessly keep one clone alive with tubes and machines. Ripley 8 only begins to become our hero yet again when she decides she must not let her "children" live to destroy everyone on pitiful earth, which looks like it's been thru a few nuclear holocausts lately.
I see I am really Over-analyzing this movie. It's great to see the evil Wren get his ultimate reward from one of his victims. It's also great to see the other evil scientists end up in cocoons, but wait! The Queen that they created along with Ripley 8, the OTHER mama to the fearsome xenomorphs evolves from having an insect reproductive system to a human one! No more egg-laying!!! What?! Yes, Queenie now has a uterus!!! She's having another baby!!! What a busy Mom!!! And the only thing freakier than the Newborn itself is Douriff's delirious and hilarious verbal cooing, "Beautiful, beautiful little baby!!!" That newborn is the stuff of night and daymares, be warned!!! Strangely enough, many, including myself, feel a little sad (as well as VERY repulsed) by the newborn's death sequence.
4 out of 10 .
Megatons of FUN
LOTS OF SPOILERS. IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN THIS FILM, DON'T READ THE REVIEW!!!
This is many peoples' fave of the ALIEN franchise, and with good reason. It has a deepening of Ripley's (Sigourney Weaver) character (if you watch the version with lots of restored footage), more info about the girl Newt (Carrie Henn) and how she came to be orphaned and a lone survivor of a colony of over 100 people called Hadley's Hope, and lots of great characters. The prequel to this film had a pretty small cast and felt claustrophobic at times, but ALIENS seems to move more briskly, even though it's set on the same planet.
Boy, Weland-Yutani must be the epitome of evil, greedy, petty corporations. Nearly 6 decades after Ripley and Jonesy went into stasis after destroying the first Alien, this bunch of bureaucratic turds are STILL mad that she blew up the Nostromo. The oh-so-generous jerks decline to press criminal charges against her, but they revoke her license so that she has to start her life over again working at a crappy new job. Barely back on earth for a few weeks or so, she gets a knock on her door from one Carter J. Burke (Paul Reiser, before MAD ABOUT YOU) and an inexperienced Lt. Gorman (William Hope), who leads a corps of Marines. They practically beg Ripley to accompany them to the planet LV426 because suddenly the terraforming colony overseen by Weland-Yutani Corp. has not been heard from in a while and nobody can raise them. Suddenly, Ripley's account of the fearsome, acidic xenomorph seems to be a likely factor.
Among the many memorable characters are Corporal Hicks (Michael Biehn, who is loved worldwide for his portrayal of this and his character in THE TERMINATOR), a low key, levelheaded marine who has to take over once Sarg Apone is killed, the obnoxious and hysterically funny Prvt. Hudson (Bill Paxton, another all time favorite of mine for 30+ years), Prvt. Vasquez (played by another Cameron/Bigelow regular, Jenette Goldstein, a wonderful chameleon of an actress), and the benevolent android Bishop (Lance Henriksen, yet another Cameron legend) who is nothing like the devious Ash of the prequel.
Needless to say, the entire colony, save Newt, has been destroyed. As I learned in the sequels, these aliens use humans not only as hosts with which to reproduce, they kill and use them for food as well. In the very first battle, most of the marines are slain, or worse, kidnapped and made into hosts for the facehugger parasites that hatch from eggs, leaving a handful of survivors. Their mission a bust, they attempt to leave the planet and make plans to "nuke the site from orbit" to ensure the annihilation of this hostile species. Suddenly Mr. Burke is very vocal about his opposition to these plans, and it's not long before he is revealed to be yet another corporate pig with greedy plans to get rich. He is the true villain here, and worse than Ash, because Ash was an android programmed to do what he was told.
Many harrowing but action packed battles later, many of our survivors are no more, and we finally meet "the bitch." Enough said. I had very high hopes about the ending...but I was in for an unpleasant surprise in the next installment of the franchise. Perhaps my 2nd favorite Cameron film. 10 stars.