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August: Osage County (2013)
The Performance Aren't Enough to Outshine the Flaws
Based off of Tracy Letts' darkly comedic play, August: Osage County comes to the big screen in hopes of capturing audiences hearts with its strongly character-driven story and big names. It wants to say, "Hey, this family is more dysfunctional than yours!" and it succeeds. But August: Osage County treads familiar grounds and it doesn't seem like John Wells tried to reinvent anything.
I can bet you've seen this story before. A family gets together in a time of mourning but their coming together only creates greater tensions between family members. August: Osage County, for the most part, follows that same formula.
But the real problem with it is, there's too much unresolved drama. You just don't leave the theater feeling like you've had a fun experience. It's not as exhausting as it is depressing. But, don't get me wrong, this film has its fair share of genuinely moving moments that feature incredible performances.
Meryl Streep gives one of the performances of the year as the pill- popping, mean old lady that is constantly bullying her family members until she can't possibly torment them any more. The things her character says are gut-wrenching but Streep's performance is so soulfully heartbreaking that you can forgive her almost immediately.
Julia Roberts gives a very simple, brutally raw performance as Barbara, the daughter of Meryl Streep. She's an un-glamorous spectacle to see in August: Osage County and is deserving of her Best Supporting Actress nomination. The ensemble that makes up August: Osage County is incredible as well. Abigail Breslin has grown up since her breakout performance in Little Miss Sunshine and we've seen her since in this year's The Call. She's better in August: Osage County as a teenager who's flaws and poor decision making make up almost her entire character. Margo Martindale is great, as is Chris Cooper who plays her husband.
The performances don't outshine every flaw of August: Osage County, though. The drama is at times heavy-handed and the director sometimes threatens to almost beat you over the head with it. The comedy worked sometimes but other times, it just doesn't.
August: Osage County struggles with a generic story, sometimes heavy- handed drama but most of all, just doesn't make you feel at all good after watching. But there are many stellar performances here and at times, the film is genuinely moving. I can't say I strongly disliked August: Osage County at all or even disliked it but it isn't a great movie.
I give August: Osage County a B-.
Read all of my reviews at www.thecheapseatsfilmreviews.weebly.com!"
Does It Live Up to the Hype?
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues is the long-awaited sequel to Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, which since its release in 2004 has gained a cult following. But does this sequel live up to the hype?
Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues continues to follow Ron Burgundy in his many, zany misadventures. In this, he must get the gang back together to all come together to do a 24-hour news show. Ron makes rivalries in the office and many complications arise.
I have to say that I was disappointed with Anchorman 2. I don't think I had to high expectations either. I wanted an entertaining, laugh-out- loud film which is usually expected from the Ferrell/McKay duo.
The part that saved this film for me was Brick Tambland, played expertly by one of the best comedians working in Hollywood today, Steve Carell. His outrageous stupidity and randomness work very well and almost every word out of Carell's mouth elicits a laugh. His one-liners are hilarious even if his storyline with Kristin Wiig, also funny in the film, is only smile-worthy.
The characters, quirky and unique, are great. Ron Burgundy is one of the most memorable characters in film I've ever seen and his arrogant, likable personality is carried over into part two. Paul Rudd's character, Brian Fantana, remains unchanged and funny, although he isn't given very funny material here. Champ, played by David Koechner, is given a weak storyline about him cooking bats and serving them in a restaurant. It was unfunny and dumb.
My main problem with the film, and it is a big one, is that it simply isn't funny enough. The film doesn't take itself seriously which is a plus but I would have liked to laugh a lot more than I did. It starts out with a few good jokes, the funniest part which had me laughing the whole way through was in a van when all four main characters were talking old memories. But from about half-an-hour in, the film gets into a long-stretch where nothing funny happens. I don't think I even smiled for a consecutive forty-five minutes. There is a part very close to the end that features a lot of celebrity cameos which was fun to watch and for the most part funny but after that, the film ends with a fizzle.
There are lots of different story lines throughout the film that are loosely connected, though still connected, which are just dumb. I expected the humor to be smarter than it was. I was disappointed by Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues although Steve Carell delivers consistent laughs.
I give Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues a C.
Read all of my reviews at www.thecheapseatsfilmreviews.weebly.com!
A Moving Look at a Not-So-Distant Future
Her is a contemporary film that tells the story of a man who falls in love with his computer operating system. Sounds bizarre, right? But is it good, let alone believable?
Joaquin Phoenix delivers a perfect performance as the main character, Theodore. Her is a very character-driven film and great chemistry between the actors and actresses is necessary as well as dialogue that isn't corny, and in Her, Phoenix does a lot of staring off into space because he's listening to Samantha, not physically interacting with her because she isn't a physical being. He conveys so much emotion with just his face. He's perfectly cast.
Scarlett Johansson gave one of her best performances as Samantha, the operating system. She was completely snubbed at most of the award shows for Best Supporting Actress and her performance showed so much emotional depth just through her voice.
Spike Jonze's screenplay is easily one of the best of the year. It's plot is so refreshing, original and engaging that it's hard not to get caught up in this story. The film's screenplay has its fair share of funny moments while also being insanely thought-provoking and most of the time, moving. Each character feels very complex and each character has multiple layers. It's fascinating to see characters this emotionally developed and real. And one of the best things about this screenplay is that it doesn't always take its bizarre concept incredibly seriously. Jonze knows his film's plot is bizarre and doesn't treat it like it isn't. Jonze is very self-aware and insightful.
The cinematography in Her is immaculate and was definitely subbed for Achievement in Cinematography in the Academy Awards for Hoyte Van Hoytema's beautiful work. The film also has an interesting color- palette, consisting mostly of pinks and reds and light blues which give the film a unique, vibrant look. The score for the film is equally brilliant and contributes to the vibrant, colorful feel that's present throughout.
Her is a beautiful, poignant film that explores adult relationships to the extreme while also exploring how huge technology is modern culture and how close humans and their computers are becoming. Her explores human emotions until there's little left to explore. It blends social commentary with very real characters so effortlessly and is still visually-striking. Her is a genius film and one of my favorite films of all time.
Read all my reviews at www.thecheapseatsfilmreviews.weebly.com!
Remember Who The Enemy Is
I read Catching Fire even before the first Hunger Games movie came out and I was impressed with the whole series, not only The Hunger Games. Is the movie adaptation of Catching Fire worthy of the book?
My answer is yes. In many ways, it surpasses the book. Jennifer Lawrence, who has no relation to the director Frances Lawrence, breathes life into the character of Katniss and no one could play it better. There is no question that Jennifer Lawrence is perfectly cast and an amazing actress who has not only proved her abilities in this film and the original The Hunger Games but last years Silver Linings Playbook and the indie gem Winter's Bone. She brings the ferocity necessary to her role but not only brings what is necessary but adds to the character which is the best an actress or actor can do.
The supporting cast, lead by Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Lenny Kravitz and Donald Sutherland are all great. The only actress I had a problem with was Jena Malone because although she shined her some scenes, particularly her interview with Stanley Tucci's hilarious game-show host character, Caeser Flickerman, she overacted a lot in the arena. Josh Hutcherson gives a strong performance as Peeta, also.
Francis Lawrence breathes new life into the film and although doing a tremendous job, I'm surprised that he was chosen as the director. So many crazy-talented directors were considered such as Alfonso Cuaron, director of this year's Gravity which is thought to be a tough competitor for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Special Effects, Tomas Alfredson, director of one of the best vampire films ever made, Let the Right One In, and Bennett Miller, director of the 2011 success Moneyball and Capote, starring Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Then you have Lawrence, the director of the decent I Am Legend but I have to say, he did an outstanding job. The arena scenes are intense as they should be and the ideas that were only explored a tiny bit in the first are almost completely fleshed out. He made a thought-provoking and insanely entertaining film.
My only complaint is the writing. I loved how it completely dove into these darker ideas that were always kind of lurking in the shadows in the first film but in the second one, they're fully exposed but the love scenes between Katniss and Peeta can get pretty cheesy. Luckily, the actors have the skill to make them more bearable.
I really did like The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and I thought it was better than the original source material and the first film so if the movies go at this rate, this will probably be a film series that many more are compared to in terms of quality.
I give The Hunger Games: Catching Fire an A-.
Read all of my reviews at www.thecheapseatsfilmreviews.weebly.com!
Stop Dreaming. Start Living.
I'm a fan of Ben Stiller's directorial work and comedic work and he's a pretty talented guy. Zoolander, a film which he starred in and directed is bold and hilarious and a very fun time. But The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is different. It's much more serious and dramatic than a lot of his other roles. It gives Ben Stiller a chance to expand as a filmmaker and show how well of a visual director he is and if he can handle directing serious material.
I understand critics are split on The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Audiences, for the most part, love it but on Rotten Tomatoes, critics have given this film a 50% which means 50% of critics enjoyed the film. It's kind of a love-it or hate-it film. I'm on the side that really enjoyed it. It's messages are simple, clear and relevant. America is known for being a generally lazy country and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is trying to inspire people to go and live their dream and do something great with their lives. It has a lot to say about following your dreams and says it clearly and in an entertaining fashion.
Ben Stiller's performance as Walter Mitty is stellar and engaging. Walter Mitty is a mild-mannered, shy guy and Stiller hits the nail on the head. It's interesting to see Kristin Wiig take on some serious material. She still has a couple of funny lines but for the most part, her character is a dramatic one. She handles it very well and is likable.
One of the film's flaws are the characters. There are a lot of generic characters that are hardly given any development including Adam Scott and Sean Penn's character. That didn't get in the way of my enjoyment of the film, though. The film almost entirely centers around Walter Mitty and his character is given a lot of attention to detail.
Ben Stiller proves himself as a dramatic director in this specifically and a visual director. The film is breathtaking in terms of visuals. The cinematography is something different than what you usually see in mainstream films. It sort of resembles Wes Anderson's without being a total rip-off.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is a very fun time and a very good movie. It's worth your money.
I give The Secret Life of Walter Mitty a B+.
Read all of my reviews at www.thecheapseatsfilmreviews.weebly.com!
You're Next (2011)
The Animals Will Hunt You
You're Next is the latest home invasion film to be released and with so many of them, you have to keep everything fresh. Did You're Next succeed?
For the most part, yes. You're Next is a very fun film and it isn't designed be anything more, really. It's a gore-soaked, adrenaline- pumping film that borrows a few things from other horror movies.
The best thing about this film is Sharni Vinson's character, who is a really intelligent, level-headed and bad-ass woman and that's a rare thing to find in horror films nowadays. A ton of horror films that come out are all terrified, stupid people who don't know how to react in the situation they're put in so they completely shut down. In You're Next, there's an actual struggle and fight going on between Vinson's character, Erin, and the serial killers.
One bad thing about You're Next, though, is that it borrows from other horror films and I know that's very hard not to do but in the beginning, it feels generic. It all feels incredibly generic until the horror part kicks in and then the film is so intense and absorbing but even then, there are a few familiar elements in the mix.
The director didn't find a great balance between dark comedy and serious, all-out horror but to me, that didn't matter that much. I like my horror films serious and I usually don't like them when there's a lot of goofy in the mix. I had a great time with this one because sometimes it doesn't take itself completely seriously but a lot of the time it does.
You're Next is a very fun time and sure to please horror fans. It's absorbing and comes with a cool, retro musical score. It has flaws but it's easy to see through them.
I give You're Next a B.
You Will Know Her Name
I'm a big fan of the original Carrie novel written by Stephen King in 1974 and I did enjoy the old Brian de Palma Carrie so when I heard about the re-make happening that starred one of the best young actresses working in Hollywood today, Chloe Grace Moretz, I was excited. Did Kimberly Pierce's Carrie disappoint?
I didn't hate the 2013 Carrie, I actually enjoyed myself for the most part. It's not a great film but a decent one. One of the most invalid arguments I'm hearing against this film is that it is unnecessary and I don't think it is. Kimberly Pierce didn't want to remake De Palma's Carrie just for a cash-grab, I think she did it because she knows bullying is a huge issue in modern times and to make the story more accessible to today's modern viewers, Pierce threw in a few talented, popular actors and actresses and made a teen horror film that she thought would draw modern audiences in. I do think the new Carrie is relevant, even if it is not a incredibly well made film.
There is no denying there is talent in this cast. Chloe Grace Moretz has proved herself a very versatile actress, taking on roles from the potty- mouthed teen assassin (in Kick-Ass and Kick-Ass 2) to a lonely vampire (Let Me In) to a young, middle-America girl trying to make it to Las Vegas (Hick) and now to the bullied Carrie White, a very iconic role made so memorable by Sissy Spacek. Moretz has said in interviews that she didn't want to watch the old film in preparation for the new one because she wanted to make her own Carrie character and I think that was a smart choice. She wanted her Carrie to be special and unique. While watching the film, it's hard to get over the fact that you're watching Carrie instead of Chloe Grace Moretz but Moretz obviously tried very hard to disappear into her character and I think a lot of times, she did. Her performance is not one from the best of her career but it's hard to imagine an actress of that age giving a better performance.
Julianne Moore creates a delightfully creepy Margaret White and is very good in the film. The ensemble of young actors and actresses is also very good, specifically Gabriella Wilde and Ansel Elgort who both give excellent performances.
A problem I had with this Carrie is the lack of intensity in a few scenes. The whole film feels sort of rushed and is very quickly paced. I wish Pierce would have slowed the film down a bit and took more time to explore the character of Carrie more. I wish Pierce would have built upon the character made famous by Spacek in 1976. She didn't but she did build a little upon the character of Margaret White which I was pleased with.
The whole film does lack the needed feeling of intensity until the climax at prom which is actually far more gory than expected but I think it works. The intensity is there for at least the prom part which is a huge part of the story.
I guess Carrie serves as a sort of guilty pleasure for me. I had fun but it isn't a very well-made film. It's rushed and a lot of times lacks intensity but there are some stellar performances here and I thought the prom scene was handled very well.
I give Carrie a B-.
Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013)
How Does It Compare to the First?
The Lambert Family moves to a new house to leave behind their terrifying experience with ghosts in the first house, only to learn that the spirits are not done with them and the mystery that connects them to the spirit world so strongly has not yet been solved.
The original Insidious (2010) is one of the scariest films I've ever seen and I highly recommend it. It had cool old-school scares and some creepy violin music, making it a sort of homage to old ghost films. How did the sequel compare?
In a lot of ways, Insidious: Chapter 2 resembles Kubrick's masterpiece The Shining. The plots have very similar features (and once you watch this film, you'll know what I'm talking about), and the cinematography in Insidious: Chapter 2 is very similar to The Shining, with all of their tracking shots, it just seems like The Shining with a twist.
But I'm not saying this isn't a fun film. I actually enjoyed myself at this one and I think you are going to enjoy yourself at this one if you're a fan of the original because Chapter 2 definitely panders to the fans. The twist, especially, panders to people having previously viewed Insidious. I don't think it's as easy to enjoy yourself at this having not already seen Insidious, because most of the film relies on you having information based on what happened in the first film.
The story in Insidious: Chapter 2 is pretty ridiculous but the actors really make it work, especially Patrick Wilson. He's a great actor and has given solid performances in everything I've seen him in. Rose Byrne gives an equally great performance as the mom, the sort of Shelley DuVall like character.
The script was where I had most of my problems. There are sometimes one- liners by these two ghost-hunter guys that are trying to be funny but only just take you out of the moment and wrecked all the suspense previously building up. There were clichéd and cheesy moments but for the most part, they didn't take you out of the story.
Insidious: Chapter 2 is a fun film to experience and I did enjoy myself. The performances were stellar and James Wan's reliance on old-school scares hasn't failed him so far. I'd recommend it if you're a fan of the original.
I give Insidious: Chapter 2 a B-.
Insidious: Chapter 2 is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of terror and violence, and thematic elements
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American Hustle (2013)
One of the Best of 2013
Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) is a con-man, unhappily married to Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence), with whom he has a child. One day, he meets Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) who he falls in love with and begins a con business with. Their relationship complicates when an FBI Agent named Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) comes into the picture.
American Hustle stars a slew of incredibly talented actors, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner, Louis C.K. and Michael Pena. It features one of the best ensembles of any movie this year and Jennifer Lawrence shows her comedic chops that she rarely shows in her films.
The stand-out performances are Cooper, Adams and Lawrence. Jennifer Lawrence's performance was a perfect balance between hilarious, crazy and heartfelt while Adams made her character her own. Amy Adams deserves a nomination for Best Supporting Actress for her role and quite possibly Jennifer Lawrence does too. Bradley Cooper was fantastic as FBI Agent Richie DiMaso who wanted the get politicians to accept bribes so he can arrest them.
The screenplay is also Oscar-worthy, like most everything in the film. It's fresh, in-your-face and forces you to come along on the ride and work. It doesn't take its audience to be idiots like some films and is smart and hilarious.
American Hustle is a film like no other this year. It's fresh, funny, fierce. It's bold, sad but at the same time uplifting. It's also wildly entertaining. American Hustle is one of the best films of the year.
I give American Hustle an A.
American Hustle is rated R for pervasive language, some sexual content and brief violence
READ MY FULL REVIEW AND MORE AT www.thecheapseatsfilmreviews.weebly.com
Ginger & Rosa (2012)
Friendship Pulled Them Together. Love Pulled Them Apart.
Elle Fanning's best performance. She is incredible in Ginger & Rosa and conveys so many emotions believably. She completely disappears into her role, so much you forget it is Elle Fanning. Her performance is heart- breaking and beautiful. The other members of the ensemble which include Alessandro Nivola, Annette Benning, Christina Hendricks, Timothy Spall and Oliver Platt are great.
My main problem with the film, though, is Alice Englert's performance. She seemed too detached from the film and Fanning and Englert's chemistry was very one-sided. Fanning was trying much harder than Englert to give the two characters a large amount of chemistry because after all, the two characters had been friends since they were born.
The screenplay, also written by Sally Potter, is smart and engaging. There is a very strong plot here and the actors all bring their well- written characters to life.
It's a great coming-of-age tale with the best performance by a young actor/actress this year, Elle Fanning. It's worth checking out.
Read my full review of Ginger & Rosa and many other film reviews at www.thecheapseatsfilmreviews.weebly.com.