Sunday, July 26, 2015

"I Miss Myself...."

I have never worked with or spoken with an individual who has Alzheimer's disease, although I did work with an elderly woman in the psychiatric hospital who had dementia and that was quite challenging. In Still Alice the audience starts out with an advantage over the main character, kind of like the Titanic; we already know what's coming. However it doesn't minimize the angst that one feels for this character, and seeing such an incredibly bright and talented woman lose nearly all her cognitive function is very heart wrenching. Julianne Moore did an excellent job with the character she was playing; you could see the decline slowly coming until she could barely utter a word. Her character, Alice, is a brilliant scientist who finds out she has early onset Alzheimer's disease at age 50, and the film explores how she and her family handle the disease and all of the problems that come along with it. Alec Baldwin was the husband and he did a good job with the character, albeit he was rather static, as were most of the other characters in the film. Kristen Stewart played one of Alice's daughters, and her character actually was the most interesting aside from Julianne Moore's character, which shocks me now that I consider it (I'm not a very huge Kristen Stewart fan). Kate Bosworth has a small role as another one of Alice's children, but her character was also kind of flat. If they had written and fleshed it out more she could have really shined; there was a lot of potential there. The film was.....okay I suppose; it wasn't bad, but it wasn't really that great either. Julianne Moore delivered a great performance, but I don't think she should have taken home the Oscar, which I believe should have gone to Rosamund Pike instead for her work in Gone Girl. The film was actually quite short too which surprised me at one hour and thirty minutes approximately. The ending, which was lame, happened so abruptly that I didn't even realize it until I saw the credits rolling, and I was thinking, "what in the world, I just looked down for a moment to text something on my phone really quick...," but there it went. So I would say that what would have tremendously helped this film be great was about a half hour more of film time, and some better writing of the secondary characters where they are fleshed out more, and also writing more of how they're dealing with Alice's drifting away from reality. A great idea for a film but not really executed the best; and there weren't any technical elements that stood out that well either in the film. Summarizing it as a whole, it was a very lukewarm picture; Julianne Moore's performance is the only reason to watch the film, aside from getting a beginner's grasp on what Alzheimer's may manifest like in people.

Still Alice trailer

Still Alice film clip

Still Alice interviews

Thursday, July 23, 2015

"...Open Your Balls...?"

So...after watching the film Mortdecai I am still not sure what that phrase (title of the blog) means, but I do have a good idea or two. It was definitely not a typical role for Johnny Depp as the lead character who is a master art dealer in the seedy underworld, but quite a British eccentric to be sure and pulls of the dainty behavior and mindset quite well. Gwyneth Paltrow as the lovely wife of Mortdecai was perfect, and the two I thought had really good on-screen chemistry along with really good quips and dialog. Paul Bettany as Jock the loyal, British manservant was a good choice, and although his character was meant to be flat and a comedic pairing with Mr. Depp, I think they could have done better with his character. Ewan McGregor played an Mi5 inspector who has a crush on Ms. Paltrow's character and dislikes Mortdecai, but recruits his help for locating a missing painting could be worth far more than anyone knows. He of course was amazing as always, and that's about it; his character was rather flat. The rest of the casting was good, but there was a lovely cameo role done by Jeff Goldblum which was very delightful; a shame that wasn't expanded upon. So the film is a comedy and I laughed a number of times, but it wasn't really that great. It actually had the potential to be really amazing, but it was written and shot so poorly; it was only the amazing cast that was able to save any measure of the film to make it interesting or humorous. I thought all of the characters were great and relatively thought out well, but the direction the film was taken was just not that good, and the director really did the film a great disservice. Mortdecai reminded me of a Marx Brothers' movie called Animal Crackers and that's what the film I think may have been trying to be like, but I personally think they should have gone a more serious route than so obviously filled with stupid hilarity, but it could have been much worse. I think I could watch it again, it was funny and interesting, but not that great; so if you like funny you'll probably enjoy this film, and I think it would work as a really good date film since it doesn't take itself quite so seriously.

Mortdecai trailer

Johnny Depp and Gwyneth Paltrow interview

Spectre trailer (looks very interesting)

Monday, July 20, 2015

"Were You Rushing or Were You Dragging?"

I can definitely state with absolute certainty that J.K. Simmons deserves the Academy Award that he won playing the character he did in Whiplash. Wow what a performance. He's come a long way since Spider-Man and Red Alert 3 (PC strategy game that I've played; very enjoyable). The story is about a young man who attends a music college as a drummer and ends up in the band of one of the leading and best instructors in the country. Okay, Miles Teller also deserves a huge nod for his performance as well; his character grows so much from the beginning of the film to the end of it. So this kid expects it to be the greatest opportunity ever, but very quickly he finds out this man isn't what he quite thought he was. The kid continues to push and push himself as his instructor also pushes and pushes the kid to become perfect. It comes to blood, sweat, personal sacrifices and tears but he pushes himself so far that he doesn't see his own self-destruction happening around him. It is a powerful story about strength of willpower and the tenacious drive for perfection in one's craft, not to mention testing and breaking one's limits. I always tell people to know their breaking point and be conscious of it; usually I did this when doing counseling in my previous mental health jobs, but it works pretty good in general life as well I have discovered. I don't believe I was bored during the entire film and it kept my attention constantly I have to say most of the time. It was well written with a good plot, good dialog, and good characters....but mostly J.K. Simmons and Miles Teller. And I have to say that there were a lot of twists and turns throughout the film that I didn't expect, and the ending was amazing, simply amazing. Who'd ever thought I would have loved a film about a drummer in a music band, but I did and highly recommend people to watch it. Now, it is not a nice, soft, fluffy film so it does take a fair amount of gumption to watch due to the psychological and verbal torment that is unleashed by Simmon's character on various individuals throughout the film. That said, it does have an interesting philosophy behind the harsh behavior towards the students, I believe Simmon's character states that..."there are no two words more harmful in the English language than 'good job.'" I don't know, combating mediocrity can be difficult so some pushing is necessary, but then at the same time one can always push too hard; I guess people have to decide what is more important in their lives.

Whiplash trailer

Whiplash rushing or dragging scene

Whiplash interviews

Sunday, July 19, 2015

You've Never Seen a Harvest Quite Like This One.

The unfortunate thing about Jupiter Ascending was that I went into it with the predisposition that it was going to be a relatively dreadful film, but I had heard mixed reviews and thus was willing to at least give it a shot. Well....I came, I saw, I didn't quite enjoy. It wasn't a positively dreadful film, but it wasn't that great either; it was also incredibly trite and very un-original with it's writing, plot points, and action sequences. The only thing that seemed original were the visuals of the science fiction aspect of the film, which at times came off as a rather laughable at times so not quite a triumph there very much. I have to say the Wachowskis aren't faring very well as of late with their films; it seems almost that they'll only ever have The Matrix trilogy as a credit to their name. Right from the get go the Wachowskis made 2 mistakes; Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum (although he wasn't as bad as she was). I guarantee if these two individuals hadn't been in the film it would have been 25% better. She plays a Cinderalla/Snow White type character with a huge twist, but she eschews her royalty when she discovers it and would rather hang with the "bad boy" which is a spliced human being with something similar to a dog providing him with heightened senses and fighting prowess. Here Channing Tatum as the flying, gun toting bodyguard is able to defy all of the odds thrown at him and keep surviving inescapably insurmountable odds to kill him again, and again, and yet again.

I would try to provide an explanation of the film's story and plot line but it's heavily convoluted and wasn't explained that well in the film. Bascially, Jupiter (Mila Kunis) is a genetically reincarnated royal version of a woman who lived for 95,000 years and she inherits a lot of......planets and wealth of some sort, I think. Anyways, Earth is one of those planets, and due to its vast "resources" it is contested between 3 siblings who want the planet's wealth for themselves and will do anything to acquire it. Channing Tatum is there to at first bring Jupiter to one of the siblings, but then she and he end up falling for each other and he becomes her knight in shining armor several times. That's it. Eddie Redmayne as Balem Abrasax (one of the siblings trying to kill Jupiter) stands out as the best part of the entire film, and one of the most interesting characters. It's hard to say if he was villain or just a person with a tragic like story, but he really made that film bearable, and it was a pity that they didn't do more with his character. And I'm going to make a major spoiler right here, Sean Bean played a character that didn't die! I kept waiting and wondering when he was going to die, but I was surprisingly delighted when he didn't, and then irritatingly enough his character vanished into the background like many others in the film left unresolved. As I mentioned already the story, writing, and plot were atrocious; how Eddie Redmayne made it work God only knows. The visual style of the world created by the Wachowskis was pretty good, and overall the idea was good but the execution of it was quite poor. Michael Giacchino did a relatively fine job with film composition, but it reminded me a lot of Star Trek and there were really no motifs that stood out, but his use of choral was divine even though disjointed at times with where it was utilized. Definitely not a film I would recommend people to watch, but it was mildly entertaining I suppose. Hope the Wachowski's film is better, and I have yet to see a film I enjoy Mila Kunis in.

Jupiter Ascending trailer

Jupiter Ascending interview

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. trailer (looks potentially good) 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Power of Music.

The other day I was trying to find something to watch and I came upon this French film Les choristes or The Chorus which was nominated for a couple of Oscars a number of years ago that I hadn't been able to see yet. However, I flipped a few buttons and there it was so I watched it. First of all let me say that the music my Bruno Coulais (also did the film score for Coraline) was amazing; I have been listening to it for years, and hearing it along with the action on the film was very cool. Basically, the story is about a man who in 1949 France goes to work at a type of boys reform school and in the midst of the struggles that he and staff are going through to mostly help the boys, he starts a choir and composes music for the boys to sing. As the film progresses and the boys begin to learn the music and harmonize together, the staff's attitude changes as does most of the young boys. Amazing and heart stirring performances by the cast, which of course are all French; Gerard Jugnot (Clement Mathieu), Francois Berleand (Rachin), and Jean-Baptiste Maunier (Pierre Morhange). It definitely is worth watching and it reminded me of what it was like working in such an environment with kids; the good and the bad when I was a staff at a long term residential facility for severely emotionally disturbed children. The film kept my attention the entire time, was relatively well paced, good characters, good writing and good character development, and even the ending was good without being trite surprisingly. I highly recommend the film, and yes please watch it in subtitles you'll not even notice them after getting absorbed into the film.

 Les Choristes trailer

Select track from Les Choristes score

Scene from Les Choristes

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

To Catch a Fox.

It's hard to believe that July is half over already. There are only 5 and a half months left of 2015; I swear I need to learn a trick that makes time go by slower. So I typically don't care for films that are about athletics in general; I find that they are on average trite and rather boring, not to mention very similar to each other in themes and plot. Foxcatcher was maybe not like a lot of athletic themed films I've seen, but I do have to say that I was bored for all 2 hours and 13 minutes of the film; no offense to the memories of the lives with which the film is based. Channing Tatum plays an Olympic wrestler, Mark Schultz, down a little on his luck who is picked up by a very wealthy philanthropist who takes him in and helps pay for his expenses and trains him as well....like a mentor figure. John du Pont, played by Steve Carell, is a man who knows what he wants and will do what he can to acquire it. Mark Ruffalo, Dave Schultz, as Mark's brother is essentially the man's moral compass and center of balance who helps him find it despite what is going on. So, now these three characters and actors were the main attractions to the film. All three of them gave wonderful performances, although I suppose that is rather ridiculous to state as I never met or seen the real people that this film and its characters are based off of, but it appeared as if they did quite good, especially Carell who typically takes on more comedic roles than serious ones, and he got this one perfectly. Compared to Ruffalo and Tatum there is constantly so much going on in Carell's performance, but that might be because his character has a lot more depth than the other two. Based on what I saw and then what I read up on concerning the real people, I have a few ideas concerning psychological difficulties and negative behavioral patterns and thoughts the real John du Pont might have experienced, but all I will say is that he probably despised his mother and had a lot of repressed sexual and violent tension stored up internally due to probably lack of parental relational intimacy and inability to form meaningful, healthy, long term relationships. That however has nothing to do with the film, I digress. Like I mentioned about, I was bored the entire time I was watching the film; the performances were great, but the characters themselves were not that interesting (once again, no offense to the real people that they are based off of). Based on all of that I don't really know what to say about the rest of the technical elements of the film since I considered it completely boring the whole time; I can't say that I would recommend people watch it, although Steve Carell's performance was something to see. In other news, the world still doesn't seem to be improving regarding war, death, violence, and loss of liberty; although apparently President Obama and his Cabinet worked to create an accord with Iran to prevent nuclear weapon advances for at least 15 years. I'm kind of curious though what happens after 15 years, and when Iran's current Supreme leader dies, which should be before that stretch of time. Anyways, much to think about hopefully everyone is staying informed and not using social media as their main source of news. Please use these sources for good news services: PBS Newshour, Wall Street Journal, The Economist, BBC, and Al Jazeera (Fox, NBC, ABC, CBS, and CNN only care about ratings and are extremely biased which affects what news they show and how they present the facts).

Foxcatcher trailer

The real John du Pont

Suicide Squad trailer (looks...interesting)