Movie Reviews: 500 Days of Summer

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Boy meets girl.

Boy falls in love with girl.

Girl breaks up with Boy.

We’ve seen this all before, but not quite in this non-linear way. Many times, movies are told in a total flashback, where the beginning of the narration is really the end, but that isn’t the case here at all.

We see the highlights and the low points and know mostly one side of the story. It’s ultimately his story, and his journey, so it works, despite being a somewhat sad watch.

The famed “expectations vs reality” scene reflects something we’ve all gone through. Life sometimes doesn’t measure up to what he wanted. Outcomes are not quite achieved. Hope is sometimes lost.

But as long as we get through that dark tunnel, we might find some hope again.

Seasons change, and time heals.

It could be the best Zooey Deschenal film before her move to TV. She plays it as cold and irrational as you’d expect, or as you remembered from your own experiences, when you are not the one.

Movie Rating: 8/10 Shower Curtains

Movie Reviews: Now You See Me 2

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Now You See Me 2 directed by Jon Chu

aka “Now You Can See the Casting Change”

What happens when Hollywood has an unexpected surprise hit with a relatively low budget cast?

Sequels happen.

What happens when the token hot girl doesn’t agree (likely over compensation) to appear in the sequel?

Hello Lizzy Caplan.

This seemed like the first 10 minutes was focused explaining this in some awfully written dialogue as if the audience needed to know the play by play. We’ve seen this plot device at the beginning of Karate Kid Part II and practically any sequel where there are casting issues. We have had 3 different Hulks in films, and Captain America was first part of the Fantastic Four. In Speed 2, Sandra had to take a cruise with someone else because “things simply didn’t work out.”

I call this cinematic weak-sauce.

Here is a hint Hollywood. Movie-goers can be smart too. They go to movies not because it is believable canon. (They put up with bumbling and unwatchable Finn in the new Star Wars) They want escapism, or want to fit in with friends, or take a date there, or have to watch over their kids. Nobody needs so much intro to explain why Robin William’s voice isn’t in The Return of Jafar. Reminding them someone isn’t there has the opposite effect!

I thought it would be a throwaway line. Nope. The first act is essentially trying painstakingly to make Lizzy Caplan to be likable by giving her all the clever lines and reactions.

They simply should have renamed the movie “Now Can You Please Like Her?”

On to the plot.

Nonsensical plot to try and link it back to the first one and come up with reasons for cast to return. The fun and cleverness and discovery in the first film is completely lost in this plot. It isn’t as if the first film was a masterpiece, but I hoped that with confidence in a franchise, and a larger budget, they could be bolder and expand what was started.

So what’s the plan for the third one? Gonna bring back Michael Caine once again?

On to the main question at hand; Did I like Lizzy Caplan?

Yes, but not for any reasons to do with the film.

Movie Rating: 3 Card Monty’s out of 10.

 

Movie Reviews (& Jake Gyllenhaal Rant): Nightcrawler

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Nightcrawler directed by Dan Gilroy

I usually don’t enjoy watching Jake Gyllenhaal movies. I’m a huge fan of Donnie Darko and Zodiac, and thought Source Code was pretty good. You see, Jake does well when he doesn’t try to recapture what might have been in his failed attempts at nabbing the Spider Man or Batman roles. When in the hands of a good director, he does well. When he tries box office roles as a leading man, he fails miserably (Prince of Persia, The Day after Tomorrow). He has talent, but isn’t really a likeable character in almost anything he is in. Nobody says, “Hey, are you going to see the new Jake Gyllenhaal movie this weekend?”

He is a modern day Dennis Quaid.

Does Dennis Quaid star in a bunch of films? Yep. Do they all suck? Nope. Are any of them good? A few. Does anyone consider him a star? Nope. Do people think he can act? Sometimes. You can pretty much make a checklist and start marking off boxes and you’ll see a match fairly quickly.

In other words, who do you go to when the top 7 actors you wanted turned the script down, then the next 5 actors demand too much money, then the next 3 actors choose another project or a broadway show instead?

You go with Jake Gyllenhaal.

Going into Nightcrawler, I was expecting the worst. The preview said it was one of the best pictures of the year, which I roll my eyes at everytime I hear that. Every film is the “best” at something, from the “Number One picture in America” all the way down to “The top comedy in America” (When there are two cartoon sequels, a comic book movie, and a remake that same weekend, and the film technically finished in 8th place).

What I watched was astounding. This was “good Jake” acting like an obsessed lunatic, in an anti-hero coming of age story in relation to the media business. It could be social commentary on news, or people behind the news, or an allegory for competition in America and winning at all costs. It was slow at parts, but in a good way. The director let the story breathe. The story built up to an epic third act that had me totally engrossed in the film, up until the very end. I enjoy character stories such as this, and Drive, and wish Hollywood made more of it, rather than trying to please all four quadrants of the audience chart. If they made The Godfather to please the kids, grandma, women, and all ethnic demographics instead of just making the best Italien mobster movie of all time, could you imagine the disastrous result?

This could very well have been the best movie I saw in 2015 on DVD.

Movie Rating: 10/10 Doughnut Shop Confrontations

Guest Reviewer: “Bad Jake”

You best step off your commentary on my films. What you witnessed isn’t a one and done phenomena. If you watched the entire library of Jake-G films, you’ll witness the range of his acting. Hello … did you see Jake go “Full Jake” in Brokeback Mountain? He rolled around in Bubble Boy before Games-2-U made it a modern day past time. Are you seriously going to knock his “Hot and Cold” box office tentpoles? Jake was merely exploring the duality of a futuristic Ice Age and a past age in the desert. You see, Jake saw the writing on the wall and skated to where the puck was going way before Game of Thrones jumped on this Song of Ice and Fire bandwagon. Why am I talking about myself in the third person? Well, as it turns out, I’m going undercover studying what it would be like to be a little bit nuts. It seems I’m being typecast a little bit of late, and need to do more to gain an edge on the competition. I need to go smash a house now.

CHECK OUT MY OTHER MOVIE RANTS

Movie Reviews: Kill Bill Volume 1

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Once a year a film comes out that is a masterpiece. In 2003, Kill Bill Volume 1 was that film. We all know the story. Uma Thurman is the Bride and she is out for revenge for killing her wedding party and putting her in a coma. I watched this in the movie complex being relatively new the town I was living in at the time. You know the feeling. I really wanted to see the movie but had zero friends in this new city in the midwest.

I was so eager to see it I walked up to the window and bought my ticket for one. The girl gave me a look. You’ve seen it before. Ticket for one at the movies is like going to a restaurant alone.  It is socially accepted to do so, but people look at you a little weird. Like “too bad” look at him.

I didn’t care. This was Quentin Tarantino and I wasn’t missing opening night.

To make it more awkward, I thought perhaps people would want arrive early to score seats. Nope. I walked into a theatre with a pack of four girls, each dressed as if they were bigger superfans of Tarantino than me. I sat five rows behind them and didn’t realize we were at two different spectrums of dedicated fandom.

They were not waiting for the movie to start. They had just seen the movie and just finished watching the credits. They talked loudly (before the era of smartphones to soak up time). I’ve heard of people sneaking into movies, but sneaking into a movie without moving an inch is a level of dedication I didn’t know existed. So I watched them curiously. One girl had an invisible sword she wielded on her friends. I am not sure what the body count was by the time the crowd flowed in, but she was more pumped up than me by the time the previews started.

I watched the Bride do her thing. The movie was awesome. Hearing RZA’s score pump through the theater when O-Ren Ishii and the yakuza enter a Tokyo restaurant was awesome. It shows the mastery of Tarantino and what he can do.

At the end, I finally understood the girl with the invisible sword. She imagined she had a Hattori Hanzo sword and did what anyone does with it.

She put it to work.

Movie Rating 11/10 (off the damn charts)

NEXT: THE PULP FICTION MOVIE REVIEW (IS IT HIS BEST FILM?)

Movie Reviews: Steve Jobs

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Steve Jobs directed by Danny Boyle

Three scenes for three acts, how much cleaner can a narrative get? When I first heard about the production, I didn’t know why the world needed another movie that focused on the Steve Jobs and his rise and fall return to Apple. The Pirates of Silicon Valley did a pretty good job telling that story (Jobs vs Gates). Then, the world felt the impact of Ashton Kutcher and his flat footed walking with his version in Jobs (Jobs vs Scully).

Then tonight, I finally sat down and watched the Aaron “West Wing” Sorkin version of Steve Jobs. Let me tell you, this was basically the West Wing with computers. Based on the condensed biographical nuggets of his life smashed into three scenes with as much walking and talking and yelling and confrontations as one can imagine, the story does a great job balancing storytelling in a movie and trying to weave biographic thread points in. This version is Job’s relationship with his daughter Lisa, John Scully his handpicked soda-loving CEO, Steve Wozniak his trusted engineer, and Joanna Hoffman his marketing sidekick and sounding board. It works on many levels due to the suspension of time and reality, almost like a storytelling reality distortion field.

The writing is very good with a ton of back and forth like many other Sorkin written screenplays. His writing is best if the characters are pressed for time and are in a hurry to do something. I remember a story he once told on a podcast that his writing stems from when he used to sneak into broadway shows after the 2nd act, so all his knowledge of stories were the third act. I’m not sure if that is true, or a part of a long line of Sorkin stories, but it does hold true to an old writing maxim to start the story the closest you can to the action or the end.

GUEST INTERVIEW: “ERIN SHORKING”

FADE IN:

EXT. MOVIE THEATER – NIGHT

Matt and Erin walk out the theater altering watching Steve Jobs.

MATT

(Walking and smiling)

Did you like the movie?

ERIN

(PICKING UP HER PACE)

What?

MATT

(JOGGING)

The movie .. Steve Jobs.

ERIN

(Glancing back)

Um. It was fine.

MATT

(Nodding assuredly)

Cool. I thought so too.

ERIN

(Tapping her cell phone for a call and stopping)

MATT

(Raising hand for a high five)

ERIN

(Ignoring high five and beginning talk on the iPhone)

Um hey, it’s me. The movie is over. Yeah? Oh yeah, and so is the date too.

MATT

(Not quite hearing clearly)

So yeah, I totally loved the part where Steve Jobs slid down the bannister. It was so clever.

ERIN

(Not paying attention at all)

Yeah, I know. You still free? Can you pick me up now?

(Holding her hand over the iPhone)

Um, yeah, I don’t need a ride. You head out without me. I’m just gonna chill here.

MATT

(Biting lip)

Oh … ok, cool.

FADE OUT:

Movie Rating: 9.5/10 Black Turtlenecks

Review of Trainspotting, another movie by Danny Boyle

https://mmleonard.com/2016/03/29/movie-reviews-trainspotting/