Friday, October 25, 2013

The Counselor

So yeah, I went into The Counselor pretty much solely for Michael Fassbender, but outside of his involvement, I really wasn't looking forward to this movie at all. It just looked really bland and generic to me. And so, despite so many dependable names being attached, I remained mostly reserved going into this thing, and the fact that early word has already been pretty negative had further lowered my expectations. However, I must say that this movie was quite a pleasant surprise, and very much plays out almost like a modern day Shakespeare piece.

Michael Fassbender plays a lawyer who's only ever referred to as Counselor, and he gets involved in a drug trafficking scheme down in Mexico that quickly becomes more than he can handle, resulting in a huge mess for everyone involved. The movie plays with themes of both love and greed, and how these two things can come back to bite you if you're not prepared for what you're getting yourself into. And the way this movie approaches both subjects as a whole through its dialogue is almost seamlessly interchangeable. In fact, the movie is very dialogue heavy, and it was early on that it really pulled me in with the very Shakespearean tempo of the delivery and sensibilities of the conversations at hand, which I found to be really endearing. And once I was able to approach the film from that perspective, I found myself really digging the hell out of it from that point on.

I mentioned before how there were a lot of talented names attached to this project, and they all really come forward to add their contribution in making this thing work. Ridley Scott's solid direction truly complimented Cormac McCarthy's smart and clever script, and the acting all around was really good as well. In addition to Fassbender, the film also stars Penelope Cruz, Brad Pitt, and Javier Bardem, who all brought the goods and really worked well together on screen. But surprisingly enough, the one who really stole the show here was Cameron Diaz, playing the super-sexualized manipulator who really is the driving force of this plot. It's not the most subtle of roles, but damn does she dive right in and really make you believe that she's this cold, calculating bitch.

While the film definitely maintains a theatrical vibe with the way most of its dialogue heavy settings play out, there is a little bit of action at play here as well. There's not a whole lot of it, but when the violence happens, the movie gets in, gets it over with, and gets out, but in that short amount of time, this thing gets really bloody and brutal really fast. There's gunfights that don't last too long, but it doesn't take long for blood to start spraying, either. Not to mention the graphic beheadings that are on display. So yeah, certainly not a film for the squeamish.

So I ended up really liking the hell out of this movie, though there are a few things that I could nitpick it for. For instance, there's probably an overuse of extreme closeups on people's faces throughout, which became noticeable, though wasn't necessarily a detractor, even if some of the shots felt a bit uninspired. And there are scenes where Fassbender is talking to his fiance on the phone, but we can only hear his half of the conversation, leaving gaps of silence where she would be speaking. This wouldn't be a problem, except for the fact that throughout the rest of the movie whenever someone's talking on the phone, we're able to hear both ends of the conversation, so it took me out of the movie a bit during these scenes, and left me wondering if perhaps something was wrong with the sound in the theater. But really, like I said, that's all really nitpicky, and outside of those sorts of things, there's really nothing too much I can harp on this movie for.

It's a bit of a long one, but, again, after I was able to take the movie as a modern Shakespearean work, I was able to roll with the run time. And it remains ever intriguing all throughout, with interesting anecdotes and poetic insights that'll leave you thinking. I really didn't expect to be this impressed by this movie, but sure enough, behind the great collaboration of minds at work behind the camera and the strong performances on screen that really sold the material, I gotta say that The Counselor was pretty damn well done.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Actors you will see ANY movie they're in

In my Chloe Moretz post, I mentioned how she's become an actor who I will see any movie with her in it. And it got me thinking what other actors I also felt this way towards, and these are the names that I came up with. Now, just because I say I'd see any movie they're in doesn't mean that I've actually gotten around to every movie they're in just yet. But I do always tend to make a point to see their films, and I'm always excited for any upcoming releases that I see their names attached to, even if solely for them. I'm counting only currently working actors here, and put together four more names in addition to Ms. Moretz, who would've rounded things out to make a Top 5. So then, without further ado and in no particular order...

Emma Watson

I'm not even that big a Harry Potter fan, and she hasn't done much outside of those movies just yet. In fact, I pretty much ignored the Potter movies for the most part until The Half-Blood Prince, which is really when I took notice of her as an actor. And since then, Emma Watson has quickly become one of my favorites. While she's never necessarily wowed me with anything she's done, she's never given a bad performance, either, and is usually the highlight of any movie she's in. Hell, she's also the only actor on this list where not only have I enjoyed her in everything, but I've also ended up liking every single movie of hers so far as well. The fact that she's also just about the most gorgeous actress alive today is also a nice bonus, but believe me when I say that her looks have little to do with her placement on my list compared with her talents as an actor (there are plenty of hot actors whose movies I won't watch). And yet, as I say that, I of course follow this entry up with...

Michael Fassbender

Yeah, that's right, another beautiful actor who'll make you melt in your seat (though I swear this list won't only consist of the same people from the list!). But in addition to being one of the hottest actors today, Michael Fassbender is also one of the most brilliant, and, like I said about Chloe Moretz, it's truly only a matter of time before he's wielding Oscar gold. He just has such a commanding presence in everything he's in, and one that manages to lure me out to all of his movies. And while I don't always end up being a fan of some of those movies (such as Prometheus or A Dangerous Method), I am always a fan of his outstanding performances in said movies, and continue to make my way to the theater just to see him, no matter how little the rest of the movie may interest me (The Counselor).

Mark Wahlberg

Mark Wahlberg is probably the first actor who I started seeing anything and everything they starred in, and it all started with The Big Hit. After that, I've been a big fan of his ever since. Though I do have to admit that his spot on my list has been slipping a bit in recent years, with me skipping a few of his movies due to him being counter-acted by another actor who I have a particular disdain for, such as The Other Guys (I am not a Will Ferrell guy), and earlier this year I skipped out on Pain & Gain in theaters, due to my ever increasing annoyance with co-star The Rock at the time. I did eventually see it after its theatrical run, though, and found it to be a surprisingly great movie, with one of Wahlberg's best performances to date (not to mention The Rock, who honestly did give the best performance of his career so far in that film). And that's the thing about Wahlberg, similar to Fassbender, while I may not always necessarily care about the movies he's in, I'm almost always interested in his contribution to those movies nonetheless. Whether it's a performance as awesomely bad as in The Happening, or a scene stealer like in The Departed, Wahlberg's always an interesting addition to any film, and one who always automatically sparks my own interest.

Nic Cage

The man himself. I don't care how crappy some of his movies may get, I'm almost always up for a Nic Cage flick. This guy is just a blast to watch, and has the ability to elevate even the worst of material. He just loves his job so much, and it shows on the screen, 'cause he's always making the best of and having fun with his roles, which makes the viewing experience so much more fun to watch. He's gotten a bit of a bad rap for some of his movie choices in recent years, but he hasn't lost me as a fan. I still think he's an incredible actor, quite possibly among the absolute greatest of this generation, with the ability to naturally pull off anything from deadly serious to maniacally campy, and everything in-between. Now I can't say that I've even begun to see his entire repertoire of films, especially since for a period of time he was starring in just about every other movie that was coming out. But I do try and make a point to make it out to as many of his movies as I can, because if nothing else, his on-screen antics ensure that I'll be in for a good time.

So there you have it then, my list of actors who I am willing to see any movie they happen to be in. And now I turn to you all to add your contribution and voice your opinions on who some of your own go-to actors are.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Carrie: A Chloë Moretrospective

So the new Carrie movie was pretty much exactly what I had hoped and expected it to be. An awesome movie, with an especially awesome performance from Chloë Moretz in the title role, who once more proves herself to be one of the most consistently impressive actors working in Hollywood today.

I've never actually seen the original movie or read the book by Stephen King, so I can't say how this compares to those. But on its own merits, I quite liked what we got from this remake. The plot is well structured and obviously modernized from its original incarnation, and I thought the updates worked really well. And in many regards, with the way that Carrie comes to possess telekinetic powers which she ultimately uses to unleash her pent up rage against those who've wronged her once she's pushed to her breaking point, this movie reminded me quite a bit of last year's Chronicle (or did Chronicle inadvertently remind me of Carrie? Hmm...). I was a huge fan of that movie, and for similar reasons, I was really able to relate and connect to this story as well.

I really loved the raw and intense imagery once the carnage begins near the end. And, in addition to Chloë Moretz, I felt that all of the acting was perfectly fine for the most part. You really do come to either care for or completely detest the various different characters we encounter. But the one who really carries this movie and truly elevates it would be our star, Chloë Moretz.

Simply put, she outdoes herself again, perfectly balancing a character who is shy and reserved while around her peers, yet more open and worrisome with her situation at home with her crazy mother. It's a truly believable performance that she just loses herself in, especially at the end, when she becomes a legitimately menacing presence, soaked in blood as she unleashes her furious wrath.

I'm not kidding when I say that she's one of the most impressive actors working today. She's been impressing me in just about everything I've see her in since I first discovered her as the foul mouthed Hit-Girl in Kick-Ass. She pretty much captured the world's attention with her standout performance, not to mention the novelty of seeing a young girl swearing like a sailor as she casually and stylishly slaughters thugs left and right. And she followed that up with what I felt was an Oscar worthy portrayal as the vampire Abby in Let Me In, another great remake and a role for which I still feel she deserved the awards recognition that was sadly denied of her. For many people, she's still just Hit-Girl, but after Let Me In, for me at least, Chloë Grace Moretz had arrived, and I've been a huge fan of hers ever since.

She's since gone on to give another stellar performance in Hugo, as well as being one of the few shining aspects in Kick-Ass 2, doing her part to make the absolute most of an otherwise forgettable sequel. And even going back and seeing some of her earlier work, you can see that she's been a natural talent her whole life, such as in The Amityville Horror remake, where she gave a solid enough performance at a super young age that's even better than the movie itself (and better than the movie deserved, quite frankly), or even holding her own in the phenomenal (500) Days of Summer. In fact, her only performance that she didn't quite pull off was in Dark Shadows, but I blame that more on the fact that Tim Burton has become a bit of a hack director in recent years. I mean, seriously, how much do you gotta suck to somehow get a bad performance out of Chloë Moretz?

But even with that one little hiccup, Ms. Moretz has proven herself time and again to be one hell of an actor. And that she's already given us as many great and memorable performances at such a young age is truly astounding. She outdoes herself at every given opportunity, and she changes it up with a wide rage of varied characters throughout her catalogue of films, each so different and unique, and yet so believable and full of genuine life and feeling. And if she's already this good now, I can't wait to see how her career continues to unfold. She has a hell of a bright future ahead of herself, and it really is only a matter of time before she finally snags up that gold statue, because you're almost always guaranteed greatness of some sort when you see her name attached to a movie.

She's become so consistent that I pretty much will see any movie she's in, even if solely for her. And truth be told, that was the case with Carrie, too. Once I saw that this was essentially a Chloë Moretz vehicle, I was right on board, and I was not let down. Even despite a terrible theater experience where I was surrounded by assholes texting and providing their unwanted commentary all throughout, she was able to cancel them all out once she appeared on screen, drawing me in and allowing me to enjoy the movie despite their constant distractions.

So yeah, Carrie was an awesome movie, with another awesome performance from our go-to star. It's worth watching for Chloë Moretz alone, but the intriguing plot and bad ass visual effects really do all come together under some solid direction to make this yet another one of her movies that's certainly worth seeing.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Captain Phillips

Listen up. I am happy to report that the new Tom Hanks thriller, Captain Phillips, has more than met my expectations. It's a solid film through and through, with Hanks putting on another classic performance as the Captain.

And it's a good thing that Hanks delivers, because he really was the sole selling point to this movie for me. I couldn't get enough of his Boston accent in the trailers, and his line delivery throughout the course of the movie has taken what would otherwise just be your typical average dialogue in the hands of anyone else, and seemingly turned them into awesome tag lines that you might find on the movie poster.

Sadly, this particular line from the trailer didn't actually make it into the movie, but trust me, the whole film's filled with these kinds of random one-offs that Hanks is able to elevate and really give them his special touch. And in addition to Hanks, the Somali pirates all also do really good jobs here as well, though admittedly, the rest of the cast, including key members of the Captain's crew and military figures, act like they're bored to be there more often than not. But gladly that couldn't be further from the case with Hanks, who really sinks into his role and becomes the Captain.

Speaking of the pirates, I did have some reservations going in based on the latest trailers, which appeared to try and add some sentimentality to them. But the movie really did a good job of balancing this aspect out, allowing us to understand why the pirates were doing what they're doing, without ever going overboard with it to the point that we can actually relate to or ever really feel sorry for them or anything like that, so the movie handled this really well I felt.

But otherwise, this was a really solid flick from start to finish, and one where, despite knowing how it ends, being based on a true story and all, it still very much remained a pretty intense and emotional thriller all the way through (which there sure have been a lot of these lately, haven't there?). The one thing I did take a bit of issue with, though, would be the constant changes in POV. I was fine enough when they jumped between the Captain and the pirates, but then once the military gets involved it does get just a bit jumbled. And especially coming off of Gravity, which so superbly pulled off a tale of survival without ever pulling away from its main star, I couldn't help but wonder while watching this just how much stronger the movie could've been had they allowed some of the stuff with the military to happen off screen, and just stuck with Captain Phillips throughout his capture.

Still though, that little pondering aside, it was still a really good movie, so that's not that big a deal in the end. The actors did a great job bringing their characters to life, and the script provides quite a bit of depth to a lot of these characters without overdoing it. And it all comes together for the happy ending that we all know about going in, but even so, it still remains very satisfying to see it all play out before our eyes. So just remember this, men, piracy doesn't pay, so don't illegally download this movie, go out and see it the right way, or else the Navy will kill your ass!

So, until next time...

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Cat of the Day: Honey

Honey is my Grandma's other cat who we took in a few month's back, and she is today's Cat of the Day!

However, unlike Pepper, even after all this time, Honey hasn't warmed up to me in the least. The mere sight of me stepping into the room will send her running for the nearest hiding place, usually pausing to look back and hiss at me, just for good measure. And like trying to capture the Loch Ness Monster or Bigfoot on camera, the picture provided is probably about as clear a shot as I'm bound to get of her. But even so, it's actually a fitting enough picture anyways, since that's pretty much the way I always see her, from a distance, and just before crawling away into whatever hiding spot she can find.

So yeah, that's pretty much all I've got on her. But you know what, this is her day, and if she wants to run and hide away, then by all means, go for it, Honey!

(Also to note: Though they're both calico cats named Honey, unlike some of the other cats featured in the Cat of the Day series, this particular Honey is actually not the same Honey who's featured in Velcro: The Ninja Kat.)

Friday, October 4, 2013


And the streak of tense as hell cinematic experiences continues with Alfonso Cuarón's Gravity. And good god, what an experience this one is. Gravity is one of the most mesmerizingly beautiful, and yet relentlessly intense movie-going outings to come our way all year.

And I'm not even exaggerating when I say that this movie is mesmerizing. I was watching wide eyed on the edge of my seat the entire time. The story here is that Sandra Bullock and George Clooney are up in space when their mission goes deadly wrong, and they have to find a way to survive their extreme conditions and make it back home alive, all the while dealing with zero gravity working against them and space debris hurling at them like bullets.

The movie is shot so beautifully, with the camera moving so fluidly as it captures all the action. And the movie is shot in a series of extremely long takes that last for upwards of over ten minutes at a time without cutting away, just floating all around our characters and jumping in and out of their space suits in seamless fashion. It can be such a soothing experience that really pulls you in and keeps your attention as their situation continues to become more and more distressing as our characters find more and more obstacles blocking their journey home. The way this movie's shot, you really do feel like you're lost in space as well as this movie takes you along for the ride.

George Clooney is his usual charming self, and he really just plays the same character he plays in anything, though he definitely does his job to lighten the mood whenever he shows up. But I'm not sure that Sandra Bullock has ever been better, giving one hell of an intense performance that really heightens the intensity on screen. But really, great as the performances are, the technical aspects are the big stars of this show.

In addition to the gorgeous visuals, the use of sound in this movie is just brilliant. Sound doesn't carry through space, and as such, as we see all of the satellites and shuttles crashing and tearing apart, there's no sound to accompany it, which was a real nice touch. Whenever they're out roaming through space in their suits, the only sound we hear is the ruffling from inside their suits as they move around, as well as what they say to each other over their radios. And the accompanying score is a truly compelling piece, really complementing the intensity of the dire action.

You're bound to hear these same words used to describe this movie by just about everyone else who sees it, but they truly do apply in spades to this movie. Gravity is a breathtakingly stunning experience that pulls you in and never lets go until it's over. It's a masterpiece of intensity that'll keep you mesmerized all throughout, with beautiful visuals and music, and a brilliant use of sound that'll stay with you well after the credits roll. It's a cinematic experience unlike anything else out there right now, and is a definite must see.