Jesse Peretz’s ‘Our Idiot Brother’ (2011)

Another day, another afternoon on Netflix. As I was flipping through all the different options,  I had a few guidelines I was following. First, it had to be a short movie. I wanted something that was short, sweet and to the point. It’s a Friday and I’ve got things to do (as I sit here writing this review which has nothing to do with what I need to get done). Secondly, it had to be funny. Going into the weekend, I needed something to make me unwind from this tough week. I definitely was not in the mood to watch some complicated 2hr30min film which would leave me feeling empty and depressed. Well, I came across Our Idiot Brother and felt that it would follow my guidelines. An hour and a half later, I came to the conclusion that it did.
Our_Idiot_Brother1What works about this film for me is that it’s not meant to be a work of art, and you have to accept the fact that you’re watching it because it’s lighthearted and fun. I suppose that’s what comedies are, essentially. I personally watch too many dramas that I end up taking the film industry so seriously. Our Idiot Brother made me step back a few steps.
What attracted me to this film in the first places was the cast. A lot of these actors have worked together in multiple films, and for good reason-their chemistry is great. These actors include Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, Rashida Jones, Adam Scott, and Kathryn Hahn. Additional actors such as Zooey Deschanel, Emily Mortimer, and Steve Coogan fit right in to join a fun ensemble.
This film was so silly I honestly felt like I was smiling 95% of the time. I just love Paul Rudd. His character was spot on, and I couldn’t help but be reminded of one of my friends who has almost the same exact personality. That’s kind of a side note, but it’s also commending Rudd for adhering well to his character. I also have a soft spot for dogs, so this film won some brownie points for bringing a dog into it’s storyline.
For the 5% I didn’t smile, the film did put in some serious moments only for the support of it’s overall moral of the story. The sisters (Mortimer, Banks, and Deschanel) create those serious moments, and although they got on my nerves a little bit with their cliche drama, it was fun to watch it all come together.

“I like to think that if you put your trust out there; if you really give people the benefit of the doubt, see their best intentions, people will rise to the occasion.” – Our Idiot Brother (2011)

Pros:

  • fun and lighthearted
  • heartwarming and optimistic
  • enjoyed watching the character interactions
  • nice soundtrack
  • made me laugh out loud at some points (that’s hard to do with me)

Cons:

  • it’s pretty mediocre compared to other comedies
  • probably won’t watch it again
  • don’t want to sound like a snob here (probably will anyway)… I love Rashida, but I hated her character’s style. It was obvious that they were making her the “man” of the lesbian couple
  • should have been marketed better

Overall Rating: 6/10

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Denis Villeneuve’s ‘Prisoners’ (2013)

My boyfriend and I have very different interests when it comes to film, so when we were at Red Box last night he had eyes on The Internship and I had my eyes on Prisoners. As you can see, I won that battle. If you don’t already know from my previous posts, I’m really into psychological thrillers. I love films that keep me guessing, and A+ if the film has a twist ending. Prisoners (2013) captured my heart by not only succeeding in the thriller department, but for creating an emotionally captivating story line and character development. jackman-prisonersWhen two girls go missing in broad daylight, Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman), the father of one of the girls, takes many risks  in order to solve the case on his own terms. The families of the two girls are tested as evidence becomes more clear, and Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) heads the investigation to find the truth.
I’m not very familiar with Jackman’s work-I really only know him as Wolverine. While watching this film, I was really impressed by his portrayal of Keller Dover…honestly, his character was one of my favorite aspects. A lot of good stories have antiheroes, and Keller Dover is definitely one of them. His character has clear motive for what he does; however, his passionate emotion is the flaw that ultimately results in tragedy.
As for Gyllenhaal, I’ve seen quite a few films from him-both good and bad. This film actually reminded me a lot of Zodiac (2007), but in this case, Prisoners offers us the more mature side of Gyllenhaal. I was fascinated by his character in this film, and appreciated the obvious nervous tics he conducted. That small add-in made his character seem more hard-edged and careful, like a detective should be.
The twists and turns of this film kept me on the edge of my seat, and I found myself emotionally engaged with the characters. Although the film starts out light-hearted, it jumps into being dark very quickly, and many scenes throughout are quite disturbing. Each character in the film struggles in their own way, and it’s fascinating to see their plots unfold. When thinking of the word ‘prisoners’, I wanted to think in the beginning that it was the two girls who were kidnapped, but as the film went on, I started to believe there was more to the meaning, and it makes me question who were the true prisoners in this film.

“You know the most important thing your granddad ever taught me? Hmm? Be ready. Hurricane, flood, whatever it ends up being. No more food gets delivered to the grocery store, gas stations dry up. People just turn on each other, and uh, all of a sudden all that stands between you and being dead is you.” – Prisoners (2013)

Pros:

  • engaging and thrilling
  • captivating characters-fantastic character development
  • smart and well-executed
  • great ensemble, esp. Jake Gyllenhaal and Hugh Jackman
  • thought-provoking
  • stunning cinematography
  • must-see!

Cons:

  • not enough focus on the rest of the cast

Overall Rating: 9/10

Drake Doremus’s ‘Like Crazy’ (2011)

This film had so much going for itself-especially when I first saw the trailer a few years ago, I felt like this was going to be a feel-good, beautiful love story that would become an instant favorite. Well, watching it for the first time this morning, only a quarter of those descriptions came true. It wasn’t feel-good. It was beautiful. It wasn’t a great love story. It wasn’t a favorite….at all. anton-yelchin-felicity-jones-like-crazy-image-10-600x337 This film focuses on the lives of two young adults who have extremely complicated feelings. The beginning starts out with their blissful happiness- everything is right in the world, and they’re adorable with their lovey doveyness. A sequence of scenes between Anna (Felicity Jones) and Jacob (Anton Yelchin) made my heart melt, and it was easy to see their love growing. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Anna and Jacob with her parents (played by Alex Kingston and Oliver Muirhead)-it was lighthearted and fun to watch. Once the conflict started, my feelings for this film seemed to spiral down to a huge pile of mud.
I understand that love isn’t perfect and that not all films have happy endings. What went wrong for me was my growing disliking for the characters. They became selfish, and I questioned whether they were in love or just being greedy. New people entered their lives during their separation, and these new characters, especially Samantha (Jennifer Lawrence), made me root against the “love” they used to have for each other. Maybe I just didn’t get the connection between the main characters, or maybe I wasn’t being open-minded enough, but I cringed when they wanted to get back together. It just didn’t seem right, and I didn’t like the story development. I understood why Anna didn’t want to be with her new beau (played by Charlie Bewley), sure, he was hotter, but he was a…trying to find the right word…douche-bag? Yeah, seems right. But Jacob was kind of a douche bag, too. It’s hard for me to connect with a film when I can’t connect with the characters. I thought Jones’s character was charming and likable, but she made way too many stupid decisions for me to really root for her. There’s a line in true love. There’s being caring on one side, and there’s being clingy on the other. It was tragic how these characters chose to be clingy, because if they had really cared for each other they wouldn’t have gotten in that mess in the first place. *sigh*

“I thought I understood it, that I could grasp it, but I didn’t, not really. Only the smudgeness of it; the pink-slippered, all-containered, semi-precious eagerness of it. I didn’t realize it would sometimes be more than whole, that the wholeness was a rather luxurious idea. Because it’s the halves that halve you in half. I didn’t know, don’t know, about the in-between bits; the gory bits of you, and the gory bits of me.” – Like Crazy (2011)

Pros:

  • Loved the score by Dustin O’ Holloran
  • Beautiful, refreshing cinematography
  • Liked the performances
  • Enjoyed the improvised interactions

Cons:

  • Disliked main characters-no connection
  • Unimpressed by Anton Yelchin
  • Wasn’t sold on their ‘love’
  • Annoyed and disappointed by the story development

Overall Rating: 5/10

Christopher Nolan’s ‘Memento’ (2000)

As a former Psych major, I’ve heard about this movie plenty of times. During lecture especially. My professor would ask the class, “Can anyone name any examples that relate to short term memory loss?” Every single time a student would answer, “That movie Memento,” and I would always think, wow am I the only person who hasn’t seen this? Since then, I’ve transitioned over to being an English major, but psychological thrillers will always be my favorite genre of film.

Memento 1This movie is overwhelming…in the good way. I enjoy watching a movie that will challenge me, and this movie definitely rose to that occasion. I haven’t read the short story that it was based on (“Memento Mori” by Jonathan Nolan); however, I’m confident that C. Nolan’s adaptation of his brother’s work was above satisfactory. A lot of films are described as ‘thrillers’, but this film really was thrilling-it was exciting, I was involved with figuring out the different mind-games Nolan was playing on me, and it was everything that I enjoy in a film. I’m not familiar with Guy Pearce’s work, so I was interested to see him in a leading role. Good God Almighty, he was impressive! His character is the main focus, so we tend to sympathize with him more, and because he has anterograde amnesia, we sympathize with him even more. This makes the film so compelling-as the story unravels chronologically (cleverly in film noir style) and in reverse order (presented in color), the conflict makes more sense, but it also becomes much more frustrating. That’s what you call good film-making.
The film follows Leonard (Pearce) on his quest to find out who raped and murdered his wife. An important detail of this movie is that when Leonard tried to kill the murderer in action, he was beaten into a mirror, thus acquiring his anterograde amnesia. During his quest, we meet a few people who we aren’t sure we can trust. Keeping in mind every person he meets knows of his ‘condition’, Leonard doesn’t know who these people are when he sees them after a period of time, so he’s vulnerable. Carrie-Anne Moss and Joe Pantoliano put in performances that increased the suspense, and their characters provided a fun ride for my entertainment pleasure.
Throughout the entire movie, it was a constant argument with myself: “Ok, yep, he did it.” “Well…I don’t know…maybe she did it.” “Screw it, I don’t know.” I was hoping that all of my confusion and frustration would be somewhat satisfied by the end, and it was. It was a wonderful epiphany; the “OOOooh” was just what I needed. I’m still thinking about the complexity of this film, and that’s okay, I love films that make me think.

“I have to believe in a world outside my own mind. I have to believe that my actions still have meaning, even if I can’t remember them. I have to believe that when my eyes are closed, the world’s still there. Do I believe the world’s still there? Is it still out there?… Yeah. We all need mirrors to remind ourselves who we are. I’m no different.” – Memento (2000)

Pros:

  • Brain workout
  • Thrill ride
  • Mysterious characters portrayed by talented actors (Pearce, Moss, Pantoliano)
  • Film editing (the input of two separate story lines)
  • Twist ending
  • Beautifully crafted main character

Cons:

  • I wish Nolan would tell us what REALLY happened (typical Nolan movie…but it’s still so good)

Overall Rating: 9/10

The Coen Brothers’ ‘Fargo’ (1996)

I had no idea what to expect from this film. I’ve seen little tiny bits of it here and there, but never got any sort of impression by it. So, on this snowy day, I decided to once again curl up in my blankets to see what it was all about.

fargo14
The film opens up to introduce its first character, Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy). How can I accurately describe Jerry? Well…he’s an average Minnesota guy, yah? I really don’t know what the ‘average Minnesota guy’ is like, but Jerry is basically a desperate white-collared father who gets my attention by being so simple-minded. In the first five minutes, we get to meet the brilliance of Steve Buscemi’s character, Carl Showalter, and the emotionally complex accomplice (or is it the other way around?) Gaear Grimsrud (Peter Stormare). These two were the comic relief for me, and I thoroughly enjoyed their banter. They kind of reminded me of Penn and Teller (Penn being  Buscemi’s character and Teller being Stormare’s character), but their relationship with each other isn’t as close, nor are they magicians…anyway, I digress. I am currently applauding Steve Buscemi-I absolutely loved his character. This was one of my favorite quotes from the film, because it really shows the more vulnerable side of his personality:

“Would it… kill you to say something? “No.” That’s the first thing you’ve said in the last four hours. That’s a… that’s fountain of conversation, man. That’s a geyser. I mean, whoa daddy! Stand back, man. Shit. I’m sitting here driving. Doing all the driving, man. The whole fucking way from Brainard driving. Just trying to… chat, you know. Keep our spirits up, fight the boredom of the road, and you can’t say one fucking thing just in the way of conversation. Oh fuck it. I don’t have to talk to you either, man. See how you like it. Just total fucking silence. Two can play at that game, smart guy. We’ll just see how you like it. Total silence.” – Fargo (1996)

My favorite aspect of this film would have to be Marge Gunderson. She is the glue that puts this film together, and without her I don’t think this film would have been as thought-provoking. This is how I saw it. Her pregnancy and her reconnection with Mike Yanagita (Steve Park), both of which seemed to have no relation to the film whatsoever at first, actually add a lot of meaning to the film. Marge was 7 months pregnant when everything unfolded. Her pregnancy emphasizes her unique feminine role in the film. She comes off so polite and caring, but she kicks ass at the same time and I admire this character for that. It was interesting how none of the other characters acknowledged the fact that she was pregnant, so I’m wondering if that made any difference in how Lundegaard or Grimsrud interacted with her. One of the more important themes from this movie most likely comes from the fact that out of all of the main characters, she was the only one who embraced life instead of money.

“So that was Mrs. Lundegaard on the floor there. And I guess that was your accomplice in the wood chipper. And those three people in Brainerd. And for what? For a little bit of money. There’s more to life than a little money, you know. Don’tcha know that? And here you are, and it’s a beautiful day. Well, I just don’t understand it.” – Fargo (1996)

My first impression of Mike Yanagita: “Why the hell is he even in this movie?” Well, after careful thought, it’s not Mike Yanagita’s psyche we should care about, but Marge’s. Before meeting with Mike, Marge was naive about people. She answered that phone call at 11:30 pm and met with this guy without any second thoughts. I know she’s a cop and all, but really? Well, after meeting with Mike and hearing that he had lied about everything he told her, her views had changed about people. She started to understand that people aren’t always going to be completely honest or cooperative, even with a pregnant woman. This is most likely why during that second visit with Lundegaard, she came to her senses.
Was this my favorite movie in the world? No. Was it awesomely gory? No.  I will say that it left me wondering, but it also left me satisfied, and that’s a good thing.

Pros:

  • The dark comedy/crime mixed plot
  • Steve Buscemi-hilarious
  • The character of Marge Gunderson is compelling
  • The music score
  • The accents (Yah)
  • I enjoyed each character’s (even Jerry’s) involvement with the film

Cons:

  • Why would you say this is a true story when it’s not? (Oh, Coen brothers…)
  • Never really explained how Jerry’s wife was killed-I need closure!
  • Not a movie I’d see again

Overall Rating: 7/10

John Hillcoat’s ‘The Road’ (2009)

Naturally, I was flipping through Netflix under the “Thrillers” to see if there was anything new that I could watch when I was pleasantly surprised to see The Road show up. I’ve been wanting to see this ever since I read the book a few years ago, and possibly because I found out Viggo Mortensen  starred in it (I have a thing for Aragorn).  Instantly, I press play and cuddle up in some blankets.
Not my best idea.
I am sad to say that I fell asleep for approximately 30 minutes worth of the movie. BUT, let me defend the film a little here-it’s a Monday and I’ve been trying to get over a migraine hangover.
With that in mind, let me dive into my first film review.

Man and Boy face the world's destruction

The film opens with sequences bursting with life and nature. Bright, sunny days with beautiful trees and flowers- it felt nostalgic. Then, a sudden transition into the post-apocalyptic world: lifeless and grey. Throughout, the film does a wonderful job contrasting the pre-apocalypse/post-apocalypse, and instead of focusing on the fact that the world was coming to an end, the focus was on how Man and Boy survived in the post-apocalyptic world. This storyline stayed true to what I remember from the book, which I appreciate. This is what makes The Road different from other apocalypse movies-it focuses on survival in a helpless situation. It’s not necessarily ‘intense’, which is what you would expect- instead, it’s just so heartbreaking.
Man (Mortensen) and Boy (played by Kodi Smit-McPhee) had character developments that were endearing and powerful in the film. The relationship between father and son showed elements that forced me to laugh, smile, furrow my eyebrows, and shed many tears. Even with the little scenes that Woman (Charlize Theron) had, I was impressed by how much storyline I had gotten out from them, and from those scenes the relationship between Man and Boy became even more complex and genuine.
No, we didn’t get to see cannibals in action. We didn’t get to see what catastrophic event made the ‘bright light’ end nature as we know it. The Road is a film that centers around the journey that a father and his son struggle through in order to survive in the dying world. It’s about a father teaching his son how to grow up to be a man in his post-apocalypse generation. This film is depressing, so I’d say it’s a movie for a cloudy day, but it sure does leave an impression.

“I told the boy when you dream about bad things happening, it means you’re still fighting and you’re still alive. It’s when you start to dream about good things that you should start to worry.” The Road (2009)

Pros:

  • The cast (Viggo Mortensen, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Charlize Theron, Robert Duvall, Guy Pearce)
  • Character development/chemistry between main characters
  • Visually compelling (heartbreaking scenes of desolation, contrast to pre-apocalypse)
  • Follows the book well
  • The end (boohoo’s)

Cons:

  • Slow at times
  • Not good when you’re having a cheery day
  • Some parts made me say, “Really??” (Why would he leave that amazing hatch?)

Overall rating: 6.5/10