Saturday, March 12, 2011

Spring Break Playlist

Last week was my much-needed spring break. I was going to head down to Mexico for some fun in the sun, but then decided it would be more fun to stay at school and chill at home. Luckily, that gave me plenty of time to catch up on my movie watching. Between schoolwork, seeing old friends, and an extraordinary amount of sleeping, I watched the following films...

Happy Ever Afters (2009, directed by Stephen Burke, starring Sally Hawkins)
This quirky British film depicted two weddings -- one, a marriage of convenience and the other, the second wedding of a dysfunctional couple -- and the shenanigans that ensue when their receptions turn out to be in the same hotel. There is not a whole lot more I can say about this movie because it was not very good. It was definitely fluff, but it lacked even the mainstays of trash cinema, such as chemistry between protagonists, good jokes, or a discernible style. Thumbs down.

The Adjustment Bureau (2011, directed by George Nolfi, starring Matt Damon and Emily Blunt)
The Adjustment Bureau was a lot better than I expected it to be. It was about Matt Damon and Emily Blunt trying to beat the odds to be together -- and by odds, I mean supernatural dudes in suits who manipulate peoples' lives in order to keep them on a pre-destined plan. The film utilizes aspects of science-fiction, romance, and fantasy make the audience believe in the obstacles that the couple faces and the existence of the "Adjustment Bureau." The agents of the Adjustment Bureau are played by Anthony Mackie, John Slattery, and scary-as-shit Terence Stamp, among others. They have the ability to be transported miles simply by passing the threshold of a doorway. On screen, the effect itself looks really cool and it brought a whole new dimension to the chase scenes, as agents would defy the laws of nature and pop up any ol' place. The ending was a bit hokey, but acceptable. Matt Damon and Emily Blunt were adorable together. I think this is my favorite of Matt Damon's performances because he was smart, cute and absolutely lovable. A very enjoyable film.

Middle of Nowhere (2008, directed by John Stockwell, starring Eva Amurri and Anton Yelchin)
I caught this movie on TV, though it is on Netflix, and I'd my eye on it for a while. It is about Grace (Amurri), who teams up with Dorian (Yelchin) to deal drugs for the summer in order to make money for college. It also deals with Grace's family -- her train wreck of a mother (Susan Sarandon) and emotionally neglected sister (Willa Holland). The film worked through issues well and broke conventions by not having Grace and Dorian get together. It was unexpectedly good and presented well-rounded characters. I would certainly recommend it.

Red Riding Hood (2011, directed by Catherine Hardwick, starring Amanda Seyfried)
Well, it seems that Catherine Hardwick is carving out a niche for herself. Unfortunately, that niche seems to be teenage love triangles with a sprinkling of danger, accented with birds-eye views of forests. Red Riding Hood presents a new take on Little Red Riding Hood. It presents a voluptuous, all-growed-up Red flanked by two smokin' hot villagers vying for her attention. Said villagers are played by Shiloh Fernandez as the dark and continuously brooding Peter (and the Wolf, get it?) and Max Irons as equally-cute village golden boy Henry. Oh, and there's a wolf -- a werewolf that is terrorizing the village. The citizens, with the 'help' of Scary Gary Oldman, must then figure out who the wolf is before he kills everyone. The film starts out weak but gets stronger as the story progresses. It has a good cast -- including Billy Burke, Virginia Madsen, and Lukas Haas -- who all give good performances. The best part of this movie is the cinematography. It's lit and shot like an old story book, utilizing shadows, candlelight, and distinct colors. My favorite part was definitely the cinematography and set design. Verdict: wait for it to get to Netflix Instant Play.

Hunger (directed by Steve McQueen, starring Michael Fassbender)
I'm working on project about the Irish War of Independence, so my professor suggested that I look into this film. Although my piece and this film are set sixty years apart, many of the same issues appear in both. This film depicts the prison conditions in Northern Ireland and the treatment of convicted IRA terrorists (or freedom fighters). The film is artistic, poetic even in the way that it frames characters and holds shots longer than necessary. The film is shot with a lyricism that distinctly conflicts with the subject matter. Hunger pulls no punches with presenting the struggles of the prisoners, as they are brutally beaten and forced to lived, literally, in shit. In terms of narrative, the film is strange. It follows three storylines. The first introduced is of a prison guard. He says little to nothing, but still becomes familiar to the viewer. The second is of Davy Gillen, a new prisoner. Through him, the audience sees the lives of the average IRA prisoner. About half way through the film, his story abruptly ends and we pick up with Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender), a seasoned prisoner who is preparing to begin a hunger strike. The rest of the film -- about a half hour -- watches Bobby deteriorate into a shell of a man and finally pass away. It is strange because the only complete story we see is the prison guard's. The others either end early or begin late. This is my major complaint because I wanted to know what happened to Davey and I wanted to know Bobby better. Fassbender was very good, and proved himself to be in the Christian Bale league because he lost 30 pounds, going down to 130 pounds to play the emaciated, near-death Sands. Overall, it was not a great film, but certainly very interesting for the subject matter and style.

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