Happy Halloween!!

I love Halloween!  It is my favorite holiday.  You can dress up like vampires, zombies and all sorts of cool stuff and no one looks twice.  You can eat candy.  You can commemorate the dead.  You can scare peeps.  You can watch Nightmare Before Christmas all month-long.  Etc. Etc.  Dutifully, I have passed my love and passion to my daughter and together we have had some memorable costumes.

The year we went to The Zombie Ball at the Highball was awesome.  The theme?  It’s your typical Halloween night and everyone is already dressed and BAM! Zombie Apocalypse!   So, it led to Zombified Bunny and Go-Go Girl.  Good times…good times…

The list goes on and on.  Medusa.  The elements–Fire and Earth.  Gypsies.  Vampires and Slayers. Mummy.  Yet, this year my daughter has out done herself and has impressed me.

She created a Princess Mononoke costume from scratch!  It is BADASS!  So, Badass that I had to brag and share.  😀

Check it out…

 

Yeah…that’s my girl!!  Did I mention she was awesome?

Happy Halloween to all and to all a good night!  Have a Ghoulishly good time.   :[   (my vampire smiley!)

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Pitch Perfect is a throwback to the 80s and lots of fun!

I was not interested in Pitch Perfect.  But, my daughter went to see it twice and was telling me it was loads of fun and a good time.  So, I went.  And she was right.  It reminded me of those 80s movies that are light on substance yet, heavy on charm.

The credit has to go to writer Kay Cannon, who has created some realistic and quirky characters and to Broadway director Jason Moore, (making his film début here), who made wise choices by keeping the pacing fast and the tone light.  You are never bored and find yourself laughing out loud at some of the silly shenanigans.

It helps that the cast is pretty cool.  Rebel Wilson is going to become a force to reckon with if she continues her scene-stealing ways and Anna Kendrick is as lovely as ever (and who knew she could sing!).  A fresh face, that I liked a lot was Hana Mae Lee (Lilly)–who has a very funny voice “handicap” and milks it throughout.

Sometimes I like to go and watch what I call “light and fluffy” movies.  These films are like cotton candy, while you are eating the melt-in-your-mouth goodness, you do not care that you are consuming pure crystallized sugar–full of empty calories that is guaranteed to give you a painful sugar crash.  Why? Because it is delicious and fun to eat.

That is Pitch Perfect.  Cotton candy, without the painful sugar crash–just fun.  😀

Cloud Atlas is a beautifully woven, unparalleled epic story!

I will admit that I was skeptical.  I had heard that the novel Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell was impossible to adapt to the screen because of its six separate stories, that were told in a Russian doll sort of way–each story nestled into another.  Although I have not read the novel, I was impressed by how writers/directors The Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer created one fluid story.  A single narrative that weaves and intertwines the six stories in different time periods and in doing so, they are able to show a wide, ambitious scope that ends on an emotional, personal note.  Brilliant.  I have never seen anything like Cloud Atlas attempted in film before.

Honestly, I was still upset with The Wachowskis over Speed Racer and don’t get me started on the Matrix Trilogy (The Matrix could have been only the beginning–it could have been the Star Wars of the 21st century–it could have…but NO.  Ruined. So sad.)  I loved their ideas and their writing, but had grown cautious of getting too excited because it usually ended in disappointment.  While attending the 2012 Fantastic Fest Film Festival I was fortunate enough to make it into a secret screening, with the Wachowskis in attendance, and was blown away.  (Side note: The Wachowskis are articulate, intelligent and very funny!)

Cloud Atlas is amazing.  Grand and sweeping.  Intimate and very funny.  Small and personal.  Yet, with big themes and over-reaching moral questions.  It addresses humanity, inter-connectivity, transformation and free will.  Yes.  It achieves ALL of that and more.

The visuals are incredible and the style is very Wachowski and Twkwer.  I found myself marveling in the color and images before me.  The cinematography and music wonderfully add to the experience.  From a primitive culture to a futuristic urban landscape–Cloud Atlas never looks artificial.  It is a beautiful universe.  A beautiful universe that makes you question our existence and our connection to each other.

One of the strongest aspect is the acting.  With each actor responsible for 4 to 6 distinct characters, it is truly a study in the craft and with the impressive cast it does not fail to entertain.  Tom Hanks (my crush intensifies), Halle Berry (strong turnout), Jim Broadbent (scene-stealing good), Hugo Weaving (best, unexpected role), Jim Sturgess (beautiful performances), Doona Bae (haunting) and the many others must have had a blast with this.  It is an actor’s dream to have this kind of opportunity (I would think) and be able to show their range.

Now, I am sure that many will find problems with Cloud Atlas.  They may find it too big–too sweeping.  They may not like the multiple roles on display.  They may not appreciate the connected stories. But, all I can tell you is that I LOVE when I am able to lose myself completely in a film and that is what happened that day.  I was lost and taken on a journey that will stick with me for a long time.

I am already waiting, excitedly, to watch it again.  I am sure there are many things that I did not catch the first time and it will be fun to try to see what other surprises I can discover.  That’s awesome because that is  what I love about movies–finding new things every time I visit them and the good ones are the ones you want to visit over and over.

Love this commentary and trailer!  Can’t wait for everyone to see it!  I look forward to hearing all of your opinions…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cWgkQP2rtzk

 

Argo is a tense, well-crafted thriller!

Ben Affleck has found his calling…as a director.  With Argo, he makes his third successful film (in my opinion) and shows us an ability to create nail-biting tension and tell tight, fast-paced narrative.  It helps that the story is based on true events and is completely riveting.

Argo walks a fine line between reality and dramatized fiction.  Writer Chris Terrio does an excellent job of telling the story as straight forward as he can, without sentimentality or political agenda.  It is a rescue mission. Period.  Terrio also incorporates humor and much need levity especially in the Hollywood scenes.  It reminds me of old school film making -not flashy or stylized–just good storytelling.

Affleck assembled a strong cast.  John Goodman and Alan Arkin are great together and offer some comic relief.  Bryan Cranston is awesome and NOT underused.  The six diplomats in need of rescue are not explored very much–which could have been issued except that Affleck, smartly, focused the story on his character, CIA operative Tony Mendez.  And although Affleck does a fine job playing Mendez, as a latina I have to ask…”Where there no latino actors that could play…a latino character, Mr. Affleck?”  Just asking.

What really worked for me was the tension.  It was palpable.  There were moments that I found myself on the edge of my seat–whispering directions to the screen.  “Go. Go.”  It was nerve-racking, but in a very good way.  😀

It is also cool that this incident actually took place.  I am always impressed by what the men and women of our covert agencies deal with and do.  Very cool indeed.  Nice when you get to acknowledge one of them and admire his effort.

Compilation Post: Films I’ve seen and haven’t reviewed yet…

I know…I know.  I am falling behind.  Between being extra busy at work and illness, my movie watching and posting have suffered.  So, I decided the best way to catch-up is to create a compilation post with only a short review for each, that way I can get back on track.

Here we go:

Killer Joe 

Wow!  This is exactly what the poster states…twisted. The lowdown? The label of Southern Gothic is perfect.  Playwright/screenwriter Tracy Letts has a dark sense of humor and a great talent of capturing the absurd while grounding it.  Director William Friedkin still has it (even a 77 years of age) and can create a tight, well paced story.  Matthew McConaughey is having an incredible year and he knocks this performance out of the park.  The cast is first-rate and all deliver strong performances. I have a strong constitution and yet, there were some awkward, disturbing moments where I truly found myself asking, “Should I be laughing or seriously disgusted?”  I believe it is supposed to be a little of both.

End of Watch

I could watch two hours of Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena patrolling the streets of South Central Los Angeles just shooting the breeze, ragging on each other and doing some good.  That in itself was entertaining, thought-provoking and heartfelt.  The chemistry of Gyllenhaal and Pena is electric!  The problem I had with End of Watch is that it tried to be a much bigger movie than it needed to be.  They incorporated drug cartels and criminal agendas that were unnecessary when the story of these LAPD partners was interesting already.  And I was disappointed in the ending–the tonal shift was distracting for me and made me feel cheated after, what was an emotional finale.  Still worth the time to check out.

The Master

I liked it.  It is not my favorite Paul Thomas Anderson film, but I appreciated what he was doing with this narrative.  And the acting is phenomenal!  Joaquin Phoenix, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams are at the top of the craft here.  PTA seems to bring out the best in his actors and The Master follows suit.  The pace is still and steady, which allows the characters to evolve organically   The themes that permeated were that of father and son, as well as master to pupil or as I felt master to dog.  I could not help but see correlations between Hoffman’s Master and Phoenix’s student and that between a dog and his master.  Everything…physical actions (playing in the yard) and in tone (verbal reprimands).  For some reason I could not shake that analogy.  Oh well.  So, if you go–be ready for a beautifully crafted film that takes its time and showcases some of the top talent in Hollywood today.

Frankenweenie

YAY!!  Tim Burton is back!!  And in fine form.  Frankenweenie is exactly what I hoped it would be…the return of Burton’s quirky style and heartfelt storytelling.  The fact that it is in fantastic Stop-Action only heightens my satisfaction and enjoyment of the wonderfully told story.  It’s truly lovely.  A tale of love and individuality that will stand the test of time.  Classic, yet unique.  Awesome.  Nice to have you back, Mr. Burton.  I hope you stay for a while.

Butter

Butter?!  I had never heard of this film.  Really.  So, when I came across it I was curious.  It had some people I enjoy, so why not check it out.  I am so glad I did!  What a nice surprise.  A film centered around Butter sculpting sounds weird and funny and that is what you get.  A very human story that just happens to be surrounded by oddities–from characters to circumstances–and yet, it works.  It is funny and heartwarming, even if at times it can be silly and over the top.  Overall, not a bad movie to stumble upon.

Friends With Kids

You guys know I like my Rom-Com realistic–right?  Well, I do.  And Friends with Kids is very realistic and I enjoyed it.  Written/Directed and starring Jennifer Westfeldt, she smartly creates a world where you believe all these characters and the environment they are in.  (It also helps that she surrounds herself with some strong talent.)  Except for a typical “a-ha” moment towards the end, I enjoyed this story and found myself rooting for a “happy ever after”, which of course, was always the way it was going to end.  Duh!

Hotel Transylvania

Oh, Adam Sandler!  Even animated you seem to be stuck in kitschy territory.  Sigh.  This is a safe, VERY kid friendly animated film.  It is not awful.  But, it is not brilliant.  It lingers in the “meh” of mediocrity.  Not dumb enough to be garbage, but never clever enough to be called good.  I chuckled a few times–mostly at the zombies (cute gags) and Wayne the Werewolf (Steve Buscemi rocks!), but overall was under impressed.

Dredd 3-D

A futuristic police officer in armour and a helmet that covers all but his mouth stands on the corner of a building roof with a gun in his hand as large tower blocks burn behind him. Above the man reads a tagline "Judgment is Coming".

HILARIOUS!  I laughed a lot in this version of the Dredd universe.  Now, I do not believe that was the intention..but it was funny!  Comical villains (with bad teeth, that had to be on display all the time)–comical one-liners (shakes head dramatically and then…”Yeah.”)–and lame action (not funny -_-).  There was potential for badassery, but it was lost when they allowed the slow-mo sequences to lasts forever. So, if you wanna have a fun time and laugh at some incredibly bad, expense cinema–get together with some of your favorite peeps (like I did) and have a blast.  Otherwise…skip it.

Arbitrage

I heard some buzz about Arbitrage and thought I was in for a first-rate financial thriller (if there is such a category).  Well, what I ended up with was a recycled narrative that has been done (better) before.  Rich man.  Mishandling of large sums of money.  Death of a mistress.  Lies.  Cover-ups.  More lies.  Family drama.  Even more lies.  Stop me if you heard this before.  Nothing elevates this very familiar story to the next level.  Performances?  Okay.  Plot?  Old.  I ended up disinterested and bored.  You might feel differently–because it seems to have others praising it.  Guess it wasn’t for me.

WHEW! That’s it!

I plan to give Argo its own post–because it’s really good! 🙂  And I will be writing up Cloud Atlas, which was amazing!  Until then…

Looper is frackin’ awesome!

And it proves that originality still exists in Hollywood–whew! I was getting worried.  Not only is Looper original and brilliantly constructed, it is one of the BEST sci-fi films, involving time travel, that I’ve seen in a long time.  It joins the ranks of Primer and 12 Monkeys, (in my opinion) and brings Writer/Director Rian Johnson‘s score sheet of awesome to 3 out of 3 .

Time travel can be tricky because there are so many variables and little inconsistencies that, like a loose thread in a sweater, can unravel the entire premise and narrative.  Although I am sure that some are searching and can find those threads, overall Looper clears the most difficult hurdles and delivers an intelligent, tight, action filled story that relies more on character exploration than convoluted space-time continuum plot points.

You guys know already that I will not divulge anything about the narrative (no summaries here to spoil the unexpected :)), but I will tell you why I loved it.

Let’s start with the story.  Like I mentioned it tackles time travel in an original way and creates a futuristic world that feels organic and plausible–from cars and weapons, from drugs to lifestyles, it all feels right.  What Johnson does extremely well is focus on the human factor, instead of anything else and at its heart Looper plays out as a morality tale about what extremes a person will go to, to protect the ones they love.  I loved that no one was the clear hero–all the players in this story were damaged and tainted–and yet, we are able to find the humanity in all of them.

(Badass Mondo Poster)

The awesome story was played out by a pitch-perfect cast.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt continues to confirm my ongoing love affair with him! 😀  Since Brick (Johnson’s début film) and Mysterious Skin, I have been on the JGL fan wagon and have yet to be disappointed in a performance.  This kid has some major talent and this role highlights this in a big way.  Then there is Mr. Bruce Willis–the one and only.  Willis is a badass.  We all know this.  And I love when we see him tackle a role that allows his badassness to be enhanced and magnified and yet shows his vulnerable side too.  (Damn.  They are both so awesome! It’s crazy how much JGL channels Willis and the make-up is sick!)

 

 

 

Emily Blunt is almost unrecognizable in a role that is a departure from anything I’ve ever seen her play and she nails it.  She is strong, yet fragile and you can help but root for her.  Then there is Pierce Gagnon–at merely 5 years old (at time of filming)–this kid is incredible!  I have not been this impressed with a child actor since little baby Dakota Fanning in Trapped.  WOW!  That is all I can say because his character is amazing to discover without any prior set-up.

Okay.  Story? Brilliant.  Acting? Top-notch.  Music? Perfect.  Make-up and Effects? Super cool.  I think that about does it.  Go watch it!  You are in for a hell of a ride!

Also, let us remind Hollywood that we want to see NEW ideas on-screen.  It is possible and when it happens, we must support original and awesome content.