Hateful Eight

Blah, I really didn’t care for this film. I generally enjoy Quentin Tarantino movies but this one just fell very short for me. It seemed more like an exercise in ego (not that other filmmaking isn’t) than a true tongue-in-cheek, intentionally violent, vulgar QT film. The damn thing was nearly three hours long; I almost fell asleep. The intro was excessively long, the first act was excessively long, and everything up until the last thirty minutes was excessive. Tarantino didn’t leave enough on the cutting room floor, period. This type of film genuinely should never be more than two hours, it is unnecessary and just plain painful for the viewer. As for the storyline, it was exactly as titled – hateful. Maybe the state of this country makes me more sensitive to it but I couldn’t stand the bigotry. A lot of it seemed uncalled for, even though my viewing companion claims that the ugly parts of this movie is an expression of Tarantino’s own inner demons. The racist homophobe who hates women and secretly wants to beat them up. Owning those parts of him and apparently pointing them out as problems with our society as a whole. I get it. I just don’t like it shoved in my face for two hours and forty five minutes with seemingly uncalled for vulgarity. Ninety minutes would’ve sufficed. Then one could argue that an entire race has it shoved in their faces every day of their lives and that just makes me sad. It also makes me want to make a documentary on the movement rather than a narrative that may glorify these disgusting characteristics to some ignorant bastards.

I don’t know, I’m conflicted but my gut just said “no.” Django Unchained dealt with a similar theme but he was a hero that fought against his oppressors to save his love and life, so it was easier to take. I suppose this was a follow up to that story since it takes place a few years after the Civil War and features Sam Jackson as a veteran. Instead of there being a clear hero or triumphant resolution, with the Hateful Eight you simply have a bunch of ignorant folks shooting each other trying to get to the truth of what exactly occurred at Minnie’s Haberdashery. I guess I just didn’t care what happened. No one in that storyline made me want to care; I wanted them all to die so I could pee then go home to sleep with my date. Why wouldn’t it end??!!

I would say this is my least favorite Quentin Tarantino movie, even beyond Pulp Fiction that scarred me for life at 15 years old. I give it two and half spectacles out of five.

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens

star-wars-force-awakens-official-posterLike most people approaching the holiday season, I was super jazzed to see the new Star Wars film. I’m a big nerd, admittedly, but I haven’t watched all the episodes because I genuinely hated the prequels. I’m a hardcore originals purist so seeing the sequel with all the original characters made me squeal with excitement! I couldn’t wait to see Han Solo and Chewbacca together again after thirty-eight years since the first movie. I wasn’t forward thinking enough to order tickets two months in advance instead I managed to buy tickets a little over a month in advance to see it on Christmas night with a special someone at the Cinerama (a historic theater in Seattle).

Cute side story: I told my mom at Thanksgiving that I had tickets to Star Wars at the Cinerama and she said her and my dad went there on a date to see the original film in 1977. How adorable and coincidental is that?

After a fantastic holiday filled with family and aforementioned exceptional person, we headed to the theater where we had assigned seats thus zero waiting in line. I highly recommend this when seeing a hugely popular film. We grabbed our chocolate popcorn that weighed a ton and headed for our primo seats (every seat in the Cinerama is primo). The music swelled and the audience cheered as we all regressed to the age we first watched Star Wars. For me, that was probably about eight years old.

We’re immediately introduced to the future after Return of the Jedi with our newest Jedi heroine, Rey. There is a new droid just as charming as R2D2 and a plethora of sand villains. It is very similar to A New Hope (i.e., the original movie) the way they introduce Luke Skywalker with the exception of Rey having no family. The identity of Rey’s parents seems to have the blogosphere on fire but I will not incite a debate here. Once we see our old friends, Han Solo, Chewbacca, Leia, etc. the action really begins to start. We find out that the new Darth Vader – Kylo Ren is actually Leia and Han’s son played by Adam Driver. The minute Driver took off his helmet I inwardly chuckled because I can’t watch this actor without thinking about him in Girls. Not to mention the fact that it’s highly improbable that he would be related to Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher. He’s crazy tall and looks nothing like either of them. Nonetheless, he’s the bad guy and will seek to keep his dark side by eliminating those who tempt him to the light.

I won’t go into a psychological discussion of why he may have become this way due to his parents but it’s known early on that Leia and Han didn’t stay together. However, I doubt that’s a surprise to anyone who watched the first three movies. Once the action begins, it’s as if you’re watching a hybrid of Return of the Jedi and A New Hope combined into a bright new shiny CG package. There is hardly anything original about The Force Awakens. It’s essentially just a retelling of a story we’ve already seen with a woman instead of a man as the lead (not that I don’t appreciate that). Don’t get me wrong, the film was highly entertaining; I giggled and clapped at all the throwback humor but in the end it was recycled. I’m glad I saw it in the theater since it is definitely a spectacle but it wasn’t a revelation as far as the story goes. I recommend it to all Star Wars fans and newbies but don’t expect too much. I give it three out of five stars.

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Anomalisa

anomalisa-poster-finalThis Oscar nominated animated feature by Charlie Kaufman is truly a work of art. The puppetry is brilliant and even includes nudity! You read that right, if you watch this film you’ll see a puppet penis and puppet boobs because the puppets have sex. I haven’t seen puppet sex since Team America but this one far outshines its predecessor as a whole, not just the sex scene. The plot of this film is essentially about a miserable man who simply cannot find happiness. All he can hear and see in other people is the same face and the same voice of unimaginable monotony until he meets a woman named Lisa. However, we quickly learn that this man is doomed to live in the hell of his own making.

Kaufman is known for his mastery of the mundane mixed with insane surrealism (i.e., Being John Malkovich). This film is no different so if you’re a Charlie Kaufman fan, you’ll like this movie. I had a bit of a hard time with the women in this film, they weren’t written well but I suppose that could be intentional. The glamour girls are monotonous to him while a scarred, insecure, not so smart woman is the best thing he’s every laid ears on. I suppose finding beauty in imperfection is not a bad message but in the end it all turns ugly. The repetition of faces and the exact same voice for every character besides Michael and Lisa gets extremely annoying – for affect no doubt. I genuinely don’t want to hear Tom Noonan’s voice again for a very long time.

If you’re interested in psychology, this movie could be discussed all day long. It is clear that Michael, the lead puppet, is unhappy within himself thus he can’t truly love anyone, not even his own son. We see that all the characters have visible seams that meet at the eyes, clearly delineating the difference between the senses of seeing and hearing versus smelling and tasting. In one scene, Michael’s face comes apart, just like his mind. He is completely disconnected from himself and has no concept of happiness. Depending on how you’re feeling about yourself, you may or may not want to see this movie. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of humor and the artistry is spectacular but the story is depressing. Luckily, I’ve been incredibly happy with my life lately so I wasn’t affected but I can see a person struggling with sad thoughts having a difficult time with these themes. Just be aware before you watch it. I give the film three and a half stars out of five.

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The Revenant

 

TheRevenant_LeoPosterWow. This movie was stunning; out of all the movies I’ve seen lately this one I can’t stop thinking about. The cinematography created a character out of the land, maybe the ultimate villain even beyond Tom Hardy’s hateful role. Warning: this film is two and a half hours long; don’t drink that XL soda because you’re not going to want to miss anything. The bulk of the action occurs in the first thirty minutes, which only emphasizes the sheer magnificence of the human will to survive and seek justice, for the next two hours. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to summarize the plot of this film but trying to essentially gives everything away. There are no plot twists per say but to understand the sequence of events is to describe almost the entire movie. Needless to say, I’m not going to do that.

A few notes on why this film will absolutely win Oscars and why I believe they will be well deserved. Leonardo DiCaprio gives a performance like I haven’t seen since What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. The man maybe has twenty lines in the entire one hundred and fifty minute movie yet you care SO much about his survival and his story. I cried about thirty minutes in and I rarely cry at movies unless the filmmakers have spun a spectacular emotional web. DiCaprio manages to spit, cough, grunt, and use his body to communicate everything we need to know. I attribute this to a bigger theme that is about the native people. The Native American, specifically Pawnee, history is hugely important to the way this story is told. If you’ve seen many films or read many books about Native American culture, you know they are not heavily dependent on words. In fact, they are known for their oral history, sometimes told in song and dance, but virtually no written history. Their stories are often filled with metaphor and symbolism because those things mean much more than precise and clear description. As cliché as this is, actions speak louder than words and this film exploits that idiom to the fullest extent by removing most dialogue. In fact, during one sequence DiCaprio’s character, Glass, bonds with a Native American man by simply opening his mouth and letting snow land on his tongue. We know in this moment that they are now friends. Many moviegoers may not like it, since our culture is extremely dependent upon words, but I thought it made the message much more powerful.

The mis-en-scene is incredible, as mentioned earlier; the scenes will seriously give you a chill even if you’re watching in a toasty theater in Southern California. The costumes were spot on and the makeup was phenomenal. The grit, the rawness, and the graphic violence all serves a purpose, none of it seems gratuitous. The handheld camera movements made you feel like you were with the characters experiencing the chaos and horror. Avoiding the classic Hollywood style allows the audience to experience more of the adrenaline and grit. A little dizzying at times for people with motion sickness but overall an effective film style. I may have one bone to pick about a certain scene where Glass falls over a cliff into an evergreen just to fall out the bottom unhurt. I mean, come on! No one would survive that and walk away. With all his other injuries, I almost laughed out loud at that scene. Forsaking that one scene, I will say this film is absolutely worth seeing especially in the theater in order to feel the enormity of the wild environment he survives to seek revenge. The most unexpected thing I saw in this film was the very last shot as DiCaprio breaks the fourth wall. All that I felt for him and all that I interpreted through his many symbolic hallucinations were now reflected back to me. Regardless of my one issue with this film – I highly recommend it with four and a half out of five spectacles.

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Trainwreck

Trainwreck PosterSee above title. Yep, that’s how I feel about this movie. I fit the exact profile for Amy Schumer’s target audience, a 34-year-old single white female living in an urban area, yet this movie completely fell flat for me. I was 100% sure, judging by the trailer, that this movie would get me laughing out loud at least half the movie. Wrong. Instead, I found out the hard way that the teasers and trailers were indeed the funniest parts of this film.

I had read a glowing review about the film in The Stranger, Seattle’s alternative newspaper, online and decided to take a depressed friend to see it so we could laugh about Amy’s sexual adventures as a cathartic release to our own man drama. Turns out, this film was MUCH heavier than anticipated although that does not dissuade me from liking a movie, it just didn’t add anything to the film. I think in the end, I just hated the writing and/or the editing. I know from the trailers that certain scenes I laughed at online were changed in the final cut of the film. Bad choice.

Although I appreciate the effort of turning a romantic comedy on its head by switching gender roles but it wasn’t enough. In the end, it was still the same old trope – life isn’t fulfilling unless you have a man and are headed toward love and marriage. Even I can stand that ridiculous notion if the surrounding comedy is good but that lacked as well. Lebron James, I give him credit since he’s an athlete not an actor, but dude cannot deliver comedy. In fact, none of the supporting characters really delivered much, well, support by way of comedy with the exception of Colin Quinn and the old man at the nursing home. Let me not forget that there was an inordinate amount of sports humor in this film which just didn’t fit, it was awkward (I guess a plea to the men being forced to watch?).

Bill Hader and Amy Schumer together were adorable and relatively funny but also tragic to the point of uncomfortable. Maybe I’m harsh but I want a comedy to be funny at least 60% of the script and this one was maybe 20% – instead we dealt with addiction, family drama, and death in the least funny way possible and these things can be funny believe it or not. My friend was no more cheered up after this film than after watching The Godfather. I guess I’m just majorly disappointed. I give this film two spectacles out of five. I think I’ll stick to my never fail duo: Paul Feig & Melissa McCarthy for comedies.

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Magic Mike XXL

MMXXL-MainI’m coming out of semi-retirement to write about the one thing I love most…shirtless men with nice abs…dancing…and grinding. Oh. My. God. This sequel is better than the original, hands down. I rarely say that about a film but the tone of this sequel is exactly what it should be and what the first one lacked. It is fun and funny, it doesn’t take itself too seriously. I mean, come on, it’s a bunch of “male entertainers” stripping for horny women – who thinks this deserves a complex storyline? Not me.

I said this regarding the first Magic Mike and I’ll say it again. I don’t care your age, race, religion, or marital status – if you’re female or a gay male, go see this movie! If you don’t show up for the box office, they will stop making movies that objectify men (i.e., made for women) since it’s already rare but we NEED to show up for studios to even consider making another one. GO SEE THIS MOVIE! You will undoubtedly feast your eyes upon at least one specimen you find worth ogling. There is someone for everyone in this film…it’s a poo poo platter of men and it’s wonderful.

A few key differences between XXL and the original Magic Mike:

  1. More dancing! Who didn’t want more dancing in the last one? I’ve watched it with someone where we actually fast forwarded through everything else and just watched the dancing. You don’t have to do that with this one. Two scenes in particular will blow your F&*#)@ mind.
  2. More lines for every other male character besides Channing Tatum. Although the character building wasn’t anything to brag about, at least we know a little something else about Tito, BDR, Tarzan, and Ken.
  3. Drag show…need I say more?
  4. No Cody Horne. God, she was awful.

Get ready to fan yourself, say a few “Amens” or maybe “God Damns,” cuz we’re all a bunch of law breakers up in here! I’m going to rate this movie higher than normal due to my feminist needs it fulfills but Oscar worthy it is not. Three and a half spectacles out of five.

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Southern England to the end

After a raucous ending to my trip to London I went off to stay with family in southern England. I met up with my friend Rob in Haslemere and I got a little road trip through Southern England toward Stonehenge. The English countryside is absolutely stunning, the rolling hills, the brick or thatch roofed homes, and sheep for days. Rob wasn’t super enthused to show it off, rather waxed nostalgic about his massive road trip through the U.S. with our mutual friend.IMG_3936-2 I suppose the grass is always greener on the other side of the pond. Anyhow, we didn’t end up at Stonehenge until 5:00pm and they sell the last ticket at 3:00pm…a smidge late. Nonetheless, there was a farmer road with a spectacular view that we stopped on so I could take some photos as the sun was setting a gorgeous fire in the sky – it was idyllic rural England.

We got to Hayling Island around 7:00pm so we checked in with my grandpa’s cousin, Brenda. She is a spunky octogenarian who is mostly housebound these days but her memory is sharp as a tack. We had met back in the late 80’s but I honestly don’t remember so it was like meeting her for the first time. I stepped into the guest room she had ready for me and I was suddenly hit by a rush of emotion. She reminded me of my grandpa and everything that is always good in my life – my family. Having been relatively isolated for the majority of my trip, the warmth and comfort of family overwhelmed me. However, like a good English girl I had a stiff upper lip and went to dinner with Rob before he headed home.

The next day I was able to explore a little of Hayling Island and take some photos of the beach and the colorful shacks along the sea. Then me and Brenda got down to business, she showed me all her old family photos and stories about my granddad from when he was a child. I saw photos I’d never seen before plus all the photos she had saved of the American family throughout the years that she received from various relatives. It was really a rare experience to have this time with her and I was so grateful to do it. IMG_3944As I was leaving on Wednesday, it saddened me to think that this very kind, caring, family centric woman was never able to find a spouse or have children. Brenda is mostly on her own but clearly has that light of life within regardless. She asked for a selfie for crying out loud! I also taught her how to use Skype on her iPad – gotta love it.

I got into Paris Wednesday night to crash with my friend I had stayed with previously. The night consisted of just Netflix and pizza, I needed the downtime. The next day I had all my final purchases to make before leaving Europe including: purses, cheese, wine, chocolate, and a French reuseable bag to haul the goods onto the plane. By Thursday evening I was packed and itching to go home especially since a lovely cough had cropped up. Friday morning I took off early and boy was I glad I left four hours before my flight. Every part of the airport process took ages plus I found out the hard way that Speculoos and Caramel flour de sel is considered a liquid. Good shit just thrown in the garbage. Why don’t they donate that stuff to charity? I suggested this at security but you can imagine the reception. By the time I used the restroom, picked up Laduree macarons, and some new caramel flour de sel my plane was boarding. Thank God for small miracles, I’m currently writing this mid-flight with my legs stretched across the seat next to me. Hallelujah!

33 days, 4.5 weeks, 9 flights, 7 countries, 6 languages, 4 currencies, 3 Tinder dates, and countless memories. I can’t wait to get home to the Emerald City.