VIDEO: MOVIES: REVIEW: Upstream Color (2013)

Clio: 1.4/5 stars, 3.6/10.
Carolyn: 1.6/5 stars, 4/10.
Native ratings: 3.4/5 stars Netflix, 6.8/10 IMDB.

Written, directed, and starring Shane Carruth, the brilliant director of Primer. And that’s why we watched this.

And damn, what a shock. Primer may be the most confusing time-travel movie of all time, but this movie is way less coherent, and way more confusing!

I sum it up as: “That movie was awful and I have no idea what it was really about.” Carolyn agrees.

Basically, this movie jumps between 4 different substories a LOT. It’s similar to Cloud Atlas in that style, except lacking the coherence of Cloud Atlas (which continually jumped between 6 different stories in 6 different time periods).

It’s actually somewhat skillfully crafted. This image illustrates the concepts in this movie, and how the scenes fed into each other. And in retrospect, it all makes sense: http://www.flickr.com/photos/30585110@N04/8700138325/in/photostream/

…But when it’s so obtuse that the two of us couldn’t even piece that together… That makes it less enjoyable. Carolyn pieced together maybe 25% of it, but Clio pieced together close to 0% of it.

It helps if you are aware of worm charming (wiki that). I wasn’t.

Carolyn’s thoughts:

This movie was pretty bad. It did not compare to Primer. It started out interesting enough, but it got confusing pretty quick. Halfway through, we almost aborted, but then it seemed to get more interesting (with the shared memories between the two characters.) So we kept going, and then it STILL didn’t get good. Eventually, we put it at 1.5X, then 2.0X speed, and we didn’t feel like we missed much by speeding through the ending. IT WAS STILL SLOW, even at double-speed. Unsatisfyingly slow. It just left me unsatisfied.

Clio sent me this this morning: http://briansfinas.com/review-of-shane-carruths-upstream-color/ That review says I’m too dumb to enjoy this movie. Thanks, reviewer, that makes me feel wonderful. Anyway, based on those 2 paragraphs of summary of what happened, I had gotten all that, but there are pieces in between that are still missing.

It didn’t make any sense to me how they were able to find the pig guy so they can free the pigs. (This review says they were able to track him down because they were listening to his music…. That still doesn’t make sense to me.) I mean, it didn’t make any sense how she even went to the pig guy to have the worm extracted in the first place… it was just so confusing, drawn out… there were interesting moments (such as the shared childhood memories), but nothing really solid that this movie could stand on.

Also, I guess you don’t need real actors when there is hardly any dialogue.

Written & directed by Shane Carruth (Primer)

Starring Amy Seimetz (she’s in a lot of stuff, but we’ve only seen Wristcutters: A Love Story) as Kris.
Shane Carruth (the writer & director, and Aaron in Primer) as Jeff.
Andrew Sensenig (also in a bunch of stuff we haven’t seen) as The Sampler.
Thiago Martins (some nobody who has only been in 2 movies (including this one) and 1 ep of a TV show) as Thief.
Kathy Carruth (a caterer for the movie Primer, and other than that, this and Primer are her only movies. And she did craft service in this movie) as Orchid Mother.
Meredith Burke (she’s a co-producer in 3 movies, and this is her only acting gig) as Orchid Daughter.
Andreon Watson (absolutely nothing except for this movie) as Peter.

LINK URL: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2084989/combined

VIDEO: MOVIES: REVIEW: The Host (2013)

Clio: 4.6/5 stars, 8.6/10.
Carolyn: 5/5 stars, 9/10.
Jesse: 3.4/5 stars, 7/10.
Evan: 4.1/5 stars, 8/10.
Native ratings: 3.7/5 stars Netflix, /10 IMDB.

Written & directed by Andrew Niccol, which had me hyped up to see the movie! We’ve seen every movie he’s directed (Gattaca, Lord Of War, In Time, S1m0ne), and also half the movies he wrote-but-didn’t-direct (The Truman Show, but not The Terminal). It is all excellent stuff, though we enjoyed some (In Time) more than others (Lord Of War, S1m0ne).

This movie, strangely, is based on a novel by Stephenie Meyer, the woman who wrote the Twilight Trilogy. Really?? This knowledge alone causes a lot of people to hate on the movie without watching it. Such sheep behavior is sad to witness.

This is Twilight-esque in the sense that teen romance is inserted into a genre that it is not normally so prevalent in. Is that a crime? Is mixing genres a crime? Should an action movie have no comedy? Should a comedy movie have no romance? Should a horror movie have no comedy?

So yes, this is a sci-fi movie about parasitic symbiotes taking over the planet by taking our bodies from us, but it is focused more on a few specific characters, and the love story that ties them together. There are no explosions or big gun fights. It’s about a race taking over humans and controlling them. They aim to live along with us and bring us further than we would get left to our own devices, but they also basically genocide us by killing our consciousnesses and replacing them with their own.

But some of us resist. The alien parasite hears the voice of the original human in their mind. It’s rare. And that is the case here.

Apparently a lot of people just reduce that to “watching a girl talk to herself”, which is a sad reducto absurdum applied to an idea that is actually far more interesting than that. I think it requires a litte bit of empathy that some people don’t have. I don’t find it a valid complaint.

There is REALLY a lot of hate here. The anti-Stephanie Meyer bandwagon is kind of pathetic. It’s like they are scared that someone might like something she’s involved in, because it would invalidate their own opinions — which are often themselves based on groupthink and expressed by people who have never seen one of her movies or read one of her books.

Fuck those guys. This was a great sci-fi, and had an unexpectedly interesting emotional/relationship angle, that most sci-fi movies don’t have. Good for Andrew Niccol — keeping his track record intact. Good for Stephanie Meyer — improving her track record, which needs it.

Evan: “I really liked the concepts and the story was good, but I’m going to have to knock it down a bit for the cheesy teen-movie moments.”

Saoirse Ronan (Hanna from Hanna, the voice of Arriety in The Secret World of Arrietty) as Melanie Stryder / Wanda.
Diane Kruger (Adult Anna in Mr. Nobody, Inglourious Basterds, National Treasure, Helen in Troy) as The Seeker / Lacey.
Chandler Canterbury (Repo Men, Benjamin as age 8 in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) as Jamie, Melanie’s little brother.
Jake Abel (Luke in Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief) as Ian O’Shea, [highlight for spoilers] Wanda’s love interest.
Max Irons (Dorian Gray, 9 eps of The White Queen) as Jared Howem, Melanie’s boyfriend.
William Hurt (The Village, The Incredible Hulk, Dark City) as Jeb, Melanie’s uncle.
Frances Fisher (Sex & Death 101, 1 ep of Childrens Hospital) as Maggie, Melanie’s aunt.
Scott Lawrence (The Social Network, Avatar, Cloverfield, Star Trek Into Darkness, 2 eps of 24, Darth Vader in a bunch of Star Wars video games) as Doc.
Rachel Roberts (Simone in S1m0ne, In Time) as Soul Fleur.
Marcus Lyle Brown (Snatched) as Healer Fords.
J.D. Evermore (Django Unchained) as Trevor Stryder.

LINK URL: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1517260/combined

VIDEO: MOVIES: REVIEW: Parker (2013)

Clio: 3/5 stars, 6/10.
Carolyn: 3/5 stars, 6/10.
Native ratings: 3.5/5 stars Netflix, 6.1/10 IMDB.

Generic Jason Statham movie.  It was OK, but not as good as Crank or The Transporter.  It was about the action, not the story, and the action wasn’t *that* special.

Directed by Taylor Hackford (The Devil’s Advocate).
Written by John J. McLaughlin (writer of Black Swan, 3 eps of Carnivale).

Based on a novel by Donald E. Westlake. The 6th movie to be based on the same character, but only the first one to actually call him Parker! He was actually “Porter” in Payback!

Starring Jason Statham (Crank, Transporter, The Expendables, Death Race, Snatch, Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels) as Parker.
Jennifer Lopez as Leslie Rodgers.

Michael Chiklis (Ben Grimm in the Fantastic Four movies, 4 eps of Family Guy, voice in the English version of Spirited Away, 1 ep of Roughnecks: The Starship Troopers Chronicles) as Melander.
Wendell Pierce (The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2, 1 ep of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, 2 eps of God, the Devil and Bob) as Carlson.
Clifton Collins Jr. (we *just* saw him in The FP the previous night, Rules Of Attraction, Crank 2, Star Trek (2009), Traffic, Scott Pilgrim Vs The World) as Ross.
Bobby Cannavale (Fake Superman in Movie 43, The Ten, Snakes On A Plane, 3 eps of Six Feet Under, ) as Jake Fernandez.
Patti LuPone (Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd, Heist, 7 eps of Oz) as Ascension.
Nick Nolte (Tropic Thunder, Hotel Rwanda, 48 Hours) as Hurley.
Daniel Bernhardt (Agent Johnson in The Matrix 2: The Matrix Reloaded) as Kroll.
Jon Eyez (Django Unchained) as Jack.

LINK URL: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1904996/combined

VIDEO: MOVIES: REVIEW: 21 & Over (2013)

Clio: 3.4/5 stars, 7/10.
Carolyn: 2.6/5 stars, 7/10.
Native ratings: 3.5/5 stars Netflix, /10 IMDB.

Written & directed by Jon Lucas & Scott Moore (The Hangover movies, The Change-Up). Oh yay! Party movie!

But wait! This is the least funny movie these guys have ever done. It was OK, but it could have been funnier, and there could have been more to it. It just kind of fell a little bit flat.

It was definitely not as good as The Hangover movies… The Change-Up was also way better than this one.

This still had laughs, memorable characters, and memorable moments. Plenty of ridiculousness. And it’s not that the genre’s dead, or that we’re sick of it. I love this kind of movie. But some are better than others. This one was unfortunately more in the league of National Lampoon than American Pie. Everything was a bit more contrived and forced and less satisfying.

I still liked it… But coming in from “OMG MOVIE BY THE HANGOVER PEOPLE”-level expectations is a recipe for disappointment.

Starring Miles Teller (we haven’t seen the other 13 things he’s been in) as Miller, the party-hard one.
Skylar Astin (Roy from Wreck-It Ralph) as Casey, the responsible one.
Justin Chon (Eric in the Twilight movies, Puff Puff Pass) as Jeff Chang, the stressed-out Asian.
Sarah Wright (The House Bunny) as Nicole, the love interest.
Jonathan Keltz (American Pie presents Beta House) as Randy, the douchebag boyfriend.
Francois Chau (Lethal Weapon 4, Quick Kick in G.I. Joe, Shredder in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Secret of the Ooze) as Dr. Chang, Jeff Chang’s father.
The chicks that made out with each other? One was in In Time, and one was in 17 Again. So weird.

LINK URL: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1711425/combined

VIDEO: MOVIES: REVIEW: The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (2013)

Clio: 2.8/5 stars, 5.8/10.
Carolyn: 2.6/5 stars, 5/10.
Native ratings: 3.2/5 stars Netflix, 5.9/10 IMDB.

Man. This movie had such potential. The main cast is Steve Carell, Steve Buscemi, Jim Carrey, Olivia Wilde, and (less so) James Gandolfini (Sopranos!) and Alan Arkin (The Change-Up, Argo, Gattaca, Grosse Pointe Blank, The Last Unicorn, Edward Scissorhands).

These are all great actors.

The premise was suspicious — rival magicians? Well, it’s just ridiculous enough that it could work! They make fun of Criss Angel, and do make a valid point that these new “magicians” aren’t doing tricks… They are doing stunts, and that’s not “magic”.

It’s directed by the 30 Rock director. People say that’s funny, right?  Well at this point, I’m less likely to watch 30 Rock than ever… Because this movie FELL FLAT. Let’s look at who wrote it… A guy involved in Shit My Dad Says (the show). If I’d known that… I’d probably have steered clear of this movie. The other writer was Mitch from the movie Waiting, but yea… These guys don’t write funny things I’ve heard of.

So yes. Magic-partner buddy bromance with a side of romance, and a side of friendship. Many ingredients that could have worked together well, but ultimately did not.

 

This movie is hollow and fell flat. It wasn’t bad. It just wasn’t that good.

There were definitely laughs, and a scene or two I’ll never forget in my entire life. But I don’t know if it was worth our time. Perhaps we would have enjoyed it better if we had seen The Prestige.

LINK URL: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0790628/combined

VIDEO: MOVIES: REVIEW: Side Effects (2013)

Clio: 3.6/5 stars, 8/10.
Carolyn: 4/5 stars, 8/10.
Native ratings: 3.6/5 stars Netflix, 7.2/10 IMDB.

Slightly creepy movie with a message about how broken our mental health & pharmaceutical systems are. But just when you think it’s a political drama…. It turns out to be more of a mystery/thriller than you expect.  The twists in tone made the “fucked up”-edness feel that much more sinister. Briefly confusing, with everything making sense in the end.  Things do not go where you’d expect; I was actually reminded of the feeling of watching the end of Wild Things when this movie ended — everything not quite being what it seemed.

Watched this with Jesse, who seemed to enjoy it a lot, though he had some problems finding Catherine Zeta-Jones‘s character/acting believable.

Directed by Steven Soderbergh (The Informant!, Contagion, Erin Brockovitch, Sex, Lies, & Videotape, Ocean’s 11, Solaris, Full Frontal).  Soderberg is a major hit-or-miss director with us — I flat out hated several of his films, and only really liked 50% of them. But I keep coming back for more because of the better half of Soderberg films — and this was in that half.

Written by Scott Z. Burns (Contagion, The Informant!, The Bourne Ultimatum).

Rooney Mara (Lisbeth Salander in the American version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo movies, Youth In Revolt, The Social Network) as Emily Taylor.  Clio got us all thinking this was the girl from the Swedish version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. She convinced us and everything. Nope! That would be Noomi Rapace! Duhhh!
Jude Law (Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Parnassus, eXisitenZ, Lemony Snicket, Gattaca, Contagion, Repo Men, Rise Of The Guardians, and many more) as Dr. Jonathan Banks, the psychiatrist.
Catherine Zeta-Jones (The Mask Of Zorro, Ocean’s 11, Traffic, Rock Of Ages) as Dr. Victoria Siebert, the former psychiatrist.
Channing Tatum as Martin Taylor, the husband who was just released from jail.
Polly Draper (1 ep of The Larry Sanders Show) as Emily’s Boss.
David Costabile (Gale from Breaking Bad) as Carl. Totally didn’t make the connection.
Vinessa Shaw (Eyes Wide Shut) as Dierdre Banks, the wife of the psychiatrist.

LINK URL: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2053463/combined

Clio: 4.6/5 stars, 8.6/10.

Carolyn: 5/5 stars, 9/10.

Native ratings: 3.7/5 stars Netflix, 5.6/10 IMDB.

This movie was a bit more fun than The Change-Up. It had less romance and more adventure. It might not have been as funNY, but it had more FUN. It’s hard to rate the two, actually. We either had a stroke of luck in our selections, or we were in extremely good moods while watching these movies.

This is a caper about a guy who self-bounty-hunts his identity thief, in order to keep from losing his job. She is an irritating sociopath, and together they have to take a road trip. It is perhaps a coming-of-age story for the sociopath, as they inevitably form a love-hate relationship (but mostly hate). The things she does…

Amazing how many negative things people have to say, simply because Melissa McCarthy is fat. It’s not that big of a deal! Jesus. And then the other negative things about the movie not being funny. I guess when you have a sociopathic, irritating character on screen, people lose their ability to feel humor. I am glad Carolyn & I are not jaded, and can enjoy a fine comedy such as this. It seems 95% of the IMDB comments are from people who hated the movie!

Apparently you have to be someone who loves comedies, to love this comedy. But it’s honestly better than most comedies out there! Fuck everyone else’s grim lives, we enjoyed this and you can’t stop us!

Directed by Seth Gordon (Four Christmases).
Written by Craig Mazin (The Hangover movies, Scary Movie 3 & 4, Senseless) (screenplay) and Jerry Eeten (story).

Starring Jason Bateman (Arrested Development, The Change-Up, Sit Down Shut Up, The Invention Of Lying, Hancock, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Juno) as Sandy Patterson.
Amanda Peet (Gulliver’s Travels, 2012, Saving Silverman) as Trish Patterson, the pregnant wife.
Melissa McCarthy (The Hangover 3, This Is 40, 1 ep of Curb Your Enthusiasm, Charlie’s Angels, Go) as Diana, the Identity Thief.
Jon Favreau (Iron Man, I Love You Man, Swingers, Made, John Carter, Elf, Four Christmases, 6 eps of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, 6 eps of Friends) as Harold Cornish, the old douchebag boss.
John Cho (Harold from the Harold & Kumar movies, Sulu in the new Star Trek movies, American Pie movies, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, Total Recall remake, Smiley Face) as Daniel Casey, the new boss.
Jonathan Banks (Mike from Breaking Bad, Puff Puff Pass, Gremlins) as Paul.
Morris Chestnut (Ryan Nichols in the V remake series) as Detective Reilly.
Robert Patrick (T-1000 in Terminator 2, Die Hard 2, The Men Who Stare At Goats, Bridge to Terabithia, Roger Bannon in The Real Adventures Of Jonny Quest, The Faculty, 4 eps of Sopranos, 1 ep of American Dad. He reminded us of a younger JigSaw from the Saw movies) as Skiptracer. We really thought he was Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) from the Saw movies, but apparently he simply has the capacity to look like a similar person.
Eric Stonestreet (Bad Teacher, 1 ep each of Nip/Tuck, Greg The Bunny, & Malcolm In The Middle) as Big Chuck.
Steve Little (Peppermint Butler in Adventure Time, Dr. Barber in The Marvelous Misadventures Of Flapjack) as Party Guy’s Buddy. Only mentioning that because it’s weird to play minor characters in a cartoon, and then in this.

LINK URL: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2024432/