God Bless America

I am ecstatic this movie was made. It proclaims what no other film has dared to even whisper. It’s honest and real and speaks the truth. Simply put, God Bless America is one of the best films of the year. (I guess I should update my Best of 2012 List.)

Meet Frank. He’s miserable. Suck neighbors, suck ex-wife and daughter, suck job, and suck health, all complete with a brain tumor. Frank spends his days hunched over in a pitiful, little cubicle, and his nights scanning the TV, seeing idiots manifested in his living room. Only to see the real life idiots at the water cooler the next morning.

Frank decides suicide is his prescription. During one of his late night TV binges, sticking the gun in his mouth, a bratty teenager from Sweet 16 on his TV shows him the way: kill the idiots, Frank, not yourself.

And Frank listens. He murders the blonde bimbo from his TV, erasing at least one idiot from the world.

Enter Roxy. The 16 year old who’s had enough of the world too.

And the fun doesn’t begin – it explodes. Frank and Roxy go on a killing spree of all the people who deserve to die – obviously, that’s a lot of people.

God Bless America has much going for it: it contains hilarious scenes that ring with realness and tells the underexposed truth about society: the world – America especially – abounds with absurd contradictions, needless cruelty, and never-ending idiots. How did we become like this?

And none of this could have been conveyed without the fantastic performances given by Joel Murray and Tara Lynn. Murray does such a believable job as Frank that his character doesn’t come off as crazy or pathetic. Just fed up. Miss Lynn is great as precocious Roxy, all up to the point we’re rooting for her till the end. With nice twists, great performances that show a coolest father-daughter relationship ever, and a touching ending, God Bless America soars.

And for those who fear this movie is only packed with senseless violence, God Bless America contains much more substance than first glanced at. Get ready to grow a pair and to stomach a movie that holds nothing back.

☆☆☆☆

My Movie Bucket List for 2012

There are many movies I have seen – some I loved, simply enjoyed, and some I’d rather forget about.

But there are many fantastic films that have yet to enter my life.

Therefore, I am penning a Movie Bucket List for the Year of 2012: a list that includes all the movies I want to see before December 31st, 2012, 11:59 p.m.

Let’s Get Started:

1) The Pianist

2) Children of Men

3) Silence of the Lambs

4) Godfather (Part 1 + 2)

5) Psycho

6) Vertigo

7) Citizen Kane

8) Reservoir Dogs

9) Pulp Fiction

10) The Assassination of Jesse James by Coward Robert Ford

11) Le Havre

12) The Dark Knight

13) The Conversation

14) Into the Wild

15) The Road

16) The 25th Hour

17) Magnolia

18) Fight Club

19) The Kid with a Bike

20) Zodiac

21) The Master

22) Drive

23) Adaptation

24) In Bruges

25) Annie Hall

26) Warrior

27) We Need To Talk About Kevin

28) Interview with a Vampire

29) Boy A

30) JFK

31) American History X

32) Fargo

33) American Beauty

34) Edward Scissorhands

35) Grave of the Fireflies

36) The Prestige

37) Requiem for a Dream

Some of the movies are on Netflix, some I have to go out and rent – all of them I am terribly excited for.

How about you? Seen (or wish to see) some of these films? Do you have a movie bucket list? Drop your stories in the comments below 🙂

Announcement!

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Hey film buffs 🙂

I won’t be posting as regularly as I usually do for the upcoming two weeks. I’ll update about twice a week if possible.

Why you ask?

I’m currently working on a short film, titled ‘Next’ – writing and directing. It’s been a blast so far, and I’m looking forward to sharing it with all of you!

Take Care,

-alleyandthemovies

Double Review: Total Recall and Poetry

Total Recall

What a boring movie. Explosion after explosion after explosion. God, it’s even boring to review this film.

Total Recall, the 2012 remake of the sci-fi “classic” which originally starred Arnold Schwarzenegger, was supposed to be a good summer movie. It’s visually stunning. Touts Jessica Biel and Kate Beckinsale (who look so similar it’s difficult to tell them apart in the movie). Lots of action and a good enough storyline.

It’s no way near that. Sure, it has the special effects down to a T, and Biel and Beckinsale have enough makeup on, but the storyline is…well, I couldn’t tell you. But IMDB says, ‘A factory worker, Douglas Quaid, begins to suspect that he is a spy after visiting Rekall – a company that provides its clients with implanted fake memories of a life they would like to have led –        goes wrong and he finds himself on the run.’ 

Yep, that sounds about right. Before I fell asleep. Then I woke up to more things bursting into vicious flames and Colin Farrell running around, one moment being confused who he is, then shooting robot-cops and kicking butt. The only thing interesting in the movie is the world of The Colony and UFB. The grittiness and futuristic society is believable and the technology is amazing (let me tell you, cell phones are going to be great in the future). But it stops there. After 30 minutes of Kate Beckinsale looking “fierce”, faltering in her accent, and Farrell running from masked terrors, the movie becomes highly irritating and extremely predictable.

☆☆

(Available in Theaters…Unfortunately)

Poetry

Though totally different in subject matter, tone, and style, Poetry achieves the same lackluster result, leading the audience through tedious scenes and frothy cinematography.

Poetry revolves around the sixty-six year old Mija, a graceful, gentle housemaid who also raises her teenage grandson. As she goes through life, everything is simple and relaxed. Or so it seems.

As director Chang-dong Lee takes us through the movie, we learn more and more how fractured Mija’s life really is. A recent suicide upsets her quiet neighborhood. Her teenage grandson is highly ungrateful and spoiled, but she is restrained from discipline for she can’t rebuke her daughter’s child. She also discovers she is experiencing the onset of Alzheimer’s, as she continues to forget words such as wallet or streets she has traveled all her life.

But amid a quietly breaking life, Mija seeks peace and understanding. She enrolls in a poetry class at the local cultural center, and goes on a journey of seeking beauty and deciphering the life before her.

What a beautiful concept. One that truly has potential, one than can be powerful without being manipulative.

But Poetry falls into the common trap of quiet, drama pieces. It desires to juggle many difficult subjects, but gets lost among its ideas. Mija’s Alzheimer’s is brought up in one or two scenes, and is quickly forgotten. When Lee reveals the destructive secret of Mija’s grandson, it promises to provide a major upset for the story, but it lingers throughout the story, and is finally buried and never seen of again. The suicide of a student in the town seems to push Mija’s soul to write, but it’s seen in the beginning, lost in the middle, and suddenly resurrected again at the the end.

And it is tender and sensitive – to a fault. The audience is promised to be given a powerful life lesson, or a moving study of a crumbling life, but instead we see a wondorous performance given by Yun Junghee, within a thoughtful film that happens to get lost in its own thoughts.

Poetry is a lovely, unhurried film, but as it progresses, it loses itself soapy scenes and exceeds its own empathetic nature.

☆☆☆

(Available on Netflix Instant)

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For this month’s Book Vs. Film, I’ve chosen the novel Silence of the Lambs, by Thomas Harris. I’ve never seen the movie before, and I’m truly looking forward to the novel and film. Check back on the 30th!

The Best Movies of 2012 (So Far)

2012 has offered some great films this year so far. As we look back on what we loved, I’m truly looking forward to the rest of the year.

1) The Grey

An intelligent thriller, skilled performances, and a surprisingly deeper meaning than expected. Oh yeah, and this song: Into the Grey.

2) A Separation

I would like to shake the hands of the person who penned this towering script. Nothing is forced and every singly moment is captivating. My Review.

3) Monsieur Lazhar

It might look small and unassuming, but this film is deeply touching and highly thoughtful. My review.

4) The Iron Lady

Don’t understand the hate for this one. “It focuses too much on Meryl Streep’s character.” It’s an memoir, God. Anyway, see my review. (Fun fact: This was my first review. Don’t be hard on it.)

5) Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Though Thomas Horn’s character truly made me want to punch him in the face, this movie was emotional and absolutely lovely. Not to mention the stunning performance from Viola Davis.

6) Bully

Though I can’t agree with all the philosophies they promote in this movie, it truly was nothing short of powerful and highly disturbing. My review.

7) The Pirates! Band of Misfits

Hilarious, hilarious, hilarious. Not sure if the kids would understand most of the humor, though. My review.

8) The Intouchables

No, it doesn’t provide nuanced social commentary or present profound ideas about life, but it’s fun and sweet.

Honorable Mentions:

Snow White and the Huntsman – Absolutely gorgeous, storyline doesn’t get ahead of itself, and Chris Hemsworth is a fun add to the cast.

Safety Not Guaranteed Genius idea-but do the main characters have to fall in love? AGAIN?

What I’m Looking Forward To: 

1) The Master

The acting looks like it’s going to be phenomenal. Oscar bait in the truest sense.

2) Django Unchained

Seeing for DiCaprio’s performance. Maybe this is his year?

3) The Great Gatsby

Not a fan of Baz Luhrmann, but those trailers are still reeling me in…

Note: I’ve recently found out that this film is being pushed to Summer of 2013. Oh well…

4) Cloud Atlas

Only two ways this can end: an instant classic that’s one of the most fascinating epics in film history, or a confusing, jumbled mess. Hoping for the former. No pressure.

5) Life of Pi

I’m really excited to include this one in my Book Vs. Film series.

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6) Lincoln

Steven Spielberg + Daniel Day Lewis + The Great Emancipator = Very Happy Film Buff

7) Les Miserables

I adore (good) musicals. This would be my first introduction to this particular one, and I’m ready.

What About You? What was the best so far? What are you looking forward to? Tell RFB in the comments below:

What’s This?

Mr. Trevor at the wonderful blog, Northwest Movies, awarded me the Liebster Blog Award. He gave me some really interesting questions to answer (I don’t know a film movement!) and I’ll pass it on. Let’s get started.

The rules for the Liebster Award:
1. Each person must post 11 things about themselves.
2. Answer the 11 questions the person giving the award has set for you.
3. Create 11 questions for the people you will be giving the award to.
4. Choose 11 people to award and send them a link to your post.
5. Go to their page and tell them.
6. No tag backs.

1) As it happens to be, at least half of my favorite films almost didn’t become my favorite films. I doubted they would be good, until family/friends urged me to go see them. Example: The Grey looked like crap to me, Dad encouraged, now I listen to the soundtrack every day.

2) I am a vegan. No, I won’t judge you for your love of meat.

3) My Netflix streaming queue contains 240 movies. (Hmm…I thought it would be a lot more…)

4) When I was born, I had 12 fingers. (I no longer have these extra limbs.)

5) I’m also a musician. I recently auditioned for American Idol and The Voice.

6) My favorite part at the Oscars? When they hand out the awards for adapted/original screenplay. Specifically, I love how they superimpose an actual excerpt of the script on the playing scene.

7) I like getting up early and staying up late. Not the greatest sleeping schedule.

8) I need to learn a small, little lesson: stop forcing yourself through horrible films/books. Now within limit, I do know how to press the ‘Stop’ button and leave, but I have to tell myself sometimes, “it’s not going to get better.”

9) I used to devour fiction novels like crazy. However, I somehow been reading a lot more non-fiction novels lately…odd. I’m starving for a good fiction book. (Leave some suggestions, please!)

10) When I’m on the treadmill, on the wall on front of me, there’s this little stand and there’s a portable DVD player on it-I get to watch films while exercising. Cool.

11) I love laughing. No feeling like it.

Trevor’s questions:

1.    Are there any films where you like the remake better than the original? If so, what?
True Grit is one.
 
2.    Do you keep up with film news or just wait in anticipation?
Both. Sometimes I love checking Collider, other time I wait and let me excitement grow naturally.  
3.    Is there a DVD/Blu-ray that you like the special features more than the film itself?
Though I can’t pinpoint a specific movie right now, the behind the scenes features are always fascinating, whether it’s a good or bad film. As a filmmaker, seeing your future environment is invaluable.
4.    Many books are adapted into movies. Is it a viable argument to say that the movie is bad just because it’s different than you envisioned when you read the book?
Um, no. The movie is bad because either it totally goes off the path of the novel and fails miserably, or tries to stay to close to the novel and doesn’t reaches the same level of enjoyability. I discuss this more with my new series, Book Vs. Film.
 
5.    My dad and I were talking about the Sight and Sound poll. He found it pretentious. I asked him what he thought the greatest movie of all time was. His answer: Sahara. His reasoning: it’s his favorite. (It’s a somewhat enjoyable action comedy) Anyways my question is: is something being your favorite ample reason to think something is the best or even great?
Of course! The Grey is one of the best movie ever because I say so!
But seriously, no.
 
6.    Should Alan Smithee’s be allowed or are they just an excuse for a mediocre film? (Examples: David Lynch with Dune, Stanley Kubrick with Spartacus)
An excuse. We all mistakes sometimes. No need to be ashamed. (I also feel sorry if there’s a wonderful director actually named Alan Smithee but he’ll never be found. A moment of silence for him, please).
7.    What is a film you love from a director whose films you normally dislike?
Romeo + Juliet was tolerable.
 
8.    What is your favorite high school movie?
Hmm, not too knowledgable in this genre. But Mean Girls cracks me up.
 
9.    What is your favorite film movement? (Examples: German Expressionism, Italian Neorealism, Kitchen Sink Realism, Mumblecore, New French Extremity)
Kitchen Sink Realism? Is that real? That’s hilarious.
I’m not the kind of film buff who would spend all her time watching neo-noir Russian films from the 40’s for fun. I don’t know any film movement, but the Kitchen Sink one sounds fun.
10. What is your most anticipated film of the rest of 2012?
There’s so many! Django Unchained, The Master, The Great Gatsby, Cloud Atlas, 12 Years A Slave, Life of Pi, and more! But I’ll have to go with The Master.
11. Who is an actor/actress that most people find attractive that you just don’t?
George Clooney.
My 11 Questions:
1) What made you want to start your blog?
2) Is there anything else you love to do besides devour films?
3) Choose out of the two: Magnolia vs. Memento, Forrest Gump vs. Catch Me If You Can, The Jerk vs. Blazing Saddles.
4) If you had to choose one movie to watch for the rest of your life, what would it be?
5) Is there truly a difference between a movie and a film?
6) What’s your favorite quote about life?
7) Explain the name of your blog. 
8) Has Denzel Washington had his “movie” yet? Tom Hanks had Saving Private Ryan/Cast Away/Forrest Gump, Tim Robbins had Shawshank Redemption, Clint Eastwood had Dirty Harry, and Robert De Niro had Taxi Driver. What’s Denzel’s?
9) Who’s the most important in the filmmaking process: the director, screenwriter, or main actor?
10) Do you have a Netflix account? If so, how many movies are in your queue?
11) What’s Hitchhock’s best film and explain why. 
11 Winners
These are 11 excellent blogs you should be reading already.
It was pretty fun doing this! Hope the guys above me enjoy this too!

Book Vs. Film: Never Let Me Go

Today’s the first edition of Book Vs. Film! Our first contestant is the book/movie Never Let Me Go.

Book Review: Never Let Me Go

Never Let Me Go, penned by author Kazuo Ishiguro, is a novel I predicted from the beginning:

Page 5: Nice start…simple and pretty descriptions…

Page 50: Oh God, enough with these hazy memories already!

Page 100: I really don’t care…just get to the point of your story. *

Page 200: Do it for RFB…do it for RFB…

Page 288: Are you serious? I put two weeks in for this?!

*I later found out there was no point to this story.

Synopsis? Ishiguro’s novel revolves around three main characters- Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy, students of a futuristic school named Hailsham, where children are raised for lives already molded for them: they will donate their bodily organs to people in need, until they “complete”. Now in her thirties, Kathy looks back on her life, and tries to decipher her elusive life at Hailsham.

It sounds interesting, right? But there’s only two things I can applaud the book for: its innovative concept and defying the “rules” of the writing world. Futuristic societies have always piqued my interest, and that’s the main reason I choose Mr. Kazuo’s novel. In addition, a slew of “established” authors proclaim to rarely and barely use flashbacks in one’s work. Ishiguro’s novel defies that so-called law: 90% of the book is flashbacks, and it is not confusing and never gets ahead of itself. However, the book fails to deliver on several different levels.

Perhaps these kinds of novels are not my taste: The book is a kind of, ‘take a seat, let me tell you this peaceful little story’ type of novel. But it gets old very quickly. As Kathy recounts old memories at Hailsham and her life afterwards, it gets very repetitive. Every resurrected memory is “remembered” the exact same way, and around the 6th time or so, you can pretty much predict where the story is turning. And among these descriptions of the past, the pages are plumped and filled with countless hazy descriptions – not idyllic or peaceful: boring. I suppose when you read a novel, you’re not supposed to get forget most of the material.

The characters are fine, but the whole notion of Ruth is irritating at best. How does anyone befriend her is beyond me. She’s ‘happy, nice, loving best friend’ at one moment, then ‘evil, snappy, rude enemy’ at the next. And not even the way most people in real life are enigmatic: Ruth is laughable and verging on bi-polar.

Overall, this book was a major disappointment: mostly I was disappointed with myself, because I saw it coming, and I kept trudging through it. ☆☆ and 1/2 stars

Movie Review: Never Let Me Go

Now this one had great potential. But despite its touching conclusion, the film commits the deadly book adaptations sins, namely: change major aspects of the novel for seemingly no reason and trying to cram in the most important elements of the book, despite the fact the whole pace feels rushed; the movie version of Never Let Me Go equals the novel in enjoyability.

But I would like to commend the good qualities of the film before I expose its deficiencies: the tremendous acting (especially in one particular scene) and the last few words spoken by Kathy. Though the children actors who depicted the smaller Ruth, Tommy and Kathy were highly irritating, their grown-up counterparts were impeccable. Carey Mulligan excels as usual as sweet, thoughtful Kathy, Keira Knightley fits the role perfectly of malicious Ruth (no offense), and Andrew Garfield needs no comment because he is a perfect actor, the end. Case in point: when Tommy and Ruth meet Madame and Miss Emily to discuss donation deferrals, the emotion in the room is overwhelming and heartbreaking. With sub-par actors, the power of that scene would have been non-existent.

And Kathy’s last words are the highlight of the film: “What I’m not sure about, is if our lives have been so different from the lives of the people we save. We all complete. Maybe none of us really understand what we’ve lived through, or feel we’ve had enough time.” 

Cue tears.

But what’s wrong with the film? Well, it flounders in the same way the novel does. 3/4 of the movie is flat, hazy, and extremely rushed (and a film is not a good film if it only gets “good” in the last fifteen minutes). And for some reason, they change several aspects of the novel: Tommy gives Kathy the Judy Bridgewaters music cassette, instead of Kathy finding it for herself; Ruth, not Madame, catches Kathy dancing with her pillow (who pretends it’s a newborn child), and Mark Romanek completely eliminates the good qualities of Ruth, making her into a complete demon. Why? The only reasonable suggestion I could come up with was so they could put a greater emphasis on the romantic relationship between Tommy and Ruth: it’s so heavy Ruth vs. Tommy and Kathy, it loses some of the reflective qualities of the novel, making it into an typical love-triangle story, just different circumstances for its characters.

And it is rushed so horribly, which is not too much of its fault. It tried to find the best events to include in the movie, but it still falters. I still feel that if the movie had more time (not 3 hours of course, but just 30 minutes more) it could truly be a better film and give the audience more time to know, feel for, and appreciate its starring trio. But we all can’t get what we want, right? ☆☆☆