Adam’s Film Friday: A Review of Gone Girl

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What makes a story newsworthy? Is it that the people involved have an intriguing background, or is it that we can relate to their story? Is there more to the story than we as the public aren’t privy to? Would we view the story differently if we knew the whole truth? All of these questions are explored in the film Gone Girl, based on Gillian Flynn’s novel of the same name. The film takes its viewers on a roller coaster of emotions complete with an all-star cast and a top-grade director. What you’re left with is a stunned reaction and an overall feeling of WTF?

Closely following the book, Nick and Amy Dunne have been married for five years. Amy suddenly goes missing on their fifth wedding anniversary. Her husband Nick comes under suspicion and begins to act aloof and questionable when under the press’ microscope. During the investigation Nick begins to look guiltier than ever and everyone, including even those closest to him, begin thinking he is guilty despite his proclamation of innocence. Did Nick, the all-American perfect husband, kill his wife or are things not what they seem to be on the surface?

Gone Girl was one of the best page-to-screen adaptations I’ve ever seen. One factor that supported this was that the author of the book, Gillian Flynn, was responsible for writing the screenplay. The same emotions I felt while reading the book were felt throughout the film: the bone chilling scenes, the shock of the twists, and the utter disgust I felt towards certain characters were all still very much present throughout the film.  Much of the film’s dialogue was taken directly from the novel, which gave it such a genuine feeling of truth in the adaptation.

gg1From the first scene to the last shot, I was completely immersed in this world of mystery and double meanings, and could not physically wait for the next scene. I say physically because the emotions took me on an emotional roller coaster, and sometimes I needed a minute to think about what had happened and grasp it. It sometimes toys with your emotions more to see the actions of a film play out in front of your eyes rather than what you feel while reading the pages of a book. That is definitely true here. The film was under the proper care of director David Fincher, a director who meticulously crafts every scene no matter how important/anti-climactic. He is also known for having very dark lighting and dark cinematography and this works perfectly for the tone of this story. While at its core it’s a very dark story, there are small bits of humor sprinkled throughout. Every scene was exquisitely put together, from the shot choices to the lighting, sound, and score. The score is flawlessly crafted by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross (the third collaboration between them and Fincher).

In my opinion, the film’s success depended entirely on the perfect casting of Amy. You needed an actress who you can relate to at face value, but know nothing about her beyond that. As a viewer, you know all about Amy’s superficial information: hair color, eye color, what clothes she wears, etc. Her personality, however, is a complete mystery. Rosamund Pike was the PERFECT choice for Amy. While she’s not a household name, she’s someone who dove head first into the complexity of the character and was ultimately successful in her portrayal. From the first time you hear her character speak, she was Amy.

gg2Ben Affleck’s acting has never been better. I never thought I would say this but Tyler Perry was really good in his role as Nick Dunne’s attorney Tanner Bolt. I was most hesitant about his casting because the character of Tanner is crucial to Nick’s story. Perry is known to play very over-the-top characters, so while I had some faith that Fincher wouldn’t ruin the film by miscasting the role, I still felt a level of skepticism. Perry’s delivery of one of his last lines had me laughing out loud and I realized how true the sentiment was behind the line. Kim Dickens as Detective Booney and Carrie Coon as Margo Dunne were excellent supporting players. They both have long careers ahead of them, and I wouldn’t be surprised if their names are mentioned during Oscar buzz.

All in all, I think this was a perfect adaptation of the book. I loved every aspect of the film, and would have gladly watched a five-hour version, as I was so engrossed. For all the controversy surrounding the end of the film, I felt that it was a cherry on top of this sundae of a film. It will stick with the viewer for days, weeks, and even months. I would suggest it to anyone who loved the book, or anyone who was intrigued by the trailer or promotional material. I will say, that after viewing this, you will never look at tabloid headlines the same way again.

7 out of 5 Stars

Gone Girl (2014)
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
R, 149 Minutes

Adam’s Film Friday – A Review of The Bling Ring

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How far would you go to be famous? Would you throw your family or other loved ones under the bus to achieve the slightest bit of notoriety? In a society where more people know who Kim Kardashian is rather than the author of the Declaration of Independence, one must question the morals we raise our kids with. In The Bling Ring, based on the article and book by Nancy Jo Sales, Sofia Coppola takes us on a journey that attempts to figure out how a group of youths was able to pull off a string of high-end burglaries. They target people who have what they want: money, nice clothes, power, and most of all, fame.

Marc (Israel Broussard) is the new kid in town, and one of the first students he meets is Rebecca (Katie Chang), who is obsessed with everything having to do with Hollywood. One night, the two enter unlocked cars and steal money and credit cards. Later on they are bored at home one night, and through an internet search find out Paris Hilton’s address and that she is out-of-town for an appearance. They decide to go to her house, break in, and see how the rich and famous live. After bragging about their achievements to their friends, Nicki (Emma Watson), Sam (Taissa Farminga), and Chloe ( Claire Julien), they decide to pay their old friend Paris another visit. This sets off a crime spree against other rich and famous young stars, including Orlando Bloom, Lindsay Lohan, Rachel Bilson, and Audrina Partridge. Consumed by their closeness to fame, the group starts becoming careless and soon their deeds begin to catch up with them.

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I thought the best part of the movie was Emma Watson’s performance. Even though in the trailer Watson (undoubtedly the biggest name in the film) was viewed as the main character, her role in the final film was that of a supporting character. Her character, Nikki, was based on Alexis Neiers, the suspect who gave the original interview that the film is based on. I felt that she had the whole attitude of her character down pat. Watson said that to prepare for the role, she watched a lot of reality TV and even created a fake Tumblr as her character. She had the accent of a party girl down perfectly, and even though she had such a small role (and such an empty character), she was really able to create something memorable.

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I also thought Coppola’s vision for the movie was very interesting. She based her screen play on Sales’ article entitled “The Suspects Wore Louboutins”, in which she interviewed Alexis Neiers and her alleged connection to the group. From there the story sort of took on a life of its own and those in The Bling Ring became celebrities in their own right. They each had their own story to tell, and I thought Coppola’s interpretation of those stories was really spot on. The film was quick-moving and the story didn’t drag. My only complaint was that some of the dialogue seemed a little too fake, and I got the sense that it was Coppola’s interpretation of how teenagers would talk in these scenes. It seemed too made up, and didn’t flow well at times.

All and all, I thought The Bling Ring was an interesting take on the lengths some people will go to achieve their 15 minutes of fame. The film, though not one of Coppola’s best works, was entertaining, and I thought Watson’s performance made the movie and showed off her comedic chops and how good of an actress she really is.

3 out of 5 Stars

The Bling Ring (2013)
American Zoetrope
R, 90 Minutes

Adam’s Film Friday – A Review of The Wolf of Wall Street

twowsWhat makes a man successful? Is it money, nice cars, a big house, a good-looking wife, or all of the above? In the film The Wolf of Wall Street, based on the autobiography of the same name, Leonardo DiCaprio portrays Jordan Belfort, a tycoon who seemingly has it all. He has a good job, tons of money, and a beautiful house. Despite these riches, we are taken on a journey to see the other side of living such a life. The film poses this question: in order to have it all, does one have to lie, cheat, and steal to achieve that success?

Jordan Belfort is an up and coming stock broker who gets laid off from his first job after the market crashes on Black Monday.  To make ends meet, he takes a job in a Long Island boiler room selling questionable penny stocks. Due to his Wall Street training,  he is able to sell these stocks with ease and eventually recruits Donnie Azoff (Jonah Hill), as well as some other immoral characters to start a pump and dump company. This attracts the attention of federal agents, who question the ethics of this new company. Belfort enjoys the high life, but will he be able to keep this illegal business going or will his deeds eventually catch up to him?

Let me start this review by saying I thought Leonardo DiCaprio was really good in this role. Do I think it was his best performance to date? No, but I do think the role suited him well and showcases why he is one of the great actors of our generation. I would have been really upset if he had won the Oscar for this movie because I think he has had other, more deserving performances that have gone overlooked. I think this was a good performance in a not-so-great movie. After a while, the story became predictable. I got to one point in the movie where I looked over at my brother and said, “I bet he’s going to have sex with this hooker and then do a line of coke on her ass.” It was three hours of the same repetitive story line, and I think the film could have been edited down more, with some of the repeated scenes left on the cutting room floor.

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Another thing I questioned was Jonah Hill’s Oscar nomination. I thought he was very deserving of one for Moneyball, but in this performance he seemed to play an early 90’s banker version of Jonah Hill. I thought there was nothing memorable about his performance, which seemed very campy and appeared that he was trying too hard. I did think that Matthew McConaughey (in his one scene of the movie) was much more memorable as Belfort’s mentor and first boss Mark Hanna. Also a great breakout performance was given by Margot Robbie as Jordan’s second wife, Naomi. I thought acting-wise she was a great match for DiCaprio, and despite being a new comer to the business, she was able to hold her own and even outshine DiCaprio in some scenes. I look forward to seeing where her career takes her because I think she will be a big star.

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In the end, I thought The Wolf of Wall Street faltered more than it succeeded. I think the film was just too long. Had some of the less important scenes been edited down or cut out completely, the film would have had a better flow and been more enjoyable all around. I think it bought up a good point about the lengths some would go to for success, but the message was lost in too many scenes of coke binges and sex with random hookers.

3 out of 5 Stars

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
Paramount Pictures
R, 180 Minutes

Adam’s Film Friday – A Review of The Great Gatsby

tggpAre there such things as second chances? If something doesn’t work out the first time, should we just let it be and not try again? If a book is adapted into a bad film the first time, should it just stay a book and never be made into a film again? As I expressed in my page to screen review of the original Great Gatsby film and book, I had hoped that this recent remake would be able to capture some of the magic from the book that the original film adaptation hadn’t. I had seen the trailers and my expectations were high given how dazzling and colorful they seemed. Could those two and a half minutes translate to a film that made me forget the travesty of the first attempt of adapting this novel for the screen?

For those of you who have never read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel (shame on you) or seen the first film (don’t waste your time), The Great Gatsby tells the story of Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire), a recent Yale graduate who moves to West Egg, Long Island. There he is reunited with his cousin Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan) and her husband Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton), who live on the other side of the bay in East Egg. While living in his modest cabin, Nick moves next to the mansion of the mysterious Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio), about whom not much is known. In fact people aren’t even sure he actually exists.  All that is known is that he throws the most extravagant parties, which are the social events of the year. One day Nick receives an invitation to one of Gatsby’s parties, and through a private meeting with Gatsby finds out that he was once romantically involved with Nick’s cousin Daisy, with whom he is still madly in love. One afternoon, Nick invites Daisy over for tea at Gatsby’s request to reunite him with his long-lost lover. Sparks immediately fly between the two and they begin to have an affair. Who will Daisy choose, the man she gave her word to and has given her her current status in society or her former love, who seems to be the true love of her life.

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I am so torn about how I feel regarding this film. There were certain aspects of the film that I loved and really appreciated, yet there were other things that just fell flat. I thought that it was visually stunning. The party scenes were exactly as I imagined them, and I thought that director Baz Lurhmann did exceptionally well creating, at the same time, a world of mystery and delight . Another thing that was amazing about the film was the music. Lurhmann has a way of making the music another character in his films, which really brings the story and characters to life. The score for this film was executive produced by Jay Z and had many current artists recreating some jazz-age favorites with a modern twist. The music definitely helped bring to life the grandiose ideas behind F. Scott Fitzgerald’s characters.

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Something still fell flat in this translation. It was better than the first film, but still lacked some of the spark that existed in the book. I thought Carey Mulligan seemed very out-of-place as Daisy and looked like a baby compared to the rest of the cast. The way Lurhmann decided to tell the story as a flashback from Carraway’s perspective, as he’s being admitted to a rehabilitation center for alcoholism, was a good choice, but again something fell flat. It lacked the magic of the book, and the anticipation I felt when reading didn’t seem to follow me as I watched the film.

In the end I thought it was better than the first film, but still not as good as the book. Writing this review several months after I saw the film, has helped me write a more honest and accurate review. At first I was so enamored by the music and the lights I wouldn’t have given it such a critical review. I’ll end with this piece of advice: if you have to see a film version for a class pick this one, but if you have time, stick to the book (and this is coming from a non-reader.) Until next time, happy viewing.

3 out 5 Stars

The Great Gatsby (2013)
Warner Bros.
PG-13, 143 Minutes

Adam’s Film Friday – A Review of Les Mis

lesmisposterWhen waiting for a movie to come out, often times anticipation plays with our mind. When we finally see the movie, it doesn’t live up to the hype that we imagine the final product will be. Often times, even though we have a pre-conceived notion of what the movie will be and how it will look, as well as what choices the director and actors will make, it just doesn’t hit the mark somehow. There’s no denying I have been eagerly anticipating the arrival of the Les Miserables movie. I even wrote a post about the women of Les Miserables (which you can read here). Although it is not the first film adaptation of the classic Victor Hugo novel, it is the first adaptation of the musical, which itself is adapted from the novel. I have been following the progression of this film from the first announcement, to casting announcements, to the first leaked pictures, to the first trailer, TV spots, and even random cast members on talk shows. I couldn’t get enough clips and literally could not wait any longer to see the movie. Would the hype of the movie ultimately ruin it for me? Would it be everything I had imagined it to be? Would it be a bigger let down than Mockingjay of the Hunger Games series? So many questions were finally answered when I saw the movie on Christmas Eve.

For those unfamiliar with the story, Les Miserables begins by introducing us to Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), a convict who served 19 years in jail for stealing a loaf of bread. After he is paroled by the no-nonsense Inspector Javert (Russell Crowe), he realizes he cannot exist with his old identity because his papers have labeled him a dangerous man. After a chance encounter with a bishop, Valjean vows to be a better and honest man. Over the course of the movie, you witness the story of a student revolution, a mother’s unwavering love for her child, a love triangle, and finally a story of redemption, all told with an amazing score and incredible songs.

Ok, I cannot wait anymore to tell you what I thought of the movie. I absolutely loved it. I thought it was one of the best musical movies ever made. One thing which made it one of the best musicals ever made was the decision to sing live while the cameras were rolling, as opposed to pre-recording the songs. With live singing, you experience the emotions the actors were trying to get across.  The songs came across much more genuine than they would have had the actors pre-recorded the songs. Although this is not the first time an actor has sung live on the set (I believe Rex Harrison sang live for My Fair Lady), this is the first time 100% of the scenes in a musical were sung live 100% of the time. It was an incredibly intimate way to portray the story of Les Miserables, and it worked perfectly. I hope more musicals decide to try this in the future.

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The performance of the movie was none other than Anne Hathaway as the factory worker-turned-prostitute Fantine. From her first scene to her last scene (over the course of 20 minutes), she captivates the audience with her portrayal of this tragic character. She gets her hair cut on-screen and you can see the fear and despair in that particular shot in her eyes. She became this character who literally is in a downward spiral with no hope of ever getting out of it. Fantine’s signature song “I Dreamed a Dream” was moved around in the movie compared to its placement in the musical. In the musical it is right after she is fired from the factory job, and in the movie it is right after her first experience as a prostitute. The movement of this song made the already sad lyrics even sadder. To put the cherry on top was how Hathaway decided to sing the song. She decided against belting it, instead going for a quieter version. Her version was so emotional, so raw, and so heartfelt that every time I’ve seen the movie (which is now up to three times), it breaks my heart and I feel a single tear coming down my cheek. I also have to give credit to director Tom Hooper for his shot choice during this song. It is shot in one long take with a minor cut in the beginning, and is just focused on Hathaway’s face. You could feel her emotions jumping off the screen. It was an incredibly effective way of shooting this scene.  If she is not this year’s best supporting actress for her performance as Fantine, then clearly all the Academy members went to the bathroom during that scene because it is utterly heartbreaking.

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Some other strong performances were Samantha Barks as Eponine, the street urchin who gets the short end of the stick in a love triangle, and Eddie Redmayne as the student revolutionary-turned-love sick puppy named Marius. Samantha had previously played Eponine on the West End Stage and the O2 25th anniversary concert. She lights up the screen with every scene she is in, and she really showed restraint in her vocal changes. Having come from a stage background, she said that she was used to singing to 2,000 people in a theater and that she had to learn to retrain her voice to strip down her singing. She really gives a great debut performance and will have a long movie career ahead of her. Eddie Redmayne as Marius was able to take one song I really don’t love, Empty Chairs at Empty Tables, and make it a heart-tugging performance. He had a boyish quality that Marius is often missing in the stage show, and he really added validity to the story that he had never been in love until he saw Cosette. Hugh Jackman was also Oscar-worthy as Valjean, and is probably in the final five of my Best Actor Oscar list, but unfortunately for Jackman it looks like nothing is stopping Daniel Day-Lewis and his incredible performance as Lincoln. However, Jackman was the perfect screen adaptation of Valjean.

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Someone who I feel is unfortunately getting the short end of the stick by many critics is Russell Crowe as the persistent inspector Javert. At the end of his career, would this one performance be what he is known for? Probably not, but he didn’t ruin the movie as many critics have stated. I actually thought as the movie went on his performance got stronger.  He was by no means one of the strongest voices of the cast, but he wasn’t as bad vocally as Pierce Brosnan in Mamma Mia (just even mentioning his croaking singing makes my ears hurt). In truth, he really had the unrelenting quality that any good Javert should have. His soliloquy was actually one of the strongest parts of the second half of the movie, and as in the play, we finally see some humanity in Javert. Also, I’ve heard that people don’t like Amanda Seyfried as Cosette because of her vibrato. I will say that after hearing the soundtrack, I was afraid it would be annoying and would make me hate the character of Cosette more so than I do already. However after seeing the movie, the vibrato in fact makes Cosette a more endearing character somehow. You often forget that Cosette is someone who (until she meets Valjean) has never known the true love of a parent. You forget how Valjean guards her, and through the imperfection in Seyfried’s voice you really understand the sense of innocence that her character has. Her performance in the epilogue was really heartbreaking and if you don’t tear up, you may be hollow on the inside.

lesmishughIn closing, I will answer the question I posed in the introduction: did the hype ruin the movie? No, it lived up to all of my expectations and surpassed many more. It wasn’t a let down like Mockingjay. It was everything I imagined it to be and was pure perfection. Not many movies can be labeled perfection and I think this is one that deserves that title. I would recommend this movie to anyone and everyone, even if you don’t like musicals. I think this story has developed a way to transcend the barrier of the musical. It has figured out a way to tell the story with music, rather than the music becoming an annoyance and taking away from the beauty of the story. In short, you have to go see this movie.

7 out of 5 Stars

Les Miserables (2012)
Working Titles Films
PG-13, 157 Minutes

Adam’s Film Friday – A Review of Lincoln

lincolnWhat makes people consider a film to be an epic? Who decided one day that The Godfather was an epic? Did a reviewer label the film an epic and his reviewer friends decided to copy him? Very rarely do films come out and scream “epic” like the biopic Lincoln did. From the day that this picture was released to the time I finally saw the film, everything about this film seemed so epic and larger than life. Maybe it was the amount of preparation the cast went through or the fact that the crew was required to dress in period costume, but this film seemed destined to be different than anything I had seen in films since The Artist.  My biggest question before seeing it however was whether or not it would live up to the title of “epic.”

Lincoln follows the President during the last five months of his life, a time he was seemingly defeated by the events of the past four years. Having just been re-elected to a second term, we see Lincoln attempting to keep his country together by trying to mend the part that attempted to break away. The story depicts Lincoln’s fight to pass the 13th amendment, which would outlaw slavery in the United States. You are introduced to Lincoln as a man who seems exhausted from the tasks he has had to deal with, but is dedicated to seeing them all the way through. Working with some allies in the House of Representatives and his cabinet, while working against some more formidable enemies, will Lincoln see the bill pass, the war end, and the country reunite?

First let me start off with the good: there were some PHENOMENAL performances in this film. If Daniel Day-Lewis does not win an Oscar for his portrayal of Lincoln, the Academy Awards are a sham and I will not watch them for the next five years. Okay, that is a lie, but still he embodied everything I imagined Lincoln to be. Unfortunately there are no sound bites of Lincoln, but I imagined Lincoln sounding like Day-Lewis made him sound. Since the film takes place during the last five months of his life, which coincided with the end of the Civil War, you can only imagine how exhausted Lincoln was.  Day-Lewis was able to get Lincoln’s mannerisms down pat, and you can even hear the tremble in his voice. It was mind-boggling how good he was, and I would love to pick his brain to see what sort of work went into preparing for the role.

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Also, there were a very solid group of performances with Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln and Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens. Both had limited screen time, as the majority of the film was rightfully focused on Lincoln, but both really lit up during their allotted screen time. This was the first time I got to see the rumored crazy side of Mary Todd, and Field was able to capture that perfectly. It easily could have been overdramatic and frankly campy, but she balanced it out perfectly. Jones as Stevens, an abolitionist senator fighting for the passage of the 13th amendment, was another understated performance, but nonetheless great in its own right. He was not as flashy as Field or Day-Lewis, but really strong nonetheless. I predict Oscar nominations for Field and Jones, but not quite sure about their victories yet.

Fun Fact: Steven Spielberg called Day-Lewis Mr. President and Sally Field Molly or Mrs. Lincoln throughout the entire three and a half month shooting of the film to keep them in character. This practice definitely paid off because both performances were fantastic.

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Now to the downside of the film. From the time the film started, it suffered from serious pacing issues. I thought the story was really interesting and an important one to tell, but there were certain scenes which I felt were never going to end. It seemed that the story (and the director) focused on trivial points rather than pushing the story forward. During some scenes, I couldn’t wait for the story to move forward because I was losing interest due to the stretching out of unnecessary points. Also the sound seemed very off in the film; I almost wished there were sub-titles because during some of the scenes, I was unable to hear some of the dialogue which was whispered or spoken in a lower tone. Although there were some beautifully wistful parts to the film and some equally beautifully filmed scenes (my particular favorite was their son at the theater), something prevented me from fully connecting to this film. I truly struggled to get past the pacing problems.

With everything being said, I think Lincoln has the components to be an epic, especially considering its outstanding director, incredible performances, and gripping story. Even with those strengths, however, there was something missing which made this epic film fall semi-flat in my opinion. I think all of the actors involved in this film should be given a standing ovation because they were brilliant, and their performances should be used to teach future generations of actors what a good performance is. Unfortunately, you can’t depend on strong performance to hold a film together. Eventually a story must be told and if the backing isn’t there, the film can never fully take off.

3 out of 5 Stars

Adam’s Film Friday – A Review of The Artist

Do you ever wish you could travel back in time and live in another generation? Experience what life was like back in another lifetime and view some of the entertainment that our ancestors once enjoyed? Very few period movies released now-a-days actually have the ability to transport the audience to a whole new world, one that we would otherwise would not be able to see. However, I have found a movie that not only transports you as back in time, but it also makes you want to stay there. The Artist transports the viewer back to the golden age of silent films, allowing you to experience a truly unique movie-going experience which you won’t soon forget.

A mix of two of my favorite old movies, A Star is Born and Singin’ in the Rain, The Artist tells the story of silent film star George Valentin (played by Jean Dujardin) who at the time is the biggest silent star in the world. At one of the premieres to his films he has a chance meeting with a fan and struggling actress named Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo). The next day George is able to get Peppy a role in the film he is working on. However, Hollywood is changing over from silent films to talking pictures, and George is unable to find work while Peppy becomes a bigger and bigger star. Now fully unemployed, George’s life begins to fall apart. His wife leaves him, he loses his house, and soon the only companionship he has is a dog (played by the adorable Uggie). Will George be able to bring his career back to the star level it once was on? Will he ever find happiness in another person again?

This movie made me so happy. Never have I ever seen a movie in the theaters that made me as genuinely happy as this movie did from the beginning  to the end. Even including the more serious parts, this movie made me smile. Maybe it was the environment I was in (I saw it in a single picture movie house, sitting in the balcony), but this movie just made me so happy. It felt true to other silent films I have seen in the past and seemed like it could have been an “Old Hollywood” film just from its feel alone. Jean Dujardin had a very Gene Kelly-like quality about him, and every time he smiled I thought of him. He just oozed personality and charm, which is very difficult considering there is no dialogue. He was able to convince the audience that he was in fact a struggling silent movie actor awash in a confusing new world of sound. He deserves any accolade he gets for this film and should be preparing his shocked winner face/speech for the Oscar, because if there is any sanity left in the world he will be rewarded for this truly unique performance. The only actor who out-acted him was Uggie, but sadly dogs can’t be nominated for Best Supporting Actor. Berenice Bejo was divine as the up-and-coming Peppy and really lit up any scene she was in.

Although it was a mixture of two great films’ plots, the storyline seemed to be really fresh and delved into uncharted territory. Maybe it was the silent aspect, but it seemed like it was a new story. The direction was beautifully done, and Michel Hazanavicius deserves a lot of credit for not only this but for being the lead writer of the film as well. Additionally, the fact that the movie is in black and white just made it that much more special. Black and white adds an extra ounce of quality to any movie, and it was really cool to see it used in this day and age. The music, more important than ever due to the lack of dialogue, still fit the film perfectly and really enhanced the story telling and helped move the story along.

All and all, I think The Artist is a rare movie that deserves the title of perfect. From the acting, to the direction, to the music, everything in this movie excited me. I think it will soon be considered a modern classic. I know a lot of people are put off by watching a silent film, but please don’t stop that from allowing you to experience this true joy of a film. Go out and see it!

7 out of 5 stars

The Artist (2012)
 La Petite Reine
PG-13, 100 Minutes

Adam’s Film Friday – A Review of Eat, Pray, Love

Charlie’s on vacation this week, so I’m back with another edition of Adam’s Film Friday.  I decided to review a film about exploring where life takes you and getting to know yourself.  Eat, Pray, Love is based on the memoir of Elizabeth Gilbert, (Kim’s book review is here) who after a particularly rough year decides to go on a year-long sabbatical to three different countries.  Her first stop was Italy, where she ate her way through the sites and learned the importance of food and not worrying about calories.  In India, she learned the importance of prayer and meditation, and in Bali she learned to love again.  This film will make you think about your own life, the choices we make, and how we get to certain places in our lives.

The film begins with Elizabeth Gilbert (Julia Roberts) in Bali. She is writing an article about an old medicine man named Ketut.  Ketut tells her she is going to be involved in a marriage that ends in divorce.  When she comes back to New York, she realizes that this prophecy may come true as she finds herself drifting apart from her husband Steven (Billy Crudup).  After divorcing Steven and unsuccessfully rebounding with a young actor named David (James Franco), Gilbert realizes she needs to get away from everything and go on a trip.  She has lost all passion for life and realizes she’s in a serious rut.  She decides to go on a year long vacation, spending four months in Italy, four months in India, and finishing the year with four months in Bali.  While in these places she discovers new things about her personality and allows herself a new perspective on life.  For example, while in Italy she learns about food and friendship and in India she learns to take time to relax and meditate.  Each step of the way Gilbert faces struggles and takes time to adapt, but in the end she discovers new insight into her own life with every place she visits.

I’ll admit, I was extremely hesitant to watch this film.  It looked to me like the ultimate “poor girl has a rough break up, goes to find herself in a far off land, and comes out stronger and happier” type of film.  However, once I began watching it I realized that the film had so much truth and heart to it.  We all get lost in life; we get so set in our routines and our jobs that we sometime forget what living really is.  The heart of this film comes from seeing this woman’s journey, which was directed beautifully by Ryan Murphy.  Every scene in these exotic locales was so beautiful and really showcased the scenery that this woman saw.  You could see why she fell in love with these places.  In the Italy scenes I found my mouth watering from the heaping pasta dishes, in India I felt a weird sense of calm, and in Bali I fell in love with the serene environment.  Every part of the journey built upon the previous lessons learned and the made the viewer able to understand the lessons of the whole journey.

Murphy also makes you feel like you are going on the journey with Ms. Gilbert as well.  We see her struggles, but we’re also treated to her “a-ha” moment in every place.  I think the filmmakers did a great job bringing both of these things to life.  Additionally, although Julia Roberts did a fine job in the role, I think if you had taken any A-list celebrity actress she would have been able to play the character.  Gilmore is a great character, but didn’t seem like much of a stretch to play.

Throughout this whole review the saying, “don’t judge a book by its cover” comes to the forefront of my mind.  I based what I thought the film would be like on a 2 and half-minute trailer with funky chick flick music in the background.  The one line in the trailer that especially bothered me was the,“this is my no carb left behind” experiment.  However, when the line was said in the film it made perfect sense.  Truth be told, I really did enjoy this film.  I ended up liking the funky chick flick soundtrack, and really enjoyed viewing this woman’s story.  Like always, I will leave you with a question: what would be your 3 places to visit, and what would you do in these 3 places? Leave them in the comments below and I will tell you my choices!

4 out of 5 stars

Eat, Pray, Love (2010)
Columbia Pictures
PG-13, 133 Minutes

Adam’s Film Friday – A Review of Ides of March

Welcome back to another edition of Film Friday!  This week I decided on doing a film that’s still in theaters, to see if I could convince any of you to actually go and see it.  Ides of March is a political thriller, starring Ryan Gosling and George Clooney (who also had directing duties), which showcases a darker side of the Democratic race for an upcoming presidential election.

Steven Meyers (Gosling) is a junior campaign manager with an impressive resume working for Mike Morris (Clooney), one of the Democratic presidential candidates.  Morris is an ideological mix between Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.  Both presidential candidates are trying to win Ohio, which has proved to be a crucial state in the past few elections.  The idea is whichever candidate wins Ohio, wins the candidacy.  After one particular intense debate between Morris and his opponent, Meyers gets a call from his opponent’s campaign manager, Tom Duffy (Paul Giametti), who asks to meet up with him at a local bar.  Meyers is offered a position working for said candidate, Senator Hoffman.  While all this is going on, Meyers also starts a sexual relationship with an intern who is working on the Morris campaign named Molly (Evan Rachel Wood), who’s hiding her own secret.   All of these different events combine to tell a tale of loyalty, integrity, and politics, and leave you with this question: what lengths would you go to fight and protect something that you believe in?

Let me start this review by saying that the first thing I said after the last shot of the film was, “This was the best film I have seen in five years”.  Everything about it was film-making at its best.  From the story (which is based on the play Farragut North), the acting ensemble, the cinematography, and even the music: everything about this film was done perfectly.  The acting ensemble was one of the best I’ve ever seen.  Even with powerhouse lead actors like Gosling and Clooney, the ensemble feeling shined through.  If there is any justice left in this world, Ryan Gosling will be nominated for the best actor Oscar this upcoming award season.  He stole every scene he was in, and his character went through huge changes throughout the story, showcasing his superb acting chops.  He began the story as someone who was determined to fight and work until Mike Morris won the election, due to the fact that he believed in what Morris was saying and what he was fighting for.  By the end, after the different twists and turns the story took, he became someone who was so determined to win just to say that he won.  He became ruthless and heartless, not really caring who he trampled on to achieve his goal.  He realizes that the only goal in politics is to win and that second place is meaningless.  Another strong acting performance was Molly, played by Evan Rachel Wood.  She is definitely an up and coming actress who gave a career-making performance in her role (have you seen her in HBO’s Mildred Pierce?!)   I definitely see a long career ahead for her.  Her raw talent is reminiscent of some old-time actresses, the ones we remember for decades.

George Clooney (who I secretly hate and admire at the same time) is a genius.  His performance as a politician was very believable.  He played the role with the perfect amount of charm, and anytime he was giving a speech or taking part in a debate on-screen my eyes were drawn to him.  I think he actually exudes the amount of charisma needed to be a politician in real life.  Despite his fantastic acting, his strong point in Ides of March was his direction of the film.  The film is shot as a constant build up to the climax, becoming an explosion of all the little plot lines colliding into one.  Every scene made you anticipate the next one, leaving me on the edge of my seat for most of the film.  The story was built in such an amazing way that when it ended, I was sad because I wanted it to just continue on.  I refused to leave the theater because the film was that good;  I wanted to see more.  It is apparent that Clooney took his time with the film because every scene mattered.  It was carefully lit to expose the dramatic or the comedic parts of the story, and there was careful placement of American flags and other paraphernalia which were used to help frame the scenes.

All I can say is that you need to go see this film.  It had a strong story, strong actors, and a strong director which all blended together to make this a tour de force of a film.  I truly hope this film will be remembered come award season because it has everything that a best picture nominee should have.  As always, I leave you with a question: what do you think goes on behind the scenes in politics? After seeing this film you will definitely wonder about the candidates that you vote for.

 7 out of 5 stars

Ides of March (2011)
Cross Creek Pictures
R, 101 Minutes

Adam’s Film Friday – A Review of Vampires Suck

Welcome back to another Film Friday!  For this week’s film I decided to review one that parodies a popular vampire series.  Usually, parody films are sort of hokey, really poorly made movies that make repeated stupid jokes.  This parody made fun of not only the films themselves, but also the hype they’ve caused.  This week’s film is Vampire Sucks, and by now you can guess that its main objective is to ridicule the Twilight franchise.

Becca Crane, played by Jenn Proske, is forced to move to Sporks, Washington when her mother begins an affair with Tiger Woods.  Upon moving to Sporks, she realizes she has very little in common with her father Frank (Diedrich Bader), who is also the town’s sheriff.  On her first day at the local high school, she meets Edward Sullen, played by Matt Lanter.  Edward Sullen appeals to Becca as he has an air of mystery about him, and he seems quite different from the other students at the school.  However, these differences also frighten her, and after Becca wrongly accuses him of being a Jonas Brother, he reveals himself to be a vampire.  Becca overcomes the initial shock and eventually begins dating Edward.  After a birthday party gone awry, Edward is forced to leave Becca alone in Sporks in the company of Jacob White (Christopher N. Riggi), a shifter who transforms into a small but frightening Chihuahua.  What will happen between Becca and Jacob while Edward is away?

I have to admit that I was extremely skeptical going into this film.  I thought the whole idea looked incredibly stupid and the clips I had seen during previews looked as if they were created to get a cheap laugh from the audience.  How wrong I was!  I almost peed myself when Becca’s first response to Edward’s odd behaviors was that he was a Jonas Brother.  It was just a funny response, and to see the actor’s reaction to that in the film was funny.  It even contained some substantial humor that wasn’t used for a cheap laugh, but instead to make fun of the hype surrounding the Twilight series.  The opening war between “Team Jacob” and “Team Edward” was a good way to get the audience into the film and to poke fun at how seriously teenage girls regard the feud of these fake characters.  Another funny jab occurred when Jacob randomly took off his shirt and said that he was contractually obligated to take his shirt off.  In the Twilight series (I’ll admit I’ve seen all 3 films – you can blame Kim), Jacob is randomly shirtless despite it being set in Washington state during the winter.  I never understood it, but it was funny to see them poke fun at it.

The acting as a whole wasn’t excellent, but it was perfect for what the film was: a parody film of a poorly acted film series.  Despite this, the best performance of the film was definitely Jenn Proske’s Kristen Stewart.  She acted everything down to the smallest detail perfectly.  From Kristen Stewart’s lip bite, to her awkward seizure acting, to her hair flip behind her ear, it was amazing.  Rather than doing a cheap imitation, Proske was able to mimic Kristen Stewart in a parody that deserves to be on Saturday Night Live.

All in all you have to take this film for what it is: a parody.  If you don’t expect Gone with the Wind type acting out of it, I think you’ll enjoy it.  It has some surprising moments that will make your stomach hurt from laughing too much.  It really reproduces the essence of the Twilight series in a comical manner.  As always, I leave you with a question: what film or film genre do you think should be parodied next?

3 out of 5 stars

Vampires Suck (2010)
Twentieth Century Fox Film
PG-13, 82 Minutes