Friday, May 30, 2014

Chef: If the Food Doesn't Kill You the Feelings Will

After seeing the trailer for Chef a few months ago, I was struck by the food fact that Jon Favreau was starring in a new flick about food family, job vocations, and the value of your life.

...And food.

omnomnom

The plot follows Chef Carl Casper, a guy stuck in a thankless position as head chef of a restaurant that refuses to embrace his talent for cooking his own dishes. After a well-known food blogger shames his skills as a cook, Casper finds himself publicly humiliated after a (very) social media war. Taking time to reevaluate his life, he decides to take some time off to spend with his son, and ends up discovering the food truck that reinvigorates his passion for cooking and mends his broken bond with his son.

d'awww food and fam

This movie totally caught me off guard. I was walking into a flick that I thought was going to be pretty straightforward (and full of food porn). But there are so many layers to this one that it just ends up being a very delightful film. Jon Favreau's Chef Casper is a tough guy at first, hardened by his stifled creativity and his inability to communicate with his half-estranged son. But watching his fully believable transition from a jerk into a well contented man is just so sweet. And the interactions that he has with his son Percy (played by the FANTASTIC Emjay Anthony) are so realistic that I was muttering an "awww" about every five seconds he was on screen.

Actually, let's give this kid his own paragraph:
I have a serious problem with kids that cannot act. Seriously. Child actors are known movie-ruiners. Because child actors have a tendency to be assholes. They think that they're special because they've been picked to do a movie and they're eating up being the center of attention and sometimes their smugness is so tangible that it posses me off. Contrary to being one of these asshole child actors, Emjay Anthony's Percy is the perfect blend of standoffish boy and emotionally invested, starry-eyed kid. His acting in this was tremendous and I felt it necessary to make mention of the fact that this kid is outside the usual parameters of this-kid-has-a-cute-face-so-let's-pretend-he-can-act-ness.

this sweet, sweet babychild

Ok, end rant.

The other thing that I loved about this movie was the commentary that they make about the pros and cons of social media. While Casper is at first about as social media savvy as a three-year-old, he learns quickly that the things that you say publicly have enormous consequences. By the same token, he ends up owing the success of his food truck to this original media outburst and subsequent social media outreach executed by his son, Percy.

The internet, amiright?

And lastly (but certainly not leastly): tha food. Omg.  Seriously, do not go into this movie hungry. You will regret it for the rest of your life. It would be like going grocery shopping hungry. Times a bajillion. Seriously, the food that they make in this movie is so damn delicious that I had to immediately go out and buy a Cubano sandwich from the nearest diner (that actually happened.). If you have time, make sure that you can buy the ingredients for one so that you can make it yourself as soon as you get home.

I'm not kidding.

This movie was total magic. I give it 9 outa 10. Great story. Great music. Great food visuals. Love.




Also, side note: there's like a million celebrities that have cameos in this thing. Awesome.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

In Defense of Stupid Movies (And a List of My Faves)

A couple weeks ago I had the interesting experience of getting free tickets to see The Other Woman. So of course I went and saw it (hello? free?) and I didn't hate it. If you had seen the trailer for it, it was very clearly not Oscar material, but there were a lot of one-liners in there, and comedy veterans Cameron Diaz and Leslie Mann held their own in roles that were very obviously typecast. Kate Upton is along for the ride as the dumb blonde, a gratuitous role and I think we can safely say they didn't pick her for her acting chops.

Still, the movie was a good dumb movie, a breed becoming rarer and rarer in legitimate Hollywood studios that have an actual budget. It didn't teach me any lessons about my life, but it was fun seeing a drunk Cameron Diaz and a drunk Leslie Mann bond over the infidelity of men. Entertaining.

and the clothes. the clothes.

Still, when I came home, I happened upon Rotten Tomatoes' reviews of the movie and got annoyed. Film critics en masse complaining about the movie's half-assed feminism, the failure of it to pass the Bechdel test, the total miss at attempting a forward-thinking movie about women banding together against evil men, etc. etc.

So okay. Not like I think that this movie was all that awesome. If I had had to pay for it, I probably wouldn't have seen it unless it was on cable a few years from now. But at the same time, I feel the need to speak up in defense of dumb movies like these, who get crucified by critics that are judging them as harshly as they would any Oscar-nominated flick. I have one question for you uppity critics:

Do you really think that they were aiming that high?

I'm as big a fan as anyone of overanalyzing a cookie-cutter movie made for the masses (I believe I've mentioned more than once that my senior paper in college was a feminist reading of The Swan Princess...). And when you're dealing with an audience of academics that's to be expected. But writing reviews meant for the masses should really factor in the audience of the movie (not just the publication!), and I feel like that is becoming more and more unusual.

all movie audiences are NOT created equal, damnit!

On the one hand, it's nice to see that people seem to be clambering towards wanting smarter, more realistic films. The extreme ease with which we can tape and post our own videos socially, whether it be a home-movie or a masterpiece of a film, begins to put pressure on media execs to make things better. For example, these days we don't typically accept some white person dressing up as a different race, a story that seems wildly unrealistic, or dated agendas that have to do with nuclear families, traditional obligations to jobs, etc. We're exposed to so much these days that we can't be fooled by what the media offers up as "normal." And that's actually pretty cool!

On the other hand, though, it feels a bit as though we've lost our taste for pure entertainment in favor of coming off as more academic than we need to, and I really do believe that we are beginning to overthink things. Especially in the Hollywood sector. Of course it's always nice to see a well thought out story that plays out realistically and artistically, the equivalent of a very fine, high-quality meal (movies like American Hustle, Only Lovers Left Alive, Django, and every other auteur film known to man). But there's nothing wrong with a little junk food. And guilty pleasure movies (as long as you can acknowledge them for what they are) aren't gonna hurt ya. I will always love my dumb movies for the fact that they are unrealistic and over-the-top. And yeah, I probably will never buy a copy of The Other Woman. But I'm not about to critique it with the likes of Vivre Sa Vie and other serious feminist films. Because that's not what it is. It's pure fluff. And it was made to be pure fluff. And anyone that stacks it up against serious films, is wasting their time and energy. Factor in the intention and audience of the film, peeps. And then maybe you'll enjoy it a little more.

fans of Madea's Family Reunion called Vivre sa Vie "boring and weird"

So, now that I'm off of my soap-box, here are my favorite stupid movies of all time:

1. He's Just Not That Into You

Every time this movie comes on, I'm like a moth to the flame. It's really got too many characters making epically abismal stupid decisions to look away. Gigi throwing herself at that guy who looks like he's twelve but somehow has all of the relationship advice? Cringe! Coming to the conclusion towards the end of the movie that this man is somehow the bad guy(what.)? Incredulous! Totally fun to watch? Apparently. Because I can never not watch this when I see it's on TV.

2. Mystic Pizza

Sweet Jesus, the hunger that comes over me with every shot of the pizza that they eat in this film...it's not a laughing matter. Girls working at a pizza place encounter life lessons the hard (best) way--through intense melodrama. Julia Roberts plays the town bicycle, Annabeth Gish (over)plays her nerdy sister, and Lilli Taylor plays a conflicted young person in love or something. But omg the pizza.

3. Rush Hour

Would this movie ever survive the box office today? I pose that it would not. Still, who doesn't love Rush Hour? WAR. HUH. YEAH.

4. The Heat

Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock. Nuff said. So the buddy cop genre is a little tired? Don't care. Love this flick. Extra points for the scene when they get wasted and put scotch tape all over their faces (seriously, who thought of that?).

5. Beautiful Creatures

Some ole science fiction nonsense set in the South with a moody teenager and a boy who (like in so many other terrible sci-fi romances) loves her unconditionally (and inexplicably). I'd be lying if I said I hadn't seen it more than once.

6. The Watcher in the Woods

So bad, but so brave of baby Disney to make an attempt at a scary movie. Gave me the creeps when I was little, but I would recommend watching it now if only to see the absolute horror that is Bette Davis's hair and outdated acting technique (bless her old heart).

7. Anything on Lifetime

Seriously. Some of the worst flicks I've ever seen. But who doesn't like the occasional tale of a homicidal teacher going after her ex-lover's stepson? Or the teenage girl who inevitably has to raise her siblings because her mother is a coke addict? Or perhaps watch the suspenseful saga of a woman in her fifties embracing a reinvention of her personality and going after a guy who is in his 20s because that's not gross at all! (?) Obviously not written with the highest of expectations, but highly entertaining anyway.

8. Babycakes

I know I talk about this movie way too much, but I couldn't NOT mention it on my list of faves!!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Godzilla: Back in (Greenish) Black

Ever since I had seen the teaser trailer for Godzilla a few months ago, I couldn't wait to see what the studios had come up with this time around. The last 'Murrican attempt at a Godzilla flick was, let's face it, incredibly embarrassing.

Studio execs couldn't figure out why making it look like a giant
iguana on roids and turning it into a girl was a bad move???

This round, they moved more carefully and the film is a VAST improvement over the last one, but I'm sorry to say I think that they still missed the mark.

But first! Let's discuss el plot:

The movie kicks off with Walter Whi--I mean Joe Brody (Brian Cranston) and his wife (played by the ever-fabulous Juliette Binoche) getting mysterious readings of seismic activity. They both work at a nuclear plant and are therefore concerned that the activity might affect the facility. Before you know what's going on, the factory has blown up and Sandra Brody is dead, along with a ton of other people. Flash forward 15 years and their son Ford (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), who is now a military lieutenant or something, has just come home to the US to his wife and little boy, but receives a call from Japan asking him to come get his father, who has just trespassed onto the site of the old power plant.* While over there, one thing leads to another, and they discover that scientists are monitoring a creature that they discovered there. (Obviously the one that is going to eventually fight Godzilla.) Mayhem ensues as the creature hatches, and then hops from Japan to Hawaii to California searching for more radioactive material to eat (a.k.a. nukes) as the U.S. tries to think of ways to kill it.


I should also mention that the plot is woven with details about Godzilla. The scientists have been tracking him for decades and trying to kill him but--get this--nothing works. That's why they call him Godzilla or something.

SO. LOTS HAPPENING. 

Which may be part of the problem that I have with this newbie...

Unfortunately the plot trips along, adding more and more gratuitous layers to a story that could've been pretty simple if it were not for the stupid Hollywood formula getting in its way. For example, if Ford Brody didn't have a wife and son tuggin' on the audience's heartstrings, making them think of his own tragic past, it would be a much more straightforward action movie. These elements, which are supposed to add heartfelt drama, really just end up weighing the movie down with gratuitous feels, and throw character development to the side.

Look, a woman with a child! Now you're personally invested right!?!

Additionally, I find it really cool that they were acknowledging the creature's country of origin, but the transition of the plot moving from Japan to Hawaii to California becomes clumsy. It would be one thing if these monsters were just moving themselves and our main character guy was tracking them, but the fact that he's just trying to get home to his family (but is he really trying though?) and keeps on bumping into them seems a little...forced. 

SPOILERS BELOW--YE BE WARNED.

I guess the main problem that I had with it is that it seemed to feel like every ten seconds there was another "BUT WAIT--LOOK OVER HERE--THERE'S MORE!" to take into account. 

Oh, we found some crazy alien radioactivity-eating monster.
Also, look at all these people that are dead now.
Parenthetically, we've been tracking this other monster, Godzilla, for years.
Also, we're going to get you home, Lt. Ford Brody.
But also, the monster might be there when you get to Hawaii.
Also there's another monster.
Now here's the military working on something.
Also, here's your wife, freaking out about finding you.
And here's you not freaking out about your family at all.
Also, here's that Japanese scientist looking like he's realized something horirble for the 1,634,646,376th time.

Omg, I just realized a horrible thing. Again.

The one COOL THING that you've been WAITING FOR FOR THE ENTIRE MOVIE is for these creatures to have a craaaAAAAaaaazzy faceoff, and the only time it happens is...AT THE FREAKIN' END. They also give way less screentime to Godzilla in favor of explaining his new nemeses: the Mutos, which I found to be a bit of a bummer. We revamp this guy's image and turn back him into a boy and he only gets about a third of the screen time that the Mutos do. No respect.

OK, KIDS, IT'S SAFE NOW.

So. In conclusion. Is Godzilla a good movie? Yes. The effects and the monsters alone make this worth watching. But if the movie hadn't gotten so caught up in trumping the previous failure of a flick, it could've been SO MUCH BETTER. Movies like this are for entertainment value, so I would've loved to have seen more creature fights and less half-assed drama.

6.5 outa 10. Probably could've been more, but I was so hyped up for this one and I feel seriously disappointed.



*Side note: I kid you not, he is home for a day before he gets a call from JAPAN being like "Hey we found your dad trespassing in the quarantine zone so uh...you're gonna need to come pick him up." So he's all "Crap. Okay, lemme hop a flight to Japan real quick," and then takes off for the land of Asia. I probably could've left that part out but I couldn't get over that he had been home from his 14 month deployment for like 8 hours before having to ship back out again to Japan because his dad couldn't be bailed out by ANYONE ELSE? Dafuq.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Liebster Award Nom(nomnom)ination #2

Aaaand another nomination from my ole pal at A Moot Point.

First off, here are my 11 Facts About Me, as per Da Rules:

1. I am near-sighted in one eye and far-sighted in the other.
2. I am the only one that I know who enjoys (yes, enjoys) eating cottage cheese by itself.
3. I've been trying to write a book for about a year and a half.
4. I CANNOT drink wine. I just...can't.
5. I can speak near-fluent French.
6. I cannot speak any Spanish.
7. I've lived in three different houses in the past year (special shoutout to mom and dad for helping me move twice).
8. I was an English and French major with a minor in Film Studies.
9. I refuse to watch gory movies.
10. I made a handful of movies when I was in middle school and would be horrified if they ever were uploaded onto YouTube.
11. I've worn some type of ring on my right ring finger since 2006.




The Questions:
1. What's your favorite ice cream flavor?
Coffee. And sometimes cookies and cream.

2. Give us one movie/book title that has changed your outlook in life. Why?
Too many! 

3. If you only have one day to live and you can only eat one type of food, what will it be?
Chinese. All the way.

4. Who is your favorite author/director and why?
Tie between Woody Allen and Alfred Hitchcock. I love their distinctive styles.

5. If you were to be born again, would you rather be a boy or a girl? Why?
I enjoy being a girl.

6. What are the perks of being a blogger, in your opinion/experience?
Saying whatever the heck you want and having people make the conscious decision to read it.

7. Would you rather be a movie star or a director? Why?
Director. It's too easy to get wrapped up in yourself as an actor.

8. What's your favorite era when it comes to Hollywood movies? Why?
The early 1960's. All the glamour of the 50's but a little more open-minded.

9. Who's your favorite actor/actress, why?
I love Ralph Fiennes. He's so versatile and I especially loved him in Grand Budapest Hotel.

10. Who would you want to mentor you? Could be living or dead. Could be an author (if you wanna be a writer) or a director. Or any other person.
Not sure!

11. Do you believe in ghosts? Why?
Only after seeing a spooky movie :O

- See more at: http://strangereview.blogspot.com/2014/05/my-first-liebster-award-nomination.html#sthash.NljXoTV1.dpuf


I WOULD LIKE TO NOMINATE!:
The Rambling Imp

- Rambling Film
- The Vern's Videovanguard
- A Fistful of Films
- Lime Reviews, Strawberry Confessions
- Let's Be Splendid About This

Here are your questions:
1. If you had to pick between watching black and white or color movies forever which would you choose?
2. Would you rather watch a romcom or a horror movie? Why?
3. What's your preferred movie theater snack?
4. Who's your favorite character of all time?
5. Name three of your favorite movies made before 1950.
6. Disney or Dreamworks?
7. Wes Anderson or Quentin Tarentino?
8. Dark humor or light humor?
9. What's your favorite poster art that you've ever seen?
10. If you had to watch a movie that was over 3 hours long, which one would you choose?
11. What's your favorite country for foreign film?

Let's go!


Monday, May 5, 2014

Liebster Award Nom(nomnom)ination #1

So here's some good news: I got nominated by two different bloggers for a Liebster Award!

The Liebster Award is a prestigious award passed between fellow bloggers. It aims to recognise new/underrated/under-appreciated blogs, giving the writer's the recognition they deserve and maybe even expanding their readership.

First up is Ben, across the great puddle over in the UK, over at Ben's Basement. A man with a proper blog that has more consistency than mine! Check it out, he's movie-smart.

So here are the answers to your questions, dear Ben:

1) What's your most prized Blu-ray/DVD/VHS and why does it have a special significance to you?
So this is probably going to get a lot of snorts, but for Christmas my sister got me a pirated copy of Babycakes, a terrible movie starring Rikki Lake ca. 1989. Sweet storyline about how "love doesn't come in sizes" (yes, that was the actual tagline), but...well...see review here. Anyway, the movie is extremely hard to find on DVD as they only released it once. So having this gem in my collection is cause for pride (or shame).


It's like you can feel the awkward, right?

2) What was the first movie you remember seeing in the cinema?

This is pathetic, but I really have no idea. My mom used to take us to the movies all the time when we were younger so my first film is a blur between The Secret Garden and Little Women (maybe?). Which I only remember because somebody got a migraine and we had to leave. And I was pissed.


Maybe?

3) What was the first 18/R-rated movie you saw in the cinema?
I can't say what the first one I saw was. But the first one that I remember being affected by was Lord of War. Really scared the crap out of me as a goody-goody teenager.


And with this guy as the lead?
-shudder-

4) Have you ever dressed up as a movie character for a party/holiday/occasion?

Went to a Disney Villain party not long ago dressed as Madam Mim. Bonded with Rattigan as no one knew who we were.


Clearly the sexiest of the Disney villains.

5) When did you last cry like a baby whilst watching a movie?
It does not take much. Last movie I saw in which I bawled my eyes out was Finding Neverland. Literally only saw the last twenty minutes. What is wrong with me.


Ugh. Even this image makes me get all misty. 
I wish I were kidding..

6) Have movies taught you any life lessons that you still adhere to today? 

Oh lord yes. How to avoid being eaten by a T-Rex, how to keep the spirit of Christmas alive every day, how to destroy horcruxes...so many valuable life lessons. (But yes, in all seriousness. In fact, I probably depend on movies a bit too much to solve my life problems--ha!)


Always bring an extra pair of gloves.

7) Think of your favourite director. Now write a short poem about why you love their work.
At the risk of sounding cliche, my two favorite directors are probably Woody Allen and Alfred Hitchcock. SO here's your (terrible) poems:


Woody Allen:
Stark black and white intertitles.
A native tells the tales of New York
(And sometimes Europe).
The people, the restaurants, the sidewalks, the traffic.
People sorting out their emotional problems aloud.
But always with realism; 
Whether laughs, tears, or gut-wrenching grimaces.
Jazz forever.

Hitchcock:
Color, shine, texture.
Glamour, glamour, glamour.
Man of 1000 blonde leading ladies.
He rages towards what others won't touch:
Rope, scissors, butcher knives, poisoned coffee.
With Hays-Code-violation kisses.
And always a bit of humor.

8) What's your favourite movie score/soundtrack?

Little Women. Hands-down. Even hearing the title track makes me emotional. A close second is Garden State and then maybe something mainstream like Goodfellas.



Seriously. Violins.

9) What's your favourite animation of all time?

If we're talking cartoons then I'm going to have to go with Sleeping Beauty. If we're talking stop-motion or 3D, Coraline and Toy Story 2.


Best villain ever? 
Hell yeah, that's why she's getting her own movie.

10) Do you have any favourite childhood movies that you now hate?

I used to love Toy Story, but now I've seen it way too many times. Also with all the innovation in animation, I can never help thinking that it just looks so dated! (Sorry pixar!)


Shhh! Don't tell!

11) Lastly, which do you prefer: a packed cinema auditorium on opening night or a quiet and empty cinema auditorium a week later? 

Depends on the movie, but I usually prefer a packed theater! They're a little bit harder to come by these days, I think. And the energy is always a bit more elevated in a packed theater--makes it worth your dollar!