These are movies that most people liked, but I didn’t think they were all that special.
With “Dallas Buyers Club” now playing in select theaters and expanding soon, I have come to realize that I have never seen a movie starring Jared Leto. So, to solve my problem, I decided to review two of his films, “Fight Club” and “Requiem for a Dream.” Even though he is not the main protagonist in it, I still am reviewing “Fight Club,” directed by David Fincher. The bottom line is the movie is attractive, but inside, it is mean spirited.
Edward Norton’s character suffers insomnia, and is given no help, other than the suggestion to go to a support group with men who suffered from testicular cancer. There, he meets the washed out body builder (Meat Loaf), who lost everything, and deals with a female tourist named Marla (Helena Bonham Carter), who lies about having a disease. Norton and Marla agree to attend different meetings without being in the same room.
On a plane, he meets a soap salesman named Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) with both soap bars made from human fat and the famous quote “I Want You To Hit Me As Hard As You Can.” They fight for fun, and it becomes a show. Therefore, they host a secret organization called “Fight Club.” Eventually, Norton learns that it’s more than a fight.
“Fight Club” has nice qualities, but it is not a great movie. Norton, Pitt, and Carter have a certain chemistry that makes them seem like they come from a dark world. The art direction is nice, and it gives the scenes a certain kind of depth. The score the Dust Brothers compose makes the movie look like a video game, and I prefer their music over the Skrillex music in “Spring Breakers.” I read something that at the 56th Venice International Film Festival that half the critics liked it, and half the critics hated it.
I am mixed about the film, because it is kind of mean-spirited and bloody. By mean-spirited, I mean there is a scene when “Fight Club” members become jerks to other people without any reason, and by bloody, I mean, the fights cover men black, blue, and red all over.
I was hooked with the actors’ performances in “Fight Club” so much, that I was considering to give it three smiley faces. But, the reason I give it a two and a half smiley face rating is because of the anger and blood the characters give.
We have a number of problems in this world. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are the presidential candidates, people dressed up as clowns are scaring people, there may be higher gas prices after a major explosion, and some of the people I care about enjoyed the horrendously awful “Dirty Grandpa.” If Princess Poppy the troll lived in our world, she’d still look on the bright side of life. In fact, she and her friends do three things: hug, dance, and sing. But as highly positive as that character is, I was highly negative about the movie “Trolls.”
This is the latest animated feature from Dreamworks Animation, which, like last year’s “Home,” uses a hot soundtrack (featuring Justin Timberlake’s smash hit “Can’t Stop the Feeling”) to help sell tickets. But the problems with both these movies are the animation which mostly looks generic, the supporting characters who come and go, the jokes which aren’t funny, and the timing which goes off track. Ergo, I was disappointed in this movie.
Poppy’s voice is spoken and sung by Anna Kendrick, who uses her “Pitch Perfect” talents to bring the character to life. She’s next in the line for the throne, and throws a huge party, attracting the attention of a chef (voiced by Christine Baranski), who is a Bergen-monsters who think happiness come from eating trolls. Then, she enlists the help of the only unhappy troll Branch (voiced by Timberlake), who knew the Bergens would come one day, to rescue her fellow trolls.
In the damp and dreary Bergentown, there’s the young, dorky King Gristle, Jr (voiced by Christopher Mintz-Plasse), who is told by his late father (voiced by John Cleese) that because he never had his first troll to eat, he’ll never find happiness. And then there’s the scullery maid Bridget (voiced by Zooey Deschanel), who has a crush on Gristle, and receives help from her new troll friends to win his heart.
I forgot to mention “Trolls” is based on those popular children’s toys with the long colorful hair. They can do wonders with their hair, including making stairs and fighting giant fuzzy spiders. I’ve never played with them, and I never wondered what the point is. The movie tries to explain it, but only small kids can eat this stuff up. There are some songs I liked, and others which are both unnecessary and unmemorable. Deschanel’s voice is only recognizable when she sings her own cover of Lionel Richie’s “Hello,” while the rest seems like a dorky teen with a higher voice. And most of the animation is generic, while some of it is passable. This is one of Dreamworks Animation’s weakest films.
There are some nice qualities, including the voice acting. The best come from Kendrick, Timberlake, Baranski, Mintz-Plasse, Cleese, Russell Brand, and James Corden. And the best moments include a talking and walking cloud (voiced by co-director Walt Dohrn), and Poppy’s bedtime song “Sound of Silence.” I liked its fuzzy environment, and colorful hair, but the movie lacks the pure magic I was looking forward to.
Out of the Furnace
Christian Bale has two movies out this December: “Out of the Furnace” and “American Hustle.” I just hope “American Hustle” will be better than this film, because half the movie is over by the time the centerpiece starts. The lighting is mostly literally dark, the premise becomes a little too obvious and lazy, and I was reminded of two bad movies: “The Counselor,” which I gave two and a half smiley faces, and “Homefront,” which I gave one smiley face.
The movie starts off pretty interesting, as Bale plays Russell Blaze, who ends up in prison for a DWI night that kills a mother and her child. Released from prison, he learns a few sad truths: his father (Bingo O’Malley) has passed on, his brother Rodney, Jr. (Casey Affleck) fights for a living, and his girlfriend (Zoe Saldana) has started a new relationship with a cop (Forest Whitaker).
Even though he takes beatings in the fights, Rodney asks his loan shark John Petty (Willem Dafoe) to hook him up with a fight, sponsored by the bloodthirsty Harlan DeGroat (Woody Harrelson). Petty tells DeGroat that their deal is even, but DeGroat thinks otherwise and kills Petty and Rodney (this is where the story ends). Russell tries to find Rodney, but he finds out he is dead, so he tries to set things right. I might be giving away the plot, but what else is this guy going to do?
Scott Cooper did a better job directing “Crazy Heart” than he did with “Out of the Furnace.” I was reminded of “The Counselor,” because of how lazy it was not to add a story where Russell has to find Rodney, and ends up in a battle with DeGroat. I was also reminded of “Homefront,” because Harrelson plays pretty much a drunk and abusive character, and if he kept this behavior up, he would have been as bad as Kate Bosworth was in that movie.
Don’t get me wrong. I liked Bale, Affleck, Saldana, Whitaker, Dafoe, and Sam Shepard (as the uncle of Russell and Rodney), as well as the setting and look of this movie. In fact, I consider this movie guys would see before or after they go bar hopping. Still, I was mostly bored with this movie.
Under the Skin
With Scarlett Johansson’s other movie, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” being a box office hit, I had to see her other recent film, “Under the Skin,” in the Big Apple. I have to tell you: Martin McNee and Emer O’Sullivan’s art direction are both fantastic and threatening and Meca Levi’s score sends a chill through your heart.
Unfortunately, this film is one of the most miserable experiences I have ever had at the movies. It is not the worst movie of the year, but it might end up somewhere on my list.
Here’s why it’s horrible. Set in Scotland, an alien, with Scarlett Johansson’s body, seduces hitchhikers to their demise. But what else?!! Most of the hitchhikers’ dialogue are half hard and half easy to understand. Where are the subtitles?! And the images may be beautiful, but like “Enemy,” they are mostly too dark for me to see what is happening.
And the last half of the film bored me to death. What is the point of all this?! I ask you!
“Under the Skin” marks the first time I have ever heard of director Jonathan Glazer. He made a bad movie, but maybe next time, he can appease me. Johansson is a big talent, I assure you, but in this film, she has nothing important to say. I basically had the same reaction with “Spring Breakers” last year, and my friends, cousin, and I all deplored that movie. “Under the Skin” is much better because of its looks, but it is still distasteful.