Tag Archives: celebrities

Maps to the Stars – Review

24 Mar

Over the years, the glamor of Tinsel Town has kind of lost its luster. Starting with Sunset Blvd., critiques of Hollywood have kept on coming throughout the years, and each one has a unique approach to the nightmare that is celebrity. For this particular review, I’m going to be looking at David Cronenberg’s 2014 film, Maps to the Stars. Cronenberg has made a name for himself over the years as one of the most intense and challenging directors, be it in the horror genre or otherwise. Maps to the Stars fits in perfectly with his filmography as it is a horror movie, but also a darkly hilarious and penetrating satire.

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Havana Segrand (Julianne Moore) is an aging actress who is determined to play her deceased mother in a remake of a movie that she starred in many years ago. To do that she hires Dr. Stafford Weiss (John Cusack), a famous new age psychologist, to help her face the demons her mother made her endure during childhood. While he’s not with Havana, Stafford works to keep his son Benjie’s (Evan Bird) acting career together. Benjie has suffered from drug addiction and has been to rehab at the age of 12. Now it’s a struggle to stay clean and keep his acting career from dying. As all of these people deal with their lives in their own strange ways, a mysterious girl named Agatha (Mia Wasikowska) arrives in town, and her past threatens the stability of all these people have worked to build.

While this does definitely feel like a David Cronenberg movie, it also has elements of Bret Easton Ellis’ writings and a sort of David Lynch vibe that was felt in movies like Mulholland Drive and Inland Empire. I really love movies like this because it implements something similar to nightmare logic, if that’s even a thing. What I mean by that is Maps to the Stars feels like a very bad dream. There were many times throughout the movie where I felt like I was watching reality, but it was something different and more sinister. Kind of like in a dream when you’re in your house, but it isn’t actually your house. That’s probably a weird way of putting it, but what I’m really trying to say is that this movie had a really creepy and off putting atmosphere that really hooked me.

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Screenwriter Bruce Wagner has written a very strange movie, but the way people interact with each other in Maps to the Stars might be the strangest thing of all. Some of the things they say and do is so outlandish that you really wish it was a joke just written for the movie. Unfortunately, the media has given us plenty examples of celebrities, like the ones in this movie, saying and doing some ridiculous things that would fit right into this film. Kudos to all the actors in this movie for delivering these lines with complete seriousness. If it wasn’t for their belief in their characters, much of what they say would not have been nearly as funny or hard hitting.

While I do really like this movie, there was one big problem with it that I can’t shake. For the entire movie I was sucked in and really could not wait to see how it ended. When the ending finally came, I didn’t really buy it. First of all, the ending just wasn’t particularly a good one, but that’s not really my main complaint. My main complaint is that they didn’t take enough time to really build up to the ending. It pretty much just sprang up out of nowhere without any real tension happening. There’s tension in the movie, but nothing with any real finality to show that this is the climax of the movie.

Maps to the Stars is a movie that I knew would be right up my alley and I was exactly right. It’s a darkly hilarious look at celebrity life and what it can do to you if you aren’t careful. There’s a lot of disturbing content in the movie that’s meant to make you feel uncomfortable, and the whole atmosphere of the movie is relatively unsettling. While it seems Cronenberg might have been kind of a weird choice for this kind of movie, he was actually a perfect choice. I definitely liked this one a lot.

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Mars Attacks! – Review

20 Apr

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a huge Tim Burton fan. Most of his movies, besides maybe his version of Planet of the Apes, have an awesome style that combines the macabre with dark humor, which really strikes a cord with me. Mars Attacks! isn’t quite as dark as his other films, but the dark humor is absolutely overpowering, which both helps and hinders Burton’s personal ode to a series of vintage trading cards and the style of classic 1950s sic-fi B-movies.

When it is brought to the attention of President Jimmy Dale (Jack Nicholson) that Martian ships have surrounded Earth, he leaps at the chance to make contact with these beings and begin to work together. During the first meeting that is held with the aliens, a huge firefight breaks out between the Martians and the military. Soon, the world is engulfed in an all out war with the Martians, who with their sick senses of humor and love of violence attempt to take over our planet.

Mars Attacks! is loaded with celebrities. Jack Nicholson plays both the president and Art Land, a money hungry casino manager. Glenn Close plays the first lady and Martin Short is the horny Press Secretary Jerry Ross. Anette Bening plays Land’s peace loving alcoholic wife. Michael J. Fox and Sarah Jessica Parker are sleazy news reporters, the latter having a strong attraction to Pierce Brosnan, who plays Professor Donald Kessler. Danny DeVito has a small part as a greedy gambler and Tom Jones is hysterical as himself.

These characters all made me laugh in their own way, but the really stars are the Martians themselves, who have really funny dialogue, even though all they say is “ack.” Even though we don’t speak their language, we as an audience know exactly what they are saying. These Martians try to conquer Earth in the most obnoxious way possible. They don’t only kill anything they see, but it is clearly evident they want to have as much fun as they can with the destruction of a planet.

Something I found really shocking about this movie was how violent it was, but don’t mistake me, I’m not condemning the violence in it. I’m merely saying it was a bit unexpected. Once the Martians arrive on Earth, the sic-fi shoot outs and destruction are pretty much non-stop. When a human gets hit with one of the lasers from the Martian’s, all the flesh disintegrates, leaving only a bright green or red skeleton. The effect is really cool and it was fun to watch. It was also fun seeing the Martian’s heads explode inside their helmets. Roger Ebert says that this particular gag was only funny the first couple of times, but I never got tired of it.

The only detraction I can really give this movie is that the storyline is INCREDIBLY weak. There really almost is no storyline besides “Martians attacks Earth and funny stuff happens.” None of the characters really go through any sort of change or discovery, and a couple characters in particular aren’t implemented enough. The characters themselves are pretty funny, but the real humor lies with the twisted Martians and how the human characters react.

While Mars Attacks! is far from being Tim Burton’s best movie, it’s still a really fun escape into a silly world where all of the important people of the world are ridiculous caricatures here for our amusement. The writing is average and the plot is pretty stupid, but I laughed at almost every scene. It may be silly, over the top, and juvenile at times, but it’s a fun ode to movies of the past.

The Interpreter – Review

16 Mar

The United Nations. One of the most secure and important buildings in the entire world. Not much can happen inside this building without it being closely monitored and investigated if necessary. So, when the genocidal president of an African country is threatened with an assassination, the secret service springs into action in order to prevent the president and the witness from being killed. Sound like an intense and intriguing political thriller? Well, yes and no.

In The Interpreter, Nicole Kidman plays Silvia Broome, an interpreter for the UN translating for the fictional African country of Matobo. Late one night she overhears a conversation in Ku (the language of Matobo) concerning an upcoming assassination on the genocidal Matoban president Edmond Zuwanie. Secret Service agents Tobin Keller (Sean Penn) and Dot Woods (Catherine Keener) are hired to protect Silvia and prevent the assassination of Zuwanie. But not everything is what it appears as Silvia’s dark past catches up with her and makes her just as much a suspect as she is a witness.

There are quite a few interesting plot points and character developments that sets this film a little bit higher than the average political thriller. Even though we want Keller to prevent the assassination of Zuwanie, we still recognize that he is a terrible human being who is responsible for the deaths of thousands of people. Normally he would be a villain who the audience would like to see wiped off the face of the earth, but not in this film. We strangely want him to survive and meet justice in the more legal sense.

The relationship between the characters also help individualize this film. I’m sick and tired of the obligatory romance between characters that really serves no purpose other than to give the film more layers. Fortunately, this is not a problem in The Interpreter. Human emotions are expressed in this film, but they never feel forced. This is due to Sydney Pollack’s skill in directing and the talents of both Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn.

The few action scenes that this film has are very good indeed. Pollack creates a lot of suspense before they happen that would please any Hitchcock fan, and the outcome is just as good. There’s a scene involving many different characters ending up on the same bus without intending to. That scene literally explodes with excitement and anticipation. Much of the action actually takes place inside the U.N. which is really impressive. Pollack had to negotiate a lot with Kofi Annan, the head of the Unite Nations, in order to be allowed to film in the many different rooms and corridors. They could only shoot on weekends and be prepared to leave immediately if an international emergency were to arise.

This is still not a perfect movie by any means. A lot of times I found myself getting disinterested during some of the scenes involving hefty amounts of dialogue. This is a dangerous problem that plagues many political thriller movies. Films full of intrigue and international affairs need your full attention, especially if the film is moving at a fast pace. Fortunately, this movie isn’t very hard to follow, so if you find yourself losing attention, you won’t be left in the dark.

But the pacing of this film is exactly the problem. It is stretched out for a little over two hours when it could have easily been an hour and forty minutes. Even though that’s just a difference of about half an hour, The International stills feels too long for its own good. And on top of that, the ending is not all that satisfying. I read that the ending in the film wasn’t the original ending. The ending they originally had in mind would have made more sense to me and would have made me feel like the movie’s plot came full circle.

For me, political thrillers are either really good or really bad. Strangely enough, this one falls right in the middle. It has a pretty interesting plot with some nice twists, great performances, and unique character development. It also went on too long, had scenes that didn’t really serve much of a purpose, and an unsatisfying conclusion. It isn’t a bad movie, in fact, it’s pretty good. If you’re looking for a movie just to fill a couple empty hours of your afternoon, this is an ok choice.