Tag Archives: Jennifer Lawrence

mother! – Review

11 Oct

When I was first getting heavily into film, one of my main inspirations was Darren Aronofsky. He went places with his movies that I never thought were possible. Requiem for a Dream has had an impact on me that not a lot of films have and that impact kept going when I saw his films PiThe FountainThe Wrestler, and Black Swan. I thought this guy could do no wrong. Then came Noah and I saw that maybe he isn’t perfect. Noah was a huge disappointment for me and I always thought it was a strange project for Aronofsky to take. When I saw his next film, mother!, was going to be a strange psychological horror trip down the rabbit how, I felt like it was a return to form and I was super excited. Well, I’ve seen the movie and I still can’t get a grip on what I saw. This is going to be a rough review to write because I still have no idea how I really feel. One moment I hate it, and the next I find something to truly respect. Call for help.

A woman known only as Mother (Jennifer Lawrence) lives in a secluded, dilapidated house with her husband who is only credited as Him (Javier Bardem). Him is a poet who is struggling with severe writer’s block while Mother works day in and day out trying to fix the house, which is actually Him’s old house which was destroyed in a fire. One day Man (Ed Harris) shows up at Him and Mother’s door, and Him allows Man to stay the night. The actions of Man upsets Mother and things only get worse when Man’s wife, Woman (Michelle Pfeiffer), shows up and Him also allows Woman to stay. As Mother is quietly tormented by both Man and Woman, more and more people begin inviting themselves into Mother’s house and invading her life to the point where her very existence is threatened by the endless mob of people.

This movie really is something else. mother! is one of the most polarizing movies of the year, and not just with me, but also with critics and audiences. The structure of the movie, itself, even feels like polar opposites of one another. The first hour of this film is outstanding. I was sucked into it and I was ready to defend this film against anything negative one said. The dynamic between Mother and Him was intense. The abuse that Mother was receiving was quiet and nonviolent but abuse all the same. That’s when I thought, “Oh, this movie’s about toxic relationships where the pain is never from anything physical.” I thought that was a really interesting thematic journey to be on and an idea that isn’t explored all that much. Lawrence, Bardem, Harris, and especially Pfeiffer were all at the top of their games in this half of the movie. When more people began entering the home, I also thought it was a wild idea to think of and then actually execute and execute well onscreen. So far, mother! was gutsy, well paced, original, and had a clever artistic balance. Then the movie slowed down, and that was fine. A slow down was necessary. But then, we get into the second half of the film, more specifically the third act…

It is at this point that both Darren Aronofsky and mother! goes off the rails. Without spoiling anything, more people show up to the house and the great idea Aronofsky had is spoiled by doing way too much with it. Not only that, but he shamelessly bashes the viewer over the head with his religious symbolism that completely destroyed what my theory of the movie was about. It’s a relentless mish mash of violence and allegories and pretension. I get it Darren. We all get it. Settle down. It’s also at this time where both Man and Woman are nowhere in sight, and they were only one of the most interesting part of the movie. The tracking camera work that worked so well in the first half just becomes nauseating as things start getting crazier and crazier. I wasn’t really affected by what I was looking at. I wasn’t feeling angry anymore or upset for Mother. I wasn’t even laughing at the insanity. I was just getting so confused and annoyed at how far things were going that I was getting bored. It was a very strange feeling.

So let’s weigh the good with the bad. The good is the first half of the movie that is filled with excellent performances, an idea I found very unique, and camera work that was very sure of itself. Like I said, I was sucked in for a while. The bad is pretty much everything else. The actual point of the entire movie is pretentious and completely destroyed what I thought about the film. The themes themselves are pretentious, but the obvious way Aronofsky uses them is just annoying. The idea that was great in the first half also goes way too far and is also ruined in the second half. It seems like it may be balanced, but when I  say I hated the second half I mean that I HATED it. I really can’t talk too much about what I didn’t like in the second half because it would spoil the film.

mother! is an anomaly of a movie. There are times where I admire it and there are times that it just bothers me. At this very point in time, I can still say I’m torn, but the film did anger me more than I wanted it to. I like when a movie can be angering for the emotional response that it needs. Detroit was angering, but that was the response that Bigelow wanted. mother! was angering just because of how annoying and pretentious the film got and how Aronofsky went way too far with his idea. I don’t know how I’m going to feel about this movie down the line or after repeat viewings, but this is how I feel right now.

Final Grade: C-

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X-Men: Apocalypse – Review

13 Jun

Ever since X-Men was first released back in 2000, there’s been a slew of movies added to this series to make it one of the biggest superhero franchises of all time. Some of these entries have been outstanding, like X2: X-Men United and X-Men: Days of Future Past. Others have become something of a bad joke, like X-Men 3: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine. It really seems like the makers had absolutely no idea what to actually do with the material, and what we have left is a storyline filled with time travel, alternate universes, and people dying and coming back to life. It’s all very hard to keep track of. Now we have X-Men: Apocalypse, a film that tries to tie up a lot of loose ends while also introducing some of the most badass characters to the universe to date. This movie may be a bit of a mess, but it’s still a strong installment in the series.

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Thousands of years ago, En Sabah Nur (Oscar Isaac), also known as Apocalypse, is betrayed and buried hundreds of feet below ground. Jump to 1983 in what is now Cairo. Apocalypse finally awakens and moves to the surface to start a plan that will rid Earth of the humans who have “destroyed” the planet so that the “strong” can keep living. This presence is soon felt by Professor Xavier (James McAvoy) who is still running the ever growing school for mutants to learn how to harness their abilities. As Xavier tries to pinpoint and identify what’s cause this disturbance he’s feeling, Apocalypse begins recruiting his soldiers including Psylocke (Olivia Munn), a young Ororo Monroe/Storm (Alexandra Shipp), and a completely broken down and hopeless Erik Lensherr/Magneto (Michael Fassbender). As the might of Apocalypse is being wrought all throughout the world, Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) and a group of young mutants find their way to the Professor in order to stop En Sabah Nur from fulfilling his ultimate plan.

While this movie features many of the same actors we’ve seen in First Class and Days of Future Past, there are also a good amount of new faces. I’ve already said that I love James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender as Xavier and Magneto, and while I don’t like what’s happening to her character, Jennifer Lawrence plays Mystique very well. I’d much rather look at some of the new faces. Sophia Turner is note perfect as a young Jean Grey, as is Tye Sheridan as a young Scott Summers/Cyclops. Alexandra Shipp is also perfectly cast as a young Storm, complete with an accent and back story. Let’s be real though. The stand out of this movie is Apocalypse, himself. Apocalypse is one of the coolest villains Marvel has ever created, and Oscar Isaac is absolutely menacing. He doesn’t even need to be speaking to be terrifying. The looks he gives his enemies is so full of powerful confidence and violence, mixed with the excellent make up that was applied. He steals the show and is one of the stand out characters, for me, in the entire franchise.

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X-Men: Apocalypse has some of the coolest moments in the entire series, which I will most certainly get to later. I also would like to point out that it also has some of the most tedious and pointless moments in the entire series. The movie starts out well enough and there’s more set up that happens than you might expect, but that’s ok. I was going with it for a while. However, there’s a part in the middle that is completely unnecessary to the plot concerning Apocalypse. Anyone who’s seen this movie knows what scene I mean, and it definitely is a cool scene, but I couldn’t help but feel like I got off at the wrong exit and had to turn back around to get back to where I wanted to be. It would’ve been fine, but once that whole section was over it was never discussed again and had no effect on the main story. Plus, I have to say that the X-Men timeline and continuity has gotten so out of control it’s best to just watch these movies and not think too hard about how they all lead into each other.

Now that we got all that garbage out of the way, I’d like to get back to all the awesome stuff. I’ve already mentioned how epic I think Apocalypse is, so let’s move on to more. Evan Peters returns as Quicksilver, and if you thought he was cool in Days of Future Past, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Not only does he get a cooler slow motion scene, but he also gets to do more with the X-Men and has a dramatic arc that brings a lot to his character. I also have to give a huge shout out to the people who worked on the sound and visual effects. Apocalypse’s awakening made the ground rumble and got me so pumped for the rest of the movie. Meanwhile the CGI in the final battle was epic. Things were flying all over the place, buildings were collapsing, and all hell was just breaking loose. This is a really well made movie and acts as further proof that Bryan Singer is the X-Men guy.

X-Men: Apocalypse isn’t the best entry in the series, but it’s also far from being the worst. In fact, it’s a perfectly competent and often times exhilarating exercise in the super hero genre. This series seems to have gone on since the beginning of time, and after seeing this one I’ve realized that I’m nowhere near ready to see these movies cease to exist. They’re just too much fun to forget about.

X-Men: Days of Future Past – Review

11 Jun

The X-Men franchise, which has been around for over a decade (their movies at least), is a franchise that has had some strong up and some really strong downs. Bryan Singer’s X-Men and X2: X-Men United were both triumphant examples of how a superhero movie should be made. That’s when tragedy struck. X3: X-Men United was a complete disaster that ruined everything Singer had done, X-Men Origins: Wolverine was a mediocre entry, and The Wolverine was downright boring. Only with Matthew Vaughn’s X-Men: First Class did the series seem to get its footing once again with one of the best entries of the franchise. Now, Singer’s back in the director’s chair and has created the most exciting, dramatic, and action packed entries yet, X-Men: Days of Future Past.

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The future is a bleak place for both humans and mutants. Giant robots called Sentinels have ravaged the planet killing both mutants and normal people who have the mutant gene, leaving the world completely devastated. It is revealed that the cause of this is because the mutant Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) assassinated the designer of the Sentinels, Boliver Trask (Peter Dinklage), and prompted the government to capture her and use her genes to create the murderous robots and making Trask appear as some sort of martyr for humankind. Now, the only chance of survival lies with a small group of remaining X-Men, particularly Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), whose consciousness is sent back in time by Kitty Pride (Ellen Page) to bring together the young Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) and find Mystique to stop her before she can carry out her assassination. Meanwhile, in the future, the Sentinels are closing in on the X-Men’s hide out, forcing the survivors to fight for their lives so Wolverine can complete his near impossible mission.

Of course, I’m leaving a lot out of that quick little plot summary because there really is so much going on in this movie, to the point that it’s almost mind boggling. Time travel movies are rarely simple, but I found that this one was not too difficult to understand, and that has a lot to do with the writing and directing. I could tell, right from the opening scene (which might be one of the most violent scenes in this entire series) that this movie was not only going to be entertaining, but it was also going to impress me. There’s so much to love in this movie from the action and drama to its strong sense of style and humor. Finally, but the end, it becomes obvious that Bryan Singer fixed everything that was ruined, at least for the most part.

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One of the most impressive parts of this movie is the cast, but I feel like that really goes without saying. When I first heard that the casts from both the original X-Men movies and First Class were going to be in the same movie that involves Sentinels and time travel, I was immediately down with the entire idea. Everyone really brings their A-game to this film as well. Hugh Jackman gives his expected performance as Wolverine, which has really been a perfect combination right from the start. Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen also give their expected performances as well, which says a lot because I’ve never seen them off their game in anything that they’ve been in. In my opinion though, the real scene stealers come from the people in the past. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender have difficult jobs in this entry, being that both of their characters appear to be at the lowest points in their lives. McAvoy, especially, delivers his lines with such emotion and power, it’s hard not to get just a little choked up. How could I forget Evan Peters, though, and his brief role as Quicksilver? Not only was his brief role one of the most memorable parts of the movie, but it also showed Singer’s strength as a film maker.

To go off from the main story a little bit, this movie got me very curious for what’s to come with the X-Men movie franchise. The post credit scene was crazy enough, but I just mean with things that were added in the plot itself. It’s almost as if Bryan Singer was standing on the side, wiping off his hands, and proclaiming “There. I fixed it.” Not only is the story put completely back on track, but there’s finally some style that’s returned in both the writing and the directing. That being said, kudos have to be given to the screenwriter, Simon Kinberg.

X-Men: Days of Future Past is, without a doubt, the best entry in this franchise and is also a refreshingly awesome and dramatic summer blockbuster. There’s a lot to marvel at with the outstanding special effects that add a level of epicness, but the dramatic story and social critique is just as excellent. The characters aren’t stupid and neither is the story, which only makes this film all the better. If you’re looking to just be mildly entertained, watch X-Men Origins. If you want to be blown right out of your seats with pure amazement, check out Days of Future Past.

 

American Hustle – Review

8 Jan

From the first time I saw the trailer for American Hustle, I was more than ready to see it. Now that it has been nominated for 7 Golden Globes, I really had to kick myself in the ass to get to the theater and see it. Combine that with the fact that it’s directed by David O. Russell, whose films The Fighter and Three Kings I really enjoyed. This is a very grand movie where a lot of things happen that’s being performed by a group of very talented people. That being said, American Hustle is a great movie with only Russell’s pretentious vision and bloated run time bringing it down.

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Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) and Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) are two con artists who have made a killing over the course of a few years in many different sorts of cons. It all seems to come crashing down when they are busted by the over enthusiastic FBI Agent Richie Di Maso (Bradley Cooper). Richie decides to let them off the hook if they can help him bust a group of senators and congressmen, including the mayor of Camden, Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner). As the scams begin to pile up to a degree where Irving can’t even keep track of them all, relationships in the group begin to flare, and Irving’s wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) decides to stick her nose into the whole thing which could mean causing the whole plan to come crashing down.

This movie is a lot of things, and that’s what I think part of the draw is. I went into it expecting mostly a comedy, but much like Three Kings, there are some very poignant dramatic moments amongst the sea of hilarity. It’s pretty refreshing to see a movie balance comedy and drama so well without one overshadowing the other. It’s a bold storyline to take on, and while it is mostly successful, there are some problems. The biggest one is the movie’s length. The first act and the second act move along just fine, but the beginning of the third act not only slows down, but adds in a bunch of scenes that could have been cut or trimmed. Up until that point, the movie moves so fast that it feels like I ran into a brick wall.

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I can’t talk about American Hustle without praising the acting. Christian Bale, once again, went through a major physical change for his role by gaining forty pounds. He’s also just super into character and plays a role that is different than the brooding parts he usually plays. Jennifer Lawrence is hilarious as Rosalyn, although some of the scenes that could have been cut involve her character which is not her fault. Jeremy Renner gives the best performance of his career. The only person who I felt was the weak link was Amy Adams, who didn’t really have the energy of her costars. I saved the best for last. Bradley Cooper gives an absolutely hysterical, pitch perfect performance in what I would say is worthy of an Academy Award nomination for supporting actor. He steals the show.

This is a really great movie to look at to. The costume design is especially great at capturing some of the good parts and not so good parts of style in the late 70s. Going right along with the costumes is the set design that looks like it was pulled right out of the time period, and if you were to watch American Hustle alongside something from the 1970s, I don’t think you would find much a difference. While I’m saying what I like about the look of the movie, I should mention the camera work. It looks really great and moves very fluidly with the energy that the characters have, but I feel like David O. Russell just really thinks he is the greatest thing on planet earth and that translates to the film. He does things with the camera that are just too much, and someone should let him know that moderation is better.

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American Hustle definitely deserves all the award recognition and critical praise that it is receiving. It is an excellent movie that is mildly bogged down by it’s director’s pretentious vision. All of the performers and set/costume designers went above and beyond in making this movies one of the highlights of the 2013 year in movies. If 20 minutes were trimmed off this movie, it would have been perfect. As it stands, it’s a little bit too bloated, but that didn’t stop me from loving this movie and wanting to see it again right when it was over.

Winter’s Bone – Review

12 Apr

After watching Winter’s BoneI looked around my living room at all of the stuff that I have and am proud. I felt like I had to do this after watching this film because of the almost post-apocalyptic surroundings that I found myself in for the last hour and forty minutes. The crazy thing is, it wasn’t an apocalyptic film, just one that examined a poor, drug riddled, rural community where violence and hatred is implied, and no one wants to deal with anyone outside of their families.

Ree Dolly (Jennifer Lawrence) is a 17 year old girl who has the responsibilities and concerns of a 40 year old. She is in charge of raising her younger brother and sister, and taking care of her mentally unstable mother. When her father goes missing a few days before his court date, and after putting the Dolly’s house up as collateral for his bond, Ree begins an investigation to find her father, dead or alive before her family loses the house. This investigation takes her into the darkest corners of her rural community to the point where her life and the lives of her family members are threatened.

The first thing I want to say about this film is that not once was I ever comfortable with my surroundings, and this is one of those movies that sucks you in so much you won’t even notice someone who walks right in front of you. So for the entire film, every scene was just a new situation that I wanted to get out of unscathed as soon as possible. The violence in this film is covertly menacing. There are more threats than there are actual scenes of brutality, but the threats are certainly not hollow.

That’s what makes this film succeed: it’s gritty realism. Not too much really happens in this film, which makes it feel sort of empty, but the realism makes up for it. If this situation were to actually occur in a lawless community like this one, I’m sure that Winter’s Bone accurately portrays how everything would unfold. The realism is also boosted by Jennifer Lawrence’s above average performance. The southern twang and headstrong bravery makes her the perfect heroine for this film. Underneath all of the bravery, however, lies the weakness and fear of a 17 year old in way over her head.

The cinematography is also worth praising. Everything in this film appears cold. The colors are really toned down and the grays and whites are accentuated to help immerse the viewer deeper into the world of the film. It works very well and is one of my favorite, if not my favorite, aspects of Winter’s Bone.

This is definitely not a perfect movie, however. In fact I got pretty bored quite often. A lot of reviews say this film holds non-stop thrills and breathtaking sequences. That isn’t really accurate at all. I’m not saying that I hate slow films, because I really enjoy slow films. I thought The American was a great movie, and it isn’t easy to find a film that drags on as much as that one. The problem here is that the story felt a little hollow. I understand that this probably wasn’t supposed to radiate in your face intensity, but there could have been a few more scenes that were exciting. One in particular is very memorable, but made me wish there were more like it.

All in all, I enjoyed Winter’s Bone. This film was nominated for 4 Academy Awards, including Best Picture. I don’t think it’s that good, but Jennifer Lawrence’s nomination for Best Actress was well deserved. This is a good neo-noir film that should definitely be respected for its masterful cinematography and subtlety, but it is by no means a masterpiece.