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Table 19 Movie Review

table-19-posterDo you ever get so completely thrown off by something because you expected it to be one way but it really turned out to be completely different? Like, when you see a really scrumptious-looking dessert that you imagine to taste one way but ends up being a totally different flavor? That’s how Table 19 was for me.

It wasn’t a bad different, by any means. But I had been watching the trailer for so long, waiting for pictures and updates and squealing every time I saw the pretty pink poster that by the time I watched the movie itself I thought…what?

Don’t get me wrong. It was a really good movie. A little odd, but good. Cute. I adore Anna Kendrick. The selection of characters at Table 19 made it completely hilarious. Perhaps it was the storyline that just fell a little short to me. Eloise (Anna Kendrick) and her relationship with the blonde guy (who I disliked from the get-go and furthermore refuse to call by either actor or character name out of protest) annoyed me to no end (if you couldn’t already tell. And unfortunately, this is who a lot of the film is centered around. Their relationship was so unsatisfying to me, and I can’t help but hope that it isn’t as realistic as it eerily seemed. Because yeah, the gorgeous brunette guy in the trailer that anyone watching the 2 minute clip would expect her to run away with after they adorably dance together? Spoiler alert, so skip to the paragraph after the next picture. Don’t get your hopes up about The two of them and all the adorableness between them. They were shorter lived on screen than the actual length of that very movie trailer, and I was (and am still) super bitter about it. b26df04dea30538d19fc75db41ecc067_700x259Ok, non-spoilers, hello again. Another thing that bothered me, yes moving on from Anna Kendrick and her character’s relationships. The other people at the Table seemed a bit jipped to me. It was like, “oh yes, we’re all in this horrible table situation together, let’s bond.” But as a viewer I felt like Anna was the only one I really got to know. Granted, she was the one with whom I, also snarky white female in this general stage of my life, can immediately relate to. (Also helps that I was a huge fan of Anna already. Not sure which came first here, either, chicken or egg. But whatever.) but all of this aside, the other characters were simply not that memorable. They were there for witty banter, there to support Eloise. They seemingly came to realizations about their own lives, grew as individuals by the end of the movie on their own too (oops was that a spoiler). Seemingly. To me they still seemed like static characters that the director tried to make dynamic in order to round out the story and fully tie the idea of the crappy wedding Table 19 as a unifying symbol together with a big pretty pink bow.

img_1889All in all, I appreciate the concept of this movie. I like the whole idea of this odd group coming together. The actors were all excellent, particularly my girl Anna (and yes, future self, I did just refer to her as “my girl Anna” like we’re complete “homies”). I always have to nod to Lisa Kudrow and that awkward kid from The Grand Budapest Hotel. The music was even amazing (I am about to go look it up on Spotify as we speak). And the film was, undoubtably and undeniably hilarious at times. However, I had imagined some cute indie film full of complex characters, thought-provoking storylines and messages, and a solid, satisfying ending. What I found instead was a story about one complex character with a lot of side characters, all bound not by the table, but by a story and relationship that I didn’t like or understand from the get-go. I found that, instead of eating one flavor of cake, Table 19 was a wholly different and rather unexpected one. Then again, I guess cake is still cake.

Rating: 6/10

Before I Fall Movie Review

“Maybe you can afford to wait. Maybe for you there’s a tomorrow. Maybe for you there’s one thousand tomorrows, or three thousand, or ten, so much time you can bathe in it, roll around it, let it slide like coins through you fingers. So much time you can waste it. But for some of us there’s only today. And the truth is, you never really know.”

Before I Fall, which comes out in theaters in a couple of weeks, has been one of my favorite books since I read it in ninth grade. It tells the story of a girl named Sam, who is a member of the most popular clique in her high school. She’s sweeter than her three best friends, though; she’s different. (Yeah, yeah, joke about YA I dare you.) It’s set over the course of one day. This happens to be Valentine’s day, but it is also the day that Sam dies, and the day that she relives, seven times, until she can fix what went wrong. Throughout the story, there are mean girls, bullied girls, snubbed boys, popularity contests, and high school parties. It has all the makings of a cheesy YA book to movie adaptation. But it wasn’t one. Aside from some questionable music choices, it was absolutely perfect.

before-i-fall-movie-images-zoey-deutch-halston-sage-21The whole premise of Before I Fall is that you never really know how long you have to live. You don’t know how your actions and choices will impact either your own life or, and sometimes especially, those of the people around you. Sam and her friends do not know how their words and actions impact their peers, until horrible things happen because of them. When Sam keeps waking up, she decides to change things; she is kind, embraces and appreciates what she has had but took advantage of. I love this concept, and when I read the book I thought, holy shit, this is serious, this is real. The movie did the same thing, and in a no less impactful way. Whenever Sam narrates, she is reflecting too, working through all of her thoughts and actions and what they mean. Through her life, we are called to think of our own too, whether they are as glamorous and dramatic as hers or not.

“It amazes me how easy it is for things to change, how easy it is to start off down the same road you always take and wind up somewhere new. Just one false step, one pause, one detour, and you end up with new friends or a bad reputation or a boyfriend or a breakup. It’s never occurred to me before; I’ve never been able to see it. And it makes me feel, weirdly, like maybe all of these different possibilities exist at the same time, like each moment we live has a thousand other moments layered underneath it that look different.”

For that was definitely one thing that was interesting to see: how exactly Sam’s life was transformed onto a screen. We lost a lot of details, obviously: we never learned what kind of falling out she had with her mother, nor how horribly her relationship her relationship really was. But we did get to see her friends. The dynamic between Lindsay and the others was extremely authentic. They listened to music, made fun of each other, gossiped and laughed. It was accurate, it was fun and funny to watch, and it reminded me of me. It only felt forced when they mentioned Snapchat or said “bae.” Even then, though, they went right back to being believable high schoolers. (I mean, as believable as the twenty-something year olds and their supposed “senior party” could be.) The movie, though, did this really well.

In fact, the acting in and of itself was really good. I was impressed and pleasantly surprised. Not only were the relationships believable, but the characters were too. Sam was just how I imagined her, as were Lindsay and even Skye. Kent was perfect too, though I don’t actually know if they ever said his name.

“I shiver, thinking how easy it is to be totally wrong about peopleto see one tiny part of them and confuse it for the whole, to see the cause and think it’s the effect or vice versa.”

Not to go all Read It and Weep here, but I also knew a Lindsay in high school. I was the Sam in a friend group, and could relate very strongly to everything that that happened on screen. This realization about some of my back-stabbing high school girlfriends probably made the movie even more meaningful and realistic to me, to be honest. Since reading the book, I have seen and experienced firsthand just how mean and two-faced girls who claim to be your friends can be. It’s horrible. I didn’t go all Kickass Black Eyeshadow Day Five or Six Sam, which would have been awesome, but I did get the hell out of there after being involved for far too long, like Sam did. I too learned from being around the wrong people, though fortunately no one suffered this much from anything that happened. (That I know of…) I should have thought about this book at the time, but I guess life is funny and unfortunate like that.

“So many things become beautiful when you really look.”

before-i-fall-hd-trailer-stillsAnother thing that I really liked about this movie though, dark serious life thoughts aside, actually has nothing to do with the characters or story per se. And yeah, this is huge media me nerding out. But I absolutely loved how the film’s shots were set up, how the lighting felt, and how time and days passed. The transitions were seamless. I was curious as to how they would repeat one day over and over, reuse the same scenes, and still keep it interesting and new. And they did it so, so well. They picked significant things to focus on, made it just tense and funny enough. Whenever they ran through the woods, I pointed out how hard the light must have been to get perfectly. And the scene where Sam repeatedly wakes up? SO GOOD.

Lauren Oliver and Before I Fall were and are perfect. I highly recommend both the book and movie to any and everyone who likes contemplative stories with surprising, occasionally funny or dark, and thought-provoking twists. Sure, they may seem and feel a little fluffy at times, but the messages certainly are not.

“I realized that time doesn’t matter. Certain moments go on forever. Even after they’re over they still go on, even after you’re dead and buried, those moments are lasting still, backward and forward, on into infinity. They are everything and everywhere all at once. They are the meaning.”

Book: 5/5 stars

Movie: 9/10 stars

La La Land Movie Review

“You say ‘romantic’ like it’s a bad thing.”

Let me just say one thing: I absolutely adored La La Land. Everyone told me, “no don’t get your hopes up, it’s disappointing, I don’t get the hype.” But did ya girl listen? No! I mean, the last time that I looked forward to a movie this much, so far in advance, and so crazy strongly was back when Begin Again came out. And was ya girl disappointed either time? Nope!

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I loved everything, from the storyline and romance to the acting to the cinematography to the dancing to the music… I love the nostalgia for classic Hollywood movies, and I flipped out every time Casablanca was referenced. Emma and Ryan were brilliant. It could have been so cheesy (and okay, maybe the planetarium scene was), but them, their chemistry and humor and dreaminess—they made it work.

Another thing I noticed (while crying and scouting Tumblr listening to the soundtrack a mere five minutes after the closing credits) was that literally every scene was beautiful. Beautiful. The colors, the movements, the balance on screen, every detail was meticulously planned so as to appear completely and effortlessly magical. The score made it even better; I already liked jazz (thanks Mum!) but if I hadn’t, I still would have loved every single song.

Ok, spoiler zone. 

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Throughout the beginning seasons I knew that Mia and Seb would fall in love, be adorable, yada yada yada. But I didn’t know how long they would last, if they would end up happy and together, if they would fight but make up…etcetera. When the movie was only halfway through and they did start fighting, though, I thought “oh god, this does not bode well.” And I was right.

I definitely was not expecting the time jump. When I found out they weren’t together after that period of time, and that she instead had a whole other, new family, I screamed. When she walked into his club, though, I was sobbing.

“In all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.”

Sound familiar? Anyway, that’s why I cried, and then kept crying because of the montage. (Which was also gorgeous, and definitely an ode to the art.)

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People were unhappy, I think, because Mia and Seb didn’t end up together. That would have been happier and, well, better, obviously, but it was still extremely satisfying. They chose to pursue their dreams apart from one another—and they were successful. They had helped each other realize that they could do it, motivated and pushed and encouraged one another to not give up chase their passions. They were like a team, and we can’t know whether or not they would have been able to do so had they have been together.

The montage shows is the future that they could have had together, both successful and married and in love, but the question of its plausibility remains. Simply, they chose to stay true to themselves, chose the dream and blind hope of Hollywood and LA. Both together and apart, they helped each other embrace the magic of La La Land.

“Here’s to the fools who dream.”

Rating: 10/10

Jackie Movie Review

Last Wednesday, I went to a screening of Jackie.

This was the third free screening that I had attended at various theaters around Atlanta in less than three weeks. I had also just finished my very last final of the semester at ten o’clock that morning. I was completely packed and ready to go home the next day. All in all, I was giddy from good luck, excitement, and relief. Going to see the movie was my only plan for the evening, and it was a good and welcome one.

I went with Sam, my friend and cohort in many an interesting Uber excursion. She too had survived the biology exam with me hours before, and I thought it would be a perfect thing to do together before the holiday.

img_2486It was. We were a bit rushed and had very little time to take in the surroundings of the Tara Cinemas, however. We arrived inside right at seven o’clock, the movie’s schedule start time, and were directed to the last remaining seats. And where were these seats, you ask?

Why do you ask. They were in the very front row.

Fortunately, there was a distance between the front row and the screen that is unique, I think, to smaller, less commercial movie theaters. Also fortunately, we at least got to sit in the very middle of the row, so it was more of an IMAX experience than a sideways, off-kilter one.

When the movie began, the magic happened, as they say. I was first struck by how well-framed everything was. Media studies nerd-alert, I know. But Natalie Portman is completely and perfectly positioned throughout the entire film. Her face is balanced in each shot, the cars are centered or not, the buildings, etcetera. The lighting, the eerie music, you name it. It felt appropriately complex and calculated. The cinematography felt as heavy but significant as the material it conveyed. It alone was exquisite.

Then, of course, there was the way that the story was told. I had no idea how they were going to approach it beforehand. Would it chronicle JFK’s assassination from the eyes of Jackie in order of the events as they occurred? Would the movie’s plot take place years later? Where would it begin? These questions are answered almost as quickly as they are asked; a reporter on screen immediately knocks on Jackie’s door. He is interviewing her after JFK’s funeral. Later, of course, time is further skewed by the presence of a priest, but for the most part the movie progresses through a series of flashbacks and storytelling through the eyes of Natalie Portman as Jackie herself. I thought that this was a very compelling way to tell the story, as it allowed viewers to go back and forth from the impact of the assassination on both the United States and mental state of Jackie O, as well as the time in the White House before, when everything was beautiful and lovely and there was no danger of losing everything. This contrast was clear, emphasized, and horribly sad.

t-natalie-portman-jackie-kennedy-first-lookApart from the manner in which the story was told, there was the actual acting, the talent, that brought everything lovely and terrible to life. Natalie Portman was perfect. Like, Oscar-worthy perfect. She perfectly embodied Jackie’s grace, elegance, strength. At times it was unclear if she knew what she wanted, or what her relationship with JFK was really like, but I will attribute this to my admittedly scant knowledge of the Kennedys. Portman, however, became Jackie, completely exposing the psychological impacts that such a trauma would have on one’s self, life, family, and desires. She was luminary.

By the end of the film, it was as though I had been punched in the gut, without actually knowing why. It was such a strong film, perhaps. Or maybe the performance and final messages were just dumbfounding. In any case, I wanted to sit in the dark and quiet theater for as long as possible, not ready for the experience to be over.

When Sam finally dragged me up, though, I looked around and realized, for the first time, that we were the youngest people in the theater. Everyone was in their late thirties at least, and most seemed even older. A lady with white hair who had been sitting beside me, I realized, had actually been sniffling and trying not to cry. As we walked up the aisle, I heard discussions about the film begin to pick up all around us. They were debating the portrayal of Jackie, admiring or disputing the choice in actors, questioning how they found such a spot-on JFK look-alike, pondering the merits of that manner of storytelling.

There was a line to the bathroom, which was small and cramped and almost welcomed not only jokes about how cramped it was, but discussions about the film we had all just seen as well. One woman asked us what we thought of the movie, and we talked for a bit before learning that she was six years old at the time of JFK’s funeral, and remembered watching every detail on TV. “It was really a spectacle,” she said. I couldn’t tell if she said this reverently or not before it was time to wash my hands.

img_2489After leaving the tiny space, we were left to a nearly empty lobby. Nearly empty, accepting the sitting area complete with armchairs and a coffee table with a chess set, where several individuals were continuing their film debates at greater length. Critics! I thought excitedly, even though I have no idea if they actually were.

All around was an air of creativity, a feeling of philosophy and thought, complex analysis of film and art. There were movie posters for upcoming indie movies that I have been longing to see for ages scattered about the walls, and as we waited for our Uber back to reality, I walked around slowly, breathing it all in. I loved it—Jackie, the experience, everything. I loved discussing the story with the stranger in the line to the bathroom; I gained a new perspective. I loved watching an amazing performance from what probably wasn’t even a flattering angle. And I loved going to a new place, full of exciting, artistic, forward and critical thinking. I was in my element. And I can’t wait to go back. Very, very soon.

Rating: 9/10

Miss Sloane Movie Review

mv5bmtayody4njc4mjbeqtjeqwpwz15bbwu4mdi0ntizmday-_v1_sy1000_cr006701000_al_“Lobbying is about foresight, about anticipating your opponent’s moves, and devising counter measures. The winner walks one step ahead of the opposition. It’s about making sure you surprise them, and they don’t surprise you.”

Miss Sloane, in theaters Friday, sure did surprise me. I had high expectations when I went to the screening, having seen only the excitement-packed, House of Cards and How to Get Away With Murder reminiscent trailer. I love this kind of thing. And it was even better than I had hoped.

Sloane (Chastain) is a powerful lobbyist, seeking to pass a bill that will enforce background checks before purchasing firearms. She is fighting for this bill to pass against the wishes of her old company, a group of people who knows her, has learned how she operates. She must not only persuade the public and senators to support the movement; she must also outsmart the group of conservatives plotting to stop her. She must outsmart herself. Amidst the twists and turns of legal proceedings and flashbacks, there are second-amendment battles, gunmen, a lot of really good-looking Asian food, spy cameras, fabulous clothes, pill-popping, public hearings, and inflatable rats. An admittedly odd combination, but it worked. More than that, actually—it succeeded.

miss_sloaneThere have been debates over how realistic the bills and legal proceedings in the movie actually are, but it seemed solid to me. (I know very little about gun laws and lobbying, that’s probably why.) The focus did not necessarily seem to be the politics themselves, though. It was more about the plotting that goes on, the back-stabbing and brilliance of the characters. Every character, but in particular, Miss Sloane.

This movie celebrates the strength and power of women in politics. Chastain’s amazing portrayal of this dazzling granite figure also reveals that perhaps she is not “stone cold.” She is humanized; she has struggles, is broken but refuses to show her cracks. At times her personal life and motives were completely confusing, but throughout the film the audience is allowed to realize more and more. No spoilers, obviously, but the end of the movie was extremely well done on taking her as a person into account.

screen20shot202016-09-1220at202-39-3120pmThe question of her support for the background check bill Sloane is lobbying for, however, is constantly questioned. Does she want this bill to pass because she wants to stop the conservative, narrow-minded white men like the man who seeks her help and attempts to destroy her when she laughs in his face? Is it because she does have some sort of personal connection that the audience is frustratingly never privy to? (This would have, admittedly, been such a satisfying reveal.) Does she simply thrive under the pressure and challenge, craving an unlikely success? Or is a bigger question of whether there really has to be a motive for such a woman to go to such lengths to support something? Why can’t she just have an opinion and support it, without falling prey to such questioning, like a man would?

The messages of Miss Sloane are powerful and particularly resonant. If you are a fan of politics, exciting twists, action/thrillers, and badass feminists proving everyone wrong, you will love Miss Sloane. Altogether, it is “mind boggling, ingenious, and completely unbelievable”—just like Miss Sloane herself.

Star Wars at Bobby Dodd

On July 8th, my friends and I attended a screening of one of my favorite movies, Star Wars Episode 7: The Force Awakens, at Bobby Dodd Stadium.

I had been excited about this for weeks. Star Wars, on an enormous screen, in the grass on the field, with all of my new friends. It sounded ideal.

I studied and was a good little student the day before. I wasn’t even distracted by Buzz, who came and stole my computer for a moment in the middle of my Social Movements readings. (Well, maybe for a minute.) I got my work done so that I could enjoy everything fully.

Then the protests downtown started.

And, in my case, downtown meant down the road.

I have no opinion on the Black Lives Matter protests. Not what was being protested, not the tactics used, nothing. This isn’t going to be a political expose of any sort. I’m also not going to pretend that I’m informed about everything that was going on enough to make a comment that isn’t self-incriminating in some manner. So don’t get offended or read too much into any of this, please.

(Also understand that this is my blog and you are a voluntary reader. Also I’m like the biggest Star Wars nerd, so that’s where I’m comin’ from here.)

I was really disappointed that the helicopters overhead interrupted the movie.

There were at least fifteen coming and going, and they were so infuriatingly loud. Every scene, even the quiet ones, now featured war-movie sound effects, the sound of spinning blades and beating drums. My head pounded…or was it the laser blasts on screen?

It was mildly upsetting. I’d seen the movie before, but it still wasn’t what I had been expecting or hoped it would be.

Even excepting the helicopters, everyone around me only discussed what was happening on the news throughout the entirety of our stay. They weren’t even watching the movie. They had friends that they were worried about, wanted to check on. Two people even left the stadium to join the protests, mostly to say that they had been involved. (Again, this is just what it seemed like to me.) It was crazy.

I was disappointed, but not long after this, it was all in the past. Everyone moved on. When I went home, I rewatched the movie with my brothers in our living room, on a normal-sized TV. Sure, it wasn’t a jumbo-projector, sure it wasn’t outdoors, didn’t feel like a festival. There weren’t tons of new people to talk to.

But being cozy, being with my family, not having anything dangerous happening down the road, not having ten helicopters right above me, being able to enjoy the movie that I love? This was much more fun.

Buzz caught us studying!

Friends in a Field, oil on canvas, 1879 AD

The sky was gorgeous.

“Stop taking my hand!”

Mike and Dave Movie Review

A week before the movie premiered, my friends and I received free screening tickets to see Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates at Atlantic Station. As I have been following Anna Kendrick on Twitter for…forever, the movie has long been on my radar, my “to-see list.” So see it I did.

img_5124(No but I jumped on those free screening tickets, let me tell you.)

The movie was absolutely hilarious. It was of the same branch of film as Neighbors, only funnier. It was like Grown Ups, but younger. Bridesmaids, but…well, I wouldn’t know, I  haven’t seen Bridesmaids. Well, Mike and Dave was a little similar…but very different.

It was just as raunchy as these movies are. There were just as many sex and drug references and scenes, if not more. No, what made this movie great, hilarious, was the acting. Zac Efron, Aubrey Plaza, Anna Kendrick, Adam Devine…together, they were perfect. They were all friends already, so I’m pretty sure that the movie and jokes came naturally to each of them. It felt believable—even the ridiculous stuff.

img_5139(Because yes, even though it’s “based off of a true story,” the idea of two guys looking for dates to take to Hawaii (all expenses paid) to their sister’s wedding and ending up with two bad-girls-posing-as-good-girls is pretty ridiculous. So are most of the drug and sex and Rhianna concert ticket parts, but hey.)

Another thing that made this movie excellent was how well my friends and I were able to relate to it. This probably sounds like it’s because we’re all wild, devil-worshiping college students. But no, it’s solely because we are college students. We got the jokes. We got the actors. We got the music, the scene, the ironies. It was as though the movie was made for us.

Maybe, if you think about it, it was. Sure, it was really gross (to a point of being offensive) at times. But it was funny. It was honest, natural. It was like life. And definitely, beyond the shadow of a doubt, like college.

Rating: 7/10