Saturday, December 8, 2012

Movie Guy: Women We Love

I should really just stop apologizing when it takes me a while to get back to my blog. I do this for fun: to share my love of films and other silly things with those of you interested in reading about them. So, I'll write when I have the time and the interest to do so. I suppose that's what casual blogging is all about, anyway.
Zoe Kazan. See? Now don't you wish you'd watched
The Exploding Girl like I told you to?
As usual, I have a number of accumulated movie views to share with you - some old favorites, some new to me - and, as usual, that number is a bit much for one post.
Esquire magazine has their "Women We Love" issue, and - since a few of the films I've seen lately have featured some of our favorite women in film here at Superfluity central, I thought that would be an appropriate theme for today's blog.

Ruby Sparks (2012) 
The women: Zoe Kazan, Alia Shawkat, Annette Bening
"In this script - written by you, my girlfriend - I play a writer
who writes the perfect woman - played by you, my girlfriend.
And you're crying anyway. I can't win." 
A novelist (Paul Dano) writes about his fictional perfect woman (Zoe Kazan), and she appears. Zoe Kazan (granddaughter of famed director Elia Kazan and playwright Molly Kazan, and daughter of screenwriters Nicholas Kazan and Robin Swicord) wrote the screenplay for this film, and actor Dano is her real-life main squeeze. It is an interesting film, and Kazan is an absolute delight as the title character. Dano's neurotic writer is a little hard to like, however, and this fantasy romantic comedy has some trouble settling on its voice. It is certainly not the most original premise in Hollywood cinema. Slightly reminiscent of an 80s teen sex comedy (with less gratuitous sex), it felt like a less witty remake of a Woody Allen film. The thing is: Woody Allen never made this film, but one feels that if he had it would have been shorter, funnier, and a little more self-aware.
Still: this is a pretty good movie, and I expect that you will be charmed by Kazan's story as well as her performance.

One For The Money (2012)
The women: Katherine Heigl, Debbie Reynolds, Debra Monk, Annie Parisse
"The sequel will be better.
What do you mean, "It doesn't
work that way'?"
This film flopped at the box office, and the critics were pretty harsh in their reviews. Nevertheless, I quite like Katherine Heigl as both an actress and - from what I have observed - as a person, so I knew that I would eventually get around to this movie in spite of its reception. Here's my take: Heigl is good - if a bit miscast. I never quite bought her as a "born and bred" Jersey girl. I think that Annie Parisse - who plays the smaller role of Mary Lou - would have been more believable as novice bounty hunter Stephanie Plum. I haven't read any of Janet Evanovich's novels, and - if this movie was a faithful adaptation - I don't think I will. The story is like "Elmore Leonard lite" - without any real sense of why Elmore Leonard's characters and stories are fascinating. I'm going to have to go with the wave of public opinion on this one and say, "Skip it."

Outlander (2008)
The woman: Sophia Myles
"I am King of the Vikings. You are my daughter. After I die, do you
know what that makes you?"
"Yes, Viqueen. You need some new jokes, pop."
This one is fun. Imagine if Predator had taken place during the time of the Vikings. That's an oversimplification, but it gives you an idea of how cool this movie is. It also happens to be considerably smarter than Predator with more complicated characters. The only thing I knew about this film going in was that it featured one of my favorite actresses: Sophia Myles. In fact, that was my only reason for putting it on my to-watch list. Now, because of Sophia Myles, the rest of the cast, the story, action, and really cool monster, I'm telling you to put it on yours.
One gripe: that "blood splattering on the camera lens" effect is intended as callback to low-budget 70s slasher films in which fake blood actually did splatter on the lens and there wasn't enough in the budget to do a second take. The digital recreation of this effect is already overused in modern slasher flicks, and it really doesn't belong in a slick sci-fi film like this one.

The Raven (2012)
The woman: Alice Eve
"You must chill! You must chill!"
I was really looking forward to this one. Edgar Allan Poe (!) played by John Cusack (!) hunting a Poe-inspired serial killer (!) in 19th century Baltimore (!) during the mysterious last days of his life (!). Also starring Alice Eve (!!!).
The only thing that didn't let me down in this film was Alice Eve. (And I doubt she ever will.) The whole thing was just way too heavy-handed. Everyone was yelling. All the time. They were even breathing intensely. I described the film to someone, and they said that it sounded like the script was written in all-caps. I could not have put it any better.

"Hey, I wonder if she means old Ben Kenobi..."
Brave (2012)
The women: Kelly MacDonald, Emma Thompson, Julie Walters
I have said this before and I will say it again: I could (and would) happily listen to Kelly MacDonald read the phone book, so when I found out that she would be providing the voice of the latest Disney princess, I could not have been more pleased. I wish I could say that I enjoyed this film more. I can't put my finger on it, but there was just something a bit disjointed about the whole thing. This could be because the original director and screenwriter, Brenda Chapman, was replaced by Mark Andrews abou two-thirds of the way into production. However, I am grading the film a bit more rigidly because it is a Pixar production, and I am accustomed to a higher quality of storytelling from that studio.

Whip It (2009)
The women: Ellen Page, Juliette Lewis, Ari Graynor, Alia Shawkat
"... And the cat says, "Great! I didn't know you had
Meals on Wheels up here.' Get it?"
I wrote about this film way back in 2010 on my old blog, and it remains a favorite that I can watch again and again. This is, simply-put, a well-made film. It would have been easy to take this movie way over-the-top - a tendency that director Barrymore too often employs in her acting choices - but this little symphony hits all the right notes in all the right places.
If you haven't seen this one yet, do yourself a favor and rent it this week. I noticed that it has found its way into Redbox kiosks again.

Drive (2011)
The women: Carey Mulligan, Christina Hendricks
"Hey, girl: it purrs like a kitten now, but what do you say
we just go for a walk along the beach?"
I very much enjoyed this film (even if I did keep hearing the Ryan Gosling "Hey Girl" meme in my head), but I found the extreme violence to be downright baffling. It did not - in my opinion - further the story. In fact, the effect was somewhat Brechtian - maybe that was the point. Ninety percent of the movie feels like a Michael Mann film: all-encompassing driving but ethereal score, sparse dialogue, characters absolutely dripping in cool. It is the other ten percent of Cronenberg-level violence and gore that sucks us immediately out of this neo-noir music video fantasy world into real shock and repulsion.
Is director Nicholas Winding Refn trying to tell us something about our entertainment choices or is he just another entertainer? Either way, this film knocked me out.

See you next time, gang. Until then, here's a video and two links to help you with your holiday shopping ideas:

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