Archives for the month of: August, 2015

Omar: 5 OUTTA 5 STARS YO

I bet you weren’t expecting that were you? A perfect score, the highly coveted “Omar Stamp of Perfection” Well this movie deserves it and I don’t blame you if you’re hesitant to believe me. If someone had told me a few weeks ago that there was a Roomate-Vampire mockumentary out there worthy of a perfect score I would’ve said, “That sounds awesome, where do I sign-up?”…but I wouldn’t have expected it to actually live up to the perfect score claim. But hey don’t take my word for it, with 131 votes on the trusty Rotten Tomatoes meter the film still sits at a nice and ketchupy 96%.

The New Zealand horror-comedy What We Do in the Shadows was co-written and directed by Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement (one half of the band Flight of the Conchords!). Along with writing and directing, both of the aforementioned star in the film as the vampires Viago (age 379) and Vladislav (age 862) respectively. These two are joined by Jonathan Brugh as Deacon (age 183) and Ben Fransham as Petyr (age 8,000). These four make-up the original tenants of the flat in Wellington that we are introduced to.

The basic premise of this film is that these four vampires of various ages have hired a camera crew to follow them around and document their lives. The camera crew is hardly ever interacted with directly or even referenced, the whole thing was reminiscent of The Office in that way. Anyway, these guys all come from different eras and get into all sorts of shenanigans when they awaken for their night-time adventures.

The premise of the movie was so simple yet brilliant and was one of my favorite things about the film. I mean, when else have you seen a morbidly hilarious DOCUMENTARY following the everyday lives of vampires? Vampire movies tend to be a serious affair. By nature of the film being a “documentary”, some of the funniest moments arise when the cameraman decides to focus on certain facial expressions, reactions, and oddities that would otherwise be out of place in any other type of movie (again, think of The Office). There are tons of good jokes here that arise surrounding the topic of roommate tensions that any non-vampire can relate to like sharing responsibilities, getting along in one household, etc. These moments are great by themselves but the funniest moments arise when paired with the deceptively deep mythical creature lore this movie packs in. For example, Petyr is obviously supposed to be Count Orlok of Nosferatu (1922) fame. Not coincidentally, Petyr happens to be the most violent and serious vampire of the bunch. Then there’s Vladislav who casually has a human slave and torture chamber and happens to be strongly suggested to be Vlad the Impaler. So those references are awesome but then there’s the hilariousness that arrives with the struggles of being a vampire in a modern society. For example, how do you know if you picked a good outfit to go clubbing in if you have no reflection? How do you even get into a good club if vampire law dictates that you need to be explicitly invited inside before you can cross a doorway? What do you do when the love of your life, a human, is old and frail? Most importantly, how do you drain a victim of their blood in your apartment without having to worry about the bloody mess afterwards?

I was mentioning the lore earlier and that point goes deeper than just vampires. Throughout the movie there are interactions with vampire-hunters, werewolves, zombies, beasts, witches, etc. Clearly the movie has plenty of good material to work with but the writing and directing really make is something special. Like I said, the choices of what to say and show and what not to were made brilliantly and made the movie a very well balanced comedy. The script honestly seemed perfect to me with so many hilariously subtle moments. the acting was fantastic as well! All the characters represented their characters very well but I won’t pretend that this has nothing to do with the fact that I haven’t seen these actors in any other roles.

I really don’t know how much more I can say about this movie. The costumes were spot on, the crappy apartment was spot on, the style was spot on, everything seemed spot on. It’s not big secret that pretty much every time Liz and I want to watch something we simply find an online stream to do our watching. Liz prides herself on being able to find streams for any movie and show ever made. This was one of those very rare moments when neither of us could find a stream but I decided to just rent it on Amazon for a few bucks and I don’t regret the decision in the slightest. The only thing I didn’t like was that I read recently that there are plans for a sequel. I was put off by this idea not because of anything wrong with the this film but rather because of everything right about this film. It just seems like one of those movies that is so original and well done from top to bottom that they couldn’t possibly make another without ruining it or rehashing old jokes. That’s none of our concern here though is it? The moral of the story here is, GO WATCH THIS MOVIE!

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Liz: 3.8 out of 5 stars

Hello hello!!! I apologize for my extended absence recently. Law school has been draining my time and energy away and good god can you believe I’ve only watched ONE movie this week?! Absolutely horrendous. The weekend is almost here so I need to set aside some much-needed movie viewing time. ANYWAY, I’m BACK for my review of Annie Hall (1977), directed by Woody Allen, and starring Woody Allen and Diane Keaton in the two main roles, along with others.

This post is going to start off with how I am very very ashamed of myself for participating in the continuation of Woody Allen’s career by simply watching his films, despite knowing about his very very disturbing personal life. Over the years, I’ve found it more and more difficult to distinguish a line between the quality of the work that individuals produce and what those individuals do in their personal life. I used to say that I didn’t care about the personal life because I really can’t speak on or judge others, particularly celebrities, since media can be untrustworthy. However, in the case of Woody Allen, and many others, I feel that I can judge. And it bothers me that someone like Woody Allen, continues to thrive in his career and in the world in general and I’m super critical of myself for being a part of that. For obvious, but also very personal, reasons, I am truly disgusted by Woody Allen, and though I will admit that I have enjoyed a bunch of his films, I do not believe that he deserves to remain a rather respected and very supported person in the industry. Moving on to the review of the film itself ~

Quick Liz summary: Comedian Alvy Singer (Allen) goes through the process of trying to figure out why his relationship with Annie Hall (Keaton) ultimately ended. He examines his prior relationships to Annie and then revisits the events, the ups and downs of their relationship.

Annie Hall is one of those films that has consistently appeared on lists of classic movies, movies to watch before you die, etc etc. Not sure why it took so long for me to watch it, but about a year ago, Omar and I decided to start watching it while we were in Paris. We didn’t make it through; I guess Woody Allen’s annoyingly fast talking and a rather un-exciting start to the movie made us stop. Fast forward to a couple weeks ago, and we made it through finally and overall, enjoyed it!

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I’ll start with the stuff I didn’t like about the movie. I mentioned it already, but Woody Allen has this super fast way of talking. It’s not unique to this movie alone either and it annoys me every single time I hear it haha. He sounds like he’s always in a rush to get all the words out and I just want to tell him to slow down because he makes me anxious.

Next, this isn’t really a DISLIKE, but I found this movie’s story and characters to be underwhelming. After hearing such rave reviews about this movie, I expected something more profound or impactful I guess? I found the characters to be uninteresting. I didn’t care for the relationship between Allen and Keaton’s characters at all; I didn’t care about what happened between them. I didn’t actually feel very much chemistry between them, which is interesting, because I know that Diane Keaton and Woody Allen were married for a hot second, and despite divorcing, remain great friends. The story didn’t make any impact on me at all and it wasn’t incredible to me like some of his other films (Midnight in Paris; Vicky Cristina Barcelona). It surprised me that this movie won so many awards including the Oscar for Best Actress (Diane Keaton), whose performance was fine but again, not THAT impressive to me) and the Oscar for Best Picture, amongst others.

What I did like about this movie was the script/ dialogue. For this, I can understand why the movie won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. The movie had some great jokes/ funny moments and perhaps at the time, it was pretty influential for the genre of comedy. I laughed many times throughout for some obvious moments but also for some pretty subtle, hidden jokes. Woody Allen manages to always come up with super witty dialogue that though exhausting sometimes, I generally enjoy.

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Also shout out to Diane Keaton’s wardrobe, which is kinda her own personal style in real life. Love it.

In the end, Annie Hall was not AMAZING to me, but a solid movie. I appreciated it but it’s definitely not a memorable or favorite film of mine. 5 out of 5 slaps to me though because again let me say that Woody Allen does not deserve to still be so influential in entertainment.

Omar: 3.7 out of 5

Comin at yah with another review, I’m trying to crank these out at the rate of one per day until I’ve caught up on all the ones I have to write. This time I’ll be reviewing the Jaco Van Dormael’s trippy Mr. Nobody. This one was Liz’s pick but I’m glad she picked it because I wanted to watch it just as badly as she did. It was an odd movie but I mean that positively.

Mr. Nobody was both written and directed by by Belgian director Jaco Van Dormael and star Jared Ledo in the lead role of Nemo Nobody. I’ll try to give you a brief outline of what the film is about but I can’t promise I’ll be very successful as this movie does not progress linearly and makes it a bit difficult to keep track of everything. Essentially this movie revolves around Nemo Nobody at different stages in life and in different planes of existence. It is said that before birth children remember everything that WILL happen (aka their futures). Before being born they pick their parents and then special angels press a finger to their lips and the child instantly forgets everything. For some reason Nemo was forgotten by the angels and when he starts life he can see into all his possible futures. All is fine and dandy until 9 year old Nemo is faced with the reality that his parents are divorcing. On the day that his mother is boarding a train to leave and start her new life, Nemo is forced by his parents to decide who he wants to live with and who he wants to leave behind. Why they would leave this decision to the very last second or why they would leave this decision to a nine-year old is beyond me but people be crazy so we’ll roll with it. At that moment the story splits into a ton of different places in which we see where Nemo’s life can go depending on what decisions he makes (starting with which parent he chooses to live with). I’ll leave it here because I don’t want to spoil anything but there is much more to the story.

I usually write notes while watching movies I know I’m going to review but on this particular day I was tired and bitter about the fact that Liz and I couldn’t find a single donut shop that was still open so I didn’t take notes. I’m trying to remember as much as I can. If my memory is true, I took issue with the film on the primary grounds that the story was much too choppy and confusing. I have nothing against intricate movies or movies that make you really think or even do a little research to understand them but this was a different case for me. The story was awesome in that it was structured to show just how different life can be depending on what choices we make. The fact that it has to portray so many drastically different lives explains much of the choppiness but the jumping back and forth between stories and some of the random events that happened or things that were said too often had me going, “wait what just happened?” Immediately after finishing the movie I told Liz that I didn’t think I liked it much. I really don’t think I was in the best frame of mind to be watching this movie because after doing a little research for clarification on what had happened in the film I did end up appreciating it more. I also think that this is one of those movies that needs multiple viewings to fully appreciate. Regardless, this review stands as is based on my single viewing.

Now that I’ve gotten my main complaint out of the way I can get to some of the stuff I liked about the movie. While I did think the story could have been executed much better, I do appreciate what the story was trying to do as a whole because it is quite the ambitious project and certainly got me thinking. The end reveal that SPOILER: the entire movie was just playing out in Nemo’s nine-year-old mind and that the old Nemo, the future society of quasi-immortals, etc. were just figments of the imagination of nine-year-old Nemo was truly thought-provoking and well done.

Another aspect of the film I enjoyed was the cinematography. The makers of the film decided to use really bright colors and interesting patterns throughout the film and there were really tangible differences in style between the various lives Nemo lives. It was interesting to see these differences developed and I appreciated the detail given to each one.

The acting was also good in this movie. Jared Leto has proven time and again to be a very versatile actor and I love how varied his role choices are. This wasn’t his flashiest or best role but he did a nice job in the role of Nemo and conveying different emotions depending on which Nemo he was at the time. The soundtrack to this movie was great as well. The song choices as well as the original stuff put together for this film fit the mood of the film perfectly and was one of the stronger aspects of the film.

In the end I gave this movie lower score because it had a great idea that really lost focus a few too many times for me. It was complex but complex in a way that I didn’t make me feel all that inclined to unravel what it was trying to say when I couldn’t figure it out on my own. I did end up re-reading some details about the film to write this review and I remembered that I appreciated the movie more in the grand scheme of things. The score would be even lower if I had written it closer to the date when I watched the movie. At about an 2 hours and 30 minutes in length this movie also felt like it dragged on longer than it had to. This is especially true in the many instances when the movie loses its focus. I would say this one is worth a watch if you’re into more philosophical movies and the multiple-worlds theory of life. Plus its on Netflix.

Omar: 4.0 out of 5

Hello everyone! I apologize for the extended absence but I’ve been quite busy lately relocating for the start of law school. The move along with the taxing orientation week and reading assignments left me very little time to keep up with my reviews. But enough excuses! I’m back and better than ever, time to dive into A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night.

Pretty cool poster or title screen or whatever its called right? Well I personally think so, it sets the tone for what amounts to a very stylish vampire flick. AGWHAAN (quite the mouthful) is the horror-romance directorial debut of Iranian-American director Ana Lily Amirpour. Not only did she direct the movie, she wrote it as well. This movie is pretty badass in a lot of ways not explicitly related to it’s content. First of all, it is directed by an Iranian-American Woman which places it in a rare category already. Second of all, it came with the description of being “The first Iranian vampire Western” which makes it even more cool. Hype and reputation can only get you so far though, at some point the movie has to speak for itself.

The quick summary of this movie is that it revolves around a small Iranian town and the life of a young man going about his daily life, a stealthy female vampire who stalks her prey, and their eventual interactions with one another. It must sound to you that there is more to the story than I’m describing but that’s pretty much the gist of it. My main gripe with the film is that in the end it was sort of uneventful. Nothing big ever really happened, this movie reminded me a lot of Jim Jarmush’s Mystery Train (1989) in that regard. The story is very minimalist and doesn’t have a problem lingering on certain scenes where nothing substantial happens. After reflecting on it for some time, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing and can be a refreshing break from typical storytelling formulas but I personally like a little more meat on my stories.

But let me digress, there is plenty this movie does extremely well that elevate it beyond the plot. For starters, I loved the black and white style they went with in this film. Liz quoted me in her review as saying the movie seemed “very crisp” and I stand by that. Given that almost every modern movie is filmed in color, we don’t get too many new black and white movies which means the visuals I have to compare to are typically more grainy and dated. This movie reminded me an awful lot of the Coen Brothers’ The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001) in that it was a black and white film that was very sharp and clear. Another thing I loved about this movie was the atmosphere, and this is another thing that was greatly helped by the black and white style. The movie was very eerie and almost surreal being that it takes place in a desolate city where we’re often watching a vampire stalk her prey.

While the minimalist style meant the story didn’t do too much, it did open up the possibility for many other cool things that I greatly enjoyed. For example, instead of having to fill moments with dialogue and action, we’re treated to extended moments of aesthetically pleasing scenes like the stalking scenes, the Halloween dance scene, and scenes of people walking around the city. This might sound a bit boring but I’m way underselling it, it was great. The movies does this really cool thing with the vampire scenes where you see her parallel to someone she’s following, on different planes, and the camera will focus back and forth between the two characters. This movie utilized that fade-in and fade-out technique often and it worked very well. Following with the minimalist style, the sounds of this movie were also great. There were a few very specific moments when there was a spectacular soundtrack but outside of those moments the movie was filled with tons of ambient sounds like footsteps, wind, etc. and it fit the movie so well! All of these elements combined to make a movie that was incredibly stylish, cool, and simply put, beautiful.

I can’t remember who it was that said this or where I read it but someone once said that filming in black and white was like “painting with light” and exploring with endless shades of gray. Whoever said that was dead on in how beautiful they made it sound and this movie is testament to that. We tend to watch vampire movies these days where it is assured we’ll see iconic flashes of RED as blood inevitably flows but I was glad to see this film succeed of doing vampires justice without even the slightest shade of red.

Oh and before I close I have to bring attention to one scene in particular that I found great. The vampire lady was clearly the most powerful character in the movie and was capable of ripping people’s limbs off with minimal effort. We see numerous times that she’s capable of taking down anyone she wants and we watch her track potential victims throughout. There is one scene though where roles reverse. Back at the vampire’s apartment, when she’s flirting with Arash (in a vampire costume), we see the hunter let her guard down and allow herself to become the “prey” romantically. Obviously we know she has the real power the entire time but it was a fun scene to watch!

This movie was very well made, had quite the distinct style, and was certainly memorable. While I loved much about the movie, especially the style and cinematography, the lack of an even remotely dynamic story made the movie feel longer than it’s hour and forty-seven minutes.

Liz: 5 out of 5 stars

Omar picked this movie to watch one scorchingly hot afternoon and it was…. FANTASTIC. What We Do In The Shadows (2014) is a movie directed and written by two of its own actors, Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords!!!). I only recently started hearing about this movie. I didn’t know too much about it other than that it was a comedy and that it was a must watch. I’m so glad Omar randomly chose this movie because it was such a light-hearted, silly, and genuinely hilarious experience watching it.

Quick Liz summary: This film is a mockumentary (these are always great) about a group of vampires (aha it gets better!) living together in Wellington, New Zealand and all the silly shenanigans they get into. Werewolves and other non-human entities run rampant as well! So much fun!

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I found absolutely NOTHING wrong with this movie. Sure it’s not some seriously moving, inspiring movie, but it is definitely memorable and I would watch it over and over again in a heartbeat. I’ll begin by saying that I love anything that comes in mockumentary form. Mostly because the only other mockumentary type things I’ve ever seen are The Office and Parks and Recreation. I just absolutely love the subtle humor that comes out of a simple glance at the camera or something weird/ wrong happening in the background of another person doing a one-on-one interview.

This provides a good segue to the amazing characters in this film. I’ll start with Taika Waititi’s character Viago, a 379 year old vampire, who is kind of like the more moderate one in the flat. He leads the camera people around the house, giving odd introductions to his flatmates and showing them the weird parts of the house. His flatmates Vladislav (aged 862; played by Clement) and Deacon (the youngest, aged 183; played by Brugh) are equally, if not more, ridiculous. Their characters along with the other ones in the movie are all just so weird and not normal– from the way they talk, to the way they dress — that it’s so much fun to just watch. There’s a great scene (one of many) where they’re walking at night through the town of Wellington amongst normal humans and I could not stop laughing.

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There isn’t much to the story itself, but the antics that the characters get into are great and overall, it’s a film that doesn’t take itself too seriously at all, which I really appreciate. I love movies like this where seemingly stupid premises, characters, situations happen, but it just seems to work because that’s how good the directors and writers made it. If you haven’t seen it, you definitely need to watch it now – I guarantee you’ll enjoy it. I apologize for a rather short review, but I think that What We Do In the Shadows has so much humor that comes about unexpectedly while watching, and I really don’t want to ruin that for yall!

Upcoming review from me- Annie Hall! Omar is desperately behind, but he’ll be writing very soon! Forgive us, we both just started law school so there’s a lot of adjustment and reading we have to do but never fear! Our movie reviews will be here! … eventually.

Liz: 4 out of 5 stars …… but also 1 out of 5 stars

Hello hello, I was supposed to write reviews for What We Do In the Shadows and Annie Hall all before this movie, but I have a lot to say for this one so I want to write my review for Straight Outta Compton (2015) first. Directed by F. Gary Gray (who also directed Friday, The Italian Job, and Law- Abiding Citizen — all great movies, go watch all three RIGHT NOW if you haven’t haha), this movie is a biographical drama starring O’Shea Jackson, Jr. (who looks EXACTLY like his father, whom he portrays in this movie… aww so cute), Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, Paul Giamatti, and others.

Quick Liz summary: This film is about the growth/development of the hip-hop group from Compton, California, N.W.A, its individual members, and their relationships with each other.

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**quick trigger warning for domestic abuse/ violence against women*

So I decided to give Straight Outta Compton two separate star reviews because on one hand, I really enjoyed the movie, but on the other hand, I’m very critical of it for several reasons. I’m super indecisive too and I can’t possibly combine all the different feelings I had and arrive at an appropriate star rating. I’ll begin with my decision to give it 1 out of 5 stars.

Prior to this film’s release, I had seen a couple articles going around about the controversy surrounding the casting call for female extras for this film. See here for the actual wording of the casting call. To summarize for you, the agency used an A to D group scale and each individual group had different expectations for appearance for the women. The “A” girls should be “the hottest of the hot… great bodies.. very classy looking.” The “B” girls — “These are fine girls… small waists, nice hips. You should be light-skinned…” For “C” girls, they specifically say that these should be African American girls, whereas for “A” girls, they say that they could be black, white, asian, hispanic, etc. And finally “D” girls: again African American girls, “poor, not in good shape. Medium to dark skin type.” YIKES. Seeing this horrified me for sooooo many reasons. It’s so clearly colorist and racist and sexist, amongst other things, and just another example of how Hollywood continues to enforce certain looks and stereotypes, particularly for those of female bodies. To go off that, in the movie, the women seemed to just be there for the male gaze, usually half to fully naked throughout. And seeing them just reminds me of the casting call above.

My biggest problem with this movie. It’s a biographical drama and goes into the background history of the group, N.W.A., but also goes into each of the members’ individual lives– particularly Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, and Ice Cube. Let me say that I’m not very knowledgable about any of these men; I never listened to N.W.A. or any other rap that much growing up (though knowing Omar has definitely turned that around in the last 6 years or so). Omar is super up to date on all of that though so definitely check out his review when that comes out. He’s told me a lot about them musically, but what I’m interested in the most is personal lives, and wow lol Straight Outta Compton conveniently left out Dr. Dre’s history of violence against women, as well as Eazy-E. I won’t go too much further into that here, but I’m critical of the movie for leaving this out and though Dr. Dre is undoubtedly a musical genius, it hurts to know that he, along with other celebrities, can get away with a history like that.


ALRRRIIIIIIIIIIIIIGHT, so now that I’m done with being very critical of the movie, I’m ready to talk about why I also gave this movie 4 out of 5 stars.

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First of all- acting. It was an all-around phenomenal cast, but the shining star for me was Jason Mitchell, who plays Eazy-E. Throughout the movie, I felt that his performance was the most natural; he really fit into the role so well and played it perfectly for me. I’m sorry if this is a spoiler for anyone lol, but Eazy-E passed away on March 26, 1995 from complications from AIDS. (I’m gonna insert here that unprotected sex is dangerous!!!! Make sure y’all get tested and use appropriate protection and all that. Be safe!) Mitchell’s performance at the end of the movie as he portrayed Eazy-E at the end of his life was absolutely heart-breaking for me- I cried multiple times. I really think he deserves awards attention for this, because it blew me away. Apart from that, he was just able to show anger, kindness, love, and so many other human emotions all at once and it was great. What’s more impressive is that he hasn’t been in too many other movies/ roles before, so I’d love to see him in more projects in the future. None of the other performances hit me on such a high level like Mitchell, but I do want to say that no one else could have played Ice Cube other than his son, O’Shea Jackson Jr. They look so eerily alike, and Jackson Jr, just had all his mannerisms down perfectly as well. It’s also not just that they look alike but his son really acted great in general.

There were also several hilarious moments, particularly when Eazy-E is rapping for the first time and Dr. Dre and Ice Cube can’t handle how.. not great it was. There’s also another scene where Ice Cube pushes a (topless) girl named Felicia out into the hallway and locks her out, saying “Bye, Felicia.” That was pretty funny at the moment, but I’ll pause here to be critical once again, because this scene was making fun out of a woman’s humiliation and that’s not funny at all.

I don’t have much to say for cinematography here because I wasn’t paying attention to that too much but I do want to mention that the scene where N.W.A. is performing in Detroit had great camerawork of the group on stage.

Finally, as I mentioned above, I’m not very knowledgeable on the history of rap, prominent groups, etc. Despite my problems with how the movie left out some huge biographical information, I thought that it did a good job of tying together the lives of Ice Cube, Eazy-E and Dr. Dre in that it all seemed to flow together easily. The movie did a great job of showing how music/ rap contributes in huge ways to the raising of social awareness, particularly on police brutality, discrimination against black people, and life in Compton for them.

Liz: 2.5 (????? I think???) stars out of 5

Mr. Nobody (2009), directed by Jaco Van Dormael and starring Jared Leto, Sarah Polley, Diane Kruger, Linh Dan Pham, Rhys Ifans (and others!) is a film that I had been hearing a lot about recently. I had heard generally positive and interesting reactions to this and so I wanted to see it for my movie turn. Unfortunately, I wasn’t sold on this movie — read on!

Quick Liz summary: Nemo Nobody is the oldest mortal man left on Earth after humans have become quasi-immortal. He recounts his life and important events that have happened, which individually branch out as alternate life choices and their consequences are shown.

Let’s start with what I loved about this movie. The cinematography (Christophe Beaucarne) and the visual effects (Louis Morin– who did work in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) were absolutely beautiful! They reminded me especially of the visual effects in the cancelled-too-soon show Pushing Daisies and also maybe Wes Anderson, in that many scenes seemed almost straight out of a story-book or a doll-house, if that makes sense. The colors were bright, especially when Nemo was a younger child, and everything looked like it was ~almost~ fake, which reminded me a lot of The Truman Show as well.

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Another thing that I appreciated about this movie were its general themes of choice, time, and the butterfly effect. Old Nemo can’t really seem to recall how his life played out and so he goes back to major life events and alternate life paths play out as he considers the different choices he had at the time. I really like the whole idea of the butterfly effect and how your life could have turned out a different way if you made a different choice at one certain time. It also really freaks me out and makes me think if life is up to fate/ destiny or if it’s just super random and whatever happens happens. I don’t really like the latter because I start wondering what my life would be like if I didn’t decide to buy those shoes that one day or something. large

This leads me to the things that I didn’t really like about this movie. While I loved the theme, the way that it was executed was just waaaay too confusing for me. The whole movie I was just like “UHHHH wait what?” From the beginning, the movie was clearly about choice and the way life can turn out differently based on whatever you decide, but for some reason, I was just really confused during the film despite being able to grasp what it was trying to do. Perhaps it was the non-linear style of the film that was throwing me off, but it just didn’t work out for me at the end and I was a bit displeased by that. It completely ruined the experience for me; I really wish I liked it more. Maybe it’s just one of those movies that you have to read about afterwards in order to appreciate what it was trying to accomplish, but I at least would have liked to feel like I understood SOMETHING.

The final thought I have about this movie is how the one person of color in this film — Linh Dan Pham — was given a really weak, ignored character to play. I understand that Diane Kruger is the bigger, more well-known actress, so obviously she was going to get a more important character but AGH, I just wish that better roles were give to Asian women in general and not relegated to a lesser, more supporting role.

Well, that’s all I have to say about it! I’m interested to see what Omar has to write about this but I’ll tell you what he said at the end of it — “I don’t think I liked it..” Haha, wait and see!

Upcoming reviews from me — What We Do In the Shadows.

Omar: 5 out of 5

Before I start this review I gotta give a shout-out to Liz because in less than an hour from now we’ll have been dating for 2 years and 2 months. Time flies! Even if it weren’t a special occasion I would have to give her some recognition for recommending this EXCELLENT movie from one of my all-time favorite directors. Paul Thomas-Anderson’s Boogie Nights took my breath away repeatedly and dealt with a subject that I haven’t seen all that much about in film.

P.T. Anderson is an American screenwriter, producer, and director from Studio City, California, known most recently for his adaptation of Inherent Vice (2014). I originally found out about him back in high school when he released the oscar-winning There Will Be Blood (2007). After falling madly in love with the guy’s clear talent, originality, and attention to detail I went on to closely follow his career and watch some of his older works. Despite not liking some of his works (Punch-Drunk Love) and not entirely understanding others (The Master), I’ve continued to admire his vision and ambition. The dude has talent! I always felt that it would take a great effort for him to top There Will Be Blood as my favorite movie of his but the whole time Boogie Nights lingered in the shadows. Boogie Nights, a movie I hadn’t watched that really makes it hard now for me to say what my favorite PT Anderson movie is.

Hey! Here's a pic I snapped of P.T. Anderson and Amy Adams at the 2013 Santa Barbara Film Festival!

Hey! Here’s a pic I snapped of P.T. Anderson and Amy Adams at the 2013 Santa Barbara Film Festival! Sorry for the potato quality, phones weren’t as advanced way back then.

On to the review you’re all hopefully dying to read! BN is the story of the 1970’s Golden Era of Porn, following the lives of porn’s biggest director, Jack Horner, along with many of porn’s biggest stars. This is definitely up there as one of the most star-studded casts I’ve ever seen! Mark Wahlberg, Julianne Moore, Burt Reynolds, Don Cheadle, John C. Reilly, William H. Macy, Heather Graham, and more all star in this film with a young looking Marky Mark taking center stage. Like I said, so star-studded it’s basically a self-sustaining galaxy. And I have to pause here for a second to mention a “joke” I have about Julianne Moore. Is it just me or is sweet Julianne naked and/or making luurrve in almost all her movies? Seriously! The Kids Are Alright, Boogie Nights, Chloe, The Big Lebowski and those are just the ones I can remember off the top of my head. If a movie these days calls for a more mature woman in a nude or sexual position I automatically assume its Julianne Moore and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

But back to the review. As I was saying, this movie is about the Golden Age of Porn. The basic setup is that Eddie Adams (Wahlberg) is an energetic 17-year old with an unusual gift (a giant penis), working at an L.A. nightclub. One night, big-time porn director Jack Horner (Reynolds) spots Eddie and is immediately taken by him. After some convincing and aiding from Eddie’s family woes, Eddie decides to take up Horner on his offer and begin his transition into…DIRK DIGGLER! Biggest porn star on the planet! The rest of the decade flies with Diggler, Horner, and the rest of the cast on the up and up. This level of success can only be sustained for so long before something bad happens and when the First Family of Porn rings in the new decade, things start to go sour. The cool thing about this is that while Dirk and Jack are the clear focus of the film, all the other characters have their own things going on at the same time and it all feels real and interesting. This is of course aided by the all-around stellar acting from all involved. I always thought Wahlberg was a good actor but rarely does he truly wow me, his acting in this film was one of those special occasions in which he did.

Another small break to pour one out for the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman. It’s a real tragedy that he passed so young and this movie is just another on his long list of impressive achievements. His character didn’t have much screen time but his acting was some of the most impressive in the entire film.

So the story was fantastic as I’ve already stated. It was a long film at near 2 hours and 30 minutes but it didn’t feel TOO long. It felt like a fully fledged journey. In many ways the story reminded me of Goodfellas (one of my favorite movies ever) but with an entirely different topic. The story has some really great themes as well! Some of the discussions addressed that I can remember are violence against women in the media (specifically porn), celebrity drug usage and dependence, and how the rest of the world views pornography and its stars.

Besides the acting and story there is no way this review would be complete without mentioning the phenomenal cinematography work by Robert Elswit. In this movie he often uses very long and wide tracking shots that are visually beautiful and technically impressive. I really liked the tracking shots of roller girl and other club-goers in the opening, Dirk Diggler’s first Horner pool party, and William H. Macy walking through the house on New Year’s.

Without going into too much detail, the script was just as good as every other element of the film. The dialogue was very funny, original, and convincing. I laughed out loud repeatedly! This review is getting a little long so I’ll leave it at that for the script.

I have one last thing to mention in closing this review. Maybe I’m just reading into it too much but I noticed repeated Star Wars references and I don’t know why they were there but I loved them. In one scene John C. Reilly claims people say he looks like Han Solo, Don Cheadle is tries to sell the TK-421 sound system modification (TK-421 being a clonetrooper on the death Star), and Burt Reynolds looked STRAIGHT UP like George Lucas! Again, maybe this is just me but I thought these were cool. BUT ANYWAY, this movie was ridiculously good and I’m extremely happy that I finally saw it.

Liz: 4(+0.5??) out of 5 stars

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014) is a black-and-white horror romance film directed by Ana Lily Amirpour (Iranian-American FEMALE director ahhh!!!) and stars Sheila Vand, Arash Marandi, Marshall Manesh, Domnic Rains, Mozhari Marno, and Rome Shadanloo. Omar and I have been wanting to see this movie for awhile now since we first saw the trailer a few months ago. Though I was left wanting a bit more from this movie, it was a really fun, fascinating watch and I’m excited to see what new films Amirpour has in store for the future!

Quick summary: (ooooo this might be a difficult one to write) In the Iranian town named ‘Bad City,’ the townspeople are stalked by a silent, strange and violent female vampire. There is romance, action, mystery, death!

This movie was remarkable to me right away because of how it was shot. Black-and-white movies coming out these days always grab my attention, and further than that, the cinematography was just beautiful. Omar said that he thought the movie looked really “crisp-looking,” which, if I’m on the same wavelength as him, I agree with. I absolutely love how the camera would especially focus on particular individual object and just that object. Examples: earrings on a table, a fish tank/aquarium, a spoon stirring tea, etc. I can’t find good stills to show y’all so you’ll just have to take my word for it. But here’s a gif anyway that kind of encapsulates how I love how the camera focused in on things:

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The soundtrack of this movie was also really great. It offset that whole “horror” genre label assigned to this movie and made it kind of feel almost like an 80s movie? I don’t know if that makes sense, but I really appreciated it. There’s this really awesome scene where the female vampire is in her room alone dancing. Here’s a bit of the soundtrack here:

Also I’ll take this time to mention how the main character Arash looks strikingly like James Dean which I love:

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The overall atmosphere of the movie was another favorite part. There was just this air of mystery, particularly around the female vampire. The movie never really gives her an agenda or anything so you’re left just wondering who she is — is she evil? is she just a girl looking for love? is she a creepy stalker? maybe she’s all of that. This movie reminds me a lot of that one vignette in Paris Je T’Aime, also black and white and featuring a vampire and has Elijah Wood (who also produced this film coincidentally). I loved the feel of it and I appreciated how all the characters weren’t totally freaked out that there was a vampire– it was just kind of normal almost.

Now for what I didn’t like too much about the movie: As the movie progressed, I could grasp what was happening. I’m trying to keep this spoiler free so I’ll just say that certain things happened, and they weren’t too mind-blowing or anything. I got what happened physically in that scene. However, at the end, there wasn’t any “deeper” meaning or great connections made for any of the events that happened. Things just happened and that was it — there wasn’t anything more. I felt like I was scratching for something with greater meaning and at the end I was just like “wait what… WHAT DOES IT MEAN?!” I guess it doesn’t mean anything, weird shit just happens, especially when vampires are involved. Maybe I’ve been watching too many of those surprise-ending movies so I was expecting more than this movie had to offer.

Overall,  I definitely recommend watching this! I’m on a mission to watch more movies directed by women, particularly those of color so I’m glad I got to add this to my list of movies watched for 2015.

Upcoming reviews: Mr. Nobody (2009).

Omar: 4.0 out of 5

Liz and I finally made it out to the movie theater! The Movie Theater (capital letters) is like a safe haven for me, obviously being the huge film fans we are we wish we could make it out there more often but we haven’t had the chance to lately. I’ve also had the unfortunate luck lately of never being free to go to the movies when all the good movies are out and in the rare instances that I CAN go, the line-up is quite unappealing. That’s what makes our recent trip so exciting! A rare chance to see a critically acclaimed blockbuster?! Helll yesssss.

Mission: Impossible- Rogue Nation, of course, stars Tom Cruise in the leading role along with Simon Pegg, Jeremy Renner,  and newcomers to the series Alec Baldwin, Sean Harris, and Rebecca Ferguson. The movie was directed Christopher McQuarrie who was involved in writing The Usual Suspects and Edge of Tomorrow, two movies that I really enjoyed, so I was excited to watch this one.

The premise of the movie is that Ethan Hunt and the rest of the IMF crew are facing two separate but important battles. The first of those battles is with the CIA and its director (played by Alec Baldwin) who convince the powers that be that the IMF is a costly and unnecessary operation with a messy track record. The second  battle is with the menacing Syndicate and its shadowy leader (Sean Harris) who is bent on destroying something or other for a reason I can’t remember. But that’s not the point! The point is that they’re a spooky organization that seems to be always a step ahead of the IMF and CIA. In fact the CIA don’t even believe the Syndicate exists and is part of the reason how they get the IMF to be officially disbanded. What follows is a global three-part chase between the CIA, IMF, and the Syndicate.

Let us start with some of the reasons why this movie was so enjoyable. First, I absolutely loved the action scenes. Ethan Hunt is a spy of seemingly equal skill to Jason Bourne and James Bond, though admittedly not as cool as either. The car and motorcycle chases were exciting, the hand to hand combat was awesome, and the various stunts were creative (giant water safe, hanging outside an airplane, etc). The action goes beyond Tom Cruise though as Rebecca Ferguson does  a very good job of portraying MI6 agent Ilsa Faust. Not only does Ilsa Faust have a sick name, she is also more than capable of holding her own in combat or high-speed chases. At times Faust proves to be an agent of even higher skill than Hunt which is refreshing to see. The best thing about her character is that she wasn’t reduced to the role of a love interest and seeing her always double or triple crossing people made her character quite dynamic.

The rest of the cast also does a great job for the most part. Jeremy Renner is great in the role of IMF director of sorts but Simon Pegg was possibly the best part in the role of IMF agent Benji. Benji is the groups tech-genius and behind the scenes guy and Simon Pegg is more than ideal in the role that is clearly meant to provide comedic relief. Alec Baldwin and Ving Rhames (playing a retired IMF agent) also do a good job but they’re really just there on the side and don’t do all that much. On the side of the villains, Sean Harris does an EXCELLENT job playing the bad guy! He seems to be more of a thinker than an agent in the field but he’s constantly ahead of everyone else which makes him formidable. Harris also naturally has a very menacing look and his raspy voice makes him a bit spooky. I think of the MI series in a way as a much less suave, less polished, and less serious 007 and Harris seems to exude the type of cool and menace that could easily transition into a Bond film.

The story was pretty ok for an action movie. That doesn’t mean it was bad but it was convoluted at times and I wasn’t sure what the motivation was for some of the stuff that was going on. The final chase and fight scene were a little underwhelming to me after all the grand chases and action sequences that preceded it but it wasn’t awful either. I did like the…smokey…finish, I thought the visuals there were cool. Additionally, the scale of the movie was impressive and the locations were beautiful but the cinematography never blew me away. Again, not awful but certainly nothing amazing. In the end this movie was a great time for coming out to the theater and if you have a chance I would recommend it because this is the type of movie that is best suited for the big screen. As of now I’m comfortable saying I enjoyed Ghost Protocol more than this one but this one was still a fun movie and a great entry into the series.

Keep an eye out for my next reviews, Boogie Nights (1997) and A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014)!!