10 Movies I Changed My Mind About

I hated Pulp Fiction the first time I saw it.  The first Tarantino movie I’d ever seen was Kill Bill: Vol. 1, which is a decidedly gorier and altogether more accessible movie for an eighth grader (technically I wasn’t legally “mature enough” for either by the MPAA’s standards), although I was the only one in my grade who seemed to enjoy it.  When I watched Pulp Fiction for a second (and a third and a fourth ad infinitum) viewing, it gripped me like few other movies had before or since.  To this day it is still one of my all-time favorites.

Movies, especially great ones, often change from viewing to viewing, not because they are different but because we are.  Though we now live in an age of Rotten Tomato blurbs and aggregated consensus, a critic’s most valued possession is still their written voice.  With every review now posted quickly and then archived online, conversation on most movies usually peaks quickly when they are first released, and then dissipates just as fast.  The only time afforded to looking back is the annual “Best of the Year” cluster fuck.

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REVIEW: Friends With Benefits

Friends With Benefits
Directed by: Will Gluck
Written by: Keith Merryman, David A. Newman, & Will Gluck (screenplay)
Starring: Mila Kunis, Justin Timberlake, Patricia Clarkson, and Woody Harrelson

It’s always a good thing when a modern romance reminds you of the classics, when men and women bounced snappy dialogue off each other as if they were both real people.  Most romances made today are lop-sided, usually skewering one gender role in the hopes of appealing to the other.  Friends With Benefits is straightforward in its intentions much like its two leads are with each other.  It is seeking to debunk and even satirize the myth of true love presented in the movies, and it is very successful at that until it reluctantly caves in to those same cliches.

Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis are the perfect match for the verbal ping pong in the script and off-kilter enough to make the movie’s intentions palpable.  They are naturally funny and have exceptional chemistry, so they and the rest of the excellent cast shine even brighter in a funny screenplay.  It also helps that the director and co-writer Will Gluck knows that creating a sense of atmosphere in New York City is more important than any shot of the Empire State Building.

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ARCHIVE REVIEW: No Strings Attached

No Strings Attached
Directed by: Ivan Reitman
Written by: Elizabeth Meriwether
Starring: Natalie Portman, Ashton Kutcher, Kevin Kline

Now more than ever is it hard to believe that the director of rich character pieces like Juno and Up in the Air is the descendant of Ivan Reitman, the director who gave us Ghost Busters, My Super Ex Girlfriend and now this movie.

While his son Jason Reitman frequents himself at award ceremonies for his films with scripts — ones that he often writes himself and is noted for — and story that go beyond his contemporary and minimalistic filming style, Ivan has been piling up money directing a handful of forgettable film and producing even more.

His latest work is No Strings Attached, a film no different from the rest. Pairing Ashton Kutcher with recent Academy Award winner Natalie Portman in Hollywood’s latest “just friends who have sex” romantic comedy. The trend of these films is at a jam-packed time, with Love & Other Drugs and this summer’s Friends With Benefits­. The latter bringing Justin Timberlake and Portman’s Black Swan co-star Mila Kunis together for a similar sexploitation. Continue reading

REVIEW: Thor

Thor
Directed by: Kenneth Branagh
Written by: Ashley Miller, Zack Stentz, & Don Payne (screenplay), Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, & Jack Kirby (comic)
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins, and Tom Hiddleston

It’s almost hard not to write off Thor as the beginning of an onslaught of mindless summer action movies.  However, with its welcome injection of humor and a toned-down scale, it rises above that classification if only by a little bit.

The best moments of Thor occur outside Asgard, the homeworld of its hero, in a small town in New Mexico.  He arrives there much like many movie aliens, and director Kenneth Branagh riffs off this aspect quite well.  Thor (Chris Hemsworth) brings alien customs (which closely resembles stereotypical viking culture) to such places as small-town diners and hospital rooms.  In one hilarious instance, he smashes a glass down on the floor and demands a refill.

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The New Movie Stereotypes

When there are hundreds of movies made every year, patterns start to show up.  Whether it’s the characters or the ending, there isn’t much in the way of originality in the movies.  This is especially true with characters, whose archetypes have been mixed and matched since Hollywood’s inception.  As time progressed, new characters have emerged, and been implemented and overused just like the old stereotypes before them.  Here is a list of movie characters we’ve seen time and again the past few years, and that we’ll probably continue to see for many more to come.

Manic Pixie Dream Girl- Realizing your dreams and fulfilling your potential is one of the most common goals of movie protagonists.  Young male independent writers/directors like to do this with the help of a leading lady.  At first, these characters almost demand to be recognized as free spirits, but as soon as love and narrative momentum chains them down, they become muses whose only purpose is to help the main character fulfill their own potential while they are left unfulfilled.  The phrase was first coined by critic Nathan Rabin, who used the term in his review of Elizabethtown. Find them in: Garden State (Natalie Portman), (500) Days of Summer (Zooey Deschanel), Almost Famous (Kate Hudson) and Elizabethtown (Kirsten Dunst)

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BEST PICTURE NOMINEE: Black Swan

Black Swan
Directed by: Darren Aronofsky
Written by: Mark Heyman, Andres Heintz, & John J. McLaughlin
Starring: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, Vincent Cassel, and Barbara Hershey

Perfection: chased to the elegant stage by way of the not-so-elegant back rooms.  That is the goal viewers watch Nina (Natalie Portman) hurt, bleed, and dance, dance, dance toward  in Darren Aronofsky’s hallucinatory Black Swan.

Aronofsky, fast becoming one of American cinema’s brightest renegades and fiercest visionaries, has never been shy about making you feel his characters’ pain.  By removing all distance between you and them by rapid cutting and frantic pacing, you feel a kinetic connection to their turmoil.

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And the winners should be…. 2011 Oscar Predictions (Matt’s Picks)

Best Picture

The Social Network
Black Swan
The King’s Speech
127 Hours
Winter’s Bone
The Kids Are All Right
Inception
Toy Story 3
The Fighter
True Grit

Should Win I’d be the most happy with Social Network, Black Swan, or The Kids Are All Right.  There’s no real Blind Side this year, but The King’s Speech is the least deserving… and it’s also one of the front-runners.
Will Win: The Social Network has a real shot, but so does The King’s Speech. Many have already handed it to King George, but I’m leaning toward King Zuckerberg.
Snubbed: There’s really no Blind Side this year among the nominees. However, over The King’s Speech I would’ve nominated The Ghost Writer, Enter the Void, White Material, Exit Through the Gift Shop, Splice or I Am Love.


Best Director

Tom Hooper- The King’s Speech
Darren Aronofsky- Black Swan
Joel & Ethan Coen- True Grit
David Fincher- The Social Network
David O. Russell- The Fighter

Should Win: Aronofsky.  His direction on Black Swan was the best thing about the movie, which is saying a lot.  Fincher is also great, but so many other elements of Social Network would’ve worked on their own if not as well.  You can’t really say that about Black Swan.
Will Win: Fincher.  Even if The Social Network doesn’t walk away with the night’s biggest trophy, this one is a pretty safe bet.
Snubbed: Yes, yes, Christopher Nolan deserved a nomination  for Inception here over Tom Hooper, but don’t forget Danny Boyle.  His direction on 127 Hours was impeccable and his movie was better than both Inception and The King’s Speech.   I’d also throw in Lisa Cholodenko’s low-key genius in The Kid’s Are All Right, Gasper Noe’s hallucinatory brilliance in Enter the Void, Roman Polanski’s artful storytelling in The Ghost Writer and the mesmerizing work of Claire Denis in White Material.

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