Monday, July 8, 2013

Update: July Reviews, Ranked, and Hello Russia!

First of all, hello reader! It’s been a whil..ok it’s been a week but still hi! I would first like to say thank you to the 100 and so people who have checked out this blog. I really thought no one was going to look at it for a second but knowing that 108 people have is awesome. I love it though that this week alone most of the traffic from this blog is from Russia. I just find that amazing. Hello anyone from Russia who is reading this! I know nothing about Russia honestly, but I do know that it is the largest country in the world, that the first man to journey into space hailed from there, that Saint Basil’s Cathedral is there, and that Tilda Swinton was/is currently there. That’s good enough for now!

So I am here to update anyone who wants to know about what I am currently working on and what will be posted over the month. If you don’t really care or are new to my blog, then scroll down and read some of my reviews and ignore this. But if you do want to know, then sit back and enjoy my ramblings.

I am currently aiming for about 6 more reviews this month. Right now, here are the film’s I am hoping to review Looper, Spring Breakers, Billy Madison, Con Air, The Place Beyond The Pines, and The Prestige. Looper is the next one that will be up. It will be up sometime this week, along with possibly my review of Spring Breakers and a ranking of the Pixar films I have seen (which I’ll talk about in a moment.) Along with those 6, I am probably going to see a movie in the near future so a review of either Despicable Me 2 (ugh) or Grown Ups 2 (infinity ugh) will be up when I see it. Also, as I will say in my Looper review, I attempted to watch The Three Musketeers from 2011 and I, to put it lightly, could not go through another hour and a half of torture, but I will attempt to watch it again and get through so that I can review it. The other 5 films that I will hopefully see and review that I probably won’t get to until they come out on DVD or, in the best case, August are Pacific Rim, The Heat, World War Z, R.I.P.D, and The To-Do List but if I do get to them, they will also be up.

Now, I am also staring another thing besides my movie reviews. I will start doing a little thing called Ranked where I will be ranking the films of a certain actor, actress, director, or studio from best to worst (at least the ones I have seen.) My first one, which will be about Pixar, will be up sometime after my Looper and/or my Spring Breakers review so hopefully you will check it out when it arrives.

gain, thank you for reading, I really appreciate it. Hopefully you keep reading and enjoying my reviews. Also, if you want, request some movies for me to review, that would be great! Thanks for sticking around through this update and I hope to see you back soon. Bye!

~Indie Princess

Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Impostors Review

The Impostors (1998) Review

Starring: Oliver Platt, Stanley Tucci, Alfred Molina, Tony Shalhoub, Lili Taylor, Campbell Scott

They truly don’t make movies like this anymore. All you need to know to make this statement true is this: one of the first lines in this film is “You stole my death.” I mean, name one movie that spends the opening credits in complete silence with a slapstick fight that feels like it was pulled straight from a Marx Brothers routine, or a movie that introduces events through title cards, or even an ensemble film that actually gives every major character in it a moment or more to shine? The answer is The Impostors, a late nineties indie comedy from Stanley Tucci in his solo directorial debut. This is a gem of a film: quirky, unexpected, and best of all, funny. How this film has slipped under the radar is mystery, although I can guess why: The Impostors, in all its hilarious glory, is not a movie for everyone. Its sense of humor is one that would not satisfy those who find Grown Ups or Knocked Up or any film of those sorts funny. The sense of humor here is one that feels strange at first, with its offbeat comedy that feels like it belongs in a film from the 20’s than one made less than 20 years ago, but for those who give it a chance, they will be rewarded with something unforgettable. There’s no gross out humor, no fart jokes, no jokes that are aimed to offend (unless you get easily offended by characters portrayed as either terrorists, in some aspects of the word, or suicidal nuts), but it still gives off a warmth that so many movies now a days lack. It’s funny, it’s charming, it makes you care about character’s that would be used as poorly written comedic devises in mainstream comedies, it’s suspenseful, it’s fearful, it makes you laugh, gasp, and clap, it’s joyful, it celebrates love, life, and death all at the same time. It’s a hidden gem in all sense of the word.

Let’s start off with the plot. The story follows best friends Arthur, played by Stanley Tucci, and Maurice, played by Oliver Platt, two failed actors who do whatever than can for a performance. They do some knife play in an outdoor café, they audition for a play directed by Woody Allen, and they pretend to play good customer/rude customer with a bakery owner in order to get some pastries. None of these work for an abundant of reasons: Maurice steals Arthur’s “death,” the director’s wife takes her money out of the production, and Maurice, playing the rude customer, ends up protecting the baker after Arthur takes his bit too far and instead of pastries, gets tickets to a performance of Hamlet starring Jeremy Burtom, played by Alfred Molina, an overrated actor in their opinion. After getting in a scuffle with Burtom at a bar and being branded as criminals, they hide in a crate to get away from police. When they wake up the next morning, they find out they are on an ocean liner set for Paris. There, they must not only hide from Burtom, but also stop a New York couple posing as francophones from killing 2 of the richest passengers on board AND stop the first mate from blowing up the ship. Along the way we are introduced to several quirky characters, including the perky activities director, a German steward who is aggressively in love with her, an aging gay tennis player, a suicidal lounge singer, a broke widow looking for a rich husband, her depressed daughter, and a veiled queen.

Where do I begin? First off, unlike ensemble comedies of late, like Valentine’s Day and Tower Heist, each character, no matter how big the role gets their moment to shine. These little sub-plots are formed throughout the film and as they all come together, they never felt shoehorned in. Yes, there was at least one (the romance between the captain and the veiled queen) that made me think “when and why did that happen?” but the rest, from the couple’s plans to off the widow and a shriek to the romance between the activities director, Lily, and Marco, an Italian dectective who is sent to find Arthur and Maurice, feel natural and supported. The main plot in the film though is how Arthur and Maurice are going to save everyone on the ship, and with everything going on it would get pushed aside in other films. This is not the case here. Maurice and Arthur;s storylines stay the central parts of the story. While they are included more in the first half of the film, due to the fact that none of the other characters are introduced until they end up on the boat, even when all of these subplots are introduced, the friendship between Maurice and Arthur and their plan to stop the deaths of not only 2 people, but an entire ship of people is still in the forefront of the film. You care about these characters and their friendship even though you know barely anything about them. You don’t know how they met or how they became friends, their lives before the events in the movie, how they have gotten to this point in their lives, their past relationships, or even their last names…and yet you still care about them. They are really likeable characters who you route for throughout the film. Unlike the friendship in The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (a film I would kind of like to forget,) when something bad happens (which I won’t spoil) I got really upset because the characters are written so well that you don’t want what happens to be real. Their antics are great and their final plan in order to stop the crooks is great. I cared for the well-being of most of the characters and the downfall of the others, something that is rare for me to feel. The jokes barely ever fall flat. The sense of humor is a mixture of dark and out-there, going out with a literal bang with a very ambiguous ending that left me laughing and wondering “what the hell just happened?” There are several great jokes here that had me laughing my butt off, from Meistrich, the German steward, saying that killing a man is really not that hard to the lounge singer sobbing his way through “The Nearness Of You.” Even the jokes that break the fourth wall, something I usually despise in comedies, work perfectly, especially the one during the end credits that had me in stitches. It’s a comedy, that’s for sure, and it is not shy with saying that it is one.

Now for the characters. Arthur and Maurice are great characters with established personalities. They are both motivated in the beginning to become successful actors and in the second half to stop the ship from being blown to smithereens. Tucci and Platt are great in their roles with very honest and hilarious portrayals. If I continued on about them, I would just be repeating myself so I’ll move onto the rest of the characters. Alfred Molina is at his douchiest as the pompous drunk that is Jeremy Burtom. Playing a character that I have seen compared to John Barrymore, he is a very unredeemable character who overreacts to an injury the two leads didn’t even cause. He isn’t a likeable character, but Molina does great work making him a funny character. Some of his lines are just perfect for the character that is being portrayed; stuck-up, arrogant, and totally full of himself.  He is a great villain. The best character and portrayal of their character though has to be from Campbell Scott as Meistrich. Oh my god is this guy funny. As the German steward I mentioned earlier, he has so many great moments and lines, the most memorable being,  “You are a wild beast and I must tame you.” Every time he was on screen I was cracking up and made an already great film even better. The rest of the cast is brilliant. There’s Billy Connoly, in all his awesomeness, as Sparks, the openly gay tennis player who has a great moment as he chases down Oliver Platt in drag (don’t ask), Lili Taylor as Lily, the activities director that helps Maurice and Arthur out throughout the film, Dana Ivey as Mrs. Essendine, a widow who is desperate to find a rich husband (the term drop dead before they he/she gets here gets a brand new meaning), Steve Buscemi as the suicidal lounge singer with the most ironic name in the film (the suicidal guy is named Happy. Let that sink in for a moment..), Hope Davis as Ivey’s depressed daughter Emily who ends up falling in love with the equally depressed Happy, Tony Shalhoub as Voltri, the terrorist on board who, in one of the creepier moments of the film, dry humps a bed to sound of his lovers voice, Alison Janney and Richard Jenkins as Maxine and Johnny, the murderous pair of lovers, and Matt McGrath as Marco, the detective on board who is also vying (in his case successfully) for Lily’s love, who also spouts one of the best lines in the film. There is not a weak link the cast and everyone gives performances that are near to extremely perfect.

The only other thing that I need to talk about is something that I don’t usually talk about. It is the subject and message the movie is most trying to convey. The thing about this movie is that it’s not truly about one thing. It is a comedy but it spends a lot of time on the subject of love and death. The final line in this film is “To life and it’s many deaths.” The ending is extremely ambiguous, with the outcome of the character’s, at least in my opinion, a questionable one. If you exclude the main plot (the friends trying to stop the murders of 2 characters and the bombing of the ship,) death is handled a lot in this movie. For starters, Happy attempts to kill himself at least 4 times in this movie, Emily’s father is recently deceased and it has affected her and her mother in very different ways, and one of the main characters is apparently killed in one scene. One of the more poignant of quotes in this film comes from Emily, during the scene when her mother is discussing her husband’s death and she, in her corner of the room, deadpans, that “We don’t find death. It finds us.” The angle of how death affects us and how it makes us react is one I found interesting. However, there is the theme of love as well. Everyone seems to have a love interest in this film, except for the two leads: Miss Essendine spends most of the film looking for a, for a lack of a better term, sugar daddy, Lily and Marco are infatuated with each other throughout the film, with their conclusion being a sweet but hilarious one, Meistrich spends the time he doesn’t spend looking for the stowaways aggressively hitting on Lily, Sparks hits on Maurice several times when he is both in and out of drag, Happy’s suicidal tendencies are because of his wife, who left him for his agent, Emily ends up falling in love with Happy because just like her, he is obviously depressed, Maxine and Johnny are extremely in love, so in love that they will kill to give themselves a great life, and one of Volti’s motivations for blowing up the ship is so that he can be with his love, Regina. Another poignant quote here is from Happy, who tells Emily when she begs him to not want to die that people are afraid of several things, but that people should fear love because “Love is real and it is terrifying. If you are going to be afraid, be afraid when someone says I love you.” That is also a true message: love is a very scary thing but as the character’s storyline progresses, they learn that you have to face their fears. While love is scary, like all of your fears you must face them. On the other hand, death is something that will affect everyone someday in their life and how we react to tragedies sets in motion how the rest of our lives will go. I don’t know what is the message of this film, but both of these theories are ones that could fit to this movie very well.

I haven’t seen a movie this good since Perks of Being a Wallflower (except maybe The Place Beyond the Pines, but I’m still digesting that one.)  Comedies nowadays are not as good as this (at least the ones I have seen.) You care about the characters, you never see the next twist or turn in the road, the jokes are always coming, and overall it’s an extremely interesting film. I will be wondering for a while why this film isn’t considered a classic like Groundhogs Day and The Big Lebowski, but then again I already know the answer to this: this film is not one that will satisfy every comedy fan. We are used to films with over-the-top humor that is more about what the characters do than the characters themselves. Your average moviegoer would probably hate this movie, with its title cards and satiric comedy of performers from the 20’s to 40’s and 6 minutes of silence at the start. Really, the reason many people have not seen The Artist (another great movie) is because it is completely silent until the very end. Not many would stick around after The Impostors opening credits and if they did another part would leave because this movie has a sense of humor that not many would like. But you know what I say? See it. See a hidden gem that so many would just skip over. I give kudos to Stanley Tucci (who I forget to mention also wrote this movie), Oliver Platt, and the rest of the cast and crew for making a great work of art.  It truly is something you need to see for yourself. If you are interested in seeing this (which I highly recommend you do), look it up on Google or whatever search engine you use and try to find it. Give it a try and who knows. Maybe you will love it.

~Indie Princess

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Burlesque Review

Burlesque (2010) Review

Starring: Christina Aguilera, Cher, Eric Dane, Cam Gigandet, Kristin Bell, Julianne Hough, Stanley Tucci

Guilty pleasure: something one enjoys and considers pleasurable despite feeling guilt for enjoying it. That, my friends, is the exact feeling I have when I think about this movie. Why, WHY do I like it so much?! It uses the same old plot clichés we have seen done a million times before! It has character archetypes like “the small town girl with big town dreams” and “the sass but wise mentor” and “the bitchy rival!” It stars Christina Aguilera and Cher for god’s sake! I should not like this! I know a lot of people didn’t like it: 36% from critics and a barely fresh average of 63% from users on Rotten Tomatoes, it didn’t even make its budget back, and it was so bad that people believe that one of its stars bribed the Hollywood Foreign Press for a couple Golden Globe nominations. It’s not even good in a campy way or in the way people find films like Moulin Rouge enjoyable (note to self, watch Moulin Rouge.) So…why do I like it? The again, people like The Green Hornet and Mirror, Mirror and I hate those films with a fiery passion so I’m not THAT weird…right? RIGHT?!

First off, the plot. The film is about Ali, a small town girl living in a lonely world, who takes a midnight train going anywhere. Sorry couldn’t resist, but it’s true! It’s like the writer listened to “Don’t Stop Believing” and thought “hey let’s make THAT the basis of the story! Except change the train to a bus and anywhere to LA since no one takes trains anymore and who doesn’t want to follow their dreams in LA?” Anyways, she heads to LA where she ends up working at a Burlesque house creatively named “The Burlesque Lounge.” There she meets an assortment of colorful characters, mainly Tess, the stern but loveable boss lady and Jack, the bartender who ends up becoming a love interest. She soon climbs her way to the top of the dancer pool with her amazing voice and both she and Tess must save the club from being shut down.

Yep it’s THAT story again. Actually scratch that, this film doesn’t have a set storyline, just a mish-mash of side plots that go no-where that form into somewhat of a vanity project for Aguilera. It isn’t a “make it to the big time” story because while she does become the star of the show, Ali does not become a star elsewhere like she planned on doing. It’s not a “save the bar” story because the conclusion to that arc is so simple that they could have just done that and their problems would have solved. It’s not a story about love because the love triangle, if that’s what you would like to call it, is shoehorned into the plot to add more conflict. It’s not a rivalry story because the rival is barely in it and the only mean things they do to each other are talk behind their back and stop the music while they are performing. Oh and say that the other’s a man. Can’t forget that! And finally, it is barely a musical because the songs are spaced out as such: 2 songs sung at the start, a bunch of lip-synced songs, Christina Aguilera doing her thing for 4 songs straight with a little bit of filler, a Cher song and another Christina song before the story kicks back in, and then a song at the very end (along with one at the end, all of which I will get to later.) To me, a musical consists of more than 2 characters singing the song so I feel that while it has songs, it’s more of a lengthy Christina Aguilera music video. So if it’s not any of those, then what is it? Well, it’s Burlesque! That’s all I really can say. It’s not a very structured film but the weirdness of it all fascinates me. It doesn’t do everything right, with some elements like the rivalry between Christina and Kristin Bell’s character hanging from the waist side, and the script is weak and gives nothing to some great actor’s, but it is an odd little journey into the world of burlesque dancers. Despite my fascination with it though, the story and script is the weakest part of the film.

Now as for the cast….well the film has a very impressive cast. Sadly the weakest link is its star. Christina Aguilera is a great singer, better than I will ever be, but when it comes to her as actress… she’s ok. She’s not a putrid as fellow singers turned actresses Jessica Simpson, Britney Spears, and Taylor Swift, but for every good moment she has, there is another 3 moments that range from “that was terrible delivery” to “please never act again!” While I am not a fan of her off screen persona, being one of the many not liking the fact that she and her giant fans will be returning to The Voice, her voice is something to envy while her acting is ok, but not terrible. Cher, one of the most successful singer/actresses ever, is pretty good as Tess. She brings a lot more to the table than Aguilera, having won an Oscar and all, and she still has got the acting talent she had in the 80’s. Her singing voice and lip-synching aren’t great though. Her big solo in the middle of the film is terribly dubbed and the ending of her first song looked extremely lip-synched. The rest of the cast is impressive. Julianne Hough, as much as I hate her being pushed so far into the pop culture world (thanks for that Seacrest), actually does well in her small role. Cam Gigandet, aka James from the first Twilight, is cute and while he isn’t the best actor, he has some good moments. Eric Dane….got on my nerves but I don’t expect much from Dr. McSteamy. Alan Cumming is barely in the film and I don’t know why he is part of the top billed cast, but his little routine in the middle was funny. The best part though is Stanley Tucci. Come on its Stanley freaking Tucci! While his character is similar to the one he played in The Devil Wears Prada, he is hilarious and brings a lot of warmth to the film that if it wasn’t there, then it would be unwatchable. As for Kristen Bell, she has her moments but some of her scenes, especially her big confrontation with Cher, are just terrible. Kristen, I like you, you are making me believe in love again, but please never try to play a bitch again.

The music is the only other bit I should talk about because it is marketed as a damn musical. I like a lot of the songs, but I will begin with the ones I disliked: The Beautiful People, Guy That Takes His Time, and Something’s Got a Hold on Me. Something’s Got a Hold on Me is the very first song of the movie, a cover of the Etta James song of the same name. It felt very unnecessary to me. What did this song add to the film? Sure it introduces Aguilera’s pipes to the world but really it could have just been cut so that when Aguilera sings for the first time during Tough Lover, we to would be in awe, just like the rest of the characters. On the plus side, though, it made the sample from Good Feeling even less original. Guy That Takes His Time is a nice jazzy number in the part of the movie I like to call, “Christina Aguilera’s decides to be different performers for 20 minutes straight.” Here, she pretends to be Marilyn Monroe, Madonna, Etta James (again), and my personal favorite, Austin Powers! Yes, at the end of this song, she is completely nude but they cover her breasts and pubic region with a drum stand holding two drums and a cowbell. If you haven’t seen the second Austin Powers movie, you will have no idea why this is a reference to anything. The song is nice, that’s for sure, but is ruined by the cartoon sound effects used during the performance. It wasn’t needed and if they were gone, I would have really liked it better. And finally, my thoughts on The Beautiful People…..ugh, why?!  It feels like the producers needed a song for the end credits and someone came up with the BRILLIANT idea of sampling a Marilyn Manson song. Yeah, burlesque dancers and Marilyn Manson fit PERFECTLY together……...oh right, that happened. In all seriousness though, this song does not fit into the film. A sample of a song about making it to the top or being a star would have worked better than a song that references the Will to Power. Making it a upbeat BPM version is just unnecessary. I really could have been fine without it existing. As for the rest, they range from ok to great. I found Cher’s first song, Welcome To Burlesque, fine. It was catchy but there could have been a lot more to it. Express (the Madonna portion of that 20 minute time) is also a catchy number but lacks the grandiose level of memorability that I felt But I’m A Good Girl and Show Me How You Burlesque had. It felt like a standard pop song that you would hear on the radio in between a rap and bubblegum pop song. Bound To You is a nice ballad with a good set up (even if it completely steals from Cabaret) but compared to the power that is You Haven’t Seen The Last of Me, it lacks. Finally, the most mediocre is Tough Lover, another Etta James cover, that never quite got my attention and ran with it. When you start off a song with Aguilera belting her lungs out before going into a jazzy song, it just doesn’t fit. Now for the good ones: But I’m A Good Girl, You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me, and Show Me How You Burlesque. But I’m A Good Girl, the Marilyn Monroe of the group, is a sultry number full of bounce and lightness, Aguilera’s falsetto working perfectly as she proudly states, “I am a good girl.” Show Me how You Burlesque is the showstopper and it is the song that I have listened to over and over again. It’s jazzy, it shows off Aguilera’s pipes, and the theatrics of the number are ginormous, complete with a giant sign reading “Burlesque.” But it’s You Haven’t Seen The Last of Me is the one that brings the house down. The ain in Cher’s voice is evident and as she belted the final chorus, I couldn’t help but think, “oh my god” It is the best song from the soundtrack and the film.

So, let’s see why I enjoy this movie so much. The characters are archetypes, but Cher, Hough, and Tucci are pretty good, especially the latter. Some of the songs are horrid, but the songs I love, I love with a passion. The performances are fun and I was invested with the romance until Jack turned out to be a lying jerk. And well, it’s a fun film. So why do I like it so much to give it a four? Well, all I have to say is that it is my guilty pleasure. No one knows why they like guilty pleasures, unless it’s The Room because the reason you like The Room is because it is so hilariously terrible. That’s just the thing with guilty pleasures: you feel guilty for liking them. People don’t consider movies like Leprechaun, Grease 2, Con Air, or in some cases Moulin Rouge good because they ARE good; their good in the way that makes you wonder what has lead you to this.  In the words of the Nostalgia Critic’s Moulin Rouge review: guilty pleasures: everybody has a few. Sure this movie isn’t perfect, far from it. But it has a charm that just makes me like it. Does that make me a bad person? You be the judge….

~Indie Princess