58: Moneyball

Moneyball – September 23, 2011
Starring: Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman
Written by: Aaron Sorkin, Steven Zaillian
Directed by: Bennett Miller

The plot: “The story of Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane’s successful attempt to put together a baseball club on a budget by employing computer-generated analysis to draft his players.” – IMDB

My thoughts: I kind of like that Aaron Sorkin has this penchant to write quality films out of a story that sounds…dry, to say the least. I mean, The Social Network was about the kid who created Facebook and even though the story wasn’t actually that crazy, it made for an interesting film. Same with Moneyball.

I’ll admit it, I’m a sucker for Brad Pitt (even though, was it just me or did his face look a little bit plastic-y?) so I went into knowing I’d at least be biased in that direction. Jonah Hill was actually quite pleasant as a likable, shy geek who finds his way by working with Pitt.

Lucky for me, I don’t follow baseball. I understand it quite well thanks to more than a decade of playing softball, but I didn’t know what the outcome would be which kept me interested. I had to know if the GM would succeed in getting the A’s all the way to the top.

I found one part of the movie to be a bit unnecessary and that was Billy’s (Pitt) daughter/ex-wife. I simply didn’t find it integral to the portrayal of Billy Beane. I’m not sure if the addition of that part of yes, his real life, was intended to make him more relatable, but I just didn’t find it to be an necessary plot point.

The acting was great. I’m not sure many of the characters had to reach especially far to capture their character’s personalities, but everyone was really enjoyable to watch on the screen. Brad Pitt was, as almost always, a sympathetic and honorable character and Philip Seymour Hoffman was kind of a dick.

I was rooting for Billy to succeed and have everyone respect what he’d done so I think it was mission accomplished by writers and director. I was invested and interested and exited VLC feeling satisfied. Plus, a lot of the visuals were really gorgeous, so it was pleasant to watch as well.

Stars: 5/5

57: I Don’t Know How She Does It

I Don’t Know How She Does It – September 16, 2011
Starring: Sarah Jessica Parker, Greg Kinnear, Pierce Brosnan, Olivia Munn, Christina Hendricks
Written by: Aline Brosh McKenna
Directed by: Douglas McGrath

The plot: “A comedy centered on the life of Kate Reddy, a finance executive who is the breadwinner for her husband and two kids.” – IMDB

Welcome all of my lovely readers to the first live blog at threesixfivefilm. The film to be reviewed (and subsequently torn apart)? I Don’t Know How She Does It starring Carrie Bradshaw Sarah Jessica Parker. Read along while you watch if you feel like subjecting yourself what is probably one of the worst movies of the year.

@ 00:50 – Christina Hendricks is gushing about how ah-maaaaah-zing SJP is. How did I never realize how annoying Christina’s voice is? It doesn’t sound like this on Mad Men, does it?

@ 03:52 – After a hard day’s work, SJP claims “not too tired for you to put it in, Greg Kinnear.” Why do I foresee her being asleep when Greg returns to the room?

@ 04:07 – SJP is asleep. Predictable.

@ 06:25 – SJP’s daughter is a little brat who can’t accept that her mom works and travels. ONLY CARTOONS CAN SATIATE SUCH HATRED.

@ 06:37 – Cute to Christina still gushing in interview/documentary form. Am confused; what kind of movie is this? A mockumentary? A documentary? Is this just the style the director chose? Does Christina single white female the shit out of SJP in the end? That would make this next hour and a half worth it.

@ 08:10 – Oh, they have a nanny! And I’m supposed to be stunned that she somehow “does it all” when she leaves her kids alone for…9-10 hours a day? I think I know how she does it.

@ 10:11 – Busy Phillips sighting. This movie just got not completely entirely horrible.

@ 11:11 – Okay, so apparently there are these things called “Momsters” and they move in slo-mo and…is this a not funny Mean Girls 20 years later? I rescind my previous comment; the movie remains horrible.

@ 12:10 – SJP is trying to tell her boss (Frasier Krane) why she’s late. Despite having a lot of pretty top notch lies (or just telling him to fuck off), she chooses to say “mammogram.” Ah, nothing like a little “Well, I might have cancer,” lie to get the boss off your back!

@ 13:48 – SETH MEYERS? Why are good people in this movie? Greg, Busy, and Seth. I am completely astounded.

@ 14:50 – Enter Seth Meyers as the mega-douche commenting on double standards and how the shininess of shoes between sexes is a double standard. (Apparently people really care about the shine of a man’s shoe but a woman’s can be covered in horse shit. Who cares!) I can’t figure out if this movie is full of misogyny, misandry, or just hate for all humans everywhere.

@ 15:40 – SJP gets to go meet with some fancy corporate head person (Pierce Brosnan) in NY! You’re perfect! You have a job and two kids…and a nanny and an assistant and loads of money!!!

@ 16:13 – I guess Olivia Munn is the uptight, work-is-the-only-thing-that-matters, I’m-a-robot assistant. Come on, this trope? Really?

@ 19:19 – New York establishing montage scenes, as is customary in every movie!

@ 20:42 – SJP itching her head? Claims “stress eczema.” Bitch, you got lice!

@ 22:10 – Text to SJP’s phone “Emily SNT home with LICE. Whole family must b treated.” I’m just saying – either I am a psychic or this movie is painfully predictable.

@ 25:17 – Busy Phillips throwing shade at SJP for her kids getting lice because they’re dirty. Come on, B, what kind of mom are you? Lice are typically more attracted to lean hair.

@ 25:48 – Holy shit, they’re walking into a store called Lice Enders. can this be real? Are there entire (what looks to be) salons devoted to the removal of lice?

@ 34:34 – Late nights with the new partner/friend/whatever? Pierce Brosnan, I think you’re about to have a raging hard-on for SJP.

@ 38:30 – MONTAGE!

@ 39:30 – SJP and Greg symbolically watching His Girl Friday. Oh I get it, SJP is torn between just being a mom/wife or having a career.

@ 41:15 – Pierce Brosnan signing e-mails XO.

@ 42:40 – Oh God, Olivia Munn is pregnant and wants to abort it, but not before SJP guilt trips her with a Carrie Bradshaw-worthy speech about how amazing being a mom is. Is this going to turn into a right-wing, anti-abortion movie?

@ 46:20 – Oh, dig at Cleveland and it’s lack of famous sites from Pierce Brosnan. Good one – THERE’S THE ROCK HALL AND OTHER STUFF, YOU DICK.

@ 47:00 – Pierce and SJP go bowling. “See? We’re real people! We’re not just Wall Streeters or whatever, we stick our fingers in balls and wear stinky, ugly shoes, too! Just like you guys!”

@ 51:10 – SJP trying to make plans now that her project is calming down? Sorry, girl, you about to get slammed and Greg Kinnear will not be pleased.

@ 51:55 – Surprise! Olivia Munn is having the baby. But that doesn’t mean she’s suddenly all touchy-feely! Only about the baby.

@ 52:33 – “Being pregnant doesn’t feel awesome. Feels like a mistake. But lots of people have babies as mistakes.” Perfect. Perfect way of looking at your pregnancy. This won’t have any negative repercussions (well, probably not in the movie but in real life? Loads.)

@ 58:00 – Uh oh, something’s come up and you have to get to a meeting on Thanksgiving. Family or job? Job! But don’t worry. In 35 more minutes, I’ll figure out a way to balance the two out and we’ll all have learned a valuable lesson.

@ 1:02:51 – Pierce almost just told SJP he loves her. Quelle surprise!

@ 1:04:10 – Okay, so Olivia Munn is trying to tell SJP that Pierce is going to take all of the credit for their project, but he insists she join him at a lunch with the investor (or something) because they’re a team. And yet, Olivia Munn doesn’t get invited because what did she do except all the research!

@ 1:09:00 – Everything is going perfectly at work but at home, oh her life is crumbling down around her. You have to forgive me, Greg. You have to forgive me. You have forgive me. You have to. You have to forgive me Greg. Greg, you have to forgive me.

@ 1:11:11 – You know, it might be wrong of me to say but SJP has way more in common and way more chemistry with Pierce Brosnan. Maybe she should just…get with him? He’s a refined gentleman and dat accent!

@ 1:12:30 – Holy Christ, is SJP a grown-up manic pixie dream girl to Pierce Brosnan’s cynical loner?

@ 1:13:40 – “Reasons it’s okay if I don’t work at Edwin-Morgan-Forrester anymore…because trying to be a man is a waste of a woman.” I can’t. I can’t even.

@ 1:15:30 – So, I told my boss I couldn’t be as available as he hoped and he said it was okay. Ha, bet things would have been a bit easier if I had just done that to begin with. Hindsight and all that. We’re fine now!

@ 1:16:00 – Carrie Bradshaw speech.

@ 1:18:45 – Oh look at that, Olivia Munn had that baby and she loves him, it made her whole or human or whatever. Was this movie funded by the American Family Association?

@ 1:20:020 – Finally, SJP’s classic big dumb grin. And Pierce and Christina got together. It all worked out in the end!

Roll credits, roll eyes. I don’t know who this movie was made for. Probably moms who would watch this and go “Oh god, that’s totally me,” or they would say “Shut up, SJP. Your life is easy compared to mine.” Because some women have four or five kids, are single, have to leave the kids with a family member, and then work two different jobs and spend two hours in total at home with their kids just to barely pay the bills.

Also, this movie featured zero people of color, zero people of different classes, and zero people standing for “alternative lifestyles.” It was a big, entitled, conservative WASP-fest.

And I still don’t know how/why people were being interviewed. What was the point and how did it even kind of logically fit in to the narrative style?


56: Contagion

Contagion – September 9, 2011
Starring: Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Kate Winslet, Marion Cotillard, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow
Written by: Scott Z. Burns
Directed by: Steven Soderbergh

The plot: “A thriller centered on the threat posed by a deadly disease and an international team of doctors contracted by the CDC to deal with the outbreak.” – IMDB

My thoughts: Holy shit, this was like the Valentine’s Day/New Year’s Eve of epidemic movies. And now that I’m writing about this movie, I’m starting to wonder what was so alluring to these mostly A-list actors? I doubt any of the characters were especially tantalizing nor did they seem to stand for something bigger than themselves, at least not in my opinion. They were mostly two-dimensional characters where there was just enough back story to think “Oh, okay, I get why she’s doing this then,” but not enough to not want them to contract the disease.

I have no idea what kind of science went into this movie, but it seemed relatively realistic as to what would happen if an epidemic like the one in the movie happened today. People would probably freak out pretty quickly and yet at the same time, wouldn’t be very smart about keeping themselves safe. So yeah, millions of people would probably definitely die and it would turn into a big political thing.

The only not average thing about this movie was the score by Cliff Martinez, now gaining a ton of popularity for being the man who scored Drive. I said in my review of that movie that I wasn’t a fan of the music – more specifically, the combination of the film and music. The music itself was good and it was just as good in Contagion. It’s nice to hear a composer taking a different approach to a movie’s score (much like Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross in The Social Network and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo). As much as I love John Williams and Hans Zimmer’s work, I’ve been enjoying the direction that a lot of blockbuster films have been going with their scores.

Anyway, it was super average. It was predictable which is not to say that it wasn’t at least a little bit interesting. Aside from the score, the best part was how the movie showed how the disease was being spread; lots of close-ups and lingering shots of every surface touched by an infected person and then touched by a potential victim. Dun-dun-dun!!! It was definitely a germaphobe’s nightmare.

Stars: 2/5 (the score and I got to see Gwyneth Paltrow die in a not-so-cute way!)

45: Drive (A Gosling post!)

Drive – September 16, 2011
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Oscar Isaac, Bryan Cranston, Ron Perlman
Written by: Hossein Amini
Directed by: Nicolas Winding Refn

The plot: “A Hollywood stunt performer who moonlights as a wheelman discovers that a contract has been put on him after a heist gone wrong.” – IMDB

My thoughts: I have no idea what to make of this movie. I’m not sure whether I liked it or disliked it. I guess I’m just going to go stream-of-consciousness here and maybe I’ll have a clearer picture by the time I’m done rambling.

Okay, so the music in this movie was all over the place. Cliff Martinez scored this movie and it was fucking weird. I liked the music, definitely, but the timing of the music…God, was I supposed to feel unsettled throughout the entire movie? Nothing like a nice scene (although the existence of those in this particular film is debatable) juxtaposed with gloom-and-doom music. And then there was all the hip, synthpop tunes thrown in there, which I’m not even sure what to make of it.

Let’s move on to Ryan Gosling and one of the strangest leads I’ve seen in a movie in a long time. Simultaneously charming and off-putting, Gosling’s Driver (oh yeah, he doesn’t even get a name) doesn’t have much to say and has a tendency to stare and linger in doorways. Essentially, he manages to go from a driver to a murderer in a hot second (that word “hot” is used intentionally because of Ryan Gosling’s fine ass).

I’m all for the complex tough guy in movies. The guy who does some bad shit but is ultimately good despite his actions, it’s the motive or whatever. But the fact is, Gosling played it a bit weird for me. I couldn’t help thinking about what the character was like off screen? Did he say a god damn thing or did he just keep that toothpick in his mouth and half-smirk and stare? Or was he chatty Cathy sometimes? Where did he come from? Where did he go?

Drive was undoubtedly nice to look at. The colors were bright and beautiful and one of the final close ups of Gosling was gorgeous. I think I was even holding my breath trying to figure out what the hell was going on. The driving looked good and was just enough to keep me interested but not so much that I couldn’t believe what was going on.

I couldn’t help but thinking it was like David Lynch, Quentin Tarantino, and an offbeat 80s director decided to make a movie and this was the result. It has a decidedly retro feel to it and yet it’s gory and unsettling with a touch of humor and a sad, looking feeling. The way the trailer presents the movie isn’t at all how it really is, so anyone hoping to see Ryan Gosling driving fast cars and making out with Carey Mulligan are in for a rude awakening because it just isn’t that kind of movie.

I think, ultimately, I enjoyed it. It was different than I expected and I feel like I still wanted a bit more from the story and the characters, but it had an interesting tone, it was a unique story, and it was visually appealing.

God this was the most boring review ever. Sorry.

Stars: 3/5

44: Killer Elite (AKA badass guys with guns ‘n stuff)

Killer Elite – September 23, 2011
Starring: Jason Statham, Robert De Niro, Clive Owen, Yvonne Strahovski
Written by: Matt Sherring
Directed by: Gary McKendry

The plot: “When his mentor is taken captive, a retired member of Britain’s Elite Special Air Service is forced into action. His mission: kill three assassins dispatched by their cunning leader.” – IMDB

My thoughts: If you know me or have read any of this blog, you’ve probably realized that I live for Jason Statham. I know he plays the same character in every movie and he doesn’t really “act” but I don’t really give a shit. The performs almost every single one of his own stunts and he delivers the most ridiculous lines ever with perfect form. And his accent is the tops.

Anyway, this movie was based on a true story which makes it kind of crazy. Maybe more than kind of – really crazy. I think that this helps to make the movie a bit more believable and realistic. But then again, what isn’t more believable when compared to oh say, Crank? This definitely veered more toward The Bourne Identity style and plot rather than typical, complete suspension of disbelief style action/gun/blow shit up movies.

Despite that, I wasn’t especially impressed. The acting was good, the cinematography was good, the script was good. But it wasn’t great. I didn’t feel especially compelled by anything happening on screen. I wanted more conspiracies, more action, and a more climactic ending.

There were a couple of memorable moments throughout – or perhaps it would be better to say a couple of memorable kills/deaths. I don’t want to spoil them or you wouldn’t be surprised at how/when they happen.

I’m not entirely sure what to say about the movie. It was all right. If you’re a Statham, DeNiro, or Owen fanatic, then go for it. If you’re looking for the next Transporter, this isn’t it. It’s a bit more serious, still with some good action/fighting, but I didn’t feel especially into it.

Stars: 2.5/5

40: 50/50

50/50 – September 30, 2011
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick, Anjelica Houston, Bryce Dallas Howard
Written by: Will Reiser
Directed by: Jonathan Levine

The plot: “Inspired by a true story, a comedy centered on a 27-year-old guy who learns of his cancer diagnosis, and his subsequent struggle to beat the disease.” – IMDB

My thoughts: I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. Odds are, I won’t have a lot to say about it other than that. I laughed and I cried, I left the theater feeling uplifted and moved. Yeah, moved by Seth Rogen movie.

I think the movie tackled a really serious topic that affects a lot of people. I know people who have suffered from cancer and this movie felt honest and real – facing the (large) possibility of death and wondering why bother trying to get better when the odds and medicine are so against you? Why deal with months of horrible, immediate illness in hopes of living a little bit longer? Without being over-the-top cheesy and inspirational, it showed that there are things to live for.

The script was great and the acting was excellent. Throughout the film, there was a large tendency to go from laughing quite hard at something to being shocked into silence. The movie looked beautiful and with a backdrop of Seattle, how could it not? It was a perfect fall movie.

My only qualm is that I couldn’t stop thinking about what the movie would have been like with James McAvoy as the main character. He was originally cast but had to drop out due to the birth of his son.

Uplifting and hilarious? How could you really go wrong?

Stars: 5/5

38: Red State

Red State – September 1, 2011
Starring: Kyle Gallner, Michael Angarano, Nicholas Braun, Michael Parks, John Goodman, Melissa Leo
Written and directed by: Kevin Smith

The plot: “Set in Middle America, a group of teens receive an online invitation for sex, though they soon encounter fundamentalists with a much more sinister agenda.” – IMDB

My thoughts: Well, I really dig Kevin Smith and his movies. And usually, his movies are heavily comedic, Red State is definitely a deviation from that. It’s a movie about crazy Christian (Baptist?) cults and the crazy shit they do in the name of their Lord. I would venture to say that the inspiration for this type of film may have started when the Phelps family/Westboro Baptist Church protested his movie Dogma in 1999. If you don’t know who they are, check them out – they’re insane.

I personally liked the movie. It was actually an interesting and realistic take on a modern-day horror film. They aren’t masked people who get their rocks off by killing kids, they’re families and an old, grizzled preacher – giant assholes but ultimately harmless. Only this group isn’t exactly. And the fact is, extreme religious cults exist in America. Do they do stuff like this? I hope not.

It’s definitely a Kevin Smith movie in terms of dialogue – you can’t help but laugh at parts, whether they’re actually funny or at the sheer absurdity of it. At one point, Father Cooper (Michael Parks) asks Sarah (Melissa Leo) to go get him some sweet tea, all while they stand at a window, wielding AK-47s and shotguns, shooting at ATF agents. That’s some classic Kevin Smith stuff right there.

My only real qualm with this movie is that a lot of the characters came off as being very two-dimensional. The three teen guys were simple – first they were just horny teenagers, and then they were angry/scared teenagers who wanted to get away. They were never allowed to grow. All of the people in the church were brainwashed and never showed any personality. Even Father Cooper was just plain old crazy.

One thing I liked is that Kevin Smith wasn’t afraid to be a bit of a downer and kill off loads of people. To me, it seemed to end on a somewhat realistic note – not that I’m truly in the know when it comes to religious cults and how the government interacts with them but it’s something I could see happening. Plus, Smith has an off-screen cameo right at the end which is something kind of fun!

All in all, I enjoyed the movie. It was interesting and something out of the ordinary for the day. For dealing with a somewhat serious topic, it isn’t too crazy heavy, but it is just a little bit dark.

Stars: 4/5

Straw Dogs AKA another post about sexy men

Straw Dogs – September 16, 2011
Starring: Alexander Skarsgard, James Marsden, Kate Bosworth, James Woods
Written and directed by: Rod Lurie

“L.A. screenwriter David Sumner relocates with his wife to her hometown in the deep South. There, while tensions build between them, a brewing conflict with locals becomes a threat to them both.” – IMDB

My thoughts: With the exception of the willowy Kate Bosworth, this movie was practically made for me. A thriller starring (a very aggressive) Alexander Skarsgard and a geeked-out James Marsden? How could I say no? Anyone, the movie looks like it will be full of tension and probably some hard to watch scenes (I’m 97% there is at least one rape scene which is always hard to stomach.) I’ll definitely be watching the original from 1971, which stars Dustin Hoffman, before watching this one.

Tilda Swinton is a badass

We Need To Talk About Kevin – September 2, 2011 (in the UK)
Starring: John C. Reilly, Tilda Swinton, Ezra Miller
Directed by: Lynne Ramsay
Written by: Lynne Ramsay and Rory Kinnear
Based upon the novel of the same name by Lionel Shriver

“The mother of a teenage boy who went on a high-school killing spree tries to deal with her grief — and feelings of responsibility for her child’s actions — by writing to her estranged husband.” – IMDB

My thoughts: As far as I know, this is a topic that doesn’t seem to have been dealt with in film all too often, so I think it will make for an interesting and potentially controversial movie. I love John C. Reilly as well as Tilda Swinton so I’m excited to see the cast and what they’ll do with the characters. So far, an official trailer hasn’t been released, but here’s an (extremely) unsettling clip from the film. It’s probably a pretty good indication of the tone for the film in its entirety. The way this kid (Ezra Miler) peels and eats the lychee – all while talking about his (presumably) little sister and how something happened to her eye, resulting in her needing a glass eye. The tension is palpable.