Tuesday, January 9, 2018

I, Tonya (2017): Review

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***Some spoilers for the story, but it is based on real life so you probably already know them***

Of all the movies that have been hyped up a lot recently, I am glad to say that I, Tonya absolutely stands up to that hype and deserves all the positive things being said about it.  This movie was fantastic; from the casting, to the acting, to the pace, to the production value, to the editing; almost everything in this movie was fantastic done and put together.  It is not a perfect movie but overall it was stellar and I not just enjoyed it but think it was really good.

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I, Tonya is the telling on the Tonya Harding story. How she came up in the world of ice skating, her relationships with her mother and husband, how she became an Olympic athlete and was the first to land a triple axel in competition, and the "incident" where Nancy Kerrigan get attacked during the lead up to the 1994 Olympics. Starring: Margot Robbie as Tonya Harding; Allison Janney as LaVona Golden; Sebastian Stan as Jeff Gillooly; Julianne Nicholson as Diana Rawlinson; Paul Walter Hauser as Shawn; and Bobby Cannavale as Martin Maddox. The movie starts with the characters talking to the camera interview style, in the present, and telling the story. As they are talking about the events the movie goes back to Tonya starting out in ice skating and following her story up to the point of the interviews. The movie jumps between these re-tellings of the story and the chronological story following Tonya.  I liked how there were comments about what was being told in the main Tonya storyline, and how the different characters pointing out what they say did or didn't really happen.

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One of the things that I think works well in the movie is that is a true life story so it makes sense and is logical.  The downfall of some based on real events movies is that the pacing and story arc can not be correct for the movie going experience, but with I, Tonya's story leading up to the "incident" it has the right feel of set up, build up, climax, and ending that works very well  in a movie. The direction and production choose a great way to tell this story, with giving enough information about different moments in Tonya's life and all the things she was going thought. I really liked the pacing and was waiting for what I knew was coming and surprised at the little things that I didn't really know about the whole story. The whole journey of the story felt interesting and although I was anticipating the part that everyone was waiting for, I still engaged with what was happening at the moment.

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The casting of the movie was fantastic,  all of the actors were perfect in their roles and I really believed how they were and how they interacted with each other. They embodied the motivations of the characters with enough development to be pulled in but not too much to muddle up what was going on.  I think that Margot Robbie and Allison Janney deserve all the praise they are received for their roles but I also think Sebastian Stan deserves to get more love about him as Tonya's boyfriend/husband, he was brilliant. Each character that was focused on drew me in, I understood what they were doing and their viewpoint. Their interplay and interactions felt real and believable.

I could tell that a lot of effort was put into the details of the time that the movie was set in and it felt like the 80s/ early 90s.  I appreciated how the sets were staged and the look of some of the shots felt like they were older and fitting in with the time it was set it. It felt like it was actually that time and place not a stylized version that some movies do.  It helps that it was not my era so I cannot be super judgy of the details just that it felt right to me.  The music enhanced the experience as I noticed the songs in the background but they didn't become everything and take over what was happening between the characters.

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The only real criticism I have for I, Tonya is the actual ice skating sequences.  As Margot Robbie is not an Olympic level ice skater and whoever did the difficult ice skating sequences didn't look like Margot, the sequences felt produced and put together. It looked like it was produced and not preformed.  If you have every spent any time actually watching ice skating it is noticeable that she didn't really preform it well and even the dancing parts looked forced.  The cuts between her top half, her feet, and some of the full body shots just didn't look right and I could tell that they didn't really fit.  It also didn't help that they showed some real footage of Tonya Harding ice skating at the end which just emphasized the fakeness of the sequences during the movie. It also didn't help that the routines felt like they were shown in real time, adding to the produced not performed feel. I did really like getting to see the ice skating sequence at the end and also the snippets of interview with the real people.

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Overall this movie was fantastic and deserves all of the hype that it has.  It is not perfect but pretty close. It felt like a lot of effort was put into the movie and the casting was perfect, but it didn't feel like the movie was too stuck on itself. It was telling a good story (the movie, not the actual plot), that drew you in and was paying attention to details, but not that it expected you to know that it knows that it is trying to be fantastic.

There is a lot of swearing and abuse in the movie so it may not be suitable for younger children but I think it was fantastic and recommend seeing it to anyone with the slightest interest.

My Rating: 4-

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Thursday, December 7, 2017

The Disaster Artist (2017): Review

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***There are spoilers, so be warned***

For being based on the making of one of the best bad movies, The Disaster Artist was absolutely fantastic and brilliantly done.  I first heard about "The Room" (2003) several years ago and how it is just one of those movies that is so bad, its good, and as soon as I learned about it I had to go and watch it. Although I am not one of the hard core fans (spoons), I do have an appreciation for it and get a kick out of all the iconic scenes. When I discovered that James Franco was creating a movie about the making of "The Room" I was intrigued and interested but it wasn't until I saw the first teaser trailer and saw James Franco as Tommy Wiseau, that I got really excited and couldn't wait to watch it.  I would have seen it sooner if there was a showing closer to where I live but I was able to get to the first screening in my area and it was absolutely worth it. The Disaster Artist exceeded my hopes and expectations. There were a few things that could be better but overall it was amazing. I think anyone who had an appreciation or joy for "The Room" will really enjoy this movie and should definitely see it.

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The Disaster Artist, is based on the making of the 2003 movie "The Room" and on the 2013 book of the same name, written by Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell. Dave Franco plays the part of Greg who meets Tommy in an acting class where they share the dream of wanting to act in movies and be stars.  They befriend each other and due to their shared dream of being actors in LA they move and try to become big stars.  When he continuously gets shut down and told that he wont make it in Hollywood or that he could only be the villain Tommy decides to write, direct, produce, fund and star in his own movie which he titles "The Room." The movie follows the struggles of making the movie and the strain put on the friendship between Tommy and Greg due to Tommy eccentricities and enigmaticness. It continues to follow Greg and Tommy through the premiere of "The Room." Also staring: Seth Rogan, Ari Graynor, Jackie Weaver, Paul Scheer, Josh Hutcherson, and Zef Effron.

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Overall, the acting and casting of this movie is fantastic. They are bad when they are suppose to be bad and great when they are not needing to be showing "bad acting."   The movie goes from following Tommy and Greg, to showing the filming of iconic scenes of the movie, to the ending when it premiers and the are showing the reactions to the movie. James Franco is absolutely phenomenal as Tommy Wiseau.  He just becomes the character and although he is suppose to be this person who is so out there and that people react to this quality about him, Franco didn't take it too far and I could see how he was not just making a mockery of what he was doing as he has done in other movies. I could see the care that the cast was taking to try and find the correct balance between the ridiculousness and "badness" of the movie (with in the movie) they are making but not going to the point where it is just a parody or going for all the laughs they can et.  The Disaster Artist is a serious movie it just happens to be about someone and something that has cult status for how "bad" or "enigmatic" it is. 

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I hate to say it because as a whole this movie has few things that I can truly critique as not fantastic, but Dave Franco as Greg was the weakest link.  He was in no way bad, it is just compared to his brother and how absolutely perfect he was as Tommy, Greg's interpretation just didn't feel as all encompassing. I could see Dave Franco acting and the charming characteristic or idiosyncrasies that have been a part of his previous performances (and his personality) come through at times. The scenes where he is on his own or the focus is more on him (especially in the middle of the movie) shows this with. It is just the feeling gotten from him, like he has a twinkle in his eye as he is acting. When he is playing off of others it is not as obvious and he still goes a good job overall.  Also I didn't care for how they did his beard and hair in the movie, if it was more of a dead ringer for how Marks (Greg's role in "The Room") it wouldn't have bothered me as much, I just didn't like it, it looked bad to the point of  being a little distracting. The main focus of the movie is more on Greg and I would have preferred it to be more about Tommy but I can understand with him being a person that doesn't share about his past (age, place of birth, and where his money comes from) I can understand this choice.

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The cinematography and how The Disaster Artist is shot is great. The pacing is almost perfect. There were a few parts in the beginning that could have moved forward a bit faster but this doesn't really take away from the overall experience. I liked the combination of and how they showed the film making process of the movie within the movie and the little comments of the others helping to make and act in the movie. 

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Although you probably don't have to have seen "The Room" to enjoy The Disaster Artist and it stands up on its own with not just expecting you to know what it going on and giving enough info about the scenes and they are being shot or at least the set up, having an understanding of the plot of "The Room" and the different characters in it adds to the enjoyment and expectation when watching The Disaster Artist.  There were times when I found myself getting excited and anticipating moments that were coming and then really enjoying them when they actually happened. It is strange to actually have this done in a great way and I was not left feeling dissatisfied or let down that it didn't meet my expectations or wants.  It was a great move going experiences especially as everyone in the theatre with me seemed to enjoy it and were laughing along with me.

I didn't like how they had people at the beginning of the movie say things about Tommy or "The Room."  I think it just adds some blah before the actually movie started. I think it would have been more successful at the end of the movie.

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Right before the credits they show a split screen of different iconic scenes from "The Room" and the remade scenes in The Disaster Artist. Some of these have been released as promotional material but they were still really great to see and I hope there are even more when the Blu-ray is released.

Althought this movie was fantastic and I loved it, I would not recommend it to everyone. Because of the cult status of "The Room" I would not recommend the movie to someone who didn't find the trailers interesting or doesn't enjoy its so bad its good.

My Rating: 4-

P.S.  You want to stay though the end of the credits as their is an extra post credit scene.

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Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Lady Bird (2017): Review

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I decided to go see Lady Bird because I  was won over by the trailers and being told that Lady Bird is a must see, highly critically rated movie. Although the movie was good, it was not the practically perfect movie I was hoping it would be and I had difficulty rooting for or connecting with the main character.  Thinking about the movie, I cannot tell if I liked it or disliked it and that is never a good thing for me coming out of a movie because it tends to just slip away as it had no real resonance with me. It has high production value and I could tell that everyone working on the movie was putting their all into it and really cared about putting out a well done movie.  It was interesting but nothing that was life changing.

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Lady Bird is a movie that following Catherine McPherson, played by Saoirse Ronan, who has renamed herself Lady Bird, as she goes through her senior year of high school at a Catholic school in Sacramento California. She has difficulty with her relationships with her mother Marion, played by Laurie Metcalf, and the differences the two want for Lady Bird's future. Lady Bird goes through this year in her life trying to make the future she want happen while interacting with different people at school.  Also staring Beanie Feldstein as Julie, Lady Bird's best friend; Lois as Sister Sarah Joan; Jack McDorman as teacher Mr. Bruno; Lucas Hedges as Danny; Timothee Chalamet as Kyle; Tracy Letts as Lady Bird's father Larry; and Stephen Henderson as Father Leviatch.

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There was a very high production value in this movie, not in the sense that it seemed like a lot of money was spent on sets or CGI, but that everyone working on the movie appeared to care what they were doing and that a lot of thought and effort was put into each decision and how everything was shot, acted, and put together as a film.  Because of this there, were some things that I struggles with and made it hard for me to connect with the movie. The main thing that I struggled with is that Lady Bird is just unlikable as a person.  She made choices that were selfish and her motivation was inconsistent and changes without the movie showing why she was doing this thing that is different from why she did something earlier.  There were times where I would start to be on her side or she was starting to pull me in but then things would change and then I would be nope, she's unlikable as a person.
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The way that the movie was put together made it difficult for me to connect to what was going on.  Overall, the movie was told in very short little snippets and then would jump to something else, sometimes it would be just a short jump in time while at others it would appear to be weeks. The times that I liked the movie the best is where the scene was longer and there was time for true development of relationships between the characters or for me to understand their processes. I want to see the story of the movie and not just show the start and end of something, I like to have time to see the character grow/ change/ develop/ understand their motivation, anything that would have me connect to the character or what they are going through or at least care.  I liked many of the supporting characters and think that this movie was casted phenomenally but all of the supporting characters, besides the mother and maybe Julie or the Father/Sister were very one dimensional. This may be because the movie showed these characters based on how Lady Bird saw them. Although there was some background of the motivation of some of the characters there wasn't any development for any of them. There were moments where the focus was on the supporting characters that were fantastic and pulled me in but then it would quickly jump back to focusing on Lady Bird.

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I can tell why this movie was given good reviews but do not think it is a movie for everyone. I may be a bit more judgmental about this movie because I relate to the enrolment in which the story is set.  Lady Bird is in the graduating class of 2003 and she is attending Catholic school. I graduated a year before that and also went to a Catholic School so can connect to the world in which the movie is set. I am not from California but I was a teen of the early 2000s in a Catholic school. Due to this I felt that there were some details that took me out of it, the movie showed that a lot of thought was spent on the detail of the movie and for a film that showed that nuns would check the skirt length of the girls, Lady Bird would not have been allowed to have that unnatural dyed red hair color.   It also bugged me that she always looked dirty especially her hair, I also think that she would have had chipped nail polish. I did really like Sister Sarah Joan and Father Leviatch, they were just fantastic characters.

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Overall, I understand why this movie received good reviews but it for me the hardest thing to get past is that the main character was unlikable. For a movie where they whole focus is on the main character and their relationships with others, it is not necessary to like the main character but the focus of the movie was following and getting drawn into her movie so you can understand her choices and the struggles she has to deal with to become who she is at the end of the movie.  If Lady Bird was likable or endearing I would have liked the movie much better. I could have even worked if I disliked her, but the tone of the movie would have needed to be different as it was presented as I should be connecting with her. I would have liked the focused to be on someone else or move split. It if was more half an half Lady Bird and her mother or her best friend Julie or even Danny it wouldn't have mattered as much that she was unlikable. The characters I liked best were given struggles that would have been very interesting to know more about or to see their journey so this movie left me feeling unsatisfied about wanting more about the supporting characters; wishing that I liked or hated Lady Bird more; or that I was able to watch the story happen not see it in short bits that jumped around.

My Rating: 2+

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Sunday, November 19, 2017

Justice League (2017): Review

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Going into Justice League I was trying not to expect too much, as I had heard that the reviews were mixed but was hoping that I would enjoy it because I liked Wonder Women (2017) and enjoyed Batman V Superman (2016).  I am happy to say that I did enjoy Justice League and I am looking forward to seeing it again over Thanksgiving weekend with my family. If you liked the previous DC universe movies you will enjoy this and I think it is one of the better ones.

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Justice League continues where Batman v Superman (2016) and Wonder Woman (2017) left off. Bruce Wayne/ Batman, played by Ben Affleck, is trying to find and recruit metahumans because he believes that an invasion is coming after the death of Superman/ Clark Kent, played by Henry Cavil.  He reunites with Diana Prince/ Wonder Woman, played by Gal Gadot, to try and bring together Aquaman/ Author Curry, played by Jason Momoa; The Flash/ Barry Allen, played by Ezra Miller; and Cybord/ Victor Stone, played by Ray Fisher, in order to fight Steppenwolf, voiced by Ciaran Hinds.. Also staring Amy Adams as Lois Lane; Jeremy Irons as Alfred; and Diane Lane as Martha Kent.

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Justice League felt like a transition/ set up movie, but it was done in the good way that is still a story on its own.  The bad guy Steppenwolf was secondary to getting the Justice League together and this left me not caring about him or feeling as if there was any real danger from him.  At times, he was really good at destroying or making what he want happen really quickly, while at others he took forever to do anything or monologued.  He wasn't the worst bad guy I have seen in comic book/ superhero movies but he could have been much better.  I miss bad guys who are scary, or really evil, or really anything that would be a true counterpoint for the good guys.  Because there was such a team of good guys and that getting the team together was the important part, he was just there but he really needed to be something truly catastrophic to need all these meta humans to get together.  The fact that any true backstory was not included for anyone added to not feeling the scope of him.  It was mentioned that he almost destroyed the earth way back when but as this was just exposition  it didn't really do much for the whole movie.  Also the fact that there are three mother boxes it felt too much like the Tesseract or Allspark.

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That being said, I did like the casting of this movie and enjoyed each main character on its own.  Henry Cavil as Superman is fine and he does a good enough job.  I am one who actually likes Ben Affleck as Batman and enjoyed how he plays this character as more grizzled. I liked that Batman is human compared to the others and you see him struggling or having to recovery.  Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman is just fantastic and she carries over the great job she has done in the previous movies.  I really enjoyed Ezra Miller as The Flash and how he plays this character, I do not watch the television show so I didn't have any strong feelings about him in this role and did like that he was a counterpoint to the more serious/ hardened way the others were played. I laughed the most at him and didn't think the humor he brought took away from the overall mood of the movie.  Jason Momoa is great as Aquaman and I really liked his I'm here but I kinda care but I kinda don't care way he was played and especially the sequence where he is talking to the team later on in the movie. I didn't get Cyborg as a character and didn't really care about his personal struggles, he seemed to be necessary only because of how he fit into the plot but I could have done without him completely. I would have like better chemistry between the characters but I think it was more about how quickly the movie moves from one thing to another (the movie only happens over a few days) then anything else, but that didn't prevent Momoa or Miller having good interactions with the others. They could have cut out some of the Superman family dealing with his death but as Superman is the point where the DC universe is centered I understand this decision.

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Justice League keeps the story going and I found myself focused throughout the entire thing. It doesn't have the problem of a too long drawn out end sequences that has been a problem in earlier DC movies and it didn't seem as long as it was as I was watching it.  It has a lot going on but it wasn't too much to be completely distracting. Looking back on the movie I enjoyed it but there wasn't anything that really stood out as unique or revolutionary but was just a fun and entertaining comic book, superhero movie.

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The CGI was obvious but I didn't find it that distracting. There were moments where there was CGI on CGI that I didn't like, specially with Superman, Cyborg, and Steppenwolf. Steppenwolf just looked like a video game and didn't seem to look like he fit in any of the sequences he was in.  They really need to work on Superman flying and him not looking so fake and the times where Cyborg wants completely shown was the parts where he looked really weird. I hated him when he was in the sweat suit, absolutely thought he look really bad.  A better costuming choice could have been made.  I did see this movie in 2D and am sure that if I saw it in 3D I would have a lot more to complain about the CGI.  I could tell that a lot of effort and production value was put into the CGI and making the film look the way it did.

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Justice League was enjoyable and I really liked it. I really, really liked that this felt like one movie with a consist tone and forward moving plot.  The one thing that the DC movies do for me more than other universe movies is that it makes me want to go home and rewatch all the movies that came before it and then go and see it again. Not because there are things happening that I am confused about or that there wasn't a good enough stand along set up (I think all movies even if part of a series or universe should stand alone) but because I remember that I enjoyed them and are excited about the characters again. 

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This movie is worth seeing if you like the other DC movies and I can see it as becoming one that I watch multiple times.

My Rating: 3

P.S. There are extra scenes and you need to wait until the end of the credits to see that final one.

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Also check out my review for Batman v Superman http://myreviewsbyjane.blogspot.com/2016/03/batman-v-superman-dawn-of-justice-2016.html
and
Wonder Woman http://myreviewsbyjane.blogspot.com/2017/06/womder-woman-2017-review.html