Double Feature: Anaconda (1997) & American Ultra (2015)

Welcome to this week’s double feature for a double Netflix A movie, Anaconda and American Ultra!

I’m back to my alphabet thing which I never tend to finish because I always start it at the beginning of the year and then Valentine’s marathon and the Ultimate Decades blogathon cuts in between and then I lose track. I’m hoping it will be more organized this year and things will work out. However, I do have some other double features lingering on the background so at least I’ll keep up with a weekly thing, right? ūüėČ

Let’s check out these two!

Anaconda (1997)

Anaconda

Director: Luis Llosa

Cast:  Jennifer Lopez, Ice Cube, Jon Voight, Eric Stoltz, Jonathan Hyde, Owen Wilson, Kari Wuhrer, Vincent Castellanos

A “National Geographic” film crew is taken hostage by an insane hunter, who forces them along on his quest to capture the world’s largest – and deadliest – snake. – IMDB

I’m a huge fan of creature features. While I’ve been working hard to catch up on some of the older ones, Anaconda has been one that I haven’t caught up with until the last few months. To be honest, it was quite a disappointing experience. Perhaps its because it is awfully dated and the Anaconda doesn’t look too believable or the execution was paced fairly slow. However, if we put aside those little things it still works as a concept. There are other movies in the same subgenres who execute creature features in the same way and it still work. What works for it is the setting itself where this group is on the water in a boat going through unknown waterways and it works with the jungle environment and all the unknowns that pair with it. That is one of the few things that I liked.

My biggest issue with Anaconda is the cast. Put aside the other people who were tolerable, Jennifer Lopez is an actress that I’ve never found a movie where I liked and yet she constantly gets cast into films over and over again. It is mind-boggling to me but I’m sure there are others who appreciate her. However, her acting didn’t quite work for me here and it became very irritating to watch. The second performance who I, at times, do enjoy is Jon Voight who does an over the top villain sort of role who also gets very ridiculous at points. Just these two weaknesses and their frequency and importance in the film made this one really hard to enjoy for myself.

In fact, Anaconda isn’t a really lengthy film and yet it took me about 3 sittings to finish, which says a lot about how I feel about going back to visit this one again.

American Ultra (2015)

american ultra

Director: Nima Nourizadeh

Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Topher Grace, Connie Britton, Walton Goggins, John Leguizamo, Bill Pullman

A stoner – who is in fact a government agent – is marked as a liability and targeted for extermination. But he’s too well-trained and too high for them to handle. – IMDB

American Ultra is a fun little action crime adventure. Its comedic and pretty well-paced, packed with lots of action and schemes. Its straight forward and just a lot of crazy. I think what makes this movie work is Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart. Jesse Eisenberg has his roles that don’t work (aka Lex Luthor) and then he has roles that works for him (like Zombieland and Now You See Me) and this definitely fits in the latter category. The premise is a bit far-fetched but in this absurd way that kind of works. I can see how it could be irritating to watch but then, there is this desperate connection between him and Kristen Stewart that works well. Talking about Kristen Stewart, I can’t help to feel that her lowpoint is definitely Twilight and everything else that I see her in generally works from good to great. This one works so well for her character. She keeps the film pulled together just like some of the other supporting characters does also.

On that note, John Leguizamo’s role was¬† meant to be absurd and it was so absurd that it was really annoying to watch (I guess they succeeded?). In my mind though, its sad to see me get annoyed by John Leguizamo who I like a lot and feel that he is unique in his interpretation of roles. I’m starting to realize that Topher Grace also ends up taking up roles that I truly dislike. Seeing as he is the “enemy” in this case, it felt like its good to hate him but he is so hard to like. I feel like whenever I see him in a movie always dislike his bits and this one is no different. Its the fact that I can’t quite to decide whether his roles are meant to be dark humor or if we are meant to take him seriously. Either way, those two are the lowpoints for me in this film that felt slightly annoying and disappointing.

However, the lowpoints here are not enough to forget about the sum of all the positives here. I can’t help to like a film that is so fun. It does have its dramatic moments but the film that I could compare this film to would be Mr. Right and they have the same vibe and tone that I like a lot.

That’s it for this double feature!
Have you seen these two A selections? Thoughts?

 

Netflix A-Z: Me and Earl and The Dying Girl (2015)

Next up on the Netflix A-Z is Me and Earl and the Dying Girl! I’ve heard a lot of good stuff about this one, especially when it was released about the same time as The Fault in Our Stars and a lot of people had mentioned that this one is better. Seeing as I’m not a huge fan of The Fault in Our Stars, as horrible as that sounds, this one should be great! Or at least I hope it will. I personally like the cast so I’m pretty excited to see this!

Let’s check it out!

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (2015)

me and earl and the dying girl

Director: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon

Cast: Thomas Mann, RJ Cyler, Olivia Cooke, Nick Offerman, Connie Britton, Molly Shannon, Jon Bernthal, Katherine Hughes

High schooler Greg, who spends most of his time making parodies of classic movies with his co-worker Earl, finds his outlook forever altered after befriending a classmate who has just been diagnosed with cancer. – IMDB

¬†Some of the best and memorable moments happen when we step out of our comfort zone. In fact, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl shows exactly the bittersweet feeling of having something memorable happen in your life and learning from each other through friendship. There’s a genuine feeling here. I like movies a lot that have the main character narrate the story in a certain way. There is monologues in the background and its something like peeking into someone’s snippet of their journal entry that they wanted to share with you. Aside from that, the characters are all charming in their odd indie way. Whether its our main trio with Thomas Mann, Olivia Wilde and RJ Cyler or Nick Offerman and Connie Britton as Greg’s parents or Molly Shannon as Rachel’s mom. They all added a little something to the story.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

One of the most charming parts of the story is the interaction and friendships shown here. The primary one being that of Greg (Thomas Mann) and Rachel (Olivia Wilde). Their friendship was “doomed” (the words of Greg) to begin with. Befriending a girl with cancer was emotional and crazy however, you can see that because they found joy and comfort in each other that their friendship, even at times with more silence than words grew. Actually, the timeline of the story didn’t seem like a long one but it felt like their friendship had a lot of depth and understanding and that is an irreplaceable connection that everyone can only relate to rarely and that is what makes this friendship so special. Plus, it made them both see a different side of school and themselves.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

One of the quiet friendships but rather creative ones are between Greg and Earl who has been friends forever or what Greg would prefer to call, colleagues, as they work together to make films with titles that put a twist to their original and they were brought together by foreign films that Greg’s father had shown them when they were kids, inspiring them to want to make movies. That creates the basis of them being asked to make a movie for Rachel while she is in treatment and in a way, strains their friendship as they struggle to make an actual good movie together. Their friendship leads into other colorful characters like Greg’s dad, a sociologist if I remember correctly, who adds a touch of fun with his foods from around the world, played by Nick Offerman. The other would be the odd student and teacher with Greg, Earl and Mr. McCarthy where they hide out in his office.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

Its hard to pinpoint how to show what is so good about Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. What makes a movie great sometimes is the subtlety of how they grow a friendship or relationship and build the story. This is just a snippet in the entire life of Greg and yet it carries a life changing force. While he doesn’t learn everything all the time and there are moments when there is insensitivity at times, the idea here is that there is an authenticity and believable factor here about a guy who meets a girl and grows their friendship. The dialogue is witty and charming and quirky. Despite its issues about Rachel and her suffering from cancer, there is a odd lightheartedness to the whole thing that never sits in the sad territory for too long and Greg learns a thing or two through this segment of his life that impacted his outlook.

Overall, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl was a subtle development and a genuine story at that making it believable and definitely one of those must-see coming of age stories. Its quirky and odd but just like the movie, my fondness for the movies grows more and more as I think back to it.

Halloween Marathon Wrap-up: A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

It might have been easier to do another post but as you see, we’re here! Its October 31st and we’re wrapping it up with the final movie of our highlight series. More accurately, this is the remake of the iconic series started by Wes Craven. I’m not going to lie, this one was a pain to do. ¬†At this point, I’m a little burnt out with all the Nightmare and Freddy movies. ¬†I’m all Freddy-ed out. Haha! We’ve gone through a wave of good, bad, great, cheesy, campy…basically, I have no expectations right now.

Let’s get going! Review first!

A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

a nightmare on elm street

Director: Samuel Bayer

Cast: Jackie Earle Haley, Rooney Mara, Kyle Gallner, Katie Cassidy, Thomas Dekker, Kellan Lutz, Clancy Brown, Connie Britton

The spectre of a dead child rapist haunts the children of the parents who murdered him, stalking and killing them in their dreams.-IMDB

We’re here in remake world. ¬†It feels like a long time ago that I watched Nightmare on Elm Street. ¬†And you know, it might’ve been since I started Halloween in September. As a recap (in case you didn’t read the review post on the original), I liked it but thought that it had some functional campiness to it and there were some creative kills. As we enter into remake world, there are pros and cons to this one. ¬†How do I say it? Everything that didn’t work in the first one worked here and then everything worked here, kind of didn’t work as much in the original? I guess I can say that.

Nightmare on Elm Street 2010

Let me explain. ¬†First of all, lets take a look at our star villain. ¬†The main complaint I’ve had of Freddy (except for in New Nightmare) is that he isn’t scary because while his concept of using nightmares and a world you can’t control to kill you in real life is a good one, they never make him that way. ¬†He is always campy and goofy and just not horrifying. ¬†But this is where the remake does well. ¬†Freddy looks a little different from the original and the guy playing him is no longer Robert Englund but Jackie Earle Haley. ¬†Fred Krueger looks like a burnt victim and he is genuinely creepy as sh*t. ¬†Like I mean, he is a messed up, sadistic man from his laugh to his dialogue. ¬†There were parts that it sent chills down my spine and I literally feared for what he was going to do next. Plus, everything that he does with the characters is a hint towards a deeper trip into why he does what he does.

A Nightmare on Elm Street

Second, its a refreshing time to be watching one of these where I actually know all the cast. ¬†I mean, I know what to expect from them and their performances. ¬†Kyle Gallner was in Veronica Mars, Rooney Mara in a ton of movies, Katie Cassidy is some movies and Arrow, Thomas Dekker was in Secret Circle. Its seriously looking like a CW party here or something. ¬†Anyways, ¬†the cast here pulls in some decent performances with what they had to work with. ¬†They didn’t exactly have good dialogue to support the script (which is something I’ll elaborate on later), but they did well enough.

A Nightmare on Elm Street

Third, the remake makes a serious effort to give us some memorable scenes from a few of the past Nightmare movies. We can see it added in pretty nicely. ¬†There are a good many that are taken from the original Wes Craven’s. ¬†Obviously, those scenes are judged a little heavily. ¬†For one, the most effective scene in the original was the body bag scene and this one was a little overboard. Just one simple example.

A Nightmare on elm street 2010

Finally, the visuals and effects and sound worked well for this one. ¬†While we could feel the tension, the story behind this worked better. ¬†In one movie, we were able to learn about Freddy (even though some details were changed, I think). Freddy himself tried to lead the kids of those parents who killed him to know about it. ¬†At the same time, we also get more up close and personal of who Freddy is. Was he innocently accused? What is he trying to revenge? All those questions that took a few movies to build, we get a good idea of in this one remake. It tries hard to make us twist our beliefs about Freddy. ¬†While I can’t criticize what they were trying to do, the execution of it focused too much on the teens and paired up with the bad dialogue that sometimes felt a little choppy and awkward, it ended up causing the movie to drag a little in certain parts.

Overall, I rather enjoyed A Nightmare on Elm Street. ¬†I’m not saying its better than the original because Craven can build atmosphere and the passion is retained there. ¬†However, this is a decent effort. The script itself, mostly the dialogue and focal points in various plot points could have made for a better execution but the visuals are better and Freddy is much more chilling and thrilling to watch. The backstory of Freddy is the highlight here because we learn so much more about him and that really worked for me. Is it a good or bad remake? I really can’t say its bad. ¬†It feels a little lengthy at parts but it stays generally faithful to the original but with its own style.

What do you think about the remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street?

Double Review: Project X (2012) & Women in Trouble (2009)

I have a TON of movies that I watched and haven’t reviewed but these two recent ones due to Netflix expiration brought me to these and I figured I might as well have a say on these. I was pretty much on cold meds and pretty out of it when I’m at home. ¬†I truly hate summer colds and ALL I ask is decent entertainment but lets just get this out right now that I truly did not enjoy these two.

Lets start this possibly rant-like write-up, shall we?

Project X (2012)

project X

Director: Nima Nourizadeh

Cast: Thomas Mann, Oliver Cooper, Jonathan Daniel Brown, Dax Flame, Kirby Bliss Blanton, Alexis Knapp, Miles Teller, Peter MacKenzie

Its Thomas Kub’s (Thomas Mann) birthday and with the influence of his friends, Costa (Oliver Cooper) and JB (Jonathan Daniel Brown), they decide to take advantage of Thomas’s parents being away for the weekend to throw a huge party for their senior class to help them get popular. ¬†Except things don’t quite go as they plan when more people than they expected arrive and its gets completely out of hand.

Seriously, thats all I even want to say about this movie. ¬†Thats all it really deserves. ¬†Why did it suck? They tried to use found footage and it was so ridiculous. ¬†I haven’t been in high school in like 11 years or something and I wasn’t in the popular crowd either (nor did I want to be) so maybe thats why I can’t appreciate this notion of getting popular through doing all these stupid things. Point is, the movie encourages all the wrong things.

So, SPOILER ALERT¬†starts about now (if you plan on seeing this): the dad didn’t even give a crap about it. ¬†He just couldn’t believe that his son was capable of this because he was a loser. ¬†Sure, he still grounded him for trashing his car but not the fact that the whole f’ing house was destroyed? That is THE WORST parent talk ever. *Spoiler END*

What the message that I’m getting is that: ¬†Its okay to break the rules, trash the house, throw a gigiantic party and do a ton of stupid stuff and get held on charges as long as you come back to school and get the girl and all the popularity (that will probably fade after you graduate). ¬†Is it really worth it?

Man, I’m starting to think I am old.

For the record, the only reason, at any age for me to even THINK about standing on my roof (forget jumping off it) is if there is a fire or I’m checking the shingles are good.

Anyways, suffice to say that I don’t think kids these days need this sort of movie as encouragement to party hard. ¬†They can do it all on their own and to say that its okay for short-lived popularity, thats even worse.

Women in Trouble (2009)

women in trouble

Director: Sebastian Gutierrez

Cast: Carla Gugino, Adrianne Palicki, Connie Britton, Caitlin Keats, Isabella Gutierrez, Simon Baker, Sarah Clarke, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Josh Brolin

A serpentine day in the life of ten seemingly disparate women: a porn star, a flight attendant, a psychiatrist, a masseuse, a bartender, a pair of call girls, etc. All of them with one crucial thing in common. Trouble.- IMDB

To say I hated this movie is going a bit far. I just thought it was really boring. ¬†I mean, I don’t find movies boring. ¬†I rarely do. ¬†I always manage to find that one thing that makes it good. ¬†I sat through this in hopes that something would happen that made it good. ¬†You know, the satisfying ending or something like that. ¬†Before I knew it, there was only 15 minutes left in the movie and all I saw was 10 half-done stories of women that weren’t even actually 10 stories because some just vanished into thin air with nothing. ¬†This is supposed to be a comedy and I rarely laughed, except for the final bit where Joseph Gordon-Levitt was on. ¬†Even Simon Baker was not good enough to make me like this (mostly because his character wasn’t extremely likable).

There really is nothing much to say about this because nothing actually happens. ¬†I’m leaving with that right there.

Oh right, and I believe there is a sequel for this following Carla Gugino’s character, a porn actress who gets pregnant and the development of the other women in the movie. ¬†Its on Netflix also and I’m thinking since they used this entire movie to do nothing and just set the stage, maybe the next one might get somewhere? I don’t know anymore. ¬†I put it on my list but maybe I’ll never get around to seeing it. The only reason I’d watch the continuation is to see if this second one gives some closure and substance to these characters.

Either way, I don’t recommend Project X unless you like that sort of party movie. ¬†I apparently have no interest in it whatsoever, not when I was a teen, not in university and definitely not now. As for Women in Trouble, it could’ve been more but it didn’t do anything with it and just turned out to be a waste of time because there was no development of any sort.

Now that we have the bad part done…I have some pretty awesome movies to talk about for the next few reviews over the next few days! ūüôā

Excited? I know I am! For one, I’m pretty sure I just fell completely in love with an actor. ¬†I knew he was good but man, this guy is just wow right now. ¬†If you want to know who it is, drop by again ūüėČ