Archive for Scarlett Johansson

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Superhero Films with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 1, 2015 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In the Eastern European country of Sokovia, the Avengers – Tony Stark, Steve Rogers, Thor, Bruce Banner, Natasha Romanoff, and Clint Barton – raid a Hydra outpost led by Baron Wolfgang von Strucker, who has been experimenting on humans using the scepter previously wielded by Loki. They encounter two of Strucker’s experiments – twins Pietro, who has superhuman speed, and Wanda Maximoff, who can manipulate minds and throw energy blasts – and apprehend Strucker, while Stark retrieves Loki’s scepter.

Stark and Banner discover an artificial intelligence within the scepter’s gem, and secretly use it to complete Stark’s “Ultron” global defense program. The unexpectedly sentient Ultron, believing he must eradicate humanity to save Earth, eliminates Stark’s A.I. J.A.R.V.I.S. and attacks the Avengers during a victory party at their headquarters. Escaping with the scepter, Ultron uses the resources in Strucker’s Sokovia base to upgrade his rudimentary body and build an army of robot drones. He recruits the Maximoff twins, who want revenge against Stark for their parents’ deaths from his company’s weapons. Together, they visit the base of arms dealer Ulysses Klaue in an African shipyard to obtain vibranium. The Avengers battle them, but Wanda subdues the heroes with haunting visions, causing the Hulk to run amok and forcing Stark to use his powerful “Veronica” armor to stop him.

A worldwide backlash over the resulting destruction, and the fears Wanda’s hallucinations incited, send the team into hiding at Barton’s safehouse farm, where they meet his wife, Laura, and children. Thor departs to consult with Dr. Erik Selvig on the meaning of the apocalyptic future he saw in his hallucination. Realizing an attraction between them, Romanoff and Banner plan to flee together after fighting Ultron. Nick Fury arrives and encourages the team to form a plan to stop Ultron. In Seoul, South Korea, Ultron forces Banner’s friend Dr. Helen Cho to use her synthetic tissue technology, vibranium, and the scepter’s gem to create the perfect body for him. When Ultron begins uploading himself into the body, Wanda is able to read his mind; discovering his plan for human extinction, the Maximoffs turn on Ultron. Rogers, Romanoff, and Barton hunt Ultron and retrieve the synthetic body, but Ultron captures Romanoff.

The Avengers fight amongst themselves when Stark secretly uploads J.A.R.V.I.S. – who is still operational after hiding from Ultron inside the Internet – into the synthetic body. Thor returns to help activate the body with lightning, explaining that the gem on its brow – the Mind Stone, one of the six Infinity Stones and one of the most powerful objects in existence – was part of his vision. The synthetic being, now referred to as the Vision, and the Maximoffs accompany the Avengers to Sokovia, where Ultron has used the remaining vibranium to build a machine that lifts a large part of the city skyward, intending to crash it into the ground and cause global extinction. As the city begins to lift, Banner rescues Romanoff, who awakens the Hulk for the battle. The Avengers fight Ultron’s army while delaying Ultron from activating his plan’s final procedure. Fury arrives in a Helicarrier with Maria Hill, James Rhodes, and S.H.I.E.L.D. agents to assist in evacuating civilians, but Pietro dies when he shields Barton from a barrage of fire. A grieving Wanda abandons her post to destroy Ultron’s primary body in revenge, inadvertently allowing one of his drones to activate the machine. The landmass plummets, but Stark and Thor overload the machine and shatter the city into pieces. In the aftermath, the Hulk, unwilling to endanger Romanoff by being with her, departs in a Quinjet, while the Vision confronts Ultron’s last remaining body.

Later, the Avengers have established a new base in upstate New York, run by Fury, Hill, Cho, and Selvig. Believing the Mind Stone is safe with the Vision, Thor returns to Asgard to learn more about the forces he suspects have manipulated recent events. As Stark and Barton also retire from the team, Rogers and Romanoff prepare to train new Avengers: Rhodes, Wanda, the Vision, and Sam Wilson.

In a mid-credits scene, Thanos retrieves the Infinity Gauntlet and, dissatisfied with the failures of his pawns, vows to hunt for the Infinity Stones personally

REVIEW:

The film the world has been holding its breath for since its predecessor’s credits started rolling has arrived! Avengers: Age of Ultron is sure to make a ton of bank, but how is the film, really? Is it worth watching, or are people just enamored with the grouping of all these superheroes on the screen? Let’s find out, shall we?

What is this about?

Returning to action to stem another lethal threat to planet Earth, the cadre of superheroes from the original Avengers takes on the evil and all-powerful Ultron, who’s determined to stamp out humankind.

What did I like?

Teamwork. If you will recall from The Avengers, they didn’t really become a team until the end, as that served as more of an origin story…one that had been building for years. Well, since the first film ended, they have apparently formed a more cohesive way of handling things and work as smooth as a basketball team. It is a thing of beauty to see them in action. It really is like seeing the comic brought to life.

Skynet. Ok, let’s get right down to it. What did I think of Ultron? Well, he is menacing to see and in today’s society that is almost 100% reliant on technology, he is one of the best villains around. James Spader’s voice, which I initially questioned when it was announced, actually works for him, though I believe the guy that voiced him in Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes would have done a better job, at least with the soulless, menacing part. I do have some issues with Ultron, but they are more related to changes in his origin (for those not in the know…he was actually built by Ant-Man as a security robot and then went psycho) and his jovial nature. I don’t have an issue with his being more of a jolly fellow, but a slow descent into madness would have benefitted his character greatly, not to mention Spader’s voice would have helped sell it. All in all, though, I was pretty pleased with Ultron as satisfied with him as the film’s main villain.

Scarlett. There was a time when it was believed that Thor could never work properly on the big screen. We were wrong. There was a time when we though Captain America would never work on the big screen. We were wrong. There was a time when it was believed that the X-Men and/or the Avengers on the big screen would never happen. We were wrong. There was a time when it was thought that Scarlett Witch’s powers were too weird and mysterious to work on the big screen. We were wrong. I think they did an excellent job with her hex powers. Elizabeth Olson is a great actress and I am looking forward to seeing what else she does with the character going forward. One thing I do take issue with, though, is where is her horned head thing that she wears? HAHA!

Hulk and Hawkeye. Bruce Banner/The Hulk actually gets a bit more character development this go around. There are hints of a romantic relationship with Black Widow, you can see the torment that Banner deals with knowing the big guy is lurking, and even with the Hulk, you can see things going on his head. I appreciate that. With Hawkeye, in the first 5 minutes, we get more of him than we did in the entire last film. In the climactic battle, he was cracking jokes and shooting arrows. It felt like Hawkeye! No to mention they changed his costume. Now, just give him the hood/mask and we will have achieved perfection.

The return. I geeked out when the Helicarrier took off in the first film. It was comic geek’s dream to see that come to life. In this film, it came back and I was nearly in tears! Such an awesome piece of machinery, how dare they keep it “in storage”, as Nick Fury says. Hopefully we’ll get more of it and other fantastic machines soon.

What didn’t I like?

Baron von Strucker. Baron von Strucker appeared in a post credits scene at the end of Captain America: The Winter Soldier stating something about experimenting on humans or something, but we also got our first look at the twins (who should be mutants, but because Marvel and Fox are fighting like a couple of middle schoolers, they had to work around that). At any rate, this seems like it should have been a plot for a whole film itself or, at the very least, a few episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. What we get instead is the beginning of what feels like something big, only to be ended by Ultron. I almost think that was symbolic of what the film was going to be and what it ended up being. Still, Strucker is a major villain, especially of Captain America. Didn’t he have deserved better?

Vision. Vision is one of the best characters in the Marvel Universe. He is nearly indestructible, has a vast intelligence, and is always adapting. Do I need to mention that he can phase shift at will, meaning that if you try to hit him, at just the right moment he can shift his density so that you go right through him. Sounds awesome, doesn’t he? I think we will get the full awesomeness in future films, but for now, I have to concentrate on the negative. First, the change in origin to make him and Jarvis one. I get the logic behind this, but I don’t think Paul Bettany was the right choice, after all. Maybe it is the paint, but there was just something that I can’t quite put my finger on that I don’t like. Bettany is a competent actor, and I think he was able to pull of the naïve, but highly intelligent aspects of Vision, but something just doesn’t sit right with me about this character. Maybe when I watch the film again, or when I hit publish on this post, it’ll come to me.

Tease. Anyone familiar with the Marvel Universe knows that vibranium comes strictly from Wakkanda. If you know anything about Wakkanda, then you of course know that it is a land ruled by the Black Panther, who will be making his debut in Captain America: Civil War about this time next year. So, what is my problem with all this? Well, Ultron and the Avengers go down to Wakkanda, meet this villain Ulysses Klaue, get some vibranium, fight, Hulk goes on a rampage, and leave. Black Panther is not only a superhero but also king of Wakkanda. Stolen vibranium and 8ft tall rampaging monster are sure to bring about you awareness. This would have been the perfect opportunity to sow the seeds for Panther, if nothing else than a mention, but alas, we didn’t get it.

Blockbuster. I hate to keep comparing this to its predecessor, but it has to be done. The last film was an event. It had action, story, comedy, character development…everything you can ask for in a film. This time around, everything is here, just not as well executed. The feeling I get from this is more akin to that of a Michael Bay film. Lots of action to cover up other weaknesses. This is not the kind of film that necessarily needs a deep story, but it does need something to set up the action and not just jump in. We’re getting to the point now that more is expected and I’m not sure this formula will work in round 3.

Some really good things are on the horizon in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Avengers: Age of Ultron just showed us that we ain’t seen nothin’ yet! Bringing in new blood with the old guys as a way to keep things fresh, though I still could care less about Don Cheadle as War Machine. As far as this film goes, it is a really fun film, albeit slightly darker than its predecessor. It has its flaws, but those are outnumbered by the positives. I will be counting down the years/months/days until the next Avengers, but in the meantime the focus is on the forthcoming Ant-Man to start the next phase in the MCU. So, do I recommend this? Let me put it this way, I will be in line at the store waiting for the boxes of DVD/Blu-rays to be delivered when this is released. So, hell yeah I recommend it! Why are you even reading this, go watch it right now!!!

5 out of 5 stars

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Chef

Posted in Comedy, Drama, Independent, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 20, 2015 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Miami-born Carl Casper is the head chef of Gauloise in Brentwood, California. While popular with his kitchen staff and hostess Molly, the restaurant owner Riva wants Carl to stick to tired “classics” rather than innovative dishes. Carl has a strained relationship with his tech-savvy preteen son Percy and ex-wife Inez.

When Carl has a chance to prove his talents during a visit from prestigious critic and blogger Ramsey Michel, Riva demands that he stick with old favorites at the last minute, causing Carl to concede, leading to a scathing review. On Twitter, Carl insults Ramsey, not realizing that his reply is public, and gains a large Twitter following. Carl comes up with an inspirational new menu that his staff loves and invites Ramsey to a “rematch”. After a confrontation with Riva, Carl walks out, quitting. At home, he prepares the menu he wanted to serve to Ramsey, goes to the restaurant, and angrily berates Ramsey.

Videos featuring Carl’s meltdown go viral, and his professional credibility evaporates. Molly and Inez encourage him to run a food truck. He accepts Inez’s invitation to Miami, where he spends some quality time with Percy and rediscovers his love for Cuban cuisine. Inez’s ex-husband Marvin offers him a dilapidated food truck, and Carl reluctantly accepts. He and Percy bond while restoring the truck and buying groceries and Carl buys him a chef’s knife. Martin, his friend from Gauloise, turns down his restaurant promotion to work with Carl, who has become an exuberant and passionate chef again.

The three drive the food truck across the country back to Los Angeles, serving top-quality Cuban sandwiches and yuca fries. Percy finds ways to promote the food truck on social media websites, and the truck becomes successful in New Orleans and Austin, Texas, where the daily specials include items made with local ingredients such as po’ boys and barbecued brisket.

Back in Los Angeles, Carl realizes the importance of his relationship with his son and accepts Percy’s enthusiastic offer to help out on weekends and holidays. Ramsey visits the truck to explain that he wrote the bad review as he knew Carl’s creativity did not suit a restaurant which had been serving the same menu for years. He leaves with an offer to bankroll a new restaurant. In a flashforward set six months later, the new restaurant is a hit and closed for a private event: Carl and Inez remarry.

REVIEW:

Whenever I would go downtown to visit my ex at work for lunch, there would be food trucks all over the place. To this day, I still haven’t tried any food truck food, but maybe one day. Chef may have inspired that decision.

What is this about?

When chef Carl Casper’s plans for opening a restaurant in Los Angeles fail to pan out, he returns home to Miami and debuts a food truck instead.

What did I like?

Know where you came from. For those that don’t remember, before Jon Favreau directed big blockbusters like Iron Man, Iron Man 2, and Cowboys & Aliens (which apparently was bad enough to have him contemplate quitting the business), he directed small, indie films. Remember Swingers? Sometimes, you can get too big for your britches and need to go back to basics in order to find that passion again. In some respects, you can say that this film is an allegory for Favreau’s career, because his character does just that, return to his roots and work up from there.

Tight leash. This film does something that so many other projects have failed to do and that is give us a kid that isn’t an annoying brat (even more impressive given that he lives with his apparently well-off mother) and give Sofia Vergara a character that isn’t a stereotype. The kid just wants to spend time with his dad, but unlike other children in film, he doesn’t scheme to ruin him in order to do it, he’s just patient about things. With Vergara, she still has her super thick accent, wears clothes that are a very tight, but she gives perhaps the best performance I’ve seen from her. All it took was for her to bring it down a couple of notches. Simple is better, people!

Food porn. Ever watch Food Network, or even just a commercial where food is being cooked and it looks so good that you want to just reach right through the screen and taste it? That is what this film does, especially in the first half. Favreau’s character cooks up all types of good stuff and it made my pidddly little dinner seem like bread and water in comparison. If you’re a foodie, you’ll eat this stuff up!

What didn’t I like?

With imagination. Changing the menu up doesn’t hurt anyone. On the one hand, if it succeeds, you’re looked at as a genius. If it flops, at least you tried something new and the customers will appreciate that. Even fast food changes their menu up once in awhile! Dustin Hoffman apparently didn’t get the memo, though, and on both night that the food critic comes in, he insists on serving the same boring food. A little imagination, rather than stubbornness, and maybe there would have been a glowing review, but I guess we’ll never know, now will we?

Scarlett. Arguably one of the most beautiful women in the world, Scarlett Johansson was very average looking in this film. Why? I can’t tell you. Maybe it was the bangs? The dark hair? No make-up? A combination of all of the above, but she wasn’t her normal hot self. Given that her character is a hostess of some sort, I would think she would still be some level of attractive. I’ve seen hostesses in restaurants that put glamour models to shame! Maybe if Scarlett used her look from Don Jon it would have been better? HA!

Twitter. No, I still have not joined Twitter. I’ve come close a few times, and then I realize no one would want to follow me, so I say “screw it!” This film however must have had some backing from Twitter because, once it is introduced, we don’t stop hearing about tweets, vines, and whatever else it is that people do over there. Realizing that this is how people get information out these days, I can appreciate the use of the service. However, I don’t think it needed to be shoved down our throats.

Many people were raving about Chef when it premiered at SXSW last year, and then when it had a major release. After watching tonight, I can see why. Favreau definitely has his groove back as a director. This is a film filled with comedy, drama, and food. I warn you now…DO NOT WATCH THIS ON AN EMPTY STOMACH!!! All in all, I had a good time watching and it isn’t hard to see why so many had this as one of their top films of the year. Do I recommend it? Yes, this is one of those film you must see before you die!

5 out of 5 stars

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Superhero Films with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 5, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Two years after the events of The Avengers, Steve Rogers lives in Washington, D.C., continues to work for the espionage agency S.H.I.E.L.D., and struggles to adapt to contemporary society. After meeting and befriending former Pararescue war veteran and PTSD counselor Sam Wilson on a morning jog, Rogers is called to help save a S.H.I.E.L.D. vessel from Algerian pirates led by Georges Batroc. Aboard, he discovers fellow agent Natasha Romanoff extracting data from the ship’s computers, something Rogers was not briefed on. At S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters, Nick Fury introduces Rogers to Project Insight; three Helicarriers linked to spy satellites and designed to preemptively eliminate threats.

Due to heightened encryption, Fury is unable to access the data Romanoff recovered. On his way to rendezvous with Maria Hill, he is ambushed by assailants disguised as police officers, led by a mysterious assassin called the Winter Soldier. Fury escapes, sneaks into Rogers’ apartment, and informs Rogers that S.H.I.E.L.D. has been compromised. After Fury hands Rogers the USB flash drive with the data from the ship, he is gunned down by the Winter Soldier. Rogers gives chase, and his neighbor reveals herself as S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Agent 13. Fury appears to die in surgery, and Hill recovers the body.

The next day, Rogers is summoned by senior S.H.I.E.L.D. official Alexander Pierce. When Rogers withholds Fury’s information, Pierce brands him a fugitive. Hunted by the agency, Rogers meets with Romanoff. Using data in the flash drive they discover an old S.H.I.E.L.D. underground base in New Jersey. There, they activate a supercomputer containing the preserved consciousness of Arnim Zola, who reveals that since S.H.I.E.L.D. was founded after World War II, HYDRA secretly operated within its ranks, sowing chaos across the world in the hope that humanity would willingly surrender its freedom in exchange for safety. Rogers and Romanoff narrowly escape death when a S.H.I.E.L.D. missile destroys the bunker.

They enlist the help of Wilson, and acquire his old “Falcon” winged-flight exoskeleton. After deducing that senior S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Jasper Sitwell is with HYDRA, they interrogate him until he reveals Zola developed a data-mining algorithm that can identify individuals who might become future opponents to HYDRA’s plans. The new helicarriers will sweep the country, eliminating these individuals with their satellite-guided guns.

En route to S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters, they are ambushed by the Winter Soldier. In the fight, Winter Soldier loses his mask and Rogers recognizes him as Bucky, his old World War II comrade. They are captured by S.H.I.E.L.D. but are rescued by a disguised Hill. She leads them to a hideout where they discover Fury is alive and planning a mission to prevent Pierce from launching Project Insight by replacing a chip within each Helicarrier to override their satellite control.

After members of the World Security Council arrive for the Helicarriers’ launch, Pierce holds them hostage and reveals HYDRA’s true motives. Rogers and Wilson storm two Helicarriers and replace the controllers, but the Winter Soldier destroys Wilson’s suit and confronts Rogers at the third. They fight, with Rogers trying to revive Bucky’s memories. Meanwhile, Fury and Romanoff confront Pierce and force him to unlock access to S.H.I.E.L.D’s database so Romanoff can expose HYDRA’s motives to the public by leaking classified information. After a brief conflict, Fury shoots Pierce dead. Aboard the third Helicarrier, a wounded Rogers replaces the final controller, allowing Hill to override the satellite operation and have all three vessels destroy one another. The Helicarrier carrying Rogers and the Winter Soldier crashes into the side of the Triskelion, where Wilson battles compromised agent Rumlow, who had earlier tried to capture Rogers.

Rogers falls off the vessel into the river. Slowly remembering his past, the Winter Soldier pulls Rogers from the water before disappearing. With S.H.I.E.L.D. in disarray, Fury destroys the last traces of his identity before heading to Europe in pursuit of HYDRA’s remaining cells under the cover of his apparent death. Romanoff appears before a Senate subcommittee and later gives Rogers a dossier on the Winter Soldier program. Both Rogers and Wilson decide to track down the Winter Soldier.

A mid-credits scene takes place in a HYDRA lab, where Baron von Strucker is keeping Loki’s scepter and two prisoners: one with superhuman speed, the other with telekinetic powers. In a post-credits scene, the Winter Soldier visits the Captain America exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution to learn of his past.

REVIEW:

The day has finally arrived, my most anticipated film of 2014, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, has arrived…and with great fanfare! I loved Captain America: The First Avenger, partially because of the era in which it was set in and partly because it was just an entertaining film. I’ve been wondering how this would be able to follow that up, especially with it being in modern times.

What is this about?

Extending the saga of Marvel’s The Avengers, this superhero sequel finds Steve Rogers living quietly in Washington but growing increasingly restless. So when a deadly new foe surfaces, he transforms into Captain America and allies with Black Widow.

What did I like?

Bucking the trend. Have you noticed with most of the superhero films of late that the heroes have been doing all they can to not be the heroes they are anymore? Batman, Iron Man, Kick-Ass, Hellboy, Green Lantern, and most recently Superman have had this identity crisis. Thor seems to be the only one immune, but he has his own other issues to deal with. With Captain America, a guy who went through hell and back just to try to be able to enlist in the Army, being a super soldier is his dream. Cap’s issue is that his ideals don’t fit in with today’s world. As someone who is often told they belong in another time, I relate. Thank goodness, the writers were smart enough to realize that Captain America is above self-doubt, although he does have his doubts about the organization he works for.

Action. Man, oh man! The action we’ve all be clamoring for in these comic book films we finally get in this one. Captain America kicks all sorts of ass, and in different ways. In the first fight he has with Batroc the Leaper, played by MMA fighter Georges St. Pierre, we see Cap utilize some brawling, boxing, kickboxing, parkour, and martial arts moves. That is nothing compared to the elevator scene, the car chase involving Nick Fury, or the many other fights, chases, and other actions scenes that we get throughout the film.

True to character. Regardless of what you may think of these directors, who are best known for directing episodes of Community, you can’t deny that their devotion to this character paid off. Yes, this is a darker film than the previous film, but not so much that it changes who the character is. The Dark Knight was a game changer for superhero films (and is still highly overrated), yes, but it should not be the gold standard by which all comic book movies are held. As the Marvel films have proven, it is possible to be true to the character, tell a great story, and have some fun along the way. As proven with Man of Steel, DC hasn’t figured this out yet, and the one time they did, Green Lantern, they just didn’t have a good enough story. Back to my point, Captain America is not some dark, brooding anti-hero. He is a soldier, not a boy scout, but from a different time, and because of this, he needs to be written with that in mind, a tidbit that lends itself to some light moments, such as Black Widow spending the whole film trying to find him a date (not really sure why she wasn’t available).

Falcon. Introducing new characters can be a good or bad thing, especially when that character is one that had they adhered strictly to the original comic design is…well, it just wouldn’t have worked. I have to hand it to Anthony Mackie, he brought it as a sort of comic relief to the more stoic and serious Captain America, but more importantly, the revamped backstory he was given worked. A paratrooper that was given these experimental wings and he was able to fight as he said, “…same as Cap…only slower.”

Nefarious. I have to say, this plot that HYDRA comes up with is about as evil as one can be. I’m not going to explain all the intricate details, just know that the return of Dr. Zola (sort of in the form that he is known for in the comics) leads to the audience getting the full scoop on what the plan is. The short version is that the evil organization, HYDRA has infiltrated and taken over S.H.I.E.L.D. and is now planning on using three satellite controlled helicarriers armed to the teeth to destroy anyone that doesn’t fit their ideal mold for what they think is the superior man. Sound familiar? Well, they were created under the Nazi regime by the Red Skull, remember? Maybe I’ve played too much Assassin’s Creed, but these guys sound a little bit like Templars, too.

What didn’t I like?

Theme. Alan Silvestri did not return to compose the score for this film due to other commitments. His replacement doesn’t really do it for me, but I’m not sure that’s his fault. You see, in the original film, Captain America is given a very heroic theme song, and it could very well have worked with the film. They do use it in the opening scene when Cap is jogging and passing the man who would become Falcon. For me, the music works, but I feel there were moments when the heroic “Captain America March” would have serves much better than the current score, which doesn’t deliver until the credits roll.

She’s back? When they announced the initial casting for this film, Hayley Atwell’s Peggy Carter wasn’t said to be returning. I won’t spoil anything about her return except saying that it is a bittersweet. On one hand, she is one of the few friends Cap has and may very well be his only friend from the old days. On the other hand, there is a disease that afflicts her that breaks you heart when you see it happen to her. At least they didn’t go the Captain America route and kill her so they can replace her with her niece, who actually plays a somewhat major role in this film (and perhaps the future?)

Winter Soldier. The supposed primary antagonist isn’t given much screentime. At least not enough to justify getting such heavy billing. This is really a shame, as Winter Soldier is a great character. The storyline in which he is introduced has been considered one of the greatest in comics, and yet the film doesn’t allow him to develop into more than the brainwashed shell of a man that he is, while seemingly focusing entirely on Robert Redford’s character. I would’ve liked a different mixture amongst the antagonists and more fights between Cap and Winter Soldier. They do seem to be evenly matched, after all.

I have yet to read a bad review or hear any negative press about Captain America: The Winter Soldier, except for one article that was Yahoo earlier this week, but that guy came off sounding as more of a hater than anything else. This is one of those few films that manages to live up to the hype. While this may be a superhero film, it also is a sophisticated action spy thriller, but with bits of comedy thrown in there for good measure. This has set the bar pretty high for the rest of the films to be released this year (I’m looking at you X-Men: Days of Future Past and Guardians of the Galaxy), but what a ride it was. I can’t wait to watch it again and hope you rush out and check it out. This is not a film you should be waiting around for it to be released on DVD, so quit reading my random musings and go see it now!

On a side note…look for a certain homage to another Samuel L. Jackson character near the end of the film.

5 out of 5 stars

The Black Dahlia

Posted in Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on February 16, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In Los Angeles, on January 15, 1947, LAPD officers Dwight ‘Bucky’ Bleichert (Josh Hartnett) and Lee Blanchard (Aaron Eckhart), investigate the murder and dismemberment of Elizabeth Short (Mia Kirshner), soon dubbed ‘The Black Dahlia’ by the press.

Bucky learns that Elizabeth was an aspiring actress who appeared in a pornographic film. Through his investigation, Bucky learns that Elizabeth liked to hang out with lesbians. He goes to a lesbian nightclub and meets Madeleine Linscott (Hilary Swank), who looks very much like Elizabeth. Madeleine, who comes from a prominent family, tells Bucky that she was ‘very close’ with Elizabeth, but also asks him to keep her name out of the papers. In exchange for his silence, she promises him sexual favors. Continuing his relationship with Madeleine, Bucky meets her wealthy parents, Emmett (John Kavanagh) and Ramona (Fiona Shaw).

Bucky’s partner, Lee, also becomes obsessed with Elizabeth’s murder. Lee’s obsession leads him to become erratic and abusive towards his longtime girlfriend Kay Lake (Scarlett Johansson), who is also one of Bucky’s close friends. After Lee and Bucky have a nasty argument about a previous case, Bucky goes to Lee and Kay’s to apologize, only to learn from Kay that Lee was responding to a tip about a recently released convict, Bobby DeWitt. Bucky goes to the location and gets into an altercation with DeWitt in the atrium of the building. DeWitt is gunned down by Lee, standing on the stairs across the atrium. Bucky sees a man sneak up behind Lee, wrapping a rope around Lee’s neck. Lee fights back while Bucky, paralyzed with shock, watches from across the atrium as a second shadowy figure steps out and slits Lee’s throat. Lee and the man holding the rope fall over the railing to their deaths several floors below.

Dealing with the grief of losing Lee propels Bucky and Kay into a sexual encounter. The next morning Bucky finds money from a bank robbery hidden in Lee/Kay’s bathroom. Kay reveals that she had been DeWitt’s girlfriend, that DeWitt had mistreated her, and that DeWitt had done the bank robbery. Lee had rescued Kay and stolen DeWitt’s bank robbery money. Lee needed to kill DeWitt now that he was out of prison—leading to the encounter that resulted in Lee’s death. Bucky leaves, furious with Lee and Kay for their actions and lies. He returns to Madeleine’s family mansion and continues his intense relationship with her.

Watching an old movie one night, Bucky notices that a bedroom scene matches the set in Elizabeth’s pornographic. The credits at the end of the film includes the statement “Special Thanks to Emmett Linscott”, Madeleine’s father. Lee’s search for answers leads him to an incomplete housing project that Madeleine’s father had started just below the Hollywoodland sign. In one of the empty houses, Bucky recognizes the set that was used to film Elizabeth’s pornographic movie. In a barn on the property, Bucky finds where Elizabeth was killed and her body butchered, as well as a drawing of a man with a Glasgow smile. The drawing resembles a painting in Madeleine’s family home, and matches the disfiguring smile carved into Elizabeth’s face during her murder.

Bucky confronts Madeleine and her father in their home, accusing them of murdering Elizabeth. Madeleine’s mother reveals that she was the one to kill Elizabeth, who looked so much like Madeleine. She confesses first that Madeleine was not fathered by Emmett but rather by his best friend, George. She further reveals that George had been on set when Elizabeth’s pornographic film was made, becoming infatuated with her. Finally, she felt that Elizabeth looked too much like Madeleine, was bothered that George was going to have sex with someone who looked like his own daughter, and decided to kill Elizabeth first. Upon finishing her confession, Ramona kills herself.

A few days later, remembering something Lee had said during the investigation, Bucky visits Madeleine’s sister with some questions. He learns that Lee knew about the lesbian relationship between Madeleine and Elizabeth and was blackmailing Madeleine’s father to keep it secret. Bucky finds Madeleine at a seedy motel, and she admits to being the shadowy figure that slit Lee’s throat. Although she insists that Bucky wants to have sex with her rather than kill her, he tells her she is wrong and shoots her dead.

Bucky later goes to Kay’s house. Kay tells him to come in and closes the door as the film ends

REVIEW:

I was asked the other day to offer up my thoughts on The Black Dahlia based on my love of the 40s and film noir. Modern filmmaking and a period piece are sure to be right up my alley, but what would everyone else think about this? Reading some of the reviews, critics weren’t exactly favorable of it. What say we delve into the mystery, shall we?

What is this about it?

Two Los Angeles cops uncover corruption and conspiracy within the force while searching for the killer of a Tinseltown hopeful. To crack the high-profile case, they venture into Hollywood’s darker side to piece together the actress’s secret life.

What did I like?

Visuals. It may seem that it is a given that I ma going to like any period piece set in the 40s, but that just isn’t true. Having said that, this film manages to capture everything we all know and love about the glamorous 40s, from the cars, outfits, big band jazz to the criminal underground and seedy underbelly. The only thing missing was the post-Depression/war feel that made this era. Brian De Palma has an eye for such things and gives us a feast for the eyes.

Dahlia. Like the critics, I was blown away with Mia Kershner’s performance as Elizabeth Short, the Black Dahlia. From what I know of this case, Short was along the lines of what we label as emo these days, very miserable and depressed. Kershner captures those emotions while also portraying an actress who was obviously troubled. It was either a masterpiece of a performance or disturbing in how much she channeled Short.

Out with a smile. Again, I am going to heap some praise on director Brian de Palma, at least for his decision to insert clips of the great film The Man Who Laughs here and there. Why is this relevant? Well, Elizabeth Short’s body was found with a Glasgow smile carved into her face. What is that? Best way to explain it is the same kind of smile as Cheshire cat or an even better example would be The Joker. So, the decision to show clips of this film are relevant because it is said that the main character is the inspiration for the Joker in the comics, who also has a Glasgow smile (although he wasn’t dead).

What didn’t I like?

Huh? Like most film noirs, this film was a bit hard to follow. One minute it was here, then next there, then back again, then jumped to something completely different. Oy! It was confusing, and it didn’t help that I was half asleep before the film began! The film is very well made, don’t get me wrong, it just could use a more audience friendly approach to telling the narrative.

Removable objects. I find it strange that the primary subject matter of the film can actually be removed and not effect this film in the slightest. I believe that is a mistake by de Palma. There should be more emphasis placed on the Dahlia and not so much on the sexual escapades of the leads. I really could have done without all that, personally, even if it did feature Scarlett Johansson.

Score. Normally, I’m one of the first to praise the musical score, but this time, I felt it got in the way. There was music in just about every single scene, and it wasn’t really necessary. For an extremely, shall we say vocal, film as this the music was more of a nuisance in places, rather than a help. It really took away from the film and dampened the impact of some key moments, when it should have accentuated said scenes. That being said, I did enjoy Mark Isham’s score, it just needed to be pulled back a little.

The Black Dahlia suffers from a talented, yet overambitious director trying to shove too much down the audience’s throats. Had this film cut back on a few things and brought the actual murder mystery to the forefront, this probably would have been better received. That being said, I didn’t find it as bad as the critics. Do I recommend it? Not really, unless you’re into this particular case or film noir. This is just not the kind of film for the general public, so it might be best if you just pass it on by.

3 3/4 out of 5 stars

Don Jon

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews, Romantic with tags , , , , , , on February 9, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Italian American Jon Martello is a modern day Don Juan, with a short list of things he cares about: “my body, my pad, my ride, my family, my church, my boys, my girls, my porn”. He has an active sex life, but is more satisfied by pornography.

On a night out with his two best friends, Jon sees Barbara Sugarman (Johansson), and although she finds him interesting he fails to pick her up for a one-night stand. He finds her on Facebook, and asks her to lunch. The attraction is mutual, but Barbara insists on a traditional long-term courtship, which proceeds for over a month without sex. She encourages him to take night classes to get an office job outside the service industry, and Jon indulges her love for romance movies, which he usually dismisses as unrealistic fantasy. They meet each other’s families and Jon’s parents immediately love her.

Finally, the two have sex, but Jon is still dissatisfied. He admits the sex was decent and her body was perfect, but still felt something was missing. He gets up, while Barbara sleeps, to watch pornography. Barbara catches him and is shocked that he would do such a thing. Jon denies that he watches pornography and claims it was a sick joke emailed to him by a friend.

Their relationship resumes, with Jon continuing to watch pornography, but doing so primarily outside his apartment, where Barbara is often around. He is caught watching a video on his cell phone before a class by Esther (Moore), a middle-aged woman who attempts to apologize for an earlier awkward incident in which Jon encountered her weeping by herself at the college. Jon politely brushes her off. Barbara continues to assert control over him, insisting that cleaning his own apartment—a task Jon finds personally satisfying—is not manly. One night she looks at the browser history on his computer, confronts him with proof that he has been continuing to compulsively watch pornography, and ends their relationship.

Jon tries to return to his old lifestyle, but it’s not the same. Esther continues to reach out to Jon, trying to offer him the benefit of her experience. She reveals to Jon that the reason why he doesn’t seem to have the same fun he has watching pornography while having sex, is because pornography is a one-sided affair, and if he wants to have sex that’s better than pornography, he has to be willing to lose himself to another person, and she has to be willing to lose herself to him, calling it “a two-way street.” She lends him an erotic video that she believes has a more realistic depiction of sexual relations. He responds by initiating a sexual encounter in her parked car. She persuades him to try masturbating without pornography, but he is unable to. She invites him to her home, where she reveals that her husband and son had died in a car crash 14 months before. She counsels him further about the need for sex to be a mutual experience, and with her, Jon finally has an emotional connection sex that doesn’t leave him restless to watch pornography.

Jon’s weekly confessional tallying his one-night stands and pornography sessions is replaced by one in which he proudly reports abstinence from pornography and just the one instance of fornication, which he describes as being more like making love. He tells his parents about the break-up with Barbara, and they are devastated. His sister breaks her silence, saying that Barbara never cared about Jon, and was using him to live out her romance movie fantasy.

Jon asks to meet with Barbara and apologizes for lying to her about the pornography. Barbara says she asked one thing of him, and he failed. Jon replies she asked many things of him, and just couldn’t keep up with her expectations. She says goodbye, and tells him to never contact her again.

Jon takes Esther as his girlfriend, and even though neither has any interest in getting married anytime soon, and denies he is love, but believes he really understands her and they can get emotionally lost in each other.

REVIEW:

Well, it would seem that this weekend is dedicated to first time directors. Earlier this week, I watched Sidney Poitier’s directorial debut, Buck and the Preacher and tonight I have the chance to watch Lake Bell’s debut with In a World… Now, it is time for Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s debut, Don Jon. I really have some high hopes for this film, but I am also a bit reticent because I honestly don’t remember anyone showering this with praise and accolades.

What is this about?

Jon Martello’s romantic exploits are legendary among his friends, but his obsession with online porn saps his enthusiasm for real sex. As he searches for intimacy — or avoids it — Jon meets two women with vital lessons to teach him.

What did I like?

Scarlett. Guys, as hot as well think and know Scarlett Johansson is, that is nothing compared to the level she achieves in this picture. Her hotness level is ratcheted up x10! There is a scene with her and Gordon-Levitt grinding against a door that is sure to have you squirming in your seat or running to take a cold shower. On top of that, she gives a pretty decent performance as a Jersey girl type.

Movies. Johansson’s character has a thing for romantic comedies, while Levitt is all about the porn. Seems like they would be the worst couple possible, right? I won’t spoil that, but there is a scene when they have a fight and it is brought up how romantic comedies are more or less porn for women. If you really think about it, that’s true. I know very few members of the female species who don’t go gaga for those films. Here’s the kicker, though. She jumped all over his case for watching porn, yet when it came to her romantic comedies, nothing was said. Can we say double standard? Perhaps, and I’m glad that the film said what we’ve all been scared to say.

Silent Monica. Remember in Kevin Smith, as Silent Bob, wouldn’t talk for the entire film? Then, out of nowhere, somewhere near the film’s end, he would spout off some words of wisdom that help the lead character. Clerks is perhaps the best example of this, but pretty much any of the Viewaskew films will work. Keeping that train of though, Brie Larson’s character does nothing throughout the whole film but text (much like every other teenager in the world). She’s attached to the phone at the dinner table and in church, but the last time we see her, the phone is mysteriously missing. I guess without it, she felt she needed to say something, and offered Levitt’s character some advice and insight.

What didn’t I like?

Looks aren’t everything. Scarlett Johansson may be super hot, but her attitude in this film pretty much nullifies that. Well, I shouldn’t say attitude, but rather her views. I’ve already mentioned the porn stuff, but for some reason, she has a hang-up with a guy cleaning his own place. I really don’t see what the big deal with that is, and think there is something in her past that wasn’t explained. Don’t even get me started on her snooping in his computer. What was she hoping to find by looking in his history? What happened to trust?

Stereotype. To an extent, I was loving the stereotypical Italian family that Levitt chose to give his character, but as the gag went on and on and on, it wore thinner and thinner. Do all Italian families eat pasta, specifically spaghetti, every night? Why do they not wear shirts at the table? Are wife beater t-shirts mandatory? I half expected to find out that they were part of the mob as some subplot. Again, the gag isn’t bad, it just wore thin because of how much they kept coming back to it.

Growth. At the beginning of the film, Levitt’s character is obsessed with porn, saying that it is better than the “real thing”. By film’s end, he doesn’t really change his tune, even he has found a kindred spirit (though they aren’t “together”). It seems to me that there should have been some kind of character growth, but maybe that would be too ironically romantic comedy. Personally, I’m ok with him not growing. Some people are just set in their ways, but it would have been nice if he would have acknowledged his attempt to change, and why he tried, as well as why it didn’t work.

On the surface, Don Jon appears to be a film that is sure to offend those with delicate sensibilities who can’t take a joke. Truth is, though, this is a well thought out, funny comedy. Someone said it was a more entertaining version of Shame, but I would go one further and say it is like a mixture of that and (500) Days of Summer (which also starred Levitt). Obviously, this is not a film you can show your whole family. The scenes and themes are just not for everyone. It is more of a date flick, I suppose. Do I recommend it? Yes, very much so! I’ enjoyed this little film more than I expected to. If Levitt can continue to churn out enjoyable flicks like this, then he is on the fast track to becoming my new favorite director. Give this one a shot, sometime!

4 out of 5 stars

Hitchcock

Posted in Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 14, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 1959, Alfred Hitchcock opens his latest film, North by Northwest, to considerable success, but is troubled by a reporter’s insinuation that it is time to retire. Seeking to reclaim the artistic daring of his youth, Alfred turns down film proposals like adapting Casino Royale in favor of a horror novel called Psycho by Robert Bloch, which is based on the crimes of serial killer Ed Gein.

Alfred’s wife and artistic collaborator, Alma, is no more enthusiastic about the idea than his appalled colleagues, especially since she is being lobbied by their writer friend, Whitfield Cook, to look at his own screenplay. However, she warms to Alfred’s proposal, suggesting the innovative plot turn of killing the female lead early in the film. The studio heads prove more difficult to persuade, forcing Alfred to finance the film personally and use his Alfred Hitchcock Presents television crew to produce the film.

However, the pressures of this self-financed production, such as dealing with Geoffrey Shurlock of the Motion Picture Production Code, and Hitchcock’s notorious lecherous habits, such as when they confer with the female lead, Janet Leigh, annoy Alma beyond endurance. To find a release, Alma begins a personal writing collaboration with Whitfield on his screenplay at his beach house without Alfred’s knowledge. Alfred eventually discovers what she has been doing, and suspects her of having an affair. This concern affects Alfred’s work on the film, such as giving Psycho’s famous shower scene particularly ferocious ambiance even as he imagines Gein speaking to him.

Despite this tension, Alma’s loyalty is such that she personally takes over production of his film when Alfred is temporarily bedridden after collapsing from overwork. Despite this, Alfred eventually confronts Alma and asks her if she is having an affair. Alma denies it, profoundly insulted at being accused of adultery after all she has done for her husband.

Events take a turn for the worse when Alfred’s rough cut of Psycho is poorly received by the studio executives, while Alma discovers Whitfield philandering with a younger woman at his beach house. With both feeling chastened, Alfred and Alma reconcile and set to work on improving the film. Their renewed collaboration yields results, culminating in Alma convincing Alfred to accept their composer’s suggestion for adding Bernard Hermann’s famous harsh strings score for the shower scene, making it a bracingly effective moment of cinematic horror.

After maneuvering Shurlock into leaving the film’s content largely intact, Alfred learns that the studio is only going to exhibit the film in a handful of theaters with minimal marketing. To compensate, Alfred arranges for special theater instructions to pique the public’s interest in the film such as forbidding admittance after the film begins. At the film’s premiere, Alfred waits in the lobby for the audience’s reaction and is rewarded with a raucously enthusiastic reception.

With the film’s screening being so well received, Alfred publicly thanks his wife afterward for helping make it possible and they affirm their love. At the conclusion at his home, Alfred addresses the audience noting Psycho proved a major high point of his artistic career and he is currently pondering his next project. At that, a crow lands on his shoulder as a reference to his successful follow-up effort, The Birds, before turning to meet with his wife.

REVIEW:

I’m not a die-hard fan of Alfred Hitchcock, but I do enjoy his films. Getting the chance to learn more about the man is something that I have been longing to do for some time now and Hitchcock did accomplish that in some ways.

What is this about?

Iconic filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock struggles with his marriage, the censors and the financiers of his 1960 film Psycho in this biopic. Driven to prove he still has an edge, Hitchcock crafts what would become one of the greatest thrillers of all time

What did I like?

Man, myth, legend. Strangely enough, the film focuses solely on the making of Hitchcock’s masterpiece, Psycho. While there isn’t really anything that is wrong with that per se, I would have liked to have known a bit more about the guy, but more on that later. What we do get to know is how much of an influence his wife Alma was on his career and films. I guess what they say is true, “behind every great man is an even greater woman!” It really doesn’t hurt if that woman is Helen Mirren.

Casting couch. In biopics, I have found that casting directors don’t necessarily look for someone who resembles the person they are playing. I’m not particularly fond of that practice, but sometimes it comes down to the improbability of finding someone who has the look and talent to pull it off. In this case, Scarlett Johansson plays a very believable Janet Leigh. Some may say that she should have been playing Marilyn Monroe at some point in time, and I won’t argue that, but I can see the resemblance between her and Leigh.

Levity. I was listening to a review last night where the reviewer all but called for a boycott of this film because it had a light-hearted, comedic feel in places. More often than not, I appreciate moments like this as they keep the film from going into absolute darkness. Say what you will, but just because Hitchcock created some of the great horror films of all time does not mean that he was always in a dark place, mentally. For that very reason, it is nice that this film realized he was a human who had ups and downs, just like rest of us.

What didn’t I like?

Fat suit. I have an issue with the way they changed Sir Anthony Hopkins into Alfred Hitchcock. Sticking him in a fat suit seemed to be a good idea, but watching throughout the film, it seemed as if he was very uncomfortable and forced to wobble around like a penguin. I’ve never seen Hitchcock walk, but I’m pretty sure he didn’t wobble!

History. As much as I was interesting in the making of Psycho, I would have been more interesting in seeing a little more about what it was that made Hitchcock tick. To my knowledge the few films about him don’t seem to dwell back there and I’m sure that is was this history that shaped him into the director he turned out to be.

Alma. A short side plot involving Hitchcock’s wife, Alma, didn’t really work for me, but only because they didn’t develop it proper. As it is presented in the picture, randomly we saw her and Danny Huston’s character at this beach house a couple of times and the last time he is having sex with some chick, she gets bent out of shape, goes to help her husband make Psycho become a hit, and that’s the last of it. Surely, they could have done something more with that story if they were going to include it. This is a relatively short film, a few more minutes would not have hurt.

So, Hitchcock…what did I think of it? I really liked it. There were moments here and there that I was left scratching my head about, but for the most part, this was my cup of tea. Could it have been better?  Yes, but it also could have been much worse. Fan of Hitchock, you may or may not like it depending on how hardcore you are, but general movie fans will probably enjoy. Check it out sometime!

4 out of 5 stars

Ghost World

Posted in Drama, Independent, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , on September 12, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The film follows the lives of best friends Enid (Thora Birch) and Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson) during the summer after their high-school graduation. The girls are both social outcasts, but Rebecca is more popular with boys than Enid. Enid’s diploma is awarded on the condition that she attend a remedial art class. Even though she is a talented artist, her art teacher, Roberta (Illeana Douglas), believes art must be socially meaningful and dismisses Enid’s sketches as “light entertainment”.

Shortly after graduation, the two girls see a personal ad in which a lonely man named Seymour (Steve Buscemi) asks a woman he met recently to contact him. With Becky at her side, Enid makes a prank phone call to Seymour, pretending to be the woman and inviting him to meet her at a diner, and when he goes there, the two girls secretly watch and make fun of him. However, Enid begins to feel sorry for him, so a few days later they follow him to his apartment building, where they find him selling vintage records in a garage sale. Enid buys an old blues album from him, and they gradually become friends. One of her favorite activities is trying to find women for him to date. Meanwhile, Enid has been attending her art class. In order to please Roberta, Enid persuades Seymour to lend her an old poster depicting a grotesquely caricatured black man, which was once used as a promotional tool by the fried-chicken franchise where Seymour holds a middle management position. In class, she presents the poster as a social comment about racism, and Roberta is so impressed with the concept that she later offers Enid a scholarship to an art college.

At this point, Enid’s and Becky’s lives have seriously diverged. While Enid has been spending time with Seymour, Becky has found a job and become more interested in clothing, boys, and other material things. Enid finds a job so the girls can rent an apartment together, but she is fired after only one day. Finally, Becky gives up on looking for an apartment with Enid after their personal differences erupt in an angry argument. Sometime after Enid loses her job, Seymour receives a phone call from Dana (Stacey Travis), the woman he had written to in the personal ad. Enid encourages him to develop a relationship with Dana, but becomes jealous when he begins avoiding Enid to spend time with Dana. At the end of the summer, Enid’s and Seymour’s lives fall apart. When Enid’s poster is displayed in an art show, school officials find it so offensive they force Roberta to give her a failing grade; when Enid discovers she has lost her scholarship, she visits Seymour for solace, resulting in a drunken one-night stand. Seymour then breaks up with Dana before realizing he has no chance with Enid, and loses his job after the poster is displayed in a newspaper. Becky tells Seymour about Enid’s phone prank, and he becomes hospitalized after attacking a boy who was with the girls at the time.

Finally, Enid gives in to her childhood fantasy of running away from home. Throughout the film, she has periodically spoken with an old man named Norman (Charles C. Stevenson, Jr.) who was waiting at an unused bus stop for a bus that never arrived. After quitting her new job and meeting with Seymour in the hospital, Enid sees a bus finally arrive to pick up Norman, and the next day, while Seymour discusses the summer’s events with his therapist, Enid goes to the bus stop and gets on the bus when it arrives. The film ends as the bus drives away.

REVIEW:

Ghost World apparently is some kind of underground comic/graphic novel about two girls who wander about town making observations, snide comments and such about the people and life and actually was popular enough to make an independent film about. At the time the come was in publication, I was in the process of leaving comics…only to return years later.

What is this about?

Like the comic on which it is based, the film is nothing more than random meandering through the town talking to random characters and having random events. There is somewhat of a plot involving Enid playing a prank on lonely guy Seymour, only to eventually become friends with him. Also, her relationship with her best friend Becca becomes strained as she spends more and more time with him as the summer moves along, while Becca gets a job and is looking for an apartment. Everything else is quite random, which seems to be the point.

What did I like?

On the rise. The performance of lead actresses Thora Birch and Scarlett Johnasson will floor you. These two knock it out of the ballpark with their dry wit, chemistry, and sheer talent…and they’re not bad to look at either!

Race card. About midway through the film, a controversial chicken place logo is introduced. This goes on to be somewhat of a big to do because it costs Seymour his job ultimately, but more importantly, it starts the discussion in art class about what is right and what is wrong about racial insensitivity. Going even further, when it is shown at the art show, the school board insists that it be taken down and the Enid receive a failing grade. All this goes to show is that people don’t want to admit to the extreme prejudicial society that was rampant back in the day.

Random. I like how this film didn’t really follow a “point a-point b” line, but rather got to stuff as it needed to. I felt more like I was watching these things happen as they were happening and not a film. Couple that with the random characters, such as the old guy waiting on the bus or the guy at the convenience store (still not sure why he was there, but he had some killer abs!)

What didn’t I like?

Slow. If you’ve ever seen any independent film lately, then you are more than aware of how slow they can get. This is no exception. It starts of fast with that little dance song number and all, but once it get past graduation, and definitely once it gets past the diner scene it just stats to get slow and never really recovers.

Setting. I don’t know, a film like this seems like it should be set in a different era than the late 90s-early 200s. Perhaps the late 60s or 70s would have worked? It just seems the girls rebel attitude would turn out to be more effective during that time, but I could be wrong.

Ghost World is the last film that I can recall seeing Thora Birch star in. I guess it killed her career, but significantly launched Scarlett Johnasson’s. This is not the film that you should stop everything and watch, unless you into these indie dramadies, which a lot of people tend to not be. Do I recommend it? Not really, but if you happen to come across it, nothing wrong with giving it a shot.

3 out of 5 stars