2014, Directed by Richard Linklater
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Patricia Arquette, Ellar Coltrane

The life of a young man, Mason, from age 5 to age 18.


Well, simply put, my nearest cinema doesn’t exactly have their ducks in a row. They did not show Boyhood at all, and it took them FOR-FREAKING-EVER to get Birdman, but they showed fecal matter like The IdenticalLeft Behind, and Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas as soon as they came out. Hopefully they made it their New Year’s Resolution to show movies people actually want to see.

Boyhood is not so much a movie as it is a long, intricate, ambitious video scrapbook of someone’s young life and a contemplation of life itself. It astounds me how Richard Linklater managed to keep this such a secret all those years, and how he directed School of Rock, A Scanner Darkly, and two Before movies simultaneously. Linklater musta been one busy SOB in the last decade. Watching School of Rock many times in middle and high school, I never thought Linklater would have something of this magnitude up his sleeve.

I don’t know if I should even bother reviewing Boyhood. Not because it’s a bad movie or I didn’t like it (quite the opposite), but nothing I say will do it justice. It truly must be seen to be believed.

The premise is simple, Mason (Ellar Coltrane) grows up and comes of age and all that stuff, but instead of just having different actors, it uses the same cast over the course of twelve years, and Mason literally grows up before our eyes.

A lot could have gone wrong with this risky movie. Someone could have died, someone could have up and left, Linklater could have gone through DPs like Spinal Tap went through drummers, who knows, but fortunately, all went swimmingly. At least, it appears that way.

Patricia Arquette is easily the best actress in the whole film (and Oscar shoo-in!!) as a single mother who bends over backwards for her children. She remarries to an abusive alcoholic (twice) and that makes for some scenes that are truly difficult to stomach. Ethan Hawke is Arquette’s ex-husband, and father to Mason and sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater). Hawke is a deadbeat dad who tries to be a better father to his children, and his heart-to-hearts with Mason make for some of the sweetest moments in the movie.

For kids like me, who are the same age as Mason, Boyhood is also a huge walk down memory lane!

Does anyone here remember the Motorola Razr?

This silly musical craze? That’s okay. I didn’t either until a character sang “We’re All in This Together”.

This classic moment in SNL history?

Speaking of memories, the soundtrack alone was enough to make me reminisce on my own childhood/adolescence. It wastes no time making me nostalgic, opening with Coldplay’s “Yellow” and ending with Arcade Fire’s “Deep Blue”. You can only imagine what gems (and a few duds) are in between. See if any of these songs ring a bell. Bonus: the film features 2 original songs written by Ethan Hawke. Clearly a multi-talented man, no?

Since there are only a few, let me list the negatives: If you have a short attention span, steer clear, this movie is a hair under three hours. There are moments where the story appears to lose steam, and I was not satisfied with the ending at all. <spoilers>Really? Mason just goes off to college without even saying goodbye to his mom and sister? And without any kind of closure? Little shit.</spoilers>.

Boyhood won’t resonate with everyone. Aside from complaints that it only focuses on a stereotypical white family (which I understand in this diversity-heavy day and age), not everyone will relate to the film. I didn’t see my mom get married three times, and I didn’t move at all as a youth. I always say it’s the worst feeling in the world when you feel someone else’s pain, but you can’t relate because you haven’t dealt with what the other person is dealing with.

Even if I couldn’t relate to all of Mason’s trials and tribulations, I still connected to the film on some levels. I know what it feels like to be alienated from your peers, and to want more out of life than just silly things, and Boyhood spoke to me and said “It’s okay, it’s all part of being human.”

Verdict: twelve years (and five dollars) well spent.

Rating: 4.5/5


Just some 87th Annual Academy Awards Predictions, that’s all.


I woke up this morning just in time for the announcement, and enjoyed my cereal and coffee as the nominees were announced. Some “woopty doos” and “wtfs” ensued.

Two of my favorite films of the year, Birdman and The Grand Budapest Hotel, lead the pack with 9 nominations each. Boyhood follows with 6.

Now, I offer my take on some of the awards.

Best Picture
American Sniper
The Grand Budapest Hotel 
The Imitation Game
The Theory of Everything

Carly Says: Sorry if this makes me sound like a phony, but I’ve only seen Birdman and The Grand Budapest Hotel. I’m too wimpy for American Sniper (though I’ll probably be looped into seeing it under a Xanax cocktail), I’m watching Boyhood today (woo ha), and I’d love to see the rest, but nope! Too artsy-fartsy for my local cinema!

With that said, I bet on three of them: Boyhood, Birdman, and The Grand Budapest Hotel. Just because.

Best Actor in a Leading Role
Steve Carell for Foxcatcher
Bradley Cooper for American Sniper
Benedict Cumberbatch for The Imitation Game
Michael Keaton for Birdman
Eddie Redmayne for The Theory of Everything

Carly Says: From the bottom of my heart, I hope Michael Keaton wins. It boils down to Keaton and Eddie Redmayne, but I’d like to see Keaton win, because he was fantastic in Birdman and re-cemented his rightful place in the movies. Keaton is also the only person not nominated for playing a real person, living or dead, and I think the Oscars need to reward original characters.


Oh, and Cumber-buddies rejoice: Ben is nominated! Woo!!!

Best Actress in a Leading Role
Marion Cotillard for Two Days, One Night
Felicity Jones for The Theory of Everything
Julianne Moore for Still Alice
Rosamund Pike for Gone Girl
Reese Witherspoon for Wild

Carly Says: The only performance I saw (because, you know, I’m limited in my movie going by many factors) was Rosamund Pike in Gone Girl, and while she rocked the house, she still probably not going to win. Something tells me Julianne Moore needs to (and will) win this. She’s a wonderful actress and has been passed up for far too long!

Also, in a rare move, Marion Cotillard has been nominated for a foreign language performance. Très magnifique!

Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Robert Duvall for The Judge
Ethan Hawke for Boyhood
Edward Norton for Birdman
Mark Ruffalo for Foxcatcher
J.K. Simmons for Whiplash

Carly Says: Huh, I’m surprised they included Robert Duvall, because The Judge got some pretty “meh” reviews this summer. Still probably worth checking out, though. My money is on either Edward Norton or J.K. Simmons, leaning towards Simmons. Both play intensely dislikeable characters in their respective movies, but while Norton was just a pompous dickhead, Simmons was a cruel beast who makes R. Lee Ermey in Full Metal Jacket look like a thumb-sucking wimp. Come to think of it, Simmons FTW!!

Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Patricia Arquette for Boyhood
Laura Dern for Wild
Keira Knightley for The Imitation Game
Emma Stone for Birdman
Meryl Streep for Into the Woods

Carly Says: Really, Meryl AGAIN???? Oh for Christ’s sake… Look, I love Meryl, but is it really necessary to reward her for everything she does? Really? Compared to some of her other movies, like Kramer vs. Kramer and stuff, Into the Woods is crap. If anything, her performance in 2004’s A Series of Unfortunate Events was far superior. Okay, enough ranting.

Either Patricia Arquette or Emma Stone is gonna get it. Arquette won the GG for Boyhood, and I’m gonna watch it today so my opinion can actually count for sump’n. Emma Stone’s performance in Birdman was unlike anything she’s ever done, showing us the acting chops we didn’t know she had.

Best Director
Alejandro Iñárritu for Birdman
Richard Linklater for Boyhood
Bennett Miller for Foxcatcher
Wes Anderson for The Grand Budapest Hotel
Morten Tyldum for The Imitation Game

Carly Says: I am a fan of Richard Linklater and Wes Anderson already, and it fills me with glee that they are nominated. I am a little upset about Ava DuVernay being snubbed, but I don’t want to get into politics/race/gender/all that fun stuff here. I will say we do need more women and other races behind the camera, and that’s that, but the Oscars shouldn’t be a zero-sum game about race relations and political things. At the end of the day, the Oscars should be about ART. But it is what it is. I’m just a 20 year old gal with a computer, I have no say in who gets nominated.

And yes, I am a little upset by this year’s lack of diversity, but like I said, it is what it is.

Anyway, this will go to Richard Linklater, no contest.

Best Animated Feature
Big Hero 6
The Boxtrolls
How to Train Your Dragon 2
Song of the Sea
The Tale of Princess Kaguya

Carly Says: Excuse me while I go punch a hole in the wall over the masterful Lego Movie getting snubbed:

Two of the nominees, Ireland’s Song of the Sea and Japan’s The Tale of Princess Kaguya, are completely new to me. On the bright side, I now have two movies to look out for. Both of them look beautiful!

Of the nominees, I’ve only seen Big Hero 6 and How to Train Your Dragon 2Both of them are very cute movies, but I have a hunch that HTTYD2 will win. It won the GG, and to be honest, Disney needs to take a little break, Frozen-mania still needs to die!! Go How 2 Train Your Dragon!

Also, does anyone else not like the name How to Train Your Dragon 2? It’s sounds a little redundant if you ask me. It should have been called How to Train Your Dragon (If You Didn’t Get it Right the First Time).

Best Original Score
Alexandre Desplat for The Grand Budapest Hotel
Alexandre Desplat (again!!!!) for The Imitation Game
Hans Zimmer for Interstellar
Gary Yershon for Mr. Turner
Jóhann Jóhannson for The Theory of Everything

Carly Says: Only movies I saw were The Grand Budapest Hotel and Interstellar. Both have some beautiful music, but I’m going with Grand Budapest. I feel guilty about dissing Desplat for his corny Monuments men score, but his work in Grand Budapest makes up for it. The music in that film is exquisite and almost outshines the Wes Anderson aesthetic itself.

Best Original Song
“Everything is Awesome!!” from The Lego Movie
“Glory” from Selma
Grateful” from Beyond the Lights
“I’m Not Gonna Miss You” from Glen Campbell… I’ll Be Me
Lost Stars” from Begin Again

Carly Says: I don’t want to tempt fate, but thank Christ none of these songs are as obnoxiously popular as that blasted, godforsaken “Let it Go”. Only ones I’ve heard are from The Lego Movie and Selma. I have a hunch that Glory” will win, not just because of the GG, but it’s just a really good tune, I love the gospel choir sound paired with R&B star John Legend and rapper Common. You can listen here!

Deep down, I fantasize about all of these losing to a write in vote for “I Am Lorde Ya Ya Ya” from South Park.

Well, that’s all for now. I might write about some more Oscar picks as the ceremony draws near.

Have a spectacular day, m’lovelies.

Jersey Boys


2014, Directed by Clint Eastwood
Starring: John Lloyd Young, Erich Bergen, Michael Lomenda

The story of four young men from the wrong side of the tracks in New Jersey who came together to form the iconic 1960s rock group The Four Seasons.

Before American Sniper opens everywhere on Friday, let’s take a quick look back at Clint Eastwood’s previous movie, Jersey Boys, which came out only seven months ago.

I never thought I’d live to see the day when Clint Eastwood directed a musical (Clint himself probably didn’t, either), and at 84, he shows no signs of slowing down. Jersey Boys is a bizarre choice, given Eastwood’s typically morbid catalog (Mystic RiverMillion Dollar BabyGran Torino), but it’s still a nice change of pace to see Eastwood direct something that isn’t soul-crushingly depressing for a change! Still, even if Eastwood is musically inclined (and he is that), there’s still an awkwardness about this movie.

A good musical is engaging throughout, but Jersey Boys is only engaging during the musical numbers (“Big Girls Don’t Cry”, “Sherry”, “Oh, What a Night”). Everything in between, while it tells the true story about the trials and tribulations of Frankie Valli, are sluggish and don’t translate well to the big screen.

Per my recent review of Into the Woods, I mentioned the secret blessing of movie musicals. For someone like me, who can’t afford to go to New York City and see all the Broadway shows, I rely on movies for entertainment, and movie musicals make the magic of Broadway slightly more accessible and affordable. Of course, they’re not always great, because you got A-listers like Russell Crowe who can’t carry a tune in a bucket. But who cares about talent when there is money to be made?

Jersey Boys has an advantage. Having no instantly recognizable actors (except for Christopher Walken), it can be taken a tad more seriously. John Lloyd Young (who played Frankie Valli in the stage show), reprises the role for the movie, and I must say, he nails it. The accent, the distinctive voice, no wonder he won a Tony for that show.

If you watch it only for the music, that’s good enough.

Rating: 3.5/5

The Equalizer


2014, Directed by Antoine Fuqua
Starring: Denzel Washington, Chloë Grace Moretz, Marton Csokas

A man believes he has put his mysterious past behind him and has dedicated himself to beginning a new, quiet life. But when he meets a young girl under the control of ultra-violent Russian gangsters, he can’t stand idly by – he has to help her.

Just what I needed after the painful, insulting slog of watching The Doom Generation.

Denzel Washington reunites with Training Day director Antoine Fuqua in The Equalizer, a loose adaptation of the 80s show. This time, Washington is on the opposite side of the law. Here, he is Robert McCall, a mysterious guy with a mysterious past, leaving it behind for a job at a fictional Home Depot. He is a mentor to a security guard trainee by day, and a friend to cafe patron Teri by night. When he learns Teri is an underage prostitute controlled by sleazy Russian gangstas, he returns to his mysterious past, and the bullets begin to fly.

The best I can describe The Equalizer is a cross between Taxi Driver (a great classic film) and John Wick (one of the most fun movies I saw last year). Really think about it, many elements from each are in there. Taxi Driver involved a guy trying to save a teenage prostitute from a life of misery, and John Wick was about a crime fighter coming out of retirement to exact revenge on Russian mobsters, and the protagonist’s wife is dead.

Some scenes are quite brutal to watch, so proceed with caution if violence and blood splattering every which way is not your cup of tea. While bloodless, there’s an awful, awful torture scene where McCall locks a dirty cop in his car and attaches a hose to the exhaust pipe, filling the car with carbon monoxide. Yeeesh!!! Equal parts awesome and cringe-worthy.

At 60, Denzel Washington is still doing pretty well, and why not? He’s suave, immensely likeable, and a great actor to boot. The supporting players aren’t in the movie for any more than ten minutes, it seems, but they still do pretty well. Chloë Grace Moretz, at the tender age of 17, plays very mature roles, and Teri is no exception. Sure, Teri is a prostitute, but that’s not it. She’s a deep character with thoughts and feelings, and not some bimbo, or “plot device” as Moretz puts it.

It’s not original, and definitely not the stuff of Oscar-caliber prestige pics, but it’s an action-packed thriller that’s sure to excite.

Rating: 4/5

Last Minute Golden Globe Predictions

Well, the Globes are in T minus 3 hours and 20 minutes, and I know I should have done this a long time ago, like the day the nods were announced, but remember I was dealing with a little thing called FINALS.

Let’s see how right I am. Usually I’m better at predicting the Oscars, but here goes.

Best Motion Picture – Drama
Boyhood OR Selma

Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama
Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game

Best Actress in a Motion Picture- Drama
Reese Witherspoon in Wild

Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical

Best Actor in a Motion Picture- Comedy or Musical
Michael Keaton in Birdman

Best Actress in a Motion Picture- Comedy or Musical
Emily Blunt in Into the Woods

Best Director
Ava DuVernay for Selma OR Alejandro Iñarrítu for Birdman

Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture
J.K. Simmons in Whiplash

Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture
Patricia Arquette in Boyhood OR Emma Stone in Birdman

Best Screenplay
Gillian Flynn for Gone Girl OR Wes Anderson for The Grand Budapest Hotel

Best Foreign Film
Ida (Poland/Denmark) OR Force Majeure (Sweden)

Best Original Song – Motion Picture
“Glory” by John Legend and Common from Selma OR “Yellow Flicker Beat” by Lorde from The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1

Best Original Score – Motion Picture
Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross for Gone Girl

Best TV Drama
Game of Thrones

Best Actor – TV Drama
Kevin Spacey in House of Cards OR James Spader in The Blacklist

Best Actress – TV Drama
Viola Davis in How to Get Away With Murder

Best TV Miniseries or Movie
True Detective OR The Normal Heart

Best Actor – TV Miniseries or Movie
Matthew McConaughey OR Woody Harrelson, both in True Detective

Best Actress – TV Miniseries or Movie
Frances McDormand in Olive Kitteredge

Best TV Comedy
Orange is the New Black OR Transparent

Best Actor – TV Comedy
Jeffrey Tambor in Transparent OR William H. Macy in Shameless

Best Actress – TV Comedy
Lena Dunham in Girls or Julia Louis-Dreyfus in Veep (Please God don’t let Lena Dunham win, I hate her.)

Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries, or TV movie
Matt Bomer in The Normal Heart

Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries, or TV movie
Uzo Aduba in Orange is the New Black

Into the Woods


2014, Directed by Rob Marshall
Starring: Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, Anna Kendrick

A witch tasks a childless baker and his wife with procuring magical items from classic fairy tales to reverse the curse put on their family tree.

Looks like Disney doesn’t need Star Wars: The Force Awakens to get in touch with the dark side.

Into the Woods is based on Stephen Sondheim’s beloved musical, and with Sondheim involved we know two things right off the bat:

  1. Beautiful, complicated, and challenging songs.
  2. Don’t expect much in the way of cheerfulness. This guy gave us Sweeney Todd for crying out loud.

Normally, I’m skeptical of movie musicals, because they lack the magic of seeing it live on Broadway, and more often than not, A-list stars don’t do it justice. Over the years, however, I’ve come to be grateful for movie musicals, because not everyone can afford trekking to the Big Apple to see the must-see stage shows on the Great White Way (crappy tickets for Wicked typically start at $100 a pop, so I’m told). Movie musicals are my only option if I want to get my theater geek on.

Rob Marshall (also a Pittsburgher!!) previously directed 2002’s Chicago, which wasn’t Oscar-worthy, but entertaining nonetheless, and 2009’s Nine, which was a hot mess from start to finish. How does Into the Woods compare? Sort of in the middle ground, leaning toward Chicago.

The first half of Into the Woods is enchanting. Beautiful music, sumptuous visuals, exciting action, and it’s essentially a scavenger hunt to appease Streep’s witch. It’s a little over the one hour mark when things start to lose momentum and it mixes into the Woods’s infamously depressing ending with Disney’s “we don’t want to make it too downbeat but we don’t want to alienate the theater geeks either, let’s just wing it” mentality.

Towards the end, I just got the impression the producers didn’t even try, and the second half almost ruined the excellence of the first half for me.

As far as the cast is concerned, fantastic. I knew Meryl Streep and Anna Kendrick could sing way beforehand, and they were both great as I would normally expect. Emily Blunt, an underrated but extremely talented actress also has a strong voice, which took me by surprise because I have only seen her in non-musicals hitherto (LooperEdge of TomorrowThe Devil Wears Prada). I honestly didn’t know she could sing like that.

Chris Pine as Prince Charming came as the biggest surprise. From what I understand, he actually sings in the movie, and if so, I’m impressed. It’s nice to know there’s a Captain Kirk who can actually carry a tune in a bucket for a change.

Not everything was enjoyable, though. Johnny Depp was undoubtedly the worst actor in the movie as The Wolf from “Little Red Riding Hood”. I hated every moment he was on screen, and not just because of the rapey vibe I was picking up. And yes, a PG-rated Disney film will not only introduce your kids to the magic of Sondheim, but to the concept of pedophilia as well. Ick.

His creepy song is only part of the problem. Depp overacts this part so much that he puts his Willy Wonka character to shame. The upside though? <spoilers> He barely lasts five minutes. </spoilers>. Why was he even top-billed in the first place?

You know, I’m starting to worry about Johnny Depp. His career has taken a turn for the “blah” recently. Into the Woods certainly wasn’t a miserable flop like The Lone Ranger or Transcendence were, but the roles he takes on nowadays, regardless of box office receipts, are bizarre even by Depp standards. And we all know Depp is an eccentric actor, right? I hope the upcoming Mortdecai is at least a little fun.

Don’t be fooled by the keywords “musical” and “Disney”, because young’uns will probably find the movie boring and its rich subtext confusing. Its a mature work that was probably more deserving of a PG-13 than a PG, but still see it if only for the excellent music, which I confess I sang along to “Children Will Listen” at the end.

What? I sang it in high school choir. Forgive me, theater patrons.

Rating: 3/5

The Doom Generation

1995, Directed by Gregg Araki
Starring: Rose McGowan, James Duval, Johnathon Schaech

Jordan White and Amy Blue, two troubled teens, pick up an adolescent drifter, Xavier Red. Together, the threesome embark on a sex and violence-filled journey through an America of psychos and quickiemarts.

I really do try to avoid swearing profusely on here, because it’s not professional behavior, but there isn’t a better way for me to describe The Doom Generation other than it’s a pretentious sack of shit.

In fact, I feel like doing a review of it is too generous. This is rare of me, as I don’t like to think condescending or that I’m above something, but instead of reviewing this movie, I am going to write a public service announcement.

Do NOT watch this. You won’t become a better person because of it. You won’t be moved by it in any way, shape, or form. It’s only purpose is to pretend to be Natural Born Killers steeped in a 9th grade understanding of Nietzsche, and make you, dear reader, feel stupid for not understanding its subtext (or lack thereof).

The Doom Generation feels like it was written by an angsty raccoon-eyed junior high schooler who just discovered the joys of swearing and tries to wax philosophical about life but mostly comes off as a pompous asshole.

And can we talk about the acting? Because it’s truly some of the best acting that your local 7-11 could find. I don’t know much about James Duval or Johnathon Schaech, but this is easily Rose McGowan’s worst performance. She shows about one emotion throughout, and she swears so much that just the sound of her voice puts you in a bad mood. Look, I have nothing against Rose McGowan, I loved her in Planet Terror, for example, but if I had only seen this, I would have thought she was one of the worst actresses.

I can confidently say I hate this movie with every atom of my being.

I can’t stand artsy, philosophical teenager behaving badly movies. Spring Breakers, Palo Alto, and now this… just stop, Hollywood. Teenagers deserve better representation than angsty spoiled white kids who sneak their parents’ booze, get trashed to Kanye West songs, and fornicate left and right.

Also, if you want graphic sex and violence, look elsewhere. The carnage and sex scenes in this movie are about as exciting as watching C-SPAN. It’s something when I think the United States congress is more fun to watch than an indie movie.

If there is just one positive thing I can say about it, the very talented Parker Posey makes an appearance for a few blissful moments.

Rating: 0/5

Magic in the Moonlight

2014, Directed by Woody Allen
Starring: Colin Firth, Emma Stone, Marcia Gay Harden

A romantic comedy about an Englishman brought in to help unmask a possible swindle. Personal and professional complications ensue.

Magic in the Moonlight is Woody Allen’s 44th (!!!) film. At 79, the prolific Allen is still cranking out movies at a rate of one per year. It seems, however, for every Annie Hall we get, we also get several, er, less than good ones. Case in point.

This rom-com takes us back to the beautiful South of France in the 1920s. Illusionist Stanley (Colin Firth) is an arrogant old fart who makes a career out of exposing phony magicians. One day, he’s called in to expose pretty young clairvoyant Sophie Baker (Emma Stone) as a phony, but soon finds himself in love with her. Haven’t we seen this movie a thousand times, Woody? Where’s your originality? I like to think you invented the 500 Days of Summer anti-rom-com with Annie Hall.

Let me start with the positives. It’s a very pretty movie to look at. The French Riviera and 20s-era costumes are both beautiful, and Oscar winner Colin Firth is a delight (as usual).

Given the amount of talent in the cast (and behind the camera), this is like watching Super Bowl MVPs play Capture the Flag. And it’s sad. It’s really sad. I’m a fan of Emma Stone, and was wowed by her performance in Birdman, but she’s not really suited for period films like this, even though she has charming moments in Magic and is pretty as a picture. Stone is still young, give her time to grow as an actress, and then we’ll see what happens.

Also starring are Marcia Gay Harden, Jacki Weaver, and Hamish Linklater, but neither one is in the movie long enough for me to have an unbiased, educated opinion on how they do.

Oh, and was anyone else bothered by the large age difference between Colin Firth and Emma Stone? Yecch! Stone is closer to my age than Firth’s! To be fair, I know a number of Woody’s movies are about older mens’ obsessions with younger women. But still… ick.

If that’s not enough, Emma Stone is starring in Woody Allen’s next movie, where she’s a college student who enters a relationship with her philosophy professor, played by Joaquin Phoenix.

It is as yet untitled, but set in Rhode Island, and due out this year.

Watch it if you want, but promptly wash it down with one of Woody’s better movies.

Rating: 3/5

Men, Women & Children

2014, Directed by Jason Reitman
Starring: Kaitlyn Dever, Ansel Elgort, Rosemarie DeWitt

A group of high school teenagers and their parents attempt to navigate the many ways the Internet has changed their relationships, their communication, their self-image, and their love lives.

Pro-tip: Before billing your movie as a comedy, make sure there are at least a few laughs. This movie could have benefitted greatly from a deer peeing on Adam Sandler, and that is saying a lot, considering what a great movie Grown Ups 2 is </sarcasm>.

Sandler is just one of many veteran actors in Men, Women & Children, a cautionary tale about the internet and its devastating impact on people. Also starring are Jennifer Garner, Judy Greer, Rosemarie DeWitt, Dean Norris (Hank from Breaking Bad), Ansel Elgort, and the voice of Emma Thompson.

Men, Women & Children follows five interconnected families in a small Texas town (sound familiar?). Don (Sandler) is a porn addict who ends up cheating on his wife (DeWitt), who finds an escort online herself, unbeknownst to him. Allison develops an eating disorder so she can impress her crush. Donna (Greer) helps her daughter become a star by helping her maintain a website of questionable photos. Tim (Elgort), coping with his parents divorce, gets lost in an MMORPG, and Patricia (Garner) is to this what John Lithgow was to Footloose.

I can’t emphasize enough that this humorless slog bills itself as a comedy. Let me be the first to tell you it’s as funny as a gangrenous wound. Heck, The Fault in Our Stars has more laughs than this, and that was about kids dying of cancer.

Not a single character in this movie is likeable. Each one ranges from mildly annoying to “I-want-to-slap-this-mofo-in-the-mouth”. Jennifer Garner is probably the best (worst??) example of the latter category. She is Patricia, an overprotective mother who monitors every waking moment her daughter Brandy (Kaitlyn Dever) spends online, even holding a support group for the movie’s other parents, warning them about the evils of the internet. Garner does something in the end that is so unimaginably awful that I wanted to vomit: <major spoilers> After confiscating Brandy’s phone, Patricia (as Brandy) berates Tim on Tumblr, telling him to never text her again, which drives him to attempt suicide. </major spoilers>

Did I mention that the excellent Emma Thompson narrates? So if watching this melodrama isn’t painful enough, we have the privilege of hearing this dignified class act of an actress talk about hardcore pornography in vivid frickin’ detail.

Its intentions are noble, for sure, and I won’t argue that the internet has changed the way we interact and not necessarily for the better, but the way the movie gets its message across is pretentious and ham-fisted. It preaches to the technophobic choir.

Oh, and this two hour movie feels PAINFULLY SLOW. At the end, I asked myself, “How are there still ten minutes left?”

My dad asked me if maybe this movie hit a nerve with me. Uh, no. 12 Years a Slave hit a nerve with me. This? If it had hit a nerve with me, would I be writing this blog post?

(drops mic)

Rating: 1/5

The Interview

2014, Directed by Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen
Starring: Seth Rogen, James Franco, Lizzy Caplan

Dave Skylark and producer Aaron Rapoport run the celebrity tabloid show “Skylark Tonight.” When they land an interview with a surprise fan, North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, they are recruited by the CIA to turn their trip to Pyongyang into an assassination mission.

“May they [the United States] be forced to starve and beg, and be ravaged by disease, they are arrogant and fat, they are stupid and they’re evil… May the women all be raped by the beasts of the jungle, while the children fooooorced too waaaatch!”, so sings an cute little North Korean girl in front of Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un’s minions. And so begins The Interview, easily the most controversial movie of 2014.

This Seth Rogen / James Franco comedy was subject to terroristic threats from hackers who may or may not have ties to the North Korean government. As a result, Sony pulled the film from theaters, and after a firestorm of controversy, eventually gave it a limited release, as well as the opportunity to stream the movie on YouTube, Google Play, or iTunes. I rented the movie through YouTube on Christmas day, and finally got the opportunity to watch it.

So, was it worth all that hassle? Ehhh… yes and no.

As political satire, The Interview could definitely use improvement. I’m not one to criticize a movie for lewdness and crudeness, because I love South Park and the South Park movie, both extremely lewd and crude, but I’m not exactly sure what The Interview was poking fun at. It excels in lewd, crude humor, and I like that it wants to satirize USA-North Korea relations, but its way of doing so seems childish and a little disorganized.

James Franco plays a loud, crass, cocky talk show host, and Seth Rogen is his rather level-headed and pragmatic producer. Just the two names together need no introduction. These two goofballs are a match made in comedy Heaven, if Pineapple Express and Freaks and Geeks didn’t already make that clear.

However, this is one of those movies where the supporting players outshine the leads. Lizzy Caplan is a CIA agent who guides these royal fools every step of the way, and she’s a joy to watch. Her subtle, dry humor is a nice complement to Rogen and Franco’s brash, sex-driven bro humor. And of course, it’s Lizzy Caplan. Can you believe that 10 years ago, she

looked like this???

Eh, who cares, Lizzy Caplan is beautiful either way.

Randall Park, a true standout, plays an exaggerated Kim Jong-un. Here, Kim is a zany guy with a penchant for Katy Perry and The Big Bang Theory, and he gets chummy with Franco, confiding in him that he (like all humans) pees and poops. Because apparently Gods like Kim Jong-un don’t pee or poop. This Kim is the life of the party, or is he?

Canadian actress Diana Bang (who I had not heard of until this movie) is Sook, a North Korean official who really serves no purpose other than Seth Rogen’s love interest. With that said, she’s still a very funny lady and I hope to see her again.

I wonder why the North Korean government has their panties in a bunch over this movie. The Kim Jong-un portrayed in this movie is not at all like the Kim Jong-un in real life. Park’s Kim is a caricature, and I think assassinating this caricature is no big deal. The real Kim Jong-un remains shrouded in mystery to everyone except his subordinates — and Dennis Rodman. Most of all, I think this movie is completely innocuous. Sure, it’s misguided and (at times) racist, but North Korea’s threats are completely unwarranted and uncalled for. It’s just a movie! Let it go!

Crap, I got that Frozen song in your head again, didn’t I? I’m sorry.

I prefer to stay away from politics on this blog, but I am a full-on advocate of free speech. The filmmakers have every right to say whatever they want within reason. Are you offended by it? Don’t watch it, simple as that, but don’t try to take the right to free speech away from the people who enjoy it.

For better or for worse, The Interview is going to go down in history as one of the most controversial comedies of all time.

Rating: 3.5/5

P.S. You like puppies? There’s an adorable King Charles Cavalier in this movie.


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