New endeavors

Hello yes I had to pretty much blow the dust off of this blog, and I’m sorry about that. BUT I just wanted to let y’all know that I have not given up on film or talking about film to people.

Recently, my friend Josh and I decided that we love talking movies, contrary to the fact that we both are not by any means film experts, so why not make a podcast about it?

So, if you have time I would greatly appreciate you taking a listen to Leave the Podcast, Take the Cannoli: Film Idiots Talk Film Topics. Here you can listen to our first episode and figure out what movies we have been lying about watching over the years.

TTPLTC

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Whiplash (2014)

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Warning: After watching this movie, you will listen to jazz music everyday and wish that you didn’t quit band in middle school.  Well, maybe not the last part.

Andrew (Miles Teller) is a first year student at the Shaffer Music Conservatory in New York.  Andrew auditions and makes it into the studio band, which is led by Terrence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons).  Fletcher is an intense (to say the least) band director that using profanity and sometimes physical abuse to push his band students.

Simmons performance in this film was just unbelievable.  He perfectly emulated everyone’s hardest coach, boss, parent and teacher by cursing at Andrew and played multiple mind games to arguably help Andrew’s career.  Simmons was unbelievably harsh to say the very least.  His character was incredibly believably because anyone in the audience can have war flashbacks to that mentor that they have had in their lives that pushed them so far off the edge that they began to lose themselves.  In fact, throughout the movie Andrew started to lose himself the further and further he got into the studio band program.

It was just absolutely insane what Fletcher did to his students to have them become “one of the greats.” I mean think about the worst teacher that you have ever had, times ten, plus the pressure of winning a competition and trying to also maintain other relationships in your life.  Andrew really pushed himself to the point where he would be drumming so hard that he started bleeding on the set.  This movie is so realistic and that is partially because the screenplay is based off of Damien Chazelle‘s, the writer of Whiplash, life experiences from his years in music schools.  Yikes.  But, writers write what they know, right?  I mean it works out for him because this movie is unbelievably good.

One of my favorite motifs of the whole movie is the constant theme of musicality.  There is always a drum set, clarinet, horns and other jazz instruments playing in the background.  It really helps aid the plot along as well as stress you the bleep out when more serious scenes happen.  My friend that saw this movie with me said that she isn’t even this stressed while watching a horror or action film.  I’ll admit that I was mildly sweating throughout this film.  But don’t let the intensity discourage you because this is easily one of my favorite movies in a long time.

Oscar prediction:  It’s hard to say.  I think J.K Simmons absolutely has a chance to get the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, but I think that this year it is a particularly hard category to be in.  When you are up against Ethan Hawke in Boyhood, Mark Ruffalo in Foxcatcher and Edward Norton in Birdman, it’s really any man’s game.  Any of those nominees could win the award and deserve it.  I personally am happy with any of those guy winning, but I definitely think Simmons has a chance.  However, I don’t think the film was “wow” enough for the Academy to give it Best Picture.  I mean it just isn’t what the Academy gives the Best Picture to (cough cough World War II biopics cough.)  I would love it to, but there are just a lot of solid movies on the list this season.

Overall:

Whiplash is phenomenal.  It is captivating in the sense that any person who has been severely pushed to succeed at something, whether that is in music, to get into your dream college or department or to have your dream job, can relate to this film.  It is even painful to watch how far Andrew is willing to go to prove that he is the best.  It is one of the “realest” films I have seen in a while.  If you haven’t seen it yet, definitely try to before awards season.

4.5 out of 5 stars

 

Birdman (2014)

Yes, y’all, I finally saw Birdman, and it was quite the wild ride.

Riggan (Michael Keaton) is a washed-up former superhero actor that is trying to revive his career by directing, writing and staring in his Broadway play.  As issues arise from starting the play, Riggan also deals with the identity crisis of trying to move on from his role as Birdman.

I walked into this movie only knowing that it received the most nominations–a hefty seven–for the Golden Globes. That and everyone and their mother said that this is the best movie of the year, so I thought, “why not?!”  It was good, but not the best thing I have seen this year.

It is definitely an performance driven movie.  Edward Norton as the typical “tortured artist-method actor” was brilliant, and enough of a reason to see the film.  Both he and Keaton had a hilarious chemistry that definitely sped up the pace of the plot line.  Keaton also added the right amount of humor and seriousness as Riggan and will certainly be recognized for his performance.  Other stars like Zach Galifianakis as Keaton’s manager and Emma Stone as Keaton’s post-drug addict daughter were also perfect additions to this bizarre film.

Things I loved:

I loved how there was a constant drumming in the background that both helped reiterated the tone and created a transition between shots.  It was just what was needed to help keep the pace moving for this two and a half hour movie.  The one-shot film style was perfect for the storyline because it created this idea that the audience was actually there watching what was going on and let the audience see what the characters were doing in a more linear fashion.  The script style had a theatrical feel to it when the actors were “not performing,” but being themselves, which showed the audience the intensity and drama that is theater people.  This is also funnier than I expected.  I thought that this was going to be a more serious film, but it has that dark, dry humor that I tend to love.

Things I could have done without:

The “Birdman” voice that was present throughout was strange but understandable. It was strange when Keaton would switch to The Birdman and fly and such.  I understand that it was to demonstrate the thin line of reality vs. fantasy, but I just didn’t think it was as good as I expected it to be.

I just didn’t leave going “wow.”  Maybe this is because everyone built up the expectations that it was going to be excellent, but I just didn’t feel the movie theatre magic that everyone else seemed to feel.  But don’t get me wrong, I would recommend this to see just so you can have a better judgment when Award season comes round the corner.  But, if you are more of a traditionalist in your movie section, you might want to skip out on this one.

3.5 out of 5 stars

Citizenfour (2014)

When you hear the word “Edward Snowden,” a lot of people have mixed responses.  Snowden leaked NSA secrets to journalists who then published the story to The Guardian by Glen Greenwald, which then led to a snowball (sorry for the pun) of news stories about internet and phone privacy.

Citizenfour is a documentary about how Snowden contacted Laura Poitras in an encrypted email always signing off as “citizenfour.”  Snowden, Poitras and Greenwald then met in Hong Kong before, during and after the story unfolded.

As a journalism student, the amount of access that was granted for both Poitras and Greenwald is amazing.  To have the chance to talk to the guy that leaked highly classified secrets of the NSA to the world is both incredibly frightening and amazing.

I only knew a few details about Snowden, I mainly associated him with Julian Assange of WikiLeaks, but this movie was incredibly informative. Citizenfour of course had some bias to it, but it wasn’t anything that made me upset while watching it.  I liked how Poitras styled it so that the average person who doesn’t really know that much about the NSA and privacy laws could follow and understand how big of a deal that it is that the government is constantly watching its citizens.

There is certainly a paranoia feel to the film, which can be seen at the final seen where Snowden and Greenwald only speak to each other sitting in person and writing messages on a white piece of paper, which they tore up at the end.  The audience walks out of the movie feeling that Big Brother is always watching, so the fact the Poitras was able to convey that so well in her film speaks volumes about her work.

This film was incredibly interesting and had the action feel that one has after watching the Bourne movies.  It is dark and has this spy-danger feel.  I enjoyed it and would suggest it to those action film goers for a nice change from fiction to reality.

3.5 out of 5 stars

Magic in the Moonlight (2014)

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Stanley (Colin Firth) is a magician during the forties who specializes in pulling the wool over his audiences’ eyes.  He goes to a friend’s mansion off the coast of France to de-bunk a young psychic, Sophie (Emma Stone).  After a series of magic and mystery, true love is found between both characters.

Woody Allen movies are like Christmas presents from weird family members (or whatever holiday you choose to celebrate, we are very inclusive here at Annie and the Adventures), they come every year whether you actually want it or not.

Magic in the Moonlight is a good representation of that.  It had that bizarre, light magical feel that all Woody Allen movies seems to have, but I think it would have been a better on-stage play than a film.  It had the same time setting with the same title sequence font and same use of a “jazz horn” soundtrack.  There is consistency in his films which can be great, but it is now starting to become too repetitive.

Now, I love Colin Firth with all my heart and all my soul, but I thought that this wasn’t his best performance.   I also had the same feelings with Emma Stone.  Both had roles that were very different than their other films.

Maybe I didn’t like Magic in the Moonlight as much as I expected to because I’m still in L-O-V-E LOVE with Midnight in Paris. But as far as movies go, Magic in the Moonlight is a still worth seeing especially because it will almost certainly be nominated for a couple academy awards this winter.

All in all, it was a very whimsical film that was a great addition to my day.  I just wish that there would be a lot more variety in Allen’s films, but then again he wouldn’t be Woody Allen without all of his specific trademarks.

4 out of 5 stars.

Skeleton Twins (2014)

Estranged twins, Milo (Bill Hader) and Maggie (Krsiten Wiig), are reunited after 10 years of separation after Milo tries to commit suicide.  Maggie flies out to L.A. to see him, and invites him to stay with her and her husband, Lance (Luke Wilson) until he gets back on his feet.

When I first saw this trailer at my local theatre (shout-out to you, Ragtag!), I thought that this would be another dorky, SNL-actor filled comedy.  I was pleasantly surprised by how deep the plot went.  Skeleton Twins pegged exactly how it is for arguing siblings to learn to love each other again.

I was mostly surprised by Bill Hader’s performance.  He had perfect comedic and dramatic timing.  Him and Wiig had great chemistry and that showed throughout the movie. Luke Wilson was also hilarious and was an excellent supporting character by acting like the dorky husband.

Even though some parts were slower than other, it was still a great movie to watch on a casual Saturday.  It does deal with issues like suicide and a dysfunctional family, but there are also funny parts like when Milo tries to cheer Maggie up by lip-syncing “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now.

Overall: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Begin Again (2014)

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For the few and the proud that have seen John Carney‘s Once, fear not because his new movie is just as good if not better.

Gretta (Keira Knightley) moves to New York with her musician boyfriend Dave (Adam Levine) because of his sudden musical popularity and record deal.  After Dave has an affair with a women at the record label, Gretta breaks up with Dave and feels lost in this foreign city.  During the same time, Dan (Mark Ruffalo), a lost, independent record studio exec., drunkly stumbles into a bar and hears Gretta performing her songs in a dark bar and is convinced that she is going to save his job.

With the help of Gretta and other New York musicians, Dan produces and records Gretta’s album live in the streets of New York.

This star-studded cast, which includes Hailee Steinfeld, CeeLo Green and Catherine Keener, seemed a random assortment, but was surprisingly cohesive.  When I saw that Keira Knightley was going to be the lead singer, I was a little concerned.  Even though it is obvious that she is not a natural musician, she still held her own in the movie.  (Fun fact: her boyfriend James Righton, keyboardist for London band Klaxons, taught Knightley how to play guitar.)  Also, I was also interested about Adam Levine’s acting.  Now he isn’t a Marlon Brando, but he wasn’t terrible.  His main redeeming quality was the song Lost Stars, which I still have stuck in my head.

The music, by Gregg Alexander, was a good mixture of indie, folky with a dash of pop.  John Carney often likes to use street musicians with a lot of strings and acoustic guitar and it was definitely present in Begin Again.  The music felt that it was naturally intertwined in the plot as opposed to just plopping down a song in the middle of a sentence, which helped make the movie have a rhythmic flow.

OVERALL: Begin Again is a lovely, movie-musical that makes viewers feel inspired to pursue their big-city dreams.  It is a great, feel-good movie that is perfect for a date movie that doesn’t have quite the predictable, cheesy ending that is excellent for the summer.

4 out of 5 stars