Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Quick Take: All the Movies I Forgot to Write About!

I've been majorly slacking in the review department, so I figure I could just write up a quick paragraph or two about the movies I've been catching this August.

The most gratifying thing about the pot smuggling/road trip comedy We're the Millers is that it solidifies Jason Sudeikis as a leading man.  He has been a supporting player for the majority of his movie career, and he really gets to shine in this comedy alongside Jennifer Aniston.  They make a really good team.  

Sudeikis plays David, a small-time pot dealer who gets all of his product stolen.  To make it up to his supplier, Brad (Ed Helms), he must drive to Mexico to pick up a shipment of pot and simply cross the border back into the U.S..  In order to believably cross back into the United States, he enlists the help of a ragtag group of angry people to pose as his family.  It's kind of like The Bad News Bears meets drug smuggling.  Kind of.  Aniston plays Rose, a stripper who lives in his building who is strapped for cash.  Emma Roberts plays Casey, a loner with no other place to go, and Will Poulter plays Kenny, a kid in serious need of some socializing. 

The smidge of pot the Millers pick up turns out to fill their entire RV.  Getting the pot was easy, but getting back is the hard part.  Turns out the pot wasn't theirs to pick up, and they have a group of drug lords on their tail.  Don't you hate when that happens?  This is where the movie starts to stumble.  The structure seems a bit off, as if they added deleted scenes back into the movie.  They are at a county fair at one point, and Casey has an annoying boyfriend...who...I don't know...

They run into another RV-driving family, the Fitzgeralds (headed by Nick Offerman and Kathryn Hahn), who are too nosy for their own good.  There is a hilariously awkward scene when Casey and Rose teach Kenny how to kiss, and they are walked in on.  Hahn is one of my favorite know-her-from-something-but-I-don't-know-what actresses.  Her mixture of sweetness and bold humor charmed me the entire way.  Go for the hilarious chemistry between Sudeikis and Aniston, but stay for Hahn.

I thought Neill Blomkamp's Elysium was pretty solid, but the more I think about it, the less I actually remember.  Those immigration themes are still ringing in my ears, though. 

Set in 2154, the wealthy live on a floating paradise called Elysium, while the rest of us scramble to survive down on Earth.  Max (Matt Damon) is just trying to get by.  His childhood dream was to escape to Elysium, and he is still working in a factory on Earth.  After an accident leaves his body riddled with cancer, he makes a deal to try to get up to Elysium to cure himself.  Easier said than done, Will Hunting. 

Jodie Foster plays defense secretary Delacourt, an ice-cold officer who feels very strongly against allowing anyone onto Elysium's surface.  She keeps an unpredictable hit man, Kruger (District 9's Shartlo Copley) on speed dial in case anything doesn't go her way.  They are a pretty good pair actually.  Delacourt won't her her hands dirty, and Kruger is a ruthless killer. 

I am in love with Elysium's look.  The grungy, dirty vision is a welcome change from sci-fi glossiness that has been so prevalent in current blockbusters.  The overall themes are obviously quite relevant to current themes.  Early in the film, a group of ships carrying immigrants invade Elysium's airspace.  As Delacourt orders the capture (and killing) of the immigrants, Blomkamp shows them running away, sometimes in slow motion, as they try to outrun gunfire.  It's a disturbing image in a solid summer actioner. 


Sarah Polley's films have a gentleness to them that is very relaxing.  Stories We Tell is a documentary about Polley's own family.  She was very curious as to how stories from our childhood create the memories and histories of who are as families.  Before she knew it, she was unraveling a family mystery that becomes more intriguing as each layer is pulled back.  

The beginning of the movie spends a decent amount of time trying to paint a picture of Sarah's actress mother, Diane.  All of Polley's sibings describe how open and loved she was.  A source of light in their family.  The strange thing about Polley's family is that they used to joke around that Sarah didn't look like any of her siblings or her father, Michael.  Sarah has bigger eyes and lighter features while her siblins all have dark hair and eyes. 

Stories into the investigation of Diane's extramarital affair with another actor.  Through interviews and Super-8 home movie recreations, we feel like we really knew Diane.  The film has an unflinching honesty about it.  Polley shows us footage of herself directing her father in the recording studio as he narrates the story.  It's very open and sweet.

While I do feel like it meanders around in the third act, I found it quite fascinating.  Some of the interviews with Michael are very warm, and there is a moment with one of her brothers that rang very true.  Whenever her brother, Mark, learned of her mother's affair, he recounts the disappointment and judgement he felt towards his mother.  He tries to hold it together, and the moment feels a bit intrusive, but maybe that's what Polley was trying to do--make the intimacy of all our stories universal while keeping them secret simultaneously.   

My constant posting of Lovelace will give readers a hint of my personal excitement for the film.  I wanted this to be so good so badly, and it failed to live up to my expectations. 

Amanda Seyfried portrays Linda Lovelace (her real name was Linda Boreman), the first real porn star.  Directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, the story begins after Linda has moved back in with her parents after having to give up her child for adoption.  Her parents (Robert Patrick and Sharon Stone) don't neceassarily hide their contempt for the situation that Linda has gotten herself into.  Linda meets Chuck Traynor (Petes Sarsgaard in full-blown skuzzball mode), and she thinks she can finally start her life over.  Amazed by his wife's sexual prowess, Chuck lands her an audition for an adult movie called Deep Throat.  A star is born!

Everything seems hunky dory.  Or groovy and far out.  Linda is becoming a porn sensation, and she's gaining the fame she never thought she would ever have.  Then Epstein and Friedman change things on us by taking us back to the beginning of the story and showing us what it was really like for Linda.  They begin to show us Chuck's constant abuse which only escalates as the film goes on.  At one point, Chuck takes Linda to a hotel, and she gets gangraped at gunpoint. 

Why didn't they just show us one view fron the beginning?  People are pretty aware of Linda Lovelace's sordid history, so it's not like it would be that surprising.  I wanted more from everyone.  It feels like two different movies, and, I'm sorry to report, neither of them skim below the surface of anything.  The film is being advertised with a huge cast, but they barely get to do anything.  It's easy to feel for Seyfried's Lovelace.  Those big eyes do nothing but register Linda's heartbreak, but everything around her is as cheap as a bad porn. 

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