If I’m posting, it goes without saying that it’s also been a while since I posted. Much of this was written last week, but my life has gone from boring to insane almost instantaneously. But before that happened, I managed to watch a bunch of movies.
To the movies:
Film #29: It’s a Disaster
(Writer & Director: Todd Berger)
A Netflix Instant special. I love David Cross, so I knew this was worth a shot. This is the couple’s comedy version of This is the End. Glen (Cross) and Tracy (Julia Stiles) visit her friends for a couples brunch. While there, their city is attacked with dirty bombs, and they wait it out in a house. Tensions rise, secrets are revealed, and emotions are toyed with. The script is fast, smart, and cutting, and for about an hour, I think it really works. The problem is that Berger doesn’t really seem to know where he wants this to go or what we are supposed to get out of it, so he relies on a weird, unearned twist in the final act that feels like a cop out. There are some genuinely funny moments and fantastic dialogue, but it doesn’t quite come together in the end. An interesting film though and worth a watch.
Film #30: Starlet
(Writers: Sean Baker & Chris Bergoch; Director: Sean Baker)
Starlet is a little indie film from last year that won an Independent Spirit Award and picked up buzz online. I was happy to see it going on Netflix Instant because I probably wouldn’t have gone out of my way to see it. It definitely has the prototypical indie feel in terms of visuals and pacing and I don’t think there is anything about it that is spectacular. Jane (Dree Hemingway) finds a ton of money in a vase she bought from a cranky old woman, Sadie (Besedka Johnson), but she doesn’t return it. Instead, she tries to befriend Sadie to cure her guilty conscience, even though Sadie is resistant. The film doesn’t do anything revolutionary and the plot follows a fairly predictable path, but it is well made and engaging. In particular, Dree Hemingway is really fantastic. It’s hard not to fall in love with her portrayal of Jane. She’s a supermodel, so I’m not sure how well she’d fit into most films, but here, that look works perfect.
Film #31: Argo
(Writer: Chris Terrio; Director: Ben Affleck)
I’ve generally liked Affleck’s directorial stints, although I’d say they are really just solid Hollywood films. They remind me of Clint Eastwood’s films. Solid stories, professionally made, but nothing exceptional or unique. Argo is easily his weakest film and has easily been one of the most disappointing films I’ve seen recently. The biggest problem is Affleck’s on-screen performance. Tony Mendez is one of the most boring characters I’ve ever seen on film. There is NOTHING interesting about him. I don’t understand the character’s motivations, I don’t understand his backstory, and Affleck’s portrayal is so flat that it’s almost as if he isn’t even present. Similarly, on the direction side, Affleck does nothing to get us to care about the Americans Mendez is trying to rescue. Aside from one annoying couple, they are completely non-descript. We are given no reason to truly care about their safety, aside from the fact that they are American. I also think Affleck’s portrayal of Iran and its people is problematic and generic, but that’s an issue I don’t have the energy to get into. This could have been a really fun movie given its premise, but it just falls flat on all accounts.
Film #32: Safety Not Guaranteed
(Writer: Derek Connolly; Director: Colin Trevorrow)
This movie is so full of people I love that it’s hard not to enjoy it. Darius (Aubrey Plaza) is an intern at a Seattle Magazine who volunteers to help writer Jeff (Jake Johnson) investigate Kenneth (Mark Duplass), who is looking for a partner to go back in time with him. Their goal is to figure out who Kenneth is and why he wants to go back in time. Like any good indie film, this is both funny, beautiful, and sad. It’s a movie about how the past is always present, and how every person, no matter what they say, has something they wish they could change. I was particularly surprised with Aubrey Plaza who is really, really good here. Sure, she’s still that awkward Aubrey Plaza you know and love, but she brings a real humanity to this role that surprised me. Like It’s a Disaster and Starlet, this isn’t going to blow anyone away, but it’s solid, entertaining, and thoughtful filmmaking.