The Spectacular Now (2013)

82be1a35bdd197cdb228bea4120f7e72Roze-Rating: 5 / 5

Every year I watch a shiz load of films, ranging from the brilliant to the utterly terrible, but there will always be that odd film that some how finds its way to me and strikes the sweetest G-Chord within my heart. The Spectacular Now is that film for me of 2013.

Ever since The Descendants I knew I was an instant fan of Shailene Woodley and had been waiting to see her follow up film for quite a while. And what a film. Just as The Descendants was, this film is down to earth and totally real. Miles Teller plays Sutter Keeley, a kid on the brink of adulthood. We meet him as he struggles to begin his college application, unsure of how to put his life into words. He seems like he has his sh*t together as we indulge in his large personality and his way of words, but once we’re exposed to his constant alcoholism we know something is up. What makes this such a relatable film is Sutter’s predicament. He’s lived in the now for all his life and has struggled to do anything productive with it. He may have heaps of fun but during a time of his life where a future plan matters he becomes stuck. His girlfriend dumps him for the pure reason that he has no ambition. Then Shailene Woodley’s character Aimee Finecky comes along and gives him a bit of a pick me up. Aimee is the complete opposite of Sutter, she’s down the chain on the social ladder and has dreams of finally leaving for college although stunted by her mother. Sutter befriends her in the hope of helping her out.

There’s films out there which make you wanna cry because devastating stuff happens in them with that sole outcome in mind, but then there are some films which make you wanna cry because you connect so much with the characters and the films themes that they are more tears of inspiration than sympathy. I wont lie, by the end of the film I felt quite emotional. It was odd because I’ve never felt so emotional for such a character triumph. Something so simple yet profound. I’m at a similar time in life as this Sutter kid which is why it probably felt so relatable, and because of that I may have left the film slightly a better person.

What I like about this story is that there’s no defining character that helps grow Sutter. From watching past coming of age films there’s usually a father figure or someone that can be looked up to who knocks some inspiration into our lost soul, but in this film, it took getting to his lowest point to finally grow. Sure there were characters along the way which were important but at the end of the day if you can come to terms with your problems then you can look for a solution. That’s what makes the final scene so good, it’s ambiguous but does it really matter? (You’ll see)

The cinematography is earthy capturing the human element of young love and uncertainty pleasantly. Along with the score which slowly develops from upbeat to endearing to melancholy.

As for performances, Miles Teller has the potential to be the next Vince Vaugn of sorts with his natural ability to bring charisma to a character. Saw him for the first time in Footloose then 21 & Over this year. He has no problem with running his mouth rampant and when put in the right film, it comes out positively. Hopefully he sticks to movies such as this and doesn’t over do this type of character as some actors do. Shailene Woodley co-stars and offers another great performance. Really looking forward to her new franchise film next year, Divergent, I don’t care if it seems like a Hunger Games copy, I’m sure she will bring something to the films.

What really makes these performances stand out though is the chemistry between Woodley and Teller. The last time I saw legitimate awkwardness and realism brought to teen love was last years Amazing Spider-Man, maybe I need to watch more films if that’s the case. But everything about their interaction is something I’ve been through, and for that reason it felt so real.

The Spectacular Now is a coming of age tale that starts off upbeat then hits you with emotional substance. It’s engaging and totally relatable with great leads and raw chemistry. One of my favourites of 2013.

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G.I. Joe: Retaliation (2013)

GI-Joe-Retaliation-after-credits-large-v3Roze-Rating: 3.5 / 5

After the events of the nano-byte wars, Duke is now commanding officer of the G.I. Joe tactical force. With Zartan and Storm Shadow still roaming the earth free men, danger remains imminent.

I’m not a fan of the toys or the franchise in general but I did thoroughly enjoy the first G.I. Joe film. It had it’s faults such as the CGI and acting but I managed to find the charm in it. Never intending to be anything more, it was fun and extremely entertaining. Just as this sequel is. I wanted to bump this up to four stars because I actually quite liked the film but after watching it for the third time I couldn’t get past a few things.

First of all for an action film this is as good as it gets. We get heaps of awesome action sequences in a variety of forms. There’s hand to hand combat, shoot outs, stealth operations, boat chases and loads of explosions. The editing is great and the choreography better. It wont let you down there, and for that reason I didn’t hate the film as others did. I mean there’s some badass sh*t that goes down, and I’m pretty sure you’d let out the odd “daym” when you see flint skidding underneath an obstacle just to shoot a guy.

As for the plot, yes it’s about a bad guy wanting to take over the world, nothing wrong with that in my books. The method of it, is where the problems exist. It’s not meant to be realistic or anything but the nuclear angle of taking over the world is growing tiresome and overdone. And in the end the execution is too illogical to look past. When you have endless opportunities for a film of this nature, then I would hope for something a little different as the first one was.

Usually little things don’t annoy me but why does Storm Shadow put on clothing just to take it off during combat. If he finds it that uncomfortable to fight in it then don’t wear it in the first place! He is the definition of “poser” in the ninja sense. I won’t mention the other thing as it is a spoiler. It involves Storm Shadow and his past, all I will say is, how does it take over two decades to figure something out which only took under a minute when actually thinking about it properly. There’s quite a lot of illogical nitpicks throughout the film.

The weakest link of the film is Flint. He’s a cool character in terms of what he can do in combat but outside of that he is totally one dimensional and boring. He has nothing to offer at all. This is probably largely due to the script as he hardly had anything to say. It was disappointing as he seems quite entertaining during the films opening as he partakes in insubordination and I noticed they deleted a scene where he gets his ass kicked for it. Looking back I think that was decided as he seemed to have too much of a personality. That being said D.J. Cotrona didn’t give his best performance but I will give him the benefit of the doubt as he probably had nothing to work with.

This film as the G.I. Joe action figures are, is largely targeted at the male gender. It’s pretty apparent that the male target was always in sight as we’re presented with Adrianne Palicki in tight clothing, skimpy jogging gear and a sexy red dress. That being said I found her to be one of the main highlights of the film. I’m liking modern action films even more nowadays as women are being empowered with badass roles a lot more. The likes of Scarlett Johansson (The Avengers), Antje Traue (Man of Steel), Jaimie Alexander (Thor) and Anne Hatheway (The Dark Knight Rises) show that being a total badass is sexier than playing the girl next door. In that respect I hope to see more of these characters in the future. Adrianne Palicki, if going down the action film route will do well. That being said women will get the opportunity to drool over Channing Tatum and The Rock doing their thang.

G.I. Joe: Retaliation is far from being perfect but for an action flick it provides enough badassery and sex appeal to make it an entertaining night in.

Crystal Fairy (2013)

crystal-fairy-indie-movie-650x350Roze-Rating: 4.5 / 5

Jamie (Michael Cera) and three Chilean brothers plan a road trip in search of rare hallucinogenic drug San Pedro. Before their big trip (PUN) Jamie drunkenly invites mysterious hippie Crystal Fairy (Gaby Hoffmann). Soon enough both Jamie and Crystal Fairy clash in personality.

Stoner film of the year, Crystal Fairy brings the stoner stereotypes to life with refreshing realism and raw charm. You get a sense that this is going to be more than your typical stoner comedy as Jamie offers to cook for drag queens he just met from the street. Jamie savors the drugs he takes, he doesn’t indulge in them with excess while Crystal Fairy likes to experience the drug from the mind to the soul.

Going into the film I didn’t know what to expect, I knew it was a low budget indie and I knew it was going to be a comedy. After seeing the film it really was a lot more than that. Doing some research I found out that this was a film that Cera and director Sebastian Silva had not originally planned to do. Waiting for finance for their second film Magic Magic they decided to shoot Crystal Fairy. Despite a thin script, Silva’s clear direction and personal experience make the film a heartwarming piece of Chilean gold. The film is truly down to earth and incredibly raw as we tag along on this road trip. From the tonal changes to the backpackers antics. This is as real as we’re going to get to a road trip film.

Although this film doesn’t concentrate on the road trip but more about the characters on it. When we’re first introduced to Jamie he seems like a chilled out guy. He offers to cook for strangers and even invites a new friend on a planned trip. but once off drugs he is self indulgent and more interested in his own agenda as he reluctantly allows Crystal Fairy to accept his offer. Crystal Fairy is truly a free spirit as she spews idealist views about how the world should be and what is causing its demise. Her contribution to preventing it involves drifting from one place to another and refusing to shave. They may be on a road trip, but the film explores their own journey within themselves.

They are both conflicted with life and don’t really know what they are doing as we see Crystal Fairy take a gulp of Cola after giving a speech about how destructive sugar can be. She lives in her own world putting on this fake exterior. While Jamie fails to accept Crystal Fairy on the trip, he refuses to connect and in the end we see him get isolated from the group. What I liked about the film is that the characters are authentic and their problems are honest. Ultimately the film explores their inner growth, from selfishness to compassion and from a reinvention of themselves to their true self.

Crystal Fairy offers some committed performances from its cast. Michael Cera has played offbeat characters before but nothing as organic as this. I’m not familiar with Gaby Hoffmann but her eccentric and out there performance makes this one of the bravest performances of the year. As for the Chilean actors they did an awesome job largely dependent on improvisation. Juan Andres Silva has a certain look that suits the big screen; hope to see him take on other projects.

I’ve not watched many indies but this makes me want to watch a heap of them. Crystal Fairy may not be packed with jokes and road trip horse play, but it is rich in character development, mesmerizing cinematography and drug play.

The East (2013)

The-EastRoze-Rating: 4 / 5

Sarah Moss (Brit Marling), former FBI agent, starts her new career at an intelligence agency forcing her to go undercover and collect information from anarchist group The East. All members of the group carry aggression against massive corporations that harm the environment around them. Determined to make an example of their careless actions they plan a number of “jams” to expose their true contributions to the world. During her undercover work Sarah grows attached to the groups cause, although disagreeing with their methods. 

The East is as much a political thriller as it is a study of humans in modern society. Throughout the film we contemplate who the bad guys are, who we should root for and our way of life. We are presented with two sides, self righteous anarchist group The East with good intentions but questionable actions and the corporations who on the surface look like they want to aid the world but ultimately want to help themselves. At first one side seems the obvious bad guy as they are branded as terrorists but once we get to know them as individuals and their reasons we question the word terrorist. They may not do anything drastic as all they want to do is give the corporations a taste of their own medicine (LOL) but eventually the seeming leader of the group (Alexander Skarsgard) gets too deep into the cause. 

It may not be as thrilling as you’d like it to be but it does hold some thought provoking questions backed up with fascinating scenes exposing an idealistic view of human life. For that reason this film is an enticing watch. One scene that got to me was a quite freaky but weirdly beautiful scene of the group eating at dinner, once you see it you’ll understand. The film holds an eerie tone from the ghostly score to the bleak cinematography. It looks and sounds fitting to its premise and message giving these scenes of human nature more than it appears. 

It really is a film of moral high ground, leaving it to us to make our own choice about who takes that place at the top. Although towards the end it may have chosen for us. I felt it had too much of a Hollywood ending; it just didn’t fit the ambiguity of the film. Nevertheless the themes of human nature, relationships and politics make it an enjoyable film.

Despite having to strain my ears to understand some of the actors, the performances were solid. I felt there was too much mumbling and not enough projection in their speech but maybe I’m going deaf from all these loud action films nowadays. Anyways kudos to Brit Marling, previously saw her in Arbitrage playing a minor role. After researching more about her I learnt that this is her third written project, previous projects being Another Earth and Boxers & Ballerinas, which brings me to the assumption that she is massively talented. I’ve not seen all of her films but I look forward to it as she’s done a great job acting but also co-writing this film. She’s more than eye candy but someone with real potential in both the written and acting side of film. Her character has substance, she has a hard exterior but sees arrogance as a weakness; I like how she was branded as perhaps “not soft enough” for The East. In the end that balance gives her a greater moral conclusion to the problems expressed. I’d also like to see Toby Kebbell in more things, loved him in Rock’n’Rolla.

If you liked The International (Clive Owen) but thought it was too out there, then this film will bring you back to earth and maybe even further. 

The Story of Luke (2013)

The Story of Luke - Movie Stills 22Roze-Rating: 4 / 5

We’re first introduced to Luke attending the funeral of his grandmother, and immediately we can tell that she was his main caretaker and most likely one of the only people that truly cared about him. We soon find out that he suffers from autism which is what prompts the main themes of the film. What I liked about this movie is that it could have easily been sympathetic and depressing but instead it takes a character we should all feel sorry for and surrounds him with opportunity, dreams and jokes. It’s down to earth and offers thought out laughs rather than cheap ones.  It’s a surprisingly upbeat film with a lot of moments to laugh about making this one of the better comedies of this year.

With the abuse Luke gets from his family during the films opening I was expecting something that would be hard to watch, but it helped the film in a way as we see his family warm up to him as soon as he moves in with them, because well, family is family. It ends up being an overall charming and sweet film with a coming of age essence.

The film isn’t special in terms of cinematography or performances, where it triumphs is its script.  It’s a shame as that bit extra in making this film look a little prettier and thorough with its performances could have made this a lot more engaging. Lou Taylor Pucci plays Luke, he gives him an odd voice that gradually grows on you but his social anxiety is captured perfectly. The better of the performances comes from seasoned actor Seth Green, also one to grow on you. Really wished he’d come back to make more movies again instead of spending his time doing cringy sitcoms (Dads). As for other performances, they were average, characters we have seen before.

Coming of age films seem to be gaining in popularity nowadays. I think they are hard to get completely wrong unless you have a director that doesn’t know what the film is going to be. It seems like having a troubled character facing defining moments in their life in order to change positively really gets to people as they can easily be very relatable. It’s not a bad thing because I love these type of films but it would be a shame for the genre to start getting over crowded just like this film hasn’t gained any recognition. It will probably be one of those films that gets out over time.

The Wolverine (2013)

the-wolverine-movie-hugh-jackman-hd-wallpaperRoze-Rating: 4 / 5

Post X-Men: The Last Stand, Logan has now left the X-Men team in order to avoid harming anyone he loves again. He resides in the wild like the animal he believes he is. Until a friend of the past, Master Yashida, requests to see him for a final goodbye and thank you for saving his life. Escorted back to Japan he realizes that the gratefulness of Yashida is replaced with a longing for Logan’s immortal qualities.

Kudos to Hugh Jackman for devoting his body and acting chops to continuously improve this character no matter the quality of the film. I think most people would agree that X-Men Origins: Wolverine was not up to par for an X-Men film with crappy special effects and a congested list of comic book characters. I try to forget the butchering of Deadpool at the end. Nevertheless the film was interesting as we got an insight of Logan’s beginnings; it would infuriate fanboys but interest less committed fans. That was Jackman’s fourth film as the Wolverine and he was an absolute beast in it, unlike the previous three where he was held back slightly. During an interview with Jackman, he expressed his desire to make the wolverine really look like an animal, he wanted him to be savage, untamed, have veins popping out of his arms. The Wolverine depicts the superhero exactly how Jackman has always wanted, finally seeing blood on those indestructible claws.

Following X-Men First Class I think Fox has finally taken the right direction with this franchise stepping up the quality of the films. Previous X-Men films were entertaining but lackluster in terms of really relishing the characters powers. Despite the long list of continuity problems I think they can be forgiven by most people, having enjoyed First Class and now The Wolverine. This film studies the Wolverine as the human that he is and less the mutant. We get a true sense of the extent of his “gifts” and the toll it takes on him as he wishes for death. He feels lost and distant as he tries to look for new meanings in his life. Still hung up over the death of Jean, he avoids human contact as everyone he loves eventually dies and he has to experience that endlessly. It definitely is more engaging in terms of character development.

As for the plot, I’m not familiar with the comics but it’s entertaining enough. We see Logan get involved in complicated family dynamics and in the process he finds a reason for his existence. There’s a sense of mystery about who’s bad? are their intentions right? and what that person’s role is? it’s entertaining but what diminishes a seemingly acceptable story line is the constant need to spoon feed it to the audience. I think most audiences would have been able to get the jist of the ending about half way through because of it. That being said there’s a satisfying amount of action to look past the somewhat predictable story line. Although there are still surprises to offer some thrills.

The action sequences are relentless and totally badass. Having watched the trailer I expected the bullet train sequence to be low in quality but I’m happy to be proved wrong as it was tastefully ridiculous but exciting nonetheless. The only negative would be that we don’t genuinely see any Adamantium to skin penetration. Probably to keep the parental ratings down but if we can see blood on those claws then ideally we’d want to see where it came from.

The Wolverine is a solid addition to the X-Men franchise and comic book genre, it isn’t bad nor is it great, what it does do is hit the spot for an entertaining marvel film. Expect some exceptional performances from a host of Japanese actors and once again another intense performances by the wolverine himself Hugh Jackman.

Off The Radar: The Cabin in the Woods (2012)

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Roze-Rating: 5 / 5

It’s everything a film should be, it’s fun, scary and the right amount of freaky. In terms of total theater experience Cabin in the Woods is the perfect example of how to execute that without taking itself too seriously. It is no exaggeration when I say that you will experience so many emotions just in the hour and a half run time. You’ll feel suspense, fear, laughter, disgust and maybe the odd “WTF?”. On the surface it feels and looks like a typical horror flick. There’s even the cliched group of characters you so often get in these type of films. We have the jock, the nerd, the party girl, the stoner and of course the black guy. But when we are introduced to them, we know something is off as they are all academic and actually care about their studies… whaaaat? Yes on the surface they look cliched but that first introduction to their intellectual personalities is what makes us care for them so much (you’ll see). As the movie progresses we get a real sense of the satirical approach to these characters and the genre in general which makes it hilarious but opens our eyes to the “logic” we so often see in these films.

What makes this film so special is it’s unpredictability. I mean if you judge a book by its cover then you probably wouldn’t think that with this film, even the film title is cliched. My advice when watching it is to have an open mind and enjoy the chaos. This is honestly the best horror flick I’ve seen and will be in my best films of all time list. It’s about time we got a truly innovative, fun movie. Mainstream film makers should strive to produce pieces of gold like Cabin in the Woods. If you’re still not interested in seeing this film, I have one word for you… “Merman”.