Music Video of the Day: In the Sun by She & Him (2010, dir by Peyton Reed)


You’re going to have to excuse me if my thinking is a bit incoherent right now.  Between my DVR exploding on Monday night and some issues with my laptop on Tuesday, I’ve only had about 4 hours of sleep over the past two days and, as I sit here typing this, I am on the verge of passing out.  On the plus side, I may be exhausted but at least everything seems to be working now.  The laptop is working fine.  The new DVR has arrived.  My thumb — which I slightly burned when, while unplugging the DVR, I accidentally grabbed the metal part of the plug, despite the fact that there was an actual plume of smoke rising up off of it — has finally stopped throbbing and is back to being it’s wonderful self.  Now, I just need to get some sleep and hopefully, when I wake up, my heart will no longer be racing and my thoughts will be much more coherent.

Fortunately, there’s a solution for when you’re trying to write about a music video but your brain is screaming at you to fall asleep.  You can just pick something from She & Him!  She & Him, of course, are Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward.  Both their music and their videos tend to be so wonderful and endearing that they can pretty much speak for themselves.

This video was directed by Peyton Reed.  Today, of course, Reed is probably best known for directing the Ant-Man films.  When this video was shot, he was best known for directing the original Bring It On.  As such, it’s not surprising to see him selected to bring this video’s high school world to life.

Enjoy and good night!

The North Carolina Film Critics Association Have Announced Their Nominees For The Best of 2015


Here are the nominees from the North Carolina Film Critics Association!

BEST NARRATIVE FILM
Carol
Inside Out
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
Spotlight

BEST DOCUMENTARY FILM
Amy
Finders Keepers
Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck
Listen to Me Marlon
The Look of Silence

BEST ANIMATED FILM
Anomalisa
The Good Dinosaur
Inside Out
The Peanuts Movie
Shaun the Sheep Movie

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
The Assassin
Mustang
Phoenix
A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence
Son of Saul

BEST DIRECTOR
Lenny Abrahamson (Room)
Todd Haynes (Carol)
Tom McCarthy (Spotlight)
George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road)
Ridley Scott (The Martian)

BEST ACTOR
Bryan Cranston (Trumbo)
Matt Damon (The Martian)
Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant)
Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs)
Ian McKellen (Mr. Holmes)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Paul Dano (Love & Mercy)
Benicio del Toro (Sicario)
Mark Ruffalo (Spotlight)
Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies)
Sylvester Stallone (Creed)

BEST ACTRESS
Elizabeth Banks (Love & Mercy)
Cate Blanchett (Carol)
Brie Larson (Room)
Charlotte Rampling (45 Years)
Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight)
Rooney Mara (Carol)
Rachel McAdams (Spotlight)
Helen Mirren (Trumbo)
Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina)

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Matt Charman, Ethan Coen, and Joel Coen (Bridge of Spies)
Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, and Josh Cooley (Inside Out)
Alex Garland (Ex Machina)
Josh Singer, Tom McCarthy (Spotlight)
Quentin Tarantino (The Hateful Eight)

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Emma Donoghue (Room)
Drew Goddard (The Martian)
Phyllis Nagy (Carol)
Nick Hornby (Brooklyn)
Charles Randolph and Adam McKay (The Big Short)
Aaron Sorkin (Steve Jobs)

TAR HEEL AWARD
(To an artist or film with a special connection to North Carolina.)
Ramin Bahrani (99 Homes)
Finders Keepers
Peyton Reed (Ant-Man)

6 Reviews To Help Lisa Get Caught Up: Ant-Man, Cinderella, Jurassic World, Magic Mike XXL, The Man From UNCLE, Terminator: Genisys


So, it’s that time of year!  2015 is nearly over and soon, it will be time for me to make out my best-of and worst-of lists.  That means that now is the time that I look over all the films that I have watched up to this point, I realize how many of those films I have yet to review ,and I think, “Oh my God, how did I get this far behind?”

So, here are 6 capsule reviews, designed to help me get caught up!

Marvel's Ant-Man

Ant-Man (dir by Peyton Reed)

Ant-Man has already been reviewed twice on this site, once by Leonard Wilson and once by Ryan The Trashfilm Guru.  Leonard liked it.  Ryan did not.  As for me, my reaction was somewhere in between.  I enjoyed Ant-Man, though not as much as I’ve enjoyed some of the previous Marvel films.  Ant-Man was better than the second Thor film but nowhere close to being as good as Captain America: Winter Soldier.

What I did like about Ant-Man were the performances of Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, and Michael Pena.  I even enjoyed Michael Douglas’s performance, which is saying something when you consider the fact that, as of late, Michael Douglas has really been making my skin crawl.  I also thought that the film did a good job creating Ant-Man’s microscopic world, even if I’m still not totally sold on the character as a dynamic hero.  I do wish that the film had a stronger villain.  Corey Stoll is such a good actor and capable of doing so much and it was hard not to regret that he was stuck playing such a generic bad guy.

Cinderella (dir by Kenneth Branagh)

Oh, how I loved Cinderella!  The film, a live-action retelling of the Cinderella story, was a gorgeous fairy tale and a wonderful reminder that a film doesn’t have to be dark and depressing to be good.  (In many ways, Cinderella serves as an antidote to not only Into The Woodsbut countless Tim Burton films as well.)  Lily James is beautiful in the title role, Richard Madden is wonderfully charming as the prince, and Cate Blanchett and Helena Bonham Carter are perfectly cast as the stepmother and the fairy godmother.

Jurassic World (dir by Colin Trevorrow)

Jurassic World was previously reviewed by Ryan the Trashfilm Guru.  I hate to admit it but I was, initially, one of those people who watched Jurassic World and got annoyed because the film was predictable and the script was a bit clunky.  Traditionally (and, if you doubt me, just read my review of Avatar), it bothers me when a film devotes so much time special effects that it can’t seem to be bothered with character development and clever dialogue.

But then I thought about it somewhat and I thought to myself, you know what?  This movie had Chris Pratt and it had some very convincing dinosaurs!  And, especially when it comes to a summer blockbuster, that is sometimes all you need.

(Why I enjoyed Jurassic World while disliking Avatar largely comes down to the difference between Chris Pratt and Sam Worthington.)

Magic Mike XXL (dir by Gregory Jacobs)

Oddly enough, I had the roughly the same reaction to Magic Mike XXL that I had to Jurassic World.  Yes, there are certain things — mostly concerning the film’s script — about which I could nitpick but what’s truly important is that Channing Tatum, Joe Manganiello, and most of the original cast of Magic Mike is back and they’re stripping again.  Magic Mike XXL is a huge (heh heh) crowd pleaser, a film that delivers exactly what it promises.

Though Steven Soderbergh served as cinematographer for Magic Mike XXL, he did not return to serve as director and perhaps that’s why Magic Mike XXL feels like a far less pretentious film than the first Magic Mike.  Out of the original cast, both Matthew McConaughey and Alex Pettyfer both declined to appear in the sequel.  McConaughey is missed, Pettyfer less so.

The Man From UNCLE (dir by Guy Ritchie)

The Man From Uncle is one of the many stylish spy films to be released this year.  Henry Cavill is an American spy, Armie Hammer is a Russian spy, and Hugh Grant is the Englishman who tells them both what to do.  The Man From Uncle was entertaining.  It took place in the 60s, so there was a lot of wonderful retro fashion and the whole movie moved at a nice, breezy pace.  Ultimately — and I’ll be the first to admit that this isn’t exactly fair — The Man From UNCLE suffered because it was released in the same year as Kingsman and Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation.  Man From UNCLE was entertaining but rather generic.  At no point did it reach the lunatic high of Kingsman’s Free Bird sequence.

Terminator: Genisys (dir by Alan Taylor)

You can read Ryan’s review of Terminator: Genisys here.  I have to admit that Terminator: Genisys confused the Hell out of me.  Not being a huge fan of the entire Terminator franchise (though, yes, I do know what Skynet is and I have seen the first two films), I do have to admit that I sometimes felt lost while watching Genisys.

But you know what?  If you just sit back and relax and try not to think about the film too much — if you just accept it as an action film and watch for the stunts and the explosions — Terminator: Genisys is not the disaster that many critics made it out to be.  I mean, let’s just be honest here.  Most critics would die before they gave a good review to any film featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger.  (Just check out all the negativity that greeted the brilliant zombie film, Maggie.)  After all, Schwarzenegger is an outspoken, confident, cheerfully arrogant Republican and most film critics can only relate to the arrogant part.  (And even then, they don’t ever seem to be very cheerful about it…)  Terminator: Genisys is a well-made and perfectly adequate action film, one that works as long as you don’t spend too much time dwelling on it.  It’s cinematic junk food and there’s nothing wrong with that.

terminator-genisys-super-bowl-ad-debuts

Quick Review: Marvel’s Ant-Man (dir. by Peyton Reed)


Marvel's Ant-Man

*** Wait a minute! Before checking this out, be sure to read TrashFilmGuru’s thoughts on Ant-Man and then if you like, double back here. Two opinions are better than one! ***

I walked into Ant Man with a bias.

As a fan of Edgar Wright, his departure on the film due to creative differences left me wondering if it was worth seeing. Mix that with the idea that Marvel diverged from the character’s comic book origins for a better fit into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it all seemed like a recipe for failure. This was going to be the Cars 2 of the MCU, I was sure of it.

Ant-Man isn’t as large a tale as Captain America: The First Avenger or as star spanning as Guardians of the Galaxy. At times, it feels like it the story would be better suited for an extended Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Crossover or a Netflix one shot instead of a big screen event. It actually reminded me of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man in many ways, back when all of this was so small that audiences weren’t searching for tie-ins to next film in the line up or homages to The Story So Far. Ant-Man comes with the MCU connections (and comic book ones too), but if you walk in expecting revelations as big as Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the film may be a disappointment. It’s just a hero, and idea that even small actions can have big effects. It’s easily the film’s greatest strength, that it’s so personal. The film’s best components are it’s casting (particularly in House of Cards & The Strain’s Corey Stoll and Fury’s Michael Pena), and the effects themselves. It’s a movie that’s well worth the 3D treatment, if you can catch it that way.

Ant-Man focuses on Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), a former thief who is just trying to spend more time with his daughter, or at least be a hero in her eyes. Scott ends up meeting with Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) who brings him on board for a job that just happens to cover his particular skill set. The job comes with a special suit that allows Lang to shrink down to about the size of an Ant, while at the same time allowing him to be much stronger. When Pym’s protege and rival Cross (Stoll) discovers another way to possibly make the shrink ability work, it’s up to Lang to try to stop the progress.

The film had 4 writers during it’s creation. It had Edgar Wright, who many moviegoers know from the Cornetto Trilogy (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, The World’s End) and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Adam McKay worked with Rudd in the past on the Anchorman films, and was responsible for Talladega Nights & Step Brothers. Both McKay and Rudd had a hand in writing Ant-Man. Finally, Attack the Block’s Joe Cornish was on board. The end result of all this is a film with a great deal of comedy influences in it, though not all of them hit the mark. I felt there were at least 2 moments in the film where Rudd’s character had a one liner that just didn’t hit the mark, or elicit a response from the audience. This isn’t a terrible thing, at most it’s just nitpicking. Overall, you could consider Ant-Man a comic caper with superhero moments.

Additionally, the writers had to also figure out how to make the character of Dr. Hank Pym useful in a storyline where one of his biggest arcs in the comics – creating Ultron – was already handled in a previous story. I like to think this was handled pretty well, as comic readers will already recognize Scott Lang as being the 2nd Ant-Man – or least this is what I learned from the Marvel Encyclopedia. They’ve managed to keep familiar storylines in place while still anchoring it to the larger tale at hand.

The performances in Ant-Man are good, though it’s the co-stars that potentially steal the film from the leads. Lang’s heist buddies, played by David Dastmalchian (The Dark Knight), Cliff “T.I.” Harris (Takers), and Michael Pena (Fury) were indeed funny in this. Pena in particular stood out as someone who gets ahold of information through some pretty wild sources. Michael Douglas was a strange pick for me when I first heard about it, but he’s actually a fantastic fit for the whole story. Evangeline Lilly looked like she had a lot of fun with this, though her character served as a second mentor for Lang. I wanted to see her do a bit more in the film, actually. Bobby Canavale (Chef, Third Watch) and Judy Greer (Jurassic World) both have nice supporting roles in this.

Corey Stoll has played an ass so much on-screen that I’m not entirely sure he isn’t that way off camera. Between Non-Stop, House of Cards, Midnight in Paris and now Ant-Man, he’s plays the kind of characters that were historically set aside for character actors like Jeff Kober or Michael Ironside. Honestly, they couldn’t have made a better choice here. Cross comes off like a variant of Iron Man’s Odebiah Stane, resentful, evil, and maybe a little crazed. Rudd, on the other hand, handles the Hero’s Journey with ease, bringing his own sense of comedy that works almost as well as it did for Chris Pratt in Guardians of the Galaxy. It’s not perfect, but the character’s lighthearted nature is a good contrast from the serious gloom and doom that most of the Avengers are going through these days, and I feel Rudd did well here.

That’s another aspect of Ant-Man that needs to be recognized. The story in this may have a larger impact in things to come, but it felt really compact. Since the focus on the story involves Lang getting back to his daughter and stopping this one small thing, it takes a step back from the escalation we’ve been getting in previous MCU films. To me, since Phase Two started, every film’s been a stepping stone with at least one huge revelation somewhere that shows this is all much bigger than any one hero can take on. Discovery of the Infinity Stones, the big reveal of S.H.I.E.L.D. In the Winter Soldier and the events in Age of Ultron cover a large area. Maybe it’s better to say that they have an impact that’s covers a wide distance. With Ant-Man being the first film of Phase Three, it feels almost as if a step back it taken to something more personal. It’s not bad, but it’s different. It has the potential to leave viewers with a bad taste in their mouths if they were expecting something grand.

The effects in Ant-Man are good, really, really sweet. Quite honestly, it may be one of the first times where I haven’t found myself annoyed by what I call “The Zoic Effect” – that technique used in almost every film these days where you’re watching something and the director decides “Hey, let’s do a maximum level quick zoom on that target right there!”, because there’s a chance the audience might not see the subject. I believe Zoic Studios were the first to do that with Firefly and Battlestar Galactica, though I could be wrong. In Ant-Man, that rapid intense zoom is almost a welcome requirement when watching a little figure run and leap up and over objects. Add a 3D effect to all that, and I found myself enjoying that on the big screen. From a directing standpoint, it’s all very straightforward and you get an idea of the influences from all of the writers involved. Still, Peyton Reed (Down With Love) keeps from the film from straying too far away from it’s intended focus. Additionally, though the help of CGI, Disney/Marvel was able to digitize a younger Michael Douglas, and the look of this was even better than what they accomplished with Jeff Bridges in Tron: Legacy.

Overall, Ant-Man is a great addition to the MCU and on it’s own, it’s strong. I suppose Thor will still have to stay as the Cars 2 of that movie library. Note to viewers: If you’re planning to see this, be sure to stay until after the end credits. There’s a mid scene during the credits and one at the very end.

Ant-Man Keeps the Marvel Train Moving Along


Ant-Man

Will Marvel Studios have it’s first misstep when Ant-Man arrives in theaters this July? Or will it surpass many people’s expectations the way Guardians of the Galaxy did when it came out late summer of 2014? These are questions that fans and critics alike have been pondering since the rather underwhelming teaser trailer which was released earlier this year.

Now, with Avengers: Age of Ultron just weeks away from bulldozing over everything in it’s way it looks like Marvel and Disney have turned their attention to getting the Ant-Man hype train up to speed. If any film needs some fueling up it would be this one which has had a more than contentious production. It loses it’s original director in Edgar Wright after he and the heads at Marvel Studios (Kevin Feige) disagreed on how to proceed with the film. The search for a director to replace Wright became a game of which comedic filmmaker would pass on the project next (Peyton Reed finally was the last man standing).

When the teaser finally came out the tone it gave seemed too serious for a film that was being billed as a sort of action-comedy or, at the very least, an action film that included more than the usual comedic beats than past films in the MCU.

Today we see the first official trailer for Ant-Man and gone is the super serious tone of the teaser and in comes a mixture of action and comedy. It’s a trailer that actually gives us an idea of the sort of powers the title character has outside of being just being tiny. Then we get more than just a glimpse of Scott Lang’s main antagonist with Corey Stoll in the role of Darren Cross aka Yellowjacket.

Maybe this film will still end up giving Marvel Studio it’s very first black-eye, but this trailer goes a major way in making sure it doesn’t happen.

Ant-Man is set for a July 17, 2015 release date.

Trailer: Ant-Man


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First they said that Guardians of the Galaxy will be the first misstep in the rolling juggernaut train that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe. How could a film adaptation of a comic book that even hardcore readers barely know ever hit it big with the general public. Yet, it more than shot down detractors and nyasayers to become the biggest hit of 2014 and help usher in a major change in how people will now look at the MCU.

So, Guardians of the Galaxy wasn’t the first mistake. Then it has to be 2015’s Ant-Man starring Paul Rudd and a film already known for being the one where Edgar Wright was forced to leave as director. Yes, this will be Marvel Studios first misstep and it will show that Kevin Feige’s producer-driven plan will never trump the creative-driven director tradition.

So, during the season premiere of Agent Carter, we finally have the first official trailer for Ant-Man. Time will tell if this does become Marvel’s first bump in their road to world domination or will it surprise everyone the way Guardians of the Galaxy did this part summer of 2014.

Ant-Man is set for a July 17, 2015 release date.

What Lisa and Erin Watched Last Night #63: Bring It On (dir. by Peyton Reed)


Last night, my sister Erin Nicole (a.k.a. Dazzling Erin) and I watched the classic 2000 cheerleading movie Bring It On on AMC.

Why Were We Watching It?

Seriously, how can you not watch Bring It On?

Back in high school, while I was doing my goth ballerina thing, Erin Nicole was a cheerleader and, though she denies it, she pretty much was Kirsten Dunst back then.  Anyway, Erin usually refuses to watch Bring It On because she says she had already had to sit through it a few hundred times by the time she turned 17.  For this reason, I always make it a point to let Erin know when Bring It On is on TV and to try to trick her into watching it with me.

But last night, to my surprise, she was the one who saw the movie listed in the guide and started watching it because, according to her, there was nothing else on.  (Personally, I think Erin was feeling nostalgic but she denies it.)  I joined her shortly after the movie started and, according to Erin, I spent the next two hours jumping around and acting all hyper.  That’s not quite the way I remember it but Erin’s the cheerleader so I’ll take her word for it.

What’s It About?

Torrance (played by Kirsten Dunst) is the new captain of her high school’s cheerleading squad and is determined to lead them to yet another national title.  However, Missy (Eliza Dushku), a new member of the squad, reveals that the squad only won those titles by stealing routines from an inner city cheerleader squad.  Torrance now has to create an original routine while dealing with her cheating boyfriend (Richard Hillman) and flirting with Missy’s brother (Jesse Bradford), who looks a lot like Paul Rudd and is skeptical about whether cheerleading’s really all that important in the grand scheme of things.

What Worked?

Let’s just come right out and say it: Bring It On is one of the greatest high school movies ever made.  It’s fun, it’s funny, and best of all, it’s real.  The film’s director, Peyton Reed, the film’s writers, Jessica Bendinger and Stephen White, and the film’s cast all perfectly capture just how important the little dramas are when you’re a teenager.  The film even manages to say something very important about issues like race and economic inequality.

Plus, as Erin and I both agreed last night, Jesse Bradford is HOT!

According to Erin, she has flashbacks and starts laughing uncontrollably  whenever she hears the line “These are spirit fingers!”

What Didn’t Work?

It all worked.  Seriously, if you can be critical of a film like Bring It On then you’re probably taking life too seriously.

“OH MY GOD!  Just like Erin!” Moments

Last night, I finally got Erin to admit that she liked Bring It On because it reminded her of her cheerleading days but Erin added, “But I wasn’t as bouncy as Kirsten Dunst is in this movie.”  To that, I can only smile and say, “Whatever,” because, as everyone knows, the Bowman Girls are always bouncy.  That’s a part of our charm.

Lessons Learned

If you’re going do it, then bring it!