August 26, 2009

#035: Junebug

The first film I ever saw Amy Adams act in was Enchanted; the real-life Disney film where she stars opposite Patrick Dempsey. While I didn't really love the film, I thought she did an awesome job playing that innocent princess character. I found her to be very charming, and pretty cute. I was an instant fan. I wanted to see her in different movies and watch her masterfully act out a wide array of different characters. Therefore, I watched a small film she was in called Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day. I quickly realized she was acting out the same naive girl, but this time a lot more bitchy and annoying. Then earlier this year I heard she was teamed up with Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman in Doubt. I thought for sure I would see her flex her acting muscles here. However, she once again plays a naive innocent girl, this time dressed up as a nun. Aside from her accent in Miss Pettigrew, she even used variations of the same voice in all three films. I heard mention of another movie she had done back in 2005, before she had been typecast, called Junebug. I put it on my Netflix queue a few months ago, and just this past month it finally made its way to the top.

Junebug is an indie film about a guy returning home after 3 years of being gone. He has broken away from his small town roots and now lives in Chicago. He was recently married to an older woman who owns an art studio, and they are all kinds of classy. She finds a prospective new artist she would like to feature in her gallery, and he just happens to live close to her hubby's hometown. They decide to make the trip together so she can get her first introduction to the in-laws.

Overall this was a pretty good film. It has a good vibe to it and I really enjoyed going along for the ride with this family. It is also very funny. It is definitely not a comedy, but I found myself laughing a lot. It has the indie feel to it, and it is very character driven. The plot will seem like it wanders, and in the end feel incomplete when compared to most movies. The one character that really steals the show in this film is the one played by Amy Adams. Guess what... she plays a naive girl with child-like innocence, this time adding a thick southern accent to her standard voice. Her character here felt like an even more exaggerated version of the other three I mentioned. Looking at the movies chronologically, she is actually toning it down a little bit as time goes on. Her portrayal of her character in Junebug is great. She completely takes over the film and is even more charming than she was in Enchanted. As far as Junebug goes, I liked it a lot, and think it is worth checking out. It has some great scenes, and I really enjoyed watching the family dynamic.

Now back to Amy. From looking at her imdb profile I just realized she is the purse saleswoman from the tv series The Office. I cannot believe I didn't realize that before. I haven't seen her episodes for a long time, but if I remember correctly she plays an attractive, slightly naive girl that Jim goes on a few dates with. I also see she was in Talledega Nights. I can't remember her character that well, but I am pretty sure she played an innocent, most likely naive, "nice" girl that was always there for Ricky Bobby. Amy Adams... what the hell. I have seen you in 6 roles, and they are all essentially the same. Has anybody else noticed this? I see she was also in Underdog and Charlie Wilson's War. I haven't seen either of those but I have CWW on my DVR. In the next few months I am going to watch a couple other movies of her's: Sunshine Cleaning and the new Night At The Museum movie. I wasn't planning on watching Night At The Museum, but I heard Amy's butt is a vision to behold in her Amelia Earhart pants. That is enough to make me sit down and watch, or at least skip through and find her scenes. Is that creepy? Anyway, she also has the new Julie and Julia movie that just came out in theaters. I will probably check that one out on dvd. Has anybody seen these other movies? Does she branch out, or does she play the same role she always does? Does anybody else even think she plays the same character all of the time? Don't get me wrong, I really really like Amy Adams, and she is definitely one of the better actresses out there. She will always be on my radar, and I will always look forward to seeing her on screen.


August 24, 2009

#034: 17 Again

Just by merely writing about this movie I risk losing any movie cred that I may have had. However, I will admit that I did watch it, and it was actually pretty good. I had very low expectations going in. I assumed Zac Efron was going to give an over-exaggerated annoying performance. I have never seen any of the High School Musical movies, but I can just imagine what they were like, and I didn't figure he had the skill to bring anything else to the table. However, I was completely wrong. He does a great job in this film. His performance is far and away the best thing about the movie. 17 Again could have been really horrible if the lead actor did a poor job, but Efron made it entertaining, and enjoyable to watch. He was really engaging, and he earned a lot more of my respect that I thought he would.

17 Again is the pretty much the opposite of the movie Big. Here, a full grown adult goes back into the body of his 17 year old self. He of course befriends his own son and gives him a confidence boost, as well as inadvertently makes his own daughter get a crush on him... all the while trying to keep his wife from divorcing him, which results in a series of uncomfortably creepy scenes. I was impressed that they put those scenes in the movie. Most age-change movies wont touch that stuff, but this movie did its best to make it believable, while not crossing the line into pedophilia. This is still a pretty corny movie, with a lot of comedy moments that didn't really work for me. However, it doesn't pretend to be a serious film with some important message. 17 Again was actually really fun, and I am glad I watched it. It exceeded my expectations by far. I would even recommend this to people as long as they don't expect too much out of it.

August 23, 2009

#033: District 9

I had never even heard about this movie until a few weeks ago when I saw a trailer for it at Bruno. From that very first trailer I could tell I was probably going to see it at the theater. I am not sure why it interested me so much. The trailers show very little about the actual film. You can tell that there are going to be aliens, and they have a big-ass ship floating above a city. You can also gather that the aliens somehow come to live amongst the humans and this is causing some sort of social conflict. Other than that you have no idea what the film is about, or who the actors even are. For those of you who want to maintain your ignorance, you should probably not read the rest of this post. I am definitely not going to spoil anything, but I am going to give a lot more information than what I had before watching it. Some people like to be completely clueless going into a film and I respect that. But I guess those people probably aren't out on the internet reading blogs.

The film starts out with documentary style footage that tells us nothing about where the aliens are from or how they got to Earth. It does however tell us that the ship stalled over the city of Johannesburg South Africa and just sat there. Everybody waited for something to come out, but nothing ever did. Finally, with the eyes of the world watching, the South African government decided to cut their way into the ship and see what was going on. When they entered they found tons of what they described as worker-class aliens starving to death. They were very weak and could not defend themselves. The decision was made to bring them down out of their ship and give them catfood, as well as set up housing for them. This all happened 20 years ago, and the tensions between the aliens and humans have now reached a breaking point. The government has decided the aliens can no longer stay in "District 9" which is a fenced-in slum located in the city of Johannesburg. They must be moved further out of the city so they won't cause anymore problems. We follow the story of Wikus, a somewhat bumbling alien affairs worker who is put in charge evicting the residents of District 9.
District 9 is a great film that does a ton of things right. It was made with less than one fourth of the budget of a normal summer action movie these days... and still looks really really awesome. The lead character is played by an actor who has never been in a movie before. District 9 has this "real" feel to it. I don't really know how to describe it, or how they achieved it, but from the very beginning it felt like all of these things were actually happening. The documentary style footage and the way it was all set up probably had something to do with it. For a sci-fi movie you feel very connected to it from the beginning, like you could actually be there seeing these things happening. There is also this very dark and serious tone to everything. A lot of summer action movies have at least one character who is blatantly there for comic relief. This film does not have that at all, but at the same time it doesn't take itself too seriously. It doesn't rely on in-your-face jokes to lighten things up. Rather, it subtly works things in that are very clearly meant to be funny. Its almost as if the filmmakers are winking at you and saying, "We know what we are doing here, just enjoy." Distict 9 is also a visceral experience. There are some very brutal gross-out scenes that are almost physically painful to watch. I can't remember the last time that I had that sensation while watching a movie, but it is usually a good sign. They did a great job of building tension and then the film makers take you on a thrill-ride for the last half. I had a lot of fun with this film, and could easily sit down and watch it again. I also really liked how focused this movie was. In contrast with a movie like Transformers from this summer, which has tons of characters and tons of things going on simultaneously, District 9 is very simple. The entire time we follow Wikus around and see the story from only his eyes. It made it very easy to be 100% engaged in the story the entire time. Also, I mentioned the actor had never been in a movie before. Well, he does an amazing job with this film. He is the perfect anti-hero, and he plays this role very well.
There are a few criticisms I had about District 9. My main complaint is mostly determined by expectation. The first 20 minutes of this movie sets up for a sociologically driven film that has a lot of depth. However, they never go down that path. District 9 is content to be a summer action movie, and it isn't going to pretend to be anything different. This filmmaker originally made a 6 minute short film called "Alive In Joburg" which District 9 is based on. You can find it on youtube, and I would recommend watching it whether you have seen District 9 yet or not. It has a lot of similarities to the beginning of District 9. From the short I get the feeling that he wanted to make this serious film that was an allegory for apartheid and racism in general. However, when he gets the money to actually make a full-length film, he uses the same setup to introduce us to a all-out, guns a' blazin, action flick. I am not sure why that disappoints me, but it does. I feel like this film had a chance to be a lot more powerful, but the trade off is that it would have been less enjoyable to watch. I don't know if he had to make concessions to actually get it up on the big screen or not, but it kinda feels that way. I also had some issues with some plot points about how the aliens are portrayed. After thinking about the film a little more, some things just didn't make sense. I still would highly recommend seeing this movie. It is one of the best action movies I have seen in a while. I think you will have a lot of fun with it just as I did.

I just realized that I could have embedded the video for Alive In Joburg right in the post.