Live by the Silver Linings Playbook?

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The Silver Linings Playbook, starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper, is a film that has won many awards, including a BAFTA, an Oscar and an Academy Award while being nominated for several others. While this is a film adaptation of a novel, I have yet to pick up the novel, so my review will not be all encompassing from that standpoint. Silver Linings Playbook follows Pat, Bradley Cooper’s character as his mother, against doctor’s orders, brings him home after a time in a mental institution. With an ex-wife he is trying to win back and a new girl, Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), who not only battles her own demons but also wants to win Pat’s affections, life is more than difficult to handle at times.

While I’m certainly no expert on dealing with mental disorders, even I can tell that this film was written and performed beautifully. It’s always hard to get it just right, as sufferers from the same illness may have diverse reactions to the same situation, but in this case they went with it and made a killing. The actors, in addition, bring nuances to the film that might be lost in script form, but certainly bring it to life while watching it. I was drawn in and felt their tumultuous emotions during the two hours of film time.

As the movie progresses, you find yourself immersed in Pat’s new life and how he isn’t coping well; wanting to win his ex-wife back even though she has a restraining order against him. Until he is given something to focus on, encouraged and enforced by Tiffany, he has a hard time making his life into a functional, happy one. He learns, over the course of the movie, that what he thought he wanted and would make him happy once more and what actually makes him happy are two very different things. With this emotional turnabout, the audience is relieved to see him making a wonderful choice in order to continue his life without dwelling on the past and his stint in the mental institution.

While this film has an R rating and would not be suitable for minors due to some violence and mostly a lot of swearing, I would suggest it to anyone 16 and up, as long as they had a mature mindset. It’s a well-written, beautifully performed story about finding happiness and coping with your problems. I definitely don’t recommend this if you are looking for something more funny and romantic, although it is technically a rom-com; it’s a bit more on the serious and bittersweet side. Still, I give Silver Linings Playbook a 5/5 stars!

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Lucy: One Girl You Never Want To Know

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Lucy: a movie starring Scarlett Johansson and Morgan Freeman is a slightly ridiculous science fiction movie that should have had a more coherent plot if it wanted to keep audiences interested for the entire 90 minutes it was on screen. As much as I love the two big-name actors that are fronting this movie, the writing of the screenplay was atrocious at best. I knew, going into it, that it wasn’t likely to leave a lasting impression based on the rating it had received (58%) on Rotten Tomatoes, plus a lovely movie review blog I follow here on WordPress (Justine’s Blog) that discussed her thoughts on the movie. In any case, I decided that for a fun night out with my boyfriend, we would go watch Lucy.

At first the premise wasn’t so bad, Sure, it posits that humans only use about 10% of their brain and though it is not a true fact of life it is presented as one. For a good plot I’m ready to believe anything (like aliens exist, zombies have taken over the world, the world has been thrown into another ice age…), so I let it go. In fact, for a good half of the film it seemed as though everything was going to tie together. Even when we watched Lucy, the main character, become a drug mule and get beaten up as a plot device to get the new drug into her system. The new drug, unsurprisingly, makes Lucy super-powerful and capable of accessing 100% of her brain.

You see, here is where things start to get a little wonky. I could suppose that it’s all the writer’s take on what could happen if humans were able to use all of their brain and that the hypothesis could be that the said human (Lucy, in this case) would become God-like in qualities and powers possessed. However, the fact that Morgan Freeman’s character, the man who has been studying the 10% functionality and theorizing what would happen if brain power were boosted past that threshold, was correct in all of his concepts threw me. Science and more specifically theories are meant to be proved incorrect. “In all science, error precedes the truth, and it is better it should go first than last.” Hugh Walpole once said. The beginning part of the quote is the part I’d like to focus on—”error precedes the truth”. This is almost always true (i.e. the world was flat—until it was proven to be spherical), and when theories are posited you expect even a tiny little itty bit of them to be at least not-so-right. (See X-Men, Alphas). I just found his spot-on hypotheses to be really sketchy.

Continuing on in the movie, Scarlett Johansson undoubtedly gave a phenomenal performance (as did Freeman), but the plot got lost partway through. Suddenly everything changed from Lucy wanting nothing more than to get out of the situation she was in and go back to her normal life with finals and partying, but then she got all caught up trying to get her brain to get to 100% functionality—seemingly for no reason. I tried to go with it, as any audience does when a plot twist is thrown at them, but it was difficult to understand where the movie was going by now.

The finale of the movie (which I won’t spoil for you, don’t worry), was lackluster and seemed like a cop-out in the face of all the questions left over from the movie. It seemed like they were trying to go for some enlightenment or a big ‘aha’, but no one in the audience seemed to get it. Whether it went over our heads or it just wasn’t made clear, I’m not sure. I just know that no one left the theater satisfied.

Big Hero 6, Great Movie and More

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Big Hero 6 is a relatively new film, based on a Marvel comic and rated PG, this is a well-rounded story that is very cute and grounded. With Ryan Potter voicing the main character, Hiro, you won’t be disappointed. Even more stellar of a performance was that of Scott Adsit, playing the voice of Baymax—your personal health care companion: it’s hard to have inflection and emotion come through a robot voice, but they made it happen just enough that it truly touches you.

There were a lot of great aspects to Big Hero 6, including the character development which is one of the main story arcs, as well as helping others. Among the sub-themes was family, friendship and justice vs. revenge. All of these themes were wound together, showing a beautiful story of love and loss: how blaming others for a tragic death is not healthy and doesn’t help to bring the deceased back. How even though people tell you that the deceased isn’t really gone due to the love in your heart and memories you carry with you, it still hurts to not see them smiling at you when you expect to see just that. That’s a difficult pill to swallow and rarely covered with children’s films, who often have characters who are seemingly unbothered by the death of a close friend or who cannot get over it. It was refreshing and, though a bit sad, it was well-grounded through these themes.

However, this story wasn’t all sadness and depression. There were plenty of adorable scenes, such as any scene with Aunt Cass, who was much needed comic relief and positivity. A more prominent character that gave that as well was Honey Lemon, though she was much quieter and tended more towards the positivity with Fred, another prominent character, providing the comic relief. Even Baymax earned quite a few laughs at the theater, getting into situations that were a little ridiculous (getting stuck in a window).

Overall I would give Big Hero 6 a 5/5 stars and definitely recommend this film to anybody. Yes, it’s a bit serious and sad in some parts, but it teaches a great lesson to those willing to hear it. Way to go, Disney, for adapting this comic into something suitable for all ages!

We’re the Millers: Inappropriate Humor, All the Laughs

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We’re the Millers is a romantic comedy from 2013 starring Jennifer Aniston and Jason Sudeikis. Sudeikis’ character, David, is a small-time drug dealer in a tight spot after he gets robbed. When David gets voluntold to go fetch some drugs from Mexico he recruits Rose, a stripper; Kenny, a kid living in his apartment complex; and Casey, a couch-surfer to pretend to be his family and help him drive under the radar across the border with the drugs. As you can imagine, the chaos that ensues is ridiculous and more than a little crass, but seeing as that is exactly my type of humor the movie sat well with me.

Certainly, there were some jokes that were a miss, but for the most part it was a direct hit to the funny bone—the plot may have been predictable, but the characters drew you in enough that it didn’t matter. The interpersonal relationships among the characters was both interesting and humorous, adding depth to a movie that could have been a flop otherwise.

I was pleasantly surprised that there was character development all over the place, a likable cast and valuable minor characters. There were many references to how strong the women were and how amazing they were for being that way given their situations before the movie’s plot came by and swept them up in it. This definitely made the movie more likable for me, as there has been a sore lack of strong female characters in any genre in past years. With the recent surge in them, I’m always pleased to find them well-written and well-rounded in surprising genres such as romantic comedies. Props to the writers of this film for not only getting the leading women right, but also writing every other character like they were actual human beings as opposed to 2-dimensional cutouts to fill a role.

The only thing I would warn of is the brand of humor and subject matter. This movie was not suitable to anyone younger than 17; however I do give this movie a rating of 4.5/5 stars, only detracting for the predictable plot.

Dracula Untold: More Than the Expected Blood and Gore

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When my boyfriend told me we were going to see Dracula Untold I was pretty agreeable. It falls into my beloved supernatural drama, plus it had the pull of myth, legend and history all rolled into it’s story as well: needless to say, I said I wanted to see it as soon as I had seen the preview a couple of months ago. So we went with a friend to watch it on opening night.

Overall it was a lot more tame than I was expecting. Where I was expecting over-sexualization there was romance and familial love; where I expected ridiculously gore-y action scenes there was well choreographed battles with only a couple of scenes that had me cringing due to something disgusting (literally two scenes, and this was before Vlad became a vampire). I was rather pleased with the film, though I wouldn’t say it was worth watching on opening night.

The story was well told, the characters well developed and the love between Vlad and his people built up appropriately before the inciting incident that got the whole plot moving. Once the ball was rolling, the pacing was perfect with lulls between action scenes that gave the viewer a break, but weren’t fillers. There were very few things that made me do a double take, as well, which is always a good thing in any medium.

The only things I didn’t love about the film are that there were a couple of questionable details: sunlight coming through a tent that was underneath thick, supernatural storm clouds; silver swords being not only made somewhat frequently, but also holding up in battle against iron swords. Everything else could have some explanation, regardless of how unrealistic it may be. These things, I felt, did not match up to any sort of physics that the film had previously shown to be true.

On the other hand there were details in the film that I loved to pieces, including a priest named Lucian which is a name that crops up in plenty of other Dracula tales. Earlier on, Vlad lost two of his men suddenly and in the scene immediately following he lamented the fact to his wife, saddened by their deaths. This detail could have been cut from the movie, but by it’s being there it connected Vlad as a good man who cared about his people.

I would give Dracula Untold a solid 4.5/5 stars. I wouldn’t say that this film is suitable for anyone under 17 due to its graphic and violent nature, however it is a lovely supernatural movie I wouldn’t mind watching over again.

The Maze Runner: Bestselling Novel and an Amazing, Must-See Movie!

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I first read James Dashner’s The Maze Runner a few years ago, well after it had its sequels written and it had become a bestseller. Certainly it was below my reading level, but honestly I read more as an escape than anything. There’s a world that draws me in and makes connections between myself and the characters? I’m there! The Maze Runner delivered as promised. When I heard that there was a movie coming out—and better yet it was starring one of my favourite actors—I immediately set my sights on seeing it the weekend it came out. So Saturday night I went to see it.

With stars like Dylan O’Brien, Thomas Brodie-Sangster and Ki Hong Lee it’s no wonder that the movie was so stellar. Will Poulter, Kaya Scodelario and Blake Cooper were no slumps either. In fact, the entire cast was pretty darn amazing! The film on a whole stuck relatively close to the book, although there were some differences that had me scrambling to figure out how it would all come together in the sequels. Needless to say, I will be waiting with bated breath, but I liked the differences well enough.

Mostly the scant amount of Gladers (as the boys in The Maze Runner call themselves) in the movie as a whole got to me. In the books it was impressed upon you several times that Thomas, the main character, still didn’t know everyone even after all they had been through together and he still referred to them as ‘some Glader he didn’t know the name of’. So that would mean there was quite a good amount of them, as well as the approximation of only a handful having died out of the many who were sent up into the Glade (one per month for three years, at least). So yeah, the fact that they didn’t have very many Gladers did cause me to wonder how they were going to deal with later scenes, but perhaps it was due to the creators and producers not having the time for the more extraneous characters or the ability to cast for them either monetarily or time-wise. Perhaps it was more due to keeping a more coherent story for the audience and forge connections with the major characters as opposed to the myriads that you meet in the books. No matter what the reasoning was, it threw me off and made me ask lots of questions.

However, there was plenty of awesome in the movie: from the action scenes to the emotions and facial expressions—everything about The Maze Runner was pure gold. The casting in and of itself was amazing. I will admit that Dylan O’Brien looked a bit more buff than I suspected Thomas was (I pictured him more lanky in the books), making him look older than the other Gladers by quite a bit, but his portrayal of the character more than made up for that.

The big reason why you should watch the movie? It’s story arc is an interesting one, keeping you guessing even through the second and third installments. I completely suggest reading the books first, as I always love noting the disparities and chatting about them with other fans, but just watching the movie alone should give you a good enough overview of what you would be getting into with the novels if you decide to watch first. As of any film interpretation of a book, it leaves a lot of substance out, but what it lacks there, it makes up for in quality. I highly suggest The Maze Runner, although I do caution it for more mature audiences—there is death and such involved as this is a dystopian story. Overall I give The Maze Runner a 5/5 stars.

There Are No Reasons to Not Watch Guardians of the Galaxy Right Now

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I’d been waiting for Guardians of the Galaxy to come out since they first announced the film. Today I got to see it and was absolutely thrilled with how it came out: it was hilarious, action-packed and well-rounded.

For those of you who don’t know who the Guardians of the Galaxy are, you might want to check out the Marvel comics because they’re wonderful and worth the time. To give you a short view of them, they are made up of an outlaw, an assassin, a living tree, a cybernetically and genetically enhanced raccoon and a big guy with a vendetta. These guys tend to find trouble everywhere they go, and in this particular instance it all starts out with Peter Quill, the outlaw, stealing an important orb from an abandoned planet. The thing is, this orb isn’t just some decorative item, it’s actually a really powerful weapon, on par with the Tesseract from The Avengers and Thor. But wait, there’s more! He’s not the only one after this weapon, it seems like everyone is after it, including one of the most powerful forces in the universe: Thanos.

So there’s quite a bit of action, due to all the various fight scenes, but right when the tension gets to that cut-it-with-a-knife level, someone makes a joke. Talk about great writing! The jokes fit perfectly too, so it just makes the audience relieved and keeps them enjoying the film during it’s just over 2 hour run-time.

Something that I noticed that was a wonderful thing to see and you don’t see too often was character development all the way around. Each one of the characters had some kind of revelation: Drax the Destroyer learned that his vendetta didn’t have to end in a suicide run at the bad guy; Gamora learned to trust in others and not just herself; Rocket learned to accept the fact that he was different; Groot not only learned to speak other words than “I am Groot”, but he also learned that sometimes you must fight for peace; and lastly Peter Quill learned to forgive himself for things done in his past. All in all, there was a lot of great advancement in the plot and each subplot based on what these characters learned. I absolutely loved seeing such well-written characters on the big screen.

All in all I definitely recommend going to see Guardians of the Galaxy or at least watching it when it comes out on DVD/BlueRay. It’s a great movie for any member of the family and funny enough to keep you going through the whole movie!