Recently watched: Cafe Society

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Last night we rented “Cafe Society”, a film written, directed and narrated by Woody Allen. I haven’t seen very many Woody Allen movies, but the ones I have seen I’ve always enjoyed, such as  one of my favorites, “To Rome With Love.”

Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart are great in the film, and seem to have pretty good chemistry throughout. The real star of “Cafe Society”, though, is the environments around the actors. There’s not an incredibly thrilling story to tell, and it certainly doesn’t offer any great conclusion, but I felt like the story that does exist was there mostly to navigate from one environment to another. The great music and all the life in the background really shine from beginning to end, and I never felt bored or disinterested. I know I’m probably not doing a great job of selling the movie, but I think it’ll probably remain underappreciated and overlooked by most people, and that’s sad.

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There’s not much more I have to say about the film. I wasn’t blown away, and was never in awe, but it felt good watching it. I’m glad we gave it a chance.

Seeing Star Wars: The Force Awakens (spoilers may follow)

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I was able to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens last on base last night thanks to a partnership between AAFES and Disney, and I couldn’t have been more excited. Many of us stayed up hours after a long day of work to see Episode VII, and it was absolutely amazing!

Leading up to the release of The Force Awakens I deliberately avoided most Star Wars news and reviews so that it could be as fresh an experience as possible. I knew nothing about the film other than the tidbits of information that could be gleaned from the trailers. I fully expected the appearances of Han Solo and Chewbacca to be nothing more than a cameo, so I was delightfully surprised to find they play a major role in the film. I was also glad to find that many other iconic Star Wars characters make appearances throughout the film, and it seems as if they’ll be important players throughout the trilogy.

The Force Awakens is not all about old favorites, however. The new characters Rey, Finn, Poe and BB-8 are all incredibly interesting, and yet very little is revealed about them which makes me even more excited for what comes next. It seems clear that Rey will play a central role as the trilogy unfolds, but I’m curious to see how Finn will fit into the future of the Resistance. I really enjoyed watching his transformation from an uncertain Storm Trooper, to a self serving character who helps the Resistance only to achieve his personal goals (echoing Han Solo).

Overall the story and action of The Force Awakens is very much akin to that of the original trilogy. Everything looks and sounds like it did in the older films, and the story is so similar to that of A New Hope that some fans have come away from Episode VII mildly disappointed. It is undeniable that The Force Awakens plot points echoe A New Hope’s from beginning to end, however I feel like this both adds a sense of nostalgia and acts as a tribute to first film. Vox has a pretty good breakdown of the ways in which VII mirrors / copies I (with some MAJOR spoilers), but the similarities are probably already apparent to anyone who’s been a fan of the series.

I enjoyed everything about The Force Awakens. In some ways it may be A New Hope with a fresh coat of paint, but it left this Star Wars fan with a huge smile on his face.

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Ant-Man

 

Ant-Man

I’ll admitt, I didn’t even know they were making an Ant-Man movie until about last week. I don’t ever recall seeing a trailer for it or hearing anything about it. I know very little about the character, but I do remember seeing him in some old Avengers comics. I honestly probably would have never gone to see Ant-Man on my own, but this evening some people from work wanted to see it so I tagged along.

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We went to the Galaxy theater at the Cannery in North Las Vegas, and the theater itself was pretty darn nice! I loved the reclining seats, and although the only seats left were in the first three rows it wasn’t too bad once fully reclined. Heck, I’m not sure I can go back to a normal movie theater after watching a movie in these chairs, it was awesome!

Overall I enjoyed Ant-Man, however I feel that the set up was a little drawn out and overly boring. I guess most origin stories are a little drawn out, but I just wasn’t getting into the movie at all in the beginning. That said, once the character is established things start to move along at a quicker and more exciting pace. The scenes in which Ant-Man is insect sized are wonderfully pleasing to watch and they do some truly unique things with the concept. As enjoyable as Ant-Man is visually, the Marvel movie formula makes much of the film predictable and causes some of the comedy to fall flat.

In the end I enjoyed Ant-Man more than I enjoyed the last Avengers movie, however I want Marvel to step outside of the Marvel movie box a bit more, if that makes sense. I’d recommend Ant-Man to anyone both those who enjoy Marvel films in particular and even those who are just action comedy fans. There’s plenty for everyone to enjoy.

 

Recently Watched: The Gambler

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I’m here in Las Vegas this month for work, so what better time to watch The Gambler! I had wanted to see it for awhile, but never got around to it, so I finally picked it up from Redbox this weekend.

Mark Wahlberg plays the character Jim Bennett wonderfully, and it was both agonizing and enjoyable to watch his journey to and out of rock bottom throughout the film. John Goodman and Brie Larson are also incredibly enjoyable to watch, and both play their characters well.

The transition scenes that count down the days until Bennett’s deadline to repay his debts, and the beginning of his romance with Larson’s character are some of my favorite parts of the movie, but the thrilling conclusion and the runup to it is just as good. I definitely recommend checking out The Gambler if you haven’t already.

Worth Watching: The DUFF

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Last night we rented The DUFF on Xbox Video. I have a tendency to enjoy these types of movies (Easy A is one of my favorite movies) so I figured this would be enjoyable. It turns out my hunch was right. A lot of people have seen trailers for this movie and laughed it off as a silly premise and assumed the movie would be terrible. I’m here to assure you that that is not the case with this movie.

Mae Whitman plays the socially awkward character Bianca perfectly and is enjoyable to watch (just as she was in The Perks of Being a Wallflower). Her chemistry with Robbie Amell’s character, Wes, is great throughout and even as their unlikely romance is predictable it’s still great to watch it unfold.

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The DUFF deals with many issues that plague high school life, but one of the primary issues it addresses is cyberbullying. A video taken of Bianca as she loosens up and enjoys herself for once is edited by her peers who attempt to humiliate her and the video goes viral over the course of a single day. The damage that can be done by this type of cyberbullying is briefly addressed, however the way that Bianca overcomes this bullying is heartwarming to watch, even if the entire situation isn’t entirely realistic.

Overall I enjoyed The DUFF from beginning to end, and am not ashamed to admit it. I definitely recommend checking it out, especially if you’ve enjoyed other films such as Easy A.

Recently watched: Fury

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Last night we watched Fury, the WWII tank warfare movie starring Brad Pitt. I had been wanting to see the movie for awhile but hadn’t gotten around to it. We rented it on Blu Ray from Redbox, but now I’m kicking myself for not seeing it in theaters. It would’ve been an awesome movie to see on the big screen. It sounded pretty good on my sound bar, but I had to adjust the volume frequently in an effort to not disturb the neighbors (we live in a duplex).

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The movie has amazing sounds and great visuals throughout. The cast (led by Brad Pitt just as his character leads his soldiers) is wonderful and they fit together quite well. Logan Lerman also has a standout performance and his character’s transformation is thrilling to watch.

I loved both the action packed, bullet flying, blood splattering moments and the slower, human, emotional moments throughout the film. Everything fits together so nicely and watching the characters struggle physically and mentally is fulfilling throughout.

I highly recommend checking out Fury if you haven’t already. Even if you’re not a fan of war movies I think you’ll find something to enjoy!

Worth watching: Begin Again

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The film Once quickly became one of my favorite movies of all time, even though I’m still not quite sure how I even found out about it (this was about 2 years or so ago). The music by Glen Hansard is absolutely breathtaking, and the story is incredible. It’s worth watching for the music alone, but trust me the entire movie is beautiful.

That said, to find out John Carney (who wrote and directed Once) also wrote and directed Begin Again sealed the deal, I knew I was going to watch it.

Begin Again stars Mark Ruffalo, Keira Knightley and Adam Levine (Maroon 5, The Voice) and like Once is a story about music, relationships and navigating the highs and lows in life.

The music is enjoyable, the story is heartwarming and the acting is quite wonderful throughout. I love the setting (New York just happens to be my favorite city in the world) and again the music is just as great as the city. I highly encourage you to see Begin Again if you loved Once, and if you haven’t seen either I recommend you see both as soon as possible.

 

My summer watchlist (so far)

I’ve enjoyed quite a few great indie movies this summer and I’ve quickly fallen in love with indie movies. A few of my favorites I’ve already watch include The Pretty One and Ping Pong Summer, both of which were quite enjoyable (The Pretty One has become one of my favorite films of all time joining (500) Days of Summer and Juno among others).

Lately I’ve been compiling a list of movies I intend to watch in August, if possible, while overseas. A lot of the films in this list caught my attention through their pleasant movie posters and after watching the trailers I can’t wait to watch all of them. Most I hadn’t even heard of until coming across them on Indiewire which has become my number one source for discovering new movies.

I should note that I know little to nothing about any of the films I’m going to list. That’s a lot of what I like about indie films, I can go into them with hardly any knowledge or expectations and experience something new and refreshing.

The first on the list is Prince Avalanche.

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One of the things that really stands out to me is the use of color in the scenes shown in the trailer. I absolutely love films that could almost double as paintings, if that makes sense. I feel like all the colors mix pleasantly and at the same time stand out against the green, brown and grey backdrops shown in the scenes. This alone has me wanting to watch this film in HD and just enjoy taking in all the scenery.

Next up is Touchy Feely.

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Again, I love the poster for this film. I also absolutely adore Ellen Page, so I was already sold on this film before I even watched the trailer. The trailer has piqued my interest, and I don’t know much about the film other than I can’t wait to watch it.

Blue Ruin

 

 

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Things take a turn away from the seemingly cheery atmospheres of the previous two films with Blue Ruin. It looks both suspenseful and thrilling and I’m looking forward to seeing how it plays out.

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints

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It’s hard to say what exactly caught my eye with this film. I think it has something to do with the title, I just like the sound of it so I figure why not watch it?

 

Need for Speed (movie)

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While I was home on leave my little brother had wanted to see the Need for Speed movie, so a couple nights ago we went. I’ve never been that into the Fast and Furious movies after the first one and I could only assume Need for Speed would be one of those ‘car porn’ movies. As it turns out, I quite enjoyed Need for Speed.

The story at first seemed pretty standard, but the characters really drew me in. Tobey (Aaron Paul’s character) and Julia’s adventure was the best part of the movie. I loved the way their character’s interacted, and the music and scenery along the way was just downright beautiful. Sure a lot in the movie was far from believable but the silly, over the top sequences are both thrilling and feel good from beginning to end. I also loved Michael Keaton’s character, Monarch. I’d have to say he delivers the best performances of the movie, though Aaron Paul is right behind.

I rarely find myself wanting to watch a movie for a second time, but I already want to see Need for Speed again. It was great! I’m probably going to end up taking Vanessa to see it for a second time (she loves Aaron Paul as well, especially since he’s from Idaho).

Recently Watched: Lone Survivor

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Last night we watched Lone Survivor, the true story of how Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell became the lone survivor of an operation gone horribly wrong. The movie is action packed yet it also hits your emotions hard. The firefight scenes are intense and the firing doesn’t stop until the very end. The story is quite remarkable and I highly recommend it.