Movie Mix-Ups (There’s a surprise inside)

To wrap up my week of movie posts, I’m going to share some of the weirdest stuff I’ve ordered from Netflix, accidentally on purpose. Yes, that phrase takes on an actual meaning when applied to my method of selecting movies. Here’s what happens: inspired to see a particular movie, I hit Netflix and conduct a quick search. I find a match and add it to my queue. Most often, the movies in my queue work their way up from the bottom. I’m a patient woman, which is why I still subscribe to the DVD delivery in addition to streaming. I don’t mind waiting a few months for a movie to hit Netflix and I don’t mind waiting another few days for it to land in my mailbox.

As an aside, this patience is tested when I’m burning my way through a TV series and must have the next disk YESTERDAY.

So, sometimes a delivery will confound me. I either don’t remember adding the movie to my list, or I wonder why I added it. Then there are the movies that I mistake for others. Yep. I order the wrong movie. How does this happen? I dunno—I either don’t look at the blurb or don’t have a clear idea of what the cover of the DVD should look like, or I’ve got the name so wrong, only one movie pops up so that must be it!

crash 2The first of these mistakes was a truly memorable experience. I ordered a film called Crash. I wanted to see Crash in theatres and had finally convinced my husband it was something we should watch together at home. (He likes to avoid movies with tear potential as he’s a guy and hates being caught with a tissue clutched in his hand.) We were very soon puzzled. What we were watching did not seem likely to elicit positive buzz with critics and crowds, or worthy of Best Picture. In fact, I was pretty sure people becoming sexually excited by car accidents and their victims skirted the Academy’s tastes altogether.

Not surprisingly, we were watching the wrong movie.

crash 1I like J.G. Ballard. I’ve read a lot of his books. He pushes boundaries and explores uncomfortable ideas. I had never read Crash, though. I didn’t finish the movie adaptation, either. In fact, I don’t think we got more than twenty minutes into the film before abandoning it. Later, I rented the other Crash, starring Don Cheadle and Sandra Bullock. I loved it. I sobbed horribly. Understandably, my husband refused to watch it with me. To this day I think he’s scarred, but that didn’t stop him from joining me in the next mix up.

This time, I hadn’t actually confused two movies with the same title. I selected a movie thinking it was based on a book I hadn’t read, but reckoned I’d like.

I know. I know!

 

whiteoutI like Ken Follet. I’ve read a few of his thrillers and thought Whiteout would be one of them. After renting a movie called Whiteout, which is not based on his book, but on a graphic novel of a graphically violent nature, I looked it up. I’m almost grateful they haven’t made a film of Ken Follet’s Whiteout. My husband might have left me after I insisted he watch it. As it was, we both still have recurring nightmares about the surgical removal of a frostbitten finger in the movie we did watch, and abandoned right about there.

We both reached for the remote at the same time. No way, no how. We’d already survived watching them turn over a body that had fallen from an ice shelf to splat on the frozen ground, a scene which had some of the most awful (skin-ripping) sound effects I’ve ever had the misfortune to experience. We had also watched some pull their hand hand off a frozen door. And on it went. We were so done.

Could I top that? I could, but my husband has refused to adventure with me anymore, so the next two mistakes were mine alone. The first is… Hell, both of these mix-ups are ridiculous. I did actually catch my mistakes before watching, but decided to “experience” the wrong movies, anyway.

They couldn’t be that bad, right?

 

grandmasterWe missed The Grandmaster in theatres. I put it on my list and when it arrived, I quickly realised my mistake. I’d ordered The Master. Really not my sort of movie, but, tragically, Philip Seymour Hoffman passed away while the red envelope collected dust on the TV console, so I decided to watch it as a sort of tribute. I have adored his performances in other films, particularly Doubt.

masterI tossed The Master, which had failed to capture my interest from beginning, after the scene where Amy Adams jerks Hoffman off in the bathroom. I couldn’t remember if she was his wife or his daughter, but suspected the latter. Either way, I was horribly disturbed, which is unusual as I don’t normally have an issue with sex or sensuality in films. I watched Shame and American Psycho. This scene didn’t approach anything in either of those films. I think at that point I’d just had enough, and the question on the relationship between the two characters was enough for me to halt the madness.

 

amourThe final mix-up might be the most serendipitous. I wanted to see Amour, which guaranteed to be a tear jerker. Accordingly, I did not invite my husband to view with me. Probably just as well, as I had rented Adore which is a completely different movie. Amour is the story of a man coping with his wife’s deteriorating health. Adore is the story of two women who conduct affairs with each other’s sons.

I know. I know!adore

Based on a novella by Doris Lessing, Adore was actually a pretty good film. I made it to the end this time. I did find the subject somewhat disturbing, but I really liked the questions posed and the performances by both Naomi Watts and Robin Wright.

And there ends my list of movie mix-ups, and my week of movie rambles. 🙂

 

(Featured image is from Crash, and sort of matches my expression on experiencing some of my mix-ups)

Great Expectations (Movies that impressed or depressed)

You know when you put off renting a movie for a while, because it stars an actor that sets your teeth on edge, or it got bad reviews, or it got great reviews, but you’re sure you won’t like it? Or it was overhyped and therefore must be crap? Then, when you finally rent it, or it actually makes it to the top of the queue, you stick it into the player, but have an alternate evening plan prepared, just in case?

What follows are some thoughts on the movies (most released in 2012) that surprised me, not always in a pleasant way.

The Bad and the Ugly

I used to like Woody Allen, but to be perfectly honest, I didn’t have high expectations for To Rome with Love.

I rented it on a whim, hoping for something light, vaguely comical but peppered with smart dialogue. Instead, I got a weird, weird movie full of unlikeable characters. To top it off, all the actors appeared to be acting, which means few seemed to properly inhabit their roles, putting me outside the story. Worst performance by far? Allen’s own. To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t surprised by that, either. So, I guess what I’m saying is that this movie didn’t really surprise me at all.

There are a few actors out there who I cannot stand. I’m sure they’re lovely people, but when I see them in movies, I cannot unsee them. Kiera Knightly is one. She has ruined movies for me. Decades ago, I formed the same dislike for Winona Ryder. I’ve also been known to avoid movies starring Brad Pitt, which is completely unreasonable. He’s been in some really great movies: Fight Club, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, and Burn After Reading come to mind. Incidentally, Mr. and Mrs. Smith is the only movie in which I truly enjoyed watching Angelina Jolie.

None of the above is rational. But if you ever get into a discussion with someone who watches a lot of movies, and has opinions, rationality rarely enters into it. You like who and what you like.

I put off renting Silver Linings Playbook for a long time because of the hype, all the awards and Jennifer Lawrence. Yep, she’s on the list of actors I just can’t stand. I cannot explain why, but after watching two movies written and directed by David O. Russell, I think part of my issue might be his obvious infatuation with her. She gets camera time her character doesn’t need, in my humble opinion.

As for Silver Linings Playbook, I liked it well enough. I enjoyed Bradley Cooper’s performance and his story. But I failed to understand his choice in women. Love stories don’t work (for me) if there is no sympathy for the heroine. I end up frustrated and then bored.

On a side note, I absolutely loved American Hustle. So one actor doesn’t always completely ruin a movie for me.

Browsing my Netflix list (last twelve months) for low ratings, there are so many disappointing movies to write about. I want to save room for the pleasant surprises, though, so I’ll just list a couple more:

Lincoln. Damn, I wanted to be bowled over by this. I really did. Instead, I plugged my ears every time Lincoln told a story (or, perhaps I should say ‘soliloquized’), causing everyone else on screen to fall silent and listen with rapt attention. I’m a fan of Sally Field, but every scene between her and Daniel Day Lewis was a chore. No chemistry and soap opera dialogue. We quit this one halfway through.

The Campaign. I should have known better, nuff said.

Starship Troopers:  Invasion. I honestly can’t review this one as I read a book while watching it. Yep, it was that compelling.

Okay, now that we’ve done the bad and ugly, let’s get to:

The Good

First up is Cloud Atlas. I put off seeing this one for two reasons: hype and Tom Hanks. I used to really like Tom Hanks. His name on a marquee almost guaranteed a ticket purchase for me. Then he made The Polar Express. That movie seriously creeped me out. I shudder even thinking about it today. The animation, his voice, his face! (Not rational, I know.) After that came a series of obvious Tom Hanks vehicles. Watching the trailers, I could see nothing but his face (and be reminded of the animated version(s)) and hear nothing but his voice.

The trailer for Cloud Atlas paints a picture of the ultimate ensemble film. A must see experience, Hollywood being clever and artsy and all speculative to boot. I got the impression that it would be one of those movies where if you didn’t understand it, then you were obviously an idiot. Go home; no, you can’t have your money back. Go get a degree in something. I really hate movies like that.

But I had the idea my husband and daughter wanted to see it and now and again I’ll rent something for them (and then make them watch it with me). Both expressed surprise at this one, and we never did figure out why I thought they wanted to see it.

Upshot is, my husband and I were enthralled.

Part of it was the cinematography. It was so vibrant. The screen felt alive in every frame. The saturation of colour and depth of field were mesmerizing. Then there was the story, which really was rather simple, but told through six different lifetimes and so complicated beautifully. Each of the six, smaller stories absorbed me completely and when woven together, made for a really interesting film.

The second movie that really knocked my socks off was Chasing Mavericks. I rented this one for my daughter. We’d both seen the trailer a couple of times and liked the idea of a surfing movie. Chasing Mavericks is SO MUCH MORE. It’s about realizing a dream and working toward it. There is all the usual heartache and disappointment, and also the expected moments of enlightenment and resolution. Here, it’s the characters that set the movie apart, and perhaps the actors’ portrayal of them.

It’s also based on a true story and the young Jay Moriarity is very engaging and likeable. We laughed and cried throughout, which is always the measure of a great movie for me.

Okay, going to round this one out with two films starring an actor I actively avoided for years and then fell in love with: Leonardo DiCaprio. The movies are Django Unchained and The Great Gatsby.

I skipped the first in theatres because of the potential for gore. It’s a Tarantino film, after all. I actually thought he restrained himself somewhat in this one. As in, the violence and gore was there, but not completely out of keeping with the story. Not utterly sensationalized. Also—the story. Great story. I actually think this is Tarantino’s best film.

We missed The Great Gatsby in theatres because we live in Nowhereville, U.S.A. The Lego Movie will play up here for two months, but films like The Great Gatsby are lucky to last a week. But, there was an upside to having to rent it: my daughter loved it. I hadn’t expected her to sit through this one, but she did and she sobbed with us at the end. It’s a beautiful rendition of the story and DiCaprio’s performance is up there with his best. I guess I didn’t really expect less from this film, so including it here is a bit of a cheat. So I’ll mention one more than all but bombed in theatres, but that I actually enjoyed: Hansel and Gretel. Honestly, I don’t really get what was wrong with it. I was thoroughly entertained. But, as I have mentioned before, I am easily pleased.

Right, that’s it. I’ve one more post about movies to make, which will be about four films I rented by accident. Each was a memorable experience, and my husband loves to remind me of one in particular.

 

(Featured image from Chasing Mavericks, starring Gerard Butler and Jonny Weston. Image credit: Just Jared)

 

Easy to Please (My love of splody and sappy cinema)

While I’m queuing up my next batch of book reviews, I’m going to share some thoughts on movies—what I have watched and enjoyed, watched and hated, and later this week, some of the weirdest stuff Netflix has dropped into my mailbox.

I’ve had a Netflix account about twelve years and in that time, I’ve watched thirteen hundred movies. That’s a lot! As you can imagine, not all of them were great. I’m a pretty forgiving audience, though. In fact, I’m absurdly easy to please. I often describe myself as the lowest common denominator. I’ll enjoy movies that others can’t muster even a lukewarm smile for. Part of it is that I don’t sit down with over-inflated expectations. If I rented the movie to watch gorgeous men lose their shirts in the first action scene and then ripple across the screen in a stunning display of sweaty abs and pecs, and they do just that, I’m happy. Who cares about plot when there are wonderfully sculpted shoulders and piercing blue eyes inviting me to come play? Not me.

I also like splody things. Yes, I’m a John Woo fan. If it can be blown up, it should be blown up, and the bigger and hotter the fireball, the better. Collateral damage? Bring it on. Pesky shirts singed into non-existence and conveniently glossy muscles smudged with soot. Mm-hmm.

My favourite John Woo film? Red Cliff. While typically violent, this one is all about the story, for me. I also enjoyed the rich rendering of Chinese history and culture, with the added dynamic of typical Chinese cinema; the exploration of legend and myth and stunts that require extreme suspension of disbelief.

More recently, I had a great time watching White House Down. Roland Emmerich has a reputation for blowing stuff up, especially the White House, so from the moment they released the trailer, I was in. For me, this movie was equal parts awesome explosions and good looking men. Jamie Foxx had his nerd on as president Sawyer, but still captured my heart. Channing Tatum has a wonderful physique. He also has impressive comic timing, which I felt he brought to bear with just the right touch—in between being a great dad and a kick-arse soldier. I also enjoyed the plot. Yes, there was a plot.

Anyone who went into this movie expecting more was going to be disappointed. What I don’t get is why expect more. Movies are designed to entertain. What’s the problem when they aim to do just that? Sometimes I don’t really want to think. Sometimes I just want to see things get blown up. My life is pretty normal—in so far as I live in a semi-rural area and enjoy weekly visits to the supermarket, library and karate studio. For more excitement, I go to the movies, rent an absurd amount of DVDs and read a lot of books. I also play video games and, yep, you guessed it, my favourites are the ones where you get to chop the enemy into little tiny pieces. Or decapitate them. Or find their heads in the sights of a long-range sniper rifle.

I’m also a fan of the Fat Boy.

Nothing like a little nuclear catastrophe. I never shot cactuses, though. I saved my nukes for super mutants. (Fall Out 3)
Nothing like a little nuclear catastrophe. I never shot cactuses, though. I saved my nukes for super mutants. (Fall Out 3)

Before I segue into a ramble about video games, or you worry further about my latent psychotic tendencies, let’s move on to the other sort of movie I shamelessly absorb: romantic comedies. The sappier, the better. My favourite? Too hard to choose, but the first that comes to mind is The Holiday.

I ADORE this film. If I was to peel away the usual squeals (Jude Law, anyone?) it’s about the characters, and the actors chosen to portray them could not have been more perfect. Jude Law exudes charm, even when he’s being a cad—which he’s not in this film. Not really. I loved Jack Black in his role here. I think we got to see the soft and fluffy side of a good comic actor. (Let’s not talk about King Kong, which I enjoyed, but… Right, we’re not talking about King Kong.) Kate Winslet is perfect, as always, and Cameron Diaz shows a lot of heart and soul. Eli Wallach as Arthur Abbott all but steals the show.

*happy sigh*

Pitch Perfect surprised the whole family—me most of all because my husband sat through the entire thing.

While not a typical romantic comedy, it fits pretty well into the genre, and then also spills out because of the wonderful performances from all involved, on stage and in the film. I picked this one up because I’d enjoyed Anna Kendrick’s performance in End of Watch, which is a movie that is far removed from the romantic comedy genre, and one of my favourite Jake Gyllenhaal performances. That one deserves a post all its own. Pitch Perfect also introduced me to Rebel Wilson. She is a funny lady and I had as much fun watching her in Pain & Gain, which is another movie I feel was badly maligned by critics. C’mon, that was gruesomely funny stuff with a cast that made it work.

Okay, that’s probably enough rambling for now. I could list about a hundred great action films—or splody stuff I personally enjoyed—and about another hundred heartwarming romantic comedies. A quick search of the ‘net shows that a lot of folks share my plebian tastes, however, which is comforting in a way. Not everyone feels the need to be a critic. Of course, there are films out there that annoyed, confounded and totally pissed me off. But that’s another blog post.

(Featured image is the delectable Channing Tatum in White House Down)