All posts by pbuscone

The Gift (2015)

The Gift (2015)Oftentimes, we yearn for simplicity in movies. There should be good guys, bad guys, and a happy ending. Maybe it was all those fairy tales we heard growing up. Unfortunately, for those looking for the next great American fairy tale, Joel Edgerton’s The Gift is not it.

The first part of the movie plays out like any stalker-thriller movie does. Strange man comes along, takes an unusual interest in a woman or a couple, drops by often for unexpected visits, and is generally creepy (even when trying to help out). In this case, it is Gordo or “Gordo the Weirdo” (Joel Edgerton) an old classmate of Simon (Jason Bateman) who just can’t stay away from him and his wife Robyn (Rebecca Hall) after they move back to California.

It all starts out harmless enough, despite Simon’s constant insisting that Gordo is, in fact, a “weirdo” and they should tell him off. When Simon finally does tell Gordo to leave him and Robyn alone, the situation, not surprisingly, turns from creepy to dangerous.

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Face Off: Hercules (1997) and Superman I/II (1978/80)

Motion State Face Offs pit two films, franchises, or television series against each another for no reason other than because we can.

As the leading voice in movie reviews, we at Motion State Review judge films based on a wide variety of factors — dialogue, acting, cinematography, whether or not Nic Cage is in it, etc. But perhaps the most important quality a movie can have, in this contributor’s humble opinion, is originality. Sometimes, we do not recognize a movie’s level of originality unless it is noticeably unoriginal (Avatar rehashing Pocahontas, to name one; seriously they are the same movie). Other times, you can see a movie a dozen times before realizing that maybe you have seen the same exact thing somewhere else. Such was the case as when I traveled to Athens and watched the Disney movie Hercules for the first time in several years, because a true movie critic travels thousands of miles just to watch an animated movie that takes place there. I expected to get a heavy dose of nostalgia while watching; instead I got a heavy dose of…Superman?

In the same way that Avatar and Pocahontas are similar enough that any high school teacher would claim plagiarism, so, too, I found, were Hercules and the first two Christopher Reeve Superman movies. Heck, they’re about one Superman solo song away from being the same movie (which would be awesome in the next Man of Steel flick, as long as Henry Cavill’s singing voice is as fantastic as his acting). But, let’s make one thing clear about who’s stealing from whom: the myth of Hercules came just slightly (a few thousand years) before the character of Superman was invented.

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Baahubali: The Beginning (2015)

In American cinema, good action movies — movies that entertain not only through violence but also intricacy of plot — are hard to come by. Though I am no expert in Indian cinema, I can imagine that they too suffer from a lack of solid flicks of this kind. S.S. Rajamouli’s Baahubali: The Beginning is an exception, and the American action movie industry can and should benefit from watching this modern marvel.

BTB follows the journey of the young Shiva (Prabhas) who is saved from drowning as a baby by a woman who holds him up in a river as she herself perishes. Taken in by a young couple unable to bear children, Shiva grows up strong with the constant desire to climb the unclimbable mountain nearby — a goal that upsets his adopted mother. After countless failed attempts, he — along with the mask that fell from the mountain — make it to the top of the mountain where he falls in love with a young girl whose sole goal is to rescue her queen, Desavena (Anushka Shetty). Shiva, being in love and knowing his capabilities as a warrior, agrees to save the queen who has been imprisoned for years. After fighting the prince and his protector Kattappa (Satyaraj), Shiva manages to save Devasena.

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Mistress America (2015)

The good part about studying abroad in Palma de Mallorca, Spain is the warm weather, the beaches, the paella, and so on. The bad part is that pretty much all of the movies are dubbed in Spanish (tough trade off, huh?); as tempting as it has been to see, say, The Martian or Spectre in dubbed Spanish, I have decided to pass.

However, this past weekend, I had the unique opportunity of actually seeing a movie in English at the ever-prestigious Evolution International Film Festival in Mallorca (slowly becoming the new Cannes). With my busy schedule of doing Spanish things, I only could go to the final movie: Mistress America.

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Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)

Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Alan Arkin, Ed Harris, and Kevin Spacey all in one movie, each with significant time in front of the camera. Who steals the show? If you guessed none of the above, you either were too afraid to guess or you’ve seen Glengarry Glen Ross. GGR does have all of these actors for the entire movie; it also has Alec Baldwin for one scene.

In the end, three minutes of Baldwin overshadow an hour and a half of some of the greatest actors of more than one generation. His brief, but memorable performance can be likened to that of Matthew McConaughey’s in The Wolf of Wall Street. In both cases, they achieve the goal of all actors/characters — to be memorable in just one scene.

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Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (2015)

Turning a book into a movie is often quite difficult, particularly with the tired old rhetoric that the book is always better than the movie. While this is often the case, it is tough odds to work against for filmmakers. Adapting Jesse Andrews’ novel Me and Earl and the Dying Girl into a motion picture also certainly had its own unique challenges. For starters, the book is fantastic, setting the bar rather high for the movie. Secondly, and more problematic, was the brevity of the book. MEDG is a book that can be easily read in one day. Not only that, but most of the text is dedicated to the oftentimes strange personal thoughts of the narrator and protagonist Greg Gaines. Plot-wise, I thought making a full-length film would be a stretch. Additionally, I was not exactly sure how they would go about stepping into the mind of Greg.

But, after winning both the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award at Sundance and receiving generally high praise from critics, I figured that director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon had a found a way to work through these supposed problems and I decided to give it a watch, with an open mind that it just might be better than the book (oh, the humanity).

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Inception (2010)

Inception. Five years after seeing the 2010 Nolan mega-hit in theaters, I still asked myself whether or not the top stopped spinning. For a long time, I couldn’t accept the fact that one of the most ingeniously crafted movies of all time would end so ambiguously. There had to be something else there, some other hint to what is really going on at the end.

After some time, however, I grew complacent and rested on logic. Having seen the movie dozens of times, I saw little that pointed towards Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) still being in a dream at the end. Moreover, the top is clearly wobbling, and, generally, tops, like dreams, do not regain stability after they start to collapse.

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Inside Out (2015)

Pixar’s most recent creation, Inside Out, is not a children’s movie as it is advertised to be. The animation and young protagonist, Riley (Kaitlyn Dias), may suggest that the movie is for the ten and under crowd, but it most certainly is a movie that is better suited for an older audience. Now, this is not just a long-winded attempt at justifying the fact that I sat in a theater crowded with six-year olds to see this movie; it is a credit to Pixar for their ability to disguise an emotionally complex and subtly humorous film as a children’s movie. They have wisely used this model several times over, which has led to their vast success. Inside Out, even more so than other Pixar films, is able to not only entertain kids, parents, and everyone in between (or just me in between), but also provide a powerful message about the power and role of emotions.

It is no coincidence that Inside Out is a movie entirely about emotions, mostly centered on Joy (Amy Poehler) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith) because throughout the movie, at least the older portion of the audience goes on a journey of emotion as well, mostly between joy and sadness. As the protagonist Riley tries to adjust to her new life after moving from the comfort of her Minnesota home to San Francisco, we see how she and her emotions (Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Disgust) handle the transition.

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Watchmen (2009)

Come senators, congressmen, please heed the call/ Don’t stand in the doorway, don’t block up the hall/ For he that gets hurt will be he who has stalled/ There’s a battle outside ragin’/ It’ll soon shake your windows and rattle your walls/ For the times they are a-changin’

Those famous Bob Dylan lyrics set the scene for the changing times the viewer finds in Zack Snyder’s Watchmen. The year is 1985, but not your parents’ 1985. Richard Nixon is still president after triumphing in Vietnam thanks to Dr. Manhattan (Billy Crudup). However, it’s not all good news — the Cold War has escalated and the world is on the verge of nuclear Armageddon.

In this alternate universe, the superhero group the Watchmen have been forced into retirement. However, after one of their own Eddie Blake (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), the Comedian, is murdered, vigilante Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley) concludes that someone must be trying to kill off the Watchmen.

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Swingers (1996)

Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn’s most recent writing/acting collaboration, Couples Retreat, had a budget of around $60 million. Their first collaboration of this sort, Swingers, had a lowly budget of $200,000. However, despite Couples Retreat having 300 times more money to work with, it is my honest belief that Swingers is at least 300 times better than Couples Retreat.

Swingers is the quintessential low-budget, indie, cult-classic film. Mostly the movie focuses on aspiring actors and best friends Trent (Vaughn) and Mike (Favreau), who meet up with other friends, such as Rob (Ron Livingston), Sue (Patrick Van Horn), and Charles (Alex Desert) in L.A. As with most other films of this similar prototype, the plot is not necessarily the most important aspect. Nothing super exciting happens per se, but it is still such a fun watch because it feels actually real.

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