Thursday, June 23, 2016

Movie Review: Larry Crowne (2011) and The Feel-Good-Film

Larry Crowne (2011)

 *Streaming on Netflix as of June 23, 2016*
Starring: Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Wilmer Valderrama, Gug Mbatha-Raw, Rami Malek
Directed By: Tom Hanks
Written By: Tom Hanks, Nia Vardalos
Release Date: July 1, 2011
Rating: 3/5

Summary: A middle aged veteran loses his job and decides to reinvent himself by going back to college and along with the help of some friends along the way, he finds his old self.
My Thoughts: Lots of people think this is bad movie because it doesn't add to the film world. Lots of people think this movie is bad because it has no point and didn't have to be made and that's partially true. This movie didn't have to be made, and no, it doesn't add anything to its genre or the film world in general, but that's not the point of this kind of film. I dub this movie a "feel-good-film". A feel-good-film's main purpose is to entertain, but whilst it entertains, it gives the viewer a sense of nostalgia, a feeling of meaning and that the simple things in life do actually matter. These types of films aren't about heavy topics and even if they are, they're done so in a way that doesn't feel heavy, but relatable in the way that the characters react that feels as if it's happening to us, as if we're watching our lives on the screen in the bodies or wealthier, better looking people. Films like this, The Vow, No Strings Attached, Love and Other Drugs and just about every light-hearted romantic comedy out there is a film-good-film and those sorts of films matter to people who want to fill their time with a film that isn't going to change their lives or even be of any cinematic merit. They don't matter to the critics or anyone looking for somthing major out of the film because that's not their point. They are supposed to make you...feel good. They make you feel good about life, enjoying the small things like going back to school, finding love or making new friends even with things like coming back from war or divorce haunting you along the way, but they never focus primary on the bad things. These films are about prosperity through the bad times and making something out of nothing, which is something most people can relate to, but no one wants to see that. No one wants to watch real life events like that, or it'd be a documentary, so there's always the magic of plot and character development the separate us from the events going on the screen, but what's going on is pretty much what we're going through, just less artsy and innovative and more simplistic.

And Larry Crowne is a feel-good-film about nostalgia. It's a film about being stuck in that nostalgic moment when everything was going right and moving forward when things fall apart. The film stars Tom Hanks, as Larry Crowne, an aged veteran who is currently divorced and fired from his job. The prime of his life was his wife and being in the war, but now those things are over, so now what? He decides to go back to school and in that he meets some colorful characters who help him find the person he was before. As I've stated before, a feel-good-film is about human feelings. They prey on our feelings and hit things we've felt at least once in our lives and make us reminisce on those times in order to connect with the characters and the film in general. We've all felt lost at one point in our lives, just like Larry. We've all been at a point in our lives where things weren't going well and we didn't know how to handle them, but instead of focusing on that downward spiral, the film focuses on how Larry decides to rebuilt himself and that's the kind of protagonist you'll have in a feel-good-film: a fighter, a lovable charmer, a person we root for and thanks to the lovable-ness that is Tom Hanks, we do just that. We root for just about everyone in the movie with the exception of Julia Roberts' porn addicted, blogger husband because, I mean, we always have to have someone to hate. But besides that, there's not really much to the film. The story is interesting, but not sharp enough to be considered anything more than a feel-good-film, but because of an exceptional cast including some wonderful surprises like Taraji P. Henson, Wilmer Valderrama and Cedric the Entertainer, we have a film here that is one that won't leave a mark on you, but will have you feeling good once you're done with it.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Game Review: Life Is Strange (2015) and Decision Making

Image result for life is strange 

Life is Strange (2015)
*I'm going to try and not include any spoilers*

Developed By: Dontnod Entertainment
Published By: Square Enix
Release Date: From Jan 2015 - October 2015
Platforms: PS4, PC, XBOX, PS3, Xbox One and OS X
 Rating: 4.5/5

Summary: This is a episodic adventure game about Max Caufield, a photography student at a prestigious school named Blackwell, who suddenly develops the ability to travel in time.

My Thoughts:  "It's like I'm being punished by the universe."

This doesn't just apply to Chloe, the character who says this, but us, as a player. We waiting month after month for each episode, we picked decisions that we hoped would play out the best in the end and we followed Max around in her life hoping for the best for this shy, quiet, high school girl that we'd grown attached to. However, if you've played the game, you would know that the final decision invalidates every decision you've made in the game. Every single last one. Every relationship you made, every person you helped, every terrible event turned around was made voided as if we were being punished for one wrong decision that we made along the way, but no, it was all supposed to happen regardless of what you did, but even through that, it doesn't make Life is Strange a bad game. If anything that made it a great game. During the final moments of the game, after you picked whatever you decided to pick, you were either angry, hurt, sad, or satisfied as I was and that's what makes a great game. If you can feel something like those emotions, just from hitting a button and watching the consequences of it, that is what makes a good game and this is only one example of the way that decision making that is what makes Life is Strange stand apart from it's predecessors like The Walking Dead, or The Wolf Among Us.

Life is Strange, as I've stated before, follows the story of Max, a high school student who suddenly develops the ability to travel in time, but here we have a specific story and specific things we're supposed to do, but what? There are many things one thinks about when time travel is mentioned. The possibilities are endless, but the game restricts us not only to not have us wreck havoc and give us some kind of direction, but because it wants us to really think about what we're being presented with. We are a high school student, small and shy, and suddenly we're presented with the ultimate ability, however, there's still only so much we can do. This magical power are great and give us some flexibility in the problems we can pick and choose to solve, but with some of choices we make, there's only so much we can do about their consequences as we are still human and there is some sort of reality we live in. For example, we note that Kate, has a racy video put out on the internet, we can try and console or be kicked out. We can reason with her or let her shut us out and we can aid her in her time of need, but it doesn't erase the video. It doesn't stop the video from being placed out there. Some things happen for a reason and there are some things that the universe controls, not us, no matter how hard we may try to do so. 

We travel back in time to try and stop a mysterious storm that is approaching that seems to be going to destroy the town, find out more about a missing girl and keep our best friend alive along the way, so we aren't going back in time to kill Hitler or anything. We aren't going back in time to fix society, we're going back in time to try and figure out what's causing this storm and why, and even more so, before we're presented with the ability to time travel, there are missing posters for a girl named Rachel Amber plastered everywhere. Why? Maybe our goal is to find her alive and well as well. Maybe we can travel back and save her from some menacing person, but there are...again...things we cannot change. We go on this wonderful time adventure, but in the end, we have to grow up and face the reality we've created by our decisions regardless of what was going on when we made them. For example, we wake up one episode with a plant and there is no contextual background information on said plant. Has it been watered? How much water does it actually need? And if you choose to water it, it dies in the next episode. This is just one example of the decision making aspect of the game. It's not creating horrible consequences like the death of someone or plants for simply going with your gut, but it's an example of the fact that when you make a decision, the outcome of said decision is the thing you cannot control because after the plant dies, it's dead and that's it. 

And again, Life is Strange does this well. People say that it ignores our decisions and gives us crappy outcomes based on things we know nothing about. It's just like real life. We don't know what will happen till it happens and I feel like people don't like that because they want everything to go well and be unreal because it is a video game, but Life is Strange is about life. The time travel twist is great and wonderful, but in the end, the game is supposed to be about life and the decisions we make, which is why I personally love it.

The game doesn't rely on fantastic visuals to hook us. We aren't stunned by the graphics. If anything, the lack of sync with the visual and the audio angered me, but I got past it once the story picked up. The story, the themes and everything else are what hook you. The characters, no matter how big or small their role is, grow on you. You can sympathize with just about everyone, no matter how much you hate them initially. While the characters are very much so cliched and the writing is very after-school-special like and every high school TV trope from the stoned skater to the insecure mean girl is presented, you ignore this and start to see them as the people you know because while they're tropes, they're still based off of real people and the things they portray real people in real life.

Life is Strange is a game filled with magic. Magic and reality are given to us on a platter and we are to pick which option we want and obviously, we pick the magic and the illusion it holds to mask reality, but reality always pokes out when we least expect it. It's a game that I've played time and time again, doing different things each time because in the moment it is fun, but coming to the same conclusion each time because that's just how things are supposed to be. It's a game that will leave you with a bunch of emotions you may not be able to handle, but they're worth it. This game is worth it, so I highly recommend you play it.  

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Movie Review: The Lobster (2016), More on Modern Romance, Love and A Bit on Kafka

Image result for the lobster poster
The Lobster (2016)

Starring: Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Jessica Barden
Written By: Yorgos Lanthimos, Efthymis Filippou
Directed By: Yorgos Lanthimos
Release Date: May 13, 2016
Rating: 4/5

Summary: In a dystopian future, the single people in a place called The City are to live The Hotel, a place where they will have 45 days to meet someone or they will be transformed into an animal of their choosing.

My Thoughts: In most absurdist works, there is an obvious point. There is a driving point and a message and as viewers, we know it's there and it's our job to find out what that message is. The problem with most absurdist works is that it points out that there is a point and that it is your job to find it and rubs that in your face along with fancy cinematography and very artistic stylization and for most people that is what they do not like about The Lobster. In my opinion, while it is blatantly obvious that there is a point, it doesn't come off as pretentious as most people make it out to be because the message is quite hard to find. The true message that is. While in a lot of other movies, books, etc, the point is there and it's blatantly there in other works, but here the message is much more subtle.

I saw this movie about a week ago and I had to sit and let it stir in my mind for a bit before I began this review. I looked at other reviews, watched interviews and now I get it. This film is weird. It's probably going to be the strangest thing you'll see for a while, but then again, I haven't seen the director's previous films, Dogtooth and Alps, which also sounds quite as strange, but like that of Kafka's Metamorphosis, this film's absurd premise tells a greater tale than that of this place called The City, but one about the humanity of the world we live in. Like Gregor's transformation in Kafka's short story, he's transformed into a bug and the story is him trying to hide it from his family out of sheer embarrassment and fear that can't do what he needs to do for his family or society in general, like that of the people in this film who fear their transformation, not because of the sheer fact that they're being transformed into a goddamn animal, but because it is in that transformation that marks them as an outsider, a failure to society all because they didn't find someone.

And it's in that point that the movie's dynamic is created. The intent behind the character's desperation isn't the punishment itself, it's not about that. It rejects this kind of dynamic that could've turned it into an actual science fiction film and relies on that of love which is why it is actually more of a romantic comedy, but even more so a film similar to that of art cinema in the way it shocks us at it's brillant end and it's ambiguity in general, but Lanthimos doesn't care about genre.

 This world that the characters live in, no matter how unorthodox and bizarre the system that control the world is, is a mirror of our own. Which is why The City is presented as the whole world. We don't know if it is the whole world, but it seems to be because we are doing the same thing in ours. We, as human beings, drive to find out special person in the world and it's become abundantly clear through multi-million dollar matchmaking services like Tinder,,,, that finding someone is very important to us. People spend money on these services and at the end of the day, things work out or they don't. They long to find that other person based on similar character traits, personalities and likes which is what these servers base their matches on, which we flick through until we find "the perfect match" and in this film, that's what these people are doing at The Hotel. 

The matches people make in the movie are based on characteristics, such as the Nosebleeding Woman and the Limping Man who fakes nosebleeds to gain the woman's affection. Or the Heartless Women and David's fake attempt at being heartless to gain her affection, that is until she does something unforgivable. While in our world, it may not seem harmful to try and gain someone's affection based on pure mutual interests alone, but the movies presents this kinds of love as a selfish act of desperation for fear of being alone in our case because in actuality, that's what it is, or turned into some kind of animal in the case for the residents of the Hotel or in Gregor's case living up to his family's and society's standards. Should we love someone because they're like ourselves? Or love someone purely because of who they are? The residents of The Hotel do the latter because it is much easier and takes less time because they only have 45 days to find love or they'll be turned into an animal, that sign of singledom, that sign of loneliness, of failure and solitude. A sign that also is synonymous a something embarrassing or seen as a plague which is why it is outlawed in the film and, again, how our world is as we look down upon the single and praise those in relationships because they seem happy and it seems that this is something we all should aim for, but are people in relationships always happy? No one can really tell, but from a single perspective it seems as if it's all they want.

All the people in relationships in this film seem unhappy, but they're praised for finding love even if for selfish reasons and The Lobster says all of this in a subtly, dark and humorous matter and when I say humorous, I mean dead-pan, "you'll miss it if you don't pay attention or aren't getting" kind of humor. The performances of all the actors is brilliant, the writing, the direction and pretty much everything is great, but no movie is perfect. During the latter of the first act of the film, it begins to get a bit boring once we've gotten a hold on what exactly is going on and everything is explained, but it picks up later on. I promise. It's a great film with a lot of surprises to it, especially with that of the ending, which I won't talk about. It's the kind of film you need not question because it's case is there and it gives you a bit on info, without giving it all because, again, it wants you to decipher it and I had a grand time doing just that.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Pocket Lint

Inside of my pocket,
 I carry around bobby pins I'll probably lose later on that day,
hair ties I'll let my best friend borrow,
never to get back ever again.
And most importantly, 
something that no one else can see.
My pocket lint.

I am ashamed of seeing it on the news, online and on TV, so I stuff it in my pocket
hoping that when I wash my jeans, it'll disintegrate away.
But it is always there and it always will be.
Well, sometimes it goes away, 
only to come back days later when I'm least expecting it.
 In headed discussions about feminism,
poetry slams,
readings about sexism,
I'm up, not afraid to be seen or heard,
fists clenched, mouth armed with a heavy retort,
only to silenced
when I think about the things that could happen to all those other girls
 because I didn't report. 

I carry around that guilt in my pocket every day,
And ultimately like your face, 
like all the women Hemmingway and Fitgerald wrote away,
I've become a question mark, too.
Who am I?
What do I stand for?
I stand for what's right and fight what is wrong,
but when the crowd is larger than me,
calling for victim blaming,
and the end of feminism,
and there are only so many chairs to go around.
I get scared, but it's my time.
It's my only shot.
But what if when I'm gone,
someone decides takes my spot. 

When I think about all the things I want to say,
the pocket lint of guilt I have weighs me down.
I try to shovel it out, thinking about buying new jeans
but it's only a game I'm going to lose. 
My guilt is wearing me,
 But it's when I see another young girl assaulted on the news,
that I write things like this.
And until crimes like rape and sexual assault,
are treated like murder and theft,
I'm going to keep writing, 
until there's no material left.