Anna Kendrick

August 11, 2014

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2014 (Matt’s Take)

BEFUDDLED

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles –Befuddled

I consider myself pretty leveled headed and reasonably arbitrary when it comes to film, TV, and pretty much anything else. I give most anything a chance and I try to watch anything for the purpose of having my say in an argument. The worst thing you can run into is a conversation with someone who one, doesn’t have frame of reference of a topic, and two, simply tries to flame you into an argument and put you on the defensive. It’s common for these two things to happen in this day and age of Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, etc. I just wanted to preface all of this before I get into this review of THIS GENERATION’S “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” produced (not directed people) by the grand auteur Michael Bay. It’s a befuddling experience in nostalgia, childhood, and finding my place in the world.
“Turtles” is the origin story of everyone’s favorite heroes in a half shell, Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael, and Michelangelo. In this adventure they are tasked with stopping The Shredder and politico Eric Sacks from destroying New York City. With the help of April O’Neil and cameraman/news van driver Vernon Fenwick, the turtles have to save the day while finding out about their past. This is the basic plot, if I was to tell you anymore, I’d only confuse you and probably myself.
Where does one start with this film. My first thought when watching this was “did I just miss the first part of the movie?” I literally thought I was dropped into the middle of a film. There was no character development and characters are shown as you should already known who they are. As a life-long Turtle fan it’s a good thing I didn’t need to know who everyone was or I would have been lost. However, even with knowing who most of these characters are, this new adventure is befuddling and the way most of the characters are portrayed is simply, sad.
One of the main arguments that most fans made was the new look of the Turtles. After watching the film, that was something that really didn’t bother me, and honestly, it never bothered me in the first place. Despite the departure from the comic book, cartoon, and original film, you have to know what mutation does to something(s). When something is mutated things change from the molecular level and not everything will look the same. Bottom line, I like the look of the new Turtles. I also liked the look of Splinter, and from it’s base form, I liked the look of the new Shredder suit. I understand the need to upgrade things from an aesthetic standpoint, but this brings me to how characters are portrayed.
The main gripe about these Turtles is their likeability. I honestly didn’t like them. Sure, if you’re a kid you might like the fart jokes, and their rocket skateboards or nerd glasses, since “geek chic” isn’t something going away anytime soon. Just an aside, and to educate those less informed, the “geek” derives from people in the old circus sideshows that would bite the heads off of chickens. Just putting that out there. But aside from Raphael, who I think they kept as close to the comic, TV, and film versions, I just didn’t like the personalities, especially Michelangelo. His dialogue was irritating and it made him seem like a douche-bag teenager with ADD, and this brings me to his “relationship” with April O’Neil, played by Megan Fox. Where does one begin here. Unlike Judith Hoag, or even Paige Turco, Fox provides nothing of substance or memorability to one of the key figures in Turtle history. Her blank stare and vapid dialogue are hard to really get past, and I can only wonder what could have been with another actress in that role. First, give me a REAL redhead; Anna Kendrick would have been great in this role, almost perfect if you ask me, but of course I’m partial to Ms. Kendrick. Back to the dialogue. There was an air of weird stalker/rapeiness that seemed to permeate off of Mikey. Yes, he’s a teenager and his turtle hormones are running wild, but wow was it uncomfortable. 

Now, I don’t want to make this a bash-fest, because there were scenes that I really liked about this film. Contrary to popular belief, I thought the re-imagining of the Turtles’ origin was actually pretty interesting. It kept the overall spirit, but it added an extra wrinkle that will likely come into play if they decide to keep this franchise going, which I’m sure they will. Two, like I said before, I liked Raphael. I thought they made him a bad-ass and he really was he backbone of the film. Donatello wasn’t bad either, and him being my favorite Turtle, I thought it was an interesting take, but I think they played up the nerd angle a little too hard, and this is coming from a nerd. Finally, I loved the snow chase that closes the second act of the film. It looked great and showed something the film lacked a lot of; the Turtles acting like a team. It was an engrossing sequence and it made me forget about much of the things that bothered me up to that point. But, low and beyond, to take me out of the zone, we get a shot of Megan Fox’s ass. I get it, and I understand why it’s in this film, but come on…..

Overall, I’m not the biggest fan of this version of my beloved Ninja Turtles, but I can see why some people will love it and will call it THEIR TMNT, just like I still consider Tim Burton’s “Batman” as MY “Batman,” and this generation will consider Christopher Nolan’s “Batman” THEIR Batman. If anything, after seeing this version of TMNT it re-affirms my love for the 1980s cartoon and the film from 1990. See this new version of the “Turtles” at your own risk.

Fun Fact: Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird created the “Turtles” to poke fun at some of the biggest comic books of the 1980’s including Frank Miller’s run of “Daredevil.”

February 10, 2014

Matt Simply Loves Anna Kendrick: Rapture-Palooza

EXERCISE

Rapture-Palooza –Exercise

They say in love that you have to love someone completely.  It’s one of those rules that greeting card companies made up so many years ago.  Despite my surly demeanor most of the time, I sincerely subscribe to this notion.  I believe that you need to know a person inside and out to really love them.  However, it’s sad when that person you feel so much affection for stars in films that just seem below them and you can tell they are sleeping-walking throughout.  Anna, darling, why “Rapture-Palooza?”  It’s truly an exercise in “meh-filmmaking.”  It’s like when you see someone like Morgan Freeman in “Edison Force” or Tommy Lee Jones in “Man of the House.”  You shake your head, not because you’re upset, but because you’re disappointed.  My dear Anna, my Academy Award nominated Anna, 2013 should have been a great year for you, but instead we get “Rapture-Palooza.”

I know I sound disappointed, but I’m trying to hold it together.  “Rapture” is the story of Lindsey (Kendrick) and her boyfriend Ben (John Francis Daley) who are living in post-Rapture Seattle with a dream of running a successful sandwich cart.  After their cart is demolished by giant Apocalypse meteorites the couple have no choice but to put their plans on hold and try and work for The Beast/Anti-Christ (Craig Robinson).  After seeing Lindsey, The Beast decides that she will be the one to bear his next child.  With time running out, and their families lives on the line, Ben and Lindsey have to come up with a plan to stop The Beast.

The unfortunate part about “Rapture” is that it was overshadowed by another End of the World comedy in 2013, “This is the End,” also starring Craig Robinson.  However, the bigger problem with “Rapture” is the dragging nature of the film.  Daley doesn’t come off as someone who can carry a comedy, and is much better suited in ensembles like “…Waiting” and “Freaks and Geeks.”  Kendrick, while charming, is merely a vessel for the film to have some sort of fan appeal, and she doesn’t really have much to do in the film besides react to Robinson’s outrageous version of the Anti-Christ.

The star of “Rapture,” however, is Robinson.  Whenever he opens his mouth it’s pure solid gold, if said gold was covered in sex and cum-drenched jokes.  What makes his performance work is a combination of two things.  One, since Robinson is so likeable he can get away with saying some of the most offensive things you can say to a young, virginal, girl and you don’t feel bad laughing.  Two, Kendrick’s reactionary performance gives Robinson room to take his dialogue to the lowest of lows, and its hilarious throughout.

Outside of Kendrick and Robinson, the rest of cast is rather dull.  Rob Corddry plays a typical Rob Corddry character; he’s rude, vulgar, and at some point will yell something crazy about drugs.  Ana Gasteyer doesn’t bring much to the proceedings either.  The one surprise is Thomas Lennon as the undead neighbor of Lindsey who is obsessed with mowing his lawn.  It reminds me of one of Lennon’s many characters from his days as a member of “The State.”

At the end of the day, or world for that matter, “Rapture” is an exercise in love and patience, for me at least.  The film is rather ordinary and suffers from long droughts of exposition and not very thoughtful or funny dialogue. Only clocking in at 85 minutes, the film isn’t that long, but seems better  suited as a short film you might find at a student-run film festival. Without the performances of Kendrick and Robinson, “Rapture” would have been entirely forgettable.

Fun Fact:  The term “rapture” is never mentioned in the New Testament, but rather the term “caught up” in 1st Thessalonians 4:17.
February 6, 2014

Matt Simply Loves Anna Kendrick: Pitch Perfect

GUILTY

Pitch Perfect – Guilty

I’m really going to put myself out there with who I love this month. I could be cliche and pick an actor the likes of Mike Ruffalo (who I still might) or perhaps even Joaquin Phoenix, but I’m singing the praises, fittingly enough, of one special lady who by all accounts would be Jennifer Lawrence if Jennifer Lawrence wasn’t Jennifer Lawrence, if that makes sense.

I’m sucker for short girls with attitudes, and its the reason why I married one.  I guess I like a challenge and someone who can keep up with my smartassness.  That’s why I love Anna Kendrick.  She’s the perfect combination of spunky, deadpan, and cute.  She’s a proven indie darling and has the chops to hang with some of the biggest actors in Hollywood.

One thing I do find surprising about Kendrick, and I’ve mentioned this before in my “50/50” review, are all the negative comments she gets from critics, mainly over the things that she says.  Yes, she has a little bit of a potty mouth, but that’s what makes her even more charming and real.  So many young actresses want to act prim and proper and act like they need to impress everyone in order to get jobs and gain fans.  My belief is that being yourself is the only way to endear yourself to a much larger audience.  Just take a look at her Newcastle ad, it’s pure Anna, and it perfectly sums her up.

For the most part, you won’t find me watching many films that have a lot of musical numbers, or feature music as a main plot point.  What you might find me watching, however, are films that are either directed by Christopher Guest, which is ironic because I love “This is Spinal Tap” and “A Mighty Wind.  Again, ironic, but there are exceptions to rules all the time, and 2013 found me watching “Pitch Perfect” starring the wonderful Anna Kendrick, over and over again.  Yes, it’s my biggest guilty pleasure of this past year.

“Perfect” is in fact pretty perfect, if you’re looking for unexpectedly funny performances, catchy-as-f*ck songs, and of course, Anna Kendrick.  Now, there are some cliches of course.  Anna plays the typical outsider role, full of angst and a tongue as sharp as her wit.  You have the Type-A leader, played by Anna Camp, who is also extremely extremely charming, and of course the fat girl comic relief, played by Rebel Wilson.  Yes, you’ve seen glimpses of this film if you’ve ever seen a “Bring It On” or “Step Up” film, but what sets “Perfect” apart is it’s dry wit and it’s actors who you might not think can bring the funny, and pleasantly surprise you.

As previously mention, “Perfect” follows Beca (Kendrick) a college freshmen who is more interested in moving to L.A. and paying her dues than her Intro to Philosophy class.  After an ultimatum by her father to move her out to California if she joins an extra-curricular activity, Beca decides that “organized nerd singing” is the way to go, as she joins the Barden Bellas, an all-female A Capella group.  Of course hijinks ensue, tension is created, and finally we have redemption come the very end where the Bellas win.  It’s typical of the “go to college and have an adventure” genre, but there is enough humor and heart to set it apart from the rest of a tired genre.

While “Up In the Air” garnered her her most critical acclaim, and “Twilight” gave her her largest film roll out, “Perfect” is Kendrick’s star-making performance.  It allows her to act, bring the comedy, and of course, sing.  Now again, I’m not the biggest fan of singing and musical, but for some reason, I find myself singing just about every time I watch this film.

Despite the fact that Kendrick is playing another teen cliche, as I mentioned earlier, she is still able to create a character that feels new and interesting.  The “mysterious alternative girl who secretly loves things” has been done since “The Breakfast Club” but Kendrick brings her wit, and spunky personality to the role that’s the harbinger for the entire film.  She’s the heart, soul, and engine that guides the story.  Beca is that girl you saw in school that you always wanted to say something to, but you noticed the giant “F*ck Off” on her forehead.  “Perfect” shows you one thing;  girls have a soft spot for 1980s films, and if you have an even half-way decent singing voice and red hair, you got a shot at that girl.

All in all, “Pitch Perfect” is one of those films that you might feel guilty for liking, until you see how many people actually love it.  So much so, “Pitch Perfect 2” is being fast-tracked, with the ever amazing Elizabeth Banks behind the camera, and Kendrick likely returning in the starring role once again.  So you’ll have to aca-scuse me, I have some singing to do.

Fun Fact:  Sorry Kristen Stewart fans, but Kendrick is the only actor from the “Twilight” series that has been nominated for an Academy Award in 2010’s, “Up In the Air.” 

December 27, 2013

Forgotten Gems: 50/50

SEEDS

50/50 – Seeds

Can a film about cancer be funny?  Normally, it’s one of those topics that Hollywood tends to stay away from when it comes to comedy.  Sure, you have “Terms of Endearment” which is thought of as one of the best films in the last 30 years, but cancer doesn’t always equal comedy.  While I won’t consider “50/50” in the same class of “Terms” it’s still a film that takes the subject of cancer, and disease in general, and combines it with humor, though sometimes crass, and hope.  It also plants the seeds for Joseph Gordon-Levitt, where you really get to see him act in a big time way.

“50/50” is the story of Adam, a twentysomething working at a NPR-like radio station in Seattle. Cutting to the chase, after visiting a doctor for some unexplained aches and pains he learns that he has a rare type of cancer (isn’t it always a rare type of cancer in any film?)  With the help of his friend Kyle, Adam tries to look on the bright side of life even with his personal life crumbling around him as well as his well-intentioned mother’s constantly harassment, and father dealing with Alzheimer’s Disease.  When it rains it pours, I guess?

The film also stars Anna Kendrick as Adam’s psychologist, Katherine, who I think does a fine job and adds something special to “50/50.”  What I will add is that I’m a little confused about all the hate that Kendrick gets for the roles she takes.  I mean she’s no Jennifer Lawrence, but she’s just as awkward as J-Law, but people take her as a bitch for some reason.  She only has a handful of roles to her credit, including an Academy Award nominated performance for her first *real* role in “Up In the Air” but I’m not sure why so many people complain about her acting.  She has her own style, and despite the fact that several of the characters that she plays are moody or quirky-outsider types in the early 20’s, I think she does the best she does with the writing that is provided for her.  As for her performance in “50/50” Kendrick continues to show that when given material she can really shine, see “End of Watch” for further evidence that she has a bright future as a new type of “the girl next door.”

Moving away from my Anna Kendrick rant and back to “50/50,”  the other thing that struck me with the film is the honesty in which cancer is dealt with.  While at heart the film is a “comedy” there are some real human elements to the film, namely unexpected loss, coming to grips with situations you have no control over, and re-establishing old relationships, and building new ones.  Gordon-Levitt conveys an honest performance and is still able to pull a few decent laughs from a situation that rarely leaves room for humor.  Seth Rogen, usually the funniest guy in the room, manages to still be the comic relief of the film, but he shows some of his acting chops as a friend who is trying to turn his friend’s tragedy into his own gain, but still show some compassion as a best friend.

Overall, “50/50” is a fine film that shines a light on a disease that most people try to stray away from.  To be honest, I think there are more films about the plight of people suffering from AIDS then people suffering from cancer, a far more relatable disease to be honest with you.  I’m sure in our lives we have met someone, been friends with, or have had a family member that has fought cancer.  Of course I’m not taking anything away from people who suffer from HIV/AIDS, but Hollywood seems to make have a “mythic” obsession with the AIDS virus, while cancer is almost a dirty word to most people.  So, if you’ve yet to see “50/50” it’s certainly worth a watch just to see some young actors dealing with, and executing some of the heaviest acting that most of them had to deal with up to that point.

*I don’t consider anything “Twilight” related a real role by an actor or actress that wants to be taken serious.

Fun Fact:  Actors Matt Frewer and Philip Baker Hall have both played cancer patients in previous films Watchmen and Magnolia, respectively.

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