Life, Death, Beth

Life After Beth looks at love and zombies. Unlike a similar zombie love story, Life After Beth does not get existential nor does it give a point about life. Instead the dark comedy starts off entertaining but then plods along like a zombie in the last stages of decay.

Zach is emotionally lost after his girlfriend Beth dies from a snake bite. He visits with her parents and plays chess with her father to help them both mourn. Then suddenly the Slocums stop answering the door or the phone. Zach finds out that Beth is alive. At first he thinks Beth’s death was a hoax but then it becomes apparent that the girl he knew has changed. She is in fact a zombie. Zach is faced with conflicting feeling: relief that she is back and fear for what she has become.

The set up for the movie is great. Boy meets girl. Boy falls in love with girl. Boy loses girl. Girl comes back to life. Boy gets girl back.

It’s an interesting concept that makes you think about what it would be like if your loved one did come back. The movie is balanced with humor to keep it from becoming a mushy mess. But then the movie takes a weird turn leaving behind the emotional struggle Zach goes through.. A second love interest is awkwardly added in and more zombies arrive.  . Had the movie the movie just followed Beth and Zach, the film’s themes would have been more clear and the movie would have been more enjoyable.tumblr_n8vggp44841qgbfyko4_1280

The best part of the film is Matthew Gray Gubler as Zach’s spaz of a brother.  A security guard for the neighborhood, Kyle pines for more and is always ready to put a perp down. Gubler captures the spaz aspect easily and it is fun to see him more than the nerdy Reid from Criminal Minds. Gubler handles the humor with ease and gives the best performance in the film. John C. Reilly and Molly Shannon dazzle as Beth’s confused parents but the rest of the cast falls short of truly capturing their character with finesse and grace.

Funny but often absurd, Life after Beth tries too hard to be more than a typical zombie flick.  What begins as a supernatural dark comedy turns into a zombie cliché mess. It’s worth a watch but it isn’t going to be a landmark of the genre.

The Jane Doe Awards~ Movie Edition

Being tired of all the awards shows and their lack of enjoying good entertainment,   I decided to create my own awards. The Jane Doe Awards are the opinion of an average Jane just like you. So here are some of my favorite movies of the year.

The Zeitgeist Awards

Magic Mike

f10fa1db0d4eb91dcfe76360b966b626

The movie world finally decided to cater to over half its movie going audience. Channing Tatum steps away from sappy romances to give women some hot action. He and a gorgeous band of sidekicks take off their clothes to entertain and prove that women to like sex appeal. This made way for other outlets including the extremely hot and lady friendly Chicago Fire. While the plot tried too hard, it was fun entertainment that reminded the world that women are sexual beings. Long live the women’s movement!

The Never Ending Story Award

John Carter

John-Carter-1-680

John Carter suffered from horrible advertising. No one had any idea what it was about or that it was based on short stories written by Edgar Rice Burroughs. I rented it from Netflix because I had heard good things. What no one told me was that it is The Never Ending Story of this generation. Faraway places, princesses in peril, and an unsuspecting hero. The CG is well done and the world of Mars comes to life. Taylor Kitsch is a fabulous actor and handles all aspects of Carter genuinely. Thomas Haden Church, Willem Dafoe, and an appearance by James Purefoy add depth to the overall casting. The world of John Carter is magical and children will want to revisit it again and again. This adult does.

The Women’s Rights Award

Hysteria

hysteria_i01Hysteria is a well done, humorous, but not vulgar telling of how the vibrator was created. Originally made to relieve women’s illness, the vibrator has become the most popular sex toy. The movie puts the women’s rights movement front and center. Maggie Gyllenhaal’s Charlotte is the ultimate feminist trying to break out of the box her father has put her in. Hugh Dancy is serious as the doctor who invents the vibrator because a debilitating injury (carpal tunnel from manual “curing” women). It also gives a frank look at a time that saw all women’s problems as being attached to their uterus. It’s enjoyable, the right amount of funny and serious at the same time. It’s worth a watch even if the content is “scandalous.”

 

Best Superhero Movie

The Dark Knight Rises

the_dark_knight_rises___tom_hardy-wallpaper-1680x1260

The Avengers may have made the most money this year but it traded quality for spectacle. The Dark Knight Rises, on the other hand, was well thought out and executed. Christopher Nolan did well, ending his trilogy. The film weaves aspects from the first two installments into the finishing story. The story was more than just imploding stadium and barbaric fights. The film touches on themes superhero stories do not touch. This movie was an allegory for your world rife with terrorism and need for heroes. Our hero is conflicted and multi-sided instead of a stereotype and viewers are invested in his ending. And we are quite pleased.

 

The Movie That Should Have Sucked But Didn’t

Promised Land

webpromised-land-movie-damonThis movie about a small town, an environmentalist, and a natural gas company should have sucked. It could have been a puff piece about being green; instead it was smart and emotional. Though viewers could see a twist coming, they would not see what it actually was. Blending humor with real world issues, Matt Damon and John Krasinski proved to be deft screen writers and actors. If anyone else had tried to do this movie, it would have become a sappy mess. Viewers will think critically about the world and their jobs. As a limited engagement, many may have missed it. Put it on the top of Redbox list!

 

The Technical Wonder

The Hunger Games

hunger_games1

The adaptation of the young adult novels does not join this list for the quality acting or the thought provoking screen play (both of which it has), but because the film’s creators took the time to put real thought into each aspect of the movie. For example, the filming is brilliantly plotted. Katniss is followed by handicam in District 12 and in the Hunger Games giving a very documentary feel to the games and its contestant. It’s only in the Capital that the camera is steady and perfect. For many more examples, read my review. Everything from the costumes to the sets oozes the themes and ideals of the screen play. No other movie had so much thought invested.

The Award Winner

Silver Linings Playbook

11LAWRENCE1_SPAN-articleLargeI hate award shows; they always pick movies I hate or haven’t seen. Usually, I really like one of them, and this year it is Silver Linings Playbook. This tale of two emotional damaged people is brilliantly written and gives a very realistic view of mental illness. Bradley Cooper is pitch perfect as Pat who suffers from Bi-Polar Disorder. It’s a shame that Jennifer Lawrence wins when Cooper doesn’t. Lawrence is fabulous in her role but Cooper is amazing and becomes the character; he deserves the accolades more. Never the less, this movie is funny, touching and very real. You should not miss this one.

 

The Kids & Adults Can Watch Award

Wreck It Ralph

tdy-121105-vanellope-1_380;380;7;70;0

It has finally become popular to make animated or children geared movie with adults in mind. So not only will adults take their children to see these movies, some adults will go without kids. Wreck It Ralph is the best one of the year. It tackles ideas that children and adults can learn from. The film also waxes nostalgia for games past. As a gamer, I enjoyed being able to name so many of the references. The movie has witty jokes but at the same makes childish humor. “Heroes’ Doody” still makes me laugh even though I should be older than such jokes.  For every childish line from Sarah Silverman, John C. Reilly lays down a witty line. But that is what is marvelous about Ralph; there’s something funny for everyone.

Ralph in Videogame Land

Wreck-It Ralph

2-D, 3-D

I have a thing for Disney movies, and I have a thing for video games. Combining the two puts me in Nerd Girl heaven. I had high hopes for Wreck-It Ralph and was not disappointed. WIR combines video game icons, moralistic story telling and humor to make a family friendly film for the generations.

Ralph is the delightful villain of the fictitious game Fix-It Felix Jr. After his stump is moved to a landfill, Ralph is so mad that he takes his anger out on the local apartment building reeking havoc on the citizens. Felix Jr. uses his magic hammer to repair the building and earn a medal that makes him the hero of the complex. But the animosity doesn’t end when the arcade closes; Ralph is shunned by everyone within the game. In an effort to win a medal and become a hero himself, Ralph leaves his game. On his road to self discovery, he travels through a first person shooter and a carting game that gives him a new perspective on life: he’s not the only misfit.

Gamers will be excited to see homages to their favorite games. Either in physical representation or verbal mentions, the movie runs the gambit of genres. In the Villain Support Group,  legends from Mortal Kombat, Sonic and Super Mario Bros. get together to accept their roles as villains. Game Central Station is teaming with character life and you can familiar creatures such Marlboros floating around. These are just a few examples how the movies take you into the game world, and I could spend all day making connections.

It’s more than just the cameos that make this a movie worth watching. In fact, non-gamers will enjoy the humor and story in this movie. The age old tell of discovering who you really are gets a 20th century face lift, but still tugs at the heart strings. In Sugar Rush, Ralph meets Vanellope, a glitch that is shunned by her fellow racers. The two makes friend and Ralph start to overcome his lack of self confidence by helping this little girl. The character’s growth is evident through out the movie keeping this from being some nonsensical child’s entertainment. It balances its sappiness with side splitting humor.

John C. Reilly and Sarah Silverman really carry their characters. Reilly’s Ralph is great with the ones lines, and Vanellope shines with Silverman’s iconic potty mouth. (This includes the best gag in the movie involving a homophone gag on Hero’s Duty). The two actors are like their character, completely opposite but come together in a very harmonious way. This gives true depth to the character’s relationship.

WIR looks great. While it does not maximize its 3D capabilities, the CG is well done and brings a variety of character into a uniform look. The various video game characters do not seem out of place at all. But the best moments are when you see the games through the gamers’ eyes. The film takes on the look of the 8 and 16 bit games having some great fun with nostalgia.

This is a great family film that will thrill children and entertain adults. Gamers will be excited to see their favorite games represented on screen. It seems that this movie is on thing Ralph hasn’t wrecked.

By the Book: We Need to Talk About Kevin

A comparison between book and film. Contains spoilers

The Lynne Ramsay film adaptation of Lionel Shriver’s marvelous novel We Need to Talk About Kevin is flat and emotionless. The film looses all emotional impact in both the plot and removes the twist that makes the novel’s ending have such an impact.

Both the novel and the film center on Eva’s relationship with her son Kevin. Eva struggles with feelings of apathy towards her own flesh and blood. But when Kevin causes a school massacre, it seems that Eva may reason to feel apathetic towards her son.

The book is written in first person letters from Eva to her husband. These letters describe her current life after Kevin’s attack and well as reminiscing on her past with her child. Eva seriously considers her choices as a mother. She was stricken with apathy towards this child, and the book explores two opposing ideas: did her apathy cause Kevin’s issues or did an inherent badness in Kevin cause her apathy. You struggle along with Eva to understand her thoughts and feelings as well as those of Kevin.

The film captures none this emotion. Eva’s letter are excluded entirely, and the events are filmed with a huge slant. You get the sense from the beginning that something isn’t right about Kevin and that just magnifies as the story goes along. The characters are flat: Tilda Swanson’s Eva is affectless and dispassionate; John C. Reilly’s father is so one sided, he doesn’t even consider the mother sides; and Ezra Miller’s Kevin is devious from the beginning. The only depth any character shows is when Kevin is sick and plays the mama’s boy.

The film is not very well delineated. Memories and present are mashed together with no discernable plan. Why are we going back to the past? When did this event happen? In fact, if I hadn’t read the book, I would not have been able to follow what was happening. The movie saves the actual atrocity that Kevin did until the end. Because of this, the shocking psychological twist of the book is destroyed because it comes on the heels of Kevin’s school attack. Plus, by not including any narration of Eva’s letters to her husband, a lot of the emotional impact from the twist is lost including the fact that the husband’s present situation is even a twist.

The film rips apart a thought provoking emotional journey through motherhood and anti-social personality disorder. The film is one dimensional and discombobulated. Skip the film and go directly to Shriver’s source material.