Aneesh Chaganty

Posts Tagged ‘disney’

Spring Breakers | MAD Review

In Uncategorized on March 23, 2013 at 2:17 AM

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Spring Breakers

(2013, US, d. Harmony Korine)

Welcome to the overwhelming and hypnotic world of neon-lights, Florida beaches, unnerving techno soundtracks, booze, drugs, vandalism, sex, teens, parties, and violence. For many of us, that’s just too much to handle. But for the four young women at the center of this film, that’s just a week of Spring Break.

Spring Breakers is the new film from director Harmony Korine (Gummo, Mister Lonely) and producer Megan Ellison (Zero Dark Thirty, The Master). Part social satire dipped in a lot of Natural Born Killers, Spring Breakers is the kind of film you’d expect Sofia Coppola to make had she been raised on nothing but Girls Gone Wild and Cops. Covered head to tail in top-40 tunes and uniquely edited to never actually let you sit back and just observe what’s going on, the film is quite a challenge to the average viewer. Yet despite the compliments the movie’s been receiving, don’t expect that to be a sign of whether you’re gonna like this movie. In fact, most of the people in the theater I saw the film with hated it. 

While the movie is nothing like what you’d expect from the teasers, this is a both a good thing and a bad thing. For those coming in to enjoy a glorified version of Girls Gone Wild: Spring Break Edition, enjoy the first 7 minutes; exit signs are located around you. For those coming in thinking they’re actually about to watch something really artistic and out there…try and enjoy the rest.

The biggest problem with Spring Breakers is that, despite what it achieves artistically (I’m not being sarcastic with that statement), it’s never actually enjoyable. It gets off to the right start, though. After a 5 minute montage of what everyone expects a wild college kid’s spring break to consist of on a Florida beach, we’re introduced to four childhood friends stuck on a lonely college campus in the middle of nowhere at the start of break. Meet Faith (Selena Gomez), Candy (Vanessa Hudgens), Brit (Ashley Benson), and Cotty (Rachel Korine) – the strangest girl-group we’ll probably meet on screen this year.

The group desperately wants to make it to the beaches of South Florida for break and join the throngs of wild kids their age. And let me be clear: these are not the kind of girls who act innocent and then end up having a wild time. Their dirty and extreme intentions, from the first few minutes, are excruciatingly clear. But the problem is: the girls don’t have enough money to get there. So what’s a few broads to do in that situation? Of course: just rob the patrons in a local restaurant! That should do the trick.

If almost feels like the end of the movie here, because once they’re in Florida, they’re having the time of their lives. You almost wish you could join them on the beaches, by the apartments, and in the ocean as they drink, laugh, snort, hook up, and accomplish every secret item on any spring breaker’s bucket list. But that’s when things start getting weird.

Meet Alien (James Franco), the “wangsta” stranger who bails out the four girls after they’re arrested for an afternoon of cocaine and debauchery. After getting over the initial hump of fear and suspicion when you first hang out with a cornrowed, silver-toothed gangster with a penchant for anything materialistic – no matter how violent the tool (we’ve all been there, right?), the girls soon discover that Alien embodies everything they’ve been taught to love. Soon, the girls (of the ones that remain) take one step after another, furthering themselves into the underbelly of South Florida crime- providing new meaning to what constitutes as “vacation”.

Spring Breakers is a unique character study – unafraid of not answering questions, but also of asking them in the first place. Rather, it simply depicts – with as much wide-eyed energy and color it can – the behaviors and desires of the modern young adult. In an interview at the ArcLight Hollywood Theater, director Harmony Korine dismissed any claims that he was trying to bring out any truth or “reality” with the film. Rather, his goal was to, in fact, make the film as “unreal” as possible.

Yet despite his own intentions, its difficult to not walk away from Korine’s film without garnering some meaning – especially when most of your leading cast has made a career out of being “good, Disney girls”. I have to admit: it is a a bit surreal watching Gomez and Hudgens commit every sin under the South Florida sun, make out with other women, and have a ball while they’re at it.

But here’s the honest truth: apart from the first 30 minutes (which includes an incredible one take shot involving a car circling a restaurant), I didn’t actually enjoy the movie. It was alienating, jarring, and tonally uncomfortable. At the end of the day, I happened to be just another one of those people who expected something far different than what actually came out.

But different doesn’t mean bad. In this case, it actually is worth a ton of worthwhile thought. And though commendable on its own right, I can’t imagine recommending Spring Breakers to anyone looking for a fun time at the movies.

 

The Odd Life of Timothy Green | MAD Review

In Uncategorized on December 8, 2012 at 6:13 PM

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The Odd Life of Timothy Green

(2012, US, d. Peter Hedges)

I went into this movie wanting it to be good. Really good. For some reason, the marketing campaign got to me. I wanted to see this movie so badly. Coupled with the fact that I have a soft spot for Disney/child/sentimental/magical stories, I figured I’d enjoy this one.

I didn’t. 

The Odd Life of Timothy Green tells the story of Cindy and Jim Green (Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton), who’ve just been given the news that they won’t be able to conceive a child. That night, in order to move on from their sadness, they write down all the characteristics their child would have had, if born (“honest to a fault”, “funny” etc), and bury it in a box in their garden. Cue magical night sequence (I really do love those by the way) and the next morning…a boy is their house. Their boy. Straight from the garden. 

Director Peter Hedges crams every second of this movie with rousing sentiment, it becomes hard to believe any of it for longer than a few minutes. I’m not saying there weren’t problems with the script. There were. But these problems were vastly overshadowed by Hedges’ direction.

From the opening minutes, I just didn’t believe Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton as two parents who’ve gone through anything of signifance in their lives. I didn’t believe they were married. I didn’t believe they had any chemistry. I didn’t believe they knew each other one bit. The only thing I did believe was that they had memorized their lines very well and Hedges completely overlooked the fact that these scenes were supposed to be organic – be alive – rather than be a poorly staged version of what was in his head. 

Garner and Edgerton are terrific actors. Seriously. But here, in The Odd Life, they’re stale, robotic, and their smiles seem forced. The same goes for the supporting characters – no one seems committed to their roles. When Dianne Wiest, Rosemarie Dewitt, Ron Livingston, and David Morse don’t seem like real people at all- you have to look elsewhere for the source of the problem.  In fact, the only actor I didn’t have a problem with was the title character, played by CJ Adams. Adams brought a tangible sense of wonder, curiosity, and naiveté to the screen. If only the rest of the film were like that. 

At the end of the day, what disappointed me most was how the story could have turned out. Despite a very quirky and promising premise, The Odd Life turns itself into a melodramatic lesson on parenting – filled with cliches (“It’s OK to be different”) every turn of the page. I actually wished I could have made it. Watching it, I was shaking my head. I would have done better. But enough of that. 

This is all not to say the film won’t have its fans. I’m sure young parents will eat this stuff up.  If I may though, I have to compliment John Toll’s cinematography. If there’s anything that kept me really invested, it was trying to figure out how he was lighting these scenes. They looked spectacular. 

The Odd Life of Timothy Green is a misstep. Hedges clearly knows how to make a strong film. His actors do, too. For some reason or another, it doesn’t work out here. 

They may have watered it too much. 

 

 

 

Movie #288 Tangled

In Uncategorized on August 24, 2011 at 3:46 AM

Movie #288 Tangled

(2010, US, d. Nathan Greno, Byron Howard)

Congratulations are due to Disney. After years of trailing Pixar in the animated film department finally comes Tangled, a film that returns Disney’s powerhouse glory of storytelling magic to the screen in digital form. Basically the story of Rapunzel adapted a little bit, Tangled tells the story of – well – Rapunzel as she trapped by a semi-evil fake mother in a tall, tall tower. Her fake mother keeps her for her hair, which allows her to stay as young as she wants. She warns Rapunzel of the dangers of the real world and how everyone will take advantage of her, but naturally as Rapunzel grows, she wants to explore. In comes Flynn Rider (voiced by the star of TV’s Chuck Zachary Levi) who after being blackmailed by Rapunzel for reasons I will not go into, agrees to escort her to the king’s palace on her birthday – the place she has always wanted to visit. But of course, when her fake mother finds out, you can imagine the terrors that abound. Tangled is a film that rediscovers the magic of Disney – it is within their story and within their character that audiences find love, not the billion dollar pirate franchises that just keep rolling out new films every few years. It is the magic of a simple story told very well that will always leave an audience wanting more. It has songs and dances, but don’t let that discourage you from watching this film. In fact, even I found myself glued to the screen at parts. Campy but well told, Tangled is not only a wonderful adaptation of a classic story, but it is also a wonderful and magical story in and of itself.