Posts Tagged ‘Tilda Swinton’

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Finally, we need to talk about We Need to Talk About Kevin.

Just in time for Mother’s Day! Go hug your mom before you watch this movie.

It’s been a few years since I first watched this movie, and I’ve forced myself to watch it a couple more times. I love the content and the story, but this movie adaptation of Lionel Shriver’s book (of the same name) is a frustrating experience. Much like Kevin and his problems, I have avoided talking about it because it’s nearly impossible to talk about my issues without spoiling the movie.

I hope you watch We Need to Talk About Kevin. This movie is streaming on Netflix and you should give it a chance for Tilda Swinton alone. The acting is captivating and as close to perfect as possible. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Tilda Swinton (Eva) and John C. Reilly (Franklin) are terrific. The shocker is that Ezra Miller is outstanding as the titular Kevin. This is the only thing I have enjoyed Ezra Miller in—though I now remember him in a small recurring role on the TV show Californication. Even Jasper Newell and Rock Duer perform admirably as the younger versions of Kevin. The casting is so impressive because Jasper and Rock both resemble Ezra Miller so well. Ashley Gerasimovich is also solid when she’s on the screen as the younger sister (Celia). These actors deserved to be in a better movie.

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That’s not to say We Need to Talk About Kevin is a bad movie.

It is not bad, per se. But I consider it a massive disappointment and missed opportunity.

Personally, I still found parts of this movie to appreciate despite its downfalls. I just have no idea who this was made for and why anyone without a critic’s mindset would like this movie. According to the ratings on IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes, the audience actually appears to enjoy this movie as much as the critics enjoy their own farts. My qualms are not with the acting or source material.

I believe We Need to Talk About Kevin fails as a whole because the story is not told coherently—due to director Lynne Ramsay who co-wrote the screenplay with Rory Stewart Kinnear.

But why does this method of storytelling fail?

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Spoilers galore.

We know exactly what happens within the first 5 minutes.

I understand how the narrative of the book was told reflexively from Eva’s point of view looking back on her life, family, what Kevin did, and how she is trying to cope with the fallout. That way of storytelling does not work with the medium of film. Why? Because it removes all of the suspense and tension.

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Instead of being the thriller that it is incorrectly billed as, this movie immediately turns into a melancholy drama. For 2 hours, you are forced to watch Tilda Swinton shift from postpartum depression after Kevin’s birth to zoned-out, zonked, and just going through the motions in the present day. The flashbacks with Keivn are inarguably the best parts of this movie. From the start, the movie teases a massacre at the high school with police cars and parents outside screaming.

It is a complete disservice because it removes all of the emotional impact—taking what should have been a very powerful punch and spreading it incredibly thin across the entire runtime.

Telling the story in a straightforward manner would have kept the audience on the edge of their seats wondering what the hell Kevin was going to do rather than already being aware of the end result. On top of knowing Kevin committed a school massacre, you also know he killed his sister and dad. Apparently, that is supposed to be a big reveal in the book because the story is told through Eva’s letters written to her (presumed) estranged husband. But when you don’t see John C. Reilly or their kid in the present-day scenes in the movie, you absolutely know they are dead along with everyone else. When the movie finally catches up and shows the flashback to the day of the massacre, it didn’t make me feel any certain way. I was just glad they finally arrived at the destination.

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In a sense, showing you countless scenes of Tilda Swinton’s character gripping with guilt challenges the audience to be bored with the emotional gravity. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I was among the bored. And I’m someone who actually liked this movie. But it felt like beating a dead horse.

The way this story unfolds is counterintuitive to the point they’re trying to make.

The question at the heart of this movie: who is at fault? Who can we blame?

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No one, really. A lot of factors are involved—no one handled anything properly and both parents probably made it worse—but I don’t feel like anyone is truly responsible. Not even Kevin himself. It’s a battle of nature and nurture rather than nature vs. nurture. Maybe I’m completely wrong (it certainly is possible), but that is not the sense that I got from watching this movie.

Because of her overwhelming guilt, Eva takes responsibility for the massacre in this movie. Tilda’s character even agrees to pay damages to the victims, which forced her to sell the house and her business—financially ruining her already ruined life. Director Lynne Ramsay alludes to the blood on her hands with several heavy-handed scenes of Eva trying to remove red paint that was thrown on her house and car. She has blood on her hands and is washing her red hands clean.

Through the flashbacks, you see Eva physically and emotionally abuse Kevin from a young age. She hits him, breaks his arm, and openly doesn’t love him. Without a doubt, Kevin is a twat, but he never deserved any of that. It is no surprise to see the way he turned out with his visible rage and disgust for his mother. The movie also glazes over any of the father’s culpability by ignoring the obvious issues and warning flags. John C. Reilly’s character is the one who encouraged Kevin using his bow and arrow—giving him the best equipment, which Kevin turned into a murder weapon.

To a degree, it feels like genetics and his awful abusive mother at fault.

Shrill Shrew

I can’t help but blame Lynne Ramsay for that. I can’t imagine that was her intention, but it was the result. I love Tilda Swinton and she was superb with her shell-shocked look, but her character came across a shrill shrew. After a while, it becomes too hard to sympathize with Eva.

On the other hand, I was extremely engaged and invested in every scene with Ezra Miller. I kept wanting more He was a charismatic, mysterious sociopath. One scene where Kevin is talking about people on TV watching TV (because people like him are on the TV) is extraordinarily effect and evoked memories of Mickey Knox’s TV interview with Robert Downey Jr. in Natural Born Killers. I consider that quite a compliment to Ezra Miller to compare him to that iconic Woody Harrelson performance.

I wanted to bathe in that fucked-up brain.

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You get so few opportunities to see things from Kevin’s perspective. I didn’t need that to be the entire movie, but this depiction does not give you any satisfying introspection. With such a great character, I wanted more nuance. In the movie, Kevin is simply evil and his mother is being crippled with guilt trying to come to terms with things because she feels directly responsible.

As a result, Kevin is more of a one-dimensional villain.

I feel like the positive reception is a sign We Need to Talk About Kevin found its audience. However, I cannot recommend this movie to the general public. It’s not for a wide audience. This movie is only for an art-type crowd that can appreciate a slow, largely dull way of storytelling.

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Based on the acting and the actual story, this is deserving of 5 stars. But the way We Need to Talk About Kevin was told is not deserving of 5 stars. It was an act of self-mutilation. I enjoyed certain aspects, but I cannot say I loved it as a whole. Half of the time, this completed missed the mark. Maybe it could be salvaged with a wildly different edit to give it an entirely new emotional feeling.

I’m sorry for burdening you with that novel reviewing a movie based on a novel.

I just needed to talk to someone about Kevin. Even if that someone was myself.

Point

2.5 out of 5 stars

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Never has a movie been more aptly named than Trainwreck.

Written by first-time screenwriter Amy Schumer and directed by Judd Apatow, this movie had everything working against it from the start. Trainwreck deserves to have the Spike Lee-esque treatment of “An Amy Schumer Abortion” tagline in the opening credits. Known for her raunchy style of comedy, Trainwreck delivers heaps of cringe-worthy dialogue and adolescent sexual content intended as shock value. Rest assured, the only shocking part of Trainwreck is the utter lack of humor and absence of wit.

Who actually enjoys this movie?

Even Amy Schumer fans should be ashamed to find this funny. This isn’t coming from a place of malice. I don’t hate Amy Schumer. I like her personality and she blossomed on the Comedy Central Roasts. However, I don’t care for most of her stand-up comedy because her material is heavily reliant on hacky sex jokes about her slutty behavior. Some seemingly find that funny because it’s coming from a woman.

I am not among those people. I find female comedians funny in the same manner as I find male comedians funny—relatable observations/commentary on life with quality writing and comedic timing. Kathleen Madigan is one of the best working stand-up comedians regardless of gender. Amy Schumer is capable of being funny. But the awful writing displayed in Trainwreck is downright unforgivable at most times.

Amy Schumer

My issue with Trainwreck isn’t specifically Amy Schumer. This movie would have been the same pile of garbage regardless of the female lead. But Schumer does bear the biggest burden of responsibility as the writer with an abysmal attempt at humor. Judd Apatow made things worse by getting his greasy mitts involved shoving cameo after cameo down the gullet of the audience. I can only describe this baffling decision as desperately trying to distract the audience. The end-result is a forgettable string of athletes and actual actors popping in for meaningless moments. Just tell me Tony Romo had to pay for his role.

Don’t worry, Trainwreck has plenty more where that came from—you can rely on Apatow to go to the well early and often. I have read and heard from several people praising Amy Schumer’s performance. I must have watched a different movie. Amy Schumer did not exactly stretch her acting wings as Amy, a drunk slut who somehow coasts through life. Amy Schumer wishes this was on the same level of non-acting as Courtney Love playing a strung-out whore. To her credit, Amy surprisingly doesn’t fuck up her one dramatic scene. The rest of the time, she’s a mess failing to deliver the clunky lines she wrote.

No humor shines through this slog of a movie. Getting through it felt like homework.

I’m not going out on a limb saying no one should ever go shooting up innocent people in public. Leave my theater-going experience alone. Unless it involves people talking during the movie, the theater is my last bastion of salvation away from the miserable world. But if there is a silver-lining to be found in being shot after the first 15 minutes of Trainwreck…at least you aren’t subjected to hearing John Cena’s grunting and seeing his bare ass. Seriously, John Cena’s acting ability breaks new ground in dreadfulness.

John Cena

I would do anything to scrub my brain clean from John Cena’s residue.

Why was John Cena cast as Amy Schumer’s on-again, off-again boyfriend?

Did Judd Apatow Amy Schumer’s non-acting necessitate using other non-actors?

I admit, John Cena was so distractingly bad that I wasn’t even paying attention to Amy Schumer. Poor Bill Hader had to carry LeBron James and Amar’e Stoudemire on his back in addition to playing the straight guy against Schumer’s goofy, aloof character. Colin Quinn’s performance is the only positive result of this mind-numbing casting approach. After so many years of catching grief from fellow comedians on Tough Crowd for mumbling and bumbling through jokes, Colin Quinn delivers the best lines and is endearing in dramatic spurts despite playing a complete asshole. While Quinn was interesting and enjoyable as an old curmudgeon, the novelty of comedian cameos runs thin despite my urge to name faces—Mike Birbiglia, Dave Attell, Jim Florentine, Bobby Kelly, Keith Robinson, Nikki Glaser, and Kyle Dunnigan.

Colin Quinn

With very few genuinely funny moments (nothing besides Colin Quinn’s Babe Ruth rant comes to mind), Trainwreck is an unmemorable misfire in a bland movie genre. At least Matthew McConaughey’s romantic comedies were watchable. Somehow, the hype surrounding the movie pre-determined that this would be the breakout summer hit. Amy Schumer might be able to write a good movie. Trainwreck is not that movie. Hopefully she will write and appear in a supporting role rather than star as the lead. Judging by Trainwreck, I’m fairly confident in characterizing Amy Schumer charisma-free as an actress. Room for growth is only possible if Schumer moves past the sophomoric approach to lowest common denominator humor.

This shit wasn’t funny when it was Dane Cook in Good Luck Chuck.

Time will tell if Amy Schumer’s skyrocketing career will similarly plummet like Dane Cook and dovetail into oblivion—at least in terms of mass appeal and critical success. If Schumer intends to stick to the “mostly sex stuff” shtick, then this same annoying approach will wear down the goodwill Amy Schumer has built by seeming to be a real, genuine human being. That’s not enough to get me to like this movie.

Short on comedy and long on pseudo-romance that no one cares about, Trainwreck is the worst non-Adam Sandler movie I’ve had the misfortune of watching this summer. Don’t trust anyone who likes Trainwreck because it’s most likely a sign of shitty taste in movies. Avoid unless you like throwing up in your mouth. If you have managed to ignore this movie, rejoice and celebrate the continued accomplishment.

Celebration

1 out of 5 stars

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Captain America has made Chris Evans a superstar. But has he truly had an opportunity to spread his wings as an actor? For the most part, everything in Evans’ catalog comes off as cloyingly sweet. Quick: name his most memorable role. The first thing that comes to mind for me is Not Another Teen Movie, which is a sad indication of his limited range–self-inflicted by his choice of roles or not.

If Snowpiercer is a harbinger, his time with Marvel is robbing us of some quality Chris Evans performances.

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Despite its faults, Snowpiercer could certainly sneak up on people and find itself on top ten lists at the end of the year. I knew next to nothing about Snowpiercer when I stumbled upon this movie about a month and a half ago. Knowing as little as possible about this movie will maximize your enjoyment and its entertainment value so I’ll carefully attempt to keep anything important close to the vest.

In terms of sci-fi dystopian futures, you’re hard-pressed to find a more bleak depiction of the coming apocalypse. After humanity created a global warming disaster that froze the world, the only remaining humans survive on a never-ending train ride aboard the Snowpiercer, which is powered by a perpetual motion engine controlled by the mysterious Wilford. The inevitable reveal of Wilford is exceptional, and it’s perhaps the most enjoyable sequence in Snowpiercer. Per usual, Chris Evans is playing our hero—albeit in a bit different fashion than we’ve grown accustomed to from Captain America.

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A distinct class system exists on the Snowpiercer with the lowest rung at the ass end of the train while the rich and well-off reside near the front of the train. This delicate balance between abject poverty and absolute wealth is not so harmonious as there always seems to be a rebellion brewing. Unsurprisingly, Curtis (played by Chris Evans) fulfills the role of reluctant leader of this potential uprising.

 

The story unfolds with a calculated pace that keeps you intrigued and on the edge of your seat.

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Each reveal of additional information provides another piece of the puzzle. Thanks to some fantastic performances in supporting roles, Snowpiercer is elevated into a more interesting stratosphere of recent sci-fi movies. In addition to Jamie Bell as Edgar and Octavia Spencer as Tanya, two other acting standouts are Kang-ho Song as Namgoong Minsoo and John Hurt as Gilliam. In particular, I hope to see more from Kang-ho Song, who was the lead from The Host in 2006—a fantastic foreign film and one of my all-time favorite creature features. Without Kang-ho Song, the second act of Snowpiercer could have meandered and remained within the cookie cutter confines of most standard sci-fi movies.

John Hurt

Regardless of Chris Evans and the rest of this impressive supporting cast mentioned above, I would argue that Tilda Swinton makes this movie. You can’t even recognize her in the character makeup of Mason, everyone’s least favorite bureaucrat in charge of communicating with the back of the train and maintaining tight control. I only found out that it was actually Tilda Swinton after researching the cast afterwards.

If you think her performance in Snowpiercer was impressive, then I suggest watching We Need to Talk About Kevin for a peak into her impeccable acting range. Although Tilda Swinton isn’t the highest paid actress or the biggest celebrity, she is deservedly among the most respected due to her acting ability.

Chris Evans should be paying attention because he could certainly learn something from her choice of roles and execution each and every time. Hopefully Snowpiercer will earn enough of a cult following that we’ll see fewer roles like Captain America and more performances like Curtis—a complicated, conflicted character that moves beyond a flat, one-dimensional portrayal of a hero. Charisma like that shouldn’t be wasted on movies targeted towards making millions from children’s piggy banks.

Chris Evans needs to know his place. He needs to keep his place.

Shoe

4.5 out of 5 stars