This installment of Click of the Week sends out some link love to Indiewire for an article exploring the female archetypes at play in Bachelorette and Ruby Sparks. The article, Of Bridesmaids and Manic Pixies: Female Archetypes in ‘Ruby Sparks’ and ‘Bachelorette’, discusses the ‘Manic Pixie Dream Girl’ and its place in modern cinema. Check it out and let me know what you think of the ‘MPDG’ and other female archetypes in film. 

(Photo via Indiewire)

         

The legendary Woody Allen is back again, but this time he drops us in the middle of beautiful Rome. He’s assembled a stellar cast to bring this witty ensemble film to the silver screen. The film strings together various vignettes featuring romantic complications. This may not be Allen’s finest endeavor in filmmaking, but it’s still certainly worth a viewing. 

To be honest, To Rome with Love never really had a chance. Our last Woody Allen experience was the brilliant Midnight in Paris, which left audiences with extremely high expectations for To Rome with Love. It seems a bit crowded, rushed, and there’s too much happening to become completely connected to any of the stories. There wasn’t much about the film that stuck with me after leaving the theater. Additionally, some of the film’s themes seem a little too spoon-fed to the audience. Allen doesn’t need to be quite so obvious with certain aspects of the story. With that said, there are still some perfectly crafted intelligent comedic moments scattered throughout the film. 

Woody Allen has once again assembled an amazing cast. My only complaint is that I wanted more time to get to know their characters. Like previously mentioned, the story felt a bit rushed and this may be due to the amount of characters in the film. Maybe the film would have benefited from a smaller, more streamlined cast of characters. This would have allowed us to truly experience these characters, and give the actors more of a chance to run with their characters. 

Part of me desperately wished that To Rome with Love alluded to Midnight in Paris in some respect. During our first introduction to John (Alec Baldwin), he is dining with friends at an outdoor cafe. One of the friends quips about Malibu. How amazing would it have been to have Gil and Gabrielle sitting at that table, having a casual dinner with friends? Recycling characters isn’t always a bad thing if executed properly.  

Here’s the bottom line on To Rome with Love: it’s definitely minor Woody Allen, but that doesn’t mean it’s a terrible film. Woody’s Allen’s lesser work is still better than many filmmakers’ best work. He’s one of the most iconic filmmakers working today, and he still knows how to keep an audience laughing. Like a few of the other summer indies, To Rome with Love is a great alternative to the massive summer blockbusters. 

(Photo via The New York Times)

In this installment of First Impressions, the fabulous Jess (you may know her as the voice behind Film Fromage) and I break down Gangster Squad's latest trailer. Check out all our thoughts on the the cast of Gangster Squad, Film Noir, and also our extreme excitement for The Dark Knight Rises. Will you be seeing Gangster Squad on September 7th when it takes over the movie theaters?

Stephanie: Well, I think it’s safe to say that Gangster Squad has a phenomenal cast.

Jessica: The male characters all look fantastic, but I’m a little hesitant on Emma Stone.

Stephanie: I think this might be a little out of her comfort zone, but I think she’ll do fine.

Jessica: She doesn’t scream femme fatale to me, but then again, few modern actresses do.

Stephanie: That’s true, but I’m holding out hope that she can pull it off. It might just be because we’ve never seen her in this kind of role. I’m excited to see Sean Penn back in action. He always commits 100% to his characters.

Jessica: He so often plays against his explosive real life personality, so I’m curious to see what it’s like when he goes with it.

Stephanie: That’s a good point - his characters are sometimes more restrained. Powerful, but restrained. This character seems like a loose cannon sometimes, which will be awesome.

Jessica: Josh Brolin, too, has had his fair share of off-share explosions.

Stephanie: And it’s such an interesting time period too. As long as it’s done the right way, and isn’t too cheesy. 

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This upcoming week features some great indie releases as well as one of the year’s most anticipated movies. Here are my top picks for this week’s theatrical and home releases:

At the Theater:

Shut Up and Play the Hits: July 18 (Limited Release) 

From the creative minds of Oscilloscope Laboratories, this documentary captures the two days leading up to LCD Soundsytem’s last show ever. It takes you behind the scenes of their final Madison Square Garden show, and the events surrounding the band’s dissolution. If you’re lucky enough to live in a city where the film is showing, drop me a line and let me know your thoughts about the film.

The Queen of Versailles: July 20 (Limited Release)

This character-driven documentary won praise on the festival circuit, and follows the filthy-rich Siegel family as they navigate the landscape of a crumbling American Dream. The film chronicles the billionaire family’s efforts to build the largest house in America while also battling the economic crisis. 

The Dark Knight Rises: July 20

Did someone say “costume contest?” Christopher Nolan’s highly anticipated conclusion to his Batman trilogy officially hits theaters on Friday. It’s destined to pack theaters with anxious and excited audience members, and also break box office records, of course. 

At Home:

Friends with Kids: July 17

Writer-Director-Actress Jennifer Westfeldt leads a stellar cast in this tale of friendship, love, marriage, and children. When two best friends decide to have a child together, but keep their platonic relationship, they quickly learn that their plan is far from foolproof. Westfeldt just might be the female Ed Burns (who also has a role in the film) in terms of indie flicks, which is perfectly fine with me. 

(Photo via Collider)

        

Savages is the story of two American marijuana tycoons as they battle a Mexican drug cartel for the woman they both love. Ben, Chon, and O (short for Ophelia) reside in Laguna Beach, but this isn’t Lauren Conrad’s Laguna Beach. The beautiful beachside community we experience in Savages is harboring a massive drug business, dangerous Mexican drug cartels, and a corrupt DEA agent. 

The subject matter is rather exhausted, nothing fresh or truly shocking. Even the scenes that were probably created to shock audiences a bit aren’t particularly impactful. It feels as though Stone wanted to give us exclusive access to the inner-workings of the drug trade, but he’s a little late to the game. The violence, money, love triangles, backstabbing - we’ve seen it all before. 

However, what is interesting about Savages is that the story itself isn’t particularly interesting, but most of the actors are rather captivating. Benicio Del Toro completely transforms himself into the character of Lado. Salma Hayek brings the perfect blend of dominance and compassion to her role as Baja Cartel leader Elena. Aaron Johnson never falters in his performance either. His portrayal of Ben brings a fully developed character to the screen, in which we are able to embrace some of his stereotypical traits instead of finding them boring. 

Unfortunately, the least interesting character was actually the lynchpin of the entire film, O. Perhaps it was due to the indistinguishible differences between O and Serena van der Woodsen. It just seemed as though that train Serena boarded in the finale of the last season’s “Gossip Girl” took her straight to Laguna Beach, and this was now her life. Furthermore, I felt the same way about Taylor Kitsch’s Chon. The scenes between Lively and Kitsch could have easily been a spin-off television show starring Serena and Tim Riggins. Actually, can someone please create that show?

The voice over certainly seemed necessary at times, but the dialogue is often too cheesy for Lively’s delivery. Her description of Chon’s “wargasms” during his introduction in the film made it nearly impossible to take the voice overs seriously until the end. Luckily, the explanations of specific characters and situations provided a general need for the voice overs to exist, instead of just serving as O’s musings. 

The film is at its best when the characters are interacting with each other in the “off” moments. The scenes that action junkies become restless and bored are actually some of the most fulfilling scenes. When the actors are given a chance to really run with their characters while the camera captures every nuanced look and line, that is when the film truly shines. 

It wasn’t until the last few scenes of the movie where it all came together for me. At times, I was confused by Stone’s myriad of stylistic choices, and I wasn’t always sure what he was trying to achieve aesthetically. Then, suddenly out of nowhere, Stone completely flips the script on us. I found myself smiling, genuinely enjoying the last few minutes of the film. Thanks to those final scenes, everything Stone was trying to achieve made sense.  

Despite the lack of fresh material, the film still somewhat resonates on an emotional level. Savages is packed with symbolism and imagery. From the Catholic imagery to O’s fascination with her tragic namesake, Ophelia, symbolism abounds in Savages.  There’s a lot going on in this film, which means everyone can connect with some aspect of the story, no matter their age or circumstances. Beneath all the gritty violence, the film is actually about relationships between people. There’s an encounter with humanity hidden under layers of brutality. Even though some elements of the film fall short, I still left the theater thinking “that’s how it’s done, that’s how you make a movie.” 

(Photo via The Movie Wire)