STILL ALICE (2014)
reviewed by Jessica Elliott
"They have a nice life, you know, really beautiful lives."
- Alice talking about the beautiful, yet, short lifespan of butterflies
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Alice's life really is that of a butterfly. She's experience much professional success, has an equally successful husband, three wonderful children and home full of warm happiness. The moment she learns of the diagnosis, her life becomes that of a butterfly - full of much beauty but cut short. The comparison of the butterfly somehow sweetens the adversity Alice is faced with - but only for a moment. Julianne Moore's performance forces you to remember that regardless of Alice having a life any one would be proud to have lived, it is still being cut short when she's not ready to let go.

KEYWORDS
Devastating, authentic, emotional, moving, fear

THE GOOD
Convincing, sensitive, difficult subject, vulnerable, Julianne Moore’s performance and Kristen Stewart’s acting (whaaa?!)

THE BAD
Uneven, unnecessary family plot lines, generally boring, dislikeable family, average

WHAT THE MOVIE IS ABOUT
Julianne Moore plays Alice, a 50-year-old established, respected, intelligent linguistics professor who is diagnosed with early on-set Alzheimer’s. Where most movies may focus on the family and friends who are losing their loved one to a hazy world of fading recognition, the film focuses on Alice’s point of view and how she copes with her diagnosis. It makes for many difficult moments and scenes that cannot be viewed without an already tear soaked tissue close-by. Alec Baldwin plays her equally respected and successful husband, and Kate Bosworth, Hunter Parrish and Kristen Stewart play their three children.


 
 
BIG EYES (2014)
reviewed by Jessica Elliott
"So, who is the artist?"
- a woman inquiring about the Big Eyes artist.
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And with these five words, Big Eyes reveals itself as a movie about two different artists: one that dabbles in acrylics while the other dabbles in deception. Big Eyes is layered in its story-telling, beginning with hopefulness, trust, deception, abuse, horror and relief. Amy Adams (as Margaret Keane) and Christoph Waltz (as Walter Keane) handle the delivery of these complex emotions like the professionals they are with a cherry on top. The strength of Margaret Keane is one of beauty, especially when that strength is finally acknowledged and rewarded. The feminist layer to this movie, a product of the time period, was an unexpected but pleasant surprise to the film’s depth. The duration of the movie is spent realizing we’re watching Margaret and her artistic talent only to realize that Walter is just as artistic, albeit in a very different way. 

KEYWORDS
Sad, Unbelievable, Manipulative, Beautiful, Inspiring, Deception, Feminism

THE GOOD
Beautiful acting by Christoph Waltz and Amy Adams
Color palette
Layered emotions
Authentic film production value



THE BAD
Odd tonal change throughout movie
Uneven movie pace
Felt lengthy at times
Lack of Tim Burton touches

WHAT THE MOVIE IS ABOUT
I remember Big Eyes paintings when I was a child. After watching the film, I realize now they were the mass-produced versions of the originals as posters, postcards, t-shirts, etc. However, before we delve in, can we please discuss how Amy Adams never ages? She’s got the same anti-aging genes as Pharrell and Paul Rudd. Am I right? She’s 40-years-old and looks fucking amazing! She radiates innocence and dangerous flirtation at the same time. The complexity of achieving this baffles me. Okay. Just had to get that off my chest. Let’s move on.

Big Eyes follows the story of Margaret Keane and her paintings of children with eyes exaggerated in size. She explains that for a short while as a young child, she was deaf and relied on the facial expressions and eyes of those she was talking with to completely understand them. Eyes are important to her and thus, she enlarges them in all her paintings. Enter Walter. He’s an artist, charming as hell, and wants to take care of Margaret. Soon after they meet, they become husband and wife. Walter, realizing Margaret has a genuine talent in painting, offers to sell her paintings and are a success very quickly, making large sums of money. The caveat, however, is that Margaret must relinquish public ownership of the artwork because “nobody wants to buy lady art,” according to Walter. Giving in to her husband, she allows him to take credit for her paintings for over a decade.


 
 
THEY CAME TOGETHER (2014)
reviewed by Jessica Elliott
"You like fiction books? I've never met anyone else who likes fiction!
That is too funny!"
- Molly to Joel
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Ah, yes. That, right there, is what we call soul mate quality, friends. They Came Together crams every romantic comedy cliché you can think of, or remember, in parodied fashion. Think: Scary Movie series but for romantic comedies. With a headlining duo like Paul Rudd and Amy Poehler (cue: swoon), and an assload of your favorite comedian cameos, They Came Together is poised to deliver 83 minutes of solid laughter.

KEYWORDS
Sporadically clever, delightful, funny, tired gags, underused actors

THE GOOD
Fun concept
Paul Rudd + Amy Poehler pairing
Long list of comedy cameos,

THE BAD
Lack of innovation
Unnecessary scenes
Forced humor
Lackluster


WHAT THE MOVIE IS ABOUT
Molly (Poehler) plays the klutz, fun-loving girl who befriends Joel, the corporate professional, albeit vulnerable, leading man (Rudd) who is, as the movie puts it, “just jewish enough.” The movie follows the predictable rom-com storyline: meet each other, hate each other, but misjudged each other so now they like each other only to inevitably break-up and date other people, but realize they really do love each other, aaaaand they’re back together again. A couple of montages are found in the mix, too. They Come Together would not meet the rom-com criteria without sage advice from their basketball playing friends, supportive best friend and disapproving older sister, kooky co-worker (yay Rafi!) and “aw shucks” younger brother. It is the perfect round up of the rom-com supporting cast to fill out the romantic comedy genre requirement.

WHAT THE MOVIE IS REALLY ABOUT
They Came Together parodies the romantic comedy genre with Poehler and Rudd leading the charge and directed by David Wain (Wet Hot American Summer and Role Models). The movie begins with Molly and Joel at dinner with their friends played by Bill Hader and Ellie Kemper (grossly underused and extremely funny) who ask how they met. From there, the entire movie is a flashback, cutting back to the dinner table for a few laughs and reinforcement of the parody for the viewer. The movie begins like a Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan movie, introducing each character in a day of their life. Molly owns a cute candy shop named Upper Sweet Side whose existence is threatened by the evil corporation, Candy Systems & Research. This, of course, is where Joel is employed. They meet at a Halloween party thrown by mutual friends. Instead of hitting it off, like their friends hoped, they despise each other especially after Molly finds out where Joel works. Clichéd phrases are said, Molly throws water in Joel’s face in an effort to show her disgust, and they pretty much hate each other. This is also where we are forced to watch a useless scene with Christopher Meloni and a bathroom incident. Molly and Joel meet again, this time at a bookstore where their interest in one other begins to grow over a common love of fiction books.

The rest of the movie continues on as you would expect – the looming threat of their relationship pulled apart because of their jobs, Joel’s ex-girlfriend testing their love (played by Cobie Smulders), the inevitable jealously of one moving on with their life before the other, etc. This movie begins strong, with clever moments producing genuine laughter, but it very quickly fell flat. Yes, I understand this is a parody movie. Yes, I know that means its purpose is to poke fun. I love me a good romantic comedy – and to have it parodied? That’s moth to a flame-like love! However, in an age where parody movies are quite normal (which Scary Movie number are we on, now?), this one was no different and I so wanted it to be. I was excited to see this cast, which can only be described as Poehler and Rudd’s personal contacts, but I was hoping for a spin on the tired parody approach, or at least done in a smarter way. I firmly believe if this film had been made a good five years ago or so, I would have liked it a lot more. Perhaps the movie, as it is now, would have felt fresh and new. At this point, we are familiar with the Poehler and Rudd “-isms” and although good for a chuckle here and there, it felt like the go-to for both of them. It seemed like the movie rested on its cast and a few solid jokes to carry it through to the end. Instead, coupled with questionable scenes such as Joel meeting Molly’s parents for the first time, the bizarre and endless bar scene with Joel, and the last 5 – 10 minutes, the 83 minutes of running time felt like an eternity. It felt like a sketch or joke gone way too long and you just want it to stop.

CONCLUSION
Although I genuinely enjoyed only a third of the film, I did feel like I was reunited with old friends. Each cameo made me laugh with excitement (John Stamos?!) and there are a few scenes peppered within the movie that do work. I just wish they had been able to sustain that momentum for the duration rather than overkilling each joke in the process. They Came Together had the potential to be much smarter in achieving the parody of the rom-com genre but just felt lazy.

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2 out of 4