Jennifer’s Body – Teens, Murders & Demons… What’s not to like?

What up, Buttercups?

I first saw this film way back in 2012. The only reason I watched it was because I’m a fan of Panic! At the Disco and I absolutely love their song New Perspective which was used in the movie soundtrack.

That being said, it is a low key musical film. Especially if you like indie and alternative rock. There are music posters in a lot of background shots (Of course there are, it’s a teen movie) Fall Out Boy is one of them but my favourite is from my favourite band, Motion City Soundtrack’s poster for the album Even If It Kills Me.

It’s a weird film. While Needy (Amanda Seyfried) is the protagonist of the film it almost feels like a teenage boy’s wet dream in parts; Namely the parts where Jennifer (Megan Fox) and Needy have a hot make-out session and Needy’s boyfriend Chip (Johnny Simmons) is fought over by Jennifer and Needy.

Lots of the dialogue between Jennifer and Needy does sound like it is written by a teenage boy. Period and sex jokes and Chip’s ecstatic expression when asking if he is “too big” for Needy when they try to have sex.

The premise is hilarious. An evil indie band doing anything they can to make it. There words of Nikolai (Adam Brody) ring true “If you don’t get on Letterman or some retarded soundtrack you’re screwed. Satan is our only hope.”

Not sure what else I should’ve expected from a Horror-Comedy.

There were a few decent jump scares and enough creepy screeching noises to set you on edge. There are also a few heartbreaking moments in there too. Personally, going from the happy vibrancy of one of Jennifer’s victims on their way to meet with her. Then moving through uncertainty as you realise the address she gave isn’t for her house. To the almost sick and sorrowful call of “Hello?”to a houset hat is still obviously half building site hit close to home and is one of the better emotional sections of the scene. Who hasn’t been excited for something – be it a date or not – only to begin to wonder if things are really what they seem and then the crushing disappointment that comes when it finally falls through.

In a movie about the occult it’s a surprising moment that can still wrench a response from me.

The core of this movie is all about friendship and choices. There is the famous saying that “We can choose our friends and not our family.” This film is a study of choosing friends. Needy and Jennifer have been friends for years. So long in fact that Needy is blind to the horrible person her friend is before she gets turned into a boy killing demon.

One of the scenes we see of the two of them together is Jennifer pressuring Needy into spending time with her instead of her boyfriend. Jennifer is controlling and jealous and revels in being the centre of attention. She uses her sexuality – and the lust she inspires in men – to manipulate people and situations to get what she wants.

The biggest choice of the film is almost one we never get to see. Jennifer Chooses to go after Chip and that prompts Needy to kill her friend. It’s almost implied that if Jennifer hadn’t gone after Chip, Needy would have left her alone; even after learning what her friend is and has done, Needy doesn’t act on it until Jennifer goes after her boyfriend.

I watched this film again recently and I’m not as enamoured with it as I was back in 2012 and it will probably be a while before I watch it again but I didn’t hate it. Adam Brody played a great smarmy character, although I doubt I’ll ever be able to see him as anyone other than his character for The OC. Megan Fox played a convincing bitch and Amanda Seyfried plays off of her well, encapsulating the long-suffering friend perfectly. Johnny Simmons does amazing work in another musically related roll though this time as a drummer and not a bassist.

It is a teen movie and very much of its time. It tries to do a few things differently but not enough for it to be memorable. The best I can say about this film is that if you’re trying to entertain teenagers over Halloween, this might do the trick early on in the evening before moving on to something with a bit more bite to it.

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Scott Pilgrim vs The World – Game Over. Continue?

What up, Buttercups?

For those of you paying close attention you may have noticed that my posts are all connected. For the smarty-pants in the back snickering because they’re all late or reviews of movies, you’re wrong. Well, wrong and right. They are all late – that is my shtick after all – and they are all review but its something a little less obvious.

This post is no different but you will be able to notice the connection more easily.

Scott Pilgrim vs The World. It was, for a while, my favourite film of all time. It had elements that appealed to me. It is, at its core, the story of love conquering all.

Who doesn’t love that?

There was a time, before I ever knew of Nick and Norah (Hint hint at the connection) where this was the film I watched religiously. I had to watch it with subtitles because when I bought it the laptop I owned wouldn’t play sound. So I’d sit alone, in my flat, watching a movie with the sound off like something out of a horror film until I could recite it word-for-word.

I loved the idea that a down-on-his-luck loser like Scott (Michael Cera) could win the love and affection of Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). Aside from the story – personally I think more people should have to face their new partner’s last seven evil exes it might make us think a little harder about who we date and how we break up with them – the music is spot on. The original songs in the script were penned by Beck.

It is also a film packed full of little nods and Easter Eggs that once you notice will make you smile. For example, once you notice all the Xs dotted around the place you won’t be able to unsee them.

The fight scenes are amazing and the comic book details are laced throughout the entire film lending it a sense of continuity. It is a comic book film that is perfectly happy with being a comic book film. It doesn’t try to be much else.

Fidelity is a big theme in this movie.

Scott – when we meet him – is dating a girl called Knives (Ellen Wong) but that doesn’t stop him chasing Ramona after she appears in a dream but doesn’t end the relationship with Knives until after he spends the night with Ramona.

There is a sense of realism to that. While he is the hero of the film he is not some painted white knight. He is very much a hero with feet of clay. The first hint of this is the way Sex Bob-omb bandmate Kim (Allison Pill) reacts to the news that Scott has a girlfriend.

He lacks purpose, drive, ambition… most things that typical comic book heroes have in spades.

He’s indecisive, scared, selfish… There are two theories to how to create a novel or a film. One is putting an extraordinary person in an ordinary situation the other is putting an ordinary person into an extraordinary situation.

You don’t get more ordinary than Scott Pilgrim. A whiny 22-year-old who doesn’t know how to move on with his life, is still hurting from an ex who dumped him and learned to fight from video games. And you don’t get more extraordinary than all seven evil exes of your newest girlfriend trying to kill you so that Gideon (Jason Schwartzman) – Ramona’s newest, most evil and founder of the League of Evil Exes – can control her love life.

The film is an over-the-top, Easter Egg crammed, full throttle action film with romance and enough jokes and pop culture references to keep even the geekiest of dedicated Comic Con goers happy. From Legend of Zelda music in the background of scenes, to reaction shots overlaid with error sound bytes from Mac and Windows PCs, all the way down to hidden numbers or signs marking out which evil ex is which.

For many people I doubt this will be a film they re-watch as religiously as I did but rest assured that if you were scrolling through late night TV and stumbled across this on Film 4 I doubt you change channel until it was over.

Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist – Repeat All!

What up, Buttercups?

This is one of my favourite films of all time. One I watched every day for a solid week after a break up. It is just so good.

That being said, I’m gonna try to review it with at least some stab at being impartial. I apologise for failing in advance.

So. It’s a simple story set out over a single night. It follows Nick (Michael Cera) and Norah (Kat Dennings) and their friends as they try to find the band Where’s Fluffy who are doing a secret show somewhere in New York city.

The premise doesn’t sound like much but it is the foundation for the rest of the film that covers topics of body positivity, sexuality, one-sided unhealthy relationships, love, heartbreak and friendship.

The heart of this movie is the music. It holds everything together. Whether it’s Nick’s band arguing over their name, the mix CDs Nick makes to help him get over his ex or the songs woven throughout the night’s adventure.

Things get complicated when Nick’s ex Tris (Alexis Dziena) turns up and Norah’s on-and-off again semi-boyfriend/friend with benefits Tal (Jay Baruchel in the only role that has ever made me dislike him. Congrats on that Jay!) turn up.

At it’s core it is a movie about acceptance and moving on. From lost love and relationships that hold us back to sexuality and body positivity. Norah feels that because she isn’t the perfect size zero little model that Tris is she has no chance with a guy who doesn’t know who her father is.

Nick spends most of the film pining after Tris and the imagined perfect relationship that he thought they had – which is something we’ve all done from time to time when we’ve donned the rose-tinted glasses.

It’s only by the end of the film, the search through New York for Norah’s drunk friend Caroline and the many adventures that happen while trying to track down Where’s Fluffy that Nick realises Norah is the girl for him. And Norah realises she doesn’t have to settle for the life that’s been planned out for her or settle for the guys who only want her because of her who father is and the influence he can have over their careers.

Aside from the heart-warming romantic story it is a masterpiece of acceptance. Of the group of six characters we spend the majority of our time with, and root for, three of them are gay; including Nick’s bandmates. This isn’t a major plot point but is instead a brilliant example that diverse characters don’t have to be centre stage for them to matter to the film and that being gay is not the be all and end all of their characterisation.

While it ends with in the way many romantic comedies do with our young lovers getting together and realising that the journey of the night was a different one from the one they thought they were getting.

It’s a journey of discovery wrapped up in a light-hearted race through the quirky New York indie music scene.

Like I said at the start, this is my favourite film. I would listen to the soundtrack on repeat for the rest of my life without hesitation. There is nothing I don’t love about this film. From the first awkward moments of Nick leaving a pathetic voicemail, through the trails of the night and Norah’s recording room orgasm (which is equal parts honest, sexy and cringe worthy) through to the satisfying finale of Tris getting her comeuppance and The Real Tuesday Weld’s Last Words playing over the ending. Which is so satisfying!

It’s a film that I see more that the more I watch it. Including once where I noticed that a piece of gum makes a complete circle from the guy who originally had in an early scene to Caroline to Norah to Nick and then back to the gum’s originator in the finale.

If you haven’t seen this film I urge you to watch it. Then watch it again and possibly a third time just to track the gum from person to person.

Begin Again – A True Musician’s Movie

What up, Buttercups?

I came across this movie during the start of 2016. It was a dark time for me and this film was the beginning of me pulling myself out of it.

Being totally upfront about it, this is one of my favourite movies. I’ve watched it a couple of times and there is something about the energy they put into making this that make me want to pick up and instrument, write a song and try to take the world by storm.

At its heart Begin Again is a story of self-discovery. It paints a lovely glossy picture of musicians and the creative process. A somewhat truncated and idealised version but there is nothing sexy or fun about someone umming and arring over a chorus for a week until it comes to them in the shower.

That issue aside. It is a fantastic film if you love music.

It centres around Gretta (Keira Knightly) and Dan (Mark Ruffalo) and their attempts to put together an album as well as their lives. Gretta’s is falling apart after her boyfriend Dave (Adam Levine) is signed to a major record label and cheats on her. Dan loses his job, his wife had an affair and his relationship with her is strained and next to non-existent with his teenage daughter.

During the recording of the album using the city as a studio Gretta gets over Dave and Dan manges to piece his life together, rediscovering his love for the music business through Gretta’s idealism.

I should mention that James Corden plays the role of comedy sidekick; breaking out a kazzoo to amazing effect. At first, I questioned his role in the film but he provides a few good laughs and more than that he is the essential anchor that keeps Gretta in America instead of returning home to the UK.

There are a few famous musical faces that pop up throughout the film Mos Def plays a drawling record company executive who’s only goal is the bottom line. CeeLo Green makes an appearance playing Troublegum who I assume is a version of his real self.

The film is shot with real love and care – even down to the scene where Dan sings Gretta’s song in the shower – and there are some amazing set pieces. The first being Dan seeing Gretta perform in a bar and all the other instruments coming to life around her even though she is the only one on stage as his imagination fills in the rest of the arrangement.

The next being the absolutely stunning rooftop recording session. While it is only maybe ten minutes long at the outset it is one of my favourite scenes in the film and in cinema altogether. There is such a sense of energy to it that makes you want to pick up a guitar of beat a drum or just dance. It captures how music should make you feel; that sitting still is the worst possible thing you can do at that moment.

It runs at barely more than an hour and a half and it is totally worth every moment.

It is a seriously good film if you want something to make you smile and if you are in need of something to inspire the musician in you, then this is definitely the film for you.

Liberal Arts – Josh Radnor’s Love Letter to College

What up, Buttercups?

As the title implies, this film is Josh Radnor’s love letter to his college days.

It is written, directed and stars Radnor and it made me wonder how much of himself he poured into Ted Mosby. Or how much Jesse Fisher was based on Ted because the two are hard to tell apart sometimes.

For example. Both Ted and Jesse are from Ohio, they’re both misty-eyed romantics who see their college days through spectacularly rose-tinted glasses and they both have this grand love affair with New York City. Minor similarities between the characters include: a professor they love and cite as their inspiration, notions that they’re intellectuals while not being as refined and sophisticated as they think they are and an attraction to the wrong girl.

Another usable subtitle for this review could have been Liberal Arts – The Ted Mosby Movie. Essentially that is what it feels like.

Now with that said. There are things about this film that I love.

The opening is not one of them though. It has this weird cold open that is filmed documentary style for no logical reason. Apart from an information dump that he works for a college and he lives in New York.

The introduction of a love interest (Elizabeth Olsen) and the building of their relationship through hand written letters, I like. The use of classical music to underscore the letter is also great. I love the juxtaposition of classical music played through modern technology while reading old-fashioned snail mail. The clichéd voice-overs reading them out… not so much. It’s a technique that has been done to death.

I also love the hesitation he shows once finding out his lady love has yet to have her first sexual experience. I can’t state that enough. That is a moral choice that I don’t think is made much in films. Ether through conscious choice or through the female characters keeping it as a secret until after the deed is done.

There is also the subplot of a suicidal student genius. It allows the film to give a subtle nod to Josh’s How I Met Your Mother Past. The book they discuss is Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace; who was played amazingly by Jason Segel in End of the Tour.

The major problem I have with this film is the second love interest. The one that feels tacked on to the end just to give it a happy ending. It comes completely out of nowhere from a couple of characters that barely speak to each other for the entire length of the movie. The entire romance is shoehorned in and feels completely see through.

It is in many ways a feature length episode of How I Met Your Mother… but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t watch it.

It may lack the panache and punch of a big summer blockbuster or traditional romantic comedy there are some very human moments. The letter scene between Jesse and Zibby (Olsen) where they discuss music and life and love is solid. We gifted with a sense of excitement that we all feel when someone we like texts us. I love that instead of it being texts or emails it if the old fashioned letter and more power to Josh Radnor for writing it that way. It would been way too easy to have Zibby be some typical college student who is into hip-hop and never off her phone and have Jesse be this guy stuck in the past trying hard to relive his glorious college days through a relationship with a younger woman.

What Radnor does is show us what happens when you’re old enough and mature enough to realise that what you want may not in fact be good for you.

While the cast isn’t star-studded there are some big names here Allison Janney plays a cougar professor showing us that the fantasies we have in our youth can be attainable but sometimes they’re better left as fantasies. Zac Efron’s turn as the oddball, free-thinking, free-living Nat is the perfect counterpoint Jesse’s over-seriousness. Elizabeth Reaser is the shoehorned in love interest and while that does annoy me – mostly because there is no real development between Reaser’s Ana and Jesse – sometimes that is the way of life you fallout of something bad into something good. So my objection to that may be nothing more than not accepting something in film I’d have no trouble accepting in life.

Overall; the film is a solid one and one that is definitely worth a re-watch whenever you wish you could go back and have your time again.

RTJ