Spared or Spoiled Movie Reviews: Nocturnal Animals (or the ANTI-La La Land)

The rules are simple. The good get spared. The bad get spoiled.

And Amy…

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“I’ll be okay. I’m used to it by now. At least Mel still loves me.”

And Amy Adams gets robbed of a nomination by an Academy of numbskulls!!

Nocturnal Animals (Focus Features)

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Written & Directed by Tom Ford

Based on the novel Tony and Susan by Austin Wright

Starring Amy AdamsJake GyllenhaalMichael ShannonAaron Taylor-JohnsonIsla FisherArmie HammerLaura LinneyAndrea Riseborough & Michael Sheen

Nocturnal Animals feels like a 70’s thriller or some early 80’s Brian DePalma suspense shit, except without the suspense. The only thrills in the movie happen in the book. Not the book of the movie but the book inside the movie, which is way better than the real-life story. Amy Adams (winner for best actress on this blog) plays Susan Morrow, a gallery owner whose life is boring as hell. Her life is awful and so is this part of the movie. But she receives a manuscript from her ex-husband of his new novel. It’s good. It’s very good. It’s better than her life. The book is dramatized in the movie and those parts are better than the rest of the movie. They’re supposed to be. That’s the point.

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“I don’t know what the big deal is. I NEVER get nominated.”

But watching Nocturnal Animals so soon after seeing La La Land forced me to compare them because both films are about young artists in a romance. The one in this movie is told in flashbacks, adding a third running narrative to the film. And again it’s better than the main story. So even though I like Nocturnal Animals, this is one of those movies that I have to spoil to talk about it. But as an added bonus, I’m also going to spoil La La Land in the process. So this is a combination Spared/Spoiled/Film Comparison in one.

Verdict: SPOILED (for being too interesting): Nocturnal Animals

AND

Verdict: SPOILED (by association): La La Land

I’m spoiling everything tonight.

Nocturnal Animals Amy Adams

“Spoil them… Spoil them all… Spoil everything… Spoil them all to hell.”

SPOILER ALERT (for both Nocturnal Animals and La La Land)

SPOILER ALERT!!!

First of all, she absolutely becomes her mother. Just like everyone says she would (including her mother). And I also liked the ending. It was poetic. I think I was waiting for the suspense to bleed over from the novel into the real world. And it never did. But Amy Adams is excellent as always. Jake Gyllenhaal is at his regular efficient automatic perfection. Seriously that guy pisses me off with how precise he is. I bet you every take is exactly the same with him. He’s a freaking robot.

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“You shut your filthy mouth. The Academy is full of geniuses and saints. Saints, I tell ya!”

Armie Hammer plays the same character in every movie. So he plays that same character again here. The man just looks like a douche. Surprise!! He’s a douche. And Michael Shannon gives a fine performance. I would talk about his nomination but frankly those fools don’t know shit. So it’s not much of an honor. But I liked it. Nocturnal Animals grew on me as the back story got interesting and the fictional story got interesting and I waited for the present story to get interesting and it never did. And that was the point. And I got it. And I liked it. So as Amy Adams is waiting there in the restaurant hoping to rekindle something with the guy who is now successful and he doesn’t show up. And that brilliant awkward last scene drags on, I was digging it. It reminded me of some Neil LaBute revenge porn (that guy’s got serious problems).

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“Oh Academy. You’re breaking my heart. But then again you break everyone’s heart.”

And every review I (actually) read seems to think that the characters of the wife and daughter in the novel represent her. But I don’t think so. I think she reads that into the story to make her boring existence seem worth a few pages. If anything she’s the three criminals. But yeah he makes himself the lead, weak and powerless to defend his wife and child in the story and she sees him as weak in the back story, but by standing her up in the end, he proves that he isn’t the weak romantic writer that she can manipulate. And his book is better than her life even though everybody dies in it (seriously it’s like some Shakespearean shit. Everyone dies at the end). So I guess he wins… at life.

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“I win at life!!! I win at… oops.”

Then of course, I imagined the ending of La La Land with only one of them being successful and not the other. (much less of a fairy tale). Because at the end of La La Land both the lovers are wildly successful and exactly where they want to be in life (like the most rags-to-riches depression era musical bull-shit) and it’s mostly due to the push each gives the other. You can say they sacrifice their love and life together for the other’s career and it works well for both.

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“Mel Rook & the 7 Deadly… nope. Life’s too short. What’s on YouTube? PUPPIES!!!”

Nocturnal Animals isn’t as sweet as all that. While in La La Land they inspire each other with tough love and support, in Nocturnal Animals, she inspires him with betrayal and he inspires her with revenge. It is… a lot more realistic (and nobody sings).  Emma Stone ends up married with a successful career and no guilt about leaving her first real love (and an Oscar nomination). While Amy Adams ends up married to a cheater with a failing gallery and guilt over how she betrayed her first love (and no nomination for her work in Arrival). It’s not fair (but then again Trump is in power and fair is a fairy tale).

Ryan Gosling and Jake Gyllenhaal both get what they want so fuck ’em.

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“Trump is the what now? You shitting me? Woo hoo. We got ourselves a white male president.”

Nocturnal Animals is almost too atmospheric at times in the main story. There are a couple of good laughs from her silly artsy friends and co-workers. Especially when she blatantly insults the woman who had too much work done on her face. That was hysterical. Her artwork is awful. Her life is awful. Her husband is cheating. They are hemorrhaging money and her ex-husband writes this kick-ass book. That’s some potent revenge porn. Seriously, Neil LaBute must love this film.

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“Operator. I’d like the number for a Neil LaBute please. Misogynist? Yes I’ll hold.”

But if she hadn’t broken his heart would he have been able to write his great American novel? Nocturnal Animals is a good story. But at times I thought it left a little too much on the table. Too atmospheric. Too strange. Too stylish. With wooden performances. Even though that was the point to make the novel more vibrant and more real than life. But because of it, it’s easy to separate the two and think that Nocturnal Animals is a movie about a boring woman reading a book, in the bed, in the tub, looking sexy… but still just reading. And then think the book in the movie is a better movie than the movie. But Nocturnal Animals is good. And it’s definitely worth a look if you’re like me and dated an artist who broke your heart. Or dated someone who didn’t believe in you. Because Nocturnal Animals is usually what you get. La La Land is the fantasy.

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“I just read Mel’s blog… I must go to him.” Now THAT’S the fantasy.

In conclusion, Nocturnal Animals is the ANTI-La La Land and I’m glad, because after the Oscar nominations I needed a sober dose of anti-romanticism. And Amy Adams, my love, I’m so sorry, but you got stood up again.

– Mel

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Spared or Spoiled Reviews: Arrival

It’s okay if you don’t remember, but the rules are simple.

The good get spared. The bad get spoiled.

Arrival (Paramount Pictures)

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Directed by Denis Villeneuve

Written by Eric Heisserer  Based on “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang

Starring Amy AdamsJeremy RennerForest WhitakerMichael Stuhlbarg & Tzi Ma

Arrival is adult sci-fi. A smart story with a beautiful performance and directed and written extremely well. One of the best movies of the year. Maybe even the best. And I don’t have to tell you guys that I love Amy Adams. And I hope they give her some love come Oscar time. She carries this movie and her character is an emotional roller coaster ride and a true bad ass. I loved it profusely.

Verdict: SPARED

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“What you making, Amy?” “I’m just sending a message. This is the amount of times I have read or will read Mel’s blog.”

This is the new Close Encounters but without the famous five tones. Anybody remember the five tones? “If everything is ready on the dark side of the moon…” That was the extent of Close Encounters’ attempt at alien communication. Arrival makes Close Encounters look like kid’s stuff. (Steven Spielberg was actually just a kid back then) Arrival is such an intelligent film. With an amazing message about language and love and loss. I’m gonna have to say it again; I don’t have the words.

arrival-is-epic

“Okay people we’re entering the Amy Adams fixation zone. Everybody keep your hazmat suits on. And don’t touch nothing. This could get messy.”

But can we talk more about the goddess that is Amy Adams? And yes I know that my devotion for her does venture toward the creepy. But I love her like a sea mollusk loves the sun. I can only experience her brilliance as her light shines on the screen like the surface of the ocean but from underneath. I’m going to do an entire Amy Adams post with my top ten favorite performances and films. No. I’m gonna do that right now.

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“He knows I’m human right? I’m HUMAN.” “I think we have some spray paint in the truck.”

Here it is:

My Top Ten Favorite Amy Adams Films & Performances:

10 Batman V. Superman: Dawn of Justice EXTENDED VERSION (2016) She’s my Lois Lane. Amy is my Lois Lane. (and I got a pocket full of Kryptonite)

9  The Master (2012) Nominated Best Supporting Actress

8 Sunshine Cleaning (2008)

7  The Fighter (2010) This is when the world started to recognize her brilliance but I knew way before this. Nominated Best Supporting Actress

6 On The Road (2012)

5 Julie & Julia (2009) Amy more than holds her own with one of the best.

4  American Hustle (2013) Great performance and she is so sexy in this movie. Another powerhouse female co-star that she gives a run for her money. Nominated Best Actress

3 Enchanted (2007) This is when I fell in love with her. She is simply magic in this film. So funny. So beautiful. So talented.

2 Her (2013) Love Her.

1  Arrival (2016)

I still haven’t watched Nocturnal Animals but I expect it to bump BvS EXTENDED (very important distinction the extended part) right off this list. With the ones I listed above, she was also nominated for Junebug and Doubt for Best Supporting Actress. Neither film made this list but that just means I ran out of space.

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“But… but… but I was amazing in Junebug. I… I thought he loved me.”

Dear Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences,

I know we don’t always see eye to eye. And I want you to know your recent attempts at diversity have not gone unnoticed. But I want you to give the best actress to another white woman this year. A red-head. And yes I know. You can’t get much whiter than that. But over-look race here just this once… please. Amy Adams has been nominated enough times. Enough teasing. It’s time that she won. She deserves it AND (I know this is important to you guys) It would make me very happy. Thanks for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Mel Rook

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“Are you seeing what I’m seeing?” “Yeah. I think we’re gonna have to get in there.”

I don’t want to get the reputation of someone who cries at the drop of a hat moving in slow-motion, but this movie had me in tears. Even during the thrilling climax. I think I blubbered something like, “It’s beautiful.” when everything started coming into shape. But I won’t say any more. This is a powerful, action-packed, adventure film where nearly all of the action takes place from the neck up. Smart people flexing their brain muscles. I loved every minute of it. And I’m talking about the original author, the screenwriter and the director as well as the main characters. I complain a lot about dumb movies and dumb writing. I just want to take a moment to say that Arrival is some of the best & smartest film-making and story-telling I have seen in a long time. And the rest of the cast, Forest Whittaker and Jeremy Renner are pretty good too. But to be incredibly corny: Amy Adams has Arrived.

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“Okay. You grab the laptop and I’ll get his pants. And for god’s sake don’t touch anything.”

Dear Amy,

I hope you thank me in your acceptance speech. But if you forget to, just say, “You know who you are.” just like that. You know who you are. I’ll get it.

– Your Biggest Fan

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“IT’S TOO LATE. He’s gone off the deep end. RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!!! He’s writing fake letters that no one will see. THAT NO ONE WILL EVER SEE!!!”

So in conclusion, Arrival is smart sci-fi done extremely well and you should see it in theaters because it has great special effects. It’s an experience movie that needs to be shared with a room full of strangers and if it makes a ton of money maybe Hollywood will realize that the nerds don’t always have to be the side-kick.

We can be the hero.

– Mel

The 10 Worst Things About Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

When they make the end of year lists, Batman v Superman will be at the top of everyone’s worst films of the year. It is god-awful. I’m sure I’m not the first to say it and I won’t be the last. Batman v Superman is terrible. I went to see it on Times Square in a full house and the crowd started to try to entertain themselves. You know a movie is bad when kids are falling asleep and the best parts happen in the seats behind you.

MILD SPOILERS.

Except for the fact that I tell you the movie is bad and I guess that could be a big spoiler.

Here is my list of the ten worst things about…

Batman v Superman : Dawn of Justice (Warner Bros. Pictures)

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Directed by Zack Snyder

Written by Chris Terrio & David S. Goyer  Based on Characters published by DC Comics

Starring Ben AffleckHenry CavillAmy AdamsJesse EisenbergDiane LaneLaurence FishburneJeremy IronsHolly Hunter & Gal Gadot

A movie that will be at the top of nearly everyone’s worst films of 2016. Mark my words.

It’s that bad.

#10 The Destruction is Excessive AGAIN.

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This is not that big a deal but I thought they had handled the vast amount of destruction when they use it as a reason for Batman to go after the man of steel this time out. But then they go and destroy Gotham just like they did Metropolis. Ever think about leading the monsters away from the city? No? Okay but how about when they go away from the city and it’s pointed out to the audience that they’ve gone away from the city, that the good guys don’t actually lure it back to the city? You don’t have to bring the monster to the (portable) weapon. You can bring the weapon to the monster. And don’t tell me it was okay because they were in a run down part of town. Still destroying stuff. Still killing people. Just not rich people.

#9 They Don’t Explain The Science Behind Anything.

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Lazy writing. They don’t explain Doomsday. They don’t explain Kryptonite. They don’t explain Wonder Woman. They don’t explain all of the other Justice League. They don’t explain Lex Luthor’s database. Or anything to do with anyone’s “secret” identities. You just have to know these things already. I’d say it was a movie for people who already know the comic books. That sound you hear is people in the theater trying to explain to their friends what the hell’s going on.

#8 There Are Too Many Dream Sequences.

I am the Night

The movie is two and a half hours long. They could have cut the dream sequences in favor of a little excitement. There are three dream sequences and all but the last half of the last one are meaningless to the story. Something interesting happens in the last half of the last dream that may or may not have been a dream but since they had already established the Batman’s penchant for day dreaming, it just seems weird and pointless. They could have used the time wasted on dreams to explain shit better.

#7 The Interesting Parts in the Trailer are from Dream Sequences.

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This was so annoying. Because all those cool scenes with Batman tied up and Superman un-masks him. And Batman fighting countless Superman acolytes, are fucking dreams. So if you’re watching the trailer and you’re wondering how he gets tied up and you’re waiting for this or that cool scene… Batman is asleep.

# 6 Jesse Eisenberg is wasted (and he’s good… he just has nothing good to say)

batman-v-superma-lex luthorThe best thing about the movie (and there is not a lot to choose from) is Jesse Eisenberg’s performance as Lex Luthor and he has nothing good to say. At one point they have him mangle a passage from Lolita and I nearly threw up in my mouth… so close. He’s great as Lex Luthor except that Lex Luthor says some of the dumbest shit ever on-screen. All those cool lines from the trailer that are out of context. They have more context in the trailer than they do in the movie. The dialogue is incredibly bad.

#5 Amy Adams is Wasted (and I love her)

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If you’ve read my blog for any length of time then you know of my undying love for Amy Adams. Amy Adams is a waste as Lois Lane. Except for in the best two or three seconds of the movie toward the beginning when she’s being held by a guy with a gun… no spoilers. There’s this look. It’s gorgeous. This is a love story. Superman has always been a love story since the beginning, but it’s like these guys forgot to bring the love. There’s that one moment when Amy Adams shines above the material and then everything else that comes out of her mouth is stupid.

#4 The Story is Crap.

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The story is full of holes and stupid things and idiotic leaps of logic. The main conflict is that people think Superman went to the desert (that’s what they call it) to shoot a bunch of people with guns. No really. But the bullets were special. (these were bullets used to kill regular human beings, so they could just be regular bullets but no) And we all know Superman didn’t shoot those people because of the special bullets. There are a thousand other things but I promised no spoilers. The story is horrible and full of holes.

#3 The Dialogue is Stupid.

Batman v Superman Clark and Bruce and Lex

The dialogue is so bad. It sounds like it was written in a dead language, mistranslated by a team of linguistic experts who couldn’t come to a consensus so they left huge sections blank, into English, into Spanish, then translated into Portuguese (except half the translators are from Brazil and the other half are from Portugal) and then finally back into English as part of a tenth grade midterm assignment the student barely passed with a D. Nobody talks like that. What is wrong with these people?

#2 The Movie is Boring.

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That’s right. A movie billed as one big fight scene between two of the most popular comic book characters in history is boring as shit. Zack Snyder has no concept of pacing. There were children snoring in the auditorium. One kid woke up and had to ask if Batman and Superman had fought yet. If your comic book movie is putting children to sleep in a crowded theater in the middle of the day, it is boring as hell.

And the number one worst thing about Batman v Superman…

# 1 The Music is Annoying.

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The music is the worst thing about Batman v Superman. It is incessant and it is annoying. The music doesn’t seem to know whether a scene is a love scene or a fight scene and it doesn’t care. It just drones on non-stop in a cacophony of ignorant sound. The music is so bad at one particularly and supposedly quiet scene someone in the audience shouted, “Turn the music down.” and everyone applauded. The music is torture. The music makes a bad film even worse.

And that’s the list.

I knew I would hate it. I knew it would be bad. I just didn’t realize how bad.

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Batman v Superman is a poorly written, badly directed, terrible film. The story is awful. The pacing is awful. It fails to build excitement for any future DC comic movies. It accomplishes the incredible feat of being worse than Man of Steel.

Even the ending is crap.

After it ended, all I could say was, “What the hell was that?”

Someone shouted, “There’s no after-credits scene.” and someone else answered, “Good.”

– Mel

 

Batman v Superman (All the Trailers Footage cut together)

This is not so bad.

It makes me more hopeful of the movie being decent.

There’s a lot of good stuff here. A whole hell of a lot of bad. But a lot of good.

That’s a lot of footage. The movie is two and a half hours but there’s a good ten minutes of it right there. I kind of get the gist now and while it isn’t the movie I want to see. It might be alright after all. I just hate Zack Snyder so much. I can’t believe he’s doing Justice League too. Whatever.

What do you guys think?

– Mel

Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice Trailer

I tell you truthfully. This movie is gonna suck. No lie. Zack Snyder has little to no talent and I have very little confidence in him. He’s Michael Bay without the early success. However, this trailer looks awesome. (If you ignore the fact that the scenes from the movie are pretty stupid) Because this is the dumb guy trailer. I don’t mean to insult you if you think this looks good but hats off to the person who created this trailer for making it look good. You made a work of art with crappy materials. Mona Lisa with broken crayons.

Watch this. This things is awesome.

“I thought she was with you.”

This is a classic example of the trailer being better than the movie.

This movie is going to be very bad. I kid you not. But I’m loving the way the trailer uses Lex Luther. Soon as he walks in it gets really good. Amy Adams looks like she’s going to be underutilized again and the dialogue well… don’t even. This is a dumb guy movie. The Transformers of superhero movies. If you liked the Transformers, again I apologize.

I’d love to be excited about Doomsday. I’m not. I’d love to be excited about Wonder Woman. I’m not. I’d love to be excited about the Justice League but I’m not. Though I bet many many people are. And that’s who will go opening weekend. (and I’ll be there too)

This movie is going to break the bank on opening weekend and then attendance is going to fall off sharply. Off a cliff. Star Wars: The Force Awakens is opening in a couple weeks, right? I predict that Star Wars beats this at the box office. And you would say, of course. So let me explain. I don’t mean opening weekend to opening weekend. That’s a no-brainer. I mean 3 or 4 weeks in, The Force Awakens will beat Dawn of Justice at the box office, DURING THAT SAME TIME. SW:TFA will still be playing somewhere (See it again… for the fist time). It will. It’s Star Wars. And I predict, seriously, that it does better than Dawn of Justice after three weeks, in the Summer, after being out for seven months.

Yeah. That bad.

Great trailer though.

– Mel