Sometimes, a movie gets an inordinate amount of praise for mediocre work. Sometimes, a film looks like a lame ripoff but is freshly original and an experience all can enjoy. And sometimes, a film is so secretive you don't know what to expect, but it still manages to blow you away.
The Town is a thoroughly disappointing movie. Now, I'll say this: I didn't think that when I got out of the theater, nor for the car ride back home. It's only when I sat down and really started thinking about it that made me realize how poor the movie really is. First of all, the Ben Affleck-helmed crime thriller set in the Boston neighborhood Charlestown, is a poor interpretation of that neighborhood and that life. Affleck cast himself in the main role, which was a poor decision. Affleck is far too put-together and (put simply) pretty to fulfill such a dark, gritty role. Not only that, but other than Jeremy Renner as one of his partners in crime Jem, the characters are spectacularly flat. Rebecca Hall and Renner both do well in their roles, with Jenner easily taking the "Best in Show" mantle, but past those two, every other character fell flat. Character development was minimal, but even if you accepted that and just tried to enjoy the ride of the film, you weren't in for a very enjoyable trip. Why do these characters do this? What, exactly, is their modus operandi, other than scary masks and bank trucks? What was Hall's character really feeling? Why was Jon Hamm's FBI agent so dogged about taking down this gang? The more I think about the plot development (or, more appropriately, lack thereof), the more annoyed I get with the movie. Solid acting all around (with Renner and Hall as highlights), good direction, but poorly plotted and written. C+
Easy A is almost the exact opposite of The Town: a movie with little buzz beyond the 18 and under set, a young star, a bright outlook, and a (seemingly) trope-filled plot with a creamy cliché center. In truth, it is a fun, interesting, humorous, even, at moments, genius mocking of teen movies while being unafraid of being a teen movie itself. Emma Stone, who, you'll recall, was one of the best parts of the aptly named Superbad, and has kept a relatively quiet profile in Hollywood so far. She won't keep that low profile much longer. Stone is absolutely radiant in A as Olive, a girl who pretends to lose her virginity for an interesting story and winds up nearly ruining her life over it. In such a meaty lead role, Stone is a blast of fresh, sarcastic wit that you don't see in many starlets. She appears to be a comedienne first, star second, which is a nice change from others who look suspiciously like her (woe to you, Lindsay Lohan). Unlike the currently between-incarcerations starlet's Mean Girls, which relied heavily on the background cast to great effect, Stone carries much of this movie herself and does it with aplomb. She gets support from Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson, Olive's parents who nearly steal the show with some of the best lines. The surrounding high school characters are less entertaining (though Amanda Bynes' hyper-evangelical character is priceless), and the dialogue can sometimes be clunky, and you can sometimes question characters' motivations, but the movie is so much fun, you can forget some of its lesser flaws. Definitely two of the most entertaining hours of film ever made. Stone is definitely the Best in Show. B+ for the film, but she gets (you know what's coming) an Easy A.
Catfish is innovative, fresh, interesting, a great topic of discussion, different, funny, awkward, uncomfortable, genius, entertaining, and frustrating all at once. It is a movie that begs to be seen and talked about after you leave the theater. I'm still thinking about it four days later. It is a completely fascinating film, and one that surprised me in all the best ways. I can't tell you anything about the plot, the genre, nor the characters, and trust me, you wouldn't want me to. Go into this movie blind: it's the best way to see it. Truly one of the better movies this year, no qualifier necessary. A-