As a child who grew up watching Scrubs, I can comfortably say that Zach Braff has had a huge effect on my upbringing. I remember going to see Garden State when it came out, excited about seeing JD on the big screen, but pleasantly surprised to find Braff portraying a character that was the exact opposite of the goofy, sometimes flamboyant physician. Its influence was almost immediate, as its ideas and tone would soon be shared, dissected, and regurgitated out by indie filmmakers to follow. Films like 500 Days of Summer, Little Miss Sunshine, or even Juno would not have been produced without Garden State to pave the way. From its somber, yet uplifting soundtrack that introduced the world to bands like The Shins and Iron & Wine to its conception of the “manic-pixie-dream-girl” character that so many screenwriters now strive to create, Garden State brought a fresh take on being young and facing oblivion. Now, exactly ten years later, Zach Braff has returned to the big screen with Wish I Was Here, a film that, unlike its predecessor, will most likely only be remembered for the Kickstarter Campaign that allowed it to be made.
“Maybe I’m just the worst person on the planet.”
Few movies incite the kind of hatred conjured up by Ben Falcone’s Tammy, a film so dreadfully unfunny and humiliatingly cringe-worthy that it’s weird to think that the actress at the center of everything is an Academy Award nominee. Melissa McCarthy stars as the eponymous overweight weirdo who gets fired from a fast food job only to find her adulterous husband is more or less kicking her out of the house. This leads her to begin a road trip with her alcoholic grandmother in search of…Niagara Falls. What occurs during the film’s drudging 96 minutes is hardly coherent, let alone minorly amusing. Following the misfires of both Identity Thief and The Heat, Tammy finds McCarthy retreating back to a role similar to her applauded one in Bridesmaids but to such a heavy-handed and frustrating degree that the movie ends up feeling like a television sketch that never deserved the full-length treatment. It’s the kind of film that makes you realize how much you despise the qualities of a certain screen performer. Bottom line: The terrible Tammy has made me strongly dislike the presence of Melissa McCarthy onscreen.
For all intents and purposes, Snowpiercer shouldn’t exist. Today, we live in a movie world packed to the brim with blockbuster franchises and small intimate dramas, with little to no room in the middle. The major studios are content to milk every franchise in their grasp, i.e. last weekend’s newest Transformers, while the indie scene is more than happy to produce small-scale dramas for those tired of the endless spectacle. This is an extremely worrisome trend, as studios have little to no interest in investing in films that don’t have franchise potential, while the independent scene has no desire to try and compete with the major studios. The result is an increasingly bifurcated market that grows more and more lethargic and lackluster by the day. It’s for these very reasons, however, that Snowpiercer is such a breath of fresh air; in a time where the studio and independent scenes couldn’t seem more opposite, Snowpiercer manages to find the perfect balance between the two, combining the intimate, human drama of an indie with the bombastic, balls-to-the-wall craziness of the modern blockbuster. It isn’t perfect, but Snowpiercer is one of the most refreshing and exciting films of the year.
“This moment is a pearl”
Movies that simply do their job and entertain an audience as opposed to stepping up to the next level and trying to find something new are hard to talk about. When a movie finds itself in the middle of the road, I always feel like I’m playing jump rope over a thickly drawn line evening out every issue or problem the film has with something else that I liked or that I thought it did right. It’s easier when a movie lands on one of the poles, as giving praise or providing a warning are less time committing; it’s a sweet irony of the movie critic business that panning a film into the ground is more fun than trying to talk about a movie that’s just a bit better. For that reason I almost wish Begin Again, the newest film from director John Carney, wasn’t so sweet and light and perfect for a romantic summer date night and just an insufferably cheesy bore because that’d be a lot more interesting to talk about. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. Begin Again is all of those superlatives in the front half of the previous sentence, and while it’s an easygoing 105 minutes at the movies, its good intentions might indicate an obsessive desire to be accepted – its lack of risks would speak to something similar. Still, given its plainness, it’s not without its merits: some seriously “feel good” material.