Movie Review: Palo Alto (2014)

Palo Alto
Written and Directed by Gia Coppola
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The city of Palo Alto is the hub for Silicon Valley, the infamous location where geeks can become millionaires and the home of Stanford University. In the movie, Palo Alto, neither of these distinctions is mentioned or even significant to the movie. The location of the movie could have been anywhere and the story at hand could have taken place in any city around the world.

Palo Alto marks Gia Coppola’s directorial debut, the granddaughter of France Ford Coppola and niece of Sofia Coppola, I assume has allowed her to draw inspiration from everything she has learned from her family. The screenplay was also written by Coppola and was adapted from James Franco’s collection of short stories in his book by the same name. The stories come from his personal experiences and those he gathered from high school students.

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The plot of the film revolves around the two main characters in the story, April (Emma Roberts) and Teddy (Jack Kilmer), teenagers who are trying to find themselves and figure out their way in the world. Along the way, they make mistakes, fall in and out of love and realize that becoming an adult is a road paved with heartache and lots of bumps in the way. Their friendships through the characters of Fred (Nat Wolff) and Emily (Zoe Levin) also give us different viewpoints into the lives of this group of teenagers.

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Both April and Teddy have families that don’t seem to be playing a significant part in their lives, it’s almost as if the adults are living in one part of the house and the teenagers in another. The parents show their love for their kids, but it seems very blasé and ineffectual. Fred’s dad (Chris Messina) seems to have a distant, odd relationship with his son and April’s step-father (Val Kilmer) is more preoccupied with correcting her term papers and smoking pot, then actually spending quality time with her.

Other adults like April’s teacher and soccer coach, Mr. B (James Franco), are people who don’t really seem to value these kids or care to be good role models. Instead he struck me as a bit peculiar and even creepy to say the least. I liked his storyline with April, I would have loved to have seen more of this play out in the film.

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The film feels like we are watching someone tell a story about their life, it sort of has that feeling like when someone says “remember that time when” or “how did I come out of that alive?” The sentiments and emotions that teenagers face are felt throughout the film and expressed through its main characters. There are many suspenseful moments in the film where we think, “oh, crap” is that kid going to be okay, but then nothing ever happens. The suspense is built and the loose ends never get finalized or feel important in any way.

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I have mixed emotions on this film, there were parts of that I enjoyed and some that I did not. The cinematography by up and comer, Autumn Durald, was beautiful, every still felt like a well composed photograph. Much of it the way it was shot reminded me of Larry Clark’s film Kids, especially the scene where Fred and Emily are in her child-like bedroom, getting undressed and hooking up. Throughout the film, it feels as if we are voyeurs watching these characters come into their teenage years, drinking too much, experimenting with sex and all the while when the doors are shut, we are left there to watch it all unfold. It doesn’t feel like the usual teenage drama, where things are assumed, instead we watch it happen and invade their space.

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I liked how everything felt like very real, the houses they lived in looked like anywhere in America, the rooms of the teens especially April’s reminded me of my own room growing up. The way that they behaved and felt was sensed and I am sure anyone that watches this can agree with that sentiment. This movie at some point will remind people of some part of their teenage years. The angst, the fear, the unknowing yourself and your own feelings that is all relatable and translated well through the characters and the dream-like quality of the film.

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What I didn’t like about this movie was the narrative and character development. Wait let me take that back, what narrative? Where is it, if someone knows where it’s at, please do tell. The story is disjointed and nothing ever really feels like it has importance or matters. If we think it will matter later, as in perhaps something is being foreshadowed, none of that ever comes to light. By the end I thought, why do I even care about these kids anymore, why did I waste my time watching this? I would have loved to have seen more of the April and Teddy narrative unfold or the story of April and Mr. B, instead we are just given nuggets of info and it’s up to the viewer to decide what happened or even why it happened at all.

Kilmer, who looks like half River Phoenix and Kurt Cobain, and is also the son of Val, Mr. Iceman himself, does a great job in his first on-screen role. He undeniably has a cool vibe and delivers feeling and emotion that is on point. I would love to see him in a more challenging role, I think he could nail it and capture the essence of his inner bad-boy.

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Roberts was great as well, we have become used to seeing her as the vapid, pretty girl in movies and TV shows, so to see her in this light, with a bit of makeup and revealing herself so emotionally was great. She took the words vulnerable and young and elevated them to another level, plus this film probably gave her some cool points in the indie world.

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My favorite had to be Wolff, who delivered probably the best performance of the whole movie. His emotion was raw and challenging and I wanted to see more of his story over everyone else. He is quickly turning into one of my fave young actors.

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Overall, this movie had the cool factor down, hip kids, a great soundtrack, unique photographic shots, but what it lacked was substance. All of the coolness overtook the main factor, the story itself, which in my mind was due to Franco’s wannabe-novel. What emanated from there, did not translate well onto screen or at least it was not told the way I would have liked. I love movies that are different and avant-garde, but when a director does one of those types of films, think Lars Von Trier, they have to be done and written to absolute meticulous perfection to work.

I didn’t hate or love this movie, I would wait to see this on DVD. I think it would be a fun movie to watch when you have nothing to do or you feel like relaxing and not thinking about anything at all.

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}}Melissa

Game of Thrones Recap: Season 4, Episode 10: The Fatherless Children

Game of Thrones Recap
Season 4, Episode 10
**SPOILER ALERT

This week’s season finale of Game of Thrones, “The Children,” finally and sadly brought us to the end of our beloved show. As I mentioned to Anna last week, what in the world will us GOT fans do for the rest of the year as we wait. For now, I am busy trying to read the books and catch up with the show. I must say I am already not liking Catelyn Stark, I have a newfound dislike for her after reading more about her and the way she behaves, I am just not into it. Back to the recap at hand, last night’s episode gave us a little bit of everything and everyone and sort of closed up loose ends on our fave characters.

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I have heard that some of the events on the show were not in the books, like the Brienne and Hound scene, which left a sour taste in my mouth. Also, there was no explanation on the children of the forest, some type of background on that would have been nice, as I hear they have some interesting stories in the books. Part of what I like about this show is that much of it has remained true to the books and perhaps that is what many fans enjoy about this show, seeing the pages of books come alive on screen. I don’t know if this is because I watch the show with someone who is deeply tied to the books, so I get some of his biasness when I watch, but I believe the show producers will ultimately remain true to the story that was originally presented.

Regardless of the book issues, I did enjoy the episode, I was on the edge of my seat and I think we were left with a lot of loose ends that hopefully will start to be tied up or revealed next season. This show may have its’ flaws (so very few), but honestly there is nothing like this out there on TV. I applaud George R.R. Martin and the people at HBO for giving us a story like nothing we have ever seen before. There is nothing comparable that inspires this many people all over the world to come together and discuss an episode of a show, fans unite, reel in sadness, but this show always keeps us on our toes. Wanting more and more and never getting enough.

Let’s gather my friends, like the boys on the wall, stand together, united and talk about what went down.

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TV Loving: My Mad Fat Diary: Seasons 1 & 2

My Mad Fat Diary: Seasons 1 & 2

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A few weeks ago, I spent a whole weekend literally binge watching the hell out of My Mad Fat Diary. I heard about this show through the blogosphere and was able to find Season 1 on YouTube and then I spent probably a few hours with my sister trying to figure out how to get a damn Channel E4 account, we had to create a fake UK address and finally we were able to stream. Seriously, I was like a lunatic I had to see Season 2 that very second and was driving everyone around me insane. I didn’t see sunlight for 2 days and it was so worth it!

tumblr_inline_mjxm4q1gRB1qch3hk (Must watch all 13 episodes at once!)

After it was all said and done, I digested it and I have to say I loved it. I wanted to put this up on my blog because I am sure there are people out there who haven’t heard of it either, so here I am to tell you why you should totally catch this if you can.

My Mad Fat Diary is about the life of a teenage British girl, Rae Earl (Sharon Rooney), who spends her time in therapy for her “madness.” She has fits of rage and episodes of anxiety mixed with cutting and almost killing herself and we also deal with her daily life as a teenage chick in the 90s.

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Some episodes she works with her therapist, Dr. Kester (Ian Hart) and the kids who are stuck in the mental institution, like Danny Two Hats (Darren Evans) and Tix (Sophie Wright). At the institution, she feels comforted and like she belongs and honestly those kids are way worse off than she is with their mental issues, which is probably what makes her feel better.

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In high school or college as they call it, she feels awkward, like she doesn’t fit in and she is always trying to figure out in her head who she should or shouldn’t have a major crush on. She also has a chaotic home life with her mother, Linda (Claire Rushbrook) who is sometimes out there and is dating a much younger man than she is and at times acts like a teenager herself.

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Rae uses her diary as an outlet to write all of this craziness down and to purge her emotions on paper. When she writes, she lets it all hang out and that makes the show really fun to watch and hear her thoughts and doodles come to life on-screen.

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This show really hit a chord with me because I could relate to a lot of the things that Rae went through and I am sure tons of people could as well. Some of these issues are having a best friend that is hotter than you, a friend that may be gay, bullies, peer pressure, the decision whether to have or not to have sex, drugs, dealing with rejection and even with juggling two guys at once. Yes, these are all trivial matters now, but when you are a teenager these feel like the biggest issues in your life at the time. MMFD describes those sentiments in an honest and truthful light.

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The best part of the whole show is her relationship with her buddies, they have all interesting and unique personalities and together the craziness that ensues is fun to watch. There is Chloe (Jodie Comer), her sexy BFF, Finn (Nico Mirallegro) the totally crush worthy bad boy, Archie (Dan Cohen) the glasses-wearing cutie pie gay friend, Chop (Jordan Murphy) the party animal, and Izzy (Ciara Baxendale) the airheadish friend who dates Chop. Some of my favorite episodes were the parts with just the gang sitting around the pub, laughing and cracking jokes, seriously this made me jealous. Do you know how hard it is to get into a bar when you are in high school in the US? Damn near impossible, those lucky Brits!

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Rae was literally in high school in the late 90s at the exact same time I was, so I could relate to everything that was going on from the fashion trends to the music to the movie references. Hello, does anyone remember when bomber jackets, crop tops, jean skirts and flannels around your waist were cool?!

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Her obsession with Oasis reminds me of people in high school who loved that stuff and wore the shirts and put the patches on their backpacks lol. Being a teenager is hard dammit and this show doesn’t sugar coat those experiences and at times even the viewer feels awkward watching. The combination of all these factors is what makes this such a cool and interesting show.

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In the end I have to say I loved Finn the most and wished I knew someone like that in high school… sigh. He is almost the equivalent of Jordan Catalano, but a nice version. Did I just say that?! Now I am super excited like a teenage girl at the thought of Jordan Catalano and Finn Nelson as the perfect guy. If you haven’t seen this show and you have a chance, do check it out! I think the girls around here would definitely like it more than the boys, but regardless it is a good and original watch.

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I am not sure when Season 3 starts up, but if anyone out there knows please let me know! Is anyone else out there a fan of this show? Do tell!

}}Melissa

 

 

 

 

Game of Thrones Recap: Season 4, Episode 9: Riders on the Storm

Game of Thrones Recap
Season 4, Episode 9
**SPOILER ALERT

This week’s episode of our beloved Game of Thrones, “The Watchers on the Wall,” finally gave us two things, one lots of face time with Jon Snow (which has been missing a lot this season) and the boys at the wall actually putting their sword and fighting skills to the test. I was really hoping for a conclusion to the saga that is the Tyrion trial, but we all know that has to be saved for next week’s season finale, which I hear is going to be of epic proportions. I really enjoyed this episode because it had a lot of action and mythological, almost dreamy like sequences with the giants and the mammoths. I just started reading the book and in the beginning, there is a scene with Tyrion and Jon Snow, on their way to drop off Jon at the wall, discussing the grumkins and other monsters that are out there. They talk about these monsters that live out in the wilderness, as if they are part of the urban legends that pervade their society. When I read that a few nights ago, I thought to myself I didn’t realize that this story would ever have anything to do with mammoths, something we really only associate with cavemen and the ice age.

Well to my surprise, they are not a myth, they are not dead, they are very much real! This episode felt larger-than-life and grandiose in a sense with the backdrop of the majestic, white ice wall constantly in the foreground as not only a fortress to the night watch, but also an agent of deterrence for the wild creatures beyond the wall. This episode almost reminded me of a grand tale out of a Tolkein novel. Ripe with phenomenal imagery and a sense of duty and adventure, this episode encapsulated all that and more.

Let’s drink to our men of the Night’s Watch and chat about what went down.

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May TV Favorites

May was a busy month for me, I had a lot going on, but I still managed to fit in a lot of movies and TV shows. If you have been reading my blog for a bit, you will know that I love my TV shows. I will usually give most shows a shot, even it is just one episode, so if it gets me excited to watch then you know it has to be somewhat good. The quality of today’s television shows has really been amped up and some of them are almost better than some of the movies that are out in theaters, so plenty of these shows are worth watching for that sake alone. This is what I did enjoy and I have to say it was a great TV month!

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Game of Thrones Recap: Season 4, Episode 8: The Mountain vs The Viper

Game of Thrones Recap
Season 4, Episode 8
**SPOILER ALERT

This week’s episode, “The Mountain and the Viper,” was beautifully devastating in the usual fashion of Game of Thrones, which we have come to both love and fear at the same time. All the world was a buzz in the fandom and everyone knew that something big was going to happen. Although, we knew this info, it still does not ease our pain in watching our beloved characters die off. The reason GOT is so popular is because the writing is impeccable, partially due to the genius of creator George R.R. Martin and the producers at HBO, at this point in Season 4, they have mastered the art of suspense and foreshadowing and have been able to take it to another level.

Similar to what Alfred Hitchcock was able to achieve with killing off his main character in Psycho, GOT has been able to utilize this device by constantly making the audience aware that their favorite characters are never safe. Just because a character is the matriarch or patriarch of an adored family or a brave warrior or skilled swordsmen, never under any circumstances do these factors keep people alive on the show. Despite the fact that I am on the edge of my seat, biting my nails, pacing around like a mad person, feeling extremely uncomfortable, does it deter me or the other 8 million viewers from tuning in, no instead we wait religiously for Sunday to come around so we can watch our show. This episode delivered on so many levels and we have two more episodes to go and I just know at this point I need to get my tissues ready because something big is going to happen.

Let’s pour a nice glass of red wine like the Viper did and discuss what the hell just happened.

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Versatile Blogger Award

Hey kids out there in blog land! Quick update, last week was really busy and this past month has felt like I haven’t had enough time to write, sleep or feel normal. This has caused me to be in a bit of a funk, so as of today I am trying to get back on track and get back to my usual writing routine. I really hate when that happens! To kick off the month in a positive note, I figured I’d put up this award I was nominated for, since it makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside.

The wonderful Ruth over at Flix Chatter nominated me and I just love her blog to pieces, so thank you Miss Toby Stephens!

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These are the rules for the award:
1.Thank your nominator and provide a link to their blog.
2.Make your own fifteen nominations and tell them they have been nominated
3.Offer up seven interesting facts about yourself

My nominations are below, if you have already been nominated then I do apologize peeps. Hopefully I can introduce you to some different bloggers out there!

1.Merrissa – Rad Maverix
2.Drew – Labyrinthwrm
3.Raul – The Movi3 Lounge
4.Elina – Films and Coke
5.V – Verbal Spew
6.Victoria – Living Disrobed
7.Sofia – Film Flare
8.The Butcher – Pundit From Another Planet
9.Mesh – Mesh The Movie Freak
10.Mark – Movie Man Jackson
11.Natalie – Writer Loves Movies
12.Smash – Smashing Through Life
13.Samantha – Adventures In Glam Land
14.Amynicolaox – Heiress-ox
15.Damian Thomas – Damian Thomas Films Etc

Here are my 7 fun facts. I really hate talking about myself, so please don’t throw tomatoes at my head! I figured I’d add some non-movie stuff in too, enjoy.

1. I listen to Howard Stern as much as possible. I have been listening ever since I was a kid, I probably shouldn’t have, but I did because my mom was a fan too. Whenever someone finds out that I have this love for Howard they either look at me cross-eyed or I find out they are closet super fans too. BaBa Booey!

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2. I dislike, no I abhor ranch dressing. If I see it, smell it or it even comes near me I run in disgust. People who know me well, know this is my Achilles heel and have used it against me. This one time… no not at band camp… I was pretty wasted and my cousin offered me a piece of pizza with tons of ranch dressing hidden under the cheese, I ate the whole thing and then proceeded to have a really bad night. Umm.. yeah.

3. I absolutely love Larry David, I would marry him if I could. Wait I take it back, Jon Hamm, yes, hmmm yes he would be my first choice. Or Leonardo DiCaprio. Or Alexander Skarsgard. I have a problem with decision making is it obvious?!

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4.  The movies I can watch on a loop and never get bored are Pulp Fiction, Office Space and Goodfellas.

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5. One of the first movies I remember loving was Once Upon A Time In America. It also introduced me to the world of Robert De Niro, even though I was a kid I knew there was something fascinating about him.

6. Another thing I have been obsessed with since childhood is Madonna. Yes don’t laugh at me, seriously I die, she is my Beyoncé girl!

7. I buy way too much makeup (MAC baby) and shoes, I am a girly girl at heart and it’s a problem that may require an intervention. If anyone ever needs a makeup tip, just holla!

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}}Melissa