Sunday, September 6, 2009

Growing Op: Movie Review


The weird humour of growing up in a grow op.
"Growing Op" is about a teenager named Quinn (Steven Yaffee) struggling with growing up, dealing with his parents, meeting girls and trying to fit-in in high school—and this is on top of living in a marijuana grow house, being home-schooled by his mother and not actually knowing any kids his age. (But as Dad says to Quinn, "You can use the internet, it’s perfect for social exiles like yourself.") 2008

Directed by: Michael Melski

Screenplay by: Michael Melski

Starring: Steven Yaffee and Jon Cor

Friday, September 4, 2009

I'll Believe You: Movie Review


Smart, funny and inventive, believe in "I'll Believe You".
Our hero is Dale (David Alan Basche), who hosts a radio show for people to call in with all of their UFO stories and other "out-there" ideas—and he wants to believe them. There is an adorable, earnest quality to Dale that although I think he knows better than to actually believe in all this balderdash, he really does want to fit in with these passionate alien hunters. Dale is also the type of character that you rarely see as the leading man and it feels refreshingly real. 2007

Directed by: Paul Francis Sullivan

Screenplay by: Paul Francis Sullivan, Sean McPharlin and Ted Sullivan

Starring: David Alan Basche

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Last Word: Movie Review

Quirky and character-rich black romantic comedy.

Wes Bentley (from “American Beauty”) stars as Evan, a very solitary guy who writes suicide notes for other people. At a funeral for one of his clients he meets Charlotte (Winona Ryder) who forms an instant attraction to him. From there, it turns funny, well, dark and funny, but it is still a romantic comedy.   2008

Directed by: Geoffrey Haley

Screenplay by: Geoffrey Haley

Starring: Wes Bently and Winona Ryder

Primarily, it’s about Evan and Charlotte’s relationship and how their relationship influences and changes Evan's life. Part character study, part quirky romanticism, but all the characters are well developed and realized, and portrayed very well. It’s an original and clever take on the usual romantic comedy, and due to Evan's vocation, it is also quite dark. Black romantic comedy would define the genre well.

“The Last Word” seems very real despite the fact that it centers around a vocation that doesn't really exist (at least on the surface of today's society). That implication, that this is the world we live in and that our society is headed towards a need to have suicide note writers, adds an element of cynicism to the movie that adds to the intelligence and interest. This is a dark romantic comedy that is out of the ordinary, and it’s well written and funny.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

West of Pluto: Movie Review

Teenagers that are independent and real.

"West of Pluto" is an independent French film made in Quebec. It gives us a look into the lives of several high school teenagers as they struggle with popularity, heartbreak and every day life. It sounds like the high school teen comedy or coming of age dramedy, but it’s nothing like that because it’s real. Carefully walks the line between documentary and fiction and it’s one of those films that it doesn't even matter which side of the line it's on because it has such a real feel to it.   2008

Directed by: Henry Bernadet and Myriam Verreault

Screenplay by: Henry Bernadet and Myriam Verreault

Starring: Alexis Drolet, David Bouchard and Sandra Jacques

The title comes from one of the kid's speeches at school about Pluto. The filmmakers were making a reference between the “former planet” and the life of the teenager—a very fitting, intelligent, and thoughtful comparison. Like the comparison the filmmakers made, the film itself is avant-garde in its presentation of the typical teenage dilemmas, giving them depth and meaning to their thoughts and feelings.

The low budget worked well, adding to the realism of the atmosphere and characters. The actors that were cast didn’t seem like actors, but real teenagers. They made you care for them. Unfortunately, there were way too many characters. I couldn’t keep them all straight and I’m sure that most of them were extraneous.

The point of introducing us to all these characters is to take us to a party through the eyes of each of them. What the party means to them, what happens at the party, and ultimately, how it affects all of them. The party, representing the climax of the film, was handled well and really went to show that no two teenagers are alike.

And no two teenager films are alike either. “West of Pluto” may be similar to “American Teen”, but it has its differences, and hey, it’s Canadian! It’s about the real struggles of teenagers, a little slow with too many characters, but it’s also intelligent and real and deserves to be seen.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Spring Breakdown: Movie Review

Cliché riddled trip to a college party, but quick and funny enough to be enjoyable.

“Spring Breakdown” stars Amy Poehler, Parker Posey and Rachel Dratch as three thirty-something “losers”. 15 years out of college and finally with an opportunity to take a spring break vacation, they jump on the chance—meaning, they think about, weigh the pros and cons, and then plan it, and then they jump at the chance.   2009

Directed by: Ryan Shiraki

Screenplay by: Ryan Shiraki

Starring: Amy Poehler, Parker Posey and Rachel Dratch

This is better than your average spring break comedy of disasters because of our three female heroines. The high school or college losers are very common characters, but this is the older version of them and there is an element of maturity that we don’t get with similar movies. Although that maturity is completely gone once we get to the beach party-town.

This is completely riddled with clichés, you will know what is going to happen next, but I still found myself laughing along with it. There is a “girl power” quality to the whole thing which comes off more cheesy than empowering, but the number of “Saturday Night Live” vets and other capable comedic actresses pull everything off well enough that it is still funny.

Not taking itself very seriously, “Spring Breakdown” flies through all the necessary background set-ups, cliché plot points, and expected resolutions. The result is that it’s quick and funny enough to enjoy it for its minimal run time. You will then likely forget all about it afterwards.

Current Status:

"Spring Breakdown" is available on DVD and Blu-ray.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Dark Matter: Movie Review

Subtlety to perfection.

"Dark Matter" is a fantastic movie. For those frustrated with academic politics or anybody who enjoys a simple movie told well, shot well and acted brilliantly, should see Dark Matter.

The writer/director got it right. (Not necessarily details surrounding previous incidents that this may be based

Directed by: Shi-Zheng Chen

Screenplay by: Billy Shebar

Starring: Ye Liu and Aidan Quinn
on), but the overall attitude of the students, and professors at the university are portrayed perfectly.

The story follows a brilliant Chinese student at an American University trying to get his Ph.D. under a successful and respected professor (played by Aidan Quinn). They showed us everything we needed to know about the main character, including contrasts to his fellow Chinese students with very effective, subtle scenes.

For the subtlety, effectiveness, simplicity, and brilliance of everything in this movie, "Dark Matter" is one of the best recent films made.