Friday, December 31, 2010

Easy A: Movie Review

(2010, directed by: Will Gluck, written by: Bert V. Royal, starring: Emma Stone)
(Available now on DVD and Blu-ray)




"Easy A" is enjoyable except for the annoying vocabulary.

"Easy A" has way too many similarities to the overrated "Juno" (2007). Like Ellen Page, Emma Stone did portray her character, Olive, with humour and heart, but no teenagers talk like that! She's not indie-cool and smarter than everybody else, it's only young adult writers who wish they were like that (or perhaps a young adult writer who wishes he could sleep with Diablo Cody).

Olive is ostracized at school because of a rumour of promiscuity. Knowing that the plot is congruent with Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter", I was thinking that I should read that before seeing this film just to make sure that I catch all the subtle nuances, but no, there's no need, there is nothing subtle about this film. It's just a modern tale about exclusion and teen sex, but with a rather refreshing ambivalent take on abstinence versus promiscuity.

The problem with "Easy A" is that Olive and her classmates are not as smart as their vocabulary (and based on a few evident mistakes, the writer is not as smart as the vocabulary either). I'll let the parents slide because Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson were very funny and made me laugh through every scene. "Easy A" is an enjoyable watch but only if you can get past the sesquipedalian loquaciousness.

Weather Girl: Movie Review


Absolutely hilarious from beginning to end with just a hint of self-awareness.

Tricia O'Kelley is our sassy weather girl, Sylvia, except she insists she's not sassy, she just has boyfriend problems and now employment problems giving way to the numerous emotional issues which our heroine explores in this romantic comedy.
2009

Directed by: Blayne Weaver

Screenplay by: Blayne Weaver

Starring: Tricia O'Kelley

Sylvia is a fantastic romantic comedy heroine. Sure, she's slightly desperate for a boyfriend but when her job opportunities disappear, she does the responsible thing and finds a temporary solution, as a waitress. She retains just enough optimism peeking out of the many hysterical breakdowns, that watching her is a joyful experience.

We have two leading men, both extremely attractive and even better, their many moments of humour are priceless. Walt (Ryan Devlin) is Sylvia's younger brother and he puts up with all her neuroses because of brotherly love. Byron (Patrick J. Adams) is Walt's best friend, he also puts up with Sylvia's many neuroses, but out of a more carnal love.

This film succeeds because young career women can relate to Sylvia's problems unlike the similar "Morning Glory" (2010), and every actor aptly delivers the comedy (unlike most big budget comedies). It's well written and knows its genre well playing up most of the formulaic elements on purpose but without any of the hackneyed details.

"Weather Girl" is definitely a great romantic comedy because it's absolutely hilarious from beginning to end with just a hint of self-awareness.
Best of 2010




Recommended:

Kissing Jessica Stein (2001) - Well written and funny, Jessica doesn't know what she wants and that's the best kind of romantic comedy.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Shrink: Movie Review

(2009, directed by: Jonas Pate, written by: Thomas Moffett, starring: Kevin Spacey, Keke Palmer and Mark Webber)
(Available now on DVD)




Well written and well made, but the plot is replaced with depressed characters.

Kevin Spacey is the "Shrink", a pot-smoking, dejected L.A. therapist. Celebrities walk in and out of his office, leaving him even less caring. There is a fair amount of humour in the dialogue making all of the lonely, despondent people not quite as sad as they otherwise would be.

The plot should develop when he meets Jemma (Keke Palmer) a downcast teenager. She's the one that seems to tie in all the characters; the suffering screenwriter, the delusional executive, the pregnant assistant, the ageing actress, and the womanizing, alcoholic Robin Williams (I think he probably is playing his real self). It's an ensemble film with interweaving characters, but not much happens.

It gets interesting at the end, but they don't take the potential amusing conflicts anywhere, just giving the characters happier resolutions. "Shrink" is a well written, well made film, but the plot is replaced with depressed characters searching for just a little bit of meaning which the film is actually able to supply.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The King's Speech: Movie Review


"The King's Speech" is fit to wear the crown.

"The King's Speech" gave us the story of a man who shouldn't have been King but staunchly rose to the position. Colin Firth was King George VI who had a deeply-rooted, severe stuttering problem. Geoffrey Rush had the perfect touch as his speech therapist.   2010

Directed by: Tom Hooper

Screenplay by: David Seidler

Starring: Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Winter's Bone: Movie Review

 

"Winter's Bone" isn't even a character study let alone a thriller.

Ree (Jennifer Lawrence) is one tough girl. Her father is a convicted drug dealer, her mother is a drugged out imbecile, her neighbours are all drug abusing ass-holes, she has to raise her younger brother and sister all by herself, and.... Oh, I'm sorry, were you expecting there to be an "and", like some kind of plot? Well no, there is no point. Just that life sucks for Ree. How about a character study? No, not much to these characters either. Just that life sucks for Ree. 2010

Directed by: Debra Granik

Screenplay by: Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence and John Hawkes

Cyrus: Movie Review

(2010, written and directed by: Jay Duplass and Mark Duplass, starring: John C. Reilly, Marisa Tomei and Jonah Hill)
(Available now on DVD and Blu-ray)




"Cyrus" is weird, but it is well written with great performances.

"Cyrus" is one weird film, but that probably works for the Duplass brothers since it's about rather weird people in weird relationships.

John (John C. Reilly) has a couple of issues but they mostly stem from loneliness. He's the character we can understand and relate to, and Molly (Marisa Tomei) seems to understand him as well. When John meets Molly's over-grown, adult son still living at home, we don't get the comedy that we are expecting to. It's more like a character study of these three maladjusted, lonely people living maladjusted, lonely lives.

Now don't get me wrong, this actually isn't a sad, depressing drama, it's still a comedy. Just not a comedy in the usual sense. We laugh through uneasiness as we watch Cyrus and Molly's inappropriate relationship and their inappropriate reactions to John, the far more normal character. This is exactly what the writers intended to do. We are supposed to be laughing uncomfortably.

"Cyrus" is a weird film. But a well written film with great performances, and characters who unfold just as interestingly as the film does.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Town: Movie Review


Thoughtful, character-driven crime drama thriller.

Take a crime-ridden community with gritty streets but with young men trying to get to a better life and the hopefulness of a possible romance, and you get "The Town", a thoughtful and discerning dramatic thriller. 2010

Directed by: Ben Affleck

Screenplay by: Peter Craig, Ben Affleck and Aaron Stockard

Starring: Ben Affleck

Black Swan: Movie Review

(2010, directed by: Darren Aronofsky, starring: Natalie Portman and Vincent Cassel)




Visually arresting, but morally and essentially empty.

Natalie Portman is the Swan Queen. She is the White Swan who becomes the Black Swan through her own ambitions mixed with insecurity.

"Black Swan" is a good film because Darren Aronofsky made it so visually enchanting, he made it a film that I couldn't turn away from. Natalie Portman really is the best actress of the year, if not the decade. She made her character of Nina Sayers, the hopeful ballerina, dark, interesting and all-encompassing. And Vincent Cassel who plays the depraved, arrogant artistic director, actually made me question if his sleaziness was an act or who he really was.

The 7 stars is actually quite generous, it could easily be 2. The story is over-used and completely predictable and the few elements that were added to make it more daring, like female eroticism, just make it seem like it should be a porno film.

"Black Swan" is a film to be experienced, but if you're not interested in run-of-the-mill psychological thrillers with girl-on-girl action, then it is certainly not the best film of the year.



Also recommended: My Normal (for more female erotica)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

How Do You Know: Movie Review

 

Thoughtful, funny and romantic dramedy.

"How Do You Know" is a thoughtful, funny, and romantic dramedy. It covers young people in their early thirties having to make tough choices about their life and career, and does it with way more thought and accuracy than something like "Morning Glory" (2010).   2010

Directed by: James L. Brooks

Screenplay by: James L. Brooks

Starring: Paul Rudd, Reese Witherspoon

The film begins with some interesting parallels. George (Paul Rudd) and Lisa (Reese Witherspoon) have had some unlucky breaks in their careers and their lives are going straight downhill. George is with an analytically-minded girlfriend but she thinks his troubles would be too much for their relationship, meanwhile Lisa is with Matty (Owen Wilson) but he doesn't have enough brain power to care what she's thinking let alone what that would mean. It ends up playing out like a romantic comedy rather than a drama, but there is still a lot of thought and simple honesty to the whole thing.

This is the role that I have been waiting for for Paul Rudd. He is still very funny but this is about his character and what he's going to do with the crap that life has handed him. Witherspoon was cute and likable. Sometimes their simple messages were too simple and things got a little too neat, but the actors were all quite funny and I thoroughly enjoyed "How Do You Know".


Friday, December 17, 2010

The Social Network: Movie Review


A film not about Facebook, but the face of the guys behind the book.

"The Social Network" is a great film and it does deserve all the credit it's getting. The key is in how Sorkin crafted the story and the characters and then how the actors ably portrayed those characters. This isn't about Facebook, but more the guys, or guy, who invented it. And the way Sorkin presented these characters was perfect.   2010

Directed by: David Fincher

Screenplay by: Aaron Sorkin

Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield

Monday, December 13, 2010

Going the Distance: Movie Review

(2010, directed by: Nanette Burstein, written by: Geoff LaTulippe, starring: Drew Barrymore and Justin Long)
(Available now on DVD and Blu-ray)




Profanity and jokes covering up poor writing, but it's still a romantic comedy.

"Going the Distance" is just a romantic comedy, but an adequate one. Justin Long and Drew Barrymore have real chemistry, making it seem fairly romantic, and Long and his friends are actually very funny men, making the film come across as more funny and less not-funny.

I generally really like films picking simple stories and just telling them straight. For the most part, this film did that. But here the problem is when they bothered to include sub-plots, they were meaningless and then dropped. This unfortunately just highlights the poor writing. Then trying to cover up the poor writing, they added lots of profanity and many off-topic jokes. There is no problem with profanity, it's just that there wasn't much need for it here.

Now let's talk about jokes - which both make and break this film. It is laugh-out-loud funny in places, and now, I am even more of a believer that Justin Long, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day are very much underrated, great comedic actors. Their timing was flawless and they were even able to make lame jokes seem funny. So, yes, I laughed, but the problem is the majority of the jokes were thrown in for the sole purpose of a laugh, and they had little to do with the storyline of the film. They were laugh-out-loud vulgar, not laugh-out-loud smart.

"Going the Distance" is a romantic comedy for those that like romantic comedies. It is written better than some, and at least you are laughing enough so you don't notice how poor it is.

Flipped: Movie Review


"Flipped" has all the comedy, naiveté and bewilderment of first love.

Juli just had to take one look at Bryce's blue eyes, and she knew it was true love. Bryce just had to take one notice of Juli's manic desperation, and he knew it was going to be a friendship of torment. I just had to take one look at the film's artfully designed poster, and I knew "Flipped" was a film to be savoured.   2010

Directed by: Rob Reiner

Screenplay by: Rob Reiner and Andrew Scheinman

Starring: Madeline Carroll and Calan McAuliffe

A beautifully told film of first love, we flip from Juli's point of view to Bryce's point of view, very effectively giving us the true nature of their friendship, love and respect they have for each other. Except in the case of middle-school graders, that love and respect can frequently look like embarrassment, mistrust, and shame. All of those emotions are told with intelligence, subtlety and humour.

"Flipped" has all of the comedy, naiveté and bewilderment of first love. It takes the romantic comedy farther by actually giving us characters with real depth. There is more going on than just Juli and Bryce figuring out their love for each other, and every aspect of this film is well written, touching and relevant.

"Flipped" is a cute film for everybody who fondly remembers that fiercely independent girl or the guy with piercing blue eyes that lived across the street.




Recommended:

Never Let Me Go (2010) - Romantic drama and science fiction of kids growing up together and falling in love.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Synecdoche, New York: Movie Review

(2008, written and directed by: Charlie Kaufman, starring: Philip Seymour Hoffman and Catherine Keener)
(Available now on DVD and Blu-ray)




Lives up to its ambitious nature, refusing to follow standard boundaries of time, scale and logic.

"Synecdoche, New York" is what could be a classic story of a man, Caden Cotard (Philip Seymour Hoffman), suffering a mid-life crisis, unable to connect to his wife and daughter, but Charlie Kaufman takes that to extremes and turns it into an almost incomprehensible masterpiece.

After his wife, Adele (Catherine Keener), leaves him, Caden starts fixating on his failing body and that death is just around the corner. His play becomes bigger in scope, impossibly so, and his need to get to the truth of himself becomes even harder to reach. One of the brilliant juxtapositions that Kaufman includes is how Caden sees the big picture and Adele sees the small picture. I believe one of the themes (probably one of many) in this film, is the juxtapositions of life. The grandiosity of Caden's play and himself in the play while Caden himself is feeling increasingly lonely and small. And also the insertions of humour in the face of the tragedy of life and death.

The film accurately reflects the ambitious scope that Caden's play exhibits in impossible ways, and yet by the end, still tells a simple story of a man suffering a mid-life crisis - except it was told without any boundaries of time, scale or logic. It was supremely executed by the entire cast, especially Hoffman, and I believe it lives up to the MacArthur genius grant that Caden received in the film. "Synecdoche, New York" is the type of film that only the crazy genius Charlie Kaufman would attempt to make.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Six Wives of Henry Lefay: Movie Review

 

Funny but not wise or emotionally profound.

When "The Six Wives of Henry Lefay" is just a screwball comedy, it's actually pretty good. Every ex-wife has something to add to the hilarity and absurdity, and Tim Allen is the best he's been in years as the unapologetic Lothario, Henry Lefay. 2009 (with 2010 DVD release)

Directed by: Howard Michael Gould

Screenplay by: Howard Michael Gould

Starring: Elisha Cuthbert and Tim Allen

My Girlfriend's Boyfriend: Movie Review


   


Boy meets girl, and then girl meets boy.
"My Girlfriend's Boyfriend" is a boy meets girl, and then girl meets boy story. It starts out exactly as you expect a romantic comedy to go. Jesse is unlucky in love, Ethan is unlucky in his writing career, she vows to help him, and he easily falls in love with her. But then Troy is there to sweep Jesse off her feet, and before we know it Jesse has a dilemma. 2010

Directed by: Daryn Tufts

Screenplay by: Daryn Tufts

Starring: Alyssa Milano, Christopher Gorham

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Lovely, Still: Movie Review

(2008, written and directed by: Nicholas Fackler, starring: Martin Landau and Ellen Burstyn)
(Available now on DVD)




More honest than most for its genre.

"Lovely, Still" is a story of discovering love late in life. It has the potential of being schmaltzy like the similar "Letters to Juliet" (2010), but it manages to avoid that trap and displays much more honest emotion like "Away From Her" (2006).

Martin Landau is the oft-confused and bewildered Robert who quickly falls in love with the more out-going Mary (Ellen Burstyn). The supporting characters were particularly well crafted. I enjoyed Adam Scott as Mike, Robert's boss and friend, and Elizabeth Banks as Alex, Mary's daughter.

Set during the holiday season, "Lovely, Still" is charming and amorous. Recommended for fans of the genre.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Disappearance of Alice Creed: Movie Review


Stark and brutal but this is the paramount of independent filmmaking.

In "The Disappearance of Alice Creed", Alice (Gemma Arterton) is kidnapped. Danny (Martin Compston) and Vic (Eddie Marsan) are careful criminals and think they know what it takes to get what they want and not get caught. What follows is a well written, unconventional and startling exploration of the relationships of everyone involved and their plans to get to a better life. 2009

Directed by: J. Blakeson

Screenplay by: J. Blakeson

Starring: Gemma Arterton, Eddie Marsan and Martin Compston

Everything in this film is thoughtful, intelligent, and only slightly dark. This is a well thought-out, incredibly well written, and a rather unique character drama disguised as a thriller. There are some stark and brute acts of selfishness to withstand, but the rewards are remarkable.

"The Disappearance of Alice Creed" is the paramount of independent filmmaking. Writer and director J Blakeson has crafted a truly impressive film giving both the perpetrators and the victim interesting but realistic character traits that translate into an original and astute plot about kidnapping. I recommend this as a must-see for the dominating and masterful performances by Arterton, Compston and Marsan, for the perceptive, engrossing and bewitching story-telling and direction, and for capturing the true art of independent filmmaking.
Best of 2010





Recommended:

The Town (2010) - A thriller that is driven by characters and their relationships just as much as plot.

The American (2010) - A character study disguised as a thriller with an impressive visual telling.

Best Laid Plans (1997) - An interesting, twisted story of committing crimes.

Dark Matter (2007) - Hauntingly real story when academic drive turns dark and dangerous.

12 Biggest Lies: Documentary Review


"12 Biggest Lies" is about lies, but more just semantics.

The documentary "12 Biggest Lies" is just people standing in front of the camera and lecturing us on truth, lies and the semantics of them both. I agree with most of their "lies" that the world is based on, there's even some educational value in what they have to say, but interest would be borderline. It's as boring as you could possibly make a documentary.   2010

Directed by: André van Heerden

Screenplay by: André van Heerden

"12 Biggest Lies" would be for lawyers and philosophy majors who enjoy discussions on what is truth, what is moral or good, and how does society function? But this is mostly a lesson in semantics. It might even turn off its target audience because it's awfully difficult to argue back with your TV.


Recommended:

Howl (2010) - Part biography, part animation, part historical lesson on society and use of language. All brilliant.

Religulous (2008) - The lies of religion, but all religions, in a riveting documentary.

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006) - A complete farce but funny with a shockingly real level of truth to it.

Secretary: Movie Review

(2002, directed by: Steven Shainberg, starring: Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Spader)
(Available now on DVD)




The creepiness and craziness is not for everybody.

Lee (Maggie Gyllenhaal) is crazy, and Mr. Grey (James Spader) is creepy. They both make attempts to form semblances of normal, but they are both a few degrees off-center. She's his secretary, and as you can guess, their relationship isn't normal.

The comedy, to me, more came in forms awkwardness. "Secretary" may push boundaries of typical romantic comedies, but that's only if you can accept either of their characters and care to follow what happens to them.

This is a movie for indie film lovers who like the dramatic scores, and slow set-ups and quirky characters. I can normally welcome such films but only if I don't have to sit there confused and uncomfortable. "Secretary" is a good film, and Spader and Gyllenhaal are engrossing, but their creepiness and craziness is not for everybody.

Monday, November 29, 2010

(Untitled): Movie Review

(2009, directed by: Jonathan Parker, written by: Catherine DiNapoli and Jonathan Parker, starring: Adam Goldberg and Marley Shelton)
(Available now on DVD and Blu-ray)




An hilarious, critical and yet respectful view of modern art.

An hilarious, critical and yet respectful view of modern art, "(Untitled)" is an indie film that takes on the contemporary music and visual art scene of New York.

Adam Goldberg is perfectly cast as Adrian, a slightly neurotic but completely out-there "musician". First to his detriment, but then more to his success, his brother Josh (Eion Bailey) introduces him to Madeleine (Marley Shelton), an art gallery owner who is against the commercial stream but can find the next big thing. Josh is the only remotely down-to-Earth character, but even his art looks like blobs of colour on a canvas--to the untrained eye like mine. The "music" that takes over the film is what people like me would call noise, but people like Adrian would call a true artistic expression of the human condition.

It is less accessible than "Art School Confidential" (2006), but just as funny and more focused on the indie art scene. Like one of the artists in the film, I think the film is trying to say nothing and everything at the same time, and just like modern art can be, "(Untitled)" is just plain weird.

Everywhere: Movie Review



"Everywhere" efficiently takes a unique and comedic look at love and jealousy.

Jim (Patrick McKenna) is a man with extreme insecurities and jealousy dominating his life. "Everywhere" takes a comedic approach to exploring Jim's new relationship with Isabelle. He thinks he can love himself and be happy and be in a stable relationship, if only he knew where Isabelle was at all times.   2010

Directed by: Alexis Durant-Brault

Screenplay by: Robert Geoffrion

Starring: Patrick McKenna and Julie LeBreton

Lively music helps keep the pace up as Jim follows Isabelle everywhere, and often a few steps ahead of me as I didn't always know what was going to happen next. I laughed at McKenna's portrayal of the least self-confident character ever imaginable, and I enjoyed the simple adventure the film took me on.

"Everywhere" got serious as it took a more dramatic look at the fates of the relationships explored, but it showed the true hearts involved. This small Canadian film impressed me with its unique characterizations and taking a route void of formulae and clichés.


Current Status:

"Everywhere" is available on DVD.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Remember Me: Movie Review

(2010, directed by: Allen Coulter, written by: Will Fetters, starring: Robert Pattinson and Emilie de Ravin)
(Available now on DVD and Blu-ray)




Transported me back to my critical-free self, but suffers from a vapid ending.

"Remember Me" toyed with my emotions, for both good and bad. It's a romantic drama, and it knows its genre. They also know their viewers.

I was beginning to get frustrated with the slowness and predictability of the plot, until I realized I was older than its target audience. They are going for the mature teenage market, and they do it perfectly. Robert Pattinson and Emilie de Ravin are both very good looking and able to inspire, and portray their characters perfectly without any sense of pity.

Tyler and Ally are both New Yorkers who have experienced loss and now they are trying to navigate a romantic relationship while dealing with their volatile fathers and determined commitment to family. All of the relationships probed in this film are emotionally-involving and genuine. As a 29 year-old, I saw them outlined from the very beginning and was annoyed with the lack of originality. But then they transported me to my 17 year-old self, and my cynicism and criticism vanished and I was wrapped up into how beautiful this film was.

If only it had been released 12 years ago, then "Remember Me" would have been one of my favourite films, and it also would have been saved from its pedantic, banal, hackneyed and insipid ending.

The Four-Faced Liar: Movie Review


   


Starts nowhere, goes nowhere, and apparently that doesn't matter because it's New York City.
"The Four-Faced Liar" seems to have an interesting enough title, and it is done very well for its low budget. It also has a whole host of problems.

Where should I begin? It doesn't really matter because the film itself doesn't begin anywhere, except, of course, in New York City. I'm starting to think that young film-makers have never been anywhere else.
2010

Directed by: Jacob Chase

Screenplay by: Marja Lewis Ryan

Starring: Marja Lewis Ryan, Emily Peck

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Cemetery Junction: Movie Review


Ricky Gervais comes of filmmaking age with "Cemetery Junction".

Cemetery Junction is one of those poor, small British towns, where the men go to work in factories and the women try to keep their kids out of jail. Freddy (Christian Cooke) wants something different; he wants to wear a suit to work, drive a Rolls Royce home to a beautiful wife and kids in a big house. He thinks this is a more noble life to live, and at least he's doing something about it.   2010

Directed by: Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant

Screenplay by: Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant

Starring: Christian Cooke, Felicity Jones

Friday, November 26, 2010

127 Hours: Movie Review


More of a bold adventure film, less soulful drama.

Based on the true, survival-against-all-odds story "Between a Rock and a Hard Place", James Franco is Aron Ralston, and he is literally stuck between a rock and a hard place—a canyon wall in the Utah desert to be more exact. "127 Hours" records the time from when Aron finds himself stranded and trapped alone in a canyon, and has to use everything that he is mentally and physically capable of to try and get himself free.   2010

Directed by: Danny Boyle

Screenplay by: Danny Boyle, Simon Beaufoy

Starring: James Franco

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Tamara Drewe: Movie Review

 

A comedy of affairs.

Ewedown is an idyllic, little English countryside village where writers retreat to seek inspiration, and peace and quiet. Or at least it was idyllic until Tamara Drewe returned home.   2010

Directed by: Stephen Frears

Screenplay by: Moira Buffini

Starring: Gemma Arterton

The stunningly beautiful Gemma Arterton plays Tamara Drewe. Her presence immediately sparks the interest of the local men, and the bored, local teenage girls who are looking for excitement to spice up their mundane town life. She is so sexy that she has her choice of affairs, but as usual, it's always the asshole who gets the girl. Just as it looks like Tamara is going to settle down with the rock and roll drummer Ben (Dominic Cooper) to interrupt the reserved lifestyle of the village, life gets complicated for everybody who wants something with Tamara.

"Tamara Drewe" is a comedy of affairs, complete with foul language, quirky characters and the irreverent British humour. Arterton sparkles as Tamara, but it's less about the characters and more about who will bed who and what will the consequences be? It sometimes seems to forget the age of its audience when it goes for the comedy of teenage girls getting into mischief, but it's also exactly what you would expect for an odd British comedy about a group of writers and one hot girl.
Best of 2010




Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Love and Other Drugs: Movie Review

(2010, directed by: Edward Zwick, written by: Charles Randolph and Edward Zwick, starring: Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal)



"Love and Other Drugs" has a few problems, but it is still a beautiful story of boy loves girl.

Set during the rise of Viagra, "Love and Other Drugs" follows Jamie (Jake Gyllenhaal) trying to sell drugs and trying to bed women. Women are easier.

Gyllenhaal has the finesse to turn a womanizing pharmaceutical sales rep from a cliché character into an astute and caring man with actual depth. Anne Hathaway more just likes to prance around naked. Hathaway's Maggie suffers from early-onset Parkinson's disease, and has closed her heart to love. There's not much more to her character probably just because she has the body to shoot sex scenes.

"Love and Other Drugs" suffers from an inability to turn its dramatic scenes into poignant ones, and the many drug and sex jokes into thoughtful commentary. And most of the minor characters, all played by stellar actors (Hank Azaria, Oliver Platt, etc.), remain in supporting roles without further advancement in who they are. Despite these problems, at its heart it is just a story of boy loves girl and Gyllenhaal and Hathaway portray that beautifully.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Multiple Sarcasms: Movie Review

(2010, directed by: Brooks Branch, written by: Brooks Branch and Linda Morris, starring: Timothy Hutton and Dana Delany)
(Available now on DVD and Blu-ray)



Not worth the frustration and boredom.

I was really looking forward to "Multiple Sarcasms". With a story about a man, basically at a mid-life crisis, who is looking for happiness in writing and in films, I thought I could really relate. But for a film about playwriting at its heart, it's rather poorly written. Many scenes telling us things that we already know. The first third of the film was introducing us to the main characters, over and over again. But I got everything I needed to know about the characters in the first scene so the rest just became a lesson in boredom.

It was supposed to be about Gabriel discovering that his happiness is rooted in writing, but then out of nowhere the main story became about crossing the line of infidelity. Not writing at all. Boredom, crossing into confusion just becomes frustration. Even with the many underrated actors, "Multiple Sarcasms" is not worth the frustration and boredom.

The Winning Season: Movie Review

(2010, directed by: James C. Strouse, written by: James C. Strouse, starring: Sam Rockwell and Emma Roberts)
(Available now on DVD)




The same sports story, but done with quality dramatic and comedic elements.

At least "The Winning Season" knows that the whole down-on-his-luck coach and group of misfit girls basketball team who learn about life and winning together type of story has been done before. They did unfortunately follow the exact same formula, but with a hint of whimsy and self-awareness, it's above average for the genre.

Emma Roberts and the other girls comprising the team actually come across as real teenage girls. I found them cute and funny. As a big fan of Sam Rockwell, he seems to be the reason why this film is pretty good. He's basically a drunken asshole, very unlikable, but he completely draws you in so there's a real emotional connection for the dramatic elements. And as he has demonstrated before, his physical comedy antics are perfect making the comedy scenes pretty funny.

"The Winning Season" has been done many times before, but here they managed to do it without being cheesy, while providing quality scenes of drama and comedy. If you like the genre, it is certainly worth a look.



This film is on my best unknown films of 2010 list - explore The 20 Best Over-Looked Films in 2010

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Morning Glory: Movie Review




Out of touch of today's 28 year old career-striving women.

Written by Aline Brosh McKenna, "Morning Glory" is just like her previous "The Devil Wears Prada" (2006), except set in the TV industry rather than fashion. The main plot of 28 year old Becky trying to land and keep her dream job while re-assessing what her dream job actually is, may be a repetitive plot, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. 20-something women struggling with their careers are always relatable characters and it's something that we all go through.

We see very little of Rachel McAdams' Becky getting her job, it's more trying to keep her job in the face of an incorrigible co-worker. I would have liked to see McAdams examine herself and her career goals more and much less of Harrison Ford's snarkiness. As other reviewers pointed out, Ford has never been known for his subtlety and that downfall is clearly displayed here.

McAdams' job as a TV morning show producer is out-of-reach for most regular people and coupled with Ford's over-the-top, rude, egotistical TV show co-host, that makes "Morning Glory" unaccessible and not very relatable. Which is a major problem for the film as it relies on the viewer's connection to Becky.

I found "Morning Glory" out-of-touch of today's 28 year old career-striving women, and as a result I couldn't relate much or get invested in Becky's trials. I was only slightly disappointed as I was expecting that. And I can't recommend it even though McAdams is cute and most of the acting is quite good.

Stone: Movie Review




I wish I got a story rather than messed up characters and a meaningless climax.

"Stone" is a messed up film. I would like to say that I don't know what the story was about, but that's not really true as it was a very simplistic plot. Edward Norton is a convicted criminal up for parole, overseen by parole officer Robert De Niro. It's not so much that the story is hard to understand, more so that nothing actually happens.

It's dialogue-heavy as Norton philosophizes his way to freedom, and it's supposed to be character-rich as we watch De Niro try to remain sane as both Norton and his wife Milla Jovovich work their angles on him. But these are just messed up characters that I knew less about at the end than I did at the beginning. The film has clear problems when the only somewhat likable character is the guiltless criminal Norton. But I would say it's bigger problems are with the fact that it's supposed to be a thriller, but all you have is De Niro and Norton jabbering back and forth until nothing is clear and very little of consequence or action occurs. There is even a religious undertone to the whole film, but I have no idea what they were trying to say with that.

I'm sure De Niro and Norton deliver great performances as they always do, but when their characters are poorly written and make no sense, you can't watch a film for the acting. The director was overly concerned with detail, framing every scene and adding nuance to each shot, which is great in some films, but in "Stone", it would have served him better to just try and tell a story from beginning to end.

Monday, November 1, 2010

PoliWood: Documentary Review




Nothing interesting or even remotely educational.

"PoliWood" is one of the worst documentaries I have seen.

With a director like Barry Levinson, I certainly wasn't expecting such poor quality. At the beginning I was questioning if he forgot how to direct because he had shaky hand-held interviews that looked bad and didn't add anything to the film.

It's supposed to be about how celebrities have influenced and changed politics. But it went frequently off-course with topics like the history of television and public relations. Which all would have been fine if anything of interest was added. Most of the interviews and footage didn't actually say anything of note, and when they did, they didn't tell me anything I didn't already know.

Documentaries should be able to educate while providing interesting footage and interviews which actually relate to the subject matter at hand. But "PoliWood" didn't have any of that: it didn't teach me anything new and I don't think it could enlighten anybody. Most of the footage didn't directly relate to celebrities influencing politics. And while he did have interviews with celebrities about politics, they were mostly with well-respected individuals like Ellen Burstyn and Susan Sarandon, and most people don't question their involvement in politics.

But what about the (negative) impact when talent-less celebrities like Paris Hilton or Megan Fox try to get involved? And more importantly what can we, as more educated and informed citizens, do to stop their influence on the political process if it is in fact detrimental?

I'm extremely disappointed that "PoliWood" didn't even try to answer those questions, and more disappointed that it didn't even show me anything interesting or educational.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Girl from Monaco: Movie Review




"The Girl from Monaco" is beautiful but not interesting.

Bertrand (Fabrice Luchini) is a lawyer on a high-profile case in Monaco, and then he meets Audrey - "The Girl from Monaco". It could be interesting except there is nothing in these characters to connect us to them.

The three main characters, Audrey, Bertrand and his bodyguard had really strange relationships with each other. Way too intimate of conversations for virtual strangers. So I felt further away from them and never could care for them.

I also never could figure out what genre this film is supposed to be. The plot outline reads like a thriller, but it says its supposed to be a comedy and it plays out more like a romantic drama. I can see the comedy elements, and it is light in its nature, but it's not laugh-out-loud funny. It's too strange to be romantic, and nothing interesting develops to make this a thriller. Perhaps it really is a comedy as it claims, just a not very funny one.

It has high production value, it's shot well, and "The Girl from Monaco" is definitely beautiful, but there's nothing in the story to recommend it.

Nice Guy Johnny: Movie Review


Johnny is handsome, sweet, and, well, nice.

Johnny (Matt Bush) is a nice guy, or a push-over, depending on how you see it. But he's also a pretty good character. Very handsome, sweet, and well, nice; he's a good romantic comedy hero. It's basically a twenty-something finds himself romantic comedy. It's nothing you haven't seen before, but it is cute, funny and romantic. Matt Bush and Kerry Bishé have great chemistry and their romance is engaging.   2010

Directed by: Edward Burns

Screenplay by: Edward Burns

Starring: Matt Bush and Kerry Bishe

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Conviction: Movie Review


A simple, dramatic story told well through emotional performances.

"Conviction" is a simple, dramatic story, told well. Betty Anne (Hilary Swank) puts herself through law school for the sole effort of freeing her innocent brother Kenny (Sam Rockwell) from a life-sentence in prison for murder. Swank and Rockwell both carry this emotional film on their very strong shoulders.   2010

Directed by: Tony Goldwyn

Screenplay by: Pamela Gray

Starring: Hilary Swank and Sam Rockwell

There are very few courtroom scenes, very few law school scenes, but it is filled with emotional connections between brother and sister as she visits him in prison, and as she tries living her own life. The characters dominate the beginning of the film, and the steps Swank has to take to free Rockwell keeps the film going towards the end.

It is shot well, as this is clearly Massachusetts and it set the right feelings for the film without overpowering it. The highlights are Swank and Rockwell as they both play characters with elements that we have seen before that have given Swank Oscar wins and have given Rockwell popularity. Here, he has toned down his comic antics just enough for his performance to remain popular but should also give him his first Oscar nomination.

The story may be missing a few elements that would have given it more substance to make it more interesting, but it seems to me, that's because the film-makers had a few restrictions in keeping to the true story. This may actually be a true story and not just based on one.

I recommend "Conviction" for its emotional performances and for telling its simple story well.
Best of 2010




Recommended:

The Company Men (2010) - The down-sizing of three men in a simple, effective drama.

The Conspirator (2010) - Historical telling of the trial of Mary Surrat.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Other Guys: Movie Review




Not as funny as it should have been.

"The Other Guys" is one of those action comedies which have been so popular this year, except this one isn't very funny. I was looking forward to Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg in a comedy together. But Ferrell is better when there's intelligence to the writing and subtle comedy. Wahlberg is great as the straight man, as is Michael Keaton, but when both become ridiculous caricatures of themselves, the little bit of humour is lost completely.

The action is over-the-top, the plot makes very little sense, and the jokes just aren't that funny. I would have almost nothing to recommend this movie, except there are some smart lines included. A handful of jokes that accurately depict society are smart and funny. But they are just too few and far between.

Perhaps if you liked "Knight and Day" (2010) or like cop films, then you might like "The Other Guys". But mostly I was disappointed by it and found it not as funny as it should have been given its cast.

Despicable Me: Movie Review

(2010, directed by: Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud, written by: Ken Daurio, starring: Steve Carell)
(Available now on DVD and Blu-ray)


 



"Despicable Me" is highly recommended for its "pure" comedy.

"Despicable Me" really is an animated family comedy. With such a simple, but clever, storyline of villain vs. villain, it is just a kids movie despite the many stars for attraction of an older audience.

It is full of funny lines, which are not unsuitable or over kids' heads. Adults will be able to appropriately laugh throughout the film along with all the other kids. So many recent animated family comedies have claimed its funny for the adults and kids, but they have different jokes for them. Jokes that are inappropriate for kids that they don't understand and they sit there confused as their parents laugh at mature humour. The great thing about "Despicable Me" is that it's one of the first where it's so well written that it's the same jokes that the adults and kids will be laughing at. These jokes are sweet, simple and genuinely funny.

Steve Carell is great as Gru, the struggling villain, who comes up with ludicrous plans to become a super villain. I was particularly impressed with Jason Segel as Vector, the super villain (who commits crimes with direction and magnitude). The original songs written for this movie are also catchy and humorous.

I highly recommend "Despicable Me" for its "pure" comedy.

Sex and the City 2: Movie Review

 

Disgusting and superficial pandering to all women.

It's two years later, I've become much more cynical about "Sex and the City", and the 4 girls are having problems in their shallow, designed life. The quality of the writing is decreasing rapidly. These are barely even characters – just stick-figures to hang dresses on and caricatures of their audience. The filmmakers are just pandering to women between the ages of 20 and 60 and finding superficial things in the characters for them to relate to. 2010

Directed by: Michael Patrick King

Screenplay by: Michael Patrick King

Starring: Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Catrall, Kristin Davis and Cynthia Nixon

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Don McKay: Movie Review

"Don McKay" will throw you off-guard with its originality in presentation.

"Don McKay" is marketed as an edgy thriller, that's probably because they had no idea how to categorize it.

The movie begins as a cross between a romantic drama, a character study, and a dark thriller. Don McKay, played brilliantly by Thomas Haden Church, returns to his hometown by a letter from his high school girlfriend, Sunny (Elisabeth Shue). That's the romantic drama aspect. But we quickly learn that there's something not quite right about Sunny, there's something not quite right with most people in the town, and McKay has dark secrets to his past. We are always on the lookout for creepy turns and shadows around every corner. Those are the dark thriller aspects.

It seems as if it's going to be a character study, but its really not about McKay himself. It's ultimately plot-driven and the mysterious problems that McKay gets himself into. I was riveted throughout.

I actually highly recommend "Don McKay" because it's cleverly written to throw its audience off-guard, it's completely original, and these film-makers know what they are doing. And no matter what genre you decide it is by the end, it won't be what you thought it was at the beginning.


Plot Summary
Don McKay is living a very lowly life as a janitor. Then he receives a letter from his high school girlfriend, Sonny, who announces that she is dying and that she needs him to come back home. But when Don arrives back in his hometown, he finds Sonny's doctor has a crush on her and has no intention of letting Don back into her life, and the rest of the town remembers the tragedy that drove Don away in the first place and they have no intention of letting Don come back, at least not without paying some dues.


This film is on my best unknown films of 2010 list - explore The 20 Best Over-Looked Films in 2010


Uncertainty: Movie Review


"Uncertainty" is uninteresting.

In "Uncertainty" a young couple's lives have different paths to take based on the flip of the coin. But they don't tell us what this coin toss means or its significance, so we don't get to understand its implications or consequences.   2009

Directed by: Scott McGehee and David Siegel

Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Lynn Collins

The young couple is played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Lynn Collins. Gordon-Levitt is a talented actor and is good here, but he's better than the character. We are given no reasons to care about these characters and we know so little about them it just makes everything less interesting. I don't know much about Collins, but from this all I can gather is that she only knows how to play sexy. I would like to think that Gordon-Levitt would pick girlfriends based on more than just sexiness.

"Uncertainty" is supposed to be an interesting examination of lives travelling different ways, but the plot devices used are so lame that the two stories are just uninteresting. It is shot well for its low budget, but one should be wary of watching movies written without a script.


Current Status:

"Uncertainty" is available on DVD.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Waiting for Superman: Documentary Review




Not perfect, but it is informative and emotionally-resonating.

Director Davis Guggenheim waited for Superman as a child, because children like the hope that somebody will come and rescue them and the world. I knocked the U.S. Education system documentary "Waiting for Superman" down two stars for two reasons. One is that they just didn't give me enough hope.

The other main failing of this film, as other reviewers have pointed out, is that he didn't cover all of the many, many reasons for an under-performing education system. Well, he kind of did, but not very clearly. He spent more time on poor teachers and the unions, and many people seem to have come out of thinking that's all he talked about. Contrary to popular reviews, he did make other points. They were just too subtle. I will agree though that he was too heavy-handed with the American Federation of Teachers.

The primary focus of the film is five children each from different parts of the country and each desperate to get into a better school. I think he padded the documentary a bit too much with their situations, and a few too many tear-jerking moments. But when Guggenheim presented me with facts, knowledge and history, "Waiting for Superman" became both informative and emotionally-resonating. And yes, that's what a good documentary is, and that's why it gets 8 stars.

Perhaps "Waiting for Superman" should have been more well-rounded, but I don't think you can present more sides in just a two-hour film. And most important, the sides he did present are accurate, informative, entertaining and well presented. I wish I saw Superman at the end instead of just tears, but I still recommend it.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Exploding Girl: Movie Review




Slow-moving character study of little importance.

The title "The Exploding Girl" is figurative not literal. I would add "of course" but that's not as obvious given movies nowadays. This is a low-budget, independent character study.

It's about Ivy on college break, back home in New York City. Ivy struggles with love and friendship. And the film-maker shows us this with really slow-moving, seemingly unimportant scenes mired in the noisy streets of New York City. I know the city is basically supposed to be its own character, but the loud, constant bus and car noises and obstruction just lowered the quality of the film.

Zoe Kazan's Ivy is very cute and likable, but even with her epilepsy, her college problems seem minor compared to the stress that other college girls experience. Her boyfriend back at college was painted one-dimensionally. And although I didn't mind Al, the reason given for him moving in with Ivy was very odd and never explained.

It's called a "discreet character study". I will agree with that in the sense that meaning was hard to find, dialogue was indiscernible and silent at times, and reasons for few things happening was kept private from the audience. The brilliance displayed in the poster is only found once in the film, and is not enough to watch it. "The Exploding Girl" is only for the very discerning film viewer who likes slow-moving character studies of little importance.