Friday, December 31, 2010

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.

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

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)

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

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. This film is told with a lot of intelligence, subtlety and humour as we navigate all of those emotions that teenagers manically flip between.

Filmmaker Rob Reiner has taken Wendelin Van Draanen’s popular young teen romance novel and changed the era to the 60s. One of the more important aspects of Flipped, is that it is timeless. This could be set in any era and the story will feel just as genuine and sincere.

The beginning is not a meet cute, because this film is not a romance film, but a romantic coming-of-age, exploration of lives led and the intersection of those lives. Nonetheless, at the beginning we meet Juli (Madeline Carroll) and Bryce (Callan McAuliffe) when Bryce’s family moves to her Norman Rockwellian street. They go to school together, grow up together, and whatever fate may have in store for them, their parents’ relationships and interactions will affect that.

Juli’s family is middle-of-the-road working class roots, while Bryce’s family is a little more tightly wound. In among all the push and pull of their families and how Juli and Bryce each see their own relationship, is a beautiful Sycamore tree and its fate.

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 5, 2010

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

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.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

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. 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. 2010

Directed by: Stephen Frears

Screenplay by: Moira Buffini

Starring: Gemma Arterton

She is so sexy that she has her choice of affairs, but as usual, it's always the asshole who gets the girl.. It almost doesn’t matter which character I’m referring to as this is one of those films where almost every character is flawed and still likable, or at least entertaining.

Here’s the thing about the comedy style of Tamara Drewe: you just have to accept the thought processes of these (let’s call them socially-inept) people, but once you do it is pretty funny, even if you just find it odd at first. You see, when Tamara left home as a teemage girl in search of success in the big city, she was not hot. She had a big nose and was thus undesirable like everybody else. In London, she worked her way up as a successful rock journalist and got a nose job.

Now, back in Ewedown, the head writer of the retreat, philandering husband, semi-famous crime novelist Nicholas (Roger Allam) is lusting after Tamara; former teen flame Andy (Luke Evans), now a handsome handy-man, is not into Tamara – but would be after he settles a grudge. Meanwhile, American writer Glen (Bill Camp) is attracted to Nicholas’s wife Beth (Tamsin Greig); and two very entertaining teenage girls (Jessica Barden and Charlotte Christie) are going to snoop all of this out.

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




Tuesday, November 23, 2010

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

Sunday, October 31, 2010

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.

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


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Elvis and Anabelle: Movie Review






"Elvis and Anabelle" is too strange and unlikable.

"Elvis and Anabelle" begins with Elvis (Max Minghella) a mortician. Elvis' character is immediately very jarring. He has some morbid and unnatural obsessions with the dead. He's way too off-putting to be likable. That leaves us with the lovely Blake Lively who plays the lovely Anabelle. She's a Texas beauty queen with an eating disorder. I think the film digs a big hole for itself by making a Texas beauty queen the only somewhat likable character.

A romantic drama like this relies on the connections to the characters, but here they are just too strange for me to be interested in them or care about them. "Elvis and Anabelle" may appeal to some who fancy the supernatural-like romantic dramas. But for those who appreciate well written characters, this film is a pass. I would recommend "Wake" (2009) instead. "Wake" also starts in an embalming room with a girl who doesn't feel right in this world, and although it takes some strange turns, they are more natural progressions than in this film.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Leaves of Grass: Movie Review


A violent, comedic, crime drama character study.

Edward Norton stars as Bill Kincaid a sensible ivy league philosophy professor who makes a trip home to Oklahoma, and Edward Norton stars as Brady Kincaid, twin brother, a rash hillbilly drug dealer who gets himself mixed up in bad drug deals and murders. Thus begins a strangely enjoyable, rambling piece of philosophy and violence. 2009

Directed by: Tim Blake Nelson

Screenplay by: Tim Blake Nelson

Starring: Edward Norton, Keri Russell

Friday, October 15, 2010

Never Let Me Go: Movie Review


An interesting, high-quality film that crosses over into most genres.

"Never Let Me Go" is an interesting, haunting and affecting story of love and jealousy. The story that we see occurring on the surface is fairly commonplace of friends growing up together and falling in love. But the backdrop of this film, which eventually takes over the main story, is science fiction like. It's dark and tragic and thought-provoking. 2010

Directed by: Mark Romanek

Screenplay by: Alex Garland
Based on the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro

Starring: Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley and Andrew Garfield

The time and place is 1980s England and it looks very similar to the real world. But this is not the real world. The dystopic aspect is clearly touched upon at the beginning, but it most definitely gets worse.

Let’s start at that time when life should be an adventure that you can’t wait to experience and in your childhood fervor you pick your friends to accompany you on that future adventure. Here I am describing a reality that should exist in this film, but doesn’t, because everything is just slightly off.

Kathy, Tommy and Ruth (Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield and Keira Knightley as the older version of the trio and Isobel Meikle-Small, Charlie Rowe and Ella Purnell as the younger version) start life at a prim-and-proper boarding school. They bond together, share puppy love, and if only they could embrace the innocence of a childhood, but that innocence is lost.

It can be difficult to fully realize all the characterizations for characters in a world that is this far-removed from the real world, but this is a fascinating story. Dark and tragic to be sure, but it also had my interest piqued.

The film was incredibly well shot, making dreary England look spectacular but still getting the feeling of damp and cold across.

The film works so well because as much as it is science fiction, those are not the themes it plays up. The innocence and loss of innocence of childhood, how to reflect on a life lived, how to give meaning to those lives, and how lies and rumours told to children can shape their lives, and how bonds formed in the face of tragic confusion can shape the rest of your life.

I recommend "Never Let Me Go" because of the high quality of filmmaking. The science fiction elements are rather subtle so it's more for fans of romantic dramas, but it's an interesting enough film that it can cross into most genres. .
Best of 2010




Recommended:

An Education (2009) - Coming-of-age drama with a real story.

Conviction (2010) - Brotherly love with striking shots of nature.


The Kids Are All Right: Movie Review


Comedy was great, drama slowed things down a bit, but still a well done film.

Lesbian mothers, one a hippie chick (Julianne Moore) the other more of an alpha male (Annette Bening) have raised two kids, Joni and Laser. "The Kids Are All Right" begins with the teenage kids contacting their sperm donor biological father (Mark Ruffalo). We follow the interactions between all of the characters.   2010

Directed by: Lisa Cholodenko

Screenplay by: Lisa Cholodenko, Stuart Blumberg

Starring: Annette Bening and Julianne Moore

It's Kind of a Funny Story: Movie Review

     


A well written, light-hearted teen drama.
It's Kind of a Funny Story is an aptly titled film. It's just a story, and it's kind of funny. It's more drama than comedy, and although it was slow, they really did drag me into the story. Keir Gilchrist stars as Craig, a teenager who thinks about killing himself and seeks help. He finds help at an adult psychiatric ward. 2011

Directed and Screenplay by: Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck

Starring: Keir Gilchrist

You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger: Movie Review

 

Lacks most of Allen's intelligent wit, but still has his subtle jabs at society.

In "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger" we are swiftly introduced to the complicated plot with who is married to whom, who is cheating with whom, and who is in love with whom. I found that the slowest part. I wasn't able to find much of Allen's underlying comedy in all of the criss-crossing relationships. 2010

Directed by: Woody Allen

Screenplay by: Woody Allen

Starring: Anthony Hopkins and Naomi Watts

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Blue Tooth Virgin: Movie Review

 

About trying to understand one's self and accepting constructive criticism.

Screenwriter Sam (Austin Peck) has written "The Blue Tooth Virign". He's awfully excited about it; he tells his friend David (Bryce Johnson) that it's a thriller driven by characters, and he wants David to read it and give him notes.

This film offers an hilarious and critical analysis of his script, David trying to tell Sam what he really thought about it, and
  2008 (with 2010 DVD release)

Directed by: Russell Brown

Screenplay by: Russell Brown

Starring: Austin Peck, Bryce Johnson
Sam trying to accept who he really is. Sam has to learn to accept some harsh criticism of his work, but worse, some harsh criticism about what kind of person he is. David's life is easier, but he has to figure out how to give criticism and to open up about what he wants out of writing, and try not to lose a friend through honesty.

I got really wrapped up into what I can learn about myself as a writer. This film got me more interested in understanding myself more than these characters, but that just may be one of their ultimate goals in writing and making this film. I laughed a lot during their discussions about "The Blue Tooth Virgin", I laughed a little bit during the script consultation, and I really appreciated their attempts to help me become more self-aware as a writer.

For anyone who really wants to examine their selves and their creative craft, this is a must see. I now may be more open to constructive criticism on my work. Maybe.




Recommended:

Stuck Between Stations (2011) - A relationship drama about the characters and what they have to say.

Crashing (2007) - A well written film about writing; not a comedy but it is funny.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Big Fan: Movie Review


Soul-fulfilling examination of a "Big Fan".

"Big Fan" is about Paul (Patton Oswalt) who is a really big fan of the New York Giants. It's a simple premise and one that you think you see on a regular basis. But this movie is different because we really meet Paul, on a very personal level. We see everything in his life that makes him who he is. Even though Paul takes the word "fanatic" to a very serious level, he's accessible and it seems very real.   2009

Directed by: Robert D. Siegel

Screenplay by: Robert D. Siegel

Starring: Patton Oswalt

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The American: Movie Review


Interesting mix between character study and thriller.

George Clooney is "The American", an assassin, hiding out in Italy. That, and his love of prostitutes, are pretty much all we know about him. It turns out to be an interesting mix between a character study and a thriller.   2010

Directed by: Anton Corbijn

Screenplay by: Rowan Joffe

Starring: George Clooney

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

My Sister's Keeper: Movie Review




Not as interesting and substantial as it could have been.

My problems with "My Sister's Keeper" were with the characters but not the story. The story that centers around Anna (Abigail Breslin) being born to be a donor for her leukaemia-stricken sister and then seeking medical emancipation from her parents so they couldn't force her to continue to donate her organs - is actually a great story. I found it original and intriguing.

This film is also about characters and their relationships. They explored the mother-daughter relationship between Sara (Cameron Diaz) and Kate (Sofia Vassilieva) and between Sara and Anna. But in doing so, they broke some fundamental rules of screen writing. To advance the plot, Sara acted out of character, and so did Anna. These characters were so inconsistent that any attempt at exploring them was pointless. The other relationship angles that they started, between husband and wife and son to the rest of the family, were conspicuously dropped, probably because they wouldn't be able to keep them in character either.

It was an odd mix of strong actors and weak characters. The lesser-known actors, Sofia Vassilieva, Jason Patric and Evan Ellingson were much stronger and were able to keep the light on their quieter characters. Vassilieva, in particular, stole the movie. Cameron Diaz played the mother, who was of course supposed to be unlikable. The problem is that ever since "The Mask" (1994), Diaz has been desperately trying to prove that she isn't just beautiful and she can play the unpopular characters too. Cameron is a good actress and she has long proved her point. The character of Sara would have been much better served if she was played by a not-so-desperate actress. And I think I have had my fill of Abigail Breslin.

The poor writing really detracts from the enjoyment of this film. I would be surprised if the book was this poorly written, but I'm not sure I care to find out. "My Sister's Keeper" could be a very interesting and substantial film, if written with quality. Unfortunately, this version is not.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

$5 a Day: Movie Review


The best of independent filmmaking.

"$5 a Day" is a father-son road trip movie. You may think you've seen that done way too many times before, but this plays out as if it's completely original. This is, quite simply, a smart, entertaining independent film. It also doesn't hurt that it has an all-star cast behind it. The handsome and completely endearing Alessandro Nivola is Flynn, the son, who is just trying to live a normal life. 2008 (with 2010 DVD release)

Directed by: Nigel Cole

Screenplay by: Neal H. Dobrofsky and Tippi Dobrofsky

Starring: Christopher Walken and Alessandro Nivola
Christopher Walken, still on top of his game, is Nat, the father, who schemes and lies his way into living and travelling on just 5 dollars a day.

Flynn has a job as a health inspector – a job he takes seriously, but struggles with. A lot of these restaurant owners and employers are just good, honest people trying to make a living, and if he writes them up for a small violation, he could be responsible for ruining their lives. The character of Flynn is loaded with these moral conflicts. The brilliant character writing and bringing these richly-defined characters to life like Nivola and Walken have, make $5 a day seem original despite a predictable plot.

Flynn’s past catches up with him and he’s fried from his job, so he comes home determined to save his relationship with his girlfriend Maggie (Amanda Peet), except his past has caught up with him there too and she’s already out the door.

After Flynn loses his job and Nat insists he's dying, Flynn agrees to drive his father across the country for treatment. There are plenty of hilarious cons and schemes, but also some touching honesty, along the way.

"$5 a Day" is a fantastic dramedy. It is billed as a comedy and it does have some low-key humour and many laughs. But by just calling it a comedy, that doesn't seem to give the film full credit for the brilliant character writing. There is a lot of intelligent undertones in the actions of the characters as they each mature in the journey. And the writer did that with subtlety and humour, no melodrama here.

This film was done better than I ever thought a relationship road trip movie could be done. I laughed all of the way, just enjoying the characters, and I didn't find all of the subtle lessons on relationships until after it was over. Walken and Nivola had great chemistry and completely won me over. I now expect them to play father and son in all of their future movies.
Best of 2010





Recommended:

The Joneses (2009) - A hilarious, original and inventive twist on "keeping up with the Joneses".

Blue State (2007) - The road trip genre taken to political and hilarious extremes.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Joneses: Movie Review

 

A thoughtful and original twist on keeping up with the Joneses. 

"The Joneses" asks, can you keep up with the Joneses (David Duchovny and Demi Moore)? And the answer is yes. The plot has enough original twists and turns to keep it interesting, but not so many that you can still notice the few levels of nuance and intelligence that they added. A very original take on the "keeping up with the Joneses" idea - everybody wants what the Joneses have. 2009

Directed by: Derrick Borte

Screenplay by: Derrick Borte and Randy T. Dinzler

Starring: David Duchovny and Demi Moore

It may sound like any other film where we watch rich people live their selfish lives, but they quickly turn that on its head. It's much more clever and interesting. The creative premise can seem a bit far-fetched but it was immediately brought back down to Earth with the realism of the characters. I was completely intrigued by these characters, and particularly impressed with the emotion that was shining from beneath Duchovny's handsome surface.

I had no idea what to expect from "The Joneses". And, well, that's exactly what I got - something that I never could have expected. And it was great. This film is original and intelligent, especially with some of their perceptions of society. It can be a bit cynical at times but that just adds some dark humour which all the best films have. I highly recommend "The Joneses", especially for people who like a little bit of thought and originality in films.
Best of 2010





The City of Your Final Destination: Movie Review

 

Like a classic piece of literature performed beautifully.

The City of Your Final Destination is about a young man (Omar Metwally) trying to write a biography of a late writer. He travels to Uruguay to meet the family still living on the estate. It's very reminiscent of The Last Station (2009), and just as good. From director James Ivory, this film exists in the same vein as his literary cinematic icons Howard’s End and A Room with a View. 2009 (with 2010 DVD release)

Directed by: James Ivory

Screenplay by: Ruth Prawer Jhabvala
Based on the novel by Peter Cameron

Starring: Omar Metwally

The cast is completely remarkable. Laura Linney plays the cold, mysterious widow; Anthony Hopkins plays the wise, and yet child-like brother; Charlotte Gainsbourg is an emotionally-affected beauty. As you may have guessed these are all privileged people who can happily spend their time complaining about the past and non-stop obsession with their self-important lives. New-comer Omar Metwally playing Omar Razaghi is a perfectly sculpted character who the audience actually cares to follow, but he was flanked by the opposing Deirdre (Alexandra Maria Lara). Omar is an Iranian-born American grad student and his academic and monetary future relies on the family of late author Gund to give him permission to write his biography. They refuse.

These characters were exquisitely created and performed, it’s easy to get immersed in their lives of fortune and favour. With a few parallels to The Last Station, I was reminded that Hopkins was the original choice to play the elderly Tolstoy, but their schedules never jived. I'm assuming Hopkins then purposely sought out this film to be able to explore some similar characters. Great choice.

In Omar’s quest to win approval from the Gund family, there are romantic entanglements aplenty, side deals, and a possible smuggling angle. There is enough of a plot and certainly the engaging character of Omar to keep this literary story of refined immorality afloat.

Written by the great and pioneering female screenwriter, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, and brought to vision by James Ivory, The City of Your Final Destination explores themes of literature and of people moving on in their lives once they realize that the central figure that once held them all together no longer is, and of course all of their romantic entanglements. It's shot beautifully in South America and plays out like a classic piece of literature. Recommended for fans of character studies and readers of good books. .




Recommended:

Rabbit Hole (2010) - A couple struggling to stay together through grief, religion and science.

Howl (2010) - Allen Ginsberg's poem Howl brought to life.

An Education (2009) - The coming-of-age of a book-smart teenage girl.

The Last Station (2009) - The last days of Tolstoy played out historically and romantically.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Box: Movie Review


Intelligent science fiction thriller.

"The Box" is not what you're expecting, and that will hold true no matter what you are expecting. I had assumed it was going to be a moral and philosophical exploration of a couple's choice between money or an unknown death. There are moral and philosophical ideas presented, but in such a way that you don't yet understand. 2009

Directed by: Richard Kelly

Screenplay by: Richard Kelly

Starring: Cameron Diaz, Frank Langella and James Marsden

Set in Virginia in 1976, this is meant to be personal. An all-American family with expected financial woes, jobs that keep them busy and parenting dilemmas. These are people we can get behind. And yes it helps that mom Norma is played by Cameron Diaz and dad Arthur is played by James Marsden. Their lives are up-rooted, and this is not partially up-rooted, but more bizarrely and insanely changed by forces not possibly predicted type of up-rooted. A strange man (Frank Langella) offers them a simple choice: push the button inside the box and receive a million dollars, but in return someone, somewhere will die.

This is the premise of Richard Matheson’s short story “Button, Button”. A moral dilemma, with questions of what would you do? In a move which might very well be the cause of the box office disaster and lack of appreciation, writer and director Richard Kelly frames that philosophical approach as a sci-fi thriller. A gut-wrenching thriller with paranoia and supernatural experiences around every turn in the action. And that is made very personal. We feel for Norma and Arthur and we feel what Norma and Arthur are feeling. They don’t know what is going on and neither do we. And like the moral question, what would you do? All I know is that I wanted to get to the resolution.

On the surface, it's a thriller, science fiction and creepy in nature. But the word "surface" should not be used because there is nothing superficial about this film. It is not simple or straight-forward. It is a heart-wrenching, suspenseful thriller, told with creepy and supernatural, other-worldly experiences and illustrations. But it's also not an action film, it's closer to a philosophical discussion than action.

To watch "The Box" you must be open to watching a movie that can't be explained, won't make any sense in most interpretations of it, and is slow-moving but thrilling and suspenseful at the same time. Intelligent, science fiction thriller would be the closest categorization. Fans of that genre should definitely watch; also recommended for fans of "Solaris" (2002).
Best of 2010




Recommended:

Moon (2009) - Alone in space with so much to think about.

Solaris (2002) - Thoughtful romance and mystery working its way into science fiction.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Me and Orson Welles: Movie Review


The perfect blend of coming-of-age and theatre.

The "me" in Me and Orson Welles is Richard (Zac Efron) a high school student who gets himself a part in Orson Welles' production of Julius Caesar at the Mercury Theatre in 1937. He's the kind of kid that loves everything creative in the world, is romantic, and is confident and sure of himself. Well, that is until he's alongside Orson Welles. Christian McKay plays Welles as the cocky and out-spoken man that he surely was. 2008

Directed by: Richard Linklater

Screenplay by: Richard Linklater

Starring: Christian McKay, Zac Efron

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

City Island: Movie Review


A dysfunctional family dramedy in all its glory.

The film City Island is set in City Island, a small fishing community in the Bronx, New York. It’s one of these small communities where everybody knows everybody and everybody knows every secret. At the center of the film is the Italian-American Rizzo family, who all have their own secrets. These secrets don't so much as tear them apart but keep them angry and on edge. The good thing is, it's not nearly as dark as it sounds, it's a comedy too. 2009

Directed by: Raymond De Felitta

Screenplay by: Raymond De Felitta

Starring: Andy Garcia, Julianna Margulies