Saturday, May 22, 2010

Shutter Island: Movie Review

A genre-defining film.

Martin Scorsese has done it again. Shutter Island is one of those movies that is just so well-made that the audience completely buys into the fragile madness and creepy hostility that is on display. From its homages to thrill-rides from the 1950s, to the doom established from the score, and every thrilling turn in between, Scorsese has masterfully turned an entertaining story of paranoia and suspense into a work of art. Shutter Island rewards its audience with a suspenseful thriller for the ages. 2010

Directed by: Martin Scorsese

Screenplay by: Laeta Kalogridis

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo

Shutter Island is a psychiatric hospital, a guarded fortress on a remote island. It has creepy guards, creepy patients, and a creepy history. A woman drowned her three children there, and now she has gone missing. Send in federal marshal Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his new partner Chuck (Mark Ruffalo), and we’ve got a recipe for broken men with love gone bad, haunting flashbacks, a twisting story of an unsolved crime, and paranoia up the yin yang.

Cinematographer Robert Richradson has created a visually intriguing feast for the eyes. When a storm rages outside, there’s a strong sense of claustrophobia from the uncertainty on the inside. There are some beautiful wide shots of the island which helps give the sense that someone is being watched. This is a movie where fear, paranoia, death, or even resolve, could all be just around the corner. A corner you’ll feel simultaneously like not looking around and needing to find out what lies ahead.

The present-time story is kept simplistic enough, never goes for the absurd, but also allows for an ending you probably won’t see coming. The character of Teddy Daniels, on the other hand, is far from simplistic. One of DiCaprio’s most fascinating character portrayals, Teddy is haunted by past traumas (which keep forcing their way to the present) including his late wife (Michelle Williams), and is surrounded by a untrustworthy psychiatrists, certifiably-insane patients and a new partner he doesn’t know anything about.

Shutter Island never goes for the cheap thrills, you’ll find yourself on the edge of your seat without ever getting needlessly scared. It uses everything at its disposal from breathtaking scenery, to detailed laid-out shots, and to actors at their finest to completely engross you in the film. I loved every minute of it – entertaining and technical filmmaking, controlled chaos, and a tightrope of suspense and paranoia. A film for the masses and everybody else.
Best of 2010


The Town (2010) - Thriller with suspense built from the characters.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Please Give: Movie Review

Hilariously compelling characters with bleeding hearts.

Please Give is an independent, character drama. What is great about this film is the interesting array of characters that were on display. They are well-written, fully-developed, interesting and funny people who each struggled with their moral dilemmas. All of them relatable in one way or another. It’s also subtle, uneventful and filled with self-absorbed people who spend their time lying, worrying and flirting. It’s a curiously engaging and half heart-warming tale of self-image and life. 2010

Directed by: Nicole Holofcener

Screenplay by: Nicole Holofcener

Starring: Catherine Keener and Rebecca Hall

This is writer-director Nicole Holofcener’s fourth collaboration with actress Catherine Keener. Kate and Alex (Oliver Platt) are the central married couple who run a furniture store. In one way, it’s a store that is taking unwanted furniture and finding owners who will value it. In another way, it’s a store that rips-off grieving children by cheaply buying their parents expensive furniture and then turning it around to sell over-priced furniture to people that have more money than sense.

Kate is obsessed with how everything looks. That’s why she needs to expand her New York apartment. Nevermind that there’s a 91-year-old woman living next door – she’ll die soon, but now would be a good time to meet the woman’s granddaughters and prove to everybody that she’s a good person. The granddaughters are played by Rebecca Hall and Amanda Peet. The two sisters are opposites: Hall is plain and demure and lost in herself; Peet is fake-beauty (not a comment on Peet’s actual beauty, but the character’s superficiality) and lost in the world of sexual advances.

One of the better characters, and perhaps the one that most people will be able to connect to, is Abby, Kate’s daughter, played by Sarah Steele. Abby is a teenager and is obsessed with her image. She’s worried about her uneven complexion, bothered by her curvy-figure, and angry at her mother. On one hand, she’s a fragile teenage girl that you just want to save from the world, on the other hand, she’s an unruly teenager who is throwing a temper tantrum in the mall. What is her mother to do?

This movie is just about the characters and the lack of plot can leave you wishing there was more to it. Please Give is the type of film where everything is left up to the viewer. You get to do decide how these characters evolved or learned over the course of the film, and then apply these lessons to yourself, if you dare.
Best of 2010


The Kids Are All Right (2010) - Liberal kids and hippie parents in funny, modern relationships.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Leap Year: Movie Review

(2010, directed by: Anand Tucker, written by: Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont, starring: Amy Adams and Matthew Goode)

So many mistakes, it's not even a romantic comedy anymore—it's worse.

I tend to like most romantic comedies. I really disliked Leap Year.

Anna is our main character, successful but not yet engaged. She's desperate to get married (one of the many aspects of her character that bothered me), so we are off to Ireland to propose to her boyfriend Jeremy. Cue all the problems. I was prepared for all the ridiculous obstacles in getting to Dublin, but I wasn't prepared for Anna's extreme selfishness in forcing everybody she meets to get her there. Because I found Anna so unlikeable, I couldn't find the humour in any of the contrived (not actually existent) travel problems in Ireland.

Ireland is a great setting, but they didn't really show us any part of it. Every time they had an opportunity for a beautiful wide shot of the countryside, they instead filled the screen with Amy Adams' and Matthew Goode's faces. Sure they are pretty, but Ireland is prettier.

This movie also had a lot of mistakes. All the geography of Ireland that they tried to show us was wrong. The bit of back-story that they gave for Anna was contrary to the selfish, superficial girl she is.

I am the target audience for this movie, and yet I hated it. I can't find a single redeeming quality. They missed the mark big time.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Growing Op: Movie Review


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

Directed by: Michael Melski

Screenplay by: Michael Melski

Starring: Steven Yaffee and Jon Cor

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

West of Pluto: Movie Review

Teenagers that are independent and real.

"West of Pluto" is an independent French film made in Quebec. It gives us a look into the lives of several high school teenagers as they struggle with popularity, heartbreak and every day life. It sounds like a typical high school teen comedy or coming of age dramedy, but the difference between Hollywood and indie couldn’t be more apparent. This has the look and feel of real teenagers from a real high school in real situations. 2008

Directed by: Henry Bernadet and Myriam Verreault

Screenplay by: Henry Bernadet and Myriam Verreault

Starring: Alexis Drolet, David Bouchard and Sandra Jacques

Carefully walks the line between documentary and fiction and it’s one of those films that it doesn't even matter which side of the line it's on because it has such a real feel to it.

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

The low budget worked well, adding to the realism of the atmosphere and characters. The actors that were cast didn’t seem like actors, but real teenagers, probably because most of them aren’t actually actors. They made you care for them – teenagers really can inspire empathy. Unfortunately, there were way too many characters. It’s impossible to remember all of them and many were extraneous.

West of Pluto is really slow-moving and a plot that seems like it’s never going to form. We just go from character to character, seeing their lives at home, their lives at school, their relationships with each other and their relationships with their parents.

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

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