Monday, July 19, 2010

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: Movie Review

Not worthy of the rights to Fitzgerald's short story.

This film has the audacity to claim that it is based on the short story "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" by the incomparable F. Scott Fitzgerald (published in 1922) who credits Mark Twain and Samuel Butler for the philosophical idea that 'it's a pity that the best part of life came at the beginning and the worst part at the end'.

This film version of "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" did not retain any of the cogitative ideas presented in the book when a man ages backwards. So when watching, there is no deep thought-provoking concepts explored, and nothing to engage you in a philosophical exploration of life. I'm guessing that the only thing of value is supposed to be that part of the film has Brad Pitt looking not attractive. That is as far as Hollywood can take a good book.

Clearly the film does have high production values and they may have done a lot of good things, but they lost their right to be judged fairly as a film once they bought the rights to Fitzgerald's story. Now nobody will even have a chance to see this great story brought to visual life, and that is a travesty.

Please go to your local public library and borrow a copy of "Tales of the Jazz Age", you will be able to read the short story and get so much more out of it than the film and in less time and money.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Inception: Movie Review

Merges style with substance.

"Inception" is what you get when a filmmaker knows how to merge style with substance. Christopher Nolan has crafted a story (not an original one, but that's OK) that takes slightly abstract ideas and places it in a reality you can almost grasp, and then tells it with little complexity. It's a movie for all the masses - and that's where Nolan's genius comes in.   2010

Directed by: Christopher Nolan

Screenplay by: Christopher Nolan

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio

He gives us characters, many of them in fact, and all performed expertly by the stellar cast. The dreams all have their own architecture which is visually stunning. And no it's not redundant to say again that he managed to merge style with substance.

"Inception" is filled with special effects, action running all over the place and loud dramatic scores. Remember this is Nolan with a big budget. But it's also just a straight-forward story with characters and romance - it does star Leonardo DiCaprio after all.
Best of 2010


Mr. Nobody (2009) - One man's search for the truth about himself over multiple possible lives.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Pretty Bird: Movie Review


"Pretty Bird" doesn't have much of a story but it does have great characters.

"Pretty Bird" is about entrepeneuring a 'rocket belt', which is a real invention. It centers on Curtis Prentiss (Billy Crudup) who at one point in the film says "It's not just a rocket belt, it's an attitude." That says exactly what this film is, it's not about a rocket belt, it's about the attitude of its characters.   2008 (with 2010 DVD release)

Directed by: Paul Schneider

Screenplay by: Paul Schneider

Starring: Billy Crudup, Paul Giamatti

Opening and closing with Billy Crudup's Curtis, he brings together Rick (Paul Giamatti) and Kenny (David Hornsby) as partners in his rocket belt innovation company. It's not about what they do, but who they are. They are all deeply troubled men. The characteristics that we see in Crudup's and Giamatti's characters completely drive this film; they are flawed and we can almost put our finger on all of their insecurities and needs but there is more ticking beneath the surface. Without sounding like a love song to Billy Crudup, I have rarely seen a character brought to life the way Curtis was. In one word, phenomenal. In three words, breathtaking, heartbreaking, pioneering.

Unfortunately for all of its brilliant character work, the film stumbled with its story line. At times it was a little slow moving and as it neared the finish line it started meandering in other directions. It does seem pretty disjointed but it also just wanted to build up its characters even more.

Listed as a dark comedy, that is probably accurate. A very intelligent film with its humour, and its many dramatic elements makes it seem dark. Kristen Wiig, as usual for her, comes away with one of the most memorable, funny scenes in the movie.

Its ending can seem unsatisfying, but don't see "Pretty Bird" for its story line, see it for its characters, its smart humour, and Billy Crudup in the role of a lifetime.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Juno: Movie Review

"Juno" can't live up to its undeserving expectations.

The problem with "Juno" is Juno. Juno (Ellen Page) is our main character, a high school teenager that gets pregnant. Shenanigans, as she says, emanate.

I adhere to the school of thought that main characters should be likable, or that we can at least relate to or empathize with in some way, but Juno doesn't inhabit any qualities of a good character.

Directed by: Jason Reitman

Screenplay by: Diablo Cody

Starring: Ellen Page and Michael Cera
She is not similar to any real high school teenagers, and has that ultra-cool, I'm-smarter-and-better-than-everybody-else vibe that young adults only wish they were like. We are to know that Juno is really, really smart – (just ignore the fact that she accidentally got pregnant) – we can tell by her speech. Unfortunately, the dialogue is not smart writing. It's just pop-culture persiflage and quick witted repartee. It may be funny, but it's not smart - especially when no actual teenagers talk like that.

Then, to hide the fact that Juno is not a complete character, they have her listen to cool, indie music. But someone must have forgotten to tell writer Diablo Cody that listening to cool, indie music does not automatically add dimension or emotion to a character. That's supposed to be done through a character's actions, reactions as they evolve over the course of the film. None of which are demonstrated in Juno. To be clear, for all of the faults with the character of Juno, none of the blame is to be placed on Ellen Page. Unanimously heralded to be the next great actress, that is just a matter of time.

Apart from the lack of an integral character in Juno, the film certainly has some positives. Allison Janney and J.K. Simmons play Juno's step-mother and father. They could very well be the best parents displayed in the teen, pregnancy genre. Janney adds depth and humour to a character that turns out to be not your cliché step-mother; while Simmons adds heart and humour to a father that steers clear of melodrama but can still provide the adjective 'heartfelt' to the film. Also starring Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner, who are both accomplished actors, their characters are exactly as you expect them to be. Which are fine characters, but they don't provide the platforms for Juno's supposed maturation.

If it weren't for the fact that "Juno" was the recipient of an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for screenwriter Diablo Cody, it would have been forgotten as just a flash-in-the-pan with some funny lines and a young Ellen Page. But just as America fell to the charms of its marketing team, the Academy fell to the charms of another stripper-turned-screenwriter, and we have a sub-par film getting lauded as one of the best ever. "Juno" may have some good acting, and great supporting characters and humour and heart, but from everything pointed above it's lacking too much to be deserving of its Best Original Screenplay win. A year later, the Academy snubbed John Patrick Shanley's "Doubt" – now that's a film with complex, multi-dimensional characters and layers of meaning into a seemingly simple story. "Juno" doesn't even come close to that kind of brilliant writing. (Normally such a comparison can not be made but when they are nominated for the same award and both attempt a multi-meaning story arc with engaging characters the comparison somehow becomes valid but of course not fair).

Watch "Juno" if you like the teen comedy, pregnancy kind of film and enjoy it for what it offers, but don't expect it to live up to its hype.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Adam: Movie Review

A sensitive film for a sensitive soul.

The adjectives used to market Adam include: romantic, funny, delightful, poignant, uplifting, humorous. I have to disagree with most of those, especially: funny, humorous and delightful. A comedy it is not. But that's not to say that it isn't good. It's very good. 2009

Directed by: Max Mayer

Screenplay by: Max Mayer

Starring: Hugh Dancy and Rose Byrne

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Girl Next Door: Movie Review

"The Girl Next Door" raises the teen sex comedy genre.

Matt is a studious, hard-working high school senior bound for Georgetown University. Then he meets the girl next door and all hell breaks loose.

"The Girl Next Door" is the type of film that gently breaks down the door of a genre. Take your typical teen comedy with geeks hanging out in the A/V room, guys being obsessed with meeting porn

Directed by: Luke Greenfield

Screenplay by: Stuart Blumberg, David T. Wangler and Brent Goldberg

Starring: Emile Hirsch and Elisha Cuthbert
stars, with some contrived plot which allows for breasts galore and lots of lame sex jokes. But this film sees that bet and raises it. It has your geeks obsessed with meeting porn stars, but it also has an actually well-written good comedy story, which then allows for breasts galore and some mild sex jokes.

Emile Hirsch is the perfect actor for the role of Matt. He's handsome so women will love to watch him, but not too handsome that men will want to watch him too. After this, his peers started watching him and he's been getting accolades for his talent.

"The Girl Next Door" is for everybody getting frustrated with the poor state of teen comedies. You can watch this without hanging your head in shame.

The Trotsky: Movie Review


Part teen comedy and part political history, but completely smart and hilarious.
Meet Leon Trotsky: born Leon Bronstein, a revolutionist, a Marxist leader, and killed in 1940 by a devout Stalinist. Oh wait, wrong one. Meet Leon Bronstein: a revolutionist, a Marxist, and high school teenager living in Montreal. Except to this Leon, he's the same person, the reincarnate of Leon Trotsky the famous Russian revolutionist. He's "The Trotsky" stuck in a public high school.

Directed by: Jacob Tierney

Screenplay by: Jacob Tierney

Starring: Jay Baruchel