Saturday, August 28, 2010

All About Steve: Movie Review

All about the comedy and the commentary on society.

"All About Steve" is, in fact, not all about Steve (Bradley Cooper), nor is it about Mary (Sandra Bullock). To be obtuse, it's about everyone and everything.

Mary is full of fun, useless facts and interesting vocabulary words. But for all her book and dictionary smarts, she lacks in professional and societal decorum. Hence, why she thinks it's appropriate to take a journey across the country to find love with Steve. As I said before, it's not all about Steve. It's about Mary trying to find love and meaning in her life, Steve thinking it's all about him, and the media making it all about themselves. It's a very smart comedy with insightful commentary into the selfish nature of society and the state of today's news media.

For us, "All About Steve" is all about the comedy. I laughed all the way through. All the characters are funny, highlighted with Thomas Haden Church and Jason Jones as news reporters. I recommend it for its hilarious and yet intelligent thoughts, and its potential to increase your general knowledge and vocabulary.

The Baxter: Movie Review

(2005, written and directed by: Michael Showalter, starring: Michael Showalter, Elizabeth Banks and Michelle Williams)
(Available now on DVD)

A true romantic comedy.

I'll go so far as to say "The Baxter" is a true romantic comedy. It's the type of romance that we want to believe in, and it's very funny.

Written by, directed by, and starring Michael Showalter, he's a baxter. He's the type of man that women settle for, or leave, for their more handsome ex. He plays it with such awkwardness and quirky charm that it's impossible not to fall for him, and laugh with him along the way. The movie begins with him meeting two women, Michelle Williams who has the same awkwardness and quirky charm, and the beautiful Elizabeth Banks. He's captivated by Banks' beauty, but immediately wary of her "perfect" ex-boyfriend (Justin Theroux).

It's a comedy of exes and trying to hold on to true love, whatever that may be. It's the classic romantic comedy tale, except told from a different angle - the point of view of "The Baxter". He's the hero that we can completely relate to, and not so much feel sorry for, but just laugh and enjoy our time with. The comedy is smart, fresh, and very, very funny. My recommendation is to watch it, and to watch all the way through to the end of the credits - they add another little twist which most romantic comedies aren't self-aware enough to include.

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

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


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

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

Nobel Son: Movie Review

Too many writers spoiled the story.

I was really looking forward to "Nobel Son". I was thinking, finally, an intelligent thriller that is going to focus on the characteristics of those found in the academic sciences. But I'm afraid that all I got was a jumbled mess that never really accomplished anything.

The son of a Nobel Prize-winning chemist is kidnapped for ransom. There are a lot of interesting ways to take this story. The main problem is, they take all of them. We have an opportunity to investigate what's really going on in the mind of the son, how has his father affected his life, why does the father live his life the way he does, who is really responsible for the kidnapping and why... . The ways to explore this story are endless, and instead of delving in whole-heartedly, all that came out was a jumbled mess that left me feeling frustrated with no invested knowledge in any part of the story. Another review said the problem was too many cooks. I second that, and will adapt the phrase from "too many cooks spoil the broth" to "too many writers spoil the story". Only two screenwriters were credited, but I'm willing to bet there were more with their hands in it.

The actors were all quite good, I'm sure. It's the characters that I'm more confused about. Whenever they presented a scene which echoed my experiences in the ivory tower of science, they usually followed that up with a scene that didn't make sense based on what we knew about the characters. Perhaps I was focusing too much on specifics, but I was continuously confused and frustrated by their characterization and story ideas. Too many writers, ideas, and lack of focus spoiled "Nobel Son".

Cold Souls: Movie Review


A great premise that turns very cold.

"Cold Souls" begins with possibly the best premise I have seen on film. It is fitting that screenwriter Sophie Barthes was nominated for Best First Screenplay from the Indie Spirit Awards. Paul Giamatti plays Paul Giamatti, an actor struggling with the weight of Checkov. Uncle Vanya is weighing down his soul. This is a problem afflicting most New Yorkers, but there is now a solution. A company can extract your soul and keep it in storage for you. Brilliant.   2009

Directed by: Sophie Barthes

Screenplay by: Sophie Barthes

Starring: Paul Giamatti and David Strathairn

The opening scenes offer some insightful humour and intelligent wit, and offers a fair number of laughs for everybody who immediately saw the comedy in the premise. David Strathairn and Giamatti have great interactions and are very funny, both together and on their own.

The rest of movie, though, plays out like a dark mystery or thriller which doesn't really fit the wonderful comedic start. The main obstacle for our hero and the thriller plot are significantly darker and melodramatic than I was expecting. Although it is titled "Cold Souls", I was hoping for less cold and more soul-fulfilling insightful humour.

It is a dark comedy, so probably a must-see for fans of the genre. However, one of the problems with coming up with such an inventive idea is that viewers will form their own story line, so if it doesn't play out as you would have written it, it will seem disappointing and disjointed as it did for me. But that being said, the interest and intrigue behind this story is too much to pass this up.

Current Status:

"Cold Souls" is available on DVD and Blu-ray.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Me and Orson Welles: Movie Review

"Me and Orson Welles" has 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. 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

Finding Bliss: Movie Review

Hollywood soft-core missing ingenuity, heart, and real humour.

"Finding Bliss" is just a middle-of-the-road, soft-core film about a young film-maker struggling to succeed in Hollywood. Unfortunately it doesn't play out much better than just a student film itself.

It begins with every cliché and plot advance you expect to find in a chick flick. Our heroine has struggled with finding romance because she wears glasses and a ponytail. It doesn't matter that Leelee Sobieski is one of the most beautiful women on the planet, glasses and a ponytail equates with ugly. When she arrives in Hollywood the only place she can find a job is at a porn production company. We then succeed with every porn-associated joke done before. "He directed Charlie's Angels?!" our heroine asks incredulously, the response: "No, he directed Charlie's Anals". Don't worry, there's a lot more jokes along those lines.

This film really doesn't do anything wrong. The characters are fine, the actors are all cute, the storyline is engaging enough and it flows quickly. But they did all of that with over-used and tiresome jokes that just aren't that funny anymore. Every turn in the plot was telegraphed so clearly that the few inventive elements were completely predictable and expected. I found "Finding Bliss" to just be a Hollywood-reflective soft-core film that is not nearly as insightful as it was supposed to be.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

City Island: Movie Review

A dysfunctional family dramedy in all its glory.

"City Island" is set in City Island, a small fishing community of the Bronx, New York. Generally, in these small communities, everyone knows all your secrets. But this film is centered on the Rizzo family, who all have their own secrets. These secrets don't so much 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

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Burning Bright: Movie Review

Not much William Blake, but there is a tiger.

"Burning Bright" is a straight-forward, simply told, thriller. With a hurricane approaching, a house gets boarded up for the night. Problem is, it's also the site of a future safari park, complete with a tiger, which gets locked in the house with a young woman and her autistic brother.   2010

Directed by: Carlos Brooks

Screenplay by: Christine Coyle Johnson and Julie Prendiville Roux

Starring: Briana Evigan and Charlie Tahan

The title must surely come from the William Blake poem "Tyger". "Tyger Tyger. burning bright, In the forests of the night." In which, one of the significant themes is the question of how can God create such beautiful things and destructive things at the same time? If that theme is explored in this movie, only in the most simplistic way. Blake also touches on evil and its many forms. Here, we definitely see evil, and I found it interesting how they combined all its different configurations. The film presented us with nature's evil, man-kind's evil and evil from the animal kingdom. However, that is the extent of anything beyond a simplistic thriller.

"Burning Bright" gives us a damsel in distress and a young boy living in his own world. The tiger is hunting them down and our heroine experiences her fair share of close calls, ingenuity, and love for her younger brother. Briana Evigan plays the damsel, and exactly as you would expect her to - with sexy clothes, lots of sweat, fear in her eyes, and she becomes her own hero. She may now be relegated to the horror/thriller genre. Her autistic younger brother is played by Charlie Tahan, who had his first major film role as the kid in "I Am Legend" (2007).

The film does a good job of characterization to open the movie, and then we actually spend the majority of the movie with a real, live tiger - "burning bright, in the forests of the night."

Current Status:

"Burning Bright" is available on DVD.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Talhotblond: Documentary Review

A thrilling documentary.

I rarely see thrillers told as a documentary, or at least good documentaries, but that's what "Talhotblond" is. And it's done well. It opens with a young man telling us that he was murdered - all because of lies told in a sexually-charged online chat room.   2009

Directed by: Barbara Schroeder

Screenplay by: Barbara Schroeder,
Pat Lalama and Glenn Boozan

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Switch: Movie Review

A romantic comedy with maturity to its humour and romance.

"The Switch" is like a romantic comedy, except it actually offers you romance and comedy with a story and characters. They buck the trend to make the romantic elements absurd and instead shower us with comedy and very little sap.

Jennifer Aniston is just a cute girl that the audience can accept as a character, but Jason Bateman is everything you want in a leading man. Very good looking but not in a typical way, plays up neurotic with aplomb, and is hilarious all the way through. We easily fall in love with him from beginning to end.

"The Switch" actually gives us a story, one where our hero has to evolve and mature as he realizes and understands the value that Aniston and her son bring to his life. Again, Jason Bateman is the kind of man that we have been waiting for in romantic comedies, because he actually has the talent to portray all of that, and do it with comedy. A romantic comedy that is cute, funny, romantic, mature and you don't need to ignore the story line to laugh.

Dinner for Schmucks: Movie Review

A mindless comedy and nothing more.

I've heard it been said that comedy is just non sequiturs. Clearly, that's all the writers of "Dinner for Schmucks" think about comedy as well.

The movie appears to have been made for the sole purpose of laughing at one-liners and non sequiturs. And yes, I did laugh, but where was the wit, or smart humour, or multi-layered jokes? I was expecting more, but they didn't give me more. Well, let me rephrase that, I was expecting more intelligence to the comedy, but all they gave me that was extra was a romantic comedy story-line. With great leads like Steve Carell and Paul Rudd, they could have, and should have, gone more off-road.

If you're just looking for a mindless comedy, then "Dinner for Schmucks" certainly fits the bill. As far as mindless comedies go, it's actually a pretty decent one. It is funny and you will laugh, a lot. I was just hoping that it was time that comedies would go further and give us more.


Extraordinary Measures: Movie Review

Hollywood's formulaic and generic version of real life.

"Extraordinary Measures" is one of those "feel-good", "inspirational" films which is actually feel-good and inspirational but in a very generic kind-of-way.

Brendan Fraser awkwardly stars as a businessman who desperately hopes that "they" will find a cure for Pompe disease, which two of his children are dying from. As you would expect, he stays up late researching trying to find the latest advances. This teams him up with Harrison Ford, an unpersonable scientist, who also provides the few comic relief moments.

Based on a true story, but in such a way that although the overall story may come from real life, all the events shown are surely fictional. It's dramatic when we need it to be and things work out when we need them to - way too formulaic and tidy for real life. They tell us some of the science behind the cure, which is of course nonsense, but it's supposed to get the audience more invested in what's happening; however, it's just a reminder that this is Hollywood not real life.

Let me go back to the beginning, "Extraordinary Measures" is feel-good and inspirational, and if you like those types of movies, this one plays out exactly as it's supposed to. You'll get swept up into the story and cry when you're supposed to. Everything is right on cue.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Get Low: Movie Review


A stylized drama - part comedy, part psychology.
"Get Low" is, in part, considered a psychological drama, it's also one of those films that can be classified as almost anything because the actors are able to add so many layers of interest with intrigue and comedy. Starring an almost unrecognizably old Robert Duvall and a Jarmusch-styled Bill Murray, respectively, as a hermit wanting to host his own funeral and a funeral home director wanting his business. 2009

Directed by: Aaron Schneider

Screenplay by: Chris Provenzano and C. Gaby Mitchell

Starring: Robert Duvall, Bill Murray and Sissy Spacek

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Percy Jackson & the Olympians: Movie Review

A fast, wild ride through Greek mythology where I got to be a demi-god for 2 hours.

The trailers attracted me to "Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief" because like Percy Jackson, I too am drawn to water and feel it's the only place where I can think. Although the difference is, he's a demi-god, I am not. But this is the type of movie that allows you to dream.

It's very similar to Harry Potter: teenager has a horrible step-father, can't concentrate in school, and calls himself a loser. And then another world crashes into his, one where he is accepted, one where his true identity makes sense, and one where he is the son of a Greek God (Poseidon). It's Harry Potter merged with Greek mythology. It takes you on a wild ride full of mythological monsters, people who can't be trusted, and chances for our hero to realize his full potential.

If you like those types of stories, you should enjoy "Percy Jackson & the Olympians". I recommend skimming the IMDb FAQ section, as it allowed me to accept changes that they made to Greek mythology, and based on reading all the negative reviews, you probably shouldn't read the book first either. The inclusion of acting kings and queens like Pierce Brosnan and Catherine Keener seemed out-of-place and some of the cgi seemed clunky, but this was still a high production level movie that can transport the audience into another world as a demi-god.

For me, I enjoyed and studied Greek mythology and appreciated their attempts to modernize it, and I found myself completely immersed in their adventure, and the ending came too soon. I'm hoping for, let's say, 6, sequels. Harry Potter anyone?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Movie Review

It's a problem when you can't separate the hero from the morons.

"Diary of a Wimpy Kid" does not live up to its billing. "I'll be famous one day, but for now I'm stuck in middle school with a bunch of morons." And I loved the drawing: "me ->" and "morons ->". Unfortunately that's how it was watching the movie, here's me and a bunch of morons and before I turned off the movie, I felt like one of the morons.

The movie relies on the universal, and yet solitary, feeling, that we can be good and popular and accomplish everything we want to if only we weren't surrounded by a bunch of morons. I completely bought into their premise, but I couldn't buy into the main character. He was just too desperate, selfish, and annoying for the audience to care for him or relate to him. He basically deserved all of the horrible things that happened to him, and that was not fun viewing.

Despite the fact that it's not fun viewing and the main character is a self-absorbed pest, I can see its value for fans of the genre. The bullying scenarios are pretty accurate, the film has a great pace, and the acting is pretty good, especially by the main "wimpy kid". If you can get past your indifference or even hatred for the so-called "hero" then it is watchable.

But for me, the expectations for "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" were too high, and just couldn't be reached.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Greatest: Movie Review

Filled with depression and grief, "The Greatest" is still good.

"The Greatest" appears to have a dichotomy between its title and subject matter. You may expect a love story or a happy exploration of self and family, but it is a drama, in the saddest sense of the word.

It is a depressing tale of loss when a young man dies, his family and pregnant girlfriend grieve. Each character grieves in their own way, often with brusque and coarse actions resulting in many feelings of solitary - for both them and the audience. It is a slow and sorrowful film to watch; however, if you can get past all the depression and despondency, "The Greatest" does eventually live up to its title and delivers on its promises of being uplifting with life-affirmations of love and family.

All the actors really are phenomenal including Oscar-nominee Carey Mulligan and a new young actor I will be watching for, Johnny Simmons. For fans of loss and grieving films, "The Greatest" is good, but the great moments take a long time to form.

Recommended: Rabbit Hole.

This film stars Johnny Simmons, one of the best new actors of 2010 - explore the 10 Great Actors I Discovered in 2010.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Charlie St. Cloud: Movie Review

Simple romantic drama, nothing more and nothing less.

I like movies that are exactly as they claim to be. "Charlie St. Cloud" is just that, a romantic drama, nothing more and nothing less.

There is nothing profound, although with a few thoughtful dynamics, it's just the story of a young man (Zac Efron) unable to overcome the tragic death of his younger brother until he meets a beautiful girl who shares his same passion for sailing.

The problems are plentiful, with cringe-worthy dialogue, supporting actors who haven't yet learned how to act, no affecting drama producing few tears, and there just isn't enough to completely hold your attention. But yet, because it's a simple love story that doesn't pretend to be grandiose and doesn't force out-of-place tears, I liked "Charlie St. Cloud". I found it to be sweet, subdued and modest.

It was also the perfect choice for Zac Efron as he matures in his acting career. Sure, there are probably a few too many shots of Efron standing in his jeans and t-shirts staring into the sunset with his longing, blue eyes, but that is, of course, partly why we would watch it in the first place.