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


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

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.

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

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.