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


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


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.


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.