Friday, December 31, 2010

Easy A: Movie Review

(2010, directed by: Will Gluck, written by: Bert V. Royal, starring: Emma Stone)
(Available now on DVD and Blu-ray)

"Easy A" is enjoyable except for the annoying vocabulary.

"Easy A" has way too many similarities to the overrated "Juno" (2007). Like Ellen Page, Emma Stone did portray her character, Olive, with humour and heart, but no teenagers talk like that! She's not indie-cool and smarter than everybody else, it's only young adult writers who wish they were like that (or perhaps a young adult writer who wishes he could sleep with Diablo Cody).

Olive is ostracized at school because of a rumour of promiscuity. Knowing that the plot is congruent with Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter", I was thinking that I should read that before seeing this film just to make sure that I catch all the subtle nuances, but no, there's no need, there is nothing subtle about this film. It's just a modern tale about exclusion and teen sex, but with a rather refreshing ambivalent take on abstinence versus promiscuity.

The problem with "Easy A" is that Olive and her classmates are not as smart as their vocabulary (and based on a few evident mistakes, the writer is not as smart as the vocabulary either). I'll let the parents slide because Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson were very funny and made me laugh through every scene. "Easy A" is an enjoyable watch but only if you can get past the sesquipedalian loquaciousness.

Weather Girl: Movie Review

Absolutely hilarious from beginning to end with just a hint of self-awareness.

Tricia O'Kelley is our sassy weather girl, Sylvia, except she insists she's not sassy, she just has boyfriend problems and now employment problems giving way to the numerous emotional issues which our heroine explores in this romantic comedy.

Directed by: Blayne Weaver

Screenplay by: Blayne Weaver

Starring: Tricia O'Kelley

Sylvia is a fantastic romantic comedy heroine. Sure, she's slightly desperate for a boyfriend but when her job opportunities disappear, she does the responsible thing and finds a temporary solution, as a waitress. She retains just enough optimism peeking out of the many hysterical breakdowns, that watching her is a joyful experience.

We have two leading men, both extremely attractive and even better, their many moments of humour are priceless. Walt (Ryan Devlin) is Sylvia's younger brother and he puts up with all her neuroses because of brotherly love. Byron (Patrick J. Adams) is Walt's best friend, he also puts up with Sylvia's many neuroses, but out of a more carnal love.

This film succeeds because young career women can relate to Sylvia's problems unlike the similar "Morning Glory" (2010), and every actor aptly delivers the comedy (unlike most big budget comedies). It's well written and knows its genre well playing up most of the formulaic elements on purpose but without any of the hackneyed details.

"Weather Girl" is definitely a great romantic comedy because it's absolutely hilarious from beginning to end with just a hint of self-awareness.
Best of 2010


Kissing Jessica Stein (2001) - Well written and funny, Jessica doesn't know what she wants and that's the best kind of romantic comedy.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Shrink: Movie Review

(2009, directed by: Jonas Pate, written by: Thomas Moffett, starring: Kevin Spacey, Keke Palmer and Mark Webber)
(Available now on DVD)

Well written and well made, but the plot is replaced with depressed characters.

Kevin Spacey is the "Shrink", a pot-smoking, dejected L.A. therapist. Celebrities walk in and out of his office, leaving him even less caring. There is a fair amount of humour in the dialogue making all of the lonely, despondent people not quite as sad as they otherwise would be.

The plot should develop when he meets Jemma (Keke Palmer) a downcast teenager. She's the one that seems to tie in all the characters; the suffering screenwriter, the delusional executive, the pregnant assistant, the ageing actress, and the womanizing, alcoholic Robin Williams (I think he probably is playing his real self). It's an ensemble film with interweaving characters, but not much happens.

It gets interesting at the end, but they don't take the potential amusing conflicts anywhere, just giving the characters happier resolutions. "Shrink" is a well written, well made film, but the plot is replaced with depressed characters searching for just a little bit of meaning which the film is actually able to supply.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The King's Speech: Movie Review

"The King's Speech" is fit to wear the crown.

"The King's Speech" gave us the story of a man who shouldn't have been King but staunchly rose to the position. Colin Firth was King George VI who had a deeply-rooted, severe stuttering problem. Geoffrey Rush had the perfect touch as his speech therapist.   2010

Directed by: Tom Hooper

Screenplay by: David Seidler

Starring: Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Winter's Bone: Movie Review


"Winter's Bone" isn't even a character study let alone a thriller.

Ree (Jennifer Lawrence) is one tough girl. Her father is a convicted drug dealer, her mother is a drugged out imbecile, her neighbours are all drug abusing ass-holes, she has to raise her younger brother and sister all by herself, and.... Oh, I'm sorry, were you expecting there to be an "and", like some kind of plot? Well no, there is no point. Just that life sucks for Ree. How about a character study? No, not much to these characters either. Just that life sucks for Ree. 2010

Directed by: Debra Granik

Screenplay by: Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence and John Hawkes

Cyrus: Movie Review

(2010, written and directed by: Jay Duplass and Mark Duplass, starring: John C. Reilly, Marisa Tomei and Jonah Hill)
(Available now on DVD and Blu-ray)

"Cyrus" is weird, but it is well written with great performances.

"Cyrus" is one weird film, but that probably works for the Duplass brothers since it's about rather weird people in weird relationships.

John (John C. Reilly) has a couple of issues but they mostly stem from loneliness. He's the character we can understand and relate to, and Molly (Marisa Tomei) seems to understand him as well. When John meets Molly's over-grown, adult son still living at home, we don't get the comedy that we are expecting to. It's more like a character study of these three maladjusted, lonely people living maladjusted, lonely lives.

Now don't get me wrong, this actually isn't a sad, depressing drama, it's still a comedy. Just not a comedy in the usual sense. We laugh through uneasiness as we watch Cyrus and Molly's inappropriate relationship and their inappropriate reactions to John, the far more normal character. This is exactly what the writers intended to do. We are supposed to be laughing uncomfortably.

"Cyrus" is a weird film. But a well written film with great performances, and characters who unfold just as interestingly as the film does.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Town: Movie Review

Thoughtful, character-driven crime drama thriller.

Take a crime-ridden community with gritty streets but with young men trying to get to a better life and the hopefulness of a possible romance, and you get "The Town", a thoughtful and discerning dramatic thriller. 2010

Directed by: Ben Affleck

Screenplay by: Peter Craig, Ben Affleck and Aaron Stockard

Starring: Ben Affleck

Black Swan: Movie Review

(2010, directed by: Darren Aronofsky, starring: Natalie Portman and Vincent Cassel)

Visually arresting, but morally and essentially empty.

Natalie Portman is the Swan Queen. She is the White Swan who becomes the Black Swan through her own ambitions mixed with insecurity.

"Black Swan" is a good film because Darren Aronofsky made it so visually enchanting, he made it a film that I couldn't turn away from. Natalie Portman really is the best actress of the year, if not the decade. She made her character of Nina Sayers, the hopeful ballerina, dark, interesting and all-encompassing. And Vincent Cassel who plays the depraved, arrogant artistic director, actually made me question if his sleaziness was an act or who he really was.

The 7 stars is actually quite generous, it could easily be 2. The story is over-used and completely predictable and the few elements that were added to make it more daring, like female eroticism, just make it seem like it should be a porno film.

"Black Swan" is a film to be experienced, but if you're not interested in run-of-the-mill psychological thrillers with girl-on-girl action, then it is certainly not the best film of the year.

Also recommended: My Normal (for more female erotica)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

How Do You Know: Movie Review


Thoughtful, funny and romantic dramedy.

"How Do You Know" is a thoughtful, funny, and romantic dramedy. It covers young people in their early thirties having to make tough choices about their life and career, and does it with way more thought and accuracy than something like "Morning Glory" (2010).   2010

Directed by: James L. Brooks

Screenplay by: James L. Brooks

Starring: Paul Rudd, Reese Witherspoon

The film begins with some interesting parallels. George (Paul Rudd) and Lisa (Reese Witherspoon) have had some unlucky breaks in their careers and their lives are going straight downhill. George is with an analytically-minded girlfriend but she thinks his troubles would be too much for their relationship, meanwhile Lisa is with Matty (Owen Wilson) but he doesn't have enough brain power to care what she's thinking let alone what that would mean. It ends up playing out like a romantic comedy rather than a drama, but there is still a lot of thought and simple honesty to the whole thing.

This is the role that I have been waiting for for Paul Rudd. He is still very funny but this is about his character and what he's going to do with the crap that life has handed him. Witherspoon was cute and likable. Sometimes their simple messages were too simple and things got a little too neat, but the actors were all quite funny and I thoroughly enjoyed "How Do You Know".

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Social Network: Movie Review

A film not about Facebook, but the face of the guys behind the book.

"The Social Network" is a great film and it does deserve all the credit it's getting. The key is in how Sorkin crafted the story and the characters and then how the actors ably portrayed those characters. This isn't about Facebook, but more the guys, or guy, who invented it. And the way Sorkin presented these characters was perfect.   2010

Directed by: David Fincher

Screenplay by: Aaron Sorkin

Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield

Monday, December 13, 2010

Going the Distance: Movie Review

(2010, directed by: Nanette Burstein, written by: Geoff LaTulippe, starring: Drew Barrymore and Justin Long)
(Available now on DVD and Blu-ray)

Profanity and jokes covering up poor writing, but it's still a romantic comedy.

"Going the Distance" is just a romantic comedy, but an adequate one. Justin Long and Drew Barrymore have real chemistry, making it seem fairly romantic, and Long and his friends are actually very funny men, making the film come across as more funny and less not-funny.

I generally really like films picking simple stories and just telling them straight. For the most part, this film did that. But here the problem is when they bothered to include sub-plots, they were meaningless and then dropped. This unfortunately just highlights the poor writing. Then trying to cover up the poor writing, they added lots of profanity and many off-topic jokes. There is no problem with profanity, it's just that there wasn't much need for it here.

Now let's talk about jokes - which both make and break this film. It is laugh-out-loud funny in places, and now, I am even more of a believer that Justin Long, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day are very much underrated, great comedic actors. Their timing was flawless and they were even able to make lame jokes seem funny. So, yes, I laughed, but the problem is the majority of the jokes were thrown in for the sole purpose of a laugh, and they had little to do with the storyline of the film. They were laugh-out-loud vulgar, not laugh-out-loud smart.

"Going the Distance" is a romantic comedy for those that like romantic comedies. It is written better than some, and at least you are laughing enough so you don't notice how poor it is.

Flipped: Movie Review

"Flipped" has all the comedy, naiveté and bewilderment of first love.

Juli just had to take one look at Bryce's blue eyes, and she knew it was true love. Bryce just had to take one notice of Juli's manic desperation, and he knew it was going to be a friendship of torment. I just had to take one look at the film's artfully designed poster, and I knew "Flipped" was a film to be savoured.   2010

Directed by: Rob Reiner

Screenplay by: Rob Reiner and Andrew Scheinman

Starring: Madeline Carroll and Calan McAuliffe

A beautifully told film of first love, we flip from Juli's point of view to Bryce's point of view, very effectively giving us the true nature of their friendship, love and respect they have for each other. Except in the case of middle-school graders, that love and respect can frequently look like embarrassment, mistrust, and shame. All of those emotions are told with intelligence, subtlety and humour.

"Flipped" has all of the comedy, naiveté and bewilderment of first love. It takes the romantic comedy farther by actually giving us characters with real depth. There is more going on than just Juli and Bryce figuring out their love for each other, and every aspect of this film is well written, touching and relevant.

"Flipped" is a cute film for everybody who fondly remembers that fiercely independent girl or the guy with piercing blue eyes that lived across the street.


Never Let Me Go (2010) - Romantic drama and science fiction of kids growing up together and falling in love.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Synecdoche, New York: Movie Review

(2008, written and directed by: Charlie Kaufman, starring: Philip Seymour Hoffman and Catherine Keener)
(Available now on DVD and Blu-ray)

Lives up to its ambitious nature, refusing to follow standard boundaries of time, scale and logic.

"Synecdoche, New York" is what could be a classic story of a man, Caden Cotard (Philip Seymour Hoffman), suffering a mid-life crisis, unable to connect to his wife and daughter, but Charlie Kaufman takes that to extremes and turns it into an almost incomprehensible masterpiece.

After his wife, Adele (Catherine Keener), leaves him, Caden starts fixating on his failing body and that death is just around the corner. His play becomes bigger in scope, impossibly so, and his need to get to the truth of himself becomes even harder to reach. One of the brilliant juxtapositions that Kaufman includes is how Caden sees the big picture and Adele sees the small picture. I believe one of the themes (probably one of many) in this film, is the juxtapositions of life. The grandiosity of Caden's play and himself in the play while Caden himself is feeling increasingly lonely and small. And also the insertions of humour in the face of the tragedy of life and death.

The film accurately reflects the ambitious scope that Caden's play exhibits in impossible ways, and yet by the end, still tells a simple story of a man suffering a mid-life crisis - except it was told without any boundaries of time, scale or logic. It was supremely executed by the entire cast, especially Hoffman, and I believe it lives up to the MacArthur genius grant that Caden received in the film. "Synecdoche, New York" is the type of film that only the crazy genius Charlie Kaufman would attempt to make.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Six Wives of Henry Lefay: Movie Review


Funny but not wise or emotionally profound.

When "The Six Wives of Henry Lefay" is just a screwball comedy, it's actually pretty good. Every ex-wife has something to add to the hilarity and absurdity, and Tim Allen is the best he's been in years as the unapologetic Lothario, Henry Lefay. 2009 (with 2010 DVD release)

Directed by: Howard Michael Gould

Screenplay by: Howard Michael Gould

Starring: Elisha Cuthbert and Tim Allen

My Girlfriend's Boyfriend: Movie Review


Boy meets girl, and then girl meets boy.
"My Girlfriend's Boyfriend" is a boy meets girl, and then girl meets boy story. It starts out exactly as you expect a romantic comedy to go. Jesse is unlucky in love, Ethan is unlucky in his writing career, she vows to help him, and he easily falls in love with her. But then Troy is there to sweep Jesse off her feet, and before we know it Jesse has a dilemma. 2010

Directed by: Daryn Tufts

Screenplay by: Daryn Tufts

Starring: Alyssa Milano, Christopher Gorham

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Lovely, Still: Movie Review

(2008, written and directed by: Nicholas Fackler, starring: Martin Landau and Ellen Burstyn)
(Available now on DVD)

More honest than most for its genre.

"Lovely, Still" is a story of discovering love late in life. It has the potential of being schmaltzy like the similar "Letters to Juliet" (2010), but it manages to avoid that trap and displays much more honest emotion like "Away From Her" (2006).

Martin Landau is the oft-confused and bewildered Robert who quickly falls in love with the more out-going Mary (Ellen Burstyn). The supporting characters were particularly well crafted. I enjoyed Adam Scott as Mike, Robert's boss and friend, and Elizabeth Banks as Alex, Mary's daughter.

Set during the holiday season, "Lovely, Still" is charming and amorous. Recommended for fans of the genre.