Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Girl from Monaco: Movie Review




"The Girl from Monaco" is beautiful but not interesting.

Bertrand (Fabrice Luchini) is a lawyer on a high-profile case in Monaco, and then he meets Audrey - "The Girl from Monaco". It could be interesting except there is nothing in these characters to connect us to them.

The three main characters, Audrey, Bertrand and his bodyguard had really strange relationships with each other. Way too intimate of conversations for virtual strangers. So I felt further away from them and never could care for them.

I also never could figure out what genre this film is supposed to be. The plot outline reads like a thriller, but it says its supposed to be a comedy and it plays out more like a romantic drama. I can see the comedy elements, and it is light in its nature, but it's not laugh-out-loud funny. It's too strange to be romantic, and nothing interesting develops to make this a thriller. Perhaps it really is a comedy as it claims, just a not very funny one.

It has high production value, it's shot well, and "The Girl from Monaco" is definitely beautiful, but there's nothing in the story to recommend it.

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 BishĂ© 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




Recommended:

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.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Other Guys: Movie Review




Not as funny as it should have been.

"The Other Guys" is one of those action comedies which have been so popular this year, except this one isn't very funny. I was looking forward to Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg in a comedy together. But Ferrell is better when there's intelligence to the writing and subtle comedy. Wahlberg is great as the straight man, as is Michael Keaton, but when both become ridiculous caricatures of themselves, the little bit of humour is lost completely.

The action is over-the-top, the plot makes very little sense, and the jokes just aren't that funny. I would have almost nothing to recommend this movie, except there are some smart lines included. A handful of jokes that accurately depict society are smart and funny. But they are just too few and far between.

Perhaps if you liked "Knight and Day" (2010) or like cop films, then you might like "The Other Guys". But mostly I was disappointed by it and found it not as funny as it should have been given its cast.

Despicable Me: Movie Review

(2010, directed by: Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud, written by: Ken Daurio, starring: Steve Carell)
(Available now on DVD and Blu-ray)


 



"Despicable Me" is highly recommended for its "pure" comedy.

"Despicable Me" really is an animated family comedy. With such a simple, but clever, storyline of villain vs. villain, it is just a kids movie despite the many stars for attraction of an older audience.

It is full of funny lines, which are not unsuitable or over kids' heads. Adults will be able to appropriately laugh throughout the film along with all the other kids. So many recent animated family comedies have claimed its funny for the adults and kids, but they have different jokes for them. Jokes that are inappropriate for kids that they don't understand and they sit there confused as their parents laugh at mature humour. The great thing about "Despicable Me" is that it's one of the first where it's so well written that it's the same jokes that the adults and kids will be laughing at. These jokes are sweet, simple and genuinely funny.

Steve Carell is great as Gru, the struggling villain, who comes up with ludicrous plans to become a super villain. I was particularly impressed with Jason Segel as Vector, the super villain (who commits crimes with direction and magnitude). The original songs written for this movie are also catchy and humorous.

I highly recommend "Despicable Me" for its "pure" comedy.

Sex and the City 2: Movie Review

 

Disgusting and superficial pandering to all women.

It's two years later, I've become much more cynical about "Sex and the City", and the 4 girls are having problems in their shallow, designed life. The quality of the writing is decreasing rapidly. These are barely even characters – just stick-figures to hang dresses on and caricatures of their audience. The filmmakers are just pandering to women between the ages of 20 and 60 and finding superficial things in the characters for them to relate to. 2010

Directed by: Michael Patrick King

Screenplay by: Michael Patrick King

Starring: Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Catrall, Kristin Davis and Cynthia Nixon

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


Uncertainty: Movie Review


"Uncertainty" is uninteresting.

In "Uncertainty" a young couple's lives have different paths to take based on the flip of the coin. But they don't tell us what this coin toss means or its significance, so we don't get to understand its implications or consequences.   2009

Directed by: Scott McGehee and David Siegel

Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Lynn Collins

The young couple is played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Lynn Collins. Gordon-Levitt is a talented actor and is good here, but he's better than the character. We are given no reasons to care about these characters and we know so little about them it just makes everything less interesting. I don't know much about Collins, but from this all I can gather is that she only knows how to play sexy. I would like to think that Gordon-Levitt would pick girlfriends based on more than just sexiness.

"Uncertainty" is supposed to be an interesting examination of lives travelling different ways, but the plot devices used are so lame that the two stories are just uninteresting. It is shot well for its low budget, but one should be wary of watching movies written without a script.


Current Status:

"Uncertainty" is available on DVD.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Waiting for Superman: Documentary Review




Not perfect, but it is informative and emotionally-resonating.

Director Davis Guggenheim waited for Superman as a child, because children like the hope that somebody will come and rescue them and the world. I knocked the U.S. Education system documentary "Waiting for Superman" down two stars for two reasons. One is that they just didn't give me enough hope.

The other main failing of this film, as other reviewers have pointed out, is that he didn't cover all of the many, many reasons for an under-performing education system. Well, he kind of did, but not very clearly. He spent more time on poor teachers and the unions, and many people seem to have come out of thinking that's all he talked about. Contrary to popular reviews, he did make other points. They were just too subtle. I will agree though that he was too heavy-handed with the American Federation of Teachers.

The primary focus of the film is five children each from different parts of the country and each desperate to get into a better school. I think he padded the documentary a bit too much with their situations, and a few too many tear-jerking moments. But when Guggenheim presented me with facts, knowledge and history, "Waiting for Superman" became both informative and emotionally-resonating. And yes, that's what a good documentary is, and that's why it gets 8 stars.

Perhaps "Waiting for Superman" should have been more well-rounded, but I don't think you can present more sides in just a two-hour film. And most important, the sides he did present are accurate, informative, entertaining and well presented. I wish I saw Superman at the end instead of just tears, but I still recommend it.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Exploding Girl: Movie Review




Slow-moving character study of little importance.

The title "The Exploding Girl" is figurative not literal. I would add "of course" but that's not as obvious given movies nowadays. This is a low-budget, independent character study.

It's about Ivy on college break, back home in New York City. Ivy struggles with love and friendship. And the film-maker shows us this with really slow-moving, seemingly unimportant scenes mired in the noisy streets of New York City. I know the city is basically supposed to be its own character, but the loud, constant bus and car noises and obstruction just lowered the quality of the film.

Zoe Kazan's Ivy is very cute and likable, but even with her epilepsy, her college problems seem minor compared to the stress that other college girls experience. Her boyfriend back at college was painted one-dimensionally. And although I didn't mind Al, the reason given for him moving in with Ivy was very odd and never explained.

It's called a "discreet character study". I will agree with that in the sense that meaning was hard to find, dialogue was indiscernible and silent at times, and reasons for few things happening was kept private from the audience. The brilliance displayed in the poster is only found once in the film, and is not enough to watch it. "The Exploding Girl" is only for the very discerning film viewer who likes slow-moving character studies of little importance.

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.

Blue State: Movie Review

(2007, written and directed by: Marshall Lewy, starring: Breckin Meyer and Anna Paquin)
(Available now on DVD)




A well written, character-driven, political road trip film.

"Blue State" is set after the John Kerry versus George Bush election of 2004. Our hero, John Logue (Breckin Meyer) a staunch democrat vows to move to Canada as a protest if Bush wins. A group called Marry-a-Canadian.ca contacts him and urges him to join them in Winnipeg. So the move to Canada begins.

The film is predominantly a road trip. John seeks a driving partner for the trip and finds Chloe (Anna Paquin). There is of course a romance sub-plot between the two. The genius of this film is in the writing of the characters. He's devoted to the left-wing political cause; she's much more mysterious. She guesses what he wants to hear, and he believes her. Although John is extremely liberal, the film isn't. They cleverly wrote in flaws to his character, and although the right-wing characters were more soft-spoken they usually got the last word. People from across the spectrum should be able to appreciate the film. Being liberal myself, I connected to John instantly and his weaknesses just made him that much more endearing to me.

The road trip part of the film is extremely well written and moves at a reasonable pace. The Marry-a-Canadian part is just plain weird but luckily they don't spend much time in Winnipeg. And the best part of this film is that it actually has a resolution. I highly recommend "Blue State" to all the John Logues out there.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

In a Day: Movie Review




Indie film with heart, and a message.

"In a Day" is a character drama disguised as a romantic comedy. The poster, reviews and other advertisements market this film as a romantic comedy. That's the easy way out as there is more to it.

Our heroine is Ashley, a struggling musician working at a sandwich café. When she has a bad day, a generous stranger Michael is there to sweep her off her feet and fill her with indulgences and confessions. It certainly sounds like a romantic comedy but instead of playing it out with comedy and romance, we get character development. We slowly learn more about Michael and Ashley, their past and what they want out of life.

It's not dark or menacing but it's also not light weight. It has a message; the film-makers have something they want to say. I'm not entirely sure I agree, but I appreciate their venture. "In a Day" took similar avenues that "You Again" (2010) tried, but this film did it with so much more intelligence that I had to knock "You Again" down a star.

If you like indie films with a message and heart, then I recommend "In a Day".

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. "Leaves of Grass" is a dark comedy, crime drama and ultimately character study.   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 world the film is set in is 1980s England and it looks very similar to the real world. But it's not our world and I had a hard time fully realizing all the characterizations for characters in a world that I don't quite know and understand. But it's just such a well done film that my interest was piqued and the story had me captivated, or at least curious, from beginning to end.

The film was incredibly well shot, making dreary England look spectacular but still getting the feeling of damp and cold across. It was also really well cast. The kids playing the younger versions of Keira Knightley, Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield looked and sounded just like them and were able to carry the beginning of the film. As others noted, Garfield also really stood out for me and his character moved me.

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




Recommended:

An Education (2009) - Coming-of-age drama with a real story.

Conviction (2010) - Brotherly love with striking shots of nature.

The Adjustment Bureau (2009) - Intelligence to a science fiction romance story.

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. It stars Keir Gilchrist 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

Get Him to the Greek: Movie Review




Not funny, original, or well written.

Jonah Hill plays Aaron a young music producer who likes musician Aldous Snow (Russell Brand) and he's been charged to "Get Him to the Greek". The beginning of that sentence sounds familiar because this film is "based on characters created by Jason Segal" (as written in the credits). At least they credited it correctly because they take nothing from "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" (2008). Just two of the same actors playing characters with some of the same superficial aspects and that's it.

I like Hill and Brand in small doses, but they just aren't likable and talented enough to carry an entire film. It was all unfunny jokes and dragged out ad nausea. I don't believe there was any spoofing going on here, just trying to steal some once funny lines. They had a character copying Isla Fisher from "Wedding Crashers" (2005) but she was just a cheap imitation.

"Get Him to the Greek" didn't have anything very funny and nothing original and just wasn't well written. I would recommend re-watching "Forgetting Sarah Marshall"; it's just so much funnier and overall a better film.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall: Movie Review

(2008, directed by: Nicholas Stoller, written by: Jason Segel, starring: Jason Segel and Kristen Bell)
(Available now on DVD and Blu-ray)




"Forgetting Sarah Marshall" is very funny, and with actual, real characters.

"Forgetting Sarah Marshall" is the low-end, crass comedy that we have come to expect from Judd Apatow and company. This one is written by Jason Segal and it's hilarious. The comedy is crude, vulgar and rude, but that doesn't really lessen the quality of the film because it's so well written.

The film gives us real, three-dimensional characters whom we can all relate to and learn from as we laugh at them for two straight hours. Segal is Peter a struggling musician who is trying to get over the heartbreak caused by Sarah Marshall, the famous actress. And we can all relate to the pain and humour of Peter watching her with famous singer Aldous Snow (Russell Brand).

There are a lot of comedic actors, and they can all make you laugh. "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" is very funny, male-centric comedic romance that is pure comedy, with actual characters as an added bonus. I recommend it.

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

Friday, October 8, 2010

Pleasantville: Movie Review

(1998, written and directed by: Gary Ross, starring: Tobey Maguire and Reese Witherspoon)
(Available now on DVD)




Altercation over continuity.

"Pleasantville" begins with two teenagers getting zapped into a TV show by a remote control. That kind of fantasy premise rarely plays out as something so good. What follows is an intelligent, funny and introspective examination of today's interpretation of 1950s sitcoms.

Jennifer (Reese Witherspoon) and David (Tobey Maguire) are 90s teens, that are real and funny at the same time. She's a self-absorbed party girl; he's a nerdy home-body. He's ready to settle into a "Pleasantville" marathon - a black and white TV sitcom, but as laid out in the premise, they instead find themselves playing the brother and sister in the show.

The film follows how their modern ways affect the characters in the show. Some characters go through a sexual awakening, others more of a cultural awakening, but they each mature and advance in their own way. Even David and Jennifer find that these TV sitcom characters have something to teach them. The film is just so smart and funny that it doesn't come across as melodramatic, and the lessons on society aren't in your face.

"Pleasantville" is beautifully shot and well written, and is far from the teen fantasy film that it sometimes gets advertised as. Highly recommended.

Hope Floats: Movie Review




Too dramatic to be a romantic, but that saves it.

"Hope Floats" is too dramatic to be a romantic comedy. It's more of a character drama about Birdee (Sandra Bullock) moving back home and the main story line being a romance with Harry Connick Jr.

Birdee, and the film, are very down-to-earth. Although she lived in Chicago, she's much more suited to the small-town life that she grew up in in Texas. They don't go for much of the obvious comedy of big-city girl versus small-town country girl. And that's a good thing.

The young daughter can get annoying, and the romantic comedy angle is transparent from the beginning. But the natural drama that Birdee goes through in trying to rebuild her life after a public divorce is done well enough that it makes "Hope Floats" worth watching.

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.




Recommended:

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.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Letters to Juliet: Movie Review




"Letters to Juliet" isn't likable enough to watch.

"Letters to Juliet" was not as good as I was expecting it to be. It's a romantic drama about Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) trying to reconnect Claire (Vanessa Regrave) with her one true, long lost love. It plays out like a formulaic romantic comedy which is usually fine, except in this case, it's not a romantic comedy and I don't think it was supposed to be this formulaic.

All of the supporting characters are unlikable because the film needs to play up the discord between Sophie and the men in her life. But they should have provided something that we could appreciate in them other than Gael Garcia Bernal and Christopher Egan's good looks. Anybody who knows there's more to a relationship than looks should avoid this movie.

Being the only likable character, Seyfried is required to carry us throughout the film. She has the beauty and charm to do it, but her character just isn't very interesting. She couldn't keep me watching.

The need to reconnect with a soul mate from younger years between a man and woman who are now significantly older has been done before, and done better than this. "The Notebook" (2004) has a slightly different story, but it's just so much better that I would recommend watching that again instead of "Letters to Juliet".

Jack Goes Boating: Movie Review


"Jack Goes Boating" shows off its theatre roots.

"Jack Goes Boating" is a relationship drama. A tale about life, love, romance, marriage, dating and life again. It's about Jack (Philip Seymour Hoffman) a very awkward man whose married friends Clyde and Lucy set him up with Connie (Amy Ryan), a very awkward woman. Connie mentions that she would like to go boating, when the weather warms up. Jack would like that.   2010

Directed by: Philip Seymour Hoffman

Screenplay by: Robert Glaudini

Starring: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Ryan