Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Disappearance of Alice Creed: Movie Review


Stark and brutal but this is the paramount of independent filmmaking.

In "The Disappearance of Alice Creed", Alice (Gemma Arterton) is kidnapped. Danny (Martin Compston) and Vic (Eddie Marsan) are careful criminals and think they know what it takes to get what they want and not get caught. What follows is a well written, unconventional and startling exploration of the relationships of everyone involved and their plans to get to a better life. 2009

Directed by: J. Blakeson

Screenplay by: J. Blakeson

Starring: Gemma Arterton, Eddie Marsan and Martin Compston

Everything in this film is thoughtful, intelligent, and only slightly dark. This is a well thought-out, incredibly well written, and a rather unique character drama disguised as a thriller. There are some stark and brute acts of selfishness to withstand, but the rewards are remarkable.

"The Disappearance of Alice Creed" is the paramount of independent filmmaking. Writer and director J Blakeson has crafted a truly impressive film giving both the perpetrators and the victim interesting but realistic character traits that translate into an original and astute plot about kidnapping. I recommend this as a must-see for the dominating and masterful performances by Arterton, Compston and Marsan, for the perceptive, engrossing and bewitching story-telling and direction, and for capturing the true art of independent filmmaking.
Best of 2010





Recommended:

The Town (2010) - A thriller that is driven by characters and their relationships just as much as plot.

The American (2010) - A character study disguised as a thriller with an impressive visual telling.

Best Laid Plans (1997) - An interesting, twisted story of committing crimes.

Dark Matter (2007) - Hauntingly real story when academic drive turns dark and dangerous.

12 Biggest Lies: Documentary Review


"12 Biggest Lies" is about lies, but more just semantics.

The documentary "12 Biggest Lies" is just people standing in front of the camera and lecturing us on truth, lies and the semantics of them both. I agree with most of their "lies" that the world is based on, there's even some educational value in what they have to say, but interest would be borderline. It's as boring as you could possibly make a documentary.   2010

Directed by: André van Heerden

Screenplay by: André van Heerden

"12 Biggest Lies" would be for lawyers and philosophy majors who enjoy discussions on what is truth, what is moral or good, and how does society function? But this is mostly a lesson in semantics. It might even turn off its target audience because it's awfully difficult to argue back with your TV.


Recommended:

Howl (2010) - Part biography, part animation, part historical lesson on society and use of language. All brilliant.

Religulous (2008) - The lies of religion, but all religions, in a riveting documentary.

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006) - A complete farce but funny with a shockingly real level of truth to it.

Secretary: Movie Review

(2002, directed by: Steven Shainberg, starring: Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Spader)
(Available now on DVD)




The creepiness and craziness is not for everybody.

Lee (Maggie Gyllenhaal) is crazy, and Mr. Grey (James Spader) is creepy. They both make attempts to form semblances of normal, but they are both a few degrees off-center. She's his secretary, and as you can guess, their relationship isn't normal.

The comedy, to me, more came in forms awkwardness. "Secretary" may push boundaries of typical romantic comedies, but that's only if you can accept either of their characters and care to follow what happens to them.

This is a movie for indie film lovers who like the dramatic scores, and slow set-ups and quirky characters. I can normally welcome such films but only if I don't have to sit there confused and uncomfortable. "Secretary" is a good film, and Spader and Gyllenhaal are engrossing, but their creepiness and craziness is not for everybody.

Monday, November 29, 2010

(Untitled): Movie Review

(2009, directed by: Jonathan Parker, written by: Catherine DiNapoli and Jonathan Parker, starring: Adam Goldberg and Marley Shelton)
(Available now on DVD and Blu-ray)




An hilarious, critical and yet respectful view of modern art.

An hilarious, critical and yet respectful view of modern art, "(Untitled)" is an indie film that takes on the contemporary music and visual art scene of New York.

Adam Goldberg is perfectly cast as Adrian, a slightly neurotic but completely out-there "musician". First to his detriment, but then more to his success, his brother Josh (Eion Bailey) introduces him to Madeleine (Marley Shelton), an art gallery owner who is against the commercial stream but can find the next big thing. Josh is the only remotely down-to-Earth character, but even his art looks like blobs of colour on a canvas--to the untrained eye like mine. The "music" that takes over the film is what people like me would call noise, but people like Adrian would call a true artistic expression of the human condition.

It is less accessible than "Art School Confidential" (2006), but just as funny and more focused on the indie art scene. Like one of the artists in the film, I think the film is trying to say nothing and everything at the same time, and just like modern art can be, "(Untitled)" is just plain weird.

Everywhere: Movie Review



"Everywhere" efficiently takes a unique and comedic look at love and jealousy.

Jim (Patrick McKenna) is a man with extreme insecurities and jealousy dominating his life. "Everywhere" takes a comedic approach to exploring Jim's new relationship with Isabelle. He thinks he can love himself and be happy and be in a stable relationship, if only he knew where Isabelle was at all times.   2010

Directed by: Alexis Durant-Brault

Screenplay by: Robert Geoffrion

Starring: Patrick McKenna and Julie LeBreton

Lively music helps keep the pace up as Jim follows Isabelle everywhere, and often a few steps ahead of me as I didn't always know what was going to happen next. I laughed at McKenna's portrayal of the least self-confident character ever imaginable, and I enjoyed the simple adventure the film took me on.

"Everywhere" got serious as it took a more dramatic look at the fates of the relationships explored, but it showed the true hearts involved. This small Canadian film impressed me with its unique characterizations and taking a route void of formulae and clichés.


Current Status:

"Everywhere" is available on DVD.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Remember Me: Movie Review

(2010, directed by: Allen Coulter, written by: Will Fetters, starring: Robert Pattinson and Emilie de Ravin)
(Available now on DVD and Blu-ray)




Transported me back to my critical-free self, but suffers from a vapid ending.

"Remember Me" toyed with my emotions, for both good and bad. It's a romantic drama, and it knows its genre. They also know their viewers.

I was beginning to get frustrated with the slowness and predictability of the plot, until I realized I was older than its target audience. They are going for the mature teenage market, and they do it perfectly. Robert Pattinson and Emilie de Ravin are both very good looking and able to inspire, and portray their characters perfectly without any sense of pity.

Tyler and Ally are both New Yorkers who have experienced loss and now they are trying to navigate a romantic relationship while dealing with their volatile fathers and determined commitment to family. All of the relationships probed in this film are emotionally-involving and genuine. As a 29 year-old, I saw them outlined from the very beginning and was annoyed with the lack of originality. But then they transported me to my 17 year-old self, and my cynicism and criticism vanished and I was wrapped up into how beautiful this film was.

If only it had been released 12 years ago, then "Remember Me" would have been one of my favourite films, and it also would have been saved from its pedantic, banal, hackneyed and insipid ending.

The Four-Faced Liar: Movie Review


   


Starts nowhere, goes nowhere, and apparently that doesn't matter because it's New York City.
"The Four-Faced Liar" seems to have an interesting enough title, and it is done very well for its low budget. It also has a whole host of problems.

Where should I begin? It doesn't really matter because the film itself doesn't begin anywhere, except, of course, in New York City. I'm starting to think that young film-makers have never been anywhere else.
2010

Directed by: Jacob Chase

Screenplay by: Marja Lewis Ryan

Starring: Marja Lewis Ryan, Emily Peck

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Cemetery Junction: Movie Review


Ricky Gervais comes of filmmaking age with "Cemetery Junction".

Cemetery Junction is one of those poor, small British towns, where the men go to work in factories and the women try to keep their kids out of jail. Freddy (Christian Cooke) wants something different; he wants to wear a suit to work, drive a Rolls Royce home to a beautiful wife and kids in a big house. He thinks this is a more noble life to live, and at least he's doing something about it.   2010

Directed by: Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant

Screenplay by: Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant

Starring: Christian Cooke, Felicity Jones

Friday, November 26, 2010

127 Hours: Movie Review


More of a bold adventure film, less soulful drama.

Based on the true, survival-against-all-odds story "Between a Rock and a Hard Place", James Franco is Aron Ralston, and he is literally stuck between a rock and a hard place—a canyon wall in the Utah desert to be more exact. "127 Hours" records the time from when Aron finds himself stranded and trapped alone in a canyon, and has to use everything that he is mentally and physically capable of to try and get himself free.   2010

Directed by: Danny Boyle

Screenplay by: Danny Boyle, Simon Beaufoy

Starring: James Franco

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Tamara Drewe: Movie Review

 

A comedy of affairs.

Ewedown is an idyllic, little English countryside village where writers retreat to seek inspiration, and peace and quiet. Or at least it was idyllic until Tamara Drewe returned home.   2010

Directed by: Stephen Frears

Screenplay by: Moira Buffini

Starring: Gemma Arterton

The stunningly beautiful Gemma Arterton plays Tamara Drewe. Her presence immediately sparks the interest of the local men, and the bored, local teenage girls who are looking for excitement to spice up their mundane town life. She is so sexy that she has her choice of affairs, but as usual, it's always the asshole who gets the girl. Just as it looks like Tamara is going to settle down with the rock and roll drummer Ben (Dominic Cooper) to interrupt the reserved lifestyle of the village, life gets complicated for everybody who wants something with Tamara.

"Tamara Drewe" is a comedy of affairs, complete with foul language, quirky characters and the irreverent British humour. Arterton sparkles as Tamara, but it's less about the characters and more about who will bed who and what will the consequences be? It sometimes seems to forget the age of its audience when it goes for the comedy of teenage girls getting into mischief, but it's also exactly what you would expect for an odd British comedy about a group of writers and one hot girl.
Best of 2010




Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Love and Other Drugs: Movie Review

(2010, directed by: Edward Zwick, written by: Charles Randolph and Edward Zwick, starring: Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal)



"Love and Other Drugs" has a few problems, but it is still a beautiful story of boy loves girl.

Set during the rise of Viagra, "Love and Other Drugs" follows Jamie (Jake Gyllenhaal) trying to sell drugs and trying to bed women. Women are easier.

Gyllenhaal has the finesse to turn a womanizing pharmaceutical sales rep from a cliché character into an astute and caring man with actual depth. Anne Hathaway more just likes to prance around naked. Hathaway's Maggie suffers from early-onset Parkinson's disease, and has closed her heart to love. There's not much more to her character probably just because she has the body to shoot sex scenes.

"Love and Other Drugs" suffers from an inability to turn its dramatic scenes into poignant ones, and the many drug and sex jokes into thoughtful commentary. And most of the minor characters, all played by stellar actors (Hank Azaria, Oliver Platt, etc.), remain in supporting roles without further advancement in who they are. Despite these problems, at its heart it is just a story of boy loves girl and Gyllenhaal and Hathaway portray that beautifully.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Multiple Sarcasms: Movie Review

(2010, directed by: Brooks Branch, written by: Brooks Branch and Linda Morris, starring: Timothy Hutton and Dana Delany)
(Available now on DVD and Blu-ray)



Not worth the frustration and boredom.

I was really looking forward to "Multiple Sarcasms". With a story about a man, basically at a mid-life crisis, who is looking for happiness in writing and in films, I thought I could really relate. But for a film about playwriting at its heart, it's rather poorly written. Many scenes telling us things that we already know. The first third of the film was introducing us to the main characters, over and over again. But I got everything I needed to know about the characters in the first scene so the rest just became a lesson in boredom.

It was supposed to be about Gabriel discovering that his happiness is rooted in writing, but then out of nowhere the main story became about crossing the line of infidelity. Not writing at all. Boredom, crossing into confusion just becomes frustration. Even with the many underrated actors, "Multiple Sarcasms" is not worth the frustration and boredom.

The Winning Season: Movie Review

(2010, directed by: James C. Strouse, written by: James C. Strouse, starring: Sam Rockwell and Emma Roberts)
(Available now on DVD)




The same sports story, but done with quality dramatic and comedic elements.

At least "The Winning Season" knows that the whole down-on-his-luck coach and group of misfit girls basketball team who learn about life and winning together type of story has been done before. They did unfortunately follow the exact same formula, but with a hint of whimsy and self-awareness, it's above average for the genre.

Emma Roberts and the other girls comprising the team actually come across as real teenage girls. I found them cute and funny. As a big fan of Sam Rockwell, he seems to be the reason why this film is pretty good. He's basically a drunken asshole, very unlikable, but he completely draws you in so there's a real emotional connection for the dramatic elements. And as he has demonstrated before, his physical comedy antics are perfect making the comedy scenes pretty funny.

"The Winning Season" has been done many times before, but here they managed to do it without being cheesy, while providing quality scenes of drama and comedy. If you like the genre, it is certainly worth a look.



This film is on my best unknown films of 2010 list - explore The 20 Best Over-Looked Films in 2010

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Morning Glory: Movie Review




Out of touch of today's 28 year old career-striving women.

Written by Aline Brosh McKenna, "Morning Glory" is just like her previous "The Devil Wears Prada" (2006), except set in the TV industry rather than fashion. The main plot of 28 year old Becky trying to land and keep her dream job while re-assessing what her dream job actually is, may be a repetitive plot, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. 20-something women struggling with their careers are always relatable characters and it's something that we all go through.

We see very little of Rachel McAdams' Becky getting her job, it's more trying to keep her job in the face of an incorrigible co-worker. I would have liked to see McAdams examine herself and her career goals more and much less of Harrison Ford's snarkiness. As other reviewers pointed out, Ford has never been known for his subtlety and that downfall is clearly displayed here.

McAdams' job as a TV morning show producer is out-of-reach for most regular people and coupled with Ford's over-the-top, rude, egotistical TV show co-host, that makes "Morning Glory" unaccessible and not very relatable. Which is a major problem for the film as it relies on the viewer's connection to Becky.

I found "Morning Glory" out-of-touch of today's 28 year old career-striving women, and as a result I couldn't relate much or get invested in Becky's trials. I was only slightly disappointed as I was expecting that. And I can't recommend it even though McAdams is cute and most of the acting is quite good.

Stone: Movie Review




I wish I got a story rather than messed up characters and a meaningless climax.

"Stone" is a messed up film. I would like to say that I don't know what the story was about, but that's not really true as it was a very simplistic plot. Edward Norton is a convicted criminal up for parole, overseen by parole officer Robert De Niro. It's not so much that the story is hard to understand, more so that nothing actually happens.

It's dialogue-heavy as Norton philosophizes his way to freedom, and it's supposed to be character-rich as we watch De Niro try to remain sane as both Norton and his wife Milla Jovovich work their angles on him. But these are just messed up characters that I knew less about at the end than I did at the beginning. The film has clear problems when the only somewhat likable character is the guiltless criminal Norton. But I would say it's bigger problems are with the fact that it's supposed to be a thriller, but all you have is De Niro and Norton jabbering back and forth until nothing is clear and very little of consequence or action occurs. There is even a religious undertone to the whole film, but I have no idea what they were trying to say with that.

I'm sure De Niro and Norton deliver great performances as they always do, but when their characters are poorly written and make no sense, you can't watch a film for the acting. The director was overly concerned with detail, framing every scene and adding nuance to each shot, which is great in some films, but in "Stone", it would have served him better to just try and tell a story from beginning to end.

Monday, November 1, 2010

PoliWood: Documentary Review




Nothing interesting or even remotely educational.

"PoliWood" is one of the worst documentaries I have seen.

With a director like Barry Levinson, I certainly wasn't expecting such poor quality. At the beginning I was questioning if he forgot how to direct because he had shaky hand-held interviews that looked bad and didn't add anything to the film.

It's supposed to be about how celebrities have influenced and changed politics. But it went frequently off-course with topics like the history of television and public relations. Which all would have been fine if anything of interest was added. Most of the interviews and footage didn't actually say anything of note, and when they did, they didn't tell me anything I didn't already know.

Documentaries should be able to educate while providing interesting footage and interviews which actually relate to the subject matter at hand. But "PoliWood" didn't have any of that: it didn't teach me anything new and I don't think it could enlighten anybody. Most of the footage didn't directly relate to celebrities influencing politics. And while he did have interviews with celebrities about politics, they were mostly with well-respected individuals like Ellen Burstyn and Susan Sarandon, and most people don't question their involvement in politics.

But what about the (negative) impact when talent-less celebrities like Paris Hilton or Megan Fox try to get involved? And more importantly what can we, as more educated and informed citizens, do to stop their influence on the political process if it is in fact detrimental?

I'm extremely disappointed that "PoliWood" didn't even try to answer those questions, and more disappointed that it didn't even show me anything interesting or educational.