Saturday, January 29, 2011

Blue Valentine: Movie Review

"Blue Valentine" is tragically real, beautiful, and blue.

Bathed in blue light, intimate romance, and raw emotion, "Blue Valentine" is a beautiful, but harrowing, exploration of one relationship. Cindy (Michelle Williams) wants to find love to get past her parent's hatred for each other; Dean (Ryan Gosling) is a sucker for romance and pretty blond girls. Too bad, as he believes, that the pretty ones are always the crazy ones. 2010

Directed by: Derek Cianfrance

Screenplay by: Derek Cianfrance, Cami Delavigne and Joey Curtis

Starring: Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling

They rightfully chose to not just show us them falling in love, but also them falling out of love. It is bold in its intentions and with the unromantic route it chose to take. But it really succeeds because of the characters and the actors. These are well written characters that are brought to life and get under your skin because of Williams and Gosling. Undeniably the best performances of their careers. A well-deserved Oscar nomination for Williams and I was completely enraptured with Gosling more than I have ever been with his previous roles.

Although I did get emotionally invested in their story, it was structured rather poorly. Timing always seemed off, and developments in their characters were too quick and out-of-the-blue. This does take away from its emotional impact, but I was still completely invested in Cindy and Dean. "Blue Valentine" is a very well made film for its $1 million budget with beautiful shots (particularly the fireworks lighting up the credits at the end), and it was not nearly as risqué and unbearably sad as I was led to believe. Recommended for those that can appreciate the tragic realism of life mixed in with the romance of soul mates falling in love.
Best of 2010


Certified Copy (2010) - A relationship about mystery just as much as love.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Howl: Movie Review


Poetry and its education brought to life.

Allen Ginsberg's poem Howl brought to life with a mix of adult animation, court-room drama and the beliefs of a young hero of sorts. Ginsberg represented the new generation of the young, confused nonconformists and he wrote poetry that ignited the wrath of the older generation that rejected their freethinking ways. The great thing about "Howl" is that I didn't know any of that before the film, it was able to educate me about a remarkable young man and literary voice.   2010

Directed by: Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman

Screenplay by: Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman

Starring: James Franco

Howl was accused of being "obscene" and threatened to be banned. The film smartly used the Supreme Court definition of "obscenity", and the reading of the poem itself to help me come to an understanding of the charges laid against the poem. James Franco as Ginsberg helped me come to an understanding of what the man behind the poem was all about.

The animated sequences were abstract and detached me from the film but I'm sure to all the artists out there they represented the poem accurately. The revelations into the mind of Ginsberg were done subtly and wonderfully connected with the arguments in the trial. "Howl" is a well done film that should be enjoyed by everyone with an appreciation of poetry and of poetry in our history.
Best of 2011


Certified Copy (2010) - A relationship story told through mystery and the value of art.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Oxford Murders: Movie Review

Great use of actual math and philosophical logic in an old-fashioned murder mystery.

An ambitious mathematics grad student in number theory, Martin (Elijah Wood), arrives in Oxford eager to work with famed Professor Seldom (John Hurt). The film refreshingly starts with a brief history of math and the philosophical stances of both characters on the subject. Then the first murder occurs, with of course the use of a symbol that begs the assistance of Professor Seldom and Martin in the police case.   2008

Directed by: Alex de la Iglesia

Screenplay by: Alex de la Iglesia and Jorge Guerricaechevarria

Starring: Elijah Wood and John Hurt

"The Oxford Murders" is good because it uses actual math and consistent logic. One of their only deviations is the use of Bormat's Last Theorem instead of Fermat's Last Theorem but that is just to keep in line with its fictional characters. There were perhaps a few too many twists but it was well enough written that most of them probably could have been predicted.

It plays out exactly like an old-fashioned murder mystery and set in the compelling Oxford University. Like old-fashioned murder mysteries, there is no violence or gore but has a liberal use of profanity and sexual nudity (but Wood and Leonor Watling are very attractive so that's not an issue). I enjoyed the use of math and logic in "The Oxford Murders" and will likely search out future films from the writers and director.

Monday, January 17, 2011

My Normal: Movie Review

Trying to redefine normal.
Normal for Natalie (Nicole LaLiberté) is working as a dominatrix, fulfilling men's sexual fantasies, and hanging out with her lesbian co-workers going to shady bars and wearing risqué clothes. The film's title and description makes it sound like it's about Natalie's struggle to get her "normal" in line with society's "normal" as she adjusts to a more customary job in the film industry. Instead, I found it just to be a highlight reel for her lifestyle. 2010

Directed by: Irving Schwartz

Screenplay by: Adam Sales and Renee Garzon

Starring: Nicole LaLiberté

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Rabbit Hole: Movie Review


Intelligent subtexts in "Rabbit Hole".

"Rabbit Hole" stars Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart as a married suburban couple. As with all married suburban couples, there is more going on beneath the surface. Here, though, what's beneath the surface are insightful concepts, instead of additional plot lines. Becca and Howie are trying to find solace after their young son dies. 2010

Directed by: John Cameron Mitchell

Screenplay by: David Lindsay-Abaire
Based on his Pulitzer Prize-winning play

Starring: Aaron Eckhart and Nicole Kidman

This is an extremely well written film with smart, quick and funny dialogue, and intelligent subtexts to how and where to find solace. The brilliance of the writing allows these profundities to become the main reflection, rather than just their relationship. It's also a spectacularly acted and beautifully shot film; put together in a way that it wasn't obvious that it was based on a play.

Similar to "Revolutionary Road"(2008) but set in modern times. Not very similar to John Cameron Mitchell's previous films ("Shortbus"(2006) and "Hedwig and the Angry Inch"(2001)), but shares the same intelligence just finally more accessible.

David Lindsay-Abaire's screenplay rivals Aaron Sorkin's "The Social Network" for Best Adapted Screenplay of the year. Unfortunately, like "Doubt"(2008), which is also based on a play with a multi-layered story, lost to "Slumdog Millionaire"—the more popular film of its year, so will "Rabbit Hole".
Best of 2010


Certified Copy (2010) - A relationship story told through mystery and art.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Freebie: Movie Review

(2010, directed by: Katie Aselton, starring: Dax Shepard and Katie Aselton)

A sex comedy without sex or comedy. And that's a good thing.

"The Freebie" is about a couple who decide to give each other one free night off from their marriage. It sounds like the upcoming Owen Wilson comedy "Hall Pass"(2011), except in this case it's not a comedy. At least I don't think it's a comedy. It has been marketed as one but I don't think it was the filmmaker's intention.

Instead of cheap laughs, we get a very personal, introspective look into one couple's relationship. Dax Shepard and director Katie Aselton play Darren and Annie who claim that they have the best relationship—with open communication and complete honesty. The film doesn't just tell us they are open and honest but we see it, and experience it, for ourselves. They are more open and honest than I imagine most real life couples ever could be.

The question of, "is there such thing as too honest?" comes up when Darren expresses to Annie that he sometimes has a desire to sleep with somebody else. Since they are so confident with what they have, they foresee no problems with each other having a freebie. The film actually finds a way to explore this set-up in a fairly interesting way. I was very curious with the fate of their relationship and I wanted to see how it would get there.

I was a bit concerned that there was no comedy, and there was nothing else to the story, but I think they came up with a new way to tell the same old story—a story about sex, but without resorting to showing us sexy stars in naked poses. Instead, we just got a very naked, raw examination of a relationship. "The Freebie" is definitely worth a look if that sounds interesting to you.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Little Fish, Strange Pond: Movie Review (AKA Frenemy)

Perfect mix of intrigue, danger, tragedy, love, sex, violence and plain old American fun.

I saw this titled as "Frenemy" but the original "Little Fish, Strange Pond" is a much better title. It's not just that Mr. Jack (Matthew Modine) and Sweet Stephan (Callum Blue) are small players in the grand schemes of the world, but that the world is a strange place.

Directed by: Gregory Dark

Screenplay by: Robert Dean Klein

Starring: Matthew Modine and Callum Blue

Mr. Jack and Sweet Stephan walk around L.A. together. It's about the weird characters they meet, the crimes they observe, but ultimately, it's about them, their place in the world, their past and their fate. Paraphrasing from one of Modine's speeches, it was a great day, just a day, but it had the perfect mix of intrigue, danger, tragedy, love, sex, violence and plain old American fun.

There was more tragedy and violence, and less love and sex than most people would have in their perfect day, but it was brilliant. Forget "The Social Network", "Little Fish, Strange Pond" has the best dialogue of the year, and Matthew Modine and Callum Blue deliver the best performances of their careers. Be prepared for profanity and disturbing actions, but this is one great little film in a strange pond.
Best of 2011


Leaves of Grass (2009) - A character study played out with violence and crimes.

Suicide Kings (1997) - Committing crimes with comedy.

Stuck Between Stations (2011) - A relationship drama about the characters and what they have to say.

Rid of Me (2011) - A bleak character study encompassing the best and discomfort of a dark comedy.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Love & Distrust: Movie Review

Too much star power, too little meaning.

"Love & Distrust" suffers from a problem that most independent films would love to have — too much star power. Starring Robert Pattinson, Sam Worthington, James Franco, Amy Adams and Robert Downey, Jr, people seem to be expecting a cross of "Twilight" meets "Avatar" meets "Spider-Man" meets "Enchanted" meets "Iron Man". Expectations are way out of whack. A film with that kind of mix would be even worse than "Love & Distrust". 2010

Directed by: Lorraine Bracco, Daisy Gili, Eric Kmetz, Warner Loughlin, Diana Valentine and Darcy Yuille

Starring: Robert Pattinson, James Franco and Amy Adams

What "Love & Distrust" really is, is a compilation of 5 unrelated short films in the vein of something like "Coffee and Cigarettes" (2003). The vignettes have nothing in common except that they are all supposed to show the various elements associated with love, like: obsession, mistrust, and seduction. The second major problem of the film is that the 15-minute vignettes are drawn out with short-lived characters and obtuse lessons on love.

"Love & Distrust" may be slow, boring and arguably meaningless, and I probably know more about love than its stars. But it's a conceptual look at the variations of love and trust that hasn't been explored in quite this way and I appreciate their attempt at least.

Similar Titles:

Blue Valentine (2010) - "Blue Valentine" is tragically real, beautiful, and blue.

Like Crazy (2011) - A story of love, depending on what love really is.

Remember Me (2010) - Emotional romantic drama for the mature teenage market.