Sunday, February 27, 2011

Zonad: Movie Review


Aliens know their way around an Irish town well.
Zonad is probably an alien. What other explanation could there be for finding a red, leather-clad man passed out on your living room floor? So the charade begins. The ruse is obvious to us of course because everything about Zonad is just plain stupid, and funny. 2009

Directed by: John and Kieran Carney

Screenplay by: John and Kieran Carney

Starring: Simon Delaney

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Romantics: Movie Review

(2010, written and directed by: Galt Niederhoffer, starring: Katie Holmes, Anna Paquin and Josh Duhamel)
(Based on the novel "The Romantics" by Galt Niederhoffer)
(Available now on DVD)

Underdeveloped characters missing the essence of the Romantics.

"The Romantics" is a group of 8 friends from college, or maybe there's 7 of them—too many to get to know. They share very little with the romantic writers of the 18th and 19th centuries from whom they took their name. Thoughtfulness is a little too hard to find among all the underdeveloped characters and their broodiness.

Romance is a beautiful thing. Here, that comes through in the beautiful outdoor shots of the characters standing by trees, and revelling in the sea under the light of the moon. The natural and subtle beauty of all the actors is also played up remarkably well; Anna Paquin as the concerned bride, Josh Duhamel as the torn groom and Katie Holmes as the pernicious maid of honour in a striking black dress. Including actors like Malin Akerman, Candice Bergen, Adam Brody and Elijah Wood is disconcerting—Holmes was the only who was a given a complete character to explore. The rest were just there to pad a love-lorn story of past love. Perhaps they could have added some comic relief, but alas, there is no comedy in sight. "The Romantics" is nothing more than a romantic drama.

The name inspires some of the greatest literary voices, and yet the writing was the poorest part of this film. A boring story with lacking characters providing no extra meaning to your standard romantic drama. "The Romantics" has the beauty, and I wouldn't say it's empty, but don't let the name and cast deceive you into expecting something great.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Middle Men: Movie Review

(2009, directed by: George Gallo, written by: George Gallo and Andy Weiss, starring: Luke Wilson)
(Available now on DVD and Blu-ray)

"Middle Men" is caught in between a documentary and pornography.

In "Middle Men", Luke Wilson is a man caught in the middle between legitimate businesses and pornography. Both he and the film are caught somewhere between a documentary and a porno. With an interesting enough story about the beginnings of internet commerce, the film probably gets enough facts right to be able to say, "based on a true story".

Giovanni Ribisi and Gabriel Macht humorously play two drugged out "geniuses" with lots of ideas but no sense. When they create internet commerce and apply it to pornography they need straight man Jack Harris (Wilson) to turn it into a legit business. But before long they get him caught up in a world of money, drugs and porn stars, and then everybody needs help climbing out of that. Even the film. It loses some of its structure as we meet Russian mobsters, beautiful women and more money than you can even keep track of.

"Middle Men" is particularly well acted and interesting enough especially about a recent historical story that isn't very well known, that it can mostly be forgiven for its poor structure and confusion of genres. In between the documentary and pornography, we have comedy, crime and drama, and most other genres you can name.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Heathers: Movie Review

(1988, directed by: Michael Lehmann, written by: Daniel Waters, starring: Winona Ryder and Christian Slater)
(Available now on DVD and Blu-ray)

Realistically dark and unabashedly candid about the comedy and horrors of high school.

Popular girls are so annoying, especially when they are all named Heather. Veronica (Winona Ryder) is like them, except she isn't a Heather and wishes she could be popular without being friends with them. Enter J.D. (Christian Slater), he's one of those bad guys with whispers about the kind of trouble he has gotten into. You know the kind of guy from other films, with rumours about what he did to get kicked out of school. Those rumours are always so exaggerated, except in this case, J.D. may actually be worse than the rumours about him.

After introducing Veronica and J.D., "Heathers" takes some very shocking, disturbing, pitch-black turns. And that's why this film is so brilliant. They took an unflinching look at the maliciousness of high school students and then presented it to us as a comedy. Today, the high school comedies have the popular kids take a girl in a ponytail and glasses and turn her into a hot chick and then the cliques live happily ever after with each other, but "Heathers" has realistically superficial girls and there's a good chance that nobody will be living happily ever after.

The only place this film fails is in their catchy dialogue pretending to be trendy and cool, like "Did you have a brain tumour for breakfast?" It's better written than that. It also teaches a lesson on what happens when you pretend to be trendy and cool. Trust me, it's not pretty. I wouldn't recommend watching "Heathers" before you enter high school, but if you manage to get out of it alive, then this film will show you one of the more fascinating tales.

Gnomeo & Juliet: Movie Review

Garden gnomes with the amusement but missing the brilliance of Shakespeare.

"Gnomeo & Juliet" falls a little short of its potential. Its premise has the possibility of entertaining while providing a great synopsis of William Shakespeare—maybe even inspiring a new generation of Shakespeareans. While it did entertain, I was mostly disappointed and found its Shakespeare references to be insulting rather than enlightening. 2011

Directed by: Kelly Asbury

Original Screenplay by: Rob Sprackling and John R. Smith

Starring: James McAvoy and Emily Blunt

"Two households, both alike in dignity, In fair Verona, where we lay our scene, From ancient grudge break to new mutiny, Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean." Apparently, the rest is boring. A squeaky-voiced garden gnome delivering a monologue is funny, but then when the gnome declares it boring, it's just aggravating.

Gnomeo is a blue-hat gnome, Juliet is a red-hat gnome, both from the neighbouring gardens of Montague and Capulet. Their families are at war, well, lawn-mower racing wars, but ceramic bodies have been broken and both sides are declaring revenge. Gnomeo and Juliet are both certain they are in love, and Gnomeo is determined to be with her, even when Tybalt glues her to a rock fountain. Most of their adjustments to the story are amusing, but I would have appreciated more than just a few meaningless references to other characters and play titles.

The highlight comes when the James McAvoy-voiced Gnomeo is sitting on top of a Patrick Stewart-voiced Shakespeare statue debating the merits of his play. Shakespeare declares that his ending is ingenious, Gnomeo thought it was terrible. For once, I was on the side of "Gnomeo & Juliet" and found the scene brilliant. I was hoping for more brilliance that just that scene, and the amusing scenes barely outnumber the aggravating ones, but it is just an animated movie about garden gnomes after all.