Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Fighter: Movie Review

(2010, directed by: David O. Russell, starring: Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale)




Enjoyable interactions with funny lines but fails to deliver anything meaningful.

Dicky Ecklund (Christian Bale) is "the pride of Lowell, Massachusetts", at least he still believes that. Most people just see him as a crack addict. HBO is making a documentary about him, but "The Fighter" is about his brother, Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) and trying to become a champion boxer.

"The Fighter" has a slightly different feel to it than most gritty boxing movies both because of Bale's performance and because of the amount of comedy delivered with all the lines. Lowell is also the type of town that producer Wahlberg grew up in so the characterizations would have been accurate. But it is still exactly like every gritty boxing movie, and although I was relieved it had comedy, it was an awfully strange mix between comedy and drama. They made light of situations that one scene later or earlier they had taken seriously. Any emotional message that they were trying to deliver was lost.

The interactions among all the characters were quite enjoyable, especially between Micky's "MTV" girlfriend Charlene (Amy Adams) and his mother and sisters, and between Dicky and his mother. The performances were great with a wonderful quick wit and fairly interesting interactions. "The Fighter" is a good film but it doesn't have the meaning or impact that something like "Million Dollar Baby" (2004) has.

Becoming Jane: Movie Review

(2007, UK, directed by: Julian Jarrold, starring: Anne Hathaway and James McAvoy)
(Available now on DVD)




By reading between the lines, "Becoming Jane" creates her perfect romance.

In "Becoming Jane" a young Jane Austen (Anne Hathaway) is told that she needs to find a husband. It's a common adage for women in the 18th century and for women now. But Jane is too independent and no man is "perfect" enough for her. Enter a very imperfect man like Tom Lefroy (James McAvoy) and we get a love story for the ages. She's offended by his sleazy reputation and audaciousness and he reads Henry Fielding—how deplorable! But she's also intrigued by his outspoken ways and that he accepts her just as she is. The film takes the stereotypical romance from today's romantic comedies and dramas and places it in Jane Austen's 1790s England.

There is evidence to suggest that such a love affair occurred, but it's not necessarily historically accurate. However, the characterizations are more important than the facts. Hathaway may have given Austen an American accent but she got the essence of who Jane Austen really is. And James McAvoy as the nefarious Tom Lefroy is exactly the kind of man she would need to meet to inspire her novels.

The film is able to add an extra level of interest to both the stereotypical romance and the historical biopic by reading between the lines and creating her perfect leading man. I loved their romance and like to believe that it really did occur. I'm a fan of Jane Austen and think of her as a woman ahead of her time and "Becoming Jane" shows that. It's not a gushing, effusive story about how great she is, it's just a great story.

Down with Love: Movie Review

(2003, directed by: Peyton Reed, starring: Ewan McGregor and Renée Zellweger)
(Available now on DVD)




As pink and silly as they come, but "Down with Love" is a fun romp.

Meet Catcher Block (Ewan McGregor) he's a "ladies man, man's man, man about town" type of guy, and Barbara (Renée Zellweger) is more of a man's woman, all decked in pink but independent. She wrote the book on how to live life without a man. Literally.

"Down with Love" is an ode to the sex films of the 1960s. Down to the fashions, feminism, and sex talk à la "Pillow Talk"(1959). It even stars Tony Randall too. It is a gorgeous film, with a lot of pink, a sexy leading man, and a lot of sexual innuendos. But compared to the Judd Apatow sex comedies of the 2000s, this is tame. Well silly and way over-the-top, but still pretty tame.

McGregor is gorgeous as the sexy leading man and Zellweger is pink-ified as the feminist leading woman. They have their fair share of sex jokes, gender stereotypes and ruses, but it's also really funny. "Down with Love" is a fun romp through 2003 disguised as 1962.

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




Recommended:

Revolutionary Road (2008) - Revolutionary characters in an interesting relationship.

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

Friday, January 28, 2011

Revolutionary Road: Movie Review

(2008, directed by: Sam Mendes, written by: Justin Haythe, starring: Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet)
(Based on the novel "Revolutionary Road" by Richard Yates)
(Available now on DVD)




Revolutionary characters on a road that curved to brilliance.

As Frank and April Wheeler move to Revolutionary Road, it is indeed hard to remember if they are the young Wheelers on Revolutionary Road, or the young Revolutionaries on Wheeler Road. This was noted by mental institution patient, John (Michael Shannon) and I agreed with him. Part of the brilliance of "Revolutionary Road" is having the one character who is deemed mentally unfit also be the one voice of reason.

Director Sam Mendes takes us back to the 1950s to a Connecticut Suburb, where you were supposed to get married, have kids and play house. And if you wanted to play in a pretty house with a pretty wife and kids, then you had to work at a job you didn't like. Frank and April are more perceptive and innovative than those around them, and they believed that they didn't have to live that life to be happy. They could move to Paris and do whatever they wanted.

Revolutionary Road was not a straight road, and although it never really twisted or turned, it did curve. Frank and April could see past their neighbours, but they couldn't see past themselves. Instead of a revolutionary move across the ocean, we got to examine trust issues that only spanned the suburb and the city. And for as forward-looking as they are, they couldn't see what was holding them back. But we could.

I was fascinated by "Revolutionary Road" because they gave me a revolutionary character that I could instantly connect with, and the resolutions for Frank and April were always just around the bend that you could almost see. DiCaprio, Winslet, Mendes and writer Justin Haythe have enough talent and nerve to drive me straight to the end without stalling.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

An Education: Movie Review

 

An education for one of the best characters in the genre and for fans of great filmmaking.

"An Education" is about 16-year-old Jenny's education—in all senses of the word. Jenny (Carey Mulligan) is trying to learn about life through school but then she meets a rich, older, glamorous man, David (Peter Sarsgaard), and decides to learn about life through him instead. Jenny is cute, smart and endearing without ever becoming pretentious, smug or unbelievable. Through both the writing of the character and Mulligan, Jenny is one of the best characters in the genre.   2009

Directed by: Lone Scherfig

Screenplay by: Nick Hornby

Starring: Carey Mulligan, Alfred Molina and Peter Sarsgaard

The film sets up interesting dynamics between Jenny and David, between Jenny and her father, and between her father and David. And, as implied by "dynamics", these relationships change; they become more interesting, intricate and compelling. The brilliance of this film lies within the energy of these relationships.

Set in 1960s London, we get the right feel for the time and place, and like a lot of British films, it is well made and well written. Features phenomenal performances by Carey Mulligan, Peter Sarsgaard, Alfred Molina, Dominic Cooper and Rosamund Pike, and it was fittingly nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actress and Best Picture at the 2010 Academy Awards. It has quickly become one of my favourite films of all time and I highly recommend it.


Recommended:

Nowhere Boy (2009) - The coming-of-age for John Lennon.

Julie & Julia: Movie Review

(2009, written and directed by: Nora Ephron, starring: Meryl Streep and Amy Adams)
(Based on the books "Julie and Julia" by Julie Powell, and "My Life in France" by Julia Child and Alex Prud'homme)




Celebrates cooking, writing, life and love.

Julia cooks and Julie writes. "Julie & Julia" is one year in the life of Julie Powell (Amy Adams) and many years in the life of Julia Child (Meryl Streep). Both stories of course have many parallels and the film plays that up.

I really connected to Adams in this film. Her character is just so relatable, and the film on the whole is very funny. I don't care much for the art of cooking, especially rich French cooking with all that butter, but I do love how the film merged writing and cooking. Through Julie's story, showing us how a hobby can turn your vocation into an avocation. It's emotional and inspiring. I even have to admit that the film is partly responsible for the creation of my own blog.

"Julie & Julia" celebrates cooking, writing, life, and love by showing us both of their supportive husbands played by Stanley Tucci and Chris Messina. It's beautifully shot and well written and a joy to watch. I recommend it to all the fledgling Julie Powells out there.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Buried: Movie Review


No honest emotion, thought or intelligence found anywhere near "Buried".

Ryan Reynolds may be buried alive in a coffin in the Iraq desert, but any intelligence or interesting concepts to the film are buried far deeper than he is. The film's hook is that it takes place entirely within the coffin and he can only use a lighter and cell phone to try and find a way out. Instead he used the lighter and screamed to use up all his oxygen. Then it plays out like every other thriller where he has to get money to the bad guys before time runs out. 2010

Directed by: Rodrigo Cortés

Screenplay by: Chris Sparling

Starring: Ryan Reynolds

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





Recommended:

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.




Laurel Canyon: Movie Review

 

An enjoyable clash of cultures, families and sexual orientations.

There's a clash of cultures, families and sexual orientations in "Laurel Canyon", and I enjoyed all of it. Sam (Christian Bale) and Alex (Kate Beckinsale) are an uptight, New York couple in complete control of their lives, until they move in with Sam's mother Jane (Frances McDormand) who is a loose hippie (in all senses of the words). Jane also has a slew of rock-and-roll men living in her house, most notably, Ian (Alessandro Nivola), her primary boyfriend with an irresistible accent, but Jane and Ian don't really label anything, especially relationships.   2002

Directed by: Lisa Cholodenko

Screenplay by: Lisa Cholodenko

Starring: Frances McDormand, Christian Bale and Kate Beckinsale

As Sam grows increasingly frustrated by his mother's lifestyle, Alex grows increasingly intrigued by it. Sam's need to control everything can get annoying, but Bale plays well off of Beckinsale's quiet energy. The sexual tension between Beckinsale, Nivola and McDormand is electric and is able to keep driving the film forward.

The dialogue is funny enough and the actors are all very good that they make up for the slightly predictable plot. At the Independent Spirit Awards, Frances McDormand was nominated for Best Supporting Actress and Alessandro Nivola for Best Supporting Actor. Well deserved nominations and quite possibly the best performances of their careers. Be prepared for sexual energy in every direction, but I recommend "Laurel Canyon".


Recommended:

The Kids Are All Right (2010) - Comedy and drama as two kids, two lesbian mothers and one sperm donor father become a family.

Best Laid Plans: Movie Review

(1999, directed by: Mike Barker, written by: Ted Griffin, starring: Alessandro Nivola, Reese Witherspoon and Josh Brolin)




A crime drama thriller with minimal violence but intrigue in place of the suspense.

Lissa (Reese Witherspoon) accuses Bryce (Josh Brolin) of rape, and then the film unfolds in interesting ways as we see how Nick (Alessandro Nivola) plays a part in her past and their future.

The film relies on the universal desires for love, sex and money. Bryce just wants to get laid, Lissa pretty much just wants love but Nick wants both love and money. His plans to get that money get in the way of other dead-end criminals also wanting money. As the film's title suggests, no plans go quite as according to plan. The various twists in getting the plans foiled weren't particularly ingenious but they were well done. I never quite knew what was coming next, but I always wanted to find out. A crime drama thriller with some crimes but minimal violence, and although it seems a bit slow there is enough intrigue to keep up the suspense level, or at least the interest.

"Best Laid Plans" stars three great actors at the beginning of their careers, and each proved why they have become the respected stars that they are. I recommend it to fans of crime drama thrillers and to fans of Reese Witherspoon, Josh Brolin, or Alessandro Nivola.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Mr. Nobody: Movie Review


   


"Mr. Nobody" is about nothing but encompasses everything.
At the beginning of "Mr. Nobody" we meet Nemo Nobody in the future as an 118-year-old man and twice in the present as his 34-year-old self, but he doesn't know, and we don't know, which life is his. The rest of the film isn't so much about figuring out which life is actually real, but that all lives are right if you choose right. 2009

Directed by: Jaco van Dormael

Screenplay by: Jaco van Dormael

Starring: Jared Leto

Monday, January 17, 2011

My Normal: Movie Review


   


"My Normal" is 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




Recommended:

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

Revolutionary Road (2008) - Revolutionary characters that have to see themselves before the world.

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.
2009

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





Recommended:

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


5 vignettes, 5 understated headliners, 5 stars.

"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.

Eat Pray Love (2010) - "Eat Pray Love" has no humour or heart.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Deadline: Movie Review

(2009, written and directed by: Sean McConville, starring: Brittany Murphy)




Creepy in many ways.

"Deadline" is a very creepy film in many ways. The late Brittany Murphy looks like death, at least partly on purpose as her character, Alice, is very sickly but this is no way to remember her. It was literally like watching a diseased ghost, and that realism was too much for me.

A writer in a remote house with psychological problems hears and sees strange disturbances but is it all in her head or is somebody, or something, trying to kill her? The story has been done many times before, and this wasn't a particularly good rendition of it. That's the main reason why the IMDb rating is so low. The filmmakers even seemed to get confused with the ending. They gave us a resolution but they hadn't quite worked out all the details.

The film itself though, was very well shot. They set-up a creepy atmosphere from the very beginning and never let up. Subtle camera work kept up the same suspense level throughout. This film was made on a low-budget and they made it well.

Recommending this is tricky. I was faithfully terrified - not so much because of the storyline but because of what I was watching. Brittany Murphy was so pallid and anemic, it was scary. And the atmosphere and slow moving camera shots were done so efficiently well, significantly better than most horror-thrillers that I have seen. If you want to be scared from a well-told story, you won't find that here. If you want to be scared from the realism, then you just might want to take a look. If I knew what I was getting myself into, I wouldn't have watched it. And yet, at the same time, I'm glad that I did - I like seeing low-budget independent films made well.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Extra Man: Movie Review

(2010, directed by: Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, written by: Jonathan Ames, Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini, starring: Paul Dano and Kevin Kline)
(Available now on DVD and Blu-ray)




Essential characters, but awfully weird.

Henry Harrison (Kevin Kline) is "The Extra Man", but to him, he's an "essential man". He seems to live in a time and class that he doesn't physically occupy. Louis Ives (Paul Dano) would really just like to be a character in an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel. These characteristics were so intriguing at the beginning of the film because there are a lot of thoughtful and interesting directions to take it.

They make a great pairing, except for the fact that Henry isn't just homophobic, but proudly and defiantly, extremely homophobic, and Louis is proudly and completely confused. And neither of them understand the nature of their friendship. When the film chooses to explore Louis' inner transvestite and getting deeper into Henry's obsession as the essential man, everything just gets weird.

"The Extra Man" is an extremely intelligent film. There was clearly a lot of effort put into the writing, the characters, the acting and the making of this film, but the weird directions it took were too much for me. I want to recommend it to those who like smart, philosophical, but weird, independent films. Just look out for some "sexually deviant behaviour".

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

What Doesn't Kill You: Movie Review

(2008, directed by: Brian Goodman, written by: Brian Goodman, Paul T. Murray and Donnie Wahlberg, starring: Mark Ruffalo, Ethan Hawke and Amanda Peet)
(Available now on DVD and Blu-ray)




It's like being killed, except without a resolution.

Of the many ways to finish the sentence that begins with "What Doesn't Kill You", this film proves that none of them are particularly interesting. What one may conclude, is that, if it doesn't kill you, it is likely to be long, slow, painful, and dreary; like death, but without a resolution.

Granted I can't claim that it doesn't have a resolution because I didn't suffer through to the end. Brian (Mark Ruffalo) and Paulie (Ethan Hawke) are life-long friends, and it took the film 20 minutes to establish that. They live a life full of crime, and especially for Brian, a life full of drugs too. That's the entire story. Life sucks and it gets even worse if you mess around with drugs.

The film did set-up an atmosphere, but contrary to popular belief, not an accurate one. Apparently it's always winter in Boston, no matter what time of year it is. It's always dark and gloomy, no matter what time of day it is. I've been to Boston, probably not the neighbourhoods that Brian and Paulie lived in, but I did see the Sun, and not only snow but rain and flowers, and trees and grass too!

"What Doesn't Kill You" isn't entirely bad. Ruffalo, Hawke and Amanda Peet are good actors, it had decent dialogue and I'm assuming the writer and director had a plan for these characters. But they couldn't present me with a world that I cared about and there needs to be something more than "Life sucks" especially if it doesn't kill you.



Recommended: The Town

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Eat Pray Love: Movie Review

(2010, directed by: Ryan Murphy, written by: Ryan Murphy and Jennifer Salt, starring: Julia Roberts)
(Available now on DVD and Blu-ray)




"Eat Pray Love" has no humour or heart.

The novel "Eat, Pray, Love" suffers from a narcissistic author with delusions of self and world-grandeur, but has poetic prose and perfectly constructed sentences. "Eat Pray Love" the film has the same narcissistic heroine, but nothing about this film is constructed beautifully.

The very simple set-up of a love-lorn divorced woman who decides to travel to Italy, India and Indonesia (or should I say Bali? As the film couldn't even keep that basic alliteration) took 30 minutes. All they accomplished in the opening was to get the audience in accordance with her ex-husband Billy Crudup, not the main character which we are supposed to spend the next two hours with.

Julia Roberts is not to be blamed for the unrealistic, egotistical self-absorbed opportunist, that fault lies with Liz Gilbert herself. I actually thought that Roberts might have been able to keep the well-written humour of the book and add some much needed heart, and then the film version would have been pretty good. But unfortunately, "Eat Pray Love" is worse than the novel it is based on.

Shattered Glass: Movie Review

(2003, written and directed by: Billy Ray, starring: Hayden Christensen and Peter Sarsgaard)
(Available now on DVD)




Greatness is demanded - "Shattered Glass" answers.

"What happens when greatness is demanded?", is a question posed at the beginning of "Shattered Glass". One result is this film, it is great. The numerous other answers are all explored in this true story, character study drama.

Hayden Christensen is Stephen Glass in a very underrated performance as a young journalist troubled with the demand to be great, or just plain troubled. One of the brilliant aspects of this film is that that is up for debate. Glass' crimes, faults and motives are never fully explained but greatly hinted at. Either way, you can understand Glass, but more importantly understand and relate to his co-workers and maligned editor, Chuck Lane (Peter Sarsgaard).

"Shattered Glass" is based on a true story; it's intriguing, riveting, and (unfortunately for the journalistic community) completely believable. Highly recommended for its fantastic performances by Sarsgaard and Christensen, and its exceedingly well-told story.



This film introduced me to Peter Sarsgaard - explore the Films That Introduced Me To My Favourite Actors