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.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Nowhere Boy: Movie Review

(2009, directed by: Sam Taylor-Wood, written by: Matt Greenhalgh, starring: Aaron Johnson and Kristin Scott Thomas)
(Available now on DVD and Blu-ray)

Some false-hoods in "Nowhere Boy" but their artistic licenses make it more interesting.

"Nowhere Boy" takes a poignant and affectionate look at the teenage years of John Lennon (Aaron Johnson). We get to learn about the boy who became the man while he learns who he really is as made by his aunt (Kristin Scott Thomas), his mother (Anne-Marie Duff) and God.

A young Lennon may not be the most interesting subject, as he was just a skinny kid who got in trouble at school, wanted to be cool, and wanted to play guitar in a band. But the filmmakers took an artistic license and added in his unknown, free-thinking mother to give the story some depth, and showed us a more up-scale Liverpool than actually existed so the film wasn't quite as dreary as most London suburbs turn out to be.

The story ended up being enjoyable, touching and well-told. Perhaps a bit false, but that just adds another interesting layer. Julia Baird, John Lennon's half-sister, is one of the credited writers. She's not in the story but her influence is clearly there, and I believe the film is more about what she thinks her mother and brother were like before she knew them, and not just Lennon's teenage story.

As British films prove, good writing and good cinematography make for great films, and "Nowhere Boy" is no exception. And when you include the little boy from "Love, Actually" as the teenage Paul McCartney (Thomas Brodie Sangster), there's cuteness and humour in good measure for all the Beatles fans to enjoy.

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.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Love Hurts: Movie Review

(2009, written and directed by: Barra Grant, starring: Richard E. Grant and Carrie-Anne Moss)
(Available now on DVD)

"Love Hurts" is more painful than funny.

Love hurts, and divorce hurts too, especially if you're so self-absorbed that you have no idea what's happening. Moving on also hurts when you're completely clueless about how regular people in society operate. "Love Hurts", the film, is a comedy, but it also hurts because the hackneyed jokes are more painful than funny.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Suicide Kings: Movie Review

Crimes, corruption, intrigue and comedy.

The "Suicide Kings" believe that when one crime is committed, the best way to solve it is to commit a couple more crimes. This sets up the dark comedy execution. It begins with crimes, corruption and enough intrigue to keep moving forward.   1997

Directed by: Peter O'Fallon

Screenplay by: Josh McKinney, Gina Goldman and Wayne Rice

Starring: Christopher Walken

Christopher Walken is Charlie, the mob boss with connections, a shady past and even shadier make-up. Avery (Henry Thomas)'s sister is kidnapped, and then Avery, Max (Sean Patrick Flannery) and Brett (Jay Mohr) kidnap Charlie with the help of aspiring doctor T.K. (Jeremy Sisto). Ira (Johnny Galecki) unfortunately knows none of these goings-ons even though they decided to use his father's house. They are all smart and privileged, but also blindly stubborn and confident. Taking place almost entirely in one house and one bloody night, everything is put in question.

As the characters develop with the plot, they start learning more about themselves just as we do, and there is a surprising amount of thought and introspection to the "Suicide Kings". It is a crime drama thriller with a liberal use of dark comedy and just so well written that I can't even fault it for being mostly male-driven.

Current Status:

"Suicide Kings" is available on DVD.


Little Fish, Strange Pond (2009) - Philosophy, humour and violence in this strange pond.

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

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Like Dandelion Dust: Movie Review

(2009, directed by: Jon Gunn, written by: Stephen J. Rivele and Michael Lachance, starring: Mira Sorvino and Barry Pepper)
(Based on the novel "Like Dandelion Dust" by Karen Kingsbury)

More like a novel than a film.

When the father is an alcoholic abuser and the mother can't stick up for herself, there's always hope that the son will get to a better home. "Like Dandelion Dust" explores that hope and the powers of wealth, love and family.

The strength of the film lies in its story-telling. The characters were all painted extremely realistically and even sympathetically, and every scene in the film advanced the plot. Written by Oscar-nominated writer Stephen J. Rivele and Michael Lachance, it certainly comes across as a film driven by the writing. But no matter how interesting the story was, they couldn't completely keep my attention. When we have gritty scenes, we get drab shots. The story really wasn't brought to life.

"Like Dandelion Dust" is less like a film and more like a novel. And unsurprisingly, it is a novel with the same name by Karen Kingsbury. As I have just learned, Kingsbury is known as a Christian novelist. Although religion is an element in this film, it's presented in a very subtle, questioning way. See "Like Dandelion Dust" because it's a novel, not because it's a Christian novel.