Friday, April 29, 2011

Jolene: Movie Review

"Jolene" is an unforgettable journey.

"Jolene" is quite a film. It's about the journey of life for Jolene (Jessica Chastain), who is quite a character. A girl who was left to be raised by the authorities, she is itching to experience more of the world and be happy—the type of girl who could get hurt. But Jolene has an indescribable quality that makes people fall in love with her, lust after her, commit crimes for her and then go crazy, and generally in that order. Likelihood is they’ll get hurt instead of Jolene.2008 (with 2011 DVD release)

Directed by: Dan Ireland

Screenplay by: Dennis Yares
Based on the short story "Jolene: A Life" by E.L. Doctorow

Starring: Jessica Chastain

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Summer in Genoa: Movie Review

Guilt and sadness stripped down to nothing.

Tragedy strikes and Joe (Colin Firth) whisks his two daughters off to Italy for "A Summer in Genoa". Not a fun-filled holiday but an attempt to rebuild their lives after the mother dies. The positive reviews refer to this as a film stripped down to the bare realities of life, I refer to it more as a film stripped down to nothing.   2008 (with DVD release in 2011)

Directed by: Michael Winterbottom

Screenplay by: Laurence Coriat and Michael Winterbottom

Starring: Colin Firth and Catherine Keener

Flat dialogue removes the life of the still living characters who have become nothing but embodiments of guilt and the aftermath of a tragedy. There is nothing but the element of loss to connect us to these characters, and I need more than that. An overwhelming soundtrack of sad and dramatic scores, Italian music and background noise prepare us for even more devastating events but quick cuts then always bring us back to the same space we were in before.

This is an experienced filmmaker who knows that simple scenes with only a sleight of hand can tell us so much, but I believe that only works when there is more than nothing happening in the film. It's also a film with a great look for its low budget, but it does not show off the beauty of Genoa (or Genova in Italian).

If you're looking for a small, raw film about loss, then "A Summer in Genoa" is actually good. But I want and need more than just examples of guilt and sadness in movies.


(2010) - Intelligent subtexts to two grieving parents.

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

(2010) - A tragically real, beautiful and blue portrayal of one relationship.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Waterhole: Movie Review

Hilarious dialogue for drunk, angry, twenty-something guys.

In a non-descript small town, "The Waterhole" centers on Miller (Patrick J. Adams) as he frequents a bar with best friend and roommate, Jim (Jade Carter), and bar's owner Murphy (Matt Stasi). Although it's about a group of friends hanging out in a bar discussing life and navigating love and relationships, it's better written than that, making it better than most of its contemporaries.
2009 (With 2011 DVD release)

Directed by: Ely Mennin

Screenplay by: Nathan Cole

Starring: Patrick J. Adams

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Win Win: Movie Review

(2011, written and directed by: Thomas McCarthy, starring: Paul Giamatti and Amy Ryan)

Great characters looking for something in life and "Win Win" just might be that something.

As in Thomas McCarthy's first film, "The Station Agent", there is an air of loneliness to the characters in "Win Win" but also with an ability to be kind and with a whole lot of humour permeating throughout. Mike (Paul Giamatti) is approaching a mid-life crisis; the monotony of daily life and money troubles colliding. But this is a well written film and it doesn't look or feel like a mid-life crisis.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Art School Confidential: Movie Review


Humorous musings on the pretentiousness of art school.
"Art School Confidential" is a story about art and murder, and it's a comedy. Jerome (Max Minghella) is a freshman at an art college majoring in paintings & drawings. He is determined to become a famous artist, and paint beautiful naked women. He doesn't care how he becomes famous. 2006

Directed by: Terry Zwigoff

Screenplay by: Daniel Clowes

Starring: Max Minghella and John Malkovich

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Station Agent: Movie Review

(2003, written and directed by: Thomas McCarthy, starring: Peter Dinklage, Bobby Cannavale and Patricia Clarkson)
(Available now on DVD)

Characters who walk the right-of-way.

Set in Newfoundland, New Jersey, "The Station Agent" is an uplifting film about finding a home where one belongs. The characters are all alone, either out of choice, necessity, or as consequences. Fin (Peter Dinklage) is a short-statured adult living alone mostly because of the way people respond to him; Olivia (Patricia Clarkson) is trying to escape her life; Joe (Bobby Cannavale) is running a lonely hot-dog stand for his ailing father.

Short-statured adults are frequently in films as characters to laugh at. The good thing about Peter Dinklage is that he actually acts in his roles. The great thing about "The Station Agent" is that they gave him a leading role and which validates his thoughts, feelings and opinions. Some people want to laugh at, insult and hurt him, others are confused by him, or don't know how to properly respond to him, while others just want to be his friend or end up being his friend when they want to be alone just like him.

For the amount of loneliness displayed in this film, there is no despondency. We are given a fair amount of humour and a surprisingly positive ability to rely on the kindness of strangers, even when the strangers aren't intending to be kind. "The Station Agent" is a well written, intelligent and original film that "walks the right-of-way".

Also recommended: Adam

Friday, April 15, 2011

Watching the Detectives: Movie Review

(2007, written and directed by: Paul Soter, starring: Cillian Murphy and Lucy Liu)
(Available now on DVD)

Life getting in the way of watching movies is fun, funny and enjoyable.

"Watching the Detectives" is a movie for movie watchers who like to sit around watching movies about people who sit around watching movies. Neil (Cillian Murphy) is such a person. He owns a small video store specializing in B-movies and other hard to find titles complete with a couch to just sit on and watch movies. But life gets in the way.

Intrigued by a cute girl who walks into his store and frustrated by the big video chain stores opening down the street, he follows her and ends up doing stuff. Unfortunately for Neil, things that Violet (Lucy Liu) usually gets into are illegal by nature. But fortunately for Neil, he's seen characters like Violet in his movies, and now he's given a chance to live them out.

I liked the character of Neil a lot. I liked the fact that he appreciated the comfort of his couch. He's cute and funny, and he would be smart if girls and life didn't get in the way. But I like Cillian Muprhy even more than I like Neil. He's got charisma and an unbelievably versatile talent that he can play just an ordinary guy. I didn't know that he could play ordinary with such a great comedic touch.

"Watching the Detectives" is a comedy for movie watchers - meaning you need to have seen classics like "Citizen Kane" and "Thelma & Louise" since this movie has a knack for giving away their endings. They probably also do it for a number of B-movies, but just ones that you likely haven't heard of. I would have appreciated a darker ending, but I still thoroughly enjoyed watching "Watching the Detectives".

Monday, April 11, 2011

A Home at the End of the World: Movie Review

(2004, directed by: Michael Mayer, written by: Michael Cunningham, starring: Colin Farrell and Dallas Roberts)
(Based on the novel "A Home at the End of the World" by Michael Cunningham)
(Available now on DVD)

Homosexuality, heterosexuality, relationships - what does it all mean, man?

Bobby and Jonathan go from sad and lonely kids to confused teenagers to complicated and disoriented adults. "A Home at the End of the World" throws out questions of homosexuality and heterosexuality, it's all very intimate, and just like life, not very clear.

Primarily about relationships, and relationships at every stage of life, this film has a great introspective emotional quality to it. But better than the relationships are the actors. Colin Farrell, a frequently great actor, is still surprisingly good as Bobby. As Jonathan said, "Bobby's not gay. Well, really, who knows what he is?". Jonathan on the other hand is gay, at least he thinks he is. Jonathan is played by the brilliantly subtle Dallas Roberts. An amazingly versatile actor who frequently flies under the radars, and I am now more convinced that he is the best (relatively) unknown actor around.

I believe that "A Home at the End of the World" is more meant for children of the 60s rather than children of the 80s (or later). It had the 60s' experimental elements and the 60s soundtrack which probably gives greater empathy connections for its audience. After all, Bobby and Jonathan were children of the 60s.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

HappyThankYouMorePlease: Movie Review


Happiness, gratitude and wit all in good measure.

Based on the plot line, six New Yorkers juggle love and friendship, and the fact that it is written and directed by and starring Josh Radnor of "How I Met Your Mother" fame, one could easily assume that "HappyThankYouMorePlease" is a 3-part episode of "Friends" on the big screen. Surprisingly, that's not it at all. The humour is in the dialogue, not the situations.

Directed by: Josh Radnor

Screenplay by: Josh Radnor

Starring: Josh Radnor, Malin Akerman and Kate Mara

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Hanna: Movie Review

Strong female independence, great action, and impressive filmmaking.

In her words, Hanna is trained to be independent. In our words, Hanna is trained to be something like a super killer. Wild animals, humans, it doesn't matter. She knows all the techniques. With intense action, character development, and inventive filmmaking, "Hanna" is super cool. 2011

Directed by: Joe Wright

Screenplay by: Seth Lochhead and David Farr

Starring: Saoise Ronan

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Mr. Nice: Movie Review

(2010, written and directed by: Bernard Rose, starring: Rhys Ifans and Chloë Sevigny)
(Available now on DVD)

It's a problem when you don't really get to know the person whom this is about.

A common problem with biographical films about notorious con-men (or marijuana drug dealers) is whether to show them as sympathetic, or ruthless—as they usually are. The problem with "Mr. Nice" and Howard Marks (Rhys Ifans) is that there wasn't enough meaningful scenes showing us who Howard Marks was at all. For those like me, who didn't know who he was before the film, this is a really big problem.

Rhys Ifans is very good at mumbling and speaking rather unintelligibly but making it humorous, entertaining, and somehow understandable. This would be a much more positive trait if the voice of his character wasn't supposed to be as important as it seemingly was. Although I still don't know who he was so I can't say if Howard Marks was an important voice to society or not.

It was certainly more artistic and thoughtful than most marijuana movies are, but much less artistic and thoughtful than the best character studies. Again, this is a pretty big problem—if you're expecting more than just a marijuana movie, which I was. I wanted to be educated, while entertained, about this supposedly important person, but I was not.