Monday, June 27, 2011

Super 8: Movie Review


Like it for its nostalgia, cuteness, or possible aliens.

Building a film out of nostalgia is exactly what "Super 8" is. Nostalgia for the Steven Spielberg films from the '80s, jokes about the '70s, and the pure joy that Spielberg and Abrams would have had for filmmaking as young boys. A movie about movie making. It might also be about aliens. 2011

Directed by: J.J. Abrams

Screenplay by: J.J. Abrams

Starring: Joel Courtney and Elle Fanning

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Cedar Rapids: Movie Review


A peculiar comedy for a sheltered guy from one small town.

"Cedar Rapids" is slow. And by that I mean, the humour in the film progresses slowly. Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the town, is not slow. At least not to Tim Lippe (Ed Helms) because he's from Brown Valley, Wisconsin. He lives in a world that even those of us from similar towns don't believe that it's really that sheltered. 2011

Directed by: Miguel Arteta

Screenplay by: Phil Johnston

Starring: Ed Helms, John C. Reilly and Anne Heche

Friday, June 24, 2011

Hall Pass: Movie Review


A stupid sex comedy that is funny and heartfelt enough to be decent.

"From the directors of There's Something About Mary and Dumb and Dumber." Right there on the poster they are telling you this is going to be a stupid comedy about sex. But I would go so far as to say that the movie actually deserves more credit than that. Stupid? Yes. Funny? Yes. About sex? More or less, but's it's also about marriage in a very heartfelt way.   2011

Directed by: Bobby and Peter Farrelly

Screenplay by: Pete Jones, Peter Farrelly, Kevin Barnett and Bobby Farrelly

Starring: Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis

The plot is as stupid as they get, with grown men acting immature and getting a week off from marriage. I did not want to see it. Earlier this year, "The Freebie" took a similar premise but turned it into a very thoughtful drama. "Hall Pass" is not thoughtful, but they did take that premise and turn it into something that is funny, heartfelt and almost meaningful.

The movie mostly succeeded because the men, Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis, were not just sex-obsessed, but also considerate and loving fathers and husbands, or at least Owen Wilson was. There was a charm and a likability factor that I was not expecting. The women weren't as nice but they did develop into more accepting people.

"Hall Pass" isn't hilarious, but it is funny enough. It also isn't intelligent or thoughtful, but it does have warmth and heart. It's a decent foray into the middle-aged, suburban, male sex comedy.


Recommended:

Bridesmaids (2011) - Making the romantic comedy guy-friendly and funny.

The Freebie (2010) - A sex comedy turned into a dramatic, thoughtful experience.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Prime of Your Life: Movie Review


A near-perfect story weighed down by immature actors and characters.

Expecting a romantic comedy, I was pleasantly surprised when "Prime of Your Life" delivered so much more. Elements of drama, comedy, coming-of-age and romance were all there with the typical romantic comedy facets being barely even noticeable. The problem is those lessons, that life or stories about life, including everything from love, to heartbreak, to mortality, to cons, and independence, were expounded to me by a 20-something slacker and it was too condescending for my liking. 2010

Directed by: Kelly L. King

Screenplay by: Nicole Abisinio and Brandon Cotter

Starring: Nicole Abisinio and Ryan Donowho

Monday, June 20, 2011

Burning Palms: Movie Review


Past offensive and into pointless and wrong.

"Burning Palms" is supposed to be a dark comedy. I didn't know if I was supposed laugh, cry, or stare indignantly at the offensiveness on the screen. I chose the latter. There was nothing remotely funny, nothing emotionally-engaging, but everything filled with crimes being committed or people who should be committed to a mental institution.2010

Directed by: Christopher Landon

Screenplay by: Christopher Landon

Starring: Rosamund Pike and Jamie Chung

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Art of Getting By: Movie Review


Asking the question, "What's the point?" But then doesn't deliver much.

The teenage rebel, full of angst, and feeling alienated through their own defeatist philosophies, once perfected in Holden Caulfield, is on display here again in George (Freddie Highmore). He has the typical advanced vocabulary and expected intellect, but boredom for school and life. "What's the point if you're just going to die alone?"
2011

Directed by: Gavin Wiesen

Screenplay by: Gavin Wiesen

Starring: Freddie Highmore and Emma Roberts

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Midnight in Paris: Movie Review


   


Paris and literature taken to golden heights of intelligence and humour.
Have you ever wanted to see Owen Wilson play a modern day Alvy Singer and then transport him into the 1920s? I'm assuming that nobody other than Woody Allen has even thought about doing that. But trust me, now you'll want to see it. "Midnight in Paris" pairs ingenious casting with Allen's usual parade of characters (a neurotic writer, a right-wing Republican ignoramus, and a pedantic know-it-all) and places them in Paris.2011

Directed by: Woody Allen

Screenplay by: Woody Allen

Starring: Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams

Last Night: Movie Review


Trying to make their own choices with temptation, it just needed something more.

Choices of temptation sneak their way into old loves, new loves and current loves. "Last Night" is a relationship drama where one night opens up questions and possibilities of infidelity for one married couple. The couple is Joanna (Keira Knightley) and Michael (Sam Worthington) and they are certainly beautiful and eye-catching but their relationship is not as well-defined as I think it should have been.   2010

Directed by: Massy Tadjedin

Screenplay by: Massy Tadjedin

Starring: Keira Knightley and Sam Worthington

It follows a very simplistic storyline and it tests not only the main couple's loyalty to each other but also our loyalty to them as at least one of the temptations they face is far more interesting than either of them. I have fallen in love with French actor Guillaume Canet as the ex-boyfriend Alex. Looks aside, he was the only one who had any depth to make him more appealing. While some of the other casting, like Eva Mendes as the other woman, just seemed lazy.

I don't fault "Last Night" for picking a story that has been done before as they did try showing it in their own way. It was a beautifully realized film, performed well, and engaging enough, but it was just missing something. I think I liked it, but I needed more substance, more intrigue, and more of a resolution.


Recommended:

The Freebie (2010) - A raw, intense look at one couple's decision of honesty.

Blue Valentine (2010) - Watching a relationship rise and fall has never been so beautiful.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Just Go with It: Movie Review


Not a great romantic comedy, but it is funny and romantic

"Just Go with It" has Adam Sandler trying his hand at his ladies man shtick rather than his immature man-child routine. The result is a somewhat mature (not to be confused with intelligent) romantic comedy, rather than a zany screwball comedy. I like most romantic comedies no matter how pedantic and unoriginal they may be as long as they are funny and romantic too. And this one is all of the above.   2011

Directed by: Dennis Dugan

Screenplay by: Allan Loeb and Timothy Dowling

Starring: Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston

Danny (Adam Sandler) has long since discovered that a wedding ring and a sob story can go a long way towards picking up women. But then he meets Palmer (Brooklyn Decker) and she's supposed to be different. We can't actually tell why she's more special than the others, they just have to tell us that since subtlety is not a strong point here. The best part about Decker, the 20-something model, is that she gets showed up by Jennifer Aniston, who in turn, gets half-showed up by Nicole Kidman. There's something almost poetic about Hollywood's universe inadvertently becoming backwards.

"Just Go with It" is as predictable as they get and far from original but it kept me amused and Sandler's light humour kept me smiling. It certainly isn't a good romantic comedy (which, believe it or not, does exist), but it was exactly as I expected it to be. I enjoyed it, but then again I like Jennifer Aniston and I think Adam Sandler is funny.


Recommended:

Imagine Me & You (2005) - The romance and beautiful humour of marrying the wrong person but then meeting the right one.

Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008) - Woody Allen version of a modern romantic comedy with American girls falling in love in Spain.

The Wedding Planner (2001) - A true romantic comedy that knows the elements of its genre.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Certified Copy: Movie Review


   


"Certified Copy" is an original work of art.
Discussions on art, on the interpretations of art, and on the value of copies of original art. Discussions on relationships, marriage, and on the types of individuals it takes to enter into one. Discussions on what is truth, what can be left up to the viewer's imagination, and what really matters. "Certified Copy" is all of that. 2010

Directed by: Abbas Kiarostami

Screenplay by: Abbas Kiarostami

Starring: Juliette Binoche and William Shimell

Monday, June 13, 2011

Bitter/Sweet: Movie Review


Light and sweet and an enjoyable trip to Thailand.

A part Thai film, part U.S. film, "Bitter/Sweet" did a wonderful job of merging the two cultures for both audiences. It centers on Brian (Kip Pardue) a young American, for the Western audiences to connect to, but takes place in Thailand. It even manages to include a small-town girl in big-city who comes back to her hometown storyline, without me completely noticing. 2009

Directed by: Jeff Hare

Screenplay by: Jeff Hare

Starring: Kip Pardue and Napakpapha Nakprasitte

Saturday, June 11, 2011

High Fidelity: Movie Review


Realistic and insightful comedy to the hopelessness of relationships.

"High Fidelity" is really not a romantic comedy. It's a comedy about the hopelessness of men and romance. Rob (John Cusack) is thirty-something and he owns a record store, but that's just because that's what happens after you break-up with a girl in college and you go into a stupor for days, weeks, months, years and when you wake up you have aged but not matured. The fact that Rob and his fellow record store employees are not mature is an understatement. And that's where the comedy comes in.   2000

Directed by: Stephen Frears

Screenplay by: D.V. DeVincentis, Steve Pink, John Cusack and Scott Rosenberg
Based on the novel by Nick Hornby

Starring: John Cusack, Iben Hjejle, and Jack Black

The narration of Rob's thoughts and the analysis of his "top 5 break-ups of all time" are hilarious. The overall consensus that men are stupid and women are from another planet is taken to extremes, but realistic extremes. I, too, was shocked that his ex-girlfriend Charlie (Catherine Zeta-Jones) was in the phone book! Girls like Charlie shouldn't exist, but I'm not surprised that people like Nick Horny and his alter-ego Rob find them.

Author Nick Hornby has an incredible talent for characterization; turning every day life into absurdities but back into realities and then making light of it all. Cusack fully embodies the immaturity and frustrations of slacker Rob, while Jack Black pours all of his manic energy into music exhibitionist Barry.

Set in a record store with music lists like "top 5 albums to play on a Monday morning", music is certainly a major part of "High Fidelity"—but not overwhelmingly so. It's funny and meaningful for snobs and neophytes alike, but preferably somewhere in between so you can appreciate their jabs at the smarter-than-thou indie-hipster scene.

Breaking-up may be hard to do, but "High Fidelity" does it with a pumping soundtrack, insightful humour, and immensely quotable and hilarious dialogue.


Recommended:

Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008) - The romantic comedy angle of a break-up with real humour and real characters.

Almost Famous (2000) - A genuine story of rock and roll that is funny, poignant and real.

Grosse Pointe Blank (1997) - Professional assassin meets high school reunion in this very funny dark comedy.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Take Me Home Tonight: Movie Review


A comedy that can't be taken humorously or seriously, but I do think they tried.

It's like a high school comedy with college graduates, but it has the immaturity of high school and lacking the intelligence that some college grads are supposed to have. "Take Me Home Tonight" is about Matt (Topher Grace) trying to win over his dream girl in a night full of parties with old high school classmates. It's also about him not knowing what to do with his life, but it's not thoughtful enough to be meaningful.   2011

Directed by: Michael Dowse

Screenplay by: Jackie Filgo and Jeff Filgo

Starring: Topher Grace, Dan Fogler, Anna Faris and Teresa Palmer

It wasn't funny enough to be a flat-out comedy, but it also didn't have much heart for a movie that wanted to occasionally take itself seriously. It had a strange mix of wild, immature partying just for fun, and a deeper side when smarts doesn't add up to success. I do think they were trying to juxtapose the two for a reason, but I couldn't find that reason.

The characters were all either smart or successful, or if both, they weren't happy. Most characters were just one-off jokes, but Topher Grace as smart, but directionless and insecure is a joy to watch. I always want him to succeed.

I reluctantly admit that the '80s angle actually worked here. It wasn't just about crimped hair, bangles and bandanas. It also had the success of the financial sector and the desire to get into it, which was a big part of that era. But I don't think they mentioned Reagan or Reaganomics once. Surely, that's a writer's mistake. A soundtrack of music that was once popular but shouldn't have been couldn't carry the movie, but then again good, popular music from the '60s couldn't even save "Pirate Radio".

"Take Me Home Tonight" wasn't very funny and it couldn't even be taken seriously when it wanted to be, but I was amused. And even though I don't necessarily know what they were, I still think they had a reason for everything that they did. And I suppose that is one step up for Hollywood.


Recommended:

The Waterhole (2009) - Real humour and thoughtfulness to college grads trying to find their way.

High Fidelity (2000) - The hilarious realities when relationships get in the way of every stage of life.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Notebook: Movie Review


Love for the characters provides real emotion to the romantic drama.

A love story for the ages; a weepy romantic drama; a timeless love story. All the exhausted clich├ęs apply, but "The Notebook" manages to turn them into something substantial—emotionally at least, if not intellectually. Everything in this movie is beautiful and it's easy to get wrapped up into the story.   2004

Directed by: Nick Cassavetes

Screenplay by: Jeremy Leven

Starring: Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams

Noah (Ryan Gosling) loves Allie (Rachel McAdams). That's basically the entire story, but conflicts arise when Allie's parents insist he's not good enough for her, and Noah has to spend the rest of his life winning her back. I love both Noah and Allie. Allie, because she's the type of girl that every girl can realistically see themselves as; she's emotional, but smart and passionate, and adorable in every way. And Noah, because he has this boyish charm that he never loses. Gosling has this incredible ability to play men at any and every point in their lives.

Because the characters are just so captivating, the story is able to invoke emotion. You'll fall in love when they do, you'll be heart-broken when they are, and you'll cry when they do. "The Notebook" is beautifully shot, beautifully told, and most importantly, beautifully acted. And it's for those reasons that it is able to rise above the rather tired and painfully predictable plot. You won't even notice that because you'll be crying and falling in love.


Recommended:

The Break-Up (2006) - Real emotion and tip-toes the line of unpredictability.

Atonement (2007) - The ultimate in filmmaking and romance.

The Painted Veil (2006) - A romance but with a meaningful story too.

The Holiday (2006) - Two holiday relationships that verge on cheesy but never pitied.