I don't know why but it was incredibly difficult to compose this particular entry. I'm torn between wanting to rant, praise, and maybe throwing up a high five. With that confused set up, let's get down to it. Director Oliver Stone obviously thinks presidents are a little more than fascinating..."JFK", "Nixon", "W."...let's face it, these guys weren't just any old presidents. They were and continue to be iconic figures in America's history. Stone is also clearly obsessed with America in a more general sense...think back to films such as "Platoon", "World Trade Center", and "Any Given Sunday". "Platoon" has been the only one of his films I really could get into..and then came "W." - to my utter shock I was on board from the opening 5 minutes.
Surprisingly "W." takes a scalpel to the caricature of the George W. Bush that has permeated the media for the past few years and it's incredibly refreshing to see that through all the mayhem and subsequent hatred that has ensued there's a man. There's obviously no way to know how much of it is factual or not but to even get a glimpse behind the scenes of what might have happened is somehow intriguing. Don't go into this expecting a Michael Moore witch hunt but give it a whirl.
Posted by D at Thursday, March 26, 2009
Why bother trying to come up with clever film comparisons when the most obvious and legitimate one already exists? "Sunshine Cleaning" is almost but not quite...very much like...well, sort of kind of in the same family...most definitely like "Little Miss Sunshine". This of course makes a lot of sense since the films share the same producing team. Seriously though, it brings so many of the same elements to the table: Alan Arkin, cute little kid, familial instability, and incredibly sad themes darkly veiled in sheer comedic genius.
"Sunshine Cleaning" tells the story of two sisters (played so believably by Amy Adams and Emily Blunt) and their attempt at going into business for themselves as a crime scene cleanup crew. It's gross, it's hilarious, and it's sad. On many levels I appreciated it more than "Little Miss Sunshine". Perhaps it was the absurdity of the premise (do you know anyone who's into bio hazard removal?) or the more feminine slant this film seems to take - I'm not exactly sure what it was but here are some reasons you should see it...even if you have seen "Little Miss Sunshine".
1) Amy Adams - until this film, I had only seen her in "Enchanted" and was unenthused (by the way, no qualified online dictionary seems to want to call unenthused a word, but it seems like it should be, doesn't it? Anyway, it's in. I'm keeping it). I thought she nailed that role, but it seemed like that would be it for her - bubbly Disneyesque heroines for the rest of her career. Her performance in "Sunshine Cleaning" as Rose is a sympathetic treat though at times you kind of want to slap her - I think that's the point.
2) Emily Blunt - love her! She plays the bratty, troubled, pain in the ass Norah with total conviction. Essentially you want to hold her down and give her a big hug and tell her it will be okay even though you know she'll be kicking and screaming at you the whole time. Through all of that she still manages to leave you with a hint of possibility that she just might need that hug and actually hug you back.
3) Cute little kid (his name is Jason Spevack) - not the strongest little actor but he's right up there in terms of the cuteness factor and that's half the game when you're under 13.
4) Steve Zahn - I don't think I've ever met a Steve Zahn movie I didn't like (ooh, he was in "National Security"...and "You've Got Mail"?). Perhaps I've never seen a Steve Zahn character that he hasn't completely blown out of the water. He is rock solid - serious or hilarious. I must say in this film he is subdued and isn't able to do much with the role - which is upsetting on some levels. Seems like pretty much any Jo Schmo could have played Rose's jack-ass cheating lover and instead it's a complete waste of Steve Zahn. Oh well, they can't all be "Out of Sight" can they?
5) New Mexico. How often do you see a film shot there?
6) A little discomfort can be fun.
Go see it. You might be surprised at how touching it is.
Posted by D at Saturday, March 21, 2009
Props need to be dealt first and foremost to the fun and flirtatious trailer that got me to go see a Julia Roberts movie on opening night. (the trailer can be found here: http://duplicitymovie.net/) Secondly, additional kudos on the super slo-mo opening title sequence - highly entertaining and definitely worth my $10 to see it on the big screen.
"Duplicity" feels like a tempered down "Ocean's Eleven" and a much better version of "Mr. & Mrs. Smith". Julia Roberts and Clive Owen play Claire and Ray - lovers and former spies with a new agenda in a complicated and amusing web of misdirection. It's sassy, sexy, and rather fun. The two stars have chemistry and there's no denying the romance that these characters feel - you know, the grown up kind that is messy and driven by mistrust and confusion. That's how I like my relationships...vague and always on the precipice of being a complete and total disaster. I guess you could say I related...not to the lure of millions of dollars or exotic travel...but to the utter tension between the main duo. It's irritatingly hot.
Following this terribly attractive twosome can at times feel exhausting so it's important to juxtapose it with another phenomenal set of opposing forces - the undeniably funny Paul Giamatti and the always brilliant Tom Wilkinson as CEOs of competing corporate monstrosities. They're a joy to watch in action and clearly, they had an absolute blast playing these over the top blowhard heads of industry.
That's the skinny. So your mission: grab some champagne with someone delicious at a local night spot...bat your eyes...flip your hair...go check out this movie. That's it, now you're in play. Go get 'em Tiger. Grr.
Posted by D at Friday, March 20, 2009
So the movie is about Rachel getting married. I get it. But why did we need to live out the wedding in real time? It was as exhausting as actually going to someone's wedding. That aside, I have to say, I did enjoy this film. Anne Hathaway plays Rachel's sister Kym. Poor Kym is a train wreck fresh out of rehab in time for Rachel's nuptials. As we move through the film we begin to understand why she is such a mess and can't help but feel a little bit sorry for her and a little annoyed with the bride-to-be. The tone overall is sweetly sad as is leaps around the complicated family dynamic that Rachel and Kym are stitched into. Director Jonathan Demme consciously chose talented NY-based theater actors and musicians to round out the wedding attendants. When paired with a lot of hand-held camera work, it feels real. So much so that over the course of this weekend I want to be there with them through all the drama and tears in hopes that there's a big group hug at the end.
Posted by D at Sunday, March 15, 2009
"Happy-Go-Lucky" tells the story of Poppy played by Sally Hawkins (who won a Golden Globe for the role)...a positively bubbly lover of life, people, and laughter. She's carefree. She's slightly flighty. And most of all, she's not at all concerned that you don't care for her shiny bright-eyed attitude. She just lives in an undeniably sunnier world than the rest of us poor schmucks do.
The film meanders through Poppy's life by introducing us to her friends, family, and most notably...her driver's ed instructor Scott, played brilliantly by Eddie Marsan. Scott is the antithesis of Poppy in every possible way. Their weekly driver's lessons are excruciatingly entertaining as the opposite poles of their overwhelming personalities collide over and over and over again. It's hilarious. It's painful to watch. Blimey, it's perfect acting.
Fun to mimic English accent factor: 7 out of 10
Quirky factor: 9 out of 10
Happy factor: 10 out of 10
Psycho driver's ed instructor: 10 out of 10
With all that it's fair to state that this is an odd yet lovable film.
Posted by D at Saturday, March 14, 2009
I would say "Brideshead Revisited" is a curiously overlooked film. I'm not even sure where I first heard of it. Anyway, it's based on an incredibly popular British novel from 1945. I can't help but draw a few comparisons to "Atonement" because of its...well...Britishness. The film is full of sweeping grand landscapes and the location for the Brideshead property itself is lavish and glorious. The story is part commentary on religion and part love triangle. Our storyteller is Charles Ryder (played by Matthew Goode) who early on in the tale gets acquainted with a peculiar schoolmate at Oxford named Sebastian and is subsequently introduced to Sebastian's home (Brideshead), family, and lifestyle. It's a film overflowing with tension. As you meander through the scenes with Charles you want to be there, to give your opinion, to experience it. As someone who was raised Catholic I can relate to the Catholic guilt that Sebastian's family is ruled by. It's suffocating to some while at the same time it clearly provides structure for others. The themes explored in the film seem highly relevant still today. View the trailer and see for yourself:
Posted by D at Sunday, March 08, 2009
Mikey's the big winner. We remember. We were there with him...getting over that failed relationship in "Swingers". No! No! Don't call her again! We've all been there. When do you move on? If you're Nick and you meet Norah, you're in pretty good shape and have a fighting chance. Although in the beginning, you're not getting your hopes up...the film's opening scene has poor Nick leaving a sad lengthy message on his ex-girlfriend's phone that is miserably laughable and brings to mind our big winner Mikey immediately.
This film is the cutest little treat. It hearkens back to the teen comedies that jump started so many careers: "Clueless", "10 Things I Hate About You", "She's All That". Nick and Norah are played by Michael Cera (how wonderful is he?) and Kat Dennings who have terrific onscreen chemistry and perfect comedic timing. It is a total joy to watch these two banter back and forth. Nick's tribe of gay bandmates are hilarious and Ari Graynor's turn as Norah's drunk gal pal is priceless...simultaneously lovable and sadly pathetic in the same breath.
I would say the one hang up I have is that I wanted a stronger soundtrack from a film that has "playlist" in its title, its main characters are in a band and the daughter of a famous producer in the music industry. Maybe they didn't have the budget. There are a couple stand outs but overall, it was a little weak musically.
Posted by D at Saturday, March 07, 2009
Never let it be said that I don't give things a chance. I thought almost unequivocally that I would hate "Watchmen". I mean truly, I thought it would be laughably bad. There was also a part of me (the dorky/geeky part I think - well, and some nerd - I'm mostly nerd when you get right down to it) that thought, given my affinity for superheros, sci-fi, and men in costume I just might like this movie. Only one way to find out. Cue opening night and a theater jammed to the max with total comic book junkies. I've never heard so many geeks in one room. The summer tech-laden movie trailers received hoots and hollers all the way 'till the lights went dim. With that setup Ladies and Gentlemen...I give you "Watchmen".
Without giving too much away (because I think it actually is better if you know very little about the story) "Watchmen" takes us through some of America's darkest hours from the 40s all the way through the 80s through the eyes of some of the heroes that once monitored its streets. It's an anti-superhero movie and in the best possible way. Confused? I won't say much more about the plot because it's far more fun walking through it with the characters.
Criticisms (come on, you knew there would be some):
1) Cheesiest sex scene I think I have quite possibly seen in a movie...cheesier than "take my breath away" with Tom Cruise? Oh yes, Velveeta slabbed onto watery stadium nacho cheese cheesier.
2) Could have shaved about 20 minutes off the run time (mostly toward the end, my coffee was wearing off)
1) yU+co's opening title sequence. STELLAR! (fun fact - the author of this blog used to treasure a piece of yU+co swag...a trinket she received from her first post-production job back in good old Cali - a navy t-shirt with a pictogram on it that no one understood - classically & artfully obscure in the way all good designs should be - aww) Check out the titles:
2) Nerd/geek/dorks out there - you all have a chance with the hot girl. Note to selves - it helps if you have a flying machine and terribly over-sized glasses that you like to push up when they slide off your nose.
So...super violent comic book digested and delivered straight from the director who gave us "300" (can't say I saw more than 10 minutes of that one)...here I thought it would be a bloody manly gawk fest like "Sin City". Well there are some gawky moments but quite surprisingly very few of them, and when they do arrive - they make sense for the story (take note Halle Berry's breasts in "Swordfish" or any other movie she shows them in). And really in all fairness, a radioactive blue man's penis is on the screen for about 20% of the movie so a couple breasts don't really seem out of the ordinary. And bloody? It borders on the gross-out factor of "American Psycho" for me in a couple of instances. Be prepared for anything. Again though, it isn't Tarantino. It isn't style for style's sake or gore for gore's sake. It just works and doesn't seem forced.
Anyway, I am shocked at how much I enjoyed this film. It is dark, funny, witty, and positively beautiful to look at. I never really knew where it was going and I was engaged all the way through. It feels like "The Incredibles" for adults. From the opening scene until the final closing minutes the mystery unfolds with delicate precision worth enjoying in the theater.
Posted by D at Friday, March 06, 2009
Well, enjoy it while it lasts film-lovers. This is my last uber depressing movie for a while. Seriously - NO MORE - only cheesy, happy ,uplifting flicks for at least the next two weeks or so. "Frozen River" tells the story of a very desperate mother in a vortex of horrible situations. It's a wonder I even made it out of this movie without suicidal thoughts. Picture yourself in upstate New York in the dead of winter (yup, already - it's pretty bad isn't it?). You're in a dead end marriage to some gamblin' fool who takes all your savings and leaves you a week before Christmas - you've got two kids - you live very meagerly (to say the least) - and you've been trying to get a promotion for over 2 years at the K-Mart you've been working at. Then imagine for a moment, that in order to make payments on a rent-to-own television and your new mobile home you take up smuggling immigrants into the country. Now pretend that any or all of those scenarios goes awry just a smidgen more than it already is and there you are in the middle of "Frozen River" (and yes, quite literally our protagonist finds herself in a frozen river). I'm too depressed to even think much more about it. Just think happy thoughts. What's that? Something about clapping and a fairy gets its wings? Who am I kidding? Nothing at this moment is going to turn this frown upside down. Not Tinkerbell. Not whiskey. Not anything. Kudos to the optimistic fun-lovin' team that put this together. Clearly, you've been given a lot of Prozac to get through this production process because I could barely stand and hour and a half of it.
Posted by D at Sunday, March 01, 2009