Kicking It

"Kicking It" is a documentary about the Homeless World Cup. It chronicles the story of several homeless street soccer teams from all around the world and their journey to the cup in South Africa. It's an wonderful piece of filmmaking that will inevitably pull at your heart strings. What's amazing to me is how differently the competitors from around the world view their goals at the tournament and also their perspectives on homelessness. Heartbreaking and inspiring at the same time, the people featured in this film have been through a great deal and their tales are worthy of your time.

Rent it today.
Trailer here:

(500) Days of Summer

Like so many others before me, I have loved and lost. Relationships in the 21st Century are more than messy, sometimes they seem downright impossible to maintain and if they fall apart it seems they are increasingly harder to recover from with social networking and all the other forms of communication we've become so accustomed to. Why do our relationships last and why do they end? Can you get someone back? What if there is no such thing as love? Is there no end to this line of questioning?

If we're being supremely general, there are cynics and there are dreamers. "(500) Days of Summer" introduces us to one such cynic and dreamer. Young Tom is our dreamer. He's played by a man who appears to have a thing for numbers, Joseph Gordon-Levitt ("10 Things I Hate About You", "3rd Rock from the Sun", "Numb3rs"). Our cynic is Summer, the always lovely and adorable Zooey Deschanel. Who wouldn't fall for either one of these actors or characters? I mean really, they couldn't be any cuter if they tried.

The film is a wonderful tale of love, loss, pain, and exuberance. As the days go by and jump around you feel as though your own memories are flashing before you. If I'm being 100% truthful, my reaction to this film is biased. Very biased. "(500) Days o Summer" is the kind of film I entered film school aspiring to make (well, that and something along the lines of "Jurassic Park"). My little student film was all about a poor guy who couldn't seem to figure women out, let alone get a grip on his own issues. I think I adored this movie with that bias in mind. Surely, average Joe (or Jill) will find it charming as well though. It's a perfect portrait of boy meets girl.

Check out the trailer:

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

As much as I wanted to flaunt my nerd-dom and stand in line wearing a cape last Tuesday night at midnight...the professional more serious me took hold and decided it was worth the wait & better for my sleep patterns to see it over the weekend in a more peaceful, civil environment. Cue, a Sunday matinee...the crowd spans vast age ranges...the smell of popcorn wafts throughout the theater...and the groups of friends and families that have flocked to this particular movie can barely contain themselves. Knowing what is to come (spoiler alert), I am upset that I have forgotten to bring Kleenex. My reaction to JK Rowling's book 6 is fresh on my mind. I read it a few years ago but the memory remains strong. Will the movie deliver the same intensity of emotion? I wonder.

For the record, I'm still ticked off at Warner Bros. The film was supposed to release last fall but the studio deemed that it would be a better fit for their 2009 lineup. Their reasoning? They had already made plenty of money. GOOD FOR YOU WARNER BROS. So instead you tease, taunt, and otherwise piss off tens of thousands of Harry Potter fanatics, such as myself. Why not? You know we'll still come to the movie. We won't boycott it. I think you're just mean-spirited. You released trailers. You had it on the Fall Movie Preview edition of Entertainment Weekly. You had us primed and ready for magic 8 MONTHS AGO. So I suppose I have you to thank for delving into Stephanie Meyer's "Twilight" series. I'll be sure to take my money over to Summit Entertainment when "New Moon" comes out. Yeah, I'm still mad at you WB. It's unconscionable that you would do that to your fans. And while I'm at it - you should have trusted that your audience can handle and appreciate the glorious and artistic eye of director of photography, Bruno Delbonnel (who's responsible for crafting the look of eye-candy gems like "Across the Universe", "Amelie", and "Paris Je T'aime"). But NOOOOO, you had to tinker with his work too and "re-treat" the footage to make it more pleasing to broader audiences (by that you mean, water it down).

Well, I have news for you, nothing you studio execs could do to Delbonnel's footage would have mucked it up. "Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince" is GORGEOUS...make that STUNNING! Cinematography is always an essential component to any good film but in this case with a story so chalk full of activity, it is largely responsible for setting the appropriate atmosphere as each scene unfolds. One minute you're moody and a bit sad, then you're having a good laugh, and then perhaps being creeped out a bit, and then all of the sudden you're on the edge of your seat...Delbonnel's work did a great deal of that mood-setting legwork. He in turn was bolstered by some incredible special effects and art direction. Everything was just top notch! And I haven't even started talking about the performances yet!!

In the same endearing way that the books mature and become more complex as they progress so too have the films, and now they have taken us on an incredible journey in their own right. Beloved characters Harry, Hermoine, and Ron are almost all grown up and their interests and focus have matured alongside them. The acting by our three heroes is first-rate. All those years of working with so many of Britain's top thespians has paid off in full. They've really come far and can evoke so much emotional range, front and center in this film is their comedic timing.

Overall, I thought the film was outstanding...and I don't just mean as it exists in the Harry Potter collection. Yes, I do think it's the best effort of the bunch to date but honestly, it's a terrific film on its own. It's a well-crafted, beautifully executed, great piece of filmmaking. And now, broken into two films, the final chapter awaits us to complete the film story of Harry Potter.

Two Lovers

Drama. Drama. Drama. When I saw the trailer for "Two Lovers" it seemed over the top. I thought perhaps it was the studio's way of making the plot more interesting than it really was. Nope, the film is just as melodramatic as the trailer, and then some. It's moody, a tad depressing, and surprisingly a bit boring. The performances weren't bad but the story didn't seem to have enough depth in the characters for the actors to latch onto. I give it a passing grade but I wouldn't go out of your way to see this. If you want to get a taste...view the trailer here.

Up: 3D

Pixar doesn't make mistakes. Some of the most memorable, quotable, lovable characters in recent cinema history have come from Pixar movies. The company prides itself on storytelling (the foundation of what would eventually become Walt Disney's empire and legacy) and clearly pours heaping spoonfulls of love into their artistry and character development. I'm never disappointed and I never know exactly what to expect. "Up" is a quieter more serious Pixar creation. It's main protagonist is an older gentleman and like "The Incredibles" and "Wall-E" the film's themes are very adult. Yet somehow, the appeal to children is still there. Our hero's sidekick is a sprightly young Boy Scout-ish little tyke who will stop at nothing until he has performed his duties. The film is gloriously beautiful in 3D with colors literally popping off of the screen.

"Up" seems to rely on recent pop culture references more directly than its predecessors, which was my only complaint. Looking at Pixar's complete body of work, postmodernism is either at the forefront of the tale ("Toy Story") or it's subtly sprinkled as a bonus for the more savvy viewer ("Finding Nemo"). Instead in "Up" there are strange homages to "Star Wars" and other films that seem like gags that won't hold up over time.

All in all, "Up" is a lovely treat and I highly recommend seeing it in 3D if it's playing in your area. "Partly Cloudy", the short that opens the film is a gem as well.

He's Just Not That Into You

It's chick movie month!!! Yay! Sorry folks. Looks like you have to endure another review about girlish things. I tried to get through a serious one last week ("Guantanamera") but alas, I could only make it through about an hour and a half. "He's Just Not That Into You" is about the lies we ladies tell ourselves and the crap we put ourselves through emotionally - all because of men. Mars. Venus. All true. We don't speak the same language and the key to sexual freedom? Learn to speak and process the other's language. Break the code.

I must say, the cast was pretty slick. I enjoyed seeing so many A-listers in an ensemble film. There was something refreshing about the tone of the script - there was angst, honesty, and so much hilarity. When you're not in the midst of it, stepping out of one's love life and looking in is a funny scenario...because 9 times out of 10, it's ridiculous - full of farce and likely based on a series of lies we're telling ourselves. Thanks to this movie (and the book it was adapted from) we can sort of go there - gingerly - but go there. This isn't a groundbreaking, earth-shattering, melt your face off kind of film but it will probably make you laugh and remember that one time when...