2.10.2011

Twofer Thursday: Comedy Gets Serious





Twofer Thursday:
Offering up a new release and a complimentary older movie for the upcoming weekend. I have pretty good taste, so you should just follow my advice.







Starring: Kier Gilchrist, Zach Galifianakis, Emma Roberts
Directors: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck

The theme this week is getting out of your comfort zone. Normally, Galifianakis is known for his comedy roles, but here he plays a much more deeper and darker character than normal. A teenager (Kier Gilchrist) is, like most teenagers, depressed and hating his life. He constantly thinks about suicide and so decides to check himself into a psychiatric ward. There, he befriends Bobby, a depressed young father who voluntarily checks himself into the ward a lot. There's a special bond that develops between the two and it's very stirring and genuine. But along with all the touchy-feely stuff, there's a lot of good comedy. The other patients offer up a diverse group of characters that you end up loving to spend time with. It's a fairly easy going movie, despite all the heavy themes being thrown out. I was simply amazed at how easy it was for Galifianakis to play such a different and complex character. The rest of the cast is just as good - Kier Gilchrist, in his lead role debut, is really good at playing the awkward teenager and Emma Roberts is just mysterious enough to want to know more about her. All in all, a wonderful movie that probably will make you feel good about yourself and who can't love that about a movie?

Starring: Will Ferrell, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Emma Thompson, Dustin Hoffman
Director: Marc Forster

Another huge leap for a comedian, Stranger Than Fiction really shows off Will Ferrell's acting chops. Here he plays an IRS auditor, Harold Crick, who suddenly finds his life being narrated by Emma Thompson. After several attempts to ignore said voice, he decides to confront it. It's a wonderful movie and Harold Crick is an amazing character - he's a diligent, statistical person. Everything in his life is sterile and removed from any emotion. But it all comes shattering down on him when the voice appears. He starts to get involved with a auditee that he's investigating and the movie carries forward full steam ahead. Although more of a drama than anything, there is a lot of laughs to be had and they don't necessarily come from Ferrell. Plus, the soundtrack is one of the best this past decade - Spoon headlines and it injects the movie with some energy. There's a great scene where we see Harold crack and reveal more of his true self - when he starts to play Wreckless Eric's "Whole Wide World" on the guitar. It's such a great revelation and breakthrough not only for Harold, but also for Ferrell. It's a great movie and it makes you want to see this side of Ferrell more in movies.

2.08.2011

Notable Tuesday Releases

Starring: Katherine Heigl, Josh Duhamel
Director: Greg Berlanti

We didn't get this movie in on time so I didn't get a chance to watch this movie. But you can pretty much guess from the trailers if you're going to like it or not. It's pretty much a cookie cutter romantic comedy - so it boils down to the comedy and actors. I personally loathe Katherine Heigl - not so much as an actress, but as a person. She's come off in interviews as a holier-than-thou jagweed. But Josh Duhamel, he's a solid actor (plus he's easy on the eyes, am I right, ladies?). So they pretty much cancel each other out. Which means it's probably just okay.


Starring: Kate Featherston, Micah Sloat
Director: Tod Williams

Another movie that we didn't get in on time, Paranormal Activity 2 seems pretty much more of the same. I'm not one for these kinds of movies, but if you've seen the first one, you'll probably enjoy this one just as much. Although unlike most horror sequels, this movie is actually a prequel! Surprise! But you know this franchise isn't going away until they've milked every penny out of it. So expect Paranormal Activity 10:  Supernaturally Scary coming to theaters in 2018!


Starring: Keir Gilchrist, Zach Galifianakis
Director: Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck

Now this was a funny and sincerely heartfelt movie. Zach Galifianak plays a much more somber character and is absolutely brilliant as a depressed young father. Kier Gilchrist plays the troubled teen who thinks his life is spiraling downwards and checks himself into an adult psychiatric ward. There's great chemistry between him and Zach and there's lots of great moments in the movie - especially when they get the whole ward together to play Queen's "Under Pressure" for the hospital. I highly recommend this one!

Rating: Rent It!

Starring: Kristen Bell, Jamie Lee Curtis
Director: Andy Fickman

If you like a sterile, Disney PG comedy that teaches you morals that you already know, than You Again is for you! I'm sure some will find it cute, but the jokes fall flat (there's a lot of dumb, physical comedy) and even the great Betty White can't save this dreadful comedy. Kristen Bell plays a gal who had a horrible experience in high school and wants to forget about it. But her brother is marrying the girl who made her life a personal hell. And hilarity ensues (well, not really). I wish they would have taken this movie to a darker edge - like Election. But it's Disney, so we're stuck with this lame comedy.

Rating: Not Worth Paying For!

2.03.2011

Twofer Thursday: Buried & Moon









Twofer Thursday:
Offering up a new release and a complimentary older movie for the upcoming weekend. I have pretty good taste, so you should just follow my advice.






Buried (R) 
Starring: Ryan Reynolds
Director: Rodrigo Cort├ęs
Here's two movies that rely solely on the performance of one actor. Buried is not going to blow your mind with plot twists and surprises, but the film succeeds in creating a palpable thrill even though it takes place entirely in a coffin buried underground. Ryan Reynolds, convincingly the sexiest man alive, is a terrific actor who does not get the credit he deserves, talent-wise. I would not be surprised if he lands an Oscar nomination in the next few years (it just takes the right role). But audiences love him and here he's crafted quite a powerful performance. It's amazing what the movie can do with just one guy, a cell phone, a pen and the occasional snake. The movie creates a very good sense of claustrophobia - we're left in the dark physically and mentally - there isn't a whole lot of exposition and we're left to guess what's really happening outside the coffin. The movie does have a few surprises (the company phone call where he subsequently gets fired is both shockingly funny and sad all at once) and the ending will either enrage you or leave your mouth agape. It's a thoroughly engrossing movie from start to finish.

Moon (R)
Starring: Sam Rockwell
Director: Duncan Jones
I've reviewed this movie earlier for Project 182 and I still consider it one of the greatest sci-fi movies of all time. It's not only a great story and Sam Rockwell gives a great performance, but the tiny details and mood of the movie are what's best about this ode to 2001 and  many other great science fiction movies. The robot voiced by Kevin Spacey is classic and all of the shots outside the space station are beautiful and eerie. This movie will have you guessing what's real and what's not - and that can mostly be attributed to Rockwell. It's destined to be a classic in the genre and I cannot wait to see what Duncan Jones has in store next.
 

2.01.2011

Notable Tuesday Releases

Conviction (R) - Drama - 107 minutes
Starring: Hilary Swank, Sam Rockwell, Melissa Leo
Director: Tony Goldwyn

"A working mother puts herself through law school in an effort to represent her brother, who has been wrongfully convicted of murder and has exhausted his chances to appeal his conviction through public defenders"

For the record, I really dislike Hilary Swank. I really can't put my finger on it, but I've never really liked anything she's done. But I love Sam Rockwell - he's a consistently good actor and has surprising range. So Conviction was a big question mark, but despite it's A-list cast, this movie really could have been on the Lifetime network. It's a good story and one that deserves to be told, no doubt, but I just don't think the movie convinced me enough that it was worth paying for. It's well acted, but  the story was slow and poorly paced. Plus, the movie is all about Hilary Swank - we never really see the hardship endured by her brother in prison, nor do we get a greater sense of why the two are so close. There are certain flashbacks as to how they bonded, but they never are convincing enough to show why she's so obsessed with taking care of her brother and why she neglects everything and everyone in her life to pursue her law degree. It seems, though, at the end of the movie that everything is nicely tied up for her life, but it's hard to imagine that all of her close relationships haven't suffered in the past twenty years - and the film never really delves too deeply into that. But if you like inspiring movies and don't mind a very shallow look at the determined spirit, this movie is for you.
Rating: Not Worth Paying For!


Let Me In (R) - Horror - 116 minutes
Starring: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Chloe Grace Moretz, Richard Jenkins
Director: Matt Reeves


"A bullied young boy befriends a young female vampire who lives in secrecy with her guardian"

A not-so-surprising American remake that is surprisingly better than the original in some respects. Based on a Swedish novel, Let Me In is a very haunting and quiet film. The mood and the young actors are what's best about this movie. There's never any rock and roll moments like you would normally find in vampire movies. It's more of a slow boil - and the true horror is not necessarily the person with the fangs. In fact, this is one of the most smart and beautiful vampire movies to grace screens in a while. The film focuses on the young boy, who is brilliantly portrayed by Kodi Smit-McPhee and his troubles with bullies at school. These are not the normal bullies - they're out for blood quite literally. But when he befriends a quiet, graceful little girl (once again, Chloe Grace Moretz, from Kick-Ass, shines here), he starts to stand up for himself - and the terror he finds within her is nicely contrasted to the terror he sees within his bullies. There isn't a whole lot of exposition (something Maggie commented on - it's a very important aspect of movies to her), but if you are willing to go along with the movie - it's a fantastic journey. And for those that loved the original Swedish movie, it's every bit as good, if not better in some respects. Although it didn't do gangbusters at the box office, it will probably work itself out to be a cult classic in a few years.

Rating: Rent It!


Never Let Me Go (R) - Drama - 103 minutes
Starring: Carey Mulligan, Kiera Knightley, Andrew Garfield

Director: Mark Romanek

"As children, Ruth, Kathy and Tommy, spend their childhood at a seemingly idyllic English boarding school. As they grow into young adults, they find that they have to come to terms with the strength of the love they feel for each other, while preparing themselves for the haunting reality that awaits them."

I don't normally cry when I read books, but damn, this story had me blubbering like a baby at the end. It's a sad, terrific story and I wholly recommend reading the book if you get the chance (TIME magazine considers it the best book of the last decade). And despite its shortcomings as a movie, Never Let Me Go does the story justice, even if it may just be skimming the surface. It seems like the studio wanted to market the kids fate as a mystery, but there's really no spoilers in telling you that they're clones destined to give up their organs for "real" people. The movie follows three close friends as they grow up in a safe environment shut away from the outside world. The movie clearly knows the tone of the book - a very lonely existence for each of the three characters, even if they are constantly surrounded by each other. The movie quickly moves past their childhood into their young adult lives and it never really establishes a sense of friendship between the three main characters. The book spends a lot more time as kids and you get a better sense as to why they are all friends and why certain betrayals happen. But the movie is striking and there's just a sense of hopelessness that abounds in the film that's quite tragic. Plus, if you're a fan of Spider-Man, you get to see Andrew Garfield in all his glory. Where the film does succeed is the acting and not just the main characters, but the surrounding cast as well. The movie will definitely pull at your heartstrings, unless you're a robot who has no sense of human emotion.

Rating: Rent It!