Monday, September 30, 2013

Stuck In Love (2012)

Bill (Greg Kinnear) is a moderately famous writer who has been divorced for a couple years. His ex-wife Erica (Jennifer Connelly) married another man and their family isn't functioning quite as they planned. The romantic story between these two is pretty standard, well actually it's pretty much all standard but it covers a few bases as it follows three different stereotypical romance story lines. Man and wife, break up, man waits, gets back together with wife. Boy falls for troubled girl to try to straighten her out....actually that one just comes up twice in this movie. Oops....I guess *spoilers*? It doesn't matter it's a romantic film you know what's going to happen.

As much as Stuck In Love has a derivative plot, the characters are pretty likable and so you just want to keep watching. Greg Kinnear plays the middle-aged bachelor and you can't not love him. Kristen Bell has a small and nicely rounded role as Bill's.....special friend. Jennifer Connelly is sad and pathetic just like her character is supposed to be. Relative newcomer Nat Wolff (I've only seen him in Admission, which was not a good movie) does a good job as Bill's son Rusty but he needs to sharpen his skills which will come in time. Liana Liberato is the troubled Kate that wins Rusty's heart. Nothing too special there. Logan Lerman really won me over in this one. I haven't liked him much up to this point but in The Perks of Being a Wallflower he started to sway me and now I'm definitely a fan. He is pretty damn smooth playing Lou opposite the incandescent Lily Collins, as Bill's confused and promiscuous cynic of a daughter, Samantha. It was my favourite romantic pairing of the movie. Something about Lily Collins just gets me. It's kind of like the fascination everyone has with Emma Watson, same effect. 

In any case this is a combination of basic formulaic rom-com plots and pairings with a great cast. Not all stars which makes for good chemistry. It just makes me smile when I find another one of these I can add to a list of movies I like to watch on a particularly gloomy day to cheer me up. So ultimately nothing special but worth watching.

Did you notice that I told you virtually no details about the movie? It's what I do, I've gotten very lazy with these and I'll have to shake things up a bit....but that will come later.  

You can find the movie here

Notes:
- Poster image obtained from www.impawards.com
- I didn't even recognize Spencer Breslin as Rusty's friend Jason, he's definitely grown up since his younger roles but sadly he hasn't done too much.
- If you don't know by now, Lily Collins is daughter of former-Genesis drummer (amongst many other things) Phil Collins.
- Patrick Schwarzenegger (son of Ahnuld) plays Kate's jackass ex-boyfriend Glen
- Stephen King's voice only part was voiced by the actual Stephen King. I mean there's no point in not getting him so it pretty inconsequential and barely even note worthy.....

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Don Jon (2013)


Unrealistic expectations are the downfall of too many relationships. Men tend to always look at how women have fantasies created from romantic films that seem to put unwanted pressure on them. How can men possibly be a Prince Charming? What we don't seem to get is that we put the same sort of pressure on women when media helps us form an image of what we think is the "perfect" woman. Unfortunately for Don Jon, his expectations connect more with the women he sees in pornography. 

Jon (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a little bit obsessive compulsive with his routine and a little bit addicted to porn. From his mouth, the only things important in life are his body, his pad, his ride, his family, his church, his boys, his girls, and his porn. Sprinkled amongst the smut and clips out of pornographic films (cleverly edited of course to avoid that same label) there are a few scenes where you see Jon's mild OCD-like tendencies. For example, he cleans a mirror and immediately redoes because it's not good enough. He does the same with his covers when making his bed. Of course that is a side note to all the porn. He is insanely promiscuous and has copious amounts of sex but still masturbates constantly. He can't seem to connect with real women like he does when he gets himself off to porn. When he meets Barbara (Scarlett Johansson) it starts him thinking a little differently. She is the most beautiful thing he has ever seen and he wants to do things right. He treats her well, goes back to night school for her, waits for sex for her, and even gives up his porn.....well he at least tried to. Porn is the one constant in his life but it's warped his expectations so far to be severely unrealistic for any woman to live up to and that is why things are still not quite right with Barbara. In his night class he meets Esther (Julianne Moore) an older woman who teaches him a thing or two about what he thinks relationships are all about. The story follows how Barbara and Jon's fantasies clash and the trials and tribulations of that journey affect how Jon's life.

Scarlett Johansson wasn't particularly brilliant because her character didn't evolve throughout the film unlike Jon who became a much more complete person by the film's conclusion. Julianne Moore does a wonderful job as usual in a role that I didn't quite expect from the get go. I think it's better if you don't read too much into the movie before seeing it, as it goes with just about every movie, but it's better if it surprises you. Jon's family is really fun to watch. Glenne Headly and Tony Danza play his parents and Tony is great to watch on screen again. Brie Larson portrays his sister and she literally only has one meaningful line in the movie but it's a good one. The rest of the time she has her head cocked to one side engrossed in the screen of her cell phone.

Obviously I'm a big Joseph Gordon-Levitt fan, huge man crush. He's a talented dude. He wrote, starred in, and directed this film and that is only one of the reasons he's one of the biggest stars in Hollywood these days. Don Jon is a great film, not family friendly and may offend the faint of heart but it has a good message. Love and relationships aren't about being selfish, it's a two-way thing, you have to give as well as take. A great point was brought up in an interview between Jake Hamilton (an underrated interviewer) and Gordon-Levitt. Jake made the apt observation that the film was a sort of indirect companion to (500) Days of Summer. Both Jon and Tom are very selfish characters, albeit in very different ways, but they see the error of their flawed perception of love and change for the better.

Now I didn't read this post over and I wrote it all out of order so if it doesn't make a lot of sense here is the gist of it. This is not a family friendly movie. If you don't like what porn looks like, even the....non-penetrative parts...then this movie is also not for you. If you like to laugh, even at the Jersey accent that I'm pretty sure they may be mocking, go watch it. Not trying to offend, just lending my humble opinion, but the Jersey accent....not so hot. If you want to see an interesting story with a good moral this is for you.

For you deluded dreamers out there men and women, after seeing this movie take a good long look at how you view love and the opposite sex and check to see that you have everything in perspective. If you don't, you had better do something about it. Go check it out.  

Notes:
- Poster image obtained from www.impawards.com
- The fake movies that Jon and Barbara are choosing between in the theater are an action movie and a romantic film. The romantic film stars Anne Hathaway and Channing Tatum and there is a great montage of the movie that is summarized in the film; a movie within a movie. A nice nod to Inception which was a big step into bigger budget roles for JGL.
The action movie stars Emily Blunt and John Krasinski, although we never see any part of that movie.
- Emily is credited as Kelley Vallette, a production assistant and John is credited as Bruce Blackstone a driver, both working on the film.
- The interview between Jake and Joe can be seen here.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Drinking Buddies (2013)


Drinking Buddies is a drama that happens to be comedic based on the characters more so than their situations. Luke (Jake Johnson) and Kate (Olivia Wilde), are two friends who work together in a brewery together that have amazing chemistry. Yes it would be cliché that they eventually see the other in a different light and it all comes out hunky dory and they live happily ever after in the end. Thankfully this is not that kind of movie, even if it might seem that way. It doesn't really throw any twists though so you won't be shocked by any part of the story but its still a good watch. 

I love Jake Johnson and Olivia Wilde playing off each other. It seems like that sort of friendship could actually happen with those two people in real life. Obviously they wouldn't be movie stars and thus would be far uglier. It is a nice small cast so we can get more screen time with each. Ron Livingston plays Chris, Kate's boyfriend and Anna Kendrick plays Jill, Luke's girlfriend. Ron brings a profound awkwardness that is sometimes off putting to sit through but is exactly what his character is about. He doesn't get a large chunk of screen time but he does well with what he gets. I do like Anna but her performance and how the character was written didn't wow me. Her character lacked any real....well...character. We basically just saw an emotionally fragile girl who wants to get married and is nudging Luke towards it because she is too afraid to make any sort of disruption. I guess Anna could only do so much with such a character.   

I really enjoyed the movie. It was simple, low budget, and it didn't have too many cliché moments. Yes they do go through some romantic struggles wherein they may learn to see the other differently but it's definitely not what you think. Not to spoil anything but it's called Drinking "Buddies" for a reason. It paces a little slow so despite only being 90 minutes it seems like a much longer movie. That being said I really liked it. It was good to see this kind of story told. I'm glad writers are still able to find ways to creatively avoid a generic rom-com of a story. 

I especially enjoyed what was said in the very last scene of the movie. You'll know what I'm talking about when you get there.

Notes:
- Poster image obtained from www.impawards.com
- Jason Sudeikis who plays Gene, who I assume to be some sort of manager, is engaged to star Olivia Wilde
- Although the image above shows Jake Johnson clean shaven, at no point in the movie is that true. Must have been an old poster.

Monday, September 23, 2013

People Like Us (2012)


Sam Harper is struggling with the debt in his life until his estranged father passes away. He leaves Sam $150,000 that he must give to the son of the half-sister he never knew he had. Sam has to work through his inner issues and find a way to tell his sister exactly who he is. 

People Like Us gives us their fair share of very sincere touching moments mixed with a few that fall flat trying to pull at your heartstrings. They try a little too hard with the dramatic lighting or the cheesy climactic songs and crescendos. Sometimes we see a strange romantic vibe in some of the scenes. Whenever the lead actor and actress are thrust into situations like hanging at a laundromat, going out to lunch, and going for a drive around the countryside, things get a little ambiguous. I think the set up just gravitates naturally to what we normally see in romantic movies. Basically what I'm saying is that you could take this nearly two hour movie about a brother and a sister, cut out about 30 minutes, and someone could mistake it for a romantic film....which is weird.

Michelle Pfeiffer and Olivia Wilde do respectably but nothing too notable. I definitely watched this movie for the story and the chemistry between Chris Pine and Elizabeth Banks. It really seems like they would be friends in real life, although there were a few missteps that seemed a little off throughout the movie. I'd pinpoint them for you but that would spoil things and I just don't want to.

Michael Hall D'Addario is a cool little kid and some people will say he can't succeed in the business because he looks a little funny but hey look at Steve Buscemi. However, I do have one tip, cut your hair man. I know you're a tween or something and long hair is apparently cool (again?) but when you and your friends look like girls from behind you should just cut it, even just a trim. Besides short hair is easy to maintain, it's awesome. Enough on that tangent.

Ultimately, a decent enough movie, nothing super special but a nice story that makes you feel good watching. Something you can watch with your family, or just to pass the time. 

The movie is available here, and it's totally legal.....

Notes:
- Poster image obtained from www.impawards.com
- Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci are young writers/producers (and now directors with Kurtzman's debut with this film) who have broken onto the scene working on movies such as Star Trek, Transformers, Mission: Impossible III
- Mark Duplass and Jon Favreau are in bit parts but don't add much
- Inspired by true events is flashed over the opening credits. Basically Kurtzman met his half-sister when he was 30 and Orci's father-in-law is a prominent songwriter in the business and all of the memorabilia in Jerry's 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Wedding Singer (1998)


I am going to try to get back into the swing of things with this post. Recently this blog has been sorely lacking any sort of....you know.....content. I've just been procrastinating so no real excuse. I'm still watching movies, although a lack of new releases because you know me, super cheap. I have a schedule in mind for these posts and we'll see if I can stick to it. Yes it is in part because I like to share what I like with others and want others to see it but also it does help me keep my time managed well. Without further ado, I bring you to our feature presentation.

The 80s. A simpler time with the cutting edge invention of the CD player and cellular phones. The fashion consisted of leather jackets, bad hair, leg warmers, and oh so much more. There is something hilariously nostalgic about the 80s culture. I think as much as we all look back on that era and laugh (whether we were a part of it or not) there is definitely something lovable about it.

No The Wedding Singer does not feature great acting or top of the line visuals but does give us a cliche romantic story and atrocious costuming, simply put the best of both worlds. There is just something about the Jerry Seinfeld-esque hairdo Adam Sandler sports and the innocent young Drew Barrymore (that we all know is a complete farce and we wouldn't have it any other way) that always draws me back to this movie. 

The stable of supporting characters is pretty great. Alexis ArquetteChristine Taylor, Allen Covert, and Ellen Albertini Dow create an atmosphere that is just enough weird and bit parts from Steve Buscemi, Jon Lovitz, and Billy Idol as himself, are just awesome. 

The Wedding Singer just gives me a ridiculous and only slightly exaggerated summary of the 80s and adds a love story along the way. Something to put on after a long day for some cheap laughs that make you think of simpler times. 

Notes: 
- Poster image obtained from www.impawards.com
- Ellen Albertini Dow who plays Rosie, often portrays the old lady role in movies and for good reason. This November she will celebrate her 100th birthday.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Léon (1994)


Léon is a French film written and directed by Luc Besson  It follows a hitman, the titular character, who takes in a young girl after her family is murdered by Norman Stansfield (Gary Oldman). Léon (Jean Reno) is a very solitary man, he does his work well but is all work and no play. After Mathilda's (Natalie Portman) family is murdered she is saved and taken in by Léon. He reluctantly decides to train her as she eyes revenge. They form an unorthodox bond that proves stronger than one might think.

Gary Oldman is completely deranged, unhinged, and brilliant in this film but then again when is he not? The brilliant part I mean. In the scenes where his character takes drugs in the film, it is surprisingly creepy and amazing at the same time.  Jean Reno is stoic as usual but gives a great performance. He lets us see the many sides of Léon while making it seem like he's doing nothing at all.

This film is famous for giving a tween Natalie Portman her break out role. There are some weird sexual overtones between Mathilda and Léon that are.....odd to watch but thankfully they don't cross too many lines. To fully understand the weirdness, you should just watch it yourself.

It's simply a great action movie that isn't specifically about the action. The stoic killer does have a similar style as seen more recently in Taken, but that's to be expected coming from the same writer. Just a great watch, and it's a nice throwback looking at how far Natalie Portman has come since being a fresh-faced 12 year-old.

Notes:
- Poster image obtained from www.impawards.com
Jean Reno, despite being a French actor, is of Spanish descent. He was born Juan Moreno y Herrera Jiménez in Casablanca, Morocco. I just thought he changed his name from Renault or Renaud due to mispronunciation. You learn something new everyday.
- Director Luc Besson, although perhaps unknown to most, myself included, is a big name in action films. He is a writer for the Taken and Transporter film series' among others.  
- Besson and Reno have worked together several times before.
- Mathilda is a smoker in the film, however Portman is never shown breathing in or out any smoke. As part of a deal by her parents, she was not to actual smoke a cigarette but could bring it up to her mouth as long as she didn't inhale.
Léon is the French title but it is The Professional in the U.S., so Léon: The Professional encompasses both nicely.
- A sequel with Portman returning as Mathilda was said to be in the works after the movie was well received but they wanted to wait until she was older to film. Unfortunately, due to quarrels about movie rights, a sequel is unlikely to happen. 

Friday, June 14, 2013

Once (2006)


Anyone who knows me, knows I am a big sucker for music of the indie/folk persuasion and it's even better when it's the basis of a movie. Once (2006) features a great mix of music and romance. It's not a musical it's simply a story about music.

The protagonists of our story, known simply as Guy (Glen Hansard) and Girl (Markéta Irglová), meet while he is playing a heartfelt song in a Dublin street. A spark ignites between them and they start discovering more and more about each other. She has a child with another man and he has been left brokenhearted by his ex-girlfriend back in London. Ultimately, they end of being exactly what the other needs.

It is a very simplistically shot film which suits the genre and the people well. The music heard throughout the film is of course phenomenal and so emotionally potent it's hard not to feel what the characters themselves feel. 

It's one of my favourites and although it paces rather slowly, it's well worth the 90 minutes of time invested in watching it.

Notes:
- Made on a mere $160,000 (mostly for the Irish Film Board and from director John Carney) the movie ended up grossing over $20 million worldwide.
- "Falling Slowly" written by Hansard and Irglová, won for Best Original Song at the 2008 Academy Awards.
Hansard and Irglová dated for 3 years after filming Once.
- John Carney wrote the screenplay semi-autobiographically, remembering his time in Dublin in a long distance relationship with his girlfriend.
- The flashback clips of Guy's girlfriend are actually of director John Carney's girlfriend.
- Of the two leads, only Hansard had any experience with acting (A small role 15 years prior). They are both professional musicians.


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

This Is The End (2013)


The apocalypse after a party at James Franco's house? This is the perfect example of why ensemble casts should be assembled. Apart from movies like say Ocean's Eleven (both original and reboot) this sort of ridiculous cast should only appear in movies that don't take anything seriously.

There is a long list of small parts and cameos in This Is The End. We have Rihanna, Michael Cera, Emma Watson, Channing Tatum, Jason Segel, Paul Rudd, Kevin Hart, David Krumholtz, Aziz Ansari, Mindy Kaling, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, and...that's all I can think of right now...oh yeah and Martin Starr. If you don't know who that is....that's perfectly fine (but seriously he's pretty cool). They all play themselves, but a weird, messed up, freakish version of themselves. My favourite small performance is from Michael Cera who is hilariously awkward and weird but in a way you probably haven't seen before.

The story of the movie follows the core cast of Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, James Franco, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, and Danny McBride (all seen in the image above) as they try to survive the disaster and doom that has befallen the world, but more importantly the Hollywood Hills.

I thought things were a bit forced in the beginning of the film but later on they explain why. The pace is a little all of over the place as is the plot (but that can be overlooked) so there are going to be things that are unexpected. Ultimately, it's the funniest and probably weirdest movie I've seen this year. It's filled with a lot of hits, a few misses, and all the messed up stuff in-between. Be warned though, This Is The End is crude, offensive, and insanely inappropriate so it won't be for everyone. If however, you have no morals, have a twisted sense of humour, or just love the randomness of movies like Superbad, Pineapple Express, and other such movies combined, then you have to watch this movie. 

P.S. I particularly enjoyed the surprise at the end. I'm obviously not going to spoil it, but it's definitely nostalgic.   

Notes:
- Poster image obtained from www.impawards.com
- Based on the 2007 short film Jay and Seth vs. The Apocalypse, written by Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen
- On April 1, 2013, Sony released a trailer for Pineapple Express 2 as a joke. In reality the trailer was for This Is The End.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Place Beyond the Pines (2013)


I kind of had high hopes for The Place Beyond the Pines. I like director Derek Cianfrance, despite only really directing Blue Valentine before this, but there were a few things that didn't quite fit in my opinion. Firstly, I have to describe it as a mix between Blue Valentine, Drive, and The Departed. Although maybe I'm being influenced by the fact that Ryan Gosling is in two of the three movies listed. Before I get too into my spiel, I'll give you a quick synopsis or teaser if you will.  

Luke Glanton (Ryan Gosling) is a daredevil motorcyclist traveling with a fair when he runs into Romina (Eva Mendes), an ex-lover, and he soon discovers he has a newborn son, Jason. He decides to stick around and try and provide for his family but he only has one real skill. He proceeds to rob banks using his motorcycle for a quick getaway. Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper) is a rookie cop who gets tangled up with all of this as well as the seedy underbelly of the Schenectady Police Department. 

I don't want to get too into the plot because I don't want to ruin it but I was a little disappointed in the lack of screen time between Ryan and Bradley. You just have to watch it to know what I'm talking about.

The music was a bit hit or miss. The ominous score was blatant in many scenes and was often overbearing, most scenes didn't really warrant it. I would have loved softer, more simplistic music during the suspenseful moments. I did however very much enjoy the song Snow Angel by Mike Patton that played a couple times throughout the film. It is a very soothing instrumental that came up mainly when someone was peacefully riding a bike down an empty road. 

The two males leads put out great performances but by no means their best. Ray Liotta had a small part and nailed it because he is so suited to play the perfect scumbag. Ben Mendelsohn played Robin, Luke's accomplice in the robberies, but his character didn't amount to much. He was just a means to keep the plot moving but not to add anything to it. I thought Eva Mendes fell a little flat in some parts and most other characters (and actors) seemed to fall by the wayside. However, I do want to talk about young actors Dane DeHaan and Emory Cohen. I liked DeHaan's performance as teenaged Jason and I definitely thought it believable he was Luke's son. He had a brooding reserved darkness to him. On the other hand Cohen, who played AJ Cross (Avery's son), was a huge douche bag who seemed nothing like either of his parents. All I could see is that he was a jackass from New York. I'm not sure why he was written this way, but I digress.

I thought most of the movie was well done and entertaining but a little rough around the edges. It is also pretty long at 140 minutes, especially since it is paced rather slowly. If you want to watch a film similar to The Departed but a bit slower, a little dirtier, and more family oriented (and no I do not mean that it's for kids), then I would very much suggest seeing it while it's still in theaters. Otherwise, I'd wait until it comes out on DVD and Blu-Ray and watch it then.



Notes

  • Poster image obtained from www.impawards.com
  • Filmed in Schenectady, New York
  • The name "Schenectady" loosely comes from a Mohawk word that means "place beyond the pine plains"
  • For those out of the loop, Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes have been dating since late 2011
  • Just because I didn't feel like putting it in the main part of the post, Bruce Greenwood sports a rather distracting moustache that I did not approve of. 

Friday, April 12, 2013

10 Movies for Exam Relief

Now these movies won't necessarily be about school or exams but I have all student kind in mind when I construct this list. Basically, these are movies I'm enjoying right now and that will help me get through exams, so I hope you enjoy them too.


Across the Universe (2007) 

Some people don't like the movie because it messes with the classics. I think it was well written and paints a pretty good story when you consider it's pieced together from songs. It's all about love, war, and the 60s. There are always going to be problems and struggles but love helps us through. Whether it's love of family, friends, lovers, or simply the love and passion for something you do, it helps every day be a little easier. I like the renditions of Beatles classics in this film. They may not be as good as the originals but they inspire me to go on a Beatles tear each time I watch the movie.




Another musical entry, not much singing from the actors though. A tribute to rock in the 60s, with a notable exclusion of all things Beatles (which the latter definitely makes up for). A rag tag group of misfits live on a boat doing what they love, spreading the music to the masses. We see a lot of great British (plus 1 Kiwi and  1 American) actors in this film that come together to give you a blast from the past. If you want to update your current playlist with some great oldies, check out the soundtrack for the film.


One of the most recent Studio Ghibli films, takes it's story from the novel The Borrowers. A young girl, Arriety, along with her parents, Homily and Pod, are little people living beneath a house. They survive by borrowing supplies from humans. Things start going awry when they are spotted and the adventure really begins. Another great Ghibli film that was simple but endearing. I would opt for the UK dubbed version because I have an celebrity crush on Saoirse Ronan. Not in a creepy way but she is an amazing actress and she seems so real and grounded. She voices Arriety by the way, I guess I forgot to mention that.

It teaches our youth the great lesson that school doesn't always have to be about grades; it can be about sex too. Possibly a new generation's classic teen movie, but for now just a solid comedy that helped propel the genre of crude college humor in movies. Just some stupid comedy to fill the time. Watching anything else requires too much attention when you're trying to multitask.
In my top 3 Pixar movies, which is saying something. Much of Generation Y grew up watching Toy Story and the adventures and mishaps Andy's toys got themselves into. It basically reinforces the importance and power of friendship. With friends you can get through most anything together. Whether it be studying for a final or getting through life's other hardships, great friends can make the journey worth it.

I am aware that the Toy Story image has Jessie and Bullseye in it, who didn't appear until the second movie. I'm just too lazy to change it.


Jurassic Park (1993)

An amazing classic that shows the powerful combination of computer graphics and animatronics. I don't need to say much else but this John Williams scored masterpiece is playing in theatres right now and in 3D no less. While I do not particularly like or endorse 3D movies, it is dinosaurs popping out at you so it can't be that bad. Go with some friends and take a break if you can.


Forrest Gump (1994)

You have to work with what you have. You have to remember to just keep on running forward and you'll get there. This movie just makes me happy, it gives me hope. There are hard times but Forrest naively keeps seeing the bright side of things and that simple happy attitude is what gets him through things. Hanks' performance is bolstered by the great duo of director Bob Zemeckis and composer Alan Silvestri. Both of whom also made Back to the Future one of my favourites. 

Okay so not a movie but still very worthy of watching. It has no connections with school but watching Neil Patrick Harris, Nathan Fillion, and Felicia Day is a great treat in itself. It's a Whedon fan's dream and is a well crafted musical miniseries that is just a shade over 40 minutes. Being rather short I'm sure you can find time to slot it in somewhere in your busy schedule, you won't regret it.


The great John Hughes makes an appearance again in one of my posts, what a shocker. If you have the luxury of having a few days off between exams just take a day and relax. Going into an exam stressed doesn't help things. Although there is some argument that being a little stressed is better than no stress at all but you can look up the research on that and decide for yourself. Anyway, it's Matthew Broderick at his finest. Sadly he peaked a little early in his career. He's still a great actor but most people will always see him as Ferris. Seriously though, just kick back a little if you can, twist and shout, and your mind and body will say Danke Schoen.


Exam (2009)

A low budget British indie-film that I quite enjoyed. It's shot in a single room and only has a handful of actors. Most, if not all, you won't recognize. The plot has it's ups and downs but I think is pretty solid and deserves a little credit. Some of it is smart, some of it is predictable, and some of it is just weird, but sometimes that makes a decent combination. Just know that no matter how hard your exams are, they won't be as tough as the one they have in this film. 










Wishing everyone the best this exam period!
Good luck! 


Notes: 
- Most poster images obtained from www.impawards.com
- The rest of the were obtained from random sources via Google images
- The Secret World of Arriety is the only Ghibli feature film to have separate voice actors for releases in the US and the UK
- One method of exam relief is to purge information after your finals are over. This list is great for that. If you choose to do so following your last exam, I challenge you to pick any 3 (at least) and marathon them back-to-back-to-back.  

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

High Fidelity (2000)


I'm always going to love John Cusack in whatever movie he's in. He's just such a lovable guy and he's real. He rarely plays a character out of the ordinary and always someone we can relate to. In this movie he's a bit of a jerk but it's not intentional he's just confused and misguided. For the guys out there, no matter how much we may think of ourselves as nice guys, we will always have those asshole moments from time to time.

When it comes to relationships, sometimes things don't work out as planned and we find ourselves asking a lot of questions. In short, High Fidelity (2000), is a movie about breakups and it helps to show that we can find the right path even after heartbreak. 

Rob Gordon (John Cusack) and his girlfriend Laura (Iben Hjejle) are in the midst of a breakup and go through the awkward moving-out process. Rob really likes to rant about how these girls broke his heart but he's a baby about it most of the time. Rob constantly breaks the fourth wall; it is an integral part and probably my favourite aspect of the movie. He also compiles "Top 5" lists whether it comes to talking about music or just life in general. Anyway, it tells the story of how Rob grows and finds himself again after his romantic struggles.

We get good small parts from Catherine Zeta-Jones, Lisa BonetJoan Cusack, and Tim Robbins but nothing overly memorable. Dick (Todd Louiso) and Barry (Jack Black) are Rob's two record store employees. They have a great dynamic as a double act with Todd as the "straight man" and Jack as.....whatever the other half is, I'm just lazy enough not to look it up. Jack Black's rendition of Marvin Gaye's Let's Get It On is pretty awesome and really caps off the movie well. 

I used to just like this movie but each time I watch it I learn and appreciate more about it. It's just a really well made film and it tells a believable story. Men in real life aren't perfect like Prince Charming and women and a picnic either. So it's about learning how to separate real life and make-believe. Reality will always be better because fantasies don't exist. Reality also isn't perfect but that's the beauty of it all. Perfection is boring it's the flaws in life and in people that make relationships worth having. High Fidelity, unlike many "real" romantic movies, won't have you weeping by the end. It does, however, entertain and maybe teach a little. Just stopping reading what I have to say and watch it.  

Notes:
- Poster image obtained from www.impawards.com
- I'll always remember Lisa Bonet from The Cosby Show
- Sara Gilbert of Roseanne makes an appearance as Anna. More recently (but not lately) she has played Dr. Leslie Winkle on The Big Bang Theory 

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Brave (2012)


It took me a while to finally see this movie and despite some iffy reviews from certain people, I definitely loved it. It's not that people gave Brave bad reviews they just didn't see it as revolutionary as say Toy Story or Finding Nemo. I definitely agree with that but not every movie needs to redefine the bounds of animated film. With many Pixar movies, the stories are rather different than some of the Disney classics. I love the classics that had a mix of fantasy, comedy, and good old family-oriented morality. Brave shows flashes of the old hand drawn Disney animation of the past. 

The cast is incredible and I love any chance to watch something with Billy Connolly in it. I really think that it's not quite so much the voice acting but the characters that really reel you into the film. Each character has their specific role. Whether it's to add comedy relief (which to be honest is most of them) or in Merida's case to portray a strong female character that doesn't want to be restrained by tradition. I think I lot of people can relate to being chained by parents, by peers, or by societal norms and pressures and it really does give the young generation great ideals to (attempt to) hold onto as they grow up. 

I didn't believe people when they said Brave was "scary" and although it's not anything I'd consider scary, I also laugh out loud whenever I watch The Exorcist so I'm a special case. It does have some intense moments that may not be suitable for the very young kids. This movie has more of a shock factor "scary" rather than say Toy Story 3 that has more creepy head turning baby, symbol crashing monkey, nightmare inducing "scary" moments. That being said this is all relative to children and for adults it's nothing you haven't seen before, especially with the filth and smut in media today. 

Anyway, I think Brave is a great addition to Pixar's already great portfolio of films and although it's nothing groundbreaking it's definitely worth a watch. It has a great to be learned as well being fun and entertaining for  all ages. Although try to keep your wee ones from watching it until they are a little older.

Notes:
- Poster image obtained from www.impawards.com
- John Ratzenberger keeps his streak of appearing in every Pixar film ever made alive by voicing Gordon
- The three lords are voiced by Robbie Coltrane, Kevin McKidd, and Craig Ferguson; three great and very different Scottish actors. 
- Four actors from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 also appear in Brave. Kelly MacDonald (Helena Ravenclaw) voices Merida, Emma Thompson (Professor Trelawney) voices Elinor, Robbie Coltrane (Hagrid) voices Lord Dingwall, and Julie Walters (Molly Weasley) voices The Witch. 

Friday, February 22, 2013

Step Up Revolution (2012)


The fourth installment of our favourite dance series. This time the dance moves move to South Beach for constant slew of scantily clad perfect looking girls and guys and none of the American obesity to be seen. I find that I am harsher with movies when I watch them with other people so unfortunately this review isn't going to be pretty.  

First, let's go over the redeeming qualities of the movie. Moose (Adam Sevani) appears for about two minutes at the end.....That's about it. 

Okay, I'm being a little unfair. There are some pretty amazing dance routines in Step Up Revolution but none of them really stick out for me. I admit that I have now seen all four Step Up movies but my favourite is Step Up 3D. It is clearly not because of the great plot or impeccable acting because there is none of that throughout the series. I just like the dancing in the third one because it highlighted a lot different dancing styles, giving a lot of different performers their moment in the spotlight. In Step Up Revolution it all seemed to kind of just melt together for me. The plot is the same tired story we've seen in past Step Up movies and I have a real problem with the computer effects in this one. They are terrible. Just plain terrible. When you can clearly see parts of the scene where the CGI is put in, someone isn't doing their job. As to be expected there are so many cliches in the story that its futile to try to keep count.

It's not all bad though, there's a lot of sex appeal throughout the film. Also, the artistic direction they were going for was a good idea it just didn't quite pan out in my opinion. We also see a lot of our favourite dancers from the series return for the final number.

It's still an enjoyable movie but I wouldn't pay any amount of money to see it. Even if someone paid me a few dollars to watch it I probably wouldn't, my time is more valuable than that. However, if you like pretty nicely choreographed routines that aren't really anything new and a plot more tired than a new mother after a long labour (yeah....unfortunately I went there), then this movie still probably isn't for you, but it's good enough.

Notes: 
- Poster image obtained from www.impawards.com

Monday, January 28, 2013

John Dies at the End (2013)


I'm not really sure how to describe this movie. It's kind of a weird combination of different genres but I saw it as a mix of Supernatural, Ghostbusters, Shaun of the Dead, the weird parts of Across the Universe, and a generic horror B-movie. It's a comedic-horror film but it's mostly comedic. Don't let the spoiler of a title deter you, it was definitely great to watch despite having a confusing plot and not making much sense at times. John Dies at the End is a cool little indie film with a couple big names but mostly new up and coming actors.

IMDb tends to usually do a pretty good job at summarizing things into a line or two so I'll let them do the work:

A new street drug that sends its users across time and dimensions has one drawback: some people return as no longer human. Can two college dropouts save humankind from this silent, otherworldly invasion?

The two college dropouts are David (Chase Williamson) and John (Rob Mayes) and despite being the titular it is not John, but David who is our main protagonist. The events of the movie are being recounted by David to a journalist Arnie Blondestone played by the brilliant Paul Giamatti. Sprinkled throughout their crazy journey are weirdos Roger North (Doug Jones) and Dr. Marconi (Clancy Brown). The fate of the dimension rests on their shoulders to defeat the creature Korrok (voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson).

John Dies at the End is not for everyone. Saying it's a weird movie is an understatement but I think it has a cool supernatural quality with an interesting time-travel like twist. From the description above if it sounds unappealing then don't bother watching it. However, if you're anything like me and love weird movies then  go check it out and enjoy this strange potpourri of film elements.  

Notes: 
- Poster image obtained from www.impawards.com
- You may remember Doug Jones from Guillermo del Toro films Hellboy and Hellboy II: The Golden Army as Abe Sapien, as well as in Pan's Labyrinth as the creepy eye monster. 
- Most people won't recognize Clancy Brown but he is the voice of Mr. Krabs from Spongebob Squarepants amongst various other voice roles.
Kevin Michael Richardson is an amazing voice actor and the only time I've seen him act live-action was in a season 4 episode of How I Met Your Mother.
- For some reason I was thinking that Rob Mayes looks like a cross between Liam Hemsworth and the late Heath Ledger
- Also Jimmy Wong, an avid YouTuber and aspiriing actor, plays the role of Fred Chu. He is the younger brother of YouTuber Freddie Wong.
- You can purchase John Dies at the End through their website and also through iTunes, Amazon, and the like.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Safety Not Guaranteed (2012)


I've been watching a lot of Parks and Recreation and The League lately and I stumbled upon this weird little movie that stars Aubrey Plaza and Mark Duplass. If you don't understand why that sentence makes any sense, don't worry about it. It just means you aren't cool like me.

Darius (Aubrey Plaza) is a college grad who is disappointed in what her life has been after school and she currently interns at a Seattle magazine. Jeff (Jake Johnson), a writer for the magazine, finds an interesting ad and wants to write a story about the person who posted it.

Wanted: Somebody to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. P.O. Box 91 Ocean View, WA 99393. You'll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. Safety not guaranteed. I have only done this once before.

Darius is tasked to get close to Kenneth (Mark Duplass), the man who posted the ad, and as much as he seems somewhat normal, he's created a story that seems too far fetched to be true. But is it true? 

A comedy-drama that is an endearing, quirky film that surprised me a little bit. I don't really feel like filling this space with useless crap like I usually do so I'll leave you with a few short tidbits. Safety Not Guaranteed I think is more of a statement regarding life and how you have to take chances and don't wait on life to hand things to you. In that sense, life can be scary and you're not always going to be safe, you're going to get hurt but it's an adventure. The movie is kind of awkward at times and Mark Duplass isn't your typical leading man but it's definitely worth a watch. 

Notes: 
- Poster image obtained from www.impawards.com

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Silver Linings Playbook (2012)


I'm a real sucker for romantic comedies, but when it involves very damaged characters, it's definitely a winning combination in my book. Unlike some comedies, Silver Linings Playbook tends to be funnier from the natural traits of the characters involved and what may naturally come from situations. It is based on the 2008 novel of the same name written by Matthew Quick

Pat (Bradley Cooper) suffers from bipolar disorder and is trying to get his life together and get back with his wife Nikki, after having stayed eight months in a mental health facility. He is finding it hard to stave off violent episodes but has a positive outlook on his rehabilitation and tries to find the "silver lining" in things. Pat meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) at a dinner party who has recently lost her husband Tommy and they find each other as unexpected and rather damaged friends. There's more to it but I really think you should watch it and I don't want to spoil it for you.

When I saw the trailer for this movie I was very skeptical about the Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper pairing, mainly due to the age gap. I'm always glad to be proved wrong. Despite Cooper being 15 years her senior it really didn't seem like that big of a gap. Lawrence played a lot older than she is and the age discrepancy wasn't anything that was that apparent. Of course that is just my opinion. The two leads have great chemistry and it really showed on screen. Robert De Niro delivers his usual great performance as Pat's father, Pat Sr. De Niro is looking like an old man these days, which is fine because he is in fact old. I just keep picturing him in his earlier tough guy roles. Jacki Weaver does an amazing job as Dolores, Pat Jr's mother and Pat Sr's wife. Why do people name their kids after themselves, it makes it so freaking confusing? I haven't seen Weaver in many roles but recently she's been in The Five Year Engagement (2012), a rather underrated movie (well it's underrated for what it is). Chris Tucker finally has a role that doesn't annoy me. 

The "Playbook" part of the title is in reference to the role football has in the plot. The "Silver Linings" I've already told you about. Now it's not a movie that is going to shock you with any plot twists that you won't see coming from a mile away but it's real. It's real because of the people involved. Romantic comedies always have more or less normal people as the protagonists that fall in love but people aren't normal. Albeit Lawrence and Cooper are ridiculously attractive and are not a great representation of a typical couple, but would you watch it if it were just some random people?....Yeah, I thought so. Each character has their own huge flaw and in many ways very similar to Pat and Tiffany. This drives home a fact I very much enjoy, the fact that people with mental illness are just people. There is still a stigma surrounding mental illness and this movie does a little bit to help with it.

This movie is more of a romantic dramedy (as much as I hate fusion words) rather than a true rom-com but it will make you laugh, it might make you cry, and hopefully it teaches you something. Probably my favourite romantic film of the year, just saying.

Notes: 
- Poster image obtained from www.impawards.com
- This is the second time Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro have worked together. The first time being in Limitless (2011).
- Director David O. Russell has done some great work in the past like I Heart Huckabees (2004) and The Fighter (2010).


Sunday, January 13, 2013

Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

We will never know the exact details of the operation to kill Osama Bin Laden but Zero Dark Thirty gives us and over dramatized version of what could have happened. The plot is so simple that I've summed it up in the first line. However, most of the film revolves around the gathering of intel and not much about the preparing of the mission at all. In that respect I was a little disappointed. I think showing the Navy Seals running drills and preparing for arguably the most important raid in US counter-terrorism, would have been cool. Instead all they show them doing is barbecuing and playing horseshoes.

There are a lot of great reviews about this film but I wasn't blown away by it. The acting was superb I'm not debating that, Jessica Chastain definitely deserved the Oscar nomination for her performance, but it just didn't resonate with me. Perhaps it's because the film and the events aren't quite as symbolic as if I were American but it just didn't do it for me. It was a wonderfully made film and Kathryn Bigelow did another great job but I definitely thought The Hurt Locker (2008) was a much better film. 

I also found that it made the CIA and SEAL Team Six (DEVGRU) appear sort of incapable and at times cruel and unprofessional. They didn't portray them in the most flattering of lights and I'm not sure if it was meant to be that way but I'd like to think that the CIA has a little more control than it does in the film. Also the main character Maya was said to have been recruited right out of high school and from my estimates worked for the CIA for three years and the age of 21 was tasked to work in the small group to take down Osama Bin Laden. It just doesn't seem believable to me. I'm not sure if I'd trust a 21 year old high school graduate to basically run an operation costing billions of dollars of taxpayer money. The movie ran on hunches and guesses about certain intelligence and I highly doubt that would ever be the case with something of that magnitude. 

There are a lot of amazing actors that didn't really have big enough roles to really do much with. Chris Pratt and Joel Edgerton played two of the Navy Seals but didn't really have anything of note to say. Mark Strong appeared about halfway through the film and he definitely looks weird actually having hair. There are more small bit parts but you can just watch it and see for yourself.

There has been a lot of controversy surrounding this film, the torture scenes in particular. They are pretty brutal and a lot of people say they are justifying torture if it gets them Osama Bin Laden. There is are a lot of political implications and all that jazz, you can read about it on your own time. It's very important stuff to talk about, but I don't really care for it.

With all this ranting I still enjoyed the film but at a little over two and a half hours it seemed a lot longer than it was. There was some slow progression and if you're anticipating seeing an high octane action movie about the raid that's not what this is. It has the same feel as The Hurt Locker but it didn't quite do the same thing for me. The bottom line is that it's not fantastic but I'd still go to see it. Although a screener version has already been leaked so I wouldn't recommend actually paying for it.

Notes:
- Poster image obtained from www.impawards.com
- Proof reading is for chumps and I'm sure you can tell that I never do it for these posts.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)


A lot of you have probably already seen it and that's cool but for those who haven't you're really missing out. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is based on a novel of the same name written by Stephen Chbosky. Chbosky also wrote the screenplay as well as directed the film. I'm not sure how faithful it is to the book but if I were to take a guess, I'd say it was pretty close.

Now this is a real teen movie. My knowledge is still quite limited and stunted when it comes to certain movies and movie eras but the teen movie, in my experience has had some major ups and downs. I think the genre really started to bloom around the Brat Pack/John Hughes 80s era. The movies in this era tended to hit hard on the issues that plagued teens that never had much attention in film before and it really stuck with a lot of people. I grew up a little after this era but enjoy these movies nonetheless. Why? Because they are timeless and are still relevant to a lot of insecurities, family issues, and fears that teens face on a day to day basis. For example, The Breakfast Club (1985) could have been written in today's world and barely any of it would be different. The 90s saw a shift towards the more stupid and comedic which was fine because they still resonated with a lot of teens but in a more lighthearted way. Some of my favourites are Can't Hardly Wait (1998) and 10 Things I Hate About You (1999). In my opinion the 2000s were a major let down and the genre slid a little too far down the stupid ladder, hitting every rung on the way down, so I had lost some faith in Hollywood. Suffice it to say it's been a while since I was genuinely excited while watching a teen movie and that's where The Perks of Being a Wallflower comes in. 

It has a Breakfast Club type feel, covering a lot of bases when it comes to teen problems and again it is rather timeless. I mean it's set in the early 90s so many of the themes are similar to the great teen films of yore, but the setting doesn't exactly matter because it isn't the focus of the film. It does mainly look at an outsider's perspective on the high school experience but I truly believe that almost any teen, in fact any adult, can relate to some part of this film in some way. It talks about being insecure and afraid, not having friends, messing things up, all the great moments that shape a person throughout their adolescent years.

I think the cast is great and works really well together. I personally enjoyed Ezra Miller's role of Patrick, he did a really great job and you should check it out if not for the film itself then just for his performance. Emma Watson got the American accent down pretty well but it will never be quite right because in the back of my mind she's Hermione Granger. In interviews she's said that this is exactly the thing she wants to avoid. Hopefully in time I, as well as everyone else, can suspend the image of that brilliant little witch from Hogwarts for a couple hours to fully enjoy some of her films. For some reason I was not a fan of Logan Lerman before this film, probably because that Percy Jackson film just looked terrible to me. In any case he did a good job, he's still young and from the looks of things he's got a bright future as long as he doesn't pull a Lindsay Lohan. The rest of the cast ties things together but I've already talked enough as it is so I'll just leave it at that.

I think this movie is beneficial for anyone to watch. Even if by some minute chance there is nothing in this movie you can relate to, you can have a better understanding of what other people you know might have gone through, or maybe are still are going through. Hopefully you enjoy it as much as I did.

Notes: 
- Poster image obtained from www.impawards.com
- Kind of a weird fact but the three main actors in the film were all born in the 90s. Watson, Lerman, and Miller in '90, '92, and '93, respectively. Perhaps a new "Brat Pack" will form one of these days and the teen dramedy will return with a vengeance. Well I can only hope.