"Frances Ha" Starring Greta Gerwig

7/23/2016

The first thing you might notice about the 2012 film “Frances Ha” is that it’s shot in black and white, something that worked very well in the one of my favorite films of 2013 “Ida” and it works equally as well in this film.  This was writer/director Noah Baumbach’s second collaboration with Gerwig and arguably their best.  Gerwig was nominated for a Golden Globe for her role as Frances among countless other accolades.  She plays an energetic dreamer living in New York City who despite being somewhat homeless and seemingly a mess never gives up hope and keeps a quirky positive attitude.  This is Frances Ha.  

How long do you hold on to a dream before you have to say goodbye?  Frances is a dancer, but not a very good one.  She is many things and is not as young as she use to be.  Refusing to settle she constantly strives to find her place in the world.  She’s currently at odds with her best friend Sofie and and the rocks with her boyfriend when she meets Lev (played by Adam Driver).  She is stuck in a sort of extended adolescents usually reserved for guys.  When her credit card is denied at dinner she says “I’m so sorry i’m not a real person yet”.  She is also “undateable”.



The film has title cards that pop up with the latest address she calls home and stability is the one of the things missing in her life.  She seems to be nomadic by nature as her scattered personality is always on to something new and approaches everything with a positive attitude.  She has always had Sofie to depend on but now the harsh realities of life are getting in the way.  Why does it seem like everybody is fulfilling their dreams except you?  Her struggles are relatable and her character is perfectly played.  The fact that it’s black and white does make it a little artsy and pretentious but it’s still an extremely fun and enjoyable experience.  Would it be the same film if it was in color?  Is it annoying that I keep asking questions?  The film has a very strong French New Wave feel and it matches Baumbach’s style well.


“Frances Ha” is available from the Criterion Collection as well as streaming on Netflix.  You don’t have to be an art house film snob to watch this movie so give it a chance and you won’t be disappointed.


Greta Gerwig is "Mistress America"

4/20/2016

This is the second of two films by writer/director Noah Baumbach to be released in 2015.  He re-teams with his muse Greta Gerwig who also shares writing credits.  Like most of Baumbach's films "Mistress America" takes place in New York City and involves a woman's battle for personal identity and direction in life. 

Brooke is a thirty something year old woman living in New York City.  Her positive attitude and outgoing personality deceptively hide her directionless mess of a life.  She is ambitious but not very successful as her dreams often exceed her grasp.  When she finds out that her father is getting remarried she is exited that she will be gaining a younger step sister.  Tracy, played by Lola Kirke, is an eighteen year old college freshman who wants to be a writer and has dreams of being chosen to join the prestigious Mobius Literary Society.  A group of pretentious douche bags where good writing seems to be of little importance.  Tracy is smart and reserved but underneath lies a very dogged personality.

Brooke seeks out Tracy and they instant start to bond.  The dialogue is pretty amazing as the words spill out of Brooke as if her brain was on fire.  With her disjointed and often quirky stories, Tracy begins writing it all down and starts a story called "Mistress America".  Her youthful ambition is something that Brooke yearns for.  A chance to restart her adult life.  Although Brooke refuses to let her dream of becoming a dancer go and it's painful to watch it slip by as she desperately tries to hold on.  She has several odd jobs to pay the bills but it's just not cutting it as she couch surfs at many friends apartments.  The film is actually separated with title cards of the different addresses she is currently living at.

After the financing for Brooke's other dream of opening her own restaurant falls through she takes Tracy on a mission to meet an estrange friend, Mamie-Claire.  Brooke claims that Mamie-Claire stole some of her ideas when they were roommates in college and she made a ton of money off of them.  They drive to an extravagant mansion in Connecticut where they run in to a whole new batch of problems and situations.  The whole movie especially the scene's at Mamie-Claire's feel like a play rather than a movie.  It feels a little staged and rehearsed but the dialogue is spot on and it is pretty funny. 

Tracy's story is eventually published and upon reading it Brooke feels betrayed by her future step sister who ends up just being another girl as the wedding was called off.  Tracy receives a lot of backlash from the story but is accepted into the literary society. So where does this leave the girls and their relationship?  Tracy finds out that Mobius is full of shit and decides to start her own club, while Brooke looks for a change in scenery and plans to move to L.A.Tracy seeks out Brooke and they reconcile over and an impromptu Thanksgiving dinner.  "Mistress America" is an interesting slice of life that seemingly only Noah Baumbach could do, it is definitely his style and he does it quite well.  Although not his best film it fits in nicely with the others. Greta Gerwig is amazing and hopefully this will continue.



You Should Watch This Movie "While Were Young"

4/1/2016

Premiering in limited theaters in April of 2015 writer/director Noah Baumbach's latest is a sort of companion piece to his 2010 film "Greenberg".  Both starring Ben Stiller as a man refusing to accept his age and place in life.  This time he's playing Josh a documentary filmmaker and teacher who is in a bit of a rut when it comes to finishing his long gestating project.

Josh's wife Cornelia, played by Naomi Watts, has a  father who is a very successful documentarian himself.  Being very goal oriented Josh wants to make it on his own and has always pushed back when offered help.  Although his current project has gone unfinished for past 10 years he struggles for inspiration and motivation in the face of growing older.  During one of his classes he teaches at a local college two young people show interest in him and actually know of his work.  Enter Jamie and Darby, played by Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried, the two ultra hip 25 year olds bring Josh back to time when things were optimistic and full of hope.  In no time flat the two couple are out to dinner and Josh and Cornelia become infatuated with the young people.  Jaime is also a documentarian who is motivated and has ideas while Darby makes and sell her own brand of ice cream.  These too are such yuppie hipsters its pretty unreal, they are like caricatures.

Josh and Cornelia have friends their own age but feel alienated since they don't have a baby.  They are that couple, although it not for lack of trying, Cornelia has had problems in the past and they are both busy with their careers.  They are hooked on Jaime and Darby like a drug, as they start seeing them every chance they get.  They even start acting and dressing like them.  Why wouldn't people in there mid 40's want to be 25 again.  The film is chock full of comments on modern relationships that are right on.  Baumbach's strength as a filmmaker is finding the honest and real moments in his characters.  Josh and Cornelia are obviously getting in over their heads in trying to act younger.  They take part in this strange new age ritual involving a shaman and puke buckets.  Enough said as it has to be seen.  This is also a point that tests their relationship as Cornelia mistakenly makes out with Jaime or was it?



After a while Josh begins to suspect that Jaime has ulterior motives and could have been playing him from the start.  This brings us to another big message in the story line.  The problem of youth and ethics.  Although Jaime wants to be the next great documentarian he plays pretty fast and loose with the ethics behind it all, whether it's in his work or his own life.  Is this new generation willing to do anything to make it big? but hasn't this been happening in Hollywood forever? Where is the line and how do you define your personal and professional ethics?  In the end what is going to win out entertainment value or truth? This was good film and fits together nicely with "Greenberg".  Ben Stiller is underrated as an actor sometimes he just needs a good script and a good director and he has found one with Noah Baumbach.


Ben Stiller is "Greenberg"

3/26/2016

Writer/Director Noah Baumbach is one of the most critically acclaimed independent filmmaker working today.  His films are often humorous takes on life with characters that are painfully honest and real. His muse an frequent collaborator Greta Gerwig co-stars with Ben Stiller as the title character of Roger Greenberg.  Stiller is most known for starring in big Hollywood comedies, but here he takes on a much darker and serious role as an aging man trying to get his life back together.

Just released from a psychiatric hospital Roger agrees to house sit for his brother whose vacationing with his family in Vietnam.  Roger is a neurotic, quirky, and a darkly pessimistic character who used to live in New York and is still readjusting to life in Los Angeles.  Roger has a run in with his brothers assistant Florence (Gerwig) when the dog Mauler has an emergency.  She is equally quirky and lonesome.  She also sings at a local club.  Roger gets to know her and while having drinks utters the perfect line "Life is wasted on... people".  They eventually have a very awkward and short lived sex scene.  Roger is one of those people who has trouble making decisions and taking responsibility in his life.  A constant theme in Baumbach's work is the Gen X'ers inability to grow up and let go of the past and embrace who you've become.

In a moment of desperation Greg tries to reconcile with his ex wife Beth, but is shot down.  With his relationship with Florence is up in the air he finds himself resorting to his old destructive ways.  He throws a party at the house in a hopeless attempt to recapture his youth.  He is always looking for an easy way out, a suicide attempt was what led him to the psych ward to begin with.  The morning after brings him two opportunities and he must make a decision that will change his life.  Is he ready to be a responsible adult? or will he continues on his impulsive and destructive path? 


"Greenberg" is well acted, well put together film that is enjoyable if not a little painful at times.  It feels honest and relatable.  In 2014 Baumbach re-teamed with Stiller on the film "While Were Young" a sort of companion piece to "Greenberg".  A review is forthcoming.


"Knock, Knock" Should be Left Unanswered

Knock, Knock
2/24/2016

Director Eli Roth's 5th film "Knock, Knock" was released through Video on Demand in the fall of 2015.  It's a departure from his usual over the top gore fests and it also starred a known Hollywood actor in Keanu Reeves.  This film would be classified as a twist on the home invasion thriller.

Keanu plays Evan an architect and family man who lives in a nice house in Los Angeles with his artist wife who does colorful sculptures.  Evan is an aging hipster who used to be a DJ and has a killer vinyl collection.  He's a laid back dude who is good with his kids, but his marriage is going through a rough patch.  His wife and kids have gone off on a mini beach vacation so he can get some much needed work done, but his deadlines are about to be the least of his problems.

During a torrential down pour the first evening there is a knock, knock at the door.  Two young, sexy girls are soaking wet and asking if they can use his phone because they are having car trouble on their way to a party.  Genesis and Bell are played by Lorenza Izzo, of "Green Inferno" fame and Roth's wife, and Ana de Armas.   Evan is very polite and accommodating.  He gets them towels and calls Uber to get them a ride to the party, although it will be 45 minutes until the car will be there.  There is an awkward tension between the three and you can immediately see where the story is headed and doesn't deviate from the expected plan.  The girls are aggressive and unrelenting in there tormenting of Evan.  His morality conundrum eventually cracks and they have a shower threesome.  The morning after the girls are still there and are making a mess not only of his kitchen but his life.  From here on out Evan goes into full "Keanu" mode as his acting is just an awful mess.  In his defense the script doesn't give him much to work with as the focus is mainly on the two psycho sluts that make his life a living hell.  They deface his wife's art work and in another cringe inducing scene Bell video tapes herself raping him wearing his daughters school uniform.  They lie, threaten and torture him until Lewis, his wife's art dealer, come over to pick up some pieces for a show.  He see's right through their charades and calls them out only to take an unfortunate fall.


I didn't particularly care for this movie as it seems to be too much in love with itself.  Which is a part of all of Eli's work but in "Knock, Knock" is just seem to be trying to hard.  The girls were completely insufferable and annoying matched with Keanu's "acting" its just a one trick pony, that didn't deliver the goods.  

Sink Your Teeth Into "The Green Inferno"

The Green Inferno
2/16/2016

It's been a long time since horror maestro Eli Roth has directed a movie, 2007 to be exact, with the sequel "Hostel 2".  His new film "The Green Inferno" is only his 4th feature and it almost didn't see the light of day as it took over two years to find distribution.  It had a brief theatrical run in the summer of 2015 and took in a about $7 million on a budget of about 6.

Eli is a special kind of filmmaker whose films are events to behold.  The classic cult film director.  "The Green Inferno" pays tribute to his favorite film "Cannibal Holocaust" a 1980 film by Ruggero Deodato, along with several other films about jungle cannibals.  The story here involves a group of college activists protesting the destruction of the Amazon rainforests and the killing of its indigenous people.  Our female protagonist is Justine, played by non other than Eli's new wife Lorenza Izzo.  She is a college freshman who is drawn into a student activism group led by the charismatic Alejandro.  The group boards a plane for the Amazon with a plan to stream their protest online to bring more attention to the plight of locals.  Unknown to Justine she is being used as a pawn to further their cause because her father is a politician.  The protest is successful but their celebration is short lived as their small plane has engine trouble and goes down in the Peruvian jungle.  The crash was is pretty brutal and intense.  A good tip if you actually survive a plan crash would be to please watch out for the propeller.  In short time the survivors are then taken hostage by a group of red skinned tribes men.


Although the film doesn't feel at all slow paced, we don't end up meeting the natives until about 45 minutes in.  Of course these people have a taste for human flesh and the first person on the butcher block is the fat guy.  We are then treated to some of Eli Roth's famous ultra gore.  Although there are equal parts horror and humor.  The humor goes to some ridiculous places that really play to Roth's fans.  The remaining survivors are kept in a bamboo cage and the women are given a once over by the high priestess.  Justine is found out to be a virgin (Ha!) and is scheduled for a ritual genital mutilation.  This was foreshadowed in a class lecture at the beginning of the film.  The dwindling group must come up with a plan to escape but are being watched 24/7.  They are able to distract the guard with a cell phone and one of the girls escapes never to be seen again (in one piece anyway).  Then there is the human pot brownie and their final plan to escape.  Do stoned cannibals get the munchies?  Obviously Justine is the final girl and manages to escape and make it back home.  She tells everybody that the natives were not cannibals at all and they were very caring and helpful, which is the same ending as the 1981 film "Cannibal Ferox", which is itself a knock off of "Cannibal Holocaust".  Justine could see the humanity in the tribes people, she bonded with a little girl that eventually helped her escape.  The movie is crazy and ridiculous but that is why you see an Eli Roth film, he's not afraid to go there and good or bad his films always elicit a response.


In a bit of no so coincidental scheduling Eli's 5th film "Knock, Knock" was released via on demand at about the same time that "The Green inferno" was in theatres.  Look for that review coming soon.


The Year of Gwyneth: "Shakespeare in Love"


"Shakespeare in Love"

Gwyneth Paltrow's crowning achievement of 1998 and her career for that matter was playing Viola in John Madden's multiple Academy Award winning film "Shakespeare in Love".  The fictitious story of a young William Shakespeare in the midst of a crippling writer's block and finding the inspiration to write one of the greatest love stories of all time.

Set in London, the year is 1593 and two dueling theatre houses compete for services of an up and coming writer, poet and actor named Will Shakespeare, played by Joseph Fiennes. His hotly anticipated new play is still percolating in his head but so far he is unable to commit it to paper.  It's tentatively titled "Romeo and Ethel: The Pirate's Daughter" although hilarious needs a lot of work.  Will is uninspired and lifeless until he meets the regal and ravishing Viola De Lesseps.  She is however unavailable and has been promised to Lord Wessex (Colin Firth) by her father.  Wessex is a demanding and controlling brute who needs this marriage to bring his family name back into prominence.  

Viola is equally taken with Will as they meet at a formal dance, that he has wriggled in to.  She is also a big fan of the theatre and in a time when women were banned for performing on the stage she must come up with a plan to see more of him.  She disguise's herself as a young man named Thomas Kent and auditions for Will's new play.  Will can see there is something special about Thomas and must find out more. Viola's rouse it up quickly and Will has finally found his muse.  There illicit affair rages on despite their circumstances.  Will's pen now furiously churns out the pages of what is now called "Romeo And Juliet", under the recommendation of the towns lead actor Ned Alleyn (played by Ben Affleck).

In time Wessex catches wind of Viola's new suitor and looks to put a strong and decisive end to it.  While Viola and Will's romance slowly leaks out she is forced out of the play due to her being and actual woman and not a man in drag.  She does however make a triumphant return to the stage upon the plays opening performance for the Queen (Judi Dench).  The film certainly doesn't end like your average Hollywood Rom-Com and should be commended for it.  It ends and a very hopefully and positive beat, very truthful and real


This film is not your average romantic comedy although all the ingredients are there.  It's extremely smart, witty and fun to watch.  The filmmakers were able to make it thoroughly accessible and enjoyable for everyone.  It went on to win 7 Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Lead Actress in Paltrow, and Best Supporting Actress in Dench. 



  

The Year of Gwyneth: "Sliding Doors"


"Sliding Doors"

"Sliding Doors" premiered at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival and got a limited theatrical release in the Spring.  Coincidentally Gwyneth's character is named Helen just as in the previously reviewed "Hush", but this Helen has a proper British accent and lives in London.

The story is a high concept what if style romantic comedy that asks the question how different would your life be if you made or missed a subway ride home.  Helen is fired or "sacked" from her job at a PR firm and while trying to catch the train back home the story line fractures into two paths.  Meanwhile her wanker of a boyfriend is at home shagging some skag.  When Helen catches her ride home she walks in on unsuspecting couple, what a day.  She leaves him and looks to get a new start by getting her long hair chopped off and dyed blond.  On the other hand when she misses her ride she also misses out on a chance to reinvent herself and is stuck in her current life and relationship.  Sometimes the bad things in life are actually a blessing is disguise would be the overall message or meaning of the film.


The way the filmmakers work with this story structure is well done and thoughtfully put together, although not without its convenient coincidences.  It still doesn't have its typical romantic comedy clichés.  The new and single Helen starts dating a man who she meet on that train and their ensuing relationship follow a fairly well known path.  The ending is pretty interesting as both timelines end up converging into one.  The film also questions fate.  If two people are meant to be together does it matter what path they take to get there?  Its a fun movie that's worth watching as its looks like it has something to say rather than just being a mindless bore like 90% of all other romantic comedies.

       

The Year of Gwyneth: "Hush"


"Hush"

When your in five movie in one year they can't all be good and "Hush" was Gwyneth's 1998 lame duck of a movie.  She co-stars with Jessica Lange in what looks to be the perfect Lifetime Network movie of the week.  Although dumped in to theatres in the spring of '98 it's your typical paint by numbers thriller that panders to the female audience.

Gwyneth plays Helen and girl that gets pregnant with her one dimensional Ken doll of a boyfriend/husband named JacksonJackson's family has tons of money and his mother Martha (Lange) own a ranch out in the country.  The newly weds look to start their family on the ranch and the expected cat fighting between Helen and Martha start immediately.  Martha is extremely controlling and protective of her son.  She over plays the role of the evil mother in-law to a comical extreme.  In fact we learn that she even orchestrated Helen's pregnancy for her own diabolical reasons. 


The whole estate know as Kilronan actually belongs to Jackson and her is very keen on selling the place by Martha won't have it  and will don anything to keep it.  The whole film is built on this triangle of characters that are poorly developed.  Jackson is just a cardboard cutout of a character that is fought over by the two women who are equally weak and plainly drawn.  You feel for and root for Helen but its just so ridiculous you end up crying "really?" 

The soap opera continues with Martha pulling all the strings and with Jackson going off to a horse show, the two women can fight it out.  Helen giving birth is probably the most intense scene of a film that's void of any real suspense or thrills.  Martha's attempts to steal the baby and kill Helen are short lived when Jackson arrives and leans the truth about his fathers death and his mother other lies.  Martha is thoroughly dispatched and the happy couple and baby live happily ever after, the end.  However if you like the cheesy and overreacted Lifetime movies you'll probably like this one, however it was not for me and cannot recommend it.  If your more looking for Gwyneth using a British accent then stay tuned for the next review in the series "Sliding Doors".


The Year of Gwyneth: "A Perfect Murder"


A Perfect Murder (1998)


The next film in the Year of Gwyneth is a remake of the Alfred Hitchcock film "Dial M for Murder" entitled "A Perfect Murder".  Directed by Andrew Davis and starring Michael Douglas leaning on his Gordon Gekko character from "Wall Street" as a ruthless New York City stock broker, although he goes by Steven Taylor in this film.  His young trophy wife Emily has gotten bored with him and has wrapped herself up in a steamy affair with the hansom and rugged artist David.  Once David wises up to her infidelities he hatches a plan to take care of everything.

The themes and story lines are pretty basic but is done quite well by all of those involved.  It's all about the cat and mouse games being played by all three characters and who know what and at what time.  Steven is a cunning and smart man who researches David's past and comes up with some pretty unsettling information.  He then offers a deal to David that he can't refuse.  Steven's grand scheme to murder Emily goes awry and leaves him in a vulnerable position as David now tries to pull off a plan of his own.

Although Emily was attacked she doesn't fall into the poor victim category for very long.  Her and Steven spend some time in the country to recuperate, but the gears in his mind are always grinding away.  He meets with David and their inner chess match continues, although Steven has never lost a game and David is just cocky enough to give him a run for his money both literally and figuratively.  Emily returns home still a little jumpy and on edge but knows that something just doesn't add up.  She begins to suspect that Steven is hiding something and does some investigating of her own.  As Steven and David's confrontations come to an end its time for Emily put up a fight as well.

"A Perfect Murder" is entertaining and fun to watch, with decent performance and good pacing throughout.  There might be a few holes here and there but for a movie that was released along with all the Summer blockbusters its a welcomed treat.


The Year of Gwyneth: "Great Expectations"


Great Expectations (1998)

The classic Dickens novel "Great Expectations" has been adapted in many different things over the years along with several movies, this review will focus on the 1998 film directed by Alfonso Cuaron starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Ethan Hawke among others.  Remaking classic books and plays for a new generation is something Hollywood has always banked on and will forever be done whether warranted or not.

This modern retelling is a sexy and romantic tale of a penniless artist who gets introduced to a rich young girl and for the next twenty years tries to win her affections.  Ok its a little more than that but seeing as how I've never actually read the book, this version of the story is all I have to go on.  Living on the gulf coast of Florida Finn (Pip in the book) is a curious young boy who loves to draw.  While out by himself one day with his sketchbook he runs into an escaped convict played by Robert De Niro.  Scared to death Finn helps the man with his chains and feeds him.   These acts of kindness and feelings of terror will come back to him at an important crossroads later in life.  Another monumental influence in Finn's young life comes in the form of a rich eccentric women Ms. Dinsmoor (Anne Bancroft) and her daughter Estella.  This sets the foundation for Finn's life as we flash forward some 15-20 years, Finn is now played by Hawke, while Estella is played by Paltrow.  After struggling for years as a painter, he finally seems to get his big break and a showing of his work in a swanky New York gallery.  Estella is also back in the city after spending a number of years studying and living abroad.  They meet rather coincidentally and the torch Finn has always carried for her is reignited, although Estella has always been no more than a tease going all the way back to their childhood.  Then there's Dinsmoor even more older and more eccentric than ever playing the part of the puppet master in toying with Finn and his emotions.  Finn's one an only muse is Estella and she loves being his model, but she holds him at distance and after years of instruction from Dinsmoor plays him like a fiddle.  When Finns learns that she is engaged he tries harder than every to win her over, her engaged looks to be just a front in order to hurt and inspire him.  Will his last ditch efforts to win her over finally work, or will he be forever pining for a woman he can never have? 



When it finally comes time for his big opening all of his artistic dreams seem to coming true.  With a few bumps along the way as his well meaning father (Chris Cooper) crashes the party and nearly ruins everything.  The opening is a huge success and all of his pieces sell, but behind all of this was a secret benefactor who has been controlling it all.  Finn is a good guy, almost too good and brings to mind the saying "Good guys always finish last", its what makes this such a heart wrenching story.  I also must point out that the soundtrack and the music used throughout the fill is exceptional and would be worth buying on its own.  The film is only available on DVD and it's kind of dated.  A blu-ray release is sorely needed and I'm still waiting for it, just like Finn for Estella.

Ellen Page is "Juno"

Juno
1/14/2015

Quirky, awkward, and truthful could describe "Juno" the indie sleeper hit of 2007.  Directed by Jason Reitman and starring Ellen Page in a star making role.  The film was written by the equally quirky and unorthodox Diablo Cody.  Her dialogue is snappy and full of pop slang, but in the moment feels real and truthful   "Juno" was nominated for 4 Academy Awards with Cody picking up the Best Original Screenplay Oscar.

The story takes place in Minnesota (Yea, I live there) over the course of the 4 seasons, believe it or not it's not cold and snowy year round.  Sixteen year old Juno MacGuff has sex with Paulie Bleeker a friend of hers played by Michael Cera and shortly thereafter finds out she's pregnant.  Juno lives with her dad (J.K. Simmons), her stepmom Bren (Alison Janney) and her little sister in a boring middle class suburb.  After talking with her best friend Leah and breaking the news to Paulie, she decides to go to a clinic for an abortion.  She has seconds thoughts and decides to keep the baby and give it up for adoption.

Juno finds the right parents from an ad in the Penny Saver, Mark and Vanessa, a young couple from St. Cloud (about an hour from Minneapolis).  Upon meeting them she really seems to click with Mark, played by Jason Bateman who at the time also played Michael Cera's father in the TV Show "Arrested Development".  However Mark is a little reluctant to become a father and still has some growing up to do while Vanessa, played by Jennifer Garner, is the one really pushing and desperately wants to be a mother.  Juno is very cool about the whole thing but is soon over whelmed with "things beyond her maturity level".  The relationship between Juno and Mark starts to get a little weird and the whole plan is on the brink of collapse, all while her and Paulie work to find out what this all means for them and their future.


Ellen Page makes this movie what it is as she melds perfectly with Cody's dialogue.  As for Michael Cera he literally plays the same character no matter what he is in, although he does fit in well within the story as a tall lanky dufus.  Watching this movie about 8 years later it does seem a little dated, but it's a comedy that for its time period was fun and entertaining.


James Gunn's "Super" is Anything But

Super
1/2/2016

Years ago I reviewed Director James Gunn's first film, the awesomely twisted horror flick "Slither" and was anxious to see what came next.  What we got was the comedy "Super" starring Rainn Wilson and Ellen Page, who also appeared together in Page's breakout role in "Juno".  "Super" was in direct competition with a similarly themed (and much better) film entitled "Kick Ass".  Both films are about regular guys who dress up as superhero's and fight crime. "Super" has a style of comedy that is not for everyone, it's graphic, shocking and in your face.  It was a little much for me and the fact that I can't stand Rainn Wilson as an actor sealed the deal.  But here's how the whole film goes down.

Rainn plays Frank a goofy looking fry cook who is married to a recovering drug addict Sarah played by Liv Tyler.  When Sarah falls off the wagon and is taken in by nightclub owner Jacques (Kevin Bacon), Frank is determined to get her back at any cost.  While veging out on the couch watching the cable access show "The Holy Avenger" he has an epiphany and God literally touches his brain. Through this divine inspiration the Crimson Bolt is born.  He sews up a red costume a decides to fight crime, which he finds is a little boring at times.  His weapon of choice is the pipe wrench for which he cracks numerous skulls, some deserved it but most did not.  As the cliché goes for most superhero's the police are appalled and want to stop this violent vigilante.  The film does operate at a certain level of satire and campiness but I found it to be lazy and a little dull.


Frank does his research on superheroes at the local comic book store where he meets Ellen Page's character of Libby.  In a short amount of time Frank realizes he needs a sidekick and Libby is just crazy enough to do it.  She becomes Boltie.  They team up to save Sarah from the evil Jacques and his equally evil crew of thugs. During the main siege of Jacques compound something happens that is meant for pure shock value and will alienate about 90 percent of the viewers.  I guess you have to give credit to the filmmakers for making such a gutsy move, but seriously there is no getting over it.  It does however bring a heavy sense of reality to a supposed unreal story but come on man.  "Super" does have some winks and homage to other films but all in all its not a film that I would ever watch again.  Surprisingly after this film James Gunn went on to direct the massively popular "Guardians of the Galaxy"  another film that I didn't really care for.  To each his own, I guess.  


Make the Trip to "Nebraska" with Alexander Payne

Nebraska
1/1/2016

The most recent film in the career of American director Alexander Payne is the 2013 film "Nebraska".  Filmed in glorious black and white, which has seen a resurgence as a number of filmmakers have choosen to shoot in this artistic monochrome style.  Many factors came into play to make "Nebraska" one of the best films of 2013, from the superb acting performances, the script, the photography and its spot on observation of the human condition.  "Nebraska" was nominated for six Academy Awards, but was unfortunately shut out from any wins.

This film is about family, unconditional love and redemption.  Bruce Dern plays Woody Grant, a man whose best years are far behind him, his memory is rapidly deteriorating but his determination to got to Lincoln Nebraska and collect his million dollar prize could not be stronger.  Although he lives in Billings, Montana and has no car or even a drivers license he resorts to wondering down the shoulder of a highway.  This is how the film opens.  He is lost and oblivious to the things around him with only one thought, get to Nebraska.  He is picked up on the side of the road by his son David, played by former SNL cast member Will Forte, who brings him back home.  Woody's wife Kate is quite the boisterous spark plug, nearly stealing every scene she's in with her quick witted remarks and no nonsense behavior.  David has an older brother in Ross (Bob Odenkirk) a local TV news anchor.

Woody's so-called million dollar prize is one of those Publishers Clearing House type sweepstakes, that's obviously just a scam, but not to Woody it represents hope.  Hope of providing a long lasting legacy for his two boys.  He's spent most of his life drinking and wasting it away with this being his last chance of redemption.  His fierce determination to go to Nebraska remains even after his boys try to convince him that he hasn't won anything.  David finally gives in and decides to put this to rest as they get in his truck and head for Lincoln.  It would be a good road trip to get reacquainted with his stubborn and angry old man.  Along the way they shack up with Woody's brother and his family.  A bunch of small town lowlifes who come to believe that Woody is rich and the vultures all over the small sleepy town want a piece of his imaginary fortune.  The town is full of desperate people who are bored to no end, just aching for something to happen.  Woody is looked upon as a sort of celebrity, everyone is your good long lost friend when then know you have money.  When things start to go south and greed gets the best of people they start turning on Woody and old wounds begin to surface.

David and Woody eventually make it to Lincoln and the small office of the sweepstakes company.  He is told that he didn't actually win anything, but is given a hat that says "Winner".  His dreams of redemption seem all but crushed until David hatches a plan to restore his father's pride and dignity and as they make their way back home.  The core of "Nebraska" is a funny and endearing story about life that is so universal and basic that it just fits that it is in black and white.