Thursday, July 30, 2009

I Love You Man (2009)

Movie quotes:
Peter: So what do I do? How do I make friends?
Robbie: If you see a cool looking guy, strike up a conversation and ask him on a man date.
Peter: Ok.
Robbie: You know what I mean?
Peter: No.
Robbie: Casual lunch or after work drinks. You're not taking these boys to see The Devil Wears Prada.
Peter: Oh god, I love that movie. No I won’t.

Man at Open House: [after trying to discretely fart] I like it, but I'm not sure about the space.  I'm thinking it might be a little bit small.
Sydney: Totally, and it smells like fart.

At a glance:
Paul Rudd is funny, likeable, and believable as the quintessential "girlfriend’s boyfriend’ who undergoes a freedom of inhibitions when he bonds with a male free spirit played by Jason Segel

Our review (with spoilers):
Like most men, Peter (Paul Rudd) is thrilled to have found the love of his life, but unlike most other men, he doesn’t seem to be feeling the least bit of trepidation about his impending loss of freedom. And also unlike other men, he doesn’t have any male friends. Peter is the quintessential boyfriend, always devoting his time to making life good for his fiancée Zooey (Rashida Jones) and her friends. He’s a lover of chick flicks like The Devil Wears Prada, he doesn’t crave a night out with the guys playing poker and vomiting, and he’s not averse to treating his girlfriend’s hens to a round of root beer floats garnished with Pepperidge Farm Pirouettes chocolate straws.

After a humorous and fruitless search for male companionship on a series of ‘man dates’, many sponsored by his gay brother and misguided mother, Peter finally happens across someone he can bond with: easygoing free spirit Sydney (Jason Segel). Anchored by their shared acquired passion for the rock band Rush, they become such good friends and frequent companions that their relationship begins to crack seams in the bond between Peter and Zooey.

I Love You Man is a very funny movie (especially before it turns a bit maudlin and contrived in the final third). It also had its humorous base in truth; much of Peter’s pre-Sydney situations reminded my very much of my own life.

Although the basic bones of I Love You Man is a tried and true clichéd friendship/redemption story, there are enough funny and original lines that it’s still a rewarding journey. In fact, this works both ways: fans of easy to access happy endings will like it, those who crave originality will like it, and there’s even a fair bit of gross-out humor thrown in to please every taste.

Rating:  2.75 of 4

Other reviewers said:
"A blokey comedy that ironically doubles as a good date movie, I Love You, Man is funny nonsense that just drops short of fulfilling its ripping premise."
- Shannon J. Harvey (Sunday Times [Australia]

"Starting with a pretty funny script, writer-director Hamburg lets his cast have a free hand with their characters, and the improvisational atmosphere is what makes this male-bonding comedy thoroughly engaging."
- Rich Cline (Shadows on the Wall)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Franklyn (2009)

Movie quotes:

"If a god is willing to prevent evil, but not able, then he is not omnipotent. If he is able, but not willing, then he must be malevolent. If he is neither able or willing then why call him a god?"
- Jonathan Preest

At a glance:
Writer/director Gerald McMorrow creates a beautiful mystery, told across parallel universes, where the stories of four seemingly unconnected strangers intersect

Our review (with MAJOR SPOILERS):
Somewhere in a sci-fi future, the dark, architecturally-complex city of Meanwhile possesses laws that require every citizen to join a religion, even if that religion is as obscure as the Seventh Day Manicurists, or has a preacher that reads care instructions from clothes tags as if they were Holy Scriptures. In this madness, one masked man, Jonathan Preest (Ryan Phillippe) has defied the government and belongs to no church but his own. Preest is imprisoned for his ‘crime’; after four years, he is granted freedom if he will kill The Individual (Bernard Hill), a particularly dangerous religious leader who, years earlier, was responsible for the death of a girl that Preest was contracted to protect. Running parallel to this universe, in present-day London, are our other protagonists. Emilia (Eva Green), is a troubled young woman who makes monthly failed attempts at suicide as part of her art project. During her previous art project, when she was following strangers with a video camera, she tracked Milo (Sam Riley), a young man whose fiancée recently dumped him on the eve of their wedding. Milo, for his part, has seen glimpses of Emilia in a red wig and believes she is his childhood sweetheart, Sally. Unfortunately, Sally was not a real person, but an imaginary friend that Milo created when his father died. This becomes even stranger when he meets this Sally, and she remembers him.

There is also an older man who is searching for his son, David. Deep into the film, we discover that David is really Preest, and that the girl whom Preest failed to protect was his sister Sarah. As impossible as it may seem, all of these people’s stories will intersect and be resolved.

Franklyn requires heightened levels of concentration and observation to avoid losing interest or missing telltale clues and plot points. In my case, this was not an issue; the acting and the lost-souls love story that is at its core held my attention, as did the beautiful and often poetic production design. Franklyn is the type of film that polarizes viewers and reviewers. This often means that the director was trying to do something ambitious, inscrutable, and original that did not connect with the majority Typically, I rate these types of films at the high end of the scale, with extra points awarded for the effort of creating something that has not been done hundreds of times before. So if some parts do not work (like the occasional cumbersome prose), that’s okay; we can appreciate the many scenes that do.

Rating:  3 of 4

Other reviewers said:
"Franklyn is wonky and self-defeating: there are lots of gauche moments. Still, it’s entertaining, and commendable for its strangeness."
- Edward Porter (Sunday Times [UK])

"If ambition and flair were the only hallmarks of a five-star film then Franklyn would be top of the class."
- Allan Hunter (Daily Express)

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Bourne Supremacy (2004)

Movie quotes:
Jarda: Word in the ether was you'd lost your memory.
Jason Bourne: You still should have moved.

Pamela Landy: What if I can't find her?
Jason Bourne: It's easy. She's standing right next to you.

Kirill: You told me I had one month off.
Gretkov: You told me Jason Bourne was dead.

"Get some rest, Pam. You look tired."
- Jason Bourne

At a glance:
The second installment of the Matt Damon-led Bourne Trilogy is still an effective action thriller with exotic Euro locations, but it lacks some of the emotional punch of The Bourne Identity

Our review (with spoilers):
Jason Bourne is back. Once again, various people and agencies consider him a rogue and want him dead. He might have been able to stay beneath the radar, but a Russian agent kills two men in Berlin and plants one of Bourne’s prints at the scene. This sends CIA coordinator Pamela Landy (Joan Allen) in pursuit of Bourne. Allen steps into a similar role that Chris Cooper played in Identity; she’s perfectly cast; she even looks a little like Cooper in drag. Landy pursues Bourne in Berlin and Moscow; those two cities provide exotic backdrops, although they are decidedly less pleasing to look at than Paris was from Identity. Likewise, there are attempts made to put emotional hooks into Supremacy, but for a reason I won’t mention here (since it would reveal a major spoiler), they aren’t as effective as Identity. There are also more contrivances (like Zorn taking Abbott aside to show him evidence first before Landy; and  Bourne not killing Abbott) that are there to serve the character’s arc rather than make any sense. Consequently, Supremacy is a more conventional thriller; its top shelf locations and casting of Damon and Allen still make it better than many.

Rating: 2.75 of 4

Other reviewers said:
"Flashes of color and streaks of movement can make for a striking picture, but only if you can see what's taking place, not to mention if you care about who is in jeopardy."
- Eric Melin (

"Supremacy is, minor quibbles aside, a worthy successor to The Bourne Identity."
- Pete Vonder Haar (Film Threat)

Quench (2007)

At a glance:
Writer/director Zack Parker takes a miniscule budget and wrings a captivating story of a grieving young man who may find solace within a tightly knit circle of Goths

Our review (with spoilers):
There is no peace for the grieving Derik (Bo Barrett). His film-opening visit to a grave informs us that someone close to him has died. But we don’t know who or how close, since he chooses not to share this with anyone. He doesn’t even tell Jason (Ben Schmitt), an old school friend who he visits now because he doesn’t want to go home and has no one else to turn to. To Derik, Jason has changed so much since the two of them were close in high school. Ben now is a full-fledged Goth, having been influenced by his live-in Goth girlfriend, Veronica (Samantha Eileen DeTurk). Jason and Veronica are part of a very tight knit group of Goth friends who attend weird, dark parties where drugs and sex are exchanged. Derik is only partially accepted into these circles. Eventually, Derik’s lethargy and inability to deal with his grief causes conflict between he and Jason, and Derik moves out.

As Derik is about to board a bus to anywhere, fate intervenes; he crosses paths with Gina (Mia Moretti) a Goth girl who has taken a fancy with him. Derik moves in with Gina, and, again, is accepted into the group. This time, however, the extremes of the group’s practices cause Derik to reject them, which leads to disastrous consequences.

Quench is a quiet, thoughtful, slow-paced film, with many moments of silence. This is no Gilmore Girls patter; the characters think, and the story is intriguing enough that we don’t mind wondering, in those silences, what they are thinking about. Since the movie is classified as ‘horror’, horror fans looking for gore may be disappointed (this might account for the 3.9 of 10 rating on IMDB). Conversely, virtually all reviews of the film are overwhelmingly positive. The acting is occasionally amateurish, but Mia Moretti is very good. Bo Barrett proves that though it is difficult to play the role of an almost comatose grieving person without appearing truly wooden, it is not impossible. I’m looking forward to more from Zack Parker.

Rating: 2.75 of 4

Other reviewers said:
"Usually when dealing with darker subjects, movies will take a wild turn into fantasy or horror, Mr. Parker keeps his movie firmly grounded in reality, and the horror of that is more than enough…"
- Brian Morton (Rogue Cinema)

"A chilly examination of decaying hope, Zack Parker’s Quench exemplifies the drive and spirit that embodies truly independent filmmaking."
- Collin Armstrong (Twitch)

"Quench" is a rich tapestry of sub-genres, moral questions, and undertones that ends as a great indie horror picture that works against being another typical horror entry."
- Felix Vasquez Jr. (Cinema Crazed)

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Bourne Identity (2002)

Movie quotes:
Jason Bourne: Look. You drive, I pay, it's that simple.
Marie: Scheisse. I got enough trouble, okay?
Jason Bourne: Okay. Can I have my money back?
[Marie looks down at the wad of bills in her hand. Cut to Marie driving Jason in the car]

"How could I forget about you? You're the only person I know."
- Jason Bourne

"I can tell you the license plate numbers of all six cars outside. I can tell you that our waitress is left-handed and the guy sitting up at the counter weighs two hundred fifteen pounds and knows how to handle himself. I know the best place to look for a gun is the cab of the gray truck outside, and at this altitude, I can run flat out for a half mile before my hands start shaking. Now why would I know that? How can I know that and not know who I am?"
- Jason Bourne

At a glance:
This rare character-driven thriller combines tense action, exotic locations, and a stellar cast, anchored perfectly by Matt Damon as the boyishly innocent-looking but still-deadly Jason Bourne

Our review (with spoilers):
A half-drowned man (Matt Damon) awakens on an Italian fishing vessel, rescued from the ocean, with two bullet holes in his back. He remembers nothing. Slowly, pieces come together; an implant leads him to a safe deposit box that contains cash, numerous passports with a variety of names, and a gun. When threatened, he is surprised to observe himself dispatching two or more armed men with ease. The puzzle takes time to unravel, but what is immediately clear is that many people want him dead. Through convenience, he teams with a troubled, free-spirited woman (Franka Potente) who initially provides transport out of a touchy situation.

This thriller provides plenty of action, but it is, more importantly, character-driven, with strong performances across the board. Matt Damon provides a perfect blend of surface innocence, intelligence, and boyish charm; he is as surprised as we are to find out he is a trained assassin with all the skills of a top secret agent. Franka Potente provides this thriller with an unusual luxury: a strong female lead. Chris Cooper is excellent as Bourne’s boss. Clive Owen is also particularly effective in a small role as an assassin known as The Professor. This nail-biter is laced with occasionally shockingly cold violence (made even more effective by Potente’s heartfelt reactions to it) and lavish European locations; there’s even  a two-second throwaway shot of assassin ‘Castel’ (Nicky Naude) vespa-ing through Rome with the Coliseum in the background. Rating: 3.5 of 4

Other reviewers said:
"Efficient set pieces come neatly spaced every ten to 15 minutes -- just often enough to keep you credulous -- and the trans-European settings lend a classy backdrop."
- Time Out

"Liman can uncork leap-out-of-your-seat shocks, draw out suspense scenes with malicious finesse and even ease a touch of romance and droll humor into the yarn."
- Colin Covert (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

Friday, July 10, 2009

For Your Consideration (2006)

Movie quotes:
"You can't throw the baby out with the bathwater because then all you have is a wet, critically injured baby."
- Lane Iverson (Michael McKean)

At a glance:
Christopher Guest’s first ever misfire looks behind the scenes at low-budget film-making; an attempt is made at both comedy and sincerity, but neither is delivered

Our review (with spoilers):
This inside-Hollywood film looks at the making of Home For Purim, a 1940s Jewish-themed drama about the American South. Three of the actors (two in the twilight of their careers, and one just making the jump from comedy) find out that they may be nominated for Best Actor Academy Awards. It’s likely these are just rumors and nothing more, since the script, performances, and direction are not really a-grade.

There are talented performances by Guest’s usual team of potentially hilarious comic actors, but, sadly, very little of the film is funny. The too-broad jokes do not feel like they have a basis in fact (for example, an agent who has never used the Internet). What did make me laugh were the intonations and accent (is that supposed to be New York?) of Christopher Guest’s character. I also appreciated the wonderful Catherine O’Hara. She gets the best character to play here: a fully fleshed out role as an ageing actress who believes her waning career may be on the ascension.

Christopher Guest movies are not meant to be side-splittingly funny. Rather, they are best appreciated as low-budget, humorous and affectionately-made gems, featuring a returning cast of familiar faces. Waiting for Guffman, Guest’s first and funniest, benefited from its status as a true comic surprise. Best in Show had perhaps the broadest comic appeal and was the most successful of the lot. A Mighty Wind was not as funny but was carried by the humorous, entertaining folk music parodies and moments of touching sincerity. For Your Consideration doesn’t have the music, comedy, or sincerity to salvage it.

Rating: 1 of 4

Other reviewers said:
"The problem with For Your Consideration is that it breaks the cardinal rule of comedy: it just isn't funny."
- Ted Murphy (Murphy's Movie Reviews)

"The best jokes are the true jokes, and truth has not been best served here."
- Anthony Quinn (Independent)

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Freezer Burn (2007)

Movie quotes:
Virgil: Oh! Hey! It’s a tiny wooden moose!
Blake: It gave me a whittle cramp.
Virgil: Oh! You got a whittle cwamp?
Blake: A whittling cramp, a whittling cramp, ‘cause I was – I was up all night whittling!

Virgil: Alright, I’ll see ya – later.
Rex: Fifteen years.
Virgil: Fifteen years.

Gary: Here are your fuckin’ French Fries.
Rex: They’re Freedom Fries, Gary.
Gary: Yeah, sure.
Rex: You’re letting the terrorists win!

Rex: I’ll give you the rundown. A few years back, terrorists attacked us, fucked shit up royal – so, now we’re back in Iraq, and we’re asking for help, and the Frenchies are like, ‘No!’. So we’re all, like, ‘Bye, French Fries; hello, Freedom Fries’.
Virgil: Sounds…stupid and convoluted.
Rex: Yeah, and we got Freedom Toast, Freedom Bread, Freedom Dip, Freedom Kissin’…it’s a different world now, Virg – welcome to it. Need some ketchup – Gary!

At a glance:
An entertaining concept and some enthusiastic acting make Freezer Burn’s tale of cryogenic love a low-budget sci-fi gem

Our review (with spoilers):
Virgil Stamp (Robert Harriell) is a scientist whose goal is to prolong the ability to freeze donor organs. Buoyed by his success with monkey hearts, he makes the jump to believing he can freeze an entire living thing. A terminally ill dog is his first test; when that succeeds, he looks for another subject. In the meantime, his devotion to his work has caused tension between him and his wife, Blake (C. C. Seymour). This isn’t helped when he takes a liking to the paintings of Emma (Ella Rae Peck), a comely 14 year old student of Blake. When Blake finds out that he purchased one of Emma’s paintings behind her back, she destroys his frozen specimens, ruining his upcoming presentation. With his funding and his marriage terminated, Virgil realizes his feelings for Emma are true love. To prove his theories are correct, and to set up a legal meeting between Emma and himself, he freezes himself, leaving instructions for his assistant Rex (Michael Consiglio) to thaw him out in fifteen years. He also leaves instructions for Mendelson (Ivo Velon), a dodgy criminal who owes him a favor, to keep track of Emma. Eleven years later, a failure to pay notice means Virgil climbs out of his freezer in the middle of a dump, homeless and in his underwear. He has no friends, no money, and no outer garments. He eventually finds Rex, who is now homeless, and Mendelson finds him. Mendelson’s news is that Emma died in a car crash, but as he tells his story, we see that in reality, Mendelson fell in love with Emma and married her (this plotline is a bit similar to There’s Something About Mary).

There are moments of amateurish writing and acting in Freezer Burn, but not many, and not nearly enough to reduce the enjoyment of the clever concept, entertaining story, enthusiastic acting, and the general ‘feel-good’ mood of the whole project. Robert Harriell is particularly good in a demanding role that requires he is on-screen almost all the time, often by himself. Some of the fall foliage location filming in Connecticut is also beautiful. I’m hoping to see more from writer/director Charles Hood.

Rating: 2.75 of 4

Click here to order Freezer Burn on DVD

Other reviewers said:
"If you can look past the lack of polish, there are some very fun and entertaining bits in here."
- Curse of Greyface

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Quantum of Solace (2008)

Movie quotes:
"When someone says they’ve got people everywhere, you expect it to be hyperbole! Lots of people say that. Florists use that expression. It doesn’t mean they’ve got somebody working for them inside the bloody room."
- M (Judi Dench)

James Bond (Daniel Craig): [at a dirty, small motel] What are we doing?
Strawberry Fields (Gemma Arterton): We're teachers on sabbatical. This fits our cover.
James Bond: No it doesn't. I'd rather stay at a morgue. Come on.
[they go to a nicer hotel]
James Bond: [to the hotel receptionist] Hello. We're teachers on sabbatical and we've just won the lottery.

Camille (Olga Kurylenko): So, what's your interest in Greene?
James Bond: Among other things, he tried to kill a friend of mine.
Camille: A woman?
James Bond: Yes. But it's not what you think.
Camille: Your mother?
James Bond: She likes to think so.

At a glance:
Daniel Craig’s second Bond film tells its story of revenge with exquisitely choreographed and edited action scenes

Our review (with spoilers):
James Bond is tasked with tracking down the people responsible for the death of his girlfriend Vesper. He swears to M that he is not bent on revenge, yet for some reason every baddie he encounters seems to die, even though she would prefer he occasionally bring someone in for, say, questioning. Bond’s nemesis is one Dominic Greene, a businessman who, under the pretense of buying tracts of land as nature preserves, actually corners a country’s water supply and then sells water to his newly installed leader at an inflated price. Bond is also going to have to deal with Greene’s high-ranking American friends, who also want him out of the way.

I’ve got to admit, I’m starting to prefer (or at least highly appreciate) this more serious, hard-edged Bond over the quipping, smirk-wearing Roger Moore (my previous favorite Bond). Gone are the double-entendres and any sense of playfulness; it seems as if the Bond one-liners are purposefully written NOT to be amusing. They are both good in their own way, but Craig’s steely demeanor meshes well with the frenetic editing and high-tech action scenes that make these newer Bond movies so entertaining.

One area that does not work for me: the tone of these new Bond films is highly grim most of the time, but the villains, despite being slightly more serious, are still mostly moustache-twirling caricatures, and that is not a perfect fit with the new sobering mood.

Rating: 3 of 4

Other reviewers said:
"Meaner, leaner and faster than ever, the new-fashioned, down-to-earth Bond movie might have a typically tangled plot and Daniel Craig scowling a tad too much, but the Bourne-inspired action is sensational."
- Jim Schembri (The Age [Australia])

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Grizzly Man (2005)

Movie quotes:
"I will die for these animals, I will die for these animals, I will die for these animals."
- Timothy Treadwell

At a glance:
Werner Herzog’s familiarity with obsession aids his documentary of bear activist Timothy Treadwell, who, after 13 summers camping among grizzlies, was killed by bears

Our review (with spoilers):
Werner Herzog’s documentary profiles Timothy Treadwell, a self-styled ‘gentle warrior’ who spent 13 summers studying grizzly bears in the Alaskan wilderness. An actor by trade, Treadwell’s career had reached rock bottom when he was rejected for a role in Cheers; he subsequently overdosed on cocaine and heroin. He found a religious rebirth in studying, photographing, and ‘protecting’ the bears in the areas where he camped. Born on Long Island, New York as Timothy Baxter, Treadwell reinvented himself as a British orphan from a small outback town in Australia. In videotapes he made while on-site, he portrayed himself as a lone warrior, although in fact at least 4 of those 13 summers he was accompanied by one or more (mostly off-camera) female companions. Herzog picked from this extensive video library to present some amazing up-close footage of bears and foxes; he also shows much of Treadwell’s obsessive, bipolar personality in segments that were essentially personal video diaries that should never have been aired to a wider audience. Treadwell bares his troubled soul. No one can doubt his love of the bears (and his profound, misguided need to be loved by them), but in his zest for love, he invaded the bears territory and ultimately did not show them enough respect. His goals were conflicting; he longed to portray bears as being less dangerous as believed and worthy of protection, and yet he constantly portrayed himself as a man who was purposely camping in dangerous, life-threatening situations. Ultimately, after an amazing run of luck, Treadwell stayed too long into that final, fateful season. The usual bears that he knew (and that knew him) had begun hibernation, and strange, older, hungrier, and more desperate bears inhabited the region. One or more of these bears broke into Treadwell’s tent and killed him and his girlfriend.

Herzog is no stranger to obsession; he also has plunged headfirst into film projects (for example, Fitzcarraldo) at the expense of all other priorities. He has picked his subject well; Treadwell is an intriguing character, and the wildlife footage is captivating at times.  Rating: 3 of 4

Other reviewers said:
"Part punk wildlife doc, part diary of a twisted soul, part cautionary tale, Grizzly Man is a complex, unique and engrossing journey into the murky recesses of an unhinged mind."
- Dan Jolin (Empire Magazine)

"Treadwell, a failed TV actor, is presented as someone desperate to give and receive love. That he went to such extremes is tragic, but also, in Herzog's sympathetic eyes, deeply human."
- Joshua Rothkopf (Time Out New York)