Friday, October 28, 2005


Thumbsucker, she said 3.4

This dramatic comedy follows the life of an adolescent boy, Justin Cobb, searching for an identity and the self confidence to defend that identity. Like its main character, the movie searches for a theme. Perhaps the director intended for the audience to feel the confused insecurity of adolescence; The heart pounding anxiety the occurs when your world is falling away from you and you desperately long to grasp on to something, just one thing, that is stable. There were so many earnest themes splashed throughout the movie I felt as if I were back in high school and amidst the whirlwind of life pick out what was important and what could fall by the waist-side. Is that good? It was different and putting the lack of structure in this light makes the movie sound very well thought out.

I am still not confident of the movie's intended message. Really, I came out of the movie waiting to get an Adderall prescription. Recently I have had a lot of work to do yet lacked the time. Cobb learns the miraculous effects of the tiny pill as he works his way to the state finals of the debate team. His change from spacey teenager to focused winner campaigns for the wonder that is Adderall. As the wonderful Dane Cook would say, "why not me? I want that." (yes, i just quoted a stand up comidian). There were other themes that seemed equally important at the time but they did not seem to stick with me once left the theater. It makes me wonder if there were any pharmacy companies funding this film....something to think about.

if you are in the mood to think a bit check this film out. But, if you brain is on the fritz - go get some Adderall and then go watch the movie.

Friday, October 28, 2005


Thumbsucker, he said 3.0

"Thumbsucker" is a more than capable film. I enjoyed watching it, but little has remained with me other than the desire to be prescribed Ritalin like Justin (Lou Taylor Pucci). If it can really do all that it did for him, then get me some of that.

"Thumbsucker" is inhabited by a group of characters played by a more than competent cast who all make their characters feel like real people. Tilda Swinton, as Audrey, especially shines (I cannot wait to see her as the Ice Queen in the upcoming Narnia film). The fact that the characters seem so much like real people, I think, is the reason that I did not particularly enjoy them as characters. all this will be invisible until you click on the title The characters are not dynamic. Though with Justin at least, he is not static. I think one could call his character "circular." He changes with the help of drugs, but then reverts back to his old ways. The film seems to be saying that change brought about by medication is not real change. What that says about mental illness is, I think, wrong.

The film is an engaging journey filled with bizarre dream-like sequences set to the music of the somewhat creepy Polyphonic Spree. There are many funny moments and a good bit of what Perry (Keanu Reeves) might call "hippie psychobabble." This ultimately brought the film down for me. It tries so hard to be ambiguous about its meanings and messages that it come across as unsure of itself. Also, while the characters all felt like real people, none of them are people that I would really enjoy spending time with.

What do you think?

Thursday, October 20, 2005


Elizabethtown, she said 3.6

Orlando Bloom has once again managed to be cast in yet another movie with an amazing cast. The beauty that is Bloom has, for the first time, kept his head above water in the proverbial pool of talent. Susan Sarandon played Bloom's cracked up mother but, as she said, could play his lover in the next film with him. I love that she does not limit her self because of her age. Not only does she go for the nontraditional roles but she gracefully pulls it off.

The movie took me on a journey across country, introduced me to a long lost family and saw the sparks of love (or lust some may say). My problem with the movie came was those three example. I saw all of this, the movie did not pull me into its world. I didn't feel the joy of discovering new adventure, the awkwardness of distant quirky family members, or the wave of heat that comes with new love. There was a nice moment when Bloom and Dunst had a nice moment during a late night phone call. The dialogue was well delivered and the scenes were well cut together too. The scene was a moment that made me long to be apart of what they were experiencing. However, the movie was e123 minutes line.

Sadly, that was one of the few moments I long to be apart of. Good movies have those experiential moments sprinkled throughout (as if trying to use them sparingly). However, a great movie is just one experiential moment. One moment for the audience to escape into the world the artists have created.....Ok, so that may be too much of a soap box, but it is true. This movie wasn't bad, it just didn't inspire me. Recently, i have been disappointed rather disappointed with movie's ability to sweep me off my feet and carry me away to cinema-land. Some would speculate that I need to find a man, but please, we all know that isn't true!!

Closing thought: Finding Orlando Bloom hot IS reason enough to go see this movie.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005


Elizabethtown, he said 3.0

There is a scene in "Elizabethtown" in which Drew (Orlando Bloom) and Claire (Kirsten Dunst) spend the entire night on the phone. This scene awoke in me the feelings of excitement and apprehension and fun that come with these types of calls. The ones you are initially terrified to make, but once you do, you never want them to end. Where the things you talk about range from the most trivial to the most profound and would make little sense to anyone but the two of you. Crowe captures the elation of those kinds of calls perfectly.

I wish that the entire movie could have reached the heights of that segment. It does not, but the film is never really bad either. Awkward is probably the best word for the way many scenes played out.all this will be invisible until you click on the title "Cheesy" is the word I would use for one scene toward the end [when Drew visits the hotel where Dr. King was killed set to the tune of U2's Pride (In the Name of Love)].

I think that the biggest surprise in the movie is that Orlando Bloom does not completely stink. In fact, I'd say he's rather good in many scenes (particularly in the road trip montage). However, like his other leading parts, he just seems to be trying way too hard. During the scene in which Drew first sees his father's body, you can look into Bloom's eyes and clearly see him concentrating very hard on his "acting." Again, awkward.

Bloom is however surrounded by a very solid supporting cast which compensates for his weaknesses. Kirsten Dunst radiate energy as Claire. She's cute and attractive and fun in the same way that Kate Hudson was in "Almost Famous" and Natalie Portman in "Garden State." Susan Sarandon, Judy Greer, Loudon Wainwright, Alec Baldwin, and Jessica Biel are all good in their limited roles. The film also features the always spectacular soundtrack that one has come to expect from a Crowe film (though certain scenes here made me feel as if he was relying too much on the songs).

There are things that I would have liked to see done differently in this movie. I would have liked to have seen a more competent actor in the lead. Storywise, I felt there needed to be more focus on Drew's emotional journey. I could have pretty much done without the entire shoe plot. I also would have liked to see more of Sarandon and Greer as Drew's widowed mother and single mom sister. I think that the romance storyline and the road trip could have been more intwined so that we could see more sweeping scenes of the majestic American landscapes.

"Elizabethtown" does not always reach the highs that Cameron Crowe has attained with "Almost Famous" or "Say Anything," but it never reaches to the lows he fell to with "Vanilla Sky" or "Jerry Maguire." The film is like the roadtrip Claire plans for Drew. It meanders. It takes its time. It allows you to appreciate the scenery. It plays some good songs. It illicits a range of emotions. Enjoy the journey. I could not stop smiling the whole way through.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005


Waiting..., he said 0.0

"Demented, depraved, and senseless." These are the words used by Monty (Ryan Reynolds) to describe the wacky antics of his restaraunt crew. Wacky they may be, but funny they are most definitely not. I can't really comment on the plot, story, etc. of this film, because the film (in the loosest sense of that word) is far too concerned with playing the "male genitalia-showing game" to worry about such meaningless devices as those. Yes, you read that sentence correctly. Yes, the running gag of this movie involves male staff members flashing one another.

In addition to that, there is recurring joke (and I hesitate to call it that because the word "joke" implies that it is funny) about pedophilia. This nearly culminates in statutory rape (Monty decides against it, but he still wants the girl to tell everyone they did it. Isn't he a great guy? Ha!). Women are degraded and objectified. Children do drugs. The handicapped are maligned. Other people degraded by this film include (but are probably not limited to) children with Down's Syndrome, foreigners, homosexuals, and rural people.

You know how people laugh in disbelief when they are shocked or uncomfortable? The few laughs this comedy (and I use that word loosely) manages to elicit are those kind. I never expected this movie to be good, but considering the cast, I was shocked by how bad it was. Ryan Reynolds, Justin Long, Anna Faris, and Luiz Guzman have all done fairly decent work before (and someone keeps telling me that that Dane Cook guy is supposedly funny too). However, none of them manage to make this movie work in the least. I am most disappointed in John Francis Daley. Daley played my favorite character in my favorite TV show ever (Freaks and Geeks). He was amazing. And now he is in this. Stupid NBC!

Daley's character does, however, sum up many of my reactions to this movie in an angry tirade at the end. I can't find the quote anywhere, but he basically tells all of the other characters that they are the sickest people ever. Word!

If you want to see a hilarious movie about smart aleck twentysomethings surviving a day of working their dead end jobs while trying to make sense of their lives, DO NOT see this movie. Instead, rent Kevin Smth's vastly superior "Clerks."

Wednesday, October 12, 2005


Waiting..., she said 1.9

Yes, the ellipsis is apart of the movie's title, which may possibly be the only creative aspect of this movie - but really, is an ellipses all that creative? I admit that I saw the movie because I am slowly falling in love with the wonder that is Dane Cook. Perhaps if he were given more lines or even well written lines the movie would have been more enjoyable.

There are a lot of "could have's" for this movie. For example, Dane Cook could have been the token one liner guy, however, he was allowed only four times to say a funny one-liner, not nearly enough time to establish a character or a pattern of humor.

Too, the movie could have had a great moral undertone. I am quite the scholar of the quarter-life crisis and both the individual and social effects of this new phenomenon. SO, naturally I took an interest in the main characters struggle between doing what makes him happy, what his mother wants, and living up to societal expectations. Coming back to the could have part, this minimal character development was dramatically over shadowed by the movie’s attempt at crass humor.

This leads me to my last could have. The movie could have had a crass sense of humor that made you buckle over in laugh while suppressing the urge to vomit. I must admit, there is a small part in me (ok maybe a big one) that likes sick, crass humor - I lived with Trey for two years. This movie made a poor attempt. The jokes were poorly worded and misplaced.

The movie had the potential to be another American Pie meets Clerks (I am sure that was a sales pitch used by the writers). Despite the pitiful efforts, Waiting... fell short by leaps and bounds. My only physical reaction is to roll my eyes, turn on my heel and walk away - whatev sums it up!

Monday, October 10, 2005


Serenity, she said 4.1

Some people I know would give this a higher rating and fuss over the fact that I didn't give this movie a 5. However, I am not as emotionally invested in the characters or the movie as some people I know.

Sometimes you are just in the mood for a classic. You already know the character types, you already know the plot, and usually you know the plot twists and where they will occur. A movie like Serenity gives you a sense of stability - you know you will like it because you have seen it before. The reason you go? You go to see a new version of what directors, producers and actors have know works for years. You go to see the new wrapping of an old and well thought out gift. Serenity is a movie where you will laugh, sit on the edge of your seat in suspense, pump you fist while river demolishes an army of villains, and squirt a tear when a beloved character bites the dust. A guy can cheer during the action scene and his counterpart female can stereotypically cry on his shoulder during the more emotional moments.

Go see it if you live action movie set in space.

Monday, October 10, 2005


Serenity, he said 5.0

You Can’t Take The Sky From Me
Contains Spoilers

There is a seemingly simple scene near the very end of Serenity that perfectly captures the layered essence of the film (and all things Whedon for that matter). The scene in question takes place between Mal Reynolds (Nathan Fillion), the captain of the title boat who is an intriguing mixture of Jimmy Stewart’s western characters, Captain James T. Kirk, and Han Solo; and his first mate, Zoe (Ginna Torres). These two characters have a long history together (fans of the show Firefly on which the film is based will know this, but newbies will still enjoy the film), and they have just experienced a taxing battle. Battle may be the wrong word. It’s more of a near suicidal effort to do the right thing. There has been damage. There have been casualties. Mal asks Zoe if the ship will fly. She says it will be bumpy and they’ll have to weather the storm, but they’ll make it through, like they always do. Now, there is a storm, and the ride will be bumpy; but Zoe and Mal are talking about so much more with this little exchange.

This kind of writing is part of what makes Joss Whedon a genius. Whedon has an astonishing (pun intended, Whedon currently writes Marvel’s “Astonishing X-Men,” THE best X-men run since Claremont and Byrne’s definitive run 25 years ago) ability to come up with ideas that sound ridiculous and make them supercool. A Valley Girl who fights vampires? Yeah. A vampire with a soul? That too. Toys that come to life? Yep, Whedon wrote Toy Story. A Western set in space? Welcome aboard Serenity. He takes these bizarre concepts and creates intricate new worlds for them to exist in and populates them with fun, interesting ensembles that feel like real people with real feelings and real problems existing in fantastic realities. Whedon also seems to have an uncanny ability at discovering amazing new talent or hidden talent (see Sarah Michelle Gellar, Alyson Hannigan, David Boreanaz, Nathan Fillion, et al). Don’t let the fact that there are no “stars” in Serenity keep you from seeing it. Though their names might not be recognizable, the cast of the film is beyond capable. Fillion was born to play Mal. He perfectly captures Mal’s loss of faith due to his war experience (forgive me that, as a Browncoat, I cannot fully separate the character arcs in the film from the ones in the overall story of series and film), his staunch loyalty to his crew, and his passion for his boat. Torres, Adam Baldwin, Alan Tudyk, Summer Glau, Jewel Staite, Morena Baccarin, Ron Glass, and Sean Maher all round out the lively crew. Chiwetel Ejiofor is introduced as the chilling and mysterious villain known simply as The Operative. David Krumholtz portrays the amusing new character Mr. Universe (who has his own version of the Buffybot).

I love this film. I admit it is very hard for me to be objective about it. Even before seeing it, I was very emotionally attached to it. I am a Browncoat who has followed this story since it was on Fox, to DVD, and through the long journey to the big screen. The climactic battle of the film is symbolic to me of this ‘verse. As the beautiful ship Serenity is defaced to pass as a Reaver ship, I am reminded of how Fox buried the show on Friday nights and aired the episodes out of order (what genius decided to air the pilot last? Please.). When she crashes, I feel the sadness of the cancellation. But just as the ship is rebuilt and flies again in the end, Joss and the fans didn’t give up, and due to their efforts, the story has returned as an amazing space opera adventure. However, like there are losses in the film, some things will never be the same again no matter how many more movies might one day be made. Firefly, in a fair world, could still be on the air now in what would have been the fourth season. I think the movie is great, but I know that Whedon is unparalleled in his ability to play out a story in just the right way over the course of a TV season. Serenity is awesome, but that story as a season of Firefly? I can only imagine how much more awesome it might have been. In the end though, I am thrilled that I can go into a dark theater and go on another adventure with my “big damn heroes.” Fox may have cancelled our show, but they can never kill our passion. As the show's theme song says, “you can’t take the sky from me.”

Sunday, October 09, 2005


A History of Violence, he said 1.0

David Cronenberg is “starting to damage my calm.” These were my thoughts as I sat through “A History of Violence” last night. Needless to say, “Serenity” was still flying around in my head. This however was a movie I had also been looking forward to, and I really expected to like it. Once the film began, I thought I did like it. As the film went on, I still wanted to like it. But by the time the film took an abrupt turn with a change in character and setting, I knew I could never like it.

Cronenberg lures us in with the familiarity of the setting and the characters. Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen) and his family are “just folks” who live in Smalltown, USA (in this case, rural Indiana). He owns a diner, his wife Edie (Maria Bello) is a lawyer, and his son Jack (Ashton Holmes) is the increasingly stereotypical wisecracking semi (or maybe all the way) geeky, Converse wearing, unpopular teenage “guy” (think Seth Cohen, but more real). He uses these all-American people in their all-American town to make us feel safe and comfortable. I liked these people. They reminded me of myself and people I know. I wanted to know more about these people.

But then Cronenberg yanks the table cloth out from under the vase. Now, I think his intentions were to show that “the flowers are still standing” (from the closing scene of the family dinner), but to me, everything came crashing down. In Cronenberg’s own words, he is “a complete Darwinian” and he wanted to make a movie that shows “innate violence of Darwinian evolution.” I think the fact that I realize that Darwinism doesn’t work is why this film, ultimately, does not work for me. Some may wonder whether Jack’s change in character is a result of poor modeling by his father. I think this would have been a much more interesting message to portray, but Cronenberg says no, he is simply following his “natural” inclination to be violent, like his father.

Now, I’m not saying that humans are not violent. We are all totally depraved, and I think this film does a good job of showing that no matter how hard we might try, we can’t change this on our own. Of course, this is not the message the director wants us to get out of it. He says that violence allows the “fittest” to survive (whether it be in the mob or the high school locker room). I know that only Christ can allow us to truly leave this state of total depravity. Of course, I didn’t expect the film to show this message (how refreshing it could be to see a movie show that though), but I am disappointed and at least somewhat surprised that the movie shows no signs of hope. Cronenberg leaves us with a family that survives by being violent. According to him, violence is the answer. I’m sorry, but I cheered for Jack when he outwitted the tool and cringed when he kicked the crap out of him.

The movie is not poorly made. The cinematography was beautiful, wonderfully capturing the majestic, vast emptiness of middle America. The score was very effective, although unmemorable. The acting by the leads is well done (and kudos to young Holmes who I was especially captivated by). However, I felt Ed Harris and especially William Hurt was guilty of overacting and turning their villains into cartoonish caricatures. Once the film turns into a somewhat generic gangster movie, everything seems to come to a grinding halt and the last half hour seems to drag on forever. And while I know that violence was inevitable and necessary for this story, I felt that Cronenberg was at times pushing the envelope just for the sake of it. I know what he intended to show through the opening sex scene, but couldn’t he have conveyed the same message by just showing us the couple spending time on their “date” together rather than showing us rather hardcore pornography? And the other sex scene stepped over the line into marital rape. And I felt that some of the violence was simply gratuitous. I really wish I had not seen all of the things this movie showed me. I should have been more discerning. These images are in my head now, and I cannot escape them. They are disturbing and troublesome. So is the movie as a whole. Its message is bothersome, and I the fact that there are people in this world, like Cronenberg, who truly believe that this is how the world works breaks my heart and boggles my mind.

Sunday, October 09, 2005


A History of Violence, she said 3.2

I really wanted to like this movie. I think that is why I took it so hard when it wasn't what I expected. Upon thinking about it last night and this morning, I think the two scenes I could have done without (rather, could have been tones down) were the two sex scenes. I do understand the point of them and how contrasting they were the relevance to the movie and explicated the character change. However, I went to go see a movie not a pornography.

My professor once told me that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. So.I think Tom/Joey's behavior was inevitable once his past found him. No matter how hard you try you cannot run your past the only way to really deal with it is confront it. In the end he did. While it was by murdering the mobsters. It was then that Joey could disappear forever leaving Tom to live with his family. One can also look at human nature and the basis of violence. No matter what we do we have a primal erg to kill. I don't so much by that one but it is arguable

Now I am interested to hear what you think of the son's change. At the start of the movie he was so witty and kind. He was so hurt by his father's character shift emotionally and physically at the end of the movie that the spark of life seemed to be drained out of him. Yet, he still felt the need to save his father - was that the start of his history of violence or was it him just being loyal to his father. Clearly, if he has been hurt by his father. If you can't trust you family then it skews you object relation of trusting others that may come into your life.

Technically there were some great camera angles and I really like the long shot in the beginning. It was a bit long winded. The director produce a high level of anxiety without quick cuts and loud music. What made you anxious was the fear in the mother's face contrasted with the calm in Tom's. For me, it was a new feeling of anxiety - I liked it. I think I would have like the film a lot more if there were not so many lulls. As a write this I am starting to like the movie more and wanting to see it again. I think it was the late night and the slow pace that lowered the emotional level for me. Perhaps it is not a good idea to see a double feature because no matter the time of day I don't really like it as much