March 28, 2010
March 23, 2010
March 21, 2010
March 17, 2010
Director: Danny Leiner
Writer: Sam Catlin
Starring: Olympia Dukakis, Jim Gaffigan, Judy Greer, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Tony Shaloub, Steven Colbert, Will Arnett, Edie Falco
Danny Leiner (Dude, Where's My Car; Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle) directs Catlin's writing debut, a character-driven piece taking place in the weeks leading up to the one year anniversary of a recent New York City tragedy (although that has surprisingly little to do with the "plot").
I use quotation marks because the film would probably work better with each of the five sections made as separate films, as they don't really connect in the manner of Crash or Babel.
- An accountant (Gaffigan) undergoing a therapy session in the office of a passive-aggressive psychologist (Shalhoub).
- Two immigrants from India on security detail for a visiting dignitary.
- An ambitious pastry chef (Gyllenhaal) preparing a professional pitch that she hopes will make her the reigning doyenne of New York's competitive cake scene.
- A Brooklyn housewife (Dukakis) fixes her husband's dinner and then sits at the kitchen table making collages out of old magazines while her husband sits on the balcony, smoking a cigarette.
- Allison & David Burbage (Greer, Tom McCarthy) struggle to keep their marriage together while coping with their increasingly difficult and strangely self-possessed 10-year-old son.
Some of the characters share a brief elevator ride, but that's the extent of it. Despite the lack of a traditional plot, however, I mostly enjoyed the film. Definitely recommend a watch if you can find it. Two caveats: Shaloub's character ends on a very ambiguous note, and Gyllenhaal's one which leaves the viewer wondering her motivation. Maybe when I get around to watching it with the commentary track, I'll be contented with the answers I seek.
Oh, and this film is obviously the total opposite to the director's other film work--not only a drama, but an extremely subtle one at that. Also, I got the feeling early on that this movie was either over my head, or just trying very hard to be incredibly pretentious. Thankfully, it turned out to be neither.
March 14, 2010
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Writers: Robert Zemeckis & Bob Gale
Starring: Michael J Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Crispin Glover
"Are you telling me that you built a time machine... out of a DeLorean?" You've all seen this one: teen apprentice to mad scientist goes back to 1955, stops parents from meeting, and attempts to rectify said situation before it undoes his own existence.
After 25 years, this film holds up surprisingly well. Sure, one or two of the effects don't look as great as they used to, and a couple of the jokes are corny, but I'd still call it one of the few perfect movies. It's got action, comedy, romance, a little suspense, good writing, well-developed characters--definitely enjoyable for everyone. Glad to see it hasn't fallen to the recent pandemic of remakes, and I hope it stays that way.
March 8, 2010
Wonder what'll be deemed worthy by the Academy next year...
March 6, 2010
Writer: Linda Woolverton
Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Crispin Glover, Stephen Fry, Michael Sheen, Alan Rickman
"You're entirely bonkers. But I'll tell you a secret: all the best people are." The latest jaunt into Tim Burton's scarred psyche, Alice is a unique spin on the works of Lewis Carroll; the film finds Alice (Wasikowska) at age 19, suddenly thrust into Wonderland with no memory of her prior visit 13 years ago. Despite the disorientation, she must quickly gain a sure footing to accept her destiny.
My expectations for this film were high. The cast list is all-star, it's visually phenomenal, and I've always been a fan of Burton's adaptations (everything from 1999 to now has been based on an earlier written work). However, Alice falls short. While weaving an origial, quality plotline based on someone else's work is a Herculean task (and was achieved to an extent by Woolverton) some...interesting choices were made.
- The characters are given names beyond Red Queen, Caterpillar, Mad Hatter, etc.
- Wonderland is actually called "Underland." I wish I were joking.
- Depp's Mad Hatter oscillates back and forth between an English and a Scottish accent. He also does a very...peculiar dance.
I'll give the film points for the Wizard of Oz homage (people in the real world having analogues in Wonderland), but the writing falls short beyond that. A few good Carroll lines are in there ("I often believe in six impossible things before breakfast," etc), but they kind of bash you over the head with them, like the opening scene and its tenet of "Conformity is bad." Curioser and curioser...let's hope that the 1960s vampire soap opera adaptation works out better.
March 4, 2010
Writer: Michael Hoffman
Starring: Christopher Plummer, Helen Mirren, James McAvoy, Paul Giamatti
The latest film from Michael Hoffman (Soapdish, The Emperor's Club) details the struggle of Leo Tolstoy (Plummer) to balance the wishes of his wife (Mirren) with his followers, including Vladimir Chertkov (Giamatti) and Tolstoy's secretary Valentin Bulgakov (McAvoy).
The Last Station is a bit slow-paced, and feels long in certain parts. Tolstoy is confusingly referred to as "Lev Nikolayevich" throughout the film. Also, for a film set in Russia and composed entirely of Russian characters, all of the actors sound British. However, the performances of Plummer and Mirren stand out, making the film worth a watch; both deserve their Oscar (and Golden Globe and SAG) nominations.
Sorry for the sparse details, but I'm a little burned out on all these Oscar flicks. I'm grateful this is my last one for a while.
March 2, 2010