Blog Archives

Her (2013)

3bf2e981

As most of you should know, at the moment in the most general sense, we as a species are not headed in a good direction. Somewhere along the path, we lost our way. Our priorities and morals are misshapen and failing, the technological and political advances we make are cancelled out by our abuse of our planet and each other, and we’re struggling to co-exist, to keep our progression afloat. All in all, our future does not look bright. That being said, the ship is being righted somewhat, you know…we are getting there, even if it is just one maladjusted step at a time. We’re beginning to consider the consequences and outcomes of our actions and creations just as heavily and frequently as we marvel at them. And it looks as if our continued existence, harmony, and evolution is significantly greater in importance, well…at least mow more than it has ever been.

NY-CM822_FILM_G_20130808194650

Sadly however, despite this new growth and consciousness of how important our cohesiveness is, we continue to conjure up new ways of interacting with one another…quicker, inhuman, artificial ways. Devices, methods, and intelligence that instead of drawing us together, instead of doing what we intended them to do, is distancing us, alienating communication, both physical and verbal. It’s becoming a bit excessive and ridiculous, at least to me anyway. I get that with these tools we are also bringing the world together, but, I mean, at what cost? And where do we draw the line? We’re losing what makes our very presence in this universe so extraordinary. It feels as if these easier ways of connecting are hampering our intellectual ascension, creating an inability to converse face-to-face, and leaving us unable to read one another. “I fear the day technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.”

Rooney-Mara-Her

That’s an Albert Einstein quote, by the way, just thought I’d let you know so I don’t get tagged with plagiarism, but I digress. The quote, along with the personal rant before it was ignited by Spike Jonze’s transcendent film “Her.” I feel it’s important to convey what exactly a film evokes in me and the end result is often something like the rant above. Just so you know, “Her” centres around Theodore (Phoenix), a lonely, romantic writer who winds up falling in love with his new operating system (Johansson). I figured I’d let you in on the plot so you could know the reason behind my rambling. So, now that you understand where my blurb stems from, I bet it makes a lot more sense. To be honest though, there’s a hell of a lot more to this film than just singling out our mistakes and how we are going to pay dearly for them. So enough of my blabbering on, let’s get into the film.

her-trailer

Unlike any love story you’ve ever experienced. “Her,” written and directed by the aforementioned Spike Jonze, is a bizarre concoction of comedy, science-fiction, and of course, romance. Its premise is a bit obscure and might take a little time to settle in. However once it does, the confusion and hilarity of what you are actually watching will will wear off and the film’s immersive, heartbreaking, foreshadowing nature will haunt you, make you ache. The script is genuine, disheartening, and completely captures the lyricism and poetic inconsistencies of the language we use everyday. It’s extremely difficult to recreate such instinctive, calculated emotions and dialogue, but Jonze does a superlative job in doing so. The soundtrack for this lovely film, which I am currently listening to, was composed by none other than Arcade Fire, amongst others. It’s one that’ll stick with you and you’ll be listening to it consistently long after the film is over.

her-olivia-wilde

Jonze, whom you might know as the director of such masterpieces as “Adaptation” and “Being John Malkovich,” brings exactly what you’d expect to the table. His form is as impeccable as ever. The camerawork is really an achievement all its own. Shifting from the close, emotionally strong, driven performances to endless skylines and scenery. He displays this ambient, smart, poignant, vulgar, atmospheric, sexy, unflinching yarn flawlessly. The story moves swiftly and effortlessly. Transitioning from a simple tale of a lonely writer into an intricate, veritable look at our expanding knowledge and existence. Jonze does this while eventually, occasionally simultaneously, providing the reason why this growth will be our downfall…unless we come to terms with the truth. That being, no matter how we break our bounds and overcome obstacles, our structure, our very make-up will always bring us back to one another.

her-joaquin-phoenix-chris-pratt-600x337

Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have one of the strongest ensembles 2013 has to offer keeping your footing. “Her” features Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson in the lead roles with Amy Adams, Olivia Wilde, Rooney Mara, and Chris Pratt running support. We all know that Adams has the chops, so her magnificence shouldn’t be that big of a surprise. Nevertheless, somehow, she still manages to bewilder and her performance here is nothing short of perfection. Wilde, who I feel finally won her critics over with one of my favourites this year, “Drinking Buddies” continues to move forward with another strong effort. Pratt plays the quirky, visceral, long-time friend infallibly, something he’s done for a long time. As for Mara, who still remains on the periphery of the mainstream for some odd reason, gives another powerful effort here. She’s that odd, house-hold name that everyone seems to push to the back burner.

her-amy-adams-600-370

Phoenix and Johansson, our star-crossed lovers, search endlessly for a way to make their unconventional romance work despite all the restrictions. And I must say, they look…and sound I should say, quite striking doing so. It’s utterly remarkable how the two play off one another. Johansson might not be able to garner an Oscar nomination due to some idiotic stipulation, but in my books, she’s got the award wrapped up. As for Phoenix, there’s no doubt in my mind he’ll grab a nod himself, possibly take it home all together. I know it’s simple fiction, a movie, but the chemistry, the sparks these two create is something of such authenticity, it has to be seen to be believed.

Her-film-2013

Spike Jonze’s “Her” is beautiful, smart, disconcerting, and depressingly emotional. “Her” will be fighting for nominations this award season, there’s no doubt, the only question is, how many will it win?

Her: 9.5 out of 10.

Charlie Countryman (2013)

charlie-countryman03

See, this is why you should always watch a film that interests you no matter what, regardless of the general consensus. I don’t know why, but it seems like the past few years have been overflowing with hidden gems that many have dismissed, simply presuming that the opinions and habits of other (idiotic) film-viewers are infallible. Films like “On the Road,” “Only God Forgives, and “The Counselor” have all been notoriously smashed by critics and the general public alike, resulting in an abundance of undeserved negativity, virtually non-existent box office returns and so on. For example, I’ve read a few articles on all the aforementioned flicks, including “Charlie Countryman,” and they’ve all been deemed irrefutably flawed by the majority, in some way, on the top two reviewing websites, those being IMdB and Rotten Tomatoes. The only reason I bring those two up is because in my experience, they’re what a significant amount of movie-goers check for info and testimonials before heading to the theatre or renting a flick.

876191_029

People are impressionable you know, when they read a bad review, see terrible opening weekend numbers, it sticks with them, and as much as I try to be, I’m no different. I’ve been excited about “Charlie Countryman” for a while now, but when I saw this black hole of hate engulfing it, I became a little leery. The only thing that kept pushing me forward were my past experiences with the films I previously mentioned. They were all shot down before even being given a legitimate chance. So I vowed that I’d never toss a film to the wayside without due diligence, and boy has that attitude payed huge dividends. While not a contender for best picture of the year, “Charlie Countryman” does have purpose and merit. It’s different, intriguing, heart-wrenching. This might be a bad thing for some, but I like to be sad with a film just as much as I like to be content. So let’s do away with useless cinematic conventions and give the underdogs a chance. Finding films with value on the periphery are all the more rewarding and personal, they stick with you.

CharlieCountryman

“Charlie Countryman,” Directed by Fredrick Bond and written by Matt Drake, is an extreme love story you won’t soon forget starring Shia LaBeouf, Mads Mikkelsen, Evan Rachel Wood, Rupert Grint, and Til Schweiger. Not to mention tremendous supporting performances from Vincent D’onofrio, Melissa Leo, and John Hurt. Now, with a cast of this caliber, it’s easy to see how some have set the bar unreachably high. But let’s discuss the film itself for now, we’ll return to the performances in a bit. We join Charlie (LaBeouf) in a bit of a crisis, his mother is not longed for this world and he’s struggling with the simplicity of his existence. After his mother passes, Charlie sets off to Bucharest in order to keep a promise he made to her and to realize, experience his life. On the plane, Charlie finds himself in another precarious situation regarding death and promises. Upon landing, amongst the chaos and confusion, Charlie meets Gabi and immediately falls in love, but soon understands that anything worth while comes with sacrifice.

charlie-countryman-image-3

Right off the top from the plot’s description, it’s clear to see that “Charlie Countryman” isn’t anything out of the ordinary story-wise. This isn’t a problem, simply push the tale’s lack of originality to the back burner and enjoy the film’s strengths. Director Fredrick Bond does a marvellous job capturing the harsh, underworld beauty of Bucharest. A city that doesn’t often get he chance to strut its stuff on the big screen. Complimenting the skylines and structures is a magnificent, entrancing soundtrack that is lively, ambient, and intoxicating. The score, for me anyway, was the pleasant surprise of the entire film. Now, although writer Matt Drake did struggle creating something of individuality and that will stand the test of time. There is some terrific dialogue that’ll give you reoccurring chills. He didn’t get a lot of things right with “Charlie Countryman,” but the one thing Drake’s script isn’t, is cliche.

Unknown

Getting back to the portrayals, I mean, what can one say? It’s hard to blame anyone here for “Charlie Countryman’s” faults. In the title role, Shia LaBeouf clearly cherished every moment on screen and the honest ambiguity the character afforded him to unleash. The sadness, happiness, and emotional range he executes is flawless. As for his character’s lover, Gabi, portrayed by the lovely Evan Rachel Wood, there’s nothing to dwell on brashly here either. The accent may get a little ridiculous at times, but she’s equally as emotionally invested as LaBeouf. Now, the main reason I caught this flick was to watch Mads Mikkelsen. No offence to the cast or crew, some of which whom I adore greatly, it’s just that he’s just near the top of my to-watch-list. While Mads doesn’t blow the top off “Charlie Countryman,” he doesn’t phone it in. With his resume, it’s simply hard to turn up a performance that rivals his greatness. The supporting cast is also superbly strong. Compiled of some of the best in the business, if the story and cinematic aspects don’t get you, the cast surely will.

charlie-countryman-shia-la-beouf640

Superlatively acted, visually striking, and emotionally strong. “Charlie Countryman” may not have the staying power some might have hoped, but is definitely strong enough to evoke a response.

Charlie Countryman: 7 out of 10.

About Time (2013)

about_time_film

If you were to ask the casual film-viewer what their thoughts are as to what is ultimately hampering the romantic-comedy these days, odds are they’d reply that their premises, unfurling of events, and happy-go-lucky nature aren’t very realistic, therefore supremely disengaging. Put in layman’s terms, almost everything about them is far fetched which renders their message, their point, their reason for simply being inert and unattainable. The rom-com used to be and should still be one of the most elemental, down-to-earth, and audience compatible genres. Yet nowadays, it seems that every week another cold, forced, and faceless piece of less-than-romantic, unfunny drivel is released. To make matters worse, the dialogue is contrived and overly gooey, and the characters either come off as pretentious, act un-rightfully entitled, or are just plain out loaded…in other words, they’re nothing more than couple of spineless, snobby saps unworthy of your time. Thankfully however, “About Time” is none of the sort.

About Time film still

Now, what’s quite ironic is that this aforementioned general opinion regarding the genre is itself fairly contrived, more just going with the flow instead of forming personal opinions…but there is a method to this madness. I mean, you used to go into the theatre to see a rom-com and be fairly sure that this, your dark, lonely existence would be illuminated…at the very least dimly lit by the opportunity, the chance at something with purpose. You know, something that would make the remainder of your days meaningful, bearable. Why? you ask. Well let’s face it, the honest truth is that this short span of time we have is extremely disheartening and the only thing that lights up our brief days is love, in its many transcendent forms. Today, you’re lucky if 10% of rom-com flicks are superb enough to evoke such a reaction and the rest miraculously flop, predictably.

ZZ

I know that some of you are married or have significant others, and even kids, so the previous rant might not apply to you. If this is the case, just smirk condescendingly at my vulnerability…but I digress. Look, if I’m to be honest with you, my readers whom I adore endlessly. Recently I had given up on the big “L” word and the genre entirely (neither had anything to do with my dismissal of the other). The last rom-com that I can confidently say I swept me off my feet was “Wedding Crashers,” so yeah, it’s been a while. This year however, I’m feeling slightly more optimistic, I’m still, slightly young so there’s still time to turn everything around, and it just so happens that two of my favourite films of the year are romantic-comedies, those being “Drinking Buddies” and the one I’m about to review, “About Time,” a good sign for my progression if you ask me (optimism). However, this being said, my previous statements about the genre still remain prominent and true. With the exception of a few here and there, the genre is suffering…but this debate is for another day.

About-Time-1

To switch things up rather abruptly, here’s a peeve of mine I hope you reflect. Don’t you hate it when a film’s marketing doesn’t do it justice or presents the flick itself incorrectly? This common, grave error occurs all too often and essentially leads to misinterpretations, bad auras, and critic negativity…you know, absorption misconceptions. A few off the top of my head, “Only God Forgives,” “On the Road,” and “The Counselor” just to name a few. Why I bring this up is because I fear that “About Time” was branded all wrong and that it’ll be misunderstood and underrated as a result…a thought my buddy brought up upon exiting the theatre that I had swirling around my head throughout its runtime that I agreed with.

To go even further off topic, did you know I went to the same university as “About Time” star Rachel McAdams, just a few years after she graduated? And Malin Akerman, but that’s besides the point. Doesn’t that suck? Here I am sitting alone, when I could be married to my ultimate crush had I been born just a few years earlier. Wow, this review got sidetracked in a hurry, let’s get back to the film.

About-Time-Trailer

There are few who know love as well as Richard Curtis, and even fewer who can execute it to such an effective degree on the big screen. Director of “Love, Actually,” and scribe of “Notting Hill,” just to rattle off a few of his most notable rom-coms, Curtis is one of the most talented and perennial minds the genre has ever known. He continues down this road he has long trotted and helped solidify with another piece of solid gold containing such mesmerizing humanity and willing vulnerability that it rivals even his most accomplished outing, whatever you feel that may be.

Following a quirky, romantic lawyer who has the ability to time travel to any moment in the past and change whatever he wishes. “About Time” might not be Curtis’ most original piece, but is definitely the most inventive, funny, and emotionally relentless he’s ever conjured, in my opinion anyway. Granted, the story’s structure and premise is nothing you haven’t seen or heard before, but try not to focus on the weary ploy of a lonesome time-traveler. What is most mesmerizing, astounding, and rewarding about this flick doesn’t have to do with the story or thematic retread, but rather what Curtis accomplishes and evokes with it. There is only one other filmmaker (Drake Doremus) I know of that can capture those subtle, minuscule movements and glances that exude true happiness, sadness, and disheartening realizations as well as Curtis does here. For just his third feature behind the camera, Curtis shows the talent of a wily veteran. Regardless if you’re a fan of his work, a cinephile, or just becoming aquatinted, this is a must see.

About Time

What’s even more important than having an invested, well-versed overseer conducting and directing the flow is a cast with chemistry, charisma, and honesty. Starring the lovely Rachel Mcadams, the immensely talented Bill Nighy, and sky-rocketing up-and-comer Domhnall Gleeson, it’s fair to say that “About Time” is formidable across the board. Gleeson, although remarkably skilled, still managed to stun me with his performance. The vast spectrum and depth of the emotions he portrays is decidedly accurate and plain-out staggering. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more authentic, driven performance this year. Nighy, who still flies unnecessarily under the radar here in North America, adds another flawless undertaking to his already stellar resume. Finally, the always radiant Rachel McAdams has somehow managed to leave me breathless once again. I’d love to go into more detail, but I don’t want to come off as a creep. All you need to know is that she delivers in every aspect…just stunning.

about_time2

Nothing like the negativity you’ve probably read or heard and is anything but what you expected. “About Time” is, without question, one of the sleeper hits this year.

About Time: 8.5 out of 10.

TIFF 2013: Don Jon (2013)

don-jon-official-poster-banner-promo-banner-23maio2013

It’s about as close to the perverse truth as any romantic-comedy has come close to depicting. It delivers the goods on its premise and is unique enough to distance itself from the genre. There is no denying the chemistry between its two wonderful, handsome leads and the laughs are consistent and real. Yet, one can’t help but feel that Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s directorial debut “Don Jon” is missing that certain climactic element. Essentially, there is nothing utterly wrong with the film itself. The fault lies in its inability to provoke any kind of meaningful reaction or reward the viewer for tagging along in the journey. Granted, the plots skeletal structure is anything but common and Levitt isn’t afraid to show a little skin, so to speak. However, the point in which the viewer joins the protagonist never diverts or scatters, resulting in a linear, anti-climactic, albeit impressive debut for Levitt.

josephgordonlevitt-scarlettjohansson-donjon-600

Jon Martello (Levitt) is a present day Don Juan who objectifies everything in his life, specifically women. His friends call him Don Jon because he is consistently able to pull “10s” every week. Soon, Jon’s addiction to internet pornography renders his sex life less than fulfilling and eventually his relationships begin to falter because of it. On his journey to discover a more satisfying love life, Jon falls for Barbara (Johansson), a beautiful woman who is obsessed with control.

Much like Joss Whedon did to the horror genre with “The Cabin in the Woods,” Levitt has disassembled, dissected, and rebuilt the conventional stereotypes and outlook of the romantic comedy. However, when blatantly poking fun at countless years of tradition and canon, the revolt better be a game changer. And for the most part, Levitt has this transformation pointed in the right direction. His outing is a raunchy, veracious, satirical romp…of course not to the same height, success, or effectiveness as Whedon and Goddard’s comedic fright-fest. However, with “Don Jon,” Levitt has genuinely created something brash, original, and straightforward. It definitely bursts with the usual charisma and wit that typically defines films of this genre and manages to lure the viewer in with likeable, terrifically performed, over-the-top characters.

don-jon-tony-danza-joseph-gordon-levitt

Although for the majority of its runtime, “Don Jon” is severely superficial. This reinvented concoction does offer more insight, intelligence, and endearing qualities than the majority of the genre’s entries. “Don Jon” is merely a half-realized revelation for the rom-com genre and is heavily directed at the male populous. It’s sure to not sit as well with the female market, but for those who can handle the harsh fact of differing motivations in opposite-gender relationships. It’ll conjure up some big body-aching laughs and a veritable gaze into the logical and emotional differences that continuously baffle our co-existing genders. Compared to its counterparts, “Don Jon” is a breath of fresh, sexually charged air into a genre that would rather play pretend than focus on truth-telling and authentic, situational humour.

Don-Jon-13

It’s rather comical, yet seriously obscure that I’m having this much difficulty writing up this review. As I previously stated, there isn’t anything actually wrong with the film. It’s funny, different, and Levitt, again for the most part, has done everything with his usual flair and charm. I just feel that with “Don Jon,” Levitt errs on the side of caution. As if he has intentionally pushed the envelope, but got cold feet halfway to his destination. You’ll find yourself watching the film and feel a bit naughty and excited by this new, uncharted cinematic territory. And then, when you’ve finally reached the end, flustered and gleeful, the slow realization that you weren’t overly wowed begins to take over. However, all this being said, “Don Jon” truly is an impassioned, touching, respectable debut for Joseph Gordon-Levitt. So long as he keeps chugging along this road of ingenuity and continues to carve out his own way. Levitt will have a long, prosperous career behind the camera.

don-jon-image06

The one thing you can rely on when heading into the theatre to experience “Don Jon” is the consistent cleverness and turbulent coexistence of all the characters. Which are incredibly and ably performed by the entire cast, which features Scarlett Johansson, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Julianne Moore, and Tony Danza.

Marred in heavy makeup and a thick New Jersey accent, Scarlett Johansson is as striking as ever, even though she maybe a tad incoherent. Nonetheless, in a role that significantly depends on superficiality and surface pleasures. It’s her ability to transform and power through the external distractions in order to reach internal importance that is truly remarkable. Tony Danza is down-right hilarious in his supporting role. Hopefully this will lead to his emergence from the shadows and launch him back into the mainstream. Moore is just phenomenal in her supporting role, she hasn’t been this effective and stunning in a long while. As for Levitt, he’s as effective and suave as ever, but we shouldn’t have expected anything less. Levitt does a phenomenal job while pulling double duty and really adapted both physically and mentally, not only to play and capture the role, but create it. Although I have to admit, Levitt’s portrayal here is quite the oddity when you associate him with the heartbroken romantic from “500 Days of Summer,” quite the contrast.

don-jon09

It might dwell a little to close to safety, but its excess of honesty and hilarity is enough for “Don Jon” to overcome its faults. It is a respectable inception for director/writer Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Don Jon: 7.5 out of 10.

Drinking Buddies (2013)

Okay guys, this will be the last post written by me (key words “written by me”) for a little bit. TIFF is officially underway today and I am soon to be on my way downtown for the festivities. So for the next 10 days, I’ll try my best to post reviews for the films I see at the festival as quickly as I can. Look forward to a new segment launching tomorrow. Oh, and let me know what you think of the new site layout/set-up!

image

Very rarely does a film so authentically capture the bittersweet, infuriating, and most private moments of a relationship. Joe Swanberg’s “Drinking Buddies” accomplishes this feat with flying, albeit, melancholic colours through the observation and dissection of multiple, interweaving bodies. Perhaps what’s even more disconcerting than the film industry’s inability to steadily and genuinely recreate films that display such universal emotions, is its refusal to acknowledge and rigorously promote the ones that do. Regardless, “Drinking Buddies” is poignant, funny, and adamant in its portrayal of disheartening, yet rewarding bonds. Tossed in alongside Swanberg’s swift, structural direction and marvellous performances from the entire cast. This whimsical, visceral romantic comedy has overcome its limited release and every obstacle thrown to steal even the most critical cinephiles heart.

anna-kendrick-and-jake-johnson-drinking-buddies-600

Kate (Wilde) and Luke (Johnson) are good friends and co-workers and at a Chicago brewery. The two spend their days working and the nights drinking with their co-workers and significant others. And even though the two are very flirtatious with one another, they are very devoted and in love with their other halves. Kate is with Chris (Livingston) and Luke is with Jill (Kendrick). While Jill and Luke occasionally discuss marriage, they both agree the timing is not right. Soon, the two couples paths cross and they eventually become good friends. Having planned a weekend at a cottage together, the couples prepare for a night amongst the wilderness, but are soon faced with difficult, life-altering decisions and situations. Trust me, it’s not what you think.

drinking-buddies-movie

Granted, there isn’t anything overly unique about the themes or settings, and the story is nothing we haven’t heard before. That being said, much like another dramatic rom-com released earlier this year entitled “The Way Way Back.” The familiarity and well-intended cliches sprinkled, intentionally throughout “Drinking Buddies” are overrun by subtle quips, endearing circumstances, and situational laughs carried out by enthralling, relatable characters and heavy, yet luminescent direction. Writer and director Joe Swanberg is superlative both behind the camera and on paper. This results in his most mature, complete offering to date, which is without question, his best. “Drinking Buddies” might come off a bit bland, appear uneventful, and the ending a little too ambiguous for those diluted by the horrid, hackneyed mainstream rom-coms. Nonetheless, to those who can handle the reality of looking in a mirror, “Drinking Buddies” is nothing short of spectacular.

1683654-inline-i-2-drinking-buddies-movie-breakdown

What I find to be the most original and well-utilized aspect of “Drinking Buddies” is Swanberg’s ability to poke fun at our vulnerability and stupidity as we succumb to this illusive, complex, intangible cohesiveness called love. Which, by the way, Swanberg portrays effectively and genuinely. I mean, he isn’t simply degrading what ultimately gives our life meaning without direction or purpose. The hilarity throughout “Drinking Buddies” has definition and is a “funny because it’s true” type of humour. While openly mocking our most weak, honest selves might seem a tad cruel. This film and its easily accessed connectivity is a much needed release, I’d even go as far as to brand it a muse. Although not out-loud, body-aching knee-slappers. Swanberg’s comedic prowess evokes an array of reaction and emotion that bewilders, uplifts, and saddens.

drinking-buddies01

Speaking of cohesiveness, it is something Swanberg and his brilliant cast ooze with. Starring the striking Olivia Wilde and graceful Anna Kendrick alongside the flexible, yet formidable duo of Ron Livingston and Jake Johnson. “Drinking Buddies” has performers and performances that radiate with talent and believability.

Undeniably, Olivia Wilde steals the show. She’s funny, smart, beautiful, heartbreaking, just to name a few off the top of my head. I hate to sound like I’m firing off a list of cliched personality traits used in every romantic comedy ever, but I can’t deprive you of the truth. Jake Johnson is nearly as impressive as Wilde, but is outdone, minimally albeit. His performance bursts with the wonder and yearning of a kid in love, mid free-fall. Everything about him is relatable, truthful, hilarious, and empathetic. Anna Kendrick is massively effective in her supporting role. No matter how enraged and disappointed you feel towards her character, she always lures you back into understanding and leaves you completely smitten. Livingston, although the least used, arguably provokes the most diverse reactions. He gives a phenomenal, thorough performance without hesitation or regret.

drinking-buddies03

Sweet, honest, and utterly entrancing. Joe Swanberg’s “Drinking Buddies” is the sleeper hit of 2013.

Drinking Buddies: 9 out of 10.

The Way Way Back (2013)

waywaybackposter

This coming-of-ager isn’t in search of uncharted territory, purposely I might add, but it doesn’t stand on the shoulders of its predecessors either…rather, “The Way Way Back” is in search of genre perfection. Although it journeys a road that many have travelled before, it is able to rise above the clichés and worn-out tendencies of the genre to deliver a thoroughly enjoyable romp, that’s more importantly, memorable. “The Way Way Back” is an honest dramedy driven by sentimentality and visceral characters. Benefiting in large part from its creators Jim Rash and Nat Faxon’s ability to infuse wit and charm into the films progressive structure that frequently exhibits intelligence and ingenuity. And complimented by a cast with no shortage of exuberance, quirkiness, and comedic timing. “The Way Way Back” is as funny and sweet as it is saddening.

THE WAY, WAY BACK

Duncan (James) is a 14-year-old who is forced to vacation with his mother Pam (Collette) and her new boyfriend Trent (Carrell) at his summer home. Struggling to find where he fits in with this new family and place, Duncan travels to the local water park daily where he makes an unexpected friend in Owen (Rockwell). Eventually garnering a job, Duncan slowly gains more confidence and becomes smitten with his next-door neighbour Susanna (Robb), Betty’s (Janney) daughter. Upon meeting fresh and exuberant characters such as Kip (Corddry), Caitlyn (Rudolph), Lewis (Rash), and Roddy (Faxon), Duncan finally begins to find his place.

485x341>

In the near future, when “The Way Way Back” is brought up in conversation, one will say “they don’t make ’em like that anymore.” Granted, prior to its release the same was said about past masterpieces of the genre…well…not anymore. “The Way Way Back” is an immaculate concoction of humour, poignancy, and charismatic characters that is decidedly satisfying. While there is a certain level of familiarity in its themes, “The Way Way Back” distinguishes itself from other genre triumphs. It’d be easy to categorize it as a movie about summer love, but upon dissection, it doesn’t orbit around this premise, far from it. Obviously, there is a connection between two young outcasts who happen to fall hard for one another. But, this isn’t the only relationship the audience is subjected to.

THE WAY, WAY BACK

“The Way Way Back” puts enough separation between and adds its own unique twist on the importance of guided growth and finding one’s own way. These days, rarely is a film about a mid-teen’s summer adventure into self-exploration and identity discovery as authentic and rewarding as “The Way Way Back.” In addition, scribe’s Faxon and Rash are able to delve into several side-stories that tell tales of characters that are equally as complex and compelling. Despite the fact that there are few films about the importance of father-figures, and even fewer done well. “The Way Way Back” has a heartwarming take on finding a kindred mentor that resonates infinitely. It is becoming increasingly difficult to pull-off films of this nature because it is near-impossible to falsify such universal elements. Thankfully, “The Way Way Back” isn’t trying to fool anyone.

680x478

“The Way Way Back” is similar to 2009s rom-com “Adventureland.” And like that film, it is understood that no one jumps straight into the deep-end, it is a gradual process, baby steps. Rash and Faxon understand this well, which is why “The Way Way Back” is so utterly convincing and effective. This is Rash and Faxon’s directorial debuts respectively and second collaboration as writers, their inception coming in 2011 with “The Descendants.”  The duo do an excellent job both behind the camera and on paper. They are able to stay away from others footprints and instead, make their own. While both have enjoyed mildly successful acting careers, it appears that the two have a much brighter future as filmmakers. It is a common misconception that switching from acting or writing to directing is simple. Once you’re able to comprehend the talent and effort it takes to be the one in control behind the camera, the easier it will be to appreciate Rash and Faxon’s work here.

The-Way-Way-Back-Faxon-Rash2.jpg

Whether they’re working at the local water-park or looking to escape from themselves. The characters of this classic summer flick are all looking to outrun their problems. Which I’m sure they’ll all attest to being a lot harder than it appears. “The Way Way Back” has a superb cast that perform nothing short of superlatively. Starring Sam Rockwell, Steve Carrell, Alison Janney, Rob Corddry, Toni Collette, AnnaSophia Robb, Maya Rudolph, and Liam James. There is no weak spot amongst this group.

With a cast that features comedy heavyweights such as Steve Carrell and Rob Corddry, you’d figure it’d be one of them getting all the laughs, but you’d be wrong. It is Alison Janney who’s bursting with effervescence and drunken candour. She does a spectacular job easing the tension and occasionally prying melancholic eyes away from disheartening realizations. Corddry is his usual eccentric self but adds a surprising dramatic facet to his sparsely used character. Toni Collette portrays a single parent executing her best intentions faultlessly. One feels equal amounts of empathy for her just as much as her directionless child, about as truthful of a performance that you’ll find. Maya Rudolph continues to be underused and underrated and her performance here is more irrefutable proof. AnnaSophia Robb, although given minimal dialogue uses her screen time wisely and her innocence sticks with you long after the film finishes.

water-park-way-way-back-rockwell-e1372804039738

Without question, the star of “The Way Way Back” is Sam Rockwell. Blending his endless flare, strong emotional control, and hilarious mannerisms. Rockwell delivers a truly heartfelt, gut-wrenchingly honest, and vulnerable performance that ranks as one of his best to date. Perhaps the most intriguing portrayal in the film however is brought to life by Steve Carrell. Who parts ways with his typical roles based upon being the underdog and good intentions to create an antagonist the audience can full-heartedly despise. And finally, Liam James, who undoubtedly breaks through and is ready for bigger and better things. He perfectly encapsulates the witty, endearing, confused state circumstance has bound him to and exudes it effortlessly.

680x478

“The Way Way Back” is an honest yarn. There is no happy ending or depressing ending…just indifference, maturity, and growth. True of life, we do not know what’s going to happen and everything that has already happened serves as nothing but a mould. Nonetheless, “The Way Way Back” is as honest, enthralling, and disheartening as they come, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The Way Way Back: 9 out of 10.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008)

poster_quad

Establishing an exquisite symmetry between its smart, at times raunchy hilarity and disheartening insight into humanities innermost feelings. Forgetting Sarah Marshall is a true romantic-comedy that is leaps and bounds beyond the genre’s usual trash. First time director Nicholas Stoller does a sublime job and manages to squeeze every last drop of comedic aptitude and emotional range from his tenacious cast. Using the tranquil and breathtaking Hawaii as its backdrop. Forgetting Sarah Marshall is always easy on the eyes whether it’s the scenery or cast, except for one, unexpected and exposed incident ;). Nonetheless, the authentic and unflinching look into the deterioration of relationships that writer Jason Segel has conjured up is something we’ve all experienced at one point or another. Which ultimately allows the audience to laugh uncontrollably at our own vulnerability and self-pity.

forgetting-sarah-marshall

Peter Bretter (Segel), a composer, is in a five year relationship with actress Sarah Marshall (Bell). Upon returning home from a shoot, Sarah ends the relationship with Peter. Unable to cope with the abrupt ending, Peter decides to go on a vacation to Hawaii. At the resort, Peter soon meets Rachel (Kunis), the hotel concierge. Upon finding out that Sarah and her new boyfriend Aldous Snow (Brand) are also staying at the resort, Peter begins to follow them around. Taking advice from his brother, Peter begins spending time with Rachel and the two develop feelings for one another. Soon, Sarah becomes jealous of Peter and Rachel and the two couples set out to destroy the other.

forgetting460

What is most assuring about Forgetting Sarah Marshall is that even though it technically has Apatow written all over it. Aside from the producing credit, the film actually has little to no connection with him. I’m not discrediting Apatow, far from it. I’m very fond of his style and pictures. I am simply stating that the future of the genre looks a little brighter when he isn’t the only name in the game. Directed by Stoller and written by Segel. Forgetting Sarah Marshall has an abundance of fresh faces to bolster a sparse breed. It is excessively difficult to depict real-life scenarios and the ones who can are few and far between. Now, with a slew of up-and-comers that have this capability. Cinema doesn’t appear to be losing all meaning and depth. What Segel and Stoller have created is much bigger than they realize.

forgetting-sarah-marshall-05

Whether it is the witty, clever, or sheer idiotic humour. Jason Segel, best known for his role as Marshall in How I Met Your Mother, displays his ingenuity in spades. Although, it isn’t always his keen eye for laughs that makes the viewers insides ache. His ability to evoke an endless source of empathy, joy, sadness, spite, essentially all the relevance of existence is masterful. In coordination with the aforementioned Nicholas Stoller. Segel is able to form a cohesiveness around Forgetting Sarah Marshall that almost makes it free from error. As for Stoller, who’s direction as a first-timer is remarkable, makes up for any faltering. You’d wouldn’t figure it was his initiation into directing considering how accomplished his form behind the camera is. Together, the two create a formidable duo who’s next collaboration is much anticipated.

Forgetting-Sarah-Marshall-Screencaps-movies-2810037-1024-551

I don’t really know the reason why I love this film. Essentially right from the get go I was smitten. Perhaps that I happened to be in a similar situation around the time of its release intoxicated me, but I digress. Forgetting Sarah Marshall’s sweet and funny cast really completes the film. Featuring Jason Segel, Kristen Bell, Mila Kunis, and Russell Brand. Without this complimenting foursome, Forgetting Sarah Marshall’s ageless story would not have the emotion, hilarity, or flare in its potency. The film also features hilarious cameos from Bill Hader and Jonah Hill.

Forgetting-Sarah-Marshall-paul-rudd-4700100-900-598

If I’m being completely honest, to say that my respect for Kunis and Bell was restricted would be putting it lightly. In my defence, this film was released in 2008 and Black Swan hadn’t been released yet. Since then, my admiration for the two has grown significantly, thanks in large part to Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Cards on the table, Bell really hasn’t impressed me since. Now that she’s proven she has the chops, I expect more from her and she continues to do these idiotic romantic comedies. Regardless, Bell is extravagant in the film and deserves better than what she’s getting. As for Kunis, well, she really steals the show. Conveying such emotional range and this flirty charm, one can’t help but fall for her, easily the best performance in the film.

forgetting-sarah-marshall_4

It’s hard to imagine a time when Russell Brand wasn’t everywhere, but in 2008, this was the case. Until Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Brand pretty much flew under-the-radar. This was easily the role that launched Brand into a respectable actor and after following it up with Stoller’s next film, Get Him to the Greek, Brand proves it was no fluke. Finally, Jason Segel, who pulls double duty as the lead and writer of the film. Really gets a chance to assert himself amongst comedy’s best and doesn’t waste the opportunity. Segel’s performance is second only to Kunis, who honestly has the better written role. Segel does a superb job exuding the melancholic stupidity that usual accompanies heartbreak. Not to mention a series of sequences that allows him to showcase his dramatic skills. Overall, Forgetting Sarah Marshall’s cast is nearly faultless in their portrayals.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall movie image Jason Segel

Outrageously funny and undeniably heartfelt. Forgetting Sarah Marshall is a romantic comedy for the ages.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall: 8.5 out of 10.

I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK (2006)

71gAKZlj08L._AA1269_

A film that transcends genre labelling with its innovation, ingenuity, and insanity. “I’m A Cyborg, But That’s Ok” is approximately a romantic comedy, but with dark, at times violent, and bizarre twists, containing moments that differ vastly on the cinematic spectrum. “I’m A Cyborg, But That’s Ok” ranges from deviously psychotic to sweetly honest, impassioned, and comical. Writer and director Chan-wook Park somewhat diverges from his usual business of trifling with the ugliness inside humanity to display a more compassionate, creative, and comedic side to his craft that isn’t all doom and gloom. Although its tone is highly unpredictable, shifting from affectionate and charming to tragic and unrestrained, “I’m A Cyborg, But That’s Ok” shouldn’t be too jarring for the occasional viewer. Charismatic, witty, and undeniably enthralling, Chan-wook Park has proven he isn’t just a one-trick pony.

4102_0004-774696

Young-goon works in a factory constructing radios and believes that she is a cyborg. She is institutionalized after she cuts her wrist, shoves a set of wires inside her forearm, and then plugs the cord into a wall outlet in an attempt to recharge herself. Young-goon refuses to eat and only licks batteries in order to recharge. Il-soon, who is also a patient, becomes infatuated with Young-goon. Il-soon thinks of himself as a master-thief and believes he can steal physical and personal traits of other humans. After a brief stage in which the two form an awkward relationship, the two begin to help one another with insane schemes.

600full-i'm-a-cyborg,-but-that's-ok-screenshot

Very rarely does a film come along that is such a genuine hybrid. But it does make sense that it would come from the mind of Chan-wook Park. Who has busted stereotypical cinema on numerous occasions, including drama, horror and thriller. Now, with “I’m A Cyborg, But That’s Ok,” Park tackles perhaps his most difficult challenge to date, the romantic comedy. This film is easily one of the most crazy, obscure, and confusing films I’ve ever come across, but it is also one of the best. I don’t think I’ve ever stumbled upon a film that evokes such emotional diversification as “I’m A Cyborg, But That’s Ok” does. While it may be paced slower than Park’s other outings, it is deliberate. During this screen-time, “I’m A Cyborg, But That’s Ok” stretches the viewer’s brain by provoking countless reactions and striking numerous nerves, a truly unprecedented experience.

im-a-cyborg-but-thats-ok-20070626045830920_640w

Chan-wook Park is one of the most iconic, revered, and important filmmakers of our time and “I’m A Cyborg, But That’s Ok” is a terrific example why. Park brilliantly showcases every single one of his illustrious facets throughout this atypical rom-com. Whether it may be his grounded, elemental framing that captures even the slightest detail and movement of his characters or the disheartening brutality of his dynamic scripts. Regardless, what truly makes Park such a praised figure in the cinematic community is his ability to evolve. After completing the “Vengeance” trilogy and generally sticking to darker pictures with heavy, brooding themes. Chan-wook Park unpredictably chose to unleash this hidden gem. While it remains true to his brute force and unruly material. “I’m A Cyborg, But That’s Ok” touches so many fresh ideals and bursts genre and theme misconceptions.

im_a_cyborg_but_thats_ok

The cast assembled for “I’m A Cyborg, But That’s Ok” is remarkably put together, as there is not a single weakness. From its two quirky, maladjusted leads down to every patient and caretaker at this unsettling asylum we’ve been invited to take temporary residence in. The supporting characters alone make “I’m A Cyborg, But That’s Ok” worth the watch. They astoundingly portray mental illness accurately but add a comical, yet heartbreaking depth and  individuality to each role that generates unlimited sympathy and laughs from the audience. Kudos should also be given to the actors who portray the doctors and nurses in the film who perfectly adapt to their roles.

Nonetheless, “I’m A Cyborg, But That’s Ok” has only two leads and they are Jung Ji-Hoon and Im Soo-jung. Essentially what makes Jung Ji-Hoon and Im Soo-Jung work so well together is their ability to feed off one another’s unbalanced behaviour and lunacy. The two have an undeniable chemistry filled with demented and sociopathic tendencies. Despite these flaws, they manage to portray an eccentric, dysfunctional relationship to full comedic and emotional potential.

tumblr_kyln55Mnkc1qb825po1_4001

From the unparalleled mind of Chan-wook Park comes this incredibly unique experience that should appease just about any cinephile.

I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK: 9 out of 10.

Knocked Up (2007)

Knocked-Up-Poster-seth-rogen-3914957-1100-825

Outrageously hilarious, satisfyingly poignant, and spewing with talent. Knocked up is a fresh take on the odd-couple cliche with just enough raunchiness, growth, and sweetness to win over even the most skeptical or disgruntled viewer. While it may not be sending the best message on courtship. Knocked up is a romantic comedy that has adapted to the times and through all its mishaps and immaturity, ultimately does right by convention and emotion. Taking full advantage of its sleazy premise to subtly convey socio-political themes to an uninhibited generation. Knocked up has the ideal balance of comedy, romance, and relevance to be taken seriously by its viewers while still remaining vastly entertaining. Written and directed by prolific genre advocate and veteran Judd Apatow. Knocked Up is an obscure love-story about two unexpected parents dealing with the unpredictability of life.

Knocked-Up-knocked-up-500852_400_281

Ben Stone (Rogen) is a laid-back slacker who lives off funds he received as compensation for an injury he suffered earlier in his life. He lives with several roommates and works on a porn website they all own and operate. Alison Scott (Heigl), an on-air reporter, lives in the pool house of her sister home. The two meet by chance at a club and spend a night together, which ends with them having sex. After some time has passed, Alison finds out she is pregnant and is persuaded by her mother to abort the baby. Upon deciding to keep the baby, Alison informs Ben of the situation and that he is the father. What follows is an unflinching look at relationships and life.

knockedup460

Even though some of Apatow’s overly stereotypical and decidedly vulgar humour may turn the occasional viewer off. The timing and circumstance in which these crude, at times foreseeable jokes are delivered is undeniably impeccable and results in out-loud fits of laughter. Aside from Apatow’s comedic preferences which is, without question an acquired taste. His ability to mask the simplicity and triviality of his characters predicaments is unrivalled. It would be easy to confuse the commonness of Knocked Up as weakness and label it unintelligent. Actually, it’s quite the contrary. Apatow’s clever, insightful story showcases his diverse range. It seems that he is always making something out of nothing. Whether it’s an awkwardly shy young adult shaving his nether regions or two intoxicated adults absorbing the night life, Apatow finds the silver lining.

05_knockedup_lg

Apart from the fact that Apatow’s most recent efforts haven’t been as strong as his earlier work. His scripts have always remained grounded and charming, and Knocked Up is no different. The follow-up to the massively successful, The 40 Year Old Virgin. Knocked Up never loses sight of its characters aspirations or history, no matter how bizarre and sociopathic they may be. Knocked Up is Apatow’s most complete, honest, and endearing effort to date. His quirky, intelligent, and heartfelt script really puts Knocked Up a notch above the rest. However, without the right cast to accompany such odd, complex roles beaming with hilarity and emotional depth. Knocked Up would become another meaningless entry into a genre that becomes less and less respected with each new, half-assed release. Thank heavens that this is not the case.

knocked-up_480_poster

One of the most rewarding aspects of compiling a cast with history is never having to worry about chemistry. The majority of Knocked Up’s cast has previously worked together on earlier Apatow projects such as Freaks and Geeks and The 40 Year Old Virgin. Starring Seth Rogen, Katherine Heigl, Jason Segel, Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, and Jonah Hill. Plus a slew of other big name stars. Knocked Up has arguably one of the most prominent and comedically talented casts to ever grace a romantic comedy. Side note, there is also a hilarious cameo from James Franco.

It was quite the surprise to see the range Rogen has in his repertoire, considering he doesn’t use it very often. For Knocked Up, Rogen, without question gives the most vulnerable, believable performance. Sporting a face ripe with the fear, love, and courage. Rogen perfectly captures the unsteady eagerness of a soon-to-be parent. As for Rogen’s co-star, Katherine Heigl. She offers a splendid rendition of an individualistic, tough feminist brought to the brink of her sanity. Pushing her body mentally and physically to the limit, Heigl gives a truly outstanding performance.

knocked-up-1024x680

With an astounding script, lively performances, and strong direction. Knocked Up is a touching romantic comedy full of hilarity.

Knocked Up: 9 out of 10.

After Hours (1985)

For any of those who might have missed it. I am going to post my review of Martin Scorsese’s After Hours. It had originally been posted as part of Rorschach Reviews “Scorsese Spotlight.”

after_hours_ver2

Coordinating its sly humour, melodramatic performances, and obscure content that, at times, is unsettling and disturbing into a vastly entertaining ordeal. After Hours is a subtle, strange, and sadly underrated Martin Scorsese film filled with the usual facets we’ve grown to expect from his mastered craft. Consisting of a night lived perpetually through hazy events and vague characters. After Hours might pull a few more punches and be just a bit more over the top then your typical Scorsese picture. But the hypnotic performances, faultless camerawork, and inconceivable storyline are impossible to dismiss. After Hours, beaming with its incredible circumstances that cause gut wrenching anxiousness, doesn’t solely rely on its ambiguity. Starring Griffin Dune and Rosanna Arquette, After Hours is cast with brilliance. Blending in elements of social disparity and emotional depth, After Hours was cinema ahead of its time.

eb21a2c32cb224c49613ba9cdb9f5985

Paul (Dune) is a word processor who openly voices his displeasure for his life’s boring and lonely nature. When Paul meets Marcy (Arquette) at a coffee shop after work, she gives him her phone number. After the two part ways, Paul returns home and eventually works up the courage to call Marcy. She invites Paul to come over to her place in SoHo, even though it is late at night. When Paul hops into a cab that has little to no regard for the rules of the road, his crazy night has begun. Encountering multiple bizarre characters such as punks, criminals, psychos, and an angry mob that is ruthlessly hunting him down, Paul just wants to get home.

afterhours2

Imagine in the most general sense that Martin Scorsese undertook the challenge of a romantic comedy. Now, considering his track record and mindset, After Hours didn’t disappoint me in the slightest. In brief summarization, After Hours is essentially Scorsese’s take on rom-com. He’s  managed to mix in several other genres and characteristics that a Scorsese picture would be doomed without. But honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way. As he clashes the unpredictability of humanities darkness and normal, kindhearted nature, Scorsese defines and balances the contrast. Scorsese has an uncannily keen eye for filming and flaunts his repertoire throughout After Hours. In my opinion, After Hours contains some of his best filmed sequences, really breathtaking and humbling.

After Hours 1

Usually I’d rip apart every facet of a Scorsese film, just to get to the guts. You know, the gooey mechanisms, the organs, the force that sends him into motion. But with After Hours, the best way to digest it is to simply inhale. Sit back, relax, take it for what it is. However, I’m a reviewer and this is a film blog, so, for lack of better words, the show must go on. I suppose the most intriguing point throughout After Hours is the consequences of being too trusting, too fast. At every turn, Scorsese introduces characters who are somewhat irrelevant to the story. However, in time, their importance expands. It is no coincidence that there growing relevance coincides with their abrupt turn from hospitable to hostile. The structuring and how every occurrence and antagonist continues to build and fortify on top of the previous is staggering. The plot may be too fantastical, but each one of us has had one of those never-ending nights. After Hours makes The Hangover look like a walk in the park.

936full-after-hours-screenshot

While Griffin Dune is outstanding, more to the point, believable in his  performance, which is imperative to a film that needs assistance staying grounded. It is Rosanna Arquette who I believe really took the reigns in After Hours. Her idiosyncrasies and carefree inhibition are infatuating. Every tiny, misplaced laugh, situational depression, and vicious rants add another layer to an already versatile tale. Griffin Dune starts off a tad isolating and his calm demeanour is for some reason unnerving. But as we continue to accompany him on this journey for companionship as it evolves into an all out manhunt, our sympathy evolves with it. We suddenly begin to root and urge Dune along unquestioned, which is an outstanding feat that I heavily applaud Scorsese and Dune for. Lastly, is there any role that Catherine O’hara doesn’t portray a strung out, emotional lunatic? Maybe it’s because she is so effective and intimidating.

ah

After Hours is an intoxicating joy ride that never ends. Bursting with loveable characters, quirky laughs, and heartless severity. Scorsese has spawned another original masterpiece.

After Hours: 9 out of 10.