Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Enduring Love

2004 drama by director Roger Michell (whose done much better with flicks like Persuasion, Notting Hill and my favorite, Venus). Enduring Love is an adaptation of a Ian McEwan novel that tells the story of Joe, a professor/writer who is a part of a tragic event in the Oxford countryside. Following this event one of the several people there, Jed Perry, begins obsessively stalking Joe. This drives Joe into near madness, affects his career and crumbles his relationship with his girlfriend. It's a creepy little flick about the ripple effect that comes from obsession and delusion. The story is good and the performances are alright, especially those of Bill Nighy and Daniel Craig. But the problem with this flick is that it does too much and too little at the same time. I would've loved to see more of Perry, more analysis of who he is and where he's coming from. I'd also like to see more of the regular lives of Joe and Claire, his girlfriend, as it would make the dissolution of their relationship all the more potent. I read the book and there are storylines that I would've liked to have seen in the film that were totally absent. At the same time I wish there was less focus on Joe. The movie seems almost entirely concerned with Joe's obsession with the tragic even and this stalker. He almost becomes a nutcase. Half the movie is scenes of Joe brooding. Basically this is a very interesting story that was filmed in a way that caused it to feel so distant that it simply wasn't engaging at all. There were far too many sudden logical leaps and stalls. In other words, some things went too quickly and others far too slow. All in all, this was a misfire. Not terrible, but not worth seeking out.

Saturday Afternoon

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Tale of Despereaux

2008 adaptation of the Newberry Award Winning children's book, brought to the screen by Sam Fell (British director of other kid's flicks like Flushed Away) and Robert Stevenhagen. Ok, just to have a quick geek aside, this is Stevenhagen's directorial debut and I couldn't be happier to see it because this guy was a primary animator on so many things I loved as a kid, whether it was the Asterix movies, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, An American Tail or the TV show Count Duckula. Alright, back to the movie at hand. Despereaux is a movie about fear and how fear keeps us from experiencing so many of the wonderful things life has to offer. Be it fear of starting over, fear that nothing will change, fear of going against the status quo or the fear that comes with guilt. Whatever kind it is, fear is almost always a prison of our own design, construction and maintenance. Key players in this story learn this when a little mouse is born that seems to have been born without a natural instinct towards fear. He's no nihilist, his lack of fear is buttressed by a sense of duty towards what is chivalrous and honorable. When he sees people in need or things worth pursuing, he simply goes for it, no hesitation. He's an unlikely animal to possess these qualities as he's not just a mouse but one that's small even by mouse standards. The movie is interestingly animated, full of engaging characters and tells a compelling story in a compelling manner. It's simple and heartfelt and has a message we all could get a dose of at least once a day. We need more people like this little mouse. Plus with a cast that includes Stanley Tucci, William H Macy, Kevin Kline, Tracy Ullman, Matthew Broderick, Dustin Hoffman, Christopher Lloyd, Emma Watson, Robbie Coltrane, Richard Jenkins, Frank Langella, Sigourney Weaver and Tony Hale, it can't be too bad, right? Count Duckula was good and all, but this, I must say, is better.

Worth Watching

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

City of Ember

2008 adventure flick written by Caroline Thompson (Edward Scissorhands, Nightmare Before Christmas, etc) and directed by Gil Kenan, the wunderkind that brought us Monster House, and like then he created a movie that's fun, engaging, original and very entertaining (I'm pretty sure I reviewed Monster House as well and if not, you should check it out). City of Ember starts in the near future when, for reasons we aren't told, civilization, or at least the part that's connected to the locale of the film, is on the verge of perishing. In altruistic spirit, the best minds devise a city that will sustain itself underground en totale for centuries. They also include instructions to clearly and easily allow the people living in this underground city to exit back up to the surface should they need to in a couple centuries. Well, they build it and everything goes fine, but after about 150 years the instructions on how to get out are lost and now two teens think the city is falling apart and yearn for a way to get out. They come upon fragments of these instructions and see it as their chance. The movie is about two kids who have their head on straight in a society that seems far too naiive, afraid and/or self serving to buck up and address the problems that surround them. Well, not these two. The movie is full of excitement, great visuals and a fantastic production design. It manages to feel confined without feeling claustrophobic and the same goes for the story. The performances by the leads are great, as are some those in some smaller roles, such as those by Martin Landau, Bill Murray, Tim Robbins and Mary Kay Place. I must confess I had never even heard of this movie before my daughter and I went to see it at a family matinee. This is surprising given the cast, the director, the screenwriter, the fact that it's produced by Tom Hanks and given the fact that it's so darn good. Well, this is me saying you should check it out. Don't let it go unnoticed. If you have kids who like a good adventure flick (or if you liked them as a kid a la Goonies), then pick it up.

Worth Watching

Clip o' the Week (Joshua Bell playing one of my favorite pieces)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Whispers of the Heart

Are you aching for a flick that shows love as only a junior-higher can truly understand it? Love that's full of aching, burning questions, overpowering emotions, far reaching (groundless) promises and confusing, embarrassing urges? If so, have I got the movie for you. If not, go ahead and stop reading now. Whispers of the Heart is to junior high love, what a Sixteen Candles or My So Called Life is for High School love, a case study from the ground floor. This 1995 animated drama was the only one the amazing art director Yoshifumi Kondo directed before meeting an early, untimely demise. His visual style defined Studio Ghibli and brought to life animated movies that our family loves like Princess Mononoke, Pom Poko, Porco Rosso and the utterly fantastic Kiki's Delivery Service. Plus, he was lead animator for Lupin III in the 70's and, hey, if that doesn't give you a high level of animator cred, what will? This flick is predictable and not nearly as good as other bits he's done like Kiki or Pom Poko, but it's clearly heartfelt and very sweet. If you are within the target audience, I'm guessing you will love this movie as it is brimming with all the wonder and angst that comes with young love. Hayao Miyazaki intended this to be Kondo's introduction as Ghibli's new head director, allowing Miyazaki to retire, but that never happened. Instead, we get a little glimpse at what happens when a master takes over full control of a single, simple little project. The result is something that's not earth shattering but a flick that's interesting all the same and certainly worth a watch, especially if you're, say, an eighth-grade girl.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Clip o' the Week

My Lady Started a Blog

Just thought I'd give a plug to my wife's blog. Take a look.


Monday, March 9, 2009

In Bruges

Remember when Michael killed that cop in The Godfather and had to lay low in a small Sicilian town for a while? Well imagine if someone made a whole movie of just that time period and made it much more comedy driven and much much more crass. Interested? That's pretty much the idea behind this flick. I certainly don't mean to diminish it though, as it was nominated for a best screen play Oscar, but the premise is pretty simple. Ken and Ray play two hitmen who botch a job in a bad way and are sent by their boss to a small Belgian town to lay low. Neither wants to be there particularly, but the sour, spoiled, loudmouthed Ray (played very well by Farrell) really, really doesn't want to be there. Ray is the best part of this flick. He's hilarious and is literally squirming in nearly every scene. At one point Ken says, "you're acting like a five-year-old who's had his sweets taken away." He has no filter and seems totally unable to stay out of trouble. The two think they're just there to wait out the storm, but they soon learn that they may be given a job in Bruges as well. Problem is one of them may well be the target. It's a funny premise (sticking two professional killers in a small town) and there are moments (mostly thanks to Farrell) that really are funny. Ralph Fiennes has a small role, but also does a fantastic job and is dang funny. The thing that kept this movie from being really good is that it's scope was too broad and the tone and story just seemed unfocused. Literally, the people I was watching it with kept asking, "is this a comedy, or a drama?" First time feature director Martin McDonagh is trying to do too much. He wants a full romance, a goofy comedy, a reflective psychological piece and an emotional drama to all live in one movie. Other, more seasoned directors might be able to pull this off, but it would be crazy hard for anyone to do and McDonagh should've just kept it a little simpler. In the end all the aspects of the movie were pretty good, but not great and none of it was all that gripping or memorable. It was a good movie and I enjoyed watching it but I'll soon forget it and I'm certainly not running out to buy it. As a bit of trivia, you may want to check this flick out if you're a Harry Potter fan. Three of the four main actors are from the Potter films, including Mad Eye Moody (Brendan Gleeson), Voldemort (Fiennes) and Fleur Delacour (Clemence Poesy).