Posts Tagged ‘movie review’

GREAT movie!

[NOTE:  I recently watched Lost in Translation again and, even after all these years, I still find the movie mesmerizing and enchanting.  But having gone through the crucible of a failed marriage the movie resonates even deeper.  Murray’s Bob is a lifer in a loveless and cold marriage and feels disconnected from his kids.  Johansson’s Charlotte is just starting out in married life but is justifiably having second thoughts and concerns due to a spouse that seems to take her for granted and not be all that interested in her.  They both are longing for something greater, more meaningful. I relate and connect to both of their characters in such different ways than I did back when I first saw the movie and was moved by it.

I’ve always thought of “art” as the space between what the artist creates and what the viewer brings, it’s that intermingling of intention, perception and perspective that makes something special that moves us.  I find it a rare joy when you can enjoy a film one one way when you first watch it, and have that enjoyment change in tone and texture as you yourself have changed over time.  I thought I’d repost this review I wrote up for Livejournal back when it first came out in theaters.]

I could feel at the time
There was no way of knowing
Fallen leaves in the night
Who can say where they’re blowing

Scarlett Johansson is intoxicating. She first hit my radar in the delightful Ghost World where she gave a solid performance in a supporting role that nearly felt like a co-lead. With Lost in Translation, she’s even better. The critics have been showering praise on Bill Murray– and it’s warranted. It’s his finest performance ever. I guess he’s getting the attention since, for the first time that I can remember, he truly transcends himself. When you watch you often forget that it’s Bill Murray up there, you think of him as his character Bob.

Lean on me


Read Full Post »

So I recently saw The Matador, a film for which I’d heard good buzz and was cautiously optimistic about. And I have to say that the buzz and optimism was very much on the mark and I thoroughly enjoyed the film. First, a quick summary of the film for those who might not be aware of this nice little destination film–

Sundance’s official summary: If Pierce Brosnan wearing a black Speedo, cowboy boots, and sunglasses and smoking a cigar wasn’t in itself worth the price of admission, everything else one gets in this rapturously conceived comedy about a lonely hit man would certainly be enough. But the glorious excesses that writer/director Richard Shepard offers are just part of the considerable range of payoffs that make The Matador a delightful mix of genres that simultaneously spoofs the buddy film, killers, and ordinary American life while it plumbs the complexities of the human heart.

“When a traveling salesman, Danny Wright (Greg Kinnear), accidentally meets up with Julian (Brosnan), “a facilitator of fatalities,” at a Mexico City bar, their subsequent evening together intertwines their lives in an unexpected, but lasting, bond. Each one is facing what could be a life-changing moment, and though they ostensibly have nothing in common, they’re drawn together.

“When the twists and turns of fate are revealed, it becomes clear that Shepard has crafted an enormously entertaining work that takes the hit-man film and spins it on its head while creating a funny and strangely poignant story that is original and genuinely moving. With an outrageously unique performance by Brosnan, and great turns by Kinnear and Hope Davis, The Matador is a film that will stay fixed in your memory long after the curtain has closed.”

The few commercials I’ve seen seem to play The Matador up as a lot more funny than it is. There are some laugh-out-loud moments, but it’s much more charming and sweet than uproarious. When I’d heard Brosnan had gotten a Golden Globe nomination, I figured it was just props for Pierce playing against type as a scruffy, aging and unscrupulous hitman. After seeing the film, I now think the nom was very much warranted. Brosnan’s Julian is a rich and complicated character, and Pierce Brosnan, who’s always been so very Pierce Brosnan in all of his roles (even Bond), is subsumed by the role. For much of the movie I’m looking at the screen and not seeing Brosnan, I’m seeing Julian the soul-weary killer looking for a friend.

Brosnan at his worst is Brosnan at his best

Kinnear’s Danny is very much a typical sweet Kinnear character, but Kinnear is just so damn appealing that we don’t mind. Plus, Kinnear does inject some sadness, fear of failure and insecurity that gives this Kinnear character more depth than typical. He’s as good here as he was in As Good As It Gets. Danny’s wife is played magnificently by Hope Davis, who does a lot with her limited screen time, and naturally embodies the inherent warmth, stability and unassuming sexiness of a best friend, lover and wife. She and Kinnear show us a marriage that’s imperfect, flawed, haunted by tragedy and yet beautiful in their camaraderie and love for each other.

Partners in crime

This blog being entitled “My Ideal Woman” I’d like to pause my review a moment to talk about Hope Davis.  I just love her low-key beauty.  Her sexiness is not blatant or in your face, but it’s there nonetheless.  I’m always drawn to actresses that don’t have that stereotypical “model-quality” beauty, but instead have their own fresh, unique look.

Here's to you, Hope

Of course, this quality lets her very nicely melt into her roles, so when you watch her on screen you’re not aware you’re looking at Hope Davis, you’re just watching her character do what she does.  Still, whenever I’m done watching a movie with Hope Davis she lingers in my mind, and I wish she’d be in more films.

She lingers...

Back to the review… Writer and Director Richard Shepherd brilliantly executes the film, chock full of moments where a lesser skilled moviemaker would go too far and degenerate the movie into a silly farce (and not in a good way). Shepherd goes to the edge, flirts with it some, and just when you are certain he’s going to teeter over into disaster pulls you back and spins you around in an unexpected way. Particularly nice is how some scenes are not shown chronologically; characters and plot are illuminated in one way, and then the scenes are shown later, casting new light on characters and plot points. This is not done in a fun and manipulative Tarrantino-esque way, but much more organically and naturally, layering on nuance and texture to situations and relationships we thought we already understood. First impressions (and second and third) don’t last until the credits; the character arcs don’t allow that. We fall in love with the characters over and over again.

It’s always nice to find films that exceed expectations. I fully expect that it’s not a film that everyone will enjoy, but as the credits rolled my mind turned over scenes and my heart turned over a variety of emotions– joy, sadness, envy, surprise, hope. It made me yearn to write stories equally as subtle, bursting with pinpoints of surprisingly beautiful moments.

If you get a chance to see it, I think it likely you will enjoy it too. If you’ve already seen it, let me know what you think.

(before I go, I did find a rare pic of Hope where she is projecting her sexiness a bit more than usual…)

you go girl 🙂

Read Full Post »

As I drove to go see Crazy, Stupid, Love I realized this was the first time I’d been to see a movie in 2011… and it was the end of August.  What a fucking travesty that I don’t even have time to go out to see a movie!  I used to go see 2-3 movies a month, often just by myself since I’m such a movie buff and it seemed difficult to coerce friends and significant others to go see them with regularity.  Yet another reason why I’ve got to change things, get more free time in my life.

Anyway, back to the movie review.  Since I first saw the previews for Crazy, Stupid, Love I knew it was a movie I wanted to go see.  The leads are all actors I like, and the premise really hit home—dude in his 40s, works hard, married, two kids and suddenly his wife asks for a divorce.  Check, check, check, check and check!  Dude moves out and struggles to start again, and gets help from ladies’ man.  The part about “gets help from ladies’ man” is where our stories diverge, but I was certainly hooked by the setup and intrigued by the notion of these two men from wildly different social backgrounds learning from each other.

Unfortunately, it didn’t exactly play out that way, to the slight detriment to an otherwise totally enjoyable night at the movies.

For the most part though it was great.  Steve Carrell did a wonderful job as the blind-sided schlep who’s in shock when his wife orders a divorce for dessert.  Of course, if eternally gorgeous Julianne Moore was your wife having her dump you would be catastrophic.  I mean, seriously…

it's hard to beat red hair and freckles in my book...

She tries hard to be the sad, unsatisfied middle-aged housewife… and Julianne Moore actually is 51, married with children, but seriously come on…

seriously, come on...

She’s a great actress and I’d get caught up in the scene and she’d be Emily the mom and ex-wife, but suddenly there’d be a close-up and other scenes flash through my head– making out with Amanda Seyfried in Chloe, her awesome orgasm face when she’s shagging Ralph Fiennes in the pivotal scene from The End of the Affair, and so many gorgeous nude and sex scenes in Boogie Nights…

Somehow though I don’t mind the distractions…

So back to Steve Carrell’s schlep Cal.  He devastated, numb… and goes out into the world to start his new life.  Gets an apartment, has the kids over (totally hit home with me).  But then he goes out drinking every night… which is when I stop relating on a personal level.  In fact, it’s a bit distracting because it does hit so close to home which is why that angle rang a bit false– I understand why you’d want to drown yourself in sorrow, but buying drinks in a bar is expensive.  Renting an apartment by yourself while also paying child support is expensive.  Yes, Cal and Emily both are shown to have decent jobs, but not necessarily upper upper upper middle class jobs.  I mean, me and my ex both have decent jobs, but I’m having to work multiple jobs to make ends meet (which is why I’m hunting for a roommate).  When I want to drown my sorrows, I hit the ABC store and kick back in my recliner.  Not only is it much more economical but I’m not risking a DUI or killing someone driving home.

Of course, drowning his sorrows night after night at a singles bar one way to advance the plot, which involves sad-sack Cal meeting up with Jacob, played by the incredibly handsome Ryan Gosling.  Ladies, if you’re lamenting the lack of eye-candy in your life, Mr. Gosling provides quite a bit of it.  Jacob is a lady-killer, with moves so smooth he never has to spend the night alone.  Of course, the womanizing is to paper over inner pain and tormoil, and so we figure the arc of the story involves Cal and Jacob helping each other deal with and overcome their pain.

Emma Stone is cute! Red hair is nice... does she have freckles?

Add to the mix cute and perky Emma Stone, who pops up as Hannah, the object of Jacob’s affection but who is one woman unmoved by his overt charms.  She actually plays a larger role in the movie than I initially figured she would.  This role is much more “grown-up” than previous roles I’ve seen her in, and at 23 she should be playing older roles and yet she looks so young and tiny it almost feels like Jacob trying to score with a high-schooler.Another woman in the mix is Analeigh Tipton, who plays Jessica, a high-school senior who babysits for Cal and Emily.  Analeigh plays Jessica well, adding in the right level of teenage awkwardness and innocence, and yet the actress herself just radiates this feline sexiness that I had moments lamenting this was not rated R so there was no chance of American Beauty-style shenanigans.  I mean, just check her out:

It's okay, she's actually 23...

It almost felt like they miscast the movie; even though they’re actually the same age, having Emma Stone be the babysitter and Analeigh Tipton be the law student who gets tangled up with Gosling would have “felt” more correct.  Now, I still liked Emma’s performance — speaking of movie rating, she’s central to a funny scene where they’re talking about movie ratings in a fun almost self-referential/meta way that I won’t spoil here because it’s quite amusing with a surprising twist.  Of course, Ms. Stone is a bigger star and Hannah is a bigger role so the producers probably wouldn’t have even thought about switching the roles… especially given the PG-13 rating.  If it were rated R and Hannah’s role called for nudity it might have been weird seeing Emma naked.  She just looks too young and cute to see unclothed on the big screen.  I think she needs some more seasoning before she goes that route.

Which is actually a nice segue for the next woman I’d like to talk about– Marisa Tomei.  She’s a woman that just seems to get more and more sexy the older she gets.  I remember when she first hit the scene she was a lot like Emma Stone– cute, perky, soooo young looking.  The years have given her a bit more curves, laugh lines, and a self-assuredness that just radiates sex appeal.  Her turns in Rescue Me and Before the Devil Knows Your Dead… whooie, red hot!


Marisa plays Kate, a woman Cal meets in a bar after Jacob gives him tips and a make-over, and the scenes between Cal and Kate offer up quite a few laughs.

One last woman I’d like to mention — the awesome Liza Lapira plays Liz, Hannah’s best friend and confidant who in some ways is trying to help Hannah somewhat like Jacob is trying to help Cal.

Looooove Liza!

She isn’t on screen much, but when she was I found myself riveted by her smile and great dialogue.  I tried to remember where I had seen her from, and later realized she was on one of my favorite cancelled TV shows– Traffic Light.  The show revolved around 3 friends in various stages of relationships, and Liza played the spouse to the married friend.  A what a spouse– her performance was a tour-de-force and it was a damn shame the ratings didn’t carry the show to a second season.

Now, about 2/3rds of the way through the movie I realized that the plot was angling back towards the gravitational pull of a relatively tidy Hollywood romantic comedy ending, and I was a tad disappointed.  I thought the potential was there for something better, more muddled and complex and ultimately more satisfying.  I won’t spoil the details, but in terms of Hollywood romantic comedies it actually ended pretty well and I found myself smiling and even a little sentimentally misty-eyed.  However, in my idealized version of this movie, Cal would end up with Marisa Tomei, at least for the short-term (I mean who wouldn’t want at least a year with Marisa Tomei??).  And Emily realizes she made a huge mistake giving up on Cal and laments that it’s too late to go back.  It would make for a bittersweet ending and a break with Hollywood convention, but sometimes that’s a bit much to ask from movies these days.

Go see the movie, tell me what you thought about it in the comments!

Read Full Post »

awesome movie

I’ve seen the movie XX/XY in bits and pieces over the past year or two on cable movie stations, but it always comes on late so I tend to catch some fragment from the middle of the movie before going to bed. I’ve found those nuggets intriguing, so it was nice to finally get to see the whole thing recently.

The movie holds particular resonance to me since the main characters are portrayed as young adults in 1993, restless and confused about sex and love, and then flashes forward a decade into the future and how their past relationship impacts them. I was 25-26 back then, probably a few years older than their characters were, but I also had some pretty complicated and confusing romantic relationships that had a pretty big impact on me years later. I’m sure most people can relate to one degree or another

In the beginning of the movie Coles and Sam meet at a party after noticing each other earlier in the day on the subway. The party is right out of my past– in a city apartment, dark and sparsely furnished, party-goers drenched in an alcohol buzz, Sonic Youth playing in the background. Drunk guys and girls circle around each other, looking for the chemical attraction that could provide a night of sexual bliss and maybe more. The chameleon Mark Ruffalo plays Coles, darkly handsome, brooding and creative (he’s an animator), the kind of guy women fall head over heels for before they find out just how many hang-ups and flaws he has. Maya Stange plays Sam, Coles’ victim of the heart, and Kathleen Robertson plays Thea, Maya’s roommate. Sam and Coles are instantly drawn to one another, and yet Thea also has a connection with each of them that is deep and complicated and muddies the waters considerably.

Mark Ruffalo as Coles

I thought the acting was subtle and top-notch; none of the characters come across as trite or stereotypical, and yet each of them were recognizable in either yourself or someone you have known. I’ve like Ruffalo in nearly everything I’ve seen him in, and while he portrayed a truly flawed person, causing the most emotional collateral damage out of all the characters, you can’t help but feel for the guy, to hope and pray he gets his act together before he hurts someone else or himself further. A less nuanced performance would have flattened Coles into just another asshole, but Ruffalo and the writing/directing makes him much more complicated and thus, empathetic.

Maya Stange as Sam

Maya Stange’s Sam is quietly lovely and demur (especially alongside Thea’s flamboyancy), and I found her Sam to be incredibly appealing and sexy; in real life I would have totally fallen for her character and have been heartbroken by her self-destructive relationship with the asshole Coles. Sam is like a moth to a flame, as cheesy as that sounds, drawn helplessly into Coles’ web of heartbreak. I can’t help but wonder why Maya Stange isn’t in more films, I thought she did a great job and she’s quite pretty in a non-cookie-cutter way.

Kathleen Robertson as Thea

Kathleen Robertson’s Thea was quite interesting. Brash and overtly sexual, Robertson also adds a nice subtle layer of depth to Thea in what could have otherwise just been a stereotypical sidekick party girl. Early on, she’s kicking around with this shy and nerdy guy that’s obviously dazzled by this sexy wild child’s apparent interest, using him for company and such. Drunk off her ass, she ends up screwing somebody else on the floor right in front of this nerdy guy, and she later tries to apologize to him. When the guy, whom we (and likely she) expects to totally swallow her lame ass apology and continue on as they were, instead does something totally unexpected, we would guess a character like Thea to pout or get angry; however, Robertson’s Thea takes it, and we can see a range of emotions playing over her face as she realizes, not only that she totally deserved it, but all the other implications of that selfish and reckless moment the night before, and those emotions play across her face. It’s a Moment, one of life’s plot points that changes someone at a fundamental level.

See this movie if you haven't already!

It’s a testament to the writer and director that the end of the movie doesn’t tie things up in a bright and happy bow (ah, the freedom of indie films!). Love and sex can make humans do stupid things, and often times those stupid things resonate years and years down the road. Even so, the movie doesn’t leave you feeling desolate and empty like other films that explore similar themes. You’re left with a sense that life moves on, and you make of it what you can mistakes and all.

Ruffalo’s character sums it up well at one point, when describing why his movie-making career didn’t take off. He says that, in the beginning, you have all these great ideas and there are all these exciting possibilities for the film you envision. Yet, step by step, as you make choices those possibilities fall away until you’re left with all the decisions you’ve made to get to the place you are, and by implication all the possibilities that won’t come to pass because of those decisions end up haunting you. The excitement of possibility dwindles with each choice made until its all gone. It’s a metaphor for relationships, and reveals the hard emotional work it takes to build lasting relationships. Ruffalo’s character is distracted and crippled by all the roads not taken instead of being satisfied with the choices he made and the path he’s on.

I highly recommend this movie for anyone looking for a well-acted movie about the complexity of sex, love, and relationships. It’s well put-together and thought provoking, and the leads are all very easy on the eyes.  And please– let me know what you thought of it in the comments!

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: