Just us, the cameras, and those wonderful people out there in the dark...

Monday, May 31, 2010

Invictus (2009)

* * *

Director: Clint Eastwood
Starring: Morgan Freeman, Matt Damon

Clint Eastwood’s Invictus is a very important movie. You can tell because it announces itself as such at every turn. It’s the kind of film that makes for an excellent trailer but in its long form sinks under the weightiness of its own material. It's not a bad movie but it doesn't really measure up to its own pretenses.

Starring Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela, Invictus follows the first year of his career as President of South Africa. With apartheid still an all too recent memory and the makeup of South Africa society in flux, tensions between black and white South Africans is particularly high. In his own words, Mandela must find a way to balance "black aspirations with white fears" and create one unified nation. With the country set to host the World Rugby Cup the following year, Mandela sets about using South Africa's rugby team, the Springboks, to bring the people of the nation together in the pursuit of a common goal. This is no easy feat as black South Africans are accustomed to rooting for anyone but the Springboks, whose existence is one of many reminders of the old, oppressive system.

Mandela enlists the help of Springboks' Captain Francois Pienaar (Matt Damon) to make the team more accessible to those who aren't currently fans. Though he faces a lot of resistance from his teammates, who feel that they have enough work to do just to get to the championship and don't have the time or energy to devote to reaching out to the community, Pienaar displays the same persistance as Mandela and is able to successfully push his agenda. Though the Springboks have been underperforming and few people think they have a legitimate shot at the finals, the team exceeds expectations to face off against New Zealand for the cup.

The big draw for this film is Freeman as Mandela, a role he seems to have been born to play. It's a good performance and the story of a black politician trying to lead a country that has experienced centries of conflict and tension between blacks and whites is, of course, topical. That being said, however, Mandela emerges as one of the least interesting characters, in part because he's portrayed as being so saintly. There is a cursory attempt to display Mandela as perhaps less than perfect in a few scenes which show or comment on his fractured family relationships, but all in all the only thing that keeps Mandela from being a cardboard good guy is Freeman's performance. Similarly, the only thing that breathes any life into Pienaar is Damon's performance. Neither character is really allowed to have much in the way of dimension.

More interesting to me, particularly in light of what the film wants to achieve, is the subplot involving Mandela's security team. The team is made up of both ANC activists and the Afrikaner cops who once would have made their lives hell. The two factions distrust each other and there is a lot of simmering tension between them, but because Mandela is determined to work with members of the old order to create a new and more just system, they have to find a way to work together. The subplot unfolds gradually and is used as a means of demonstrating the relieving of tensions within the rest of the nation, and it works because the film doesn't approach it with a heavy hand. I actually think the subplot is the strongest part of the story, whereas the sports aspect is the weakest.

The story of the 1995 Rugby World Cup is, of course, based on real events but that doesn't make the film less predictable. Much of it unfolds according to the dictates of sports film conventions and the action on the field is put together in a way that seems muddled. If you go into this not knowing much about rugby, you're unlikely to come away from it with a better understanding of the game. It's a disappointing aspect of the film given how skilled Eastwood is as a director, but overall Invictus is a perfectly decent film. It's not groundbreaking in any way, but it's worth a look.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Friday's Top 5... Sword and Sandal Films

#5: Clash of the Titans (1981)

I caught this once on TV and it was so gloriously cheesy that I simply could not look away. I haven't seen the 2010 version but, based on the trailers, I feel confident in assuming that it's not nearly as much fun as this version.

#4: Gladiator

Confession: I don't particularly like Gladiator. However, recognizing its popularity with plenty of other people I feel compelled to include it in this list. In the interest of giving the film its due, the action sequences are pretty great.

#3: Jason and the Argonauts

There's something very charming about old school special effects (when done right, of course). If you're ever looking for an example of what I mean by that, definitely check out Jason and the Argonauts.

#2: Spartacus

An epic in every way. Kirk Douglas made a lot of great films and this one certainly deserves to be ranked as one of his very best.

#1: Ben-Hur

Ben-Hur pulls off the strange feat of being an over the top spectacle while also being utterly and disarmingly sincere. A number of marvelous action set pieces keep this one moving so swiftly along that you barely notice its grand running time.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Canadian Film Review: Whale Music (1994)

* * *

Director: Richard J. Lewis
Starring: Maury Chaykin, Cynthia Preston

Sometimes a performance is so great that everything around it becomes secondary. That's not necessarily a bad thing as Whale Music and Maury Chaykin's epic performance demonstrates. The film surrounding the performance is pretty good, though flawed, but it's Chaykin that you remember afterwards.

Chaykin stars as Desmond Howl, a thinly veiled stand-in for Brian Wilson. A great musician who has spent the decade since his brother's death living as a recluse in an increasingly delapidated house, Des becomes further divorced from reality with each passing day. He no longer bothers to get dressed and he continues to swim in a pool that appears as if it hasn't been cleaned in years, his contact with the outside world is kept to a minimum, and much of his time is spent composing music for whales. When asked later in the film what he likes about whales, he describes them in terms that could also be applied to himself.

His isolation is broken by the sudden arrival of Claire (Cynthia Preston), who simply invites herself into his mansion and makes herself at home. At first he thinks she's a drug induced hallucination but he ultimately has no qualms about her presence even after he realizes that she's a flesh and blood person. With a little intervention from Claire (who cleans up the house and, mercifully, the pool) Des begins to take small steps back into the world and a relationship develops between these two damaged people who work at protecting each other (not always successfully) from the outside forces which threaten them. Claire is running from troubles in her past and Des is haunted by the ghost of his brother (Paul Gross) whose suicide, in a way, killed them both.

Chaykin's performance alternates easily between cheeky irreverence and intense vulnerability. At times he carries himself as if he doesn't quite know what it is to be human; he's withdrawn and cautious like a wild animal (the film, obviously, draws parallels between Des and whales but a bear is an equally apt comparison), a wildness that is underscored in a scene where Des literally roars at the record company executive pressuring him to write more profitable music. On the flip side, he has a great way with words and barbs just roll off his tongue, dismantling his opponents. However, it's not through conversation but through music that he really connects to the world around him. It's only when he's working on a song that he seems to truly come alive and be fully present within himself. Chaykin handles the complexities of the character well and manages to keep the performance reigned in even during scenes of exceptionally high emotion when it things threaten to go over the top.

Playing opposite him, Preston is a bit out of her depth. She nails Claire's attitude but her line readings tend to be a bit stiff and she never seems fully comfortable in the character. The chemistry she has with Chaykin is fine but the woodenness of her performance is more pronounced when compared to his seemingly effortless portrayal of Des.

Made in 1994, Whale Music has not aged especially well. It looks quite dated and to compound matters, I found it hard to get a sense of when it was supposed to take place. The novel on which the film is based came out in 1989, so I assume that it takes place in the late 80s (though some of the fashions seem more early 90s) but the music (specifically the song "Torque") has a distinctly early Beach Boys sound and is discussed as if it's all the rage on the charts so... I dunno. Maybe it doesn't really matter since the film is nevertheless fairly enjoyable and I would still recommend it on the basis of Chaykin's performance.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Maythew #6: Wonder Boys (2000)

* * * *

Director: Curtis Hanson
Starring: Michael Douglas, Toby Maguire, Robert Downey Jr., Frances McDormand

As someone who loves books and films in more or less equal measure, I've long had a special affection for Wonder Boys, a movie based on a novel in which the characters love both books and films. A curiously underrated film when it was released, it has aged very well and is definitely a film worth returning to.

Wonder Boys follows a weekend in the life of Professor Grady Tripp (Michael Douglas), who has not been having a very good time of it lately. His wife has left him, his mistress and boss Sara (Frances McDormand) is pregnant, the novel he has been writing for years is still not finished and his agent is breathing down his neck, one student (Katie Holmes) has a thing for him, and another (Toby Maguire) proves to be nothing but trouble at each and every turn, particularly when he shoots Sara's husband's dog and steals a piece of Marilyn Monroe memorabelia from him. Oh, did I mention that Sara's husband is also chair of Grady's department? Yeah. It's a shit storm.

All of the issues in Grady's life are really just a manifestation of his own personal stasis; he's stuck both in terms of his work and his life. Sara is pressuring him to make a choice about their relationship so that it's either over or evolving into more. He wants it to be more but, given his track record, that's also a prospect that scares him - the more that the relationship is, the more that he stands to lose. Likewise, his editor (Robert Downey Jr.) is pressuring him to hand over his manuscript which Grady insists isn't yet finished at over 2,000 pages. He can't stop writing even though he's lost sight of what the story is about because the idea of handing it over and then finding out that he's lost whatever it is that made his previous novel such a success is terrifying. To Grady it's better to be left out than to participate and fail and what he learns through the film is that that supposed safety is false because while you don't lose anything by not playing, you can't win anything either.

To my mind, Wonder Boys is Michael Douglas' best performance to date. The character type is really nothing new but Douglas' subdued performance hits all the right notes. The supporting cast, particularly Downey, McDormand and Maguire, are also excellent and leave me wondering how it is that this film didn't get a single acting nomination. Too much of a good thing, perhaps? Certainly, no other explanation makes sense.

Matt's Thoughts: For the most part, I liked this movie, but I took issue with a few of the characters. As usual, I think Katie Holmes could be excised from the film and it would make no difference to the plot. Also, Oola was an extremely minor character, basically a walk-on role, that was later thrust into the main spotlight for a pivotal task that could have been performed without her and her boyfriend.

The events surrounding the dean's dog were passed off as basically nothing, and I think they really could have been avoided entirely since the jacket was stolen as well. It just seemed like a way to spit in the dean's face twice to ensure that Grady would lose his job. If they wanted him to lose his job so badly, maybe they should have exposed his romantic relationship with Hannah to give Katie Holmes something to do.

That being said, I would recommend this to people if they asked about it specifically, but it probably wouldn't be the first movie to come to mind if they didn't bring it up in conversation first.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Maythew #5: Wristcutters: A Love Story (2006)

* 1/2

Director: Goran Dukic
Starring: Patrick Fugit, Shannyn Sossamon

There is a moment - exactly one - when Wristcutters: A Love Story becomes totally awesome. That moment occurs when it is revealed that "the Messiah" who has been talked about since the beginning of the film but whose identity has been kept secret by shots that obscure or hide his face, is played by Will Arnett. If only the Messiah's miracle had been performed to the tune of "The Final Countdown." I guess I'll just have to wait for the Arrested Development movie.

For the most part Wristcutters: A Love Story takes place after the deaths of its characters. Zia (Patrick Fugit), distraught over his relationship with Desiree (Leslie Bibb), takes his life by cutting his wrists and wakes in a place that is not heaven but not quite hell, just a worse version of life. He finds that he still needs to have a job and a place to live, still needs to eat and drink, and that a lot of things are pretty much exactly as they were before. He's so bored that he considers committing suicide again, but thinks better of it when he considers that committing suicide in suiciders' purgatory might cause him to end up in an even worse place.

He becomes friends with Eugene (Shea Whigham), a Russian rock star whose entire family committed suicide and thus are all together in the afterlife. When Zia learns that his suicide prompted Desiree's suicide, he decides to go off to find her and reunite and talks Eugene into going with him on a road trip. Although he has no idea where Desiree would have ended up, he's somehow able to intuit what direction they should be going and along the way they pick up a hitchhiker named Mikal (Shannyn Sossamon), who insists that she's been sent there by accident since she didn't actually commit suicide. Eventually the trio ends up at the camp run by Kneller (Tom Waits), where Mikal's desire to see the people in charge and Zia's need to be reunited with Desiree converge.

Written and directed by Goran Dukic, Wristcutters occassionally displays a sharp, dark humor but the story itself is really lacking. It pretty much meanders from beginning to end and takes a long time to say very little. Although I think the cinematography by Vanja Cernjul is great, giving everything in the afterlife a washed out look that quickly and effectively establishes the atmosphere, that dullness ultimately permeates all other aspects of the film as well. There's no real spark here and as a result Wristcutters starts to fall flat almost as soon as it begins.

Matt's Thoughts: What I really want to know is, how does a turkey commit suicide? Or is its death also a mistake? Because seeing your thanksgiving dinner overdose would make for an incredible movie, in my humble opinion.

I understand that this film is a dark comedy, but part of the reason that the tone of the movie didn't quite hit the mark for me is the rule about smiling. Not only did they just introduce it at random, as though it were a well-known fact throughout the first half of the movie, but it kind of brought the story down for me. I knew going in that a movie wherein every character committed suicide wouldn't be happy-go-lucky, but I just sort of figured that they would be able to smile at some point. And after he had established that they were incapable of smiling in purgatory, he then finds his girlfriend and...they smile. Genuinely. Don't introduce me to an irritating rule and then break it.

I did enjoy it, even though I saw the ending coming from the get-go. And how pissed is his ex-girlfriend that, not only did his death lead to hers, but he then negated his own and replaced her with someone else? That's a spit in the face. But we're all okay with it.

Monday, May 24, 2010

2010 Lammys

Yours truly is nominated in the Best Festival/Awards Coverage category and I would like to extend my thanks to all who voted to nominate me. I would also like to congratulate all the other nominees, many of whom I am very happy to say that I voted for. To view the full list of nominees click here.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Friday's Top 5... Wild West Showdowns

#5: Shane

The film builds up to this scene right from the beginning and it does not disappoint. Though Shane wins, his act is also an act of sacrifice since it essentially forces him into exile. A great scene both in terms of acting and editing.

#4: The Searchers

Technically, Ethan's nemesis is Scar, but the climactic scene in this film is really a showdown between Ethan and himself. A virulent racist who can't stand the thought that his kidnapped niece has become one of "them," his first instinct is to kill her. When he says, "Let's go home, Debbie" instead, that represents the true outcome of the battle between good and evil.

#3: Tombstone

I've long thought that Tombstone is a terribly underrated film (not to mention Val Kilmer's performance as Doc Holliday - how is it that the only recognition he got came courtesy of the MTV movie awards?). Tombstone actually has two great showdowns: the legendary battle at the OK Corral and the climactic showdown between Wyatt and Ringo.

#2: Once Upon A Time In The West

Sergio Leone truly lets the viewer savour this scene, allowing Henry Fonda and Charles Bronson to circle around each other for a while before finally firing their shots. It's not only a fitting end for a villain of the first order, it also fills in the missing pieces in Harmonica's history.

#1: High Noon

The ultimate showdown of one man versus many. It's the kind of episode that makes for instant mythology and the sequence in which Will Kane proves his mettle is easily the best in the entire film.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Canadian Film Review: The Trotsky (2010)

* * * 1/2

Director: Jacob Tierney
Starring: Jay Baruchel

Sometimes it all just comes together. I was starting to have my doubts about The Trotsky because all the advertisements I saw seemed to reuse the same jokes, but luckily this is a case where the marketing doesn't give away all the good stuff. If you're looking for a smart, clever comedy, look no further than The Trotsky.

Jay Baruchel stars as Leon Bronstein, a Montreal teenager who is convinced that he is the reincarnation of Leon Trotsky and that his life will ultimately follow the same path. His politics exasperate his father (Saul Rubinek), whose Capitalist success makes it possible for Leon to enjoy his ideals while also enjoying the fruits of the system he opposes. After Leon tries to unionize the workers in his father's warehouse, he's given a harsh dose of reality in the form of being yanked out of his private school and enrolled in public school. Once there he finds a new cause, unionizing the students against the rule of Principal Berkhoff (Colm Feore) and his "demonic concubine" Mrs. Danvers (Domini Blythe).

Leon forms a solid core of followers including shy Skip (Jesse Camacho), and bored student union reps Tony (Ricky Mabe) and Laura (Jessica Pare), but has trouble rousing the rest of the student body into caring enough to take action. His eventual dejection in his quest to become a leader coincides with his dejection over his romantic life following his rejection by Alexandra (Emily Hampshire), a woman he is convinced he is meant to marry because Trotsky's first wife was named Alexandra and, like this Alexandra, was 9 years older than her husband. Alexandra, understandably, thinks Leon is a bit nuts and does everything she can to avoid getting involved with him, though she ultimately finds herself drawn to him time and time again.

Baruchel, an actor I like more the more I see of him, carries the film with ease. Leon is a character who could easily come off as annoying or too clever by half, but Baruchel is able to infuse him with enough vulnerability that Leon actually becomes very likeable and easy to root for. He has great chemistry with the supporting cast and he and Hampshire find a nice balance in the relationship between Leon and Alexandra so that a) it doesn't seem creepy, b) she doesn't seem unnecessarily mean, and c) he doesn't seem pathetic or delusional. I particularly enjoyed their final exchange in the film, which I would be loathe to spoil for anyone who plans to see it.

The Trotsky is a very cleverly written film that never dumbs things down. You certainly don't have to be an expert on Russian political history to pick up all the references in the film, but it definitely helps to have some cursory knowledge of the figures and movements related to Trotsky, and I like that the film doesn't shy away from that. So often films - particularly comedies, particularly teen comedies - unfold as if they have absolutely no expectations of their audience and it's refreshing to see a film that actually has some intellectual heft behind it. It definitely makes me want to see Tierney's next film - which stars many of the same actors who appear here - Notre Dame de Grace.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Review: Mostly Martha (2001)

* * *

Director: Sandra Nettlebeck
Starring: Martina Gedeck, Maxime Foerste, Sergio Castellito

When compared to their American counterparts, European filmmakers tend to be praised for their unconventionality and creativity, for their work not seeming as if it’s coming off an assembly line. In truth, European films can be just as formulaic as American ones and I offer Sandra Nettlebeck's Mostly Martha as Exhibit A. Luckily the film is charming enough to overcome the slight hurdle of narrative deja vu, but its abundance of narrative clich├ęs keeps it from being anything more than a minor achievement.

Martina Gedeck stars as the eponymous character, a German chef with an extremely prickly demeanour – so prickly, in fact, that her boss requires her to attend therapy. When her sister is killed in an accident, Martha is left to care for her eight-year-old niece Lina (Maxime Foerste), whose grief manifests itself in both silence and a refusal to eat. Back at the restaurant, the owner has hired Mario (Sergio Castellito), a new sous chef, whose presence immediately sets Martha off. For one thing, she and the owner had an agreement that she would get to hire everyone in the kitchen. For another, she feels threatened by Mario’s abilities as well as the fact that everyone seems to love him. It isn’t until Mario is able to break through to Lina that Martha begins to soften towards him.

Things remain tense between Martha and Lina who, in the absence of her mother, has become fixated on the idea of finding the father she has never known. All she and Martha know about him is his name and that he’s from Italy, but Martha promises to find him so that Lina can at least have one parent. The closer that promise comes to realization, however, the more Martha and Lina and Mario start to become a family, making the inevitable break all the more painful and traumatic.

Because the plot is so achingly predictable, Mostly Martha is a film that lives and dies by its performances. Gedeck is wonderful as Martha, a complex and not always likeable character. It is to Nettlebeck's credit that Martha's rougher edges aren't softened and that she's allowed to remain a difficult character right through to the end. Her rigidness is part of her strange charm, balanced through Gedeck's performance with an intense vulnerability. Lina is characterized in much the same way, as a wounded person creating a hard shell around herself, and Foerste's performance is similarly strong and surprisingly nuanced given that she was only about 9 when the film was made. The performances hold your attention even when the story is spinning its wheels.

Mostly Martha was remade in 2007 as No Reservations and starred Catherine Zeta-Jones in the lead role. I've never seen the remake but if it adheres faithfully to the original, I would be curious to see how it deals with the long lost father part of the plot. Maybe it's just me, but it seemed kind of strange how everyone was so blase about what would happen when/if Lina's father was found. Everyone just sort of takes it for granted that he'll take Lina back to Italy to live with him, even though he's a total stranger. Does that seem odd to anyone else? I mean, yes, he's her father (and I'm actually still a bit unclear as to how Martha found him) but they know nothing about him and if he's so easy to find but Lina's mother never bothered to contact him, maybe there's a reason? I don't know why it bothers me so much but the more the film progressed, the more fixated I became about this. Rest assured, though, that it all works out in the end - I bet you can even guess how.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Maythew #4: Leon (1994)

* * * 1/2

Director: Luc Besson
Starring: Jean Reno, Natalie Portman, Gary Oldman

First of all, many thanks to my brother for picking a movie that I've been meaning to see for a long time. Second, many thanks to Luc Besson for making a movie that more than lives up to its formidable reputation. Leon (alternately known as The Professional and Leon: The Professional) is not just a fantastic action picture, it's also a pretty great character movie thanks in no small part to the central performances by Jean Reno and Natalie Portman.

Leon (Jean Reno) and Mathilda (Natalie Portman). On the surface the two could not seem to have less in common, one a grown contract killer, the other an abused child. Quickly, though, Leon establishes their personalities so that they seem to be on an even plane (which, incidentally, makes their relationship mildly less creepy. Mildly). Leon may be an efficient and ruthless killer, but he's also remarkably childlike, watching films with wide-eyed wonder, and submissively deferring to his mentor, a mobster named Tony (Danny Aiello). Mathilda, despite her young age and inherent immaturity, is nevertheless a remarkably self-possessed young woman who is, in certain ways, more grown up than her protector.

Leon and Mathilda are brought together following the slaughter of her family at the hands of rogue DEA agents lead by drug addicted Stansfield (Gary Oldman). Mathilda narrowly escapes death and reasons that since Leon saved her life, he's now responsible for it. He's reluctant to accept this responsibility but she persists, just as she's able to persist in convincing him to teach her how to be a "cleaner." She's a quick learner but not so quick that she's able to carry out her plans to exact revenge on Stansfield and her actions put her and Leon in an impossible situation that can only result in a great deal of bloodshed.

First and foremost, Leon is an awesome action movie. Besson has a great eye for staging dramatic and memorable action sequences and the final blowout between Leon and an entire police force is incredibly well crafted and executed. Even more amazing is that his attention to the visual details has not come at the expense of the characters, who are distinct and allowed to have dimension (though, in truth, Stansfield is a character who walks a fine line between inspired and over the top and Oldman's performance is something you'll either love or that will take you right out of the movie). The performances by Reno and Portman are pitch perfect, finding all the right notes in the complex relationship between their characters. There is absolutely no question in my mind as to why Leon only seems to grow in reputation as the years go by.

Matt's Thoughts: Young Natalie Portman is a creepy monster child, and I do not care for her lustfulness towards grown men. I'm not saying that Leon should have kept his door shut and allowed her to die in the hallway, but maybe Mathilda could have just left the groceries outside his door and walked away, saying she just needed to deliver them. It would have made Leon's life much easier. Also, he wouldn't be dead.

I liked the movie, but, again, my main concern is creepy Natalie Portman child. I understand that she was bored and stupid, but telling the desk clerk that you're the 12-year-old lover of a hitman is not that great an idea, considering he's, you know, a hitman. I just can't figure out why Leon left all of his money to her. She ruined your life, dude.

But maybe that's just my child-hate raging.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Unsung Performances: Anamaria Marinca, 4 months, 3 weeks, and 2 days

Foreign language performances always have a difficult time gaining recognition in English speaking countries. Every once in a while a performance is able to transcend the language barrier but more often than not a great performance comes and goes without ever being embraced. Anamaria Marinca’s performance in 4 months, 3 weeks, and 2 days (a film which itself failed to reap the recognition it so richly deserved) falls into the latter category, receiving notices at a couple of film festivals and being rewarded by the London Film Critics but going unnoticed anywhere else. Perhaps if the film hadn’t come out in the same year as La Vie En Rose, Marinca might have had better success but with critics and awarding groups already in love with Marion Cotillard’s performance as Edith Piaf, Marinca ended up being pushed aside (because, of course, you can’t recognize two foreign language performances, especially when you can recognize the normally brilliant Cate Blanchett for an over the top turn in Elizabeth: The Golden Age instead).

As Otilia, Marinca carries 4 months, 3 weeks, and 2 days on her shoulders. Though it is Otilia’s friend Gabriela who is ostensibly the subject of the story, which concerns her attempt to get an illegal abortion, it is Otilia who emerges as the dominant and driving force of the narrative. She is a character who takes charge, commanding the situation and guiding it to the desired conclusion against several obstacles, including Gabriela herself. The decisions that Gabriela has made – not least of which is choosing the seedy Bebe, who demands sexual favours in addition to cash, to perform the procedure – seem geared towards putting both herself and Otilia in the worst possible situation. Otilia is forced to improvise in several instances, scrambling to keep things together while her friend seems content to sit back and simply let things happen.

Gabriela is a fascinating character in her own right, one whose motivations are never entirely clear and one who is remarkably passive given how personal the circumstances of the story are to her, but Otilia is the character to whom the film continually finds itself drawn. She might be doing nothing more than listening but Marinca captivates even in stillness. When Otilia needs to leave Gabriela’s side following Bebe’s work, the film follows her, joining her boyfriend’s family at the most uncomfortable dinner party ever. Again she is the picture of stillness while things happen around her and again she is the one on whom the camera inevitably focuses. As an audience we experience these situations through her; she is our point of identification and the implicit bond between character and audience is acknowledged in the film's final shot when Otilia breaks the fourth wall as if to ask us if we can believe what's just happened.

What Marinca accomplishes with this role is nothing short of amazing. There is not a single false moment, no gesture that feel anything less than authentic. She is totally at home in the character of Otilia and gives what is easily one of the best cinematic performances of the last 10 years. 4 months, 3 weeks and 2 days is a film worth recommending for many reasons but Marinca's performance has got to be at the top of the list.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Friday's Top 5... Posters of the 1990s

#5: Donnie Brasco

Framed as if it's a surveillance photo, this poster couldn't possibly be more perfect. It suggests the tone the film will take and nicely sets up the characters' positions in the story.

#4: Naked Lunch

Weird. Kind of disturbing. Perfectly Cronenberg.

#3: Delicatessen

I find this poster so unsettling. I've never seen Delicatessen but the poster makes me want to while simultaneously making me kind of afraid to.

#2: Office Space

I've totally had this day. I'm sure that anyone who has ever worked in an office feels the same way.

#1: Fargo

A poster that captures both the folksy charm of Fargo's characters and the violence of its story. It's a creative and totally charming poster.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Canadian Film Review: Foolproof (2003)

* * *

Director: William Phillips
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Kristin Booth

If you ever come up with some great scheme, don't name it "fool proof." That's just asking for trouble. Also, if you're going to write your great scheme down, maybe you should leave it a safety deposit box or some other secure place rather than in a gym bag in your apparently easy to break into apartment. Just saying.

Foolproof centers on three friends - Kevin (Ryan Reynolds), Sam (Kristin Booth), and Rob (Joris Jarsky) - with an unusual hobby. Together they plot out the logistics of breaking into a place and stealing something valuable. They spend countless hours over the course of a few weeks staking a place out, becoming familiar with its security, and creating a replica of the layout along with the security system inside a warehouse, for the thrill of theoretically pulling off an awesome heist. They never actually put these schemes into action, mind you, they just come up with very detailed plans for how they would do it.

The leg work they've done on their latest plan hasn't gone unnoticed, however, and soon they find themselves having to contend with Leo Gillette (David Suchet), a legendary con man who blackmails them into working with him on a real heist. At first all three are reluctant but Leo is able to play on Rob's odd man out status to cause dissent amongst the friends which in turn leads to a few double crosses and betrayals and reversals of fortune. Some of the twists you can see coming from a mile away and I'm not quite sure I believe the final one, but for the most part the screenplay by William Phillips (who also directs) is pretty solid.

Because the story itself isn't anything particularly revolutionary - it's very much a genre film and the plot movements will be familiar to anyone who has seen a heist movie or two - much of the film's success depends on the chemistry of the actors. Foolproof is very lucky in that regard because the actors work off of each other very well and in a believable way. Suchet is appropriately intimidating as Leo, his personality towering over that of the other characters. Reynolds, Booth and Jarsky have good buddy chemistry, though the romantic chemistry between Reynolds and Booth is nonexistent, making their eventual, inevitable kiss a non-event of epic proportions. Still, as friends, they're perfectly believable.

At the time of its release in 2003, Foolproof was something of a fiasco, a financial disaster with a big (for a Canadian film) production budget as well as a big marketting budget that ended up grossing about 0.5% of its budget back. Released between the first two Ocean's films, it may simply have seemed like another example of the Canadian film community producing low-rent versions of American product, tapping into a feeling a self-loathing and thereby alienating its would-be core audience. Seen apart from that socially fraught context, Foolproof proves to be a perfectly serviceable film. It is not overly ambitious, but it achieves what it sets out to do and does so in an entertaining way. I recommend it.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Review: Just Friends (2005)

* *

Director: Roger Kumble
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Amy Smart, Anna Faris

Oh, Anna Faris. What won't I watch for you? Please try to be in better movies in the future. Not that Just Friends doesn't have its moments, but objectively speaking it's really not a good movie. However, if all you require from a comedy is someone in a fat suit, a bunch of pratfalls, and a fiery massacre of Christmas decorations, you will not leave Just Friends disappointed.

The film begins with Ryan Reynolds in a fat suit playing Chris Brander, an unpopular guy who is best friends with Jamie (Amy Smart), the most popular girl in school. He's in love with her, but she thinks of him like a brother and only wants to be friends, which becomes the defining event in Chris' life (that should tell you quite a bit about Chris' life). Just Friends is kind of like Nice Guy: The Movie, in that that Chris is under the impression that because he's friends with Jamie that somehow makes her obligated to become romantically involved with him (and, as an aside, that sense of obligation paradoxically negates itself since believing it means that he isn't really her friend after all) and her rejection is seen as an enormous betrayal. A decade later, having lost the weight, moved to LA, and become successful, he's still complaining about how Jamie messed with his head in high school, though as far as I can tell "messing" with him involved hanging out with him as if they were, you know, friends.

Chris hasn't been back to his hometown since high school but through a twist of plot-friendly fate gets stuck there at Christmas with pop star Samantha Jones (Anna Faris). Chris and Samantha used to be involved but since she's crazy it didn't work out, though he continues to feign interest in her in order to secure a deal between her and the company he works for. The scenes involving Samantha are the ones that redeem Just Friends and kind of, almost, make it worth watching. The romantic plot between Chris and Jamie is less worth watching, primarily because Reynolds and Smart have very little chemistry, and also because of Chris' sense of entitlement and subsequent behavior. I mean, if he wants to believe that his weight was the only reason she wasn't interested in him, that's his prerogative, but it doesn't change the fact that he's also kind of a dick.

In the end, Chris more or less realizes the errors he's made with regards to Jamie thanks in no small part to Dusty Dinkleman (Chris Klein), a character who acts as a mirror to Chris having also been unpopular and in love with Jamie in high school and having since become a player intent on avenging his younger self. The fact that Chris does a bit of a turnaround at the end combined with the fact that Reynolds is a very likeable actor, means that he emerges from all this unscathed. When he's in good movies, Reynolds shines, and when he's in bad movies you can't help but wonder how such a bad movie ended up with such a good lead.

The real star of the show, however, is Faris who can go so far over the top (as she does, frequently, here) while still seeming to be in total control of her performance. The writing for the character is extremely thin, but Faris puts everything into the role and manages to be the most entertaining thing in any given scene, even when she's not physically there, such as during a scene where Chris listens to multiple voice messages she's left for him. Like Reynolds, she always seems to be at the top of her game even when the material isn't really giving her much to work with. Just Friends is a 90 minute wasted opportunity that just shows you why Faris and Reynolds deserve to be in better films.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Maythew #3: Dead Snow (2009)

* * 1/2

Director: Tommy Wirkola
Starring: Vegar Hoel, Lasse Valdal, Evy Kassen Rosten, Stig Frode Henriksen, Charlotte Frogner, Jeppe Laursen, Jenny Skavlan

Rules for fighting Nazi zombies:
1. If you're in a group, don't split up
2. The time to try the cell phone to call for help is before the group splits up and you've accidentally set the cabin you're standing in on fire
3. Try not to set the cabin you're standing in on fire
4. Don't tap someone on the shoulder when they're in the middle of fighting a bunch of zombies (and, as an aside, what are you even doing there - you were supposed to be making your way back to the car!)
5. If your friend is about to be torn limb from limb by a bunch of zombies and you're standing about 20 feet away holding a weapon maybe you should, you know, help him out?

Dead Snow is pretty much what you'd expect from a movie about Nazi zombies, unless of course you're expecting any kind of explanation as to how said Nazis became zombies. Let's just take it for granted that it happening is a perfectly reasonable occurance, shall we? The film opens with a jaunty chase through darkened woods and the gruesome death of a young woman. The woman is (well, was) Sara who was to meet her boyfriend Vegard (Lasse Valdal) and their friends at her family's cabin for a weekend away. The others arrive at the remote locale the following morning, wonder where Sara is, and then get the drinking and debauchery started without her. It isn't until a mysterious man shows up in the middle of the night and informs them of the area's nasty history that they start to worry and shortly after that the bloodshed starts in earnest.

Dead Snow is a horror movie in the tradition of Scream, constructed with a lot of self-referentiality and a tongue in cheek tone. One of the characters, Erlend (Jeppe Laursen), is a movie buff and as a result there are plenty of references to other films in the horror genre as well as other films in general. For the most part, however, the story and the characters are secondary to a series of gory set pieces and the writing and acting is only as good as it needs to be to move you from one bloody scene to another while keeping your interest. It's not great art by any means, but it's a perfectly serviceable zombie movie that doesn't disappoint in terms of violence.

Final Observations/thoughts:
* I was always under the impression that I only needed to worry about zombies biting me - now I've got to worry about them stabbing me to death too?
* the stranger shows up to warn the group about how dangerous the area is and then... spends the night camping out in a tent in the middle of nowhere? Good idea mystery man!
* 10% of the Norweigan language is apparently English.
* Why so much with the eyes? Why???
* Nastiest. Sex scene. Ever.

Matt's Thoughts: ...I just...there's...I don't even...okay, first off, what kind of girl decides that the outhouse is the best place for romance? I mean, seriously, he was wiping his ass with that hand less than a minute before you put it in your mouth! HAVE SOME SELF-RESPECT, WOMAN!

There's not a lot to say about this movie that isn't just a halting string of monosyllabic non-words. This is the only zombie movie I've seen where no one gets eaten by the monsters, they just get torn apart and then the zombies play with their organs. They didn't even want to eat brains, they just wanted their gold back. I mean...they could have just asked, right?

And these friends are very unhelpful in horrendous situations. I mean, when you accidentally hatchet your girlfriend's neck, you could, y'know...put some pressure on the wound instead of just watching her die. So, I'm kind of glad that the zombies won in the end, because...these people didn't really deserve to survive.

This is the kind of movie that I'll suggest to watch with friends just to see their reactions.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Maythew #2: Big Fish (2003)

* * *

Director: Tim Burton
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Billy Crudup, Albert Finney, Jessica Lange, Helena Bonham Carter

If you think of Tim Burton's films as the cinematic equivalent of the Munster family, then surely Big Fish is the Marilyn of the group. Quirky but much more gently so than the rest of Burton's output, the film is something of a departure for the director, who really seems to be reigning himself in here. For the most part it works, though I don't think it quite achieves its ambitions.

Big Fish tells the story of a father (Albert Finney), his son (Billy Crudup), and the stories that stand between them. The son, Will, has grown up to be resentful of his father's storytelling abilities and feels marginalized amongst the large cast of bizarre and fanciful characters in his father's narrative. The father, Ed, insists that his stories are true and has no qualms about telling them over and over again. Now the father is dying and the son wants to seize his last opportunity to really get to know him, to know the truth behind his tall tales.

The flashback scenes, in which Ed is played by Ewen McGregor, unfold in episodic form, detailing his many adventures. He leaves his small town in the company of Karl (Matthew McGrory), a giant, stumbles into a utopia in the middle of the woods, meets his soulmate, joins the circus, goes missing in Korea and makes his way back with a set of conjoined twins, accidentally gets involved in a bank robbery, and so on. Will doesn't believe any of this but slowly finds evidence that, at the very least, his father's stories aren't complete fabrications. The line between truth and fiction becomes blurrier and blurrier until it seems that one can no longer exists without the other. As Will states at the end: "A man tells his stories so many times that he becomes the stories. They live on after him and in that way he becomes immortal."

Based on the novel by Daniel Wallace, Big Fish is a charming movie but one that doesn't entirely work - or, at lest, doesn't work in the way that it wants you to think that it works. It is visually sumptuous and its exploration of the art of constructing a story is well done, but the relationships that should make up the heart of the film get short shrift. Except for Ed, the characters are secondary to the stories rather than the stories being used as a means of developing the characters. As a result the ending doesn't have quite the emotional punch that it could and the film itself doesn't resonate that much.

Matt's Thoughts: I really want to like this picture, but there's just something about it that I can't quite identify that's putting me off. I think that part of the problem is the fairytale aspect of the plot. We're lead to believe, at the beginning, that Edward is just fabricating insane lies, but it's when Sandra confirms that he had gotten lost during the war that we begin to think otherwise. It's only a little later when William is cleaning the pool and the big fish surfaces in the water, that he has this moment of realization that either his father has been telling the truth all these years, or that he has started hallucinating. The truth seems confirmed later still when Helena Bonham-Carter tells a story involving the giant tilting her house back to its original position.

It's the fact that, as the film closes, we're told that he was, indeed, exaggerating his tales for entertainment purposes, that you wonder if Helena's story was truly as majestic as it appeared, or if William had just exaggerated it in his mind's eye to fit it into the mold of his father's usual stories.

I think my problem is that I wanted it to be all or nothing: either full-out fairytale, or just insane lie after insane lie. But I can't really fault the movie for this, because, at it's core, it's the tale of a father and son; like Field of Dreams, but with fewer dead baseball players.

I didn't hate the movie, I just didn't love it either. But that might be because I find Miley Cyrus kind of irritating; although, in this role, she was still Destiny Cyrus...which is kind of more irritating.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Friday's Top 5... Heist Movies

#5: Inside Man

One of the only feature films Spike Lee made last decade that I feel is an unqualified success. With a cast that includes Denzel Washington, Clive Owen, Jodie Foster and Christopher Plummer and a plot with just the right amount of twists, how could you possibly go wrong?

#4: Ocean's 11

A fun movie packed wall to wall with stars. One of the few times in which a remake is better than the original. Now if only they'd stopped with the one film instead of going back to the well again and again.

#3: The Thomas Crown Affair

As was pointed out last week when I left Bullit off the chase scenes list, I'm not terribly well versed in Steve McQueen movies. This one, however, is a favourite of mine and also stars the always awesome Faye Dunaway.

#2: Heat

A film which looks at crime from the perspective of both criminals and the police, anchored by Robert De Niro and Al Pacino. So meticulous is Michael Mann's direction of the action sequences that part of the film used to be shown to Marine recruits as part of their training.

#1: Bob Le Flambeur

My very favourite. There is so much to like in this film by Jean-Pierre Melville, often considered the precurser to the French New Wave. Some of the best scenes in Ocean's 11 have their roots in Bob Le Flambeur.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Canadian Film Review: Everything's Gone Green (2006)

* * 1/2

Director: Paul Fox
Starring: Paulo Constanzo

Douglas Coupland is a great writer, but I'm not sure that his particular style of humor translates that well to the screen. Dialogue and events that might seem funny on the page sometimes fall flat on the screen and that seems to be the case with Everything's Gone Green. Although some of it works well, the film never really seems to pick up steam and get off the ground.

The story centers on Ryan (Paulo Constanzo), a guy without ambition drifting through a dead end job. When he loses that job, he gets another with the lottery commission, doing interview profiles with the winners for a magazine devoted solely to the subject of the lottery. As part of his training he's sent to community college to learn Mandarin, where he meets Bryce (JR Bourne), who just happens to be dating Ming (Steph Song), a woman Ryan met by chance and to whom he's deeply attracted. Though he finds Bryce to be generally repulsive, Ryan nevertheless allows himself to get roped into a money laundering scam that Bryce will oversee. All Ryan has to do is pass the names and contact information of winners on to Bryce, who will then go to the winners and buy the tickets from them so that the winnings can be claimed by the Japanese mafia. Ryan is nicely compensated for his role but eventually has a crisis of conscience prompted less by his own moral code than by rejection from Ming.

Everyone in the story is working an angle of some kind, cutting corners to get ahead and make life more comfortable. Ryan's mother (Susan Hogan) and recently laid off father (Tom Butler) have started a grow op in the basement. Ryan's brother is engaged in a real estate scheme. Bryce officially works as a golf course designer, though the courses he's made aren't actually condusive to playing the sport and are just another part of his work for the Japanese mafia. There's an artificiality to the way that Ryan and the people around him are living, ostensibly doing one thing, but secretly doing another. This element of the story is underscored by Ming, who works as a set designer and spends her days dressing up Vancouver to make it look like other cities. Nothing is real or genuine; everything is an illusion.

There are a lot of similarities between the film and jPod, the TV series based on Coupland's novel of the same name. I liked jPod a lot (the series; haven't read the book) but couldn't muster the same affection for Everything's Gone Green. I think that perhaps it's a case of too much plot in too compressed a format; there just isn't sufficent time to properly explore all of the elements that the screenplay offers up and the result is that not only do you feel like the story doesn't really have much of a pay off, but also that many of the characters are too thin to care about.

Though I liked the performances by Constanzo and Song, I didn't really feel like they had much chemistry together. Part of the problem might be that the film itself is so curiously low on energy that everything seems muted, but I found it kind of difficult to care whether Ryan and Ming ended up together and since Ming is the catalyst for Ryan's change from a slacker who doesn't care about anything to a guy who doesn't want to take the easy way, that's kind of a big thing. Everything's Gone Green isn't a bad movie, but it doesn't really rise to the occassion either.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Maythew #1: The House Bunny (2008)

* * *

Director: Fred Wolf
Starring: Anna Faris

If it accomplishes nothing else, The House Bunny begs the question of why Anna Faris isn't in more movies. She is a singularly delightful screen presence who has the ability to make even a terrible movie kind of worth seeing just because she's in it. The House Bunny is by no means high art, but it was much better than I was expecting and offers a nice showcase for Faris' considerable comic talents.

Faris stars as Shelley and explains in an opening monologue that her life has been exactly like a fairytale "only vastly different." An orphan who has never felt like she particularly belonged anywhere, Shelley eventually finds a home in the Playboy mansion, where everybody loves her except for one Playmate who totally wants to be rid of her. When Shelley turns 27, she's unceremoniously kicked out of the mansion and wanders aimlessly before ending up on a college campus and getting the idea that she could become housemother to one of the sororities.

The sorority in need of a housemother is Zeta, which is full of misfits and on the verge of losing its charter because they never have any pledges. Natalie (Emma Stone), the leader of the Zetas, argues that if Shelley can help them become more popular, they might be able to save the house and the others - including ultra feminist Mona (Kat Dennings), pregnant Harmony (Katherine McPhee), and back brace wearing Joanne (Rumer Willis) - reluctantly agree to give her a shot. Shelley teaches them how to throw great parties and attract boys and when Shelley meets Oliver (Colin Hanks), the girls show her how to attract him with her brains rather than her body.

The screenplay by Kirsten Smith and Karen McCullah Lutz, who also wrote Legally Blonde and The Ugly Truth, is pretty weak and derivative. There are two mean girl/villain subplots that never really get off the ground because the film just doesn't seem that interested in them, the third act is a mess of quick reversals and changes of heart, and the middle section of the film is essentially a series of montages strung together by brief, plot-forwarding scenes. And yet... I enjoyed it despite these many, many flaws. I laughed a lot during this movie, particularly at the running joke of Shelley's trick for remembering people's names, which is all I will be able to think about whenever I meet new people from now on. Like it's protagonist, The House Bunny is dumb but absolutely endearing.

Matt's Thoughts: Barring the Scary Movie series, Anna Faris can do no wrong. A lesser actress might come across as mentally challenged in the role of Shelley, but Faris's comedic timing really saves the character.

While the plot is...obvious, and the B-plot involving Pooter's shenanigans at the Playboy Mansion was cut from the final film, I love this movie beyond words. Admittedly, I may not have the most cultured taste when it comes to cinematic masterpieces.

I do feel that the movie could have done more with the idea of changing one's-self to fit in among the masses. While Shelley's attempt to give the sorority a makeover in both style and personality is shown, at first, as an utterly positive situation, it's nice to see that the script at least attempted to show the error of her ways. On the other hand, Shelley is also given a slight makeover when she tries to become smarter to win the heart of a man. Because Shelley is the main character, and the focal point of the film, her makeover is the message the audience shall receive, and the end result is that Oliver is unimpressed by her attempts to grow wiser, and much preferred her when she was just a lovable moron. That's pretty much how I feel about this movie, too. It's stupid, but that's kind of why I love it.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Great Last Scenes: The Third Man

Year: 1949
Director: Carol Reed
Great Because...: It's so sad but also so achingly perfect. Nothing is easy in The Third Man, especially doing the right thing. Holly Martins does do the right thing by helping to capture his friend Harry Lime, but doing so costs him everything. Harry is killed and Anna, the woman Holly has come to love, no longer wants anything to do with him. That long shot of Anna walking past Holly as if he isn't even there is perhaps the most devastating shot of the entire film.

There's circularity to the story of The Third Man. Holly arrives in war torn Vienna just in time to attend Harry's funeral, learning that he was killed in an accident. The more Holly hears about it, however, the more he realizes that there's something fishy about the official story and he begins trying to uncover the truth. Eventually he discovers that Harry isn't dead after all, but by this time he's also learned that his old friend has been involved in a scheme that has left behind a string of victims.

Holly agrees to help capture Harry but only on one condition: that Anna be allowed to leave Vienna with him. When Anna discovers the deal and refuses to have any part of it, Holly begins to reconsider the plot but only until he sees some of Harry's victims up close. Friendship or not, Harry needs to be held accountable for what he's done.

The film reaches its famous climax in the sewers, where Harry finds himself cornered and dies in one last, feeble attempt to get away. For the second time Holly finds himself at his friend's funeral and before he leaves he waits to speak with Anna. In a long, unbroken shot that lasts about two minutes we watch as Anna walks down the path in Holly's direction. She passes him without slowing down or even looking at him and the film fades out with him alone in the shot, still watching her walk out of his life forever.

These last moments are played absoltely perfectly. "Nothing" happens and yet you could argue that so much happens. Neither Holly nor Anna has to say anything for us to know exactly what each is feeling; the silence between them probably says more than words ever could. It's an ending that gets to me every time and I'm eternally grateful that Carol Reed did not follow the advice of Graham Greene (who wrote the screenplay) and have Holly and Anna end up together in the end. An ending like that one would have felt cheap, but ending it on a distinctly solemn note fits perfectly with the rest of the film. In his review, Roger Ebert referred to the final moments as "a long, elegiac sigh." I can think of no better way to describe it.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Review: Sherlock Holmes (2009)

* * *

Director: Guy Ritchie
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams

Sherlock Holmes was one of the films that I was most looking forward to in 2009 and yet I somehow managed to not get around to seeing it until just recently. I blame that on end of the year good movie oversaturation, which is when as much as you want to see a certain film, you've spent so much time in the theater lately that the absolute last thing you want to do is go to the theater. Why can't decent movies be released throughout the whole year? Is it so much to ask?

Right, anyway. Sherlock Holmes, starring the increasingly awesome Robert Downey Jr., was pretty much exactly what I'd been expecting: a fun, fast moving film with plenty of gritty charm. Downey plays Holmes and Jude Law plays his trusty sidekick Dr. Watson, though as the film begins their partnership is in the midst of being dissolved. Watson is engaged and has every intention of extricating himself from Holmes' bad influence, but Holmes won't let him go and pretty much acts like Watson's fiancee has just stolen his boyfriend. The undercurrent of homoeroticism between Holmes and Watson is played up by Downey and Law and though that apparently ticked off Sir Arthur Connan Doyle's estate, it's also one of the things that makes this film so particularly delightful.

The actual plot of the film involves the mysterious Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong), who appears to have risen from the grave and threatens to take over the world with his mastery of the dark arts. It also involves Holmes' nemisis/love interest Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams), who has made her way back into Holmes' life at the behest of a shadowy figure whose identity should be obvious to anyone even vaguely familiar with the Sherlock Holmes stories, and who will likely be the driving force in the inevitable sequel.

Directed by Guy Ritchie, the film explodes with bursts of kinetic energy in a series of solid action sequences. On a couple of occassions he slows down the action and allows Holmes to narrate, step-by-step, how he's going to come out the victor and then showing us the sequence again but sped up. It's a good strategy because Holmes is a character defined more by logic than by brawn and these sequences allow him to explain how even when things are getting physical, he's still proceeding in a methodically logical way towards the best possible conclusion (for him anyway; it doesn't work out so well for the guys he beats up). All in all, Ritchie and Downey do an excellent job at defining Holmes as a character, even though two of the character's more famous features (the deerstalker hat and "Elementary, my dear Watson") have been dropped.

The film doesn't run particularly deep (not that I was expecting it to; this is a Guy Ritchie movie, after all) but it's flashy and entertaining enough to keep that from really being an issue. It has great energy and the performances by the three leads are quite winning. The only real issue that I have with it is that it goes to such great lengths to set up the sequel that I half expected the words "to be continued..." to pop up right before the credits. It kind of left me with the feeling that Sherlock Holmes was more of a trial run and that the real movie will be the follow-up.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Introducing "Maythew"

So here's the deal: my brother, Matt, has apparently decided that he should be in charge of picking some of the movies I watch in May and against my better judgment, I've agreed to let him pick 10 movies for us to watch together and review throughout the month. To his credit, the list he gave me was nowhere near as horrifying as I was expecting and he showed a great deal of restraint by leaving off Theodore Rex, a film neither have ever seen but which we talk about a lot. In case you're wondering, Theodore Rex is a film set in the future, starring Whoopi Goldberg as a cop whose partner is... a talking dinosaur. Yes, that really happened. Here's proof:

... Anyway, Maythew kicks off on Wednesday with his first movie pick.