Monthly Archives: June 2011

Somewhere

I’d rather be Somewhere but here. I found myself smiling while watching Sofia Coppola’s latest film, Somewhere. I was drawn into the voyeuristic film style and relationship of the characters, mainly Johnny and Cleo, immediately. Stephen Dorff is Johnny, a Hollywood actor going through the motions while living at the Chateau Marmont Hotel and Elle Fanning is his daughter, Cleo. She shows up after her mom leaves town, allowing Johnny to spend more time with her and see his life through her eyes. The dialogue grows somewhat throughout the film, but the non-verbal communication between Johnny and Cleo resonates more with the viewer than the words they speak — similar in some ways to Bob and Charlotte in Lost in Translation. Coppola chose a simple plot and subtle actions to show the depths of human struggle in the Somewhere. She weaves through Johnny’s story and Cleo’s more permanent presence in his life frame by frame, taking the viewer into each scene to experience it all. I can’t say everyone will appreciate this film, but I do think everyone should give it a try. Just remember in Somewhere it’s not important what happens on the surface, but beneath it.
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Fracture

I came across a replay of Fracture on TV recently and, not being entirely sure I had ever seen the whole film, needed to rent it on Netflix ASAP. Ryan Gosling cast as one of the lead characters sweetened the deal, of course.

I’ve been a fan of Gosling since Half Nelson and his range as an actor is evident from it, Fracture, Lars and the Real Girl, and last year’s stunning Blue Valentine. I wasn’t surprised by the depths Gosling was able to go to to play one half of a struggling married couple in Derek Cianfrance’s film, especially after he and Michelle Williams had been dedicated to the roles for years before its release.
Perhaps Fracture is not as serious of a project and the plot is a little weak, but Gosling acted with the same caliber and made the movie.
In the cat-and-mouse “legal thriller” Gosling is a newbie assistant district attorney, Willy Beachum, who secures a gig at a big private legal firm just as he takes an attempted murder case at the end of his job with the city of Los Angeles.
Anthony Hopkins is the defendant in the case, Tom Crawford, on trial for shooting his wife.
Crawford clearly had a plan from the get-go on how to escape a conviction, but Beachum knows there is more to the story and ends up one step ahead.
Crawford represents himself in the trial, which may be possible, but just seemed too unrealistic. I know it’s a movie, but the believability of the cop investigation and trial process were a little off. Perhaps it was all part of showing how a young attorney thrust into a high-profile Los Angeles crime would work through taking the investigation to trial, and winning the case.
Having now finished the film, I don’t think I had seen it in its entirety after all and recommend it to Gosling fans as perhaps one of his lesser-known roles. The supporting cast isn’t so bad either with David Strathairn as Beachum’s boss at the district attorney’s office and Rosamund Pike as his associate at the private law firm and romantic interest.

All in all, Fracture is a solid film and certainly didn’t lessen my admiration for Gosling by any means. At that, I just had to check what he’s up to next. 
I’ve already seen multiple previews for Crazy Stupid Love where Gosling joins Steve Carrell, Julianne Moore, Marisa Tomei and Emma Stone as what appears to be a studly character who knows a thing or two about charming the ladies. I am sure there is more to the plot than that, but since Gosling’s got a second bill in the cast, I’m there.
Next is George Clooney’s The Ides of March, which I’ve been eyeing up for a while, and a return to working with Derek Cianfrance in 2013’s The Place Beyond the Pines.
Gosling has lined up comedy, drama, action and maybe a little sci-fi with his role announced in Logan’s Run, and I’ll take it all. Even as Gosling’s career seems to be catapulting into the realm of super stardom, he’s got smart roles lined up and likely won’t sell out into rom-com land or comic book movies. Not that I wouldn’t see those, either.

Midnight in Paris

If you want to forget about reality for a couple hours and be entertained in the process, go see Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris.
I, unfortunately, have not seen nearly as many of Allen’s films as I would like to, especially the classics from his early career. But, I have been a loyal viewer since Match Point, minus last year’s You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger. (It’s on the list). There’s something to be said for that since the only films you can really compare to Allen’s are his own.
Allen has mastered his craft so much that the titles in his library seem to be first described just by the fact that he made them, then their genre and cast.
And, there is always a little bit of his own persona or life in the story and characters, even if it’s a film where he’s not in the cast.

In Midnight in Paris, Allen creates a character who feels out of place in the modern world and would rather have lived in the 1920s in Paris. Gil, played by a surprisingly likable Owen Wilson, is a screenwriter from Hollywood trying to draft his first novel. What he needs is inspiration and critique from the greats like F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and Gertrude Stein, a plot line that takes the viewer away into another world and time.
I didn’t even know that much about the story when I went to see the film, which actually added to the fantasy of it all. The cast certainly did its part to help with that as well.
In addition to Wilson, Allen cast Rachel McAdams, Michael Sheen, Kathy Bates and Marion Cotillard in the film. Put together, the actors, script, music, and most of all the cinematic views of Paris Allen provides create a wonderful trip into the story for the viewer.
I can find something I like in just about every film I watch because I appreciate the art form so much and admire anyone with the ability to do it. Midnight in Paris, and the work of Allen I have seen, are especially a source of my admiration. He stays true to what he wants to do with a film whether audiences and critics like it or not.

Maybe I’m still lost in the fantasy and nostalgia of Midnight in Paris, but I’m inspired now to travel back in time and discover more of Allen’s stories and cinematic work. If you’re looking to start the same movie-watching feat, at least try to see Midnight in Paris while it’s in theaters. In the film Gil says, “There is no city like this in the world.”
There is no film like this in the world, either.

Win Win

I’m not feeling too inspired to write my typical narrative at the moment, so here’s the top 5 reasons to see Win Win. Like now.
1. It’s playing at the Hopkins budget movie theater through at least Thursday. The theater is in the lovely downtown of Hopkins and tickets are only $2.50 ($3 after 6 p.m.) so you can get lost in the antique mall afterward and still have some cash to spend. I managed to not buy anything,  this time.
2. It’s the latest project from Thomas McCarthy. He’s got some strong indie projects I’ve enjoyed, including The Station Agent and The Visitor. Not to mention his role as Templeton on the newsroom season of The Wire, one of my favorites of the series. Those are all worth checking out, or revisiting. Start The Wire from the beginning, of course.
3. McCarthy’s choice to set the story in his home state of New Jersey, where graduated from New Providence High School. I am not sure if any of the script is autobiographical, but McCarthy’s ability to weave together several unique stories against the backdrop of a suburban family’s dynamic is brilliant.
4. The chemistry of Paul Giamatti and Amy Ryan, both favorite actors of mine, as Michael and Jackie Flaherty. It’s understated, but there is love there and a lot of heart. Much like McCarthy’s script.
5. McCarthy’s overall focus, at least how I interpret it, on the ties that hold families together and situations in life that test them. People are going to make mistakes and risk their relationships with those they love most. But, he chose for it to work out the best for everyone. Win Win.

It’s summa

I’d like to complain about the 100-plus degree heat today just a little bit more, but cannot now because it prompted an idea for a blog while I was driving home and anxiously watching in case the road buckled in front of me.
Reports of “pavement failure” and even “concrete explosions” had me a little on edge in addition to a day of making journalistic decisions I am still analyzing. So, no pun intended, I’m a little fried and could go for escaping with a flick right now.
How about something summer related? Or better yet how about something with the word summer in the title? I only came up with two while driving, like Summer Rental with some classic John Candy or the 1987 release of Summer School. Both would be good ways to kill some time when it’s hot outside and to revisit the good ol’ days of the 1980s. 
I checked my blog history once at home and perched at my computer, only to be reminded that I have already posted about two films mentioning the season: Wet Hot American Summer and 500 Days of Summer. I am sure it’s still too hot to take a step out the door or open a window, so why not take the rest of the evening and pay homage to the perfect movie-watching weather?
If you have recommendations of titles using “summer” let me know!

The Hangover Part II vs. Bridesmaids

When I saw the trailer for Bridesmaids a few months back, I thought: The Hangover, with women. Turns out the trailer is just a bit deceiving and Bridesmaids is not about a whirlwind bachelorette party trip to Vegas. Once the rave reviews started to come out about Kristen Wiig’s pet project (as co-writer with Groundlings partner Annie Mumolo) and my friends started to report back about its must-see status, I tacked the title onto my movie list. For the record, I wasn’t the only one who thought it would be like the Hangover and won’t be the only one proven wrong.

Hangover ( I and II) and Bridesmaids really are very different movies and I glad the ladies (and director Paul Feig) strayed from the genre of Todd Phillips’ sequel franchise.
I enjoyed the first Hangover much more than its copycat second installment because it was fresh and new and I’d never seen anything like it. Now, I’ve seen it twice. It’s OK though, I knew what I was getting and came out satisfied overall. The Wolfpack is in Thailand this time and have a drink before Stu’s wedding day and well … you know what happens from there. Zach Galifianakis saves the show with his returning role as Alan, Bradley Cooper plays Phil well enough (and isn’t bad to look at) and Ed Helms overall kept me interested by his unexpected badass character, but at times was just trying a little too hard.
The Hangover Part II stays true to all its signatures and manages to get away with offensive humor and onscreen visuals while keeping audiences lining up at the box office. Whether at the theater or at home, it’s safe to see this sequel and not expect total disappointment. The rumored third installment, though, I’m not so sure.
Now on to the main event. All hail Bridesmaids! I just saw it today and am in a, yeah, I’d see that again type of mood. Down-on-her-luck Annie (Kristen Wiig) finds out her best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) is getting married and goes through a “little” bit of a downward spiral as the wedding approaches. What I liked most about Bridesmaids is the backdrop of real human emotions they used in between the bridal shower drama and ups and downs of Wiig’s character.
On screen, Wiig and Rudolph talk to each other like real women do and even improvised some scenes that ended up in the script. The writers also ensured plenty of laughs for a nice balance to the more sappy moments.
Including Wiig and Rudolph, Ellie Kemper (Erin from the Office), Melissa McCarthy, Rose Byrne and Wendy McLendon-Covey, round out the wedding party and aren’t afraid to throw in a little un-ladylike behavior while wearing bridesmaids dresses and on the plane to Las Vegas.
McCarthy especially took it to the next level and the movie just wouldn’t have been the same without her Guy Fieri-inspired character.
Having now seen Bridesmaids, I can attest to the fact that male and female audiences alike will be entertained. So pick your poison, and choose your battles. If your main squeeze wants to see Ed Helms make big mistakes and convincingly shout “What the hell is going on?” just do it. Or if Bridesmaids is on the agenda, take the chance. You’ll be surprised, much like I was after the first Hangover. Bridesmaids is my pick out of the two as for which one I liked better overall. What sealed the deal for me besides the solid cast, acting, humor, strong storyline? Both Bridesmaids and The Hangover Part II used a cameo musical performance at the end, and Bridesmaids definitely wins there.

I’m afraid I’ll have to see Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark

It’s been well documented how my imagination got the better of me when watching Paranormal Activity. I’ve always had a slight fear I could get sucked into the plot of the home video horror, especially when something weird happens in real life. Today — at about 3 a.m. — I awoke to a loud crash in the kitchen, one of those that makes you sit straight up in bed and then dash toward the source of the noise. I also heard my cat Fletch meow right after the loud noise, and he was on the couch within the 5 seconds it took for me to be in the kitchen, perhaps to avoid any responsibility.

I am trying to be realistic here and not have another sleepless night (or three) like I did after Paranormal Activity, so I’ll say Fletch is to blame. If he did hurl his 18 pound body up onto the stove, it would likely create enough force to knock something off the wall and wake me up. One of the four framed pictures I have hanging above the stove did fall on to the metal top after his jump, compounding the noise.
I was satisfied with that conclusion instead of the devil having something to do with the incident, until I discovered one of the other pictures has since gone missing.
It fell off the wall last week when I shut a cupboard a leeeetttlllle too hard and I had been meaning to replace the nail and hang it back up. I SWEAR I left it on the counter (in order to remember to replace it) before going out of town last weekend, and now this morning: Gone! I searched in all the kitchen drawers and cupboards, even through a bag of papers ready to recycle and the garbage. It is nowhere to be found.
That mystery remains unsolved and on my mind in light of the incident with the other picture early this morning, Fletch’s fault or not. So what did I do when I woke up for good today and turned on my computer? I decided to watch a trailer for a scary movie, Guillermo del Toro’s Don’t be Afraid of the Dark.
There were chills down my spine after watching a glimpse of the August release, so I would be smart to avoid it in the theater, but I probably won’t.
The film stars Katie Holmes and Guy Pearce as a couple who moves into a mansion that by the looks of it just spells terror. Pearce’s character, Alex Hirst, has a daughter who finds they are not alone in the house and that the visiting creatures want her and only her.
Despite the problems I’ve had in the aftermath of seeing scary movies, I keep going back and am actually disappointed when a promising spook fest does not deliver. If I want to lose sleep, let me lose some sleep, OK?
I envision that Don’t be Afraid of the Dark will accomplish that and create all sorts of imaginary situations for me to be frightened of. I just hope I am still not looking for that missing picture in my kitchen come August. If you weren’t quite sure that the trailer reflects a true horror movie, take a look at one of the aforementioned little-girl-haunting creatures just one more time. Boo!