Steven (Adrien Brody) is nearly 30 years old and lives at home with his parents and sister Heidi (Illeana Douglas). He quits his office job to fulfill his lifelong dream of becoming a ventriloquist. While seeking unemployment benefits Steven meets an attractive career counselor Lorena (Vera Farmiga). Steven’s best friend Fangora (Milla Jovovich) gives Steven terrible advice on how to win Lorena over, and Steven listens to her possibly ruining his chances with Lorena forever. Steven’s sister Heidi is planning her first big wedding which becomes the backdrop for the entire film. Fangora, Steven’s dirty mouthed best friend, is wildly entertaining acting like a 13 year-old in a 30 year old’s body. Heidi is absolutely amazing onscreen, her dialog is punch-on. The brother-sister dynamic between Heidi and Steven is fun and believable, especially interesting in that they both are nearly 30 years old acting like bickering 8 year olds. Dummy was quite entertaining, this comedy/romantic comedy is certainly worth the watch. 5/5 stars.
Martha (Martina Gedeck) is head chef in a busy kitchen. She cooks with an obsessed perfectionism and possess a short temper with customer complaints requiring her to see a therapist regularly. Martha lives alone, shutting others out of her life hiding behind her love for cooking. Her orderly life changes suddenly when her young niece Lina (Maxime Foerste) comes to live with her and a charming Italian sous-chef Mario (Sergio Castellitto) starts working in her kitchen. Martha must quickly learn how to be a mother to Lina and how to respect Mario as an equal partner in her kitchen. Mario the easygoing charmer, contrasts the focused closed Martha onscreen beautifully. Martina Gedeck’s performance is superb, the onscreen personal transformation of Martha throughout the film is believable and rewarding. I found Martha’s scenes with her therapist (August Zirner) boring and cliché. The therapist plays the typical ineffective practitioner who Martha visits time and time again without ever making any real progress. Overall Mostly Martha was charming and delightful. 3/5 stars.
Bend It Like Beckham tells the story of Jess (Parminder Nagra) and her obsession with soccer. Jess struggles against her parents and family who are conservative Sikh East-Indians living in London. Conflict is accelerated when Jess meets Jules, a British girl also obsessed with soccer (or football shall we say in London). While Jules’ mother thinks it improper for an Indian girl to be playing soccer, Jules also contends with a mother who would rather see her daughter putting on makeup than kicking a ball around. Bend It Like Beckham is beautifully crafted, exploring many topics including adolescence, love and cultural collision through a coherent and entertaining narrative. 5/5 stars.
Scotty Pelk (Melik Malkasian) is an eccentric film geek who works at a local movie rental store. Scotty possess an encyclopedic knowledge of films, actors, directors and anything at all relating to film to the exclusion of all other life skills. Scotty has no social skills and despite constant attempts has no friends until he runs into Niko (Tyler Gannon). Niko, an easygoing attractive women represents Scotty’s chance to have a normal life. The movie kept me entertained throughout with very natural dialog and acting. I was disappointed by the last 2 seconds of the film which I felt were completely unnecessary. I don’t know if the ending was an attempt at a final dramatic twist, or just one last joke. Either way the last 2 seconds of this film were representative of a mixed vision seen throughout the film. Concerned and experienced editing could have made for a more consistent tone and focused artistic intent. 3/5 stars.
The film follows the personal journey of Wendell Baker played by Luke Wilson. Wendell is a floater full of dreams selling fake ids. Wendell seems to have everything he wants until he loses it, forcing him to reassess who he really is. The dynamic between Wendell and his best friend Reyes (Jacob Vargas) is believable and entertaining. The cast is excellent and beautifully directed by Andrew Wilson and Luke Wilson. The film is charming and enjoyable throughout 5/5 stars.
Steve Carell is Dan in “Dan in Real Life”. He writes a self help column and raises three daughters alone. At a weekend with the family Dan meets Marie (Juliette Binoche) and falls for her without the knowledge that she is the girlfriend of his brother Mitch (Dane Cooke). Throughout the film Dan’s love for Marie builds along with his innability to hide it from the rest of the family. I felt some real connections between Dan and Marie but it didn’t really make up for the lack of chemistry in the rest of the cast. I was anticipating the drama between Dan and Mitch but the relationship between the brothers turned out to be boring and underdeveloped. The rest of the family didn’t help the film either never showing any believable family dynamics. If it hadn’t been for the fact that Dan’s family ate breakfast together I would never have guessed that they were a family at all. 2/5 Stars.
In “Conversations with Other Women” a man (Aaron Eckhart) runs into a women (Helena Bonham Carter) at a wedding. The film spans only two days showing their present day interactions alongside flashbacks of past events. The director Hans Canosa uses vertical split-screen throughout the entire film showing shot/reverse shot simultaneously to the viewer. The split-screen is not disconcerting and feels quite natural coupled with the film’s sparse dialog and minimal action. The acting is superb but does not compensate for the film’s predictable and over-minimalist storyline in which nothing of interest happens or is revealed about the characters. Both the man and women possess detached and cynical outlooks on life that left me feeling no connection to them, their stories or the film. 2.5/5 stars.
El Maquinista (The Machinist) – Trevor (Christian Bale) is a factory machinist who lives most of the movie in a delusional state that is as much a mystery to him as it is to the audience. At the bitter end of the film all previous mysteries are suddenly cast in a new light using a poorly constructed montage of almost entirely new footage. The film plays less like a suspense thriller and more like the story told by a 6 year old child who has just learned that he can create any fanciful tale followed by “and he woke up and it was all a dream” magically tying up any lose ends. The acting and cinematography were quite superb but seem wasted on a film that just didn’t work for me. I look forward to seeing more by director Brad Anderson who brought us the truly excellent films: Happy Accidents (2000) and Next Stop Wonderland (1998) among others. 2/5 stars.
Juno is quite cute and fun. Ellen Page plays Juno, a strong willed, sharp tongued high school girl alongside Michael Cera playing Paulie, a timid, generous and amusing character. Ellen and Michael complement each other’s personalities, creating ample room for interesting dialog. J. K. Simmons plays Juno’s father Mac and shows us very convincingly where Juno learned to speak her mind. It is a treat for a film to let us laugh and be enlightened: 5/5 stars.
Hard Candy is an entertaining film, albeit slightly disturbing. Often with films that stretch the limits of violence I ask myself was the director’s point worth making. Most of the violence occurs off-screen and for me this film worked. Ellen Page plays the lead female Hayley, she is charming and manipulative bringing this quirky script to life. 3/5 stars.
I just watched “My Date with Drew” a documentary by Brian Herzlinger that documents Brian’s quest to get a date with his childhood crush Drew Barrymore. At the start of the documentary Brian is an unsuccessful film maker. The film making process is as much an interesting aspect of this film as is the plot progression. The film was shot on a very low budget with a camera from Circuit City that was returned at the end of the film. I was distracted at times by the poor shot choices and lighting. Many scenes felt very contrived and unnatural. 3/5 stars.
4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (4 luni, 3 saptamani si 2 zile) – Anamaria Marinca plays the lead Otilia and she is fascinating to watch. Otilia’s character development is extremely slow: by the end of the film I feel like I still don’t really know her. The details we do learn about Otilia are hard earned, in the end this is all we are left with and for me it is well worth the wait. 4/5 stars.