Movie of the Month - February, 2009

January 22nd, 2009

Burn After Reading

Burn After ReadingAn all-star cast, including George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton and John Malkovich, come together in this outrageous spy comedy about murder, blackmail, sex addiction and physical fitness!

When a disc filled with some of the CIA's most irrelevant secrets gets in the hands of two determined, but dim-witted, gym employees, the duo are intent on exploiting their find. But since blackmail is a trade better left for the experts, events soon spiral out of everyone's and anyone's control, resulting in a non-stop series of hilarious encounters!

From Joel and Ethan Coen, the Academy Award-winning directors of No Country for Old Men and The Big Lebowski, comes this brilliantly clever and endlessly entertaining movie that critics are calling, "smart, funny, and original" (Ben Lyons, E!).

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January 21st, 2009
Thank You For SmokingNick Naylor: These days, when someone smokes in the movies, they're either a psychopath...or a European.

The Reader

January 9th, 2009

Link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0976051/

A boy of 15 years is away from home when he becomes violently ill. But not for the kindness of a passing woman, he does not know how he would have made it home. To express his gratitude he goes back to her with flowers. His innocent act of thanks then leads to a torrid affair with this older woman. Their time together lasts only a few months before the woman disappears without saying goodbye, but the boy, Michael, will never be the same. Later, in law school, Michael's class goes to the courthouse to learn from courtroom experience. On trial is Hanna, the woman who changed Michael's life forever.

After a few days of soul searching I am finally ready to say if I liked this movie or not. And I did. I thought that there were a few things that detracted from the movie, but there are almost always things that detract from movies. I will try to be brief and discuss my main complaint with the movie first. It was in English. The movie bounces between different chapters of Michael's life, but except for a short scene at the end (that I would have left out if I had edited this film) the entire movie takes place in Germany. The movie, based on more than just the countless scenes of passion between Michael and Hanna, strives to become intimate with the audience. I found it strange that the movie was not in German with subtitles. I feel this would have given the movie a more authentic feel and bridged that final gap of intimacy.

With that out of the way, I may continue with what I enjoyed. Much early press suggests that Kate Winslet will take home an award or two for her role as Hanna. I have not seen every movie she is nominated, or might be nominated, against so I will not comment on that. I will say that in this movie alone her performance was second best. David Kross was young Michael. He is our protagonist. While it is hard to overlook Ralph Fiennes, who plays older Michael, most of the movie happens while Michael is young. David Kross, a young actor with very little experience, shows strong talent in The Reader.

I wanted to argue against the amount of nudity and "adult situations" that make up essentially the entire first half of the movie. I have gone so far as to jokingly call this movie pornography, but I think it was all necessary to lend credibility to the impact Michael and Hanna had on each other. Here were two people who yearned to be together and were physically intimate beyond all boundaries, yet secrets were kept. And the secrets drove them apart.

I cannot say that The Reader was any better or worse than the other movies I have seen where a boy has an affair with an older woman then sees her tried in a court of law. Shockingly, this is the only movie I have seen in that category. Since I cannot compare it to anything, I will say that I found the story to be deeply moving at times. I thought the characters were developed well and the things I didn't like did not make the movie unwatchable.

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January 8th, 2009
Wall-ECaptain: AUTO! Earth is amazing! These are called "farms." Humans who put seeds in the ground pour water on them, and they grow food - like, pizza!

Doubt

January 6th, 2009

Link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0918927/

A very serious allegation is brought against a priest when Sister Aloysius (Meryl Streep) suspects that Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman) has developed an inappropriate relationship with an altar boy. The boy's history teacher, Sister James (Amy Adams) tells Sister Aloysius that the boy came back from a private meeting with Father Flynn acting peculiarly. Does Sister Aloysius suspect Father Flynn because he has done something wrong or is she biased against him because she disagrees with his progressive methodologies?

The story is an important one, but it is used as a vehicle to debate a broader topic. The movie specifically addresses an allegation of misconduct by a priest, but the characters generally disagree on the role the Church plays in people's lives. Should the Church continue as strict disciplinarian? or adapt to the changing times to become part of the family?

John Patrick Shanley wrote Doubt for the stage, and then adapted his own story into this movie, which he also directed. The story is brilliantly controversial. While you are left to form your own opinion of guilt or innocence, the arguments on both sides are incredibly persuasive.

I have not seen a movie with acting this good in a long time. (Stay with me because I will actually praise Philip Seymour Hoffman, something I normally do as infrequently as possible.) With three strong performances from the movie's three main players (Streep, Hoffman and Adams) one somehow managed to outshine the others. Both Amy Adams and Philip Seymour Hoffman were great. Meryl Streep brought the house down; she was fantastic.

Another performance worth noting was Viola Davis, who plays the boy's mother. She has maybe 5 minutes of screen time, but they are 5 of the most powerful minutes in an already powerful movie. It is probably a name you will hear again.

I will not delve into any conclusions I may have drawn from the movie, particularly because I opted against drawing any. The movie may leave you with a burning curiosity to know if he did it, but I invite you to see this movie with friends so you may discuss your thoughts. But I do recommend the movie; it is surely on my short list for best movies of 2008.

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January 5th, 2009
Brotherhood of the WolfSylvia: Do you know how Florentine women ensure their husbands come home? Every morning they slip him a slow poison, and every evening the antidote. That way, when the husband spends the night away, he has a very bad night.
Gregoire De Fronsac: You needn't resort to that.

Yes Man

December 31st, 2008

Link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1068680/

Carl Allen (Jim Carrey) is an exaggerated version of anyone who has difficulty committing to things (or people). The events in his life have caused him to shy away from any engagement, regardless of how innocent; something needs to change. Coincidentally Carl runs into an old friend who says that becoming a "Yes Man" has changed his life. A Yes Man, from the seminar Carl attends, is someone who takes a vow not to turn down any new opportunities, effectively saying "yes" to everything. Carl commits to changing his life; he takes the Yes Man vow and attacks life with new vigor.

I can understand that an actor wants to grow and continually take on new challenges, but Jim Carrey is so incredibly talented as a comedic leading man. Some people consider his more serious roles as worthwhile endeavors, but I disagree. The only move away from comedy that I have forgiven Mr. Carrey is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and I will go so far as to say that it is one of my favorite movies. Jim Carrey brings a funny movie to life. Yes Man is a blend of the funny and dramatic movies that Carrey has done. The movie is full of laughs, but it has a stomachable, if not endearing message. He does add a few of his (over-the-top) ad-lib moments, but you wouldn't watch Good Times and not expect Jimmie Walker to say "Dy-no-mite!" either.

Zooey Deschanel was perfect as the movie's leading lady. She provided the perfect amount of eccentricity to play Yin to Carl Allen's pre-vow Yang. She is cute and I am glad they didn't cast someone more socially-deemed "beautiful" to play this part, because it would not have been believable. She is great.

Rhys Darby was a great choice for Norman, Carl's boss. He was great in the part and the two costume parties he throws might have been the two main highlights of the movie for me. We'll see if this movie can give him a more mainstream American following than his work on Flight of the Conchords. He is very entertaining.

I took Yes Man in as a matinee with the family. Granted, it is a family that currently has no little children, but it was a great family movie. There were a lot of laughs and a tender moment or two for the romantics amongst us (but be wary of some offensive language). This is not an award-winning film, but I enjoyed it a good deal.

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Movie of the Month - January, 2009

December 19th, 2008

Love Me if You Dare

Love Me If You DareLOVE ME IF YOU DARE depicts the romantic story of Julian and Sophie, who meet in grade school and create an intense game of "Dare" to distract them from the harsh realities of their lives. Over time their game becomes a mutual infatuation that binds them for life. Ultimately the childhood game remains with them into adulthood where it challenges their most cherished fantasies. Eventually, each of them is forced to decide between the game and genuine romance.

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December 18th, 2008
Harry and TontoHarry: I still know a lot of people here, Tonto. When you know people, that's home.

December 2nd, 2008

Hellboy II - The Golden Army

Select "Bonus Materials" from the main DVD screen. With the top option (Feature Commentary) highlighted, move the cursor to the right and the statue on the side of the screen will light up. Press your select/enter button to see a few outtakes. As a practice tip, they might be a little funnier after you've seen the movie. Nothing is spoiled by watching them first, but they're out of context.