August 15th, 2008
American BeautyLester Burnham: This isn't life, it's just stuff. And it's become more important to you than living. Well, honey, that's just nuts.

Charlie Bartlett

August 13th, 2008

Link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0423977/

Charlie BartlettAnton Yelchin (Alpha Dog) stars as Charlie Bartlett, who has been kicked out of every private school he ever attended. And now that he's moved on to public school, he's simply getting pummeled. But when Charlie discovers that the kids who surround him -- the outcast and the popular alike -- are secretly in desperate need, his entrepreneurial spirit takes over. Hanging up his shingle in the Boys' restroom, Charlie becomes an underground, not to mention under-aged, shrink who listens to private confessions of his schoolmates, and makes the imprudent decision to hand out the pills he's proffered from his own psychiatric sessions. Meanwhile, at home, Charlie keeps charming his way out of an inevitable confrontation with his adoring but utterly overwhelmed mother Marilyn (Hope Davis).

Then, Charlie Bartlett makes his big mistake: falling in love with the beautiful and bold daughter (Kat Dannings) of the school's increasingly disenchanted Principal (Robert Downey Jr.), who is hot on his trail. As Charlie Bartlett's world and fledgling psychiatric practice unravel, he begins to discover there's a whole lot more to making a difference than handing out pills.

Charlie Bartlett has a difficult time making friends. As he moves from one private school to another, by the time he finally begins to become popular he is expelled. The problem is that his popularity comes from doing something illegal. Charlie, ever the opportunist, has a creative and entrepreneurial mind for providing things that high school students should not have. As is the way (generally) with high school students, what they can't have is what they are willing to pay for. And Charlie will accept that risk to be popular. Now he has been kicked out of every private school and is left with only one option: public school. A series of events lead Charlie to his next big idea: provide a little medication and a lot of opportunity to unburden themselves of their problems. And just like that, Charlie Bartlett began helping fellow students cope with their problems...from the boy's bathroom.

Anton Yelchin stars as the movie's title character. He, if you have seen it, is the kidnapped boy in the movie Alpha Dog. In both movies he plays a charming, though slightly awkward, young man. While I am worried that he wouldn't be as successful in a more mature role, I think he was a great casting choice to be Charlie Bartlett.

The story was a little hokey. The characters were a little cliché. I concede those two points, but still contend that this is a good movie. I enjoyed how the movie did not shy away from those things, but rather embraced them. In fact, without cliché students in a hokey story, Charlie Bartlett would have been unable to effectuate change in so many lives. (I hope it doesn't disappoint you that there is a social message wrapped neatly within this movie.)

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August 8th, 2008
Joe Versus the VolcanoPatricia: Nobody knows anything, Joe. We'll take this leap, and we'll see. We'll jump, and we'll see. That's life, right?

Definitely, Maybe

August 5th, 2008

Link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0832266/

Definitely, MaybeFrom the makers of Notting Hill and Love Actually comes the charming and irresistibly funny romantic comedy Definitely, Maybe. When Will (Ryan Reynolds) decides to tell his daughter (Abigail Breslin) the story of how he met her mother, he discovers that a second look at the past might also give him a second chance at the future. Co-starring Elizabeth Banks, Rachel Weisz and Isla Fisher, it's a heartwarming story that makes you realize it's definitely never too late to go back...and maybe find a happy ending.

Will (Ryan Reynolds) picks his daughter up from school and finds that she, like all of the young children, received a very colorful lesson in sex education. The line of questioning he is subject to lasts until finally the daughter, played by Abigail Breslin, asks Will how he met her mother -- the woman whose name appeared next to his on the divorce papers he signed that same day. The story, which he reluctantly launches into, chronicles not only his move from the midwest to New York City, but also the few seemingly near misses he had with love. (And from here we need to assume that this young girl is mature well beyond her years, otherwise the story becomes a little ridiculous.)

I will admit right away that this movie served two secret purposes for me. Beyond my attempt to be entertained by the overall quality of the film, I was checking up on the movie's two stars. I wanted to see if Ryan Reynolds could leave behind the frat-boy comedic antics and enter a...well, a different role. And I wanted to see if Abigail Breslin was as talented as she was tauted to be after her breakthrough success in the Indie sensation Little Miss Sunshine.

Ryan Reynolds has stepped away from comedy before, with movies like Blade Trinity and Smokin' Aces, but I consider those to be transitions, or even Reynolds's metamorphosis, if you will. Neither movie was a comedy, though neither movie, if I may opine, necessarily took itself very seriously. Definitely, Maybe, though a romantic comedy, is intended for a more serious audience. I think Ryan Reynolds has good comedic timing and I'm glad he was able to bring it to this part. I thought he was successful, not only as a single father, but also as the "hopeless romantic with an indominable spirit."

And if we are able to forgive our young starlett for having a more mature understanding of interpersonal relationships than 98% of the people on the planet, I would like to applaud Ms. Breslin as well. Her ability to ask mature questions while she maintains her childhood innocence is impressive. She warms up to the camera and you feel comfortable giving her your attention until the credits roll. She was both cute and funny as she follows her dad on the journey through his quest for love. Little Miss Sunshine introduced Abigail Breslin, but Definitely, Maybe shows her real talent.

My thanks also to Elizabeth Banks, Rachel Weisz, Isla Fisher and Kevin Kline for what each of them brought to the film.

I thought the casting and acting were very good; I thought everyone played their part perfectly. Yes, it was a little High Fidelity-esque as it recounted relationships-gone-by, but it was new life in an old mold. It is a romantic comedy that focuses more on the romantic than the comedy, but there are plenty of laughs to be had. So after checking up on Ryan Reynolds and Abigail Breslin I can freely admit that I really enjoyed this movie.

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August 4th, 2008
Say AnythingLloyd Dobler: I am looking for a dare to be great situation.

The Dancer Upstairs

July 25th, 2008

Link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0118926/

The Dancer UpstairsThis taut political thriller set in Latin America marks John Malkovich's explosive directorial debut. Academy Award nominee Javier Bardem (Best Actor, 2000 - Before Night Falls) stars as legit policeman Agustin Rejas, who faces the greatest challenge of his career - to catch the leader of a terrorist movement threatening to collapse his government, while being stopped at every turn by his own corrupt supervisors. As the fight becomes more ferocious, Rejas' search brings him ever closer to the guerilla leader. But when, amidst the chaos, he falls in love with his daughter's ballet teacher (Laura Morante), Rejas must choose between his heart, his country, and his own well-being.

Javier Bardem is Agustin Rejas, the man who stopped practicing law -- because it was too corrupt -- to become a police officer in Latin America. He is the hard-working, by-the-book cop who is chosen to lead the investigation for a ghost -- a man going by "Ezekial" is leading a revolution throughout the country, but he leaves no trace. The synopsis provided with the DVD mentions a love interest Rejas takes in his daughter's ballet teacher, which is true, but it is not the steamy romance you might deduce (from the title?). Whenever I read a storyline and see it cut to "he falls in love with," I am immediately afraid that the plot will suffer for it. I was worried for no reason this time. The relationship is thrown together rather quickly, but it serves a purpose so I hardly took notice, beyond it maybe suggesting that we are all a little corrupt.

My only complaint was the lack of development. Two things I would have enjoyed further depth were his relationship with his wife and why he craved this ballet teacher and why conditions were so bad in the country that a revolutionary leader could become such a hero to the people. Neither elaboration, however, was ultimately necessary to the story.

I really liked this movie. I have not enjoyed a low-budget thriller like this in quite a while; one that is successful for its story and not its big names nor its hollywood flare. And while they are not all that similar, you may enjoy this movie if you liked The Motorcycle Diaries.

Some scenes were pretty graphic, which leads me to reiterate the disclaimer I made for another film: In my experience it is very difficult to separate a movie from it's graphic elements. So please be aware, if not cautious, of those elements in this movie. In other words, I speak highly of this movie, but it is not for everyone.

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July 24th, 2008
HellboyJohn Myers: What makes a man a man? A friend of mine once wondered. Is it his origins? The way he comes to life? I don't think so. It's the choices he makes. Not how he starts things, but how he decides to end them.

Movie of the Month - August, 2008

July 22nd, 2008

Charlie Bartlett

Charlie BartlettAnton Yelchin (Alpha Dog) stars as Charlie Bartlett, who has been kicked out of every private school he ever attended. And now that he's moved on to public school, he's simply getting pummeled. But when Charlie discovers that the kids who surround him -- the outcast and the popular alike -- are secretly in desperate need, his entrepreneurial spirit takes over. Hanging up his shingle in the Boys' restroom, Charlie becomes and underground, not to mention under-aged, shrink who listens to private confessions of his schoolmates, and makes the imprudent decision to hand out the pills he's proffered from his own psychiatric sessions. Meanwhile, at home, Charlie keeps charming his way out of an inevitable confrontation with his adoring but utterly overwhelmed mother Marilyn (Hope Davis).

Then, Charlie Bartlett makes his big mistake: falling in love with the beautiful and bold daughter (Kat Dannings) of the school's increasingly disenchanted Principal (Robert Downey Jr.), who is hot on his trail. As Charlie Bartlett's world and fledgling psychiatric practice unravel, he begins to discover there's a whole lot more to making a difference than handing out pills.

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July 21st, 2008
Undercover BrotherUndercover Brother: Are you telling me there really is a "Man?"
Conspiracy Brother: What do you think? Things don't just happen by accident! Sometimes people - mostly white people - make things happen!
Undercover Brother: So the conspiracies we've believed for all these years are true? The NBA really did institute the three point shot to give white boys a chance?
Conspiracy Brother: Of course!
Undercover Brother: Then the entertainment industry really is out to get Spike Lee?
Conspiracy Brother: Come on man! Even Cher's won an Oscar! Cher!
Undercover Brother: Then O.J. really didn't do it?
...

In Bruges

July 15th, 2008

Link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0780536/

In BrugesColin Farrell and Academy Award-nominee Ralph Fiennes star in this edgey, action-packed comedy, filled with thrilling chases, spectacular shoot outs and an explosive ending you won't want to miss!

Hit men Ray (Farrell) and Ken (Brendan Gleeson, Harry Potter) have been ordered to cool their heels in the storybook city of Bruges (it's in Belgium) after finishing a big job. But since hit men make the worst tourists, they soon find themselves in a life-and-death struggle of comic proportions against one very angry crime boss (Fiennes)!

Get ready for the outrageous and unpredictable fun you will have In Bruges, the movie critics are calling "wildly entertaining" -- Stephen Rebello, Playboy.

Two hitmen check into a hotel in Bruges, Belgium for a two week hideout after they completed a "job." While in Bruges they are instructed to see the sights and soak in the city's charm by day and be by the phone awaiting the boss's next instruction at night. The two men, Ray (Colin Farrell) and Ken (Brendon Gleeson), could hardly be more of the odd couple. Ray is the brash young man who feels that Bruges has nothing to offer except beer that he cannot enjoy because they have to stay in the hotel at night. Ken is older, completely appreciates the "fairytale" character of the city and has no desire to act contrarily to the instructions they were given. Besides being partners, what they do have in common is that they are clearly outsiders In Bruges.

This movie was sad, funny, maybe too graphic, a little ridiculous at the end, and not nearly the action flick that the synopsis might suggest. I enjoyed how the movie was about two men who kill for money, yet it was not about them killing anyone for money. I thought Farrell and Gleeson worked together very well, and particularly enjoyed Colin Farrell's contribution to the film.

I was surprised that Ralph Fiennes, a bigger name than his body of work might warrant recently, took a role that doesn't even come on-screen until nearly the end. I like him and I think he does great work which carried into this film. His part was simply an exaggerated power-hungry crime boss, which may help explain my earlier claim that the movie gets a little ridiculous at the end.

As the table turns towards the end of the movie and the characters show themselves to be more complex than they previously let on, the movie matured along their side. I thought there was a great contrast between the beginning and the end of the movie. I liked In Bruges from start to finish, and I find myself looking back on it more fondly even now.

I recommend this movie with the following disclaimer: In my experience it is very difficult to separate a movie from it's graphic elements. So please be aware, if not cautious, of those elements in this movie. In other words, I speak highly of this movie, but it is not for everyone.

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