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Away We Go (2009)

Sam Mendes has made some exceptional films in his ten-year career. I thought that after the release of Revolutionary Road, he would wait three years to have another film come out. He surprised me when he deviated from the heavy dramas to do the comedy, Away We Go. I was looking forward to this movie last summer, but I was heavy into my Classic Movie Month that I missed this movie. I’m glad I did, but it not up to par with some of his other films.

A young unmarried couple in their early thirties, Burt and Verona (John Krasinski, Maya Rudolph) are living in a dilapidated mobile home near Burt’s parents, Gloria and Jerry Farlander (Catherine O’Hara, Jeff Daniels) when they realized that they are expecting their first baby. They are living nearby so that their child could be near their grandparents. The problem is that parents drop an atomic bomb on them by saying that they are living the country to go to Belgium for two years.

Burt and Verona decide to go on a cross-country trip to fins a suitable place to raise child. Their first stop is Phoenix where the two meet’s Verona’s former co-worker, Lily (Alison Janney) at a local dog track, who tries to be hip with her out dated lingo and brash comments about her deflated boobs and her “dykey” daughter. They an awkward conversation with Lily’s husband, Lowell (Jim Gaffigan) about some random subject that you don’t give two shits about.

On to the next city, the couple visit Verona’s younger sister in Tucson, Grace (Carmen Ejogo) where Verona confides to her that she is scared about commitment and raising their child because their parents died a decade earlier and that Verona doesn’t want to talk about it.

After the brief visit, they have to take a train to see Burt’s hippie “cousin” Ln Fisher-Herrin (Maggie Gylleenhaal) in Madison. She is a free spirit that shares a communal bed with her husband, Roderick (Josh Hamilton) and their two kids, Wolfie and Neptune (Bailey Harkins, Brendan and Jaden Spitz). Over dinner, they clash about their differing philosophies about parenting styles. Yadda, yadda, yadda.

Final stop on their weird jounrye is to Montreal where they meet Verona’s old college roommates, Tom and Munch Garrett (Chris Messina, Melanie Lynskey) who are Brangelina-like without the fame and fortune. They have mini-United nations that are mourning the loss of another baby by miscarriage. (Damn, that was depressing to write.) They think that want to move to Montreal, but they might have second thoughts when a family emergency happens.

The movie is uncomfortable to watch. It’s brutal good, it’s brutal weird. There is some semblance of brilliance, particularly with Rudolph’s character as she is tortured by trying to reconcile with her parent while not having control of her family’s future.

I didn’t like Krasinski’s character of Burt. He is a big clueless doofus that you wonder how he could be fully functioning person that doesn’t know the difference between cobbling and carving to be a good father to the baby. Next, most of the people that they meet on their journey are unmemorable. They are just weird, fucked up people that should examined by a professional.

I think that Mendes tried too hard to make this movie look indie. He had the tropes of a typical indie with the character staring blankly at the camera where the rest of the world passing by them, the awkward exchanges in a car, the dramatic monologue at the ends where a character has an epiphany and has to pontificate about it or have overtly-eccentric characters that are caricatures.

I didn’t hate the movie. I’m glad I watched it but it need to trim the fat a bit. Flesh out some of the characters.

Judgment: I don’t if I can recommended this movie. Maybe for Sam Mendes’ fans. I guess.

Rating: ***

Up in the Air (2009)

The stars will wheel forth from their daytime hiding places; and one of those lights, slightly brighter than the rest, will be my wingtip passing over.

— Ryan Bingham

Jason Reitman’s latest film is getting considerable awards attention as of late. I was surprised that it was playing at my local theater. Going into the movie, I didn’t want to have too much expectation of it, because I might be disappointed with it. Ultimately, the movie is a wake-up call that people cannot live a solitary life.

Based on the book by Walter Kirn, Up in the Air tells the story of Ryan Bingham (George Clooney), an “executive efficiency expert”, which is a fancy term for a mediator that a company hires to fire their employees without doing the firing themselves. He is ultimately content in his life living from Hilton hotel to Hilton hotel, renting cars from Hertz and living out of one nicely packed carry-on. He travels 322 days out of the year and he wants to rack up many flier miles that he can so he could reach his ultimate goal of ten million miles that six people accomplished before.

His life takes a detour at a hotel bar when he meets the vivacious Alex (Vera Farmiga) who literally charms the pants off of him. She is on the same boat as Ryan. They both enjoy the allure of racking up frequent flyer miles and keeping up with multiple membership cards. They both have an understanding their relationship is strictly casual to where they intersect on their different travel schedules.

His boss, Craig Gregory (Jason Bateman), calls Ryan back to home base at the Career Transition Corporation, where he lets the other experts knows that their face-to-face methodology is obsolete. A young Cornell grad student named Natalie Keener (Anna Kendrick) shows the experts that a better way to be more efficient is to fire people via e-conference.

This does not sit well with Ryan, whose whole livelihood is built around not being grounded in one place for too long. Craig thought that it would be best for Ryan is bring Natalie along on his firing runs so she could better prepare the technology before Ryan becomes irrelevant.

For a man that doesn’t want to have anybody is his life, these two women, Alex and Natalie start to become a chink in his armor. He slowly begins to realize that his life is all that is it cracked up to be. He needs to face reality and have a human reconnection with somebody.

The movie is like a plane taking off. Sorry for the metaphor, but go with me on this. When it gets off the ground, it’s a little bumpy. It steadily gets better as it progresses toward the end. I did have a problem with the motivations of Alex. I can’t explain it here. Watch for it in the spoiler section.

The performances were solid across the board. Clooney was basically playing himself expect he was more cold and distant about how he doesn’t care about the countless lives that he change. Farmiga showed subtle exuberance in her approach of the love interest that tickles Ryan’s fancy. Kendrick was a small fish going into a ocean full of piranhas, but she is a scrappy girl that is not afraid to tell it like it is.

Judgment: This movie is a relevant take on if bad things happen, good things come around the corner.

Rating: ****1/2

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Coyote Ugly (2000)

The Party Never Ends.

Flipping through the channels, I caught the middle part of Coyote Ugly yesterday morning. This is another movie that I love that it is so campy and fun. It’s not Oscar-caliber material, but it’s fun fluff.

It tells the story of Violet Sanford (Piper Perabo. What a name, huh?), an aspiring songwriter with a debilitating case of stage fright, struggling to make it big in New York City. When she moves to the city, she gets robbed and the money she has been saving was stolen as well.

She needs a way to make money. When she is at a diner, she overhears at the next table that one of the Coyotes, Zoe (Tyra Banks) is leaving to go to college to become a lawyer.

She seeks out the place called “Coyote Ugly”. She sees that it is a bar run by women. Violet is hired by Lil (Maria Bello) to replace Zoe. She meets the other Coyotes; the seductress, Cammie (Izabella Miko), the gruff Rachel (Bridget Moynahan), who thinks that Violet doesn’t have to chops to stay.

Violet’s inevitable love interest is Kevin O’Donnell, played by the delicious Adam Garcia. On first impression, she thinks that he is a big-time music manager, but it turns out that he is a short order cook. He tries to coax her out of her shell by the end of the movie.

The ending is predictable, but it’s fun. They try to make the impossible dream possible. It’s just a movie. Not everything is going to work out in the end.

Judgment: If you want to see a nice, fluffy movie, then check this one out.

Rating: ***

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