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Easy A (2010)

The rumors of my promiscuity have been greatly exaggerated.

— Olive Penderghast

Easy A is one of those that I wanted to see, but I was hesitant to watch. Maybe because that is could have sucked, just another chick flick or maybe the high praise for the movie would give me high expectations for it. A friend of mine wanted to watch the movie via Netflix Watch Instantly while I was over at her place. The movie was surprisingly good.

Olive Penderghast (Emma Stone) is a typical high schooler. She doesn’t belong to a particular clique. She wants to find a date. She is interested in long-time friend, Todd (Penn Badgely) who is the school mascot, the Woodchuck, but she is too chicken to tell him how she feels.

Olives lies to her best friend, Rhiannon (Alyson Michalka) about going on a “date” to get out of a dorky camping trip thrown by her parents, Rosemary (Patricia Clarkson) and Dill (Stanley Tucci)  to stay home alone. When Olive is grilled about the date until she lies to Rhiannon that lost her virginity to a college guy.

The news spread throughout the school like a virus when the ultra-conservative Marianne (Amanda Bynes) overhears what Olive said. The Christian group at school, which Marianne is the leader, want to help Olive and go to the English teacher, Mr. Griffith (Thomas Haden Church) to talk about the shame she should feel when they are discussing Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter.”

The kids at school suggest that she should wear an “A” on her chest, which she takes it as a challenge. Instead of being on the defensive about the rumor to stop it, Olive put more fuel on the fire. She changes her clothing and wears the A on her chest proudly.

A couple of the boys from school try to take advantages of Olive’s supposed reputation by paying her in gift cards to tell the school that they had slept with her. The fun and games are over when the accusations become out of Olive’s and could destroy other people’s lives.

The movie reminded me that I miss Dawson’s Creek. You have these kids that have this dialogue that no one would eve say, but it works in this movie. The dialogue is fucking hilarious. I wish that I could have been in that high school where everybody is cool and new age from the adults to the students to Olive’s adopted brother, Chip (Bryce Clyde Jenkins).

I really enjoyed this movie until the last act of the movie where it got into familiar territory that bugged me.

Judgment: This movie could be the next Clueless.

Rating: 8/10

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The Untouchables (1987)

I want you to get this fuck where he breathes! I want you to find this nancy-boy Eliot Ness, I want him DEAD! I want his family DEAD! I want his house burned to the GROUND! I wanna go there in the middle of the night and I wanna PISS ON HIS ASHES.

— Al Capone

I was so excited that The Untouchables was being shown on BBC America over the weekend. I have not seen the film in a while. Distance makes the heart grow fonder. This is the movie that brought Sean Connery the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. Some people think that Brian De Palma is a hack director, but you cannot tell that the shootout in the train station was not an exercise of tension, suspense and keeping the audience at the edge of their seats.

The Untouchables is the big screen version of the 1950s television series that explored the adventures of Special Agent of the Treasury Department, Detective Eliot Ness (Kevin Costner) abiding by the laws that he swore to uphold.

He has trouble doing this because 1930s Los Angeles is filled with corruption, violence and murder. The main culprit is the notorious gangster Al Capone (Robert De Niro) that has the police department and the judicial system on his payroll. Ness believes that he has the intel on a shipment of Canadian whiskey ordered by Capone. It turns out to be a ruse and Ness has egg on his face.

Ostracized at the force, Ness has a chances meeting with a beat cop named Jim Malone (Connery) who turns out to be a mentor to him. Ness wants to form a new task force with some unlikely characters like a mousey accountant that was hired to look into Capone’s books, Oscar Wallace (Charles Martin Smith) or a fresh recruit that has a dead on shot, George Stone (Andy Garcia). They form the titular team.

They begin to taken down Al Capone’s liquor hideouts. Capone is not happy and wants to make Ness’ life a living hell.

I am a sucker for period action films with gangsters, liquor and tommy guns.

Judgment: This movie is perfect for me. I think this is a guy film like The Shawshank Redemption and Fight Club.

Rating: 8/10

Far From Heaven (2002)

Oh, Raymond, Mrs. Whitaker sounds so formal! Won’t you please… ask me to dance?

— Cathy Whitaker

Writer/director, Todd Haynes wanted to make an homage of the Douglas Dirk bedroom melodramas of the 1950s. He created Far From Heaven, which garnered Julianne Moore another Oscar nomination for Best Actress. It was also nominated for Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography and Best Original Score. This was my favorite film of 2002 and I still stand by it.

This story is about a typical American family on the surface. There is the breadwinner of this Connecticut family, Frank Whitaker (Dennis Quaid) who is one of the sales executives at a company called Magnatech. His wife, Cathy (Moore) is the perfect homemaker that reminds you of Donna Reed. She juggles her wifely duties as mother to David (Ryan Ward) and Janice (Lindsay Andretta). Cathy is assisted by her trusty housekeeper, Sybil (Viola Davis) who watches the kids when has an errand to run or plans a cocktail party with her friend, Eleanor (Patricia Clarkson).

During the night of one of Cathy’s planned soirees, she is pulled from attending when she receives a call to pick up her husband from the police station for an incident earlier in the evening. On the drive home, the audience realizes that there are cracks in the foundation of the Whitaker marriage. Cathy tries her best to be close to her husband, who brushes her off. She concludes that it is just stress from work.

A reporter from the Weekly Gazette, Mrs. Leacock (Bette Henritze) comes by the house to interview Cathy for the couple being named Mr. and Mrs. Magnatech 1957. Cathy’s attention is distracted when a strange man is lurking in her backyard. She goes to see Raymond Deagan (Dennis Haysbert), the son of their old gardener who recently passed away. He is their new gardener and they introduce each other.

Frank pulls himself away from his family by diving head first into a big project that he has to do for work, going to the movies or hanging out in back alley bars. Cathy is jealous that her girlfriends could be intimate with their husbands and hers barely shows her any affection.

During another late night working for Frank, Cathy decides to take his dinner over to his office. When she arrives, she is in for the shock of her life when she sees Frank kissing another man. She is devastated as her seemingly perfect life is crumbling down around her.

Can I say that I love this movie? I love this movie. I’m not familiar with the bedroom melodramas of Sirk’s, but this movie makes me want to visit those movies that inspired this one. Todd Hayes created a fantastic movie with the classic title sequence and end credit, the luscious cinematography, the marvelous score by Elmer Bernstein, Sandy Powell’s costumes, the vibrant colors and the type of film Hayes used. It feels authentic, like it was a lost movie from that time. The subjects addressed in this film would be too taboo for audiences to see.

I want to highlight Haynes words. His original script was very nuanced. No word felt out of place. Being delivered by these wonderful actors is something to marvel. Moore was radiant. She portrayed Cathy as a typical housewife, but she has progressive feelings for the Negroes or women’s rights. With Cathy’s world was crumbling around her, she put on a brave face covering her inner pain. Moore was subdued in her portrayal of Cathy that I was rooting for her to win the Oscar, but she was denied.

A special mention has to go Dennis Quaid who I thought was robbed for a nomination for Best Supporting Actor and I continue to talk about the egregious error to this day. He was so good playing a tortured husband torn between the way society wants him and how he is feeling on the inside.

Judgment: Bravo, Todd Haynes for creating this very skilful work for us to revel in.

Rating: *****

Shutter Island (2010)

I wonder, is it better to live like a monster, or die a good man?

— Teddy Daniels

Martin Scorsese’s latest movie Shutter Island, which stands as the 197th movie on the Top 250 of All-Time on IMDb, has been getting a bad rap since its studio, Paramount decide to move the release date of the movie from October 2009 to February 2010, because it couldn’t afford the Oscar campaign for the picture. I call bullshit on that. This could mean certain death for a film not being remember a whole year from now. This is the fourth collaboration of Scorsese and lead actor Leonardo DiCaprio. Even though the movie is highly predictable, I still enjoyed the majority of the ride.

Based on the novel by Dennis Lehane, former WWII soldier/U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels (DiCaprio) and his new partner Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) travel by boat to Shutter Island, which is a home of Ashcliffe, the prison for the criminally insane. They are met by Deputy Marshal McPherson (John Carroll Lynch) who them that they have to surrender their firearms. They take a tour of the complex which has separate wards for men, women prisoners and an old Civil War era, Building C that houses the most dangerous criminals.

The team meets the head psychiatrist of the institution; Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley) to investigate the disappearance of a patient that mysteriously escaped from her cell, who killed her kids, Rachel Solando. She is loose somewhere on the island, because there is no way for her to escape the island without drowning.

Searching through her cell, Teddy fines a piece of paper in her room that has “The law of 4. Who is 67?” scribbled on it. In order to try to find out the circumstances surrounding the escapee, Teddy and Chuck want to interview the staff. Dr. Cawley and Dr. Naehring (Max von Sydow) doesn’t want the investigators to rummage through the staffs personal files. Teddy wants to leave immediately.

The more time that Teddy spends on the island he has flashbacks of an incident when he was a soldier in WWII liberating a Dachau concentration camp or his life with her wife, Dolores (Michelle Williams) that was killed years earlier.

A massive hurricane hits the island and the prisoners try to escape the island, Teddy comes to realization when Rachel is found that they are 66 patients on the island, but Rachel implies there is a 67th patient. Who is that patient?

I thought the performances were very good, especially DiCaprio, Jackie Earle Haley and Patricia Clarkson.

I thought that the score was unnecessary in the beginning segments of the film. I guess, Scorsese wanted to set the mood. It was ear deafening. The biggest problem of the movie is the twist. Watching the trailers lately, they talk about the twist ending. The twist you could predict thirty minutes into the movie. I wasn’t a surprise at all, but I was half right about it. There was another sharp turn that I didn’t see coming.

Judgment: This movie was mess with your mind until the very end.

Rating: ****

FB Recommendation: The Station Agent (2003)

It’s funny how people see me and treat me, since I’m really just a simple, boring person.

— Finbar McBride

It has been a long time since I have given an FB Recommendation to a film. This time around I offer actor Tom McCarthy’s debut movie, The Station Agent. When this movie was released in 2003, there was considerable buzz surrounding the film. It was nominated for numerous awards including the Independent Spirit Awards and Screen Actor Guild Awards. Too bad that the Oscars didn’t recognize this gem of a movie.

An introverted dwarf, Finbar McBride (Peter Dinklage) inherits a train depot in Newfoundland, New Jersey when a business partner suddenly dies from a heart attack. Finbar is perfectly content with this lonely existence when he meets Joe (Bobby Cannavale) who sells Cuban food out of his father’s truck. Joe is an annoyance for Finbar who doesn’t want anything to do with him.

Walking down a windy road one day, Finbar is almost run over by Olivia (Patricia Clarkson). Olivia tries to apologize to Finbar, but like with Joe, he doesn’t want to have any contact with her. These three souls come together in an organic way and learn what make each other tick.

The longer Finbar stays in Newfoundland, the more his world expands with him befriending the pregnant librarian Emily (Michelle Williams) or a chubby black girl, Cleo (Raven Goodwin).

This movie is much understated. It’s not trying to jam social issues down your throat. It’s not trying to overtly indie with it’s look or story. A quiet movie has nuanced performances from all of the actors involved.

Rating: ****1/2

Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)


Here is another movie that have been nominated for 4 Golden Globes recently. Best Actor for Javier Bardem, Best Actress for Rebecca Hall, Best Supporting Actress for Penélope Cruz and Best Picture – Comedy.

This is a movie that I actually liked. It was showing at one movie theater here in Houston. I saw the movie yesterday.

This movies is the latest Woody Allen movie in European tour after he abandoned his beloved New York City behind a couple of years ago. After I was disappointed with his latest efforts, I was surprised that I loved this film. I heard that Allen was offered some money from the Spanish government to film a movie there. Here Vicky Cristina Barcelona is born.

The movie is about a pair of friends, Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) visiting Barcelona for a couple of months. Vicky is a timid college student that is studying the Catalan culture of Spain. She is engaged to Doug (Chris Messina) that is working in New York. Cristina is free-spirited woman that does not want to led a boring life. She is trying to find herself and passion for something more in life.

They stay in the house of Vicky’s distant relative, Judy Nash (Patricia Clarkson) and her husband, Mark(Kevin Dunn).

One night when they are out at an art gallery, they meet a broodingly handsome painter, Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem). Cristina is immediately attracted to him. Out to dinner, they run into Juan Antonio, who blatantly propositions them to a threesome at his house in Oviedo. Vicky brutally rebuffs him, but Cristina is gung-ho about bedding down a total stranger.

Eventually, romantic entanglements occur between Vicky and Juan Antonio, Cristina and Juan Antonio and also between Cristina, Juan Antonio and his spitfire ex-wife, Maria Elena (Penélope Cruz).

Everybody was salivating with the kiss between Cristina and Maria Elena. It was very sweet. Nothing sexual.

During the course of the film, the personalities between Cristina and Vicky switch. Cristina wants to be in a monogamous relationship with Juan Antonio, but Maria Elena is a complication in the matter. Vicky takes a chance at being reckless with her relationship toward Juan Antonio and her engagement to Doug.

I liked this movie better than “Scoop” or “Cassandra’s Dream.” It was on par with “Match Point.” The scenery was wonderful. It reminded me of the time when I visited Spain over a decade ago. Fond memories.

I will say that I have a problem with the narration by Christopher Evan Welch. It does not need to be in this movie. I think it was very lazy in that respect. Why can’t we have silence? Contemplation? I wanted to have that period to reflect the action of action. I don’t need everything being spelled out to me.

Lastly, I think that Woody Allen did a disservice for the Spanish characters in this movie. The male as the stereotypical Latin lover/Lothario character and the female as the spitfire. Really, Woody? We have seen these archetypes again and again.

My rating: ***1/2 stars.

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