Archive for August, 2010

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REVIEW: Remember Me (2010)

August 11, 2010

First off, let me just say that I’m the kind of person who doesn’t excel at being particularly objective when trying to choose a movie to watch. If you’ve read any of my previews, then you know that I scrutinize a lot of specific things when I’m deciding whether I think a movie will turn out to be worth 90+ of my minutes. In fact, I very rarely see movies with an entirely open mind at first and it’s often difficult for me to eliminate all of my preconceptions before I sit down to watch something. So being that I am a 16-year old male, you can imagine what kind of prejudices were hanging out in the back corner of my mind when I settled down to watch Remember Me– a film that looked like a sequel to Dear John with none other than that overnight-phenomenon, Twilight heartthrob leading the show. That being said…

Remember Me is not a unique romantic drama. Nor is it a special romantic drama. In fact, it’s really not a romantic drama at all. It is the story of the lives of two 21-year old New Yorkers who are still dealing with their grief over deceased family members. One is Tyler Hawkins (Robert Pattinson), a lost and rebellious bookstore employee who blames his dad for his older brother’s suicide and is “undecided about everything”. The other is Ally Craig (Emilie de Ravin), a college student who witnessed her mother’s murder at a young age and now lives with her overprotective cop father (Chris Cooper), living her life to the fullest and eating dessert before her entree at every dinner in order to make sure that if she were ever to meet an untimely death during her meal, she would at least have made it to one final indulgence.

The film focuses primarily on Tyler, observing the many problems he must endure, ranging from coping with the inescapable memory of the loss of his brother; an 11-year old art-prodigy sister (Ruby Jerins) who is unfairly teased and tormented by her classmates; and a cold, distant father (Pierce Brosnan) who ignores him and his sister both… to the troublemaking antics of his roommate, Aidan (Tate Ellington), and a broken deadbolt.

After his inability to keep his mouth shut lands him and roommate Aidan in jail for a night- courtesy of none other than Ally’s father himself, Tyler makes a deal with Aidan to sleep with Ally and then subsequently leave her to get revenge on her father. Of course, this devious and mean-spirited ploy sets into motion a relationship that transcends all of Tyler’s childish intentions, but at the same time, brings even more troubles into his life.

As I mentioned before, despite misleading trailers and marketing campaigns, this film is not primarily a romantic drama. While it’s certainly difficult to convince one of this notion with words alone (and given what seems to be a very romantic drama-ish plot), it’s an important reminder to remember when seeing the film. Many- both common moviegoers and critics- have cited their disappointment with the movie’s ending because it supposedly strayed from the film’s romantic tendencies. However, the ending reveals the movie’s true essence and conveys its intended message. In an effort to keep the review spoiler-free, I will refrain from elaborating on the ending any more, because- while I won’t guarantee that your viewing experience will be undermined by knowing the nature of the ending ahead of time- it is certainly crucial to the intended impact of the film that you don’t know about it beforehand. I’ll get to more on my thoughts about the ending later, for those of you who have seen the movie already.

In other departments, the film hardly ever excels above and beyond a simply decent production, however, certain aspects absolutely exceeded my expectations. Robert Pattinson’s acting didn’t blow me away, but managed to reconcile him from my list of actors who don’t deserve to be in the industry at all (if you’re wondering who’s still stranded on that unforgivable list… Zac Efron, Gerard Butler, Jessica Alba, Megan Fox, and Keanu Reeves are just a few of the top candidates I would vote out of the Hollywood tribe). I’m not about to jump the bandwagon of spellbound tweenage girls and run out to buy an Edward Cullen poster to plaster on my wall, but I will say that I was impressed with his abilities here. It’s true that he’s one of the best at brooding and sulking and even if that’s all he’s great at, at least it’s something. Emilie de Ravin isn’t quite as exceptional, but still puts in a strong performance. In the grand scheme of things, Chris Cooper and young rising star Ruby Jerins (she’s a regular in Nurse Jackie, but I’m now convinced she deserves an even bigger role in the near future) were the standout performers in my opinion as the loving but conflicted father and the misunderstood, too-mature-for-her-age sister. Pierce Brosnan, too, is exceptional in a way that makes you incapable of resisting your inner urge to hate his character and then find yourself sympathizing with him just a little bit, even if you don’t want to.

Some interactions breed a tad too much melodrama, the writing is far from flawless, and the dialogue is not without the occasional line that borders the edge of too-cutesy-to-hold-back-the-laughter, but these are all things you have to expect (not necessarily forgive) in a film that deals heavily with the relationship of two 21-year olds. For first time writer Will Fetters (who finished most of the script several years ago when he was only 22) and small-time-experience director Allen Coulter, the execution and production value of the film are enough to engage you for its full 113 minute runtime and feel satisfied with the time you spent. But if there’s any one element that sets it a step ahead of most other films of a similar nature (other than, of course, the ending… which I still can not ruin for those who haven’t seen it), it’s probably the film’s ability to feel genuine on many of its several layers. More than anything, the relationship between Tyler and his sister is admirably real and the chemistry between the two actors is particularly apparent. And on a greater scale, almost the entire cast give performances that feel collectively authentic, which is perhaps what allows the movie to create the meaningful effect that it does and leave you stunned by the ending.

In the end, the product that Coulter, Fetters, and their noteworthy cast accomplish is a well-constructed and– dare I say– captivating story of the lives of seemingly real New York individuals and the ways they deal with their unfortunate hardships and interactions, without pretending to give us the answers to our own problems or ostentatiously displaying to the audience how relationships are supposed to work. It’s flawed, but its strong points outweigh the weak ones, giving it the weight it requires to make an impact.

P.S.  If you’re interested in my take on the ending and my VERY mercilessly critical response to the way in which critics and many viewers have reacted to it, stay tuned for a later update in a lengthy, unrestrained, editorial-like style. It will come with a sufficiently sized spoiler alert, as I do STRONGLY advise those who have yet to see the film to avoid spoiling the ending for yourselves and make an effort to see it.

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QUOTES: Wise Words of the Week (Kevin Spacey)

August 9, 2010

This is a short little segment that I’ll hopefully be able to stick to doing almost if not every week. I’ll pick a topic, director, or actor and provide some of the funniest or some of the most profound and interesting quotes from films pertaining to that particular subject.

Each week, feel free to use the comment section to share your favorite quotes, weigh in on my decisions, and point out particularly good ones I may have missed.

For week #1, I thought I’d take one of my favorite actors, Kevin Spacey, and showcase some of his better quotes. If I could frame that last one and put it up on my wall, I’d probably love it even more. What a brilliantly clever piece of writing.

“Happiness. Happiness is a word for a feeling. Feelings are rarely understood; in a moment they are quickly forgotten and misremembered.” — Henry Carter, Shrink

“The only thing worse than a loser is someone who won’t admit he played badly.”
— Mickey Rosa, 21

Living by your wants will never make you happy; what it means to be fully human is to strive to live by ideas and ideals and not to measure your life by what you ever attain in terms of your desires but those small moments of integrity, compassion, rationality, even self-sacrifice.”
— David Gale, The Life of David Gale

Even your Buddha and your Christ had quite a different vision. But nobody’s paid much attention to them, not even your Buddhists and your Christians.”
— Prot, K-PAX

I guess I could be pretty pissed off about what happened to me… but it’s hard to stay mad, when there’s so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I’m seeing it all at once, and it’s too much, my heart fills up like a balloon that’s about to burst… And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain and I can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life.”
— Lester Burnham, American Beauty

Wanting people to listen, you can’t just tap them on the shoulder anymore. You have to hit them with a sledgehammer, and then you’ll notice you’ve got their strict attention.”
— John Doe, Se7en

The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he did not exist.”
— Verbal Kint, The Usual Suspects

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POLL: What has been the best movie of 2010 so far? (Pick up to 3)

August 9, 2010

With the resurrection of the blog, comes a new poll!

Over half of the year has gone by now (more like flown by at high speeds) and although I have been severely disappointed with the lack of quality films that we’ve seen– particularly compared to last year’s great output, we’ve seen some good ones and even a few great ones already. It’s been a slow summer for Hollywood, but here’s to hoping that the best ones were saved for the end of the year.

I still have many of the more limited release films to catch up with and also some of the bigger ones too. In time, that will be fixed and I’ll post my Best of 2010 list for thus far. Until then, cast your vote and let your voice be heard about the which movies you think have been the best yet. There are 12 options, with 3 available choices per vote. Sadly, there wasn’t enough space to add ALL of the movies that should maybe be in contention for the title, but I tried to include the more popular ones.

Click “read more” just below and vote there or use the poll at the bottom of the right sidebar (on any page of the site). Add comments if you wish (by selecting “View Comments” at the bottom of the poll once you’ve voted)! Feedback is always greatly appreciated.

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REVIEW: Roger Dodger (2002)

August 8, 2010

Jesse Eisenberg’s first ever major film, Roger Dodger, is a unique coming-of-age story with enough simplicity on the surface and enough complexity beneath it to take the form of an impressively entertaining study of the social interactions between men and women. As writer/director Dylan Kidd’s first project and winner of the Best Feature Film Award at the first ever Tribeca Film Festival in 2002, this surprisingly well-done little gem will leave you wondering why it wasn’t a bigger commercial success and why Jesse Eisenberg (Zombieland, The Social Network) is the only member of its production that you still see in the business on a regular basis. (No discredit to Jesse; if there’s anything Roger Dodger does reinforce, it’s the fact that he deserves every bit of success that he’s achieved).

“Sex is everywhere,” Roger Swanson, played by the show-stealing Campbell Scott (Dying Young, Big Night), tells his socially lost, 16-year old nephew, Nick (Eisenberg). Nick has traveled alone to New York City in the hopes of convincing his smooth-talking Uncle Roger into teaching him the ways of seduction so that he might end his romantic troubles by finally getting a girl and losing his virginity. While Roger is overwhelmingly cynical, incessantly arrogant, and often brutally forthright (blatantly exemplified by the motto he applies to the advertising business– “You can’t sell a product without first making people feel bad”), there is no one who knows the rules of the game better. He solidifies his tactics with an impeccable track record; he takes a woman home “every night”.

Originally reluctant to open up his one man band to the prospect of apprenticeship, Roger agrees to spread his wisdom to Nick. What follows is a night out in the city that never sleeps in a crash course in charming women. From hilariously ridiculous scenes of the two scouting out women on the streets to unexpectedly profound conversations at a bar, the night proves to be an open examination of these two previously mysterious characters.

However, the movie is far from simply a character study. While Scott’s and Eisenberg’s performances are near-perfect, the execution of the film ensures that its value is not dependent upon the quality of the acting. Behind a simple plot and seemingly simple characters is a noteworthy script that delivers witty, realistic dialogue and intriguing conversations. Free from hollywood-ized n0nsense and feel-good drivel, the scenes between the two guys and the two women they engage at a bar are perhaps the film’s best, showcasing not only Roger’s subtle tricks and Nick’s charming innocence, but also the natural chemistry between Scott and Eisenberg and the vulnerabilities they both carefully expose with their characters.

The chaotic events of the night lead to an ending that, while it strays slightly from the tone of the rest of the movie and perhaps comes a bit too suddenly, is perfectly raw and unexpected. I can’t remember being more satisfied with an ending in a good while.

All in all, Roger Dodger teaches the common moviegoer that not all good indie flicks have to be about vibrant colors, trendy folk music, and quirky families (Little Miss Sunshine, Juno). And more importantly, this smart man’s American Pie (even if that sounds like an oxymoron) proves that not every coming-of-age, cherry-popping comedy (or maybe more dramedy, in this case) has to be sullied with sloppy and overdone high school stereotypes, eye-rolling dialogue, and unlikable characters of both genders.

I’m hooked, Jesse. Keep making movies.

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The Resurrection (Take Two)

August 7, 2010

Marker_Take2After the Motion Picture Underground began a second span of inactivity back in February, I’m sure all of you were terribly upset and, more importantly, curious as to what could have possibly pulled me away from such a well-paying job for so long. As rumors started to break loose and CNN, the Washington Post, and US Weekly all got a hold of the story, I’m sure that all of you- one way or another- eventually heard about everything that happened in these last 5 months. I will assume that you have read most of the details and seen my interviews on Dateline, Oprah, and 60 Minutes, so I will quickly skim over the story for all of those who have lived under a rock for recent periods of time.

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