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DRINKING BUDDIES is brewed with care

20 Jan

DRINKING-BUDDIES

Sometimes love is all about timing, Kate (Olivia Wilde) and Luke (Jake Johnson) are co-workers at Chicago brewery. They are best friends that like to drink and flirt with one another, but struggle with romantic feelings because they are dating other people. Writer and director by Joe Swanberg gives a different, but realistic look at relationships that go on in the restaurant industry. Their connection resonated with me, even though I spend my time on the other side of the bar. The actors’ portrayal becomes dynamic when alcohol becomes part of the equation. It looses the characters up and blurs the emotional reactions in the process.  Actions speak louder than words, and this film’s best scenes are those moments of silence. Like most bar relationships, I am left with wishing there was more to it.  Drinking Buddies is brewed with care, but I did not want to order another round.

WORD COUNT: 150

Adam’s Grade: B

Chuck’s Grade: N/A

Upside Down stays in the middle

11 Oct

UPSIDE-DOWN-FILM

I loved the premise of the sci-fi film, Upside Down from writer/director Juan Diego Solanas, but the film gets stuck in a middle ground because it does not have an identifiable antagonist for the hero character, Adam(Jim Sturgess) to overcome. Instead, a predictable love story unfolds amongst a backdrop of amazing circumstances. His love interest Eden (Kirsten Dunst) is pleasant and their relationship is nice, but it seems insignificant compared to the dominating visual effectS. I think it was a valiant attempt at something great. The idea of two planets with opposing gravitational forces was exciting, even though I needed a quick science lesson at the beginning of the film to answer the obvious questions an audience would have after 15 minutes. However, the main story, like gravity pulls the film down.

WORD COUNT: 131

Chuck’s Grade: C+

Adam’s Grade: N/A

Starlet shines

26 Sep

STARLET-FILM

The title hints to the world that will be explored in this film, but it does not prepare you from the reality of the situation, until you are fully invested in Jane’s (Dree Hemingway) likeable character. She is a working adult film actress that befriends an elderly woman, Sadie (Besedka Johnson). Initially, her motivation is fueled by guilt, but their relationship develops into something much more than an ordinary friendship. The given circumstances will appear strange and uncomfortable to mainstream audiences, but there is something about Jane’s character that allows audiences to forgive her poor choices, at least temporarily. Director Sean Baker makes some bold choices that most filmmakers would never consider, but he successfully executes his vision in a way that keeps people talking about the characters and their relationships, as opposed to reducing the film to a single scene. Starlet shines.

WORD COURT: 143

Chuck’s Grade: B+

Adam’s Grade: B

WARNING: This film contains strong sexual content.

Zodiac is an elusive subject to capture

25 Sep

ZODIAC-FILM

Director David Fincher makes an attempt to capture the most elusive and mysterious figure in law enforcement history. He is no stranger to serial killers, but his interpretation of Zodiac by Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal) gives audiences a front row seat to Graysmith’s obsession with the infamous case that terrorized Northern California and frustrated investigators for decades.

Fincher’s visual style and attention to detail are impeccable. He takes his time with the characters and attempts to replicate these events as accurately as possible from Graysmith’s perspective, but it does lead to a slow pace and a long run time. The cast is formidable, however, Gyllenhaal’s performance isn’t nearly as strong  as Mark Ruffalo as Detective Dave Toschi and Robert Downey Jr. as Paul Avery.  It is difficult to satisfy audiences with such an ending, but Fincher remains true to the story and keeps “Hollywood” out of it as much as possible.

WORD COUNT: 151

Adam’s Grade: B+

Chuck’s Grade: B

Requiem for a Dream is a hard truth

24 Sep

REQUIEM-FOR-A-DREAM

Requiem for a Dream consumes your mind, body and soul like a drug and holds onto to you after the final credits are over. Your skin feels like something is crawling on you, but nothing is there. It is one of the most powerful films ever. Darren Aronofsky’s adaptation of Hubert Selby’s novel follows the lives of four different people, Sara Goldfarb (Ellen Burstyn), her son Harry (Jared Leto), his girlfriend Marion (Jennifer Connelly) and his friend Tyrone (Marlon Wayans). The film explores the direct and indirect effects drugs have on each of them and reveals their blossoming hopes turn into a state of moral and physical helplessness.

Editor Jay Rabinowitz perfects Aronofsky’s hip-hop editing technique. The drug scenes are ground-breaking and the downward spirals of each character is a gut wrenching experience that stays with you forever. Everyone in the cast gives powerful performances, especially Burstyn and Leto whose addictions are scary reminders of the hard truth.

WORD COUNT: 160

Adam’s Grade: A-

Chuck’s Grade: A+

The Great Magician is a tired act

20 Aug

The-Great-Magician

The best trick this film pulls off is getting critically acclaimed actor, Tony Leung Chui Wai (Chang Hsien) to agree to do this turn of this turn of the century farce about love, magic, and China’s strained relationship with imperial Japan. I kept hoping several of the main characters would simply disappear because the acting was so atrocious that it made it difficult to get through the film in one viewing. Actor Lau Ching-wan (Bully Lei) is supposed to be Leung’s rival for Zhou Xun’s (Yin) affection, but I did not see the appeal for such a buffoon of a character. The rest of the cast is equally unsatisfying and really unnecessary for most of the film. Director Derek Yee is a veteran artist of Hong Kong cinema and has written and directed some very good films recently (Protege, Shinjuku Incident, and Triple Tap) but he had nothing up his sleeve this time. The Great Magician is a tired act.

WORD COUNT: 160

Chuck’s Grade: F

Adam’s Grade: N/A

Into the Wild captures the spirit

16 Aug

INTO-THE-WILD

Sean Penn waited nearly a decade to make the  film about a driven young man’s desire to abandon his comfortable, civilized world and embark on an adventure that would lead him to the Alaskan wilderness. Into the Wild is based on Jon Krakauer’s non-fiction novel about the inspiring, but tragic story of Christopher McCandless. Penn assembles a thought-provoking film filled with refreshing messages about life, passion, and the pursuit of happiness.

The film intermingled a narrative that can become tedious and the 148 minute run time should have been addressed, but there is no denying Emile Hirsch’s hauntingly powerful performance as Christopher. It keeps the film engaging and on a personal level. His journey of self-realization is unforgettable and his decisions become a topic of debate concerning liberation and destruction. Love it or hate it, the film captures the life and death of young man trying to live life on his terms.

WORD COUNT: 151

Adam’s Grade: A-

Chuck’s Grade: A-

The Truman Show is the master template for popular entertainment today

1 Aug

THE-TRUMAN-SHOW

The Truman Show is easily one of the most original ideas to emerge from Hollywood in the late 1990s. At the time, reality TV and manufactured amateur celebrities were in its infancy stages. Fifteen years later, the film’s subject material remains relevant because of the public’s obsession with watching this form of entertainment. Society has not degenerated to the level of The Truman Show’s unethical decision to buy the rights of a newborn child to unknowingly serve as the central character in a fake world of scripted characters and controlled events 24 hours a day. It is the perfect combination of soap opera melodrama, reality, and movie magic that will become the master template for popular entertainment today.

Writer Andrew Niccol’s brilliant multi-layered script is funny, dramatic, dark, and intelligent. Ed Harris (Christof) portrayal of a producer/director’s “ends justifies the means” position is powerful while Jim Carrey finally finds a role that allows him to demonstrate his range as an artist.

WORD COUNT: 160

Adam’s Grade: A-

Chuck’s Grade: A

Birdemic: Shock and Awful

24 Jul

BIRDEMIC

Nothing can prepare you for this shockingly awful film. Birdemic is easily one of the worst films ever made, which means it has been exalted to a cult-like status with American audiences that prefer to throw up their middle finger at quality acting, directing, writing, and editing. Granted, this film was made on a 10,000 dollar budget, which also means no one believed in this film except writer/director James Nguyen. Inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s Birds (a fifty year old film with superior special effects) Nyguyen casts Alan Bagh (Rod) and Whitney Moore (Nathalie) as the unsuspecting protagonists awakened after an assumed one-night stand by a flock of killer eagles. Well I guess there was more to their relationship than I originally thought because there is a Birdemic 2 released in select theaters this year. I will save everyone time and give that film an F grade as well.

WORD COUNT: 146

Adam’s Grade: F

Chuck’s Grade: N/A

The Sorcerer and the White Snake

14 Jul

The Sorcerer and the White Snake

The Sorcerer and the White Snake is a Chinese fantasy film based on a story that has been passed down for generations. Although, some of the cultural references will be lost on domestic audiences, the poor acting from the supporting characters cannot be ignored.The female actresses (Huang Shengyi and Charlene Choi) are gorgeous, but their love stories are beyond juvenile and much too drawn out.  Jet Li’s character is interesting as a demon “buster” monk, but the film is not about him. His kung fu powers serves as the story’s deus ex machina.  I am sure young people who enjoy shape-shifting and demons will find this very polished film entertaining, but for me, I was bored out of my mind.

WORD COUNT: 120

Chuck’s Grade: D

Adam’s Grade: N/A