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I am glad I spent time with HER

16 Jan


Spike Jonze’s latest film ‘Her’, set in the not-too-distant future, tells the story of writer Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix), who finds himself falling in love with Samantha, an advanced operating system (Scarlett Johansson), while he is dealing with a divorce from his wife Catherine (Rooney Mara). The film emits warmth and intelligence with its exceptional production design, cinematography, and performances. There is a charming quality to Jonze’s dialogue with both of the characters being tormented by loneliness. Her does not shy away from topical subject material, such as modern society’s dependence on technology. If it has not happened yet, it will in the near future, unless people are to compartmentalize and measure technologies contribution to a better life. Phoenix tops his performance in The Master with this grounded performance while Johansson, captivates our senses with her sultry voice. Her reminds audiences to appreciate the moments with our loved one. I am glad I spent time with Her.


Adam’s Grade: A

Chuck’s Grade: N/A

Upside Down stays in the middle

11 Oct


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.


Chuck’s Grade: C+

Adam’s Grade: N/A

The Spectacular Now shook me

15 Aug


Eight months into 2013 and The Spectacular Now is the best film I have seen so far. It features a young cast that brings Tim Tharpe’s novel to life. The film follows Sutter Keely (Miles Teller), a high school senior that refuses to live beyond the moment. He has no plans and his interests have led him to a life of hard partying, but after being dumped by his girlfriend he wakes up to something much more.

The film exceeded my expectations because of the performances by Teller and Shailene Woodley. Their chemistry and charisma are charming and pulls you in. This is not your normal coming of age film. Screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael Weber defy the formula and create an unpredictable story that goes to all the right places. I believe it is the most authentic picture of adolescence since John Hughes. The Spectacular Now shook me and took me back to a place I had forgotten about


Adam’s Grade: A

Chuck’s Grade: N/A

Magnetic (short film) not strong enough to hold me

11 Aug


There is an old saying, “opposites attract,” but not in the short film, Magnetic. Writer/Director . F. C. Rabbath draws you into its story with a young boy offering a small magnet as a gift to a young girl, but she rejects him. The look on his disappointed face is priceless and worth pausing the video for a moment. For a second, I’m thinking this is going to be a psycho-killer film as the kid stares past the object of desire and is unable to see the obvious, but thankfully Rabbath has another path for this character to follow. The film jumps forward to the character as a young adult still obsessed with the image from years ago. The story mixes in some science fiction to create a comic book-like scenario that creates a strong, but unpredictable power. Rabbath is a good storyteller and a solid filmmaker, but Magnetic was not strong enough to hold me.


Chuck’s Grade: B

Adam’s Grade: N/A

Forgetting Sarah Marshall is remembered

30 Jul


I have been a fan of Jason Segel and Judd Apatow since Freaks and Geeks. I was excited to see him take the lead role in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Segel wrote himself the perfect part as the jilted boyfriend trying to overcome a recent break-up with a famous TV star (Kristen Bell), and then the infamous first sighting with her new boyfriend (Russell Brand). Putting this relationship behind him becomes a challenge, even after meeting Rachel (Mila Kunis).

Although, Peter is trying to forget Sarah, audiences remember this romantic comedy as one their favorites because everyone has had at least one break up they have tried to get over. It has a likeable cast, clever humor, and some lighthearted moments that resonate with the hopeless romantics. Like many break ups, the drama can drag out longer than it should, but the story is solid and it propels Segel to another level in his career.


Adam’s Grade: B

Chuck’s Grade: N/A

Birdemic: Shock and Awful

24 Jul


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.


Adam’s Grade: F

Chuck’s Grade: N/A

Before Midnight

16 Jul


Before Midnight is the third installment in the unexpected but still wonderfully touching Before Trilogy. Just like in the first two films, writer/director Richard Linklater brings us back into the evolving love story that follows Jesse and Celine (Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy) vacationing in Greece, nine years since we last saw them in Before Sunset. The film explores a familiar territory for those dealing with teenagers and the dreaded mid-life crisis.

Linklater has a command of his script and guides his actors through the emotional landscape of unconditional love and loss. His approach reminds me of some of the best French cinema with long takes that allow scenes to play out in real-time. Hawke and Delpy performances add to the heighten sense of realism that is a welcomed change from domestic films obsessed with getting from scene to the next.


Adam’s Grade: B+

Chuck’s Grade: N/A

Nuit Blanche (short film) breaks through

8 Jun


Director Arev Manoukian captures a moment in time that all hopeless romantics can appreciate. His black and white homage to finding love on the streets in Paris at night is a beautifully put together short film. The combination of slow-motion computer generated images and a powerful instrumental ballad smash the conventional approach to a love story with an amazing sequence between two strangers caught up in a special moment. Manoukian does not need words to communicate the power of attraction. His visual metaphors are long-lasting even though his film is over in four minutes.


Chuck’s Grade: A

Adam’s Grade: A

Chasing Mavericks rides a positive wave

26 May


Rarely does a Hollywood “Based on a True Story” movie get it right, but the film about surf legends Jay Moriarity (Jonny Weston) and Frosty Hesson (Gerard Butler) rides the perfect wave into people’s hearts. It does not matter if you have never surfed or have never heard of them. Chasing Mavericks is more than your average surfer movie. It is a story filled with meaningful relationships that support a young man’s quest to achieve the improbable. Moriarity looks to Hesson as a father figure and dedicates himself to a strict regimen that most kids his age would give up after the first day. His passion for surfing and his love for his mother (Elisabeth Shue), his best friend (Devin Crittenden) and the girl of his dreams (Leven Rambin) make the perfect script for audiences to get behind. The surfing is amazing, but Butler’s performance serves as the pillar holding this film up as one the best of 2012.


Chuck’s Grade: A

Adam’s Grade: N/A

Silver Linings Playbook scores

24 May


After a brief stint in a mental institution, Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper) moves back in with his parents (Robert De Niro and Jacki Weaver) to reconcile with his wife. Pat meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), who has her own issues, but agrees to deliver a message to his estranged wife if he agrees to her conditions. As their friendship grows, it seems that a silver lining starts to grow in each other’s lives.

Writer/Director David O. Russell captures all of the right emotions, and although the story seems overwhelming at the beginning, it shifts once we are introduced to Lawrence’s character. The acting is sensational. Lawrence deservedly won the Oscar while Cooper would have won if it wasn’t for Daniel Day-Lewis. Also, De Niro gives his best performance in over a decade. Silver Linings Playbook sounds like a film that shouldn’t work, and yet it does to perfection because of its brilliant writing, acting and portrayal of mental illness.


Adam’s Grade: A

Chuck’s Grade: A+