Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Juno(Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman, Allison Janney, J.K. Simmons, Olivia Thirlby)

director: Jason Reitman
Starring: Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman, Allison Janney, J.K. Simmons, Olivia Thirlby
Writer: Diablo Cody

















POP QUIZ!!!

Let’s say you were a 16 year old highschool girl and you just discovered you were preggers by your best friend who is also your Chemistry Lab partner. Would you…

a.) try to hang yourself with a noose made of red-vines.
b.) drive your blue previa minivan to the nearest quickie mart and drown your troubles in a blue slushie
c.) stuff your baby daddy’s mailbox with $150 worth of orange flavored tic-tacs
d.) Wait for your baby daddy to come out of his house at 6am in an armchair on his front lawn while wearing a sweater vest and holding an unlit pipe in your mouth.
e.) All of the above.

If you chose e.), you are...

Juno MacGuff!

Summary:

Juno Macguff is a 16 year old Minnesotan highschool student that gets preggers by her nerdy track star boyfriend Paulie Bleeker(Michael Cera). After deciding she doesn’t want an abortion, Juno decides to give the baby up for adoption to a well to do couple who live in the same area. With the support of her father, step mom and bff, Juno learns what it is like to go through the experience of being a teenage cream-puff.


Why this movie is flipping awesome:

Ellen Page is brilliant as Juno. She acts her role with intelligence, sensitivity and maturity in such a way that she really captures the spirit of a bright young girl who is thrust into adulthood prematurely. Her acting choices are so interestingly unique and insightful. She does a great job at not just emotionally responding, but physicalizing her actions also. She is a real pleasure to watch. A very inspiring performance from an actor’s standpoint as well.

Michael Cera, who plays Juno’s baby daddy Bleeker, is the perfect foil for Juno’s sarcastic humor. He is so sensitive in his acting, every moment lands with him like a pool of mountain spring water freshness. He is a real gem to watch and the scenes between him and Ellen Page are very intimate, humorous, realistic, and heartwarming. Awesome actor he is.

Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner play the wealthy husband and wife couple who want to adopt Juno’s baby. They seem like a happy couple on the outside, but we see that their differences run deeper than first impressions would suggest. Their scenes are so excruciatingly human you really feel for them in their own separate ways.

J.K. Simmons and Allison Janey both pair up to play Juno’s father and step-mom. They are the awesomest parents in the world in their support for their daughter. And each of them brings a whole bunch of damn good acting to the table. J.K. Simmons does a fine job at playing a father who is deeply worried for his daughter and who strives to stay strong and yet emotionally available. Allison Janey is the best step mom in the world who supports her daughter as if she were her own child. Good down home folks.

Olivia Thirlby plays Juno’s BFF. She is so cute as a highschool teenager who has an obsession for older men. A very good performance capturing the innocence and general silliness of teenage girlhood. Her playful ways compliment Juno’s more serious demeanor. She and Page have awesome scene’s as well.

In addition to the above cast, there are tons of smaller roles that are interesting and yet truthfully played as well. It is clear that all the actors involved from the stars to the day players were brilliantly cast and highly proficient.

DVD features:

This DVD comes with some pretty cool features. There are plenty of extra scenes and also a bunch of hilarious bloopers. The commentary by director Michael Cera and Writer Diablo Cody is very interesting and entertaining. A large part of the commentary deals with little details that went into making the movie. It is clear the process was one of passion and fun.

Subtitles

Spanish

Summation:

I really liked this movie. There are some films you watch and you know just from watching them that the whole filmmaking process must have been a real special experience for all the cast and crew involved. Juno(2007) is one of these movies. Ellen Page as Juno as well as all the other cast team up to do some awesome acting and make a heartwarming and inspiring movie about family, love, and the joys of teenage pregnancy. This is a finely acted, heartwarming, independent family comedy that has a sarcastic, playful edge to it. The story and writing are really awesome too and all these components work together to create a truly superb film.

Other movies I would recommend if you liked this one are:

You Can Count on Me, Hard Candy, Forrest Gump, American Beauty, Terms of Endearment, The Cider House Rules

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Libertine(Johnny Depp, John Malkovich, Samantha Morton, Rosamund Pike)

director: Laurence Dunmore
Starring: Johnny Depp, John Malkovich, Rosamund Pike, Samantha Morton


“You will not like me. The gentlemen will be envious and the ladies will be repelled.”

These words are from the opening speech of the The Libertine. Seductively delivered directly into the camera by Johnny Depp, with these words you are his. This film is homuncularly craptacular.

Summary:

The Libertine is a period piece written by Stephen Jeffereys who also wrote a play with the same title. The story is about a 17th century English nobleman and poet named John Wilmot aka The Earl of Rochester(Johnny Depp). A close friend of King Charles II, The Earl of Rochester was known not only for his satirical verse, but also for his pornographic writings, outrageous acts of debauchery, hedonism, and general contempt for courtly manners. He was married to Elizabeth Mallet(Rosamund Pike), a beautiful and intelligent heiress, with whom he spent a domestic life on a pastoral estate in the English countryside. Rochester also had several mistresses at Court, including the famous English actress Elizabeth Barry(Samantha Morton.) In his spare time he fucked a ton of whores, drank copious amounts of alcohol, wrote raunchy and satirical poems, and went to see lots of plays. At the age of 33, he died of syphilis.

Despite his roguish ways, The Earl of Rochester was admired by many both in life and in death as a poetic genius.

Why this movie is flipping awesome:

The acting is quite the wibbly wobbly. i.e. Totally Amazing! I love Johnny Depp, and there are many movies of his I adore, but this has got to be Johnny Depp’s greatest performance to date. The emotional depths and levels of visceral intensity Johnny Depp reaches in this role are the deepest I have ever seen. At the same time he looses none of the technical craft that sets him apart as a virtuoso among actors. Why Depp was not at the very least nominated for an Oscar baffles me. His performance easily rivals that of Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s in Capote(the Oscar winner for best actor in 2006.)

In Rochester, Johnny Depp portrays a very sensitive and thoughtful man who has been perverted by an unnatural, compulsive lust for debauchery and hedonism. Depp explores the psychology of a self-destructive personality with flair, passion, sensitivity and humor. As we watch The Earl of Rochester’s downward spiral, one wonder’s what drives this man to do what he does. We see his physical appearance reflect his spiritual state until, by the end of the film, Rochester is a walking, syphilitic corpse. Throughout this gradual transformation we come to see the Libertine as a man who is ultimately trapped by the role he has chosen to play in life. The cost being his own humanity.

In addition to the acting genius of Johnny Depp, there are several other actors that give formidable performances in their own rites:

Samantha Morton displays a talent that is crazy awesome as she plays Rochester’s willful and talented mistress Elizabeth Barry. Rochester takes Barry’s raw talent and, through his tutelage, transforms her into the greatest actress of the London Stage. She and Johnny have several scenes that are both passionate and expertly acted. There is one scene that actually goes into a little of the craft of acting itself. It’s as if one is witnessing a master acting class given by Johnny Depp himself. The Earl and Barry are cut from the same mold. Surrounded by a world of filth, both seek too feel passion for life in the theatre. Samantha Morton's talent as an actor is quite apparent. In one particular scene, her playing an actress who gives a bad performance on stage for the camera is a technical feat in itself. Morton also shows she can cut a good Shakespeare when she gives an awesome performance of Ophelia from Hamlet during a play.

John Malkovichis first rate as King Charles II. His scenes with Johnny are very humorous in their depiction of a man who is alternately concerned and irritated by his friend’s rebellious antics. The chemistry between the two is very entertaining and depicts an underlying spirit camaraderie shared between the two actors offscreen.

Another actress that is crazy awesome is Rosamund Pike who also played Jane Bennet in Pride & Prejudice(2005). She plays Elizabeth Mallet, Rochester’s beautiful, intelligent, and dutiful wife. Where Barry is a fiery London actress one step up from a street wench, Mallet is a beautiful and courtly lady who is simultaneously Rochester's saviour and ball and chain. Rosamund Pike acts as a powerful foil for Johnny Depp in one of the most emotional and intense scenes of the film. She shows rock solid strength and resolve as a wife determined to prevent the love of her life from sinking further into self-destructive oblivion. A real awesome woman and fine actor that she is! I hope to see more of her in future roles.

Another gem of the production is the actor who plays the role of Rochester’s valet, Alcock. Richard Coyle takes a rather small, minor role and makes it quite a human character. The interactions between Johnny Depp and Richard Coyle are both subtly hilarious and full of natural chemistry. First rate acting that there too.

DVD features:

Lots of cool behind the scenes footage and making of documentaries.

Several extra scenes and blooper reels are included as well.

The commentary by director Laurence Dunmore is very informative. Not only does he provide historical insight into the character of Rochester, but he also gives one a look into the whole process of filmmaking and working with a cast of incredible actors.


Summation:

While showcasing a ton of fine acting all round, viewer be warned, The Libertine is not a movie for everyone. The subject matter deals with a main character who is basically a syphilitic sex addict trapped in a world of apathy largely caused by his own doing. The scenes are at times very graphic and brutal in their depiction of hedonism, falling just short of actual pornography. However, if one has a sense of humor about it all and can see past the surface profanity, The Libertine is really the story of a man with a very sensitive and gifted intellect tragically flawed in his pursuit of Love and Admiration. Some of the finest acting by Johnny Depp occurs in this movie. I believe this is the most emotionally raw and exposed performance by such an amazing actor and for that reason alone I would recommend it as a must see.

Other movies I would recommend if you liked this one are:

Dangerous Liaisons, 2046, Bad Lieutenant, and Edward Scissorhands, The Man Who Cried, Last Tango In Paris

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Friday, June 13, 2008

The Champ(Jon Voight, Ricky Schroder, Faye Dunaway)

Director: Franco Zeffirelli
Starring: Jon Voight, Ricky Schroder, Faye Dunaway


If you ever want to make a room full of grown men cry, make them watch The Champ starring Jon Voight, Faye Dunaway, and a 9 year old Ricky Schroder(the son from the 1980s sitcom Silver Spoons). This is a boxing movie, but it is no ordinary boxing movie. This particular boxing movie is probably the most emotional movie ever made by mankind.

With the tag line:

The most poignant love-triangle of al
l - a father, his son, and the woman who came between them

I guarantee The Champ

WILL MAKE YOU CRY!!!!! Period.

I am so confident of this fact that, if you don't end up crying during The Champ, I promise I will personally go to your house and lick your dog’s hairy ball sack. That’s how freaking EMOTIONAL this movie is! I myself saw The Champ when I was a wee lad of 5 years old and then again when I was a full-grown man of 25 and both times I cried like a little bitch.

Summary:

The story is about the relationship between a former light heavy weight boxing champ(Jon Voight) and his son, T.J.(Ricky Schroder). TJ idolizes his father whom he calls "Champ" instead of "Dad" like any other normal kid. Jon Voight as The Champ is anything but a champ. He's actually kind of a loser as the only thing that he's really got going for him is his job as a horse trainer and the fact that he has a son who absolutely adores him. In fact in a lot of ways, T.J. is The Champ's caretaker rather than the other way around as evidenced early on in the film when TJ brings The Champ home from the bar after a heavy night of drinking and gets him ready for bed. One day Jon Voight has a chance to redeem himself by making a comeback in the world of professional boxing and using the money to secure his and his son's future. Everything is going good for The Champ. He's training hard and making progress, but then things get turned upside down for the father and son when The Champ's ex wife(Faye Dunaway), who deserted the family and married a rich old fogy, wants to reestablish ties with her son TJ.

So what is so good acting-wise about The Champ?:


Jon Voight and Faye Dunaway both give brilliant performances in this film, but the real "Champ" is little Ricky Schroder who steals the picture. Schroder should have seriously won the Oscar for his performance. Meanwhile director Franco Zeffirelli should have been charged with tormenting a child because there are some pretty intense emotional scenes for little Ricky Schroder. And the little kid acts his little heart out! In fact, in the commentary of the DVD, John Voight admits to an adult Ricky Schroeder that he, Jon Voight, pretended to be upset with Ricky the day before shooting a key scene in order to enhance the little tyke’s performance in a scene that required TJ to think The Champ was mad at him! Poor Ricky Schroder...! But the ends were achieved as seen in the movie. Schroder’s commitment to believing in the circumstances of each scene is just incredible.

Jon Voight himself shows off his acting talent as the Champ. All the scenes with Jon Voight and Ricky Schroder are timeless. It is heart-wrenching to watch the father who knows he is undeserving of the pure idolatry given to him by his son. A kid who doesn’t call him “Dad” like any other normal kid but “Champ.” Voight also has a few very well acted scenes with Faye Dunaway who plays The Champ's deadbeat ex-wife. The former couple's challenge is to reconcile their past in order to do what is right for their son.

Faye Dunaway herself gives a very awesome performance in this film as The Champ's old flame. Dunaway really captures the agony and love of a mother who desperately wants to repair the relationship to her abandoned child.

DVD features:

The Champ DVD comes with the standard behind the scenes documentary, trailer, photo gallery, etc. But the real gem is the commentary section which actually has Jon Voight and an adult Rick Schroder in the same room discussing the movie. At several points Schroder actually begins to weep at the memory of the filming. Just goes to show you how real and traumatizing the whole process must have been for the little kid.

Summation:

This movie could very well be the MOST EMOTIONAL MOVIE EVER MADE. And I’ve seen a lot of movies. The acting is very good and the highly emotionally charged nature of this movie ensures that The Champ will definitely become a classic.


Other movies I would recommend if you liked The Champ are:

Kramer vs Kramer, Blood Diamond, Terms of Endearment, Road to Perdition

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2046(Leung Chiu-Wai, Faye Wong, Zhang ZiYi, Gong Li, Carina Lau, Takuya Kimura)

director: Wong Kar-Wai
starring: Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Faye Wong, Zhang ZiYi, Gong Li, Carina Lau, Takuya Kimura

Have you ever been in love, or had a romantic relationship, with someone who was totally flippin’ awesome? Like the best in the world? And then broken up with them only to find that, for years afterwards, every person you are involved with is merely a vain attempt to recapture the craptacular experience of that original person? If so, you will definitely like the movie 2046, because that is basically the dilemma of the film’s main character Chow Mo-Wan, played by veteran Hong Kong actor Tony Leung Chiu-Wai.

Released in 2004, and taking a whopping 4 years to complete, 2046 is the 3rd chapter in a series of romantic films written and directed by acclaimed Hong Kong film director Wong Kar-Wai. The other two movies in the series are Days of Being Wild(1991) and In the Mood for Love(2000).

Summary:

A womanizing writer of pornographic fiction serials, Chow Mo-Wan(Tony Leung Chiu Wai), tries to recapture the memory of his lost love by pursuing various women all of whom vaguely remind him of his old flame and former neighbor Su Li-Zhen(Maggie Cheung Ho-Yi). The new women include Chow Mo-Wan’s new neighbor, Bai Ling(Zhang Zhiyi) who works as a beautiful nightclub singer and also a high-class prostitute; Chow Mo-Wan’s landlord’s strange love-sick daughter Wang Jing Wen(Faye Wong) who is herself totally smitten in love with a sensitive emotionally awkward Japanese business man(Takuya Kimura); and a mysterious Cambodian card hustler also named Su Li-Zhen(Gong Li). During the course of his romantic pursuits Chow Mo-Wan writes the various people he encounters into his own fictionalized future world, 2046-- which happens to be the same number of the room he secretly shared with his lost love.

Why this Movie is Freakin Good:

Ok So… In addition to beautiful cinematography and an outstanding soundtrack- that are pure eye and ear candy… 2046 features stellar acting performances by the entire cast. Very real acting that is both subtle and viscerally passionate. One gets the voyeuristic feeling of peeking into reality.

In 2046, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai demonstrates his acting talent by playing a role that directly contrasts with the character from the previous film. The protagonist from In the Mood for Love was an endearing, cuckold who had a platonic love affair with his hot, cheong-sam wearing neighbor. In 2046, we see the character has degenerated into a slimy, seedy, womanizing asshole with a moustache. He is both desperate and pathetic in his predatory pursuit of women in order to quench his desire to relive the memories of his past love affair. Despite this huge asshole surface factor, it is an underlying yearning for this faded love that makes Chow Mo-Wan’s character pathetically human and romantically endearing to the viewer. Through the demonstration of this remarkable character transformation and the fact that he is able to command a storyline while playing across several actresses of immense acting talent and physical beauty Tony Leung Chiu-Wai proves his supremely 733T abilities as an actor.

That said, the actresses in 2046 are simply outstanding.

Zhang ZiYi gives a very human and thoughtful portrayal of Bai-Ling, a young independent woman who is in love with the main character in spite of herself. A glamorous nightclub singer/call girl, she starts off as playing the upper hand of seductress in a little game of platonic friendship, but winds up another victim of the game of lust and love as perpetrated by the main character. She tries to hide her feelings for Chow Ho-Man, but every time she makes some stupid mistake that belies her true feelings. All the while one gets the impression Chow gloats secretly in triumph.

Faye Wong plays the eccentric daughter of Chow’s landlord and also an android in the imaginary world of 2046. She is the one woman that is impervious to Chow’s desires. Her immunity is because she is already in love with a Japanese Man played by Takuya Kimura. Their scenes, which take place both in real life and in 2046, are very tenderly acted and quite moving. Faye is very convincing while at the same time very lyrical as an android and Takuya Kimura shows himself to be a very sensitive actor. First rate performances by both.

Gong Li gives a wise and deep performance in her role as “The Black Spider” Su Li-Zhen. She’s basically a femme fatale with a heart of gold. She seems to know Chow better than he knows himself. A rather tragic figure.

Carina Lau reprises her role as the nightclub singer Lulu from Days of Being Wild and also plays an android in 2046. She offers an example for Chow of the consequences of staying in trapped in the past.

DVD Features:

Subtitles

This DVD has a lot of cool extras. There are a couple of documentaries that have behind the scenes footage. It’s really interesting learning about the process that went into making the movie especially the interviews of the various stars. In addition there are three deleted scenes that add to the viewer’s experience including an alternate ending. Finally there is a section featuring some pictures of posters and even a section devoted to the soundtrack.

Trailer:



Summation:

Director Wong Kar Wai’s storytelling style is rather unorthodox compared to other movies. It is a very poetic movie that has an interweaving storyline that jumps around creating a very dreamlike experience. The only criticisms I can think of are that some of the finer points of the story might be lost on the viewer if they haven’t seen the first two movies before hand. Plus, the pacing of the film might feel a bit erratic to people who are used to more traditional story development structures. In this sense, 2046 feels almost like a novel rather than a film. Regardless, this movie kicks ass. And if you like tortured romance type dramas you will love this movie. The cinematography is awesome. The soundtrack rocks. And the acting is of high quality.

Other movies I would recommend if you liked this one are:

In the Mood For Love, Chun King Express, Days of Being Wild, Dangerous Liasons, and The Libertine.

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