The Kings of Summer


Release: Friday, May 31, 2013 (limited)


Three boys spend their summer bushwhacking into some woods to build their own summerhouse made from scraps and 2X4’s. They also learn to hunt, explore new places, and befriend some of the weirdest people you may ever encounter. One of them gets bitten by a venomous snake and starts to foam at the mouth within minutes. In short, this was a movie that left me seriously envious of other people’s summer plans. . .

This is director Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ first film, and while The Kings of Summer is not likely to be on the forefront of anyone’s mind come the end of the summer, he’s started off on the right foot. This is quite an enjoyable picture replete with interesting characters, some good laughs and gorgeous scenery. It’s also not every day you come across a couple of kids — I believe they were freshmen in high school — who are so determined to  escape their ‘normal’ family life that they are willing to give up modern conveniences and comforts just to make a statement: that they are indeed capable of growing up on their own terms. Watching the events unfold in this film is a little like watching a less-threatening episode of Survivorman, where Bear Grylls needs to learn how to avoid the temptations of stealing food from a Boston Market that sits mere yards away from his woodland shelter.

Joe (Nick Robinson) and Patrick (Gabriel Basso) simply can’t tolerate life under their parents’ roofs any longer. For Joe, life after the passing of his mother has become increasingly burdened by his father (Parks & Rec‘s Nick Offerman) and his unwillingness to really try to bond with his son in any normal sense of the word. He is an authoritarian and has to have things his way. Patrick’s situation is certainly not any more desirable; in fact, I pitied him more. His parents, played by Marc Evan Jackson and Megan Mullally, are written purely as caricatures of your worst-case scenario of the over-protective variety. He can’t stand how his mother makes quips about every little facet of Patrick’s personal life, and quite frankly, neither could I. They are not exactly realistic portrayals of parenthood — then again, such exaggeration is meant to enhance the experience of freedom these boys find in the woods. The parents in this film evoked the farcical incompetence of every adult pictured in Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom last year; who else better to trust than in yourselves when the rest of the world just seems so. . . . out of whack?

Perhaps nothing seems more out of whack than the third member of this memorable little trio of kids roughing it out in the woods. Joe — the first to discover a random open spot in the woods and being the one to convince everyone else to flee their families — and Patrick serve as the only logical relationship in this film. At a big keg party one night, they come across a scrawny little kid by the name of Biaggio (Moises Arias). If Joe and Patrick are the surprisingly normal, self-assured products of their bizarre upbringings, god-only-knows where this guy is coming from. While I’d agree he seems a little tacked on to the story here, he serves as a wonderful little running commentary on what it’s like to become a part of something; the satisfaction each of us need to find our own place in a group — no matter how large or how small. As strange as Biaggio is (and boy, is he strange), it’s really heartwarming to see him come into his own. Arias may single-handedly have won me over in this film.

Perhaps I just identify more with the weird. . . who knows.

Regardless, this film relies not only on solid acting, but the cinematography has an equally important role in telling the story. Everything from grand, sweeping shots of undeveloped forest to gorgeous lens flares in fields of rich yellow hues, to the visual irony of seeing the boys pop out of the thicket and right back into civilized society, adjacent a restaurant where they’d be foraging for roasted chicken.

Even if the central plot is as primitive as their newly adopted lives, The Kings of Summer is a subtle, if not poignant exploration of what causes some people to want to mature and grow up faster than others. Becoming a responsible adult takes on a whole new meaning in this film, even if at times the message is a little contrived (e.g. the parental units are simply too ridiculous to really take seriously). As well, the film’s succinctness and  lack of any real discernible drama might not be enough to sell a few folks on this summer fling. I suppose there is a little drama added into the mix, but it’s nothing we haven’t seen before and is certainly predictable, even despite the timing of it.

I thought the film to possess a rare level of nostalgia that a lot of indies seem to yearn for but never quite achieve. Plus, it boasts one of the coolest set pieces I’ve seen in a film in awhile.


4-0Recommendation: Want a film to really get you into the summer spirit? Look no further than The Kings of Summer. Strong performances from little-known actors proves to be yet another powerful ingredient for the indie/arthouse picture. (I am almost curious to check out what Arias is like in Hannah Montana, though I don’t think I could ever forgive myself for watching even five minutes of that show.) The film is pure escapism, which is completely fine but won’t really add up to much once a few more summer flicks come into view.

Rated: R

Running Time: 95 mins.

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TBT: Dumb and Dumber (1994)


And so we end the month of June on a hilarious note. This week’s TBT is nothing short of a classic. Or some say, at least. If you were to poll the majority of my friends, they’d all agree. Ryan, I know you do. Thanks for this suggestion, also. I haven’t seen it in forever and it was nice to get back together with Harry and Lloyd. This may not be the most intellectually stimulating film ever made, but this little gem from the mid-90s generated more laughs (and still does to this day) than some of the better attempts at comedies that have come out within the past decade. Some that have come out lately seem at least to be reaching for greatness, but I am yet to find one that achieves this status as effortlessly and memorably as the story of this duo of lovable chuckleheads.

Today’s food for thought: Dumb and Dumber


Release: December 16, 1994


Never before has a buddy-buddy comedy been so uproariously. . .  well, dumb. Jeff Daniels and Jim Carrey put on their goofiest faces (and hairstyles) ever as they step into their roles as Harry Dunne and Lloyd Christmas (respectively). They’re two sweet-natured guys who are severely lacking in brain cells, or at least just enough to not realize that sometimes a forgotten briefcase at the airport sometimes isn’t “forgotten,” it’s left behind on purpose.

The pair are not exactly the most employable people ever, and unsurprisingly both struggle to keep the current jobs they have — Lloyd as a limo driver; Harry as a dog groomer. After his last passenger, a woman named Mary Swanson, leaves her briefcase at the airport, Lloyd does everything in his power to track her down and return it to her, but alas he fails (hilariously). That’s when he decides the pair of them will embark on a cross-country excursion to return the precious luggage to her, using Harry’s Mutt Cutts van as their source of transportation. On the way, they consistently make fools of themselves, to the point of basically setting a new standard of silly at the movies.

This film is just so memorable that the film is easy to recall even without having it in front of you, on the script’s merits alone. I’ll prove it by inserting some of the best dialogue from the film, and it’s hopefully as close to chronological as possible. If not, well then…I tried! If you want to re-arrange or see something that needs changing up, COMMENT BELOW!!! See if this jogs the old memory! Let the Harry and Lloyd banter begin.

  • “There’s really nothing to worry about, Mary. [turns around in driver’s seat to face her] Statistically they say you’re more likely to get killed on the way to the airport, you know, like in a head-on crash or flying off a cliff or getting trapped under a gas truck — that’s the worst! I have this cousin, well. . . ya know, I had this cousin. . . .”

dumb 4

  • “So where are you headin’?”
  •  “Aspen.”
  • “Hmm…California. Beautiful!”
  • “So you got fired again, eh?”
  • “Oh yeah. They always freak out when you leave the scene of an accident, you know?”
  • “Yeah, well, I lost my job too.”
  • “Man, you are one pathetic loser. No offense.”
  • “No, none taken. You know what really chaps my ass, though? I spent my life savings turning my van into a dog. The alarm alone cost two hundred.”
  • “Heck, chicks love it. It’s a shaggin’ wagon.”


  • “Sir, you can’t go in there!”
  • “It’s okay, I’m a limo driver!”
  • “What’s with the briefcase?”
  • “A love memento. The most beautiful woman alive. I drove her to the airport. Sparks flew. Emotions ran high. She actually talked to me, man!!”
  • “What’s her last name? I’ll look it up.”
  • “You know, I don’t really recall. Starts with an ‘S’! Let’s see…Swim? Swammi? Slippy? Slappy? Swenson? Swanson?”
  • “Maybe it’s on the briefcase.”
  • “Oh yeah, its right here.”
  • [reading the briefcase manufacturer name] “Samsonite! I was way off! I knew it started with an ‘S,’ though.”
  • “What the hell are we doing here, Harry? We gotta get out of this town!”
  • “Oh yeah? And go where? Where are we gonna go?”
  • “I’ll tell you where. Someplace warm. A place where the beer flows like wine. Where beautiful women instinctively flock like the salmon of Capistrano. I’m talking about a little place called Aspen.”
  • “Oh, I don’t know Lloyd. The French are assholes…”
  • “Briefcase ain’t here, they must’ve taken it with them.”
  • “Well he’s gotta come home sometime.”
  • “Maybe we should trash the place, send them a little message.”
  • “I don’t think he’s gonna get that message, Joe, I mean the guy’s got worms in his living room.”
  • “What did you sell him, Lloyd?”
  • “Stuff.”
  • What kinda stuff…?”
  • “I don’t know, a few baseball cards, a sack of marbles, . . . [coughs] Petey.”
  • “You sold my dead bird to a blind kid? Lloyd! Petey didn’t even have a head!”
  • “Harry, I took care of it. . . “
  • “Would you like an atomic pepper, Mr. Mentalino?”


  • “They’re driving an ’84. . . . sheepdog.”
  • “Pull over!”
  • “No, it’s a cardigan, but thanks for noticing!”
  • “Yeah, killer boots man!”
  • “Tic-tac, sir?”
  • “No, you can’t do that! You can’t triple-stamp a double-stamp, you can’t triple-stamp a double-stamp! Lloyd!”
  • [hands over ears] “LA! LA! LA! LA! LA! LA! LA!”
  • “Wanna hear the most annoying sound in the world?”
  • “I’ve got room for one more if you still want to go to Aspen…”
  • “Where did you find that?”
  • “Some kid back in town..traded the van for it, straight up. I can get 70 miles to the gallon on this hog.”
  • “You know, Lloyd? Just when I think you couldn’t possibly be any dumber, you go and do something like this….and totally redeem yourself!”


  • “I’m ready for commitment, Harry. First time I ever set eyes on Mary Swanson, I just got that old-fashioned romantic feeling, where I’d do anything to bone her.”
  • “That’s a special feeling, Lloyd.”
  • “How about you go over and introduce yourself, build me up, that way I don’t have to brag about myself later. Tell her I’m rich, and I’m good-looking, and I have, uh…a rapist’s wit…”


  • “I don’t get it, Lloyd. She told me ten o’clock, sharp! Are you sure you went to the right bar?”
  • “Yep. I’m pretty sure. Lobby bar right by the lobby. [sighs] Maybe she had a change of heart.”
  • “Oh that pisses me off! That pisses me right off! I hate when women do that. She wanted to see you again? And now no? Now…Wait a minute! Wait! She must’ve meant ten 0’clock at night!”
  • “Do you think?”
  • “Why would she have you meet her in a bar at ten in the morning?”
  • “I just figured she was a raging alcoholic.”
  • “I’m gonna give you my number. Let’s see if I can find it. . .”
  • “Great! [Harry sees that his leg has caught fire] HA!!”
  • “Okay, I know I left it in here somewhere…”
  • [stomping his left leg] “Look! Why don’t you just tell it to me! I have a really good memory!”
  • “Well, the number is 5-5-5….”
  • [Harry mouths the numbers, trying to remember all the while still burning]
  • “9-0-5…oh wait! That’s my home number. That is so weird how your mind just goes plain — “
  • “Okay. Look guy, you’re gonna get pushy, FORGET ABOUT IT!” [Beth drives off, Harry bails for the bathroom to put his leg out]
  • “I want to ask you a question…straight-out, flat-out. . . and I want you to give me an honest answer. What do you think the chances of a guy like you and a girl like me….ending up together?”
  • “Well, Lloyd, that’s difficult to say. You really don’t….”
  • “Hit me! Just give it to me straight! I came a long way just to see you, Mary. The least you can do is level with me. What are my chances?”
  • “Not good.”
  • “You mean, not good, like one out of a hundred?”
  • “I’d say more like, one out of a million.”
  • “So you’re telling me there is a chance! YEAH!”


  • “She actually talked to me, Har!”
  • “Get outta here!”
  • “Okay, so you’ll pick me up at seven forty-five?”
  • “Well, I’ve got a few things to take care of. So how about we make it quarter to eight?”
  • [laughing] “Stop it.”
  • “Okay. Seven forty-five.”
  • “Flush, you bastard.”


  • “Weirdo.”
  • “Sucker of big, brown dirty eggs.”
  • “Moron.”
  • “Raider of the lost fart.”
  • “Buttfish.”
  • “Masterbatorio….er, soiler of towels!”
  • “SHUT UP!”
  • “I can’t believe this, Lloyd. First, Mary dumps us, then the cops take our nest egg, then our hog breaks down!”
  • “Yeah! When are we ever going to catch a break?!” [Hawaiian Tropic tour bus pulls up beside them]
  • “Hey, guys! We’re going on a national bikini tour, and we’re looking for two oil guys who can grease us up before each competition.”
  • “You are in luck! There’s a town about three miles that way, I’m sure you’ll find a couple guys there.”
  • “…okay, thanks….”
  • “Do you realize what you’ve done!?!” [both start sprinting after the bus]
  • “Hey! Hey!!! You’ll have to excuse my friend, he’s a little slow…the town is back THAT way.” [points in opposite direction]


4-5Recommendation: If you are a fan of this type of outrageously dumb fun and comedy, you’ve seen this already. Probably multiple times. For those out there who really love their comedies that have great replay value, Dumb and Dumber is certainly up there. A true classic. If you don’t find yourself getting invested in characters who are mentally stunted and play that fact throughout the entire movie, probably best to stay clear of this, as you more than likely have been doing for 20 years! 🙂

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 107 mins.

Best Scene:

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Much Ado About Nothing


Release: Friday, June 7, 2013 (limited)


From Marvel’s The Avengers to. . . . . . a Shakespearian play? Joss Whedon makes the jump in genres seem all the crazier when I tell you that I believe that his vision might be the one that tops Kenneth Branagh’s incredible 1993 film by the same name. And of course, these aren’t the only folks who have had their hand in reshaping one of the great playwright’s most beloved comedies. It’s also hard to imagine that the best version of Much Ado About Nothing will be anything besides the original, when it was played out on stage by the Lord Chamberlain’s men. Still, subsequent versions have proven worthwhile and immensely enjoyable experiences. Fortunately Whedon’s new project — one that won’t require so many popcorn bags to be purchased — does not buck the trend.

His camerawork in this is so unlike his ability to capture the epic and the iconic structures of the superhero world; indeed, the slight and whimsical storyline of Much Ado requires virtually the complete opposite treatment, which Whedon manages to great effect. This is a film that is both intimate and elegant in setting — it was shot in a total of 12 days, exclusively at Whedon’s Santa Monica residence — and has cinematography worthy of at least a nomination. It’s gorgeous and strengthens the presence of every character in the frame.

Some could find the visual contrasts a little jarring in the very beginning, admittedly. You first see these characters and if you are like me, you are caught off guard at first by just how they speak. The muted color saturations, coupled with Shakespearian prose is juxtaposed against the habits and customs of 21st Century living. Bottles of beer are being clanked together; fists are bumped rather than hands shaken; iPods now the sources of music at parties; Counts and Lords garbed in Giorgio Armani.

Dogberry spews his hilarious lapsus linguae to his small staff who have flat screen Dell computers.

But as the film unfolds it becomes easier to adjust. The more we see of the characters interacting, it’s all very natural and we are reminded once again of the genius in Shakespeare’s writing and romanticism. The atmosphere is light; the mood slightly silly but perpetually energetic. The cast, though not well-known, is definitely a strength. This time around we have Ami Acker as Beatrice, and Alexis Denisof plays Benedick, who make up the central romantic affair. Surrounding them are Fran Kranz as Claudio and Jillian Morgese as Hero; Clark Gregg goes from manning SHIELD to playing Hero’s father Leonato; and we have Reed Diamond playing Don Pedro, Sean Maher replacing Keanu Reeves as the Bastard Prince Don John; and Spencer Treat Clark taking on the role of Barachio. . . that sleaze-bag. Not Clark, but. . .well, you know what I mean.

As Dogberry, Nathan Fillion has an absolutely wonderful supporting role. He oversees a squad of semi-competent, but fully overzealous night watchers, of which two were actually successful in curtailing the plotting and scheming of the shadowy duo, Barachio and Conrade (here played by Riki Lindhome). The moments with them and Dogberry serve as the funniest moments in the film undoubtedly, but are also very well-acted and reproduced in a contemporary setting. That was the case with a lot of the material in this film.

The story may be well-known, but to bring everything and everyone up to speed. . . . Much Ado is the comparison of two love affairs — that of Beatrice and Benedick who essentially are lovers in denial who must endure a battle of wit and of carefully calculated ‘rejection;’ and the other is quiet but fierce love affair between young Claudio and Hero. Benedick and Beatrice are tricked into confessing their loves for one another by waves of gossip, while Claudio is tricked into thinking his soon-to-be-wife is not faithful and their relationship seems to trend the other way. But this all is found to be the scheming of the envious Don John, who seeks revenge on his brother Don Pedro. He instilled in Claudio the idea that he was wooing Hero secretly. Then Barachio commits an act before an open window in the presence of Claudio, convincing him to think that Hero really was cheating. The malcontents eventually receive their comeuppance thanks to The Watch and Claudio is reunited with Hero in the end after all truth is revealed. I won’t add more info than that, although it’s, again, well-known territory I’m skipping over here.

There’s also a very rich soundtrack flowing throughout the piece that ties both the romanticism of the Shakespearian era to the Messina we have portrayed here in the present-day. Party scenes are lavish and look very fun. The moments of darkness and drama, as light-hearted as this comedy is, are overhauled with the appropriate overture that seems to give as much life to the movie as the script and acting do.

Going into the film I really had no preconceived notion about how Whedon might be able to handle this material. I can’t remember the last time I did see the Branagh one, so I was unable to accurately have a picture in my head as I sat down (in an empty theater!) Frequent YouTube visits after the fact have jogged my memory and reminded me that it was indeed infectious and it was indeed endearing; Branagh’s was a fully-realized portrait of what Shakespeare was trying to say about the nature of pride and honor, of courage and conviction and speaking truthfully. Whedon, using the original text, is similarly successful in that he’s been able to adapt the story so as to not make a carbon copy. The title may suggest that there’s a lot of fuss being kicked up over nothing here, but there’s no shortage of reasons to go see this latest adaptation.


4-0Recommendation: Joss Whedon has successfully created an undeniably accessible version of the famous comedy, and it plays out as breezily as you think it ought to. For anyone who is a fan of anything Shakespeare, this is a film you cannot miss. For fans of film in general, this is also going to be a high priority. It’s another Shakespeare play to fit our times, and will likely join the ranks of appreciated contemporary overhauls like Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet and certainly Branagh’s version, which was some 20 years ago now.

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 109 mins.

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The Bling Ring


Release: Friday, June 21, 2013


The Bling Ring has everything to do with the loss of innocence in the youth today.

Haha. No, I’m not really going to stand on that soapbox, but I also have no real obligation to sit here and lie about this movie, either. The characters — all of them, and (unfortunately) especially Emma Watson — are detestable little shits in this film and this really made Sofia Coppola’s new movie a difficult one to sit through. It had to have been no longer than thirty or forty-five minutes into this thing when I had decided roughly how the shape of my pie rating system would look like paired up with my review later — that it would be decidedly less than half a pie. (You can jump to the bottom real quick to see for yourself what it ended up being, or wait until you’re finished reading. . . .)

There have been those films that I’ve enjoyed myself in because the story was good, despite the main characters or some supporting roles that I really just didn’t like; and there are those films out there where the characters would do horrific things but managed to somehow stay in good standing with the audience due to brilliant scriptwriting and various other things. Take Meet the Parents (the first installment in this series), for example. Most of the characters were somewhat annoying (or so I thought) yet their actions all added up to one amazing little movie that brought out the truth about all (or at least some) of its key players. The character of Greg Focker was one giant fall from grace which I thought really worked to make the film a believable one. I could do you one better than that, actually. How about The Silence of the Lambs? If you’re willing to say you actually really liked Hannibal Lecter as a person rather than what he meant to the movie, then we might have to have a chat.

Some other movies that come to mind that exhibit unlikable characters but whose presence didn’t greatly impact the experience might be: Hall PassA Scanner DarklyThe Rum Diary, Seven PoundsWin/Win, Pulp Fiction, and probably a whole slew of others I’ve seen but aren’t remembering well right now. In fact, the entire premise behind the original Saw took two highly despicable people and called them out on it. And of course, we all know what I mean when I phrase it as “called them out;” it’s a little more serious than that sounds. 

So I’m not dismissing this film simply because the characters don’t fit or are distracting from the story in some unforgivable way. They’re intensely annoying Valley Girls who clearly value material possession over healthy relationships, and that much is certain. But that’s who these real-life thieves were. I’m sure the film is relatively accurate in portraying the real-life personalities. Because I don’t spend a good deal of time consorting with impossibly shallow, materialistic individuals, I think I might not necessarily be the target audience for a film like this. Regardless. . . my review continues. . .

Coppola directs her new movie with some deftness and confidence behind the cameras. There are several very nice and unusual shots in here that help effect the attitudes held by millions of youngsters who in some way, shape or form are climbing up the ladder to popularity based on the perfumes, jewelry or make-up they’re sporting or whose name they have printed onto their garments. Indeed this is a dream movie for anyone interested in fashion and the lifestyles of the rich and the famous. The Bling Ring follows the escapades made by five high schoolers who have been relocated to something known as a “alternative high school,” for those who have behavioral issues or exhibit anti-social tendencies. Coppola finds a cast that epitomizes both.

When Marc (Israel Broussard) finds himself to be the latest newcomer during his first classes at his new high school, he quickly falls in with a crowd of fashionistas who seem to be all about finding their latest fashion statements in the most unlikely of places: the homes of well-known celebrities. Rebecca (Katie Chang) takes to Marc pretty quickly and soon he is with an “in” crowd he’s been wanting to be a part of all his life. When the two start snatching money and drugs from parked cars one night, Marc realizes he enjoys doing this as much as the others apparently do. And so they simply keep going, raiding a good number of homes belonging to the likes of Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Rachel Bilson and Orlando Bloom. They do these places substantial damage as they revisit them again and again.

At first you might think, “How easy must it be to rob and loot in L.A.??” Then you have to think of all the V.I.P. parties Hilton et al must attend nightly. Cleverly, this bunch of alternate high schoolers figure out via articles on TMZ and associated sites exactly when their places will be empty, and then they make their moves, removing everything from designer jewelry to framed artwork, to pets. Its a thrill seeing the level of brazenness on display here, but what it also is (and more likely to be for more well-adjusted, matured viewers) is a damn sad portrait of kids losing their identities. This is, though, a place where identity and fashion seem to converge, and it’s not difficult to avoid so much as it is easy to be turned on by the psychosis that if you spend big, your friend circle thus will be big. Here’s a film that literally values the fact that bug-eyed glasses are more popular than reading spectacles; skimpy shirts and dresses are acceptable cold weather clothing; leopard print is more common than fleece. How could I have possibly gotten to where I am now without bending to the rules of fashion sensibility and design? I ask myself this while typing on a newly acquired MacBook Pro.

Identity is identity, I suppose. And I love me some Macintosh, yo. . .

Coppola certainly feels strongly about that sentiment, anyway. Her direction brings to the forefront the collective psychology of youngsters who want to feel part of the success of famous people, by way of stealing their things, that is. She focuses on the many lootings that occurred in the valley by setting up wide angles of an entire house left empty while Marc and Rebecca enter and do their thing. This is both an example of one of the great parts of this movie and of her attention on how these kids play a role in the grander scheme of things. You can look away from the house for a second and see the vast expansion of the surrounding area around Calabasas, and where they ultimately physically fit into the “bigger picture.” I actually thought this scene and the way the shot was set up to be a stroke of genius. It is such a shame to report that this was certainly the exception rather than the rule here, though. Trailers had this guy fooled.

What The Bling Ring boils down to is a rather flat story that weaves in and out of random celebrities’ homes (if they were really allowed access to these people’s homes, it was cool to see inside. . . think a glorified edition of Cribs) while offering next to no substance in the way of developing its characters. When you meet Marc and Rebecca, well. . . you’ve met Marc and Rebecca. And now you’re stuck with them for the duration of the picture. Fortunately, though, Marc is much easier to empathize with as the ultimate consequences do end up getting faced. I applaud Coppola for at least showing some realism to her artistry in making lowlives stealing from the rich look like badasses.

Look, I’m no high roller. I don’t necessarily think the real Bling Ring were “evil” for stealing from some of the wealthiest people in Los Angeles, but their portrayal in this film wasn’t exactly interesting. You couldn’t really feel for them, in any sense of the word — aside from a steadily increasing dislike for every one of them and the way they talked. I have never been as put off in a movie based on the characters alone, but I felt like I was stranded throughout this entire picture.


2-0Recommendation: The Bling Ring is far too one-dimensional to really recommend. If it had made an attempt to characterize the people who were involved in such bold and reckless schemes, and didn’t just fall back on the girls using “selfie” shots as transitions between scenes, then we might have had a real movie here. But what we have instead is a cold and calculated examination of the nature of obsession. Not even Leslie Mann can save this one.

Rated: R

Running Time:  90 mins.

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TBT: The Princess Bride (1987)


It’s been a long time since I’ve feasted my eyes on this outrageous classic. Thanks to my friend Brandon, I’ll be pulling this one out of the dust and cobwebs — and I think I’ve had to do more looking up plot synopses for this movie than I have for any review I’ve done so far. I also think that when some people read this and learn of my forgetting about this film, they might be surprised with how I might forget a gem from the ’80s, but hey that’s how it goes sometimes. 

But I suppose that is all the more reason for keeping this thread going. TBT is a good excuse to think. And think hard, for once. So I’m going to put on my thinking cap today and deliver a review of the 1987 Rob Reiner-directed comedy/fairy-tale. 

Today’s food for thought: The Princess Bride. 


Release: September 25, 1987


Rob Reiner really made something back in the day. He expertly crafted a love story featuring a cast that is as solid as his direction is confident. Not only is this movie ridiculously funny, it manages to pull off (in my opinion) the near-impossible: making a very satisfying story that makes sense and does NOT depend on the silliness of some of the jokes and sight-gags to get it done. One could not say the same for some (all??) of the Monty Python sketch-based movies. Indeed, those are funny too, but The Princess Bride is an amazingly feel-good movie, one that reaches this rare level of perfection and beauty that (as it has turned out) has been often imitated, but never duplicated.

Applying the story-within-a-story concept to this modern twist on fairy tales, Reiner starts the film off with a boy (Fred Savage) having a story read to him by good old gramps. The boy’s attention is completely drawn into a story about a lowly farm boy (Cary Elwes) named Westley who once was the love of the beautiful Buttercup (Robin Wright)’s life, but was presumed dead when his ship was taken over by Dread Pirate Roberts.

Years go by without her hearing anything from Westley — whose always soothing “As you wish” responses clung to her memory painfully. Eventually she has to give it all up as her life is on an unnatural collision course with the obnoxious royalty — Prince Humperdinck (marvelously played by Chris Sarandon). The Prince’s ultimate plan, though, is to have his newlywed Princess kidnapped and taken by boat elsewhere, and later to be murdered. He would go on to announce the news as an act committed by neighboring country Guilder, and thus would give reason to wage war on the other.

Hence, we are locked into a timeless story of heroism, fate and romance.


  • names of things/places in this movie. A few that stand out: Prince Humperdinck; the Cliffs of Insanity; Inigo Montoya; the Fire Swamp; ROUS (Rodents Of Unusual Size); the Pit of Despair
  • Andre the Giant (as Fezzik) shaking Cary Elwes’ limp head to respond ‘Yes/No.’ Best moment in the movie IMO.
  • the hill scene
  • Cary Elwes’ hair
  • “As you wish. . .” is quite the charming line


  • how good this film is. . . was? no. . . still is. I know I’ve seen it before — there are more fantastic scenes in this movie than I can name. (I know what I’m about to add to my list of re-watches. . .)
  • the fact that Cary Elwes really can act, if given great material. Seeing him in Saw is really quite funny when considering this role. . .
  • Fred Savage. . . ,(sorry dude)
  • PG movies CAN be really good movies
  • Billy Crystal was in this???


5-0Recommendation: If a recommendation is actually needed here, I will say that yes. Everyone who hasn’t checked it out yet, needs to. Rob Reiner began a string of something like seven films that were both critically and commercially praised intensely with this film. And its arguably the best in that string of seven. There’s just such a great chemistry among the cast, story and comedic/dramatic nature to this film that is next to impossible to reproduce. It’s a must-see for sure.

Rated: PG

Running Time: 98 mins.

Quoted: “And to think, all that time it was your cup that was poisoned.” / “They were both poisoned. I spent the last few years building up an immunity to iocane powder.”

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Stories We Tell


Release: Friday, May 10, 2013 (limited)


What is it that Oscar Wilde said once — that the truth is rarely pure and never simple?

Sarah Polley’s new documentary, which features and exposes her family considerably, certainly shows that this is the case. Her visionary work captures fascinating interviews with all living members of the Polley family, as they explain in their own words (and biases) their Canadian family tree. It is beautifully crafted, a stylish and provocative blend of the straightforwardness of documentary footage with the quirkiness of vintage indie films, which makes for an easy and thoroughly engaging watch.

There is a lot that works very well for this quasi-documentary, but perhaps no element is stronger than Polley’s use of perspective; it drives the film’s many stories and allows the umbrella narrative to continue to unravel until the very last moments. It’s sort of like a mystery in this way. What’s more is that the director is not excluded from the plot.  She chooses to have cameras focus on her from time to time, catching her as she listens behind the scenes to her father read his parts from a script. Other times the camera is on another relative but Polley’s presence is still there behind the camera. We hear her asking questions sometimes, laughing during others.

What immerses us in the goings-on of this particular family — one that we would otherwise have no real connection with — is the effect of cameras rolling constantly. It gives the film a perpetual interconnectedness that really pulls us in from our seats. At first I was repelled by a lack of any recognizable characters and had the thought — well, more like a fear — that we would not be able to connect to any of the people featured here since they won’t be “acting” as such. Fortunately, that’s a fear that is short-lived.

We dive headlong into the past with the help of ad hoc conversations juxtaposed with segments of re-enactments and authentic archived footage. At the core of the narrative are the Storytellers’ reflections on Diane Polley, who departed too early in their lives. From each we receive different parts of this woman’s life story and how they were affected in their own way. The “Storytellers” are those who were interviewed for the film and include: Michael, Mark, Joanna, and Marie Polley; Susy and John Buchan; Harry and Cathy Gulkin; Geoffrey Bowes and Marie Murphy, and more.

Not only is perspective critical to the structure of Stories We Tell, it is the reason Polley has chosen to make her film public. She’s the director of the film, but should she be the one telling the whole thing to us? What are the effects of having one story told by different people? What can we learn from different points of view, and what would be missing from each? These are all fascinating and worthwhile explorations of the nature of human relationships, how we live out our lives and the consequences of our past actions (or inactions, for that matter).

It may all seem a little high-brow and philosophical. . . but this is quite the digestible film. It is relatively short for a documentary (clocking in just ten minutes shy of two hours), but this is not the typical A&E Biography on television. This particularly likable bunch of Canadians have a rather complex, intriguing history, although I’d say it’s more or less impossible to find a family whose history lacks any sort of interest or peculiarity.

In the end what really sold me here was the true emotional depth of this film. There are a number of different levels that are touched on throughout, but Polley’s brave exploration of her own personal history really hits the deepest levels one can imagine when talking about the last moments everyone had with that wonderful Diane. One interviewee comes out and states the fact, and this resonated well with my audience — it’s going to sound sappy but these moments brought tears to my eyes. Never before have I really gotten this way by watching a film that doesn’t allow big budget drama to sell us these emotions. The tears come all on their own as a result of the closet being completely cleaned out with this family. Some scenes and questions are just all too real.

You cannot afford to miss out on seeing Stories We Tell. It is truly a fantastic work, and vital to anyone who has ever belonged to a family. I think that covers most of us. . . .


4-5Recommendation: An absolute must-see. Perhaps one of the greatest documentaries I’ve ever seen, Stories might even scratch my top ten favorite movies of all time. I know it’s a pretty big leap to take, but that’s how good this is. Do yourself a big favor and seek this out, I’m sure it will be harder to find than Man of Steel.

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 108 mins.

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Man of Steel


Release: Friday, June 14, 2013


You could sit and argue all day whether what’s inscribed on Superman’s chest is an ‘S’ or a symbol of hope, but it should take little to no time at all coming to the conclusion that the epic new blockbuster from Zack Snyder (who directed 300) is just that — epic.

Unfortunately the term ‘epic’ and similarly lofty descriptions are often two-sided coins, and have this tendency to invite criticism more than they do praise since these words conjure up the idea that nothing has been or will be coming close to this particular standard, at least not any time soon. Hyperbole is so easy to use when describing superhero films and in particular, the reboots thereof, and I really don’t want to go into this review using a boatload of them; however there is almost no other way. This film is just so intensely visual and action-packed it is a total manifestation of that one word.

This is both a blessing and a curse when it comes to talking Man of Steel. Grand in its scale, sprawling in its running time, and ambitious in its execution of a relatively simple plot, it seems as though Snyder has bitten off a little more than he could chew with this one. Only so much can be gained out of a bombastic vision: Michael Bay (and I’m not comparing this movie to a Michael Bay movie, just to clarify. . . ) sacrifices even halfway decent dialogue and character development for the sake of spectacle and CGI parties because that is his style. He’s become a lightning rod for criticism in that regard. Christopher Nolan (who operates in a producer capacity for this adventure) bases his characters in reality and lets the action speak for itself, thus making it more authentic and believable, as opposed to the sheer awe factor that comes with an excess of exploding shit. Other directors have their own styles that define works possessing various other strengths and/or weaknesses. But here, Snyder seems to be throwing everything including the kitchen sink at Man of Steel, hoping that whatever sticks sticks firmly. Well, some does and some does not.For all of the film’s surprising shortcomings, the more critical factors worked in its favor, leaving only details (some may say big details) to be left as questionable.

For all of the film’s surprising shortcomings, the more critical factors worked in its favor, leaving only details (some may say big details) to be left as questionable.

Snyder begins the film in spectacular fashion, focusing on a Krypton that is falling apart due to the planet’s unstable core. In the midst of all the panic, we bear witness to Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and Lara (Ayelet Zurer) giving up their only child so that he may live elsewhere in the universe, free of the destruction of his home world. It is a heartbreaking moment and a heck of a way to start things off. The journey to Earth is also compelling and this transitional scene manages to connect our two worlds as succinctly and brilliantly as I (and I’m sure scores of years-old fans of Superman) had hoped.

When we cut to a scene that’s obviously years after his crash-landing in Kansas, we see a fully grown and disheveled looking man (Henry Cavill) who at once appears displaced and lonely. He’s working as a sea fisherman, which is pretty much one of the most isolated jobs I can think of off the top of my head.

Despite the following sequence being a hodgepodge of flashbacks and flash-forwards, this hectic arrangement of scenes allows us to really get a big-picture perspective of how this incredible individual is adapting to our world. Indeed, I’ve read more than a few reviews that indicate relief that we are spared the “growing-up” First Act, which could have just as easily been used here. Where he’s been and who he has tried to be is vital to the story Snyder has gone with here. We are experiencing a more honest characterization of Superman, and it’s just the earlygoing here. (At least, I’m assuming there’ll be sequels — plural.)

These early days — that is to say, pre-General Zod invasion — build interesting drama, but not in an overt way. The scenes in which young Clark Kent (I love that adoptive name, by the way) and his “father” Jonathan (Kevin Costner) talk about his place in the world are wonderfully written, and they really help contribute to a growing list of reasons why we should love and care about Superman….er, rather, Clark’s life and what the future holds for him. “You’ll have to decide what kind of man you want to grow up to be,” he tells Clark, who’s just recently been hassled by some bullies from school. There is a poignancy in these small moments that really help carry and build momentum to the spectacular action sequences that still lay ahead — you know, the stuff that probably most of us are going to see this movie for.

Clark/Kal-El’s departure from Krypton does not go unnoticed, though. The impossibly angry and powerful General Zod (Michael Shannon) soon emerges from the cloak of deep space and delivers a chilling message to the human race. Unfortunately his message goes the cliched, blockbuster route and is only but one example of some of the glaring weaknesses of the Goyer/Nolan script. It goes a little something like this: “Hand over the suited hero, or we destroy the planet.” The foreshadowing of a gigantic scene of violence and chaos is less than subtle, to say the least.

Even with a star-studded cast, including those behind the cameras and the ones responsible for the script, there is a lot left to be desired in moments that are not filled with an incredible amount of CGI. The Lois and Clark relationship is neither as accurate nor as compelling as I was hoping for, and we still are plagued with a lot of the cheese-factor as it pertains to bystander reaction and the general mass confusion of the populace of our world, as told by the blank expressions set on only a few faces — some military leaders, the staff at the Daily Planet, for example. I thought we would be past this with a cast (again, referring to more than just those on-screen) as talented as this.

Even with a star-studded cast, including those behind the cameras and the ones responsible for the script, there is a lot left to be desired in moments that are not filled with an incredible amount of CGI. The Lois and Clark relationship is neither as accurate nor as compelling as I was hoping for, and we still are plagued with a lot of the cheese-factor as it pertains to bystander reaction and the general mass confusion of the populace of our world, as told by the blank expressions set on only a few faces — some military leaders, the staff at the Daily Planet, for example. I thought we would be past this with a cast (again, referring to more than just those on-screen) as talented as this.

There is also no holding back during the massive fight scene that comprises the climax of this film (a.k.a. the Third Act; seriously, the final showdown must be at least 45 minutes in length). The action does get a little numbing. How many skyscrapers can we count where Superman and Zod crash through at lightning speed? Though this may seem like a trivial complaint, the end of the film suffers from a bit of a bloated ego — mostly as a result of Snyder thinking this needed to have the most grandiose of grandiose send-offs when in fact there is likely going to be more installments under the guise of Man of Steel. Don’t get me wrong — seeing what Superman is fully capable of in this particular case was exhilarating. But to a point. The film could have benefitted from some editing; somehow seeing him disappear under the harsh laser of Zod’s impressive ‘World Engine’ just didn’t do much for me when everything leading up to it has been just as insane.

There is one thing that has been overlooked quite terribly, though. There’s a consensus about this film’s lack of humor or discernible “warmth” to the script, or even to the characters, that distances Man of Steel from it’s theoretical potential. Such is simply a gross oversight and misses the point of this film’s purpose: bringing Superman back full-strength and true to the character. He’s human, but not really. He’s invincible, but not really. He’s a member of planet Earth, but. . . not really. Notice how none of these are really descriptions of Tony Stark, Spider-man (at least the Tobey Maguire version), nor the Green Lantern — the likes of which Clark Kent is most definitely not.

Wit and the inescapable buddy-buddy relationships in other action films don’t have much of a place in Man of Steel. Superman walks alone; this is part of the motif not just for this 2013 version, but of any of the films made. This movie’s title alone suggests a ‘colder,’ more dispassionate atmosphere, and is evidenced by the immediate introduction of General Zod who commands as much screen time as Henry Cavill’s God-like physique. Realistically, the world is a cold place. While I thought there could have been a few more happenstance laughs (Nolan does that quite nicely in his Dark Knight saga) sprinkled throughout, the purpose here is not to be funny. It is to drop those jaws to the floor.

It’s just too bad that most of that comes from the magic of special effects, and is not the result of incredible scriptwriting in conjunction with impressive action. So. . . ultimately, is the final product successful in the sense that it lived up to the record-levels of hype building up to its release? That’s very easy to answer: no it isn’t. Is it a good film? Most definitely. It’s epic and sweeping. We go to so many places within this film, and so easily too. It may be easier to overlook some of the many flaws within the narrative for some people and harder for others. Opinions are going to vary widely, but there’s no denying the size and beautiful grandeur of Snyder’s vision.

The director may have set his sights a little high going into this project, and he’s also no superhero who can shoot lasers from his eyes (which would be badass). But his film has taken an awfully hard bashing, more so than it deserves. If there was this much anticipation going into this film and the result is a mediocre 57% on Rotten Tomatoes, then there’s no telling what the damage will be with expectations for the next installment. . .


4-0Recommendation: While it’s not vintage Christopher Reeve, this is a film that holds nothing back with energy and visual splendor. The best way to enjoy this film — and although it’s probably impossible to avoid seeing extra spoilers or reveals by now — is to go in with an open mind. Make your own opinion on this new take on Superman. Highbrows and perfectionists, yes, are going to be in varying degrees let down. The casual moviegoer is going to be blown away. The ratio of the latter to the former is something like 10:1, so it’s important to keep that in mind as you watch this behemoth unfold.

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 143 mins.

Quoted: “You will give the people of Earth an ideal to strive towards. They will race behind you, they will stumble, they will fall. But in time, they will join you in the sun, Kal. In time, you will help them accomplish wonders.” 

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TBT: Kung Pow! Enter the Fist (2002)


Ladies and gentlemen, I again force your eyes and mice/fingerpads/iPad cursor-things towards this page for the second edition of DSB TBT. Hopefully that abbreviation is relatively self-explanatory. I’m too lazy to type it all out.

Due to a request I received (nice call, Josh!!!), the Throwback of today is probably what I would describe as one of the most contentious kung-fu spoof movies; known to some others as one of the most ridiculously hilarious 80 minutes ever created for film. This movie literally caused me so much pain when I first saw it while I guffawed like a hyena — I think I remember it more for that, than for any real story it may have had.

Today’s food for thought: Kung Pow! Enter the Fist.


Release: January 25, 2002


Steve Oedekerk pours all of himself — including his ass-kicking gophers — into this outrageous film that makes light of practically everything you can imagine about kung fu movies — from the awfully out-of-sync voiceovers, to the art form itself, to the characters and how they survive/die. Splicing footage from 1970s obscure martial arts films while dubbing in the main character for major fight scenes borrowed from these films and adding in other random bits and pieces, Kung Pow! is not exactly wholly original — and we get it, it’s the entire point! It’s insanely goofy (and to some, unbearably so…it’s the recipient of an 11% squashed rating on Rotten Tomatoes); to those who were/are fans, this short film is likely to withstand the test of time in the face of hundreds of other spoofs of a genre that is inherently parodic.

Even though Oedekerk wrote and directed the picture he’s at his best as an actor, playing “The Chosen One,” a kung fu prodigy at birth. He embarks immediately on a vengeful quest to find the ones who had murdered his parents in their home years ago, right before he gets tossed from the crib in the most hilarious of ways.

When he discovers that the one responsible for his orphanage is none other than the ugly-as-hell “Master Pain,” also referred to as “Betty,” yep — The Chosen One goes crazy; think Neo on five hits of bath salts but with a penchant for mischief at the same time. Along the way he encounters some strange characters and places, including a future friend in their fist-fighting frenzies, Master Tang, and the one-boobed babe named Whoa.


There are lines galore that one could walk away with stuck in their brains permanently — I still have a few. Some of my favorites include:

  • “Let your anger be as a monkey in a piñata.”
  • “Chicken go ‘cluck-cluck,’ cow go ‘moo.’ Piggie go ‘oink-oink,’ how ’bout you?”
  • “You must take your place in the Great Circle of. . . . stuff.”
  • [narrator] “At that moment, The Chosen One learned a valuable lesson about iron claws — THEY HURT LIKE CRAP, MAN!”
  • “But that would just look stupid and leave my small, sensitive balls completely exposed. . . “
  • “We’re children, we’re children!!!”
  • “Killing is wrong. And bad. There should be a new, stronger word for killing. Like, ‘badwrong,’ or ‘badong.’ Yes, killing is badong. From this moment, I will stand for the opposite of killing: ‘gnodab.'”
  • [Master Betty] “First, a joke. What do you get when you cross an owl with a bungee cord?” [pause…] “…My ass.”
  • “Our! Sexual! Preferences! Are! Our! Own! Business!”
  • “Thank you, squirrel friend. Your soft, cushy body helped absorb the force of his blow.”

In realizing this is not everyone’s cup of tea — in general, spoofs are really a type of acquired taste for those who don’t mind letting the source material become fodder for ridiculous jokes — I have to say this is one of the better spoofs since it literally takes no prisoners in making fun of everything. There’s no escaping the silliness of it all.

So try not to fight back when watching Kung Pow!, or else you might hurt something. Especially the logical side of your brain. This is a good demonstration of what a movie needs as a bare minimum: creativity. If it’s not creative at all, then it’s a documentary. And even documentaries are creative in how they deliver their information. If you’re not in agreement that this movie is at the VERY LEAST creative in its botching of any piece of information, I might just have to have a word with you, privately. . . .


3-5Recommendation: This isn’t likely to move people who oppose outlandish farce, but for those who enjoy shutting their brain off and laughing until it hurts, this does just fine.

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 81 mins.

What’s the goofiest movie you’ve ever seen? 

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This Is The End


Release: Wednesday, June 12, 2013


God creates the world in seven days; Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen create a worthwhile comedy about the destruction of it in an hour and forty-five minutes.

Of the many comedies that revolve around pot-smoking, penis-joke telling, and other appropriately inappropriate gross-out gags, This Is The End seems to be a “Best Of” all of that, plus some. Set against a Los Angeles that is getting torn apart by apocalyptic events, it displays the behavior of six friends who become trapped together in the same house (that of James Franco, as it so happens) as they try desperately to survive.

The film is a regular Ocean’s Eleven of jokesters. Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride and James Franco make up the first-billed, and are all cast as themselves. Ordinarily I would have thought that idea to be relatively distracting from the plot but in this case it really works and actually enhances the experience, when you consider how the first third of the film is written and performed. Beyond them, This Is The End finds room to squeeze in the likes of Michael Cera, Mindy Kaling, Kevin Hart, Emma Watson, Jason Segel, Paul Rudd, David Krumholtz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Aziz Ansari and even Rihanna.

Alright, well that’s enough name-dropping to last the next few posts, despite the fact that there are even more than that in the big party in the beginning. The biggest surprise beyond this impressive list of names is that each one of these characters are hilarious for the limited time they have before things go completely crazy; before things go from funny to hilarious.

Jay is in town visiting Seth when Seth decides he will give his best buddy another chance to get to know some of his Hollywood friends and acquaintances. Jay plays a very awkward version of himself (which I’m not sure how much acting was really going on here; I see this guy as awkward to begin with — even though that doesn’t rule out the fact that I’d still love to meet him), so he doesn’t give the huge party at James Franco’s new mansion much of a chance and soon wants to duck out to buy some more cigarettes. When the two depart, strange things start happening and before they know it, everything (and almost everyone) are on fire and they get back to Franco’s posthaste.

The second act largely revolves around what I’m henceforth referring to as Franco Manor — an exquisitely designed concrete building with iPads built into the walls and large televisions popping out of the floors, not to mention a few pieces of artwork James is particularly proud of. As the outside world continues to fall apart, the massive party is broken up, leaving only but our six main guys to fend for themselves — armed with only what they have inside Franco Manor.

Food and water are of course in short supply since making trips into town is no longer a viable option. The guys embark on both a physical and mental journey that will reveal both damnable and redemptive qualities to each person who is still alive.

This film is satisfying on two levels: as an outrageous comedy and as a rather intriguing story. I thought that after the likes of Superbad, the directing duo of Rogen/Goldberg could not possibly outdo themselves. This Is The End may not be a revelation in terms of its comedic material but the heartfelt acting and constantly subversive tone works in it’s favor, especially when it’s set against something as ‘serious’ as the end of days. There’s really no limit to how much fun the characters are making of one another’s careers. The self-references include everything from their early days to the latest ‘sell-out’ phases they’re going or have gone through. We have seen bits and pieces of this kind of awareness in Rogen and Goldberg movies before, but nothing quite to this level. Best of all, it doesn’t really get old because it is so ironic that in this time they are able to still have the most insignificant of quarrels with one another.

As far as the plot goes, it too is worth mentioning. In referencing their 2007 hit, Superbad, I was doubtful any effort afterwards would be as compelling as the story of teens on the cusp of early adulthood, who fight to know their place in a world that doesn’t make much sense outside of high school. Superbad, as perverse and sexist as it may be, is a classic coming-of-age tale. It may arguably be the best thing that these two will ever do, but in 2013 Rogen and Goldberg seem to have yet again struck gold.

Contrasting movie star vanity with the sudden need to repent and do good things in the face of (damn near) certain death serves as solid commentary on the human condition.


4-0Recommendation: Here is a very strong entry into the hilarious, if short, canon of Rogen/Goldberg gross-out/stoner flicks. Even though it is jam-packed full of their signature comedic tastes, it will likely appeal to a wider audience since there is far more going on than what at first meets the eye. 

Rated: R

Running Time: 107 mins.

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Frances Ha

Frances Ha

Release: Friday, May 17, 2013 (limited)


Oh, Greta Gerwig — where have you been all my life? I’m sure many guys have asked you this, and even though you’re going to let my forthcoming flattery roll off you and your leather jacket like water off a duck, I’m going to ask this anyway: Can I go out with you? Please?


Well, that was to be expected. Gerwig’s character in Frances Ha (I think you might guess her name relatively quickly) is at once committed to something, and then not so much. That’s either by choice or by the forceful hand of reality. That’s actually not entirely accurate. Her character is bound by circumstance. Sometimes she’s doing something strange (like, really strange — to the point of seeming delusional) and other times she’s making moves we all likely would make in these particular moments. Whatever she’s doing though, she’s doing what a girl has to do to get along in this life, even though she doesn’t know quite exactly what to do or how to do it.

She’s a New Yorker with no high-rise apartment. Actually, make that really no apartment at all. Frances is caught in the beginning of the movie in an awkward transition between a soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend’s small loft and, well, the next. . . . place. She ends up rooming with a few new friends — two guys who seem to be on tracks of their own relative success. But this also does not work out for much longer, as she finds herself struggling to make even the minimum rent payment. It seems that nothing is going to work out for our giddy protagonist for too long.

The movie is paced as such. It’s like flipping through a photo album, each photo on the page telling a brief yet intimate and complete story. The majority of scenes that make up Frances Ha last only but a few minutes, but are such great snapshots of life it is impossible to argue they are too brief. Director Noah Baumbach pieces each snapshot together with utmost skill, forming a unique cinematic experience that plays out more like a relic of the 1940s or 50s. Maybe a lot of that  is impressed upon me thanks to the exquisite locations (Manhattan, Paris, etc.). Maybe it’s because it’s shot totally in black-and-white. Maybe I was taken away because of my hopelessly misplaced sense of romanticism.

Frances is an aspiring dancer whose apprenticeship with a New York dance company is really taking her nowhere. Her best friend Sophie is moving out to chase dreams of her own, leaving Frances in some kind of a daze. Her parents are unable to help out financially, though they wish they could. Frances is “un-datable.” Indeed, this film is very much steeped in real world issues and sentiment, and if you don’t mind a narrative that takes its time in finding just where the sweet spots in life are, this is the film for you. At points it’s easy to be thrown off as to where we are really going with it all, and the ending certainly can sneak up on you.

But it’s imperative with a film like this to enjoy all the simple things as well as the complex; Frances’s walks about town are as integral to the story as her idealistic conversations with Sophie; with her parents; with her peers at the dance company.


4-0Recommendation: There’s no denying this film’s awkwardness. There’s a lot of charm to that awkwardness, though and it was very enjoyable to see a previously unknown actress (to me at least) blossom into a soon-to-be star with this role. Greta Gerwig is fantastic and is worth paying to see this movie even if you know little to nothing about it. I highly recommend this one.

Rated: R

Running Time: 86 mins.

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