movie reviews

Lars and the Real Girl (2007)

larsrealgirl

A weird young man has a sex doll for a girlfriend –  at a glance it seems like a crazy gross-out comedy, but it’s not.

Lars( Ryan Gosling) is an award introvert living in a a  small town. He stays alone in a cottage on the property where his brother and sister-in-law ( Emily Mortimer) reside.  After several several inquiries about his romantic life from townspeople, he orders a realistic looking sex doll online and introduces her to his family as Bianca, his girlfriend.Concerned they take him to a doctor/psychologist, Dagmar  (Patricia Clarkson), who recommends that they all go along with his delusion, until he is able to work things out for himself. The whole town plays along and accepts Bianca as his girlfriend.and as part of their town.

Lars and the Real Girl is a beautiful and quirky portrait of love, family, friendship and community. This movie is so well crafted and is brilliantly scripted. It is boasts an amazing cast, with  stellar performances from Gosling and Mortimer.
 
Rnning time: 106 min
Rated: PG-13
Writer: Nancy Oliver
Director; Craig Gillespie 
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movie reviews

Wonder Woman (2017)

wonderwoman
Based on the DC Comic book,  Wonder Woman, created by William Moulton Marston. Diana (Gal Gadot),  daughter of Hippolyta, the Amazon Queen,  lives among the Amazons (a special race created by Zeus to protect mankind from the god of war, Aries)  in a world populated only by women.

One day Diana rescues Steve (Chris Pine), an American soldier, from the ocean after his plane was shot down by Germans.  After learning about the terrible world war Diana decides to leave her home to put a stop to the destruction. Steve needs to stop the evil German commander Ludendorff (Danny Huston)  from destroying the the world.  With Steve  and their band of misfits by her side, she finds herself drawn into a the war and assumes her identity as warrior princess, Wonder Women.

The movie is packed with action, special effects, epic battle scenes and a bit of romance. I’ve never read any of the Wonder Women comic books I really enjoyed watching the movie.  Gal Gadot did an amazing job as Wonder Woman and the chemistry between her and Chris Pine is pretty good.

See it if you like action movies, comic book adaptations or seeing women kick butt. I’d recommend seeing this film on the big screen.

Cast also includes:   Connie Nielson, Robin Wright, Ewan Bremmer, Elena Anaya, Saïd Taghmaoui, David Thewlis,  etc

Director:  Patty Jenkins
Screenplay: Allan Heinberg

Story:  Zack Snyder,  Allan Heinberg,  Jason Fuchs

Running time: 141 mins
Rated: PG-13

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movie reviews

The Wrestler (2008)

wrestler

Randy “The Ram” Robinson (Mickey Rourke) is an aging professional wrestler. He struggles to make rent and has to pick up extra shifts at his day job.  The years of beatings to his body, steroid abuse and hair bleaching is taking its toll.  He seems to be pretty lonely.  He has regularly visits a stripper, Cassidy (Marissa Tomei), whom he develops an interest in.  His doctor recommends that he quits wrestling and Randy makes an effort to adjust to “normal” life. He tries to reconnect with his estranged daughter, Stephanie (Evan Rachel Wood), but she’s not too keen.  As things go awry, Randy finds himself being drawn back into wrestling.

The Wrestler was a big comeback for Mickey Rourke (actually his comeback was in 2005’s Sin City, but The Wrestler is a bigger role) who was quite popular in the 1980s (see 9½ Weeks and Angel Heart).  Rourke won best actor Golden Globe, BAFTA , Screen Actors Guild Award, etc and was nominated for an Oscar for his performance as Randy.  The lovely Marissa Tomei was nominated for and/or won several awards for her performance as Cassidy.

I’m not really into wrestling, but I thought the movie is quite brilliant. Like other films from director Darren Aronofsky (Pi, Requiem for a Dream, Black Swan), The Wrestler is a portrait of human obsession and habit. It’s not a feel-good movie.  Randy’s world is pretty bleak. It is gritty and feels very real.

I would recommend this movie if you’re into serious human drama.


Written by: Robert Siegel
Directed by: Darren Aronofski
Release: 2008
Rating: R
Running time: 1h 49min.

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movie reviews

School of Rock (2003)

Running Time: 108 min    Rated: PG-13

school of rock

Director: Richard Linklater (Dazed and Confused, Before Sunrise,  Waking Life, Fast Food Nation,  Boyhood)
Writer: Mike White (Orange County, Nacho Libre.  Episodes of: Dawson’s Creek, Freaks and Geeks)

 

“Dude, I service society by rocking, OK? I’m out there on the front lines liberating people with my music!” – Dewey Finn

Dewey Finn (Jack Black)  is a unemployed wannabe rock star.  His best friend,  Ned’s (Mike White)  girlfriend, Patti (Sarah Silverman), wants to kick him out of their shared apartment, unless he can pay his part of the rent. His band mates has replaced him with another guitarist and kicked him out of the band.  Things look pretty grim.  Ms Mullins (Joan Cusack), the principal of a fancy prep school, calls regarding a substitute teacher job for Ned. When Dewey hears what the job pays, he decides to take “the gig”. At first Dewey sees his new job as paid nap time and has little interest in the bunch of 4th graders. After hearing the kids play in orchestra class, Dewey has a brilliant idea. He announces a new class project called “Project Rock Band”,  with the plan of entering them in the “Battle of the Bands”.   Of course, this has to be a “secret class project”. The kids are very excited about their new project and everyone is assigned a special role.  As he spend more time with the kids he forms a special bond with them.


School of Rock
 is a hilarious, feel-good movie (unless you end up feeling old and untalented).  It is well directed, shot and edited.  This is probably director Richard Linklater’s  most mainstream film.

Jack Black plays yet another wacky  goofball. If you enjoy his other movies you will enjoy this one. Jack Black and Mike White often act together in movies written by White.  This is probably my favourite Jack Black movie (I loved Orange County a lot, though he plays a minor role in it).

The child actors in this movie are both adorable and very talented. The young cast include (among many other talented performers): Miranda Cosgrove (iCarly, Dispicable Me),  Aleisha Allen (Are We There Yet?,  Are We Done Yet?), Cole Hawkins (Bid Daddy, Changing Lanes, Meet the Parents),  Angelo Massagli (Cosby, The Sopranos, Stuart Little 2)  and Zachary Infante (acted  in and produced a short film called The Black Experience) . 

The soundtrack features several classic rock anthem. Some of the artist featured on the soundtrack include: AC/DC,  Led Zeplin,  The Who, Cream, T.Rex, The Doors, etc.

The Special Collector’s Edition DVD includes commentary by Richard Linklater & Jack Black,  kid’s commentary, a music video, the theatrical trailer and several other bonus materials.

 

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movie reviews

Excess Baggage (1997)

Running time: 101 min      Rated: PG-13

Excess Baggage was released 20 years ago…

excess baggage

To get her father’s attention, a spoiled rich teenager, Emily (Alicia Silverstone), fakes her own kidnapping.  While she is hiding out in the trunk of her car, Vincent (Bencio Del Toro), a car thief steals her car and inadvertently becomes a kidnapper. There are sparks between them and they form a bond as they spend more time together.  In the meanwhile her father has sent his associate,  “Uncle Ray” (Christopher Walken) to retrieve Emily.

I saw this movies as a teenager. I definitely wanted to have Alicia Silverstone’s outfit, which I thought was very cool.  The soundtrack is enjoyable and features the song “All Mixed Up” by Red House Painters . Benicio Del Toro gives a very sweet performance as Vincent. Alica Silverstone is very cute and was extremely popular at the time of this film, due to her movie Clueless (1996).

The whole poor little rich girl thing is a bit of cliché. Excess Baggage is not exactly a cinematic classic, but it is  very entertaining and a easy watch.

Director: Marco Brambilla
Writer:  Max. D Adams (story & screenplay), Dick Clement, Ian La Frenais.
Cast also includes:  Harry Connick Jr., Jack Thompson, Nicholas Turturro.

*A film with a similar premise, A Life Less Ordinary was released also released in 1997. Look out for my review and my comparison of the two films.

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movie reviews

A Life Less Ordinary (1997)

Running time: 103 min       Rated: R

A Life Less Ordinary was released 20 years ago…

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Robert (Ewan McGregor), a cleaner and aspiring romance novelist, loses his job.  He confronts the company president and in the process takes the boss’s daughter, Celine (Cameron Diaz) as a hostage. He now finds himself as a kidnapper on the run with Celine. There are sparks between them and as they spend more time together, the possibility of romance. In the mean time, two angels, Jackson (Delroy Lindo) and O’Reilly (Holly Hunter) are stuck on earth with the mission to romantically united a man and a woman.

A Life Less Ordinary was directed by acclaimed British director Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours) and written by frequent collaborator John Hodge (Shallow Grave, Trainspotting, The Beach).

The subplot of the top angels adds a fantasy element to the otherwise gritty movie.  The subplot makes the movie more quirky, but it could probably stand without it. The dialogue is witty and the cast is on point.  The film is technically well made and edited. I like the score and the soundtrack . I would not say this is a case of Stockholm Syndrome, because the kidnapping is accidental. Overall, I enjoyed this movie and it is one of my favourites.

Also starring: Dan Hedaya, Stanley Tucci, Tony Shaloub, Ian Holm, Timothy Olyphant.

 

*A film with a similar premise, Excess Baggage was released also released in 1997. Look out for my review and my comparison of the two films.

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movie reviews

Rosemary’s Baby (1968) – Review

rosemary
A young  married couple, Rosemary (Mia Farrow) and Guy Woodhouse (John Casavettes) move into a notorious New York City apartment building.  They meet and befriend their neighbours,  an older couple, Minnie (Ruth Gordon) and Roman Castevet (Sidney Blackmer).   The young couple is planning to start a family soon and Guy treats Rosemary to a special dinner.  That night she has very strange nightmares.  Shortly thereafter she  finds out that she is pregnant. She switches doctors to Dr Sapirstein, a family friend of the Castevets. He gives her strange advice about her pregnancy. Hutch, an old friend of the Woodhouses is concerned about Rosemary and becomes suspicious of her naigbours. He asks Rosemary to meet him but he never shows up for the meeting…

 

Rosemary’s Baby is well crafted, with many “plants” and “payoffs”. It  is packed with detail and soaked in irony. It is a psychological rather than a visual attack. There are no prosthetic demons or elaborate masked monsters (this was before CGI), except for a few flashes. The images are not excessively gory. There is no one hacking off limbs or poking out eyeballs. There is no throwing up green gunk or spinning heads.  The only cheesy thing about this movie is some of the wardrobe and the phony sweetness of the apartment dwellers.

As far as horror movies go, I think Rosemary’s Baby works very well. It is technically well executed and has enough layers to be a well-rounded film. Psychologically it works very well and it stays with the viewer for a long time.  It’s a disturbing look at the fragility of trust. Is all this really happening or is it all in Rosemary’s head.

***

Rosemary’s Baby was several awards. Ruth Gordon won the Oscar for best supporting actress for her role as Minnie Castevet.

Director: Roman Polanski
Screenplay: Roman Polanski (based on a novel by Ira Levin)
Running time: 131 minutes

 

 

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movie reviews

Veronica Mars – Movie (2014)

vmars movie
Background:
The movie is based on a eponymous TV series – Veronica Mars, created by Rob Thomas (not the lead singer from Matchbox Twenty).  The show ran for 3 seasons  (2004 – 2007) and is set in the fictional town of Neptune, California.

During the first two seasons, Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell) is a high school student who works as an assistant to her PI dad (Enrico Colantoni).  She also acts as private investigator for her fellow students and gets in all sorts of sticky situations. In season 3, Veronica is in college and living away from home. The series deals with several social issues and has a dark, quirky sense of humour.  The sound track also features some awesome music.

In order to make the movie, the producers and actors acquired funds through crowd funding. Those who contributed were allowed to be extras in the movie.

I wanted to go support the movie in theater, but it wasn’t showing over here. I got it later, on DVD.  The DVD featurette about the making of the movie and the Kickstarter campaign as a bonus material.

The Veronica Mars Movie:
Tagline: She thought she was out. 

The movie opens with a voice over (a common device in the show) and a quick recap of the series.  This works well enough in the context of a PI movie and introduces the characters and some of the references to those not so familiar with the show.

Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell)  is a college graduate, interviewing at prestigious law firms.  She learns that a classmate from high school was murdered and that her high school sweetheart, Logan Echolls (Jason Dohring) is the prime suspect. She returns to her home town of Neptune to help Logan with his case…  and is in town just in time for her 10-year high school reunion.

The role of Carrie Bishop was played by Leighton Meester , but in the movie the role was taken over by  Andrea Estella (lead singer of Twin Sister).   Although ailry central to the plot of the movie, Carrie was a minor character in the show.

In the TV show the Mars family had a pittbull, named Backup, who is absent from the movie (presumably the dog had already passed on given the time period).

The  Veronica Mars movie recalls the spirit,  witty dialogue and characters from the TV series. It is cool to see how everyone has grow… and also how some characters have stay exactly the same.   there are several references to the show and “inside jokes”  (this might go over the heads of those not familiar with the show).  The Logan vs Piz (romantic) rivalry from season 3 is back.

It was fun to watch the movie, being a fan of the show.  It did not disappoint, but if you are/were a binge watcher of the show, it leaves you wanting more.

Rating: PG-13
Running time:  103 mins
Director: Rob Thomas

Writers: Rob Thomas & Diane Ruggiero
Cast includes: Kristen Bell, Jason Dohring, Krysten Ritter, Ryan Hanson, Percy Dags III, Francis Capra, Chris Lowell,  Tina Majorino and Enrico Colantoni.

There are several well know actors in minor roles and cameo appearance.
Full cast and crew on imdb.

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movie reviews

Amélie (2001)

amelie

Rating: R      (South African DVD rating: 13)
Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain, is a French romantic comedy (with subtitles).

Amélie is introduced to us as a lonely only-child with a vivid imagination. As an adult, Amélie (Audrey Tautou) lives on her own and works as a waitress in a cafe in Paris. One day, she finds a mysterious box of keepsakes and she sets off to find its owner. On her journey she meets Nino (Mathieu Kassovitz) and immediate feels a connection with him. She also set out to bring joy to the people around her, with random acts of kindness and anonymous little  surprises.

Amélie is well written and directed. It has a great cast and is over all well-crafted. The omnipresent voice over narrator that adds flavour to the story. The characters are funny and interesting, with quirky character introductions. This is a very entertaining romantic comedy and one of my favourite movies.

Amélie received several awards and nominations including awards for writing, cinematography, editing, production design, acting and “Best foreign language film”.

Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Writers: Guillaume Laurant &  Jean-Pierre Jeunet 
Full cast and crew on imdb.

 

 

©lowercase_v   2017 

movie reviews

The Doberman Gang (1972)

dobe gang72

Rating: PG

This film received the first “No Animals Were Harmed” end credit ever issued to a movie by American Humane Society (the oversight organization responsible for monitoring animal actors during productions).

Story:
After a botched bank robbery, Eddie (Byron Mabe), a frustrated crook, realizes that human error was the cause of his gang’s failure. One night he happens to see some Dobermans chasing intruders off a property. He starts thinking of how he could use people’s fear of these dogs to rob banks. Along with his ex-waitress girlfriend (Julie Parrish) he gets his old gang back together. They hire a dog-trainer Barney (Hal Reed) to train six Dobermans to rob a bank for them.

These dobermans were extremely well-trained animals. It made me sad that such brilliant dogs were being exploited by a A-hole like Eddie. Never mind the money, the Dobies stole my heart. There is also a sweet bulldog named J Edgar Hoover.

My thoughts:
Nothing extraordinary in editing or cinematography, but nothing I could absolutely fault either. (Though I wasn’t watching this from a critics point of view).
The soundtrack/score is a bit cheesy, although the theme song is kinda catchy. The exposition felt a bit slow, since the dobermans only arrive after about 26 minutes. There are a feel holes in Eddie’s plan.

This is a fun movie.  Dobie-lovers might also get annoyed by some of the breed stereotypes. The doberman is a beautiful and extremely intelligent dog, that can also be an agent of destruction in the wrong hands.

 

 

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