Archive for March, 2008

Run, Fat Boy, Run
Arthouse Fare, This Ain’t

Hitchcock knew he was in the entertainment business. David Schwimmer and company seem to recognize this, too. The story is lame and simple—a guy learns ten years too late that he dumped the wrong gal, and now must run a marathon to win her back (!!)—but I connected with it. It contains a refreshing bit of human interest. It feels good in a predictable and humorous way. It celebrates the triumph of the human spirit. With some clever writing and sight gags, this movie felt like those madcap comedies of old I love so much. It’s an approach that sells movie tickets. In short, Run, Fat Boy, Run is fun, hopeful, positive and very funny.


A Talk With Kevin Miller
On the Road to Somewhere

“I think it’s incredibly difficult to make a movie, period, because you have so many different opinions in the mix,” articulates screenwriter Kevin Miller. “Getting money is probably the most difficult part. So I always go back to that line from Young Guns, Billy the Kid saying, ‘There’s many a slip between the cup and the lip.’ To me, that describes the whole process. So any time you get a good movie, you know, it’s just short of a miracle… It’s a long journey from the initial impulse to the finished film; and protecting your original vision is nearly impossible for a beginning filmmaker or screenwriter. So as soon as I can, I want to become a writer-producer and have a lot more control over every stage of the process.”


21
Nerds in Paradise

Occasionally, a “merely entertaining” film goes beyond entertainment and reaches into innovation; and as hard as 21 tries to reach the realms of thoughtful and innovative, it falls smoothly back into the fairly fun Las Vegas romp one would expect. The “fact-based” film follows a group of MIT students who count cards—a hobby which (under a professor’s guidance) eventually becomes extremely profitable. Unfortunately, the adapted screenplay (based on Ben Mezrich’s Bringing Down the House) squeezes out all the mathematical intrigue (as Barbie famously said, “Math is hard.”). So, while this is no Oceans 11, there is enough to like about this film to keep it squarely in that “entertaining” category. And ultimately, though lacking MIT-level excellence, a solid “B” may still provide an enjoyable time at the movies.


Flawless
More Like Good Paste

It takes cojones grandes to make a serious heist film and title it Flawless. Even if you wind up with a diamond in the rough, you’re still asking—begging, even—for ridicule. I agree that it all sounded like a great setup and a hoot of a yarn; but the rock itself just couldn’t support all the facets they tried to grind into it. In the end, this is a diamond that got botched during the final stages of shaping. It’s an old-fashioned heist movie, not something like Mission Impossible or the remade Ocean’s Tweens. And when old-fashioned doesn’t work, there’s not much to distract you from that fact.


Stop-Loss
Wrong War, Right Audience

Director Kimberly Peirce is certainly no stranger to difficult subject matter, having turned the story of a girl who was murdered for pretending to be a boy into an Oscar winner (1999, Best Actress Hilary Swank) with her first film Boys Don’t Cry. Amazingly, this is Peirce’s first film since Boys and she proves once again that she is a very talented filmmaker who should probably be working more often. As to whether or not this film will be the critical and commercial success other Iraq War films weren’t, who’s to know at this point? I can tell you one thing, though: it gets a positive notice from this reviewer.


Snow Angels
The Purity of Snow

Set against the snowy backdrop of a small town that could be almost anywhere, Snow Angels explores the connections between three couples as they each face different stages of their relationships. From young first love to poignant brokenness—both individual and relational—the bottom line is that Snow Angels is a drama that pulls no punches. There are moments of levity, but overall the tone is fairly bleak. This is not a “feel good” movie, but it is a compelling journey through the struggles of love, life, and interconnectedness between people. Personally, I found it riveting.


A Talk With Michael Jacobs
Films, Faith, Dreams...

Michael Jacob’s highly entertaining feature documentary Audience of One has been on the mainstream festival circuit for more than a year now, garnering rave reviews and awards—and yet failing to snare a distribution deal. The film traces the efforts of San Francisco pastor Richard Gazowsky to fulfill his calling from God: to write, produce, and direct a $200 million sci-fi Bible epic called Gravity, and thereby establish a film studio that will crank out forty-seven feature films a year. I screened the film on DVD recently, courtesy of the film’s producer, and found it to be engaging, witty, and cautionary—enough so that I felt you ought to know about it despite its unavailability. To help Audience of One get more exposure, I arranged to speak with the film’s director, Michael Jacobs, over the phone.


Drillbit Taylor
A Kick... In the Teeth

The big draw is Owen Wilson in the title role. If you’re a fan, that’s not necessarily a bad thing—but let’s be honest, Wilson is something of a one-trick pony. In the movies I’ve seen him in, the plots and settings change but his acting pretty much stays the same. If you like it, that’s great because you know what you’re getting. If you don’t, nothing in Drillbit Taylor is going to change your mind. The supporting cast here turns in acceptable—if stereotypical—performances, but this is clearly an Owen Wilson vehicle. So with a recycled plot and lackluster acting the best I can say about Drillbit Taylor is that it wasn’t completely painful to sit through.


The Unforeseen
Unseeable Propaganda?

If, like me, you are sympathetic to the relationship between our natural resources and the impact of commercial real estate development, yet are highly skeptical of any film that smacks of contrived propaganda, this film will anger you, because it does not make its case honestly. The Unforeseen does not amount to anything new or helpful when it comes to solutions for the delicate balance between caring for our planet and the perceived needs and rights of its human residents. Instead, it’s just the latest in a line of documentaries—An Inconvenient Truth, Artic Tale, The 11th Hour—that preach to the choir while paying mere lip service to integrity and truth.


Paranoid Park
A Tribute to the Skater Dudes

Director Gus Van Sant is no stranger to films about brooding, estranged, and misunderstood young people. His latest film, Paranoid Park,, while not up to the quality of some of his past works (including Good Will Hunting and Finding Forrester) still follows his general thematic bent. Beautifully shot in Portland, Oregon, the film tells the story of a teen skater who is in the wrong place at the wrong time and must face the consequences. I encourage all parents of teens, especially teen skaters, to see this film and talk about it with them. No doubt the skaters will see it and feel as though someone is (finally) speaking their language, taking them seriously enough to talk directly to them via film.


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