Archive for August, 2009

Taking Woodstock

Everyone knows about Woodstock, the concert that advertised three days of peace and music that took place in upstate New York in 1969. It’s possibly the most popular and famous concert that ever took place. But events as big as this don’t generally just happen, and Taking Woodstock is the movie that tells the lesser known story of Elliot Tiber, who helped to secure the plot of land that has since become a historical landmark. It is upon his autobiography that the film is based.

The Marc Pease Experience
The Play's the Thing

One has to wonder how a movie starring Ben Stiller, most recently the star of the hugely successful Night at the Museum sequel , can be receiving no publicity less than a week prior to its release. Then, when you learn that the film is only being released in ten markets and none of them is New York or Los Angeles, you start to think that maybe the publicity department is not to keen on investing in their project. Still, I always go into a new movie with an open mind. Some of the best gems are discovered in the most unlikely of places. Sadly, The Marc Pease Experience is not one of them.

Home (Not Quite) Alone

To start out with, Wilson Coneybeare’s film is an exploration of helpful fantasies. And just when you think that problems with a consistent point of view and odd lighting will overwhelm your interest, Gooby comes to life and the second act of the movie shifts into broad comedy. Then, when the goofy fun culminates in a head injury… from a soccer ball… sort of… the third act gets all serious and stuff. Cuz the film is really about parents who are too busy for their children, trying to make up for the childhoods they never had. And it’s about kids making the transition into that security-blanket-free zone we call maturity, passing the torch and moving on. And then there’s the Robbie Coltrane thing…

An Asperger Romance

Asperger’s Syndrome is a high functioning form of autism and those who suffer with it tend to have difficulties understanding normal social interaction. Writer/director Max Mayer’s new film Adam is about one such person. Adam Raki is about thirty years old and attending his father’s funeral as the film opens. Although Adam has never really lived on his own, he does just fine taking care of himself, even if he does eat macaroni and cheese for every meal.

The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard
Promised, but not Delivered

Watching The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard, I felt like a little kid getting all excited because he could hear the music of the ice cream man coming down the street. Unfortunately, I also felt as if once that ice cream man arrived, all he had was a truck full of empty freezers.

Fish Out of Water Story, Literally

A few years ago, it seemed like only professional animators and “in the know” movie-goers had even heard of Hayao Miyazaki, the Japanese writer, director, and animator of such films as Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke. Judging from the preview screening audience’s rousing reaction to the sight of the Studio Ghibli logo prior to the start of his new film Ponyo, it seems clear that word has finally gotten out to the masses.

Alpha Males Experiment
When Hard Work Pays Off

In an era when “romantic comedy” means “inspired by Something About Mary and taking it three or four steps too far further,” it’s refreshing to watch a film that understands “R-rated” doesn’t have to mean “vulgar” or “tawdry.” Sure, these characters are L.A. film-scene denizens, so don’t expect Ward and June Cleaver. But neither are they the juvenile adults populating Judd Apatow productions. For better or worse, the producers and director have put together a film that is very mainstream and mature in its sensibilities without flinching from the stupider aspects of romantic behavior. I’m sure it won’t be edgy enough for a lot of the younger set—but to me, that’s a breath of fresh air.

Julie & Julia
Satisfies the Cinematic Taste Buds

Since it is virtually impossible to write about a Meryl Streep movie without mentioning her Oscar chances, I figured I might as well get that out of the way right up front. Her performance as cooking legend Julia Child in Nora Ephron’s new film Julie & Julia easily puts her on the short list of Oscar front-runners, a position she certainly must be used to by now. Streep nails Child’s mannerisms, voice and booming personality. She also manages the subtleties, such as a scene in which the child-less Julia learns of her sister’s pregnancy. But as the title suggests, this movie is about more than just Julia Child.

The Soloist
Forget the Dudley Doright Act

There’s this problem with tone along the way, as the script and director Joe Wright’s interpretation of it rarely lets us figure out how much of the story—or message—we’re supposed to take seriously. Audiences could easily read the overly-orchestrated mayhem of the LAMP Community, an L.A. mission to the homeless that serves as a magnet for a good share of the city’s 90,000 street people, as tongue-in-cheek. And remember the stunning sequences in Shine or Amadeus that give life and vibrancy to the works of Rachmaninov and Mozart? Here, Joe Wright summons all the creative flair of a Windows Media Player visualization as a paean to Beethoven. I really wanted to like The Soloist more than I did.

Race to Witch Mountain
Race, Chase, Whatever

In case you’re wondering, “Witch Mountain” is an Area 51-style government facility for processing extraterrestrial aliens. It has nothing to do with the occult. Some of you may be relieved. Some may be disappointed. In any event, this is standard, hopped-up dispensable Hollywood entertainment that you don’t need to think about too deeply. Just for the record, if you or I were hit with sufficient force to hurl us fifty feet, we wouldn’t be getting up any time soon. Remember that the next time you write a script involving digital flash pots and cyborg Sleestaks from another planet.