Saturday, December 5, 2009


Director Jim Sheridan has a wide variety of films under belt from My Left Foot, to In America, to Get Rich Or Die Tryin', 50 Cents semi-autobiography. I like this about a director. It shows that he has a versatile mind and that he's open to making any type of film which is what I think a lot of directors are lacking these days. You can't always put in a Jim Sheridan film and be able to tell it's a Jim Sheridan film as you would be able to with a say Wes Anderson type of director, and that's not a bad thing at all.

Sheridan's latest effort, Brothers, is a character driven drama that rings true to real life situations that one might face while being placed in the situation these characters are placed it. The story centers around Sam Cahill (Tobey Maguire), his wife Grace Cahill (Natalie Portman), and his brother Tommy Cahill (Jake Gyllenhaal. Sam and Grace are a young couple who have been in love since they were 16 years old. They have two young daughters and they're happy. Once Sam gets sent back to Afghanistan things take a change for the absolute worst. It's every soldiers wives nightmare and worst possible situation to be in when two officers show up at your door and you just know what news they have for you. After Grace gets the news that Sam is dead Sam's ex-con brother Tommy starts hanging around her house more and more, helping out with the kids, and helping out remodeling the kitchen for her. After spending more time with him Grace realizes that the has been criminal she once hated is actually becoming a great guy both to her and her kids, and her kids simply adore him. Just when things appear to be turning around and the possibility of starting a new life with Tommy is growing more and more realistic things take yet another turn, this time is is for better or worse. These are some questions that are raised after we learn that after months and months of torture and being held in captivity she gets a call saying that Sam is still alive, and coming home.

The film cuts back and forth between showing Sam as a prisoner and Tommy and Graces life thinking that Sam is dead. The scenes with Sam in Afghanistan are real and intense and really gives the audience a true sense of fear. The scenes at home are also realistic and show just how are you supposed to handle a situation like this? Tommy is clearly just trying to be a nice guy with helping Grace and the kids out, he's not trying to sleep with her or anything. But as time progresses situations like that do come around and the film has an interesting approach to dealing with them that I like. It takes it very slow. Because it's hard for the both of them to deal with the situation. Which is real. When Sam returns home he see's that things aren't the same and realizes that neither is he. He's severely messed up in the head and what comes is intense and scary to say the least.

Tobey Maguire offers hands down the best performance of his career and may be a sleeper for a best actor nomination for the Oscars or Globes. He went through a great physical change with losing 30 pounds for the roll and although it's not nearly as crazy as what Christian Bale did for The Machinist or Rescue Dawn, it's still a great accomplishment and makes him look creepy as hell. Natalie Portman is also very good and plays the role of a grieving widow to absolute perfection. I swear that woman can not just cry on command but she knows how much to cry and how to look while crying given the different situations she's in. Going into this I wasn't expecting much form him at all, but it was actually Jake Gyllenhaal that turned out to be my favorite part of Brothers. He did the opposite of Maguire and bulked up for the role, turned scruffy, and sports a tattoo on his neck. He does a great job at playing a quiet, kind of weird guy who you can just tell has had a background in crime and has a difficult time adjusting to life outside of prison. He wasn't really given enough material to work with to deserve a nomination, but he did the best he could've possibly done in my opinion. I wasn't a fan of the films score at all. It was a kind of strange up beat country theme that I thought was a bit out of place. It's a fairly small and quiet film , that is until Sam comes home, and it's good, not great by any means. But it was an interesting and entertaining film, and the performances were what really made this film enjoyable for me. Brothers gets a solid 3 and 1/2 outa 5.

Monday, November 30, 2009

New Moon

When Twilight came out last year I saw it opening night because I knew I had to experience seeing it with a crowd of people who were dying to see it, and that's the same thing I did this year for New Moon and it was pretty nuts to say the least. When Twilight came out I was actually going in expecting the worst but left with seeing an intriguing love story involving vampires and humans. New Moon, the second series installment, certainly continues right along that road but it's a little less effecting than the first one. At least on me it was.

Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) is a year older and a year wiser....kind of. She desperately wants Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) to to turn her into a vampire, now. She wants eternal life with him. She's doing it for the sake of love though, being afraid that Edward will no longer want her anymore when she's old and grey. Edward disagrees with her request to the utmost then hits her with some news, some very bad news for Bella. The Cullens have to get out of town asap. People are starting to notice that they aren't aging and they need to leave before they get caught. Bella begs and pleads and then bam, the Cullens are gone just like that within the first 20 minutes of the film. Now the real story gets started. Bella's childhood friend Jacob (Taylor Lautner) starts coming around more and he's not looking like the old Jacob used too. He's jacked up with muscle, in love with Bella, and he's a werewolf. We new by the end of Twilight that he was a wolf, but in New Moon we finally get to see it. He's not just any wolf either, when he transforms he turns into a raging gigantic blood curdling wolf who will stop at nothing to protect Bella.

Bella starts to fall for Jacob a tad, but she's still got Edward on her mind. After Jacob does everything in his power to be with Bella and lets her know just how he feels, Bella gets a visit from one of the Cullens telling her that Edwards in trouble in Italy and she's the only one that can save him from the Voltori (the original vamps....the O.V.'s) The Italy scenes are by far my favorite in the film and the most well done in my opinion.

The problem I had with New Moon is that it's identical to the book and the book drags on with not much happening, it's kind of a segway into Eclipse, the third installment. I thought the director should've added just a few more action/intense scenes with Jacob along the way and really show us what he's made of, really show him kicking some ass and protecting Bella. Bella's moping around constantly got a tad bit annoying after a while but I guess I understand it, she's just a teenage girl madly in love and she misses her Edward simple as that. With that being said I heard that Eclipse contains a lot more action and with filming almost finished on that, I'm already getting excited for opening night. Call me a 14 year old teeny bopper, go right ahead, I'm not ashamed. The Twilight Saga brings me great pleasure for some odd reason. New Moon gets 3 1/2 outa 5.

Youth in Revolt

I had the pleasure of working at the Virginia Film Festival this year in Charlottesville where I was able to see a few pretty decent films. One of which on the closing night was Michael Cera's Youth in Revolt. Youth in Revolt is based on the much beloved novel of same name. It follows the life and times of 14 year old Nick Twisp and his escape from his trailer trash household and his quest to find his dream girl, Sheeni Saunders, and lose his virginity. The film contains an all star cast of Michael Cera, Zach Galifianakis, Fred Willard, Ray Liotta, Justin Long, and Steve Buscemi.

The film follows 14 year old Nick Twisp (although I think they changed his age to 16 for the film, a more believable age for Cera to play) through his adventures in leaving himself, essentially, and becoming more of a "bad boy" so he can get the guts to win over his dream girl Sheeni Saunders with who he had a minor fling with at her trailer park during a vacation he was on. The nervous fumbling mouthed Twisp soon develops the split personality of Francois, the foul mouthed, take no shit from nobody criminal, also played by Micheal Cera wearing a classy white suit and a sketchy looking mustache. I know at this day in age it isn't hard to do anymore, but I still think the filmmakers did a good job at showing two Michael Cera's playing both characters in the same scenes together.

I was a little disappointed by use of Zach Galifianakis' character Jerry, who plays Nicks mothers trashy boyfriend. I felt there simply just wasn't enough of him. His character had a few great lines in the film but that's about it, and with his recent success in The Hangover, I just wanted to see a bit more of the guy that's all. On the other hand Steve Buscemi who plays Nicks dad is great as the young hussy hounding sleaze who cares more about the well being of his car than his son. Fred Willard probably has the best scenes in the film as the crazy neighbor who's obsessed with illegal aliens and their well-being.

I must say though that this film has a strange kind of quiet feeling to it and moves along at a slow/medium pace. Not that there's anything wrong with that but it takes some getting used to. With that being said I also think that if it wasn't for the split personality change of Nick turning into Francois, this film would be lower than average. But because Cera offers some of his best work to date while portraying Nick and the entertaining Francois simultaneously, I'm recommending this film a little more. Youth in Revolt gets 3 outa 5.