Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Master

Today I saw The Master, starring Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix.

It will be the topic of Cinebanter #117, so please tune in later this month for that episode.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Finding Nemo 3D

Tonight I saw the Pixar classic, Finding Nemo, in 3D.

Though I've seen the film dozens of times, until this evening, I had never seen it in 3D. And oh, how beautiful it was!

Nemo (Alexander Gould), a young clown fish, is angry with his father on the first day of school and swims to a nearby boat. His father, Marlin (Albert Brooks), goes after him but doesn't make it in time and a scuba diver scoops Nemo up.

The young fish lands in an aquarium at a Sydney, Australia dental office; his father desperately sets out (despite his own fears about the ocean) to find him.

Marlin soon meets up with a female fish, Dory, who is voiced by a hilarious Ellen DeGeneres. She suffers from short-term memory challenges, but thankfully remembers the address on the scuba diver's goggles so they can try to get to Nemo.

Nemo meanwhile has made friends with his fellow aquarium fish, as they are busy planning their escape.

Will they reunite? Well, if you haven't seen it by now, you should get yourself to a theater.

As with every Pixar film, there are delightful tidbits for the adults to enjoy while the kids marvel at the visuals. This is all underlined with a healthy dose of heart, delivered sentimentally in just the right places.

I think after seeing the vibrant ocean life pop with new dimension, I love this film even more than I did before.


Friday, September 21, 2012

House at the End of the Street

Tonight I saw House at the End of the Street, starring Jennifer Lawrence and Elisabeth Shue.

Elissa (Lawrence) and her mother Sarah (Shue) are starting over. They appear to have a less-than-perfect relationship, but both are giving this new life a chance. Elissa has enrolled in school; Sarah has acquired a job at the local hospital and they've moved to the country into a beautiful rental house they can only afford because a brutal murder took place next door.

Though the event happened years ago, the property still carries the history of what happened and the town still shuns the one surviving member of the family, Ryan, who happens to be the same age as Elissa.

Ryan (Max Thieriot) seems to be a gentle, sweet guy, so Elissa soon befriends him instead of the neighbor boy that her mother favors.

What Elissa doesn't know is that his disturbed, violent sister did not drown as the community beleives—Ryan is caring for her in his basement.

He keeps this a secret as he and Elissa grow closer and Sarah tries her best to keep the two apart.

Everything after this point is a spoiler, so I won't go any further with the plot, but I will say that Lawrence does a predictably wonderful job as a tough girl with a soft heart put into terrifying situations because of her decisions.

On the same token, Shue is solid playing a mom that is probably not as smart as her girl, but loves her enough to overcome it.

The final sequences are filled with suspense and a few twists that make this better than the average bump-in-the-night horror film.

Just don't go downstairs if you don't already know what's there.


Friday, September 14, 2012

The Campaign

Last night I saw The Campaign, starring Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis.

Cam Brady (Ferrell) is used to winning—he's been the congressman in a small North Carolina town for years and is running unopposed for another term.

Marty Huggins (Galifianakis) is the son of a prominent man who has always desired the approval of his father, though has no experience in politics.

The Motch Brothers (John Lithgow and Dan Aykroyd) want a puppet they can control (and develop Chinese sweatshops) to take power, so they move in and groom Marty to beat Cam.

Going into films like this, I'm often prepared to learn that the funniest scenes were in the trailer, but here I was pleasantly surprised. There was plenty of funny to go around.

Ferrell never goes into his signature George W. Bush impression (as I feared) and is just slimy enough to echo an actual candidate.

Galifianakis is sweet and consistent throughout—maintaining his effeminate mannerisms even after his team has "toughened" him up.

The supporting players are there just enough to let the two leads do their thing, and their thing is hilarious.

There is language and sex, but what was thankfully missing was bathroom humor. And perhaps that's why I liked it so much. At least two scenes had me in tears, I laughed so hard.

I love it when a comedy does that to me.


Monday, September 03, 2012

Celeste & Jesse Forever

Today I saw Celeste & Jesse Forever, starring Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg.

They're not your average divorcing couple—Celeste (Jones) and Jesse (Samberg) still live on the same property, still go out with friends together and still say "I love you" at the end of each night.

So what's wrong with that? Well, it annoys their friends and keeps the pair from moving on to other people (and signing those every-so-important legal papers). Like the end of any relationship, a major catalyst is needed and this couple gets one, though it's a surprise to both.

How they handle it is very gender stereotypical: Celeste cries a lot, eats a lot, gets publicly drunk and asks friends how Jesse is doing. Jesse finds comfort in intimacy, avoids confrontation and goes on with his life.

The man accepts things as they are (even if he's not 100 percent happy) and the woman can't let it go.

Instead of being bitter about this portrayal, I chose to go with it and was satisfied all the more for doing so. Without over-romanticizing things, Jones and co-writer Will McCormack draw the characters away from a film-friendly unreality and thrust them into human reactions and behaviors.

Although it wasn't as happy as I may have hoped it would be, it was refreshingly authentic, and the two leads did a wonderful job of communicating both their joy and pain.

If more movies were this honest, perhaps none of us would have ridiculous delusions of grandeur in our love lives.


Saturday, September 01, 2012

The Possession

Tonight I saw The Possession, starring Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Natasha Calis.

Clyde (Morgan) is a recently divorced dad with two daughters. He maintains a pleasant, if not awkward, relationship with his ex-wife Stephanie (Kyra Sedgwick).

One day, in need of furnishings for his new home, his girls convince him to stop at a nearby garage sale. His younger daughter Emily (Calis) finds a few items to take home for herself—a hat, some gloves and a mysterious wooden box with a Jewish inscription.

People at the house where the box is purchased act weird when they see Emily has claimed it, but say nothing.

Immediately after opening the box, odd things begin to happen in Clyde's home. The family suddenly has a pest problem (though the home was just built) and Emily starts having violent episodes.

At first, Emily's parents blame themselves for her behavior, but Clyde soon realizes it's much more than that and determines the correlation to the box.

He seeks the help of a devout Jewish man to remove the spirit from Em's body, and arrives at the hospital where Emily has been admitted to perform the ritual.

Of course, the film can't help but have comparisons to The Exorcist,  but it's forgivable because the acting is so good and the story is so real.

Never does this narrative dive into ridiculous territory (though one scene with an unlucky teacher did earn some snickers in my theater); the characters remain strong and realistic throughout.

Though I found several scenes to be creepy (just wait for that MRI), I can't say this scared me too much, but perhaps that's my own fault. I've been following the real story of this dybbuk box since Entertainment Weekly did a story on it a few weeks ago. And I can safely say, the truth is far more unsettling than the fiction.

But if you're in need of a few jumps and starts from a psychological romp, I can easily recommend this film.