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Archive for August 2009

Movie Rewind: The Brothers Bloom – my new favorite camel?

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The Brothers Bloom / 1 hour 49 minutes / Rated PG-13

The Brothers Bloom / 1 hour 49 minutes / Rated PG-13

Run, don’t walk, to see the Brothers Bloom before it concludes its last (currently) scheduled run at the Ragtag Cinema on August 19.

It is one of the best films I have seen in recent time. It is nearly perfect in every aspect – the acting, writing, direction, cinematography, clothing, casting, and final composition with titling and music.

The contrast in colors is vivid; using a bright palette it makes the screen pop as we are taken around Eastern Europe, the Mediterranean, and even New Jersey.

It is brilliant in its cleverness, but doesn’t go so far as to be insulting or pretentious. You know it has a few aces up its sleeve, but it doesn’t make you feel stupid or slow because of it – merely expectant.

Speaking of aces, one great sequence of the film involves Rachel Weisz (Constant Gardener, Runaway Jury, The Mummy) doing an elaborate card trick during a monologue about how “the trick to not feeling cheated is to learn how to cheat.”  Multiple cameras, creative angles and the fact that she did the whole scene in one take makes this a real standout moment for both her character’s development and the movie as a whole.

Stephen Bloom, played brilliantly by Mark Ruffalo, at one point describes the perfect con as being the one where “everyone gets what they want.” This sentiment essentially describes what the film and its director Rian Johnson (Brick) accomplish with aplomb.

The film seems to share space with the likes of Wes Anderson’s Darjeeling Limited, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, and The Royal Tenenbaums – smart, dialog driven and highly stylized pieces that, while quirky, remain charming and interesting. However, unlike Anderson’s films, Johnson accomplishes this without making the audience feel like they haven’t been let in on some inside joke.

Although the Brothers Bloom came out in limited release on May 15, it only just recently opened in Columbia on August 7 and is only being screened at Ragtag – limiting the opportunities to catch a showing. However, watching a movie like this in a more intimate theater while sprawled out on a couch seems to be the perfect viewing arrangement.

If there is one moment that truly captures the spirit of the film, it is a brief exchange that takes place in Montenegro where one of the brothers Bloom finds the other after a short-term separation. “Where are we going?” Bloom (yes, the character’s name is Bloom Bloom) asks, played by Adrien Brody (The Darjeeling Limited, King Kong, the Pianist).  “New Jersey,” Stephen answers. “I’ll get my coat,” Bloom responds.

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Written by Jonathan Hutcheson

August 12, 2009 at 1:59 pm

Posted in Films

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Movie Rewind: G.I. Joe, not ruining my childhood is the other half of the battle

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G.I. Joe: the Rise of Cobra / Running time: 1 hour 58 minutes / Rated PG-13

G.I. Joe: the Rise of Cobra / 1 hour 58 minutes / Rated PG-13

Wow.  Just wow.

That’s how some will leave G.I. Joe – beyond just satisfied, buzzed — with adrenaline levels starting to come down after peaking out during the last 20 minutes of the film.

Those who grew up with the series have probably watched in horror over the past decade as Hollywood has clumsily destroyed the characters and make-believe worlds many of us fell in love with growing up. If you’ve ever tried to watch any of the Dr. Seuss live action films, you know what I’m talking about. If you saw Optimus Prime’s paintjob and wondered where the flames came from or were able to read his lips (he had lips), then you probably cringed when you heard they were doing G.I. Joe.

So, I feel I can say with confidence that they didn’t mess it up and Marlon Wayans can act without his brother around.

A mix of excitement and relief is what I came out with. Of course the film leaves open so many possibilities for sequels, (in this economy it obviously has to) but it did so in a way that I welcomed. I feel I could enjoy at least as many G.I. Joe films as there are (or will be) in the Spiderman or Batman series.

A G.I. Joe film struck me as a difficult one to make. How can you possibly bring it to life without it being cheesy beyond belief? Can you have the types of characters found in the animated series without them seeming overly campy, lame and/or dated? Can the storyline be modern without abusing current events or building a story around the Al-Qaeda-styled terrorist archetype?

The answer to thee three questions is yes, yes and yes.

There were definitely some elements that raised the camp flag, namely some of the fitted military fatigues worn by the female Joes and the evil mad scientist/Darth Vader costume contest runner-up character. Yet they didn’t kill the movie or even cause it to stumble. Considering the subject matter, Director Stephen Sommers (The Mummy trilogy, Van Helsing) had a campiness credit line that he wisely didn’t max out. It kept the film lighthearted and fun. The weaponry wasn’t outrageous and even the nanotechnology premise is true to the science and, unfortunately, not too farfetched (or far off, for that matter).

As with all action films these days, it has the obligatory love storyline. However, it doesn’t feel strained or even terribly contrived/half-baked. It is a rare treat to see the love story element get pulled off and in a way that doesn’t deflate the rest of the film with some sort of out of place passionate rendezvous.

Some may gripe about the flashback sequences, but they really do help cover a lot of ground and inject additional meaning into the film’s primary plot. Yes, that’s right, G.I. Joe has some semblance of character development. One could even argue that Sienna Miller’s Baroness and Channing Tatum’s Duke are complex and layered.  Who knew? Michael Bay and Megan Fox may wish to take notes.

I’ll admit I went into the film with low expectations and simply hoping that this slice of my childhood would escape certain doom. I came away from the film having enjoyed it thoroughly and without regret for the small ransom one pays when taking a date.

This is definitely worth seeing in the theaters for the big sound and larger than life experience.

Written by Jonathan Hutcheson

August 9, 2009 at 8:35 pm

Posted in Films

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Movie Rewind: Funny People who also happen to be Sad

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Funny People

Funny People / 2 hours 20 minutes / Rated R

Funny People is presented as potentially being a bittersweet (and hilarious) tale of redemption, rediscovery and reinvention centering around an individual who thought he had everything, believed he was going to lose it all, and found himself a second chance at lost love.

It is not that. Not really.

If you’ve heard about Funny People from your friends, coworkers or family members, it’s likely that it has been one of two extremes – it was great or it was horrible.  I’d offer that a lot of what leads to those responses is what expectations you have going into the film.

If you have seen Judd Apatow’s two other movies that he wrote and directed – Knocked Up and the 40-Year-Old Virgin – and are expecting the same sort of thing out of Funny People, you will probably feel cheated by it.  It just doesn’t fit the mold and has a distinct feel to it that places it far afield from those two films.  The lowbrow humor is not the focus, but rather the backdrop.

If you go into it expecting nothing (the ideal approach for all movies) or expect the kind of film suggested by all of the trailers (both the funny and sad ones), you will probably walk away satisfied.  It feels autobiographical and genuine.  It is funny yet poignant.  It goes beyond the Superbadness of Jonah Hill, avoids making a porno with Seth Rogan and Adam Sandler doesn’t speak a bit of Spanglish. The acting chops of Rogan and Sandler in particular are actually impressive, if not somewhat surprising considering their respective bodies of work.

There are moments that are sure to cause uproarious laughter, but they all don’t quite hit the same way for everyone.  There are some jokes that require close attention to detail and some rapid connection-making to experience the payoff.  Some of the humor may just fall flat with the more conservative moviegoer, but that is to be expected from any film involving any two members of this cast.  Of course, there are some real gems that are likely to make it into casual conversation, as the temptation to bogart the Harry Potter jokes may be too much for some to resist.

For all of the humor and all of the laughter, there’s enough sadness to balance things out and help shape a more somber tone – one that calls to mind thoughts of one’s own mortality and the kind of legacy that would be left behind. It sounds a lot heavier than it is, as the film takes you on this journey in a very humane sort of way by lightening the darkness with the sort of hilarity one would expect out of Apatow & Co.

You’ll have to shell out your $8 to see what I mean. It suffices to say that it is not another clear-cut comedy with the best scenes spoiled in the previews, but a complex study of the entire range of contemporary relationships and how one should measure success.

I walked away satisfied, because I feel I got it. The end may upset some, confuse others, but really – I couldn’t have seen it ending any other way.

Written by Jonathan Hutcheson

August 9, 2009 at 8:27 pm

Posted in Films

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