Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Das Fräulein (2006)

Three women’s lives intersect at a cafeteria in Zurich. Each of a different generation, each harboring a struggle. When Ana (Marija Skaricic) is dropped off at a bus station, she packs her bag in a locker and takes up with strangers. She wakes up in bed with a man and a woman, just one in a series of one-night stands she engages in, providing her a place to crash. The next morning, she goes to the cafeteria down the road. When cafeteria worker Mila (Ljubica Jovic)cuts her finger, Ana steps in to help dress her wound and relieves Mila Surprise!with serving up the food for the customers. Boss Ruza (Mirjana Karanovic) is a hard-nosed manager who runs a tight ship and has no tolerance for deviations or fun. When Ana takes a job there, she soon learns that her missteps toward lightness are quashed by Ruza. Until Ana throws her a birthday party and Ruza’s guard begins chipping away. Through Ana’s actions, Ruza begins to be a picture of her old self…the one that enjoyed herself and possessed hope. Mila has worked at the cafeteria with Ruza since the start, but Ruza makes it clear she’s merely hired help, not a friend. Mila’s husband is soon to retire and they want to build their dream home back in former Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia is what connects them—the three women are transplant from the former republic. Their similar struggles end up bringing them closer but in the end, their fears of letting people get too close prove too strong for change. Poignant.

Director: Andrea Staka

Country: Switzerland/Germany

Genre: Drama

Run time: 81 minutes

Scale: 5

Vivian Girls @ The High Dive--2.13.10

After hearing the Vivian Girls on KEXP, I sounded like a fun band to see live. I asked my music-lovin’ peeps, Carrie and Andy, to go and after previewing the music, they were in.

We arrived to the High Dive for a band called Best Coast, one of the openers for the Vivians, but there were two problems—the sound system at High Dive wasn’t vibrant and all of the band’s songs sounded the same. When the Vivian Girls started their set, they had good energy. They played their songs with verve, swinging their hair but there was something missing. The all-girl indie band from Brooklyn (Cassie Ramone, Kickball Katy, Ali Koehler) had more variety in their songs than Best Coast but their voices weren’t that strong. Maybe the sound system was to blame for the lack of rockiness. Perhaps other folks in the audience were blown away but it was a sedate crowd. Did we (the crowd) let down the band…maybe the trio was waiting for the Seattle crowd to give them more, something with which to connect. Maybe I contributed to the problem, but I was waiting for the group to go first.

In the end, it was a blast, kicking it with my homeslices, but we all wished we’d gotten more band for our $12 duckets.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Twilight (2008)

This teen flick revolving around Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) and Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), two teenagers who share a real, albeit chaste, chemistry.

A modern cover picture for Flowers in the Attic When Bella leaves sunny Arizona for wet Forks, Washington, to live with her dad, she undergoes an extremely welcoming and well adjusted high-school-transfer experience. The kids at her new school fawn over her and she quickly endears herself to them. She is intrigued by lab partner Edward, who  can’t seem to stand her. After he saves her from a possibly fatal accident, their connection gets too strong. By then, smarty Bella has put it together—Edward’s pale-to-the-point-of-transparent skin, his ‘Flowers in the Attic’-like siblings, their sudden disappearance on sunny days—she’s like totally in love with a vampire.

Romance blossoms until the bad guys come a sniffin’ for Bella’s irresistible human scent. It’s too much for one vampire, James (Cam Gigandet) who begins stalking her. (I had a hard time buying that this vampire with the ability and strength to have anyone decides he must have Bella.) Now, Bella's family is also in danger. Can the league of benevolent vampires save Edward’s love interest? Will Bella be turned into a vampire and roam the earth with a vampire family? What about her lonely dad?

This is the least bloody vampire movie I’ve ever seen. The trend of the humans falling in love with the undead and their desire to be turned is a big part of the plot (as with True Blood). Edward has the power to turn Bella; then, they can be together forever. Bella wants it, but Edward, having been 17 for a long time, has worked through his impulse-control issues and seems to know better. However, with its open-ended finale, who knows what’s to come with this franchise.

Director: Catherine Hardwicke

Country: US

Genre: Teen drama

Run time: 155 minutes (this was extended version with 33 more minutes than theater version—felt too long)

Scale: 3

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Art School Confidential (2006)

ASC takes the piss out of art school with a satirical black-humored edge. Jerome (Max Minghella) has a dream…he wants to be a great painter like his idol Pablo Picasso. He scampers off to art school only to find that his art isn’t making the cut. How can this be? He’s a good artist, right? In fact, the only ones who receive the kudos the clichéd, talentless. He struggles, talks to his professors, including self-indulgent blow-hard Professor Sandiford (John Malkovich), but still, he seems to be failing in his quest as a legitimate artist. He even changes his style to try to appeal to his class, but that leaves him worse off.

He’s smitten with nude art model Audrey (Sophia Myles) and when it seems that the two of them may be on the verge of starting something, Jonah (Matt Keeslar) shows up—an artist whose lame art becomes the hot new thing. Jerome befriends Jimmy (Jim Broadbent), an older has-been artist whose art was all the rage only to be tossed aside and forgotten. He’s now a peculiar shut-in who rants and counsels Jerome about the art world pitfalls…that success is based on who you are screwing. When Jerome’s dreams seem to be disintegrating, he ups his game with a unique plan, risking it all for success and to win the girl. Oh and while all this is going on, there’s a serial killer doing his/her thing. The twist ending ties it all together.

Director: Terry Zwigoff

Country: US

Genre: Comedy

Run time: 102 minutes

Scale: 4

Ghost Town (2008)

When misanthrope dentist Dr. Bertram Pincus goes in for a routine procedure and insists on general anesthesia against the wishes of the hospital staff, he gets his way. Immediately afterwards, he starts seeing ghosts and they are asking for his help. He returns to the hospital to inquire about the procedure and why he is hallucinating. He learns that during his procedure he died for a few minutes.

When the ghosts figured out Pincus could see them, he became important. He could help them wrap up their unfinished business with the living so they could finally rest and not walk the earth in limbo. Problem is Pincus is a selfish creep who hates life, until Frank Herlihy (Greg Kinnear), a tuxedoed ghost (what you die in becomes your uniform), asks for his help with his very living widow Gwen (Téa Leoni). Frank wants Pincus to interfere with Gwen and her fiancée, Richard (Bill Campbell), the lawyer with no sense of humor. Pincus refuses; helping or considering anyone else isn’t part of his sensibilities. After Frank’s strong-arming, he helps Gwen by performing a dental exam on one of her museum mummies. There, he has a moment of feeling. Will Pincus know what to do with these foreign feelings? Will he help the Verizon-network-like legion of ghosts tailing him? Will he stop wearing the dentist’s uniform outside his office?

Kinnear and Leoni have acting chops, but Ricky Gervais makes this movie. With his character’s sensitive gag reflex and snooty quips, I cracked up a lot. He does the snooty English humor via NYC sarcasm so damn well. He’s perfect opposite Kinnear’s character’s arrogance. To conclude, everything is better with Ricky Gervais.

Co-writer/Director: David Koepp

Country: US

Genre: Comedy

Run time: 102 minutes

Scale: 4

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Adventureland (2009)

From the director of The Daytrippers and Superbad (not to mention several episodes of Undeclared and Arrested Development) comes the newest piece, Adventureland, depicting post-high-school angst.

Games, games, and more gamesProtagonist James (Jesse Eisenberg) is an Ivy-league hopeful who expects to enjoy Amsterdam’s finest the summer before he begins college. When the family suffers a financial setback, James has to …gasp…work the summer instead of party. The only job he can find is running games at the amusement park, Adventureland. There he meets an assortment of folks (reminiscent of the Breakfast Club variety), including his bosses Paulette (Kristen Wiig) and Bobby (Bill Hader) and his crush object Em (Kristen Stewart). He likes her; she seems to like him, but maybe not as much as she likes Mike (Ryan Reynolds), the Adventureland handyman who likes all the young girls, using his tall tale about how he jammed with Lou Reed to hook them.

James is looking to update his virgin status. Will Em figure out that Mike is a lame before the summer ends? Will James be deflowered by Em? His summer may not have been spent backpacking in Europe, but he does some living.

I enjoyed this movie. It’s reminiscent of that time when you were a teen working a job you didn’t care much about, but you knew it wasn’t forever. You met odd and interesting people and became part of the drama and went to post-work parties (especially if you worked in the food industry or a place like Adventureland). The next day, you got up and did it again.

Director: Greg Mottola

Country: US

Genre: Drama/comedy

Run time: 107 minutes

Scale: 4