Sunday, December 18, 2011

Looking for Eric (2009)

Looking for Eric

An on-going discussion regarding the best movie watched in 2011, Looking for Eric is likely the one. This was a year of excellent movies viewed, including Up, Whip It, The King’s Speech, Mary and Max, Bridesmaids, Beginners, Boy (a very close second), Exit Through the Gift Shop (a near tie with LFE), Fish Tank and TiMER), so why does Looking for Eric stand out?

You experience every emotion as you watch. Looking for Eric delves into depression, camaraderie and friendship, love lost, complicated family issues, divorce, redemption, honesty, new love, violence, sports, lost dreams and discovering you can change a lousy existence.

Our postal carrier protagonist Eric (Steve Evets) is a broken man. Two failed marriages, two unruly step-sons and three decades of regret. Eric keeps his mess to himself, that is until he starts having visions of his favorite footballer—former Manchester United player Eric Cantona. Cantona pushes Eric to revisit the mistakes he’s made and share his struggles instead of keeping them to himself. He encourages Eric to own up, open up and make changes.

This is a complex and layered story as Eric holds onto a huge regret that he cannot surpass. He has a miserable relationship with his two step-sons, Ryan (Gerard Kearns) and Jess (Stefan Gumbs). The only sunshine in his life are his daughter, Sam (Lucy-Jo Hudson), his granddaughter, Daisy (Cole and Dylan Williams) and his favorite team Manchester United and footballer Eric “King Eric” Cantona. As the world conspires to push Eric out of his comfort zone with his step-son, Ryan, his first ex-wife Lily (Stephanie Bishop) who he hasn’t seen in 30 years and a local thug, Zac (Steve Marsh), who threatens his family, Eric will come out transformed but will he find himself and win back his life? (Tip: View with subtitles to ensure you don’t miss any of the good stuff. Otherwise, they speak 2 fast, 2 furious, and with very strong accents.)

Director: Ken Loach

Country: UK

Genre: Drama + Comedy

Run time: 116 minutes

Scale: 5

Cold Weather (2010)

Cold Weather movieProtagonist Doug (Cris Lankenau) drops out of college where he studied criminal justice and forensic science. He’s back in Portland, Oregon, and moved in with his gainfully employed (though you never learn what she does) sister Gail (Trieste Kelly Dunn). Unsure what he’ll do next, Doug secures a job at an ice packing factory and befriends Carlos (Raúl Castillo), my favorite character.

When Doug’s ex-girlfriend Rachel (Robyn Rikoon) visits Portland, the foursome become fast friends. When she disappears, Doug leads the investigation. I liked tagging along as they search for clues and make discoveries in Portland, but the way they determine Rachel is missing is far-fetched.

Cold Weather takes its time (which isn’t a bad thing) but the mystery they solve is underwhelming. It’s not clear much was solved. It ends abruptly and has a feel-good sibling-bonding moment. Gail and Doug relate to each other more like a couple rather than siblings. I enjoyed Carlos and Doug’s friendship. Rachel was the least compelling; consequently, so was her disappearance. They should have explored something at the Star Trek convention instead.

Co-writer/Director: Aaron Katz

Country: USA

Genre: Mystery

Run time: 96 minutes

Scale: 2.75

Monday, December 12, 2011

TiMER (2009)


TiMER explores the technology of implanting a wrist timer that counts down to the exact moment you will meet your “one,” but only if your one has also been implanted. Otherwise, your timer will be blank (until your one gets a timer). Some don’t believe in timers; others like the idea of no struggle, no guessing, no chance of spending years with the wrong person and no divorce.

Determined, organized and goal-oriented Oona (Emma Caufield) doesn’t waste time; early into relationships, she coaxes her boyfriends into getting timers because, as she puts it, “we’re not getting any younger.” Her step-sister and best friend Steph (Michelle Borth), age 30, same as Oona finds out she won’t meet her one for 13 more years. The irony is that their 14-year-old brother gets a timer and learns he’ll meet his one within the week.

When Oona meets younger Mikey (John Patrick Amedori), a delicious cashier whose timer has him meeting his one in four months, she rethinks her strident view. Steph meets someone who has her pulling the plug on her one-night-stands. Both are in store for a big mess.

TiMER has an open-ended conclusion. Just like in real life, it feels like it will be problematic before it gets better. The details make this film—the social commentary diagrams the obsession behind finding the one. Characters re-wear clothing, engage in genuine-sounding dialogue and deal with relatable conditions and throw in some humor.

Writer/Director: Jac Schaeffer

Country: USA

Genre: Romantic dramedy

Run time: 99 minutes

Scale: 4.5

Due Date (2010)

Due DateHow does driving from Atlanta to LA become so complicated?

Planes, Trains and Automobiles this is not. Ethan Tremblay (Zach Galifianakis) is the even-keeled hero who helps Peter (Robert Downey Jr.) get kicked off a plane but also offers to drive the wallet-free, penny-less Peter get to LA for the birth of his child.

Hijinks follow and at every step of the way, Peter is angry and unlikeable. The gags are mean-spirited and gross. There was little to grab onto here. The cameos by Jamie Foxx, Juliette Lewis and Danny McBride offer some relief from the two’s vexing bickering, but these respite moments are short-lived before we are again confronted with a road trip movie that took a left at Gone Wrong Lane.

Usually a fan of Downey Jr. and Galifianakis, I couldn’t take Peter’s irritability and Ethan’s naiveté for 98 minutes. My favorite character was the French bulldog but even he couldn’t make it better.

Director: Todd Phillips

Country: USA

Genre: Comedy (with some shards of drama)

Run time: 95 minutes

Scale: 2

Horrible Bosses (2011)

Horrible BossesThree friends hash a plan to get revenge on their sadist bosses and secure themselves decent work environments, but their poorly hatched plans crumble immediately.

Kurt’s (Jason Sudeikis)comb-over coiffed boss Bobby (Colin Farrell) is a cokehead constantly looking to score blow and to just score. Bobby’s late father favored Kurt and Bobby can’t stand him. Dale (Charlie Day) is sexually harassed daily and is having a hard time not getting blackmailed to sleep with his boss, Julia (Jennifer Aniston). Nick (Jason Bateman)has been goaded into working untenable hours and going against his ethics to secure a promotion from his boss, Mr. Harken (Kevin Spacey); Harken later secures himself the job.

In summary: Farrell is under- and ill-utilized. Jamie Foxx is amazing as the hit-man consultant. The ass clown trio have their moments of humor when they aren’t unimaginably stupid. Spacey is too sinister for the lot and could annihilate all three at once with a mere stare—he’s that nefarious. Aniston is different than her usual happy-go-lucky girlfriend character, but I wasn’t impressed. She plays a one-dimensional horn-dog. If that’s branching out, it’s lame.

After all the hubbub it received, I expected more. Horrible Bosses just felt wrong and in the end was a disappointed.

Director: Seth Gordon

Country: USA

Genre: Comedy

Run time: 98 minutes

Scale: 2

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Frygtelig lykkelig (Terribly Happy) (2008)

Following a disturbing personal incident (of which you don’t learn details right away), policeman Robert (Jakob Cedergren) is relocated from Copenhagen to small town Skarrild as punishment. The insular town folk behave as if they are keeping a secret from Robert. Terribly Happy

The situation escalates after Robert meets Ingerlise (Lene Maria Christensen), a tormented woman in an abusive marriage with an alcoholic psychopath. Ingerlise and Robert’s attraction is palpable, but Robert tries to keep it professional. As he discovers, Skarrild has a code: They solve their issues without the interference of law enforcement.

At times, Frygtelig lykkelig plays like a Western, as Robert and cowboy-hat-wearing Jørgen (Kim Bodnia), Ingerlise’s husband, go head to head. As we learn what Robert is capable of, this psychological thriller keeps peeling back the layers. You see in detail the disturbing cycle of physical violence in an abusive relationship. There is an especially chilling scene where Ingerlise goes back to Jørgen; her expression during this moment is haunting.

Good versus bad is upturned. The odd characters are hiding  cemeteries in their closets. The movie’s tone toys with your subconscious moral code, creating a discomfort, yet, you remain engaged. It hooks you with one disaster spiraling into the next. It’s like this: Picture you are being chauffeured by a driver who starts recklessly maneuvering. You suddenly don’t trust him, but it’s too late—he’s doing 100 in a 70. He starts laughing and announces that the brakes aren’t working. You are there, you are alert, you are his.

Writer/Director: Henrik Ruben Genz

Country: Denmark

Genre: Thriller

Run time: 90 minutes

Scale: 4

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Descendants (2011)

The DescendantsGeorge Clooney will likely be crowned for his performance here. Despite not belonging to the diehard Clooney Fan Club, he deserves recognition. In the past, he’s struck me as beautiful but with little range. In The Descendants, he finds emotional range beyond what he gave in Up in the Air (which was good). His conflicts, his frustrations and his I’ve-no-clue-what-the-hell-to-do moments show us the black, the white and the greys.

Matt King (George Clooney) is a thrifty lawyer entrusted with pristine Hawaiian land that’s been in his family for decades and will soon be sold for development. His wife Elizabeth (Patricia Hastie) is on life support following a boating accident. Having been disconnected with the family (presumably working), he has little relationship with his two troubled daughters. Younger Scottie (Amara Miller) is a bully; Alexandra (Shailene Woodley) at boarding school is getting drunk and hitting golf balls (allegedly, she’s more troubled in the book).

The Descendants was adapted from the Kaui Hart Hemmings novel. I have it on good word that the movie was thinned way down. This is a story about a daughter and a father finding each other in the fallout of a failed marriage and the hard truths they uncover. The trust backstory isn’t as interesting as the dynamics between Matt and Alexandra and their sleuthing. (The magnificent Woodley steals the screen). It’s tragic. It’s funny. It’s also a wee predictable with a good dose of feel good. Scottie and Alexandra’s friend Sid (Nick Krause) are extraneous characters who contribute little to moving along the plot.

Co-writer/Director: Alexander Payne

Country: USA

Genre: Drama

Run time: 115 minutes

Scale: 4

Allt flyter (The Swimsuit Issue) (2008)

The Swimsuit Issue

Allt flyter tackled the dramatic rendition of the documentary Men Who Swim about Sweden’s all-men synchronized swimming team. They start the team of nine on a lark and soon possess the goal of representing Sweden in the Olympics.

Crank Fredrik (Jonas Inde) gets the idea to start the team. He’s a sporty guy but not one whom you want to spend much time. His teenage daughter, Sara (Amanda Davin) has a difficult time with him. Their relationship is transformed when he asks her for help training the team; she becomes their coach.

Watching them on their journey builds suspense and empathy. They are passionate about succeeding; even ribbing doesn’t deter them. Fredrik and Sara bond and you get a curve-ball at the end. Allt flyter takes it’s time telling its tale. You don’t get  get to know much about the teammates outside of the swimming and their shared goal.

Co-writer/Director: Måns Herngren

Country: Sweden

Genre: Dramedy

Run time: 99 minutes

Scale: 3

Thursday, December 1, 2011

I Love You Phillip Morris (2009)

Jim Carrey opposite Ewan McGregor, as love interests? Indeed and it works very very well.

Steven Russell (Jim Carrey) is a good man. He sings at church. He’s around for his family. He’s a cop and his wife Debbie (Leslie Mann) couldn’t be happier with her luck in landing him. After a near-They Meetfatal car accident, Steven decides to stop wasting time and embraces his true lifestyle. It’s working for him until his extravagance catches up with him and he ends up in prison, but this doesn’t stop him. He’s is an intelligent con man able to escape from prison (four times), talk his way out of and into anything BUT he’s also a hopeless romantic who risks it all for love: first for Jimmy (Rodrigo Santoro) and then for Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor).

This is a peculiar movie with switchbacks you don’t see approaching. It’s complex, heartfelt, humorous and savvy—like a gay Catch Me If You Can. An incredible story with an ironic twist. Carrey is stellar. McG is among my favorites but Carrey carries ILYPM. Before viewing the trailer, I thought ILYPM was related to the cigarette maker. It’s actually based on a book about Steven Russell called “I Love You Phillip Morris: A True Story of Life, Love, and Prison Breaks,” by Steve McVicker.

Co-writers/Co-directors: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa

Country: USA

Genre: Dramedy

Run time: 102 minutes

Scale: 4