Friday, December 31, 2010

Another Year

It seems appropriate to watch a film about the events over the course of a year at the end of year. It inspires a viewer to join in the reminiscence, recalling the good and bad of their own lives. The film also reminds us that our own lives don't really follow the climax and resolution pattern of most Hollywood movies. Instead, we encounter a series of events, a series of relationships, that have various levels of meaning. We enjoy (or tolerate) them, and then look to the next one. In spite of our most glamorous dreams and plans, most of us are just plain. Another Year takes this reality and presents an entertaining view of life. Distinctly British in its sensibilities, we have four acts (Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter) that follow a professional couple throughout the year. Tom (geology engineer) and Gerri (therapist) are in their mid-sixties, enjoy their jobs and enjoy each other. They spend their free time working a plot together in a community garden. The key to the success of this film is in the portrayal of the relationships. Gerri's co-worker Mary is a frequent guest at the house and displays her loneliness on her sleeve. Tom's college buddy Ken is a caricature of a working class man without any vision for living life. We also meet Joe, Katie, and Ronnie throughout the year. And while there is no climax/resolution story arc in the traditional sense, there are definite turning points in the relationships which provide depth to the characters and a clear sense of time passing. Throughout the film, we see the distinct personality of each character as an individual and equally important, their personality as enhanced/diminished by those close to them. In the end, I found my self smiling and laughing at all the right places. Thoroughly enjoyable.
4 stars (out of 5)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Dish

A story set in the midst of the space race and the Apollo 11 lunar landing. However, this story is from the perspective of small town Parkes, Australia. This town was the site of a large, southern hemisphere radio telescope and was part of the communication system for the lunar mission. Part small town farce, part historical fiction, part frontier science, we get a window into part of the mission that is not usually remembered. Plays like a made for TV special with enough good science to make if fun to watch. Perfect for a late night Christmas vacation diversion.
4 stars (out of 5)

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Dan in Real Life

Steve Carell is funny. I think he is too funny for this role. He plays a guy with 3 daughters who lost his wife a few years back and is still struggling to "move on". Carell is too goofy to hold the gravity of this loss ever present. Instead, the film tosses off a glib "oh, and my wife died" set up so that we can get on to the comedic awkward family reunion. Add to this the fact that Carell falls for his brothers new girlfriend (Juliette Binoche) and has to manage hanging out with her for the weekend with his girls and family all looking on. This is written as a conventional romantic comedy and lives up exactly to that bill, nothing more. Pleasant, but avoidable.
3 stars (out of 5)

Friday, December 24, 2010

True Grit

Jeff Bridges personifies True Grit. I think that is the selling point of this film. We saw great 'grit' by Bridges in Crazy Heart and thought "I could stand to see more of that greatness". Unfortunately, Bridges phoned it in. Or perhaps there wasn't enough there for him to do anything else. He is a drunken, criminal turned marshal in the wild west. He wants to be left alone, but a persuasive 14 year old girl persuades him to hunt down her fathers killer. They set off into the wilderness together and [spoiler alert] get the bad guy [end spoiler]. Matt Damon joins the festivities as a Texas Ranger who also wants to get the bad guy for crimes committed in Texas. Competition between bounty hunters, precocious girl, horses and great views. Nothing surprising or new or even really interesting in this drama. The most memorable part of the film is something that I would rather not remember as a horse is ridden into the ground in an effort to save a life. I know, no animals were harmed... but I don't need the imagery to draw the connection that Bridges is also a broken down old horse who can't make it to the finish line.
2-stars (out of 5)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Girl in the Cafe

This film was recommended by my friend Joel. As such, I fully expected to see dinosaurs show up somewhere in the film. Alas, I was disappointed on that count. Putting those expectations aside, I found myself enjoying this film. Lawrence is a single man working in the British PM office helping to set and promote policy centered on the Millenium goals and preparing for a G-8 conference in Reykjavik. He has recently met a girl in a coffee shop and since he is allowed to take a companion on his travel trips, invites her along to the conference. At the conference Lawrence and Gina get to know each other better, with Lawrence for presumably the first time in his life being challenged to really know what he thinks and who he wants to be. A nice little drama exploring relationship, self awareness, love and purpose.
3 stars (out of 5)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

My First Mister

Guest Review by Annika -
My favorite storyline is that of unlikely friendships being forged. The characters in My First Mister are not as comfortably uncomfortable as The Station Agent, as richly colorful as Bagdad Cafe, as deliciously prickly as Mostly Martha, or as triumphant over age as Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont or Monsieur Ibrahim. But in this "forging friendships" genre my tolerance is wide (unlike with cinema in general) and I'd recommend it as a close second if any of the above films are not available. Alienated teenage Jennifer gets fired from her mall retail job "not for stealing but for farting." She wanders over to a stuffy men's clothing store where old sobersides Randall (with a terrible mustache) gives her a job. Quirky life altering friendship ensues. Points also for most creative mannequin display.
3 stars (out of 5)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The King's Speech

Colin Firth is a king. Playing George VI, King of England during the onset of World War II, Firth delivers another command performance, presenting a character that is struggling internally and presenting that struggle subtley such that we are able to commiserate (see A Single Man for another great example of Firth at work). Here George's older brother abdicates the throne in order to marry his recently divorced beau (which is necessary since the head of the Church of England could not possible marry a divorcee). George takes the throne just as mass public communication becomes an effective tool for politicians and heads of state, a necessary tool to rally the public to war. The problem is that George has a problem with stammering and a deathly fear of speaking in public. Enter Geoffrey Rush, unconventional speech therapist who coaxes and coaches George into coping with public speaking and realizing that perhaps some of his royal elitism is misplaced. A fascinating look at modern royalty.
4 stars (out of 5)