DVD Review: Gigantic

"Gigantic" came out on DVD Aug 11th, but I just got a chance to watch it on Demand. I wanted to see this film because I'm a huge fan of both Paul Dano and Zooey Deschanel. They both deliver, but one thing to keep in mind before you see this film is you need to pay attention. I've read lots of other reviews/comments/etc of what people got out of this film and I understand where some of the confusion comes from. I had those moments as well.

'Gigantic' follows Brian (Dano) he's a mattress salesmen in the suburbs of New York City. He's 28 years old, single, and aspire to adopt a child from China. He has wanted to do this his whole life. One day he sells a mattress to a man named Al (John Goodman) who sends in his daughter Happy (Deschanel) to pick it up, she falls asleep on the mattress and from that moment she changes Brian's life.

This is obviously a quirky film, and the director deliberately tries to do things to make you think. Brian obviously wants to adopt this baby, but he has to wrestle some personal demons first. His father just turned 80, his brothers are in their late 40's. His parents had him far too late for him to develop a normal relationship with anyone of them. Happy also has her own set of issues. Her divorced parents were never really there. They only give her money instead of giving her their personal insight or opinions. Both of our main characters have essentially never been loved, yet their growing relationship and Brian's desire to adopt all play into this.

*spoiler alert*

I'm going to put this out there since this seems to be the main cause for most people's confusion with this film. Throughout the film Brian is attacked by a homeless man (played by Zack Galifianekis) this was meant to represent Brian's conflicts with himself, not that he was actually being beat down by a random man everywhere he went. We see the same sort of transition with Happy, towards the end of the film she breaks a pinata. That represented her finally getting the feeling of a family and shattering all those bad memories. The entire film is meant to be subtle. They wanted to keep everyone guessing. My take on the film being called "Gigantic" was that we are supposed to be seeing the big picture, which is often caused by the little things.

I liked the film overall, but I felt as if it was holding back a bit. Paul Dano has the rare talent of being able to have amazing chemistry with anyone he is on screen with and Zooey Deschanel is so interesting you can't take your eyes off of her. I wanted to see more between Brian and Happy, but instead we only got little glimpses of their relationship. I felt they could've gone a bit further with them, or even showed us some more affection between the two of them. The film did get a little carried away with all the undertones "what does this mean?" "could this be happening?" "what does this say to you?" But overall an interesting film with some very talented actors in Dano and Deschanel

Recommended: Yes 3/5 stars

Memorable Quote: "You don't understand, this has been going on for a long time" - Brian Weathersby (Paul Dano)

Indie Gems: Brick

For those who don't know, "Indie Gems" is a column where I review an independent film that you may or may not have seen, but definitely should. They are as always, out on DVD.



"Brick" was released in theaters in 2005 and came out on DVD in 2006. It stars the immensely talented Joseph Gordon-Levitt (did you see him on SNL last Sat?) Gordon-Levitt has been one of my favorite actors ever sense I saw him years ago in '10 Things I hate about You' he was the lovable geek, now the handsome leading man. He's what originally drew me to this film.

The plot follows Brendan (JGL) he receives a frantic phone call from his ex girlfriend Emily (Emilie De Raven) she's in trouble, but doesn't fully say why. She only says certain words that connect her to her problem. Brendan, ever the sleuth sets out to find out what is troubling her. The next day he finds her dead, in a tunnel under a bridge. Instead of going to the police Brenden is set on figuring this out for himself. He's not the only one that was in Emily's life. He enlists the help of a guy known as The Brain (Matt O'Leary) and crosses paths with the physical Tug (Noah Fliess) the mysterious Laura (Nora Zehetner) and the big time drug dealer known as The Pin. (Lukas Haas)

What makes 'Brick' stand out from other detective films is it's smart and rapid dialogue. The characters talk in a noir-sense, quick, sharp, and always interesting. Some people may have trouble following along, I've read numerous reviews where people said they had to use the sub-titles. The film is shot on a hand held camera and edited on a computer, but you can't tell. The way the film is shot is as interesting as the film itself. The characters all have a story, and the director (Rian Johnson) spends time on each one. You see bits and pieces of Brendan and Emily's broken relationship, and you fall into the plot as deep as Brendan does. The acting as always is top notch, and definitely a break out performance by Zehetner. You leave the film satisfied.

Recommended: Yes 5/5 stars, one of my favorite films.

Memorable Quote: " Ask any dope rat where their junk sprang and they'll say they scraped it from that, who scored it from this, who bought it off so, and after four or five connections the list always ends with The Pin. But I bet you, if you got every rat in town together and said "Show your hands" if any of them have actually seen The Pin, you'd get a crowd of full pockets." - The Brain (Matt O'Leary)

Indie Gems: Dreamland

-The Rundown, I review an Indie film that maybe you've seen, maybe you haven't. Either way, it's available on DVD for you to find.-

Dreamland


I'm sure you've heard the saying "less is more". That phrase really does apply to this film. It's small, it was filmed in a small trailer park in the desert. There's not a lot of color or wicked camera shots, but it's the actors in the film that make it so interesting. The premise, dialogue, music, though small all speak in a big way.

The film follows Aubrey (Agnes Bruckner: Blood and Chocolate; Venom) she's just graduated from high school. She lives in a small trailer park in the middle of nowhere named "Dreamland". Aubrey dreams of being a writer, she doesn't have the ambition to go to college, although she's gotten accepted to many. One of her reasons is she has too many things in Dreamland to care for. We are introduced to Calista (Kelli Garner: Bully, The Aviator) she suffers from MS and rarely leaves the trailer park. Calista and Aubrey's days are often spent lounging in their hot tub, talking about life. Calista dreams to be Miss America, although she knows her illness will never allow that. Aubrey also takes care of her father, after her mother passed away he has anxiety attacks, and cannot leave Dreamland at all. Aubrey is just fine with the way her world is treating her, until some new neighbors move in. Mookie (Justin Long: Dodgeball, Accepted) is a good looking guy, training to play basketball for college. Both girls are attracted to him, Aubrey lets Calista have him. Though it's obvious she longs to be in her place. Is Mookie the one that will convince Aubrey she's more than she thinks she is?

What I loved about 'Dreamland' was how they turned such a simple concept into something so beautiful. Bruckner and Garner are interesting actresses. Bruckner may not be your average looking "diva", she's tall, she's tattooed, but she's beautiful and a tremendous actress. You fall into her world as Aubrey, and you root for her. It's nice to see Justin Long in a leading man role, since he's often casted as the nerd, the dorky friend, never the hot love interest. The dialogue is lovely, especially when we start to hear some of Aubrey's writing. The meaning of the film goes deeper. It's an excellent coming of age story. Surreal, honest, it sneaks up on you from out of nowhere and drags you in.

Recommended: Yes 5/5 stars.

Memorable Quote: "The only thing better than kissing on the first date, is almost kissing on the first date" - Henry (John Corbett)

Review: Antichrist

It's obvious what director Lars von Trier's intentions were when he penned "Antichrist". He wanted to make a film that was artsy, shocking yet beautiful. A film that went were most others wouldn't, one that didn't hold back. Well he succeeded in the shock factor, but the ride to get there wasn't as easy.

This is where my curiosity often gets the best of me. I read reviews of films that get booed out of the Cannes Film Festival, and I become intrigued. What could possibly offend such an elite group of people, like the ones attending Cannes? Sure they were shocked at 'Last Tango in Paris', that film turned out brilliant. 'Marie Antionette' was supposedly booed, that wasn't that bad. So when I read all the ruckus about von Trier's "Anti Christ", starting Willem DeFeo and Charolette Gainsbourg as "He and She" was a little intrigued. I heard about the gore, "Whatever" I thought. Can't be that bad, Eli Roth has probably done worse. When the film came up on IFC on Demand, I thought it would be an interesting Sunday afternoon movie. I was wrong.

I hate to use this phrase, but I feel that von Trier really did get "up his own ass" with all the "art" in this film. The story follows a married couple, as they make love one night in the shower...and in the living room...and in their bedroom, their baby boy manages to fall to his death outside an open window. "He" (DeFeo) is apparently a psychiatrist. He offers to help his wife deal with this loss because she's blames herself. He decides they should go to a remote cabin in the woods where they will be secluded. She can face her fears alone with him. She obviously comes up with a different idea.

I liked the beautiful opening sequence at first (minus that "was that really necessary" shower shot of their..well you know. There was no dialogue, it was in black and white, and only music played. But when he keeps going on and on with the "close up shot!" "Fading colors!" "Ohh..look at the beautiful trees!" it becomes overkill. You can't force great cinematography or art direction. It comes naturally. Take 'Lord of the Rings" and "Brokeback Mountain" for instance. Those films had great cinematography, and it felt effortless. Hell, "2:37" an Aussie indie about a tragedy in the school had nice shots as well, because the cameraman didn't realize he'd left it on at times. The point is, it's obvious to when you try to hard.

The film moves at a horribly slow pace, knowing slightly what was in store for me, I started staring at the clock, counting down the minutes until she finally snaps on him. (and when your checking the clock on a 104 min film you know you're in trouble) By the time all the graphicness took place, it felt out of place and merely for shock value (which it was, no doubt). It didn't fit in with the story, They never explain once why "She" is obsessed with sex, nor does it explain why she all of a sudden goes ape-shit on her husband. You can guess, but when it goes to the extreme, your starting to wonder why no one is dying from loss of blood. I get what the film was trying to say, but when your climatic scene involves a close up shot of a woman cutting off her own private parts, you can't help but question it. There is virtually no dialogue in this film. Mostly "He" talking about ways to help his wife through her crisis. The ending is abrupt and when the music starts playing, the scene goes black and white you're left with nothing.

Serves me right for wanting to watch a film only based on seeing what everyone at Cannes freaked out about. I see it now, I wish I could vouch for it..I wanted to be one of those people who liked the oddball film, but I can't be.

Recommended: No 1/5 Stars

Memorable Quote: "Chaos Reigns" - and that came from a random talking fox. No, you read that right.

Review: A Christmas Carol

I'm sure many of you were thinking the same thing I was when I first saw this trailer: "again?"

Yes, this is a classic tale told over and over, Britain's most famous Christmas story. Heck, I think more Americans recognize this story over the most famous American story (The Gift of the Magi)

Director Robert Zemeckis (Beowolf, Polar Express) was probably also thinking the same thing, that's why he did his best to make it his own. I know you can't really alter this famous tale, but adding the 3D animation and the always dependable Jim Carrey as Ebeneezer Scrooge's voice, Zemeckis manages to turn this wonderful tale into a fun 3D thrill. More updated for kids today, the animation is wonderful, the effects are great (although I'd still say Coraline is still reigning as my favorite 3D film) The voice actors are wonderful, although perhaps too over-shadowed by Carrey, they consist of Gary Oldman, Robin Wright Penn , Bob Hoskins, Cary Elwes, Colin Firth.

The plot of course, is Ebeneezer Scrooge is a bitter man, he's visited by 3 spirits on Christmas Eve. The Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future. They teach him to change his ways. While you already know it, it's still a charming tale, and definitely a good one to take the kids to this holiday season. Or if your just a 3D junkie, the graphics are top notch. Although some scenes may be a bit frightening for small children.

Recommended: Yes 4/5 stars

Memorable Quote: "Bahh...Humbug" (because that really never gets old..I say it at work all the time) Ebeneezer Scrooge (Jim Carrey)

DVD Review: Virgin Territory

I've literally followed the production of this movie since early 2007 when it begin filming. It started off as "The Decameron: Angels and Virgins". Sounds dramatic right? Then It changed to simply "The Decameron". Then "Angels and Virgins" Then apparently the people marketing the film realized they weren't trying to sell a period piece and moved on too "Guilty Pleasures", then "Chasing Temptation" and finally landing on the questionable choice of "Virgin Territory."

I came across this film whilst browsing Mischa Barton's film creds. I was (key word) one of the few people that actually remembered the talent she had in earlier films such as "Lawn Dogs" and "Skipped Parts" and was a little depressed to see how it was being wasted on 'The O.C" When I first read the synopsis of this film: "Young Florentines regale one another on the Italian country side while the black plague decimates their city." I was expecting to see a medieval drama. After viewing this I'm not quite sure what I just saw.

It sounded promising, Hayden Christensen, Tim Roth and Matthew Rhys all star, but I can't help but feel like this film didn't meet it's original expectations.

There are many stories to keep up with in "Virgin Territory." Gerbino (Tim Roth) is on the hunt for Lorenzo (Hayden Christensen). He stays at a convent and pretends to be deaf and dumb so that the Nuns will *ahem* act very un-nunly around him. A joke that's only half way funny the first time it's used and becomes ridiculously tired towards the end of the film. Barton is Pampinea, who is a popular virgin set to marry a foreigner that she does not love. She's thrown into a love triangle with Gerbino and Lorenzo.

It doesn't help that they don't give us enough back story (or time) to care about any of the characters. The film comes off as campy, the dialogue is horrible, and Mischa..as much as I really really wanted to like your acting, I can't. I'll give "You and I" a shot, but if that's a letdown..I'm done. I can only defend for so long.

Apparently overseas they are marketing this film as a medieval "American Pie" type film. Sure the over hyped sex is there, but not the fun, humor, or charm that "American Pie" had. I laughed out loud once in the entire movie, and it was more at how ridiculous the situation was then the actual dialogue.

More of a rant then a review, but please take my word for it. This film is not what I thought it would be. It's trash.

Recommended: No 1.5/5 stars (and that 1/2 is for Hayden's near perfect English accent..that's it)

Memorable Quote: "Perhaps you could even start in the middle!" - Elissa (Kate Groombridge)