Indie Gems: Trainspotting

Track marks.

My love affair with Danny Boyle starts here. Every time I watch Trainspotting it effects me differently. It's one of the few films that can be described as "disturbing" and "beautiful" at the same time.

Rent Boy (Ewan McGregor) is a heroin addict attempting to get clean. His friends and flatmates don't help. When he finally gets the nerve to leave he's plagued by hallucinations of his friends, both dead and alive.

These hallucinations bring out the best in the film. They range from disturbing (a deceased baby crawling across the ceiling) to downright disgusting. (Toilet diving, the most memorable scene in my opinion) I've always loved the way Boyle shoots his films, and yet I can't find the right words to accurately describe it. It's different and beautiful and I wish I could do it more justice.

Don't let the subject matter fool you into thinking the film is a complete downer, it's actually quite hilarious too thanks to the sharp dialogue. It's a must see not only for Boyle fans, but for fans of great movies all together.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: A

Memorable Quote: "There are no reasons. Who needs reasons when you've got heroin?" - Rent Boy (Ewan McGregor)

Review: Meek's Cutoff

You died of Dysentery.

Ok, so that doesn't really happen, but it's hard not to get a little nostalgic while watching this film. It reminded me so much of playing the computer game The Oregon Trail in the labs in grade school. You named all of your characters after your friends, then joked when one of them perished from a disease or failed to shoot any game. I wouldn't mind having a go at that game again.

Anyways.. Meek's Cutoff follows a group of familes that are navigating the Oregon Trail. Meek (Bruce Greenwood) is their guide, but after claiming to know a short cut he gets them lost and without water. Other members of the group include Emily, (Michelle Williams) Soloman, (Will Patton) Thomas, (Paul Dano) and Millie (Zoe Kazan) among others. Eventually they come across a Native American, someone they've always seen as the enemy. With a huge language barrier between them they attempt to have him help, but they are torn between listening to Meek and getting help from the enemy.

Meek's Cutoff gets off to an incredibly slow start. It reminded me a lot of There Will Be Blood with the shots of the plains and the almost 15 minutes before a character utters a word. I was actually expecting to find the same cinematographer, but that wasn't the case. When the settlers finally cross the Indian is when the film finally starts to pick up and become more interesting. The ending ultimately felt like a letdown, but I still wouldn't call it a bad film. The actors give good performances that are expected of them. Overall, the film gets off to a rough start and is very slow paced but does manage to regain interest in the second act. It's something to see if you are a fan of Williams, Dano and Kazan.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: C+

Memorable Quote: "I want him to owe me something." - Emily (Michelle Williams)

Review: Drive

Don't let the porn star pink letters in the title and the loud music fool you.
The opening credits of Drive don't do the film justice in my opinion. Upon first look I felt like I might be getting into a crappy 80's movie. (even though I knew that wasn't the case) Drive surprised me in many ways. I expected and received great performances from Gosling, Mulligan, and Cranston, but I wasn't expecting the film to be so wonderfully over the top.

The Driver (Ryan Gosling) is a stunt car driver/mechanic by day and get away driver by night. He meets his new neighbor Irene (Carey Mulligan) and immediately grows protective of her and her young son. When her husband gets out of prison and finds himself and his family threatened, The Driver offers to help. Things began to spiral out of control.

When I say the film was over the top, I don't see it as a bad thing. I wasn't expecting the Cronenberg-style violence, but it was a nice surprise. It made the film more shocking and intense. The plot itself seems very unrealistic, but that's how it was supposed to be viewed. It's a constant thrill ride.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B

Memorable Quote: "I said where's the deluxe version?" - Irene (Carey Mulligan)

Indie Gems: The Ballad of Jack and Rose

Relationship studies.

Jack (Daniel Day-Lewis) lives on an island with his daughter, Rose. (Camilla Belle) He's into living off of the land and is not impressed when new development threatens his home. Jack is also sick, and has his girlfriend, Kathleen (Catherine Keener) and her two sons Thaddius (Paul Dano) and Rodney (Ryan MacDonald) move in with them. Rose's unconventional relationship with her father tested by this and she acts out in response. This makes Jack realize some of the possible mistakes he made raising Rose.


Jack and Rose's bond is really the center piece of this film. At first we just get subtle hints on what Rose views it as, then eventually we see the big picture. Things begin to spiral out of control for the family and that's when the film is at it's best. It never once felt over the top in it's actions. Director, and Day-Lewis's real life wife, Rebecca Miller handles the film well and it is beautifully shot. All the performances are very underrated in my opinion. Belle proves she's one of the indie queens, Day-Lewis is spot on as always and his chemistry with Dano (which we saw again in There Will Be Blood a few years later) is strong. You can see why Day-Lewis requested him to play opposite with him in the later feature. I feel like this movie tends to fly under the radar when you look at the actors' filmography. It's a small film that deserves to be seen.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B

Memorable Quote: "You've been ruined by that fucking scumbag!" - Jack (Daniel Day-Lewis)

Review: Hesher

Sometimes life gives you the finger.

T.J (Devin Brochu) is a bullied child who has just lost his mother in a car accident. He encounters Hesher (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) a crude, greasy, and pyro happy man that brings chaos into T.J's life. He takes up residence with him, T.J's father (Rainn Wilson) is too catatonic from his wife's death to barely question why this adult is hanging around his young child. His grandmother (Piper Laurie) is to sweet to question it either. Hesher stirs up trouble by screwing with a teen that bullies T.J, setting fire to random things, and ultimately butting into the relationship T.J has with a shy store clerk (Natalie Portman) who comes to his rescue early on in the film. In T.J's words: "What the fuck is wrong with this guy?"

Hesher is a very original story that balances both hard topics and light comedy with ease. Hesher's habit of using inappropriate past experiences as metaphors for deeper feelings is amusing. Piper Laurie is so sweet as the grandmother that when Hesher teaches her how to use a bong for her medical marijuana it's hysterical. But the film is definitely more drama than comedy. It deals with some pretty dark issues and I have to say Rainn Wilson and Devin Brochu pull off grieving family members wonderfully. In fact, Brochu gives one of the best child performances I've seen in a long time. Gordon-Levitt, as always is wonderful and looked like he had a lot of fun playing Hesher. There were a few far fetched things in the film that were never quite explained, but ultimately it was an interesting and original film with a sweet and symbolic ending for T.J and his family.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: A-

Memorable Quote: "I still have a nut...and it works!" - Hesher (Joseph Gordon-Levitt)

2011 Emmy Winners + My Thoughts

Here's a list of the Emmy winners and nominees. (The ones announced on the air, anyways.) My thoughts are in green after various categories

Outstanding Comedy Series

Other Nominees:

"30 Rock"

Modern Family winning was not a surprise. I have yet to watch this show, but I've heard nothing but great things. The TV spots are pretty amusing. I loved the Kobe one.

Outstanding Drama Series

WINNER

Other Nominees

"The Good Wife"

My husband guaranteed me that Games of Thrones would win. I saw Boardwalk Empire. Whoops.

Outstanding Miniseries or Made for Television Movie

Other Nominees:

Too Big to Fail

Surprised Mildred Pierce didn't win.

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

Other Nominees:

Matt LeBlanc for "Episodes"

I'm really happy that Jim Parsons won again. Charlie Sheen presenting was awkward. In other news, What the fuck is Episodes? 

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series Since Bryan Cranston didn't qualify

Other Nominees:

Timothy Olyphant for "Justified"

Like I stated last night, every nominee in this category deserved it more than Kyle Chandler. This one floors me. 

Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series

Other Nominees:

Amy Poehler for "Parks and Recreation"

I absolutely loved how all the nominees got on stage together. That was probably the funniest thing all night. I'm really surprised that McCarthy took home the trophy.

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series

Other Nominees:

Eric Stonestreet for "Modern Family"

Surprise! Someone from Modern Family won. Thank God it wasn't Glee.

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series since Aaron Paul didn't qualify.

Other Nominees:

John Slattery for "Mad Men"

Good for Peter Dinklage! That was a nice surprise in a pretty open category.

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie

Other Nominees:

James Woods for Too Big to Fail

Well deserved, thought for a minute I thought Giamatti might take it.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

Other Nominees:

Kristen Wiig for "Saturday Night Live"

I really thought Lynch would win this, but the hosts never win. I should've known.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie

Other Nominees:

Evan Rachel Wood for "Mildred Pierce"

Evan Rachel Wood should've won this, IMO.

Outstanding Variety, Music Or Comedy Series

Other Nominees:

"Saturday Night Live"

9th win in a row for the Daily Show. The best damn news team deserves it.

Outstanding Directing for a Comedy Series

Other Nominees:

"How I Met Your Mother" (2005): Pamela Fryman
"30 Rock" (2006): Beth McCarthy-Miller

30 Rock was nominated for the Live Show, I thought that should've won.

Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series

Outstanding Directing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Dramatic Special

Outstanding Directing for a Variety, Music or Comedy Series

Other Nominees:

"Late Show with David Letterman": Jerry Foley

SNL winning surprised me. I thought Daily Show or Colbert Report would take the win.

Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series

WINNER

Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series

Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music or Comedy Series

Other Nominees:

"Saturday Night Live"

Again, well deserved. Although Colbert Report deserved it too.

Indie Gems: The Dangerous Lives of Alter Boys

Serious trouble beats serious bordem.

Francis Doyle (Emile Hirsch) and Tim Sullivan (Kieran Culkin) are two 14 year old boys going to Catholic school in the mid 70's. They have a talent for drawing, and create comic books to pass the time. When a nun (Jodie Foster) comes across one of their drawings she immediately disciplines the boys. Fed up with their teacher, they come up with a seemingly over the top plan to take her out.

Hirsch and Culkin have a lot of talent, and even at their young ages it shows in this film. They play their conflicted characters with ease as they deal with first love, consequences, life and death. I spent the entire film thinking their plan was way to over the top to work. Just a simple fantasy in the mind of a child, but when they actually begin to pull it off I was surprised.  The film switches back and forth between our actors and the comic book characters they have created. It's a very cool effect seeing their comics come to life in animation while still using the respected actor's voices.

I liked the film so much I'm going to check out the book it was based off of. My only gripe with the DVD was that the animated sequences were much louder than the other scenes and I found myself messing with the volume constantly.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: A-

Memorable Quote: "Don't tell me to get real. I know what fucking real is." - Tim (Kieran Culkin)

DVD Review: Take Me Home Tonight

I suppose it's a better title than 'Kids in America.'

Kids in America was the working title for this movie when it was filmed way back in 2006. Being a big fan of Teresa Palmer, I've been keeping an eye on this movie since. When I first saw the trailer for this, it wasn't anything like I pictured. A quick look at the film's IMDb page says the heavy drug use in the film was the reason for it being delayed, I almost wonder if the licensing for all the songs they used had something to do with it at well.


Matt (Topher Grace) is a recent MIT graduate that for some unknown reason doesn't want to put his education to good use and get a good paying job. He's back home in LA working at a Sun Coast. Matt's always had a thing for Tori (Teresa Palmer) who's back for the Labor Day weekend as well. He's determined to get her phone number at an annual party for his high school class. Anna Faris plays Matt's twin sister, Wendy and Dan Folger plays his best friend, Barry.

One thing Take Me Home Tonight did well was really capture the feel of the 80's. Everything about the movie screams 80's, the hair, the music, the clothes, everything. However the plot is quite predictable and in turn it made me care less about the film. I was just watching it, not laughing, not being invested, just watching it play out. It's a shame because I enjoyed the cast, but after watching a comedy as funny as Your Highness yesterday it's hard to feel the same way about Take Me Home Tonight, no matter how much I wanted to like it.

Recommended: No

Grade: C

Memorable Quote: "You were a loser in high school." - Tori Frederking (Teresa Palmer)


DVD Review: Your Highness

Quest time!

Prince Fabious (James Franco) is a hero, a charmer, and clearly his kingdom's favorite prince. His brother Thadeous, (Danny McBride) is lazy and somewhat jealous of his brother. When Fabious's new found love Belladonna (Zooey Deschanel) is kidnapped by the evil Leezar, (Justin Theroux) The princes must go on a quest to save her in this Renaissance parody.

 
Your Highness isn't a perfect movie, but I don't understand all the hate towards it. Sure 3/4 of the dialogue is sex jokes, but they're hilarious and do exactly what they are supposed to: make you laugh. I loved the one liners and the cast was hilarious. The special effects were incredibly corny, but it fits the tone of the film. I'm not saying that the movie is poorly done, they just fall into "so bad it's funny category."

The gag reel and alternate takes on the DVD are definitely worth watching as well.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B

Memorable Quote: "Father, you cannot be serious! If you want me to go on to a quest then let's start with something easy. Like boiling a chicken, or beating off in front of a Pegasus." - Thadeous (Danny McBride)

Indie Gems: Wet Hot American Summer

Cold, wet, Pennsylvania Spring.
After viewing My Idiot Brother this week, it got me thinking about the casting of Paul Rudd and Elizabeth Banks together. They make a good pair, and the film that started it all (for me anyways) was Wet Hot American Summer.

It's the last day of summer camp and there's a lot to be done. The talent show, the activities. Love is in the air. Whether it be a triangle between the staff, a secret love, or the camp director's (Janeane Garofalo) love for a scientist. We follow both the staff and the campers on this day.

The cast is littered with plenty of comedic actors including Rudd, Banks, Garofalo, Amy Poehler, Molly Shannon, Bradley Cooper, David Hyde Pierce, A.D Miles, and Ken Marino. There's plenty more to name. Even if their parts were small they still contributed to one of the best comedies of the 2000's. It's great to see where the careers of Banks, Rudd, and Poehler in particular have gone after this film. It's also very nostalgic if you got sent to a summer camp when you were young. Even if your camp wasn't nearly as cool. Mine wasn't, but at least I can spot poison ivy now, right?

Recommended: Yes

Grade: B

Memorable Quote: "You taste like burger!" - Andy (Paul Rudd)

What I got from Rescue Me's final season.

Last year I wrote a post about what I wanted from the finale season of Rescue Me. I wrote it shortly after I watched the season 6 finale, which greatly pissed me off to put it lightly. I'm much more pleased with how the series finale played out. I was getting a little nervous because season 7 started off weak, but I thought the ending was a perfect fit. Let's see how I did. Spoiler alert, obviously.

1) What I wanted: Jimmy and Damian to interact in Tommy's visions.

What I got: As it turns out, Damian didn't succumb to his injuries and was still in a wheelchair when we see him in season 7. (There was plenty of speculation last year that he might die) I was pretty disappointed that Jimmy never even mentioned Damian when Tommy did see him later on in the season. I felt Damian getting hurt was a huge deal, but the show didn't treat it that way. I did enjoy Johnny being in Tommy's visions once again though.

2) What I wanted: Tommy needs to be with Kelly. (Maura Tierny)

What I got: Yes, Tierny did make an appearance in season 7, it was brief, but it helped Tommy out. However they didn't get together. I've always hated most of the women on this show, but I enjoyed Kelly. I thought Tommy would've been happiest with her.

3) What I wanted: Focus on the men in the house.

What I got: They did focus more on the guys with the exception of a few episodes that were geared more towards Tommy's family. I always thought the playful banter between the men in the fire house was one of the show's strongest points. They were more than co workers. They were brothers, and they were at their best when they were together. On a side note, I thought the speech Lieu gave at the "funeral" in Tommy's dream was so powerful. It really described the relationship between the men well.

4) What I wanted: Shape up Colleen and Katy, possibly bring back young Connor in Tommy's visions.

What I got: None of the above, I'm not surprised. Tommy's daughters still manage to be two of the most unlikeable kids on television.

5) What I wanted: Promote Lieu, get him out of the line of duty and give Tommy his job.

What I got: In the finale episode, Lieu dies and eventually Franco is promoted to Lieutenant. This was ok with me. It worked. I'm sad that Lieu died, because I really expected Tommy to die in the finale.

6) What I wanted: Focus on 9/11, not Tommy constantly falling off the wagon.

What I got: Exactly that. What I enjoyed most about the finale season was that it brought us back to the beginning. Yes, they still talked about Tommy's drinking problem, but it didn't feel like they shoved it down our throats like they have in previous seasons.

7) What I wanted: Explain how Teddy didn't get arrested for shooting Tommy.

What I got: No explanation. This is one of the biggest plot holes of the series. Like I said before, the crew "lying to the police" just doesn't cut it.

8) What I wanted: No loose ends, wrap it up nicely and go out with a bang.

What I got: I suppose it was unrealistic of me to hope all loose ends would be tied, but I really enjoyed the final episode. I had to let it sink in at first, I wasn't sure what to think. Now that I can reflect on it, they really ended the series perfectly. I loved that final scene with Tommy and Lieu in the car. I laughed at the scene with Lieu's ashes. I loved the dream sequence at the beginning. I could've done without the ridiculous birth scene though, that was way over the top. Maybe its because I have a child of my own and child birth was NOTHING like how it was portrayed there. I think it would've bothered me less if I wasn't a parent.

9) What I wanted: Give Rescue me some love at the Emmys, Golden Globes, and SAGs.

What I got: It's still too early to tell. I think Denis Leary and John Scurti could secure nods. Hell, Scurti's speech in the last episode alone should get him some consideration.

Review: Tucker & Dale vs Evil

What's the matter with these college kids!?
I'm going to describe this movie to you the same way it was described to me: "Basically, Alan Tudyk plays a hillbilly who gets mistaken for a murderer, but really the people just keep dying by accident." Needless to say, that ridiculous statement was enough to get me interested in viewing this on demand.

It's slightly accurate. Tucker (Tudyk) and Dale (Tyler Labine) fit the hillbilly from West Virgina look pretty well. They are out in the woods fixing up their "vacation home" when they come across some college kids that assume they must be psychos. After Allison (Katrina Bowden) accidentally falls in the river and is rescued by Dale, her friends automatically assume they have kidnapped her and began to wage war against the "hillbillie killers." Unfortunately for them they make some mistakes and accidentally die one by one. Unfortunately for Tucker and Dale, they are convinced that these kids must have some sort of mass suicide pact and are out to get Allison, who Dale has grown quite attached too.

I was expecting to get a lot of campy gore and that is what I received. The characters are over the top but also managed to tug on my emotions. Dale, while a little daft was completely loveable and I rooted for him. Chad, the primary antagonist/douche frat boy managed to annoy me greatly. At the beginning of the film I actually thought to myself: "I can't wait until he dies." That means I cared about where the story was going.

Is the acting top notch? No. Is it a funny and gory B movie? Yes. I wasn't expecting a whole lot but was very pleased with what I got. It won't win any awards, but despite all the blood and profanity I dare to call the film "cute." Yeah, it was a cute little film. I'm glad I watched it.

Recommended: Yes, but know what your getting into.

Grade: C+

Memorable Quote: "I'm a horrible therapist!" - Allison (Katrina Bowden)

Review: Our Idiot Brother

He had a bad day.
Poor Ned. (Paul Rudd) He's just a easy going farmer with a heart of gold. Too bad he's a little on the space cadet side and sells pot to a uniformed police officer and winds up in prison. Released for good behavior, (he won most cooperative inmate four months running!) he winds up homeless, and dogless, after his girlfriend Janet (Kathryn Hahn) kicks him to the curb. He's forced to spend his time living with his three sisters (Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel, and Emily Mortimer) who all have very different and very busy lives.

The supporting cast also includes Steve Coogan, Rashinda Jones and Adam Scott among others. This was definitely one of my favorite ensembles of the year. Rudd's Ned is so loving even though he messes things up. Banks, Deschanel and Mortimer also bring out the best in their very different characters. Deschanel in particular is starting to steer away from the "quirky girl next door" character she's been shoe boxed in. Coogan's part is small, but very memorable. He plays a complete dick, but he plays it well. I would've liked Adam Scott to be in it a bit more, but his few scenes were still a nice touch. The film balances comedy and drama well with it's laugh out loud moments and it's touching ones. It may not be the funniest comedy of the year, but it sure is one of the better ones for it's story and great cast.

Recommended: Yes

Grade: A-

Memorable Quote: "Nobody loves like Ned loves." - Miranda (Elizabeth Banks)

Review: The Conspirator

One man did not kill Abe Lincoln.
Frederick Aiken (James McAvoy) is a war veteran and a lawyer that's tasked with defending Mary Surratt, (Robin Penn) the lone woman amongst seven men charged with planning the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. As the trial goes on Fredrick begins to believe his client's innocence, and feels she's being used as a decoy.
The Conspirator has strong performances from McAvoy, Penn, and Evan Rachel Wood who plays Mary's daughter, Anna. The plot was interesting, but I felt that it dragged at points and became a little hard to pay attention too when it was moving so slowly. That's typical Robert Redford though. All of his movies feel longer than they really are. (With the exception of Quiz Show, which was fantastic.) I feel like he didn't quite get his message across. Similar to what happened with Lions for Lambs. Great cast, interesting plot on paper, but not the best transition to the screen.

Recommended: No

Grade: C

Memorable Quote: "You were infatuated with Boothe." - Frederick Aiken (James McAvoy)