Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus

*Seen at the Chicago Film Festival*

I have never felt so great of a high then when this film started. It was "Mystery Film" night where you just walked into the theatre, sat down and waited for the credits to start so you could figure out what was playing.

It opens and the words: "London, England" appear. Chatter amongst the crowd, "Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes!" "I can't wait for Jude Law!". Then it happened, the words in script: The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus. The crowd erupts in applause and euphoria. I myself felt a shortness of breath as I excitedly tapped the random movie goer next to me and my festival friend.

This film was nothing short of brilliant. There were slow parts, but the times spent in Dr. Parnassus's mirror are just so wonderful, you never want them to end.

For those of you who aren't aware, this is the film Heath Ledger was filming before his untimely death. This left the director and writers scrambling to finish the production without its main character. Jude Law, Colin Farrell and Johnny Depp assumed responsibilities to finish the film in Ledger's place. I thought this bit would be confusing seeing as Farrell and Depp don't really resemble Ledger; however, the production crew wrote this perfectly. I really could not imagine the film with Ledger continuing on with the character after seeing this.

I felt like I was in a grown-up Alice & Wonderland that would return to reality ever so often. Definitely one you should see on the big screen to truly enjoy the imagination of Dr. Parnassus.

You see how people of all ages and genders would fork over any amount to enjoy a few moments of excitement in Dr. Parnassus's imagination. You also learn the "joy" of everlasting life isn't usually all that great, which teen girls wrapped in the Twilight saga will already be fully aware of.

Note: A few scenes were trippy and quite reminiscent of Bono's scene in Across the Universe


*Seen at the Chicago Film Festival*

After seeing some comedies at the Fest, decided a drama was in order. However a drama of this nature was not in order. I particularly like the film choices of Michelle Williams (Wendy & Lucy, Syncedoche, New York, Brokeback Mountain) and just love Gael Garcia Bernal, but this film was a mammoth of a disaster.

The story seems simple enough, a "perfect" family faces small choices with big reactions. You see Bernal leave to go close a deal with his internet business across the globe while Williams stays at home with her job in the ER and the couple's daughter. The daughter is cared for by the nanny which leaves Williams character feeling useless on a daily basis.

But that was it. That's all that went on. And the crises the characters faced never fully connected. And for a film harping on the fact of dealing with consequences, some conflicts are left unresolved. No ending ever really happens besides when the credits start rolling.

If this is something you simply must see, wait for the DVD.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Couples Retreat-take it or leave it

You know when you see a movie preview a few hundred times and you anticipate the funny parts and can repeat them over and over again? Well Couples Retreat was like that for me. Since, I am a HUGE Vince Vaughn fan, I figured that I would see it anyway. Surprinsgly enough, there were more funny parts to the movie than the 30 second previews!

For those of you who have been hiding under a rock over the past five months (because thats the only way you wouldn't have seen a preview for this movie), I'll bring you up to speed. Couples Retreat is a comedy centereted around four couples who take a vacation to a tropical island. The conflict arises when they find out that their vacation has now become a week long therapy session.

Of course with any movie staring the comedic line up that Couples Retreat had its bound to be comical, yet sometimes the story line can get lost. I felt that that happened a few times here, where a character was thrown in or a line was said and I kept thinking "hmm...that could have been edited out." (I hate to say this since it was written by Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn and I have loved there past work-hello Break Up and Swingers, but it was just true).

The one liners from Vaughn and cast were hysterical and had me slapping my knee(literally) and overall it was a feel good movie. I would recommend this for maybe a Netflix, not sure its worth the $10 plus popcorn fee.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Where the Wild Things Are-not what I expected

After finding out that I was going to be out of town on the opening day of Where the Wild Things Are Hanna and I made the management decision to see the midnight showing. In the past this type of decision making is usually a success, this time it was a let down. Not only was our crowd unexpected(De Paul kids sneaking beer into the theatre), but the film just didn't deliver.

This film is an adaptation of Maurice Sendak's childrens story where a little boy Max is sent to his room without any dinner, here he creates a forested in-habited world full of creatures three times the size of him.

With only 10 sentences in the book, writers Spike Jonze and Dave Eggers had a blank canvas to create this story from. I think with that sort of creative freedom, too many ideas can come to life. In the film, when Max enters the world of the Wild Things he finds them in total conflict. This conflict or even there way of life is never explained. I was confused for most of the movie and kept looking for clues to tell me why the characters were acting the way that they were. Where the Wild Things Are was originally suppose to debut last year, when Warner Bros pulled it and told Director Spike Jonze that it had to be more kid friendly. Since this wasn't his original plan for the movie, the final product came across misunderstood with child like aspects and special effects, with an adult centered story line.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Be All and End All

**Seen at the Chicago International Film Fest**

Note: This was the first time American audiences got a taste of this film. And at the start of the film, the director gave up his seat so an older couple could sit next to one and other. I love Brits.

Imagine being a 15-year-old horny kid who gets the grim news death is waiting right around the corner. Enter Robbie. Robbie just wants a shag. That's all he wants. And it's his dying wish. Enter best lad Ziggy. Ziggy tells Robbie he'll help him fulfill the wish. The boys run into numerous problems, as one would imagine. Robbie's in the children's ward, since he's only 15, which means not only does he not have his own room, he's surrounded by a "dykey" nurse and tons of tots.

The film focuses on Ziggy, trying to deal with the fact his best friend is dying, feeling the need to help fulfill his last wish and deal with the trials of being his Mom's "man." Ziggy's father left the scene and his mom hides the fact he still reaches out to Zigmond. Viewers see Ziggy deal with all these different emotional baggage and see how he navigates through it all.

From call girls, to soliciting "help" from school, to visiting a brothel, Ziggy stops at nothing to make sure Robbie doesn't have to die a virgin.

I really enjoyed the relationship between Robbie and Ziggy and seeing how the looming death affected them. They still get angry at one and other, say horrible things and leave the room angry. I feel when someone close to us is sick, we tend to put on an act and ensure we are always friendly and never rude. But when was the last time you didn't snap at your closest friend? That's what your closest friend is there for, to be a punching bag, call you out when you're acting crazy and still be there at the end of the day.

We also really enjoyed the "dyke-y" nurse from the film. She was a real treat.

After this film, we were fortunate to attend a Q&A with the director Bruce Webb, who said he was drawn to this film as he was an adopted kid and from a divorced family. He was drawn to Ziggy's story of searching for his father. The storyline was brilliant as was the directing in this film.

We also learned the boy who plays sex-crazed Robbie got his acting start in a Sex Ed video. Fate much?

As of yet, this film hasn't been well received in the homeland (UK). Hopefully some type of distribution will come for the film as they get ready to head for the Rome Film Fest.

Sex may not be the all and end all of life, but a best lad sure as hell is.

Side note: Sam held in all of her snorts as the director was sitting just a few rows up and the executive producer was right in front of us. Quite the feat.

Looking for Eric

**Seen at the Chicago International Film Fest**

Poor Eric. He's raising two stepsons all on his own, still finds himself fancying his first love and sees, talks and seeks life guidance from footballer Eric Cantona. This story is a hilarious tale of a man just trying to live life while having to worry and deal with all of life's problems and then some.

Looking for Eric, a French and UK film, is directed by the brilliant Ken Loach (The Wind that Shakes the Barley) and he shows he can do a dramatic comedy as well as historical drama that Barley centered around.

Eric is a postal worker who never laughs and he lives his lives life full of regret and confusion. When one of his stepsons finds himself in harm's way, Eric, along with all of his lads from the local pub devise a plan to help the family. You see the stepsons go from teen anguish and immaturity to respectable lads.

After his family problems are sorted out, he's after his Lily, the first girl he fell in love with and left 30 years ago. To get him in tip top shape, Cantona instills boot camp (picture above). These scenes are pretty hysterical as Eric is the only one who "sees" Cantona.

We enjoyed this film tremendously as it dealt with the drama, real world and often scary problems of daily life while peppering the situation with humour. We ended up laughing half the time because hearing an irate British man scream profanities is just funny.

Hopefully this film gets picked up by a distributor and soon. It's a must see.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Fame: not your typical dance flick

For those of you who know me this may come as a shock, but I have a dancing background. I know I know, I never said I was any good, but I sure gave it a good whirl for about 10 or so years. Also, my sister is an extremely gifted dancer and even thought of going professional some day, that meant that I had to sit in on a lot of dance rehearsals and competitions even beyond my time at the dance studio. With this exposure to the dance world, great passion has been built inside me for the dancing industry.

I figured I should give justification for what I am about to say. I really loved the movie Fame. I knew that I would probably love it going into it, considering I loved movies such as Center Stage, Step Up and Girls Just Wanna Have Fun. Yet, Fame wasn't like the rest of these movies. The screen wasn't filled with cheesy one liners and stories that would just never happen in real life. (With that said, this was a 'teen' movie and a dance movie so I'm not comparing this to a Mystic River if you will). It really portrayed the stories of struggling youngsters with a passion for the stage.

For those of you who don't know Fame is a remake of the 1980 musical set in New York City at the High School for the Performing Arts (known as P.A.). It tells the story of the real life Fiorello H. Laguardia High School, where students are trained in such arts that lead to professional acting, singing and dancing.

There were two great finds that I took from this movie. First was the dancer Kherington Payne. Payne was a contestant on season four of So You Think You Can Dance. I feel in love with her and her partner Twitch while watching the season a few summers ago. It was so fun to see her blossom as a dancer and actress on the screen. After doing some research, I read that she is going to start stretching her career into dancing on screen in the future. My second find was the singer Asher Book. His adorable smile and sweet character brightened up the silver screen and my heart. For his audition he sang Ordinary People originally done by John Legend. Needless to say I've listened to it on iTunes about 50 times. (you can listen to it on imeem here:

The Messenger

The Chicago International Film Festival has landed in the Windy and will continue throughout the next week. Volunteers receive free passes for movies, so Sam and I are taking full advantage of my volunteer hours. Side note: A full review on the Film Fest will be available when the Fest closes. Believe me, it will be quite the doozy.

So Sam and I ventured to The Messenger one night. A film with Woody Harrelson and Ben Foster playing Army soldiers who deliver the news to families when their soldier has died. I was surprised that the movie didn't focus completely on this. I assumed we'd be going from door to door, knocking and telling families their loved ones are dead. Instead, this movie offers a glimpse into the lives of soldiers who aren't off fighting.

Woody Harrelson does a fantastic job portraying the soldier who never saw much action and just can't seem to walk away from his new family. Ben Foster plays a decorated hero after a terrible accident while he was in combat and is quickly finishing up his time with the Army.

The film focuses a lot on Foster's character, showing viewers a glimpse of life as a wounded soldier carrying around guilt. He does a fantastic job and viewers will quickly fall in love with him. Jena Malone also stars although, I wasn't all that much of a fan of her performance.

This film has already been picked up by a distributor and will be out in theatres within the month, though it might be select.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Boys Are Back

A wonderful adaptation of a widower's story in raising a son without a mother and a son which he abandoned years before. Clive Owen, the father, loses his wife Katie and is left with their young son Artie. Owen struggles to find a sense of purpose and meaning in the world all while trying to help Artie deal with his mother's death. So Owen decides to bring in his eldest son, Harry, whom he left in England when he married Artie's mum. Harry, going through the turbulent teen years jumps at the opportunity to get to know his father.

As always, nothing turns out as one would hope. We see the constant struggle of raising a family, holding a job and maintaining a household. I couldn't help but see each of my parents in the role as they began the journey of single parenting.

What really makes this film come alive is the idea of fun. Owen has few rules in his house and tends to follow an every-man-for-himself daily routine. This film is an adventure through loss, grief, coping, trust and love. Elements I think films tend to over look when they have a traumatic grief story line.

Favorite scenes would be the "dangerous" things Owen lets the children do. While driving down the beach with his son on the hood, my movie goer partner promptly whispers "That's so dangerous!" as I sat there green with envy and wishing I knew someone who could drive me down the "beach" of Lake Michigan come 10 months from now when the weather is above 60. These scenes remind us all that life shouldn't be made to be lived in all seriousness and that sometimes, the only way to move on is shed a few tears, then go do something exhilarating.

This film will cause you to well up with a few tears if you're cold and dead inside like myself or sob like Ms. Zeller did, especially when you see Clive Owen put down his tough and rough guard. Bring the Kleenex either way.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The September Issue-Documentary

The September Issue is a documentary, filming the behind the scenes process of publishing the September issue of American Vogue magazine. There are a few facts about this subject matter that I think you all should know.

1.Anna Wintour, the Editor-In-Chief at American Vogue.
- is said to be 'heartless and tough'
2. The month of September is the year end for the fashion industry, this is when everything changes.
3. The 2007 September issue of Vogue magazine weighed five pounds.

Director R.J. Cutler did an amazing job of getting behind the fur and glitz of Anna Wintour and the rest of the people at Vogue to tap into what their thought process is, in life and at work. I admired the honesty of Ms. Wintour when speaking about her life and the journey that she has been on to get where she is today. She doesn't seem to carry the celebrity persona that I thought she might have, yet she just spoke as if this is what she was meant to always do and it is the only thing that matters to her.

My love for fashion and its industry is what drew me to see this documentary. Yet, with most things in life I found a gem in this documentary. That would be a one Ms. Grace Coddington. In this film she is portrayed as the only one who fights with Wintour, but I saw her as so much more. Her crazy red hair and terrible clothes were only the beginning of the greatness that exuded from this woman. Her role as the Creative Director allows her to focus her creativity in a way that celebrates design and art and has helped give Vogue the reputation that it has today.

If you are a 'Fashionista' then I shouldn't have to talk you into seeing this documentary. But, if you aren't, I would still recommend this to you. For nothing else but to peek into subject matter that you don't know much about. You never know what you will learn or what will spark an idea in you when you open yourself up to an unknown world.

Hurt Locker-accidental greatness

Let me set up the scene for you in how I ended up seeing this movie. It was a lovely September day(yes I realize this is late), the sun in shining, fall is still a few weeks away and I am trying to soak up the last great 70 degree days here in Chicago. I decide to reward myself with an afternoon movie and put on my favorite cotton dress, flip flops and sunglasses and walk the grand mile to the local independent movie theatre. Popcorn and a Diet Coke are in my future along with the romantic, feel good comedy called My One and Only. I buy my ticket and stroll up the stairs to the next movie theatre patron that tells me my movie is playing up the stairs and to the left. I go in and find my perfect seat-center seat, about midway up the staircase. I find that there are a few men in the theatre(which of course I found strange), but figured I wasn't here to judge. About 15 minutes after the movie should have begun the previews start, same as always(the independent movie theatre doesn't exactly do genre selected previews). Then, BAM! The opening scene to The Hurt Locker comes on. And it's grotesque. You know when you think you are taking a sip of water and it is really vodka? Well that's how this felt. Realizing immediately what has happened, I do the awkward grab my purse and decide to make the theatre switch. As I stand up the screen goes into slow motion. I was mesmerized by the cinematography of this film and immediately sat down. Setting my popcorn and DC aside (this really isn't a movie for props) I drop my purse and am enraptured by the story that is folding out in front of me.

The Hurt Locker is an amazing film that tells a story of young soldiers who are Bravo's bomb disposal unit. 39 days are left at their station in Baghdad and become their countdown to going home. Yet, each day this three member team is asked to step into the most dangerous scenario's in order to protect civilians.

Jeremy Renner plays Sergeant Will James, the new leader for unit Bravo. Saying that he is 'rough around the edges' would be quite the understatement. He doesn't seem to mind getting right up in the mess of the war and taking off his gloves while doing it. His life is the war and being a solider in it and doesn't seem to know life outside it. While watching Sgt. James and his unit fight through their internal struggles, the chaos of the war reveals itself that changes life for them as they know it.

Even though this isn't what I had signed up for on that sunny September day, it ended up being a great surprise. I would recommend this movie and put it on my must see list. Jeremy Renner's performance is outstanding and was even mentioned to have the acting skills of "a young Russell Crowe." Don't let this film pass you by, make it an accident in your life as well.