American Teen Review

February 28, 2009

Jake Tusing, Mitch Reinholt, director Nanette Burstein, Megan Krizmanich, Colin Clemens, Geoff Haase and Hannah Bailey at the Sky360 by Delta Lounge WireImage Portrait Studio on January 20, 2008 in Park City, Utah.

Reviewed By: Average Joe

Synopsis: This movie, which was apparently a hit at Sundance, follows the life of four high school seniors (from various cliques) from a small town in Indiana. The documentary shows their struggles, triumphs and the way they negotiate the trial and tribulations of being a teen and trying to transition to adulthood.

Review: There were truly some compelling aspects of this film, and most of us can probably relate to one of the characters, are at least some of the things they’re going through. It’s endearing at times, but it’s also a bit shallow and stereotypical for my tastes. I mean yeah, there’s a geek, a princess, a rebel and a jock, and I think Burstein lets each of these kids slide smoothly into those categories without getting to their core.

I did enjoy the imaginative animation that added a little depth (or at least a change of pace) to the story. I thought that these were intuitive looks into the lives of these kids, but again, the entirety of the movie isn’t that intuitive.

There were aspects of the film, that in the back of my head I wondered if they were staged, and other times when I think I was supposed to feel sympathy, but I didn’t.

Just because your parents are pushing you to get into Notre Dame doesn’t mean you have to be a complete bitch to everyone around you. I found the “geek” and the “rebel” to be the most interesting characters and would’ve loved to learn more about what makes them tick, why the “heart throb,” doesn’t want to endure his new, intriguing relationship anymore aside from peer pressure.

What this movie really is, at the end of the day, is sad. And I guess that’s okay, because as I understand it a lot of people have similar high school experiences. Everyone is trying to find themselves, but unfortunately Burstein doesn’t find the depths of what these kids and that’s why the film fell a little short for me.

Review: 6.4

Recommendation: I want you to watch this film and decide for yourself because if you’re like me, you’ll be feeling like you got sold a little short, but you will have turned the lens on your own life and thought real events significant to you. I think you’ll find something to cling to that resonates here, and if nothing else, that Hannah chick is pretty interesting, and that Megan girl needs a good slap in the face.

P.S. I also wanted to know more about Hannah’s best guy friend, and Megan’s guy-friend who kind of dates her best friend. They seemed like pretty interesting people that didn’t necessarily fall into a “category.”

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The Film Snob’s Oscar Picks

February 19, 2009

Average Joe and I did a radio show discussing the Oscars about a month ago, but now that I have seen a few more of the movies and reflected a bit more on the performances, I want to re-examine my Oscar picks.

Score
I don’t understand how the score for Revolutionary Road was not nominated–I simply cannot comprehend it. That score was the best I ever remember hearing–it was like one of the characters–I really loved it.

Should Win: Revolutionary Road
Will Win: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Animated Film
Here’s where the Academy is going to err–Wall-E is going to be the obvious winner even though it was only the 4th best animated film of the year. No other animated film has a chance. I just don’t understand the fascination.

Should Win: Kung Fu Panda
Will Win: Wall-Epenelope-cruz2

Actress in a Supporting Role
How did Amy Adams get nominated? She was surrounded by three overpowering performances and she seemed to be as much of an observer as I was. Don’t get me wrong, her performance was fine–the film couldn’t have handled another emotional performance–so in Doubt she played the role she needed to, but there was nothing about it that was Oscar worthy. Viola Davis from Doubt turned in a strong performance, but was she on the screen long enough to win an Oscar? Even if it is in a supporting role. Taraji Henson, from The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, was really good–but not great—with no memorable line or scene to anchor her performance. Maria Tomei did fine work, really played her character beautifully, but after giving her an Oscar for My Cousin Vinny there is no way she gets another one–there’s just no way. Plus, getting nude in an Oscar role is Kate Winslett’s thing–Tomei can’t just take that. It’s about time that Penelopee Cruz gets the on-screen recognition she deserves–and this role was perfect for her–Woody Allen has a way of writing a perfect role for his leading female actors.

Should Win: Penelope Cruz, Vicky Christina Barcelona
Will Win: Viola Davis, Doubt

Actor in a Supporting Role
It is a shame that Michael Shannon from Revolutionary Road won’t win an Oscar this year–because really his performance was shannon-rrbreathtaking. That’s one of the best supporting roles I have ever seen; unfortunately, it came in a year when Heath Ledger turned in a perfect performance in The Dark Knight. The Academy should just go ahead and give Shannon the 2010 Oscar–because he doesn’t deserve to go home empty handed. I don’t really care for Robert Downey Jr., but he has done some fine work in his career–Tropic Thunder was not one of those performances. It’s kind of ironic–the old adage is that if you play an ugly character, an old character, a gay character–any stretch from your reality, well–that’s worthy of an Oscar nod. In this movie Downey’s character pretends to be a black character and he gets a nomination–it’s like he was daring the Academy not to nominate him.

Should Win: Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
Will Win: Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight

Actress in a Leading Role
It’s not going to be Jolie and it’s not going to be Hathaway–let’s just clear that up. When I saw Doubt I thought Streep was a shoe-in for another Oscar. However, I’m beginning to wonder if she played too great a role. There’s a possibility that her character was so emotional and had so many outbursts that it is hindering her chances–like her role was too perfect. Melissa Leo and Kate Winslet both turned in great performances as well. I almost think that Winslet might be a little hindered because she is always so great. To me, there is nothing that separates her performance here from the ones in Revolutionary Road or Little Children. Leo is a real darkhorse, Frozen River is not nominated in any other category–yet, her performance was every bit as good as Streep’s or Winslet’s. To me, this category is the biggest toss up of the night. I guess for me, Streep terrified me with her portrayal of Sister Aloysius–so I’ll give here the nod.

Should Win: Maryl Streep, Doubt
Will Win: Kate Winslet, The Reader

Actor in a Leading Role:
Richard Jenkins. There, I mentioned him. Pitt was good in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, but his role just wasn’t thewrestler_1008_18962621_0_0_7023130_300demanding enough to compete. I think he played Benjamin exactly right–which is why he is nominated, but a win is out of the question. I’m going to say this now–and Average Joe will be all over me–Micky Rourke was overrated in The Wrestler. There, I said it. I didn’t think he stretched his acting limits or reached deep down for anything. It seemed like he played an alteration of himself–so yeah, the role was perfect for him–I just wasn’t overly impressed by his acting skills. I think people are so impressed that he’s alive and able to act, without considering whether or not he’s on the same caliber with the other nominees. My guy, Frank Langella, won’t win it. I thought he did a terrific job in a tough role. When someone as famous as Richard Nixon is portrayed, everyone is comparing the actor to the real thing. It’s unfair–but Langella did a great job with it.

Should Win: Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon
Will Win: Sean Penn, Milk

Director

Ron Howard is going to be penalized because Frost/Nixon comes from the stage–it’s unfair, but there is some sense that some of the direction was already done by the time Howard arrived. David Fincher is the director who impressed me the most. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was an extraordinarily difficult story to tell–it came from nothing more than a short story and he, along with others, developed it into a full, lengthy screenplay. I realize that a lot of this credit goes to the screenwriters, but Fincher’s direction was just right. He used considerable restraint at times, preventing Pitt and Blanchett from overacting–which would have been easy to do, given the situation.

Should Win: David Fincher, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Will Win: David Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire20081224-034649-pic-210628898_r350x200

Best Picture
I’ve got to tell you, I’m not in love with any of this year’s nominees. Milk seemed too cookie-cutter for the subject matter, Slumdog Millionaire–which might be my favorite of the bunch, lacked a certain deepness that I think the winner of this category should have, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button fell flat in some areas (although Benjamen gave one hell of a speech). I think Milk is going to take home an Oscar and I’ll tell you why–Hollywood is unapologetically liberal–and with Crash upsetting Brokeback Mountin a few years ago, I think Milk claiming best picture makes just the statement they want it too. Not to mention that it’s a better movie than Brokeback Mountain. After seeing the movie, Slumdog Millionaire was my favorite, but after giving it some time and some thought, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button really grew on me. It had a life romanticism about it–it had love and loss, it was thoughtful and beautiful-plus the great speech, which earns major points with me.

Should Win: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Will Win: Milk

February 22 Note:

Apparently Slumdog Millionaire is a sure thing to take home the Oscar for best picture so disregard my Milk pick. What’s more is that I have been thinking more and more about Slumdog—and I would have to say that I did like it a hair more then Benjamin Button. The two are very close, but after a few days of reflection–I have to proclaim that Slumdog is the best film of the year (at least of those that were nominated).


Frozen River Review

February 18, 2009

frozenriverReviewed by: The Film Snob

Synopsis: Ray (Melissa Leo) tries to provide for her family by smuggling illegal aliens across the Canadian border. She teams with a member of the Mohawk tribe, Lila (Misty Upham), as they put themselves in danger to earn some cash.

Review: This is a good movie and I’ll tell you why–in real life I would HATE these people, yet within the context of this movie I care what happens to them. The main character, Ray (a mother of two), decides that she is going to start smuggling illegal immigrants into the country in the trunk of her car–and why does she do this? So she can buy her family a double wide trailer. She is currently living with her two sons in a trailer as it is–and she is trying to upgrade to a bigger trailer with better insulation–so she’s working for something, but is moving to a better trailer really worth committing a felony? Risking your life? One of the movie’s most climatic is when Ray smuggles some illegals across the border, then gets home just in time to stop the repo men from taking her tv. This tv she purchased was on a rent-to-own plan and the set is about half the width of her entire trailer. This woman can’t afford dinner for her family (they eat popcorn and drink orange soda), yet she wants to commit to prolonged payments for a large, flat screen television?  In real life this woman is too dumb to live, in the cinema I am rooting for her all the way. Why is this? I have no idea. I can’t put my finger on it–it’s not just that she is the main character–there is something more that intrigues me. Maybe it’s just that she’s so repulsive and so white trash that I sympathize with her? Nobody should have to be that ugly, that trashy, and that poor–and when I mean ugly, I mean don’t watch this on Blue-Ray, watch it with the worst quality imaginable, you’ll thank me later.

Or maybe the reason I rooted for Ray and her family was the performance of Melissa Leo. She came out of nowhere to be nominated for an Oscar along with Marryl Streep, Ann Hathaway, Angelina Jolie, and Kate Winslet–that’s some fine company. Just being nominated in a class like that is phenomenal–being nominated is equivalent to winning for someone like Kate Winslet I would think–the Academy rarely seems to just pluck a lead actress nominee out of relatively nowhere–the nominees usually come from bigger, better publicized movies–so this is really an honor.

Rating: 7.3

Recommendation: Frozen River gained a lot of momentum at the Independent Spirit Awards, where it was nominated for best picture. If you usually go for that sort of thing then this movie will not disappoint. If you like hardy laughs or big explosions from your movie then stay away at all cost–and please don’t talk to me–I won’t like you. It’s the sort of story that is not typically told, it’s not a sexy story–but it is a story–and it’s told in a nice fashion–plus it’s only 90 minutes–gotta love that they didn’t drag it out. I recommend.


Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist Review

February 14, 2009

nick_and_nora

Reviewed By: Average Joe

Synopsis: Two teens Nick (Michael Cera) and Norah (Kat Dennings) are thrust together by a chance encounter, turned first date. The two endure a night in New York City looking for a rock bank, The Fluffy’s (or is it Fluffies?) The two seem to have nothing in common, but their love of similar music and their confusion of teenage life.

Review: Just to mix things up here at The Net Flicker. I’ll give a bulleted summary of my reaction to the movie.

  • Michael Cera is absolutely hilarious with dry comedy. For him to play someone so socially awkward I’m convinced he’s at least partially socially awkward in real life.
  • Tris (Alexis Dziena) is really hot, and she is actually a month older than me, despite looking young, so I can say that.
  • There’s something endearing about the authenticity of the relationship between Nick and Norah. I guess my point is, it makes sense that they would connect.
  • The bathroom scene with Norah’s best friend Carolina (Ari Graynor) was absolutely disgusting and unnecessary.
  • The movie was predictable, though you probably new that before you started watching it.
  • I liked the speech about the Beatles and hand holding.
  • You have to at least snicker at the Seth Myers and Andy Samberg cameos.
  • A couple of parts that I laughed out loud included a handi-napkin, and jokes about Nick’s haircut.
  • The entire running joke with the chewing gum is stupid.
  • Also, let me just say, never, ever, put your foot near my face. It’s a sure way to get punched by Average Joe.

Rating: 5.9 (+1 if you are really into Indie Rock, +1 if you’re 15-19)

Synopsis: It’s a fun, light-hearted film that movies quickly and gains some additional points based on it’s solid soundtrack, Cera’s dry humor, and a solid view of New York city. The two leads are both talented, but I typically like more demanding movies. It’s worth a rent if you’re looking for something light or fall into either of the categories that would acquire a “+1” from the rating.


The Reader Review

February 1, 2009

09_dansfuturesecondwife_lgl

Reviewed By: Average Joe

Synopsis: The movie takes place in post WWII Germany. A teenager has an affair with an older woman. Approximately 10 years after the affair mysteriously ended, the boy, now a law student, re-encounters the woman as she stands trial for a war crime offense.

Review: Let me start by saying that The Reader was a good film and that Kate Winslett (in spite of my disdain for her) was great, as was 18-year old David Kross.

[Note: I don’t like Winslett because from what I hear she was a real bitch to all the locals, cast, and crew while working on The Life of David Gale in my hometown. Apparently Russell Crowe is notoriously hard to work with as well. I still like him. End tirade.]

The movie dragged a bit at first, but Winslett and Kross immediately brought their characters to life. Winslett played the older woman, Hanna Schmitz, and Kross really impressed me playing the younger version of Michael Berg, the boy who has the affair with Schmitz.

I thought their chemistry was solid and even more authentic because of the fact that it was awkward at times, the way I envision affairs with older women to be (I wouldn’t know). The Reader is accurately named because the young Michael Berg often reads to Hanna, and it comes back into play later near the end of the film.

The film contains graphic nudity (I wonder if Kross was scared to be naked with Winslett?), and some intense post WWII issues, but that isn’t what makes this film (thought it may be what got it nominated for an Oscar). It is the films ability to manipulate you into becoming enraptured by the affair, and then surprised by Hanna’s secret when she stands trial. It makes you question the way you feel, and I love films that have the ability to do this.

Where this film fell short for me was primarily the core of the elder Michael. Why is he still so haunted by Hanna when he was only 15 at the time of their encounter? Why was Ralph Fiennes relatively mediocre in his portrayal of the character? I would’ve liked to know more motive and rationale behind the Michael character (and maybe Winslett’s amazing performance just overshadowed those issues.) And as I mentioned, the pace was a bit pedestrian at times. I’m an Average Joe, it’s tough to hold my attention.

Rating: 7.8

Recommendation: I do not think this movie deserved a nomination for the best movie of the year, but it’s a good film. Don’t get caught up in the WWII surroundings and think it is better than it is, but watch it for Winslett’s performance, and appreciate both Kross’s surprising performance and the film’s ability to manipulate your emotions.


Hancock Review

January 30, 2009

hancock3Reviewed by: The Film Snob

Synopsis: Hancock (Will Smith) is a one-man wrecking crew. He has super powers, but he can’t seem to figure out how to use them effectively. When the city turns against him, Hancock hires Ray Embrey (Jason Bateman) to help upgrade his image.

Review: See that picture I posted? That’s what this film did–fell flat on its ass. It was awful–just awful. The premise is a sound one–the person with superpowers has a volatile relationship with the public–and as such, he needs a publicist. However, the execution of this premise is unimaginative and unintelligent. Let me present this to you (the list contains some plot details, but you should read this rather than see the movie–believe me).

  • Hancock rips the roof off of a car traveling on the highway and takes a seat in the back. He then continues to carry on a conversation with these gentlemen, one of which continues to drive the car. There is absolutely no wind during the whole high-speed scene. They might just as well have been in a library.
  • During this conversation Hancock tells the gentlemen that he is going to take one of their heads and shove it up another one’s butt. Not only is this the worst line ever, he actually proceeds to do so later in the film. It was the goofiest movie moment since Rocky tried to save the Soviet Union by punching a guy really hard.
  • Mary Embrey (Charlize Theron) does not want anyone to know that she has the same abilities as Hancock. So what does she do hide her identity? She starts by tackling Hancock through her kitchen wall and destroying a few of the cars in the neighborhood. Then for a follow up she flies through the city–and once to an extraordinarily well-populated part of the city she engages Hancock in a fight, utilizing all of her super powers. Which, coincidentally, lands right at the feet of her husband–the person she was trying to keep the secret from most.
  • The two men who were engaged in the head-up-butt exchange later decided that they needed revenge on Hancock. They were in jail at the time so what they decided to do is break out of prison and take their personal revenge. Do you see any flaw in this plan? These thugs are going to find Hancock and do what? He’s got super strength, super speed, and what’s that other thing–oh yeah, he deflects bullets and all sharp objects. What exactly is this master plan going to be? Now, there may be a logical explanation for all of this, but the movie goer would never know it–therefore it does not really exist.

Also, I like Will Smith–but is inept at playing the introspective, tough-guy character. Someone should inform Mr. Smith that pursing your lips together does not convey anything except that you have spilled your milk.

Now that I’ve outlined some of my criticisms, let me divulge the upside of this movie–Jason Bateman is kind of humorous. Did you get all that? In a movie that is poorly thought out and poorly acted, Bateman is the only bright spot. Theron is one of our finest actresses, but in a role that demanded nothing, there was little for her to contribute.

Rating: 1.7

Recommendation: I’m not going to say it’s the worst film of they year because I assume that title goes to Bride Wars, what I am going to going to do is travel to my backyard with a shovel, bury this film, tell Netflix it must have gotten lost in the mail, and then never speak of this movie again.


Starting Out in the Evening Review

January 28, 2009

startingoutReviewed by: The Film Snob

Synopsis: Frank Langella plays Leonard Schiller, a once great author who is mercifully approaching the end of his life. While working on her thesis, Heather (Lauren Ambrose) has the opportunity to work with Leonard, who has long served as her literary hero. As expected, the two form a friendship that is simultaneously beautiful and somewhat inappropriate.

Review: What a great movie title–Starting Out in the Evening–that is the reason I watched this movie. Well, that and Frank Langella. This is a familiar story in some regards–the elderly genius is rejuvenated by the young love interest. Although, the plot is not quite that simple because Leonard is not quite that simple.

Langella’s performance is really what saves the film. He plays the character perfectly–taking Leonard from typical to exceptional–from static to dynamic.

One more thing that I’d like to note is that I did like that the movie didn’t wrap up in a nice bow. Leonard doesn’t meet Heather and be cured of all his recent writing ailments. Heather helps him to enjoy the last chapter of his life–not write a new one.

I could go on, but to be truthful–I don’t have much else to say about the movie and I don’t wish to waste the reader’s time. I will say this one last thing–at one point Leonard references a book critic who describes his style as just trying to “read the hell out of the book.” I think that’s a great quote–I’m going to try to watch the hell out of some movies. That is all.

Rating: 6.1

Recommendation: If it’s on tv and you like to watch movies about the human drama then go for it. Otherwise you’re going to want to avoid.