Featured Post

Letterboxd Reviews

So as you know, I stopped writing lengthy reviews on this site this year, keeping the blog as more of a film diary of sorts.  Lo and behold,...

Sunday, June 30, 2013

The 2012 RyMickey Awards

The 2012 RyMickey Awards have finally arrived!  While all the critics like to have their "Best of" lists published before the year is even over, this blogger takes his time wading through all that a year has to offer before providing his accolades.  The best part is that everything I discuss will be available for you to watch at home so you can jump on Netflix and add them to your queues.

Check back tomorrow for the start of the 2012 RyMickey Awards as they post throughout the month of July!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Movie Review - Your Sister's Sister

Your Sister's Sister (2012)
Starring Emily Blunt, Rosemarie Dewitt, and Mark Duplass
Directed by Lynn Shelton

Essentially a three-character comedy -- one that could easily have been a stage play prior to this cinematic incarnation -- Your Sister's Sister tells the tale of Jack (Mark Duplass) whose brother died a year prior.  While Jack tries to make it seem as if he's come to terms with the death, he still finds himself emotionally struggling with the heavy ordeal and after he overreacts at a party commemorating his brother, Jack's best friend and his brother's former girlfriend Iris (Emily Blunt) invites him to stay at her father's isolated cabin in the woods.  Jack agrees to some alone time, but when he arrives at the cabin, Iris's sister Hannah (Rosemarie Dewitt) happens to be there seeking some alone time for herself.  The two chat it up over tequila and, despite Hannah's lesbian tendencies, the two sleep together.  The next morning when Iris surprisingly shows up, Jack and Hannah try and hide their romp in the sack, but the three find themselves piling lie on top of lie.

Buoyed by three nice performances, Your Sister's Sister has a natural rhythm to it that I found very much echoed Humpday, the previous Lynn Shelton directed and written film I've seen.  Emily Blunt, Rosemarie Dewitt, and Mark Duplass seemingly improvise many of their lines and (even if that's not the case) make nearly everything they say believable for their characters who are rather complex despite the film's comedic leanings.  Ultimately, it's the layered characters that make the film successful.

The film takes a twist towards the end that knocks the realism down a few notches and while Blunt, Dewitt, and Duplass do their best to make it not seem far-fetched, they simply can't make the storyline work.  It's a bit unfortunate because prior to the last thirty minutes, I was thoroughly involved in the proceedings.  Don't get me wrong -- the final act doesn't ruin things, but it just turns an otherwise great indie film into a better than average one.

The RyMickey Rating:  B

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Movie Review - This Is 40

This Is 40 (2012)
Starring Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Maude Apatow, Iris Apatow, Megan Fox, Jason Segel, Chris O'Dowd, Lena Dunham, Albert Brooks, John Lithgow, and Melissa McCarthy
Directed by Judd Apatow

While he sometimes succeeds as a producer (see Bridesmaids, Step Brothers, and The Five-Year Engagement), Judd Apatow has never been a favorite of mine when he gets behind the camera or puts pen to paper.  He can't seem to edit himself and he's the single biggest contributor to the notion that began in the 2000s that comedies must be longer than two hours in order to "feel important."  This Is 40 is typical Apatow in that these same problems exist -- seriously, can't this guy afford an editor at this point -- but I found the film overall quite humorous and, ultimately, worth a watch despite the fact that there is hardly any story to sustain itself over its 135-minute running time.

This Is 40 is apparently the quasi-sequel to Knocked Up in that Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann are reprising their roles of married couple Pete and Debbie, but there's nary a mention of that former movie and you certainly do not need to be even remotely familiar with it in order to understand the goings-on here.  As the film opens, Debbie is celebrating her fortieth birthday -- a milestone she refuses to accept which is why the birthday cake her two daughters Sadie and Charlotte (Maude and Iris Apatow) present her with has a giant "38" on it.  Pete is also celebrating his fourth decade on Earth in a few weeks and the couple finds themselves in a bit of a rut after having been together so long.  With a teenage daughter who always fights with her younger sister, a nagging Jewish father (Albert Brooks) who is constantly guilting Pete into giving him money, and a failing business leading to less income, life is difficult for the couple which leads to bickering around every corner.

The issue with This Is 40 lies in the fact that it doesn't bring anything new to the table and it feels like a dinner guest that just refuses to leave when he should.  There's simply not enough story presented to warrant its length and despite attempts at creating tangents -- Debbie is worried that a worker (Megan Fox) at her clothing shop is stealing, Debbie's estranged father (John Lithgow) tries to return into her life, an angry mom (Melissa McCarthy) accuses Pete and Debbie of harassing her son at school -- they're simply tangents that don't add anything to the overall story.  Granted, they're funny and they often caused me to laugh out loud, but in the end, it amounts to a whole lot of nothing.  And let's not even get started on the Judd Apatow reliance on something dramatically "important" happening that turns out not to be all that critical to the plot by the film's end.  There's several of those moments here, but I'm preferring to forget about them.

Still, despite these qualms, I wasn't ever bored by This Is 40 and the biggest credit for that probably should go to Rudd and Mann who work well together and are each more than capable of carrying out their own moments of required humor.  There's some nice cameos by folks like Jason Segel and Chris O'Dowd as well, but I can honestly say that I'm over the Melissa McCarthy craze.  This lady needs to stretch a bit as she's chosen the same exact role in every film she's undertaken.  For someone who burst onto the scene in an overwhelmingly strong way in Bridesmaids just two years ago, she's worn out her welcome very quickly.

I've never been a fan of Judd Apatow so I will admit that I came into this biased from the get-go and This Is 40 contains all of the typical Apatow-isms that I despise, but this one still manages to end on a good note for me.  There's probably something to be said in the fact that this is Apatow's lowest-rated film on RottenTomatoes and my favorite film of his, but I laughed enough to recommend it.

The RyMickey Rating: C+

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Movie Review - This Means War

This Means War (2012)
Starring Chris Pine, Tom Hardy, Reese Witherspoon, Chelsea Handler, Til Schweiger, and Angela Bassett 
Directed by McG

There's something innately appealing about the trio of Chris Pine, Reese Witherspoon, and Tom Hardy, but the charming nature of all three actors is utterly wasted in the horrendous action-"comedy" This Means War.  With some of the shoddiest writing of 2012 and direction by McG that's just plain sloppy, there's simply no reason to subject yourself to this paint-by-numbers flick.

Hardy and Pine are Tuck and FDR (yep, FDR), covert CIA agents who just completed a mission in which they succeeded in preventing "international criminal" Heinrich (Til Schweiger) from getting his hands on a weapon of mass destruction.  However, in the midst of the mission, they kill Heinrich's brother which sends the supervillain on a mission of his own to hunt down and kill the CIA duo.  

Of course, this story doesn't really matter.  While the film opens and ends with its focus on Heinrich, the middle 85 minutes barely mention his name.  Instead, we're treated to a purportedly hilarious love triangle in which Tuck and FDR try and woo Lauren (Witherspoon), a beautiful gal who, like all beautiful gals in movies, has given up on love.  Instead, she dances around her apartment singing late 80s/early 90s rap songs and chats it up with her obnoxious best friend Trish (Chelsea Handler playing herself) who wants nothing more than to live vicariously through any sexcapade into which Lauren can venture.  Through a series of fateful events, Lauren finds herself dating both Tuck and FDR at the same time, and while Lauren has no idea her two beaus know each other, the CIA duo employ all the technology at their disposal to make sure the other fails at succeeding [while at the same time not using that same state-of-art gadgetry to make sure Heinrich doesn't make good on his vow to enact revenge on them.]

Perhaps there's something here in terms of a story, but with dialog so horrible this blogger could have done better and direction so odd that at moments I wondered if I was watching an edited-for-tv version of a film, This Means War is a chore to watch.  It's a shame because Chris Pine and Reese Witherspoon really do give this everything they have and there are some moments where their charming natures almost make certain scenes work, but they're really never given a chance with this dead on arrival junk. Tom Hardy is fine, but he's fared better in the past (and unfortunately I feel like I've been saying that a bit more than I'd like as of late) -- I'm simply not sure romantic comedy is a genre that suits him despite his effort here.

Quite simply, there's nothing about this movie that works.  The comedic moments never made me laugh.  The action scenes never provided a moment of tension.  The romance aspects never created steaminess.  When you fail in all three of the genres you're trying to place your movie into, you've got a mess on your hands and This Means War is a one of the biggest mishandled botches of 2012.

The RyMickey Rating:  D

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Movie Review - Hysteria

Hysteria (2012)
Starring Hugh Dancy, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Rupert Everett, Jonathan Pryce, and Felicity Jones
Directed by Tanya Wexler

British women in the late 19th century were irritable creatures.  Garnering very little respect from their husbands, they found themselves heading to their doctors where they were diagnosed with "hysteria."  The cure, employed by docs like Robert Dalrymple (Jonathan Pryce), was to massage the genital area (in a purely decent manner underneath a velvet curtain) to induce a "paroxysmal convulsion" unaware that this was actually an orgasm.  Dr. Dalrymple finds his practice overwhelmed with hysterical women so he hires young physician Mortimer Granville (Hugh Dancy) who happens to have a knack for curing the disease.  More and more women flock to him to be relieved of their sickness which unfortunately causes his hand to cramp up substantially and he is fired by Dalrymple for not being able to perform his duties.  This dismissal happens to be quite fortuitous as Mortimer discovers that his friend Lord Edmund St. John-Smythe (Rupert Everett) has developed an electric feather duster which Mortimer believes could be the answer to his injured hand and the ladies' hysteria problems.  And, henceforth, the vibrator forever became a tool for women across the world.

Hysteria tells the story of the invention of the vibrator...and if that were the only story it told, it would've been a success.  Instead, the trio of screenwriters add in a love triangle involving Mortimer and Dr. Dalrymple's two daughters -- the younger, more reverent Emily (Felicity Jones) and the older, new-age feminist Charlotte (Maggie Gyllenhaal) -- which takes over the film's second half and causes it to fall flat on its face.  The obvious nature of the resolution of the love triangle from the film's outset created nary a modicum of tension and failed to resonate in the slightest despite the valiant efforts of Hugh Dancy who tries his hardest to be charming and carry the film on his shoulders.

I wanted to like this movie and for the first 45 minutes or so, I found Hysteria humorous enough to warrant its existence.  However, as the film progresses, it abandons its subject matter which makes it unique and turns into something we've seen over and over again in movies better than this.

The RyMickey Rating:  C-

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Movie Review - The Loneliest Planet

The Loneliest Planet (2012)
Starring Gael Garcia Bernal, Hani Furstenberg, and Bidzina Gujabidze
Directed by Julia Loktev
***This film is currently streaming on Netflix****

The Loneliest Planet is a gorgeous film to gaze upon as director Julia Loktev with the help of cinematographer Inti Briones capture the beauty of the Caucusus Mountains in the eastern European country of Georgia.  Beyond the Georgian vistas, however, The Loneliest Planet is a nearly two hour slog to sit through and, despite my best efforts to enjoy the odd nature of the film, I simply can't find myself recommending this one.

Boyfriend and girlfriend Alex and Nica (Gael Garcia Bernal and Hani Furstenberg) are traveling through the former USSR with nothing much more than two backpacks.  In the film's initial moments, it's obvious they're in love and director Loktev does a nice job of establishing their relationship with even the simplest of hand gestures or knowing glances.  The two decide to trek through the Caucusus mountain range and hire Dato (Bidzina Gujabidze) as their guide.  And the next 105 minutes is just them walking and talking and walking and talking.  About halfway through, "an event" happens that is so quick that you could blink and miss it.  After the event, there's more walking and decidedly less talking, but it's obvious that the mood has decidedly changed amongst the trio.

Experimental is definitely the wrong word to describe The Loneliest Planet, but the lack of dialog or any real substantial story to follow makes it stand out from other films and at first I found it an admirable quality.  However, after "the event" happens, I just wanted some conversation to be had or some emotion to be expressed and instead we get silence.  While there's part of me that applauds the decidedly un-cinematic quality of the film, there's another part of me that says there was no need to capture this story on video.  I don't necessarily watch movies for a cinema verite style and this film somewhat tries to achieve that quality.

For what they're given to work with, all of the actors do a decent job, but I wished they had a little more to bite into here.  The Loneliest Planet is an interesting experiment, but it ultimately doesn't make for a very exciting film.

The RyMickey Rating:  C-

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Movie Review - Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (2012)
Starring Steve Carell, Keira Knightley, Adam Brody, Connie Britton, Rob Corddry, Derek Luke, and Martin Sheen
Directed by Lorene Scafaria

Second-time screenwriter Lorene Scafaria's debut directorial effort takes two disparate people -- the forlorn, depressed Dodge (Steve Carell) and the free-spirirted Penny (Keira Knightley) -- and forces them together as they trek from New York to Delaware (shout out to the First State!) to be with their families ahead of an impending 70-mile wide asteroid making impact with Earth bringing an end to civilization.  Although Dodge and Penny lived in the same apartment complex for years, they never knew each other at all.  When Dodge's wife leaves him and Penny's boyfriend (Adam Brody) proves to be not all she pegged him to be, the two find themselves involved in a mutually beneficial "end of the world" relationship.  Penny has a car that can take Dodge to his father's house in Delaware and Dodge says that he knows someone who can fly Penny to be with her family in England before the impending apocalypse.  Along the way, we are given what are essentially vignettes of Dodge and Penny meeting people who are preparing in different ways for the end of the world.

While none of these vignettes prove detrimental individually to the film, when put together, they don't really amount to much.  Despite the somewhat hollow feeling we have watching people act quirky despite their impending death, I still found myself completely interested in what was happening...and then the last thirty minutes of this movie come along and make everything that comes before it seem like it should have taken place in a completely different movie.  There's a tonal shift that the director/screenwriter can't ever quite effectively mesh together.  Both parts work individually, but they disappoint a bit when combined and we look at the movie as a whole.

It's a shame, really, because the final moments of Seeking a Friend for the End of the World were simply fantastic.  The last scene will likely end up very high on my 2012 RyMickey Awards Best Scene category (posting soon in June).  Admittedly, despite the distinct moods of the film, Ms. Scafaria does effectively create a relationship between Dodge and Penny.  Credit for this connection certainly must be doled out to Steve Carell and Keira Knightley who seem like such an odd coupling that I had absolutely no desire to see this film in the first place.  However, Carell in particular does some great work here.  The film overall lands squarely in the "dramedy" category and Carell is able to play both the humor and pathos of Dodge quite admirably. It was also a pleasant surprise for Knightley to tackle the more comedic character of the duo.  I look forward to seeing Carell pursue more dramatic work and Knightley taking on comedy if this film is any indication of their capabilities.

Yes, there are problems with Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, but I almost want you to ignore them because the payoff in the end feels so genuine, real, and organic that it's worth overlooking the flaws.  As long as you go into this one realizing that it isn't perfect, but is deserving of your time, you'll come away pleased and almost invigorated despite the ominous tone that stems from the possibility of the entire human race coming to an end.

The RyMickey Rating:  B-