Friday, April 1, 2011

Win Win

So I got into an advanced screening of the new Paul Giamatti independent film, Win Win. Was just a random occurrence that allowed me to see this early, and quite frankly I'd wish the stars would align like that more often. Anyways onto the movie.

I really enjoyed this movie. Before the film I couldn't recall ever seeing a preview for it but first thing I saw Kyle (Alex Shaffer) show up I instantly had random visions of the trailer and started remembering it. If you have seen the trailer you will know that this movie comes off as very depressing, which it is at times. Mike Flaherty (Paul Giamatti) is a struggling lawyer who runs his own practice in New Jersey (they probably say what city it takes place in but that is slipping my mind at the moment). The practice isn't very profitable currently and Mike's health is taking a toll from the added stress of supporting his family with his shrinking income. Jackie Flaherty, played by the wonderful Amy Ryan whom most will recognize immediately as the recently departed cast member Holly from The Office, acts as Mike's wife. Her role in it may seem minor, but the scenes she plays a part in are some of the most important and memorable ones.

Without giving away all the twists and turns of the story I'll try to summarize the story if anything to spark an interest in you. Mike has an elderly client, Leo Poplar, suffering from the early stages of dementia. Leo is ruled by the court as being unable to care for himself and must acquire a guardian, which in his case will be his missing daughter, or the State it seems. There is a search for his long lost daughter, Cindy (Melanie Lynskey), who does eventually come in from Ohio. But Mike requests to be Leo's guardian, so he can receive the $1200 a month that he is entitled too as his guardian. Leo can easily afford this from his estate apparently. Leo wants to stay in his house and not have to live in a care facility. Mike goes against this wish and moves him into one, still being his guardian, so he is receiving this $1200 a month for doing almost nothing. This is a move Mike makes in a time of desperation, not thinking of the consequences.

Everything gets complicated when Kyle, Cindy's son; Leo's grandson, shows up wanting to live with Leo after running away from home, the two have never met, and Leo had not seen his daughter Cindy in over 20 years. Mike ends up taking him in after figuring out the situation, to stay with him and his family. The story progresses and we discover that Kyle is an amazing wrestler, who got second in state as a freshman in Ohio. Mike moonlights as the local high school's wrestling coach with Stephen Vigman (Jeffrey Tambor, George Bluth Sr. from Arrested Development), who is also a partner at Mike's practice. Mike gets him on the team and he performs amazingly well for their team who had never won a match (I think that's what they're called in wrestling?). Kyle also inspires his fellow teammates to do better and take practice seriously.

The movie did have some very good comedic relief. A random curse word from Mike's older daughter, or a scene involving a "mooning" captured on a cell phone to be sent to an ex-wife. It helped to balance out this seemingly daunting monotony that Mike was stuck in. Usually in a drama like this there will be fantastic cinematography, or an incredible soul-stealing score. This film had neither, it focused on the characters, and their interactions. I felt this went perfectly with the movie and anything else would have been distracting. You really care for and feel like you know the characters by the end of the movie.

A minor element of the film that really appealed to me was the way they did certain scene transitions. Multiple times throughout the film Mike would answer his phone and have an ambiguous conversation with an unknown person on the other end. The scene would clip to what the call was about and every time except once you were still left hanging in the scene on what was going on. Eventually the conversation would shift to a more direct explanation of the circumstances, or if you are observant you can beat the writers to that part and discern it from minor details in the shot. For instance they have to visit the home Leo is in an emergency, but you don't realize this until you either recognize the man they're talking to has a tiny "One Oak" symbol on his shirt, the facility Leo is in, or the conversation goes on and gives it away.

I'm sure this movie will be compared to that awful film The Blind Side. I know it's going to happen and I'm just going to go ahead and tell you why this movie was so much better. The characters were believable, real human beings you could relate too. Not caricatures of an abandoned black boy, southern Texas woman, and whoever else appeared in that excuse of a movie. It has the same general concept, but it was just well done in Win Win, and so terribly in The Blind Side. You can see the flaws, smell the insecurity, hear the flawed logic, and feel their worries as your own. In the end Win Win did a great job of depicting an average family, take on a hefty burden with unseen consequences and try to do their best with their burden (or blessing?)

I will say though that there is an unconventional ending (as are most independent films these days), and although it seems random, inconsequential and does not tie up some loose ends (one major end) from the story, it gave the entire movie a real strong sense of completion. It was ultimately the perfect, feel good, encompassing "wrong ending."

This movie came out 1 hour and 52 minutes ago as of this post, April Fool's day, so I would highly advise you go see it if you are in the mood for an enticing drama this weekend. I really did enjoy this movie and hope everyone else who sees it can say the same.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

About to see an advanced screening of Win Win will update later!!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A Single Man

I did not get to go see The Adjustment Bureau, I had tried earlier this week because of the volume of people's voices being messed up in the theater it was playing in, so hopefully this weekend I'll be able to see it. So here is a review of a slightly older movie. A lot of this movie is about watching the events as they unfold, so I am going to do my best to spark an interest in you without giving away the movie. A Single Man was only released in 9 theaters in the country during its initial release in 2009. The movie is based on a book of the same name by English writer Christopher Isherwood and originally published in 1964. It grossed just 2 million dollars over it's estimated 7 million dollar budget. Colin Firth did win Best Actor at the Venice Film Festival for his role in it though. And this was a perfect movie for Colin Firth. The entire movie takes place in one day, November 20 1962. Everything about the movie that portrayed what year it was and was incredibly convincing. The movie would make any fan of Mad Men happy. All the clean cut suits, skinny ties, vintage cars, and beautiful homes had a nostalgic feel.Tom Ford Directed, Produced, and adapted the book to the screen. He is a well known fashion designer and also designed the costumes for all the members of the cast.

The acting was simply incredibly. Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, and Nicholas Hoult receive the most screen time and do a fantastic job with it. Many of the shots in the movie conveyed emotion through a silent exchange of facial expressions and looks. In the beginning of the movie a particular amount of effort is spent showing the eye of someone that George Falconer (Colin Firth) was conversing with. The cinematography was wonderful. Many wonderful shots in the suburbs of LA that George finds himself living in. The score of the movie was one of the most fitting I have ever heard. The notes and melody were always perfect for the situation.

This is definitely a sad movie. You get that from the start. George is in turmoil over the loss of his life's true love Jim (Matthew Goode). He had died in a car accident back in Colorado a time earlier while seeing his family. George doesn't describe himself as a gay man but that Jim was just the one for him, the fact that he was a man was inconsequential. You can clearly see that he is having trouble getting over his loss. The first of the movie gives an insight into the depressed life he leads. Charlie (Julianne Moore) is a friend that he has known since his time in England. She seems to live a typical early 60's suburban housewife life. A polished exterior but dig a little deeper and there are obvious wounds. The two get along well and George seems to find comfort in her.

He is an English professor at a university in LA. A highly regarded one at that. He has a student, Kenny (Nicholas Hoult), who he exchanges words with after class that day, and he ends up being an important character to the film. He seems to go about his day in a strange monotony. He looks rather pale and ill, and blames it on poor sleep from the night before. There is no real plot to this movie, just an observation of a man, in the early 60's. One who perceives life with dread for his past, an unfulfilled present, and death is his future (as are all our futures which he points out to Kenny).The hovering motif of fear is ever present in this movie. That of the Russians, the Cubans, "minorities", ourselves, and the decisions we make. The movie ends in a very fitting manner for such a movie, I was upset at first but in retrospect there was really no other way for it to have fittingly ended.

I would highly recommend this movie to those who enjoy a good storytelling. There isn't much of a story to tell, but the way that it is done is where this movie truly makes it's mark.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

127 Hours

So I was finally able to sit down and watch 127 Hours tonight. And I am very glad I did. James Franco's performance was incredible. I was reminded fondly of Will Smith in I Am Legend (despite the butchering of the ending, turning the thought provoking "legend" into a literal "legend." Just hate Hollywood sometimes). The single actor having all the screen time, really having to sell the film, just him. It was a great exhibit of Franco's acting abilities for sure. The short span of the stages of grief was expected but nicely done, not over the top. He can convey so much emotion with just a simple facial expression or a particular cue of body language. The film starts out happy enough, and gives a glimpse of the happy man he is. As the story unravels though he realizes his flaws and wrongdoings in his life. He calls himself selfish and expresses regret.

The fight with the the need for water was definitely a strong point of the film. I became thirsty just watching this movie. He has nothing but an Algene bottle at about 800ml in the beginning. After a few days he has depleted this reserve and has to move to his bodily fluids to try to stay hydrated. The lack of water and isolation help his plunge into insanity. The descent is highlighted with his family members, his ex-girlfriend and his future son.  These hallucinations trouble him and he has a moment being legitimately terrified over what could be in the darkness behind him (Scooby Doo I guess). The video taped memoirs he makes become increasingly moving. Starting out as descriptions of his current state, he then moves to confessions and apologies to his parents. The video camera ends up being a thread to the real world to gives him hope. He goes back through and watches the video made on that fateful Saturday with the two girls he met while hiking.

After (SPOILER ALERT) 127 hours he finally frees himself from the thin canyon where his arm had been caught by a rock between the canyon's wall. As he leaves his spot of isolation and glances at the wall where he carved his name, RIP, and the date of when he expected to die he mutters a line that creates the most moving part of the movie, "thank you." His entrapment caused him to reflect on his life, realize his wrongs and want to correct those flaws in himself. For it is only on the brink of the end we change (thank "The Day the Earth Stood Still" for that one). He makes it out of the canyon, a better man and does make it home.

Before the credits roll it shows us the real Aron Ralston and his wife that he met 3 years after the incident. Holding their almost 1 year old son at the time of shooting. Giving us a glimpse at the real man who lived through this tragedy. The end of the movie was incredibly powerful, you wanted to jump for joy at Franco's freedom. He suffered a great loss, but he is depicted as coming out of it a better person, spiritually at least. I loved this movie and am incredibly glad I finally sat down to watch it.

Monday, February 28, 2011


The trailer for Unknown looked incredibly promising. Taken was one of my favorite fast paced action movies since the Bourne movies. This was advertised in the exact same manner so I was expecting a similar movie. I did enjoy the movie, but it was definitely not Taken with a new story line. The movie was the same general premise, take a B-List action movie and add Liam Neeson and hope it becomes gold.

None of the acting was spectacular, Liam played the same role he played in Taken but add in the confusion of his amnesia and maybe even his insanity. The action scenes were few and far between sadly. I thought this movie's selling point was going to be the action, but it seemed they decided to try to focus more on the twist(s). I don't want to ruin it for you in case you plan on seeing it, but in the end it does become kind of far-fetched and ridiculous. Still entertaining though. It reminded me of Salt (which I thoroughly enjoyed), but it didn't have nearly as much action.

There is little to none character development. No one should go into this movie expecting any, but it is always nice to have a few scenes to get to know the character and become more attached with them and enthralled in the movie. All in all I did enjoy this movie, it is always nice sitting it out and seeing the twists. It was just advertised wrongly for how the movie actually went. Throw away your expectations and go into this movie and you should be pretty entertained.

Academy Awards

So congratulations to all the deserving cast members and crew that won Oscars this evening. Some disappointments and also a couple of huge surprises (Melissa Leo for best Actress in a Supporting Role comes to mind). It seemed to be a giant surprise to her as well. She seemed more stunned than anyone else on camera when her name was announced. Good thing they have that few second delay for the quick edits on language right? I was also incredibly confused as of to why Daft Punk did not win anything Sound related for Tron, but then again I am a Daft Punk fanboy so I was pulling for that since the first time I saw it. As good as The King's Speech was I was not expecting it to win Best Picture. Being up against so many other great movies. It was a hard decision though because in my mind there was not just one substantial film that stood out amongst the rest. The Kids Are All Right and Winter Bones were the only two I hadn't seen. Legitimately don't even think they played anywhere relatively convenient to where I am in Oklahoma.

I was very happy for Natalie Portman to win Best Actress for her performance in Black Swan though. I saw that one three times in theaters and every time I think I walked out liking it more. Her performance was just incredible I thought. James Franco and Anne Hathaway did a pretty good job hosting it I'll say. Some of their little skits were entertaining and others not so much. Was left slightly confused by plethora of hits on Hugh Jackman, was it just because he was sitting so close? Sitting next to Halle Berry? Don't know. Good year for the Brits though, Colin Firth getting his Best Actor and his film getting Best Picture.

I always feel a little upset about some of the decisions they make. On Best Animated Short I thought Day & Night was a hands down winner. It was the best short before a Pixar film I had seen in an awfully long time. Best Score for the doodad during the Social Network intro was deserving. That score managed to have the right tone to be equally as thought provoking as the movie. The Score from Inception though was just epic beyond epic. It is coming close to replacing The Final Countdown in my head when I find myself in an epic type moment. And I know this post was pretty scatterbrained but I pretty much just said what was on my mind when it popped up. Didn't put thought into organizing it in any specific way.

Hope you enjoyed watching the Oscars as I did, and this officially marks the beginning of new considerations for all the categories for next year in my mind. Transformers 3 is going to be another explosion filled orgy from the depths of Michael Bay's basement. Thor looks incredibly promising, Sucker Punch is going to be great no matter what, Hannah looks incredible (Chemical Brothers soundtrack will be awesome), The Adjustment Bureau will finally come out considering they've been advertising it for ages now, The second in a line of X-Men prequels should be pretty entertaining, The Hangover Part 2 (YES!), and many others come to mind as good movies this year. Really want to see more good original screenplay movies though, not so many prequels/sequels/adaptations/rewrites/conversions from books. It's like when you are reading an incredibly long spree of books (The Wheel of Time) and want to find something new and interesting that you can get into but has the same feel (The Name of the Wind).

Thursday, February 24, 2011

First Post

This is my first post, information about me in the profile I guess. I couldn't help but feel like I was making a MySpace while choosing a background and such. Was a weird feeling. Anyways. I'm Mason and I really love movies. I spend way more on going to the movies than I should with my incredibly meager cash flow. I love Netflix and feel that I have watched every movie worth watching on it, and have now moved on to the television shows on it. Hell, I may even review some television shows on this blog. So on to my first review. The most recent movie I've seen is The Fighter. And I'll probably go back few the past months and review some of the ones I've seen as well.

The Fighter, when I first saw the trailer for The Fighter on Apple Trailers (my roommate basically has it as his homepage and we watch most of the new trailers that come out) I saw it as another "be anything you can be" sports movie. And that is really it is. But despite all that terrible beat to death theme for a movie, I really enjoyed it. Mark Wahlberg (Micky Ward) and Christian Bale (Dicky Eklund) are two of my favorite actors. Wahlberg is type casted as <insert someone from the Northeast States here>. That's the only character we have seen him pull off well. Despite this he did an amazing job with this movie. He did a great job presenting the struggles that his character had. In his decision making of abandoning his mother has his manager, and his brother as his trainer. The new love interest of Charlene Fleming played by Amy Adams adds to this chaos of a family life he has. To those who haven't seen the film this movie is about a family that revolves around boxing (a family that revolves around fighting, literally, and metaphorically).

Micky and Dicky have 9 crazy sisters, an over-controlling mother, and what seems to be an alcoholic father (they did not play on his alcoholism but his constant "red-face" is a telltale sign of a life of alcohol abuse).They come from the very meager town of Lowell, Massachusetts. The only claim to fame they have is that Micky's older half-brother Dicky "knocked out" Sugar Ray in a fight years ago. An interview crew is following around Dicky and his family on what Dicky says is an interview of a former boxing great. In reality the camera crew and interviewer are making a documentary on crack addiction in America.

Dicky lives in a crack house. He has a girlfriend who is a crack addict, and his friends are crack addicts. Crack, that's what this guy excels at. He always shows up to train Micky late, and generally just cares about his next hit. His ways finally send him to prison. In prison he is regarded as prominent member of the community by his fellow inmates. When the interview takes a turn to his more personal reflections and inner-workings he realizes that he is now an open book for all to read, and storms out of the viewing in the prison. When he gets out of prison he turns his life around, he says goodbye to his former life and really fights to be a part of his family and Micky's life again. He becomes one of his trainers once again after showing he REALLY does care and fights for his family.

After years of Micky trying to make it as a boxer, he tries to leave behind his family which he sees as holding him back. Dicky is sent to prison and Micky has to vow to abandon him as one of his trainers and his mother as his manager for Mickey O'Keefe to continue to train him. O'Keefe was the real Micky Ward's trainer and portrays himself in the movie. He played a real minor character in the scheme of things about does a tremendous job as being the voice of reason along with Charlene.

Charlene and Micky hold a tender relationship. Charlene is viewed by sisters and mother as an "MTV girl" because she went to college for a few years and now works as a bartender. Charlene does a fantastic job of really not caring what Micky's family thinks of her. Amy Adams plays this role perfectly as the don't give a damn girlfriend who chimes in common sense when it is most needed. Micky eventually starts to listen to this voice and really starts to become something.

Does anyone else love the ending of a movie that makes your chest swell with pride (not just because I was seeing it with my girlfriend and you know, swelling chest = badass, right)? And maybe even fighting back some tears? That was how this movie ended. The unity of the friends and family of Micky Ward at the end of the movie truly wrap it up perfectly. I wanted to go home and give my mother a hug. The feeling of accomplishment, greatness, and glory were palpable at the end of this movie. A family torn apart for various reasons yet seems to be keeping it together, really does prove they keep it together.