Classic Review : What’s Up Doc? (1972)

IMDB Score – 7.8
Rotten Tomato Score – 91%

Directed By – Peter Bogdanovich
Starring – Barbara Streisand, Ryan O’Neil, Madeline Kahn, Kenneth Mars, Austin Pendleton, Michael Murphy, Phillip Roth, Stefan Gierasch, and Liam Dunn

The accidental mix up of four identical plaid overnight bags leads to a series of increasingly wild and wacky situations.

Finally, I am able to return to watching some films that weren’t released in 2013. This year I’m going to try to see as many films as I can in the theater that way I’m not playing this much catch up after New Years. It’s been a busy week for me so I haven’t been able to sit down and catch of with a lot of films. Today however, is a snow day. My home state of New Jersey is under yet another blanket of snow, so I decided to sit down and watch something (hopefully) funny in order to ease into the day.

If you have been reading my writing then you know I’m not a huge comedy fan. I just find more misses than hits so I usually stop trying until I’ve read enough about a film to give it a go. Classics however are always appealing to me. “His Girl Friday” and “Bringing Up Baby” are some of my favorite comedies ever so it’s not a surprise that I ended up enjoying this film, which is a self proclaimed homage to the great screwball comedies of the thirties. “What’s Up Doc?” follows four travel bags that hold entirely different items as they swap owners and cause mayhem. We’ve seen this before, but screwball comedy is more about the sight gags and dialogue than unique story.

Would you believe this is the first film starring Babs that I’ve seen? I hated “Meet the Parents” so I didn’t end up seeing any of the sequels and a road trip film with Seth Rogan just turned me off. I’ll get around to seeing her famous musicals and her Oscar winning debut in “Funny Girl” somewhere down the line. This was my first and honestly I found her adorable. Her character was that perfect blend of quirky and smart that hit the chord with me. She carried the film, which is saying something considering she was partnered up with one of the worst big name actors I’ve ever seen. I just can’t understand why people think Ryan O’Neil is a good actor. The only film he is decent in is “Barry Lyndon” but lucky for him, Kubrick requires a lot of standing and looking instead of reading lines. I mean, everybody has seen this clip right…?

So bad. Maybe it’s not his fault. Maybe the director was a five year old throwing oreos and telling him how to dictate the lines. I just think he’s terrible. He did however manage to prevent this film from going down the toilet and I commend him for that. Other great comedic performances in the film come from Madeline Kahn, who plays the real fiancee of O’Neal. This was her film debut and she nailed the uptight, romance-less control freak, and exact opposite of Babs. Kenneth Mars plays a character very similar to his nazi supporting theater go-er in “The Producers”. His accent and overall douche-iness didn’t get old. Finally the brief appearance of Liam Dunn as the judge was probably the hardest I laughed during the whole film. He was a riot.

The film also boasts one of the most entertaining car chases in film and I’m not surprised. It took up a quarter of the whole film budget. The whole thing was filmed like a less epic version of the chase in “The Blues Brothers” but with Chinese dragons, plates of glass, and the wonderfully steep streets of San Francisco.

It was a very enjoyable film, as most screwball comedies were back when Hollywood had a sense of humor. It’s also one of the rare hilarious films that can be enjoyed by the whole family.


Film Review : American Hustle (2013)

IMDB Score – 7.7
Rotten Tomato Score – 93%

10 Academy Award nominations including Best Picture, Director, Editing, Screenplay, and all acting categories

Directed By – David O. Russell
Starring – Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner, Louis C.K., Jack Husto, Michael Pena, Shea Whigham, Elizabeth Rohm, and Robert De Niro

A con man, Irving Rosenfeld, along with his seductive British partner, Sydney Prosser, is forced to work for a wild FBI agent, Richie DiMaso. DiMaso pushes them into a world of Jersey powerbrokers and mafia.

After weeks of procrastinating, I finally got out to see “American Hustle”. When I first saw the trailer I decided that it was going to be a film that I would have to wait for the right mood to see as I’m very conflicted on whether I like David O. Russell or not. Honestly, I think the ten Oscar nominations finally got me to get off my ass and see it. I still haven’t seen “The Fighter” and I waited until “Silver Linings Playbook” was released on blu ray to see it. I ended up liking SLP a lot but I still have a horrible taste in my mouth from my viewing of “I Heart Huckabees” which I considered pretentious crap. David O. Russell has always been a director who likes to throw the plot out of the window when he feels and while sometimes he makes the right decision, like last year, sometimes he makes a mistake, which I feel he did in small amounts during “American Hustle”. That being said, I actually enjoyed the film a lot, but that was due to the absolutely incredible cast and not so much the work of Mr. O. Russell. That sounds weird. Mr. Russell? Middle initials are weird.

This is listed as a comedy. I didn’t laugh much. There were a lot of instances where I said to myself, “this is where a laugh is supposed to be”, but it just didn’t happen. Christian Bale’s come over was where the comedy for me came from. I loved looking at it. It was a thing of beauty. I don’t know who the hairdresser was on set, but they must of had a great time putting that gorgeous thing together. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not as if I was sitting there sulking. I just didn’t laugh the way you’re supposed to in a supposed comedy, which is what this is supposed to be at heart. I could be wrong. Maybe this was supposed to be a semi serious crime drama, but if that is true then the marketing department owes me an apology because every promo spot I’ve seen screamed comedy in my face.

I read that most of the acting in the film was improvised to the point where the script had to be changed in order to make the improvisations work on film. It showed. The first two thirds of the film were all over the place. Characters came in and out and brought back later when you’ve forgotten who they were. Issues were brought up and then never solved or talked about again and motives of the main characters were unclear. It was just sloppy in parts and while it didn’t restrict me from enjoying the film, it certainly could have helped this film be one of the better this year. The thing that truly kept me in this film, was the acting.

The acting was fantastic. All four main stars, with all due respect to Jeremy Renner, deserved their Oscar nominations. I would even venture to say that Bradley Cooper deserved his in the Lead Acting category because he was just as important to the film as Christian Bale. To say he supported it is just wrong. When the nominations came out, I was surprised, along with man others, to see Cooper on the list. Everybody can eat it. Last year Cooper showed me that he can be a fantastic actor and he only solidified that with his performance in this. He was explosive. His “supporting” role partner Jennifer Lawrence stole every scene she was in. She played the logically challenged but secretly intelligent wife of Christian Bale perfectly. All the funny lines in the film were delivered by her. She’s the reason I’m going to start calling my microwave a science oven. Amy Adams was versatile as ever. She honestly can’t do anything wrong. Her British accent wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be and she’s one of the few actors and actresses than can sell an audience merely by her eyes. She’s amazing at her craft. Finally, Christian Bale knocked it out of the park with his subtle portrayal as the Brooklyn con man who is too overweight and can’t see that he has a horrible haircut. He was quiet throughout most of the film but carried anybody who was in a scene with him by letting them overpower his character with theirs. He was like a great set up man in basketball, setting up the glory for everybody else but also being completely pivotal in the success around him.

The film really came together towards the end as there finally seemed to be a point to the script and it’s here that I finally accepted this film as a Best Picture nominee. It actually has a chance to win, although it shouldn’t, but it certainly belongs in the race. The acting was easily the best of the year if you factor in everybody involved. I didn’t even have time to mention Louis C.K. and Robert De Niro who were in the film only briefly but were great to see. It may not be a re watchable film for me, but it was a fun watch and I’m glad I finally went out to see it.


Film Review : In a World…(2013)

IMDB Score – 7.0
Rotten Tomato Score – 92%

Directed By – Lake Bell
Starring – Lake Bell, Demetri Martin, Rob Corddry, Fred Melamed, Ken Marino, Michaela Watkins, Alexandra Holden, Tig Notaro, Nick Offerman, and Stephanie Allynne

An underachieving voice coach finds herself competing in the movie trailer voice-over profession against her arrogant father and his protégé.

I’m a huge voice over nerd. I’ve been watching and enjoying cartoons since I was a kid and at 24 years old, I am probably watch just as much. For the last couple years I’ve been into knowing who does each voice and being the owner of a serviceable voice of my own, have thought about entering the business one day. This is probably the one thing about me that not a lot of people know. I practice impressions in my car and am always goofing around with different voices around friends. I am a nerd. I’m totally aware of this. However, it certainly is a good way to have fun and make a living. For this reason I sought out Lake Bell’s film about the daughter of a voice over legend who is trying to break into the industry as a woman. While I enjoyed some parts of the film, overall it kind of fell a little flat in some areas.

Having an interest in the subject of the film, I really did connect with Carol, played as quirky as possible by the films director, Lake Bell. I think that may be the best word to describe the film. Quirky. Most of the time I’m okay with something being overly quirky but when I’m starting to get very bored multiple times during a relatively short film, something just isn’t quite right. It might just be an old fashioned case of not having any likable characters as pretty much everybody was either horrible, stupid, or incredibly awkward. The only person who had me laughing the entire time was the character played by Rob Corddry whose humor stuck out in a film that had very little of it. There were plenty of situations where I thought I should laugh but just really couldn’t find myself genuinely finding the material funny. Comedy films have never really been a huge favorite of mine but I expected more from a cast like this one.

I didn’t hate the film though. Like I said there were definitely some moments that shined through the disappointment and I’d actually like to see what Lake Bell does next. The film was a semi-hit at Sundance so I assume she’ll be back behind the camera again but I’m going to chalk this one as a miss.


Film Review : The Kings of Summer (2013)

IMDB Score – 7.2
Rotten Tomato Score – 76%

Directed By – Jordan Vogt-Roberts
Starring – Nick Robinson, Gabriel Basso, Moises Arias, Nick Offerman, and Erin Moriarty

Three teenage friends, in the ultimate act of independence, decide to spend their summer building a house in the woods and living off the land.

It seems like the “coming of age” story is getting a bit played out. I wanted to see this mostly because of the players involved and the fact that the trailer makes it look like a modern day “Stand By Me” but I couldn’t help being a bit bored with the whole kids learning how to be mature adults thing. “The Spectacular Now” and “The Way Way Back” complete the trio with this film to give this summer the summer of teenage angst and rebellion.

I actually ended up really loving the first half of this film. The film follows Joe, played by Robinson, and Patrick, played by Basso, as they go trough their strange home lives in search of a way out. A party that gets busted up leads them to a spot far out in the woods where they decide to escape too and build a house. Biaggio, played hilariously by Arias, tags along and the three set out to get supplies for their summer.

A lot of people are bashing this film for being a bit pretentious but I honestly didn’t see it. I didn’t take the moral lessons that the film was throwing out by the end of the film so it really didn’t matter much to me that it came off a bit derivative and contrived. It was a just a funny film about kids experiencing their own summer. Moises Arias honestly should be in more things. He was easily the best thing about this film and stole every single scene. He might be the funniest person I’ve seen in a film all year. The rest of the cast did a great job and you just can’t go wrong with Nick Offerman. The second half of the film just couldn’t keep up with the humor and charm of the first half as the drama of the situation became just too much for me. I wouldn’t say it ruined the film for me but it certainly took points away.

I can’t blame the film though. I have horrible problems ending things.


Film Review : Her (2013)

IMDB Score – (Currently) 8.6
Rotten Tomato Score – 91%

Golden Globe Nominee for Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Screenplay

Directed By – Spike Jonze
Starring – Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson, Amy Adams, Chris Pratt, Olivia Wilde, and Rooney Mara

A lonely writer develops an unlikely relationship with his newly purchased operating system that’s designed to meet his every need.

A week ago I thought I saw my film of the year. Inside Llewyn Davis was a bleak and ultimately devastating story about a folk singer who can never catch a break. It was soulful and moving and really just hit me in a way that no other film this year hit me. “Her” is the complete opposite. It is soulful and devastating but in the complete opposite direction. They are my ying and yang picks for films of the year.

I’ve been a fan of Spike Jonze since seeing him wear granny make-up and swing his boobs around in “Jackass”. His music videos are some of the most memorable videos of the late 90’s and early 2000’s and his films are visceral experiences that are unique and one of a kind. This time, Jonze puts his pen to the paper and crafts not only the best screenplay of the year, but one of the most intimate and personal films I’ve ever seen. The film stars Theodore, a lonely recently divorced man who is seeking a friend. Theodore walks past a kiosk advertising a new operating system which developing intelligence and personality. The operating that Theodore purchases is named Samantha and is voiced by Scarlett Johansson. The film takes place in an obvious future world but instead of being a dystopian nightmare, the future we see is vibrant and colorful. Social media seems to have evolved into a living breathing entity and everybody walks about with ear pieces in their ears which reads them the news, emails, or just converses with their user. This is really all you should know plot wise as the film grips you and takes you on the ride. Two hours never flew by so fast.

Having some relationship issues of my own at the moment, the film spoke to me. It’s premise is ultimately a very strange one. A man falling in love with a computer? How silly. Is it really that silly? Who is to say that a person can’t have a connection with somebody who is not there physically. I know it is usually frowned upon, but long distance relationships do work in small amounts. Those relationships are kept through phone conversations, letters, and recently with the ability of video conversations. I know people who have gotten married after meeting on the internet. I know people who have had extensive relationships with people miles away. Samantha may be a voice of a computer but in this world, that voice has a mind and personality that only builds more and more every day.

Spike Jonze created a perfect screenplay here. It is nearly flawless in its pacing and immersing in its intimacy. I don’t know what is going on in the mans life but he wrote from the heart and it showed. The whole film radiates red like it’s the center of a beating heart. I’m not usually a huge romance fan. I have been slowly integrating and finding wonderful films of this genre and am really warming up to the idea that romance films can not only be made well, but be considered important pieces of art. Jonze created a piece of art that is directly linked to the heart. Whether we have had many or only a few relationships, we each have gone through life changing events with another person. These events and the time we spend with somebody builds our character. They make us into the people we will eventually become. This is the main theme of Her. The relationships we have with other people, whether they end badly or flourish, create the people we turn into and help us learn from our mistakes until the next person comes along. I just can’t write enough how touched and moved I was with this film after this year. I have regretted more things than I can count. I wish I could change things. I wish there were some way to do things different. This is no way though. Those things happened and it’s only up to me to make sure that the future is made with all the love and happiness I experienced along the way. That is human nature. We push on and try to maintain happiness. The film just reiterated to me that everything is going to be okay.

I’m sorry I got a little personal there. It just it me hard.

The aesthetics of the film should also be noted. It’s a gorgeous film. Cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema should honestly win all the awards for this. As I stated before the film just radiates red which only goes to further the emotions thrown at us by the cast. Geez I haven’t even mentioned the cast. Scarlett Johansson could actually be nominated for a supporting role in which she doesn’t appear on screen in any way. She was that good. It was just a voice but it represented one half of a completely real and touching relationship with co-star Joaquin Phoenix who was incredible as always. Phoenix, who appears in nearly every single scene dominates as a lonely man who finally finds love after going through a difficult and draining divorce. Amy Adams, who really can’t do anything wrong recently, rounds out the trio by giving a heartwarming performance as Theodores friend and neighbor. It’s a film full of just amazing everything.

Go see this film. Take your girlfriend. Take somebody who is going through a rough time or recently lost somebody they love. It is a smart, funny, and incredibly real science fiction film that produces such honest and earned emotional response. Some people won’t get past the premise, but the people who have experienced loss in their lives are going to feel amazing at the fact that we still have so much to gain and learn. It’s my top film of the year along with “Inside Llewyn Davis”