Friday, February 11, 2011

(500) Days of Summer 8/10

(500) Days of Summer (PG-13) 2009
Reviewer's Tilt (3)
Romance-95 minutes
Special DVD Features worth a look – Deleted and Extended Scenes
Contains forced trailers.

500 Days of Summer bends the romance movie genre, jumping around between 500 days in the lives of Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Summer (Zooey Deschanel). Tom writes romantic clichés for greeting cards and Summer takes a job as Tom’s boss’ assistant. While Tom is instantly smitten, he realizes Summer’s beauty, charm and general ZooeyDeschanelosity places her well out of his league.

During a night out with co-workers, Summer discovers Tom is attracted to her. The next day at work, Summer initiates a physical relationship with Tom. She makes it clear they are not boyfriend and girlfriend, but Tom believes they are more than merely friends with benefits. The film boasts much wit and whimsy in its story-telling, as well a spectacularly placed dance number. The real beauty of this film however, rests with its confidence to step beyond the template of a typical Hollywood romance and explore the harsh reality of a one-sided love affair.

One can never know love until one knows unrequited love. Unrequited love embodies a permanence and grandeur that becomes more romanticized over time. The good parts take on a stylized beauty, while the bad parts merely fade from memory. One forgets the subtle, intentional distancing, and only remembers how it made the heart grow fonder. This film is a testament to the collapse of a one-sided romance, one that is both riveting and heartwrenching.

The film is not without flaws. Rather than avoid clichés altogether, director Marc Webb merely pushes them all into the last three minutes. To invest so much in Tom’s journey means understanding the pain and the scar. Webb’s fairy floss after the park bench scene tries to sate this pain, but merely marginalizes the journey. If you can avoid watching the final scene, 500 Days of Summer offers a unique insight into a side of love rarely treated with such honesty and reverence.

Format: Color, Widescreen Anamorphic, Closed captioned.
Sound: (Dolby Digital 5.1).
Extras: Deleted and Extended Scenes. Commentary by Director Marc Webb, Writer Michael Webber, Co-Writer Scott Newstator and Actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

My Life So Far 7/10

My Life So Far (PG-13) 1999

Period Comedy-93min

Special DVD Features worth a look- None

This semi-autobiographical tale of one summer in the life of Denis Forman has much to offer. Robert Norman gives an entertaining and engrossing performance as Fraiser Pettgrove, a 10 year old coming of age in Argyll, Scottland in the late 20’s. As if wearing a kilt weren't enough trauma for a young boy to endure, Faiser has to deal with a wealthy uncle (Malcolm McDowell), a sexy aunt (Irene Jacob), a frustrated father (Colin Firth) and a strict gamma (Rosemary Harris). The film artfully compares life in a Scottish Manor, with the life of a child. Both involve idyllic memories and incomparable freedoms, woven with a matriarchal austerity, which, while always loving, at times feels regimented and capricious. Like a child, those in the manors knew their warm, comfortable lives, would one day change, as they were forced from their warm haven, into the harshness of self-supporting adulthood. Scenes such as Frasier’s ten-year old interpretations of the lusty books lurking in the attic are warm, heartfelt and very funny. The acting is impressive and the backdrops gorgeous. The story, however, while tender and funny in parts, asks many questions, and provides few answers. While this may be reflective of most memorable events in our own lives, the skill of the true storyteller lies in his or her ability to offer us at least some glimpse of the truths life has to offer.

Format: Color, Widescreen Anamorphic, Closed captioned.

Sound: (Dolby Digital 5.1).

Extras: Film recommendations.

Reindeer Games 4/10

Reindeer Games (R) 2000

Reviewer’s Tilt (8)


Special DVD Features worth a look- None

Reindeer Games involves a gang of gunrunners forcing an ex-con to help them with a casino heist. Director John Frankenheimer fills the film with action and tension, Gary Sinise plays the gang leader with rugged style, and Charlize Theron infuses the sweet-smiled love interest with a wry malevolence. A bad script, however, undercuts these valiant efforts, leaving little of value in its wake. Ben Affleck plays the ex-con, coming off a six-year stint in the “big house” looking and acting like a cocky frat boy. It would seem to me that that coping that kind of attitude in prison would get you a starring role as some bad man’s boyfriend, but I could be wrong. This flaw, however, is just one of many in the ridiculous script. The action scenes are great, but are constantly interrupted for a Batman/Joker style explanation of why everyone did what they did, and why they are about to do what they are about to do. In one scene, Affleck’s character “hotwires” a hotel door in seconds, leaving no trace of tampering. The script explains this feat as merely a minor extrapolation of his automobile hotwiring prowess. Whether or not such a maneuver is even possible, let alone capable of being accomplished with such aplomb, by someone who has never tried it, this scene, and many like it, distracts you for several minutes as you contemplate their implausibility. The film contains many such minor flaws, and numerous major ones. To explain the major flaws, however, would give too much away. Just do not anticipate the conclusion wrapping up all of the loose ends, or even providing the story with a plausible explanation. If you can check reason at the door, Frankenheimer’s action sequences are entertaining. Otherwise, this film has little to offer.

Format: Color, Widescreen Anamorphic, Fullscreen pan and scan, Closed captioned.

Sound: (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1)

Extras: Director commentary, deleted scenes, “Making of” featurette, trailer.

A Clockwork Orange 9/10

A Clockwork Orange (R) 1971

Reviewer’s Tilt (10)


Special DVD Features worth a look- None

A real horrorshow this one is, really toys with your gulliver. (Note: Before viewing this masterwork, you may wish to refer to the Nadsat Glossary of Russian-derived terms. A Clockwork Orange examines the ugly inner workings of a deeply disturbed mind (Malcolm McDowell) and his ultra violent gang. Set sometime in the future, the film’s only drawback is the set, which gives off an eerily early seventies vibe. Obviously few would argue the benefits of nihilism, but this movie uses nihilism to question whether societies efforts to condition its citizens are feasible, or even desirable. A Clockwork Orange examines the societal drive toward conformity and the complex question of whether society should sacrifice freewill to eliminate violence, an issue even more relevant today than in 1971. Be prepared, dear reader, as this film includes much violence, not the least of which are a phallic slaying and a rape set to “Singing in the Rain.” It is disturbing to see how films such as Pulp Fiction and Saving Private Ryan have made the violent scenes in A Clockwork Orange much less revolting than their original design. This is too bad, since to miss the satire in the violence is to miss the metaphor of the story as society. Watch the movie and then read Anthony Burgess's novel of the same name for two different takes on this very engaging theme. Finally, do not miss a young David Prowse (Darth Vader) as the bicep bulging therapist.

Format: Color, Widescreen, Closed-Captioned.

Sound: (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo), French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)

Extras: Production notes, trailer.