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Fooled by a Bad Trailer March 25, 2010

Posted by Shujath in Articles, English, Films, Movies, Reviews.
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If you happened to watch the trailer for Jim Sheridan’s “Brothers” and decide to check out the film – the only reason could be to find out why such a stellar cast and director are associated with such a beaten-to-death plot line. This is a film where you can make creepily accurate predictions about what is going to happen and when. The surprise is that the film actually works – it doesn’t really soar too high but the differential between what you expect and what you get is large enough not to have any complaints. It is one of those rare films where every rule in the book is followed faithfully but still the outcome seems fresh enough to warrant a look.

Coming to following “every rule in the book” here’s another one which just doesn’t turn out to be watchable but is undoubtedly one of the best films in its genre. I am talking about Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut “Whip It” with an awesome all-female cast led by Ellen Page. “Whip It” combines the familiar genres of the sports underdog and coming-of-age teenage flicks to concoct a delightful entertainer. I never really knew what Women’s Roller Derby was before but this was one of my best sport-in-a-movie experience for me. I feel really bad this was totally ignored at the box office despite overwhelmingly positive reviews (maybe the lackluster promos should be blamed for not generating enough interest). Has to be the happiest film I’ve seen in a long time – don’t miss it.

Smart People November 28, 2008

Posted by Sai in English, Movies, Reviews.
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A debut at the Sundance film festival and a likable cast drew me to this film, which takes a look at a family of extremely smart but socially inept individuals. Dennis Quaid (In Good Company, Vantage Point) plays a misanthtropic, self-immersed professor who is trying to develop a relationship with his doctor and former student, played by Sarah Jessica Parker (Failure To Launch). Meanwhile, his neglected, overachieving daughter (Ellen Page) forms a bond with his unemployed, adopted brother (Thomas Haden Church) who has come to stay with family for a while.

Written by debutant Mark Poirier, the dialogue in the film is one of its selling points. While the theme and characters are reasonably interesting, the film never manages to pull you in with its apparent charm. The “smart ones” in this film seem to be depicted as losers due to their lack of social skills mainly for amusement and without consequence. The Quaid-Parker relationship never really manages to get interesting. On the other hand, Page (Juno) and Church (Sideways) manage to have a lot more fun with a less predictable relationship.

The underlying premise of the film is that smart people are more rational and less emotional making them social misfits less likely to suceed in human relationships. Such themes have been tackled before but they have the scope to provide fodder for more attractive films. But this one amuses without impressing.

First time director Noam Murro manages to hold your attention in the initial part of the film but the script lets him down and that interest withers away slowly. If you like indie comedies in general, this isn’t hard to sit through (especially if you like the cast). The film has some amusing moments but the characters aren’t memorable and it isn’t one that you will remember after a while.

Juno February 6, 2008

Posted by Sai in English, Movies, Reviews.
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It has toured the festival circuit. It has been nominated for the Oscars in the Best Film, Best Actress and Best Original Screenplay categories. Roger Ebert has picked it as his favorite this year. Rumored to be made for about $2.5 million, this indie film has crossed the 100 million mark at the domestic box office. Unanimous praise from the critics and the audience alike makes this one film that you don’t want to miss. And the praise is not unwarranted. I enjoyed this one much more than indie comedies of recent years like Sideways and Little Miss Sunshine.

2007 had already seen two comedies woven around unplanned pregnancies, Knocked Up and Waitress, both critically-acclaimed (I haven’t seen them yet). Juno also is centred around this theme. Juno is sixteen, in high school and pregnant from her first sexual encounter. She doesn’t want to believe it at first and then decides to get rid of the problem quickly. Not as easy as it seems and that makes her take a hard decision. The events that occur in that year of her life is what the film is about.

This simple film is not only a delight to watch but it also left me feeling happy at the end, making me want to watch it again, this time paying closer attention to any of the razor-sharp dialogue that I’d missed.

Young screenwriter Diablo Cody (who apparently was a stripper for a little while in her past before turning a blogger, which eventually led to her current occupation) possesses a great sense of humor and seems to have a gift for writing witty dialogue. This film is filled with such dialogue (I wonder if Cody talks like Juno) from characters who behave like normal people (and are a bit more practical than the average person). In between the moments that bring a smile, Cody’s script unfolds the characters, their quirks and their emotions and the film becomes more than just a bunch of laughs. Director Jason Reitman (Thank You For Smoking) brings his imagination to the equation and crafts a special film.

The film has some captivating performances. While I was watching this film, I felt like I was watching the characters and not the actors (familiar ones included). Ellen Page (Hard Candy) who plays Juno MacGuff is surely the best of the lot. Her rendering of Juno is not only believable but makes her extremely lovable by the end of the film. Page creates a charismatic Juno with her body language, dialogue delivery and expressions being spot on. Michael Cera (Superbad) is strong in an understated performance as Paulie Bleeker. It is easy to forget him in a film where everyone else gets to mouth humorous dialogue. Allison Janney and J K Simmons (Spiderman) are very effective and feature in some superb scenes. Jason Bateman (The Kingdom) delivers a first-rate performance and is quite believable as the wannabe rocker who is a bit of a mismatch with his wife and is reluctant to be a father. Jennifer Garner (Elektra) is earnest as the strait-laced woman who is desperate to become a mom. Olivia Thirlby as Juno’s friend Leah also manages to get noticed.

Special praise for the music of this film. The extremely unusual soundtrack has some catchy tunes with unique lyrics (All I Want Is You by Barry Louis Polisar being my favorite) and the songs fit in perfectly with the tone of the film.

Though this film revolves around teenagers, this hardly has the elements common to most teen films and in general, avoids formula. The characters feel real and are played just right. The scenes are believable and make you feel connected even if you haven’t been around such people at all. The humor is intelligent and emanates from the dialogue as well as the situations. The laughs keep coming, the characters grow on you slowly and the experience strikes a chord deeper than you would expect and touches you even if you might not consciously realise it as it is happening.

I am glad Diablo Cody decided to became a screenwriter.