Films viewed in 2011

Posts Tagged ‘Drama’

489. Two-Lane Blacktop

In Drama on February 24, 2012 at 4:52 PM

Dir. Monte Hellman

Story of two men drag racing across the USA in a primer grey 55 chevy.

MY TAKE

Dennis Hopper’s Easy Rider may have gotten all the praise and cultural cache, but Monte Hellman’s thematically similar rebel road trip movie Two-Lane Blacktop from a few years later certainly holds up as a better film. Starring folk hero James Taylor in one of his only ever film roles, and Dennis Wilson (of The Beach Boys) as his mechanic, we follow the hard-luck gear heads as they “race” across the country. Warren Oats, however, easily gives the most compelling and memorable performance as their competition. The film is directed with incredibly calm confidence and provides just enough misdirected discontent to still connect with audiences 40 years later. The story in fact feels more influenced by films like The Hustler, and would certainly have inspired modern movie like Drive before anything like The Fast and The Furious.

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487. Trespass

In Thriller on February 24, 2012 at 2:52 PM

Dir. Joel Schumacher

As they’re held for ransom, a husband and wife’s predicament grows more dire amid the discovery of betrayal and deception.

MY TAKE

Dust off the Hollywood A-list from the 90s and you’ll find the people responsible for making Trespass. Hit-and-miss master Joel Schumacher is at the helm of this well-worn home invasion thriller that pits a rocky marriage against thugs and clichés. Without ever aspiring to reach a level of social or artistic commentary close to (the original) Straw Dogs or Funny Games, the film is far safer than such a threatening premise should allow. Nicolas Cage yet again employs an accent and cadence from places unknown as the deceptive father, while Nicole Kidman just seems happy to show off how her tear ducts weren’t sewn over by plastic surgery.  There’s enough left-over glow from these stars to keep us invested until the end, but the only thing that shines are the glossy sets.

 

479. Les bons débarras

In Canadian on February 9, 2012 at 4:32 PM

Dir. Francis Mankiewcz

A mother trying to take care of her simple minded brother is in trouble with her rebellious daughter.

MY TAKE

Although it won the Genie for best film in 1981 and was named the best Quebec film of all-time by a 2003 poll in La Press, Les bon débarras feels severely neglected in Canadian cinema. Luckily, a restored DVD was created thanks to the now tragically defunct AV Trust, keeping this classic alive and available (however rare). Impeccable performances are the hallmark of Francis Mankiewcz’s coming-of-age showpiece, with Charlotte Laurier portraying a beautifully empathetic young girl and Germain Houde masterfully balancing a difficult role of a shattered soul. The mother-daughter relationship is also more raw and frank than we’re used to seeing in most films, and rounds out a refreshing drama that deserves to be dug up by the rest of Canada.

478. The Year Dolly Parton Was My Mom

In Canadian on February 9, 2012 at 3:29 PM

Dir. Tara Johns

An eleven-year-old girl finds out she was adopted and she runs away to find the truth.

MY TAKE

If you’re going to fantasize about who your real birth mother is, I suppose Dolly Parton is as good as anyone. Tara John’s coming-of-age story is a sweet childish daydream that has a good heart, but the dramatic stakes are about the equivalent of a kid running away to the end of the block. Beautifully art directed to recreate a small town feel from the 1970s, the film does benefit from an authentic atmosphere even when the child performances sometimes feel stiff. The story is rescued by a satisfying third act that uses a smart tactic of including the real Dolly Parton without having her play an on-screen version of herself that’s supposed to be 40 years younger. Even with the help of special effects, her ungodly amounts of plastic surgery could never be that convincing.

 

476. Trigger

In Canadian on February 7, 2012 at 2:57 PM

Dir. Bruce MacDonald

Trigger is the story of two rock n’ roll women who once shared a friendship, a band and a whole lot of chaos

MY TAKE

In a rare example of a non-comic-book-based side-quel, Tigger gives us a parallel (but certainly not equal) tale of rock n’ role that exists in the same world as Bruce MacDonald’s own Hard Core Logo. Lacking all the ferocity, grit or testosterone that made the original so beloved, Molly Parker and Tracey Wright reminisce about days gone by and talk themselves in circles with a chorus of bemoaning. Instead of a rock ‘n roll road trip, we get a stranger’s stroll down memory lane populated by only glimpses of familiar faces.  Lazy cinematography and uninspired dialogue are also to blame, reducing the scope and impact of the film, which were most likely hindered by the ailing health of the late Tracy Wright. Perhaps I was just mislead by the liner notes, but the film would have been better off piggy-backing into the world of Boys (and Rock) on the Side.

475. Puncture

In Drama on February 7, 2012 at 1:51 PM

Dir. Adam and Mark Kassen

A David and Goliath law drama about a drug-addicted lawyer who takes on a health supply corporation while battling his own personal demons.

MY TAKE

After years of specializing as the hunky hero in fantasy action movies, Chris Evans takes a dramatic reality check in Puncture. Even more than most out-of-their-depth lawyer pictures, the film revels in stacking the odds against the two protagonists not just in terms of finances and resources, but personal demons. Drug addicted and abusively determined, we follow the story to what we can only assume will be a logical end, albeit with unexpectedly tragic consequences. Brothers Mark and Adam Kassen do this true story justice as co-directors, and manage to balance the creative liberties with enough ambiguity to not tie too neat a bow on this shady tale of personal and corporate corruption.

473. Choke

In Comedy on February 3, 2012 at 3:00 PM

Dir. Clark Gregg

A sex-addicted con-man pays for his mother’s hospital bills by playing on the sympathies of those who rescue him from choking to death.

MY TAKE

Sam Rockwell has a ball during every step of his sex rehab in Clark Gregg’s Choke. Adapted from Chuck Palahniuk’s novel, the film has fun with its subject matter and takes glee going over the deep end into holy water and taboos. Perversion might be at the heart of the story, but there’s a lightness to the narrative and brightness to the dirction that never allow things to get too seedy. Angelica Houston brings the film some necessary heart and drama, while Kelly Macdonald handles her turns as the love interest with a sly grace. I’d love to see more of best friend, played by Brad William Henke, but at least got to see more than I could have hoped for from Community’s Gillian Jacobs.

 

469. A Beginners Guide to Endings

In Canadian on February 2, 2012 at 2:22 PM

Dir. Jonathan Sobol

Upon learning they only have a few days left to live, three brothers set off to reverse a lifetime of mistakes.

MY TAKE

Jonathan Sobol’s funny, lively and well-made first feature is a perfect example of why Canadian film is often referred to as “invisible cinema”. Despite having well-known American actors, like Harvey Keitel, and a Canuck bombshell like Tricia Helfer, A Beginners Guide to Endings is unlikely to never be known by general Canadian audiences. I follow this stuff very closely, and only discovered the film buried in the Canadian section of Air Canada’s in-flight entertainment. There’s plenty of wit on display here, as Scott Caan, Jason Jones and me-look-alike Paul Costanzo navigate their way around Niagara Falls in search of fulfillment, while drop-ins from actors like J.K. Simmons keep the humour and energy rolling. I’d like to know who’s to blame for ending this film’s life before it even got started.

467. The Time Traveler’s Wife

In romance on February 1, 2012 at 4:33 PM

Dir. Robert Schwentke

A Chicago librarian with a gene that causes him to involuntarily time travel tries to hold together a complicated marriage.

MY TAKE

Poor Rachael McAdams. She would be so easy to look at if her romantic movies weren’t so hard to watch. The Time Traveler’s Wife, for one, could use a complete re-edit so the first dramatic moment didn’t happen a full hour into the story. Then of course there’s the creepy factor that’s hard to shake as Eric Bana meets her at different stages of her life, in no logical order, that precludes us from ever understanding their “real” relationship – whatever that is. We’re left with a tale that tells us two people are in love, or were in love, but we never get to feel it. Actually focusing on the wife might have also offered an entry point, instead of leaving us just watch an experiment go wrong.

 

460. Hard Eight

In Crime on January 30, 2012 at 10:02 AM

Dir. Paul Thomas Anderson

A veteran gambler teaches a stranger the tricks of the trade to try and turn his luck around.

MY TAKE

Before fully hitting his auteurish groove in Boogie Nights, writer and director Paul Thomas Anderson took a calculated gamble in the crime drama Hard Eight (originally titled Sydney). John C. Reilly, as always, is a convincing down-and-out figure who gets mentored into the world of scamming casinos by a mysterious but personable Philip Baker Hall. The early dialogue-heavy scenes are particularly strong, when we’re introduced to the rules of the game but still aren’t fully aware of the stakes involved. Gwenyth Paltrow is also good, and balances her eventual breakdown well in the climactic motel sequence that takes the brave final step of following logical choices instead of pursuing dramatic conveniences.