Saturday, August 30, 2008

American Teen

A new documentary better suited for television viewing, this is the real "Breakfast Club. Directed by Nanette Burstein, the film follows a group of High School kids as they complete their senior year of school in Warsaw, Indiana.

As in "Breakfast Club", we have a jock, an outcast, a rich spoiled girl, and a misfit but these stereotypes are real kids with real dreams and real problems. The film works like most reality TV shows, taking us into their lives as they go about their daily routines. What is hard to accept is where the reality ends and where the manipulation begins. Just how much of what we are seeing is unscripted becomes the question.

While a bit long (2 hours), the film's subjects win us over as we cheer for them, cry for them and root for our favorite teen. There are lessons to be learned, love won and lost and basketball games to win.

I imagine an inner-city version would give us a different cast of characters but every school contains these stereotypes. Stay for the credits as each major teen gets their own epilogue.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Tropic Thunder

Ben Stiller sets out to make a satirical film within a film about Hollywood excess and goes over the top himself.

The film is offensive, gross, loud and very funny. There are plenty of quotable lines and great sight gags but in the end, Mr. Stiller and his partners really go to extremes and the overkill dampens the spirit in which it was made.

The film stars Mr. Stiller, Jack Black, Robert Downey Jr., Nick Nolte, Steve Coogan and a thinly disguised Tom Cruise as well as a few memorable cameos. Mr. Downey Jr. ends the summer as he started it (in Iron Man), on top. His acting is just perfect as he creates an amazing character in Kirk Lazarus. Tom Cruise is hysterical as a fat, bald over the top studio executive who's dialog alone warrants the "R" rating.

The opening moments of fake ads and trailers are genius. It's a shame that the rest of the film can't sustain that creative energy. It tries very hard and there are lots of laughs but in the end, it's one explosion too many.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Pineapple Express

Seth Rogan and James Franco star in the first of it's kind stoner/action movie. Cheech and Chong made a career out of stoner movies but Mr. Rogan and Mr. Franco take it to another level.

This is a very silly but funny film about male bonding and smoking lots of dope. There is actually one positive anti-drug message in the film, when Mr. Rogan points out they can't get anything done because they are always stoned. The action is fast and cartoonish but the growing relationship between the two men is genuine and it is quite sentimental. Danny McBride co-stars as Red, the resilient middleman who almost steals the film. Also appearing are Rosie Perez and Gary Cole as the cartoonish villains.

Mr. Franco is the one who actually steals the film. His portrayal of Saul, the kind hearted drug dealer is terrific. He shows a new side as a comic actor and when he's in the spotlight the film really shines.

Much of the dialog seems improvised and everyone seems to be having a terrific time. It's not the funniest comedy of the summer but it's worth the time if you are looking for something light and silly. Be warned though, there is a fair amount of gunplay and violence especially in the second half of the film.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

"Journey To The Center of The Earth 3D"

Brendan Frasier stars as a scientist looking to prove his brother's theories about the center of the earth. He takes his nephew, played by Josh Hutchison on a trip to Iceland following his brother's information. Before you can say, "look out below", they are falling to the center of the earth along with their cute Icelandic guide.

The film has a long set up, some terrific action sequences in the middle and wraps everything up neatly. What really makes the film entertaining is the 3D. It is truly exciting and fun to watch with the newest of 3D technology. Everything from yo-yo's to flying killer fish and dinosaur spit come flying off the screen and seemingly into your lap. The CGI backgrounds make for a visually stimulating environment and once our heroes begin their "journey", the action is pretty non-stop. They do borrow liberally from other films, like the ride through the mine in Indiana Jones & The Temple of Doom" but the 3D takes it to another level.

Definitely a fun summer film for the whole family as long as you leave your logic at the door.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Frozen River

A new independent drama starring Melissa Leo, "Frozen River" is a bleak yet gripping drama of life in New York State, on the Canadian border.

Ms. Leo stars as Ray, a mother of two boys struggling to make ends meet. When circumstances pair her with Lila, an Indian woman who smuggles illegal's across a frozen river from Canada, their lives become intertwined in a unlikely yet necessary relationship.

Life is hard near the border and the film pulls no punches. Ms. Leo gives a raw and powerful performance as a woman running out of options to protect her family. Misty Upham co-stars as Lila, who also gives an terrific performance. The bond that develops between these two woman is the core of the story.

There are many suspenseful moments in the film and the winter cinematography will have you chilled to the bone. The subject matter may be bleak but propelled by the strong acting, "Frozen River" won't disappoint if you like good drama.