F.I.L.M. of the Week (August 27, 2010)

27 08 2010

Comedy Week kicks off here on the “F.I.L.M. of the Week” series with a look at “Shopgirl,” an inspiredly funny adaptation of Steve Martin’s novella that is also tinged with a fair amount of melancholic reflection.  The movie takes a look at an unassuming girl entering the urban jungle of Los Angeles to find herself confronted with a choice between two very different relationships with two polar opposite men.

Mirabelle (Claire Danes) didn’t expect much when she moved from Vermont to LA and began working the glove counter at Saks.  Yet suddenly, she is faced with some very big problems, namely love.  Unsure of what it is, how to find it, or how to recognize it, she sits back passively waiting for it to come to her.

Sure enough it does come, although in two very different forms.  First, she meets Jeremy (Jason Schwartzman).  He’s a bumbling fool with no set of social skills, but he does have the best of intentions and all of his heart to offer Mirabelle.

Second, she meets Ray Porter (Steve Martin).  Unlike Jeremy, he’s a smooth operator who always does things with class.  Despite being music older than Mirabelle, they both find themselves falling for each other.  He’s a very wealthy entrepreneur with all of his wallet to share with her, buying her first fitted dress.  Yet he often feels a little too distant, hiding away parts of himself.

“Shopgirl” is everything a romantic comedy should be, scorning formula to provide a thought-provoking rumination on love in the modern world.  In the context of these two relationships, Mirabelle is searching for love although unsure of what shape or form it will take.  The movie doesn’t hold back and is willing to delve deep into the psychological ruin of not finding love.  But it’s precisely because it goes there that there’s just an irresistible charm about this movie.  Even when the going gets rough for Mirabelle, we still feel light as a feather.

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REVIEW: It’s Complicated

24 12 2009

I equate watching Nancy Meyers’ movies to taking a leisurely Sunday saunter through a beautiful park.  Warm and delightful with plenty of laughs thrown in, her movies are always enjoyable to watch.  But just because a filmmaker does one thing very well does not mean that they should do that and only that.  With “It’s Complicated,” Meyers tries her hand at a different kind of movie.  While most of her previous projects were relatively sweet, her latest piles on the raunch.  Accompanying this vulgarity is a noticeable surge of laughter, although this comes at the cost of the charm her movies usually possess.

The title refers to the affairs of the characters and not at all to the story, which is actually quite simple.  Jane (Meryl Streep) and Jake (Alec Baldwin) were married for many years, had three kids, and are now divorced.  Jake moves on quickly, marrying the much younger Agnes.  Jane, on the other hand, tries to “learn how to be divorced,” something she cannot seem to master even after 10 years.  But after an inebriated evening leads to some ribald shenanigans with her ex-husband, she begins to wonder whether there might be some lingering feelings left for Jake.  Jane tries to fight it and chastens herself severely for even thinking of having an affair with him, but the attraction becomes undeniable.  However, this comes inopportunely as she is falling for her lovably dorky architect, Adam (Steve Martin).  He reminds her of all the joy that a lively personality can bring, and Jane begins to recall all the reasons why her marriage with Jake failed.  Sound too complicated?  It really isn’t on screen, where the story unravels quite predictably and every plot twist can be called with relative ease. Read the rest of this entry »





What To Look Forward To In … December 2009

14 11 2009

What is in my mind the finest month for the movies is almost here!  Let Marshall guide you through the best and steer you away from the worst, but most of all enjoy!  The studios have been holding back their best movies all year to dump them all here, where they can get serious awards consideration.

December 4

A major Oscars wild-card is “Brothers.”  No one really knows what to make of it.  If the movie hits big, it could completely change the game.  But it could just fly under the radar like most expect it to now.  However, the trailer makes it look as if it the movie could be absolutely mind-blowing.  Directed by Jim Sheridan, who has received six Academy Award nominations, “Brothers” follows Grace Cahill (Natalie Portman) as she and her daughters deal with the loss of her husband, Sam (Tobey Maguire), in war.  Sam’s brother, Tommy (Jake Gyllenhaal) comes to live with Grace to lend a helping hand.  But romantic sparks fly between the two at precisely the wrong time: the discovery that Sam is alive and coming home.  With the two brothers both tugging Grace’s heart for their share, a different type of sparks fly.

You have heard me say plenty about “Up in the Air.”  If you haven’t read my Oscar Moment on the movie or heard my bliss at the release of the trailer, let me give you one more chance to hope on the bandwagon.

But the movies don’t stop there.  “Armored,” an action-drama that is tooting its own moral horn, starring Matt Dillon and Laurence Fishburne.  “Everybody’s Fine” appears to be a holiday movie, so that might be worth checking out if you’re in the spirit.  The movie, a remake of a 1990 Italian film by the same name, stars Robert DeNiro as a widower who reconnects with his estrange children.  And “Transylmania” looks to cash in on the vampire craze sweeping the nation by satirizing it, but I doubt it will be financially viable because it is being released by a no-name studio and without any big names.

December 11

The highlight of the weekend for many will be “The Princess and the Frog,” Disney’s return to the traditional animation by hand musical.  The movie looks to capitalize on what we know and love Disney musicals for, adding some catchy tunes to a fairy tale we have known since childhood.  Anika Noni Rose, best known for her role as Lorrell in the film adaptation of “Dreamgirls,” lends her talented voice to the princess Tiana.  As a huge fan of “Dreamgirls” during the winter of 2006, I couldn’t think of someone better equipped to handle the sweet, soft Disney music (which isn’t designed for belters like Beyoncé or Jennifer Hudson).  That being said, the music won’t sound like anything you’ve ever heard from a Disney fairy tale.  It is being scored by Randy Newman, not Alan Menken (“Beauty and the Beast,” etc.), and will have a jazzy feel much like its setting, New Orleans.

This week also boasts the opening of three major Oscar players. Two have been featured in Oscar Moments, “Invictus” and “A Single Man.” The former opens nationwide this Friday, the latter only in limited release. I’ll repost the trailers below because they are worth watching. But read the Oscar Moment if you want to know more about the movies.

According to the people that matter, “The Lovely Bones” has all the pieces to make a great movie. But for summer reading two years ago, I read the source material, Alice Sebold’s acclaimed novel. I found it dreadfully melodramatic and very depressing without any sort of emotional payoff to reward the reader for making it through. But maybe Hollywood will mess up the novel in a good way. If any movie could, it would be this one. With a director like Peter Jackson and a cast including Saiorse Ronan (“Atonement”), Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Stanley Tucci, and Susan Sarandon, it could very well happen.  It opens in limited release on this date and slowly expands until its nationwide release on Martin Luther King Day weekend in 2010.

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