Archive for Jason Schwartzman

Big Eyes

Posted in Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on June 18, 2017 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Directed and produced by Tim Burton, BIG EYES is based on the true story of Walter Keane (Christoph Waltz), who was one of the most successful painters of the 1950s and early 1960s. The artist earned staggering notoriety by revolutionizing the commercialization and accessibility of popular art with his enigmatic paintings of waifs with big eyes. The truth would eventually be discovered though: Keane’s art was actually not created by him at all, but by his wife, Margaret (Amy Adams). The Keanes, it seemed, had been living a lie that had grown to gigantic proportions. BIG EYES centers on Margaret’s awakening as an artist, the phenomenal success of her paintings, and her tumultuous relationship with her husband, who was catapulted to international fame while taking credit for her work.

What people are saying:

“”Well-acted, thought-provoking, and a refreshing change of pace for Tim Burton, Big Eyes works both as a biopic and as a timelessly relevant piece of social commentary”. 3 1/2 stars

“Middling drama from Tim Burton, based on some real life art controversy. There’s some nice integration of pop art into the visuals and some evocatively cartoonish recreations of the era, but there’s something decidedly underwhelming about the film as a whole. Amy Adams is good as always if not always well served by the script, but Christoph Waltz can’t save a character that sadly descends into caricature well before the end. Not up to Ed Wood or even Big Fish standards (comparable as this is another rare film where Burton drops his gothic schtick – although you can clearly see that his animated fare owes something to the big eyed waifs featured in this). You can do worse. You can also do much better.” 2 stars

“Bright yet disturbing, Big Eyes is both an indicator of just how far women have come in the past 60 years and a comment on the commercialization of pop culture.” 4 stars

” It’s not a bad movie, but it is slow (I fell asleep twice). What to say… it’s an interesting story, but it’s just not told in a very riveting way. I wanted to like it more than I did, especially as I usually enjoy Amy Adams. But she seems to be somewhat “dialing it in” these days. I miss the performances of her early career. She amazed me in “Catch me if you can”, and again in “Junebug” (a rather odd little film but fascinating character study). This film can be summed up in one word: “Meh”. ” 2 1/2 stars

“Big Eyes certainly isn’t what you’re used to. It’s unique, it’s compelling, and its cast, led by Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz, make it entertaining from start to finish. As my girlfriend, Katie, said, “Some of it left me speechless.” Waltz plays the villain so well in every film, and especially in Big Eyes, where you do not realize he is the villain till later on. The story itself is fascinating, and unpredictable, and the “paint-off” at the end in court is the climax that the audience deserves. Although it is not perfect, it definitely shows glimpses of brilliance, which Tim Burton always provides the audience. It will certainly be remembered as one of Tim Burton’s most interesting and realist films, and will also be remembered when it comes to the topic of women’s rights and feminism. It is a sad story, made happy, and was a good film to start of my year at the movies.” 3 1/2 stars

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Posted in Comedy, Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 11, 2015 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Prologue

In the present, a teenage girl approaches a monument to a writer in a cemetery. In her arms is a memoir penned by a character known only as “The Author”. She starts reading a chapter from the book. The Author begins narrating the tale from his desk in 1985 about a trip he made to the Grand Budapest Hotel in 1968.

Located in the Republic of Zubrowka, a fictional Central European state ravaged by war and poverty, the Young Author discovers that the remote mountainside hotel has fallen on hard times. Many of its lustrous facilities are now in a poor state of repair, and its guests are few. The Author encounters the hotel’s elderly owner, Zero Moustafa, one afternoon, and they agree to meet later that evening. Over dinner in the hotel’s enormous dining room, Mr. Moustafa tells him the tale of how he took ownership of the hotel and why he is unwilling to close it down.

Part 1 – M. Gustave

The story begins in 1932 during the hotel’s glory days when the young Zero was a lobby boy, freshly arrived in Zubrowka after his hometown was razed and his entire family executed. Zero acquires a girlfriend, Agatha, who is a professional pastry chef and proves very resourceful. Zubrowka is on the verge of war, but this is of little concern to Monsieur Gustave H., the Grand Budapest’s devoted concierge. The owner of the hotel is unknown and only relays important messages through the lawyer Deputy Kovacs. When he is not attending to the needs of the hotel’s wealthy clientele or managing its staff, Gustave courts a series of aging women who flock to the hotel to enjoy his “exceptional service”. One of the ladies is Madame Céline Villeneuve “Madame D” Desgoffe und Taxis, with whom Gustave spends the night prior to her departure.

Part 2 – Madame C.V.D.u.T.

One month later, Gustave is informed that Madame D has died under mysterious circumstances. Taking Zero along, he races to her wake and the reading of the will, where Kovacs, coincidentally the executor of the will, reveals that in her will she has bequeathed to Gustave a very valuable painting, Boy with Apple. This enrages her family, all of whom hoped to inherit it. Her son, Dmitri Desgoffe und Taxis, lashes out at Gustave. With the help of Zero, Gustave steals the painting and returns to the Grand Budapest, securing the painting in the hotel’s safe. During the journey, Gustave makes a pact with Zero: in return for the latter’s help, he makes Zero his heir. Shortly thereafter, Gustave is arrested and imprisoned for the murder (by strychnine) of Madame D after forced testimony by Serge X, Madame D’s butler, about seeing Gustave in her house on a particular night. Gustave tells Zero he has an alibi for that night but could never cite his aristocratic lady bedfellow in court. Upon arriving in prison, Gustave finds himself stuck in a cell with hardened criminals, but earns their respect after he “beat the shit” out of one of them for “challenging [his] virility”.

Part 3 – Check-point 19 Criminal Internment Camp

Zero aids Gustave in escaping from Zubrowka’s prison by sending a series of stoneworking tools concealed inside cakes made by Zero’s fiancée Agatha. Along with a group of convicts including Ludwig, Gustave digs his way out of his cell with the help of the tools. The group narrowly escape capture after one of them sacrifices himself to kill a large posse of guards with his “throat-slitter” and Ludwig and his crew escape by car after wishing Gustave and Zero well. Gustave then teams up with Zero to prove his innocence.

Part 4 – The Society of the Crossed Keys

Gustave and Zero are pursued by J. G. Jopling, a cold-blooded assassin working for Dmitri, who chops off Kovacs’ fingers on his right hand and kills him when he refuses to work with Dmitri. Gustave calls upon Monsieur Ivan, a concierge and fellow member of the Society of the Crossed Keys, a fraternal order of concierges who attempt to assist other members. Through the help of Ivan, Gustave and Zero travel to a mountaintop monastery where they meet with Serge, the only person who can clear Gustave of the murder accusations, but Serge is strangled by a pursuing Jopling before he can reveal a piece of important information regarding a second will from Madame D. Zero and Gustave steal a sled and chase Jopling as he flees the monastery on skis. During a face-off at the edge of a cliff, Zero pushes the assassin to his death and rescues Gustave.

Part 5 – The Second Copy of the Second Will

Back at the Grand Budapest, the outbreak of war is imminent, and the military have commandeered the hotel and are in the process of converting it into a barracks. A heartbroken Gustave vows to never again pass the threshold. Agatha joins the two and agrees to find a way to go inside – by delivering pastries – and retrieve the painting. Unluckily Dmitri comes at the same moment and discovers her. A chase and a chaotic gunfight ensue before Zero and Agatha flee with the painting (which had been hidden, still wrapped up, in the hotel safe). Gustave’s innocence is finally proven by the discovery of the copy of Madame D’s second will, which was duplicated by Serge before it was destroyed, and which he subsequently hid in the back of the painting. This will was to take effect only if she was murdered. The identity of Madame D’s murderer and how Gustave is proved innocent are left ambiguous (though earlier in the film a suspicious bottle labeled “strychnine” can be seen on Jopling’s desk). The will also reveals that she was the owner of the Grand Budapest. She leaves much of her fortune, the hotel, and the painting to Gustave, making him wealthy in the process, and he becomes one of the hotel’s regular guests while appointing Zero as the new concierge. Zero and Agatha marry while Dimitri dissapears.

Epilogue

After the war, which it is implied Zubrowka lost, the country is annexed. During a train journey across the border, soldiers inspect Gustave’s and Zero’s papers. Zero describes Gustave being taken out and shot after defending Zero (whom the soldiers had attempted to arrest for his immigrant status), as he did on the initial train ride in the beginning of the movie. Agatha succumbs to “the Prussian Grippe” and dies two years later, as does her infant son. Zero inherits the fortune Gustave leaves behind and vows to continue his legacy at the Grand Budapest, but a subsequent Communist revolution in Zubrowka and the ravages of time slowly begin to take their toll on both the building and its owner as Zero is forced to “contribute” his entire inheritance to the government to keep the dying hotel in business. In a touch of irony, the painting Zero and Gustave fought so desperately to take now sits on a wall, forgotten and crooked.

Back in 1968, Mr. Moustafa confesses to the Author that the real reason that he cannot bring himself to close the hotel has nothing to do with his loyalty to Gustave, or as a connection to “his world,” but because it is his last remaining link to his beloved Agatha and the best years of his life. He theorizes that Gustave’s world was gone long before he was ever in it, but he maintained the illusion quite well. Before departing to his room, Mr. Moustafa gives the Author a key to the “M. Gustave Suite” and readjusts the crooked painting. The Young Author later departs for South America and never returns to the hotel.

In 1985, the Author completes his memoirs beside his grandson.

Back in the present, the girl continues reading in front of the statue of the Author, a sign that Zero and Gustave’s story and that of the hotel will live on.

REVIEW:

In all of the Oscar talk this season, The Grand Budapest Hotel seems to have been lost in the shuffle. Granted, there is quite an array of really good films for the picking. So, the question is, why is this a contender at all, right?

What is this about?

Between the world wars, Gustave H, the concierge at a prestigious European hotel, takes a bellboy named Zero as a trusted protégé. Meanwhile, the upscale guests are involved in an art theft and a dispute over a vast family fortune.

What did I like?

Tone. Since this is one of the films that was up for many awards this season, I expected it to be another of those super serious, depressing dramas that tend to be the norm. Much to my surprise, this was very light-hearted and fun. The tone was something akin to Lemony Snickett’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, where there is an obvious “heavy” story, but it is told as something more of a farce, for lack of a more appropriate term. The light tone really appealed to me and kept my interest, as I’m sure it has others who need a break from all these dark pictures we have these days.

Dark lord has humor. Even before he became known as Voldemort, from the Harry Potter films, I don’t think anyone would have accused Ralph Fiennes of being a comedic actor. He just doesn’t have the look, but he is capable of pulling off some comedy. I always enjoy the shock of seeing someone not associated with a certain type of acting pull it off so well. Now, I’m not saying Fiennes needs to go star in an Adam Sandler/Will Ferrell/Kevin Hart type film, but he does have some comedic chops, and I just want to give him props for that.

Structure. I really was able to appreciate that this film was set up with chapters. Everything from the way F. Murray Abraham (isn’t this guy like 1,000 by now?) set up the story to the interesting ways in which the chapter titles were shown to the seamless transitions was masterfully done.

What didn’t I like?

Hotel. For a film that has the hotel name as the title, we sure see very little of it. Yes, there a quite a few scenes that take place in this majestic living space, but the “meat and potatoes” of the picture are set elsewhere. I don’t know, I guess I just would have preferred for everything to be more centralized, much like The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (which I initially thought this was a sequel to…HAHA!)

Nazi clones. It is obvious that this is a picture set during the war, so I have to wonder why not use actual Nazis? Is that product placement now? Or does this take place in some alternate universe where a group of people who are the same organization, just with a slightly different insignia, bring about war, death, and worse. There was something else I watched recently that did the same thing, so I really am curious if there was some odd edict from the motion picture association banning the use of Nazis.

Gustave’s end. I wasn’t satisfied with Gustave’s end. Well, I take that back. It was the face that we didn’t get to see it happen and it was just told, as if rushing through the final stanza. I don’t want to spoil anything, but the way he meets his end seems like the stuff of legend, and a fitting end considering what he was doing and who he was doing it for. Why not show that? I just don’t understand!!!

Final thoughts on The Grand Budapest Motel? Two things. First, it is obvious this is one of the best films of the year. Great script, acting, cinematography…everything. However, in comparison to the other contenders is does come off as a weaker entry, an underdog, if you will. The cast is great, even with some big names playing such cameo-esque roles. Do I recommend this? Yes. Yes, I do!

4 3/4 out of 5 stars

Slackers

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on June 27, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Dave Goodwin (Devon Sawa), Sam Schecter (Jason Segel), and Jeff Davis (Michael Maronna) are best friends who spent almost four years at Holden University scamming their way through college, and for the most part, get away with it. Just as they are about to graduate, their schemes are foiled by Ethan Dulles (Jason Schwartzman), the campus geek, after witnessing Dave cheating on an exam. Ethan threatens to expose the trio unless they try to hook him up with his dream girl, the beautiful Angela Patton (Jaime King).

REVIEW:

I’ve been called a slacker before, but I can honestly say that I’ve never been the kind of slacker like the guys in this film, Slackers. I have seen some worthless layabouts in my day, some have even been my roommates and friends, but these guys take the cake! Were the exploits of these guy enough to warrant watching this film?

What did I like?

Scheme. The blackmail scheme that was cooked up by Jason Schwartzman was actually pretty cool, especially since all he wanted was a date with the girl of his dreams.

Dorms. Holy hand grenade! If my dorm room would have looked like that, I never would have left…until I flunked out of school, that is. Still, this room that these guys are in is about the size of 3 of the rooms I’ve been in and then there is all the stuff they have in there. Wow…just wow!!!

Before he was big. In an early appearance, we get to see a young (and thinner) Jason Segel. He’s still as funny, but I can’t help but wonder where the rest of the crew from How I Met Your Mother were.

What didn’t I like?

Cameos. There are 3 notable cameos, Gina Gershon, Cameron Diaz, and Mamie van Doren. Now, Gershon and especially Diaz had great scenes, but Mamie van Doren (who actually had the longest scene of the 3) just seemed to be relegated to some trashiness. I felt bad seeing her reduced to this kind of drivel.

Story. This is one plot that you cannot get into. It is bad, there really isn’t much else to say about it.

Creepy. I have to give Jason Schwartzman credit, he plays a good, creepy little bastard, but when you throw in the tantrums he was throwing and then that little hair doll he had, it is enough to creep you out.

Slackers is not something you should even think about seeing, unless you’re just in the mood for some early 2000 nostalgia, and even then, there are plenty of other films that you can choose from that are far superior to this. I found this film severely lacking in almost every category and, as such, I think you would be best served avoiding this thing like the plague!

1 1/2 out of 5 stars

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 14, 2010 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

The story begins in Toronto where Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera), the bass guitarist for the band “Sex Bob-omb,” begins dating high-schooler Knives Chau (Ellen Wong) despite the protests of his friends and bandmates. He later meets a mysterious American girl named Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and begins dating her, losing interest in Knives. Sex Bob-omb competes in a battle of the bands to win a record contract with the label G-Man when Scott is attacked by Matthew Patel (Satya Bhabha), the first of Ramona’s Seven Evil Exes who seek to control Ramona’s love life. Scott defeats Matthew and learns from Ramona that, in order for them to continue dating, he must defeat each member of the League of Evil Exes.

After learning that popular actor and skateboarder Lucas Lee (Chris Evans), the second evil ex, is coming to Toronto to film a movie, Scott is forced to break up with Knives, who is devastated and tries everything she can to win him back. Scott successfully defeats Lee by tricking him into performing a dangerous skateboard stunt. He encounters the third evil ex, Todd Ingram (Brandon Routh), who serves as bass guitarist for Scott’s ex-girlfriend Envy Adams’ (Brie Larson) band, “The Clash at Demonhead.” Todd initially overpowers Scott using his psychic vegan abilities, which are stripped from him by the “Vegan Police” after Scott tricks him into drinking coffee with half and half, allowing Scott to win the fight.

Following the defeat of the fourth evil ex Roxy Ritcher (Mae Whitman), Scott’s relationship with Ramona begins to falter as he grows increasingly upset with her dating history. During the second round of the battle of the bands, Sex Bob-omb faces off against the fifth and six evil exes, twin Katayanagi brothers Kyle (Shota Saito) and Ken (Keita Saito), earning Scott an extra life upon their defeat. During the battle, Scott sees Ramona together with her seventh and final evil ex, Gideon Graves (Jason Schwartzman), who turns out to be Sex Bob-omb’s sponsor G-Man. Ramona breaks up with Scott as she is unable to leave Gideon’s side due to a chip in the back of her head, and Scott leaves Sex Bob-omb as they sign on to play at Gideon’s new club, the Chaos Theatre.

Scott goes to the club and professes his love for Ramona, gaining the “Power of Love” sword with which he uses to fight Gideon. Knives arrives to battle Ramona over Scott who, while trying to break up the girls’ fight, accidentally reveals that he is cheating on both of them with each other before he is killed by Gideon. Scott uses his extra life to restart his battle with Gideon, this time resolving his issues with his friends and owning up to his own faults, gaining the even stronger “Power of Self-Respect” sword and defeating Gideon alongside Knives. Free from Gideon’s control, Ramona encourages Scott and Knives to stay together while she prepares to leave to start over. Upon Knives’ insistence, however, Scott instead follows Ramona as he always wanted, and the two begin their relationship anew.

REVIEW:

First of all, let me say that when I heard about this film back in the fall, I had no idea what to expect. I saw Michael Cera was going to be in it and assumed it was going to another one of those indie drama/comedy things he’s always in. Then, earlier this summer, I saw the trailer for and was blown away by the level of awesomeness that this film looked to have and the countdown began!

If you’re like me, then you may probably have no idea who Scott Pilgrim is. No, he isn’t an original character (big shocker, right?), but rather a cult comic book.

From my understanding, this movies stays dead on with the source material, save for some stuff that just wouldn’t translate to the big screen. Why can’t they all do this?

Now, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is full of action. I’ll get to that in a second, but I have to say something about how slow-paced the first 30 minutes or so of this film are. I know, I know, it seems as though I’m always bitching about films that take forever to get going, but that’s because it is so true. What makes it worse, is that this film is obviously meant for people like me, who have a short attention span and want to get to the action. There was no need to drag on that drama at the beginning. Introduce the characters and move along. I can’t tell you how frustrating it is that studios don’t get that idea. If this was a drama, I’d let it slide, but this is a freakin’ action movie! Get to the action!!!!

Speaking of said action, I loved every minute of it. Sure, there are those that are going to question how this wimpy guy is able to pull off these moves, but do we really need to know everything about every character we see in film and television?  I think not. The mystery is what makes them great. Somewhere around the mid-90s or so, we seem to have forgotten that and our films have suffered.

Each of the fights are brilliantly choreographed and the effects that go on in the background a reminiscent of old school anime and the old Batman TV series. An eclectic mixture, to be sure, but it works better than you think.

The video game element of these fights is really quite hilarious, as with the defeat of each of the seven exes they turn to coins. Strangely enough, they just leave the coins there, except for the first one, where Scott and Ramona took a few for bus fare.

For those of you out there that are all overly concerned with violence, this is no more violent that the Mario Brothers’ games. Sure, in the final scene, he could have decapitated Gideon’s and we could have seen lots of gushing blood a la Mortal Kombat, but that wouldn’t have been in the spirit of Scott Pilgrim, now would it?

From what I’ve seen of Scott Pilgrim, no one would have been better to bring him to life than Michael Cera. A friend of mine like to say that he plays the same character in each of his films. This is not really an exception, but he does seem to be acting more. Maybe the director got more out of him, or he took some acting classes, who knows? One thing is for sure, he kicked some major ass!

Mary Elizabeth Winstead normally is drop dead gorgeous, but with this weird hairdo and negative attitude she has in this film, she didn’t do anything for me. However, that’s a testament to how good she was. Usually, she’s the nice damsel in distress type, so this is a departure for her, and she does it beautifully.

The Seven Evil Exes all have their quirks and whatnot, but here’s something that you ma not realize. Scott Pilgrim takes down Superman (Brandon Routh)…ex #3, and the Human Torch, soon to be Captain America (Chris Evans)…ex #2. Just an interesting tidbit.

I didn’t really care for Routh’s vegan powers, but it made for an interesting character. As for Evans, it would have been cool, if he would have the power to create his own stunt doubles with his mind…a sort of multiplicity power.

The best fight of all, though, was where Ramona actually defended Scott against, I think she was #5. That was a totally awesome fight, especially the choreography as Mary Elizabeth Winstead is basically controlling Michael Cera like some sort of puppet.

The final verdict on Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is that it will more than likely be one of those cult hits when it is released on DVD. The theater I saw it in was rather empty…partially becus the a/c had broken earlier in the day, but that’s neither here nor there. This is a great film for those of us that tire of seeing a bunch of buff guys doing impossible stunts and shedding blood all over the place (that isn’t a shot at The Expendables, btw). Sometimes a change of pace is welcome, and with the quirky humor, video game graphics, and martial arts homage action, this is a film that should appeal to everyone. So, what are you waiting for? Go see it!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Fantastic Mr. Fox

Posted in Animation, Comedy, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 23, 2010 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

While raiding a squab farm, Mr. Fox (George Clooney) and his wife Felicity (Meryl Streep) trigger a fox trap and become caged. Felicity reveals to Fox that she is pregnant and pleads with him to find a safer job should they escape.

Two years later, the Foxes and their sullen son Ash (Jason Schwartzman), are living in a hole. Fox, now a newspaper columnist, decides to move the family into a better home and buys one in the base of a tree, ignoring the warnings of his lawyer Badger (Bill Murray). The tree is located very close to the enormous facilities run by farmers Walter Boggis, Nathan Bunce, and Franklin Bean (Michael Gambon). Soon after the Foxes move in, Felicity’s nephew Kristofferson (Eric Chase Anderson) comes to live with them, as his father has become very ill. Ash finds this situation intolerable considering his soft-spoken cousin is apparently superior to him in every possible aspect and seemingly everyone, including his own father, is charmed by Kristofferson at Ash’s expense.

Fox and the opossum building superintendent, Kylie (Wallace Wolodarsky), make plans to steal various types of produce and poultry from the three farms, one by one. After all three heists are a success, the farmers decide to camp out near the Fox family’s tree and kill Fox. When he emerges, the farmers open fire, only managing to shoot off his tail before he retreats back into his home. The farmers then attempt to dig Fox out, first by hand and then with three excavators. After tearing the hill site of the tree into a massive crater, the farmers discover that the Foxes have dug an escape tunnel deep underground.

Reasoning that the Foxes will eventually have to surface in search of food and water, the farmers lie in wait at the tunnel mouth. Underground, Fox encounters Badger and many of the other local animal residents whose homes have also been destroyed. As the animals begin to fear starvation, Fox leads a digging expedition to the three nearby farms, robbing them clean of Boggis’ chickens, Bunce’s ducks and geese, and Bean’s turkeys, apples, and alcoholic cider. While the other animals feast, Ash and Kristofferson, beginning to reconcile after Kristofferson defended his cousin from a bully, return to Bean’s farm, intending to reclaim Fox’s tail, only to find that Bean has taken to wearing it as a necktie. When they are interrupted by the arrival of Bean’s wife, Ash escapes but Kristofferson is captured.

After discovering that Fox has stolen all of their produce, the farmers decide to flood the animals’ tunnel network by pumping it full of cider. The animals are forced to retreat into the sewers, and Fox learns that the farmers plan to use Kristofferson as bait to lure him into an ambush. They are soon confronted by Rat (Willem Dafoe), Bean’s security guard. After a struggle with Fox that leaves him mortally wounded, Rat divulges Kristofferson’s location.

Fox sends a message to the farmers, asking for a meeting in a town near the sewer hub wherein he will surrender in exchange for Kristofferson’s freedom. The farmers set up an ambush, but Fox and the others anticipate it and launch a counterattack. Fox, Ash, and Kylie escape the scene at the town and slip into Bean’s farm. In the operation, a much matured Ash frees Kristofferson and later deeply impresses his father and the gang by braving enemy fire to release a rabid beagle loose to keep the farmers at bay while the group escapes back to the sewers. The group manage to grab Fox’s tail from Bean as they flee the compound.

The animals become accustomed to living in the sewers, and Ash and Kristofferson have completely settled their differences and have become good friends, sharing meditation time together among other activities. Fox, now taking to wearing his tail as an pin-on, leads them to a drain opening that is built into the floor of a large supermarket, which is shown to the viewing audience to be owned by the three farmers. Celebrating their abundant new food source and the news that Felicity is pregnant again, the animals dance in the aisles.

REVIEW:

In this world of overused CGI, it always warms my heart to see a film that uses good old stop-motion animation. If nothing else about Fantastic Mr. Fox intrigues you, the fact that it was done using this medium should.

Critics and I rarely see thing the same way, but this is one of those rare occasions when they actually got it right. They raved like mad over this film, and found it hard to belive that it wasn’t more popular. To be truthful, until the Oscars, I had only heard about this in passing, and never really paid it any attention. That was my mistake.

This is a totally awesome flick, but be warned, some of the animation may appear creepy to some younger viewers, but that’s the joy of stop motion.

Mr. Fox is the scheming type and George Clooney’s voice and mannerisms fit him perfectly, especially when he’s being more of a douche than a father to his son.

Meryl Streep can do no wrong, even when just her voice is used, although, it would have been nice to have more than a handful of lines for her. I think that Ms. Fox isn’t exactly a prominent character in the books, either, so I can forgive this little oversight.

Jason Schwartzman isn’t exactly my favorite actor by any stretch of the imagination, but the timbre and inflections of his voice work for Ash, who happens to be one of those “different” kids just searching for approval from his dad. Having said that, he was still annoying.

Michael Gambon’s deep vocals make for as good a villain as they do a wizard headmaster. I was quite impressed with how he was able to inflect the madness that was consuming Franklin Bean as he pretty much destroyed the land in his attempt to catch Mr. Fox.

I’m sure we’ve all heard the term “crazy like a fox”. Well, with each attempt Bean made to capture Fox, that phrase ws going through my head because he was proving it to be true.

Yes, this is a comedy, but it’s more subtle comedy, rather than in your face, laugh out loud comedic stylings. This is fine, but not for me…a matter of personal taste, not a criticism.

What is it that makes this film so great? Well, the writing. There aren’t many films today that are written as well as this one and executed to perfection. I dare you to name me 5 films in the last year that accomplish this feat. I can think of maybe 1 or 2.

It is a genuine shame that this film didn’t garner more revenue at the box office, but that’s what happens when you have an independent and limited release. To make up for that, though, I implore you all to track down this DVD and check out Fantastic Mr. Fox. It is a real treat and hands down one of the best films to be released in theaters in a long time.

5 out of 5 stars

I ♥ Huckabees

Posted in Comedy, Independent, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 24, 2008 by Mystery Man

 

An indie comedy that will truly make you think. Also known as also known as I Love Huckabees, and written as I ♥ Huckabees.

PLOT:

Albert Markovski (Schwartzman) is a young man who heads the local chapter of an environmental group, the “Open Spaces Coalition.” One of their current projects is an attempt to stop the building of a new Huckabees store, a chain of “big-box” department stores akin to Wal-Mart or Target (Mike Huckabee was the governor of Arkansas, Wal-Mart’s home state, at the time of the film’s release). Confusing matters, Albert is a friend and rival of Brad Stand (Law), a shallow power executive at Huckabees. Brad infiltrates Open Spaces and charismatically displaces Albert as the leader. Dawn Campbell (Watts) is Brad’s live-in girlfriend and the face and voice of Huckabees; she appears in all of the store’s commercials.

After seeing the same conspicuous stranger three times, Albert contacts two existential detectives, Bernard and Vivian Jaffe (Hoffman and Tomlin). The detectives offer Albert their optimistic brand of existentialism—they name it universal interconnectivity(this has some tenets of romantic or even transcendentalist philosophies)—and spy on him, ostensibly to help him solve the coincidence. Bernard and Vivian introduce Albert to Tommy Corn (Wahlberg), an obsessively anti-petroleum firefighter. Tommy is assigned to Albert as his Other.

Tommy grows dissatisfied with the Jaffes, feeling that they are not helping him. Seeking out other possibilities, Tommy ends up abandoning and undermining the Jaffes by introducing Albert to Caterine Vauban (Huppert), a former student of the Jaffes’ who espouses a seemingly opposing nihilistic/absurdist philosophy. She teaches them to disconnect their inner beings from their daily lives and their problems, to synthesize a non-thinking state of “pure being.” Being lifted from their troubles, they wish to keep that feeling forever, yet she tells them that it is inevitable to be drawn back to the human drama, and to understand that the core truth of that drama is misery and meaninglessness.

Meanwhile, in Brad’s further attempts to undercut Albert, he and Dawn also meet and are influenced by Bernard and Vivian. However, his plan backfires when the detectives probe Dawn and him, causing Dawn to reject her superficial iconic status as a beautiful model and him to realize that his whole ascent in the corporate ladder is meaningless, as he has lived his whole life just trying to please others and not himself.

All the storylines collide when Albert accidentally sets Brad’s house on fire. Tommy comes to put the fire out and in the process, saves and falls in love with Dawn, who was inside the house at the time. Brad despairs at the destruction of his house, the symbol of his material success. Albert attains a sort of enlightenment when he synthesizes the two opposing outlooks of the Jaffes and Vauban to realize the cosmic truth of everything. By way of sympathy for Brad, who is now just as dejected and hopeless as Albert was at the beginning of the movie, Albert understands that he and Brad are no different, that everything really is inextricably connected, but that these connections necessarily arise from the often senselessly painful reality of human existence.

REVIEW:

This is not my normal type of movie. For some reason I had a desire to watch it today. not sure what to day about it. It has that definite indie flick feel. Makes you do some thinking, part of which is due to the existentialism stuff that can make your head hurt if you’re not careful.

I enjoyed parts of it, but, like I said before, this isn’t my type of movi so don’t expect me to pick this out on a regular basis. Still, it is worth a decent rating.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars