Tuesday, March 11, 2008

new on dvd...

I don't often get excited for DVD releases, but this week had two winners. "Dan In Real Life" and "No Country for Old Men" both hit the local retail shelves. One store had them both for 30 bucks, not sure why they would package those two together, but I personally benefited, so yeah.

Everyone knows about the Oscar barrage that the Coen Brothers pulled in. Deservedly so. The movie was a masterpiece. No one could ever make the word "friendo" sound so ominous like Javier Bardem did.

But honestly, I was more excited for the release of Steve Carrell's brilliant tragic romantic comedy, "Dan In Real Life." Knowing Mr Carrell as we all do from his days at The Daily Show and then his most visible role as the endearingly hapless head of a paper company branch office. Of course you can't overlook his strange, comedic roles in various films ranging from a middle aged man with no romantic prospects, to a mentally deficient weatherman.

Perhaps his most interesting offering to date (even for a self-professed fan of the majority of his work) is this title role of the single dad who writes an advice column but can make no sense of his own life. Dan bumbles his relationships with his own kids, with his family, with every woman he meets, but maintains his level head when it comes to other people's problems.

Written and directed by Peter Hedges, who penned "What's Eating Gilbert Grape" and adapted Nick Hornby's inventive novel, "About a Boy," for the screen, the script fall just short of greatness, but is lifted back up by the cast. This ensemble looks at first glance to be a mish-mosh of hey-its-that-guys but melds together for a forceful dramatic performance.

Carrell's performance is the key to it all. As he often tends to go for the, um, less dramatic parts, I was doubtful about seeing him try his hand at strict drama with a touch of comedy, but I was pleasantly surprised by his ability to carry a cast full of heavywieghts like John Mahoney, Dianne Wiest and Juliette Binoche. With so many talented character actors around him, Carrell still manages to shine with wit and substance.

I'd give this one an A-
--John Berry--

Monday, March 3, 2008

In Bruges:

So the trailer led me to believe that "In Bruges" was going to be a funny action movie with a bland performance from the ever mediocre Colin Farrell. British action-comedies are usually fun and interesting.
Not a bad way to spend a couple of hours. I enjoy movies that are less than intellectual from time to time.
From the opening sequence it was clear that it was not going to be the movie that I had expected.
Instead, it was more of a dramatic look at a would-be hitman who makes a mistake. While it was still funny at points and and had some action sequences, it was way better than the goofy romp that I had expected.
Brendan Gleeson plays the role-model type hitman that Farrell has to tag along with as they lay low in a small town in Belgium and await further instructions from their boss. As a restless young man trying to wrap his brain around what he just did, laying low is not an option.
The story unfolds with a lot of twists and turns around the complex relationships between Farrell and Gleeson and then between Gleeson and their boss, a foul-mouthed Ralph Fiennes.
Without giving away too many of the critical plot points and ruin the movie, the mistake Farrell's Ray made proves too much for himself to handle. It is also a point of contention for their angry boss.
These bad-guy killers turn out to be intricate characters that go beyond the typical movie hitman. The multi-dimensional anti-hero of Farrell's might be his best performance to date. Brendan Gleeson is always a good actor so I was not shocked by his excellent job as the father-figure gangster.
I often see the twists coming in movies and it sometimes ruins my enjoyment of said plot twists, but even i didn't see some of these turns coming. The plot is complex and thought provoking as you are forced to examine what happens to a person who commits an unconscionable mistake and the repercussions such a mistake would entail. Farrell actually makes a murderer the sympathetic centerpiece of what might be one of the most original movies to come from the UK in quite a while. Of course, British movies are always more unique than the typical Hollywood fare that's been clogging up our theaters lately.

I'll give it an A.
--John Berry
Online Editor

post oscars: some surprises and some not-so-much

Oscar winners are in.

Javier Bardem got what he deserved.

So did Daniel Day-Lewis.

So did the Coen Brothers.

Jon Stewart was funny, but not as funny as on his own show.

Diablo Cody got an Oscar for writing "Juno." Not bad for a stripper who cleaned up her life but not her wardrobe. An engaging story with some good dialogue and some weak spots. I was a little shocked that it won, but i think it deserves recognition.

Tilda Swinton was a suprise to me because i thought she was overlooked by a lot of people in the entertainment industry when "Michael Clayton" came out. She did a great job in a role that was inherently challenging. She had to garner sympathy and be hated at the same time to pull that role off and she hit it dead-on.

The biggest surprise for me was that Hollywood actually recognized a lot of quality films and seemed to shy away from the blockbuster hits this year.

--john berry, online editor