Monday, July 4, 2011

Top Four Films of June, 2011
Validation (2007)
I give top scores to very few films, but this is definitely a 10/10. The short is available to watch on Youtube, so no one really has any excuses not to watch it. After checking out other worth by the director, I discovered that he also directed Dear Zachary, another essential film. Definitely check both films out if you can.
Tomboy (2011)
See my blog post.
The Unbelievable Truth (1989)
I had pretty much given up on Hal Hartley. However, I did not know about this spectacular early film of his. It was one of those moments: "Oh, so this is why everyone likes Hal Hartley."
Slums of Beverly Hills (1998)
When Tamara Jenkins was promoting her film The Savages, she kept mentioning her first feature-length film, Slums. More than a few years later, I finally checked it out. There was a realness to it, as well as an other-worldly feel that really made a close-to-perfect movie. The cousins (played by Natasha Lyonne and Marisa Tomei) have their own language and their fathers have this incredible dynamic. Everything is paced wonderfully, it made sense, and also had an emotional impact. I had no expectations for this film, but if I had, they would have been exceeded.

Two honorable mentions:
Girl with Green Eyes (1964)
A friend recommended this awhile back and it just happened to be playing on TCM. I was glad to catch it. It was a remarkable coming-of-age story. While we've seen it all before practically, the story is incredibly fresh. And the film is from 1964! It's almost if nothing has changed. That being said, it reminded me of An Education a few times (the English setting, older man/younger student dynamic, the ending). However, Girl with Green Eyes is definitely a different story and is to be recommend.
Partir/Leaving (2009)
Director Catherine Corsini is a favorite of mine, however she has two problems: she hasn't made enough films and her endings are typically abrupt. Partir (or Leaving as it is known in English language markets) pretty much solves both of those problems. Kristin Scott Thomas is great in this film and I believed Yvan Attal when he got angry. The characters felt so real that it was scary. Of course, Corsini's characters always do. That's why I recommend Partir, La nouvelle Ève, and La répétition.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Larry Crowne (Tom Hanks, 2011)

as posted on

Tom Hanks directed, produced, and co-wrote the Larry Crowne script with Nia Vardalos (My Big Fat Greek Wedding). Hanks is not really accomplished as a screenwriter. The rule in Hollywood is that you either place normal people in an extraordinary situation or extraordinary people in normal situations. The film is about an adult man who works at U-Mart (the equivalent of Wal-Mart in this film's universe) and decides to go to college for the first time after being laid off for his lack of education. A normal person in a normal situation doesn't usually thrill moviegoers.

Let's take a look at Tom Hanks' earnings for three of his recent films:

  • -$15 million for Toy Story 3
  • -$50 million for Angels & Demons
  • -$18 million (plus profit participation) for The DaVinci Code

It's funny how his divorced character that works at U-Mart can afford such a big house. Perhaps Hanks wrote this movie as an attempt to connect with Americans who are in the midst of an ongoing recession. That's nice. So he trades in his SUV for a scooter and joins a scooter gang. So a friend sets him up with a job that will work around his schedule for the most part. There are other concessions he has to make. Overall, Larry Crowne seems rather constructed in terms of character and plot. It doesn't flow naturally or uniquely.

Despite the limitations of the film, a definite effort was made in the creation of the Larry Crowne: he is upbeat, has a positive attitude and an optimistic outlook. At times he is a little over-the-top, but at least his antics save us from what would be a boring movie otherwise.

Tom Hanks must have been a really nice guy to bounce dialogue off of in Charlie Wilson's War, because Julia Roberts is working with him again. Maybe her die-hard fans will appreciate her in this film. Those who never cared for her much in the first place might be able to handle her character as a woman with top qualifications who is stuck teaching at "East Valley College" and drinks to alleviate her pain. She also has a deadbeat husband who watches porn. It's funny. Since the movie is rated PG-13, the imagery that pops up on her husband's computer is nothing more than women in bikinis. If it was supposed to have been actual porn, the audience might have benefited by not being able to see what the husband was regarding in order to keep in line with the rating while leaving the worst to the audience's imagination.

Still, Larry Crowne is a completely harmless film. Even if it is not that brilliant, it might be relevant and moderately entertaining.