Thursday, July 28, 2011

Crazy, Stupid, Love

I don’t care much for the title of Crazy, Stupid, Love. It sounds too much like Love Actually or other films of the like. There is a better line of dialog early on in the film that would have sufficed: “I love you, please?” It’s spoken by Robbie, an 8th grader who confesses his love for his babysitter Jessica. It’s a quick act of desperation with poor results.

That’s part of the reason why this movie works so much. Characters try to be overtly romantic, but it often falls on their face because a lot of the film is grounded in reality. Cal (Steve Carell) is devastated when his wife of 25 years (Julianne Moore) says she wants a divorce. He responds by signing whatever she wants and wallowing at a hip bar. Smooth talking Jacob (Ryan Gosling) pities Cal and teaches him to move on and pick up women.

Meanwhile Hannah (Emma Stone) rejects Jacob because she’s stuck in a boring relationship while she studies for the bar, Jessica the babysitter is struggling with her crust on Cal, and Cal’s wife Emily continues to have an affair with her co-worker (Kevin Bacon).

I love Dan Fogelman’s script. He’s best known for working on animated films like Bolt and Tangled, but here he shows he knows how to make a smart likable comedy. It’s a very “writery” thing to do, but everything has a payoff. It’s a good way to connect everything into a tight story. He uses clichés in a fresh way that makes all of them tolerable.

For example, after Emily says she wants a divorce there is a scene in their house. A picture frame of Cal and Emily is knocked over and now the image is cracked. It’s an eye-rolling metaphor showing there is trouble in their marriage. Yet as Jessica picks it up, she looks at it for a moment. Then she places her hand over Emily so she can only see Cal. It’s a natural way to show her crush by using an overused symbol. This doesn’t excuse some of the “surprise” speeches in public places, but

Most of all, the movie is funny. Gosling gives his best performance in years. It’s harder to play super cool than uncool because the audience has to believe you. He has charm and never overplays the underlining vulnerability of the character. His interactions with Cal are the movie’s best scenes. They are both actors who can do great things with the right script and they are now in a position to pick more interesting projects.

The whole film fits into a nice even groove. It’s one of the few films that put a smile on my face for the whole run. Romantic comedies don’t have to only be for the idiot teenagers. Everyone will respond to quality even if the leads are –gasp!—pushing 50.

Cowboys and Aliens

I repeat this one more time: the title of Cowboys & Aliens is not supposed to be comedic. Now if they make a sequel called Cowboys & Zombies that’ll be a different story. Instead the aliens are just another force in the Old West. They’re like a gang that will destroy a small town, but they have more impressive weaponary.

Director Jon Faverau (Iron Man) films the movie like a traditional western. The shots are wide and attractive showing all of the rich landscape. The saloons are dim and the pistols are always within reach. It’s a Hollywood western meaning that it’s not as grimy and that works for and against the movie.

On the pluses, a Hollywood western serves as a really good juxtaposition to a Hollywood sci-fi film. When the good guys ride away on horses trying to get away from spaceships, it’s exciting and fun. On the downside, there isn’t any moral issues. The bad cowboys can be good cowboys and all of the “whores” end up being wives. This provides for some missed opportunities, but the fun is constant throughout.

Daniel Craig is so badass as Jake Lonergan, a man with no memory and a weird metal device on his wrist. They bring back the coolness of fistfights and every time Craig knocks a guy out it makes you giddy for a new Bond film. The other big highlight is seeing Harrison Ford actually try in a performance for the first time since 1997’s Air Force One.

Those are the two characters with the fullest written characters. The rest of the cast brings credibility to smaller roles. The heavyweights include Paul Dano, Sam Rockwell, Olivia Wilde, Keith Carradine, Walton Goggins, and Abigail Spencer.

The pacing is quick and satisfying. There are small mysteries that have easy answers, but still remain worthwhile. The strength of the film is how it treats the story. At this point alien invasions and amnesia plotlines are overdone, but placing them in a time when the characters don’t know the words “alien” or “amnesia” they are fresher.

This could have been great. A gritty western interrupted by a different genre. Inventiveness at every turn. Yet, it’s a confusing combination of just being “good.” It will be enjoyed, forgotten, remembered, enjoyed, and replaced. It remains one of the best action films of the year, but won’t last beyond that.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Film Yap: Week One TV Contest Results

As an experiment in recommendations, Austin is watching every show that was suggested to him during one weekend. He’ll watch 2-3 episodes apiece and write about what he thinks every Saturday on The Film Yap. After he gets through his list, he’ll award TV related prizes.

Sex and the City

Previous Relationship: Yes, I’ve seen the first season of this show. It high school, I was young, crazy times. Really it was because my library had some HBO shows. I was amazed by The Sopranos and Six Feet Under that the network earned a special level of quality. I knew this was one of their hits so I tried out the first season. I didn’t like it very much. Too many boring conversations without any wit.

I watched: Season Two, Episodes 1-3: “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”, “The Awful Truth”, and “The Freak Show”

And…? If there was any doubt in my mind about why I quit the show, boy did this first episode remind me. This was one of the most annoying half hours I’ve had to experience. Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) is recovering over her break up with Mr. Big (Chris North) so she picks up a New York Yankee. There are roughly a billion baseball metaphors in this episode’s voice-over. All of them are cheesy and one just doesn’t make any sense.

The next two were a big improvement. I even laughed during “The Awful Truth”! Once. Every once in awhile this show reveals why people are so in l

ove with these four characters. They sometimes can be fun to be around when they aren’t obsessing over clichéd topics or contrived storylines.

Will I continue watching? Nope

Grade: 2 Yaps


Previous Relationship: I already really like this show. I watched the first two seasons on Netflix Instant last year. It’s not a perfect show, but it was a smarter show than I expected. It captures a high school life rarely seen in shows because it’s more honest. Sure there is the sensationalism, but it works more than it doesn’t. I just hadn’t gotten around to the third season yet.

I watched Season Three, Episodes 1-3 “Everyone”, “Cook”, and “Thomas”

And…? I was nervous going into this season. Almost the entire cast graduated at the end of the last episode so this was the introduction to a whole new cast (sans Effy and Pandora). That introduction was a bit awkward as new groups of friends are established. It still seems like too many characters to pull this off, but by the end of the first hour I felt I understood most of them.

What I like about this show is the complexity of the teenage romance. Characters do things that are very truthful to the contradictions of the age. It almost breaks TV logic for the obvious couple to be sleeping with the wrong people. They tried something very impressive by having this really unlikable character, Cook. Aside from premieres and finales, most of the episodes of Skins are devoted to one characters. Giving Cook his own episode as the second could have been a good way to redeem this obnoxious kid, but instead they amped it up while showing just a glimpse of vulnerability. It was risky and it may have surprisingly worked on me.

The third episode introduced a new character of Thomas, an immigrant from the Congo who accidently needs to raise a lot of money. He is so insanely likable and ended up really flowing into the group well. Really curious to see where his storyline is going.

These new guys will be hard to beat the charm of the first two seasons, but they have peaked my interest more than I imagined.

Will I continue watching? Yes and soon.

Grade: 4.5 Yaps

The Tick (Animated)

Previous relationship: I really only know of The Tick as a bystander. I could identify what The Tick looks like through pop culture and having seen the live-action pilot years ago. As for this show, this was a 90s cartoon I missed as a kid.

I watched Season One, Episodes 1-3 “The Tick vs. the Idea Men”, “The Tick vs. Chairface Chippendale”, and “The Tick vs. Dinosaur Neil.”

And…? Well this was goofier than I expected. With all of the superhero movies feeling the same lately, this was nice to avoid all of the clichés. It doesn’t appear that The Tick even has an alter ego and same with Arthur who dresses in a moth costume. They all just seem to be a part of this city with ridiculous villains and plenty of people who don silly costumes and fight crime.

The humor that really works in the show is how much confidence The Tick has. It’s the grand statements of Superman with the content of Homer Simpsons. There is originality with its concepts like The Tick fighting a dinosaur’s tongue so he can throw the Asprin elixir. This is probably just because it’s early on in the show, but sometimes the pacing felt a bit weird and the jokes weren’t as strong as they could be. I only laughed a few times during the three episodes, but smiled a lot more. Most animated shows find their groove a year in so it wasn’t a big deal.

Will I continue watching? No. It’s a fun show, but it not something to search for more episodes. Perfect thing to show someone when I’m babysitting, though.

Grade: 3 Yaps

The Closer

Previous Relationship: I had known of the popularity of the show. It has crazy high cable ratings and Kyra Sedgwick has won a ton of awards. I saw one random episode when I helped my Memaw with her VCR.

I watched Season 1, Episodes 1-3 “Pilot”, “About Face”, and “The Big Picture”

And…? I don’t know if it can keep this up for seven seasons, but these three episodes are really good. The characters are strong, there’s a nice style to the show and it already avoided being caught in a structure. I’m sure the rest of the series will have a murder, Sedgwick will investigate it, there will be conflict within the team, and eventually there will be an impressive cat and mouse argument which will lead to a confession.

Having that as your outline can lead lots of room to play with the genre. I’m not saying there’s going to be a musical episode, but within these three they organically changed where and how things happened. It helps that Sedgwick’s Brenda Johnson is a delightful character. She is trying to be respected in the new squad, which is often boring. Yet she’s very good at her job—which is different from the show repeatedly telling you she’s good at her job—and her battle with food is very fun. She’s at her best when she’s up against J.K. Simmons because those are two very strong actors who can make any dialog dynamic.

In episodic shows like this, it’s often the mysteries that are forgettable. In these three, the only one I could really tell you a lot about was “The Big Picture.” That was mostly because the twists were actually pretty good.

Will I continue watching? No, but I still kinda want to. I typically don’t watch episodic TV because I prefer longer stories with charcter arcs, but this does the episodic very well. I doubt I’d go past the first season, but maybe I’ll pick up the rest of the DVDs. Probably not though.

Grade: 4 Yaps


Previous relationship: I knew of the show. My mom was a big fan throughout most of the years. I knew Michael Crichton created it and George Clooney got his start on it. Yet this was one of the big TV shows that I have never seen a full episode of. I finally saw a Law and Order (although it was Law and Order UK so I cheated). This was now the biggest show I have never even seen a full scene from.

I watched Season 1, Episodes 1-3 “Pilot”, “Day One”, and “Going Home”.

And…? Immediately there’s a feel of time from the show. Dr. Greene is woken up and the look of the show and the music feels so early 90s. The sense of realism and professionalism reminded me a lot of another show from this time, Homicide: Life on the Street. They both have a clear understanding of the job and things will move without the use of a rigid structure. Patients will come and go; it’s not a case of the week. Things will carry over or be dropped.

The real constant is the setting and the characters. They have their personal problems, but those will always be secondary to the patients. That is rare for doctor shows! Luckily they are interesting characters. I liked how hard-shelled they were towards their patients because of how much they’ve seen the worst. There is the wide-eyed John Carter (Noah Wyle) who is the new guy in the pilot. (All pilots have a new guy; easiest way to introduce a new world.) He serves as a nice comparison to people like Dr. Benton.

What I really liked was the ongoing story between the episodes. Carol Hathaway (Julianna Marguilies) tries to commit suicide and the first three episodes deals with that aftermath and her return to the hospital. I really enjoyed the difficulties Dr. Ross (Clooney) felt about this and how everyone responded with humor and warmth instead of awkwardness. Does that mean this is more commonplace in a hospital or did they know what to do?

Will I continue watching? Sure. I’ll at least finish this season because people go nuts of “Love’s Labor Lost” even more than the original Shakespeare play. Beyond that is up in the air.

Grade 4.5 Yaps


Previous relationship: I have some friends who adore this show. They’ve seen every episode and bug me every few months to do the same. Sophomore year I had a guy living on my dorm insist I watch his DVDs and I enjoyed the first two seasons. Then I got Netflix and saw it was on Instant. “I’ll definitely catch up on this soon!” Then I was distracted. Until now…

I watched Season 3, Episodes 1-3 “Amazon Women in the Mood”, “Parasites Lost”, and “A Tale of Two Santas”. I decided to go with the production order instead of the TV aired order because I don’t trust FOX. Ever.

And…? I know why I never keep up with the show. I laugh several times an episode so it’s already kicking Sex and the City’s tush. There are plenty of great characters like Bender and Dr. Zoidberg. Yet it’s hard to actually believe in the world. Obviously it’s ridiculous and allows for unlimited possibilities in terms of stories. Yet it feels grounded in 2001. They’re in the 31st century and they’re making references about the 1990s. It feels like I’m nitpicking or “not getting it” but it’s distracting.

The show works best when it’s character humor. Bender interacting with anyone is fantastic, especially because he’s doing awful things. I like Fry’s complete cluelessness about everything, which makes him one of the oddest protagonists. I like how they play with Fry’s and Leela relationship, especially in “Parasites Lost” when Fry becomes a nicer guy. This is where the show was the closest to The Simpsons’s level of heart because it reversed Fry’s romanticism but it did it in a sweet way. He’s still stupid, but he is trying.

Will I continue watching? Yeah, but it’ll probably take some more pestering.

Grade: 3.5 Yaps

Next week, I’ll be venturing into Cheers, The Prisoner and whatever the hell The Doodlebops is.

Film Yap: Bride Flight

In the 1950s there was an air race to see which planes can travel the greatest distances in the shortest time. The politics and excitement of that competition is for a different movie. Bride Flight examines the lives of four people who were on a successful flight from Holland to New Zealand. The reason it has its title is that most of the people who qualified for emigration were those that were previously engaged.

Three of the women are brides to be. There is the friendly Esther (Anna Drijver), Marjorie (Elise Schaap) who can’t wait to have a family, and Ada (Karina Smulders, who looks like the Dutch Cynthia Watros) the blond beauty who sits quietly to herself. Frank (Waldemar Torenstra) befriends them all during their long travels and steals several romantic looks towards Ada.

They land successfully and they all split up with their own lives and loves. The new world isn’t exactly what they pictured—more clouds for one thing—but they all find their niche for better or worse. Ada gains the most sympathy since her interactions with Frank were so romantic. Her husband, Derk (Micha Hulshof), is so cartoonishly cold that if had a moustache he would twirl it. (He does rock a beard later on).

The movie moves forward in a brisk pace with everyone’s stories remaining interesting. It peaks halfway through when Esther and Marjorie conspire to keep a major secret. It’s a great twist in the story, but unfortunately stops their momentum for the next hour. They are both stuck repeating the same points until it becomes boring.

All four characters are interesting, but Ada is the only one who excels in every scene. The performance is strong because the character is allowed to be complicated. Where the rest of the film uses religion as a disarming tool, Ada is more genuine even if her faith causes her harm.

Director Ben Sombogaart balances the stories with ease, except for when he jumps to the future to see them all reuniting for a funeral. Starting with seeing a character die seems like it’ll be a good draw into the film, but it is overshadowed by the aspects of the air race. During the plane scenes there is time to learn who the characters are, unlike the future scenes which just show lovely scenery. If the story was linear it would be more emotional for all the characters.

The only other detail distracting the likable movie was the overbearing score. It’s difficult for a simple, wistful theme to cause annoyance, but it never stops playing. It’s almost on autopilot in detecting whether the scene is supposed to be of high drama or not. If there is high drama, then there will be silence, if not that score goes on and on and on. At one point, I thought it took control because it kept getting louder until I couldn’t hear the actors. Thank goodness for subtitles.

With all the minor problems, the film was still a light joy that can gain a strong following with audiences who are looking for less calculated romance in their films. This is currently playing at the Movie Buff Theatre for at least a few more days.

3.5 Yaps

Film Yap: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

The filmmakers of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan are gambling on how much the audience cares about the central relationship between two Chinese women. It isn’t a question of length since this is a keen two hours. The gamble comes from the film thematically playing the same movie twice.

The main story is of Nina (Li Bingbing) and Sophie (Gianna Jun) set in modern day China. Nina was promoted and will be opening a new office in New York. Before she can leave, her old friend Sophie gets into a terrible accident leaving her in a coma. This causes Nina to figure out what her friend has been up to the past few months and to read her manuscript.

The novel is Sophie replicating their relationship in a more historical China. The actresses play both roles to decent effect. (It’s the same performances with different costumes.) Instead of offering Sophie’s side of the story, it’s just the story told again without any nuances. The dialog and setting of an older China makes their relationship more special and the movie obviously feels the same. The colors are more vibrant during this time with particular care towards the costumes and shot composition.

When it jumps back to modern day, everything feels bleak. It feels routine even though this story is the one set in the reality of the characters. Director Wayne Wong seems so bored by this part that out of nowhere Hugh Jackman suddenly shows up. In a Chinese film with Chinese actors talking about Chinese things, suddenly Sophie is dating an Australian businessman who has an entire scene where he gets to sing a song like he’s on a cruise. It was so bizarrely distracting I’m not sure who thought this was a good idea.

This movie is based off a popular book club book and upon further research I’m baffled. The book is only set in 19th century China. There is no modern story in the novel so…why add that in? All of the fascinating aspects of the movie are from the culture of the older time. The two take part in a laotong ceremony joining them as friendship sisters. (Well so do the modern duo but it can’t be as sincere without the legacy of tradition behind it.) There is the painful act of foot binding which only even applies in the past storyline.

With one storyline, this movie may have worked better. It’s hard to be emotional over the same beats over and over again. Instead it’s a movie that jumps around time in odd intervals without a cohesive feel to it. Also Hugh Jackman.

2.5 Yaps

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Captain America: The First Avenger

How low are our expectations for superhero films? Back in 2008, I had the naïve notion that after The Dark Knight, it would be difficult to do a straightforward superhero flick again. That was, of course, stupid because the franchises make a ton of money and will be spit out without any thought.

Since then there have been terrible ones but there have also been odd ones like Iron Man 2 and Thor. Those are films with likable actors and certain moments that work, but as a whole they are a bit of a mess. When Captain America comes around with actual characters and a villain with personality, does it automatically get a pass?

It’s yet another origin story with yet another villain who has this really good idea of taking over the world. As if there is any doubt where the story is going, the first scene is set chronologically at the end of the film. The only surprises are that this at least feels like an actual story instead of awkward set-ups for next year’s The Avengers.

Not being familiar with the comics or any of its previous incarnations, I was surprised on how likable Steve Rogers is before and after his injection with the magical serum. He doesn’t want to join the army in 1942 because he wants to kill Nazis or become a hero; he wants to do good. In a genre set with mopey characters who hate their powers, it’s rare to see someone truly heroic. Chris Evans uses subtle acting tricks so that even when he’s all juiced up he still feels like a little brave boy.

All of the other overdone parts work as well. The romantic interest Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) offers some slight plot complications while harkening back to a simpler age of movies, in particular A Matter of Life and Death. Just like the other movies in this series, there are moments of visual beauty but that is destroyed by crummy 3D. (For the first time, I gave up and took off the glasses for the second half of the film)

This is a good movie. It’s one that kids are really going to like and fans of the comic won’t be betrayed by. Stanley Tucci, Tommy Lee Jones, Hugo Weaving, and Toby Jones all give good performances because the characters are closer to three dimensions. I can easily watch this again if someone happens to have it on.

Yet it’s increasingly difficult to become excited for this genre. It’s fading into romantic comedy territory where they are all thin variants of the same story. The beats are becoming too obvious. These films shouldn’t be a display of nostalgia, but an opportunity to inspire new people to the wonders of their world. In order for that to happen, the films can’t just be getting “B” grades (or often lower). What the world needs is another great superhero movie. Now is the time to be ambitious.

The Trip

There is a point in The Trip when the comedy stops becoming a meta romp and is revealed to be a more dramatic look at these two men. The argument formed is wondering if this is even a comedy, is this even an accurate portrayal of Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, or does it really matter.

In this edited version of their TV show, it’s all up to you. Director Michael Winterbottom is an expert at this point on how to gently nudge these two into fascinating stints of improv comedy. The premise is that Steve agreed to write restaurant reviews in order to impress his girlfriend, but she’s in America and who knows when she’s coming back.

Out of options, Steve invites Rob to join him on this weeklong trek of different meals and they continue to get on each other’s nerves. Their conflicts are very British as nothing leads to a screaming match, but they passive aggressively “tolerate” each others annoying qualities. Rob is constantly impersonating various celebrities like Sean Connery, Woody Allen or Al Pacino. Steve is the same vain jerk as seen through his Alan Partridge persona.

Throughout the ride, Steve is always trying to compete with Rob including the hilarious bit where they argue about Michael Caine’s voice. Even though Steve is easily more famous, the insecurity is neon. Coogan has explored the emptiness of fame plenty of times (and so has his peer Ricky Gervais). What is added in this volume is the warmness of Rob. He’s a goofball who rarely has a straight conversation, but he’s genuine. It’s clear why his family loves him and why he has the patience to stay friends with Steve.

It’s not a perfection transition into a feature film. Parallels that would be better if spread out over a five episode series, feel repetitive in this format. Surprisingly they still accomplish the passage of time successfully. It’s not just a “best-of” because they wisely left in dull moments in addition to the lively ones. This creates a completed week where two fascinating men learn something meaningful or they realize that the other one better have learned something meaningful from this.

Film Yap: Doctor Who Season Six Part 1

Last year I went hyperbole galore for Doctor Who Season Five. It suddenly became the show I always wanted and an incredible season of television. It was so good that, like so many fans, was worried about where the show could go next. Then their trailer came out for the season and my jaw dropped. It still remains the best trailer for anything I’ve seen this year and the show has lived up to it.

Steven Moffat is a genius. His work on “Coupling”, “Jekyll”, and “Sherlock” are all incredible but this is his baby. Last year he focused the long story around the mysterious cracks in time and space. (Thanks for another inanimate object to be scared of.) This year he’s showing more of the cards he’s been playing as everything is bigger.

Within the first fifteen minutes everything changes on the show. They did something that has never happened on the show, including the older version of the show. Then the season is about what that really entails. There is also a new mystery about a woman with an eye patch who opens walls to stare at Amy Pond (Karen Gilian), figuring out what The Silence are up to, and learning more about the woman from The Doctor’s future, River Song (Alex Kingston).

The show is currently on a hiatus. Reportedly Moffat missed some of the event planning for the show so he scheduled the season towards a mid-season finale with a cliffhanger to leave people anxious for next September. This DVD set has the seven episodes that have aired so far. Why not, I’ll review all seven.

The Impossible Astronaut / Day of the Moon

The Season Five premiere worked as an introduction to the show. The Doctor is reborn with Matt Smith playing the part. He meets Amelia/Amy Pond and they manage to save the world from blowing up by eyeball aliens. With this two-parter it will be really confusing if you were a new viewer. That said, it’s an amazing two hours.

Amy and Rory (Arthur Darvill) are enjoying married life, but they receive a weird blue letter in the mail that gives them a day and location. They go to America and find The Doctor with a new hat. (Stetsons are cool.) River Song received a similar letter. Then something crazy happens. Then they are all off to 1969 to stop an alien force called The Silence and they run into Richard Nixon and the space program.

These episodes were filmed in America, a first for Doctor Who, and it looked gorgeous. They used the magic of Monument Valley and further blurred the lines between TV and film production quality. The Silence ended up living up to their hype as one of the scariest villains in the history of the show. They are these suited gray creatures who you will instantly forget once you look away. So you have no idea if one is right behind you….about to kill you….

Not all of the mysteries are solved in these episodes because it’s all for the bigger setup. It was hilarious, exciting, and all of the leads gave some incredible performances.

4.5 Yaps

The Curse of the Black Spot

Pirates! Doctor Who! They read my mind! Unfortunately it’s a pretty disappointing episode. Writer Stephen Thompson had the same problem with his episode of “Sherlock” in that too often the characters run from room to room without enough purpose. Still there is some fun to be had. Lily Cole (The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus) is a siren who is attacking the crew of a pirate ship one by one. Amy looks adorable in her outfit and the episode is too light to get mad at. It’s just an inconsequential adventure in the middle of a really strong season.

3 Yaps

The Doctor’s Wife

This was one of the most anticipated episodes in the rebooted series. Fantasy god/writer Neil Gaiman penned this episode and that title raises a few eyebrows. Without revealing too much, this ended up being one of my new favorites. It has the best dialog, a creepy villain (voiced by Michael Sheen), and a very clever concept.

It’s the kind of episode that looks at the entire series in a new light with nostalgia and love. The ending ends up being surprisingly emotional. It is a wonderful present for fans of the show.

5 Yaps

The Rebel Flesh / The Almost People

Usually the two-parters that aren’t written by Moffat tend to drag too much. They probably could have been one episode, but this set worked well. The heroes arrive by accident on an island where a team is using new technology to work safely. They can create identical avatars made out of goopy Flesh. That way if they fall into the acid they are drilling, the Flesh just melts away and they are safe in their harness. A thunderstorm occurs zapping everybody and now the replicas are independent from their original counterparts.

There are plenty of ethical questions afoot, but they all culminate in a really shocking ending. It’s a lot of fun especially with how well Matt Smith jumps around the castle. This guy can do anything and deserves every acting award out there. He even emulates Scott Pilgrim for a few scenes!

4 Yaps

A Good Man Goes to War

The Doctor: “I’ve become angry. That’s new. I’m really not sure what’s going to happen now.”

Kovarian: “The anger of a good man is not a problem. Good men have too many rules.”

The Doctor: “Good men don’t need rules. Today’s not the day to find out why I have so many.”

Wowza. Moffat wanted event television and he got it. A lot of villains and familiar faces return for an unconventional showdown. Mysteries are solved, jokes are made, and gasps are had. It’s a very thrilling episode, but it accomplishes something more special. It examines The Doctor and the show in a brutal way. Thematically this is the most fascinating show of the series because it questions if the show should even be run in this fashion.

Then it ends with a moment of warmness that gives some much needed hope. There are still a few mysteries remaining for the next six episodes and certain things that need to be resolved right away. The final shot reveals the title for the next episode and it’s a doozy.

5 Yaps

Is it September yet?

The DVD/Blu-Ray set has more of their “Monster Files.” These are small segments focusing on each enemy with cast/crew interviews talking about their function and creation. Just like how they showed the Weeping Angels in the last DVD set, it’s still creepy seeing The Silence walk around the set. Those heads…

The other one is about the Ganger avatars from “The Rebel Flesh” and “The Almost People.” This was more about how they made the liquidy faces and less about their psychological impact. They missed an opportunity to have Matt Smith talk more about them. Still an entertaining 12 minutes, but the best part of this villain was how they weren’t really villains. So it’s hard to do a “Monster File” about them.

It looks like they are saving their episode prequels, commentaries and Doctor Who Confidential for the full season DVD that will be here at the end of the year. I don’t blame them. This is a great way for people to catch up with the show for the summer so everyone can be caught up for…nah. I won’t spoil the next title. Just more incentive for you to start this wonderful show.

Half Season: 4.5 Yaps

Extras: 3 Yaps

Film Yap: And the Nominees Were -- 1939

Austin Lugar, Keith Jackson and Kenny Jones started a podcast called And the Nominees Are. On this show they are attempting to review every single Best Picture nominee starting from the very beginning. Here Austin recaps the plot summaries of each set while teasing the longer discussions.

In the history of the Oscars there are a few years that stand out as really incredible. 1977 had All the Presidents Men, Bound for Glory, Network, and Taxi Driver all losing to Rocky, another beloved movie. 1939 is one of those years with so many films that are still watched today, especially with families. It’s almost unfair that some of these happened to come out now because they could have easily won the gold during a weaker year.

Dark Victory

Just like Norma Shearer kept popping up in the earliest years, it’s expected to see Bette Davis every time. More likely than not she gets a big sweeping “Oscar scene.” This is another movie to showcase her range as she plays a woman who is dying but may have gotten better. The melodrama is sometimes a bit much, but an interesting plot keeps it going.

Gone With the Wind – WINNER

What can’t be said about this movie? It’s epicness still feels underplayed. It’s obviously a technical masterpiece as it pulls off the most impressive elements from the Margaret Mitchell book like when the mansion burns. Yet it really holds up well because all of the performances are grounded more and the writing is really strong. Deserving of all its praise.

Goodbye, Mr. Chips

This one is not deserving of all its praise. It’s the go-to “inspirational teacher movie” but it does not hold up well. Everyone is too cheesy and the writing is void of any emotional connections between the characters. Too many moments aren’t earned especially the way they raise Mr. Chips into messiah-esque teacher. Yet Robert Donat still won Best Actor and it’s constantly referenced today.

Love Affair

Leo McCarey has been a rather consistent director at this time. He’s made some incredible movies and this one is lesser in comparison. It’s his first version of An Affair to Remember with two actors who don’t have the spark Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr had. Still there is plenty of charm, especially the couple’s first day together.

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

Without this movie nobody would know what a filibuster is. C-SPAN is never as dramatic as this movie, but that’s what Frank Capra does best. He shows the hopeful world we wish we inhabited. Jimmy Stewart is, of course, brilliant as the young senator who wants to make a difference. The film is so earnest that it is still inspiring and worth showing children.


It’s been awhile, but Ernst Lubitsch is back. This one is known primarily because of how they used Greta Garbo. Instead of her moody uber-serious persona, she was allowed to be funny. Most of the humor comes from her being an extremely robotic Communist sent from Russia to disprove capitalism—and take part in a fun convoluted plot. Not as many laughs per minutes as his other work, but this still a delightful movie.

Of Mice and Men

Most people have just seen the Gary Sinese version, but this one holds up as a solid equal. Adapted from the famed John Steinbeck novella, Burgess Meredith and Lon Chaney Jr. play the two brothers traveling from ranch to ranch to find jobs. Sometimes it’s overplayed, but not too often. They establish a great tone and even keep with the grittiness of the source material.


Orson Welles said he watched this movie 100 times to teach him everything he needed to know about filmmaking so he could produced Citizen Kane. It’s evident why. This is the John Ford we know and love. He uses Monument Valley with automatic expertise to film thrilling chases and landscape shots. Strangers are forced to know each other better as their stagecoach ride is full of danger including the arrival of The Ringo Kid, played by John Wayne. Fantastic stuff.

The Wizard of Oz

It’s the bloody Wizard of Oz. Any faults you have with this film are minimal to it being The Wizard of Oz. It’s the ultimate family film due to the classic songs, beautiful surroundings, and romantic quest. It’s scary and silly and has a likable message. Seriously, it’s The Wizard of Oz.

Wuthering Heights

Here marks the first and not final appearance of Laurence Olivier. He plays the brooding Heathcliff doomed to take part in one of the most famous gothic romances of all time. Not everything works in this adaptation, but there are plenty of acting gems throughout and a keen direction by William Wyler.

We discuss these movies with a lot more detail on our show And the Nominees Are as well as discussing the other awards from this year. This set was covered over two episodes both of which can be found for free on iTunes. We’d love it if you left us a review! Our show is also on Facebook and Twitter and our brand new website.

If you’d like to play along with us, the next 10 films for 1940 are All This and Heaven too, Foreign Correspondent, The Grapes of Wrath, The Great Dictator, Kitty Foyle, The Letter, The Long Voyage Home, Our Town, The Philadelphia Story, and Rebecca.

Film Yap: Potiche

I talk about Francois Ozan more than I ever planned to. His thriller “Swimming Pool” received a lot of attention in the United States due to its cool pacing and all of the nudity. Then he makes Ricky, a misguided family film that tries to be whimsical while focused on realism. Now with Potiche, he has a bright colored farce. Is he the French Danny Boyle or is he genre ADD?

The palate looks like how “Down With Love” handled the 60s, even though this takes place in 1977. The humor and characters have of a blend of Jean-Pierre Jenuet’s sensibilities but never really sticks with it. Then the plot is reminiscent of “Made in Dagenham.”

Certain directors can blend different elements into a solid product, but Ozan isn’t that masterful. What holds the movie together is the great performance by Catherine Deneuve. She plays a “trophy housewife” who has to step up when her husband can’t go into work. She takes it upon herself to handle the crisis at the umbrella factory when the workers want to go on strike.

By doing this she can show what women can do in a man’s world and this inspires other women to respect themselves more. However the major foil in her path his an old boyfriend played by Gérad Depardieu (“Cyrano de Bergerac”). Their back and forth is what works the most in the movie, but it’s all played for cutesy affect.

There aren’t any surprises with “Potiche”. It is most interested in creating a light atmosphere. The actors know what to do even if the story doesn’t. It’s unfair to group an entire country like this, but French films are always the best for breaking structure and letting the story be more organic. This one plays it by the numbers. That doesn’t get to be as funny or much to remember from it. After a point, the most entertaining aspect is seeing Ozan play around with filming the flashbacks.

It’s evident that Ozan likes the experimentation of film. He wants to see all that he can do, but he needs to stop writing his own stuff. Every time his style isn’t able to match what the film is actually saying. Yet he seems to be a success so we’ll see what happens next.

There is a 72 making-of featurette, a smaller one about the costumes, and a stylish trailer that makes this look like a 70s film. All of them are entertaining and a bit clever.

Film: 3.5 Yaps

Extras: 3.5 Yaps

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

How many films have gone with eight films that most of the audience enjoys? It’s an insane Hollywood anomaly. Perhaps it’s because the book were such bestsellers, the producers knew not to stray away from the source. Or perhaps they recognized there was a strong story at the core of each entry.

Instead of focusing on making each one bigger than the last, Harry Potter has been slowly setting up a smart full story. The movies can’t accurately depict how well Rowling as set this up. The final book is by far my favorite entry because it shows all of the cards with full effect. Rowling made sense of almost every plot point from the last six books by introducing horocruxes and Dumbledore’s knowledge.

So how can the movies pull that off? On a business end, it made sense to start the movies with 2001, even though the final book didn’t come out until 2007. They had no idea what would play the biggest part in the finale, but they made due with the most satisfying finale possible.

It’s hard to see Part 2 was a full movie. It’s really just the ending. It’s a lot of action, quality dialog, and brief moments of humor to remind the audience how much the creators care about these characters. They continue with the best effects possible (aside from a few flying scenes) and there are so many shots of quiet moments that shows there is still powerful storytelling at its forefront.

They have to pack so many scenes in the last two hours, but director David Yates and screenwriter Steven Kloves know it has to count. They can’t just show the moments; they have to make the moments work. For the most part they pull of it off. The movie has an unprecedented sense of epicness and the stakes are high. The series has never been able to shine upon some of the secondary characters so if—hypothetically—some of them die, the emotion isn’t there.

Yet when focused on the main three heroes, the film works. Very well. Voldemort is the baddest of the bad and Harry, Ron, and Hermonine are the best of the best. Their courage, creativity, and sacrifice is what maintains the heart of the franchise. There are plenty of exciting moments but the reason they matter is because these three are in the center of it. There is love and care with this series and that’s why it has maintained successful.

Is this the best movie of the series? No. Is this the best movie of the series when combined with the last film? Yes. This is when they have been able to break format and show how important all of these things are. This isn’t about winning the House Cup. This is the fate of the world and that point is made clear. Everything matters in this last battle.

The film built up the final moments so much, it’s hard to payoff successfully. I’m not sure they did, but they got very close. The final scene works better than it did in the book, but still wasn’t able to contain all of the nuances of the series. Although, I preferred the movie version of the last scene to the book’s version. For the book was too invested in the smaller details, the movies tried to stay to what’s the most important. Therefore, a nice balance is created. The Harry Potter movie franchise will live on to incredible recognition and will be happily shown to future generations. Until it’s remade, of course…

For no particular reason here is my ranking of the whole series: 7>3>8>6>4>5>2>1

Winnie the Pooh

I don’t think much about my childhood, but I do remember strong affection for Winnie-the-Pooh. Just like my other childhood heroes, Charlie Brown, Kermit the Frog, and Calvin they were creatures of imagination and drive. They were people who cared about their friends and knew that the next best adventure was just upon the hill.

The new film Winnie the Pooh captures the purity of the original stories. There is only one pop culture reference that I noticed and the rest is wonderful old-fashioned Pooh. The story is simple, but everything pays off. I smiled throughout the duration and laughed more than the child aside me expected me to.

The reason why this succeeds is because they understand every character. Pooh, Piglet, Tigger, Rabbit, Kanga, Roo, Owl, and Christopher Robin are well known from generations. They are fully formed, likable creatures and all the movie had to do was to remain faithful to their sprits.

This film is perfect for little children. It’s also wonderful for the older viewers who are attending with the little children. The only thing missing is the push for older viewers to see it on their own. It’s only 69 minutes with an unrelated fun short film about the Loch Ness Monster.

Pooh Bear is one of the greatest protagonists. He loves his friends even more than his worshiped honey. He is not well educated in common sense much like Homer Simpson. He can even stare at a clue for a long time, knowing it’s very important and then let it go much like The Dude from The Big Lebowski.

My point is, everyone is still relatable. They are still engaging and heroic and special. They can defeat monsters and figure out what can work for Eeyore’s tail. Some of their characters embrace life with full commitment and others wallow in depression. With this range, children can find someone who is like them. Not everyone is the bravest or the smartest. These characters certainly aren’t, but they are genuinely some of the most loyal characters. There is a moment when Piglet has to face a potential monster or Pooh has to decide what he values most and they both respond in an honorable fashion.

At the end it’s all about storytelling. The film plays like a book being read by the parents. The narrator is personally advising the character and the words fall from the sky. It’s not just meta, it’s personable.

There is too much of a debate about how to grade a children’s film. Must it apply to adults? Must it be explained thoroughly to the younger viewers? What is most important is that it is the best of its respected genre. Movies like 2001 and Serenity find viewers beyond the typical sci-fi fans because it is a great movie on its own. The common themes and emotions will extend beyond any given genre. Winnie the Pooh is a brilliant film aimed towards younger viewers and because of that, it can be enjoyed by older ones. It may not be worth the expensive theatre price, but this is a film worthy of catching up with.

Film Yap: IIFF - Small Town Murder Songs

Every once in awhile you get a title that completely works. “Small Town Murder Songs” perfectly tells you what the movie is about while showing its distinctive, cool style.

Peter Stormare (“Fargo”, “The Big Lebowski”) is a police officer of a small Canadian town. He’s trying to keep a low profile, ashamed of the things he’s done in his past. He does his job well and goes home to his supportive wife (Marth Plimpton). Too much attention is put on him when a young girl is murdered in his city and he feels it’s his responsibility to personally find the killer.

He moves awkwardly in every scene. He fidgets and doesn’t exactly know how to talk to people. Stormare plays him like he’s uncomfortable in his own skin. Small towns give the illusion that everything is at peace and orderly, but the best ones have their wrinkles. This character hints that anybody could have something twisted in their past, which opens doors for everyone else.

Writer/director Ed Gass-Donnelly throws in another great element by having the editing style punctuate something more. The song choices and their placement in the film are electrically jarring. Gass-Donnelly already had a ken eye with the look of the film, but this makes the film stand out to other stories of its kind.

The story is a bit familiar, but that’s because there are a billion stories like this in the genre. ”Small Town Murder Songs” is able to stand out by being a strong entry that doesn’t push the story past what it can offer. It’s a brisk 75 minutes, but that’s plenty of time to establish the cool feel of this world. One of the easiest films to recommend.

4 Yaps

Film Yap: Entourage Season Seven

Confession time. I casually enjoyed the first three seasons of “Entourage”. It was never the funniest, but I had fun with the Hollywood aspect of it. The deals, the arguments, the concept of James Cameron making an Aquaman movie. Then like too many successful comedies…it continued.

Season Seven is now out on DVD to set up the final Eighth Season. The show is now a rundown car and too many of the flaws are shining with their brights on. A car is a bad metaphor because that implies that it is moving anywhere. This is without momentum, purpose, creativity, or even the basic elements to tell a story.

The same guys are still in Hollywood doing the same things. Vince (Adrian Grenier) is still one of the most beloved actors in this alternate universe despite no acting skills or charisma. “E” (Kevin Connelly) is still the manager who doesn’t ever seem to do anything except for make whining phone calls and complaining about friendships. Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) for some reason is now selling tequila and is taking part in the most annoyingly dull romantic plotline. Johnny Drama (Kevin Dillion) is trying to star in a sitcom and can’t even succeed at being a comic relief.

Not every show needs to be serialized, but this show sorta kinda wants to be. The characters say they want things, but instead of anything happening they just spin in circles. In Episode 2, the only thing that happens is that Vince gets a haircut. That’s it. Some people like it, some people don’t. There aren’t any jokes about it. THAT’S ALL THAT HAPPENS.

The only story that moves forward is Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven) and his agency. Every episode has something new happen, but unfortunately it’s the same old boring stuff. Apparently he’s the biggest agent in the world! Yet he still spends all of his time dealing with Vince and E. Oh now his agency is in danger! Again! Really it’s just another obvious attempt to have various cameos by celebrities playing themselves with very little to do. John Stamos likes to play ping pong; this is as close as the show gets to a major plot point.

I give them a little bit of credit to try to do something with Vince. He has always been the blandest of characters, which is troubling since the whole universe is devoted to him. After he does his own stunt in a Nick Cassavettes movie, he becomes a bad boy. (Character development!) This involves drinking and hanging out with porn star Sasha Gray. Gray was fantastic in “The Girlfriend Experience” and is known for being surprisingly intellectual. That is brought up when it’s a punchline that she reads and then the rest is just lamer than lame porn jokes.

All of the humor is horrible. On the rare occasion the characters actually bother to tell a joke, it always feels too scripted and then all of the other characters say “Good one!” The cursing insults may have been a novelty at one point, but now even that’s just lazy.

It’s not funny, can’t tell a story, dumb, sexist, can’t fill the half hour, and is a dark mark on a network returning to the very top.

HBO discs never have a lot of bonus features. The first disc just has recaps of the previous seasons. Season Six was only about 90 seconds long and most of it was just them laughing and smiling. There are also a few commentaries, a 6 minute segment called “The Shades of Sasha Gray” which was an overproduced interview, and a 13 minute making-of. That last featurette was especially funny because of how much the cast said this was a serious, subtle season that wasn’t on cruise control. Also a good portion of the 13 minutes was about the haircut. IT’S SUCH A BIG DEAL. It also had the most revealing quote: “If people are attractive, you just let things go.”

Season: 1 Yap

Extras: 1.5 Yaps

Film Yap: Damages Season Three

Most of legal thrillers are based around the courtroom. That’s perfectly understandable. The courtroom is a perfect dramatic arena where a protagonist is in a battle of wits against the antagonist. However, “Damages” is a show that knows the best conflict can happen before all of that.

The show is about Patty Hewes, one of the toughest lawyers in New York City. Patty is played by Glenn Close, one of the scariest people on the planet. Even though she is taking down criminals like Ted Danson’s Arthur Frobisher, her morality is skewered to do whatever possible including criminal activities.

The core relationship of the show has been about Patty and Ellen Parsons (Rose Byrne). They are both ambitious in the field, but the constantly test each other to see what line they wish push the other towards. Depending on what happens, they could be allies or hating each other.

The third season circles around the Tobin family. The head of household was just caught performing a major Ponzi scheme and then committed suicide. Hewes and Associates are forming the case against them and Patty is obsessed knowing there has to be more money hidden.

The remaining family is struggling with being shocked on the information and afraid about what is going to happen next. Everything thinks there is more money, but the question is who knows anything. The son Joe (One of my favorite character actors, Campbell Scott) lost all of his money from the scheme and has become desperate. The mother (Lily Tomlin) is angry and torn. The only one who is keeping focus and hiding the most is the lawyer, played brilliantly by Martin Short. Not only can he play the drama, he can be a bit scary.

One of the things that sets “Damages” apart so well is the demented way they flash to the future. Every episode gives you more information and the rest of the season is getting things worse and worse to lead to the scenes. This year it’s Patty involved in a bad car crash and Tom, one of the only characters in each season, dying.

I liked last season, but a lot of its critics were saying that the story became too complicated with so many double crosses. This year the mystery is less complex, but still very compelling. The plotting is still strong with having plenty of unpredictable twists. This season is more emotional from both ends of the puzzle. Tom was always a great character because he didn’t exact play the part of someone who is loyal to any side. It wasn’t until his death did I appreciate what he was able to do within a season.

Just like always, all of the actors are top notch. Close is incredibly watchable because she is giving one of her best performances as the brilliant lawyer who is increasingly unstable. Byrne, Scott, and Tomlin remain subtly powerful, but the real shining star is Martin Short. He’s playing nothing for humor, but just like the show did with Darrel Hammond last year, they turn the comedian into a great villain.

One of the surprisingly good parts of the season is the return of Arthur Frobisher which provided the most satisfying ending to that story—and it took its sweet time revealing why he returned. The only structural flaws is the look into Ellen’s past during the last few episodes. It lagged more than it needed to and the results weren’t that great. It made up because what Ellen does in the finale is one of the more memorable parts.

I don’t know where the story is going next, but I’m pumped for the next season. Just like “Friday Light Nights”, DirectTV saved this from cancelation to give them two more seasons. This is a fantastic show that could use a bigger audience, especially who like the season long complicated stories like from “LOST” or “Veronica Mars” or the dark paths of “Breaking Bad.”

The DVD set has plenty of good bonus features. They have a couple commentaries from the big actors and the writers. There are also episode introductions, some featurettes about production, and a blooper reel. I would have liked something teasing the next season but this is still a nice set.

Season: 4.5 Yaps

Extras: 4 Yaps

Film Yap: Four Lions

One of the defining comedies of the 1980s was Heathers. Its extremely dark take on teenage suicide pushed the line of taste while remaining hilarious. Very few comedies since have gone down that route, especially ones made by the studios. The only way to find that sort of demented humor is to look at the…Cheap Flicks.

Last year one of the funniest movies was a satire made across the ocean called Four Lions. Chris Morris is known in England for his scathingly funny take on politics and culture. He’s often compared to a more twisted Jon Stewart. Four Lions was his forte into movies and he did not let his fans down by tackling the subject of radical Islamic suicide bombers. Just a reminder, it’s really funny.

The reason the film works is because the terrorists aren’t defined by being suicide bombers. Their major characteristic is that they are incredibly stupid. This is not saying Muslims are stupid or even terrorists are stupid. These four guys are incredible dumb.

The opening scene is the blooper reel of their latest terrorist threat video. It goes on for so long and gets funnier with each take because the world feels a bit safer. In The Wire, Baltimore becomes a scarier place because the drug dealers are so smart, how can they be defeated. With Four Lions, it seems like there is nothing to fear because these guys can’t even manage to contact each other without screwing up.

That, of course, is not entirely true. No matter how dumb the four leads are, they are still using bombs. The violence is often unexpected, but it does not down play what’s going on. Sometimes it’s really funny but it always remains disturbing, again, much like Heathers. It’s a responsible film with a clear message. It isn’t hateful or angry, but is more of a playful satire. It’s a rare accomplishment made possible by a strong storyteller.

This is a Cheap Film and it’s amazing that it managed to have a limited American theatrical release. It was thanks to the beloved theatre Alamo Drafthouse who formed a distribution company and picked it up after it wasn’t sold at Sundance. It gained a strong cult following and can now be found on DVD and on Netflix Instant.

Film Yap: Bed and Board

The Antoine Doinel films are one of the most critical acclaimed series in movie history. They documented the life of the director’s alter ego for over twenty years. Each film showed the boy at different ages in his life and showed his evolving view on the world. Francois Truffaut captured each stage with a humorous and insightful view of the France he knows.

“Bed and Board” is the fourth installment where at this point Antoine (Jean-Pierre Léaud) is married to Christine (Claude Jade). He works as a flower dyer, using various liquids and sprays to make them brighter colors. Both of them seem happy as they remain giddy and flirty with each other. Trouble is formed when Antoine becomes a fascinated by the exotic Kyoko, a Japanese native.

Léaud has played this role since he was a child, in the masterful “The 400 Blows.” The performance has never felt stale because he always evolved this performance with his age. He moves with a conservative romanticism as he is always dreaming of bigger, while dressing just perfectly to fit the style. His mindset adjusts by being rationally imagining which is difficult for the other characters.

The French New Wave films have a visual look that always feels warm. Especially Truffaut’s movies, they are so playful. It’s the way the camera focuses on organic and interesting points that can liven up any scene. To introduce Christine, Truffaut keeps the camera on her legs. It’s how Antoine sees her: exciting and sexy.

As a comparison to the rest of the series, “Bed and Board” ranks as the weakest of the four so far, but still a worthy addition. It’s a comfortable entry that plays upon what has happened in the past. It isn’t showing a new side of London like “The 400 Blows” or seeing Antoine try to discover his identity like “Antoine & Collette” or “Stolen Kisses.” This is about Antoine growing up and making the latest good and bad decisions in his life. His strengths and flaws make him a consistently curious character.

He is revisited in the 1979 film, “Love on the Run” the final film in the series. All are available on DVD by The Criterion Collection. They made very nice transfers of the film, while maintaining the crispy look of shooting on film. All are recommended.

4 Yaps

Film Yap: IIFF - Dog Sweat

Immediately Dog Sweat starts off on a likable note. A couple of Iranian guys are secretly drinking alcohol and arguing the colors of the Johnny Walker brands. The conversation naturally gets distracted and ill-informed. Yet it had a lot of realism and fun to it.

The film works best when it has people talking like this. The dialog is consistently good throughout, but it almost has too much plot to handle. There are several different young men and women who intersect as they struggle with life and love. Having the setting in Iran makes that simple premise incredibly fresh. It’s fascinating how they deal with older cultural philosophies and the strain that puts on them.

The women, in particular, are the most interesting part. They are mostly seen as responses to the men in the relationships, but that doesn’t mean they are two-dimensional. They are self-aware about the positions they are in and what they are truly able to do.

The whole movie is plotted like a soap opera, but this is better produced and acted. If they had established the characters a bit better at the beginning, it would be easier to follow them through their stories. Instead it is never as emotional as it could be.

Despite being set in Iran, it isn’t as political as it could be. The film is never preachy, but curious as it looks at certain situations. The curiosity is enough to always push the movie forward in a brisk fashion that shows people know what they are doing. Even though this one has its minor flaws, writer/director Hossein Keshavarz is a storyteller that I would be very curious to see his next film. Especially if he sticks with similar territory with another set of stories because there is no way Iran is as overdone as New York City. This is still a fresh take on a familiar genre.

4 Yaps

Film Yap: IIFF - Andante

Things I understood about the film “Andante”

--There is a world where there is one man left who dreams and he’s in a coma.

--There is a guy who edits dreams and there are screenings for them.

--I understood how characters felt about other characters. It was clear the editor had great affection for Sarah, distrust for others, etc.

--I understood themes it was going for concerning dreams and memory along with their impacts. I understand the parallels between dreams and filmmaking.

--I understood the director, Assaf Tager, is skilled in crafting a shot and establishing a tone. The set reminded me of “Metropolis” at times with its mechanical surroundings. He knew how to play with light and keep a strong, long shot.

--I understand the strengths of not having a movie that spoon-feeds the audience. Creating a confusing atmosphere can cause the viewers to concentrate more and then the results can be more rewarding and personal.

Things I didn’t understand about the film “Andante”

--The story

--What characters were trying to accomplish with the actions they were taking.

--Anything about the world. How it operated, why it is that way, what anything meant.

--The beginning

--The middle

--The end

--Why the dialog had to be so stilted

--What was going on in any given moment

--Why the movie worked so hard to isolate the audience so there is nothing to attach to despite the effort put in to form any sort of connection.