A fun film about some haphazard thieves who happen upon a small town in Texas and become attached to it and its residents. The thieves have just escaped from jail and the small-townspeople mistake them, through a series of misunderstandings, for a gay couple. Of course, this town is conveniently having a beauty pageant and, of course, who wouldn’t be better than the new gay couple to host the pageant. It is a completely entertaining, enjoyable film that will definitely put a smile on your face. Steve Zahn is used to playing quirky, unusual characters, but seeing Brit Jeremy Northam, who is used to playing proper, buttoned-up historical characters, as a wild “gay” crook is worth the popcorn right there!

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Another slam-dunk performance by Malkovich! Here, he plays probably his most quirky, unusual yet…a combination of different characters…all pretending to be Stanley Kubrick. What???? Yes, you read me right. Malkovich’s character plays a man named Alan Conway…who is obsessed with being known as Stanley Kubrick. Well, in addition to Kubrick, Conway is also obsessed with NEVER PAYING FOR ANYTHING, which he is able to get away with MUCH easier as Kubrick, than as Conway. Set in London in the 1990s, the tag-line for this film is “a true-ish story.” And, that would be pretty accurate…since there WAS a man in London in the late 1990s pretending to be Stanley Kubrick. But, that I believe is where the truth ends. All of Malkovich’s characters I would say are originals. If the imposter really did do some of the things Alan Conway gets away with, I would want to shake that man’s hand. Because Conway does and gets away with the more ludicrous things…they have to have been conceived in the mind of the screenwriter, right? But, then again, the idea of someone posing as a famous film director is pretty much out there already.

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A fun, lively film about an entertainer/magician/all-around-showman who has a final last hurrah in the spotlight, which is much more than he really deserves. John Malkovich comes across with a unique, completely original character that makes me respect him more as an actor. After playing bad guy after bad guy, his performances got a little monotonist. Here, though, Malkovich cannot be called anything but unusual and exceptional. The story of a “Kreskin-like” illusionist (actually, Buck Howard was inspired by The Amazing Kreskin, which you find out at the end) who we think is waning toward retirement. When he comes up with one last big idea to gain some popularity back, of course the audience thinks he’s crazy (which is pretty accurate). But, the idea, by some twist of fate, takes off and gives him more success than he’s ever had. The story itself is silly at times but Malkovich makes this movie with his quirky, distinctive performance.

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I have not liked the last several Woody Allen films. I would have to say the last one I didn’t want to turn off in the middle (or even at the beginning) was Small Time Crooks (2000). And, even that one, I only liked…a little. So, when I got Melinda and Melinda, my first thought was, “Why the heck did I put this on hold?” Regardless of the reason, I decided to watch it…mostly since I had no other DVDs to watch at the time. Had this been a week where my coffee table was filled with piles of soon-to-be-due DVDs, I would have probably passed on this one. Well, I’m glad I didn’t pass. The most striking thing about Melinda and Melinda (aside from the fact that it’s actually a funny, original, entertaining Woody Allen film with him NOWHERE to be found among the cast) is the premise, or the gimmick of the plot. Like another film I really liked from 1998, Sliding Doors, Melinda and Melinda’s gimmick is original…involving how ONE plotline pans out in two different ways. Sliding Doors focused on TIME…how a split second of time difference changes the course of everything that happens after. Melinda and Melinda uses a different but just as original twist…the same story told from two different angles—one, a romantic comedy and the other, a drama. The only “like” character in both story variations is Melinda, played in both the comedy and drama by Radha Mitchell. Aside from her, all of the other characters differ in each story, as not to confuse the viewer. In both stories, Melinda is a troubled soul with a good deal of emotional baggage who finds temporary help with a group of friends. I found it fascinating how her personal troubles easily transformed from comic to serious…just by changing some minor elements. Director Woody Allen is able to turn a dramatic character trait of Melinda’s around and use that same trait for comic effect in the other storyline. Pretty original for Allen…and the end result is a funny, touching film that might not be some of Allen’s best work ever but is some of the best work he’s done in recent years.

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James Bond meets The Day of the Jackal meets Fargo. Sounds strange, I know but watching four-time Bond actor Pierce Brosnan play a tired assassin is a strange thing to imagine. But, Brosnan does not let that stand in his way of making the role his own…he really seems to have fun with his character here. This is a dark comedy but much of the comedy is pretty light. I mean, unlike Fargo, this one does not use the murders as a source of the humor. The humor comes from the characters’ unusual personalities, especially Brosnan’s. Plot is simple here: a down-and-out businessman meets a down-and-out hit man in Mexico City where both are on business…Brosnan for a hit and Greg Kinnear’s businessman for a career-make-or-break client. They strike up a conversation which leads to a camaraderie which leads to a close friendship. These are both are hard-to-read people. On the exterior, it seems like it’s just Brosnan’s character who is the complicated one (he covers his complications with wisecracks, swearing, and liquor), but Kinnear’s complicatedness comes out slowly and more subtly throughout the film. I mean, Brosnan practically has a nervous breakdown in the middle of the film. But, the Kinnear character is just as fragile as Brosnan is. It’s a hard movie to describe because it has so many levels but what I can describe is that I enjoyed it tremendously.

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I loved this movie. Really. It’s quirky and silly and sweet and innocent and charming and disturbing and great! In the vain of films like The Straight Story, this film relies on its uniqueness to reel you in. But, unlike other quirky films, the charming qualities of the characters kicks in and wins you over completely…just like “Bianca” wins over the hearts of all of the townspeople of the small, Northern town. Ryan Gosling plays Lars perfect here…and it’s a tough role to tackle. He has to be low-key and expressionless at times when others aren’t. He has to completely “buy” into what he’s selling, no matter what. But, he has to avoid going too far in the opposite direction with the low-key behavior. Basically, Gosling becomes Lars here…just as the supporting players come to embody their personas as well. You might cry, you might laugh, but most definitely you will smile at this lovely film.

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A Norwegian and Swedish film about scientists in Sweden during the 1950s who come up with the brilliant idea (yes, that is sarcasm) to study the behavior of people in their kitchens. For the study, they have selected men who live alone…widowers, bachelors, etc. The “researchers” had special chairs to sit in to study their “subjects” kitchen habits and were not supposed to talk to their subjects under any circumstances. OK – from this you probably think this is not the movie for you. Well, it’s a slow film, I’ll grant you that, but once I got into it, which really didn’t take that long, I loved it. It’s more of a case study of men during this era – men who live in isolated, extremely rural communities in Norway. This film is about friendship and trust…and about the small things in life. Nothing much really happens here but what is on the screen is heart-warming and humorous. For people who don’t like foreign films or having to read subtitles, this is a foreign movie for you! Why? Well, there is not much dialogue so not many subtitles to read.

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If you just let your inhibitions go…feel them float out of your body…watch them disappear…then and only then can you watch this film. The stipulation to this rule is if you are already a Charlie Kaufman (the screenwriter of Adaptation fame), you might be able to watch this and hang on to your inhibitions. But, fans of Jim Carrey be warned…this is NOTa typical Carrey film. Even the more “serious” films the actor has done (The Truman Show, The Majestic) are no comparison to the level of seriousness and un-Carrey like behavior of this film. With all of that said, if you still want to see this one, read on. Eternal Sunshine is a hard movie to write about since I still really don’t know what it’s about or what it meant. It’s a film that brings to life a person’s imagination, intellect, and emotions and captures their essences on the screen. To pigeonhole this film and call it bizarre or weird does not give it enough justice. Though, it is remarkably bizarre and unquestionably weird, it’s also thought-provoking, sensitive, smart, and extremely innovative. One has become to expect these oddities from screenwriter Kaufman. But, unlike Adaptation’s more conventional theme and storyline, Eternal Sunshine defies all conventions…actually more like blows them away. If you are in the mood for something avant-garde yet you’re not quite ready for the French New Wave, watch this one.

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This is the story of how a small Australian town is turned upside-down overnight when NASA needs to utilize its large satellite for the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing. Sam Neill plays the by-the-book chief who has difficulties controlling his less-than-professional staff. I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this film, since it did not get much buzz when it was out in theaters. I was pleasantly surprised by the cast, the story, and the subtle way this film weaves together all of the plot points. A small dramatic film with quite a bit of comedy tossed in to make a sweet, unassuming film.

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First of all, I never thought I would be writing a review on a Wes Anderson movie. Or even an Owen Wilson film. So, it’s fair to say that The Darjeeling Limited is another film I didn’t think I would like…at all. But, unlike Wes Anderson’s other films, this one relies more on its plot and characters rather than on its inane quirkiness. A story about three brothers, all of whom have been estranged from each other for a time, who buried their father and are now on a quest to find their long-lost mother. Their quest takes them on a train trip through India, where their mother is believed to be in hiding. Yes, it’s quirky, but it’s a good, easy-going sort of quirky that I don’t mind. The Royal Tenenbaums and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou were seeping with quirkiness, and not an innocent, harmless kind either. The quirks here are not part of the plot — they are just little blips in the characters’ personas. It is a colorful, fun movie…a great road-trip film!

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