127 Hours

Review By: Matthew Kerwin

Bio-topics are always difficult to do properly because  it’s a challenge to give the real person being depicted on-screen justice.  Danny Boyle  gets it right and does Aron Ralston and his amazing true story proud.

  The film 127 hours is based on the book Between a Rock and a  Hard Place, the story about Aron Ralston, a mountain climber who gets trapped under a boulder while scaling the canyons near Moab, Utah. James Franco plays Ralston and he does a superb job bringing Ralstons energy and demeanor  to the big screen. Aron has to go to desperate measures to survive, which means, to keep this G rated, will do some pretty crazy stuff to live.

Many things were done well in the movie, the cinematography was fantastic, for the wider shots, vibrant and scenic, for the personal and closer shots of Ralston,  very tight and isolated. The acting very well done as well.  The only thing I would change would be part of the script, I know it was based on Ralstons book but it would be very beneficial to get the viewer inside Ralstons head a bit more. The beginning of the film could have benefited from a little less from the side characters and more on Ralstons life.  I understand that the movie is mostly about Ralstons struggle with the boulder, but it would have touched home with insight on Ralstons life. It would have been smart to incorporate a scene with his family a few days prior to his canyon trip.

Having said that,the one con that  almost took me away from the movie was the music selection, or for that matter, the abundance of music throughout the film. Boyle decides to team up with composer A.R.Rahman again, but it doesn’t work. Throughout the movie we have Bollywood style music weaving into and out of a few scenes and then to top it off,  an auto-tuned Bollywood ballad during the more crucial scenes. Instead of having me lost within the scene, it had me laughing in disbelief. I might be in the minority, but I think minimalism would have worked for this movie. A little less music and more of a character study.

 Overall the movie was touching and very well done. I recommend this film to anyone that enjoys movies that are based on a real events and have real consequences.

Rating: B

Black Swan

Review by: Matthew Kerwin

Rating: B +

Independent film maker Darren Aronofsky adds another notch under his belt of high tension character studies. He showed us the harsh realities of drug use in Requiem for a Dream and the sad and desolate world of a wrestler, in The Wrestler. With Black Swan, Aronofsky shows us the cut throat world of competitive ballet. Going into this film i wasn’t sure what light the ballet would be perceived in, but boy was i mesmerized.

A young girl in her early twenties is in her room standing in front of a mirror looking at her small, petite, malnourished body. She has tears in her eyes, bruises cover most of her back and legs. She just got home from ballet practice and is still not satisfied with her practice session a half an hour prior. She starts to stand on the tips of her feet, they begin to crack and she winces in pain. She falls back down on her feet and reaches for her foot. As she slowly begins to take the ballet shoe off, her bandage reveals a small patch of blood. She continues to unwind the bandage from her foot and examines her toes. They are very disfigured, swollen and bleeding. She nonchalantly picks at her big toe and starts to peel away the nail. After disposing her nail she gets a fresh bandage, wraps up her foot, slips her shoe back on, wipes the remaining tears from her face and continues to practice.

Perfection is an understatement for this young ballet dancer named Nina, wonderfully portrayed by Natalie Portman, who will most certainly be nominated for an Oscar, for an extremely chilling performance about a ballet dancer who is driven to the edge when her professional drive overwhelms anything else in her life. She lives with her obsessive former ballerina mother Erica, (played by Barbara Hershey), who treats Nina like she is a five year old child and is also very jealous of Nina’s accomplishments as a dancer.When artistic director Thomas Leroy , (played by Vincent Cassel), decides to replace the aging ballerina Beth MacIntyre (Winona Ryder) for the opening production of their new, much more stripped down version of Swan Lake, Nina is at the top of his list. But Nina has competition: a new dancer, Lily (played by Mila Kunis), who in comparison is much more raw and carefree opposed to Nina, who is tame, shy and vulnerable. Swan Lake requires a dancer who can play both the White Swan with innocence and grace, and the Black Swan, who represents guile and sensuality. Nina exemplifies the White Swan role perfectly but Lily is the personification of the Black Swan. As the two young dancers expand their rivalry into a twisted and sensual friendship, Nina begins to channel her dark side, a sign that could lead to self destruction.

Clint Mansell adds a beautiful score that compliments the movie nicely, frame by frame. Mansell reinvented and used much of the original score from Swan Lake,  composed by the legendary Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.

Black Swan is a must see film this year, check it out!

Movie Review: A Serious Man

Reviewed By: Matthew Kerwin

Grade- A

The Coen Brothers have done it again!!  From the creative minds that brought us movies such as “Fargo”, “The Big Lebowski” and “No Country for Old Men” grace us with their latest film “A Serious Man.”

A Serious Man tells the tale of  Larry Gopnik, a Jewish physics professor (played wonderfully by the relatively unknown Michael Stuhlbarg) his wife and 2 kids who live in the suburbs of St Louis Park, Minnesota  during the late 1960’s.  The film centers around the father of the family, Larry, as he deals with a mid- life crisis. His wife informs she is leaving him for his best friend and to make matters worse, one of  Larry’s students is bribing him with money to get a passing grade. His annoying brother Aurthur is living on his couch, his son is experimenting with marijuana while struggling to pay attention in Hebrew school and his daugher is stealing money from him for a nose job.The film is said to be inspired by real life events based on  the upbringing of Joel and Ethan Coen, the movies directors.

What makes this movie work on so many levels is from the great job and approach that Michael Stulhlbarg brings to his character Larry.Larry could have been portrayed as a man who takes pity on himself and looks for sympathy and comfort from others. Instead, Stuhlbarg plays Larry as more of an optimistic and hopeful man who has fallen on hard times, but turns to faith for healing. Everyone around him seems to have a grudge or deep loathing hate for him, including his wife and kids. As the viewer i kept wondering why anyone could hate this man. He works hard, stays out of trouble and provides for his family. This movie isn’t laugh out loud funny, but has a quirkiness to it that makes you chuckle and feel for the main character as he struggles to make ends meet.

On a side note, The films cinematographer Roger Deakins re-teams with the Coen brothers after being absent from their last film “Burn After Reading” and does a masterful job getting great shots of Minneapolis suburban life. While the Coen Brothers stay on top of their game with a great written screenplay and a meticulous attention to detail as always.

For those of you who loved “The Big Lebowski”, “Fargo” and “Burn After Reading”, don’t expect the same kind of comedy from “A Serious Man”. It’s your more traditional black comedy and more serious in its approach, pun intended. 🙂 ( sorry)

I for one loved this movie and cared deeply for the main character Larry and caught myself cheering him on to turn his life around.

This is definitely in the top 5 of my favorite movies from 2009, go out and rent this!

Movie Review: Dear Zachary: A letter to a Son about His Father

Grade: A+

By Trevor

I am not one to write reviews. I normally don’t have the attention span nor the memory needed to deliver what I believe to be an accurate portrayal of how I felt about a movie. That being said, Dear Zachary is one of the most engrossing documentary (or films for that matter) that I have ever seen.

Directory Kurt Kuenne began making this movie as a tribute to his childhood friend, Andrew Bagby, a man who was allegedly murdered by his ex-girlfriend. We learn that the suspect, Shirley Turner, was pregnant with Bagby’s son. The doc then transforms into a way for Kuenne to tell Zachary, the child, about the father he will never know.

Throughout the film, friends and family of Andrew are interviewed and describe the man they all continue to hold in very high regard. Most noticeably, Andrew’s parents Kate and David speak about their son and their attempt to gain custody of their grandson. The two are the epitome of love and loss.

This documentary is the most emotionally powerful film I have ever seen. It leads you through sorrow and sympathy to downright disgust and anger. This film is beautiful, inspiring, and gut-wrenching all at the same time without being too over-the-top.

The scene that really got to me was (no spoiler) when the narrator, Kuenne, broke down while describing an incident late in the film. I really wish to say more but I believe that in doing so, I would be robbing you of such an emotional experience.

This is as real as it gets and I can’t recommend this film enough. I will be honest, it is difficult to get through at times, but hold out to finish this beautifully heartbreaking film.

Movie Review: A Town Called Panic

Review By: Matthew Kerwin

Grade: A

“OHHHHHH, NO!!!!!!”

Who needs logic when you can have panic? I just watched the craziest, pointless,dumbest movie to date, and loved every minute of it. This film was brilliant!

A Town Called Panic is a French stop animation film from directors Stephane Aubier and Vincent Patar a Belgian duo that bring this charming story to life. The film has no real plot structure or sense of direction. The town itself is always in a sense of, forgive me if you will, “panic”. The three main characters are Cowboy,Indian and Horse. Everyone in the town acts like incompetent children except Horse, who seems to be the sensible adult . Imagine as if a child decided to play with some action figures and created an imaginary world for their playground. That’s what A Town Called Panic would be like. All of the characters, except Horse move around on little platforms much like the plastic army men are positioned on. This doesn’t prove to be a problem though, because they all seem to get around fine sans any difficulties.

Without giving much of the plot away(as if there really is any) it’s Horse’s birthday so Indian, Cowboy and the rest of the town throw him a surprise birthday party. After the party, one absurd thing happens after another and the movie keeps you guessing until the final frame. If your looking to be entertained and want to watch a unique and delightful film a la Toy Story on speed, check out A Town Called Panic.

Movie Review: Brazil

Review by: Matthew Kerwin

Grade: B+

After watching Inception this past weekend it reminded me of another great dreamscape esque film known as Brazil, a surrealist nightmare from the mid 1980’s.

Brazil comes from the chaotic mind of Terry Gilliam. It tells the tale of a man known as Sam Lowry played wonderfully by Jonathan Pryce. Lowry is a shy and timid clerk that keeps to himself and has a boring job in a totalitarian society dominated not by people but machines.

Lowry has a vivid imagination despite being surrounded and controlled by machines that only compute right and wrong and see things only in black and white. Lowry is constantly at work in his cubicle daydreaming of a fantasy world where he is the hero and he must save a damsel in distress. Little does he know the woman of his dreams is avant-garde who plans a radical terrorist plot against the world. His imagination is the only way he can escape the new decaying society that he calls his home and his only place of solitude in a world that fails to stimulate and create. The film boast’s a wonderful cast that is rounded out by Robert De Niro as a vigilant repairman and Kim Griest as Pryce’s love interest.

Watching this film I kept thinking of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 or Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World because of its similar messages and undertones about futuristic bureaucratic societies.

The only negative note about the film would be the overall direction of the movie because some of the scenes run for too long. If you feel the urge to be entertained and also want something innovative and creative to watch, check out Brazil.

Movie Review: Inception

Review by: Matthew Kerwin

Grade- A+

From the director that brought us Memento, The Prestige and Batman, Christopher Nolan returns with his most daring piece of work to date. Inception is a film about the human mind, the concept of dreams and the subconscious and dreams within dreams layered in more dreams, sounds confusing, huh? It tells the story of a man, Dom Cobb a professional raider of information or extractor (Dicaprio) and his cohorts, Arthur (Gordon-Levitt) his associate, Adriadne (Page) a young and upcoming architect, Eames (Hardy) master of deception and Yusuf (Rao) the chemist. They are hired by a rich businessman Saito (Watanabe) to extract information from a rival corporate empire (Murphy).

To extract the information Cobb and his team have to perform what is called “Inception” (the birth of a new idea into another person’s mind, as if it was their own.) This task has never been done before and it is so risky that it puts Cobb and his team in jeopardy of losing their lives. Hence the question the viewer might ask. “Why would Cobb risk so much for another man’s gain?”

The answer is simple, because of the constant grief involving his wife Mal (Cotillard) and their two children, whom he is haunted by in his own dreams. Once he does this one last job he can return home to reunite with his family.

The film industry constantly comes up with washed up ideas, and remakes these days, but Nolan’s Inception is entirely original just like his feature length debut, The Following. The thing that is so fascinating is that his movies are so detailed, intricate, stimulating and challenging, but on a blockbuster scale. That is a rare treat in the modern world of cinema where everyone is paying to see explosions and CGI driven movies with no acting or talent behind them.

I really enjoyed this movie and cannot wait to see more of what Nolan has in store for us down the road. His career has blossomed ten fold since he rebooted The Batman franchise and he will have me holding my breath till his next film is announced.

Inception is Nolan’s Masterpiece. Go see this movie if you enjoy a mind-bending thriller, and don’t mind getting lost inside the dream’s of peoples minds. Be prepared its a clusterfuck.

Inception

Rated: PG-13

Written and Directed By: Christoper Nolan

Run time- 148 min