Film Review: Looper

Film Review: Looper

‘Looper’ had a pretty good challenge when it came time to promote. How do you promote a movie when you need to avoid giving anything away. This problem gives me a similar challenge, how can I talk about a movie that is difficult to discuss without ruining it? Very carefully.

Rian Johnson’s third theatrical effort (my second review of this week that is a filmmakers third feature film) follows his well established pedigree. ‘Brick,’ was a well constructed modern noir tale, and ‘Brothers Bloom,’ an excellently built “twisty-turny” con tale. With ‘Looper,’ Johnson enters the sci-fi arena, and the result, is great entertainment.

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Film Review: Ruby Sparks

Film Review: Ruby Sparks

Ruby Sparks, starring Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan is a fun, original romantic comedy from Little Miss Sunshine directors Jonathan Dayton, and Valerie Faris. Written by Kazan, she stars with her real-life boyfriend Dano, in a fun, and interesting concept.

Calvin (Dano), is a writer who peaked quite early in life. His first novel was published when he was 19, and he hasn’t (in his eyes at least) had a decent follow up since. Despite this fact, Calvin lives a rather comfortable life in Los Angeles, attending book signings, and being the objection of desire for girls who read his book while in High School. But, save for Calvin’s brother, Harry (Chris Messina), a sports agent, he leads a fairly lonely life.

Calvin frequents a psychiatrist, trying to work through his writers block. His doctor assigns him with some homework, to go home, and write something bad. He begins to write about a mysterious woman that has been the focus on his dreams. He finds himself inspired, and he starts writing more and more. Finding himself falling in love with the character he’s written, he continues to write furiously, if only to spend more time with her.

One morning, Calvin wakes up, and in true fantastical fashion, Ruby, the character he is writing, is making him pancakes in his kitchen. After the initial shock of materializing his ideal woman out of thin air. He accepts it, and carries on as if every things normal. Harry, shocked that his brother has literally invented a person, asks him to promise he uses the ability to control her via his writing, for “the sake of men everywhere.” Calvin however vows never to control her.

But, Ruby IS a real person, she feels, she has emotions, she has a temper. Despite having all the ideals Calvin wanted, the reality of the situation starts to come about, tempting Calvin into wanting to change her character. The film asks whether or not ideality actually exists, whether what one characters idea of the perfect woman is actually perfect when materialized. Also, the temptation of control, and the struggle of his character, especially in later scenes, is excellent.

There are great appearances in the film with Steve Coogan, another writer, and Harry and Calvin’s parents, played by Annette Bening, and the excellently cast Antonio Banderas.

When the film opens, we see Calvin typing on a typewriter, which instantly had me worried that I was in store for a hipster romantic comedy, but as the film goes on it is clear that many of the choices the filmmakers made were not just for the sake of being cool. The typewriter is just another way that Calvin cut himself off from the rest of the world. Any further than that, he’d be writing things out by hand.

The chemistry between Kazan and Dano is great, they play very well off of each other. Daytin and Faris do a great job directing Kazan’s writing, and the film, shot on the Digital Alexa, looks excellent. The locales, much like 500 Days of Summer, are great at showing you a side of Los Angeles that isn’t usually seen in films that take place there.

Ruby Sparks is an excellent, entertaining, and genuinely funny romantic comedy. Kazan’s talents both on the screen and on paper are greatly highlighted, and this film stands out as a great alternative to the otherwise late-Summer doldrums.

IFFBoston 2010 Review: The Extra Man

A coming of age story of a young wannabe high society “gentleman,” mentored by an older gentleman whose “been there.” Sounds like a film we’ve seen before. But I assure you, ‘The Extra Man,’ is much more fun, and a fresh take on an old theme, and executed with excellence.

Directed by the husband-and-wife team of ‘American Splendor,’ Robert Pulcini and Sharin Springer Berman adapted ‘The Extra Man,’ from Jonathan Ames’ novel.

Louis (Paul Dano) is summarily dismissed from his job as a teacher following an awkward incident involving women’s lingerie in the teachers lounge. In an effort to find himself, Louis moves to New York City, in hopes of becoming a full-fleged writer. Louis is fascinated with a long gone era, a period outlined in books like ‘Great Gatsby,’ and ‘Washington Square.’

He answers a listing for a room and meets Henry (Kevin Kline), a strange, eccentric writer who lives his life quite peculiarly. His apartment is quite the sight, antique furniture coupled with lawn chars, and bowls filled with christmas ornaments. But, fascinated by Henry, Louis agrees to move in. Henry is quick to begin to teach Louis how to have a glorious social life in New York, by becoming the ‘extra man’ to aging billionaire widows.

The hilarious fact is, despite is age and the way he presents himself, Henry is no more high society then Louis. Henry doesn’t see himself for what he is, a very skillful moocher. Using these older women for fine dinners, parties, and rooms in their Palm Beach summer homes.

The plot thickens, when Louis realizes that he fantasizes about two very different lives, a member of high society, and dressing like a woman. He also has a crush on his coworker Mary (Katie Holmes), but, his shy awkwardness prevents this from going anywhere.

The film could have very easily been pretentious and annoying, but the humor and characters are so self-depricating you can’t help but laugh. The film is filled with hilarious moments, and Kline fills the shoes of Henry so well, you almost forget he’s acting. As I mentioned earlier about Henry’s apartment, the films production design, as well as their wardrobe fit the characters flawlessly.

The film also has John C. Reilly as a strange neighbor with a curious voice (you have to see it, I’d hate to ruin that), and he steals the scenes he’s in. Holmes, plays her part of the dizzy uninterested girl extremely well. But at the end of the day, this is Kline and Dano’s movie, and they own it well.

‘Extra Man,’ is a smart and funny film, and I think the directing hands of Berman and Pulcini combined with the skill, presence, and comic timing of Kevin Kline make this a film you should check out.

IFFBoston 2010 Spotlight: The Extra Man

IFFBoston 2010 Spotlight: The Extra Man

Based on the novel by Jonathan Ames, ‘The Extra Man’ tells the story of a failed playwright, Henry (Kevin Kline) who becomes a mentor to a troubled and aspiring playwright Louis (Paul Dano). The unusual circumstance of this relationship begins when Louis sublets a room in his apartment to Henry.

Henry teaches Louis the art of being an ‘Extra Man,’ accompanying and entertaining wealthy older women in their lives.

From the married team of American Splendor, Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini adapted the screenplay with assistance of its writer. The directors told the audience at its premiere at Sundance that they sought out Kline, but were concerned whether or not they could land him. From what I’ve read about the film, Kline owns the part, and was eager to take it on.

Boston audiences should be excited, because not only do they get to see ‘The Extra Man’ before its full theatrical run, but Kevin Kline and directors Berman and Pulcini will be in attendance at the screening. Also, Mr. Kline will be accepting the IFFBoston 2010 Career Achievement Award.

“The Extra Man” screens the opening night of IFFBoston 2010, Wednesday April 21st at 7:30pm.

To purchase tickets for this opening night screening, as well as other screenings at IFFBoston, click here.

Poster For “Taking Woodstock” Released

Poster For “Taking Woodstock” Released


The poster for Ang Lee’s new movie has been released.   Rolling Stone magazine debuted the poster for “Taking Woodstock,” a movie based the memoir of Elliot Tiber, who helped create the Woodstock music festival.

The movie stars Emile Hirsch, Demetri Martin, Paul Dano, Liev Schrieber and Jeffrey Dean Morgan.  I should let you know that I only learned that from IMDB, and not from the poster, which is a little difficult to read in places.  (However, movie studios, please don’t take this as a complaint and I’d rather see a poster that made me want to see the GD movie instead of a poster that told me clearly who was in it.)

“Taking Woodstock” comes out August 14th.

“Wild Things” Poster Released

“Wild Things” Poster Released

wildsmall.jpgThe poster for Spike Jonze’s latest movie, an adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s well-known children’s book, “Where the Wild Things Are,” has been released.

The movie, which has undergone several re-shoots and missed several release dates is now scheduled for release this coming fall.  “Wild Things,” features voice work from Forrest Whitaker, Paul Dano, Catherine O’Hara and James Gandolfini.  The screenplay was co-written by Jonze and Dave Eggers.