Thursday, March 31, 2011

Thursday Token Themes

Welcome a new weekly feature here at Movies With Abe. I’m a hugely enthusiastic fan of film scores, and music is far too often an element of cinema that goes unrecognized. Therefore I present a platform for a look – or rather, a listen – to some fantastic film scores. I’ll be selecting a composer and one or more of their film scores for your listening pleasure, embedded from YouTube.

This week’s featured composer is Jon Brion, who has a mere nine feature film scores on his resume, but I could immediately reference three of them before I even checked out his other credits. Brion is a master of combining dramatic themes with interestingly upbeat and quirky modifications that really help to set the tone of the films in question. The four films listed below are also each distinctively unique and uniquely distinctive. The first, which sadly seems to be mostly absent from free online listening, is Paul Thomas Anderson’s layered 1999 film “Magnolia.” There’s a clip embedded below about Brion scoring the film, and you should turn the volume way up to get a peek at that. Brion’s score for that film is also paired with songs like “Wise Up” and “One is the Loneliest Number,” and I can conjure up images of frogs falling from the sky and coincidences being described every time I hear any of the music associated with the film. The first of Brion’s collaborations with Charlie Kaufman, “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” is a perfect melancholy tune to encompass the relationship between the film’s fading main characters. Everything written, score and song, for “I Heart Huckabees” is just brilliant and so wacky, and I’ve embedded “Monday” below. Lastly, here’s a rather beautiful piece from Kaufman’s “Synecdoche, New York” called “OK.” Listening to all of these, I'm easily transported back to the magical worlds of all these movies.

Magnolia (1999)



Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)



I Heart Huckabees (2004)



Synecdoche, New York (2008)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Wednesday Westerns: Johnny Guitar

Welcome a new weekly feature here at Movies With Abe. In an effort to provide a look back at older films and a desire to highlight a specific genre, I will be spotlighting a Western film each week, combining films from a course I took while at NYU called Myth of the Last Western and other films I have seen and do see. If you have a Western you’d like to write about, please let me know and feel free to submit a guest spot for future weeks!

Johnny Guitar
Directed by Nicholas Ray
Released May 27, 1954



If no can match the screen presence of John Wayne, then Joan Crawford probably comes the closest. This somewhat atypical Western puts a woman at the forefront of the action, despite what the title would suggest. Crawford’s Vienna stands strong as the owner of a casino whose establishment is constantly threatened by the unhappy locals who want her gone. The film does a magnificent job of capturing the isolationist nature of some Western films, as Vienna continues to wait for her business to start booming when the railroad is finally finished and travelers can reach the town. The sense of lawlessness in the West is rampant, as Vienna isn’t even safe within the confines of her own home and place of business. Villainy is well represented in the character of Emma Small, fiercely and brilliant portrayed by Mercedes McCambridge, who won an Oscar five years earlier for her debut performance in “All the King’s Men.” Emma makes for a perfect nemesis for the hard-headed Vienna, and watching the two of them interact makes for some of the best scenes in the film. There’s also the Dancin’ Kid, a troublemaker pursued into the mountains by the locals fed up with his criminal ways, and Johnny Guitar himself, a humorously sedated and old-fashioned fellow packing quite a punch. Also look out for token Western henchman Ernest Borgnine, who, at the age of ninety-four, is still working fifty-seven years after the release of this film, with three movies on tap for 2011 already. I couldn’t locate a proper trailer of the film, so instead I present the opening titles embedded above, and click on the video to be taken to YouTube to watch the entire movie.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tuesday’s Top Trailer: Beautiful Boy

Welcome to a weekly feature here at Movies with Abe, Tuesday's Top Trailer. One of my favorite parts about going to see movies is the series of trailers that airs beforehand and, more often than not, the trailer is far better than the actual film. Each week, I'll be sharing a trailer I've recently seen. Please chime in with comments on what you think of the trailer and how you think the movie is going to be.

Beautiful Boy – Opening May 20, 2011



In stark contrast to the past three weeks of this feature, where I’ve looked at light-hearted comedies, we have an extremely serious, sensitive drama. The tone of the trailer reminds me of both 2007’s “Grace is Gone” and this past year’s “Rabbit Hole.” This is a very touchy subject matter, and the trailer perfectly conveys that as the parents panic when they see the news and are then told “there’s more” by the officer coming to inform them of their son’s death. Ideally, this will be a film like “United 93” that doesn’t capitalize on tragedy and instead, like the trailer, understates its severity and allows the performances and the situation to speak for themselves. Michael Sheen is a strong dramatic actor who hasn’t had a superb role since starring in “The Queen,” and Maria Bello has also turned in fine, nearly Oscar-nominated performances in both “The Cooler” and “A History of Violence.” This is not going to be an easy film to get through, and certainly a complex and troubling experience. I’m sure there will be many people who won’t want to or be able to see it, but it looks like it could be profoundly moving and exceptionally well-done, and that’s my hope for this drama, due out in May.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Monday Movie on the Mind: Magnolia

Welcome to a new weekly feature here at Movies With Abe: Monday Movie on the Mind. I’ll be kicking off each week with a clip or trailer from a film that happens to be on my mind, designed as a retrospective look at some well-known, forgotten, or underappreciated classic from movie history, be it antique or current. Chime in with your thoughts about the film or any other movies that you might be thinking of this week!

Magnolia
Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
Released December 17, 1999

After perusing composer candidates for my Thursday Token Themes section, I started thinking about Paul Thomas Anderson’s brilliant, infinitely complex and creative “Magnolia.” It’s an ensemble drama that brings together an incredibly talented and diverse cast for a three-hour symposium filled with brilliant writing and marvelous camera work. Tom Cruise was the only actor who earned an Oscar nomination for his performance, playing against type as a chauvinistic sex guru, but there are plenty of other people who deserve some recognition, including Melora Walters as a cocaine addict, William H. Macy as a childhood game show winner, Philip Baker Hall as a dying game show host, Philip Seymour Hoffman as a kindly nurse, and Julianne Moore as an unhappy trophy wife, not to mention a stunning debut from the young Jeremy Blackman, who hasn’t done much of note since this film. The music of Jon Brion and Aimee Mann comes together in a magnificent way to support this fascinating, extremely multi-faceted story. There are three scenes in particular that come to mind instantly when thinking of this film, all of them equally unforgettable. The first is the film’s lengthy opening scene, which looks at the notion of chance through three mind-boggling stories. The second features each of the characters breaking out of their shells for just a moment to join in for a few bars of Mann’s “Wise Up.” The third, which can also be found on one of the film’s more terrific posters, features frogs raining from the sky. This is one movie where the three-hour runtime is well worth it, and I highly recommend it if you haven’t yet seen it.

Opening Scene



Wise Up



Raining Frogs

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Movie with Abe: White Irish Drinkers


White Irish Drinkers
Directed by John Gray
Released March 25, 2011

It’s 1975, and nice guy Brian Leary has aspirations of becoming an artist. Unfortunately, he’s stuck in Brooklyn with a dead-end job at a failing cinema, a troublesome brother, and an abusive drunkard father. This is the kind of movie that has been made so many times in the past and continues to be made again and again at least once every year, to the point where it seems like the script is following a playbook that spells out what obstacles the protagonists must encounter and how he is or is not able to overcome them and reach his true potential.

“White Irish Drinkers” is the type of movie that positions several well-known actors – Karen Allen (“Raiders of the Lost Ark”), Stephen Lang (“Avatar”), and Peter Riegert (“Crossing Delancey”) in the unenthusiastic supporting parts of parents and mentors, allowing the lead roles to be occupied by relative newcomers who haven’t yet anchored a film. That risky gamble is likely intended to lend authenticity to the film, and it only works somewhat effectively here. There’s such an incredible emphasis on nailing the New York accent that it seems like everything else comes second, including the quality of the performance. Their dialects may be spot-on, but this is just the latest case of young actors imitating the screen greats they’ve seen in Scorsese movies of yesteryear.

There aren’t many, or less kindly, any, surprises in “White Irish Drinkers.” After Brian (Nick Thurston) gets creative and fingerpaints a picture of his dream girl on the wall of a bar, the movie loses all sense of independence and becomes just like all its filmic predecessors chronicling the young adulthood of a New York in one of the more intriguing decades of the twentieth century. The Rolling Stones, jokes about computers that only take up one room, and plenty of other timely references are thrown in to drive home the fact that this is a movie about another era. There are moments where “White Irish Drinkers” approaches some sense of dramatic quality, but it quickly loses it by failing to think outside the box and get creative. By its end, “White Irish Drinkers” has tread and covered so much familiar ground without unearthing or bringing to light any new truths or conclusions that it just doesn’t seem worthwhile. Everything in the film feels heavily rehearsed, completely hammed, and generally uninspired, and even if it’s decently authentic, there isn’t anything to be discovered here.

D

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Saturday Night Movie Recommendations with Abe

Welcome to a new weekly feature here at Movies With Abe. Absent a wealth of new film reviews during the weekend, I’d like to start providing a handy guide to a few choice movies currently playing in NYC as well as several films newly released on DVD. I’ll also aim to comment on those films I have not yet had the chance to see, and I invite you to add in your thoughts on any films I haven’t seen in the comments below. Understandably, some weeks will have considerably fewer releases to address than others.

Now Playing in NYC

Peep World (recommended): This ensemble family dramedy is one of the most entertaining films of the year so far. You can read my review from yesterday, and I highly encourage you to stop by the IFC Center for one of the evening showings because this film, great as it is, likely won’t be in theatres for a while. You can also catch it on Video On Demand.

Of Gods and Men (recommended): Check out this fantastic French film that somehow wasn’t even nominated for Best Foreign Film at the Landmark Sunshine or Lincoln Plaza. It’s a highly moving, powerful story with terrific performances all around.

2010 leftovers (recommended): You can still catch some great 2010 films, like “Another Year,” “The Fighter,” “Inside Job,” and “Somewhere,” at the Village East Cinema. A few of those are already on DVD, but “The Fighter” and “Somewhere” might be worth the theatrical experience.

White Irish Drinkers (anti-recommended): This trite, overdone portrait of 1970s Brooklyn is entirely familiar and predictable. Check out my review tomorrow, but in the meantime, don’t bother stopping by the Landmark Sunshine to see this. It really shouldn’t be playing there.

I have no interest in Sucker Punch. I didn’t realize that the extremely controversial Miral, from Oscar-nominated director Julian Schnabel, is already playing at the Angelika and Lincoln Plaza. I usually like to see stuff for myself before dismissing it on content-related grounds. I never did see “The Passion of the Christ,” but that was mostly because the excessive gore I heard about didn’t appeal to me.

New to DVD

Skyline (anti-recommended): You can now see the second-worst movie of 2010 in the comfort of your own home. I implore you, please don’t. Don’t make the same mistake I did. Do it for me. It’s horrible. No redeeming values except some entertaining character deaths. I’d be much more interested in another film out on DVD this week, Battle of Los Angeles, which is the Syfy movie from last weekend rather than the film now in theatres. I’m sure it’s not great, but it has to better than this.

The Tourist (mixed bag): This film should have been much better considering the talent involved behind the camera, but it’s still fun. If you’re not looking it as a film that garnered three Golden Globe nominations over far more deserving movies and performances, it’s probably a whole lot more enjoyable.

How Do You Know (anti-recommended): This Reese Witherspoon comedy from December completely misuses its lead actress, and there isn’t anything terribly worthwhile about this film. There isn’t much more to say about it, just skip it.

Not too much out this week, and nothing too good.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Movie with Abe: Peep World



Peep World
Directed by Barry W. Blaustein
Released March 25, 2011

The best kind of ensemble dramas don’t have any clear-cut main character and instead make as much use as appropriate of every player. Family units make especially good fodder for such projects, and “Peep World” takes full advantage of that. It’s the story of four grown siblings with considerable quirks and bones to pick with each other, all coming together to celebrate their excessively rich and distant father’s seventieth birthday. Major events and life changes ensue on the day leading up to the big night, providing plenty of entertaining insight into the lives of the Meyerwitz family members.

“Peep World” assembles a wildly impressive cast among which there are no duds. Most among its numbers come from a television background, including all four siblings, Michael C. Hall (“Dexter”), Sarah Silverman, Rainn Wilson (“The Office”), and Ben Schwartz (“Undercovers,” “Parks and Recreation”). Patriarch Henry is played by Ron Rifkin of “Alias” and “Brothers and Sisters” fame, and the matriarch, Henry’s ex-wife, is played by Lesley Ann Warren, who has recurred on “Desperate Housewives.” On spouse slash significant other duty we have Judy Greer, currently starring on CBS’ “Mad Love,” Taraji P. Henson (“Boston Legal”), Kate Mara (“Jack & Bobby”), and Stephen Tobolowsky (“Glee,” “Californication”). Fortunately, the transition to the big screen in this film appears effortless and an enormous success.

Among the solid cast there are certainly a few standouts. Hall and Wilson, both of whom play socially awkward characters in their respective signature TV roles, bring their solitary natures to this large family and help to create two fascinating characters, one underappreciated and the other doomed to continued failure. Silverman is fun and unhinged as one might expect, and Schwartz graduates slightly form his obnoxious supporting television roles to join these more experienced actors and match them. Kate Mara, recently seen in “127 Hours,” is particularly mesmerizing and memorable as Meg, the assistant who helps Schwartz’s newly famous writer cope with his recent success.

The movie itself and its nutty cast of characters is reminiscent in many ways of “Arrested Development,” thanks in no small part to the monotone voiceover narration of one Lewis Black. Yet it’s hardly a carbon copy, and there’s plenty of originality to be found in this film. Additionally, its shortened standalone format necessitates a certain brevity and deep plunge into the inner thoughts and workings of the characters, which turns out to be extraordinarily satisfying. These are characters worth visiting again, yet this amusing, smart, entirely engaging movie does them just the right amount of justice.

B+

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Thursday Token Themes

Welcome a new weekly feature here at Movies With Abe. I’m a hugely enthusiastic fan of film scores, and music is far too often an element of cinema that goes unrecognized. Therefore I present a platform for a look – or rather, a listen – to some fantastic film scores. I’ll be selecting a composer and one or more of their film scores for your listening pleasure, embedded from YouTube.

This week’s featured composer is Angelo Badalamenti, whose main claim to fame is the TV series “Twin Peaks.” Though that doesn’t officially count as a film and I like to try to keep my TV topics separate from this site, it bears mentioning (and listening to) because it so influences the other work Badalamenti does. If you’re in the market for something that can be creepy, moody, dated, and gorgeous all at the same time, he’s your man. That’s part of the reason why he’s scored a number of David Lynch projects. While it’s not my cup of tea, take a listen to the main theme from “Blue Velvet,” Badalamenti’s first David Lynch score. To fully capture the Lynch/Badalamenti vibe (and to blur the lines between TV and film for a moment), watch the opening credits to the 1990 TV series “Twin Peaks” and then listen to “Laura’s Theme” set to that iconic shot of the dead Laura Palmer wrapped in plastic. I particularly love the abrupt, jarring shift in tone that comes around the 1:56 and 3:33 mark. Back to film, I can’t appropriately convey the awesome nature of his theme to the incomprehensible Lynch film “Mulholland Drive,” and it’s similarly difficult to explain just how much it contributes to the surreal, dreamlike feel of the film. For variety’s sake, here’s one non-Lynch composition, also one of my favorites, from the Jean Pierre-Jeunet film “A Very Long Engagement.” Fans of that film should have no trouble remembering the importance of “Matilde’s Theme” around 1:08 in to the structure and thematic nature of the film. Enjoy your listening, and while you’re at it, watch “Twin Peaks” and “A Very Long Engagement.”

Blue Velvet (1986)



Twin Peaks (1990)





Mulholland Drive (2001)



A Very Long Engagement (2004)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Wednesday Westerns: The Searchers

Welcome a new weekly feature here at Movies With Abe. In an effort to provide a look back at older films and a desire to highlight a specific genre, I will be spotlighting a Western film each week, combining films from a course I took while at NYU called Myth of the Last Western and other films I have seen and do see. If you have a Western you’d like to write about, please let me know and feel free to submit a guest spot for future weeks!

The Searchers
Directed by John Ford
Released March 13, 1956



It’s easy to start at one of two focal points when examining the classic westerns: John Wayne (or for that matter, John Ford) or Sergio Leone. Given that Leone’s influence (we’ll get to him in a few weeks) comes about a decade later than this film, which is hardly Wayne’s first rodeo. This is in many ways the prototypical Western, one of those films which was inexplicably ignored by awards bodies when it first released (despite the much inferior “Shane” receiving a Best Picture nomination only three years earlier), and now everyone has come to recognize it as an amazing achievement. There’s something about the way that Wayne staggers onto the screen and demands your attention but necessarily your respect that’s simply impossible to resist. Having him show up just as most of his family members are murdered leaves him left to avenge their deaths and track down the missing daughter (played by Natalie Wood), with Jeffrey Hunter, a.k.a. the future Captain Christopher Pike from the original “Star Trek” pilot, by his side. It’s also beyond intriguing to see this highly inaccurate portrait of interactions with Native Americans, and the fact that Wayne’s Ethan Edwards is fluent in their language represents an additional layer of drama and intensity ripe for analysis. The trailer above doesn’t quite do it justice. Even if you’re not a fan of Westerns, it’s hard not to appreciate this film.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tuesday’s Top Trailer: Ceremony

Welcome to a weekly feature here at Movies with Abe, Tuesday's Top Trailer. One of my favorite parts about going to see movies is the series of trailers that airs beforehand and, more often than not, the trailer is far better than the actual film. Each week, I'll be sharing a trailer I've recently seen. Please chime in with comments on what you think of the trailer and how you think the movie is going to be.

Ceremony – Opening April 8, 2011



I caught this week’s trailer, which has been out for a few weeks now, online via one of my most dependable trailer sites, Movie-List.com. I’m happy to include it since it looks like a wonderful independent film that I hope to see as soon as it comes out. In the leading role is Michael Angarano, famous for playing Jack’s son on “Will & Grace” and headliner of the Jared Hess bomb “Gentlemen Broncos” two years back. It looks like he’s playing a sort of Michael Cera alter ego in “Youth in Revolt” type, and it’s a superb part for the actor who has yet to find a role that fits him like a glove. Uma Thurman hasn’t done much in a while, so this should be a welcome return for her. I’m most thrilled about Lee Pace, onetime star of “Pushing Daisies,” putting on a British actor and piling on the pompousness to play the groom-to-be. The cast, which also includes Rebecca Mader, Charlotte from “Lost,” and Jake M. Johnson, the annoying friend from “No Strings Attached,” looks like a blast, and that’s not it. I like the old-fashioned suits and particularly Angarano’s mustache, and I particularly love that last little scene from the trailer. There’s something inherently wonderful – at least potential-wise – about wedding movies, and I can’t wait for this one.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Monday Movie on the Mind: Mulholland Drive

Welcome to a new weekly feature here at Movies With Abe: Monday Movie on the Mind. I’ll be kicking off each week with a clip or trailer from a film that happens to be on my mind, designed as a retrospective look at some well-known, forgotten, or underappreciated classic from movie history, be it antique or current. Chime in with your thoughts about the film or any other movies that you might be thinking of this week!

Mulholland Drive
Directed by David Lynch
Released October 12, 2001

There isn’t another movie quite like “Mulholland Drive.” Even director David Lynch’s earlier feature “Blue Velvet” isn’t really anything like it. While it’s hardly a perfect movie – or a comprehensible one – “Mulholland Drive” is almost inarguably the most hypnotic, haunting movie you’ll ever see. The trailer is mesmerizing and mysterious enough all by itself, and I’ll admit that a viewing of the film didn’t help to clarify any of its intrigue. I would certainly watch it again if the DVD I owned hadn’t been lent out to a neighbor and friend five years ago only to never be seen again. Preparing this week’s Thursday Token Themes post (hint, hint) got me all wrapped up in this movie all over again. Besides the music (come back later this week for that), the most notable aspect, along with its stunning, singular cinematography, is the lead performance by one Naomi Watts that was somehow ignored by Oscar voters and most other awards bodies. It’s one of the most incredible acting jobs I’ve ever seen, and certainly better than all of the Oscar nominees from that year (I haven’t seen “Bridget Jones’ Diary”). See Betty’s audition below for a small sample. It also takes a lot for a movie to be nominated solely for Best Director and nothing else, and that has much to do with the craft and unique allure of David Lynch and his singular style. This movie is one big, indescribable head trip, and it’s easily one of the most simultaneously captivating and confusing films I’ve ever seen. To cap it off, check out the two diner nightmare clips that display some incredible acting by Patrick Fischler, future Emmy-snubbed guest star of “Mad Men” and “Lost,” as well as the haunting Llorando scene, embedded from Hulu.

Trailer



Audition



Diner Nightmare





Llorando

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Movie with Abe: Hall Pass

Hall Pass
Directed by Bobby & Peter Farrelly
Released February 25, 2011

Some movies have the potential to be good, while others simply start off without much of a chance. Perhaps it was my mistake to believe that this film might fall into the former category rather than the latter. Among the ten or so films that the Farrelly brothers have made over the past two decades, they’ve had a few duds, including the unfunny “Shallow Hal” and the rather uninteresting and lackluster “Fever Pitch.” Their reputation doesn’t lend itself to high art, which isn’t necessarily a problem. Yet there are plenty of things about their latest film that don’t speak terribly well to their talents.

The notion of wives giving their husbands a hall pass is a rather outrageous yet simulateneously hilarious idea for a film, and therefore that’s not where the problems with this film begin. When crafting a comedy, it’s important to choose a proper tone around which to structure the film. It’s possible to have good, clean fun, and also to have lewd, over-the-top, vile humor. It’s also possible to have a mix of the two, as seen in many of the films produced by Judd Apatow. This film shoots for the latter only, completely bypassing any sense of subtlety. Therefore, having the guys go to Applebee’s to pick up women (something that should have been relegated to a one-liner, not ten minutes of screen time) contrasts sharply with the vulgar and rather despicable nature of some of the film’s later gross-out moments, which as it happens are few and far in between.

That reliance on body and bathroom humor becomes problematic almost instantly because the film attempts to reach an endearing resolution almost immediately by playing dramatic music and showing that at least one of its protagonists, Rick (Owen Wilson), actually does love his wife and wouldn’t want to do anything to hurt her, despite his talk. That setup makes the use of the hall pass feel almost forced, taking away considerably credibility and intrigue from the plot. That lingering sense of an attempt at a positive message is horribly unbalanced with the film’s immature humor, and hardly any of the jokes are funny. Wilson, as has been the case since in several recent films, isn’t trying at all, and more credit is due to the excitable performances of on-screen couple Jason Sudeikis and Christina Applegate. Jenna Fischer, who is so great as Pam on “The Office,” really needs to find better film roles. Ultimately, the film doesn’t hold water, and it’s more of a disappointing, frustrating, uncomfortable waste of time than a genuinely engaging comedy.

C-

Movie With Abe: I Am (Capsule Review)

I Am
Directed by Tom Shadyac
Released March 18, 2011



What insights does the man responsible for “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective,” “Liar Liar,” “Patch Adams,” and “Bruce Almighty” have to offer us? And more importantly, why exactly should we care? This extremely irreverent, rather off-the-wall documentary is all over the place and fairly incomprehensible. There isn’t much logic or sense to it, other than the fact that Shadyac decided to do some self-exploration after he got into a bicycle accident and he thought he’d expose it to the world. By the time he starts explaining that he can move yogurt with his brain, this movie has reached an intolerable point. It runs only 76 minutes and somehow feels like an inescapable eternity.

F

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Saturday Night Movie Recommendations with Abe

Welcome to a new weekly feature here at Movies With Abe. Absent a wealth of new film reviews during the weekend, I’d like to start providing a handy guide to a few choice movies currently playing in NYC as well as several films newly released on DVD. I’ll also aim to comment on those films I have not yet had the chance to see, and I invite you to add in your thoughts on any films I haven’t seen in the comments below. Understandably, some weeks will have considerably fewer releases to address than others.

Now Playing in NYC

Win Win (recommended): This new dramatic comedy from writer-director Thomas McCarthy (“The Visitor,” “The Station Agent”) stars Paul Giamatti and Amy Ryan. Read my review from yesterday, and definitely check this one out at either Angelika or Lincoln Plaza.

The Adjustment Bureau (recommended): I finally caught this film last weekend and can officially recommend it. Check out my review from last Sunday, and enjoy this part sci-fi film, part romance, and part NYC scavenger hunt. This one’s playing pretty much everywhere.

Hall Pass (mixed bag/anti-recommended): For some reason, I caught this comedy last weekend. The friend I went to see the film with would certainly recommend you skip it, and I would probably agree. Read the review tomorrow night.

I Am (anti-recommended): You’ll read my capsule review of this tomorrow and that, coupled with the trailer, should be enough to explain why you should steer clear of this documentary playing at Regal Union Square.

I’m still not so caught up. I might be interested in seeing Limitless, could probably pass on Paul, and didn’t opt for buying a $6 ticket to The Lincoln Lawyer because I just don’t care. The Last Lions isn’t my style, and I doubt I’ll get to Kill the Irishman. I promise you I will never see Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son. The only Martin Lawrence projects I’ve ever enjoyed are the “Bad Boys” films.

New to DVD

The Fighter (recommended): I don’t need to sell this Best Picture nominee and double Oscar winner (for supporting actors Christian Bale and Melissa Leo). If you haven’t seen it, now’s your chance. It’s terrific.

Hereafter (mixed bag): Unlike another supernatural drama starring Matt Damon, this one has quite a few issues. After a promising, intriguing start, Clint Eastwood’s latest just doesn’t quite deliver.

Hemingway’s Garden of Eden (anti-recommended): This movie is a superb visualization of excess and pretentiousness, and not much else. It’s a film that quickly devolves into being just like its characters: vain and only interested in itself.

Oscar-nominated documentary Waste Land, one of the five films nominated for an Oscar this past year that I missed, is now out. I haven’t seen it yet; has anyone? I will not be seeing “The Switch.”

Friday, March 18, 2011

Movie with Abe: Win Win

Win Win
Directed by Thomas McCarthy
Released March 18, 2011

Only one month after presenting a winning indie comedy, Fox Searchlight is back with another certifiable success. The third film from director Thomas McCarthy is considerably lighter than his two not-so-heavy previous films, “The Visitor” and “The Station Agent.” It combines the best aspects of those two films, including a tight, wonderful cast and detailed, complicated, ordinary characters, to create a fun and simply delightful film about a small-town family that gets an unexpected visitor whose presence shakes up and invigorates their lives.

Paul Giamatti and Alex Shaffer star in the film

Paul Giamatti has played a number of memorable characters over the past few years since graduating from the Hey! It’s That Guy! distinction of playing “hypertensive screamers commanding the audience’s reluctant sympathy.” In “Win Win,” he delivers his most natural performance yet as everyman Mike Flaherty, a lawyer and wrestling coach who realizes he just can’t make ends meet. A situation with a client and the sudden appearance of the client’s grandson begin to change things for Mike and his family. Giamatti does a great job of making Mike into an entirely endearing character, even if some of his actions and choices are somewhat questionable.

Stars Paul Giamatti and Amy Ryan discuss the film at a press conference

Giamatti is supported by an able and diverse cast. Amy Ryan, who has recently found success playing Holly on “The Office,” is equally relatable as devoted wife and mother Jackie, who doesn’t digest the events of her life in the film quite as easily and willingly as Mike does. Bobby Cannavale, a McCarthy favorite who earned positive mentions for his performance in “The Station Agent,” is energetic and hilarious as Mike’s attention-hungry best friend Terry. Screen veterans Jeffrey Tambor and Burt Young shine in small roles as Mike’s co-worker and his client, respectively. A great breakthrough performance can also be seen from Alex Shaffer, a real-life wrestler making his film debut as Kyle, the newest arrival to the Flaherty family.

Giamatti and Ryan in a scene from the film

There’s an authenticity to “Win Win” that results thanks to a combination of sharp writing by McCarthy and co-scribe Joe Tiboni and believable, authentic acting from the entire cast. It’s hardly a film where everyone is likeable, yet there’s a sense of understanding that exists throughout the film and between all of its characters that there is a legitimate explanation to all of their behaviors. There’s a smart and successful mix of wrestling and story that results in an entertaining, uplifting, and strong movie that is equal parts sports film and family film.

B+

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Thursday Token Themes

Welcome a new weekly feature here at Movies With Abe. I’m a hugely enthusiastic fan of film scores, and music is far too often an element of cinema that goes unrecognized. Therefore I present a platform for a look – or rather, a listen – to some fantastic film scores. I’ll be selecting a composer and one or more of their film scores for your listening pleasure, embedded from YouTube.

This week’s featured composer is John Powell, who earned his first Oscar nomination this year for the thunderous score to “How to Train Your Dragon.” What’s interesting about that composition (“Test Drive”) is that it stands in stark contrast to a number of his previous themes, starting out loud, strong, and celebrator rather than building from a subtle start. Take his first motion picture theme – “Face/Off” – which begins as a cool, smooth anthem and then gets considerably more intense right around the 3:40 mark as events in the film guide it to do so (more specifically, John Travolta being told not to “play chicken with the damn plane”). Consider also Powell’s affecting scores set to films based on real-life events, the heartbreaking “The End” track from “United 93” and “Testify” from this past year’s “Fair Game.” Both tracks in particular help to solidify and strengthen their films’ respective tones, and both go almost unnoticed as they simply serve to support the drama of the film. What I would term as my favorite and most identifiable Powell theme, however, is the music written for “The Bourne Supremacy.” Many will identify it as being from the third film in the series, but it was actually composed for the far superior second film and then re-used in “The Bourne Ultimatum.” The best track, “To the Roof,” starts off moody and then picks up and goes all out right around the 2:45 mark.

How to Train Your Dragon (2010)



Face/Off (1997)



United 93 (2006)



Fair Game (2010)



The Bourne Supremacy (2004)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

New York Sephardic Jewish Film Festival Spotlight: To Take a Wife

I had the distinct pleasure of attending one of the screenings held at the Center for Jewish History as a part of the 15th Annual New York Sephardic Jewish Film Festival. The film below was originally released in Israel in March 2005 and premiered on DVD in the U.S. in December 2009.


To Take a Wife
Directed by Ronit & Shlomi Elkabetz
Screened March 16, 2011

This film was co-directed by, co-written by, and stars American Sephardi Federation Pomegranate Lifetime Achievement Award honoree Ronit Elkabetz, whose credits include “The Band’s Visit” and “The Girl on the Train.” Along with her brother Shlomi, Elkabetz crafts a fascinating portrait of a marriage in trouble: a woman who just can’t take the banality and mundane nature of her daily life and explodes at her husband over the course of one day. Elkabetz’s performance as Vivianne, the fast-talking, over-the-top wife who simply can’t contain her frustration anymore is fierce and uninhibited. The dialogue is great, but it’s her enthusiastic and occasionally shrill delivery that really makes it believable, and quite entertaining when she wants it to be. Commendation is due also to actor Simon Abkarian, who plays Vivianne’s husband Eliyahu, a man completely out of touch with the needs and desires of his wife. The film addresses complex themes of religion, observance, culture, and societal acceptance, and it’s a brilliant snapshot into the life of one French-Israeli family.


Thanks for reading this special feature. The new Wednesday Westerns series will return next week!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tuesday’s Top Trailer: Super 8

Welcome to a weekly feature here at Movies with Abe, Tuesday's Top Trailer. One of my favorite parts about going to see movies is the series of trailers that airs beforehand and, more often than not, the trailer is far better than the actual film. Each week, I'll be sharing a trailer I've recently seen. Please chime in with comments on what you think of the trailer and how you think the movie is going to be.

Super 8 – Opening June 10, 2011



The last time a trailer debuted with a major mystery as its driving force and was associated with J.J. Abrams, we got “Cloverfield.” Now, Abrams is actually at the helm, rather than serving solely as a producer, and we have what should be a far more fantasy-oriented and kid-friendly flick. This trailer doesn’t provide an awful lot of information, but that’s the beauty of it. It appropriately conveys the magic and fantastical nature of what it is these kids witness while playing with their cameras, and it feels very much like a throwback to some of the recent classic sci-fi movies like “E.T.” and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” where children are privy to meetings with extraterrestrials and they’re not nearly as violent or dangerous as some other encounters with aliens in film these days. I’m sure fans of “Friday Night Lights” are thrilled that Kyle Chandler has a leading role (the main adult), and I’m particularly thrilled to see Elle Fanning following up “Somewhere” with this. She strikes me as the kind of young actress who would be great in anything. Ultimately, however, this film likely won’t be about the performances, but rather about the magic, the spirit, and the energy of childhood mixed with unexpected and out-of-this-world events. I’m decently excited – how about you?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Monday Movie on the Mind: Fargo

Welcome to a new weekly feature here at Movies With Abe: Monday Movie on the Mind. I’ll be kicking off each week with a clip or trailer from a film that happens to be on my mind, designed as a retrospective look at some well-known, forgotten, or underappreciated classic from movie history, be it antique or current. Chime in with your thoughts about the film or any other movies that you might be thinking of this week!

Fargo
Directed by Joel Coen
Released April 5, 1996

After reading G1000’s short but entirely accurate review and writing about the score in my Thursday Token Themes post last week, it would be hard for me not to have this movie on my mind right now. It’s easily the best film ever made by the Coen Brothers, and I’d rank it as one of the top five films I’ve ever seen. It’s a dark, moody thriller ripe with violence, yet it includes some of the funniest characters – with extremely nutty accents – ever to grace the screen. It’s hard to accurately convey just how incredible the performances of Frances McDormand, William H. Macy, and Steve Buscemi are, and it’s unlikely there will ever again be another character quite as memorable as pregnant policewoman Marge Gunderson. It’s impossible to pick just one scene to accurately capture the awesomeness of the film – this is a must-see. Start with the tone-setting opening scene, continue with this “Dealer Plates” scene (below), two other memorable scenes, and then the infamous wood chipper scene below if you’ve seen the film already. This movie is just incredible, and watching clips from it makes me want to watch it all over again.



Sunday, March 13, 2011

Movie with Abe: The Adjustment Bureau

The Adjustment Bureau
Directed by George Nolfi
Released March 4, 2011

Philip K. Dick’s science fiction short stories have been the basis for a number of high-profile films, ranging in quality from Steven Spielberg’s superbly futuristic vision of dystopia, “Minority Report,” to the incomprehensible garbage of the Nicolas Cage starrer “Next.” Fortunately, this one falls much closer to the former in terms of quality, enjoyability, and suspense. While it may not be overly complex, it is a simple love story enhanced by a fantasy setup where the characters don’t quite have control over the events in their lives. Their perseverance in the face of inevitability is inspiring, and this is one uplifting, enthralling film.

This movie succeeds largely on its assumption that less is more, choosing not to explain much of its mythology but instead to leave it mostly to the imagination. While some viewers will find that lack of detail frustrating, it ultimately helps to keep the focus on the characters and their motivations and relationships. The presence of the members of the adjustment bureau, ranging from the youthful Harry (Anthony Mackie) to the fast-talking Richardson (John Slattery) to the stern and unforgiving Thompson (Terence Stamp), is ominous but never overly dominant, serving as a shadowy, influential backdrop and not the central point of the plot.

The story follows a young politician, David Norris (Matt Damon), vying for a seat in the New York Senate. His chance encounter and immediate connection with a beautiful woman named Elise (Emily Blunt) leaves him able to think about nothing else, which makes his life even more difficult when he is unable to locate her to pursue a relationship. This is a great role for Damon, where he gets the chance not just to throw punches or run from danger but instead to embody a three-dimensional, somewhat immature character capable of functioning equally well in a romantic drama and an action thriller. Blunt is perfectly seductive and memorable, and the two make for a marvelous pair.

“The Adjustment Bureau” is equal parts strong drama, compelling thriller lite, and enduring love story. On top of that, there’s a bonus in store for New York City residents. The film features much running around the city, jumping from one major locale or area to the next, making it a fun scavenger hunt to recognize where the scene was filmed. That dedication to filming in the city gives the film an air of authenticity aided by the performances of its lead actors. The combination of believable characters and a supernatural love story helps elevates this film to a winning and thoroughly entertaining experience.

B+

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Saturday Night Movie Recommendations with Abe

Welcome to a new weekly feature here at Movies With Abe. Absent a wealth of new film reviews during the weekend, I’d like to start providing a handy guide to a few choice movies currently playing in NYC as well as several films newly released on DVD. I’ll also aim to comment on those films I have not yet had the chance to see, and I invite you to add in your thoughts on any films I haven’t seen in the comments below.

Now Playing in NYC

Another Year: How this film managed only one Oscar nomination, for Best Original Screenplay, astounds me. Lesley Manville delivered the performance of the year, and the rest of the cast was fantastic as well. With no DVD release date in sight, see this understated Mike Leigh film at the Angelika Film Center before it’s no longer in theaters.

Certified Copy: My review of this new film went up yesterday. For those who don’t like subtitles, it might not be the best choice, but it’s not hard to follow the fascinating conversation that happens between two strangers in English, French, and Italian. See it at the IFC Center or Lincoln Plaza Cinemas.

Of Gods and Men: I reviewed this one way back in September when I saw it at the New York Film Festival, and now it’s out and playing at both the Landmark Sunshine Cinema and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas. It’s #24 on my list of the best films of 2010, though it should really be on the 2011 list, where it stands as one of the strongest and most powerful movies released so far this year.

Oscar-Nominated Short Films: Both the live-action and animated shorts nominated for this year’s Oscar are still playing at the IFC Center. Two of the live action-shorts (“Wish 143” and winner “God of Love”) are definitely worth it, and though “The Lost Thing” definitely didn’t deserve the animated trophy, those five are pretty entertaining.

Rabbit Hole: Nicole Kidman’s Oscar-nominated performance wasn’t the only terrific element of this harrowing and moving drama, and I still can’t grasp why it didn’t get more attention. It’s still playing at the Cinema Village.

I admit I’m relatively behind on mainstream releases. I’m thinking about seeing The Adjustment Bureau (update: seen, and review will be up tomorrow!), Hall Pass, and maybe Battle: Los Angeles this weekend, and would also be interested, were there enough time in the week, to see Rango and Unknown. I’d also love to see The Human Resources Manager, Israel’s Oscar submission for Best Foreign Film from this past year, as well as HIMYM star Josh Radnor’s debut feature Happythankyoumoreplease. I could live without Beastly, Jane Eyre, Just Go With It, Mars Needs Moms and Red Riding Hood.

New to DVD (Mar 1 – Mar 8)

127 Hours
: This Best Picture nominee didn’t ultimately end up winning any Oscars, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t deserve a few. It’s one of my top ten best films of the year, and don’t let a scene you’ve heard horror stories about stop you from renting the DVD and averting your eyes only when necessary.

Four Lions: This British comedy about dumb jihadists is easily one of the funniest films of the year, and if you’re outside of New York, it likely didn’t make it to your home theatre. Catch this hilarious and surprisingly smart film at home now.

Inside Job: This documentary, without competition from “Waiting for Superman,” easily took home the Oscar in that category. It deserved it too: in his look at the financial crisis and how we got here, director Charles Ferguson doesn’t let his interview subjects dodge difficult questions or get away with canned responses. Don’t miss this one.

I’ve heard great things about A Film Unfinished and had a passing interest in Morning Glory that resulted in me missing it.

For those with access to Netflix Instant Streaming, under the "New Arrivals: Movies" section, I can highly recommend Fish Tank, The Freebie, and Daybreakers, as well as documentaries Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer, Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist, Rebel, and Freakonomics: The Movie.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Movie with Abe: Certified Copy


Certified Copy
Directed by Abbas Kiarostami
Released March 11, 2011

There are some films which focus on plot, some films which focus on character, and some which focus on visuals, whether effects or backgrounds. And then there are those rare gems that carry themselves entirely on dialogue and performances. In “Certified Copy,” which takes its title from the name of a book about duplicated art, it’s all about the conversation that comes from a writer visiting Italy and the woman who serves as his tour guide. At times snappy and at others utterly enchanting, the writing of “Certified Copy” is matched only by the caliber of its two lead performances.

Elle (Juliette Binoche) leads James (William Shimell) on a whirlwind tour of some of Tuscany’s most beautiful and serene sights, and it’s fascinating to hear the two converse. Elle is French and James is British, and as they are in Tuscany and both possess a working understanding of the languages, they switch back and forth frequently between French, English, and Italian. In whatever language, their dialogue is absolutely enthralling, as they explore their relationship and let fantasy get the best of them, making the most of the short time they can spend together before James has to leave to go back home.

It takes a skilled thespian to be able to pull off speaking in multiple languages and making it believable. Christoph Waltz astounded with his mastery of German, English, French, and Italian in his Oscar-winning performance as Hans Landa in “Inglourious Basterds,” but there’s an important difference here. Unlike perfectionist show-off Landa, Elle and James don’t have a complete mastery of their chosen languages. Elle can pull off cordial, casual Italian, but the quiet way in which she speaks betrays that it’s not her native language. And James chooses his words carefully to ensure that, in Italian, and, to a lesser degree, French, he doesn’t accidentally go outside the boundaries of his known vocabulary.

Both Binoche and Shimell are entirely convincing as realistic multi-linguists, and that’s not where praise of their performances should stop. Given that most of the film features one-on-one conversations between the two of them, the film rests largely on their shoulders. Binoche delivers an extraordinarily natural, down-to-earth performance as an energetic woman eager to pick the brain of and show the city off to the esteemed author in her company. Shimell imbues James with the proper pompousness and faux modesty when in public and then brings it back down when he enters into a more intimate setting with Elle. The dialogue is smart, mysterious, and ultimately irresistible, and with these two actors at the helm, this film is a real treat.

B+

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Thursday Token Themes

Welcome a new weekly feature here at Movies With Abe. I’m a hugely enthusiastic fan of film scores, and music is far too often an element of cinema that goes unrecognized. Therefore I present a platform for a look – or rather, a listen – to some fantastic film scores. I’ll be selecting a composer and one or more of their film scores for your listening pleasure, embedded from YouTube.

This week, we’ll start with Carter Burwell, a composer who has scored every Coen Brothers film. He specializes in foreboding themes for movies that blur the line between laugh-out-loud comedy and dark, deadly terror, and the music always enhances the feeling of the film and sticks with you long after the closing credits roll. For diversity’s sake, here are four mesmerizing scores, two from Coen Brothers films. The scores from those two are among my favorites, and I even used the track from “A Serious Man” to score my Oscar movie montage from 2009. And I still have flashbacks to a panicked Ethan Hawke driving away from the scene of the crime in that underrated 2007 film whenever I hear Burwell's theme. Also, listen to some samples from "Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus," an underrated 2006 film starring Nicole Kidman and boasting a mesmerizing theme by Burwell.

A Serious Man (2009)



In Bruges (2008)



Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (2007)



Fargo (1996)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Wednesday Westerns: Unforgiven

Welcome a new weekly feature here at Movies With Abe. In an effort to provide a look back at older films and a desire to highlight a specific genre, I will be spotlighting a Western film each week, combining films from a course I took while at NYU called Myth of the Last Western and other films I have seen and do see. If you have a Western you’d like to write about, please let me know and feel free to submit a guest spot for future weeks!

Unforgiven
Directed by Clint Eastwood
Released August 7, 1992



Starting with the first film that won Eastwood a pair of Oscars is actually an interesting choice because it represents an anti-Western of sorts. It’s also the first Western I ever saw, and the most recent one to garner major awards attention. Boasting terrific performances from the likes of Eastwood, Gene Hackman (his second Oscar-winning turn), Morgan Freeman, and Frances Fisher, it’s a fascinating exploration of the effects of violence and lawlessness, starring famed gunslinger Eastwood, no less, as a retired bounty hunter who comes out of retirement to avenge the mutilation of a prostitute and take down a corrupt sheriff. For this inaugural entry, I present a special treat: a final paper I wrote for the abovementioned Myth of the Last Western class which looks at these themes in excruciating detail. Be forewarned: in addition to being nearly 3,500 words, it’s also ripe with spoilers, so go watch this A+ film before you read it here. Also, if you’ve seen the film already, watch the clip below, taken from near the end of the film, featuring one of the most memorable scenes about good and evil that I've ever seen.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Tuesday’s Top Trailer: The Hangover Part II

Welcome to a weekly feature here at Movies with Abe, Tuesday's Top Trailer. One of my favorite parts about going to see movies is the series of trailers that airs beforehand and, more often than not, the trailer is far better than the actual film. Each week, I'll be sharing a trailer I've recently seen. Please chime in with comments on what you think of the trailer and how you think the movie is going to be.

The Hangover Part II – Opening May 26, 2011



Now that Oscar season is done and I’ll now be posting this series on a weekly basis again, I wanted to make sure that I was starting out with a film that is both highly anticipated by me and others and that had an extraordinarily well-done trailer. Lo and behold, I caught this trailer, which has been on the web for about a week, on the home page of IMDB. I saw the first film long after it was a sensation, sometime around December 2009 when it was on DVD. I enjoyed it a whole lot, and it’s not exactly the kind of film that seems set up for a sequel. Yet the premise is fun and the characters are a blast, and this trailer does a perfect job of overselling the hype while underselling the visuals. Providing snippets of glowing reviews, including “Now this is what I’m talking about” from Roger Ebert, is going to elicit a huge positive response in theaters when people see this trailer unaware of what it’s advertising. The sight of the three guys, again minus Doug, is just enough to indicate that it’s worth revisiting these characters. The music is terrific, and the dialogue is choice as well. Alan’s excited declaration of their reunion followed immediately by Stu’s hopeless “Oh God!” is a terrific reminder of just why these characters work, and the how and why of their situation is exactly the reason to go see the movie. Memorial Day is still a long way off, but this film is going to be a monumental hit, and from the looks of it, it might be quite hilarious as well. It’s not for everyone, sure, but it did win the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Comedy/Musical. Can this film survive becoming a franchise? I think it could.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Monday Movie on the Mind: Blow-Up

Welcome to a new weekly feature here at Movies With Abe: Monday Movie on the Mind. I’ll be kicking off each week with a clip or trailer from a film that happens to be on my mind, designed as a retrospective look at some well-known, forgotten, or underappreciated classic from movie history, be it antique or current. Chime in with your thoughts about the film or any other movies that you might be thinking of this week!

Blow-Up
Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni
Released December 18, 1966

This stylized film is a fascinating look into the world of photography and the trickiness of perception. Only moments in, we’re already introduced to Thomas (David Hemmings) and his rather aggressive style of photography, essentially simulating sex with his model using his camera. That’s only the beginning of this wildly trippy movie that manages to stay grounded despite sending its character into considerable conflict with reality. Hemmings plays his part admirably, as does a very young Vanessa Redgrave in his first major film role. The film is perfectly bracketed and represented by its first and last scene, both embedded below. There’s nothing like a mimed tennis match to really get you thinking about what's real and what's not.



Friday, March 4, 2011

Movie with Abe: Take Me Home Tonight

Take Me Home Tonight
Directed by Michael Dowse
Released March 4, 2011

For those craving an 80s film fix, this may be just the solution. While there have been some recent films that paid homage to 80s movies, such as “Easy A” and “Hot Tub Time Machine,” there hasn’t really been an 80s films in quite some time (perhaps since the 80s themselves). And who better to headline such a venture, filled with dozens of tracks from that fateful decade, than the onetime star of FOX’s “That 70s Show,” equipped with a clean cut haircut and just as little motivation to go out into the world and succeed as he encounters the next decade. Topher Grace stars as a highly educated, patently uninspired product of the 1980s in this thoroughly entertaining and enjoyable film.

A movie with a title like “Take Me Home Tonight” presupposes a limited time span, and therefore it’s no surprise that the film’s events take place over one gloriously jam-packed twenty-four-hour period. Nostalgia is in the air as the omnipresence of cell phones and computers is traded in for the allure of just living in the moment and, for Grace’s hero Matt Franklin, finally getting up the courage to tell his high school crush, Tori Frederking, how he feels about her. Armed with a made-up story about a fake job and a best friend more than willing to give him plenty of bad advice, Matt launches headfirst into what might well be the most memorable night of his life.

To call “Take Me Home Tonight” a great film isn’t quite an honor it deserves, but it’s hard to find too much to complain about when the film manages to suck its viewers in so completely with the energy, drama, and excitement of its protagonist’s big night. Grace has geeky appeal, and it’s hard not to sympathize with this loveable dork as he constantly bumbles his way through the night. It doesn’t hurt that his crush is fairly easy to like as well, not victim to the oft-invoked trope of the curtain being pulled back and the girl revealed to be not nearly as sweet or kind-hearted as romanticized. Matt’s best friend Barry (Dan Fogler) is also good-natured, and even Matt’s twin sister Wendy’s boyfriend Kyle (Chris Pratt) isn’t as much of a jerk as he could be. With such sympathetic, fun-loving, embarrassment-prone characters at the helm, what’s not to like about this film? It’s a harmless, enthralling throwback to simpler times and a musically-accompanied ode to living in and for the moment.

B+