Ruby Sparks

A movie review from The Movie Snob.

Ruby Sparks  (B).  Okay, the premise for this independent flick is not the freshest.  Calvin (Paul Dano, Little Miss Sunshine) is a well-known writer with a bad case of writer’s block and a recurring dream about a mysterious girl.  At his shrink’s suggestion, he starts writing a story about a stranger who meets him and likes his dog Scottie, and Calvin decides to make the story about his dreamgirl, whom he names Ruby Sparks.  Lo and behold, soon after he starts writing the story, the girl of his dreams materializes in his house.  Ruby, played by Dano’s real-life girlfriend Zoe Kazan (The Savages), is clearly a graduate of the Zooey Deschanel Finishing School for Cute, Quirky Girls, and after verifying that he has not gone insane, Calvin understandably falls for her hard.  But Calvin is more than a little co-dependent, and when Ruby starts to want a little independence, a little space, Calvin is severely tempted to return to the typewriter (Yes, a typewriter.  Quirk!) whence she sprang and edit that particular aspect out of her personality.  I enjoyed it–Kazan wrote the screenplay and does a good job of making the characters behave pretty believably in a fantastical situation.  Worth a look.

Our Idiot Brother

A new review from The Movie Snob

Our Idiot Brother (C-).  I really wanted to like this movie, but it just didn’t work out between us.  Paul Rudd (Clueless), whom I usually like in just about anything, plays Ned, an amiable doofus who lives on an organic farm with his horrible girlfriend and who spends a few months in the slammer after he sells marijuana to a uniformed police officer.  When Ned gets out of the pokey, he finds he’s no longer welcome back at the farm and has to go sofa surfing with each of his three sisters in turn.  There’s unhappily married and unbearably frumpy Liz (Emily Mortimer, Match Point), tightly wound and unbearably witchy Miranda (Elizabeth Banks, The 40-Year-Old Virgin), and free-spirited lesbian-but-not-always Natalie (Zooey Deschanel, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy).  Ned’s utter lack of guile and penchant for saying exactly what he thinks causes all sorts of angst for his sisters, and I imagine the actors had fun playing these extreme types.  But it’s not that entertaining, and certainly not very funny, to watch.  And of course, being an R-rated comedy, it’s very and unnecessarily crude and vulgar.  I don’t think I laughed once until they started playing some blooper reels during the closing credits.

Your Highness

The Borg Queen transmits this DVD review.

Your Highness – F

If there was a grade lower than F, I would give it to this awful film that epitomizes much of what is wrong with society today.  The opening, gory scene glorifies and mocks rape, which unfortunately sets the tone for the remainder of the film.   In fact, the whole movie is about the “prince” saving his virgin bride (Zooey Deschanel) from being raped by some evil wizard – an event that somehow will create a dragon that he can control.   Scene after scene is all about masturbation, rape, molestation, sex with dwarves, bestiality, and women existing solely to please disgusting penis-and-breast-obsessed men – and joking about each and every one of those topics, as if that is okay.  The fact that people even made this movie is appalling.  The fact that people even think these are topics to joke about is disturbing.  Having forgotten the trailer I once saw for this film, I watched it because it features Natalie Portman, who is one of my favorite actresses.  She appears about a third of the way into the film.  Up until then, I was hoping that at least Queen Amadala’s, I mean Ms. Portman’s role would not be tarnished by the plethora of disgusting, indecent scenes plaguing the movie.  Unfortunately, that was not the case.  In the scene wherein Ms. Portman enters the film a bunch of bare-breasted, painted women are cheering on a disgusting fat man controlling some snake-like monster trying to kill the main characters in a fighting ring.  She also appears in a scene in which a minotaur is raping a court squire – and then proceeds to appear in the rest of the movie wherein one man wears the bloody penis of the minotaur around his neck.  This is far and away the most disgusting, awful, offensive movie I have ever seen.  I simply can’t think of enough negative adjectives to describe this movie.   I should get a medal for even finishing it.  When this movie was made, the world became a worse place.  My only hope is that no one else will ever watch it – ever.

(500) Days of Summer

DVD review from Nick at Nite

(500) Days of Summer

500 Days of I am a Little Sad and Bored. I really wanted to see this movie, so much so that I put it off for nearly a year. Reason. None. I think it was destiny. Like our protagonist, I was “destined” to see this movie – well after it had been released to the theaters, on DVD, pay per view, and your local cable provider. Here is my beef. I like quirky. I am even known to tolerate a romantic comedy. However, I am usually not too happy to invest an hour and a half in a movie that is not some sort of an escape. This movie was quirky. It was not romantic comedy. Perhaps it is the inner teen in me lashing out over failed relationships, but I really do not need to see another one on the screen. It is just too true. This is why I hated The War of the Roses and What About Bob? (I know What About Bob? is not a romantic comedy – it still makes me angry). If I want to see something serious, I’ll watch a biopic or catch shark week. If I want to watch people fall out of love, I’ll follow couples to the mall. It is faster and less painful. I give (500) Days a Summer a “B” for bummer.

The Movie Snob’s 2009 Year in Review!

Happy New Year, and welcome to my annual movie round-up. If I saw a movie in the theater in 2009, I consider it fair game for this column, even if it was technically a 2008 release. I saw 62 movies in the theater last year, and these are the most worthy of your attention.

Movie of the Year: My pick is The Hurt Locker, a taut thriller about the Iraq War that has a strong documentary feel to it. The actor who carries the movie, Jeremy Renner, does a heck of a job as a bomb-defusing expert. I think the movie recently came out on DVD, so check it out.

Runner Up: The number 2 spot goes to a 2008 release, The Wrestler, starring Mickey Rourke. He should have won the Oscar for his moving portrayal of a washed-up professional wrestler. The scenes in which he tries to reconnect with his estranged daughter, played by Evan Rachel Wood, are especially moving, but the whole movie is excellent.

Best Action/Adventure Flick: And my pick for the 3d best movie I saw this year would be District 9, the out-of-nowhere sci-fi movie about a shantytown of extraterrestrials living outside of Johannesburg, South Africa, and the clueless bureaucrat whose job is to push all the aliens into an even more remote concentration camp. I’m crossing my fingers for a sequel to this one! Honorable mention goes to J.J. Abrams’s reboot of the Star Trek franchise, even if he rewrote Trek history in the process.

Best Animated Feature: With the caveat that I haven’t seen The Princess and the Frog yet, I’ll go with the obvious choice of Up, in which a grumpy old man ties enough helium balloons to his house to fly all the way to South America. But except for the awesome opening montage that tells the whole story of the man’s life in just a few minutes, I didn’t think Up was really all that great.

Best Comedy: I’ll stretch this category a teensy bit and pick My One and Only, a winsome little movie that is supposedly based on episodes in the life of George Hamilton during his teen years. The redoubtable Renee Zellweger plays George’s mother, a hapless Southern belle searching for love in all the wrong places. I’m probably exaggerating its merits, but I really liked it at the time. Same goes for Management, a romantic comedy starring Steve Zahn and Jennifer Aniston. It involves a totally impossible romance, but the leads are so likable I just had to like the movie. In the category of crude yet funny, I liked I Love You, Man.

Best Documentary: Let’s go with the obvious choice and pick Disney’s Earth. Who doesn’t love a good nature documentary? I love ’em, and I’ll go ahead and mention Under the Sea 3D as being worthwhile too.

Best Drama: Or maybe it belongs in the comedy category, but either way I really enjoyed Up in the Air starring George Clooney and directed by Jason Reitman. It’s still in the theaters, so get out there and see it! Another movie that straddles the dramedy line is the quirky (500) Days of Summer, starring the quirky yet adorable Zooey Deschanel. While you’re at it, check out the CD she sings on, under the name She & Him. I was also grabbed by the 2008 release The Reader, although I still don’t know quite how I feel about that movie. It’s a strange one.

Best Foreign Film: I don’t think I saw too many foreign films this year, but I liked A Woman in Berlin, about the Russian conquest of Berlin in 1945 as seen through the eyes of one German woman. It was brutal without ever feeling exploitative. I also recommend the book, which I think is still listed as authored by “Anonymous” even though the woman’s identity is known. Another good one was The Class, or Entre les murs, about a French teacher trying to deal with a very fractious and multicultural classroom. Also, Summer Hours, a French movie that’s just a simple little family drama, well-told.

Honorable Mentions: I have a bunch of them. There’s Wendy and Lucy, a little movie about a sad, down-on-her-luck young woman played by Michelle Williams, and her beloved dog. Adventureland is a good little coming-of-age story starring Jesse Eisenberg of Zombieland fame. Moon is a thought-provoking little sci-fi movie. In the Loop is a funny look at the run-up to a fictitious (?) war as seen through the eyes of low-to-mid-level American and British government staffers. The Informant! is a straight movie about a bizarre guy; you just can’t help asking, “Is this really based on a true story? No, really?” Ellen Page scores again in the roller derby movie Whip It. The Coen brothers ask unanswerable questions in A Serious Man. And finally I will mention, based solely on the strength of their visual effects, Disney’s A Christmas Carol and Avatar. See them in 3D, I insist!

First seen on video this year: I haven’t done this before, but I’ll go ahead and recommend a few movies I saw on video this year. The animated feature Bolt is a cute one, about a dog who thinks he has super powers — kind of like a canine Buzz Lightyear. The original version of The Day the Earth Stood Still is still surprisingly good, and the 1963 version of The Haunting is still surprisingly scary. I also enjoyed the little-seen Luke Wilson movie Henry Poole Is Here, the classic Western The Gunfighter starring Gregory Peck, and the classics From Here to Eternity and To Have and Have Not.

So that’s my 2009 in a nutshell. Please post your comments and voice your own opinions!

(500) Days of Summer

A second opinion from Movie Man Mike

(500) Days of Summer (B). This movie gives you a pretty good picture of the highs and lows of relationships. After watching it, I had to see if it was written by a male, and yes, it was (Scott Neustadter and Michael Weber). The movie definitely presents the point of view of Tom Hansen, a young 20-something guy who gave up his dream of being an architect and went to work for a greeting card company. There, he met Summer Finn and fell head-over-heels for her. The story is full of charm and wit. Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Looper) has great comic timing as Tom Hansen and Zooey Deschanel (Yes Man) plays an intriguing and mysterious Summer Finn. It’s this mysterious part that caused me to wonder if the film was written by a male. We never really see what it is that motivated Summer Finn and her actions seem almost too mysterious, as if the writers didn’t quite understand her themselves and didn’t know how to write her character. I have no doubt that some of the mystery is intentional on the writers’ part because there’s a convenient story overlay to explain it, but I also wonder if they based the character on someone they met and couldn’t ever figure out. In any event, it’s an entertaining film and worth the price of admission. If you’ve had a recent breakup, I am not sure this is the film for you, but then again, it might be just the ticket to help you move on.

(500) Days of Summer

From the desk of The Movie Snob

(500) Days of Summer (B+). I enjoyed this independent romantic dramedy starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Stop-Loss) and the ever-quirky Zooey Deschanel (Yes Man). If you’ve seen any trailers or read any reviews, you can’t be too surprised by how the plot unfolds, but I’ll err on the side of caution and put a spoiler alert.

SPOILER ALERT *** SPOILER ALERT *** SPOILER ALERT

The story is not told in chronological order, so you learn really quite quickly that things are not going to work out between the ardent romantic Tom and the doesn’t-believe-in-love Summer. The pleasure lies in watching how it doesn’t work. The tale is told from Tom’s point of view, and we know from the start that he is committed to the belief that happiness is attainable, but only if you find The One You Are Meant To Be With. When Summer takes a job at the greeting-card company Tom works for, it’s easy to see why he decides she’s The One. But she’s honest with him: she’s looking for something casual, nothing serious. He must proceed at his own risk, and he does. To me, the movie generally felt real–the first pangs of infatuation, the giddiness when the early going goes well, the pain of loss are all well handled by Gordon-Levitt. And you can’t really hate Summer when things stop going well. She warned him. And she’s just so darned cute.