Jumble of Mumble

Drinking Buddies

Image via Wikipedia
Image via Wikipedia

The film, made for less than $1 million, stars well-known actors Olivia Wilde (Tron Legacy), Jake Johnson (Fox’s New Girl), Anna Kendrick (Up In The Air, Pitch Perfect), and Ron Livingston (Office Space). The improvisation is the thing most interesting about this film. Director Joe Swanberg only gave the actors outlines with plot points and what had to happen for each scene. Being a romantic dramedy detailing the status and complications of a relationship, the dialogue comes through very real and touching. The movie is set in a brewery and follows Wilde and Johnson’s character interactions along with their respective partners. A-

Related: Before Sunrise/Sunset, Like Crazy (Although it’s slightly more “light” in mood than these)

Tiny Furniture

Image via Wikipedia
Image via Wikipedia

Aura (Lena Dunham) returns to her parent’s home in Tribeca with no job and a film studies college degree.  She is stuck in the weird stage (that many college grads face) where she is post-grad but not yet in the real world. The film, shot for just $65,000 is not for everyone. The pacing is slow and nothing seems to be going on at first. Dunham shows the numbness that many (nervous, desperate, helpless) recent graduates feel but she doesn’t seem to give much more. Aura never does more than just shuffle around hopelessly. It’s a phase that many recent college graduates have but not of an extendedly long period. B-

Related: Perks of Being A Wallflower, Giant Mechanical Man

Review: Carpe Diem & Dead Poet’s Society

By the end of Dead Poet’s Society (1989), you won’t be able to get the motto “Carpe Diem” out of your head. Dead Poet’s Society is a drama film set in 1959 at a conservative school called Welton Academy. It tells the story of new teacher John Keating (Robin Williams) and his unconventional teaching methods. Keating inspires his class of students through teaching poetry.

Image by Touchstone Pictures via http://cinemud.com/dead-poets-society-1989-720p-brrip-x264-yify/
Image by Touchstone Pictures via http://cinemud.com/dead-poets-society-1989-720p-brrip-x264-yify/

The only storyline that is given depth is with the character of Neil (Robert Sean Leonard), who has ambitions to become an actor. His strict  father forbids him from doing so. He wants Neil to go to military school, then enroll at Harvard University for a career as a doctor. The pressure from his father and teachers at school drives Neil over the edge.

Robin Williams gives a fine performance as the boys over-the-top zany teacher. Williams brings a witty yet intelligent characterization to teacher. He articulates his words nicely and makes every word he’s saying meaningful. Williams was honored for his performance with an Academy Award-Best Actor nomination.

Being in a privileged, conservative and strict all boys school, the boys are sheltered from the many things of life. William’s character does unconventional methods of teaching in order to get the boys to start thinking for themselves and questioning the things in life.

Many people might be slightly disappointed by the film. The script does not fully develop any of the characters (including teacher John Keating). Scenes in the in the movie do not seem to fully fit together with each other. Many people might think the film does not explain the characters actions on their pursuit of “Carpe Diem” enough.

Despite any short comings one may experience, the film is sure to give one a new motto to keep in mind: Carpe Diem. Suck the marrow out of life and make your life extraordinary.

Although the ending to life has already been written, one can still compose the story.

Note: Apple recently made a commercial with the voice over of Robin Williams doing the “What will your verse be?” scene in Dead Poet’s Society.  The commercial is promotion for Apple’s iPad Air. Watch below.

Movie Review: Gimme Shelter

You know that weird gut feeling you get sometimes? It’s a feeling you get whenever your tired of seeing the same type of movie over and over. It’s the feeling I had after seeing over the top comedies and big action movies one after the next. Going to see Gimme Shelter was the solution.

Plot: 16-year-old Agnes “Apple Bailey (Vanessa Hudgens) is a troubled, aggresive girl who has lived in abusive environments her whole life. Apple’s mother June, played by Rosario Dawson, is a sleazy drug addict who doesn’t care much for Apple besides the extra welfare money she gets for being her parent. Apple, fed up with her living situation, sets out to find her long lost father. Upon meeting him, she finds out that he is a successful Wall Street Broker with a wife and two kids. After a dispute she leaves. Apple eventually ends up in a shelter for pregnant young women run by a spritiual women.

Main Point: Despite a line of capable actors, the film falls flat with dull dialogue and a script that does little more than go beyond standard cliches.


Slow mutterings start the movie. “I’m okay. I’m not scared. I can do this.” Apple says to herself in the mirror while chopping off her black hair strand by strand. It’s noticed from the get go that Apple is misguided, not having a clear head to make decisions. She is leaving the abusive house she lives in with her druggie mom. With an addressed letter to guide her, she lands at her long lost father’s house. Tom, her father (Brendon Fraser), greets her with a former look and a head of hair gel (typical).

Apple sticks out like a coffee stain on a t-shirt compared to Tom’s lifestyle. Tom lives with his wife and two kids in a wealthy, picket fence neighborhood. When the married couple find out Apple is pregnant, they schedule for her to get an abortion. Frustrated, she storms out and onto the streets again. Stealing a car and wrecking puts her in the hospital and under the guidance of a chaplain Father McCarthy (James Earl Jones).

Only halfway through runtime and the film is already unsettling. The dialogue feels weirdly unnatural. The acting and scripting does little to add originality to an environment that has been seen several times before. Apple is constantly in angst against the ones around her. Then suddenly shortly after arriving at the group home for pregnant teens, she changes. She likes the place she is at. There is stability and a sense of safety. The problem is that the viewer never sees this. The script does nothing to make it seem like  a new sense of being has been developed. The idea that Apple has developed close relationships and belonging with all the girls feels false. There wasn’t enough building. The whole film starts to feel like a gimmicky PBS TV special.

The start of the film was promising but interest quickly drops after Apple is taken into the care of the priest and group home. Despite the lacking script, Vanessa Hudgens, Brendon Fraser and Rosario Dawson give refreshing performances. This just isn’t the best work to see these actors in.  Hudgens shines farther with her acting chops in The Frozen Ground and Dawson with her performance in Kids. Rating: C

That Awkward Moment (film review)

“These are some weird tasting mints..”

“Yeah it’s cause their viagra.”


It’s easy to dismiss That Awkward Moment as another cliche, feel-goodie rom-com. It has the standard set of characters and scenarios to make it like others: main character is down on their luck, a talkative friend stands nearby and eventually the main character falls for another newly introduced character that is beautiful (but not conventionally so).

Suprisingly That Awkward Moment provides a fresh take on the romantic comedy film genre that many thought was dying. The dialogue holds viewer interest with its witty fiascos and funny liners. The film has a lot of “bromantic” nature to it yet it remains something that any viewer (male or female) could laugh at and relate to.

The film starts with Jason (Zac Efron) as he goes through a “break-up” with a girl he has been seeing for the past six weeks. She wants to break up yet he didn’t even know they were dating. He has a hard time deciding if he is “officially dating” any of the girls he sees. It doesn’t help that he has a talkative womanizer friend named Daniel (Miles Teller) who flows through girls with the help of a female friend luring them in to talk.

Things change when Jason and Daniel learn that Mikey’s wife has cheated on him. Jason and Daniel make a pack with him: stay single with him. Things prove tricky when Jason and Daniel both end up falling in love and have to start hiding it.

The film is hilarious and not like other generic love dove rom-coms. The dialogue points out common cliches of the bar dating scene. The film never seems to go stale as it tells the tale of a group of people trying to understand how to have a stable relationship with another person.B+

With the downward trend of romantic comedies and their less than stellar box office results, Director Tom Gormican took a good move in making the film (with a cast of well-known stars hot off successes) for only $8 million.

Film Review: Jack Ryan Shadow Recruit

Jack Ryan is back, this time going to Moscow to stop a Russian radical from  collapsing the U.S. economy. 2002’s The Sum of All Fears (with Ben Affleck in the main role) was the last time the Jack Ryan character has seen the big screen.  The late Tom Clancy started the successful literary series. Now five films in the film lineup, with Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, and Ben Affleck all having a slice of the Jack Ryan pie, the film series has a  history of reaping box office success (despite mixed critical reviews).

Plot: College-aged Jack Ryan (Chris Pine) decides to join the Marines following the 9/11 attacks. the decision to join leaves him skeptical and wanting more. A helicopter crash leaves him injured, retired from the military, and wondering what to do next. In comes mentor Thomas Harper (Kevin Costner). Harper recruits Ryan into the CIA, having him investigate companies on Wall Street suspected of funding terrorist actions. In the standard action move, Ryan discovers a plan by Russian radicals to collapse the U.S. economy via various transactions. Ryan is tasked with taking down the head of the operation Viktor Cherevin (Kenneth Branagh, who also directs) while holding together his complicated relationship with longtime girlfriend Dr. Cathy Muller (Keira Knightley).

Main Point: Everyone loves a good action/spy flick and this film , with it’s standard set of action intense scenes, satisfies that without being to over top.


The Jack Ryan name has been mostly forgotten following a string of successful action films in the past 12 years mostly due to the successful James Bond and Bourne film series. Action packed scenes and witty dialogue keep the viewer’s attention intact during the whole ride of 100 minutes runtime. The starring cast fill their roles well and Branagh, who has previous directed Thor, finds his filmmaking niche. The camerawork is great, shots done well, and the actors know what to do without feeling dull.

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is a great, solid film. The film’s MLK weekend opening didn’t attract quite the audience it was targeting (most of audience was over 50 rather than 18-25) it still holds well with it’s near 18 million debut opening. Go forth and watch it if you feel an adventurous itch inside or are tired of seeing the standard weepy rom-com’s and parodies this time of year. B+

“They can fix this crap on Elysium”

Elysium does not go deep into the immigration reform and social status issues that are displayed front and center in the film’s trailer. It doesn’t have to. Upon viewing the film, it provides enough exposure of a message without being too in the face about it.

image by TriStar Pictures via http://www.imdb.com/

Elysium works as a sort of but not really follow up to Neill Blomkamp’s feature film directorial debut District 9 (2009). Watching the movie, one can tell that it expands upon some of District 9’s themes of segregation and reform. The movie is set in 2154 when the earth is polluted and full of waste. The city of Los Angeles, where main character Max (Matt Damon) lives, is run down and filled with garbage. Wealthy people live on a space station habitat called Elysium that orbits earth.

Ever since he was a kid Max has always wanted to go to Elysium. They have everything: plentiful food, safety, and medical healing pods that detect and cure any abnormalities in seconds. After a factory accident involving radiation poisoning leaves Max with days to live, he decides to go on a mission to Elysium. Max wants to get to one of Elysium’s medical pods so he can heal himself and continue to live.

Audiences may feel a sense of refreshment when watching the films. It is one of the few action/special effects heavy films this year that has more than just mindless fight sequences and star power to offer. The movie lets people think about a dystopian world that might actually become a reality. Blomkamp said of the theme of the film “No. No. This isn’t science fiction. This is today. This is now.”

Since the film has a few loose ends it did not tie up, it leaves much of its dystopian/sci-fi future themes to the imagination. That shouldn’t scare away viewers. The film holds well in providing a good overview of what director Blomkamp was trying to convey. Matt Damon, Jodie Foster and Sharlto Copley all give solid performances.

Top Indie Films of 2013


Obviously there have been a lot of good independent films this year. I read an article that stated 2013 was the “Year of the Indie.” It is a strong declaration to make. Several mainstream big budget films this year did not fare well (RIPD, Turbo, The Lone Ranger, Broken City, and so forth). Below is a list of the films that had a positive reaction among many and seemed good word-of-mouth talk.

Before Midnight

Richard Linklater’s third installment in the “Before” trilogy follows a married couple who are in the challenging stages of their relationship. They met each other on a train in Before Sunrise (1995), nine years later they were reunited at a bookstore in Before Sunset (2004) and now, nine years later, are married, living in Greece with twin girls.

The film never fails to capture what a real life relationship is like. The script does a fine job of displaying the different perspectives in a relationship (leads Julia Delpy and Ethan Hawke share writing credit with Linklater for the film). Like the two previous installments, the film employees the use of (extremely) long takes to make the exchanges feel authentic and natural. The beginning of the film involved a 14-minute continuous take of Delpy and Hawke’s characters exchanging conversation in a car ride.

Audiences seemed to fall in love with Linklater, Delpy and Hawke’s characters all over again. Before Midnight went on the become the highest grossing film of the “Before” trilogy, raking in over $20 million worldwide against a modest $3 million budget.

The Way Way Back

Giving off a strong 80’s vibe (the movie was originally supposed to be set in 1983) The Way Way Back is a film about a 14-year-old socially awkward boy named Duncan (Liam James) who travels along with his mom (Toni Collette) and mean stepdad (Steve Carell) to a vacation at a beach house for the summer. At the start of the summer Duncan gets a job at a water park run by a talkative and fun-loving guy named Owen (Sam Rockwell).

The solid performances by Rockwell, Carell, and James keep the movie from being passed off as just another coming-of-age film with a socially awkward lead that a hipster would love. The script lets the variety of characters in the film shine without seeming too cluttered. Everything is tied up by the film’s end. The “summer that changed everything” is officially over. Duncan has made a new friend, Owen, and has a better sense of confidence in him.

The Way Way Back received acclaim from critics and went on to make $23 million from a production budget of just $5 million.

The Spectacular Now

It’s very hard to make a film chronicling the coming-of-age process for teenagers without having it suck. So many films have done. So many films have done it badly. The Spectacular Now is not one of those films. The Spectacular Now follows Sutter (Miles Teller) and Aimee (Shailene Woodley), two high school seniors trying to figure out their lives. Aimee has hers figured out and Sutter does not.

What makes the film great is it’s realistic and simplistic nature. The characters are played by actors that actually look like teenagers. There is no iPhone toting, excessive texting, or glamourized things going on. It is just Sutter and Aimee, navigating life, trying to figure out where to go.

Sutter and Aimee aren’t perfect. They make mistakes. They cuss. They were regular clothes. The viewer feels connected with them.  Teller and Woodley’s performances let the viewer feel like they know them. At the film’s end, one could feel good with the film.  The film depicts the age of 18, becoming an adult, effectively. Coming of age is no easy process.

The Spectacular Now received widespread acclaim. Teller and Woodley received the Special Jury Award for Acting at the Sundance Film Festival. Woodley has received an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best Female Lead. The film grossed around 6.8 million from a 2.5 million budget.