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A fresh and funny character portrait
Premiering in this year's Sundance Film Festival's US Dramatic Competition, Andrew Bujalski's new dramedy Results is equal parts heartfelt, witty, and genuinely hilarious. Featuring standout performances from Guy Pearce, Cobie Smulders and Kevin Corrigan, the film tells the story of the Power 4 Life gym, owned and managed by Trevor (Guy Pearce). He dreams of opening up a new location and branching out his business a bit to rival his competitors. Who knows, maybe a future location downtown might even have an on-site juice bar or a new yoga room? Trevor's business plans get mixed up with that of Kat (Cobie Smulders) his coworker who has taken on a new ultra-wealthy client Danny (Kevin Corrigan) who is set on getting back in shape at any cost. The results (no pun intended) of these eccentric characters' lives being mixed together creates some highly entertaining scenarios, like when Danny develops a crush on Kat and tries to bribe her with marijuana, or when Kat and Trevor have spontaneous late night drinks with rival gym owner Gregory (Anthony Michael Hall).
Bujalski's work is infamous for being a mash up of vinaigrettes that encompass an overall story, and Results has received its fair share of criticism for not having an even tone. I panned Bujalski's previous film, Computer Chess for that every reason upon my first viewing. After some thought however, and a much-needed second viewing, I realized Bujalski's dedication to small details and his ability to avoid clichés and tropes makes him one of the most exciting indie directors out there. The writing in Results is near-perfect; you get a sense that these aren't just movie characters, but living and breathing people with their own set of complicated romantic desires and needs, and Bujalski captures them like a fly on the wall at their very best (and worst) moments.
Besides being Bujalski's most commercial and most accessible film, Results might also be his funniest. It's a fantastic and witty film - the kind of thing you would expect Wes Anderson or Woody Allen to come up with - one with such fresh energy and endearing characters hard not to like. It might not be everyone's cup of tea, but for those looking for some lighthearted-but- complex storytelling should look no further.
The Babadook (2014)
The scariest "children's film" I have ever seen
We are all familiar with the scenario: a young boy with an overactive imagination becomes terrified of the monster underneath his bed, and rushes to his mother for a therapeutic bedtime story. But what if this imaginary monster actually becomes real? This is the set up for a new Australian horror flick premiering at this year's Sundance Film Festival entitled The Babadook. Our protagonist, Sam, is terrified of monsters. So terrified he is loosing sleep, causing trouble in class, and creating his own sinister weaponry out of household objects as a means of defense. It's enough to drive his widowed mother, Amelia, into a frantic state of paranoia. As tensions between the two escalate, a new presence called the Babadook makes it's way into the household which questions the sanity of everyone involved. The film cleverly embraces and deconstructs typical horror film conventions in order to create something new. Though it is hilariously playful and entertaining, it's also a terrifying psychological thrill in the same vein as films like Black Swan or Rosemary's Baby. Essie Davis is great as Amelia, but newcomer Noah Wiseman gives an incredibly memorable child acting performance. If you are a horror fan looking for something new, look no further than The Babadook. Just be prepared to have nightmares afterward, and remember to leave the kiddos at home for this one.
Prince Avalanche (2013)
the feel-good bromance of the year.
If Emile Hirsch and Paul Rudd get stuck in the woods, does it make for a good movie?
This is the question Prince Avalanche asks of us, and the answer is a resounding yes. The film is a low-budget bromance that focuses on the relationship of two road workers revamping Texas roads after a forest fire wipes them out.
Spending weeks at a time isolated from society, our two protagonists get to know each other very well, and talk about everything and anything together – but mostly women. Alvin, (Paul Rudd) is dating Lance's (Emile Hirsch) older sister Madison, while Lance is constantly looking forward to the day when he can leave the forest and head back into the city where all the girls are.
The pair of actors are wonderful together, and it's their comical and engaging interactions that provide the framework for this movie. Director David Gordon Greene (The Sitter, Pineapple Express) is no stranger to comedy, and there are some brilliantly funny moments in Prince Avalanche, but the humor never takes full focus. There are long, meditative shots of nature mixed in with some great dramatic events that make this film a more reflective piece than a funny one.
Unfortunately, there is a bit of empty space, and some scenes drag on longer than they should. There is also this sub-plot involving an older alcoholic character that never really goes anywhere. Despite it's flaws, the highs and lows in Alvin and Lance's relationship make for a charming and inspirational story. Prince Avalanche is whole-heartedly an entertaining film that finds that rare sweet spot between the heart and funny bone.
I Heart Huckabees (2004)
Great characters, but the story gets jumbled up and confusing
Like he did with The Fighter, David O. Russel brings true talent out of an amazing cast of actors. Jason Schwartzman played his part perfectly, as did Mark Wahlberg and Dustin Hoffman. Naomi Watts, Jude Law, Kevin Dunn, Lily Tomlin and Isabelle Huppart all play wonderful supporting parts. There is even a scene with Jonah Hill and Richard Jenkins that is absolutely hilarious.
This movie seriously had me laughing out loud at some parts, but at other times, it becomes hard to follow and pretentious. The film touches on some aspects of philosophy, but never really dives deep into them. This gives the audience a chance to reflect on what is being said and try to make sense of what the characters are doing. It is a cool film, but nothing really great stands out about it.
Overall I Heart Huckabees just manages to scratch surface of what could have been a truly great film, and instead ends up being just a pretty good film with some really really great parts.
Source Code (2011)
Melodramatic and cliché, but overall very intriguing.
The dialog is a bit too cheesy at most parts. It is cringe-worthy, very poor screen writing, but overall the story is fascinating, unpredictable and original. Like with Moon, director Duncan Jones brings up very interesting food for thought. There are some REAL heavy ethical points here, but the film never dives into any depth with them. I felt there was so much more to explore with source code, and it would have been very rewarding if the the film was about 30- 40 minutes longer and ventured into some of the issues that the film only scratched the surface of. I felt the film barely had time to handle the fast-paced surface aspect of the story. The acting and action of the film was spot-on, though I wish the film would have had a different ending. Overall, Source Code is a great film, but had the potential to be something absolutely amazing like Moon was.