"So Let it Be Written... So Let it Be Done"

The life and times of a real, down to earth, nice guy. A relocated New Englander formerly living somewhere north of Boston, but now soaking up the bright sun of southwestern central Florida (aka The Gulf Coast). Welcome to my blog world. Please leave it as clean as it was before you came. Thanks for visiting, BTW please leave a relevant comment so I know you were here. No blog spam, please. (c) MMV-MMXV Court Jester Productions & Bamford Communications

Saturday, November 28, 2009

SNMR 7.16: "Management"


Mike (Steve Zahn) is the night manager at a hole in the wall motel in the Arizona desert, which is owned and run by his parents (Margo Martindale and Fred Ward). When Sue (Jennifer Aniston) a plain-looking businesswoman checks into the hotel, Mike is smitten. He then follows (or stalks) Sue all over the country in an aim to win her heart. In a last ditch effort, he follows her to Aberdeen, Washington, where she has moved in with her ex-boyfriend, ex-punk and yogurt magnate Jango (Woody Harrelson). Recruiting the help of his new best friend Al (James Hiroyuki Lao), Mike must find a way to get Sue away from him, but can he do it?

This is a film that was shown at the 2008 Toronto Film Festival but wasn't released in the US until May 2009 and then only in limited release, so it wouldn't surprise me if you've never heard of this film before. I actually managed to see it in the theater and had to drive longer than I normally would to do so.

For me, the enjoyment of this movie comes because it rings true all of the crap a guy will do to get a woman's attention that he likes, more often than not making a fool out of himself, or a bigger fool than he already is. Mike is just such a guy, played to razor sharp perfection by Steve Zahn. Creepy? Yes, but in a harmless way.

Sue is at first creeped out by Mike's actions but plays along, silently impressed by his persistence in his pursuit of her and probably a bit flattered too. Aniston takes a while to warm up to her character and her performance seems a bit stiff in the beginning. As the movie goes on she gets into her role and finds the right balance.

I don't care if Woody Harrelson's role has become typical for him. The fact is he's very good at filling these quirky characters and making them funny. My favorite line of his refers to a rooster. Perfect Woody Harrelson look and delivery.

First time director Stephen Belber also wrote the screenplay and was able to effectively relate what he wanted from his actors, as evidenced by their comments in an interview on amazon.com.

Of course, I had to buy the DVD when it came out in September. It has audio commentary by the director and Steve Zahn plus outtakes and some deleted scenes. As always, I wish there were more extras. I'm always a fan of cast and crew interviews.

You may or may not like this film, depending on your view of quirky, independent romantic comedies. I, for one, think it is a very funny movie with a satisfying story.

***½ out of *****

Management (2008, R, 93 minutes) starring Jennifer Aniston, Steve Zahn, Woody Harrelson, James Hiroyuki Lao, Fred Ward and Margo Martindale. The film was written and directed by Stephen Belber.


Saturday, November 21, 2009

SNMR 7.15: "The Reader"


The year is 1958 post World War II Berlin. A 16 year old boy is ill and vomiting in the heavy rain. An older woman helps him out, cleans him up and helps him home. Three months later the boy, Michael (David Kross) goes back to find and thank Hanna, the woman (Kate Winslet) who helped him. Soon a relationship develops between the two and they begin to meet regularly for sex. On one occasion Michael begins to read to Hannah, which she enjoys. Mysteriously Hanna disappears and their relationship ends. A few years later they meet again, though he is a law student and is surprised that she is on trial for Nazi war crimes, a part of her life he had no idea about. He holds a key piece of evidence that could sway the trial but will he use it?

I had been eyeing this movie in the store and online and had been tempted to buy it because I'm a fan of Kate Winslet and have been for years. Finally I saw it in the library and decided to borrow it. The movie was good but I'm glad I didn't buy it.

The story is told from the perspective of an older Michael, played by Ralph Fiennes, but not in the form of narrative. Rather it is told from memory flashbacks as a youth, until a certain point in the film is reached. This can be a cliched way to tell a story but it works well enough here.

Winslet, as always, gives an outstanding performance. I was thrilled earlier this year when she won the Academy Award for her role in this film, though I would dare say she's had other more Oscar-worthy roles than this. Fiennes gives a solid if unspectacular performance and young German actor David Kross is outstanding. Impressive it is that he basically learned English in order to play this role.

Director Steven Daldry, Oscar nominated here for the third time for Best Director, does a great job in keeping the story moving at a reasonable pace. I was pleased to learn in the DVD extras that Dalry worked closely with the author and screenwriter as well as collaborating with the actors as the movie was being filmed. Apparently the novel is big in Germany and may be a worthwhile read at some point.

The extras on the DVD were excellent and enhanced my enjoyment of this movie. This is the kind of film that I'm glad I have watched but is not one I can see owning or watching again any time soon.

**** out of *****

The Reader (2008, R, 124 minutes), starring Kate Winslet, David Kross and Ralph Fiennes. Based onthe novel by Bernhard Schlink. Screenplay by David Hare. Directed by Stephen Daldry. Kate Winslet won the 2009 Best Actress Oscar for her role in this movie.


Saturday, November 14, 2009

SNMR 7.14: "About Schmidt"


Warren Schmidt (Jack Nicholson) from Omaha, Nebraska, is facing a new challenge in his life: retirement - a challenge for which he is not prepared. He is a man who will never be ready for the first day of the rest of his life. He's also trying to figure out how he feels about his wife of 42 years, Helen, because of her idiosyncrasies and annoying habits. However, as Schmidt is soon to learn the hard way, she was the glue that held his life together.
As a bit of a good deed, Schmidt decides to sponsor a six year old boy from Tanzania, Ndugu, for $22 a month. We never see Ndugu, but every so often, Schmidt complains about his life to a boy halfway across the world who can't even read, via several letters he is encouraged to write to his sponsored child.

Schmidt decides to take a road trip in the super-sized Winnebago that Helen wanted. His destination is Denver, Colorado, where he hopes to put a stop to his daughter Jeannie's (Hope Davis) wedding to a likeable schmuck, Randall Hertzel (Dermot Mulroney) who sells water beds.

At the very end, Schmidt thinks he's led a worthless life, having zero effect on anyone else.

Nobody plays a disgruntled old curmudgeon quite like Jack Nicholson. In fact, it is on Jack's reputation alone that I even had interest in this movie at all. It's an interesting look at how a man can be unsatisfied with his life, especially as it unravels at his feet, and how he deals with it - or refuses to.

Hope Davis and Dermot Mulroney are excellent, as are Kathy Bates and Howard Hesseman in their limited roles. Bates seems to be in most everything these days and Hesseman will always be known and loved as WKRP's Dr. Johnny Fever.

Director Alexander Payne, who also co-wrote the screenplay gets strong performances from his cast, as both Jack Nicholson and Kathy Bates were nominated for Oscars in 2003. Despite Nicholson's versatility and typically strong performance, this was not his best role.

However, I think the film was too long, at just over two hours because sometimes the story got bogged down. I thought about stopping partway through but didn't because you never know when Nicholson will do something unexpected.

All in all this is a decent movie and a worthwhile rental or library borrow, especially if you are at or around retirement age.

*** out of *****

About Schmidt (2002, R, 124 minutes), starring Jack Nicholson, Hope Davis, Durmot Mulroney, Howard Hesseman, Kathy Bates and Len Cariou. Based on the novel by Louis Begley. Screenplay by Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor. Directed by Alexander Payne.


Saturday, November 07, 2009

SNMR 7.13: "The Lake House"


Alex Wyler (Keanu Reeves) is moving into a glass house on a lake. Dr. Kate Forester (Sandra Bullock) is moving out of that same lake house. Kate leaves a note in the mailbox for the next tenant, which Alex receives. The problem is he's actually lived there before her. Through the magical mailbox these two people discover that they are living two years apart: he in 2004, she in 2006. Despite the 'distance' in time, they begin corresponding with each other and eventually realize that they are meant for each other. Through the course of the story they share experiences and the memory of a chance meeting in which they danced and shared a tender kiss. How will they overcome the barrier that separates them? Can they overcome it?

This is the much less ballyhooed first screen appearance together for Reeves and Bullock since "Speed" (in comparison to DiCaprio and Winslet in "Revolutionary Road" (2008)) and it is a better than I thought it would be film. This is not a science fiction movie about time travel, with a love story rather hastily tacked on but rather it uses the idea of time warps and parallel universes to enhance a decently thought out story.

In order to better enjoy this movie, you must be willing to suspend your rationality and not try and figure out how the time warp/parallel universe scenario works and just be taken in by the story.

Reeves on-screen performances can sometimes be wooden, and he is here to some extent, yet he and Bullock easily recapture the chemistry they had in "Speed." That was motivation for me in wanting to see this movie, not to mention the fact that I was able to buy the DVD for under $5.

Argentinian born director Alejandro Agresti hasn't directed any movies I recognized. His effort won't wow you but he does enough with the film to keep it moving at a reasonable pace.

I always hope for some interesting special features included on the DVD. This movie only has the theatrical trailer and some deleted scenes/outtakes. No director, cast commentary or making of featurettes here.

It certainly isn't "the best movie I ever saw," as one amazon.com reviewer claimed, but it certainly isn't the worst either.

*** out of *****

The Lake House" (2006, PG, 98 minutes), starring Keanu Reeves, Sandra Bullock, Christopher Plummer, Dylan Walsh and Ebon Moss-Bachrach. The screenplay was written by David Auburn and based on the movie "Siworae" by Eun-Jeong Kim and Ji-Na Yeo. The film was directed by Alejandro Agresti.