Wednesday, November 28, 2007

American Gangster

MUST-SEE: (Ridley Scott) What was proclaimed as the season's most violent gangster film may be more appropriate and welcomed as the season's most surprisingly entertaining gangster movie. For one, the violence rarely steals the direction of this script. Secondly, phenomenal acting flows out of every character, leaving no dull moments and certainly no monotony. American Gangster is a truly gripping tale of the infamous drug king, Frank Lucas. He was Harlem's finest, giving to the poor, loving his family, and selling the cheapest and finest "Blue Magic" cocaine in town. The film reveals the journey Lucas underwent to manufacture his magic, played tremendously by Denzel Washington, keeping the story dripping directly from his emotions, inevitably making it hard to root against him. Opposite a flawless Denzel is the equally impressive Russell Crowe. A divorced father to one and a too-good-for-his-own-good cop, Crowe adds a genuine intelligent naivety to the underground drug war. Black-balled by a corrupt police force for his good intentions, he finds a position He masters a white Harlem accent, looks the part of a no-good divorcee, and emphasizes his heart for justice that leaves that fence you'll be riding harder to get off of. From Scott, who brought you Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven, Gangster is never slow, always focused, and completely raw. It applies to a vast audience, whether you go to see Denzel, Russell, the historical values, or the intense story. Don't miss this movie.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Enchanted: A Happy Ending

MUST-SEE: Right off the bat, I know some of you are rolling your eyes or scoffing at the rating I give Enchanted. But heed my words and slow your tendencies to disregard, because this hilarious and perfectly over-the-top SPOOF on some of everyone's favorite Disney fairy tales is beyond any expectation I could have had. The story is the journey of an animated fair maiden (Amy Adams) destined to marry her sing-song prince (on the morning after they met), but instead is pushed into a well that lands her in the real New York City, by the evil stepmother (a sultry Susan Sarandon). Landing under the care of Robert (McDreamy) and his daughter, she barely misses a beat of Cinderella as she transitions into a world not meant for happy endings. Above all, the humor prevails. McDreamy faces Adams's constant urge to break out into song, her instinct to make a new dress out of his curtains each day, and her ability to summon all walks of life through the window of his apartment to help cook and clean. The screen is filled with laughter, ruffles and a spunky chipmunk that please the eyes of children, but the wit and satirical take on Disney makes this one a happy ending for adults too. Expect to finally be given a reason to laugh out loud at Cinderella's naivete, scoff at Snow White's furry following, and appreciate the outlandish plot for being a stretch beyond reality's boundary. It's funny, it's pretty, and might even make you want to sing your way out of the theater.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

King of California

WORTH-IT: (Cahill) Kudos to Mike Cahill for his debut film, King of California: a terrific, absolutely terrific, film about believing in yourself, and in your family. Performances from Evan Rachel Wood and Michael Douglas credit this film for the acclaim it deserved (and received) at Sundance this year. The film is eclectic with a Little Miss Sunshine feel, but it digs deeper into the mind, shifting towards a Big Fish storyline. To trust your father or not trust your father? That is the common question. It combines fantasy and real-life in such a way that makes you question which is authentic and which deserves more attention? Douglas's Charlie is a single hippie father freshly discharged from a mental hospital and living without restriction in the house he can't pay for. Daughter Miranda, who has been supporting herself by selling McD's for the last two years, rolls her eyes in constant frustration over her father's relentless insistence that while he was in the hospital, he discovered a journal revealing the location of a large Spanish treasure dropped in the 17th century. Once home, he delves into finding the buried treasure, dragging Miranda along. The journey the two take around California's developing hillside easily turns into a desire to grow closer together and get to know each other again. The script touches on learning to trust, learning to accept family, and learning to hope. Above all, it emphasizes to whole-heartedly believe in what you believe in. Chase your dreams to the end is the motto Charlie seems to live by, illustrated by his constant effort to continue a seemingly dead-end search. Even when the X-marked spot is six feet under a cement and re bar Costco floor, Charlie sees no reason to quit. The film is fantastic. It is funny, warm, smart, and silly. More than you'll swim in emotion, you'll giggle softly, rethink lines, and re-evaluate whether or not you too believe Charlie, or believe your own dreams. See this film for the phenomenal first-time film maker's success. It's a winner.

Dan in Real Life

WORTH-IT: (Hedges) From the director of What's Eating Gilbert Grape, comes another feel good about your sad family story. This rendition is a quirky mesh of The Family Stone and Wedding Crashers. There is family football, holiday food, and rivaling family members over female counterparts. This one is done well. Steve Carell tones down his outlandish humor into a quirky and sardonic single dad, working to raise two teenagers and one pre-teen who is "in the fourth grade and can make up stuff on her own." Dan in Real Life is a beautiful compilation of 'real-life' father-daughter struggles, family stereotypes, and a comical love story. Throwing phenomenal Binoche into the mix brings exotic flair to a normal family, notable only because they are so darn genuine. The story is endearing, although as Carell and Dane Cook defend their love for the same girl, I cannot find the ability to separate Cook from his stand-up. I can't help but laugh when Cook portrays each line and emotion with the same tone and gesture he does in stand-up. But despite the oddity of Cook's character throughout the story, it actually helped round off the quirky feel this film carries. No one is supposed to be babelicious. Nothing is out of the ordinary. Everything is predictable. So predictable, that you would be disappointed otherwise. Everything is believable. So believable that come the end, you will find yourself attached to the hearts of these characters. Maybe not Dane's, (he's really just filler) but definitely Carell and his daughter's, definitely Binoche, and certainly the family as a whole. It teaches love, and not the romantic kind- the unconditional kind. And that lesson helps this film succeed beyond other 'holiday feel-goods.' See this one with the fam, or someone you want to be next to when your heart becomes all warm and fuzzy and a few tears slip down your cheek.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Darjeeling Limited: Limited Flaw

MUST-SEE: (Andersen) I am just beginning to familiarize myself with Andersen's work, but this being my third exposure, I must say, he continues to impress, never fails to entertain and humor, and rarely wastes our time. With Darjeeling, Andersen dives right into the story, placing us with three grieving brothers on board a crowded Indian train known as the Darjeeling Limited. Recovering from the loss of their father and the disappearance of their mother, the bros are summoned by (Owen Wilson) Francis to reunite and reaffirm their brotherhood through a spiritual itinerary throughout India. The brothers do more than spar, as Francis resorts to hiding passports to keep either from leaving, Peter (Adrien Brody) accidentally releases a deadly snake into the cabin and Jack (Jason Schwartzman) mourns his love (Natalie Portman) to the point of shattering her perfume on the floor. Andersen's side-glanced humor flourishes with the eccentric relationship the brothers share, making the entire film's audacity seem hilarious. The family values moral creeps into each scene, giving Andersen's comedy some genuine credibility. It pleases the eye with an aesthetic touch on the dusty floor of the country, draws on the senses with the food and drink, and overall, Darjeeling succeeds in touching numerous emotion. I laughed, I sympathized, I hoped, and I feared. But most of all, I reiterate that I laughed. Treat yourself to this whimsy flick that should satisfy your funny bone and your heart.