1.28.2006

Pre-Nups

To some, love is negotiable and based on pretense. In a day and age of the prenuptial agreement, Jeana Blackman and her film crew have created a light-hearted comedy about a married couple who plays by the rules – or at least knows how to break them.

“Pre-Nups” is a story about a corky upper-middle class couple whose relationship is sewn together with a legal contract. The wife diligently tries to hide her hobbies and the husband diligently tries to expose them. Sex, babies, and daily habits are all part of the game. The clauses are tiring but the couple insists that it’s love.

Great characters and bold actors are the highlight of this film. Structural problems with the visual and auditory aspects of the film are a low-light to “Pre-Nups” possibilities. The opening credits are distastefully large for a short film and the soundtrack, although fitting, dominates the dialogue at times.

In all, Blackman’s crew has potential. The camera does a good job of telling the story and accentuating a mood, especially in the opening scene where the husband’s return to home is portrayed like Patrick Bergin in “Sleeping with the Enemy” (Dir. Joseph Rubin, 1991).

“Pre-Nups” screened at the 2005 Los Angeles Short Films Festival.

11.20.2005

Pre-Nups

To some, love is negotiable and based on pretense. In a day and age of the prenuptial agreement, Jeana Blackman and her film crew have created a light-hearted comedy about a married couple who plays by the rules – or at least knows how to break them.

“Pre-Nups” is a story about a corky upper-middle class couple whose relationship is sewn together with a legal contract. The wife diligently tries to hide her hobbies and the husband diligently tries to expose them. Sex, babies, and daily habits are all part of the game. The clauses are tiring but the couple insists that it’s love.

Great characters and bold actors are the highlight of this film. Structural problems with the visual and auditory aspects of the film are a low-light to “Pre-Nups” possibilities. The opening credits are distastefully large for a short film and the soundtrack, although fitting, dominates the dialogue at times.

In all, Blackman’s crew has potential. The camera does a good job of telling the story and accentuating a mood, especially in the opening scene where the husband’s return to home is portrayed like Patrick Bergin in “Sleeping with the Enemy” (Dir. Joseph Rubin, 1991).

“Pre-Nups” screened at the 2005 Los Angeles Short Films Festival.

11.19.2005

Mercy Seed Photos








11.16.2005

Mercy Seed

Anthony Seck’s “Mercy Seed” is a cinematic examination of the human condition active in worldly conflicts; a film that brilliantly portrays the act of an external influence as the solution to a seemingly tragic ending.

Floyd is a modest farmer who makes an honest living raising pigs. He takes pride in his work and doesn’t react well when a transport driver for Road King carelessly falls asleep at the wheel. He becomes even more upset when Tuffy, the owner of Road King, reacts threateningly to Floyd’s complaint. Floyd sets out for a vengeful apology, armed with the pains of the past and accompanied by a young woman running from her present.

Seck’s protagonist is a refreshing twist on the vengeful. Floyd’s a well-developed, complex character whose calm disposition in the face of anger and disappointment is alarming. His disdainful emotions are channeled through wood chopping so intense, he’s destroying the present and the past.

Seck’s ability to convey emotion through the lens is a continuous thread through the film. The Ontario landscape as Floyd and his companion travel to Tennessee transitioning into northern American farmland is beautiful and pleasant, juxtaposing the current mood of the film. The serene landscape paired with ill emotion is much like Floyd: a stoic outward appearance with a much deeper makeup. Even more impressing is how Seck chooses to reveal Floyd’s more complex insides. This moment is powerful, driven by flashbacks and the flashing lights of an ambulance, creating a sense of urgency and anxiety.

“Mercy Seed” isn’t just about a man traveling on the road to revenge. It’s a film about the intangible world’s interaction with humanity and the flow of the universe; a thought provoking, spiritual jolt reflecting life’s rarities and wonders.

11.12.2005

Apocalypse Oz

Ewan Telford has developed a film of incendiary proportions. “Apocalypse Oz” is a mixture of Francis Ford Coppola and Victor Fleming with thick metaphors and psychology.

Telford’s “Apocalypse Oz” is a dark comedy bordering cheesy and lined with mawkish connotations of a well-known childhood favorite, “The Wizard of Oz” (1939). Telford utilizes “The Wizard of Oz” plotline and characters and manipulates the storyline from “Apocalypse Now” to formulate the mission of Dorothy Willard as she seeks out The Wizard with the ultimate goal of assassination. The stakes are high and the story dense with psychology as Telford reveals The Wizard is in fact Dorothy’s father who left young Dorothy to live with her abusive aunt and uncle, unfolding an intricate web of resentment and retribution.

What’s most impressive about the story development is the broad spectrum of metaphorical possibilities this film offers. There are political and social commentaries that are sly and witty; the metaphors covertly reside in dialog and subtly in scenery and action. Of course, the story itself lends to an in-depth psychological exploration of Dorothy Willard, a social deviant who blames her current conditions on her father and the past. However, Dorothy is not a trustworthy protagonist; her perception of the world is black and white. When she enters the world of color, she rejects her revelations and returns full circle to her personal nightmare.

Telford’s work appears anything but amateur, and effectively portrays the desire to escape through powerful auditory effects. In the beginning, sound dominates the scene, creating a sense of anxiety and rebellion that emphasizes Dorothy’s plight. In fact, one way to interpret this film is similar to a dream: everyone in the dream concerns the dreamer directly; the dream is the dreamer.

The acting is the weakest element of the film; the actors lack charisma and consistency; at times Dorothy doesn’t convey her fierce attitude. Rather, she loses strength behind her voice and comes across as shy, leaving her punk attitude to convey nothing more than a façade. The most enjoyable character is the greeter and gate keeper – similar to the gates of Oz – with his country-bumpkin dialect and innocent, naïve disposition.

The roughly finished screener already surprises and amazes me, and the finished product, with perfected sound and special effects will certainly not disappoint. In fact, I predict “Apocalypse Oz” will hit be a cinematic explosion in the independent short film arena.

10.16.2005

Gretchen Lieberum: Siren Songs

Gretchen Lieberum
Siren Songs
Rosie Records

The newest release from Gretchen Lieberum, Siren Songs sets a sweet, sultry mood that embraces the romantic sounds of jazz woven with steady lounge electronica vibes. Gretchen’s lyrics and voice glide like honey across eardrums at a pace that tickles heart strings reminiscent of Billie Holiday, Fiona Apple and Zero7. Setting the mood with candlelit piano rhythms, Siren Songs magnetizes lust and longing of petal soft skin and rainy mornings in bed.
Siren Songs dropped Oct. 1. Visit www.gretchenmusic.com and http://www.myspace.com/gretchenlieberum.

10.09.2005

Better Than Sex

What can be more enjoyable, sensual and satisfying for a woman than sex? Shoes, of course! They’re dependable, reliable and a girl can always ditch one pair for another pair without any emotional discourse or struggle. Directors Tina Cardinale and Christopher Burns of Mythos Productions simulate a Stomp beat production dedicated to women and their love for shoes in “Better Than Sex.”

Moans, sighs of excitement and the sounds of shoes tapping the pavement wrap into a catchy beat that grabs excitement and induces lust for shoes. Sexy feet resting confidently on jewel crested sandals and strapped high-heels, and close ups on women as they express their sincere desire and passion with orgasmic exclamation accentuates that this film places shoes on a higher plane.

A simple storyline with basic shots, Cardinale and Burns build their film on sound. Visuals are paired with well-orchestrated beats that increases intensity for footwear. Actors aren’t the main focus of this film, and its obvious that the casting was well directed toward this concept because although all the women are good looking, there is an absence of a dominate character and overacting.

It may be easy for some women to become offended by such a claim that something as materialistic as shoes takes priority over sex. But, it’s obvious that this film intends to be humorous. Bright colors, close ups and cheesy expressions are all part of the game. Without the title head, it would be pretty hard to decipher that shoes are better than sex. There’s an outright sexual connotation in regards to the presence of shoes, but without the title, the film could simply be about women’s love for shoes.

9.25.2005

Arc

From Beef Tips On Rice Productions, care of director/writer Steve Gelder, comes a truthful portrayal of a small-town escapee in the big dreams of Los Angeles only to find his goals lost in the city’s energy and thwarted by his unresolved marriage.

“Arc” is an intellectual, yet light-hearted comedy, concerning Steve, a slipper wearing, uninspired screenwriter, timing his day by the amount of beers he drinks on a bench while he waits with his buddy for their daily entertainment from a local crazy. Paralyzed by the city, Steve is an inactive character until his predictable interaction with the homeless man unexpectedly fails. It is this moment that sends our lackadaisical characters from warming the bench to walking the streets in search for the infamous bum.

Gelder’s film is predominately a dialog driven story that proves tiresome until the climatic incident that leads Steve to alter his pointless path. It’s the script’s consistent bald exposition that drives disinterest in Steve’s life, resulting in disinterest in the film. It can be assumed that Gelder intended to set up Steve’s life as a lack of passion and ambition so that his character arc is obvious and definite. He uses a situation to inspire the main character to induce an arc, falling in accordance to Steve’s realization that a character cannot wait for a sign to make a change, a character must be proactive and interactive.

Gelder’s parallel between the story’s plot points and Steve’s realizations is what makes it a cohesive and thought provoking film. The film loses strength in its dependence upon the cognitive regurgitations of Steve and his dreadlock-wearing buddy, but regains momentum from afterthoughts arising in moments following the films conclusion. It can be said that reflections of this film can create an audience arc in perception of this film. Hey, that’s a lot of arcs.

8.01.2005

The Most Beautiful Man in the World

Remember being a little kid, sitting around the house, whining, “I’m boooooored” in hopes that something of worthy entertainment will save you from that dreadful situation? Maybe you sat in front of the television in daze, attracted to its mind-numbing pleasure. Alicia Duffy (U.K.) shows how one little girl’s mundane day similar to this is altered by a mid-day stroll in “The Most Beautiful Man in the World.”

Duffy’s film really captures a boring day with extreme close-ups on a dismayed face, slow images and wide open fields. At first the little girl’s day appears to be her choice, but at the conclusion of the film there is a different interpretation that leaves the child helpless.

After lying on the carpet, wondering around aimlessly, and indulging in some mediocre shows on the tube, a little girl decides to take a hike through a field by her house. Along her journey she comes across a man. Maybe it’s the way he pays special attention to her that attracts her to the stranger. Although he is tempting to the little girl, his sexual nature makes the audience uncomfortable, allowing the child’s innocence and naivety to have significant role.

Duffy doesn’t leave the viewer with a definite narration to the story; it’s part of the brilliance to this short. The mother doesn’t have dialog in this film (the little girl has one line), so her actions are portrayed solely by the reactions of the child. Depending on character actions and camera positioning to tell the story is the foundation of any great film.

7.31.2005

The Morning Guy

Who can stand an alarm clock? It’s a rude awakening from sound sleep, an escape from the working world and a break from reality. The plus about an alarm clock is you can hit the snooze or shut up the incessant buzzing with a hit of a button. How would you feel if your spouse was your alarm clock and not just a nudge, no, more like an annoying morning talk show host that has no “off” button? Mark W. Gray shows the perfect scenario in “The Morning Guy” when a man’s wife is awoken in this very manner and reaches the end of her rope.

The Morning Guy: he knows the time, the temperature, traffic conditions, witty factoids about sports, and he doesn’t shut up! The Morning Guy’s wife awakes to this torture, one can imagine, every day. He follows her around the home as she gets ready, filling her head with meaningless babble and commercial jargon. When she takes the leap to get out of bed (and life) from her hubby, his broken record is never stifled.

The set is also well-done in respects to lighting and simple set dressing. The female actor’s hair and make-up really exemplify her insanity about the situation. Gray’s story is hilarious! He must listen to a lot of morning radio shows when he arises or has developed a vexation for this type of wake-up call. He really nails his storyline, ending it with a slam dunk. I almost wished it was longer so I could see what the rest of the poor wife’s days were like before.

7.30.2005

Blaze Orange

Street musicians are occasionally viewed as unemployed bums and social disturbances. In “Blaze Orange”, Kevin Kilduff takes a more personal look at one musician’s struggle with surrounding venders and the law that forces viewers to recognize a contrasting perception.

Tom Ryan plays his piccolo on State Street in Madison, Wisconsin that is designed to showcase musicians and rhetoricians. He’s no ordinary street musician; he wears loud orange clothing and plays a high-pitched instrument. Some people, like Kilduff, find him interesting. However, the street venders that occupy this street find Ryan’s style of music to be annoying. They have also been successful at getting the law involved in convicting Ryan of “unreasonable noise.” Kilduff digs deeper into Ryan’s personal life and the cases brought against him to produce an intriguing yet disorganized storyline.

Kilduff does a great job of allowing the viewer to see deeper into Ryan that builds compassion and attachment. He attempts to show an unbiased perspective with vender interviews as well as people that are in favor of Ryan’s music.

Weakness lies in the structure of the story, which lacks elevation and flow. The story dives deeper into Ryan’s life without suspense or careful timing. Another issue is the integration of venders’ comments throughout the story. The story would benefit more if the venders were simply a set-up instead of an element that is continually revisited.

Kilduff’s camera shots for the interviews is consistent, which is nice, but it comes across as uncreative. An oddity of Kilduff’s style is his use of black and white at the closing of the film. First instincts would say it’s unnecessary, but the second is that it’s a creative way to fade out of a film.

Kilduff’s idea to explore deeper into a life of a street musician, especially one with such an interesting lifestyle, is commendable. He takes the viewer into another world, informing us of a local fame and possibly alters viewers’ thoughts on street musicians.

"Blaze Orange" is won the Best Student Film Documentary at the 2005 Wisconsin Film Festival. View Kevin Kilduff's film: http://www.kevinkilduff.com/blazeorange/

7.28.2005

Space Off

It’s interesting how media has the ability to comment on its own means of communication. One can observe how entertainment media varies from news broadcast media, and more disturbingly how similar they behave. In a way, it’s become a social evil in that it draws away from the subject at hand by elevating drama and denying the human element in some cases. French filmmaker Tino Franco’s “Space Off” portrays an exaggerated yet truthful expression of a newscast covering breaking news.

Blast off: you’re about to be exposed to the media of today. Jane, large blonde hair and loud personality, is the broadcaster for a news channel reporting on an infamous landing on Mars where astronauts are hoping to gain new knowledge of the planet. In fact, Dr. Hoffman and his team have already made a monumental discovery without stepping foot on the planet; however, Jane is more interested in the dramatic fluff.

Camera shots are focused on meaningless space shuttle extremities while Jane reiterates continually the importance of her station, the Global Television Network, reporting first on this amazing moment. She attempts to get the crew to dramatize and invest camera time to discussing their previous loss of contact, ignoring Hoffman’s desire to speak of his scientific discovery that would in fact be more interesting and pertinent information.

If Franco proves anything it’s that news can be over zealous and dramatic. The politics of media keep the public from being informed about important issues and the hyper-technology used to elaborate and visualize a situation along with rhetoric of loud, bodacious proportions alters the intention of this service; news reporting becomes the barrier for communication.

7.20.2005

And the Red Man Went Green

Ruth Meehan’s “And the Redman Went Green” is a tale about one tiny moment in a woman’s life that awakens her from old age and reminds her that life is beautiful.

The story is like a fairytale with a handsome prince gallantly sweeping his princess off her feet. Enriching sounds and visuals that focus on a dreamy atmosphere are prominent factors in creating Meehan’s vision. At times, the film emulates designer running shoe commercials.

The story itself is one-dimensional, but for the time devoted to the story, it is executed well. It leaves one with a warm feeling towards the woman’s experience and ends with a loving tale to think about.

Cloud Symphony

Love is a fantasy at times, both romantic and lyrical, with unpredictable occurrence. Shogo emulates the dance of a relationship that came at the wrong time in his short film, “Cloud Symphony,” that explores young love at a time of personal growth.

Two early twenties adults are joined by the clouds’ mysterious and wondrous presence. Their chance meeting becomes a partnership as they travel through the plains of the Midwest, attempting to catch up with clouds. Their unspoken bond leaves them together and yet apart.

“Symphony’s” perfectly planned shots bring beauty to the wide-open landscapes of the fields in which he sets his story. The coloration of the sky and fields creates the painting-like dream the female character designs in her memories of her love. Dialog scrolls on the screen with simultaneous Japanese narration paired with stoic characters, creating poetic perfection. Shogo’s use of movement is his strong point; the moving shots while on the road are beautiful pictures that contribute to his visual metaphors.

In the way that love has an intentional façade to shelter from one’s negative aspects; Shogo’s art does not perform with perfection. The film has careless mistakes that could have been avoided, such as misspelled subtitles that are sometimes also grammatically incorrect. Contrasting to his beautiful scenery, Shogo disappoints the viewer by periodically pulling them from the dream of being in love with the use of black screens that silently display dialog. It’s understandable that the intention is to create a gliding, silent pace but it’s a show stopper and maybe the element that proves this film as an amateur production.

However, the film has a very good display of cinematography and editing. The director and other crew members are most certainly talented and have great potential for their art. Possibly next time they will put a little more time into the minor details.

Here Was the Anthem

Sergio Umansky from Mexico directs a stunning example of a joy ride turned disaster he satirically names, “Here Was the Anthem.”

Two upper-class pals are on a mission to score some dope in an impoverished portion of a Mexican city. Dirty cops must have picked up the smell of their reluctance and are hot on their tail. Instead of arresting the boys and throwing them in jail, they take the boys for a ride that will change their lives.

Umansky’s perception of Mexican cops is frightening and gut-wrenching. The stakes are high and the young men are helpless. The villain cops are perfectly cast, especially the ring leader who is a certified bully. The story intelligently develops a thriller-type version of a fish-out-of-water story with irreversible consequences.

The title of the film is rebellious, cynical, and unpatriotic. Although this film is for pure entertainment value, the seriousness expressed towards the situation is a political engine to develop social awareness of this city’s moral downfalls. With well-crafted scenes and location, Umansky gets his point across.

7.19.2005

The Island

A Michael Bay film can’t be avoided, no matter how far he makes your eyeballs roll into the back of your head with his outrageous action sequences and massive, violent explosions. He knows thrill, he takes risks and knows no boundaries. It might even be said that this man deserves a great amount of praise for his work, but that would be taking it too far. Fortunately, I know boundaries.

Bay’s newest hit, “The Island”, is action-packed and full of violence. He humors the humanistic aspect of Caspian Tredwell-Owen and Alex Kurtzman’s story, which is very emotionally involving, then soars into outrageous occurrences that completely divert attention from the storyline. He’s a genius at creating audacious scenes and really utilizes the theatre’s sound system, making the eight bucks you spend on your ticket worth every penny if you are looking for visual and aural stimulation.

The first forty-five minutes are intellectually intriguing, grasping the controversial notion of cloning and the worst case scenario where people perceive the duplicates in an inhumane manner. Bay effectively demonstrates the clone’s controlled Garden of Eden from an innovative perspective with fast-editing and impressive camera shots. However, when Lincoln Six Echo (Ewan McGregor) meets his original, Tom Lincoln, there isn’t much more to anticipate aside from action sequences.

When it comes to car chases, Bay writes the book. It might even be said that he puts his “Bad Boys II” (2003) chase scene to shame with Island’s chase scene where Lincoln dealerships everywhere are singing Bay’s praise, even if it he does show these cars being sliced in half by flying, two ton cylinders. According to some Web sites (such as http://www.darkhorizons.com/news05/island.php), Bay used a Lincoln that cost 7 million dollars to make. It’s obvious cost was no issue in the making of this film.

The truth is that Bay is a fantastic filmmaker: he knows how to set up a shot, he’s a master at sound and he likes technology – almost too much. He’s far from a naturalist when it comes to film, almost to the point of incredulity and extremity. He also tends to stray from a deep connection to characters, but not this time. “Island” has a great cast with Scarlett Johansson and McGregor as the leads and a talented film crew that had just the right chemistry to produce a blockbuster action film.

“The Island” is a film for thrill seekers and anyone that wants to escape reality - for a bit longer than anticipated.

MPAA rating: PG-13 – for intense sequences of violence and action, some sexuality and language.
Running Time: 2 hours, 7 min.

7.17.2005

Wedding Crashers

Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson know how to crash a party

There’s a pattern developing with actors like Ben Stiller and Will Ferrell and films like “Zoolander” (2001) and “Anchorman” (2004). It’s masculine dominated comedy that accentuates camaraderie much like the 80’s “brat pack” for a new generation. Vince Vaughn crashes onto the scene, hand-in-hand with Owen Wilson, in “Wedding Crashers.” This adlibbing duo performs the perfect rom-com popcorn flick with just the right amount of butter and lots of witty laughs.

John (Wilson) and Jeremy (Vaughn) are two bachelors carrying on the tradition of wedding crashing. They booze it up, dance it up, and then get girls to sex it up. Definition: “American Pie” (1999) for mid-30s crowd meets “There’s Something About Mary” (1998), only women are portrayed as hormone driven robots at the sight of a Don Juan with a bottle of Champaign.

The majority of the film is full of frivolous and goofy humor that is engaging up until the last thirty minutes or so when the laughs become chuckles and sizzle to sighs. The romantic dimension is intentionally sappy and formulaic - an obvious ploy to attract women viewers. Claire Cleary (Rachel McAdams), John’s love interest, is a flat character but she’s cute and quiet (a.k.a. not annoying like Natalie Portman in “Garden State”, 2004). Christopher Walken doesn’t play a very influential part, but any film with Walken is automatically improved.

The Cleary family has an interesting dynamic that provokes ridiculous happenings. Claire is the rational, stable daughter while her sister Christina (Jenny Alden) is a sex-crazed, fireball. Their brother is an artsy, homosexual who is creepy and sometimes the funniest element in a scene. Betty is the unfaithful, sex devil wife of Treasure Secretary William Cleary who wishes to uphold the best standards of appearance.

“Swingers” (1996) was the last time Vaughn wasn’t treading water, but fans of the man prefer to call it hanging low. “Crashers” is a significant comeback for true Vaughn comedy. Pairing up with shy-guy Wilson creates just the right balance of wit and charm.

This is the summer’s perfect buddy film, but it goes a little overboard with unnecessary comic violence at the hands of Claire’s boyfriend and the ridiculous amounts of avoidable nudity. The film could have been easily given an MPAA rating of PG-13; however, with the target audience scope being of a mature audience, extra scenes devoted to unnecessary nudity and exhausting romanticism was unavoidable.

If given a choice to see “The Fantastic Four” or “Wedding Crashers”, do the box office a favor and pay for a movie you’ll actually enjoy instead of supporting a film that for some reason people keep putting their money into. In other words, go see “Wedding Crashers,” it’s a party.

MPAA Rating: R – for sexual content/ nudity and language, Running Time: 119 minutes

7.16.2005

Mouse

Our first impression of people is always visual and superficial. Humans attempt to manipulate others’ perceptions (as well as their own) of one’s persona with objects. Polish animator, Wojteck Wawszcyk, explores this human phenomenon in his short, “Mouse” (2001).

A man and a mouse move to a new town. The man is very proud of his mouse, admiring how they look together in the mirror. He walks about town with his mouse, attempting to attract townspeople to himself. To his surprise and dismay, the people of the town show little interest, which forces the man to make a spontaneous and careless decision that he soon regrets.

Wawszcyk’s style of animation is very original with interesting looking characters. He uses symbols in his animation to signify importance and create emotion; this is done with such expertise that the film becomes multi-dimensional. The absence of dialog forces the characters to hold the story in their actions and facial expressions, which is done exceptionally. Even the Danny Elfman-type music that accompanies the film isn’t necessary to provoke a reaction.

7.11.2005

The Family Tree

Hallmark commercials feature families together at holiday gatherings, sharing wine, hanging ornaments, and playing with grandchildren – it makes you want to puke; no one’s family is a fairytale. As a tribute to the truth we all know, Vicky Jenson’s “The Family Tree” shows us a truthful, heart-warming short film about being part of a family.

Newly weds, Jake and Claire, have an overwhelming day ahead of them: Thanksgiving dinner and Claire’s family is coming. Everyone in the family has a different personality, and they all try to make it known. Peggy is overbearing and enjoys taking over the show, Denise is an overly cautious, super health nut and Jake is the rogue brother who ran away to and from culinary school in France. In the mix is poor Jake, despite his differences, just wants to be recognized as part of the family.

Jenson directs a beautifully orchestrated film with well-played dialog, metaphors, and lyrical scenes. One of the most high tension portions of the film follows dinner when all of the women in the house are gathered in a room, bickering over wine. Screenwriter Scott Ingalls shows that their love is apparent through the harsh words.

Metaphors play a large role in “Family Tree” from themes of abandoning childhood to the broader theme of the story. Derrick holds the power of the most important theme with his tale of the forest and the magic that occurs when he gets his feet wet. Jenson beautifully plays on Derrick’s creativity and love for food with a poetic scene in the kitchen between his sisters.

Not only is the cinematography and set design superior short film art, the cast is amazing. Jake is played by none other than Harland Williams, who is perfectly placed in the role of an outsider. Other cast members include Jackie Katzman with a beautiful face that should grace the screen more, Dave Jeffrey Clark, and Gretchen German, to name a few.

Jenson’s background as the animation director for “Shrek” (2001) and “Shark Tale” (2004) has enabled her to produce a live action film with the same fantasy wonder.

7.10.2005

Coyote Beach

An abandoned beach and two lovers may sound romantic, but two lovers of the unhealthy sort can change all that. Markus Griesshammer opposes the traditional romantic view of lovers in “Coyote Beach”.

A couple prances down a sandy slope toward a wide open beach. Your first impression may be that this is a romantic short, but it is quite the opposite and it becomes obvious with the first word uttered by the female protagonist. The Woman is a beautiful, cold, French that is bossy and unpleasant. The Man, entranced with The Woman’s sexuality, abides to her every order but not without resentment. Their silence is a tense volcano ready to erupt, and soon the couple’s judgmental views of the other come spilling out into an exhausting argument.

Griesshammer uses the camera to emphasize distance but also pulls in close to create discomfort to an unpleasant situation. It is very much like watching “Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolf” (1966) as two supposedly devoted people duke it out in galling argument that is this couple’s expression of their love. Not only does Griesshammer construct argumentative dialog that is well played, he utilizes his scenery effectively to transition from this desert-like beaches to a Midsummer’s Night, Garden of Eden that is anything but a dreamy play.

The Great Raid

Director Robert Dahl pays homage to the heroes of World War II stationed in the Philippines who underwent an audacious rescue mission to release 500 prisoners of war from the hands of the Japanese in “The Great Raid” (opening early September 2005). This is the story about the expendables, the forgotten.

The film concerns the true story of the 6th Ranger Battalion led by Lieutenant Colonel Mucci (Benjamin Bratt) and their dangerous orders to rescue American soldiers from Cabanatuan Japanese POW camp in 1947. Dahl’s film emphasizes the inhumane side of war by deemphasizing battle and focusing on the cruelty Filipinos and American captives faced at the hands of the Japanese soldiers. “Raid” is a reputable war film everyone should see for the knowledge and the emotional sacrifice men in the service must commit and did commit to this war in particular.

The interpretation of the story on film is unquestionably artistic. The beginning and conclusion of the film features actual historical footage with narration that places the audience in the scene and timeline of the war. Dahl smoothly transitions into the story without disrupting the setup with saturated colorations or a battle scene. He does, however, start the film with a gruesome truth that automatically signifies this film will be raw and truthful about the grim facts of WWII in this location.

The prisoners are ill with malaria, emaciated, and tortured, but that’s not enough tension; there’s a love story involving the nurse, Margaret Utinsky (Connie Nielson), that smuggled antibiotics to the prisoners in the camps and her connection to one of the prisoners. The Japanese use this relationship to their advantage, but there is not a theme of love conquers all; it is the heart wrenching and truthful interpretation that keeps this portion of the story in line with the themes Dahl chose to accentuate.

The soundtrack to the film is the weak portion, and unfortunately keeps this film from being a greatly made film in entirety. The music is overly dramatic and attempts to manipulate the audience into feeling emotions that already exist from the visual experience, such as done in “Pay it Forward” (2000). This is the fault of most American filmmakers; they don’t believe an audience is smart enough to interpret the actions on the screen, so directors use music or dialog to overly accentuate a point that results in redundancy.

The final act of the film is the most impressive and is without a doubt a magnificent climax and conclusion, as the Japanese are faced with their demise by American and Filipino soldiers. The battle scene is truthful, showing men fighting to their death. What’s impressive is the camaraderie between Filipino and American soldiers to save the prisoners.

MPAA Rating: R - for war violence and brief language

7.09.2005

The Firefly Man

Todd Fjelsted shows us once again a psychologically disturbing animation film that explores an empathetic, tragic situation expressed in poetic visuals in “The Firefly Man.”

“Firefly” is about a man who loses his young boy and wife to a killer bear. He collects fireflies in a jar to attempt to capture the soulful light from his wife and child, thus create a living memory. In sleep he’s haunted with nightmares of their tragic deaths where a burly bear literally tears their bodies apart with gruesome effect.

Fjelsted effectively creates a beautiful emotional affect with light and shadows in the woods and the glow of the fireflies. He then jolts the viewer from this dreamlike scene to a horrifying moment. However, it is apparent that the storyline and imagination of the director are the strong points of the film.

The animation utilizes shadow and light in a professional manner that emulates live action films; however, the animated characters are roughly created. Their jolting and uneven movements are reminiscent of the puppet effect created in “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” (1970), which doesn’t prove to be an intentional thematic vehicle. In fact, this portion of the short gives the animation an amateur appearance.

7.08.2005

The Forgotten Ones

A lot of people are obsessed with movie stars and other prominent figures they see on television. So much copy and photography attention is given to a false persona, and people want to emulate them because they seem so much larger than life. What about real people; people that don’t put up shields and pretend to be someone other than themselves? It’s this very notion that influences Milton Rogovin’s photography, and maybe Harvey Wang for filming “The Forgotten Ones.”

Wang’s short documentary film explores Rogovin’s world as he photographs a longitudinal study of a poor neighborhood just around the corner. “The Forgotten Ones” gives a still picture life and a story. Wang shows through Rogovin how impoverished people, who are anything but in the limelight, rather ignored and looked down upon, feel when someone takes a special interest in them as a subject matter of positive values.

Wang’s topic is an interesting spring board that lands flat. The film briskly explores the subject matter in a superficial manner. Nothing of interest is discovered; the film is simply a survey with standard shots and unvarying interviews. To finish it off, an overdone montage that has little affect upon the viewer, as little is given in retrospect.

La Dentista

A trip to the dentist is never fun, but a trip to “La Dentista” care of Michael Mohan is a mariachi-singing good time.
One morning (afternoon?), Skipper tumbles backward off his couch and staggers through his slummy bachelor pad to catch some grub. While chewing cheap kid’s cereal soaked in beer for breakfast, Skipper is pained by a bothersome cavity. His roommate and best friend, Earl, suggests the only cure: la dentista.
Having a fear of going to any dentist, Skipper is coaxed by mariachi divas and the trust agreement of his pal. When Skipper goes to la dentista, he realizes it’s almost more uncomfortable than the dentist.
There isn’t a “best part” of this film because everything is entertaining. There’s not much to criticize when a film has mariachi singers, great buddies, well-played dialog, and La Dentista. The secondary characters are given as much detail and attention to their personas as the lead, and don’t forget the sets. Skipper and Earl’s grungy living space is right out of a college dorm room – disgusting – and as far as La Dentista’s office, it’s nothing less than an apartment occupied silent Mexicans, chilling. I’m not even sure they have appointments! Their silence and detachment to the office and its activities make the audience uncomfortable almost as much as the viewer.
Skipper is a great protagonist: he’s goofy and charismatic. His buddy, Earl, is a loyal friend, and when they get together they are a great team.
View the film at: http://www.atomfilms.com/af/content/la_dentista

7.05.2005

Dark Water

Steven Spielberg tops the box office with his predatory hit, “War of the Worlds” and Christopher Nolan follows close behind with “Batman Begins”, delivering engaging filmic enjoyment. If “Dark Water” is the “thrill of the summer”, then we might want to rethink this one.

To be blunt, there is no way an American remake of a Japanese film will be able to top what has hit the box office thus far. Kôji Suzuki’s psychological Japanese thrillers don’t translate well when handled by an American director under American film standards. The visual emphasis of Suzuki’s work is manhandled by Walter Salles, resulting in scenes saturated with heightened sound effects. The silence that plays such a powerful part in Suzuki’s work is blundered and replaced by pure boredom.

It takes about thirty minutes for any desired fright to conjure on the screen. Meanwhile, one forgets that this film is actually supposed to induce horror at the hands of suspense because it’s just another rainy day and Jennifer Connelly chose to move into a rundown apartment that is falling apart; big deal. A ghetto apartment isn’t enough to instill fear and if you make an audience wait until the second act of a movie to realize this is rated PG-13 for disturbing images, then you’ve already lost a portion of the audience to the exit door.

So what’s the deal? It’s a story about a divorced couple and their little girl stuck in the middle. Dahlia, played by Connelly, is tormented by her past with an alcoholic mother and an absent father. She’s a forgotten child, battling with her own self-destructive world in an apartment building haunted by an imaginary girl and leaky ceilings. “Dark Water” refers to the murky substance that drips from every lacuna in the neglected building. It’s also a metaphor, but you’ll figure that out.

This may be an impressive storyline, but nonetheless a déjà vu. The allusive themes surrounding water flooded the films of Suzuki’s “The Ring” series and dripped right into “Dark Water”. The storylines are mirror images thus leading again towards the exit door.

It’s almost a crime how much effort is put forth to destroying such a potentially successful horror film. Salles began the film on the right foot with dull lighting and powerful darkness, but then stumbled into sound as the key for fear. Some of the most frightening moments are visual unknowns and a creepy little girl. Nothing fancy is needed to embellish Suzuki’s psychological horror. Salles should have learned this from Hideo Nikata’s “The Ring 2” where scant special effects left a bald storyline.

7.04.2005

Child's Play

Charlie Fisher proves that the success of a message relies on the power of the image. Fisher’s “Child’s Play” is a commercial-length-film with disheartening images of young children slaving away at blue collared jobs. “All-American music” is used as an ironic expression of American values and standards that, when paired with the political subject matter adorning the screen, evokes distaste in the president’s irrational solution to America’s current budget crisis. Fisher’s rhetoric is a pithy and acrid message deserving praise for its delivery.

Dear, Sweet Emma

Animation turns demented when a sweet looking old woman receives the message that the search for her missing husband has been abandoned and he has been declared deceased. John Cernak’s “Dear, Sweet Emma” is an ironic, funny animation short where bright and cheery animation joins with dark comedy to supply entertainment that’ll make you a little uncomfortable and a little happy.
One of the things you’ll notice about this film is the attention to detail. Emma’s wrinkly face and large, warm eyes (although misleading) and emaciated cat are well-defined; however, the other objects in the kitchen are flat colors and designs, emphasizing the subject of the film.
Cernak craftily designs a story that begins mournful and takes a surprising twist to violent. The darling Emma turns the other cheek and cleverly shows a side that confuses an empathetic audience.

7.02.2005

Speed Deal

Two friends living in the fast lane are set on making a party out their day, but get tied up with botch drug deals and shoplifting in Alana White’s “Speed Deal”.
Carrie and Daisy want to get a buzz on, but they don’t have any money. Their solution to shoplift some booze from a liquor store fails when an expensive bottle of gin crashes on the floor. The girls are forced to come up with some quick cash, and use their stealth stealing skills to score some high grade speed that they pass on to a prominent drug dealer in return for some cash. With cash to spare, the girls are living large until their product becomes their demise.
White’s talents lie more in filmmaking than in story telling. The film’s set and editing are the most impressive aspects. The bright set design and fast editing reflect the character’s careless and fast lifestyle. The story is the weakest element with low stakes and an absence of character arcs. Carrie and Daisy’s consequence, although intended to be light-hearted and comical, is played off too lightly, resulting in flat characters that neither learn from their mistakes nor develop cunning ways to dodge their consequences.
If you are interested in more information regarding Alana White’s film, you may contact her at Laelin@hotmail.com.

7.01.2005

War of the Worlds

Steven Spielberg delivers a powerful sci-fi adaptation of H.G. Wells’ “War of the Worlds” (published 1898) novel that focuses on humanity with intense special effects that are guaranteed to blow you out of your seat.

“War of the Worlds” stars internationally famous Tom Cruise as the divorced parent of two kids, Rachel and Robbie. Ray is forced to come to terms with the distance he has created from his children when the world is attacked from the ground up by aliens driving monstrous artillery, determined to destroy Earth. The torn family must pull together to survive devastation and eminent death.

H.G. Wells is one of the greatest authors of time; it is only acceptable that a director of equal stature attempt to develop a film of such epic proportions as the novel, and Spielberg does so with precision. Each shot is planned with perfection in order to emphasize and create an empathic connection with the characters and the scenes of destruction. Spielberg is a masterful cinematographer, utilizing light to portray beauty juxtaposed with death. A scene in the woods shows the alien lights gently glowing through the trees as the clothing of the deceased softly flutter toward the forest floor. Spielberg ingeniously plants shots that are reminiscent of earlier shots in the story, threading the film into an intricate web.

Probably what makes this film the best film of the summer is the intelligent writing that evokes fear and tension. Josh Friedman examines humanity in crisis, showing mass chaos, selfishness, and benevolence. He visualizes mob mentality and self-sacrifice, and skillfully traps characters in “safe spots.” He innovatively tells a blind story, allowing the audience’s knowledge to be only as much as the characters, creating immense fear and exciting thrills. Writing of such caliber is long overdue.

Most sci-fi thrillers have painfully cheesy dialog and horrible sub-plots, but Freedman managed to avoid such clichés. In fact, this film has no unnecessary dialog and relies on action and performance, avoiding fillers.

Spielberg constructed the aliens to be faceless terrorists, shielded by tri-pod vessels set to terminate and torch Earth. He portrays humans helpless against the powers of the machines, but their will to live is great. When the veil is lifted, there isn’t much of a surprise; the aliens don’t deviate much from the general conception of an alien. However, Friedman gives the alien beings a connection to their victims by forcing them to humanize Earthlings. Yet, despite their observations, they remain apathetic and monstrous.

Dakota Fanning’s performance is flawless in the role of Rachel. She never overacts, and has a remarkable ability to develop symbiotic relationships with the other actors; she is destined to be a star. Cruise never shies away from giving a good show. He fully embodies the disposition and persona of his character. The character arcs of all the characters are deserving praise. Each character develops that missing piece that is evident at the start of the film, creating satisfaction for the viewer.

The ending is a pure disappointment to the fierce momentum created by Spielberg and Friedman. It is nothing less than a cop-out, considering the amount of emotion and trust the viewer places in the hands of the film. Wells’ stunning ending in the novel mitigates the film’s ability to carry the audience to a justified conclusion. So much time is spent on building up the invasion that there is little time spent on resolution fit for film.

MPAA Rating: PG-13, Running Time: 1hr 57min

6.26.2005

A Hundred Dollars and a T-shirt

Maybe you’ve seen one at a local bookstore or coffee shop on a metal turning rack with rough graphics and interesting and obscure topics adorning the pages. These faceless publications have a powerful voice and philosophy for a community, city or town. Joe Biel explores the makings and social culture of zines in “A Hundred Dollars and T-shirt.”

Biel’s film takes place in Portland, Oregon where most zinesters find that their creativity and lifestyle can flourish. Zinesters range from early teens to mid-30s and build their lives on creating zines and supporting the zine community. The film explores creators of different types of zines, shedding light on individual reasons for making zines and the humble lifestyle one must expect from making this art form a way of life.

The scope of zinesters this film covers allows for a great description and educational background on zines from various perspectives. The interviews with creators inspire the viewer to take life into their own hands and create their own zine. The film covers how many creators put together their zine, how they get it distributed, and the way to connect business relations with other zinesters.

“Hundred Dollars” humanizes the zine process by giving these paper booklets faces. The contents of the film are thorough and captivating, but the presentation of the film is amateur and boring at times. From beginning to end, the film loses momentum, mostly due to repetition of style and content. The editing serves as a divider between topics that thwarts smooth transitions. Usually elements like these make for a poor film, but the subject of the film itself is a low-budget art work. In this way, the film reflects the topic.

www.microcosmpublishing.com

6.18.2005

Apartment 206

Death has been visualized in several ways on film in elaborate blockbuster ways with a large budget and expensive computer technology, such as in “The Others” (2001) and “What Dreams May Come” (1998), to name a few. Major Hollywood films, like the examples mentioned, portray death in a past tense, emphasizing finality. Gregory Zymet (Director/Screenwriter) explores the soul’s limbo immediately following desistance of life with highly professional and artistic form without an exorbitant budget. In “Apartment 206”, free will continues to exist and the recently deceased must decide their fate.
Sandra and Conrad awake to find themselves in a dilapidated apartment. Perplexed by the situation, they attempt to leave the apartment but the black void beyond the door keeps them within the room’s walls; they have obligations in the living. At this point, the film takes a “Being John Malkovich” (1999) twist that transitions into a philosophical and psychological self-exploration, which balances on self-will and self-fate.
There are many aspects of this film that qualify it as an award worthy short from art direction to story development. The use of shadows and light (especially light!) have an intense, blaring affect upon the viewer, creating a sense of sleepless suffering that one might suggest is the consciousness of an intermediate state. The apartment is anything but homely, but more like a ghetto, crack-house setting. Conrad and Sandra’s relationship arch is proof Zymet is a talented writer as well as a talented filmmaker. He builds a strong relationship between the characters and connects the viewer to the actors.
Even more surprising, Zymet takes the concept of death beyond the will of the dead soul, and connects the dead to the living. In this sense, the living loses a part of their free will. In the end, living or dead, humans are not entirely free.

6.14.2005

Howl's Moving Castle

In “Howl’s Moving Castle”, lustrous visualizations prove to have poor momentum when paired with a sluggish story-line pace and grab-bag themes; a disappointment when paired with the director’s pre-established Academy recognition, but nonetheless a work of art.
Hayao Miyazaki’s visualizations guide the audience into a fantasy land like no other animation director/writer of this time. As in “Spirited Away” (2002), Miyazaki poetically soars with lyrical expression through his animation art that denies creative boundaries and sometimes overindulges in boundless mysticism and phantasma. A vexing plot clouded by free-floating themes does not provide a heavy enough anchor for the younger audiences this movie attempts to appeal. In fact, adults may find the sporadic plot-points and pacing to be yielding and tiresome, but will be able to sift through these moments for the more palatable imagery.
The “Castle” touches on important adolescent themes of admirable kinds and explores dark vices. Miyazaki speaks out on the tragedy of war, reflecting current political and societal battles in the Middle East without preaching or weighing focus. He aims to be emotionally attaching with limited scene scopes rather than visually explanatory through gruesome action-sequences.
The focus of the story, buried under all the glitter and bright colors, is love. In this film, it’s the thing that traps a character and binds a relationship. Love sees no ugly exteriors but can be truly ugly when it is selfish and disregarding. Through the female protagonist, Miyazaki wants to prove that naivety is also a form of unconditional love that rational adults may be reluctant to take home to kids.
Like its predecessor, this film is a translation from its language of origin, Japanese. The voices have been replaced in English by prominent actors such as Billy Crystal and Christian Bale. The dialog is more coherent than “Spirited”, but possibly a little understanding of Japanese cultural mythology will demystify the story-line’s incomprehensible moments.
Is this film Academy Award worthy? I have some faith in the judging system to say that despite all arrows pointing to “no”, it may surmount nomination standards and move into the winner’s circle once again. Indeed, anime fans will be impressed once again with Miyazaki’s brilliance and dramatic grace, bowing to his reputable artwork and turning blindly to his poor story-telling skills.
“Howl’s Moving Castle” is based on a novel by Diana Wynn Jones.

5.31.2005

Welcome to September

Love’s complexity is explored in its many forms and eludes the observer of the true nature of existence. One man discovers how love in its many forms can feed the soul in “Welcome to September”, a film directed by Phillip Scarpaci.
Drew has recently moved from Ireland to America to work in the carpet selling business. His lonely, loveless life becomes plagued with visions of a beautiful woman in a painting. He is enamored by the whimsical, exotic appeal of woman and blind from the possibility that true love may be in front of his nose.
Scarpaci’s film has won awards for this fantastic exploration of love and life in its unlimited dimensions. What one discovers from watching this film is that beauty evokes longing, but its implications may prove to be more lustful. What one also discovers is that although this is an intriguing storyline, the delivery doesn’t always follow. In a cast of boring characters and slow scenes, the editing style isn’t far behind to ensure the viewer some refreshing yawns. Pick up the pacing with more diverse plot lines and there may be a chance for this film to enter the arena with more well-known romantic films. It will also tighten up the relationship between Lucy and Drew, so it will appear less forced and contrived.
Not only is Drew’s feelings for Lucy muddled but so is his relationship to the drunk in the bar. The drunk sputters clichés and Drew is enlightened, but the talking scenes are utterly boring and rarely move the story along. Lucy’s attachment to Drew is ungrounded because Drew has made it very clear that he’s in love with the girl in the painting and not the art of painting, which is the topic that attracted Lucy.
Scarpaci has without a doubt established a superb basis for a film. His romantic vision may be as hard to distinguish as an impressionist painting, but his strokes of genius identify this film as a potential work of art.

5.29.2005

Commerical

Everyday we are bombarded by advertisements. They penetrate our subconscious and manipulate our perception of everyday life. “Commercial” is Michael Cross’s comedic tribute to media culture.
Jake is a television junky. He’s been up all night waiting for his friend’s commercial to appear between shows. He becomes brain washed and his world turns into one large advertisement. His girlfriend, family, and the people he see are copies of commercials cycled on television. He thinks he’s an objective observer, but no even Jake can escape becoming part of an ad.
Cross’s subject matter explores the power of commercial rhetoric and the effect it has on our personas and mental freedom, but with a light-hearted storyline that is in theme with commercials. The presentation butts heads with the lack of dimension to the plot, causing the storyline to drag with an anchor by its side. If the movie appears clean it’s because it is flat, ending the only way it can: predictably and conclusively.
Don’t rule out the humorous enjoyment of this film’s subject. Just don’t expect a lot of substance.

Time Enough At Last

Ticking clocks make one wish of melting clocks. For one man, time is trapped in a tortuous cycle. In Josh Finn’s “Time Enough At Last”, this man experiences a Twilight Zone moment and deep exploration of his past relationship with his father.
Our male protagonist works the odd hours of the day, starting in the evening to late at night. He smokes profusely to calm his racing mind, but his uneasiness and discomfort with himself is apparent through his eyes and narration to his sister through an email. His mind jumps into the past showing us an unattached father indulging blindly in his scripts. The father cares none for his son’s life. The site is heart breaking for the viewer seen through dim, green, shadowing light.
As the man makes his way out of the office building via elevator, he becomes trapped in a vortex of repetitive time that defies the laws of physics. His past has trapped him in a burning inferno of anger and hurt. He soon discovers what it means to have “time at last”.
Finn’s story covers at least two themes with interesting editing and lighting. The first is the obvious and most prominent, exploring the past’s ability to trap one in time. The other recognizes the time slaved at work and how days repeat the structure of time and the mentality in which people desire to escape but remain trapped in the cycle. The film expresses these themes professionally, but the acting is overdramatic weakening the message.
Finn is a professional filmmaker at the beginning of a career that can flourish the art and sustain an audience’s attention with pure enlightenment.

5.23.2005

Missing Sock

You’ve done three loads of wash and your entire socks match up but one. After a little effort to find the missing sock, many of us will end up throwing the sock in the undergarment drawer with hopes that its match will turn up. Most likely we’ll end up using it for a dust rag, and maybe this very notion compelled Astronauta to search far and wide for her missing sock in Eric Allen’s short film, “Missing Sock”.
Astronauta’s outrageous journey is hilarious from the get-go. First off, the fact that she thinks the tied up woman in her roommate’s room is the normalcy is only the beginning of madness. On her search she meets a conniving Indian women dressed in full garb, armed with a firearm, and ready to fight for that single sock Astronauta has in her possession. She also enters a psychedelic “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” world of missing things.
There’s an interesting element to the story that is extraneous to the world that Astronauta resides, but is still coherently part of the storyline. This portion is expressed in dream-like black and white atmosphere and provides a philosophical insight that is jumbled up in a foreigner’s view of Americans prescription drug use to provide happiness. Possibly this element lends to even a deeper level of interpretation aside from the comical intentions of spoofing styles of well-know movies that are hits in the box-office.
Allen’s film is a funny take on a common frustrating situation rarely anyone of us has been able to solve. It’s a must see!

5.14.2005

Cinderella Man

This season is overflowing with nostalgic films. Screenwriters aren’t producing anything unique or thoughtful lately. I imagine they are sitting at their laptops scanning old scripts and biographies, thinking the easiest and most profitable screenplay will be one that’s already been made or requires little thought and imagination; “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” (summer 2005) and “Star Wars: Episode III” (2005, opening May 19) are proof. Director Ron Howard joins the party with “Cinderella Man”, a historical tale with a happy ending that almost leaves you snoring.

It’s The Great Depression, but it looks more like Auschwitz. James J. Braddock (Russell Crowe) is a former champion boxer who goes from riches to rags as the U.S. dives deeper into poverty. He labors in harsh conditions to keep his family of five above ground, but his friend and manager, Joe Gould (Paul Giamatti), pulls some strings to get him back in the ring. Gloves on and dukes up, Braddock takes the ring like a superhero not only for his family, but for all of New Jersey and maybe the entire U.S. Of course, the story is neatly tied up in a velvet ribbon, securing all worries and tribulations; Howard rarely directs a film that doesn’t give the audience that warm, cuddly, disgorging feeling.

The story of James J. Braddock, All-American boxer, can be read in books. How about making a story about someone or something you can’t read in a book or rent an earlier version on DVD! This film has a great scene of “Hooverville”, a shanty town in Central Park, that is overflowing with more interesting people and stories than a historical figure with a loving, traditional family that is rich, then poor, then rich again; a man that gets everything he wants and needs in the end isn’t as interesting as the man who has nothing except interesting friends and fantastic dreams.

The screenwriter, Cliff Hollingsworth, turned in an incomplete script and it’s Howard’s fault for directing it. The beginning of the film is so utterly boring and drawn out with bald exposition and meaningless dialog, it won’t be surprising if some people get up and leave before the film really starts. The story lacks an exciting inciting incident to power punch the audience into an interesting film; it only proves its strength in the end, but by then it’s too late. The film turns into an ESPN boxing match where the audience is cheering for its favorite team instead of rooting for a downtrodden hero, and the reason why no one’s rooting for the character is because he’s non-dimensional just like all the other characters.

It’s a shame that such a good cast was wasted on such a mediocre film. Rene Zellweger and Crowe have good onscreen chemistry, and Ariel Waller plays their adorable little girl. Biographical films enlighten an audience to one’s entire life; however, Braddock’s story is translated as flat as a piece of paper you’d read from his autobiography.

5.08.2005

One Lucky Fan

The wealthy and ditzy Paris Hilton/ Nicole Richie, debutant society seems to be getting all the hype and media attention; it’s about time someone made fun of them. Michael Mohan and Chris Goodwin have written a short flashy farce on media culture’s hottest stars that don’t really deserve the attention, “One Lucky Fan”.

April Gilbert plays the nameless, blonde bimbo attracting attention with her crazy partying and sex tapes. On a photo shoot she’s asked to “be less you” and goes on a pseudo philosophical journey of her persona, but whatever is flying out of her mouth means nothing when she’s doing the cameraman at the same time. The moment she is to meet her lucky winner, she decides to turn it into a media ploy to get more attention. When the fan isn’t what she expects, there’s still no stopping her.

The ending of the film is probably the most unsettling because at first glance it’s trite, but in this case it says it all. It explains the influence that the media has on our society and different age group in a comical fashion. If the ending is unsettling, it’s because it’s true.

Check out Director Michael Mohan’s short at http://www.atomfilms.com

5.07.2005

The Untitled J.C. Project

Mel Gibson had his perception in “The Passion of Christ” (2004), but T.J. Jackson and Jeffrey Newman insist it happened a different way. In “The Untitled J.C. Project”, Jesus will fight the match of his life for the crown of the world.

In one corner Cruci and Fix, a power punch duo out for blood, ready to take over the world for Lou Cee, the lord of the underworld. In the other corner, swinging and dodging, the confident, strong, brass-knuckled, teeth gritting Jesus. The predictions and statistics show that the man who claims to be God’s son will dominate, but with bribes and betrayals, the outlook is a bloody one. Will Jesus leave with the golden crown or just a crown of thorns?

Filmmakers Newman and Jackson have portrayed a biblical battle of epic proportions with low budget sets, costumes, and graphic manipulation. The characters have simple costumes that say it all. Pontius Pilate is a happening Roman governor, announcing the fight in style with his wavy, red mullet. Lou Cee may be the ruler of darkness, but his fashionable dark, black cloak with newborn baby doll accessory says he’s not only a ruler, he’s a dominator. Jesus sports his pecs and six-pack with Gucci-style shades, perambulating with his homies, Buddha and Moses. Don’t forget the Two Mary’s, sultry and passionate about Christ.

The set is a humble warehouse and nature scene, allowing the characterization and storyline to be in the spotlight. The lighting and camera tricks give the film an amateur feel but with intention; the cheesy sport reporter and news station gimmicks clarify the comical intention. Close-ups on Jesus flicker between green lighting, set lighting, and black and white. In some shots, Jesus is shouting into the camera in a close-up shot that flickers to a black and white image, revealing Jesus bleeding from the head where the crown of thorns were placed. The image is prophetic and powerful.

Gibson spent $260 million dollars to portray Christ in his final moments with gruesome and horrifying details that left an audience feeling mournful and disgusted. Movies should leave one happy, introspective, and entertained. “The Untitled J.C. Project” supplies laughs, intellectual incite, and won’t disappoint. Check out the link for more information on links, message board, and more!

http://www.theuntitledjcproject.com

5.02.2005

Stray.

A teenage girl from a desolate town in Kentucky dreams of bigger life in the city, so she packs her bags and heads to New York. A decision to ditch her original plan and hitch a ride with a stranger heading to Miami changes her life forever. “Stray.” is a suspenseful journey for one girl’s freedom and growth.

Kimberlee Peterson plays the lead female roll of Alicia. She has been acting from a young age, and has appeared on several television shows including “Boston Public”, “NYPD Blue”, “CSI”, and “The Practice”. Her bright, curious eyes are perfect for portraying an inexperienced and desirable character. Sometimes Alicia’s demeanor is similar to a character from “Dog Days”; she isn’t conscious of personal space and wants to be involved in the scene.

Her companion, Jack Logan, is played by Channon Roe who has an impressive acting education background. He has acted in a couple of other independent films, television shows, and was a surfer in “Boogie Nights”. His rough facial hair and sunglasses give him an ominous appeal; he may be deadly.

The night scenes are outstanding with one light on the set shining on Alicia. Shots like the one on the hotel porch and in the hotel room are ethereal. The sunrise beach scene in Miami expresses Alicia’s joy as she runs towards the blue sky and open horizon water; you can really feel her exhilaration as she dances in the water in slowed time. It’s no surprise that “Stray.” has such a captivating visual appeal. Director Theresa Wingert started her career in printmaking and graphic media on paper. She had successful shows in art galleries, and transitioned her art to movie pictures for commercials. “Stray.” is her first short film.


“Stray.” has the ability to be made into a feature film. There are aspects of Alicia’s relationship with Jack that are only touched upon in this short. Alicia and Jack appear to be developing a sort of sexual, flirtatious relationship. It’s unclear at the beginning of the film exactly what Alicia is running away from besides a dead-end lifestyle. Possibly her relationship with Jack is an attempt to fill a void, and this will make for a very interesting psychological story-line.

Down Dog

L.A. can glamorize any religion or philosophical thought and make it a fad. Madonna did it with Kabala and now Guru Dave (Jeffrey Johnson) with Yoga. He’s on the cover of Vanity Fair, appearing on Entertainment Tonight, and women are lining up to take his class just to have a glimpse of the master. In “Down Dog”, Richard Roll expresses his view of the yoga show in a short film comedy.

Guru Dave is a false prophet who claims he will reach level 12 of yoga – the levitation level. Guru Sri Babajiji Yogananda sends “Boddhisatva” Grace to end the conspiracy. The film examines how people who follow a philosophical fad tend to not incorporate the entire belief system. Dave is anything but selfless and focuses on sexual passion rather than freedom from worldly pleasures. His followers or classmates are concerned more with looking good and catching Dave’s eye; everyone wants to feel the love of the master.

Roll wrote this film from his own perspective as one who practices yoga quite regularly, but it’s doubtful that he intended his film to come off as a satire of yoga. In fact, the joke is aimed at some of the people he noticed starting to take their spiritual journey through yoga. It executes a commentary without offense.

The opening to “Down Dog” pushes the viewer right into the comic intent of the film. Some of the shots are very bright and vivid in color, much like a lomographic camera. It’s amazing that a first attempt at writing and directing for Roll has landed him such a successful short film. The film has been accepted to several film festivals, and won “Best Short Film” at the Boulder International Film Festival in 2005.

5.01.2005

9

They are scavengers for survival, defending themselves against a monstrous, robotic destroyer with rusty joints that shriek as it clanks through the junk yard. They are numbered potato sack beings with big hearts and clever minds. 9 and 5 are the last of their kind, forced to fend for themselves against the devilish beast. A little smaller than the size of a book, these two companions search through the junk yard for useful parts of objects to help defeat their nemesis in Shane Acker’s short film, “9”.

“9” is not only a cute adventure tale of survival, but it’s an artist’s perception of a daily desk job. The numbers 9 and 5 resemble typical work hours and the evil beast that steals their souls is the working world itself. These little heart-felt numbered men have camera lenses for eyes either symbolizing the filmmaker specifically or creative people in general who see the world from a different perspective. In this sense, these little guys are fighting to keep their artistic freedom and beat the beast of the mundane, predictable, work world.

The computer animation on this film captures the fine detail of every object, especially the potato sack fabric coverings of the mini-men. The dim lighting and dark setting are reminiscent of a war scene. The film avoids dialogue and depends on amazing and impressing sound artistry to convey the characters personas and communication.

Shane Acker is an independent animator and director living in Los Angeles. His film “9” has won at film festivals including Siggraph. It is predicted that “9” will be nominated for an Oscar in 2006. Visit his site and learn his name; he’s soon to be an artist you know.

Expressions

Expression comes through many mediums. Some are permanent and some are memories. Evan Mather uses poetic narration, flowing and abrupt imagery, and the subject of landscape architecture to not only express himself but also the art of his subject in his short film “Expressions” (2005).

Evan Mather is an award-winning short filmmaker, living in Los Angeles. He began filming when he was eight years old with a Super-8 camera. Mather has an innate ability to produce work that is beyond the creative realm of average filmmakers. His editing and camera movements supplement the narration; the images become words and the words become music.

This film examines landscape architecture from an artistic perspective that isn’t always examined by the observer. One architect, Isamu Noguchi, designed the “No Name Garden” in the plaza for the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center (1980-1983). His intention was to develop art that would serve as a memory. Another landscape architect designed a parking lot for people. These examples contribute to a broader perception of the field’s ability to provide a reflection of reality with abstract qualities of nature in some cases.

What’s interesting about this film is that it not only explores an interesting perception of the subject matter, but is also an extension of the filmmaker. It appears that he expresses his opinion about his own occupation through the architects’ opinion. He is, in fact, creating a reflection of reality and an impermanent art form that ceases to exist once the film is over. Unless it is replayed, it remains a memory.

Click the post title to view the film. Please visit his site for more interesting news about his films: http://www.evanmather.com/

Eden's Wake

Do you ever think that if Eve and Adam were placed in the Garden of Eden with other choices they would have paired up with another? Sarah Michelle Brown’s “Eden’s Wake” from 2 Times Visions (Pictures) destroys the concept of Adam and Eve through a mournful yet rebirthing vision.

Eve (Patrice Goodman) and Adam (Reuben Thompson) are introduced in a floating rose petal dream with opaque and vague atmospheres. Eve’s face is lit up with laughter, her springy, crazy hair attributing to the excitement of the mood. Adam and Eve’s fingers are intertwined; it seems that the couple will remain forever together, but Adam strays and Eve is heart-broken.

Goodman does a wonderful job portraying a joyous Eve, but when devastating Eve takes over, she tends to overdo the distaste of the situation. Her crying is overdramatic at times, and the film slows down significantly to a drag when Brown focuses on her sorrow. Thompson is also distraught with his own acts, but it’s confusing that he chooses to be with the other woman in his time of pain.

Brown has chosen a typical story-line, but has portrayed it with artistry and grace. Her symbolism of pairs reinforces Eve’s beliefs of her everlasting love. She utilizes bright, playful lighting to portray the fantasy world and dull, realistic lighting to portray the sudden reality. She is masterful at expressing Eve’s false vision of her relationship. Brown appears to be displaying a realistic interpretation of love’s faults, but her ending denies cynicism; Eve regains her independence, recognizing herself as one.

Closest Thing to Heaven (Music Video)

Tears for Fears’ most recent album “Everybody Loves a Happy Ending”, released in September 2004, has an exciting music video for the song “Closest Thing to Heaven”. The art design and direction is headed by Meni Tsirbas of MeniThings Productions. Tsirbas meticulously planned his vision for this song before production, creating a storyboard and building the video’s 3D world prior to filming. His carefully prepared world resembles the romantic fantasy world designed for the film “Moulin Rouge” (2001).

Britney Murphy, reportedly a long-time fan of the band, is the video’s focus. Her curly, brown, long locks and dreamy, bright eyes are perfect for the object of dazzling, beauty the band conveys through the song. Tsirbas worked closely with ‘Defaultmind’ for CGI post production work, successfully creating a dream-like interpretation of Fear’s lyrics.

In God's Name

Everyone wants to belong but sometimes the means are crazy and absurd; this is the theme of Sneaky Little Sister’s comedy, “In God’s Name”. Director, writer, and editor Kia Simon explores the outrageous leaders of cults and the psychological appeal to some humans. The documentary-style film gives three radical examples of cult leaders who believe God speaks to them and can save humanity from the Apocalypse. Brother Meade is your typical compound leader, Holy John resembles a hippy beach comber, and Chen Hon-Ming is a foreigner in Texas who thinks God speaks to him through his ring.

Simon’s light-hearted and satirical approach is underdeveloped and is reminiscent of a senior undergraduate final film project. The storyline is flat, and only shows the perspective of the cult leader and not of the followers – only a potential follower. The ending has poor delivery and hackneyed symbolism as she walks against the crowd. In fact, it isn’t even apparent through the film that she is thinking about joining a cult.

All swords aside, this film isn’t hopeless. The music is in sync with the PBS style and is cheesy, reinforcing this film as a farce. If I were the director, I’d reevaluate my goal for the film find another approach.

4.27.2005

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Stick out your thumb, grab your towel, and get ready for an insanely humorous and philosophical journey through space! Douglas Adams’ trilogy of space stowaways blasts off with the premier movie of the first in the series, “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”. It’s a science-fiction laugh you won’t want to miss.

Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman) is about to lose his house to constructor workers who are building a bypass right through his home. It all seems tragic in comparison until his friend Ford Prefect (Mos Def) informs him of a bigger tragedy: he’s not only about to lose his home but the home to the entire human race – Earth. The two escape at the last moment before Earth disappears in a twinkling eye, by catching a ride on a Vogon ship. When caught on the ship, they are expelled into space where they are expected to suffocate and implode, but they are picked up by yet another ship. This ship rockets them into a wild ride that explores the meaning of life and the very concept of thought.

Adams grew up in Cambridge, UK with a unique childhood perception. He earned a Masters in English Literature, and started his career in radio. In 1978 he wrote The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy followed by The Restaurant at the End of the Universe and Life, the Universe, and Everything. Adams developed a screenplay for the first novel with Disney. He died suddenly in May 2001 from a heart attack. The script was completed by Karey Kirkpatrick under contract that the script be kept true to the novel. Having personally worked on the finishing script’s research, I can assure all Adams fans that his wishes were highly respected.

The film does differ slightly from the novel, but only structurally. The structural adjustment is the introduction of Trillion (Zooey Deschanel), Arthur’s love in this story. The shift in the story isn’t very obvious to the book lovers, and doesn’t make a change in the meaning or the foundation of the storyline.

If you’ve read the novels, you are already aware of Adams’ witty humor and perception of life. The film does his voice justice and even adds charisma. The disgusting and crass nature of the Vogons is personified through vile and chubby marshmallow men. Zaphod Beeblebox is brilliantly played by Sam Rockwell who has starred in diverse parts such as in “The Green Mile” (1999) and “Matchstick Men” (2003) to name a couple. He personifies Beeblebox’s insanely silly nature so well, I almost didn’t recognize him.

The conclusion of the film leads viewers to believe there are other adventures ahead. So far there has been no formal announcement of a film to follow representing the second book in the series. Director Garth Jennings did a fantastic job creating a film that utilizes innovative, new computer graphic imaging technology without saturating the film with a false appearance. If a following film is written with the same respect , Adams would be gracious and well-represented.

4.24.2005

Joesaphine At Parties (Music Video)

Greg Camilleri is the director, writer, and innovative thinker behind the re-released music video "Joesaphine At Parties". This video and song are based on a real life young woman who used to show up at large parties but no one in the room knew who she was other then her name, "Joesaphine". Joesaphine would arrive with drugs and dance in the corner, and then suddenly disappeared to never show up at another party again. This video is an artistic interpretation of her existence and a tribute to her presence. The video is as diverse in design as the song. Camilleri flows from an electronic modified voice with electronic beats to a dreamy cafe guitar jam that creates a sense of psychosis; the two juxtaposing styles of the song appear to represent Joesaphine's reality. The video is digitally designed in three different formats. One scene set-up is Camilleri's head, full color, bright lights, surrounded by small, white balls. Another set-up is shot footage manipulated to look like a pencil drawn animation, flood with color. The other shots are an abrupt change with almost a black and white or sepia base and random intense colors from one single object, like a cord.

Joesaphine is portrayed by three different men, representing her indefinite persona. She wears an overgrown baby-doll dress and carries around an old vacuum. Joesaphine swaggers along the sidewalks of Hollywood where the shots are vivid in color and with jarring details. The scenes in her apartment are colorless truths of her sexual relationship with a vacuum, which represents the affect of drugs on Joesaphine: they have consumed her life.

Greg Camilleri is a multi-talented artist producing music videos, music, and stand-up comedy. You can view his music videos and purchase music at his website.

The Plumber

“The Plumber” is Redrover Animations Studios first computer animation film designed as a short film to be optioned for a longer one that has put Redrover on the map. It’s a short film about a man who is too stubborn and cheap to pay a professional for his own dripping sink, and ends up creating a more expensive mess than anticipated. The main and only visual character is designed with such detail that he is a direct reflection of reality. The close-up shots reveal morning scruff on his face and tiny veins and imperfections on his nose. His lips are cracked and the lines in his hands are apparent. His facial structure is well-defined with abrupt lines and muscular movements. I place the talent of this animation up there with PIXAR and other professional artists.

The talented men who have created this short come from two different mediums of animation. One of the directors, Andy Knight, comes from a classical animation background. He collaborated with Richard Rosenman to create a film that combines the classical form with the computer generated form. The project took Six months and a team of eight artists, Knight and Rosenman as the animators.

This film can be viewed online at CGNetworks.com.

4.21.2005

Betrunner

Betters clench tickets, horses race towards the end, and Angela’s heart beats with anticipation at the results. It’s not because she cares about her customers’ investments. She cares more about the money she has stolen from her customers to invest.

“Betrunner” is a short film directed by Vince Spano about a betrunner who becomes addicted to gambling on horse races. She stays out late, scavenging clubs for wealthy clubbers willing to bet high, and then pockets the cash for personal betting. She intentionally skips section assignment meetings so she can work the pit. This insures opportunities for intentionally losing or forgetting to place bets.

Her scheme seems to be working until Vin confronts her for stealing 30Gs. He gives her until the end of the 9th race to get half the money she stole - or else. Angela uses stolen money to place a bet on the pick six, and wins 58Gs – way more than she owes Vin. In the end, it’s apparent she won’t stop here with her clean slate but keep betting herself deeper into trouble.

This film has great shots of the casino, capturing the action and the scene with perfection. The music is very affective, and the storyline is perfect. The acting, however, is the weakest part of the film. Vin, played by Peter Dobson, is a cliché bad-guy and is not very convincing as a threat. Gabrielle Conforti’s acting is stale and shows an attitude that is unnatural and unlikable. There is a unique slow editing style used in the club that is paired with creative and well-planned camera shots, but sometimes this editing style is used inappropriately to connote an emotion that the actor was unable to express effectively, such as Angela receiving Vin’s message in the casino bathroom. Overall, a good film anchored down to the bottom of the sea by poor acting and some over-editing.

4.19.2005

The Interpreter

The desert haze of Matobo, Africa holds the graves of many wrongful deaths by the hands of leader Dr. Edmond Zuwanie and his terrorist rebels. The blood shed by the hands of his believers and those that trust him have ignited fury and rage in those affected. Zuwanie has avoided conviction, causing Matobon peoples to pick up guns. The end to this long lived fight relies on a U.N. interpreter from Matobo who overhears Zuwanie’s assassination threat in a language few know.

Sydney Pollack has continuously produced films with stunning cinematography and acting, such as Academy Award nominated “Cold Mountain” (2003) and “Talented Mr. Ripley” (1999). As the director of “The Interpreter” he chose a script that is written with such precise language that when he translates it onto film, you can almost taste the ground and smell the air. In one scene, Matobon boys show two men an area where dead bodies have been stashed in a soccer arena; the dark, mildew shadows and glistening floor around the bodies releases a putrid scent that can be smelled from the big screen. Beautiful, streaming long shots of New York City mix with stunning close ups of Sean Penn’s powerful demeanor and Nicole Kidman’s rough, scared appearance.

Since his days of “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” (1982) as stoner Spicoli, Penn has developed a firm character in Tobin Keller that shows maturity, a dark past, and a misty present. He’s an actor that proves to age well. He had amazing performances in “21 Grams” (2003) and “Mystic River” (2003), and is surely to not be overlooked for his performance in this film. Of course, Kidman rarely lets a viewer down. Her soft exterior is a façade for the rebellious past Silvia Bloome covets. Catherine Keener plays Dot Woods, a secret service agent whose strong, sturdy rationale is good for crime solving, and compassionate enough to support her partner, Keller.

I was surprised to find that the several trailers concerning “The Interpreter” told me nothing of the complexity and intelligence of this story, nor did it explain Pollack’s deeper compassion for humanity and the African peoples. Writers Martin Stellman and Brian Ward build tension between the interpreter Bloome and her investigator and protector secret service agent Keller. Their parallel lives create an affective dynamic that is unadulterated. Stellman and Ward ingeniously mix irony with thrill and humor. They intrepidly place the threat, the threatened, the conspirators, and the protectors together in one scene like placing a man in a cage of lions. They weave an intricate web of conspiracy and crime with an ending that gently pulls the truth from the sticky threads of secrets and lies.

Undoubtedly, “The Interpreter” is potentially this summer’s blockbuster winner. It leaves behind silly, meaningless humor that means to deaden the mind. Rather, it’s a true pabulum; intellectual nourishment for lovers of the thriller.

4.11.2005

Amityville Horror

“Amityville Horror”: 1979 vs. 2005. The comparison is as gruesome as the murders. Who can compare the juxtaposed perceptions of directors Stuart Rosenberg (1979) and Andrew Douglas (2005)? The Alfred Hitchcock educated filmmakers will lean towards the more intelligent and dated version, praising its spine tingling thrilling, psychological manipulation. Today’s more fast-paced, MTV generation will quickly judge the original, finding visual pleasure in vivid cuts and gruesome animation, and the house brought to life.

For those who have viewed the classic Amityville tale, there are several surprises in store that may possibly disappoint and destroy the possibility of liking the remake. The most unsettling is the absence of the original score. This structural move made by Douglas was a brave mistake – emphasis on mistake. The rationality is as tragic as removing the eerie score to sequential “Nightmare on Elm Street” films after the original.

Douglas has taken Rosenberg’s film and altered the family’s structure to resemble a “Wonder Year’s”, home movie family destroyed by the evil demons that possess the house. The colonial-style home houses the deceased, distraught victims of the DeFeo’s who terrorize the Lutz’s to insanity. Elaborate technology has enabled the members of the DeFeo family to be seen, sending shivers up your arms. This technique allows the characters’ madness to be attributed to actual spirits rather than a mental condition as in the earlier version.

The leads played by Ryan Reynolds and Melissa George are an honest attempt at reflecting the original’s leads played by James Brolin and Margot Kidder (who is actually clinically insane). Reynolds is well noted for his comedic roles in the 1998 television series “Two Guys, a Girl, and a Pizza Place” as Michael ‘Berg’ Bergen and the movie “Van Wilder” (2002). In “Amityville”, he dually provides fright and laughter with unexpected diverse acting styles and surprising talent. George does a wonderful portrayal of a newly-wed wife struggling to keep her family from falling apart with madness. She has a spectacular background as well, having appeared on “Alias” in 2003 to 2004 and “Mulholland Dr.” (2001), as well as many other successful productions.

The objective motive in redoing a film is to evolve from the original, denouncing its perfection and declaring a new. It’s apparent that Douglas saw something spectacular in Rosenberg’s story that he could bring to light for new generations. So, Douglas expanded the background of the Amityville home’s history, spiced up the editing with spastic and sometimes polluting cuts, and gave the DeFeo’s faces to remember. At times, these faces are reminiscent of characters in other recent horror films like “The Ring Two” and “The Sixth Sense”, but their fright value is not underrated. There’s no question that Douglas has made an acceptable summer horror film, but to compare it to Rosenberg’s would be a cavil.

4.09.2005

Fever Pitch

The Farrelly brothers have done it again. They’ve successfully created a film with a simple, common storyline with a clean, happy ending. Don’t expect any evolutionary story developments or extremely funny scenes. All you get are chuckles and comfort in knowing that there are no surprises. “Fever Pitch” is far from a strike out, but nothing close to a home run.

With respects to adaptations, “Fever Pitch” translates well on the screen. Having not read Nick Hornby’s novel, I can’t say if there is any intellectual value to the story or if it’s just another quick selling fluff novel. My guess would be the latter since any genre of respect translates poorly into a screenplay due to the intense, complex development of the story. To say that “Fever Pitch” is intelligently written with an unexpected and intense story development would be a balk. Movies like “Me, Myself, and Irene” (2000), “Shallow Hal” (2001), and “Stuck On You” (2003) aren’t known for their in-depth explorations in film school. Their jokes are referenced on middle school playgrounds, and fade from view on video store shelves just as fast as summer break.

As you know from viewing trailers and television commercials, Ben (Fallon) is an obsessed and passionate Red Sox fan. Lindsey Meeks (Barrymore) is an ambitious workaholic. The two meet when Ben takes a few of his prize math students to see mathematics in action. Lindsey falls in love with “winter Ben”, but out of love with “summer Ben” who never misses a home game where his seats are a few rows behind the Sox dugout. It doesn’t take a film buff to know that she has to fight through her judgmental perception and adapt to his lifestyle to make the relationship work.

There’s not much to say about the Drew Barrymore/ Jimmy Fallon onscreen romance. Fallon plays an Adam Sandler role with the awkwardness of a SNL actor pushed onto a movie set. His sketch comedy humor didn’t get a standing ovation in “Taxi” (2004) and it sure doesn’t deserve one this time. Barrymore has altered her appearance from a plump and nerdy to thin, fit, and average. Just like in “Never Been Kissed” (1999), she plays the out-of-water girlfriend who settles for treading water rather than swimming in her own pool.

Ebert and Roeper gave the film two thumbs up, Roeper claiming it’s the best movie he’s seen “about what it means to be a diehard fan”. If I could, I’d ask these two famous film critics how many movies they’ve seen about passionate fans. Did they not see “Field of Dreams” (1989)? “Fever Pitch” is a decent film but it’s not a major league hit; it’s more like a tee ball flick with a few goofy moments.

East of Sunset

“East of Sunset”, magnificently directed by Brian McNelis, is a demented love story about a couple in their awkward twenties fighting through individual personal issues to make their relationship work. It’s a wonderful look at the gritty lifestyles of real people with recognizable problems and very human emotions. A film I hold in higher regard than most films distributed by Hollywood.

Carley, a pill-popping, depressed and unmotivated young woman creates emotional barriers with prescription drugs and alcohol. She hangs out at the same bar almost every night, listening to the same band, and inevitably going home with a random guy for a one-night stand. She meets Jim Smith, the bartender, of equally distraught nature. He’s a painter whose muse is heroine but his love is Carley.

Carley is aware of her emotional detachments to men, but Jim fights through her issues and they become a couple. Jim’s artistic success sends him off to New York to set up a show, and when he returns Carley is waiting. Jim confesses his drug activities to Carley who finds his heroine use disgusting. The manner in which Carley reacts is ironic, since her alcohol and pill use of the addictive nature as well. It’s evident that her father’s death may have something to do with a parallel act.

Carley wants Jim to promise that when he goes to New York for the second time he will not use. When Jim can’t promise, Carley finds herself going home from the bar with another man. Allan, Jim’s friend at the bar, phones Jim to inform him of her actions. Jim, who has just been handed another hit at the show, retires to the balcony where he gazes distraughtly at a ring he bought for Carley. Unknowingly to Jim, Carley doesn’t go through with her plans and leaves Jim a message that she is thinking of him. The next day she receives a call from someone stating Jim has died. We later find out he committed suicide on her behalf.

This is a gripping story with a tragic ending, a true modern Shakespearean love disaster film. The music affectively tells this tale of woe, and lends to the suspense and emotional dismay felt throughout the film. One really attaches to the characters played by Emily Stiles and Jimmy Wayne Farley. Their onscreen chemistry is riveting.

The ending is left open; as Carley absorbs the pain of losing probably one of the only people she has allowed herself to feel emotions. Her depressed nature is sure to continue or end in death as she makes last attempts to return to her old ways, but fails miserably. One can only imagine how her life is to proceed.

4.03.2005

Hide and Seek

Amidst the flurry of horror films competing for this winter’s top thriller arises “Hide and Seek”, a well-developed story with intelligent twists. Based on some of the darkest human emotions caused by death, this psychological thriller’s fear factor is one of satisfaction.

After his wife’s suicide, David Callaway takes his little girl Emily away to a secluded forest in upstate New York to start a new life. In a house where neighbors are scarce and a thick entwined forest acts as a wall from the world, death and fear are inevitable. Upon arrival, Emily is distraught and recluse. She’s unable to develop relationships with other young girls due to her morbid nature. Her father, on the other hand, seems to have no trouble in replacing Emily’s newly deceased mother. As expected, Emily expresses resentment towards her father and his new girlfriend, Elizabeth (played by Elisabeth Shue).

Emily begins to speak of a friend she calls Charlie. She claims Charlie speaks about her father’s motive in his relationship with Elizabeth. Charlie also plays a part in evil mischievous acts perceiving to be performed by Emily. David uses his background as a psychologist to attempt to cure his daughter of her imaginary friend and come to a realization of her emotional problems. David also seeks advice from Katherine, a fellow psychologist who personally knows Emily.

At first, Charlie is the only friend Emily wants to play with, but Elizabeth’s murder changes her mind. Her fear of Charlie convinces David that he’s a real person and not a figment of her imagination. The question is, “who is Charlie?” It could be the neighbor, Steve who recently lost his daughter to an ailment or the previous owner who has old keys to the house. Whoever Charlie is, he’s a threat because he has access to the house and has earned Emily’s trust. Chances are you won’t guess right away and by then it will be too late.

Robert De Niro is cast as David Callaway and Dakota Fanning as Emily Callaway. Dakota Fanning is proving herself to be a multi-dimensional actress playing roles in movies like “Uptown Girls” (2003) and “I Am Sam” (2001). In this film, she trades in her innocent baby blonde tresses for gothic black strands, taking on a dark character unlike her other roles. De Niro is an old pro at creepy characters and dark films.

What makes this film different from the other horror films this season is its dependence on the intelligence of the audience and its finely tuned script by first time writer Ari Schlossberg and well-crafted directing by Australian John Polson. The ending is a bit of a crash landing, which could have been avoided by creating more momentum in the bulk of the story. However, without any cheap thrills or over-saturated computer graphic imaging, this film achieves thrill and excitement.