Brick (2005)

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Original Theatrical Release Date: January 1, 2005
Director: Rian Johnson

A teenage loner, Brendan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), seeks the whereabouts of his girlfriend, Emily (Emilie De Ravin). When it turns out that she was a victim of apparent foul play, Brendan finds himself in the seedy underbelly of a high school crime syndicate run by the notorious and mysterious Pin (Lukas Haas). Brendan must sort through his own morals and reserves of courage if he is to get any answers for Emily’s disappearance.

Brick is one of those films that was always sort of on my radar but never a film I purposely sought out. To understand why, you must understand that as a rule – I hardly ever watch gritty, ultra-realistic crime films. I see enough of that stuff on the news, so I don’t feel much particular need to seek it out in films I enjoy watching. I use films as an escapist sort of entertainment. The image on the movie jacket did little to inspire any ideas I had about the film being anything other than a movie where a girl is murdered.

With that said, I recently watched this at a friend’s house in Vermont. He and his wife suggested a few of us all watch it for a “movie night” of sorts, and I’m glad he did. First off – this is not ultra-realistic at all. This is a blend of Noir and a sort of high-school/teen drama film. You wouldn’t think such a combination would be satisfying or poignant, but you’d be just as wrong as I was. The ultra-stylistic dialogue and the snappy cinematography  and the quirky characters had me intently watching the screen for the duration of the film.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt turns in a great performance as Brendan. Lukas Haas is very hilarious and on point as The Pin while Noah Fleiss’ portrayal of a henchman named Tugger had me laughing at several points. This is a dark comedy, for sure – as it still deals with drug trafficking and death – but it’s all set against the backdrop of High School, something most of us can relate to. The noir world that the characters inhabit is very believable within its own context and pretty much everything about the film is enjoyable. If you haven’t seen this film yet, give it a shot. It’s really worth taking the time to watch. (Especially if you like films such as Kiss Kiss Bang Bang)

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Movie Trailer For Brick

 

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Butter (2011)

Butter (2011)

Butter is a way of life in Iowa, and the king of butter carving, Bob (Ty Burrell), is retiring. Angry that Bob isn’t trying to use his butter-carving talents to get into politics, his too-ambitious Sarah-Palin-clone of a wife Laura (Jennifer Garner) steps up despite never butter-carving before to try and fill his shoes. However, there is a little girl named Destiny (Yara Shahidi) who discovers her own butter-carving talents who just may undo everything Laura has tried to achieve.

I had no idea what to expect with this film. I had never seen it advertised and the premise seemed hokey, but interesting, so I gave it a shot. It was okay, but it wasn’t the best film ever.

The thing that intrigued me was the butter carving aspect. The whole “Midwest” thing has been done to death with these kinds of movies, but the butter aspect played itself out really early on in the movie. Some of the sculptures were neat, but the whole thing went way over my head because some of the sculptures were unbelievable just in terms of character achievement.

The acting was pretty good, overall. Most of the big-name talent was wasted, though. (There was even a bit part played by Hugh Jackman).

The story was pretty weak. I felt like it wasn’t sure if it was supposed to be an allegory, a comedy/farce or a drama. There wasn’t enough heart for it to be an allegory or a drama, and there weren’t enough funny parts for it to be a great comedy. By themselves, the main characters were boring. Bob is a cuckolded husband character while Laura is, as I wrote above, an over-achieving Sarah-Palin clone. Destiny is an okay character, but her development arc gets confused with that of Laura’s. The stripper character, Brooke (Olivia Wilde), was funny but she was tossed into the mix as well in an unbelievable way (the same old boring stripper clone who is uneducated and poor and would shit on someone’s lawn). The way everyone was introduced and interacted was just chaotic.

Overall, this movie wasn’t groundbreaking in any way. There are a couple of scenes that made me chuckle. Olivia Wilde is nice to look at. Seeing Hugh Jackman as a car salesman is kind of funny. So, you may be entertained for one viewing.

JOE Rating: ★★★

A Good Old Fashioned Orgy (2011)

A Good Old Fashioned Orgy (2011)

Original Theatrical Release Date: September 2 , 2011
Director: Alex Gregory, Peter Huyck

Eric (Jason Sudeikis) and his group of thirty-year-old friends have parties all summer at his dad’s house in the Hamptons. However, when his dad decides to sell the place, Eric proposes the party to end all parties…an orgy. The longtime friends must then decide if they’re up for potentially ruining their existing friendships in the process.

There are a few funny folks in this flick, but the story seemed disjointed and I was never quite sure where it was headed. That could have been a good thing because they didn’t seem to follow some of the same conventions these type of films tend to hold, but there was just no focus.

Sudeikis has never been one of my favorites, and I think he could probably be good in the right role but he (and none of the actors, really) reached out and tried to grab the audience. On top of that, the chemistry between all these friends seemed sparse and mostly artificial. There were a couple of moments where I chuckled to myself but I found no real guffaws.

Worth a view the first time around? Sure. A second viewing? Nah, probably not. There’s not much to quote from this film.

JOE Rating: ★★★

Movie Trailer For A Good Old Fashioned Orgy