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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Gentlemen Broncos (2009)

Gentlemen Broncos (2009)

Original Theatrical Release: May 27, 2010
Director: Jared Hess

Benjamin (Michael Angarano) is a withdrawn, socially awkward home-schooled student with a love of science fiction. While at a writing camp for young authors, Benjamin gets to see his favorite sci-fi author, Ronald Chevalier (Jemaine Clement), who is one of the judges of a writing contest. Hoping to win the contest, and Chevalier’s respect, Benjamin submits a manuscript. When he sees extreme similarities between Chevalier’s new novel and his own manuscript, he decides to fight back.

I really, really wanted to like this.

  • I mean, it was made by Jared Hess, the same guy who made another movie I loved; Napoleon Dynamite.
  • It had Sam Rockwell in it, along with Jemaine Clement.
  • It was about science fiction writing and writing in general, which is something I’m very interested in right now. (I’ve been to writing workshops and seminars lately just like the one in the film)
  • It had all of the ingredients to be a great film but it ended up falling short.

I think the film’s first mistake was to under-use the main draw of the movie, for me, which was Jemaine Clement. He was hands-down the funniest part of the movie. Sam Rockwell was great as Bronco, too, but we at least got a decent amount of scenes of him between the various versions of the story used in the movie.

Michael Angarano wasn’t super-charismatic on screen and thus didn’t keep me as interested as the other characters in the movie. I felt he didn’t have much of a voice in the film.

On top of that, there weren’t a ton of hilarious parts in a supposed-to-be-hilarious movie like this. With Napoleon Dynamite we still had the kitsch, but there were a ton of laughs. This one was just very drawn-out and unfocused, moving between a film-within-a-film concept in addition to alternate versions of the original story both altered by Chevalier and Benjamin as well as the overall arc of the story that was going on simultaneously. Too much, too fast.

It had some good heart and a lot of ambition, but it wasn’t executed to its fullest extent.

JOE Rating: ★★

Movie Trailer For Gentlemen Broncos