Welcome to the Rileys: ABC character drama

There really is a formula for everything. Welcome to the Rileys is director Jake Scott’s (son of Ridley, nephew of Tony) second outing in features following 1999’s Plunkett & Macleane. In Rileys Scott made a very ABC 123 character-driven drama, but there is enough worthwhile effort in Rileys to make it worth a watch. Scott demonstrates a talent for letting quiet human moments unravel—an ability that seems to have completely missed his dad and uncle—and he has a feel for clean, simple compositions that don’t clutter the visual landscape when the emotional one is so loaded.Continue reading “Welcome to the Rileys: ABC character drama”

All Good Things not really a good thing

Ryan Gosling’s latest, costarring Kirsten Dunst and Frank Langella, isn’t really good. It kills me to say that. I love Gosling. I love him so much not even his recent alleged dalliance with Blake F*cking Lively can kill my quiver for Gosling. You KNOW it hurts me to judge Gosling and find him less than. But there’s no getting around it. All Good Things isn’t good. And it wasn’t for lack of trying.

Dunst and Gosling both give acceptably good performances and Langella is as good as he always is as the emotionally distant father, Sanford, of David Marks (Gosling) a New York real estate heir who flounders through life. Sanford wants David to shape up and join the family real estate empire but David would rather move to Vermont with his pretty young wife, Katie (Dunst), and run a health food store. Langella does a great job combining Sanford’s seemingly real liking of Katie while simultaneously belittling her as “not one of them”—i.e., wealthy like the Marks family. Dunst plays Katie as a free spirit but it feels kind of flat, like Dunst is just treading water. It gets a bit better as Katie sinks into emotional despair as her marriage to David falls apart, but it’s still a remote, inaccessible performance. We just never care much about Katie, even though we know she’s struggling and we should have sympathy for her. Those actual emotions never actualize, though.Continue reading “All Good Things not really a good thing”

When Ballerinas Attack

I had a helluva time getting into this movie. It was sold out all weekend. So buy your tickets online, you say. I tried! Some of the showings had been sold out for WEEKS. I finally got a ticket for a late Sunday matinee. The theater was packed. Every hipster in Chicago turned out despite temperatures in the teens (and a bitter, soul-crushing wind blowing off the lake that made it feel like the icy finger of death was tickling me). When the movies are this good, weather is not a factor. And yes, Darren Aronofsky’s (Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler) Black Swan is really good.Continue reading “When Ballerinas Attack”

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1: Breakdown

I liked it. Like, a lot. It’s kind of a problem. All I want to do is watch it again and again. It’s so hard to pick a favorite Harry Potter book, and generally my favorite is whichever one I’ve read most recently. But Deathly Hallows is way, way up on my list. There’s just so much. The kids, they are adults now. No more Dumbledore, no more Hogwarts, no more safety and security of castle walls, of knowing everyone around (well, almost) has Harry’s back. Deathly Hallows is all about Harry alone, armed with just his friends and a sketchy outline of what to do to help him survive.Continue reading “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1: Breakdown”

127 Hours

I had to steel myself for this one. Not that I thought it would be depressing—I remember the story of Aron Ralston and his incredible survival against literally every odd ever known to man (if you didn’t ever see the news in 2003, Ralston became trapped while canyoneering in Utah and had to amputate his own arm below the elbow in order to free himself then walk to safety). It’s an amazing story of survival and pure animal will to live. No, I had to steel myself for this one because of all those stories about people passing out during That Scene. You know the one. The one with the arm.Continue reading “127 Hours”

Unstoppable: How to make a bad movie watchable

Let’s be very clear. Unstoppable was not good. It was loud, headache-inducing, teeth-rattling driving action with little plot and no character development. The acting was limited to roguish smiles and worried glances. The score was annoying and cluttered up an already cluttered soundscape and the cinematography was the caliber of World’s Wildest Car Chases. All around, Unstoppable was a pretty terrible movie.

Yet it’s imminently watchable.Continue reading “Unstoppable: How to make a bad movie watchable”

Morning Glory was very pretty

It really was remarkably well lit and framed. Even with an obvious effort to “dress down” Rachael McAdams’ character, Becky, in plain suits (note to wardrobe departments—if you’re creating a real working girl look, flawless tailoring is an afterthought) and with bangs worthy of an irascible news anchor’s derision, the lighting and framing is so lovely that McAdams always looks kind of like Cinderella pre-fairy godmother. The final scene is post-fairy godmother Cinderella as Becky wears a terribly cute dress and cardigan with bright pink pumps (and her bangs are fixed!), and it doesn’t matter if she’s inside or outside, the lighting is perfect.Continue reading “Morning Glory was very pretty”