Archive for the Movie reviews Category

Movie Review: Humpday

Posted in acting, Making Movies, Movie reviews, screenwriting with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 24, 2009 by Tom McIntire

I approached the content of Seattle writer/director Lynn Shelton‘s Humpday with some trepidation – in America pretty much the worst thing you can say (or even imply) about a straight man is that he may have some sexual interest in another man. You can see this in evidence in everything from homophobic stand-up comedy to sports trash-talking to films about straight men posing as gays to gain some special right or privilege (or the girl). What I did not want to see was yet another gay-bashing disguised as comedy. I was delighted to find the subject treated in an honest, sensitive and thoughtful manner in the knowing and funny film Humpday.

Dealing with issues of identity and choices beyond sex and sexuality, Humpday chronicles the reunion of college buddies Ben and Andrew. One has taken a more conventional path including marriage, a house and talk of having children. The other has followed the path of the Beat generation artists and poets, traveling around the world with no particular goal in mind but the trip itself. Their assumptions about one another are challenged as are their doubts about themselves and the choices they have made.

Shelton’s script is beautifully crafted and realized. Knowing a bit about the film from reviews and word-of-mouth, I wondered through the first half hour or so how she was going to pull this off. Natural, believable characters unfold as their relationships bend and twist and evolve, revealing surprising truths about love and friendship and sex. Strong performances from the cast, including Shelton’s own luminous supporting role as free-spirited Monica, demonstrate the director’s skillful,  subtle touch. Alycia Delmore‘s turn as Anna, the patient wife struggling to understand her husband and herself and what it means to be married, brings a focus and clarity that is clever and satisfying. Mark Duplass and Joshua Leonard ultimately carry  the day though, delivering what feels like a single seamless performance in their critical scenes together. Their chemistry is just right, as is this enjoyable AND intelligent film.

Humpday is available on Netflix.

Trailer

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Heckler – watch this documentary

Posted in Movie reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on May 28, 2009 by Tom McIntire

Anyone else tired of the level of discourse that passes for film and theatre criticism? I am impressed with anyone who has the balls to put themselves out there as a performer, writer, filmmaker or any other kind of artist. When interviewed in Heckler, George Lucas talks about wanting to be around the doers who create things, not the destroyers. I couldn’t agree more.

Heckler is a thoughtful, insightful look at heckling in all its forms, from the drunken assholes who disrupt live performances to the self-anointed film experts who savage performers personally rather than offering any helpful or constructive criticism. Director Mike Addis and Jamie Kennedy created this documentary about heckling but it is about much more than that. The lack of civility and empathy that is rampant in our culture has been magnified a thousand times over by the anonymity and lack of filtering that the internet allows. Jamie Kennedy does what many would like to do – talk face-to-face with some of the critics, most of whom don’t have the courage to stand behind the vile things they wrote. “I wasn’t talking about you personally.”  Really? Kennedy’s restraint in dealing with a couple of these guys is admirable.

An affirming and engrossing documentary, Heckler has great interviews with other doers and some unnerving footage of heckling incidents. Nice work Mike and Jamie!

Lily Bart, Susan Boyle and Grey Gardens

Posted in Making Movies, Movie reviews, Rants with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 20, 2009 by Tom McIntire

We watched the excellent HBO film Grey Gardens, with great performances by Drew Barrymore and the extraordinary Jessica Lange. For someone who grew up in a working class part of Long Island, the Hamptons and the people who lived there were an abstraction from Life and Look magazines. When the pictures and story broke of Jackie O’s family members living in squalor, it cracked open a fetid world of class and privilege. It wasn’t until many years later that I got around to seeing the 1975 documentary Grey Gardens. Something that the Barrymore/Lange movie glosses over is the generational contempt and almost giddy delight that contemporary audiences took in dwelling on the pathetic, co-dependent mother/daughter relationship. This was not in any way a loving portrait nor was it taken as such. What warmth came out of it was from the strength of the sick bond between this mother and daughter. And the implication that Edie was anything but a cruel joke onstage after her mother passed away is nonsense. The audience was laughing *at* her. The documentary and Edie’s stage career were as much about generational contempt as a comeuppance for the privileged classes.

The same day, I happened to watch the last hour or so of the flawed but gorgeous 2000 Gillian Anderson vehicle, The House of Mirth, written and directed by Terrence Davies from Edith Wharton’s novel. Contrary to what you might think from the title, this is the dark, sad story of Lily Bart, a beautiful society woman who falls from grace through careless handling of finances and romantic attachments similar to the circumstances that ruined young Edie Beale. Lily describes herself in frustration as a “useless woman” because she has never learned any skills to help her take care of herself. The same can be said for both Beale women. Lily became invisible whereas Edie and her mother became the focus of a vicious ridicule that played off their shared desire to be noticed. This feels very much like the negative energy that fuels shows like Britain’s Got Talent and American Idol.

Which brings me to the surprising and wonderful singer, Susan Boyle. I’ve watched that clip many times now, both to see the surprise and delight of the cynical judges and audience and to just watch Susan work. Susan resembles my Great Aunt Doris, who came to visit us on Long Island from Coventry in the early 1970s. I remember my sister trying to do something with Doris’ hair, only to have Doris reach for a tube of Crest toothpaste (thinking it was hair creme) to smoothe it out. She wore similar cotton dresses and was invisible in the same ways that Susan may be in public. Except Susan has that voice, which melts the pent up resentment that the public has toward anyone who wants to move up, to achieve something, to create beauty. And unlike Edie Beale’s performances, noone is laughing at Susan Boyle’s talent and dedication.

Actresses and Actors – You Need a Web Presence

Posted in acting, Making Movies, Movie reviews, Theatre Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on February 28, 2009 by Tom McIntire

I was writing a review of The Mistakes Madeline Made and was scrambling around looking for links to the actors in case people wanted more info about the talented cast members. Most had something but a few had nothing that came up in Google other than some old reviews. This is a problem if you are in a business where getting your image and information about your work out there is crucial.

Here’s an example of a site for Mary Bliss Mather, who kicks creative butt on a regular basis. While I’m not crazy about the design (Mary Bliss – let’s talk) it gets the message out:
http://www.geocities.com/maryblissmather/

You don’t need to even spend money on a site if you use  Facebook, Biznik.com or LinkedIn. DON’T use your personal facebook account. You’ve got your regular facebook profile to find dates, share photos of you passed out on the sidewalk, whine about having to donate plasma so you can make rent this month (like we all don’t do that) or tell us all what you had for breakfast. Create a new page (use the pages feature in facebook rather than creating a new profile) and keep it current.

If you blog on a regular basis, and link to it from your other sites and pages, you can significantly improve the search results for your pages when someone is searching for your name or your company name. Regular means at least once a week. You don’t have to write a huge essay, just keep people posted with your thoughts on acting, fun things happening around town, shows you like, etc. It’s a way of connecting with people you might not otherwise interact with – what networking is all about for a performer. You can set up a free blog on wordpress.com.

So the next time you wow me with a performance, I want to see your smiling face and resume up on the Web – got it?

What do the Oscars have in common with America’s Next Top Model?

Posted in Greenspoke, Making Movies, Movie reviews on February 22, 2009 by Tom McIntire

Other than plastic surgery, free-floating ego and stylists that is.

OK – I’m embarassed to say that I have only seen two of the movies that received any major Oscar nominations:
The Visitor – Richard Jenkins performance was wonderful
The Dark Knight – this got too hyped so I was a little disappointed

Being so disconnected came from a combination of waiting for things to come on cable and watching the cash flow since I was laid off from my day job in June.

I am going to use the very unscientific method I used for the America’s Next Top Model office pool at my former employer WaMu. The pool organizers would pass around a sheet with photos of all the contenders and you would pick the finalists in order, who would cry first, the biggest b*tch, etc. I usually did better than most people based on the photo alone. I didn’t watch the show.

Based on the photos/clips/trailers I have seen and what little media has slipped in while I’ve been heads-down editing my environmentally themed sci-fi thriller Greenspoke (look for it on the festival circuit later this year), these are my predictions (thanks to Raj Rayru for the list I copied and pasted):

Best Actor
Sean PennMilk
Frank LangellaFrost/Nixon
Mickey RourkeThe Wrestler
Brad PittThe Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Richard JenkinsThe Visitor

Brad Pitt – who doesn’t like a buff little old guy? That could apply to Mickey Rourke too though and I loved his speech at the BAFA awards ceremony.
*************************************************************
Best Actress
Ann HathawayRachel Getting Married
Meryl StreepDoubt
Angelina JolieChangeling
Kate WinsletThe Reader
Melissa LeoFrozen River

Kate Winslet – the dark dark side of Summer of ’42 and just the right actress to pull that off
*************************************************************
Best Supporting Actor
Josh BrolinMilk
Philip Seymour HoffmanDoubt
Robert Downey JrTropic Thunder
Heath LedgerThe Dark Knight
Michael ShannonRevolutionary Road

Heath Ledger – again the buzz is deafening, and this is a nice way to say goodbye
*************************************************************
Best Supporting Actress
Amy AdamsDoubt
Viola Davis – Doubt
Penélope CruzVicky Christina Barcelona
Marisa TomeiThe Wrestler
Taraji HensonThe Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Marisa Tomei – clips look wonderful. Amy Adams is the only other clip I’ve seen – I adore her but don’t think that film is going to do well in the awards after seeing the play.
*************************************************************
Best Director
Danny BoyleSlumdog Millionaire
David Fincher – Benjamin Button
Stephen Daldry – The Reader
Ron Howard – Frost/Nixon
Gus Van Sant – Milk

Ron Howard – because I hope that movies that examine our political past and future get recognition
*************************************************************
Best Picture
Danny Boyle – Slumdog Millionaire
David Fincher – Benjamin Button
Stephen Daldry – The Reader
Ron Howard – Frost/Nixon
Gus Van Sant – Milk

Slumdog Millionaire – because the Oscar business is entertainment
*************************************************************
Best Animated Picture
Wall-E
Bolt
Kung Fu Panda

Wall-E – because Karen Lloyd (storyboard guru) adores this movie
*************************************************************

This is all in fun and based in ignorant gut feeling with little scientific or cultural significance. Let’s see how that works out. Now to get back to editing Greenspoke.

OK, so I’m not a party animal

Posted in Movie reviews, Shriekfest with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 5, 2008 by Tom McIntire

I was beat last night and skipped opening night of Shriekfest. I did head out today (Saturday) to see the first set of shorts and I finally got to meet the heart and soul of Shriekfest, Denise Gossett. The venue is gorgeous – the screening room at the Raleigh Studios (formerly the Chaplin Studios). Comfy seating for 170, full size screen and across the street from Paramount. I had to sign in at the gate and get a daily visitor pass (which I forgot to return). The Closer is filmed at Raleigh – how do I know? It was painted on the concrete parking space stops, so it must be true.

Standout shorts included:

The Procedure – a cash-hungry man gets a job that becomes more and more frightening. The ending is unexpected and totally satisfying. A great script well-executed. Literally.

Side Effect – nicely realized script with a few surprises. An overworked baby sitter takes a drug to help her get more done. It does.

After the shorts came Lovecraft: Fear of the Unknown, which chronicles the peculiar, troubled life of horror writer H.P. Lovecraft. The film includes interviews with Guillermo del Toro and John Carpenter and several current writers. It is at once entertaining and intellectual, finding the humor and humanity of Lovecraft amidst the bizarre world he created. I especially liked the discussion about the impact that such a strong imaginative vision can have on some people, creating something akin to a new religion. This film is accessible enough that people who may not be fans or even aware of Lovecraft can still enjoy learning about the artist’s journey.

If you’re a horror or sci-fi fan in Los Angeles, Shriekfest is definitely worth checking out. Screenings continue today and through Sunday. You can buy tickets at the door and get to meet some interesting people like feature screenplay finalists (each with two scripts!) Tom Manning and fellow ReelHeART 2008 alum Diana Kemp-Jones.

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress (Xia cai feng)

Posted in Movie reviews with tags , , on July 8, 2008 by Tom McIntire

This 2002 French/Chinese film recently aired on cable. The romantic storyline is beautifully realized with sensitive performances, sweeping photography and sly humor. Politics surround the Jules and Jim-esque love triangle, bringing characters together who probably would not have met otherwise in an ancient rural Chinese community. Highly recommended.