Review: Beautiful Boy

[For those of you in Canada, Shawn Ku’s film is getting a limited theatrical release, and here is my previously written review (slightly copy-edited) from TIFF]

 
There are enough school shooting films out there at the moment that they are threatening to become a sub-genre unto themselves. Elephant, Bowling For Columbine and Polytechnique have all won major awards and even Uwe Boll has even made a film on the subject, so there is your filmmaker spectrum rather covered. Enter freshman filmmaker Shawn Ku who gives us a different perspective on the genre with Beautiful Boy. It is a solid first film, but rather torn on two fronts: On one hand it struggles to transcend clichés as a hand-held realistic and grounded drama, and on the other it wants to throw plates, obsessively scrub gravestones and have its principle characters do enough body-shaking crying so as to rival a belly-dancers funeral. There is a good film struggling to get out past a few bad writing choices, screenplay feels just a tad overwritten. Bolstered significantly by top shelf performances from its leads, Maria Bello and Michael Sheen (with a solid American accent), the two play the grieving parents, Bill and Kate, of freshmen college student Sam. Sam is killed in a columbine style school shooting and Kate immediately knows her son is the victim when the cops come knocking at the door. But both parents are flabbergasted when they discover that it was their son who shot all of his classmates before turning the gun on himself.

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Trailer: Beautiful Boy

Beautiful Boy Movie Still

Not quite as good as Rabbit Hole, perhaps suffering a bit from first-time-feature jitters, but Canadian school-shooting drama, Beautiful Boy (Kurt’s Review), starring Maria Bello and Martin Sheen (and a wonderful but tiny role for Alan Tudyk), has dropped a new trailer, going to heavy manipulation and melodrama. Which is certainly how the film plays out. Fair warning.

Beautiful Boy follows the aftermath of a school shooting but it does so from an angle we haven’t seen yet: the parents of the killer.

The trailer is tucked under the Seat.

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Review: The Company Men

Director: John Wells (“E.R.”)
Writer: John Wells
Producers: Claire Rudnick Polstein, Paula Weinstein, John Wells
Starring: Ben Affleck, Tommy Lee Jones, Craig T. Nelson, Chris Cooper, Maria Bello, Kevin Costner, Rosemarie DeWitt
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 104 min.


There really isn’t any way of describing how terrible this film is without getting into specific spoiler territory so I’ll try to brush over some of the overall problems with the movie without getting too detailed. Suffice it to say that this film is trying so darn hard to be relevant and informative that it instantly becomes irrelevant, a product of its own past and something that has already aged terribly. Up in the Air, this is not. It’s full of corny, overwrought clichés that are so heavy handed that I couldn’t help but bust into laughter as I verbally recalled the story to my girlfriend two hours after leaving the theater.

The story is essentially about a bunch of corporate execs that lose their job due to downsizing and are having a hard time coping with their 12 weeks of full pay and benefits at a $120,000+ a year. They have a hard time finding employment in this downtrodden economy (yeah, the $60,000/year job just isn’t good enough) and several of them end up either sitting around all day feeling sorry for themselves, learning the value of an “honest” day’s work or just giving up entirely. Or in Chris Cooper’s case, getting drunk and throwing rocks at the office building while screaming obscenities in the middle of the night. It’s pretty dramatic stuff – it’s just like Jenny in Forrest Gump.
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Remembering a Decade…2005

(prologue) As we can begin to hear the death rattle of the oughts, we in the third row decided to start on this continuing series throughout 2009 that will look back at our favorite films of each of the past ten years (2000-2009). This will ultimately culminate in a “ten best/favorites of the oughts” piece sometime in early 2010.

This is probably our most inaccurate list of this series so far. With so many titles in 2005 that were on the cusp of being legendary, it really watered down the list of potentials. With movies like Brick, Good Night and Good Luck, Match Point and Batman Begins to contend with, it’s hard to put together a consensus top five list. Especially considering there were quite a few under-seen gems that popped up from 2005 over the past few years (Squid and the Whale, Lady Vengeance, Tristram Shandy). Once all of the staples of the year grace one’s list, it’s hard to fill in the blanks with a common consensus with so many great titles flying around. But anyway, if nothing else 2005 is a year that delivers weeks of quality film watching and more than a few week’s worth of discussion and debate. So here’s RowThree remembering 2005…

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Still Floating in the Wind: The Yellow Handkerchief Trailer

TheYellowHandkerchiefMovieSA year ago, I came across news that William Hurt and Maria Bello had worked together on a film. A remake of Yôji Yamada’s 1977 film, The Yellow Handkerchief is the story of two kids (Eddie Redmayne and Kristen Stewart) on a road trip. Along the way, they pick a man who has recently been released from jail (Hurt) who is on his way to see his wife (Bello).

Since its original run at Sundance and SFIFF, the film has continued to make appearances through various festivals but it has yet to find an American distributor and considering it’s been floating around for well over a year, it seems unlikely the film will be picked up for theatrical distribution any time soon. Though reviews have been predominantly positive, it looks like the only people excited for the film are Twihards who will latch on to anything even remotely associated with the saga. In this case, that fixation may prove helpful.

I’m hopeful this won’t get buried away somewhere and then quietly dumped onto DVD.

Trailer is tucked under the seat!

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Pippa Lee’s Private Lives on Display

The Private Lives of Pippa Lee Movie StillI’m not familiar with Rebecca Miller’s work but I appreciate that she’s a talented writer and director who has gained wide acclaim for both her films and her books. Her second film Personal Velocity: Three Portraits won the Independent Spirit John Cassavetes Award and though she’s only made one film since that win in 2002 (though that too won some accolades) she’s one of these female directors to watch.

Her new film The Private Lives of Pippa Lee, an adaptation of her first novel, stars Robin Wright Penn as Pippa Lee, a woman married to a much older man (Alan Arkin) who begins re-evaluating her life when her husband decides to move them from the city and into a retirement community. In her re-evaluation, she thinks back to her turbulent youth as a 17-year old, pill addicted teen and how her life unfolded, getting her to where she is today. Along with Arkin and Penn, the film also stars “Gossip Girl” Blake Lively as the young Pippa Lee, Maria Bello, Monica Bellucci, Julianne Moore (triple threat!), Winona Ryder, Mike Binder and Keanu Reeves.

Though I’m not particularly interested in this story (the trailer doesn’t even appeal to me), there are a whole lot of factors urging me to see this: the cast which features quite the collection of female actresses (it’s nice to see films with great casts like this), then there’s the Keanu factor but trumping all is Miller’s track record which, from the surface, suggests mainstream films with legs. I’m willing to find out; I’ve added her previous films to my DVD queue.

The Private Lives of Pippa Lee will play the Edinburgh Film Festival on June 18th and will open in the UK on July 10th. I can’t find details on a US distributor but the film has been picked up for Canadian distribution by Maple Pictures. I expect we’ll have a chance to see it later this year.

Closer to Relase? New Trailer for Downloading Nancy

Downloading Nancy Movie StillI first posted the trailer for Downloading Nancy when previewing Sundance 2008. The film eventually played, receiving less than favourable reviews. Even with the reviews (everything from depraved to unwatchable), I was happy when, months later, it was announced that the film would be released, however limited, by Strand Releasing. At the time of the announcement, there was no indication as to when the release might come and though that’s still the case, the film’s recent re-appearance suggests that the time is soon.

Late last week Cinematical debuted the film’s poster and today, a new trailer for the film has appeared online. It’s not much different from the original trailer and the film and, as Variety originally commented, still has below-zero commercial prospects, but I’m now, more than ever, curious to see what all the hubbub is about.

Maria Bello stars as an unhappy wife who finds an individual online to kill her but the plan goes slightly astray when the two fall in love. There seems to be more to the story (the trailer clearly shows that at some point, Bello’s husband (Rufus Sewell) meets and confronts the “other” man (Jason Patric)) but none of the reviews I’ve read have had much to say about the film’s plot. What everyone does seem to agree with is that it is an ugly and difficult movie to watch and though it may not be theatrical release material (I’m not sure Strand will release it theatrically or direct to DVD), I’m thrilled to know that it won’t simply disappear onto some shelf somewhere unseen outside of Sundance.

I want to see this for myself and decide, once and for all what, if anything it’s saying/getting at. It can’t possibly be as difficult to watch as The Free Will (our review) and even if it is, it should also provide a load of material for rumination.

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