Category Archives: movies

The Kids Are All Right, a film by Lisa Cholodenko

by James Gilmore

The Kids Are All Right (but the parents are not)—the anti-hollywood movie; or, an advertisement for ultra-liberal living.

Movie poster for The Kids Are All Right, a film by Lisa Cholodenko, on Minimalist Reviews. Somehow Lisa Cholodenko has managed to turn slow pacing, low conflict, and a nearly directionless plot into a film that is oddly intoxicating, sucking the viewer into a strange microcosm of uber-liberal Californianism. Although laughs are unevenly distributed, the comedy is always natural and never forced or artificial as is seen in so many Hollywood films, but grows organically out of the emotional content of the scenes. Despite its ability to entrance, the ending is so poorly handled it begs the viewer to second guess the film’s anti-Hollywood nature and instead wonder whether the filmmakers simply didn’t know what they were doing.  The final sequence—the most crucial in any film—is not only unsatisfying, but is handled with complete ineptitude and lack of relevance to the story.

Also problematic with this character piece is, in fact, character. The story could use a little more diversity among the adults, who all feel like they are part of the same social circle from the start. And while the sex of the director should not interfere with the storytelling, somehow all the male characters in The Kids Are All Right receive unfair treatment. They fail to compare in dimension and emotional presence to any of the female characters. Paul (played by Mark Ruffalo), a principal character and the lynchpin which the entire plot of the story hinges upon, disappears after an ambiguous, noncommittal confrontation with Joni (Mia Wasikowska) and doesn’t even make it to the conclusion. Laser (Josh Hutcherson) lacks both character development and depth, being stereotyped as the typical “insensitive” male in a story unevenly weighted in favor of the females. Even the extraneous gardener character, also male, serves no appropriate purpose except an artificial construct to hinder (although he fails to do so) the developing physical relationship between Paul and Jules (Julianne Moore).

Finally, the acting gems of this film: Julianne Moore and Mia Wasikowska. Mark Ruffalo also delivers a commendable performance.

The Kids Are All Right could have been a 5 / 5 film but pitfalls in character and the ending of the story severely hamstring the film.

Rating: 3 / 5

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, a film by Edgar Wright

by James Gilmore

Movie poster for Scott Pilgrim vs The World, a film by Edgar Wright, on Minimalist Reviews.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is the mantra of the 16-bit generation who grew up in the early 90s. A musical about adolescent love with a surprising amount of heart, only there’s fighting instead of singing. Although dressed with the trappings of video game culture, the film is actually a kung fu movie at its core, albeit a very surreal one.

Michael Cera plays himself as usual, although his transition from self-conscious nerd to super fighter is a welcome surprise. Co-stars Kieran Culkin, Ellen Wong and others are, despite their obscurity in American films, nothing less than refreshing and delightful, although Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s performance comes across as relatively flat by comparison.

This filmic experience proves overwhelmingly satisfying to the A.D.D. senses of the modern movie-goer, no doubt due to Edgar Wright’s brilliant artistic direction, and should be required viewing for the video game generations, although everyone else will find Scott Pilgrim completely senseless and perplexing at best.

Rating: 5 / 5

Black Swan, a film by Darren Aronofsky

by James Gilmore

Movie poster of Black Swan, a film by Darren Aronofsky, on Minimalist Reviews.

Black Swan is perfect in both conception and construction, although the plot and main character leave something to be desired. Despite a very good script, Aronofsky’s masterful directing far exceeds it, nearly surmounting the story’s shortcomings. Nina and Erica Sayers both lack adequate character depth, as does their relationship. The end result is a strange film whose story fails to engage the audience enough to match the superb filmmaking which surrounds it. Once again, a potential masterpiece is thwarted by a thin script. On the other hand, the exquisite filmic storytelling boasts powerful imagery and cinematography with a strong European—but especially French—influence.

Excellent casting with outstanding performances by the actors. Mila Kunis’ surprising performance demonstrates her capability to grapple serious acting weight while Vincent Cassel’s work falls nothing short of superlatively stunning. Natalie Portman delivers her best performance to date upon transformation into the Black Swan, but otherwise remains her usual self in which she appears to be perpetually on the verge of tears.

On a side note, one might almost call Black Swan “The Machinist for Women.”

Rating: 4 / 5

Inception, a film by Christopher Nolan

by James Gilmore

Movie poster for Inception, a film by Christopher Nolan, on Minimalist Reviews.Christopher Nolan’s Inception sports an original but difficult concept, which the film explains surprisingly well, although more could have been left to the speculative imagination. The unfortunate side effect of having a difficult concept is that it requires a lot of time to illustrate, meaning the film takes 60 minutes to get to the heart of the concept, at which point it runs with the intensity of a driven madman. The close cutting adds to the dreamlike quality of the story but cannot alter the impression that one is watching two or three films rolled into one—the total of which ultimately seems lacking in a final or third-act twist whose gravitas is appropriate to the story. Fortunately, the aggressive pacing of the story helps blunt the ham-fisted dialogue and the glaring plot hole which serves as the crux for the third act. As for acting, Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance is adequate but overshadowed by the quiet show-stealer, Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

Overall, a slight disappointment but a supremely wonderful, well-executed concept.

Rating: 3 / 5