Tag Archives: movies

Quickie Review: Terri

Terri is a smart, strong film from indie up and comer Azazel Jacobs that may pass under most moviegoers’ radar, but deserves a wider audience. A coming-of-age comedy that takes its cues from another time, the story follows Terri (Jacob Wysocki), an overweight, pajama-clad boy who, while shuffling his way through middle school, is taken under the wing of assistant principal Mr. Fitzgerald (John C. Reilly). As Terri builds a relationship with his mentor Fitzgerald, his life seemingly falls apart, as he deals with his mentally ill uncle and guardian (Creed Bratton), and a crush on an equally self-destructive friend (Olivia Crocicchia). A tender, honest look at adolescence, the film resonated more deeply with me than any offering in recent history, seemingly worlds away from ABC Family.

Simply put, Terri’s script feels authentic. When Terri tells Mr. Fitzgerald he is in need of help, it’s not a monologue, but a simply whispered “I have trouble coming to school.” We don’t learn that Terri’s parents are deadbeats, instead he tells his friend Chad (Bridger Zadina) that “I don’t know” what happened to them. There is far more being communicated in these small words than a page of text could do. That the story neither resolves itself nor comes to a satisfying conclusion evinces a truth far stronger than any quick ending could have.

None of these telling details would mean anything without such a strong cast. Reilly is both hilarious and self-effacing as Mr. Fitzgerald. Jacob Wysocki’s taciturn Terri really proves that less is more. Even the supporting actors, eccentricities and all, feel like they belong to this odd world of middle school limbo. That Jacobs was able to control these characters, and create that mood speaks to a great gift. But it’s Jacobs’ quiet empathy that I am most drawn to. He doesn’t make us love his characters, but he doesn’t draw back in ironic distaste either. He steps back and lets the actors let us into their worlds—a far more powerful move than any ham-fisted directing. I can’t wait to see what else he comes up with.

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My Movie Clichés

Keanu Reeves Writing One of Those Special Read Aloud Letters

There are certain movie clichés that always take me out of the viewing experience. I have griped with friends about characters who brush their teeth in five seconds when it should take two minutes (Mr. and Mrs. Smith), solve a mysterious pandemic in ten whole minutes (Outbreak), or whose cell phones lose reception at the end of act one (Almost Every Thriller Since 1995).

Here is one of my least favorite: Whenever a movie character reads a letter, email, or IM, we hear the writer’s voice in the background. Is this a hallucination? A talking card from Hallmark? When I read a letter, I read it in my voice, not anyone else’s. Isn’t this how everyone else reads? Whatever the style, this voice-over effect is still overused.

I hear The Lake House is particularly guilty of this—not that I would ever see this guaranteed cry-fest, but, it’s good to know, in any case. Here’s a scene from You’ve Got Mail that’s actually really funny—but is still guilty as charged.

What are your movie pet peeves? Hopefully it’s not just me that has these!

My Winter Movie Preview

We have waited. And waited. Let’s face it, this has been a pretty dry year for Hollywood, and for only these next two months quality is coming to the cineplex. So, here’s my round up of some of the movies I’m excited to see this season. If there’s a movie I should know about or missed, please tell me about it in the comments. I would like to hear your picks for the holidays.

Disclaimer: I am rating these purely based on my interest level; I haven’t seen any of them.

Tangled (November 24)

It may be Disney, but it’s not quite Pixar.

One out of four stars.

The King’s Speech (November 26)

The great thing about Colin Firth is that even in very bad movies, his performances are always top-notch. The man has presence. I am looking forward to seeing how he plays George VI. And the script, by David Seidler, sounds outstanding; George’s travail to rise above his speech impediment and find his voice in the midst of World War II is an inspiring story and should be told. This LA Times preview gave me a good insight into this film and only made me more excited about seeing it.

Four out of four stars.

Black Swan (December 3)

I’m just not too into the premise of this movie. I like the idea of a modern movie about ballet dancers and Mila Kunis and Natalie Portman and all of that, but from what I’ve read, the psychological horror and suspense plot seems like something tacked on to appease American audiences. While I am no stranger to seeing a campy mess for laughs, the pretentiousness of this project ultimately dooms it.

Two out of four stars.

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (December 3)

The movie’s tagline says it all: “Forget Everything You Know about Santa…It’s All Lies.” How could you possibly pass up this one? The story of a murderous Santa Claus invading Northern Finland sounds like the perfect holiday horror film. For someone who has celebrated Hannukah all his life, all I can say is bring it on.

Three out of four stars.

Casino Jack (December 17)

Any movie about Jack Abramoff, the Hollywood screenwriter turned Washington lobbyist is OK by me. Kevin Spacey portrays Abramoff, and Jon Lovitz gets a featured role as a mafia type. The plot, loosely based on Abramoff’s own story, sounds a bit absurd, but in their defense, it’s not like these things don’t happen in Washington. To hear Spacey point to himself and say “I’m a super-lobbyist!” is reason enough to see this film, or at least watch the trailer right now:

Three out of four stars.

TRON: Legacy (December 17)

I can’t stay away from this one. The CGI visuals look fantastic, the soundtrack from Daft Punk is really exciting, and the way this movie has been advertised for about a year in LA makes this a must see on my list. If Jeff Bridges can really pull off the role of techie trapped in a video game (and he has in the original Tron)—well, give this man another Oscar right there.

Four hundred out of four.

True Grit (December 22)

Again, Jeff Bridges! I saw the trailer on the sixty foot screen in the Hollywood Arclight “Dome.” So powerful was that one trailer that the movie I was there to see, The Social Network seemed like a disappointment, and I left the theatre wondering how long I would have to wait for True Grit. Jeff Bridges seems a pretty good replacement for John Wayne and you can’t get any better directorial team than Joel and Ethan Coen. From what I’ve read, the film is pretty faithful to the original 1969 film. Will most likely be better than many of the nu-westerns we’ve had to endure in the last decade.

Four out of four.