Film Reviews 12: “Black Swan”, “The Kids Are All Right”, “Youth in Revolt” and 12 others…

you can count on me 2

This month: “Barcelona”, “Black Swan”, “Cléo de 5 à 7”, “Cyrus”, “Easy A”, “Ella Enchanted”, “Holiday in Handcuffs”, “The Kids are All Right”, “Me and Orson Welles”, “The Palm Beach Story”, “Somers Town”, “Somewhere”, “You Can Count on Me” (pictured above), “Young Frankenstein” and “Youth in Revolt”.

This month, the average rating is 5.81/10, and the film of the month is Black Swan. Trivia: black swans are strictly monogamous. Follow @halfacanyon for more.

Barcelona (1994) – 6/10

Director/Writer: Whit Stillman
Starring: Taylor Nichols, Chris Eigeman, Mira Sorvino

barcelonaIn Barcelona, there is a rich, beautiful culture to explore. In Barcelona, you wonder why you look better in mirrors than in real life, but take ninety minutes to explain why.


Black Swan
(2010) – 8.5/10

Director: Darren Aronofsky
Writers: Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz, Josh McLaughlin
Starring: Natalie Portman, Vincent Cassel, Mila Kunis, Winona Ryder

black swanIt’s the opening night of Swan Lake. Natalie Portman is having a mental breakdown backstage. A man dressed as Von Rothbort, an evil bird monster, brushes past and says, “Hey.”


Cléo de 5 à 7
(1962) – 7.5/10

Director/Writer: Agnès Varda
Starring: Corinne Marchand, Antoine Bourseiller, Dominique Davray

cleo from 5 to 7In Cléo de 5 à 7, Cléo, a singer, awaits cancer test results from a doctor. In the meantime, she makes a spiritual journey simply by walking through the city and looking at things for a few more seconds. Hey, that man is eating a frog – could that affect my existential crisis?

Cléo insists that as long as she’s beautiful, then she’s alive. This is almost proven by the horrible gremlin creature running around one of the flats. I thought it was a CGI-created monster, until I identified it as an ugly kitten. It may as well have been dead.

And then Cléo leaves the building, expecting to die in a vibrant environment – Paris, 1962, where the air is so serendipitous that death can only be the next stage.


Cyrus
(2010) – 4/10

Directors/Writers: Jay Duplass, Mark Duplass
Starring: John C Reilly, Jonah Hill, Marisa Tomei, Catherine Keener

cyrusIs this the universe?


Easy A
(2010) – 7/10

Director: Will Gluck
Writer: Bert V Royal
Starring: Emma Stone, Penn Badgley, Amanda Byrnes

Emma Stone as Which John Hughes traditions should be kept alive?


Ella Enchanted
(2004) – 3/10

Director: Tommy O’Haver
Writers: Karen McCullah Lutz, Kirsten Smith, Gail Carson Levine (novel)
Starring: Anne Hathaway, Hugh Dancy, Cary Elwes, Steve Coogan

ella enchantedA princess is under a magic spell that means she has to obey every order given to her. Someone should have told her to stop production.


Holiday in Handcuffs
(2007) – 5.5/10

Director: Ron Underwood
Writer: Sara Endsley
Starring: Melissa Joan Hart, Mario Lopez, Markie Post, Timothy Bottoms

holiday in handcuffsHoliday in Handcuffs brings together two important figures from my childhood: Mario Lopez (Saved by the Bell) and Melissa Joan Hart (Clarissa Explains it All).

It’s a few days before Christmas and Melissa Joan Hart is excited about her family meeting her boyfriend for the first time, but he dumps her. Uh oh! Meanwhile, Mario Lopez slips on some ice and loses consciousness. Melissa takes advantage of the situation by taking him into her car and tying him up. Mario wakes up to find that he’s been kidnapped and being instructed that he must pretend to be the boyfriend of a complete stranger.

When Melissa and Mario reach the family house, he immediately tells the family that he’s been kidnapped and must find a way to get home. The family laugh and assume he’s joking. HE THEN GIVES UP. JUST LIKE THAT. He later finds a phone. He calls a friend to apologise for missing a meeting. HE DOESN’T PHONE THE POLICE. How could he get revenge? He could be an embarrassing boyfriend, perhaps. Or he could concentrate on escaping. For instance, he could run away in the night. Or run away in the day. Or run away any single moment.

Instead, he DECIDES TO BOND WITH HER FAMILY AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE, so that they prefer him to her. YES, HE BELIEVES THAT ENFORCING A FEELING OF SLIGHT INFERIORITY IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN FREEDOM OR CALLING THE POLICE.

But, apart from that, it’s okay.


The Kids Are All Right
(2010) – 6.5/10

Director: Lisa Cholodenko
Writers: Lisa Cholodenko, Stuart Blumberg
Starring: Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Mia Wasikowska, Josh Hutcherson

the kids are all rightThere is a lot of promise in The Kids Are All Right, with a talented cast and an intriguing concept. Two children of a lesbian couple are curious about their biological father, so track down the sperm donor, who turns out to be a laid-back Californian with an interest in settling down. However, the film fails to maintain any momentum, and becomes  contrived and predictable .

There is a potential goldmine in examining the father’s casual relationship with his sudden family, but instead the viewer is shown tired comic set-ups, such as someone accidentally turning pornography on full volume, and the sitcom cliché of parents thinking their son might be gay after a few misunderstandings.


Me and Orson Welles
(2009) – 7.5/10

Director: Richard Linklater
Writers: Holly Gent Palmo, Vincent Palmo Jr, Robert Kaplow (novel)
Starring: Zac Efron, Christian McKay, Claire Danes, Ben Chaplin

me and orson wellesDo you remember New York in 1937? Well, do you remember the last time you saw a film that featured New York in 1937? Me and Orson Welles is a wonderful coming-of-age period drama that is in awe of the sparkling world of theatre. The narrative follows Zac Efron, a schoolboy accused of romanticising everything, as he plays a small role in a production of Julius Caesar, helmed by Orson Welles. It’s a horrible play – I studied it at school, then later at university – but Richard Linklater provides a warm and fuzzy camera lens. I watched it on Boxing Day by a radiator, eating soup, forgetting how much I want to die.


The Palm Beach Story
(1942) – 5.5/10

Director/Writer: Preston Sturges
Starring: Claudette Colbert, Joel McCrea, Mary Astor, Rudy Vallee

the palm beach storyWith this Palm Beach, you probably had to be there to enjoy it.


Somers Town
(2008) – 4/10

Director: Shane Meadows
Writer: Paul Fraser
Starring: Thomas Turgoose, Piotr Jagiello

somers townShane Meadows goes to great lengths to show us the lives of insignificant teenagers in Somers Town, a small part of London where everyone is auditioning for a role in a Ken Loach film. I suppose it’s a coming-of-age drama, but it’s also an oh-God-why-won’t-this-film-end-I-don’t-care-about-these-characters drama.


Somewhere
(2010) – 1/10

Director/Writer: Sofia Coppola
Starring: Stephen Dorff, Elle Fanning, Michelle Monaghan, Chris Pontius

somewhereI think Anywhere would be better than this. Two second transitional scenes take about ten minutes in Somewhere. It’s lazier than Garfield – lazier than both the character and the franchise.


You Can Count on Me
(2000) – 9/10

Director/Writer: Kenneth Lonergan
Starring: Laura Linney, Mark Ruffalo, Matthew Broderick, Jon Tenney, Rory Culkin
“Oh, fine – why don’t you just take over the whole bank?”

you can count on meLaura Linney plays a single mother in You Can Count on Me, an intelligent drama about family and the ‘psychological bullshit’ of the church. After her parents died when she was child, she never left the village. In fact, she still lives in her family home, single-handedly raising Rory Culkin. Hooray for Rory Culkin. And then her unreliable brother, Mark Ruffalo, stops by for a visit. Hooray for Mark Ruffalo.

Mark Ruffalo is magnificent. Even when he sits in the bath, it’s a heavy scene – the way he’s sitting in the water, reflecting on the dramas of his life, his flailing relationship with his sister and her son, his recent stint in prison, his financial worries, and why he chose a tub instead of a shower.


Young Frankenstein
(1974) – 7.5/10

Director: Mel Brooks
Writers: Mel Brooks, Gene Wilder, Mary Shelley (novel)

Young FrankensteinMel Brooks and Gene Wilder team up to form a daft and ridiculous black-and-white spoof of Frankenstein. Gene Wilder plays Dr Frankenstein, a man booed and hissed at by the science community after memories of his ancestors. In the role of a reluctant mad scientist, Wilder portrays the maddest scientist possible, shrieking hysterically and punning crazily. Walk this way…


Youth in Revolt
(2009) – 5.5/10

Director: Miguel Arteta
Writers: Gustin Nash, CD Payne (novel)
Starring: Michael Cera, Portia Doubleday, Jean Smart, Mary Kay Place, Zach Galifianakis

youth in revoltIt takes a few seconds to realise Youth in Revolt is yet another film about Michael Cera trying to lose his virginity – the opening scene lays outs its cards, knowing how sick you are of metaphorical poker. Luckily, there is a twist as Cera also plays François Dilinger, the evil version of himself that exists only in his imagination. Sometimes they take turns on screen, and sometimes they appear next to each other. It’s stupid fun – you get to see Cera with a moustache, smoking a cigarette and dispensing bad advice.

Sadly, François Dilinger isn’t enough to hide that Youth in Revolt is a contrived coming-of-age story that has a smug voice-over and little authenticity. The plot is so far-fetched, it is easier following Hansel and Gretal after the birds have had their picnic.

Follow @halfacanyon for more. Unollow @halfacanyon for less.

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About Nick Chen

26-year-old journalist who's written for places like Total Film, Sight & Sound, Little White Lies, Complex, SFX Magazine, Dazed and Confused, Grolsch Film Works, London Calling, Vice, and a bunch of other places. Why pencils have razors. Based on a book. Screenwriter. Buzz word. London. Twitter: @halfacanyon. Feeling pullovered apart by clothes horses. Lesser known Olsen brother. Multiple instances of words misused contemporaneously.
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