Friday, January 28, 2011

Review: 127 Hours (2010)

Danny Boyle's 127 Hours depicts the devastating six and a half days spent by Aron Ralston trapped between a rock and a hard place. In this true story of man vs. nature, outdoor enthusiast Aron Ralston (James Franco) departs to the mountains of Moab, Utah for a weekend of canyoneering alone. Initially, things are adventurous as he meets a couple of young ladies climbing nearby. After introducing them to the fun that can be had at his outdoor second home, he parts ways and continues his journey the way he likes it- alone. Here lies the problem, as he has plummeted into an inescapable position with his arm trapped beneath an anchored rock. As the hours turn into days without progress, and the milliliters of water become closer to nonexistent, Aron wishes more and more that he had informed someone of his weekend plans. Bringing us such films as Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire, and 28 Days Later, director Danny Boyle has proven himself an effective storyteller- 127 Hours only reassures us of this ability. The film captures its audience with amazing photography, cinematography, casting, and music. The claustrophobia administered to the viewer by day three of Aron's struggle is eased with sporadic flashbacks, daydreams, and hallucinations strategically placed by Boyle. One-man shows such as this are either a disaster of a display or a masterpiece, and Franco delivers the latter with a convincing portrayal of desperation and hope. The first step into the sunlight in the final minutes of the film are as much a breath of fresh air for the audience as it is for the film's protagonist. It's moments like these in cinema that if done right, not only make up for the leading hour and twenty minutes of struggle, but depend on that conflict to make the grass greener on the other side. Thanks to a compelling survival story provided by Ralston, top-notch direction by Boyle, and a stand up performance by Franco, 127 Hours is a success- scoring 3 1/2 stars.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Review: I Love You Philip Morris (2010)

Directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa's I Love You Philip Morris is an adaptation of the miraculous real life story of Steven Russell. Steven is allegedly your average individual. He goes to work every morning at the Police department, comes home to his wife, eats dinner, makes love, and (*record scratch*) has sex with men. Following a near-death experience in a car accident, Steven decides to live a lie no more- he decides to come out to the world about his life-long secret and start the life that was always intended for him. Not long after leaving his wife and finding a new lover named Jimmy, Steven comes to the realization that being homosexual is very expensive and the easiest way to support his spending habits is by conning his way through life. This eventually leads Steven through the gates of prison. A diamond in the rough- prison acquaints Steven with the true love of his life- Philip Morris. From the moment they lock eyes Steven is determined to treat Philip like a queen. Whether a sports car or designer clothing, Steven graces Philip with whatever he desires. Deceiving his way into corporate jobs and embezzling massive amounts of dough, Steven is not only lying his was into wealth, but through his relationship as well. Will Steven be able to set aside his addiction and compulsive dishonesty for the one he loves, or is he destined to spend the remainder of his days in a distressing six by eight foot cell? I Love You Philip Morris is much like Birdcage intertwined with Catch Me If You Can. If the passion the two leading characters share is not enough to fuel the audience through the film's 102 minute running time, the aberrance of Steven Russell is. Once again in comparison to Catch Me If You Can, the audience will not only be entirely attached to the film's protagonist, but they will surely ponder whether Russell is stealing with aspirations for those he loves, or simply due to an uncontrollable addiction. Either way the journey is hilarious and thrilling. Philip Morris is filled with absurdity (entertaining, though sometimes a bit too absurd) and hilarity, but there is nothing more magnificent about the film than its casting. Ewan McGregor is spot on as an innocent homosexual that is being dragged through the wreckage of his partner, and Jim Carrey displays his best performance by far since Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I Love You Philip Morris is an exceptional depiction of an incredible individual, earning it 3 stars.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Review: Catfish (2010)

Much like the trailer claims, documentary filmmakers Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman's Catfish isn't based upon real characters or inspired by true events, it is simply true. In 2007, filmmakers Henry and Ariel noticed an online romance story evolving in the life of Ariel's brother Nev, and decided to document it on camera. Having only met on Facebook, Nev was eager to acquaint this charming young gal in person-- eager until he began to suspect that she was not being entirely honest. Claiming to have an art gallery- that upon investigation- Nev discovers doesn't exist, taking credit for songs allegedly performed in her own home- leading Nev to discover their existence on Youtube by professional musicians- leads Nev into a state of suspicion. Intrigued and confused, Nev and his brother's crew set out to surprise this deceiving online swinger. What is waiting for them can only be revealed by viewing this on-camera adventure. Catfish is a fine example of real stories being stranger than fiction. Anyone can make up a fictitious plot, but to see bizarre events unfold in a real individual's life is much more capturing. After viewing Catfish, one may reflect and assert that the thrill of the hunt was more exciting than what was waiting behind door number three. The excitement of the unknown may not meet up with the realism that awaits these young gentlemen- but it will certainly not disappoint. The first 45 minutes of the film are intense enough to dampen your pants, whereas the final 45 minutes are emotional and real enough to leave you petrified for hours. As the poster suggests: "Don't let anyone tell you what it is". Catfish is an astonishing display of low-budget filmmaking- earning it a very solid 4 stars.