Liz and Dick and Everyone We Know

lohanliz

http://blogs.orlandoweekly.com/index.php/2012/11/liz-and-dick-and-everyone-we-know/

Just some quick thoughts I had while watching Lifetime’s Liz & Dick — which by strict movie of the week standards isn’t so terrible, but by any normal film standard is a miserable, artless, lifeless lump:

-My prevailing thought this whole time was, “at least they’re off Marilyn for now.” And let’s be honest, that’s a huge step for movie producers. Everything is Marilyn. Marilyn this, Marilyn that, Marilyn up the ass. I love Marilyn too, especially the comedies, but it’s too much. It’s just a short break though. By the news feeds, they’re going right back to Marilyn for next year.

-Grant Bowler as Dick… wasn’t so bad actually. No one can really do Dick — not even Bill Murray in Scrooged — but he got the essence and the voice, if not the immense presence. To which I ask this: what the hell is he doing in a Lifetime movie? I haven’t seen him in anything else though, so I’m not sure of his real abilities. Maybe he was just benefiting from the low standard of those around him.

-I don’t want to pile on, but, just like in real life, Lindsay Lohan is a train wreck in motion, heading straight into a wall. Her makeup crew got Liz right, but when you’re playing a two-time Oscar winner, you need to bring it (like Cate Blanchett brought it for Katherine Hepburn, or — yes — Michelle Williams did with Marilyn). Lohan though, hard as she tries — and you can see her trying really hard — can’t act. She just can’t. She never really could, not even her rightfully beloved Mean Girls role, where she was natural in playing a stressed teenager because she was a stressed teenager. But here, given another chance and asked to branch out a little bit, she doesn’t have the natural being of her personality to fall back on. Her awkwardness, once a plus, is a major dent here. She’s thrown her life into disarray over the last few years since Mean Girls— and whatever, I’m not going to judge her for that — but she’s thrown her career away and that’s a palpable problem here: you can see the stress on her face. This is perhaps her last chance to get back into the game, into the career she ought to have had. And it wreaks havoc on whatever abilities and confidence she might have had going into it. Having to play crazy, vulnerable and fat couldn’t have helped her any, but experience hasn’t been channeled nor conveyed, only the stress of the situation. She tries so hard that all you can see of it is the trying, the reading the lines as they were on the page, hitting her marks and trying to hang with Bowler. Special effects artists always say, “if you can see my work, I didn’t do my job”, and the same goes for acting. If you can see the acting that’s all you can see, you can’t see the character.

-Still, I wouldn’t be surprised if Lohan did make something of a comeback off of this. It’s going to end up with killer ratings, no doubt, even if most people were rubbernecking. TMZ joked the other day about Lifetime doing a whole series of famous women films, all staring Lohan. Heidi Fleiss, Hilary Clinton, the whole cast you’d expect, all with Lohan as the central woman in crisis. Lifetime could do worse.

Deadfall – Stefan Ruzowitzky (2012)

Deadfall2

http://blogs.orlandoweekly.com/index.php/2012/11/vod-review-deadfall-stefan-ruzowitzky-2-stars/

From the trailer, it looked like Stefan Ruzowitzky’s wintry casino heist film Deadfall had all of the makings of a tight, gripping psychological thriller. Everything looked right, from the twisted, broken family angle to the Thanksgiving blizzard setting that eventually sets the deadly Addison (Eric Bana) against Jay Mills (Charlie Hunnam), the boxer just out of jail, and his own sister Liza (Olivia Wilde).

But this is why we shouldn’t trust trailers. They lie, willfully, like a politician. And instead of the gripping thriller promised, Ruzowitzky and screenwriter Zach Dean treat us to a sloppy melodrama full of bad accents and ham-handed police sexism where screaming as loud as you can is a substitute for emotional depth.

The film starts shortly after the casino heist, with Addison and Liza already on the run, splitting up after their car hits a deer and flips off of the road for a better chance at survival. Addison murders the cop who was trying to help them, setting off a slow witted manhunt by the local sheriff’s department, where none of the boys club want to let the deputy sheriff, Hannah (Kate Mara), join in because what if she has to stop and change her tampon in the middle of the chase? I should have added quotations there, because that’s a quote, one that thuds in the middle of the scene like an anvil from a 1980s very special episode. In the world of this film, sexism is a cartoon problem, lacking all of the subtlety and savvy that it possesses in the real world.

These problems extend out to the cast, with Eric Bana playing an extension of his character from Hanna, a cutthroat survivalist with pinpoint accuracy who speaks like an imitation Southern preacher. He’s not given much to work with, and Charlie Hunnam is given even less with Jay, an Olympic-level boxer just out of jail who gets into trouble hours after getting out when he gets into a fight with a sleazy boxing trainer to owes him money. Jay is attacked and fights back, but doesn’t think anyone will believe him so he flees, running into the shivering Liza along the way, whom he promptly falls in love with and takes home to meet his parents, where Addison is hiding out, holding Jay’s mom and dad (Sissy Spacek and Kris Kristofferson) hostage. Spacek is the only one who really comes off well in the film, and it’s her scenes with Eric Bana that play the best. Bana feels to be over acting, or at least acting in a way where we can see him acting, in the rest of his scenes, but he is calm and understated playing against Spacek in a way that eventually falls apart once the rest of the gang joins them for their Thanksgiving hostage diner, where writer Dean meant to play out the heady drama, but either as written or as translated by the actors came out as maudlin and overwrought before mercifully ending.

Ecstasy of Order: The Tetris Masters – Adam Cornelius (2012)

EcstasyofOrderTheTetrisMasters

http://blogs.orlandoweekly.com/index.php/2012/10/vod-review-ecstasy-of-order-the-tetris-masters-adam-cornelius-2012-4-stars/

I’m not sure if I’ve lost more waking hours or sleeping hours toTetris, but it’s a depressing number of each. A person can’t just casually play Tetris. A distant cousin of games like dominos andBreakout, at its slowest levels Tetris a perfectly simple game of creating lines for points.

At its highest speeds, Tetris is demonic and taunting, and if you’re not ready for the next speed boost you won’t last long. At its highest speeds, one simple mistake – one flick of the thumb too much, or not enough – and you’re done for. This trick, that it’s such an easy game, is where the obsession hides, deep in the coding. It should be as simple as counting to four with your thumbs. But when it comes to Tetris, the thumbs are incompetent slaves to the brain, and the brain is an incompetent slave to the will. Like most classic arcade games, it doesn’t have an ending, it just gets harder until you die.

But in the 1990s there was no one better at Tetris than a strange skinny kid from Texas named Thor Aackerlund. No one came closer to “beating” Tetris than he did. His thumbs actually were slaves to his brain, vibrating the d-pad more than pushing it, creating an incredible speed for sliding pieces left and right. Watching him play is a hard thing to reconcile with reality, that’s how agile his piece movement is.

Aackerlund, who finished in first place at the Nintendo World Championships in 1990, is the closest thing the game of Tetris has ever had to a grand champion.

But then he fell off the map.

In 2010, one of his competitors at the NWCs, Robin Mihara, set out to fix the record when it came to Tetris, calling together the country’s best players – as verified by the Twin Galaxies score board – for a winner take all tournament in Los Angeles.

Unlike King of Kong or Chasing GhostsEcstasy of Order doesn’t seek to find Aackerlund to mine his story for narrative gold. Though he seems to be something of a tragic figure in the small segments that do trace the broadstokes of his story, Adam Cornelius’ documentary is as obsessed with the game as its devoted fans are. It only seeks Aackerlund out because you cannot have a championship of Tetris without the man once regarded as the best.

Perhaps that’s a tragic flaw for the film. Perhaps Aackerlund’s life could have been mined and made for a better film, like Steve Weibe’s, but perhaps it’s also better this way. King of Kong was manipulated in ways that made for a great film, but for lousy reportage and I’ve always felt let down by that. Ecstasy of Order maintains its appeal in a more pure fashion: the viewer’s ownTetris demons. The tournament collects the best players in the world – Jonas Neubauer andHarry Hong, who have maxed out the high scores (999,999), and Ben Mullen, who held the record for high lines (296 – my own personal high is a paltry 191) – and shows their triumphs and failures in terms of the game itself. The best players in the world can be stumped by a longbar drought just like the rest of us. The best players in the world can drop a piece in the wrong place just like the rest of us. It keeps the allure of the game’s difficult simplicity alive as it asks the most tantalizing question: is there even a such thing as a Tetris Master?

Knuckleball! – Ricki Stern, Annie Sundberg (2012)

handout_27names1_nam

http://blogs.orlandoweekly.com/index.php/2012/10/vod-review-knuckleball-ricki-stern-annie-sundberg-2012-4-stars/

Everything about the fundamental mechanics of baseball seems simple. Kids stuff. That’s when we come to it, as little kids hitting off a tee, or having a ball tossed softly to us in the park. There’s nothing to it. You rear back to throw. You kick as hard as you can to run. Extend your arms to swing. But as most of us know by now, as we sit at desk jobs or customer service counters, it ain’t simple at all.

In baseball, the thing that seems the most simple to perfect is the knucklball. You don’t even throw it, you dig your fingernails into ball and push it to the plate. It doesn’t matter if you can’t throw fast (in fact it helps not to), or if you’re not as athletic. The ball does all the work, not the pitcher. The knuckleball is, of course, the hardest pitch the perfect. In fact, there have been fewer than 100 full time major league hurlers who have thrown it down the years.

In 2011, when this documentary was filmed, there were two knuckleballers:Boston’s veteran righty, Tim Wakefield (44), and the Mets’ reclamation project, R.A. Dickey (36). Dickey’s age would seem worrying if he was any other type of pitcher, but unlike hard throwers, it gets better as your arm loses its velocity. Most can pitch into their 40s, like both Neikro brothers, Joe and Phil, who could still pitch when they retired, they just couldn’t field their positions anymore.

In factWakefieldand Dickey, both former-first round picks, were reclamation projects as knuckleballers.Wakefieldcame up withPittsburghin ’92 as a power hitting corner infielder after a big college career, but seemed lost at the plate with the switch from the aluminum bats in college to the wood bats of the bigs. It was chance that a minor league instructor saw him fooling around with the knuckler and he got to save his career, eventually playing 18 seasons. Dickey, after a great college career capped off with a bronze medal at the 1996 Olympics, could never put it together in the majors with his normal arsenal of pitches. He bummed around the minors until he gave the knuckleball a try to make one last grab at saving his career in the Mets minor league system.

They might be underdogs, but watching the film you don’t ever get that sense from them. They are calm and professional, taking delight in how silly they can make the likes of Albert Pujols and Derek Jeter look with their simple 60 mile an hour pitch that dances its way to the plate. They say, in fact, they prefer to face the big swingers (who are used to quality breaking pitches and pure heat). It’s the scrappy guys who are used to hitting junk in the minors who put the most hurt on them.

Most pitches in the majors are about the tightest, quickest spin you can get on them. The tighter, the faster you throw it, the bigger the break, the wider the cut, the later the movement. It all adds up to a ball that is harder to hit. With the knuckleball all of that goes out the window. The key to the pitch is that it doesn’t spin, or it little spins as little possible – less than two revolution between leaving the pitcher’s hand and reaching the catcher’s glove (or at least the catcher’s general vicinity). With this lack of spin, the resting stitches catch the air different every time, making the pitch completely unpredictable not only to the hitter, but the catcher, umpire and even the pitcher himself.

But even for those who have mastered the pitch, it’s hard to control. A microcosm of baseball itself, the knuckleball is a cruel, unpredictable thing and, like Bill Bucknor or Mitch Williams before him, Tim Wakefield’s career highlight will probably end up being one bad pitch. He’s 200 game winner, yes, but he’s also the guy who gave up the walkoff homerun to Aaron Boone — Mr. Scrappy — in the 2003 AL Championship Series, sending the Yankees to the World Series instead of the Red Sox. Before that one pitch, a knuckler that tumbled its way to the plate more than danced, he was probably going to be the MVP of the series. He was dynamite against the Yankees that series. Hundreds of great pitches all forgotten because of one bad one.

Wakefield retired at the end of the 2011 season. This season, there was only Dickey to carry the banner. Carry it he did though, to the point that he’ll probably win the National League Cy Young Award after a 20-6 All-Star season where he threw back-to-back 1 hit shutouts. All of that means one thing: we’ll see a lot more of these oddballs in the future as kids now begin to take it as a serious pitch.

Arbitrage – Nicolas Jarecki (2012)

arbitrage

http://orlandoweekly.com/film/arbitrage-1.1385685

Nicolas Jarecki’s Arbitrage is not necessarily a bad movie; it just doesn’t seem to have much of a purpose or a point, and that’s troubling. If it’s a thriller, it’s not thrilling enough. If it’s about a modern god being destroyed by his flaws and indiscretions, then they simply do not run deep enough.

The god of the piece, billionaire fund manager Robert Miller (Richard Gere), has it good, but never seems to quite have the world by the balls like his real and fictional counterparts usually do. He has the jet and the townhouse, the lackeys (Chris Eigeman) and lawyers (Stuart Margolin), and the woman on the side, Julie (Laetitia Casta). But there is something missing. It seems he’s missing an edge – in his dramatic aura, there is a lesser order of danger and guile.

Still, Miller makes it work, building his fortune, funding his wife Ellen’s (Susan Sarandon) philanthropy mission and bringing his daughter Brooke (Brit Marling) along in the family business. The financial crisis has left him seemingly unscathed, or that’s what he tries to sell with his image. In truth, his fund is $400 million in the hole and he’s trying to sell as fast as possible before anyone notices. It’s complicated all the more when, driving upstate in the middle of the night with Julie, he dozes off and flips the car over, killing her. In that moment, he sees his world fall apart, scorched to ash by the licking flames of the burning car. Like any other rich, powerful man who wrecks his car while a girl he shouldn’t be with is his passenger, he runs.

In his running, we don’t even get running – we get cautious evasion. There is no psychological component to the film, just guilt and money. Jarecki is content to skip along the film’s surface, rending drama out of the legal trouble Miller causes for Jimmy (Nate Parker), the kid who picked him up that night. Jimmy is grilled at every turn by the overzealous Detective Bryer (Tim Roth) who wants nothing more than to nail a rich crook to the wall.

It feels like Gere’s involvement, like Robert Redford or Warren Beatty, sort of precludes the character from being too bad a guy. He’s bad, but there are extenuating circumstances, so he’s not really that bad. He may have done these horrible things, but deep down he’s a nice guy. Holding Robert Miller up to the likes of Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas in Wall Street) or Judah Rosenthal (Martin Landau in Crimes and Misdemeanors), we find that very little ends up being at stake. $400 million is a sizable crater in someone’s personal economy, no doubt, but then I think back to an interview with Ivanka Trump from Jamie Johnson’s Born Rich, where her father points to a homeless man and tells her, “He’s worth $2 billion more than me right now.” Miller, on the other hand, never reaches the edge of the map in terms of his woes or triumphs. He simply evades and bargains. It’s tough to say what audiences are supposed to do with that.

The Good Doctor – Lance Daly (2012)

gooddoctor

http://blogs.orlandoweekly.com/index.php/2012/09/vod-review-the-good-doctor-lance-daly-2012-3-stars/

It’s been a long wait since Lance Daly’s last film, a wonderfully sharpDublincoming of age drama called Kisses, reached our shores. Small in scale and tender, bleeding with emotion, it’s almost the opposite of its follow up, The Good Doctor. It’s very much a throwback to the cold, calculating psychological dramas of the 80s, where mood and setting counted for as much, if not more than, plot and character.

Bloom plays Dr. Martin Blake, a new resident trying to make a path for himself in a new environment that seems to be at odds with the way he thought life would go. He seems to be pegged back by this fact, and moves through life without attachment. He has no relationships, and is far from his parents, living in an empty, practical apartment, with a small, practical car. The only thing on his living room wall is his diploma. It’s as if he’s geared his life towards this idea of being a doctor to such a fine degree that it’s all he’s ever attained. To that end though, it’s incomplete. All he can do is his rounds. He can’t even play golf.

When Martin is asked by his supervisor, Dr. Waylans (Rob Morrow — though I pretended was still playing Dr. Fleishman here), when he knew he wanted to be a doctor, he tells about being young, seeing a family friend who was a doctor afforded a great amount of respect and being impressed by that. But there are harsh realities to his dream to deal with. Hospitals don’t run like they’re supposed do: doctors, it turns out, are not gods, and nurses (like Taraji P. Henson’s Nurse Theresa), it turns out, are not nursemaids, and push back against him. The pushback is something he comes to resent them for, and becomes convinced they are out to get him, hiding facts about patients that cause him to misdiagnose.

But in Diane (Riley Keogh), he finds the perfect patient to play doctor to. She’s young, attractive, and most importantly, she’s not that sick. She is less jeopardy to treat, and more, she puts himself so easily into his hands to turn him into the rescuer, even spilling her guts about her boyfriend to him. It’s a safe, satisfying situation, one Martin goes to a selfish, miserable end to keep, as he dilutes he meds in order to keep her just sick enough to help her get well, leading him down a dangerous path of deceit and betrayal as his new skills as a doctor may not be up to the level he thinks they are.

It’s a sound, compelling film, one that doesn’t dazzle or shock, but keeps you engaged and manages to make you twist a little as Martin falls deeper into his own ego. In perhaps the strangest twist, we find that Orlando Bloom might actually be a good actor as he gets away from period epics and playing suicidal sneaker executives (although up next for him is another turn as Legolas in The Hobbit). The one thing that gives me pause cementing this opinion of Bloom is Martin’s general character. Like his apartment, he’s a shell. His character is about not feeling great emotion. Even his feelings for Diane are not properly great emotions, they are hemmed in and turned into something ugly by his distorted emotional center. Still, taken in a vacuum, it’s a sterling performance by Bloom, and with the upcoming lesbian vampire film, Jack and Diane, Riley Keogh is one to look out for as well.

Nobody Walks – Ry Russo-Young (2012)

nobodywalks

http://blogs.orlandoweekly.com/index.php/2012/09/vod-review-nobody-walks-ry-russo-young-2012-2-stars/

You can’t throw a stick these days without it clunking squarely into something written, directed or created by Lena Dunham. The controversial personality behind the TV show Girls is everywhere: Criterion, HBO, The New Yorker, forums, blogs, Facebook, Twitter — and now she’s on VOD with a new film called Nobody Walks, co-written Ry Russo-Young, about a young artist named Martine (Olivia Thirlby) who has come to Los Angeles to record the sound for a short art film she’s made. Things become sticky, though, when the sexy new houseguest begins to have an affect on the family she is crashing with.

Most of that affect happens in the head of Peter (John Krasinski), the sound effects whiz who is doing the Foley work on her film, who becomes smitten with Martine the second her little boy haircut enters his field of vision. The thing is that it’s never clear why.

Subplots involving Peter’s wife, Julie (Rosemarie DeWitt), and her daughter Kolt (India Ennenga) aside, the film stakes its viability on what you think of Martine, but instead of spending any time building her as a living, breathing character, Russo-Young tends to turn her camera to pretty shots of Los Angeles, furtive glancing and of sound collection, slipping into a lazy reliance on the fact that you probably already like Olivia Thirlby enough to automatically like Martine – and to be honest, much the same could be said about John Krasinski’s Peter too.

What do we really know about Thirlby though? Though she seems fairly down to Earth in interviews she rarely plays anyone likable in her movies. In Juno, she is the annoying best friend; in New York, I Love You she plays the girl pretending to be a cripple for research; she’s barely in Margaret long enough to register, and in The Wackness, she… well, everyone sucks in The Wackness to be fair.

That trend continues here with Martine. She is presented as remarkably empty and timid for an artist, having been sued over her last project – naked pictures of her ex-boyfriend – and unable to field a relatable vision with her short film about insects when asked about it. With her, the film lacks conviction, never clearly deciding whether it wants us to think that Martine is special, or whether she is the fraud to be held up to Kolt’s real artistic blossoming.

Still, it’s a pretty film, paced well considering, and the subplot between Rosemarie DeWitt’s psychiatrist and Justin Kirk’s nameless screenwriter is the film’s saving grace, popping up just often enough to keep you engaged. Russo-Young gets much right, but the film’s center is lacking. Having an enigma character usually relies on the filmmaker’s ability to create a character that we so badly want to open up. It’s something Kolt might be if she were the focus instead of a story conduit, but Martine is, when you break it down from what little is shown, probably not worth opening up. She’s actually a pretty awful person, and so is Peter, whose shortsightedness has him jeopardize so much for so little.

Side by Side – Christopher Kenneally (2012)

http://blogs.orlandoweekly.com/index.php/2012/09/vod-review-side-by-side-chris-kenneally-2012-3-stars/

Film. Digital. Once, locked in a bitter war and advertised as “film versus digital”, the scrap is barely a fight anymore. Though film keeps hanging on, keeps holding onto devotes, like For Ellen (VOD on 9/19) director of photography Reed Morano, the digital revolution seems cemented in victory at the moment.

This “film”, in fact, was shot on digital cameras. Beginning it’s journey down the workflow, it was stored digitally, edited and graded, and the sound re-recorded and de-fuzzed on digital workspaces. Finally, it was viewed by me (and probably you) digitally, delivered to my digital television by Amazon over a wireless connection, where I watched it in the comfort of my living room. It’s hard to argue against that, the ease, the comfort, and the quickness. No waiting in lines, no travelling, no annoying texters or chatters in the seat in front of you. The only noise outside of the film while watching it was a snoring dog, and I can hardly yell at him to shut the hell up.

It’s a provocative film, though I struggle to call it a compelling must see film because it’s demographic is likely compromised by the intense interest over the last decade in the story. Side by Side is a good primer if you came late to the game, but if you’ve been following the rise of digital and slow suffocation of film over the years, there probably isn’t a lot you don’t know in the offing, and Keanu Reeves’ unfortunate narration style isn’t going to help you stay tuned should you become bored. Still, I appreciate his interest and passion on the subject, and his interview style is fine — the conversations he finds himself engaged in with the Wachowski’s especially is worth watching it for alone.

I’m also appreciative of how much time the film spent on discussing techy elements, like dynamic range and depth of field, and just how important the color grading step is to a finished film, though somewhat disappointed about how little time it spent on archiving. Archival prints are the whole ball game as it stands. Robert Rodriquez is right when he says digital will keep getting better and cheaper, eventually — probably — surpassing film. But how do we hang on to this stuff? Digital is not a sustainable model for making sure these treasures are available hundreds or even thousands of years from now. George Lucas’s offhand, “someone will figure it out because it’s so important” isn’t comforting at this point, especially thinking about stories such as Toy Story 2′s near miss with complete deletion. The final word on it comes from DP Geoff Boyle who pays out the discomfort offered by Lucas by concluding, “we’re fucked.” Sorry to the unborn generations, who may one day have learn about Michael Corleone and the Man with No Name by reading criticism. Suckers! At least someone wins in this story.

My Sucky Teen Romance – Emily Hagins (2012)

http://blogs.orlandoweekly.com/index.php/2012/09/vod-review-my-sucky-teen-romance-emily-hagins-2012-3-stars/

To be candid, after seeing the 2009 documentary Zombie Girl, the chronicle of a 12 year old Texas girl named Emily Hagins and her struggled to try and juggle life, middle school and directing her first feature zombie film, I never expected to hear about her again. Like the kids who made a frame-by-frame reenactment of Raiders of the Lost Ark, I thought it was  a cool story, but one that would go no further.

Three years later, though, and here I am talking about her, as her latest feature — the vampire comedy My Sucky Teen Romance – starts its run on VOD. Now nineteen years old and more sure of herself, the movie is a substantial jump up in quality, as you’d expect.

A one-last-hurrah high school movie, My Sucky Teen Romancetakes its starting point from a mutual dislike of teenage vampire culture that Kate (Elaine Hurt) and Allison (Lauren Lee) share as they prepare to head to a sci-fi convention to blow out Kate’s last weekend in town before heading off for college. They are cute and vibrant girls, nothing like the typical riff raff (such as myself) you’d expect to find at a sci-fi convention, and that’s a joke Hagins somewhat annoyingly goes out of her way to make at times, casting the sloppiest, saddest group of middle-aged dorks to fill out the background.

It all goes wrong, of course, when Kate’s long time crush, a grocery clerk named Paul (Patrick Delgado) shows up dressed as a vampire. The thing is, he really is a vampire. His motives hidden from view, he splits his time casing the convention goers, waiting for a specific panel about vampires to take place and mired in awkward sexual tension with Kate, whom he accidentally bites, turning her as well.

Part of me wants to be hyper critical and say this isn’t a professional film, to play the Royal Tenenbaum ruining Margot’s play by saying it’s just a bunch of kids in vampire costumes, but the rest of me is screaming at that part, “shut the fuck up, gramps”. It’s true that it’s not a strict professional film, but it has the hallmarks of being on the path to future professional films for the young director. In most professions, youth is an assett, but not filmmaking. As vital as youth makes you, experience and broadened horizons is a far bigger key to filmmaking. It’s how you learn how and when to apply comic relief, and how to dip into pop culture sparingly, so you avoid making a films with a cultural time limit on it. But so many films these days arrive on screen like a dead fish staring back at you, and that’s something, for all its shortcomings, Hagins avoids nimbly here. There is a surprising subtlety to Kate and Paul’s story, as it intertwines with Jason’s (Santiago Dietche) story that you don’t see coming. It’s a joyful film, like how Shoot the Piano Player is a joyful film. It’s not on par with Truffaut’s second film, but Truffaut was 11 years older and maybe that makes all the difference.

Why Stop Now – Dorling, Nyswaner (2012)

http://blogs.orlandoweekly.com/index.php/2012/08/vod-review-why-stop-now-dorling-nyswaner-2012-2-stars/

In Why Stop Now, Phil Dorling and Ron Nyswaner’s new stoner comedy, Jesse Eisenberg plays Eli, a put upon young pianist who is about to experience the worst day of his life. For years, Eli has been the one taking care of his younger half sister, Nicole (Emma Rayne Lyle), while his wild drug addict mom, Penny (Melissa Leo), went out on benders, barely able to hold down a job as a waitress.

As he is about to graduate and go off, he hopes, to a music conservatory, he’s finally convinced his mother to get clean and go to rehab before his audition. Problem? Yes, of course. As Penny tries to enter rehab, she is turned away. Why? Because she’s already clean. Solution? Yes, of course. Go cop a hit.

It sounds like a set up for the greatest drug romp since Drugstore Cowboy, but sometimes things don’t work out as planned.

If there is a bright spot in the film, it comes in the shape of a gimpy Tracy Morgan, who plays Sprinkles, the cuddly drug dealer who has run out of drugs. The problem is compounded as neither Sprinkles, nor his sidekick, Black (Isiah Whitlock Jr.), can speak Spanish, and Eli has to step in to order the drugs, causing an unfortunate chain reaction wherein his arm is broken by the drug kingpin, who then falls in love with Penny. Isn’t it always like that?

Really though, the film’s main problem is that it is entirely too frivolous an affair from start to finish. Nothing is at ever stake, not really. There is never any follow through on the film’s problems or threats or accidental drug ingestions, and what does follow through to the next step is always played for stock comedy. Every set up and pay off comes along at a natural progression, everything is expected. What could have been a riotous display deeply messed up hurdles and roadblocks to the characters’ wants end up being little more than a circuitous route to getting everything they desire. The films is a born indie drama concept rendered out into a dramatically lazy write off, one that unfortunately never comes close to being funny enough to make up the gap.