Category Archives: Dramedy

Pick or Pan of the Week: “Submarine”

PICK SubmarineA dramedy directed by Richard Ayoade, starring Craig Roberts, Noah Taylor, and Sally Hawkins which tells the story of Oliver Tate, a self-absorbed 15 year-old with two major feats on his to-do list: 1. devise a calculated plot to save his parents’ marriage, and 2. lose that pesky virginity of his before his next birthday.

As far as coming-of-age protagonists go, Oliver isn’t entirely likable. He’s melodramatic and kind of a manipulative little punk, but nevertheless, you root for him. Submarine feels at once refreshingly new, and tenderly worn and familiar, like an old blanket. The film marks a wistful directorial debut from Ayoade, who is definitely someone you’re going to want to keep your eye on for more great things to come.

Check what the Movie Skope has to say about Submarine. What do you think?

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“Everybody’s Fine” Trailer Review: Can the American Remake Live Up to the High Quality of the Italian Original?

Trailer Review: The ironically titled Everybody’s Fine is a remake of the 1990 Italian film Stanno Tutti Bene directed by Guiseppe Tornatore. The original is a bittersweet charmer of a film packed with plenty of heart and complex emotions, but it remains to be seen whether Kirk Jones’ adaptation will succeed at capturing the refined lyricism of its precursor.

Everybody's FineWith an all-star cast including Robert De Niro, Drew Barrymore, Kate Beckinsale, and Sam Rockwell, Everybody’s Fine is a two-generational drama about a suburban father who embarks on a difficult path of self-awareness while trying to reconnect with his four adult children.

In an uncharacteristically subdued role, De Niro plays the mild-mannered Frank Goode, a recent widower and retired telephone-factory worker who has tirelessly strived to give his kids a better life. But now, as adults, Frank’s children all live miles apart and have become too preoccupied with their personal lives to spend much quality time with their dear old dad.

So, after his wife’s death, Frank elects to reach out to his scattered brood of progeny by inviting them to a weekend family get-together. Unfortunately, Frank’s reconciliation plans are foiled when, one by one, all of his children cancel on him without saying why. This is the point when Frank decides to pack his bags and set out on a grand journey across the country to pay a surprise visit to each of his offspring.

Frank’s first stop is New York City to see his son, David, a struggling artist who does not appear to be home. The trailer shows Frank (who is apparently cellphone-less) forlornly sitting on David’s stoop engaged in a little appendage show-and-tell with a prostitute. After New York, Frank travels to Chicago to see his daughter, Amy (Kate Beckinsale), an advertising executive living a picture-perfect life (or so it seems). Next, Frank is Denver-bound to visit his classical musician son, Robert (Sam Rockwell), who turns out not to be the conductor he led his father to believe he was. And finally, Frank finds himself in Sin City, where his most welcoming of children, daughter Rosie (Drew Barrymore), works as a dancer.

Everybody's FineOver the course of his expedition, it becomes apparent that Frank’s children have a few secrets about their lives, and presumably David’s whereabouts, that they would rather not disclose to their father, given his health and elevated expectations for each of their accomplishments. The trailer makes a point of highlighting this issue by stressing the recurring presence of the telephone wires that Frank ran for a living, which serve as an ironic visual motif for a family with communication difficulties.

As is evidenced in the trailer, Everybody’s Fine presents plenty of lovely moments for each of the children’s characters to shine. But as charming as Beckinsale, Rockwell, and Barrymore appear to be in their roles, the trailer makes it clear that the film’s main focus is on the evolving patriarch, Frank.

It is refreshing to see De Niro in this tenderly crafted and very relatable role, which will no doubt make every audience member want to reach out to their own father to tell him how much he is loved. Yet, as heartwarming and endearing as the trailer portrays the film to be, it also really hams up the cheese factor. As a result, the trailer imparts the impression that the remake of Everybody’s Fine is going to be far more conventional and predictable than the original and will probably leave the audience wishing for a tic-tac to eradicate the film’s schmaltzy aftertaste.

Check out the trailer for Everybody’s Fine. What do you think? 

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“Wonderful World” Trailer Review: A Delightful Dose of Cynicism

Wonderful World Trailer Review: Ben Singer would appreciate this Woody Allen quote: “I don’t see the glass as half empty. I see it as half full—of poison.” For Ben, the protagonist of director Josh Goldin’s debut feature, Wonderful World, life isn’t exactly rainbows and butterflies. Rather, Ben sees the world as a place of “terrorism, atomic bombs and Genocide of mythic proportions.”

Mathew Broderick co-stars with Sanaa Lathan and Philip Baker Hall in this bittersweet comedy about a cynical killjoy who rediscovers his relish for humanity through his family, friends, and tête-à-têtes with his imaginary confidant, “The Man.”

Ben Singer (Broderick) isn’t the kind of guy who’s got the world on a string. He’s a divorced, every-other-weekend dad and a failed children’s folk singer who has recently added unemployed proofreader to his resume of gloom. The only consolations that Ben has in his life are smoking pot by his lonesome and playing chess with his Senegalese roommate, Ibou (Michael Kenneth Williams). That is, however, until Ibou suddenly falls ill. This is the turning point of the film when the plot wheels are really set into motion. At this point, Ben begins a psychedelic relationship with a guru-like being who refers to himself as “The Man” (Baker Hall), and Ibou’s earthily sexy sister (Lathan) arrives from Senegal and moves into Ben’s apartment.

Wonderful WorldInstead of employing narration from a thunder-throated voice-over artist, the trailer for Wonderful World chooses to use the accessible intonation of Matthew Broderick himself to establish personality and premise. This choice, in addition to the subtle and very charming acoustic guitar being played in the background, give the trailer for Wonderful World an inviting, homey quality, much like chocolate chip cookies fresh out of the oven, which transcend Ben’s paramount pessimism.

Wonderful World appears to be the kind of film that, if it is not careful, could easily slip into a mawkish quagmire of sentimental muck. Yet, based on what is evinced in the trailer, it seems that there may be a few plot twists and turns that will hopefully keep the film grounded so as to prevent the viewer from gagging on too many sugar-coated life lessons. Plus, Matthew Broderick appears set to deliver an altogether captivating performance – eliciting just the right amount of edginess – thus allowing the viewer to empathize with his character without having him be entirely agreeable.

Check out the trailer for Wonderful World below. What do you think?

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Pick or Pan of the Week: “Barney’s Version”

Pick Barney's VersionPICK Barney’s VersionA dramedy directed by Richard J. Lewis and starring Paul Giamatti, Dustin Hoffman, and Rosamund Pike which tells the poignant story of Barney Panofsky, a foulmouthed, liquor-loving, politically incorrect television producer, whose unusual life history leads him to meet the love of his love at his second wedding – slight catch, however, she’s not the one up at the altar waiting to say “I do.”

Barney’s Version definitely has its flaws, but Paul Giamatti ditches the shaky, neurotic routine and delivers a boisterous and compelling performance that duly compensates for the film’s shortcomings.

“The script doesn’t need to convince us that the prickly and incorrigible Barney Panofsky is, in the end, someone worth caring about. Paul Giamatti’s performance already did.” ~ Dana Stevens

Full Review – Slate

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“Mid-August Lunch” Trailer Review: A Hearty Slice of Italian Family Living

Trailer review Mid-August LunchTrailer Review: From the creators of GomorrahMid-August Lunch is the happy-go-lucky tale of Italian mamas, gastronomy, and improbable friendships. The film, which stars writer/director Gianni Di Gregorio, offers a delectable slice of suburban, Roman life that is tastier than a slice of a bona fide Italian pizza pie.

Using a semi-improvised approach, Mid-August Lunch examines trans-generational issues with both benevolence and a hearty helping of playfulness. Gianni (Di Gregorio) is a broke, middle-aged bachelor living with his elderly mother who is not at all shy to make her opinions known. For Gianni, caring for his mother is a full-time job, leaving him with little time for any actual money-making. As a result, one situation leads to another, and Gianni suddenly finds himself as the caretaker for not only his own opinionated mother but for three more feisty nonagenarians as well. The beguiling issues that arise in this charismatic, kitchen-sink comedy involve many fraying tempers, which result from living in a henhouse full of stubborn and demanding mamas who refuse to live according to the Feng Shui rules that Gianni has laid out for them.

Trailer review Mid-August LunchThe trailer for Mid-August Lunch relies heavily on the use of character dialogue to get the story ball rolling. As Gianni’s harridan syndicate increases from one to four, the trailer shows clips of him and his multiplying mamas and attempts to incorporate droll instances where he is at the mercy of their caprices. The instances evinced in the trailer are indeed amusing, but their arrangement isn’t very effective at instilling a desire in the viewer to go see this film. Moreover, as a film that is primarily concerned with its characters and their relationships with each other, the trailer for Mid-August Lunch does little in the way of fostering any real character understanding.

Mid-August Lunch appears to be the kind of film that is rich in natural comedy and beautifully drawn characters who would jump off the screen if given the chance. Unfortunately, however, the trailer for this film is only half hearted in its efforts to convey the warm spiritedness of its characters.

Check out the trailer for Mid-August Lunch below. What do you think?

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“Up in the Air” Trailer Review: Who Knew Frequent Flyer Miles Could Be So Sexy?

Up in the AirTrailer Review: With such delights as suitcase surcharges, the barefoot security line scuffle, frequent delays, and insufficient leg room (unless, however, you happen to have the leg span of a primordial dwarf or an oompa-loompa), it is no wonder that many people find air travel to be incredibly irritating. Ryan Bingham, however, is not one of those people.  As a very frequent flyer, Ryan (George Clooney) takes to sterile airport existence like a duck to water. From the creative mind of writer-director Jason Reitman, Up in the Air is the story of a man who makes a living out of stylishly firing people, but through his relationships with fellow frequent flyer, Alex (Vera Farmiga), and fresh-out-of-college, work colleague, Natalie (Anna Kendrick), he begins to realize that his predisposition for isolationism is not the most satisfying way to go through life.

Up in the Air is the third feature for the enormously talented Jason Reitman, who earned oodles of accolades for his first two films, Thank You for Smoking (2006) and Juno (2007). One of Reitman’s fortes as a writer is breathing hilarity into a casually pitched, insensible remark. The trailer does an excellent job of evidencing appropriate instances of this flair without stealing the thunder of the film’s more serious significance, which involves the growth and development of the central characters.

Up in the AirAs an actor’s movie, the trailer’s main focus is to foster character understanding. Suitably so, the trailer doesn’t make use of any extraneous narration. Instead, it relies solely on quips and quotes that come straight from the characters’ mouths, especially Ryan’s – wise choice given the fact that you’d have to be off your rocker to choose the voice of “that announcer guy” over the do-me-now cadence of George Clooney. The trailer is very successful with respect to the dialogue and scene tidbits that it employs to create an empathetic tone for the film’s central relationships. It shows the uptight Natalie serving as a brilliant, comedic foil for Ryan, and it leaves the audience rapt and intrigued about the ensuing affairs between Ryan and Alex, two ultra sexy peas in a peripatetic pod.

As a film that garnered a lot of buzz at last year’s Oscars, the trailer for Up in the Air serves it well. Setting the tone of a feel-good film with an edge, the trailer effectively communicates the film’s dual comedic and tragic nature through the traits and foibles of the characters without making the film seem contrived.

Rated R

Check out the trailer for Up in the Air. What do you think?

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