Sundance Movie Review: Young@Heart

Young@HeartYoung@Heart is a documentary about a Massachusetts Senior Citizen’s chorus that rocks out to everything from the Clash, Ramones and Sonic Youth, to Coldplay and James Brown. The film follows the chorus members and their director, Bob Cilman as they learn new songs, cope with illnesses and deaths of their close friends, and prepare for a concert performance, dubbed “Alive and Well”.

Label me mean, but the “old people are so cute” sappiness drives me insane (hence the fact that I almost wanted to smack the two annoying girls sitting next to me that kept loudly aww-ing during the movie).  I don’t normally see the charm in grandmotherly types, but I must grudgingly admit, this film won me over, and actually almost drew a few tears.   Young@Heart is a great film that shows seniors who enjoy music more than anything.  They’re singing their hearts out, and doing something that makes them happy all the way until the very last days of their lives.  It is so refreshing to see these elderly characters, alive with so much energy, as opposed to the often seen images of them wasting away in nursing homes.  These are old people that sing loud music, stay out late at gigs, and travel the world to perform.  They’re not dead until the day they really die, and that is so inspiring to see.

A scene that I found particularly moving was one where the chorus performs for convicted felons at a prison.  The positive reactions of the prisoners after the show are absolutely tearjerking.  The film is also humorous at times, like the scene where two of the chorus members are trying to learn how to play a CD that chorus director, Cilman has handed them (they can’t figure out which side should face up in the player).

The narration in the film is a little excessive, and director Stephen Walker chose to fill the film with cheesy music videos starring the elderly chorus members, which cuts into the pacing of the film, but overall, Young@Heart is a great movie that shows charming seniors who are living their lives to the fullest by doing something that they love.

/Film Rating: 8.5 out of 10

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Elaine’s Movie Review: There Will Be Blood

There Will Be Blood

Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood is one of the best movies I’ve seen in a long time.  It’s a Hitchcockish film set during the early 20th century about Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis), a silver miner turned oil tycoon that uproots his son H.W (Dillon Freasier), and sets off for Little Boston, where he hears that oil practically seeps from the earth.   Plainview begins to grow his fortune by scheming his way into cheaply buying the land from the residents of Little Boston.  He starts by buying up the home of preacher Eli Sunday’s family, and moves on to obtain the rest of the town.  Plainview’s wave of luck soon wanes as the film progresses, and his true character slowly surfaces.

The first thing I noticed about There Will Be Blood was the sound design.  It’s something that many filmmakers don’t focus on anymore, but can really make a film stand out.  There is no dialogue for the entire opening of the film, but every sound heard is meticulously placed.  I loved the ominous feel of every scene, brought on by both the superb filmmaking, as well as the flawless acting.  Keeping the film interesting, each character has something about them that the audience can’t quite figure out.  The psychology of the film is unique and Anderson’s pacing and attention to detail are, as always, as perfect as perfect gets.

There Will Be Blood is an example of great American filmmaking, and will undoubtedly fit Anderson in between Orson Welles and Kubrick in film school curriculums of the future.

/Film Rating: 10 out of 10

DVD Review: Hatchet

Hatchet PosterHatchet, directed by Adam Green, is a disturbingly funny horror film about a group of tourists in New Orleans who end up on a haunted swamp tour.  After their weird tour guide sinks their wimpy boat in gator infested waters, they are forced to wander the woods in search of civilization.  In the dark and rainy forest, the tourists encounter Victor Crowley, a vengeful deformed maniac who calls the swamp home, setting out to kill anyone who dares venture on his land.

I love scary movies, but am also deathly afraid of them.  Unfortunately, I was forced to watch this one alone.  Hatchet literally made me cover my eyes and scream “ewww!”  atleast 7 times.  The film is chock full of bad acting and cheesy dialogue, but is bloody as hell, and hilarious and laughable at the same time.  The characters types are stereotypical of horror films, and the storyline is pretty generic as well until the end (but too bad I can’t ruin that for you).  Victor Crowley is one gross looking deformed person, and his hunting methods aren’t exactly pleasant.  Hatchet is a great on the couch at home movie night film (in fact, I will probably make my boyfriend watch this with me again this weekend).  Oh yeah, and props on main character Ben’s Newbury Comics shirt.  I’ll be sleeping with the lights on tonight.

/Film Rating: 8.5/10

Movie Review: The Kite Runner

The following movie review is from /Film correspondent Elaine Mak.

The Kite Runner Review

The Kite Runner, directed by Marc Forster, follows the story of two childhood friends, Amir and Hassan, as they are torn apart after Amir witnesses the rape of Hassan. This film, based on the best-selling novel by Khaled Hosseini, begins in Kabul, Afghanistan, with the country on the verge of war. Following the rape incident, upper-class Amir leaves for America with his father, while lower-class Hassan remains in Kabul. Decades later, Amir is persuaded to return to Afghanistan during the Taliban rule to face his past.
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Movie Review: Chalk

Chalk PosterChalk, written and directed by former teacher Mike Akel, and presented by Morgan Spurlock, is a mockumentary film about teachers at the typical public high school, Harrison High. The film is raw, realistic, and funny in a really dark and depressing way. The characters remind me of many of my own teachers growing up, and the situations in the film feel all too familiar, only this time, I get to live them through the teacher’s eyes – a very different perspective.

My boyfriend is a high school physics teacher, and I can’t understand why he loves his job. This movie perplexes me even more about the appeal of his career. His salary is significantly lower than mine, and he works so many more hours than I do. While work for my job includes watching movies and surfing the web, his involves reading textbooks and correcting tests. Why would anyone choose to do that? Chalk answers that question by presenting characters like history teacher Mr. Stroope, and PE teacher Coach Webb, who both go above and beyond to make a difference.

While I really enjoyed the acting in this film, and felt that the characters were for the most part well written, inspiring and realistic, Chalk lost me after about the first 20 minutes, where the story began to wear a little thin. It was a great concept, but I felt like I was simply following a few teachers through their daily routines, something that every student or former student is pretty familiar with. A romance brews between Coach Webb, and stuttering first year teacher Mr. Lowrey, and Mr. Stroope works to become the “Teacher of the Year”, but the drama that does exist in the film is a bit one dimensional at the beginning. I wish I cared about the characters more, the way that I cared about my real teachers in high school. Towards the end of the film though, Chalk partially redeems itself, as the bond between the teachers and students is strengthened, and a story begins to come together, but we never have that ultra-dramatic teacher saves a life moment, which I normally love in teacher films. Although it wasn’t entirely to my liking, I do understand the effort that Akel made to avoid making the stereotypical teacher movie. Overall, Chalk gives a realistic look at the world of teaching. It really makes the viewer understand the reason why so many teachers quit within their first three years, and shows the true spirit of those who choose not to.

/Film Rating: 8 out of 10

Movie Review: Naming Number Two

namingnumbertwo.jpgNaming Number Two is a film from New Zealand directed by Toa Fraser.  It is about about an old woman, Nanna Maria (Ruby Dee), who, following a dream, commands her grandchildren to throw a giant feast for her.  She tells them that she wants them all there for the feast, where she will name her successor, who she calls her “number two”.

I was surprised by the amount of awards and good press this little film was getting.  It won the 2006 Sundance World Cinema Audience Choice award, and also won several awards and nominations in New Zealand as well.  In my opinion however, Naming Number Two was one of the worst films I had seen in a long time.  The acting was terrible, the storyline was boring, and the cinematography was horrendous (someone needs to teach the DP how to properly light a scene, and more importantly, how to focus the camera).  This film was oozing with cheesy montage scenes and shots of Nanna Maria staring off crazily into space.  On a good note, the one thing that did impress me was where Fraser was trying to go psychologically with Nanna Maria’s character.  I felt, however, that the execution of that character portrayal got lost in the over dramatic rolling montages of the film.

Naming Number Two has the feel of a made for TV Hallmark movie.  It is slow, cheesily dramatic, and reveals way too much information, leaving very little for the audience to think about or deduce on their own.

/Film Rating:
1.5 out of 10

Crazy Legs Conti: Zen and the Art of Competitive EatingCrazy Legs Conti: Zen and the Art of Competitive Eating is a doc about Jason “Crazy Legs” Conti, a weird character who gets into competitive eating while working odd jobs as a sperm donor, window washer, and nude model.  Throughout the course of the film, Crazy Legs becomes the world oyster eating champion, and then goes on to try to compete in Nathan’s Coney Island Hot Dog Eating contest (a fun and crazy event that I myself attended last year while living near Coney Island).
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Movie Review: Sunshine

Sunshine

Sunshine takes place 50 years in the future, and follows a crew of astronauts aboard a spaceship named the Icarus II.  The characters are venturing into space to deliver a payload to reignite the sun which is about to burn out, obliterating all mankind.  The entire film takes place away from earth as the small crew fights technical difficulties, human error, and nature’s wrath to reach the sun intact and in time to save humanity.

Have you ever gone to a restaurant that says they serve sushi, Italian, Greek, and Indian food?  I usually avoid those places because I don’t really believe that one place can do all those vastly different things well.  That was pretty much why I wasn’t too sure about going to see Danny Boyle’s Sunshine.  It was a huge departure from Boyle’s other successful works, including drug film Trainspotting, thriller 28 Days Later, and the family-friendly Millions, but here’s the deal, when free food and drinks are offered at a press screening, I cannot refuse.  Several mini grilled cheeses, tequila shrimp skewers and quarter-sized hamburgers later, I bring you this review.  This movie surprised me.  It was well-shot, suspenseful, and best of all, pretty scientifically accurate for a space sci-fi film.

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