Friday, August 28, 2009


Most movies are fairly easy to pigeonhole into one category or another; horror, romantic comedy, chick flick, science fiction, etc. Sometimes a movie comes along that is not so easy to label. “Adam”, starring Hugh Dancy (“Confessions of a Shopaholic”) and Rose Byrne (“Damages”), is one of those movies; it's a little bit romance, a little bit comedy, and a little bit drama, but it's not enough of any one of those things to properly give it one of those labels. Romantic Dramady maybe?

“Adam” is the story of Adam Raki, a young man with Asperger's Syndrome who has just had his carefully organized life turned upside down. His father, the man who clearly kept Adam anchored, has just passed away and now Adam has to learn how to live in the world on his own. Not being socially adept or able to cope with high stress situations, Adam has a hard time adapting to all of the new disruptions to his daily routines.

One of the new disruptions in his life is his new neighbor, Beth Buchwald (Byrne). Beth is a teacher and a writer of children's books, and at first she isn't sure what to make of Adam's curious mannerisms, behaviour, and what she perceives as rudeness until he explains his disorder to her (and the audience). The two become friends, then more than friends, and discover that they both have a lot to learn about themselves from each other.

Ultimately it is not really the romance between Adam and Beth that the movie is about; instead it is about Adam learning to live with the changes going on around him. I'm not saying that the romance is not a huge part of the story, just that it is not the film's true focus.

Dancy does a fantastic job portraying Adam, and creates a character that you can believe has Asperger's instead of becoming the over the top parody that a less skilled actor might end up presenting. Byrne plays off of Dancy's Adam well, and the pair of them create a real sense of chemistry between the characters.

Also look for appearances by Frankie Faison (“The Wire”) as a friend of Adam's father who is also the only person Adam can really call a friend of his own, and for Peter Gallagher (The O.C.) as Beth's somewhat jerky father who has been indicted for fudging the books as an accountant. Both actors add a lot to the texture of the film through their interactions with Adam and Beth.

I would not say that Adam is a sad film or a happy film, but it is a hopeful film, and one well worth seeing if you can find a theater near you that is playing it (there's only one in my area). It is a nice change from the shallow romantic comedies Hollywood generally churns out. If you can't see this in a theater then you owe it to yourself to check it out on DVD, as it is a film you should be hearing about again come award season.

Rated PG-13, “Adam” does contain some mature themes and language that may make it inappropriate for younger viewers, but then this is not really a movie that children are likely to be interested in. This is a fun, touching, and quirky film that you will be glad you experienced it. “Adam” is currently in limited release nationwide.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009


One of the biggest problems that I tend to have with children's movies is that they don't respect their audience. Kid's films tend to talk down to children in an attempt to talk at their level; the problem is that they usually miss and assume that kids are stupid. “Shorts” seems to pretty evenly hit that 10-12 year old groups that it is aiming for without talking down, and that's largely because it seems like it was written by an actual 10-12 year old instead of Robert Rodriguez.

When you first arrive in Black Falls, home of Black Inc, maker of the iPhone killer the Black Box. You're going to recognize a lot of the town's residents including Jon Cryer (Two and a Half Men), Leslie Mann (17 Again), William H. Macy (Fargo), Kat Dennings (Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist), and James Spader (Boston Legal) all play prominent roles, but it is really the kids the film focuses on.

The main focus of the movie is Toby “Toe” Thompson (Jimmy Bennett: “Star Trek”), who serves as the narrator for the disjointed series of vignettes that tell the story of the wishing stone and the effect it had on his hometown. Toby is a bit of a loser; he plays cards with imaginary friends, and regularly gets bullied by the children of his parents' boss, Carbon Black (Spader). It is this torment by Cole Black (Devon Gearhart) and Helvetica Black (Jolie Vanier) however that leads him to discover the stone that grants any wish, even if they are wrong.

“Shorts” is easily the best film I've seen this year that features a giant booger monster. The film masterfully weaves together a series of connected stories (although not in chronological order) to lead to a climax featuring a fifty foot tall man, a mecha, an army of alligators, a giant wasp and dung beetle, a fleet of little green men, and two kids having a staring contest.

It's hard and somewhat pointless to look at a movie like this critically. As I have already said, it feels like it was written by a 10 year old, and features a lot of gross out humour, silly jokes and puns, and people falling off of/running into things. There were however a couple of things that bothered me.

First off, and I acknowledge that this is kind of dumb on my part, there is a scene in with Loogie (Trevor Gagnon: “The New Adventures of Old Christine”) and his brothers “playing” “Fable 2”. I have a number of problems with this scene, all petty; 1. They are not using XBOX 360 controllers to play it, 2. They are playing it on four screens that are basically just showing random clips from the game, and 3. It is an M rated title, and none of these kids appears to even actually be teenagers. This has no bearing on the movie, it just bugs me as a gamer.

The other problem I have is with the story's moral. This movie in no way attempts to handle it's moral with any sort of subtlety, but instead out and out bashes you over the head by plainly stating a couple of times how all of our advanced communications technology (cellphones, texting, etc) actually leaves us more disconnected than we would be otherwise. This moral could have been left unstated, and the movie would have been that much better for it since it only really relates to two of the shorts anyway.

Other than those things, “Shorts” is a fun movie whose out-of-order manner of story telling sets up some funny jokes. There is more than enough gross humour, slapstick, and action here to keep all but the most ADD riddled kid entertained for the film's 89 minute duration; plus Helvetica's theme song is just a little bit of awesome.

“Shorts” is rated PG, so unless you really object to booger jokes and mild violence there is not likely to be anything in this film that is objectionable. If you are looking for something to take the kids to that is neither a sequel nor an hour and a half long toy advertisement, you could do a lot worse than this. “Shorts” wishes its way into theaters on Friday, August 21st.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

"The Time Traveler's Wife"

In a summer filled with testosterone soaked action sci-fi movies like “Transformers 2”, “GI Joe”, and “Star Trek” there's a hole out there for something a little softer, a little more feminine, a little more SyFy meets Lifetime. Well pack your Kleenex, because coming to fill that hole is “The Time Traveler's Wife”.

“The Time Traveler's Wife” is a fantasy/sci-fi romance about Henry DeTamble (Eric Bana: “Star Trek”), a man with a genetic disorder that causes him to time travel without warning, and the love of his life, Clare (Rachel McAdams: “The Notebook”) who is left waiting for him in her present. Now if this sounds like a familiar plot to you, you may remember NBC's 2007 series “Journeyman”; however this movie is based on a novel of the same name by Audrey Niffenegger which was published in 2003.

Henry works in a library, and is a loner and an alcoholic until he meets Clare Abshire, an artist who already knows him well. It turns out that Henry in his future travels back to visit Clare as a child, so while she has known him for most of her life he is only just now meeting her.

Clare and Henry fall in love, and, with the help of her friend Gomez (Ron Livingston: “Office Space”) manage to pull off a wedding (which is easily my favourite part of the film) and start a life together. Things don't stay sunny for long as Clare quickly realizes how hard it is to be married to someone who disappears sometimes for days at a time.

I found the ads for this movie to be somewhat misleading. I went into this expecting 90 minutes of watching Clare seethe about being left alone, but it's not that at all. The movie follows both characters pretty equally, and is actually quite lighthearted, marital strife aside, until about halfway through.

At about the halfway point the film decides to get dramatic by tipping its hand to you about how the film ends. The rest of the movie, even the humourous parts are then overshadowed by the ticking of a countdown clock that you cannot see . This is not necessarily a bad thing, but as the end draws closer more details are revealed infusing the whole movie with a sense of dread.

Like many movies based on books, this film does jump around a lot and tends to feel disjointed. Unlike a lot of movies where it feels like this is a result of cutting things from the book, it works here. A movie where one of the characters keeps jumping from one place to another would almost have to have this feel to it.

The actors all do a good job of bringing their characters to life, and Bana in particular does a great job of not seeming creepy as he is appears naked (when he travels his clothes do not go with him) in the bushes near a young girl and proceeds to spend years of her life setting her up to marry him. A different take on this story could make Henry seem like a manipulative pervert instead of a man pursuing true love.

While I would not describe “The Time Traveler's Wife” as a must see, it is a well made and pleasant film that will make you cry at the end if you are the sort that cries in films (I am not). I will however say that the film is a lot better than the trailers I have seen make it out to be. Unless you really like the actors, or really want to see a tearjerker this weekend, I would just wait for this to hit DVD.

“The Time Traveler's Wife” leaps into theaters on August 14th, and is rated PG-13. The film contains swearing, some blood, sexual themes, and some nudity (mostly Eric Bana's rear end).

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