Writing, directing and acting are tough enough on their own. It’s hard to imagine one person wearing all three hats on a feature, let alone her first go at directing. Then again, perhaps it’s not an issue when you really believe in and understand a piece, which seems to be the case with Jennifer Westfeldt and her feature Friends with Kids. Westfeldt offers up a solid script, boasting both humor and heart, she’s got a good eye for this type of movie, keeping her camerawork simple and letting her actors and editor hit the necessary comedic beats, and brings to life an incredibly likable and strong lead.
It’s time for another group dinner. When Jason (Adam Scott), Julie (Westfeldt), Ben (Jon Hamm), Missy (Kristen Wiig), Alex (Chris O’Dowd) and Leslie (Maya Rudolph) meet up for yet another fun night out in Manhattan, Alex and Leslie drop some big news; they’re having a baby. Sure enough, Missy and Ben are next, making Jason and Julie the only members of their clique sans kiddie. Then again, considering Jason and Julie aren’t even dating, it’d be a little odd if they were having a baby together, right?
As Julie’s just about to pass her prime baby making years, Jason suggests they just go for it. They’re best friends and know each other better than anyone. Plus, they could have a family without all the drama that comes with having a kid after marriage. So, in comes baby Joe.
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As a huge Kristen Wiig fan, I was very excited for Bridesmaids. And, as a huge fan of the idea of a female Hangover, I was very excited to see a group of crazy ladies get into all sorts of shenanigans gearing up for their best friend’s big day. Bridesmaids certainly made due on some of my expectations, but also attempted to show off a more dramatic side and while that effort wasn’t a complete failure, the parts I was looking forward to are just so exceptionally successful, it’s impossible that they not tarnish the more dramatic material.
Annie and Lillian (Wiig and Maya Rudolph) are best friends. They do what best friends do; shadily work out behind a tree in a park when they don’t want to pay for the class, smear muffin on their teeth and have conversations and, of course, name the other her Maid of Honor for her wedding. Lillian is about to take the plunge and assigns Annie the Maid of Honor duties with the help of an assortment of other, well, characters in her life. There’s Rita (Wendi McLendon-Covey), the bitter mother, Becca (Ellie Kemper), the naïve newlywed, Megan (Melissa McCarthy), Lillian’s husband’s rather boisterous sister and the bane of Annie’s existence, Helen (Rose Byrne), little miss perfect who’s trying to oust Annie as Lillian’s BFF.
When Annie isn’t scrambling to outdo Helen in wedding world, she’s attempting to maintain a romantic relationship of her own. Too bad her current fling, Ted (Jon Hamm), is more than happy keeping their thing in the F-buddy zone. However, Annie’s beat-up ride works to her benefit when her busted taillights catch the eye of a sweetheart cop looking for love, Officer Rhodes (Chris O’Dowd).
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High expectations can be a killer. Unfortunately for director Zack Snyder, he works extra hard to insert an insanely high outlook into every single thing that he does and lately, it seems to backfire big time. His brain is geared towards directing and visuals and that doesn’t serve him well as a writer. Whereas the basic concept of Sucker Punch combined with Snyder’s keen eye for the visually incredible had immense prospects, it diluted the script. Spectacular imagery without a sensible and engaging story isn’t a film, it’s a mere spectacle.
After the death of her mother, a series of ill-fated events wrongfully lands Baby Doll (Emily Browning) in the Lennox House for the Mentally Insane. Rather than do what they can to rehabilitate her, the staff accepts a bribe from Baby Doll’s sinister and greedy stepfather to lobotomize her. Just as the doctor’s about to hammer his ice pick through her skull, we’re whisked away to an alternate world, Blue’s (Oscar Isaac) club. That’s where she unites with Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish), Rocket (Jena Malone), Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens) and Amber (Jamie Chung).
While this may be a step up from the hospital, Blue’s club is still very much a prison. If the girls don’t dance, they serve no purpose and Blue has no trouble eliminating his excess baggage. While at first, Baby Doll can’t seem to get in the groove, once she let’s loose and finally dances, she discovers she has the power to not only mesmerize spectators with her techniques, but transport herself to yet another world. It’s in this new realm that she meets the Wise Man (Scott Glenn) and learns that with the help of the other girls and four objects, they can all escape.
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Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” is no easy subject to take on, especially when it comes to adapting the poem to film. Complicating matters further, writer-directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman envisioned something far beyond a standard narrative retelling; they wanted a piece with a number of different layers.
James Franco portrays Ginsberg in three elements of the film – during the first public reading of “Howl,” during an interview, and while recreating moments in Ginsberg’s life. Then there’s the animation of the poem itself as well as a star-studded depiction of the 1957 obscenity trial.
Clearly this isn’t just a film about a poem- it’s about the poem, it is the poem and it’s a biopic. Fitting all that into one 90-minute film was likely no easy task, but Epstein and Friedman certainly had a plan of action in mind when tackling the challenge. See what the duo had to say about every step of the process, from bringing the poem to life through animation to finding their Ginsberg and their courtroom players.
Epstein and Friedman also took the time to touch on their upcoming film, Lovelace. No, not the already infamous Lindsay Lohan film – a mistake I made myself – but their own production about the porn superstar turned anti-pornography activist. Check it all out in the video interview below.
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Lacking an appreciation for poetry? No, I’m not talking about Shel Silverstein-type childhood favorites; I’m referring to the serious stuff, specifically, Allen Ginsberg’s work. If the answer is no, Howl certainly isn’t for you. Not that a moviegoer must like the person, the event or the subject a factual film focuses on, but Howl is so difficult to enjoy as it is that if you don’t find entertainment in slam poetry, the film is a guaranteed lost cause.
James Franco stars as Ginsberg, the author of the poem “Howl.” The poem is broken up into the three parts, the first of which Ginsberg developed using his own experiences as well as those of people he met during his younger years. In the second part, the poet introduces the reader to Moloch, a being used to represent capitalism. Part three is directed towards a man Ginsberg met during his stay at a psychiatric hospital, Carl Solomon.
Scattered through the material is a whole lot of 1950’s no-nos, profanity and sex talk. This led to the prosecution of Lawrence Ferlinghetti (Andrew Rogers), the owner of City Lights Bookstore and the man who agreed to publish “Howl.” He was arrested and charged with selling obscene material. The proceedings were highly publicized and packed with literature experts on each side, but in the end, Ginsberg won out and the judge deemed his work acceptable.
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