201-203: Sister, Moonrise, Flynn

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201: Your Sister’s Sister

Mark Duplass is on a roll lately. After directing the excellent drama Jeff, Who Lives at Home and starring in Safety Not Guaranteed he also played one of the leads in Your Sister’s Sister, Lynn Shelton’s newest feature. Duplass again creates a very likable guy, Jack, who has some serious issues to deal with. He decides to retreat to a cabin in the woods owned by his best friend, Iris (Emily Blunt). What he doesn’t know is that the sister of his friend, Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt), is also there to work out her own problems. Hannah and Jack strike up a relationship that culminates in a situation that is extremely uncomfortable for all involved. Your Sister’s Sister is, however, a sweet drama about recognizing each other’s flaws and forgiving them for it, however selfish their behavior might be. Highly recommended if you want a small drama about real people with real feelings.

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202: Moonrise Kingdom

Wes Anderson is a very divisive director. Ever since his first feature, Bottle Rocket, people have been debating whether his movies are works of art of just exercises in art direction. Anderson’s movies are often clinical manifestations of a very exacting brain. They present delightful worlds in which the characters are allowed to play to their heart’s content. His newest entry, Moonrise Kingdom, is no different and this time Anderson invented an entire island for his characters to play in. Everything revolves around two kids who run away from home to start a new life elsewhere. This puts the entire island on high alert, which results in funny situations and poignant drama. I liked Moonrise Kingdom a lot, but I also felt that it was really hard to get through the highly polished look of the film. Anderson is always a meticulous filmmaker, but this time he has taken his control of, in particular, camera movements to another level and that made the movie feel very artificial in many places. I didn’t get that feeling at all while watching his, in my opinion, best movies The Royal Tenenbaums and The Darjeeling Limited. I still recommend people seeing Moonrise Kingdom, if only for the top-notch performances of the cast.

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203: Being Flynn

Robert De Niro’s career has in the last decade not been what it once was, but you don’t need me to tell you that. So it is nice to see that once in a while he wants to step outside his safety zone and take on a role that takes a little more effort than Meet the Parents or Analyze This. In Being Flynn he plays Jonathan Flynn, a self-proclaimed genius writer, but in reality nothing more than a con man who has neglected his family. The real main character, however, is Nick Flynn (played by Paul Dano), his son, who he has not seen in years. Nick also wants to be a writer, but struggles with the notion that he is not cut out for the job. One day Jonathan reaches out to Nick, which throws Nick for a loop. Does he want his father in his life, or does he want him to leave him alone. This predicament only worsens when Jonathan shows up at the homeless shelter where Nick works sometimes. Being Flynn is a movie about a very dysfunctional relationship between a father and a son with De Niro playing one of the biggest assholes in his career. Being Flynn could have been a very powerful movie, but it lacks the drive to make us connect more with the main character. Dano is fin as Nick, but the problem is that Nick is not somebody you want to root for. You want to give him a swift kick in the butt to get him to pick up his life and stop whining. While the performances are fine all-round, this casts such a large shadow over it all that just can’t be overcome.

077: American Pie

I was planning on watching American Reunion sometime soon, so I thought it was wise to freshen up my recollection of the first American Pie, released in 1999. My viewing of American Reunion didn’t happen, but I watched American Pie nonetheless. And I must say that I was pleasantly surprised at how well it holds up after nearly thirteen years. I have always been somewhat of a supporter of the American Pie franchise. I, of course, mean the four movies and not the straight-to-video spin-offs that are truly atrocious.

In this first installment we meet Jim, Chris, Kevin, Paul and Steve, five friends who are about to graduate and go to college. There is just one thing that is bothering them… they are all still virgins. They agree to a pact: before senior prom is over every one of them must have shed the blanket of virginity. This is of course easier said than done. As the days go by and the deadline looms closer the guys get more desperate and their attempts to achieve their goal seem to be less and less effective. Until they decide to let fate take its course.

If you strip away the gross-out comedy, which is pretty gross sometimes, you are left with a story about insecurity and peer pressure. American Pie is actually a very sweet look at these kids that are so eager to grow up, but realize that growing is not always something that can be forced. It is when they let things go where they may that their lives start to pan out. Everybody finds someone they can hook up with and they can happily go to college. Therefor this is a great cautionary tale for teenagers and probably much more effective than some After School Special or PSA ad, because this is much more entertaining.

American Pie can, in my humble opinion, be added to the hallowed pantheon of classic comedies.

> IMDb