Ashley Richards

Home » Archive by category 'Movie Reviews'

Run Fat Boy Run

April 9th, 2008 Posted in Movie Reviews

It’s a quirky little movie. If you like British comedies, you should probably see it. Oddly, I can’t see this being an American movie even though David Schwimmer directed it. (I think he’s found what he should be doing in film.) Not being able to get an American producer to fund it was probably the best thing that happened to him. If it was an American film, the “American schmaltz” (thanks to my British friend Paul for introducing me to that term) that producers would have demanded and the scenes they’d want change would have made it annoying. There’s a light touch of schmaltz like they’re embarrassed to show it but they know they should…I call it the “British schmaltz”.

I liked the story – the topic reminds me of About a Boy – and even though the feat that the main character achieves would be rather unbelievable in real life, it’s believable in the story. I enjoyed the relationship between the father and son, and the father and his landlord. There were places where the film could have had better timing and the some of the actors were playing the characters that they typically play. But it didn’t ruin the movie – like the guy from Blacks Books playing a toned down version of his character from the show. And Hank Azaria was good at playing the American asshole. I’m not sure if I’ve seen him in that role before, and there was no accent for him to play around with.

There are certain scenes where I noticed the cinematography/framing/lighting being good, which is unusual for me. But that might be just because I spent 11 days behind my camera on vacation.

It was worth the matinee price that we paid. And it’s the kinda of movie that grows on you – in a good way. I’d watch it again.

Cloverfield

January 24th, 2008 Posted in Movie Reviews

I think I’m finally back to normal after seeing Cloverfield last night. I was so seasick that I think I only saw about 20 minutes of the movie. Most of the time my eyes were closed and I just listened, peeking once in a while to see what the commotion was about. The most that I watched at one full go was the credits. If you do see it, watch until the credits end and listen carefully.

***You might consider some of this spoilers***

It makes me wonder if J.J. Abrams ever thought about how sick this movie was going to make his audience. I’m a huge Lost fan, but it makes me question if he has the chops for directing for the big screen. There were scenes in MI:III that had feeling similarly. At one point in Cloverfield bright lights flash consistently, which made me feel even worse. So either he achieved his goal in making us just as uncomfortable as the characters in the movie, or he seriously screwed up. At some point, you’d think while watching the dailies that he’d want to see it on a full screen to make sure it was watchable. He could have easily adjusted the camera character into a film student to explain why the camera was steadier than your average joe would have held it. And it would have made more sense that the character wouldn’t want to be stuck being a glorified wedding videographer for the party.

***SPOILER***

At the end the couple is under a bridge in Central Park. Now if you’ve spent a good about of time in the park, you know there are bomb shelters or maintenance rooms around those bridges.  A girl who lives right next to the park would probably have seen these. So why didn’t they head to one of those?

Snakes on a Plane

August 19th, 2006 Posted in Movie Reviews

It’s not going to win an Oscar, but it’s the most fun I’ve had at the movies all year. You have to see it with a big group, laugh at it together, and make fun of it together. (Snake-o-vision is the best.) It followed all the classic rules of horror flicks (as they apply to snakes being on a plane), but Samuel L Jackson is the only one that seems to live after breaking them all.

The biggest surprise for me was at the end of the movie – the video for the theme song. It’s sung by none other than Gabe Saporta (my sis’ high school sweetheart’s brother)! It’s part of his fun project Cobra Starship; he’s also part of Midtown. And it was just a few years ago they were playing the small Croatian Cultural Center in Vancouver.

Lady in the Water

July 21st, 2006 Posted in Movie Reviews

There’s no twist. Rather it’s like a mystery movie where the clues are shown to you at the beginning and the story slowly unfolds. I felt like M. Night Shyamalan was hitting me over the head with what the symbolism was supposed to mean – telling me just in case I didn’t get it – like you would with a little kid. But I wasn’t completely annoyed by it because he poked fun at that exact fault at one point.

It was a sweet movie, yet scary – a bedtime story or perhaps a campfire story, where the goal is to scare the b’jesus out of your listeners but not too much that they can’t fall asleep.

I’m not sure if you need to see it in the theatre, but you definitely need to watch it in a dark room. It’s worth the matinee price to escape the 100-degree heat this weekend. I think my theatre experience was a bit ruined by being surrounded by talkative people, the lights coming on for the opening of the movie, and people getting up and down throughout it.

An Inconvenient Truth

July 13th, 2006 Posted in Movie Reviews

I didn’t learn too much from An Inconvenient Truth. Maybe it’s because I follow the climate change stories and became a fan of Dr. David Suzuki after moving to Vancouver. A lot of what Gore has to says is the same exact things Suzuki has been saying since before I was born. Actually, I think Suzuki does a better job of explaining what’s going on and what our future will be like if we continue on the path that we’re on.

There’s a clip in the movie of a cartoon showing a frog in a boiling pot. For the life of me I can’t figure out where this clip is from, but it looks so familiar. I know I’ve seen it before. I should have stayed for the credits to see who created it.
The movie wasn’t all that hopeful or helpful. I left feeling like there really wasn’t much that I could do. Maybe I was just in a contrary mood. The thing that hit me in the heart was the drowning polar bear. There’s an animation of a polar bear swimming and swimming, desperately searching for a bit of ice to rest on. Children should not see this movie- they’ll have nightmares. I would have. But, I was the kid raising money for world hunger and going to Earth Day celebrations.

The Art of the Story

June 15th, 2004 Posted in Movie Reviews, Writing

Coppola, Lucas, Spielberg, DreamWorks, Pixar, and at one time Disney. What do all of these things have in common? They all had highly successful, well-received films because they know how to tell a good story well.

Think about the types of films that they’ve all created. Many of them had fantastic special effects and featured cutting-edge technology. But that’s not why people love them. Audiences get caught up in the struggle of a little fish trying to find his son. They feel the heartache and frustration of a giant green ogre that’s trying to impress his in-laws. Audiences cried when Wilson the volleyball gets swept out to sea – granted a lot of that had to do with the acting, but there was a heartfelt story behind it. The audience becomes a part of the action that is going on up on the screen, because the directors can tell a story. And that is why people love the films.

I wonder if young filmmakers are truly grasping this concept.

Reason I ask is that last week I caught a free screening of Napoleon Dynamite from Fox Searchlight. It’s a quirky little story about a social outcast in high school. Created by a husband and wife team, Jared and Jerusha Hess, out of Bingham Young University, it was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize for a Dramatic Film at Sundance and won the Film Discovery Jury Award for Best Feature at the U.S. Comedy Festival. However, I don’t see what all the fuss is about over this movie. We love it because it’s different. It’s not the same vein of lackluster comedy that’s being spewed out of Hollywood. Yes it has some great funny bits. Yes the actor playing Napoleon, Jon Heder, does a good job at deadpan comedy. But it doesn’t all come together they way it could.

I hate to see what could be a great little movie turn into a flop. There were a number of times throughout the film that I wasn’t engaged in the story. That was mainly in the beginning, which droned on for what seemed like an hour, before we know what this story is about. Once you get to the story it is very sweet and funny. It reminded me to some extent of the Royal Tenenbaum ( especially the beginning titles) in that it’s a reflection back on a childhood that was awkward, a bit strange, and weird. But it seemed the Hesses were more concerned about getting all those funny skits that they thought up into the movie rather than telling the story.

There are lots of little skits/scenes that are precious. Yet, there seems to be a disconnect between them sometimes that resulted in a number of lulls in the movie. And there were scenes that we were laughing at not because it was funny but because it was awkwardly stupid. Luckily I had a great group of guys sitting next to me that that didn’t follow the convention of not talking during the movie. There were some times I was laughing because of this group of guys sitting next were making little comments and well, you can’t recreate that at every showing. Also, since it was a free screening there’s a bit of the “well it’s a free showing and since I didn’t pay for it I’m not as invested in it, demanding that it’s up to my standards of what funny is”.

If I were in charge, I would suggest going back and editing this movie. This is what I think would help make it even better:

Establish location in the beginning – We need to know that this is Idaho. I shouldn’t have to read a synopsis of the film to know where it takes place. It’s not clear in the beginning. To me it looks like the mountains in California. Reason that we need to know where we are is that we’re questioning what year this is. Is it the 80’s? If we think that then we’re nit-picking at what is wrong with the movie: Glamour Shots weren’t popular until the 90’s, the ring tones are too modern, and the Internet was still in it’s baby stages, no one used the word cyberspace, went in chat rooms or bought things online. Also the chicken farm and milk testing scenes then make sense. If we’re supposed to not know, well, it doesn’t work. Establishing that it’s Idaho explains everything, because Idaho is perceived by the general public as being completely backassward.

What is the Story? The central conflict? – We don’t know what to root for until we know that the kid’s interested in the girl and even then we lose that somewhere in the middle. We start getting concerned about the presidential race and the girl kinda takes a back seat. I would have liked to have seen just a bit more of her. If it’s not the girl, then I’ve left that theater not really knowing what this story is about.

What’s his Internal Conflict? – What is going on in this kid’s head? Yes we’ve all known this kid when we were in school and maybe we were him in some ways. Hell, we certainly laugh at times because some of us have done things that he’s doing – “My girlfriend is a model and can’t make it to the dance” However, there are times, mainly in the beginning, I was asking “is it that the actor can’t act, or is the character supposed to be this way.” I know that in some ways we’re not supposed to understand this kid, but we should know what’s motivating him? Could be solved with speeding up the pacing or adding voiceover if you must.

Speed up the Pacing – The beginning needs to be cut down. Although there are a number of very funny and cute scenes in there, the story doesn’t really seems to start until we’re concerned about the boys getting dates for the dance. You could take some of those funny little scenes and move them elsewhere in the movie. Loved having the 80s music at the dance, but for the length of the movie cut the dance scene is just a tad. Also, I left the movie not really remembering what happened in the beginning.

Cow Shooting Scene – Loved it. This is one of those great little random scenes in the beginning that could be moved elsewhere in the film. Juxtapose it with the milk tasting scene later on in the film. However you can see fishing line attached to the rifle. Breaks the suspension of disbelief.

Too many characters – There’s a bit of a theme in my comments that I can’t remember characters. Shows that perhaps there are too many, audience attention is divided. Could have combined some.

Summer – Played by Hillary Duff’s sister, Hailey, we need to hate her more. Just because she’s the popular girl is not enough of a reason to hate her. I would have had her be the one that is made to go to the dance with Napoleon. Combining characters many times can fix a story.

Summer’s boyfriend – We should see more of him. I would have combined this character with all the other school bullies. It makes us hate him and hate Summer even more because she’s dating him.

Rex the karate guy – By the time Napoleon’s Uncle Rico was in Rex’s girlfriends house towards the end of the movie, I had forgotten about Rex and that she was Rex’s girlfriend. She looked familiar, but I couldn’t remember how she was connected to other people in the movie. Probably if you speed up the pacing then it isn’t an issue. Definitely keep it in. We want to see Rico get beat up.

Uncle Rico – We hate this guy. I don’t feel sorry for him. He’s a bastard of an uncle to Napoleon. So why have him find his soul mate at the end.? Who cares! He deserves to be alone for being such a jerk to Napoleon and screwing up his love life. And who is that woman that pulls up on her bike? She’s in the middle of nowhere and there’s a loner-guy living in his van, throwing footballs at a camera? No normal, nice looking woman would go anywhere near him.

Pedro – The Napoleon/Pedro friendship was true to life. When thrown into an awkward situation (being in high school and an outcast) with someone else, you usually become friends with that person out of convenience, and it was what you’d expect a typical teenage boys’ friendship would be.

Pedro’s relatives – loved these guys in the car. I would have liked to have seen more instances of their “protection services”. They’re thrown in there at one point and then forgotten about until the family picnic where we see them in the background.

Ending – Napoleon’s dance skit on stage – we loved it, felt embarrassed for him, rooted for him, were amazed that he could dance that way, and proud that he got them all on their feet (with help from the girl he likes). The last scene is perfect the way it is, and it’s probably due to the Mormon influence here. Do not change it. Do not have Napoleon and the girl kiss. (I can’t remember her name, which says to me she’s not in it enough). I could see MTV(the producers) wanting to change it.

Music – There needs to be more mood/background music. There’s so much feeling that music can add to a film. I liked the instrumental soundtrack and would have liked to have heard it fill in some of the slower scenes . Might have helped me connect to the film more.

Tina – Did he still feed the llama throughout this time period? We don’t see that he still has to take care of her. Somewhere in the back of my head I’m thinking, “Did he starve the llama?”

I can see this film becoming a cult favorite mainly because it’s a stupid story told in a quirky way. But imagine what the Hesses could have accomplished if they just stayed true to the story

Bowling for Columbine

October 19th, 2002 Posted in Movie Reviews

Just saw Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine and at one point in the film he talks about how white America is afraid of black America because of the news. Well it reminded me of a story about me that my mother told me.

When I was a child my mother noticed that I was afraid of black men (I’m white by the way). I grew up in a Italian-American suburb of New York called Little Falls, New Jersey. I don’t think there was one black person that lived in that town until fairly recently. All that I knew of black people was what I saw on the news. And as Michael Moore pointed out in his film the news always focused on black men getting arrested for a shooting, robbery, rape, sodomy (a child doesn’t know what that means only that it’s bad), etc. So I was afraid of them.

I think my mom noticed that I physically flinched when I saw a black man while walking around the city. Ultimately my mother had to bring me to Paterson, the nearest place that had black people. There we went to a school, dropped off some things, and I talked to my first black “man”. It was a teenager, but to me he was this big scary man. He talked to me, was nice, and I remember getting back into the car and my mom saying to me, “Now Ashley, wasn’t that man nice?” And he was of course, and I said so. She then pointed out to me that “See all black men are not like the bad ones you see on the news. And there are white men who do the same things that the black men do on the news.”

I was 5. A 5 year old shouldn’t have this type of fear. They shouldn’t be racist, especially when they have parents who aren’t.

My fear, and probably valid since “Bowling for Columbine” touched on it, is that there are many people my age whose parents never did that. And they continue to live in fear of blacks for no reason at all.