Up In the Air (2009) Review

Ryan Bingham is a corporate downsizing expert with a job traveling around the country firing people. Ryan, played by George Clooney, enjoys living out of a suitcase, but finds that lifestyle threatened when he meets the frequent-traveler woman of his dreams

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Sam Kench reviews the 2009 Jason Reitman film Up In the Air starring George Clooney, Anna Kendrick, and Vera Farmiga.

FUN FACT VIA IMDB

“A large amount of the people we see fired in the film are not actors but people who were recently laid off. The filmmakers put out ads in St. Louis and Detroit posing as a documentary crew looking to document the effect of the recession. When people showed up, they were instructed to treat the camera like the person who fired them and respond as they did or use the opportunity to say what they wished they had. A way to discern who are the actors and who are the real people is that the real people do not have dialogue with George Clooney or Anna Kendrick, as they were shot separately. Jason Reitman did this intentionally, feeling that the real people would freak out Clooney and Kendrick.”

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

By Sam Kench, who watched “Birdman” at Red River Theatres in Concord, NH

“Birdman” is a drambirdman posteredy starring Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, Emma Stone, and Zach Galifianakis among others. Michael Keaton plays Riggan Thompson an actor known for a superhero role from his past (not unlike Keaton himself) who is now trying to regain relevance and prove his worth as a serious actor by putting on a dramatic stage production.

“Birdman” features a lot of comedy, which could be argued as its primary genre, but the film features incredibly strong dramatic elements as well. The film has a very good grasp of its tones and blends the genres wonderfully. It is very funny on more than one level and had me laughing multiple times throughout. “Birdman” is capable of being funny and serious within the same scene, and even within the same moment. A scene that begins with a comedic tone can evolve into a highly emotional confrontation and vice versa. The dialogue in “Birdman” always feels natural and more notably features incredibly dynamic and realistic arguments. In most movies if an argument is going to take place, the character will initiate their dialogue directly in the conflict, but in “Birdman” characters may start an argument about something small and inconsequential and use it to ramp up to the issues that truly plague their minds, as people often do.

birdman cast

The acting is fantastic all around. Every single performance, no matter how small is perfect. This is Michael Keaton’s largest role in quite a while and he deserves an Oscar nomination for his performance in this film. In fact “Birdman” also deserves Oscar nominations for best picture, director, and cinematography at least. Keaton’s character is very complex and makes for an impressive performance. Edward Norton is pretty much great in every role he plays and here is no exception. Emma Stone and Naomi Watts are both excellent as well and each of them are given scenes where they can really showcase their full acting ability. I was thinking that Zach Galifianakis might have been playing a purely comedic role, but he also has an opportunity to show off some impressive dramatic acting alongside the comedy.

birdman stone

The score to “Birdman” is great. It creates a fully defined style for the film right from the opening credits. The music done by Antonio Sanchez is fantastic. The soundtrack features mostly percussion and was stuck in head hours after the movie ended. “Birdman” features a soundtrack worth owning on its own and serves as the final layer of glaze on an already excellent film.

The most impressive aspect of “Birdman” is the way it is shot. The entire film aside from a short sequence is presented as one continuous unbroken shot. There are cuts in the film, but they are hidden. The editing is disguised to look as the camera is floating through the environment as an observer. As a filmmaker I can recognize places where cuts may have been placed, but most people likely won’t. I was amazed by the cinematography. The filming style had me completely captivated and serves to make the viewer more immersed in the film. The single continuous shot is a technical marvel and especially impressive when considering that the film takes place over multiple days in a variety of locations.

The presentation of Birdman is simply amazing. The director, Alejandro González Iñárritu, is a true master of his craft. The direction of Birdman as a whole is impeccable. This is a true feat of filmmaking.

birdman

Birdman is one of the best films of 2014. Everything about it, right down to the credits, is perfect. For now Birdman is in limited release and I was able to see it at Red River Theatres in Concord, NH.  Definitely check this film out if you can.

Yes Son That is a Lion episode 2

The 2nd episode of the my original sketch comedy show Yes Son That is a Lion has just been released on youtube, please check it out and leave feedback if you’re up to it. PLEASE NOTE: Some sketches are not suitable for young audiences due to content and strong language.

 

 

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)

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kiss kis bang bagn

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is a dark comedy with a strong noir edge mystery about a murderer being pursued by a gay private investigator, a thief mistaken as an actor and his childhood love interest.

Though this movie may be enjoyable to the casual movie going audience, it is especially appealing to those well versed in the medium of film. Film buffs will find great pleasure in this film as it takes the conventions you’ve come to expect and twists them around to great comedic effect. “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” follows a somewhat generic murder mystery plot, but infuses it with genre defying dark comedy at crucial moments to steer the film into unexpected territory with the comedy forming to the point of perfection and hitting its mark every time.

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While the comedy and some of the direction/cinematography stop “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” from being a true hard boiled noir, all the style is still there. The film has a great grasp of the noir style, with a lot of darkly lit sets, many washed over with heavy color as many neo-noirs do.

The music is also excellently noir and it is impressive how the often serious music manages to avoid clashing with the comedic moments that occur simultaneously. The music is all great and genre fitting, until the end credits where they used a horribly unfitting song. I’m one to usually read through the credits of a film if I like it, and the music choice stopped me from doing so. This isn’t a bad mark on the film itself, just a poor decision from the soundtrack department which up until that point had been so great.

The two leads are great. Robert Downey Jr. as Harry Lockhart and Val Kilmer as Gay Perry are both terrific. Each character is well formed, and though the characters never take on the buddy cop formula, they do have good back and forth on screen chemistry which makes the comedy work that much better. The excellent comedic writing is pulled off flawlessly by these two leads. The female lead, Harmony Lane played by Michelle Monaghan, is a different story. The threeactress did a fine job, but the writing of the character does not work to the film’s benefit . The only aspect of the film that didn’t work to me was the romance between Harry Lockhart and Harmony Lane. I really can’t see why she is worth all the trouble or why Harry would even want to be with her, she’s honestly quite a whore.

The film has one of the absolute best narrations of all time from Robert Downey Jr. as his character tells the story while having quite a bit of difficulty. He goes back to parts he forgot, criticizes scenes and gets off topic. All to excellent comedic effect. The film is very self aware which works in its favor and gives a feeling of true originality to the film.

The clever, tightly written script is the main reason to watch the film. “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” is hilarious but also manages to be very cool and stylish with a nice noir tone and even managing to have a pretty damn cool final shootout.
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Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” is a fantastic film. I highly recommend it to all fans of cinema. Anyone looking for a neo-noir, a comedy or even a low octane action film will likely find a good time wrapped up within “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang”, it can even work as an alternative Christmas film like “Die Hard” or “In Bruges“.

 

The Soon to be Deceased Accepted into Film Festival

the soon to be deceased

By Sam Kench

My western short “The Soon to be Deceased” was accepted into the New Hampshire High School Short Film Festival.

The short will be shown at Red River theaters in Concord NH on May 24th. To go along with the news I released a short blooper reel from the short.

 

 

Movie Recommendation of the Week #11

see no evil hear no evil

See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989)

see no evil hear no evil

This is a very funny movie about a blind man and a deaf man who witness a murder in tandem. Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder star and the two make an excellent comedic pairing.

It would be easy for a movie like this to come off as immature and offensive, but although their disabilities are used for comedy, the disabilities themselves do not ever become a laughing matter, just the situations that result from them. This is good and keeps the movie respectable.

The movie manages to have some well acted and competent dramatic scenes mixed in with the comedy. It also features a very early Kevin Spacey role and sees him playing one of the villains and putting on a British accent.

See No Evil, Hear No Evil is delightfully funny and everyone is sure to get at least one chuckle out of it so check it out.

Movie Recommendation of the Week #8

weekly movie recommendation-clue

By Sam Kench

clue

Clue is our movie recommendation for this week.

Yes this is a movie based off of the board game Clue. You wouldn’t expect a movie based on a board game to be any good, but this movie is surprisingly fantastic.

Perfect Comedy – This is honestly one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen. The absolutely amazing cast paired with the writing of John Landis, the comedy genius who brought us classics like The Blues Brothers. Christopher Lloyd, Tim Curry, Madeline Kahn, everyone, in this movie is perfectly cast, and hilarious.

Alternate Endings –  Make sure you watch the version of the film that includes the alternate endings. Any release of this film without the endings is a disgrace to this masterpiece. As a riff on the board game, where each time you play there is a different killer with a different weapon, the movie has a series of alternate endings, each one is clever and hysterically funny, if you don’t see all the endings then you are really missing out.

With its premise you just wouldn’t think this movie would work, but it does and it manages to be one of the absolute best comedies ever put to screen. Go watch it right away.

Cottage Country Review

Cottage Country

Cottage Country is a movie that I saw a trailer for and then just sort of forgot about until they added it to Netflix. The sole reason I watched this movie was for Tyler Labine from the excellent Tucker and Dale vs. Evil.

This movie seemed to have the same kind of idea, both being dark comedies centering around accidental murder. Was Cottage Country as good as Tucker and Dale VS Evil? No. It’s not that close either. Tucker and Dale is a much better movies all around and it is especially a great deal funnier. That being said I still very much enjoyed Cottage Country.

After watching the movie I was somewhat shocked to see all the negative reviews for this movie. This film has a bad reputation and seems to be getting a lot of undeserved flak. Is this movie perfect? Not at all, but it is not bad by any stretch of the imagination. It’s an enjoyable flick that doesn’t deserved to be labeled as trash as it has been. I’m expecting this movie to actually gain a cult following in a few years.

Let me just say real quick that this movie has one of the worst IMDB pages I’ve ever seen. THIS is the poster they used for the movie

cottage country worst poster ever

What the hell is that?! I could find a better poster for the movie on google images, in fact I will.

cottage country

Okay that’s still pretty bad, but at least it’s a poster this time. Only B movies have posters like this, and really gives the audience the wrong idea about the quality of film they should expect.

Cottage Country tells the story of Todd and Cammie who go to Todd’s cottage so that he can propose. Some unwanted guests lead to Todd and Cammie covering up multiple murders in a very dark comedy. The movie is morbidly funny and mixes the horror with the comedy in a way that not everyone’s pallet will be able to handle. Sometimes the mixing of the two genres is a little uneven, and I would’ve liked a bit more comedy in there, but the movie remains funny enough throughout, to not lose sight of it’s goal. There are standout moments that are very very funny, but the movie would’ve benefited from having some smaller laughs sprinkled in throughout.

The dramatic and horror aspects are surprisingly effective. I love horror comedies, and what usually ends up happening, is that the comedy takes center stage, while the horror is merely a backdrop. Most horror comedies simply use the horror as the setup and fail deliver on actually being frightening. Cottage Country, while never being scary, does manage to competently build tension and even manifest a creepy vibe in a few scenes. The way these different elements are mixed, could have been handled better, but I found that they still worked. These elements work especially well given the excellent acting and the good musical score.

Tyler Labine is great as Todd. He pulls off the comedy and handles the dramatic moments just as well. The cast of characters is surprisingly varied and everyone does their jobs very well. The female lead, Cammie, played by Malin Akerman is great and her character, that at first seems generic, is actually rather interesting. SPOILER Her character actually becomes the antagonist of the film near the end and while the writing on her transition wasn’t particularly good, the actress manages to make it work fairly well. The climax of the film went in an unexpected direction, but I think it works for this particular movie. END SPOILER

The supporting cast all do a very good job. Horror movies in general get a bad reputation as having terrible acting, but that is not always the case. The acting in Cottage Country is good all around. There are some standout characters that manage to be fully developed even though they may only have a couple of scenes. There is a Hasidic Jewish man named Dov who goes all detective on the disappearance of Todd’s brother Salinger who he murdered earlier (Not a spoiler it’s in the trailer). This character is delightfully strange and his outcome is gleefully funny.

The one character I found underdeveloped was the vagrant. He is only seen twice and a little more action from him would’ve been appreciated. There are two other standout character I want to mention. The female cop and Todd’s father both manage to be terribly cool, despite having little screen time. The cop is a bonafide BAMF and really goes out with a bang and Todd’s father might actually be the funniest part of the whole movie when he starts screaming at his wife.

Overall I found Cottage Country to be a thoroughly entertaining film. Despite the direction sometimes being a bit misguided and the different elements getting occasionally crossed the film remains very enjoyable. It definitely could have been funnier, but what we got with Cottage Country is still a satisfying flick, if perhaps a little forgettable. I’d definitely recommend it to fans of the horror comedy subgenre.

Flight of the Conchords review

flight of the conchords

By Sam Kench

flgiht of the conchords

Flight of the Conchords is a comedy band that is absolutely fantastic. Their music is great and their humor always hits it’s mark.

The band consists of two members Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie.  In 2007 they got their own TV show on HBO in which they play fictionalized versions of themselves, similar to shows like Maron and Louie.

This show is hilarious. The style of comedy may not be for everyone, so if you don’t like their music, you probably wont like the show.

The TV show is a combination of two parts. The first part being a comedy show that just pretty much follows the two of them around New York as they try to become a popular band, and the second half is their music. There are usually two songs per episode, and some work better than others. Sometimes the segues from the stories into the music is a little haphazard, but they generally try to work the song into the plot one way or another.

Both the narrative plot and the music are great. Both aspects are very funny. Some people may think that the show is just a shell for some music videos, but that is not true. Even if you took away the music, this show is still one of the funniest shows I’ve ever seen. The show only had two seasons and I would love to see it come back for a 3rd, however unlikely that is.bret and jemaine

The biggest reason why this show works so well is the cast. Both Jemaine and Bret are terrific in the show. Jemaine is always my favorite of the two but they are both great. They have great comedic delivery, and since the style of the show has very realistic sounding dialogue for the most, the actors do a good job of making everything sound incredibly natural. It’s true that they’re playing themselves so that probably makes it a bit easier, but they are incredibly believable which still takes talent.

murray hewittThe supporting cast is very good as well. The characters Murray, Mel, Dave, etc. are all unique and funny, and again the performances are very good.

Flight of the Conchords has to be one of my favorite TV shows of all time and I highly recommend it.

Clone Hunt Level 1

This is a quick little action video done to test out some new editing moves. Check it out, if you want a Clone Hunt level 2 leave a comment saying so.