Children of Men

Tuesday, January 30, 2007


As a twenty-three year old girl, I don't really think much about kids. Sure they're fantastic to play with, they're cute and snugly, and they're fun to observe, but how much do they really affect my life, especially if I don't have one of my own? Not much. . . . or so I thought . . .

Children of Men is a SciFi thriller set in a realistic 2027, a world where there are no children. For eighteen years all women have become infertile, and as a result, civil society is non-existent. The only country with some resemblance of control over their nation is England, and even there, it is ruled under martial law. Refugees are illegal and treated much like I'd imagine Jewish people were treated during the Holocaust; thrown into inhumane refugee camps and killed for no reason. And then there was Kee, a Fiji refugee who has to run for her life, and for humanity, because she is pregnant and everyone wants to use her and her baby.

This film is a huge commentary on the importance of children and future posterity on our society. Without children, there literally is no reason for the quality of life, no reason for art, no reason to go on living for that matter. Children of Men provides a different way of understanding the Apocalypse. There's no need for a better life. You can't have a family. No need to take care of yourself. You'll die anyway. But what's interesting is that we will all die anyway, but this time, with overwhelming loneliness, knowing that their generation will be the last to walk on earth.

The director's use of a handheld camera adds to the realistic qualities that this film bears. I felt like I was in the car when they were being attracted by "terrorists." I was following Theo through the battle grounds(<--a superbly choreographed 15 min uncut scene; you might not even notice that there were no cuts. Ridiculously extreme). The tinge of gray that all scenes seemed to have made despair very visual. A glimmering juxtaposition between despair and hope, I think hope wins out as the words "Children of Men" fade out to the laughter of children. Children of Men is an intense film that needs a lot of mental exercises prior to viewing. You may not want to see it today, but Tomorrow is another chance.

Movie Review by Jenn Bollish at 12:00 PM 0 comments  


Wednesday, January 24, 2007


As a kid, I thought dandelions were the coolest things. They grew all over my yard and when they were moved, the little seed umbrellas let go and danced in the wind. But in reality dandelions are weeds, and the kind of dandelions that are white and have seed umbrellas . . . those dandelions are dead.

A perfect title for this film, Dandelion evokes those same conflicted feelings of innocense and the realities of life. Mason Mullich is a teen whose personality is indifference, and he often daydreams about committing suicide. He is later blamed for manslaughter, a crime he did not commit, but instead of turning in the real culprit, he remains silent. For two years he remains in a juvenile delinquent center, and once he is free, he is a different person.

So subtle was this change that you forget that he wasn't like this when he left. It starts with warm comments that he says to his alcoholic mother; a fishing trip with his dad. And of course, he falls in love. This innocent love makes him realize that there is love in his dysfunctional family. There is love in his non-existent town and his drug addict friends. But of course, this innocent love is taken away. Yet despite a tragedy, he manages to see that love for what it was, just love. Not tragedy.

Although the tone of this film was slow at times, it added to the movie's character. You can't have a normal paced movie set in a place that was all river, rolling hills, tall grass, and absolutely nothing to do but park your truck out in a field and drink beer. The setting was beautiful and poignant, and the slow pace enhanced the simplicity of this place and this story. Poetic realism in its finest.

Just like dandelions were in childhood innocence, death does not have to be the end; just a beginning somewhere else.

Movie Review by Jenn Bollish at 1:55 PM 0 comments  

Snakes On A Plane

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


Comical satire or thriller? Either way, this movie fails in both genres. I can't even decide what the intentions of the writer and director were. To be camp or not to be camp, that is the question. Multiple times through the movie, I said to my poor friends who had to endure Snakes On A Plane with me, "Am I suppose to laugh?"

However, after a few days of SOAP's poison seeping into me, in retrospect, you can laugh at how bad the movie was. You may not laugh during the movie, but remembering Samuel L. Jackson pop a cap on the airplane's window to suck out all the snakes has to make you crack at the very least a smirk for the shear absurdity. My favorite part was when the token Asian guy, who just happened to know kung fu performs the heroic feat of carrying Blond Woman on his back while he walked on snakes. For that, it gets at least 1 goomba.

But watching Snakes On A Plane is like some psycho form of initiation. You do it for bragging rights. You do it so that you're "in the know." So go ahead, watch it, but please remember that a tag line for this film meant in all seriousness is, "Airline food ain't what you gotta worry about," (<---no, it really isn't what we have to worry about) and then reference my rating system for 1 Goomba films.

Movie Review by Jenn Bollish at 1:25 PM 0 comments  

Little Miss Sunshine

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


Americans have this thing about road trips in film. I don't know if there's some sort of spiritual experience that happens as you make your way across country. I've never been on one myself, but its like there's this universal understanding that road trips = finding yourself.

Done in the artsy, camp manner of most independent films, Little Miss Sunshine's basis is about an ordinary person's (or in this case, a family's) journey through the realities of life via the Road trip. A dark comedy, Little Miss Sunshine portrays a family with very individualized problems. There's the father whose lack of self esteem is marked by "WINNING!", the dirty grandfather who smokes pot, the closet femme fetale mother who smokes in secret and doesn't understand what her family needs, the depressed, suicidal uncle with a strong sense of reality (ironic huh?), the older brother whose taken a vow of silence (more on this later), and finally, Olive, the youngest child and the only bright light in this ridiculous family.

Little Miss Sunshine is a beauty pageant that Olive gets invited to compete in, and the entire family reluctantly makes the trip across country on a yellow bus. An ongoing theme of this film is insanity and happiness. I realize that these two ideas are kind of contradictory, but that is what this film is, contradiction.

For starters, there is the uncle who is considered to be mentally unstable, yet he is the one who immediately identifies the type of family dynamic he is dealing with. He is smart, well-rounded, and educated, all things associated with a healthy mind, yet doctor's tell him otherwise. The grandfather who is basically a dirty man, is also the person who is closest to Olive, the 8 year old daughter. He is the one who worked with Olive to get her pageant routine together. For hours and hours they worked together, and you could tell that this harsh, rough man had a soft spot for Olive. My favorite character, the silent brother, has great intuition regardless of seeming teenage angst. At first, his silence is depicted as anger and hositility. People in western culture are often uncomfortable with silence since it is often hard to tell what a person is thinking, yet this family seems to welcome it. What is also interesting is silence being the one thing Dwayne responds to the most. When he learns he is color blind and cannot become a fighter pilot, he breaks his vow of silence, and even his mother can't console him. Yet when Olive goes to "talk to him," all Olive does is sit with her arm around him in silence for a minute and Dwayne says "Okay" and stands up to rejoin the family as if they had just shared a long heart to heart. An interesting commentary by the writers or director of this film by making the van yellow. Yellow has traditionally been a symbol for both cheerful happiness and mental illness (Yellow Wallpaper crazy lady . . . interesting huh?).

After this whole crazy journey through life's complications personified into this one family, they attempt to make it to this beauty pageant for the sake of Olive. Its what will make her the most happy. They start off dragging their feet to go to this thing, and eventually push to get to the pageant, literally. They'll do whatever it takes, as a family (living or in death). And when Olive is judged, the entire family is judged. But by the end, do they care? No. Not one bit. They're a really messed up family in society's eyes, but they're still a family. Unlike the beginning when the family can't even stand to be together, in the end, the idea of family is definitely celebrated.

Movie Review by Jenn Bollish at 10:49 AM 0 comments  

The Painted Veil

Sunday, January 14, 2007


This movie isn't a movie. It is 100% a film. When I think art, I think of The Painted Veil, and I have never, in my life, seen a film so beautiful.

Based on the novel by Somerset Maugham, The Painted Veil is a romantic period piece set it the 1920's. What's so different about this film is its portrayal of how love is, how love evolves and changes, and how love is different for everyone. Walter loved Kitty right from the start. He married her regardless of how selfish, spoiled, and self absorbed she was. And then he hated her. Actually, they hated each other. But this film's beauty resides in their journey to find their own kind of love through respect and admiration, and how both characters are able to change and grow into people that were better than who they once were. To me, this film was truly able to express a deeper kind of love that we all wish we were a part of.

Beautifully told and gorgeous to look at, The Painted Veil has probably become my favorite film and Edward Norton my new boyfriend. I can't say anymore because my words will just make the film seem ordinary. I will never be able to describe this film as gracefully as it is on the silver screen. Just go see it for yourself.

Updated 05/08/07: Although the film is breathtaking and a definite favorite of mine, the DVD (which just came out today) itself is quite a disappointment. Just cover art, cheap case, and DVD. No slipcover, no insert; the cover art doesn't even express how beautiful the film is . . . I'm sad.

Movie Review by Jenn Bollish at 11:26 PM 0 comments  


Thursday, January 11, 2007


I love Disney sports movies. I know that doesn't mean much since I basically love most kinds of movies, but sports movies in particular have a distinct way of kindling feelings of triumph, not to mention the connection I always seem to think I have with the hero or heroine. Regardless of how cheesy the movie, I get goosebumps every time he/she makes the goal/home run/touchdown/winner/ big putt during that final big game. "Is he going to make it?!", "Are they going to win?!", "OMG DON'T DROP THE BALL!" I seriously ask these questions . . . out loud sometimes . . .regardless of the fact that I already know the answer. Its more fun that way.

Wahlberg portrays Vince Papale, a bartender down on his luck. Despite being a good man, his wife takes everything and leaves him with nothing but a note that says something to the extent of 'You'll never make any money, you'll never go anywhere, you're nothing.' Not a very nice lady. Living in a close-knit community in South Philli, Papale is encouraged by his friends and community to try out for the Eagles. He's got nothing to lose.

What's striking about this film is the realness of Wahlberg's portrayal. He could have been someone I knew. There is a particular scene when the Assistant Coach is knocking on people's dorms, telling them "the Coach wants to see you, bring your playbooks." Papale waits, sitting on his bed with his bag already packed, play book in hand, ready to walk out the door when that knock was sure to come. He waits for hours, and that knock never came. That's just about as human as you can get.

David O Russell put it best when he said that Wahlberg possess a "odd combination of street toughness and vulnerability." This was what made this film great. Creating a sports film is easy. You just need a team, a rival, our underdog team hero, and a supportive community and or coach. But what makes a sports movie great is the rawness of its actors portrayal of its characters. Despite the orange tinge this some decided it needed, despite a cheesy, Disney-esqe addition of making Papale look at his wife's 'I hate you note' every time before a practice, despite some attempted parallel between a struggling society and one glimmer of hope that is Papale incarnate, Wahlberg was really able to carry this film. This film was a touchdown.

Movie Review by Jenn Bollish at 9:59 AM 0 comments  

Step Up

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


I had to use some self control when rating this movie. I was so tempted to give it 4 GOOMBAS . . . but I know better. This movie is a 3. I am such a sucker for dance movies with pretty people in them that sometimes I wonder how I can ever proudly claim to be a film buff.

Step Up is about an inner city boy who vandalizes an art school, is caught, and is sentence to 200 hours of community service for that school. During his community service, he meets Nora, played by dancer/actress Jena Dewan who just happens to need and emergency replacement dance partner. Tyler, Channing Tatum, just happens to be an excellent dancer. What a surprise!
Of course they fall in love, then they fight, he quits, then someone dies which makes Tyler realize he needs to change his life. You know, the usual stuff. But just because it’s predictable shouldn't make any movie a bad movie. All movies need a recipe to go by.

There are obviously better romance movies than Step Up. And there are probably better dance movies than Step Up, though I can't think of one at the top of my head. Most dance movies are pretty bad, and even the classic dance movies are only classic because people love to watch them over and over again. Not because they're any good. Audiences just like to watch people dance. Either way, this is a pretty darn good dance movie. All you need is a pretty girl who can dance, a cute guy who can dance (the cute guy who can dance is very essential), and you've got all you can expect from a movie like this and love it. If you expected more from a dance movie, don't watch it.

Movie Review by Jenn Bollish at 3:07 PM 0 comments  



You know what's sad? That a movie like Click gets voted "Best Movie Comedy" for the People's Choice Awards. At first, I was appalled. Click was a watchable movie, but definitely not good enough to win any awards. Its downfall was very similar to The Break Up disaster (which was also nominated . . . I lose faith in the American people for that one). It couldn't decide what genre it was.

Adam Sandler is much like Cary Grant was during the studio era of film where actors like Grant would already stir pre-conceived notions about the film's plot. Back then, filmmakers didn't have much faith in the audience's ability to interpret moving pictures. We see this with action film actors such as Segal, Schwarzenegger, Van Damme. Adam Sandler sadly comes with a type cast. It doesn't help that movie trailers often betray the true kind of film you're consuming.

So you start out watching a movie that you believe is a comedy. You watch Michael Newman (Adam Sandler) receive a remote control that can be used against the fourth dimension, time. It can replay things in the past, fast forward into the future, alter the color of his face . . . which isn't really the fourth dimension but I digress. Michael then abuses this power, and then all of a sudden it becomes a serious movie and at the climax, there is this awful scene of Michael in a parking lot in the pouring rain about to die. Its not awful because of the circumstance . . . it’s awful because it's so bad it’s not even cheesy.

But what's even sadder is not that the people's choice was Click, but that there weren't any other better comedy films to defeat it. It’s not the people's fault. We just need better movies.

Movie Review by Jenn Bollish at 10:04 AM 0 comments  

Ma Vie En Rose (My Life in Pink)

Sunday, January 07, 2007


Purity and innocence are historically characteristic of a child. Like I said in one of my previous posts, a child's mind is not yet tainted by outside influence or experiences. Their actions come from a deeper, more innate place. A place that most adults have forgotten about, and what Ma Vie En Rose does is remind the world that children's thoughts and feelings are not trivial but valuable.

Ludovic is a seven-year-old boy who believes with his whole heart that he will grow up to be a girl. His parents, Hanna and Pierre, are the stereotypical suburban couple. Pierre is masculine in every way. He is the breadwinner. He plays sports. He gets angry and relieves his anger by going into the yard and doing pull ups on the arbor. Hanna is docile. She isn't a push over, but she's calm and understanding. She likes throwing neighborhood parties, and hanging out with the other neighborhood moms. She's an excellent homemaker, and always wears dresses or skirts . . . at least during the first half of the film. So of course, when Ludovic begins to act outside of the perfect picture that is their family (i.e. dressing up as a little girl, playing the bride in a child's imaginary game, peeing sitting down), they flip.

But Ludovic's intentions and rational are completely and utterly innocent. It has nothing to do with sexuality. He just believes that God lost "one of his x's and gave him a y instead." As the community and his family hone in on the 'irregularity' of his behavior, the tension brings about a number of changes. Gender roles begin to cross. Lodovic's father becomes more calm. He even cries at one point. He begins helping around the house, cooking and cleaning. But most importantly, he becomes more understanding of Ludovic. Ludovic's mother on the other hand slowly stops wearing dresses and skirts. She begins to openly smoke, a common femme fatale depiction. She gets angry and blames Ludovic for the family's societal shun.

One can argue that Ludovic is gender personified. He proves that gender roles cross boundaries all the time. The only difference is that Ludovic embraces the opposite of his born sex.

There are some screwy scenes with TV characters call Pam and Ben, but that's French Surrealism for you. ;) I liked this movie a lot, and what makes it is Ludovic, his innocence, and the assumption that the audience has an open mind.

Movie Review by Jenn Bollish at 10:22 PM 1 comments  

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Monday, January 01, 2007


Tabula rasa; according to the American Heritage Dictionary, a need or an opportunity to start from the beginning. I learned it in high school as 'clean slate'. John Locke believed that only babies where born with tabula rasa; their minds not yet altered by experiences and outside influence. But what if you could tabula rasa your way through life? If you could wipe your mind clean of all experiences that haunted your past and afflicted your future, would you do it? Luckily, like most adventures that we would rather not face, we can live them vicarious through film.

An incredibly artsy film, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind begins at the end during Clem and Joel's second, first meeting. Jim Carey and Kate Winslet star in this wild film as Joel Barish and Clementine Kruczynski. Joel is boring and dull, while Clementine is crazy and spontaneous (which is already made obvious by her ever changing hair color). They dress exactly opposite, the act exactly opposite, and even their names sound completely opposite. Yet somehow they fall in love. After a bad semi-break up, Clementine, being impulsive, decides to erase Joel from her memories through Dr. Mierzwiak, a specialist who can track the places where certain memories are stored and delete them. Joel, hurt and confused when he finds that Clementine has erased him, decides to go through the procedure as well. However, during the procedure, Joel realizes what he's about to lose.

For the majority of the film, Joel desperately tries to retain some memories of Clem by dragging her to different parts of his brain to hide from the Erasers. There is no need for additional flashbacks or additional commentary because what this film does is illustrate their relationship through literal memory sequences. To us, it seems like Joel and Clem are basically trapped in his brain, running from memory to memory. How Joel and Clementine first met (the first time), how they fought, and what their relationship was really like. Joel had forgotten how good it had been.

Symbolism and lighting plays a huge role in this movie. The color of Clem's hair changes with the time line of their relationship. When they first met it was green, a symbol for youth and vigor, qualities that Joel found attractive in her. Then it turned orange, and Joel began calling Clem 'Tangerine;' orange being a symbol for energy and demand for attention (Joel was also first attracted to her orange sweatshirt). Then during the hard part of their relationship her hair was red, representative of strong and powerful feelings. Other subtle things such as music being played backward as Joel re-lives his memories with Clem. As for the lighting, often times there are spotlights used on Joel and Clem, further evoking the feeling that they are being hunted by the Erasers as fugitives are hunted by the police.

When Clem and Joel meet and fall in love for the second time, this meeting becomes a commentary on the power of attraction and love. The mind cannot fool itself into not loving again. This film has so much wrapped in such a small box. Its just a simple love story, but the way it comes together makes it art.

Movie Review by Jenn Bollish at 2:24 AM 0 comments