Archive for the “Cinearts Santana Row” Category


June 26, 2012
Cinearts Santana Row
86 Minutes
Comedy / Romance
Colin Trevorrow

I dare you not to fall in love with Aubrey Plaza as an intern name Darius at Seattle Magazine, who interviews, then befriends, a man who has put an advertisement in the paper reading “Wanted: Someone to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. You’ll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. I have only done this once before. Safety not guaranteed.” The man’s name is Kenneth and he’s played by mumblecore pioneer Mark Duplass.

The magazine writer in charge of the road trip / expedition is Jeff, played by Jake M. Johnson, who is the “nice guy” on NEW GIRL. Here he plays a combination of that role, plus a large helping of Schmidt the douchebag.

Every character, not just the would-be time traveler, is dealing with some form of incredible loneliness. And the low-key nature of the performances and direction make the story seem much more universal than just a wacky guy who claims to be able to travel through time. Jeff volunteers for the assignment so that he can visit a woman he dated in his late teens who continues to live in the small town. His life has been full of empty hookups and dead-end career moves. A second intern, Arnau, has never kissed a woman, though he’s about to begin graduate school. Darius, is a loner outsider, who has never felt like she belongs. A touching dinnertime scene between Plaza and Jeff Garlin in a welcome tiny role shows the concern a father might have for the lack of action his daughter is getting.

And what to say about Kenneth? Is he crazy? What are his motivations for wanting to move the clock back ten years? What sort of trauma could have happened in his life? Jeff performs his own kind of time travel by setting up a meeting with the girl he can’t get out of his mind. She’s obviously aged since then, as he has, but will there be anything there when he arrives? Darius feels guilt over her mother’s death. Can’t we all think of a time in our past that we might think is better than our present? Specific weeks or seasons or ages or grades. I think we all can. If we did have the technology to go back to that time, what sort of dangers would we face?

Duplass never for one second winks at the audience. He shows off his martial arts training, his ease with handguns, his secret plans for stealing necessary technology. He needs to trust Darius completely, though her main job is to write an article about Kenneth, not be his assistant.

The film was sweet and slow and full of those off-handed jokes that naturalistic filmmaking is full of.

7.5 IMDB
7.2 Metacritic


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January 11, 2011
San Jose — Cinearts Santana Row
108 Minutes
Biography / Comedy / Crime / Drama
George Hickenlooper [Hearts Of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse; Some Folks Call It A Slingblade; Mayor Of The Sunset Strip]

Spacey chews the scenery in this semi-true story of imprisoned lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Spacey plays him as a super-jew, super workout guy, super schmoozer, super loyal husband, and super cocky. Barry Pepper matches him overacted scene for overacted scene. Not sure if it’s a black comedy or a realistic portrayal of broken Washington. Not hard to watch, though John Lovitz is pretty much replaying every slovenly medallion wearing character he’s ever been.

As a political wonk, I enjoyed seeing real-life people portrayed by look-a-likes. George W. Bush, Karl Rove, Tom DeLay, etc. Real footage of congressional hearings is spliced in. Hints are given that Abramoff had his hand in all sorts of malfeasance, including the recount in Florida in 2000.

Spacey appears to be having fun, though.

Kevin Spacey; Barry Pepper

6.5 IMDB
5.0 Metacritic


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January 11, 2011
San Jose — Cinearts Santana Row
110 Minutes
Adventure / Drama / Western
Ethan Coen and Joel Coen [Blood Simple; Raising Arizona; Miller’s Crossing; Barton Fink; The Hudsucker Proxy; Fargo; The Big Lebowski; O Brother Where Art Thou?; The Man Who Wasn’t There; No Country For Old Men; Burn After Reading; A Serious Man]

Jeff Bridges; Hailee Steinfeld; Matt Damon; Josh Brolin; Barry Pepper

Terrific from start to finish. Young Hailee Steinfeld is a force to be reckoned with, playing 14-year-old Mattie Ross, who wants justice against the man who shot her father and won’t take “no” for an answer. Not many of the telltale signs of the Coens here. It’s a beautifully shot film to be sure, but it lacks the wackiness, winking, and matter-of-fact violence that has made the Coens such great filmmakers. In a strange way, I wanted it to be more adult. They never venture past the PG-13 line, either in language or violence. I felt like an R-version of this film would have been monumental.

Having said that, I want to see it again, and some of the Coen magic shows up in the fast-paced dialogue, where Matty all but hoodwinks anyone foolish enough to negotiate with her. The language is almost West Wing level, circa late-1800s, full of legalese and old-fashioned-sounding put-downs. An early extended courtroom scene sets the stage for the verbal gymnastics we’ll be exposed to as the film goes on.

Another vintage Coen touch is a “medicine man”, dressed inside of a bear skin, complete with head attached. The Coens love to pause and watch characters tangential to the plot (the coffee shop scene in Fargo comes to mind). This man adds texture to the proceedings, though not much story.

The acting is first-rate, with young Steinfeld holding her own against Bridges and Damon, who get into a “measuring dicks” contest that is hilarious. The landscape realism had me shivering and feeling dusty. At some points the dialogue had me thinking of, yes, the late, great DEADWOOD.

Barry Pepper and his teeth play a bad guy who honors the code of the west. As part of that code, native Americans are not afforded the same “any last words” privileges that pale faces are.

When my daughter is old enough, I’ll take her to see this. There are far worse role models for young women than Mattie Ross.

8.3 IMDB
8.0 Metacritic


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March 19, 2009
San Jose CA — Cinearts Santana Row
128 Minutes — December 19, 2008
Laurent Cantet [Time Out; Heading South]


THE CLASS is the subject of Cinebanter Podcast Number 67. After you’ve seen the movie, listen to the spoiler-filled review by Tassoula and I by clicking the play button right here:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Show Description:

• 00:00 Intro
• 00:32 THE CLASS Discussion
• Break
• 15:15 To Sum It Up
• Break
• 15:43 The Last Five®
• Break
• 41:54 Listener Last Five® (3)
• 55:53 Credits and Outtakes


9.2 Metacritic
8.0 IMDB
8.1 Critical Consensus

The Class (Entre les murs) @ Amazon


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December 3, 2008
San Jose CA — Cinearts Santana Row
English / Hindi
120 Minutes — November 12, 2008
Comedy / Crime / Drama / Romance
Danny Boyle [Shallow Grave; Trainspotting; The Beach; 28 Days Later; Millions] & Loveleen Tandan

It’s hard to describe just how “cool” this movie is. Which is a terrible way to refer to any kind of film. “Cool”.

A young man from the slums of Mumbai is a contestant on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. The host can barely contain his contempt. Everyone expects him to exit the game early. But he continues to answer questions correctly, captivating all of India in the process. Most of the film is told in flashback as each question he is asked on the show reminds him of a part of his life. If the question is about US currency, he flashes back to a time when he was a hundred dollar bill. This is clearly unrealistic but sometimes, as the screen shows us early “It is written”. These flashbacks provide and opportunity for us to watch the visual styling of Danny Boyle, who is working out of his European element here. Jamal and his brother are first played by tiny Indian boys who live in an enormous slum just outside the gates of an airport. They spend their time playing cricket, trying their luck at money-making schemes, and outrunning the corrupt police.

There is thumping music, colorful fabrics, slow motion and shaky camera work. It is incredibly exciting.

The boys are compelling and respond to heartbreak with a seen-it-all attitude. They become orphaned and pick up a “third musketeer” along the way.

The film continually moves between the present-day quiz show and the incidents in Jamal’s life that led him to know answers that he has no right knowing.

It is loud and exciting and is a great mixture of western and Indian filmmaking. I loved it.

8.5 Metacritic
8.6 Critical Consensus
8.6 IMDB

Slumdog Millionaire @ Amazon


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Written by Michael W. Cummins