Hello everyone, and welcome to 111 Archer Avenue. What started as a film review blog has become my online judgment forum. I will review the occasional movie or DVD, post an interesting trailer, critique a newly-read book, talk about sports, and share my thoughts and opinions on random issues. You can also follow me on Twitter (@OlieCoen) or check out my work on DVDTalk.com. Thank you and enjoy!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Movie Review - Catfish

Director: Ariel Schulman
Starring: Yaniv Schulman, Angela Wesselman 
Year: 2010

Here's a riddle; when is a documentary not a documentary? The answer may be too simple to explain Catfish, a twisted documentary that follows none of the standard rules. There is an ongoing debate as to the authenticity of this unique film, but no evidence exists to disprove the creators' claim that everything we see is reality, even when it's too unreal to accept.

Two young filmmakers, Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost, created this documentary in order to comment on the growing world of social networks, online dating, and identity dysmorphia. They followed Ariel's brother, Yaniv, a talented photographer, as he began a relationship with a family of talented women who were fans of his work. With most of their communication via Facebook, Yaniv grows close to eight-year-old Abby and her older sister Megan. But when he attempts to learn more about this family, oddities begin to appear and doubts begin to surface.

It might not matter whether or not Catfish is real. A definite answer to that question wouldn't change its content, only its genre. It it still a gripping, interesting, and well-made film no matter how it is labeled. 'Nev' Schulman is an excellence actor and/or subject. He is believable, attractive, and easy to relate to. The film itself keeps the audience guessing while keeping it captivated as well. At the very least, it is one of the least boring documentaries that I have ever seen, even if it is not actually a documentary.

Perhaps these young movie buffs are on to something. Amateur film-making always comes off as so amateur. But this film, with its unique style, avoids this trap and somehow seems modern, edgy, and professional. So, when is a documentary not a documentary? When it is Catfish.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Trailer - New Year's Eve

Director: Garry Marshall
Starring: Ashton Kutcher, Katherine Heigl, Zac Efron,
Jessica Biel, Hilary Swank, Josh Duhamel, Lea Michele,
Robert De Niro, Abigail Breslin, Alyssa Milano,
Michelle Pfeiffer, Sarah Jessica Parker, Halle Berry

Year: 2011

Adding eighty-seven B-list celebrities to your crappy movie will not make it better. Throwing in one or two washed-up A-listers in order to add a little credit to your crappy movie will, also, not make it better. Nothing could possibly make this hour and a half of cinematic vomit even remotely watchable.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Movie Review - Midnight in Paris

Director: Woody Allen
Starring: Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Marion Cotillard
Year: 2011

Woody Allen is the ultimate one-man-band; his films work best when he directs himself. As shown in Annie Hall, Manhattan, and Hollywood Ending, he has the ability to make any scene brilliant, even when working alongside someone like Tea Leoni, one of the worst actresses in movie history. Unfortunately, Owen Wilson does not have that same ability. In Wedding Crashers, it was Vince Vaughn who made the movie funny. In Marley & Me, it was the golden retriever who made the movie touching. In Midnight in Paris, Wilson was left to his own devices, and, subsequently, was in over his head.

In modern day Paris, a wealthy, young couple, Wilson and McAdams (Mean Girls, The Notebook) are planning their upcoming marriage and enjoying the beautiful city. Fed up with his wife's stuffy parents, her pedantic friends, and his own writer's block, Wilson begins nightly forays through the streets of Paris, searching for inspiration for his first novel. What he finds there will both surprise and change him; as a writer, as a fiancee, and as a man.

Out of necessity, any summary of this movie must be both short and empty. Woody Allen has incorporated a surprise within the plot that, I for one, never saw coming. Not that there was an M. Night Shyamalan twist, but a surprise nonetheless. After adjusting to the change, I was finally able to critique what I was seeing, and I found it lacking. Allen lacked a directable star; Wilson just wasn't good enough to carry a fairly heavy emotional load. Wilson lacked a co-star; McAdams is a horrible actress and was never really called upon to do anything but look good and act bitchy. And the film itself lacked any believability; plot twist or no, there needed to be something real to relate to or to grasp onto to, and it just wasn't there.

There were a few positives. The beginning of the film was both beautiful and very funny. The music made the audience feel as if they were actually there in Paris. And Marion Cotillard and Adrien Brody, in a show-stealing cameo, were both quite good. However, the film as a whole felt incomplete. Woody Allen might be too old to star in his own movies anymore, but Owen Wilson was a very poor choice for a role that was obviously written for either Allen himself or a near clone. Casting Wilson and McAdams together had the sour taste of a Hollywood sell-out, and that's not what Woody Allen fans want. After Match Point, Scoop, Vicky Christina Barcelona, and now Midnight in Paris, we just want a good movie. But, hey, at least it was an improvement in one area; Scarlett Johansson wasn't in it.

My rating: ✰ ✰

Monday, July 25, 2011

Trailer - Crazy, Stupid, Love

Director: Glenn Ficarra
Starring: Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore,
Emma Stone

Year: 2011

I know, I know. It's overly romantic, it's been done before, and we all know how it's going to end. But that doesn't stop there from being something real about this movie that might just hit you where it hurts. Take your SO and claim that you're being dragged to the theatre, but go see this movie.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Movie Review - Fantastic Mr. Fox

Director: Wes Anderson
Starring: George Clooney, Jason Schwartzman, Meryl Streep, Bill Murray
Year: 2009

As you might have guessed from the name of my blog, I'm a big Wes Anderson fan. 111 Archer Avenue is the address of the Tenenbaum family in my favorite film of all time The Royal Tenenbaums, directed by, of course, Anderson (Rushmore, The Darjeeling Limited). I have seen all of the films he has directed and am very excited for Moonrise Kingdom, coming in 2012, starring Bruce Willis, Ed Norton, Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman, Bob Balaban, and Frances McDormand. Yet, when I heard he had directed an animated feature, I was skeptical. Guardedly excited, but skeptical.

Based on the children's book of the same name by Roald Dahl, Fantastic Mr. Fox is the story of the Fox family and their war with a group of local farmers, Boggis, Bunce, and Bean. Clooney (ER, Ocean's Eleven) is the voice of Mr. Fox, who cannot resist his wild animal urges. His constant raiding of the triumvirate farmers forces them into action, and a war is declared against all animals in the territory. As the animals fight to survive, Mr. Fox must choose between following his trouble making instincts and his responsibility to his family: his wife, Streep (Death Becomes Her, The River Wild) and his son, Schwartzman (Rushmore, I Heart Huckabees). The fate of the fauna lies in the hands of the self-proclaimed fantastic Mr. Fox.

For those who have read any stories by Roald Dahl, you know just how dark they can be. This film was no different. It was a clever blend between childish fancy and devilish humor. Anderson always does a masterful job of making light of serious moments and revealing the depth of everyday ones, and he did so skillfully is this film. Because it was animated, Anderson was able to let loose his wild imagination, yet the restraints of the book kept him from going too far, as he did to disaster in The Life Aquatic in 2004. Still, it was quite a strange film, with no warning or build-up to the weirdness. Less than an hour and a half in length, the movie felt more like a short than a feature film. And yet, had it been any longer, I believe it would have started to drag and to become a little tedious.

Fantastic Mr. Fox did not quite live up to its name. It was wonderfully odd and darkly funny in spots, but overall it wasn't spectacular. One wonders who this film was made for; it would not be appreciated by young audiences, and most adults moviegoers would find it too strange to enjoy. Anderson can be guilty of this sort of egocentricity, and this film did indeed seem to have been made for himself and his friends, not for the public or even for the devoted Wes Anderson fan. As a quick break from reality, it was an enjoyable movie. But as a film, it was nothing special.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Trailer - The Amazing Spider-Man

Director: Marc Webb
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Martin Sheen
Production year: 2012

I feel very confused. Columbia pictures couldn't get things rolling for a Spider-Man 4; director Sam Raimi refused to work on the project, citing a lack of artistic integrity. So, instead, they have decided to start over. Garfield (The Social Network, Never Let Me Go) will play Peter Parker, and audiences will see a new approach at portraying this comic book legend. The trailer looks good and I'm interested, but isn't there some rule about remaking your own movie just ten years after the original?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Movie Review - The Dark Side of the Moon

Director: D.J. Webster
Starring: Will Bledsoe, Robert Sampson, Alan Blumenfeld
Year: 1990

James Cameron must have watched this movie at some point and had an epiphany; it's much easier to combine three existing movies than it is to come up with an original one. He used this idea in making Avatar, combining Aliens, Dancing with Wolves, and FernGully to make a film so bad that it made the former three films look good. Luckily, he had 3-D technology to dazzle audiences into ignoring a pirated plot and an abysmal script. The Dark Side of the Moon, unfortunately, did not.

The year is 2022, and American satellites have been outfitted with nuclear weapons. A rag-tag company of soldiers is sent into space to service a satellite and return to Earth. However, as they approach the Moon's orbit, their ship loses all power. As they drift toward the dark side of the moon, an ancient NASA spacecraft slowly flies near. When the spaceships link, strange occurrences begin, and the crew members blame each other. They start to wonder if the arrival of the mysterious spacecraft was there deliverance or their damnation.

Yes, it is just as bad as it sounds. From the opening Star Wars-ian credits, to the countless still shots of the moon split into dark and light halves, this movie was continuously poor. Not only was the acting horrible and the space research unbelievable, but also, this movie was a complete forgery. The majority of the plot was taken directly from Alien and the characters stolen straight from Aliens. And the Hal type computer, Leslie, was a poor imitation at best, not even good enough to be considered an homage to 2001: A Space Odyssey; just a cheap knock-off.

There was, perhaps, one redeeming quality: it was so terrible that it became a little funny. If that had been what the director was attempting to do, create a movie on par with Barbarella or The Ice Pirates, then some credit would be deserved, but I doubt that was the goal. In the end, The Dark Side of the Moon was just bad enough to be no good at all.

My rating: ✰ ✰

Monday, July 18, 2011

Trailer - Contagion

Director: Stephen Soderbergh
Starring: Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow
Production year: 2011

Yet another virus threatens to destroy the entire world population. I understand that it's possible, and that fear drives audiences to go see movies like this, but there has got to be some saturation point. And this may be an all-star cast, but that only makes me suspicious as to what's being covered up by these big names; i.e. the dialogue and the plot. This movie may not have an original bone in its cinematic body, but, like the rest of America, I'll probably see it anyway.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Trailer - Hugo

Director: Martin Scorsese
Starring: Asa Butterfield, Jude Law, Sacha Baron Cohen
Year: 2011

My first thought upon seeing this trailer was, "I have to get my nephew to come with me so that I can see this movie." It looks like everything I imagine a wonderful childhood adventure story to be. And with Scorsese (The Departed, Shutter Island) directing, it will definitely be a step up from other kids' movies like The Last Airbender or The Golden Compass. And Jude Law (Enemy at the Gates, Road to Perdition), a brilliant actor, comes on strong in 2011 with three films, including this one. Enlist your family tween and mark November 23th on your calender; this one should be great.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Movie Review - My Left Foot

Director: Jim Sheridan
Starring: Daniel Day-Lewis, Brenda Fricker, Fiona Shaw
Year: 1989

In 1990, My Left Foot took home two Academy Awards: Best Actor (Day-Lewis) and Best Supporting Actress (Fricker). This was no small feat, given the strength of competition. Day-Lewis (The Unbearable Lightness of Being, The Last of the Mohicans) beat out Tom Cruise, Robin Williams, Kenneth Branagh, and Morgan Freeman to win the first Oscar for which he had been nominated. And yet, excellent acting does not always translate to an excellent film. Perhaps the Academy had reason for not naming My Left Foot the best picture of the year.

In this biography, Day-Lewis plays Christy Brown, an Irish poet, author, and painter who was born with cerebral palsy. Living in Dublin in a poor working-class family, Day-Lewis is considered a mental defective and struggles to connect with his family; especially his authoritative father. With the support of his mother, Fricker, he begins to write, paint, and communicate using his left foot, the only part of his body that he can totally control.

Not surprisingly, the acting in this film was terrific. Daniel Day-Lewis remains one of my favorite actors, able to play any role excellently. Another actor in this role might have come off as silly or affected, but he inhabited the character perfectly. The story was intriguing, even though I don't love biopics, and it kept my interest. Still, there was some element missing that kept it from being a great film. There was an overly long period of time covered from beginning to end, and the flashback technique that was used only made the film seem choppy. If the directing and editing could have risen up to the level of the acting, this could have been a phenomenal film.

While My Left Foot wasn't flawless, it was still quite good; it is a film that deserves to be watched, even if it won't blow audiences away. The true story alone is worth your time, and so is the acting clinic put on by Day-Lewis. I would be interested in reading the autobiography by the same name, written by Christy Brown. The first hand account might have the certain something in it that the film is missing, and that would be something to see.

My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Trailer - Jack and Jill

Director: Dennis Dugan
Starring: Adam Sandler, Katie Holmes, Al Pacino
Production year: 2011

From the director of Happy Gilmore, Big Daddy, and I Now Pronounce You Chuck And Larry comes yet another idiotic Adam Sandler farce-comedy. This time, however, we get twice the juvenile laughs; Sandler plays both himself and his overbearing twin sister. I've seen Sandler actually acting before (The Wedding Singer, Punch-Drunk Love) and he can be excellent, but something tells me we won't see much character development in this movie.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Movie Review - We Don't Live Here Anymore

Director: John Curran
Starring: Mark Ruffalo, Laura Dern, Naomi Watts, Peter Krause
Year: 2004

In 1979, Andre Dubus wrote a short story entitled "Killings", which would be adapted into the film In The Bedroom in 2001. Similarly, We Don't Live Here Anymore is based on two Dubus novellas: one by the same name and the other entitled "Adultery". Perhaps it's obvious, but this film is not a comedy.

We Don't Live Here Anymore is a film of only four characters. Ruffalo (Windtalkers, Eternal Sunshine) is married to Dern (Jurassic Park, October Sky), and they are close friends with another couple, Watts (21 Grams, The Ring) and Krause (Sports Night, Six Feet Under). Both couples are extremely unhappy in their respective marriages, as well as their in their typical suburban lives. When Ruffalo and Watts begin to have an affair, they and their spouses are forced to confront their infidelity, their choices, and their futures with each other.

Talk about heavy. This film was depressing and oppressive from the very first scene. It was difficult to watch the numerous confrontational dialogues between the couples and to withstand the sense of foreboding that was ever-present. The acting, however, was very good and the couples were very believable. Also, the film captured a horrifyingly real sense of desperation and hopelessness that leaves the viewer chanting, "I will never cheat, it's not worth it. I will never cheat, it's not worth it." But overall, the despair outweighed the intrigue, making the content hard to handle.

It was all a little too much; too depressing, too raw, to dramatic. Perhaps this story is more suited to a novella or to a short play than to the big screen, as it was too hard to take in in such a vivid fashion. Although it was well made film, the material was just too burdensome to enjoy.

My rating: ✰ ✰

Monday, July 11, 2011

Trailer - The Myth of the American Sleepover

Director: David Robert Mitchell
Starring: Claire Sloma, Marlon Morton, Amanda Bauer, Brett Jacobsen
Production year: 2010

This film has the potential to be a coming-of-age masterpiece on par with The Breakfast Club, as well as a deep romantic adventure like Garden State. The cast and crew might be relative amateurs and the story might not be exactly original, but this movie has a legitimate chance to be great.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Trailer - The Three Musketeers

Director: Paul Anderson
Starring: Logan Lerman, Ray Stevenson, Mila Jovovich, Orlando Bloom
Production year: 2011

How many times can Hollywood make a horrible movie version of the same antiquated book before audiences refuse to watch it? Yes, the 1993 version was a hit and it had a hit song, but that doesn't mean it was good. And, without fail, this version will be worse.