“Exploding Girl”

21 04 2010

Most every one who has been in a relationship has experienced what Ivy has at one time in their life. And whether or not they want to, “Exploding Girl”, directed by Bradley Rust Gray gives them a chance to relive it. Ivy, played by Zoe Kazan, is on a spring break from college. During her break she struggles with her feelings toward her long-time best friend Al and her fickle college boyfriend.

Ivy is epileptic and tries not to bring any attention to herself as she remains quiet and calm. She wants nothing more than to melt into the background and could easily do so but her eyes and the emotion that sit behind them don’t allow her to. An inner battle is constantly working up inside her as she goes from smiling and docile to upset and angered in a matter of seconds – those around her can’t tell how she feels as she hides her emotions so well. Even her mother, (Maryann Urbano) doesn’t really know what her daughter is feeling as she is so busy with work as a dance teacher trying to make ends meet.

One person, however can tell something is brewing and that’s Al, (Mark Rendall) an awkward but quirky character, who tiptoes around his feelings toward Ivy while at the same time trying to display them in small moments – a strong hug here, a smile and a look there, and an eagerness in his voice when he speaks to her over the phone. Suddenly circumstances bring Al closer to Ivy and he not only spends more time with her but also sleeps in her living room for the duration of the break.

In contrast Ivy’s boyfriend, Greg avoids her phone calls and sends her straight to voicemail. When he does call it’s a matter of days or hours leaving Ivy to wonder what’s really going on during his break. Greg is never seen on the screen but we don’t have to see him to know what’s really going on in his head. And with every forced, “I miss you,” that comes out when he speaks to Ivy all anyone in the audience can do is roll their eyes and think, “Yea right!”

The movie isn’t your typical romantic flick instead it’s a slow moving plot with a growing tension in every scene and without the comedic relief. There are a few moments in the film where little to nothing is said and the actions speak for themselves. In one scene Ivy is in the kitchen with Al, the camera only shows the back of her, as she is busy serving them dinner. Al stands against the cabinets with a smile on his face – perhaps imagining what it would be like to live with her forever – the only sound in this entire portion of the film is the scraping of a spatula against the skillet.

Any more narrative or dialogue would ruin the film and the tension that builds up to its ultimate climax. In short “Exploding Girl” is like watching a romance  on the stage and it is the perfect film if you’re in the mood to sit back and watch a love story unfold bit by bit while each character’s motives and thoughts slowly come to light.


Make Room for the Academy

7 03 2010

 As preparations for the 82nd Academy Awards are underway locals express their frustration with the week-long process that blocks Hollywood boulevard from Orange to Highland. Visit NeonTommy.com for more Oscar coverage.

Polanski’s “Ghost Writer” Thrills

25 02 2010

Photo From: CihanaydinFlickr

While Roman Polanski’s reputation as a successful director has been drowned out by the news of his September arrest in Switzerland, his talent in the film industry can’t be denied. And we are reminded of that in his newly released film “The Ghost Writer,” starring Ewan McGregor as The Ghost and Pierce Brosnan as former British Prime Minister Adam Lang

Based on the novel, “The Ghost” by Robert Harris, Polanski sprinkles this film with all the right ingredients – a suspenseful plotline, a wonderful score, goose bumps, and thrills that will leave you on the edge of your seat. After his predecessor’s mysterious death McGregor’s character steps in to complete the memoirs of Adam Lang after his agent Rick Riordian (Jon Berthnall) urges him on and advertises this as a chance of a lifetime. Ultimately ignoring that uneasy feeling that he can’t seem to shake off, and enticed by the pay, The Ghost picks up where former ghost Mike McAra left off only to be thrown into a political mess.

Lang, who’s been accused of turning over terrorist suspects to the CIA for torture, is bombarded with media and threats making the ghost’s job all the more trying, as he too becomes a target. From the moment the ghost is hired he’s mugged, followed by CIA agents, and threatened by Lang protestors. McGregor’s performance as a quiet but curious writer is believable. As he attempts to place the pieces of Lang’s life together he stumbles into an interesting piece of the puzzle that just doesn’t quite fit leading him to uncover the truth about his predecessor’s death.

Brosnan plays a quite moronic Prime Minister, whose scandalous political life is comparable to that of Tony Blair.  A minister who seems to think only of himself and not his country, Brosnan’s character is pleasant but not trustworthy. While Lang is out concentrating on what his next morning run will be like, his political-savvy wife Ruth (Olivia Williams) makes the decisions for him. “Sex and the City’s” Kim Cattrall does a fine job as Lang’s political assistant and unspoken mistress, Amelia Bly. Although for fans of Samantha it’s hard to see Cattrall as anyone else but the 40-year-old sex-hungry cougar – and her character’s quiet affair with the Prime Minister only reinforces this image.

To add further real-life drama to the film: It is set on some American Island on the east coast and, based on a few clues, the audience can decipher that Lang’s beach getaway is supposed to be in Martha’s Vineyard. The London scene is quickly shown with just a few shots outside of a few buildings and blocks. With the inability to travel, Polanski’s shot the film in Germany and outsourced other scenes – and at times it’s quite obvious. This lack of a true London and American set is only a reminder of Polanski’s current circumstances and at times might overshadow how fantastic the film really is.

With its blood-racing drama this film will leave you on the edge of your seat, biting your nails and holding your breath all at the same time. “The Ghost Writer” is a must-see and audience members are encouraged to go in if only to appreciate “The Ghost Writer” for what it is – A thrilling experience.

Lightning Thief Strikes Little Interest

22 02 2010

With a fire-breathing hydra, angry furies on his heels, and the anger of the gods upon him “Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief “ has the potential for some great thrills and for the most part delivers.

In this coming of age tale Percy (Logan Lerman) has all the makings of a hero – problems in high school thanks to dyslexia and ADHD; a lousy stepfather; and the fate of the world on his shoulders now that Zeus’ lightning bold is missing and Percy is the prime suspect. With the help of his teacher Mr. Brunner (Pierce Brosnan), his satyr guardian Grover (Brandon T. Jackson), and Athena’s daughter Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario) Percy comes to terms with his new found identity as the son of Poseidon while trying to bring his mother back from the Underworld and save the world before it’s too late.

Based on the novel by Rick Riordan, director Chris Columbus takes a stab at bringing Percy’s Greek mythological world to life and does so flawlessly. From the heights of Mount Olympus (New York City), Medusa’s layer (New Jersey), to the den of the Lotus-eaters (Las Vegas), and into the depths of the Underworld (Hollywood) Columbus makes sure that the aspects of Greek mythology fit well enough into a 21st century life-style. But because he is known for the first two Harry Potter films, Columbus may not receive as much recognition for this recent project due to the fact that the plot was so predictable.

For example when Percy awakes to learn that the loss of his mother his guardian doesn’t skip a beat before giving him a tour around his new home, “Camp Half Blood,” where the demigods – you guessed it – train. As a predictable plot Percy stays at this camp base for what appears to be one night and then skips out to try his hand at finding the Underworld to save his mom, something no other demigod with years of training might attempt on their first day. (Harry Potter had more training for crying out loud!) But clearly his instincts are enough to get him through a battle with Medusa (Uma Thurman) and a Hydra – after all it’s a hero’s luck that gets him through his dilemmas. When his instincts or luck aren’t enough his estranged father, Poseidon, gets him out of danger by means of telepathy – of course (wouldn’t want to leave anything to chance now would we).

There was much need for further character development for many of the characters. When it comes to Mr. Brunner we know little to nothing about his background or the story behind Percy’s mother and father’s relationship other than they met and had him. What’s up with Luke and his relationship with his dad Hermes? And Annabeth what’s her deal?

We were also left hanging as several plot points weren’t so neatly tied together such as: What evidence does Zeus have to accuse Percy as being the thief? This matter-of-fact style of storytelling may work for some films but in this case it may frustrate some viewers. Another annoying aspect of this picture was the fact that our main hero had no sense of urgency to save the world – sure there are signs and news footage about natural disasters going on (the gods preparing for war) but Percy is so caught up about his mom (of course who wouldn’t be) that this hero places the fate of the world aside for a moment in an attempt to save her.

While there is room for much needed improvement in this film, there are some positive points that can be touched on. Although Percy’s character (the most developed I might add) has ADHD and dyslexia that pose to be a problem, they later serve to be his greater strengths. The ADHD helps his instincts, which serves him well for getting him out of tight spots, and his dyslexia helps him read Greek. To students with learning disabilities Percy may be the hero that shows them that even they have the potential to do great things despite their disability. One other point is that this film and Riordan’s “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” series has the potential to raise interest in Greek mythology in young readers and viewers today.

Another plus – this fast-paced motion picture will keep children interested with all of Percy’s battles and his use of water powers. Perhaps this film is strictly geared toward Riordan fans but this leaves many potential moviegoers who aren’t 12 years old or younger out of the loop. A heads up to viewers: This is no Harry Potter and if its months of proper demigod-training is what you’re looking for, this is not the film for you.