Sunday, September 30, 2007

Feast of Love

This morning I saw Feast of Love, starring Morgan Freeman and Greg Kinnear.

I liked this movie a lot more than most critics.

Set in my home city of Portland, Oregon, the story follows Professor Harry Stevenson (Freeman) as he observes his friends and neighbors falling in and out of love as they're guided by (or prisoners of) fate.

The tender relationship he maintains with his wife Esther (played refreshingly by Tell Me That You Love Me's Jane Alexander) acts as an anchor to the turbulent love lives of virtually everyone he encounters.

His friend Bradley (Kinnear), who owns a coffee shop, is irritating in an unintentional way and this ultimately causes him to lose his wife to a lesbian. As he dusts himself off and tries to find another match, we're introduced to Oscar - one of his coffee shop employees who is a former heroin addict and his love-at-first-sight girlfriend Chloe.

Of all the relationships, theirs is the most genuine.

But that's not to say the rest aren't believable. There are many a married men who can't read their wives, cheat on them and make futile attempts to keep it together. And there are also mistresses who are genuinely in love with other women's husbands and still other women who may decide to switch teams after several years of being straight.

The main problem with this movie is that it couldn't decide whether it wanted to be an aw-shucks romantic comedy or a Crash-like preachy lesson on love, God and fate.

There's also a ridiculous character called The Bat, played by Fred Ward, who is possibly the worst-written alcoholic father in the history of cinema.

Nonetheless, I still enjoyed it (despite the fact that one of the scenes features a loud thunderstorm that would never happen in Portland).

If nothing else, go to be charmed by the ever-appealing Freeman.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Across the Universe

Tonight I saw Across the Universe, starring Evan Rachel Wood.

It will is the topic of Cinebanter #40, which is available here.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Eastern Promises

This morning I saw Eastern Promises, starring Naomi Watts and Viggo Mortensen.

My best advice to anyone heading out to see this: be prepared for the blood. I'm not a particular fan of gore, but for the story Cronenberg was telling, it was necessary.

A London midwife (Watts) loses a teenage mother on the operating table having known nothing about her and finds a diary the girl had written. In an effort to place the orphaned baby with the family of the deceased, she needs to have the diary translated from Russian to English. She firsts asks her uncle, but he refuses, so she goes to a restaurant that she found by way of a business card tucked into the girl's diary. There, she meets the proprietor who is perhaps too anxious to help her.

What transpires are frequent run-ins with the Russian mob and a flirtatious game of danger with the main family's "driver," who is played pitch-perfectly by Mortensen.

The film was well-paced and the story was easier to follow than many of Cronenberg's others, but without the delicious chemistry between Mortensen and Watts, it would have been just a series of violent chapters with little payoff in the end.

I liked A History of Violence better.

Sunday, September 16, 2007


Today I saw Chalk, starring Troy Schremmer and Shannon Haragan.

The film is staged like a fake documentary, which follows a group of teachers and administrators through a school year at an American high school.

Many of the stereotypical things about schools are targeted for laughs (nervous new teachers, the PE teacher being mistaken for a lesbian, gossip in the faculty lounge, etc.) as this is a comedy, but it wasn't quite strong enough to live up to its trailer.

I remember seeing a preview for this a few weeks back and getting very excited. Schools are a big part of my life—I now work at one, I once was a teacher and I am friends with several teachers. The culture is never dull, the stories are almost always funny and there is plenty of natural 'material' to draw on.

But as I was watching this movie, I got the sense they didn't really know how to harness that material without dumbing it down to a nearly slapstick level, and that left me longing for a real documentary to get the job done.

What I found most distracting were the actors' attempts to portray their roles as if they were guest stars on the American version of The Office. Many 'serious' diary entries to what I guess was supposed to be a 'home journal' were spliced in with 'action' shots and that didn't work at all.

The dialogue delivery was intentionally campy, when it should have really been more 'serious' to echo sincerity...THAT would have been hilarious.

They were just too conscious of their characters for it to be flawless.

That said, there were some funny moments—namely happy hour and the history teacher who takes away his student's cell phone.

Thursday, September 13, 2007


Hello everyone -

For those of you who are fans of Cinebanter, consider this a special heads-up for our 40th episode: we want you to choose the movie.

Simply tell us what to review by e-mailing your choice to us at

Please have your votes in no later than Friday, September 21, and keep in mind that we've eliminated some of the contenders already:


Happy voting!

Sunday, September 02, 2007

King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters

Today I saw King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, the documentary about gamers Steve Wiebe and Billy Mitchell competing for the Donkey Kong world record.

It was the topic of Cinebanter #39. Click here for our review.