Category Archives: Romance

In a World…

Bill C’s Review – 4 out of 5

For all those looking for a good feminist movie, In a World… is the top choice this weekend. For others that are looking for a good romantic comedy, this is also a very good choice.

Lake Bell writes, directs and stars in her directorial debut. Lake, who majored in speech and drama in college in London, plays a vocal coach trying to break into the male-dominated voice-over business for movies and commercials. The business is dominated by a few men, including her father played by Fred Malamed who discourages her at every opportunity. Bell and Malamed do some great voice-over work and Bell does some very funny voice bits while coaching others. The title is from the signature line of ‘The voice of God’, Don Lafontaine who was the voice-over king until his death in 2008. Bell ends up competing for voice-over work that will resurrect the ‘In a World ‘ intro. The voice-over scenes include a very funny fake trailer of a Hunger Games-type movie.

Besides her career aspirations, the movie intertwines three couples (those of Lake Bell, her father, and her sister) working through their various issues. In addition to good performances by Bell and Malamed, there is good supporting work from Rob Corddry, Alexander Holden, Demetri Martin, and Ken Marino (as another voice-over star).

I was at a screening with Lake Bell in attendance, and she was as down-to-earth as her character in the movie. This film is definitely worth seeing.


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SXSW Films – Irwin’s Reviews

Short reviews of the films I saw at SXSW Film Festival

Drinking Buddies – 3.5 out of 5

Great premise: bunch of guys working at a small craft-beer factory hang out with their one female co-worker, played by Olivia Wilde. For the first 10 minutes, the film portrays Olivia as everyman’s perfect woman: beautiful, easy going, loves joking around including food fights, beer drinking, pool playing at the bar after work, and enticing and loving at home. With a sophisticated Mr. Big type as a boyfriend, Olivia even dresses and leaves after their weeknight fun so she can be home for the morning. What more can a guy want? Well, apparently, not even Olivia’s character is perfect, and complications ensue. I really enjoyed the whole movie, and most of all appreciated it’s avoidance of cliche’s and typical Hollywood plot line. Anna Kendrick is terrific along with Jake Johnson (the latter a beer worker and aforementioned buddy, the former as his girlfriend).

Elena – 3.5 out of 5

Bill C. reviewed this below, and I agree, it’s excellent documentary about a young Brazilian woman who goes to New York City to become an actress. She ends up committing suicide (not a spoiler), and this story tries to undestand what happened. The interesting and unique part of this documentary is that it was produced by Elena’s younger sister, aided by 50 hours of home movies and audition tapes that she was able to uncover, and by her mother’s recollections. In other words, it’s all real, from the scenes of Elena as a 12 year-old singing and dancing in her parents living room, to current day when her mom and sister visit the apartment in NYC where Elena ended up. It’s very touching and artfully done. (not to be confused with another movie called Elena)

Some Girl(s) – 3 out of 5

Young man, about to be wed, decides to conduct an apology tour of his old flames, touring the country, meeting them in his hotel rooms, and confronting why they didn’t work, asking if they “are good”, but apparently not looking for a final fling. Sounds creepy and suspicious, but the film kept my interest by the actors interactions and variety of old girlfriends, one as interesting as the other. Adam Brody is believable as the guy, nice guy on the surface buy maybe not so nice if he left all these women without a proper break-up. Best of the women are Kristen Bell, Mia Maestro, and Zoe Kazan.

The Bounceback – 3.5 out of 5

Set in Austin, 20-somethings try to re-connect with their old loves, and/or find new ones, whichever is easier. Some hysterical scenes, some touching scenes, and plenty of memorable characters, especially Sara Paxton as self-styled slut, who takes no BS from her ex-boyfriend.

The Wait – 1.5 out of 5

I waited, and waited, for something to happen, while Chloe Sevigny’s character waits for her recently deceased mother to come back to life (in the bed she passed away in), and her sister and son go about their wandering ways in the Oregon upscale wooded community. Lots a strange scenes, many of which make no sense. Don’t waste your time.

Maladies – 2 ouf of 5

Going to a film festival movie I don’t have much to go on, certainly no reviews, so I thought I couldn’t go wrong with this film starring James Franco and Catherine Keener. Well, I learn something new every day and boy I needed reminding that while they are terrific actors, a good film needs a good story to be written, and that is not the case here.

Sound City – 3 out of 5

Solid documentary about a sound board – actually about the music studio that houses the board, and the many great artists who created legenday rock music there. Directed and conceived, and funded, by Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters and Nirvana, it’s clearly a labor of love, as it is with his guest musicians, including Paul McCartney, Rick Springfield and John Fogarty.



Bill C’s review – 4 out of 5

Amour is one of the best movies that most people will want to avoid seeing. It’s a very well-acted and honest portrayal of a couple in their eighties dealing with the declining health of the wife due to a series of strokes. The husband lovingly takes care of her despite the hardships to keep his vow not to let her die in a hospital or nursing home. This movie doesn’t pull any punches in telling the story of slow decline of the wife.

This movie has deservedly received several Academy Award nominations. Emmanuelle Riva plays the wife and is nominated for Best Actress. This is a challenging role physically as she goes from healthy through various stages of post-stroke to near-death. Amour is also nominated for Best Picture and Michael Haneke is nominated for Best Director.  Haneke directed Cache a few years  ago—a movie that Bill I. recommended, but that I never got around to seeing. Jean-Louis Trintignant does a great job as the husband, and one of my all-time favorite French actresses, Isabelle Huppert, plays the daughter.

So this is another film that I like a lot, but but it is sad and depressing and not for everyone AND it’s French so it has subtitles.


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Not Fade Away

Bill I’s Review – 2.5 out of 5

A coming of age film set in ’60s New Jersey, heavily reliant upon a rock’n roll backdrop and focused on a young Springsteen wannabe, I expected this film to be influenced by, and reminiscent of, American Graffiti, Almost Famous and The Sopranos (it’s written by David Chase) with a terrific soundtrack (produced by Steven van Zandt from the E Street Band, the producer of the Underground Garage station on SiriusXM, and of course Silvio on The Sopranos). It did not live up to my expectations, although it kept my interest and had some realistic portrayals, led by the under-acting John Magaro as the drummer/singer/lonely loser and by Bella Heathcote as his beautiful muse (here:

who, when she first spoke, made me think she was raised in another country (she is Australian). James Gandolfini, as the boy’s blue collar dad, does his Tony Soprano at home portrayal to perfection (David Chase must love to script scenes where Gandolfini digs into a plate of food while talking). The music didn’t blow me away, and the boy and his buddies actually don’t seem obsessed with doing whatever it takes to be the next Bon Jovi, while they stumble into opportunities, both music-wise and relationship-wise. There’s no deep friendships that you think will be the next Clarence Clemens and Bruce. Maybe Springsteen’s dad was like this, but the main message seems to be that you won’t fade away if you keep at it. There’s a side story about Bella’s offbeat sister that surprisingly dead ends unhappily. So, it’s a decent movie, but didn’t inspire me like Cameron Crowe did in Almost Famous, or even other niche films like Garden State. If you want to see a current film that does this perfectly, go see The Perks of Being a Wallflower.


This Is 40

Bill C’s Review – 3 out of 5

This is 40 is the latest directorial effort by Judd Apatow.  It is the story of married couple  Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann) as they deal with the current state of their lives as they turn 40. As in previous Apatow films, such as Knocked Up and The 40 Year Old Virgin, Apatow tried to meld a raunchy comedy with a touching story that has heart. While this movie had many funny moments and some emotional heart, it was not as consistently funny or as moving as either of the previous movies and does not live up to those previous efforts.

Apatow pulls together a great cast including Melissa McCarthy (who was great in Bridesmaids too), Albert Brooks (another excellent performance coming off of last year’s performance in Drive), Jason Segal, Megan Fox, John Lithgow, and others. This was a family effort for Apatow as Mann is his wife and his two kids also starred and gave good performances in the movie.

While this is an ok movie, it did not live up to my expectations and is not one of Apatow’s best.

Bill I’s Review – 3 out of 5

I agree it’s not consistently funny, but Apatow is not going for that. He’s got a serious mid-life couple’s drama at the center, and with some funny parts sprinkled throughout, you never forget the real-lifeness going on, from the bitter arguments, to the kids’ reactions, to their co-workers’ indifference, to their selfishness, as well as their lovingness. It’s real life, some of it embarassing, some of it not cool, and some of it to be admired in that they get through it and carry on. The fathers (Lithgow and Brooks) lend context and history to the characters. Leslie Mann has her best role here, as the glue that holds the family together, and enough attractiveness (personality and otherwise) to lend credibility to why Paul Rudd’s character loves her. The film is too long, and could have been edited down to eliminate some of the slow parts, but I don’t know what scenes I would want chopped. It’s hit and miss on some of the comic scenes (Mann berating a 12-year old boy is uncomfortable and not funny). Stay tuned for an outtake early in the credits where Melissa McCarthy riffs on her scene in the principal’s office, funniest of all. If you’re an Apatow fan, you need to see this. If you are married, you should see this, both to learn what to avoid and how you can persist through the tough parts. If you hope to be married in the future, you might want to wait till you’ve been hitched for a few years. Finally, if you ever thought Megan Fox had potential, you will see it realized here in a small but memorable part.


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Anna Karenina

Bill C’s Review – 2 out of 5

Anna Karenina is the third teaming of director Joe Wright and actress Keira Knightley. I liked Atonement, the one earlier collaboration I saw, and his directing of Hanna. His Anna Karenina was a very stylized adaptation of the Tolstoy novel. It’s the type of thing you’ll either love or hate. In my case (as  I was told by Janis afterward), I laughed or snickered at inappropriate times due to the directorial choices. I guess that means I am in the hate category. Despite this, I am sure that this film will win all sorts of awards for things I am not capable of judging, like cinematography, musical score, costumes, and art direction. If they have an award for hair styling, they might win an award for that, as I could tell how depressed Knightley’s character was supposed to be by how bad her hair looked.

I thought Knightley and Jude Law were good. I was not as impressed with Aaron Taylor-Johnson who played an impassionate Vronsky.

A lot of people will love this movie. I just happen to not be one of them.


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Silver Linings Playbook

Bill I’s Review – 3.5 out of 5

Very well done, thanks to superb casting of Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Robert Deniro. The story is straightforward – manic guy meets cute depressed girl, while his parents try to keep him centered and calm – but it’s elevated by the great chemistry, the captivating Lawrence

amid not terrible sub-plots: dance contest and dad Deniro is rabid Philadelphia Eagles fan who bets the farm. I really enjoyed it, especially the couple of moments where one of the leads gets upset in their own intense way. Not a depressing movie, and in fact, an uplifting message (no spoiler since it’s in the trailer).

Bill C’s Review – 4 out of 5

I also liked this movie.

In addition to good performances by Lawrence, Cooper and De Niro, I also enjoyed Jacki Weaver (Cooper’s mother), John Ortiz (Cooper’s long time friend) and Chris Tucker (Cooper’s friend from the mental institution). This was Tucker’s first screen appearance in 5 years. To drive home the point that lots of people have issues in our hyperactive world, all of the characters in this movie have their own problems to deal with.

As Bill points out, Russell made some interesting plot points as director, but the very end gets pretty formulaic for a romantic comedy. I felt the final little bit of advice from De Niro (also shown in the previews) was unnecessary, but overall I really enjoyed and recommend this movie.


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Sleepwalk With Me

Bill C’s Review – 3.5 out of 5

‘Sleepwalk With Me’ stars Mike Birbiglia in this semi-autobiographical movie based on his stage play of the same name.  Birbiglia is a stand up comedian and the movie focuses on his relationship with his girlfriend as he struggles to find his voice voice/success as a standup while trying to ignore his very real sleepwalking problem.

I liked this movie a lot. It is consistently funny. Unlike Celeste and Jess Forever. I cared more about what happened to the couple as Mike became consumed with starting his comedic career by going on the road and let the pressures of his relationship and burgeoning comedic career exacerbate his sleepwaling.

I like the performances. Birbiglia is likeable and I liked Lauren Ambrose as his love interest.  Carol Kane was good as his mother and the cast also included numerous cameos by comedians..

Admittedly I was also pre-disposed to like this movie as I am an avid listener of WTF podcasts with Marc Maron  which focuses on comedians (he has a cameo).  Birbiglia has been his guest and many episodes deal with comedians and their early career struggles.  Check out the podcasts and check out the movie.

Bill I’s Review – 3 out of 5

I found it funny, pleasant, but not exceptional. It was akin to a good TV episode, in fact, this would probably be a good weekly show, following the aspiring comedian hitting the road while trying to maintain some kind of personal relationship. Kind of the anti-Sienfeld, but  hopefully very funny as well. There’s not much to laugh out loud in this film, other than a couple of Biriglia’s on stage jokes.


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Celeste and Jesse Forever

Bill C’s Review – 2.5 out of 5

Celeste and Jesse Forever is the story of a couple going through a divorce, trying to maintain their friendship while moving on with their lives. They clearly still love each other and at times would like to reconcile but seemingly never at the same time.

The movie stars Rashida Jones  (Parks and Recreation) and Andy Samberg (SNL), with Rashida getting more of the screen time showing a good range of her character’s ups and downs. Jones also co-wrote and produced the film.

The movie was moderately funny, which is probably a pretty good achievement for a movie about a couple going through divorce. I was expecting to care more about whether they ultimately got back together or not, but while I hoped that things worked out for them, it ended up not mattering to me whether or not ‘working out’ meant getting back together or just moving on with their lives. Overall this movie was OK, but I found it a little disappointing based on the good things I had heard about it..


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Your Sister’s Sister

Bill C’s Review – 3 out of 5

Marc Duplass plays Jack, still reeling from his brother’s death a year earlier. Emily Blunt plays Iris, Jack’s best friend and Jack’s brothers ex-girlfriend. She offers Jack the use of her father’s vacation house to help him reflect and recover. Upon arriving, Jack finds that Iris’ sister is unexpectedly there. Iris also unexpectedly comes the next day and the three spend the next few days working through various issues. Your Sister’s Sister has a good mix of humor, drama, and romance. This is an honest movie about people with real issues/imperfections that you can root for.

The three main cast members were all great – Emily Blunt (as usual), Marc Duplass (also as usual)  and Rosemarie DeWitt.

If you’re looking for something other than a superhero (Spiderman), teddy bear (Ted) or male strippers (Magic Mike) this week, this film is an excellent choice. If I get the time, I’ll see those also :).

Bill I’s Review – 3.5 out of 5

This is a very good movie, one reason being because of its naturalness (much of the dialogue is improvised), another being its offbeat sense of humor, and thirdly its unpredictability. Holding my rapt attention was the fantastic three main actors (the budget must have been minimal given that almost everyone else is an extra with almost no speaking parts, and the limited sets…this could easily be turned into a play), who are very believable and charismatic. Jason Segal can take lessons from Mark Duplass. This makes Five Year Engagement (also with Emily Blunt in a very similar role) look like a student film. It’s also very funny as well as touching. I can’t remember another film where the relationship between two sisters was as genuine and interesting as it is here. Finally, it’s a chick film in disguise, so guys will like it just as well.


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