It’s Kind of a Funny Story


It's Kind of a Funny Story

Zach Galifianakis tries to pretend he's listening to Keir Gilchrist

(2010) Dramedy (Focus) Keir Gilchrist, Zach Galifianakis, Emma Roberts, Viola Davis, Zoe Kravitz, Aasif Mandvi, Lauren Graham, Jim Gaffigan, Jeremy Davies, Bernard White, Jared Goldstein, Alan Aisenberg, Thomas Mann, Rosalyn Coleman.  Directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck

The human mind is a funny thing and never is it funnier than when we are adolescents. I’m not talking funny ha-ha here, but the other kind of funny. That dichotomy in term makes the title of this movie a double entendre that is worth considering before viewing it.

Craig (Gilchrist) is a young 15 year old boy who feels unbelievable pressure, particularly from his dad (Gaffigan) to achieve. That pressure has become so intense that he is considering taking a swan dive off the Brooklyn Bridge. Instead, he calls a suicide prevention line and is directed to a local hospital where a doctor (Mandvi) evaluates him.

Although the doc is reluctant to, Craig insists on being kept there and finally the doctor agrees when Craig threatens to kill himself if discharged. What Craig doesn’t realize is that the observation is five days, not the several hours he thought it would be – and the teen wing is being renovated so the teens were scattered among the adult psychiatric population.

He is taken under the wing of Bobby (Galifianakis), someone who has been there awhile and whose marriage and relationship with his daughter is crumbling. Still, Bobby knows all the ins and outs of the system and encourages Craig to follow his dream and as it turns out, Craig’s dreams are a whole lot different than the ones his father and mother (Graham) have for him.

He falls for a girl (Roberts) who’s pretty messed up but a better fit for him than the uptight Nia (Kravitz) whom he has a big time crush on and who has been dating his best friend. Strangely, Craig’s incarceration has made him a celebrity among his classmates and rather thinking him  a freak, they think him more of a rebel and a hero.

This comes from the acclaimed directing team that directed Half-Nelson and Sugar. This is the first movie the team of Boden and Fleck have made that wasn’t an original screenplay. It is also a bit more comedic than their first two efforts, although there were certainly elements of comedy in Sugar. Here, the big star is not necessarily the focus of the movie (Craig is) and unfortunately, while that may be a bold move it’s not necessarily a good thing.

Galifianakis is especially good here. Most of us know him from his comedic roles as in Due Date and the Hangover movies but he shows surprising dramatic range here. He creates sympathy for Bobby who has made some very major mistakes that he might not be able to come back from. Still he manages to put up the veneer which crumbles if prodded too much.

Davis is also fine as Craig’s psychiatrist. She has that irritating manner that some psychiatrists have of being so non-committal as to be almost not human. Not that Davis is non-human here – she does show her humanity in spots – but her objectivity remains clear throughout. It’s an impressive performance in a role that might not get noticed for it. Veteran character actors Davies and Mandvi bring some quirkiness to their roles.

Roberts and Kravitz are both young performers with impeccable pedigrees (Roberts with father Eric and aunt Julia, Kravitz with father Lenny and mother Lisa Bonet) and bright futures. Although they are basically there to be played off of one another and to make a tug-of-war situation with Craig’s heartstrings. Roberts plays against type as a kind of tattooed rebel girl while Kravitz plays the self-centered object of Craig’s affections. Both are memorable in roles which could very easily have been forgotten if left in the hands of less capable actresses.

The trouble with the movie here is that it seems to take a long time meandering down the garden path with apparently no fixed destination and in no particular hurry to get there. Worse still, the path looks strangely familiar and you’ll probably recognize your own footprints on it. That’s not a good feeling when you’re taking your time to get to a destination that you suspect is going to be a place you’ve already visited dozens of times.

There are enough good performances here to make the movie worth your time, but the script holds it back from being a real major release. Still, it’s encouraging to see Galifianakis give such a layered performance. It bodes well for the man’s future in Hollywood, which gets rosier with every film he makes.

WHY RENT THIS: Galifianakis shows some surprising range in his first real dramatic role. Fine supporting work from Davies, Davis, Kravitz, Mandvi and Roberts.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Somewhat formulaic with a predictable outcome.

FAMILY VALUES: There’s a little bit of sex and drugs and language, and the overall theme is on the mature side.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: During the “Under Pressure” montage, Craig is dressed as Vanilla Ice who notoriously sampled the bass line for his “Ice Ice Baby.”

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: There’s some footage from the New York red carpet premiere.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $6.5M on an $8M production budget; the movie was a financial flop.

FINAL RATING: 5.5/10

TOMORROW: Tangled

Advertisements

New Releases for the Week of October 8, 2010


Secretariat

It's Secretariat by a nose!

SECRETARIAT

(Disney) Diane Lane, John Malkovich, Dylan Walsh, Scott Glenn, Fred Thompson, Dylan Baker, Kevin Connolly, James Cromwell, Margo Martindale. Directed by Randall Wallace

This is the story of one of the most revered horses in the history of racing, Secretariat, who became one of the most dominant horses ever, becoming the first to win the Triple Crown in 35 years and setting course records that still stand. Director Randall Wallace has made quite a career doing movies about sports underdogs, and this one may well be one of his best yet.

See the trailer, interviews, featurettes and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Sports Biographical Drama

Rating: PG (for brief mild language)

Buried

(Lionsgate) Ryan Reynolds, Stephen Tobolowski, Samantha Mathis, Robert Paterson. A contractor whose assignment has taken him to Afghanistan wakes up to find himself buried alive. Armed with only a cell phone and a lighter, he somehow has to find a way to get someone to rescue him before his air runs out in 90 minutes. This was a major hit at Sundance and looks to be one of the better suspense films of the year.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Thriller

Rating: R (for language and some violent content)

It’s Kind of a Funny Story

 (Focus) Keir Gilchrist, Zach Galifianakis, Emma Roberts, Viola Davis. A troubled young man decides to check himself into a mental institution, only to discover that he must reside on the adult wing due to construction on the teen wing. He is then taken under the wing of a quirky inmate, and a strong bond develops with each one being the perfect therapy for the other.

See the trailer, interviews and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Comedy

Rating: PG-13 (for mature thematic issues, sexual content, drug material and language)

Khaleja

(Ficus) Mahesh Babu, Anushka, Prakash Raj, Suneel. An industrialist discovers iridium in the location where he is building his plastic factory, and in order to get his hands on the valuable element decides to marry off his daughter to the son of a local magistrate and thus gain the land as a dowry.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Comedy

Rating: NR

Life As We Know It

(Warner Brothers) Josh Duhamel, Katherine Heigl, Josh Lucas, Christina Hendricks. Two people who can’t stand each other are named by their best friends as guardians to their baby when their friends are killed in an accident. The two are at each other’s throats initially, but grow to realize that they need to work together for the good of the baby. 

See the trailer and a clip here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Romantic Comedy

Rating: PG-13 (for sexual material, language and some drug content)

My Soul to Take

(Rogue) Max Theriot, John Magaro, Emily Meade, Nick Lashaway. Master horror director Wes Craven returns with a new movie that will sure make this Halloween season more nightmare-inducing. Six teens born on the night that a serial killer was executed find themselves being picked off one by one. Could one of them be the killer, or is something supernatural going on? 

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard, 3D

Genre: Supernatural Horror

Rating: R (for strong bloody violence and pervasive language including sexual references)

Never Let Me Go

(Fox Searchlight) Keira Knightley, Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield, Charlotte Rampling. Based on a novel by the Japanese writer Kazuo Ishiguro (The Remains of the Day), the movie concerns some students at an idyllic English boarding school that hides a terrible secret about the future of the students and the meaning of humanity in general.

See the trailer, clips and interviews here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Science Fiction Drama

Rating: R (for some sexuality and nudity)

Four-Warned: October 2010


October 2010

Every month I’m going to look at every movie on the release schedule and try to assign them a numerical value corresponding to how anxious I am to see it. The lower the number, the more I want to see it. A one means I would walk through hell and high water to see it; a four means there’s no interest whatsoever. The numbers are not arrived at scientifically but they aren’t arbitrary either.

The numbers aren’t a reflection of the artistic merit of any of these films, but merely a reflection of my willingness to go to a movie theater and see it. The top four scores will be gathered as a means of reflecting the movies I’m anticipating the most; you may use that as a guide or not.
Each entry is broken down as follows:

NAME OF FILM (Studio) Genre A brief description of the plot. Release plans: Wide = Everywhere, Limited = In selected markets. RATING A brief explanation

Keep in mind that release dates are extremely subject to change, even at this late date.

FOUR TO SEE
1. HEREAFTER (1.1)
2. RED (1.3)
3. CONVICTION (1.7)
4. COMPANY MEN (2.0)

FOUR TO SEEK OUT (FILMS NOT IN WIDE RELEASE)
1. MONSTERS (1.1)
2. INSIDE JOB (1.6)
3. TAMARA DREWE (2.3)
4. CASINO JACK (2.4)

RATING SYSTEM: 1) Must-see, 2) Should-see, 3) Perhaps-see, 4) Don’t-see

OCTOBER 1, 2010

BARRY MUNDAY (Magnolia) Genre: Indie Comedy. A would-be ladies man wakes up in the hospital with his testicles missing and must learn to live without them. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.0 Yet another treatise on what it means to be a man, which apparently you can’t be without being emasculated.
CASE 39 (Paramount Vantage) Genre: Horror. A little girl is taken from her abusive parents, only to open the gateway to a whole new kind of horror. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 Oft-delayed usually means the movie isn’t very good.
CASH CROP (Sierra) Genre: Documentary. The effects of marijuana growing on California in yet another plea for legalization of the weed. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 4.0 I’m allergic to cannabis; draw your own conclusions.
CASINO JACK (Metropolitan) Genre: Drama. Kevin Spacey stars as Jack Abramoff, a.k.a. Casino Jack, a high-powered Washington lobbyist whose fraudulent activities with Indian Casinos landed him in jail. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.4 Not sure this could be any better than the documentary Casino Jack which was released earlier this year.
CHAIN LETTER (New Films International) Genre: Horror. Teens that break a chain letter are gruesomely murdered. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 An interesting new horror concept which thankfully, isn’t being done in a PG-13 version by a big studio.
DOUCHEBAG (Paladin) Genre: Sex Comedy. A bachelor on the eve of getting married insists on finding his younger brother’s fifth grade girlfriend. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.3 Haven’t seen a trailer for this yet but must admit the concept doesn’t float my boat much.
FREAKONOMICS (Magnolia) Genre: Documentary. A team of acclaimed documentarians examine the effects of incentives on human behavior. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.1 Based on the phenomenal bestseller.
HATCHET II (Dark Sky) Genre: Horror. A new victim of the Crowley curse decides to take the fight back to the Louisiana swamps that started it. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.0 The continued comeback of the slasher movie is evidenced here.
IP MAN (Variance) Genre: Martial Arts Biography. The story of Bruce Lee’s teacher and grand master of Wing Chun style kung fu who was forced to fight in one-on-one battles to the death during the Japanese occupation of Manchuria. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.3 Sounds a little bit like Jet Li’s Fearless.
LEAVING (IFC) Genre: Drama. A woman who has raised grown children and has been a model wife for a doctor falls for a Spanish ex-con who has come to remodel her office. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.0 A drama about passion, sex and infidelity? And it’s French? Okay, color me intrigued.
LET ME IN (Relativity) Genre: Horror. A 12-year-old boy who is mercilessly bullied finds a friend in a mysterious little girl who has a secret of her own. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.7 A remake of the Swedish film Let the Right One In has some fans furious but with the director of Cloverfield at the helm, this might be something special after all.
THE SOCIAL NETWORK (Columbia) Genre: Drama. The story of the beginnings of Facebook from a project at Harvard to the worldwide phenomenon it is today. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.9 Not sure about this; there is a lot of critics salivating to see it with David Fincher having directed it, but could be a self-congratulatory mess.

OCTOBER 8, 2010

AS GOOD AS DEAD (First Look) Genre: Thriller. A left wing extremist who murdered the head of a white supremacist group is chased down by the man’s wife and accomplices. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Could be a roller coaster ride or merely depressing.
DOWN TERRACE (Magnet) Genre: Dark Comedy. A small-time crime family is torn apart from within by squabbles between father and son. Release Strategy: New York only. RATING: 3.3 Made the gimmicky move of casting real-life father and son in the leads; makes me wonder.
I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE (Anchor Bay) Genre: Horror. A woman brutally raped, tortured and left for dead gets revenge on those who defiled her. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.8 Based on a movie that should have never been remade.
INSIDE JOB (Sony Classics) Genre: Documentary. A look at the causes of the recent global economic meltdown and the not-so-surprising collusion between rogue businessmen, lobby groups, politicians and academics. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.6 Early reviews have this in a two-horse race for Oscar gold.
IT’S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY (Focus) Genre: Dramedy. A teen checks himself into a psychiatric hospital and winds up on the adult wing. Release Strategy: New York /Los Angeles (Opening wide TBA). RATING: 2.7 Based on the trailer, it looks like Zack Galifianakis might be making a pitch for dramatic roles here.
LETTERS TO FATHER JACOB (Olive) Genre: Drama. An ex-con who helps a blind priest answer letters must also assist him with a crisis of faith when the letters stop coming. Release Strategy: New York (Opening in Los Angeles October 15). RATING: 3.3 Not sure about this one having not seen a trailer to it.
LIFE AS WE KNOW IT (Warner Brothers) Genre: Romantic Comedy. When a young married couple is tragically killed, their friends – who don’t like each other much – are tasked with raising their surviving baby. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.6 On the trailer, chemistry between Josh Duhamel and Katharine Heigl looked pretty promising.
MARWENCOL (The Cinema Guild) Genre: Documentary. A man injured in a brutal attack whose insurance will no longer pay for physical therapy turns to a fictional Belgian town he builds out of scrap wood to help him regain his voice. Release Strategy: New York (Opening in Los Angeles November 12). RATING: 2.6 Sounds intriguing; I’m always up for one of those “triumph of the human spirit” documentaries.
MY SOUL TO TAKE (Rogue) Genre: Supernatural Horror. Seven teenagers born on the night of a serial killer’s death are the targets of a mysterious figure. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D). RATING: 2.5 Horror master Wes Craven is back.
NOWHERE BOY (Weinstein) Genre: Musical Biography. An outsider being raised by a dowager aunt in Liverpool goes on to become John Lennon. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.5 Lennon is one of my personal heroes; I’m hoping this does him justice.
RACHEL (Women Make Movies) Genre: Documentary. American peace activist Rachel Corrie was crushed to death by an Israeli army bulldozer in 2003; her death was ruled an accident but this documentary calls that ruling into question. Release Strategy: New York only. RATING: 2.9 A story that received very little coverage by the media gets a well-deserved spotlight, even if it is a relatively small one.
SECRETARIAT (Disney) Genre: Sports Biography. The story of a fabled racehorse who overcame incredible odds to become the first Triple Crown winner in 35 years. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.4 I’m a sucker for these types of underdog movies and the trailer looks pretty slick.
STONE (Overture) Genre: Thriller. A prison psychologist upon whom the release of a prison inmate depends is seduced by the inmate’s wife. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.2 A cast of De Niro, Jovovich and Edward Norton is usually enough to get me intrigued, but the trailer left me flat.
TAMARA DREWE (Sony Classics) Genre: Romantic Comedy. A sexy flirt returns to her small English village and wreaks havoc. Release Strategy: New York/Los Angeles. RATING: 2.3 Suddenly-hot Gemma Arterton looks pretty strong in this graphic novel adaptation.
TODAY’S SPECIAL (Reliance MediaWorks) Genre: Comedy. A young sous chef who dreams of opening his own upscale Manhattan restaurant is instead forced to work in his family’s Brooklyn tandoori restaurant. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 Indian films and films about Indian culture are beginning to work their way into the mainstream and I couldn’t be happier.

OCTOBER 15, 2010

CARLOS (IFC) Genre: Biography. The story of notorious terrorist Carlos the Jackal told by the director of Summer Hours. Release Strategy: New York only. RATING: 3.5 This is truly an epic with a running time of five and a half hours(!)
CONVICTION (Fox Searchlight) Genre: True Drama. A woman fights to get her brother, unjustly convicted of murder, released from prison. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.7 Could be Hilary Swank’s next Oscar nomination.
JACKASS 3D (Paramount) Genre: Comedy – Sort of. Idiots do stupid stunts for the amusement of other idiots. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 4.0 Certainly a sign that mankind wasn’t meant to survive.
RED (Summit) Genre: Action Comedy. A group of retired CIA assassins are being hunted down by modern CIA assassins, so they must regroup and defend themselves. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.5 Helen Mirren with a machine gun? It’s on like Donkey Kong!
SAMSON AND DELILAH (Indiepix) Genre: Romantic Drama. An Australian couple tries to survive in the Outback after a tragedy forces them from their tiny home town. Release Strategy: New York only. RATING: 3.3 Haven’t seen the trailer so not exactly sure what to expect from this.

OCTOBER 22, 2010

COMPANY MEN (Weinstein) Genre: Drama. Three laid off executives must re-define their lives as husbands, fathers and men. Release Strategy: New York/Los Angeles (expands October 29). RATING: 2.0 An impressive cast and a solid trailer put this one solidly on my fall film radar.
HEREAFTER (Warner Brothers) Genre: Supernatural Drama. Matt Damon plays a psychic who can communicate with the dead desperately trying to turn his back on that part of his life. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.1 If Clint Eastwood were directing a driver’s ed video I’d still pay ten bucks to see it.
INHALE (IFC) Genre: Thriller. A man desperately tries to get his dying daughter a lung transplant as the clock ticks inexorably down. Release Strategy: New York only. RATING: 3.0 Sounds interesting but have yet to see a trailer for this.
KALAMITY (Original 4 Releasing) Genre: Suspense Thriller. A heartbroken man returns home to Virginia to find his best friend acting increasingly bizarre and frightening. Release Strategy: New York only. RATING: 3.5 Sounds okay but again no trailer and I have the funny feeling I’ve seen this before.
PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2 (Paramount) Genre: Supernatural Horror. Home video captures disturbing occurrences in a family household. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.7 The first film, made for $15,000 grossed more than $150 million; you had to know a sequel was coming.

OCTOBER 26, 2010

NICE GUY JOHNNY (Marlboro Road Gang) Genre: Comedy. The last of the honest men is taken out by his womanizing uncle for one last fling before he gets married. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.5 Edward Burns is a gifted actor and director; I’m intrigued to see what he’s come up with.

OCTOBER 29, 2010

MONSTERS (Magnet) Genre: Sci-Fi Thriller/Horror. An interstellar probe carrying alien DNA crash lands in Mexico, mutating the local flora and fauna; a reporter and a tourist struggle to survive the now-quarantined zone. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.1 Great concept and the trailer looks awesome.
NIGHT OF THE DEMONS (Seven Arts) Genre: Supernatural Horror. Young partiers spend Halloween in a haunted New Orleans mansion. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.1 Could be really good or could be an exercise in clichés.
SAW 3D (Lionsgate) Genre: Horror/Torture Porn. The last film in the series will also be the first in 3D as survivors of Jigsaw’s deadly traps convene, only to realize one of them has their own agenda. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D). RATING: 3.4 I liked the first film but haven’t really liked any since.
WILD TARGET (Freestyle Releasing) Genre: Comedy Thriller. An assassin sent to murder a con artist falls in love with her instead. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.8 Bill Nighy is one of my favorite actors at the moment.

SCHEDULED TO BE REVIEWED HERE AS NEW RELEASES
The Social Network, Let Me In, Buried, It’s Kind of a Funny Story, Life As We Know It, Nowhere Boy, Secretariat, Conviction, Red, Hereafter, Company Men