Thursday, August 30, 2012

Recent release: Jeff, Who Lives At Home

I recently checked out the Jason Segel vehicle Jeff, Who Lives At Home by brothers Jay and Mark Duplass (Mark being the summer's indie darling). It has a noteworthy supporting cast including Ed Helms, Susan Sarandon and Judy Greer. From the outset, its a quiet movie about a slacker still living in his mother's basement. A comedy and borderline farce at times, the last third becomes suspenseful and dramatic.

Segel plays the titular character who is metaphorically lost, and uses what he deems as signs, or connections, to guide his life (Jeff loves the M. Night Shyamalan movie Signs and the movie opens with him watching the flick). Jeff is given a simple task by his mother (Sarandon) and he is quickly sidetracked from the errand by one of his signs and follows it. Thus the story begins to unfold as Jeff, by seeming chance, runs into his brother Pat (Helms), and they in turn end up spying on Pat's wife Linda (Greer) and so on ... Sarandon has a workplace sub-plot about realizing your life again, later in life. It is nowhere near as satisfying as Jeff's storyline, but it still shows Sarandon in a another light-- a less confident character than she often plays.

The final third of the movie addresses Jeff's unrealized life in a big way, changing your view of the character and the movie itself. Maybe Jeff's philosophy on life and decision-making processes weren't so crazy after all? It might make you to look at your own life differently. And I love that, because that is not at all what I expected from this unassuming film.

Jeff, Who Lives At Home
Find it in the catalog!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Joseph Gordon-Levitt's Greatest Hits

Joseph Gordon-Levitt (JGL) has been a favorite of mine for several years now and he just keeps getting better. He varies his parts, but always turns in a noteworthy performance. Besides being easy on the eyes, he exudes easiness and charm in spades.

Joseph was most famous for his teenage role on the CBS sitcom 3rd Rock From the Sun in the late nineties to early aughts. He has since made a name for himself in the film industry. These are some of his greatest hits:

1. 10 Things I Hate About You: Yes, it's a high school movie. But, it also has JGL, Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles as relative youngsters. Based on Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew, it's one of the better teenage movies. Find it in the catalog!

2. Manic: The first pairing of JGL with Zooey Deschanel, although this one lacks the cuteness of (500) Days of Summer (see below). Manic is more dark and moody and shows JGL in a much different light than his previous work on 3rd Rock or 10 Things. I'm sure that that was a conscious choice on his part to avoid being type-cast. JGL plays Lyle, who is placed in a mental institution with other teens after some violent incidents. He is a somewhat sympathetic character plopped into the chaos of real teenage angst. Find it in the catalog!

3. Brick: A more cerebral turn for JGL. He plays Brendan, a high-schooler on the hunt for his ex-girlfriend's murderer, and to do so must access the sinister crowd, including the local drug dealer.  The tone is noir, the dialogue Shakespearean, but shot in color with more modern circumstances. It's an odd contrast and I guarantee you won't have seen a similar movie. (This is from director/writer Rian Johnson who subsequently wrote and directed The Brothers Bloom and the upcoming Looper also starring JGL.) Find it in the catalog!

4. The Lookout: A caper with excellent tension and performances all around (especially Matthew Goode with a role against type here). JGL plays Chris, a bank janitor with short-term memory issues as a result of a car accident in high school-- which makes him the perfect patsy. This just might be my favorite JGL film. Maybe. Find it in the catalog!

5. (500) Days of Summer: The second pairing of JGL and Zooey Deschanel. This flick is quirky, but still meaningful and one of the better rom-coms in recent years. This film definitely showcases JGL's lighter side. Great soundtrack. Find it in the catalog!

6. Inception: JGL is one of many, but still manages to make an impression. Check out the Media Corner synopsis. Find it in the catalog!

7. 50/50: As I stated earlier this year, I think this movie was robbed at Oscar nomination time. JGL leads as a twenty-something diagnosed with cancer. Joseph was able to run the gammit of emotions: confusion, anger, frustration, humor and thinking it might help you get the ladies (which I was unaware was one of the stages of dealing with cancer ...). Find it in the catalog!

Lastly, I would be remiss if I did not mention his excellent and grounding performance in The Dark Knight Rises. His character's place and purpose was unclear in pre-production, but he becomes the one to watch in the last installment of Nolan's grand trilogy. Joseph also has three more movies in the can: soon to be released Premium Rush, the aforementioned Looper, and Lincoln where he plays Robert Todd to Daniel Day-Lewis' Abraham (now that will be one to watch!). Oh, and did I mention he's currently writing and directing his first movie, Don Jon's Addiction? What a renaissance man.