Tag Archives: Matt Dillon

Running For Grace

Hawaii is truly one of the most beautiful places on Earth, but its history hasn’t always been so.

A new doctor (Matt Dillon) arrives at one of Hawaii’s coffee plantations just as the Spanish flu is indiscriminately taking life left and right (circa 1920). On one bad day, two women succumb: the wife of the plantation owner, leaving her daughte rGrace motherless, and an unmarried Japanese migrant worker, leaving her mixed race son Jo motherless. Jo was the kind of kid who brought shame at the time, so they thought, so Jo’s mother had always hid his existence from the other workers, from everyone. Now there’s no one to care for him; he’s alone in the world. Until the doctor shows up, and has these crazy notions that children should be fed and such.

Turns out Jo is pretty useful to the good doctor. Although the workers still fear the kid, he’s a useful translator and ingratiates himself to the community. Fast forward to: Jo is now a young man (Ryan Potter), and a fast one – “the medicine runner,” they call him, useful, perhaps indispensable as a conduit between the migrants and the doctor. One day, while Doc is in town, ostensibly on a pharmaceutical run, but actually petitioning yet again to adopt Jo despite stringent, racist laws that would have otherwise, the owner’s daughter Grace (Olivia Ritchie) is injured, and Jo offers up his own services as the doctor’s apprentice. The owner is not having it, but then, he doesn’t even approve of the white “country doctor” either, and it’s only the memory of his wife’s death that allows the appointment to take place. Pretty soon erotic temperature-taking is taking place, and all the flirting that can be mustered from either side of a muslin curtain. But the owner soon dispatches a “proper” doctor, Reyes (Jim Caviezel), who of course is a big white jerk.

Running For Grace is an ironic title considering what a slow burn it is. No, wait, burn implies it ever gets some heat, but even Hawaii’s volcanoes do little to light a fire under this story. Ostensibly it’s a forbidden romance between two young people who could never be together, but that’s only a superficial disguise for yet another white saviour movie. Jo, though he has proved his worth tenfold, is still an illegitimate bastard with no last name. Doc, though unsuccessful in adopting him, insists that they are family, and that’s enough. Which is a nice sentiment, except the implication is that Jo would not be enough without him, that Jo’s mother was not enough, that his actual biology and parentage are not enough, and that only his association with the white doctor has legitimized him.

You mustn’t even feel torn about this movie because it’s not good no matter how you look at it. The script is as awful as Jim Caviezel’s charleston: truly, deeply terrible, unpolished, embarrassing, even. It’s best if you just cut a wide berth around this stinker, lest its stench permeate your reasonable standards.

Sunlight, Jr.

Melissa and Richie have a pretty humble existence. They live in a motel room. He’s disabled, she works at a gas station where she’s stalked by her drug-dealing ex-boyfriend. It’s a charmless kind of life, dictated by poverty. It’s kind of dismal, but they have each other, and when they learn there’s a baby on the way, suddenly everything seems possible.

Unexpected pregnancy on a minimum wage salary is not my idea of “good luck” but sunlight_jr_2_pubswhen Melissa loses her job and she and Richie get evicted from their home, the good days are clearly behind them. The cycle of poverty’s got a pretty nasty pull on them, and in many ways this feels like a companion piece to The Florida Project, though this one’s already five years old.

The Florida Project’s a little more palatable to watch. Told from the perspective of children, the poverty feels less oppressive, or at least it’s more optimistic. In this one, however, Melissa (Naomi Watts) and Richie (Matt Dillon) are middle-aged. They’ve made their choices. There doesn’t seem to be much room for second chances.

Naomi Watts is incredible in almost everything she’s in. The problem here is not the acting, but that the acting can’t possibly do much with a sometimes remarkably stilted script. Despite some empathetic performances, the script has zero uplift. It’s tough to watch, though it is a tribute to an experience authentic to too many Americans. Watts and Dillon may be mis-cast. I hate how work dries up for aging actresses, but the fact is, she’ll be 50 this year, so she’s hardly in fertile young American territory anymore. There are loads more people who’d be far more appropriate.

Still, nothing’s really going to make this movie great. It has good intentions but can’t quite connect emotionally. It’s tedious, gray, and doesn’t care to resolve any of the adversity encountered: tragic in many sense of the word.

The Art of the Steal

Crunch and Nicky Calhoun are conman brothers, part of a merry little gang who steals art. Crunch (Kurt Russell) gets double-crossed by his own brother (Matt Dillon) when a heist goes wrong and winds up spending 7 years in a Romanian prison where he learns that trust, not cash, is the ultimate currency. When he gets out, he lives a semi-legit life with a new wife, a new sidekick (Jay Baruchel), and a second-rate motorcycle-daredevil career.

hero_artofthesteal-2014-1But then Nicky comes calling. One last heist, he says (is there really such a thing?). And since Crunch is so low on funds, they assemble the old gang and pursue a tricky art swap, even with Interpol (Terence Stamp) breathing down their necks.

I found this movie recently added to Netflix, but not very generously reviewed. I gave it a chance because: Kurt Russell. He’s kind of a badass. And Jay Baruchel, who I have enormous love for. And you know what? It’s not a bad movie. It’s not overly great either, it’s just an easy-watch heist movie that borrows a little to heavily from better movies. But the cast is extremely watchable, and the writing’s not bad, it’s just formulaic. So if you have no time to waste, skip it. But if you like the genre, I think you’ll get along just fine with the film.

Bonus for Canadians: much of the film is not just filmed in Canada but takes place ADMITTEDLY in Canada, and stars a whole bunch of Canadians, aside from Baruchel, including Katheryn Winnick, Niagara Falls, Kenneth Walsh, Chris Diamantopoulous, Quebec City, Jason Jones, Devon Bostick, Tim Hortons, and piles of fluffy home-grown snow.

Movies Based on Novels for Young Adults

It’s Thursday again, and we’ve got some real beauties lined up! Our friend at Wandering Through the ShelvesTMP had us tackle Fairy Tales last week, and black & white movies the week before. This week we’ve been tasked with listing our favourite movies based on books for young adults. And so, ladies and gentlemen, without further ado-

Jay

I felt really repelled by this week’s topic, which is kind of okay with me. I like a challenge. But the young adult genre is just not my thing. I can’t even claim that Hunger Games, Harry Potter, and Twilight are bad because I haven’t and won’t give them the time of day. They’re not for me, and they don’t need me – there are plenty of teenage girls to keep these franchises going.

I think it’s a little weird how franchises like Hunger Games and Divergent seem to put teenagers in mortal danger, in order that they may save the world. It’s sort of asking a lot from people who, by and large, don’t get out of bed before noon. It made me remember movies from my iknowown teenage years, the 90s, a time when teen movies featured parties, prom, and the gosh darned mall. And the occasional nerd makeover. But then I thought about our own teen franchises – Scream, and I Know What You Did Last Summer – and realized that maybe we’re not so different after all. We had teens running for their lives as well.

So for my first pick, I’m going with an even older selection that pit teenager against teenager, putting them in intense mortal danger: The Outsiders. I remember reading this book for the first time in the 7th grade. Our teacher followed it up with an in-class viewing of the movie and my teenaged hormones selfishly hijacked the situation, forcing me to weep buckets, turn purple, TheOutsiders4and lock myself into a horrible washroom stall until I could ‘compose myself’, whatever that means to a white girl with a perm so bitchin she needed a pick comb. To this day I can never decide if the casting was brilliant (Tom Cruise, Matt Dillon, Patrick Swayze, Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez, all in their peach-fuzz glory) or if it totally missed the boat (everyone else went on to amazing careers while the lead totally fizzled after a controversially racial comedy flopped – Leonardo DiCaprio auditioned for but didn’t get the part). In any case, it tells the story of two teenaged gangs (if they can be called that), really just right side of the tracks vs the wrong side, the Greasers and the Socs, as they tussle and rumble and occasionally kill each other. SE Hinton wrote the book when she was just 15 years old (and what have YOU been doing with your life?) and it took a class full of junior high fans of the book to elect Francis Ford Coppola the most eligible to direct, and sent him a copy of the book. He agreed, shot the movie with Hinton’s help, and 20 years later restored all the scenes got cut when his own granddaughter was about to study it in school.

The old white men who reviewed Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist didn’t much care for it, but what do they know? They didn’t get the excellent soundtrack, couldn’t relate to the nonchalant inclusiveness, and NickNora_2lgdidn’t tap in to sarcastic chemistry between the two leads. Based on the novel of the same name by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, it tells the story of Nick, the token straight guy in an all-gay band, freshly heartbroken by bitchy ex-girlfriend Tris, and Norah, the girl who falls in love sight-unseen with the guy sending frenemy Tris all those great breakup mixtapes. They meet up one night and run all over the city in pursuit of an elusive indie band called Where’s Fluffy. It’s got all the makings of great teenaged shenanigans: live bands, party rockin, neglectful parents, unlimited allowance and no curfews.
Another more recent pick, The Perks of Being A Wallflower, I somehow find charming despite my advanced years, probably because the three leads are so earnest and bright and perfect. Youth is infuriating. The fact that they don’t know a David Bowie THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWERsong is double infuriating. But the teenage trappings are all there: angst, awesome dance routines, riding in cars with boys, and even Paul Rudd – although this time, he’s (tragically) not playing the heartthrob but the teacher. Oh, I feel sick to my stomach. This story is a real testament to its time – the three leads are all outcasts but get this – they’re actually cool. I know. It’s strange. Counterintuitive, even. Goes against pretty much every teenage movie we’ve ever seen. But in 2015 (and apparently as far back as 2012), it’s cool to be weird. What a revelation. John Hughes was eyeing this as his next project before he died, but in the end it was directed by the novel’s author himself (which almost never happens), Stephen Chbosky, who also got to write the screenplay.

Matt

The young adult novel is an elusive concept. When I asked Wikipedia, examples seem to include books for children (Harry Potter), teens (Twilight), and twenty-somethings (The Notebook). When I first heard about this week’s Thursday challenge, I was worried I would be choosing between Divergent and The Hunger Games but, after working on it all week, I have managed to find 3 movies worth celebrating.

Coraline-  Adapted from what I just found out was a novel by Neil Gaiman, this 2009 stop-motion fantasy is as different from Disney as American animation gets. My local video store even had it filed under Horror. The bizarre alternate univCoralineerse to the already bizarre regular one isn’t as perfect as it first seems when a young girl discovers that her Other Mother, although more attentive and permissive than her real mother, wants to sew buttons over her eyes. Eye phobics beware. Darkly funny, oddly beautiful, and genuinely unsettling.

The Lord of the Rings trilogy- I’m still not fully convinced that this counts but who am I to argue with Wikipedia? I’ve never read J. R. R. Tolkien’s epic trilogy but have always assumed them to be a more demanding read than most in this genre. Peter Jackson’s ambitious nine and a half hour adaptation certainly expects more of its audience than anything else I’ve watched this Lord of the Ringsweek. I’m counting the whole trilogy as one movie to make room for other films on the list. Besides, I am not sure I trust myself to remember what happened in which film well enough to be able to write about them all separately. Together they make up one of the great American films of this century.

The Spectacular Now-  It’s hard to find a movSpectacular Nowie like this from a young adult novel. There are no vampires, wizards, or dragons. The Spectacular Now is a story of young love without the usual gimmicks. Miles Teller (Whiplash) and Shailene Woodley (Divergent) showed great promise in this adaptation of Tim Tharp’s novel in 2013 and it’s no surprise that they both got to star in higher profile movies the next year. Teller is especially good as a superficially charming teen alcoholic.

 

Sean

Hugo – this is a very nice love story film, fittingly brought to us by Martin Scorsese. It meanders a hugo__120124150122bit but it is an enjoyable ride, and the whole thing has a fantastical sheen. Having been to Paris and passed multiple times through Gare Montparnasse, where the movie is set, I will be watching this movie again in the very near future (I did not get to it this week because we were too busy sifting through typical apocalyptic YA filler).

Holes – it is sad that all that has gone on with Shia Leboeuf takes the focus off the movies he is holesshiain. I feel he retroactively takes something away from this movie but if you can get past that, Holes is an enjoyable story about family curses. Things wrap up a little too neatly (which I can’t believe I said because I usually love a tidy ending) but it’s an enjoyable movie nonetheless and one worth checking out.

Scott-Pilgrim-vs-The-World-ladyspaz-E2-99-A5-26058602-500-269Scott Pilgrim vs. The World – we have had a ton of comic book adaptations recently and of all of them, Scott Pilgrim feels most like a comic book (and that is a very good thing). It’s a fun movie with a ton of recognizable faces. I feel I’m stretching the category a bit with this pick but it has been tough this week to find anything halfway decent, and Scott Pilgrim is a favourite of mine!