But first, a special shoutout to my dad.  And not just because he reads these.  Congrats on your retirement!

114. Tiny Furniture

Just remember, we talked to Lena Dunham way before she was an indie darling.  You could argue that we helped make her.  It’d be a faulty argument, but you could do it.  Watched this one with Brian and John at Brian’s pad, I think because he could get it streaming via his cable or something.  We all weren’t crazy about the film, but look forward to Dunham’s work in the future.  Personally, I’m really curious to see what she could do when she gets away from her semi-autobiographical work.  I’m sure her life is a never-ending fount of ideas, just as most people derive inspiration from their own lives, but I think her work has been too personal, too much of a rehashing and not enough cobbling together into an interesting story.

113. Holy Rollers

For year, the world had been crying out for a Hasidic Jew turned drug trafficker film, and Hollywood finally decided to answer.  Holy Rollers stars Oscar nominee Jesse Eisenberg as a disaffected young Hasid, fed up with his family life and desperate to impress girls.  Through the connection of a fellow Hasid turned bad (The Hangover‘s Justin Bartha), he becomes a drug mule and then starts rising up the ladder of drug trafficking.  An intriguing, original-enough setup.  But as The Sundays sang, here’s where the story ends.  Not literally, of course, there’s the requisite scene where Eisenberg realizes things have gone too far and he just wants to make things right and get out.  Which has been done plenty.  Ari Graynor is solid in a supporting role.  Also, Hallie Kate Eisenberg plays Jesse’s sister, as she does in real life.  I think I may have been the last person in the world to realize they were brother and sister.

112. Never Let Me Go

We gave some thoughts on this film when we first saw it, so I’ll be uncharacteristically brief, as past Jared isn’t any less eloquent than present Jared.  In that post I noted that Never Let Me Go made me think of a different film, and since we are probably past the point of spoiling, I’ll say that film was The Island.  And not just because every movie makes me think of a Michael Bay flick.  The similarities in the premises are pretty obvious, so it is kinda fascinating to see how the different stories delve into the concept.  The reaction of the characters in The Island, is defiance (at least eventually), as befitting a Michael Bay movie.  But here, the characters are resigned to their fate.  And even their grand plan to break free rests entirely on the shoulders of the authorities.

111. Greenberg

John’s probably going to yell at me for having Greenberg this high.  I’m a little surprised too, to be honest.  We’ve spilled plenty of virtual ink on this film (if you scroll down to the bottom, you’ll see lengthier reviews by the two of us), so I won’t rehash too much.  I saw none of the genius I did in The Squid and the Whale.  In many ways, the film felt like the stereotypical indie film of today: boring, talky, a mainstream actor aiming for cred, an indie princess, and a whole lot of malaise.  And geez, indie screenwriters need to get out more.  It was kind of charming when Woody Allen made movies about not knowing what to do with his life, but how many movies do there need to be about a guy who is really bored with his life?

110. Blue Valentine

Saw this Oscar nominee at E Street with Adam (Grouches’s Oscar talk about it here).  We tend to have similar taste in films, and I think we were about the same on this one, but some reason he refuses to acknowledge that Michelle Williams is attractive.  Not sure what he is repressing, exactly.  I like the idea of Blue Valentine a lot.  The idea being a sort of gritty, stripped-down modern look at a couple who eventually get married, only to find not too long after that the relationship isn’t working.  Plus Ryan Gosling and Williams are nothing short of fantastic in their roles.  Gosling ran up against very tough Oscar bunch, I can’t imagine he missed a nomination by much.  He would have been helped, of course, by a stronger script.  One that really got inside the characters.  By the way, not that we needed more evidence the MPAA is a joke, but the fact that Blue Valentine was originally NC-17 is beyond absurd.

109. The Losers

A forgettable A-Team knockoff with a barely there story and middling action.  I’m glad the internet is finally picking up on my theory that Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Javier Bardem are the same person.  Zoe Saldana is great, though.  I can’t tell you how I excited I am for Colombiana, co-written by Luc Besson, where she plays a ruthless assassin.

108. The Extra Man

If you’ve seen the trailer for The Extra Man or read a synopsis, you’ll be expecting a story where Kevin Kline is an escort (or gigolo) for elderly ladies, using his old school manners to sponge off of them.  Paul Dano is a young ex-teacher wannabe writer with similar sensibilities who becomes his protege.  Which is a decent enough summary.  Except the film is a whole lot weirder than that.  John C. Reilly plays a mountain man-looking, squeaky-voiced neighbor who is just bizarre.  And Paul Dano’s character has this occasional internal battle to fight the urge to crossdress, which doesn’t have to be weird, necessarily, but the film kinda shoehorns the subplot in for no reason.  Directors Pulcini and Berman also did American Splendor, but where that film uses the main characters eccentricity to great effect, here it isn’t handled nearly as deftly.

107. Cyrus

We briefly touched on Cyrus during out Independent Spirits chat, where Adam rather hilariously made John C. Reilly our choice for Male Lead.  Reilly plays a moping mess unable to recover from his divorce from Catherine Keener until he meets Marisa Tomei at a party and they hit it off famously after a drunken meet-cute.  I’m going to pause here for a minute to ask: Why is Marisa Tomei the go to actress for roles involving hooking up with schlubby character actors?  I mean, John C. Reilly here, Phillip Seymour Hoffman in Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, and William H. Macy in Wild Hogs.  That’s an impressive threesome to plow through, but still.  I guess Steve Carell in the upcoming Crazy, Stupid, Love is an upgrade?  In any case, Cyrus was pitched as a comedy, but it really isn’t.  Which was the film’s problem, I don’t think it quite figured out what tone it wanted to take.

106. Everything Strange and New

John and I chatted briefly about this film during our Independent Spirits chat.  In a nice change of pace, it is the story of a white guy in his late 30s struggling to find meaning in his life.  Jerry McDaniel plays the main character, a working class joe with a wife and small kid, struggling to pay the bills and finding solace in hanging out with his few friends.  The film has a few tics, like the sad clowns John mentions or the constant sad sack narration/philosophizing.  I don’t think they really add to the story, but I found the narration to be an interesting experiment, at least.  There’s a lot more moping than plot.  Save, I guess, for the end, where a bunch of rather unexpected things go down.

105. From Paris with Love

I can already hear Adam yelling at me for putting this film so low.  And hey, I consider myself a huge fan of nearly everything Luc Besson touches (here he gets a story credit and listed as a producer), but I’m not going to blindly approve of everything he does.  Just almost everything.  The story definitely does have a Besson-like feel.  Jonathan Rhys Meyers plays a relatively straight-edge ambassador’s aide – except that he’s doing odd jobs for the CIA on the side.  Enter John Travolta, a larger than life assassin who takes Rhys-Meyers along for a killing spree.  Secrets abound as they try to figure out…I don’t remember exactly, I think someone is threatening to blow up someone else.  Besson and co. excel at these sort of lean actioners (of late there’s The Transporter, Taken, District B13).  Except From Paris with Love is a little too lean, a little too linear.  It seems to rely too heavily on Travolta’s manic portrayal of an unmemorable character.  The action scenes were good, but not remarkable, I thought.

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