Ram Bergman

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Self/Less Review

OK

An intriguing premise keeps the audience gripped for about 20 minutes before the movie runs out of steam. Which is far too early. Despite the always-engaging presence of Ryan Reynolds, this fantastical thriller is slick enough to hold the attention, but fails because it's unable to generate any interest in the central characters. And instead of exploring the fascinating issues the story raises, the filmmakers instead fall back on irrelevant violence.

The story opens as billionaire Manhattan businessman Damien (Ben Kingsley) discovers he has six months to live. But he has heard about a new medical procedure called "shedding", in which his mind is implanted in a lab-grown body. At $250 million, it seems like a bargain, so he signs up with Dr Allbright (Matthew Goode) and prepares to abandon his old life for a new one. He wakes up in New Orleans as Edward (Reynolds), and begins to adjust to his fit new 35-year-old body. But after he misses his adjustment meds one day he has a series of bewildering flashbacks that make him wonder about the true nature of the shedding process. Maybe his new body wasn't so "new" after all. So he goes looking for answers, which involves teaming up with Madeline (Natalie Martinez) and seeking help from his business partner Martin (Victor Garber).

There are all kinds of intriguing themes swirling through this set-up, including issues of identity and mortality. But writers David and Alex Pastor seem uninterested in exploring any of this in lieu of a much more simplistic morality tale packed with continual shoot-out and chase scenes, plus far too much body-swapping. All of this is produced to a very high standard by director Tarsem Singh, who has a reputation for seriously stylish cinema (see The Fall or The Cell). He adds a strong edge to every scene, with intriguingly haunting editing choices and camerawork that add plenty of tension and uncertainty even if the plot itself is utterly predictable.

Continue reading: Self/Less Review

Don Jon Review


Excellent

With this writing-directing debut, Joseph Gordon-Levitt delivers a remarkably assured comedy-drama while also giving himself a role that's far against his usual type. It's raucously hilarious but also surprisingly involving as it reveals the vulnerabilities of a strutting hard-man. And we're having so much fun that we barely notice that the script's approach to addiction is somewhat simplistic.

The title character is such a dude that his friends call him "the don", in reference to New Jersey gangsters. And Jon (Gordon-Levitt) has his life figured out, with a list of things he cares for: his body, home, car, family, church, friends and girls. In that order. But above everything else, his main obsession is porn. Then while hanging with his friends Bobby and Danny (Brown and Luke) he spots Barbara (Johansson), a perfect "dime" who's worth playing the long game for. Except that she has zero tolerance for pornography, so he has to hide his addiction from her, only confessing to his parish priest and an unexpectedly sympathetic fellow student (Moore) at night school.

Like a character from Jersey Shore, Jon is such a charming loser that we can't help but love him. But despite the macho swagger and gym-honed physique, he's also deeply devoted to his parents (the fabulous Danza and Headly) and happiest when he's cleaning his flat. Gordon-Levitt wouldn't be the first actor you'd think of in this role, but he plays it perfectly, letting us see the little boy behind the tough-guy posturing and making us believe that he's fallen for the charms of this idealised woman (Johansson is simply hysterical).

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Looper Review


Excellent

For a time travel thriller, this film is remarkably free of head-scratching anomalies in the plot, instead concentrating on richly developed characters and goosebump-inducing action. This is an unusually intimate action blockbuster, which gives the cast a chance to do something more resonant than we expect. And writer-director Rian Johnson takes a Christopher Nolan-style approach to the story, using intelligence and strikingly inventive filmmaking to draw us in.

Johnson is also reuniting with his Brick star Gordon-Levitt. He plays Joe, a looper in 2044 Kansas whose job is to kill men who are sent back 30 years in time by the mob, even though time travel has been outlawed. Joe knows that one day his victim will be his older self, sent back to close his loop, giving him 30 years of retirement. But when the older Joe (Willis) appears, he escapes, and now a manhunt is on. If Joe doesn't catch his older self, his boss (Daniels) will do something even more drastic than a vicious henchman (Dillahunt) has in mind. So Joe hides out in a rural farmhouse with single mother Sara (Blunt) and her young son Cid (Gagnon), with whom Joe creates an unusual bond.

The film is beautifully shot and edited, with a noir tone established by a knowing narration and the fact that most characters are addicted to a drug they take as eye-drops. And while it opens with some lively humour and witty edginess, things become darker as the story unfolds, especially when older Joe starts hunting Terminator-style for the younger version of an evil man who has too much power in the future. The hitch is that this man is a 5-year-old in the present day.

Continue reading: Looper Review

Famke Janssen, Bill Perkins and Ram Bergman - Famke Janssen, Bill Perkins and Ram Bergman New York City, USA - 9th Annual Tribeca Film Festival - Premiere of 'The Chameleon' at the SVA Theatre - Arrivals Friday 23rd April 2010

Famke Janssen, Bill Perkins and Ram Bergman
Famke Janssen
Famke Janssen
Famke Janssen
Famke Janssen
Famke Janssen

The Brothers Bloom Review


Good
A perfectly swell caper film that ultimately can't sustain the propelling giddiness of its first hour, The Brothers Bloom burns bright with brilliance before sputtering out in the end. In a case of extreme overreach, writer/director Rian Johnson (Brick) sets out to make a magical-realist brother-buddy screwball romantic comedy heist film, and actually comes close to making it all work. Given the cock-eyed neo-noir linguistic mania of his first film, Johnson seems to be just the right kind of blooming genius to pull off this kind of over-ambitious cinematic caper, but in the end he just sets himself an impossible task.

Johnson's brothers Stephen (Mark Ruffalo) and Bloom (Adrien Brody) appear in the film like some kind of magic vaudeville act gone to seed. A spectacularly goofy opener (including a fake magic cave and a one-legged cat locomoting about on a roller skate) about their childhood paints them as Damon Runyon-style scamps set free in a landscape of innocent marks. It's a cotton-candy world that the boys, with their slouchy hats and black suits, are going to take for everything they can. Their roles are cut and dried: Stephen as the storytelling author of their scams, Bloom as his moody and conflicted accomplice, fated to never live a real life of his own.

Continue reading: The Brothers Bloom Review

Under The Same Moon Review


Terrible
"Somewhere Out There," the maudlin theme song to Disney's animated An American Tail, is audio torture. It's not just Linda Ronstadt and James Ingram's warbling. It's the heavy-handed longing -- important to the song -- that is betrayed by bogus lyrics like "And even though I know how very far apart we are / It helps to think we might be wishing on the same bright star."

Patricia Riggen's Under the Same Moon takes the song's phony concept even further. It swipes the faux sentimentality of "Somewhere" and duct tapes it to our nation's very real border-crossing dilemma. It pretends to address a serious issue but ends up degrading an entire race.

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Nomad Review


OK
I get the sense that the story of the making of Nomad is far more interesting than the film itself. Shot in Kazakhstan over the course of two years (weather and funding caused delays) with the urging of the Kazakh president, acquired and doctored by Harvey Weinstein, and starring a cast of Americans speaking Kazakh and Kazakhs speaking English with assorted in-line dubbing all over the place (Bai Ling!), this horse-and-yurt epic is picturesque but baffling. What was behind it all? An attempt to recover the dignity of the Kazakh people after the PR debable of Borat?

As for the end product: Nomad will appeal mainly to two small special-interest groups: those with a fascination for 18th century Central Asian geopolitics, and those with a fascination for costume design. Also, people who like swords and horses.

Continue reading: Nomad Review

Relative Strangers Review


Weak
Here's a funny thing I learned today: Meet fhe Parents was actually a remake of a film of the same name, made eight years earlier! (It is now reportedly impossible to find and/or suppressed by those who made Parents. Writer/director Greg Glienna didn't do a whole lot between then and 2006, when he brought us Relative Strangers, which went straight to video (despite an impressive cast roster). I mention all of this because it's a whole lot more interesting than actually talking about Strangers, a derivative and simplistic comedy that you'll figure out completely inside of 15 minutes.

Stop me if you've heard this one before: Psychologist/author Richard (Ron Livingston) lives an idyllic life with fiancee Ellen (Neve Campbell), when it's sprung on him by his uptight parents that he's adopted. Meet the (birth) parents: Danny DeVito and Kathy Bates. "The Menures -- it's French!" The laughs don't get much bigger than this. The Menures are country hicks (carnies, actually) who clash with everything in Richard's life. They eat meat and Richard prefers wheat gluten. They curse and have loud sex in the room next door. You get the idea.

Continue reading: Relative Strangers Review

Conversations With Other Women Review


Excellent
Try to watch director Hans Canosa's Conversations with Other Women twice and in quick succession. The memories that haunt the film's reunited lovers subtly inform every look, line, and gesture between them. For that reason, the film not only stands up to, it demands subsequent viewings if one wants to fully appreciate its layers of double meanings and shaded subtext.

What immediately sets Conversations apart is how, over its 85 minutes, it makes such fun and inventive use of the split-screen technique. The technique's most obvious function is to convey how the story's man and woman (Aaron Eckhart and Helena Bonham Carter), no matter their passion for each other, inhabit disparate and irreconcilable worlds. But it goes brilliantly beyond that, using split-screen also for flashbacks, triggered by memory, in which younger versions of the characters (Erik Eidem and Nora Zehetner), play out the halcyon days of their long-ago romance. What's more, the details of these flashbacks warp and alter, depending on who's doing the remembering. In an intriguing twist, the split-screen projects not only alternate versions of the past, but of the present too -- showing variations on small but important moments either as a character perceives they happened or he/she wishes they had. It's a sensationally expressive use of a tired cinematic device, now revitalized and itself revitalizing a tired genre.

Continue reading: Conversations With Other Women Review

Brick Review


Very Good
It doesn't take long to notice that Brick is a film that feels entirely fresh and new. It hits you rather suddenly, a few minutes after the movie begins: Why are teenagers talking like they came out of a Dashiell Hammett novel?

That's the rub, folks: Brick, as best as you can describe it, is a postmodern mashup of a '90s teen drug drama and a '30s noir. The setup is quite straightforward: A girl named Emily (Emilie de Ravin) is dead, and her ex-boyfriend Brendan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who apparently can't get enough of the indie scene now) wants to find out what happened. He suspects foul play, and he launches an investigation, much like some renegade gumshoe might do, always evading the watchful eye of the chief. Only here, there's no chief, just a principal (Richard Roundtree, of all people). With the help of a brilliant colleague -- er, classmate -- Brendan starts digging into the underworld, such as it exists in a world of letter jackets and parking lot brawls. (Indeed, for all the talk of highschool, not a single class is actually attended in Brick.)

Continue reading: Brick Review

Dancing At The Blue Iguana Review


OK
I'm jaded enough as a film critic to be unsurprised when I see a movie about five strippers, all leading melodramatic and tragic lives.

But when those five strippers are all reasonably B-level or former A-level movie stars, even my ears start to perk up. Even more amazing -- they're all naked.

Continue reading: Dancing At The Blue Iguana Review

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Ram Bergman Movies

Self/Less Movie Review

Self/Less Movie Review

An intriguing premise keeps the audience gripped for about 20 minutes before the movie runs...

Don Jon Movie Review

Don Jon Movie Review

With this writing-directing debut, Joseph Gordon-Levitt delivers a remarkably assured comedy-drama while also giving himself...

Looper Movie Review

Looper Movie Review

For a time travel thriller, this film is remarkably free of head-scratching anomalies in the...

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Conversations With Other Women Movie Review

Conversations With Other Women Movie Review

Try to watch director Hans Canosa's Conversations with Other Women twice and in quick succession....

Conversations With Other Women Movie Review

Conversations With Other Women Movie Review

Try to watch director Hans Canosa's Conversations with Other Women twice and in quick succession....

Dancing At The Blue Iguana Movie Review

Dancing At The Blue Iguana Movie Review

I'm jaded enough as a film critic to be unsurprised when I see a movie...

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