Directed by: Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris
Written by: Zoe Kazan
Watch out for: Zoe Kazan, Paul Dano
Pitch: A lonely novelist writes about his fantasy woman and she mysteriously comes to life.
I went into this movie with pretty high expectations as the concept seemed pretty original and would appeal to anyone who likes to write and create characters. And you what? It actually surpassed my expectations by taking the clever concept and going places with it that makes the movie more than just a generic rom-com with a good premise.
At one point, the film starts to shed the “puppies and ice-cream” vibe and gets a bit darker, and it’s because of this that the film is really able to make full use of its premise to delve into the chaos that exists in a writer’s mind. I mean, if you had the power to write things into reality, where do you draw the line?
As a lead, Paul Dano fills the role well. He’s not the most likable guy in the world, but you can definitely sympathize with him and understand his loneliness. When left to his own devices, he does tend to get pretty dull though.
That’s where Zoe Kazan comes in. As the titular character, she brings with her an unconventional cuteness that makes Ruby Sparks such a perfect girl-next-door type. As Dano’s character starts to tweak Ruby to his liking, Kazan is able to carry off the transitions without making Ruby too much of a caricature.
There’s also a great supporting cast, including Annette Bening and Antonio Banderas, to populate the quirky world they live in.
Last thoughts: Ruby Sparks is a great date movie, so go watch it!
Directed by: David Koepp
Written by: David Koepp, John Kamps
Watch out for: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Shannon
Pitch: A bicycle messenger picks up a mysterious package and is chased around Manhattan by a corrupt cop.
Cycling seems to be gaining in popularity lately, as a ton of my friends now spend a lot of their time and money on their new bikes and associated gear. Thus, it’s not inconceivable that Hollywood would want to make a movie that capitalizes on this new trend, by stringing along a whole bunch of cycling scenes together into a plot. And that’s what this movie is.
I’m sure nobody expected the plot to be anything stellar, but honestly they spend too much time on their bikes for the plot to really develop. You know how tacky dance movies are like 70% dance scenes and 30% “acting” scenes? This movie has a ratio that’s more like 80/20.
They did try to make things more interesting with a non-linear progression of the story, but it wasn’t really necessary or successful and the movie remains a generic trend-whore movie.
When not peddling his ass off, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is great as the main character, but his talent is completely wasted as he spends most of his screen-time riding a bicycle. They could’ve replaced him with a professional cyclist like Matt Hoffman, and the film wouldn’t have been any weaker.
David Koepp must’ve understood this, he concentrated on stitching as many cycling scenes together as he could. But often, the scenes seem a bit forced and it does hurt the movie a bit when there’s a race scene between two cyclists, and you know it’s there just because they really wanted to include such a scene.
I mean, you’re being chased by a corrupt cop that would probably kill you if he could, and instead of explaining that to your douchebag ultra-competitive friend, you guys decide it’s okay to race through Central Park? Doesn’t that just completely dumb down the gravity and urgency of the situation?
There’s also a scene where he does bike stunts around an impound lot to elude cops. It’s so by-the-numbers it’s not funny.
To be fair, the cycling scenes are pretty fun with a huge sense of speed and some very clever visual effects sequences, but they overstay their welcome after a while.
And Michael Shannon is a bit on-off as the villain. There are times when he can be quite intense and scary, but most of the time his silly eccentric quips make him sound more incompetent than scary.
Last thoughts: This year’s version of Gleaming the Cube.