Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Review: The Lionshare (2009) [Reviewed By Clifford Kiyabu]

Directed by: Josh Bernhard
Written by: Josh Bernhard
Genre: Comedy / Drama
MPAA: Not Rated
Released: 2009
Starring: Mike Pantozzi, Jessi Kneeland, Jonathan Hansen, Bracey Smith, Nell Becker.

Plot: A young filmmaker who’s struggling with finding his center in life joins a secret torrent site called ‘thelionshare.com’ after being introduced to the website by a girl he has feelings for.

Review: 8/10

The Story is about: Nick (Mike Pantozzi) a young filmmaker who’s struggling with finding his center in life, after meeting Eva (Jessi Kneeland) a woman he befriended online, they decide to have what started out to be an innocent first date, but soon erupted into a night of steamy pleasure that Nick won’t soon forget. After their night of fun, Eva invites Nick to join a secret torrent site called ‘thelionshare.com’, where he can download movies and music from bands and artist that many don’t even know about (such as the band constantly talked about in the film called Applecurry), as nick eagerly await his second date with Eva, we see his feeling for her grow stronger as well as his addiction for the torrent site grows more sporadic, we also see the complex lives of nick’s friends, Matty (Jonathan Hansen) and Bracey (Bracey Smith) Matty is dealing with issues surrounding the relationship of him and his father, while Bracey is struggling to get his music out there to the public.

My Thoughts: Being a film critic has given me the opportunity to experience an adventure of films I highly anticipated and films I’ve never even heard of before, though I admit; some films are just simply not worth watching, however taking in both the good as well as the bad is all in a day’s work when setting off on a journey into the world of cinema, and sometimes when venturing into the unknown I come across what I like to call a ‘gem’ of movie, these don’t come by so often now days, and when one such as myself does in fact encounter such a rare treat, it should be treated as a diamond in the rough that one shouldn’t ever pass up on, and trust me when I say that it’s more than a fact, it’s a BEAR FACT! (You probably didn’t get the pun but don’t worry, it’s an inside joke from the film which is thrown around quite a few times)

So when I came across a little known Indie film called The Lionshare, which is the debut feature from writer/director Josh Bernhard. I was infatuated by its qualities almost from the get-go, the film expresses a lovely blend of drama meets comedy in an unorthodox manner that doesn’t try to be a carbine copy of past films with predictable storytelling, but rather gives an original plot told in a very realistic way that the chemistry between the individual characters carries a sense of honesty that is unprecedented in some of today’s films. Now what I mean by this is; most films try to go the predictable pre-scripted route with obstacles presented in the story that even a blind person could have foreseen it’s coming a mile away, where everything must have an answer that logically dictates that a villain of some sort must be present in the film (And it doesn’t always have to be an actual villain but just something the audience will see as a symbol of dislike), the fact of the matter is this; the film’s ultimate goal appear to be based on one of the most simplest of facts that many fail to see in life, and that’s being young and wanting that connection we all so very much crave for, may it be love or just a simple little crush. Though it’s not directly acknowledged the film expresses it in every aspect of it, through its music and through its characters, and adding the fact one is young and sometimes naive can make some of the brightest of people stupidly sick emotionally, and if you throw in the fact we live in a digital age what we get is the very foundation this film is built on.

Though I must also add that the music in this film really does play a hug part of the overall story, from Bracey’s fantastic musical performances to the minor chatter between the characters of bands spanning from unsigned underground bands to the major labels, there is no doubt that the music is more than just a part of the background but rather a part of everything that binds the very film together, one scene in particular that shows this, shows shots of random strangers walking on the street, and though I didn’t catch on as quickly as I had hoped, I soon realized that all of these random people have something in common, they were all listing to ether an IPod or some other type of MP3 player. On a humorous note to this, it really does show the type of age we now live in, where electronics has taken over society completely, from cell phones and Blackberrys to people on their computers spending unfounded amounts of time on their MySpace pages and their Twitter posts to their blogs and Facbooks, it’s actually kind of funny when you think about just how much time we spend with these little devices and how much they mean to us in this day and age. But what makes this film truly great is the fact that director Bernhard made this film without having a massive budget backing it financially, and having to work with a film that consists of a nameless cast and still manages to make it work wonderfully, and let’s not forget that for a film that has a runtime of only sixty-five minutes in length it felt like a full feature length film which obviously shows that he can make a movie many either in or out of their collage years can relate to on some level or another. In other words what Josh Bernhard has done here is turn silver into gold.

As for the acting: Mike Pantozzi did a nice job, I was impressed with his performance on one particular scene where he is smoking a cigarette on the front steps of his apartment talking to Jane (Played by Nell Becker), and for that shear moment there was this sense of honesty and truth in his performance that felt believable and real, and you couldn’t help but relate to his character in that brief moment, the fact he’s still wet behind the ears as an actor makes me come to the conclusion that with a little time and a little more hard work done on his part, his acting quality can take a nice turn from good to great. Jonathan Hansen did a fairly okay job with the humorous side of the film, but I just wasn’t quite feeling his performance all that much when it came to the more serious parts of the film; like the drama between his father and him over the phone conversations, I felt this was his Achilles’ heel. I had some problems with Jessie Kneeland’s performance as Eva, it’s not that she did a bad job, but rather an unsure one, though there was some enjoyment out of seeing her scenes on screen I felt that there were times where there was this feeling of uncertainty in her that was projected on screen that really killed it for me at times, but it is of course forgivable after seeing the end scene of her getting should I say owned! In conclusion, Jessie Kneeland did more or less a performance that I considered slightly sub-par, however that fact she’s a fairly attractive all-around actress lives me with the thought that I hate to see her go but love to watch her leave (you’ll know what I’m talking about). Nell Becker did decently okay in the role as Jane, but I’ll be honest with you, she did come off a tad bit too bashful for my taste and it would have ruined it for me if it wasn’t for Hansen there to balance her out with his obnoxious personality to keep the mood of the film in the right balance. Last but certainly not least is Bracey Smith, who gives in my opinion an outstanding performance; he was probably the most entertaining part of this film for me even though I liked the whole film in general, and not only does he do a good job, but he has a few music numbers in the film that played out magnificently! I’m not usually a fan of actors who are also singers and vice-versa, but I enjoyed Bracey acting as well as his talented voice.

Final Say: The Lionshare was a very enjoyable film for me, I must admit that originally I was going to give this film a 7/10, but like all films I review, the first rating I give after watching it is usually a premature rating, and only after I allow the film to settle in my mind for a few days does the real rating emerge, and after thinking the film over I realized that I actually liked the film a lot more than I originally thought, and decided that this film is much more deserving of an 8/10. I recommend it!

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