Saturday, January 23, 2010

Review: One Hour Fantasy Girl (2009) [Reviewed By Kelsey Zukowski]

Starring: Kelly-Ann Tursi, Paul D. Nguyen, Joe Luckay, Jon Morgan Woodward
Written & Directed By: Michael Edgar Bravo
Grade: B+

One Hour Fantasy Girl is a striking, beautiful, and heartbreaking film. It’s a wonderfully composed movie with a lot of city shots; almost neon colored, but still muted and blurred. Michael Edgar Bravo plays with the speed during these cuts, making the big leagues of Hollywood, CA seem as chaotic, deceptive, and intimidating to the viewer as the characters feel lost in this atmosphere.

Brandi (Tursi) has been on her own since she was 15, now 20 she is still broke and struggling to just barely make it by. Her dream is to make it big in real estate. She needs $50,000 to invest before she can even attempt to get in the business. To make some quick money she becomes the “One Hour Fantasy Girl”, fulfilling any client’s fantasy. The only catch is she doesn’t actually have sex, kiss, and never goes completely nude. She is still under a lot of pressure to do some pretty twisted stuff as her business partner, Chi (Nguyen), is depending on his cut from her work to pay off his bills and make it big as a musician. One of his highest paying customers, Roger (Woodward), is in to the most out there stuff, having baby, dog, whipping, and other grotesque fantasies. Chi is counting on Brandi to fulfill his every wish as Roger is a record label executive, and could be his ticket to the big time if he keeps him happy.

One of Brandi’s new customer’s Bobby (Luckay), seems to take a much tamer approach. He is dying to see Brandi and when he gets the chance he has her strip, but once that’s done he just lies next to her. He tells her about a story he wrote, that tested a married couple’s self-control on whether they could restrain from sex for a year. Bobby quit college and hasn’t been able to hold down a job for more than a month. He tells Brandi that what he’s really looking for is discipline. He tells Brandi he thinks she’s strong and thinks she can help him be the same way. Most of their encounters are fully clothed with barely even touching, Bobby even often leaving earlier than the time he paid for. Brandi plans on staying emotionally detached, but as things turn even further upside down she finds herself needing someone to help her be strong and make it through. Bobby seems to be the only person who cares enough to do this. Brandi still has to question whether she really knows this guy enough to pack up and go away with him, leaving all of her struggles behind.

The performances were top notch, adding so much realistic emotion and depth. The stand out performance was definitely from Kelly-Ann Tursi as the lead. She brings out the fragility behind her hard exterior. Tursi always carries this overwhelming sadness to her, which is pretty understandable given her character’s situation and how she is degraded. She clearly has limits in what she will do for money, yet still knows how to be resourceful and get by on her own. She had to grow up fast, but she is still a little na├»ve. It’s really heartbreaking given how distant she is and everything she has to go through that the few times that she does trust someone it’s proven to her that she really is on her own. Tursi deals with all of this with great balance, even though she barely cracks a smile or opens herself up at all throughout the film, she still doesn’t overdue her unhappiness. The believability makes it seem all the more real. Just how disturbing Jon Morgan Woodward is as Roger speaks for itself in how good the performance is. He makes himself completely vulnerable and frightening. Especially seeing him in his everyday life as a record executive really makes you think of all of the dirty little secrets people have and reiterates the point of how little we really know people. Joe Luckay also did a pretty good job as the everyday nice guy. He seemed different, interesting, and caring. Yet even us as an audience we don’t know everything about him, leaving him somewhat unknown to us, but seeming as if he has good intentions all the same.

The one thing that I thought could have been improved on was Brandi’s development. I’m not sure if her character really grows are learns that much throughout the course of the film. She is taken advantage of and used, yet she continues to bit a little more trusting than she should be when she has lost nearly everything. I would have liked to get a little more of her past and just more of her thoughts. She never opens up, but this is still understandable given how many people have let her down and most of the time when we see her it’s her job to be detached and professional. Still when she starts to become a little closer to Bobby it would have been nice to see her share a bit more of herself. It really didn’t take anything away from the film, it just seemed like it could have been even more personal if it went that extra step.

One Hour Fantasy Girl is a completely captivating film; both tragic and wise. The direction it seemed to be going would have made for a good film as well, but I’m glad that some things sort of turned around though. Sure it would have been great for someone to have saved Brandi and to have someone help her out rather than her having to degrade herself just to get by. This isn’t the world that is portrayed in One Hour Fantasy Girl though, it’s much more dark, lone, and illusionary than this.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

TCWreviews' Presents: Best of 2000 - 2009!

Someone once asked me what were my favorite movies of the decade, of course this was back in the summer of 1999 and I was in a pre-critique state which meant movies like Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey (1991) and Super Mario Bros. (1993) would have been among the ever so cheesy films that would have come to mind at the time (Remember folks this was before I got my act together and realized just how horrible those films were.) So anyway as we begin this new decade I thought about what that person said all those years ago, and it got me thinking: what are (In my opinion) the best films 2000 to 2009 had to offer to movie buffs of the past, present, and future?

Surely there's a great deal of many films out there worth watching and it would take forever for me to rundown but I won’t bore you half to death writing about every film I thought was worth weatching from the past decade, but instead I will list the top ten films from none other than yours truly, now keep in mind the list is in no way in order from best to least aside from the rating I left beside them, these are the top 10 films I felt were the best the past decade had to offer.

Spider-Man 2 (2004) - 9/10

My Thoughts: Director Sam Raimi wowed me to near death back in 2002 with the release of Spider-Man, and I was so blown away after viewing the film not 1, not 2, or 3, but 4 time in theaters, which is, if you must know a record for me, and after this I could not wait for a proper sequel to follow, and even with my incredibly high expectations for a sequel, Spider-Man 2 surpassed my expectations in more ways than one making this film one of my favorite comic book films of the past decade.

Crash (2005) - 9/10

My Thoughts: Writer/Director Paul Haggis’s film Crash wasn’t really on my must see list when it was realest in the summer of 05 and I almost took a pass on it, but after giving the film viewing I felt compelled to write down my feelings about the film which soon became me first official movie review as an amateur film critic, and now it’s nearing to five years since that day and I still have strong feelings towards this film that will stand the test of time. Why is that you might ask? Well it’s because this film touched me on so many levels that it left me emotionally shocked.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) - 9/10
My Thoughts: I can’t say I’m a fan of director Michel Gondry since I’ve only ever seen one other film of his besides this (Be Kind Rewind (2008)) but Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is one of those films that holds a special place my heart as one of the greatest romance films I’ve seen in years, and the best of this decade. I enjoy watching this film so much that since it’s original realest in 04 I’ve made it an un-official tradition of mine to see it once every year on valentine's day.

Watchmen (2009) - 10/10
My Thoughts: The graphic novel Watchmen is probably one of the greatest pieces of literature to come out of the last 100 years and by none other than the great man himself, Alan Moore. So when talks of a live action movie arose some 20 years ago many thought the production on the film hit a dead end when more than 10 years came and went and nothing happening, many looked at the project as 'the film that would never get made,' but than director Zack Snyder proved everyone wrong when he stepped up and brought Moore’s great work to life, followed by legal problems and court proceedings the film than was nicknamed 'the film that would never be seen.' But with luck and a bout load of money later the film was seen by the world, and all the glory (except for one little bit at the end) that was the graphic novel was on the big screen and very much as enjoyable to watch as it was to read.

The Dark Knight (2008) - 10/10
My Thoughts: In 2005 Christopher Nolan did the impossible, he revived a franchise that was long believed to be dead, and when many argued that there wasn’t any way he could maintain the realism he created in Batman Begins in it’s sequel while toping the storyline, he proved them wrong with The Dark Knight, which is being called the greatest Batman film ever made while being highly rated among the top films ever made in history, and let‘s not forget that this film immortalized actor Heath Ledger‘s career, his performance as the Joker surpassed any performance of the past, and it‘s quite possible that it will be a very long time before anyone will have the drive he maintained and commanded behind the role.

Requiem for a Dream (2000) - 10/10
My Thoughts: Director Darren Aronofsky is known for two things, having considerable long grace periods between movies and making eye opening and thought provoking films, one in particular is none other than his work on Requiem for a Dream, a film that took him to a whole new level as a filmmaker which was a serious mind F***! as well as an eye opener to the chilling world of drug addiction, after his outstanding work on Pi (1998) it gained him a following that soon lead him to making one of the most important films of his career. The film Requiem for a Dream follows the hopes and dreams of four ambitious people, who’s lives are forever shattered when their drug addictions begin spiraling out of control, you feel for them yet cannot help but feel anger towards them for taking such a dark and spiraling bath down the road of no return. This is without a doubt Aronofsky’s greatest achievements as a filmmaker.

WALL·E (2008) - 10/10

My Thoughts: Back in the mid 90’s Pixar’s creative team got together and started a think tank on one fateful day, through their brainstorming of random ideas spawned every single Pixar film ever made from 1995 to 2008, and out of all their ideas, there was one that had yet to be given life, the last piece of their genius work was none other than a little lonely robot named WALL·E, In the summer 2008 WALL·E was given life, and audiences fell in love with the little robot who can only mutters a few words yet his action can speak more loudly than words could ever do justice. Such a beautiful and heartwarming film WALL·E was.

Donnie Darko (2001) - 10/10
My Thoughts: Richard Kelly’s Donnie Darko was a redefining film for everything that’s in the WTF category, because the film’s plot musters up a wide rage of questions that merges science and faith in ways that can’t be explained in just one viewing, and the fact this film has both Jake Gyllenhaal and Maggie Gyllenhaal, two real life siblings playing brother and sister in the film is a priceless moment in cinema. Overall, Donnie Darko is one of those rare films that you learn a little more from everytime you watch it.

Avatar (2009) - 10/10
My Thoughts: I was never a hardcore fan of director James Cameron, I truly thought that with a total of 12 years of being absent from the movie scene he’d lost his edge that made him the monumental director of the 80’s and 90’s, ro so some claim, but of course I was wrong, and left shocked with emotion over the shear awesomeness that was Avatar, he created a unique and original world from the ground up filled with so much life for his viewers to experience, and the film contains a very important message for moviegoers everywhere to learn. After viewing Avatar I no longer doubt Cameron’s work as a filmmaker.

American Psycho (2000) - 10/10
My Thoughts: American Psycho was one of the most interesting and engaging films for me in the past decade, meanly because it wasn’t your typical ‘serial killer’ movie and played out as a Psychological thriller that had a twist at the end that left me saying WTF! Plus one cannot deny the film had one of the best kill scenes of the decade, which involved the film’s leading character, Patrick Bateman (Bale) explaining to his co-worker Paul Allen (Leto) his love for 80’s music and the band ‘Genesis’ and why singer Phil Collins stood out, right before he hacks’em to death with an axe! I mean the scene couldn’t have been executed better, plus the fact the film blurs the line between delusion and reality for the viewer keeping most wondering what just happened is indeed priceless!

Honorable Mention:
Below are the films that didn’t make the cut but are still worthy of being mention.

Girlfight (2000) - 9/10
Letters from Iwo Jima (2006) - 9/10
The Pianist (2002) - 9/10
Brokeback Mountain (2005) - 9/10
There Will Be Blood (2007) - 9/10
The Wrestler (2008) - 9/10
Slumdog Millionaire (2008) - 9/10
Up (2009) - 9/10
300 (2006) - 9/10
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001 - 2003) - 9/10