Ultimate 2000s Blogathon: Juno (2007) by From the Depths of DVD Hell

The guest to join this Ultimate 2000s Blogathon is Elwood Jones, my co-host of Movies and Tea and Game Warp Podcast as he represents his own movie blog, From the Depths of DVD Hell. For reviews of movies that stray away from the mainstream and dive into the obscure, cult and foreign selections, this is the place to go! For this blogathon, he chooses to take a look at 2007’s indie coming of age teen comedy Juno.


juno

Title: Juno

Director: Jason Reitman

Released: 2007

Starring: Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman, Allison Janney, J.K. Simmons

Plot: After finding out she is pregnant, high school teen Juno (Page) she soon finds herself face with some tough choices of what to do about her unborn child.

Review: Having been brought to the attention of producer Mason Novick after he discovered her blog about stripping Diablo Cody was almost instantly a hot property first for her memoir Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper and unquestionably when she claimed the Best Screenplay Oscar for her debut script. Of course like anything which is a hot property on it’s release there is always the question as to if they still hold up down the line which in particular was what inspired my own re-watch of this film having watched it when it on its original release but hardly thought about it since while Cody despite being marked as an exciting new voice has struggled to create anything which comes close to her debut script.

Juno is the blueprint of the smart-mouthed hipster teen which Director Jason Reitman wastes little time in establishing as she trades barbs with Rainn Wilson’s sarcastic convenience store clerk, after walking through her town swigging Sunny Delight to Barry Louis Polisar’s “All I Want is You”. Even her pregnancy announcement to best friend / Crush Paulie (Cera) has her dragging a furniture set to his lawn only to drop it on him with such casualness that she might as well be making diner plans. At the same time she is unquestionably the sort of character who only exists in the fictional realm with his smart mouth and retro obsessions and certainly with the numerous smart mouth teens which followed in the films wake, as well as a string of teen pregnancies labelled “The Juno Effect” by Time magazine after 17 students at a Gloucester, Massachusetts high school became pregnant which many accused this film and Knocked Up released in the same year of glamorizing teenage pregnancy though how the later could be accused of such a thing is unclear, more so because none of the cast are close to high school age. What makes Juno stand out though is unquestionably Ellen Page who’d prior to this film already caused waves for her pedophile punishing antics in Hard Candy and here really made the character her own as she influenced many of the key details for the character such as her hair as well as the soundtrack being heavy on Kimya Dawson as she felt that this is what Juno would choose to listen to.

Soundtrack wise there’s a mixture of hipster folk from the aforementioned Kimya Dawson and her old band the Mouldy Peaches and a couple of Belle and Sebastian tracks mixed in with a some retro tracks from Mott the Hoople and a Sonic Youth cover of the Carpenters “Superstar” which became one of the selling points of the soundtrack. Largely its just background music which never seems to gel with the film as more often battles for your attention with what’s happening on the screen rather than complementing it. Removed from the film its a fun background music for hangouts, hinging largely on how much you like the abstract tones of Kimya Dawson.

One of the most refreshing aspects to the film though is is how it approaches the subject of teenage pregnancy as Juno is clear from the start that she has no plans to keep the baby with a sobering visit to a Women first clinic broaching a taboo subject which most films wouldn’t touch. Sure the film might not be venturing as deep as Tony Kaye’s “Lake of Fire” but it’s acknowledgement of abortion gives the film much more of a grounding that you would have expected from a film so focused on whitty pop culture influence dialogue. This visit in terms of plotting does serve a purpose as ultimately leading her to Mark and Vanessa to arrange a closed adoption which also forms the real meat of the film as starts to learn more about this couple she is going to be giving her child to.

Seeing this couple develop like our opinions of them over the course of the film is one of the strongest aspects of the film with Vanessa initially coming off the cold only to showing deeper levels of warmth to her character especially with her desire to become a mother. Mark on the other hand still clings onto few traces of rock star ambition that Vanessa allows him to keep in “his room” of their pristine house while he now pays the bills writing jingles for commercials which needless to say plays his character perfectly off Vanessa’s who is seen as the dream crusher initially with Juno and Mark soon bonding over a love of music and horror movies. By the time that Juno is due to deliver this relationship soon takes a darker turn reminding us once more just how well Bateman does suburban creepy while Cody pulls a switch-a-roo with our feelings for these characters the final pay off being delivered not in some stirring monologue but instead a simple note.

Perhaps it could be argued that the film does let Juno off attachment free when it comes to her baby as she is merely just the carrier and host to this child and any comment she really makes about the child is in how its effecting her physically than any kind of connection. As a result she give away her child and settles back into her life nine months prior to this incident now only with the knowledge that she has unconventionally helped someone out.

Juno in many ways marked the high watermark for the American Indie genre before the collapse of several of the major studios which soon saw the remaining studios move away from investing in such risky material which is something of a shame when we consider the wealth of material which came out of this period such as Little Miss Sunshine and The Squid and The Whale. At the same time while this film might not feel as hip on the rewatch as it did back on it’s original release a strong likeable performance from Ellen Page carries the film which at the least should be appreciated for it’s fierce originality as it sidesteps genre cliches to deliver it’s story in a voice which is very much its own.


A huge thanks to our final guest Elwood Jones for joining with this blogathon with a great review of Juno.

We head into me and Drew’s conclusion posts after this one. If you missed any entries, you can find the entire list HERE.

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Double Feature: Colossal (2016) & Flatliners (2017)

Time for a little non-Valentine’s Day double feature. Its been a little bit of an overloaded day. But I’m falling behind and really want to catch up. We can all take a little break from the marathon and on lovey-dovey films for a while. Plus, Colossal and Flatliners have been sitting for a week or two in my queue and I really wanted to get it out of the way. I am slowly also catching up with 2017 movies whenever they are available. Colossal is on Netflix so let’s check these two out!

Colossal (2016)

colossal

Director (and writer): Nacho Vigalondo

Cast: Anne Hathaway, Jason Sudeikis, Dan Stevens, Austin Stowell, Tim Blake Nelson

Gloria is an out-of-work party girl forced to leave her life in New York City and move back home. When reports surface that a giant creature is destroying Seoul, she gradually comes to the realization that she is somehow connected to this phenomenon. – IMDB

I heard so many great things about Colossal before I sat down to watch it and still didn’t really know what it was all about. However, I’m a fan of Anne Hathaway and it looked pretty fun so here we are. Nacho Vigalondo is an odd director to say the least. He writes these scripts that go in one direction and then take a sudden change in direction, particularly in tone, super fast. I felt that way about Open Windows (review) and I feel that way about Colossal. However, Colossal is an pretty incredible movie. As I think about it more, the more I feel that this movie was done so well. In the beginning, Anne Hathaway’s Gloria is somewhat of a wreck and she meets Oscar, played by Jason Sudeikis back in her hometown and they become friends along with a few of his buddies. Everything is fine and dandy as they get her settled in as she tries to rekindle her romance with Tim (Dan Stevens) to prove that she’s taking control of her own life. At the same time, they soon realize that there is a monster terrorizing Seoul and its one that has returned after many years before which she soon learns is linked to her.

Colossal relies a lot on surprising its audience with the unknown factors and taking it those twists it shows. As crazy as the ideas here are, it works really well together. The tone shift works to the advantage of the film. The main cast is truly focused on Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis and boy, do they deliver in spades. That is probably the best part of the film as we watch these two characters develop as the story unfolds. Its truly quite awesome! The uniqueness of the story and the elements it puts together is just pure fun.

Flatliners (2017)

flatliners

Director: Niels Arden Oplev

Cast: Ellen Page, Diego Luna, Nina Dobrev, James Norton, Kiersey Clemons, Kiefer Sutherland

Five medical students, obsessed by what lies beyond the confines of life, embark on a daring experiment: by stopping their hearts for short periods, each triggers a near-death experience – giving them a firsthand account of the afterlife. – IMDB

Before I start, I guess its good to note that I haven’t seen the original yet therefore I have no comparison to how this remake or reboot or whatever you call it, is. With that said, Flatliners is one of those movies that makes you feel a little let down. On one hand, I’m pretty happy with the cast themselves. Ellen Page and Diego Luna should be a seller already. Add in some TV stardom from Nina Dobrev who is slowly moving into more films in 2017 with XXX: The Return of Xander Cage early in the year and some other films here and there before that, she just seems to need the right movie to show off that she’s more than Elena from The Vampire Diaries. The idea and concept behind Flatliners is a really neat idea. The idea of encountering death and facing something that shouldn’t be crossed as they treaded darker and darker into some kind of limbo as they tested the boundaries. It was all very clever in the beginning. And that is exactly the problem here, the plot dies out so fast. It just starts going downhill because the movie loses its objective and its momentum and seems to fall flat as the cycle of them reviving each other was pushing further to the boundaries but the cycle was always the same over and over again.

Flatliners seems to forget which genre it wants to embrace. On one hand, it has moments of thriller/horror elements but those never last long enough other than jump scares to make it feel very effective. The dark limbo world they go to worked for a while until it was very predictable to see what was going to happen next. The characters also didn’t have much development. Sure, there was a slight understanding of their personal dark secrets but its all very on the surface because the rest of the time when they were dying or reviving each other, they were drowning in their liberated mind drinking and partying with less and less clothes on. If thats what an added knowledge means, then maybe this experimental revelation might be a little wasted on this group of medical students.

I really wanted to like Flatliners and it started out pretty strong. I only wished it had managed to keep that momentum and develop their characters more. In general , it all dials down to their execution. This was quite the disappointing movie unfortunately.

The East (2013)

I watched this some time in between the Valentine’s Marathon.  I always need a mini break between all the lovey-dovey and also to not torture my boyfriend and make him sit those movies.  I’m nice that way. The general goal to watch the movies that I’ve bought but haven’t seen during this year is pretty much still there.  Plus, this is pretty much the second last 2013 movie that I bought and I want to really wrap that up by the end of February as well 🙂 This one has had some rather positive reviews so I looked forward to it!

the east posterDirector: Zal Batmanglij

Cast:Brit Marling, Alexander Skarsgard, Ellen Page, Toby Kebbell, Shiloh Fernandez, Jason Ritter, Patricia Clarkson

An operative for an elite private intelligence firm finds her priorities changing dramatically after she is tasked with infiltrating an anarchist group known for executing covert attacks upon major corporations. –IMDB

IMDB has a good mini synopsis of this one so I’ll just take that.  I’m not even going to attempt to put the movie into my own words because I’ll either spoil it or it’ll make no sense.  Why do I say that? Its not because I’m being lazy.  One thing before we proceed with the actual review is that this is  thriller focused on politics.  I’m not into politics much.  Its not that I don’t understand, I just try to not care as much (except maybe during elections).  Point is, I’m not knowledgeable in this genre.  There could be better and there could be worse than The East but I have very limited comparison. Sounds reasonable? Moving along!

the east brit marling

The East was pretty great. It had some building tension and takes on lots of moral dilemmas as it messed with our main character, Sarah’s, mind.  Although, the only thing was that I figured out part of the ending before we reached it.  Its a well-written story and it targets some big problems where I think in the back of my mind (and probably many others), it brings forth the idea of people standing up for whats right, although in extreme ways, and not being manipulated by big bad wolves – giant heartless corporations that only care for profits.  The whole tone of the movie was pretty strange in a good way and intense.  It provoked a lot of strong feelings as this group, The East, lives in a fairly different and extreme way.  This was pretty  heavy one to watch and I remember having to split it into two nights.  It wasn’t because it was long but just very thought provoking.  Not really fit for a late night movie…

the east 1

One of the main highlights of this one has to be for our main character Sarah, played by Brit Marling.  I saw Brit Marling once before in Another Earth. If you missed that review, you can check it out HERE.  I’m going to start with her because I really love the cast in this.  So, our main character is the one that is tugged in both directions as she tries to survive this undercover mission while having to make the right decision and choice that would not make her feel morally compromised.  Its a lot about morals and ethics of both The East and the big corporations that are targeted. Brit Marling did a fantastic job in portraying the development of her character.

the east scene

Aside from her, we have out male lead Alexander Skarsgard.  Yes, the very handsome Eric in True Blood for those who don’t know. I’ve never seen him in anything outside of True Blood so I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. He played the leader of The East called Benji.  Seriously, I’m not sure about his acting or if there was quite that much. It was a very quiet communication on his part and right away, you know that Benji was a character with something more.  Along with him is one of my favorite young actresses, Ellen Page.  Obviously, this is somewhere far from Juno and less intense and psychotic than Hard Candy but I have to say that she’s represents her character Izzy.  Izzy has a “jam” (what they call their operations) that has more personal value to her and right off the bat, you know that she’s dedicated and protective.  She wants things to work out perfectly and because of her lack of trust, it causes some conflicts as well.

the east alex skarsgard

I don’t know what else to say about this one.  Both my boyfriend and I enjoyed it.  It was intense, heavy and targeted some pretty relevant issues actually.  Its an exploration of what is doing the right thing, how extreme it could get and learning how to not morally compromise the situation and finding that balance.  There’s a lot of things that is in this but despite the slightly slow beginning, it picks up to be something quite good.  There is an unnecessary part of the story that I figured would happen but it wasn’t particularly needed but most stories like to add that emotional factor in.  Yes, its worth your time and yes, its good watch.  Don’t do this when your brain is fried because it will get your head moving.  But, I don’t know, who actually watches thrillers when they are tired?

I’m rambling but what I’m saying is that this is pretty good and I do recommend it 🙂

Have you seen The East? Any thoughts? 

Halloween Marathon: Hard Candy (2005)

Hard Candy is one of those thriller flicks that I’ve been meaning to watch.  I was going to a few weeks ago on Netflix and then there were sound problems that never got resolved (I checked back a few times).  So, after my review on The Loved Ones (click HERE if you haven’t read it) invoked this huge comment from Gary at With a Friend Like Gary, he told me that one that is done a whole lot better is Hard Candy.  With that said, I ran out and found a copy of it over the weekend and finally popped it in my laptop the night before and finished it yesterday evening.  Lets check it out!

hard candy posterDirector: David Slade

Cast: Ellen Page, Patrick Wilson, Sandra Oh

After weeks of chat, a 14 year old teenager Hayley (Ellen Page) agrees to meet Jeff Patrick Wilson), a photographer in his 30s for coffee.  Coffee turns into a visit to Jeff’s place which spirals out of control.  Soon, Hayley is in control of the situation as tries to make Jeff admit to her suspicions of him being a pedophile and connected to the recent disappearance of a young girl with in her own way.

**I’m not sure how many people have seen this even though its been released since 2005. However, just in case, I tried to keep the synopsis as spoiler free as possible.  I don’t know how to do better than that.  However, if you do intend to see this, I suggest you just skip the reviews and watch it with a clear mind.  You’ll enjoy it even more, I promise! Plus, its a spoiler alert in case my write up actually reveals more than you want to know.**

Hard Candy

Hard Candy is one of those psychological thrillers that makes the audience finish and still be thinking and it just lingers for a while in our thoughts.  It soaks in a little and then I just went WOW! Its a controversial movie but thats also what makes it thought provoking.  I don’t do it often, but I turned on the special features and started listening to the mindset behind the writer, producer and director.  Hard Candy is engrossing and at various parts, hits a disturbing messed up level but in this quiet crazy way.

hard candy ellen page 2

There is just so much great to talk about in this movie.  The cast was perfect.  I personally love Ellen Page a lot.  I loved her as Juno and after seeing this, I’m convinced that she can do any role.  Hayley is the character that subconsciously and eventually consciously controls the situation. As much as the dialogue was very well-written, it was enhanced by the close up shots that brought out their emotions during silence.  They acted with their body language and emoted with their eyes.  The tone of the voice depending on the context and it was a lot of between the lines even as Hayley was talking to Jeff.

hard candy patrick wilson

Now, talking about Patrick Wilson as Jeff, is actually pretty impressive.  I’m sure if I saw it in 2005 when his only previous role was Phantom of the Opera as the dull and boring Raoul, this would’ve been even more impressive.  Jeff is also a really tough role to play because as much as the roles seem clear between Hayley and Jeff, there are moments where they aren’t and thats when Patrick Wilson has to do a Jeff that at times, the audience will sympathize for him but at other times, wonder if there is that possibility that he is a child predator.

hard candy ellen patrick

Aside from amazing performances, I’d have to say that I really liked the use of silence and sound. Its the little details that the director paid attention to that brings out the suspense even more.  The colors and lighting that they use also creates a good atmosphere.  There was a really good balance in everything.  However, there was one thing that bothered me a little in the beginning and that was the camera shots.  I understood eventually it was probably to enhance the feeling of chaos as to move it uncontrollably at times when there was conflict but the first time that happened, it was a bit dizzy to look at.

I can talk all day about how great the movie is but if you haven’t seen it, its really awesome! Ellen Page and Patrick Wilson are amazing as the lead characters.  The story is well-written and the dialogue draws you in.  The suspense grows as you watch every minute as you start wondering who to trust, if this is right or wrong, and at times, it hits the mentally disturbing part.  Its a thought provoking thriller and you’ll probably spend some time digesting the content as I am while I’m writing this up.  Still, Hard Candy is an amazing movie and I urge each of you to watch it if you haven’t already.

I’d also like to send out a huge thanks to Gary for giving me the final push to see Hard Candy! Head on over to check out his blog.  I put the link on the top with his name 🙂