Saturday, December 29, 2007

New Movie Review: "Juno"

Juno is the indie take on the subject that the mainstream comedy Knocked Up tackled over the summer: an unplanned pregnancy. While Knocked Up looked at from the standpoint of up and coming career woman and a slob, Juno rolls back the years and has a 16 year old and her crush/one-night fling getting preggers. And while the couple in Knocked Up decide to keep the baby, Juno (and Juno) takes a slightly different path, with the baby being put up for adoption.

The other main difference between the two movies is how the plot is framed. In Knocked Up, the movie focuses on both parents, played by Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigl. There is also much supporting work done by the characters played by Leslie Mann and Paul Rudd. Juno. however, is singlely focused on Ellen Page and Juno, surprisingly. Yes, Michael Cera plays the crush, Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner the adoptive parents, and even J. Jonah Jameson, aka J.K. Simmons, is around as Juno's dad, but they seem like secondary characters to Juno. It was actually quite surprising to look back and see how little screen time a central character like Michael Cera's Bleaker gets. Now, it might be because of the running time of the movie (90) minutes, but the focus is squarely on Juno. The characters that probably get the most screen time are Simmons' and Allison Janney (CJ from The West Wing) as Juno's step-mom. Again, this is surprising as promos make it seem like Cera, Bateman, and Garner play larger roles.

The actors and actresses, in however long their appearance is, do a fine job though. As an indie film, there isn't a lot of outrageous stretching to do. Garner and Bateman do a fine job working with their desperate parents-to-be, each working with a different kind of desperation. Michael Cera doesn't get many lines, but his typical awkwardness and "realness" come through. Simmons and Janney play their roles well, as you can see that they love Juno, but aren't portrayed in the typical Hollywood way of a teenager's parent. They aren't loud, at times they are fed up and frustrated with Juno, yell at her, yet still support her. Of course, Ellen Page as Juno is the standout. The way she just bites back at everyone around her, is the typical outcast at ther school, yet isn't that out there rings likable, if not 100% true. You can tell that Page is totally immersed in her character, even if Page herself wasn't pregnant!

Juno is the rare movie where all the people on screen, I wanted to see. I am a fan of the entire main cast, in not only that I liked the characters they have played in the past, but the person themselves. It was a real motivation to see this movie. I can be a fan of an actor, but still not want to see a movie they are in. However, since Juno had a lot of those types of actors/actresses in it, I had a ton of goodwill towards the movie. I loved Cera and Bateman in Arrested Development (and I was hoping for a scene with them together, but alas, I knew that wasn't gonig to happen going in). I loved Garner in Alias. Simmons was in the Spidey movies as I mentioned before and I enjoyed Janney's portrayal of CJ from TWW. Collectively, I was sold.

And the person behind the camera motivated me too. Jason Reitman, son of Ivan, previously directed Thank You For Smoking which was a whip-smart film. Although not as frantic as that film, Reitman deftly navigates the world of Juno. Indie films are sometimes hard to watch, as they try to be pretentious or artsy, but Reitman never goes down that route.

To top it all off, Juno was written by first time screenwriter Diablo Cody. I read an interview with her in Entertainment Weekly, and boy, is she unique, in a fun way. Obviously, Diablo Cody isn't her real name and she has an interesting story to tell about how she chose it. But reading that interview and then seeing the movie, I can definitely see her worldview: slightly cynical, but in the end, warm, in an offbeat sorta way.

Juno is a definite must see in some form of media (in the theaters, on DVD, on cable) for those who love quirky films. It isn't anything ground breaking or award winning, but it is charming in its own way.

4 Hamburger Phones out of 5.

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Thursday, December 27, 2007

I'm Still Alive!

Well, my computer decided to take a vacation and it only recently returned to me, after I had to bribe it with a new video card. As such, I haven't updated in a while. I have seen some new movies, including Alvin and The Chipmunks. That was a good movie for what it is: a movie aimed squarely at kids. It was slightly better than that other kiddie movie starring Jason Lee that I saw, Underdog.

So what's coming up? Well, with the Writers' Strike still continuing, not much on TV. Lost is coming back on January 31st (yay!) and I am going through Season 3 on DVD. As much as I did love the first 8 episodes that many cried foul against, I am itching to get to the back 16 and really ramp up the mythology. I am also watching Scrubs, Season 1 on DVD through Netflix.

On the movie front, I plan to see Juno this weekend, with the mini-Arrested Development reunion of Michael Cera and Jason Bateman. Also will see National Treasure: Book of Secrets on New Year's Eve Day and Walk Hard sometime soon. Of course, Cloverfield is coming up on the 18th of January, which will probably be the first horror movie I see in theaters since The Blair Witch Project, ironically.

So, in conclusion, I am not dead.