While You Were Sleeping

Score = C

While You Were Sleeping (1995)

(Romantic Comedy/ PG)

Review by: Kisho Wolfe

Logline:  Saving someone’s life may just be the ticket for your own.

Many times in life we often wish we were somewhere other than our present location or circumstance.  For Lucy Moderatz, the place is Paris, and the circumstance is having a family.  Lucy (Sandra Bullock) is likable, a model employee at Chicago Transit Authority and an all around good person.  So why is she still single? Well, there is this one guy she’s supposed to marry– if only she knew his name.

Every day Lucy sits in her booth, collecting tokens from passengers to ride the train; and every day she’s smitten by a handsome, rich commuter who barely glances at her while dropping in his token.  One day, fate intervenes when she’s coerced into working yet another Christmas holiday.  On this supposedly joyous day, her dream guy happens to be traveling and actually speaks in passing.  She freezes up in the exchange and, while kicking herself for being so “smooth,” witnesses a couple of guys attempting to mug her prince charming.  She sees the muggers push him onto the train tracks and roles are reversed as she throws herself into harm’s way to rescue the unconscious stranger from an oncoming train.

The plot turns up a notch when she meets the stranger’s large family at the hospital and somewhere along the line is mistaken for his fiancé.  Peter (Peter Gallagher)–the stranger– is in a coma and is really in no position to object to this new engagement while Lucy finds herself smack in the middle of the large family she’s always desired. But, Lucy is now torn with the moral dilemma of telling the truth to the folks she’s grown so fond of, in addition to sorting out her feelings about Peter’s conscious brother, Jack (Bill Pullman).

This film was made close to two decades ago and though this is my first time viewing it, I still can’t help but love the ambiance of films made in the early to mid-nineties.  The color treatments, the smell of the transit emitting right off of the screen, etc…  Everything back then involved old school technologies and just a smidge of the new digital methods of film making.

It’s always a pleasure to watch movies that capture a certain essence of their settings,  granted, the film did seem to be a bit off the mark by having a stereotypical “Jersey” feel thanks to a handful of characters, including Peter’s mother and grandmother.    The rest of the characters were vanilla in terms of depth, but didn’t completely destroy the enjoyment.  Sandra Bullock carried the weight of the movie, with Peter Boyle (Peter’s father) and the late Jason Bernard pulling in decent supporting contributions to this romantic comedy; and as such, While You Were Sleeping earns a solid C in my book.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

Score = B

Seeking a friend for the end of the world (2012)

(Drama–Comedy-Romance / R)

Review by: Kisho Wolfe

Logline:  What would you do with less than a month to live?

Lorene Scafaria.  Ever heard of that name before?  Me neither.  She is the director and also screenwriter for this off-beat film.  She’s an up and coming triple threat—writer, actress, and singer– out of New Jersey.  Her work spans throughout a bit of television, theater, shorts and DVD releases, but this is her first official commercial outing involving her screenwriting and directorial talents.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is a cynically comedic approach to the inevitable apocalyptic end of our planet; centered on the theme of love.  Dodge (Steve Carrell) is a nice guy with a safe job, in a safe apartment, with a safe wife.  Well, at least until news of the impending asteroid approaching earth seemed to “wake up” his wife, causing her to haul ass and never be seen again.   Dodge is a tad distraught about his wife just up and leaving, especially with only three weeks left before the end of the world.  However; Dodge is a bit of an internalized individual, so not much emotion is displayed about things until he befriends one of his neighbors.  Penny (Keira Knightley) is his neighbor from downstairs, with a “wicked case of hypersomnia,” and has just broken up with her boyfriend, Owen, (Adam Brody) and naturally finds herself crying out on the fire escape of our protagonist.  The two bond for a night and Dodge briefly talks about the one that got away (not the wife) before walking Penny to her door the next day, only to discover she’s had some of his mail for the last three years.  In that pile of mail was a letter from his long-lost love and Penny urges him forward to search for and be with the girl of his dreams during earth’s final days.

This film managed a unique combination of charm and raunchiness in the same breadth.  The charm was a man who sought the love of his life, in addition to the magic that happened with his new best friend.  The raunchy was mankind’s incessant need to go to extremes in the face of danger– whether that need be rioting or having a flat-out orgy at your friendly neighborhood restaurant—it tends to speak volumes at what most are really thinking behind that society-masked filter.  Everything moved along at a decent pace in addition to the actors’ performances capturing the essence of their characters.  Of course, can you really go wrong with Keira Knightly and Adam Brody (even though he was only in the movie for about five minutes) in your roster?  I think not!

Although the movie was not a box office smash, (most likely due to the lack of marketing) this film was a pretty decent ride from Ms. Scafaria. On the flip side, I would have liked to have seen more of Penny’s back-story in the movie.  Aside from meeting up with one of her old flames, Speck, (Derek Luke) her character felt a bit skeletal in terms of content.   Overall, I give Seeking a Friend for the End of the World a solid B for its comedic presence and the over arching theme of love conquering all… even a giant asteroid named Matilda.

Moonrise Kingdom

Score = B-

Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

(Drama–Comedy-Romance / PG-13)

Review by: Kisho Wolfe

Logline:  Romance of the adolescent kind.

Set in the summer of 1965, Moonrise Kingdom is a story of two dissimilarly troubled youths who throw caution to the wind and travel up a coast in New England with only the “bare essentials.”  A handful of well-known talent is present in this film; Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Frances McDormand , Bill Murray, and even Tilda Swinton makes an appearance, as Social Services.  All of them, however, are little more than suggestive adult mandates to the focus and dialogue of the world seen through the eyes of “tweens.”

Suzy (Kara Hayward) is the “yang” to Sam’s (Jared Gilman) “ying” and is branded as a “slightly” disturbed child of sorts.  Her emotions are well under wraps for the most part and are typically only revealed when provoked.  Her parents are lawyers and the family is well off as they live their days in a sizable house/light house near the ocean.  Suzy spends most of her time watching the world through a pair of self-deemed, magical binoculars and reading fiction, which may give cause for her beliefs of the grass being greener on the other side of life.

Sam’s background is almost non-existent.   Other than the fact that he is an orphan and a Khaki Scout, the most interesting thing told about his life is the bit about his foster parents pretty much disowning him.

One day at a church play Suzy is performing in, she encounters the mysterious Sam when he wanders into the actors’ dressing room.  After a brief conversation about her costume, Sam is quickly shooed away when a coordinator enters and urges everyone to the stage.  In an era when texting and cell phones were wishful thinking, Suzy sends out a request for the Khaki Scout to write her and they become pen pals.  After a while it’s clear that both are unhappy with their current circumstances so they decide to “fly the coop” into the unknown together.  While Sam’s Khaki Scout skills are the saving grace of the young lovers, the film does well to avoid the illusion of twelve-year-old children having in-depth knowledge the likes of  grown adults.  Though there are a few key shots thrown in to make things interesting.

Moonrise Kingdom  is a film chock full of camera tricks of yester-year in the form of quick cuts, stiff zooms and at times comical lip syncing; all of which we can only hope were purposely done to compliment the mid-sixties atmosphere.  While the film felt aged as it was most likely intended, the long pauses throughout the film felt forced and seemed to negatively pull me back out of the film world, impatiently wishing they would get on with the next scene.  For the most part, the movie entertained at enough intervals to make it “OK” that I spent six bucks to view it, but not enough to make me ecstatic about it.