SLEEPWALK WITH ME (2012)

September 11, 2012

 Greetings again from the darkness. Today, Mike Birbiglia is a very funny and talented stand-up comedian (check youtube). The movie is based on his real life struggles as a boyfriend/won’t-be-husband and young bartender/comedian. The efforts of the comedian honing his craft are much more interesting than watching just another guy who can’t commit, but the film does a nice job of blending the two story lines so that it’s a bit more relatable.

Mike Birbiglia portrays Matt Pandamiglio. Say that ten times every morning and your verbal dexterity will skyrocket. Matt is in a relationship with Abby (Lauren Ambrose) and he admittedly is not ready to commit to this wonderful woman whom he clearly doesn’t deserve. We learn this as he speaks directly to the audience while driving. While Abby drops hints, she remains true and loyal and patient.

Some of the funniest scenes involve Matt’s parents, played by Carol Kane and James Rebhorn. Kane just wants her son to be happy (and married to Abby), while grumpy Rebhorn just wants his son to grow up. As Matt and Abby live together and the stress of pending marriage, failing career and adulthood bear down on him, Matt begins to suffer from sleepwalking. It’s kind of funny at first, but quickly turns dangerous. A small time gig becomes Matt’s break and he ends up hitting the road for an endless stream of minor gigs at clubs and colleges. It’s here that he stumbles on comedy gold … his relationship.

 The stand-up style is awkward and clumsy, yet funny … unless you are Abby. I got a bit frustrated at how little Lauren Ambrose was given to do as the lead actress (and a very talented one), but this is mostly an autobiographical presentation of Birbiglia’s real life path. It was interesting to see the group of real comedians give us a peek into the close-knit community of touring comedians. Even Kristen Schaal (Fllight of the Conchords) makes a brief appearance, as does Loudon Wainwright III.

This is an unorthodox movie that still works thanks mostly to the talents of Mike Birbiglia. He was also assisted by co-director Seth Barrish and co-writers Joe Birbiglia (his brother) and Ira Glass from “The American Life”. If you enjoy stand up comedy, you will probably find this Sundance award winner entertaining and interesting.

SEE THIS MOVIE IF: a glimpse into the struggles of an up-and-coming stand-up comedian strikes your fancy OR you are familiar with Mike Birbiglia’s fine work

SKIP THIS MOVIE IF: you have had your fill of fear of commitment stories

watch the trailer:

 

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REAL STEEL

October 9, 2011

 Greetings again from the darkness. Director Shawn Levy brought us the Night at the Museum Movies and I guess that’s about the same audience he is after with this one. Most will compare this to Rocky, and the similarities are obvioius, but the film this most reminds me of is Dreamer with Kurt Russell and Dakota Fanning – A spunky kid trying to prove everyone wrong in an against all odds competition. But while this one is entertaining enough, I would not put it at the level of either of those movies, which both had better performances and a much better script.

 Hugh Jackman is Charlie, a pompous, bombastic, self-centered hustler who tries to stay one step ahead of the collectors chasing him. He is always looking for a big score in the robot boxing game. What? You aren’t familiar with this sport? Well the film is set in not-too-distant-future, but the only thing I could tell had evolved was the technology of robots and cell phones. Jackman’s world gets jacked up when his 11 year old son (Dakota Goyo) is thrust into his life after the mother dies. Yes, he has been an absentee father and the kid is ridiculously smart and cute.

The two of them set off to make noise in the robot fight world with a dilapidated old model that they rescue from the junk yard in a driving rain storm. There are very few surprises along the way, but father and son develop a bond thanks to the success of their robot, and said robot is not the only one who gets “rescued”.

 Supporting work is provided by Evangeline Lilly, Anthony Mackie, Kevin Durand, Hope Davis and James Rebhorn. These are all competent actors who deliver fine work, but there is nothing special to the script. The one thing that makes this one a little different and will certainly appeal to 10-12 year old boys, is the fighting robots. The fights are action-packed and enjoyable/exciting to watch. They actually look like boxing matches … only with metal creatures, who for some reason are built to mimic human movement.

There have been countless other robot movies: Transformers, Bicentennial Man (Robin Williams), I Robot (Will Smith) and, of course, Lost in Space! Don’t expect much more from this than those offered, but it is a simple fun ride, especially for the pre-teen who enjoys any type of frenetic clash.

SEE THIS MOVIE IF: you are always looking for a movie that you and your 11 year old can see together

SKIP THIS MOVIE IF: you prefer to miss Hugh Jackman in hyper-over-acting mode.

watch the trailer (and get a feel for the robot fighting):