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May Robinson [userpic]

My Ten Inch Hero Review

April 13th, 2008 (06:53 pm)
cheerful

where i am: upstairs, hanging with Kismet
how i am: cheerful
accompanied by: Jensen & Jason, the CD

Well, as I mentioned in my Friday night EyeCon recap, I truly enjoyed this movie.  It's not an Oscar frontrunner by any means but it's definitely light years away from being a dud.  In fact Ten Inch Hero (TIH) is a movie that I definitely want to see again and, if the following statement is any indicator of how much I liked it, let me say that I do hope that the hubby will be able to get the opportunity to watch it with me someday also.
 
Sure it leans toward being a chick-flick but, with extremely solid characterizations within a well cast ensemble; two strong, appealing male "leads"; plenty of laughs; an excellent soundtrack and; Danneel Harris providing much in the way of eye candy, this is a movie that guys should enjoy too.
 
Most of you probably already know that the film revolves around the lives of the staff working in a submarine sandwich shop in southern California, specifically Santa Cruz.  I mention the locale here though because it really does play a huge part in this movie and is practically a character unto itself.  Though an extremely low budget independent film (at the Q&A, either director David Mackay or producer Mark Witsken quoted a cost of less than $5M), the cinematography is impressive, even outright gorgeous in its portrayal of both the landscapes and the waterscapes of the California coastline. 
 
And Mackay and cinematographer Gordon Verheul definitely know how to showcase their actors too.  The lighting always looks natural and very much real and yet I was amazed at times at just how well these actors were lit, sometimes giving them an almost ethereal beauty (when the scene called for it).  I know "ethereal" and "real" shouldn't really be used in the same sentence but I can only best explain it by saying that the lighting looked real, even when the characters were intentionally – and effectively – being presented in a different/special light.  This was frequently the case in the scenes where "Zo" (played by the lovely and elegant Alice Krige) came on screen and also in a few of Jensen's later scenes.  I'll drool talk about those and "Priestly" later.
 
Now, on to the cast.  According to Mackay, *every* actor cast was asked to read for their part.  He had no intention of hiring anyone based on their name or resume alone and, since chemistry was so important for this ensemble piece, they did do readings together.  As an ensemble, I really do feel they were cast very well.  You could feel the affection these characters had for each other and that was extremely important from the get go and then especially as the storylines progressed.  I'm going to write individually about what I would refer to as the 7 main actors in the movie, five of which work in the sub-shop. Before I do so though, I wanted to briefly touch on the supporting cast, all of whom I feel did a good job and were well cast…
 
"Tish's" boy toys were not only easy on the eyes but also had sufficient acting chops for us to care about them, be it in the like or dislike departments.  The sandwich shop patrons were all unique individuals and had memorable moments on screen.  They were definitely not there simply as window dressing/extras.  Consideration was also clearly taken in casting the "dudes" in Priestly's infamous "errand run" scene and even in choosing the extras for the girls' bar reconnaissance scene.  
 
And then we come to little Adair Tishler who plays 8 year old "Julia".  As child actors go, I thought she did a fine job and kudos to screenwriter Betsy Morris for resisting against writing her as unbelievably precocious as we often see in Hollywood films.  Oh, she was certainly precocious but not in as heavy handed a way as we often see in even the best big-budget films. The little lady is getting a lot of work (Heroes, anyone?) and, though I won't exactly rave about her brilliance, I can certainly see why she has a steady and building resume.
 
Now on to the seven. First up are TV and film veterans Alice Krige and Sean Patrick Flanery, probably two of the better known actors in the cast.  Ms. Krige was cast perfectly as "Zo".  She has a wonderful warm grace about her that fits the character to a "T" and her look works so very well for the role of this ex-(still?)hippy-come-new age spiritual shop owner.  Despite perhaps being best known (along with Jensen's Still Life mom, Susanna Thompson) as Star Trek's Borg Queen, as "Zo" this regal Shakespearean stage actress truly captures the eccentricity of the character without creeping us out at all the way the Borg Queen did.  Uh… or so I'm told she did ;). What I loved best about her performance is that there was an underlying sense of humor she brought to this quirky character along with, as was hinted at by the twinkle in her eye, a sense that something else was going on underneath that only she knew about.
 
I loved Sean Patrick Flanery in Powder but I confess I can't really say I know much of his other work.  Still looking mighty fine after all these years though, as "Noah" he brought a weary, somewhat haggard, yet warm depth to his role. He did a wonderful job playing "Julia's" doting single father, with charm and wit and it felt as though there was a true bond between father and his young daughter. During the Q&A, Mackay mentioned an adlibbed action on Flanery's part as he made his way back to "Julia" during a beach scene. It was a cute, goofy moment which I think definitely helped endear him to the audience so it was quite fun to hear that it was of his own making. I confess, as the movie went on, I would have preferred to see more chemistry between his character and that of "Piper" but, since TIH revolves around a number of characters, this certainly wasn't a huge drawback toward my enjoyment of it.
 
Now, on to "The Beach City Grill" and its boss and four employees. I just adored the character of "Trucker" – surfer child of the 60's and so much more. As the owner of the sandwich shop, "Trucker" is the surrogate dad to the twenty-somethings he employs… only cooler and therefore more fun. Though a veteran of more than 40 movies, John Doe is the kind of character actor who melds so much into his characters, that his stage name is a perfect choice for a man probably better known as that guy from Boogie Nights/Roswell/Carnivale/etc.  But as "Trucker", he really shines, particularly in his scenes with Alice Krige where he adds a layer of vulnerable to a fun and interesting role, and with Clea DuVall where paternal and protective best describe him. Doe does a superb job in this role and, because of this, the next time I see him, I definitely won't forget his name.
 
As "Jen" Clea DuVall puts in a heart-warming performance. I'm not familiar enough with Carnivale to know whether or not she had many (any?) scenes with John Doe but they certainly had a lovely working chemistry together here in TIH. "Jen" is a sweet and sympathetic character, though in lesser hands, could have come off as unappealingly pathetic. In Clea's hands, we definitely like and root for "Jen".  With a resume that includes not only Carnivale but 21 Grams and Girl, Interrupted, Clea's desire to work on TIH, I feel, is in and of itself an endorsement of Betsy Morris' script and the movie itself. The role of "Jen" gets one of the biggest laughs amongst all the girls plus pulls major heartstrings so it's no wonder Clea wanted the role. And as one would expect of her, she did a helluva good job.
 
The character of "Tish" is the polar opposite of "Jen" and Danneel Harris does an admirable job at turning an egotistical nymphomaniac into a character we actually care about.  No question, Danneel is a knockout and, having seen her in real life while in Fort Worth for Jensen's work in A Few Good Men, I can attest that she's as gorgeous in person – if tinier – as she is on screen. I'd never seen her act before but for a brief scene in One Tree Hill (yep, I was specifically checking out Jensen's girlfriend) and, to be honest, I wasn't expecting brilliance from her in TIH. And though she isn't in the league of Alice Krige yet, I really thought she did a fine job as "Tish". Better actually than I had expected. 
 
One of the main elements that makes TIH work is the chemistry between the three young actresses and, according to David Mackay, Danneel has much to do with this. At the Q&A, he spoke very highly of Danneel as a real trooper, driving "Trucker's" bus in real life along the Cali coast while traveling and actually camping out while filming those scenes. As some of you know, those old VW buses are a bitch to handle and Danneel hadn't driven a standard transmission before so kudos to her for taking on the role of driver and looking so comfortable doing it while on screen. Mackay also spoke very respectfully of her with regard to "Tish's" sex scenes (she does play a nympho after all) and Danneel literally throwing herself into them and even breaking the bed *LOL*.
 
The role of "Piper" was apparently much sought after when the script first started making the rounds amongst young Hollywood and the likes of then up and comers such as Jessica Biel (who shot Stealth instead – oops! – but also chose to help financially back TIH) were after it. Like the role of "Jen", "Piper's" character is sympathetic but could have been over-played, inviting a pity-party. Elizabeth Harnois whose work I'm not familiar with (though, like Matt Barr who plays "Brad", she's yet another alum of One Tree Hill), is a lovely young actress but in a very natural un-made-up way and therefore managed to pull off plain and yet still incredibly attractive on the big screen in TIH. Her performance is subtle and understated, very much what was needed for a role that could've gone wrong in numerous way (from saccharine sappy to manipulative to even creepy, stalkerish). As mentioned above, I wish there had been a stronger chemistry between Flanery and Elizabeth – not sexual tension necessarily, but a bit more of a connection. Still, Elizabeth's "Piper" pulled at our heartstrings and certainly had the audience wishing her a happy ending.
 
Saving undoubtedly the best for last, let's lust talk about Jensen Ackles as "Priestly".  Okay, sure, knowing that I'm a Dean-girl and that seeing this movie was one of the main draws to inspire my first trip to Florida, you might have an argument that I'm a tad biased. Okay, a lot biased. Still, there are tons of gorgeous young actors in Hollywood to fall head over heels for but none of them come even close to his talent to back up those good looks, let alone could motivate me to hop on planes to see them act on stage or in an independent film. Jensen is that good, Russell Crowe good, as some of you have heard/read me say and I can't tell you how much I was looking forward to seeing him in a movie where he wasn't playing a more than capable Alec/Dean type that might possibly blind me by his pretty looks.
 
Like Dean and Alec, "Priestly" is certainly a smart-ass though he tends to let his hilarious t-shirts speak for him. He's quick and witty but, despite the flamboyant mohawks, piercings and make-up, he's more of an average Joe.  He's not a military trained fighter nor a mechanical genius but he is sweet and vulnerable beneath his flashy/cocky surface and, as anyone reading this knows, few can do complex, layered young men better than Jensen Ackles.
 
There's no doubt about it that Jensen stole this movie. Certainly, with "Priestly's" hair, make-up and wardrobe, plus Morris' well-written dialogue, the role is a stand-out anyway. But, in Jensen's subtle and extremely capable hands, he imbues "Priestly" with such heart and humanity, there's no fear of this role coming off as simply comic relief, which certainly could have been the case. Though Jensen was given some great, snappy dialogue, as always, it's what Jensen does with the silences that makes him a stand-out. His highly expressive eyes, particularly thanks to the generous amounts of eye-liner applied to them, just sparkle and dance with levity, conspiracy, sensitivity and hurt. Mackay proudly admits that many of the laughs TIH earns were due to Jensen's adlibbed facial expressions and actions. The director has said he learned to keep the camera rolling at all times when the ensemble were filming, in order to capture these spontaneous gems that Jensen was providing him. Jensen also contributed to the wardrobe choices, including the infamous kilt "Priestly" wears. 
 
Though "Priestly's" laughs are plentiful, it's his heart that melts the audience and when Jensen switches from flip and righteous to hurt and vulnerable, using those expressive eyes and masterful inflections in his voice… damn, he just blows us away. This truly is an actor deserving of a long and highly respected career and I dearly hope that roles, such as this one, come his way that will pull him out of the sci-fi/horror genres soon. His obligations to Supernatural (SPN) don't allow him to accept or audition for parts that would impede on his existing shooting schedule so, what parts he does accept obviously have their limitations. Here's hoping that another part like "Priestly" comes along during the hiatus between SPN seasons 4 and 5. I'm not sure but I think it was during the Paley Festival that Kripke had stated that he had a 7 year plan for the Winchester brothers.  As recently as the L.A. CreationCon he has amended it to a 5 year plan. For the sake of both Jensen and Jared, I'm glad for that. As much as I love them coming into my home via my television set on a weekly basis, the time for them to move on is definitely coming and, for Jensen in particular, I'm anxious to see him take on more challenges, ones I'm positive he'll excel at.
 
Now, before I move on to some general thoughts about TIH, I simply can't resist dipping into the shallow end for a minute or two…
 
Jensen looked just amazing in this movie. I've never had much use for the "punk" look. Tattoos, piercings, mohawks and especially make-up are not a turn-on for me. Still, Jensen's "Priestly" grew on me. A lot. As I've already mentioned, his captivating eyes were even more riveting with the eye-liner there to emphasize them and, due to Jensen's very real and human portrayal, rather than being a distraction, the brightly colored hair, piercings and t-shirts worked perfectly to help endear "Priestly" to us. And as the sub-shop's cook, Jensen's back was to the screen quite frequently and, yeah… give me a moment, would ya?
 
Okay, I'm back now. Where were we?
 
Oh, yeah. As much as I love Dean's leather jacket, what a thrill it was to see Jensen in a t-shirt during almost the entire movie! His back and shoulders are gorgeous. I also referred earlier to the cinematography and specifically to some of Jensen's latter scenes. All I can say is positively stunning. Without giving away spoilers, let's just say the SPN scene captured in the icon I've used here for this entry, pales in comparison when it comes to making Jensen look damn near angelic.
 
So, before you totally discount this review as the ramblings of a Jensen obsessed fangirl, let me move on and address some criticisms I've heard/read leveled against the movie.
 
The movie's predictability: Yup, I don't deny that parts of it were predictable but no more so than many, many movies I've seen in the last few years, particularly every romantic comedy out there. To be honest, I was actually surprised by some of the "reveals" including those related to "Piper's" quest, "Noah's" history, "Trucker's" back-story and, had I not been spoiled for it, I likely would have been surprised by "Priestly's" reveal too. Only "Jen's" and "Tish's" storylines followed the paths I anticipated and, even those provided a few detours I hadn't counted on.   
 
Character clichés and stereo-typing: Hello, has anyone seen Breakfast Club? Stereo-typing in movies is a proven formula and, since I don't believe Betsy Morris or David Mackay actually set out to change the world with this movie, I think they did a more than fine and even refreshing job at using the formula to create a light, feel-good, and heartwarming story using characters that are as comfortable and familiar to us as a favorite blanket or sweater.
 
Note: Potential (inferred?) *Spoiler Warning*
Priestly's reveal: It's difficult to say anything here without giving away a major spoiler so I'll do my best to generalize. I know that some members of the TIH audience were unhappy with the conclusion of "Priestly's" story arc. I can understand their point of view and don't disagree entirely.  However, unlike the Breakfast Club, the kids of the Beach City Grill are older, have already finished high-school and presumably their post-secondary education and have therefore lived a little; been out in the real world for a time. They are on the threshold of choosing to become not just adults but grown ups, in the same way that 3 or 4 years ago my then 26 year old guitar playing, computer geek nephew  decided on his own accord to cut his exceptionally long hair (it came down to his butt).  When asked by my husband why, my nephew said that he'd made a conscious decision to, in his words, "finally grow up".  
 
The kids of TIH are simply doing the same thing.  Jen, Tish and Priestly especially are not changing who they are but rather are accepting and no longer resisting who they're already growing into and are simply embracing this new phase of their lives. They're still young and still evolving so what and who we see at the movie's end isn't set in stone but is an indicator of this change we all go through. Besides, as appealing as they are as "Trucker's" staff, as an audience do we really want to see these kids all working at the sub-shop in even five years time? Change is both natural and inevitable and, what we witnessed, was a brief period in time when four young people became the catalysts for each others natural evolution.
 
Okay, I've gone on and on ad nauseum about this movie, so why hasn't it been picked up by a distributor? Well, it's not perfect by any means and I think needs to be re-edited. It flows quite well but frankly I think its likelihood of obtaining an "R" rating is largely what is holding it back. The nudity, though not at all gratuitous, takes place during some fairly intense/graphic scenes and they are somewhat jarring. Director Mackay admits this was his intent, for the purposes of character development, and though I certainly respect his opinion, I also believe this choice may be the movie's death knell when it comes to getting it released in North America. Having said this, he did mention being in talks with the CW regarding having them air it and, if this becomes the case, the argument becomes moot anyway. He'd simply have to re-edit if not cut them out entirely, the latter I feel unfortunately would be detrimental to the film.
 
In the end, I am just so very happy the opportunity arose for me to see this movie. It was not a disappointment in the slightest and it's one that I want to see again and would even definitely want to own. Seeing it was one of the highlights of my EyeCon experience. 
 
To sum it all up (and, after 6 pages I'm sure you wish I'd have just said this in the first place)…
 
I still want my Ten Inch Hero!

Comments

Posted by: leelust (leelust)
Posted at: April 24th, 2008 11:45 am (UTC)

If it's matter of when i'll wait. I believe i can be patient enough :)

Damn i think i missed your 'puppy' post :( Where you introduced three more dods i believe *sigh* that's my stupid broken connection. I read it but wasn't able to comment *sigh again*

Posted by: May Robinson (may7fic)
Posted at: April 24th, 2008 11:41 pm (UTC)
Terriers - Tuck Cody Window

I haven't been getting any of my lj prompts for a few weeks. And that drives me crazy because i rely on them to know when friends post entries.

So, you're not alone. ;)

Posted by: leelust (leelust)
Posted at: April 25th, 2008 02:17 pm (UTC)

Yeah... i always too late with replies - bad connection, lack of time and (let's be honest) laziness are my demons *sigh*