During the recent storms I was able to enjoy one of my favorite activities: lying in bed late at night, all cozy and warm, and listening to the sound of heavy rain in the darkness. To me that is one of the simple pleasures in life; something that always warms my heart and makes me feel good.
With Valentine's Day on the horizon, why not pause for a moment to think of those films whose approach to romance never fails to please. Recently nominated for 10 Academy Awards, The Artist is giving audiences an old-fashioned taste of old-fashioned romance.
Whenever I have a chance to revisit Lerner & Loewe's 1958 movie musical, Gigi, I never fail to be swept away by its many charms.
For many people, Rob Reiner's 1987 delight, The Princess Bride, is a reliable tonic to chase away the blues.
Why? Because the bottom line is summed up so well in a famous song crafted by Rodgers & Hart during the Great Depression. In the following clip from 1932's Love Me Tonight, Maurice Chevalier and Jeannette MacDonald sing "Isn't It Romantic?"
Films in the romantic comedy genre vary from beautifully told stories (Sleepless in Seattle, Shakespeare in Love, Moonstruck, Notting Hill, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Four Weddings and a Funeral) to more mundane efforts that succeed at the box office but are quickly forgotten (Leap Year, The Proposal, Shallow Hal, Music and Lyrics). The rom-com machine also generates oceans of poorly-written drek that has been woefully directed.
Romantic farce, however, is a much more difficult genre in which to succeed. Harold Lloyd was a genius at combining slapstick with the purest, most innocent expressions of love. I recently had a chance to watch Jack Benny starring in the 1941 film adaptation of Charley's Aunt. It's worth renting the DVD for a grandly comedic performance as Benny hops in and out of drag.
Recently screened at the 14th San Francisco Independent Film Festival, Juko's Time Machine is the rare romantic farce that is contemporary, hilarious, and meticulously plotted. Written, directed, and edited by Kai Barry, this sweet little indie gem has a cast of six, a wealth of imagination, and a love story that is impossible to resist.
Juko (Nathan Cozzolino) and Jed (Alex Moggridge) have been best friends since at least kindergarten. Where Juko is the nerdy dreamer who often comes up with crazy ideas, Jed has always been the practical enabler, the budding engineer who can design a gizmo that could make any fantasy of Juko's come true. There's just one problem.
Juko has spent the past 20 years obsessing over a girl he had a crush on in grade school. He's built weird mechanical devices that he hoped would impress Rory (Zibby Allen). He even crashed their teacher's car into a tree hoping that his daring action would make some kind of an impact.
When Juko was supposed to kiss Rory onstage during a school play, he froze and ran out of the building. The next time she saw him, she punched him in the face. That made an impression!
Juko even had the bad luck to be visiting Rory when Hammel (Josh Randall), the man she met in Italy, arrived to propose to her. Now they're married, Juko is still head over heels in love, tongue-tied, and getting desperate.
Because Juko is a classic nerd, he's convinced himself that the timing has always been wrong for him to propose to Rory. If he could only get to her before Hammel, he could charm Rory, ask her to marry him, and they could live happily ever after.
Meanwhile, back in the real world, Juko has been living in the garage behind Jed's house. Jed's pregnant wife Nina (Katie Sigismund) is anxious to sell their house so they can get Juko out of their daily lives. But when Jed agrees to help his lovelorn friend build a time machine, unexpected complications ensue.
Imagine, just for a moment, what it might be like if Carl Reiner and Larry Gelbart had been given a chance to write a segment about time travel for The Twilight Zone and you'll get some idea of the fun to be found in Juko's Time Machine.
Kai Barry's film features some animation by Virgil Mihailescu and is blessed with a delightfully mischievous score composed by Branden Kimball and Josh Johnson. The small ensemble of unknowns (including Kevin Sadlier as an easily confused neighbor) is so convincing that you'll find yourself laughing out loud at the film's inspired lunacy.
It looks like Juko's Time Machine is taking the direct to DVD distribution route, so if you're interested in purchasing the a copy of the film, click here. In the meantime, here's the trailer:
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