Ruby Sparks review

After 6 years of false starts and abandoned projects, directors/husband-wife-duo Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris have finally returned with a follow-up to their hit debut  “Little Miss Sunshine.” The film shares a star in Paul Dano, is released by the same studio (Fox Searchlight) who turned ‘Sunshine’ into a late summer hit and eventual Oscar winner and looks cute enough. So why has “Ruby Sparks” arrived with so little fanfare? The premise is basically an indie-fied “Weird Science” with Dano’s Woody Allen-ish protagonist Calvin falling in love with his creation. Calvin is a novelist struggling to write a follow-up his well regarded first novel and at the suggestion of his therapist (Elliott Gould), begins a writing exercise that leads him to create the fictional Ruby (Zoe Kazan, who wrote also wrote the screenplay). But faster than you can say ‘only in the movies,’ Ruby suddenly appears in his apartment causing Calvin to freak out. Only he’s not crazy because other people can see her too including his brother (Chris Messina) who tells him to just go with it.

So the film proceeds with the neurotic Calvin falling head over heels for the quirky, flighty, (I’m just going to say it) Manic Pixie Dream Girl Ruby. It’s as you’d imagine it would be, occasionally charming, grating at times and you definitely feel like you’ve maybe seen this movie before. And then something interesting happens and the film reveals what its true intentions. Ruby starts asserting her independence, going out a little, making friends, and Calvin gets jealous. So he starts making changes to her and things get a bit darker from there. Not all of what proceeds works necessarily but it definitely gives you something to think about and it becomes a much more interesting film in the second half. But by that point it might be too late. The characters are all painted in broad strokes, not just Ruby and Calvin but also his family (Annette Bening & Antonio Banderas), blowhard novelist Langdon Tharp (Steve Coogan) and pretty much everyone else. A scene in which Calvin comes face to face with his ex (Deborah Ann Woll) hints at a more emotionally mature film lurking underneath this shiny indie.

13 Films I Am Probably Definitely Going To See This Summer

Well, “The Avengers” is out today which must mean that Summer Movie Season is once again upon us. For the next 3 months multiplexes will be pummeled with all manner of potential blockbusters (with the occasional arthouse counterprogramming). While I’ve also seen a handful of Summer releases which I’d recommend including “The Avengers,” “Beasts Of The Southern Wild,” “The Loved Ones" and "Safety Not Guaranteed" there are still plenty of films left to go. Some I couldn’t be less interested in (“Battleship” “Men In Black 3” etc.), some I’m more curious about than anticipating and some I’m really, really looking forward to (see below!) Alright, May to August here we go!

1. The Dark Knight Rises (July 20) Christopher Nolan returns to finish his epic Bat-trilogy. I walked out of “The Dark Knight” thinking it was an impossible act to follow, but 4 years later I’m starting to think that if anyone can do it, Nolan can. Watch the trailer.

2. Prometheus (June 8) This quasi-prequel to “Alien” marks director Ridley Scott’s first foray into sci-fi in 30 years. It looks incredible but can it possibly live up to the trailer?

3. Moonrise Kingdom (May 25) Despite a decade of diminishing returns for the celebrated auteur I remain hopeful that his latest - a 60’s set tale featuring two 12 year old runaways - will mark a return to form. Wes Anderson, I just can’t quit you. Watch the trailer.

4. Brave (June 22) After punishing America last summer with a film whose name I dare not speak, Pixar look ready to apologize to us. I haven’t been blown away by the trailers but am still hoping that my blind faith in the studio will pay off with another classic.

5. The Amazing Spider-Man (July 3) It may seem too soon to push reset on the “Spider-Man” series but the 3rd entry was a “Batman & Robin”-level disaster that really called for it. Add Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone and some unexpected talent behind the camera and I’m definitely curious to see what they do with it. Watch the trailer.

6. ParaNorman (August 17) From the studio that brought you “Coraline” comes another dark and beautiful looking stop-motion tale. This one features a misunderstood boy who can speak to the dead. Watch the trailer, be convinced.

7. Snow White & The Huntsman (June 1) Though I’m not really interested in the whole fairy tale re-imaginings (started by Tim Burton’s odious “Alice In Wonderland”) I have to say I’ve been curious about this one since I saw some visuals last year at Comic-Con. Watch the trailer.

8. Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World (June 22) A dark comedy about the end of the world starring Steve Carell and Keira Knightley. Doesn’t that sound like something you would want to see? Watch the trailer.

9. Neighborhood Watch (July 27) Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill and “Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace“‘s Richard Ayoade in a Seth Rogen/Evan Goldberg scripted, Akiva Schaffer (Lonely Island) directed comedy about suburban dads who defend their neighborhood from aliens. Watch the trailer.

10. The Campaign Will Ferrell v. Zach Galifianakis as rival politicians. (August 10)

11. Ted (July 13) From the creator of “Family Guy.” But just watch the trailer.

12. The Dictator (May 16) The first trailer was very bad but the new one is much better!

13. Ruby Sparks (July 25) From the directors behind “Little Miss Sunshine” comes their long awaited sophomore feature which could be too precious or it could be cute.Watch the trailer.

Also: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (June 22), The Bourne Legacy (August 3), Dark Shadows (May 11), Magic Mike (June 29), Savages (July 6).