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big, messy, but enjoyable
Mike Keating2 December 2007
You can get a pretty good idea of Southland Tales from a quick description of its characters. Dwayne Johnson plays Boxer Santaros, a movie star in Richard Kelly's all-too-near dystopian future. But it's not that straightforward. Johnson plays The Rock playing Boxer Santaros, while Boxer is playing the role of a character he's researching, one Jericho Kane. Sarah Michelle Gellar plays an ageing porn-star with a business portfolio that includes energy drinks. And Sean William Scott? Well, he plays a cop's amnesiac twin brother, as part of a neo-Marxist scheme to overthrow the government. Or does he? And you thought Donnie Darko was confusing. Welcome to Southland...

The year is 2008. Justin Timberlake - did I forget to mention him? He plays a drugged-up Iraq war veteran with a huge scar on his face. Who sits in a huge chair with a huge rifle, guarding "Fluid Karma", an ultra-valuable perpetual motion wave machine that is the new form of power since oil has become rare and therefore massively expensive. Politics, anyone? Anyway, JT (who might be telepathic) narrates over an introduction comprised of graphic novel slides and MTV-meets-FOX news bulletins that guides us from our present to the "present" of Kelly's 2008 Southland. The passage of time has not been kind to the US; a nuke has gone off in Texas, and the country has become a police state. The most "recent" clip reveals that Boxer (played by Dwayne Johnson playing The Rock) has disappeared without a trace, which is where the movie begins. Or does it? By this stage, you just might have gotten the impression that Southland Tales is a bit of a mess. And you'd be right. Kelly's attempt at a politically-charged all-encompassing comment on the world that can also appeal to the youth of today does ultimately fall flat, but that's not to say it's without its merits. The satire's often sharp, and the way the movie skips from genre-to-genre (dystopian conspiracy to Scooby Doo farce to musical to action movie) works surprisingly well without jarring too much. The music, while not perfect (I'm pretty sure Black Rebel Motorcycle Club won't have the kind of comeback that allows them to host LA's 4th of July weekend party next year...) creates some of the movie's more memorable moments, such as JT's Killers dance number and the captivating three-way dance toward the end.

The deliberately exaggerated performances are, for the most part, very good, with Johnson capturing the action man (playing an action man - going through a crisis - playing an action man) role very well. The way he switches from the kind of guy who pours beer over himself as a form of refreshment to jittery neurotic mess is both funny and engaging, allowing you to see a little of the man beneath the steely facade.

Unfortunately, this is as close as you'll get to the characters. While the overplaying is amusing, it excludes you on an emotional level. Donnie Darko worked so well because it drew you in, but Southland seems to deliberately keep you at arm's length lest you miss out on some of Kelly's political messages. For all its mystery, intrigue, and action, it feels a bit soulless, and goes out with a whimper as opposed to the bang it so desires.

Southland Tales is an ambitious film, but a messy one, and while it may not work on the kind of level it's aspiring to, in a movie climate where so many films play it safe, at least Kelly tries. Very flawed, but entertaining nonetheless.
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I normally recommend this film to nobody.
devv198831 March 2008
This is the way the world ends. Not with a whimper, but with a bang.

This is a film about all of the seemingly random events that lead up to the end of the world. And it's also a comedy.

That says it all right there, doesn't it?

When this film ended, I ran to tell every one I could find about it. The odd thing I found about it was that I ended nearly every one of these conversations with the following:

"It was amazing, but don't see it. You won't like it."

It's strange to hope that a film I feel so passionately about should not be seen by the very people I want to discuss it with. However, that's exactly the way I feel here. This film is not for everybody; in fact, there are only a precious few out of all of the people who see it that will even tolerate its existence. But you know what? That really isn't important.

Art is subjective, and no matter how many times I bother to explain a difficult concept to somebody who hated this film, I realize that it will never work long before the conversation ends. The problem is that these difficult concepts are actually very simplistic: Richard Kelly had Dwayne Johnson spoof the stereotypical, apocalyptic action-hero throughout the film. This included over-dramatic readings of his lines, delayed reactions and odd vocal dynamics.

What? You say that it wasn't intentional, and that it was just Johnson's poor acting skills?

This is where the small-minded fail to grasp the most simplistic of concepts. The great analytical film student will analyze a crooked frame and declare the brilliance of its intent; they will say that this intentional error supports the themes of the piece. So why does the same not go for Southland Tales?

Each one of these already-marked actors has broken out of their shells for this movie. The fact that everybody stereotypes them attests to Kelly's genius in assigning them the roles; however, it also proves how unfortunately small-minded today's modern audience has become.

Was this film a mess? Absolutely, in every sense of the word. But was it a coherent mess? That's the real question, and I think that I can safely say that it is. This film is nowhere near as difficult to understand as anybody would have you believe. The concepts are straightforward and are practically dictated to you by the narrator; this becomes essential to the understanding of the story, as there is just way too much going on to take in on your own. However, instead of hindering the film, it makes these seemingly unrelated scenes string together into a true tapestry that is worth exploring.

So, you know what? I'm going to go against my own advice and advise anybody and everybody who reads this review to go out and see this film. If you don't like it, don't come back to this website whining about it, because nobody here has the tolerance to explain things to you that you will never understand. No amount of discussion of cinematography, lighting or the fantastically haunting score by Moby is going to change the mind of an already jaded viewer.

But maybe, just maybe, you will like it. You'll get a chance to experience something you're likely to rarely, if never, experience again. Because as all of us who enjoyed the film know:

It had to be this way.
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The 160 minute cut, that will never be seen...
JoOoB2 April 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Or at least, not until Director's cut DVD, somewhere down the road...

I was lucky enough to attend a private screening of Southland Tales a few weeks back(early March'07). The film was in it's full 160min form, and was only being screened to see if the international distributors want to release the film in full form OR wanted to wait for the re-tooled 137min cut.(I have recently found out still has about 2-3 months of visual effect's to be finished) On to the film... The film opens with the narrator's(Justin Timberlake) voice-over repeating "This is the way the world ends" and then, it just about does... A huge mushroom cloud fill's the sky over Texas, but you are never told by who? or why?.... or are you?... The whole first act of Southland Tales kinda hit's over the head with a large amount of info, but never really any back-story(I have the read the first graphic novel, which helped)... The story evolves slowly, but the film is never boring or does it ever feel slow. The musical numbers(if you want to call them that) work great in my opinion and gives the film a nice tone... The final act of the film is by far the best(this is where people will be divided), and the full vision of the film is summed up in a very simple way(I don't think many of the critics got this), which is nice because the film is very complicated... so to have the answer be something so simple, was perfect.

The acting was surprisingly Good... Justin Timberlake and John Larrquette offer the most accomplished performances. While Dwayne "the Rock" Johnson gives his best performances to date. Sarah M. Geller is funny and pulls off her role as the "Great Whore", while Seann W. Scott's double-role is probably the easiest to connect with.

The soundtrack is the best thing going for the film. Moby's score is breath-taking and most of the tracks are from great bands such as Muse, The Killers, and The Pixies... (most of which, is live)

Over all the film is a deep, entertaining, funny, and most of all... different.

I gave it a 8 out of 10 (And I guessing the screenings went well, because the distributors decided to wait for the shorten and visually improved cut)
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Extraordinarily original, even if slightly murky.
billybobwashere3 November 2007
Summing up "Southland Tales" is a really, really hard thing to do. If I had to use a word to describe it, I would have to go with "art." Art is something that can spark a lot of debate without being very political, and can be viewed from completely different perspectives and get completely different reactions. Art means that some people will flat-out adore this film, and some will flat-out despise it.

To be honest, I think I only understand about 20% of what I saw on-screen, if that. This film is WAY more complex than Richard Kelly's directorial outing, "Donnie Darko." And I absolutely respect it for that. In a time when the most popular movies are the most simple, this movie was made knowing that its audience would not be a large one, and threw away all movie norms and was willing to be one of the most original, intelligent, creative, and complicated movies that I've ever seen.

The plot is difficult to follow, because there is a lot going on, and a lot of characters make it even harder to follow (even if nearly everybody is played by somebody you've heard of or seen before). The main plot follows Boxer Santeros, played by the slightly unconvincing but still solid Dwayne Johnson, a man who returns to Los Angeles from the nearby desert with amnesia, unable to remember anything about who he is. As we learn throughout the film, his ties to Hollywood (he's an actor) and politics (he was married to the daughter of a Senator) make him a huge target for a lot of people, and everybody seems to be keen on finding him. At the same time, nuclear explosions in Texas, brought upon by terrorists, caused the War on Terror to get elevated to the next level, beginning World War 3, which gets very little attention here.

Then, everything gets set in motion - as we are informed by our narrator Justin Timberlake - when we discover that "this is the way the world ends. Not with a whimper...but with a bang." And that's exactly how this movie functions; from its political satirical commentary to its apocalyptic feel to its very close resemblance with the "Revelations" section of the Bible (as it is quoted throughout the film numerous times) to its science-fiction-y style, Richard Kelly is the absolute master of this film, giving us no whimpers, but one huge complicated bang. He could have had somebody like Will Smith play the part of Boxer Santeros, but instead he went with a less-talented Dwayne Johnson, because he wanted the story to tell itself instead of relying on an in-depth performance.

The movie is a little slow at times, and even though it's a hell of a lot shorter than the version shown at Cannes, it could definitely have used another twenty minutes of trimming. However, the plot is so confusing and it's so hard to dissect everything that's going on that maybe if it was shorter, this would have even been more of a problem. There are so many characters with their own agendas and so much who-is-doing-what-to-who moments that you should value every image and second of footage that you can, because these are all the clues Kelly has left behind for the people who will spend years figuring this movie out, just as they did with his brilliant "Donnie Darko."

A part of the film I particularly enjoyed - and which were commonly shown throughout - were the futuristic television broadcasts, there to give you a little hint of what was going on in the world. If you just stare at the screen and expect some text or voice to pop out at you and tell you what you need to know, you won't figure out anything from these little broadcasts. But if you look very closely at all the different headlines and images popping up across the screen, this is when you see all the many different brilliant elements of the film coming together, from explanations of what's going on outside of Los Angeles in the War on Terror (which has now elevated itself to World War 3) to little clever patriotic puns to little details regarding the characters we have been following. They give the film a much broader scale than one would otherwise take away from it.

I think that what Kelly has accomplished with "Southland Tales" is incredible, even if he did go a little overboard with all the elements of the story. With this and "Donnie Darko," he really has proved what a brilliant mind he has, and how he isn't about telling simple entertaining stories, but rich, complex, and textured stories with deep metaphorical content and plot twists that can be up for interpretation instead of attempting to explain everything. The only very obvious message that can be taken away from this picture is its very anti- Patriot Act ideas, as it takes place in a world where the government watches and controls everything. It's also very beautifully portrayed because, as you will notice as you watch the film, nearly every single camera shot features an American flag, showing how America wants Americans to think that it's the best country of all, especially in a terrorist world such as the one in this film...and in our world today.

I don't understand everything that I saw in "Southland Tales;" in fact, there is probably a lot about it that I have no idea about, and that anyone who simply goes out and sees it won't be able to pick out on his own. But what I do know is that I saw a film that dared to be different, and even though it didn't succeed on every level, it was so intelligently made and so well thought-out that calling it a "failure" would be an absolutely incorrect thing to say. Cheers for the most original film of 2007!
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Not as bad as you've heard... never would have done well
mgoldsmith12 May 2008
This movie, maybe more than any other I've seen, is a commitment. If you think that 144 minutes is a lot to commit to a movie, the running time is only the tip of the iceberg.

In the DVD cut of the movie, a lot of things are obscured: what the big picture is, why characters are motivated to do certain things, why multiple identities are a recurring theme, why certain characters/actions are necessary.

What is in the DVD cut is an extensively detailed alternate world. Unfortunately, to make the actions in that alternate world make sense, you basically have to either watch the movie multiple times, or at least know what you're dealing with.

There are at least 4 layers to everything that's going on: 1) political/social commentary on contemporary American society and the apocalyptic undercurrent therein; 2) sarcastic/caustic pop culture references (Philip K. Dick is a big one, but also subtle things... for instance, the Rock was Sean William Scott's protector in "The Rundown" and plays a similar role here); 3) a self-consciousness or self-referentialism: actors cast against type, some similar themes to Donnie Darko, actions that play out in the film are largely based off of the AWFUL screenplay written by one of the characters (as seen in the graphic novel prequels); 4) the actual plot of the movie, which has deep ties to the Book of Revelation, and makes much more sense if the graphic novels are read first.

These layers are pretty consummately intertwined. This is part of what makes this movie to be compelling enough to make me want to put in the necessary effort. Its imagery was provocative, and because Richard Kelly has created such a densely layered world for himself, putting in the time actually is incredibly rewarding.

It should also be said that this film, like Blade Runner or There Will Be Blood, does not let its plot set specifications on its scope, or what it's about. If you hone in on what the director thinks its scope/purpose is, it's much easier to appreciate.

I'm not sure exactly how to rate this movie, since as a stand alone movie it is a failure, but if you take the time to get inside Kelly's mind, it's worthwhile. So. My advice? View it as an investment or don't view it at all. Don't throw it on for an evening's entertainment. If you do, you might be entertained, but you'll probably be confused and angry.
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The Most Misunderstood Movie Masterpiece Ever?
Eric M. Van18 November 2007
Note well and full: my rating of 10/10 is for the combination of the graphic novel "prequel saga," which is nothing less than the *first half of the story*, and the movie itself. I'm not sure if it makes sense to rate the movie as a separate entity, but it is wildly entertaining enough, I think, to rate a solid 7/10 or 8/10 for anyone who can lock into its satirical mode.

A word on that: it's amazing how tone-deaf some critics can be. I've read numerous reviews that criticize the movie for attempting to make deep or profound statements that instead fall flat because they are in fact trite, shallow, or stupid. Duh! I think it fair to say that at no point does any character say anything that Kelly thinks is profound; what we hear is a steady and very funny parody of exactly that. Maybe because the tone of the movie, its vision, is fresh and unique, that those who don't get it just assume it must be serious. This is part of the reason the movie is getting such wildly mixed reviews. Half the critics don't get the tone at all and hate it. Half the critics get it, and about 1/3 of those think the movie still isn't coherent enough to recommend, while the other 2/3 of the 1/2 think it's got just enough coherence to make it a treat.

So how coherent is it? *Without it's first half*, I think it's fair to say that it's confusing as hell and a challenge to follow. But we are given enough of the back story that the pieces can be put together reasonably well *by someone with decent experience seeing and reading complex science fiction stories*. I can certainly see how someone could regard the story as wholly incoherent, but that's their inexperience with this kind of story. Anyone who has "gotten" ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND, PRIMER, or, yes, the original cut of DONNIE DARKO on the first viewing, gotten them enough to figure out the broad outline of the plot, should be able to do the same here (as did my companion at the theater).

There is a big difference, though, between the movie half of SOUTHLAND TALES and these other flicks. The broad understanding of the story that you can get from a first viewing is an understanding of the WHAT of the story, but not of the WHY. In particular, it is impossible to understand the motivations of the movie's most important characters, the Treer Corporation, without having read the first half of the story.

Now, here's the astonishing part. Usually when a movie is widely dissed as incoherent, the best argument its defenders can muster is that some decent sense can actually be made of it after all. Often that involves inventing plot points that the actual story omits! However, the complete SOUTHLAND TALES, the graphic novel first half and the movie second half, is not just adequately coherent, not just satisfyingly coherent, it is *thrillingly* coherent. It's every bit as coherent as its reputation for the opposite. The big reveals near the end make numerous pieces of the puzzle fall into place, and once you leave the movie theater the pieces keep on locking up, bit by bit by bit. It's one hell of a science fiction story.

In short: if you have any strong interest in this movie, do yourself an immense favor and read the graphic novel. (Ideally, read it first, but I think that seeing the movie, reading the graphic novel, and seeing the movie again would be highly satisfying).

I still cannot figure out what Kelly was thinking when he decided to split this huge story the way he did. There's one alternate universe where this is a 600 page Hugo-Award winning novel, standing in the precise relationship to 2007 as John Brunner's brilliant STAND ON ZANZBAR did to 1967. And there's another alternate universe where it was a 6-part HBO miniseries that was universally regarded as doing for sci-fi on cable TV what the Sopranos did for crime and family drama. It's our sucky luck that we live in the universe where it was a mostly unread graphic novel plus a widely misunderstood motion picture. Then again, it's the point of the story that we do live in a sucky reality, so maybe there's perverse ironic sense in that.
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randomness without meaning
tsuchinoko20 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
After over a year of waiting, Southland Tales is finally out in theaters. The slightly abridged version, still clocking in at well over 2 hours, boasts an incredibly recognizable cast, and very well done visuals.

But, with such a long wait after the disastrous Cannes screening, and a well publicized year of graphic novel press releases, editing mixing, and many, many reassurances, how does the final product rate up? Now, for me, Donnie Darko was a good, thoroughly fleshed out movie with good dialog and characters that felt real and a situation that was both funny and ultimately horrifying. Though there were plot holes and vague situations that left most of its viewers confused, Donnie Darko was a good film that left people happily asking questions and trying to figure out the films many possible explanations. A young filmmaker creating a movie like that on his first try is pretty impressive, so much so that Richard Kelly was billed for a time as the "next big thing".

By sheer contrast, Southland Tales is a huge step down from his previous film. To be honest, I was looking forward to this movie for over a year, and forced myself to be optimistic in the face of constant signs that this film really WAS looking to be the next Xanadu. The initial concept is not all that unique; an ensemble piece set in the final days of the world. The problem is, Mr. Kelly cannot seem to settle on a singular theme or method of storytelling for this film. Most ensemble films have an underlying theme, whether it be familial distance or redemption in "Magnolia", social distance in "Babel", or prejudice in "Crash". Southland Tales doesn't have any kind of organization in the filming of its scenes. Most of the characters don't have any real motivation behind their actions, and nearly every scene hit a kind of dead-end as to where it was trying to go.

Its hard to see where the director was going with many aspect of the film. The much criticized casting of the film, though very interesting on paper, is in reality just as bad as it sounded. Most of the actors look out of place, the acting is some of the worst that I've seen since the trailer for Baby Geniuses. Sarah Michelle Gellar is completely wasted in this film, Dwayne Johnson is improving, though he still needs work, and a project like this is not the best way to do that, and nearly all other actors in this film act as though they are appearing in a vagisil commercial and are wishing they didn't take the audition. Not all actors fail in these roles though; Seann William Scott is surprisingly flexible in the role, though in the first half of the film he looks uncomfortable, Mandy Moore is only in several scenes, but her acting is some of the most natural sounding in the whole thing. For me, the two most shocking transformations in the film were those of Cheri Oteri (who actually has more to do here than most of the leads, and caries some of her lines very well), and in probably the best special effect of the film, Lou Taylor Pucci done up as a ghetto white boy in probably one of the least publicized roles in the film. Justin Timberlake is good only in his narration, though on camera he actually is a rather pointless character.

Gregg Araki made several films in the mid-90s billed as the "een Apocalypse" trilogy. Though there were no actual teens in it from what i remember, these films had many cameos from actors cast out of type, many random moments that didn't seem to fit into the rest of the film, as well as a director that tried to comment on the modern world while placing the story in a setting that could not possible fit into context of our world. Just like Gregg Araki, Richard Kelly makes much use of poetry that has mostly no real connection to the story. Robert Frost and T.S. Elliot are constantly mentioned, as well as visual references to the work of Philip K Dick. Often in the film, this material, as well as others, are so often used it gets really annoying.

I'm not trying to deter anyone from seeing this film. After Donnie Darko, Richard Kelly has a built-in fan base who will see his work no matter how terrible it is. I'm sure some of those people were in the audience at the sold out showing that i saw this film in. Seeing it that way, i knew that this movie was the kind to be laughed AT, not laughed WITH. I just hope that Richard Kelly with learn from this mistake and organize his scripts better, or with enough of these he will lose the few supporters that he has kept over the past few years.

So, now after ALL that, what was the point of it all? 144 minutes of exposition and false hopes for a logical flow to the whole thing, is there meaning to it all? Spoilers for the ending....the world doesn't end, and if it does the film ends before the big event.

By the way, the much hyped scene where Timberlake lip-syncs to The Killers "Things that I've done", is by far one of the most underwhelming scenes in the film. The whole things feels kinda pointless.

Hmmm, and after using quotes from the book of revelations to justify floating ice cream trucks, nuclear baby bowel movements, and prophetic film scripts, is there a final message that the movie has for us? A sort of finality to it all that will make it sit easier for us to sit through? Quoting the film's final line, "Cuz he is a pimp...and pimps, don't kill themselves". Wow Richard, how,
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Bloated, superficial junk.
mark-50615 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
First of all, I freely admit to being pretty much the only person I know who didn't go for Richard Kelly's 2001 debut film Donnie Darko. I found it a weak attempt at David Lynch-level pop surrealism aimed at self-serious teenagers. Years later, I agreed to watch it again, after reading all the notes on the film and after Kelly, with his "director's cut," bent over backwards to convince his audience that what he really made was a complicated science fiction movie, not a typically Lynchian drama about a lonely loser's fantasy life during the moments before his death. It made more sense, but for me it also took away what little heart the story actually had. Now that Kelly's long-awaited sophomore effort Southland Tales has hit the screen, I am more convinced than ever that the emperor's not wearing any clothes. Richard Kelly is a bad filmmaker.

Set in a sci fi version of 2008 Los Angeles, Southland Tales is a muddled mess, tying together a trillion different plot lines that revolve around the Republican vice presidential candidate and his family, a Hollywood movie star (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) who has gone missing, a national security tracking system that keeps tabs on everybody, a porn star (Sarah Michelle Gellar) who is trying to sell a script she wrote with The Rock, Seann William Scott playing two characters, a mysterious alternative fuel, neo-Marxists, World War III, the Apocalypse, the Second Coming, and legions of cheesy B actors and former "Saturday Night Live" stars. And Justin Timberlake.

It's ambitious, to say the least. Overly ambitious. WAY overly ambitious. While Kelly continues to ape Lynch's trademark weirdness - Wild at Heart, Lynch's only self-congratulatory film, is the main influence, but Mulholland Drive is there too (Kelly even uses Mulholland's Latin chanteuse Rebekah Del Rio in a similar scene), and actually there's quite a bit of Kathryn Bigelow's mediocre, undeservedly admired Strange Days in this movie too - the life Kelly's leading as a director is more akin to that of George Lucas: Lots of half-baked ideas, some terrible casting choices, and nobody to lean over his shoulder to tell him "Make some serious script revisions, or have somebody else write your screenplay." Kelly seems overwhelmingly convinced that he is a genius, as his pretentious storyline shows - only the last three "chapters" of an apparent six-chapter saga are presented in the film (hey, just like the first Star Wars movies!), with audiences expected to buy the first three chapters in graphic novel form - essentially forcing people to once again do lots of homework in order to fully "get" the movie, just as with Donnie Darko. Man, what an ego this guy's got. But I'm not buying it. Despite the heavy-handed use of Biblical references (gee, that's a new one) and classic poetry (particularly T.S. Eliot's The Hollow Men, which Kelly paraphrases), the low humor and flat dialogue in this tepid satire are what betray Kelly's true sensibilities: Look, there's Kevin Smith dressed up like an old man! Haw haw, John Larroquette from "Night Court" got his private parts tasered! Tee hee, The Rock just called that slutty Bai Ling a "bitch" and then she fell on the floor going "Ooh!" - that'll show her! This is an AWFUL film, devoid of any truth, emotion, intelligence or genuine creativity. (Kelly works hard to explain a lot of his story here, too, and guess what - in the end, it's kind of like Donnie Darko, with its parallel universes and temporal shifts and such.) The actors, most of whom are the sort who need a lot of direction to be good, recite their lines without feeling, as lost as the rest of us. (I assume Johnson, Scott and Gellar signed on for Kelly's hipster cred; the rest of the cast were surely just hungry for any work whatsoever.) Even the CG effects are poorly done! Even the cinematography's bad! I could go on, but what depresses me most is that there will doubtlessly be new fans who will defend all this shabbily-executed nonsense as "visionary," and the misguided cult of Richard Kelly will only grow.
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A Spectacular Waste of 2 hours and Change
screenwriterb14 March 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I was attracted to this film because I was a fan of Donnie Darko, as well as the ensemble cast that came together for this project. It is with great sadness that I must declare this one of the worst films I've ever seen. I don't usually post comments about movies that fall short of their expectations, because film is a difficult art form. However, I found myself getting angry with how complex the story was as they say genius is making the complex, simple. That being said, I will applaud the effort to make a 'modern day' revelations biblical story. However, if Seann William Scott is or messiah, then it would truly be the end of the world. This movie did not work on so many levels, so I won't go into detail, but I will say that I felt robbed of 144 minutes. Perhaps this will have a cult following like Donnie Darko, and perhaps I could appreciate this project more by looking at the graphic novel, website and other source material, but after experiencing Southland Tales the film, I feel time is too precious for that. The last thing I will comment on about this film is the wonderful.... ---Insert something appreciative about this film--
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fury15921 March 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I'm throwing in the towel on Richard Kelly. While I was never a big fan of "Donnie Darko", I felt it was an interesting beginning and a writer/director to watch out for. While I thought his script for "Domino" was good, this trash named "Southland Tales" is proof that Kelly has extremely promising ideas, he just can't fulfill on the promise of them and then he crams as much stuff as he can into one movie to mask over the fact he doesn't get the concept of what he's writing about. I'm all for films that think outside of the box. I would have been for a movie that was about a neo-marxist movement, a movie about an amnesiac time-traveler, a movie about manipulative drugs used during wars, but to stuff that all into one film and expect it to make sense? Not one of the characters makes sense, the plot can't focus at all, and it just doesn't add up, at all.
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One of the worst/funniest movies I have ever seen.
DaveDe7016 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
As the movie was going on, I felt like I was watching a movie made out of a fourteen year old boys journal. I will change my review if Kelley was trying to make the most ridiculous movie ever, because he succeed brilliantly at that.

This movie will become like Rocky Horror Picture show, where audiences will be shouting out the amazingly bad dialog and the hands down worst ever voice over narration ever recorded on film.

This is one of those films that beats you over the head with how "different" it is. It's also a muddled mess of plot that is beyond confusing, which it's supporters will say is the point. Audiences don't mind putting together a puzzle and having a few missing pieces, but it's kind of annoying when you give us pieces from 1000 different puzzles.

This must be based on a script that Kelley wrote as his master's thesis in film, because he tried to cram as many different genres and other director's styles into it as he could. Clockwork Orange, Fifth Element, Robert Altman, David Lynch, Airplane, Quentin Tarantino. This causes the film to become a blender full of goop that tastes like nothing.

Here comes the spoiler.

The good thing it has going for it, is that it's obviousness, bad dialog/acting, and it's unearned righteousness make for some HILARIOUS scenes. I am still laughing at the monkey's in the fifth dimension. The out of nowhere pointless musical sequence brought tears to my eyes.
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Karmic Fluid
tedg5 September 2008
I liked this enough to tell you in the first sentence that it would have been a candidate for one of only two 4-star ratings I give per year.

If you are an average viewer, you will be put off by the apparent narrative incoherence, the seeming lack of center and the childish nature of some of the devices. That's all fair enough. But let me point you to two things that make it for me.

The first is that it is inherently cinematic. It makes about as much sense when the sound is turned off. Indeed I watched the whole thing through this way once and it actually makes more sense. There's lots of cinematic nesting: movies about movies; videos, narratives and disguises within. There's lots of causality denoted visually. You will find scores of quotes from other films, many more than those "parody" teen movies. And you'll discover many of your favorite intelligent but not famous actors.

That would be enough for me, but there's something else. In fact, though the story is confusing, deliberately made so through how it unfolds, it does make complete sense. It makes as much sense as, say, "The Matrix." I wish it didn't, but there you are. But its the way the story slips about that is pretty wonderful. You see, a narrative works by the way the pieces connect.

Usually we don't have to work because the way the pieces connect is the way they happen in real life: the causal flow of the narrative telling is the same as in the story. But the detective story, and modern noir changed that and now we have a variety of causal connections that can glue the bits together. Even these you don't normally notice unless the writer — as here — makes the shifts between bits cover a greater distance than usual.

Pay attention to this. Greenaway uses reference to number sequence. Barney uses progress through the sexual encounter, clever that. Lynch provides these discontinuities by having characters shift selves — a technique of discovery. Joyce — who in a way is the gold standard because he reified this sort of art through cognitive plumbing connection — depends on notational congruence. All these are exciting as getout in the hands of their masters.

But this is different, more rooted in noir, in cinema. These elements are connected in ways that only read in film.

Here's what I mean: film has evolved a set of notions we call noir. These capture two worlds; the world of the story where the laws of the universe seem to be deliberately arranged by strange occurrences, "mistakes" and coincidences to play havoc with key characters. Then there is the (usually implied) second world where those laws are manipulated and we the viewers sit. In almost all noir films, this effect only occurs in the long form, meaning that it is apparent when seem over the whole story.

Now look here. For all intents, there is no long form here, just a sequence of medium- sized events, each of which contain rather than follow the previous ones. This form was pioneered (I believe) by Altman. The narrative glue of the whole is how the segments slip against one another. We have "Magnolia" that plays with this concept as well, this slipperage. Its the connection that conveys the world. Its subtle and homeopathically powerful as a result.

Now this. Its another step forward in that the connection between elements involves changes in the way the world works. Each shift is not just between story segments that don't make sense, they don't make sense BECAUSE of the nature of the transitions. Many of these transitions involve a change in the laws of the universe. Its as if you were playing chess as a chesspiece, and the rules of the game changed according to the patterns of the pieces on the board. The whole thing would make sense afterward when seem as a whole, but the chessmen will be baffled.

What this does is build an ordinary noir with the two worlds: story, and gods. But it cleverly puts the viewer on the chessboard as someone at the mercy of the rules. Its no accident that the inspiration is Philip K Dick (who invented this sort of reverse introspection), that the key magical plot device is the magically named "fluid karma," and that the mascot is Bai Ling, who was our Béatrice Dalle surrogate for a while.

I want to give this a four, but I do think that the two others from this year are more important.

Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.
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initial thoughts on SOUTHLAND TALES
michaelallroy17 November 2007
overly-ambitious? probably. puzzlingly dense? certainly. meandering and confusing? absolutely. SOUTHLAND TALES, richard kelly's much-maligned, oft-questioned, studio-crippled but still hotly-anticipated follow-up to DONNIE DARKO is guilty of most of the accusations that critics have hurled at it.

indeed, it's a mess - but it's one of the most beautiful, most engaging, most daring messes i've seen in awhile - especially considering the fact that this is a big-studio film with such an abundance of marquee stars. but it hits on many of the same themes that DARKO did - both metaphysical and spiritual - and that's promising to me, because it's indicative of a singular focus/concept that richard kelly wants to explore in his work. i once read an essay on the cinema of David cronenberg - i can't find it now, so i'll have to paraphrase - it mentioned that the best storytellers often spend their entire careers retelling what is essentially the same story, but executing it in different ways. with only two features under his belt so far, it's premature (downright offensive, some would say) to make kelly/cronenberg comparisons at this point - but if this kid keeps digging into the same subject matter over and over, he's eventually going to produce an honest-to-goodness masterpiece. and that really excites me.

think back to the theatrical cut of DONNIE DARKO, and how mystifying and enigmatic it was on yr first viewing. then think about the director's cut - did it feel "dumbed down" to you? like more exposition had been crowbarred in, so that the film would be EASIER for us to digest? there's some of that going on in SOUTHLAND TALES, and i'm forced to wonder if that was kelly's original vision, or if it was the result of studio interference. alternatively, the director might have gotten so tired of everyone theorising about DD, that he wanted to make certain plot points entirely unambiguous this time out. whatever the case, the end result is one the year's best films, in spite of (or perhaps because of) its flaws.

i've studied the graphic novel and the website, and i intend to delve deeper into both (including the ancillary sites). i might even need to see the film again before it leaves theaters - which will probably be soon, as this thing has "box office flop" written all over it (box office mojo reports a paltry opening-night take of $37,000), and has a "wide release" that includes all of 63 screens.

at present, we can be sure of a three things: ONE, SOUTHLAND TALES has so much going on, that it's literally boiling over, and it's going to take years for people to realise what a treasure this film really is. TWO, there is a TRUE maverick inside the gates of Hollywood, his name is richard kelly, and he's going to be here for awhile. and THREE, nobody rocks the cock like krysta now.
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Dude Where's My Car Meets Surf Nazi's Must Die, Genius or Dire Mess?
o_cubitt18 December 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Southland Tales plays like the nightmarish counterpart to Dude Wears My Car - linked by Sean William Scott it similarly dabbles in Apocalyptic scenarios, other dimensions, memory loss and seemingly share many of the 'sci-fi' costumes from DWMC.

It is clear after several minutes that we are witnessing some incredibly personal vision from Kelly, every performance is nuanced in a way that is impossible to understand - in the hands of another director such as Lynch the overly dramatic tongue-in-cheek delivery might have worked in the context and world that he creates - indeed many of the actors and characters here seem pulled from the world of Lynch but then dumped in sub Troma nonsense reminiscent of but not as fun as 'Surf Nazis Must Die'.

Whatever the intentions of Kelly - whether or not this is deeply satirical or a comment on the current state of World/North American Social politics doesn't matter - the characters are literally laughable - the politics naive and at every moment ill conceived. Kelly wields ideas with brutish self-involvement. Conspiracy theories, love affairs, racial tensions, the lasting affects of war on soldiers and civil unrest the very things that seem to be what Kelly is looking to explore and understand yet they are rendered in a manner that can only be described as hammy - any potential for us to empathise or understand any of the characters is destroyed by Kelly's direction.

The Marxists have a laughably bad understanding of politics, their violence is (intentionally ?) comic and we cannot believe that they believe in what they are doing.

The Rock appears ridiculous. Gellar is unconvincing and irritating. USIDent a particularly unsuccessful and uninteresting 'Big Brother' run by people sporting cheap-as-chips see-thru anoraks (i'm sure there's a point to them).

The saving grace in this film is Sean William Scott. He seems to still be in DWMC - confused and on the trail of what the hell is going on - we share in his confusion and his performance seems spot on - eternally questioning everyone's ( and perhaps even Kelly's) actions.

I could be wrong but unless I have missed something huge - some hint at how one is meant to read this film - this film simply disappoints. Southland Tales is a bizarre and terrible example of contemporary film-making. There should be a message on the end of every copy of Donnie Darko "Do Not Feel Obliged to See Southland Tales".

Now we have to wait until the next Richard Kelly type director comes along to save us from Kelly himself.
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This isn't an art or cult film, its just plain bad
Agent1024 January 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Sorry, I couldn't pontificate enough about the mess that was Southland Tales. Sure, it was broad, intriguing and certainly strange enough to be a cult classic, but the whole idea of a cult classic is that it should have some semblance of being a good film.

Richard Kelly clearly made this movie for himself and for himself only. Sure, the movie cost very little to make, but I think most people would have put the money to better use. Its so self indulgent, so esoteric that the idea revolves in some alternate little world that only exists in Kelly's muddled mind. Where do you start?

Clearly, the whole alternate time line stuff did not fly with me. The primary idea of making a neo-futuristic movie is to put it in the future, not start it in the past. Its one thing to say that a nuclear war was started in Abilene, Texas, but it is another thing to say it started years before the suggested time line of the movie. Therein lies the first big problem with Southland Tales. There is no Urban Pacification Units, there is no USIdent and there is no weird scientist creating a new energy source to ween us off of oil. Now, if this movie was placed in the near future, like say seven or eight years from now, then the audience is instantly drawn into the fantasy and the impact of the images. Instead, the audience is lost and they know they are watching a movie.

Which leads to the casting of this farce. Could Kelly have gotten any more power mad from his past Donnie Darko success? The Rock? Sarah Michelle Gellar? Multiple Cast-offs from Saturday Night Live? More than half the cast was miscast in this film, especially Justin Timberlake and Many Moore. Why didn't Kelly realize this? Did he want to see John Larroqeutte and Kevin Smith in the same room just for the heck of it? What the hell was he thinking!

We move onto the directing. Everyone is forcing their lines out, like they have idea what's going on because the director is too busy counting his royalty cash from Donnie Darko. Kelly wrote some graphic novels to help supplement his main story, and the acting tin the film seems to mimic that of comic book acting. The weird expressions, the over the top facial ticks and the turn in characters that seem to sudden. This is a movie, not a comic book. Just because The Rock can stare off into the distance and squint really well, doesn't mean that is acting.

I could keep going? Like what the hell was the random Killers' video in the movie? Or why was Wallace Shawn the so-called creator of the new power source but Curtis Armstrong seemed to be more knowledgeable of it? And did we really need the stupid line "Pimps don't commit suicide."

To the haters out there, yes, I did understand the story. I got the whole Messianic connection of Roland Taverner and how the corruption of God and religion could lead to the eventual apocalypse, but do we really need these story archetypes. Kelly should have just stripped this sucker down and concentrate on making a movie rather than making some crappy student film.
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Tales from Cannes
jdanielshaffer22 May 2006
Now, this film has some definite problems, but it receives a 10 in my book for the director's insistence on trying something different. This film certainly doesn't offer a story that fits the A,B,C, plot mold of standard Hollywood pictures and it lacks slightly in characterization, but makes up for it with idea's, experimental style, and a "european" view of the current climate of the United States of America (now matter what your politics).

As an American viewer currently in France, I'm astounded that there are not more critics praising this feature. I understand the casting choices are odd, but after hearing Richard Kelly speak of the film as a "puzzle" it seems to make more and more sense as I replay the anarchic gonzo like images in my head.

This film is not about the characters, but the situation in which the characters inhabit. It's an experience. I mean do any of us actually "care" about David Bowman in 2001? Yes, the oddities in the film grow astoundingly quirky (bowel movement thermonuclear baby) but see this film simply to experience something new and to insure more films that don't fit the mold are made. I mean that's why we see Jarmusch pictures, right?
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If you don't want to like it, you wont ! ! !
Drumpot4 November 2008
So, what did I think when I saw this movie? Well I enjoyed the visuals, the tone, the soundtrack and the way the film was made (but couldn't understand why as I didn't really understand the movie itself).

Like when I watched Magnolia I was confused and disappointed, but just like Magnolia I watched it the next time it was on T.V. with little or no expectations and better equipped to understand the story.

This is not a film that can be summarized clearly in a paragraph (without begging more questions then answers).

I appreciated the humor, the dialog and of course the story far more after watching it again and again and again.

Its certainly not everybody's cup of tea, but some people seem to take great exception with movies that ask more of the viewer then the average popcorn flick.

How anybody could give it 1 out of 10 can only be explained by their inability to grasp the concept of movies that don't have everything spelt out to the viewer. This is an arty movie, but hasn't pretended to be anything other then cryptic, I blame those who went to it without reading any sort of review. Ignorance is Bliss I suppose.

Perhaps some people struggle to separate their own religious beliefs or political preferences to really just enjoy a complex modern take on age old Stories.

This is'nt a popcorn flick where you will be wowed by the special effects or rolling around the aisles with laughter. I think it is so much more then that and will leave a lasting feeling of fulfillment if you allow yourself to get on board its story.

I for one wished there was more movies like this around. Why did I give it 10 when it is not clearly faultless? Because if you truly allow yourself to get into the story it is so satisfying on so many different levels.
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pasfroid18 November 2007
The real failure of this film isn't that it's overcomplicated in terms of plot. It is definitely overloaded with plots and subplots, characters, and various allusions to the arts. Its downfall is that it uses its central theme of media criticism as an excuse not to present its ideas coherently -- it critiques an incoherent form in an incoherent way. Pot Kettle Black.

The primary thing that keeps the film from succeeding as a whole is its constant shifts in tone. While the filmmakers might argue that they are aping/satirizing the way we get information through the media, it makes for a rotten experience at the cinema. Some scenes are sketch comedy, some are ponderous (in a good sense), there is a bit of action and bit of fun with setting of the film. Without a truly riveting lead character or other weighted focus point it falls apart -- really by the conclusion of the film it's just white noise.

The casting is meant to be part of the media critique, but it's works against the film to keep thinking, 'hey -- that's the guy from Revenge of the Nerds and Moonlighting again', and keeps you distracted from the plot and characters' relationship to the plot. When thinking of this aspect of the film AFTER viewing it's a straightforward idea -- hey the filmmakers are saying that the government is using entertainment to keep us from following the real news, man! But during the actual experience of watching the film, the casting starts one thinking of Mars Attacks or dare I say it, Cannonball Run......

The lighting was very flat, which I assume again is part of the 'fast food media' critique - but ugly is still ugly. Especially considering Donnie Darko I was expecting something worth looking at visually. There are some big IDEAS presented visually, but they are not visually interesting in a formal sense. There has to be SOMETHING for the audience to hang its hat on beyond an idea. Cinema is a sensate experience, not merely an intellectual one.

I look forward to reading about this someday in Scott Tobias's "My Year Of Flops - Redux" on the Onion AV Club....
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Bring on the Dancing girls, it's the Apocalypse.
Tachikoma-28 October 2008
Warning: Spoilers
"Disjointed, messy, too long, pretentious..." etc. - Just some of the critique thrown at this movie. I agree with most of it. But I still personally think Southland Tales is a good ,well... I hesitate to call it a movie in a traditional sense of the word, let's just say Southland Tales is a very interesting experience.

When you put Sarah Michelle Gellar, the Rock and a drugged up cop in the same room talking about a bizarre movie script passionately, it certainly feels like the whole world is coming to an end. When Krysta Now (played by Sarah Michelle Gellar) is obsessing over every minute detail in the script and the Rock passionately tells the drugged up cop why the world is about to end, you feel as if the world has already reached a point where every action or conversation is just too much. Please let it all end. Often people in this movie have these bizarre conversations that seem pointless to the viewer and yet the characters in the film seem to understand each other perfectly. It feels all so apocalyptic. We have reached a point where we can't even have normal conversations. People have become too weird. They can't analyze their feelings in a rational way. Bizarre dreams have power over them.

In the beginning of the movie there is a terrorist act that happens in Texas. A Flash point. Republicans see that as a reason to super enhance the Patriot Act. Say good bye to your privacy because the terrorist need to be caught. This in turn angers the left who become a group called "Neo Marxists". Bit far fetched, but then again if we can suspend our disbelief with the recent onslaught of Supermen dominating the silver screen, then Southland Tales isn't asking much. Both the right and the left are portrayed as disgusting options. The republicans are corrupted crooks who only care about winning the elections. The leftists are bunch of hyper angry individuals who basically just picker among them selves and plot to change the outcome of the upcoming election.

Throw Boxer Santaros in to the mix. He is an action movie star played by the Rock. He has ties with the republican party and he is the central character in the movie. In a volatile political situation Boxer could change the outcome of the election. Also he knows how the world will end. Sadly the Rock simply cannot act. He is horrible. His nervous finger tapping is gimmicky and shows that the man should have never quit his day job. Wrestling.

Justin Timberlake plays the role of a scarred Iraqi veteran. We see a drug induced dream sequence where he sings a song, its a cry of help. Even the dancing Girls in his dreams cannot any longer hold his attention. He wont bother to dance, just a few steps. It's terrific and horrific. He is empty and wishes for it all to end.

Then there is the Baron and his entourage. He is the Antichrist and everything in the movie involving him lacks subtlety. It would be more interesting for the audience to discover on their own, that Baron is indeed the Antichrist, rather than have the movie explicitly tell it for you. Also I do believe that the saying :"Give the devil you finger and he will take the whole hand"- to be just that, an expression. A metaphor. To take it literally is just clumsy and dumb.

Regardless of these problems, Southland Tales is a powerful experience. It's just not a remake of Donnie Darko II.
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A masterpiece of disastrous proportions
Dragoneyed36310 May 2008
I had not heard much about Southland Tales when I started to rent it. The only reason I was getting it was because I will watch anything with Sarah Michelle Gellar and always enjoy her even if I do not enjoy the movie. I had no idea what I was in store for. While watching this movie, I just became so, entranced. From beginning to end, I was loving every second and I could not figure out why. Maybe because it is so eccentric and well executed that it seems weird to like it for how odd it is. Maybe the performances were giving the film it's edge where the plot was so original and crisp. No, the real reason I enjoyed this movie is because it was so incredibly interesting and fun to watch, and it appeared to me as a perfect film throughout my whole viewing, when in reality it is one big mess. Yes, this is quite perfectly the most beautiful piece of junk I have ever seen, and I can not get enough of it!

Allow me to explain further for those who are unsure what I am saying. This film is an apocalypse-themed string of events that seem to make absolutely no sense sometimes as the film progresses. There are no stand out performances, only ones that intesify the artsy atmosphere the film tries to create. At that same time though, Richard Kelly does not attempt to make it anything more than it is; it seems as though the film is just there, no more, no less. What I love about Southland Tales is it is not afraid to test it's viewers. People who hate this film just do not understand it usually. They think it has no creative merit, no purpose but to see how random it can be. That is not the case. I, in my honest opinion, believe the film is as perfect as it can be without actually being any good, and that is the complete opposite of hating it. In the end, there is really a lot of questions as to why this film is so good if it contains so many problems, and that is because it does the one thing a movie is meant to do, entertain, and it does that unconditionally.

Those who say they are appalled by it's lack of intelligence really are judging the film in the wrong way. Those who say it was boring, it just might not be the film for you. I, for one, enjoy it more and more with every viewing and my opinion on why I love it so much, I can never exactly pin down. The movie is an apocalypse within itself, but masks it all with what the creators want us to believe is pure genius, and I completely respect and admire that in every way. Those are just my views, take them or leave them.
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jaw-dropping fiasco
Roland E. Zwick8 May 2008
"Southland Tales," the latest film by "Donnie Darko"'s Richard Kelly, is like the movie equivalent of one of those whistles that only dogs can hear; it is pitched so far out of ordinary human range that most viewers will be left scratching their heads, wondering where the hell the joke is and why they just don't get it.

The movie, made in 2006 and released in 2007, takes place in Los Angeles in the not-too-distant future (July 2008), three years after a series of nuclear explosions have all but obliterated Texas and placed the rest of the country on a state of high terror alert. As in most post-apocalyptic scenarios, the threat to national security opens the door for a right wing cabal to take over the government and begin violating the privacy rights of its citizens. For counterbalance, there is also a group of loony neo-Marxists bent on wresting control from the aforementioned Fascists. The movie features Dwayne Johnson (aka The Rock) as a conservative movie star and future son-in-law to a Republican vice-Presidential candidate who becomes a pawn in the life-or-death match between the two clashing ideologies - the outcome of which might well spell the demise of the human race as we know it.

Despite the seriousness and topicality of the subject matter, "Southland Tales" is basically played for laughs, turning the end of the world into an absurd, over-the-top, dystopic farce that thinks it's being hip and knowing about life in a post-9/11/Homeland Security/ Patriot Act world, but which is actually only cheesy, smart-alecky and incoherent. For a satire to work it must have discipline as well as the kind of tethering to the real world that one finds in movies like "Dr. Strangelove" or "Network." Here, the film establishes no familiar reference point upon which to build any kind of compelling drama. As a result, we quickly lose interest and focus, while the enterprise itself spins ever increasingly out of the filmmaker's control.

Janeane Garofalo, Sarah Michelle Gellar, John Larroquette, Jon Lovitz, Mandy Moore, Amy Poehler, Miranda Richardson, Seann William Scott, Wallace Shawn and Justin Timberlake are just some of the actors who might want to seriously consider getting this piece of cinematic excrescence expunged from their resumes.

The greatest offense wrought by this eclectic and unholy mixture of sophomoric satire, comic book realism, grunge chic and apocalyptic paranoia is that it runs for an interminable two hours and twenty-four minutes, making this hands-down the most unendurable and unwatchable movie travesty of the past several years.
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A piece of art much broader than any other movie you've seen
Andy Maggetti17 November 2007
This movie is intense. From the very beginning, the viewers are bombarded by a myriad of stimuli: the "newsprogram-like" format, the saturation of product placements, multiple complicated & scattered plots, interruptions by a music video, tons of stars each with their own "star" baggage, absurd happenings, etc.

The Southland Tales develops a language all of its own. It's bigger than a movie because it does so much more than simply tell a narrative -- it speaks volumes of our current socio-political situation.

This commentary on the status of America is a terrifying one. The Southland Tales paints a distracted and over-stimulated picture of America. There are so many distractions, in fact, that you can't even tell for sure what really is going on. Both the republicans and democrats in the film are absurd. There are no "good guys" -- only chaos, distractions, power struggles, and ultimately an apocalypse. There is also an amnesia motif in the film -- perhaps suggesting that we are brainwashed or forgetting what's important or who we are.

I think that Kelly is commenting on our current situation and warning us that if we continue on this path, we are only dooming ourselves. The distracting culprits: power hungry politicians, advertisers, the news media, the music industry, the porn industry, the military, drugs, even special interests (in ST it is actually a power company) Unfortunately, 90% of the people watching this film will get too frustrated with it and walk out of the theatre before understanding what it is really saying. The reviews will be bad because this is not a typical movie, yet it will be championed as a cult classic and re-released in 5 years or so once it has gained enough popularity... hmm... sounds a little like Donnie Darko's fate. Richard Kelly is a director ahead of his time, an independent thinker who doesn't care about putting out blockbuster hits, a director who actually has something important to say and contribute to the world.
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not brilliant, but interesting
murfit24 December 2008
Warning: Spoilers
This movie doesn't really work, which is a pity, because it involves a lot of interesting ideas, put together in quite an eccentric and idiosyncratic way. Richard Kelly seems to pursue in his movies his private obsessions, which surely can go deeply wrong, but which nonetheless is the presupposition of anything interesting happening at all.

Some people have written that this film has nothing in common with "Donnie Darko": that's clearly wrong. At the center of both movies is the idea of meeting oneself as something threatening the foundations of reality, and how it has to be either avoided at the cost of personal sacrifice (Donnie Darko) or triggers the apocalyptic end of the world (Southland Tales). Of course, while "Donnie Darko" is the dark, introverted private tragedy of its main character, "Southland Tales" is set on a much larger scale, including many persons and society at large.

Richard Kelly is surely talented and has a weird sense of humor. (I loved the character of Krysta Now, the poet-porn star advocating "teen horniness" who "doesn't do anal" because it fosters violence in the world.) However, he still needs to work on his writing and directing abilities to achieve something truly great in the future.

One recommendation: Read the graphic novel too, preferably at first -- it's not a "prequel" in the strict sense, but the first part of the story itself, and it adds an additional layer to it by exposing the contents of Santaros' and Now's movie script "The Power".
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A complete waste of film
johnschmoe26 November 2007
The most pretentious movie i have ever had the misfortune to experience, Sarah Michelle Gellar is her usual wooden self over pronouncing every single word to such an extent that it just sounds as if shes reading instead of acting (in saying that everyone in the movie puts in a terrible performance which has to be the fault of the director) and the Rock in a dramatic role don't make me laugh, the dialogue sounds as if it has been written by your 85 year old granny trying to sound "with it".

Richard Kelly has let himself down with this overdone piece of rubbish such a far cry from the genius that was Donnie Darko.
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The Perfect Puzzle
Ilya Lobko16 December 2008
This is definitely a movie that is much cleverer than most of the audience, including myself. At first it seems to be a total mess with no signs of coherent plot at all.

But then you just got sucked in into the great atmosphere which this movie produces. It is similar to Donnie Darko's in a lot of ways, mostly in use of music and light in certain scenes.

And after it finishes you are starting to realize that most of the episodes that were either odd or looked out of place are perfectly tied together.

Perfect puzzle for a brain! SOLVE IT NOW!
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