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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.
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.
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!
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.
*** This review may contain 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
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.
*** This review may contain 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)
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.
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.
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?
*** This review may contain 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
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 amazing...like, totally...wow...
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