Reviews written by registered user
|102 reviews in total|
Slumming is great at first just because it has a premise you have not seen in a hundred other films. Its about a jerky young guy who bored with his life plays practical jokes on people (usually involving arranged blind dates made online and secretly taken crotch shots with his phone) One night while going around with his friend he sees a passed out drunk guy lying on a bench in front of a train station. He randomly decides to take said passed out drunk guy, put him in the trunk of his car, and drive him across the border into another country at a similar looking bench in front of a similar looking train station. (The jerky young guy keeps laughingly repeating-- "He'll think the train station shrank!" while driving back home with his friend) The rest of the movie mostly involves two different plot lines--one involving the passed out drunk guy coming to and trying to wander home, or at least wander somewhere in search of warmth and more alcohol. The second plot line involves the jerky young guy and his new relationship with this woman he meets on one of his arranged blind dates who seems to understand his penchant for playing pranks and trying to wake himself up so he's not simply sleeping through his life. (or something like that) Unfortunately as amused as she is by most of the stuff he does--she does not find the thought of what he did to the passed out drunk guy very funny at all and sets out to find him and bring him back. Why? I'm not too sure, but I suppose it gives the film something to give the audience someone to relate to because we're probably not going be able to relate to either of the other two guys at the center of the film (though I should admit I did kind of like the jerky young guy.) The first half hour or so is really very intriguing. I liked the central premise very, very much that I was willing to go with the film wherever it went. That intrigue actually takes the movie far enough--you spend a good majority of the movie wondering just where this film is actually going. Unfortunately it eventually becomes clear that the film isn't really going to go anywhere all that interesting. (in fact the movie essentially ends with an ending that's kind of the equivalent of shrugging your shoulders--I mean its an ending in the sense that the three characters get a resolution, but the resolution is more up in the air than concrete.) Also as much as I liked this fact--truthfully you're probably not going to be able to identify with either the jerky young guy, or the passed out drunk guy who while realistically portrayed is hard to evoke sympathy for given that he clearly doesn't want any.(basically once he wakes up, he marches around seeking shelter which he eventually finds, then he roams around again eventually hiding out in both a barn alongside some cows, and hiding out in the luggage compartment of a professional sports team's bus...I should add that throughout the movie he essentially berates the majority of people he ends up coming across. I mean he's nice enough to the kind souls who try to help him a little but but for the most part he's belligerent, angry, and almost always cursing in the only somewhat coherent ways that the drunk homeless sometimes do.) The film is good in that it doesn't ask for any sympathy for any of its characters (both of whom take life on their own terms) Its also good in that you really don't know where its going to go as the film keeps going along. However as interesting as it is, after a while it starts to become a little bit of a drag in that its hard to really connect with either of its two main characters (which is probably why they brought in the woman to search for the drunk guy--as an audience surrogate) So interesting and definitely worth a look for fans of the off-beat but not super terrific.
Sabotage was a pretty good B movie overall. Its got a really strong
beginning, a suspenseful enough middle, and a really, really weak
ending. Arnold absolutely does his strongest post comeback acting work
here with a very tense, serious, internal and surprisingly effective
performance. Almost completely missing at least at first are all the
coolly spoken one liners that usually serve to punch up the scene we
just saw--which really threw me off guard while watching this. I kept
waiting for the classic Arnold one liner tell off line and while there
are a handful scattered here and there, instead of being delivered with
that classic confident style we get a kind of slightly nervous style of
Arnold's got reason to be nervous. His character's "we don't answer to nobody" big time top secret, off the grid DEA squad just blew a major bust, a member of his team got killed, and they're all being accused of stealing the money from the failed bust that they can't recover. (Doesn't help that a lot of it was burned up in an explosion but never mind that.) When we first see Arnold back in the office trying to tie up loose ends, he's being tailed everywhere he goes--even in the bathroom! He's being mocked by everyone he comes across and even after he grabs this other agent's gun right off of his chest holder without the guy even knowing he's still being made fun of by the dude! It doesn't matter though cause he's got bigger fish to fry. Mainly he's got to find out who's killing off the members of his team one by one. (Who Could It Be????) Yes before too long we witness the deaths of the members of his team one by one--and you can just bet that the local cops in charge of investigating these deaths will start to suspect him before too long. Why? I don't really know, and it doesn't really matter because he's Arnold and frankly why else are you watching this if not for him? I hope its not for any of the actors who make up the members up their team because despite some good actors mixed in there, none of them really get to make much of an impression with the exception of one team member in particular. I'll leave it to you to find out which one of course! Arnold in all seriousness does a very strong job indicating the mounting pressures his character feels--about halfway through the movie we learn what's really eating Arnold's character and Arnold does a very credible job making you believe that he's really suffering internally. I can't believe I'm saying this but I honestly think he'd be a good lead on a CBS crime show, he's got that real charismatic "I'm in charge here" accountability aspect of seeming like a good leader to the other members of his team down and it kind of stinks that the last half hour or so of this movie lets Arnold's fine character work down by becoming more typical, and a lot more sloppy in terms of plotting.
Yes the killer is found, and yes is justice is dispensed and Arnold gets to fire a large gun out of the sunroof of a car while in pursuit of said killer. The end chase scene is actually really funny--at one point the killer hits a pedestrian on a bike and shouts that they can't see over the body on the windshield and I'm not going to lie--its a really funny moment and is very unusual in a movie car chase (which I love!) but everything past a certain point--say the random revealing of the killer--feels kind of a let down given the build up that was put in.
I'm probably over-thinking this--its not like they set out to make a great character based movie but I feel like Arnold's character here really registers strongly as an actual person and this could have been an amazing suspense movie with real emotions playing out from Arnold but the film's pretty sloppy last twenty minutes or so lessons the quality of the film quite a bit. Seriously the killer all but announces that they're the killer at a certain point and all that's left is to watch Arnold chase after the killer--like its like that's it? that's the end of the movie we've been watching? after an hour and twenty minutes give or take of toying with Arnold--this is how the movie decides to end? OK I guess but you were a lot better a movie before you randomly decided you needed to rush to an ending as quickly as you could. Its still entertaining at least.
Frank Langella would very, very much be the reason to see this film, he
doesn't disappoint...its the film around him that disappoints. Playing
his somewhat usual unusual role of enigmatic rich man asking mysterious
favors of a somewhat struggling younger person while hiding his own
questionable agenda (see also "The Ninth Gate" and "The Box" among
others.) Langella shows up on screen maybe ten minutes in snapping at
his maid to go the pharmacy after she literally just said she was going
there--- He then follows up with the memorable one liner "Life's a lot
less complicated ever since I stopped hearing women talk" Its the kind
of irresistible barbed one liner that i love hearing come out of
Langella in movies exactly like these, and as he went about describing
just exactly what he wanted from the young painter whose time and
energy he solicits, I was more then wrapped up in the whole mysterious
vibe of the film and quite optimistic.
Unfortunately the film as a whole seems a lot more interested in the process of painting and saddling Langella with somewhat ominous monologues with grave overtones about the importance of living while doing what you love while you can. I mean the writer/director gives Langella a good reason for doing that but its possible it could've been done in a somewhat less ham fisted way. While the creation of the various canvases that lead Wes Bentley gets to somewhat lovingly paint are tied in nicely with the main plot line, and the repeated close-ups of paint mixing with water are a neat visual motif (i suppose) its definitely not what i went to this movie to see, but its possible that I went to see this because I just wanted to see what nutty thing the Frank Langella character wanted from the younger character this time around.
What Langella wants is fairly easy to guess and one nice thing on the director's part is that he that he lets Wes Bentley understand almost immediately from the second he sees Sarah Paulson exactly what Langella wanted. The climactic scene of Bentley and Paulson together is nicely effective and reasonably free of the hitting you over the head emotionalism that a lesser director would've went for. When the film ends however you kind of realize that not a whole lot really happened and that the journey that Wes Bently made and the lessons he's supposed to have learned regarding the way he's been living his life don't feel all that true. Even tho i did like the performance of the actress who played his wife (Ahna O'Reily) who i thought did a very effective job showing the frustrations living with this obsessive painter was having on her life during the couple of scenes she was in. (Or as Langella says to Bentley regarding her "Artists can't have families, it takes away from their art") Honestly i just think the film either needed more meat to its rather slim story, or failing that more maybe some more substantial scenes between Bentely and Langella--I'm not entirely sure what this film needed more of but i definitely feel like it needed more of something for it to have felt worth watching and thinking about as a whole but OK.
The Look of Love from Steve Coogan and director Michael Winterbottom
was definitely something to look forward to--between the two of them
they've cooked up 24 Hour Party People, Tristam Shandy, and The
Trip--all three of which are top notch films in many ways. They're all
moving and quite funny in addition to being very well done dramatic
portrayals of guys begrudgingly reflecting back on the choices they've
made in their life as well. This film has the latter part but nowhere
near the good humor of the former part. Its possible the two men wanted
to play the seriousness of Coogan's character's plight for straight
dramatic value or maybe they felt that the character being portrayed
wouldn't be as funny as the ones Coogan played in the other films,
either way the movie itself mostly just lays there on screen. There's
not much to engage you or pull you into the story this time around and
Coogan's character who's supposed to be the central figure of this
"character study" never begins to come across as a vivid, fully fleshed
out person the way he does in the other films...i kept waiting for the
details of his life to get filled in but the film mostly glosses over
the details that would've made his character someone to root for (or
against) Instead what we get is a barely there stick figure, you can
sympathize with some of the things his character has to goes through
towards the end, but you can never fully feel for his character.
Coogan plays somewhat of a British Larry Flynt here...someone who becomes a wildly successful entrepreneur and real estate tycoon on the strength of a pornographic empire and his successful attempts to have frequent nudity and stripping in proper polite public society. Its said at the end of the movie that his character was the richest man in Britian in the mid 2000's,--tho the film itself is set during the late 70's/early 80's (Relying on the soundtrack to tell you when you are is what i did, as Donnovan's "Sunshine Superman" pops up towards the beginning, and Soft Cell's "Tainted Love" pops up in the last half hour, i got that we were moving from the 70's thru the 80's here but its honestly hard to tell because there are so many different period signifyers all kind of just thrown on screen.)
The film's storyline involves Coogan's ever evolving relationship with his daughter whom he refuses to leave when he walks out on his wife and son, apparently he shares a significant bond with her, we're told that she's a lot like him character wise and you can see why that is as the story moves on. When she ends up being kicked out of boarding school, against his better instincts he ends up taking her on as a performer (she wants to be a singer) and eventually a full on partner in his various business dealings. The bulk of the story is essentially how the business he very successfully built for himself ends up destroying his own daughter little by little (you know it isn't very long before she ends up over-indulging in drugs and the lifestyle in general and getting in way over her head, etc, etc) Meanwhile Coogan keeps whatever difficult emotions he's feeling bottled up while witnessing the slow decline of his daughter, preferring to over-indulge in the nightlife himself.
This could have all been a nicely effecting story about a guy who never took the time to share or process his feelings towards the other people in his life suddenly having to grapple with the choices he had made having such a significant effect on the one true loved on in his life. Unfortunately, again, none of it really comes across--i don't know if this is because Coogan's character steadfastly refuses to take responsibility for his actions, or because Winterbottom purposefully keeps Coogan's character at such a remote distance from the audience that again it ends up being difficult to feel for him when the difficulties in his life start up. You can see how much pride he takes in how he presents himself to everyone else, and how little else matters to him which may be the point, but it doesn't make it any easier to latch onto him as the main character in a movie. Unlike the other three films the star and director made together, the film's central character never comes across as an even remotely likable person so the attempt in the last half hour or so to make him more relatable to the audience never works because you were never really on his wavelength as a person/character to begin with.
As a whole, the film is an interesting attempt at doing a whole seedy 70's esque character study, but it just doesn't quite work as a whole and while Coogan does get in a good handful of one liners--although those are so few and far between one another tho that they might as well have not even been there tho i was thankful while watching it that they were-- so while itself is never exactly a dead zone, the film overall is way too inert to really pull you into the world of its central character and that is sadly the complete opposite of what the other 3 films the star and director have done together.
The East is a film that knows how to grab your attention and hold on to
it. Its a very confidently made film much like the director's previous
film "The Sound Of My Voice" was. The story is as unpredictable and as
nicely set-up and nicely unfolding as that other film was, however this
doesn't quite match that other film's power at keeping you intrigued
and attentive right up until the end credits. This one is both a little
longer then it needed to be and a little too light on narrative
momentum--especially, especially in that third act, to really lead to
as powerful a finish as it would like to land.
Don't get me wrong, I very, very much enjoyed watching the film unfold as it was going along. I very, very much enjoyed the various ways the film kept moving ahead with its storyline, and drawing you in with its very calm and very serious straight faced storytelling. The attempts to make a slow building old school (re 70's style) paranoid suspense film are well met...and the sequences where Britt Marling who's supposed to be deep undercover along with this underground "eco-terrorist" group goes along with the group's activities very much escalates in tension as the film moves along. However I personally didn't feel that the climax of the film was as powerful or as shattering as it should've been, nor was it as clear at what meaning or message the storyline was trying to get at. When i was thinking about what the ending meant and how it reflected the movie i just watched as a whole, I didn't really think that the film was as great as it could have been because there are some serious questions regarding the actions of some of the characters there that don't quite fit together. To put it in other words-- There's a great first act, a very nicely sustained second act, but a third act that all but kills the nicely building tension that had been simmering at a low boil for a good hour and a half or so. Without giving anything away I'll just say that it didn't feel very satisfactory to me, and that it felt vague and open to interpretation whereas the movie up until then had been very specific in what the people in the film were trying to accomplish.
The other thing I felt could've been a lot better was the lead character's emotional connection to the group she's supposed to be infiltrating. Its supposed to be clear that she's feeling unceasingly drawn in to the "terrorist" group's philosophy and less and less sure about the materialistic life she had been leading before her undercover gig. That's not a bad storyline certainly and there's a great scene towards the end where Birtt Marling really sells the whole emotional confusion she feels, but it never really felt to me that the emotional disconnect she was feeling from her real life was all that deep. Like I feel like if she could've taken a really long bath and gotten a couple night's sleep she could've easily overcome her deep emotional anguish, it didn't quite register as strongly to me as the director would like it to, and i suspect it may be because of that very fact that i definitely didn't feel like the ending worked as well as it could have. Again don't get me wrong, the chemistry between Marling and Alexander Skarsgaard as the group leader is good, but its almost too low key a passion to really match the boiling emotion that she's supposed to be feeling and again there are some questions there regarding both of their characters actions towards that last stretch of film that don't quite track with what they had been feeling before--at least again to me it didn't feel like it was keeping in character.
Overall its a suspenseful film but one that's ultimately undone by its somewhat vague ending. Two other things to take note of here tho are the fact that the film was produced by none other then Ridley Scott--and there's a very nice little homage to Blade Runner in the recurring shot of the pack of horses (with the lone while horse running along the other dark horses)that Birtt Marling sees...that one shot of the horses running also nicely conveys both the state of mind and the physical location of where Britt Marling is when she sees them again at the end. The other thing I want to point out is the work of Ellen Page here as one of the more angry members of the the organization. While she's only really given the one note to play--super committed member of the faithful, the one scene where she gets to fully confront the source of a lot of her anger is very powerfully played and very well acted. I only really mention it because I almost feel like that if Britt Marling's character could have matched Page's intensity towards that last half hour or so where she's supposed to be unraveling her true feelings that maybe the film's ending could have come off as more powerful then the shoulder shrug it elicited from me.
I loved the book enormously when i read it a couple years back. I shot
through it in two days and just thought it was a fantastic read with an
incredibly high energy feel to it. (Its almost like the reading
equivalent of several cups of coffee) The film by contrast doesn't have
any of that specific wired high energy feel to it, in fact i thought
the film kind of saps some of the energy from the story by trying to
place it all in the context of a story that has to have a beginning,
middle, and end. I get that any adaptation of this was going to have to
do some reconfiguring just because any movie is going to need to have a
story with a clear through line for people who aren't familiar with the
book to understand and that's OK, but at the same time it kind of takes
away some of the amazing strength of the book. In fact it kind of
reminded me of the Robert Redford 70's version of "the Great Gatsby" in
that while faithfully recreating the scenes from the book, they kind of
forgot to infuse the film with the lively energy that their source
material had in spades! Enough about that tho because as a film "On The
Road" is solidly enjoyable enough and pretty well made as a film that
its hard not to like it in general. I did in fact watch virtually the
entire movie with a huge smile on my face because i enjoyed in no small
measure the staging of certain scenes from the book, as well as
catching certain lines that i remembered vividly from the book but not
until hearing them spoken in the film did i think about how great it
was that the screenwriter and director thought to include them.
The film itself to me even gets better in retrospect because at first i didn't particularly like either Sam Rielley or Garret Hedlund as Sal or Dean. Thought they were both entirely miscast, but in truth as the film went on it was a lot easier to accept them as the characters if only because i think i had such a specific type in mind for both characters--Sal should have been less grizzled, more naive...and Dean should have been way more manic and charming instead of the fairly low key but very affable man. (i feel like maybe James Franco would've been a good choice for this cause he can definitely do both manic and depressed.) Even that i understand that you can't overdo Dean Moriarty because then you run the risk of going too far and having him not be believable as someone who could easily charm this entire group of people, but again as the film goes on, and the scenes go by--it becomes a lot easier to accept the two actors as Sal and Dean. I feel like that's actually true of the film as a whole too. It kind of starts out with a whole i don't know about this kind of vibe and it quickly wins you over because of the confident way the scenes from the book are put across. I really do feel like Walter Salles properly caught the spirit and underlying sadness of the book but didn't quite capture the mad passionate high energy level that makes the book such an intoxicating read. While that initially came to me as disappointment i got to admit that the film (much like the book its based on) grew on me as i was watching it, and if the film can't be exactly like the book, its at least a fair to solid enough interpretation of the book's characters and events that i can gladly accept and enjoy it on its own merits. (The fact that its also beautifully filmed and has a great accompanying soundtrack help enormously!)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Engaging revenge style film starts out like a good old fashioned noir
film and builds in intensity as it goes on until it gets to the point
where it starts to resemble Chan Woo Park's "Lady Vengeance" more then
anything else. Quite suspenseful film deserves to be much better known
in the US today, especially since wild changes in tone and cartoonish
spurts of blood are much more widely embraced in American movies today.
(in fact the wild climax of the movie reminded me of the crazy 88's
sequence in the first Kill Bill film except done rather seriously but
i'll get to that later) The film very much reminds me of something
Brian DePalma would have made in that its a very well made suspense
tale with a crazy climax, a beautiful score, and nods to other kinds of
films from the past--it wouldn't be out of line to suggest that if you
were a fan of something like Body Double or Dressed To Kill you would
prob go for this one in a big way. (both great movies,both a lot of
fun, both also with insane endings) It also reminds me of a Brian
DePalma film in that as wildly entertaining as the endings to his films
can be, they sometimes feel as if they're coming at the expense of
their carefully built plot lines, but that's OK too i guess since they
really just serve to draw you into the story and then shock you very
nicely in the end.
Film stars out with 2 friends drunkenly lamenting the fact that this big cooperation wants to buy out the land that they make their living fishing on to turn it into yet another resort (or so they think, the bad guys actually have designs on turning said land into a nuclear power plant!) When one ends up witnessing the murder of the other, he ends up dragging his wife who is a deep sea diver into this conspiracy--the dead body of his friend is nowhere to be found and he wants her to dive in and find his body. While she's underwater, he ends up harpooned and she narrowly escapes being killed herself---i'm not giving any spoilers away, this all happens in the space of the film's first twenty or so minutes. The rest of the film is the wife's attempt to seek the killers, exert her revenge, and try to force the truth of the bad guys' conspiracy to light which is of course easier said then done.
This film is nice and suspenseful and is actually very old fashioned--this could have been the plot to a 50's noir that somehow ended up starring Esther Williams were she interested in wanting to do a film noir and not a big Technicolor musical. This is what i was thinking at least up until the first surprisingly violent interaction between the wife who is now posing as a prostitute and the first of the many henchmen to the bad guys she ends up meeting and um dispatching. That interaction at first is really jarring--because aside from the killing of her husband and his friend, the film hasn't been violent at all, so this extended sequence of her stabbing this henchman--at first to escape being identified--comes as a really shocking moment, and then the scene goes on with her repeatedly stabbing at him and all this blood soon spurting out of the henchman, and soon there's so much of it that the sequence would not be out of place in a Tarentino film. The movie which up until that point hadn't been even remotely funny even starts to develop a kind of sick sense of humor, the more this kind of thing takes place, the funnier it actually becomes which only goes to show you how well this film could have gone over in America were it to have been made in recent years rather then in the mostly conservative 80's. This all leads to an either brilliant or insane--or insanely brilliant last 15 or so minute sequence where the heroine--now fully deranged from her revenge quest just goes bonkers and decides to just stop playing games and start killing everyone she comes across from this now cartoonishly evil cooperation. Literally she takes a harpoon and just starts stabbing everyone she comes across. Its a great sequence--alive with so much energy that i rather wish the film was far better known if only so someone could post this sequence on you-tube and i could actually show it to other people! As entertaining as this sequence is tho it also shows you how far the film has gone from being a rather believable suspense film to an almost cartoonish violent kind of film--and while the whole sequence is well built up to, it does kind of go against the whole believable atmosphere that the film has been building up to so far. Still the old motto about those who end up seeking revenge is very apt here, and is also very entertaining if you don't mind the overall shift from straight suspense drama to over the top revenge style type of movie. Also any movie that can prompt a discussion after-wards about whether a harpoon could take out that many people at once is definitely one worth watching.
i saw as part of the museum of modern art's exhibition of Japanese new
wave art films of the 60's, 70's, and 80's (films sponsored and
produced by the Art Theater Guild--an independent production company
that financed a lot of out there Japanese films that were trying to
make a statement about life, art and the human condition) The films
being shown in this series seemed to be the Japanese equivalent to the
french new wave films of the 60's--films that wanted to shake off the
mainstream ways of thinking about writing and directing and to try and
create mad passionate and somewhat impulsive ways of creating and a new
way for audiences to watch a film--basically they wanted to re-invent
the wheel--and this film in particular seems like the very specific
kind that jean luc Godard was running around making throughout the
60's. What separates this film i think is that much like some of
Godard's more out there/in your face films--this one really seems to
want to be more then just a narrative film with likable characters--it
wants to be this kind of shouting look at what society's doing to
us--we're the new generation here and we're slowly but surely being
killed kind of film--complete with main character on screen running
around shouting all kinds of beliefs and radical political statements
to anyone within earshot--statements that are meant to be deep but are
also kind of a show off "look what a radical kind of guy i can be"
The movie's plot starts with this guy wandering around carrying a giant rolled up bundle that could be a body (he carries it with ease throughout the film suggesting that its probably not, but the fact that he's constantly talking to it makes you think maybe it is, or maybe he wants other people to think it is) its soon revealed that he's actually a thief and a mugger, but apparently not a very good one-- it isn't long until he's falsely accused of raping a woman selling carrots and after the police have him in custody they end up laughing at him when he admits to being a mugger--they basically don't believe he's any threat to anybody and he ends up being let go wherein he tries to start a protest about being locked up by a society that doesn't know what to do with a guy like him--and of course fails miserably at this too (he can't even sustain interest from the people he's paying to stand with him--the drummer who he keeps telling to drum after every one of his grand statements ends up walking out on said protest after its clear that no one is interested in what this guy has to say) outraged the guy ends up wandering around yet again wherein he ends up trying to mug a couple who refuse to be mugged--the guy is a deaf mute and does not understand that he's being mugged--his girlfriend just hauls off and beats up our lackluster hero. For some reason our lackluster hero decides to stick with these two--i think it had something to do with the fact that they're both also outcasts from normal society so he feels connected to the two of them and ends up hanging out and following them around for the rest of the film. The two end up revealing themselves as being criminals--criminals in love BTW whose make out sessions our lackluster hero finds himself the third wheel in---and basically the films ends up being a rather arty outlaws on the fringes of society kind of thing--except then the deaf-mute ends up disappearing and the lackluster hero tries to claim the girlfriend as his own which doesn't quite end up sticking when the deaf mute comes back--and they all end up being blinded, deafened, and most likely irradiated after they end up wandering into some test site where radioactive nuclear bomb testing is occurring.
What this all means i'm not entirely clear--self made outcasts of society ends up becoming mighty victims of the society they were victimizing when not outright shunning it in the first place??? The film in its many scenes of the three of them wandering around looking for places to crash with the lackluster hero jabbering about his beliefs about society and what he'd like to do to society and what he'd like to do to build a new society and so on is to me very reminiscent of one of Goddard's many Marxist anti-hero protagonists--these young guys who talk the talk about wanting to be a revolutionary and rebuilding society but really just want to get laid and live the high life they think a revolutionary would lead being all the rage in the 60's. As a narrative i didn't really think the film worked all that well if only because the film kind of lost me round the midway point--i really didn't quite understand why the main character or the bonnie and Clyde duo were hanging with each other when neither can stand the other as the movie goes on, but as a different cultural take on those french new wave films of the 60's (goaddard's--espcially something like "Masculine-Feminine") it was an interesting watch, and one that's certainly worth catching if (and really ONLY if) you're really into that kind of cinema. Indeed when it was over, the two guys sitting in back of me had the exchange where one was saying that he had little idea what the point of any of that was, and the other one replied eh its always good to hear jimmi hendrix in a movie tho--that's really as good a response to this movie as i could possibly think of in all honesty.
Sweet movie with a few well handled sour moments that shows you the
gradual reconnecting of a somewhat strained mother/son relationship.
Its not that the two don't like each other, just that they're way too
easily annoyed by one another (yes especially rogen by streissand with
her constant phone messages consisting of nothing but questions, but
also the other way around too in a couple of quick scenes where
Streissand is seemingly all too aware of how annoying her son finds
her, which leads to her surprised reaction at being asked by him to go
on this road trip.) The film does a very good job of showing you (and
not just telling you) the two characters starting to not just like each
other but appreciate each other as actual people throughout the course
of the film even if it is a little slanted on the side of the mother
(but of course it would be--its barbra steissand after all) I
especially liked the recurring scenes of the two of them listening to a
book on cd of Middlesex throughout the film--all 22 discs of it! Its a
cute device that could double as a nice representative of the film as a
whole--a little hokey at first, the jokes made are a little shopworn at
first as well (Rogen is rather uncomfortable with the subject matter of
the book, which is understandable given that its so not the kind of
book you'd wanna experience with your mom at your side) but the
recurring scenes throughout the movie as both characters keep coming
back to that book on cd (rogen gradually giving in to the narrative as
well despite its over length) are effective. The film itself started to
have that kind of effect on me as well in that the film is a little on
the hokey shopworn side but you kind of connect to them as people as
the film goes on and hope they manage to work out whatever differences
they have. The film is actually full of recurring things like that that
start out kind of corny but become effective thru repetition. Like,
Streissand's character loves m and m's--she's seen waking up or going
to bed and covered in wrappers in a scene at the beg and then again in
the middle and then towards the end when Rogen spots a big m and m
figure his pointing out of it to his mom was a cute moment that was
well built up to. Details like that are really nice touches that to me
go a long way to keeping the film's characters likable and human and
not just stick figures in a movie. The movie could probably be best
described as cute, but there are some very funny one liners throughout
as well as some scenes that do a good job wringing drama out of the
situation as well without being too heavy handed about it.
Its been mentioned here as well but this is also a fundamentally nice film too-there aren't many scenes here that would make you squirm if you were sitting next to your mom watching it--and i think to their credit the writer and director did a good job making a mother/son film that successfully exploits the gap between the two without piling on what could have been really obvious and labored jokes--there's a very nice sense of low key chemistry between the two stars that even when the two of them are confronting one another on their shortcomings, never quite crosses into uncomfortable hostility despite the fact that it could have very easily done so. Also despite some predictable stretches, and some scenes that don't really add anything except minutes to the running time, there is a nice lived in and somewhat laid back vibe to the film as a whole. (for example the quick breakdown of the car in the middle of the highway and them having to wait for the tow truck to arrive while at a strip club scene while nicely low key might not really add anything plot wise, but it is fairly plausible that's that how the 2 characters would react in that situation and thankfully at no point does the film threaten to descend into shrill unpleasant characterizations and unlikely "comedic" things happening which a lesser film like the meet the focker sequels that streissand herself appeared in would've indulged in.) I think for me the best parts and prob the meat of the film were the ones that involved streissand in rogen's attempts to sell his cleaning product--throughout the film he's bombing at his various sales presentations where he's supposed to be enticing the store buyers (including Costco and K-Mart) into wanting to know more about his new product--and its only at the end when he finally gets over himself long enough to actually listen to what his mom had been telling him earlier in the film that he starts to actually change his sales tactics--and again i think this was just a very nice and effective way to show the character growth without hitting you over the head with the fact that the son managed to learn a couple things from his mom after all, despite the very annoying tendencies of his mom to couch the actual valid arguments in rather nagging tones that would of course lead him to discard anything she might actually have to say. Its a sweet little film and thankfully it doesn't hit you over the head with its own sweetness or hostility or mawkish sentiment, going down smoothly and pleasantly enough. (well maybe the big grand speech at the end overdoes it with the sentiment--but again its barbara streissand in the central role--if she can't get a nice somewhat big moment to play then what's the point in having her right?)
I didn't really care for the movie so much, indeed i kind of feel like
it was almost trying too hard to achieve the kind of moody tone poetry
it really wanted to carve out, but i do feel like this is a movie that
other people could and prob will really really love. If you're a fan of
the films of Wong Kar-Wai--i would really recommend checking this one
out as this covers a lot of similar terrain both dialog wise,
atmosphere wise, and character wise, it definitely felt like the work
of someone who really looked up to Wong Kar-Wai. I enjoyed that
director's work more than enough that i can certainly appreciate the
similarities that are present here without really getting wrapped up in
this film's sense of poetic ramblings and discourses--again both dialog
and visual wise, and i should say there are a handful of sequences here
that really hit the mark--such as the one scene where the lead decided
that maybe he will get run over by a train after all. In those handful
of moments the film really comes to life in a vivid and memorable
way--unfortunately they're only moments.
The plot is essentially there's this young gloomy man (maybe in his early twenties)who upon breaking up with his much rhapsodized love interest seeks to end his life--be it physically or just emotionally, he essentially stops taking care of himself getting himself kicked out of his residence, and just stops caring about anything and everything--he gets so drunk in the first five minutes of the film that he bites into a glass and needs to receive stitches on his mouth because of this but he doesn't seem to even care all that much so given up on any joy he could possibly get out of life is he. In the hospital he's befriended by a very sunny hairdresser who along with another friend of his (a doorman prone to having sex with prostitutes) become a trio of young guys just hanging around and getting drunk while the lead waxes poetic in voice-over some of which is very effective (the scene of the three of them passing out and lying down drunk outside has the guy saying to the audience that he wishes he could buy them all the drinks they want but since he can't afford it, at least he can afford the cold wind that they can all feel which will remind them all that they're alive??? i am not sure but it both looked and sounded cool) eventually the three guys hook up with this singer of a rock band that plays at the bar where the lead ate that glass--and she and another girl (who ends up being the sister of one of the other two guys) ends up hanging out and after two or three scenes of the lead trying to off himself eventually forms a connection to the singer of the band. This in turn leads to not a whole lot--there was an attempt at blackmailing the other girl's boss at the bank she works at because she had been sexually molested by him, and there are a couple of alternatively amusing and puzzling scenes involving the other characters doing other things....i hope by now you get the idea that this film isn't really about plot anyways as much as it is the brooding atmosphere and rather dystopic mindset of its main character and how it basically informs everything he sees around him--from his friends, to a potential new love, to everything he passes by, everything is just touched by a cloud of sadness and doom. I feel like this film might have been trying to say something about depression and how both beautiful and ugly, natural and unnatural the young man's mind will process sadness--but that may be ascribing a quality to the film that only i was seeing while watching it. All of that said, the film's pacing is lethargic at best, torpid at worst, but again there are these occasionally wonderful scenes scattered throughout that suggest a real touch of poetry and a real future for the director if he could maybe put together a slightly less languorous film next time out--or at least one that has as many moments that work as moments that don't.
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