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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This film is not good, by any means, yet it does have some really great
style and aesthetic. Unfortunately, it is a bit schizophrenic in its
execution. For every awesome visual sequence, whether in a
dream/nightmare/white trash living room, there is that brutal murder
that goes beyond masochism and straight into sadism. I understand a
story must be told and the masses must be appeased into having an idea
of what is going on, but when you have brilliance like a crazy, slimy,
pumpkin-head people dinner party, screw comprehension and give me
surrealistic bliss. Scenes like this make me believe Zombie has
something up his sleeve and hopefully the future will finally bring it
out. For all I know it's happened already with House of 1,000 Corpses
and this train wreck just makes me want to see that debut even more.
Rumor/speculation/fact/whatever has it being said that Halloween III will be happening, but sans Zombie and in 3D, (because every third part needs to be since it works so smoothly with the name). This is not a bad idea at all. The ex-rocker needs to get back to cultivating original work and opening the world to some horrific imagery without any history attached. We know the Michael Myers stories and how he works and his relation to the victims. This ingrained knowledge begs to bring up comparisons and, let's face it, nostalgia for the original will always win out. So take your twisted mind Rob and really mess up our slumber with imagery incapable of being forgotten, as we know you can. This film is better than his first, (that's not saying much), just for the reason that he has taken the plot in fantastical places, adding layers of the supernatural and psychological world.
This one ratchets up the look to the point where it assaults your sensibilities. It's not only the matriarch stripper with too much make-up, coarse language, and take no crap attitude watching her son put on his cheaply made mask for Halloween's ritual begging; no, now its about a lifestyle of darkness and evil. Sheriff Brackett, have you ever been upstairs in your house? How can you allow your daughter and friend to do what they did to that bathroom? A pentagram and "666" written on the door, curse words in graffiti or printed everywhere, and a picture of Jesus by the toilet? Even Laurie's bedroom is complete with a giant image of Charles Manson hanging above the bed. And these are the good girls may I remind you. Before a party full of debauchery, (this is the Zombie I'd like to see more of in low-budget indie slashers), Scout Taylor-Compton mentions how being a good girl has gotten her nowhere. Man did I grow up in a good place if that house, those clothes, and her job is being "good". That party, though, wow it's like the Labyrinth costume ball on acid, vampire blood, and lust; a lethal combination indeed.
I do applaud Zombie for saying screw you to the original series run's scripts and doing what he wanted, even if it's unsuccessful. Loomis as a money-grubbing, attention whore cashing in on the carnage a former patient of his inflicted? Definitely great on paper and, with Malcolm McDowell hamming it up, decent on screen, but overall just plain forced. I couldn't help thinking that this new incarnation of a man trying his best to save his tortured soul is merely a stand-in for Rob himself. After two cult successes, Zombie went and did the mainstream thing, toning down his vision, (if that's possible), and going for the money rather than the originality. So he puts in Loomis to do the same, a hubristic journey to redemption and the chance to maybe do something right. This is Zombie killing the hack he refuses to become, and if this film has any merit, let's hope that is it. Out with the old and in with the new in many ways according to the end here. But without a third installment under his reins, the set-up is most likely all for nought.
Acting-wise, though, I didn't really have a problem. Kudos to the multiple cameos and bit parts from recognizable folk just to die in horrific ways. There's the "Deadwood" connection with Brad Dourif's reprisal of the Sheriff and Dayton Callie's inclusion as an ambulance driver and the "Heroes" connection with McDowell's return and Speedy herself, Brea Grant's, small part friend. And how about Margot Kidder? At least some people are having some fun. It's not all adequate, however, as Zombie really needs to be comfortable not casting his wife. Sheri Moon Zombie has the look and the intensity for this film, but every time she opens her mouth just proves how amateurish she is. Being an apparition here meant Zombie could have had her face, mouth always closed, and another actress to speak with some inflection and tonal differentiation, but alas he did not.
It is those supernatural moments of Sheri Moon appearing in the thoughts of both Michael and Laurie, bringing them together to bond the three in some demonic spiritual ritual, that stuck with me through the unintentional laughing and headshaking running rampant elsewhere. Seeing her with the white horse under a shining moon, atmospheric and striking, is beautiful. And, along with that amazing dinner party scene with the pumpkin people ready to eat Laurie, the dark nightmarish moments are great. Quick cuts in Laurie's mind while at the Halloween rave of her trapped in a glass coffin or screaming with markings carved into her face left an impression. It's just too bad the fact of the film's failings and stupidity, (Myers walking through a field with a giant Grizzly Adams beard is supposed to be suspenseful?), leaves a much stronger memory.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Initially, seeing directors/writers/actors Tim Doiron and April Mullen
at the 2009 FaneXpo in Toronto dressed and acting silly as their filmic
personas from Rock, Paper, Scissors: The Way of the Tosser, I was not
getting my hopes up for the screening to occur two days later. The
aesthetic, both in their actions and characters as well as the
marketing materials on display, had a very Napoleon Dynamite-like bent
to them, a film I am not a big fan of. These two were just so
enthusiastic, though, signing everything, talking to anyone who came
up, and posing for tons of photos. The sheer dedication to their work
and genuine exuberance at spending eight hours a day for three days
definitely warranted a view, no matter how much I may have hated it
upon completion. I'll just say that the old saying "don't judge a book
by its cover" does still ring true. Tosser ended up being much more
Christopher Guest-lite than any Napoleon/Pedro antics, and while
indie-quirky like so much these days, definitely delivered on the
laughs in its originality.
The brainchild of these two graduated film students educated in Toronto, the film began as a way to get themselves out to the public the quickest way they could. While Tim stayed east and started to write, hoping to launch his own project and not rely on others, April made her way to LA and saw how cutthroat auditioning for roles against the Kirsten Dunsts of the world could be. So these two chums decided to work together and create their own piecepaid for by credit cards and filmed in just 7 days, ("7 days straight through, so more like 14," as April explained after the film). Looking for a topic that could be a character to itself, being that no name actors would be attached to the film, they decided that Rock, Paper, Scissors could have the mass recognition and appeal to work as a selling point. Writing around the character of Gary Brewer, (Doiron), and his spot in the RPS Championships, the story was born.
Shot as though a documentarycomplete with boom mic appearing every few minuteson the days leading up to the big show, we as an audience learn the eccentricities of Gary Brewer and his girlfriend Holly Brewer (no relation yet), as well as their live-in friend Trevor Morehouse, a gentleman they found on the streets in an army uniform that has amnesia, not mention a few screws loose too. According to Doiron, Zealand, New Brunswick is a very simple town where you can literally drive down a street counting mailboxes and see that 75% say Brewer, 20% Morehouse, and the other 5% a mixture of different surnames. There also exists an intriguing stretch called Hubcap Valley that is the town's claim to fame. Using this environment as a backdrop to the Brewer's history, Doiron and Mullen were able to keep the tale steeped in absurdity that was more so due to the fact so much was based in reality. Even interviews with the heads of the Rock, Paper, Scissors tournament are real, as is a book on the rules and etiquette of the sport. Who knew RPS could be played on a circuit professionally? This thing enters us into a world we may never have experienced otherwise.
While the tale and fight of Gary to win the championship, prove rival Baxter Pound to be a chump, (a great sleazeball performance from Peter Pasyk), get his own trading card, and have the money and success to marry his love Holly, (Mullen), is fun and well-written, the true reason to watch is most definitely the characters. Doiron and Mullen are just having fun at all times. Writing on the fly, changing things, and just plain seeing what comes out of different takes; these two are a talented team with what will hopefully be a bright future ahead of them. Their comedy does deal with a lot of slapstick and physicality, but also with quick quips and great retorts. Facial expressions rule the day, adding some fantastic laughs just from reaction shots or faces in the background. When Gary's hand goes limp before the tournament, the funniest part of the scene was looking at Trevor, (Ryan Tilley steals the show in many instances), and his opened mouth of disbelief and true horror. With montages of the warm-ups and training, glimpses into their life like Karaoke night at the neighbor's, and idiosyncrasies like Gary's inability to toss paper after a horrific car crash and Holly's fear of scissors after being "snipped" at a match years before, there is never a lull in the action as each gag succeeds on its own merits while also adding to the plot driving everything forward.
The duo at the lead and Tilley's Trevor work so well together and do it all in complete deadpan. Sprinkling a few gag-reel moments in with the end credits is a stroke of genius because you know there had to have been slips and uncontrollable laughter on the part of the actors. Throw in supporting players like Pasyk and the crotchety old hall-of-famer Finnegan O'Reilly, played by Mairtin O'Carrigan, (think Dodgeball's Patches O'Houlihan), and you've got yourself a pretty entertaining hour and a half of fun. Doiron and Mullen took a big risk getting this thing made, watching it blossom after a year's worth of post-production and another year of finding distribution, eventually landing with Alliance Films. It is definitely a success story and, after meeting the two, much deserved. Their second feature, with a full budget and backing from Alliance, GravyTrain, stars Colin Mochrie and Tim Meadows alongside them, and will be on my radar as a result of this screening for sure.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Being in Toronto for a convention that deals with anime meant I
couldn't leave the city without actually seeing an anime film, right?
Lucky for us, the new Hayao Miyazaki film Gake no ue no Ponyo was
playing at the local multiplex just minutes from our hotel. Distributed
like his previous few films in the United States by Disney, from its
Japanese Studio Ghibli origins, Ponyo ports the vision of its creator
in beautiful animation and color with the inclusion of new Hollywood
actors to dub in the script. With talent such as Tina Fey, Matt Damon,
Betty White, Liam Neeson, Lily Tomlin, and Cate Blanchett, it becomes
all about whether the story grabs you and takes you along for its
journey. There are no subtitles or "bad acting" to make note of, no,
the story is key. And was it good enough? In my opinionnot really.
Definitely the weakest of Miyazaki's films that I've had the pleasure
of watching, Ponyo may work wonderfully for the young children, but
unfortunately that is where its success ends. Besides trying to make a
comment on humanity's interaction with nature, there really isn't
anything more than a cute tale to keep the kiddies occupied for an hour
and a half.
It's all about young Ponyo, a fish parented by Fujimoto, a human who has decided to leave dry land for the ocean, and Gran Mamare, a sort of God of the sea. Given magic by her father, Ponyo wants to utilize her new power and explore the world; soon finding herself stuck in a glass jar right outside the Cliffside home of Sosuke, a five-year-old boy who enjoys animals. He sees this hurt goldfish and tries to revive her, in effect accidentally allowing her to taste his human blood, which allows for her eventual transformation to human form. Fujimoto attempts to bring her back to the fold and keep a tenuous balance in the world whole, (ocean vs. land), but realizes she has become too powerful for him to subdue. Contacting her mother and consulting with her, he decides to let his daughter stay above water if her love for Sosuke, and his for her, is true. Risking her destruction if the love isn't pure, he knows that it is now up to her to restore balance, bringing the magic of the ocean back, away from the humans who may not be able to control it.
Even from the beginning, devoid of voice, only a colorful display of oceanic life, the animation is gorgeous to watch, but sometimes overabundant in its jam-packed frame. The opening scene, watching Ponyo's escape for the surface, makes you a bit disoriented, not knowing what is happening. Are all those little fish her children? Is the creepy water lord Fujimoto a hunter on the search for her? The familial relationship between these characters really doesn't become known until later on. Once the magic is released, however, and these "fish with faces" unleash the tsunami prophesized by the elderly Toki, a resident at Sosuke's mother's retirement home, it all makes sense and the audience can just sit back and revel in the artistry at work. A golden glow emits forth and changes aquatic animals into powerful fish and alters the water itself into a school of powerful fish-like waves, slowly rising higher and higher as the moon gets closer and closer, raising the tidethe planetary proximity having been thrown off by the human metamorphosis of Ponyo. The waves themselves reminded me of Hokusai Katsushika and his "Great Wave off Kanagawa" woodcut; the artistic comparisons are definitely there throughout, melded with Miyazaki's signature style to become his own.
An attempt at infusing the story with an environmentally friendly bent is quickly tossed to the side as the quick retorts of Fujimoto and his disdain for humanity's unclean living become nonexistent. The story becomes more about the love between these two new friends and the acceptance of someone different as equal. Sosuke knows his friend used to be a fish, but his love for her doesn't waver as a result. Even though his father is a fisherman himself, gone long stretches at sea on his large boat, the bond this girl and he create is too powerful to allow for petty differences to interfere. So, in that regard, Ponyo is a great film for the youngsters to make them laugh, get them excited from the tension of the giant storm and search for Sosuke's mother, as well as help them to understand the meaning of tolerance. It is a cute film, well worth your time, and successful at bringing a smile to your face. Unfortunately, it is from the mind of Miyazaki, whose previous works have held such layered storytelling, captivating on so many levels and reaching viewers of all ages. Maybe Hayao wanted to tell a simple story and nothing more. If that is the case, bravo, I guess I just wanted more.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Beautifully shot, meticulously orchestrated, and lyrically scripted, it
is Tarantino's answer to friend Paul Thomas Anderson's There Will Be
Blood; a statement that says "anything you can do, I can do better". Is
it better? Now that is a tough question, one that numbers cannot truly
define. Is it QT's self-proclaimed masterpiece as he so shamelessly
alludes to with the last line of dialogue? I still say Pulp Fiction
can't be beat, but this one definitely makes me take pause.
What I love about Tarantino is his fresh, smart, and generally amusing as hell dialogue. Each film he has written bears his voice and excels as a result. However, as each entry to his oeuvre is made, the sequences seem to go longer and longer. It started with Kill Bill and continued to the extreme in Death Proof with overlong passages that, while not petering out towards the end, definitely contain some dead spaces. The 153-minute runtime here doesn't necessarily feel long, yet also doesn't hide itself. Rather than a feeling of boredom, I was anxious to get to the next scene, to see what would result from the previous instance of gravitas. Because this movie is chock full of tense plot points of huge importance. Not one second is wasted, (well, maybe the unnecessarily hokey titlecard to usher a quick film reel history of Hugo Stiglitz and the other Sam Jackson narrated vignette about nitrate film), and the weight of every word and pause is felt. Were scenes drawn out, needing a trim here or there? No. If anything they were just so tightly wound that I couldn't breathe or wait from the anticipation of what was to come. I'm not quite sure if that is praise or criticism because, while taking me out of the film, I don't think I'd have wanted it any other way.
Oddities aside, (the Stiglitz freeze-frame wasn't the only instance of font overkilldid we really need to know the names of the men in the theatre suites?), this is vintage Tarantino pastiche. Right from the start, you aren't quite sure what is going on. Denis Menochet's Perrier LaPadite is shot with stoic strength, deliberately moving as he watches Nazi soldiers approach his house. Reminiscent of a Western standoff, the scene is accompanied by a reworked classical music piece I couldn't quite put my finger on, and the close-ups and camera angles made me look to see when Menochet and Christoph Waltz's Col. Hans Landa would inch their hands close to their gun holsters for a quick draw. Instead, we get a pipe juxtaposition showing the dearth of proximity their two classes are inFrench milk farmer and German SS Colonel. The scene sets the stage for what is to come, showing the incident that ultimately leads to the revenge bent at the film's core while also showing us the cucumber cool and sarcastic wit of Waltz's Landa, by far the most interesting creature playing amongst the hyper-reality at hand.
The trailers harp on the Basterds themselves far too much because they are, to me, the least interesting plot thread. Yes, Brad Pitt is fantasticthe coarse Southern accent, the ruggedness complete with horrific neck scar, and the blank-faced comedic timing with his atrocious Italian and matter-of-fact dialogue delivery; and yes, Eli Roth is so over-the-top you can't help but love "The Bear Jew" without remorse. His lack of acting skill is quite obvious, but his exuberance and intensity more than make up for it. I also really enjoyed Til Schweiger's Stiglitz, the consummate badass out to kill the bad guys, no matter what side he is on. But, once the initial joy of their brutality and humor dissipates, you realize how thin their role really is. Bounty hunters sent on behalf of the American army, they are out to kill Nazis by maiming, branding, and butcheringmindless fun for sure; intelligent storytelling, not so much. No, that aspect is brought to form by Mélanie Laurent's Shosanna Dreyfus, once a Jewish girl in hiding, now a woman hiding in plain sight with fake name and papers and a movie theatre to run. By sheer coincidence, (dumb luck?), or divine intervention, the people responsible for her family's massacre not only come to her door, but the man who ordered the killing arrives himself, making it all too easy a decision on whether to host a propaganda premiere for "Nation's Pride", a filmed reenactment of German hero Fredrick Zoller and the one against three hundred odds he overcame.
The conspiracies that form around this premiere, whether between Shosanna and Daniel Brühl's smitten Zoller or with Diane Kruger's German actress traitor Bridget von Hammersmark and the Basterds, by way of British infiltrator Archie Hicox, a fun turn by Michael Fassbender, are what resonate. Remembering the scene at a French restaurant between Waltz and Laurent still gives me chills as this woman must control her emotions while sitting across from the man that killed her brother, (what a release at its conclusion), as does the tense basement bar rendezvous between Kruger, Fassbender, and a bunch of Germans on leave to celebrate one's newborn son. It all culminates with Chapter Five, an exercise in sheer cinematic brilliance, from its wondrous opening with Laurent set to David Bowie's "Cat People", to its mix of drama and laughs from Waltz, to its intensity in Roth's malice, to the massacre of guns, fire, and bodies that ensues. It is poetry in blood and never ceases to amaze, right down to its blatant disregard for historical accuracy. Much like Tarantino's earlier work that took existing films and appropriated that which he needed to tell the messed up stories in his head, Inglourious Basterds starts with the French occupation background of WWII and springboards out to carnage, espionage, and fiction. The man has style and it is all his own. Welcome back QT and hopefully we can expect a new singular vision sooner rather than later.
I learn something new everyday. Here I thought the feature adaptation
of the immensely popular HBO show "Sex and the City" was written and
directed by its creator Michael Patrick King. After a little research,
I come to find that King was only a producer on the show, with only 31
writing credits as opposed to the full 94 for real creator Darren Star
and literary basis Candace Bushnell. Despite this, though, it would
seem that King is now the driving force behind Carrie Bradshaw and
friends, becoming the voice of middle-aged women everywhere. Isn't it a
bit strange that a man has written these women to be as pop culture
iconic as they are? Kudos to him, because Bradshaw's opening monologue
to the Sex and the City movie is very appropriatethis story is about
labels and love in New York City. Thankfully, that's not all its about;
in the end, the tale is actually intelligently written and quite witty,
causing this cynical male to laugh and smile more times than he ever
could have imagined.
Sarah Jessica Parker truly does embody Bradshaw to perfection. Being that it all happens through her point of view, (even when she isn't present at the event on screen, she is still the one narrating; believable I guess since this quartet tells each other EVERYTHING), it is crucial that her character lives and breathes reality. A writer of moderate success, she is happily in love with manfriend Mr. Big, (I do enjoy Chris Noth, I don't know why, never seen "Law and Order", his smugness just makes me smile though), and threatens to throw her whole existence out the window with the biggest business deal she's ever shook on, with him as a partnermarriage.
The whole will they or won't they, stay together/break-up/get married, is actually the most conventional and boring part of the film. This storyline is the quintessential chick flick cliché and it does what it does without surprise. Spanning over a year in time, I did enjoy the six months these two lovebirds are apart, because that is when the proverbial sh*t hits the fan in all their lives. Parker shows some very nice range as the downtrodden, heartbroken waif attempting to pull herself back up and become that strong woman so many viewers idolize and hope to be. But this isn't the Carrie Bradshaw story, thankfully, because that would have been torture. It is about four women and the different places their lives are at; how they help each other; and how they balance being the women they've strived to be while still having a relationship with equally successful males. It's these stories that truly captivated me into accepting the fact that, while Sex and the City is not my genre, topic, or even sphere of consciousness of choice, it did engross me enough to be happy to have seen it.
Kristin Davis is very enjoyable as Charlotte, the youngster of the bunch in her mid-thirties. With such a bubbly and childlike demeanor and attitude, her zeal for life is contagious and something I think everyone strives for. Being that her mid-movie meltdown concerns having too much good happen to her, making the "inevitable" fall too daunting to imagine, you can see how truly happy she is, especially with husband Evan Handler, (one of the gems in "Californication" and unfortunately wasted here, much like Willie Garson's Stanford who is nothing more than a prop for the background). Cynthia Nixon, on-the-other-hand, is the exact opposite. A lover of sex and promiscuity, she finds herself in a relationship with a younger male that loves her dearly, but the monogamy is too much to deal with. She isn't ready to realize that being with one man in a relationship does not mean she has become dependant on him. The need for multiple men, to be in full control, is so ingrained that she must find a love for herselfa balance with her bodybefore she can ever commit to someone else. How can one love if unable to love oneself? It is the age-old question and one that she needs to come to grips with soon, as she turns 50either to accept or change.
The storyline that really grabbed my attention, though, was of Miranda Hobbes, played wonderfully by Cynthia Nixon. Here is a career-driven lawyer that has compromised herself in order to make a life with husband Steve and child Brady. Whoa, I just realized the husband is Steve Brady and the son Brady Hobbes guess you have to watch the show to understand that one. Anyways, it is their intriguing evolution as a couple that I found myself wanting to be resolved the most. Whether the two got back together, after a short separation due to his indiscretion, or not, I found myself invested in the subplot. The acting, on the part of both characters, was real and palpable. The love mixed with a loss of trust shone through and you will find yourself pulling for them in the end. Why you ask? Because this film isn't only about labels and lovejust don't tell Jennifer Hudson since her Louise cares only about eachbut also forgiveness.
This isn't high school where grudges rule and you most likely will move on to never see any of your classmates again; this is a professional world with intelligent and capable women. Life is too messy and too short to go through it with hatred and regret. Bad things happen and you can either walk away, letting them despite what you feel, or fight tooth and nail for everything you want and deserve. Sometimes those tough patches are merely bumps in the road to true bliss, but you have to be willing to find out for sure. And that, I believe, is the real moral behind this storyhappiness does come with a price, and even though it may cost a fortune, it most definitely will be worth every penny.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Right from the get-go, I knew that Adam was going to be an enjoyable,
smartly told tale of love despite humanity's predilection for
preconceptions. Just the fact that the film was about a young man with
Asperger Syndrome who meets a young girl across the hall of his
apartment complex tells you that this won't be your run-of-the-mill
rom-com. You have to believe that filmmaker Max Mayer will treat the
material with compassion and intelligence; this is not a laugh-out-loud
vehicle to use a serious disorder as fodder for chuckles. Any
trepidation I may have had was gone after about five minutes, just the
amount of time it took to introduce me to our titular character, a span
that teaches us so much. A 29-year-old man who has lived with his
father in NYC his entire life has just lost the one person who
understood him and helped him survive. The vacant stare and inability
to show emotion at the funeral is interspersed with the methodical
routines of his day. We see the chore sheet for which he must cross off
his late duty partner, we see the carefully hung clothing, the boxes of
cereal and macaroni and cheese, and we slowly watch it all dwindle away
as life alone is just too much to handle so soon. I knew then that the
rest of the way would never speak down to me or turn the drama into
One always worries about an actor taking on the task of a mentally disabled role. Sometimes it works, (Rain Man), and sometimes it fails miserably, (I Am Sam) maybe Kirk Lazarus was right, "you never go full retard". But I digress, Hugh Dancy is one of the brightest actors working today, in my opinion, and he knocks this one out of the park. There are moments that linger on his face as his brain works through what has just happened, slowly coming to the realization of what it all means. The expressions are pitch perfect and his portrayal never appears as caricature. With sharp transitions to voracious anger from meek sweetness, the turbulence caught inside of him shows through in those moments that he cannot control himself. As Dancy's Adam states, in a somewhat clunky explanation of the disorder, his condition makes it difficult for him to lie. That mechanism we all possessand loveto tell the odd white lie and appease those in our company rather than rile them up is absent from him. He speaks the truth, and in return, expects the truth back. Understanding this concept can be tough as a lie is a lie; even if the intentions were pure, the difference can't be seen.
His explosions never escalate to violence towards anyone but himself, although the scene can be scary. More a tantrum than anything else, the emotions inside him are released without control. Words are spoken in a very pragmatic and objective way, something that could be misunderstood, or not, they are his true feelings at the moment after all. **spoilers begin** Because of this, I saw the ending as profound due to the duality in Adam's response to Beth's question on why he wanted her to go with him to California. It starts out as though he will win her heartby a truth so sweet and romanticwith the words that title this review, but then it all goes sour. His brain sees the question as one that has a correct answer, and that answer is that he needs her to survive. He needs a normal person to help him in the day to day routine, to be his sort of translator to the world. The hard part to witnessing his response is the not knowing what he means by it. Is a person with Aspergers unable to love? Is love to them safety and companionship? Or was his answer his brain's way of saying that she completes him? That she is his world? Love is such an abstract concept that whether he feels it or not, he could never truly express it in words. And that is the true tragedy of life. **spoilers end** Much like another slightly off-kilter romantic comedy this summer, (500) Days of Summer, the ending may be a happy one, just not quite the anticipated "happily ever after" Hollywood has ingrained in our heads. Adam takes all the conventions of the genre and utilizes them to fit the story, not the other way around. The film takes what it needs to be palatable to a broad audience, but never forgets the agenda at its core. For all the quirks and idiosyncrasies involved, they aren't there to be "fresh" or "cool," they are present because the lead character has them. More than a romance, Adam is about a broken man finding his way in life. A lifetime co-dependent realizing that there is a world out there he can become a part of if he has the strength to work at it and try. Beth is the catalyst for his awakening, and he hers too. She finds out that there are people out there who are innocent and sweet; that humanity isn't complete rubbish. Sometimes we meet the person for which we will spend the rest of our lives with in bliss, and other times, first, we must meet someone to remind us that the happily ever after is still possible.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Remember those great Mechwarrior-like short films that sprang up as a
sort of resume reel when Jackson shone the light onto this South
African filmmaker? No? Okay, well maybe I'm that much of a geek, but
everything he did in those test shoots has been brought to the big
leagues with the precision and handling of a seasoned professional.
Taking place in the Johannesburg slum of District 9, the quartered off
area housing our alien "visitors" since 1982, the film is shot
documentary style as the MNU, (Multi-National United), go through the
process of relocating them to a safer place outside the citysafer for
the South African citizens that is. The section of land has become a
cesspool of these "prawns" as they scavenge, fight, and barter with the
local Nigerian crimelords, trading their highly sophisticated weaponry,
(that can't be used by humans due to their biological components), for
the delicacy that is cat food. Think Alien Nation meets Cloverfield in
a story about race relations and you'll begin to comprehend the vision
put forth. I'll just say the locale of Blomkamp's hometown for this
tale is not coincidental
the Apartheid allusions are fairly obvious
Discovered malnourished and scared, the South African government brought them down to the surface and even learned their language. It was never to assimilate and educate, however, but only to understand, hope to steal their technology, and capture them for medical experiments. The MNU isn't only an establishment for the safe keeping of societal bliss over the fence; no, it is also one of the leading manufacturers of weaponry and military goods. Everyone has an ulterior motive; it's the name of the game.
Caught in the middle of it all is Wikus Van De Merwe, played with poise and experience by Sharlto Copley. It is his only credited role for which I can see and man does it deliver. At first a simple pawn married to the MNU head's daughter, he can appear to be a bit on the dull end of sharp, yet his face is never without a smile, endearing him to his men. He is assigned to head up the eviction committee that will go door to door and serve each prawn its notice of relocation. Followed by a cameraman and accompanied by a new trainee, as well as a soldier he knows, the foursome start their rounds and discover hidden arms holdings, understanding aliens, hostile aliens, and new technology that can only be nefarious. The opening remarks by interviewees alludes to an incident involving Witkus, one that many can't believe he partook in, one that may or may not have resulted in his death due to the multiple uses of the past tense. It doesn't take long before the catalyst to these new feelings of hatred and sorrow for a man loved by all occurs, bringing him into a world of darkness, but also one of understandingputting his differences aside to work with the aliens. For someone with a clear hatred of the prawn kind, he still sees them as more that just an animal. One can't deny their intelligence or the fact of their cognitive abilities, making them possibly more advanced than humanity itself.
It is Copley that makes the film what it is through his evolution as a man. The transformation he takes from a weak idealist cowering from the army man who is technically in his control to the confident fighter willing to risk his life for the cause of moral righteousness is unavoidable. You won't believe at the end when cuts to his later self are juxtaposed with earlier footage before the relocation program that they are the same person. War can do funny things to a man, especially when the sides are blurred and the idea of what's right and wrong becomes flipped. As his counterpart, however, mention needs to be made for the amazing visual effects. The aliens he encounters are rendered beautifully and fit in their environments as though they are real flesh and blood. Blomkamp even finds room to include one of his Mechwarrior-esquire creations as an alien-made suit. These creatures show emotion and seamlessly integrate with the live actors to make the plausibility of everything happening real.
District 9 asks the question of how far we as a race will go for power. If a technology is discovered that is so advanced it can only be used by the enemy, to what lengths can one be willing to live with in order to adopt its use for ourselves? What if one of us is inexplicably turned into a hybrid creature, one with the humanity necessary to fight for good but the biology to use those weapons that are destroying us? Would the government help that person and treat him with respect and worth, or would they look upon him as an abomination, valuable only as a control subject to be poked, prodded, and eventually dismembered in an effort to mass produce? You'd like to think that as a people we have evolved to the point where compassion and understanding can trump any fears and insecurities we may have, but history begs to tell a different story. Throughout time we have oppressed and experienced the drive for power and leadership. By using a legion from another far away planet, Blomkamp has put a mirror up to the world, showing it its true colors. Can a movie make a difference? Maybe, maybe not. Either way, the political undertones are there to make viewers think afterwards and the action packed journey of a man without a home keeps them in their seats with a riveting and thrilling tale told through a singular vision. See Hollywood? Sometimes fresh new ideas can not only push the limits of the medium, but also become huge critical and financial successes.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
There is no more appropriate a name for the lead role in Bent Hamer's
film O'Horten then Odd Horten. For a man of modesty, generally hiding
in the corners of life to avoid much interaction or attention, he finds
himself in the middle of some very odd happenings, all in a matter of a
few days following his retirement. After 40 some years as a locomotive
engineer in Norway, his age has hit the year for a mandatory moving on,
celebrated with a fun rendition of a train picking up speed by the
twenty or so engineers surrounding him at a farewell dinnercomplete
with their left arms working as the clamps on the wheels and their
right hands thumping their chests. But that oddity is just the
beginning of his crazy adventure, one that finds him settling down in
the one place he has ever been truly happy. Odd doesn't smile very
often, so when he does, you know it's genuine.
Hamer has crafted a short little love note to his mother with this film it is dedicated to her memory. A woman ski jumper, something frowned upon if not allowed at all in the country in the past, a doppelganger for her is included as Horten's own mother, old and mute in convalescence home. Her bravery and willingness to do what pleased her comes through in our hero's trek across Norway, learning along the way that it is never too late to try something new. Being that this man has led a life consisting of probably the exact same activities each and every day, the decision to join his fellow engineers after his goodbye party will unknowingly open up his eyes. With a routine seeing him wake up, smoke his pipe, go to work, visit his mother, and enjoy the company of Svea, a woman who runs a place at the end of his line, watching his attempt to enter an apartment complex under construction shows his indifference to obstacles in his wayhe just never had a reason to leap over them until now.
Bård Owe portrays Odd with a very quiet effectiveness. The entire film is quite methodical in its unraveling and always focuses on this 67-year-old gentleman, a man of few words. With so many moments devoid of sound, seeing only Owe's expression, you will definitely learn to know this man and what he stands for. It is a nuanced performance and expressive in its lack of expression. So much craziness occurs in the days we see and yet he just goes with it all, escaping when necessaryand it often is. From the night of the party, being trapped in a stranger's apartment by a little boy who wants to be sat with until falling asleep, (Odd of course doesn't open his own eyes until the next morning where he must hide under the bed to not be discovered by the boy's father and then sneak out the door), to staying after hours in the gymnasium sauna and deciding to take a late night skinny dip, (where a couple of young ladies end up having the same thought), and needing to leave quickly in women's heeled shoes, Horten is out of his element indeed.
For being only ninety minutes in length, the film does seem to drag a bit. This isn't a problem by any means, just an observation and caution to any prospective viewers. With little action, O'Horten is a character driven story through and through. The camera follows Odd around as he tries to pass the time of retirement, finding it is much harder than he could have imagined. But it is just quirky enough to become invested to see exactly where it will all lead. There are some genuinely surreal moments, like that of a businessman sliding down a hilled street after the fall of frozen rain while Odd holds on tight to a pole so as not to fall, and some lovely revelations, like of who Trygve Sissener really is, (a very intriguing fellow played by Espen Skjønberg that is discovered sleeping in the street as though a bum, yet in possession of a large house in Oslo). Even a journey to find an acquaintance named Flo, Bjørn Floberg, is a sight to experience because its relatively straightforward task to sell his boat becomes one of multiple metal detectors at the airport, a cavity search, and a human scavenger hunt he tried to avoid right from the start.
The camera-work is nice, including some memorable moments, the one that stuck with me being an overhead view of an Oslo intersection as Odd waits for the police to claim his recently deceased friend, to which he then slowly makes his way down the road, avoiding any unnecessary conversation as usual. In what is probably the most exciting three days of his life, it becomes apparent to him that life is too shortironic being that he is almost seventy upon this revelation, but true nonetheless. He knows that his mother was disappointed he never followed her passion for ski jumping, but the years kept passing and he still had not taken the plunge. Sometimes it takes an unexpected arrest, trespassing on private property, driving down a street blind, and for once not showing up for work to finally awaken to the endless possibilities of life. Odd discovers that it is never too late, and if this stoic, loner of a man can find adventure, then anyone can. If the door is locked, maybe you have to climb up the scaffolding; sometimes you just have to be willing to take the chance.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I'll admit that after reading some early remarks about Robert
Schwentke's cinematic version I was very worried, in fact so much so
that my expectations were somewhat low. This fact might have weighed on
my ultimate decision concerning my enjoyment in seeing the DeTamble
family's story on screen because I actually really bought in and was
swept away for the journey. Yes, a lot, (and I do mean a lot), is
omitted through the adaptation process of Oscar-winner Bruce Joel
Rubin, but enough is kept to stay true to that romantic tone. Distilled
down and perhaps dumbed-down, The Time Traveler's Wife may lose some of
its geeky sci-fi flavor, but the heart and soul remains intact to be a
solid date movie and entry to the romance drama genre.
I won't lie; I was disappointed overall. So much of the backstory and many reasons for what occurs to some characters have been tossed aside. But this is completely understandable as New Line needed to make a return on the investment and they couldn't risk losing their entire audience by scaring the girls with its science fiction devices or the boys for its romantic tendencies. Instead, they decided to market it as a love story to see with your significant other on a quiet evening out. On these terms, I really can't fault the job that has been done. I bought into it all right from the start as the filmmakers throw you into the action. Not only do we see young Henry's first travel through time, but we also witness the regular occasion of him meeting another version of himself at a different stage of life, as well as the incident that shapes his life foreverthe passing of his mother in front of his eyes. There is no opportunity to waver in the belief of this man moving through time, you see it straight away and then you continue on the journey to see what will occur as a result.
The novel itself used the brilliant device of being told through the eyes of our two leads, Henry and his soulmate Clare Abshire, as diary entries. Alternating one with the other, we experience what they do upon each meeting or journey, hearing their thoughts as they anticipate the next rendezvous, knowing how the one feels before seeing what the other felt at the exact same time. I believe this device could have been used effectively in film with voice-over narration, however, the screenwriter chose not to do so. Instead, the film is pretty much a linear telling of the life of Clare, probably the best entry point in being that the title does reference her; she is the one who must cope with this man that she cannot live without yet can also never truly have to herself. We end up going back in time to see her as a child, meeting a late-30s Henry, but only in flashbacks and memories from when the two 20-something versions of them meet. You see the bond forming and fate working its way in, setting a specific path as both tell each other future details they know because of the time traveling; he telling a young girl what is in store and she telling a young man the words his elder self passed on.
Are Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana ideal actors to portray these roles I'm not so sure. They do, however, perform well and allow for some chemistry to give us cause to buy into the emotional turmoil they experience on a daily basis. Between the struggles to just see each other without Henry disappearing, to the pains of miscarriages and the possibility that they may never have children, to the knowledge of so much that will happen and trying to still believe they are making choices, the DeTambles are not your normal family by any means. What made the book so wonderful was the realism in the fictional heartaches and consequences of being with, or just plain knowing, someone with "chrono displacement syndrome". And I do believe our main characters carry that weight enough to draw a skeptic in. The other reason for Niffenegger's novel's genius is the large supporting cast, each with a history to themselves and a crucial part to play in the life of Henry and Clare. Unfortunately, in order to devote time to this tragic couple's progression in less than two hours, almost all the nuance is gone. What I wouldn't give for this to have been a miniseries or even a season of television so it could breath life into everyone.
You also never understand the sense of danger in what happens to Henry. Sure you see him pick some locks and get into fights, but what about the reason for why he ends up in a wheelchair? I know they have that one line about hypothermia and being stuck in the snow, but that story is so much bigger. By making it about Clare and how her life is affected, you only see Henry's condition as a nuisance rather than a life-threatening affliction that could tear them apart forever, (I liked the very intriguing Joy Division cover at the wedding, pertaining to this fact). As a result, the film's ending is similar to the book, but, in my opinion, not quite as memorable or important. Again, though, just because I know the novel is a masterpiece should not detract me from the film; it is its own entity. On the movie The Time Traveler's Wife's merits alone I am happy to say it is well worth the time. You still have to buy into the whole time travel thing, but rather than take the leap of faith scientifically with the printed version, you only need to want to see these two lovers grow old together. You pull for them to live happily ever after and frankly that is what a good romantic drama should do.
There is something about British comedy that resonates with me. I don't
know if it is because we in the States experience so little of it, or
maybe because Hollywood rapes and pillages the material for their own
water-downed versions, but the humor just seems fresh, uncensored, and
hilarious. When I first came across the new political black comedy In
the Loop, I will admit to being less than interested. The marketing
materials were using the whole Obama silkscreen poster look and I
really wasn't interested in a movie about how the US and Britain
decided to go into the Middle East. But then the buzz started. The
realization that the film was shot with a penchant for improv, a desire
to entertain rather than teach, and a cast of characters looking as
though they are in a Christopher Guest movie, soon turned that
preconception around. This is a fantastic film that never lets up on
the laughs or one-liners. I just hope people go into it knowing that
this isn't how it actually happened
but then who knows? Sometimes the
truth is stranger than fiction.
The back and forth dialogue is so quick that I couldn't believe my eyes when I read a quote from the director about it all being about 80-85% scripted. He says that he gave the actors leeway to break course and even do takes without scripts at all, but when culling everything together, most of what stuck actually maintained the verbiage laid out by its five screenwriters. Each of these men, including director Armando Iannucci, has been working with British television and all have collaborated on the show "The Thick of It". I will say now, if I get a chance to check it out, I most certainly will. Political satire is not necessarily my favorite thing in the worldI'll watch the odd "Daily Show" episodebut after viewing this laugh-riot, checking out a spoof on the British political system, of which I know very little, could be a ton of fun. Heck, just the inclusion of Peter Capaldi will get me to stop surfing when I reach the BBC. This guy steals the show without question.
Capaldi plays Malcolm Turner, a Brit on the frontline of politics as an aide to the Prime Minister, spinning everything and anything to save face. With no time to spare on his running across the Atlantic to put out fires wherever his compatriots start them, you will have to forgive his abrasive, sarcastic, and just plain mean demeanor. The idea of war is being bandied about on talk shows, behind closed-door governmental meetings, and all over the media machine, and it is up to him to keep a lid on it by walking the party line, neither stating a fight is inevitable or unforeseeabletwo terms that the buffoon who is British Secretary of State for International Development Simon Foster, played beautifully by the ever capable Tom Hollander, loves to utter. Foster just has to open his mouth to cause a stir felt around the world, and each time, of course, Malcolm Turner is there to chastise and humiliate his stupidity.
The film ultimately revolves around the journey Hollander's Foster takes in trying to enhance exposure for himself. Partaking in talk shows or talking out of turn when enlisted to just be "room meat", some of the Americans begin to see him as someone abroad that shares their sentiment that war is a bad idea. While David Rasche's Linton Barwicka hardcore proponent of battle, even using a live grenade as a paperweightforms secret committees to discuss strategies for war, Mimi Kennedy's Karen Clarke and James Gandolfini's Lt. General George Miller are looking for ways to get into that meeting and shut it down. As a result, those two dissenters try to get Foster at every event to awkwardly express his stance of war being unforeseeable, hoping to deter any people on the fence that may be in attendance. So, Malcolm must run back and forth through England and DC spinning things his way and lambasting anyone that gets in his line of fire. Either Foster is too oblivious to care about the verbal assaults thrown his way or he just feels he can blame his Director of Communications Judy, who he makes stay at home while he globe-trots with his new young adviser Toby, (Gina McKee and Chris Addison respectively). Toby and Foster are so similar in their awe of America and lack of experience that their adventures make for good cinema, taking camera phone pics out their limo and speaking about getting hookers for the ride.
In the Loop is expertly acted and, for the most part, I have to credit that to the intelligent script being utilized. Whether the actors are improvising or not, the original text they are sticking to or springboarding from needed to be strong. By using all the jokes and imbecilic actions we associate with politicians, the writers have crafted a plausible, if not entirely idiotic, account of the days leading up to our countries' joint invasion. Documents are leaked, words are twisted, and supposed partners are stabbed in the back. But through it all we have Capaldi doing his best to keep Britain's stance as noncommittal as possible. And, truthfully, the way in which he does it makes for what has to be the funniest role of the year. Every word out of his mouth is acerbic and full of double meaning. With the f-word spewing at will and demeaning name-callings going left and right, make sure your head is clear if British speech sometimes troubles you in the comprehension realm. Understanding his words definitely pays off, keeping what would otherwise be a slightly bloated and meandering plot grounded in comedic excellence.
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