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Fair Game (2010)
Fair Game is a loser but rallies strong at the end
Not without some stirring scenes, particularly near the end (when the story finally declares it's about a marriage more than anything else), FAIR GAME is overall pretty much of a loser. The filmmakers are unsure if they want to present an HBO-style docudrama or actually dramatize the life of two reactive protagonists, and the confusion mars the film. We never believe Penn and Watts are really parents to those puppet-ed twins in the story, and other props, like Watts' sagacious dad (a good Sam Shepherd) are wheeled out only at the end. Friends of the couple seem distant and again, used as conveniences. The final sequence illustrates what the story could have really been about: the threats to a marriage from outside forces, but then the focus all along would have had to have been on the marriage itself, more than the political machinations affecting it. This would have been a real challenge as a movie, but one worth undertaking. As it is, Fair Game loses its match.
Breaking Upwards (2009)
Don't even think about wasting your time with this
Unattractive leads, a boring story and characters who all sound like they're rejects from a bad Woody Allen script combine to make this film unwatchable. The filmmakers display an incredible lack of talent from their slight plot to their casting failures to their inability to even make the film look good. In this era of cheap digital production there is no excuse for a film looking as bad as this. Who did their lighting? Obviously their egos got in the way of getting better actors for the leads, but did no one point out the meandering story or see in the dailies how bad the film was shot? Maybe friends aren't just those who'll give you money to make a film. Maybe real friends are those who tell you you're on the wrong path.
Love & Other Drugs (2010)
A movie that feels like a very long trailer
A disjointed series of scenes, some quite funny; none, not one, poignant and that in a story about a Parkinson's sufferer. It feels like TV: things happen because they have to happen at a certain time, not because the characters have put them into motion. Thus, Jake must meet Anne, learn about her disease, face her doubt about him, deal with her leaving him, go to rescue her all this because that's what the story should do. But the scenes between the two of them are just like a well-acted acting class-type escapades, with Jake very good and Anne always a little over the top. They, the scenes, don't add up to anything satisfying.
Zwick can't quite get the feature thing down. All his movies lack a real resonance; they don't hold together as a whole. You don't feel you've seen a real story because he understands writing and directing scenes but he does not understand that plotting is an emotional thread that builds into something more than just the addition of one beat on another. He simply cannot develop a satisfying feature script. His movies are like watching a very long trailer.
Cinco días sin Nora (2008)
Too slow, too slight
A lethargic beginning is never really overcome in this very slight, mildly interesting and amusing film. Complications from the death of the eponymous title character eventually provide some conflict but the main tension for too low is between the ex-husband and his memory of the controlling woman he left 20 years ago, only to move next door, ostensibly to keep an eye on his son. Never bad and not poorly paced for its slight content, the main problem is a concept that just isn't developed enough. The story as presented here could've made a strong short film but is ultimately meager at feature length, despite a few twists and fine acting.
One of the best of the year
Fast and furious, very much like the mesmerizing Mesrine in its focus on a focused, driven psychopath who ultimately commits crimes for the sense of power and adrenaline they fuel. Character vignettes are sharply portrayed in short, slower-paced scenes that provide rest stops from our own adrenaline rush and illustrate the defining personality traits of the eponymous anti-hero. As one example: the seduction scene in part 2 between Carlos and the German femme terrorist Magdalena Kopp.
Quite simply, like Mesrine, great cinema with action, passion and tragedy, and one of the best movies of the year.
Don't see anything less than the full version. DVR the showing on Sundance or wait for DVDs. The film was shot as a miniseries and there's no reason to see it in a theater, especially if it's the truncated version.
Disappointing, genre-confused story
Filmmaking 101 has a rule; wait, Art 101 has a rule: Know your genre. A drama can have comic relief, but that works only in the framework of the genre that's been established. Comedies can have their dramatic, emotional moments, but if they then turn into dramas, audiences are confused and disappointed. If a screenwriter and director can't even tell their story competently within the confines of the genre they first set up, their movie will fail.
Yes, Stone is well acted. So what? Do you go to the movies to see good acting class exercises? If so, check this movie out. Norton and De Niro are entertaining, early on at least, and there's sharp dialog they have to work with (how else could they do their jobs? Don't you love people who praise the acting without acknowledging the script?)
But the story the real reason most of us venture out to see a film in Stoner is a mess. The movie starts off essentially as a thriller. The plot sets up a con working a con, with his sexy wife, on a prison case officer. But after putting the movie is thriller mode the movie then tries to be a drama about the meaning of life and presence of God. The movie tries to turn its main plot with the wife into a subplot, and then pretend that fun, salacious venture wasn't really what the movie wanted to deal with. No, let's talk about the meaning of life.
Stone, then, is a disappointment. Even as a drama it fails: the story dissipates into ambiguity with regard to the final action. POVs have jumped around all throughout the movie but in not showing us the final resolution between Stone and his wife, the whole fulcrum of the movie is left blank. As for the transformation of Stone something Norton tries to act by occasionally calming his voice and widening his eyes it's unbelievable, not fully formed or demonstrated and, like the rest of the movie, a pretentious attempt to take a fun dime-store novel's story and make it profound.
Don't waste your time or money with this one. If you have to see it, wait for video. The movie is shot in TV-like close-ups for the most part and it will play just as well there.
Really? One of the top 250 films? Really?
There are a few fun action scenes, but they're a small proportion of the overall action, and the movie overall is very poorly structured. (It's two hours long and it takes 40 minutes for the only strong characters, Nick Cage and Chloe Moretz, to finally appear.) The acting is so-so, with Cage doing a goofy impersonation and Moretz not terribly gifted at all -- she sounds like what she is: a little kid saying lines. The high school "nerd" (Aaron Johnson) is too genteel and good- looking to be considered on the fringe, but his buddies (Clark Duke and especially Evan Peters) make good funny faces. Superbad's Christopher Mintz-Plasse walks through his uninspired role, unable to play off a totally dour Mark Strong (who as a comic villain should display some humor). Michael Rispoli is his usual annoying self, playing what he always plays, unconvincingly, a rotund little mafioso, but Lyndsy Fonseca plays the cute girl cutely. Very much a modern Hollywood vehicle: technically proficient but overloud, overlong and stick characters were supposed to love immediately. And lots of violence and bad words to make it edgy. Ugh.
Underdeveloped, sketchy drama
An underdeveloped story in a genre that needs careful crafting to make sure the tale is one of a character afflicted with a disease and not just a treatise on the disease itself. Unfortunately, in this overlong, skimpy story we get no real idea of who Ashley Judd's character is. How does she live when she's holed up in a (Hollywood-style "gritty") warehouse? Where does she get her money from? It's terribly convenient that she has a student with the same disease who, when it's convenient for her to leave, jumps off a rooftop so that Judd can return to her husband. Too many scenes of Judd crying in a fetal position, or just acting dumb (pouring milk on the floor) doesn't make for a good examination of the way a character we really know and understand can fall prey to this malady. Slow, boring and too reliant on electroshock as the answer with no examination of other aspects of the character's background. Also totally unbelievable for anybody familiar with this disease is the idea that her new husband and daughter would have no indication that Judd's character had been depressed before with husband number 1. Moreover she'd have definitely suffered from some indicative episode of depression before succumbing full bore to another attack. Again, the movie is too schematic a dramatic presentation.
Winter's Bone (2010)
Good Story, Boring Plot
The atmosphere is heady and tension-filled and the acting is strong but the film's plot is flat and uninflected. This is indie-ethnographic film-making where a slight, if not banal, situation is presented against a new (for most viewers) background and culture and then declaimed, by too many reviewers, as artistically successful. Like Once Were Warriors, a family abuse story with no interesting merit save for its Maori characters, Winter's Bone is underdeveloped in its plot and offers no real theme except the tragedy of a woman realizing she's trapped in a dreary world.
The film is a valuable exercise in the delineation between plot and story. The story here of a woman searching for her father only to realize she must act as one is interesting. But the episodic nature of walking here and there, and then there again, is tiring for the hero and us. There's a real failure here in changing the plot's pacing and structure from the novelistic to the filmic. As for the theme of the woman realizing she must stay and act as both father and mother her siblings the filmmakers treat this as a kind of epiphany, which it is, but also as a positive outcome. That is far less certain. For all her gumption and courage our girl is condemned to this backwoods culture and folk.