Sunday, June 27, 2010

Fantastic Mr. Fox.

The film Wes Anderson was meant to make. His films had been getting more and more cartoonish, so this makes perfect sense. A film that can be enjoyed by wise children and hipsters alike. It was cute, then got cuter, then got annoyingly cute, then sickeningly cute, then back to cute again. A snickery, wink-wink attitude creeps in here and there threatening to pop this pretty balloon, the same tone that ruins a lot of children's movies of late (why are so many filmmakers afraid of innocence and optimism?) It also suffers from "third act lag." Nevermind. I thought it was nearly wonderful, and a few degrees better than another great kid's movie made by an auteur, "Where the Wild Things Are."

Saturday, June 26, 2010

An Education.

Schoolgirl Carey Mulligan falls for older man Peter Sarsgaard and gets schooled in life blah blah blah. It was actually quite good, though Sarsgaard's English accent was rahh-ther tenuous. What, Colin Firth wasn't available? Mulligan was plucky, but an Academy Award nomination? Must've been a thin year for female roles. I could barely type that sentence with a straight face. What makes this stand out is Nick Hornby's script, which deftly tweaks the cliches until they ring true. Well written, well acted, tastefully directed. An intelligent movie that won't linger too long in the memory.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Informant!

Matt Damon becomes a whistle-blower in order to cover up his own history of embezzlement in this "comedy" from Steven Soderberg. A whole lotta nothing. I was mildly enjoying this, until I imagined someone else besides Matt Damon in the lead. He's great, but he could've used some help. The movie would be nearly unwatchable if not for his likable presence. Proves my belief that one should steer clear of films with an exclamation point in the title.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Box.

This knocked me out. I won't spoil the plot, but it's derived from a Richard Matheson story called "Button, Button" about a box with a button atop it. A couple is told if they push the button, they will receive a million dollars; however, someone they do not know will die. This looks and feels like no film you're likely to see. I think director Richard Kelly is incapable of composing an ugly or ordinary shot. There is a grace and elegance that brings to mind the modernist beauty of Antonioni and Kubrick, but also something new that I haven't seen in other directors. While not necessarily a thriller, this film has more eerie moments than any thriller I've seen in years. Beautifully staged, unsettling images that sear your eyeballs. There is an effortless, serene tension in every scene. The first hour of this is drenched in dread, enough to make M. Night Shyamalan look like a hack amateur. Kelly has in the past sacrificed coherence for style and texture, but not here, perhaps because he had strong source material. I didn't even panic when the plot started taking outrageous turns near the end. I hope I'm not overselling this, but I thought this was incredible.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The Invention of Lying

A premise beaten to death for ninety minutes by Ricky Gervais. A world where lying doesn't exist, until one day Gervais lies to prevent himself from being evicted and has an epiphany. Thereafter he's a lying machine. There is an unexpectedly moving scene halfway through where Gervais lies to his mother on her deathbed. Gervais' plump, comic face turns sad and pathetic as he tells her that she'll reside in a mansion and everyone she loves will be waiting for her in the afterlife. He is surprisingly affecting here. Unfortunately, he is overheard and soon all of humanity is hounding him for details about eternity. Since everyone believes everything he says, in desperation, he attributes all this new found knowledge to a "Man In the Sky" that runs the world and speaks to him personally, which leads to one of the only good jokes, a newspaper headline that reads "Man in the sky continues giving AIDS to babies." Bottom line, this just isn't funny, and the actors are lost as to how to play their parts, everyone seems brain damaged. In the place of laughter or wit there's at least a dozen celebrity cameos to pass the time ("Oh look, there's Edward Norton"..."Oh look, there's Phillip Seymour Hoffman") And lots and lots of clumsy musical montages, I counted six!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Let's Scare Jessica To Death.

A horror film from 1971 about a woman (Zora Lampert) and her husband (some guy) who leave the big city to start life anew on a farm. Green Acres it ain't, she's a recovering schizophrenic and he's bald. Along for the ride are two human dingleberries in the form of a made-for-tv hippie friend (some other guy) and this guitar strumming squatter (Mariclare Costello) who never blinks and always makes steak tartare for lunch. This mysterious squatter happens to be in a photograph from the 1800s that hangs in the house but nobody seems to notice that it's CLEARLY her. You can probably guess that she's a ghost or vampire or some such unholy thing. I would've stuffed that guitar right up her ass the second she started playing folk music.

Even though I saw this last night, I don't remember much. Zora Lampert is a man, her voice is deeper than Iggy Pop's. The photography is a little fuzzy. The acting is a cut above, for sure. There are a couple of creepout moments in this, one in particular is a scene in an attic where a shadow appears and is not remarked upon, I didn't even notice it, until Andrew said "did you see that?" and played it back.

A friend recommended this to me, saying that I was "of a certain age" and would therefore find it scary. His argument is that people in their twenties think that "Saw" is a horror movie. If I had seen this as a child it would've scared the shit out of me. I prefer "the creeps" to shocks or gore, and this one has it's eerie moments. I'd recommend this, but with a caveat, adjust your expectations.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Halfway through "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead" I wished I was.

What is the worst thing that could happen to you? Something so terrible that you'd take your own life afterwords? If you answered "have anal sex with Malcolm MacDowell" then this may be your movie. The reason I rented this is that director Mike Hodges is responsible for the original "Get Carter", if memory serves, a terrific movie. Here the meandering plot, the ridiculous script, the bad acting, even the irritating score by Simon Fisher Turner makes me think that Hodges was either collecting a paycheck, or, at age 72, is in the prime of his senility.
Some mid-level drug dealer (Jonathan Rhys Myers) leaves a party one night and is ambushed and raped by Malcolm MacDowell. He stumbles home, takes a bath with his clothes on (movies love to illustrate some one cracking up by having them bathe with their clothes on) and slashes his throat. His older brother (Clive Owen) was a notorious, murderous crime boss who left London three years earlier to live the life of a lumberjack. After hearing of his brother's death, he heads back London to find out who's responsible.
To say this movie is homophobic is putting it lightly, the whole plot hinges on gay panic. Rape is horrible, of course, but the real stinger for Owen is that his brother actually ejaculated during the act (what a thorough coroner!) As he meets up with former associates he visits his pointless OLD girlfriend, played by Charlotte Rampling, who is easily older than the actress who plays his mother. Rampling has two acting modes, dull depression or dull overacting. In fact, there is a scene near the end, which is never explained, where a gunman is sitting beside her. I watched this scene three times, and judging by her facial expression, I still can't tell whether she's supposed to be dead or alive. All the actors look depressed, and seem to be going about the grim task of getting this movie over with. A few characters are introduced near the end that have absolutely no reason for being, they amount to nothing and we never see them again. Did the filmmakers run out of money near the end of shooting and just say "fuck it?" He finally catches up with millionaire and rapist Malcolm Macdowell. Who is he? Why did he do it? The screenwriter farts out the most ridiculous confession that I've EVER heard. As I type this, my heart is starting to thump with anger. Piece. Of. Shit.