Archive for August, 2007

A Life in Need of Bailing Out

The performances are all convincing, and overall, Self-Medicated has the most realistic feel for the teen dilemma since Alpha Dog earlier this year. Andrew is the real deal as far as three-dimensional screen characters go—like most of us, struggling mightily in the tension between faith and anguish, cursing one minute to beat the devil, and praying fervently the next. So how much of this do we credit to Lapica, and how much do we credit to the polished, veteran crew which his producer assembled? Only time will tell for sure. But Lapica made this right choice with his debut: hire competent artists, and trust them. Good things will happen—and that’s no tragedy.

Balls of Fury
When Parody Becomes Too Narrow

Again, the disclaimer: this isn’t my most favorite genre, and I am completely ignorant of the style of such parodies. The physical humor that Dan Fogler exhibits in Balls of Fury during his character’s two-week training course (and his ping-pong style) was humorous enough to keep the preview audience plenty entertained—they got what they came for, which is certainly important to note. The production qualities are fairly good as well, with plenty of verbal sparring intermingled with the physical sport itself. Unfortunately, the humor is so broad-based as to seem hollow—not substantial enough for a hearty laugh, but good enough for an occasional chuckle or grin. The mystery to me (and to my husband, just for the record) was the PG-13 rating.

Mr. Bean’s Holiday
Let Your Brain Take a Holiday, Too

Mr. Bean’s Holiday being my first encounter with the world of Bean, I have mixed feelings. The film literally stumbles from one comic setup to another, including an encounter with authentic French cuisine; a highway pursuit of a runaway bus ticket; and a chance for Mr. Bean to show off his dance and pantomime skill (a misnomer, I must say). I found some of the things that happened to him funny, but I was more turned off by his crazy facial expressions than I was humored by them. I’m also unsure why Mr. Bean has to talk the way he does, somewhere between Yoda and a ten-year-old belching the alphabet. Likewise, the film’s humor is hit and miss.

A Talk with Monty Lapica
First-time Director Tells Own Tale

“Most of the characters inside the institution are fictional,” says Lapica. “A lot of the character traits that I assigned to Andrew are made up and exaggerated—for instance, the intelligence factor is completely exaggerated, and created just for the purpose of hopefully making the character more sympathetic and giving people a reason to root for him, a reason to care for him. In real life, I did escape from the institution both in Utah and in Hawaii; but there was no character Dan, who Andrew goes head-to-head with.”

Eye of the Dolphin
A Good One for the Big Screen

Since Eye of the Dolphin is a family film, and not a Martin Scorsese picture, you can probably guess where all this is headed—if you’ve ever seen movies like Free Willy, or, like this graybeard, if you have recollections of Flipper or Gentle Ben. It’s not as mystical as Whale Rider, yet I found the film probably a bit more engaging, in spite of its flaws. Director Michael D. Sellers is to be commended for finding a way to make a big-screen picture work on a tiny budget. Eye of the Dolphin tells a good story about loneliness, and about the recovery of self-respect.

The Treatment
Is THIS What Freud Was Getting At?

None of Jake Singer’s relational issues (parental, romantic, or otherwise) carry the full burden of storyline in The Treatment. What’s really satisfying about the film is that the sum of the failed-relational parts—in addition to some startling comedic interludes with the Spirit of Morales—adds up to something much greater than the sum of mundanities. Chris Eigeman, as Jake, delivers not just a fully-developed character to whom things happen, but a three-dimensional man who literally changes over the course of the movie. The Jake who closes the film is not at all the same Jake who encounters Julia on the street in the film’s opening sequence.

Resurrecting the Champ
Director Lurie Returns to Form, Too

What Resurrecting the Champ becomes in its second half is a compelling story about the relationships between fathers and sons. Satterfield tells Erik that his son is ashamed of him—and Erik doesn’t want the same thing to happen with his own six year old son Teddy. He wants his son not only to know him, but to be proud of him. Directed by Rod Lurie, who returns to the big screen after a five year hiatus in television, the film is always compelling and always entertaining. He doesn’t push his subject matter on us, but rather lets his actors express the emotions contained in a terrific script.

The 11th Hour
Easy Answers for Legitimate Questions

There’s a paradox at the heart of The 11th Hour: first, David Suzuki’s observation that mankind’s perception of itself as the “pinnacle of creation” rather than as its guardian leads to a destructive hubris; and second, his claim that “because the human mind invented the concept of a future, we’re the only animal on the planet” capable of affecting “the future by what we do today.” We’re the problem, Suzuki says, and we’re the answer. We aren’t superior to the rest of creation, he says, and yet we are, because only we have the ability to recognize that it’s the 11th hour. I hope that the more effective segments of the film lead audiences to more questions rather than hasty answers.

2 Days in Paris
A Dialogue-driven Adult Romance

2 Days in Paris is written extremely well and will have even the shyest audience laughing, like when Daniel Bruhl cameos as an animal rights activist, who, after listening to Jack’s tale of woe at a fast food chain, proceeds to tell him he’s a real-life fairy and blows up the joint. Delpy herself calls this film an “unromantic movie” and it certainly maintains that title, but the subtle dissection of female and male/French and American psyches is intriguing and well worth the watch for those in love, or not. This dialogue-driven romance goes beyond the cliché of yet another American in Paris.

September Dawn
A Nasty Trip Down History Lane

September Dawn does us the worthy service of bringing an unfortunate, long-excused, and oft-ignored historical event into the public consciousness—and also does us the favor of reminding us that religious zealotry is an era-bridging universal threat, not merely a novelty of the 21st Century. Sadly, the film is interested in none of the event’s moral shadings. The only good Mormon, says writer-director Christopher Cain’s script, is one who has the guts to turn his back on the nasty, nasty religion. I think it would be far more instructive and entertaining (and far less intentionally provocative) to do a little Googling on the topic—or perhaps take a quiet trip to the library.

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