Archive for October, 2007

Dan in Real Life
Carell and Binoche Capture Gentle Chemistry

The film is a gentle romantic comedy of errors and mores. Can Dan and Marie bring themselves to forego their one chance at true love? How many times will Dan end up ignoring the advice he has given others over the years, including doing all the things he tells his daughters not to? And how funny will all of this be? Okay… This is a Touchstone film, so you can bet the House of Mouse will give it a darn good try—and the good news is that screenwriter Pierce Gardner and director Peter Hedges pull all of this romp off in pretty good style.

Words from Smith and Hickner
What’s the Bee Movie Buzz About?

“Jerry was with us most of the time,” says Bee Movie co-director Simon Smith. “You know, we’ve seen a lot of animated movies, and you want to have something special about your movie when you’re working on it. You felt it in the scene when Barry meets Vanessa on the rooftop. That felt like them having a real conversation. It’s because they were. Half of those scenes were ad-libbed. In terms of directing, you’re just sort of shepherding. It’s a little bit like playing ice hockey with a blancmange… It’s fantastic. You have a plethora of riches at the end of it.”

A Fresh Look at Self-destruction

Control is more than an introduction of a rock star gone awry. Filmed in black and white and with humble reality, it is a great example of how new ideas in filmmaking can bring abrupt change to the art of cinematic storytelling. Director Anton Corbijn has captured a photograph’s intimate quality and transferred the effect to his film. I will even go so far as to say that it probably helps that Corbijn is a rookie director. He doesn’t have bad habits to unlearn. The film itself is somber but believable, and very engaging.

Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead
A Tad More Thoughtfulness Might Help

Lumet jumps the track here with an uncharacteristic obsession with attractive breasts, and an ill-advised narrative scramble that keeps jumping us backward, revealing “missing” details of the story from various characters’ points of view. It’s like Altman and Memento thrown in a blender and poured over New York. After a while, the technique becomes tiresome, and one has to wonder why we never see the story from Gina’s point of view, or from Mom’s. Are the gals just here for window-dressing? Is that supposed to reflect Andy’s or Hank’s attitude? Is it some sort of social commentary about men creating the world of evil in which we live? Answers to any questions of this type are hard to sort out with this film.

My Kid Could Paint That
But Film is So Much More Complex an Art

This film provides some great opportunities for musing on media celebrity, the nature of art, the controversy about abstraction, and even the nature of documentary filmmaking. But it thinks very shallowly about its subject, and there’s ultimately little objectivity here. Sadly, Bar-Lev’s film—along with Charlie Rose’s hatchet job—does Marla Olmstead a monumental injustice. It presumes fraud until proven otherwise. I’ll just challenge Bar-Lev and Rose to the same standard: try producing your best work with a camera crew peering over your shoulder every step along the way; and then imagine trying to do that as a pre-schooler. We’d find out all about the help you’re getting, and you guys would look like frauds, too.

Gone Baby Gone
Affleck the Elder Comes Up with Big Surprise

The beautiful thing about Gone Baby Gone—and I do mean profoundly beautiful, if deeply disturbing—is that none of the film’s characters gets an easy pass. Further, Affleck lets no one in the audience off the hook here, either. Name a Hot Topic: police corruption; pedophilia; parole of sex offenders; vigilante justice; drug and alcohol abuse; justifiable homicide; murder; parental rights; media exploitation; child neglect and abandonment; human depravity, forgiveness, and mercy. Whatever you think about any of these issues, your thinking will be severely challenged if not outright deconstructed—and Affleck offers no easy answers for any of these dilemmas.

A Talk With David Cunningham
The Seeker Shall Be a Finder

Is the Great Hall—with all its potency and mystery—intended to highlight the ways in which the Primary World’s church comes off as mundane and eye-rollingly impotent to today’s youth, when all the time there’s something powerful lurking just beneath that all-too-familiar surface? Cunningham concedes that such elements in the script were what drew him to the project, a story in which even ordinary people (and not just The Seeker) are “tempted, threatened, and tricked.” He found it to be a compelling tale, designed for “eight- to eleven-year-old boys,” which highlights the ways in which we all are forced to “make choices, with all the implications” that go with them.

Lars and the Real Girl
A Surprising Must-See

The main themes of Lars and the Real Girl are family and community. Are we our brother’s keeper or not? When we find one amongst us who is mentally ill, will we gather around and love, protect and encourage or ignore, defame, and be selfishly shamed? Every character in this movie goes through some kind of enlightenment and change in perception of who they are and who Lars is… even who—yes, who, not what—Bianca is. The script even includes the church that Lars (and eventually Bianca) attends, and in this movie the church doesn’t turn away or pretend there is no gorilla sitting in the corner. So refreshing!

Things We Lost in the Fire
Susanne Bier Does It Again

Halle Berry and Benicio Del Toro are accomplished, award-winning actors. Their performances in Things We Lost in the Fire are natural and easy to watch, true acting in every sense of the word. Their celebrity is not exploited. Their talents are honed and coaxed into finely tuned instruments of redemption. The story is an insightful masterwork of Allan Loeb about the relationship between Audrey and Jerry, who are brought together because Audrey’s husband dies heroically. Throughout the film, we see why he was a hero, we see why he is missed. And we see how Bryan’s life of serving his friends became a catalyst for change to all he knew.

Good and Important, If Not Great

Director Hood and screenwriter Kelley Sane do a nice job of balancing Rendition’smultiple storylines, but at times it feels as if we are not given enough time with each character to really latch on to any of them emotionally. We feel for Isabella because she is pregnant and her husband has been taken from her, but we never really get to know her. The same can be said for Douglas, whom we feel for because he has to sit through a scene no one should ever have to witness. Even with Anwar, whom we identify with as an innocent man being painfully tortured, there is always a question in the back of our minds on whether he really is a terrorist.

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