Archive for November, 2007
Not Braun’s Best, Either?
There is an almost constant sense of disconnection in this film. Just when a conversation with one of the characters begins to develop some depth, Braun jumps back to the Netherlands or back to the World Food Program compound or Don Cheadle’s ostentatious Los Angeles home or a shot of bones and flesh desiccating in the sun of Sudan. I came away with a sense that Braun, the producers, the stars, even Adam Sterling and Governor Schwarzenegger feel that they have done their job. The problem is that they haven’t really heard Luis Moreno-Ocampo when he repeatedly states that it will take decades to bring Sudanese government officials to justice, if it ever does happen.
Punk History for True Believers
To director Julien Temple’s credit, he’s smart enough to realize that the significance of Strummer’s life and music aren’t going to be distilled into two measly hours—so he’s not trying to win any converts. His starting point is the assumption that you already know about “White Riot,” Joe’s death, the band’s various lineups, and Joe’s mysterious “years in the wilderness” after the breakup of The Clash. What he wants to do is provide a suitable memorial for the guy; and he does this in spades. And along the way he interviews dozens of the art world’s intelligentsia—without offering a subtitle or caption to identify a one. Sure, you’ll recognize Bono, Springsteen, Matt Dillon, and John Cusack. But unless you’re a True Believer, I guarantee there will be at least a dozen talking heads you won’t know from Adam Ant. And that can feel a bit like spending Christmas at someone else’s house.
Ho, Ho, Holy Cow...
When I first heard of the premise for Fred Claus, I thought it was a wonderful idea with a lot of potential. When I heard Santa’s brother was to be played by Vince Vaughn, I got even more interested. Unfortunately, writer Dan Fogelman and director David Dobkin fail to even take a dip in that potential—and the result is a clichéd, predictable Christmas comedy that we’ve seen plenty of times before. I can’t help but think that this plot idea would have been much better served had the creators forgotten about the family audience and aimed more towards Bad Santa territory.
Laughter in All the Wrong Places
A lot of disbelief has to be suspended if you are going to take this plot seriously. There are a lot of coincidences that play into the plot twists—and I understand it is for dramatic effect, but I find it hard to believe that 9-1-1 would keep someone on hold for so long. However, by that point the movie had lost all connection to reality in my opinion anyway, so they might as well run with it. P2 would have been better served had it either a) created a more convincing and terrifying villain; or b) gone the Grindhouse route and camped it up completely. As an actual, supposedly legitimate thriller, however, P2 gets laughed right out of the theater.
How Funny Can This Movie Bee?
Thin premise, mixed voice acting, spectacular animation… does it work? Indeed it does, because of the humor. Bee Movie is another of those rare animated movies that is funny to children and still manages to entertain an adult audience, on a different level, at the same time. And it’s a remarkably inoffensive and positive movie. I hope the rest of Hollywood starts to pick up on the fact that comedy doesn’t require mean-spirited, over-the-top language, and blatant nudity to be funny. In fact, the only real gripe I had was the rampant product placement throughout; but that may be because it’s harder to blend that kind of thing into an animated feature.
Taking Life and Art Seriously
Binoche, in contrast with the screenwriter and director of Dan in Real Life, is totally puzzled by the idea that her children ought to be able to see the movies she makes, or that such a thing would even be desirable. “You can’t reduce the body of your work,” she says with a look of dismay, “to please your children.” Of course, it’s not surprising to hear a serious artist express that opinion; what’s surprising is that Binoche is shocked that other people would be concerned about such a thing. It’s pretty clear, though, that Binoche takes her career seriously. “This is what I need to do on the earth,” she emphasizes. “This is my task.”
Thuggery and Cinema, Straight Up
In terms of performances, in addition to Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe in the leads, excellent supporting performances are delivered by the likes of Chiwetel Ejiofor, Cuba Gooding Jr., John Hawkes, Ruby Dee, and Josh Brolin. The film’s authenticity also stretches well beyond the performances to the set decoration, cinematography, costumes, and just about every other production department. American Gangster’s only fault might be its 157 minute running time, but even though I felt like I was watching a long movie, there’s no time that felt wasted. This is a terrific entertainment and one of the best films on the already impressive resumes of Crowe, Washington and Scott.
A Pleasant, if Disjointed, Alien Experience
The quirky behavior exhibited by Dennis provides ample opportunity for light laughter and it’s easy to get drawn in to this heartwarming story. As the action progresses, though, things get a little disjointed and the pace begins to suffer. Several subplots, such as a burgeoning romance between David and Harlee, try to provide additional dimensions to the film but wind up going nowhere. Still, if you enjoy seeing the Cusack siblings on the silver screen you’ll probably find something to like about this film. Despite the film’s shortcomings, I still walked out of the theater having enjoyed the journey. On the other hand, you won’t be missing out on much if you elect to wait for the inevitable DVD release in the not-too-distant future.
Road Film With a Bite
Look for funny lines and irony. Look for a good time. Look for the underlying theme. Wristcutters: A Love Story is a sort of road film with a bite. I would characterize this film as a mixture of Garden State quirkiness and Primer intelligence. The important theme is the utter selfishness of suicide. Belittling the self-consumed ones who consider suicide may be just the impetus they need to realize their destructive thought-life and reverse their course. Just go see it. You will find some funny and insightful stuff. And for what it’s worth, you will understand the kind of humor I appreciate.
Immersed in a Different World
“The animal we fear the most is the one we can’t live without”—so the movie begins. Right away we enter into Rob Stewart’s world of sharks, and his obvious love affair with the species. It is actually hard to be critical of the film in the sense that you feel you are treading on Stewart’s very sacred ground. This project has clearly been a focused passion since he was eight years old, and his telling of this story is infused with his intensity and his obvious love for the animal. This well-done and thoughtful 90-minute film is filled with incredible footage.
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