Friday, March 28, 2008

Southland Tales

"Scientists are saying the future is going to be far more futuristic than they originally predicted."

Written by: Richard Kelly

Directed by: Richard Kelly

Starring: Dwayne Johnson, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Justin Timberlake, Seann William Scott

My rating: 7/10

Notorious is the word most commonly used in relation to this film. It's reputation as a sprawling mess preceded its release by two years. After the event that was Donnie Darko's rise to power, Kelly's second venture was seen as a disappointment to many. It's true that Donnie Darko's sprawling mess worked far better than Southland Tales, but that's not to say there's no merit to be found in it.

It is a chaotic film which jumps from one set of characters to the next, with a good plot that's unfortunately too reliant on having read the prequel graphic novels (at $30 each, I doubt many people did their homework). However, it is one of those movies that if you allow yourself to just go along for the ride, it is a load of fun and actually very clever. It starts with a nuclear explosion in Texas, and continues in Los Angeles showing the repercussions of this event. It boasts a colourful bunch of charcters including a porn star Krysta Now (Sarah Michelle Gellar)who has her own political discussion TV show, and Boxer Santoros (Dwayne Johnson)a movie star/prophet who has written a screenplay that apparently predicts the end of the world.

It looks amazing, the futuristic, but not too futuristic look of the film is very interesting, as it is set in the very near future. The film is loosely based upon the Book of Revelations and is about as subtle about its meaning as the infamous Bible book.

An interesting thing about this film is its casting. Kelly cast actors who are almost all comedians (half the cast of SNL) or at least famously tongue-in-cheek (Sarah Michelle Gellar, The Rock). This comic casting is the film's saving grace, in my opinion. Somehow, it makes the convoluted storyline and the grandiose pomposity of the scenario a lot less pretentious. I had a lot of fun watching this movie and I believe a lot of the problem with the intial disillusionment with the film may have been people taking it too seriously. Granted, that's no excuse and the film still is, in fairness, a big ol' mess. However, I believe if you file it under tongue-in-cheek and take any actual social comment or profundity as an added bonus, rather than the other way around, you may just find this film really enjoyable and smart, despite its pandemonium.

- Charlene Lydon 28/03/08

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Gone Baby Gone

"Kids forgive, they don't judge, they turn the other cheek, and what do they get for it?"

Written by: Aaron Stockard & Ben Affleck

Directed by: Ben Affleck

Starring: Casey Affleck, Amy Ryan, Ed Harris, Michelle Monaghan

My rating: 7/10

Gone Baby Gone is a difficult film to judge. As a story, it's about as interesting and gripping as you can get, but as a piece of filmmaking it's enjoyable but very flawed. So, I guess it may be filed under entertaining but nothing special. However, I would hate to downplay just how good this film is. It is a very affecting film and a very gripping story.

Adapted from the novel of the same name by Mystic River author Dennis Lehane, the film tells the story of a little girl who is taken from her home without a trace. Her mother is a junkie skank who didn't look after her but cant handle the guilt and shock of all that is happening. Her sister hires Patrick Kenzie (Casey Affleck)to "augment" the investigation along with the police because in their dodgy neighbourhood, people aren't too forthcoming with enquiries from the police. Patrick, having lived there his whole life knows the seedy underbelly and all its shady characters. The investigation is gripping and full of macguffins and is a moral rollercoaster which shows how ethically messy some situations can be.

The acting is superb. Casey Affleck shines through as a fantastic leading man again (after this years Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, you all know my feelings on that movie), balancing street smart toughness with everyman likeability. His supporting cast is led by Amy Ryan playing the kidnapped girl's mother who throughly deserved her Oscar nomination. The main area in which it falls down is in its structure. The novel clearly consists of a story which ends in a series of false epilogues, which I'm sure worked well in the novel, but in terms of cinematic adaptation, these false endings seem a little trying on the nerves. By the end of the film, I felt satisfied with the conclusion, but all the "it's it isn't" was very jarring to watch.

Overall, I would certainly recommend this film for a saturday night. It's a lot better than one might have expected from Mr. Affleck. A LOT better...but it probably won't be studied in film schools.

- Charlene Lydon 20/03/08

Be Kind, Rewind

"when you're walking down the street...and you see a little ghost...whatcha gonna do about it...ghostbusters"

Written by: Michel Gondry

Directed by: Michel Gondry

Starring: Jack Black, Mos Def, Danny Glover

My rating: 10/10

To say Be Kind Rewind is your typical Jack Black movie is both true and horribly untrue. Yes, Jack Black plays a big, arrogant but ultimately lovable character, yes it has a big concept and yes it's full of huge laughs. However, far from typical cineplex fodder, Michel Gondry delivers a heartfelt, beautiful, bjut enormously entertaining masterpiece that proves that you can get a balance between art and entertainment.

The story revolves around a tiny video store in a shitty town in New Jersey owned by Mr. Fletcher (a wonderful performance by Danny Glover) who is aided by Mike (Mos Def) and driven crazy by Mike's best friend Jerry (Jack Black). When Mr. Fletcher goes on a trip out of town, elaving the store in Mike's hands, Jerry accidentally manages to (don't ask!) magnetise his body and therefore (again, don't ask) erase every video in the store. To avoid disaster, Mike and Jerry decide to remake every film in the store. This is where Gondry shows his trye level of creativity. The "sweded" films may be silly and fun but they are bursting with imagination and are so full of innocence and joy that it is impossible not to be charmed.

All this silliness however is counteracted by a lovely storyline about the evil Hollywood people suing them and trying to knock down the store to build condos. The sense of community and the preciousness of this tiny crappy video store is really touching and all concerned lead this silly farce into a really touching denoument. Not a dry eye in the house.

Kudos must go to everyone involved in this movie for how genuine it seemed. It's hard to imagine anyone playing the diva on set, when everyone seems to be so full or energy and spirit.

Highly recommended!

- Charlene Lydon 20/03/2008