Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Seen in August

From Jean Renoir's Rules of the Game. Image via the Film Sufi

Youth in Revolt
There is one scene with Fred Willard that is worth the price of admission on it's own and makes up for any other failings the film may have. Michael Cera turns in not just his standard A-game as the heroic loser that he has honed so well but even gets the chance to wallow in the role of a roguishly acerbic villian.

Despicable Me
Pixar, you have been served notice. A smartly funny, entertaining and well animated and designed movie. Just the right amount of cute and wry. Steve Carrell and Jason Segel are great as the primary "voice talent".

Toy Story 3
Just when you thought Pixar must finally have by now obviously run out of ideas they turn around create another hilarious and beautifully made movie. Woody and the gang go on another... blah blah blah - that's the marketing crap but this movie deserves more than that. It is very funny, in that all-ages kind of way that Pixar has perfected (I sense a Simpons influence in the humour) but also very dramatic and moving. The one down side is some may consider it overly sentimental, especially those who lost their soul somewhere along the line.

A Prophet
Hailed by many a critic as the film of the year, this French crime drama isn't so much a thriller as a study of how to succeed while incarcerated. A young Franco-Arabic petty criminal winds his way through a crime world much more vicious than himself. There's probably some sub-text about the changing role of Arabs in the Western world or within Europe but don't worry too much about that and just sit back and root for the little guy.

44 Inch Chest
British crime film? A cuckholded husband and his mates kidnap his wife's lover seeking retribution. Despite possible menace, nothing happens. All talk and no action in this one. More like an actor's workshop than a movie at all.

You Might As Well Live
New worst film of the year. Unfortunately it's Canadian and what the hell is Michael Madsen doing in this low-budget unheard of Canadian film anyway? Some kind of community service perhaps? One of the few films I've stopped watching.

Kick Ass
Let's call it a guilty pleasure. You'll certainly feel guilty watching an 11-year old girl slashing up villians and cursing like a particularly nasty sailor. Worse still is the disturbing PoV shooter-game style of one of the climatic scenes played out and seen through the eyes of the afore-mentioned girl.

Art & Copy
I was hoping this documentary would shed light on the world of Mad Men but instead it felt a little like a series of award show talking heads and lots of filler footage. These ad execs talk about how little credit "creative" received back in the day, but they do the exact same thing. They claim success of ads that relied on a lot of very talented people (cinematographers, actors, writers, directors, musicians etc).

The Rules of the Game
The rules are that the rich make their own rules. This 1939 Jean Renoir classic feels surprisingly modern. Maybe that's because it reminds me so much of Gosford Park. The most unlikable aspect of these characters is their glibness. Renoir captures their ugliness so well that the French found it hard to watch. Sometimes looking in the mirror is a hard thing to do. One scene reveals the mixed feelings the French have towards their Jewish countrymen - though the Marquis is Jewish and well thought of as a true aristocrat. The General (a fellow noble) claims the Marquis is a true gentleman, which "is dying race". A none too veiled reference to the intentions of the soon to be occupying Nazis. The truth hurts don't it.

Hot Tub Time Machine
Once you've got the title, the script practically writes itself. Too bad it doesn't watch itself.

Nurse Jackie Season 2
Hold onto your I.V. and lock up your pills. Too late, Jackie's got the keys.

Mad Men season 4
As Don Draper's personal life dissolves faster than ice in Rye, his professional life is reaching a zenith. How will Don manage his high-wire act between a creative & sober business life and a drawn out Lost Weekend? Tune in to find out.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
I'm not sure American audiences will be up for this. The depiction of sexual violence in the movie is a bit shocking but never exploitative - in fact it is the protagonist's prime motivation, but it makes it hard to imagine a planned American version being equal to the task.

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
It never fails. I'm drawn in by Gilliam's art direction and disappointed by the chaotic mess that follows. Is it the product of a fevered mind or just a talented stylist with no ability to finish a sentence never mind a feature length film. My guess is we'll never see the likes of Time Bandits or Brazil again. Is there a story in there or what? The story, the dialogue and some of the actors appear to be lost - though the technique of using several actors to portray one character (Heath Ledger's role is played at different times by Jude Law, Colin Farrell and Johnny Depp) is surprisingly not nearly as confusing as the rest of the movie.

Little Britain USA
Not quite as sharp as the first BBC series but let's be honest, it's not the writing you're watching but the circus of characters that are inexplicably cretinous yet portrayed with equal amounts of guile, love and awe.

Scott Pilgrim vs the World
In many respects, this is the polar opposite of "Kick-ass". It is certainly a more aware and witty tribute to a more innocent age and view of video games. A truly genuine mash-up of gaming, manga, anime, music videos and film and certainly one of the better comic book adaptations you'll see (History of Violence probably being the best, mostly because it ignored the original book altogether). With winks and nods at every turn - lines such as "They film movies in Toronto?" and "Well the comic book is better than the movie" are dotted throughout - this movie, like many of the book's hipster fans, wears irony well. Or at least it recognizes and celebrates it's self-indulgences. The ubiquity and ease of texting, e-mail and gaming vernacular in this story, not to mention a surprisingly solid "indie" sounding original soundtrack resplendent with 8-bit chimes and Nintendo cues, will make it a watermark for this year and probably be remembered fondly for its many knowing generation-specific evocations. It's almost quaint that Ramona, the love interest Scott Pilgrim pursues is so reminiscent of the hot, smart & cool chick that at one time worked in every independent record store (see The Onion for reference) or that a record shop even appears in the film. Also reassuring is the confidence and respect Toronto gets without any appearances of a moose who works in a canoe factory but wants to play in the NHL (to paraphrase Brent Butt). Casa Loma, the TTC, Second Cup Coffee, loonies and Lees Palace are just players that live alongside the characters that Bryan Lee O'Malley concocted. The movie, like the books, is an original.

There's something naturally unattractive about the violent, class-obsessed, racist Frenchman that gets my back up. Even more so when that Frenchman is an explosive thug with a chip on his shoulder about his parent's generation and their perceived acquiescence to the German occupation. In that respect it reminds you of The Bader-Meinhoff Complex. You sometimes get the feeling the French took out all of their frustrations with the Germans on the Algerians. The French & Arab crime dealings reminded me of the racial tensions in another film, A Prophet or Bronson. What are Mesrine's issues with the world? We never really find out. His character is like some sort of proof that even if you didn't need money to survive there would still be violent oafs robbing everybody. Why? For kicks? To bully? We just can't say. The fact that Mesrine hooks his star to an active FLQ member only adds to the confusion. Is he a Quebec nationalist? Probably not. Is he a sociopath? Almost certainly. Unfortunately, the portion of the story set in Quebec is choppy and feels like a Canadian film and not in a good way. Will we see the second part of this crime epic? Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe me and a bud will storm a high security prison with a bag of guns and wing and a prayer. Or maybe not.

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