Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Seen in January


Still from Limits of Control via Chris and Phil Present

Thirteen movies and one television show over 31 days from six countries seen from one couch.

The Rocker
This rockstar wannbe only gets 2 stars from me. I don't know if I'll ever understand the Calculus of a weak movie. Everything was in place - good cast, nice concept, simple plot but... I don't know, you can just see the script go awry in spots (the video that makes the band famous sort of disappears without explanation, the band splits over a terrible premise etc). Rainn Wilson does his thing and Jason Sudekis has perfected the music rep douche so well that he could have slept walked through the thing. Not a terrible way to fritter away 90 mins. If you have 90 mins to fritter away.

Soul Kitchen
A fun light surprise of a film from the guy who made the more substantial film Edge of Heaven. "Madcap goings-ons" are kept in check mostly by the likable main character Zinos. There's no black and white moral distinctions here with the exception of a villainous real estate speculator but it's all good fun. I was hoping for a better blending of music + food but still good.

The Limits of Control
Hypnotic, mesmerizing, impressionistic and meditative are words you might use if you liked this film. If you didn't you'd just call it dull or stupid. Fair enough. This obtuse film of a courier/smuggler of illicit something (diamonds? Instruments?) eventually exacting revenge reminds me an Antonioni movie - L'avventura or The Passenger. It's probably just superficial. The main character does little other than wait while others talk briefly of music, film, art, science etc. It's a riddle wrapped in a stylish enigma but I can't say what or even "Go see it". On a side note there is a frequently nude actress whose main body of work to date seems to be mostly her own body. PS If you liked The American with George Clooney, you might like this, otherwise avoid it.

Leon The Professional
I know this is a popular movie but it seemed kind of clunky to me. There were so many places where the story could have been tightened up. Not as stylish or as cohesive as you'd expect from Luc Bresson. I also have to say it's a little creepy with Natalie Portman's coquettish performance. Not because she's not playing the mature 12-year-old well, of course she is and she gained attention for the performance. But the direction (think shot selection and costume choices) and script create more than a few uncomfortable and um, inappropriate moments. Maybe this film is the prototype of the cold hearted professional assassin who turns out to have a heart after all, but I wouldn't cut it any slack because of it.

My Dinner With Andre
"People just start living their life by habit." A film about awareness and being truly human rather than merely a phantom acting your perceived societal role. Or something. I'm not really sure but I couldn't stop watching. Two "theatre people" having a long conversation in a restaurant is strangely compelling. I kept thinking "How much longer can I watch this?" but I just found myself drawn in even deeper. You kind of have to see it to believe it. I still agree more with Wallace and sort of thought Andre was a hippy wanker. I'd like to see a remake from the waiter and bartender's point of view waiting for these two nerds to shut up so they could go home.

A Town Called Panic
A surreal madcap story animated from what look like dollar store spare parts. Its manic energy is at times hilarious and equal parts maddening. Still, many of the scenes and settings are like tiny magical dioramas. The story is of 3 friends, horse, cowboy and Indian who live together on a bucolic farm. When Cowboy and Indian plan to build a BBQ for horse's birthday but accidentally order 50 million bricks the insanely chaotic fable begins. The three friends begin an adventure that takes them to the centre of the Earth, the arctic (?), and to the bottom of the sea. I'm failing at describing this weird movie but imagine Michel Gondry and Wes Anderson directed a stop motion movie using toys they'd found and filmed it on colorful papier-mâché sets and the story was 1 part Monty Python, 1 part Mr. Bean and 1 part schizophrenic dementia. Yes, I think that describes it. I think little kids would enjoy watching this and making up their own stories as they went along. Of course, it's Belgian.

Justified
Television series from Graham Yost starring Timothy Olyphant as a federal lawman who's been bumped from his Miami assignment to Kentucky where he grew up. Based on an Elmore Leonard story. That sounds waaaay too TV Guide - it's better than it sounds. The pilot threw a little too much exposition in every sentence but it ends with our protagonist discovering he's got a lot of anger issues which is not a great demeanor for a U.S. Marshall with an itchy trigger finger.

Hausu (House, 1977)
You pretty much have to see it to believe it. I admit that I only wanted to see this film because the poster art was so incredible. Describing it as a Japanese art-horror film doesn't really do it justice. It's campy, surreal, funny, and completely unique. The story is simple. 7 high school girls go to a summer house on a holiday but of course, the house is haunted by a demon spirit that devours young girls for kicks. Yet it's like a crazy mix of H.R. Pufnstuf meets The Shining. It makes me think that maybe Japanese pop culture isn't so strange just heavily influenced by Hausu director, Obayashi who also directed some incredibly whacky cologne commercials starring Charles Bronson (search YouTube for "Mandom"), which also have to be seen to be believed.

High Life
Little seen and under appreciated comedic crime film starring Timothy Olyphant. Set in the early 80s a "smart addict" played by Olyphant has a bright idea. Knock over newly popular ATMs (ABMs to Canadians) during low security maintenance calls. When you meet the idiotic crew he assembles you know it's all going to go wrong. Not a bad film but it just has this weird problem of pace that so many Canadian films seem to share. Enjoyable enough but just had this sort of "Canadianness" to it that is sort of like flat Ginger ale. I can never put my finger on it.

Tron Legacy in IMAX 3D
Still full of pointless plot points but the IMAX version has a lot more impact than 3D which really doesn't compare to IMAX. And Michael Sheen continues to entertain.

The Legend of 1900
Born aboard a luxury liner and raised in the engine room by a ship worker, a piano prodigy named 1900 becomes a Jazz Age virtuoso. 1900 delights and amazes cross-Atlantic passengers and in one climatic scene, duels with Jelly Roll Morton. Unfortunately, that is the best part of the film. It's a wonderful fable but there's only two acts - the third is like 1900 himself - lost at sea.

Leatherheads
Charming but not charming enough. It's almost worth it for the art direction alone. Almost. To be honest, the real fly in the ointment of this 20s era football comedy is Renée Zwellweger who can't really keep up with George Clooney's Clark Gable-esque slyness or Jim Krasinki's Rockwellian All-American. Angela suggested Elizabeth Banks as a substitute who may have been a little young for the part but would have probably made the difference in this Rom-com which was actually a little light in both "Rom" and "com".

Salt
This Angelie Jolie action flick was hyped as a sort of chick version of the Bourne series which would be great if it were true. Jolie is easy to believe as a Russian born spy but the physicality of the role is out of her scope. What makes Jason Bourne believable is he improvises and gets pretty banged up doing it and it affects him - he doesn't kill someone lightly. Salt jumps from moving trains, blows up rooms she's still standing in but never even winks or breaks her 1000-mile stare. Jolie has star power but just isn't believable as a truck jumping, ass-whooping stick-bug glamour-puss who never gets a hair out of place. Enjoy this one more for the kitsch than the kicks.

Cyrus
The tale of loner John (John C. Reilly) who, seven years after his divorce, surprisingly meets the lively and spirited Molly (Marisa Tomei). Only problem, her 22 year old son Cyrus (Jonah Hill) is weirdly attached to mom and doesn't care for any new father figures. This film is funny, creepy, awkward but most of all really honest which makes it worth watching.

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