Wednesday, September 14, 2005

the antepenultimate batch

This might actually be the penultimate batch actually. I've got as many as six screenings today, and then there are two or three tomarrow before I go home to New York. the last batch will probably get posted after I'm back and have already started my coverage of the NY film festival, the official press screenings of which start this morning.


There are two films which are not going to get much of a review: Takashis, in which Takiashi Kitano pays tribute to himself in an anarchic romp that doesn't make any sense, and the anti-american propaganda documentery Why We Fight which was produced by foreign governments.

We now present our next batch of reviews:

LITTLE FISH Australia

Directed by
Rowan Woods

Tracy Heart(Cate Blanchett) works in a video shop in suburban Sydney Australia. She very much wants to make her way in the world. She and her business partner have submitted a detailed business plan to several banks and the loan officers have all said it's a worthy project except for one small thing: Tracy is a recovering drug addict who's guilty of credit card fraud. So no go.

Her mother's(Noni Hazlehurst) ex-boyfriend, the retired soccer star
Lionel Dawson(Hugo Weaving) is the cause of it all. He's a junkie himself, and had supplied stuff to both Tracy and her brother
Ray(Martin Henderson) in the past, but they don't seem to hold it against him like their mother does. What makes the situation for him a bit worse is that his dealer, crime boss Brad Thompson(Sam Neill), is also his gay lover and is retiring from the business, leaving him high and dry.

Tracy's quandary about the bank loan, which she told everyone was approved, gets more complicated when her old boyfriend Johnny (Dustin Nguyen) arrives out of nowhere for the first time in years.

Nasty little melodramas like this are generally boring. The characters in the family are a bit more fully fleshed out than are sometimes done, and the acting is extremely good. Weaving shows he can do more than be an action villain like in the “Matrix” films, and Blanchette gives one of her better performances. But even with all it's many good points, it leads to an inevitable ending we see from the very beginning. One could do worse.

TRUST THE MAN

Written and Directed
by Bart Freundlich

Just because a film is an indie doesn't mean that it's somehow original or edgy. It also doesn't mean that it's bad either. So don't come to this thing with high expectations for something new and different, because this ain't.

This is the story of two siblings, Rebecca(Julianne Moore) is a minor movie star, and her younger brother Tobey (Billy Crudup) is a lazy good-for-nothing writer who's very successful at faking travel pieces while waiting around in his car for the alternate side of the street parking to alternate. She's married to Tom(David Duchovny), who's a retired ad exec currently living the life of a house-husband, taking care of their two kids. He's not married, but has been living with his aspiring novelist girlfriend Elaine(Maggie Gyllenhaal). The foursome are thick as thieves, and the brothers-in-law are the very best of friends.

We immediately realize that this very happy situation has to be destroyed and rebuilt in a neat and funny way. So it turns out that Tom is far hornier than Rebecca and isn't getting any, and that Elaine wants to raise a family and Tobey doesn't.

The twists and turns are fairly predictable and it's all very cutsie. The acting is really good. This is a killer cast and they do a very professional job. There is nothing necessarily WRONG with this film, it's just nothing special, that's all. It has some decent jokes and everything is likeably bland. Worth a matinee if it's raining….

AMERICAN GUN

Written and Directed
by Aric Avelino

Guns are bad. Polemics aren't nearly as bad as guns, but polemics about guns aren't particularly entertaining and usually are preaching to the choir.

We begin with a TV interview. This is the glue that binds the three otherwise unconnected stories together. Three years before to the day, Janet's(Marcia Gay Harden) elder son perpetrated a thinly disguised version of the Colombine tragedy, and we see her trying to spin her way out of any guilt for the murders. She's doing the interview because she badly needs the money to put her younger son
David(Christopher Marquette) through private school and thus avoid any conflicts with relatives of survivors.

Meanwhile, in Chicago, a high school principal named Carl (Forest Whitaker) is interrogating a student named Jay(Arlen Escarpeta) about the latter's carrying around a loaded weapon on school grounds. He's a good kid, but he actually needs the damn thing for his job as a night watchman. Carl's fed up with his job, which he's devoted to, and his wife(Garcelle Beauvais-Nilon) is as well. We're just watching two tales of quiet desperation. Suffering for the sake of suffering.

But what are we to make of the other Carl(Donald Sutherland), the Virginia gunsmith, and his granddaughter Mary Ann(Linda Cardellini), who's forced to work at the shop while she goes to college by tradition. This really has no point, nor does the ending. This is polemic, and character doesn't mean all that much, although the cast is excellent and they act their asses off. This is a complete waste of time, and if you find it on cable, it might be worth not passing by, but actually PAY MONEY to see this in a theater? No way.

WALK THE LINE

Written and Directed
by James Mangold,

Musical biopics aren't always successful. For every “Ray” there's a “De Lovely.” It all depends on how the thing is marketed and by whom. Tales of southern musicians for some reason always seem to be popular, and Johnny Cash was one of the biggest of them all.

As is traditional with this sort of thing, we start about three-fourths the way in, in this case, we meet Johnny Cash (Joaquin Phoenix)
waiting “backstage” at his immortal Folsom prison concert before flashing back to 1944 where our hero(Ridge Canipe) and his older brother Jack(Lucas Till) are picking cotton with their parents
(Shelby Lynne and Robert Patrick) somewhere in what was once Dixie. Jack dies tragically, and Dad blames the accident on Johnny and hates him forevermore…

Till turns into Phoenix and as such he joins the army winds up in Germany where he writes music and proposes marriage over the phone to his sweetheart Carrie(Shelby Lynne), and by the time their first kid is born, he's about to make his breakthrough in music, even though Carrie doesn't really like his career choice, and never does seem to like the idea of his going out on the road.

Of course on the road with the pioneers of rock'n'roll Elvis(Tyler Hilton), Jerry Lee Lewis (Waylon Payne), Waylon Jennings (Shooter Jennings), Roy Orbison (Johnathan Rice) and other usual suspects, our hero meets the beauteous June Carter(Reese Witherspoon) and there's the tempestuous premarital relationship which would last well over a decade. He has the usual ups and downs having to do with sex and drugs, he WAS a musician after all.

Witherspoon is brilliant. She's always brilliant. She was even wonderful in “Legally Blonde 2” which was otherwise horrid. Everybody else is actually pretty good too. If you like country music, you'll like the film. Even if you don't.

Till turns into Phoenix and as such he joins the army winds up in Germany where he writes music and proposes marriage over the phone to his sweetheart Carrie(Shelby Lynne), and by the time their first kid is born, he's about to make his breakthrough in music, even though Carrie doesn't really like his career choice, and never does seem to like the idea of his going out on the road.

Of course on the road with the pioneers of rock'n'roll Elvis(Tyler Hilton), Jerry Lee Lewis (Waylon Payne), Waylon Jennings (Shooter Jennings), Roy Orbison (Johnathan Rice) and other usual suspects, our hero meets the beauteous June Carter(Reese Witherspoon) and there's the tempestuous premarital relationship which would last well over a decade. He has the usual ups and downs having to do with sex and drugs, he WAS a musician after all.

Witherspoon is brilliant. She's always brilliant. She was even wonderful in “Legally Blonde 2” which was otherwise horrid. Everybody else is actually pretty good too. If you like country music, you'll like the film. Even if you don't.

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