Thursday, January 26, 2006

a minor miracle

Yesterday, I forgot my laptop at the Sundance press and industry offices. I didn't realize it until I had finished watching my first film of the day. Naturally, I panicked, and toot to the bus back to the festival headquarters. When I got there, I found the laptop exactly where I left it. I was in shock most of the rest of the day, my faith in humanity, at least the part of it working in the Sheridan hotel in Park City, Utah being restored...now here are the latest reviews:

Dreamland/U.S.

Directed by
Jason Matzner

It's tough being a saint. Audrey(Agnes Bruckner) is stuck in the dreamland trailer park somewhere in New Mexico living with her physically fit but mentally damaged father(John Corbett) and thus she has nowhere to go. Her best friend and neighbor Cindy, er, Calista (Kelli Garner) is dying of some horrible desease and thus she has to take care of her as well.

Is a talented poet who should be going to college in the fall, but her responsibilities to these two needy people is too great. Poor, poor Audrey! Then Mookie(Justin Long) comes along, and there's love, but Callista is in lust with him too, so gives way. Pure soap. But don't worry, she works in the local bodega with a nerd named Abraham (Brian Klugman) and they have hot sex.

The problem with this trailer trash version of “Days of Our Lives” is that it's too predictable. Tom Willett's screenplay tries to bring nobility into this piece of fluff, but the third act is far too stupid to really keep one interested. The ending is entirely predictable, that everyone lives happily ever after, or at least achieves a minor enlightenment, is something we can see coming within the first fifteen minutes of the film. While the performances are quite good, Kelly Gerner is hot, the piss-poor script just isn't worth the time and trouble to get out of the house and go to the theater. Pass it by.

Subject Two/U.S.

Written and Directed
by Philip Chidel

It was said that there are only seven stories in the world. This is not true, but there are concept remakes. For instance in the comedy “Death Becomes Her” Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn find a magic potion that makes them immortal despite the injuries incurred.

Now this very concept is remade into a science fiction thriller of sorts, “Subject Two.” Subject One (Thomas Buesch) has been killed by Dr. Franklin Vick(Dean Stapleton) off-stage, although we see it in flashback, and so the research must go on. Taking the bait is one Adam Schmidt(Christian Oliver), a medical student who's just flunked an ethics course. Needing to get away from a bad situation, he decides to take the Doctor up on his offer and goes way up into the rocky mountains to a secret libratory, where he's given an experimental elixir which turns his eyes from blue to white, and gives him immortality.

So in order to test this immortality, Dr. Vick kills Adam over and over again, only to revive him. This is about blood as much as relationships. We're not too sure if they actually like each other, as they bicker incessantly. The elixir's side effects are painful, and the doctor performs ghoulish operations while Adam asks questions are procedure. Other problems arise, and the ending, while not exactly predictable, is pretty much expected.

This is an interesting film, although it's nowhere near great.

American HardcoreU.S.

Directed by
Paul Rauchman

Inspired by Steven Blush's book "American Hardcore: A Tribal History," This is a chronicle of the underground hard-core punk years from 1979-86. The fact was that movement was going on for quite a while before that, and the music was for the most part lousy and there was a good possibility of one's getting the crap beaten out of you.

Beginning in 1980, when Jimmy Carter was in office and America was in the grips of malaise, We trace the art form from it's roots in California and Washington, DC all the way to it's ignominious demise in 1986, when the artists realized that they were getting to old for that sort of thing. The interviews with the original artists were interesting enough, and the music itself is shown in concert clips and one realizes how truly bad it was.

If you are one of the tiny minority who liked that sort of thing, and there aren't that many people who are connoisseurs of old Circle Jerk or SSD albums, you will probably feel nostalgic. If you're not, then it's a mildly interesting historical artifact. Britney Spears fans need not apply.

A GUIDE TO RECOGNIZING YOUR SAINTS

Written and Directed
by Dito Montiel

If you have only one story in you, it's best to have a good one. Dito Montiel has written a memoir and then had it made into a movie.

Fortunately, Montiel has an interesting story to work on, or at least he has managed to get a whole bunch of really good actors to play his mediocre script.

The film begins as our hero's mother(Dianne Wiest) calling our him(Robert Downey Jr) on the phone to ask him to come home to Queens, NY for the first time in 20 years as his father(Chazz Palminteri) is very sick. So he does.

Meanwhile we flash back to the mid-80s, where young Dito(Shia LaBeouf) and his friends(Martin Compston, Channing Tatum, Adam Scarimbolo, Kyle Devon Benitez, Melonie Diaz and some others) go on with their life of hanging out, walking dogs, and getting into trouble, all the while dreaming of a better life.

Unfortunately, his dad doesn't really want him to leave the neighborhood. Then there's a useless feud with some gangbangers from down the road, and that leads to the last straw.

The acting is what makes the picture. The ensemble is an extremely good one, and the young cast makes the slightly lame script sing. The result is a lyrical evocation of a time quickly fading, and all that it implies. Worth a look.

RIGHT AT YOUR DOOR

Written and Directed
By Chris Gorak

Suppose the incompetence of the current administration continues and those pesky terrorists manage to do what the media reminds us what they want to do, blow up a terror weapon that kills thousands in a big city. What exactly would happen?

Lexi (Mary McCormack) is a high powered executive living in Los Angeles with her slacker musician husband Brad (Rory Cochrane). They live in an expensive house near Beverly hills. She's on her way to work when the terrorist get lucky.

Toxic materials of all types are blasted into the air by humongous bombs and the fallout begins to rain down on the northern neighborhoods. Brad is frantic, as Lexi might not have survived. He waits as long as he can until he and a neighbor's handyman (Tony Perez) seal his house tight. Then, after it's too late, Lexi returns and neither the handyman or Brad will let her in. drama divided by plastic and duct tape. It's surprisingly effective.

The special effects and the acting disguise the utterly preposterous script, which plays upon the paranoia that has characterized the decade of the '00z. This is a perfect piece of Neo-con propaganda, bringing to life what the Republcans have been warning us about.

All in all, not a bad little horror flick.

LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE / U.S.A.

Directed by Johnathan
Dayton, and Valerie Faris


Long, long time ago, there was a magazine called “The National Lampoon,” which in it's day was a very important cultural dynamo. The brand started to make movies in the middle 1970s and some of them were major hits. One of these was “National Lampoon's Vacation” starring Chevy Chase. Come to think of it, this is the standard “hero's journey” tale that has been done to death for thousands of years….nah, it's lot closer to the Chevy Chase flick.

Somewhere in New Mexico lives the Hoover family. They're that typical dysfunctional group that is the stuff of many a sitcom. It's led by Dad (Greg Kinnear) is a failed motivational speaker with a perfect plan for success. Mom (Toni Collette) is a relatively normal housewife, and they have two kids. Dwayne(Paul Dano), who has taken a vow of silence because he hates the world, and his sister Olive(Abigail Breslin), who very much wants to be a beauty queen,and has actually had some success in the sport. Also there is Grandpa(Alan Arkin), who is a loveable old curmudgeon who likes porn and got kicked out of a retirement community for ludness.

We actually begin with the addition of a new family member, Uncle Frank (Steve Carrell), Mom's brother, who has just failed in the commission of suicide and needs outpatient supervision. As soon as they get home the inciting incedent happens. Olive, who had come in second in the Little Miss Sunshine competition, has just been promoted to Florida state Champion when the actual winner ceased to qualify. So a six hundred mile long road trip is hastily organized.

The comparison with “Vacation” is most apt here because it seems that screenwriter Michael Arndt has done a bit of plagiarizing. Many of the same travails there occur here and they're just as funny.

The scary part of the film is the pageant itself. The girls aside from Olive all look like forty year old hookers. But I guess that was done deliberately. The cast has a bunch of Oscar® nominations between them, and it shows. This is one of those fun for the whole family type of things, despite the fact that they say “fuck” all the time,which may very well make this an R instead of a PG. Take the kids anyway

3 comments:

Rachel Kadushin said...

Wow, that's a lot of review for one day!
Good overview, and as usual some good succint writing to describe what's generally going on in the film. You give enough about the story set-up that the reader can decide if there's enough interesting elements -- to them -- as wel as giving your own opinions.

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