Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Yet another batch.

Spent some time on main street where I saw a couple of movie stars and snuck into a reception that served bad horderves. Mostly, I just saw lots of movies:


Written and Directed
By Jeff Lipsky

What makes a marriage fail? There are countless reasons. Like they said, there are a million stories in the naked city, and this is one of them. Stuart (Justin Kirk) and Nicole (Julianne Nicholson) meet in a diner in a blind date set up by their therapist(Rebecca Schull). In the next booth Stuart's insane brother Jordan (Jamie Harrold), and sitting nearby is Nicol's best friend Tess (Chelsea Altman) and they are the background to what is the rise and fall of a relationship.

The first half is pure sitcom. All is light and fluffy as love blossoms through gentle humor. Nicole takes Stuart to meet her family, and lets Jordan come along. The extended family, appears to be a happy one even though Nicole's parents are divorced. Up until, and including the wedding, everything seems to be getting better and better. Then things go sour.

We're not exactly sure who's fault it is. Sometimes it seems to be Stuart's and sometimes Nicole's. The various siblings from either side become less and less appealing and we can visibly see the light going out of the relationship. Then, it's over just as Stuart begins to get his second wind. The film is depressing as hell, but this is independent cinema, and innocent people suffering is its reason for being. This is the kind of thing that provokes discussion even though it's not all that entertaining, which is what literature is all about, right?


Written and Directed
by Julian Goldberger

It's difficult doing a one person film. This isn't one but it's close. It's mostly the ravings of one George Gattling(Paul Giamatti) a Central Florida automobile refinisher who's got a bizarre fascination with hawks.

The film begins with George's autistic nephew Fred(Michael Pitt) building a shrine to a dead hawk that George has captured and was trying to train….that is before it died.

But George will stop at nothing of fulfilling his dream as a falconer, and he and Fred go out again and capture another hawk, this time vowing to do it right.

One of the things that George does besides work and his obsession is converse with a graduate student named Betty(Michelle Williams), who very much wants to meet Fred.

She gets her chance when George and his sister Precious(Rusty Schwimmer) go out to a party. She and Fred have sex of a sort, and the following morning Fred is found dead. Drowned in his waterbed. It's at this point that George's bird fixation goes beyond the pale. George, with the bird on his arm, rants throughout the town, followed by Betty who was asked by our hero to tag along.

Giamatti is really good at chewing the scenery and here he takes some really huge bites of the stuff. It's not exactly a one-man and a bird show, but it's as close as we're going to get. This is worth a matinee.


Written and Directed
By Hilary Brougher

Pregnancy changes people, and miscarriages can ruin lives. This is basically two case studies in that sort of thing.

Stephanie Daley(Amber Tamblyn) is the poster child for teenage pregnancy. She had sex once with a guy named Casey White(Kel O'Neill), and while he didn't ejaculate, or claimed not to, she became pregnant regardless, although she claimed not to know it.

But the relatively public stillbirth became a public bruhaha and the prosecutor's office wants to charge her with criminally negligent homicide. In order to do everything properly, they hire a psychologist named Lydie Crane(Tilda Swinton), who by sheer coincidence is also pregnant.

She had had a miscarriage the previous spring, and it had hurt her marriage with her husband Paul (Timothy Hutton), who may or may not be cheating on her.

The film follows two tracks: The first are flashbacks while Lydie interviews Stephanie, and the second is the relationship between Paul and Lydie in-between said interviews.

The performances here are solid, and the juxtaposition between the two plotlines is timely, it's mostly just the personal pain of relatively innocent people. The ending is a real bummer as it basically betrays the basic thesis of the film, which that miscarriage is not a crime. This is probably going to wind up on Oxygen or Lifetime eventually, so don't bother blowing ten bucks.

The Descent

Written and Directed
by Neil Marshall

Now for the big question: Why do some films work, while others that are almost exactly the same don't? Now I'm not talking ripoff here, no. Both films were made about the same time, and in the UK they came out almost simultaneously.

Bruce Hunt's “The Cave” was, to put it mildly, a disaster. Looking back on my review from way back last summer, The main problem was that the plot didn't make much sense, the dialogue was bad and the monster was too big to fit into the tiny cracks and crevices in the spooky underground cave.

Now take a look at this film here: “The Descent.” The plot is very similar, a bunch of really buffed up bimbos go down a cave and are attacked by monsters. This time it's intelligent and exiting.

We start with three of our heroines Sarah(Shauna Macdonald), Juno(Natalie Jackson Mendoza) and Beth (Alex Reid) going white water rafting. Watching on the shore are Sarah's husband Paul (Oliver Milburn) and daughter Jessica (Molly Kayll). Everyone is happy as a clam until there's that auto accident that kills Sarah's family. Exactly what does this have to do with the rest of the film?

Not much.

Cut to a year later, and Juno has invited Beth and Sarah to North Carolina with further friends Rebecca (Saskia Mulder), Holly (Nora-Jane Noone) and Sam (MyAnna Buring) to go caving. We get to know the gang of six as they cavort in a sort of slumber party the night before, and then they head for the cave.

Now in “The Cave” the expedition before the monsters showed up was really high tech and was quite deliberate. In this Juno has decided to take everybody to a new cave without telling anybody, This builds more tension as they get lost and the expedition begins to bicker among themselves.

There's a paranoid claustrophobia pervading the film, especially, as they have to get through some really tight tunnels and do some really nifty acrobatics, all this before the monsters show up.

Then it's full scale war and a question of which gets offed first and how many monsters get taken along. There is also plenty of conflict and unexpected violence. This is scary, the acting is surprisingly good, and the effects are really good.

This is one fine film. See it.

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