This may be the ultimate one, I've been so very busy....
THE DARWIN AWARDS / U.S.A
Written and Directed
By Finn Taylor
Disappointment is all that can be said about this misbegotten comedy. It could have been sooooooooooo much better that it staggers the mind just to think about it. This film has the Mythbusters® in a cameo for crissakes!!! If they couldn’t figure out what the hell to do with them, then what’s the point?
The film has what’s called “high concept.” Michael Burrows (Joseph Fiennes) is a great detective working for the San Francisco PD. He has one problem that’s important: he can’t stand the sight of blood. So when the notorious North Beach Killer (Tim Blake Nelson) uses this fact to escape, then he’s immediately fired.
So, he goes to a major insurance firm with a proposition: He can save them literally tens of millions of dollars by coming up with a profile of what he calls “Darwin cases.” Now these are the eponymous winners of the Darwin awards, given annually to the people who are so incredibly dumb that they improve the gene pool by removing themselves from it. Like I said, “high concept.”
We actually begin the film with one intelligent fellow(David Arquette) putting a rocket in the trunk of his car and shooting himself off into the great beyond. Had they concentrated on this sort of stuff this might have worked, but no. They paired an ineptly cast Feinnes with Winona Ryder as insurance investigator Siri Taylor and Wilmer Valderrama as a completely useless documentarian, who actually detracts from anything interesting the filmmakers want to actually do.
Bit and pieces of the film actually work, but unlike other “defective detectives” like “The Zero Effect” or “Monk” Feinnes can’t pull it off. He and Ryder have absolutely no chemistry together, and the effect is boredom. Don’t waste your money.
THE NIGHT LISTENER / U.S.A.
Written and Directed
by Patrick Stettner
Gabriel Noone (Robin Williams) is really depressed. His gay lover
Jess (Bobby Cannavale) has been cured [sort of], of AIDS and is now going to leave him for someone else. He can’t do his evening short story show on NPR, and so is heading off to oblivion. That is until his editor Ashe (Joe Morton) gives him a manuscript from a teenager named Pete Logand (Rory Culkin), and asks him to give it a read. He does and is interested by the horrific tale it tells.
He’s given the phone number of the kid and a long-distance relationship develops. He asks Pete’s gardian and lawyer Donna D. Logant (Toni Collette) about a visit. Then Jess, who’s returned briefly, begins to sow doubts about the kid’s very existence. So our hero begins to investigate.
Novellist Armistead Maupin and collaborators Terry Anderson and Patrick Stettner have put together a taut thriller with excellent acting and direction which is sadly marred by a touch of misogyny.
Here you have the heroic gay literati fighting against an evil insane woman, who will do anything to get his love. In fact, with the exception of his accountant (Sandra Oh) all the women portrayed are either insane or doormats unworthy of the least bit of respect. Also, Williams plays Noone with a sourness which really stops us from caring a whit what he does. The use of Culkin is a cheap trick, especially during the third act when Noone is trying to ascertain his existence. If he’s a figment of her imagination, why have him as real and if he’s real, then why go through this whole exercise in the first place? The whole thing, despite the fact that it’s fiction, is dishonest.
Wait until it hits cable.