Sunday, September 10, 2006

Sunday morning...

We saw five film yesterday, and haven't had time do up them all, here are most of them:


Written and Directed
by Neil Armfield

Candy (Abbie Cornish) and Dan (Heath Ledger) love three things, each other, their old friend and mentor Casper(Geoffrey Rush) and that wonder drug known as heroin.

The thing is simple enough: Candy wants candy and bullies her beau Dan into letting her shoot some up. When she immediately OD's and is revived, her first words are: "Let's have some more."

From here we have three clearly titled chapters: “Heaven,” where “heroin chic” is still lots of fun, except when it comes to Candy's folks(Noni Hazlehurst and Tony Martin); Earth,” where the things become harder and our lovers turn to lives of crime, and Hell, where they try to become sober and things get even worse.

This is a film that's saved, so to speak, by the acting. Ledger and Rush have had some brilliant performances in the past and it's this skill that shows up on the screen. Cornish, who's not had that much experience has shown that she's got the chops to keep up. However the script doesn't, there are some plot holes here and there and the tone of the film is too erratic at times for even the subject matter.

Neil Armfield and Luke Davies's script gets bogged down far too much, and at times veers towards unwatchable boredom between moments of brilliance. This is not nearly as good as it pretends to be, and it shows. The anti-drug theme, while laudable, has been done better and more horrifically elsewhere. This may be a good film to take the kiddies to if you want to scare them. Sort of like those car crash films in driver's ed. But it's generally not worth it.


Directed by
Phillip Noyce

Sometimes even-handedness can go a bit too far. In telling the story of a terrorist and the cop who's out to get him, Phillip Noyce gives us too heroes going against each other trying to do what he thinks is right. The problem of who to root for is a big one and even though this is based on a true story, we can see that Phillp Noyce and writer Shawn Slovo are somewhat conflicted.

The terrorist, Patrick Chamusso(Derek Luke), who's telling the story, starts out the film as a foreman in a South African oil factory. This being the age of apartheid, he and his wife Precious(Bonnie Mbuli) live in modest way, although they can be considered well off as opposed to most of the other oppressed blacks down there at the time. Noyce shows the oppressive way the white cops treat the blacks almost immediately, and how Patrick's family reacts to it, showing little patience with his wanting to keep his head down and stay within the system.

Phillip is, in his way a community activist, coaching a kids' soccer team. He also has a mistress and a kid with her, and this was to lead to his downfall.

Nic Vos(Tim Robbins) is a captain in South Africa's anti-terrorist squad. He's, politically a liberal, plays folksongs on the guitar, loves his family and believes in punishing the guilty and protecting the innocent. So when there's a bombing at a the plant in which Patrick works, he has to investigate.

Now on the night in question, Patrick was away. His team had made the playoffs and thus he had Precious call him in sick in order not to lose his job [no more vacation time], this little deceit in itself is an innocent fib, what wasn't so innocent is that he made a long trip to visit his girlfriend and their kid, and when he's arrested on suspicion of doing the bombing, he insists on repeating his cover story in order not to get fired, and this leads to more brutality.

They beat up Precious offstage and show him the results, leading him to make a false confession. Vos lets them go because he believes in only punishing the guilty and protecting the public good. However this encounter with the system radicalizes Patrick and he runs off to join the African National Congress' terrorist squad, where he trains to do what he was accused of in the beginning.

So we have, instead of a hero and a villain to deal with, a hero and a counter-hero, both, to fighting the good fight in an entirely ambiguous way. This film is all grey, and had this film taken place just about anywhere else, it would have been a lot more satisfying, but is was apartheid South Africa, and you're not supposed to root for the Nazis, right? This is not a documentary, and the whole thing leaves you feeling confused, especially the dénouement. That is not what good moviemaking is all about.


Written and Directed
by Steven Zaillian

If you're going to fail, you might as well do it big. For a period of about a year, the people at Columbia pictures have been delaying and delaying the release of this film. We now know why.

The original film version of Robert Penn Warren's classic novel is a classic itself, winning a number of Oscars® back in the '50s. There was really no reason to remake this but Steve Zaillian did it anyway, but there was no way to update it, for the story of the transformation of Willie Stark(Sean Penn) from farmer to liberal political activist to corrupt governor is timeless. The acting is really good, although Sean Penn is a bit over the top where he's not supposed to be. The problem is in the storytelling. It just doesn't jell.

As in the book, the main character is not Willie Stark, but Jack Burden(Jude Law), the journalist he seduces into working for him. It's through Jack's eyes that we see political flunkies Tiny Duffy(James Gandolfini) and Sadie Burke (Patricia Clarkson)
seduce a naïve and idealistic Willie Stark with the glittering prize of a governorship that they don't really want him to get.

It's at this point that we see an abrupt change from idealist to cynic, but we don't see the change from cynic to fiend. All of a sudden, the golden hearted activist is now a crook who cheats on his wife (Talia Balsam) and has gone from teetotaler to raging drunk.

The part concerning the Stanton siblings (Kate Winslet and Mark Ruffalo) is cursory at best, and Jack's investigation of his old mentor Judge Irwin (Anthony Hopkins), is awkward.

We don't get any of the characters, and as such the thing gets really boring. I myself had to fight to keep awake during most of the screening. The real tragedy is that Steven Zaillian didn't seem to know what to do with the material, and thus have come up short.

The Last Kiss

Directed by
Tony Goldwyn

Michael(Zach Braff) and Jenna(Jacinda Barrett) have been in a state of living together “in sin” for about five years now. She's pregnant with his kid, and they're both 29 and very happy with each other and the situation, and not only that, her parents (Blythe Danner and Tom Wilkinson) actually like him. It's quite clear that they must be destroyed.

We meet our soon-to-be-victims at a friends wedding, where age-old pals Kenny (Eric Christian Olsen), Chris (Casey Affleck), and Izzy(Michael Weston) and their various significant others are also guests. Aside from Kenny, who's happy just going from one meaningless relationship to another, the other two are in either disintegrating or destroyed relationships. The penultimate flareup between Izzie and his ex is something that jars Michael to some extent, and this state leaves him venerable to the wiles of 20-year-old Kim (Rachel Bilson), a college student who's in the mood for a fling with an older man.

This film walks the razor's edge between romantic comedy and tragedy. We know that Chris can't take the change that his wife
Lisa (Lauren Lee Smith) has made since they had their child, we don't know if this is going to be repaired, or should be repaired.

These are Gen-Xers facing the onset of full adulthood, facing an premature mid-life crisis, and the whole thing isn't particularly pretty. The problem is that of identification. We're supposed to identify with Michael, but he's acting like a cad seems to unforced that we're not exactly sure we want to root for him or not. Another problem is that Kim is so extremely likeable a character that we're not sure whether we want the “adultery” to succeed or not.

There's also the counterpoint in the temporary breakup of Jenna's parent's marriage, which can lead to an assumption that this is in fact anti-marriage propaganda. The thing is, is that it's too cute by half and there's too much pain for it to be merely a comedy, and too much cuteness to be a decent drama.

The acting is better than average, and Wilkinson and Danner are especially good. Barrett and Bramf blossom near the end of the film, and the former gets close to brilliant. Its not really a date movie, but it's something that will provoke conversation.

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