Sunday, March 25, 2007

Sunday Document Dump....

I sent the stuff in, and they don' we go again:


Directed by
Antoine Fuqua

Well, the studio wanted a franchise, and I think they might have one. It's obvious that Gunnery Sergeant Bob Lee Swagger(Mark Wahlberg) has the makings of a superhero, and Jonathan Lemkin's adaptation of Stephen Hunter's novel pushes all the right buttons.

We open in the Horn of Africa, where Sergeant Swagger is doing his thing as part of a covert op in the War on Terror, or so he thinks, and is left behind by his platoon. Hoo—ya!

Cut to Montana a couple of years later, where our hero is hanging out minding his own business, when Colonel Isaac Johnson(Danny Glover) of the Secret Intelligence Agency [or whatever] arrives from Washington and says that there's an evil conspiracy to assassinate THE PRESIDENT and only HE, as the best marksman in the known universe, can figure out how to save him.

So being a patriot, he decides to go for it, only to have been set up as the fall guy for the assassination of “The Archbishop of Ethiopia” who was going to make a speech right after the prexy.

So while Swagger is off to Tennessee to get repaired by the beauteous Sarah(Kate Mara), who was the fiancée of his pal who got blown up in the prologue, FBI special agent Nick Memphis(Michael Peña) is fighting the power in the FBI because he was a witness and they want him to cover the truth up.

The politics of the film is the usual left-wing “it's all for oil” crap, but that doesn't really matter. What really matters is whether there's a whole bunch of nifty car chases and stuff gets blown up in abundance. The answer to both questions is yes, and it's done in a way to make it look less gratuitous than usual.

Peña and Marky Mark do a more than professional job, Ned Beatty Elias Koteas and Rade Serbedzija are really sleazy as bad guys, Rhona Mitra, who plays Peña's associate and Mara have really nice breasts, and Danny Glover is Danny Glover. In other words, Halfway decent script, good acting, good chases and stuff gets blown up. What more do you want? Godzilla? Worth the bucks.

The Hills Have Eyes II

Directed by
Martin Weisz

It's a law. I think it was passed by the California legislature back in the middle of the 1930s and signed into law by Governor Earl Warren. If a horror film is a hit, there must be a sequel. If that is a hit, IT must be a sequel, and if the producers run out of ideas for sequels, then a remake of the original is required. Wes Craven and his son, Jonathan know all about this, and that is why they wrote a script for the remake of the sequel. I'm sorry. It just had to be done.

The most incompetent brigade in the entire US National Guard [apparently, all fifty states, the three territories, two commonwealths and the District of Columbia refused to let their names be mentioned in this thing] is on a training mission in New Mexico, when they hear a distress call from a top secret base, where, as you remember Emile De Raven and her family were mostly decimated by mutant hillbillies in the previous flick.

So Sergeant Millstone (Flex Alexander) takes his merry band of troopers(Jacob Vargas, Michael McMillan, Daniella Alonso, Jessica Stroup and a few other interchangeable pre-corpses) into the hills where they get sliced up by the remaining mutants or by their own incompetence. Then they go down into the mine in the middle of the mountain, where a couple of more of the group get killed by the magically endowed, though horribly disfigured mutants [They can kill someone with his wallet!].

Think of this as a kind of guessing game, you get a bunch of dislikable morons, and you guess who's going to get it in which order. It's kind of fun and there are a number of genuine scares. The acting is okay, but there's not really much to do besides run, yell and scream through the desert and the soundstage.

Happily, I don't think there's going to be a “III”, but you never know.
In the meantime, don't bother.


Written and Directed
by Bennett Davlin

There are reasons why some films spend years on the shelf. Companies go broke, producers fight with each other over rights, distributors forget where they put the print, and so on and so forth.

Which brings us to Bennet Dalvin's “Memory.” There's nothing actually 'wrong' with this film. The dialogue is actually rather good, in a naturalistic sort of way, and the acting is fine, too, but there was a problem selling it because most of the cast USED to be major movie stars, and people on the way down generally don't attract the attention of distributors and theater owners as well as a cast of shiny unknowns or the hotties of the moment.

The plot is somewhat intriguing, Dr. Taylor Briggs (Billy Zane) and his sidekick Dr. Deepra Chang (Terry Chen) are at a conference somewhere in Brazil, when they are called to a hospital to consult on a strange case of a researcher found in the Amazon jungle, and through a series of happenstances, Briggs finds himself having visions of a serial killer who did his nasty deeds before our hero was born.

Going back to Boston, he is plagued by these visions while he's trying to go on with his life, which means taking care of his mother(Deirdre Blades), who has advanced Alzheimer's, and hanging out with old family friends Max Lichtenstein(Dennis Hopper) and Carol Hargrave(Ann-Margret), with whom he has a loving relationship.

Somehow, he discovers a painting by a certain Stephanie Jacobs(Tricia Helfer), who he woos and starts seeing romantically while he gets more and more into the mystery wracking is brain.

The problem is that the story isn't compelling or believable, or at least when it comes to the supernatural pseudoscience. Zane underplays his character, who is relatively banal, and when he's not conversing with the various other characters about other things, he's downright boring. The problem is that when everyone's doing normal things the actors shine, Hopper especially. The whole thing is rather a waste of talent.

Since it's theatrical run is only a brief stop on the journey to the video counter, save your money and wait until it arrives.

The Last Mimzy

Directed by
Bob Shaye

The Christian right has been making inroads into Hollywood of late, and obviously those evil secular humanists have to push back. Call it the “revenge of the New Age.”

This is one of those inspirational kiddy flicks that is supposed to have some sort of cosmic message but doesn't. Instead the viewers are given a mishmash of New Age slop and pseudo-Buddhist mysticism, which isn't nearly as bad as it could have been. That's because the people who made this film, New Line head honchos Bob Shaye, who directed, and Toby Emmerich, who wrote the screenplay with Bruce Joel Rubin, James V. Hart and Carol Skilken Pride are professionals with decades of experience and know that if you want to make a successful kiddy flick, you can't talk down to the kiddies like too many filmmakers do.

Emmerich and company's update of Lewis Padgett's (Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore) 1943 short story “And Mimsy went the Borogroves” begins in the middle of “THE NEW AGE®” where a history teacher is going to telepathically tell her students the story of how the would was saved centuries before…

Noah(Chris O'Neil) and Emma Wilder(Rhiannon Leigh Wryn) are two extremely normal children who live in Seattle, where her mother Jo (Joely Richardson) is a housewife and father David(Timothy Hutton) is a bigshot lawyer. It's Easter Vacation, and Mom takes the kids to the beach house, where they find a mysterious box in the ocean, which, on further inspection, contains a bunch of mysterious plastic things, some green rocks, and a toy bunny rabbit. Clearly, they are either magic or from outer space, and clearly Mom and Dad will take them away if their origins are found out.

The kids develop super-powers, and this is noticed by both the parents [who aren't THAT clueless] and Noah's science teacher Mr. White(Rainn Wilson), who sees a vast improvement in Noah's grades, and strange drawings in his notebooks, which is where the New Age® claptrap comes in.

There's also a subplot concerning the FBI and blacking out half the state of Washington, but since this takes place during the end of the Bush 2 administration, that's par for the course. What's good, is that while the clichés are indeed there, they're not as annoying as they could have been. The action and special effects are actually well integrated, and the kids, while not particularly compelling as actors as are the grownups, Wilson and Naomi Schwartz(Kathryn Hahn, as his wife, are delightfully dizty, and Michael Clarke Duncan is wonderful but underused as the FBI guy.

A workmanlike film, it's effective as a standard kiddy adventure flick, but not anything genuinely brilliant, like that which is advertised. It would have been nice if a real adaptation of the original short story, which is still beloved after more than half a century, had been made, but this is generally harmless and is worth taking the kids.

Reign Over Me

Written and Directed
by Mike Binder

New York can be a very lonely place. This is a film about that kind of loneliness. Charlie Fineman (Adam Sandler) lost his family during 9/11 and has been drifting along in a daze for five years. Alan Johnson (Don Cheadle), who's a wealthy dentist, has been drifting along in a daze to some extent too. His marriage is getting stale and when a nutcase named Donna (Saffron Burrows) arrives and screws up his life, he gets no support from the other members of the practice. It's a midlife crisis in the making.

So when Johnson comes upon Charlie by accident for the second time in as many weeks after not seeing each other for decades, a strange bond begins to grow. Each sees something in the other that they are lacking and as Johnson begins to spend more and more time with Charlie, he finds a kind of freedom and Charlie finds a new companionship that really annoys Johnson's wife Janeane(Jada Pinkett Smith) to no end, which is an interesting conflict. The emotions are complicated than in most comedies, which is understandable since this is most definitely NOT a comedy.

Sandler's violent streak, as seen in previous movies, is used to it's best advantage here, and the otherwise understated portrayal of his usual character, makes up for an unusual performance, and the deadpan and serious performances of the other characters, notably Pinkett Smith, Liv Tyler as Johnson's friend and Charlie's shrink Angela, Robert Klein and Melinda Dillon as Charlie's in-laws, and Donald Southerland as the judge in the climax, actually make the film more affecting. This is heavy stuff, and Mike Binder, who has “graduated” from comedy to drama, has shown that he can do it rather well.

This is an Adam Sandler movie for those who think themselves too good for Adam Sandler movies.

The Prisoner: Or How I Planned To Kill Tony Blair

A Documentary Directed by
Petra Epperlein and Michael Tucker

In Epperman and Tucker's “Gunner Palace” journalist Yunis Khatayer Abbas and his brothers are taken and detained, allegedly for trying to construct bombs in order to blow up British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Many months later, the documentarians heard that someone was making a film about incident and they decided to take the project over as a sequel to their previous film…and that's exactly what they did.

Using a long interview with Yunnis; outtakes from “Gunner Palace” Yunnis' home movies and photos; an interview with former Abu Ghraib guard Benjamin Thompson and a bunch of animatic illustrations to fill in the visual gaps. The documentarians put together a reasonable reconstruction of the events that took place. The only problem is that they try to do it with a touch of humor about the whole thing, and that takes away from the basic message of the film.

The thing starts with a series of faked home movies of Yunnis with his relations clowning at the lake, where we get to see that he's a nice guy. Then he begins to tell the story of his life, and how he was in the army during the Iran/Iraq war and then was later imprisoned by Saddam Hussein and his disgusting son Uday. How this proves his innocence is problematic. We went to war because they did things like that, and a lot of the insurgents were oppressed by the Baathist regime and worked very hard to keep their oppressors in power, but since this is a personal story, we don't get into that.

Since the filmmakers were there when Yunnis was arrested, we get to see it, and there's footage of US troops discussing it. What we don't get footage is of Yunnis' interrogation, and for that they substitute comic book style animatics, which doesn't work all that well, especially with the lousy choice in background music.

The style of the animatics really hurts the film when Yunnis gets talking about the months and months he spent in the detention camp at Abu Ghraib prison, where the food was inedible, the water unsanitary, and the prisoners alleged allies, the insurgents, would do their best to kill them by bombing them with morter shells.

The interviews with Ben Thompson give more of a balanced picture of the whole sad mess, and in the end the film does it's job in getting the viewer mad at the Bush administration for all the usual reasons. It's a good tool for research, but not something that one would spend eleven bucks on to waste an afternoon.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Written and Directed
by Kevin Munroe

Back in the mid 1980s, Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird were among the many artists taking part in the comics “black and white revolution” in which all sorts of self-published titles were thrust onto the public and for a brief time, were the forefront of a great creative movement. The corporate media pounced on these artists, and the vast majority, with their exaggerated sense of integrity, pointedly refused to deal with them. The main exceptions were Eastman and Laird, who's “Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles” [fun title that], was turned into a Saturday morning cartoon with all the licensed trimmings. Everyone else, with the exception of Dave Sim's “Cerebus the Aardvark”, vanished into oblivion.

TMNT came and went, and by 2000, when Eastman and Laird finally split up, they had pretty much joined Strawberry Shortcake and He-man, gathering dust in Gen-Y closets. But if something was popular once, it might be popular again, you never know.

So Laird and animation director Kevin Munroe have come up with a revival of the turtles, and with Gen Y now becoming parents themselves [who are called? Gen Z is almost sixteen by now, right?], the “I thought this stuff was good when I was your age” concept, which has rarely worked, is now in action once again.

So, with an omnipotent narrator (Laurence Fishburne) telling the tale of astrological conquest three millennia ago, and updating us as to what's going on with Leonardo (James Arnold Taylor), Michelangelo (Mikey Kelley), Donatello (Mitchell Whitfield), Raphael (Nolan North) and Master Splinter (Mako). It's not pretty.

So, we find Mike in Central America, where he's working as a superhero in the jungle, here he meets former sidekick April O'Neil (Sarah Michelle Gellar), who's collecting valuable antiquities for a mysterious zillionaire named Max Winters (Patrick Stewart), she convinces him to return to New York, where there's all sorts of angst, and personality conflicts, and a major plotline involving the end of the world [isn't there ALWAYS in these things?] and mistaken identities. All things considered, it's not nearly as bad as I feared.

The voice cast is fine, the animation is professionally done, and the script is relatively intelligent. Whether or not the Ninja Turtles will reignite the minds of today's kids is anyone's guess. It all has to do with whether or not the parents are fond enough of the franchise to force their kids to see this or wait until it comes out on video. My guess is the latter, although watching this stuff on the big screen in the dark is always better, but it may not be worth the extra bucks.

The Page Turner

Written and Directed
by Denis Dercourt

Revenge is a dish best served cold, or so says the proverb. Auteur Denis Dercourt certainly thinks so, and he serves it right out of the fridge.

It's the early 1990s, and 11-year-old Melanie Prouvost (Julie Richalet) is practicing for her big day. She's auditioning for a fancy-schmancy concervitory and if she gets in, the tuition is free, something that would greatly ease the financial burden on her working class parents(Jacques Bonnaffe and Christine Citti). But then comes the inciting incident, which ruins that dream. An extra barges into the room where Melenie is in the process of auditioning, and demands an autograph from one of the juges, concert pianist Ariane Fouchecourt (Catherine Frot). This throws Melenie completely off, and she blows the rest of the piece. Her career as a concert pianist is over.

Cut to a decade later, and the beauteous Deborah Francois now plays Melanie. She's got an internship with a major law firm headed by Jean Fouchecourt (Pascal Greggory), who, by a strange coincidence, is the husband of the very person who inadvertently destroyed her dreams all those years ago. So when she discovers that the Fouchecourt's au pare [they have a 12 year old son named Tristan(Antoine Martynciow)] is going on holiday, and offers to replace her for a while. Thus our protagonist is able to worm her way into Ariane's life and destroy it.

Melanie does this in a stealthy way, winning the love of Tristan and Ariane, who gives her an extra duty as the title implies, and starting what seems to be the beginnings of a lesbian relationship. There is also the problem with Ariane's partners(Xavier De Guillebon and Martine Chevallier), in the trio she tours with, and that leads to one of the more delicious scenes in the entire film.

At only 85 minutes, this is a surprisingly leisurely film. Dercourt takes his sweet time, and except for a couple of brief scenes, including that one I mentioned about one of Ariane's partners, there's absolutely no violence. Ms. Francois is passive and for the most part unemotional. She smiles little, except for one scene where she meets a friend, and appears to have the makings of a female Hannibal Lector. The supporting cast is quite excellent. This is one of the better films to come out of France in the past year. See it.


Written and Directed
by Jafar Panahi

There are many people nowadays who are sympathizing with the Government of Iran. They rail against Bush for his naming Iran as part of the so-called “axis of evil” and…guess what? Bush is right.

The Government of Iran is very evil indeed. Fortunately, the Iranian people aren't and there are many talented filmmakers who are willing to take on their fascistic government and expose these monsters for what they are. The filmmaker is named Jafar Panahi and his weapon against oppression is a cheery sports comedy.

One of the lesser crimes against humanity that the Iranian regime has committed is one of misogyny. Women are not allowed to attend public sports matches, and if they try to attend, say, a soccer match, they will be arrested and sent to jail. One would think that in a civilized country that sort of thing wouldn't even be considered.

In the spring of 2005, Iran was fighting Bahrain for a berth on the next rung of the World Cup, and naturally, the stadium was packed. Since being a sports fan is a gender-free occupation, there are plenty of women who are enamored of the sport, and a certain number of the ladies are brave enough to try to crash the party.

The film begins with an old man(Reza Farhadi) flagging down a minibus filled with rowdy [male] fans to try to grab his daughter before she can commit the crime of gate-crashing. She's not aboard the vehicle, but another woman(Sima Mobarak Shahi) is, and this is her first attempt at crashing a game. The boys in the bus are all on her side, but she wants to get in on her own, and this includes getting ripped off for a scalped ticket, and getting frisked by the army, something that gets her caught.

So she's sent to the holding pen, which is occupied by a half a dozen others(Shayesteh Irani, Nazanin Sedighzadeh, Golnaz Farmani and Mahnaz Zabihi) and are guarded by three young army conscripts (Safdar Samandar, Mohammed Kheir-abadi, and Masoud Kheymeh-kaboud) who don't want to be there and actually sympathize to some extent with their prisoners. But orders are orders and everyone has to remain there while waiting for the bus to take the women to the vice squad.

So the results of the situation is a debate over the sexual policies of the Iranian government and whether or not women should be protected from “naughty” language and good ol' fashioned cussing, something that is illustrated when one of the gals(Sadeqi) has to go to the bathroom, and her minder(Samandar) has to clear it of men who have to go as badly as she does. This is the old trick of making injustice look ridiculous, which in this case it is.

The acting is terrific, and had Iran been a free country the gals would be major international movie stars [they might be in Iran, but popular films from over there don't generally make it over here], but there you have it. This is thought provoking and lots and lots of fun. Worth the bucks.

Colour Me Kubrick

Directed by
Brian Cook

They say truth is stranger than fiction, and sometimes we've got evidence for this maxim. Take the con man who spent a number of years impersonating director Stanley Kubrick during the last couple of years of his and Kubrik's life.

This is the story of Alan Conway(John Malkovich) a con man who goes around fleecing innocent artistic types, pretending to be Kubrick, promising his marks the moon, and disappearing when the loans come due. The film begins with two punkers who were thus fleeced harassing some rich shlub demanding that Kubrick pay them the money they lent.

Conway is a flaming queen and a chameleon who changes accents and mannerisms whenever he meets someone new, and he's also a bit lazy, he gets caught by anyone who knows the work of the real Kubrick just a little bit. Apparently, the real Conway never saw any of his films.

The film is basically a one-man show. Malkovich gives the performance of a lifetime, while the hamminess drips out of every pore, there's an honesty in the dishonesty of it all which makes the performance priceless. He's so brazen that he goes up to NY Times film critic Frank Rich (William Hootkins) and his wife Alix (Marisa Berenson) in a London restaurant screaming his displeasure at what the newspapers have been saying about him. This proves the beginning of the end. Rich is suspicious, and so are quite a few others, including the cops.

Meanwhile Conway continues his impersonation, and this time hits real paydirt, a midlevel celebrity(Jim Davidson) who thinks he could make it big in the US. It's a hoot. The supporting cast, which is made up of has-been TV stars are really good.

Anthony Frewin's script is a bit erratic. The film goes on in a hpahasard way for the first half at least, but Malkovitch's perfornace makes up for it. This is a perfect revenge by two of Kubrick's most loyal assistant. Had he lived, I'm sure Kubrick would have wanted to make this film himself.

First Snow

Written and Directed
by Mark Fergus

Sometimes elaborate plans don't always work. The mystical jigsaw puzzle that is this film doesn't quite fit together, and the characters are a little too skuzzy for any sense of identification with them.

We meet the gratuitous Jimmy Starks(Guy Pearce) bleeding in his car as the radio gives the weather report. This whole thing is technically a flashback from this opening scene. Jimmy has just managed to wreck his car somewhere in New Mexico and is waiting around for the mechanic to finish the repairs, when, as a lark, he decides to get his fortune told. The fortune teller(J.K. Simmons), we soon discover is the real deal, and the end of the fortune, which was withheld, is something we, and Jimmy can rightly guess for ourselves.

Jimmy goes back to his life. That means screwing his live-in girlfriend Deirdre(Piper Perabo) hanging out with his coworker Ed(William Fichtner) and firing another one(Rick Gonzalez) but then there's this figure from his past, an old pal named Vincent(Shea Whigham), who's just out of prison and may want Jimmy's promised demise. This is an illustrated version of famous five steps of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. The structure of the film is based on these, conflicted on whether or not the prediction is actually going to happen when the “first snow” of the title finally arrives.

The skulking and the paranoia are what makes this film watchable. Pearce gives a dynamite performance, as does Whigham, who mostly [and literally] phones it in. The penultimate scene is riveting.

It's just about worth a bargin matinee.


Directed by
Svinuari Obert Gonera

Once again, we have the inspirational heartwarming sports film for children. We've seen them before and we'll see them again and they've long since blended in with each other. Coach X heads off to the ghetto and takes a bunch of impoverished reprobates and transforms themselves into winners with a future, this despite the opposition of the POWERS that BE and the local drug dealers. Also, each and every one claims to be based on a true story.

Each and every IHSPfC has the same plot and villains, only the sport and location change. This time, it's Philadelphia in 1974, where champion swimmer Jim Ellis (Terrence Howard), who cannot get a job as a math teacher because he is Black [the film opens in the 1960s south, where he is arrested for competing in a segregated pool]. The only place he can get a job is at the Philadelphia Recreational Authority, where he's to help dismantle the place as the neighborhood has gone to hell in a hand-basket.

When he gets there, he discovers the situation is worse than he thought, and the only other employee there, Elston (Bernie Mac), does absolutely nothing, and the kids do nothing but play basketball(Kevin Phillips, Evan Ross, Nate Parker, Brandon Fobbs and a couple of others) and are watched over by Franklin (Gary Sturgis), the stock villainous drug dealer. Clichés and stereotypes all the way, but isn't that always the case with these things?

So Ellis discovers a pool in the basement, and for his own amusement, fills it up. With the basketball hoops taken down, the kids just hang around doing nothing, and Elston invites them in and forces them to become a swimming team, something racist back before the day thought Blacks were unable to do.

There are the usual stumbling blocks and challenges, mostly oppostion from Franklin and his thugs on the one hand, and
Councilwoman Sue Davis (Kimberly Elise) [her brother is on the swim team], on the other. Same old same old.

As to the factual basis for the film, the real Elston made a career with the PDR as a swim coach, and what REALLY happened might have made a decent movie, but they had to shoehorn everything into the IHSPfC mold. But this is what always happens. There is usually one or two great sports movies a decade, and this ain't it.

Give it a pass.

Sacco And Vanzetti

A documentary
by Peter Miller

The best way to get sympathy for the bad guys is to frame them for something they clearly didn't do. That's what happened to two terrorists named Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti in the year 1920, and the repercussions are still felt to this day.

“Terrorists?!?” I hear you say, “I thought they were innocent victims” Well actually, they were both, for as the documentary, clearly admits, they belonged to a terrorist organization headed by Luigi Galleani, which was responsible for quite a few murders, and fled with him to Mexico to wait for the fall of the American Government when the first world war started. On the other hand, as the doc also clearly shows, they had nothing to do with the particular murder that they were charged with.

Peter Miller, who was a collaborator the renowned documentarian Ken Burns, goes about telling the story in a workmanlike way. He interviews the usual suspects (Howard Zinn, Arlo Guthrie, Studs Terkel and others of the left) as well as Sacco's niece [one wonders whether his children or grandchildren cooperated or not], and the daughter of the murder victim [one wonders if Miller actually did the interviews or found them in an archive somewhere]. The tone of the film is rather dispassionate at first, being somewhat unsure as to whether or not to depict Sacco and Vanzetti as saints or not. John Turturro and Tony Shalhoub read the letters of the doomed pair, and ones they read tend to the former, while the facts of the case tend to the latter.

However, there's no problem about how to depict the government of Massachusetts. They get the full demonization treatment, and that's something they clearly deserve. The trial was clearly a farce, and so was the cover-up that followed. The whole thing was an embarrassment to both the governments of Massachusetts and the United States as a whole, making the S&V case a cause celeb throughout the world.

With a case of such importance, it's always a good idea to be reminded every now and then as to how things can go wrong, and justice means that just because a person is guilty of SOMETHING, doesn't mean that it's okay for the state frame them for something else. This is worth a look when it comes out on video or PBS.

Monday, March 19, 2007

The Third Document dump: Supplement

To that guy who asked why I didn't put up every single film that's opening: It was impossible to do, and here are a couple of reviews I wasn't able to see because they didn't have press screenings. Notice that if you go to the Greenwich Villiage Gazette, you will see the one for "The Nomad," which I will put up here as well. I hope I won't have to do this in the future.

Dead Silence
Universal Pictures, 89mins, R

Written and Directed
by James Wan

“If you even THINK of saying I told you so, I’ll shoot you!” So says
Det. Jim Lipton(Donnie Wahlberg) to hero Jamie Ashen(Ryan Kwanten), when the former discovers the latter is, of course right. This is a great line and the reason I’m telling you this is now you don’t have to see this movie and thus save yourself or your significant other upwards of thirty bucks [what with popcorn and all]. That’s my job, after all.

Auteur James Wan and his co-writer Leigh Whannell the people who wrote the really scary and original “Saw” series, have decided to revisit the overused “Killer Dummy” genre with a allegedly twisted tale of a ventriloquist Mary Shaw(Judith Roberts), who was murdered by vigilantes back in the days before Pearl Harbor, because they thought [rightly] that she had murdered a kid(Steven Taylor), who was heckling her during her act. They even made up a nursery rhyme about her.

So we start with Jamie and his lovely wife Lisa(Laura Regan) doing the usual stuff in their New York apartment, when they receive a strange gift. It’s the dummy we’ve seen on all those ugly posters!

With the obvious happening and Det. Lipton thinking that Jamie is guilty as sin, our hero heads up north to his childhood home in the village of Raven’s Fair, which seems to have undergone a major war sometime in the recent past, to confront his father(Bob Gunton) and his wife Ella(Amber Valletta), who are obviously up to no good, and then the local undertaker(Michael Fairman), who has an insane wife
(Joan Heney), and here’s something new: Instead of teenagers, the monster lady gets to kill off senior citizens! That’s two out of six hundred for the filmmakers.

The film pretty much goes forward on autopilot, what with all that idiot plotting. There is that one great line and some decent scenery, but the acting isn’t all that great, and there isn’t all that much gore.

These guys have talent, and you can’t hit a home run every time. So perhaps their next outing might be better. In the meantime, don’t bother.

Nomad: The Warrior

Directed by Sergei Bodrov,
Ivan Passer and Talgat Temenov

Allegedly made to counter Sasha Baron Cohen’s Borat. This is the national epic of Kazakhstan, where the national hero is sent by providence to save the nation and live on in the hearts of all who live in said nation forever onward.

Now the Kazaks haven’t make many epic films in recent years. After all, they’ve been recovering from two hundred years of Russian domination since finally getting independence in 1991 and there hasn’t been very much in the way of creativity to make it to the outside world, which is why they had to hire two Slavs to direct.

The film starts sometime at the end of the 17th or beginning of the 18th centuries, and mystical Kazak warrior Oraz (Jason Scott Lee), who can talk to the animals, is arrested by the agents of the Kazak Galdan Ceren (Doskhan Zholzhaxynov), who threatens to put him to death if he doesn’t pick out the perfect horse. This, is somehow the best way to inspire loyalty over there in Central Asia, I dunno, but Oraz has the gift of prophecy, and he knows immediately, where the Kazak Christ is born. Unfortunately, so do the Uigars, who send some baddies to kill the kid, who’s saved by Oraz and is raised by him to become Mansur Khan(Kuno Becker), who looks Aryan and can do pretty much anything.

The script is simple to be just above idiotic. The various main characters, like the love interest(Ayanat Yesmagambetova). and the best friend(Jay Hernandez), are complete morons, and that pretty much moves the plot forward. The good guys are the good guys and the bad guys are the bad guys, and Kazakhstani steppe looks very much like the Midwestern prairie, and the scenery looks gorgeous, but we don’t see enough of it to really appreciate it.

Also, they filmed quite a bit of it in English for some reason and decided to dub the rest into English as well. This helps a little, but since the film really isn’t worth viewing, it’s still a waste of money for the people at Weinstein. Maybe the Kazaks will make something really entertaining to show the world what they can do. But this isn’t it. Sad, really.

New Directors, New Films series.

These films are generally not all that great, but one or two of them managed to get an Oscar® nomination for acting or best foreign film or something like that. sometimes, they're quite good.
The series starts today.

Here's the first batch:

√Glue: Adolescence in the Middle of Nowhere
See the review I did in Miami, posted eariler this month.

The Art of Crying
Final Cut Film 106mins, NR

Directed by
Peter Schønau Fog

Sometimes monsters have human faces, and this is a monster movie, no doubt about it. 11-year-old Allan(Jannik Lorenzen) is not the monster. His father Henry(Jesper Asholt) is. Every night, Mom (Hanne Hedelund) and Dad have a fight over something or other and the latter threatens to commit suicide. So it is up to sister Sanne(Julie Kolbech) to make him happy again and live another day.

One day, older brother Asger(Thomas Knuth-Winterfeldt) returns from university and discover what Sanne exactly does to achieve this result, and everything begins to unravel. Sanne begins to refuse, and Allan must find an alternative method of cheering Dad up.

Dad likes to make funeral orations. So his enemy Grocer Budde (Bjarne Henriksen), son Nis (Tue Frisk Petersen) will die, While this is obviously a coincidence, the death of Aunt Didde (Gitte Siem Christensen) isn’t, and when Sanne gets a boyfriend (Sune Thomsen), Dad uses Allan to wreak terrible revenge. Child abuse and murder are treated in a matter-of-fact fashion, and this makes the whole thing appear somewhat exotic.

What makes this thing work is the acting. Young Lorenzen gives a brilliant deadpan performance, and Kolbech is almost as good as his sister. They have great chemistry together and seem quite natural. But it’s Asholt’s movie. He gets to chew the scenery with wild abandon, but can reign it in when necessary. He does so to perfect effect, and for much of the film, we’re not sure whether he’s just an overemotional fool or something more malevolent. Everyone else is just fine.

All in all, this is a pretty perverse movie, but then this is from Scandinavia, and they do that better than most. It’s the wild-eyed innocence of the thing that make this something special and which might make the quarter-finals of next year’s Oscar race.

Cowboy Angels
Artworx Films 100mins NR

Written and Directed
by Kim Massee

Finding a babysitter in France can be just as hard as it is in any other Western country, and filmmaker Kim Massee has come up with an ingenious solution as to what to do with the kid while she’s out working:
She having him star in her latest film. She must be the envy of stage mothers everywhere.

Massee's son Diego Mestanza plays Kevin, AKA Pablo, the eleven year old son of a drunken whore(Françoise Klein), with whom he lives in a skuzzy hotel in Paris. He doesn’t go to school, just plays video games in a bar, annoying both Mom and the proprietors. Pablo isn’t very happy with the situation, and when Mom decides to split for a while, he decides to step out on his own.

His plan is to hire a chauffeur, who’s going to drive him to Spain, where he will find his long lost father. The driver in question is Louis(Thierry Levaret), a small time hood, who is in a bit of trouble with the local mob for possibly cheating at cards. At first Louis isn’t very willing to go along with the plan, but next month’s rent and some goons trying to break his legs are enough to change his mind.

So what follows is a relatively uninspired road movie, with Pablo and Louis bonding while on the quest for Daddy, and all that disappointment when they finally get there. Then, there’s the the trip back, where we meet mom’s previous boyfriends, none of whom is willing or able to take Pablo on. Then there’s the part about a waitress named Billie(Noëlie Giraud) who’s gratuitously joins the pair presumably in order to pad the film to it’s full hour and a half.

The acting’s fine. Massee managed to pass on her talent to her kid, who does a really good job. Lavarent has a bug up his ass for most of the picture and the sudden bonding is not quite believable. Klein is scary and Giraud is gorgeous, which is why, I guess, they were hired.

While the film isn’t boring, the whole project is quite forgettable and I don’t think this will see the light of day outside of a couple of film festivals in the spring and summer.

√Red Road, Andrea Arnold, UK, 2006; 113 mins,
See my review from Sundance, posted last January.

Iran, 2006; 81 mins,

Directed by
Maziar Miri

Have you heard about the term a “comedy of manners?” Well this is something similar, a “tragedy of manners.” This is a sad film about good people quietly suffering, and thus is a hit on the film festival circuit.

Mahmoud(Mohammad-Reza Foroutan) is a welder working on the railroad all the liveling day. That is until he receives a message stating that his wife Pari(Niloofar Khoshkholgh) is missing and that he should go find her.

So he goes to Teharan and starts looking. His landlady(Maryam Boobani) sure that she’s a nutcase who’s just run away from home, as does his old friend Firooz(Hassan Poorshiraz), who sent him the note in the first place, but our hero can’t believe that, and he keeps on looking until he finds the body of a woman with no face who has a mole in the right area of what remains of her head. There’s a funeral, and the film goes into a second phase, that is until someone claims to have seen Pari and even has her phone number. Guess what?

That’s right.

While it’s all very innocent on Pari’s part, the whole thing seems rather pointless. Why have this big mystery when you have such an innocent explanation? The acting is fine as far as it goes, but the characterizations seem one dimensional and the mystery appears solved too early in the film to make much of an impact on the characters or the audience.

Apparently, the film was reedited and scenes reshot since its debut back in 2005. The press notes reprint a negative review from that time describing scenes that have been cut out. Perhaps they wanted us critics to see how big an improvement was made, and I guess there was, but it doesn’t make it worth looking at, much less pay money for. Forget it.

The Great World of Sound
Plum Pictures 106mins, NR

Written and Directed
by Craig Zobel

They called them “song sharks.” It’s a scam, where thieves pretend to be record producers and they bilk unsuspecting suckers out of hundreds or thousands of dollars pretending to help said suckers start up a musical career.

Martin (Pat Healy) is a 30ish white slacker, who’s had a number of jobs in the radio industry and is currently unemployed and living off his girlfriend
Pam’s (Rebecca Mader), knickknack business, so he sees an ad placed by two sharpsters named Layton (Robert Longstreet) and Shank(John Baker), who hire him to go around the south and audition would-be recording artists and get them to invest a few thousand bucks in production costs for their first albums.

So Martin is partnered with Clarence (Kene Holliday), a middle-aged black man, and he starts his new career as an unwitting conman. It first seems like it’s going alright, and Martin even contributes some of his own money for a promising prospect. Then reality begins to set in.

This is about a moral dilemma. What do you do when you realize what you’re doing is wrong? Do you immediately quit or keep on doing it and hope that you’ll manage to make enough to pay the bills before the boss goes to jail. It’s also about the art of selling. Martin and Clarence get better and better at selling recording time and their pitches change constantly. Also, we get to hear a lot of bad to mediocre music, made by people, who presumably, were lured by the same type of ads that are highlighted in the film. [think the first few episodes of American Idol] This is a disturbing work about how low people will go sometimes and how morality sometimes goes out the window when the wolf is at the door. One can see why it was one of the highlights at Sundance last January.

Once, John Carney, Ireland, 2006; 85 mins,
See my review from sundance that I posted back in January.

What the Sun Has Seen
Poland, 2006; 107mins, NR

Written and Directed
by Michal Rosa

Silesia is Polish-occupied Germany, and in an unnamed town that was once German, a bunch of people live in quiet desperation. It’s All Saint’s Day, and twelve year old Seba (Damian Hryniewicz) is lighting the candles on his dead mother’s grave. Meanwhile, Josef (Krzysztof Stroinski) and his wife (Jadwiga Jankowska-Cieslak) listen to Marta (Dominika Kluzniak) and the rest of the choir do their thing. After the service is over, Joseph and his wife notice Seba leaving the graveyard and promptly slam their car into something.

Cut to the following summer. Marta is trying to sell stuff in the town square as are Seba and his father(Tomasz Sapryk), while Josef is handing out flyers while wearing a pelican suit. All want to raise money for various projects that seem very important to them. Seba wants a certain tree cut down, Josef wants to get some valuble photographs of his long lost son replaced, and Marta wants out, period.

So we have three stories about three relatively desperate people who’s paths cross from time to time and to whom nothing much happens, except they screw up to some extent and wind up mostly unhappy until the deus ex machina shows up at the very end.

That this is an understated movie is obvious. The characters aren’t very well developed, and while we kind of care about Seba and Marta, they barely rise above one-dimensional cutouts. The reason is because of the acting. It’s surprisingly good, and this is why the movie has any interest at all.

Also, Ms. Kluzniak has one heck of a good singing voice, and she’s probably going to have a very nice career in Eastern Europe. But this isn’t worth the effort.

Crystal Films 105min NR

Written and directed
by Philippe Falardeau

Melodrama is sitcom without the jokes. You have some characters who drift through a predetermined situation while someone decides if these actions have some sort of meaning. It’s a very old form of theater.

In this case, we have Michel(Olivier Gourmet), the engineer son of a famous novelist named novelist Herve(Jean-Pierre Cassel), who after the latter [who has had a stroke] receives an award, learns that he is not in fact the latter’s son, but a bastard given away in a private adoption and is in fact from Quebec.

So our hero leaves dad in the care of his Congolese wife Alice (Claudia Tagbo) [Michel and Alice have a kid named Jules (Arnaud Mouithys), BTW], and heads to the wilds of Canada, where he goes to look for his roots.

After striking out in his quest because the adoption broker couldn’t remember the last name of the mother correctly, a kindly priest (Gabriel Arcand) introduces Michel to Louis(Paul Ahmarani), who’s going to give him a lift. This leads to a bizarre accident, which not only changes the main focus of the film from Michel to Louis, but knocks the viewer for a loop, with the plot doing a 90-degree turn involving electric cars and theft of intellectual property.

The Third act brings the first two together quite nicely, and while it does have a happy ending, the whole thing relies too much on heavy-handed plotting. However, Gourmet and Ahmarani do good enough a job acting to make the whole thing relatively believable and the film itself kind of interesting.

This is the kind of thing that Hollywood is famous for remaking, and they should. It would help.

Suely in the Sky
Celluloid Dreams 90mins, NR

Written and Directed
by Karim Aïnouz

Making money is a bitch, especially in Brazil.

Hermila(Hermila Guedes) knows this very well. Having run off to the big city with her boyfriend, she returns from Sao Paulo in defeat with her toddler son and moves in with her grandmother(Zezita Matos) and Aunt Maria (Maria Menezes) while waiting for hubby to show up.

While she waits, she buys an expensive bottle of Scotch and raffles it off, [it seems that the denizens of this part of Brazil, which is nothing like the Amazon rain forest, but rather west Texas, like to gamble] and takes up with her old flame João (João Miguel) and hangs out with her old friends
Georgina (Georgina Castro) and Marcelia (Marcelia Cartaxo), who work on their backs, a profession Hermila doesn’t really want to get in to.

But when Hubby never disappears in transit, and lets it known through channels that he doesn’t want to be found, Hermilia begins to have second thoughts. Taking the nom-de-guerre “Suley” she begins selling raffle tickets for a new and exciting prize. HER! That’s right, a night with your own private dancer with all the trimmings.

Of course this is a bit of a scandal. While Grandma and Joåo are horrified, most of her friends are all in favor of the idea. This is an interesting concept, and Ms Guedes has a really winning personality, which makes this slightly silly movie watchable. She’s the kind of person we can really root for, even though the prize she’s shilling isn’t one that is quite kosher.

The moral ambiguity of he scheme is offset by the cinematography, which is beautiful. This part of Brazil is nothing like the huge tropical paradise that one is used to from various nature and travel shows. The people are real, not just stick figures, and on the whole this is a rather deep film, although it’s pure melodrama. Worth a look.

Day Night Day Night,
IFC First Take; 94mins NR

Written and Directed
by Julia Loktev

The Terrorist (Luisa Williams) arrives in New York for her mission. Where she came from and why she’s doing what she’s doing isn’t made clear, all we know is that she’s up to no good. She prays a mantra about how everyone dies and foreshadows what’s expected to happen.

She’s met by a mysterious stranger(Tschi Hun Kim), who buys her lunch and drives her to a nondescript hotel, and here she waits…and waits.

This is a film about the minutia of waiting. The cinematographer and the foley artists have a field day making close-ups of many parts of her body and creating sounds in such a way as it appears the audience is listening from inside her head. She cuts her nails, watches TV, takes a shower, naps, goes outside on the balcony…something that makes her omniscient
Commander (Josh P. Weinstein), call and tell her not to do that anymore.

Then they show up. Masked men (Weinstein, Gareth Saxe and Nyambi Nyambi) inspect her and quiz her on her mission. They make a video, Then she waits some more, until she’s taken to get fitted for her bomb.

Then comes the plot twist. It’s a very nice plot twist that is not only unexpected, but in complete keeping with the tone of all that has gone before.

That is on a different subject: frustration. It’s also a tour of the Times Square area, which as the film was shot on HD in the middle of one of the great tourist destinations of the United States, is rather easy to do. It’s quite effective.

Even with a literal cast of thousands [most of whom had no idea they were being filmed], this is a one-woman show. Ms. Williams is in frame almost the entire time, and the expressions on her face, especially her eyes, tell the entire story of the film that is otherwise spare and devoid of meaningful dialogue. This is pure visuals, and would work even if it was silent. This is filmmaking!

Rome Rather Than You
Neffa Films 111m NR

Written and Directed
by Tariq Teguia

Looking back at history, the people of Algeria made a huge mistake in wresting independence from France. Since achieving “freedom” in 1962, they’ve known little save poverty, civil war and despair. Thousands of Algerians attempt to cross the Mediterranean in order to achieve the better lives that liberation failed to provide.

Kemal(Rachid Amrani) wants out. He claims to have been in Europe before, but he doesn’t have a passport, much less work visas, but he has heard of a guy called “The Bosco” [no relation to the chocolate syrup], who can get forged papers. So he grabs his girlfriend Zima(Samira Kaddour), who’s a nurse and isn’t too happy about being stuck in the stifling Islamic atmosphere, and they head off to the seaside resort where the Bosco is allegedly hanging out.

So they look. And they look. They meet some friends. They encounter a Police Inspector(Ahmed Benaissa), who insults and arrests them for the horrid crime of looking suspicious. It all ends badly and pointlessly.

Exactly why this movie managed to get funding is somewhat problematic. This is generally a pointless film. There’s no real story, the characters are barely above the stick figure level and the violence is gratuitous and there’s not nearly enough of it. A good car chase or gunfight is fine if we have some idea what it’s for, but if it comes out of the blue for no reason other than the filmmaker doesn’t know what else to do, then what’s the point? Either there’s action, or there isn’t. Here there isn’t but there’s a promise of it which isn’t actually fulfilled. This is not only disappointing, but frustrating.

There’s nothing to get involved in either on the story or character levels. As there’s no THERE there, don’t go there.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Third Friday Document Dump

I'm not sure when they're going to get the GVG put up again, but until then, we'll put up this week's batch here...


Directed by
Mennan Yapo

Linda Hanson(Sandra Bullock) has become unstuck in time. If you have read Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.'s “Slaughterhouse Five” you would understand what that means. Unfortunately, Vonnegut's books generally make bad movies, I'll have to explain a bit. Thursday is followed by Monday, which is followed by Saturday and so on. We know this in advance because they make it clear in the trailer.

When we first meet her, she's a suburban housewife with two cute little girls(Shyann McClure and Courtney Taylor Burness) and her husband Jim(Julian McMahon) is coming back from a business trip. Linda comes back from doing her morning chores when a cop arrives and informs her that Jim was killed in a car accident. The usual stuff happens in cases like this, and then when she wakes up in the morning, Jim is alive and it's Monday. Thinking that she might be going nuts, Linda shrugs it off.

Then comes the funeral, and we see a major plot point and a huge, I mean HUGE, plot hole. This is never actually addressed, and everyone seems to have forgotten about something so huge. Exactly why this is isn't addressed by anyone, but it's really annoying. So's much of the rest of the movie, in which Linda, with SOME knowledge of the future, plays into fate's trap and in turn gets herself into trouble with her mother(Kate Nelligan), best friend(Nia Long), and shrink(Peter Stormare), not to mention her dead husband, who is not as wonderful as we think he is for the first two thirds of the film.

The problem with this film is that it's not adventurous enough. It goes to great lengths to show how banal and boring Linda's life has become as a stay-at-home mom, but it also seems that Linda's bit of a bore herself, and this boringness pervades every millimeter of celluloid. We know that nothing is going to change fate, and that makes the climax somewhat anticlimactic, which itself is a surprise.

The acting is perfectly fine, and everyone, especially the two kids, manages to rise above the sub-par script, but unfortunately, not much. This is a bit of a waste, especially for Bulluck, who has made much better choices in the past. Don't bother.

I Think I Love My Wife

Written and Directed
By Chris Rock

When Chris Rock and Louis Szekely [pronounced “C.K.”], decided to do a remake of Eric Rohmer's 1972 “L'Amour L'après-midi” they must have not have known what they were getting into. After all, this was a very, very French film, and their previous effort together [“Down To Earth”] crashed and burned with a white hot fire. Could they manage to translate that film into one for the American public without it appearing drab and slightly misogynist? Actually, it appears so, for it's drab and VERY misogynist.

Rock plays one Richard Cooper, an investment banker commuting daily to Manhattan from the suburbs, he has a lovely wife named Brenda(Gina Torres), who's a grade school teacher and two very young kids. All would be wonderful if he was getting any, but no, she's all but kicked him out of bed. Richard is getting frustrated with state of affairs, for it seems that he's a “pussy-whipped” fool.

Then one day, Nikki Tru (Kerry Washington) comes back into his life. She's beautiful, intelligent, needy, selfish and evil. Soon, she's trying to take over his life and ruin his marriage. Exactly why, we're not sure. But there you have it. Richard wants to be faithful to his wife, and to some extent remains so throughout the film, but soon Nikki has him jumping through hoops and having him dance like a puppet on a string. This is a stereotype if there ever was one, and therein lies the problem.

This film isn't exactly ANTI-adultery. George(Steve Buscemi), Robert's best friend at the firm, is cheating on HIS wife left and right, and he's apparently extremely happy. It's the wife and would-be mistress who are the problem. With the exception of Richard's secretary(Welker White), all the women are depicted as either callus or evil, and to make things worse, the men aren't depicted that much better.

The problem is primarily the script, but secondarily is Rock. He's not very good as the haggard hero. While he's sympathetic for the first part of the picture, one wants to slap him upside the head that he's sooooooooo stupid. Even worse, most of the jokes fall flat.

This is not a date film, nor is it a chick flick. I'm not sure who it's for, but it's probably not you. Don't waste your money.

The Wind That Shakes The Barley

Written and Directed
by Ken Loach

What is the difference between terrorism and revolution? What are the rules of war when only one side agrees to play by them? And when the game is over, what if one side doesn't actually want to stop playing? That's the tragedy of Ireland in the first quarter of the 20th century. Ken Loach tries to answer that in what seems to be biased retelling of the history of the Irish revolution and civil war which followed it.

When we first meet him, Dr. Damien O'Conner(Cillian Murphy) is a pacifist who's going to go work in London, when the war ruins his plans. He and his brother Teddy(Padraic Delaney) are playing a form of field hockey with his friends Micheail(Laurence Barry), Finbar (Damien Kearney),Leo(Frank Bourke), Rory(Myles Horgan), Dan(Liam Cunningham) and Chris(John Crean), something that has been banned by the British authorities. The “Black and Tans” get wind of this little act of rebellion and counterattack by heading to the house of Damien's girlfriend Sinead(Orla Fitzgerald) and her grandmother (Mary Riordan)s, and start harassing the players. Micheail acts defiantly obnoxious, and pays with his life.

Damien is determined to leave this all behind when he sees some soldiers try to buy some train tickets, only to be told that the engineer refuses to let them on the train. They respond with violence, and this not only ruins Damien's trip, but drives him to join the Irish Republican Army. He and his pals are now soldiers at war, except they're dressed in civies and go around like normal people, except when they meet up with the British soldiers, who suspecting the truth, treat them as the enemy. They innocently respond with murder. The British don't like this at all, and there's more reprisals, which leads to even more (this is a low level war) and we get to see our “heroes” kidnap and execute the local lord (Roger Allam) and their pal Chris, who betrayed them. Justice in the areas controlled by the revolutionaries is definitely in the communist mold, which causes dissention in the ranks.

Thing get worse when the war against the British is one and the Irish turn on each other, leading to a heartbreaking ending.

This is a brutal film of terrorism and how it works. What's strange is that Ken Loach and Paul Laverty's screenplay is very much pro-terrorist, having the anti-treaty forces in the civil war be the good guys and the leaders of the newly independent Irish government portrayed as traitors, when in fact it was the other way around.

The acting is excellent. Murphy is overdue for an Oscar®, and the rest of the cast does a bang up job. This is one heck of a scary movie. If you're interested in history, it's worth a look.

American Cannibal: The Road to Reality

A Documentary Directed by
Perry Grebin and Michael Nigro

This is a documentary. That's the shocking part because this doesn't seem like one. It's more like one of those faux “mock-umentaries” that make fun of such crap. In fact, the press notes starts out with a FAQ starting with “is this for real? It's so damn stupid that one can't think that anyone would actually go as far as it did and put down real money to produce it.

Gil Ripley and Dave Roberts are two schubs trying to make it in show business. They've had an actual failed pilot made, and their agent thinks they should get into reality television, so they start pitching a few ideas, none of which are very good and all get rejected. Then they meet a certain Kevin Blatt, who foisted the Paris Hilton Sex Tape on the world. He likes two of the more perverse ideas they pitch, and soon, much to their chagrin, the most stupid one, the title of the film, is put into production as a pilot.

Remember “Springtime for Hitler?”

This flick oozes contempt from every pore. The interviews with the various professionals who discuss how the whole creative process works aren't particularly enlightening. They are only in it for the money and know that they're going to the lowest common denominator. The production team doesn't seem to be very high on it except for Blatt, and some of the prospective contestants, who are all depicted as morons. There is genuine sympathy shown for Roberts and Ripley, and we almost forget that they thought up this stupid idea themselves.

Despite all odds the pilot is actually shot, and things go horribly wrong and everyone bugs out. If it hadn't there wouldn't have been a film now, would there. At least not this one.

If you want to laugh at the moronic extremes of Reality TV, you should rent “Series 7” which, while completely fictional is far, far better, or check out the original version of “The Producers,” which is brilliant. Pass this one by.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Document Dump number two

Since there still are problems with the Greenwich Villiage Gazette, here's the reviews for this week.

Warner Bros. Pictures, 91mins, R

Written and Directed
by Zack Snyder

Shot on a bare soundstage with a minimum of props, this is a masterpiece of digital art. As one of the most beautiful and grotesque films of the decade, it's also bad history and an ambiguous political statement. Zack Snyder has created one of the most stylish and intense comic book movies ever made-period.

That the history is bad does not matter that much. This is art for art's sake, after all, and the artistic license is stretched to it's breaking point, Frank Miller's comic book is followed as a template, and the film is a series of tableaux with theatrical overacting.

In the year 480 BC, King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) and his Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey) rule over the insane city-state of Sparta, where all male citizens are drafted into the army at the age of nine and are turned into brutal, insane lunatics. None more so than Leonidas himself, who killed a hungry wolf in the wilderness, when he was sent out in the snow with nothing but a loincloth and a spear while still a young prince.

After a minutes-long course in Spartan culture, which ends with that story, our hero is visited by a Persian Emissary (Tyrone Benskin), who promises him overlordship of all Greece in return for an oath of aliegence. As brutal lunatic, he murders the emissary and everyone else in the Persian party, thus precipitating the invasion of Greece by Persian king Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) and his million-man army.

Even though he is forbidden to by the evil and monstrous Ephors to go and defend Sparta with his army, he decides to go anyway with only three hundred men, led by himself and Captains Artemis (Vincent Regan) and Dilios (David Wenham) [who narrates].

The three hundred Spartans, with the assistance of a few dozen “Arcadians” [in reality, there were well over a thousand Greek troops], head over to the Hot Gates, which is what Thermopylae means in English, and prepare to do battle with a million Persians.

It is here the cartoon nature of the film comes to the fore. The battle pits around 400 Greeks against an uncountable multitude, and this multitude is an army so inept, so incompetent, that the Greeks can build hundred-foot high walls with their bodies, For most of the film, the Persians never land a blow. Not one. That is until near the end. Snyder fills the eye with all sorts of marvels that collapse against the wall that is the 300. There is no reality here, nor is there supposed to be. This is the telling of myth, and the Spartans are supermen and hence, invulnerable. The bad guys, from the pathetic hunchback Ephialtes(Andrew Tiernan), to Xerxes himself, are presented in a grotesque, cartoonish manner which bares no resemblance to anything authentically Persian.

All this doesn't mean that the film isn't vastly entertaining. This is one heck of a ride, and is well worth the price of a ticket, and may look even better on the IMAX screen. Go see it, then read a history book to find out what really happened.

Beyond the Gates

Directed by
Michael Caton-Jones

The Holocaust in Rwanda in 1994 is probably one of the most shameful incident in the history of the United Nations. Eight hundred thousand people were hacked to death while the powers that be in the rest of the world just sat there and told the UN peacekeeping forces to keep all the peace to themselves.

This is the story of a bunch of people heroically doing nothing while over half the population of a country went criminally insane.

Joe Connor(Hugh Dancy) is a missionary teaching school at the Ecole Technique Officielle, which is jointly run by the Catholic church and the government. The guy in charge is Father Christopher(John Hurt), who is a jolly old soul who loves his work with the less fortunate in the capitol of Kigali. Everyone, at first appears to be happy. Joe is a bit of a goof, and commentates as Marie(Clare-Hope Ashitey), a Tutsi teenager, runs laps. We notice how easygoing everyone is just before the fact. Francois(David Gyasi), the school's Hutu custodian takes Joe to meet his parents, showing how friendly everyone was.

Then the UN shows up, led by a certain Captain Delon(Dominique Horwitz), who sets up camp on the school's grounds. Soon the killing starts and the refugees begin arriving. Both Joe and Father Chistopher venture out to discover that old friends have succumbed to the genocidal madness.

The scenes of graphic violence don't start until well into the movie, and aside from Marie, and to some extent Francois, none of the African characters are more than ciphers. An explanation for what was going on is not forthcoming. All demand an explanation and there are no answers. Aside from pure hate and some veiled accusations against the French and Belgians, I guess there are none.

The performances are fine. Hurt is especially good, but then he always is, and the bit parts of the Africans are well acted as well. But this still is an extremely disappointing movie. There are no heroes, really. It just gets the viewer mad. That's modern cinema, I guess. But it explains why this took over two years to get a release here in the 'States. Not worth the bucks.

The Host

Written and Directed
by Bong Joon-Ho

The South Koreans have an ambiguous relationship with the United States. They hate us because they're sick of having to be grateful. It's a normal reaction. So in the tradition of blaming us for anything and everything, an evil American medical worker (Scott Wilson) orders his Korean assistant to pour a few dozen bottles of spoiled formaldehyde down the sink and into Seoul's Han River. In a couple of years there's a monster swimming in the river and a couple of years after that, we get to start the fun.

Park Kang-Du(Song Kang-Ho) is a slacker working in a food stand next to the river in downtown Seoul. He works with his father Hee-Bong(Byun Hee-Bong) and the two are raising his young daughter Hyun-Seo(Ko A-Sung). The only success in the family is the sister Nam-ju (Bae Du-na), who's a champion archer. All is going well, at least for a slacker in a teen comedy, but then the monster, comes out of nowhere and starts chasing pretty much everybody in the park. This was done done by San Francisco-based The Orphanage, and it's brilliant. What they do with it is amazing.

The monster eats Hyun-seo, or so we think, and the family is mourning in the refugee clinic, where Nam-Ju and brother Nam-Il(Park Hae-Il), who is doing slightly better than Kang-do, arrive and soon K-d is having visions. He thinks his daughter is alive, which isn't that strange, considering how he comes to this conclusion.

The family escapes, and its one chase after another until the semi-happy ending. This thing has it all. Comedy, tragedy, excitement, pathos, you name it, its here. This is probably the best horror comedy of the decade. South Korea made a mistake in not submitting this for the foreign language Oscar [Not that the one they DID submit was bad, mind you…] see it.

Maxed Out

A Documentary Directed
by James D. Scurlock

The issue here is an old one. Charles Dickens put it succinctly almost a century and a half ago, when he had Mr. Micawber say in 'David Copperfield': “Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pound ought and six, result misery.” In this film, James D. Scurlock sets out to prove it.

What Scurlock's thesis is, is that the people who get themselves into into mountains of debt aren't the least bit responsible for what they do. It's those big, mean, corporate banks who are to blame. After all, getting people with bad credit to make those minimum interest payments for the rest of their lives are pretty damn profitable, right?

Then of course, there's those companies like that bank who was recently fined that was fined $400 million dollars for SHREDDING customers checks to charge false late fees, and other usurious institutions that will be happy to lend you a couple of hundred bucks on your car if you agree to pay fifty percent interest a month.

Scurlock interviews a few dozen people, ranging from Harvard Law School economics professor Elizabeth Warren, who shocks us with the revelation that "Consumer lending is obscenely profitable," to a retarded man snookered into refinancing the mortgage on his house at much higher rates…and oh yeah, a lot of these poisonous shenanigans are done by institutions owned by some of the biggest banks in the country. Whoop-de-doo.

The film gives a good description of many of the scams that are going on, and the Bush administration and Republican congress's so-called “reforms” which make bankruptcy harder for the middle class. As an educational tool, this is rather good, because it gives warning to the young about how to start properly looking after one's finances. If you want a credit card, go to a college campus in September, where they give them out for free and provide free Frisbees besides.

The interesting thing about this documentary, is that it gives absolutely no solutions to the problem. Scurlock merely denounces the Republicans in Congress and the Bush administration.

Sadly, this sort of thing will go on forever. People are smart and others are dumb and the former will always prey on the latter. That's life. IN the meantime, it's always good to be prepared.

The Namesake

Directed by
Mira Nair

The structure of film is partly based on time. For instance, Jhumpa Lahiri's epic novel, on which this film is based, spans decades, going from the 1970s to the 2000s, and while this has a small set of characters, this doesn't have an actual focus on which generation of the Ganguli family the filmmaker wants to look at until well after much of the story has unfolded.

The film starts in Southern India where a young Ashoke Ganguli (Irrfan Khan) is on his way to visit his grandfather when the train he is on derails. We see him in traction briefly before, meeting Ashima (Tabu), the pretty daughter of a rich Bengali family, who is given to Ashoke in marriage. Apparently, he's a professor of something and he's teaching in New York, so they go off to the New World and build a life for themselves, falling in love with each other and having two kids: Gogol(Kal Penn) and Sonia (Sahira Nair), the former, named after the Russian writer, is the namesake of the title.

We see them grow up quickly as the years pass, Gogol comes to despise his name, and is you're typical American slacker, of the kind Penn has made a career of portraying. Here, he proves he can actually do something else, a revelation to be sure.

This is the American experience. The immigrant parents and their American kids. Gogol changes his name to Nick and falls in love with a rich blonde named Maxine(Jacinda Barrett) whom his parents don't like for ethnic reasons, but when Ashoke dies, Nick decides to embrace his ethnicity and eventually marries Moushumi(Zuleikha Robinson), whom is ethnically correct, but turns out to be less of a catch than has been promised.

Sooni Taraporevala's screenplay is much like a long Russian novel. It has its moments, but goes on and on, and when it slows down near the end, it begins to stumble a bit, Still, the film is affecting, and the acting is terrific. We can understand why Tabu is India's biggest star. Robinson is sure to get more work out of this, but it is Kal Penn who's the biggest revelation. This could make him.

See this, but bring a pillow.

Saturday Document Dump number one.

There's some internal trouble in the Greenwich Villiage Gazette, so here the reviews that should have been put up.

Wild Hogs

Directed by
Walt Becker

People have bills to pay. You have them, I have them, rich and poor alike owe people money and credit cards fees go up exponentially with minimum monthly payments. So what's a formerly major movie star to do? Make a movie like this, of course.

Touchtone is Disney, we've always known that. Disney-brand live action comedies have generally followed a certain formula, and for the most part, they're terrible. This is a Disney-brand kiddie comedy targeted at grown-ups. Paint-by-numbers, cookie cutter, you name it, it's all the same thing. Brad Copeland, who did some excellent TV work, has written a basically lazy script

Doug(Tim Allen), Bobby(Martin Lawrence), Dudley(William H Macy) and Woody(John Travolta) are a group of middle aged men with middle aged jobs, who like to pretend they're bikers. With the permission of Doug's wife(Jill Hennessy) [Bobby's(Tichina Arnold) doesn't know, and the others don't have any], they head off for a weeklong road trip, have zany adventures, and get into trouble with a REAL biker gang run by Ray Liotta, which leads to the preordained confrontation and happy ending.

The only reason to see this film is the cast. We're talking about people who've won or were nominated for an Oscar (Marisa Tomei, Macy and Travolta), Golden Globes (Liotta, Allen, Macy, and Travolta), and various other “major” trophies. Everybody seems to be having a wonderful time reciting the generally terrible lines, and on occasion there are actually some real laughs and a whole bunch of giggles in-between. The entire cast aquits itself and none do anything so embarrassing that they can continue to have something to fall back on when they make bad investments.

Worth a look when it gets on cable, which should be soon.


Directed by
David Fincher

We'll begin with the spoiler because this is based on a true story and everyone is supposed to know it anyway. The Titanic sinks-Surprise!!!! Zodiac got away with it. They never actually found the guy. This is will not ruin the movie-going experience for anybody.

The film begins on the fourth of July 1969 with the second set of murders, and follows the case for next thirty years. This isn't as much about the murders as the reaction to those murders. David Fincher is one of those directors who's a specialists in thrillers, and this is kind of his masterpiece. It's two and a half hours of tension and boredom, burrowing into the lives of the investigators and press as the case goes from white hot, to eventually very cold as decade follows decade. This is Fincher's tribute to the passage of time.

After the initial murder, which takes up quite a bit of time, the film moves it's focus to the newsroom of the San Francisco Chronicle, where political cartoonist Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal) is starting out his new job. The Zodiac has just sent a letter with a coded message to the paper and made some threats. As Graysmith watches from the sidelines, crack crime reporter Paul Avery (Robert Downey Jr.) takes on the case. This puts him in conflict with SF police inspectors David Toschi (Mark Ruffalo) and Bill Armstrong (Anthony Edwards) and their boss(Dermot Mulroney), after the Zodiac kills someone in the city proper [the others were in the suburbs], and the two detectives in conflict with the cops in the suburbs(John Ennis, Elias Koteas, and John Hemphill some others).

The hysteria over the murders and Zodiac's love of puzzles, something he forces on the public, basically takes over the media, and the circus that follows. He even takes over the airwaves when he forces famed attorney Melvin Belli (Brian Cox) to talk to him on a TV show. Parts of the film are actually rather funny, but the tension never waivers, even when the case cools down and people's lives begin to collapse along with the case. Time is as much a character in this film as are any of the principles.

The depiction of time is deftly handled. Greysmith, who's obsession with the case never waivers and by the last third of the film is the only person who's still interested, is newly divorced with a young child when the film starts and by the end is breaking up with his second wife(Chloë Sevigny), with whom he had some more kids. Most impressive is the use of archival footage of the construction of the Transamerica pyramid. That was cool.

The acting is fantastic throughout. Downey gives one of his best performances to date, stealing every scene he's in, and so does Cox. Ruffalo clearly reflects the frustration the audience feels as the film goes on and on and on. Gyllenhaal is understated as the heart of the film, and John Carroll Lynch is slyly ominous as the prime suspect.

As great as it is, the film is ultimately disappointing. It dwells on minutia, which it has to, and unlike most “fiction films”, which have to have a satisfying ending [a point Fincher makes clear by having most of the cast attend a screening of “Dirty Harry,” which itself was loosly based on the Zodiac case], this doesn't. But that doesn't mean that this isn't worth the time to see this, just bring a pillow for your butt, that's all.

Two Weeks

Written and Directed
by Steve Stockman

Death is a tricky thing to portray. It can be done in all sorts of manners, from slapstick to tragedy. Usually, funny deaths are accidental and violent, like a guy slipping on a banana peel and falling off the roof of a twenty story building. That would be funny only if we didn't see the poor soul actually landing on the ground.

Usually long and painful deaths are tragic. There can be funny stuff around the periphery, but the actual person kicking the bucket is always tragic, especially if the filmmaker focuses on the pre-corpse suffering, which is exactly what auteur Steve Stockman does in this fictionalized memoir.

Stockman's mother died a few years back and he ruminated on it for years, apparently. The surrogate for his mother is named Anita(Sally Field). She and her second husband Jim(James Murtaugh) have been living in North Carolina for years and she has terminal cancer. The end is nigh, and so daughter Emily(Julianne Nicholson) sends the word out to her brothers Keith(Ben Chaplin), Barry(Tom Cavanagh) and Matthew(Glenn Howerton) to come home and get ready for the inevitable.

So before the inevitable happens, the inevitable happens. There's fighting, commiserating, denial, the whole works. Unless everyone hates each other and the soon to be deceased, which they don't here, the pattern for this type of thing is universal, which I guess is why Stockman got the money to produce this thing.

This is a professional job done by professionals, and although the acting is excellent, the writing isn't. There's an air of claustrophobia about the film and while sometimes this is a good thing, it doesn't work in comedy, which apparently this is supposed to be. Sally Field kind of has a monologue that was allegedly filmed somewhere at the beginning of the film, which is meant to be counterpoint to the action on the screen. It doesn't work all that well, but that's primarily Stockman's fault. By trying to be “fair” to all the siblings, the lesser characters, such as Jim and various wives are just put on the stage with little to do.

There's supposed to be some insight here, but while the experience is indeed universal and there's lots that's identifiable as such, it doesn't really know where it's going, and is eventually boring. Also, but going past the death, the film meanders to a close. This was supposed to be Oscar bait, and as we all know, it never got anything, and that's a good thing. We should let this die a decent death.

Black Snake Moan

Written and Directed
by Craig Brewer

Having explored the creative process with his “Hustle and Flow”, auteur Craig Brewer has decided to go after bigger fish: the blues, and in doing so has come up with one of the most bizarre and perverse musicals of the decade. This is probably why it works so well. It's probably best to explain what the title means.

“Black Snake Moan” was the title of a song by Blind Lemon Jefferson, who “flourished” during the 1930s and '40s. It was about the “black snake” of depression invading his soul. Depression so bad it hurts, and so debilitating that you cannot scream, but only have the strength to moan. That's the blues.

Rae(Christina Ricci) and Lazarus(Samuel L. Jackson) have the blues and it's that bad.

Rea's the town slut and everyone in this small town near Memphis, Tennessee knows it. Her mother(Kim Richards) hates her, and add to this the fact that she's sick and that her fiancée Ronnie(Justin Timberlake) is going off to the Army and as the only way she can deal with it is via the oblivion of meaningless sex and overdoses of drugs, so Ronnie's best pal Gill(Michael Raymond-James) does the “gentlemanly thing” beating her to a pulp and leaving her for dead on the side of the road.

Lazarus has it only marginally better. A talented musician, he gave it all up to marry his beloved Rose(Adriane Lenox) and raise a family, but she aborted what would be their only child, and when we meet him, is dumping him for his brother. Ouch.

So when Lazarus finds her three-quarters dead by the side of the road near his property, he decides that the best way to conquer the blues is to do something good, and goes into town to get some cough medicine from a pharmacist named Angela(S. Epatha Merkerson), who's got a mild crush on him.

When Rae finally comes back to full consciousness, she finds that Lazarus has chained her to his radiator, ostensibly because she was wondering around in a drug-induced haze, but he refuses to remove it, and thus begins a bizarre sadomasochistic tug-of-war over the redemption of both, which includes the participation of Lazarus's best friend, a preacher named R.L. (John Cothran Jr) and a kid named Lincoln(Nemous Williams). It's all very steamy.

This is actually the clearest cinematic explanation of the blues ever.
We've got pain enough to go around, and the central trio of characters, Rae, Lazarus and Ronnie [who comes back from the Army somewhat earlier than planned], has enough to kill a herd of elephants. Brewer has managed to explore the emotions of his characters here from every angle, and this is made raw and exciting by the superlative acting of Jackson and Ricci. This is a profoundly weird movie, and a musical to boot, but that's a good thing.

The R rating is well earned, but this is would be well worth a look if it were NC-17. This may earn Jackson and Ricci much kudos a year hence.

Exterminating Angels

Written and Directed by
Jean-Claude Brisseau

There was a scene of three beautiful women having sex and it was really hot, when the guy sitting next to me whispered “This is the greatest movie ever made!” I burst into laughter. It wasn't anywhere near great, of course, it was porn, plain and simple. Porn is supposed to make you hot in the nether regions, and this certainly does that. This is why that it makes more money than regular movies on an annual basis. It's a basic human need, despite what the fundamentalists say.

But what makes great porn is something besides sex, a decent plot and good acting when out of bed, and as to the former, it's got a whopper: it's to some extent autobiographical. When auteur Jean-Claude Brisseau finished his previous film, several actresses sued him for sexual harassment. Apparently, they claimed he was scamming them by faking making a film in order to get his rocks off. He managed to fend off the suit, but this is an interesting thing to hang a plot on. Also, he has an excuse, the Devil made him do it!

The film begins with our hero, a film director named Francois (Frédéric Van Den Driessche) in bed…sleeping. He is visited by his dead Grandmother (Jeanne Cellard) in a dream. She's warning him that his curiosity may bring about the functions of the infernal machine. We discover what that means when the eponymous Exterminating Angels (Raphaele Godin and Margaret Zenou) show up out of nowhere and they announce, cryptically, their infernal plans…and bitching about their boss.

IN the morning, Francois, has a heaven…erp…OTHER place-sent idea: He's going to make his next film about the sex drives of women and what makes them hot. His wife(Sophie Bonnet) isn't so hot about the idea herself, but she can't stop him, and he begins auditions, which are actually funny, there is lovely montage of women saying “no” in hundreds of ways and this hot chick who does what has to be the worst dance ever done. But, there comes Extremely blonde Julie (Lise Bellynck), who gets this film it's probable NC-17 [it's not going to be submitted to the MPAA] right away, then the EA's inspire our hero to hire the clearly unstable brunette Charlotte (Maroussia Dubreuil), who is sometimes possessed by the Devil. They meet up with Julie and there's more hot sex in a restaurants, which is really cool because they do it with their clothes on.

Finally, in comes Stephanie (Marie Allan), who joins in a hot lesbian…this is where the guy next to me called this the “greatest movie ever made.” This is really, really good porn. Unfortunately, there's an actual movie that has to take over and our trio of nymphets gang up on our hero and it all turns sour. There is violence for some good reasons, and nothing turns up right.

Outside of the sex, this film has a lot of humor. The acting is also rather good. The trio of hot starlets plays really good whackos, and an den Driessche is delightfully clueless. The supernatural aspect is kind of dumb, and it reminds one of an episode of “Touched by an Angel.” This is not going to do the French cinema any good, but hey, this stuff looks better on the big screen then it does on the TV.

The Cats of Mirikitani

Directed by
Linda Hattendorf

Jimmy Mirikitani is an old coot who was homeless in the spring of 2001. Linda Hattendorf decided to adopt him and get him back in the system where he could have a house and a home.

He is also an artist who, as the title of the film implies, likes to draw pictures of cats. But primarily, he's a surviver of the Japanese internment camps that were set up during World War II.

He's still justifiably bitter about it. While he isn't talking about or painting about the camps, he's watching TV or walking around outside talking to either Hattendorf or some social worker.

The film isn't all that interesting, as Mirikitani isn't. He might have been made so had Hattendorf tried, but this is nothing more than a glorified home movie, and the journeys of an itinerant artist could have been so much moreso.

Monday, March 05, 2007


The Goddamn computer ripped my copy of Microsoft word to shreds and now I can't get most of my stuff updated.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

The Miami International Film Festival: Day Five

We leave sunny Florida and head back to New York City, where we dream of the tropics, start planning further adventures and attend press screenings for the New Directors/New Films series at the Museum of Modern Art.

The Page Turner

Tartan USA 85min NR

Written and Directed
by Denis Dercourt

Revenge is a dish best served cold, or so says the proverb. Auteur Denis Dercourt certainly thinks so, and he serves it right out of the fridge.

It’s the early 1990s, and 11-year-old Melanie Prouvost (Julie Richalet) is practicing for her big day. She’s auditioning for a fancy-schmancy concervitory and if she gets in, the tuition is free, something that would greatly ease the financial burden on her working class parents(Jacques Bonnaffe and Christine Citti). But then comes the inciting incident, which ruins that dream. An extra barges into the room where Melenie is in the process of auditioning, and demands an autograph from one of the juges, concert pianist Ariane Fouchecourt (Catherine Frot). This throws Melenie completely off, and she blows the rest of the piece. Her career as a concert pianist is over.

Cut to a decade later, and the beauteous Deborah Francois now plays Melanie. She’s got an internship with a major law firm headed by Jean Fouchecourt (Pascal Greggory), who, by a strange coincidence, is the husband of the very person who inadvertently destroyed her dreams all those years ago. So when she discovers that the Fouchecourt’s au pare [they have a 12 year old son named Tristan(Antoine Martynciow)] is going on holiday, and offers to replace her for a while. Thus our protagonist is able to worm her way into Ariane’s life and destroy it.

Melanie does this in a stealthy way, winning the love of Tristan and Ariane, who gives her an extra duty as the title implies, and starting what seems to be the beginnings of a lesbian relationship. There is also the problem with Ariane’s partners(Xavier De Guillebon and Martine Chevallier), in the trio she tours with, and that leads to one of the more delicious scenes in the entire film.

At only 85 minutes, this is a surprisingly leisurely film. Dercourt takes his sweet time, and except for a couple of brief scenes, including that one I mentioned about one of Ariane’s partners, there’s absolutely no violence. Ms. Francois is passive and for the most part unemotional. She smiles little, except for one scene where she meets a friend, and appears to have the makings of a female Hannibal Lector. The supporting cast is quite excellent. This is one of the better films to come out of France in the past year. See it.

Glue: Adolescence in the Middle of Nowhere
Argentina/UK, 2006; 110mins, NR

Written and Directed
by Alexis Dos Santos

Lucas (Nahuel Pérez) lives in the middle of nowhere, Argentina. It’s very much like the middle of nowhere USA or the UK. There’s nothing much to do and not very many people to do it with. Fortunately for him, he’s got his main man Nacho(Nahuel Viale), and their mutual girlfriend Andrea(Inés Efron) to keep him company.

Bordum is not Lucas’ only problem: His parents(Héctor Díaz and Verónica Llinás) split immediately after the film begins, and Lucas and his sister Flor (Florencia Braier) are stuck in the middle. But this is actually rather in the background as Lucas and his two best friends try to figure out the eternal mysteries of adolescence.

Using a seventeen-page treatment instead of a script, auteur Dos Santos leads his cast on an adventure in improvisation. He leaves it to Biscayart, Viale, and Efron to wing it through the philosophical and the filthy to give the audience an interesting look at life in a film about nothing. For the most part it works. We actually get involved. While for most of the film i Lucas narrates, for some reason near the final third of the film, Dos Santos gives the job to Andrea. The fact that they cut almost an hour might have something to do with it.

This is a very erotic film. While they never show any actual straight or gay sex, there’s lots of kissing between Andrea and the two guys, and Nacho and Lucas get very physical. Also, the title is not exactly a metaphor for anything. There’s real glue involved in one scene.

The camerawork is also something to be mentioned. The use of a super-8 camera to film some scenes gives a dreamy quality to the points of narration. However, it does seem to be a bit of a distraction.

This is one of the better artsy-fartsy adolescence flicks to come out of South American recently and is worth a look.