Timely documentary chronicles the online correspondence between Manhattan photographer, Nev Schulman, and an eight-year-old girl in Michigan who’ve never met. Little Abby asks Nev if she may do a painting of one of his dance photographs that appears in the New York Times. That’s how it starts, but where it goes will completely surprise you. Long-distance relationships, the Internet and specifically Facebook form the basis of this fascinating reality thriller that unfolds brilliantly. The less you know about this film, the better. Let’s just say the story is uncomfortable viewing.
Archive for September, 2010
Agreeable teen comedy about Olive, a girl who pretends to have sex in an effort to boost her reputation. High school story is a humorous interpolation of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. Winning script is generally successful, but it’s undermined by illogical behavior. Olive’s best friend Rhiannon encourages her to sleep around, then shuns her when she thinks she has. Jesus freak Marianne castigates her at school, then unconvincingly becomes Olive’s closest buddy later. And don’t forget the boy smitten with her. He doesn’t seem even remotely concerned with Olive’s promiscuous reputation. Nevertheless, actress Emma Stone is appealing as the lead and because of her charm, the movie succeeds. Her sardonic attitude makes Olive sort of the adolescent equivalent of Chandler Bing on Friends. With all the self-aware 80s nostalgia, the dialogue sometimes feels more like the voice of a middle aged writer than a girl in high school. But her sarcastic one-liners do make the snappy dialogue shine. Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson as Olive’s liberal parents are really amusing too. Easy A scores a solid B.
Director Michael Haneke’s movies are languidly paced mood pieces that slowly unfold toward an enigmatic conclusion (see Funny Games, Caché). That’s not to say that along the way, the audience isn’t treated to a beautifully shot, fascinating study of power and control. Here a quiet village is persecuted by a series of aggressive acts by an unknown source. The Protestant pastor, the doctor and the Baron of the community all exert their authority in dictator-like fashion. The fictitious small town of Eichwald is supposedly a microcosm of German fascism. Very well, but what’s the point? Yes, the action has an ominous feel that is bewitching. This strikingly photographed, black and white drama looks like some long lost Ingmar Bergman film from 1957, but it has none of that auteur’s focus or optimism. Oppressively gloomy and dark, there is a lot to admire but not much to love.
Bizarre account of the “most violent prisoner in Britain” Michael Peterson who was re-named Charles Bronson, after the American film star, by his fight promoter. Strikingly photographed crime drama is highly stylized. Bronson frequently narrates the action from a vaudevillian stage, facing an audience. His bloody bare knuckle brawls with prison guards are a frequent, brutally savage occurrence. In contrast, the soundtrack is highlighted by classical music and Giorgio Moroder-ish electro pop. The odd mix clearly takes it’s s stylistic cues from A Clockwork Orange. Actor Tom Hardy is memorable as the title character, but as a biography, it’s incredibly shallow. Snapshots of a life are presented without any exposition. It’s hard to understand this miscreant since the script never delves too deeply into his bloodthirsty personality. We get 92 minutes of rage with an art house bent. Call it an audacious free-for-all, that just doesn‘t go the distance.
Compelling crime thriller about a bank robber who seeks out the woman he took hostage while he was disguised, in order to discover what she knows. The tough streets of Charlestown, Massachusetts form the backdrop of this extremely entertaining feature from director and star Ben Affleck. As career criminal, Doug MacRay, he brings a sensitivity to a figure usually presented as a lowlife. There’s no reason why the audience should feel empathy for a felon, but the script makes his newfound romantic feelings very affecting, as he comes to terms with his life of corruption. Jeremy Renner as his partner in crime and Jon Hamm as the FBI agent that pursues them, also give excellent performances in this ensemble effort. The story isn’t as generous to actress Rebecca Hall however. I must take exception to a bank manager who happily approaches a stranger in a laundromat a day after she was abducted at gunpoint. But I’ll forgive that brief lapse in believability in an otherwise intelligent script.
Romantic comedy about a couple, Erin and Garrett, who endeavor to make a long distance relationship work. This romance’s main selling point is the genuine chemistry that real life pair Drew Barrymore and Just Long possess. They bond over the video game Centipede, express frustration in their respective careers and awkwardly attempt to have phone sex. The action isn’t particularly deep or important. Just a light and breezy story concerning a bi-coastal couple. The film’s combination of raunchy humor with sweet romance is very 2010. Features outstanding supporting work from actors Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day as Garrett’s pals and Christina Applegate as Erin’s sister.
Apocalyptic thriller depicts what transpires when an angry, vengeful God loses faith in humanity, and decides to exterminate the human race. Sort of a follow up to the biblical Great Flood story, this darkly shot, depressing movie deals with a small group of “rebels” that rise up against His army of random demonically possessed civilians. Unrelentingly bleak film puts the audience in the awkward position of rooting against God. It gets more difficult because these characters are so unpleasant, you really don’t care what happens to them. If this is the kind of riffraff left in the world, perhaps starting over, isn’t such a bad idea. The mundane dialogue doesn’t help matters much either. And let’s face it, if these people were really facing off against God’s wrath, would they even stand a chance? Oppressively dull.
Sporadically amusing morality tale about the evils of consumerism. Explores what happens when corporations take direct marketing to the next level. Satire has several things going for it. The film, with its contempt of materialistic values and possessions, has its heart in the right place at least. Also, stars David Duchovny and Demi Moore are engaging as the “parental units”. But the ending feels like a cheat. Given the fascinating set up and stylish execution, it’s a bit of a let down. The cynicism was the best part.