Comments on watching and making films.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Young Adult

Jason Reitman has never missed, in my opinion, but I do feel like there is a definite difference in the quality of his films. His debut, Thank You For Smoking, along with his George Clooney starring Up In The Air, are both solid efforts worth a watch. It's his collaborations with Diablo Cody, though, that I think have made for his best work, with Juno as my favorite of his, and now Young Adult as a close second.

Charlize Theron plays a single, almost 40, washed up teen novel writer. When she gets a birth announcement from the wife of her old boyfriend, she decides she's going to leave the big city of Minneapolis, and head on out to the little town she grew up in, and win Buddy, her ex, back.

Theron expertly plays Mavis, a bitter woman who is only out to get what she wants out of people and still trying to live her life like she was 18. One of the best parts of this movie is Patton Oswalt as Matt Freehauf, a crippled ex-classmate, who Mavis ends up hanging out with because everyone else has moved on with their lives. Oswalt steals every scene that he's in, and whether it's the writing or him, Matt is definitely the perfect companion for Mavis. Patrick Wilson plays the bewildered and confused Buddy, who's lack of interest seems obvious to everyone but Mavis. Diablo Cody's script is perfect, almost to a point where you wonder if she was either Mavis, at one point, or witnessed something like this happen first hand.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Stieg Larsson's international best seller, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, and the two books that followed it have all already been adapted, successfully, into Swedish films. It was a little confusing to me when David Fincher signed on to make this, because I never pictured him as the kind of director who would do an American re-make of something. He just always struck me as the kind of guy who would want full ownership of the visuals of his films, and not want them to have to be compared to a previous version of the same thing. His vision, though, as slowly revealed in various trailers, seemed to be an interesting, but somewhat straight forward, take on a film that already exists.

Dragon Tattoo focuses on Mikael Blomkvist, played by Daniel Craig. Blomkvist is a recently disgraced journalist who is hired by an elderly billionaire to solve a forty plus year old crime, the murder of his niece. Realizing that he is in, somewhat, over his head, he approaches the private investigator who dug up dirt on him during his trial, a troubled girl/cyber genius named Lisbeth Salander (Rooney Mara). Together, they fight to solve the crime, while various forces try to make sure they don't.

I enjoyed Dragon Tattoo. It's a really good story, and Fincher tells it on an epic scale. At, almost, three hours long, it was rare that I ever turned away from it. It felt like it was consistently moving forward, and while it may have slowed down, it never stopped. That being said, though, I feel like this was a great film, but not a great Fincher film. I feel like the name Fincher brings a certain amount of expectation with it, and there was no delivery on that. It felt like anyone could have made this film (although, I don't think anyone else could have made it quite as well).

The film can be quite graphic, at times, which is not too much of a surprise for a Fincher film, but some people may be put off by it. There are instances, though, where it felt like Lisbeth's story seemed a little overly heavy. A little research shows that Larsson was heavily influenced by witnessing a rape as a young child, though, so, it becomes a little more clear as to why the source material goes as far as it does. Perhaps Larsson was giving this girl a chance at revenge that she never had in real life.

Monday, December 12, 2011

DVD - The Future

Miranda July's debut feature Me and You and Everyone We Know was one of my favorite films of 2005. As far as her short films go, I've only seen Are You The Favorite Person Of Anybody?, but I still look forward to whatever she does, probably a little too much considering how little of her work I've seen. Needless to say, I was anticipating The Future greatly. Totally stoked about it, but it blew past me in the theater, so I ended up having to wait for it to come out on DVD.

The film concerns a couple, July as Sophie and Hamish Linklater as Jason. They have adopted a cat that has terminal complications in some sort of convoluted attempt to prepare themselves for having a child (I'm assuming) and to learn how to sacrifice for something other than themselves. When the cat is injured, and has to be hospitalized for a month, Sophie and Jason decide to take that month as a sort of last ditch effort to do anything and everything they could possibly want, after learning from the vet that the cat could, potentially, live another five to six years. They both quit their jobs, and vow to make the next thirty days something life changing.

While, on the whole, I'm not a huge fan of The Future, there were aspects of it that I liked. My biggest problem with it, I suppose, is that there didn't seem to be a lot of weight to any of the things that happened in the story. You get the feeling that Sophie and Jason were just kind of together because they were, not because they genuinely felt strongly for each other, and when things go bad between them, their attitudes don't really reflect what has been built up.

The film definitely reflects July's sensibilities, and I think her flights of fancy are what saves the film a lot of times. There is a great sequence where Jason stops time that I really loved. Ultimately, though, it never really felt like Jason and Sophie were that connected in the first place, so that's why it's kind of hard to feel connected to the movie. It feels like they don't really care, so why should I?


When I first began seeing materials for Immortals, I couldn't help but let out a huge sigh. Another sword and sandals epic? You've got to be kidding me. This is one of my LEAST favorite genre's. I'm just not into gladiator's, Greco-Roman history, or pro-longed, speed ramped sword fights. When the name Tarsem bubbled up, though... I had to swallow my pride and go see it. I can honestly say, sometimes making the sacrifice is worth it.

I'm not going to bother outlining the plot. To be honest, it's pretty much like every other movie of this genre. Tarsem's visual style, however, is what brings the film to life and gives it the breath of fresh air it truly needs to be something interesting. Like Malick, Tarsem can take a tired genre and breathe new life into it sheerly by his visual touches. I remember when The Thin Red Line came out. I thought "Another World War 2 combat film? I saw Saving Private Ryan, and I'm pretty sure it isn't going to top that". Needless to say, it did. In the hands of anyone other than Malick, though, it wouldn't have. And that is what saves Immortals. The story is retread, the dialogue boring, and the fight scenes are straight out of Zack Snyder's play book, but his visuals are so stunning, they alone make the film worth its two hour running time.