Monday, October 13, 2008

An Oddly Muted Satire (rated 3 stars)

by Robert B. Weide

Sometimes a film is like something that is cooked. You can have all of the proper ingredients and when it comes out of the oven it just didn’t work. With “How to Lose Friends & Alienate People”: there are some strong performances, funny moments and a great idea, but overall it just doesn’t work. I love Simon Pegg, but within the script there is a tendency to tone things down and as the film progresses it becomes more and more predictable. At times the film felt as if the production was rushed with some surprisly obvious technical flubs such as the boom in the shot or the distinctive shadow of the camera and a person beside the camera. For a film that was satirizing the world of celebrity and journalism, it pulls too many punches and falls into a romantic comedy formula that washes away the satirical edge.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

A Beautiful Night (rated 5 stars)

by Claire Denis

Claire Denis has a gift for capturing small and beautiful details in her films and Friday Night is simply follows a woman as she leaves her apartment to move in with her boyfriend and drives across Paris during the gridlock of a transit strike when she meets a stranger and spends the evening with him. Telling the story elliptically and with a minimal amount of dialogue it’s a poetic sketch of a moment in time.

A Subtle Story About Difficult Choices (rated 5 stars)

by Courtney Hunt

With a powerful performance by Melissa Leo at the centre of the film, Frozen River is an understated look at the choices a woman makes as she tries to make a better life for herself and her children. Set in the winter along the US and Canadian border, it’s the gripping story of how someone gets involved in smuggling people across the border. Shot on location with a documentary feel by Courtney Hunt, it’s a powerful film that presents realistic characters in an honest and brave way.

A Watered Down Adaptation (rated 2 stars)

by Fernando Meirelles

I really wanted to like Blindness and thought that it was a pretty safe bet with Fernando Meirelles who directed the heart wrenching “City of God”: as well as “The Constant Gardener”: , but it just didn’t work for me. For some reason I never connected with the characters and the film very much felt as if it was designed and constructed by a very large committee. While there are some nice visual touches, I kept thinking of other films that did the whole breakdown of society thing much better such as Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later and Alfonso Cuaron’s Children of Men . The large cast and the jumping around between the characters distanced me from what was happening and when a voice-over comes in later in the film, I was wondering how much longer the film was. While it does create the world with some interesting shooting and production design, it just wasn’t very compelling on a human level.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

A Melancholy Dystopian Comedy (rated 4 stars)

by Jared Drake

They don’t care about pole vaulting. Or dreams.

In the debut feature from Jared Drake (with a script cowritten by his brother Brandon), Visioneers there is an odd and melacholy tone, almost like a darker version of “Idiocracy” where it all holds together much better. There is a compelling lack of explanation for most of the absurdity in the film, which is at times very funny and at times poignant. One of the most unique films I’ve seen in a while, it’s a meditation on the pointlessness of work and consumerism that pushes things off-kilter to make a satirical point in a much more effective way than if it played it completely straight.
With strong and compelling performances by Zach Galifianakis and Judy Greer it’s a film that is hard to explain or categorize. I’m glad that I didn’t know a lot about it before seeing it as seeing the consistent, but puzzling world emerge was a lot of fun. It’s truly independent and special and I don’t know how it’s going to fit into the distribution system, but I hope that it does get out there.