Posts Tagged ‘american splendor’

The Lodger: Director David Ondaatje‘s debut is loosely adapted from Hitchcock’s 1927 silent film about a ‘Jack The Ripper’ copycat killer. Ondaatje gives The Lodger a routinely modern twist by throws plenty of false climaxes, both run-of-the-mill and unexpected, at us. The visual elements are also far grittier than these types of films normally lend themselves to, thanks to nifty cinematography from David Armstrong. Actress Hope Davis (with whom I’m having a cinematic affair) as the hapless patron of the lodge and Alfred Molina as the obsessive detective deliver on so many levels that we can ignore Simon Baker‘s ineffectual brooding as the title character. Two other things that didn’t quite work for me – Philip Baker Hall darting in and out as the generic Captain Smith, grimacing perhaps a tad too unnaturally, and the predictable ending. Everything else deserves a thumbs-up in this suitably atmospheric Hitchcockian thriller.

Pig Hunt: I have the softest corner in my mind for low-budget horror films that scream bloody murder. It is adorable how they make us curl into a foetal position, letting our mind escape from recurring group hugs that define our lives, careers and breaks in sobriety. It is also heart-warming that there are film-lovers out there scraping together money and questionable talent to scare the shit out of other people. Like many other gory backwoods thrillers turn out to be, James Isaac’s Pig Hunt could be an extended metaphor for the socio-political hierarchies that govern every aspect of our world; so if you’re into that sort of thing, you may find sly references to misogyny, established religion and if you’re drunk, oedipal complexes too. Mutilated emus, a machete-wielding maniac, nymphomaniacal pot cultivators, and a monstrous wild boar that makes Russell Mulcahy’s Razorback look like Babe lost and hogtied in the city? The show goes on. And how.

Greenberg: These comedians have become infatuated with playing caricatures of their publicized persona – Adam Sandler in Funny People, Patton Oswalt in Big Fan, and that creepy guy, to an ostensibly lesser extent, in Pauly Shore Is Dead. Even crappy action stars have embraced it (spoiler: this intro is a waste of time) and gone on to make fun of themselves (JCVD and My Name Is Bruce). I assume Ben Stiller was going for something similar in Noah Baumbach’s Greenberg, but I could be wrong. Actually, Roger Greenberg isn’t very different from characters that we’ve come to associate Stiller with. Domesticated, empathetic, dorky and infatuated with delusions of grandeur – traits that don’t mesh very well with the character’s existential despair in this film. Sort of like Chris Cornell’s Scream album that toyed with hip-hop. I can appreciate the deviance from normalcy but uh uh no thanks…it’s just too weird. Thankfully, the film’s zanier and more admirable bouts of melancholia lie in Rhys Ifans‘ droopiness and Greta Gerwig‘s gut-wrenching facial expressions, both of which, are spectacular as is the soundtrack provided by James Murphy (front man, LCD Soundsystem). Now go watch Oswalt set the bar incredibly high in Big Fan.

The Losers: Sylvain White is the genius behind I’ll Always Know What You Did Last Summer. We definitely know what he did the summer of 2010. He made an abortion of an action flick.

American Splendor: Harvey Pekar died last week, so let’s spend a minute in obligatory silence as I pray to the distraught geeks in the sky for his soul to keep. In case you don’t already know, he was a iconic comic book writer and legendary cultural nihilist. His autobiographical comic series detailed the tortuously funny bits of his life as a file clerk at a Veteran’s Administration hospital in Cleveland. In Berman and Pulcini’s biopic, Paul Giamatti is very believable as Pekar. It is evident that someone has done proper research. One of the details I really enjoyed was the way Giamatti lets his eyebrows do most of the talking as did Pekar in so many of his interviews, especially on Dave Letterman. In addition, a special mention to the cameos from his real-life friends and their splendidly spaced-out, interstellar stares; with friends like these who needs copies of Hitch Hiker’s Guide. All said and done, a notch below the utterly cool crankiness of Terry Zwigoff’s documentary on Robert Crumb, but a tremendous water pistol salute to the man nevertheless.

Splintered: Vincenzo Natali‘s extended love letter to Spielberg’s epically bad film about cute aliens is no longer the odds-on favourite to win my ‘wasted storyline potential’ trophy for 2010. Director Simeon Halligan could have gone about a million other ways with Splintered‘s storyline and still had me thoroughly engaged. While the first 15 minutes promises vicious creatures of the night, creative dismemberment and a wee Welsh lassie’s descent into hyper-realistic madness, the rest of the film has some of the flimsiest excuses for bloodshed. He mucks things up further by paying zero attention to group psychology during moments of crisis. At times, I wasn’t sure if the guys were being stalked and attacked by unseen evil or frantically seduced by their pregnant cousins; a strange mix of disgust, euphoria and fear. Some of dialogues are so absurd that we might soon have a ‘Godzilla vs Splintered’s Script’ straight-to-DVD classic on our hands. Holly Weston‘s passive hysteria in the last frame as she walks towards a close-up angle is a thing of beauty, but everything is such a chore to endure.

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88 minutes

Well there’s over an hour of my life that I’m never getting back. I could have spent this time trampling sick kittens and had a more rewarding experience. A crappy, self-indulgent psycho-thriller with Al Pacino at his worst since Simone.

The Objective

There is a reason why it’s considered bad luck to peak during the genesis of one’s career. Daniel Myrick is yet another example. The Blair Witch Project was a tremendously creepy, non-kitschy horror film. Unfortunately his subsequent efforts (Solstice, Believers, The Strand) seemed to lack the willingness to deviate from cinematic norms that once made his debut an original study on terror. His Daniel’s latest – The Objective – is about an elite troop of US commandoes let loose to uncover the deadly truth behind Afghanistan’s “Bermuda Triangle” of ancient evil. The execution is sort of lame as the film falls flat on its ass. The original score daftly crafted Kays Al-Atrakchi is one of the few saving graces, along with Stephanie Martin’s cinematography, which exudes dry fear and ghostly paranoia. I sincerely do hope Shyamalan effect eludes Mr Myrick, even though all the signs seem to say otherwise.

American Splendor

In American Splendor, Paul Giamatti plays the graphic comic legend Harvey Pekar with the sort of twitchy paranoia that Woody Allen would have been proud of. In life, Mr Pekar has always been the misfit son that Cleveland played a surrogate mother to. Apart from writing and publishing the cult favourite American Splendor, he was also a jazz enthusiast, essayist and an avid book reviewer. Directors Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini cover most of these aspects of Pekar’s life and keep things interesting throughout the film. And as for Giamatti, Sideways might have been his finest work yet and Cinderella Man his most rewarding, but none more viscerally authentic than his efforts playing Mr. Pekar.

Summer Of Sam

The king of modern blaxploitation Spike Lee has a habit of making films about the wretched descent of men into poorer caricatures of themselves, especially during the sweltering heat of summer. While most of his films revolving around racial unrest, this one drifts away into the crime thriller category and stays there. What interesting is that despite switching genres, his modus operandi of filmmaking remains unchanged. The film often deviates from its central theme with purpose and gives the audience a broader and sometimes unnecessary perspective into the characters. It drags a bit towards the middle, but ends up being heaps of fun nevertheless. Oh and Michael Badalucco rules.

The Ogre

In this very troubled film about the loss of innocence and its terrifying aftermath, John Malkovich plays Abel – a man trying to outgrow his inner child during the emergence of the Third Reich. Director Volker Schlondorff throws in his two cents and gives the audience a demented and allegoric twist that involves a little girl and things better left spoken by visuals. No surprise to know that Mr. Schlondorff also directed The Tin Drum and The Handmaid’s Tale. But what I found sort of irritating in The Ogre was the seeming desperation of the director to keep things vaguely surreal. And his last name isn’t even Jarmusch.

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