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Posts Tagged ‘Keanu Reeves’

Self-professed film aficionados lead difficult lives. We spend hours dissecting films; even the really bad ones are dissected for no particular reason than for the writers to brand themselves as morose intellectuals with good taste in art, who are interesting to talk to and incredible to fuck with next to scented candles (I can’t prove it or anything but I hear that once we’ve trashed enough films, the government release nanorobots into our organs to make lovemaking more euphoric). Of course we needn’t feel bad. It isn’t our fault that films don’t understand just how incredibly complex and generally incredible our psyche is. We just need to keep pissing into the wind and find cleverer ways to make light of the blood, sweat and tears shed by people who think they understand films just because they make them.

We look down on IMDB users. We hate Catherina Zeta Jones. Every weekend we download independent films with the lowest possible budgets and then pretend to support the directors.

You want more proof that bloggers who trash films are wankers? Here’s another pretending to know a good film from a bad one.

The Last Broadcast: Finally, a low-budget horror film that I won’t try stuffing down your throats. Directors Stefan Avalos and Lance Weiler have tried really hard to creep us out and as noble as their intentions were, the execution turned out sloppier than unprotected cuddling between former lovers. Botched dramatic improvisation even kills the tension the film’s first five minutes somehow manages to build. Maybe these ‘actors’ weren’t technically supposed to act in Last Broadcast considering its style of narration, but they come across as anxious pastiches of a high school art-house film crew. Stefan’s The Ghosts of Edendale and Lance’s Head Trauma still sound worth checking out because you never can be fully sure about these indie fellows.

Batman Begins: I can’t argue that it was Hollywood’s most faithful interpretation of Bob Kane’s vision, but to associate so much credibility to it is just silly. Tim Burton‘s caricaturization during the early Nineties was laughable at best while Joel Schumacher made Nicholas Cage sit through snuff porn in his next film just to reclaim his credibility with film-goers. Sure, Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins was miles ahead in terms of authenticity and general aesthetics, but honestly, how difficult did you think that was? The film passed our litmus test even before it was released. From the moment we heard that the guy from Machinist was being groomed by the guy who directed Memento to replace George Clooney as our most favourite superhero in the whole wide world, I think we collectively gasped in joy without second guessing. Truth be told, Bale’s only passable as Batman and sometimes downright ridiculous as Bruce Wayne. He channels American Psycho’s Patrick Bateman without realizing that only one of them is actually a sociopath; the other only fakes it to lead a normal life. I blame it all on Lee Strasberg. Method acting, my ass.

Michael Caine’s portrayal of Alfred isn’t any better, it’s a far cry from the swank stoicism that the character was once legendary for. Seriously, which godforsaken issue has ever had him cracking bland homoerotic jokes while master Wayne battles for his life? As for Katie Holmes, she’s either Catherine Zeta Jones in disguise or the known universe is far crueler than I have thought it to be. Even Liam Neeson is an abomination; Raz Al Ghul‘s supposed to be a badass existential eco-terrorist, not the bastard fruit that fell from the loins of David Blaine, Morpheus and Al Gore.

What is all the hype about Nolan anyway? Memento was about twenty minutes too long. Insomnia had one the least likable Al Pacino performances. The Prestige was sheepishly mesmerizing at best and a Joker-less The Dark Knight would have been both propagandistic and boring. Maybe people just can’t love him enough for his debut. Now that was a good movie.

88 Minutes:As far as I’m concerned, Al Pacino has only looked comfortable playing dorky victims of dire circumstances. In films like Scarecrow or Dog Day Afternoon, he was completely believable as the average guy who has had his life turned upside down, inside out; all twitchy and restless, he had us hanging on to his character’s quirks, righteously mongering our sympathy in the process. Taylor Hackford’s The Devil’s Advocate was perhaps the first unavoidable indication that Al Pacino could really suck too. I mean, you don’t exactly have to ooze charisma when your character has such a fabled history of ironic sophistication as Satan did and yet Pacino managed to make it offensively theatrical, often dueling with Keanu Reeves to see who could make the most inappropriate sex faces during dramatic scenes.

In Jon Avnet’s 88 Minutes, he gives his character so many different dimensions that GPS-enabled rhombuses could have lost their way in there. Maybe Dr Jack Gramm had multiple personality disorder in the original script and somebody forgot to inform him about its last-minute exclusion or Pacino was desperately trying a million different things to bring back his credibility as a performer, either way it had too much of negative impact on the film for me to even bring up Alicia Witt’s blindingly horrific acting. I’m telling you, minions, watch William Friedkin’s Cruising and then Godfather I, II or III. He just isn’t the same actor. If you can’t see the difference, then we just don’t see eye-to-eye on films. Also, you are a stupid idiot of a nonsense fool and you will punished for your insolence. Hmpf.

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Beautiful: These “dark side of suburban families” films are getting a bit tiresome. The depressingly ordinary Ordinary People and American Beauty influenced loads of young directors to come up with a slew of storylines about lenses being lifted from normal upper-class families to reveal tortured souls screwing with each other’s heads. I’ll have to disagree with Tolstoy on this one, I don’t think unhappy families are unhappy in their unique way all the time; at least not the ones featured in films such as Dean O’Flaherty’s Beautiful. Technically I have no qualms about it other than its constant use of tried and tested downer clichés. We have the quintessential loner who’s too befuddled to qualify as geeky, residential sexual deviants, emotionally-scarred parents and a whole lot of dirty secrets. Some of scenes in this tip their hats off to movies like Blue Velvet, Donnie Darko and Happiness so feverishly that it blurs the line between being influenced and plagiarizing. Quite sad, considering that Beautiful has a decent-enough storyline going for it ( So 14-year-old Danny (Sebastian Gregory) goes on a super serial secret mission for the psychotic 17-year-old Lolita – Suzy (Tahyna Tozzi) – to discover the hidden filth that lurks in the living room of their neighbours).

A good hour into the film the director starts messing with the twists and turns, finally leaving us with one that leaves a sour taste in our mouths. The colourful photography and navel-gazing music makes Beautiful live up to its name in parts. Orchestrator Bryce Jacobs and art director Tuesday Stone have done a nice job capturing the film’s chilling moments, letting us comfortably breathe as the rest – the actors, the script writers, the director – bring it down a notch. One of those indie films that make you sit through them, but evoke little else than a “meh” reaction at the end of it. Watch it once if you thought American Beauty needed to be a bit more screwed up.

Thumbsucker: Director Mike Mills has a knack for defying logical conclusions. He makes a documentary on uber-suave electronic pop duo Air seem listlessly dull and lifeless yet creates another called “Does Your Soul Have a Cold?” that investigates the impact of over-the-counter pharmaceuticals on the depression level of the Japanese and makes that look interesting. In the 2005 film Thumbsucker, he continues to bewilder us. Make no mistake, this is a good film, just that it leaves you with an odd feeling when you realize why exactly you liked it. Lou Taylor Pucci, despite looking like Kristen Stewart’s twin sister grappling with a minor case of lycanthropy, actually makes thumb sucking look like a genuine medium of existential malcontent and doesn’t reduce playing a Ritalin addict to annoying American stoner shenanigans. Then there’s Benjaman Bratt, who starred in some of crappiest films of the 2000s (The Next Best Thing, Miss Congeniality, Catwoman), standing out in Thumbsucker as one of its definitive highlights; he’s incidentally funny and consummately fucked up as Matt Schramm, the charming actor and hapless junkie.

Keanu Reeves’ portrayal of Perry Lyman, the spaced-out orthodontist, is so good that it jumps out of nowhere and slaps you in the face, screaming, “bet you didn’t expect it”. Much of the shock can be traced to the fact  that Richard Linklater’s A Scanner Darkly was released only a year later, so as of 2005 – the world had no reason to believe that Keanu had any acting talent whatsoever. Also the character itself called for an air of nonchalance and a sense of disconnect that only guy who has no clue what he’s doing can accurately convey.

On the flip side, firstly we have Vince Vaughn, overrated in big-budget comedies but perfectly fine in gently fucked up films like these, not living up to his reputation. I almost hoped that Will Ferrell would at some point appear in a cameo and give him some on-screen chemistry to work with. Then we have Tilda Swinton, arguably one of the finest actresses to grace our screen, surprising us here with her half-hearted portrayal of Audrey, Cobb’s doleful mom by day and a slightly less retarded Nurse Betty by night. There’s a scene in which she confronts Schramn at the hospital and Benjaman Bratt actually out-acts her; normally this would signify the end of the world and the cruel demise of all its living things, but thankfully it all makes sense, considering this is a Mike Mills movie. Good film, but the surprises might kill you.

Everything Is Illuminated: Most of my love for Liev Schreiber’s Everything Is Illuminated stems from the all the wonderful music it introduced me to, right from the gorgeously eerie themes that Paul Cantelon stirs up to the insanely catchy gypsy-punk harmonies of Gogol Bordello and Tin Hat Trio’s whimsical acoustic chamber sound. Of course, there’s Matthew Libatique’s breathtaking cinematography; I can only assume that sunflower fields and meadows in and near Prague have never looked prettier.

It only lately occurred to me that everything else pretty much illuminates (see what I did there? High-five?) the film, as well. Elijah Wood, who plays young Jewish bloke looking for the woman who saved his grandfather during World War II, Eugene Hutz, his American pop culture-obsessed Ukrainian guide and Boris Leskin, Eugene’s disgruntled semi-blind, anti-semitic grandfather, are all fantastic in their roles as quirky characters yearning for that elusive ray of guiding light to make sense of their lives.

Somewhere down the middle, Everything Is Illuminated pans out to resemble one of those soul-searching road trip movies, but stays strong in its course to become something less pretentious, thanks to its actors and a tight screenplay. Few of the scenes (this sequence, for instance) in fact have the perfect combination of sound, sight and thought, something so rare that Steven Spielberg, having accidentally stumbled upon it during the mid-portion of Jaws, convinced three generations thereafter that it wasn’t a fluke despite all signs pointing otherwise. The film also boasts of great one-liners that are thankfully more Coen-esque than Borat-ish, (Alex: I am unequivocally tall. I do not know any women who are taller than me. The women who are taller than me are lesbians, for whom 1969 was a very momentous year). Humour is often lost in translation, especially from well-written novels, but kudos to Schreiber for bringing in the whimsies and the subsequent giggles. Just so you know, Jonathan Safran Foer’s original novel based on which the film was made is really good too. If I fawn over this anymore, I’d actually salivate.

Igby Goes Down: Take out all the overacting courtesy of Susan Sarandon and you have a pretty good film in Igby Goes Down. She almost sinks Burr Steers’ film with a loud performance as Mimi Slocumb, the manic mum. I remember her as a talented actress during the early Nineties; I guess Chris Columbus and his masterpiece of suck – Stepmom – just went ahead and killed her enthusiasm for a good script. Her incessant grunting in the opening scene, intentional as it might have been, would have certainly rivaled Avril Lavigne’s voice as the most irritating shit you could hear in 2002, but what’s worse are her sycophantic over-delivery of dialogues that really stretches our nerves. Having said that, fear not for the other actors turn into superheroes and rescue Burr’s debut from her clutches.

Kieran Culkin is fascinating to watch as Igby. Not that he awes us with skull-crushing intensity or bone marrow-sucking awesomeness; it’s just that every time I see this dude act, the more I am convinced that he uses negativity to scare the actor out of him. It almost amazes me when people who have led screwed up lives or closely been around those who have end up doing nothing worthwhile. Isn’t pain the greatest muse of all? Both him and his talented younger brother Rory are or at least seem competent at trying to channel the crap that once surrounded the Culkin name and turn it into their lady muse.

In Igby Goes Down, he tunes in a good performance as the lead role, a post-modern, coffee-house Holden Caulfield struggling to grow up despite being taught only to self-destruct. Jeff Goldblum is predictably great in his portrayal of Igby’s sleazy and stylishly suited step dad, only outdone by another actor who has been consistently fantastic for the past three decades – Bill Pullman, who plays Igby’s dad by birth. He is sparingly used, but whenever we do see him, there he is…wallowing in self-decay, mumbling inconsequential truths about life and looking fucking terrific at it! Amanda Peet, Claire Danes and Ryan Phillippe are given shitty dialogues to work with, so nothing to shout about there, but they certainly don’t harm the film. In fact I wouldn’t  have believed that Claire Danes could pull off Faustian one-liners but dam she proved me wrong in this film. So there you have it, an entertaining film about a family’s collapse and a kid trying to make sense of it by running the hell away. I bet you’ll like it…you, sick freak, you.

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