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Posts Tagged ‘Luke Wilson’

Shutter Island: Martin Scorsese finally tips his hat to the horror genre with the terrifying thriller that is Shutter Island. While the film lends itself to a few logical fallacies here and there, especially during the twist at the end, it remains consistently entertaining. Scorsese has always played it easy with casting decisions, often employing the safest of actors. Between Leonardo DiCaprio, Ben Kingsley, Emily Mortimer and Patricia Clarkson he has four of the most consistent actors of the past two decades; not brilliant, mind you, but outrageously competent, no matter what their roles are. Truth be told, DiCaprio does overact a bit but he’s still compensating for Titanic, so we can steadfastly forgive him for impersonating a kid who just saw a unicorn wink at him. Mark Ruffalo, on the other hand, is almost unwatchable, with his portrayal of servility dangerously reaching Samwise Gamgee-level of unprovoked homo-eroticism. Emily Mortimer and Patricia Clarkson, with their beady eyes writing stories with the mechanical grace of a typewriter, walk away with the finest performances of the lot…yes, even better than the sinister charm of Kingsley and Max von Sydow. Thrillers that invest heavily on the unpredictability of twists expose themselves to the risk of falling short of expectations, but here when Scorsese yells “peek-a-boo” at us towards the end, we end up feeling silly for not having predicted it. And that, my scholarly vermin, is the mark of a good thriller. Not great, mind you, but spectacularly satisfying.

Defendor: Sorry, my batty comrades, Dark Knight isn’t the greatest superhero film ever made anymore, Peter Stebbings’ Defendor is. Technically it is a film about a man trying to act like a superhero, but Defendor is no more a catharsis on fighting crime than films on men wearing bat costumes and tight underwear with customized logos are. It gets us drunk on the trusted concoction of comedy and tragedy and is likely to have the more sensitive ones reaching for a tissue paper/cigarette lighter/glass of whiskey towards the end. Woody Harrelson, in his best performance since Raymond Barnell’s The Big White, plays Arthur Poppington, a sweet-natured, slow-witted traffic worker by day and a delusional superhero at night. He truly is one of the best modern actors to have survived Hollywood and he shows it here by making us care about superheroes in a way that would have been difficult to fathom, considering the most critically acclaimed (and highest grossing) film based on a comic book is a two-trick pony. The truth is, The Dark Knight, without Heath Ledger or Maggie Gyllenhaal, would have been hard to digest; in hindsight everything else just seems too needy about wanting to reflect the global stand on terrorism.

Defendor wants to do no such thing. It is far too kind in its approach to nurse any profane moral agendas. It’s just a story about a simpleton looking to change the world, one dent on the bad guy’s forehead at a time. Arthur has no superpowers, neither the wisdom of wise butlers nor infinite knowledge of martial arts. He has a reluctant sidekick in the form of a crack-addicted prostitute, Ms Kat, which gives way for some wonderful acting by Kat Dennings who makes ghostly-pale look cherubic and unnaturally sexy. The vastly underrated Elias Koteas (from Law and Order: SVU) is deeply committed to playing a sleazy NY cop and ends up exactly as we would have wanted him to, hateful, violent and deserving of Defendor’s rage. Michael Kelly, who plays Arthur’s co-worker and friend, and Sandra Oh, who plays his psychiatrist, are promptly forgotten due to no fault of their own. Even the plot plays second fiddle to Woody Harrelson’s acting; only Michael Stuhlbarg (A Serious Man) and Patton Oswalt (Big Fan) have come close to giving a performance as honest and restrained as this one. A special word of mention to composer John Rowley too; his original musical scores are a perfect foil for us to pledge our allegiance to Defendor.

Tenure: Luke Wilson has this habit of playing small-town guys with big-time problems. In Mike Million’s Tenure , he plays Charlie Thurber, an English professor competing for tenure with his new colleague. His buddy Jay Hardley (David Koechner), when he isn’t busy trying to locate the whereabouts of Bigfoot, tries to help Charlie out, even at the expense of his own standing, however thin that ice maybe, in the college community. Gretchen Mol, who plays the new hotshot professor vying for the same tenure, looks absolutely gorgeous. Her melancholic expressions evoke a sort of longing that made Virginia Madsen unbearably beautiful to look at in Sideways. Shawshank’s mean prison warden – Bob Gunton – has a few great scenes as Mr Thurber, Charlie’s inexplicably morose dad. Everything is in fact fine and dandy until the very end where an explosion of clichés haphazardly brings the curtains down. Happy endings very rarely work because that isn’t how most of us look at the world. It wasn’t as though the Thurber family had suffered a tragedy grievous enough for the audience to want to see with the sun shining brightly on them right before the end credits roll; it just seems like the director took the easiest route by giving such unnecessary closure. Maybe he should have watched The Station Agent to understand how that is PERFECTLY done.

Leaves Of Grass: Director Tim Blake Nelson also happens to be one of my favourite comedic actors in recent times. His slow-burn timing of punchlines rivals that of the brilliant Michael Jeter and has worked fantastically well in films like O Brother Where Art Thou, The Darwin Awards and The Moguls. Unfortunately he’s about the only consistent performer in his latest film – Leaves Of Grass, which is quite surprisingly since it also stars Edward ‘Mr Consistent’ Norton in a dual role. Too bad a crappy accent and an all-too convenient storyline leaves him lurking about, looking like he wants to do little else than chew gum. In Leaves Of Grass, he plays both Bill Kincaid, a clean-cut Ivy League professor and his twin brother Brady, a free-spirited prodigious marijuana cultivator, two obviously polar opposites inexplicably brought together for devious purposes, thusly giving way to a heady mix of irony and poetic justice. Sheeeesh haven’t we seen this enough in Rajnikanth movies during the Eighties? To make it worse, Susan Sarandon shows up and spits existential venom every 15 minutes to thoroughly irritate me. Only Richard Dreyfuss as Pug Rothbaum – the angry Jew and Blake Nelson as Bolger – the redneck right-hand man, bring any sort of awesomeness, with their bug-eyed intensity.

Roger Ebert’s four-stars description definitely leaves me confused. He must have smoked some Grade-A weed to call it “a sweet, wacky masterpiece that takes all sorts of risks” because from where I stand, it is a sugary, tacky piece of lazy film-making. It just goes to show that films that rehash storylines, no matter how intelligent or well-crafted they are, will remain glaringly susceptible to staleness.

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session 9

Session 9: I didn’t know this until IMDB filled me in a few hours ago, but I have seen all of Brad Anderson’s films. In fact I have enjoyed everything he has done. Despite being little more than romantic comedies, Happy Accidents and Next Stop Wonderland escape the suck on the merit of its actors – Marisei Tomei, Vincent D’Onofrio, and Philp Kaufman. As many of you already know, The Machinist is fantastic and actually does justice to Christian Bale’s method acting shenanigans. Of course, there is that gratuitously updated Hitchcock train ride of 2008 – Transsiberian – which then brings us to Session 9 (co-written by Stephen Gevedon) that was released in the year 2001. I watched it a few days ago and I must say, it has left me in a deliriously creeepy state of mind (much ike Wolf Creek, Descent, Eden Lake). The sort in which, you are strangely at ease with not predicting false climaxes since you actually care about what happens to these characters; in which, you are also not cool with the director’s sense of justice, but you choose to make peace with it for the sake of cinema. Seemingly trivial stuff, but constant reminders that there’s more to the relationship between films and free time.

session9

So, this five-member asbestos cleaning crew goes to work on the Danvers State Mental Hospital (now an abandoned asylum) and well, something’s not right. The boss man – Gordon (Peter Mullan) – seems to be a little over the edge, his best friend and crew chief – Phil (David Caruso) – has gotten secretive about his professional intentions while the other two – Hank (Josh Lucas) and Mike (Gevedon…again) – seem more troubled than ever before. Oh there’s Jeff (Brendan Sexton III) too, but he’s just a slacker who’s afraid of the dark. As the film claws its way towards a feverish climax, you are desperately unsure about what exactly is creeping you out; and when you finally realize the cause behind all the bloody carnage, you sigh and think about how enormously frightening it must be for blind mice to find love. If you are one of those normal people, you’ll probably recoil in terror and mumble, “oh that’s messed up”.

Ahem…anyway, Peter Mullan and Stephen Gevedon give fantastic performances with the latter proving his mettle in scriptwriting, as well. Tight, atmospheric, and gripping, Session 9 is definitely one of the creepiest films I have ever seen.

quarantine

Quarantine: I love zombie films. If my fears about the swine flu were to ring true and the dead start coming back to eat the living, I would want George Romero to come over to India and shoot a film about that. Hell, he could even title the film as  Had To Joke About Pigs Flying, Didn’t You? and I’d still love it. Zombies = fun. Needles to say, I got a real kick out of Quarantine. John Erick Dowdle, along with his brother Drew, took the storyline from Jaume Balagueró and Luis Berdejo (who wrote the apparently superior Spanish original – REC) and gave it an ol’ American twist. For instance, they bring into account the distrust people had towards the Bush administration. In this case, a bunch of middle-class folks are trapped inside a building that has been sealed up by secretive government agents. Inside, a cop and a military officer try to rally up the forces to ward off those pesky zombies. I am pretty sure I have seen this a hundred times before in different films, but I have yet to dislike even one. However I must admit… The Poughkeepsie Tapes movie sounds infinitely cooler.

dead_mans_shoes

Dead Man’s Shoes: My consumption of Shane Meadows’ films begins with Dead Man’s Shoes. I have read too many nice things about him for me stay away from his work any further. I guess I’ll post a Shane Meadows edition in couple of weeks, so I’ll make this one brief. Dead Man’s Shoes is a tremendous low-key revenge thriller. The premise is not original, but the atmosphere certainly is. The lush sceneries that embrace the screen every ten minutes, along with the lovely music score, do wonders. The film begins with Richard (Paddy Considine) scouting lambs for the slaughter, as we are told that this former army officer is out to draw blood from all those who did horrible things to his younger brother. And then we meet the perpetrators – some callous, drug-addled men, others normal blokes who just had a wild night out. There’s almost this Woodsman effect (a film in which Kevin Bacon plays a sympathetic pedophile) which causes you to question Richard’s morality – and that’s exactly what makes this film utterly fantastic (and also why Azrael remains as one of the great Batman characters). I will write more about Shane Meadows soon.

bottle_rocket

Bottle Rocket: Wes Anderson’s films – Rushmore, Royal Tenenbaums and Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou – have redefined my expectation of humour from mainstream American cinema. Even the recent Darjeeling Limited was pretty great too. As much as I would like to habe them labeled as underground, they wouldn’t fit the billing. They have A-list actors, a decent budget and pristine production – elements that fortunately seem inept at tainting the humour quotient. Prior to watching this, I have heard a lot of nice people say that Wes was never quite as funny as he once was in Bottle Rocket. Well, I don’t know, man…I just wasn’t tickled by Bottle Rocket’s supposedly whimsical comedy. It was almost as though Wes Anderson let the more random of the Coen Brothers (not sure which one) take over the directing duties. While I could have thought of far worse directors to associate metaphorically with this film, it does lack the charm that accompanied his Wes’ films with Bill Murray.

The story is that Owen and Luke Wilson – two likable criminals desperate to play high stakes try to weasel their way into better lives. The jokes draw a laugh or two, but that’s mostly because of the over-the-top delusion of Owen’s character (Dignan). You can almost see where Wes Anderson got the idea for that Eli Cash character in The Royal Tenenbaums. Luke’s a miss in this one as his character channels the mild confusion that drives those kids in Beverly Hills 90210 and passes it off as existential grief. Together they get themselves entangled into silly situations until salvation reaches out to one of them. Unlike the film, life’s happy ending worked out much better. Mr Wes Anderson has grown to become an absolutely terrific director.

incident at loch ness

Incident At Loch Ness: So, this Hollywood producer (Zak Penn) ropes in Werner Herzog and a few others to shoot a film about the Loch Ness monster. Little does Herzog know that Zak just wants to make a blockbuster without actually giving a shit about cinema, art, German New Wave and all that. The thing is, another crew is already filming a documentary about Werner Herzog’s life so we, the audience, get to watch the making of The Enigma Of Loch Ness, and also the making of the making of the same. Of course, none of this actually true, so what we are left with is a confusing mockumentary that is both hilarious and silly in equal proportions. Directed by Zak Penn (who is friggin awesome as a mean-spirited asshole), and starring Herzog…wait, no really…dammit. Go watch Incident At Loch Ness and you tell me.

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