Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Hedgehog or Fox?

"...Gabe, he's always picked the wrong women except for Judy; she's the first sane woman he ever fell for.
He's always attracted to the crazies, the nutcases for some reason...
I got a couple of theories about it: one is that deep down somewhere he knows it's not gonna work, so he suffers and that kind of atones for some sort of early guilt he's got. Over what I don't know...
Another is, you know, like all of us he grew up on movies and novels where doomed love was romantic."

- Jack (Sydney Pollack) talking about his friend Gabe (Woody Allen) in Allen's "Husbands and Wives".

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

"I will tell them that the play is over, go home!"

Funny Games ***

Director: Michael Haneke
Cast: Naomi Watts, Tim Roth
Michael Pitt, Brady Corbet, Devon Gearhart

Married couple, Ann (Watts) and George (Roth), leave on a holiday to their lake house with their young son Georgie (Gearhart).
Shortly after arriving, two young men by the names of Paul (Pitt) and Peter (Corbet) arrive at their door. They come to borrow some eggs and after a bizarre shift in their behavior they take the family hostage and make a bet: that all members of the family will be dead in less than twelve hours.
What sounds like the premise of your average gore thriller (and probably should sound just like that...) is in fact an explosive study on the nature of violence in the media.
Helmed by the visionary Michael Haneke, this is one of those films that completely divides an audience; you either love it or loathe it.
Making a shot by shot remake of his homonymous 1997 film, Haneke proves to be the kind of filmmaker who decides that when you watch one of his movies you won't be able to get it out of your head (whatever the reasons are).
"Funny Games" is the kind of teasing, brutal spectacle that works both as a genre picture (surprisingly most of the shocking violence here occurs offscreen, proving just how more sadistic the human imagination can be) and as a more artistic treatise.
When the first one was released, it was a time appropriate exploration on how insensitive we have become to violence. The title is both a nod to the torture Paul and Peter subject the other characters to, as well as our own voyeuristic involvement in the whole deal.
Haneke was once quoted as saying that "if you leave the theater you don't need this movie, if you stay you do", his intention seems to be one of preoccupation towards the amount of psychological disturbances his audience can be put through.
But then if this is the case, why bother making a film like this and expect the audience to just walk out of it?
And even more adequate for our times, why would someone go and remake the same film they made a mere decade ago?
The one thing you can't argue about the film is the brilliance of its performers. Watts is hypnotizing, the way her suburban discomfort is followed by a complete mental destruction while layering it with strokes of maternity, slightly awkward sexuality and guilt have to be seen to be believed.
While the usually overpowering Roth completely changes your vision of what he can do, the idea that a few years ago he would've been perfect for one of the torturers might cross your mind.
While Pitt and Corbet become real demonic minions; the actors, who might prove to be the most threatening baby faced thespians this side of McCaulay Culkin, have the ability to haunt your nightmares after this.
Haneke has never been one for subtlety (could there be a clearer metaphor for his accusation as when he implies that we literally open the door to violence?), but what the film lacks in teasing abilities, it more than fulfills with complex brain food.
That he constantly breaks the fourth wall, making the experience more "interactive" is pure wickedness and that he sometimes refuses to move the camera might feel like those times when as kids we were sent to "think about what we did" in the corner.
He treats us like the children who erred, like the adults who should know better and like the kids who chose to become these adults.
Perhaps thinking as an idealist, Haneke assumed that the first film would guarantee a mind shift in our doings, but ten years later, the world is doing worse than ever.
Is the fact that this is an American production a direct nod to the Iraq War? (Films rarely invite to hold such discussions afterwards...).
"Funny Games" often feels like playing hide and seek. The twist is that you don't really know the part you're playing, but you can't help but embrace the challenge.

Monday, July 28, 2008


After years of trying to find it, I finally got my hands on "La Meglio Gioventú", an Italian miniseries that proved to be one of the most emotionally satisfying film experiences I've ever had and certainly the shortest six hours of my life.
With this film you truly believe that tutto è veramente bello.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Smart People **

Director: Noam Murro
Cast: Dennis Quaid, Sarah Jessica Parker, Ellen Page
Thomas Haden Church, Ashton Holmes

With a self absorbed title that immediately gives away the fim's "look at how indie I am" intentions, "Smart People" presents itself in the same hazy New England settings where we have learnt that middle class, dysfunctional families treat emotional pain by throwing witty bits of dialogue at each other.
This particular family is headed by English Professor Lawrence Whetherhold (Quaid), a depressed widower who is loathed by people in the univeristy where he teaches.
His daughter Vanessa (Page) is a young Republican who has taken on the role of Stepford wife after her mom's death.
His son James (Holmes) lives in his college dormitory (and the film really gets rid of him except when it needs to display large showcases of quirkiness).
The lives of the Whetherhold family members get shaken a bit with the appearance of Lawrence's adopted brother Chuck (Haden Church), a pot smoking, womanizing slacker who crashes with the family and tries to put some life in them and with Lawrence's unexpected romance with doctor Janet (Parker who is lovely as usual, but really underwritten as a character) a former student of his with a complicated emotional agenda of her own.
The problem with "Smart People" (note the intentional self conscious smirk of the title...) is that it never dares to push itself and its characters, merely relying on them as stereotypes (not archetypes as it thinks it does) of other indie films.
Quaid, who constantly proves he's a much better actor than people think, seems extracted from "The Squid and the Whale", complete with greasy hair, unkempt beard and a protruding belly all meant to scream "college professor with issues", but Quaid gives Lawrence a detached sincerity.
He acts like an arrogant prick, because that's what he's always been.
Page, who on the contrary constantly proves what a one note actress she is, feels like a hybrid of Juno and Jennifer Garner's character in the film; a control freak with growing up issues, who just can't help but throw a snarky remark whenever she can.
The one beautiful thing about Page is that her attempts at restraining her youthful spirit always fail and now and then she shines and only then does she feel like a real person.
Haden Church does the same thing he did in "Sideways", but he does end up stealing the film, because unintentionally his character is the only one who seems to catch on how fake everyone else is and his carelessness, which might be contempt in disguise, is a real punch in the face.
"Smart People" is enjoyable, but relies too much on things the characters it portrays never would consider. During one scene Lawrence is trying to win back the affections of Janet, he approaches her and confesses that he hasn't had any epiphanies or enlightenment and that he's till the same person he always was.
The film would love to think of itself as that, problem is we never really knew what kind it was.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

They're Not That Innocent.

"Matilda told such dreadful lies, it made one gasp and stretch one's eyes"
Hilaire Belloc

They say that drunkards and children always tell the truth.
And while it’s true that alcohol makes people lose their inhibitions and children are allegedly pure and good, the adage becomes questionable when you examine the nature of what they understand by the concept of truth.
In William Wyler’s “The Children’s Hour” (1961) and Joe Wright’s “Atonement” (2007) two young girls “misinterpret” facts and create truths of their own, changing forever the lives of those around them.
In “Children’s”, Mary Tilford (Karen Balkin) is a young, spoiled girl living in a boarding school. Faced with the possibility of being accused of bad behavior to her grandmother (Fay Bainter), she creates a diversion by revealing to her that her two teachers (played by Audrey Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine) are secret lovers.
Word immediately gets out in the little New England town and before long, the women have become outcasts at the mercy of a little girl’s presumptions.
“Atonement” has Briony Tallis (Saoirse Ronan), a precocious twelve year old devoted to the written word. After writing her first play, which she is to direct with her cousins as cast, she begins to realize that there’s a bigger stage than the one she crafts for her dolls and stuffed animals.
After tying knots in her head she accuses the housekeeper’s son (James McAvoy) of committing a crime she is sure she was witness of. When in fact what Briony is doing is pulling off a deus ex machine (with her as deus) playing with people as literary figures in her most ambitious project.
The definition of lie deems that there must be “a false statement made with deliberate intent to deceive; an intentional untruth; a falsehood” but in both Mary and Briony’s case you can debate the end they wished to achieve by using lies as the means.
When Mary repeats the rumors she’s heard in her school, she uses the word unnatural to the dismay of her grandmother who finds it a forbidden word (Remember that in the 1960’s they couldn’t throw the word lesbian around just like that). But the viewer wonders, what could be more unnatural than a child becoming a messenger of cruelty?
Balkin’s performance is remarkable, if you watch the movie and don’t wish to spank her and ground her for decades then you are the nicest person in the world, but what remains disturbing is the idea that in a way Mary isn’t lying to save her skin, as much as she is trying to satisfy her curiosity.
Deep down she knows that she can’t come and face grownups with issues like the ones dealt with in the plot, her only way of entering the adult world then is using them as scandal.
Only by playing innocent about things, she probably knows nothing about, is she able to justify her existence.
In the very same way a passage in “Atonement”, witten by Ian McEwan, describes Briony as someone who picked up the dictionary and randomly chose complicated words to feel part of the adult world.
While the movie doesn’t show this, Ronan’s performance lets you know that this girl is always picking up things in her surroundings.
This makes you question not only essential parenting skills, but also how important it is for children to understand the world around them.
How long do you have to wait before teaching them about things like sexuality and cause/consequence relations?
Later in the film, and in the novel, Briony grows up to her 70’s but the youngest version of her is the one that lingers in your mind.
Both Mary and Briony have to carry with the weight of deaths and sorrow in their minds, but we only get to see how the burden affects Briony.
She remains looking for the title atonement for the rest of her life, one that could’ve been prevented, but we never know for sure what steps to take to have made a difference.
And in a manner of speaking both characters are so powerful because at one time we were them as well.
Whether we were lying about breaking our grandma’s favorite flower pot, about stealing the last cookie in the jar or about what that cigarette smell is doing in our clothes, we never know for sure what the effect of our words will have on others.
Sure makes you want to be a baby again huh?

- This post is part of the"Rugrats Blog-a-thon" hosted by Michael Parsons of "My Stuff and Cr*p"

Monday, July 21, 2008

Now, seriously?

According to the wise voters at IMDB, Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight" is the greatest film EVER made.
Yes, above "Gone With the Wind", "Lawrence of Arabia", "The Rules of the Game", anything by Scorsese, Truffaut and Hitchcock, "The Wizard of Oz"...and you get my point.
I first noticed this over at Mark's blog, but assumed it would go away after a few hours. Seeing it's still there I can't help but wonder how long will it be before an inevitable backlash?
Shall we say we owe this to fanboys voting en masse? Overhype? Or are they actually right?
How will this excessive good will (after that massive box office thing) affect the film's chances at awards? Am I the only one sick and tired of listening that Heath Ledger deserves an Oscar?
The answers to all this and more later, at the very bat-time, in the same bat-blog.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Dark Knight ***1/2

Director: Christopher Nolan
Christian Bale,
Heath Ledger,
Aaron Eckhart
Maggie Gyllenhaal,
Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman

The essence of Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” is pretty much contained in an exchange of dialogue between two random characters.
Two men sit in a bar while everyone else in the city is consumed by fear. One of them asks “shouldn’t you be out there doing something?”, the other remains seated and replies “today’s my day off”.
The new entry in the Batman saga, might as well have been called “On the Gotham Waterfront” because like, and maybe not as deep since, the 1954 film it explores what makes a singular person stand up against a decaying world of corruption.
As a group of mobsters flood Gotham City with crime, three men unite to bring an end to the mob; Lieutenant James Gordon (Oldman) who seems to be the only incorruptible police member, new District Attorney Howard Dent (Eckhart) who has become a guiding light of hope in the arena of politics and billionaire Bruce Wayne (Bale) as the Batman, the masked vigilante who Gotham fears, hates and loves.
After a couple of big hits against organized crime, the mafia bosses receive a business proposition from a bizarre psychopath who calls himself the Joker (Ledger): for half their money, he will kill Batman for them.
Once they understand the scope of the Joker’s evil, they, ironically, take him seriously, accept his plan and stand back as the villain unleashes complete hell on the city.
The finale of “Batman Begins” was a thing of rare beauty; as a single card announced the arrival of a villain for the next chapter and the film somehow assumed that the audience would be back for more.
Turns out that this overpowering mix of excitement and arrogance was built upon steady grounds, because “The Dark Knight” not only fulfills the promise set by its predecessor, it raises the bar to a completely different level which films, not merely the ones inspired by comic books, rarely touch.
Nolan’s hyper realistic vision, gets under your skin and creates constant threat and fear, making this the most political film released so far this year as it deals with terrorism, impending cataclysms and seeping corruption without moralizing and going to absolutely dark places without becoming hopeless.
The Joker is Nolan’s biggest ally in this, because as a self professed lover of chaos he is as unpredictable and destructive as a force of nature.
Ledger’s performance is one of pure maniacal evil; wearing makeup he seems to have extracted from the ashes and blood of the dead, he moves like a sneaky creature. His scars are terrifying because you never learn where they come from (he delivers a different backstory to whoever he’s interested in destroying next) and whenever he’s not onscreen you fear what he will do next.
The whole film serves itself from this impending sense of doom, but Nolan is a master at keeping this feeling on various levels.
His idea of chaos doesn’t come only as obvious explosions and evident acts of terrorism (dealt with in thrilling and elaborated action sequences, where Wally Pfister’s cinematography shines and which the movie has plenty of), but the worst kind which grows inside all of his characters making them question the nature of good and evil.
Eckhart’s Dent begins as an idealistic politician, aided by his looks (which make him feel like Gary Cooper in a Capra film) and his defiant spirit, the actor brings a sense of optimistic sadness to Harvey, with Eckhart you feel the struggles he had to face to get where he’s at.
Those familiar with the Batman story (and sometimes the script becomes a bit predictable based on this need to satisfy its comic book roots) know that Dent will turn out for the worst and those that don’t, still will feel that he is too good to be true and will expect him to fulfill their need to be right and show his dark side.
Proving that Christopher and Jonathan Nolan’s screenplay has a point when it tackles people’s shaky view of moral grounds.
When you take into consideration that Dent and Wayne both are in love with the same woman (played by Gyllenhaal, more luminous than ever) and that fate plays a big deal in their lives, you realize that Dent is the real tragic figure of the story. He is the one the gods choose to play with.
In an ensemble that works wonders, Freeman as Lucius Fox and Caine as faithful butler Alfred, go beyond bringing the joy of their mere presences and deliver their lines with enough class to avoid being tagged as comedic relief.
Oldman’s Gordon anchors the film with a performance that draws from serenity and subtlety. His quiet manner and his strong belief in the good in others, especially in the slowly rotting system he’s part of, give the story its strongest axis of hope.
And Bale, who like Batman suffers from a syndrome of being given for granted, turns in the film’s most powerful performance as someone who has to take on all the troubles times two.
For his Bruce Wayne a line must be set between the careless playboy image and the part of him that comes closer to his alter ego and leads him to put his secret identity in jeopardy.
For his Batman a limit must be established between how strong is his will to fight injustice, without crossing to the side of lawlessness.
This is no ordinary superhero and Bale vanishes so much into both of them that even his character begins to feel shakable.
While we wonder what makes people choose between good and evil, Bale pushes us further and at moments makes us believe that Wayne is so selfish that as Batman he uses Gotham (designed by Nathan Crowley as a concrete labyrinth that rivals the mind in terms of dark alleys) as his personal playground or as his unlimited therapy session where he can battle his demons at the sake of others.
The Joker feeds from this sense of duality inside everyone and in the film’s greatest scene poses a dilemma of Melvillean proportions between the passengers of two ferries.
During these moments you can see “the whole world contained in one place” as people fighting for survival build democracy for contingencies, wonder about the paths they’ve taken in their lives and even dare to think they can decide who lives and who doesn’t.
Interestingly enough, here the audience also makes a choice and based on this personal decision the film will have a different outcome for anyone who watches it.
While for some it will instill the need to find the light shining in the darkest places, for others who have laughed at the Joker’s horrifying deeds it will just be a reassurance of apocalypse.
What remains true is that in “The Dark Knight”s sadomasochist view of the world the brave ones are those who wonder if we’ve become immune to other people’s pain; with the potential for the heroic lying in the path this leads them to.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Hancock *1/2

Director: Peter Berg
Cast: Will Smith, Charlize Theron, Jason Bateman

Apparently it's Will Smith's world and we're just living in it.
Or so seems to be the fuel behind "Hancock"; a summer movie that should've been hamrless, explosive fun, but becomes so condescending to the audience that at one point you start wondering why did you even buy the ticket to see it.
With the idea that everyone on Earth loves Smith (G-d forbid if you don't), the story has him playing John Hancock, an immortal, invincible man who has the physical traits of a superhero, but acts like a junkie.
He spends his days sleeping and drinking. Whenever a crime occurs he comes to save the day, but detroys trains, cars and infrastructure in the process.
Villains and victims hate him and people calling him an "asshole" becomes a sort of motif in the movie.
This gets to the point where the city of Los Angeles demands he is incarcerated for damages.
Enter Ray Embrey (Bateman) an idealistic publicist who sees in Hancock what nobody else does: a chance for redemption.
In the best Hollywood way he reforms the, not so heroic, hero and turns him into what comic books tell us he should be like, all to the dismay of his wife Mary (Theron) who thinks Hancock can only bring danger to her family.
But there is a dark past to Hancock, one that holds the key to the past he doesn't remember and that sinks the film into dramatic territory it can't pull off.
"Hancock" begins with promise as it explores the side effects of being a superhero. Who hasn't wondered how the cities recover so fast after final battles?
But as you watch the film you also begin to realize that the whole hero thing becomes a lazy metaphor for what it's like to be a celebrity nowadays.
Hancock isn't liked and he often does more wrong than good, but the media pays so much attention to him that he becomes an easy target for martyrdom.
Watching him struggle with issues that "normal" people deal with in private, you will remember all those starlets who plague the press every day with their scandals.
Like them, Hancock wallows in the mysery that comes with being "different", as if that is justification for his irreverence.
Shot with what can be described as reality show aesthetics, the cinematographer loves doing awkward reaction shots, particularly with Theron that announce plot twists ages before they come (and don't really help the actors look good, except for Bateman who owns the film).
The sad part is that the film as a whole could've exploited this and become a parody of sorts, it only works when it's being silly fun, but it takes itself too importantly and deals with the sort of double morality that is inherent from its very casting.
You know when it starts that while you may dislike Smith at the beginning, there's no way the feeling will remain the same by film's end.
But director Berg couldn't care less about the audience and knowing that the film would make a profit regardless of how incoherent it turns, he inserts subplots that drag and feel like lazy backup plans.
The themes "Hancock" deals with have been explored in much better films (like "The Incredibles" for one) and while its attempts at emotional depth come off as good intentions, sometimes all we really want from our heroes is that they save us.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Bank Job **1/2

Director: Roger Donaldson
Cast: Jason Statham, Saffron Burrows
Stephen Campbell Moore, Daniel Mays, Richard Lintern

Based on a true story, "The Bank Job" takes on the September 11, 1971 robbery of a London bank, where over a hundred safety boxes were emptied and a D-Notice was released to the press in order to preserve the identity of all the involved.
Jason Statham plays Terry Leathers, a small time crook trying to live the decent life as a garage owner. His ex-girlfriend Martine (a sumptuous Burrows) tells him that she has the floor plans to a local bank and if they pull off a heist they can retire and live the big life.
What Terry doesn't know is that Martine is being blackmailed by a MI5 agent (Lintern) who knows she has contacts in the underworld and is trying to recover some information from one of the safety boxes that incriminates a certain member of the British Royal Family.
In more than one way, beginning with the Steve McQueen-ness of Statham, "The Bank Job" is a direct throwback to classic films of the genre.
Like "Rififi" it takes us to every step of the process, including the consequences, which are often obviated in the genre because they take the glamour away from the crime.
During the actual heist sequences the movie can't stress enough the fact that these people are not professionals and that everything can go wrong when we least expect it.
The simple fact that you never see them wearing gloves makes you gasp and wonder how things will turn out for them.
Director Donaldson does marvellous work keeping suspense and giving the film a darkly comedic touch when it needs it the most.
"The Bank Job" plays more like "Boogie Nights" for thieves than any of the Ocean's flicks, because it embraces the grittiness that comes with any sort of crime.
The characters sadly aren't the kind which you totally identify with, they mostly remain archetypes and when the script attempts to give them some dramatic tension the results are more awkward than interesting.
And it's here where the film doesn't pull off the masterful hit with the audience, as it dangles dangerously between its intentions of uncovering history and the limitations that must come with making a movie out of it.
One of the movie's most delightful elements is how it peels off layers revealing a British hierarchy that goes beyond social classes.
There's mobsters, corrupt policemen, kinky royals, porn barons and more, all looking to preserve their status.
And when the film concentrates on what will happen next, there's a whole lot of wonder not even a safe is able to contain.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Forget the Union Scene...

watching "Norma Rae" today my jaw fell to the floor during the scene when Sonny (Beau Bridges) tells Norma (Sally Field) "I'm gonna see you through getting tired, getting sick, getting old. I'll see you through anything that comes up and there's no one else in my head...just you."

Monday, July 7, 2008

Put on Your Sunday Clothes and...

Click on the picture to read my review for "WALL-E".
Then come back and comment.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Hello, WALL-E!

The colors, the gowns, the unabashed romance and hopefulness described in the lyrics...
But what remains even more fascinating is that Andrew Stanton chose this as the movie WALL-E loves so much.
Within the film, "Hello, Dolly!" aquires a spooky sense that makes us wonder if a time will come when we will have to learn emotions from history.
And if that's the case, will that history be the one we know from the movies?
How can someone not fall in love with this?

The Ruins **1/2

Director: Carter Smith
Cast: Jena Malone, Jonathan Tucker, Shawn Ashmore, Laura Ramsey, Joe Anderson

"Four Americans on vacations don't just disappear" says Jeff (Tucker). He's talking to his girlfriend Amy (Malone) and his friends Eric (Ashmore) and Stacy (Ramsey) to try and make sense of what's happening to them.
While on vacation in Mexico, they meet Mathias (Anderson) a German tourist who invites them to a mysterious archaelogical site, off the maps, where his brother is working.
After convincing themselves that they should be doing more than downing cockatils at the pool, they all go. Once they arrive at the ruins they are surrounded by Mayan descendants with weapons that threaten to kill them if they leave the ruins.
After discarding the idea that these people are acting like crazy killers they realize that they're being kept there in order to contain something that lurks within the ruins.
Feature film debut by director Smith, this is the rare horror movie that is able to scare because of what's not being said or shown, as opposed to relying on gore, blood and extreme violence.
While other directors working in the genre feel like sadists who actually have fun making their characters go through hell, Smith knows that audiences have to empathize with the characters in order to feel for them.
And he tries his best to give them personalities, even though they always remain vapid. His direction is precise and never relies on cheap tricks to get your heart racing.
But the film is a collision of opposing forces, on one side we have the director who sometimes seems to care too much to show us what's going on and then there's the writer, Scott B. Smith who adapted from his own novel and sometimes feels as if he's saying these people deserve what's going on with them.
The screenplay is structured in such a way that at first we begin to think that it'll be yet another "pretty people in danger" story, but slowly as smith peels the layers, we end up with pure psychological terror rooted on misconceptions Americans have about the rest of the world.
With a dark sense of humor and some absolutely witty lines Smith exposes a dual mode of thought (subconscious mostly) which tells us that the characters probably needed this terrifying rush to justify their trip and get their money's worth.
But at the same time, when something bad happens, it proved to them that they were right all along and nothing good can come from an "uncivilized" country.
With an ambiguous mix of cheesy B movie-ness and exploration of complex themes, "The Ruins" may not be exactly the world's ninth wonder, but you're gonna want to excavate to find what it hides.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

I'm in heaven.

Coming soon, my review for the best film released this year so far.
When a film is able to take your breath away, punch you in the gut and inspire you all at once, you know you're onto something special.
In the meantime, go watch it!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Get Smart **1/2

Director: Peter Segal
Cast: Steve Carell, Anne Hathaway
Alan Arkin, Dwayne Johnson, Terence Stamp, James Caan

Based on the 1960's legendary spy spoof show, this adaptation has Carrell as Maxwell Smart, a top analyst at CONTROL: an ultrasecret USA agency battling KAOS, their evil archenemy which is involved in nuclear arms dealing.
After a sneak attack compromises all the top agents in CONTROL, the Chief (Arkin) promotes Maxwell to field agent and teams him up with the deadly 99 (Hathaway) who at first refuses to work with the inept newbie.
The original series, created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, relied on sophisticated, spoken humor, which sounded better because of Don Adams' droll, ingenious deliveries.
This version chooses to place this in the background and concentrates on explosive action sequences, some of which have nothing to envy of "real" spy/action thrillers.
And while the movie doesn't turn out to be anything spectacular, it still manages to be above your average blockbuster fare if only for the performers.
Carell is the perfect choice for Smart because he has that face which is always stuck between ironic and serious.
He's brilliant at delivering dialogues, which are obviously incoherent to everyone but Maxwell, and in more active scenes his timing is flawless.
Arkin is effortlessly good and Johnson, who's slowly shaking off his wrestler image is satisfying, but the film might as well belong to two actors.
First Dalip Singh, as a Jaws inspired villain with a heart of gold who steals every scene he's in and then Hathaway, who clad in gorgeous Chanel outfits, gives 99 killer comedic timing, unbelievable sex appeal and even a heart!
It's the actors who elevate this in a way no high tech gadget ever could.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Mommie Dearest?

Watching "Mrs. Miniver" today I detected something weird in the way Greer Garson looked at Teresa Wright.
She plays her mother in law and they have a great deal of scenes together talking about how uncertain their men's lives are in WWII, but when the film reaches its dramatic climax I sensed something Alfred Hitchcock would've been proud of.
I don't want to give away the ending to people who haven't seen it, but Garson exuded a total Mrs. Bates aura that was way more creepy than moving.
I dismissed it as me going all Freud on Oscar winning propaganda, but later when I started looking for information about the movie I found out that after filming, Garson married Richard Ney, the actor who played her son in the film and whose character is in love with Teresa Wright's.
Hmmm so maybe I wasn't being that crazy and maybe just maybe Garson and Wright got Oscars for this film because of the uneasy sexual tension that hovers over it as opposed to their delivery of tearjerking dialogues...