Tuesday, June 30, 2009

SUNSHINE CLEANING - shameless cash-in

SUNSHINE CLEANING is a worthless film. The script is derivative, the tone mis-judged and the execution poor.

Essentially, the film is a shameless attempt to cash-in on the sleeper-success of LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE by recasting its characters in another setting. Once again we have a family beset by financial crisis and suburban failure. Admittedly, instead of a married couple we have two sisters – one, a high school sweetheart turned mistress and cleaner – the other a troubled college drop-out. But, in LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE style, we have a central relationship between an eccentric grandfather and an eccentric grandchild. The plot, such as it is, consists of the two sisters setting a crime-scene clean-up business in order to finance the kid’s private education.

The tone of the film also attempts to ape the black comedy of LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE but the script isn’t funny enough for that. Rather, we get a poor attempt to make a light-hearted film about painful subject matter – suicide, drug use and failure.

Finally, there are the difficulties with the execution. Amy Adams is cast as the older sister, but looks and plays younger than Emily Blunt. Emily Blunt’s accent is unsure. And casting Alan Arkin as the eccentric grandfather only confirms the movie’s attempt to capture the same tone as LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE. Technically, the film suffers from a muddy colour palette and uninspired camera-work, relieved only by two exceedingly clumsy pastiche slow-mo shots of the two sisters at the start of the film, in the style of Wes Anderson.

SUNSHINE CLEANING played Sundance 2008 and was released last year in the US. It was released earlier this year in Canada, Sweden, Israel, Greece, the Netherlands and Germany. It is currently on release in Belgium, France, Australia, South Africa and the UK. It opens next week in Denmark, the following week in Singapore and Japan and on August 6th in New Zealand.

Monday, June 29, 2009

BLOOD: THE LAST VAMPIRE - derivative, plotless nonsense

BLOOD: THE LAST VAMPIRE had potential, making the final product even more tragic. In post-WWII Japan, half demon / half human Saya (Gianna Jun) teams up with the mysterious "Council" - an ancient and semi-official organisation dedicated to fighting the forces of darkness - to avenge her human father's death at the hands of a particularly vicious vampire - Onigen. Sound a little like BLADE? That's because it is a little like BLADE, except with a female lead, low-tech weaponry, no boning, and massive plot holes.

In fact, the gaps in the plot were so gaping that the whole experience was rather surreal. Several times I thought I'd nodded off for 10 minutes and missed a bunch of stuff - but no, it was just repeatedly non-sequitor. Things just happen ex-nihilo - characters turn on other characters with no discernible motive or cause. There is no build up towards anything - no progression toward some form of resolution - no real character development.

A love story is thrown in there, and just as suddenly thrown out. Demons appear out of nowhere, without any warning or reason, triggering another poorly animated fight scene before the next aimless plot moment. Characters drive along cliff-top roads for no good reason, going nowhere that we know of, only to act as a prop for random high speed sword slashing.

At one point, a demon chases an airplane with the main character in pursuit. We don't know why. We don't know who or what is on the plane, why the demon is after it, or how the main character knew the demon would be there. What is more confusing is that the demon has wings, and thus has no need of aerial transportation. These weird "how did they know that?" and "why is this happening?" and "that doesn't make sense..." moments maintain a sense of almost complete disconnectedness in the audience throughout.

Thus the film "progresses", jumping from vampire to vampire, eventually reaching a climax that was so deus ex machina and anti-climactic that I walked out to go to the loo believing it to be a dream sequence midway through the film. I piss, come back, and to my utter confusion find the credits rolling. WTF? **THAT** was the end?? Ya woh? Nothing actually happened!

So, overall, this is one to miss. The only semi-entertaining moment was when I realised the Army General in the first third of the movie was actually Larry Lamb, Peggy's errant ex in Eastenders, explaining his piss poor American accent. But that, and an uneasy sense of confusion and disorientation, really wasn't worth the eight quid fifty I paid to get in. Two thumbs down.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

SYLVIA - dirge

The first film I ever watched at the London Film Fest started a trend of disappointing opening and closing night galas - the programming dictated by commercial interests rather than artistic merit. The movie was Christine Jeffs' dismal biopic of Sylvia Plath: acclaimed poet; wife of the adulterous Ted Hughes; mother to two small children; and suicide. And if you think I'm being reductive, then that is exactly what this movie does: it reduces Plath and Hughes' relationship to a daytime TV melodrama. Oh how pretty tony, young Sylvia (Gwyneth Paltrow) looks! See how her hair shines! See how that devilishly handsome Ted Hughes gets tired of her and betrays her! See how she is martyred in a dismal British flat in dismal post-war London! Oh, how Paltrow emotes inner pain! The whole thing was utterly dull and unconvincing. The fault, however, does not lie with the actors, nor with the score, cinematography or any other matter of execution. It lies in the movie's conception as a touching homage to Sylvia rather than a genuinely engaged, insightful analysis of what was, by all accounts, a passionate marriage and a painful suicide that cruelly left behind small children. The resulting film simultaneously caused offence to Plath's family for daring to be made at all - but causes offence to its viewers by refusing to actually delve into the emotional torment at its heart. It is the same emotional evation that frustrated me in Christine Jeffs' new film, SUNSHINE CLEANING - another film that deals with quite dark, depressing subject matter and yet handles it with all the willingness to truly engage of a rom-com (but without the benefit of actual laughs).

SYLVIA played London 2003 and opened in 2003 and 2004. It is available on DVD.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

ELECTRIC DREAMS - doesn't hold up well

According to IMDBPro, Virginia Madsen is trying to remake the 1984 rom-com classic, ELECTRIC DREAMS. It’s a film I remember fondly my childhood, if only for the sound-track featuring Boy George and Heaven 17, but so hazy was my memory that I hadn’t realised that it starred Virgina Madsen or, indeed, the chap who went on to play Harry Smith in TWIN PEAKS. Back in the early 80s computers were new and exciting and oh so slightly threatening. The idea that a computer could malfunction, grow sentient and attempt to sabotage it’s geeky owner’s relationship with his new musician girlfriend was an easy sell. Rewatching the film today, it looks and feels hopelessly dated. The synthesiser music and computer screen visuals are pre-historic. The romantic dialogue between Madsen and Lenny von Dohlen is hackneyed – and seems to come from a more innocent age before social networking and speed dating. And most damning, the movie is shot almost as a series of pop videos – unsurprising given that its director, Steve Barron, didn’t direct another movie until 1990’s TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES, but segued into music videos, notably Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean. I rather wish I hadn’t revisited the film but had left it as a fond memory of early 80s excitement of a high-tech future. Steve Barron didn't direct another movie till TMNT in 1990 but did film legendary music videos like Billie Jean.

ELECTRIC DREAMS was released in 1984 and is available on DVD.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


HE'S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU is a deeply depressing film about contemporary thirty-somethings dating, divorcing, marrying and generally entering into sado-masochistic relationships. The basic premise of the movie seems to be that women, and occasionally men, read too much into situations and end up getting hurt when they should just stop being delusional and move on....except for when the studio needs a Hollywood-cute ending, and they shouldn't, in fact, move on, but hold out for the fairytale happy ending. I dislike this movie for being too gutless to pursue its world-view to its logical end. I discard the movie for being so poorly directed by Ken Kwapis, whose priors include the abysmal Robin Williams vehicle, LICENSE TO WED. And I despise it for basically crafting a product aimed at women that seeks to, essentially, mock them for their delusional fantasies while simultaneously pandering to them. All this is not to discount the nuanced performances from Jennifer Connelly and Jennifer Aniston, but to regret their choice of script.

HE'S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU was released in Spring 2009 and is released on DVD next week.

Monday, June 15, 2009

UP - lost me in Peru

Directed by the guys who wrote animated features that set the bar for animation - WALL-E, FINDING NEMO and RATATOUILLE - UP further burnishes the reputation of Pixar. The first thirty minutes are as brilliant as anything in WALL-E. The movie opens with a "meet-cute" - two little kids play together - she gives him courage and doesn't mind that he doesn't speak too much. In an elegant montage we see them marry, love each other, miscarry, grow old together, and grieve alone. It's wonderfully done, and I was crying almost throughout. The movie continues with our hero, now an old man, left alone, holding out against the surrounding redevelopment project and life in a nursing home. The old man has a plan: he's going to hitch his house to thousands of helium balloons, travel to Peru and find a long-missing explorer. Only glitch is, a pesky boy scout was clinging to his balcony as he flew away. As this familiar cine-odd-couple fly off to Peru, I enjoyed the shift from pathos to comedy. But as the movie became a jungle adventure, I struggled to maintain interest. The mad-explorer who has descended into Mistah-Kurtz madness, surrounded by dogs fitted with collars that enable them to speak - seemed to come from a different movie. And seriously, if you had invented a dog-collar that allowed dogs to speak, you wouldn't need to scurry off in disgrace. The movie only just regains it's bearings in a lovely scene where the old man realises that the boy-scout gets no real parental attention.

UP played Cannes 2009 and is currently on release in Russia, Canada, the US, Egypt, Kuwait, Mexico, Argentina, Panama, Romania and Venezuela. It is released next week in New Zealand and the Ukraine. It opens on July 29th in France, Indonesia, the Philippines, South Korea and Spain. It opens in August in Portugal, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Iceland and Greece. It opens in September in Germany, Bulgaria and Norway. It opens in October in Belgium, the Netherlands, Finland, Italy, Poland, Sweden, Turkey, the UK and Japan.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT (2009) - slick, terrifying, remake

Adapted by the writer of the genuinely suspenseful RED EYE and DISTURBIA, this remake of the notoriously vicious horror flick, LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, is satisfyingly nasty and surprisingly well-made. If the first film served as a commentary on the relentlessly brutal violence of a society at war in Vietnam and engaged in the civil rights struggle, the re-make comments on a society where "torture porn" rakes in the proverbial box office phat cash.

The film sets the tone of anticipated menace from the opening shot, wandering through a dark forest, followed by an extremely violent prologue as Krug is busted out of a prison transfer by his gang. The movie then shifts to a lighter tone - all the more menacing because we know we can't trust it. A spoiled, rich, beautiful teen girl and her lower class friend follow a strange boy to his motel to smoke pot. His father, uncle and their female hanger-on turn up, regret that the girls have seen their faces, and proceed to commit brutal acts of sexual violence. By a series of events that seem almost plausible, the criminals end up seeking shelter in the house of the parents of one of the girls they have just attacked. At first, the liberal, kind parents offer assistance. But when they realise what has happened they take brutal revenge.

I applaud director Dennis Iliadis for having the courage to depict violence in an unflinching, un-exploitative manner. I applaud him more for showing, in an extended middle section, the results of violence. As the father, a medic, tends to the wounds of one of the girls, we are forced to experience, through his reactions, the sheer physical destruction she has endured. This is no post-modern, teen-kicks horror. My only disappointment was in the final scene: it was so ludicrous it entirely broke the horrific mood of all that preceded it. I also note the screen-writer's deliberate choice to avoid the redemptive finale of the Ingmar Bergman movie based on the same material. A truly nihilistic message.

THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT was released earlier this year in the US, Canada, Belgium, France, Germany, Austria, Iceland, the Czech Republic, Russia, Estonia, Finland, Mexico, Taiwan, Greece and Kazakhstan. It is currently on release on the Netherlands and the UK. It opens next week in Hungary and Turkey. It opens in July in Portugal, Spain, Denmark and Romania. It opens in August in Italy and Singapore. It opens in Brazil on November 27th.

Friday, June 12, 2009

THE HANGOVER - dude, where's my groom?

THE HANGOVER is basically a rip-off of the Ashton Kutcher vehicle, "Dude, Where's My Car?". Except this time, the drunken idiots are a thirty-something bachelor party in Vegas and they've misplaced the groom, stolen Mike Tyson's tiger, and gotten married to a hooker. The morning after they have to piece together the events of the night before, rescue the groom and get him to the church on time.

Problem is that THE HANGOVER is only sporadically funny in a "mild chuckle" manner. Sure, the fat, weird guy is funny to look at, but mostly because he reminded me of THE BIG LEBOWSKI. And dear god, do we really want to milk comedy out the drunken-hooker-marriage plot? A Mike Tyson cameo is utterly wasted and after a while, I really started to miss the superior comic stylings of Owen Wilson, Vince Vaughn et al. Overall, while I didn't have a bad time watching the film, it's certainly nowhere near the level of raucous hilarity of ROLE MODELS. Neither does it have the genuinely affecting camaraderie of PINEAPPLE EXPRESS.

The best things I can say about THE HANGOVER, is that it is definitely funnier than Todd Philips' efforts like SCHOOL FOR SCOUNDRELS. And second, that Ken Jeong is screamingly funny in his cameo.

THE HANGOVER is on release in the USA, Canada, Iceland, Australia, Kazakhstan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Russia, Slovakia, the Ukraine and the UK. It opens next weekend in Belgium, Greece, Portugal, Estonia, Italy and Norway. It opens on June 24th in Finland, France and Sweden. It opens on July 10th in Denmark, Romania and Turkey. It opens on July 24th in Germany and Austria and on July 30th in the Czech Republic, Israel and Malaysia. It opens on August 7th in Bulgaria and South Africa. It opens on August 14th in Argentina and Spain and on August 28th in Brazil.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Overlooked movie of the month part two - TRANSSIBERIAN

After the freakish psychological horror of THE MACHINIST, Brad Anderson, made a more quiet, more realistic but equally unnerving thriller called TRANSSIBERIAN. Set aboard the infamous Russian train, the movie sees an apparently squeaky clean couple returning from missionary work, caught up in an international drugs heist. The tension builds slowly in classic Hitchcock style - the "otherness" of foreigners who don't speak your language is used to great effect. Woody Harrelson is convincing as the warm-hearted, naive Yank, clutching his Baedeker, but it's Emily Mortimer who steals the film as the seemingly fragile wife who is transformed by her entanglement with a mysterious Spanish lotharia and a laconic Russian copper (Ben Kingsley). TRANSSIBERIAN is a rare film that has something to say about modern Russia and a thriller that is genuinely tense and unnerving. My only criticism is that, in contrast with THE MACHINIST, the ending is a little too neat and the shooting style a little too Hollywood-conventional.

TRANSSIBERIAN played Sundance and Berlin 2008 and was released in the USA, Spain, Belgium, Greece, Germany and Turkey in 2008. It opened in Hungary, the Netherlands and Israel earlier this year. It is now available on DVD.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Overlooked movie of the month - THE MACHINIST

Before TRANSSIBERIAN, Brad Anderson made a freakishly weird film called THE MACHINIST, little seen, and remembered chiefly for Christian Bale's alarming weight loss to play insomniac lathe-worker Trevor Reznik. Barcelona is transformed into the nightmarish Los Angles of David Lynch, with walking ghost Reznik aware that he is losing his mind, despite the best attempts of sympathetic hooker (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and waitress (Aitana Sanchez Gijon). This marginalised man becomes ever more isolated, professionally and emotionally, menaced by a disfigured co-worker and eery post-it notes playing hangman. THE MACHINIST works brilliantly as a brooding, austere, psychological thriller cum mood piece. It's masterful, freakish, cinema on the edge for all those who crave movies about characters on the margins of society and on the brink of madness.

THE MACHINIST played Berlin and Toronto 2004. It was released in 2004 and 2005 and is available on DVD.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

LOOKING FOR ERIC - The crowd call your name: They love you all the same

LOOKING FOR ERIC is one of the best films I have seen this year. It has everything - by turns laugh-out-loud funny and desperately sad - beautifully acted - utterly authentic - a middle-aged rom-com and a telling depiction of life in modern England - not to mention an insightful analysis of modern professional football. Oh yes, and it contains a touching set of cameos from legendary centre-forward, sometime actor and incomprehensible philosophe*, Eric "King" Cantona.

The core of the film is a brilliant performance by Steve Evets as Eric Bishop, a middle-aged post-man on the edge of a nervous breakdown. He abandoned his beloved first wife, Lily, thirty years ago and is still riddled by shame. His second wife has abandoned him, leaving him with two surly teenage stepsons, entangled in gun-crime. In desperation, his sub-conscious summons up Eric Cantona - an inspirational leader who will give him the courage to re-connect with Lily and save his sons, chiefly by holding onto his friends and "trusting his team-mates".

The resulting film is a marvel of tight and courageous scripting. Writer Paul Laverty doesn't shy away from grief, or from bawdy British working-class humour. Somehow, the sentimental scenes never seem schmaltzy, the dramatic scenes never seem unrealistic or forced and the political commentary is handled lightly. Most impressively, Ken Loach had so carefully entwined the peril and the fantasy elements that I utterly bought into the rather fantastic and cathartic denouement.

Overall, LOOKING FOR ERIC is a wonderful and memorable film. People who don't know about soccer, or about Cantona, need not shy away from it. It's a deeply human, warm, dark, film. If I see a better movie this year, I'll be very surprised.

LOOKING FOR ERIC played Cannes 2009 but was beaten by Haneke's THE WHITE RIBBON for the Palme D'Or. It is currently on release in France and opens in Belgium and the UK next week. It opens in the Netherlands on September 17th, in Norway on October 16th, in Brazil on December 11th and in Spain on January 8th 2010.

*"When the seagulls follow the trawler, it is because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea."

Saturday, June 06, 2009

LAST CHANCE HARVEY - I have got nothing To offer you Just this heart deep and true, Which you say you don't need

The trailer to LAST CHANCE HARVEY makes it look like a Richard Curtis rom-com for the middle-aged. The actual movie is far more down-beat and far less funny, but still set in the Magic Movie London where lovers meet-cute, and you can get from Heathrow to the South Bank in an hour.

The first forty-five minutes of the movie sees the heroes of the romance get beat up by life. Dustin Hoffman's Harvey Shine is professionally and emotionally obsolete - writing jingles that seem old-hat, and usurped by his daughter's step-father at her wedding. Emma Thompson's Kate Walker is marginalised on a blind date, and harassed by her mother (in a redundant and under-developed sb-plot involving smoked ham). The second half of the movie sees our heroes finally meet and fall in love over a series of long conversations along the Thames. He makes her laugh: she gives him the courage to go to his daughter's wedding reception and make the mandatory schmaltzy redemptive speech.

The fundamental problem with LAST CHANCE HARVEY is the fact that, as charming as Hoffman and Thompson are, I didn't buy into them falling in love. The reason I didn't buy into it was that I didn't hear enough of their conversations and I didn't feel enough chemistry. Joel Hopkins makes the wrong choice in showing them falling in love as a series of montages set to a mediocre bouncy score. BEFORE SUNRISE and BEFORE SUNSET work as romantic dramas because we hear the characters fall in love as they discuss matters profound and trivial in an artless manner. LAST CHANCE HARVEY, which is basically BEFORE SUNRISE for grown-ups, has none of that artlessness. As a result, I simply didn't care.

LAST CHANCE HARVEY opened in the USA, Portugal, Australia, Belgium, France, Singapore, the Netherlands, Iceland, Israel, Mexico, Finland, Taiwan, Germany, New Zealand, Spain and Bulgaria earlier this year. It is currently on release in the UK, Argentina and Sweden and opens later this month in Brazil and Norway. It opens in Denmark on July 24th.

Friday, June 05, 2009

TERMINATOR SALVATION - a lovely little walking toaster of your very own

TERMINATOR SALVATION is a technically well-made, visually interesting addition to the franchise. Problem is, the plot and character ideas are so ill-developed that the action sequences lose all meaning and dissolve into one long roar of sound and fury.

All if which is a great shame, because director McG (of CHARLIE'S ANGELS fame) clearly had aspirations for greatness, citing influences from THE GREAT ESCAPE to Cormac McCarthy's grim post-apocalyptic novel, THE ROAD. The colour and design of this film is sombre and the mood serious. We have shots of a concrete building collapsing on itself and white dust billowing over the wreckage - an image straight from 9-11. We have scenes of humanity turned savage, fighting over food and fuel. The only wink to the in-joke of the franchise comes late in.

The set-up of the film is promising but squandered. Christian Bale takes on the role of John Connor, prophesied leader of the Resistance against Skynet - the sentient defense machine that launched a pre-emptive strike against humanity on Judgment Day. Terminator robots were designed and sent back in time to kill Connor, his mother and his father with no success. Radical rethinking was required. Skynet creates a Cylon - half human, half android - a Terminator with a real heart. The stage is set for brilliant drama. How far can the Cylon have free will, and counter his programming to destroy the humans? In what sense can a woman really fall in love with a man who is half-robot? These are some of the questions that were explored with great insight and wit in the re-imagined BATTLESTAR GALACTICA.

But TERMINATOR SALVATION is only interested in these questions insofar as they provide breathing room between the set-piece action sequences. Time and again, we have rushed, superficial scenes that hint at deeper questions but never give them room to develop. Thus, resistance fighter Blair Williams (Moon Bloodgood, weak performance) falls for the Cylon who saved her life, and risks her own life to set him free. All this is essayed in five minutes and one scene of laughably Mills & Boon dialogue. Later in the film, the Cylon confronts his creators and asserts his humanity. Sam Worthington gives a good performance despite his inability to hold down an American accent, but we soon jump back to Christian Bale's attack on Skynet HQ.

And what about Christian Bale? His involvement with this film will no doubt be remembered for his ill-tempered attack on the Director of Photography, replayed to the masses on Youtube. This draws attention away from the fact that he has turned in a very mediocre performance in a thankless role. As in the THE DARK KNIGHT, he seems to think that adopting a growling deep voice conveys profundity and authority. And, as in THE DARK KNIGHT, he is upstaged by another actor, for this is really Sam Worthington's film. Maybe Bale just wasn't inspired by a character that is basically one-dimensional. There is an argument that if you were raised by your mother to be the saviour of humanity you WOULD be earnest, single-minded and dull. But, Connor should be charismatic - and when asking the Resistance to commit mutiny - he should sound more convincing, more inspiring than he does. Anton Yelchin, as Connor's teenage father-to-be, Kyle Reese, has more charisma, and indeed, more screen presence, than Bale.

All of this speaks to the weakness of the script overall - as evidenced by the numerous re-writes. Let's only hope they do a better job on the already announced, McG-helmed, TERMINATOR 5.

TERMINATOR SAVLATION is on release everywhere but Japan, where it opens next week, and Mexico, where it opens on July 31st.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

ANYTHING FOR HER / POUR ELLE - Angel, Angel, Down We Go Together

French writer-director Fred Cavaye's ANYTHING FOR HER has been much-praised for its original take on the prison-break-out movie. Cavaye doesn't bother teasing the audience with whether or not the young mother is really guilty of murdering her boss - her innocence is established up-front. Nor are there any typical suspicions of infidelity - she and her husband are clearly in love and they have a supportive family. Neither do we have a break-out masterminded by slick, omniscient gangsters. Rather, Cavaye's protagonist is a middle-aged, naive school-teacher, who accepts that his wife is innocent, doesn't think he can prove her innocent, and wants to break her out of prison and escape overseas. The viewer-interest should reside in seeing this ordinary man grapple with the complexity of planning a successful break-out - in other words, one that doesn't involve being caught the next day. Unfortunately, the concept of the movie collapses in on itself. Because, as a seasoned criminal explains to the protagonist early in the film, successful break-outs aren't for amateurs - they need careful planning, a lot of money, and a lot of luck. This leads Cavaye into a screen-writer's quandary. In order to be authentic to his concept, his protagonist but whimper and fail. But, in order to create an action-filled thriller, his protagonist must behave exactly like the trained criminal that he isn't. That Cavaye can't decide is summed up in a pivotal scene where the desperate man holds up a drug-dealer but then rescues the pusher. I felt it neatly summed up the muddled thinking at the centre of this otherwise technically well made, but literally incredible, film. It will be interesting to see what Paul Haggis makes of the paradox in his English-language remake.

POUR ELLE was released in France and Belgium last year. It is currently on release in Sweden, Turkey and the UK. It opens in Finland on July 3rd.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

CHOKE - Fuckin' Knave!

What if FIGHT CLUB were a Sundance-style, whimsical, sun-lit relationship drama? What if Tyler Durden were a thirty-something college drop-out, working in a medieval theme park? What if he was emasculated by an emotionally manipulative mother? What if, instead of literally fighting back, he fucked women compulsively? What if, instead of meeting suicidal Martha Singer, he met a similarly delusional doctor? What if, instead instead of a dark, visually inspired, menacing thriller, you got a sporadically very funny but ultimately uneven film called CHOKE?

The problem with CHOKE is that actor turned director Clark Gregg skates over the truly sinister and provocative aspects of the source material - transforming a subversive text about sexual inadequacy and mental illness into an off-beat comedy. Sam Rockwell excels at these loser-outsider roles, but the character is simply two-dimensional. Angelica Huston has fun as his mentally ill mother, but the dress-up during the flashbacks is distracting and undermines any sense of profundity. Half way through this film I just wondered why I should care. Accordingly, the film is reduced to a superficial comedy, and while it has its moments, the humour isn't consistent enough for it to really sustain viewer interest.

CHOKE played Sundance 2008 where Sam Rockwell won the Best Actor prize. CHOKE opened last autumn and is currently available on DVD and on iTunes.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

GOOD DICK - the more you ignore me, the closer I get

Twenty-something writer-director Marianna Palka worked up this shallow, bizarre almost-film in the Sundance labs. At one hour, twenty minutes, with plenty of filler, you get the feeling it might've worked better as a short. As it is, the movie plays as a one note mood piece. Rental video store clerk (Jason Ritter) falls for moody chick who rents porn. He starts stalking her, insinuating himself into her house, but she, understandably, won't sleep with him. No real reason is given their mutual sado-masochism other than a rather cliched, reductive denouement. Overall, lacking in momentum or narrative energy.

GOOD DICK played Sundance 2008 and was released in the UK and USA last October. It is available on DVD.