Monday, April 07, 2008

The Owls Go

Podcasts of note: WNYC's Radio Lab and The Ricky Gervais Podcast
(also available for subscription through iTunes)

Recent reviews for the Video Americain Newsletter:

3/29/08 He Was a Quiet Man (2007, R) is a low budget indie movie from Canada starring Christian Slater, William H Macy, and Elisha Cuthbert (24). It's a very dark satire on office life that bears more resemblance to The Machinist (2004) than Office Space (1999)-- despite the obvious thematic similarities with the latter. Bob (Slater) hates his job, hates his bosses, and quietly plots to kill them all. Rather than showing how Bob is driven to this act of violence, the movie serves up the many quirks of his madness with morbid glee. Every day, Bob packs a red detonator button with his lunch in order to set off imaginary charges in the building. He loads his gun in his cubicle while listing the names of his coworkers. While these scenes are often bleak, CG effects give the film a hint of magical realism and playfulness. Slater puts in a very strong performance as an unlikely and tormented hero, and Elisha Cuthbert is well cast as a love interest, victim, and ladder-climbing office harpy. Quite a few twists and turns flesh out this film and make it an unpredictable and compelling story about frustration, ambition, and loneliness.

I liked this movie better upon further reflection. I'd just re-watched Untamed Heart with Christian Slater, so I picked it up to watch at home and was pleasantly surprised.

4/6/08 The Jacket (R, 2005) Time-traveling fantasy/thriller primarily set in a sinister mental institution. The film aims to be a psychological thriller with its dark sets, mysterious characters and arty flashbacks, but it is so soft-hearted that it works better as a creepy love story. The tagline ("Terror has a new name") doesn't suit the movie at all. Something more fitting (albeit not particularly catchy or enticing) would be: "The justice system and the military left me to die in this lousy jacket... My life is hard." Whether viewed as a twisted love story or a dark trip into a man's delusions, the 'mind-bender' script ambitiously piles in more material than the plot (or editors) can handle-- making it a pretty disjointed film. Adrien Brody stars as Jack, the Iraq War I vet/mental patient trussed up in the titular jacket for much of the movie. His watery, expressive eyes are used often and in extreme close-up. Also starring Keira Knightly, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Daniel Craig (who looks about 20 yrs older in this than in his turn as Bond last year-- weird). Executive produced by Clooney and Soderbergh (also exec-produced Michael Clayton, Syriana, A Scanner Darkly, and Wind Chill). If you want to see more of Brody's eyes in better films, check out The Darjeeling Limited, Dummy, The Pianist, or The Thin Red Line.

I watched The Jacket, like a lot of lame movies I've seen recently, On Demand. I had fun watching it, but it got worse upon reflection. The saving grace throughout was the highly inappropriate but not quite hot enough relationship between Jack and the little girl who may have been a figment of Jack's imagination. Figment or not, she is about 7 which makes him about 20 imaginary years her senior... until she grows up to be Keira Knightly with an American accent. All the nice things I was planning to say about it fell through the huge plot holes that just got bigger the more I focussed on them. Its main fault is that the filmmakers were too ambitious and should have stuck with one or two story threads. They could have played up the crazy its-all-in-jack's-head element, but it gets sidetracked by too much evidence that his time traveling is real. Alternately, they could have spun it more like The Time Traveler's Wife (book) and played up the bizarre romantic angle. Side note: I just discovered that book is being made into a movie to be released fall 2008 starring Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams (The Notebook). Interesting.


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