Archive for November, 2008

Movie Review: Gone Baby Gone

November 19, 2008

gonebabygone

I was surprised to learn that Dennis Lehane is a Dorchester native because the dialogue in the film adaptations of his books reads like it was written by a non-local enamored with Boston stereotypes. As in Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone made me wince and cringe as the actors “wikkid pissa’d” their way through a klutzy third-grade-level script. Hollywood needs to take a lesson fron George Clooney in The Perfect Storm and realize that a bad accent causes more distractive harm than good and stresses out the audience.

But what’s most shocking about this film is that, in his directorial debut, Ben Affleck directs circles around Martin Scorsese’s ridiculous attempt to make Boston into NYC with The Departed (known in my house as The Retahdid). Affleck is lucky he’s got such an ace in the hole with his charming, accessible brother Casey, who carries the film gracefully over troubled waters.

Gone Baby Gone‘s not half bad but it does play into a classic Lehane cliché: an endangered child gives a protagonist license to do whatever s/he wants. It’s boring watching characters go all high and mighty; poor Michelle Monaghan gets stuck with the worst and weepiest role in the pic. But she’s just a symptom of another Lehane cliché: sucky female characters. As in Mystic River, none of the female characters are truly strong, likable, or smart. Amy Ryan rightfully earned herself an Oscar nod with her portrayal of a working-class slag whose daughter goes missing but the film leaves her without an ounce of humanity: It’s a fine line between gritty writing and misogyny.

While this film is a much closer vision of Boston than Scorsese’s, its incredulous portrayal of tough neighborhood bars, drug dealers, and police work might have you on the floor laughing. Missing kid causes characters to re-exmaine their moral fiber: It ain’t Shakepeare but at least it ain’t Scorsese.

Grade: C+

Advertisements

Movie Review: Kontroll

November 19, 2008

kontroll

Film entirely in the Budapest subway system, Kontroll follows several quirky characters through one night spent subterranean. Plot aside, this film is really about the chic design and modern beauty of the subway tunnels and station.

As the evening progresses and commuters fling themselves in front of the trains, our protagonist must confront a demon and be delivered by a girl in a bear suit. It’s all very pretty but the symbolism and metaphors are so freaking film school that it’s hard to appreciate it beyond a superficial level.

Grade: C.

Movie Review: Casino Royale

November 19, 2008

casinoroyale

As a dedicated Bond fan, I must espouse the virtues of this excellent return to the true Bond character as Ian Fleming wrote him, a thankful eschewing of the bizarrely fey spy presented by Roger Moore, Pierce Brosnan, and others. Casino Royale is the best Bond film since Dr. No.

 

Here we find a Bond with a thug’s body and temperament: He’s impulsive, passionate, and prone to rash decisions that cram his impressive assets into dangerous situations. The techno toys, snarky quips, and product-placement cars are noticeably absent as we are treated to the Bond that Sean Connery originated: a house-broken hooligan in testosterone overdrive whose main concerns are bare-handed killing and bare-assed screwing.

 

The casting director earned a place in heaven with the smoldering combination of the luscious Daniel Craig and the non-blonde Eva Green. Toss in a perfect villain who cries tears of blood, high-stakes poker (the literary Bond played Baccarat but we can forgive this inaccuracy), a heart-pounding opening sequence, the right Aston-Martin, and a climax in Venice, and you’ve got a brilliantly fun film.

 

Oh, and Daniel Craig walks out of the ocean. Twice.

 

Grade: A

Movie Review: Control

November 19, 2008

control

An ultimate example of beauty cut down and the effects of stress on bodies in motion, Joy Division burst upon the UK music scene in a melancholy fog, slouched on the brink of greatness, and crumbled to pieces. Anton Corbijn’s gorgeously shot Control details the later life of haunted frontman Ian Curtis, portrayed with astounding realism by Sam Riley.

 

Based on Curtis’ widow’s biography, the film nails a desolate, bleak Manchester, where punk rock and Bowie records offer the only respite from depressive boredom and unyielding domestic obligations. Corbijn complicates his protagonist’s immense talent with human nature: Curtis is beguiling onstage but a lousy husband/father/lover/friend. It’s a portrait of a real person, refreshing lacking in cliché and schmaltz. But it’s hard to watch Curtis’ self-indulgent histrionics as epilepsy engulfs him, gorging himself on hedonism at the expense of everyone close to him. And we all know how it ends.

 

Corbijn’s gamble to have the actors recreate Joy Division’s iconic sound pays off with shocking success. But the film can’t get past its own infatuation with Curtis, even as he’s dashing the dreams of his bandmates. Narcissistic with a strong prick streak is tough to take in a protagonist. I wish Corbijn had devoted a bit more time to the band dynamic and less to watching Curtis fling himself tragically hither and yon. Perhaps more interest could have been invested in the band that mourned, regrouped, and survived, becoming New Order. The film is a must for any Joy Division fan but a real downer for those unfamiliar with the band.

Grade: B-