Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I Seen Some Movies Lately

The Dead Girl: Mildly interesting flick, told in five episodes, about the *dead girl:* a serial killer’s latest victim. The first part is the best, and the only section really worth commenting on. . .it plays like Carrie: 28 Years Later, complete with a now- terribly obese Piper Laurie once again camping it up as an overbearing religious nutter of a mom. . .here she brow-beats poor Toni Collette, a kind of middle-aged, still sexually-repressed Carrie, who has the thrill of a lifetime when she discovers the dead girl’s body. The other 4 vignettes are mostly standard fare, and not much here will surprise anybody, including Brittany Murphy’s embarrassingly bad and irritatingly shrill performance as the addict/whore who ends up as the titular *dead girl.* **

Little Children: One of the better Amerikan movies of the last few years, despite its less-than-satisfactory happy ending, in which terminally childish Amerikan adulterers, slackers, vigilantes and resentful mothers spontaneously regenerate as responsible adults. Prior to the absurd ending, this black, black satire of Amerikan suburbia captures, with a bit of a sneer, the frivolous fears and self-absorption of a nation of souls riddled with arrested development. Almost as absurd as the film’s ending, though, is the casting of classic English beauty Kate Winslet as a supposed-dumpy, unattractive Amerikan house-wife. . .watching Kate frolick in the nude during her many sex scenes, in which she is meant to be a typical frumpy Amerikan female sweatpants model gone wild, requires more-than-a-little suspension of disbelief. . .but most of the rest is a pitch-perfect send-up of Amerikan Suburbiacs afraid of their own shadows. A more ingenious bit of casting in this tale of grown-up children is the use of former Bad News Bears child actor Jackie Earle Haley as the community scapegoat pedophile. In suburbia, the pedophile is the local equivalent of al-Qaeda, and there is a parabolic scene in Little Children in which Haley *terrorizes* the neighborhood swimming pool. . .post-9/11 Amerikan hysteria writ small. ****

Pan’s Labyrinth: Set in post-civil war Spain, a little girl escapes from the cruelty of reality (personified by her step-father, a fascist army captain with two obsessions: crushing the last few remaining Republican dead-enders, and willing the birth of a son from the little’s girl’s sickly mother) into an underworld of fairies, fauns, giant toads and monsters. Powerless against the fascist beasts of the *real world,* the little girl finds herself as a conquering princess in the fairy underground. This is real arty and all, with the supernatural creatures spectacularly realized (particularly one fairy-eating monster who looks like a cross between Nosferatu and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’s Grandpa), but the story itself is pretty routine (fascists are *bad?* What a shocker!). . .well, there’s nothing wrong with that. . .it still makes for a very entertaining movie. . .but if you look at the ratings on metacritic or IMDb, wow, this thing scores as one of the all-time greats of cinema. . .which is a little like saying an old Tool video is of the same rank as Citizen Kane. . .sorry, but no. . .this is a lightweight champion, the kind of flick teenage habitues of comic book shops adore—nothing more, nothing less. ***

The Prestige: Pure escapist entertainment from the Nolan brothers. Two turn-of-the-20th century London magicians literally battle to the death over their stage tricks. There’s nothing philosophically enlightening here, it’s just a fun and very moody gimmick movie. The interesting cast includes the eccentric David Bowie, playing the eccentric genius Nikola Tesla, a genuine wizard pursued by one of the illusionists in search of *real magic,* and Scarlett Johansson, who post-Ghost World has been more of a Maxim Hot 100 Girl than an actress, but here Scarlett offers a pretty good limey accent in addition to her Amerikan curves as the slutty magician’s assistant who falls for the illusionist with the biggest trick. ****

Room: Typical dumpy, unkempt Amerikan woman, married (barely, husband not too interested in fulfilling his marital obligations with his own personal chubby behemoth) with kids and a crappy job (at a bingo parlor!!), navigates her way through her pirated Amerikan Way of Life (the cheap, grainy version the poor can afford). The strain of it all, the vanishing family life, the scramble for dollars, the constant electronic Media droning in the background with *news* on wars and rumors of wars and other assorted disasters, drives the dumpy woman mad, she experiences blackouts, migraines and *visions* of the *room:* an empty industrial or warehouse space. One such episode results in a car crash that leave the dumpy chick stranded at Houston’s George Bush International Airport. . .apparently taking this as a *sign,* the dumpy chick wanders into the airport and books a flight to New York. . . once in the Big Apple, the dumpy chick begins her new family-free life with a quest to find the *room.* This is one of those movies that just ends. . .with no resolution, no questions answered. . .the dumpy chick never finds the *room* and the viewer has no clear idea of what any of it is supposed to mean. The best one can guess is that with the constant references to war and George Bush and New York, this is somehow a *commentary* on Amerikan fear/paranoia post-9/11. This is the kind of movie that could annoy a lot of people, especially Amerikan people, who like simple, easy to understand stories (*we are good, they are evil. the end.*), but I enjoyed it. . .dumpy chick driven to the brink by the Amerikan Phantasm? That’s my meat and potatoes. . .Hell, give me a sequel. ***

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dan Zukovic's "THE LAST BIG THING", called the "best unknown American film of the 1990's" in the film book "Defining Moments in Movies" (Editor: Chris Fujiwara), was finally released on DVD by Vanguard Cinema. (www.vanguardcinema.com/thelastbigthing/thelastbigthing) Featuring an important early role by 2011 Best Supporting Actor Oscar Nominee Mark Ruffalo ("Shutter Island", "Zodiac", "The Kids Are Alright"), "THE LAST BIG THING" had a US theatrical release in 1998, and gained a cult following over several years of screenings on the Showtime Networks.

"A distinctly brilliant and original work." Kevin Thomas - Los Angeles Times
"A satire whose best moments echo the tone of a Nathanial West novel...Nasty Fun!"
Stephen Holden - New York Times
"One of the cleverest recent satires on contemporary Los Angeles...a very funny sleeper!" Michael Wilmington - Chicago Tribune
"One of the few truly original low budget comedies of recent years." John Hartl - Seattle Times
"'The Last Big Thing' is freakin' hilarious! The most important and overlooked
indie film of the 1990's. " Chris Gore - Film Threat