Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Video Views: August 25, 2009

After a few weeks of not very much coming out, this week offers six new titles that I have seen in theatres. The obviously best one is the Canadian film Polytechnique, but with the exception of Fighting, the rest of the films are actually worth a look this week. And in other good news, Criterion has released another wonderful Whit Stillman movie in The Last Days of Disco – which I think is probably his best one.

Adventureland ***
Jessie Eisenberg stars as a kid just out of University, who cannot find a job for the summer, so he ends up working at Adventureland, the seediest theme park in the world. There he connects with new friends, and falls for Kristen Stewart, who is not really available because she’s sleeping with Ryan Reynolds – the maintenance man. The film is from the director of Superbad, and while both films are coming of age comedies, Adventureland aims to be a more mature film, mixing comedy and drama, while Superbad was straight out funny. While Superbad is the better film, Adventureland is a very good little coming of age film from director Greg Mottolla. For my original review please see: http://davesmoviesite.blogspot.com/2009/04/movie-review-adventureland.html

Duplicity ***
Clive Owen and Julia Roberts play rival spies, who have clashed in the past before falling in love, who team up to try and steal an industrial secret from a mega corporation, and sell it to another mega corporation. The film is full of plot twists and turns, that are next to impossible to keep up with, but the plot really is not the point here. The joy in the movie is watching Owen and Roberts – two charming actors in the extreme – playing off each other brilliantly well. The supporting cast – especially Paul Giamatti and Tom Wilkinson – are also excellent. While I was hoping that writer/director Tony Gilroy would have made another film as good as his debut – Michael Clayton – it’s hard to complain when he’s made a film that is this much fun. For my original review please see: http://davesmoviesite.blogspot.com/2009/03/movie-review-duplicity.html

Fighting **
Channing Tatum stars as a kid who is running from his past, and ends up in New York in the underground fighting scene. He is “managed” by Terence Howard, a sort of all purpose con man, who will do just about anything to get money. Howard is wonderfully weird in the film – at times I thought he was trying to do a Truman Capote impression – but the film itself is as clichéd as it comes. You would be better off sticking to Tatum’s initial collaboration with writer/director Ditto Montel – the underrated A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints. For my original review please see: http://davesmoviesite.blogspot.com/2009/04/movie-review-fighting.html

Polytechnique ***
Denis Villenueve’s Polytechnique is the controversial film about December 6th, 1989, when a gunman walked into Montreal’s Polytechnique institute and killed 14 female students, injured fourteen more, and then killed himself. The film is not about the killer though – who is glanced at only briefly at the beginning of the film, where he reveals his vile motive. Instead it is about the students inside the school, their life before the massacre, and the effect it had on their lives afterward. As a recreation of the horror of that day, Polytechnique is horrifying, brutal and unforgettable. Villenueve handles it all very well. It’s only in his closing scenes, where he tries to explain too much, pull too hard on your heartstrings where he steps wrong. Polytechnique is a very good film that could have been a great one. For my original review please see: http://davesmoviesite.blogspot.com/2009/03/movie-review-polytechnique.html

Rudo Y Cursi ***
Rudo and Cursi are two poor brothers living in Mexico, who get the opportunity to live out their dreams when a soccer scout comes to their town and recruits them. Cursi (Gael Garcia Bernal), a talented forward with a knack for scoring goals, is a hotdog, and while he loves soccer, what he really wants to do is sing. When he becomes star, he gets that opportunity, but fame goes to his head. Rudo (Diego Luna) is the seemingly responsible family man, who is really mired in his gambling debts. He plays goalie, and is no one can score on him – except perhaps Cursi. Their story is the classic rise and fall tale, but it handled with humor and some real emotions. Bernal and Luna are wonderful together, effortlessly picking up their chemistry from the brilliant Y Tu Mama Tambien. The film was written and directed by Carlos Cuaron, brother of Alfonso, and while it is not quite as good as the latter’s work, it is quite entertaining. For my original review please see: http://davesmoviesite.blogspot.com/2009/06/movie-review-rudo-y-cursi.html

Sunshine Cleaning ** ½
I love Amy Adams and Emily Blunt so much, that I can almost forgive the fact that Sunshine Cleaning – where the two play sisters who start a business cleaning up crime scenes – is such a clichéd indie movie. The fact that every in the film is so eccentrically, yet adorable nutty (especially their father played by Alan Arkin), to the tired rivalry been one sister is a responsible single mother trying to keep their head above water, and the other is a irresponsible mess, to the presence of Steve Zahn, there is hardly an indie movie cliché that this movie does not hit repeatedly. But Adams and Blunt are both wonderful in the film, so while I was a little disappointed in the film, it is still worth a look. For my original review please see: http://davesmoviesite.blogspot.com/2009/04/movie-review-sunshine-cleaning.html

Older Movies
The Last Days of Disco *** ½

Whit Stillman wrote and directed three great comedies in the 1990s, The Last Days of Disco (1998) being the last and best of the bunch (why has he not made a film in the last 11 years? Please Whit, get on it!) Set in the early 1980s, the film centers on some rich kids (just like his previous film, of which this was the final in his Doomed-Bourgeois-in-Love series as he liked to call it), who have just graduated from college, and have nothing to do. They live in Manhattan, and frequent a disco and are all searching for something in their lives – whether that be a lasting relationship, or just sex and drugs to fill the void, they do not seem quite sure. This was the movie that brought Kate Beckinsale to my attention, and is still probably my favorite performance of hers. Indie darling Chloe Sevigny is also wonderful – and the talented supporting cast includes Chris Eigeman (a Stillman regular) and Robert Sean Leonard. The Last Days of Disco is certainly better than most films of its kind. It is funny and insightful. We need more films like it.

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