August 25, 2009

Southland Tales (2006)

Wow! What a FUCK-IN' MESS! You gotta admire Richard Kelly for having the balls to shove this onto some producer's desk and actually getting them to greenlight it! Then again, I guess if your first feature was Donnie Darko they'll pretty much greenlight any crazy thing you do next. Where to begin... Justin Timberlake as the introspective Iraq vet drug pushing sniper? Buffy as pornstar-turned-social-issues-reality-show-host/pop-star/movie director? The abundance of SNL/Mad Tv graduates? Stifler as an interdimensional apocalyptic medium? The rock as an amnesiac prophet with a bleeding jesus-head tattoo on his back and a David-star on his belly button? The abundance of Linchyesque elements including... hum.. midgets, spiritual gibberish, spotlights and oh, Timberlake's musical number with sexy Marilyn Monroe nurses... and do not forget about the 1930's german Zeppelin powered by (quote) "Liquid Karma". This is way way WAY beyond over the top. And I'm not even talking about the constant quoting of Revelations (yes, the crazy bible book featuring the "great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven crowns"), incessant political drivel (L.A. is at some point is overrun with "neo-Marxist" rioters) and ofcourse nonsensical pseudo-science about the fourth dimension ripping a hole in spacetime (yes, this is what actually happens). Well worth the 2:35 running time, if only for the cheap-CG of hummers doing it doggy style complete with chrome penis/vagina (look it up on youtube under "Treer Saltair"). If there is one redeeming element about this movie, it is the music, from such names as Muse, The Killers, Blur, Radiohead, Moby, Louis Armstrong and Beethoven. There is no doubt this is not a good movie, not as "good" as Donnie Darko anyway, but it is a wonderful mess with a respectable budget and stars, and if you're in possession of some good narcotics this might just make your night more interesting.

My Blueberry Nights (2007)

Despite the growing pains into the Hollywood system, Kar Wai Wong still manages to display his special brand of cinema through the neon-lit windows of the little bakery. Yes, this is not In the Mood for Love or Chungking Express, and yes, it is chock full of gorgeous-looking Hollywood stars, but so what. Ultimately it flows over you like the sweet sounds of Jones' voice. Definitely need to be in the right mood for this one, as the first time I watched it felt tiresome, but with the 2nd watching I welcomed it like a hot cup of cocoa on cold day.

Synecdoche, New York (2008)

Kaufman's directorial début epic feels strangely hollow when compared with his other work as writer. Perhaps it is just Seymour Hoffman's fault, being inherently damaging to any protagonist we might wish to identify with. Ultimately though, this is a Kaufman film after all, and I can't help but be attracted to it. There is imagination and there is insanity, and both of those are a bonus, but at the end of the day, I would not consider this Kaufman's best.

Let the Right One In (2008)

brilliant! Nordic child vampires are totally the way to go! This is like a Ginger Snaps except much more subtle, with less of that pesky teenager stuffs in the way (although it did work wonderfully in Ginger Snaps), allowing the innocence of childhood to be mixed with the horror of bloodsucking in an unusually disturbing yet masterfully crafted way.

Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008)

If only for the visuals I must say I enjoyed Hellboy II: The Golden Army. The story is your usual comic-book fare, complete with a few dashes of fantasy here and there (there are elves and goblins and a secret underground Troll market under the Brooklyn bridge). The visuals and the whole feel of the thing more than make up for the comic-book reality. Del Torro added steampunk to his repertoire of fantasy visuals that he showed off in Pan's Labyrinth and continues to show off here, with amped up action and fight scenes, which blend in nicely with the fantasy setting. Overall it was a very fun movie, one that is worth seeing on a big screen, without too many expectations and with an open mind for the kind of comic-book reality that Hellboy inhabits.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009)

Overall faithful to the book, although at times feels like it zips through the plot in order to keep this faithfulness. There are some shortcuts that the film takes to visualize the lengthy source material from the book, and even though it clocks in at 2.5 hours (initially intended as two 90 minute TV features) it still feels as though it goes at a slightly rushed pace. The performances are great, and accurately portray the characters in the book, relying a lot on character actors and taking great benefit from the two leads' screen presence. It is hard for me to say if I would have liked this less had I not read the novel, I can only say that I did not find it detrimental to have done so before watching (despite it no longer being a mystery at that point). I will definitely be waiting for the two sequels as they emerge, having finished the remaining books by then. I can't imagine what the Hollywood adaptation of this will be, I am just glad that there at least was a Swedish adaptation that I could get a hold of, as the cultural nuances of the book seem to be preserved (as best can be done in such a compressed format) when viewed in the original Swedish. The cinematography is gorgeous and at no point did I think this was anything less than cinema-worthy material, despite originally being intended for TV. Overall enjoyable and a good companion to the book.