Wednesday, 31 October 2012

The Tall Man (2012)

Jessica Biel can actually act a bit. Who wouldda thunk?

Samantha Ferris Diamond White
Samantha Ferris plays a mum
whose boyfriend beds her daughter too.
At a glance:
The Tall Man (2012) was written and directed by the same fella behind Martyrs (2008), so that made me put it on the watch list. This Pascal Laugier guy must be like the classier French version of M. Night Shyamalan, considerin how much he likes to do movies with one big central twist. Now unlike movies like The Village (2004) or The Sixth Sense (1999), the enjoyment of Laugier's films do not pivot on the incredulity of the twist. Dissociatin this story from Slender Man mythos, Laugier introduces us to several characters in a rundown white trash town blighted by missin children, firin up what appears to be a standard slasher horror, only for it to simmer down into some sort of philosophical parentin, socioeconomic dilemma. It's in no danger of goin down as ground-breakin material but it does feature Jessica Biel in what must be her most demandin dramatic role since the Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003) days when all she needed to do was walk around in a sweaty, see-through top.
Bad news on the doorstep:
M NIGHT SHYAMALANThankfully avoidin the alien invasion route (e.g. The Tommyknockers, 1993 or Dreamcatcher, 2003) which would've been very predictable and annoyin, this story is well-paced and crafted to play with your expectations. Variety's Geoff Berkshire summarised well: "Welcome echoes of the work of Stephen King and TV's The X-Files increase suspicion that something supernatural is afoot, and Laugier keeps teasing that possibility until the very end" but concludes that horror fans lookin for some old-fashioned scares are likely to feel cheated from the movie. The French - trust them to screw it up! Ha.
Perennial wonderment:
If you've decided you've read too much already and don't wanna bother with the movie, just click on this link to a Ben Affleck movie and the twist will dawn upon you...
Reminds me of:
The Village (2004) but that's not the twist, don't worry.
Amacam joker, berapa bintang lu mau kasi?
All is not lost. This can make a good date movie and delightful conversation fodder later. You're likely to find this only on DVD or VOD now, since it only had a token theatrical release.★★

Bonus material:
William B. Davis, the Cancer Man on TV's X-Files, has a small role in The Tall Man (2012).

Monday, 29 October 2012

Secret (2012)

Brace yourselves. It's an art movie. A Polish art movie.

At a glance:
Agnieszka Podsiadlik.
She has small areolae.
Entered myself via Cinema Clock to watch this movie at the Ekran Toronto Polish Film Festival 2012, now in its fourth edition. Sekret a.k.a. Secret (2012) is more of "an experimental novel than a conventional film" (as conceded by director Przemysław Wojcieszek himself), about the awkward relationships between three people: devil-may-care drag dancer Ksawery (Tomasz Tyndyk) and his apparent agent Karolina (Agnieszka Podsiadlik) who both visit grandpa Jan (Marek Kępiński) in the countryside. The titular secret refers to a Holocaust misdeed kept by septuagenarian Jan, concernin the disappearance of a Jewish father and son who used to own the very house they now live in. Karolina, bein Jewish, has an axe to grind and she goes to great lengths to force a confession out of Jan while Ksawery has to come to terms with the only person who matters to him bein a war criminal.
Bad news on the doorstep:
As usual, my wife and I are the only ones in the audience under 60 and didn't live through at least one World War. Even so, and despite the short run time of 82 minute, I saw several seniors who decided there were better ways to spend a Saturday night and just upped and left. In all fairness, the film is coherent and accessible (if you'd pardon its intentional ambiguity) but Tyndyk's incendiary gay character is a little too much for some, I believe. Krzysztof Prętkiewicz's jungle D & B score can get quite frightenin as well. I wonder how the audience liked it at the Berlinale 2012 where it premiered?
Frightening, really.
Perennial wonderment:
The film's strongest scene I believe is the one involvin a rant by Jan on the porch, which is the closest he'll ever come to a confession. The movie asks, if at all, about the anachronistic nature of war crimes and what restorative good may come from the overreachin long arm of the law. Jan looks like he's about the drop dead any time he's processin those sardines of his, never mind war crime tribunals or nosy young girls like Karolina. Yet, the question is turned inward when we see Jan prayin for his quick demise every night before bed. The perp lives with the crime, too. "Does digging up the past help one understand the reasons behind his actions? And is the sense of justice – or of revenge – always well-meant?"
Reminds me of:
Lukas Moodysson. Wonder what he's been up to.
Most memorable line:
I liked the bit where Jan summarised the state of affairs by alludin to a sports commentary on the radio. "Traitors" is the word.
"You are so insolent. Get out."
Amacam joker, berapa bintang lu mau kasi?
Well, who are we to level any charges of self-indulgence when it comes to art movies, eh? Wojcieszek kept it short at 82 minutes and I wouldn't count it as a tough sit among the many tryin movies I've seen. For a more refined account of just what the fuck this really is, do read East European Film Buletin's Collete de Castro. Me, I'm just happy my wife and I had us some Polish bruschetta-type pastries called zapiekanki, together with some Solidarność Polish fudge that a volunteer assured us are "not from Alberta". It's a great night out, our first full feature at The Revue on its 100th anniversary year and also another first with the zapiekanka. Cheers, mate.★★1/2
Bonus material:
Zapiekanki! Hmmm... how come mine didn't have the ketchup?



Source: Dynamo Karuzela


L-R: Director Przemysław Wojcieszek, actress Agnieszka Podsiadlik
and actor Tomasz Tyndyk.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Lizzie (2012)

Shawna Waldron and Gary Busey in a deceptively strong promo visual.

Brianna Lee Johnson
At a glance:
19th century New England axe murderer Lizzie Andrew Borden gets yet another run-out with Dark Morgue Picture's Lizzie (2012), as Leif Holt saw fit to produce, write and star in a rather unpersuasive B-movie that is both feeble and frustatin at the same time. I scarcely thought there was gonna be a worse movie than The Devil Inside this year but this does manage a close finish. We get a prologue about the oft-chronicled titular terror with montage and poem, then we're thrust into the modern day with a young blonde being treated by her shrink for witnessing apparitions around her house. 
Bad news on the doorstep:
So bad was this movie, when the characters are watchin a movie in their livin room, they put on a bad movie as well. Stop-start tension, bad CGI choices, continuity boo-boos, very poor performances - all these add to the derivative drivel. Foggy mirrors, disappearin blood... what else? Corbin Bernsen plays a shrink but comes across more like a garbage man who just walked on set and Leif Holt himself has a puzzlin role as a feckless boyfriend.
Let's watch a bad movie!
Perennial wonderment:
Apparently there's been development on the case just a few months ago. Anyway the canon of Lizzie Borden feature films include The Legend of Lizzie Borden (1975), The Curse of Lizzie Borden (2006) and The Curse of Lizzie Borden 2: Prom Night (2008), not to mention several documentaries like Lizzie Borden: A Century of Fascination (1992) and Lizzie Borden Had an Axe (2004). Never saw any meself but this 2012 movie sure doesn't provide much encouragement.
How I felt in the movie, too.
Reminds me of:
Lead star Amanda Baker (Jolene Crowell on TV's General Hospital) is an extremely annoyin actress whose laughable lack of depth is made up for by her resemblance to Maria Bello, Jessica Biel and porn star Kagney Lynn. No nudity from her either.
Watch out for:
Veteran porn star Aurora Snow is supposed to have an appearance here, accordin to the credits. Must've ended up on the cuttin room floor because I don't remember this at all. Someone drop me a note if you know different.
Amacam joker, berapa bintang lu mau kasi?
The kind of movie you'd switch off or walk out on. Check out the official website and Facebook page if you're still readin.1/2
Bonus material:
Fast forward to this scene with Amanda Baker screaming. Hilarious.

Friday, 26 October 2012

The Imposter (2012)

"For as long as I remember, I wanted to be someone else.
Someone who was acceptable."


At a glance:
French fraudster Frédéric Bourdin
What a treat this is! I was tempted to sneak into the next hall where Midnight's Children (2012) was premierin with Salman Rushdie in attendance, or even The Paperboy (2012) because this was the only cinema in Canada playin it at the moment. Thank goodness I didn't. Eone Entertainment mailed me a free pair of ROE tickets and this Bart Layton docu-drama turned out to be one of the best movies I've seen this year. The less you know about The Imposter (2012) prior to walkin in, the better. But I'll tell you it starts off as a first person account of a French-Algerian man, Frédéric Bourdin, who successfully passed himself off to the whole world as the long-missin, blue-eyed, blonde-haired, 13-year-old son of an American family in San Antonio, Texas. We get juicy footage from everyone involved, most importantly by Bourdin himself, but the coolest character here is no doubt the man who finally caught up with the charade - Charlie Parker the sweaty, suspendered old-school country PI with a vintage Cadillac.
Bad news on the doorstep:
Tattoos of the imposter
Deeper discussion would risk compromisin your entertainment value but I can't think of how this could possibly be improved. Due to a clever narrative that was cut in such a way so as to achieve the excitement of a conventional thriller, the emotional pay-off is very high and even its slow start was purposeful. Perhaps the DVD extras could fit in one or two more featurettes to tell the drier aspects of the hoodwink. Maybe it could even be a double-disc release with that earlier movie about the same man - The Chameleon (2010). Or even a triple-disc release with Paranoiac (1963)!
Perennial wonderment:
"I didn't give a damn about anyone or anyone's feelings.
I cared only about myself."
In interviews I have read that Bourdin doesn't like the term con man. He says he never liked to steal and his desire was never for material wealth, but for emotional rewards. It seems quite likely that all he did want was to be loved and accepted, given his criminal profile. As for the family, based on the footage, I'm quite convinced that at least at several points in this bizarre false identity saga, all they had was best intentions. Mind over matter - aren't we all starved of a real connection and want ever so badly to believe somethin good rather than bad would happen to us? Or is the worse crime always exacted by the cold, calculated sociopaths who exploit this frailty? The psychology of a lie is herein examined on both sides - the liar and the believer.
I can't remember if I cried:

When Bourdin stares straight into the camera and says that he wanted to give himself "every chance", you almost want to give him a hug. Call him a pathological liar, an exhaustive actor and a despicable character but he manages to be very, very human.
Amacam joker, berapa bintang lu mau kasi?
This Charlie Parker PI guy deserves his own spin-off!
It's a great piece of work about the human condition. My thoughts? I believe any one theory or motive doesn't need to negate another. Total Film's Matt Glasby has lauded it as "creepier than Catfish (2010) and as cinematic as Man On Wire (2008)... an unnerving story immaculately told and a strong contender for doc of the year". Variety's Peter Debruge has suggested that the compellin treatment even has a shot at theatrical play material. At any rate, consider this a very accomplished debut feature with an unforgettable story, boosted by the participation of the French fraudster himself, who has managed, in a strange twist of fate to arguably exonerate himself through a film that somewhat celebrates him. Check out the official website and Facebook page. For an interview with the chameleonic con man, check out the account of Mick Brown at The Telegraph.
Bonus material:
Thanks Eone Entertainment!

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Taipei Exchanges (2010) @ 第36個故事

A junkyard cafe. That's Taipei Exchanges for ya.

At a glance:
Here's one of those dreamy Taiwanese movies I saw in Singapore a couple of years ago. Reportedly backed by the Taipei's tourism authorities, TV ad director Hsiao Ya Chuan's Taipei Exchanges a.k.a. 第36個故事 is a PG-rated fairy-tale approach to the troubled region's political projections on capitalism. If Au Revoir Taipei is exotic, then Taipei Exchanges is definitely quaint. In a movie where almost all if not most of the action (or rather inaction) unfolds in a cafe just like Kamome Diner (2006), we follow Doris (Kwai Lun Mei, Secret, 2007), an office girl who quits her job to start a cafe but finds the place turnin into a junkyard business due to elaborate exchange-only arrangements that serendipitously happen. Her slacker of a sister Josie (Lin Zai Zai) plays no small part in this barter bizarro, which somehow turns the place into a buzzin pitstop of peculiar camaraderie. There's also some romantic subplots mixed into the theme, like a man (Chang Han) who wants to trade bars of soap.
Bad news on the doorstep:
What the fuck are we gonna do with this place?
The gastronomic appeal of Taipei Exchanges starts wearing thin somewhere midway and the sisters' laments turn tiresome quickly, although they may not be trivial. The crux of the story is the interplay between the sisters (maybe even their disapprovin mother) and their conflictin values but this projection is far too weak and too cute to capture an audience that demands deeper drama.
Reminds me of:
Small cafes like Wondermilk in Uptown Damansara.
Amacam joker, berapa bintang lu mau kasi?
It's a pretty picture alright - but the dreamy approach might just have been a tad too detached and loses us at the end. A recommended watch only for viewers who enjoyed Look For A Star (2009) more than A Place Of One's Own (2009).



Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Thale (2012)

Sought this one out on the strength of this visual alone. Wotta sight!

At a glance:
Thale (pronounced TOH-LUH?) is an impressive indie effort built on Norse mythology (recent fare ranges from Thor to Troll Hunter), from which director Alexander Nordaas serves original tale. He was at hand at the recent Toronto International Film Festival to introduce the movie and share that it was apparently shot with just US$10k on a camera cheaper than a Canon 5D, just one lens throughout. We follow two crime scene cleaners (Jon Sigve Skard, Erlend Nervold) who stumble upon a spectacular discovery - a wild creature called huldra. Think naked blonde mermaid, minus fins, plus tail.
Bad news on the doorstep:
I didn't mind the cartoonish creatures, as most critics did. The most expensive CG work wouldn't have elevated this much. However, I did find it too slow meanderin at times. Could do with a few more edits and should've definitely focused on the magic of the animal and the dynamics of the relationships that follow.
Perennial wonderment:
Silje Reinåmo as the titular forest nymph. Would ya, could ya? I don't know, mate.
Reminds me of:
The Woman (2011), Deadgirl (2008) and The Girl Next Door (2007) but without the mythical spin, of course.
Most memorable line:
None - that's the problem.
Amacam joker, berapa bintang lu mau kasi?
I think the strength of this movie lies in its clean, disquietin visuals but lacks a compellin story arc that would've made the movie more important. Robert Bell of Exclaim points out, "exposition and clumsy character development define the central mystery, with the occasional female castration and image of a mutilated ersatz vagina sewn up reminding us that the theme is all about female subjugation, as exacerbated by the naked woman running about stuffing food into her mouth like a wild animal". The misogyny is picked up on, among others, by Dread Central's Serena Whitney who warns that "those expecting Thale to be a frightening creature feature will be sorely disappointed as the title character is treated more like a mythical hermaphrodite than the lethal siren the trailer makes her out to be. Although there is no doubt that the director intended on making a weirdly touching and emotional film about the kindness of strangers in a callous world, it oddly comes off very contrived and substantially sexist at parts as the one thing that gives Thale power is her cow tail (which is undeniably phallic); and once it’s cut off, she is weak, frail and helpless until the two awkward male protagonists come to save her, conveying to (at least) female viewers everywhere that all a woman needs to build up the strength lying within is to have a man rescue her." I don't have the insight to appreciate that but it definitely fell short emotionally. Here's hopin that the director will attract investment for better movies from him in the future. For more information go visit the official Thale website or its corresponding Facebook page.★★1/2
Bonus material:

Some kinda dance gimmick for the movie's promo at Colosseum Kino, Norway.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Seven Psychopaths (2012)

Will Woody Harrelson ever play a sweet, charming, leading man?

Leggy Olga Kurylenko at the TIFF 2011 premiere.
At a glance:
You will finish writin a screenplay if your screenplay is about the difficulty in writin a screenplay. That's the almost meta-movie that came out of Martin McDonagh's mind (In Bruges, 2008) - a bizarre Tarantinoesque tale generously dipped in dark humour, ostensibly less fun than the recent Killer Joe (2012) but more heart than say, Rubber (2010) or Hit And Run (2012). It's the kind of movie you're dyin to like as soon as you see the poster or watch the trailer. Hymen-thin plottin revolves around three central characters - alcoholic scriptwriter Marty (Colin Farrell), his maligned friend Billy (Sam Rockwell) and an peculiar old guy named Hans (Christopher Walken). The latter two run a small time dognapping syndicate and cowboy mobster Charlie (Woody Harrelson) just happens to have a missin shih tzu. Part of the joy of such a movie is watchin the characters enter, so I'll spare you the mazy ensemble minutiae.
Bad news on the doorstep:
One of many memes on the official Seven Psychopaths Facebook page.

All the scenes cut a pretty picture and if viewed on their own separately, look as if they're from the next Pulp Fiction (1994). Variety's Peter Debruge argues that ironically enough, the McDonagh's "apparent lack of any attempt to make a grand artistic statement could easily make this outing his most accessible project to date". It's definitely easy on the eyes with such a handsome cast - I'm one of those who'd pay good money just to see Christopher Walken walk a dog. However, while this juicy project is not short of energy or violence, its charm pivots on your empathy with the characters; and this is purposefully manipulated to reward and frustrate your expectations at every turn. That is to say, the movie wrote itself to the finishin line, to hell with the audience. 
Perennial wonderment:
Talk about gettin even. Never cared for Colin Farrell but here's somethin interestin for you - apparently Mickey Rourke dropped out of this because he had a problem with the director and Woody Harrelson took his role. In the movie, there's a tombstone with Rourke's name on it. Recently, it was reported that Rourke tweeted about how we shouldn't watch the movie because it's unwatchable and a waste of time. Ha!
Reminds me of:
You know how Machete (2010) was the unlikely end product of a fake Tarantino trailer that was picked up on? I got a feelin one of the stories in the caper could do with one of those. It's the one about a Vietnamese priest.
Harry Dean Stanton
Harry Dean Stanton
I can't remember if I cried:
When Olga Kurylenko appeared for just the duration of which it takes you to say her name. Cheated! In fact, Kurylenko, Abbie Cornish and Gabourey Sidibe probably had just 10 minutes screen time between them.
Most memorable line:
Next to an inspired five minutes of  Sam Rockwell catharsis near the end, the Gandhi joke in the trailer is the best moment of the movie for me. In fact, it's that tone of humour that permeates throughout the movie.
Amacam joker, berapa bintang lu mau kasi?
It's strange that my wife enjoyed it more than me. I guess I wanted it to be a new spin on The Usual Suspects (1995) or somethin like that. Seven Psychopaths (2012) begs you to go crazy with it but I reckon only half of are willin and a further half of that are able.★★1/2
Bonus material:
You know what the annoying thing is?
Not all seven of the actors are the so-called psychopaths! Sheesh.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Precious: Based On The Novel "Push" By Sapphire (2012)

Not the most motivational of movie stills, I reckon.
At a glance:
I had just seen Gabourey Sidibe's brief role in Seven Psychopaths (2012) and I thought I'd rehash this old review, on account of renewin my seethin dislike for the movie upon the very sight of her. Precious: Based On The Novel 'Push' by Sapphire (2009) is quite a mouthful for a movie title, so it's a small relief that this decorated Oscar fave does have somethin substantial to say. However, like the makers conceded and thanked production ally Oprah Winfrey at the 2009 Awards ("because you touched it, so everyone saw it"), we really have to wonder if this greatly divisive film isn't just another well-marketed product of white guilt internalisation.
Bad news on the doorstep:
Paula Patton lends her well-to-do looks for contrast.
Yes, the artistic merit of this drama does come into question, as the eponymous main character Claireece Precious Jones (Gabourey Sidibe) is an overweight, illiterate, impoverished and abused teenager who just happens to be surrounded by some of the nastiest people and also go through some of the worst experiences one possibly can growing up in black Harlem. It's the kind of character arc that invites empathy at first but then descends into a credibility problem. Not that we're contendin the nature of a grossly underprivileged life in the late 80s, but there is a difference between tellin a story about the black underclass and tellin a story about how the black underclass view themselves. This Lee Daniels picture is a clear case of the latter but instead of offerin any insight into the psyche of any one person who comes from such a background, it is evident by the final reels that Precious is an unreflective sob story that strives for some redeeming value that it cannot attain.
Perennial wonderment:
Mo'Nique, the monster of a mum. Figuratively and physically.
For a movie that has been called "con job of the year" to one that goes to the extent of "demeaning the idea of black American life", emotions run strong, especially since we can't call the filmmakers racist because they're black. Perhaps it's an instance of reverse racism that the horrendous story of Precious becomes such a celebrated film that has picked up close to 100 awards across film festivals and such. In any case, there is no denying that Mo'Nique's performance as an criminally-abusive mother is a powerful turn that deserves every award it gets, includin the most prized one - Best Supporting at the 82nd Academy Awards. The movie as whole features some compelling actin (Gabriel Sidibe, Paula Patton, Sherri Shepherd and even Mariah Carey), and that lends urgency and strength to the proceedings whatever you might feel about the story.
Reminds me of:
Don't know. Can't relate to much in this movie.
I can't remember if I cried:
When I saw the frazzled Mariah Carey role. It's a suitable role for her, admittedly. It's just that this isn't the woman I remember from the Christmas music videos and that depresses me, as if the story isn't movin along bad enough.
Amacam joker, berapa bintang lu mau kasi?
Emotionally manipulative in a way I don't care for. As a movie experience, you will have to watch Precious - but only if you want to discuss it with your friends, and not because you look forward to enjoying it. ★★

Monday, 8 October 2012

About Cherry (2012)

Ashley Hinshaw void deck ABOUT CHERRY
Ashley Hinshaw: Pretty but pretty limited.

At a glance:
Ain't read a single good word about this movie since it debuted at the Berlin International Film Festival 2012 but it was at least good enough to get itself on VOD and even scored a limited release Stateside, so I thought I'd write a little about it. About Cherry (2012) a.k.a. Cherry focuses on nubile blonde Angelina (Ashley Hinshaw) and her reluctant, slow descent into porn stardom (if you could even call it that). Her boyfriend suggests she might as well do it since she's already the village slut, so she leaves her alcoholic mum (Lili Taylor) and runs off to San Francisco with her (gay? bi?) best buddy (Dev Patel) in tow. While humpin tables as a cocktail waitress, she meets two interestin people who want a piece of her - a dodgy lawyer (James Franco) and a lesbian porn director (Heather Graham).
Bad news on the doorstep:
ASHLEY HINSHAW NUDE
Will you make me a star?
Amy Cheong HDB racist Void Deck
Lolita
Stephen Elliott's first feature is a near-perfect example of a technically accomplished indie movie with nothin much to say. It's a bigger letdown if you read about how much access they have to compellin material - book author Elliott is apparently a former sex worker (stripper, it seems) while his friend and co-writer Lorelei Lee is a veteran porn star (ever read about the Milk Nymphos trial?) who even does a little cameo. The movie is said to challenge "assumptions about porn, sexuality, and success, and faces the difficult question of where you need to be in order to find yourself" but you know all the spins by now, don't you. It's a vacuous, unreflected San Francisco story which could've been remembered for so many things other than Hinshaw's naked but limited role. Perhaps the false step is havin no character we could empathise with.
AMY CHEONG void deck indian sex
Perennial wonderment:
When will Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire, 2008) find his feet and star in a role that actually furthers his career? I thought his nervous contribution to this and also to The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011) were rather contrived.
Reminds me of:
The Babysitters (2007) but that had much more substance.You would've thought a better movie would've come out of the San Fran Armory - home of the Internet porn giant Kink.com.

Amacam joker, berapa bintang lu mau kasi?
VOID DECK
You'd probably learn more about the industry from Ron Jeremy's pube sheddin in between sets. Failed sexploitation movie with no insights to sell. More info at the About Cherry official website and Facebook page if you can be bothered.

Bonus material:
Heather Graham in yet another skin-friendly role.