Friday, September 18, 2009

Now Playing: Here Come the Children of Toronto

Robert here with your weekly review of new movies. As Toronto ends, the award season unofficially kicks off. But we still have a few weeks before most heavyweights come our way. Still, this week sees the release of a few movies you've just recently been hearing a lot about, courtesy TIFF.

The Informant - Say what you will about Steven Soderberg (and some do), the man's films are always interesting. What strikes me about The Informant is how Hollywood would have most likely turned the story into another glossy (and by glossy I mean intentionally gritty) corporate thriller. Only Soderberg knows that the corp. thriller genre has finally come to a place where a wink and a nudge are more than welcome. Can Damon's bad hair sporting, paunch packing performance grab him an Oscar Nomination? [rotten tomatoes / metacritic]

Jennifer's Body - There probably won't be many who'll feel much sadness at the critical shellacking that Diablo Cody and Megan Fox are taking this week. But the hipster vs. hipster (think spy vs. spy but with black and white thrift store clothes) dynamic that is playing out over various corners of the Internet today seems out of place here at this most civil of blogs. So I'll just say two things. First, I'm already over this movie not being good. And secondly, Amanda Seyfried is talented and deserves more work. [rotten tomatoes / metacritic]

Bright Star - Opening in limited release is Jane Campion's latest (about the love affair between poet John Keats and Fanny Brawne) which we've been hearing about since Cannes and earlier. It's nice to see Campion back on track after some iffy projects. And if you're an Oscar follower (and live in limited release) you'll get a chance to see if the buzz for Campion, Cornish, Schneider and Whishaw are worth it. [rotten tomatoes / metacritic]

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs - This adaptation of the famous children's book is receiving generally good notices and should do well among it's expected family demographic and probably nothing beyond. [rotten tomatoes / metacritic]

Love Happens - I will try to suppress my cynicism and not call this another generic romance that enforces the Hollywood cliche about love being a magical thing that happens between two picturesque people, must overcome a few contrived hurdles and ends up happily ever after. Instead I'll just say: This should do well among it's expected Jennifer Aniston fan demographic and probably nothing beyond. [rotten tomatoes / metacritic]

35 Shots of Rum - Claire Denis (who I will shill for until it gets annoying) has another highly praised, subtle film for our viewing pleasure. The story (though story has never been the highlight of Denis' films) involves the nuances in the relationship between a widower and his grown daughter. Think Ozu for the 21st century, and French. [rotten tomatoes / metacritic]

Paris - If you're up for as much French as possible this weekend, this love letter to Paris set among the intersecting lives and loves of several attractive Parisians (I could have just said Parisians... the attractive part is understood) looks to deliver a generally pleasant and reasonably uplifting viewing experience. [rotten tomatoes / metacritic]

The Burning Plain - If you like the whole intersecting lives thing but aren't feeling that uplifting, Guillermo Arriaga, who scripted Amores Perros, 21 Grams and Babel has written and now directed another disjointed narrative about miserable pretty people and the tragedies that befall them. [rotten tomatoes / metacritic]

17 comments:

ZiZo said...

I watched Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs yesterday in 3D, and I really really liked it, and I really think anybody could enjoy it (beyond family demographic)

Guy said...

Shilling for Claire Denis will NEVER get annoying. Such a beauty, that film.

But to advocate my own current shill cause: "Disgrace" opens today in the US (well, in NYC at least), and it's wonderful, but no mention of it here.

Jessica said...

Thanks for your praise of Amanda Seyfried - she really does deserve more work

Catherine said...

I originally thought Hotel For Dogs was the worst title for a film I'd heard all year, but nah, Love Happens takes it. C'mon, how lazy is that?

Iggy said...

"And if you're an Oscar follower (and live in limited release) "

Ha, love that "live in limited release". And as it happens with movies, we all aspire to "live in wide release".

Glendon said...

I was trying to figure out why I love The Informant! poster so much, and then I realized it is because it's as if the Bourne series took place in the world of the 40 year Old Virgin.

Bailey said...

Ugh. The Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs disgusts me. It was one of my favorite books in childhood, and the illustrations made the book. While I don't think the movie needs to be the exact same style (it was hella 80's...yeah, I said 'hella'), it just looks so...shitty and forgettable in comparison.

Walter L. Hollmann said...

Cloudy... is for the whole family? Funny, the TV spots have told me it will "cure my munchies" and "won't harsh my mellow". Seriously. It's pretty awesome.

NicksFlickPicks said...

Are you trying to start a roller derby? What do you mean about Campion's "iffy projects"? You know I will Dinah Might it up in here if I need to....

Tim said...

I saw a pre-screening of The Informant ! last week, and I thought it was an entertaining movie. I will be totally honest in that I think this is or close to it ( The Talented Mr. Ripley ? ), Matt Damon's career best performance. After awhile your looking not at Matt but seeing Mark and that's just from plain good acting.

I see no less than 2 movies a week all year, and I can safely say Damon's performance is one of the better singluar roles I have seen this year. I say this now, as I know there are a few months left in the year. As of now he's easily in my top 5 for Lead Actoe ( as of now )

Jorge Rodrigues said...

I'm so excited for «A Single Man»! The Weinsteins bought it so Oscar buzz is sky rocketting right about now...

I'm fancying Firth's Oscar nomination quite a lot right now...

Anonymous said...

I saw Jennifer's Body and I have to say, Amanda was the best part. The ending with her is dynamite, she is so talented.

I'm curious about Bright Star, but it looks boring. The trailer is not helping.

movie dude said...

Hey... where is the Leaves Of Grass reviews ? I have only seen 3 ( including Eberts- his fave of the Fest )

I hear it's up there as one of Edward Norton's best performaces, and you know what happened with the other best performances of his career...he was Oscar nominated.

UncleVanya said...

I adore Claire Denis’ film “Trouble Every Day”. For those who have not seen it, it’s worth searching out.

But back here in Toronto, after a string of mediocre films of late, I finally hit on a real gem, yesterday…

Day ? (whatever)

Bong Joon-ho (”Barking Dogs Never Bite”, “The Host”) has yet to make a middling movie, and his new film, “Mother”, can stand proudly beside his masterful, “Memories of Murder”. The film opens with a woman in her mid 50’s strolling through a hilltop grass field, seemingly in thought, and then she stares into the camera and begins performing a beguiling, sensuous dance. Meet Kim Hye-ja, the actress playing the mother in question. This opening immediately solidifies interest, and as the film propels forward, we are introduced to a woman who runs the gamut of supposed female contradiction. Kim Hye-ja is equally comfortable (and believable) playing demure fragility as she is miming the seductress who is conniving and brutal when need be. The story of “Mother” is deceptively simple: a woman’s son is falsely accused and arrested for the brutal murder of teen school-girl, and, therefore, mother sets out to prove his innocence. But the story becomes much more psycholigically complex and off putting. For example, mother and son have quite an uorthodox relationship. They sleep together in the same bed (giving an unsettling feeling), and the mother practices herbal medicine on her son, which requires her to watch him pee to analyze his urine. The son seems to be somewhat mentally challenged, but, moreso, a dullard and a drunk. And when he is accused of murder, the mother turns into a type of slueth in which Miss Marple and Angela Lansbury need not apply. To tell more of the plot would be a disservice, because the pleasure is in watching this part-time herbalist/acupuncturist mother turn to unhinged matriarch, wiling and calculatedly searching for her own desired outcome.

Much like “Memories of Murder”, “Mother”, too, is saturated with droll and wry humor. Early on, there is a sequence in which the mother attends the funeral of the girl her son is charged with killing, and what transpires has to be seen to be believed. But, ultimately, the success of the film lies on the shoulders of actress, Kim Hye-ja. I am told that in South Korea she is an icon of motherly saintliness in all previous films in which she starred. What a shock it must have been for Koreans to see the facade shatter, because, here, she is a crackerjack of mixed personas. When a foreign performance like this comes around one wishes there were an additional category, at oscar time, for the 5 best international performances (male or female), because the likelihood of a nomination, here, is decidedly nil. With great cinematography and a slithering score, “Mother” is a wonderfully eccentric, absurd and gripping film that splutters and disarms. And watching Ms. Kim is like eating arsenic with candy, while reminding one that “hell hath no fury….”, well, you know.

I also saw “Max Manus”, which will likely be Norway’s submission for foreign film this oscar year. If it is submitted, I hope it is not nominated, but I have a feeling it will be because, again, this film explores a real life character who truimphed during WW2. Achingly similar to most films of this ilk, “Max Manus” is just a continuation of the same, and, frankly, I am getting tired of it all.

NATHANIEL R said...

Uncle Vanya... i remember seeing TROUBLE EVERY DAY on opening night and there was a guy in the audience who got so angry. He was shouting at hte screen "where are the vampire? isn't this a vampire movie?" ha ha

NATHANIEL R said...

Robert

"another disjointed narrative about miserable pretty people and the tragedies that befall them."

OUCH! but... yeah. shouldn't this genre go the way of the dinosaur or at least take a few years off?

UncleVanya said...

lol @ Nat....I guess he didn't get the memo.