Saturday, September 19, 2009

5 More From TIFF: Perrier's Bounty, The Joneses, The Hole, Survival of the Dead and A Serious Man

Faithful readers! You may have noticed my absence from the blog of late as I let friends fill in from the Toronto International Film Festival. The Canadian fest wraps today but we've got a few more TIFF related reports to get through. I hope you're enjoying (comment!). After the TIFF wrap, I'll be back. Things have been crazy for me. Apologies! (I can't wait to tell you about my star studded 'Oprah Day'). Here's five more capsules from Txt Critic who I like to argue with in real life (he sees everything) despite his anonymity here.

on The Joneses
This satire of consumerism starring Demi Moore (at TIFF with her man, left) and David Duchovny as parents of a fake family "cell" placed into suburbia to sell their neighbors on various products is about as stale and 'blah' as that plot description sounds. The screenplay leaves both leads grasping at straws to fill in the holes of their characters and it's awkwardly indecisive on a tone; the softball-satire "jokes" clash with the stabs at relevancy and pathos (including a "what have we learned here" climax), and none of the actors ever finds a consistent pitch. I'd be surprised if it gets theatrical distribution. (C)
on The Hole
While I didn't get to see the entire film (the fire alarm was pulled twenty minutes before the film was over!), I feel like I got the gist of this 3-D Poltergeist throwback from Joe Dante. The movie, which intends to be a horror film for family audiences (PG-13?), alternates between groan-inducing dialogue, family drama backstory and jumpy B-movie scares (e.g. a creepy clown doll that keeps reappearing in inconvenient locations). It’s not up to snuff with Dante’s Gremlins but what is? If you have any 8-to-12-year-old kids who like being scared, take them along. That said, you’d still probably be better off with a DVD of Coraline. (C+)
On Perrier's Bounty
Derivative of films like In Bruges (without the emotional heft) and Snatch (without the emphasis on style), this Irish crime comedy flew under the radar of most festival-goers, despite starring well-liked mick stars Cillian Murphy, Brendan Gleeson and Jim Broadbent. Though it doesn’t bring a ton new to the well-worn genre, it boasts clever dialogue, fun performances (particularly Gleeson as the crime boss) and surprisingly off-kilter sources of humor, such as violence in the name of one’s affinity for dogs and dislike for homophobes. Seems a sure bet for small-time US distribution. (B+)
On A Serious Man
I can’t really be trusted when asked for my opinion on a Coen Brothers film. I’m more than a bit biased: for well over a decade, I’ve espoused the belief that they’re the best filmmakers working and I think even their worst movie (yes, The Ladykillers) is still pretty great. That said, even I was surprised at the level to which I was knocked out by their latest, which is supposedly their most personal film. It's about a much put-upon Minnesota university professor (Tony-nominated Michael Stuhlbarg) and how he attempts to grapple with the innumerable trials and tribulations in his life, most prominently via advice from the rabbis in his life.

Man recalls Barton Fink but definitively possesses its own unique identity. The film is consistently very, very funny but proves surprisingly weighty, too. A Serious Man depicts life as basically, ‘one fucking thing after the other,’ and espouses a supremely bleak worldview in an entirely original, oddly moving manner. While it possesses the Coens’ trademark immaculate filmmaking and shot composition, this is probably one of their most esoteric and least commercial films. It’s also, in my opinion, one of their three or four best films and in serious contention for my ‘best movie of the year’ title. (A+)
on George A Romero's Survival of the Dead
I appreciate the effort, but the guy should really give it a rest. I seemed to be one of the few in attendance who thought this was (mildly) more watchable than his last effort, Diary of the Dead. At least it featured a handful of fun, gory moments, and characters I didn’t want to instinctively murder. Overall, I think my reaction can best be summed up by my sold-out midnight audience’s behavior: they gave Romero a standing ovation when he showed up to introduce the film, and shuffled out of the theater as the credits rolled with their heads hung low -- not even bothering to stay for the Q&A with their hero. (C)
Whoa. High praise for the Coen Bros. After No Country For Old Men (my #2 of 2007) and Burn After Reading (#11 of 2008), both top-notch efforts, it's clear that they've jumped whatever hurdle they were struggling to clear in that weird mid-Aughts patch (The Ladykillers, Intolerable Cruelty). Well done.


Seeking Amy said...

I loved the trailer and poster for A Serious Man, and the great reception has been making me pretty excited.

I don't really understand the strong dislike for Intolerable Cruelty (Ladykillers on the other hand I do) I think it's light, silly fun and CZJ and Clooney sizzle.

Anonymous said...

I haven't seen The Joneses yet. I do hope it gets a distributor here in the states. But, I have been reading the reviews and I must say yours is the first really negative review i've read. Most seem to like the film very much.

jbaker475 said...

It's so exciting to hear even MORE good reactions to A Serious Man! After being underwhelmed by Burn After Reading (which I still liked), I'm super excited for this, which looks like another Barton Fink :)

mike said...

'A Serious Man' is starting to sound more and more like 'Synecdoche, New York' every day, and I dont like that at all.


mike. i don't like the sound of that either. But i very much like the "sound" of the trailer for A Serious Man so I'm totally there.

steve said...

re: SOTD, haven't seen it yet, but *nothing* could be worse than "Diary of the Dead"

i still like "Martin" best of all Romero's films

steve said...
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