Tuesday, August 7, 2007

2007 Pre-Award Season Films Report

The Hoax - Richard Gere puts on an exceptional performance in portraying Howard Hughes biographer Clifford Irving. Alfred Molina gives great support as Irving's friend and partner-in-crime. There is a lot of dreamy imagery in this film, the dialogue and storytelling never becomes dull. I never got the sense that this one was seen by a large audience, which along with the fact the timing of it's release kills much Oscar potential, and the exposure it deserves. Maybe it'll have a chance to become a cult-film eventually at least. Much in the same status of THE JACKET or THE SCIENCE OF SLEEP (I was reading through Amoeba records 06-07's cd/dvd favorites list and actually noticed that one a handful of times, which may claim it to becoming a cult-film finally!); which I personally feel could and should reach the level of 2000 films like DONNIE DARKO and REQUIEM FOR A DREAM.

I was very moved by this short-film expansion into full-length feature. A guy (Sean Biggerstaff, from the 1st Harry Potter film) is dumped by his girlfriend, then starts a job at a supermarket when he's not at Art school. Ever since the loss of his girlfriend, he can't stop thinking about her and then finds it impossible to sleep. So what happens is he finds a way to slow time down where everything is frozen but him and his drawing materials; which he ends up using to enhance his portfolio of drawings of the female body. He ends up finding a connection to a girl at the grocery store, and the time-pausing turns this romantic-comedy upside down. The music and supporting comedy add even more reason to want to see this one again.

First Snow
Surreal mysery with Guy Pearce seeing a soothsayer on an isolated road where his car is being fixed. The man tells him his death is near, but not much else other than it comes near "The First Snow." The film's pace at times moves a little slow, but the climax it leads to is all worth not missing. Great performances by Piper Perabo and JK Simmons. Another highly undermentioned potential classic. Fans of films like THE MACHINIST may owe it to themself to seek this one out on DVD.

Breaking And Entering
- Jude Law's character faces a moral dilemma whether to turn in the boy who is involved in an unsolved robbery of technology used at his architecture company, or keep it silent after finding a connection with the boy's mother while in a struggling marriage. The twist the director takes this film seems somewhat real, my only real complaint about it was at times with Law's character the amount of emphasis on emotion doesn't come across as it could. But Juliette Binoche does compensate at times for that.

- Charming, humorous fantasy tale in the tradition of Terry Gilliam and films like THE PRINCESS BRIDE. Neil Gaiman finally has a one of his stories that qualifies to make a mark in Hollywood. The big names like Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfieffer, and Claire Danes, but the lead Charlie Cox really does breakthrough in this performance. A story about star that falls onto the Earth and a guy to try and win over a woman he desires, proposes to capture that star for her to win her love. Little does he know that *on the other side of the wall* lies a much different magical world. The novel I understand does not include the closet-gay Air-pirate ship captain played by De Niro, but it was one liberty that the writers probably pulled off for the better. This one could have been, or possibly still may have a shot at some award mentions as I found it to have a lot of the accessibilty that you notice in films that the Awards-Season champions. I probably also will always associate it with when the 35W bridge collapsed on Wednesday August 1st as I was watching it while the news of that tragic event occurred.

The Lookout - Cleverly and dreamy shot film about a guy who has trouble recalling much of his recent memories due to an accident when he was in High School. He ends up mixing with a guy in his town who befriends him but then leads to false intentions as he proposes to rob the bank he works at overnight. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is definitely one of the better young actors today, and I found this film much more appealing than 2006's BRICK. Jeff Daniels and Matthew Goode both give solid performances as well.

The Valet
- Very funny and charming French film about a Valet who due to a random photo taken with a supermodel, gets mixed up in an attempt to expose an affair of a prominent businessman. This is another one of these engaging and lighthearted comedies I find reach our Art-house theaters in the States here that works really well. The dialogue is great, the women are more than easy on the eyes, Daniel Auteil puts on another fine performance as the guy who is easy to not root for and laugh at.

Death At Funeral - Slapstick and well twisted story of a funeral that Murphy's Law seems to be watching over at that precise time. From an accidental overdose of Acid, to an unknown gay love affair from the deceased that is an attempt at blackmail; this one does use some of the same jokes to the point of redundancy, but overall it doesn't end up hurting. The uncle played by Peter Vaughn, is worth enough laughs to see this one alone. Very British, and very much effective in what it set out to do.

Broken English
- The 2nd Parker Posey film I saw this Summer, and the better of the two. A very relate-able story about a woman who has never found love after many years. She seems stuck in her NYC life and bad date after bad date. One day she meets a French guy who seems to latch onto her. He at 1st lacked charm, but a bit like in KNOCKED UP, he does grow on you and to the point when he's gone, you want him back with her. She seeks him out back in his home country of France after quitting her job and the ending works perfectly. Any single people who seem to be love's bitch, may find this film highly appealing. I know I did.

The TV Set - A movie looked forward to for nearly a year after reading great reviews of it at the 2006 TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL. David Duchovny is a TV writer whose show is being shown during "Pilot Week" in the Spring. The show does manage to gain momentum that week, but not without a price. This story is clearly inspired by writer/director Jake Kasdan's personal experience with the fickle prime-time network television industry of the past and present (he was involved with the short-lived cult show "Freaks And Geeks"). Anyone whose ever liked a show that got cancelled or wondered why a show is so popular that don't like should really see this movie. A similar situation to Corporate radio, it exposes what can happen to a great story (or artist) by demand and money. The cast is also good reason to see this starring Sigourney Weaver (not too different from her role in WORKING GIRLS), Judy Greer, Justine Bateman, Ian Gruffud, and even Philip Baker Hall. There are two scenes in particular that floored me. One was the tv show being shown to 20 different people in a room, the guy giving the instructions was hilarious telling these people, including this old grandma about controlling this rating knob the people were given to rate what they think of the show. He captured a lot of the way Gary Cole is in THE OFFICE..ya know "mmkay?..that would be terrriffic" and then this other short scene in a mall they have this woman ask random people about a name for a TV show and if they'd watch it. She goes over a bunch of names and then one she asks him "would you watch a show called 'Call Me Crazy'?"and the dude goes "yeah, because the dude is fucking crazy!" If you're a Christopher Guest fan..or know the Kevin Bacon film "The Big Picture" this one could be right up your alley.

Fay Grimm - Good cast starring Parker Posey and Jeff Goldblum especially, I didn't realize going in that this was a sequel/follow-up to "Henry Fool" which at times it really could have helped to have known that film's story. The previews made it seem comedic, but it actually was a lot more dramatic and action-oriented than I was expecting. Parker Posey is under pressure by the CIA to find her ex-husband who is not as they learn, in the USA anymore. She flees after him with her brother-in-law whose a nobel-prize winning author. This one has more in common with THE FUGITIVE than BROKEN ENGLISH, but overall it still works. And especially if you're a fan of the 1st, it's one to try and see.

Nancy Drew
- Cute and charming depiction of the classic mystery seeking teenage girl. It is not cliched or one to take things too seriously or obnoxious attempts at slapstick. No, the VERONICA MARS comparison can be made to extent, and that's not a bad thing (unlike BRICK which may have been). Being a Disney film, it does have it's adolescent direction, but as a whole there is more depth to notice than most of the films aimed at that demographic. Definitely better than your Nickelodeon or Family channel movie of the week. Emma Roberts may have a bright future ahead of her if she doesn't fall into the Sarah Michelle-Gellar trap that Kristen Bell may be headed unfortunately.

Knocked Up
- I was lucky enough to see an advanced screening of this back in April and was pretty impressed with it being more than just a film to stare at Katherine Heigl. Although, that was certainly a reason to go, but a lot of the jokes worked and I think solidifies Judd Apatow as a filmmaker of this era to be thought of now. Seth Rogen's character definitely grows on you throughout this movie. The only issue I still would say is the length being over 2 hours. I probably would go for another viewing since the theater was not exactly quiet and I remember missing a few lines here and there due to the broadcast laughter by others there. The response was maybe greater than THE 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN, and justifiably, but I didn't expect it to be as big after seeing this one. Will it receive Awards mention? It's release time may kill that, but a lot of people most likely will be jotting it down on their list come next Winter.

Some that were not bad films, but do not compare on my list to the above.

Factory Girl
Color Me Kubrick
Puccini For Beginners
Harry Potter And the Order of the Phoenix
Spiderman 3

The films caught in between seasons:

Alpha Dog. Ben Foster should have been nominated for an Oscar for this one. Very moving, dark film that may have not received the amount of discussion it deserved. Justin Timberlake CAN ACT as proof here.

Children Of Men - I liked the use of King Crimson and the Pink Floyd nod. The filming/photography was worth seeing, but I'd recommend people see Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN instead from Alfonso Cuaron. The only character you actually like or notice development from is Michael Caine's character. A very dark, hard-to-watch, and confusing picture in the end.

Little Children - I wrote about this one last Winter. Kate Winslet is quite good, but different. Todd Field has a certain style, and having been a fan of IN THE BEDROOM, this film definitely shares some elements to that story. I'm glad Kate and Jackie Earl-Haley were recognized here, although in a way I'm also glad it wasn't Kate's 1st Oscar win since she has played roles that were probably even more deserving.

Rocket Science
Introducing the Dwights
(Steve Buscemi)
Romance And Cigarettes (Winslet, Buscemi, 2005 Musical finally hitting theaters)
Grace Is Gone (John Cusack)
On the Road with Judas
My Name Is Bruce (Bruce Campbell)
Sarah Landon and the Paranormal Hour
Margot At the Wedding (Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jack Black, Nicole Kidman)
Fanboys (Kristen Bell, William Shatner
Be Kind Rewind (Michel Gondry and Jack Black)