Sunday, May 30, 2010

What's up Netflix!

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus- 5 stars- Terry Gilliam is back (as if he ever went away) with this amazing trip through dream land and fantasy. Featuring everything you've come to love about Gilliam- outlandish costumes, beautiful FX, fine acting, and a lyrical script- recall the days of "Brazil" and "The Adventures of Baron Munchausen". Maybe I'm biased as we share a birthday, but no one makes me think quite the same way as Mr. Gilliam. Probably more famous as Heath Ledger's final movie (and he is genius in it), I hope it will also be remembered as the time Gilliam tapped into his own imagination, instead of reworking someone else's, and found success where everyone told him he would fail. The story revolves around the great Doctor's travelling group of misfits as they attempt to entertain (and possibly gain your soul) in the seedier parts of London. Early on we learn that Parnassus, in exchange for immortality, promised his daughter to the Devil (the delicious Tom Waits) on her 16th birthday. Lily Cole, model turned actress, plays his daughter and I see a real future for her if she continues to make smart choices. Sweeping into the equation is Heath Ledger's amnesiac who wants to help the troop get rich and win back the daughter from the Devil. After Ledger's death, Gilliam reworked the film and cast three actors (Johnny Depp-great, Jude Law- whimsical, and Colin Farrell- miscast) to fill in for Ledger when he falls into the dream world of Parnassus' greatest parlor trick- a magical mirror. It's almost hard to imagine this was not what Gilliam had in mind from the very beginning, it plays so well. A must see for everyone!

The Messenger- 4 stars- I knew to expect an emotional journey with this film, I just didn't expect it to hit me the way that it did. Oren Moverman's first feature is about the war in Iraq except it isn't. It's about the soldiers who fight, except it isn't. It's about love and loss and fear and redemption. Woody Harrelson (with well deserved Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations) and Ben Foster (what can't he do?) are soldiers tasked with notifying families when their loved one has been killed in action. Foster, himself seriously injured in action, is off balance and damaged; trying to find the solace needed to carry out this task. Harrelson, on the other hand, has been doing this a long time and seems un-phased by what goes on around him. The chemistry between these two actors is palpable. They fall into these characters rather than play them. The film has been seen as "anti-war" but I don't see that. It is simply a side of war we don't get to see and would rather not think about. A wonderful documentary with real notification officers and effected families is a real gut wrencher.

The Box- 4 stars- A lot of people hated this movie (as evidenced by the 2.6 star rating on Netflix). I, on the other hand, really liked it. It reminded me, in tone and execution, like an old "Twilight Zone" or "Outer Limits" episode (in fact it was a "Twilight Zone" episode). My delight was made all the more as it is based on a Richard Matheson short "Button, Button"- I simply adore him! If you are someone who wants everything spelled out for you, if you do not like classic SciFi TV, then I would avoid this film. The premise is simple: What if you pushed a button and received 1 million dollars, except someone you didn't know would die? What would you do? How would it affect you? Frank Langella is perfectly creepy as the man with the proposition. It loses 1 star due to Cameron Diaz's horrid southern accent and lake of chemistry between her and her husband, James Marsden. The film is a bit long but ends before you want to stab yourself or wander off to do something else. I am a big fan of Richard Kelly's first film "Donnie Darko" and think if you love (and I mean Love) that movie, you will probably like this one as well. If you were indifferent or just think it was okay, I would avoid anything else he's done. Heck, I'd avoid "Southland Tales" as well regardless- I couldn't even finish watching it was so bad. Note to Mr. Kelly, while I enjoy your tweets, if your next movie is a dud I will be forced to write off "Donnie Darko" as a fluke and erase you from my memory. You have been warned.

Ordinary People- 5 stars- I keep forgetting if I've seen this movie, and always remember about half way through that I have. For me, that's a plus. It's almost impossible for me to re-watch most movies so the fact that I can do so with this one makes me like it even more. Winner for Best Picture, Best Director (Robert Redford) and Best Supporting Actor (then newcomer Timothy Hutton); it is a classic that should be on everyone's must watch list. If you a parent who either wasn't one in 1980 when it came out or had just had a kid, I suggest you watch this movie again. If you have ever been a disaffected youth, watch this movie. If you have ever suffered great loss (and it's been adequate time to recover), watch this movie. The Jarrett clan seems impossibly put together, which of course they are not. The youngest, Hutton, has recently been released from the hospital following a suicide attempt. His mother, Mary Tyler Moore, has no idea how to communicate with anyone especially her wounded son. Donald Sutherland is the father trying to hold the clan together. Sporadic intercuts of the past punctuate the narrative giving us a glimpse into what happened in the past to dishevel this perfect suburban family. The acting and writing are sublime. The direction and cinematography is a bit dated, but not in an obnoxious way. I kept thinking the whole time, "Why did I never have a shrink as awesome as Judd Hirsch?!"

1 comment:

  1. Awesome! I can't wait to check out Imaginarium and The Box. Those two have been on my list for far too long, and yet I always forget them when it comes time to update my Netflix queue. Thanks for the reminder! Love your reviews, as always.