Sunday, August 8, 2010

What's up Netflix!

A Single Man- 5 stars- It never occurred to me that there was something different about a fashion designer turned filmmaker. Both require impeccable taste, patience, a keen eye, the ability to manage others, a cool head, and talent. Anyone aware of the work Tom Ford did for Gucci and later his eponymous label would know in an instant the man is an artist. His attention to detail lends itself beautifully to moving pictures. Based on the novel by Christopher Isherwood, which Ford has said was a huge inspiration to him when he was younger, and stars Colin Firth, Julianne Moore, Matthew Goode, and Nicholas Hoult.

George (Firth) wakes up one morning and decides today is the day to die. His long term partner was tragically killed and he has been unable to pick up the pieces of their former life. He visits his oldest friend (Moore) and entertains a student (Hoult) throughout the course of the day. Firth has always been good at demonstrating a feeling without words. His facial expressions, mannerisms, hell, his eyes; all work to entangle the viewer into his bruised psyche. The beautiful thing about this movie isn't the costumes, or the score, or even the acting (though all of those are marvelous); it's the silence between things that makes the film seem to breathe with life. Ford's decision to pause on a cuff link, a painted eye, an empty room; fill the audience with the same feelings that must be pulsating through George. It is a truly wonderful film, possibly even more wonderful given it was the directors first, and a must see for all.

Eden Lake- 4 stars- I rented this movie for one reason and one reason only: Michael Fassbender. He is delicious! Also starring Kelly Reilly (Pride & Prejudice), it's a pretty typical horror movie. Young couple try to get a away for the weekend to go camping in the woods (always romantic), but they run afoul of a pack of teen thugs who terrorize and torture them. What gave this the extra star (which Fassbender already rendered) were the great performances, writing, and general lack of too much silliness. The kids talk the way kids talk, the couple speaks the way a long term love would, things just make sense. What would you do if in this situation? Personally I was raised not to taunt the lion, so to speak, so would not have ended up in this movie, but if I did I think I would respond (mostly) similarly. I love human horror movies, those flicks about the atrocities we inflict upon each other. The scare factor is so much higher. For fans of horror or shirtless Michael Fassbender.

Chloe- 4 stars- Atom Egoyan is one of my favorite directors of all time (The Sweet Hereafter, Exotica, Ararat). The work he has produced in Canada is indicative of the indie movement there. He has influenced countless directors and writers and is famous for his moving portraits of society. Again, the writing is brilliant. Here, Egoyan tries his hand at someone else's script (and a remake of a French film at that) to mixed results. The story itself is timeless: Wife (Julianne Moore, again) thinks husband (Liam Neeson) is cheating so she tests his fidelity. The test she chooses comes in the form of a young prostitute played by "Mama Mia's" Amanda Seyfried (proving her chops as a young ingénue). Things go out of hand as they are wont to do in this kind of film and tragedy ensues.

I really wanted to give this 3 stars but just couldn't. I wish Egoyan had grabbed the script (from the writer of "Secretary") and run his red pen all over it. The conversations may have made sense in French, but American women don't speak to each other that way. Everything seemed forced or told for shock value alone. Neeson doesn't seem to understand what he's doing in the picture (part of which may have to do with the death of his wife during filming). Moore has played the troubled housewife before and with better veal ("Far from Heaven", "Short Cuts", "Safe"). Seyfried has a grand career ahead of her if she can keep picking layered and varied projects. I think Bitter Balcony said it best: "'Chloe' makes sex boring". So, why 4 stars instead of 3? I've almost talked myself out of it! Really, it goes to Egoyan's mastery of film making, Seyfried's performance, and the result of all this on the marriage, that warrants a better rating.

I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell- 2 stars- Ugh. I was expecting a "boys just wanna be boys" movie and what I got was an hour and a half of bad acting, poor writing, and disjointed direction. Based on the bestselling memoir of the same name, we follow Tucker Max; self diagnosed misogynist, sexist, and asshole; as he hosts his friends bachelor party with horrific results. Sounds interesting. New York Times bestseller. Should be good. It isn't. Not even the charm of Matt Czuchry ("Gilmore Girls", "The Good Wife") and save it. I remember movies with long, rambling monologues about nothing. They happened in the 90s and were a hell of a lot more interesting. Even the hazily memorized musings in "Clerks" came off more genuine. Oddly, I'm still curious about the book. Could it be good? Minus 1 point for using the title of the movie as a line in the movie, plus 1 point since I finished it.

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