2009 log (10)

(3 Oct) The Informant! (2009, Steven Soderbergh) 73
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(5 Oct) The Informers (2009, Gregor Jordan) 25
[ This is the fourth film to be adapted from a Brett Easton Ellis book, after “Less than Zero”, “American Psycho” and “The Rules of Attraction”. You probably know what to expect: sex, drugs, violence, and a whole lotta cynicism, natch. Set in the 1980s (cue the ridiculous haircuts and synthpop music cues), the story involves various characters, notably a group of young guys with rich parents (Austin Nichols, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jon Foster and Aaron Himelstein), a slutty blonde (the perpetually naked Amber Heard), a movie executive (Billy Bob Thornton), a desperate housewife (Kim Basinger), a newscaster chick (Winona Ryder), a self-destructive rock star (Mel Raido) and his manager (Rhys Ifans), a hotel clerk (Brad Renfro) and his creepy uncle (Mickey Rourke), etc. Now, the fun of a movie like this would usually come from gradually figuring out how everyone relates to each other, but I can’t say that I cared about any of the characters, on their own or together. This is all so empty and pointless, which is sort of the point, I guess, but director Gregor Jordan fails to make it be thought-provoking, moving, exciting, funny or whatever, and it doesn’t build up to anything, really. It’s just a bunch of stuff on the screen. ]

(9 Oct) South Park 13.8 (2009, Trey Parker)
[ It seems like I say this every year, but you gotta admire how Trey Parker and Matt Stone keep coming back with new ways of subverting current events, spoofing pop culture and all around being silly, satirical and/or offensive! “I… see… dead… celebrities.” What a simple and clever way of summing up the last summer while poking fun at Shyamalan’s modern classic horror film, amongst other things. ]

THE LORD OF THE RINGS [ review ] 95

(11 Oct) The Fellowship of the Ring (2001, Peter Jackson) [ review ]
(12 Oct) The Two Towers (2002, Peter Jackson) [ review ]
(12 Oct) The Return of the King (2003, Peter Jackson) [ review ]

(13 Oct) D Tour: A Tenacious Documentary (2008, Jeremy Konner)
[ From what I understand, this started out as a documentary about the world tour Tenacious D went on in the fall of 2006, but in the midst of it, their movie “The Pick of Destiny” came out and bombed so hard that it kinda twisted the whole thing on its head. Suddenly, our goofy rockers grow increasingly sour, having a hard time swallowing this setback and keeping a happy face while they continue touring and doing promo. Also not helping is the way most, if not all of the media attention is focused on Jack Black, poor Kyle Gass ending up being just “the other guy” no one pays attention to. Jeremy Konner’s film captures all that, which makes for many awkward, uncomfortable, sometimes downright humiliating moments. It kind of made me thing of Ricky Gervais’ “The Office”, in a way, except that this isn’t faux-vérité, this is vérité-vérité! ]

(16 Sep) Where the Wild Things Are (2009, Spike Jonze) [ review ] 94

(17 Oct) Brüno (2009, Larry Charles) 49
[ Huh. Like most everyone, I loved the hell out of “Borat”, but this new Sacha Baron Cohen vehicle just isn’t that funny. It’s watchable enough, sure, and some bits are indeed flat-out hilarious, but the pacing and the comic timing often seem off, the whole faux-véritié gimmick hardly feels fresh anymore and the would-be shocking parts sometimes fall flat. Still, if only for taking on America’s rampant homophobia, it deserves some kudos. ]

(17 Oct) Dead Snow (2009, Tommy Wirkola) 42
[ After being shown at the Fantasia festival last summer, this Norwegian horror film is now coming out on DVD, just in time for Halloween. The set-up, which has a group of horny young men and women going on a trip to a cabin only to, we guess, end up being killed one by one, is as old as it gets. But before long, the characters themselves start pointing out that the situation is very “Friday the 13th” or “Evil Dead”, so we gather this is one of those post-“Scream”, somewhat self-aware flicks. Other points in this movie’s favor is that instead of being in the woods, the cabin in question is in the snowy mountains of Norway and that the unexpected threat that surrounds it is a bunch of angry undead Nazis! Tommy Wirkola, who also wrote and directed the Tarantino spoof “Kill Buljo”, does a good job in establishing the setting, allowing us get to know and generally like his cast and slowly building tension during the first act. When all hell breaks loose, alas, the movie kind of goes limp. Oh, there’s plenty of gore, over the top confrontations and black humor, but none of it is particularly exciting, fun or well crafted. And once the novelty of seeing zombies in World War II German uniforms wears off, “Dead Snow” turns out to be a pretty forgettable affair. ]

(18 Oct) Pour elle (2009, Fred Cavayé) 74
[ Currently being remade by Paul Haggis with stars Russell Crowe and Elizabeth Banks, this French thriller does indeed have a very potent premise – it’s almost Hitchcockian! Vincent Lindon plays a man who, after his wife (Diane Kruger) is condemned to 20 years in jail for a murder she didn’t commit, decides to break her out and go on the lam with her and their young son. Writer-director Fred Cavayé effectively sets everything up, plus he can count on resourceful actors like Lindon and Kruger who almost instantly make us root for them. What’s interesting about films like this is how they have the protagonist meticulously prepare his plan, then various mishaps happen and he’s forced to improvise and use messier tactics that often result in him and/or others getting hurt. Up until the very last minute, “Pour elle” remains gripping and unpredictable. ]

(20 Oct) Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny (2006, Liam Lynch) [ review ] 90

(23 Oct) Assassination of a High School President (2009, Brett Simon) 77
[ Sort of a cross between “Brick” and “Election”, this is one of those unusually stylish and clever high school movies where the stakes are much higher than who’s gonna go to prom with whom or whatnot. Taking the form of a teenage film noir, “Assassination of a High School President” has sophomore newspaper journalist Bobby Funke (Reece Thompson) investigate the theft of a bunch of SAT tests, which may or may not have involved the senior class president. Intricate if not entirely unpredictable, the plot is not so much the point here, as Brett Simon’s movie is mostly an exercise in style. Hardboiled dialogue and voice-over narration, crisp cinematography, cool soundtrack, Mischa Barton and Melonie Diaz as femmes fatales in schoolgirl outfits: it’s all good. And just to make this even more of a must-see, you’ve got Bruce Willis as the hilariously badass Gulf War veteran school principal! ]

(25 Oct) Gigantic (2009, Matt Aselton) 19
[ Mike D’Angelo accurately called it a gigantic “quirk-o-rama”, and many other critics were put off by how much of an indie film’s indie film this is. As you must know, clichés aren’t reserved to Hollywood blockbusters: there are a whole lot of independent pictures that can be just as generic, and I’m afraid this is one of them. It’s as if they’d taken Paul Dano’s character from “Little Miss Sunshine” and Zooey Deschanel’s character from “All the Real Girls”, plus a reliably gruff John Goodman, and thrown them into an oddball non-story involving expensive beds, rat experiments, an unexplainably aggressive homeless man, back problems, French cooking, piñatas of world dictators, the difficulty of adopting a Chinese baby when you’re a 28-year-old single man and other little things that might sound amusing or intriguing, but that don’t add up to anything. The screenplay is not nearly as witty as it thinks it is, the direction seriously lacks energy and even with these usually enjoyable actors, we never connect to the characters. This is as dull and forgettable as it gets. ]

(26 Oct) La Donation (2009, Bernard Émond) 84
[ This is the final and, in my opinion, best film in Bernard Émond’s trilogy about theological values. Slow, quiet and austere, “La Donation” is a profound yet unpretentious meditation on the meaning of life, filled with muted but acutely felt emotion. Taking place more often than not around hospital rooms and deathbeds, the film also spends a lot of time taking in the transfixing Abitibi scenery. And then there is Jacques Godin as an aging backcountry doctor and Élise Guilbault as his reluctant successor, who both deliver superbly understated performances. ]

(30 Oct) There Will Be Blood (2007, Paul Thomas Anderson) [ review ] 95

(31 Oct) Sisters (1973, Brian De Palma) 75
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

September / November