2009 log (4)

(2 Apr) The Happening (2008, M. Night Shyamalan) [ review ] 67

(2 Apr) South Park 13.4 (2009, Trey Parker)
[ DOCTOR – “You should have thought of that before you queefed in my face three times!” ]

(5 Apr) The Incredible Hulk (2008, Louis Leterrier) 65
[ As a comic book geek as well as a diehard fan of Edward Norton, I figured it made no sense that I had still not seen this, especially since by all accounts, this was supposed to be less turgid than Ang Lee’s misguided 2003 film. And as a matter fact, right from the opening stretch, before we even get to the first action scene, I was enjoying Norton’s performance, the less heavy-handed storytelling, the Brazilian setting (Bruce Banner is exiled there at the beginning of the movie)… Oh, and “You wouldn’t like me when I’m hungry”? That’s already more (intentional) humor than there was in all of Lee’s film! And at the same time, this new movie does manage to convey the tragic nature and pathos of being the Hulk, how it’s affected Banner in general and in regards to his relationship with his girlfriend (Liv Tyler) in particular. Plus, the big set pieces are pretty cool and involve some effectively despicable villains, portrayed by the great William Hurt and Tim Roth. ]

(8 Apr) South Park 13.5 (2009, Trey Parker)
[ BUTTERS – “Eric, you have to save us! An entire army of Jew robots!” ]

(11 Apr) Observe and Report (2009, Jody Hill) [ review ] 71

(15 Apr) Synecdoche, New York (2008, Charlie Kaufman) 43
[ As a screenwriter, Charlie Kaufman’s résumé is hit and miss. As brilliant as can be his best work (“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”, “Being John Malkhovich”, “Adaptation”), you can’t dismiss the fact that he’s also been involved with some rather lacklustre films (“Human Nature”, “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind”). So what of this here directorial debut from the Oscar-winning scribe? Well, from the get-go, it truly feels like an unadulterated, pure dose of Kaufmanesque anxiety and awkwardness, with none of the whimsy a Spike Jonze or a Michel Gondry would bring to the table. Oh, there are quirks here (the perpetually burning house, the Neverending Diary, etc.), but they kinda fall flat. Philip Seymour Hoffman is at his most morose as a playwright who seems to get hit with every illness in the world one after another, so’s Catherine Keener as his painter wife, and even their young daughter seems neurotic. Everyone mumbles a lot, the look of the film is voluntarily drab, and it takes a good long while for any semblance of story to kick in. One early saving grace is Samantha Morton as a theater box-office clerk who charmingly flirts with him (and later on, Emily Watson as an actress playing her – don’t ask), but that doesn’t really pan out. Time flies, events pile up, then there’s this insanely ambitious play Hoffman is putting together where fiction and reality collide, his life and his art becoming one fucked-up whole, and there’s a lot of meandering dialogue and ideas that may seems profound or clever, but generally aren’t, and one starts to think that this might all be one big self-indulgent, tiresome mess. Which I’m afraid it is. ]

(16 Apr) South Park 13.6 (2009, Trey Parker)
[ RANDY MARSH – “Whaaaaaaat? Oh my God, not Finland!” ]

(17 Apr) Yes Man (2008, Peyton Reed) 62
[ Pratfalls, goofy facial expressions and over the top line readings: this “Liar Liar”-style high-concept comedy is very much old school Jim Carrey. The premise is a bit silly and pop-psychology simplistic, but it does have some ring of truth -e.g. you do often experience unexpected good breaks when you start opening up to life’s opportunities and going out of your comfort zone- and in any case, it’s kind of all an excuse for the aforementioned old school Jim Carrey antics. Better yet, there’s a rather cute rom-com subplot involving the most definitely cute Zooey Deschanel. ]

(18 Apr) Wanted (2008, Timur Bekmambetov) 79
[ I decided to rent this only because I’m an action movie fanatic, not expecting all that much… But DAMN! First, beside Zack Snyder, Timur Bekmambetov is probably the director who’s processed and built on the Wachowski style the most effectively so far. Second, his shoot-outs, fights and chases don’t just look good, they’re also as ridiculously awesome (or awesomely ridiculous) as any I’ve seen in a long while! Another thing I loved is how this feels like the missing 1999 flick that should have came out in between “The Matrix” and “Fight Club”, as it also revolves around a blasé office worker (James McAvoy) who gets pulled into a dangerous but exciting underworld and discovers hidden strengths in himself. And then there’s Angelina Jolie, who’s never been so badass and sexy before, and Morgan Freeman putting an amoral twist on his usual wise old man routine… Oh, sure, the plot’s preposterous, but not any more than your average comic book movie, and when it’s so fun, why complain? ]

(23 Apr) South Park 13.7 (2009, Trey Parker)
[ CARTMAN – “All right, seriously guys, what kind of pirates are you? I mean really: the fuck, dude, the fuck!” ]

(25 Apr) Darling (2007, Christine Carrière) 67
[ “C’est vrai que partout où je suis passé ça a été la merde”, says Darling early in what could be described as the anti-“Amélie”, every bit as miserable a tale as the Jeunet flick was cutesy. Adapted from a novel by Jean Teulé based on the real life of Catherine “Darling” Nicolle, this low-key, offbeat film follows the unwanted, long-suffering daughter (Marina Foïs) of a couple of farmers who live next to a highway, as she grows up fascinated by the truckers who drive by, dreaming of being taken away by one of them from the paysan life she loathes. Eventually, she does hook up with a trucker (Guillaume Canet – “Il ressemble à Roch Voisine!”), but he turns out to be less her savior than a complete nightmare, an irresponsible, drinking, cheating, wife-beating bastard who never seems to run out of ways to abuse and humiliate her… While this sordid story could have made for a heavy melodrama, it’s actually pierced by a peculiar sense of humor, which comes off mostly from Darling’s naïve outlook on things, and it’s told in a sober but visually expressive, almost poetic way. And Marina Foïs, best known for her comedic performances (“Mission Cléopâtre”, ” RRRrrrr!!!”, “Jeunes filles, cheveux gras”, etc.), shows unexpected depth and dramatic chops in this film, which earned her a César nod for Best Actress in 2008. ]

(25 Apr) Donnie Brasco (1997, Mike Newell) [ review ] 90

March / May