2009 log (5)

(1 May) X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009, Gavin Hood) [ review ] 43

(2 May) Gilles Carle ou l’indomptable imaginaire (2005, Charles Binamé) 88
[ It took Gilles Carle to push Binamé into making what might be his best film, a moving and poetic non-traditional documentary celebrating a filmmaker through the sheer force of cinema, but also through music, art, nature, his friends and the love of his life, Chloé Sainte-Marie. ]

(2 May) The Green Mile (1999, Frank Darabont) [ review ] 80

(8 May) Star Trek (2009, J. J. Abrams) [ review ] 54

(9 May) The Girlfriend Experience (2009, Steven Soderbergh) 61
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

(17 May) While She Was Out (2009, Susan Montford) 23
[ I decided to give this straight-to-DVD pic a try in part because it was “presented by Guillermo del Toro”, plus the idea of Kim Basinger using the contents of a toolbox to defend herself against some thugs seemed like a potent exploitation flick premise to me. Now, the first 20 minutes of the thing are pretty lame, what with Basinger’s housewife character coming off like she’s dim-witted and/or sedated as she gets abused by her husband, then goes out and drives like an idiot (lighting up a cigarette, talking on her cell and barely looking at the road) to the mall for some last-minute Christmas shopping – literally last minute, she’s doing this on Christmas eve! The fact that she’s married to an asshole makes us feel some sympathy for her, but she’s otherwise such a dope! So at around the 20 minute mark, when she comes head to head with a gang of cartoonish hoodlums (one Caucasian, one African-American, one Latino, one Asian – how the hell did they end up together?) through rather preposterous circumstances, I couldn’t figure how she wouldn’t just be done for moments later, so little did she appear capable of fending off for herself in life in general, let alone against four no-good motherfuckers. Yet first-time director Susan Montford (who happens to be the wife of producer Don Murphy) does manage to wring some suspense out of this, and she pulls off a couple of effective “shock” moments. Too bad the writing and the acting are so damn mediocre…. ]

(18 May) Nothing But the Truth (2008, Rod Lurie) 78
[ Another straight-to-DVD flick, this one much more surprising, as it’s got some rather impressive pedigree, what with 1) being written and directed by Rod Lurie, 2) starring Kate Beckinsale, and 3) ostensibly being about the Judith Miller cause célèbre. You’d think that all those elements, while maybe not box-office gold, should have at least justified it being released in theatres across North America (instead of just in New York for a token for-your-consideration Oscar qualifying run). I mean, with all the crap opening week in and week out… Oh well, here it is on DVD for us to enjoy at last, and I do mean enjoy. This reminded me a lot of “The Contender”, Lurie’s 2000 piece of political-fiction, which similarly played with actual events while pushing further into thought-provoking speculation and effective emotional button-pushing. Lurie doesn’t do subtle but, both as a writer and as a director, he knows how to get ideas across and how to make us feel them viscerally. What comes first: the public’s right to know or so-called “national security”? Where does professional secrecy begin and end, both within government agencies and the media? How much can one give up for a question of principles? Beckinsale is really good, at her best even, as the reporter who outs a CIA operative, played by the always engaging Vera Farmiga, and Matt Dillon, Noah Wyle and the amazing Alan Alda offer strong performances as, respectively, the prosecutor who puts Beckinsale in jail for refusing to reveal her source and the lawyers who defend her. This is truly a quite exceptional picture, which deserves to be widely seen. ]

(22 May) Terminator Salvation (2009, McG) [ review ] 65

(25 May) Heckler (2009, Michael Addis)
[ While there are many amusing and/or interesting bits in this documentary about “douche bags” who yell shit at comedians during their act, it suffers, amongst other things, of having been produced by a comedian. As much as Jamie Kennedy wants to seem like he’s got a sense of self-derision, he still seems pretty bitter about it all. And once he moves on to film critics, following the “logic” that we are just like hecklers ourselves, it just becomes hopeless. I mean, really, Jamie, you think that people gave bad reviews to “Malibu’s Most Wanted” and “Son of the Mask” just to be assholes? Not because it, you know, actually sucked? Going back to people heckling comics on stage, I agree that this is wholly inappropriate and dickish behavior. But writing a negative review of a crappy Jamie Kennedy comedy? That’s just part of the game, man. Sure, some critics go too far and get needlessly personal in their attacks but in my experience, most take this job seriously and don’t go out of their way trying to hurt filmmakers’ feelings. Best part of the flick: Devin Faraci’s response to Leonard Maltin’s contempt towards CHUD.com. ]

(28 May) Faded Memories (2009, Anne-Sophie Dutoit) 4
[ “Anne-Sophie Dutoit wrote Faded Memories when she was 14. By the time she was 16, she directed and starred in it.” So say the opening titles, which is odd. I mean, “Citizen Kane” didn’t open by stating that Orson Welles was 25 when he made it or anything, right? In any case, it’s instantly obvious any way that a teenage girl put together this thing, so immature, clumsy and naïve it feels. Overflowing with affected voice-over narration and driven by empty teen angst and cloying sentimentality, the film tries to make itself all deep and shit by making its protagonist live with an aunt who’s a caricature of a trailer trash skank and by making her suffer from some kind of mental illness: she’s afraid to be touched, she hears voices and sees things, etc. Still, she meets a oh-so-dreamy guy and they fall in love. Will they live happily ever after, or will Cassandra’s troubles have the best of her? Between the inane dialogue, awful acting and low-rent TV movie-ish direction, there’s really not much worth writing about here. Beside the teen filmmaker gimmick, of course, but while that makes a good behind-the-scenes story, it doesn’t change the fact that what’s on screen is pretty much worthless. ]

(31 May) Drag Me to Hell (2009, Sam Raimi) 63
[ Part of the Directors Series ]

April / June