SPOILERS ALERT! Anticipated for many months now, James Cameron’s Avatar is finally upon us and all we can muster up is a lot of bitching. Maybe not fair to a guy we have grown up with and loved over the years or to a movie that is not based on a video game, remake or previous existing property, perhaps. The criticism is as valid as the heap of praise for the last monster-sized blockbuster of 2009. We switch gears from negative to positive rather abruptly with our top ten picks of best female performances in 2009 and even reminisce on some Mike Judge and other DVD releases this week. Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comment section below and by all means post your own top ten. We’d love to see it.
Thanks for listening!
Super thanks to Rian Johnson (Brick/Brothers Bloom) for dropping by and magically rolling with Gamble’s proverbial punches. Making up for Andrew’s illness, Rian throws his four cents into the pool of fantasy that is Where the Wild Things Are and also dropping some Coen Brothers love in a more detailed examination of A Serious Man. With of course the usual DVD talk and bits of other nostalgia and B-films.
There are plenty of fan made commentaries available on the web for hundreds of films; even current theatrical releases. And I know Kevin Smith toyed with the idea of a director commentary for Clerks II, but I don’t remember if that ever came to fruition or not. But today I got word that Rian Johnson has recorded a special audio commentary for The Brothers Bloom (our review) available for download that is intended to be listened to on your .mp3 player while sitting in the theater.
This is an idea that has always intrigued me but not sure if it’s feasible. I mean, I’d like to listen, but I’ve never seen the film before so why would I waste the ten bucks I just spent on the film and then not even pay attention to the story while I listen to the director drone on about logistics and camera technique?
So maybe this is a ploy to get people to come back a second time? Maybe, but that doesn’t seem very promising or realistic.
Here’s the thing though: with lots of reviews coming out with not so positive things to say about the movie and the fact that I think I may be seeing this by myself on a Saturday morning and the fact that the download is free, I may actually give this thing a try. If for no other reason than to do something new and possibly gain some insight into the movie that others aren’t aware of as of yet.
In any case, you can head over to The BB Apple page and grab the .mp3 OR I’ve decided to host it right here at RowThree and you can grab it below if you so choose.
So what do you think? Are you willing to listen to a director’s commentary in the theater when it’s your first time seeing the film? Would you go back and pay a second time just to listen to this? Or maybe a better question is: is this going to be annoying to the people around you if you do choose to go ahead with this? What are your thoughts? Sound off below.
Get the commentary by saving the following .mp3 file to your computer: http://rowthree.com/audio/thebrothersbloom-commentary .mp3
[After debuting at the Toronto International Film Festival back in September, this film has been bumped a couple times, more likely than not because nobody know how to sell these type of character and dialogue driven world hopping romps anymore. But finally it arrives as a bit of summer blockbuster counter-programming from the same studio that put out Twilight. I offer a slightly updated version of my original TIFF review below.]
Following the cult success of Rian Johnson‘s debut feature, the stylish high-school noir, Brick, A-list stars and a much bigger budget were sure to follow. The Brothers Bloom was filmed in a variety European and North American locations and things look fabulously bright and breezy on the big screen. Unfortunately, a mild case of the sophomore slump is in place, as the new con artist caper film never quite lives up to the promise of its opening moments and gets mired down a bit by cleverness for cleverness sake. It would be unfair to tag the film with the hubris of Guy Richie’s Revolver because it seems clear that Johnson was aiming for a whimsical light-hearted touch, but the film unfortunately does share glossy posturing and pseudo intellectual chest thumping whilst simultaneously lacking any desired emotional (or intellectual) payoff. Things are fun enough while the film unspools, but there is not quite sense of click accomplished with Brick and the whole affair (forgive the pun) collapses like a house of cards before the end credits start rolling.
The film opens very like gangbusters however. A delightful voice-over narration from magician extraordinaire Ricky Jay, whose interesting speech rhythms (on display in most David Mamet films, but also in the opening set-up for P.T. Anderson’s Magnolia) set the stage for the bubbly confidence caper film to follow. An image of an amputee kitten pushing itself in a roller skate along the candy-coloured main street in small town America makes things clear that the tonal territory is more Terry Gilliam than David Gordon Green. The opening moments have youngling versions of the brothers in full grifter regalia, rumpled black and white suits with hats to match, overcoming their orphan (ostracized outsider) status by swindling the other (”bourgeois!”) children of their dollars and cents. The ‘prestige’ of the opening sting may just be the biggest zing moment of the film. Genius like that (I won’t spoil!) is why the genre exists! But it is a somewhat bumpy downhill ride after that. And there is a big treat for those anticipating Spike Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are, young Max Records (who will be playing Max in WtWTA) plays young Steven Bloom with gusto and charm aplenty.
Jim Emerson over at Scanners blog has often written that many a film can be summed up by its opening scene. And Rian Johnson‘s follow-up to the much lauded Brick, a grifter flick by the name of The Brothers Bloom, certainly makes no bones about laying what the film is about in a wonderful pre-credits sequence. While Rachel Weisz commands the screen as Penelope later on in the film, I must admit, the high point of the film is actually the brother’s first con. It is a mini movie in itself and tells a tale that is high artifice but also contains a nugget of truth on compromise, sacrifice and finding a balance between desire and family. Maybe I’m reading too much into a sequence that delights in foster parents smacking their charges and lingers on a one-legged cat pushing itself in a rollerskate.
Yet I’ll offer three compelling reasons to enjoy the below scene: 1) It is narrated by the master Ricky Jay, who most will recognize his soothing tones and eloquent use of the language from the opening sequence in Magnolia. Another narration knocked out of the ball park. Jay should be doing trailer work if he ever needs the cash to pick up vintage magician paraphernalia. 2) It is the first glimpse of seeing a young Max Records in action. He is the lucky boy who gets to play Max in Spike Jonze‘s Where the Wild things Are. And he kicks ass as the planner/schemer Steven Bloom (heck I’ll say he is better than Mark Ruffalo who plays the older Steven in the film!) 3) Nothing is better in a grifter flick than seeing a well executed con that ends up being both surprising and inevitable (a paradox some might call good ‘showmanship!’) The results? It brings a smile to your face. A smile very hard to resist. A smile you want to share. A smile that lingers with elegant use of slow motion walking away from the screen. Walking away from the delights of being able to casually discard expensive frozen treats: “Let ’em melt!”
Far too often when a film (particularly a comedy, which The Brothers Bloom both is and is not) opens with ‘young versions’ of the characters (this is often the case in SNL skits blown up to feature films) it is just a lame story device to get the ball rolling. Here it is an effervescent use of the language, narration, film shooting technique (to put the girl out of reach at one point, there is a very nice dolly zoom, for those who care about that stuff), and above all ‘movieness.’ It may make the rest of the film (particularly the closing act) a bit frustrating, but in this case, the opener is all elegance and fun. The way an opener should be.