You are reading this because you want to know if Charlie Kaufman’s Synecdoche, New York is a good film, and perhaps you want me to compare and contrast it with the great screenplays he has written, and hopefully in the process provide a categorical frame to this new commodity. What must a press screening of such a film look like, what sort of deadening halt could be felt, to pens and paper, to stillborn thoughts, as the anarchy of Kaufman’s imagination marched mercilessly through its two hours? What language other than the poetic can one even begin to articulate the activity of that fugue?
Rest assured, this ‘review’ will not give away anything, for it would be as pointless as describing a blob of colour carefully set within a Monet landscape, or quoting a line from a Beckett play, the activity of this story is one of patterns. It may take your mind an hour or two, or even days to adjust to the pattern recognition required to make sense of what Kaufman is doing with this story. So is the possible genius of the work; I’m still uncertain what happened, what I even feel about it. The dense narrative works not in scenes, nor arcs, nor traditional transitions, but everything both real and unreal, past, present and future coming together on the same cosmic stage. I was unable to understand it in the fashion I am accustom to, but after awhile the pervading ideas and emotions emerged like one of those 3-D illusions, the dissociative details forming a lived-in impression of loneliness, heartache, and death. The Russian doll ellipses, apparently random tangents, and gaping time lapses, provide just the right amount of disorientation to evoke the revelation, to have the sadness of life creep up on you and inhabit you.
As the synapses fire blanks, a new seeing emerges, the seeing not of characters and story on a separate stage from us but as us, surveyors of our own lives, inhabitants of insecurities and absurdities that brush shoulders with one another in unscripted indecencies, all loose ends that are felt beyond the academic rigor of existentialism or the theatre of the absurd. As characters in the film perceive fictionalizations of themselves we perceive the characters, and perceive ourselves watching the characters. As the puzzle of perception unfolds, deeper and deeper into the time lapse, any remnant of analytical thought is exhausted by the onslaught of highly stylized quasi-subconscious details that run through, and in the flurry of all these simultaneous assaults on the mind, one either tunes out or tunes in to a whole new wavelength.
The originality of the film is staggering, even by Kaufman standards. Its unparalleled sophistication of storytelling is something only a Beckett or Kafka could imagine, not even Lynch, I suspect, could have the patience for this well-laid detonation of meaning. Kaufman’s directorial debut is aggressively auteur, it is, as Cameron Bailey noted in his introduction to the film, the purest distillation yet of the mind of Charlie Kaufman.
Philip Seymour Hoffman is a theater director whose ambition to capture the true meaning of life escalates into citywide sets of thousands of actors all on his cue. This review is now over.
The prints of Darren Aronofsky’s new film, The Wrestler, have barely dried (or what is the digital equivalent?) and already it has won the top prize at the Venice Film Festival and is on its way, possibly, to the Peoples Choice Award at Toronto. After the emotional and visual epic of The Fountain, the director has scaled the scope of his new film down to about as intimate as one can get (this sentence is amusing in and of itself considering the subject matter is Pro Wrestling). There are essentially three characters in the film, the stylistic tics are kept to a subtle minimum and the actors are simply allowed to perform. At the packed pubic afternoon screening in Toronto, Aronofsky, who was on hand to introduce the film, kept the words to a minimum saying simply all one needs to make a good film is a lens and good performers and that is what he has done here, due largely to a career high from Mickey Rourke. Rourke himself has seen enough trials and tribulations over his acting/boxing career that much of the weathering is quite naturally etched on his face and skin. Fulfilling the promise of his work in the 1980s (Johnny Handsome, Barfly) that was squandered with personal problems and junk-cinema starting with Wild Orchid and throughout the 1990s. While he made a fair bit of a splash covered in make-up and acting against digital backdrops in the testosterone-noir of Robert Rodriguez’s Sin City (and for that matter, shines amongst the equally bombastic Domino), here he is given a role that allows for a gamut of emotions in a rich, patient bit of intimate storytelling. The actor has never shone brighter than here. But The Wrestler is no ‘comeback’ sports story. Rourke’s take on the public and private life of a (fictional) professional wrestler, 20 years past his prime yet still grinding it out in gutter venues, despite the protestation of an aging body, is a warm, generous, and sad portrayal. Likewise, Marissa Tomei, in a rich supporting role, continues to prove that she is one of the most talented actresses working today. Going as the stripper with the heart of gold is about as rote and cliché as one can get, but Tomei realizes her character as a full fleshed role, all the while being mostly naked up on screen. Yes, The Wrestler deserves every bit of praise it is garnering. Those worried that The Fountain (despite its cult audience) may have been a career killer, worry no more.
The Wrestler poses one of the most fundamental questions: what do you do when your entire purpose of being has been stripped away? Will you keep on keeping on even though it is now the mere shadow of past glories even if continuing is painful, potentially humiliating, and likely fatal? What is the cost of comforting over the difficult struggle into unknown territory? The story follows Randy ‘The Ram’ Robinson, who, back in the 1980s wrestling boom, was one of the biggest names in the business. Headlining massive stadium shows, Nintendo wrestling games designed on him, and all the fan worship he could handle (note to fans of great opening credit sequences, the information and mood are elegantly set in a scrapbook fashion here). But bad choices and tough breaks (perhaps the nature of the business, chewing up and spitting out the athletes while the money flows to the suits) and the inexorable passage of time has left him living in a hovel of a trailer park (where even still he has trouble making rent), wrestling on the lowest of professional circuits for pennies, and having work a day job stocking shelves during the week. Along the way he has a daughter, one he has neglected over the years (the mother is never mentioned). While he neglects his life, he is actually quite disciplined about his profession, even practicing it at the bottom of the food chain, a day in the life showing him making visits to his steroid and pharmaceutical provider, a trip to the hair dresser for blond highlights, an hour on the tanning bed and a solid gym work out. All this attention to the body, which then gets put through the meat grinder during the bloody matches in the ring where broken glass, razor wire, and other blunt paraphernalia are then used to smash and abuse the same flesh to appease the bloodlust of a hardcore crowd. His evenings are spent in bars and strip clubs where he has an almost-relationship with one of the long-time strippers, Cassidy (aka Pam) her own struggle with age impinging on the practice of her trade, she is old enough to be sent out of the VIP room by a horny bachelor party that is looking for someone younger. Much like The Ram, she seems to be more or less holding up, but her ‘glory days’ are well past her.
After a serious medical issue, the doctors are pretty explicit with him that his wrestling career is over. The Ram’s struggle to adjust to real life is the center of the film. A day job at (of all things) a meat counter, reconnecting with his 20 something daughter. Scenes spent first shopping for a gift for his daughter with Pam and later a pleasant afternoon with said daughter is the stuff of great emotional cinema. But despite being a pretty likable guy (he’s great with the kiddies), Robin Robinson (his real name), who even manages to excel in customer service at the meat counter, there is a lot of baggage that makes the shift to the real world a very difficult one. You can’t help but shed a tear for this guys problems, as the film really doesn’t dwell on Robinson’s ‘asshole’ years. An easy way out? Perhaps, but the rest of the story does speak for itself quite well. Finally a movie that knows the exact right place to end without glad-handling its audience with unnecessary extended endings. The film itself is a denouement to a story of universal resonance.
It was nice to see, like the director is telling a smaller story, that his regular composer, Clint Mansell has scored the film in an equally subdued manner. Most cinema goers are familiar to the point of irritation with his Requiem for a Dream score, which despite being a marvel of modulated assault (much like the film for which it provides the soundtrack) seems to be the muzak for every other science fiction and action film that has came afterwards. His Fountain score is equally operatic, but here he lets 80s stadium rock (as easy to please and skin deep as Pro Wrestling) do most of the musical heavy lifting. The film is even dedicated, of all people, to Axl Rose.
The Wrestler is built kind of like the sport that it is set in. The story is familiar, a bit shop-worn, even contrived, and perhaps a bit faked. While things are playing out on screen, it archives a genuine emotional workout: the best kind of cinematic magic. The film is a weepy and a crowd- pleaser in the best sense of both of those terms. It is a a solid and accomplished work which shows a talented filmmaker at the pinnacle of his career. While it may or may not do any favours to legitimize the modern cartoon that is WWE, it is a strangely positive love-letter to the sport (witness the charming ‘shop talk’ in the Wrestlers greenroom) and those who grind themselves away practitioning it
When a new Michael Winterbottom film comes out it is always interesting to see where exactly he is going to go with it. Certainly Winterbottom has one of the most diverse CV’s in the cinema with things ranging as far as Tristram Shandy to Welcome to Sarajevo to 24 Hour Party People, to Code 46. With Genova, he explores the rhythms, sites, beauty and danger of the large Italian city from three perspectives, a young girl, a teenager and a middle-aged university professor. All three of these people are in the same family, one recently stricken with the loss of the mother/wife. Naturally lit and laced with some stomach clenching intense moments, the film casually recalls Nicholas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now filtered though aspects of intimate Winterbottom’s own urban wanderings of A Mighty Heart, where he burrowed into strange corners of Karachi. The film us a curious mixture of storytelling types. It is graceful drama on the grieving process merged, both smoothly and meticulously, with an intimate documentary style and a novel execution of maximum suspense. Sensitive parents beware, while Genova is attractively interspersed with honesty, the film is really quite nerve wracking.
The film opens with a violent car crash along an American highway. It is established early in this scene that things are going to happen, and Winterbottom lets the scene play out so that it is almost unbearable. Traffic noises are amplified in a subtle way for maximum effect. The mother doesn’t make it, the daughters, 17 and 8 do. Their father (Colin Firth) retreats from their Chicago home, relocating to Italy in the hopes a change of scenery will be good for him and the girls. While there are no objections from the girls, the youngest, Mary, is wracked with guilt for distracting her mother potentially causing the accident and clearly is having trouble dealing with things. Upon getting to the city of Genova, she begins to have hallucinations of her mother which are both comforting and sinister. An family friend, an ex-girlfriend of Dad, played superbly by Catherine Keener, helps ease them into the city, showing them the sites, and becoming a bit of a surrogate mother to Mary. While Dad begins his teaching position in Genova, the girls are more or less left on their own with the city, their only obligation being weekly piano lessons up the street. Kelly the eldest daughter takes huge breaths of Europe, becoming sexually active and a bit of a party girl, neglecting her duties of taking care of Mary (whom see somewhat also blames for the death of Mom). Kelly’s carefree exploits, an Mary’s wanderings are the beating heart of the film. To young girls, the dark, maze-like alleyways are full of wonders and dangers During the trips on the back of a Vespa through the busy and chaotic streets the film is positively electric. The culmination of the three lost souls (daughters and dad) anxious and running make for an interesting metaphor. It may on the surface seem low key and even wispy (plot certainly takes a back seat to tone), but is powerful and professional work from a director at the top of his game. Chalk this up as another success for the UK’s greatest chameleon director.
You will not hear me say this often when it comes to a review of a movie but I do not believe I can do Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire justice in a review. I could star listing of hyperbole after hyperbole and I would not be exaggerating one bit on how I feel about this movie. This is the movie that has made TIFF worthwhile by itself for me and I can’t recommend it strong enough.
The movie starts with Jamal, played by Dev Patel being tortured by a Irfan Khan, the police inspector. He wants to know how someone from the slums could be able to answer so many questions correctly on India’s version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire. After Jamal is unwilling to admit to cheating during the torture they put him in front of a TV and one by one they go through the questions with him explaining how he knew the answers. Using this premise Danny Boyle is able to provide the audience with one of the most truthful, heartfelt stories that is so much more than the simple romance which it could have been.
One by one Jamal explains how he grew up with his brother Salim in the slums and how they became orphans and how they were taken in by gangsters who had the worst of intentions when it came to the young boys. We see time and time again Latika played by Freida Pinto come and go from Jamal’s life. All of his life in the slums of India have lead him to this point has lead him to where he is today. And each flashback gives beautifully told glimpses into the life of the poor in India as well as being a wonderful story.
I have yet to see Millions but I had heard before going in that Danny Boyle had a knack for getting the best out of child actors and I now fully believe it. Question by question we see Jamil, Salim and Latika age in front of us. We see them during their times of happiness and during the moments in their lives when everything has been turned upside down on them. Never once did I question the emotions and the acting of any of these children. Each and everyone of them were near perfect in their roles. Never once did question the love Jamil had for Latika nor how Salim could end up on a dark path.
It has been a while since a movie has touched me like Slumdog Millionaire did and from the reaction of the audience I am not alone. The applause for it was thunderous and I have never seen an audience clap along with the music in the closing credits. Danny Boyle has truly succeeded in creating a pitch perfect wonderful optimistic yet truthful movie that I am going to watch over and over again for a great many years.
[Regular reader Michael Sloan, known around these parts as simply ‘rot’ is also making the TIFF rounds and he has offered to share with the world his take on a few films.]
Organized Religion is a very easy target for ridicule, it consists of a group of individuals each keeping the other in check over a list of doctrines and rituals that have no intellectual authority of their own, but which much like a child’s game of make-believe, insist upon the mutual imagination of one’s playmate. It becomes all the more concerning when children are raised with the belief that these activities and beliefs are more than just cultural curiosities, but are in fact steadfast conclusions about your very being in the world that you cannot escape nor challenge. This pursuit to, as Kirk Cameron says in a choice clip, circumnavigate the intellect, is the core problem for atheist crusaders like Bill Maher and Larry Charles, the creators of Religulous, who try everything in their power to persuade the faithful to account for inconsistencies in their reasoning. But not even theme park Jesus was having any of that.
Focusing on the three biggie religions (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam) this thinly veiled stand-up routine of a documentary goes for the laugh at the expense of the lesson virtually every time. The fringe faiths of Mormonism and Scientology are kicked around as well so as to add to the bounty of foolish ideas proposed under the assumption of a higher being. For Maher and Charles, it seems the stranger the better, and while they claim to have a fourteen hour cut of the film which perhaps nuances the debate, this lean and mean ninety minute version is as pensive as a South Park episode. I say this as a fan of Maher’s HBO show and of the open dialogue he affords about all topics, including religion, but with this film he has done a great disservice to the atheist argument. The believers who feel belittled by someone with big ideas about what is logical will feel more the same, the continual undercutting of what they say in this film with cheap jokes, gag reels, subtitles, does nothing but make a farce of any kind of debate.
The film begins with Maher discussing his religious childhood and using it as a platform for discussing dissenting views, trying weakly I may add, to ingratiate himself with the likes of the average person; instead he inevitably comes off looking as a Borat of the West Coast, waiting for an opportunity to insert a punch line as the interviewee comes off as someone more willing to debate than he. It was as if Larry Charles told Maher to behave more like Borat in his interviewing techniques, with cringe worthy remarks like the one to the ExChange representative, a former gay man who converted to being straight for his religious cause: “so you were gay, but now are straight and married a former lesbian and have three kids, of which the jury is still out on them”. These kind of cheap jabs give reprehensible people like those at ExChange the perceived moral high ground because for five or so minutes they are ritualistically victimized with unnecessary jokes.
That said, I did laugh, there was enough funny material in the film to make me recommend it as a comedy but unfortunately it is at the expense of deepening the trench between believers and non-believers. In the film he does interview some scientific-minded individuals, who of course are not challenged with comic barbs but should just as well; however, the clips of the neurologist or astronomer were fleeting, and barely sticking to any kind of factual evidence but used as a segue way to the next object of ridicule. Occasionally, as if by accident, the film does hit a nerve and attempts to shake up the foundations of religion, when for example the myth of Jesus is shown to be one told long before he was born (granted all to the music of Walk Like an Egyptian). But before this sort of information can be fully appreciated we are on to the next reincarnation of Jesus who dresses like a pimp and has a twinkle in his eye. More a freakshow than an actual exposé into the issues, Religulous resoundingly preaches to the choir.
[Regular reader Michael Sloan, known around these parts as simply ‘rot’ is also making the TIFF rounds and he has offered to share with the world his take on a few films.]
During the Q&A of his film Tape, Richard Linklater remarked that it took a lot for a story to grab him and that when mining literary material for cinematic possibilities he was particularly selective, looking for that new voice to make the filmmaking exercise worth doing. It was 2001, and he had just finished Tape and Waking Life, two unique projects that held firm to this principle. Had you asked me then of whom did I consider to be the five greatest directors still working, his name would have certainly come up. But something has changed, in me perhaps, but I feel it also in his more recent work, this palpable shift in principle, with certain projects that he has chosen clearly suggesting a disinterest in the ‘new voice’ he so fondly spoke of before. Films like Bad News Bears, Fast Food Nation, even School of Rock, and now added to the list, Me and Orson Welles.
What I find so contemptible about such a film as Me and Orson Welles is not that it is a bad film but rather that it is so middling in its efforts, so willing to be conventional in every way and let a consistent state of déjà-vu infect the presiding of yet another backstage thespian story. Even more contemptible because it is Richard Linklater at the helm, someone fresh off of A Scanner Darkly, someone whose talents need not be wasted.
Visually and performance-wise there is a lot to enjoy about this recreation of a period in Orson Welles career when he helmed a lauded production of Julius Caesar at the Mercury theater in New York. Here we have a Welles prior to his many successes as a movie star and director, yet still admired for his radio and theater work, a colossus of talent around which everyone encircled, patiently waiting for him
to begin. The main occupation of the Mercury theater is to wait for Orson, and as the production teeters on the edge of collapse, we watch an artist in his element take from the chaos that which makes greatness in art. We watch from a particular point of view, that of a budding thespian, Richard Samuels, who spends his time learning about the theory of the world in high school only to have it materialize at the Mercury. The film is intended to be a love letter to actors, and an affectionate look at a time and place when the business and the world around it felt bursting with possibilities, everything tinged in nostalgia (unfortunately never going for more than soft light admiration).
While full of some nice comedic bits at the expense of a sometimes cartoony impression of a brutish dictator in Welles, the ambition of recreating a sense of the world behind the play felt incomplete, relying too much on archetype characters doing archetype things and lacking any of richness of detail that something like Mike Leigh’s Topsy-Turvy was in abundance of. Everything felt conveniently laid out, and the love story was completely telegraphed from the very first scene, and in this respect of relying so heavily on conventions I feel disappointed with this latest effort.
But really I can sort of understand why it was done, and anybody who sees this film will within the first ten minutes come to the same realization: Christian McKay IS Orson Welles. Now I know we have all seen our share of imitations, Cate Blanchet as Katherine Hepburn, Jamie Fox as Ray Charles, but let me say definitively, and once again, Christian McKay IS Orson Welles. He does not just nail the voice, he without any prosthetic nose or such looks like a dead ringer of him! How do you find someone who looks like the man, sounds like the man, and on top of it all can genuinely act? Christian McKay is a miracle, an oddity, a freak show that one delights in with ever second he is onscreen. It seems fitting that for a story about the craft of acting that the one great achievement of the film is the meta-admiration of a real actor doing otherworldly things. There can me no doubt that no matter how inoffensively average this film is, Christian McKay will be nominated at next years Academy Awards and likely win.
There is something very personal in Waltz with Bashir. It is a movie about recovering lost memories and having to relive traumatic experiences. During the Q&A, and from the sounds of it the Director was asked why animation. He mentioned how this is a common question and how his answer is always the same. There really was no way for him to create the movie in any other way. Waltz deals with a past event for which the director, Ari Folmon who is the main character could no longer remember and for which he discovered many personal events for which there is no archival footage. Truth be told, there is no real way of even really discovering if what he learned during the process even really fully happened. All of the events which he rediscovers took place during stressful periods and it is only through his discussions with other soldiers that he is able to get a glimpse into his forgotten past.
I haven’t really mentioned his story yet and there is a reason for that. I do not believe that simply retelling his experiences here does Waltz justice. Waltz is such a personal movie that you need to see it told by the soldiers who experienced the events described.
During the majority movie I was quite glad that it was an animated feature. I was able to disengage myself somewhat the experiences and the tragedies which were shown on the screen. I do not want to give anything away but I will just say that Waltz with Bashir throws an emotional punch to the gut that knocked me out and I will be thinking about if long after the festival is over.
After 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 no sense of click (like with Brick) and the whole affair is simply forgettable by the time the end credits have finished rolling.
The film opens very promising 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. I suspect the folks who hate the recent onslaught of quirk in film, (for instance, the scene in The Life Aquatic where the crew deal with the Philippine pirates) will be sharpening their knives for The Brothers Bloom in the same way that Juno felt the quirk backlash.
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. Cut to the Brothers in their mid 30s, now played by Adrian Brody and Mark Ruffalo, plying their trade across Europe. Steven (Ruffalo) writes the script and Bloom (Brody) plays the main part of their schemes. This involves ever more elaborate ’stories’ (their terminology for the grift) to insert themselves into and profit from mightily. It seems it is as much about the art and construction of the event as it is the reward. Stephen thinks nothing of incorporating literary references and ‘placement into the frame’ positioning into the construction of his ‘work.’ Somewhere along the way they’ve picked up demolitions expert Bang-Bang (a nearly unrecognizable Rinko Kikuchi who was so vulnerable in Babel and riotously cocky here) who doesn’t speak much, but has a kick-ass wardrobe and and can seemingly disappear and reappear at will which she does. Often. Also, they have alienated their former colleague and mentor, the flamboyant Diamond Dog (Maximilian Schell channeling Christopher Lee). Somewhere along the way their rival has become a full blown enemy. Most critically, all is not well between the brothers tensions cause them to split until Stephen (Ruffalo) comes back with a ‘final job.’ Enter the mark, an eccentric American billionaire named Penelope Stamp, played by Rachel Weisz in a kookier manner than even in the early Mummy pictures. Penelope is a bit of a chameleon herself, she collects hobbies as far ranging as jugging chainsaws on a unicycle to making pinhole cameras out of hollowed out watermelons. She is very hard on her yellow Lamborghini, which serves as the engineered ‘meet-cute’ and start of the convoluted con which will span continents and involve rare books, Russian wire transfers and Steamship voyages.
I have a real soft spot for con-artist movies, both funny and serious. The genre is pretty flexible. I also love the films of Wes Anderson, whom the tone and aesthetics of this film cannot help but evoke. In the most facile way, I might be tempted to describe The Brothers Bloom with the short hand of The Royal Tenenbaums meets Dirty Rotten Scoundrels meets Joe vs. The Volcano. But it lacks the human heart of Tenenbaums, the saucy cruelty of Scoundrels the aw-shucks of Joe. Familiar yes, as good, no. Some folks may end up loving this movie dear to their hearts and forgive it its glaring flaws. While the movie was interesting enough as it chugs along, the strain caused by the mixture of silly and serious was a hindrance. In Brick, Joseph Gordon Levitt and the supporting players managed to be convincing as rugged noir-ish burnouts, vixens and other low lives in the context of the high-school cliques. The grim overall tone meshed with teenage angst had a leavening effect on the arch high concept. Adrien Brody, and a particularly low-key, laid-back Mark Ruffalo (more abacus here than human being) do not fare as well in The Brother Bloom’s attempted fusion of breezy and gloomy. Like the pristine costumes they wear, the leads are all surface gloss and no lived-in texture; too shallow for when the film springs from a mediation on the narratives we craft to spice up our lives, to the consequences of living the lie ad infinitum. When it goes for fable the film flies, when it goes for drama, it sinks.
The supporting players fare better (fans of Chris Smith’s Severance be on the lookout for a sweaty Andy Nyman in a tiny role) and Rachel Weisz’s Penelope is endearing yet somewhat underwritten in her actions and intentions. In most cases the film says the words, but fails to convince with the actions of its ‘tortured heroes.’ It aims for a weighty conclusion on a framework made out of balsa-wood. (Mint flavoured) Attempts to dissect story telling devices by using metaphor and symbols as sight gags yield middling success. The film clearly aims for an epiphany or two involving identity, storytelling and living life in the fullest (and most honest) manner. It reiterates that is easier, sometimes, to play the part than be the part. Yes, Bottle Rocket with a budget. I was never bored or angry or even disappointed during The Brothers Bloom, but I left the picture wanting both less and more. I’ll be hold out for Charlie Kaufmann’s Synecdoche, New York for the right balance.
Director: Kevin Smith
Synopsis: Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks star in this bawdy tale of love and friendship from Kevin Smith. Lifelong friends and roommates Zack (Rogen) and Miri (Banks) are facing hard times and a mountain of debt. When the electricity and plumbing get cut off, the two seize upon the idea of making a homegrown porno movie for some quick cash, enlisting the help of their friends. The two vow that having sex will not ruin their friendship; but as everyone starts "doing" everyone, what started out as a friendly business proposition turns into something much more.
Director: Chai Vasarhelyi
Synopsis: One of Africa’s most prominent musical exports, Youssou Ndour’s distinctive tenor voice became internationally known through a string of popular tracks, including collaborations with Peter Gabriel and the hit "7 Seconds" with Neneh Cherry. Having used his fame to draw attention to a range of political issues, Ndour was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world in 2007. Several years in the making, Youssou Ndour: I Bring What I Love follows Ndour as he releases the deeply personal album Egypt as an expression of his Islamic faith, challenging Western stereotypes of the religion while stirring controversy in his home country of Senegal.