Eoin’s Been Watching…
BREAK MY FALL [Main Picture]
DIR: Kanchi Wichmann
Having its world premiere at the London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival next weekend, Break My Fall revolves around a Hackney based lesbian couple, Sally and Liza, who both live in the same flat and perform in a band together with their relationship in dire straits. Liza isn’t sure if Sally loves her anymore and Sally isn’t sure if she’s really in love with her and in love with male friend Vin and then there’s a revolving subject about Sally’s ex in Germany who she left to live with Liza in London which merely pulls the tethers of the already pulled-to-its-limit relationship.
Break My Falll puts me in a weird position. It’s not as though I don’t get what the movie is doing nor do I think there aren’t good points to it such as the performances and some of the soundtrack. There are just a lot of things I didn’t get from it. I didn’t really get a real sense of Liza and Sally’s relationship of what it was before it went the direction it did and most of the twists where they break apart don’t really make sense and seems more like two people with ever switching personalities. The one thing you’d want to know about, more about the girl who Sally left to stay with Liza, never feels like it’s really told and is almost ignored at the film’s climax. Other things that I were confused about, the shifting of camera types, angles and positions as well as what the audience should take away from the experience, do not really help in feeling this is something that needed more time despite the fact it clocks at 106 minutes.
I have seen terrible movies revolving around this kind of subject, and Break My Fall is not in that position. To me, though, it’s a shame that it never took the opportunity it had to make something both more interesting and less muddled. I admired the effort by all those involved to tell a story like this, I’m more disappointed they didn’t fully pull it off.
Mike’s been watching…
CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS
DIR: Woody Allen
A crushing disappointment on almost every level, Crimes And Misdemeanors may be one of Allen’s most acclaimed films but it left me cold. Like British auteur Mike Leigh, Allen has always been a fan of the idea of comedy and tragedy co-existing side by side in the great stage play that is life. They would both tell you that in order for drama to work it has to have humour at its centre, and in order for something to be funny it has to have dramatic weight. Sadly Crimes And Misdemeanors is a stone-faced experience with routine drama; I never believed or cared about the relationships for a second, and Judah’s (Martin Landau) plot-line reaches absurd heights. There’s just none of the insight or wit that marks out the best of Allen’s work and some superb performances aren’t enough to keep this movie afloat.
The central problem is that the comedy and drama are too separated, strictly belonging in the co-existing stories and never crossing over. Allen does a few manufactured one-liners, Landau looks depressed and when they meet it’s hard to keep on caring. The best bits come from Alan Alda’s broadly comic performance, but it belongs in another film. Roger Ebert describes Crimes And Misdemeanors as “a thriller about the dark nights of the soul” but if that’s what you’re looking for from Allen I recommend the superior Match Point, an intelligent reworking of Truffaut’s The Soft Skin.
THROW MOMMA FROM THE TRAIN
DIR: Danny DeVito
Strangers On A Train has one of the best high concepts in the history of cinema. Eliminate the motive, provide an alibi. That’s the advice frustrated writer Larry (Billy Crystal) gives his lonely student Owen (Danny DeVito) in this deliciously dark comic reworking of the classic film. Owen attends a late-night screening and comes away with the idea of “criss-cross”, believing his mentor has sent him a subliminal message: Owen will kill Larry’s ex-wife (who stole his book and became a millionaire) and Larry will kill Owen’s mother (Anne Ramsay; terrific). However, Larry hasn’t agreed to the idea when Owen goes ahead and pushes his wife off the side of a boat…
The macabre setup always had a tinge of dark humor but here it is played to the hilt and features some impressively stylish direction from DeVito, who has always been underrated as a filmmaker. David Newman provides an excellent score – somewhere between mystery noir and farcical comedy – and it matches the moody cinematography by Barry Sonnenfeld. There aren’t quite as many laughs as you’d hope but the ones that work are a real treat, and the smart screenplay (Stu Silver) zips along at a cracking pace. It’s a really underrated little flick with some hugely entertaining set-pieces, and Crystal and DeVito – two actors I like very much – have some really great chemistry. Comic acting is always given little credit by critics, but these two invest their one-liners and pratfalls with a sense of pathos and honesty. I really felt for Owen during the film; he’s clearly a sad and deluded man. Terribly forgotten, it’s not a perfect film, but I’d definitely recommend it.
‘One Man. A thousand bullets… It’s gonna be a long weekend!‘ reads the tagline to Zero Tolerance, the appalling 90s action movie which pretty much reviews itself. Lets break it down into some simple questions…. Why are two lone F.B.I. agents being sent to New Mexico to pick up one of the most dangerous drug barons on the planet, instead of, say, an entire team lead by helicopter? How did said drug lord manage to plan an ambush on the F.B.I. guys before he even knew they were coming? How did he assemble a team of henchmen to kidnap one of the agents’ family that quickly, and where did he get the information? Why would a mass drug deal between two known criminals go down in a bright, neon-lit casino packed with people and security? How can the agent (played by Robert Patrick) survive an explosion that knocks him twenty feet into the air and being hit by a car going at 40mph and then walk from Las Vegas to Washington D.C. in five hours? Why is this only the first fifteen minutes?
The answers to all of these questions and more is; because Zero Tolerance is one of the most inept, geographically illogical and physically impossible movies I have ever seen. We were wrong – there was a Superman V! It’s just been disguised as a lame post Death Wish star vehicle. I could literally go on for hours calling out plot holes but the movie is also badly scripted, directed, acted and edited. A complete waste of time, an utter bore – and it’s more confusing than anything David Lynch has ever produced.
Oren’s Been Watching…
DIR: Greg Motolla
Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are wonderful actors. They are wonderful apart, but they are even more wonderful together. And they are especially wonderful when they are essentially playing themselves – comic book geeks, nerds, characters they have been playing since way back when Spaced premiered over a decade ago and well before it was “cool” to be a nerd. Now, there’s nothing cooler, and so they finally get a chance to take their unique charms and put them in a big-budget science fiction film that is one big love letter to geek culture. Sure, Paul isn’t the greatest film, and it has nowhere near as much wit and cleverness as Pegg and Frost’s collaborations with the incomparable Edgar Wright. No, Paul is not the much-anticipated third entry in the “Blood and Ice Cream” trilogy. But it sure is a fun little companion piece. The humor is a lot more broad and lowbrow than the Edgar Wright collaborations; that said, Paul is still an extremely funny film, benefiting not only from the insurmountable charm of Pegg and Frost but also from the considerable comedic talents of the likes of Kristen Wiig (who truly gets to shine in this film), Bill Hader, Jason Bateman, and Joe Lo Truglio. The film is chock full of really fun and funny cameos as well. It is also an impeccably well-made film – Mottola really made an effort to make the film look great; cinematically, he treats it more as a science fiction film than a comedy. The CGI effects used to bring the titular character to life are state-of-the-art and a true testament of how far that technology has come today – Paul is an entirely realistic, completely believable character whom we never doubt for a moment is actually in the action and interacting with the characters. But solid filmmaking isn’t only what Mottola brings to the table – he also lends the film just the right amount of genuine heart to make it more than just a cheesy comedy. Overall, Paul isn’t the greatest comedy out there, and all of its principals have been involved with funner, better material. But it is a very enjoyable film, fun to watch – especially for film geeks – and overall, a wonderful homage to the godfather of the feel-good sci-fi genre himself, Steven Spielberg. In more ways than one.
Sam’s Been Watching…
DIR: R. P. Kahl
There have been quite a few arthouse films over the last ten years that have used real sex in their pursuit of authenticity and/or controversy, Bedways is the latest, I’m not sure any of them qualify as the greatest. In Rolf Peter Kahl’s dour film a young director (Miriam Mayet) is attempting to make an improvised film about a relationship, in which the sex will be real. As stars she has a friend (Matthias Faust) and a young woman who seems to be a somewhat inexperienced actress (Lana Cooper). Most of the film documents on camera rehearsals for this film within a film (which is never definitively titled).
Though, minus credits, Bedways is not even 70 minutes long there really aren’t enough ideas to fill the running time (as evidenced by a six minute unsimulated masturbation sequence performed by Mayet) and when it isn’t depicting explicit sex, there’s really very little to the film. It’s a chamber piece; three characters in one location for the bulk of the running time, and yet we learn very little about any of them, so little that many interactions (notably Mayet’s response when she has to bandage Cooper’s injured foot) feel unmotivated and unconvincing.
The bitty structure doesn’t help, scenes tend to be short, and usually go nowhere, we hear only snatches of conversation, as if we’re being dropped into the middle of either a production meeting or a filmed rehearsal and little of interest is ever said. The performances are brave and by no means bad, but they are in service of something as cold and empty as the sets it is shot on.
There may be a purient interest in Bedways, but audiences looking to it for a quick thrill will find themselves fast forwarding in fits and starts through 55 minutes of banal ‘drama’ to get to the explicit images, and when they do come, they are too clinical and cold to be sexy. This is an ongoing problem with art films using real sex, they seem to be afraid to be fun or sexy, and really, what’s the point if they’re not at least one of those things?
DIR: The Farrelly Brothers
From the trailers, Hall Pass looked likely to be an epic assault on its audience and one of the very worst films of 2011. It’s not any good, but it’s also not quite so reprehensibly awful as it might have been. Put it on the poster.
The premise is simple; Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis have the frankly implausible good fortune of being married to, respectively, Jenna Fischer and Christina Applegate, and yet they are can’t help spending most their time ogling other women. In an odd strategy, their wives issue them each a ‘hall pass’, granting them a week off their marriages. The film follows their attempts to take full advantage of this time, and relive their young single days.
The problem, as so frequently in comedy these days, is that these people aren’t likeable at any level; they are stupid, crass, inconsiderate and tiresome company, so why should we care at all? Add to that the fact that their gleeful acceptance of these ‘hall passes’ speaks even worse of them. I should also hate both the wives, the screenplay does, and it has them behave exactly as badly as the men (thanks feminism), but I simply can’t dislike any character played by the adorable Jenna Fischer. Likeability would be less of an issue if the film were even a little funny, but it’s not. In their mid to late 90’s heyday, the Farrelly brothers comedies were gross, but they also had heart (think of There’s Something About Mary; a film replete with gross jokes and about a stalker which somehow manages to be sweet), here both ingredients have gone stale. The gags are workmanlike and predictable, favouring shock value – look, a penis – over laughs, and while there is an attempt to find a moral at the end of the film, it rings hollow.
I wasn’t particularly offended by Hall Pass, it’s better than the hideous likes of The Ugly Truth or The Bounty Hunter, but it remains pretty awful; another in a long line of romantic comedies about people who don’t deserve love, and a film soon to be justly forgotten.
Yes, this adaptation of a Michael Connolly novel, which sees Matthew McConaughey playing a far less idealistic version of the lawyer character that made his name in A Time to Kill, is just about the most middle of the road film I’ve seen in a while.
It’s fine. The script is fine; I don’t remember any very good lines, nor any very bad ones. I wasn’t ever thrilled or particularly surprised, but I was never bored or finding it grindingly predictable. The direction is fine; Brad Furman pulls out a strong 70’s style title sequence, and then proceeds to shoot the film in pretty straightforward manner, without doing anything howlingly bad, or notably interesting. The acting is fine; McConaughey at least tries to do something other than smarmy charm, Ryan Phillippe and William H. Macy lend solid, if rather unmemorable, support and character actors like John Leguizamo and Michael Pena turn in solid cameos, Marisa Tomei, sadly, blends into the background, but that’s the fault of a rather thin character.
At 118 minutes the film could do with a few trims, but it’s hardly wheezing and bloated. There’s really not much to say here, if you fancy seeing Matthew McConaughey do something other than a terrible rom-com, here you go, if you were thinking of seeing Battle: LA, trust me, see this instead. It’s not great, but it’s fine, it will, at the end of the day, do.