Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Film Round-Up for April

In this edition of The Film Round-Up: We go independent on your ass with Zooey Deschanel (I'm two degrees from her, by the way), illegal immigrants on the run, a healthy dose of independent angst, and Tom McCarthy.

OK, so Tom McCarthy co-stars with Julia Roberts and Clive Owen in Duplicity. It's close enough. Come on, it's a recession, folks.

These previews previously appeared in the April issue of ICON and are reprinted with permission. (Thanks, Trina)

Gigantic (Dir: Matt Aselton). Starring: Paul Dano, Zooey Deschanel, John Goodman, Edward Asner, Jane Alexander. A quietly eccentric 28-year-old luxury mattress salesman (Dano), whose dream is to adopt a Chinese baby, meets a charming, attractive goofball (Deschanel) with a disapproving, rich father (Goodman) and no real purpose in life. Boy likes girl, and girl likes boy, but her emotional instability may destroy a good thing before it starts. The usually energizing abilities of Deschanel (All the Real Girls) and Dano (Little Miss Sunshine) are diluted here. The reason: a flat-out weird storyline that ranges from slightly amusing to alienating and gives us little opportunity to know their characters. Granted, it's OK to avoid romantic comedy clichés--in fact, it's highly recommended--but Gigantic does it to the point where nothing onscreen makes much sense. Basically, the movie has no heart. Goodman fares best in the purposeless weirdness, while Asner should have a long talk with his agent. Dano served as an executive producer. R *

Sin Nombre (Dir: Cary Joji Fukunaga). Starring: Edgar Flores, Paulina Gaitan, Kristyan Ferrer, Diana García, Tenoch Huerta Mejía. After a botched hold-up on a train carrying immigrants into the United States, a disgraced, mournful Mexican gang member (Flores) becomes the unwilling companion of the Honduran teenage girl (Gaitan) he saves. Any hope for both of them traveling safely to freedom is scant. The young man, Casper, has killed one of his gang's leaders, meaning the entire brotherhood is looking for him, including Casper's younger, vengeful protégé (Ferrer). Fukunaga shows the life south of the border without artifice, like the lure of gangs and the transient, dangerous life of those eyeing America as a home. And his stark, distant approach only hammers home the desperation, making for a movie that is equally suspenseful and introspective. A winner of multiple awards at this year's Sundance Film Festival, Sin Nombre seamlessly combines a gripping narrative with dramatic substance, while offering a compelling, straightforward account of immigrant life a la Maria Full of Grace and El Norte. R ****

Duplicity (Dir; Tony Gilroy). Starring: Julia Roberts, Clive Owen, Paul Giamatti, Tom Wilkinson, Denis O'Hare, Tom McCarthy. Five years after co-starring in the turgid relationship drama Closer, Roberts and Owen reunite for a very different, far more enjoyable project. They play romantically involved spies--she's former CIA; he's ex-MI6--who work a long, complicated con to steal a lucrative product idea from two rival CEOs (a well-cast Giamatti and Wilkinson). The lovers have to contend with an array of smart, driven adversaries, including themselves; neither spy trusts each other ever since their first date ended with him drugged and naked. Writer/director Gilroy (Michael Clayton) has fashioned a fun, entertaining caper that keeps you guessing throughout, while Roberts and Owen have fantastic chemistry. Her bubbly sexiness and his brooding manliness keep you watching, even when the movie runs long and offers one twist too many. Still, it's a great way to waste two hours at the multiplex. Co-star McCarthy, a New Jersey native, directed The Visitor and The Station Agent. R ***

Alexander the Last (Dir: Joe Swanberg). Starring: Jess Weixler, Justin Rice, Barlow Jacobs, Amy Seimetz, Jane Adams, Josh Hamilton. Highly improvisational drama looks at two sisters--Alex, an actress (Weixler) married to a touring musician (Rice); Hellen, a single photographer (Seimetz) who can't settle down--and the hunky, out-of-town actor (Jacobs) who disrupts both of their lives. He's co-starring in a steamy play with Alex, who develops feelings, while having a fling with Hellen. Promising look at sibling rivalry and the balance of art and reality goes way off course, mostly wallowing in pretentious, arty nonsense. It feels like we're watching an extended acting exercise, not a cutting edge take on creative people finding themselves. The natural feel Swanberg wants is sorely lacking, making the movie feel endless, even at 72 minutes. The spirit of John Cassavetes can rest easy. Director Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale) produced. The movie premiered at SXSW and on IFC Festival Direct, so it's also available on demand. NR *


Nick Cartagena said...

How are you two degrees from Zooey Deschanel??? Bye the way, I saw Slumdog Millionaire last night. Good movie.

Anonymous said...

I meant by the way

Pete Croatto said...

My brother's comedy partner, Jesse, went to school with her. Thus, I'm two degres away from Ms. Deschanel...Slumdog Millionaire was very good. I'm glad I saw it before the hype machine kicked into full gear.