Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Film Round-up for September

In this edition of the Film Round-up...Um, er. Can the fall movie season start right now? Not a strong crop here, but next month will be jam-packed with goodies, I promise...And the Todd Solondz interview will finally run! Hooray!

For the time being, here's a photo of Patricia Clarkson, just because.

These reviews previously appeared in ICON and are reprinted with permission. (Thanks, Trina)

Highwater (Dir: Dana Brown). Surfing documentarian Brown (Step Into the Liquid) turns his attention to Oahu's North Shore, which plays host every fall to professional surfing's Triple Crown—the last three contests of the year. Brown talks to surfers, local legends, and other characters during the beach's busy season. Among the highlights: Surfer/single mom Alex Florence, whose 13-year-old son Jon-Jon is a surfing prodigy, and the almost mythical Eric Haas, who once surfed in a football uniform. What starts off as colorful soon becomes soul-crushing. In lieu of a central character or theme to frame the crazy scene, Brown inundates us with thin profiles of everybody short of the dolly grip—female surfers, event organizers, aspiring professionals, even his own family and subjects from past films. It leads to a rudderless, tolerance-draining experience, like having a conversation with a surf-crazed, super-talkative three-year-old. Brown's overwritten, painfully serious narration and the lack of reporting—by my calculation, it's easier to figure out advanced quantum physics than who wins the Triple Crown—finally drag viewers into the undertow. [NR] *

Centurion (Dir: Neil Marshall). Starring: Michael Fassbender, Dominic West, Olga Kurylenko, Noel Clarke, Liam Cunningham, David Morrissey, Riz Ahmed, JJ Felid, Dimitri Leonidas, Imogen Poots, Ulrich Thomsen. During a second-century battle with Pict tribesmen in Britain, only a handful of Roman soldiers survive a brutal ambush. Their subsequent attempt to rescue their imprisoned general (West) fails resoundingly. Not only can they not save him, the Pict leader's son is killed. The remaining Romans, led by newly appointed, tightly muscled leader Quinton Dais (Fassbender), must literally run for their lives from the Picts, who employ a vicious tracker (Kurylenko, a former Bond girl) to make bloody amends. More vaguely historical testosterone in the vein of 300 has writer/director Marshall keeping the pace brisk, the dialogue sharp, and the action invigorating. This is not for everyone—Marshall's artistic flair for violence might make Quentin Tarantino simultaneously cringe and applaud—but it's an exciting and entertaining distraction for adults hungering for an adrenalin rush. Also available on demand. [NR] ***

Patrik, Age 1.5 (Dir: Ella Lemhagen). Starring: Gustaf Skarsgård, Torkel Petersson, Thomas Ljungman. Sven (Petersson) and Goran (Skarsgård) have reached the pinnacle of gay mainstream life. Happily married with good jobs and owners of a new suburban home, the couple eagerly anticipates the arrival of a baby to call their own. Thanks to a clerical error and the overall reluctance of biological parents, instead of receiving an eighteen-month-old named Patrik, the couple receives a homophobic 15-year-old punk named Patrik (Ljungman). The mix-up revitalizes the teenager, who's never had a stable family life, sharpens Goran's parenting instincts, and angers Sven. Upbeat, amusing Swedish import (based on a play by Michael Druker) works best when chronicling the three main characters' response to the evolving familial crisis, but loses steam when commenting on the suburbs' social skittishness and mores. Skarsgård is excellent as the sympathetic father figure, and Ljungman gives a touching performance as a kid who's always been cast aside. Originally released in 2008. [R] ***

Cairo Time (Dir: Ruba Nadda). Starring: Patricia Clarkson, Alexander Siddig, Elena Anaya, Tom McCamus, Amina Annabi. American magazine editor Juliette Grant (Clarkson) visits her husband in Cairo, but he's too consumed with his work for the United Nations to eat meals with her, let alone see the pyramids. Lonely and bored, Juliette soon finds a full-time companion in Tareq (Siddig), her husband's former colleague and self-appointed guardian. As the dashing Tareq and the luminous Juliette spend more time together, their rapport blooms into something far more substantial. The always-fine Clarkson and veteran actor Siddig (Syriana) display lovely chemistry as the two middle-age professionals swept up in an intoxicating mix of circumstance, loneliness, and exotic locale. Their interplay is hobbled by the film's ponderous pace, especially the first 40 minutes, which belabor how Juliette is a stranger in a strange land. Writer/director Nadda's attempt to deliver an understated portrayal on adult love and rediscovery too often veers into sleepy inertia, a proposition that no acting duo, no matter how talented, can overcome. [PG] **

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