Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Film Round-Up, August 2011

With the exception of the stupendously overrated "Another Earth," this was a good batch of flicks. After a stretch that I've been through, it was nice to have fun at the movies again.

By the way, rent "Testament" instead of "Another Earth." The former film mixes quiet terror and personal uncertainty with nary a misstep. It's the movie the fancy-pants "Another Earth" strives to be. And it's got a wonderful performance by Jane Alexander (pictured).

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


The Future (Dir; Miranda July). Starring: Miranda July, Hamish Linklater, David Warshofsky, Joe Putterlik, Isabella Acres, Angela Trimbur. Writer/director July's long-awaited, haunting follow-up to Me and You and Everyone We Know stays with you. A misguided, mostly housebound couple (July, Linklater) decides to adopt an injured cat, prompting them to quit their jobs and spend a month living meaningful lives before feline parenthood. She sets out to perform a dance a day, an artistic endeavor that paralyzes her, especially when she cancels Internet service. He becomes a full-time volunteer who spends all day soliciting donations from Californians uninterested in saving the environment. Desperate for attention, she randomly connects with a successful businessman (Warshofsky) who provides it. And, of course, there's a narrating cat, a talking moon, and time stoppage. Quirky and occasionally baffling, but the film is always compelling. July, who's also an acclaimed short story writer and artist, explores our crippling dependence on technology, the drudgery of relationships, and how our need for acceptance can poison us. July's ability to establish her special kind of weirdness, while maintaining her characters' humanity and telling hard truths, makes me wish she had fewer occupations. See interview on page TK. **** [R]

Point Blank (Dir: Fred Cavayé). Starring: Gilles Lellouche, Roschdy Zem, Elena Anaya, Gérard Lanvin. When nurse's aide Samuel Pierret (Lellouche) foils a murder attempt on a mysterious patient (Zem), there are unexpected consequences. The next day, after a vicious home attack, Samuel's very pregnant wife (Anaya) is kidnapped. If he doesn't bring the patient to the abductors within three hours she's dead, but when Samuel's new lethally skilled companion has his own score to settle, plans change. Breathlessly paced French thriller—which bears no resemblance to John Boorman's 1967 hard boiled classic—never lets its foot off the gas, thanks to a series of clever plot twists and terrific action scenes. Little things matter here: Crisp editing, kinetic, but lingering camerawork that allows you to enjoy the action, and a filmmaker clearly influenced by the ordinary guy heroics of Die Hard and The Fugitive. It's refreshing to see Lellouche, a regular looking person with a regular body, use his wits to triumph. He and Zem are excellent as the unlikely, desperate allies, and Cavayé never resorts to Lethal Weapon-style riffing. You want smart summer fun? Look no further. **** [R]

Another Earth (Dir: Mike Cahill). Starring: Brit Marling, William Mapother. Four years ago, aspiring astrophysicist Rhoda (co-writer and producer Marling) obliterated her future when she drunkenly careened into a stopped car, killing the family of a successful conductor (Mapother). That same night, scientists discovered a second Earth, or Earth 2. Freshly released from prison, Rhoda, now sulking through a grief-induced fog as a school custodian, seeks to make amends with the widower. Before she can tell him the truth, Rhoda loses her nerve and misrepresents herself, leading to a problematic relationship, especially when she gets the chance to visit Earth 2. Much ballyhooed film starts promisingly but there's a giant flaw: The looming presence of a parallel Earth is nothing more than a pretentious and pandering distraction, a metaphorical shiny object used to lend faux gravity to the story of two troubled lovers. Here is a prime example of the damage that results when concept overrules characters. ** [PG-13]

The Myth of the American Sleepover (Dir: David Robert Mitchell). Starring: Marlon Morton, Amanda Bauer, Claire Sloma, Brett Jacobsen, Nikita Ramsey, Jade Ramsey. The events of this ensemble teen drama unfold over the last night of summer at several sleepovers in a Midwestern suburb. Young heartthrob Rob (Morton) ditches his friends to find the pretty blonde who locked eyes with him at the supermarket. New kid in town Claudia (Bauer) uncovers a hurtful secret involving her track teammate (Shayla Curran). Before heading to her friend's house, freshman-to-be Maggie heads to a house party where she discovers that her pool boy crush has some depth. And heartbroken college student Scott (Jacobsen) attempts to find himself by romancing attractive twin sisters (Nikita and Jade Ramsey) at their college orientation. The film's easygoing pace and understated nature are to its benefit as debut director/writer Mitchell evokes the drama and impatience that accompanies those tiny slices of independence in a suburban teenager's life. Refreshingly free of guile and gloss, this sincere depiction of growing up is comparable to Dazed and Confused and American Graffiti (right down to the mysterious blonde). Also available On Demand. *** [NR]

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