I've not had the time to write as much as I would like for NTS lately, what with being back at University and indignities such as cooking for and cleaning up after myself occupying a hefty wedge of my spare time. In a slight change from the usual Laceyvision set-up, I'm going to write a few articles over the coming weeks consisting of more reviews than usual, and they'll probably be a bit shorter too. These will tend to be VERY POSITIVE or VERY NEGATIVE reviews, because anything that I don't LOVE or HATE I tend to forget about more or less immediately. Shall we begin?
The Darjeeling Limited
Wes Andersons most restrained film for some years drags and meanders on first viewing, and those expecting to fall in love with the characters as immediately as they did Steve Zissou or Max Fischer will be disappointed. But! The Darjeeling Limited gradually reveals itself to be as rich and poignant as any of the others, with the combination of flawless acting, contemplative mood and well-placed stylistic directorial flourish recalling Hal Ashby amongst other luminaries of the "New Hollywood" of the 1970s. The "New Hollywood" of the 1970s is also recalled by Jason Schwartzmans fantastic moustache. I should probably add that I can't remember what happens at the end, which might not be a good sign, and there's at least two scenes that scream "filler!", and the characters are overall a bit one-note.
Speaking of Hal Ashby, I just saw this. The awful, awful addition of out-takes over the credits ruins the ending a little bit, but if you hit "stop" THE VERY SECOND "directed by Hal Ashby" comes up, you'll have seen a truly unusual, touching film with Peter Sellers giving the best performance of his career. Sorry, Stanley Kubrick!
The Life And Death Of Peter Sellers
This is just horrible. Geoffrey Rush looks like a decaying pervert, and his portrayal of Sellers is brash, distracting and stagey. The treated film and shoddy CG designed to give a "swinging sixties" feel instead lends it an air of "having been directed by a man who has no penis, so instead of masturbating, he has to make films like this". In fact, the more I think about it, Geoffrey Rush is stupid in everything apart from maybe Shine. Sorry, Geoffrey Rush!
Once you get used to the American Gangster's skippy editing style (it flits through decades at a fairly rapid pace, and feels more like a trailer than a film for the first ten minutes), there is a lot of good, solid work on display. It doesn't deserve the "The new Godfather!!!!!!!1111" superlatives being flung in it's direction, but it's a smart, well acted thriller with ambition and style, and a cut above the norm.
The Squid And The Whale
I might have reviewed this before, but I'm not sure. Dealing with the increasingly acrimonious divorce between washed-up writer Jeff Daniels and newly-published writer Laura Linney and the effect on their two sons, it achieves a rare feat of successfully establishing warmth and fondness for characters who spent most of the film acting like dicks to eachother. The script is so taut, each line spoken seems to reveal more about the character who said it. The Squid And The Whale really is a film of rare quality, a portrait of adolescence (with a hefty dollop of JD Salinger) that rings so true it's impossible not to return to it every so often, and it seems to be improving with age. Like blue cheese, fine wines and MEAT from the FUTURE.
Knocked Up only came out at the start of the Summer, but it's already a more boring prospect for a re-watch than The 40 Year Old Virgin, which I must have seen about four times. Those disappointed by Judd Apatows overly rom rom-com will be pleasantly surprised by the no-less touching but infinitely more foul-mouthed and hilarious Superbad. It would actually make a pretty good double bill with The Squid And The Whale, in an odd way.
You know when you go to an "arthouse" cinema to see a film, and even if it's completely shit, you're a bit wary about saying so incase you just didn't understand it? Well, I've had enough of that.
I HATED THIS FILM. IT IS SHIT. Studio-led attempts to cash in on trends are one thing, but Rocket Science isn't trying to imitate any great money spinners, neither is it a big studio film. The impression I got from watching it was that the idiot who made it had seen the wonderful Thumbsucker and other such bittersweet coming of age indie movies (Me You And Everyone We Know, Palindromes) and just decided to copy them. Unfortunately, he failed to copy any interesting characters or visual panache, and the end result is a pale imitation. It's slow paced, seemingly for no reason other than it feels it ought to be. You know, to seem clever. It's got jokes in, but none of them are funny, and about twice I was expecting the director to pop out from behind a curtain and go "THIS IS THE BIT WHERE YOU'RE MEANT TO CRY, DO YOU SEE?". Anyway, here's a side by side comparison of Rocket Science and Thumbsucker, just to illustrate how little this film has going for it.
THUMBSUCKER - Vincent D'Onofrio, Tilda Swinton, Lou "The New Johnny Depp" Taylor Pucci, Kelli "My Breasts Will Haunt Your Dreams" Garner, Vince Vaughn.
ROCKET SCIENCE - "West" out of Heroes, or whatever his name is. Claire's flying boyfriend. If someone said to me "do you want to have sex with Hayden Panetierre and be able to fly?" and I said "what do I have to do?" and they said "be in the film Rocket Science, not even in *that* big a role" I'd say "no fucking way."
THUMBSUCKER - Original score by Tim DeLaughter and The Polyphonic Spree
ROCKET SCIENCE - Loads of dreary emotionally distraught singer songwriter bellends
THUMBSUCKER - More enjoyable than being raped by a clown
ROCKET SCIENCE - Probably roughly on a par with clown-rape in terms of enjoyability, and twice as long
I have no real qualms with two films sharing the same central concept - usually when it happens, you just get to see twice as many earth-destroying asteroids or exploding volcanoes or missions to Mars as you otherwise would, and all those things are brilliant. None of them happen in Rocket Science, sadly. A pointless, derivative mess of a film.