Friday, January 6, 2012

TIFF Review - Melancholia

The world ends.

Now that's out of the way, we can move forward with the movie. Don't worry, the world ends at the beginning, in one of the most gorgeous opening sequences ever committed to film.  Lars von Trier's latest is fantastic film-
making.

Much has been made of this being his exploration of his own depression, and this movie is sure to help people understand what that might feel like.

Justine (Kirsten Dunst) and Michael (Alexander Skarsgard) are on their way to their wedding at Justine's sister's (Claire - Charlotte Gainsbourg) manor, which is due to the obviously extravagant wealth of Claire's husband John (Kiefer Sutherland), playing an incredibly charming asshole.  As the night progresses, it becomes obvious that there is a fair bit of darkness underneath the virginal white surface of the event. Things get progressively worse until everyone goes home.

Months later, Justine returns to the house, catatonic with crippling depression. Terrified by a premonition she doesn't verbalize.  Her family tries to help her through this bout, while fighting among themselves.  While this is the focus, it's hardly the major plot point.  A planet dubbed Melancholia has appeared in our solar system and is heading towards Earth.  Not to worry though, as scientists have reassured the population that while it will come close, it will miss our planet while providing the most beautiful sight the world has ever seen. John, an amateur astronomer reassures his wife of this regularly.

As Claire's concerns about the oncoming planet increase, Justine comes out of her depression and starts connecting with her family again.  Then things get darker.

No description of the plot can do justice to this film.  I generally dislike Dunst's work, but her accolades for this one are well-deserved. The acting, the cinematography, and the underlying sense of dread and discomfort (things von Trier excels at) all come together to create a unique cinematic experience.  I recommend seeing this one in theatres, but if you have to see it at home, put it on a big screen and turn up the bass.

TIFF Review - Juan of the Dead

There are two types of people in this world - those for whom the title Juan of the Dead is enough to see this movie, those for whom it isn't, and those who can't count. Keeping that in mind, this is another fun zombie movie.

The name immediately invokes thoughts of it being nothing more than a Cuban Shaun of the Dead rip-off/homage.  But it is far from that. While there are some obvious similarities, Juan actually takes things in some interesting directions.

The zombies are portrayed by the Cuban media as dissidents, and anarcho-capitalists under the influence of the United States.  As the situation gets progressively worse, the state-controlled media gets cheerier and more patriotic despite the fact that anyone can look out their window and see that things are going to hell.Yet still, the people rally and cheer to their obvious detriment. Meanwhile, our heroes are too jaded and lazy to bother getting excited.

That is, until Juan (Alexis Diaz de Villegas, who could be John Turturro's cuban brother) realizes the money-making potential in the situation. People are at home with loved ones turning into the undead. Juan and his companions all have some form of military training (a couple wars, and the constant threat of US invasion keep them primed), and have managed to kill their share of these dissidents already, so why not sell their services to those who need their loved ones taken care of?

What follows is part romp, part action movie, and what I can only assume is a large part social commentary. There's comedic and creative zombie kills, playing with language barriers when an English-speaking priest comes into play, and a pretty realistic (for lack of a better word) impression of how a bunch of talented, yet lazy miscreants would react to a zombie invasion in an isolated location.

But underlying it all is Juan's love of his daughter, his friends, and ultimately, his country.  This is a Cuban movie that both mocks the regime and professes its patriotism to home. Drop in some nods to better-known zombie fare, and you've got a more than worthwhile experience for the fans.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

All these movies are terrible

I've always wanted a month where I could definitively describe all the movies I saw as one thing or the other. However, I usually watch too many for that to be possible. Not so for this month! Kudos to all the following sucktacular flicks:

One Day

This was the last movie that I saw in 2011. It stars Anne Hathaway doing an awful and inconsistent British accent and some British actor I've never seen before. He is NOT attractive. Here's why that's important: Hathaway is supposedly in love with him for 20 years despite the fact that he's a self centered, crude, womanizing alcoholic. OH AND HE DOESN'T LOVE HER BACK. O_o This movie will make you stabby.

Margin Call

This movie is supposedly about the financial crisis -- but it has more of a "play on film" feel where there is a lot of exposition and very little visualization. No, I do not know what either of those words mean. I rented it because Kevin Spacey is in it. I forgot that he sucks now. And this movie sucks. It's a lot of white dudes in suits incredulously staring at computer screens going "are these figures, right?! Get Jack in here!" And then Jack comes in and he's all "Are these figures, right!? Where's Alan?!" And so on. This movie will make you shooty.


Midnight in Paris

A movie starring Owen Wilson, directed by Woody Allen AND SET IN FRANCE??! I brought this debacle on myself. I see that now. It's a "comedy" where the central couple clearly hates each other and so seek companionship in other people they actually like, and we're supposed to think that's funny. There's also some kind of time traveling involved as Wilson's character gets transported back to Paris in the 20s every day at midnight. Or he has a tumor. I'm not quite sure. I liked Kathy Bates' character, but on the whole this movie will make you hang from a ropey.

The Change-Up
This is the first nearly unwatchable Ryan Reynolds movie I've ever seen. I...no words. It's some kind of take on the "Freaky Friday" genre where family man Jason Bateman switches bodies with free spirit bachelor Reynolds and "hijinks"? ensue. Awful just awful horrible terrible. This movie will make you jump off a bridgey.


Net Worth

I put this on my queue thinking it was the aforementioned "Margin Call." So, instead of that bad 2010 movie, I got this bad 1980s movie. Oy. It's about the efforts of Ted Lindsay to unionize the NHL in the 1950s and how Gordie Howe stabs him in the back and pulls out the Detriot Red Wings support. I suppose it's interesting if you know nothing about hockey or hockey history and want to shock and amaze your friends by kinda knowing that Conn Smythe isn't just a trophy. However, it's pretty poorly acted, shot and written. This movie will make you sleepy.

In a Better World
Some kind of foreign film, but I could never figure out what country it's set in exactly. It's about two pre teen boys who are outcasts and one decides to blow up a truck and the other one goes along with the plan, but then when he sees a woman walking near the truck with her daughter, he runs in front of them and is himself blown up. As uninteresting as that summary is, I have made this movie sound 400% more interesting than it actually is. It is also inexplicably 180 minutes long. O_o This movie will make you drug overdosey.

Hunger
I thought this was the movie where Batman lost so much weight he was down to double digits. I was wrong. Instead it's a cheap Saw knock off that took me like five attempts to finish even though it was only 89 minutes long. Blech. So some guy takes 8 people hostage for 30 days and records what they devolve into deprived of food and external society. Yes, people get eaten... yet, this movie is still totally boring. This movie will make you wrist slitty.