Monday, October 29, 2007

Gone Baby Gone

A very solid directorial debut by Ben Affleck. Based on the crime novel by Dennis Lehane, the story revolves around a kidnapped child and the secrets underlining the crime.

Mr. Affleck not only directed but is also responsible in part for the screenplay and in both roles, he has crafted a taut, engrossing story filled with memorable characters. He shows a flair for capturing the life blood of the Boston neighborhood where the story takes place.

The film stars his younger brother, Casey Affleck, Michelle Monhagan, Morgan Freeman, Ed Harris, and in a terrific supporting role, Amy Ryan, as the mother of the missing child. All the acting is solid and the film takes some interesting twists and turns towards an unexpected ending.

This is a dark tale with difficult subject matter that some will probably find unsettling. It aspires to the pedigree of "Mystic River" and at times, almost gets there. Mr. Affleck has found a new home behind the camera.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Lars And The Real Girl

There is a glut of "serious" Hollywood fare out there right now...and more to come. Some are better than others and most seem to blend into each other (or so it seems). If you are looking for something different and totally engaging, "Lars And The Real Girl" is the film for you. This Indy gem is only playing in a few select theaters but it is worth the search.

Ryan Gosling (a wonderful actor who chooses his films very carefully) stars as Lars, a painfully introverted young man in a small Midwestern town. Lars's emotional baggage is so heavy, he becomes delusional to deal with life. That delusion and it's effect on his entire town form the basis of the film.

The subject matter is heavy but the film deals with it in a light comedic way. There is much humor as well as heartbreak throughout the story. Watching Lars trying to cope is painful but the absurdity of the situation is very amusing as well.

All of the acting is outstanding, starting with Mr. Gosling. In supporting roles are Paul Schneider and Emily Mortimer as his brother and sister-in-law and Patricia Clarkson as the doctor who helps Lars on his emotional journey.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Mr Warmth- The Don Rickles Project

Director John Landis has created a loving portrait of a man who has made his living insulting people. This documentary explores the life and times of 81 year old comedian, Don Rickles.

Using a recent performance as his bookends, Landis fills the film with hilarious celebrity interviews and archival footage from Mr. Rickles long career. Not only does it present rare insight into the head and heart of Mr. Rickles but it also serves as a time capsule for the evolution of Hollywood and Las Vegas entertainment from the 50's through now.

There are some amazing segments with Frank Sinatra, Johnny Carson, Dean Martin and many other comics and personalities from a bygone era. And through it all, not only has Mr. Rickles survived but has continues to thrive on stages throughout the world.

At the Q & A after the film, Mr. Landis introduced Mr. Rickles to a standing ovation. His first comment- "Get the names of the people who didn't stand up". Mr. Landis also promised the DVD would be filled with a second disc of interviews and clips that didn't make the final cut. "Mr. Warmth" will debut on HBO in December.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

We Own The Night

Mark Wahlberg and Joaquin Phoenix star in this decent crime drama as brothers going down different paths. Mr. Wahlberg is Joseph, the cop following in his fathers' footsteps and Mr. Phoenix plays Bobby, manager of a nightclub in Brooklyn, who is getting in deep with drugs and the Russian mob.

We've seen this kind of conflict before but an early plot twist elevates the story to a different level. Robert Duvall co-stars as their father in the type of role he knows by heart. Also co-starring is Eva Mendes as Bobby's girlfriend. Everyone does their share of good acting but the film belongs to Mr. Phoenix who has his share of star quality scenes.

There are a few exciting sequences but one particular scene really stands out and it should be easy to spot if and when you see the film. The visuals and sound editing are just great and the scene has a tension and excitement that the rest of the film only shows in flashes.

Things are wrapped up a little too easily at the end but it's a solid film if you like the genre.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Margot At The Wedding

Featuring a seemingly odd choice of actors for his latest film, writer/director Noah Baumbach continues to explore dysfunctional family dynamics, as he did in his last film, "The Squid & The Whale". "Margot" stars Nicole Kidman and Jennifer Jason Leigh as estranged sisters who come together for the wedding of Ms. Leigh's character, Pauline. Playing her unlikely fiancé is Jack Black, who does a good job with a serious (for the most part) role.

You don't usually find Nicole Kidman in "small" quirky family dramas and it was good to see her digging into a real character and giving life to Margot. Ms. Leigh, on the other hand is known for smaller quirkier roles and in this film, she actually gets to be the "normal" sister (dragging her share of baggage though).

This is an intense family drama with comedic moments that break the tension but for the most part it's a sad story filled with characters who aren't very likeable.

I'm Not There

The new film from director Todd Haynes, may or may not be a biography of Rock Icon, Bob Dylan. The film is based on the life and times of Bob Dylan and features his music throughout the film, however, he is never mentioned by name and six different actors play different interpretations of him. The title of the film is perfect!

Serious Dylan fans will fully appreciate the film more than the casual fan as they will probably get more of the "in-jokes" and personal aspects of Mr. Dylan's life as portrayed on the screen. There is a very loose structure of a story that moves back and forth in time throughout different periods of Mr. Dylan's career but what really propels the film are the six actors and the cinematography.

The six actors playing Dylan-esque characters are Cate Blanchett, Ben Whishaw, Christian Bale, Richard Gere, Marcus Carl Franklin, and Heath Ledger. They are all terrific but a true standout is Ms. Blanchett, who fully captures the look and feel of a mid-sixties Bob Dylan.

The cinematography is simply amazing. Each time period is represented by different styles (and nods to other directors) with the camera capturing moments in time with beauty and realism. The film is a visual feast for the eyes. Add in the terrific Dylan songs and aforementioned performances and you have a remarkable film to experience, even if you are confused by "the story".

"I'm Not There" premiered at The NY FILM FESTIVAL and opens in NY on Nov. 21st. As an aside, the cover story of this weekend's NY Times Magazine section is all about Mr. Haynes and the film.

Go Go Tales

From New York Indy director, Abel Ferrara, comes this tale of a down on his luck strip club owner played by Willem Dafoe. While the film is set in New York, it was actually filmed in Italy which may account for the intimate setting of Ray Ruby's Paradise Strip Club. The entire film takes place either inside or in front of the club.

Matthew Modine co-stars as a silent partner in the club and his character seems to have wandered in from a David Lynch film. The film also stars Bob Hoskins, who is wasted in an underwritten role and Sylvia Miles, who shows the most life as the landlady looking for her back rent.

Except for the cache of Mr. Ferrara, I don't understand why this film was selected for The NY Film Festival. It's a quirky little film about a seedy world that has nothing much to offer it's audience. Mr. Dafoe sings, Asia Argento French kisses a dog, and there are endless shots of all the strippers doing their thing.

Go Go Tales premiered at THE NY FILM FESTIVAL. The opening date is not yet known.