They Were Playing My Jam Until…in The East

Follow the sound of my voice in The East.

Follow the sound of my voice in The East.

Brit Marling has to be one of the strangest young “artists” to emerge from the indie movie scene in the last few years.  She has a classic natural beauty, a deep whisper of a voice and an intriguing upside down smile that make her very watchable on-screen.  She’s also a writer and ideas creator behind the scenes, cooking up thought-provoking roles for herself and her fellow actors  Yet after seeing her in four interesting films (After Earth, Arbitrage, Sound of My Voice and now The East), I’m not entirely convinced of her acting ability.  She has a vacant stare (which works to her advantage depending on the role), an aloof physical presence, and while she knows how to cry predictably emo-style in emotional breakdown scenes, she rarely shows any other emotion.  It’s like she’s wading slowly through water up to her eyes on-screen.

Well, Marling has re-teamed with co-writer and director Zal Batmanglij for the eco-terrorism indie thriller The East.  Whereas in their previous endeavor – the quasi-entrancing Sound of My Voice – Marling played a soft-spoken cult leader claiming to be a time traveler, here in The East she is the corporate operative assigned to infiltrate a clandestine vigilante terrorist co-op which targets corporate polluters and big pharmacy.  The group is lead by the soothingly charismatic Alexander Skarsgard, who we eventually learn is a former trust-fund boy turned terrorist.  Also on board for the well-rounded cast are Patricia Clarkson (excellent as always but underused) as Marling’s cold client-focused boss and Ellen Page (convincingly dedicated to the cause) as a key player in the terrorist group. Continue reading

To Rome With Love

There are a lot of characters in the new Woody Allen movie.

At one point in Woody Allen’s rambling, absurdist, vignette stuffed, overflowing pasta dish of a new film, Woody’s character says to his psychiatrist wife (Judy Davis) when she tries to psychoanalyze him something to the effect of, “Go ahead, thousands have tried and failed.”  On the surface Woody appears to be attempting it on himself here in To Rome With Love.  As is such with latter-day Allen flicks, this one is a beautifully photographed postcard of a film, pseudo-intellectual stuff for American tourists, as much a fluffy love letter to Rome as it is a love letter to Allen himself.  But Woody is only psychoanalyzing himself for comedic effect (I suppose that’s the eternal self-loather in him), and in many ways this film is as much a jab at his fickle critics and fans who seem lost in this haze that every other film of his stinks.  Some are clearly better than others (thus is the curse of being prolific) – but they rarely stink.  But if you insist on categorizing this thing, I would say this is at the higher end of the low-end of post millennial Woody.  Yes…I guess it’s just above middling, if you must.

There are a million stories in the eternal city, and Allen – the seemingly eternal filmmaker – finds in Rome a kindred spirit.  Damn his silly old soul if he doesn’t try to tell a million of those stories in a single film.  Continue reading

The Inception of Dreams

Slick marketing evokes Lang’s Metropolis.

Roughly twelve years following their first feature films, these legendary directors delivered the following:

Fritz Lang:  M

Alfred Hitchcock:  The Lady Vanishes

Stanley Kubrick:  2001: A Space Odyssey

Twelve years after Following, Christopher Nolan invites us to dream along with him through Inception.  And while it’s operating on different levels than the Lang and Kubrick pieces, it shares in Hitchcock’s sense of dark fun and could easily be considered Nolan’s most ambitious and devilishly clever piece of work to date.  He’s an auteur with a full blessing from the studio and his audience, and the project he devised in this rarefied air is awe-inspiring.  Though there are some minor flaws, if you can’t find a way to overlook them and latch onto something meaningful in at least one layer of the dreams on display, then you have no business sitting in a darkened theater watching movies.

Christopher Nolan’s decked-out and high-concept new film brings new meaning to the idea of stealing ideas.  In his futuristic universe, technology has developed where you can enter the mind of another through dream invasions and steal their ideas.  It’s espionage…it’s dangerous…but what’s even more intriguing is the idea of diving deep into dreams within dreams and implanting an idea that can then spread like a virus and alter the shape of one’s universe.  Whoever implanted this idea into Nolan’s mind, we thank you.

Continue reading

A Review of Jason Reitman’s “Juno”

Ellen Page and Michael Cera: Finally, a teen movie where the kids look like real kids. 

For Realz, 17 December 2007
8/10

Author: David H. Schleicher from New Jersey, USA

Ellen Page (in a star-making performance) plays an accidentally pregnant smart-alleck 16 year-old named Juno (named after the Roman goddess, not the town in Alaska) in the latest hyper-smart comedy from Jason Reitman (director of “Thank You for Smoking”). “Juno” follows the latest Hollywood trend of quirky comedies that actually deal with some heavy issues. Unlike most of those films, “Juno” manages to stay funny even as it gets serious and treats its characters and audience with respect by keeping the jokes coming even as it gets cutesy or plays for tears.

Screenwriter Diablo Cody (a pen-name destined for greatness) has a knack for writing hipster dialog that doesn’t wear thin or get annoying. She manufactures big laughs from both quasi-goofy pop culture references and nervous situations inherent to adolescence. She keeps things fresh even when the film starts showing its sweet side. Think of her as Judd Apatow without as much of the raunchy humor. Director Reitman gives the film the appropriate indie-feel and populates the movie with a great soundtrack of songs whose lyrics perfectly match Cody’s storyline and dialog.

Ellen Page is eternally likable in the lead role, and the decision Juno makes in the end feels totally organic and true to her character, giving the film a ring of truth instead of feeling manufactured to make the audience feel good. Michael Cera proves again to be one of the most amiable and subtly funny young actors working today. His performance is a perfect companion piece to his more overtly hilarious work in the riotous “Superbad”. The rest of the supporting cast is equally likable, and even Jennifer Garner, and actress who always seems to try so hard, seems perfectly cast here as an adoptive mother-to-be who tries way too hard.

Though not as laugh-out-loud funny as most of Apatow’s films, “Juno” swings as one of the best of the quirky indie-comedies of the past five years. It’s funny and has a heart, but it doesn’t beat you over the head with it like “Little Miss Sunshine” did, and instead, thanks to Ellen Page and Diablo Cody, feels like the real deal.

Originally Published on the Internet Movie Database:

http://imdb.com/title/tt0467406/usercomments-57