The Mystery of The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby

All the lonely people...

All the lonely people…

Ned Benson’s somber relationship drama, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, is not a mystery despite the title, though it’s plenty puzzling.  The version reviewed here, Them, is an edited combination of what was originally two separate films, Him and Her.  It flips back and forth between our two players Conor (James McAvoy, donning an unconvincing American accent) and Eleanor (Jessica Chastain, all pale grief and feigned smiles) as their marriage disintegrates, but it never plays its gimmick out with the obvious one scene played twice from different points of view gag.  That may have actually made the film a bit more interesting, though it would’ve also added to the film’s already burdensome two-hour-plus runtime.

After surviving a leap from a bridge, Eleanor moves back in with her parents (William Hurt as the stereotypical soft-spoken bearded professor and Isabelle Huppert as a drunk French former violinist) and single-mom sister (a likable Jess Weixler, who it would’ve been nice to learn more about), while taking a class on the theory of identity taught by a bitter but wise woman (Viola Davis).  Meanwhile, Conor is moping around his failing restaurant, lashing out at customers and his best friend/chef (Bill Hader) and moves back in with his recently thrice divorced and overly philosophical father (Ciaran Hinds, always good).  Slowly but surely we find out the real reason behind the break-up and their decent into the spiral of grief (hint: it’s not just about losing each other), and it is indeed tragic and hangs a pall over the whole family, not just our protagonists.

The film is filled with talking it out and philosophical ponderings espoused by really good performers.  In lesser acting hands, the film would’ve been an outright mess.  The characters speak dialogue sincerely as if read from discarded Felicity-era WB melodramas and self-help books.

Continue reading

Advertisements

X Men A Go Go

Oh my dear, Ms. Lawrence, why so blue?

Hollywood loves to rewrite history – not only their recent movie history, but actual history history.  Here in the context of some mutant hybrid of a prequel and a reboot — a preboot? a requel? — Hollywood has decided to (almost completely – but not without some fan boy in-jokes and cameos) erase the history of the X-Men franchise (and quite honestly, who can blame them after the Wolverine train wreck?) while simultaneously providing us with a shocking Inglourious Basterds style revision of history.  Who knew that mutants were behind the Cuban Missile Crisis?  Thanks, Hollywood!  Knowledge is power!

But the real reason to provide a backdrop like the Cuban Missile Crisis is to create an excuse to go totally a go-go and deck smokin’ hot babes in short skirts and high boots and give uber-villains cool pads with all kinds of Ikea-inspired furniture.  You won’t find me complaining here – the film (and the ladies and the set pieces and the special effects) look fantastic.  Continue reading

Wanted: A Better Movie

It’s weird how one movie experience can affect another.

CAPTION:  Yeah, pretty much, what the hell?

Over the July 4th weekend I rented Be Kind Rewind and brought it over to my brother’s place to watch.  I had such high hopes for this flick.  I think it’s amazing what director Michel Gondry was able to do with Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and I’ve enjoyed his sense of humor (in Human Nature) and melancholic whimsy (in The Science of Sleep).  It seemed like his brand of moviemaking would fit well with Jack Black’s style of comedy in this movie about a hapless trio of fools who remake classic films when all of the videotapes at a nostalgic rental shop are erased by radioactivity.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  Be Kind Rewind desperately tries to capture the magic of independent filmmaking and is a complete failure.  There’s a scene where Jack Black’s character (after being made radioactive) urinates in the street, and his urine is glowing as it goes down the gutter.  That’s how I felt this movie treated films.  Be Kind Rewind is painfully unfunny, lacks a single authentic moment, and contains ridiculous stereotypes pretending to be characters.  It also paints a view of the greater NYC area of northern New Jersey that is like a pot smoking Frenchman’s view of America after watching a marathon of What’s Happening on TV.  This is an insulting film to avoid at all costs.  It’s so awful and unforgivable, I’m not sure if Gondry can ever recover from this.

Embarrassed I had rented it, and wanting to wipe it from our memories, my brother and I headed out to the multiplex for some old-fashioned mindless fun and saw Wanted

CAPTION:  Angelina Jolie, professional bad-ass.

The whole comic-book inspired “average schlub is picked to join mysterious fraternity of assassins” plot didn’t exactly interest me, but everything else about the film appealed to my basest moviegoing desires.  Directed by Timur Bekmambetov (say that five times fast) and starring a tattooed Angelina Jolie and a willful James McAvoy, Wanted is sadistic, profane, action-packed fun.  Our Russian pal Timur was previously responsible for the kinda cool Night Watch and its kinda stupid sequel Day Watch.  With Wanted, he shows no restraint, and crafts a bombastic movie that, like Be Kind Rewind, defies all logic and doesn’t make a lick of sense, but who cares?  What’s not to like when we get to see Jolie stepping out of a bath and one of the most amazing action scenes ever orchestrated involving a train, a car, and a bridge over a giant gorge?  Did I mention the giant army of explosive rats and the magic “Loom of Fate”?  Oh, yeah, there’s all that and more.  Sometimes all you need is a better movie than the last one you saw, and for us, Wanted fit the bill.

Written by David H. Schleicher

A Review of Joe Wright’s Adaptation of Ian McEwan’s “Atonement”

(01/04/2008) I rarely do this, but I felt compelled after a second viewing of Atonement to admit where I may have been off base with my initial review.  I judged the characters rather harshly, but on second look felt them worthy of forgiveness from the audience.   I was especially unfair to Keira Knightley.  Her emaciated appearance adds a bizarre element to her character in that it could be viewed as a physical manifestation of her character’s lovesick nature.  She loses herself and her body in this role much like Christian Bale did in The Machinist and Rescue Dawn.  There were also certain nuances in her body language and performance I witnessed the second time around that made the film richer and more emotionally complex.  Joe Wright’s camera adores Keira, lingers on her unique features, and makes her a far better actress. I also found the ending, which at first look seemed all too clever, to be a fitting conclusion and mirror of the film’s greater themes that honored the source material from Ian McEwan.  Atonement is a brilliant and haunting piece of work.  I still can’t get the Dunkirk tracking shot out of my mind.  The rest of my original review appears below unabridged. –DHS

Suite Britianna, 10 December 2007
9/10
Author: David H. Schleicher from New Jersey, USA

A budding young writer named Briony witnesses an innocent act she doesn’t fully understand between her older sister Cecilia (Keira Knightley) and long-time family servant Robbie (James McAvoy) one restless summer day on her family’s lavish country estate in 1935 England that leads to scandal in Joe Wright’s dreadfully sumptuous adaptation of Ian McEwan’s international best-selling novel, “Atonement.” Four years later, all three characters try to find their own personal sense of peace or redemption during WWII.

This brief synopsis does nothing to explain the intricate complexities of the plot and actions that take place. Although Keira Knightley’s performance is slightly off-putting due to the fact she appears like she just escaped from a concentration camp (surely young British socialites did not look like this in the 1930’s), the stunning cast shows full range here racing through curious emotions: spite, lust, recklessness, and selfish wanton abandon. The facial expressions, especially from the children in the early scenes on the estate, are priceless. None of the characters are particularly sympathetic as they are often vain, self-absorbed, and quite silly in their drama, but they are fascinating to watch. The first third of the film is played like a “Masterpiece Theater” production of “The Great Gatsby” as seen through the eyes of Nancy Drew.

However, what makes “Atonement” soar is the impeccable direction of Joe Wright. He makes the most audacious coming-of-age as an auteur since Anthony Minghella delivered “The English Patient” back in 1996. Wright displays a near Kubrickian mastery of sound effects (notice the strikes of the typewriter keys) that transition from scene to scene and often bleed into the amazing score from Dario Marianelli. Wright also crafts a finely textured mise-en-scene that visually translates McEwan’s richly composed story onto the screen with near note perfect fashion. Nothing can really prepare you for how well directed this film is until you see it, and the scene of the three soldiers arriving on the beach at the Dunkirk evacuation is one of the greatest stand alone unedited panning long shots ever captured on film. It left me gasping.

That scene leads to the heart of the film. The often clichéd romance at the core is trumped by Wright’s depiction of Robbie, a single man forlorn and obsessed, his dizzying inner turmoil reflected against the grand canvas of a chaotic world at war. Likewise, Briony’s redemption comes not in the too-clever conclusion at the end of the film, but in the intimate and symbolic confessional at the bedside of a dying French soldier. These moments leave lasting impressions, and left me imagining that if Joe Wright were to ever adapt Irene Nemiorovsky’s “Suite Francaise” onto the silver screen, he would knock it so far out of the park it would leave “Gone With Wind” spinning in its gilded Hollywood grave.

Originally Published on the Internet Movie Database:

http://imdb.com/title/tt0783233/usercomments-93