2009

Mesmerize Me (2009, Kate Hackett)

Mesmerize Me is frustratingly middling. It keep seems like it has to be going somewhere, only for it to go nowhere. It’s not a short short—it’s twenty-four minutes—and there’s a disjointed act structure. The third act is way too short, leveraging the “twist” ending way too much. Only it’s not a twist ending. It’s not exactly predictable, but only because it’s such an unbelievably tepid finish you don’t want to anticipate it. You’re hoping for something better.

The short is a period piece set in the late 1800s California. Good costumes, okay locations, not great attention to detail on making things dirty—clothes and people, competent direction, shallow but not inept cinematography (by Cat Deakins), and good music (by Nora Kroll-Rosenbaum). If it were even slightly sensational, Mesmerize Me might at least come off as a romance novel cover turned into a movie. But it’s not sensational. At all. Even when it ought to be, like when lead Natalie Smyka seduces her opium-addicted fake doctor Cameron Cash while her parents are asleep elsewhere in the house.

Me opens perfectly solidly with Smyka seeing the ghostly apparition of her dead fiancé (Ned Hosford). Smyka’s really good running around in a panic and she’s got great expressions throughout the short. She doesn’t have any good line deliveries, but her expressions are awesome. Though it’s never believable she likes Cash at all because Cash is unlikable. Not because of the opium or because he’s a know-it-all. Cash is a mesmerist. Either Mesmerize Me takes place in a fantasy world where mesmerism isn’t bullshit or it takes place in some kind of reality. Writer (and director and editor) Hackett implies the latter a lot, but never definitely says the former is out. If we’re supposed to accept the ending, we also have to take Cash believing in his own “powers” too.

It’s problematic.

Also problematic is how it always seems like the characters are going to have a good conversation than Hackett cuts the shot. After a while (where the runtime works against the short)… it seems like Hackett’s cutting away from even worse line deliveries. Like it’s obvious Smyka and Cash couldn’t handle more.

Sarah Lilly plays Smyka’s mom. She’s kind of disappointing too. John Beck is fine as the dad, though his lack of interest in his daughter’s condition doesn’t come across right.

Hackett’s direction and editing instincts are often good; they can’t save Me from itself.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Written, directed, and edited by Kate Hackett; director of photography, Cat Deakins; music by Nora Kroll-Rosenbaum; production designer, Matthew C.W. Page; produced by Nora Gruber, Hackett, Brian Maddox, Bette Stockton, and Christopher Stockton for Sonambula Productions.

Starring Natalie Smyka (Estella), Cameron Cash (Daniel), Sarah Lilly (Eliza), John Beck (Lawrence), and Ned Hosford (Stephen).


Triangle (2009, Christopher Smith)

Triangle suffers. It suffers from a bad script, it suffers from wanting performances, it suffers… bad hair continuity. There’s just something off about lead Melissa George’s bangs. Not just she doesn’t seem to acknowledge when they’re in the way, but when she turns around (in an obvious cut because there’s so much post-production on the lighting you can tell) and the position doesn’t quite match. Or the length.

There’s just something… off about them.

Kind of like George’s performance.

The film relies on a lot of twists and turns to get through. I was going to say to justify itself but the twists and turns aren’t really for narrative justification, they’re to kill time. Triangle builds towards reveals, it doesn’t build characters. Even when character development is intricately tied to the reveals, well, writer and director Smith still isn’t going to build character. Though it wouldn’t exactly be easy with his cast. Because something feels a little off about them too.

One might guess it’s because they’re a bunch of Aussies pretending to do an American movie. They’ve all got “American” accents, which don’t ever drop out but they also exaggerate the narrative distance from the characters. Not a good thing in a horror movie where you’re ostensibly supposed to care once they start dropping like flies.

The film starts with George going on a yacht day with local rich guy (presumably) Michael Dorman. She’s a waitress he knows, so he invites her for this annual yachting trip. He always takes friends Henry Nixon and Rachael Carpani, who always bring a girl to fix him up with (this time it’s Emma Lung). Except, of course, Dorman wants George along. Carpani doesn’t like it because single mom George must be a gold digger. Carpani’s character is odious, which makes it all the less fun to have her around once she’s in danger, because Smith doesn’t care if you empathize with any of the cast. And most of them aren’t sympathetic.

Also along for the trip is young stud Liam Hemsworth, who was homeless but now lives on Dorman’s yacht with him and knows how to tie knots and do all the other important yachting stuff. There’s some confusion about why Dorman needs a hunk around but at least Hemsworth is likable. There’s something creepy about Dorman and his Robin Hood beard and something’s clearly going on with George and the movie is obviously manipulating the audience about it.

So is it worth it?

Heck no.

Smith knocks off a couple famous movies for Triangle; visually, The Shining, narratively… well, if I told you it’d be too much of a spoiler. Suffice it to say, Smith’s not just not reinventing the wheel with his tricky story, he’s not even worried about keeping the tire inflated. He’s really lazy with the logic. Really lazy. He goes for visual shock value and often gets it; his special effects team, lighting mismatches aside, is phenomenal. More than half the movie takes place on this old, abandoned cruise ship with Shining hallways and Triangle makes it look real big, even when it’s kind of clear it’s not and they’re just adjusting the lighting to lens flare for emphasis.

So technically it’s fine. It’s just got a dumb script and an either not trying hard enough or just not able to do it lead with George. After a while you wish George’s bangs would do the acting heavy lifting because George obviously isn’t up for it. She does fear well like twice, then never again. And her messy arc, even with Smith’s questionable scripting, does have a lot of potential for the right performance.

George’s isn’t it.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Written and directed by Christopher Smith; director of photography, Robert Humphreys; edited by Stuart Gazzard; music by Christian Henson; production designer, Melinda Doring; produced by Julie Baines, Chris Brown, and Jason Newmark; released by Icon Film Distribution.

Starring Melissa George (Jess), Michael Dorman (Greg), Liam Hemsworth (Victor), Rachael Carpani (Sally), Henry Nixon (Downey), Emma Lung (Heather), and Joshua McIvor (Tommy).


Halloween II (2009, Rob Zombie)

The only good thing about Halloween II are the end credits. They run like nine minutes, meaning the movie is closer to ninety-five minutes than 105. Even though the ninety-five minutes feels like an eternity.

The movie starts with director Zombie making fun of the idea of making another Halloween II. He’s not remaking Halloween II; well, he does for the first twenty-five minutes of the movie but only to make fun of the idea of remaking Halloween II. It’s kind of the best sequence in the movie? If only because there’s not as much cynicism as the rest of the picture. Less cynicism, less “lead” Scout Taylor-Compton trying to emote, less Sheri Moon Zombie as a color inverted Morticia Adams ghost making scary-ish faces as she inspires Tyler Mane to kill people. It’s a hallucination but not. Chase Wright Vanek, as the young version of Mane, is also in the scenes. He could be worse. Moon Zombie couldn’t be worse, but Vanek has some lines in the prologue and he’s atrocious so it’s a surprise when he’s better later. Because he doesn’t get dialogue. It’s a good move from Zombie amid a film full of bad moves.

After the riff on the original Halloween II, Zombie jumps ahead a year to Taylor-Compton trying to recover from her trauma. Meanwhile, Malcolm McDowell is on a book tour capitalizing on Taylor-Compton’s trauma. McDowell’s not good and the part’s thinly written–all the parts in the film are paper thin–but he’s bad in entertaining ways. Taylor-Compton isn’t bad in entertaining ways. She’s got a terrible part and gives a terrible performance in it. She’s living with fellow Halloween I survivor Danielle Harris and her dad, sheriff Brad Dourif.

Harris is just about the only likable character in the film. She also doesn’t give a terrible performance. Many of the cast give terrible performances, so Harris is constant refreshing. Dourif’s haircut gives more of a performance than the actor, which is too bad. It’s a crappy part though.

The worst supporting performance is Angela Trimbur. She’s one of Taylor-Compton’s friends; she gets to personify Zombie’s prevailing conjecture in the film–empathy doesn’t exist, which is problematic because Taylor-Compton’s only in her current situation because of empathy. Halloween II is the perfect storm of cynicism and stupidity, with Zombie trying to cushion the stupidity in symbolism so he can get away with it. But it’s stupid symbolism so who cares.

The best cameo performance is Bill Fagerbakke as a deputy. The worst is Mark Boone Junior. Margot Kidder is somewhere in between, mostly because her therapist isn’t believable at all.

Technically, the film’s competent. Brandon Trost’s photography is definitely competent. Glenn Garland and Joel T. Pashby’s editing gets all the jump scares. Zombie relies heavily on them. He starts with gore, then he goes to jump scares. They’re effective but entirely cheap.

Tyler Bates’s music… could be worse.

Garreth Stover’s production design–presumably under Zombie’s instruction–is grungy to the point of absurdity. Since surviving their serial killer attacks, Taylor-Compton and Harris have apparently embraced nihilism based on their interior decorating but never in their characters. Taylor-Compton’s behavior sometimes flips scene-to-scene so Zombie can move things along. It’s not like she’d have essayed the role better if the writing were better.

Trost’s photography holds things together. Without it, the movie would be stagy. If the acting were better. And if Zombie cared about the acting. It’s really bad.

But it could be worse. It could be much, much worse. The end credits could run eight minutes instead of nine and there might be another whole insufferable minute of content to Halloween II.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Rob Zombie; screenplay by Zombie, based on characters created by John Carpenter and Debra Hill; director of photography, Brandon Trost; edited by Glenn Garland and Joel T. Pashby; music by Tyler Bates; production designer, Garreth Stover; produced by Malek Akkad, Andy Gould and Zombie; released by Dimension Films.

Starring Scout Taylor-Compton (Laurie Strode), Tyler Mane (Michael Myers), Malcolm McDowell (Dr. Samuel Loomis), Brad Dourif (Sheriff Lee Brackett), Sheri Moon Zombie (Deborah Myers), Danielle Harris (Annie Brackett) and Brea Grant (Mya Rockwell)


Creation (2009, Jon Amiel)

Creation is the not the story of how Charles Darwin (Paul Bettany) and the ghost of his oldest daughter (Martha West) collaborated in the writing of On the Origin of Species. That story would make a much better movie.

The film opens with a title card explaining it will be about Darwin writing that book, released in 1859. Some conversation early on places the present action in 1858. So a year. At this point, it’s been twenty years since he published Voyage of the Beagle. Some of those adventures show up in flashback–a flashback’s flashback–as Bettany recounts stories to West.

Well, at the beginning. Then not. The Beagle flashbacks are the biggest budgeted sequences in Creation and director Amiel treats them as set pieces. Only then such flashbacks (in flashbacks) stop and so do set pieces. Instead, it’s just Bettany hanging around at home, making churchy wife Jennifer Connelly real upset with his blasphemous manuscript and research. It seems like this narrative floundering is covering a lot of time but it turns out it isn’t. Amiel and screenwriter John Collee are terrible at pacing. Why do they need pacing when they can have Bettany talk to West (not an actual ghost, just a narrative contrivance). If only the exposition moved the film along.

After a promising first act, Creation settles into that “ghost” story. Amiel and Collee tease out details of West’s death in the present while flashing back, at first, to unrelated family bonding scenes. The flashbacks eventually get confusing because Bettany’s makeup for Darwin age forty-nine is bald with stringy hair, very pasty skin, a paunch. The film skips back seven and eight years to the West flashbacks–those seven actual years in between Darwin’s daughter’s death and the Species’s completion are apparently empty of worthy story material. Darwin age forty-two makeup is bald with stringy hair, mildly pasty skin, general nineteenth century upper class flab. It’s not hard to tell them apart, but only because Bettany’s good. But in terms of filmmaking–Amiel’s direction, Jess Hall’s flat photography–well, it’s good they have Bettany.

Also because it’s an entirely thankless part. Collee’s script is deceptively worse than first impression. It’s not bland biopic stuff, it’s bland biopic stuff without any characters. Amiel, whose direction is never better than mediocre (outside the special effects sequences of animal decomposition and so on), he at least tries occasionally. He really likes his close-ups. So the actors can spout either ominous lines (because of hiding daughter West’s fate in flashback) or exposition.

While Bettany’s got it bad, he at least gets to walk around in his make-up. Connelly is left to take care of the kids and give disapproving looks when Bettany doesn’t take his “war on God” seriously. And Connelly never really gets a role. She ends up with one poorly written, well-acted scene. It’s exceptionally impressive filmmaking from Amiel, Hall, and editor Melanie Oliver. It’s this entirely manipulative, cheap, soapy scene and it still works. Because Bettany and Connelly. Connelly gets some character motivation at what might as well be the end of the movie. There’s still more movie and it’s bad, but that moment is when Creation could’ve got out in the black.

But it doesn’t. Because Amiel and Collee are entirely artless with Creation. They want all to benefits of melodramatic contrivances without ever embracing those contrivances. There’s also the issue of how the film characterizes the religious. Caricaturizes. Connelly and Jeremy Northam (extended cameoing as the village clergy) are inappropriately villainized. But meaning they need to be villainized differently. There’s no dramatic fodder in it as is.

Bettany’s good. Not great. Better than decent or fine. West is decent. Connelly is problematic; the part’s crap. Northam’s cameo is too thin. Ditto Toby Jones. He’s bombastic though. Energy is a lot in Creation, as the film stops producing any once the second act hits. Benedict Cumberbatch is good. He tries.

If there’s a great film about the final year of Darwin writing Species, Creation sure ain’t it. Amiel’s just too bland a director to save the film from the script. It could’ve at least maintained mediocre, but as it becomes more and more clear how bad Collee’s plotting and pacing is going to get… well, mediocre’s way out of reach.

The awful Christopher Young score doesn’t help either.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Jon Amiel; screenplay by John Collee, based on a story by Amiel and Collee and a book by Randal Keynes; director of photography, Jess Hall; edited by Melanie Oliver; music by Christopher Young; production designer, Laurence Dorman; produced by Jeremy Thomas; released by Icon Film Distribution.

Starring Paul Bettany (Charles Darwin), Jennifer Connelly (Emma Darwin), Martha West (Annie Darwin), Jeremy Northam (Reverend Innes), Benedict Cumberbatch (Joseph Hooker), Jim Carter (Parslow), Bill Paterson (Dr. Gully), and Toby Jones (Thomas Huxley).


The Invention of Lying (2009, Ricky Gervais and Matthew Robinson)

The Invention of Lying is a 100 minute exploration of a gag. In a world without lying–or any fictive creativity whatsoever–co-director, co-writer, and star Ricky Gervais one day spontaneously mutates and lies. He lies for personal gain, only to discover exploiting people doesn’t make him feel good, so he lies to make himself and others feel good, but it gets him into trouble. It doesn’t get him what he wants and it just ends up making him rich, famous, and miserable.

The film opens with Gervais on a low point. He’s about to lose his job and he’s out on a date with his dream girl, Jennifer Garner, only she thinks she’s too good for him. Because, objectively, his genetic material isn’t good enough to mix with hers. So the other thing this world doesn’t have is any relatable version of love. Gervais and co-writer Matthew Robinson aren’t even comfortable getting into the lust questions, because once they start down any problematic avenue, they run away as fast as they can. It’s like they release they can’t make the joke funny and hightail it away. So why do the joke in the first place?

The film takes place in a small New England town where there is, inexplicably, a movie studio. Except movies are just filmed lectures of history lessons because there’s no fiction and there’s no concept of it. Gervais and Robinson entirely ignore how the world would function and how history would have progressed without imagination or creative ambition. For a while, they just keep falling back on the gimmick–what if everyone just says what they’re thinking, no matter how awful. There are a lot of flashy cameos–Ed Norton is the best–but they can only distract so much. Eventually, the film has to reconcile itself, because Gervais is in love with Garner and Garner doesn’t want him because of his genetic material.

There’s this scene where Gervais explains how he imagines peoples lives upon seeing them and Garner just sees them as fat, bald, nerdy, losers. It comes right after Gervais telling Garner she’s the kindest, best person he’s ever met, which makes absolutely no sense, but whatever, she’s supposed to be angelic.

Eventually, Garner’s part contracts and the movie moves ahead an indeterminable time, becoming just Gervais moping with buddies Louis C.K. and Jonah Hill. By this time, Gervais has increased the scale of his lying, making up God. That subplot is the best one in the film; Gervais and Robinson don’t have to be subtle about their jabs yet still manage subtely in said jabs. It operates on two levels, something the film never does otherwise.

Sadly, it’s not about Gervais inadvertently becoming a messiah, it’s about him pining for Garner. Conveniently, Gervais’s first act nemesis (Rob Lowe, one note as a successful bully) also has eyes for Garner so there’s a love triangle thing towards the end.

It’s a yawn, partially because Garner and Lowe are extremely limited in their roles, partially because Invention can only handle so much emotion. If people can’t have creative expectation, their emotions are stunted. And even when they aren’t, Gervais and Robinson are focused entirely on characters on hand, not this world they’ve ostensibly created.

Gervais drops out during the third act way too much too. He’s the only relatable character in the film; everyone else is a caricature to be mocked. He’s a caricature too (maybe the thinest one), but he’s not supposed to be mocked.

Okay photography from Tim Suhrstedt covers for Gervais and Robinson’s lackluster directing. There are a lot of songs and song montages–including a criminally atrocious Elvis Costello cover of Cat Stevens’s Sitting–and they don’t make any sense since there’s no music in Lying’s world.

Gervais’s performance is fine. Garner ranges from inoffensive to miscast. Hill is an overblown cameo, while C.K. is an underdeveloped sidekick. Besides Ed Norton, Martin Starr’s probably the funniest cameo. Others are earnest but with limited material.

The Invention of Lying would’ve made a great six part sitcom or something, but Gervais and Robinson don’t have a full enough narrative for 100 minutes. It’s not funny enough to make up for all the laziness.

1/4

CREDITS

Written and directed by Ricky Gervais and Matthew Robinson; director of photography, Tim Suhrstedt; edited by Chris Gill; music by Tim Atack; production designer, Alec Hammond; produced by Lynda Obst, Oliver Obst, Dan Lin, and Gervais; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Ricky Gervais (Mark Bellison), Jennifer Garner (Anna McDoogles), Rob Lowe (Brad Kessler), Louis C.K. (Greg), Jonah Hill (Frank), Tina Fey (Shelley), Jeffrey Tambor (Anthony), and Fionnula Flanagan (Martha Bellison).


Halloween II (2009, Rob Zombie), the director’s cut

Halloween II is terrible. Unquestionably terrible. It sounds as though the director’s cut, which I watched, is even worse than the theatrical cut, based on the items director Zombie added back to the film.

But I wanted Halloween II to be good. It can’t be good–even with Zombie’s dumb ideas, there’s terrible writing and an awful performance from Scout Taylor-Compton in the lead–but I wanted it to be good. Because Zombie, after teasing the audience with a direct remake of the original Halloween II as an opener, does come up with an interesting concept. What happens to Taylor-Compton after the horrific events of the first film, with all “real life” psychology thrown in–including Malcolm McDowell making a jackass of himself as “famous TV psychiatrist”–it could be really interesting.

Zombie has all the pieces–Taylor-Compton’s friend, played by Danielle Harris, and her dad, an excellent Brad Dourif, take her in, which creates all sorts of problems and new situations. Juxtaposed against McDowell tormenting his media handler (Mary Birdsong), it all could have worked out. There’s some good stuff with Harris and Dourif, Birdsong and McDowell, but it’s all accidental. It’s actors with ability transcending terribly written material.

Oddly enough, Zombie cares. He cares about his dumb story invalidating every idea of the Halloween franchise–instead of a soulless shape, Michael Myers is driven to kill by his mystically evil (and undead) mother. Zombie spends most of the movie upset he can’t show Tyler Mane’s face until the end. Zombie puts it off so long, the reveal has no point–not as commentary on the Halloween franchise, which the film could’ve been perfect for, and not for his dumb evil, mystical Myers family thing.

Great photography from Brandon Trost on 16 mm. Occasionally okay music from Tyler Bates.

And, real quick, Sheri Moon Zombie is awful in it (though not worse than Taylor-Compton); it’s sad since the film opens with a flashback where Moon Zombie’s actually good.

Halloween II is not at all worth watching, but it should have been.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Rob Zombie; screenplay by Zombie, based on characters created by John Carpenter and Debra Hill; director of photography, Brandon Trost; edited by Glenn Garland and Joel T. Pashby; music by Tyler Bates; production designer, Garreth Stover; produced by Malek Akkad, Andy Gould and Zombie; released by Dimension Films.

Starring Scout Taylor-Compton (Laurie Strode), Tyler Mane (Michael Myers), Malcolm McDowell (Dr. Samuel Loomis), Brad Dourif (Sheriff Lee Brackett), Sheri Moon Zombie (Deborah Myers), Danielle Harris (Annie Brackett) and Brea Grant (Mya Rockwell)


Fast & Furious (2009, Justin Lin)

With Fast & Furious, director Lin and screenwriter Chris Morgan do something incredible. They take what, a decade before would have been at best a video game spin-off (maybe featuring the original, now down in their career cast's voices), and make an energetically mercenary movie out of it. The film's ludicrous at almost every turn, but it's hard not to appreciate a huge budget in CGI being spent on car chase after car chase.

Oh, there are some real cars racing, but Lin apes the conclusion to Return of the Jedi for the finale–just with cars. It's entirely admirable and entirely pointless. There's not an honest moment in the entire movie, everything is perfectly calculated to entertain. The film gets too loud and almost too busy–Gal Gadot's useless character is in the not really bad bad Bond girl part–seemingly because Vin Diesel wants a lot of tear jerker scenes to be a tough guy during.

Lin doesn't want to hold a shot–he's clearly more into Michael Bay for car chase inspiration than Billy Friedkin–but his composition is good and Amir Mokri does a fine job shooting the film. The real car racing footage looks great. All the composite CGI stuff is a little too obvious, but it's a video game, you're not supposed to care.

The film does require a certain enthusiasm for Diesel and Paul Walker's bromance; Lin gets a surprisingly okay performance from Walker.

Like I said, big, loud, dumb, sometimes perfectly amiable.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Justin Lin; screenplay by Chris Morgan, based on characters created by Gary Scott Thompson; director of photography, Amir Mokri; edited by Fred Raskin and Christian Wagner; music by Brian Tyler; production designer, Ida Random; produced by Neal H. Moritz, Vin Diesel and Michael Fottrell; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Vin Diesel (Dominic Toretto), Paul Walker (Brian O’Conner), Michelle Rodriguez (Letty), Jordana Brewster (Mia), John Ortiz (Campos), Laz Alonso (Fenix), Sung Kang (Han), Tego Calderon (Tego), Gal Gadot (Gisele), Jack Conley (Penning), Liza Lapira (Trinh), Shea Whigham (Stasiak) and Don Omar (Don Omar).


Los Bandoleros (2009, Vin Diesel)

The strange part of Los Bandoleros isn’t how it ends lame–it’s how well it starts. Sure, there’s this dumb story about how Vin Diesel, on the lamb in the Dominican Republic, has become a Robin Hood to the local people.

Oh, right, forgot–It’s a Fast and the Furious vanity short “film” from Diesel. Undoubtedly something the studio did to make him happy.

Anyway, besides the stupid club scene and the foreshadowing for the subsequent action movie and, most of all, besides Michelle Rodriguez… Diesel’s got a not bad eye for his location shooting in the Dominican Republic. He’s got a great photographer (Shawn Kim) and, even though the script is really contrived, at least the pre-franchise stuff works.

It’s pretentious, sure, with Diesel telling the story of the little people, but the movie looks great. But looking great isn’t enough to make up for Rodriguez’s vapid performance.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Vin Diesel; written by Diesel and T.J. Mancini; director of photography, Shawn Kim; edited by Justin Bourret and Sonia Gonzalez-Martinez; production designer, Wilhem Perez; produced by Diesel and Jessy Terrero; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Vin Diesel (Dominic Toretto), Michelle Rodriguez (Letty Ortiz), Sung Kang (Han Lue), Tego Calderon (Tego Leo), Don Omar (Santos), F. Valentino Morales (Malo), Mirtha Michelle (Mirtha) and Juan Fernández (Elvis).


Do You Love Me Like I Love You, Part 1: From Her to Eternity (2009, Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard)

From Her to Eternity, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds' first album, runs about forty-four minutes. This short film–part of a comprehensive series (Do You Love Me Like I Love You), runs about forty minutes. It consists of band members, fans, journalists–everyone except Nick Cave–sitting in front of black and talking to the camera. Directors Forsyth and Pollard clearly told the interviewees to look directly into the camera. Some do, some don't; either way, the effect is startling.

The film has a little narrative. The end of one band, the start of another. Then it moves through the tracks on the album–Forsyth and Pollard don't just not add in music, as it would distract from the interviewees, they don't identify the interviewees until the end credits. If the viewer isn't familiar with early eighties British and Australian punk… good luck.

It's long, often boring, but the interviewees keep it engaging.

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

Edited, photographed, directed and produced by Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard; released by Mute Records.


S. Darko (2009, Chris Fisher)

Terrifying as it might be to say, but S. Darko could actually be worse. It’s an official sequel to Donnie Darko as the producers of that film still had sequel rights, but Daveigh Chase–as this picture’s titular lead–is the only returning cast member. It certainly does not have the involvement from the original’s writer-director.

And S.’s director Fisher isn’t bad. He’s really not. The undoubtedly cheap Utah locations are beautiful. The DV doesn’t look great, but Fisher does have some good composition. And if he were telling the story of Chase and friend Briana Evigan broken down in the middle of nowhere, meeting strange people and cute boys… S. might be okay.

But not with Nathan Atkins’s script. His script plays like a terrible TV movie of the original, complete with story beats. Worst might be how people are constantly traveling through time, just because they wish they can. The other connections to the original flip off that film’s fans. S. is a desperate cash grab with an incompetent script.

Chase is okay in the lead. Evigan’s good about twenty percent of the time. Ed Westwick’s awkward, but quite good most of the time as the guy they meet. Nice supporting turn from John Hawkes too.

Sadly, the rest of the acting’s weak. For starters, Jackson Rathbone is atrocious as Chase’s suitor and James Lafferty’s inept as the town oddball.

S. Darko uses Elizabeth Berkley as stunt casting. Does anything else really need to be said?

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Chris Fisher; screenplay by Nathan Atkins, based on characters created by Richard Kelly; director of photography, Marvin V. Rush; edited by Kent Beyda; music by Ed Harcourt; production designer, Alfred Sole; produced by Adam Fields and Ash R. Shah; released by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.

Starring Daveigh Chase (Samantha), Briana Evigan (Corey), Ed Westwick (Randy), James Lafferty (Iraq Jack), Bret Roberts (Officer O’Dell), Jackson Rathbone (Jeremy), John Hawkes (Phil), Matthew Davis (Pastor John), Walter Platz (Frank), Barbara Tarbuck (Agatha) and Elizabeth Berkley (Trudy).


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