liquidstone14's Movie Ratings - Rotten Tomatoes

Movie Ratings and Reviews


For its first thirty-to-forty minutes, Leeches is a hilarious romp into the abyss of bottom-of-the-barrel cinematic crap. Really, really ugly shots, unspeakable dialogue, embarassing SFX, and most of all, risible homoerotic overtones all the way... its sheer awfulness belongs to the unexplainable-- and it is, for long stretches, nothing less than fascinating to watch. Of course, all this crushing shittiness eventually turns wearying, and suddenly, Leeches is not super-funny garbage as much as it is super-disturbing garbage. You wonder who ever thought this or that was a good idea, even by the standards of grade-Z horror junk. You wonder WHO THE FUCK funded this abomination. You wonder how the lead actors feel when a loved one discovers they've played a major part in this hysterical suckfest.

And then you wonder why you made it to the end.


Difficult and contrived, much like spinning into adulthood in a terminally fucked-up world can feel like. Lonergan has verve and social reviling to spare, and to watch almost none of his ideas cohere and yet crackle like very few other network narratives do nowadays gives the effect a really disturbing read. By its final pages, Margaret proves to have transcended its horrifying post-producting trials and landed on the street as a real shot to the heart to whoever has decided to remain on its wounded wings. Paquin is incredible, and so are Smith-Cameron and Berlin.

Walk the Line

Built one hundred percent on the dreadfully unimaginative rise-and-fall biopic template, yet there's no denying its emotional wallop due to the sheer wonderfulness of the subject. Phoenix and Witherspoon play off each other with beauty, chemistry and depth, but little about their respective performances has the transportive power to make one label them as unforgettable.

The Devil Inside

The sole notable aspect of The Devil Inside is that it is far and away the least engaging, scary or satisfying shit-show in both the handheld horror and exorcism-gone-wrong craze. Seriously, movies don't get much worse than The Devil Inside.


Coked out hysterics occur aplenty in London, a lovesick chamber piece that treats empty hedonism with a surprising balance of solemnity and humor. Much of the writing here comes across as very brittle and cursory and whiny, and yet first-time director Hunter Richards' mise en scene makes it clear that these characters (his two male leads, actually) are indeed meant to sound like fucked up near-sociopaths with dick size issues. Evans delivers a strong, appropriately erratic performance, and Statham would match him if it were not for a handful of scenes where he litterally explodes onscreen, and not in a good way. Biel's own take on ethereal, gorgeous-looking insecurity also proves to be a smart piece of casting.

Martha Marcy May Marlene

A psyche puzzle with danger and secrecy lingering on the edge of every frame. Manages to feel both sparse & expansive as it reads on a sensitive subject. Very few scenes don't click. Olsen builds something truly beautiful on her initial muffled downcastness, while Paulson & Hawkes in particular each get their moment.

Young Adult
Young Adult(2011)

Less biting comedic romp than abhorrent case study. Cody's thorniest script meets Reitman's most comfortable direction, to a certain fault. Moments of pure human terror are aplenty. Theron is terrific, almost beyond belief.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close

Daldryism find its nadir in Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, where exploration of grief allows nothing more than pretty surfaces and every sentiment has to be wanly noodled with past degree of tolerance. Thomas Horn has the chops, but is never permitted to break out of elf-child mode. Limps to a finish.

A Dangerous Method

Engaging, textured film-as-history fare, A Dangerous Method's screenplay changes a mixed bag. It gets richer and richer as it reels along, largely thanks to four committed performances, despite the fact that they often seem to take part in four separate films. Mortensen, all cloistered judgment & obstinate command, leaves the strongest impression.


Yasmina Reza's stage play is given a sturdy (if relatively uninspired) big-screen workout. Political correctness gets less a dart to the back than a pie to the face. Save from the odd blooper, every actor clicks, Waltz & Winslet being my favorites.


Unimaginative staging and an annoyingly redundant script drown out Burlesque's few amiable moments, though it at least has the merit of subtly flagging its influences. Grand camp is, amazingly, nowhere to be found.

One Day
One Day(2011)

A largely unconvincing affair, far more preocuppied with anecdotes and gimmickry than it bothers with psychology and genuine emotion. Scherfig's mise en scene displays an annoying tendancy to multiply postcard-ready framings, distancing the viewer from the characters' inner livers. Sturgess, all bad-boy groom & puppy eyes, dominates the first half as Hathaway's unfortunate attempt at a Yorkshire accent distracts massively, but slowly, she ends up matching him in the film's last reels. Clarkson underwhelms, much like the movie in itself.

Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark

Provided a gorgeously textured gothic template, but fails to build on it. Writing subtle, almost understated (at least by modern horror standards), but almost every scare telegraphed. Holmes & Pearce unsatisfying; Madison gets best-in-show honors, and slick, showy CGI shots get the tomatoes.

Inside Man
Inside Man(2006)

Fueled by tight craftsmanship and layered sociology, Inside Man manages to swerve past more than a few slightly nonsensical narrative hooks and preserve all of Lee's verve despite its big-budget pedigree.


Concertedly light and dark, heaven and earth, man and machine. Scorsese adapts an already-brilliant Selznick book, delivering one of the finest and immersive pictures in years. A testament to the indelebile magic of film art, Hugo swerves around its slight pacing issues thanks to all-around tender performances and graceful visual cues.


Mincing and shallow to an alarming degree. Van Sant's aim is to capture fleeting moments of life, but the only reaction he managed to elicit in me was an urge to go shopping for fashionable new clothes. Symbolic dialogue sucks. Wasikowska doesn't.


Hot pink entertainment for the aesthetic-horny, artful storytelling that defies (runs over!) the overthinker in all of us and then some; Drive is one of the most arrestingly self-assured genre exercises in what feels like years. Gosling neon-electrifying from blank state to full-blown delirium, and during everything in-between. Several episodes of extreme visceral power alone push it atop best cinematic experiences of 2011.


A thing of glacial beauty; packs a cold nihilistic sting, but suppression of any amiable element whatsoever likely to polarize reactions. It took me roughly 100 minutes to realize how deeply absorbed I was. Suggests depression & contempt may underpin everything, everyone? Dunst & Gainsbourg complete each other beautifully in complex two-part performances.

The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence)

Less cinematic terrorism than jaded shock treatment. Unrelenting vileness drowns out any attempt to make the proceedings escalate organically. Great casting coup in Laurence R. Harvey, but little else to 'recommend'. A total slave to its predecessor, though still not without a certain artistic (yes) integrity.

Green Lantern

Not only ass-blastingly generic but perversely anti-fun like no big dumb effects-driven tentpole has any right to be. Green Lantern expects audiences to fly along while it pukes out giant narrative chunks and pixelated wizardry, but it can't even manage to churn one narrative turn worth giving a shit about. Truly of one of most tired and crassly commercial movies of the year, and not even given the comfort of being so-bad-it's-good; all that Green Lantern has going for it is an adequate lighthearted tone a fine performance by the always-reliable Sarsgaard.

Take Shelter
Take Shelter(2011)

Pensive, mercurial and light-footed in all the right places. Jeff Nichols' Americana exposes the viewer to a host of fully-realized figures even before their lives are ravaged by the constant threat of schizophrenia. Transitions from intellectual to emotional are not always happy, but it builds to a rigorously satisfying climax. A very special kind of family film, one crowned by two of the absolute best performances independent cinema has had to offer in 2011.

The Piano
The Piano(1993)

Layered sociology, poetic lyricism and transgressive kink compliment each other marvelously in Campion's most universally praised work to date. Awe-inspiring performances from all four leads (Hunter being the most devastating) bring emotional swoon out of a stuffy, symbol-heavy script. Holds up surprisingly well today.

Paranormal Activity 3

Handles diminishing returns with striking efficience and playfulness. Mythology far less heavy-handed than predecessor. Near-subliminal self-apologetic tone likely to divide viewers, but humorous interludes & rollicking climax are surefire hits.

The Thing
The Thing(2011)

Just about the most average thing to have found its way over 2,000+ theaters this year. Quite efficient at making the viewer feel cut from the rest of the world, but very obviously tweaked to fit the most banal bait & scare structure imaginable. Good cast can't compensate for big void where characterizations should be.

Scream 4
Scream 4(2011)

Shrewdly, proudly sticks its head up its own ass to produce a neat little commentary on remake mentality and state of horror genre in new decade. A lot more humorous than it has any right to be, but real scares nowhere to be found. A handful of great wink-wink performance. Ending simultaneously surprises and dissapoints. Some good bloody fun, nowhere near as bad as feared.

Final Destination 5

Inescapably tired and mechanical, though not without a certain ramshackle, rickety old charm. Lives and dies (ha) on the splashiness of its death porn setpieces, but surprisingly not-completely-shitty characterizations create the illusion of an actual movie. Gym scene a series standout.


Alternately soft and acute, clumsy and fabricated. Asks more often than not the right questions about fear of mortality. Soars whenever Gordon-Levitt is given all the room to emote with subtlety, but buddy movie elements drag it down. Snappy dialogue and subtle directorial cues aplenty.


An uncommonly tangible sense of communal dread hovers over Contagion, all thanks to Soderbergh's very focused craftsmanship. Characters lack resonance, but performances always compelling. Features a handful of genuinely panicky moments. Feels a lot more sprawling than average outbreak thriller, despite (or because of?) relative lack of incident. A bit hollower than expected, but no less gripping.

Crazy, Stupid, Love.

Admitted a passing grade solely by the (very) heavy lifting its four marquee names accomplish-- perfs are not only uniformly on-the-button, but even showstoppers in some individual moments. Nifty editing flourishes also embellish commonplace sentiments & third-act monstrosities. Welcome to the A-list, Emma Stone.

Horrible Bosses

All in all, good for a long string of cheap laughs and a few narrative sucker punches. Central pitch never quite gells into the promised full-fledged triple murder attempt, but performances keep it sparkly and entertaining. Farrell and Sudeikis go home with top honors. Eminently forgettable, but crunchy and legitimately funny by raunchy comedy standards.

The Help
The Help(2011)

In each and every way a Touchstone Pictures spawn, but there's no denying it operates as both as tasty entertainment and a strong argument for philanthropy & solidarity in an age of asinine blow-shit-up entertainment. Davis & Spencer as great as they need to be, but almost everyone gets their (or her) moment.

Attack the Block

As sly and youthful as it is loud and exciting. Proves a tight character-driven script with humane sensibilities is something 100 M$ can't produce on its own. Effortless cultural symbols back up an otherwise adrenaline-soaked narrative with plenty of good, canny jolts.

Fright Night
Fright Night(2011)

Starts out merely enjoyable, but unexpectedly transforms into that rare creature : a wickedly fun spookhouse ''like they don't make 'em anymore''. Jolts that aren't reproduced from the original stolen from somewhere else, but assembly clicks and characters pop out. Farrell having fun means audience having fun, though Yelchin has rarely been this slack.

The Tree of Life

Towering and gorgeously abstract, The Tree of Life soars on cinematic grandeur throughout. Mallick's relaxed sensibilities enough to veil a meticulous (and sometimes frankly immeasurable) reflexion on human frailty and questions of faith faced against meaningless suffering. Pitt & Chastain powerful.

Friends With Benefits

Crippled by an abundance of pop montages and DOA story beats, but sprightly dialogue and unfakeable spontaneity Kunis & Timberlake keep it alive, though just barely. Not a quarter as sharp as it thinks it is; 5th-gear pacing helps incommensurably.

Sucker Punch
Sucker Punch(2011)

Approaches some unusual sexual politics in simultaneously stark and stupid fashion, but still fails to click more often than not. Mostly finds its footing as soon as it launches into uber-busy fantasy set-pieces, but the pipelines connecting each strand of Snyder's screenplay are hideously riddled with holes. All the flighty geek imagery and bad attempts at gravity eventually dissolve in a pandemonium of botched would-be feminism. By that point, it's hard not to admit most of what there is to like about Sucker Punch remains conceptual, and that Snyder's characters are simply too thin for them to resonate as intended. His casting of Emily Browning is also something of a double-edge; I cannot recall the last time I have seen a young actress offer a lead performance whose levels of expressivity when speaking and when communicating through body language are such polar opposites. Much more precise and involving are Oscar Isaac and Abbie Cornish in smaller but relevant roles.

Bad Teacher
Bad Teacher(2011)

Has flippant energy and wicked-good one-liners to spare, just a serious lack of conflict and a 97%-bullshit resolution. Until then, Bad Teacher's tone remains blissfully maintained and the laughs keep coming relatively fast. Facing a rather badly-drawn character, Cameron Diaz' work ranges from efficient to passable, but at least she practically never asks us to like her. The real show-stopper here though is Lucy Punch, whose cartoonish riff on tightly-wound dedication provides all the peaks in hilarity. Barely a good film on its own merits, Bad Teacher nevertheless settles for a 'good enough comedy' tag.

Black Swan
Black Swan(2010)

The very best attribute most viewers seem to embrace Black Swan for, apart from the now-renowned turn that earned a shattering Natalie Portman her well-deserved Oscar, seems to be its rare, commanding dramatic thrust. Aronofsky isn't afraid to hit every emotional beat, which often pulls his narrative in an across-the-board melodramatic state. But what is ballet, if not a demonstration of complex human emotions through physical overindulgence? As its full-blown third act nightmare unfolds, little annoyances like the redundant visual textures or schematic supporting roles have all deserted the stage to let one of the most visceral landings in a whole decade of film.

Tron Legacy
Tron Legacy(2010)

Spirals on the virtuosity of its grand-scale visual design, but saddled with a script that's woefully short on distinction, warmth or clarity. Ideas about corporatism and artificial intelligence are given quasi-subliminal attention, but character arcs desperately fail to ignite. Bridges in good form, DYNAMITE soundtrack compliment dazzling production design & atmosphere.

The Resident
The Resident(2012)

File under 'well-nigh success'; The Resident is definitely not the home run that could have pulled the newly-ressuscitated Hammer Film Productions from its financial limbo, but it isn't devoid of merit, either. Starting with Swank and Morgan, who are equal parts engaging and sexy, both finding ways to make their throwaway character moments really click. If Jokinen's film gives the illusion of finding the right dramatic rhythms despite its increasingly thin script, it is all because of the pair's willingness to give into the bizarro erotic tension that makes the story glide from uncomfortable to irresistible back and forth throughout.

But with a setup that promises plenty of lurid kicks, The Resident ends up coming dissapointingly short on actual thrills down the line. In many a years of B-flicks, I have yet to see another would-be thriller that bluntly exposes its kinks in the first act and proceeds to check them off so mechanically as it reels towards its conclusion. (to be continued)

V for Vendetta

An elegant, organic, occasionally nightmarish fable that deatils the overthrowing of a fascist regime. While not without a few cloying character moments and slow patches, V for Vendetta boasts more-than-impressive camerawork and a handful of passionate, intense performances.

10 1/2
10 1/2(2010)

A brutal, devastating achievement. 10 1/2 bares the pieces of a social puzzle so impervious, so deep-rooted that even the ones who are most eager to give a helping hand are forced to admit that sometimes, there is nothing left to do but simply be aware and be there for a child in need. Few cinematic themes other than broken childhood have the power to give my lacrimal glands a run for their money, but miserabilism for miserabilism's sake this sure isn't. Grounded by a powerful, uncomprimising directorial hand and two flat-out exceptional performances, 10 1/2 is one of the harshest, most indelebile films of its year.

Saw 3D
Saw 3D(2010)

Heinous and totally disenheartened, Saw 3D represents nothing but a clear, objective series rock-bottom. Not that the majority of the entries in said franchise stand any chance of being labeled as 'quality horror films', but for my money's worth, the first, third and sixth installments have all been able to blend effective nightmare fuel with disturbing moral meanderings, despite their brand's known missteps. But this... this is really just garbage, and not the fun kind, either.

Diving with an alarming lack of conscience in the sour horror movie sexism its predecessors had all mostly avoided before, Saw 3D also doesn't even fucking try to contextualize its unending orgy of torn bodies. There are no accounts to Jigsaw's trademark twisted morality; there are no shocking revelations that could make us re-evaluate what we've seen before. There are only bloody, pointless setpieces separated with a non-existant plot acted by incompetent automatons. Had Saw 3D only been a midseries chapter, if would have still landed with the resounding thud of worthlessness, but to have this idiotic rush-job conclude a series driven by continuity and macabre ingeniosity just adds to the insult.

The Saw makers have given their audience the ultimate finger. I shall give them the finger back.

Fuck you. And don't come back. We're not buddies anymore.

7 Days (Les 7 jours du talion)

Unambiguously crafted to exhaust, paralyze and provoke, Podz' grim and gory Les Sept Jours du Talion isn't driven by a particularly solid sense of importance, nor by a very elaborate speech on grief, justice and forgiveness. It's strikingly well-directed and edited, though, and both Legault and Dubreuil dig very deep into these tortured souls, which renders the final result acceptable and discussion-worthy when taken for what it is : a totally unenjoyable morality play. But really, that's just about all the praise one can muster towards it-- I admire and respect it, but won't ever think of watching it again. Still ranks among the top end of genre films here in Quebec.

Paranormal Activity 2

The scares and anticipation have mostly been kept intact. Good enough. Review coming soon.

Eagle Eye
Eagle Eye(2008)

I caught Eagle Eye on TV-- I couldn't believe my own damn eyes as to how deadly the combination of senses-assaulting action and stupid-but-oh-so-serious plotting turned out to be in this case. The makers of this bombastic garbage clearly put no thought into how they would build their movie, so I will put no thought in writing this review. They really do want to fuck us up the ass with their incessant heavy machinery going 'splodey, so I shall give them the fuck-you back. That just seems like the right thing to do.

Now, here is a short collection of words that describe how evil Eagle Eye is.

Moronic. Noisy. Evil.


For Colored Girls

Tyler Perry's first foray into serious dramatic filmmaking basically morphs what was a humanistic work of identity introspection into a preachy type-A ensemble melodrama, with all the surfeit redemptive crap that such a thing implies. If the first act may appear more than merely bearable, the cloying reflexes eventually take hold of the narrative until there is nothing left but excruciating closeups of actresses bawling and bawling. Perry, who has approximately zero idea of what to do with these generous, vibrant actresses, decides to pile up their poetic monologues on top of one another during a single 30-minute dead patch to the point where all the pain and resentment becomes flat-out buffoonish instead of dramatic. It's a little bit spectacular to watch such an incompetent filmmaker completely drown in self-important artistry without knowing what the fuck he's doing, and therefore For Colored Girls is just a little less boring than one might have imagined, but all in all, it makes for a pretty poor delve into the black female psyche. Cast-wise, Kimberly Elise and Kerry Washington are head and shoulders above everyone else thanks to a whole lot of restraint during their respective emotional catharsis, saving all the spazzy overacting for Whoopi Goldberg and Thandie Newton.

Easy A
Easy A(2010)

Continuously engaging and refreshingly straightforward in the way it sketches out the sex politics of modern day teenagers, Easy A might have replaced Mark Waters' devilishly entertaining Mean Girls in the pantheon of contemporary teen comedies if only it were not built around a premise so implausible-- for in what universe, really, would a ridiculously appealing & articulate young woman like Olive Penderghast be considered a total nobody? It is nothing but a testament to Emma Stone's incredible natural charisma that said unlikeliness goes completely unnoticed past the 20-minute mark. Not that she isn't the only one who shines here : the ever-reliable pair of character actors that are Clarkson and Tucci make for a wonderful uber-liberal couple, while Byrd, Bynes, Michalka and especially Haden Church each seem to be having enormous amounts of fun toying around with high school movie types. Assembled in a way that lets the character moments resound but the sticky (though righteous) morals go down very smoothly, Easy A is funny, breezy, and entirely respectful of its audience's intelligence. See it.

Date Night
Date Night(2010)

This factory-pressed action rom-com seems eager to please by featuring two of the most well-liked comedians of the present era-- I am myself particularly smitten with Fey's usual flustered goodwill routine-- but Date Night never achieves the laugh-out-loud status that might've made its awfully derivative DNA go unnoticed, not to mention its dull-ass non-cinematic feel. As it stands, it's still a perfectly harmless, constantly amusing way to kill 90 minutes (and we know whose company to thank for that), but absolutely not one fucking thing more.

The Social Network

Who could have guessed that both one of the most entertaining pieces of pop cinema of the year AND a stunningly reflexive chronicle of human rapports at the turn of the 21st century could have sprung from the studio command formerly known as 'that Facebook movie'? Well, a lot of people, apparently-- the hype for David Fincher's The Social Network was already monstrous prior to its release, and the actual product totally matches it. This brisk, masterful film finds just about everyone involved at the top of their game, raising myriads of questions on the themes of greed, resentment and the unending craving for social credence. Seamlessly directed and edited, this twisted elitist microcosm is given a supplement of soul by what is probably the strongest acting ensemble of the year, where each viewer is left to single out their personal favourites (I turned out to be a particular fan of Garfield's strained devotion descrescendo, but everyone is truly exceptional, even in smaller roles). With Sorkin's pen supplying it plenty of dramatic heft and well-defined character observations, plus Reznor & Ross' eclectic original score keeping things vibrant and thoroughly suspenseful, The Social Network has just about everything going for it. Let the statue harvest begin.


Not nearly as rousing and ludicrous as it needed to be to justify its own feature length format, Machete can nevertheless clam it has its heart in the right place. Still, trashy postmodernism can only get you so far, and when the mood and silliness and fun start becoming subordinate to a curiously undercooked narrative, well, your mexploitation pastiche is pretty much dead in the water. I might sound harsh towards a project so transparently unambitious as this one, but I frankly I expected a bit more out of Rodriguez. At least Trejo can do the oh-so-peligroso machismo thing in his sleep... which is sometimes what he appears to be doing here. Jeff Fahey & Cheech Marin do knock it out of the park, however-- at least, they really do in comparison to the shoddy approximation of B-minus acting most of the A-listers attempt to very little effect.

Never Let Me Go

Gliding in-between radiance and mournfulness all the way up to a quietly withering finish, Never Let Me Go fulfills its duties both as dystopian poetry and a sentimental journey. It's a given that Romanek's distant, rueful touch on Ishiguro's tale of anticipation and mortality might prove too prim for some viewers expecting a hell of a lot more warmth out of a story of such sort, but I personally relished each and every frame. Also a formidable showcase for three impressively restrained central performances (on some days I find myself thinking about Mulligan more; on others, Garfield and Knightley's work seem to come back to haunt me), the almost impossibly wistful Never Let Me Go should prove itself worthy if only for the numerous conversations it is likely to inspire afterwards.

Let Me In
Let Me In(2010)

There is so little that doesn't work in Matt Reeves' wry but eminently passionate remake of Tomas Alfredson's 2008 vampire chiller Let The Right One In that the final result could hardly be considered as anything else but a small-scale triumph of artistic translation. There exists a sweet spot where a horror film is both moving and frightening in equal (or at least complementary) measures, and Let Me In, much like its source material, fits into this very narrow margin with little to no strain. A better film about children-- and the first burning touch of that early pubescent love-- you probably won't see all year, and for each time Reeves' adaptation falters a bit (some weightless, borderline-crap CGI work and Giacchino's occasionally excessive score), some details are given a bit more texture here and there to wonderful effect. It would be impossible, for example, not to notice how much the new leads craft their very own versions of these two broken figures instead of mimicking the original's; I still cannot decide whether Smit-McPhee or Moretz' depth dazzled me more. All in all, this faithful, disturbing piece of humanistic terror can proudly claim to rival, or at least shake hands with its Swedish counterpart.

My Soul to Take

A puny, often flat-out stupid throwaway thriller that is at its best when it embraces the kinetic 'ZOMG This Is A Serial Killer Film' energy that characterized Craven's earlier body of work, and is at its worst when... well, pretty much the rest of the time. Most of what makes My Soul to Take so uncomfortable to sit through seems to be its neverending cockfight between batshit crazy plotting and generic genre tropes. In the end, we are just left with yet another half-assed dead teen movie too embroiled in its own nutty mythology to make for a classically entertaining movie experience. While the eerie setting, amusingly familiar characters and fresh-faced cast all seem to work overtime to generate the tiniest lurid kicks, there is simply no excuse for its increasingly boring kills, overbaked expository dialogue and ESPECIALLY its catastrophically dumb resolution. Plus, the 3D conversion, though crisp and laid-back, proves to be downright purposeless... but, yep, you already knew that.

Piranha 3-D
Piranha 3-D(2010)

Almost perfectly nails the dosage of filth and tackiness required to make it one rockin' exploitation picture for the new millenium. There are no apologies offered for all the derivative, sexist and incredibly graphic content on display; there are just lots and lots of boobs, and, Christ, surely one of the bloodiest scenes in horror movie history. Almost unbelievably too sleazy to even exist, Piranha 3D is neo-grindhouse fare done just right.

Jonah Hex
Jonah Hex(2010)

A desperately chopped-to-hell miscarriage of a DC Comics adaptation, Jonah Hex teeters on the edge of bearable for about half an hour before succombing to some of the worst post-production tinkering ever to be released on more than 2,000 screens across America. It's nothing but insulting, really, that anybody would think such a humongous chunk of crap could pass for an actual theatrical release, let alone an early June blockbuster. Besides, the laughs, even the ones of the unintentional variety, are so few and far apart that the whole thing barely registers even as a what-were-they-thinking type of pop artifact. In the title role, Josh Brolin threatens to come alive a couple of times but mostly he just does the dull-as-fuck mubly thing to little effect, and John Malkovich is cashing a check like you ain't never seen him cash a check before. And the less said about Megan Fox's paralysingly listless extended cameo (complete with weird-ass face smoothing CGI usually reserved for teen actors with severe cases of acne) as the requisite damsel in distress, the better. Other talented performers like Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Aidan Quinn, Wes Bentley and Will Arnett all inherit their approximate 8 seconds of screentime before vanishing in a cloud of embarassment and expensive weed smoke. Only Michael Fassbender, in a tremendously cliche'd ''hysterical bad guy sidekick'' role, seems to be having the tiniest amount of fun.

Anyway, Jonah Hex is 85% turd and 15% could-have-been-kewl-in-that-sort-of-way (the supernatural parts aren't all that awful... I know, right?), but all in all, it's a blunder best left forgotten for all eternity.



Generally, I hold no particular grudge towards remakes. However, my intelligence has been severely insulted during my viewing of this unforgivably lame retelling of the horror classic Halloween. What Zombie doesn't seem to realize is that a movie must not rely solely on graphic killings, especially when everything in-between is good for the trash can. Characters are briefly introduced and then brutally slaughtered, silly plot elements try to slip in unnoticed and the endless scenes where Michael Myers stands behind his victims for looooong seconds before stabbing them or bashing their heads in (as if we believed the dorks & sluts had any chance) quickly become headache-inducing. There is a fraction of a good psychological drama buried here somewhere, but it is quickly swept under a thick layer of stupidity (or read : bullshit dime-a-dozen psychology) whenever it shows up.

Also, McDowell is criminally misused, and scream queen Compton makes zero impression-- although it's not really her fault.

Bottom Line : a pitch-perfect icon for those against the flood of retro horror remakes. Zombie didn't understand shit about the original, and it shows.

Step Up 3
Step Up 3(2010)

Um... I don't know. I really don't. Here, I shall quote one of my favourite critics, i.e. Dustin Rowles from Pajiba, to share my opinion on what was supposed to be the biggest blast of cheese to the face of summer 2010 : '' It says a lot about the dearth of the plot and characters that, in the end, the upside is not worth the brain hemorrhage.''

The 'upside', of course, refers to the dance sequences. Rowles again : ''It will blow the polyester out of your socks, puncture your testicles, and bang your ovaries ? it is as energetic, frenetic, kinetic, melt-your-face stu-fucking-pendous as Step Up 2 was, but with the added element of three dimensions.''

That is absolutely true.

But the rest of the movie... oh, god.


Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Oh, how hard it is for me to approach this film with the tiniest half-measure of objectivity. Having read all six of Bryan Lee O'Malley's wonderful, wonderful graphic novels (the amount of sheer exhilaration and melancholy and anticipation each of them have brought me borders on the ridiculous), just the sight of these characters coming alive on the big screen, dutifully framed by Wright's eye-popping technique, was enough to pulverize my already skyscraper-high expectations. There exists nothing to convince you of this story's greatness if your reservations have already prevented you from an ecstatic viewing experience; you are sold, or you are not. But to me, Scott, Ramona, Knives, Wallace & friends will forever hold a dear spot in my heart, and really, no amount of fanboy-bashing can take away everything those immensely recognizable figures have inspired me.

If some viewers might be ticked by the narrative's sudden switch from character-based humor intercut with video game imagery & sound effects in the first half-hour, to almost nothing but one video game fight after another for the rest, with some character-based humor spliced in to keep things entertaining, Pilgrim addicts like me will only be able to see an exhuberant Greatest Hits collection of everything that's made the book series so endearing. And yet, even if it is not a 'perfect' adaptation nor is it likely to appeal very far beyond its core audience, I

Bottom line : for me, this is not just, y'know, a 'movie' : this is nothing less than a generational landmark, a whip-fucking-smart grab bag of cinematic tricks and a heartfelt gen-Y love story all at once. Rest assured I will add more and more to this review every other time I see it-- I know this review is pretty light on detail. But what can I say... no other movie punched the highlights out of my hair as hard as this one did.


The 45 minutes or so that unspool before Killers turns into a huge cannibalized piece of shit are actually not that awful on their own. Surely someone intended this screenplay to translate into a zippy, biting domestic satire of suburban bliss, but obviously something went wrong along the way, and we are left with... this. A frighteningly disposable action rom-com tailored for dumbasses where both leads seem to think star wattage is more than enough to make the proceedings go down smoothly.

It does not. By the time the movie is over, you'll want to smack Heigl in the face with one of the fake-ass props on display, and tell Kutcher that he is in no way, shape or form an 'actor'.

I could go on and on about how fucking disrespectful of its target audience Killers is to bake its story around the lamest MacGuffin in a whole year of crap cinema, or trash it for severely wasting the talent of Catherine O'Hara and Tom Selleck. But it's no use. This bitch has already made its money back, and it's now it's ready to life a long, unhappy shelf life.

This is by no means the worst film of 2010, and that's what so brutal about it : it's just another really fun premise run through the bullshit antiseptic Hollywood machine.

Kill it.

Grandma's Boy

A pathetically unfunny excuse for a stoner comedy, in which 99% of the potentially amusing riffs are instantly undone by the makers' unbelievable lack of comic timing. Leading man Allen Covert also sucks serious balls; whoever cast him thinking he could inject humor into such trite proceedings clearly must have lost his job by now. Saw it high as fuck, and it was still a painful, embarassing experience. Avoid like hell.

Vampires Suck

Laugh count : 5. That, my friends, speaks to a definite improvement on the rest of Friedberg & Seltzer's cranial cavity-rotting filmography. Though it never swipes at the core of the Twilight movies, i.e. never seems to understand what makes them so horrendous/hilarious, the five or six (more like five, actually) 'subtler' gags will sure make cute 10-second clips on YouTube in 6 months or so. And, dare I say it, the productions values are noticeably better this time around.

That's... pretty much it. Everything else is just as dreadful and desperate and depressing as a normal, sane person would expect it to be.

So congratulations, you motherfucking brain hemorrhage-induncing motherfuckers.


Continuously refrained from coming alive by an arsenal of exhaustingly mannered flourishes, but very much aware of what makes a young adult relationship triangle tick. Drifting away from the dour, angsty self-involvement that characterized J'ai Tue Ma Mere, Xavier Dolan's second cinematic offering in a year has a better-adjusted melancholy to it than its predecessor. If some character sketches feel somewhat incomplete, the obvious filmic influences strain to pass as necessary and many of the screenplay's patterns circle back on themselves, it is the the spot-on depiction of a typically Montrealish microclimate of aesthetic-obsessed hipsters that gives the film some of the significance it truly desires to wield. Dolan orients his well-chosen cast (including himself) in a recognizable, if not entirely convincing, sort-of neurotic spaz. For the most part, it's Monia Chokri who molds the strongest, richest character out of a familiar figure. One has to wonder, though, why this game of illusions and projections feels so tortured when it's mostly built on misunderstandings and is virtually sexless. Despite some heartfelt evidence that this isn't quite just some surface mood piece (and despite the succession of such lovely framings), the fading of the central friendship also unfortunately feels like it's not given enough weight by Dolan's eye, bringing Les Amours Imaginaires to the finished line as a pretty spotty, dodgy affair.


I really, really don't get it. It's just... inexplicable that Salt isn't a better movie than it is. Despite its breathless pace, some tightly-mounted action setpieces and Angelina Jolie's magnetic on-screen presence (I had forgotten how fucking commanding of a movie star she is; she really has to be seen to be believed), Salt wastes its potential on a screenplay that simply goes through the motions until the audience's attention span is expected to run out. Built around laughably dated Cold War paranoia elements, Phillip Noyce's film shows little to no trace of irony that would've prevented its contrived screenplay from collapsing on itself. And really, I don't think I'll ever get to like Liev Schreiber. All in all, this is definitely a watchable 'summer pop-corn movie' (ugh), but it remains uninspired to the extreme.

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse

Round three; fuck me. So apparently, general (I use that term loosely) consensus (I also use that term loosely) has it that The Twilight Saga : Eclipse is the bestest installment of Summit Entertainment's now year-and-a-half old franchise. Honestly, I find myself at a loss to enunciate an opinion as to where this second sequel ranks among the trio, for it indeed gains the series some actual traction and undoubtedly features its most effective bloodsucker scenes. I will not, however, dither on expressing the fact that the finished product is still very, very bad.

Merely reruns of the same four or five scenes until the much-discussed climactic standoff occurs, Eclipse spares the audience none of author Stephenie Meyer's distressingly poor ear for teen dialogue. Okay, sure, SFX-laden epics devoid of particularly inspired dialogue have been embraced by audiences for years, but by god, those exchanges are just ghastly. Embodied by a trio of deeply unconvincing actors (I expected nothing of Pattinson and Lautner, but the sometimes-great Stewart objectively delivers her flattest work yet-- and given her usual approach to acting, that should mean something), these characters feel thinner than they've ever been.

Add to that some truly pedestrian compositions, go-nowhere costume flashbacks that only hardcore fans will relish, flat-out bad supporting performances (Rathbone, Samuel and Greene definitely stand out as unconvincing, sometimes even laughable in the former's case) and plenty of narrative dead patches, and voila, you've got yourself another sub-mediocre Twilight film.

And I... I have nothing more to say about this one. Sweet baby jesus in a crackpipe, now it feels like all my Twilight reviews end that way...

Synecdoche, New York

I liked it. I think. I really don't feel like reviewing it, though. Not today. Maybe never. But still.


Noticeable for the courageous, often captivating spin it tries on the well-known conventions of body horror and creature features, but ultimately unsatisfying both as an exploration of parenthood and bioethics, not to mention as a first-level scare machine. That said, more than enough elements (namely the magnificent realization of Dren, the creature at the core of the story) push Splice into the 'good' territory. About the film's evidently divisive gender politics, I shall say no more, although I do know that men and women are going to have a lot to say to each other once the film is finished. Solidified by Natali's intelligent direction, which alternates between clinical framings and gothic tones (and yet has a bit more trouble with the latter, especially in the final act), the end result conjures an imperfect, often silly little movie whose numerous flaws don't prevent the magnetism from operating.

Toy Story 3
Toy Story 3(2010)

(sniffle) Review coming soon.


Review coming soon. I, on the other hand, already came though.

I Killed My Mother

It is strikingly obvious that young Quebecois filmmaker Xavier Dolan has got the strongest grip on an expansive, articulate cinematic vision of his own. Written, directed, produced and headlined by himself, J'ai Tue Ma Mere plays like a semi-autobiographical therapy that x-rays the flailing relationship between a closeted teenager and his mother. If anything, the end result is an interesting change of pace from the all-too-resemblant mainstream filmscape here in Quebec. Unfortunately, the whole exercise is also a pretty good reminder why film school students are usually asked to go through more than just a couple of rewrites before they are given cameras and proper distribution.

Not that J'ai Tue Ma Mere is too personal for its own good, for nearly everyone who's been through adolescence can relate to those strange and devouring breakdowns concerning the mommy'n'daddy relationships. Really, it's not so much about *why* than it is about *how* the communication deteriorates, and Dolan clearly understands that-- indeed, the motives that push Hubert Minel and his mother into their confrontational crazes aren't tragic or insurmountable, but they are indeed evidence that the two have grown to be different, separate human beings. Incompatible manners, opposite tastes in aesthetics, dissimilar priorities... all of these issues ring true. We come very quickly to understand that the problematic nature of bond exists mostly because both are forced to fit into the mother/son mold, and that Hubert would very probably like his mother if she simply wasn't his mother. But Dolan doesn't seem to trust his scenes on their own, and what bubbles underneath the facade is quickly brought to the surface-- all thanks to uneven subjective fantasy flashes, or redundant black-and-white intermissions full of closeups in which Hubert directly speaks the camera.

For its few genuine moments of raw emotion, the film ends up feeling much too didactic, and not solely because of what is said about what's happening onscreen, but also because of how precious little is shown without commentary-- Dolan's directing is a bit of a mixed bag. He evidently tries an ambitious patchwork of style effects, a few of them superb, a few of them just bad and a whole of them simply too obvious. The unease isn't expressed, it's highlighted; the sorrow isn't evoked, it's spilled everywhere; the frustration isn't channeled, it's jolted right out of proportion. His stylistic choices aren't organically brought into the story-- they emerge rather loudly, distancing us from the picture. The cramped, purposedly flat compositions coated with low lightings also make sure everything we watch has to happen in a boxed-in universe, even when it's not about Hubert and his mother. For example, the gentle connection he feels with a caring school teacher (played by Suzanne Clement), is even handled with the same visual heavy-handedness. We are left to wonder if all human rapports in J'ai Tue Ma Mere are meant to look so suffocating, or if the mise en scene simply plays it sullen for style's sake.

Even if the central characters are meant to occupy all the space in the film, we get the feeling that their surroundings are underdevelopped. Indeed, the supporting players often dive into outright caricature, leaving them as cyphers that hardly seem to exist outside of their purpose to the main conflict. Therefore, the artistic boyfriend & his outrageously cool mum, the distant father, the kindhearted teacher and such all appear to have no intrinsec personality, even if the are portrayed by skillful performers. Really, Dolan only seems to keep the focus for himself and his mother, which is on par with the film's goals but leaves little breathing room or nuance for every other element or theme in the film. The character of Hubert himself only elicits shades of sympathy, and the tendency that Dolan has to victimize him (he is attacked by homophobes later in the story, and he decides to say nothing) badly contrasts with the unrelenting arrogance that surrounds his persona & motives. His performance is very mannered, to say the least, but at least it serves the character just right. He nevertheless manages to draw a brave, full-on portrayal from Anne Dorval, who brings a distinct sensibility to a role that easily might've been played as hysterically as her son's. The quality-varying dialogue sounds just right when she delivers it, and she sells her tremendous confusion and anger without doing it too broadly.

Nevertheless, we can sense that this whole introspection isn't something that has had enough time to cook, and while I'm all for capturing feelings while they're fresh and untouched (especially when working with the theme of adolescence), J'ai Tue Ma Mere is a film that might have benefited from a more succint approach, or at least a couple more years of gestation. It's enough to see Xavier Dolan's obvious talent and cinematic ardor, but as a film experience, it doesn't go down very smoothly. J'ai Tue Ma Mere remains interesting in its essence, but it sadly tells too much and shows too little.


Largely overcompensates for its trite plotting and simple-minded philosophies through Cameron's much-hyped sound and fury. Immersive to the point of being simply vertiginous, Avatar is a landmark for mass market cinema, where revolutionary tech tools operate on the grandest, most ridiculously photorealistic scale imaginable. I am not among those that feel an urge to bitch about the screenplay's intellectual shortcomings; I was simply transported and delighted over and over again, and I believe that this was Cameron's primary goal.


Defendor is given considerable weight by Harrelson's grounded, three-dimensional portrayal of what might have come across as a complete buffoon. Arthur Poppington instead inspires a bizarre extension of modern day alienation at the center of our superhero-breeding culture, which provides the film an unexpected emotional punch by its conclusion. Unfortunately, while Defendor succeeds in playing a ridiculous scenario low-key and halting to explore the minds of the two lead characters, it is also as predictable as they come, without mentionning the fact that it isn't particularly funny or suspenseful. A moderate success, through and through.

Law Abiding Citizen

Completely bereft of internal logic but determined to keep a straight face as the ridiculously contrived revenge mechanisms pile up, Law Abiding Citizen is C-grade screenwriting masquerading as a serious morality play. Both Foxx and Butler fail to bring any depth to their respective character beyond what you would expect from the film's trailer. Only stupid viewers could perceive this drivel as 'intelligent' cinema. And judging by the film's surprise box-office performance... well, God help us.

Get Him to the Greek

Potently funny, but represents a truly noticeable step down from the usual intelligence baseline expected from an Apatow & friends production. Nothing in Get Him to the Greek holds together quite right as an actual 'movie'-- almost every scene seems to be designed only to score the thickest laughs possible, while momentary logic and character depth get thrown out the window whenever it threatens to bog down the gross-out cavalcade. Credit where it's due, the first thirty minutes get the music biz satirizing pretty damn right : that is mostly due to Brand and Byrne's hysterical portrayals of head-up-their-asses pop stars, the latter of which reveals an innate gift for comedy. But the problems start piling up once Hill's own storyline expands all over the place, then shrinks inconsequently. Get Him to the Greek then curls up into a phony cautionary tale about the perils of the rock'n'roll lifestyle, straining to remain oh-so-outrageous while delving into darker paths. It does not work.

What else is there to say? It's aggressively directed and edited, constantly blaring rock songs (good and bad) over montages separating each setpiece without ever showing all the fun stuff that could happen in-between. The relationship between Daphne and Aaron isn't believable for shit, and the conclusion is as un-fun as they come. Still, it gets just about enough yuks to be considered a functional 'big fat & dumb comedy', although a 'big fat & dumb comedy' is not what I would expect from the guys behind the near-brilliant and strikingly well-adjusted Superbad.

Dark Harvest
Dark Harvest(2004)

Pretty damn unwatchable, even by shlocky Z-movie standards. It also seems seriously unaware of the 5,000 slashers it blithely mimics, except on an infinitely turdier competence level. Anyways, the SFX suck balls, the acting is as wooden as can be and it's a criminally uneventful affair... so nope, Dark Harvest even fails to provide even the slimmest derisive laughter imaginable.

Also : two sequels. What. The. Fuck.

Valentine's Day

A monstrous cotton candy wad of synthetic non-movies that basically makes He's Just Not That Into You look like The Second Sex. Valentine's Day's most striking feature (the only, really) is the fact that it is extremely hard to be considered as a 'movie' on its own rights-- with character arcs that can be predicted from frame one, a brain-dead approximation of 'snappy' rom-com dialogue and relationship hijinks being barfed all over the place, no care is brought as to why we should give a damn about any of these plastic people. I suppose we are meant to be drawn into their respective lives because we 'like' the stars portraying them, but if there is no spark in any of these performers' eyes, then... what's the point?

Anyway, this is dispassionate corporate horseshit, not at all romantic, truthful or amusing. It's not even given the comfort of being totally fuckin' bonkers to warrant a few laughs, so its crushing triteness ought to make it deserve a big zero. But only three faces-- those of Hathaway, Roberts and Grace-- ensure Valentine's Day contains episodes much less painful than others, so there you go : a star an a half. For a motion-picture jam-packed with those shiny things, it sure represents a screaming example of diminished returns.


A convoluted, shallow and altogether amusing riff on director Simon-Olivier Fecteau's trademark short film shooting style. Neatly cut together and full of zingy dialogue, this pointless story is very tolerable for the sole reason that it presents an all-you-can-eat buffet of likeable Quebec actors that operate on the 'don't worry, have fun' mode.

A Nightmare on Elm Street

Gone are the absurdity, the dread and the excitement. This new Nightmare is less a supernatural horror story than a glitzy merry-go-round of inert teen talk, botched dream sequences and crappy jump scares. Mechanically recycling a handful of shocks from the 1984 version to strikingly diminished effect, Samuel Bayer's remake turns out to be an indescribably unimaginative (and consistently unscary) affair, made even sadder by poor editing, poor writing, poor acting, poor dialogue, poor... well, you get the picture.

Not that the bar was set tremendously high. Wes Craven's A Nightmare on Elm Street wasn't exactly an artistic landmark to begin with, with just a few too many ideas boiling underneath its enjoyably gaudy surface, and that terrible synth score, to name just a few of its small problems. But holy fucking hell, y'all-- at least it had SOME personality and, oh, playfulness. It is embarassing just to think of comparing that film to this tedious silicone mould, where singularly one-dimensional ''teenagers'' mope their way through an endless run of the same four scenes (sulk, have visions, panic, die) that amount to nothing more than a little crick around the original story's outline.

Rules dictate that nearly all of this mercenary copy-paste would be tolerable if it ended up being just a little frightening or funny. No such thing here. In this Nightmare on Elm Street, all energy is sucked from frame one. Music video veteran Samuel Bayer might stage dramatic-looking beauty shots all he wants, he still can't assemble a coherent, atmospheric story worth shit, and his film suffers greatly from that. There is only a semblance of a narrative drive, with characters circling around their Boogeyman issue and randomly gathering information when the script needs a boost forward, all up to the next boring splash of blood. And since apparently nobody trusts today's audiences' attention span, we are assaulted by fairly desperate shock cuts just about every five minutes or so.

All of the scenes are acted with zero vigor or spark by a cast full of hot young things who really, really ought to do better than this (and learn to look scared shitless convincingly). The cherry in top of this dispiriting, chemical-tasting McCain cupcake is how ineffective the great Jackie Eale Haley turns out to be after stepping into Robert Englund's shoes. Granted, he is given frustratingly little to do by that moronic rinse-repeat screenplay, but it would have been nice to report that his Fred Krueger sometimes at least tore through the bullshit a few times. He comes close a few times (look at me splitting hairs here!), but not quite. Or not at all.

What else is there to say? This is not a movie. This is a business deal. I can be forgiving with remakes if there are hints of a vision a sense of fun with the genre tropes behind the big bucks. Here, there is just money, out to seek money, and in the laziest ways possible. Where's the fun in that?

The Wicker Man

A laughably unscary, flat-out useless farce. Neil LaBute's faintly misogynistic remake of the 1974 chiller borders on the awful. If it were not for some well-handled camerawork and some retained elements from the original's disturbing, ironic screenplay, we would have a serious contender for worst movie of 2006 right here. And as much as Cage and Burstyn kick and fight their way out of this horrid screenplay, the ending result is just profoundly embarassing for all involved.

Oh, yeah, and the best moments are already on YouTube anyway, so don't bother with the 'but it's unintentionally hilarious!'' thing.

Memoirs of a Geisha

A ridiculously nice-looking but totally shallow slab of awards bait. What this isn't : a slow-burning tale about a girl who is raised to be a geisha and then realizes her life is boxed-in. What this is : a neverending collection of lavish exotic set-pieces carried by flat-out bad dialogue and only intermittently interesting performances.

The Proposal
The Proposal(2009)

For a factory-assembled summertime rom-com that promotes heteronormativity and is completely devoid of imagination, The Proposal isn't without its charms, mostly thanks to the tangible chemistry between Bullock and Reynolds and their respective comic timing. As expected, the sudden turn into pure sappiness past the 75-minute mark drives the enterprise towards a gigantic vortex of banality, but mostly, this is a painless way to pass two hours. There's a reason why formula works and why people adhere to it, I guess...


The term 'unwatchable' gets batted around all too easily in the realm of film criticism, but Holy Christ, I think we have here a stinker that lives up to that particular expression. Sitting through Gigli is an endurance test-- this is a catastrophe of immeasurable proportions, blessed with one of the worst screenplays ever produced by a major studio and released over 2,000 screens across America. Martin Brest's film tries to dodge conventions and be 'edgy' material, but it absolutely does not have the brain cells to even function as a movie of its own. We are given no sense of character to these type-A bad screenwriter offsprings, and the 'plot' they swim in is simply non-existent. There is no drive, no conflict, no momentum to Gigli-- just an endless, slackly-edited run of the most horrific hard-boiled dialogue imaginable. Marred by a broadly uncharismatic lead turn by Ben Affleck and a deeply unconvincing Jennifer Lopez posing as a lesbian female gangster, Gigli may not be one of the worst movies of all time, but fuck it-- it is, for my money, one of the worst film viewing experiences of all time. You need not see it to be believe it.


Profoundly average on almost every level, Mirrors is the kind of instantly forgettable supernatural splatter flick that nobody will recall in a year or so. Anchored by a truly monolithic performance by Sutherland and molded around a screenplay that makes very little sense on its own merits, it is only notable for featuring one dicomfortingly gory (and morbidly imaginative) set-piece and some truly malevolent night cinematography. Otherwise... pass.

Cruel Intentions

40 minutes of juicily entertaining (and unexpectedly sharp) upper-class teen melodrama followed by an hour of bland romantic turmoil. Bad dialogue and bad overacting ensues; eyes will roll. The only flat-out great element in this semi-successful tween reimagining of Dangerous Liaisons has to be Selma Blair's ditzy high-voltage tart number.

How to Train Your Dragon

I have no idea why this one clicked so well considering its screenplay is ninety-seven percent seen-it-before, but hey-- it clicked. How to Train Your Dragon is a near-Pixar level animated fantasy that has ought to please just about everyone. Top-end 3D animation, an immensely likeable lead figure, zero pop culture references (thankfully!), incredibly detailed character design and some Miyazaki-inspired sequences all amount to one of Dreamworks' loveliest creations yet. Definitely worth seeing.

Paranormal Activity

Will undeniably operate on entirely different levels depending on the viewer-- but I simply cannot hide that I am among those that completely embrace the film's relentless Pavlovian approach to terror, where it's the continuous tick and tick and gasps that compose nightmares, and not the BOOs and the splats. If its facade comes off as rudimentary, a post-viewing dissection of the film's technique should reveal an unusually intelligent set of clockworks that deserve every bit of hype thrown its way. I lost one night of sleep over this one, and I am not easily scared-- that says enough for me.

Also : for the ones that have seen it and weren't scared one bit, well... good for you. At least I had fun.

White Noise
White Noise(2005)

Rather dumb and muddled plotwise, but manages to deliver a couple of good scares anyway, mostly thanks to an efficient sound design and some clever did-we-show-that-to-you editing. Michael Keaton offers a believable performance, naturally, even if the whole thing is largely Paranormal Phenomenon Chiller 101. It's not really bad-- it's just quite soulless, capped with a sort-of awful conclusion and full of TV-movie directorial tricks. Other than that... I have no particular problem with White Noise since it succeeds in being moderately startling with a dreaded peegee thirteen rating.


Hollow and toothless wannabe slasher fare, rescued by one crucial element : a suavely manipulative script that effectively ratchets up the dramatic tension as it goes along, instead of deflating like most dead teen movie third acts. It's not particularly inspired nor is it very frightening, but the slick direction (impressive for a film budgeted at 1M$), decent performances and curious where-is-this-going vibe make it a fun diversion for the lovers of the genre.

The Onion Movie

Not to be viewed as a 'movie' of its own but rather as a very loosely connected series of well-edited sketches, The Onion Movie redefines the label 'hit-or-miss', for it contains about a 50-50 ratio of gags that are either gut-bustingly hilarious or paralysingly unfunny. It's an altogether thin satire of mass culture and the confusion between entertainment and information in the media, but it even points itself out to be not much more than that. A comical curiosity probably worth checking out if that's your type of humor.

Confessions of a Shopaholic

This shitty, slyly pro-consumerism ''comedy'' adapted from the shitty, slyly pro-consumerism ''novel'' doesn't deliver a single moment of authenticity or mildly recognizable human behavior. Plastered with broad slapstick gags and cheap romantic padding, Confessions of a Shopaholic is tailor-made for women in their cravings for anti-intellectual entertainment. Alright, I know I'm not the target audience here, but this poisonous crap is just fucking retarded, and not at all in a funny way. May it burn in the joyless pit it came from.


Theological goth-lite poppycock that might have worked if its script was as polished as its noirish visuals, but nope-- Constantine descends into yawn-inducing nonsense past the 1-hour mark and never rises back from it. Anchored by a deeply uncharismatic performance by Keanu Reeves (is he ever?) opposite a vibrant Rachel Weisz, this is a clunky end-of-the-world blockbuster where nothing really seems to be at stake. Forgettable as hell.

Scary Movie 3

The best of the series, for the simple fact that it wields the funniest gags and the swiftest pace of the bunch. No possible film criticism here : this is turn-off-your-brain pop culture spoofing in arguably its most successful form. Great cast, too.

The Silence of the Lambs

Somewhere in-between a fable and a dual character study, The Silence of the Lambs is a morbidly dangerous (and downright creepy) American chiller of the first order. Jonathan Demme's dead-on directorial style penetrates these fascinating characters' minds with grace and surprisingly little manipulation, and anchored by the magnificent Hopkins & Foster, it is impossible not to be drawn in. This is a story about how a great incarnation of Evil came to stop another form fo Evil-- a story that rightfully earns its place among the strongest masterpieces of modern cinema. Unmissable.

Ice Age
Ice Age(2002)

A very formulaic but hugely likeable animated fantasy, Ice Age is family entertainment that rarely dumbs itself down to make the kids giggle and that finds a potent way to plug the requisite good morals in its storyline. If the film itself is good, the Scrat parts are nothing short of brilliant.

Spider-Man 2
Spider-Man 2(2004)

Cinematic Mountain Dew that ought to please just about everyone. Sam Raimi & friends work the formula with such enthusiasm that it is impossible not to succomb to Spider-Man 2's charm and efficiency. Maybe a bit too American and cornyfor my taste, but undeniably well-acted and expertly crafted superhero sequel.

Chicken Run
Chicken Run(2000)

Wonderful. A story of emancipation with arresting Auschwitz-Birkenau parellels, Chicken Run is first and foremost a joyful and diverting escape comedy that exposes both children and adults to top-quality animated filmmaking. If you haven't seen it already... what are you even waiting for?

The 40 Year Old Virgin

The 40-year Old Virgin achieves something most mainstream comedies these days simply cannot attain : an intoxicatingly funny balance between being totally fuckin' absurd and patently humane. Judd Apatow's first feature film is chock-full of big belly laughs and recognizable figures; had it been a little tighter, we would have a modern classic in our hands. It will just have to settle for being a great comedy headlined by Carrell delivering his A-game.

Romeo + Juliet

A ridiculously postmodern, gonzo spin on Shakespeare's timeless tale of star-crossed lovers, Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet amounts to a pleasurably shallow chunk of cinematic epilepsy down the line.

Meet the Parents

One big moneymaker thoroughly fueled by cringe humor that's oh-so-clever without being smart or ingenious in the least. De Niro and Stiller do, however, work the requisite belly laughs out of the screenplay, so in those regards, Meet the Parents is a successful Hollywood formula flick.

The Breakfast Club

Unmistakably heartfelt and delicately sketchy, this defining pop culture phenomenon represents a perfect way to introduce teens and pre-teens to character studies in cinema. Well-observed and never, ever condescending to its audience, this 80s John Hughes classic is sentimental and brainy in roughly the right proportions to retain its status for at least a couple more decades. The five lead players do excellent work here-- it's no wonder they developped such a passionate fanbase throughout the years.

Toy Story 2
Toy Story 2(1999)

Improves on the existentialist framework of the original by adding new locations, new characters and new situations without ever feeling too stuffy for its own good. Armed with wonderfully enthusiastic voice actors and a logical, well-paced script, Toy Story 2 is every bit as exceptional as the landmark of animated motion pictures that preceeded it.


A winning, sweetly humanistic DreamWorks animated comedy that benefits from a great voice performance by Woody Allen, witty character exchanges and a polished screenplay. A keeper!

Happy Gilmore

A typically dumb, satisfyingly funny Adam Sandler flick that apparently pleased enough viewers to rise among the actor's pantheon of cult comedies. Not a good film for sure and crassly manipulative in parts, but hell-- it's funny, and it gets the job done. Not a lot of performers can turn an angry sociopath into a likeable central figure, so yeah, I tip my hat to you, Adam.

Kill Bill: Volume 2

Far less frenzied and more occupied with character introspection that its predecessor, Kill Bill vol. 2 wraps up The Bride's story in an unexpectedly resonant manner. A postmodern patchwork epic that doesn't spell out its various inspirations as much as it classily derives from them, this is top end Tarantino, and a total blast from start to finish.

Smart People
Smart People(2008)

Damn those 'in-betweens'.

Doesn't it just fuck with your mind, too, when you stumble upon one of these ''can't truly love, nor truly hate''s, film-wise? When you can only sort of... acknowledge said movie's presence, as if all it deserved was a requisite 'thank you', and nothing more?

Okay, so first, I'm gonna toss the 'smart' puns aside-- Smart People is something less than the sum of its parts, and it's a really a shame, because what screenwriter Poirier and director Murro were trying to achieve is so transparent that it's kind of embarassing that it doesn't click, most of the time. Embarassing... and weirdly unexpected, considering who's involved.

Thing is, they only miss it by that much, again and again and again. Royally unsatisfied after my viewing of this profoundly lukewarm indie dramedy, I was tempted to score this film a meager two out of five-- but unsatisfying can nervertheless be accompanied by humble and unambitious, and in that case, Smart People pretty much fulfills its modest ambitions. Through scattershot comedic dialogue that feels a tad superficial (snappy'n'awkward just for the sake of being snappy'n'awkward), we will eventually learn that, well, educated, self-conscious intellectuals are often fools when it comes to emotional honesty, particularly with themselves. Hopeful and yet bitter, it's not exactly what one could call a feel-good film, far from that. Nothing remotely nihilistic here, of course, but still a film tainted with a distinct melancholy that doesn't translate into a perfectly lightweight little yukfest.

These themes have already been explored numerous times (and with far more panache) by the likes of Woody Allen, Mike Nichols, and most recently Noah Baumbach & Mike Binder. This bittersweet observational course on the dynamics of modern, intellectualized family and that collateral hollowness that (frustratingly) seems to pop up in every sphere of life has all going for it, but it decides to go play on common grounds right when it needs a little unusual spark. Indeed, it's rather off-putting when it meddles with those damned rom-com conventions, because in the process, it bleeds out much, much of its honesty. And, fucking hell, y'all, there's only so much paper-thin plotting one can take before actually being pulled out of the story. The middle act features scenes so disconnected from one another that they could be switched without a problem. While other dialogue-driven indies with somewhat similar goals like The Savages keep a fluent pacing despite the heavy, true-to-life rawness, Noam Murro's film has a tendency to deflate whenever it begins sizzling. And the ending, while subtle and un-manipulative, is also as un-climactic as they come.

That, however, is not to say it isn't generally well-written, though-- some of the exchanges display great anti-comedic insight. Murro's direction also competently mirrors the characters' gloom and confusion. And the cast, my, the cast-- they're all very good, without being the least bit exceptional. Quaid finds an energy and mannerisms that render his Lawrence truly understandable; Church digs a lot deeper into a role that is usually written and acted on auto-pilot; Page is delightfully monotone (though very much inside her comfort zone) and Parker surprises with her sobriety, playing for once an actual human being that's far from her usual ditzy persona.

But unfortunately, what could have been a memorable introspection quickly turns into a somewhat sour, warmed-over overview of interesting themes. It's too familiar, it never dazzles in its ingeniosity, but it's also impossible to dismiss.

Damn those in-betweens.

Youth in Revolt

Hormones awake, and lots of shit happens-- that's Youth in Revolt, in a nutshell. Episodic to the point of being borderline cartoonish, the film's overstuffed 90-minute running time conjures a reasonably funny, better-written teen comedy than most. Although some serious awkwardness occurs as the well-rounded figures (Nick & Sheeni) interact with pure, buffoonish caricatures (mostly everyone else-- Ray Liotta and Fred Willard are bad in ways I never thought them capable of), Youth in Revolt is an enjoyable chronicle of teenage urges kickng in, and a fine little portrait of marginalized romance to boot. Finally, if Michael Cera does not really break out of his comfort zone, he does this number so well that I couldn't possibly fault him for a performance so well-tuned. Plus, newcomer Portia Doubleday is nice to watch.

The Good Girl

It's a shame the unfussy and softly desolating little dramedy that is The Good Girl ultimately flattens during act three. Otherwise, we would have a rare, sensible example of a small-scale humane tragedy that doesn't succomb to judgmental screenwriting or smug laughs. Relatively unknown director Miguel Arteta keeps it all together long enough for the characters to resonate, and is helped immensely by a cast of wonderful players-- Aniston in particular, worn down but still fighting for her last glimmer of hope, has never been better than she is here. But alas, past the first hour, the narrative inflates itself with a weird sense of self-importance and from here, The Good Girl drifts towards the banality (gun stories, illegitimate children, all that jazz) that it had oh-so-tastefully avoided before. Still worth seeing, but could have been a lot better.


An unspeakably Eurotrashy, often hilarious sub-sub-sub-Matrix surrogate that revels in its crippling awfulness. All the plotting is only supposed to make 'sense' because we've already seen pieces of it in all those other Matrix rip-offs, and of course, in their respective rip-offs, too. Jam-packed with horrendous line deliveries, canny special effects and chopped to hell editing, Wimmer's take on the female superhero genre is practically unwatchable as a straight-up comic book movie, but still, it should nevertheless provide reasonable amounts of fun when viewed as drunken late-night mockery.

The Runaways
The Runaways(2010)

Nails the look & feel of its sexual revolution and well-acted throughout, but is dramatically inconsistent-- thankfully, not to a degree that prevents its magnetism from percolating.

Coating the rise and fall of '70s, all-girls band The Runaways with a very orthodox coming-of-age biopic format might appear unadventurous given the subject matter. This is, after all, the story of an innocence being buried right in a time period where pop culture experienced a growing desire for prematurely sexualized icons. Long-time music video director Floria Sigismondi here shepherds her first motion picture, based on Cherie Currie's autobiography on the sex, drugs & rock'n'roll saga traversed by the band she joined along with Joan Jett in 1975. The results, if nothing else, conjure a vibrant and textured period piece before digging satisfactorily into these troubled minds.

It is interesting to see the silver screen being treatment offered to a rock band that did not end up making major history after all (Jett's post-Runaways career found a much more prolonged success). With that foregone conclusion getting nearer and nearer, the screenplay establishes a subtle dramatic crescendo just by reeling alone; Sigismondi understands that there is no need in painting the 'success' part of the band's lifespan with heavy dramatic foreshadowing. Therefore, act one and two work unusually well, despite the well-worn path they take. I was almost tempted to overcome the general dullness of the third one thanks to The Runaways' sincere epilogue(s), but the taste of commonplace where the film's big emotional climax was supposed to be still remains. It is not that the requisite band breakup scene doesn't possess the required emotional punch-- it does-- but it finds itself surrounded by too many underpowered short scenes. Sigismondi nevertheless lenses the film with a masterful use of colour and expressive lightings, rendering the uneven patches just as absorbing as the big, showstopping ones on a visual standpoint. While I'm at it, I should mention how marvelously well-put together the Cherry Bomb number in Japan turns out to be.

I cannot recall Dakota Fanning ever being devoured by the camera for such a continuous duration-- it's as if years of articulate, doe-eyed children roles had conditionned her to deal with the exact same characterizations and weeping for every part. Cherie being at the very heart of the movie, Fanning is exposed to a type of figure she has never sunk her teeth into... and for better or for worse (mostly for the former, though), it kind of shows here. Her bringing a rare observational quality to the character instead of emoting all over the place is great; her lack of confidence perceptible through many stiff line-readings, less so.

Much more stable is Kristen Stewart as Joan Jett, as she blends heart, spunk, lunacy and vulnerability to her performance while reducing her stammering tics to a minimum. This portrayal should rank as the strongest of her resume-- sure thing is, it's certainly head & shoulders above her dry, passive big-screen version of Bella Swan. Lastly, Michael Shannon as Kim Fowley, the girls' band heinous but effective manager, absolutely tears up the screen with his volcanic mannerisms and an energy that synchronizes with the era's to near-perfection.

The actual quality of the picture should certainly slice the number of skepticals by a sizeable margin. We're not talking triumph here, but given its own chance, The Runaways is an impressive, artistically well-mounted affair. See it.


A charm. If Bandslam's marketing campaign hyped it as yet another factory-pressed Disney Channel singalong torture show, I think most viewers would be caught off-guard by how sincere and authentic it truly is. Really, it's nothing more than a sweet, genial teen movie with a rock'n'roll edge and no real virtuosity or depth, but boy, does it get the notes right. Perhaps it is an everpresent penchant for 70s and 80s rock classics; perhaps it is the hugely likeable characters that populate this ultra-familiar narrative; perhaps it is the triumphant spontaneousness of two of the lead performers (that would be Connell and Michalka; Hudgens, though skilled stage-wise, is too inexpressive are artificial to inspire praise). I'm not sure what it is, actually, but it makes those usual cliches and the inevitable happy ending go down very smoothly. Bandslam even succeeds in evoking teenage sexuality and its anxieties with a PG rating-- really, there is just so much to appreciate here that all resistance is futile. You might want to consider checking this one out eventually, if safe but smart teen movies have a chance of clicking on your side.

The Fog
The Fog(2005)

A lifeless shitcan of a remake for oxymorons that strips each and every potentially tense moment of its much-needed pulse. Badly acted throughout (the noble exception being the vibrant Selma Blair) and directed without a hint of what makes a horror movie compelling, this is clearly one for the dumps. Even worse, it is much too dull and slow-paced to pass for valuable craptertainement. Also : the number of people who get sucked out windows in the last third is just laughable. Do not see this.

The Notebook
The Notebook(2004)

Guaranteed to touch you... if you have a vagina. Since I do not, I found this interminable tearjerker to be quite the shallow and lifeless affair, despite the best intentions of its cast. Really, The Notebook is just badly directed and quite manipulative, so in my opinion, it's nothing to write home about. But hey, I'm not the target audience here, so if this somewhat managed to turn into a classic love story for the girls of my generation, so be it. The guys'll always have Sin City, I guess.

Sin City
Sin City(2005)

Sin City comes alive at frame one and never lets up-- bristling with hard-R violence, delicious tough-guy dialogue and moments of pure aesthetic perfection, this is one of the best comic book movies in the history of cinema. After all, the way it builds upon its source material couldn't feel more right : evoking the feeling of its medium, but on the silver screen. Mission accomplished. Not at all bothered with depth and subtlety but in all the right aspects, this is a treat for film noir and vigilante comic books alike. Great casting, too.

American Beauty

Right up there with Mike Nichols' The Graduate-- this is Mendes and Ball's most accomplished collaboration to date, and by far. Spacey shines brightly as a man who realizes he wants nothing to do anymore with the boxed-in, materialistic lifestyle he has dug himself into. He is surrounded by all-around beautiful work carried by the likes of Bentley, Cooper, Birch, Suvari and especially Bening. Easily accessible and sometimes even a little bit too fabricated for its own good, American Beauty is nevertheless complimented by Thomas Newman's delicate but playful score, expressive visual compositions and plenty of wonderful little touches that are magnified by repeat viewings. If you somehow managed to skip this one, it is now time to see it.

Rear Window
Rear Window(1954)

Carried by exquisitely polished dialogue, two iconic performances and the very essence of what we now call a 'slow burner', Rear Window disguises itself under thriller clothes to dissimulate a lovely humane story. Evoking a heartfelt ode to curiosity, voyeurism & moviegoing to ultimately sketch the making of a sentimental pivot, this one is nothing less than a graceful, layered masterpiece.

Happy Together (Chun gwong cha sit)

A gorgeously photographed but emotionally hurtful experience, Wong Kar-Wai's Happy Together hits all the possibles notes on a flailing relationship, whether it be same-sex or not. Even if the chinese filmmaker spares us no bitter rumpuses as the two lovers slowly discover that love means being able to let go of one another when it becomes destructive, this is definitely one film you'll want to watch more than once. Leslie Cheung and Tony Leung admirably commit to their characters, faring extremely well within the screenplay's small but gently revelatory moments. The film's universal applicability just makes it more essential, so you get the point : see this one.

Welcome to the Dollhouse

Welcome to the Dollhouse speaks volumes about how girls are harassed and pushed into obsessing about their images; it urges us to respect teenagers as sexual beings, and suggests that failing to do so will inevitably provoke consequences. I still understand how some viewers could do little with a movie that is essentially an endless barrage of torment being unloaded on a clueless pre-pubescent girl, but everytime I watch it, I find myself completely absorbed by its absurdly surreal vibe. Anchored by Heather Matarazzo's compellingly anguished (though never miserabilist) performance, this is the perfect way to discover one of modern day cinema's most peculiar and thought-provoking filmmakers. It's also both a laugh riot and a wholly humane tragedy all at once. Thank you, Todd Solondz.

Scream 3
Scream 3(2000)

A fairly disinterested third chapter in a series where the self-absorbed humor used to be sprightly and not obnoxious. Clearly Craven himself had no real drive to make his project, resulting in the most indifferently shot (and least scary) film of the trilogy, though it would be unfair to overlook the script's few bright spots. It does, however, find a cute way to wrap up the whole deal. But if we know one thing about these kinds of films, it's that it never actually ends...

Scream 2
Scream 2(1997)

Competently builds upon the knowing B-movie triumph formula installed by its predecessor, though not without a certain sense of repetition and fairly ho-hum plot devices. The spooky moments are still there and so are the look-at-us-being-silly laughs, but all told it's just a bit less successful of a mixture than the original. Slasher film buffs will nonetheless lap it up and enjoy the ride. Campbell, Arquette and Cox are still are good this time around.


A important turning point in horror film history, for better of for worse. Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson have crafted a gleefully postmodern whodunit that inspired years of painfully self-aware teen murder mysteries. It's all very clever but not particular smart; it sure a blast to watch but it fails to camouflage its own shallowness. However hip and full of winks it may be, Scream still remains an important object of change in pop culture, and that's not something to sneer at. And even when watched on a very basic level, Craven's film remains an effective, joyful slasher film with slightly better-rounded characters than the norm and a handful of very likeable performers.

Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem (AVP 2)

A stupidly underlit piece of garbage too incompetent to pass for Z-grade entertainment and too dull to provide a good laugh. There is not a single redeeming quality to AVP:Requiem; this is exactly the kind of atrocity that has no reason to exist whatsoever, except to make some lame mediocrities look a tiny bit more tolerable in comparison. I would gladly take a shit all over this one. I'm sure fans of both series would do so, too.

The Road
The Road(2009)

Just as utterly bleak as one would expect considering its pedigree, and frankly pretty successful down the line. The Road is one of the most devastating father-son bonds to grace the screen in the last decade of cinema, as well as an affecting poem on parental responsibility and survival instincts. Although its editing isn't perfectly timed and some of the symbols used are a bit too obvious, the shattering visuals and Mortensen's raw, stripped-down survivalist performance more than make up for said flaws. One ultimately leaves the film not wowed or mesmerized but actually shaken-- if the ''tell, don't show'' approach makes for an unfriendly first halft and an unrelentingly grim tone, you won't see a post-apocalyptic movie that jabs you in the gut like this one anytime soon.

The House of the Devil

Quite good-- actually just a hint shy of great. This decent throwback to the 70s and 80s chillers has just about all the craftsmanship and references it needs to sit among such titles, but too much of its running time amounts to weightless padding to generate outright enthusiasm. I understand its very respectable approach to terror, where it's the anticipation and not the payoff that counts (a theory I infinitely agree on), but its first act is too slackly edited even before the 'buildup' begins to muster all the dread it needs for lifoff. Scratch that : it does achieve liftoff, in a 'waking up captive' scene that is just TOO DAMN TERRIFYING for words, but it has a climax that remains dissapointingly short. The look and feel of the horror films of that era is perfectly rendered, though-- and so is the duplication of the deeply uninteresting dialogue and characters. Well worth checking out, if your expectations aren't pumped too high like mine were.

The Blind Side

A deeply American, old-fashioned inspirational that has all the trappings of a movie-of-the-week success story. It's not awful nor remarkable to the slightest degree-- and of course, its perfectly sanitized storytelling and apolitical sociology were enough to turn it into a rousing box-office success. But I still admire its restraint with sentimentality and its capacity at drawing out some good, convincing exchanges between its cast members. Sandra Bullock is, you guessed it, very good as Leigh Ann Tuohy, tweaking her persona just a little to interpret a fairly interesting human being that's not a messiah but just a woman who wants to do good for good's sake. Won't make history... but made lots of cash, and hey, that's all that it wanted, I guess. All I can say is that it could have been a lot sappier, so nope, I just can't hate it.

The Incredibles

Ranks among the top end of Pixar's animated films; a whip-smart superhero satire, a high-octane action film and a heartfelt family story all at once. Excellently animated and carried by an unusually nuanced voice cast, The Incredibles sure is popular filmmaking at its best.

My Winnipeg
My Winnipeg(2007)

What might amount to Guy Maddin's own 8 1/2 is a ''docu-fantasia'' alright : passionate and playful, it is brimming with marvelous cinematic flashes and it carries quite an emotional resonance; a very surprising feat since it is an unabashedly subjective work of art. This is, like most of the director's work, a love-it-or-hate-it affair-- so I'm not going to hide the fact that am completely head over heels about this affectionate and delirious dream diary. One to add to your shortlist for sure.


A fun little splattery joyride, full of heartfelt grossout moments, plain awesome SFX and solid B-movie acting mimics. Though it never aspires to be more than just the sum of its parts, it fares very well in what it attempts to do. Shallow and narratively stupid alright, but unusually competent and highly enjoyable throughout. See it, if that's your kind of candy.

The Lovely Bones

A sometimes sensible, mostly crappy crossbreed of garish CGI dreamscapes and phony sentimentality that doesn't even come close to attaining Peter Jackson's usual greatness. The Lovely Bones is not a failure on every conceivable level, but it might go down as the most sizeable cinematic dissapointment of the 2009 : a very weak handle on its time-hopping narrative, celestial limbo scenes that go on forever and that feel zero percent tactile, obvious & trite narration, botched character arcs and finally, a very limited scope on grief among the members of a family... yup, recipe for a disaster.

It's enough to make you wish someone else entirely had put his or her hands on the projet, because Jackson is clearly the wrong man to bring this story to the silver screen. Managing to get heartfelt, well-rounded performances only out of Tucci, Ronan and especially McIver, who truly shines in a set-piece reminiscent of Rear Window, the New Zealandian director balances a wide palette of emotions very clumsily throughout.

Basically, the end result is just... not good.

The Crazies
The Crazies(2010)

A well-assembled product totally devoid of distinction; it is guilty of no major ineptitudes but wielder of no truly memorable and-slash-or innovative moment. In just about five minutes, Breck Eisner's The Crazies begins its endless (and airless) accumulation of violent shock scenes and doesn't improve much throughout its 100-minute running time. It basically adds up to one long survivalist chase without a clear destination in which marginally likeable (read : pretty damn boring) characters flee homicidal whackos or the ee-vil military while spouting really unengaging what-are-we-gonna-dos. Sure thing is, the slick directing and malevolent night photography work in its favor, and it's unnerving in all the right places to keep an audience reasonably pumped all the way, but the final result leaves much to be desired beyond a few well-timed (and cleverly prolonged) scares.

For instance, you'll find this new Crazies version to have all its politically relevant content bleached out, where the sole possibility of a swift jab at the U.S. forces' crisis management zips by unnoticed and then goes for a nap. Now, let's not ask the music video directors of this world who helm those big-budgeted remakes to be Romeros, but a little meat under this glossy-though-gritty panic would be much appreciated. The experience also definitely has an exploitative feel, where the cuts linger on suffering and helplessness among the victims instead of stacking up real suspense & anticipation. Finally, it's acted with a real minimum of conviction by a usually very reliable cast-- although one could easily agree the figures they have to inhabit are not given a trace of interesting characterizations. Only Joe Anderson, in a role no less common but a bit more intense than his counterparts, manages to light up some interest here and there.

Anyway, I can't think of anything else to say about it as of now-- maybe, just maybe, it's because the film has little to say about itself, too. Ranking somewhere between decent and mediocre, The Crazies might as well have been titled The Ordinaries.

American Psycho

Spends 100 minutes amusing itself on the line that divides 'hilariously twisted' from 'horrifyingly fucked-up' as if it were no big deal. Mary Harron's unusually well-constructed vivisection of 80s yuppie materialism meets Bret Easton Ellis' acerbic and wonderfully inconsistent pen with an irresistible macabre flair; the results are alternately (and sometimes even simultaneously) hypnotic and repulsive in the best ways possible. Although one could easily be turned off by the merciless sketches of human rapacity it traces along the way, I found myself completely enthralled by its nerve and disturbingly compelling central character, played with an ecstatic morbid glee by the always-reliable Christian Bale.

The Ugly Truth

One loud-mouthed moron of a movie, aimed towards both men and women but really engineered by alien frat boys that know nothing of actual human behavior. Fueled by poor slapstick punchlines and long gulps of canned sentiment, The Ugly Truth is also guilty of wasting the comedic skills of Butler and Heigl, who reach levels of annoyance that I never thought such superhot movie stars capable of. About nine or ten gags thrown at us end up somewhat sticking, but none of them are of the clever or sharp variety. It's probably just your brain desperately trying to cling to something that resembles what's normally 'funny' as it makes its way through this incorrigibly phony chunk of bullshit.

The White Ribbon (Das weisse Band)

Harrowing and uncompromisingly austere, The White Ribbon speaks with an exceptionally well-maintained volume about the twisted mechanisms of an era that imposed purity to children in their questioning years. While it does find some hope and genuine sentiment in some of the subplots it rakes along the way, this still remains a story of abuse-- an abuse that lead to collective but muted psychosis. Haneke's approach might come off as both extremely tight and expansive, and one would not be blamed for wanting his nihilism to come down in more compact doses, but still : it would be impossible not to agree that this motion picture is entirely allowed to inflict some scarring violence on its audience, given its themes of repression and pre-WWII anti-semetism.

Shot in black and white with all the torment, simplicity and revolt that it needed to conjure, The White Ribbon also features a phenomenally well-tuned chorus of actors, both young and old, all of which inhabit hurting figures with a skill that reminds us why this acting craft can be so important. Devoid of a musical score and complete character arcs, this is one for the brain, the nerves, but not the heartstrings.

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

A gigantic grab bag of cinematic inventivity, or gift-wrapped surrealistic candy corn with possible side effects of headache or nausea for the very down-to-earth. Terry Gilliam's latest makes the absolute most of a script that wants to celebrate the appealing power of wondrousness a bit too loudly. Packed with psychedelic tableaus and marvelous actors that each play two-thirds of a character, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus is best viewed as a buffet of individual delights than as streamlined narrative. It's not that the loops are too confusing, but it could have used less time spent wowing the background and a more trips inside its appealing humans' minds. Christopher Plummer and Heather edger in his final role each possess their screentime thanks to their flair for sly humor, but Lily Cole and Andrew Garfield also stand out, revealing shades of alluring gravitas.

A Serious Man

Somewhere between a coal-black Jewish comedy and an existentialist fable; somewhere between a masterpiece and a timeless classic of modern cinema.

The Coen Brothers paint a resounding, absurdly funny portrait of an individual struggling to find purpose in his own life, only to find that life itself has little to no purpose... and that, hey, even if you manage to solve all your problems, you'll die anyway. The end result is alternately entertaining and troubling; I wouldn't change a single frame of it. Shot and edited with an aesthetic that works more in the favor of what feels *right* than showy or spectacular, A Serious Man is definitely among the best pictures of 2009. Michael Stuhlbarg's loving and desperate performance, which plays with different levels of human comedy but never calls too much attention to itself, also deserves to go in the books. The rest of the cast members, especially Aaron Wolff as his son who finds straight in the middle of the hormonal hurricane, are every bit as delightful.

Coenwhore or not, put this film on your shortlist. Now.


An incommensurably phony affair, and a stiffly put together one at that. In Nine, it takes just about fifteen minutes to realize that Rob Marshall's direction positions the entire project as nothing more than its own fizzy facade; yet, that misstep alone would not have cost this film adaptation of the broadway musical its passing grade. But to see the whole enterprise fail to even live up to modest goals of shallow big-screen razzle-dazzlin'... to see it kick off with the Worst Opening Number Ever Filmedâ?¢, and barely lift itself up following that stumble... to see it command a handful of spotty performances from a cast of truly brilliant players... to see it thrash inside a field of cinematic knowledge it is rotten in fear of reproducing, opting for obvious referencing instead... yup, all of these reasons are sufficient to yank Nine away from its shiny Oscary ambitions and towards the depths of failure.

Notice I did say ''towards'' and not ''straight through and at the bottom of'' said heinous pit : scarcely avoiding the outright fiasco label, Nine benefits from (naturally) all-around great craftsmanship and truly appetizing work from Cotillard, Day-Lewis, Cruz and Fergie. None of these roles or performances, though, are without their own share of problems (notably Day-Lewis', who seems to be playing two different characters when he is singing and when he is not), but they still come across as a lot more stimulating than, say, the waxwork replicas of Kidman and Loren that happen to be featured in the film. Marshall's incredibly limp handling of the big musical set-pieces does not help one bit, either. I had read quite a lot of bashing in those regards before viewing the film, but I figured the best way to judge it was to see for myself. I am completely serious here : the amount of sheer indifference with which nearly all the numbers are shot has to be seen to be believed.

Anyway, it's intellectually vacant and artistically anonymous; it insists on keeping its characters two-dimensional and, Lord, it is quite boring. I see no reason for it to exist, and I see no reason why I would heartily recommend it to just about anybody. Punish me for this incredibly uninspired wordplay, but here goes : Nine is more like a four.

Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire

An affecting, socially responsible fiction studying a case of extreme mistreatment that largely compensates for its narrative weaknesses and occasional stylistic excesses through excellent performances, and... well, occasional stylistic excesses. Sidibe is devastating, and Mo'Nique could hardly be more troubling; their pairing is one of the most corrosive and complex parent/child relationships to grace the screen in Lord knows how many years of poverty porn cinema. The latter's third act monologue deserves to go down in history for sure. And, yeah : Mariah Carey. No shit-- she's not even one tiny bit terrible as a social worker who witnesses all kinds of atrocities with detached horror. It's no large-scaled triumph, but she nails the part, and the film really benefits from it. Anyway, no matter how heavy-handed Daniels' directorial hand might appear, there still lies an incredibly competent handling of light and dark here that makes Precious a movie to recommend.

Sorority Row
Sorority Row(2009)

Believe me when I claim that Sorority Row is crafted with a genuine affection for everything that makes a slasher flick enjoyable, and that it is probably the most earnest product of the genre to plop into your local multiplex for quite some time. If its promotional material attempted to make it seem like a somewhat spooky or unnerving film experience, rest assured the actual picture is far more preoccupied in generating catty one-liners and outrageous death scenes. It is, all told, a lot more fun you might think. But its most surprising aspect has to be that it contains surprising shades of sadness, sending up the college lifestyle with sharp human observations-- none of which, thankfully, obscure the main plate (boobs & blood, of course) but end up adding it an extra oomph.

A thing of beauty about Stewart Hendler's Sorority Row has to be, above all, the opposite directions that its script nails at the very same time. The dialogue is biting and softly revelatory, acknowledging that most of its characters are seriously messed up, drawing the most barbarically bitchy exchanges possible out of them. The Queen Bee, the Moral Compass, the Geeky Screamer, the Slutty McDrinker, the Flirty Follower-- this quintet of quintessential dead teen movie caricatures is exploited to its utmost potential throughout a 100-minute running time. But whoops-- the actual plot features absolutely none of the smarts devoted to the character sketching, and thus, we are invited to witness a track of cleverness and a subsequent track of awfulness run alongside each other for the whole duration. I'm sure it is not intended as a tug'o war, for it does not feel like one; both layers successfully compliment each other and deliver according to the viewer's expectations. There is something a little bit spectacular about that particular method of proceeding.

Make no mistake, though-- if Sorority Row fully reaches its subgenre standards, it still is virtually nothing else than a good ol' hack-slash tale with a short but solid subtext about the unhinged lifestyle in the Greek system. Hendler's directing is particularly inspired, but it has a grim slickness that easily puts the viewer straight into the OMG-we-gonna-die situations. He sure has a lot of fun establishing long-ass tracking shots that swirl around a party scene to give the viewer an eyeful of college girls in their underwear jumping about. He also has a lot of fun at milking the requisite cheap jump scares out of scenes that are, to say the least, hopelessly unscary. But hey-- said scenes are always punctuated by gory, convincing and painfully inventive kills. What is there to dislike, really?

The real cherry on top, though, has to be the spot-on casting, which starts with the jaw-dropping alpha dog performance that relative newcomer Leah Pipes delivers. She is, and I am not using hyperboles, quite probably the best beyotch I have ever seen in a horror movie-- and I have seen quite a load of'em. Everything, from her body language to her stares to her peppery line delivery, is disturbingly dead-on. I cannot recall the last time I saw a rotten would-be protagonist that was as much fun to watch. Second in line are Brian Evigan, who makes for a typically competent Final Girl, and Margo Harshman as the bulimic-sarcastic-alcoholic sister who unfortunately bites it way too early. It's also a lot of fun to watch Carrie Fisher, a.k.a Princess Leia, wander around the kitchen with a shotgun as the tough-as-nails sorority house mother. All the other girls, though less impressive, fit in their one-dimensional roles just like they should.

If you take away that flamboyantly nonsensical bummer of an ending, you've basically got yourself one of the most worthy slasher movies in recent memory. I am tempted to score four stars to what amounts to the most fun I've had in a movie theater this year alongside a restrained number of motion pictures, but then the overall canniness of the project (and, like I mentionned, a kind-of sucky finale) makes me settle for three and a half. You know exactly if you will enjoy this kind of movie or not. Basically, this review is sort of pointless-- but so is the film, really, and I believe that a little bit of trashy fun like this doesn't hurt when it's poised by smart minds.

...laughing with it, laughing at it-- as long as you're laughing, it's all good... right?

Dracula 2000
Dracula 2000(2000)

One of the biggest loads of crap ever unleashed by Wes Craven in his producing chair. Production values are doubtlessly high, but the film sure looks stagey and cheap as hell. Featuring not a single convincing performance (even Butler is mind-bendingly terrible as Dracula himself), shlocky SFX work and an annoyingly self-concious screenplay that rapes Bram Stoker's masterpiece with great disinterest, Dracula 2000 is one of the shittiest chunks of gothic horror ever put to film. It could, however, provide a good laugh if it aired on TV.

The Cave
The Cave(2005)

A joyless, very badly acted, instantly forgettable B-movie that wrings approximately zero effective scares out of its claustrophobic setting. To make matters worse, Bruce Hunt's directing is pretty poor, making it impossible to what's happening about 40% of the time. Don't ever consider seeing it; just see The Descent again instead.

Saw VI
Saw VI(2009)

A great deal more 'cohesive' (I use that word loosely) and 'focused' (I also use that word loosely) than most Saw sequels, yet no less convoluted and exploitative. Every piece of formal criticism applied to the last four is likely to fit this one, too.

But hey, if you manage to get that above your head... you know what? They *kind* of got it right this time. No, really. I mean... I just wish they had found this right dosage, something like, what-- fuckin' FOUR SEQUELS AGO.

So, what is it that works surprisingly well in this sixth installment of this endlessly lucrative torture show series? One would be forced to say that the tackle on the american health care system actually renders the proceedings quite fascinating at times, and quite disturbing at others-- which is always a step up from 'idiotically gruesome' or 'needlessly contrived', right? Although, ahem, I believe Saw VI still manages to hit those same two notes in its low points. Anyways... so as expected, there is little subtlety to be found in this preachy diatribe, but it doesn't feel tacked-on and actually progresses along with the running time. Culminating in a last-act gotcha that actually makes sense on its own for once and concludes this entry's unexpected stab at social relevance on a sharp reversal, this is likely to be among the Saw films' better screenplays-- which isn't saying much, but hell, you take what you want out of it.

And if some demented(ly stupid) gory set-pieces actually remind the viewer of the bitter aftertaste that some previous sequels had given them, there always seems to be one clever sucker-punch around the corner to keep the interest level relatively high. It goes without saying that this one has to deal with all the freakzoid soap opera mythology of the previous entries while adding some of its own, and yup, it is still moronically implausible as a whole (not to mention unintentionally hilarious at times)... but something made me overlook all that usual Sawish crap, for once. Yes, even the aggressive editing (which is thankfully toned down) and and the intensely uneven acting (Mandylor and Russell are as shapeless as ever). It tries something that approaches the realm of the meaningful, and even if it sure as shit ain't close to a 'meaningful motion picture', there is a bit more meat in this one to suggest at least a good half-hour of discussion concerning the film's obvious but nonetheless somewhat articulate politics.

My god-- a torture porno that is an argument for single-payer health care reform.

Either way, the tensioh operates pretty well in just a few scenes, which is something that Saw IV and Saw V can't really brag about -- I can definitely single out the carousel trap scene, which is hellish and maddening and naturally just shock-for-shock's sake, but hell, after seeing dozens of scenes like that popping throughout the series, having one that actually makes an impact is quite welcome. That, and the underlying purpose of this particular moment of carnage... but I won't dwell on it. It isn't remotely 'smart', but it's visceral and provocative, those two being among the best things a horror film can aim for.

Okay, so basically, another serving of rubbish-- but ah! Refined rubbish! I... think I can deal with that. The real Saw fans definitely should.

All About Steve

Doesn't quite deserve the earth-shattering catastrophe label most critics have slapped on it as of now, but boy, does it come close. I seriously cannot recall the last time I've seen a farce that was so tone-deaf and unpleasant to watch-- maybe it was Because I Said So (yeah, I've also been trying to erase this one from my mind). A few unexpected laughs here & there plus the admirable commitment of Bullock and Church to their respective performances lift All About Steve from balls-out awfulness, but really, it's just about the only thing I can put in its favor. Every damn beat of the screenplay is just so contrived (impossibly embarassing crosswords are published, and blamed for afterwards! huh?) or so damn stupid (reporters can film live whenever they want! re-huh?) that one has to wonder who greenlit this hot mess. If they aimed for an 'edgy' romantic comedy, they failed. If they aimed for an ode to uniqueness, they also failed.

Halloween H2O

A decent, if almost desperately by-the-numbers, attempt at pimping out a franchise composed of rotten follow-ups to a masterful original. Like most 90s slasher, it's very knowing and ironic (thank you, Scream), therefore its attempts at being ''clever'' are mostly clunky horror film references and in-jokes-- but still, H20 has more than just a few redeeming qualities as a film of the genre. Jamie Lee Curtis' presence and strong central performance elevate the project beyond the usual slasher flick; the parts that focus on her trauma before Michael Myers even shows up are very good, even if they count as pure first-act padding. The subplot following the teens, lead by Josh Hartnett, less so. Once the boogeyman starts slicing and dicing, though, the tension operates, leading up to a great Laurie vs. Michael climax that is absolutely the best moment in the Halloween franchise since the end of the original installment. The conclusion, unambiguous and sharp, is also a joy to watch-- I can't picture anyone not cheering a little bit once it arrives.

...and then, enter Halloween : Resurrection, one of the lamest horror flicks ever directed, to piss all over this terrific wrap-up. God, I hate slasher films, sometimes.

Darkness Falls

Save for a notoriously effective opening sequence and one moderately eerie scene in its final third, Darkness Falls has all the trappings of a modern horror stinker, right from its pervasively dark production design to its seen-it-before jolts and plot points. Helmed by all-around mediocre acting and shot without distinction, it has very, very little to offer even to the most undemanding horror fans. Skip this one.

He's Just Not That Into You

There is approximately one reason why someone would consider watching He's Just Not That Into You : seeing a cornucopia of Hollywood superstars act their way through various he-loves-me-he-loves-me-not scenarios.

On those regards... Ben Affleck looking downright bored with material suited for the long-gone 90s phase of his career; Jennifer Aniston failing to provide the requisite gravitas to her part; Ginnifer Goodwin putting a bit of effort into things but coming off as psychotic in a role that embodies the very worst traits of rom-com heroines; Bradley Cooper leaving absolutely no impression (that's actually good enough for him); Kevin Connolly deflating himself everytime he threatens to become interesting; Drew Barrymore simply being cutesy in a tremendously useless part (then again, she is one of the film's producers); Scarlett Johansson just displaying her effervescent sexiness and calling it a day; Justin Long spouting idiotically simplistic quips on modern relationships as he radiates boyish handsomeness.

Really, there is one great performance amongst all those indifferent line-readings, and it naturally, it is delivered by Jennifer Connelly. I'm serious. Even stuck with a formulaic and frankly quite reductive part, she hasn't been this good in years. She seizes the Stuck Up Modern Career Woman stock role and turns it into something rich and aching. It's solid, inspired work from an actress who has lost a bit of steam lately, and honestly, I'm not sure this is the kind of stuff that will keep pushing her oustanding abilities like she ought to do, but still. Her Janine is a beautiful tragic figure, and the vanilla wisecracking fest that is He's Just Not That Into You hugely benefits from it.

The film itself is shot, written and edited pretty much like one would expect. It's not 'awful' per se, unlike a lot of romantic comedies in recent memory-- the malevolent soul of Bride Wars still lingers-- just painfully predictable, conservative and uncomplicated, despite its numerous attempts at explaining the lack of communication among modern day couples.

I have nothing less to say about it, other than more praise concerning Mrs. Connelly. Pray to God she will be handed a wonderful script that recalls her work in the early 2000s, and soon.

A Single Man
A Single Man(2009)

It would be a serious understatement to call out that renowned fasion designer Tom Ford's directorial debut favors style over substance; hell, just a glimpse of its asphyxiatingly pretentious trailer will make most viewers know what they're heading into. It is then without much surprise that I left the theater, thinking to myself that hmmmm, yes, A Single Man is indeed the gloriously, crushingly beautiful and ultimately very slight prestige pic one would see coming from a mile away judging by its pedigree.

It is a shame. A real shame. There are enough quick flickers of aching humane resentment to lift A Single Man out of the suffocating prettyfest it might have been (and to be fair, sometimes is); most notably, an interesting commentary on the nature of memory following the loss of someone, that strange quicksilver framework that cuts out all the negative bits and pieces to build a shiny & ideal remembrance. I am not sure if Ford meant for all these glazing, super-stylized flashbacks to give that impression, but they do, and Colin Firth's very good turn as the grieving lover seems to point in that direction-- romanticizing the past, when following a tragedy, to be able to survive. Human instinct...

But then again, nearly everything in A Single Man is glazing and super-stylized, so maybe its famous first-time director thought that highlighting every damn hint of sorrow with very ponderous tricks, such as extremely grainy images, terrible uncomfortable closeups and onscreen tint switching, would draw all the emotion from the source material. I don't really know; I don't really care. What I do know is that, however striking Firth and some of the poetic imagery might be, A Single Man is no great movie... that is, unless your idea of greatness equals being strangled by a velvet rope drenched in 2,000$ manwhore perfume.

Broken Embraces

Yes, it IS more of the same-- but who cares? If, thematically, Broken Embraces is a bit on the thin side, merely satisfied by its musings on the lack of communication and the role of memory, and aesthetically, it recycles the well-known Almodovar tropes almost to the point of self-parody, his latest film nevertheless gives us an enormously diverting insight into his own creational patterns; that is somethings none of his previous work presented to us so directly. A dazzling concoction of melodrama and cinema history, it all unfolds into a quick-witted mashup of stylistic quirks and characters that are drawn in-between real human beings and sardonic pasquinades. A real treat, though a predictably sketched one. Penelope Cruz is as sensuous and beautifully tormented as always, and Blanca Portillo's nuanced turn as a film director's agent sneaks up on you and shines brightly.

88 Minutes
88 Minutes(2008)

88 Minutes' shittiness is unrelenting, and it escalates all the way to one of the most head-smashingly stupid (and obvious) climaxes of a whole decade of filmmaking. May be worth watching for a healthy amount of what-were-they-thinking script blunders, or for all-around crapawful acting (with Sobieski phoning in a career-worst performance, and Pacino & his giant fab hair coming at a close second), but really, it's worthy wondering how something this heinous and riddled with such enormous plot holes got funded.

I Am Legend
I Am Legend(2007)

It's an impressive technical achievement alright, and its ability to keep the tension cranked up at a reasonably high level makes this thoroughly conventional blockbuster climb slightly above the standards of the usual Will Smith freak-out actioner. But it's a pretty shallow motion picture down the line, and its vacuity starts to show itself in the last third, where everything is melodramatic speeches and self-sacrifice and determined stares. Still, it's a decent American money-spinner, one that's crafted with skill and proves itself to be truly effective at times, even though it probably won't linger in your brain very long after it's over. Also : the CGI is of largely varying quality. Now THAT'S a shocker.

30 Days of Night

Top-notch photography and sure-handed directing still cannot save this endless vampiric carnage from its lack of urgency; there is no sense of being cut from the rest of the world-- just an interminable bloodbath that drifts into boredom past the 1-hour mark. Indeed, all the kills and situations can be seen coming a mile away, the resolution is pure rubbish and the tension operates only sporadically. Even if the cast delivers honest, (though somewhat stoic) performances, their characters are all caricatures. They inspire no sympathy. Anyways, what's absolutely clear is that director David Slade needs a better script, and fast.

Wendy and Lucy

I deeply, deeply love this film. Reichardt has crafted a masterful meditation on solitude and the emotional cost of living close to the bottom of the social pyramid. Excised of all miserabilism and self-pity, Wendy's quest in accessing her own liberty is nothing less than deeply affecting, especially during these harsh economical times. It's a dramatic, minimalist film that demands both patience and appreciation for what's not immediate, but for those that enjoy quiet and slowly revealing cinema, there is much to be adored in this one. It's refreshing to have a reminder that we often let the plot and narrative drive stand between us viewers and the character. Reichardt also spares us the gritty, worn-out look that usually passes for 'realism' these days and coats her film with beautiful (though not showy) photography and long, expressive silent takes. Capped with a magnetic and beautifully internalized performance by Williams, Wendy and Lucy might perhaps be one of the most powerful offerings of the year.

My full review in French at :

Fantastic Mr. Fox

Bursting with inventive punchlines, textured landscapes & interiors, genuine moments of sweetness, exceptionally sympathetic characters and an infectious sense of amusement, Fantastic Mr. Fox leaves the viewer with the impression that animated cinema has just found itself an exciting new medium even though stop-motion films have been around for years. You also get the impression that Wes Anderson has found an ideal art form to catalyze his stylistic preoccupations, where family, friendship, community, quirky humor and the cluttered, retro mise en scene all blend together in a typically offbeat package. Delicious from start to finish, with one of the most successful gag ratios of 2009-- and, while we're at it, also probably one of the best movies of the year.

See No Evil
See No Evil(2006)

Pure slasher formula, conceived and executed no better or no worse than everything it lazily rips off. Considering the horror genre isn't exactly at its peak, you could certainly find a whole lot worse than See No Evil in the market right now-- but that doesn't change the fact that this slapdash WWE production is all-around lousily written, badly acted and absolutely forgettable, except for a few mildly inventive kills.

The Twilight Saga: New Moon

Far, far worse than it has any right to be-- The Twilight Saga : New Moon is a soulless, brain dead rush job that barely tries to hide its own vacancy. Carried by weak, effortless performances from its three leads (Pattinson taking home the top honors in the stiffness competition), written in obvious shortcuts and with a perversely sullen tone, plagued with unintentional laughs and directed by a slumming Chris Weitz who is without a clue how to inspire romanticism or a sense of urgency, this is book-to-film adaptation at its most uninspired, heinous state.

All the angry, articulate commentary in the world won't change New Moon's overwhelming badness. Really. My best friend sitting next to me, at one point, couldn't help herself but sigh ''how crappy is this movie''. I could not agree more.

Silent Hill
Silent Hill(2006)

Silent Hill almost, ALMOST works as a motion picture of its own by the sheer power of its twisted imagery and its consistently forebonding atmosphere. Alas, the narrative is poorly structured, overlong and fairly disjointed, and despite the best efforts of the very intense Radha Mitchell in an underwritten role, most viewers will have stopped caring long before the conclusion kicks in. Horror fans, though, will get a kick out of the atrocious gore splashes here and there and the impressive visuals, that's for sure. So, in the end, it's not totally worthless-- which in the horror genre can often mean pretty good.

The Descent
The Descent(2006)

Downright scary-- a modern horror film that overcomes the familiarity of its plot to tell a brutal, emotionally draining and fairly exhausting story. Drawing impressively physical performances from its all-female cast, Neil Marshall's film touches themes of motherhood and trust without ever losing its focus on its lead goal : scaring the holy bejesus out of the viewer. Make sure to watch the original cut for a few more crucial seconds of disturbance.

28 Weeks Later...

A lot more visceral but thoroughly less meditative than Boyle's 2003 film, Juan Carlos Fresnadillos' 28 Weeks Later is a rare animal indeed-- a sequel that achieves the same level of greatness than its predecessor but in radically different ways. With a bigger set-pieces, bloodier attacks scenes, a helluva lot more ''gotcha!'' jolts but a weaker grip on its characters, the picture really succeeds in drawing the viewer straight into its nightmarish continuation of the original scenario. Surely to rank among the strongest horror offerings of the decade, right along with its first chapter.

28 Days Later

Boyle's glacial, nerve-wrecking apocalyptic freak-out owes much of its success to a sharp, intelligent script, which keeps the scare tactics and character development in equal parts. Surprisingly not grounded in typical Hollywood morals where good guys and bad guys are catalogued as soon as they're onscreen, 28 Days Later puts our very own humanity in a position where anyone can turn into death itself in a matter of seconds-- can you imagine how fast our survival instincts kick in, and how feeble our civilized sympathy turns once confronted by it? Less preoccupied by jump scares than it is with generating feelings of desolation and despair (but still creepy as hell) and anchored by four flat-out excellent performances-- that would be Eccleston, Murphy, Harris and Gleeson-- 28 Days Later is nothing short of a hypnotic, memorable piece of work, and definitely an instant classic in the zombie genre.

The Cove
The Cove(2009)

At times revolting and astonishing but at others slightly too sentimental for its own good, The Cove is nevertheless brutally effective in parts thanks to a methodical, driven approach to its subject, i.e. dolphin and whale slaughter. Will most likely anger viewers on a topic they had never really seriously taken position before, and that is entirely the point. O'Barry makes for a genuinely likeable onscreen presence and director Louis Psihoyos definitely exploits that-- his film is also brisk, intermittently suspenseful and well-shot. Worth seeing.


Kassovitz wrings a couple of effective scares out of a truly botched screenplay, but his film's success is largely intermittent : there are no real surprises to be found in how the plot unfolds, and soon enough Gothika becomes little more than another stylized asylum-based chiller. Berry's nervy but workmanlike performance doesn't really add or take anything from the final product, much like her co-stars'.

Donnie Darko
Donnie Darko(2001)

Richard Kelly's vision is halfway between rigid and fuzzy, and the mixed messages may not fully stick with the viewer, but once this twisted little tale firmly grounded into the teenage condition (and the failure of the American Dream) lands its hook in you, it's a long way until it lets go. If you like'em creepy, imaginative and borderline incomprehensible, Donnie Darko is absolutely for you.

Georgia Rule
Georgia Rule(2007)

It's hard to believe, but Georgia Rule is by fits and starts quality filmmaking; a chick flick that doesn't use emotional pornography as its first weapon, one that minimally focuses on the fluffy romantic parts and that, thankfully, teaches the viewer a valuable, if not particularly new, life lesson. If a large part of it is undone by Garry Marshall's tone-deaf directing (this is a story about sexual abuse, for fuck's sake, not a rom-com), but there are indeed more than just a few shades of earnest humanism here and there. A lot of these are due to Lindsay Lohan's sharp and unsurprisingly convincing performance as a hard-partying teen diva with a vast sense of entitlement, but I swear to God there were spasms of actual great writing burning through the usual Hollywood bullshit here and there.

Either way, it's not particularly worth checking out since Fonda and Huffman are clearly on auto-pilot, and that costs Georgia Rule-- a lot-- but it isn't the godawful three-generational women's picture that hideous poster might have suggested. Sort ot.


Even though it spends most of its time dillydallying between riotously funny and fitfully amusing, Zombieland feels too short by at least fifteen minutes. That, my friends, is a sign of quality filmmaking, nine times out of ten. Populated by hugely likeable characters portrayed by hugely likeable actors (Harrelson and Stone gaining the top honors), Zombieland is absolutely nothing less than the humorous and occasionally sweet undead shoot'em up it is advertised as. If Ruben Fleischer's directorial debut plays it safe cinematically, it nevertheless handles its action scenes with clarity and imaginative visual punchlines. I can't picture anyone coming out very dissapointed out of a film like this one-- that is, if they can forgive said extremely breezy running time. See it.


The answer to the question on your mind right now : yes, Lymelife is very much the middling Suburban Angst Film its poster and trailer would have you believe, and little else. Its depiction of a two seemingly quietly troubled families nestled in a quietly troubled 70s middle-class existence has all the trappings of a Sundance-pressed indie, and not in a fairly positive way. Besides a knack for stately but glum atmospheres and typically subtle work from Baldwin and Hutton, the only revelation here is Rory Culkin as a needy and hormonally charged teenager whose only relief from all that repressed emotion comes in painful, short-lived explosions.

Nope, I am not willing to give the Martini brothers' debut film a hearty recommendation solely because it is centered around a softly devastating performance, backed by solid work from everyone else in front of the camera. There are so many familiar productions of the genre one can take before wondering if that particular hollowness has lost its impact when presented onscreen, after all. I did not expect to particularly 'enjoy' a film that covers territory this bleak, but I did wish to feel something during the occasional shades of levity and tenderness that were supposed to have an impact beneath all the alienation. Lymelife, unfortunately, kept me at arm's length for most of its running time, and that comes with a cost : a final stamp that, as usual, signals not outright failure but mediocrity.

Wrong Turn 3: Left for Dead

Even by lazy DTV sequel standards, Wrong Turn 3 : Left for Dead stands out as an unfathomably awful film. It truly has nothing to do with the slipshod trashiness of the first film, nor with the gaudy splatter fun its surprisingly decent second serving presented back in '07. This relentlessly terrible cash-in could quite possibly rank among the lousiest motion pictures I have ever seen, even though I hesitate to call it a movie on its own. I cannot recall anything remotely positive about my viewing experience, let alone a couple of chuckles at the magic crappiness of the CGI work on the would-be 'shocking' deaths.

This is the kind of film that makes you depressed at all the time, money and ressource that was wasted on its production, and that makes you even more depressed to have lost own precious hour and a half. This is a gigantic finger to all horror fans out there, and absolutely nothing else.


Pretty stupid, actually. Like you'd expect, Fonda totally steals the show, but there lacks a whole lot of panache and inventiveness in this run-of-the-mill comedy to make her big-screen return worthwhile.

Vicky Cristina Barcelona

I can't help it : I loved it. No, it is not the stuff that dreams are made of-- it does not, for instance, reach the heights of Allen's beloved 70s triumphs. Still, I cannot believe how swept away I was by the entire project.

For starters, not perhaps since Manhattan has Woody been so obviously enchanted by the place in which his story occurs. I'd already been to Barcelona before, and his camera captures the spirit of the city marvelously : the magic lasts, until it fades. It's heartbreaking, it's sincere, it's gorgeous. Without getting too showy, the cinematography by Javier Aguirresarobe couldn't be better.

In terms of writing, Vicky Cristina Barcelona's structure (and slightly mocking narration) might remind you of the man's previous projects. It's more about talking than showing, unsurprisingly, but there are plenty of touches that give his much-anticipated 38th project a distinct magic : lusty closeups, shorter takes and waaaayyyy more naturalistic dialogue actually causes Vicky Cristina Barcelona to ring much more truthfully than expected. Despite the existential themes it delicately touches, we're not really dealing with philosophical standpoints, but actual characters. Ultimately, the question is... how far can we allow love to take us?

Obviously, the cast is a great help, the obvious stand-outs being Bardem and Cruz, both perfectly at ease in their character's shoes, and for the latter, generating both excitement and awe in all of her terrific mood swings. Johansson, now officially the most beautiful woman on the planet, has a much softer role, which she inhabits very well. Her gorgeous physicality suggests a golden-age starlet, which is probably why Woody can't get enough of her lately. But for me, the true standout is Rebecca Hall : being the true heart of the film, she nuances her performance with incredibly skill and honesty. Like Kate Winslet, she prove herself to be a fabulous reactor and inter-actor.

All in all, here, it's not about hitting the perfect note with a final punch like Match Point. It's not about delivering a gift-wrapped thesis on a subject that seemed particularly interesting : it's the sum of all those gorgeous parts, though not breathtaking, that make this film so fine.

Fine : this is exactly what Vicky Cristina Barcelona fully achieves. Not great, nor excellent : just fine.

Fine is more than okay with me.


Dummy's characters are such a pleasure to watch interact that Pritikin's very lightweight dramedy qualifies as a great time. It's no surprise that Douglas and Brody shine in every scene they appear in, but the big revelation here is Jovovich, showing some serious comedic chops as the raging-against-the-machine, ratty-haired, camouflage-wearing Fangora. Well worth a look.

Arthur and the Invisibles (Arthur and the Minimoys)

Lively, enjoyable CGI comedy that has plenty of wondrous visuals but a fairly dodgy script. The voice acting is rather lazy, and the live action parts pretty much blow. I did not hate it one bit, though-- I know, right?!

Either way, this one's for kids-- and it's not insulting to them, nor to you. You will probably be just a wee bit bored.

Music and Lyrics

Wholly unimaginative but consistently peppy (well, at least until its requisite gooey feel-good finale), Music & Lyrics is exactly the film you expect it to be. Boasting a surprisingly deft performance in the form of Haley Bennett as a pastiche of sexualized pop stars, the film surprisingly never sinks into the realm of cinematic torture, which is something the likes of Because I Said So cannot brag about. But what is there to say... this is comfort food cinema at its most predictable, uninspired, safe & competent form.

But hey, that's one hell of an opening track.


The ultimate suburban housewife nightmare! Gosh! Laundry re-appearing into the basket! Gross dead animals in the backyard! Dreamy husband having an affair with his blonde secretary bombshell!

Really... for anybody else who's seen more than ten to fifteen thrillers in his or her lifetime, this flavorless paranormal mystery is just barely serviceable-- and all that tedious buildup leads to the outcome we had already figured out during the first third. Bullock is credible alright, yet I felt no reason to care for her character. Her scrambled calendar chronicles are barely any fun to sit through.

So what are we left with? Dust. A film essentially made of frickin' dust. Trust me, friends : wind will blow very, very soon on Premonition.

But what an amazing one-sheet!

Déjà Vu
Déjà Vu(2006)

Little more than overblown, passable time-travel junk, enlivened by fun set-pieces here and there and Tony Scott's epileptic directing (yeah, it actually makes sense with the picture's universe). You will perhaps see this movie; you will doubtlessly forget it.

The Lake House

As expected, The Lake House is no more than a slice of sugary, unengaging movie-star romance, except even its profound mediocrity is short-circuited by those loopy narrative turns. Audience members demanding anything remotely clever or surprising are likely to dry up in their seats as the film's schmoopy love story unfolds, and the rest expecting something like the film's poster will get what they want.

But... by God, please demand more than this crap, people.

Dead Birds
Dead Birds(2004)

Solid genre filmmaking, elevated by all-around strong acting and plenty of effective scares here and there. Even if it the script relies on one-too many horror cliches and expository dialogue, the end result nevertheless bathes in a pervasively creepy mood, something most glossy theatrical chillers cannot even manage.

Be warned : some images will be hard to get out of your head.


Let's get this off my chest : Up does not fly above Pixar's very finest, and to me, it is only a tad less fantabulouscular than February's own animated masterstroke, Henry Selick's Coraline. And that's... that's about the only things that I can put against it.

Believe the monstrous hype and listen to the extremely positive word-of-mouth, viewers. Up is a total charm from start to finish, balancing deft character observation, impeccably timed physical comedy, sweet sentimentality (without any maudlinism) and rousing adventure. It even finds a way to build suspense by using the gradually decreasing the number of balloons tied up to the house. It is, like the entire Pixar catalogue, all about the characters, which makes it an altogether very human experience, perhaps even more human that 80% of what's come out in theaters this year. I kid you not... even if I tend to prefer dark'n'bitter nihilist dramedies than heartwarming funfests (and I also haven't cried at the movies in ages), Up masterfully tugged my heartstrings just right and earned its tears. And that was before the main plot even kicked in-- the Carl + Ellie montage might go down in the history of animated cinema's finest scenes.

The three-dimensional element also works unusually well. While cookie-cutter, exploitative crap like Monsters vs. Alien concentrates on an avalanche of puerile gags and shit flying towards the audience, it's refreshing to see a film that uses the technology to bring us straight into the story. I wouldn't absolutely recommend you to see this one in 3-D (unlike the jaw-dropping boost it gives to the already slightly superior Coraline) since it darkens the overall tone & magnificent color scheme by about twenty percent, but there is much joy to be had in watching the character's world come alive so perfectly. Naturally, the character and set design is wondrous. Unlike the very photorealistic cinematography of Wall-E, Up is drawn like a joyful and upbeat children's cartoon, even if the themes can be surprisingly heavy for an animated comedy. That's always, always a good thing.

Either way, I refuse to describe how beautiful and enjoyable Up actually is. You need to see it, period-- I can't imagine someone coming out of it truly dissapointed. Pixar didn't reinvent themselves this year, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Picking its minuscule flaws (a somewhat inferior second half, an underdevelopped second protagonist) is just spoiling the fun.

Go see the damn thing.


A mostly failed attempt at pumping in some new blood to the self-conscious teen chiller Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson pimped out during the late 90s, Cursed has little to recommend besides a few chuckles, a decent celebrity cameo chase scene like they don't do anymore and about three jump scares that somewhat work. Otherwise, it's the kind of stuff that annoys more than entertains past the 45-minute mark, and that everyone forgets as soon as it's over. Pass.


Make absolutely no mistake : Orphan is garbage. But there is garbage and there's garbage, you know? And on those regards, I salute everyone involved in the making of Orphan for manipulating me like no other horror film did in recent memory. I cannot recall the last time I thought I had a cheesy fright flick figured out so well, only to be shamelessly kicked in the balls by its utmost turnout. For almost 80 minutes, director Jaume Collet-Serra treats his film very much like the Ee-vil Munchkin Thriller the ad and TV spots for this one have made it to be-- but screenwriter David Leslie Johnson has a mighty trick up his sleeve, and really, it's worthy of all the B-movie praise imaginable. It effectively morphs Orphan into the big trashy wallop it deserved to be, and you come out of it on a high that its lukewarm first two acts would never, ever suggest. It's a risky and fairly moronic plot twist that's thrown at us here (at least on a conceptual level), but they sell it. And even if it sends any remaining chances Orphan had of being an actual straight-faced creepfest straight into the compactor, I'll take this grotesque last third over most deflated recent genre offerings any day.

Perhaps it is just the fact that my expectations were inch-tall when I entered the theater. Perhaps it is simply the glossy, impersonal aesthetic that keeps those expectations intact for most of the running time. Perhaps it is the blessed respect that the script holds for nearly all of the killer kid subgenre cliches on the shelf. I really don't know what it is, but that something keeps Orphan at a ground level just enough so that when we're done smirking at it and finally ready to call it quits, it achieves a fantastic liftoff and climaxes with the same intoxicating kind of energy that inhabited Sam Raimi's Drag Me to Hell from start to finish. Here, it's only a mere fifteen minutes, but it's enough to make you think of the experience as a whole as 'pretty good'. And for a picture that is mostly made out of 'pretty bad', that's one hell of an accomplishment.

Not that this awesome endgame totally excuses all of the tedious buildup that preceeds it. Seriously, you pretty much know exactly what it is. It's got just enough slightly disturbing moments to keep it from becoming the stuff that camp fans dream of, but its would be 'scary' moments are much more plodding that anything else. It's got at least five false scares, most of which don't make any damn sense because nobody is actually being startled onscreen. The father won't believe any of that devilish crap is the adopted child's fault, even if all the evidence points towards it. The mother actually Googles 'children who kill' during the requisite dramatic laptop research scene.

Yeah. I know.

Still, all this rubbish plotting is handled quite competently, and it would be unfair to dismiss it simply because it's all been seen before. The point here is not to be original, anyway-- the point is to be effective, and Orphan works almost as much as a pulse-pounder as a riot. If its narrative never freefalls towards the land of the ridiculous (except when you look at it too closely), then perhaps the cast deserves warm kudos. The ensemble itself deserves not a passing grade but actually a gold star, starting with the reliably intense Vera Farmiga as KATE THE ALCOHOLIC MOTHER (in wrote it all in capitals because the film sure as hell wants us to see her like that). She's proven herself to be an intelligent, convincing actress in the past, but I would say I'm even more impressed with what she is able to do with material this flat. Her determination and confusion is wholly credible, and watching her instinct slowly melt the maternal love she is supposed to feel towards Esther is great fun. The role of Esther herself is carried off with great success by relative newcomer Isabelle Fuhrman, who channels the exact amount of calmness and malice the character requires to be halfway between chilling and badass. The scenes she shares with the equally strong Aryanna Engineer as Kate's deaf daughter and Jimmy Bennett as the reluctant son are nothing short of terrific-- I cannot explain how sick it is to witness children this young take part of behavior so... well, sick.

I could never call Orphan a 'good film' by any objective standards, but now that I have seen it, I can say without shame that it is not the boring softcore thriller its premise would lead you to believe. This is a slow-burner of an exploitation flick, one with zero subtext and all the cleverness poured into the misdirection, but for a few splattery thrills and oh-no-they-didn'ts, it sure gets the job done.


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The Grudge 2
The Grudge 2(2006)

Basically an expensive-looking slasher film with ghosts, albeit a watchable, occasionally inspired one. While certainly not without its gratuitous jump staccatos, moments that verge into outright silliness and cheap rehashes from its predecessor, this surprisingly elaborate follow-up features just about as many scares that work about as well as the first one's (take that as a recommendation or warning) and enough new ideas to validate its own existence. Shimizu plays the same booga-booga tricks over and over again without any noticeable drop of enthusiasm, which is rather surprising considering he's pretty much made the same damn film a couple of times. His skill in staging exciting ghostly stalking scenes remains intact, but let's say the novelty factor isn't in its top shape. You know if this is the kind of stuff that creeps you out or not.

Cinematically, Shimizu handles his titular curse on a bigger scale with little difficulty, constantly switching in-between Tokyo and Chicago and still preserving that menacing, oddly exotic atmosphere anywhere his film is set. His picture is lovely to look at even when it's foreboding, thanks to an unusually expressive photography, and Christopher Young's chimingly eerie score is also a nice enough coating. Though he cannot develop all of his characters, he does let a few of the performers inhabiting them shine a little. Kebbel is especially good, and so is Tamblyn-- probably the only cast members with enough screentime to offer some more subtle nuances on thoroughly mediocre writing. The rest, including returning heroine Sarah Michelle Gellar, are stuck in stare-and-look-petrified mode.

Do not mistake my words : this is not a good film, nor it is a very scary movie. But it has parts of a good film and moments of a very scary movie, and in an age of 'let's just film this crap and make some cash', a J-horror sequel with those small but numerous redeeming features is enough to earn a passing grade in my book. The Grudge 2 is definitely not as bad as everyone has made it to be.

L'Âge des ténèbres (The Age of Ignorance) (Days of Darkness)

Arcand's latest plays out like ''Modern Society Anxieties : Greatest Hits'' rather than the conclusion to a trilogy of nuanced, self-reflexive portraits on the bourgeois lifestyle. The existential exhaustment coursing through the film does, however, come to light in the form of a delicately affecting conclusion, and Marc Labreche is quite troubling at times. Yet, I was never quite sold on the questionable means that L'Age des Tenebres uses to get its narrative strolling along, and was ultimately let down by its lack of cohesion. Another remark : why do our protagonist's dreamlike evasions have to solely be through sex?

Where the Wild Things Are

I am left befuddled. By minute 30, I was ready to accept the fact that Spike Jonze's Where the Wild Things Are had me on my knees. I was disarmed by its spirited, truthful and forlorn vision of childhood. I was ready to accept the fact that I was completely in love with it.

By minute 60, I was a wee bit bored.

The narrative slump that occurs by the time Max has gotten to know all the wild things inhabiting the island left me somewhat cold not because it is 'slow' or 'uneventful' (sweet baby Jesus knows I can deal with that), but rather because it is, yes, gloomily redundant. If this adaptation of Maurice Sendak's beloved children litterature classic channels Freud in the way that it fragments the interiority of a young boy into distinct tragic figures (i.e. his 'toys', if you will), it similarly evokes the Teletubbies for wanting some segments to be repeated over and over again. There are, however, just enough little moments or interactions between Max and his new friends (particularly the mettlesome KW) that cause an affecting, zealous stir, which was just enough to bring the present reviewer on the edge of tears for a healthy portion of the running time. Those instances of transcending spirituality, generously aided by Jonze's all-around wondrous directing, astonishing photography & set design, bewildering FX work on the Wild Things themselves and most of all, young Max Record's fireball performance push Where the Wild Things Are in the 'very solid' category. But other flaws, like Karen O and Carter Burwell's musical score (it also has an enervating, intensely self-consciously childish ring to it) and a constantly diminishing drive prevent it from living up to its staggering prologue. Definitely worth a watch, but a little underwhelming as a whole.

Saw III(2006)

Alright, here comes the third outing. Strangely enough, I think Saw III comes very close to being a good movie numerous times, and almost 'really' deserves a three-star rating. It's not quite there, but if you blink hard...

OF COURSE, it's just another preachy torture porno... but still, honestly, after the overall dissapointment that Saw II was, I was fearing for the worst. What a relief to find out that this second sequel in the Saw series actually featured an important emphasis on the characters! This time, the screenplay has a shape that is actually quite clever-- the two storylines that eventually intertwine are much more fleshed out than what we've seen in the previous installment.

But there is something wrong with one half of the plot. While the one that focuses on Jigsaw, his apprentice Amanda and Dr. Lynn Denlon is actually well-written and somewhat emotionally draining, the other one involving our 'hero' Jeff walking from a grisly 'what would you do?' vignette to another is pretty damn reprehensible. We are clearly meant to identify with the torturer this time, and the traps, though sickly imaginative, just keep getting harsher and harsher until their unbelievable brutality overcomes whatever point the morality lesson about grief and revenge Saw III is supposed to offer.

Yes, I know, the screenplay in those films is pretty much an excuse to line up extremely violent scenes one after the other, but still. I wish it didn't trade the strenght of its message on vengeance for more gallons of blood. On that level, the twisting crucifix trap is particularly distasteful.

The greek tragedy finale DOES have an effect, though. Thanks to the strong performances of Tobin Bell, Shawnee Smith and Bahar Soomekh, there is an impact once the bodies start dropping like flies. That goes without saying that the last third is just plain damn overkill (pun intended), but those final moments do leave an impression-- even if implying a little girl is going to suffocate is a really, really harsh way to end your film. But as feel-shitty thrillers go, Saw III gets the job done.

However, I had truly wished a distinct change for the fourth installment because the franchise started losing freshness after each torture device... but, *sigh*, unfortunately, part four was an even more abominable film, a complete piece of garbage that did NOT even have a moderately interesting structure beyond the prolonged suffering sequences.

I'll leave it at that : it should have ended precisely HERE (...or rather, before any talk of the whole Jeff's daughter thing was brought in the game).

Bright Star
Bright Star(2009)

An exquisite, heartfelt period piece that's far more authentic and vibrant than your usual Self-Important Awards Bait Costume Melodrama. It's actually been quite a while since the theme of love was unique from start to finish to a film like this in the english language-- the last one could very well be Ang Lee's exceptional Brokeback Mountain. Either way, Campion's first film feature in six years finds her in top condition both as a writer and director, finding evocative strength and nestling passion in every frame. Even if there is a noticeable dip in vitality during the film's middle third, where most scenes tend to bleed into one another, its deeply affecting conclusion ties the bow neatly. This is not a biopic about 19th century poet John Keats-- this is a love story, pure and simple. And what a love story! Anchored by two aching, naturalistic performances (Abbie Cornish is a revelation), this Bright Star is one that won't fade away anytime soon.

Whip It
Whip It(2009)

Good-natured and occasionally funny, but it's too bad the sports underdog formula employed from start to finish contrasts very badly with Whip It's themes of self-discovery and rebellion. Still, it remains a modestly successful directorial debut for Barrymore, who lenses the roller derby scenes with clarity and panache, and gets the most out of a truly splendid cast. Ellen Page herself is lovely and subtle, although her role doesn't break very far out of her comfort zone. Anyways, this is not a failed film by any means, just a smoothly undemanding and dissapointingly formulaic one. Maybe the horrid romantic subplot (complete with cheesy strings and pool makeout scene!) just left a bad taste in my mouth...

Faded Memories

Incessantly maudlin and downright terrible-- Faded Memories almost has to be seen to be believed. Really, I could swing violent sucker punches all over this strident vanity project, but it would be like kicking an old man on crutches. Now, who the fuck thought funding this embarassing trash was a good idea? This is not an offense to Mrs. Dutoit as a person, but this is one of the worst films that I have ever seen. Sure thing is, it was rotten enough to qualify as a 90-minute hoot in a room full of not-so-sober young adults at a party. I think I laughed here more than I did in all the Will Ferrell films I have seen combined. Thank you, Anne-Sophie.

Pieces of April

A generous, heartfelt little motion picture that helps us remember that excellence doesn't exclude compact, unambitious projects like this one. Pieces of April speaks to the human nature, i.e. our unability to express the love buried somewhere inside ourselves, underneath long-lasting resentment and different values. Its short running time still doesn't prevent us from getting inside these complex minds, and backed by all-around superb performances (Holmes and Clarkson getting the top honors), the characters in Pieces of April really resonate and stick with the viewer. Add to that an almost completely naturalistic flow of great dialogue and solid, unpretentious directing from Hedges, and you've got yourself a real hidden gem. Don't miss out on this one...

Mean Girls
Mean Girls(2004)

Not a four-star movie by any means, but a teen movie triumph for sure; it wholeheartedly deserves the cult classic status it achieved through the years. Simple as that. Fey's terrifically bitchy punchlines and sharp character observations mix unusually well with the tween film formula. The result is a frequently hilarious course on the ''survival of the fittest'' dynamics of high school that's centered around two sublime, entirely convincing performances (that would be Lohan in a wonderful star turn she still hasn't been able to overcome yet and McAdams in a breakthrough role that dreams are made of). Add to that a supporting cast in which everybody gets his or her moment (Lizzy Caplan and Daniel Franzese are especially dead-on), endlessly quotable dialogue-- that means great replay value-- and a group therapy scene that hits comic gold, and yep, you've got yourself a requisite watch for everyone who enjoys some juicy high school mayhem.

Be Cool
Be Cool(2005)

Be Cool has its moments, yes. It also incidentally has everything that makes a satire fall limp in-between those moments. People, this is not a disaster by any means, but please don't be lured by that impressive cast and the promise of a continuation to the largely superior Get Shorty. Its script is shaky and full of underdeveloped characters, and the plot points revolving around how miraculously talented Christina Milian's character are thoroughly artificial and absolutely ridiculous. Travolta and Thurman do just fine, though, and Cedric the Entertainer and The Rock make for solid supporting turns. But this overlong, toothless, phony action-comedy is nothing to write home about.

Jennifer's Body

It is kind of astonishing to realize that the elements that resonate the most in this modestly successful Cody-Kusama horror/comedy blend are not the guilty pleasures but the human observations (I know!). It's hardly news that slasher flicks have always worked wonders, even unintentionally, to evoke teenage angsts through barely disguised metaphors and heavy symbolism. Jennifer's Body wears its ambitions on its sleeve-- I'm happy to report that it works just fine as a coming-of-age story about how lifelong girl + girl friendships often wane during puberty, though it is much less effective as a broad comedy and fares even worse as a horror film.

The infamous Diablo Cody witticisms work more often than not, that's for sure, but when they do not have insightful character traits to pass along, they unfortunately simply feel too superficial. Her character sketching nevertheless feels very fresh, especially concerning the character of Needy and the relationships she has with most of the cast. Kusama's directing, while not problematic, could certainly have used more of the few dreamlike panoramics scattered here and there. But overall, Jennifer's Body has a nice, frosted look and several inspired set-pieces to keep things visually lively.

If the much-publicized Fox reveals herself to be entirely convincing as a smug, popular man-eater (no comment), sadly, she's not up to the ask when the role requires a dedicated emotional authenticity. Much stronger is Seyfried as her Plain Jane best fried, making us care on a more basic level about whatever the hell is happening to her best friend & surroundings. It would also be unfair not to give props to Adam Brody and Johnny Simmons, who are both the only males in the film that have more than one dimension and who embody them skillfully. Several other great character actors are unfortunately wasted, like Amy Sedaris, J.K. Simmons and Cynthia Stevenson.

Still, this absolutely unscary though often awkwardly amusing hybrid has enough goods to validate its existence. The tone isn't very masterful and the succubus attack scenes are sillier than they are frightening, and really, there is a particular flash-back that might as well have been completely excised from the final product, but what can I say-- I applaud everyone involved for their dedication to the project. It's simultaneously cute, biting and totally random, and those are factors that rarely coexist harmoniously in a production of the genre. It is well worth watching and talking about afterwards.


This long-delayed, mercilessly predictable chunk of ''thrilling'' nonsense deserves to be padlocked in a freezer and quickly forgotten.

Based on a graphic novel of the same name, Whiteout is a hollow motion picture experience alright-- but there is absolutely no excuse for a production of the genre to be THAT boring. Okay, so props go to Beckinsale for injecting a sliver of humanity in the thankless connect-the-dots leading lady role, but she still couldn't dream of possibly saving this cold mess from its rampaging idiocy. Indeed, even if Whiteout is remarkably well lensed and intermittently intriguing, there is too much sloppy writing, bad editing and contrived plotting on board to make the final result worthwile. It barely even deserves to be talked about, let alone be torn to shreds by pissed audience members who were expecting at the very least a halfway decent whodunit set in Antarctica.

I'd rather not elaborate on the film's sheer awfulness, for it is absolutely not the kind of ''bad'' that is any fun to mock. You, reader, should therefore conclude that it is consequently not any fun to watch, either.

The Life Before Her Eyes


I fully believe that, in all my exhaustive years of movie watching, I have never come across a film so chock-full of symbolism. Before any word on the many, many things that went wrong with The Life Before Here Eyes, it has to be said that the over-reliance on any metaphoric image, line of dialogue or peculiarity of the human body eventually gets so deadening, it kind of has to be seen to be believed. Watching this film alone, I still couldn't help but speak out to nobody ''goddamn''.

It is truly, truly a shame. Considering the strength of the source material, the potential take on either aborted dreams, the weight of life or grief (or... all three at once?) was nothing short of fascinating on its own. In some parts during the middle act, we kind of seize some of the subject matter's aspects, often when director Vadim Perelman is not stuffing our faces with loud, meaningful imagery, and letting his stage direction breathe on its own. While I'm into the positive, I cannot, too, skip the fine work of three very good lead actresses. Evan Rachel Wood plays a character that she has kind of already explored before, but is nonetheless very capable of injecting life into a difficult role. Eva Amurri is a perfect contrast, more often than not playing the subtle nuances of a very important part. Their chemistry also makes their on-screen couple much more engaging than the picture than surrounds it. As for Thurman, she does her best in playing a character whose trauma is anything but cinematic. Replacing words that sustained her inconsolable melancholy with contrived situations and constant flashbacks sadly contributes to a largely miswritten part.

But, although it's been said countless times already, it seems like it still has not been said enough : some literary devices, when translated to the big screen, just don't fucking work.

And that is exactly what happens in Perelman's second effort. It doesn't fucking work. Without revealing the film's pivotal moment and most 'significant' scene, I still have to mention that having your audience getting invested into a certain concept, and then yanking the rug directly under their feet is an extremely risky trick to pull in movies-- one that was masterfully handled in Kasischke's haunting novel. The move could easily be compared to pulling out a tablecloth from under a couple of plates.

Needless to say, by the end of The Life Before Here, more than a few plates crash on the floor. The epilogue that was in the book surely couldn't be translated onscreen, but by god, shouldn't they have tried something a little bit less cloying? Anyway, it's only worth seeing if you've read Laura Kasischke's novel and you want to see a perfect textbook of misguided adaptation ideas.


Familiarity can be a good thing. The fact that Adventureland is shaped pretty much like any coming-of-age story (it's centered around the immortal post-grad summer blues) leaves the door wide open for comparisons. And that... it just makes it that more obvious how much it rises above good-but-not-great efforts in the genre a la Nick & Norah's... or The Wackness.

You see, the key to a successful teen dramedy lies not in how extravagant the concept or its execution is, but rather in how sincere the whole enterprise is. In that case, Adventureland is one of the most (beautifully) honest films the genre has hosted in years. It's true : its simplicity makes it a hugely likeable little picture, one that never, ever tries too hard to be funny (but still is) and is full of recognizable, three-dimensional human beings.

Greg Mottola's previous effort, the genial, deliciously raunchy Superbad, was such an uproarious experience that in terms of pure enjoyment, there's no way Adventureland could surpass it. But while Superbad skillfully avoided digging too deep into the darker sides of the teenage years to prevent its humorous momentum from deflating, this one fully embraces the confusion and boredom of those particular years. The result is a film that features just enough laughs to be a comedy, but resonates more as a drama at its core. Audiences expecting a broad rollercoaster ride jam-packed with Apatow-lite laughs will come out dissapointed, that's for sure, but there's a distinct sensibility, both in the writing and directing, that separates it entirely from those other films... in a positive way, of course.

Indeed, Mottola injects a serious amount of poignancy in a tale that could easily have been filmed on autopilot. While Superbad's major asset certainly wasn't its directing, here, there are more than a few small moments of aching poetry (all backed by superb photography) that render the final product a bit more stimulating than it had any right to be. The quieter moments present a delicate intimacy and the 'bigger' scenes unfold with a lot more panache than one would think by judging the film's trailer. Well-timed reaction shots, numerous uses of handheld camera, gorgeous panoramic views, extended silences, the use of music-- all inspired, all very competently used, and all enlightening. The only other film I can picture lensing teen angst on a comedic angle with such lovely flair is Juno, and that film got a Best Director Oscar nomination. We're not here yet, but it is not as disengaged as most teen movies are, visually.

In terms of writing, like I said, there's nothing you or I haven't seen before. Marginally autobiographical, Mottola's screenplay is thankfully devoid of stock characters, even developping roles than could easily have been given the paper-thin comic relief treatment. Even though the story somewhat lacks a dramatic 'peak' or a crescendo of any sort, its flow feels all the more natural for staying faithful to something called 'real life'. Truthful about all the human situations presented, the film never succombs to easy gags or sentimental shortcuts, taking its time with the characters and their bonds. It's something a little bit spectacular to watch, the handling of those smart but bored young people that might very well morph into flat-out caricatures or achetypes but never do.

Another thing that lifts Adventureland up one notch is the uniformly great casting. If I have to bring comparisons again, The Wackness or Nick & Norah's... each benefited from sweet and likeable performers, but also featured performances that ranged from the very subtle to the very broad. Here, all actors and actresses are on the same page, even with Apatow-favorites Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig on board. The result is a masterful ensemble, starting with the incredibly natural Jesse Eisenberg and his touching co-star Kristen Stewart. They gradually develop an organic, believable chemistry, and even if both have already played this kind of role numerous times, neither have played it so damn well before, particularly in Stewart's case.

I almost (almost) rated this one four stars, but maybe this is just me going gaga over another teen film with so much generosity of spirit. Time will tell. All I know right know is that, as genial and sweet as it is, Adventureland is not one for the ages... but at the same time, its bigness of heart is more than enough to validate it as a key film in Mottola & co.'s respective careers. It's not revolutionary, but then again, it doesn't need to be, and its lack of invention is just about the only major thing I can put against it.

Sometimes, I think I really, really like the movies better when they're greatly human rather than inhumanly great.

Savage Grace
Savage Grace(2007)

A sordid, tedious film-- intentionally so-- who challenges the viewer to keep watching as the lead characters (I hesitate to call them 'protagonists') descend into a profound pit of human relationship paralysis. Although Moore's equally pathetic and frightening star turn blows each and every other character off the screen, Savage Grace is essentially a story about her son, played convincingly by Eddie Redmayne, whose life was mostly led at the mercy of her mother's taste for high society and not to mention frequent outbursts & embarassingly childish theatrics. The effect that the script's progression has lies somewhere between devastating and off-putting, though it must be noted that one will frequently ask themselves if there is any purpose to telling this story in cinematic form. The extremely lavish interiors, bad musical score, abrupt flash-forwards and troubling interludes all make for an interestingly trashy melodrama in parts, but not a compelling film as a whole.

H2: Halloween II

May we cut to the chase?

Halloween II is beyond problematic; it's borderline unwatchable. The last time I saw a slasher movie this pretentious and repellent... well, it was 2007, and it was called Halloween. And it was awful.

If anything, writer-slash-director Rob Zombie deserves credit for sticking to his original vision-- this sequel to a remake (or remake of a sequel?) follows the EXACT same pattern that was on display in his pointless retooling of John Carpenter's timeless horror classic-- absent are the factors called terror, suspense and anticipation. The film is nothing but an endless string of sadistic murder scenes, solely built on the principle that someone (namely, his sister) is being chased by Michael Myers. Everyone else on his path must (and will!) be stabbed senselessly, perversely crunchy sound effects aplenty, even if their location or actions have nothing to do with the fury of our masked psychopath. Rinse, repeat-- Zombie invests approximatively zero energy into his interminable homicidal checklist, introducing vulgar caricatures every ten minutes only to have them die atrocious deaths as soon as possible. He wields exactly one trick, and he does it over and over and over and over and over again. Then he stops. Then he does it over & over again.

That's what's so wrong about Halloween II : there is absolutely no fun to be had in the viewing experience. You see, when a horror flick is orchestrated to generate just enough tension, the fact that the proceedings are flat or humorless can be excusable; scary can be self-sufficient, and pretty much every horror fan knows that. But here... the sole feature that the audience can gnaw on is loads of mind-numbing brutality-- it's not frightening in the least, and it goes from torturous to torturously dull in about fifteen minutes. Naturally, you would have to be alarmingly desensitized not to react strongly to such moments of pure carnage-- but when a film stages scenes of that nature ten, eleven, twelve times, you can only ask yourself if Rob Zombie's point is to render the public completely oblivious to said onscreen massacres. Whatever goal was intended, all I know is that it's fucking distasteful, even by whatever inch-tall moral standards remain in horror entertainment these days.

But let's not just linger on all that moronically cranked-up violence, for my oh my, Halloween II would already be a pretty shitty picture even if it had been seriously toned down. It seems that Zombie has discovered the joys of SSSSSymbolism this time around, and he very much likes skull-fucking us with it for the entire duration of the film. That means his forever untalented wife Sheri Moon in an angelic white gown next to a white horse making ghostly appearances every ten minutes. That means music video-like gothic dream sequences that haunt our Final Girl. That means Michael Myers killing a dog and eating its insides cut in-between a scene where other characters discuss why humans need to feed on meat while chomping on pepperoni pizza. Ha, ha...? All the more frustrating is the fact that Zombie has gotten noticeably better as stylist over the past two years. He has a knack for dark, forebonding atmospheres, and there are some lovingly macabre compositions here and there. Alas, all these grimly beautiful images serve no purpose to the story, and they quickly come off as masturbatory rather than symbolic. The same can be said about his obvious effort to 'deepen' the arc of protagonist Laurie Strode, whose sanity begins to deteriorate-- it's not a character observation, it's barely a concept, and it can't disguise the fact that it is only present to hide the exercise's dispiriting vacuity.

It would be unfair, though, not to give some kudos to Scout Taylor-Compton's surprisingly intense performance as Laurie. She doubtlessly does the very best work possible with a role written in nothing but psychological shortcuts, but the character itself (although more present than in its equally lamentable predecessor) has none of the soul that the original Laurie Strode had. At first, I would very much have said that this production has none of the soul that the first Halloween sequel had, but I might reconsider that position (even that one was pretty hollow).

No, Halloween II HAS a soul-- and it's an evil, loathsome, exploitative, disrespectful, perverted, shoddy, joyless, incompetent and exceptionally rotten one at that. There is much, much more that deserves to be said about Rob Zombie's outright failure as the director who revived one of the most popular slasher series of all time, but I'll leave it at that. His minuscule directorial improvements are no match for the shitload of shit that he brought back once again. Do not see this movie, for the simple reason that it is perhaps one of the most gruelingly unpleasant theater experiences you're likely to have all year.

Over Her Dead Body

Really, there's nothing imaginative or surprising in this just-add-water ghostly romcom. It's a worthless film made by people who clearly showed no interest from the very start, and whatever spark the film has in its opening ten minutes is quickly smothered by the supremely lazy execution. It's like they didn't even try.

Post Grad
Post Grad(2009)

Good-natured but totally insipid. I saw Post Grad for free, and I still felt cheated. Vicky Jenson's live-action feature film debut is as predictable and boring as these things go-- I trulywish I had the right snarky remarks and what-were-they-thinking observations to evoke how bland beyond belief the whole thing is, but really, I can't. It's just mind-numbing. And Alexis Bledel may twinkle her cyan peepers all she wants, she still can't come across as a convincing, confused college graduate. I did not care for her Ryden Malby-- not when she is surrounded by artificially loopy relatives, not when she is hopeless at finding a job, not when she is torn in-between two hunky sweethearts. Equally deplorable is the shocking misuse of a great cast that includes Jane Lynch, Michael Keaton, Demetri Martin and Carol Burnett. Anyway, don't see Post Grad; it's cute for about ten minutes... and then it just tastes like cotton candy double-dipped in butter.


An earnest, blood-soaked throwback to the eighties slasher craze that has the decency to last under 80 minutes, but little in terms of real plot surprises or smarts. You get boobs, squishy gore SFX, horrific acting and just about nothing else. What, did you actually expect something more...?!

The Final Destination

It is nearly impossible for me to approach The Final Destination in objective terms. Any reprehensible label you can slap on it before even having seen the damn thing WILL reveal itself to be absolutely true; this is, all things considered, a howlingly stupid product (I hesitate to even call it a movie) that only wants to put its greasy hands on your cash. Writing, characters, acting-- all terrible. There are no exceptions-- even the extras are badly directed. But fortunately, all these crappy features are not enough to spoil the fun of a packed theater looking for splattery thrills, and in those regards, I must say that I very much enjoyed The Final Destination, as aggressively dumb as as it was.

Anyone looking for a nifty little thriller with a supernatural edge should clearly look away, for TFD is barely even a picture on its own terms. Clocking in at just 80 minutes (including the opening & closing credits), it is not unlike a five-year old jacked up on energy drinks who just cannot wait to show you his tasteless creations. It skips hysterically from one scene of Looney Tunes-ish carnage to another, with litterally nothing standing in-between said scenes. But nobody in his or her right mind pays to see something nuanced or challenging in a Final Destination movie, and the filmmakers clearly know that.

In other words, there is only one reason why you would get your ass in a theater seat before TFD : you want to see outlandish puzzle kills. And my oh my, does this piece of junk manage to deliver just enough of them to validate its existence. I shall not spoil the lovingly macabre freak accidents that punctuate the narrative every seven or eight minutes, but they do confirm that the series has now ditched any pretenses of being 'scary' (or at the very least, 'atmospheric') to fully embrace its darkly comic side. It's got a nice sense of humor about itself-- whether you laugh with it or at it, at least you end up laughing. This is something that Rob Zombie's disastrous & repellent Halloween 2 couldn't even deliver. But here... hilarity awaits at every corner. I am tempted to list all the tiny little moments (along with the big ones) that elicit nohing but pure glee, whether it is out of surprise or mockery, but I'd feel too bad spoiling them.

And the THREEDEE! Oh, I cannot believe I even managed to type a hundred words without mentionning it. Yes, yes, it's all very soulless and gimmicky, but it works like a charm. Combining a surprising attention to field depth and in-your-face moments, the three-dimensional format does add the extra oomph needed not to be bored out of your mind in you have seen all prior entries. On a sidenote, it is also chock-full of subtle and unsubtle references to the earlier films. I'm not sure if that's meant to sound like a compliment, but hell, take it like you will. Even when TFD cheats on us, it never loses its zing. After all, these monstrously stupid characters always end up chopped to bits, so what's another fakeout if it's to be followed by a real splash in your popcorn bucket?

Look, you get what you pay for. The Final Destination earns a big zero for its profound laziness, but it might as well get five stars for its enjoyment factor. I could not have possibly asked for an entry that's more fun that this one-- it's a riot from start to finish, albeit a ridiculously repetitive one. But hey, isn't that the point? I cannot humanly position The Final Destination as a 'decent' movie, for believe me, it is absolutely not. But the sheer pleasure it provides in accumulating cartoonish deaths and its electrifying moronism makes for one hell of a night at the movies, especially with those big black glasses on. So set et your expectations low, see it in a jam-packed auditorium, and laugh your ass off : rarely has a film in recent memory offered so much of the same thing it promised in such a short amount of time.

Funny People
Funny People(2009)

There's little doubt that Funny People is destined to be profoundly loathed by many, many viewers-- and yes, I can totally understand why, starting with the punishingly long 146-minute running time. Third-time director Judd Apatow hasn't built his reputation on breezy, succint motion pictures and this one certainly ain't no exception. Funny People is an expansive dramedy if there ever was one, full of three-dimensional characters having ridiculously funny exchanges that take place in scenes that almost always go on for a few beats too long. Yet somehow, its considerable (if not borderline unearned) length that seems to repel away audiences is no match for all the human insight on display in Funny People, which is obviously Apatow's most mature and accomplished work yet.

The themes of death and humor suit the creator's vision like a handmade tuxedo. Sandler's George Simmons is a perpetual jerk, one who has lived his whole adulthood in a torrent of superficiality, whilst hiding behind his funny facade. The learning of an almost assuredly fatal medical condition will change things around; Simmons' illness highlights the crushing shallowness of his life. People deal with him because he is a famous, but truly, nobody really wants to get close. It is only when he will hire an aspirant young standup comic to write his jokes that he will benefit from a more authentic human contact, partly because he sees himself in Seth Rogen's Ira. But can one really, fully change? After the 90-minute mark, when Apatow seems to glide towards a brisk but reductive conclusion, that particular question is asked and more nuances show up. The brief instants of passion his former wife lives with him are halted by her realization that George still remains fundamentally rotten, however fantastical his newborn kindness seems to appear.

See, subtlety has never been one of Apatow's trademarks, but the patience and detail that compose his characters' arcs are nothing short of awe-inspiring here. His screenplay, if draggy and unfocused at times, is full of softly revelatory dialogue, not to mention rich in delicious punchlines. And yet, even if the funny and the unfunny sometimes end up cockfighting each other, Funny People leaves its mark and gets you to know who these characters truly are by the time the credits roll. Even better : Apatow's directing has evidently been sharpened over the last few years, and it shows here-- the compositions are a lot more evocative than one would expect after seeing Knocked Up or The 40-Year Old Virgin­.

Apatow has a whole lot to say about these perpertually dissatisfied figures, and there's nothing that stops him from wearing his heart on his sleeve here. Best of all is the fact that no one else but him could have made this film, seeing how many cast members are, in one way or another, close to the man himself. The revelation here, without any hesitation, is Sandler, who plays a disturbing variation on himself that is best described by this film review extract, written by Ty Burr : ''[Adam Sandler] takes the weird, resentful anger that has always coursed beneath his comedy and puts it right on the surface.'' It's a quietly haunting performance, one that even surpasses his role in Punch-Drunk Love, and that confirms that no one else could have gotten the part just as right. Rogen continues to mold his funnyman persona into something more complex, more intimate, but his character eventually loses zing during the subplot related to Simmons' ex-wife. It still would be unfair not to give a fair share of accolades to Leslie Mann's performance as that particular character, who combines pathos and ditziness with a skill that not one in a hundred actresses could have nailed. The rest of the cast make solid impressions, particularly Jason Schwartzman and newcomer Aubrey Plaza, and contribute to one of the strongest acting ensembles of the year so far.

It's hard not to be seduced by the wonderfully personal motion picture that is Funny People, as overbearing as it can get. We are not asked to love all of these characters, and heaven knows that they don't always deserve to be loved, but to observe them and to spend a little time on their side proves to be seriously rewarding. We're still a long way from the absolute best that Apatow could offer, but after two witty, sweet exposes on getting laid and having babies, the one about death proves to be every bit as worthy as a conclusion can be to a trilogy, if not more.

District 9
District 9(2009)

All things considered, there seems to be just enough substance and mayhem in Neill Blomkamp's much-discussed feature film debut to warrant a viewing. That's not to say the end result is flawless, far from that, but there is always some joy to be had in watching an effects-driven actioner speak about a legitimate human experience down the line, even if its commentary is a bit on the thin side. District 9 makes it clear from the get-go that it is One Giant Allegory for the Apartheid-- an unspeakably amoral case of racial segregation taking place in South Africa. That obvious parallel sets the picture very far from the G.I. Joes and Transformers of this world-- the film is much too discomforting and bleak to elicit any comparisons with those ones, anyway-- but still, a certain dissapointment is sure to creep up on those that have heard about District 9 as a miraculous late-summer treat.

Yes, it is undeniably good. It is also undeniably very hampered by a lot of uneven directorial choices.

Not that the approach isn't interesting, conceptually-- blending documentary footage, interviews and action sequences taking place in a futuristic version of our world where all hell threatens to break loose is indeed intriguing. The science-fiction reality is textured and complete, and we know just enough information during the first act to proceed to the second one. But that's when the problems kick in-- since District 9 is mostly structured as a documentary, its constant switching between fiction and information is quite awkward, to say the least. The 'real' segments contrast pretty badly with the reality that's shown to us through a reporter's camera, and the film fails to generate a convincing dramatic crescendo, as well-paced as it is. An important number of questions the viewer will doubtlessly ask himself are never quite answered, and therefore, District 9's universe tends to be as frustrating as it is exciting. Add to that military baddies that are outright caricatures, predictable plot turns and a real lack of 'point' to the narrative, and it's enough to spoil a lot of the fun.

Still, the film's greatest achievement has to be that it is able to stage a world so unnaturally persuasive with a modest $30 million budget. The mix of real images with animated footage sets is simply great, if not exceptional. For that alone (and Sharlto Copley's genuinely heartfelt first starring role), District 9 is an experience that fully deserves to be seen, even if it doesn't quite reach the masterpiece level all that enthusiastic press would have you to believe. I personally wasn't fully sold on the dosage of what's 'real' and what's 'presented', and that is without a doubt something that a whole lot of viewers will dislike, but what can I say? I would take District 9 over nearly all the depressing factory-pressed actioners that come out each summer. Let's see if Blomkamp can piece together something as fresh and startling as this one in the next couple of years, and learn from his missteps in the process...

The Spirit
The Spirit(2008)

An avalanche of bad buzz, terrible reviews, a weak first weekend in ticket sales... so apparently, The Spirit was doomed. Consequently, my expectations were set tremendously low before I stepped into the theater. ''Why the hell are you still going to see it if you heard it sucks?'', many have asked me.

Hah. I'm not even going to answer that.

Anyway, film reviewing is, all in all, a very touchy thing, and while I try to remain as objective as possible, one's enjoyment of Frank Miller's The Spirit-- and ultimately, one's opinion concerning its quality-- is an almost entirely subjective matter.

Bottom line being, I know it's awful, but I liked it. Crabby bastards : fuck off and die.

I believe the press has already covered this film's most damnable flaws : laughable dialogue, hammy performances, uneven pacing, bad narration and most of all, extremely crummy plotting. All of these are true; almost none of these spoiled my experience. In fact, I believe many of these features actually (in a way) enrich the final product, turning what could have been a by-the-numbers comic book thriller that privileges style over substance into a flat-out oddity that is anything but studio-pressed. While totally soulless feel-good crap like Marley & Me rakes in the green ones during the holiday season, I'm still really glad someone greenlighted this bizarre project from top to bottom and scheduled it for Christmas day. Comparisons with the similarly bizarre (but nevertheless very different) I Know Who Killed Me from last year COULD be made : mainstream audiences bitterly reject it once swallowed, but parts of the public may find that it possesses undeniable qualities that do validate its existence, even if it is in no way a 'good film' in the traditional sense of the term.

And what qualities! It's hardly news, but it is impossible not to marvel at how dreamily gorgeous the images in The Spirit are. While the superior (on almost all aspects) Sin City relied on heavily contrasted black-and-whites and pinches of colours to evoke the roughness of its story, this one is flooded in vibrant tints all along. The results? Frank Miller's enthusiasm about using his astonishing visual sense with a worthy budget is evident in many of his compositions, which are stark and often iconic. The same attention is on display in every scene, whether the set-piece in question is witty or stupid. And while it is almost impossible not to notice Miller hasn't got a clue on how to direct a film, the panache he brings to all of his ideas, a couple of them awesome, some stolen and most of them flat-out terrible is stupendously diverting.

The highlights often occur when the pic occasionally dives headfirst into pure camp, and thus, stays true in honoring the original's flitting from one genre to another without blinking an eye. In that regard, the scene in which Samuel L. Jackson and Scarlett Johansson deliver the usual villains' speech, but dressed as Nazi SS Officers (complete with hysterical bad guy dialogue) is something worth remembering for ages. This one may be the brightest example, but there are plenty of other touches that bring just as many giggles to the table. In those regards... well, what can I say? Not many people laughed at every subtle (or screamingly unsubtle) gag thrown out on the screen, so that leaves the public about three choices : to be weirded out, to be downright pissed or to chuckle at all those shiny absurdities. I was part of the latter.

I am also among the ones that are more delighted than embarassed when A-listers take on wicked cool but willingly thin roles like these ones. And while the cast in Sin City (oooh, there's that comparison-- again) fared way better, most of them chew scenery whenever they can, the most notable example being Jackson's delirious performance as The Octopus. His acting, punctuated by ticks, constant bug-eyes and unexplainable references to eggs, is High Camp 101. I could not have been more entertained by him. As his uptight but sexy sidekick Silken Floss, Johansson offers a purposedly stoic performance, but nevertheless brings an impressively sly charm whenever she shares the screen with the badass mo'fo in the history of modern cinema. She has never been this bad before in my opinion, but she's a lot more fun to watch here than slumming in The Island or The Other Boleyn Girl. Eva Mendes is mostly there to provide plenty of eye candy, but her character is still developped sufficiently. She is closest to the traditionnal Femme Fatale in the genre, and for once, she gets to kick some ass... and of course, show some. Again. Other supporting players have a (mostly) fun stance that's best described as 'humanly cartoonish', except for Sarah Paulson, whose heartfelt performance is the only one that could fit in another film whatsoever. She inherits the worst dialogue of the bunch, but still manages to sound like a human being. Finally, lead guy Gabriel Macht has one note to play, and he plays it well, but one wishes a would-be film noir would have a thicker lead character. The point being, anyway, that all of these cardboard cut-outs are not really meant to sound truthful, but rather to combine coolness and ridicule. Most of them succeed.

And that's why I enjoyed The Spirit, frankly. With a gallery of silly characters portrayed by actors with strong screen presence, it was easy to overcome the dysmal plotting. But, for film reviewing's sake, here goes : the plotting is dysmal. I was still not sure what the film was about halfway in, and I don't know if it was just me, but the scripting makes sure we have no idea who the hell is related to which subplot. Eventually, everyone (including the fuzz) intertwine in a finale that's a hundred percent grand guignol, and while the big belly laughs are still there, this time I'm not so sure they're intentional. And for a film that features a hero that purrs along about how fucking awesome his city is (even during the fight scenes), I never, not for one second, felt the city was actually alive. Either way, I have rarely seen cop films/vigilante thrillers/you name it this poorly constructed. And I *mean* poor.

So what's left? Perfectly airbrushed garbage without a hint of meaning or purpose, but much fun to be had while it lasts. In a way, it has to be seen to be believed. Would I recommend to Mr. & Mrs. Everyone? Not at all. Would I sit through it again someday? Of course.

Good cinema? Nope. Good genre cinema? Nope, not that either. 'Passionate' genre cinema? You bet.


If Accepted isn't really smarter or better written than the average teen comedy, it still manages to turn out kind of watchable mostly because of Justin Long's impeccable comic timing and likeable screen presence. The script, however, has just enough cliches and crass punchlines to miss a passing grade, and its simplistic views on education and self-learning will make the most demanding viewers roll their eyes pretty fast. Anyway, Accepted is no disaster, but it's still as forgettable as they come-- still, as execrable as the genre can be, I'll take this over The New Guy anyday.

The Perfect Score

Not a particularly inspired nor innovative teen movie, The Perfect Score still gets points for being tasteful, occasionally funny and sincere in its intentions. Trouble is, energetic performers and a few amusing set-pieces can only get you so far, and Brian Robbins' limp, sloppy direction fails to take advantage of the talent on display. The fairly preachy screenplay, despite its swift pacing, also doesn't quite find a satisfying enough conclusion to its narrative, and the dialogues vary in quality and relevance. Nevertheless, younger teenagers will find enough here to warrant a viewing, and this product is anything but an insult to their intelligence. The six teenagers central to the story are embodied by very likeable (though hardly extraordinary) actors, most of them outshined by the vibrant and naturalistic Johansson.


Arguably the best picture about the 1989 Polytechnique Massacre that could ever dream of being shot, Polytechnique is a rough but thankfully minimally exploitative watch. I suppose that its most valuable reason for existing is because it conjures visuals on an atrocity that, beyond having taken away the lives of several young women, has shocked an entire nation and wrecked the minds of many survivors. There's nothing really softened about the way the horrific event is presented, but the proceedinds remain both tasteful, convincingly acted and very effective.

Denis Villeneuve lenses the film with an unusual elegance, one that smartly contrasts with the aberrant ongoings but still provides a few iffy symbolic images-- ones that I presume the film could have done fine without. Most importantly, Polytechnique is a film of few words, and even if I am not completely convinced there had to be a film like this one produced, that decision of letting the visuals speak for themselves works a lot in its favor. I really wouldn't call it essential viewing (hearing about it is enough, thank you very much), but I'm relieved this one didn't end up as the mawkish catastrophe I was seriously dreading.

Hannah Montana: The Movie

This nightmarish, plotless cash buster is every bit as flavorless as one would expect just from the sight of its poster, but the fucked-up surreal touches make the viewing experience somewhat disturbing for adults. Seriously... a beach teleportation during a pop number? A picture fuzzily moving inside a frame? A character getting mauled by an alligator just for laughs? What the fuck?!

Alright... other than that, I have little to say about Hannah Montana : The Movie. It's overlong, lazily scripted, overacted and full of fuck-all random pratfalls. Its directing is ultra-slick and more often competent than not, and it finds a way to keep the comic set-pieces and terrible sing-along scenes sufficiently close to one another. 7-year olds will doubtlessly lap it up. But look, if I had a daughter, I sure as hell wouldn't encourage her to watch this mind-numbing piece of fluff over all the imaginative kids movies that I know. And as for teenagers... look, spend your money wherever you want, but if you don't want your intelligence severely insulted, don't invest in this one.

I wish I had something insightful & clever & deliciously sardonic to say about this one, but that's pretty much it. It's just depressing. This is a business deal made for kiddies and not a movie, so why bother? Just don't see it, alright?


Frozen River
Frozen River(2008)

The cumulative cinematic forces behind Frozen River render the experience almost disturbingly naturalistic-- and the tension generated by the turns of this bleak (yet not hopeless) story is near merciless. It's always a lot more engaging to watch a thriller that's close to reality, and first-time director Courtney Hunt clearly knows that. And yet, she doesn't let the narrative stand between us viewers and the very intriguing characters she's written; we really do get to *know* Ray and Lila, and that is something ultimately pretty rare in the movies nowadays, especially when it comes to those would-be pulse-pounders.

But Frozen River isn't just played out like a straight-up suspenser. It may speak about the relationships between Americans and Native Americans, but mostly it's about motherhood and responsibility. Melissa Leo and Misty Upham inhabit with exceptional skill two characters whose arcs are different but oh-so-similar and the end, and the scenes they share together are nothing less than magnetic. You won't doubt for a single second these are real people you're watching. Mostly, you will not see the running time pass by, and even if there is nothing very groundbreaking about Frozen River's accomplishments (it is a 'small' film, both thematically and aesthetically), you may find yourself surprisingly affected by it once it's over.

Labor Pains
Labor Pains(2009)

Too cute to be offensive but too limp to be worth remembering, Labor Pains is one more than one occasion a bit demoralizing to watch. Not that the results come across as embarassing, but the project seems to be a source of disinterest for nearly all involved. Lara Shapiro's directing is never less than competent, but it's also as devoid of imagination as can be. There is nothing remotely surprising about the screenplay's development, which keeps the humour at a pretty stupid level and loses considerable steam once the Big 'n Funny Secret comes to light. After that, it's just a matter of getting Guy + Girl together, and we all know how that ends, m'I right?

And finally, for the Lindsay Lohan case... look, we're all aware that her career has taken serious blows over the last couple of years, especially after the flopping of the magically terrible I Know Who Killed Me. If anything, her headlining of Labor Pains isn't a misstep by any means, but that's not to say she brings her all to the role. Frankly, her performance is rather uninteresting and even artificial at times. It is still a bit of a pleasure to see the former teen queen onscreen again instead of on celebrity mugshots Hall of Fames, but I have seen her fare a lot better, especially in comedy. The supporting cast dillydallies between fairly good (Cheryl Hines) and fairly bad (Chris Parnell), but like their tabloid-friendly costar, there's nothing particularly notable about their work here.

This isn't a film worth lamenting about, really. Labor Pains avoids bad taste or syrupy sentimentality, and it even has a couple of swell jokes, but down the line, it is unremarkable to the extreme. Even if it rightfully finds the idea of treating pregnant women like demigods ridiculously funny, it has nothing in stores for those that are looking for another riff on the far superior Junos or Knocked Ups of this world. Everyone's gotten their paychecks now, so let's just forget about this film, mmmkay...?

An American Crime

Now, people... this is one painful blow of a film. An American Crime is a disquieting depiction of a horrifying case of child abuse-- it is one that provides no facile answers, but raises troubling questions by setting us in an era where children couldn't speak for themselves, and most importantly, were obligated to side with whoever had the upper hand. It's a very tough watch, one that prevents any kind of enjoyment due to the deathly perfume of its inevitably fatal conclusion, but the impact it has makes it well worth watching.

Tommy O'Haver's camera refuses to sand off the edges of the atrocious case, but it is never exploitative or distasteful. He does make the most authentic-looking story possible out of a seemingly limited budget. Most importantly, his stage direction captures the force of two reliably effective actresses, here completely inhabiting roles that are miles away from their typical on-screen personas. Keener is nightmarish as Baniszewski, letting us understand the excruciating weight of her everyday life without ever excusing through self-pity the torturous acts she commits. Page offers a portrait of torn-down innocence that rings absolutely true, even if Sylvia Likens is a thin character on paper here. They are surrounded by equally impressive young performers, Graynor being a notable standout. The cast provide the backbone to a gripping, surprisingly textured T.V. movie that's the very opposite of a crowd-pleaser, but should provide worthwhile discussions afterwards. The only major thing I can put against it is a sort-of manipulative third-act fakeout, but it isn't enough to strip this true story of its chilling effectiveness.

Chapter 27
Chapter 27(2007)

One static, self-satisfied excuse for a film. Chapter 27 gives no answers and asks no questions, preferring to lull us into the mind of a psychopath with its shallow narration and a grim visual treatment. Built around Leto's impressive physical transformation but hardly affecting performance, Jarrett Schaeffer's film eventually begs us to ask ourselves if there is any point to the proceedings. After 80 minutes of pure nothing, which finds no cinematic inventivy whatsoever to speak of and is sided with a performance by a Lohan in sleepwalking mode, you'll come to the conclusion that nope, there isn't any point to Chapter 27.

I Love You, Man

A decent, sweet little bromance of a movie that has just enough laughs to keep you from realizing how artificial it is, and just enough insight on male-male friendship to prevent you from slapping a 'funny-but-useless' tag on it. What makes it thoroughly enjoyable, though, is the presence of Paul Rudd in the lead, who has been long overdue for a headline in that kind of film. He is aptly supported by the sunny & likeable Rashida Jones as his fiancee, and the hilarious Jason Segel as his new best friend in a spontaneous, lovingly vulgar star turn. The biggest problems in I Love You, Man lie in the very lightweight conflict, which arrives 30-ish minutes before the conclusion, and the conclusion itself-- which is a bit cutesy for my taste (or maybe I just have a thing against wedding finales).

Other than that, this is a worthwhile though fairly unexceptional Apatow-lite production (unimaginative direction, witty pop culture references, a riot of a supporting cast, etc.) that delivers exactly what it promises, but not much more. It's just a good time at the movies-- and those are quite rare nowadays, especially when it comes to those uh-merican comedies. Take what's best when it's available, people.


When Hollywood imposes its oily makeover to a smokey blaxploitation premise, you get something as deplorable as Obsessed. It's obvious this isn't an ambitious project in any sense of the term-- really, it only kind of goes through the motions right up until its much-publicized girl-on-girl smackdown-- but seriously, is it too much to ask for at least just a little bit of inventivity or energy in a modern thriller? Everything you need to know about this worthless piece of shit lies in its trailer, which encapsulates every major plot point plus nearly the whole damn conclusion. In the actual film, you just get a whole lot of in-between chunks of ominous music, worried stares and mind-numbing dialogue where nothing exciting happens. It is worse than a mere bad film-- it is a bad film that takes its sweet time getting to the point, and the proceedings are often painful to sit through.

Alright, maybe I'm being patronizingly subjective. Some people might've had one hell of a night at the movies when Obsessed was still in theaters, and I can only imagine the torrents of ''oh no she didn't''s erupting from urban cinemas all across America. That audience didn't pay their 10 bucks for a sluggish, psychologically astute potboiler-- no, they spent their dough to see a white girl threaten the perfect marriage of a happy black couple, and then get a total whoopass by the queen of mainstream R&B, Ms. Beyonce Knowles. For a little less than ten minutes in a 105-minute movie (I checked), those people get what they paid for, and so do all the bad movie buffs out there-- the only thing I can put against its hysterical catfight is that it is criminally short. The big laughs come fast and furious : Larter kicking Knowles in the face, Knowles doing the head-to-head bash to Larter, Larter trying to attack Knowles with a broken lamp, Knowles dragging Larter on the floor spouting Pam Grier one-liners (''Imma wipe the flo' witcho skinny-ass!'')... but then that's it. The inevitable resolution occurs with the snap of an executive's fingers saying 'cut!', and the film stops on a freeze frame, accompanied by an awful, drippy Beyonce ballad.

And the smiles turn into slackjawed horror. ''...that's it?''

Yup, people... that's it. I have the feeling that I made Obsessed sound less frustrating than it actually is by starting this review with its sole redeeming part (which is probably what I gave it one lonely star instead of a big zero), but trust me : absolutely everything leading up to the pulpy bitch-pounding climax is a train wreck. And a boring, boring train wreck at that. Any interesting commentary on interracial relationships that this film might have had evoked is excised from the narrative. Nobody even mutters the words 'black' or 'white', and the film's premise develops without any trace of social relevance. The menace that is supposed to be generated by our villainous blondie flops like a dead fish everytime it's supposed to sizzle-- this is the kind of film where the whole threat could be halted by one well-placed phone call from our protagonist. That protagonst, too, is also quite the headache-- no offense to actor Idris Elba, who has proven himself to be great in numerous past projects, but lead man Derek Charles behaves like an outright moron exactly in right places to put himself and his family into mild peril. The screenplay, irritatingly, doesn't make him commit the oh-so-inexcusable act of adultery-- there is no guilt, and there is no conflict. In Obsessed, there's just a psychotic bimbo who can't seem to want to stop fucking around.

Had the film rested on able acting shoulders, then perhaps it might have been a tad more tolerable, though I doubt even the most accomplished performers could lift this tired junk out of its crushing hopelessness. If you think a talented actor like Elba is slumming in a project like this one, wait until you see a thoroughly ordinary actress like Ali Larter sink even lower in your esteem. I had hoped she would play the mischievous temptress part with the right amount of calculated campiness, but alas, there is no such joy in her interpretation of said role. It's all mugging and forced tantrums; since the film decides to keep her true motivations and past completely in the dark, her evil line-readings come across as even more artificial, if such a thing is possible.

But Ms. Larter is already miles ahead than the gigantic missile of whatever-the opposite-of-acting-talent-is-called who makes up the last angle in the triangle : that would be Beyonce in her first non-singer film performance in a picture co-produced by herself. I sincerely didn't wish for her to be THIS bad when I heard of the project, and I hold no personal grudge against Knowles as a recording artist. But she is simply not an actress : she is a sassy poser, and a very robotic one at that. There is nothing, nothing going on behind her eyes in Obsessed-- not when she is supposed to show the inconditional love for her dear hubby, not when she is told by Larter that he is falling out of love with her, not when she is smacking the crap out of said white girl. Knowles has basically no character to play, and a very small range of feelings to channel through this non-entity that is Sharon-- whoever thought that casting her in the flick's ass-kicking role was a good idea is clearly interested in marketing more than actual filmmaking quality, for there are dozens of great black actresses (Taraji P. Henson, Angela Bassett, Jada Pinkett Smith, Marsha Thomason, etc.) that would have been able to bring the requisite amount of sauciness to the part. Naturally, they went for the big draw, and the film heavily suffers from her strikingly unnatural onscreen presence.

It's a fact : Obsessed is a hypocritical, studio-pressed concoction of no purpose other than raking cash by its promise of a few exploitative thrills... but what thrills can you get out of a sex thriller with all the sex taken out? If you replace everything that's supposed to be exciting by terribly flat performers talking about how what's happening is wrong, cut in-between helicopter shots of the city serving as transitions, what is left to enjoy? Just wait until the 'BITCHES BE CRAYZEEE' duel is on YouTube, and please do not waste your time and money on this one. It is most definitely the cul-de-sac of a genre that was at first meant to be the juicy guilty pleasure of a specific audience-- and that audience deserves better than the low-voltage detritus that is Obsessed.


It's both a shock and a relief to see such an all-star cast participating in such a small-scale story-- but Fragments (formerly titled Winged Creatures) might have benefited from a tighter, less approximative script that efficiently used all the talent on display. It's a film that speaks about the different (and all equally disturbing) ways an act of unexplainable violence affects lives directly or indirectly touched by it. That's it. There is no bigger preoccupation to the narrative, which plays out the aftermaths of the life-shattering moment with a minimum of inventivity but little to no Silver Screen Bullshit. That's no enough to qualify Fragments as a must-see, but it is enough not to call it a failure.

The middle third of the screenplay is actually pretty dull, but it nevertheless finds a way to get back on track, right up to its quietly powerful conclusion-- it lets the talent of Dakota Fanning and Josh Hutcherson shine through with great sensibility, turning what looked like mannered and closed-in performances into rich emotional portraits. Among the cast members, the most striking performance has to be Kate Beckinsale's, who is as heartbreaking and penetrating as I've ever seen. Forest Whittaker and Jeanne Tripplehorn, unfortunately, are on autopilot in largely pre-defined roles. Anyways, the end result is not necessarily boring to watch, but it is unremarkable in more than one way. If you can read from this review that I am not disinterested nor enthusiastic in my writing, it's because there is little to be said about this honest, thoroughly correct but mostly shapeless film.

The Mysteries of Pittsburgh

There's nothing exceptionally rotten about this critically-panned adaptation of Michael Chabon's well-received novel; it simply translates into a pretty flat coming-of-age story in cinematic form. Director Rawson Marshall Thurber manages to get a few moments of genuine human emotion, most of them involving Peter Sarsgaard in an enigmatic and thoroughly engaging star turn, but other than that... let's just say he doesn't elevate a dull and obvious screenplay from mediocrity. Jon Foster is an okay choice for the role of Art, but his too-obvious narration gets tiresome rather fast. The women in the cast don't fare much better, with Mena Suvari barely having a character to inhabit and Sienna Miller showing a rather alarming lack of naturality.

The Mysteries of Pittsburgh is not a film I'd recommend to anybody, but then again, it isn't the type of film that's worth lamenting on. Just like Art Bechstein should... let's move on to something else, kids.

Trick 'r Treat

There is something rather demoralizing about the hellish distribution treatment that Michael Dougherty's Trick 'r Treat has been cursed with. If you know nothing about the interminable two-year postponing that his directorial debut has suffered through (even with a slur of appealing trailers and glowing test screening reviews), once you are done watching it... you will simply ask yourself ''why the hell didn't they release this theatrically when they had the chance?''

Not that Trick 'r Treat is absolutely the freshest, most conclusive entry in its genre for years-- that would be Sam Raimi's blissful Drag Me to Hell-- but there is indeed an overpowering sense of fun that separates it from nearly all of the sucky horror shows that have been given the go by studios in recent times. It doesn't try to be profound, challenging or extreme-- it is aware it is just great, creepy fun. Even if the very first scene leaves much to be desired, the cartoonish opening credits that follow clearly state the whole project's intentions, which are obviously to generate chills and thrills a la Creepshow. It is frankly a success; intertwining four different stories taking place on the same Halloween night, Trick 'r Treat has got more than just a handful of moments of pure awesomeness, with scenes ranging from spooky to ingenious to funny to suspenseful to cruel, sometimes many of those at the same time. You already know if this kind of shlock is your cup of tea or not-- but I cannot picture a horror hound not having a blast during his viewing of this puppy.

We're not the only ones that are enjoying ourselves-- everyone involved in the making of Trick 'r Treat seems to be doing so. The first example has to be those devilish tricks that director Dougherty pulls on us-- constantly alternating his P.O.V from hunter to prey, telegraphing wrong plot twists, multiplying bizarre framings... all of those neat choices they keep us in the dark concerning what these characters' motivations are, and their impeccable timing maintains the fast pace with the skill of a genre veteran. All of these tales, it goes without saying, are a real treat to look at : Mark S. Freeborn's set design is rich, detailed & forebonding, and the autumnal color palette plays isn't strictly limited to the requisite oranges and golds-- we are often plunged in dark blues and greens as we switch back and forth between jolly holiday setpieces and grimy nightscapes. For a film that is meant to provide fairly exploitative thrills, it is artfully designed and shot with the most exquisite morbidity.

If something keeps Trick 'r Treat from skyrocketing to definite four-star material (beyond the fact that it has strictly 'carnival ride' ambitions), it has to be the uneven handling of its cross-cutting screenplay. Not that everything doesn't tie together well by the end-- it does-- but these All Hallows Eve stories play out quite messily. We are still introduced to major new characters and given important plot exposition by the 60-minute mark, and the individual conclusions land all over the place. Trick 'r Treat has about four climaxes, three of which are nothing short of delicious, but its bumpy construction doesn't quite elicit the feel of a continuous filmwatching experience. Balancing heart-pounding moments and sketchy characterizations is not something easy, and we can see Dougherty's screenplay has a bit of a tough time hitting all the right bases. The end result is playful but disjointed, ghastly but uneven. Some moments are even a bit too brutal for their own good, turning moments that should be simple, bloody fun into somewhat sadistic squirming. Thankfully, the twisted revelations scattered here and there provide a nice diversion from the less accomplished points of the narrative.

Last but not least are the efforts of a fine, talented cast mostly composed of very willing young things. Some iffy line-readings by children put aside, everyone sells their terror or bloodlust without overplaying it. The obvious standout here is Brian Cox in a role of few sentences but with lots of moments of inspired panic. His shift from grouchy neighbor to ass-kicker is certainly lots of fun to watch, much like the psycho principal act conducted by the ever-reliable character actor Dylan Baker. Nailing the sweet college virgin archetype just right is Anna Paquin, who without a doubt inherits the film's nuttiest scene (and by far). Finally, even the soon-to-be-dead bystanders are convincing in their agony. It's an ensemble that's composed of performers who know exactly the adequate amount of realism and caricature to channel through their parts, and no one is slumming.

You know that feeling you had when you watched 'Are You Afraid of the Dark' when you were nine-ish? This is mostly what Trick 'r Treat evokes : pure glee combined with unnerving anticipation. It will rekindle your faith in Halloween-based horror stories, and it is certainly a great to put you in the mood each October. If Michael Dougherty's sick but oh-so-playful symphony hits the cult status it deserves so badly, then perhaps the unforgivable delay this passionate production has painfully crawled through has been somewhat compensated for.

500 Days of Summer

If it were the case that someone didn't appreciate (500) Days of Summer-- I know I did-- I'm convinced that the very least that he or she would say about it is that, well, for all its uneven handling of style, it does know how to find real substance. This is a thoroughly surprising result considering this is a music video director's first full length feature film, but (500) Days of Summer doesn't just 'go the distance'-- it resonates. It tells us that love is a blissful, unearthly experience... except when it sucks. And it sucks a whole lot.

No, this isn't a barn-burning statement, and yes, it's been said a lot before. But as one of my favorite sayings concerning art would evoke... all worthy messages deserve to be said again and again. Here, it is said with a blissfully articulate cinematic language, and even if some of the proceedings employed won't appear particularly authentic, the film always remains a joy to watch, even when it digs deep into the awkward places that suggest what tough business it is to be a human being.

Alright, so it'd be easy to dismiss the entire project by its wrapping (Sundance-pressed indie with a hip soundtrack and etc.), but during and after the viewing, what lies beneath the cutesy facade is too interesting to overlook. First-time writers Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber hop back and forth in-between the titular 500 days over which the two leads' relationship lasted to great effect; we know about Tom's overly romanticized view of love (echoed through the fact that his perceptions were influenced by a misreading of the film The Graduate when he was younger), and we are aware that he will touch both extremes through the course of the film. His character arc is already drawn from scene one, but to see it unfold piece by piece in the manner of an exhuberant and playful jigsaw puzzle is one hell of a way to tell this kind of long-tired story. And with the touch of Webb's sunny compositions and vibrant flourishes (and not to mention the seriously funny dialogue), it is very easy to overcome the fact that there are a lot of cloying Movie Moments scattered here and there in the narrative.

And yet my only sizeable regret is the somewhat limp treatment of the final twenty minutes. Make no mistake, it is indeed intentional-- but it was only when Tom and Summer met in a somewhat contrived scene to have The Post-Breakup Talk that I understood that (500) Days of Summer did not choose to be as painful as it might (and probably should) have been. This isn't a typical rom-com third act where everything goes okay and the characters come out aware of the previous mistakes they've made, far from that, but the conclusion's tone seems to suggest a different message than the film that preceeds it. Thankfully, it is not enough to prevent the viewer from coming out of the picture on a high, but as a finish, it's one notch below the sparkly & creative gem we watched play out for 70 minutes before.

It's no surprise that Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel come across as miraculous, but this time, the real surprise is how organic they come across even if they aren't dealing with fully drawn characters. I have this feeling that Tom and especially Summer were deliberately left as perhaps three-quarters (or make that two-thirds) of actual human beings, so that we could fill out as much as we wanted of ourselves into these beautiful and sad figures. Needless to say, they are perfectly convincing, and they share an electrifying on-screen chemistry. It's less fortunate that the supporting performers are a bit broad, but this is the sort of first-time director/screenwriter flaw that doesn't hamper the film too much.

What is there to say? It's not the stuff that dreams are made of, but it's still too good to resist. Everytime (500) Days of Summer goes overboard with its stylistic excesses or easy character sketching, it finds a way to capture some undeniable truths about modern relationships. I'm sure this one is going to linger long into the cinephiles' memories, and I am left hugely anticipating the upcoming projects of everyone involved.

The Notorious Bettie Page

Personally, I have never found myself to completely fall in love with Great And Important Prestige Biopics. They are easy to admire and often extremely competent, but frankly, they are not often terribly sweeping pieces of cinema. That could be just fine with me-- why ask for a tidal wave of groundbreaking ideas and conceptual flashes when you simply paint a somewhat significant portrait of someone influential or notable in their field? Thing is, most of them (and it really isn't their fault... mostly) end up covering a similar character arc (pre-glory days, rise to fame, inevitable downfall) no matter who the tragic-slash-comedic-slash-humanitarian figure is. And it makes them... a little bit usual. A little bit cookie-cutter. A little bit boring.

But here, we are not talking Great And Important Prestige Biopic much. Nor are we talking tragic-slash-comedic-slash-humanitarian figure. It's a film about Bettie Page, the pin-up icon from the 50s-- and yes, she was sexually abused during her pre-stardom days. You could very much write an entire picture positioning Bettie as a feminist icon, who made an entire career of pornography and nudity as a way of reconquering her own body (and place those horrifying events as a psychological leitmotiv)... but director Mary Harron isn't interested in that. No, really, it's not all that serious, and thematically, it's a bit on the thin side. It kinds of skims the surface of Page's life, and there is no real dramatic tension to be found here.

Personally, I find all of this very refreshing-- nearly all of the questions and answers are left up to the viewer. The point is not to get to know who the real Bettie Page was... but the point is to get a look a *what* Bettie Page was. Plus... if you're a sucker for films set in the 50s, The Notorious Bettie Page is a downright treat, from its absolutely spot-on look to its textured, smokey feel. It's a charming motion picture, full of lovely directorial touches and dominated by a delightful central performance. There's no big message about our porn consumer culture, nor is there one about our commodification of innocent young women into sex objects. It's all glorious and shallow retelling of the most glorious and shallow years of a fifties pin-up model. That's it.

That's more than fine with me, and that's more than enough to heartily recommend this one. You should consider seeing it. Really.

Dragonball Evolution

After witnessing the hopeless failure that is Dragonball Evolution, my question is not ''who would think this film has any value whatsoever'', but rather.. who the fuck thought this project would turn out good in the first place?

Because, yes fellows, it is every bit as worthless and ridiculous as the idea of an U.S live-action film adaptation of the much-beloved anime series would foreshadow. Not once does the film actually remind you of the heart and humor of its source material, but it cannot function worth a damn on its own. It's a boring, puerile martial arts movie to those that know nothing about Dragonball, it's an embarassing slice of cheese to the ones that were familiar to its characters and plot (like me), and boy, must it be quite the ultimate fuck-you to all uber-fans. I really don't feel like elaborating on the awkwardness the clash of silly costumes, realistic sets and absolutely disinterested actors elicits. Dragonball Evolution is not an entertainingly bad movie; it's just a depressing, profoundly useless massacre.

Don't show this to your children, folks. They deserve better.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Despite a few awkward cuts here & there and a so-so sense of space (mostly for the scenes set in large interiors), Newell's treatment on the fourth installment of the popular franchise is doubtlessly a step in the right direction. The visuals are sharp and poetic, the tone is appropriately morbid, the performances are once again improved and the pace always remains engaging. Definitely less evocative than Prizoner of Azkaban, but it goes down every bit as smoothly-- and this time, the teen wizards hit puberty for our viewing pleasure! In my opinion, Goblet of Fire isn't the best of the series but it can safely brag it has the best action scenes...

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

It dazzles me to think that after five decent-to-great chapters in a monstrous cash-raking film franchise in nine years, the filmmakers behind Half-Blood Prince still managed to deliver yet another inspired piece of popular entertainment that wields its own identity. Yates' treatment is expressionist rather than sensationalist-- and script issues aside, this one is probably the most cinematically accomplished and emotionally involving Harry Potter film of the entire series. For my money, it is right behind Prisoner of Azkaban in terms of quality, and were it not for a slight feel of fatigue coming from some elements in the screenplay, what we would have here would certainly be the strongest member in its growing family.

I must begin this review by commenting on a tendency that I have observed among the public that indicates a lukewarm reception for this one. ''There's no action'', says one. ''There's too much teen romance'', says another. ''It's too long'', they all say. What is there to add? True, true and true. But these particular features have the merit of elevating Half-Blood Prince far, far beyond the likes of all the other formulaic blockbusters that have dried up the summer marketplace in the last few weeks. Concerning the runtime, I have no sympathy for overblown, bombastic garbage like Transformers 2 lasting a whole 150 minutes-- but this here, aah, here's what's so interesting : it uses its considerable length masterfully well. The book itself being known for not having the same forward momentum that most previous entries had, I feel that the director, screenwriter and editor's combined triumph is creating the illusion of having at least a full opening 90 minutes that are narratively swift and compelling, whereas no continuous drive is truly present in those. It's the sort of stuff that book adapters dream of, and of course it amputates the book pretty badly, but holy-fuck-isn't-this-great--Half-Blood Prince is doubtlessly the film that breathes the best on its own among the six.

Not that anyone unfamiliar to the HP saga could hop into this one without scratching their heads and waiting for the ending credits-- the Potter mythology in this one is heavy-handed, sure, but it's also admirably handled for those that still know whom is whom and what they want. On those regards, like I mentioned before, not since Alfonso Cuaron's oniric take on the third book have the characters been so alive and psychologically astute. Even if those teenage trials of the heart do occupy a lot of time in Half-Blood Prince, you can clearly sense that they are mostly there to compensate for the overwhelming sense of dread and fear taking over Hogwarts. This one might not be the 'darkest' of the series, in the sense that there are plenty of lighthearted moments and cheerful splashes of innocent wizardry, but it is indeed the one that deals with the biggest emotions in the bunch. The adults do not occupy more screentime this time around, but their presence is far more vital than before; you can sense that this time, what goes on behind their eyes is just as important to Yates' as his younger characters' feelings.

Naturally, there is little subtlety to be found in the teen exchanges and the character dynamics they sketch (this is a film whose primary audience is young, after all), but Yates' hauntingly beautiful and evocative direction and framings adds an extra layer of unease beneath the romance and teenage confusion. It is hard not to marvel at how dreamily gorgeous the visuals are in Half-Blood Prince, but you can feel it doesn't stop there; it isn't flash for flash's sake. There is the use of color, for starters, that trades the previous film's dark blues and greys for powdery yellows and greens, foreshadowing a melancholy related to the approaching conclusion of the entire saga. The set design is rich and the sense of space is very clear, unlike the jarring, confusing stage direction in Goblet of Fire. Last but not least, the photography by Bruno Delbonnel is sometimes sublime, sometimes worrying, and often both at the same time. And with the action taking a backseat to the dialogue and mystery, not only is the dramatic tension a lot more effervescent, but the few greater set-pieces-- like a creepy, climactic moment in a cave, or exciting, series-best Qidditch sequences-- have much more of an impact on the viewer.

At last, the cast. It would be unfair not to start with Daniel Radcliffe, the superstar that's been under the spotlights for nearly ten years since he landed the role of the tormented but ressourceful wizard in Philosopher's Stone. Needlessly to say, he presents a composition that suggests a chaotic interiority like none of his work before, refusing to give in to first-level pouting and crying, and instead channeling a growing insecurity that proves us that his stardom never rid him of what made him such a right casting choice for the series. His best scenes are shared with Michael Gambon as Dumbledore, who is very much the real emotional core of the film, and whose intensity in the final scenes reaches the landmark of acting in the series previously set by the spellbinding Imelda Staunton in Order of the Phoenix. Another newcomer comes tantalizingly close to reaching that level, too, and that would be Jim Broadbent as Professor Slughorn, absolutely perfect as the nervy & fairly manipulative teacher looking to expand his collection of wizard valedictorians. Other standouts include the ever-fantastic Helena Bonham Carter, given a bit more to do as Bellatrix Lestrange, and two young actors who didn't have much to do in the series before : first, Bonnie Wright as Ginny Weasley, who is a natural if there ever was one, and second, Tom Felton as Malefoy, who has very interesting material to work with in this one and who does it justice. The only two false notes in an otherwise stellar cast are Jessie Cave as Lavender Brown, who is bad, and Emma Watson as Hermione Granger, who is also bad (I swear the poor girl is getting worse and worse as the films go on). But those two (and a few other so-so terciary students) are minor issues, and the cast performance as a whole is top-notch.

All of this breathtaking and thoughtful filmmaking work truly blur the line between art in commerce in Half-Blood Prince-- it is, for me, very hard to explain how wondrous it feels to witness a series mostly not giving up to easiness and compromise, but rather deepening its focus with every new production of its own. It isn't a challenging film in the traditionnal sense, but it challenges what a summer blockbuster experience might feel like. Times at Hogwarts are getting darker and darker, and it would be unforgivable to run away from the escalating sense of dread such a story needs. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is a stuffy, quiet and remarkably character-driven film with occasional sparks of traditional enjoyment-- and its patience, macabre imagery and laid-back charm all add up to what people will remember, for better or for worse, as 'the different one'. That's perfectly fine with me.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

The tone is gloomier, the scenes are more suspenseful and the acting is waaaayyy more believable. Cuaron hits the perfect note and makes this second sequel terrific entertainment.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Darker, livelier and definitely better than the first in terms of filmmaking quality, but it lacks a couple of really memorable moments.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

There is not much titillation nor ka-blam magical entertainment to be found here : this one is (duh) way darker, slower-paced and somewhat more suspenseful. But the reason why it succeeds in topping the previous installments (and reaching the quality level of 'Azkaban') is because its emphasis on the characters is brilliantly executed. The young performers finally make us believe they don't know a camera stands before their faces, the photography is oustandingly esthetic and its running time is just *perfect*. Evanna Lynch's portrayal of Luna Lovegood is also frighteningly accurate, and Imelda Staunton provides what is the best new grownup character in the HP series yet. Another breathtaking triumph...!

Mysterious Skin

A traumatic but unforgettable experience. Greg Araki's Mysterious Skin is a discomforting, graphic but never exploitative look at how young lives are affected by sexual molestation-- its treatment is compassionate but unsentimental, and its exploration of two radically opposed (but ultimately connected) minds has a rare unflinching quality. This one is most definitely not an easy watch, but it is very rewarding down the line both on an emotional and intellectual point of view. Its themes remain undiluted and will doubtlessly resonate among the public, and the film as a whole is alternately heartbreaking and horrifying.

It's clear that everyone involved in this outright masterpiece was working on the same page and that nobody was aiming for flashy pretensions, seing how the writing, performances, musical score and stage direction blend together astonishingly well. One element ends up burning through the screen, though-- that would be Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Neil McCormick; a hypnotic, deranged, fearless and terminally fucked teenager living with the haunting remains of an incomprehensibly blissful (and knowingly immoral) childhood. He is nothing short of amazing, delivering a brave star turn that could equal the best work of some truly accomplished actors. Sided by restrained but touching players (Brady Corbet, Jeff Licon and Chase Ellison being obvious standouts), he contributes to what might be remembered as one of the most affecting watches in years for a whole lot of moviegoers.

Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore

Delightfully humane-- if you showed me this film without telling me that the king of tense macho New Yorker stories directed it, I would never be able to guess who did. It's true : Scorsese is surprisingly comfortable at handling a story about an independent woman travelling across the Southwest to forge an identity for herself, beyond the expectations and demands of men. Back in 1974, the man had only directed three films, so perhaps it wasn't quite as surprising to the public as it it to me by now-- but after decades of gritty urban dramas about self-destructive men stuck in suffocating situations, we have come to expect something a least a bit formated about The Martin Scorsese Picture... and I do not mean that in a pejorative sense, not in any way.

Either way, Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore remains a shocking opposite of his usual work, and if it isn't a perfect picture on its own, one can say it is very much the kind of film whose flaws cannot be dismissed because they are part of an intensely compelling whole. For starters, it is dominated by a phenomenal lead performance by Burstyn, whose vitality, conviction and vulnerability earned her a much-deserved Best Actress Oscar. She is onscreen for practically every scene, and she occupies the frame with an intensity that can't quite be described with words-- but inhabiting a woman whose dreams have failed, and then who finds in a tragic situation the opportunity to rekindle those aspirations (even if it means to give inhuman efforts in the proceedings) and reclaim her own freedom is miraculously free of any kind of miserabilism. It is very much one of my favorite performances of all time-- from Burstyn's body language and delivery, you can absolutely feel a connection with the dreamy avant-garde opening scene establishing how much her childhood fantasies have vanished over the last 27 years.

Built out of short scenes that cut abruptly for the most part and devoid of a common dramatic crescendo, the film has an interesting spin on the 'road trip' structure. Without spoiling any major plot point, Alice slowly comes to understand that she is done with having a man tell her what she oughts to be as a person, and she comes to accept that there is no knight in shiny armor (or Robert Redford) that is bound to save her. Her travels bring her to understand that there will always be somewhere (or someone) else to crave, and that a companion will always, always be necessary. The journey will last until you die-- and if she is able to make the world a better place for those that surround her (if they are willing to do the same), then perhaps this harrowing struggle has a purpose, after all. All of this is not a revolutionary statement, especially from a so-called feminist P.O.V, but it's made clear and it is delivered with a great deal of strangely impressionist honesty.

If the dialogues between Alice and her son Tommy sometimes feel a bit forced, and if the screenplay gives a feeling of floating uncertainty in its middle third, there are more than enough outstanding elements to counterbalance those minor flaws. Scorses brings his all, and with flourishes that range from the sublime aforementionned introduction to the stuffy, exciting atmosphere of the Diner at which Alice ends up working, the film still remains by today a lovely and captivating story made even more awe-inspired by its central powerhouse performance.

My Best Friend's Girl

Detestable and disposable, My Best Friend's Girl is essentially every damn sappy rom-com of the last two decades wrapped up in tired frat boy humor. Really, there's nothing remotely well-made or innovative about it, and by assembling a collection of startlingly unlikeable characters, the film eventually turns into an endurance test more than a raunchy romance. It knows nothing about actual human relationships, and the chemistry between the each of the three lead performers is strictly low-voltage. I could go on and on about how monumentally simple-minded and mean-spirited the entire film comes across as (the cheating montage is particularly dispiriting), but that would be useless. This a film that might elicit four or five smirks and a whole lot of eye-rolling moments-- do the math, and choose wisely. You definitely should skip altogether this heartless, robotic detritus.

The Fall
The Fall(2006)

Alright, people. First of all, I desperately need get this off my chest. This is director Tarsem's second full length feature; it was funded entirely from his own pocket, and it was filmed over the course of six years in more than twenty different countries. The filming budget remains unknown to the public as of now, but upon its theatrical release, The Fall went on to gross less than 3 million in its worldwide box-office run. While the picture certainly isn't razzle-dazzle mainstream fare, I can absolutely see a sizeable audience falling in love with this one-- it is a haunting and endlessly gorgeous hommage to all the beauty in the world. No kidding. Its narrative doesn't stand a chance at equalling all the wondrous landscapes and groundbreaking compositions caught on celluloid, but the screenplay as a whole is nonetheless engaging and sometimes even touching. Down the line, The Fall is a risky, uncompromising project-- but it is definitely not unmarketable.

Hence my frustration.

Some films truly deserve a widespread & sensational marketing campaign, for they are indeed worthwhile creations. It is to me befuddling (and not to mention downright insulting) that this unusual gem of moviemaking did not get the recognition it deserved. I am really, really fucking pissed to type this now and have to remind myself in the process that spineless & lazy dogshit like Paul Blart : Mall Cop is able to gross more than 130 million dollars during those hopelessly dead Januaries, while treasures like this one are left to slowly vanish after their limited arthouse runs.

That said... most of what I have to say about The Fall is strictly appreciative. It is essentially the most jaw-dropping motion picture that I have seen in ages, and everything that could be mentionned about the final result would not do it justice. It is doubtlessly an intensely self-indulgent work of art that doesn't have to surrender to cheap Hollywood codes to 'work', but nonetheless includes us viewers (with all the trust we deserve) into its very own enchanting and surreal world. It is a story for children and adults alike-- it is one that skates with impeccable skill in-between 'naive' and 'dark'. It is not a serious study on a particular subject, nor it is grandiloquent entertainment-- it is a loving, delirious and hugely ambitious fable built out of the most exquisite parts of our planet. It doesn't want to impress us-- it wants us to be amazed along with itself at its collection of visually sweeping shots of our mother Earth.

I shall not spoil any part of the film, nor the amazing story surrounding its creation (not fork a lack of desire to, though). I should simply say it is a spectacle of tremendous quality, filled with the most sublime REAL images imaginable that could be captured on film. It achieves both breathtaking grandeur and poignant intimacy, and the two actors that carry the film's emotional impact (Lee Pace and Catinca Untaru) could not be any better.

Film lovers, whether you know me or not, I beg you to consider to watch The Fall. It will first blow your mind, and then make you wonder how such a masterpiece somehow managed to go unnoticed. We are able to give it a second life by creating strong word-of-mouth, and the time is now-- it might not be for everyone, since our appreciation of beauty is very personal, but it is like nothing you have ever seen before. I might be among the ones that have a tendency to find beauty and amazement in the most grim, unsettling places (and consequently not react as strongly as everyone to all that is established as 'beautiful' and 'amazing'), but the unspeakable marvelousness from which The Fall is built-- and, of course, the poetry that it evokes-- were too powerful for even me to resist.

It is, without hesitation, the most beautiful piece of cinema that I have seen according to the usual definition of 'beautiful'. Please, reader : see it. If I could recommend a single overlooked film for you to watch, right now it would be The Fall. So... see it.


Two Lovers
Two Lovers(2008)

One could assume James Gray's Two Lovers is yet another take on modern love triangles; that guess would not be inaccurate. But there is a bit more bubbling beneath the emotional surface, and if the screenplay's unusual narrative simplicity first appears to want to keep his story to the level of an honest, intimate melodrama, the smaller details slowly point towards something bigger. Right from frame one, Two Lovers may fully embrace its lead character's distressed psychology with subtle directorial tricks, but it ultimately takes time to strip his layers off, right until we are fully aware that Leonard is no less than confronted with the choice of his very own freedom.

Gray's film doesn't require all kinds of tired romantic hijinks to sustain interest-- while the central dilemma is given its entire film to breathe, it is also made alienating enough to its protagonist to culminate in a series of strikingly uneasy moments. Essentially constructed in short scenes that either take place inside Leonard's parents' stuffy, suffocating appartment or in exciting exteriors, Two Lovers thankfully doesn't take the viewer by the hand to guide him or her through its quietly tragic web of passions and obligations. Not that there is a revolutionary quality to the story that's told here, nor that it stands among the most interesting retelling of such familiar themes, but it is treated with enough intelligence to go down very smoothly. That and a murky (though very elegant) colour palette and an all-in-all masterful handling of his dialogue make Gray's picture thoroughly enjoyable, even though it stirs heavy feelings that are not always welcome to be heard in their true form.

Gray's stage direction is excellent; it's very fortunate that the three central performances completely stand up to it, starting with Phoenix's sublime said final onscreen role. It's obvious that he understands the dimensions of the character he has to inhabit-- Leonard is one hell of a role-- but he doesn't expose his interiority to us immediately. Much like the film that surrounds him, Phoenix has a remarkable patience that largely contributes to an emotional crescendo. His best scenes are shared with Paltrow, who very certainly hasn't been this great for years as his true love interest Michelle. The insecurity she channels is never cranked a notch too high, and with a character as complex as Phoenix's but who is given much less screentime, she still manages to make us understand what's slowly draining her mental stamina. Vinessa Shaw successfully closes the triangle with a delicate, charismatic riff on the thinnest of the three central roles; it's hard to imagine getting seriously involved in this particular story without the necessary strenght of those three performances, but here we go. There is some very fine acting going on here.

'Fine' might be a suitable word for Two Lovers as a whole, which is no less than this year's requisite Mature Sentimental Drama For Grown-Ups. Obviously, it isn't one for the ages and it sure will not find a huge audience, even on DVD-- viewers expecting a sweeping, easy-to-watch romantic triangle will surely be bored out of their minds. But the polished realism, humane performances and overall impressionistic texture is certainly enough to recommend it to viewers that like hearing about the trials of the heart without having its proceedings go through the usual Hollywood bullshit machine.


It's always fun to watch dated hits. If they don't work anymore today, there is a distinct joy in seeing what made audiences cheer back in the day. But for all the glorious, crunchy high-camp energy Kathy Bates brings to her Psycho Stalker Fan role, Rob Reiner's adaptation of Stephen King's well-received novel Misery will remain a helplessly functional slice of easy-bake studio cake. If this sort of story ages rather badly, you can point fingers at all those cookie-cutter rip-offs that have employed the same tricks over and over again through the years; that sure as hell does not mean the thriller tactics in Misery feel less shameful when you view them today in their original wrapping, but still. All of this doesn't make it a boring watch, even by 2000s standards, even though there is nothing cinematically relevant here-- just a nice 1990 potboiler featuring an ass-kicking villainous star turn.

I can see what made this one such a cult favourite upon its original release and in the following years-- really, it's exactly what it promises, no more or less-- but it doesn't have the merit of a being an expertly crafted or thoughtful little movie. This is 90% formula, written in hastily-defined codes, proceeding with monstrous unsubtlety and, of course, telegraphing each and every plot point of the story, especially for the climax. But Caan and Bates are so damn good, and it operates without a single false note for all of its running time. That is enough to keep memories of it alive for decades to come. Hopefully the remake machine won't get its greedy fingers all over this one...

Little Children

An intensely compelling and quietly devastating look at what makes us comfortable & educated human beings crave another existence when tempted with the promise of passionate escapism. Todd Field is even able to surpass the narrative skill and fuzzy texture that polished his previous offering, the raw but touching In the Bedroom, and thus delivering with Little Children a fresh and sensuous take on familiar themes. By teaming up with two superbly human performers (and managing to obtain Kate Winslet's best performance in years, and my personal favourite character of hers), Field's adaptation of a novel by Tom Perrotta is nothing short of a magnetic, vibrant and poetic look at lives the movies rarely visit with this much sympathy.


Strangely enough, if someone asked me what's so wondrous and terrific about Happy-Go-Lucky, I couldn't answer quite clearly. I don't know what made me like this film so much-- there dozens of answers, but none of them are particular standouts.

Scratch that : Sally Hawkins is a standout. I usually don't start reviewing a film by judging the performances, but this, my friend, is a mighty fine exception. Her Poppy is exceptionnally well-written, and combined with the very organic approach she brings to her, it results into one of the most exhilaratingly alive film characters I have ever seen in all my moviegoing years. Here, we see that her constant bounciness and cheer are just a matter of disguising something much, much deeper. She's a genuinely complex character, not a trope or a symbol, and her relationships with her roommate Zoe and her two younger sisters hint at a rich shared history. It's not like we, as viewers, are ever going to know something else about her than what's happening in the very present, but as character studies go, this one hits the right mark in every scene. We understand why they love her, then why she bugs them.

There is a chance Happy-Go-Lucky will be received as an amusing trifle by moviegoers and critics who equate nihilism with significance, but there's something in the movie that feels profound. In a Hollywood film, Poppy would be treated as a simp or a hypocrite or (worst of all) a kind of radiant idiot. She is not that here; she's a woman about whom we can worry, a brave yet vulnerable creature with a neurotic laugh who has decided to be open to experience, to life's various and risky little thrills, like trampolines and flamenco dancing and lonely homeless men who constantly mutter.

And then there is Eddie Marsan, who turns a character that could have been a one-joke affair into a fully-fleshed frustrated soul. He is grating at first, but the more screentime he gets, the more we get to know him-- but not understanding him. His ticks and line-readings are perfect-- he nearly steals the show in the scenes he is in. But with a force as mighty as Hawkins, he does not.

Either way, Leigh directs the film with much, much vitality, from the opening biking to the closing paddleboat. There's not a single shot that feels phony nor superficial, and when we understand that there is no real plot, the snappy but oh-so-authentic dialogue carries the film just by itself. And yet, I didn't laugh all that much, nor did I cry (but I did feel a vague melancholy hitting me once the film finished). I also don't think I could bear Poppy for more than twenty-four hours. The narrative is not built to climax or go anywhere truly important, and that wasn't a problem for me... but still. What made me like this film so much?

It has be because, down the line, it speaks to the human condition more than anything else. There is little to no movie bullshit here-- this is the real deal. Happy-go-Lucky reached out to me, and made me think about about how being persistently happy isn't a way to deny all the crap out there in the world-- it's a way to deal with said crap.

See it.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Unbelievably grotesque and kitschy, Sweeney Todd is a bittersweet pie of a musical that only confirms the might of Burton's incredibly talented hands, even outside of the Hollywood family movie-making machine. Despite a narrative that goes around in circles in its middle, the delicious numbers, peppered with crunchy dialogue instead of an avalanche of choregraphies and SFX, are pure joy for the viewer. Depp, once again, is impeccable here, but Bonham Carter's role surprisingly grew on me in all of her bizarre gorgeousness. A bloody good time (hah!)...

Michael Clayton

Very, very good. Michael Clayton is both an extremely rich dissection of the moral dilemmas encountered in corporative dice games AND an elegant, fluidly shot drama. You can tell it's a screenwriter's movie from the top-notch (yet a bit too pointy) dialogue to the unusual attention paid to its characters, which are rendered with a lot of flair by Clooney, Swinton and especially Wilkinson. Michael Clayton is most definitely not a film about guns or heart-pounding countdowns-- this is a sharp and sober examination of the increasingly morally ambiguous firms capped that is an exquisite conclusion that puts everything in its right place. This one's a keeper.

Little Miss Sunshine

Yet another indie pic about a dysfunctional family, Little Miss Sunshine still screams 'feed me a couple of Oscars'. It's terrific from all aspects (cast, writing, directing, HUMOUR) and is definitely one of the best movies of 2006 in my opinion. A real triumph.

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

Perfume is a horrific, powerful and sinister film focused on an obsession so complete and lonely it shuts out all other human experience. While some may not agree with me, it's a dazzling piece of filmmaking that wins us over with its boldness and artistry, and lets the viewer contemplate in shock and fascination. And for crafting such a perfect world and involving us with such passion and determination, I think Perfume deserves to be called the best movie of the year.

The Unborn
The Unborn(2009)

Entirely assembled from borrowed parts and thoroughly executed with yawn-inducing seriousness (despite tons of seriously crazy shit splashing all over the screen), The Unborn is, unsurprisingly, a failure. Even worse : it also cannot succeed at being laugh-out-loud bad for a significant enough portion of its 87-minute running time to recommend as a hilarious oh-no-they-didn't romp.

You almost know, shot by shot, how crappy this film is. Really, you do. I shouldn't even tell you how cookie-cutter everything is. It's certainly not scary-- it's jam-packed with predictable jump scares and the imagery tries wayyy too hard to be disturbing. The heroine has no personality, but she emotes a lot, and apparently her panties are several sizes too short. She has a hunky do-nothing boyfriend and a sassy/irritating black BFF, and both get on your nerves after two minutes of screentime. Its deadening flatness and respect of nearly every modern PG-13 horror film convention make it a watch that's far more annoying than scary, and the way the story unfold is routine from top to bottom. Except, of course, for the monumentally distasteful decision of taking the plot to Auschwitz-Birkenau. But I won't dwell on that-- once it's over, you won't end up remembering the details of the main curse but you'll be able to point out everything silly and downright retarded about the 'frightening' moments.

Alas, had the film solely combined awesome badness and a few startling images, I would have rated it much higher. Sadly, it didn't enjoy its terrible content as much as I had hoped. When The Unborn is not wowing us with sublime ridiculousness, it's only superficial, moody and most of all, dull.. David S. Goyer shoots the thing as if it were a parody of The Ring, with its gloomy house insert shots and its REALLY, REALLY SEEEERIOUS BLUEISH TONE FROM SCENE ONE AND UP TO THE FINAL SHOT. Its screenplay is muddled at best, and not even worth following at worst. And since there is no humor to speak of to be found in here... well, the actors play it wooden, of course! And that... that can bore a viewer to death, let me tell you.

Speaking of which my, my, my, what wood is on display. Although lead girl Odette Yustman does get to show a little bit of her obvious talent (take that sentence however you want, I'm sure it works both ways) towards the end, she keeps the same mildly worried stare for nearly the entire running time. She's not bad, but she's not much fun to watch. The totally disposable Cam Gigandet looks stoned in all of his scenes, with no exception. And Meagan Good, well... oh, alright, forget it. If you know who this actress is, you know exactly what kind of performance she gives in The Unborn.

So, what do we have, in the end? Just another wet firecracker that will easily fill bargain bins all around the world five months after its DVD release. This is another low-voltage ghost story full of nothing that completely relies on staccatos and pale-skinned children instead of a dangerous atmosphere and sustained terror. It has a few decent scenes here and there (the opening is okay, and the climactic exorcism is probably the most unnerving moment of it all), but mostly, it was only made by disinterested craftsmen who knew damn well they were filming an easily-forgotten piece of horror junk food.

Skip it.

Garden State
Garden State(2004)

While Garden State surely has redefined a handful of rules about the bittersweet & self-conscious indie dramedy (especially when it comes to that dreaded Magic Pixie Dream Girl cliche) for better of for worse, you can absolutely see what made Braff's hit directorial debut so irresistible for most audiences back in 2004. It finds the perfect balance between biting and touching, and is able to sprinkle laughs all the way up to a surprisingly poignant third act. Seriously, how often is it that the final mad dash to the airport actually WORKS in a romantic comedy?

Garden State tells us that it might never be too late for one to change, even after losing something vital that you took for granted all your life. Braff's directorial hand offers plenty of genuine flashes and easily slides from comedic to dramatic, and he is able to draw superb performances from his ensemble cast, starting with Portman. She doesn't have a very thick character and the humour that surrounds it is sometimes a bit too forced, but all these little missteps go down extremely well thanks to the charisma, energy and suggested torment she brings to the role. Braff and Sarsgaard also offer intelligent, restrained performances with the type of characters they know how to play so damn well.

All that doesn't make Garden State a masterpiece, but in its own way, I think it is indeed timeless and very lovely. It's a feel-good film in the best sense of the term (the happiness by the end is the opposite of gratuitous) that I can heartily recommend to most people that know what kind of picture they are getting into. And yes, the soundtrack is sweet, too.


Yeah, I saw Twilight. Yep. Crazy, ain't it? After a good five months of being raped up, down and sideways by the insane marketing buzz surrounding this film adaptation (something that naturally downright repulses me, and was no exception here)... I ended up seing the damn thing.

Shocker : it sucks. All of you people are gonna go : ''well, of course it sucks, it's fucking Twilight, dummy''. But the reason it ends up as a moderately interesting viewing experience is because, well... when it's not busy being a transitional chunk of teen blandness and nothing more, some of the things it does are either pretty damn good or pretty damn terrible. So that leaves us with a final product that's aggressively mediocre, of course-- but its sucky banality is the result of a mix of features that range from the somewhat inspired to the good-for-the-garbage-bin.

I shouldn't be surprised, really. I expected Twlight to only please fans of the book (which I haven't and will not read) and no one else. But director Catherine Hardwicke (of 2003's touching and emotionally naked Thirteen) has a few tricks up her sleeve, and if a good bunch of 'em suck hard nuts, some surprisingly stick. That moody, blue-ish tone, for example, is more than appropriate for a tale of dark, youthful romance like this one. If the first thirty minutes are surprisingly decent, it's entirely because of Hardwicke's talent in capturing the rawness and upsetting confusion of the teenage condition. It also shouldn't hurt that Stewart, a naturalistic performer if there ever was one, does exceptionally good in that entire first act.

Where problems really begin, though, is when the entire vampire mythology starts to kick in. The narrative pretends to be holding some kind of mystery (I read the police subplot wasn't even in the book) but in fact, not only is it painfully predictable, it could also easily be summed throughout an Evanescence music video. Pattinson may be a magnetic on-screen presence, he still cannot overcome how bad the expository dialogue sounds when he delivers it. Add to that the whole issue of using those emolicious vampiric cliches that have burdened the genre in the last decades, cheap oniric flashes & obvious narration, unforgivably cartoonish special effects, villains that could hardly be less threatening if they tried and plenty of canny one-liners probably ripped straight from the book... and the whole 'actual plot' part of Twlight comes crashing down sonorously. The climax of all these lame ingredients occurs when a baseball match with vampires is set-- this cringe-worthy moment hits a major false note in a picture that can barely stand on its own feet, and its unfolding kitsches up the whole thing by several notches.

Alright, I know the inevitable sequels will probably feature a better, more dense narrative drive. But this, here... it's just really, really obvious, juvenile and boring. Trust me, I can usually do with just 'obvious' if it's handled with skill, wit or pep. But there's something demoralising in watching the flatness is which the latter scenes are coated-- and once we're there, Stewart's typical acting style provides much more disinterest than amazement. She looks nothing like the puzzled, frightened but deeply in love young woman the story suggests, and her chemistry with Pattison is okay at best. If these two empty but handsome characters had anything resembling a personality, the entire exercise might have felt far less tedious, but it sure as shit doesn't. And it drags long enough to make you be a little bit pissed off those ending credits aren't coming any sooner.


Now, the film's pepto bismol flavor has come up in my mouth, and it's not interesting anymore to talk about how bizarrely wishy-washy the whole thing tasted.

I don't feel like typing any more words about Twlight, really. It's bad enough to turn off anyone who thinks this pop culture phenomenon might be worth checking out (just to understand what the fuss is all about), but not nearly awful enough to be any insult that whatever age group. This is pure tween girl escapism cheese, and really, it's not cheese done particularly well. But when it hits, I can sort of see why it is absolutely irresistible for all those screaming fans. One just wishes mainstream tastes were less routine and more ambiguous than this mere piece of pop junk.

To me, though, it still remains the very opposite of stimulating cinema. If every 13-year old girl can't wait until the following sequel is released, and if it is made with the same detachment but depressing workmanlike efficiency... I would rather not have a second serving, thank you very much.

Kicking and Screaming

Despite a handful of enjoyably quotable lines and downright honest intentions, Noah Baumbach's feature film debut is ultimately only sporadically engaging. The first ten minutes are, in that sense, very testing in the way that it's chock-full of first-time screenwriter ''dialogue'' where everyone spouts instantly clever remarks without having any actual believable conversation going on. Thankfully, that pedal is given a less aggressive push throughout the movie, but the overall feel remains the same. The characters are somewhat thin, but their anxieties ring truthfully; the actors portraying them almost all have a nice, unforced authenticity to their line-readings, but they cannot run away from being stuck in endless variations of the same scene.

I'm glad Baumbach followed this twee, aimless little dramedy with the largely superior & focused one-two punch of The Squid and the Whale and Margot at the Wedding. Kicking and Screaming is not a bad movie per se, and it does get a couple of genuinely funny moments that very much call for a rewind-rewatch, but it's not interesting enough to recommend it to anyone else than curious Baumbach admirers.

Pretty Persuasion

At times witty and at times irritating, Marcos Siega's Pretty Persuasion has trouble working as an actual movie with complete characters and convincing dialogue, especially in its first third and nearby its conclusion. But there are at least a good, sustained 50 minutes where it all works just as intended-- merciless, hysterical shotgun satirizing. But, you know... it's so damn tough to buy in a film when you know everyone's on the joke, in front and behind the camera. It always looks like somebody's about to crack up.

I'm not quire sure who's positionned as the target in Pretty Persuasion. Perhaps everyone onscreen-- overly manipulative & bored teenagers, repressed high school teachers, scandal-hungry journalists or rich'n'distant parents. The finale seems to hinge on how pointless all of this ruckus was-- a feeling you can sort of get about the movie, as a thematical whole.

Nevertheless, this vagueness in aim in the writing is mostly compensated by some diabolically effective one-liners and a near-perfect ensemble cast, starting by Evan Rachel Wood. As of now, the ridiculously pretty and enormously talented young actress has positionned herself as one of Hollywood's most promising talents-- and you can see why In Pretty Persuasion. Inhabiting a dangerously clever (but monstrously insensitive) 15-year old harpy from top to bottom, she distances herself from the nice-but-troubled blondie roles that put her in the spotlight with just enough irony to avoid phoning in a gigantic, twisted parody of movie mean girls. Also impressive is Elizabeth Harnois as her weak, admirative but just as proud best friend. Ron Livingston is also well-cast as the innocent teacher accused of sexual molestation who is too ashamed of his own urges to truly stand for his own defense. The supporting performers are at times a little broad, especially Jane Krakowski, but mostly everyone is working on the same page.

I am not sure if I can call Pretty Persuasion a worthy effort-- sometimes, the line separating funny and outright offensive feels a little too thin. Nevertheless, it has balls. Oh, yes it does. And that... that's something most high school comedies desperately lack.

The Girlfriend Experience

Anyone who knows about Soderbegh's filmography knows damn well his work can easily be broken down in two categories : there are the articulate, very well-made studio productions and there are ''those other ones''. Like the modest but relatively successful Bubble or the star-studded oddity that is Full Frontal, The Girlfriend Experience is unquestionably part of the latter category, with its stripped-down aesthetic and obvious lack of a common cinematic narrative. It is indeed very good. I'd hesitate to call this one anything resembling the term 'masterpiece', but truth is, after viewing The Girlfriend Experience, I feel like Soderbergh achieved exactly the goal that was in his mind, so I can't help but be tempted to praise his latest generously.

Over the course of a chronologically fucked-up 3 days in the life of a high-class call girl named Chelsea (Sasha Grey), we will get a glimpse of the overall tense social climate generated by the shaky economy and the anxiety of the upcoming 2008 Fall elections. During casual and broken-down conversations between unprofessional actors, Soderbergh manages to capture something vital about how the U.S citizens feared and anticipated their close future back then. Though very much staged, the conversations Chelsea or her personal trainer boyfriend Chris have with one another or clients of their own feel disturbingly authentic. Those exchanges speak directly about the security that money can bring-- or insecurity, if it were to dry up. And by having his two central characters have jobs that commodify the human body, Soderbergh seems to be asking us to think about the place that we organic human beings take among all that fabricated/digital value.

The casting of real-life porn star Sasha Grey as the central role-- a somewhat worried, thoroughly efficient job-wise and totally shallow persona-- brings exactly the intended aura of disinterest and manufactured sex-appeal the part deserves. Grey is not required to act but only to talk, and by stripping Chelsea of most of her humanity, the film becomes an intensely intellectual experience, even when it covers the emotionally lacking life of an upper-class NYC call girl.

With almost only glossy HD interiors and performers that border on the unreadable, the film might be a tough watch for those that view films to identify with those onscreen and like to feel what they feel. The film's brief 77-minute running time is a relief, for The Girlfriend Experience sits almost exactly on the line that separates a 'movie' from just an 'experiment'. In that sense, Soderbergh's latest ends its track run with a 'winner' ribbon, though I'm not sure everyone out there would be willing to watch this one unfold.

I Know Who Killed Me

No, you are not hallucinating those three stars.

I raise my hand and defend I Know Who Killed Me; this film is not nearly as awful as everyone has made it to be, mostly for the simple reason that it is a commendably passionate experiment and NOT some lame studio cash-in. Its numerous creative missteps come across as fascinating rather than cheap-- and with material this... eh, weird, and I would never trade those flaws for workmanlike efficiency. I reckon this is director Chris Sivertson's first mainstream motion picture, and as a film student myself, I can acknowledge his imaginative approach to the project is anything but machine-pressed hackwork.

In short, I Know Who Killed Me is an increasingly bizarre thriller-- what starts out as some conventional serial killer whodunit eventually blossoms into a vaguely supernatural psycho-shocker. Very character-driven, Jeffrey Hammond's approach to the 'big mystery' is stunningly uncommon : instead of piling up clues and possible resolutions, we are left to watch how Aubrey/Dakota lives past her torturous abduction for a good deal of time. It's not very rewarding (in terms of pacing and 'conventional' enjoyment, if you will) to watch our heroine learning to live with her electronic limbs and a bunch of strangers that claim they are her family, but it's as darkly humourous as it is disturbing. Hammond's portrayal of two drastically opposed young girls is fascinating-- they are fleshed out enough to be credible, and the collision of their worlds is either strangely compelling or comically awkward. Things don't hold together quite coherently as time passes-- needless to say, the film is very badly stitched together and mostly fails as a pop thriller-- but a quick look at the (originally planned) Alternate Ending on the DVD makes it clear that without this studio-driven amputation (pun intended), the result isn't as incoherent.

As for Chris Sivertson's directorial approach, it is also one of the strong points of the film, if not the strongest. As pointed out by everyone who has seen I Know Who Killed Me, the red & blue symbolism is monstrously overdone. But you know what? To me, that's exactly what's so curious and excessive and loopy and awesome about all of it. It brings me to asking myself if viewers even question themselves on what effect was intended and what it brings to the story-- I believe it was intended to drown the audience in a simplistic but unquestionably effective color scheme. Even cooler : Sivertson knowns how to stage menacing, nasty atmospheres, and the imagery is also quite inspired-- combined with the moments of genuine camerawork, it often results in truly beautiful scenes, like the one where blue petals float into a bedroom mirror, past an owl, and down to a tranquil wooded stream. The strip-club scenes also shine by their lighting compositions and somber progression. The use of split-screen during the last third is also memorable, and even the requisite climactic bloodbath is stylishly delivered. Accompanied by a stormy, soulful score by Joel McNeely that is more noticeable in the final segments, the sound design is also a major plus.

Being the focus of nearly every scene, it's clearly Lohan's show all along, and despite the two or three awkward, mechanical lines she misdelivers, I was more than pleased with the fierce devotion in her portrayal of Aubrey/Dakota. I've never really been a fan of hers, but drunken girl antics aside, I believe she plays her part(s) with both energy and surprising detachment instead of emoting all over the place. It's by no means a triumphant performance, but if she tried showing us range; she succeeded, and without ever boosting the intensity one notch too high or too low. The supporting cast, excluding Julia Ormond, less so. They are one-dimensional and somewhat wooden, and what comes out of their mouths often feels forced, especially with those blaringly incompetent FBI agents. On a negative note, the police hits levels of stupidity I've rarely seen in films lately. Bad.

Still... oh, sweet baby Jesus in a crackpipe, how I wished people would stop approaching this film so fucking subjectively. It's saddening.

Of course, any way you look at it, the result is clearly uneven. It's undeniable. In-between all that batshit-crazy oddness, I Know Who Killed Me struggles to be watchable by mainstream audiences, and of course, it fails... but this failure is all the more delightful in my opinion. For me, this one is still a sometimes successful, sometimes absurd but mostly remarkable attempt at piecing together an artistic thriller that refuses to play it safe. I cannot possibly follow the trend of bashing it just for the sake of hammering yet another nail in Lohan's floundering film career. That being said, I look forward to Sivertson's next project with reasonable expectations, and I hope that eventually people will eventually recognize that high-profile shit like 2007's Norbit and Rush Hour 3 really are the modern plague of American cinema. Not this.

Peace out.

Vacancy 2: The First Cut

Remember the 2007 spring chiller Vacancy? Yes-- that one with Luke Wilson and Kate Beckinsale. You don't? Oh, it's pretty okay, since no one really remembers it anyway. Not that a whole lot of people saw it : grossing just under 20M$ during its theatrical run (it opened just after the Virginia Tech shooting-- nobody wanted to be entertained by violent killings), it garnered better-than-average reviews but the public's enthusiasm was mixed at best. It was, all in all, a surprisingly competent but empty-headed suspenser; the kind of mediocrity that delivers on drowsy cable-watching nights but wouldn't make most viewers truly satisfied had they paid for it, let alone put their ass in a theater seat in front of it. I think that those that have seen it can agree on that : as creepy as it was, Vacancy was just so damn thin, down the line. Anyway, it looks like somebody thought it would be a pretty neat idea to cap that flick with a prequel.


Okay, I can admit the grisly, ambiguous but definitely eerie setup of Nimrod Antal's film is the kind of stuff that, if handled well, can be fleshed out a bit without losing its mystery. And since the straight-to-video market in the horror/thriller genre obtained a reasonable boost lately, there would be no risk of producing a new low-budget entry in the series. But seriously... a prequel to Vacancy? And now, enter I, young cinephile : me played Vacancy 2 thinking it'd be just another run-of-the-mill STV cash-grab... well, color me surprised. Vacancy 2 : The First Cut is actually pretty decent, and for all of its nonsense and near pointlessness... I actually found it slightly superior to the original.

So, what is it that works unusually well here? Well, for starters, it has to be because this setup is EXACTLY the kind of premise that does wonders on a small scale film. With no big marquee names, a reliance on hand-held cameras, murky cinematography and completely anonymous sets, Vacancy 2 rings true almost from start to finish. It doesn't look 'cheap'; it looks exactly like a real life story in that setting would appear. It's not so much about ''horror'' as much as it is about ''suspense'' : even if the script sets up many opportunities for them, the big ''boo!'' shocks are very rare, indeed-- the tension, though, is this close to being uninterrupted. We are given all the pieces necessary to know just enough about what's happening and almost enough to predict what's next-- but not quite. This distinct unpredictability and cleverness in the way important details are shown to us render the film experience thoroughly gripping, and it's something I can say a direct-to-video sequel never achieved for me.

Even better : the characters, while not particularly interesting or well-developped, behave like intelligent and ressourceful people (...FOR ONCE!). It is exciting to watch them try to survive, because a great majority of their actions & reaction are actually convincing. It also helps that the dialogue isn't crap at all and that the performers are uniformly good, but the REAL surprise here is that Vacancy 2 gives almost equal coverage to the victims and their persecuters-- something that I've been waiting for in the genre for a long, long time. Regarding the villains, let me say that director Eric Bross takes full advantage of all the B-movie cliches he can foreshadow, only to dodge them in sometimes weird, sometimes forceful upturns. And for a film that concentrates on the victims' immense torment and panic, you would consequently expect a real bloodbath, right? Well, not here. Vacancy 2 is violent and dangerous, but not gory and graphic. That's refreshing in an era known for its endless string of silly though hard-to-watch torture pornos.

Of course, it's not devoid of all the flaws you could normally stick on productions like this one. It is fairly hollow and routine in its broadest sketches. To some, it could only come across as tasteless exploitation, and the horrifying twists the story pins on us could appear more needlessly cruel than diverting. Even if it handles all the 'prequelling material' quite skillfully, there are elements that don't add up with its predecessor, let alone with its screenplay's first act. Also, despite its unnerving climax, it ends on a finale that really, really makes fuck-all sense.

But you know what? As far as cat-and-mouse games go, I can say I haven't seen one done with that many good elements since last year's The Strangers. It's not a particularly good movie, but it is a successful pulse-pounder, and for that, I can say Vacancy 2 truly caught me off guard. I kept waiting for the moment where something would really suck, and that moment did come, but it was very, very late in the game. Late enough so that I can call it a worthy rental for genre fans and those that enjoy a good fright alike.

Jack Frost
Jack Frost(1996)

Monstrously written, shot and cut together, this absolute detritus tries to obtain both the spooky horror and ha-ha B-movie feel. Needless to say, it is an outright failure at both genres. The whole thing ends up as an ugly-as-hell stockpile of outrageously terrible ideas, such as placing snowmen props and decorations in every fuckin' shot or having the requisite horny barbie doll get raped by a carrot. The god-awful music, mostly thundering guitar solos whenever someone bites it, almost steals the show on its own. Most actors are also embarassing, but in a fun way.

For a 90 minutes of pure mockery and slackjawed horror (''oh no, they fucking DIDN'T''), Jack Frost is mostly worthless because the dialogues and situations are just so damn boring. But there are occasional bits of hilarity here and there (most of which you can find on YouTube), so if you want to be able to brag to your friends about having seen that 1996 Killer Snowman pictures... I won't stop you.

Here's a nice closet skeleton, too : Shannon Elizabeth is the one who gets the deadly carrot between her legs. That's cute to have on a resume, no?

...and, wait... who the hell funded this, anyway?!


Los Angeles is a world the movies love to visit. Whether it be the glamourous, smokin' rich fantasy landscapes or the grim latino neighborhoods, it's safe to say the city of angels itself has inspired hundreds and hundreds of filmmakers to place their cameras in whatever part of town textures their story the best. In Havoc, director Barbara Kopple goes back and forth between the two aforementionned microclimates with mostly successful results... but in the end, it's not her directorial hand you'll be remembering, but the very good performances she is able to draw from Bijou Phillips, Freddy Rodriguez and especially Anne Hathaway. It's not a bad thing per se, having a couple of splendid performers overshadow your actual film, but one wishes this Thirteen-like downwards spiral made good use of all the unexpected star turns in its hands instead of merely going through the motions behind them. Kopple can stage interminable streaks of authentic establishing shots all she wants, I still won't be willing to slap everything that's happening with a 'credible' label.

You see, Havoc is mostly satisfied in telling ''rich'n'bored white girls flee their comfortable suburbs to get a taste of all the dangerous downtown experience they can get''. It's not a foolish statement (and sadly, heaven knows it's all true), but it seems like this gritty plunge into these insecure though reckless lives isn't bothered to go very deep. Perhaps it's because of the short 86-minute running time (which nevertheless feels like 110), but I was personally dissapointed to see that the only character motives Stephen Gaghan's screenplay provides is something along the lines of ''girl has distant parents, etc''. And by making some key roles speak out loud about what they are & how they feel & why they act this way and yada yada yada, Gaghan ends up speaking about his characters much more than speaking through them. The situations seem real, but the suffering is artificial. Throughout the film, I felt more emotionally disconnected from what was going on than not, and just like Matt O'Leary's filmmaker character and his weird docu-drama subplot, I absorbed nearly everything on an intellectual level. For a film meant to make us connect with the ones in who chose that dangerous lifestyle, it is mostly a failure in approach.

If there are (and more than just occasionally) electrical sparks flying from the screen during Havoc, it must to be because of some of the performers are resolutely in ass-kicking mode. We all know by now that Anne Hathaway can be one hell of an actress when she's not trapped in a lightweight piece of Hollywood crap (that's thanks to Jonathan Demme's spellbinding Rachel Getting Married), but I truly think that confused but clever Allison Lang was her first great role back in 2005. If I didn't quite buy her at first, it's because she suggests just the right amount of insecurity under her tough-girl allure and just the right amount of rebellion under those wondrous chesnut eyes. It's not a coincidence that they sparkle a whole damn lot in Havoc, especially in the scenes she shares with the threatening (though unequestionably intriguing) role that Freddy Rodriguez embodies so well. Also, with less screentime but just as much striking scenes as her co-star, Bijou Phillips' perfect line delivery and body language was almost enough to drive me to tears. The supporting performers, though, don't fare quite as well. It might be because they, too, sport a cooler-than-thou wigger aura, but even the reliably terrific Joseph Gordon-Levitt is mostly unconvincing here. And that's to say nothing of Mike Vogel's so-so take on the deeply irritating white-gangsta-from-hell part.

But I am willing to forgive a lot of Havoc's flaws for its uncompromising vision of a universe films rarely visit with this little bullshit. It's a raw, tense, erotic and at times arresting behavioral observation, and if the delivery is downright phony at times, you can put your eyes on three magnetic and sincere performances if you weren't already doing so. Despite a rocky start and a rather abrupt conclusion, Havoc has a solid 40 minutes that knock it out of the park, almost entirely validating its existence.

You might wanna see it.

The Grudge 3
The Grudge 3(2009)

Anyone walking through their local video store's new releases section can acknowledge this : throughout the last decade, straight-to-video sequels have been given an unusual boost by motion picture studios. The silver screen is not a necessary transition for films to adopt if they want to see profit. Those lesser continuations seem to be greenlit by the dozen each year. If you still wonder why, though, then maybe you don't understand an important part of the fundamental dynamics in the movie industry : if they want more, just give them more. ''But what if nobody really liked the predecessor?'', I can hear you ask. Well, that's another story, entirely...

There's something else that's unusual, but this time it's on a more personal level. I realize I am very probably alone among the ones of my kind, but there you go : I sort of liked Takashi Shimizu's 2004 remake of The Grudge (yes, that one with Sarah Michelle Gellar), as well as its 2006 sequel (yes, the one with Sarah Michelle Gellar in it for 5 minutes). They sure as hell are not objectively 'good' pieces of cinema, nor are they deliciously enjoyable thrill rides-- everyone who has seen either of them can attest there is a deadening, drawn-out mystique separating those creepy set-pieces that prevent them from being just breezy ghostly fun. Say what you want about them, but they are undeniably more patient and less shrill than a whole damn lot of other modern poltergeist tales...

...alright, alright. That doesn't make them any more worthwhile, I know. But hey, can't I draw some noteworthy observations out of those viewings of mine?

If the idea of making another quick buck on the americanized The Grudge franchise is not surprising in the least and frankly quite desperate, the very same can be said about this second sequel as a whole. It's not like anybody was expecting something actually good or any more than just decent-- but to my surprise, Toby Wilkins' The Grudge 3 sometimes gives the illusion of being just decent, and therefore, the whole thing really makes you think about how much theatrically unreleased blockbuster cinema has evolved. For, yes, this new grudge episode is surprisingly not all about cheap, effortless scares. It's by far the most talky of the series (and, consequently, the most boring) and it seems to want to push the Big Bad Evil Curse Mythology in a forward direction instead of only exploiting its best tricks.

Naturally, every new plot point is either an idiotic step in the wrong direction or just a really, really convoluted idea. But you can tell director Toby Wilkins and his crew are not idiots, as they are very mindful of the way the previous installment were constructed, scored and shot. Amazingly, even if The Grudge 3 is crafted out of a significantly smaller budget than the first two, it could almost pass for a planned theatrical release. Oh, sure, it's nothing above competent & professional & serviceable, but it 'works'-- not in the sense that you actually buy what's going onscreen, for you do not. Not in the sense that it's an effective freak-out of a movie, for it is certainly not. But it sure looks and feels like any other one of those run-of-the-mill spookfests that come out a few times each season and gross 30 M$ plus each...!

Now, don't get me wrong, there is absolutely nothing remotely inventive or striking in this dull reheated platter. The 'gotcha!' moments only elicit reactions such as 'which one of those scenes is the less unscary?'. There are little bits of R-rated gore scattered here and there, and as close as they get to being something actually arresting, they feel like they belong in other horror universe entirely. It's also really hard to not laugh a little bit at how diminished the 'jerky long-haired woman' effect ends up after fifteen damn times-- in fact, the whole imagery that scared so many viewers in The Grudge borders close to the laughable here. Worse even, the disturbingly robotic dialogue easily sits among the laziest line-writing I can recall in a very long while, gracing us with endless variations on (actual quote) : ''Listen, things are happening and I think we should leave'' for 90 minutes. And that's to say nothing of all that rotten acting on display, with Matthew Knight and Shawnee Smith in brief roles as the only ones that actually look scared, and the rest of the cast failing miserably around them.

But no matter how just flat-out lame everything is in here, I didn't finish The Grudge 3 irritated or dissapointed (anybody who believed something great could have been harvested out of this project should have gotten a head check more than a while ago). Hear me, readers; there is nothing really insulting in The Grudge 3, except perhaps the spectres of two very superior films looming over all of its scenes, from the crappy ''let's show you flashes of the whole story again!'' exposition to the flatlining character exchanges to the would-be frightening moments.

Also : not enough ghostly woman croaking.

The Reader
The Reader(2008)

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you... The Reader : An extremely polished, unmistakably well-acted and sometimes even poignant two-hour WWII-themed drama.

Ladies and gentlemen, I now give you... The Reader : an incredibly useless big-screen adaptation of Bernard Schlink's best-seller-- a shameless Year End Prestige Weeper that barely works the themes from a beloved work of fiction, hoping everything will stick. Its true ambition? Clearly not making a point about the incomprehension of some human beings regarding evil, nor about the ambiguities of living with illiteracy. It first and foremost wants a feast of golden statues, tricking us into believing it is a sincere and heartfelt piece of work, when in fact, it's merely a glossy reheating of topics that have already been examined in way better projects.

Is there anything more infuriating than such a laboriously manipulative drama? Of course there is, but in that regard, it is hard to beat. Right from frame one, with its delicately lit & framed cup of coffee followed by a tremendously white kitchen set (a repeated tick of Chris Menges and Roger Deakins' cinematographic choices for the project), we are seduced by the prim treatment of a very, very exhaustive first act-- when all told, those behind the project seem to use that act for nothing more than increasing the emotional impact the second one has. The relationship Hanna and Michael develop is given a healthy amount of screentime, but it progresses competently at best, and mechanically at worst. Who is really Michael? Who is really Hanna? And most importantly, who *are* they once they are together? Director Stephen Daldry might stage sensual love scenes all he want, he never comes close to exploring who these two enigmatic figures truly become during those moments. They should provide the backbone to the entire film, not serve as an appetizer for all the holocaustastic drama that will eventually happen.

Once the major plot point is given, though, things go from run-of-the-mill to downright clunky. The supporting characters, notably Michael's seminar colleagues and his teacher, are only there to serve half-assed statements that (willingly) contradict each other. I suppose all that is intended to count as material that should provoke discussion, but it only comes across as forced, and dull, and artificial, and lessened, and... fuck, you name it. It's robotic; it barely skims the German mentality from the 40s. And from here, it's back and forth to the courtroom for more shit-stirring on questions such as ''are people who do immoral things therefore completely immoral?''. In the book, I suppose Hanna's trial was the story's most breathtaking moment. In the film adaptation, it is the most prosaic.

Still, whatever sparks of humanity there lies in The Reader are (of course!) mostly due to the ever-fantastic Kate Winslet. Even though it is not even close to the best role she has ever played, she might be the only one in the film who inhabits a character from top to bottom. Her body language, accent, stares-- EVERYTHING reminds us why she is one of the strongest actresses in the film industry today. Even with prosthetics, she manages to transmit an inconsolable hollowness that goes far beyond the first-level pouting her co-lead David Kross offers. He is not a bad actor, mind you, but paired the great Winslet, he redefines the expression 'paling in comparison'. Ralph Fiennes is given nothing interesting to do with his role, and thus, he does nothing interesting with it.

However, Lena Olin's cool severity illuminates one of the final scenes, giving the film a slight upwards push towards its end. Also a little bit before the credits start rolling, the only scene Fiennes shares with Winslet is somewhat phenomenal. Those are probably the only two moments in the entire film where I felt something emerging from under the oh-so-pretty packaging, and then truly seize me. Along with a very few other shots in the first part, Daldry shows a remarkable stylistic restraint, avoiding the use of Nico Muhly's adequate but unexceptional Philip Glass-y score, and finally using closeups to great effect. And while we're at it, another high point : except for a few abrupt cuts, the pace flows nicely for a two-hour film. For all its inconsistencies, it still does not drag that much.

By the time it finished, I found myself confronted to a reality I had seriously tried to blind myself from : The Reader is indeed the Oscar-baiting misfire everyone has made it to be. I know I cannot feel truly disgusted by a film that is so competent in execution, but I do know that I can feel truly dispirited by a film so phony in purpose. It's a bit of a shame everyone will see this because it brought Winslet her well-deserved golden statue, but hey, you can't stop viewers from lapping up gloomy intellectual arthouse claptrap. The real good films of the year aren't given as much coverage, but once you find them, you'll know why it's possible to hate teh oscarzz so much.


It's been said enough already, but frankly, I don't give a shit. I will say it again : despite its modest success, Doubt is the perfect example of why some plays don't translate well into cinematic form. Simple as that.

As much as I would like to defend John Patrick Shanley's approach to his own stage play (which I have indeed seen), his second feature film carries, alas, only a diluted part of the message his original work had. I am going to try to keep this review as spoiler-free as possible, but it's hard to discuss the themes that are brought without covering at least a tiny bit of what is brought on the table here.

Essentially, in Doubt, the word 'doubt' itself is almost used as a punchline. If Father Flynn's speeches and the verbal face-offs had an impact on stage, it is much less subtle here, not to mention not very cinematic. Now, Sister Aloysius (Meryl Streep), a tyrant of a nun-harpy, represents the refusal of progress and change, both in the church and the world, and her strength is essentially the firm conviction she holds concerning the dark nature of someone else's acts, in this case the ones of Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman). But the final scene tells us otherwise-- even if we are left in the dark as to what the man did or did not do, Sister Aloysius doubts on the rightfulness of her position, and the denunciation that results from it. Sure, it is a solid enough final punch as those last words resonate and the stage lights go out, but here... hmmmm, less so. For a film that hammers us on the head with the message that, in short, nothing is black and white (a statement reinforced by the presence of Sister James, played by Amy Adams), telling it one more time, but through a character we believe was ideologically grounded, is a rather tame conclusion onscreen. That, the rising overview ending crane shot, and a surprisingly off-key delivery by Streep, contribute to what I call Grand Finale Wrecking 101. It feels like too much, and oddly not enough.

Look at me! Discussing what's wrong with the last bits of a film, when there is plenty to cover before : as much as the themes explored throughout are interesting, I found myself frequently wanting the discussions to be pushed further, in particular during the (still) magnificent scene that opposes Meryl Streep and Viola Davis. It's a touchy thing, this whole ''wanting more'' business-- I liked what was presented, but it felt incomplete... so, is it accomplished nonetheless? I don't really think so. This spellbinding scene aside, I'm sure I'm not the only one who felt a lack of urgency during the middle third.

Shanley's directing is also a mixed bag : there is the issue of unexplainably tilted camera angles, weird-ass framings and a considerable amount of overly symbolic shots (...and the WIND BLOWS!), but also moments of noble restraint, or unforced great significance (the few dinners among nuns and priests all blew me away). When he's not staging one of the Crucially Important Verbal Duels, Shanley is actually more than just a decent director. In that regard, the first act establishes tremendously well the dour climate of a 1964 Catholic School-- hell, it could even be the best thing about the movie, according to me.

Yes, those 30-something minutes might be just as good as the already much-discussed performances. Of course, all of them are good-- Adams is fine, Streep is impeccable as always, and so is Seymour Hoffman-- but none of them strike as extremely truthful or inspired, even if they are miles away from phony. In short, apart from Davis' sharp and scene-stealing turn as the presumably molested boy's mother, the 'big' moments feel very actorly. I wouldn't feel that cool with them winning fuckloads of golden statues, to be honest, especially in a year crowded with roles infinitely more humane. But the stellar cast is indeed a good reason to not dismiss this film.

So, what do we have, in the end? I hesitate to call Doubt an ''actor's film'', because despite the performances' high quality, none of them are truly mind-blowing apart from Davis'. Doubt is, down the line, a filmed stage play that features almost everything that could go wrong with this type of movie-- relevant but static, powerful but unsubtle, impressive but fabricated.

The TV Set
The TV Set(2007)

Equal parts funny and alarming, Jake Kasdan's The TV Set hits all the right bases with its one-two punch of merciless writing and across-the-board terrific acting. It's actually much more than just a sharp satire of the dynamics of a television network-- it's a story about the everlasting tug o' war between art and commerce, and it speaks about the poor ones lost in-between that try to keep their integrity intact but still have to put food on their tables.

At only 87 minutes, Kasdan is still able to develop surprisingly well a good number of his characters while moving things forward at a good pace. His stage direction feels spontaneous but is nevertheless full of well-executed crowd scenes (his finale is a definite winner), and he is able to obtain the most exquisite reaction shots possible. It's notable that the cast he has to work with is extremely gifted (the Duchovny-Weaver-Gruffud central triangle is simply perfect, and the supporting performers do them justice), but it's been quite a while since I saw a director framing his players with the right amount of confidence and communicated apprehension. Plus, the dialogue is just so damn great, and it feels so true coming out of these actor's mouths.

Not that The TV Set is gifted with a particularly articulate cinematic language, nor that it avoids all shortcuts a subject like this one might present. But it's full of jokes that range from ha-ha funny to WOW ARE YOU SERIOUS, and it's short enough that you actually feel you might have taken thirty more minutes once it's done. It's a shame this Judd Apatow-produced picture got overlooked during its theatrical release (maybe it was positioned as some potential Oscar grabber and didn't land properly?), but I'll take this very, very good project over most of the boring awards bait films around any day.

The Exorcism of Emily Rose

Manages to be alternately compelling and frightening while stumbling only rarely along the way. By opposing faith and science in its gradual stripping of the layers of the horrifying titular case, The Exorcism of Emily Rose achieves a refreshing objectivity most serious horror movies distinctly lack. It's unquestionably a film written and directed with little artifice, saving the best for its gripping horror scenes, but something in its delivery feels unusually mature.

Maybe it's the uniformly great cast, starting with Laura Linney and Tom Wilkinson as the leads. Both of them work with thinner characters than they've been blessed with before, but they manage to convince, and in some occurences even impress. But the showstopper is obviously Jennifer Carpenter, at once heartbreaking and then disturbing in a physically demanding role. She is the heart of the film, and surely what will get most viewers talking after the credits.

I think there is more than enough good stuff in The Exorcism of Emily Rose to consider it a solid keeper in its subgenre. That's not to say it is without its silly moments or its slow, nothing-happens-here dead patches, but the intelligence with which it's crafted and the effectiveness of those creepy flashbacks makes the lesser parts well worth enduring.


Loud, stupid and motion-sickness inducing, Wanted is essentially 110 minutes of stylized heavy metal nonsense. But something redeems it from being 'just another action movie' : the people who worked on it all seem to know they have steaming hot garbage on their hands, and therefore fully grasp the potential of their material by not trying to put anything in there that makes a lick of a sense to 'balance things up'. Granted, it gets more and more serious as it goes along and loses some steam long before it ends its track run. But when it works, it works. If anybody can say anything about a certain subtext on the cost of learning personal freedom, it's mostly because of James McAvoy's very engaging performance. He brings commendable depth to a character that might just have been a Neo clone on Loser Mode, and his Wesley Gibson pretty much the only thing that holds Wanted together as whole.

Truth is, there is pretty much at least ONE moment in every shoot'em up thriller that tries to imitate 'good cinema'-- but not in Wanted. Everything follows the story's twisted tone & logic, and plays by its rules-- even if it does get sucked up its own ass a little, it never apologizes to the audience. And, frankly, had it been directed by Rob Cohen, it clearly would have been really fucking flat-- which is not the case here. The visual work is flamboyant and eye-popping, and, well, it has balls. The violence erupts; it's not nasty for the sake of being nasty, it's the kind of bullet bash that lifts a whole audience and doesn't let go for nearly two hours.

I can see why some people are allergic to this kind of film. It's perfectly understandable-- but why turn away such a great deal of fun when it's crafted by hands that have respectable, if very lucrative intentions? Wanted is not one for the ages, but hell, I enjoyed it, and that's that.

A Tale of Two Sisters

The mix of poetry and pure terror renders the long buildup of this nightmare seriously effective. The gloomy but soulful photography largely contributes to a tense mood that culminates into a poignant twist two thirds of the way. Its script falters in part, and you could trim away a good ten minutes, but whatever screenplay issues you might find in A Tale of Two Sisters are compensated by very sincere and all-around great acting.

That, and at least three moments of near-agonizing creepiness, push me into seriously recommending it to you, especially in you are a fan of the genre. As a story about children's difficulty in letting new people take part of the family after a traumatic separation, it's very affecting. As a horror film, it more than gets the job done. Kim Jee-Woon's mise en scene is inventive and surprisingly competent at wringing good scares out of material that could pass as pure melodrama on paper.

Darker, more ambiguous and far more sustained in terms of chills than its just decent U.S. remake, A Tale of Two Sisters is definitely worthy of your time.

A Cinderella Story

If Tina Fey's Mean Girls proved anything, it's that teen chick flicks can provide some bite, character insight and smarts without losing their guilty pleasures. With outstanding projects like that one being made today, there is no excuse for tarty garbage like A Cinderella Story. I actually think it had been a couple of years since one of those films turned out so insultingly bad... but there you have it : if this lazy, cash-hungry idiocy is an embarassment to me, I can't believe how sorry fucking Hilary Duff might feel in a couple of years. Unless, that is, if she still does trash like this.

Drag Me to Hell

Yes, fellas, you better believe the hype. Drag Me to Hell is a balls-out crazy blend of gothic horror scares and impeccably timed genre humor. Raimi's fierce but assured directing is in perfect unison with Christopher Young's energetic and spooky score, and that's to say nothing of the delicious, ridiculous and sometimes just plain cruel punches the script pulls on out along the way. Even the ones asking for a little more substance might find themselves amused by its near-subliminal take on hardboiled capitalism and a surprisingly deft character study.

Lohman handles the bait-and-switch game of our sympathy towards her Christine Brown with remarkable skill, and Justin Long is simply perfect as her skeptical no-nonsense boyfriend. Also just as good is Lorna Raver as the disgusting Mrs. Ganush in a menacing & shockingly physical performance; her ghoulish appearances (especially in that goddamn parking scene!) are among the film's brightest spots. The energy the cast brings is enough to patch up a few weaknesses in the screenplay; they are unquestionably part of one of the most thrilling and diverting genre offerings in the past few years.

Seeing the extreme contrast between this and 2009's dour and uninspired offerings up to now (mostly boring ghost stories and bloody remakes), perhaps we might conclude the best way to approach terror by now is with a smile on our faces. I cannot think Raimi enough for his integrity, and I salute his still untouched devilish playfulness. Drag Me to Hell is full of heart, and for succeeding in making mine beat really, REALLY faster, I can only call it one of my favorite films of the year so far.

My full review in french at :

The Evil Dead

One creepy funhouse of a movie. I feel somewhat guilty for not having discovered Raimi's breakout screamfest earlier, but now that I've seen it, I can absolutely see what made Evil Dead so damn irresistible for genre fans back in 1982.

It is not about writing an elaborate and concise script. It is not about sketching very engaging characters. It is not about telling a revolutionary horror story.

Evil Dead is all about scaring the hell out of you-- it's also about making you have a good time. The reason why Raimi's increasingly grotesque and heart-stopping freak show works so well is because, when it was made, everyone here was working on the same page, from Tom Sullivan's lovingly putrid make-up effects to Joseph DoLuca's eerie yet shrill musical score to Campbell's winky performance to Raimi's methodical and frightening mise en scene. There is a distinct unity to the proceedings that renders what might just have been a navel-gazing, splattery possession thriller into something, strangely, that's full of heart.

It is not exceptional cinema, but it IS an exceptionally fun genre film, and that's all it needed to be remembered. That, and a scene where a girl is raped by a tree. Thank you, guys. Thanks, Sam.

Smiley Face
Smiley Face(2007)

A stoner comedy by the director of Mysterious Skin starring Anna Faris. Is that enough to creep you out?

Well, I'll be damned. It turns out this experiment is worthy of all the talent behind it. Either way... non-smokers better steer past, because this delirious, almost surreal romp through California might very well just be a treat to those who do know what it feels like to have to deal with a hundred things at once while you're stoned out of your mind. Things get predictably very, very messy, and the narrative sometimes feels too fabricated, but the woozy visuals and dreamlike soundtrack coat with impeccable flair what might just have been another stoner comedy with just one chick in the lead.

That, and the bizarre recurring topic of socialism played almost subliminally up until it the film's climax... that would already be enough to make it a decent effort in its genre. But like almost all the projects Anna Faris is affiliated with, Smiley Face hugely benefits from the pitch-perfect performance the actress delivers. I'm happy to report that she knocks it out of the park again here, offering strange, hilarious and oh-so-true variations on an altered state like no other lead in a stoner film I've seen before. Her third-act monologue(s), backed by a saucy script gimmick, is as funny as anything I've seen on film in a whole year. Add to that plenty of other comic talents like Jane Lynch, Danny Masterson and John Krasinski offering equally memorable appearances... and you just know you've got the stuff of a cult classic in your hands.

Consequently, this pairing of a shockingly sensitive and surely impressionistic director with a brilliant funnywoman is largely able to overcome the screenplay's facilities. If all weed comedies were made with this much heart and polished with so many neat post-prod tricks, perhaps what they call 'pothead cinema' wouldn't have such a bad rep.

Away We Go
Away We Go(2009)

(*I have some homework for you.)

Alright, so now that you've read the bottom of this review and the obvious pedigree of this project is fresh on everyone's mind... it's a little bit easier to approach Mendes' Away We Go. It took me quite a while before I could figure how much I liked it-- I almost have as many arguments sitting on each side of that issue. For starters.. I came out of the movie feeling quite well, which is nine times out of ten a good sign of cinematic efficiency. A few hours later, though, when I was telling someone I know about the picture I had just seen, its flaws seemed much more apparent. I concluded it wasn't really a great project... but then, inexplicably, I ended up bobbing back on the positive side as I started writing this review, and I do think this is my final word. I think.

So much dillydallying for a film that seems so simple and sweet, eh? That's the magic of Sam Mendes, folks.

Let's start with the good, for there is plenty to cover here. It is undeniably a very human & refreshingly unambitious story that is more interested in sketching out real characters and observing their reactions than in providing a standard narratives and ha-has. For a film that speaks about the insecurities of a couple past their thirties and with a baby on the way, it achieves a rare intimacy that only an experienced director is able to craft. Mendes' camera is resolutely sober but also adequately compassionate; this dialogue-driven tale begs for more well-timed reaction shots than elaborate comedic-slash-dramatic setpieces, and that's exactly the treatment it gets. The episodic structure works well in favor of the final product, as road movies often happen to stretch out uncomfortably. It isn't the case here : the elliptic cuts remain clear and the running time is brisk. It is also a joy to watch Burt and Verona (in their loveably observational stance) hop from one tableau to another, as the situations they come across reveal themselves to be iconic of the little worlds the couple realizes they don't want to be part of.

Most importantly : it provides a fantastic opportunity to bring together two superb comedic performers operating on an impressively naturalistic mode. The chemistry between Maya Rudolph and John Krasinski is so authentic and believable that it doesn't matter if we do not know that much about the characters. Their line readings and stares point towards a humanity that some screenwriters can't even bring up in a thousand words. The love they feel for each other is onscreen for just about as much as any of the supporting performers, and both keep their simplicity while bringing subtle nuances to roles that easily might have been Mr. and Mrs. Expecting, in their broadest stretches. As of now, we surely have here two of the best performances of the year.

It might be because both are so damn good that the film around them tends to pale in comparison. Penned by real-life couple Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida, the script provides a healthy amount of sociological observations while raising serious question about the nature of happiness. Unfortunately, most of these thoughts are wrapped up well before the story ends, and therefore, the third act feels a bit limp. I might have overlooked this flaw if the rest of the screenplay had found the right dramatic focus, but it is sadly not the case. Numerous talented actors like Allison Janney, Jeff Daniels or Maggie Gyllenhaal bring their vitality to characters that border on the cartoonish, and their encounters with Burt and Verona, while unexpected and off-the-wall, gob up too much running time in the story for the thin conclusion they bring. Sure, the film feels alive, but it also feels padded once you look back at how much it tells down the line. And when Mendes tries to go for the awkward laugh, it's mostly just awkward.

Also similarly irritating is the choice of scoring the film wall-to-wall with drowsy Alexi Murdoch folk ballads. It's dissapointing to see an established director pick hints straight out of the dreaded Indie Movie Textbook-- and to hear those maudlin guitar lines play smoothly behind a scene that would have rung much more truthfully in silence is just as unfortunate. It has exactly the effect Thomas Newman's needlessly sentimental score in Revolutionary Road had, and it makes me wonder whether Mendes trusts his audience enough to 'get' the pitch of his scenes, or if he feels he needs to highlight them all the frickin' time.

But you know what? These several missteps don't outweight everything positive that can be said about Away We Go. Yes, people, it is so lightweight that if you started to blow on it, it would surely fly away. No, it is not evidence that Mendes' ticks work better on a smaller scale. But hell, if it works, it works-- and as much as I want to dismiss this one for its overall diluted feel and borrowed sweetness, well... I look at Krasinski and Rudolph the poster and I just... can't... resist... liking... it.

(*Almost ten years ago, discovery Sam Mendes American Beauty etc. Critical praise, large audiences and awards shower on film about suburban condition and mid-life crisis, etc. American Beauty vibrant and funny, Sam Mendes last year more serious and darker take on same topics with Revolutionary Road, somewhat successful but also somewhat dissapointing, etc. Away We Go explores dynamics of modern couple and the pursuit of happiness on a lighter mode.)


There might be some shocking imagery and startling flashbacks here and there, but feardotcom is a dry, lifeless horror bore that gets sucked up its own ass about thirty minutes in. Almost everything here is deja vu, and the result is an endless flow of yawn-inducing dialogue, peppered with some intermittently affecting scares. McElhone clearly does her best not to worsen the whole deal, but it's to no avail. Her performance, like the rest of the film, is just plain... blah.


Stay is a bright, ultra-polished implosion of a psyche dressed as a thriller that does not play by the usual genre rules-- Foster's oniric approach may remind you of several other directors' influences (think heavy-handed Lynch peppered with the velvety feel of Wong Kar Wai, in feature-length music video mode), but in the end, its screenplay is enough mindfuck on its own to maintain is own identity. Satisfying performances all around (Gosling takes the top honors), luminous photography and a short running time also validate this hundred-percent captivating diversion.

That and, of course, the conversations you are likely to have with other viewers once it's over make it entirely worth it.


Let's get this off my chest. Yes, it's pure Oscar bait; a sweeping romantic tragedy set between world wars, a classily shot costume melodrama, you name it-- but it's such a breathtaking accomplishment on every aspect that you can't help but fall under the spell. But seriously, excellent score, poignant screenplay and terrific performances aside, the real star here is the cinematography : a chef-d'oeuvre so brilliant it deserves to be showered with awards again and again and again. Seamus McGarvey lenses Wright's compositions with a textured, nostalgic feel without falling into the usual 'ooh! ahh!' traps. It's something of a wonder, and while it feels very, very British, you're left to wonder when was the last time you've seen a big-scale film shot with so much passion.

McAvoy, Garai and Knightley offer strong, subtle performances, but Saoirse Ronan's astonishing portrayal of the young Briony Tallis is certainly the most memorable of all. In fact, the film embraces her psychology with such distinct care on all of her range of feelings-- jealousy, guilt, misunderstanding, sorrow-- that it goes way beyond the epic romance it is being marketed as. Atonement is a movie about the act of creation-- in writing books, essays and plays, you name it. It'll strike you hard some time after you've seen it... but its artistry is invested not into how Robbie & Cecilia's relationship develops, but into how Briony responds to the childish act that will prove to have unspeakable consequences later on. The treatment feels, exceptionally, both litterary and cinematic, and this is not something that should go unnoticed. To put it plainly, Atonement is among the strongest films of 2007.

My Little Eye

A twisted and thrashy low-budget horror tale featuring adequate performances and a good dose of absurdity, My Little Eye is, to say the least, an intriguing gimmick that almost, ALMOST ends its elaborate track run with a 'winner' ribbon.

Unfortunately, the third act here is strictly 'freaked out people kill each other' stuff, which is not nearly as satisfying as the masterful buildup promises. So, yeah, it basically sucks that it eventually turns into something that sucks, but what can I say... My Little Eye eventually overstays its welcome, and the screenplay skids off-track to the point where you won't give a damn anymore about what's happening to who during the final ten minutes. Bummer, bummer.

Goya's Ghosts

Forman has done better.

Tricking us into believing this is a film about Goya himself, he is actually more interesting in painting a portrait of the Inquisition. That would have been quite okay if the proceedings weren't as scattershot, but alas... It's no secret Goya's Ghost cruelly lacks a central character or something called a 'plot'; but those are mistakes I can get usually get over really quick. It is not the case here. The Historical events (portrayed with a big H) spin out of control as they enter and depart the story with more or less the impact they should provoke. It is more a series of sometimes arresting, sometimes melodramatic tableaux than a coherent story. The cinematography provides, however, an eye-pleasing diversion from the dull screenplay painted with surprisingly silly moments. Its 'supper scene' somehow manages to become one of the filmmaker's most cleverly constructed an-eye-for-an-eye scene, and the three leads (particularly Portman) deliver, as expected, stellar performances. But the whole thing, despite its panache, is only interesting in bits and pieces.

And I must say, it's cheap to whine about this, but... English-speaking people in Spain and France?

The Illusionist

Despite its conservative aesthetic, The Illusionist is a haunting, gorgeously painted and hypnotic piece of romanticism. Despite a rather slow pace, the movie will eventually grow and you and suck you straight into its central mystery. The conclusion is worthy of the very methodical build-up that preceeds it-- though I have to think it's partly because Philip Glass' stormy and sweeping score works unusually well here. Those allergic to period pieces should stay away, however-- Neil Burger doesn't bother breaking down the conventions of the genre, and that's fine with me. He just tells a story. I bought it from the first minute to the last.

Sewell, Biel, Norton and especially Giamatti all deliver flawless performances, even if their characters are a bit rigid. They contribute to an impressive (though hardly flawless) motion picture that doesn't do much thematically but is dazzling and excellently crafted entertainment for viewers a little more demanding than the average.

Scary Movie
Scary Movie(2000)

I don't know what to think about Scary Movie. Seriously.

It's very funny, in a turn-off-your-brain kind of way (although not totally), but it opened the door to so many lackluster spoof sequels (see-- or don't see-- the horrendous and profoundly un-cinematic Meet The Spartans, or the effortless and depressing Disaster Movie) that it deserves some blame.

But contrarily to the follow-ups, it doesn't spoof a specific film as much as the horror genre itself, so down the line, it's (gasp!) kinda smart. Also, it's defined some great cult jokes for my generation. That has to count for something.

But I never laughed at the penis jokes. I swear.

I'm Not There

Screamingly Beautiful.

I'm Not There may very well be one of the best films of our generation : flying way past the biopic film and its tired conventions, its fragmentations of Bob Dylan's "character'' eventually end up building a touching hommage to personal freedom. It might just be about anyone who has ever experienced fame, then found themselves cornered by the expectations and paradigms of their own discipline. The result, in all of its schizoid poetry, is both joyful and sad all at once; Haynes takes full advantage of the two opposites and takes time hitting every note in-between. His multiple characters and their broken-down episodes are vibrant and alive-- for an exercise that might appear so intellectual, it is rather refreshingly emotional, and this is something quite hard to achieve.

So along with the powerful spiritual message, I'm Not There builds a magnificient style of its own, halfway between spontaneous experimentation and rigid calculation; it's also chock-full of gorgeous and symbolic images. Framed with precision, scored with unusually sexy and hurtful takes on some of Dylan's best songs and masterfully edited altogether, the inspiring imagery captured on celluloid confirms Haynes' taste for peculiarity and his disinterest for the immediate.

There is also quite a spellbinding acting show going on here. Franklin is a revelation; Blanchett deserved the Oscar; Gere tastefully wraps up the film; Ledger embraces the soul of his part with all the required pathos and charm; Whishaw has little to do but manages to impress with a constant stoicity; Bale is magnificent in an ambiguous one-two punch and Gainsbourg does get to shine brightly in a project where you would expect solely variations of Dylan to do so.

It's an exhausting experience-- but what an experience. I'm Not There is guaranteed to break viewers out of their comfort zone, and if some might insist on the fact that it could have used a little trimming, I feel like I could have taken three hours of Haynes' delirious and intoxicating approach to a genre that's not exactly prone to new ideas right now.

Put this on your shortlist, folks. It's a triumph from top to bottom.

Diary of the Dead

Anyway you put it... Romero's latest is a misfire. A lost cause. A crappy movie.

I'll get straight to the point : if Diary of the Dead's (jaw-droppingly unsubtle) commentary on the public's perverse fascination with the portrayal of terror in the media (and the technology that allows us to witness it all) was at the service of a substantially better film, perhaps it wouldn't appear so tedious. But alas, the zombie mastermind's latest epidemic freak-out is rather lifeless, and it frequently pauses itself to babble & gift-wrap the preceeding scene with a 'shock' moral. This is an extremely tiresome tick that is done again and again and again, up to a point where you won't care what's happening to whom anymore. Of course, it doesn't help much that the invasion crescendo is nonexistent and extremely been-there-done-that, and also caked with ridiculously underdone character hysterics. You see, the gravity's just *not* there; no one gives a damn about their family chewing on each other or being forced to blow their boyfriend's brains out. But the cherry on top has to be the fuck-all flat performances each member of the cast deliver : I was also very surprised to be most annoyed by the 'final girl' role-- Michelle Morgan rarely lets a scene finish without smothering out all of its remaining spark with her dreadful screen presence and mechanical line delivery. But maybe it's just the character. Or not.

So, well, yeah, the narrative also sucks (the survivors drive from house to house; they encounter all kinds of characters, each and every one of them get a whopping three minutes of screentime before their throats are chewed, and OH, the film doesn't 'end', it fucking STOPS) and the gore is... kind of just 'there'. Even on a superficial level, Diary of the Dead is unable to deliver.

And as for the 'scary' factor... don't even get me started. An Inconvenient Truth was exponentially spookier.

A part of me still wants to hug Romero for pursuing with his renewing of a genre that decays by the year... but most of myself pretty much wants to slap him for putting together such a... *gasp!* BAD FILM.


Not good by any objective standard, Awake is a breezy but depressingly factory-assembled thriller that goes through the motions with drowsy efficiency until it reaches its requisite Big Twisty Reveal. I guess most viewers won't see the end coming, but since the whole damn thing is so low on fresh ideas and character development, it barely elicits more than just an 'ohh'. But the shaky finale is hardly the last of Awake's flaws : limp performances from both leads, thin characters and very few actual thrills render this helplessly shallow chiller kind of a bore. Its narrative doesn't point towards an actual reality for these characters outside the ongoing plot-- it's boxed in and entirely fabricated. And that... that's something I really hate.

I don't want to talk about this film anymore. I wish for Awake to collect dust in every videostore across the world.


A quirky, reasonably clever and colorful animated comedy that has some bite but is unfortunately too thin to really captivate. It's not insulting to children and it's not that boring for adults, but I can hardly see the start of a worthwile franchise here. Props for crafting an independant CGI flicks that is actually able to score some laughs, but not good enough to recommend to just about anybody.

My Super Ex-Girlfriend

With a totally laugh-free screenplay that not only makes no sense on its own but also makes 2005's Bewitched look clever (that should say a lot, folks), My Super Ex-Girlfriend is a complete miscalculation that puts all of its ideal cast members to waste. I expected something at least somewhat 'entertaining' (I know, I know) but the proceedings are so flavorless and dry that all interest is lost after barely 30 minutes. And who the hell cast Anna Faris in such a mercilessly flat role, anyway? My Super Ex-Girlfriend is dreadfully boring, and not even cheesy enough to laugh at. I can't think of anything even a little redeeming; there are no chuckles, just faint smiles every twenty minues. Alrights, credits for trying something different and loopy... but uneven, effortless crap anyways.

Art School Confidential

Back in 2001, the pairing of graphic novel artist Daniel Clowes and film director Terry Zwigoff resulted into one of the decade's most peculiar, offbeat and compelling cartoon adaptations into cinematic form. Ghost World scored with both the public and critics, harvesting high praise first for its singular and complete vision of teenage angst and boredom-- it even drew solid comparisons to J. D. Salinger's beloved The Catcher in the Rye. It also goes without saying that Clowe's acid-tinged dialogue and Zwigoff's very focused direction were a lot of help in making those themes resonate. But beneath the dissection of certain feelings of alienation from living in a world filled with loud & superficial jerks, Ghost World had a subtle (if entirely adjacent) subtext about the nature and function of art through a second-tier plot that followed Enid's summer art classes. I feel this is where this Zwigoff film adaptation of Clowe's Art School Confidential tries to echo certain statements that weren't really given the spotlight in Ghost World-- I also feel, frankly, that both artists thought that ''whatever we did that worked so well before, we'll do it again and it should work again''.

It doesn't work so well now.

If there are more than enough great bits and pieces scattered all across Art School Confidential to secure a relevant and somewhat successful piece of work, it's hard not to notice its several big flaws first. Unlike Ghost World, which settled mostly for stylistic homogeneity but nevertheless offered plenty of nuances, Zwigoff's latest has trouble setting the right tone for a lot of its running time. At times startling and sour, then morbid, then sweet and then incisive, the picture never quite knows what approach to take as it handles its numerous characters and their respective subjects. There is an unflattering portrait of the U.S. slowly sketched, there is a love story, there is a satire of the dynamics of art classes, there is a campus murders subplot... and none of these come across as satisfying explorations on their own. Worse even, the narrative is dangerously episodic and it does lack cohesion, something a good black comedy can't really afford.

If the screenplay as a whole does not hang together very well, there remains bright spots here and there than surely do justice to the graphic novel. Enough cruel punchlines spice up the story, and the way these 'deflated' characters that have abandoned all kinds of illusions interact often proves to be more than interesting; the dialogue alternates between sharp and flat with an enjoyable sort of detachment. Zwigoff's direction is intentionally dodgy and snide (watch the how the backgrounds play their own scenes as the ones in front are in focus), but his camera too often telegraphs plot elements that might have been better had they been left as surprises. The set design, however, is lovingly textured and full of cool touches, and as weird as it might sound, it's enough to give it all some visual depth. Always, always good for a cartoon.

Depth : something that Art School Confidential might lack in terms of character development. Max Minghella's Jerome Platz might cover an interesting arc, but I never really bought into his or several of his co-stars' reality. It's as if Zwigoff hadn't really figured if he spoke about his characters or through them. The cast cannot be blamed, though : Minghella himself is very good, slowly revealing an intriguing interiority of Platz with surprising subtlety for a newcomer. Sophia Myles is a natural as love interest Audrey, but it is a shame she is stuck to play such a cypher. Veterans Malkovich and Huston bring an interesting humanity to two largely functional 'indifferent teacher' roles, and Joel David Moore is definitely credible as the sleazy dropout friend. The only unpleasant performers here, surprisingly, are the talented Jim Broadbent and Ethan Suplee, often pushing their line-reading towards broad caricature and doing nothing to make their personas three-dimensional.

Art School Confidential is a dissapointment, that's for sure, but I feel there are enough inspired stretches, serious cackles and worthy shots on some targets (notably art dealers) to not dismiss it. But all this finger-pointing and disgruntled narrativity leaves the film more diluted and smug and anything else. I still wish for a third Clowes/Zwigoff collaboration, that's for sure, but maybe they should tone down the mockery and polish the movie underneath a bit more. Some edges are too rough.

The Graduate
The Graduate(1967)

Even more than forty years after its original theatrical release, Mike Nichols' The Graduate still remains an infectious and sharp motion picture. There's no other way to put it : mirroring an entire generation's raging fuck-you to traditional uh-merican values has rarely been this focused and subtle. Impeccably written on all levels (and lensed with admirable vivacity by Nichols), the film is doubtlessly known first or its terrific dialogue and their effect through the excellent performers, particularly during the exchanges of Dustin Hoffman's Benjamin Braddock and Anne Bancroft's Mrs. Robinson. They are both achingly human characters, and their interactions will prove to be life-changing in the former's case. Even though one might find their realism takes a back seat to the film's thematic reasoning during the final third, there's no denying they prove to be remarkably emblematic characters. Delicious and unforgettable.

Dazed and Confused

Okay... as much as I try to, I can't think of another modern film that captures the look, feel and texture of the 70s so damn well. It is at least a little weird that I start my appreciation of a movie with this statement, but for almost the entire running time of Dazed and Confused, I was amazed at how perfectly rendered the seventies set design, costumes, mood and soundtrack were. That alone makes it a triumph. Oh, yeah, and he movie that surrounds this jaw-dropping decade accuracy is also pretty damn great.

The key to the film's success is that Linklater distances himself from any kind of subjectivity or sentimentality-- two assets that can be major buzz-killers for real, smooth teen movies. We observe a 24-hour period in these kids' lives, without much trace of a narrative, and take whatever we want from it. It's funny (it really is) and sad all at once. It's really fun, and it's boring. It's compulsive, then it's repulsive. All of that is intentional. We are just witnessing teenagers, young and old, having fun and waiting for something-- anything-- to happen. That alone (and the refreshing lack of preaching) pushes the film dangerously close to a classic status-- at least in its genre.

Is it focused? Not at all. It's not too long, but it's not breezy either. It's often more interested in showing us what's going on in these character's lives than what's going on inside their heads. But that particular directorial choice, as messy as it might appear, only makes the proceedings warmer and less didactic. And with a cast of vibrant and talented young actors (many of which went on to become the superstars they are today), most of the line deliveries are told with enough panache and comic timing that they become fiery one-liners. All in all, Dazed and Confused might not be a fantastic piece of cinema, but it is definitely essential viewing for cinephiles of all ages.

Fast Food Nation

Compelling but distressingly uncinematic, Fast Food Nation mostly functions as a sleepy, modestly biting expose of everything that's wrong with our junk food industry. Like most Richard Linklater films, it's constructed with enjoyably realistic scenes of people hanging out and talking-- but all these interconnected storylines don't add up to much, down the line. It ends up feeling litterary and airless, despite the best efforts of the cast and the disturbing punches of the narrative. What is there to say? I do not recommend it, but I do not NOT recommend it. That should be enough.


Here you go. Five fucking stars.

I am a film lover. There's no way around it. Not only in the way that I, as a middle-class white young adult, particularly enjoy films-- it is very rare to find someone who doesn't, today-- but rather, in the sense that I do consider that the long-drawn relationship I have cultivated with cinema is similar to one a person could have with his or her... well, lover.

It's been an alternately passionate and exhausting experience-- it still is. But every now and then, I find myself somewhat, for a lack of a better word, bored. Now, I am thousands and thousands of miles away from being an undeniably well-experienced cinephile-- lots and lots of deliriously challenging works of art (both from the past and the future) still remain undiscovered by my eyes, and therefore, the following statements could be taken as pure pretense. Still, by now, I find it hard to be completely overwhelmed by my darling. Not that I could cut the chords with this everlasting flame of mine anytime soon, but nevertheless... I find myself a bit too comfortable with the medium itself, mostly because I feel like I've sufficiently tested its boundaries to prevent any groundbreaking surprises from sneaking up on me.

Boy, was I wrong.

Coraline is a landmark in the history of cinema. Not because it is most definitely a dazzling, perfectly crafted gem of fantasy storytelling-- well, okay, it does help-- but mostly, because all of its glory is able to shine exponentially with the sensational help of the 3D format.

Yep. Three-dimentional cinema, every bit as wonderful as the red-and-blue glasses era hopelessly wished. Here, I find it relevant to quote myself in my review of this year's largely gimmicky My Bloody Valentine 3D : ''(...)twenty or thirty minutes in, a certain dissapointment started creeping up on me : what if this groundbreaking technology had been put to better use, in the hands of a gifted director (...)? Or better yet, what if this technology had been used to fully embrace a suspenseful atmosphere and achieved a new level of fear those modern scary movies have distinctly been lacking?''

Well, fellas, here it is. Coraline is beautifully unnerving, sweeping us with great virtuosity in a twisted little world like no other film I've seen before. Its bizarre, eerie gorgeousness is altogether touching and disturbing, for the simple reason that once it is over, it reminded me why I loved movies so much. It is a wholly delectable treat, the very definition of excellent escapism... but as an art form, of course. It has absolutely nothing to do with the generic talking-and-farting animals CGI flicks that pass for children's entertainment these days. Hell, I'm tempted to say it has nothing to do with any CGI flick ever made, since Coraline easily surpasses the genre triumphs Pixas Studios deliver every year. The choice of using stop-motion animation to tell Neil Gaiman's fable is brilliant, but the choice to texture it in three-dimentional format is ever more brilliant. It looks real and it feels real for the fact that, indeed, it is real. And for that reason alone, I was plainly unable to resist it, and I got carried away, most of the time wishing it would never end.

I've just realized I've written so many damn words about how utterly magnificent it is, on a visual point of view. It's not all. Here's where Henry Selick excels at shedding some light on Gaiman's wondrous story, which I want to read, and will read. Coraline is a story about a little girl who is unhappy-- the film even acknowledges her unhappiness, a simple, aching fact most children's tales will replace with too-easy-to-solve miserabilism. Her loneliness and distant parents come across as real and aching, and therefore her pluckiness, resistance and mostly, her will to explore what might seem to dangerous for others appear completely understandable. She is not a movie character, much less an excuse to string together a series of creepy happenings-- she is the heart of the film, and her eyes prove to be an admirable P.O.V for the audience.

The screenplay provides, besides a great number of ironies, meaningful character exchanges and fairly exciting plot developments, a commendable flair for nuance. The differences between Coraline's normal world and its mysterious opposite are subliminal, whether they be litteral or conceptual. The clash of those two universes prove to be fascinating, and as the dark secrets of 'the other world' are slowly revealed, the film just becomes more and more compelling. The colorful and intriguing supporting characters also offer plenty of moments of macabre hilarity, and backed with great voice acting from the talented cast and Bruno Coulais' morbidly enchanting score, we have in our hands a film that is nothing short of magical.

From the dangerous, disquieting opening scene to the multiple climaxes, Coraline is more than a complete success, hitting no false notes and generating serious dread all the way. On those regards, I wish for as many tykes as possible to see this and to be scared shitless-- that'll toughen them up. And I can guarantee you a lot of them will just love it. Kids love scary stuff, especially if it ends on a brighter note.

Either way, here's one for the ages. I could write much, much more, but that'd be useless. I can't wait to see it again, in 3D or not (since home videos only offer lackluster red-and-blue glasses threedee stuff). I already can't wait 'til Hi-Def 3D televisions are in stores, recession or not.

Five fucking stars.


It's always good to rediscover a film that, back in the days, really put a couple of today's bright talents on the map-- here the director, the actress and the novelist. The unison of Payne, Witherspoon and Perrotta (and of course, the rest of the cast and crew) proves to be a hands-down genius' stroke, an honest dark comedy that actually uses its bite for deft human observation & political sketching rather than for smug laughs. It's both a strong, solid allegory (watch how Tracy Flick is positionned as the capitalist frontrunner... and watch what happens to her) and a breezy knee-slapper-- that, without ever losing trace of what goes on inside the character's heads. Ultimately, Election succeeds in really making you believe it's almost about to lose its sharpness-- and then, slash. Even ten years after its original release, Payne's engaging and elegant little motion picture is still a total delight. If you haven't seen it, don't be fooled by that ugly DVD cover and rent it. It's really worth it.


Junebug is a quiet little gem that perfectly depicts the collision between human beings settled in a ridiculously minuscule universe and others living a fast-paced city life. It's quirky, psychologically astute and resolutely life-sized, but it still manages to sneak up on you and seriously impress like big awards bait films often attempt. Also proof that you don't need all sorts of gimmicky comedy hijinks like to stage a step-family comedy as funny as Meet the Parents... Wilson, Weston, McKenzie and especially Adams deliver wonderfully spontaneous and touching performances-- their ticks, southern accents and exaggerated gestures never upstage their character's humanity. Equally convincing are Nivola and Davidtz as the respectful but (understandably) a little disturbed city couple. Surely among the best films of 2005; it deserves to be seen by anyone.

The Amityville Horror

A typically 'meh, awright' house-of-horrors remake full of loud jump scares and family hysterics that plays almost exactly like you'd expect-- you're never really scared shitless, but the creep factor is constant. It also has the decency to remain short, and the performers are all naturals-- especially George. But... eh. It's not inspired, nor terribly effective. I have... I have nothing left to say about this one.

An American Haunting

Dissapointingly dull and by-the-numbers, An American Haunting is unable to cause serious chills despite the efforts of its good cast and a reasonably eerie atmosphere. But alas, sleek'n'moody photography and people staring at creaking floorboards can only get you so far, and if the viewer never really feels the character's immense terror... well... yawn. Also, the part of the plot set in the present day just feels like a cheap, terminally unscary ''OMG ghosty shit happened to those people!!!'' documentary you watch on a sleepy sunday night. Not good.


Despite a glacial pace and egregiously hyper editing, Pulse is an ejoyably chaotic and definitely creepy J-horror remake. Some will undoubtedly trash it because of its unsatisfying conclusion, screaming unoriginality and unability to really disturb, but I say kudos to Sonzero and his crew for crafting an impressively ugly mood (!) and keeping things eerie from start to finish. The psychological progression is definitely there, the supporting players aren't total crap and I must say I rather liked its high-contrast lightings and trashy photography. And, of course, the interchangeable blonde heroine role is taken rather seriously by Kristen Bell, whose next stop should definitely be in a great director's film. There is even a notable attempt at piecing together a critique of our addiction to technology, especially in the final third-- something recent clunkers like One Missed Call or Shutter can't even pretend to evoke. Is it worth it? Hmmm... Probably not, but hey, Pulse is square at the middle of the subgenre's offerings, so it can't be THAT lousy, eh?

I Know What You Did Last Summer

For those that lived their younger teenage years through that particular era or have a sibling that did, it's easy to remember what made those damn 90s slasher flicks so irresistible. After almost completely dissapearing from the market (notably because of the failures of the later Friday the 13th and Texas Chainsaw Massacre sequels), teens-in-peril horror films were fiercely re-ignited in 1996 with Scream, and in the process considerably changed their appeal to the public. If Wes Craven's witty, self-conscious and enjoyably silly slasher pastiche aged remarkably well (its trademark elements are still pop culture icons today), the same can arguably be said of this film, though for almost entirely different reasons-- starting with the fact that Scream was, to put it plainly, a good movie AND a satire simultaneously. This one is neither of them... and there is plenty to love.

Trading in the 80's trend in sleazy death porn for casts full of hot, promising young things and more whodunit mystery, slashers had found a brand new way to print the green ones past the mid-nineties. This Kevin Williamson-penned little shocker, probably one of the most parodied pictures of the last decade (if not ever), is by today a pitch-perfect representation of nearly all the stereotypes attached to such films. For that reason, it will probably remain immortal among its generation's folklore, no matter how stupid, shallow and predictable it actually is. Therefore, I find there is a distinct quality that emerges from IKWYDLS, for it is kind of exceptional to present the entire collection of cliches of a subgenre with such workmanlike efficiency. Thanks to that display of plot elements that have become extremely familiar to everyone by now, the dissection of a 'dead teenager movie' (what everything in there truly means) couldn't be easier than with Jim Gillespie's directorial debut in 1997-- a hip, surprise smash hit with the straightforward (but curiously involving) title 'I Know What You Did Last Summer'.

With their hormonally charged premises, the recurring theme of punishment and their appeal of danger, slasher pictures dip into different aspects of teenage psychology (though most of them unintentionally); this one has a setup that would make most high school counselors wet their underpants enthusiastically. Here's the deal : four high school seniors are about to celebrate the start of their last teenage summer, with the vague promise of a bright academic (and professional) future right ahead of them, but mostly all kinds of insecurities hovering above it all. When they are the cause of a hugely reprehensible situation, they swear not to tell it to anyone and ''bury the truth''. Obviously, the truth can't stay buried forever-- and it's one year after the horrifying accident that the consequences truly begin. Although the trauma ended up pushing the quartet in different paths (all of whom are now stuck in occupations far less exciting than they had planned), the numerous moments of panic and the fear that whoever's out there & knows the truth might be a serious threat actually force them to re-unite.

Tapping straight into the conception of guilt & assuming responsibility for one's actions, the way IKWYDLS sketches out different achetypal personalities (the brain, the jock, the beauty queen and the dreamer) and opposes their reactions is actually quite clever. We are constantly invited to witness their decision under a rising menace, and the repercussion it has on their lives-- watch how the beauty queen says ''there was a murder and you'll be burning in hell if you ignore it'' to a skeptical cop when someone is killed by the 75-minute mark. No one among the major players is simple 'spare meat' (although some supporting bystanders do get that treatment), and their characterisations are actually quite solid considering what's bound to happen. It goes without saying that almost each line they deliver or position they stand for is heavily formatted to suit the paradigms without any trace of ambiguity, but hell, we're not looking for any shades of grey in an imperiled teen flick, are we? This one has quite a moral center and it examines teenage anxieties with commendable accuracy-- that's already a pretty good start.

IKWYDLS not only makes good use of these features, it also manages to stage at least a good half-dozen exciting moments, most of which you probably know because they were referenced in Scary Movie, a Simpsons episode or something else : the slam-bang death threat car chase, the closet and the chopped hair, the beauty pageant balcony freak-out... and, last but not least, Sarah Michelle Gellar's chase scene. A fantastic, heart-pounding Blonde Girl Running For Her Life moment if there ever was one, complete with several close gotchas, worthless help from creaky mechanical gear, tiny implausibilities & an incompetent policeman, and most of all, a killer resolution. It uses its star (who is convincing in every frame) and her attempts at survival to full power, tricking us into believing there isn't any hope when there is and that there is hope when there isn't. When Sarah Michelle Gellar screams, the audience screams with her-- and the joy that inhabits me when I watch this scene is never, ever going to vanish.

The cast has also managed to become just as memorable. Jennifer Love Hewitt has embodied the loss of innocence, a ressourceful brainiac, just enough sexuality and the essence of a scream queen all at once, setting the bar way high for a Final Girl role-- I hesitate to call her Julie James the best performance I've ever seen her give, but I can't recall any other role in which I've actually found her THAT credible. Gellar and Philippe make a loveable pair of hotheads crumbling under the stress, with just enough humanity underneath the blonde facade. And Freddie Prinze Jr... oh, god. What is there there to say, really, about Freddie Prinze Jr.? He's a terrible, terrible performer-- but in the best way that could advantage the film. Obviously hired for his Backstreet Boyish good looks, you can practically hear the sound of tween girls fainting in the auditorium back in '97 when he does that shit-eating half-smirk. You can also hear their boyfriends laughing at his conspicuously awful line deliveries (the best one, in my opinion, being his borderline parodic take on ''I think he's dead'').

So, now... I dearly hope you can spot these silver linings and accept them, for most of what's in-between all this is strictly Slasher Boilerplate 101. With plenty of obvious red herrings, loads of cheap scares, plot holes the size of a bus shelter and a ridiculously go-nowhere speculation of who might've done it before the blatant final reveal is thrown in, there is scarily little to be surprised at in IKWYDLS. Except, of course, the narrative stupidity of the whole thing. The boat climax is also a little bit of a letdown on its own. But that's, to me, all part of the charm : this unchallenging piece of comfort food begs you to be as familiar as possible with the ingredients and their use. To point out its helpless unoriginality serves no purpose other than spoiling the fun. This is a wholly unpretentious, lovingly by-the-numbers cash-grab that serves no purpose other than to entertain an audience full of chatty teens. Ridding them of their junk would be pointless-- this inoffensive but competent thrill ride is just what a first slumber party needs. That'll toughen them up, and ready them for daring, psychologically astute and disturbing works of art, not just slice'n'dice popcorn fare.

And for the ones that enjoy this cutesy-spooky predictability with a little meat on its bones, you can always chew on the subtext. It's a little light, but it's there, and it gives this pop culture 'classic' its very own relevance, more than a decade later. All intelligent viewers should give this one a try eventually, and I really do mean that. Few slasher films managed to be just as iconic and representative of their era other than I Know What You Did Last Summer. Next up : the exemplary screw-up of its sequel, who truly, truly captures the essence of a pure, unabashed shitty follow-up. But this time... there's no merit to be had. Oh, well...

The Ring Two
The Ring Two(2005)

As a continuation of the very first J-horror remake smash hit, it's dissapointing to have to admit The Ring Two could have been a lot better. It could also, incidentally, have been a lot worse. If the returning elements of the original's deliciously spooky narrative sometimes succeed in creeping us out, there is now plenty of tedious or incoherent to fill in its gaps. Gone are the superb photography and a likeable male protagonist, but down the line, this one is good enough for a few shocks if you feel you want more of this eerie ghost story. I do recommend checking out the decent short film Rings which takes place in-between the two motion pictures if you are among those that are interested.

The Ring
The Ring(2002)

An excellent slow-burner of a spookfest, The Ring's incredibly effective dramatic tension is only matched by its very disturbing imagery. Even if the story is punctuated by episodes of bone-chilling terror, Verbinski takes his sweet time in letting the nightmarish narrative unfold and its characters breathe, resulting in one of the most absorbing house-of-horrors tale of the last decade. There is so much to be praised here : the bleak photography, the sustained eerie tone, the believable and hugely likeable characters, the perfectly-timed scares, the great performances (Watts getting the top honors)... Let's say its tremendous success is entirely justified and deserved, even if the wave of ghostly PG-13 remakes it spawned is a little more than regrettable. The Ring is a real keeper; sure to age very well within its proper generation's folklore.

Eden Lake
Eden Lake(2008)

Oh yes, James Watkins' Eden Lake is definitely a harrowing experience altogether-- in both ways (right and wrong) a motion picture can be classified as such. I'd say there is a part of me that wants to applaud this effort for being resolutely unsafe and horrifying (something most so-called 'horror' films rarely achieve today), but the rest me is kind of... well, embarassed, mostly, by all those ludicrous narrative proceedings on display. But no matter how much I want to believe this one explores controversial themes such as youth violence, class conflicts and generational gaps, it's hard to shake off the feeling that this heavily contrived British pulse-pounder is just plain exploitative for the sake of it.

If only Watkins had written his feature film debut more like an actual story and less like a survival horror film from the get-go... perhaps the final viewing experience might have felt far less tedious. In ten minutes or so, Eden Lake's protagonists are drawn as quickly as possible, and the scary-movie plot points are all ready to kick in. Even though there's something brave and genuinely frightening in pitting two educated thirtysomethings against a group of ruthless and feral young kids, the following mayhem is not much more inspired than any other slasher film in the least couple of years. Weighed down by contrivances, ridiculously irrational behavior and plenty of incoherences, the film often strains credibility for the purpose of shock value. A shining example would be when a certain character steps on a spike which goes through his foot-- a graphic, gratuitous moment shown in loving detail. You'd think this cringe-worthy moment would seriously impact the rest of the story, but besides of few minutes of on-screen limping, this accident is quickly swept away... and we are meant to believe the person is able to run for it barely fifteen minutes afterwards!

Now, I mostly do not oppose trashy, unearned nastiness if a film yearns to be only that. But with a recurring theme torn straight from the headlines, a good dose of ambition and sub-minimal humor, there is something regrettable in how Watkins pulls the ropes to become 'intense'. It is indeed an intense film-- the pacing is tight, and the dramatic tension is fairly effective-- but it is in no way a very convincing story. As the blood spills and the body count rises (with litterally nothing tongue-in-cheek here), you are left to wonder if this incessant carnage has any other purpose than to make viewers go 'oh, my god'. The final twist is also as cruel as they come-- and frankly, it's just as iffy as what preceeds it.

The actors nevertheless do give distressingly physical performances. If Michael Fassbender and particularly Kelly Reilly really do sell their second and third-act terror, they still cannot manage to make their couple very interesting in the first one. Still, it'd be hard to fault someone else than the screenwriter, who reduces their chemistry to barely anything more than ''wink wink honey, we're gonna cute Movie Sex''. Anyway, I was more impressed with the kids, with the astonishing Jack O'Connell in the lead. They channel a chilling menace but also lots of insecurity through an assured body language and sharp line delivery. If Eden Lake sometimes gets on the scary side, it's mostly because of them.

But some strong, disturbing scenes and very competent actors do not make a great film, especially if everything else comes across as phony as it is here. Eden Lake is a provocative, unpleasant viewing experience, and yes, I can respect that-- but I just wish its grueling unpleasantness ended up feeling more resonant than useless and sour.


The big-screen treatment of this much-beloved Broadway classic is admittedly rather naive and a bit too long to be considered great, but at least the energy remains there. Columbus shoots the whole thing with vitality, and the big musical numbers range from refreshingly intimistic to annoyingly overblown. The performers are all pretty good, especially Thoms, Dawson and Rapp. It's not really effective nor really revolutionary (apparently, transvestites have feelings, too!), but hey, you can see why this kicked ass in the 90s. You just sort of wish Rent didn't sound so damn silly when it isn't busy playing the jukebox.

Team America: World Police

It's hard to review this kind of comedy objectively-- it is undeniably a hilarious cult classic for some and worthless, puerile tripe for others, and no one is particularly 'right' down the line. It might actually be both. Still, I have to admit that when it hits, Team America indeed is a riot. It is actually amusingly tasteless AND somewhat articulate in its derision. One just wishes they had the decency to keep the whole fucking thing under 85 minutes, or to go a little easier on the 'shock' pedal.

Serial Mom
Serial Mom(1994)

This typically Waters-esque smackdown of a Stepford-lite suburban community is slightly routine but thoroughly enjoyable. Resolutely thin on the satirizing altogether, the film nevertheless remains tight and focused enough to keep its momentum, and draw more than just a few big yuks along the way. The biggest reason to see this is obviously Kathleen Turner's fierce, devilishly amusing performance. Well worth checking out.

Wolf Creek
Wolf Creek(2005)

Though it is undeniably a masterful, economic chiller, Wolf Creek is very hard to recommend to anyone else than a hardcore horror fan-- this is disturbingly un-fun horror that uses its realism to shake viewers to the core, not entertain them. For what goal? I'm not quite sure-- something like exploitation, apparently. There is barely any subtext to be found here, but that's about the only major thing I can put against it (though some will argue the first act is mercilessly drawn out-- that worked fine with me). Other than that... this is probably one of the most horrifying films I have ever seen, and not because it is unthinkably scary or graphic. Nope, it's just that every frame FEELS real, and therefore... the terror is transcending.

Unsafe, acted by actors that are spellbindingly natural and very low on cheap tricks, Wolf Creek is more than a cut above what passes for 'horror' these days. For better or for worse.


Tony Scott's explosive twist on what might have been just a ho-hum ''sort of...'' biopic is actually a worthy experiment. Okay, it's aggressively shallow alright-- but the gritty, heavily textured treatment given to the enjoyably convulted story makes for a entertaining and surreal viewing experience. If turning the life of Domino Harvey into a furious character-driven action flick was Scott's intention, I can't picture it done marginally better than it is here. It fits the subject like a glove.

It's just a shame his screenplay never managed to be amputated of a couple of dead patches, especially towards the end. For a project textured to the point of madness like this one, Domino is a little long for a guilty pleasure. It goes without saying that the film loses steam in its last third, but there is nevertheless much, much fun to be had in watching all these characters (portrayed with skill and irony by a gallery of stupendous actors) interact and implode. Ramirez and Mo'Nique in particular are very good. All in all, I can understand how exhausting the end result might feel for some people... but hey, if it worked for me, it worked. Worth renting.

The Wrestler
The Wrestler(2008)

There is something deeply affecting about Aronofsky's stripping down of the layers of a man struggling to regain control over his crumbling life, and for the most part, failing. It's not a subtle film, at least not emotionally-- but there is a certain restraint in the screenplay, and the time it takes to establish what goes on inside its main character's head. It's an exercise that requires patience, but is devoid of the kind of miserabilism that would render the whole thing pretentious, irritating or flat-out boring. Instead, it rewards us with a tremendously complete portrait of loneliness and struggle, and elicits far more compassion and interest than most of 2008's releases. Aronofsky does use that annoying high-grain grittiness that's been used so much in the past, but to good effect here : it really fits the tone of the ensemble, and is never too showy.

There quite an acting show going around here, starting with Rourke's incredible performance. He really does give his heart and soul to a role that might not only serve as an allegory for his own path, but also provides him a deeply nuanced range of feelings to channel, both in and outside. Also very notable is Tomei's rich and inspired take on a role that might just have been 'that naked chick'-- she is able to add much subtlety and inner torment to a frankly routine character. Good, also, is Wood as the man's daughter, an actress intense enough to emote like a hurricane on her very first scene and let you understand what devastating pain inhabits her persona.

The film itself might not be one for the ages, but its sincerity and performances are. Culminating in a finale that is both surreal, touching and ambiguous, The Wrestler might very well be one of the few films that managed to pierce through my shell in a very long while...

State of Play

Today : the shadres of grey separating a film that is interesting and a film that is engaging.

An 'engaging' film-- one that creates the feeling that the audience is invited to fully invest itself into the plot and its characters. An engaging motion picture can be classified as such when it truly immerses the viewer as much as possible into its narrativity, somewhat letting him or her 'feel' what the characters are 'feeling'.

An 'interesting' film-- one that lets its story unfolds before the spectator, letting him or her observe the plot with a certain detachment, and more importantly, interpret its themes. An interesting motion picture will be less prone to sentimentality, therefore distancing watchers from the characters' intrapersonal ongoings and letting them concentrate on how the film itself resonates.

Truth is, I rather liked Kevin Macdonald's State of Play. I had never heard of the BBC series it was based on, but now that I am aware that Matthew Michael Carnahan, Tony Gilroy and Billy Ray's screenplay managed to cram a six-episode miniseries known for its complexity into just under two hours of film stock, I can say I am somewhat impressed. Emphasis on the 'somewhat' : the end result, as well-crafted as it is, deserves an acknowledgement more than an accolade. State of Play is a film that, once over, you shake hands with. ''Thank you very much''. Or, better yet : ''it was nice meeting you''. But hey, do you really mean that sincerely everytime you shake hands with someone...?

Now, I don't go to the movies to fall in love with every frame that I see-- there is escapism, and there is substance. I certainly don't demand that every production should manage a pitch-perfect combination of entertainment and significance. But I think there is a distinct quality to the pictures that succeed in finding a fitting balance between the two, just about as much as there is a certain pall to the ones that try and end up doing it quite poorly. State of Play dilly-dallies quite a bit, but eventually finds its place with the latter : it wants to be serious and resonant, but at the same time it wants to be exciting cinema. Trouble is, it is not very exciting, and it is not very cinematic either.

I am still very willing to forgive its flaws for the simple reason that its subject matter, even if borrowed, is very reverberant. With the effervescence of the new media hasting the transfer of information and rendering the importance of something like 'source' (!) much shakier, the death of the newspaper might seem apparent. This is where State of Play scores : it raises important questions without ever giving the feeling of being preachy or too didactic. Better yet, it mixes an efficient commentary on today's key methods in journalism with a story rich in awe-inspiring revelations. It's just a shame the tension operates only sporadically. In-between the office talk and the phonecalls, there are more dangerous episodes-- the hospital and the parking lot scenes are particularly effective-- but still not enough of them. I can picture at least a good half-dozen moments where things are resolved too quickly, or given away before the suspense even kicks in. And then it moves on to something else. Something static.

This is a film where the directing is very much at the writing's mercy. Kevin Macdonald keeps the cinematic language at a mostly functional level, and except for a few long takes, he does not really bother giving this one a proper style (except perhaps for the borderline-awesome ending credits). It all results in a visually flat chronicle lensed with competence but not much passion. Although the editing makes sure we understand as much as possible anytime a huge chunk of information is dropped (and that happens a lot, trust me), the film's incredibly stuffy plot makes it a bit hard to seize everything that's happening before the conclusion arrives and both recapitulates & clarifies the whole deal. It also feels a good twenty minutes too long, although God knows where you could cut out stuff without damaging the film's coherence.

There's no spectacular all-star acting show going on here, but it's mostly because the roles don't require anything like that. That explains the duet of convincing but relatively ordinary performances of Russell Crowe and Ben Affleck. Both have proven themselves to be sometimes incredible performers, the former in particular, but there isn't any interesting inner life to their characters beyond a few well-timed reaction shots. Much more vibrant is Rachel McAdams who, while completely inhabiting a largely operational role, seems to exhume a growing insecurity her somewhat inexperienced character channels. Also brilliant, but in smaller roles, are Helen Mirren and Jason Bateman. Still, a huge flurry of usually terrific actors remain criminally wasted in underdevelopped appearances, ranging from Robin Wright Penn to Jeff Daniels to Viola Davis.

I shouldn't say State of Play is not a 'memorable' film, for I think many should appreciate its intelligence and laid-back mystery. But for me, there isn't a lot to say about the film as whole, except that it is... simply 'interesting'. I couldn't say it was 'boring' (the term, to me, is used all too often by most people and never at the right place... you immediate-seeking whores), but considering it takes far more than a slow pace and a lack of action for me to feel 'disconnected' from any flick, I thought State of Play was just as lifeless as its title.

Star Trek
Star Trek(2009)

Shades 'n sunscreen, y'all.

The Almighty Summer Movie Season has begun. You know what that means : each week, a tremendously expensive CGI extravaganza invades the multiplexes (sided by the quieter counter-programming), hoping to lure in the ''ooh! ahh!'' crowd, and somewhat live up to the expectations. More often than not, those products end up dissapointing (See! the critical stump of Wolverine and his cash-grab prequelling!), though in some cases they're rather good (See! ...Iron Man, if you've been living under a rock for a whole year!) or they turn out flat-out sucky (See! the corny adventures of a Fantastically shitty group of Four!)-- but hey, it's not about being memorable or inventive... it's all about printing the green ones.

Newsflash : the blockbuster season wants to abuse your wallet. Y'all are shocked, huh? But hey, wait up. Is it still considered rape if the victim is consenting?

File that away. I'm here to discuss the new Star Trek : a J.J. Abrams reboot, poised and polished for a whole new generation of mallrats (and of course, their curious fathers). Even if you've managed to disconnect yourself from all the media surrounding you for the past weeks, chances are you've still heard the entire planet is singing in glorious praise to this version. Critics have acclaimed the triumphant return of a franchise that had been, what-- six, seven years dormant (See! the abysmal Star Trek : Genesis from the abysses of 2002... or better yet, like me, don't see it!). So, with everybody's opinion being fixed by now... all I had to do was to check if this one was every bit as groundbreaking as everyone had made it to me. Either way, now, you're reading this to find out if *I* liked it.

Well, did I?

I... guess so. For starters... I personnally believe I do not represent a very widespread demographic. Read : film-loving but very demanding young adult who is more entertained by Margot at the Wedding than by Transformers. I'm no sci-fi fan, either : concerning the Star Trek universe, I am exactly what they mean by 'the uninitiated'. If you want the opinion of someone who has adored the series during its jaw-droppingly extensive six seasons... the worldwideweb is out there. It's full of opinions. It's amazing, apparently. But I... I, I could only judge J.J. Abrams' version as it was, not as how it reflected the Trekkies' beloved saga. My opinion is therefore not biased-- but it is not very nourished, either. I could only analyze the two-hour lens flare fest before my eyes.

Oh, yeah-- the lens flares. It's been pointed out by many before me, but man. Yeah. Lens Flare Overkill. That's all I have to say about that.

Either way... alright, I'm not being very nice to it. All in all, Star Trek is a cute, colorful, fast-moving and rather unprententious restart, considering its gigantic scale. It's indeed very well-made, with action scenes that are edited masterfully and that draw good spacial relationships (FOR ONCE!) and that do create an illusion of suspense. Michael Giacchino scores the film with thunderous, expressive themes (though they get wearying during the last third). It goes without saying that it unfolds exactly like one would expect (twenty minutes in, and we pretty much know each and every plot point that will pop by), but hey : we are not here to be challenged, nor are we here to see something 'different'-- we are here because we want outer space battles, cutesy character humor and exploding shit, and boy, do we get 'em.

So, my question is : what is there to say, really, about this new Star Trek if you happen to be 'the uninitiated'? Well, not much. It is not dumb, but it is absolutely shallow. Of course, I know blockbusters can often be weighed down by pretensions of 'substance' (See! The Kingdom and its interminable Middle East blabbing followed by 6,000 explosions), but hey, I know a certain Christopher Nolan who managed to craft a devastating one-two punch of well-written superhero summer tragedies. It can't be that hard to turn your character interactions or your fucked-up futuristic world into a giant allegory-- or it can't be THAT hard to create a certain cinematic intimacy among the kabooms to let the viewer think for a second. This is exactly what Star Trek doesn't do, and I feel it's where Trekkies might lose their tempers : most shots are nervous, gigantic HD closeups, leaving precious little breather in the scenes that take place in the starship's white cockpit (I'm sure there's a specific name for that place, and I'm also sure I've never heard it). Star Trek is an airless film. In the battle sequences, that can be a good thing-- but when it's talk time, it's just plain suffocating.

At least it has the decency to be just a two-hour airless film. The (somewhat crappy) conclusion arrives only about ten minutes after you think 'wow, this is long'. If there's anything I can really applaud (besides the fact that 3/4 of the action scenes are great), it has to be that it's well-paced. It doesn't take too long before a huge chunk of mythology is installed, and the decision of letting the mind-blowing set design do the setting instead of having characters yap about ''this is that, and this is how we live'' is very wise. That means it's impossible not to enjoy yourself just a little bit. That also means that there's always something pretty to look at when it's getting dull-- oh, you can also try keeping count of the per-minute lens flare ratio if you're bored! (okay... I'll stop now.)

The cast seems to have fun, though. I think. The obvious standout is Zachary Quinto as the new face of Spock, who has to hit a range of feelings his characters never thought he'd have access to, but at the same time keeps internalized. His cool severity renders his scenes nothing short of magnetic. Chris Pine also does fine as Kirk, though I'd much have preferred an actor with less BackstreetBoyish handsomeness and more mystery & range. It took me a good twenty minutes to realize the villain was actually played by an Eric Bana in full-on camp mode, but hey-- if it works, it works. So does the casting of Zoe Saldana as Uhura, but it's a shame her character does so little in the film's second hour. It's also a damn shame Simon Pegg appears so late in the film, considering how refreshing his presence is. The same can be said of Leonard Nimoy. Faring just as well are Anton Yelchin, Karl Urban and John Cho, all very likeable onscreen presences (though my instinct tell me the inevitable sequel will kill one of them for shock value, or all three). Really, the only bad piece of casting is Winona Ryder as Spock's mother, who is made to look like a worn-out mother by one of the least credible 'old woman' prosthetics in recent memory. She comes across as mostly unconvincing, and sheOHMYGOD THAT BLACK GUY WAS TYLER FUCKING PERRY., um, Star Trek is a success, there's no doubt about it. It rarely tries the patience, and its new style will get asses in theater seats for a couple more years to come. But as for me... I can't say the experience is anything extraordinary. Sure, it's breezy, quality three-star entertainment, but I just wish the film that made everyone orgasm so bad lately would have been as awesome as they made it out to be. It's only awesome in parts, and combined with all the filler in there, that balances out to something like 'sweet, alright, now let's go home'.

The Break-Up
The Break-Up(2006)

Actually has some insight on modern relationships, but draggy and superficial nonetheless. Performances aren't very inspired, either, but some small bits here and there render the whole thing intermittently amusing.

The Rules of Attraction

A slickly rendered adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis' deliriously trashy novel, The Rules of Attraction's lightning-fast editing and flashy camera angles are only topped by its perfectly adequate acting and screenplay. It's not quite as affecting as Easton Ellis' book (which is one I have to revisit), but I'd say it gets the emotional shakedown and dizzying superficiality mix just about right.

The Quiet
The Quiet(2006)

Far from as disturbing as it wants to be, The Quiet is a, um, quiet little movie that packs a few interesting narrative elements and features a quality, hand-picked cast, but is ultimately more or less detailed in its characters' psychology. Add to that some of the worst narrating to grace the screen in ages but a handful of intriguing scenes... and The Quiet is well worth checking out on a sleepy sunday night, even it will leave you wanting for more the second it's over... and not in a satisfying way.


This curiously engaging yet drowsily irrelevant hybrid of several fantasy genres is far from anything us viewers have never seen before, but it's handled with no pretentiousness whatsoever, a fair dose of delectable humour and, thank heavens, it never becomes an incessant orgy of CGI effects like most recent epic adventures. Cox and Danes lead the movie with striking charisma, but the most scene-stealing performances are delivered by Pfeiffer and DeNiro, both terrific in their roles. Bottom Line, Stardust won't change the world (read : start a never-ending franchise that pops by every Christmas), but it is an enjoyable way to spend... wait, more than two hours? It's always, always a good thing when it passes like 90 minutes.

Chicken Little

Not a total turkey, but could've used a little more spice if you ask me. Okay, yeah, all that obnoxious wordplay aside, Chicken Little is a kind-of-fun little animated comedy, but an ultimately unsurprising one. There's nothing interesting to note about it, except that it's never actually insulting in its drowsy familiarity. Its best scene has to be the last one... the only one with any sort of punch whatsoever.

Spider-Man 3
Spider-Man 3(2007)

It breaks my heart to say so, but Spider-Man 3 is definitely the weakest of the three. It's also... not a very good film.

Overstuffed and overcooked at 150 minutes, it has trouble keeping the breezy, light pace of the first two (although everyone knows there always was a good ten minutes that could have been cut after the breathtaking climaxes of the first two). It's also clunky in the themes it tries to work, such as forgiveness and change, and there is way too much going on at the same time to keep a strong dramatic focus on a single narrative element. However, it is pretty much just as exciting as 1& 2 during the action sequences, save for the bizarrely orchestrated final one(s).

Tobey Maguire keeps the same type of performance that made the character of Peter Parker so much fun, but the script requires him to do some very, uh, cringe-worthy things this time around. If you're one of the eight people that haven't seen the damn film, well, I'll shut up. It's totally awkward and out of place, and kind of funny, but in the worst way possible.

So, yeah, it's pretty much crap. The world's biggest cake is not its best, you know. A hundred so-so ingredients (three villains, all of them less interesting than Molina's pitch-perfect turn as Doc Ock, a practically invisible Bryce Dallas Howard as Gwen 'who? oh, her?' Stacy, etc.) don't make up for a few great ones.

I'm not pumped at all for parts four to twelve, and all those spinoffs.

The Uninvited

If all those fucking Uncle Sam teenybopper bastardizations of eastern chillers turned out as decent as The Uninvited, I'd say I would be fine with them. This twice-delayed remake is of course not without its flaws (in fact, some might argue the only parts where it works are those where it steals the original's qualities), but it is definitely not worthless, especially when put in comparison with 2007's early three-pack of asian horror ''re-imaginings''.

There is a moment early on in The Uninvited where troubled teenager Anna (Emily Browning) spends her first night home after ten months of sleeping in a psychiatric clinic. It is the film's first True Scary Setpiece, and I would very much lie if I said it had no effect on me. From the fear channeled through the actress' eyes to the restraint of the score to the way the presence of a very frightening SOMETHING is brought along, the result is some sort of ''checkpoint'' where the film guarantees it will not even come close to the gratuitous crappiness of most PG-13 ghosties flicks. But does this tale of two sisters still deserve a portion of your paycheck? The answers is... hmmmm, very hard to confirm.

What validates a three-star rating, according to me, is the obviously different approach the filmmakers used on this re-run : the scares are almost an afterthought to the proceedings, and they do not pop by as false jump moments only used to refreshen the audience's attention span. The Guard Brothers are more than one notch above doing serviceable remake hackwork, injecting a palpable sense of dread to their story rather than drowning the entire thing in dark lighting and quick cuts. And since this one is not all about distorted ghost shit thingies, the story itself has a nice, almost natural flow. Things go bump in the night once in a while, but the real tension is mostly generated by the daughter-stepmother dynamics.

Why yes, The Uninvited IS invested in its characters. They are not excuses to string creepy moments together, nor are they set up like bowling pins. If you can get past the fact that, for the benefit of a widespread American audience (and their wallets), their characterizations have been severely One Tree Hill'd (i.e., the original's introverted little girls are now hot teenagers that wear bikinis, drink and make out with boys), a fine little domestic drama awaits. Same goes for the directorial style : gone is the aching poetry of the original, here almost entirely replaced by sleek photography and moody interiors. It's not very inspired, but it works-- most of all, it feels much, much more cinematic than the TV-movie photography of, say, One Missed Call.

Alas, the screenplay takes for granted that we can't put the pieces together for ourselves. Consequently, there are quite few missteps and stupidities along the way, especially in the writing. The recurring use of creepy pale-faced children is just a plain bad idea, seeing how the entire story could have worked without this tiresome cliché. It could also have used another good ten to fifteen minutes, just to flesh out things more-- especially the relationship between the two sisters. Mostly, had the dialogue been less soporific, I could have called the movie uniformly decent, but most of the time, it really sucks the life out of character exchanges. ''She did this in the past''. ''This is what we are going to do''. And (actual quote) ''I thought that I was dreaming, but I wasn't''-- all this expository bore is the stuff of a project that's been written on auto-pilot, despite being one directed by good hands.

Last but not least, the rug-pulling finale. For the surprise factor, better ask the gasping teens in my audience, since I am among the ones that have seen the Korean version (and its far more ambiguous handling on the conclusion). But I can tell you this last-minute twist does indeed come across as disturbing, and despite the explosive dramatics of Christopher Young's thoroughly haunting score, it is done quite skillfully in fact. Problem is, by chosing to end the story on it rather than carefully placing it on the two-thirds mark like in the original (I know, I know), the result feels altogether too brief and spastic. As 'unfair' as some might think it is, I personally think its biggest problem is that despite the fact that it solves many (if not all) of the inconsistencies shown before, it still introduces a whole new set of them.

Nevertheless, Emily Browning, a magnetically beautiful onscreen presence, has a quiet intensity that nicely drives the story. Even if the supremely flat dialogue tends to attenuate her expressivity, she remains part of the better leads of the genre's offerings, easily in-between Kristen Bell and Jennifer Connelly. Arielle Kebbel, a vibrant young actress often trapped in poor offerings, is just as good in the wild child role. David Strathairn doesn't have much to do in this incredibly limited role, but needless to say, he doesn't flounder. He is incapable of it. But the top honors surely go to Elizabeth Banks, who has a blast oozing sexiness and menace and in a role that is both hammy and ambiguous. It is litterally the most exciting thing about the film-- sparks do fly whenever she is onscreen, without having the whole deal turn into a flashy one-woman show.

All these uncommonly finely drawn elements are what push The Uninvited into the 'good' category-- just barely. While the entire project is lessened by its commercial ambitions (and that goes for just about any comparison that can be made with the original), as horrific entertainment goes, this one is pleasantly unsettling, and it won't insult 13-year old girls' intelligence. As for yours... it depends where your expectations are set. Seen through the eyes of an especially damaged sixteen-year old, the story packs quite some dramatic punch-- and all things considered, I believe this counts as the kind of crowning achievement very, very few PG-13 screamers can brag about.

Black Christmas

It is incredibly hard to attain only the most rudimentary type of viewer objectivity when one's cult movie is involved. Subject of an everlasting debate among great cinema fans and less great fans alike, the question of whether yes or no a film possesses its own level of intrinsec quality, and should not only be judged as to how it pleases a particular individual, is still a topic that puzzles me and countless others. To gain the necessary detachment, I waited for more than a year before revisiting this critically-panned motion picture that I absolutely adored before, during and after its release, and for increasingly obscure reasons at that. Maybe I was just a sick fuck. Maybe I still am.

As of now, you should be able to guess that this review of Glen Morgan's 2006 Black Christmas remake is a highly subjective take on a film that maybe, probably, surely doesn't deserve such an exhaustive analysis. Or does it?

Alright, to most people, the answer to that question is a big no-no. ''It's just a crappy slasher'', they all say. On those regards, 'they' are absolutely right. Because, make no mistake, Black Christmas IS just a slasher film, and it cannot (and doesn't) pretend to be anything else. And make no mistake, it is unmistakably crappy, too-- and even if the final product almost begs to be considered as a campy, fast-paced cheesefest than an actual horror thriller, the DVD's 'Behind the Scenes' features reveal that the original intent was to make an actual, y'know, 'scary movie', but with 'traces of typical genre humor'.


I frankly don't know where to start. I'll get rid of those inevitable comparisons to Bob Clark's 1974 original, which was (and still is) a deliciously creepy and unsettling pulse-pounder, even thirty-plus years after its release. Spawning a long wave of hit dead teenager films (and notably inspiring John Carpenter's Halloween), it is also nearly the complete opposite of this new millenium reboot. Besides the setting and a few similarities (read : references), both are very different entities that might have similar goals, but still proceed on marginally separate ways to reach them. I am referring, of course, to the good ol' heebie-jeebies-- scaring the shit out of an audience. It's not the new version's biggest flaw, that definite un-scariness, but it drags the end result down-- a lot. It has no clue how to maintain tension. It has no clue how to provide sustained thrills. It has no clue to be scary. To some, that's the worst possible crime any retelling of the 1974 version might commit.

But hey, plenty of those kinds of films have gotten away with that particular lack of spookiness. If the Friday the 13th films had been known for their genuine eerieness (and not for their unrelenting sleaziness and death porn), I think we'd live in a radically different world today-- and I do mean that. But nope : those films have had their fair share of success because they provide cheap, splattery thrills. They are enjoyable because they offer nothing more than vile, voyeuristic moments of nastiness without ever pretending all of this is happening for real. *insert commentary on following birth of torture porn subgenre here* Nevertheless, Black Christmas 06 is, to at least a considerable fanbase, an entertaining romp even if it wasn't meant to be in such a tongue-in-cheek way.

And here's where I feel like throwing a few flowers on the stage : it is, at least to me and the degenerates of my kind, not boring. Clocking just under 90 minutes, it is structured well-enough to let several events happen under one roof (the sorority house), mostly at the same time, and not make the whole thing draggy or confusing. Girls talk in the living room, girls exit the house, girls are killed in their rooms, girls argue, drink and vomit, girls sit down and listen to prolonged flash-backs of who the hell mysterious killer Billy Lenz was-- all simultaneously. Even when one knows what's gonna happen and when, there is nothing that really blocks the plot from advancing and the jolts from jolting. In a vast majority of typical slasher films, there are usually a few patches where it's all too obvious what's gonna happen, who's gonna die next and whythefuckamIwatching, etc. In this one, there's not much time to think about how bad everything is, except of course when it's over.

My, oh my-- yes, indeed, there is plenty to cover in terms of pure, unabashed incompetence : asylum scenes that just plain suck nuts, dialogue that ranges from the charmingly goofy to the monstrously inane (there, a nugget : ''Here's the key to Billy Lenz : he just wants to feel at home''), a cloying soundtrack full of dun-dun-DUNS, mediocre acting and a stitched-together feel (the epilogue particularly stinks of last-minute reshoots). For the latter, you can immediately put the blame on the Weinsteins and their Dimension-like crap orders (''We want more gore! We want less talking!''). For the rest... well, let's say that this time I had to face how horrible most of it is. Even with redeeming qualities like beautifully lit interiors, those frighteningly amusing flash-backs and the bloody, exciting attic climax, there's just not enough to outweight all the shitty ideas that prevents it from tipping into traditionally 'watchable' territory.

The nitpicking could go on and on, just so you know. Even the cast, a largely feminine ensemble full of familiar faces for horror buffs (like Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Michelle Trachtenberg and Andrea Martin) are a least a couple of notches below what they are usually capable of. It's no help that their characters are also underwritten, one-dimensional rich bitches (a personal fave moment : not one but THREE girls are introduced by sighing & rolling their eyes upwards, consecutively). Even Katie Cassidy's not-that-obvious Final Girl role is given too little to do before the mayhem begins. Only Karin Konoval, as Billy Lenz's chronically fucked-up mother, plays the part according to the finished product's actual tone, and to great effect at that. While we're there, I could also mention how unexplainably fascinating the wordless role of the 'opening sequence girl' (that means dead meat), played by Leela Savasta, came across to me.

So, yes, I rated it three stars-- although there's no way in hell this could ever pass for three-star quality entertainment. It's a very dumb, very hokey film made by smart people who have already shown better work (Morgan's previous effort, the tremendously underrated Willard, is a shining example) and will inevitably show better again. I know how terrible Black Christmas 06 is, and I know how much people were frustrated by its idiotic features, that's for sure. Here we go : with as much detachment as possible, I ended up concluding that... objectively, this is not a film that's done well at all. Glen Morgan's Black Christmas is... a bad film.

But you know what? I love it, and not in some ironic way. I love this film. I love its tiny little bright spots, I love its anonymous mediocrities, and I love its huge chunks of crappiness. I really, really love this film-- and for someone who's seen a dangerous amount of jaw-dropping crap spectacles (especially among that genre), a lousy remake that actually made me downright fall in love with it, even for no good reasons, is enough to make me want to celebrate.

Merry Christmas, motherfuckers.

No Country for Old Men

Everything, hear me, everything in this film is breathtaking. Period. The scenes in No Country for Old Men are so flawlessly constructed that you want them to simply go on, and yet they create a fantastic emotional suction drawing you right to the next one. The flow is continuous, the dramatic tension is masterful, the themes resonate-- the Coens end up painting a compelling and dangerously corrosive portrait of Uncle Sam's country. And it's not a pretty one.

Be very afraid.

The Mist
The Mist(2007)

Unconventional, daring and a lot of fun. It's a smart, well-written horror tale, one that finds a mostly winning combination of substance and cheap thrills. Modern character-driven freak-outs have rarely been this good; here, everyone involved has done a frighteningly good job, from the very present cast to the terrific SFX crew, and of course director Darabont. It's not one for the ages, but for those that enjoy horrific entertainment that not only engages but also sticks with the viewer after it's over... look no further.

Red Eye
Red Eye(2005)

You want a fun movie?

This, my friends, is a fun movie. This is a smart picture made by smart people who knew what they were doing when they were doing it : a fun movie. A fun thriller. Fun.

The results are a joy to watch. Red Eye doesn't pretend to say shit about shit, much preferring to use the requisite elements of the genre with great skill. It runs for 85 minutes, and yes, those 85 minutes are very efficient. I'll take Red Eye again over any two-hour action bore anyday.

A shallow but irresistible pulse-pounder like this one does not work well without a talented directorial hand. Top honors go to Craven, who is very much able to depict likable characters without bogging down in slow exposition and who knows how to frame anticipation just right. McAdams and Murphy are perfect at bringing out the best in purposedly thin roles-- they make you buy everything that's happening to them, no matter how much their actions tend to be overblown in the final third.

Either way, I refuse to talk about it more. It's just a fucking fun movie, and it's intelligent enough to not need to show that it is. See it.

Knocked Up
Knocked Up(2007)

Livens up to the monstrous hype. Knocked Up is one of those terrific comedies that takes its time with its characters and their arcs, resulting in a cool, genial line of scenes where most of the laughs feel refreshingly unforced. Its take on the modern couple is handed with skill and maturity (that is, despite the gags' raunchiness) and the pop culture references are vividly incisive; plus, it highly benefits of both Rogen & Heigl's and the supporting cast's tour-de-force performances. If some moments go on for a few beats too long and the end result is (understandably) guy-sided, I think we can safely say there's some thanks to be said to Knocked Up (and Apatow & co.) for rejuvenating the actual american comedy landfield.

Secret Window

Oh, Johnny. If someone can save a dull, largely uninspired thriller whose only real thrills come during the ''gotcha!'' finale... it's you, man. David Koepp mostly does the job on a merely decent script, but there's not enough subtance here to actually engage any demanding viewer who's seen more than ten suspense films in his or her life. Not worthless at all, just kind of... colorless.

Oh, Johnny. Thank you.


Nothing less than top-notch suspenseful entertainment. It's a hollow and (almost exhaustingly) tricky little thriller, but when a story like this is written and directed so well... it's hard to resist. The feeling of being caught off-guard by the splendid twists of this way-above-average pulse-pounder is priceless, and Mangold helms the project with strong flair, infusing plenty of shocks. Identity is worth any smart viewer's time, and thanks to solid performances from Cusack, Liotta, Peet and DuVall, this is one that will stand the test of time in many fans' favorite lists.

Seven Pounds
Seven Pounds(2008)

Irritatingly (and purposedly) deconstructed to hide its howling stupidity, Seven Pounds is a phony, largely manipulative melodrama only partially redeemed by an expressive, better-than-average directing hand from Muccino and a good chemistry between Smith and Dawson. Other than that... it's chock-full of preachy sentimentality, incongruous plot turns and little incoherences, and worst of all, once you know where it's going (that's thirty minutes in for most smart people), it's just really, really fucking boring.

Don't see this. Really, don't. Nope.

From Hell
From Hell(2001)

Visually, From Hell is a very intriguing depiction of the Victorian Era of London, and a magnetic look on the social context surrounding the infamous murders of Jack The Ripper. Otherwise, despite a few horrifying jolts, the narrative is pretty dull, the performances pretty uninspired and the whole thing feels rather lightweight for such atrocious events. Not bad by any means, just kind of forgettable and dry.


Despite being overwrought and overlong, Babel remains a fascinating, complex and masterfully staged look at the misunderstandings that occur when our most basic human reflexes take over. González Iñárritu lenses his multi-continental, existential trek with mostly very successful results, only losing his picture's drive during the last third. By wanting to be about everything, Babel ends up being less about something, and thus, the aching and focused poetry that was so poignant as the film began to lose some spark. Still, the photography and editing are pitch-perfect, and the cast seriously impresses, Rinko Kikuchi's devastating performance being the most striking of the bunch.

The Forgotten

Even if the premise appears promising, The Forgotten sadly runs out of steam not too long before its would-be shocking final reveal. Thing is, despite a nearly perfect pacing and plenty of masterful jolts, the dire screenplay will ultimately make most viewer why the hell they even bothered watching it. Moore and West are nevertheless sufficiently developped as the two hurtful parents, and their strong screen presence overcomes most of the dialogue's banalities. If only they had found something interesting to do with the payoff of this strange premise instead of taking some weird-ass easy way out...


There is a distinct lack of focus & drive in Freedomland that largely lessens the film's impact-- so much is thrown around (loss, guilt, racial prejudice, responsibility, etc.) that every theme brought to the table ends up diluted and kind of fuzzy. By the time the third reel kicks in, the film is far past its momentum and too preoccupied by the usual thriller tropes to fully register to the elaborate social commentary it first aimed for. The result? A resolutely not very cinematic picture that's troubling in parts but feeble as a whole. Moore, Falco and Jackson seem, however, to dig a little deeper into their characters that the screenplay does, and as frustrating as it is to see such fine performers thrash inside mostly one-note personas, the few notes of sincerity they hit makes Freedomland tolerable enough during one's viewing.

Dark Ride
Dark Ride(2006)

A sucky, monstrously uninspired piece of slasher crap that tries to build a certain mythology but ends up really, REALLY stupid, even by the standards of its genre. Not fun, really embarassingly acted, certainly not scary and full of crappy little directorial tricks that are good for the garbage can, Dark Ride is among the worst horror specimens Horrorfest could manage to pick up.

The Haunting in Connecticut

Each year, I see bucketfuls of horror movies. It's no secret that today, though, most of what's wide-released theatrically in the genre sucks ass. But that particular ass-sucking is, according to me, not to be dismissed as beneath contempt and without interest. The loads of badness those increasingly desperate productions end up bringing to the table are nuanced enough to form some sort of color scheme, and needless to say, their sociological, intrapersonal and even historical value are often more interesting that the film itself.

In short, The Haunting in Connecticut begs you to think of something else that might be interesting while you watch it.

I can't say I didn't learn from the film in question, on the opposite-- judging by its really solid 23 M$ opening weekend, we can see the public is thirsty again for some all-american terror. And judging by how many people truly believe that, yep, some haunty shit really went down in Connecticut, and that this film is a straight-up homage to the unexplainable mayhem this poor Christian family went through... let's say we're not even close to be done with those ghosties on film anytime soon.

...where was I? Oh, yeah. The movie.

I frankly think Peter Cornwell has shot a classy and frightening little horror film. Unfortunately, that film is not The Haunting in Connecticut. What I mean is that, somehow, someone decided to post-production this film to its doom, and Cornwell's obvious talent in staging moments of serious dread are almost completely undone in the process. No kidding : this is one of the most jarringly edited, intrusively scored and pathetically stitched together big-screen film I've seen in recent years. Routine, bore-shock-bore screenplay aside, the film's biggest problem is how the cinematic pieces come together.

Where to begin? The wall-to-wall score is downright shitty. It tells you something scary is happening a good thirty seconds before something actually scary might-- MIGHT-- be taking place. The best example has to be when Matt (Kyle Gallner) goes down his new house's stairs for the first time before any sight of burned ol' rotten corpse-- as the composer is already phoning in the leaky terror strings, I, sitting in my seat, couldn't help but feel that just his faint breath and the creaking stairs amidst the silence would be indescribably scarier. But nope! This film is padded with a loud, bombastic CREEPY MOTION PICTURE SOUNDTRACK!!!! of the worst order.

That bit of complaining aside... here's more complaining! Sepia-toned flashbacks all the way is not necessarily a terrible idea-- it's all in the execution, folks. Here, it seems apparent that some dingbat thought it'd be 'eerie' to jam all these bits and flashes at any remotely frightful moment of the film, resulting in a full-on assault of the senses that's about as scary as a Linkin Park music video.

All those idiotic post-production decisions leave little to room to observe those kind-of-great directorial choices. But my keen eye in horrific film-watching can spot a silver lining from a mile away, and here, there is plenty of quality buried under that last-minute crap. The photography is lugubrious and uniformly good. The Campbell family is not a bunch of stock characters (though that might be thanks to the actors). Some imagery is moderately disturbing. The dialogue sounds natural, if not particularly thoughtful. And there are little moments where you might feel that you're about to be scared-- of course, the scares are aborted afterwards, but nevertheless, it counts. And even if we aren't, those characters sure look startled, to say the least.

...which brings us to the cast. The Campbells are ''an ordinary family'' (stated plainly in the opening interview), except they are dealing with a son who has cancer, played by Kyle Gallner. He undoubtedly receives the top honors, coming across as confused, terrified and mostly, worn out. If the please-God-don't-take-away-my-son angle of the film never tips into flat-out melodrama, it's surely because of his realistic and respectful portrayal. Second in line is the very natural Amanda Crew as his cousin Wendy, who's stuck with not much of a character, but has a hugely likeable and strong screen presence nonetheless. Virginia Madsen-- an actress that usually impresses me-- also has acts out her torment with skill, but she is unexplainably wooden in some key scenes. Elias Koteas still does good work with a purely functional role, which cannot be said of Martin Donovan, who's done way better in awfully similar roles. There is still a nice unison in the acting range, and a palpable solidarity among those family members.

Despite their best efforts, the performers are not able to turn this flat, run-of-the-mill haunted house picture into a captivating experience. Too often, the film repeats the same pattern that substitutes dramatic tension for a variation of the same five or six scenes. It's not boring, but it's uninteresting, to say the least.

And so I drifted quite a few times into a long stream of related thoughts, barely giving a damn about what happened onscreen in quite a few segments. This subgenre is supposed to shake us north Americans to the core by exploiting our fear of the dead and household insecurities-- all The Haunting in Connecticut does is play terribly edited reels of things-that-go-bump-in-the-basement cut in-between a supremely average uh-merican family drama.

Factory Girl
Factory Girl(2007)

A rightfully epileptic and moderately enjoyable slice of sixties where both Sienna Miller and Guy Pearce seriously impress-- trouble is, it's all surface. This fractured and mostly unconvincing biopic does not do Edie Sedgwick true justice, and the numerous shortcuts it uses end up damaging the final product. The narration segments, featuring Miller herself explaining parts of her life to an off-screen therapist, are just brutal. We get a nice visual sense of what The Factory looked like, but no insight on how it worked. And it goes on, and on... this dominant superficiality cripples any illusion of honesty Factory Girl sometimes succeeds in creating.

At least it's not boring. Hickenlooper's nervous directorial hand is backed up by great editing, and like I said, Miller and especially Pearce are strong enough not to pass as mere caricatures. Trouble is, even if the fictionalized plot elements are not tough to get over, but the awkward, soapy sentimentalism leaves a bitter aftertaste, and Hayden Christensen, is, well... wooden, as always.

Dead Silence
Dead Silence(2007)

The success and creep factor of Dead Silence is largely centered around how much you think bug-eyed ventriloquist dolls are scary. There's no way around that. There's also no way around the fact that the dialogue is almost unbelievably stale, the story is pretty non-existent and so are the characters. But all those elements can easily be overthrown if the spooks are sufficient.

Are they?

Well, not quite. Thanks to creaky plot mechanics, frequent cliches and less-than-decent acting from almost everyone involved, you never truly forget you're watching a dumb horror movie, not for one minute. But Wan shows that he knows how to stage a chilling killer-puppet setpiece on more than one occasion. Even better : there is an extended stretch in the film, yes, the one with the eerie Grand Guignol theater flashback, that almost redeems the lousiness of the ensemble. Obviously, much contrived crap piles on top of it, and then it's back to square one. But small elements, including classy production design, a well-timed scare here and there and a freakish, balls-out crazy ending twist are enough to push Dead Silence out of the 'insulting waste of time' zone.

Still, I think I'd recommend it to the ones that are easily given the heebie-jeebies. I believe that if you're twelve, Dead Silence can turn out to be a fun, consistently startling little horror film to see in a group of four or five friends on a slumber party. Just because talking and laughing about how freaky it was for the whole night, and then scaring off the chickens with all that Mary Shaw crap might be worth it.

The rest, though, better steer clear.

Best in Show
Best in Show(2000)

Christopher Guest delivers... a Christopher Guest movie, starring Christopher Guest and his brilliant crew. As ever, the results are hysterical, spotaneous and pleasantly irrelevant, but while the film is never boring by any means, it could have hugely benefited from chopping the good ol' ten-to-fifteen. Cast-wise, everyone is in top shape, my personal highlights being Lynch, O'Hara and Guest himself. Though some will argue Best in Show is too lightweight of a satire to fully register (a statement that's hard to disagree with), I find myself asking if this film really needs pointy satiric teeth that much.

It's just funny, that's what.


I think it's safe to say there isn't a film anywhere near this one. Palindromes is a love-it-or-hate-it experience that invites the viewer to pick up as many clues as possible to unscramble a deeply affecting & disturbing mirror-puzzle of womanhood in America. Solondz' directorial eye gives precious little room for entertainment or convoluted shortcuts, but the result is magnetic on its own terms.

I can easily see how most viewers could be freaked out by the aberrant, purely nihilistic sequences scattered across this fragmented journey, and frankly, I don't blame them. His twisted humor might also come across as quite questionable, although it was undeniably effective for me.

I cannot say I have even tied up all the loose ends that remain after my second viewing. But what I do know is that I *felt* Palindromes-- and the odds of a film breaking through my shell of cinematic detachment after many years of movie-watching are now very small. For that, I congratulate Solondz and his outstanding achievement, and I recommend he never meets the therapist many might have recommended him.

The Squid and the Whale

Baumbach paints a personal, relevant and inspired portrait of joint custody and its 'casualties'. Down the line, the refusal to stick with any kind of commercial compromise-- none of the characters' writings ever succomb to Hollywood morals of good will and acceptance-- makes it all the more authentic. Yes, authenthic; that's a word that could fit this film like a glove, for while there are no big emotional Oscar clips nor much narrative turns, it feels achingly sincere.

Add to that extremely realistic performances, a few solid awkward laughs, a good soundtrack and most of all, masterful editing-- the film never feels superfluous and breathes easily through its 80-something minutes-- and you've got yourself a film that will surely become a key element in Baumbach's career. Not every viewer's type, but I still think M. and Mrs. Everybody should give this kind of movie (the bittersweet, down-to-earth family drama) a try.

Monsters vs. Aliens

Alright, I was devastated once I found out they pulled Coraline out of my local theaters. I had the opportunity to see a free movie-- and because of the lasting effect of Henry Selick's magnetic masterpiece, it itched me real bad to taste some animated three-dimensional genius again. And so I chose to see... this, vaguely aware of what I was heading into.

Sadly, while there might be a shitload of three-dimensional stuff in Monsters vs. Aliens, there lies little to no genius.

Well, at least it's not exactly a fun-damaging lack of genius. I'd be flat-out lying if I said that, all told, I didn't have a good time while it was playing. But there still is a palpable lack of imagination in how the narrative strings are pulled, and frankly, that's rather problematic when you consider how many times recent CGI flicks have knocked it out of the park. Not that I always expect social issues, a particular artistic sensibility or more than just a handful of subtle winks in every one of those... but still, I think you get what I'm saying, don't you?

Because yes, my friends, I can hardly say I give a damn if one of those animated comedies is not a couple of notches above, well, generic. That's almost, almost where Monsters vs. Aliens stands-- generic, common, run-of-the-mill, you name it-- but the ever-amazing 3D technology ups the final product significantly. Unfortunately (or fortunately, some would argue), since I've seen no less than five trailers of upcoming 3D cartoons before my viewing, I think it's safe to say those three dimensions are now more of a technological standard animation studios have to keep up with than a decision following a director's vision. It's not quite an excuse to wiggle stuff towards the audience (although the very first 3D effect leads us into thinking so), but besides those (still delightful) larger depths of field and slightly more enthralling slam-bang action sequences, I don't think they've scratched their heads too much on what new things they should do with it.

But enough with the threedee. There is whole film behind it, and if anything, its impersonal blandness was not aggressive enough to burn through those thick glasses. That's a good thing. Only one hour after seeing it, though, I couldn't quite remember the story, or more precisely what was the drive for the whole middle section. That's a bad thing. This film has evacuated my system like no other one I've seen in recent memory; there is precious little to say about the film other than it will surely not become anyone's favourite CGI flick, unless they are truly a virgin to the genre.

What else? It's the first time in a cartoon that I can say the characters have weak chemistry with each other, as odd as it may sound. These monsters, mostly misfits that have been locked up for now 50 years, represent nothing, nor do they have a strong sense of unity in more than a few ''let's deal with this together!'' scenes. Their wisecrackings have no flavor, their visuals are amusing at best (and it never goes beyond the reference to the films they're harvested from), and their largely predictable personalities fail to connect with the actual plot in a way that's not contrived or forced. Not that they are unpleasant or-- God forbid-- eye-gougingly annoying, but these monsters are no Sulleys or Mikes from Monsters, Inc. As for Susan/Ginormica, I'd say she's a likeable heroine (one with a commendable female enpowerment arc, too), but once again, nothing for the ages.

There are also the occasional moments where you find yourself REALLY laughing (not smirking), and it comes off as a surprise because at first you expect your standards have been diminished, but no, it's because it's actually a great gag. There is also the same anonymous, but energizing music. There are also a hundred slapstick moments that just are or are not funny, depending on when the last one was. There are also the same tired offbeat moments where someone is expected to do something really serious, and then no, he/she plays the theme from Beverly Hills Cop on a synth, and it goes on for a few beats too long, and you cringe as all the kiddies laugh.

I think you get the idea. This is not a film you need to see, groundbreaking 3D or not. It's safe, it's zippy, it's cute, and it's mostly too ordinary to be insultingly dumb. Its flatness is not evil enough to transform your children into evil children, but it is enough to steal 13 dollars from your wallet and make you regret it-- but only a bit, 'cause you know, you kind of had fun.


Silly but nevertheless somewhat effective, Cellular is strictly by-the-numbers action/thriller filmmaking low on I.Q. but moderately high on adrenaline. You know exactly how this film goes along AND ends, but you can't say you're not invested as the pace picks up. Evans makes for an okay lead and so does Statham as the villain, but Basinger is stuck in the flattest role of the bunch, the requisite screaming heap of tears.

Fantastic Four

It's flat, simple-minded junk food superhero cinema at its most uninspired, with nothing actually resembling substance beneath the flashy surface. Of course, the spectacle is too breezy to truly bore viewers to tears, but I must say Fantastic Four seriously lacks dramatic tension, engaging performers and prolonged excitement to be recommendable. Is it too much to ask for just a little depth, even if the point is to be lightweight entertainment and nothing else?

House of Wax
House of Wax(2005)

For a remake of the 1951 version turned into a flirty teen slasher, I'd say House of Wax is not at all the catastrophe a project like this one could have turned into. Make no mistake, though : it's utter garbage, but it has a nice self-aware tone and plenty of little touches that makes all the stupid plotting go down easier. It aims low, and it hits the mark : nearly all the tired genre elements are included but not played too loudly, the bursts of violence are sudden and shocking, and for a slasher film, I'd say it's surprisingly unnerving in parts.

The decision for the first act to be drawn out is, however, very hit-and-miss : it does indeed appear less gratuitous, but it might bore some viewers just looking for cheap exploitation, which is, let's face it, all that this predictable hodgepodge could ever dream of being. The finale, however, is sizzling and spectacular, and all the performers (even Hilton!) are just one notch above 'bad', rendering the experience quite tolerable, even at its very worst.


Ups & downs lead a suspenseful fight in Elektra, up until the final twenty minutes where it's clear the latter wins, hands down. Nevertheless, there are interesting directorial choices and story elements that point out a more-than-decent film could have been made out this comic book. This film, however, is not the one we have in our hands. Elektra is a supremely average movie that wields no soul, but well-choregraphed fighting sequences and a satisfying lead performance from Garner. If one can overcome the narrative's many dead patches, the largely blah dialogue and those unspeakably crappy villains, I guess this film is enjoyable, in a way. It's just a shame Frank Miller's iconic cold-blooded assassin is reduced to a standard action-adventure ice queen who succumbs far too easily to her maternal side. Where are the edges? Oh. PG-13, right.


Ripped to shreds by the critics, this isn't the fuckawful dud of the century everyone has made it to be... but boy, is it dumb. Probably the most lousily plotted superhero film to grace the screen in recent memory, Catwoman is only so-bad-it's-good in parts : the rest of the time, it's just run-of-the-mill costume vigilante crap, as empty as they get and as boring as they can be. Berry is, however, kind of fun to watch-- she's the sole bright spot in this embarassing spectacle, even though Pitof's soulless directing doesn't do her any favors. Either way, I've seen far worse, and I will see far, far worse again.

Freddy vs. Jason

Hyperactive, quite fun and fuck-all useless, Freddy vs. Jason is awful cinema... but thankfully, it's awful cinema that doesn't take itself seriously. Not the best (nor the worst) of each series, not by a long shot, but a decent, almost honest attempt at pumping out more cash out of them. Surprisingly swift plotting, sometimes successful stabs at humor, enjoyably splattery kills, not scary for a single second-- really, it's all you need to know. Acceptable, self-aware only-for-the-fans garbage.

Mr. & Mrs. Smith

Massively commercial and devoid of anything resembling actual 'substance', Mr. & Mrs Smith is proudly vacuous entertainment made with sly intelligence and a healthy balance between household dramatics and 'sploding stuff. It's all very pointless, the writing is miles away from matching its sharp dialogue and it's a good ten-to-fifteen minutes too long, but the chemistry between the now-legendary Pitt-Jolie couple covers up most of the weaknesses. Ultimately, this takedown of the perfect U.S. couple ends up too much fun to refuse. Hollywood doesn't get much more Hollywood than this-- why spoil the glitz?

The Hills Have Eyes

Nasty, unpredictable fun. Though the last third is massive overkill, this remake of the 70's cult classic proves to be remarkably gripping hard R-rated entertainment... assuming, of course, that you find R-rated horror entertaining. There are little to no false notes, the grisly tone is kept intact for most of the running time and the actors are fairly good. The only punishing factor, aside from the fuck-all pointlessness of this cash-making exercise, are the monster makeups. They look good-- but they still look like hideous prosthetics. Those monsters are scarier when they don't talk, or when they are not onscreen for too long.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning

Hugely lacks the supreme bone-chillingness of the original or the vigor of the remake. TCM : The Beginning is still an oddity in its genre for blending the usual slasher ingredients with extended torture porn sequences-- not that it makes the film worth recommending, but remains something rather unusual. The rest is largely been-there-done-that, with a bare twelve minutes of prequelling followed by gratuitous carnage that's too graphic & gritty to be laughed at. Add to that moments of pure screenwriting laziness (oh, gawd, that ending) and performances that range from 'meh' to 'blah' (even R. Lee Ermey seems on autopilot), and you've got yourself the obvious final dose of chainsaw massacres in texas for at least a decade.

Alpha Dog
Alpha Dog(2007)

Oozing testosterone and ultimately devoid of any morality, Alpha Dog first seduces you, then draws you closer, very slowly, and then shamelessly hits you on the head with a baseball bat. But hell, if you can not only stomach but fully appreciate your movies corrupted, dispirited and reckless to the extreme... I guess Alpha Dog makes for a moderately interesting film down the line, even if the pacing is as frustrating as it gets in those kinds of films. Also : Justin Timberlake fared quite well, to my surprise. Yeah... I know, right?

The House Bunny

There's something about Anna.

Yes, there is something about her : something that not every viewer could notice as he or she watches any of the films from the Scary Movie franchise, or her scene-stealing appearances in arthouse gems like Lost in Translation or Brokeback Mountain. Most people would agree on that fact : she is a gifted comedic actress. But it goes beyond that; her talent is unparalleled in the industry right now-- her approach to such roles/material is entirely her own. It occured to me right after watching Some Like It Hot that Faris possesses a great deal of Marilyn Monroe's charisma, without it seeming plagiarized or reheated.

Here, no matter how god-awful and shallow the script becomes, we have a perfect showcase for her brilliant acting skills. In The House Bunny, she is a hugely likeable dingbat for our generation, a warm-hearted and curious optimist whose good will and knowledge about sexy theatrics are able to save a handful of self-neglecting college girls from the horrible pits of rejection.

Naturally, that's where the problems start. Even if some of the writing can be zippy and somehow Mean Girls-esque in its pop culture-infused bite, the screenplay remains reprehensible (just plain stupid) as a whole. Even (...or especially?) when the good morals drip out everywhere during the requisite last-minute inspirational speech.

It occured to me that if it were a satirical smackdown of... well, the kind of the film it actually is, it would have been pitch-perfect just like that. Obviously, it is not a satirical smackdown of that kind of film. Nope... The House Bunny is a shiny product for the cellphone crowd, pure and simple, and even if it features one of the best performance of 2008, it's nothing short of retarded. I cannot even tell you how low my jaw dropped at the very last scene, which I'd rather not spoil since it is so exceptionally, eh, retarded.

...aaaalright, screw this : it's a fuck-all random credits pop performance sung entirely by our new-and-improved heroines from the Zeta Alpha Zeta sorority house. And the girls are rapping and squeaking about ''how hot my ladies are now''. And it features lyrics like ''slickety-slick, bam boom wow'' and ''where my, where my, where my Zetas at?''. And it's not a joke.

THAT is an evil moment, and if you cannot see why, then you are a stupid teenage girl, and this film was made for you.

Point is, there is acceptable escapism and evil escapism. In those regards, The House Bunny is pure evil, and it is set in a world where the toughest of social and image issues are all solved by 40-second montages (most often set to a catalogue of nearly all the pop songs I've passionately loathed for the past two years). And there's no amount of cutesy wisecrackings that can hide that evil-- and its crappy plotting, of course. I won't even enter that.

But enough with The House Bunny's dark side. Fortunately, y'all, there is Anna Faris at the very middle of this infernal cyclone. I suspect the film would destroy cities and kill small children if it were not for her-- but it's not the case. A few times, I almost bought into her (or the film's) very much mentally challenged porny logics, and if that is not a sign of a monumental talent, then I don't know what. She is also surrounded by a host of also remarkably gifted young actresses lead by the charming Emma Stone and irresistible Kat Dennings, and if those ones are not ravishing enough to NOT make me want to kick their characters in the face, I can still see a promising future ahead for them.

Either way, I would rate this film a one star if I could. But I just can't-- I would almost recommend it to the ones that like Mrs. Faris, cheesy college comedies and are shielded against the scorching rays of superficiality this one sends out.

Lonely Hearts

Lonely Hearts is a decent enough blend of film noir, thriller and household drama whose very first scene does indeed set the mood for nearly two hours of unsettling, tone-deaf sociopathology. Its detachment as Robinson films an unspeakably gritty series of crimes is all the more disturbing, but the film never quite ignites like one would expect. Maybe it's the way the screenplay can't quite make the two halves of his narrative-- cop and killers-- intertwine in a satisfying way; maybe it's the way the director never takes full advantage of his hugely gifted cast (except in a few scenes where Hayek and Leto are truly affecting); maybe it's just the fact that all told, this treatment of an extremely dark true story feels kind of lightweight once it's over.

But there is indeed a strong twisted poignancy to more than just a few scenes, and even if a lot could be editd out or simply feels too flat, I guess I prefer Robinson's stoic neo-noir cocktail over any manipulative, hyper-stylized take on a real story like this one.


Equal parts disturbing and comical, Pontypool is a shining example of how real talent can turn a low-budget project into a passionate and sweepingly horrific experience. Although by the one-hour mark, I was not quite sure what the hell I was watching and by the time it was over, well... I was even less sure, what I do know is that, all told, it is a wicked good time.

Director Bruce McDonald's previous effort, the delirious and dramatic The Tracey Fragments, is on a completely different page. But it does have two major plus points it shares with Pontypool : it's centered a powerhouse lead performance (in that film, Ellen Page and here, Stephen McHattie) and that it nevertheless deserves to be seen on the big screen despite its very modest production values.

Yes, it's an incredibly cinematic experience, for I have not seen a camera lensing a small space with such vitality and skill since William Friedkin's outstanding Bug. Best seen with thumping, bass-heavy theater speakers, the sound design largely contributes to an escalating sense of dread that is punctuated by effervescent splashes of humor. It's not Shaun of the Dead, in the way that it doesn't cap a horrifying, flesh-eaters-on-the-loose situation with witty gags-- it simply drops unmistakably very funny jokes as the dramatic tension kicks in. Of course, there are times when the laughs are discreet or simply too, eh, weird to be considered ha-ha funny, but the horror and comedy never cockfight instead of backing up each other.

Essentially a two-act story, the long buildup remains engaging (that is, for mature and demanding viewers) right up until the crazy shit kicks in. But the direction that's taken is fairly unpredictable : we've come to expect a tense, claustrophobic huis clos situation in a setup like this one, but the need to escape is not made central to the characters. It takes the film to a whole new level : the walls of its titular radio station become a micro-climate, where we often doubt what characters see and hear, but we are not tempted to point out their irrational behavior. It will leave tons of viewers unsatisfied, that's for sure, but it briskly dodges nearly all the zombie movie clichés in a handsweep. Even as the films descends deeper and deeper into flat-out oddities, I was gripped and ready to accept whatever was thrown my way.

It wouldn't be possible to not praise McHattie's excellent work as enigmatic and yappy radio show host Grant Mazzy. Just writing about his performance-- and voice-- makes me want to see the film all over again. Georgina Reilly and Lisa Houle make strong and admirable supporting females, one of which the fate still has me a bit traumatized.

I don't think Pontypool could ever be received by a widespread public, even though visually, it sure has the slick, polished look to make appealing trailers and TV spots. But for a genre fan, it's more than just a variation on the zombie theme, and by the time it's made apparent to the characters that simply muttering french words means virus immunity, you'll know what kind of twisted little gem you've put yourself in front of.

Also : post-credits scene, I love you.


Short version : see it. Make your own opinion, and spread the word. The film itself deserves discussion; its themes even more.

Needless to say, there are several ways to approach Watchmen. My uninitiated eyes (and the following review) therefore only speak to those that have never read the groundbreaking Moore/Gibbons graphic novel like me. To put it plainly, I went to the theater to see a film; I saw a film, and I am now going to review a film. Any objections?

Good. Let's begin now, because my god, there is plenty to cover. An adequate start would be Zack Snyder, a director whose projects, style and numerous ticks are, if anything, a good reminder of what cinematographic era we live in. I rather loved his take on Romero's Dawn of the Dead, to be honest : dynamic, extremely well-paced, filled with heart and humor, it was everything a horror remake for a new generation of fans should be. He then hit box-office gold with the loud, uber-stylized and embarassingly hollow 300, which obviously landed him the directing spot for this long-delayed adaptation.

Now, is Snyder up to the task? The answer would be, quite simply... kind of. My worst fear would be that the man would be so thrilled with the project he'd want to do it justice by blowing it out of proportion. In short : I cringed at the thought of witnessing a costumed vigilante film crumbling under the weight of its own badassery. Make no mistake, though-- it does show that Snyder is a young, relatively unexperienced director. Scratch that : he is not unexperienced as much as he is limited. And while a thicker, more thematically dense source material does bring out some interesting directorial choices from him, he is also prone to repeating much, much of the same tricks during the length of this nearly three-hour film. Speaking of which, I can see the general consensus is that it feels too long, but I thought exactly the opposite. There are a half-dozen of awkward cuts (you know, the ones that mean nothing but, oops! studio interference!), but Snyder keeps us invested, even hooked as the story unfolds. And that happens far more often than not, especially during the climactic confrontation and its Big Moral Ambiguousness (whudja do sumtin' HORRIBLE to prevent sumtin' REALLY HORRIBLE, ya know?). Only a few scenes proved to be uninteresting to me while they played, but they revealed themselves useful to the story afterwards. Nothing longer than three minutes could be thrown in the dumps-- Watchmen is a film that uses each and every of its 163 minutes wisely, no matter how scattered it actually feels.

I can't tell whether the screenplay is faithful to its original narrative or not, but that won't be my point. My point is that the final result is coherent and engaging, yet not particularly well-put together. Although the fragmented episodes end up building a satisfying whole, each time the film dives into the perilous backstory segments, you can hear the breaks going SCREEECH on the plot. Nevertheless, these tormented human beings posing as demigods (and then realizing they are not) are successfully developped, and most of all thankfully kept away from anything resembling caricature, although some performances do give that impression. I'll get on that later. What's most impressive is the grip on reality (and the thundering ironies) this re-invented 1985 has : visually startling and all told very familiar, this chaotic, nearly hopeless universe is a gripping place for so much insanity to unfold.

Seriously, there's a certain restraint in the proceedings that makes Watchmen all the more interesting. The numerous low-key exchanges that essentially drive the plot forward are (...wait for it...!) actually soberly filmed, and since most them are cut in-between Snyder-esque action setpieces (think lots of WOOOSHes and graphicbonebreaking), the balance is more stimulating than annoying. It's also impossible not to marvel at how just plain fucking awesome the opening credits set to Bob Dylan's ''The Times They Are A-Changin'' are, even if everyone has already raved the bejesus out of that sequence.

Tyler Bates' score is good-- moody, affecting, but with thin silver linings-- although it is unfortunately a bit undone by the overuse of music. Whether it be Hendrix or Simon & Garfunkel, the tunes weighen down the scenes instead of actually complimenting them. Sometimes the musical choice is good, but mostly, I couldn't shake off the feeling the scene would have turned out better without. Except, of course, for the terminally crappy Hallelujah sex scene. The less said about that one, the better. Ugh.

As for the Watchmen themselves, it's all good, if not great. Surely, the top honors go to Jackie Earle Haley for completely inhabiting Rorschach, also pulling off a dark'n'husky voice that sounds all threat and no joke. Omnipresent in the first part is the equally excellent Jeffrey Dean Morgan as The Comedian, who has such a strong grip on his fuckawful character it's a little scary. Patrick Wilson brings a strong sense of humility to the least developped of all Watchmen-- the same can be said of Billy Crudup, who manages to channel genuine humanity even if he is CGI'd as hell (and often eclipsed by the now-infamous, apparently show-stealing blue penis). All the negative buzz surrounding Malin Akerman as Silk Spectre II proved to be false, in my opinion ; I can picture a half-dozen other actresses of her generation that would have nailed the part, but she still underlines the moral discomfort of Laurie Jupiter with sincerity and elegance-- also two strong driving points of her ever-reliable co-star Carla Cugino as her mother. Really, only Matthew Goode finds it better to render his character cartoonish and mannered, but with the panache of the role he is given, I guess it doesn't 'not work'.

I'm not quite sure I can raise my hands up and call Watchmen a real success, truth be told. It does bite off more than it can chew, and I'd rather have waited another good ten years (or the expert hand of a truly accomplished director). But there is an unusually appealing quietness-- and maturity-- about a film that's expected to be so explosive and jarring, and quite frankly, I'd rather revisit this bleak, uncompromising little world than to sit through depressingly made-for-the-masses tales of ghost riders and fantastic foursomes.

Elizabeth: The Golden Age

Do you like Barbie Dolls?

More precisely : do you like 16th Century Barbie Doll Games?

I think I might have a film to recommend you. In this one, the dolls come along dressed in artfully poofy costumes, and are part of ridiculously elaborate sets-- best of all, they are essentially mechanical chatterboxes that spit out about a dozen or so of the same would-be meaningful lines over and over again. No, scratch that : BEST of all, their relationships are summed up right inside their boxes, so you can start playing love triangles as soon as they are unwrapped!

I have no desire to endure such a film, trust me. But as a class assignment, performing its autopsy was promising. I had previously heard a whole lot of... erm, 'praise' concerning the pompous excesses of (and I quote film critic T. Brayton) "Elizabeth : Bigger & Badder". But really, as much as I wanted this period extravaganza to be explosively camp, it turns out it's merely a navel-gazing bore repeating the same tricks over and over again until the deadening Battleship climax.

And you know what? It's not that much fun to watch, even when my very own cynical detachment is tickled right from scene one. Everything unfolds like one would expect, and with every scene piling up increasingly majestuous production values, everything remotely human is instantly crushed, leaving no room for nuance or subtlety. It doesn't help that the writing shamelessly pits the brave, tormented English empire against the cartoonishly diabolical Spanish one with zero shades of grey, but that's not what's important. Really, it's just a subplot to the soapy melodrama part of the story-- or, hmmm, maybe it's the opposite. I'm not quite sure, and I don't quire care.

Either way, it's a mess. We get no insight of the times in which Elizabeth was living, since most of the action unfolds in that damned throne room. In those regards, I must say the way Kapur enjoys filming by lovingly spinning around his subject, bypassing pillars and chandeliers, grows tiresome very early-- but not as much as his tick of hanging dangerously high cameras above his lavish sets for colossal establishing shots right in the middle of his character exchanges. If that's not a sign of pretentiousness, then I don't know what. Also similarly ponderous is the requisite Braveheart inspirational speech, lensed in a disturbing overflow of natural lighting.

There's also the inevitably shrill and fiery score by Craig Armstrong and A.R. Rahman, which contributes to many, many laughs. It goes without saying that the most beautiful compositions (beautiful white horse jumping off boat in slow-motion? or queen dressed in light silk drapes on top of a windy hill by the sea during a thunderstorm? anyone?) are highlighted by the incessant pounding of that godawful music.

Under the weight of this vomity gorgeousness are the performers, all lead by the thundering theatrics of Blanchett's second take on a character she masterfully interpreted in Kapur's first feature. That she is able to inject more than just a little humanity into a role that gets the wax mannequin treatment here is not surprising-- that she is able to keep a straight face all the way is. Beneath her are a handful of talented performers that leave little to no impression, with Clive Owen playing the handsome pirate with all the annoying cardboard handsomeness that it implies and Abbie Cornish being, eh, blonde. Only Jordi Molla plays the camp card, and to a somewhat greater effect.

Bottom line : all kitschy fireworks, no substance ; not nearly as hilarious as I had expected, but not normal enough to pretend this is an actual Good Movie. If the promised third outing continues with the same Almighty Hammer of Bigness, I think we will have in our hands a film that is able to block out the sun.

Hard Candy
Hard Candy(2006)

Hard Candy is not a grand film, but its modest ambitions mixed with incredibly effective moments turn it into some sort of peculiarity that will stand the test of time. Slade's directing choices are pitch-perfect, from the near-total exclusion of explicit imagery to the constant vagueness of his characters' next moves, and Page and Wilson carry the film wonderfully, constantly shifting from one colorful mood to another. The issues this film decides not to 'solve' but to (brilliantly) expose are explored with subtlety and nuance-- and even if the closure is not up to the standards that were set by the opening hour, the experience remains disturbing, tense and deliciously ambiguous. This one's a keeper.

A vos marques, party!

...Oh, lord. To type down everything bad, very bad or unspeakably bad about this movie clearly is an impossible thing to do, but I can assure you, I will do my very best.

First and foremost, the purpose. Months before the release, everyone involved on this drivel (cast, producers, director) had already admitted to the media this was a ''commercial'' flick and that there was nothing wrong with simple entertainment. I absolutely do agree with that statement alone, but what we have here is a shameless piece of excrement, effortlessly written and with no conviction beyond applying the endless formula just to rake in the bucks. Everything, hear me, EVERYTHING here has already been seen before bazillions of times in its American counterparts but with far more wit, energy or just plain effort. The dialogue is mercilessly flat (wait 'til you hear the dubbed version, too), the jokes are as funny as cancer, the chemistry nonexistant and the conventional relationship zig-zags are only more painful to get through than usual (and *that's* saying something).

With a cast that, without any exception, all look too old for their parts and terribly out of place, and a monstrous per-minute product placement ratio, this lazy abomination has clearly earned its place in the ranks of what I call 'dead cinema'. Everyone involved should be seriously ashamed of insulting the nine to fifteen year old girls' intelligence like that, and everyone else not falling in that range that are curious, if only for one tiny bit, should RUN THE FUCK AWAY.


A glacial and derivative horror/thriller that fails to do anything with its interesting (if routine) concept, Darkness is a strictly been-there-done-that inclusion to the Haunted House horror subgenre.

While Balaguero manages to stage some briefly frightening moments, the end result is a hodgepodge of phony dialogue cut in-between pointless creepy moments. There are quite a few unintentional laughs scattered all over, and Balaguero has noticeable trouble in ably directing his performers, but there's nothing really atrocious on display here.

Lena Olin and Anna Paquin have unquestionably been a lot better, but they are not bad enough to deserve mockery. Iain Glen, however, kind of sucks.

Although I loved the subtle, anticlimactic conclusion, there's not much to recommend here. They tried making a scary movie; they failed. No big deal. Try again, guys.

The Hills Have Eyes 2

Upset the original didn't get its obligatory crap remake treatment? This is just what you need! This second and brutally unecessary trip to the Hills is practically ninety minutes of stick figures in uniforms running around with guns before getting the pickaxe one by one. And, even worse, when the 'shocking' viscera occurs, it's orchestrated in such an irritatingly 'IN-YOUR-FACE!' manner that it comes borderline close to-- no, come to think of it, it comes almost *exactly* like those awful DTV sequels' directing style.

Pumping up the gore and throwing in another rape (complete with mutant tongue!) just for the hell of it is a pretty shitty idea, but the capital mistake of this lame rehash of the 2006 remake has to be that the tension, from start to finish, is kept to a thudding zero.

Dead Like Me: Life After Death

I can very much appreciate the good will behind the idea of a DTV follow-up to a highly underrated series, especially one that has been criminally aborted. But good will alone does not make a good film, and in those regards, Dead Like Me : Life After Death is almost complete failure.

It's a real shame. Really. Without a doubt, the Dead Like Me series had proven itself as a deliciously sardonic take on life and death, and established a fun, elaborate set of rules concerning its gimmicky fantasies in just two seasons. Not known for its subtlety and certainly not for its family-friendly content, the program nevertheless excelled in drawing laughs (and even morals) from gleefully macabre situations and peppery character exchanges. And by chosing to present some closure to the show's most passionate fans, a nifty little feature-length conclusion was not by any means a bad idea. But was the target that hard to hit? Or rather, were the potential screw-ups that tough to avoid?

Not that I have any sympathy for the minds behind this flat, stodgy reheat of the original show's flashiest elements. Even if one excuses the absence of two-fifths of the brilliant lead cast members, the results are profoundly embarassing. First and foremost without a clue how to blend tones, director Stephen Herek makes a very poor use of the slightly higher production values, lensing his feature in-between television and, well, bad television. Most closeups are used in all the wrong places, calling unneeded attention to shallow conversations; the dialogue, limp and obvious, is strictly shot reverse-shot; the tacky scene transitions and sped-up footage taken from the series are cheap and redundant here; the phony CGI blends rather badly with the bigger sets, yada, yada yada. It's really terribly directed, using all of the beloved TV show's ticks to spice up its lazy mechanics, and if it weren't for a few brief imaginative touches (the opening graphic novel, one Rube Goldberg death, a narratively interesting conclusion, etc.), it would be nothing short of just horrid.

But I could have easily forgiven the clumsy directing if it wasn't backed by equally clumsy writing, though to be honest, the screenplay is not clumsy as much as it is uninspired. It's like they didn't even try. Before even getting into the butchering of genuinely likeable characters, I will lean on the *gasp* extremely flaccid plotting. It's a bad sign when one cannot even remember what the film's main conflict was about-- and Dead Like Me : Life After Death sure as hell makes sure nothing too important is going on. Going through tremendously unexciting motions, it uses patterns that not only repeat some of the show's episodes but also crushes the rules that were previously established. Add to that chunks of contrived melodrama and plenty of situational incoherences, and you've got yourself a screenplay that deserves to be reworked from scratch, or worse, a plot that could be an okay 22-minute episode from the second season.

What really kills this project to death, though, is how they handle most of the characters this time. Callum Blue's Mason, once a joyfully clueless but ocassionally witty druggie, does nothing to come across as sympathetic here, barely even existing inside the film's narrative. Jasmine Guy's badass Roxy tends to hit the same notes of hilarity, but she goes through such an ass-stupid plot point her persona barely recovers from it. To our despair, Cynthia Stevenson as Joy (the series' big emotional arc) is surprisingly absent from the film, leaving much more place to Britt McKillip's Reggie, who's grown to be a peculiarly decent actress inhabiting probably the only character 'change' to prove itself successful. The two lowest points are unquestionably Henry Ian Cusick as Cameron Kane, an awful, almost non-existant villain, and Sarah Wynter as the new Daisy, possessing zero charisma while stuck with quite possibly the most appalling dumbing-down ever of a character through transition. Mandy Patinkin and Laura Harris, your presences are sorely missed. Ellen Muth, though, is just as good as she was before, and let me tell you it's a relief to find out her dry humour and whatthefuck-stance is left intact among all the crappiness on display.

By the time the final scene rolls and Metisse's ''Boom Boom Ba'' plays, it's like the film doesn't even deserve to use it. Untrue to Dead Like Me in spirit and manoeuvered with striking incompetence, it breaks my heart to say so, but this drivel totally misses the mark on nearly every level. I think we can safely say the series is, ahem, dead by now.

Now let's mourn, and move on.

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist

It's sweet.

Alright. All in all, it's not much more than that, but for someone who's wholly allergic to canned feelgoodness, I can say Nick & Norah's infinite playlist is a pleasant, compulsively watchable experience while it lasts. It easily overcomes its tendency to arch towards too-hip-for-thou writing, and one almost, almost forgets the non-stop use of indie music as background gets a more annoying that charming towards the end. But it's sweet.

And, yep, I really don't feel like writing that much on it, because in the end, it doesn't add up to much. It aims to be sweet and it ends up being sweet-- end of story. Dennings and Cera are sweet-- end of story. The screenplay is-- well, you get the picture.

So while the dialogue gets a bit too unnatural by trying to sound fresh and modern, the way it unfolds feels a little too contrived, the ending comes across curiously rushed-- who cares? If the magic works, it fucking works, and that's that.

What's left to say about Nick & Norah's..., then?

Well.. it's sweet.

Friday the 13th

What you see is what you get. This reboot of the longest (and arguably most desperate) horror franchise in film history has only one reason to exist : getting its greasy hands on your sweet cash.

I am immediately going to shut off the debate about whether it is fair or not that such films so tawdry, unimaginative and needless deserve to hit box-office gold. This is an entirely subjective matter; one that has been covered with determination by writers infinitely better than me, and that will be covered again by writers infinitely better than those ones. This argument is essentially ethical (or ethically essential?), but let's just keep it at that : it might be 'wrong', but it's a fact. A huge part of the moviegoing public can never get enough of attractive people being set up like bowling pins, and then being chopped apart. That, and boobs.

Oh, yes. The boobs.

Silicone boobs. Bouncing boobs. Beer-covered boobs. Mannequin boobs. Magazine Boobs. Water-skiing boobs. Every fifteen minutes or so, those particular supporting characters make their glorious appearance, drawing classy dialogue like ''Your tits are stupendous!'' from nearby on-screen males. It's really spectacular (and kind of horrifying) how many disturbingly spherical female breasts are waggled in front of the camera. And it goes far, far beyond the state of 'necessity' to 'elevate' the film among the most 'famous' old-school American horror classics. It's straight-up pervasive, and sort of a little bit mentally challenged, in the way that it assumes the audience is THAT monstrously thirsty for... for boobs.

But boobs aside, let's discuss what's good and what's bad about this Friday. Director Marcus Nispel has proven he is able to provide competent, respectful directorial choices after helming the suprisingly bearable Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake in 2003. Here, all he provides is a slick music video look for the music video generation. In contrast to the cheap, badly executed way of setting up The Batch of Teens of the original series, it's not worthless-- while the characters remain diabolically stupid, the way their (also diabolically stupid) dialogues are filmed is a little more involving this time.

But that particular way of filming (which unsurprisingly features a few uses of shaky cam) opens up the door for new, unexplored terrains of crappiness. First, some shots could easily pass as Jeep or beer commericals. Second, some scenes, particularly the ones being set in that fancy-ass cabin full of 'hot' teens, are constructed so badly they're hard not to laugh at. When two actions are set at the same time, we hop back and forth between a would-be suspenseful moment that leads to nothing and A Moment Of Serious Dialogue. I cannot explain how much it is distracting to constantly switch in-between plot exposition and topless waterskiing. Boobs.

Jason Voorhees himself is given a respectable treatment, although his backstory is rather routine. Physically, his dimensions are not unbelievable, giving a couple of face-offs some kind of tension because he appears to be kind of surmountable. His appearances are short and sweet : he is exposed the right amount of time to give the scary some steam without having it vanish.

And the murders! Those murders... the reason why all those asses are sitting in their theaters seats, that is. How are they? Frankly, not bad. While some of them are bizarrely out of character (it's Jason, not Rambo), they never get over the top or too graphic for their own good. Some of them are even preceeded by (what?!) suspenseful moments of silence. But the timing under which they are delivered tends to be a little off, sometimes very predictable and sometimes just plain implausible. The screenplay, however, does nail in what order and in which way The Meat get dispatched (including the requisite one and only death that is supposed to have an 'emotional impact'), and it (sort of) succeeds in re-imagining the notorious final scare from the original.

It's not very hard to guess who is spared the blade or not (except in perhaps one case). Friday the 13th is the most puritanical slasher I have seen in ages, where each and every sinner is duly punished for using illegal drugs or having premarital sex. It's flawlessly stupid, and most of all, deeply conservative under its Let's Show You Naughty Stuff layers, which is exactly how those type of films were in the day. Well hey, I guess this was their intention, so mission accomplished.

As for the performances, well... it's useless, but there goes : Jared Padalecki is a typical Lead Guy, but on roids, Danielle Panabaker is much too good for this kind of garbage and it shows, Travis Van Winkle is one of the most repulsive Rich Kid Asshole of the history of slashers (mission accomplished here too) and Aaron Yoo is, uh, Asian, therefore dead. The only truly vibrant performer in this hodgepodge of skinny girls and hunky dudes is Amanda Righetti, a Final Girl in soul if there ever was one (but with a twist!), and about the only cast member who really sells her fright.

Wow, I just wrote more than a little about the performances in a slasher film.

Either way... what you see in what you get. Simple as that. If teens-in-peril are not your cup of tea... I don't even know why you're reading this. There are many, many spellbinding films out there that deserve your time and money. This one is pure, by-the-numbers exploitative shlock that is only an attempt to revive a long-dead series from its ashes.

Judging by an eye-popping 42 M$ opening weekend gross, I think we can assume that Jason is not bound to turn to ashes anytime soon.


Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events

Even many years after its theatrical release, I am still very much tempted to say this is one of the best children's film to have been produced in at least a decade. Quote me on that.

Now, I have not read the source material and cannot possibly comment on what was taken out and how faithful it is to the series, but what I do know is that the present screenplay is quite nicely assembled, offering plenty of incredibly textured set-pieces whose near-perfect flow (and duration) is only disturbed by minimal incoherences. It's a hugely enjoyable story with a message passes along quite well (there is always a glimpse of hope to be found in typically hopeless situations, if you look hard enough), and the transition from one episode to another never feels too... well, episodic.

Of course, it'd be hard not to overpraise the magnificent visual appeal of the film. Rich, gloomy, gorgeous but without ever getting too showy, it's a spectacle full of imaginative set designs, both interiors and exteriors, some of which somehow tend to swallow a bit of the situations and dialogue. There's nothing frustrating about that, simply because the exhanges, most of them cleverly written, remain at a childlike level (and not in a bad way). And so, while a younger audience can giggle at the gags (which are never, ever flat-out juvenile), the grown-ups can marvel at Silberling's excellent stage direction, and of course, the technical wonders on display, artfully wrapping each and every moment in sublime gothic coatings.

Characters range from cartoonesque (most of the terciary supporting players) to theatrical (the Baudelaires' relatives) to naturalistic (the Baudelaires themselves and Justice Strass) to Grand Guignol (Carrey, of course), but this sort of uneven mashup works wonders here, especially in a story that draws a fine line between adults and children. It's very refreshing to see a story aimed towards children that believes in self-reliance without plunging headfirst into an abundance of fantasy and those dreadful made-by-kids gadgets.

While Jim Carrey delivers an explosively hammy performance, younger actors Emily Browning and Liam Aiken play it sober without ever hitting any false notes. Their glum, mostly observational stance suits the insecurity (and special talents) of their characters pretty well, even though pitted against Carrey, they seemed beamed in from a distant planet (but once again, in a situation like that, who doesn't?). Meryl Streep unsurprisingly steals her entire segment, mostly because she understands what Aunt Josephine's dimensions should be. It is nothing less than a great deal of fun to watch her have a great deal of fun. Billy Connolly and Timothy Spall also add a bit of joy to the proceedings, while veterans like Dustin Hoffmand and Catherine O'Hara tastefully flash by for minute-long roles. The cast in general is very graceful-- I'm just still a bit doubtful about the Carrey thing : his obvious talents are perhaps not dark enough to turn Olaf into a tangible, malevolent threat, and he may very well be what prevents the film the most from fully embracing its somber side.

Minor plot contrivances and a questionable central performance aside, the film is great, handsome fun that never assumes its audience doesn't have a brain. I'm a little sad to know there probably will never be any sequel, but once again, a whole lot has been done just right by Silberling, so I'm glad they can't fuck up anything by now.

When a Stranger Calls

Uh-uh. This film is very much badger crap, and that's that.

I believe I saw this in theaters on opening weekend during February 2006 with my friends, and yeah man, it was full, and I think I had a blast. I do remember how shiny-looking, terribly written, unconvincingly acted, poorly directed and cheaply executed it was, but when I truly think of it, I sort of only can partially recall some moments, much like a dream. I can point out tiny episodes that make no sense and that I know are vaguely connected, but in what order and to what use, well fuck me if I can actually remember. I do remember when Camilla Belle unwraps a frozen fruit bar, when the bitchy blonde visits her and is killed (and how we very much do not see her die), the horrifyingly intrusive music, and, uhhhh, some of the phonecalls, I guess. Also some parts of the first act, which is nothing but pure padding. My, it was bloody awful. But that didn't stop me from having fun. It is truly stupid, airbrushed, machine-pressed garbage made without a clue how to make good cinema.

But I'm not angry at it. I kind of feel superior to it, and when I think of it, it makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside.

Hide and Seek

Enjoyably slow-paced, Hide and Seek is a respectable attempt at piecing together a 'smart', 'grown-up' thriller, but it nevertheless ends up being sincerely lackluster at the end of the road. All this film has to lure you in is the promise of some decent chills and a good explanation of what the hell was going on throughout. Is it satisfying on those levels? Not quite. Is it catastrophic, then? Not at all.

DeNiro and especially Fanning inhabit reasonably interesting characters, and they are both written and acted convincingly. Their psychological progression is more than just a little competent, and the story unwrapping itself sluggishly is quite fun to watch. However, as cats jump out of the closet and dark family secrets are revealed, the credibility is stretched well beyond belief. Much like Polson's previous work, the cheesy (and slightly inferior) Swimfan, there is some fun to be had in watching how things will turn out, even if it is with semi-bored detachment as the film approaches its finale.

In short, Hide and Seek is somewhere in between intriguing and silly, starting with the former and finishing with the latter, and hitting every note possible between the two. I would not urge you to stop watching if it came on T.V in late-hour couch potato fridays.

The Wackness
The Wackness(2008)

Coming-of-age stories are mostly hit-or-miss; either you relate to them, either you don't. I can't say The Wackness is a film that reaches out specifically for me and my friends, considering I was still learning to read & write back in 1994, but I have to say I strongly admire Levine's approach to the teenage years almost as much as his beloved All the boys love Mandy Lane.

And yet, there is a distinct lack of 'something', the same 'something' that made me cheer out loud once Mandy Lane's credits started rolling. To put it plainly, I think it has to be about expectations : his last film was set up as a straight-up slasher and grew into something relevant and fresh, whereas The Wackness reaches out much higher and ends up more conventional, despite all of its personal melancholy. Speaking of which, the raw, foggy, almost surreal mood (also present in Mandy Lane) is used to full effect here, completely penetrating Levine's characters and digging out their state of mind with much, much flair.

But as evocative and precise as the directing appears, on the screenplay level, it's somewhat less competent. Luke's summer, cleverly separated into three acts (June, July & August), is rendered with hesitation-- the dramatic tension dillydallies, and so does our interest in what's happening. Frankly, it's quite uneven; as both Luke and Dr. Squires go through their own personal drama, the film never focuses with the right grip on their issues. When we want substance, we get silly (yet fun) dreamy escapism, and when we're ready for some irrationnality, it's back to the heavy, gritty urban drama.

Yet, most of these flaws can be overcomed, thankfully. Levine's stage direction is very good, and so are the performers. Peck gives Luke a perfect stoned drawl but also finds the innocence and naïve thinking to make him a vulnerable and identifiable character. And Kingsley is at his quirky best as a man so starved for more life that it's actually making him go a little loopy. As for Thirlby, she often comes close to owning the film with her eye-popping sex bomb number, as she seems to perfectly understand her character's nature : bored, not ready to commit, but always, always craving for more. Janssen imposes a physicality that serves her character pretty well, and later confirms Kristen's importance in the story, despite it being underwritten, and Mary Kate Olsen can seriously look like she's on drugs (no comment here...).

Either way, it's a small-scale triumph. When it works, it works, and when it doesn't, it's pretty clear what Levine wanted to achieve.

I'm sure we're going to see something that's even more successful from him, and soon-ish.

Slumdog Millionaire

Here's an answer to the question on everyone's mind : nope, Slumdog Millionaire is not the best film of the year, not by a long shot. But why spoil the fun? This extremely well-made inclusion into another cultural universe is just what Teh Movies needed by 2008. Bring on those awards.

Boyle has proved himself to be an extremely versatile director by now. Needless to say, when one's directorial projects include Scottish junkie existentialism, apocalyptic undead terror, sweet childlike fantasies and poetic outer space missions in a 12-year span, it's hard to deny that plenty has been covered. And yet, Boyle enters a completely different terrain despite some similarity in themes, capturing the essence of a life lived mostly in as a Muslim Indian 'slum' in fragments-- it's not a terribly original way to picture one's self-made journey towards freedom, love and bloss, but it is nevertheless brilliantly rendered here.

The english director's camera has never been so vibrant. Near the beginning of the film, when a group of children are chased through Mumbai streets, a succession of tight closeups, large panoramics and handheld camera moments (set to a superb soundtrack) results in one of the most exciting scenes I've seen all year. And it doesn't stop here. Although it takes a bit of time before we get to see something as grand again (Jamal Malik's dark, disturbing childhood takes a large portion of the screentime), there are plenty of wondrous compositions that go well-over being beautiful for the sake of being beautiful. Cut in-between moments where Jamal is interrogated by policemen who suspect him of cheating on the Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire, an abrupt kaleidoscope of his life up to now progressively installed. Those vignettes vary in interest and energy, but every one of them adds to the story in their own way. I've rarely seen narratives so exhausting in concept ultimately turn so breezy in execution.

Those 120 minutes pass like 90. I swear. For a film so labyrinthic, not once did I feel like asking who's sitting with me what the hell was going on, or worse, the urge to check my watch. It's sleek, effective, and tight all at once, without losing an ounce of its epic gorgeousness. Most of all, it treats a harsh lifetime in an upbeat and inspiring way without committing the sin of making slum life seem pretty and easy. Also, this is not an easy feat to achieve : substantially increasing the sentimentalism in the third act without having it come across as phony or made-for-the-masses.

While there are some facilities in the writing that can be easily forgiven, they are indeed what handicap Slumdog Millionaire from being the very richest film of the year. A bit too anecdotic and sometimes flat-out contrived, the twists and turns of the story beg for a certain suspension of disbelief. The characters are not too developped beyond their reactions to what's happening, but I can't picture a two-hour film like this one working with awfully complex minds either. Of course, it helps a whole lot that these minds are portrayed by immensely charismatic performers, children, teenagers and young adults alike, with the instantly likeable Dev Patel as a lead. He is a strong presence that ties all of the film's floating episodes together, and he more than convincingly inhabits the different personas of himself shown previously in the story.

Capped with an exhilarating on-credits finale (which I'd rather not spoil) that renders Bollywoodian cinema great justice, it does not surprise that Slumdog Millionaire has a great chance of leaving most viewers in near-ecstasy once it is over. And while once looked back on, the story feels a bit shaky and somewhat plagued by shortcuts, there's no denying that Danny Boyle's latest is powerful, dazzling entertainment that's, all in all, truly necessary today for showing the worldwide public a triumphant Indian culture.

Zack and Miri Make a Porno

Limp, borderline mechanical and worst of all really, really fucking obvious, Zack and Miri Make a Porno is a scarily numbing experience, and a major misfire from the usually skillful Kevin Smith. As much as I would have wanted to like this one, there's nothing that really renders that lovely little premise any justice.

I frankly don't see myself typing that much about everything that went wrong with the execution. Mostly, comedy works far more subjectively than most genres I can think of, and when one is not laughing during a comedy, let's just say one is not having much fun. I laughed during Zack and Miri Make a Porno, but not nearly enough to fill out those numerous dead patches where nothing witty, well-thought nor really funny happens. Yes, the gags here are explicit, that's for sure-- but in Smith's totally! fucking! raunchy! universe, everyone delivers dirty one-liners and use the f-bomb twice in every sentence. The results : everything properly 'shocking' fails to stand out that much, and of course, feels embarassingly unnatural. It results in a curiously unaffecting series of gross-out sex jokes strung together by an uniformly obscene dialogue.

Not that I was offended by any of it, because I was not.

It's just hiding its shallowness (and shocking use of formula) behind a wall of self-consciously profane gags-- any message here about sexual exclusivity, friendship and true love is flushed down a torrent of flaccid gags that are pulled off with boring detachment. And by 'detachment', I do not mean credible, spontaneous writing, because there's nothing that really feels especially apparent to real life in Zack & Miri, from the porn scenes they're shooting to the progression of the titular characters' relationship to the (gasp!) dialogue.

But had this dialogue-driven film been only jam-packed with crude ha-has, I could have forgiven it much, much more. Alas, no : the details (and sometimes entirety) of the situations his characters are put in are sometimes so contrived and phony they suck out all the life of the scene they're in. I am pointing out little moments such as when the electricity in the bill-ridden appartment comes back, or when the whole gang decides to shoot their adult videos in Zack's workplace. It smacks of lazy screenwriting, and it also throws realism out the window.

Mostly though, what really kills this film's energy to death is, as reported by many others, the progressive shift from gross to gooey. Yep, it is frankly tiresome. Problem is, Smith doesn't humanize his lead characters enough to make their (roaringly predictable) turn towards each other really all that compelling. They are barely given characterizations beyond being Foul-Mouthed Kevin Smith Alter-Ego and Foul-Mouthed Kevin Smith's Ideal Of A Woman. Here, everything 'real people' is channeled through the cast's talents, and that's it.

Speaking of which, yes, the cast members do bring the best of Zack & Miri to the table. Elizabeth Banks, a very naturalistic performer, can sometimes makes us forget her Miri is a science-fiction character. Everything about her performance (giggles, bubbly stares, bodily language, spunky line-readings) feels genuine and refreshing. I'm still a little dissapointed with Rogen, though, because I hoped his persona would evolve beyond what we have seen of him in countless other films (mostly Judd Apatow vehicles), but I guess it doesn't help that much that his character is given pretty much the same emotional arc to cover once again. The supporting cast members are all Foul-Mouthed Kevin Smith-lite Caricatures, but their do have good comedic timing. At least.

So nope, not very good. Zack and Miri Make a Porno (alright, I still love that title) does achieve a decent twenty-minute test run before flatlining, but there's nothing to really justify a rental, let alone a trend. I can't picture anybody else mastering a comedy with a starting point like this one other than Kevin Smith, and seeing him fail right here is more than just a little heartbreaking.

EDIT : Alright. Alright. The scene that plays in the middle of the credits ties many loose ends, and is funny as hell. I'm sorry. Two and a half stars. Yeah.

The Class
The Class(2008)

This... is it.

It's right here. This is, hands down, the best film of 2008. Among everything terrible, bad, okay, good and extraordinary I have seen all year, there is no other picture to even come close to how terrific and deeply affecting Entre les Murs is.

I am not in any way exaggerating how powerful this film is. It is, to me, a revolutionary piece of work that DOES push the limits of the seventh art, in the sense that it succeeds by both presenting & analyzing a reality that would make most flinch. It is art as a magnifying glass. There is no sentimentality, no segment that feels fabricated to pass a point, no nothing. It trades any commercial compromise possible for a raw, disturbing but nevertheless uplifting dissection of the french educational system. Beyond that, there is also a message on any educational system. Beyond that, there is a poignant study on adult-teenager dialogue, too. And beyond that, there is a brilliant take on the human condition.

First things first : I have never seen a film sneak up on me like that. Fueled by rave reviews, I knew this film was going to be somewhat excellent before I even entered the theater. But its greatness is not at all how I expected it to land, not by a long shot : there is not a trace of pretense, no elaborate directorial adjustment to highlight every point that is made, nor the manipulation of a film score-- hell, the tense, revealing and sometimes chaotic sound design of the titular classroom provides better music than any skillful composer could have brought. The film is, to put it plainly, alive. It breathes the crushing ambiguity of the face-offs between teachers and students-- that is, when the doors are open for a confrontation. Otherwise, the harshness of having to deal with young individuals that dispiritingly refuse to settle is painted. It's nothing less than suffocating : I admit I was more than uncomfortable watching a great deal of scenes. It brings us back to a fundamental question : is it possible for the right to dialogue with the wrong if there exists no will to do so on the latter's side?

Beneath what first seem as an anecdotal collection of extremely realistic (or one might just say as well authentic) classroom scenes, a crescendo is slowly installed. As the year progresses (and as we get further insight on most of the coldly insubordinate students), a crisis becomes more and more apparent. Teachers meet, discuss and argue about certain cases of rough behaviors, and then find temporary solutions (read : punishment) to deal with those types of kids. Eventually, a moral conflict is more than apparent, thanks to the possible outcome of expelling an extremely troublesome student. By that point, the film has reached an almost thirty-minute long climax that opposes drastically different perceptions on education. The dilemma is deeply discomforting. One of the teachers on the radical side even suggests his method might be comparable to 'buying social peace'-- so what if the headstrong but alarmingly refractory student is sent away? The school will benefit from it. His surrounding shouldn't have to pay for his indiscipline, right? Some of the observations Francois' colleagues bring are just as thought provoking, if not more.

There is no line drawn. There is no answer.

Without the disarming naturalism of its performers, Entre les Murs would be a remarkable exercise. But the realness and spontaneity among the actors, from Francois Begaudeau to his students to his fellow teachers, is just jaw-dropping. It lifts the picture to a whole other level, where it is disquieting to observe so many real people interact without having any of them put on a 'performance' (i.e. knowing a camera is placed on them). I repeat : there is not a single moment in the entire 129-minute running time where a feeling appears simulated.

The recurring use of handheld camera perfectly captures the bleak, unnerving atmosphere of classroom exchanges-- its cinema verite look is on par with the similarly humane drama Rachel Getting Married. Like that film, what drives the story is not a conventional connect-the-dots narrative, but rather a frighteningly well-chosen depiction of the moments scattered across a given period of time.

This, my friends, is heavy stuff. I came out of Entre les Murs severely shaken-- in one of the final scenes, where Francois asks his students what they have learned through the year, an emotional wrecking ball is swung right into our face. While its american counterparts like the thoroughly bland Freedom Writers mistake dramatic impact with easy-as-fuck maudlinism, this one refuses to give us relief by the time it's over. There is no happy ending, but there is no sad ending either-- in fact, the only thing that ends is the school year. The machinery rests for a whole summer, and it will start working again. The absence of a cinematic, audience-friendly 'closure' brings this masterpiece scarily closer to reality... again.

Run see this film. Bring your children, friends, family-- it doesn't matter if they find it boring or slow-moving. I am convinced this phenomenal achievement is going to be looked back on, and probably understood well after the credits have rolled. Maybe much later in their life. Maybe not. But they will still have been exposed to an indescribably brilliant film.

Run see Entre les Murs.

If there is a film that deserves your hard-earned money, it's this one.


The Hitcher
The Hitcher(2007)

Theeeeere you go. Everyone has already forgotten this film by now. Not that it doesn't deserve to.

Basically one loud and bloody 80 minute-long chase scene, The Hitcher is low-grade entertainment solely for those who can stomach this kind of atrocity. Far more interested in staging resolutely cruel death scenes than a genuinely stressful atmosphere (or anything bearing an resemblance to an actual atmosphere), the film's cheap and nasty shocks quickly fall flat. Yes, the shocks are there, but they are entirely at credibility's expense. Also, once it's past the 1-hour mark, this exemplarily needless remake takes a brutal turn in the action-thriller category, so those expecting a few nightmares afterwards might end up severely dissapointed because... well, it's just not creepy anymore, or scary for that matter. It's just plain fucking jarring.

The screenplay really wants us to be invested in the two leads, before AND while the mayhem occurs, but they are as thin as can be. It takes about eleven minutes before our girl screams ''WATCH OUT!'' to her drowsy boyfriend behind the wheel because they are about to run over the infamous hitcher. After that, a wannabe 'tension' never lets up, accumulating mechanical stalking scenes and REALLY, REALLY LOUD jump scares at every opportunity possible. It tries to be shocking by killing off as many people as it can along the way (including an entire Innocent Christian Family), but it just ends up pathetic and tasteless.

Silver living : Sean Bean is wicked good as the psychopath, instantly remembering us why Hollywood almost never casts him in roles other than villains or traitors. As for Sophia Bush, she is not a good nor interesting actress by any means, but she can deliver gallons of tears and simulate fright well enough to earn a passing grade for a film like this. Her co-star Zachary Knighton leaves no impression whatsoever, except that he looks an awful lot like Shaggy in Scooby-Doo.

So, what's left? A prime example of big, fat american terror hack job, without a clue how to render the proceedings intriguing but very much aware how to have a slick, music video-like look. More often boring than not, The Hitcher is already doomed to total obscurity.

(Also : the scene set to Nine Inch Nails' ''Closer'' thinks it is so cool it's embarassing. The End)


By chosing to profile the peculiar (and fictional) case of the world's only human chameleon with all the stylistics of a documentary, Allen transforms a one-joke concept into a wondrous examination of what drives us into conformity, and what can also lift us out of it.

The results are nothing less than delightful. Clocking under a brisk 80 minutes, Zelig remains one of the filmmaker's most enjoyable achievements from top to bottom. By using plenty of neat tricks such as the digital integration of characters into archive footage, the gleeful overuse of the Ken Burns effect and numerous made up interviews (to name only a few), the overall effect feels incredibly real despite all the quirky splashes of Allen's usual humor. His dissection of a truly unsual case is never cynical nor clinical, despite the subject matter's potential in cooking up a dark farce.

Also impressive is the glorious black-and-white cinematography (a feature that is rarely this appealing in any kind of documentary), and most notably his ability to stage a very sweet love story right in the middle of a film that is not particularly driven by feelings, nor narrativity for that matter. As a performer, Allen's comic timing is impeccable, and sided by Mia Farrow in a charming (and just as well-written) role, it's obvious we get to like these characters very soon after they make their first appearance.

Really, I don't know how the man managed to make Zelig such a blast, and a heartfelt one at that. I could name plenty of directors that would have turned the whole project into such an unpleasant exercise, or worse, a navel-gazing self-parody. I need to see this film again, and I cannot wait to recommend it to everyone.

Rachel Getting Married

An excellent film, nothing less. Rachel Getting Married oozes passion and sincerity; its shape matches its content so perfectly it becomes way, way more than the sum of its parts.

First and foremost, it's backed by a superb screenplay that gives us a tremendous insight on each major character. Written with absolutely no 'MovieLand' edge, the human beings on display have an incredibly truthful ring. The result of their study is exponentially stronger because all of them act and interact freely instead of being placed into merely functional shots. Demme's camera, which becomes our eye for a nearly two-hour duration, embraces the point of view of both a wedding guest and the character framed him/herself-- there is something extremely rewarding in letting his intuition guide us wherever he needs to take us.

And boy, does he take us deep. Whether Demme plunges into tense moral abysses or homely celebration, there is always, always enormous generosity of spirit in the film, just like in the family that's presented to us. It is wonderfully diverse, with African-Americans and a wide assortment of friends and family. The music that surrounds them is especially inspiring. The joy it lifts is at once beautiful, surreal and never, ever phony.

And yet, even if Rachel Getting Married does not freefall into Greek tragedy, there is also enormous pain as we come to understand what is choking the dynamics of that family so incessantly. Massive gratitude needs to be aimed towards every member of the cast for committing to roles that are difficult because they are not 'performance' meat-- except, of course, for Hathaway's brilliant portrayal of Kym, no one is required to externalize everything they feel, resulting in a maelstrom of actors playing the subtlety card with mesmerizing results. And so, Hathaway, Irwin, DeWitt and especially Winger hold our attention anytime their are onscreen, which brings me to highlighting four of the best performances this year has given us moviegoers.

This masterful film is a quiet treasure. It proves us a film does not need to be highly ambitious and massive to bury itself deep into our mind and make an impact.

Tropic Thunder

Someone (Stiller) who's in the very middle of the crazy industry has crafted a scathing satire of today's demented Hollywood pretensions. It's nothing short of awesome-- for a time. Eventually, Tropic Thunder crumbles under the weight of its non-stop satirizing and forgets to be an enjoyable movie of its own-- and by chosing a violent takedown instead of playing the subtle card, it's hard to be seriously moved by his ambitious project.

Not that Stiller and fellow screenwriter/actor Justin Theroux have trouble making their point : while a lot of other deconstructions on potentially amoral associations (for example, Thank You For Smoking or The TV Set) play out like a dart in their satire, Tropic Thunder is probably the most aggressive example of the genre I can think of. It's a fucking shotgun. It's hysterical; it's also frighteningly close to where we're at. By the time the film opens on an absolutely BRILLIANT set of gags (which I'd rather not spoil), you know you're in very good hands. They might be the funniest of the entire film, though, and that's not such a great thing.

Nevertheless, Stiller also proves to be a remarkably competent behind the camera : the reaction shots are perfectly framed, the action is epileptic and frequently hilarious, the blood splashes exactly at the right moments, it's really a shame there lies a patch of 15-20 minutes that could have been left in the cutting room at the very middle. Also, like in the equally tasty but just as scattershot knee-slapper Pineapple Express, it may have a boatload of good ideas, it's still somewhat hampered by its overblown and too frequent bullet time sequences.

As for the semi-fiery controversy, it's all a big nothing : the now-dormant cries of "racism" miss the point, just as much as the recent complaints over the line "Never go full retard", a line that certain advocacy groups want to decry as biased against the mentally handicapped. I've rarely seen a controversy miss the point so much : the context for that line is a conversation between Lazarus (Downey Jr.) and Speedman (Stiller) about the latter's film "Simple Jack", in which the numerously awarded actor casually and brilliantly describes the sort of idiotic thinking behind films that portray mental retardation.

And now, to the cast : well, they pretty much all rock. Stiller is not in his best shape, but his work as a director largely compensates, Black's role is a bit underwritten but he gets the chance to chew some scenery when he turns over-the-top once he begins craving his beloved drugs, and Downey Jr., oh, Robert, how you do walk away with the movie. The hype is exactly right : he does bring an extraordinary performance. In supporting roles, Steve Coogan, Nick Nolte, Jay Baruchel, Brandon T. Jackson, Matthew McConnaughey (!) and a certain actor (who 'surprise' cameo has been spoiled all over by now) all bring a resounding crunch to their role, often drawings laughs in the most awkward situations.

For all its shortcoming, Tropic Thunder still deserves to be seen. Its humor could not work with every viewer, but for anyone who is more than fed up with the film industry's dirtiest tricks being played again and again, it more than fits the bill in terms of satire.

Ghost World
Ghost World(2001)

Deliriously funny, but disturbingly grim at the same time. A dramedic masterpiece thanks to Birch and Buscemi's excellent comedic timings and a pitch-perfect screenplay. I have much, much more to say about this film, but right now, I don't feel like it. And besides, my friend Pedro Ponte has written a ginormous review that explains exactly how I feel about this, so... yeah. Read it.

My Bloody Valentine 3-D

I am at a loss for words. The question here is not if My Bloody Valentine 3D is a ''good film'' or a ''bad film''. My question is, how the fuck does one review a film like this one?

Let's be subjective, then. I do consider myself a horror fan-- the slasher subgenre is also one that truly fascinates me. Hell, I even made my year-end personal project for the international program in high school on the foundations of that cinematic trend. Then why wasn't I all that impressed (or entertained) by the film that was playing before my eyes?

I can't really put my finger on what it is that bothered me so much. Let's start by the main reason why anybody ever thought remaking the original was a good idea : the 3D aspect. It is undeniably very good, more often than not adding a certain visual depth to the proceedings and then sneaking up on us with the much-anticipated gore effect instead of constantly wiggling stuff towards the camera (hello, Friday the 13th part III?). But twenty or thirty minutes in, a certain dissapointment started creeping up on me : what if this groundbreaking technology had been put to better use, in the hands of a gifted director instead of the ones of 'the guy who did the job'? Or better yet, what if this technology had been used to fully embrace a suspenseful atmosphere and achieved a new level of fear those modern scary movies have distinctly been lacking? And why didn't they even try a little of that in My Bloody Valentine 3D?

Obviously, those looking for what I have listed above are not the ones that will line up for My Bloody Valentine 3D (alright, the title is rather irresistible, I admit it). And here's what it has to offer, plain and simple : graphic, twisted killings of beautiful/stupid people. Here's another word : gore. This film is in love with gore, and not in a tongue-in-cheek way. There is the occasional Old Person or the midget (!) that serves as worm food, but mostly, it's all about model-looking twentysomethings being ripped apart. I do not in any way object against that (hell, Final Destination 3 is among my all-time favourites of fun stupid films). But a whole film constructed of virtually nothing but increasingly sadistic and repetitive hack-and-slash? Not anything exceptional for me. But hey, if you are the kind of person would love a film that could (and should) be called ''Variations on a Pickaxe Murder'', please lap it up immediately.

I know I shouldn't be pissing all of you off with my two cents on the subject, but frankly, I don't give a fuck. Here's what I was asking myself throughout My Bloody Valentine 3D (or more specifically, the third time we are exposed to a freshly torn out human heart) : do hardcore killings and graphic imagery deserve a whole three-dimensional experience that costs 13,50$? That, I don't think so. If there was a better movie around it (or at least an original execution of those wretched slasher dynamics), I might think it does.

Also, as much as it saddens me, the much-discussed 'barenaked girl being chased for five whole minutes' scene is way shorter than that. It does not last nearly long enough to be considered a classic moment.

And now, this is the part where I feel kind of sorry for those that could not experiment the film in its intended 3D format. I shudder. I won't even begin entering how lazy and terrible the whole thing is in terms of writing (the last-act twist is a complete joke, and I refuse to see it any other way), because outside of the ''hmmm, how can we find another way to decapitate this girl?'' department, I don't think anyone bothered to scratch their heads much. Except, strangely enough, for the dialogue-- and I don't mean that it's rather good, I mean that it is so hilariously terrible that it becomes downright awesome. I think I cackled more at how uniformly awful the line-readings turned out than at all the red stuff splattering everywhere.

There's something else that scored in my books in the same way those characters exchanges did : it's Jensen Ackles. The man is my new hero. Here, he delivers a performance of unspeakable awfulness, pouting his lips, lightly frowning his eyebrows and doing a pretty-boy shtick in all the wrong moments, and when he is asked to carry an important part of the narrative on his shoulders, instead of trying to act like, you know, an 'actor', he morphs what previously was a comically wooden performance into a fully fledged monstrousness of an act. I do not think Ackles intended to be this show-stealingly bad, but I appreciate the result.

The rest of the cast do not fare as extraordinarily. Jaime King choses to be a boring Final Girl, and thus, I have nothing to say about her performance, because we all know exactly how those ones play. Kerr Smith tries to be good, and of course he fails, but in a fun way. The rest of the cast members are bodies begging to be bagged. They do get what they deserve.

All in all, wow. I really didn't think my review for My Bloody Valentine 3D was going to turned some sort of ethical debate on my part. As much as I would have loved to stand up and cheer once the credits started rolling, I think the throwback to the 80's aspect of the film is nothing more than an utter lack of imagination. When skillful, talented directors like Rodriguez and Tarantino decide to pastiche exploitation films, the result is a wildly entertaining spectacle full of heart and brilliant flashes. When money-hungry studios get their hands on the rights to remake an exploitation film, the result is My Bloody Valentine 3D.

Revolutionary Road

It's a bit of a shame. To me, Revolutionary Road could practically be the best film of the year, but a whole lot of lesser elements make sure that it never truly peaks. The result? A fine, elegant and bleak domestic drama that never quite lives up to its incredible potential.

Mendes has covered those themes before, and it's not hard to guess where. A married couple lives in a nondescript suburb, and watches as their future hopes and ambitions start crumbling apart-- essentially a plotline that promises plenty of going around on themes such as the need to nest as opposed to the need to fly. It's very disturbing to think of the many, many situational conflicts like Frank and April's that have happened, are still happening and will happen everywhere in comfortable, unchallenging homes all across the world, and the directorial highlights makes sure we are lovingly deranged at how unspecific their case is.

Which leads us to Mendes, for real this time. An undoubtedly gifted director he is, more often than not staging eloquent and brave scenes that refuse to cut away from the small but growing feeling of unease that inhabits his characters. In Revolutionary Road, there might be too much to of those, hence too much highlighting.

And here comes the wrecking ball : we are told far too many times what's happening inside our character's heads, whether it be through the dialogue, the closeups, the situations and especially the music. For the latter, I usually admire Thomas Newman's work, but his contribution here often spoils moments of great humanity, underlining every little emotion that should be felt and never letting the stage direction breathe on his own. Anyway, it is not nearly enough to saturate the richness of the source material, and it does not prevent the film from hitting the right notes, but frankly, I could have done without it.

Look at me! I've begun with the low points of a thoroughly very good film. Here goes : once the closing credits start running, its impact is definitely felt : even if the story takes place in the 50s, it remains a timeless tragedy when a couple suffocates once they realize they might never be the ones they wanted to become. And here, as both the Wheelers drift apart (Frank being the settler while April remains the seeker), the tension becomes less and less bearable-- this is the stuff of an accomplished film, when we as viewers also realize and feel all remaining hope is vanishing. Some particular scenes are devastating in their humanity, and every time Frank and April confront each other, the violence, hatred and dissapointment that inhabits their words are so heavy it comes across as horrifying.

I cannot possibly imagine this film succeeding without the spellbinding presence of both Winslet and DiCaprio. Of course, that goes without saying that the supporting performers are also great (Michael Shannon, an actor that has fascinated me since Bug is in excellent shape here), but Revolutionary Road is centered around two magnificent lead performances. I'm hesitant to call these performances the best they have ever given, but both display how outstanding their accomplishment in the acting medium have become. I will not go on and detail the strength and accuracy of their performances (and neither will I spoil in which scene they truly leave their mark), for I will only tell you to see them for yourself. See them for yourself.

Oh, how I wished this film had been tweaked with just a little slightly on many levels. Fortunately, the good points outnumber the bad ones (and oh, here's the part where I write that I've forgotten to mention how glorious and evocative Roger Deakin's cinematography is), but Revolutionary Road's failures are mostly hilighted by its ambition. And by ambition, I mean ambition. And by ambition, let's not kid ourselves, I mean Academy Awards.

Seriously, at least I guess I now somewhat understand why the sixties were blooming with hippies. There's this part of me that wishes I could bring along this film in one of my eventual time travels towards the past...


Delayed for much, much longer than any passionate horror fan can care for, Amusement sports a trailer than makes it look like a classy though ordinary take on the clown killer pitch. If it were just that, I believe I could have called it worthy of its terminal straight-to-DVD release. But alas-- the film we have here, beloved genre fans, is a complete disaster, an embarassing mishmash of ideas, a few of them new, a shitload of them stolen, but all of them good for the garbage bin.

Good god, where to start? Screenwriter Jake Wade Wall-- oh, hey, Jake! I didn't know you could pen anything worse than When A Stranger Calls!-- drives the film through a commendable trick : splitting up the whole thing in three separate stories, each possessing distinct characters and a distinct menace, only to have them culminate in a last act that should explain everything. In practice, that could be fine-- and I guess none of these segments are truly THAT fuckawful viewed on their own. But piled on top of one another, it is just deadening. Amusement contains WAY TOO MUCH lousy plotting (and not in a fun way) to pass as breezy genre entertainment, even at a brisk 85 minutes.

Let's see : act one is a subpar Joyride that features the worst acting of the bunch (the boyfriend is especially atrocious), act two, undeniably the less shitty of the three, still feels especially stretched for the sole minute-and-a-half of pounding pulses it offers (oh, there it is, as a promo clip all over the web-- yep, that's the one with the clown, and you *wish* there was a better moment in the whole damn film), and finally, act three is a straight-up comedy. 'Uneven' is a word that HAD to be invented for Amusement. Add to that a climax that is morbidly stupid (the 'Reason Why' ends up being one of the lamest of the decade), last-minute revelations that end up patching nothing at all and a closing voiceover that I CANNOT believe was meant to be taken seriously.

Even if the absolute worst element of this dreck is the shockingly stale screenplay, there is much, much more crap to dig out of it. Starting with... The Wretched Music. Now, I understand a horror film needs a tense, effective score to channel whatever fear a character feels directly to us viewers, but here, it is completely out of control. The Wretched Music seriously tries wants to steal our attention from the movie : strings kick in waaayyyyy before anything remotely creepy happens, and it never, ever lets up until the much-anticipated ''SHREEEE!!!'' occurs.

But even in the ''SHREEEE!!!'' department, Amusement is seriously lacking. Hear me out : scares are scarce, and the gore is a bore. While it tries punching up some 'twisted' graphic moments in the last twenty minutes, my, oh my, they are not affecting as much as they feel out of context. But they will prove to be the closest to any kind of satisfaction a horror fan can get out of this puppy.

And the performers? Well, the men (roles and actors) unanimously suck, so as usual, it's up to the females to provide 'surrogates' for the screaming teenybopper audience that Amusement is aimed at. It's hard to tell if the three lead actresses are good at anything at all with the surprisingly minimal character development that's given, but I'm totally not convinced any of them gave it their all on the set. They aren't noticeably bad (I take that back-- Breckinridge is kind of bad, more often than not), but they leave much to be desired. Then again : cardboard. Only pros can build something worthy out of cardboard.

There's plenty more bad to cover here (shots that come dangerously close to plagiarism, unsurprisingly flat dialogue, and the interview segment, which for instance, just plain sucks), but you get the idea-- this turd was delayed for all the right reasons. And while I do like abysmal horror films as entertainment, this one is more infuriatingly bad than joyously bad.

Incidentally, I recommend you to skip it. Shocker.

Burn After Reading

It's already been said numerous times : it's a minor piece of work among the Coen brother's filmography. But damn, is it good.

Unlike most lightning-paced comedies dosed with one-joke characters and boring morals, Burn After Reading makes a point : there is absolutely no point, and that is the point. When high-placed idiots meet everyday idiots, one false step and everything goes into the crapper-- and that's exactly what happens.

Sweet baby Jesus, how delirious this gets. From the dramatic music intruding the wacky plot points as thunderous punchlines to the pinches of nihilism scattered all around (the only truly sympathetic figure gets hacked to death with an axe), it's jam-packed with comic ingeniosity. I also give huge credits to the Coens for twisting a massive spy thriller convention-- the character's personal issues are often solely to flesh them out a bit, while here, their insecurities are what fuels the story until it all crashes down.

Naturally, the performers are excellent. Malkovich's tantrums are a source of perpetual hilarity, Clooney inhabits a nice dirty bastard role and his facial expressions are priceless, McDormand creates a cartoonish madam that's both obsessed with the idea of pleasing others and pleasing herself, Swinton oozes snobbish suspicion and Pitt, oh, my dear Brad, have I ever seen you this funny. Your Chad is a relief from ten years of traditionnal movie idiots.

Seeing, however, how the post-viewing buzz among the regular movie watchers is so mixed, I doubt this film is going to shatter records of any sorts. It's a shame, though, because it has so much brillant moments that it completely, totally justifies its existence, despite the crucial pointlessness of it all. I didn't fall in love with this film, mind you, but I believe that in terms of comedy, it beats pretty much everything that's been released in 2008, including Pineapple Express and Tropic Thunder.

Let the Right One In

It's funny. While Twilight is out there raking gazillions of money, an infinitely better love story and profoundly more disturbing vampire film seeps in a few arthouse theaters, and well, it's just earned over one million. Actually... come to think of it, it's not funny. Both are not even close : one is art, the other is a product. Simple as that.

Evocative, disquieting and unique, Let the Right One In is the kind of film that is absolutely going to end on year-end lists for best feature-- and while the whole planet pays for glossy Hollywood crap, a few of us sit here, and marvel at how unusually striking this one is. Director Tomas Alfredson refuses to merely 'assemble' genre elements to string his story together : what we have here is a fable of isolation and longing, directed with triumphant flair for the lonely and a gruesome elegance.

The screenplay is less interesting in giving viewers the jollies than in setting a deeply unsettling mood-- and from frame one, we are sucked into an everlasting tragedy, one that features both jolts of unnerving violence and tiny moments of warmth. That said, I don't know how Alfredson managed it, but he shot one of the most erotic scenes in a long time with just a touch, and that scene features two children. Yeah. He's that kind of good. His approach is not an excuse for a 'scary atmosphere', nor is his character development used to deepen an emotional impact. To stuff it into the genre-hood would be criminally reductive, but as a horrific stories go, this one speaks to the human condition, and by my standards of art, it is exactly what successful filmmaking is.

Frankly, I could go on and praise just how right every is done here : the sublime night photography, the two young lead's hypnotic performances, the effective stage direction, the subtle sound design, the dialogue which is only used sparingly, the supporting performers' natural acting and the shocking poolside climax. But it wouldn't do the film any justice.

Right now, all that matters is that you see the film as soon as possible. No indie theaters near you? DVD is out March tenth. But, yes. It is extremely important that you view it, and like vampire stories or not, I'm sure the terrific Let the Right One In has something to impress everyone.

It's only a matter of time before the dumbed-down remake hits theaters, and it saddens me much to know that most audiences will only discover that one. But you, dear reader, can overcome that. You can watch one of the best films of the year, and surely one of the best vampire films ever made before its hideously defanged American clone is put up on your theater marquee.


Oh, you'll get exactly what you want if you pay your ten dollars for Quarantine, trust me.

And you know what? *That* might be the problem with those P.O.V movies. Everyone knows they're one-trick ponies, but why the fuck do they all have to be so underdevelopped? The jittery, half-lit footage is unnerving enough, but there is a feeling of hollowness that tackles us viewers once the credits start rolling. ''That's it? Oh.'' Yeah, exactly. Quarantine is a ''that's it'' film. It truly knows how to shake the motherfuck out of you, then it leaves you lying dead in a puddle of water. Like a rapist.

Come to think of it, I think I got brutally raped by this film.

Now, my fellow reader, I don't think I need to explain why a good, solid rape still gets two stars and a half. For what it is, Quarantine works tremendously well-- it gives you about three choices, which are either to be mildly disturbed and nauseated, stressful and frightened (my case) or screaming when you're not curled up in fetal possition (most old teens in my audience's case). Everyone can enjoy being molested in their own way now and then!

The tricks used are diverse but all of them are repeated a good three times each-- from the 'fake animal scare' to the 'slow approach of someone who we don't know if he/she/it is a goddamn infected' to the 'run, run, turn around, nothing, nothing, turn around WRRAAAWWRR ZOMBAYYY' (the latter being both the most exciting and the most re-done, all in a three-minute segment which has to account for best sequence of the entire film). Even though it will often flirt with those dreaded Usual Zombie Film Cliches, it's still infinitely more effective than Romero's embarassing Diary of the Dead (who the hell watches these films for the social commentary anymore, huh?). It's still a shame some of the dialogue, particularly during the weirdly off-the-wall autopsy scenes, sounds so crappy. And some decisions, like asking an infected mo'fo something just as jaw-droppingly stupid as ''...come on, lend me your hand'', are... stoopid. Very, very stoopid indeed.

But still, yeah, Jennifer Carpenter, she's good. So are her co-stars, of course, but being the visual focus of the camera for about 77% of the time, her presence becomes just about the only thing we can hold on to, considering the shakey-camera gimmick. Also, the very beginning of the film truly works. Her quirky on-screen presence is entirely satisfying, and it does not feel like requisite exposition.

I haven't seen the original REC and honestly, although I know it has to be somewhat better, I still got my share of bloody panic from this one alone. Scariest movie you've seen in your life or not (like me), there is one thing that can be said about it : it works.


The Dark Knight

Everything, everything you've heard about it is true. The Dark Knight is a masterpiece; Nolan has painted a richly vivid landscape of death and iniquity, capturing our collective anxiety over the resurgent politics of hope in ways very few have done before.

First and foremost, the screenplay : it is planets away from what we've come to expect from superhero films. Ghost Rider is practically dust compared to this : the dramatic tension rises and rises until it becomes practically unbearable, and the sensitive issues and the questions that are raised bring a morally ambiguous turn on themes that are usually strictly black-and-white. It's penned with a remarkable structural strength, too-- scenes move on sharply from one to the next, which is also helped by sure-handed editing that constantly leaves the viewer begging for more.

As for Nolan's directing, it knocks it out of the park. This, my fellow viewers, IS how you film a city in crisis : nothing is overcooked, or comes across as phony or unbelievable. The stage direction is impeccable. The characters are framed in luminous, hollowed-out rooms to an eye-popping effect and the use of ultra modern technology is in the pitch-perfect quantity. The action is devastating, high-wire and realistic, and it serves a purpose instead of being car-crash porn. And while some have accused the big set-pieces of being choppy and disrespectful of spacial relationships, well... what can I say? It worked tremendously well for me.

As for Ledger, well... fuck. I'll be damned. His Joker is simply jaw-dropping-- the actor burns this incarnation of The Joker into our psyche by being terrifying, and unpredictable, and truthful, and symbolic... without ever, ever falling into caricatural territory. A golden man wouldn't reward his work well enough. As for the rest of the cast, which are a bit unlucky, in circumstances, to be called 'the rest of the cast', well, they're also spellbinding. Bale shows even more range that in the previous installment. Caine is spot on, and Gyllenhaal is the perfect replacement for the flat Holmes, showing much more depth and maturity than expected. Oldman injects substance into a role that could very well have been an accessory, and Eckhart, oh, Aaron Eckhart, with your majestic split-chin and mind-blowing charisma, do you own this fucking part like no one could have.

Frankly, The Dark Knight is a very exhausting film, the very opposite of blockbuster escapism. Not because it is so long - for indeed, it feels hardly long enough, and once it ends, it's a dissapointment to know the next installment is soooooo many years away and it's probably going to suffer from threequel-itis. But still... Christopher Nolan had the temerity to give us a nihilistic summer tragedy, and a precious rare thing it is for a populist film to be so emotionally wrenching without being manipulative.

Let's all scream it together now : TRIUMPH.

One Missed Call

I cannot say I am somewhat, eh, 'shocked' or 'surprised' when a remake of a Japanese horror film is said to be flat-out terrible... but I must say I definitely AM taken off guard when during my inevitable autopsy of the case, the actual quality of the film concerned reveals itself to be ten times as jaw-droppingly stupid as I was expecting.

First of all, One Missed Call is most definitely not part of the recent flock of glossy ghost film remakes, seing its surprisingly low production values. Every single death here is (on a visual point of view) cringe-worthy, hampered by TV-movie computer effects and/or simply blink-and-miss. So, when your 'scary' (PG-13!) movie contains litterally NOT A SINGLE GOOD SCARE, well, I'm sorry to report, but it's nothing less than dead in the water.

And the photography sucks.

The rest plays *exactly* like you think it will-- I must however tell you how unexpectedly quick the scenes move on from one to another and how nonexistent the dramatic tension plays. There is a 'jump' moment thrown pretty much in every scene, whether the character concerned is involved in the dead-people-calling issue or not, and whether it's in broad daylight or in silent'n'dark corridors. One second it's about freak accidents, then it's about distorted shit ghost-face thingies, and then it shifts to rotten old zombies. Nothing makes a lick of a sense, but every character not only buys it in a snap, their decisions also become increasingly dumb, such as heading for the Creepy Old Burned Down Hospital twenty minutes before their time is announced on the death clock.

But when we expect the goddamn thing to get better (I correct that-- when we expect it not to get any worserer)... well, it does the opposite. It's an extremely bizarre experience for anyone whose last twenty movies seen were not as crappy as this, but mostly, an awful, awful way to spend 90 minutes for anyone with a desire to be remotely scared. It comes very close to being worthy though, considering the frequent laughs (I can only picture the crowds all across America bursting in laughter one by one as the opening scene plays before their eyes), but it cannot survive on that alone.

Performances are blah.

So in the end, what's left? A big ol' chunk of crappy blandess, and... yada, yada, yada. I refuse to pump out any more shit out of this pony.

It's dead. There's nothing to do about it. It belongs in the can. Bye-bye.



Obvious, and fucking unscary.

I called Shutter obvious because, well, it's pretty clear where it wants to crash from the get go. As soon as it's past the minute-long parading of our bland'n'pretty twentysomethings' situation (they've just married, you see), the (un)creepy (un)mystery everyone involved is too effin' stupid to figure out when the audience does (and that's about four minutes in) occurs with a sonorous thud.

Can you hear it? THUD.

Aaaaand so, it's a long-ass ride from here, a mostly downhill one. Honestly, I don't know how much more crap like this I can take (eeeh... probably still lots, but, uh, yeah...). I could probably sum up how the narrative is fueled and how those 'shocking' plot points are tied together with this single quote : ''My ex-boyfriend works for a spirit photography magazine!''. Apparently, the original was not a triumph by any means, but it could overcome its unoriginality with terrific scares. In this one... they practically evaporate before they even happen.

Oh, yeah, I also called Shutter fucking unscary because, quite frankly, there's barely anything to be found here in terms of chills. The jolts are kept at a sub-minimal level throughout-- there is nothing (and I really mean 'nothing') that we haven't seen somewhere else, no eerie setpieces and lots, lots of empty rooms and reflections on windows. And never have asian ghost girls seemed less disturbing before-- there's no distorting of any facial features or bone-chilling jerky movements. To put it plainly, our protagonists are being stalked by that Japanese girl at the convenience store two blocks away, in a nightgown.

And there's the 'twist', too. Moronic? Not quite. It gives the film some sort of 'substance'-- there are female empowerment vibes here and there-- but stupid, in terms of screenwriting coherence? Abso-fucking-lutely.

Fortunately, skilled actors defend the lead roles-- oh, wait, nope. It's zero percent spark, alone and together. Jackson has two looks on his face-- mildly concerned and quite concerned-- and he's rather terrible in his most intense scenes. Taylor, fresh-off Neutrogena ads, takes the whole thing rather seriously, for the price of our boredom. Unquestionably the best of the two leads, she still delivers a performance that would better be called 'convincingly nonexistant'. Still, nice eyebrows.

But it 'looks good'. Yeah. No, really. Shiny, good-looking shit. Except it's... phony, in its good-lookingness. The indoors Tokyo oddly ressembles Los Angeles, and the outdoors are quickly passed over, with as many Japanese stereotypes as possible. The trendy photo sets (accompanied by god-awful music whenever a fashion shoot is on) could rename this film ''The Stylish Misadventures of Rich Tourists'' by themselves. The Grudge 2 is an epic of racial differences compared to this.

Anyway, don't see it. Really, don't.

Despite it being considerably more professional (and interesting) than the putrid One Missed Call, I can't imagine anyone being remotely satisfied by this film's content. But the point was not to genuinely please nor thrill anyone : this is just a way of milking more cash out of another asian horror film by re-doing the whole thing instead of putting on subtitles.

Next stop : iGhost, in theaters next August.


Exemplary, heartfelt, inspired and inspiring, Milk is a great film... even if Van Sant's usual poetry is (sadly) amiss.

Built with flash-backs through the recording of an 'in case of...' tape, the film also uses real archive footage to great effect. Dustin Lance Black's screenplay jumps all over the place, but nevertheless appears both sharp and masterful. Story-wise, the seventies are painted with vigor and zero cliches, resulting into a tone that feels very authentic. Once again, though, there is barely any lyricism to be found in the approach, so in the end, some passages felt a bit too didactic for me.

Fortunately, Harvey Milk himself is written very cleverly-- no, Van Sant's movie doesn't try to oversell its hero. As Sean Penn plays him, the pioneering activist remains resolutely life-size: mischievous, committed, emotionally stirred but always, always human. There's not an ounce of pretentiousness in the proceedings.

That goes without saying the performers are also extraordinary-- Penn may be the main attraction, but this is very much an ensemble piece. Emile Hirsch's cheeky Cleve Jones and James Franco's irresistible (and surprisingly sober) Scott add very much to the communal spirit. Josh Brolin invests the creepy but pitiable White with a simmering desperation: his charged encounters with the man he will eventually murder are some of the movie's high points. And then, finally, of course, Penn's pitch-perfect portrayal of Milk will surely gain the top honors. It's a very energetic performance, one that feels very 'actorly', but hits no false notes and never comes across as phony. He does live up to the hype.

Danny Elfman's score had me annoyed, though-- joyous and oddly familiar, the themes pump their way into moments of intimacy without much subtlety, and while I'm sure these pieces are more than fine on their own, Milk is most definitely not the film to carry them. Honestly, I think this is the first Elfman score I've disliked in my entire life.

Still, as much as I wanted it to be completely-batshit-crazy-intense-awesome, Milk ended up a truly great film. The buzz around it was huge, and naturally, it ended up matching expectations without exceeding them. That proves once again Gus Van Sant is not a director to be catalogued so easily-- if you showed me the film without telling who the director is, I think I might not be able to guess.

What She Knew

Every now and then, a small film that comes out of nowhere (read : out of Sundance) arrives and blows you away. Stephanie Daley is that film.

What makes it so successful is that Hilary Brougher's masterful film plays the honesty card instead of humping the melodramatic trappings. Don't get me wrong : it's utterly joyless, and more than once there are women that break down and cry. But the strength of the subject matter mixed with the enormous empathy for both its lead characters never, ever pull down the film-- the writing ensures that we constantly want to know more, and the directing gives us plenty of insight into Stephanie and Lydie's lives. Oddly enough, not too much is spoken-- before THE horrific event, Stephanie's only tragedy was that she used to be sadly ordinary. Lydie's pregnancy is narratively unimportant, but the weight it occupies in the film is tremendous. With just a quick closeup or by staging perfectly normal happenings, Brougher leads us right at the core of two brilliant character studies.

Sure, Stephanie's story seems to change slightly every time she shows up for forensic analysis. Down the line, we have to wonder: has the event made her insane... or is she just a teen? When so much of your daily existence, navigating teachers, friends, boys, parents-- all of which are wisely shown just enough of to humanize Stephanie, without ever explaining her-- revolves around pretending to be something and/or someone you're not, it takes a certain kind of skill to unpeel your layers and know which ones to throw out. Also : the ending is perfectly delivered. No icing on the cake here-- the final words resonate along with the music, and haunt you like the rest of the film.

Obviously, the film would not have worked as well as it did without the immense power of the performances. Starting with the fantastic-as-ever Swinton, who brings a mesmerizing intimacy to her role, the characters are so well-written that only pros could handle them. Tamblyn, one of the most engaging actresses of her generation, makes her character almost simultaneously embody pain, terror, anguish, embarrassment, regret and just about any emotion you can think of-- it's not an easy task, especially when those grueling feelings are far from externalized. She succeeds, and knocks it out of the park without acting up a storm. I raise my hat-- this is, hands down, one of the best performances I've seen in my life, and Stephanie wouldn't even qualify as the lead character.

People will surely talk about the labor scene... of course, it's as gut wrenching and emotionally draining as anything I've ever seen. But the takeaway image of the scene (and, come to think of it, the film itself) is a long, agonizing shot of Amber Tamblyn's face, seen through the cracks between the wall and door of a public restroom stall. If you walked into the theater by mistake during that shot, you'd think you'd stepped into a horror film.

When you fully grasp the weight of what Brougher has put her heroine through, you realise that you're not far off from a horror movie.

Far Side of the Moon

Nope, I haven't seen the original stage play. This is the second Lepage film I have seen in my life, and I believe the themes that are explored are very similar to the ones in Le Confessional : except in that other film, broken family dynamics were explored with much more swing, and the result was frankly a lot more compelling.

Visually, this is clever and enticing work, as Lepage uses recurring imagery (the moon, a goldfish, television screens, washing machines) as Phillippe revisits his past and present. Special effects are both subtle and astonishing, and the camera gets up close to capture hidden recesses of emotion within the characters. Filmed with a small budget, La Face Cachée de la Lune still manages to dazzle. And yet... it's a bit annoying that the film doesn't grab hold more effectively, because artistically it is a real achievement. Lepage constructs films fluidly, dissolving between scenes in almost imperceptible ways that are clever and extremely skillful while touching on deep themes.

As an actor, Lepage is fine enough, but he can only command our attention onscreen for so long, so I found myself holding on to supporting performers for any narrative interest. Needless to say, he is at the very center of the project, so characters besides Philippe and Andre are not given a lot of screentime. I understand the brothers occupy the core of the drama, but I personally found them uninteresting, and their dialogue sometimes feels forced.

I wanted to fall in love with this one as it obtained even more international recognition than Le Confessional, but alas, I was not swept away at all. I appreciated it, but... that's about it.

Bruce Almighty

Absolutely useless and really not that imaginative, but funny anyway. Will please the Carrey crowd... and that's pretty much it. Cute but hollow.


You know what? Fuck this. I refuse to be objective with Hairspray.

Sure, it's cotton candy-flavoured fun, with a heart of sugar and a mind of... eh, sugar. The songs and their lyrics might be catchy as hell, the plot simple enough and the performers fairly talented, but... in the end, Hairspray gives mixed feelings. For me, it's not really a feel-good movie...

I could go on about how easy it is for almost anyone to surpass its superficiality by enjoying the good-hearted spectacle, but I repeat : for me, it remains a commercial, vacuous, cardboard blockbuster-ish musical that, despite all of its flashy innocence, is only there to be a box-office champion and not the saucy, fully accomplished work of pop art it deserves to be.

A cynical prick like me is just immune to this kind of schmoozy shit. Sure, it might be COLORFUL! CUTE! GOOD-NATURED! and most of all FUN!, I still can't enjoy conflict-less musicals that have zero bite. I can't completely hate them, either, but let's say I was checking my watch more than often while checking Hairspray-- nope, Chicago it ain't.

Also : wow, a sequel. Fun times.

Jesus. There's nothing that depresses me more than canned feel-goodness.

Snow Angels
Snow Angels(2007)

Seriously. There has to be a limit on how horrifyingly sad a motion picture can be. Seriously.

Not that this torrent of sadness is undeserved, or out-of-place-- the prologue even hints at a dramatic finale-- but I caught myself wondering : did those final events REALLY have to happen for the film to have its impact? It's a tough thing to discuss without spoiling those nail-biting turns, so I'll leave it at that... but it can get hard to watch, and eventually turn into some sort of burden to wear rather than a reward.

Honestly, I had a bit of a tough time sleeping once I finished Snow Angels (yeah, it was past midnight). I really couldn't call this film 'manipulative' if I tried, because David Gordon Green has such a strong grip on its characters that the events they go through never come across as 'phony'. But what starts out as a an organic story that draws us into the lives of a quiet American suburb during the winter eventually turns into a flat-out tragedy-- and let's say that the shift is more traumatic than compelling. Still, for all the misery and emotional mess of Snow Angels, Green finds resilience and hope in the younger characters and even in some of the grown-ups.

But enough about the downwards spiral. In parts, the film works just as well, too. Intertwining a coming-of-age story with a sad motel-room affair and a broken household drama might feel heavy as a whole, but each of these scenes are very well executed, thanks a lot to the extremely natural flow of the dialogue that is delivered by very talented performers.

Green's camera is also remarkable when it captures the chilly exteriors of the town. It at feels very poetic, and the framing and editing choices are just as expressive. In short, his ice-cold approach is just as strong as the hazy atmosphere Todd Field gave Little Children a year before-- too bad his message gets a bit diminished by trying to explore each character truthfully. For a hundred-minute film, Snow Angel eventually tries to cover too much stuff-- heavy, heavy stuff, that is.

The actors still remain spellbinding. There's nothing else to say : this has to be one of the best ensemble casts of the year. Beckinsale and Rockwell are the obvious stand-outs, channeling their character's devastating sadness with much, much passion, but the rest of the cast playing quieter minds, including Michael Angarano, Olivia Thirlby and Amy Sedaris, succeed just as well in expressing what those people go through.

Still, I can't help but feel weighted down by the intense dysphoria of the final result. As much as it feels real, I personnally reminded myself a lot of times along the way that Snow Angels was *still* a movie, and despite what anyone would say, I don't think that this avalanche of dolefulness is worth the payoff for every viewer.

For Your Consideration

It's hugely enjoyable-- some kind of joyously unimportant work crafted with exactly the right level of detachment and irony. Just what a film fan needs sometimes, between a complete work of art and an ol' crappy blockbuster.

Guest and his group of improv players satirize Hollywood with a surprising shift between the subtle and the unsubtle-- the situations might be staged with biting hysterics, their gags are still very low-key. Come to think of it, though, the last third is far less witty than the rest-- but the comic ascension is nevertheless well-privileged. Anyway, that kind of hot-and-cold combination really, really worked for me-- especially the segments that featured the immensely talented Fred Willard and Jane Lynch as mock-ups of everything 'Access Hollywood'.

But back to the content : is it funny? Absolutely. It might not work for you, but the little details that parody a lot of small aspects of the showbiz industry (like, for example, the hilarious 15-second band opening that cuts back from a commerical to Craig Bierko's talk show) are pitch-perfect. It's not a terribly profound subject to satirize (nor a hard one), but their delirious tongue-in-cheek approach is more than commendable. And also, most importantly, their parody is rarely at the detriment of the actual story. We care about what happens to these characters, overinflated ego not put aside, because we saw at the very beginning what they were really : in search of recognition for their work.

It also helps that there is an immense love of humour channeled through every single one of those performances, our central character being the forever delightful Catherine O'Hara. Her Marilyn Hack is one of those surreal-but-human characters who goes through a comically disturbing transformation because of a single event of self-importance.

But the best thing about it is that it never hops into the sentimental costume it points its finger at : one gets the feeling that a 100-minute cut might have done so, but at a very brisk 80 minutes, we get exactly the right amount of everything that could make a film like this satisfying.

Satisfying. Yeah. For once. A really funny satire that doesn't feel self-important at all. Tell me about that.

Quantum of Solace

Well, it sure gets the job done, I guess.

As soon as the confused as hell, high-octane car chase opened the film, I was already squirming in my seat. I was most definitely not around for a random spy thriller featuring cars ramming into each other at high speed-- luckily (for us), things get progressively better. The upwards slope, however, is rather sluggish. Things *really* start getting interesting once Bond stands at the top of a magnificient Opera set, eavesdropping on a multi-way conversation among players of a shady worldwide operation. That scene in particular is stunningly well shot, and Forster's directing and editing choices really do help the whole deal.

Now, that does not mean Quantum of Solace does not have any other exciting sequences like that-- it actually does-- but they never come close to igniting more than a couple of sparks. Most of them lightly suffer from the 'whatthehellamIwatching' syndrome, but they remain sleekly put together. But still, Quantum's major con has to be that it hops so damn routinely from the 'ACTION!' vignettes to the 'Talking' vignettes. Every fifteen minutes, right after the plot exposition has been done, somebody at the studio apparently ordered for a healthy dose of loud vehicles chasing one another and people getting shot. Which is, apparently, what general audiences want, but there is no room for breather, and even less room for surprises. Not once was I actually surprised about how things turned out. Not... not once. (I kind of actually just realized that, and, uh, wow, it's seriously, like, seriously frightening. I almost took a half-star off, but... no.)

Anyway, after the terrific franchise reboot that was Casino Royale, it's a bit dissapointing to find something more conventionnal like this. But it's not a disaster at all-- and all fingers point to Daniel Craig for the high points. He IS very good. His Bond is subtle, cool and brutal-- his transformation is once again fascinating to watch, even within the predictable boundaries of the 'revenge' pattern Quantum of Solace imposes him. Olga Kurylenko does not command our attention as well as Eva Green did two years prior, but she does have an energy and a physicality that renders her Camille interesting (and sexy as fuck). Mathieu Amalric is a great villain, too-- never campy, but always self-aware of the cartoonish stance his character wears; he rates well above Mads Mikkelson's Le Chiffre in my humble opinion.

And Marc Forster? He does what he can with a limited screenplay. There are superb shots here and there, a surprising absence of closeups (and also... sex! where's the damn sex?!) and a few refreshingly offbeat scenes scattered among those fast-paced sequences.

Once again : it does the job. It's still scarily predictable, but I can't imagine someone being TOTALLY let down by Quantum of Solace. I just hope the next installment pumps some fresh blood into the Bond system.

Oh, yeah, one more thing : I really dug the theme song this time. Jack White, you rock my world.

Saw IV
Saw IV(2007)

Brutally unimaginative. Part four is essentially everything that is wrong with the torture porn subgenre, and it's also essentially what dragged the whole series in the wrong direction.

The interest in this drivel is not linked to being a Saw fan or not anymore, but simply about your tolerance for being force-fed with increasingly stupid 'shocking' stuff that not only crosses the bounds of decency, but completely crushes them. It's clear by now that everything in the screenplay is an excuse to string together repetitive & ridiculously graphic torture scenes, which the first movie avoided very cleverly by not featuring any traps happening in the present.

Oh, how everything is awful in this film. Everything else is extremely been-there-done-that, from the inclusion of new cardboard 'detectives' to the sickening overuse of Charlie Clouser's 'Hello Zepp' theme. All in all, the makers of the series have shot themselves in the foot-- and not just with that god-awful final resolution, but also with the very poor structure this movie follows.

The flashbacks are incorporated with zero energy, and the final twists are just the dumbest of any film I can recall in the last decade.

Frankly, I don't even feel like pointing out everything that's wrong with this one. It just sucks, from the even more terrible dialogue to the offensive moral statement the writers think they made by placing us in the torturer's skin once more.

This time, it's really hit rock-bottom.

Saw II
Saw II(2005)

Oh, fun times... I remember me and my friends trying to sneak in illegally into the theater... and only me succeeding. Like your everyday movie-loving bastard, I ditched all of them and watched the film alone. Yes, I am that kind of person.

Long story short, I came out supremely dissapointed, that's for sure, but once I saw it again, I remember I did find some interest in the way things were handled. Saw II is essentially a victim of the BIGGER! BETTER! pattern so many sequels seem to adopt, with results varying from cool to really stupid to dismal.

Make no mistake, it's really a bad movie that pushes the most primary buttons of its audiences to substitute substantial tension-- ''alright, nowreact to people SUFFFFFERING... eeew! ouch! OUCH!'' is what the film tells us, overall. But once again, the intertwined storylines culminating into a couple of twists aren't half-bad-- at least for a sequel to a low-budget thriller. And that (now famous) yellow-ish House of Horrors that features eight victims constantly at each other's throats does offer plenty of thrills. There is an intriguing flow to all of it-- when those stupid cardboard cut-out characters interact, the odd fun we have in watching them fight for their lives is halfway between serious dramatic freakout and campy splatter fun. I guess that's why the Saw series has worked so far-- we are entertained by the senselessness of it all, and we keep wanting more of these awful contraptions. The (also now-famous) needle pit scene is actually a decent enough addition to the collection... despite being fundamentally (yet) another sadistic as fuck plot element.

And as strange as it might sound, despite the utter pointlessness of it, Saw II actually delivers almost everything in the right quantity. Obviously, it will not 'wow' you like the first one did... but then again, it doesn't need to.

Also, Donnie Wahlberg is quite bad, but he can still command our attention and be an adequate leading guy for this type of film. The rest of the cast, well, they can't prove themselves in any way, so we just kind of wait before they are horrifically mutilated. I kept expecting them to be fleshed out and actually have a backstory... guess not.

Either way, it's a fun film for those than can stomach this kind of shit. And mind you, it actually gets better the second time you watch it. That has to be some kind of record for a horror movie sequel.


It will STAND.

With the absolute phenomenon the image of this film has become, I'll have to say that James Wan and Leigh Whannell's Saw is essentially a film that will very much stand the test of time, despite its numerous flaws. It's not an excellent film, but it is a great thriller-- one for future generations (i.e. our damn kids) to look at, and then ask us : ''did you see it when it was new?''

I'll be happy to say 'hell yes, kiddo', and tell them about how traumatic the experience was when I first saw it at fourteen. It *was* the shit. I even remember doing an oral presentation in front of my class about it, and convincing many people to actually see it before any thought of a possible sequel was raised. Saw is a film that marks the real start of a cinematic era, for better or for worse. But I am will not analyze it as the pioneer of the torture porn subgenre, because it is not quite that, and because it is much, much more interesting as a standalone film.

Almost everyone has seen this film by now, so a plot recap is not necessary. Everyone knows how the plot unfolds, and everyone is aware of the much-discussed final plot twist. But yet, the screenplay has an interesting structure. Once it opens, it's effective as hell. People waking up in a threatening situation where they have something awful, awful to achieve to gain their freedom has become a trademark. But this time, the first time, things are laid out quite slowly, and OH, the horror, the horror! It might not work for you, but from my point of view, it does exactly what a good thriller is supposed to do : transform you into an uncomfortable, nervous wreck.

Of course, things start going downhill in certain spots. The flashbacks, though necessary plot-wise, drain out some of the huis clos tension, and turn a grim, claustrophobic story into a hybrid of a cop film and a serial killer chiller. Thankfully, some set-pieces remain truly frightening. One of them in particular (the now-famous Jaw Helmet Trap) is a stroke of horror fan insanity genius-- the suspense for this scene works terrifically, EVEN if we know the outcome. And, come to think of it, it is among the only scenes that use the dreaded quick-cut editing to create any tension.

The performers, including screenwriter Leigh Whannel, are mostly mediocre, though. Cary Elwes has irritated many with his weird climactic freakout moments (and also the forever unresolved fate of his character), but he does give an adequate performance in the two first thirds. Whannel fares quite better, and I believe he found much of the audience identifying with him. Danny Glover is quite interesting, and if it weren't for a few false notes, I'd call it a 'good' performance. Some goes for Monica Potter. Unfortunately, the level of the dialogue dillydallies between okay and really, really bad.

...and then comes THE ENDING!

It has now become a requirement for films of the genre to end with a T-T-TWIST-- a final act revelation that wraps everything up in a nifty, though sometimes implausible way. In Saw, it is accompanied by an ominous (and also now-famous) theme and numerous flashes recapping every single element that is relevant to the functionning of that twist ending. It's a great way of pulling the rug under our feet-- though some will argue it is absolute wanking, it DID work for me. And when I was fourteen, boy, did it appear like the coolest thing ever.

Has it been really in 2004? It seems so. My standards have very much changed, but I can still see the tremendous sick interest one would have while viewing a film as tense as Saw. I know it'll remain one of my favourite films until I die, despite the fact that it is not a very good work of art.

But you know what? Fuck this. I still give it three stars and a half, because it had such an impact that it doesn't matter how clunky it was as a whole. There. Done it.

Lost In Translation

An existentialist movie like you've never seen before-- Lost in Translation is, to put it plainly, a triumph of the unsaid. I am still young, but I have watched an incredible amount of films in my life... and yet, I have never seen a film master that language so perfectly before.

You want a fucking plot synopsis? There : lonely actor meets lonely tag-along girlfriend in Tokyo. Their loneliness brings them together. They feel for each other; we feel for them. They turn their back at one another (my special kudos go to the 'Worst Lunch' scene), then reconciliate, then depart. It's about as simple as that : there is no dramatic tension in Sofia Coppola's film, but all its drama resides in the fact that these two human beings are lost in their journey through life. They may not be depressed, but they are unhappy. All signs point to that. It may be the hollowness Charlotte comes across when she realizes she doesn't 'feel' anything when watching a japanese ritual. It may be the pointlessness of a two-million dollar publicity shoot Bob suffers through. It may be a whole lot of other details, not words, but little moments, reaction shots, music cues, framings, you name it-- all of these tiny little pieces bring us to one point : their solitude will make them fall in love. And I'm not talking Movie Land Love©, I'm talking about some sort of spiritual connection so profound and so true that it might just be what saves your life, if only for a couple of days.

Backed by her terrific screenplay, Coppola's directing choices are exactly what make a motion picture memorable and personal. Her poetic use of Tokyo as wallpaper couldn't be any more effective : the hazy state of mind of these two opposed personalities are rendered with care and incredibly soft nuances. From their first moment together in an elevator crowded with Japanese people to a wild night of partying in Tokyo's underground scene, Bob and Charlotte's oddly asexual relationship progresses with breathtaking delicacy, and is concluded with a final scene that might just be one of the most heartbreaking moments in all my cinematic years.

Bob Murray and Scarlett Johansson play the roles with the exact amount of subtlety necessary; the immense humanity of their performances amounts to much, much more than the sum of their parts. These are not flashy awards-grabbing acts : with almost everything painful internalized and only a very few tears, their chemistry through the portrayal of Bob and Charlotte account for my favourite on-screen couple ever. Seriously. Other parts include Giovanni Ribisi and Anna Faris, two very good actors once again typecast (one unfocused and a bit frenzied, the other a complete blonde tart) but this time in a film that suits them perfectly and even enriches their usual roles.

Oh, how I love this film. My, my, my. Lost in Translation a film about nothing, and everything. It's a superbly unpretentious mood piece with solid bases of humanity. It may not be for you. It may be too dull for some, it may be too obscure for others.

But for me, it is an orgasm of human comprehension.


I have to give props to the cliché'd-ridden, gratuitously violent and increasingly implausible thriller Hostage : it keeps the suspense running for nearly all of its running time, even when the logic is thrown out the window. Florent Emilio Siri's directing is tight and efficient, despite the abundance of graphic killings in the last third. Or the second, for that matter.

Willis offers the same performance we expect him to give, and the rest of the cast isn't half bad, but nevertheless, it's a generic action shocker that is bound to be forgotten soon enough. But like I said, its intensity is rarely deflated and when it freefalls into ridiculous territory, the suspense is not that much affected... so it DOES work as a typical American potboiler if you're in the mood for something like this.

But I'd suggest kicking your own ass and try switching out of this mood.



There's practically nothing to 'review' here : Click is typical Adam Sandler-ing, following the same damn plot arcs and exploiting its gimmick to a respectably funny potential. Some parts are funny, sure, some other parts are just plain frustrating. We know exactly what's going to happen, and judging by the film's unsurprising box-office success, it's rather unlikely that Sandler is going to stop starring in more of these.

But it remains a product. A one-joke product.

And you know what? I really hate one-joke products. So, fuck you, Click. You get one star and a half.

The Stepford Wives

Oh, thank heavens the laughs are there.

For a film about superficiality, The Stepford Wives is an embarassingly hollow satire, too busy lining up jokey set-pieces and letting one-joke characters interact.

Fortunately, the pace is very well set up. I was never truly bored with how things turned out, and the gags drop at a lightning pace. The dialogue is mostly enjoyable, and of course, the cast's immensely charming performances DO help a lot.

But yet, it's not hard to see the screenplay is really sloppy in places-- the incoherences annoy a bit, particularly during the finale. Still, there is quite some fun to be had... and I have nothing left to say about it. It's bubbly, lightweight parodying that's worth seeing once, but not much else than that.


Weird, disturbing, macabre, emotional, feminist, sexy, embarassing, depressing, suspenseful... it's many things at once. But above all, May is a profoundly personal motion picture thanks to McKee's sure-handed direction and Angela Bettis' exceptional performance.

Obviously, it's not for everyone. The pace is slow, and the title character's downwards spiral may not impress everyone. Yet, I found myself seriously stricken by the way things are handled throughout-- driven with sensibility, a kick for sick laughs and an excellent stage direction, May is a film I hope will not be forgotten.


There's nothing wrong with being a plotless straight-up suspenser when the cables are pulled efficiently. Who needs to deal with all the boring stuff when the main course gets your pulses pounding wildly?

Thing is, in P2, the main course IS the boring stuff. And pulses never come close to pounding wildly.

Then... what kills this film, exactly? Is it the abundance of genre clichés? Not quite. Is it the shopworn situations that end exactly like we predict? Not quite. Is it the little incoherences scattered everywhere? The uninspired visual treatment? The tomato juice that's carelessly spurting every twenty minutes to routinely jolt the audience? Nope, none of those factors truly drag P2 to its unfortunate death.

Something else does : it's the fucking mixing of two tones that are extremely hard to pull off together, those being ''DRAMATIC'' and ''FACETIOUS'', and their juxtaposition in P2 ends up close to the worst results possible. You see, poor victim Angela is who we're supposed to root for. She's the 'mouse' at the center of the game : her survival is supposedly the only interest in how things are going to turn out. And yet, we're placed in her torturer's position far too many times for it to be considered a 'tasteful' suspense story. Now if P2 was angled like an exploitation film, I suppose that might not have been a problem at all, but given the startling (I use that word loosely), realistic (I also use that word loosely) tone of the whole film, the whole experience is critically lessened from a spectator's point of view.

Are we supposed to be really anxious if Angela will escape? Or are we supposed to want to watch her suffer through grotesque situations in a very revealing dress? Don't know. Don't care. Either way, there is not nearly enough dramatic tension nor cheap shocks for the film to work on either of those modes, so you can imagine how miserable it ends up trying both. The tension deflates like a tire that is jammed with garden shears well before the halfway point.

It's not really insulting nor completely batshit crazy like Captivity, just really, really lame... and unsatisfying. Bentley is good, as always, but very miscast-- he sounds more threatening when he is not onscreen. Nichols is an able scream queen, but her character suffers from the same problem the film does : she tries to engage us seriously, but waggles her boobs around when she's not covered in slimy red.

Either way, it's not scary, and it's not really enjoyable. Simply put, the ''DRAMATIC'' and the ''FACETIOUS'' end up cockfighting instead of backing up each other.

It's a draw. And from what I know, no one likes that kind of draw in a horror film.


A totally needless graphic novel adaptation, 300 is proudly, crushingly grandiloquent, in detriment of almost everything else that makes a motion picture relevant. But hey, what is relevance when compared to BIG FUCKING BUCKS?

Barely holding a message and free of the yawn-worthy moralty lesson epic movies try to feed to us these days, it's an absolute triumph in style over substance-- so, will all of you please cut the crap about the notorious whole Middle East war allegory? That would be giving it too much credit for what it aims for : stupid, stylish hack'n'slash fun. Frank Miller's graphic novel was not a masterpiece of storytelling and political paraphrasing by any means-- why should the movie adaptation be in the hands of Zack Snyder?

I'm not gonna bash those that defend it the way it absolutely is : but... really? TWO hours of ''pulse-pounding, blood-soaked entertainment''? More like fourty-five minutes of raw, brutal battling and a whoooole lot of embarassing dialogue and plot exposition. The only non-action scenes that come close to igniting a spark of interest have to be the opening ten minutes and Lena Headey's monologue during the last third. The rest kind of just... falls flat, hopelessly covering any moment that winds up narratively clunky on-screen with a whole damn lot of bluescreen stylishness. Never has the expression ''throwing powder against one's eyes'' seemed so appropriate.

So what's left? A rousing box-office success that features bloody bone-crunching and screaming musclemen. I don't see why the American moviegoing public wouldn't lap it up, and would not be offended by a possible 301 in a few years-- or better, yet, 299 : The Beginning. You know, because they die in the end. Yeah.

Friday the 13th, Part V - A New Beginning

Monstrous, flavorless crap, even by stupid slasher standards. It is, to me, certainly and without a doubt the very, very suckiest of the whole series. Alright, I admit it, we were a whole bunch of people that were not exactly sober during my viewing of part five of the series. As if it changed a thing.

Either way, it sucks, big time. I won't even start digging into how moronic the whole thing is, on absolutely all levels. The plot is so fucking badly constructed it's high above the feeling of embarassment : we are presented dumbass characters in episodes that last ten to fifteen minutes... then skip to the next bunch of characters that have no link whatsoever with the first group... then another bunch of bastards... and then, wooosh, back to the first group for a few kills.

Speaking of kills... my, do they suck. There's nothing else to say about them. They SUCK. Any death scene is boldly announced the second it starts, leaving no bloody surprise whatsoever. The suspense level freefalls into the negative zone, and then is punctuated by a very un-graphic, effortless death. Fun times.

Anyway, I'll end it here : we know this detritus is barely considerable as a cinematic experience, but what I have to say is that if you want to watch one of the films of the series with your friends during one particularly intoxicated night, DO NOT pick Part V : A New Beginning.

A comparison with the lamest porno you've ever seen is inevitable : unexciting, overlong preliminaries, about five seconds of action and a laughably fake climax.

Saw V
Saw V(2008)

I don't know how to put this any other possible way : I was absolutely prepared for the very worst, and I did not get it.

Although I certainly do not congratulate director David Hackl for perpetuating the series' directorial approach with the same old slapdash formatting, my far from abysmal 2-star rating represents how pleasantly surprised I am to find that Saw V is a much, much more watchable film than the absolute pile of garbage that Darren Lynn Bousman's Saw IV was.

Of course, it goes without saying that Saw V is also, inevitably, an absolute pile of garbage-- it IS-- but a certain passion to move the whole project in a forward direction is what elevates this latest (though certainly not last) installment well-above its immediate predecessor. While part four was busy plunging our faces in autopsies and demented torture set-pieces to hide the fact that there was litterally no plot to speak of, we do get a certain coherence in the way the scattered plot elements fit together this time. Make no mistake, though : it's still drearily implausible as a whole, but the awful, awful traps are used as an afterthought rather than a diversion from the shitty senselessness of what-the-hell-is-going on-here. The focus on bringing the pieces together through the cop chase is much appreciated, at least from a moderate fan of the series (I'm telling you, fucking part four truly killed my interest).

And yet, in all of its crackbrained schizoid mythology, Saw V manages to be entertaining. After a barmy been-there, done-that opening scene, the pace picks up quite decently and without excess, all up to the moment where five victims awake with dangerous collars around their necks (and also immediately reckon this is Jigsaw's work-- one of the film's funniest highlights according to me). The suspense for this scene operates just as well as any of the 'house of horrors' sequences in Saw II, and while punctuated by a cartoonish decapitation, it gets the thrilling menace just about right. It's a shame, though, that this part of the story loses much steam because it is intercut by the actual 'story' (the police part)-- I don't know how else they could have managed it, but still.

Now, visually, it respects the other films' mood and colour palettes, which means the equivalent of gently rubbing rusty debris against our eyes. The editing is laughably aggressive, but it contributes a bit more to the fun factor than the annoying one. Charlie Clouser's music scribbles a fake sense of dread all over each and every scene-- silence is sadly amiss. Oh, yeah, one musical jam in particular, the one during the explosion-with-tunnels trap, is especially god-awful. I urge you to notice if you ever watch it.

On an acting point of view, it remains just as flimsy as ever, thanks to the really stupid character writing. Even Tobin Bell seems sort of pissed, but his presence is, as everyone knows, a solid backbone to the series. Unsurprisingly, the roles are so defective it really sucks out all the sympathy for those one-dimensional bastards, and Detective Strahm behaves like a complete idiot. Somehow, the familiar faces of Julie Benz, Meagan Good and others (and their usual skill) render the whole thing a bit more fun. We are also not made to identify with the torturers this time, on the opposite of what Saw III and IV did. We are just spectators to those messy puzzle kills-- some of them oddly more apparent to the Final Destination series than to the original Saw.

So why didn't I hate it? It's really a damn fraud, and the unmistakably crappy conclusion has to be the very, very worst of the series. And yet... it delivers what it promises, gets a part of the narrative mostly right, and finds a way to pump out the sick thrills in the right quantity rather than jumping into sadism at every opportunity.

All that's left to say, for me, is 'roll on part six, so we can get this over with'...

27 Dresses
27 Dresses(2008)


The point, you see, is not that 27 Dresses is 'predictable'. It is, (painful) truth be told, a goddamn obstacle course where the goal is to reach for as many fucking cliches as possible, and to dodge each and every element that would threaten to be a little authentic or interesting, if only for a little bit. No, really, in that marvelously glossy little world in which 27 Dresses' events takes place, apparently everyone is programmed to act and react like the Perfect Sitcom Robots From Hell. Apparently, the incredibly competent minds that constructed those souless automatons know their jobs really well, because they operate without any flaw for a duration of ninety minutes.

I've come to a point where I ask myself : is it too much to ask for just a little humanity, or only a little twist on a convention in this incredibly tired genre that is the rom-com? I could go on and tell you about the eye-gouging functionality of the ensemble, and from all artistic points of view, but I believe everyone knows the dynamics of a conventional romance. I'm not allergic to the genre, that's for sure (hell, I even chose this over 21 for my Hollywoodian Cinema class-- I thought it'd be a lot more fun to dissect), but let me tell you, there should be rules concerning how industrial, factory-assembled and profoundly dishonest a film can be...

...also, horrible. It's horrible.

And yet, there are many people in suits that will be cashing huge checks because of this immensely serviceable product. It is not, by any way, horrible as in 'lousy' or 'badly executed'. No, it is horrible because it shamelessly serves up an hour and a half of escapism that is solely based on values that seem to have just been released from the fifties-- but with a Sex and the City edge. It ultimately parades as some sort of statement on modern independent womanhood, when in fact, it's comfortable right-wing conformity fodder.

In 27 Dresses, the ULTIMATE goal, plainly, is to get fucking married. All this film does is talk about weddings : our lead heroine Jane compares her dedication to weddings to Mozart's, Picasso's and... Tiger Woods'. The thrown bouquet at the opening ceremony is given the same treatment as the Ring in LOTR. Hell, even her sex-crazed best friend's fantasy is to have hot sex with a stranger... and then to shotgun marry him.

I was tempted to give this pure hackwork the lowest score possible, not because it looks like it, but because it is so unimaginative and trite. And yet, Katherine Heigl's dangerous amount of charm is just about the only thing that make it a star-and-a-half. Her charm comes close to burning through the bullshit that's wiped all over the screen, but alas, her naturalistic performance is mostly undone by the script's monstrously manipulative strings. As for Marsden, I'm grateful he is not playing 'that other guy' for once, but his role is clearly a science fiction character... written by a woman. Or better, he's gay, but did not come out of the closet before the gorgeous wedding that ends the film.

Both stars succeed in making 27 Dresses one notch above torturous. On the 'tolerable' scale, it's Because I Said So all over again but done without the earsplitting false notes.

However perfect the assembly is done, the item still remains as demented. That dreaded money-hungry formula is so used to full effect here there is barely any cinematic bone hidden underneath.


Laughing is one thing; cringing is another one, completely. I sincerely don't know how Stuart Gordon manages both at the same time.

At once refreshingly offbeat and dissapointingly undervelopped, Stuck is one of those films that would have felt completely at ease during the seventies... or the eighties. Or the nineties, for that matters.

Either way, director Gordon handles with extreme skill his black comedy/thriller inspired by this disturbing news event-- it's just a pity he doesn't push it far enough. When he gets going, there's no deying that he truly knows how to find the funny in a terminally unfunny situation. It all results in some sort strangely-paced, lacerating portrait of humankind at its very worst. Still, one wishes the plot's dramatic tension escalated even more, or at least stopped dilly-dallying.

Also, whenever Suvari's immensely expressive eyes are fueled by anger and panic, she's at her very best-- it's a shame her fabulous tantrums aren't exploited enough. The same goes for Rea and Hornsby : they are excellent reactors, but they don't get enough screentime where their characters are pushed to extremes... sort of.

It all results in a very, very angry (nearly too much) satire that accounts for a study of what turns a fairly normal person into a cold-blooded sociopath who'd wish for a man's death because he inconveniences her. But in the end, it comes off more like some sort of cross between anthropology and exploitation. That works fine with me.


Swimfan is a mostly fun and somewhat suspenseful teen thriller than could be enjoyable if you apologize the script's major clumsinesses.

If you cannot forgive them, however, then you're left with an embarassingly hollow potboiler that piles up stupid plot elements on top of the others, all up to a finale that packs zero surprises.

Sleekly shot and well-paced, Polson directs the film with commendable, though superficial, flair and Christensen is nothing short of great. But hey, in the end, it's not a good movie under any objective angle, and it will be quickly forgotten.

According to me, it seems like it already is...

Home Room
Home Room(2003)

Reasonably developping its characters but ultimately rather thin in purpose, Home Room is a convincing but sluggish drama in which fundamentally opposite personalities collide in the aftermath of a tragic school shooting.

Paul F. Ryan prefers showing us how true human beings react to the horrible event rather than superficially covering the event. Truly, there's nothing warm and fuzzy here, just honest emotion from two very good young actresses.

Problem is, besides that honest emotion, there's not much else here-- at least, for the heavy 130 minutes of running time. Deanna and Alicia are fascinating to watch interact, that's for sure (the morgue scene is particularly revelatory), but ultimately, it could have lost a good twenty minutes and still carry the same strength.

Not necessary, just interesting... but worth watching, that's for sure.

Continental, un Film Sans Fusil (Continental, a Film Without Guns)

Beautiful, important filmmaking.

Continental is the kind of unflinching look on an issue completely universal (loneliness) that finds a way to render what's gloomy and empty exquisitely mysterious.

Not all of the stories presented are directly linked to the missing man sequence that opens the film, but they all feel very much connected, bringing out bleak humor and disturbing pathos in equal doses.

Lafleur's directorial approach is not for everyone-- despite the critical acclaim, it is very unsurprising the some of the moviegoing public has been bored to tears by the massive non-happenings that chain together the film. But, to me, Continental is far more than the sum of its parts, and with superbly subtle performances, very quiet music and a string of both heartbreaking & embarassing moments, it's one of the best films to grace the silver screen in Quebec for years.

Final Destination

Rather fun and unpretentious, Final Destination is a straight-up slasher without the tangible menace that bends some of the genre conventions with fairly winning results, up to a certain point. Establishing an interesting and entertaining concept, what begins as a supernatural menace with an impressively creepy atmosphere eventually drifts into familiar territory during its third act. The last twenty minutes feel rushed, to say the least-- and most performances are lazy, excluding Sawa's intense take on the Final Guy role.

Still, the first Final Destination delivers on most basic levels : it's an interesting mix-up of well-mounted horror flick and sheer campy experience. It can explain the sequels that xerox the whole damn thing over and over again.

Halloween: Resurrection

Oh, dear. Halloween : Resurrection is just plain terrible, even by slasher standards, but you probably already expected that.

While the other entries in the series at least had their moments and an oddly out-of-touch-with-the-reality feel, Resurrection plays the modern reality-TV card with crappy-ass results. The P.O.V gimmick could hardly be less scary; every scare sucks, whether it's a real one or a fake one (and those ones come in handfuls, too). So when your 'scary' film fails at generating even the least bit of suspense, what do you hang out to?

YES, my friends, the cheese factor! And that particular cheese factor is what gives Resurrection another half-star. The kills are obvious and cartoonish, the story is padded to the max and nonsensical. The flat-out risible performances, mixed with flat-out risible actions and flat-out risible dialogue, are simply to die for. Even if Busta Rhymes is a serious contender for the most fuckawful performance in the last ten years of horror films, I have to say the rest of the cast really do their very best at sucking. The men have litterally no part to speak of, so the less said about them, the better. The women, well... from Jamie Lee Curtis' clearly disinterested performance in the kick-in-the-groin-to-the-fans opening scene to Bianca Kajlich's blander than bland Final Girl act to Katee Sackoff's hysterical ditzy blonde byotch number, it's a goddamn flurry of worse-than-thou acting. Not to mention the stuntman who inhabits the shape... on the creepy scale, he comes close to reaching the zero.

Really, I don't know why I keep reviewing those turkeys. On a screenwriting point of view, it's just so unspeakably moronic that even 11-year olds that have never seen any horror films in their lives can find something to giggle at. Without any visual flair nor wit, Halloween Resurrection is without a single doubt the very worst film of the series.

Among the cheesiest and most predictable horror movies I've seen, that's for sure-- and yes, it sets up a sequel. A sequel that was eventually transformed into a remake of the original, which turned out to be much more atrocious that permitted.

Kill me.

It's a Free World

Loach has done it again. The social realism card that he has exploited so well during his career is used to full effect here : his commentary on the issue of immigration is clearly not a 'solution', but rather representation of an issue so vast and exhaustive that, well, you can easily see why no one thinks it's their problem to solve.

As so, as our Angie descends deeper into the moral abyss to overcome her own missteps, the tension escalates (mildly). And yet, for a film about illegal immigration, the menace of getting caught is only viewed from afar. Loach is able to convincingly paint a whole world that exists almost solely outside the boundaries of the law-- the legal system has no major dispute with them. The bad news will rather arrive when a gang of payless, desperate employees will begin to apply some pressure on Angie. Violence becomes part of the game. As if it wasn't bad enough, there is also, on a personal level, an eleven-year old child that Angie's parents appear to be raising for her.

It's all written in grey spots, colliding with other issues from time to time (yet without fully exploring them, like single motherhood), and in the end, it doesn't feel hopeful at all. Lower-class England is depicted as a constant survival of the fittest; it's a bit of a shame his last third, feeling relevant but meant to be climactic, feels a bit off-track, but the messages pass nonetheless.

An inevitable bleak ending also waters down the momentum, and the numerous narrative cuts that give the impression the film would have benefited from another solid ten minutes-- but those are minor complaints. Whatever flaws there might be in the structure are largely compensated by the performances, and Kierston Wareing's fearless take on Angie is about as eye-opening as anything I've ever seen in a cinema in my life. Not that her performance transcends history, but being in litterally every scene, she constantly holds our attention with a presence both reassuring and vulnerable at the same time. I don't know how she manages that, but her character's duality is fully explored, with often compelling results.

It's all very, very good, in the end. It's not a major work of art, but as a portrait of troubled times, It's a Free World highlights the fact,even with its title, that there might not be that much freedom left for everyone in our little world...

Prom Night
Prom Night(2008)

Excellent-- as in, of course, excellent 'craptertainment'.

From the eye-popping overuse of fake scares to the endless string of emo rock songs to the finger-lickin' stupidity of its cardboard cut-out characters, Prom Night is a hoot from its first minute to its, say, seventieth (because the final ten are so duck-fuckingly predictable there's nothing even remotely funny about it). Contrarily, however, to most recent horror films, there is nothing downright offensive about the watered-down Prom Night, down the line-- it's by-the-numbers commercial filmmaking made with zero effort for an audience full of screaming teenage girls, of course-- but, to be honest, it reached one of my primary fantasies, which is to be watching One Tree Hill with an extra added body count. To make a film in which the leads (read : bodies waiting to be bagged towards whom we're supposed to feel sympathy) are nothing but big-boobed byotches and square-jawed hunks (all looking too old for their parts, with no exception) reveals the filmmakers truly take tweens for complete morons, on which it is assumed television standards have already killed at least half of the brain.

Man, the characters.. the fucking CHARACTERS. All of them are so obvious, so flat and so fashion-magazine'd that Prom Night could kind of pass for a zombie film. There is a faint attempt at building poor lead girl Donna's psychology, and it's all the more hilarious because they sort of try tapping into that. Brittany Snow knows how to cue facial expressions really well, but as a blonde sweetheart whose whole family was murdered before her eyes, and who then tries dealing with the trauma a couple of years later, her number on the credibility gauge almost freefalls into the negative terrain. So, yeah, 'mentally tortured' + identifiable hot chick as the lead... teen girls love that. So, DING, here's all the requisite ingredients for their monthly Saturday Night Fright, all dressed up in this season's trendy clothes, and poised & prepped for public consumption.

This, I insist, is not a film-- this is one of the sucky rollercoaster rides in a beachside fair that you and your friends want to ride, and then when you come out, you say 'wow, that sucked'. You're not particularly happy having spent your hard-earned cash on such a shitty thing, but secretly, you had a blast as you were laughing through the ride, and now, you want to do it again.

So, as much as I kick and fight my desire to see such heavily-marketted horror crap like this, I know I'll keep seing them until I'm very, very old, and as stupid and ridiculous and WOOOOSH, annoyingly glossy as Prom Night was (the closeups trying to bring some kind of character insight are rather funny), I wish to thank it for reminding me how much I love films, and in particular garbage like this.

Oh, and Dana Davis, the sassy black friend, well, she really sucks at what we call 'acting'. But, hey, she has a great rack, and we get to see it bounce for a good 12-15 minutes of screentime during her chase scene, which almost reaches Scary Movie-levels of hilarity.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall

With its laid-back charm, boasting sharp performances, many memorable laughs and yet another way to 're-invent' the Apatow & friends formula, I'm delighted to say Forgetting Sarah Marshall operates and succeeds pretty much like The 40-Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up or Superbad. In fact, as everyone noticed, it's more of the same.

Not that anyone complains.

And yet... what keeps bringing such a large audience to these movies? It's obvious. Almost every one of them play with the rom-com dynamics with realism, wit, honesty and finally, a fair amount of 'improbable possible'. Imploding with good intentions, both in front and behind the camera, the salacious sentimentalism on display refuses to manipulate, even if that's what it ends up doing a bit during the final bits. Once the sweet ending slides along, it's hard not to feel the conclusive smiles are insubstantial-- or at least a bit more than the rest of the film. There is something a little dissapointing when your film establishes itself as shapeless, spontaneous raunchiness, and then wraps up with an all-too easy makeout. But nevertheless, with a screenwriting that remains just as engaging as his screen presence, Jason Segel surprises. Him and director Nicholas Stoller work in remarkable unison.

Even if Segel's characters have a good 40% of Movie Land Blood, the other sixty is refreshingly authentic. The women are, as always, underdevelopped, but those are flaws that are liveable with when pretty much everyone gets a chance to prove they are actual human beings. And as for the actors, it's all very swell, from Kunis to Brand to Bell to all the supporting faces you've probably seen a good twenty-six times in the last 2 years to Segel himself.

So it's not gonna transcend history, nor does it aim to do so. Forgetting Sarah Marshall once again trades on social embarrassment and shows raw emotion from the standpoint of male insecurity, with often laugh-out-loud results.

See it, of course. I think... I think you'll like it.

The Happening

I was prepared for a dissapointment, that's for sure. But I wasn't prepared for a flat-out disaster of a movie.

One has yet to wonder where Shyamalan's sharp mastery of the cinematic language has gone. The shocking lack of subtlety, in the plot exposition, in the would-be suspenseful moments and particularly during the increasingly graphic death scenes, renders the experience very tedious-- and that's not mentionning the risible dialogue that's spat out at us here. Whether's it's humourous or dramatic, very few of it actually rings true-- and once the incoherences kick in, it's just a downwards spiral towards the non-existent third act. Of course, if you put all the awkward hipster jokes aside, the film is basically saved by its own concept. It's a horrifying situation that's happening here-- one that appears much, much more likely than in, say, Cloverfield. But the infamous filmmaker's trademark, such as presenting epic situations with an intimist tone, doesn't work well at all here. Indeed, our protagonists split up numerous times, are joined by (already dead) supporting performers and eventually, I shit you not, put the plot on pause to deal with the hysterics of a, erm, 'crack-o-whacko' old woman whose spot-on performance litterally turns the film into a big, fat joke. Terrific acting, Betty Buckley-- wrong movie, though.

This is a film that suffers from intense PMS. It's tense one minute, and then so fucking jokey-ridiculous the next, and it's off and on, off and on, and for ninety minutes. It's no big secret for everyone who's spent their hard-earned cash of this : the awful mood shifts make The Happening flatline about twenty minutes in. Once the big midway reveal occurs, the audience is already yawning 'fiasco' in their seats-- that is, when they're not giggling like schoolgirls at all the crappy high-voltage violence.

But I congratulate Wahlberg for delivering a performance that's on par with Giamatti's in Lady in the Water. Knowingly silly, and full of heart. Of course, it's no show stopper and it salvages only a part of the catastrophe. Deschanel and especially Leguizamo barely get any time to show what they're usually capable of, and, well, it sucks to see them incapacitated by Shyamalan's life-sucking stage direction. The terciary characters, too, are just bodies waiting to be bagged.

So yeah, it's bad. Period. You COULD see it eventually, because it's the kind of bad that's more hysterical than insulting, but don't, I repeat, DON'T walk in expecting something fresh and, oh, scary.


Taut, insightful and very disturbing, Blindness is nowhere near the disaster many critics have labelled it to be. Obviously, it's not as devastating as it believes it is when it tries to dissects the dynamics of humanity under extreme pressure, but what remains is still a very complete piece of work.

Distinguishing itself first and foremost by its hallucinating, oversatured visual treatment, Blindness illustrates a thought-provoking (and pessimistic) climate dominated by self-protective brutality. It's not a 'pleasant' watch; it's also not what one could call an 'enjoyable thriller'. Meirelles intentionally brakes on his source material's most potentially entertaining moments, resulting in a pace that kills what might be some strangely enthralling freak-out. Believe me, there is nothing remotely fun to view here once the shit hits the fan : the stage direction, on par with the stressful editing, take full advantage of the nightmarish climate and make sure we suffer along with these nameless strangers. It is, down the line, an experience.

And yet, I hesitate before recommending this film to just anybody. There are unnerving false notes here and there : needless provocation does bound, the ending is interesting but executed in a rather half-assed manner, and the use of narration (only twice...?) is totally superfluous. Still, those, like me, who are dazzled by their mass catastrophes gorgeously rendered (...à la 28 Days Later) will find their share, chewing along on the bleak take on human condition, but those that are looking for a fully flesh-out allegory or just plain escapism will be sorely dissapointed.

Back on the plus side, for a film with a cast as impressive as this, Blindness doesn't feel very 'star-studded'. All of the performers slip very comfortably in their roles, the highlight being the incredibly gifted Moore, in a very important turn. Being the only one who can see among the blind elevates her character from simple housewife to clandestine messiah, and both her eyes & physicality translate the immense terror she puts herself through for the survival of those that surround her. Standouts include Bernal, whose character was apparently even more frightening in the film's original cut, and Glover, whose character was also apparently even more striking in the film's original cut.

So, so, so. Is it worthy? To me, absolutely. Meirelles has done better, and twice at that, but I wouldn't be surprised if his next work benefited from the missteps Blindness inflicts on the audience. And as viewers, in the end, it all makes the nihilistic crap that's thrown at us worth suffering.

Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter...and Spring

Kim Ki-Duk's contemplative work of art is austere in style but deeply humane in its outlook. Both visually enthralling and spiritually uplifting, Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring is a film that portrays a man's journey from childish naïveté to enlightenment with extreme delicacy, and succeeds perfectly in what it tries to achieve. In front of his camera, the seasons come alive, breathing life into every frame and surrounding his characters with achingly beautiful portraits of what rages inside.

For me, it's somewhat difficult to extract a specific message from all the events that occur during the 98 exquisite minutes. Separated into roughly four tableaux, the film presents views that can reach even those who don't happen to be Buddhists. Mostly, anyone with an eye open for symbolism can catch a glimpse of themselves in the spinning wheel of hope, destruction, suffering, and bliss.

Ki-Duk's mise en scène is also remarkable. Never succombing to grand spectacle and overkill visuals, his film draws you in slowly as the seasons connect through the characters, the actions and numerous details. His performers play and interact with subtlety and nuance, and the score, while sometimes slightly unecessary, provides a solid dramatic punch.

Most enchanting, too, is the sound design. Richly textured with the natural melodies of the isolated lake in which the story(ies) take place, it's a pleasure to feel transported by the soothing soundscapes delivered with much sensibility-- water flowing, leaves rustling, ice cracking, wind blowing and fire burning all being part of it.

To put it plainly, this is one of the movies I've 'felt' the most during my viewing. It draws you into its mysterious, secluded universe, and keeps you in...

...which reminds me why cinema exists, too. Thank you, Kim Ki-Duk.

Turistas (Paradise Lost)

Turistas is not the cautionary horror nightmare we'd like it to be, nor the crappiest escape thriller ever we expected it to be from those awful one-sheets. It's just a warmed-up plate of tight, violent and meaningless entertainment that follows the recent successes of extremely graphic horror entries. Not that it hurts anyone, except a bunch of screaming young adults.

Frankly, there's not much to be remembered here. At least it's not ridiculous; I mean, the last twenty minutes think they are so breahtless and intense they're rather pitiful, but still, the tone is set and never let up. Realism is the key-- and yeah, why not, it works, for about fourty minutes. The performers, all serviceable, make it all seem kind of likely, and their decisions are not that stupid, at least by slasher standards. True, the photography is outstanding, and it feels very theatrical, but unfortunately, once the tourists' nightmare trip spirals down even more, it's more... unpleasant, let's say, than thrilling. It practically gears into the classic chase mode, offing characters one by one until the predicted three walk away from the carnage. They take a plane. The End.

Certainly director John Stockwell offers us his most valuable effort yet (even though it's not saying much)-- he still can't manage to correctly assemble an above-decent film.

I wasn't asking for much-- and I got what I expected.

Repo! The Genetic Opera

Saw veteran Darren Lynn Bousman finally proves himself to be a major creative talent with this long-awaited industrial rock opera-- and the result is a frantically entertaining musical like you've never really seen before. But that, unfortunately, is only the first twenty minutes.

Once the opening cartoon kicks in and is quickly followed by an impressive CGI shot of a nightmarish futuristic city, you already know Repo! is bound to obtain a cult status. Despite the fact that it is probably bound to happen, there are so many choices that went wrong here, such as the regrettable slip from cynical, pitch-black humour to emotion overblow. Indeed, like most musicals, it has a narrative that kind of goes around in circles until the third act, where the pompous, gooey grotesquerie goes berserk and takes the lead. Repo! The Genetic Opera is rarely boring nonetheless : the rich, inspired and very trashy set design does the very best it can to hide the rather low budget with jaw-dropping results, particularly during the climactic opera scene. The lighting also has to be mentionned : whether it's sparkling blue, blood red or powdery yellow, every scene is lit just the right way to generate a twisted atmosphere that inspires sympathy, doubt or repulsion. But it's not enough to prevent the non-stop loudness of the final result. The song arrangements are so hazily sonorous it's hard to walk out of it humming more than one or two numbers.

Still, the entertaining characters are defended by strong pipes-- that also includes Mrs. Hilton, in a positively surprising turn as surgery-addicted vixen Amber Sweet. Unlike the Saw films, where most of the cast didn't have a chance to truly shine, everyone here pretty much gets their own spotlight, resulting in memorable on-screen performances by Skinny Puppy's Ogre, Terrance Zdunich, Sarah Brightman, Bill Moseley, Anthony Head and especially Alexa Vega, not counting all the other supporting roles. Those are not soul-searching roles, of course, but their cartoonish nature can easily be justified (and enjoyed).

It's been a long road with the horror sequels for Bousman, a mostly downhill one, but this project is sure to lift his name above. Also, by ditching the nauseating quick-fire editing that was used to the bone in his ealier work, the result could have been really, really worse. Anyway, the man (and his kick-ass crew) have shown the horror spectacle fans that were present at the world premiere that his latest work matched the hype.


How is that even possible?

How so much plain damn stupidity can pass these days through the Hollywood system is beyond me. How can it be? Somebody, please explain it to me. Despite everything you've heard before, nothing (and I mean NOTHING) can prepare you for the shitty copout-ness of the cataclysmically bad ending that's served us here, and the unbelievable poorness of the dialogue. I have a good ten chunks of litterally unspeakable dialogue written up my notepad, and let me tell you, they're juicy ones. Does anyone read the script between pre-production and filming?

Anyway, yes, I did start my review of Next with my word on the ending-- and that's because, mind you, it's not the kind of ending that induces a groan because the film ends up on a worse note. Nope, it's the kind of ending that pisses in the audience's face, the kind of ending that causes an immediate transfer from crossed-armed boredom to slackjawed horror.

Of course, there's the technical aspect : wow, like, OMG, fucking CGI. Cars rolling down the hill, as to generate some kind of suspense. An ginormous explosion that looks so video-gamey it's practically insulting. No, seriously, it's the very opposite of nice to look at. As for the plot (what?), well, it's stringed together by unexciting, purely functional car chases that not only reek of the studio's need to pump in even more action, but also are mostly simple misunderstandings. Example : our hero is chased by the FBI, who do not wish to harm him one bit. Where's the fucking tension?

Poor Cage. Poore Moore. Both gifted performers, the common strength of their personas completely work against them in Next, and it's no secret. Both actually try to REALLY inhabit their characters, which often results in moments of laughable would-be intensity that's 200% hampered by the editing choices (studios, once again). Trust me, it really severs every chance at depth both attempt by portraying Cris and Callie as actual human beings. It's never their fault, but it's such a drag to watch them trapped in such a hot mess. As for the usually talented Biel, not much is required of her, except of course providing a believable romantic drama angle and ample cleavage. She succeeds in 50% of the tasks mentionned above.

All in all, Next is well-below the usual Hollywood stupidity. Terribly penned and directed without an ounce of inventivity, it's essentially a subpar superhero film without the costumes, and with an incredibly moronic ending to boot.

How is this even possible? How so much plain damn stupidity can pass these days through the Hollywood system is beyond me.


Alright, it's a biggie : Juno is, to me, one of the most revelatory pictures about the teenage years, certainly on the same level as everything that's imagined by Gus Van Sant, and well-above what passes for teenage fodder these days. It's that good-- and that true.

Juno is blessed by a screenplay that hits no false notes-- that, and its wonderful gallery of believable characters, all properly fleshed out, skillfully avoiding the one-joke cardboard cutouts we're used to see by now. The common remark that every character is affected by annoying hipster dialogue is not surprising-- boy, is the wit dangerously high here-- but rather misplaced. This is not meant to be a reflexion of every pregnant teenager, her family, her friends, her corner store clerk and gynecologist. It's rather a personal portrayal of what it feels like to move on from teenage complications to adulthood responsabilities. The pregnancy, essentially, is a spot-on parallel, not a damn Point On Wheels. It is not a thesis, nor a trend film. For all its wisecrackings and hip sarcasm, it's entirely truthful about the most basic of human situations.

It manages to work simply because it passes its message with subtlety, humour and sincerity-- much, much of with is endlessly channeled through the cast. Of course, this is Page's show, and for the ones among us that eagerly anticipated her transition into A-list territory, well... it's showtiiiiiime! From fiery one-liners to tears of overwhelming vulnerability, her Juno is one of the most, if not THE most memorable teenager to grace the screen in at least a decade. Supported by equally exceptional co-stars, from Simmons to Garner.

To put it bluntly, Juno is a movie whose unstoppable charm can only convert more and more fans by the day. Its popularity is immensely understandable, which leads me to questionning myself about the 'too-cool-for-this' resistance some show towards it. I'm sorry if I like my films with a different, more offbeat take on human nature. I just like to cherish them instead of anything out of the bottomless pit of cash-grabbers.

Wind Chill
Wind Chill(2007)

With an unusually simple premise, this gimmickless 'chill', unfortunately, slides into more conventional territory once it approaches its somewhat dissapointing climax. Indeed, despite the quality of its photography, the emphasis on the characters' psychology and the hauntingly beautiful score that perfectly help set the ice-cold mood, the script runs out of steam as it goes along. That, however, is not to say it's without its creepy moments and effective jump scares, but down the line, there is a distinct 'something' missing. And that 'something' is what makes the terror frizzle and die two thirds of the way through.

Thankfully, both leads, especially Blunt, give intense and convincing performances to their (intentionally) thin protagonists. Their fear is so well-portrayed, both by them and the terrific cinematography, I swear I was freezing all the way through. You barely notice the restrained budget.

All in all, Wind Chill resembles a simplistic campfire tale more than anything-- and in my book, it's much more of a good thing than a bad one.


Nguyen's second feature lenght film is an almost complete success on its terms-- well, at least on what it was trying to achieve. Indeed, there are no place for wordy monologues nor for overacting in any sense of the term in Truffe. It's incredibly subtle, even with the presence of Critters-ish creatures whose methodic rampage is both underplayed and grotesque.

It's also nice to look at, of course. When the plot falters a bit and loses its momentum, the beauty of the images catches us back. Alternately playing the juicy B-Movie and the German expressionism card, Nguyen's directorial choices are never less than very intriguing.

Alas, it's not terribly compelling. Despite the cast's best efforts (Dupuis and Bonnier, backed by a flawless stage direction, still amaze), it's more about the show than the plot. The screenplay being more a social commentary than an actual story, it's quite hard to find ourselves completely drawn in by what's happening, except maybe when Bonnier's Alice wanders through dimly lit corporation corridors with a plank full of rusty nails. Also, the climactic fight scene only roars for one tremendously exciting minute. It's a shame it deflates so quickly after such an effective slow burn of a film.

But hey, complaining about the lack of action in Truffe would be like asking for an MP3 player on a sublime painting. It's a strong film, even if one can't really shake off the feeling that it's barely among the best of Nguyen's future work.

See it.

Super Mario Bros.

Skull-crushingly awful-- there's no denying that. But it's not paint-by-the-numbers awful : it's actually its very own kind of awful.

First, the colourful, imaginative universe found in the timeless Mario Bros. videogames is nowhere to be found here-- most of the film is spent in a crazy German nightmare of a city. The dimension-splitting plot zigzags through gloriously un-Mario events, referencing the game here and there but mostly trying to be its own sci-fi mishmash. Well, guess what? It's fucking impossible to follow, not only because it's dementedly ugly to look at and it makes your fucking ears bleed because of its trite dialogue, but also because it makes zero sense.

Although some might defend it by saying its (numerous) action scenes are 'fun', I reply to them just by saying that they feel much more like being strapped on an electric chair than actually delivering cinematic thrills.

And don't even get me started on the insulting disrespect for the characters, their dynamics and motivations. Hoskins and Leguizamo inhabit their role with respectable skill, the problem is just that they're SIMPLY NOT FUCKING MARIO AND LUIGI. Oh... and Dennis Hopper? Man, what the fuck?!

Oh, sweet Jesus, how I wish this film was never made. I've been such a fan of the Mario Bros. games, and to see this utter detritus on a late-night viewing only confirmed my worst fears.

Anyway, it's better left buried. The new games themselves, like Super Mario Galaxy, Super Smash Bros. and such, are already much, much better movies.

The Eye
The Eye(2008)

With its uninspired terror, incredibly dull screenplay and very little tension, The Eye joins the increasingly long list of tedious J-horror remakes. It's not that the source material is disrespected or 'americanized' too much; it simply feels like this rush job of ghost story has zero purpose to be beyond harvesting a shitload of cash from the wallets of 13-year old teens. The better than can be said about it might be that it looks somewhat classy, and that Alba delivers a more than satisfying performance; intense when necessary and, for once, almost natural-- or maybe it was the ragged looks or the puffy red eyes. Unfortunately, her, how can I say, simply 'decent' performance is not nearly enough to salvage this carbon copy of the last three years of PG-13 horror.

Those last three years, too, have frighteningly similar plotlines, so once those dreaded ghostly visions start occuring, it's a flat-out boring waiting game until poor Sydney traces back the original owner to know what the fuck happened. Another MAJOR complaint : in the original, the supernatural angle had no reason to be, whereas in this one, we get a line about cellular memory to content ass-stupid American audiences with a somewhat plausible 'explanation'. Goddamn.

No, seriously. You've already seen this movie before, believe me, and chances are you didn't come out very satisfied or startled. But hey, if you want to see it again, this time starring Ms. Alba in a role best described as prettily functional, help yourself.


Date Movie
Date Movie(2006)

Playing out like the worst blind date you're likely to have, Date Movie is a collection of lackluster references, scatological & sexual gags, tied together by a ridiculous, nonexistant plot.

Out of the hundred attempts at jokes that occur, a good six or seven of them are 'funny', ten are perhaps good for a smirk, and the rest, well... it's pretty much shit. Cringe-worthy shit. There's no wit in the satire whatsoever, just a pile of referencing and copy-paste re-plays of those vaguely striking scenes in some date movies like Meet The Parents-- but now with poop and vomit!

Poor Alyson Hannigan manages to keep her dignity, and so does Adam Campbell, but the material they work with is so insultingly stupid it's very hard not to be tired of their mugs skipping from one 'funny' cardboard set-piece to another. And the minimal story goes out of control during its last reel there's barely any interested to be found past the 45-minute mark.

I'm really fucking angry at this film.

No, really. It's not a 'missed attempt' at anything, just a cheap, unfunny rush-job. And it spawned three indirect sequels, all even more derivative, and played out even louder and off-topic.

So, fuck you, Friedberg and Seltzer.

Ghost Ship
Ghost Ship(2002)

Frustratingly, Ghost Ship is played out 90% how you expect it. Sure, it's entertaining, in a &#