I'll be busy moving the family to our new digs next week, so this will be my last blog post until we're settled and I've got Internet service up and running.
Nonetheless, two oven-fresh Cinematical reviews will be going live next Friday (for Sunshine and Your Mommy Kills Animals), and I'll try to link to both of those - as well as to new Slant write-ups for The Sugar Curtain and This is England - by that weekend.
Werner Herzog has come to save us from our summer doldrums. The German auteur's latest, Rescue Dawn, is the best film to hit theaters during this popcorn-overloaded season, and I was fortunate enough to speak to the director for SOMA magazine - in person - about his latest work, Transformers, the state of documentary filmmaking, and his ongoing search for "ecstatic truth."
As is always the case with SOMA's site, the below link will simply get you to the main content page. From there, select the article.
I’m not sure whether Joshua’s campiness outweighs its offensiveness – it’s got both in spades – but there’s no getting around the fact that George Ratliff’s creepy-kid thriller is seriously awful. With his story of the destruction of a hoity-toity Manhattan clan by their 9-year-old weirdo son Joshua (Jacob Kogan), Ratliff seeks to prey upon the anxieties of young parents while also condemning upper-class white folk and anyone who goes to church. Yet the overriding lesson conveyed by this derivative piece-o’-junk – which pays homage narratively to The Bad Seed, and atmospherically to Rosemary’s Baby – is that differences are both bad and dangerous. Joshua prefers museums to sports, his yuppie school uniform to typical adolescent garb, and his gay uncle Ned (Dallas Roberts) to dad Brad (Sam Rockwell) and mom Abby (crazy-haired Vera Farmiga), all signs that – along with his robotic demeanor – point towards him being a freak not to be trusted around the family dog or his infant sister. Ratliff’s suspenseful tone, discordant string score, and visual framing (in which Joshua is spatially separated from all other humans) are as clumsily overwrought as his cast’s performances are hysterical, in particular Farmiga as the titular boy’s full-on bonkers, post-partum depression-wracked mom. It’s ultimately unclear if Joshua’s evil behavior is the byproduct of his father and mother’s neglect and lack of compassion, part of a devious plot to live with Uncle Ned, or merely the inevitable consequence of his atypicality. Regardless of cause, however, what’s abundantly clear is the unintentional humor of every clunky shock-tactic and ominous aesthetic choice perpetrated by this monumentally crude and ineffective attempt at parental fear exploitation.
Invention is in short supply in Music and Lyrics, a Hugh Grant-Drew Barrymore cute-fest that hews tediously close to the genre’s trademarks. Consequently, it delivers exactly what its undemanding audience craves, from Grant’s sarcastic, self-effacing litany of one-liners, to Barrymore’s flighty-yet-confident routine, to a story that offers some ‘80s nostalgia (here, centered around bubblegum synth-pop) and a couple of quirky comedic sidekicks for its reasonably engaging leads (Brad Garrett and Kristen Johnston). Once half of a popular Wham!-type music group, Alex Fletcher (Grant) is now a miserable has-been who pays his way by rehashing his old hits and hip-shaking moves at country fair and amusement park gigs. When a ludicrous Brittney Spears-style starlet (Haley Bennett) asks him to pen a new song for her forthcoming album, he finds himself at a literal loss for words until, by happy accident, he discovers that his new plant-waterer Sophie (Barrymore) has a gift for lyrics. So too does Music and Lyrics, which features a host of catchy original songs that help prop up the contrived plot and often excruciating zingers that endlessly spew forth from Grant’s mouth. Nonetheless, there’s far too little originality to these in-and-out-and-then-in-love-again proceedings to make the film anything other than a disposable rom-com triviality.
The release to see this week is Werner Herzog's incredible Rescue Dawn. But for those craving a mindless popcorn movie, there are two new crummy ones hitting theaters that are sure to help augment one's depression over the state of mainstream Hollywood filmmaking. Thanks, Michael Bay and Robin Williams!