Monday, November 19, 2007


I am still wrestling with Richard Kelly's surreal cinematic head-trip SOUTHLAND TALES (**) and I'm hoping to have a full review up soon. Not a masterwork and certainly not the unmitigated disaster that others have proclaimed it to be, it's a challenging, frustrating, intermittently brilliant satire that demands multiple viewings if you care at all about sussing the entire story out. I was never bored but often times was annoyed with the sloppiness of the entire package, yet I found myself oddly drawn into Kelly's unique, twisted world view that was on display in SOUTHLAND TALES. And as I said earlier, the last 30 minutes or so are some of the headiest big-screen moments I've ever seen. It feels like a film made by a stoner or acid freak who literally threw every single idea they ever had up on the big screen, and while not fully coherent, the movie at time dazzles with its wilfully deranged attitude and behavior. Flawed but not without its merits, the film is a bold mess, a unique failure that I'm looking forward to watching again.

I caught MR. BROOKS (* 1/2), the tepid, lame serial killer thriller from this past summer. Kevin Costner, who was good as usual, couldn't save this dreary thriller from becoming nothing more than tediously effective. The writing was weak, the directing flaccid, and the supporting performances from Demi Moore and Dane Cook stunk. The movie has a fun idea--a guy is addicted to killing like alcoholics are addicted to booze. It's in his blood and he can't escape it. By the end of the film, the story has jumped off the tracks so wildly that it can never recover. And, to make matters worse, it was boring. Always the worst offense a movie can commit. Seeing Costner as a bad guy was fun for the first half-hour or so, and then it just went downhill for the remaining hour and a half. MR. BROOKS was like a bad combo of cheesy 80's thriller and Lifetime movie material; lame-O.

Werner Herzog's masterful Vietnam POW film RESCUE DAWN (****) hits dvd tomorrow and is a must-see for anyone who cares about strong filmmaking, courageous acting, and a deeply personal story. Based on Herzog's own documentary, the exceptional LITTLE DIETER NEEDS TO FLY (****), Christian Bale delivers yet another staggering peformance (both physically and emotionally) as Dieter Dengler, an American pilot who is shot down over Laos during the initial stages of the Vietnam War. Captured by the enemy, Dengler adapts to POW life and makes a death-defying escape leading to a journey through the jungle to freedom. Mad-genius Herzog, no stranger to jungle settings after having directed AGUIRRE, THE WRATH OF GOD (****) and his magnum opus, FITZCARRALDO (****), is in his most commercial filmmaking mold with RESCUE DAWN, but that takes nothing away from the immediacy and impact of his storytelling. Bale, yet again, proves that he's the most underrated actor of his generation.

Later this week, I will be checking out BEOWULF in 3-D, the expressionistic Bob Dylan movie I'M NOT THERE from director Todd Haynes (FAR FROM HEAVEN ****), and hopefully MARGOT AT THE WEDDING, the latest bit of familial dysfunction from the bitterly funny writer/director Noah Baumbach, who's last film was the brilliant black-comedy THE SQUID AND THE WHALE (****).

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