Sunday, February 14, 2010
Tinsel & Tine: I really want to thank Carol for her smart reviews and commentary from Sundance 2010. I love that she broke up her posts into Gay & Lesbian themed films, Documentaries and now Feature Length films. I would once again like to encourage any readers planning to attend even a small film fest to send me posts from or after your film festival experience. If you attend an evening with a food and film tie-in, even better, or review a restaurant pre or post a screening, send it in! LRL4400@gmail.com.
Carol has told me she also has a Park City restaurant review for Tinsel & Tine in her last post, so be sure to check back again next week!
The Runaways loosely based on Cherie Currie’s memoir about her life in the first all-girl teen punk-rock band, did, for the most part, live up to the hype surrounding its world premiere in Park City. The legendary Joan Jett, who shares an Executive Producer credit, was in attendance with cast members (see images property of Hollywood Reporters). Choosing to chronicle the bands formation, meteoric rise and inevitable demise through the eyes of guitarist/vocalist Joan Jett and lead vocalist Cherie Currie, first time director Floria Sigismondi, in an inspired move, pairs the exceptionally talented Kristen Stewart of Twilight fame (Stewart also stars in Welcome to the Rileys reviewed below), with 15-year-old teen actress Dakota Fanning.
Though Runaways has a Hollywood sheen, and is certainly less gritty than earlier punk-rock biopics the film nevertheless engages. Stewart and Fanning provided ample on-screen eye-candy. The individualized fashions, the fan-frenzy, drunken-drug fueled excesses, the managerial manipulation, and even a moment of sexual intimacy between Jett and Currie, are all authentically recreated. With some in the band as young as 13 at the time of its formation, and nearly all from broken homes, it was inevitable that the girls found the pressures of touring and fame overwhelming. The celebrity clout of Stewart and Fanning headlining, is sure to pull in a younger demographic. Revel in the rebellion, its time to (re)discover the raw talent that was The Runaways… the film opens nationwide on March 19th in 1,4000 theatres! “The Runaways” original music can be found at http://www.pandora.com/music/song/runaways/cherry+bomb or see the bands fan-page at http://therunaways.com/
Rating: 3 Tines
(* Excellent - 4 Tines * Great - 3 Tines * Good - 2 Tines * Fair - 1 Tine * Poor - Tarnished)
Hesher, screening in the Dramatic Competition section, garnered mixed reviews from the throngs of press, and audience in attendance at the premiere. Though I liked the film and thought it a perfect fit for the “Cinematic Rebellion” tag the marketing team at Sundance had dreamed up for their 2010 event, I can understand the detractors who found the film gratuitously provocative. This dark dramedy centers on a 13-year-old boy, TJ, (brilliantly portrayed by Devin Brochu), whose mom was recently killed in a car accident. With their family-life turned upside down, father and son have moved in with TJ’s elderly grandmother (Piper Laurie). Though she is doing her best, his dad is so heavily medicated he spends the majority of his time asleep on the sofa. Enter Hesher, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt in a role far-removed from his squeaky clean persona in 500 Days of Summer. Skinny, unkempt and homeless, Hesher is a snarling unpredictable vitriolic anarchist with a giant upraised middle finger crudely tattooed on his back. His violent outbursts, which frequently involve the lethal combination of gasoline and lighters, punctuate the films narrative, as do the profanities that spew from his mouth. Though the plot has some predictable plot turns, Hesher will resonate with a young male, twenty-something demographic. Natalie Portman also stars in the film which was reportedly sold for $7 million to Newmarket. Anticipate the film in select theatres sometime soon. Rating: 2 Tines
One of the most talked about films and a deserving winner of the World Cinema Dramatic Grand Jury prize, David Michôd's Animal Kingdom, utilizes violence in a far different way. Set in the city of Melbourne, Australia, Animal Kingdom is a dark and atmospheric crime drama about a family who has tentacles deep inside the criminal underworld. When the mother of rugged teenager Joshua “J” Cody overdoses, “J” has no choice but to accept the hospitality of his maternal grandmother, Smurf Cody, from whom his mother kept a great distance, and for good reason. Smurf (Jackie Weaver) is a hard-as-nails ruthless and lethal matriarch who will do anything, and I mean anything, to protect her sons. When Baz, Smurf’s eldest son is gunned down by cops in broad-delight, Pope, the second and most unhinged of her four siblings, orchestrates a cold-blooded revenge killing. The police reacting quickly haul in J and his uncles for questioning. Leckie, the lead detective, sees J as the key to bringing down the Cody brothers and putting them away. While J's loyalty to his family remains steadfast, his uncle Pope's actions become more erratic and frightening and Leckie moves J to a guarded safe house. Suspenseful and ambitious, the changing plot twists will keep the audience glued in their seats to the shocking end-frame. Rating: 4 Tines
IFC who picked up Michael Winterbottom's The Killer Inside Me, will, I am sure, be mindful of their marketing strategy as they prepare the film for release later in the year. Widely reported at Sundance, the film raised the ire of a number of women in the audience who accused the Director, during the post -screening Q&A, of being a misogynist. Rumors that actress Jessica Alba got up and left partway through the film, was later denied by her publicist. Without wanting to spoil the plot, two extremely graphic murder scenes perpetuated against women were brutal to watch. The most controversial scene occurs 25 minutes into the movie where punches are delivered in what seems to be painfully slow real-time. For those of you pre-warned and willing to see, The Killer Inside Me, based on pulp crime writer Jim Thompson's 1952 novel is, actually worth the price of admission. Casey Affleck, in a powerful performance, plays Lou Ford an unassuming small-town good-looking deputy sheriff in a small Texas town circa 1957. When the son of the town's richest man starts up an affair with a high-end prostitute Joyce Lakeland played by Alba, Lou is tasked by his boss with running her right out of town. Finding it impossible to follow orders once he lays eyes on her, their soon-discovered mutual appreciation for violent sex predictably arouses Lou but unlocks some psychotic demons that drive the rest of the film. For those of you who can stomach the violence, The Killer Inside Me, is an impressive cowboy-noir ride inside the mind of a mad man. Rating: 3 Tines
Less impressive was Welcome to the Rileys, the debuting feature of Jake Scott which had a great cast with James Gandofini, Melissa Leo and Kristen Stewart (see The Runaways above), but somehow failed to ignite and the ending was so trite and neatly parceled it was for this writer rendered unbelievable. The story centers on Lois and Doug Riley, an Indiana couple that are so frozen by a past-trauma that they are sleepwalking their way through their marriage. Visiting New Orleans on a business trip, Doug escapes the constricts of a networking conference and visits a sleazy strip joint. Here he meets an underage hooker, and guessing that she is the same age as his deceased daughter decides to take her under his wing. Combating her agoraphobia, his wife decides to travel south to reclaim their 30-year marriage. If a story about a man saving a prostitute sounds familiar, it is! Melissa Leo's changing hairstyles were an unintentional distraction: coiffed and hair-sprayed seemed to imply she was depressed while curly and natural indicated she was brave and ready for anything. Rating: 1 Tine
Carol Coombes/January 2010