I went in with low expectations. I'd fallen asleep through a good section of the first Fantastic Four. I didn't have the childhood relationship with the comic that keeps me coming back to other Marvel and DC franchise flix. But I'd heard this was better than 1st film in the series so I decided to give it a shot. Plus I believe I've already mentioned the role of the invisible girl....
It was weird to be back in a mainstream theater, with the annoying music and kids hopped up on sugar. But even a bit of continuous talking and texting from the audience didn't really impact the viewing experience that much.
So how was the movie? Not too bad. Low expectations and a short to the point story made this pretty watchable. It's not the most exciting nor complex of the superhero films but it sort of hit the spot I was looking for. Guess I'll have to finally get to Spiderman also in the next few weeks after I fit in a few of the other festival films playing around town.
More information is available on their infrequently updated website. The website contains a link to their discussion board. It used to be publicly readable but for some reason this year they closed off access.
Set in Glasgow, the main character (very well played by Kate Dickie) works as a observer of the ubiquitous security cameras that seem to cover ever square inch of the city. Her time is spent looking for crimes but often results in her just watching the (occasionally amusing) comings and goings of city residents. For me this initial section which makes you think about the impact of ever present oversight is the best part of the film. We also learn that she leads a solitary life and there are hints this wasn't always so. During regular duties she seems someone that provokes a reaction similar to seeing a ghost. The film takes off from there as we slowly learn of past relation to the man and her plans for dealing with the unexpected situation.
Because of the story line revealed in pieces this is described as a suspense filled thriller. At that level it didn't really work for me - and the expectation that's what I was going to see may have colored my reaction to the actual film somewhat. I generally understood where the plot was going early on so surprises weren't big. It's really more of a character study of pain and loss. Very well acted at that level I still found the overall effect less engaging than I probably should have. From an objective perspective the story of grief that emerges was powerful. But it didn't grab me at an emotional level - possibly because the character was too remote to pull me into her world. If this is the type of film your looking for it may work significantly better for you. It clearly has for others.
It's a (suitably for it's subject) dark looking film in what one write up describes as Dogma inspired look. A nice touch is that it's subtitled even though English is spoken. Personally the accent wasn't bad for me but it's likely helpful for some.
The work begs comparison with the other SIFF film Surveillance which. features closed circuit TV prominently in the story line. That film is more of a mystery/thriller. Significantly better acted, Red Road is more effective at getting you to picture who's watching you when you walk down the street. Whether that's a good or a bad feeling may depend on whether you're dancing "by yourself" in an office with the shades up or being threatened on the street late at night.(2.5/5)
Honoring my personal pact to avoid Lincoln Square Cinema on weekends (the best theater in Seattle except for on Friday/Sat) I instead headed to the best theater on the Eastside that serves alcohol - Big Picture Redmond. The choice was motivated by the film though not the drinks. Nice theater though if you haven't been. Best seats in Seattle with the possible exception of Lincoln Square. If they had the projection quality of SIFF Cinema they might be perfect. Side note - I was consistently impressed with the projection quality at the new SIFF theater - though I've heard complaints at times about sound issues.
Anyway - the movie. I'd heard some less than amazing buzz in Vancouver where I'd originally wanted to see it. Somehow I also managed to miss it at SIFF as well. Given the history I bumped it to the top of my list for this detox weekend.
The film is a collection of 18 short love stories set in Paris. Each one done by a different director and set in a different neighborhood. They range from sweet to touching to funny and back again. As you might expect some fall flat, and the point of at least one eludes me. Overall though it was interesting and a nice little travelogue. Though I could do without meeting the French vampires while in town. Remarkably Elijah Woods in that segment managed to not creep me out for the first time in a while. Probably wouldn't have made my best of fest list for SIFF but I give it an A for effort (3.5/5 though using the scale from last week)
One downside of the alcohol though manifested itself throughout the film. Talking, and plenty of it - and loud talking to boot. To the SIFF bloggers who complained about popcorn munchers during the festival, all I can say is that I was wishing for the crunching sounds. Because at least it would mean they weren't talking. I'd seen few things at Big Picture without incident, so hopefully it was just the crowd tonight. 'cuz I'd like to go back but a repeat of the talking would put them as a much lower tier choice among local options.
Also - Found a few "final words" summaries from SIFF '07 around the net. Figured it wouldn't hurt to post some links here.
For those keeping score this year I hit 107 films since the start of press screenings. Certainly can't say I didn't get my money's worth for the pass.
That concludes the festival oriented blogging of SIFF 2007. It's been a blast while it lasted. I'll continue updates throughout the year albeit at a much slower pace. Back to that distraction from the movies ... Real life.
If you haven't guessed, this is a comedy. There's no way to know what they're claiming as fact vs. fiction. Either way the ride is enjoyable. (3/5)
- What happened at the end?
- What happened during the rest of the film?
- What the point was?
- Why precisely I stayed to the end?
and most importantly ...
- Why everyone (including myself) were too chicken to ask the director these questions. Someone did ask him what his influences were. He gave a list of directors but I was more wondering if it was LSD vs. Peyote.
That's not to say the film is unwatchable. The main reason I saw it through is that there's enough interesting stimulation to keep you wondering where it's going. The two lead actresses get a good Ghost World vibe going. And the director has a pleasant quirky style - when he avoids throwing aliens into the scene. The director also seems to have a remarkable ability to frame the main lead's chest with remarkable dexterity. I thought it was just something in my head at first but after a while I convinced myself it was intentional.
Oh - were you wondering about the plot? Two girls hang out. One keeps mumbling about changing the world. Oh yeah - and they chase boys at times. When not taking blood samples to use in her new chemistry set. Then the world is saved or destroyed. As one of the characters remarks, "what's the difference?"
I can tell for sure they're going to be folks who love this film. I wouldn't say they're wrong, it just didn't work for me. I'd suggest renting Ghost World and Donnie Darko instead. (2/5)
The big disappointment is that I didn't have time to stay for the director's Q&A. It's too bad because this is a film crying out for interpretation. Hopefully I'll find some folks who've seen it so we can discuss.
The story is pretty minimalist on overt storyline and dialog. The lyrics to a poem are woven over significant portions of the film. A man leaves his wife to find work abroad. Another man enters town to find work as a mechanic. Eventually he marries the woman, but will the work hold out - and if not will he stay?
Not a film to see when tired or hungry given it's slow pacing. But a nice conversation piece after dinner. (3/5)
as is the soundtrack via Amazon's German site.
Original Post: One of the smarter teen romantic comedies out there. This is a film far more in the vein of Say Anything than American Pie III. Not that there's anything wrong with characters having sex with a pie but a movie like this is far rarer. The setup is simple. A German student too shy to ask out his crush finally invites her to a party. Only to accidentally insult her by insulting France - the country of her mother's birth. Before he knows it he's on a summer exchange visit to France in order to pull his foot out of his mouth. His near complete inability to speak French proves a bit of a handicap. I'd normally say that hilarity then ensues - but in truth it's a more subtle form of comedy that comes next. You get some amusing(and standard) fish out of water stuff but also his evolving feelings and attempts to share them. A fun pop soundtrack rounds out the package. This is the film I'd been waiting to see the whole festival without even knowing it's name. (4.5/5)
It starts out simple enough. A man estranged from his family comes home upon the death of his mother. He's stuck sticking around the seaside town (played by Astoria, Oregon I believe) and is reintroduced into the local weirdness. For a town allegedly aghast at his homosexuality they seem remarkably tolerant of truly bizarre things running around. Including large amount of abductions as well as Tori Spelling. Who does a great job for the record.
It held my interest though it wasn't a truly great film. Some of the acting is a little static - which also reminded me of Police Beat. So maybe it's on purpose. I found parts of it rather hard to follow - which I'm fairly sure is intended.
There's also an environmental message worked in, which may or may not be central to the storyline. If you're already familiar with this story I'm sure you'll want to see it. I'll have an update once I talk with someone who's read the source material and can compare how close it is to the original. If nothing else a comment at the end made me think about what AAA really spends membership fees on. (3/5)
The energy in the theater was HUGE with what appeared to be the entire league in attendance for this flick. It was a lot of fun to watch all around. It's a very lively, attractive and slightly dangerous looking group. :-) A thing that struck me after the film was how fundamentally if differed from one about a male full contact sport. I can't recall a movie of that sort where every participant comes across as very nice and friendly off the field. These woman are beating the daylights out of each other for sport but none of them seem like they're doing it from a negative place. Watching the players in the theater before the film just reinforced this view. I'm sure there are exceptions but it really is striking when contrasted with other male dominated sports films.
Sadly, I'm guessing they won't be coming to every screening to scream and cheer each frame. That's definitely going to detract from your experience. I think there's some great material in the film. But I think the film could use was a little bit more in the way of teaching. There's a quick and well done intro to how the sport is played. However, it doesn't do as much as might be possible to explain what you're watching in all the following bout footage. I had a fun time at the screening which definitely taught me about a sport I really knew little about before. I've also got a good guess as to the Golden Space Needle award winner - especially if all the players decide to attend the second screening too. (http://www.ratcityrollergirls.com/)
Greatly under used relative to his talent is the actor who plays Bunny Colvin on (the best show ever) The Wire. Though he does just fine with what's given to him. Ryder seems to be having a lot of fun with her character.
There is one reason to see it - a well placed reference to this being the right spot in the film for a montage. Several examples of such scenes are given. The writer deserves serious kudos for calling out the montage of a character learning Gymkata. Awesome! Though I just(2/5 for the film 5/5 for the Kevin Smith-esque reference to 80's schlock)
The director was in attendance yielding one of the more unusual Q&A's I've seen so far. Largely from some strange audience questions. The director contributed a bit too - going out of his way to say he was puzzled that folks took away an impression that the film was about revenge. Which is surprising because to me the coming to terms done by some of the characters achieve clearly included the ability to strike back. Not to mention they play a rap song about revenge over the credits. (5/5 stars)
Walk the Talk (USA/Sweden) (3/5)
Nephew of a motivational speaker is brought to live with the much more well to do uncle. Part serious while still poking fun at the Tony Robbins set. Rather than just being a parody of a self-help guru the uncle turns out in a lot of ways to be the "real deal." I wouldn't run out to see it in theaters, but probably worth a rental.
Fresh Air (Hungary) (4/5)
A very simple but well told story of the relationship between a single mom and her daughter. The mother is an attendant in a washroom which in the beginning seems to really get under the daughter's skin. We watch as life events bring them to a closer understanding of each other. Light on dialog and flashy drama I was impressed with how effective it was at pulling me in. If you're looking for a chat-fest or to have the point told to you do look elsewhere. This is a real example of showing vs. telling.
Four Minutes (Germany) (5/5)
One of the better films I've seen here. Almost certain to make my top ten (once I get around to that). Former child prodigy in prison for murder meets aging piano teacher. Will each of them find redemption from their pasts? Will the inmate win the big contest at the end? Tune in for answers to these and other questions. Yes - that sort of picture. The description didn't grab me either but the film pulled me in and had me through the climactic scene.
The Paper Will Be Blue (Romania) (5/5)
Probably a good double bill with 12:08 East of Bucharest. Follows the crazy chaos during the night of the Romanian revolution. Tragic but well told story that really gives you a feel for what the anarchy during that time must have felt like. I didn't really feel like attending this screening but I'm glad I did.
The Banquet (Hong Kong/China) (3/5)
Beautifully filmed tragedy that has the feel of Shakespeare drama without the great writing (at least when reading the subtitles). In the beginning you'd be forgiven for mistaking this for a fantastical martial arts epic. It's really more of a story of royal intrigue. The guide says it's loosely based on Hamlet - though that seems like a minor stretch. It was interesting to look at, but dragged for me at times. I wasn't that interested in the story for the bulk of the film. The displays of senseless brutality didn't really add anything (even if they were historically accurate in some way). Much preferred Battle of Wits.
My Friend & His Wife (South Korea)(3.5/5)
New film from the director of Host & Guest which was on my list of faves from last year. While I preferred Host the latest effort was interesting and well acted. It was a little painful to watch due to the storyline at times. Relationship between a couple and the husband's best friend complicated by a family tragedy easily in the movie.
Miss Gulag (USA) (1.5/5)
Documentary on women in prison in Russia who take part in a beauty pageant. I'd heard good things going in. But the actual experience left me bored and with the feeling I hadn't really learned too much.
Surveillance (UK) (2.5/5)
Billed as a gay political thriller. But more a screed on pervasive surveillance cameras than anything else. I was sort of curious where it was going while I watched it - that combined with the clear attempt of the film-makers to do something different have me bumping up the rating a bit. But I'm not really recommending it. The story is that a high school teacher hooks up with a guy in a bar. Later he sees that same guy kidnapped and then reported dead. Then things get weird... There's a convoluted plot where folks are chasing the hero but he can't quite figure out who or why. Maybe strangest is how calm the hero seems with the whole thing. He doesn't seem to get riled up until very late in the film. The film-makers employee a device wherein they pretend the entire film is shot with
surveillance cameras. It's interesting at first but without a great story to go along with it I was strangely uninterested in the outcome.
Stealth (Switzerland/France) (2.5/5)
Searching for one's roots coupled with a road movie about a Swiss man who decides to explore his Polish roots in an obsessive way. There's nothing wrong with the film but it just wasn't able to grab me this late in the festival. May just have been me tonight. There are some parts that worked better than others.
The film is consistently funny. Some of it comes from the dysfunctional employees and true boss, some from the actor who takes his craft very seriously, and much of the rest from the manager from Iceland who hates the "emotional Danes." Better yet it probably has some solid lessons for people managed buried within. If nothing else the film gives ample evidence in support of the hypothesis from an earlier film that management strategies involving hugging are sinister. (5/5 stars)
I must admit there are parts of the film I really didn't follow from a plot point of view. There's also a "sex" scene I don't quite understand the mechanics of (I'm sure anyone seeing the films knows what I mean and can feel free to enlighten me in the comments). It's not my favorite of the festival but I admired it's style and ability to hold my interest (3.5/5)
- The hard drinking initially unmotivated dance / baseball coach
- The girl brought in who was raised by the father as a boy ("please look after my daughter it's not her fault")
- The dancer/player with the son running around and teasing the other women
I thought I was imagining this until a scene with a bus following the coach that I'm pretty sure was in the Tom Hanks film.
The audience seemed to really enjoy the film. I thought it was pleasant but not engaging enough to truly love. I am curious about the fate of the Hawaii project and the town depicted. (3/5 stars)
Also - the woman sitting next to me would like you to know that counter to Tara's introduction, "Taiwan is not a country." Though I believe many living there might disagree. (4/5 stars)