Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Can Independant film save a deceptively dull 2010 summer movie season?


INDIE: Nicole Holofcener's Please Give


HOLLYWOOD: Brand and Hill in Get Him To The Greek

Not that we always get bad stuff from Hollywood but this year -more than any other- has been horrendous as far as quality goes. Don't expect anything of value to show up from hollywood studios until Christopher Nolan's Inception gets released on July 18th. Case in point I recently saw Get Him To The Greek (C) starring Russell Brand and that big ball of joyful chunk Jonah Hill- decent R rated comedy with lots of fart jokes but not something I'd call must see or worthy of the hard earned 12 bucks you have to dish out. Brand's comedy is joyously deadpan and oddly enjoyable but the film falls apart when Brand starts to develop something I thought he would never dare show his core audience- emotion & feelings. We are left with nothing to ponder upon @ the movies, especially after yet another disappointment in the form of Brand's comic hangover- which leaves independent cinema out to rescue the day. Or does it really?

Harry Brown (D+)
is violent and reminiscent of those gutsy B movies from the 70s starring Michael Caine. Well lo and behold Caine stars in this one as a retired Gran Torino out to get revenge on street thugs for the murder of his best friend. Caine -a great actor if there ever was one- keeps things entertaining at the start with his sharp wit, ditto British director Daniel Barber who plumbs violent sequences into our head as a way to relay his message. But what exactly is his message? The violence is so hammered down and graphic that the picture got an 18+ rating in Quebec of all places, a province that is very lenient in its ratings.

Mr Barber's movie collapses in front of our very own eyes as the stakes get raised and the moral message gets deceptively confusing. The personal caricatures also get more pronounced and the characters much less intriguing and more stupid in their actions. Caine -still a pro at these kinds of roles- invests a lot in this geezer's fight for revenge but the script cannot hold a candle to the subtlety and depth that made Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino so good. This is the best example of a movie that thinks its important and exciting when it really ends up being the opposite of it- muffled and dull.

Please Give (D+)
If Harry Brown was a great performance in an otherwise messy movie, the same can be said of the irresistible Amanda Peet in Nicole Holofcener's incredibly dull Please Give. Here's a movie which takes pride in being about but also about everything. Are you still with me? I have great admiration for Holofcener's past movies but her newest one just didn't do it for me- what with its annoying characters and deliberately comatose pacing. Holofcener has always dealt with the female experience in her movies -none greater than in 2002's Lovely & Amazing. What happens in this movie has all the resounding excitement of watching paint dry.

Husband (Oliver Platt) & Wife (Catherine Keener) have to deal with the inside and outside world and a teenage daughter that obsesses over a pimple and the right fitted jeans- all this and they end up butting heads with the granddaughters (Amanda Peet & Rebecca Hall) of their elderly neighbour. Got that? Who cares? The formula worked for Holofcener's other pictures but it just doesn't here. The script is too facile and the resolution too predictable to fully engage the viewer into curiosity or satisfaction.

Peet is however the standout here as a tanned hottie- obsessed, malevolent & sexually mischievous. She brings excitement and intrigue to her memorable role. We need more Peet in an industry shortchanged on female roles. She shines in a film that just does not get that sometimes life can be very dull & that without any spice everything is not very nice.

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