Support Local Journalism. Donate to Detroit Metro Times.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Lars and the Real Girl

Posted By on Wed, Oct 31, 2007 at 12:00 AM

Don’t let the fact this is about a slutty lump of inanimate silicone turn you off: Lars and the Real Girl is the sex doll movie for people who don’t like sex doll movies. The movie lives or dies on Gosling’s performance as Lars, but he has a way of making even his showiest work seem utterly natural. All of his little bits of business here are dead-on. Lars’ struggle to overcome his “delusion” is so outré, so mannered, that the movie needs a good straight man or two, and Gillespie has answered in kind by directing everyone else to be as deadpan as possible. The conceit works as long as you’ve got utterly natural performers like Patricia Clarkson (as Lars’ non-pushy doctor) and Paul Schneider (as his incredulous brother) to balance out Gosling’s high-wire act. They bring the movie back down to earth; even still, cynics in the audience will understandably wonder where this idyllic Wisconsin farm town’s mean, unaccepting bullies are. (At a seed convention, maybe?)

Continue reading »

My Kid Could Paint That

Posted By on Wed, Oct 31, 2007 at 12:00 AM

Ostensibly, Amir Bar-Lev’s subject, 4-year-old painter and media darling Marla Olmstead, rose to prominence as a painter by freely expressing her creative impulses unencumbered by expectation or the corruption of the marketplace. Marla’s ascent was rapid, and her fall precipitous. As the media juggernaut was at full-steam ahead, the Olmsteads were profiled on 60 Minutes II. Using hidden camera footage, and the unchallenged opinion of one expert, Charlie Rose and company set out to debunk Marla as the sole creator of her work, and strongly imply that her father, Mark, is the real artist. Now Bar-Lev begins to look more closely at her parents, the jokey and breezy Mark, who dismisses Marla’s damning comments with blithe insouciance, and the cautious and concerned Laura, who wants to build a protective barrier between her precocious daughter and an increasingly hostile public.

Continue reading »

Dan in Real Life

Posted By on Wed, Oct 31, 2007 at 12:00 AM

Safe, warm and reassuringly middlebrow where his previous work was ironic, sardonic and righteously raunchy, the movie is further evidence of the softening of Steve Carrell. As the lovelorn widower Dan, Carrell scrunches up his shoulders, molds his doughy face into a pallid perma-frown and, for the most part, manages to suppress his considerable gift for physical comedy. The film centers around a cutesy extended-family gathering in New England, where sage old upper-middle-class lefties Nana (Dianne Weist) and Poppy Burns (John Mahoney) preside over a humongous, shabby-chic cabin straight out of a Pottery Barn catalog. Still-single advice columnist Dan arrives with his three uncontrollably precocious adolescent daughters and promptly devolves into a funk. Cue some unsolicited wisdom and homemade apple pie from Mom, and soon Dan escapes briefly for a little seaside reflection and a meet-cute with age-appropriate “hottie” Marie (a ghostly, soft-focus Juliette Binoche). No sooner does he proclaim this mystery woman his new love than does she arrive at the house, on the arm of his cocky little brother Mitch (Dane Cook, struggling to act his way around his ego). Despite the odd casting, Carrell and Binoche come up with some serviceable chemistry. But Hedges and co-writer Pierce Gardner don’t capitalize on the parallels between Dan’s female troubles and his cluelessness in dealing with his cusp-of-womanhood daughters.

Continue reading »

Bella

Posted By on Wed, Oct 31, 2007 at 12:00 AM

José (Eduardo Verástegui), a chef in the Mexican restaurant is taciturn and nose-to-the-grindstone reliable, until he suddenly walks out during the lunch rush to pursue Nina (Tammy Blanchard), a waitress just fired for tardiness. Looking like refugees from an off-Broadway play, they wander the streets and quickly bond. They leave the city and visit the small beachside town where José’s parents (Jaime Tirelli and Angelica Aragon) maintain the family home as a safe haven and lovingly tease their adult children. It’s here that Monteverde unravels his family reconciliation agenda, a very pat set of solutions for deep-seated guilt and trauma. Mexican director Alejandro Monteverde and his co-writer Patrick Million are overeager to offer their troubled characters redemption. What saves their mediocre film from becoming a sluggish muddle are heartfelt performances and a low-key style that keeps the film grounded.

Continue reading »

Means to an end

Ian Curtis biopic chronicles and debunks Joy Division frontman

Posted By on Wed, Oct 31, 2007 at 12:00 AM

The film concern's the British synth act Joy Division and its agonized frontman, Ian Curtis. Turning his sunken, blank eyes, distant monotone and spastic performance style into assets rather than debits, the epileptic Curtis rose to prominence a few short years before hanging himself, at age 23, inspiring legions of gloomy mourners. And it's a welcome surprise that director Anton Corbijn's new Curtis biopic demythologizes the man who launched a thousand goth bands. Curtis, played by newcomer Sam Riley, emerges as a sort of agoraphobic everyteen, prone to quoting Wordsworth and Lou Reed in equal measure, not a savant but rather an obsessive fan needing one big push into action. Riley's uncanny approximation of Curtis' jerky moves, shot with unerring authenticity, make for some of the most electric musical numbers in recent memory.

Continue reading »

Lake of Fire

Posted By on Wed, Oct 31, 2007 at 12:00 AM

It’s a near impossibility to make a calm, focused documentary about a subject that inflames passions as much as abortion, but director Tony Kaye has almost achieved that goal with Lake of Fire. Few issues epitomize the sharp divisions in American society more, yet Kaye eschews righteous indignation and opts for a cool, methodical approach, compiling news coverage along with footage of demonstrations, and weaves them together with an impressive array of interviews — activists and academics, philosophers and lawyers, journalists and politicians, nurses and protesters — that are notable for their thoughtful observations.

Continue reading »

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Nightmare Before Christmas — 3D

Posted By on Wed, Oct 24, 2007 at 12:00 AM

For the uninitiated, Nightmare is the story of Jack Skellington, the pumpkin king of Halloween Town. Bored by his duties and desperate to experience something new, he decides to kidnap Santa Clause and take over Christmas. Putting his ghoulish minions to work, he ends up ruining the very holiday he tried to improve. A sort of "Grinch Who Stole Christmas" in reverse, Jack’s misadventures teach him the value of remaining true to what he is. But what's really surprising is how fresh and original this stop-motion horror fantasia feels after 13 years, cleverly refashioning Yuletide yuletide characters into Edward Gorey refugees. Sure the story is as thin as Jack Skellington’s twiggy legs and Danny Elfman’s tunes are hit-or-miss but the film’s spirit, tone and visuals never cease to delight. And did we mention it's in 3D?

Continue reading »

Rendition

Posted By on Wed, Oct 24, 2007 at 12:00 AM

There are flashes of bravery in Gavin Hood’s robust direction. The South African native (who won an Oscar for Tsotsi) expertly contrasts the American life of Anwar El-Ibrahimi (Omar Metwally) — whose very pregnant wife Isabella (Reese Witherspoon) launches a one-woman campaign to find him after he fails to return from a chemical engineering conference — with the underground world he’s disappeared into, one that employs the guilty-until-proven-guiltier tactics of rendition and torture. At once immensely earnest and sharply disingenuous, Rendition aims to be a smart political thriller with a conscience, and falls short of the mark. As a senator who’s both the voice of moral authority and the embodiment of political finessing, Alan Arkin booms that if he took on the administration and intelligence community over “extraordinary rendition,” the test case would have to be rock solid. So too, audiences looking for a movie that encapsulates the topsy-turvy morality of the fear-fueled policies of the Bush administration will just have to wait. This isn’t it.

Continue reading »

The Darjeeling Limited

Posted By on Wed, Oct 24, 2007 at 12:00 AM

A trio of estranged brothers, Francis (Wilson) Peter (Adrien Brody) and Jack (Schwartzman), decides to reconnect on a cross-country train ride through India. That these kooky sibs would seek clarity in such a chaotic, overwhelming place speaks volumes about them — even when the screenplay leaves much unsaid. (Their stormy relationship gets fleshed out in a short film that’s available online, which in some ways is better than the feature film — not just because of Natalie Portman’s naked backside — but because it’s too short to ramble on and on.) The trio’s father headed some undisclosed industry, which Francis (the oldest) is struggling to run in dad’s image. Peter is dealing with looming fatherhood himself, and wears pop’s oversize sunglasses, as if they’ll grant him some special foresight. Schwartzman’s Jack is like the fantasy adult that Rushmore’s Max Fisher dreamed of — a dashing, George Harrison-mustachioed, jet-setting author caught in a romantic death spiral with a beautiful femme fatale.

Continue reading »

Gone Baby Gone

Posted By on Wed, Oct 24, 2007 at 12:00 AM

Affleck’s carefully chosen supporting cast is first-rate. Madigan, Ed Harris, Morgan Freeman, John Ashton and little known but equally impressive TV actors Titus Welliver and Amy Ryan, round out Gone Baby Gone with lived-in authenticity. But what makes Ben Affleck’s filmmaking debut rise above similar crime dramas is its layered exploration of human ethics and moral relativism. Gone Baby Gone’s gut-wrenching dilemmas reveal the ambiguity of human nature and test each character’s ethical resolve. Listen to Ed Harris’s fiery monologue about which side he’s chosen and you can’t help but become pulled into the quagmire of emotions and values that drive Lehane’s tragic tale. Everyone here is in a quandary, trading on principles to arrive at the right answer and Kenize’s last act choice distills the age-old impasse: How do you weigh your sense of what’s right against what may be the greater good?

Continue reading »

Best Things to Do In Detroit

Newsletters

Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.