Movie Reviews (such as they are)

Monday, June 30, 2008

The Science of Sleep

Having not seen Michel Gondry's earlier film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind when the wife went to see it because I was otherwise engaged at the tattooist, I had very little real idea of what to expect of his work. Sure, I'd seen a few music videos and some clips of his films, but The Science of Sleep was to be my first full-blown Gondry experience.

It is not easy to explain in simple terms what the film is about, although ultimately it is a love story. Or an "is it or isn't it love?" story. When Stéphane moves into an apartment next door to Stéphanie, they soon realize they share a love of the fantastic. And while his view of the world is somewhat askew, he feels he is able to share with her.

What follows is a mish-mash of reality and dreams, and at times it is not obvious which is which. But this matters not, of course, for it is all part of the fun, and you either buy into it and enjoy, or you don't and feel like you're being taken for a mug, I guess. One minute Stéphane might be presenting his own imaginary TV show (in his head or in his room?), the next all seems like a normal day at his office... until he suddenly grows enormous hands. You see what I'm saying?

The lead characters, played by Gael Garcia Bernal and Charlotte Gainsbourg, are both very appealing, though he more so than her, while the peripheral roles are also great fun. Stéphane's work colleagues are just so painfully awful, you have to feel for him!

And the toys and animation are wonderful, really. Next time I'm in New York I wanna buy some of Lauri Faggioni's stuff, for sure.

I'm glad this wasn't totally what I was expecting. But it was a huge amount of silly fun, with a big dose of cuteness thrown in for good measure. The DVD extras were good, too, for those of you who like such things. I give The Science of Sleep 73 points out of 100.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Born Into Brothels

Another documentary viewing. Since I often watch films with very little beforehand knowledge, Born Into Brothels was completely different from what I was expecting from the title.

What I thought I was going to see was a film about kids born into brothels in India, and that was not wrong, but I did not know that it was also a film about photography and liberation.

Film-makers Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman decide to show the lives of these kids through their own photographs, so they issue cameras and film to eight of them. Kids whose mothers, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers are all on the streets; whose fathers are strung out on dope; whose lives are filled with chores from dawn till dusk and later, and yet whose families cannot afford 25 US cents to hire a babysitter for the evening. These are kids and their families living in the kind of abject poverty most of us can barely imagine.

And the funny thing is: almost the most heartbreaking part of that is that the kids know they have no future, that they will probably end up working the streets as prostitutes and pimps and pickpockets. They know the way they live is disgusting. You'd almost feel better if they "didn't know any better" and thought this was okay.

So it's incredible to see the enthusiasm with which they take to their new hobby, in order that, as 13-year-old Gour puts it, they can "show in pictures how people live in this city. I want to put across the behavior of man." But there is also a considerable amount of talent within the small group.

There are both tears and laughter throughout the 85-minute running time, good news and bad. But this is a heart-warming documentary that may well stay with you for some time. The DVD includes a couple of good extras too, such as highlights of the kids seeing the film for the first time and taking stock of how their lives have changed over the course of three years.

The film won the Best Documentary Feature Oscar at the 2005 ceremony, and I in turn award Born Into Brothels 80 points out of 100.

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Monday, June 16, 2008


What could be better than a load of paraplegics ramming holy fuck out of each other in specially reinforced wheelchairs? Virtually nothing, that's what!

Murderball -- or wheelchair rugby, to give it its more PC name -- is just that. Oh yeah, and you have to get a ball from one end of the court to the other, just like in able-bodied rugby, football, and other games of that ilk.

The documentary Murderball follows the US and Canadian teams in the run-up to and in the 2004 Olympics, focusing on a few US players, the coach of the Canadian team (himself a former player for the USA), and a recently paraplegickized (that's a word, right?) young man named Keith.

It's a cracking little film, full of fun and tears, and one that ultimately sends a good and positive message. Here's hoping they show some of the Paralympics stuff in this year's Olympics coverage and that murderball might be among the clips shown.

I give this movie 72 points out of 100.

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Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Lars and the Real Girl

I'm happy to report that, in Lars and the Real Girl, Ryan Gosling admirably redeems himself as an actor after the travesty that was Half Nelson. The character of Lars is everything that the other character wasn't, not least someone you could care about and someone you believed.

Lars is a lonely man, living in the garage of the house his late parents left to him and his brother. The main house is occupied by his brother Gus and his wife Karin; they are expecting a baby.

The "real girl" of the title is actually a sex doll Lars ordered online, yet she becomes his companion. Will this eccentricity be accepted by the God-fearing community? And what will the impact be?

First-time helmer Craig Gillespie handles directorial duties well, though perhaps the handheld camerawork at times of emotional upset is a tad obvious. Peter Berg's name pops up in the opening credits as executive producer, and Patricia Clarkson's appearance is usually a guarantee of something worthwhile.

On the surface this is a comedy, and certainly it has some good lip-curling moments. But it was absolutely not the laugh riot that the woman behind us in the cinema thought it to be. And when her inappropriate mood-breaking laughter was immediately followed by the phrase "Only in America", I just wanted to punch her. But that's an aside...

This is the best I've seen of the recent spate of tragicomedies hitting our screens, and I would recommend you catching it if you haven't already. I give Lars and the Real Girl 73 points out of 100.

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