Archive for April, 2012

Only the mind of Aardman Animation the creators of the Wallace and Grommit could involve Charles Darwin in some monkey business and portray Queen Victoria as the enemy of her age.  “The Pirates!  Band of Misfits” adapted from the comic novels of  Gideon Dafoe is a breezy and light as a Dodo’s feather concoction where the plot, about a Captain and his band of misfits attempts to win Pirate of the Year, is just an excuse to put every one and everything through some wry anachronisms, sight gags and light-hearted adventures.  Directors Peter Lord and Jeff Newitt keeps the gags rolling and the visual invention high knowing (to paraphrase a line) that you wont notice the improbable if you stop to think about it.  Typical of the Aardman charm is giving Darwin a chimpanzee or “man-panzee” butler who speaks only with flip cards and Queen Victoria a secret gourmand appetite that prompts this years funniest gag line:  “Give me back my dinner!”  Hugh Grant in a light and droll performance is a standout among a voice cast having great fun with the nuanced comic lines.   “The Pirates! Band of Misfits”  gets a B+.

“96 Minutes”, Aimee Lagos feature directorial début, is a tightly edited sociological thriller about violence, cruelty and good intentions gone wrong.   Dre (a heartbreaking achievement from Evan Ross, which garnered a best breakthrough performance award at last year’s SXSW fest) an inner city teen with aspirations to leave his gang present in the past gets caught in a vicious cycle of bad choices when his friend Kevin (Jonathan Michael Trautmann in a shrill one note performance, that in the last half drags the film down) ensnared in the tunnel vision of gangster imitation, kidnaps two college girls, shooting one in the head.  Dre who had hoped to waken Kevin to the choices and the opportunities beyond the gang, slowly watches his own future suffocate as Kevin violent rampage escalates beyond Dre’s control.  Lagos flash forwards and flashbacks establishing both the truth of the event and fate of everyone involved; the evasive style bringing the statement up front sometimes at the cost of character and story.  Lagos cynical point:  the privileged always get the better breaks and the underclass that don’t cleanly breakaway from the gangs, even those with better hopes, get the shaft.   96 Minutes gets a B.

To make up for the earlier posting “56 episode Star Trek compilation” being pulled because of copyright issues with CBS, I give you this video single for the band “Hot Problems” featuring the Star Wars universe.   This is a lip dub compilation done to the Band’s first released single “Party With My Friends”.  I found it a charming homage.  It even makes Jar Jar Binks  look less annoying.   Enjoy it before George Lucas casts his fury and decides to have it yanked from You Tube.

“Headhunters”, a Swedish neo-noir action pic based on the popular bestseller by Jo Nesbo, has remake DNA in its genes.     It was recently optioned by Summit Entertainment makers of the “Twilight” franchise where “Headhunters” twisty mixture of over the top action, steamy sex and oblique violence finds a somewhat natural home.  The diminutive overcompensating anti-hero professional corporate headhunter by day and art thief at night Roger Brown (Aksel Hennie a Swedish looking Christopher Walken with less menace and more intellect) insecurely married to the stunning Diana (Synnody Macody Lund) gets involved in a deadly cat and mouse game with her imagined tall and handsome paramour Clas Greve (Nicolaj Coster-Waldau, Game of Thrones Jaime Lannister) a former commando who specialized in GPS tracking.  Director Morten Tyldum, a Swedish commercial auteur, keeps the pace slick, fast and with the aid of cinematographer John Andreas Andersen, gorgeously shot.  Hennie’s bland wit and Coster-Waldau ‘blonde brutishness make for some crackling conflict and fiery action moments.  “Headhunters” gets a B+.

This is both highly logical and clearly insane.  An ambitious Trekkie, Twilight 1138, came up with a way to show 56 episodes of the original Star Trek all at once– and with sound.  That is the complete first and second seasons. It was all  done with a bit of python, avisynth, and a lot of time.  Watching Star Trek at light speed– now that is something I can get into whole-heartedly.  Enjoy!

“Blue Like Jazz” takes “Animal House” elements  to create a spiritual journey that is fresher and a tad more honest than most Christian schlock films like “Courageous” and “Fireproof”.   “Jazz” takes great delight in both the reclamation and falling away from God, showing why losing Jesus and finding Jesus are necessary steps in the Christian walk.  Reed College may have room for every cause but God, even though there is  an anti-Pope in papal dress, (Justin Welborn playing the perfect Freudian character who runs away from a childhood trauma by displaying the scab of it in plain sight) there is enough sensible faith to balance out the unquestioning senseless intellectualism that makes Reed the right place for Donald Miller (Marshall Allman giving a sweet, convincing performance) to both run away from his mother and find his spiritual cause.  Director Steve Taylor tells it all with a minimum of obvious cross brandishing, relying on his talented cast of Pilgrim Progress sounding leads,  Allman  and  Welborn, to fill in their character’s spirit.   Taylor is smart enough to let Jazz’s faith sneak up  and embrace you with its gentle aura.  It gets a B+.

Despite all the must see buzz generated by the “Bully” ratings controversy and the critical accolades, “Bully” itself is a slight disappointment.   Director Lee Hirsch often lets the parents be the mouthpieces for their children’s occasional inarticulateness, making “Bully” seem like a long angry and sad parental rant.    It reduces the victims to smiling poster children only seen in caught footage where everyone involved is aware of the lens.  The lack of a video life for the two children who committed suicide reduces their existence to tearful recollection and just the start of a cause celeb-re.   I came to know the sad life of the parents and not the tragic exposure of their children to a world that holds them in contempt.  The” Bully” kids are never seen or heard from enough.  “Bully” gets a B.