THE IMAGINARIUM OF DOCTOR PARNASSUS (2009)

Directed By: Terry Gilliam 
Written By: Terry Gilliam & Charles McKeon 
Cinematography By: Nicole Pecorini 
Editor: Mick Audsley 
 

Cast: Christopher Plummer, Heath Ledger, Lilly Cole, Andrew Garfield, Verne Troyer, Tom Waits, Johnny Depp, Jude Law, Colin Farell

In London, the sideshow troupe of Doctor Parnassus promises the audience a journey to the “Imaginarium”, an imaginary world commanded by the mind of Doctor Parnassus, where dreams come true. In the stories that Doctor Parnassus tells to his daughter Valentina, the midget Percy, and his assistant Anton, he claims to have lived for more than one thousand years; However, when he fell in love with a mortal woman, he made a deal with the devil (Mr. Nick), trading his immortality for youth. As part of the bargain, he promised his son or daughter to Mr. Nick on their sixteenth birthday. Valentina is now almost to the doomed age and Doctor Parnassus makes a new bet with Mr. Nick, whoever seduces five souls in the Imaginarium will have Valentina as a prize. Meanwhile the troupe rescues Tony, a young man that was hanged on a bridge by the Russians. Tony was chased until he finds and joins the group. Tony and Valentina fall in love with each other and the jealous Anton discovers that his competition may be a liar.


The thing when it comes to Terry Gilliam’s films is that his films are so far off the beaten path that it takes a while to get used to while watching his films. But once you get used to his world and get onto the rhythm of his films you are usually in for a treat. The man’s imagination is so vivid that you are guaranteed to see things you have never seen before.

This film I wanted to love but ended up liking the ingredients were there Gilliam writing with Charles McKeon who he co-wrote THE ADVENTURES OF BARON MUNCHAUSEN with. They create a vivid original world and characters but in many ways, it feels like it falls short. 

The story is Doctor Parnisuss made a deal with the devil that for immortality and the hand of the woman he loved the devil could have his daughter when she turned 18. They have an ongoing game. That involves a magical mirror. A mirror where people go into a fantasy world and can choose either light or the darkness if they go to the darkness the devil gets their soul if they go into the light they are given a euphoric joy that gives them delight and their fantasy come to life. He tries to find a way out of it but when the devil comes to collect he makes another deal the first who can get 5 souls wins. This would be a tragedy if not for saving Tony a mysterious rogue they find hanging off a bridge they save his life and tony repays them by coming up with a way to save their business which is a traveling circus, Side show with the magical mirror.  

This is Heath Ledger’s last film. He, unfortunately, died before the film was finished and his role is played in different scenes by Colin Farell, Johnny Depp, and Jude law which in its own way works as they all play fantasy versions of his character and it feels seamless. 
One always felt Heath ledger had the talent for bigger and better things and luckily he never had mainstream tastes when it came to roles he was always attracted to the more abstract roles which I felt would lead him to be the next Johnny Depp as early in his career he also was more in artistic films then later in his career finally choose more mainstream roles.  

The casting of this film is good Verne Troyer plays a good role not as comedic as usual. Christopher Plummer is a hoot as Doctor Parnisuss he is clearly having fun. Tom Waits as the devil is always a joy to watch with his original looks and charisma. 

While one might prefer old school special effects and would like them to be used more, but though this film has tons of CGI it works for the story as it enhances the film and is useful more than anything else to help tell the tale in vivid detail. 
 

Now while I liked the film I never became invested in the film and felt like I was always kept at a distance from the characters and story. But I must give Gilliam credit as to how good the film is considering the tragedy that happened halfway through filming. 

One only wishes he could get the budgets and more luck when it comes to the making of his films it seems he always has to struggle to get his dream projects made then has to compromise or settle on films that while they have his creative genius. They just aren’t the films he should be making. They seem a little too streamlined and commercial for his artistic tastes. 


He is one of the last auteurs we have. He is a director who in the ’70s would have had people lining up around the corner to see his latest works because they would be guaranteed to see something original. Now he has a hard time Making films because his material is too original. 

The film has its own beauty and is interesting to watch, unfortunately it doesn’t last on the mind s much as past works of his have.  A Satisfying Rental  
GRADE: B-

DANCE FLICK (2009)

Directed By: Damien Dante Wayans
Written By: Damien Dante Wayans, Craig Wayans, Kennan Ivory Wayans, Marlon Wayans, Shawn Wayans
Cinematography By: Mark Irwin
Editor: Scott Hill

Cast: Damon Wayans Jr. Shoshana Bush, Amy Sedaris, Lochlyn Munro, Essence Atkins, Marlon Wayans, Shawn Wayans, Chris Elliott, Keenan Ivory Wayans, David Alan Grier, Kim Wayans, Tichina Arnold, George Gore II, Craig Wayans


Street dancer Thomas Uncles is from the wrong side of the tracks, but his bond with the beautiful Megan White might help the duo realize their dreams as they enter in the mother of all dance battles.


While rarely funny at sending up its targets the film is not witty the jokes are lazy and not very well thought out with its low budget the film just looks cheap Even though it’s not directed by Keenan Ivory Wayans. It is written and directed by the next generation of the Wayans family and while the previous generation had at least some success with a few good and hilarious films. The next generation is not starting off well. Half of the jokes are stand-alone and seems to be more about spoofing pop culture than staying on course and spoofing all of these teenage dance movies like, SAVE THE LAST DANCE which it seems to be mostly inspired by. And films like STOMP THE YARD, STEP UP, HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL and HAIRSPRAY.


The film really never stays on the theme which makes the movie seem like a wide collection of skits rather than having a natural plot. This seems to be a common problem in a lot of the modern-day spoof films which seem to only be made to be year-end revues of all things pop culture instead of the subject or film(s) they are supposed to be spoofing.


Which I guess is because these films strive not to be one joke films so they need to pad the films with unnecessary jokes that have nothing to do with anything else in the film. I realize these films are not made to be cinematic classics but at the least, it should be memorable for being entertaining and good. The film just feels lazy.

The main story is the two leads falling in love and him not only teaching her how to dance but find her passion for it again and gain her self confidence. One of the problems is that the leads look too old to play believable teenagers. Yet none of the performers seem engaging enough to really pay attention to nor do they create characters who are the least bit interesting nor do they have any charisma or personality to engage you to watch them.


Since is not rated R The material feels watered down ad keeps the jokes from going profane and over the top. This is where the Wayans usually excel but here trying to market to a teen audience. So it leaves them kind of shackle.
The film involves separate characters who have nothing to do with each other until near the end when they come together to be a dance crew though they don’t actually do any dancing, they are just there no scenes of them bonding to come together as a team, it just happens.


In fact, one character is introduced and is never used later so there is no reason for the film to spend any real time developing the character who is not even used in running gags he is only around for two scenes. He is not needed at all.

Skip It

GRADE: F

TETRO (2009)

Written & Directed By: Francis Ford Coopola 
Cinematography By: Mihai Malaimare Jr. 
Editor: Walter Murch 
 

CAST: Vincent Gallo, Carmen Maura, Maribel Verdu, Alden Ehrenreich, Klaus Maria Brandauer, Leticia Bredice
   

Bennie travels to Buenos Aires to find his long-missing older brother, a once-promising writer who is now a remnant of his former self. Bennie’s discovery of his brother’s near-finished play might hold the answer to understanding their shared past and renewing their bond.

This film had it’s fair share of problems before it started. Matt Dillon dropped out of the lead role. Francis Ford Coppola felt the film was too close to RUMBLE FISH, so he was kind of glad he dropped out. But still decided to film it in the same way in black and white with flashbacks in color though diluted. 

Javier Bardem was cast as The Tutor but Coppola felt it would be more dramatic if the role was played by a woman. Then Francis ford Coppola’s only copy of the script was stolen when thieves broke into his home studio in Buenos Aires where his only copy of the script was so he had to pay a ransom to get it back. 

I wish I could say it was all worth it. Coppola has called this a personal film and it shows his attention to the characters and the drama between them, but as it may mean something deep to him it just didn’t come off that way. To me, it came off overwrought after awhile the film mainly deals with each of the characters and their daddy issues while everything is presented and built like an opera, but many art forms are featured in the film Dance, Novels, Plays, Stripping, Performance Art, Music. Yet it doesn’t come off too much as pretentious.

The film is truly beautiful to look at it’s a technical marvel as many of the scenes look sumptuous. I imagine it is truly a marvel on Blu-ray. I think I definitely would have had a greater appreciation for the film had I seen it on the big screen. I mean even Coppola himself considers this his most beautiful looking film and obviously I agree. (though BRAM STOKER” DRACULA is pretty good competition) 

While I really wanted to like the film. I was disappointed. The film came off as melodramatic a lot of times. I really couldn’t get into the film I loved looking at it but never felt any general emotions. The film feels timeless like it could have taken place at any time. Yet the film is too long.   

The story is of Tetro who ran off to Buenos Aires to get away from his great composer father to be a writer and he hasn’t come back to the states since so when his little brother who is working on a cruise ship comes to visit he is both happy to see him but can’t wait for him to go back. 

They get to catch up but before he can leave the brother is hit by a motorcycle and is forced to stay by Tetro’s girlfriend where he discovers Tetro’s thinly disguised novel and finds out the real reason his brother ran away. 

The film is built like a grand old-style classic movie. It has layers as this one character and his decisions affect those around him. As his father’s ego did to him. How each character caters to him. I’ll admit Vincent Gallo always interests me as a person and actor/director here he does a good job with the lead performance where he isn’t called onto to emote until the end and doesn’t have too many lines. Everything is mainly told about him through actions but he is as volatile as ever. 

The actresses are all beautiful and can be quite distracting. The film Is rich with many things and I wish I could give it a higher grade but in my heart, I can’t.
 
It is a good film to put on with the volume off and have on in the background, but other than that I can only suggest it as a rental. 
 
GRADE: C

LAND OF THE LOST (2009)

Directed by: Brad Silberling
Written By: Chris Henchy & Dennis McNicholas
Based on the television series “LAND OF THE LOST” created by: Sid Kroft & Marty Kroft
Cinematography: Dion Beebe
Editor: Peter Teschner

Cast: Will Ferrell, Anna Friel, Danny McBride, Jorma Taccone, Sierra McCormick, Bobb’E J. Thompson, Matt Lauer, Brian Huskey 

Palaeontologist Rick Marshall takes Will and Holly into a new world of danger, dinosaurs and big bug-eyed lizard people while trying to find their way back home and, too, save the universe and in doing so saving his reputation. With the dinosaur with brains, brawn and personality and the adventure of scientific advancement and exotic beasts in a far away land, it all adds up to time traveling fun and frolics.


This is truly a case of why did this movie get made it just seems like a waste of time and talent.

I remember the show not being all that good but it has it’s fans and a cult following  behind it and with Hollywood either remaking or rebooting everything in sight. It seemed like this movie was inevitable. Though films like this and SPEED RACER Seem to have a limited audience appeal. Even if recognized more than a random title. They just never seemed to have a following enough to believe these films Would be hits but by casting bigger names it hit directors and actors if the time may be the shine from their star will be all that the film needs to keep shine and get an audience. Even though they Don’t really help the film or the audience for that matter.

It seems like it is made up as it goes along while trying to stay true to the series. Which was something that seemed ridiculous. All that mattered was having a summer film filled with special effects. Even if they are limited and not that Impressive.

Whereas they try to stay true but also try to make some sense. As the material does leave itself easier served as a comedy with some science fiction thrown in.

The film is inventively filmed and the film Looks great as usual when Director Brad Silberling directs but his and the cast contributions can’t save this film. That just feels like a total waste of talent, time. 

As the film never seems to be funny at all and more like a Hodgepodge of cliches that tries to be offbeat but feels like no one is trying to har but the powers that be are left to riff on what is supposed to happen. In the scene or where the script seems to leave them With little to do at times. It seems like the actors try to make it work but feel more like they are on autopilot.

As it tries to be a more subversive psychedelic kids film with humor and material that serves maybe more to an older teenage audience but still comes off more as silly and downright dumb. So you wonder who this film is really for or supposed to appeal to. 

As even though the technology and special  effects are better and updated they still look and feel kind of corny and uninspired. Even Will Ferrell feels like he is on autopilot.

One glaring problem is that this is supposed to be an adventure tale and as big as it is built up to be there is barely any sense of wonder or exploration. So that it just feels grounded and never takes off. 

It feels like a heavily researched slot that goes on way too long and should have never been made.

It plays like a bad futurama episode.

Grade: F

I AM LOVE (2009)

Directed By: Luca Guadagnino

Written By: Luca Guadagnino, Barbara Alberti, Ivan Cotroneo & Walter Fasano 

Cinematography By: Yorick Le Seux 

Editor: Walter Fasano 

Cast: Tilda Swinton

The polished rooms of a Milanese villa ignite with anxious activity as the wealthy industrial family, the Recchis, prepare to celebrate the birthday of their patriarch. It is an occasion designed to ensconce family traditions—the handsome grandson, Edoardo, introduces his new girlfriend; his sister presents another piece of her artwork to her grandfather; and the grandfather, knowing this is his last birthday, names the successor to his empire. As the refined familial machinations unfold, the woman of the house, Emma Recchi , skates along the tight seams of the family, exuding elegance and uncertain turbulence. Change is like a fog at sea that quickly consumes the land.


The film is beautiful to look at atmospheric and naturalistic but it also tries to be grand like an opera almost. Since there is limited dialogue and a constant score throughout the film. It makes the film seem more experimental than it needs to be.

It’s an ensemble piece but feels more like a showcase for Tilda Swinton. The film plays like a romance novel dipped in sorrow. Yet not as exciting as it sounds. Though when it comes to scenes of actual love and passion the film is on point, but the other scenes that are more or less showing the longing of the characters in the film, It becomes more remote and boring. If that was the intention.

It’s an interesting choice but as an audience member, it feels indulgent and doesn’t make the film move any faster. The only thing of note here is the cinematography, It is rich and luscious as is the art direction and scenery.

The film will be way too melodramatic like an international soap opera played to grand artistic proportions. The ending which seeks to be poignant that comes off more as laughable. There were very few parts of the film that held my interest.

Beauty without depth just makes it all the more vapid.

I will admit to being bored quite a bit. I’m sure others will love this film but it really wasn’t for me

GRADE: D

BIG FAN (2009)

Written & Directed By: Robert D. Siegel
Cinematography By: Michael Simmonds
Editor: John Trank

Cast: Patton Oswalt, Kevin Corrigan, Michael Rappaport, Matt Servitto

A hard-core New York Giants fan struggles to deal with the consequences when he is beaten up by his favorite player.


This film feels like a dark odyssey but it’s one that takes place in a lake, not an ocean or river. A hard-core New York Giants fan struggles to deal with the consequences when he is beaten up by his favorite player.

This is a film that I wanted to love but I ended up only liking a lot. It appealed to me but scared me at how much the main character resembles me and my life. Only I hope not as depressing.


In full admission, I am one of the biggest fans of Patton Oswalt. I actually met him while he was in town filming this movie. It’s a darkly comedic film where all the characters might fit a few stereotypes but they felt real. No one was perfect they all had flaws, They all had good things and bad things about them. 

The Writer-Director of the film is Robert Siegel who also wrote THE WRESTLER. In his direction Siegel is a simple storyteller he doesn’t use visual trickery or distracting angles, He still gets his point across. The film’s low budget also adds to the film’s believability. In his writing, at first, you could write him off as someone interested in characters in sports but each film goes deeper than the actual sport, Which ends up only plays a small part in the overall stories, as the film is showing the in’s and out’s of the sport. 

The film let’s you get inside they’re heads and what is going on and affecting them in their immediate life. It shows the characters and the trouble they find themselves inevitably in usually done to themselves and the fact that the world is cruel. And of course, when it rains it pours. 

Not a fan of the film’s ending but if it ended any other way it wouldn’t have made the impact or told it’s the message the way it clearly wanted do. The film is a downtrodden character study that seems to revel in its misery and you feel it deeply as the situations and characters feel more realistic, then fabricated for the story.  

Of course, the film will be compared to the better TAXI DRIVER. But the film has an identity of its own and lends itself to the 70’s era type of filmmaking. Where character comes before story and plot. The reason I believe those films are so well remembered is that the films felt real and believable and the people who made the film wanted to tell stories and not show off they’re technical know-how and care more about pleasing studios, audiences, and box office returns than making a memorable film and maybe art. 

What this film does cleverly leads you down a dark road. That shocks you and fills you with despair the further you go and at each pit stop you think you know and feel dread thinking you know where it’s going to lead. It goes in that direction, But then gives you a detour. Making it all the more revealing. It’s a Must see but it is not a film that needs to be in your film library.  

GRADE: B+

THE INFORMANT (2009)

Directed By: Steven Soderbergh 
Written By: Scott Z. Burns 
Based on the book by: Kurt Eichenwald 
Cinematography By: Steven Soderbergh (As Peter Andrews) 
Editor: Stephen Mirrione 

Cast: Matt Damon, Melanie Lynskey, Scott Bakula, Joel McHale, Clancy Brown, Tony Hale, Ann Dowd, Rusty Schwimmer, Eddie Jemison, Tom Papa, Rick Overton, Thomas F. Wilson, Scott Adsit, Andrew Daly, Ann Cusack, Patton Oswalt, Tom Smothers, Paul F. Tompkins, Candy Clark

Mark Whitacre has worked for lysine developing company ADM for many years and has even found his way into upper management. But nothing has prepared him for the job he is about to undertake – being a spy for the FBI. Unwillingly pressured into working as an informant against the illegal price-fixing activities of his company, Whitacre gradually adopts the idea that he’s a true secret agent. But as his incessant lies keep piling up, his world begins crashing down around him. 


Based on a true story. 

This seems like the perfect set-up for a comedy a rather dry one. 

The film starts off a little haphazard at first laying its groundwork. That at first is confusing, but you get the full picture as the film goes on. The first half of the film also feels a little pretentious as it seems to feel it’s the smartest kid in the room and has jokes and humor that seems to be inside and to itself, but the film becomes more interesting and compelling as the film goes on. 

Though there are many good actors in the film their roles are so small they never get a chance to shine. Quite a few stand-up comedians in the cast. I believe more for their improved skills and ability to punch up the lines to have a humorous stance, but most of them play straight and deadpan where as the dramatic actors are playing more comedic roles. Which i believe is another cinematic experiment by director Steven Soderbergh to subvert genre rules and play with the material. 

The film is practically a one-man show for Matt Damon who gained weight for the role. Already a great actor. He is certainly having fun here while portraying a three-dimensional real character. 

It’s always nice to see Scott Bakula on screen a character actor. Who always seems to pop up in the odd film. Who I always feel should work more though it may be my hero-worship of him from the Tv Show QUANTUM LEAP. 

I have a love/hate relationship when it comes to Mr. Soderbergh and his movies. I applaud his filmmaking skills and the fact that he brings more experimental techniques and direction to mainstream films. The problem is that at times it generally distracts and makes you pay more attention to it. Then the actual story that is onscreen can work if it’s a story you’ve seen many times (ERIN BROCKOVICH) before or the films. Theme and plot are thin or more of a character study, but if it’s a straightforward film it can be a bit much. I respect and honor him for it, but at times it feels a bit much. 

What works here is that in his head Matt Damon’s character is playing this espionage mission and is a hero and has convinced himself that he is the innocent hero and his employers are the villains when in actuality he is the villain, yet see’s himself as a double agent and is able to convince others of this. Only it’s not an exciting action-packed cat and mouse situation, but the most mundane and boring business double-dealing. It’s a nice and interesting contrast considering we have seen Damon actually play a character in life or death Espionage action films in The Bourne Trilogy 

In an NPR radio interview, Matt Damon said that Steven Soderbergh, to get Mark Whitacre’s final apology to the judge just right, directed Damon to perform the lines as if he were accepting an Academy Award. (Damon said it was an example of “perfect direction”.) 

The mood of the film comes off as a timely classic period piece though it is thoroughly modern. Steven Soderbergh makes films full of ideas that might not always work for general audiences, but at least he is trying you get a general sense of excitement behind his films as he is actually thinking far ahead while in the moment. This doesn’t make for the fastest most exciting moments while watching the films. Once you are finished watching the film though it does leave you to think more about what you have seen. it stays with you a bit longer. You just don’t dismiss and forget. It’s not exactly disposable. That is what a true artist as a director brings to the screen. 

The film purposely styles itself like a classic 70’sfilms in tone and mood. Even its titles and score by Marvin Hamlisch. This also leans it more towards the Pretentious style or maybe I am being a bit harsh and it’s more a homage. 

I realize that at times Soderbergh more goes for the documentary-style where he seems like he is filming as it really happens. I give more kudos to the cast for never breaking and making the mundane of the character believable. 

The film starts off as a guy who tells a lie to get out of trouble and the lie just snowballs bigger and bigger leading to a bunch of lies and when he finally gets caught. He tries to lie and deal his way out. The thing is as he is lying at times he even seems to believe the lies but ends up destroying many lives for nothing while still feeling and portraying the victim not understanding or refusing to see why people are mad at him. 

I believe his character appears to want to be the rebel because he believes he is always being slighted but wanting to be popular also and believing he is the smartest guy in the room. 

GRADE: C+

OLD DOGS (2009)

old_dogs

Directed By: Walt Becker
Written By: David Diamond & David Weissman
Cinematography By: Jeffrey L. Kimball
Editor: Ryan Folsey 


 Cast: John Travolta, Robin Williams, Rita Wilson, Lori Loughlin, Kelly Preston, Amy Sedaris, Seth Green, Bernie Mac, Matt Dillon, Ann-Margaret, Elle Bleu Travolta

Charlie and Dan have been best friends and business partners for thirty years; their Manhattan public relations firm is on the verge of a huge business deal with a Japanese company. With two weeks to sew up the contract, Dan gets a surprise: a woman he married on a drunken impulse nearly nine years before (annulled the next day) shows up to tell him he’s the father of her twins, now seven, and she’ll be in jail for 14 days for a political protest. Dan volunteers to keep the tykes, although he’s up tight and clueless. With Charlie’s help is there any way they can be dad and uncle, meet the kids’ expectations, and still land the account?

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PEOPLE I’VE SLEPT WITH (2009)

THEPEOPLEIVESLEPTWITH

 

Directed By: Quentin Lee
Written By: Koji Steven Sakai
Cinematography By: Quyen Tran
Editor: Aldo Velasco

CAST: Karin Anna Cheung, Lynn Chen, Wilson Cruz, Chris Zylka

A promiscuous woman who finds herself with an unplanned pregnancy and needs to figure out who the baby daddy is…NOW. Angela Yang loves sex. She loves it so much she needs to make baseball cards of her lovers to help her remember where she’s been. She doesn’t think twice about her lifestyle until she finds out that she’s pregnant. Her gay best friend, Gabriel Lugo tells her to “take care of it,” but her conservative sister, Juliet persuades Angela to get married to the baby’s father and lead a “normal” life like her. Angela listens to her sister, chooses to keep the baby, and goes on a quest to find the identity of the father by any means necessary.

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THE STEPFATHER (2009)

THE STEPFATHER

Directed By: Nelson McCormick
Written By: J.S. Cardone;
Based on a earlier screenplay By: Donald E. Westlake;
Story By: Carolyn Lefcourt & Brain Garfield & Donald E. Westlake
Cinematography By: Patrick Cady
Editor: Eric L. Beason

CAST: Dylan Walsh, Penn Badgley, Amber Heard, Sela Ward, Sherry Stringfield, Paige Turco, Jon Tenney

Michael Harding returns home from military school to find his mother Susan happily in love and living with her new boyfriend David. As the two men get to know each other, he becomes more and more suspicious of the man who is always there with a helpful hand.

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