September 21, 2010
The Square (2010) ***
Directed by Nash Edgerton
The Square (2010)- Engaging and interesting Double Indemnity/Fargo knockoff. Perhaps a bit too serious for its own good. *** out of 5
It might be appropriate to call The Square a modern day Australian film noir. After all, its plot about an affair leading to a crime so a couple can finally be with each other sounds like it could be a rehash of Double Indemnity, which has already been rehashed in the notoriously sleazy Body Heat. Yet, there's no heightened dialogue, so apart from its dark atmosphere, The Square almost proves too modern to truly be a pure noir. That being said, this sinister tale of a plan that not only goes horribly wrong but also causes a domino effect of one inconveniently awful situation after another proves to be compelling cinema on the surface level, which is where this plot resides. Double Indemnity works partly because Fred MacMurray's character lives every moment with the dread of being discovered, which adds a palpable tension that can't be denied. The Square, on the other hand, tries to ratchet its tension from completely implausible contrivances which occur for no other reason than to forward the plot. Sadly, the movie loses audience investment as a result. Still, this is a passably creepy, if not shallow, pseudo neo-noir.
Gigante (2009) ***
Directed by Adrian Biniez
Gigante (2009)- Red Road dealt with this material in a much darker and more interesting way. Still, this film is passable and moody. ***/5
Gigante took me back to my memories of watching Andrea Arnold's Red Road as well as On the Line, one of the live action short films nominated for an Oscar in 2008. Gigante, Red Road and On the Line all take a dark look at a profession made for someone who's lonely and prone to obsessive tendencies, namely that of a surveillance security guard. All three of those films feel like they're made by the same director utilizing an exaggerated claustrophobic dark workspace. Because these scenes are so similar to each other, one really ought to credit the first film to be made (Red Road) and significantly criticize the last film to be made, which in this case is Gigante. Sadly, as I was watching the story of a heavy-set security guard give into his unhealthy fixation on an overnight cleaning woman, I felt like I'd seen this all before. Red Road takes this same material to its darkest corners, making Gigante's demons pale in comparison. That being said, the movie is compelling and moody enough to work on its own, but had this been the first time I'd seen this story executed, it might have impressed me all that much more.
New York, I Love You (2009) **
New York, I Love You (2009)- One good short does not make a good shorts collection. New York has never been so underutilized. ** out of 5
Paris, Je T'aime made my ten best films of 2007 list, and the final short film literally made me weep because it was so touching. New York, I Love You is an abomination compared to the quality of that collection of short films which so beautifully showcases Paris, the most romantic city in the world. New York, I Love You showcases New York as much as a documentary about Woody Allen making Vicky Cristina Barcelona. With little exception, the shorts take place in Manhattan, and again with little exception, the actors are white. New York is about as diverse as cities come, and these short films, which are full of eye-rolling ironic contrivances, betray their muse. Only one of the short films impressed me, and two were passable. The rest, involving such talents as Chris Cooper, Robin Wright Penn, Julie Christie, Shia LeBeouf, Orlando Bloom and Natalie Portman among others, come off smug with their incessant reliance on twist endings that too often ruin everything that came before. New York, I Love You single-handedly ruins the genre of short film love letters to cities around the world.
Date Night (2009) **1/2
Directed by Shawn Levy
Date Night (2010)- Has its moments, but this formula action-comedy is just a little too dumb to be considered successful. **1/2 out of 5
Date Night is sadly a clear example of a movie that was made all too quickly after the surprise success of The Hangover. Everyday people are thrown into crazy and dangerous situations so that the comedy can be squeezed out like a towel just out of the washing machine. The problem lies in the fact that the situations are too manufactured to be believable, and the comedy doesn't flow from the situations themselves, but rather, from the bland performances of the actors in the first act contrasted against the manic performances in the second act. The script thus requires the performers to do the heavy lifting, and while Steve Carrell and Tina Fey are up for the challenge, the script is so stupid and silly that even they don't make this phoned in comedy worth one's time. Are there laughs? Yes. Are there enough laughs? No. Next time, come up with a solid script instead of throwing something like this at moviegoers simply to cash in on the success of another movie.