Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Threes of Fall

Since so many films are just average, neither outstanding nor particularly bad, I find them hard to write on. We only use 5 shakers to keep it simple- not the one to one-hundred exactness of Rotten Tomatoes or Metacritic. Some average threes are almost-fours- others almost-twos. Zzzzzzz... Sorry, anyway here’s a bunch of average Joes:

"Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog" - Made during the writing strike this is basically a showcase for the singing and comic talents of Neil Patrick Harris who went on to take over the award show host circuit. A cute story of offbeat superheroes; it’s retro, kitschy and hip with catchy songs. Kind of like a fun college film. The creators are the Hollywood writing family behind “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and other hi-grade pop phenoms: Jed, Joss and Zack Whedon. These men have a cult army of followers and this was a big hit at Comic-Con. You get the picture, wants to be a mini-“Rocky Horror Picture Show” for geeks.

O’ Horten” - I loved how director Brent Hamer adapted Charles Bukowski in 2005’s “Factotum”. Here he creates a Norwegian deadpan existentialist flick about a retiring train engineer so I counted myself in! Loneliness, old age, absurdity and non sequiturs are all represented in this offbeat tale. However, like Jim Jarmusch’s work (except “Mystery Train” which I loved) this was critically praised but didn't quite work for me.

Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation!” - This is a pretty comprehensive look at how the B-Movies of Australia from the sixties through the eighties helped to establish that countrys’ national film industry. A feast of clips intercut with the older and wiser filmmakers and one horribly pretentious film critic (I hate those guys), this film moves along briskly with sex, violence, Kung Fu and car crashes. Seeing how all of this gave birth to “Mad Max”, the “Godfather” of these films, is fascinating but like the exploitive films themselves it does get tired and repetitive.

Every Little Step” – When choreographer Michael Bennett held an interview/workshop with a bunch of dancers in New York City in 1974 and turned it into “A Chorus Line”, it became a classic Broadway success story. Winning a Pulitzer and nine Tony Awards it ran on Broadway for fifteen years closing in 1990. Fifteen more years later some of the members of the original creative team reassemble to stage a revival and this doc follows the dancers that audition for this show in a clever, life-imitating-fiction-which imitates-life loop. Yet just as the original writing team feared that too many stories would overwhelm the audience this film spreads itself too thin. I would say this is for hardcore fans only, but watching actor Jason Tam nail an audition so convincingly that it renders the production team into a bunch of crying schoolgirls, is to watch an actors’ dream. I wanted more of these breakthrough moments but as they say it’s like lightening in a bottle. “ShowBusiness: The Road to Broadway” was much more fun.

Lymelife” - Directed by Derick Martini and co written with his brother Steven (what’s with all the family teams popping up?), this film felt like the serious older cousin to Greg Mottola’s excellent “Adventureland”. I guess I should have reviewed that one. A coming-of-age film set in the late seventies on Long Island, this film would fall into the suburban angst genre I talked about earlier this year. Long-faced Rory and Kieran Culkin do their best as two siblings trapped in a disintegrating family. The adult stars Alec Baldwin, Cynthia Nixon, Timothy Hutton and Jill Hennessy almost save this film from its own over-seriousness. Almost doesn’t count.

Coraline” - Speaking of depressing? Jeez Louise who is this film aimed at? Too creepy for children and a little too weird for adults, “Coraline” is Henry Selicks’ version of “The Nightmare Before Christmas” without the fun. The stop-animation is clever and all, but an alternative universe where a young girl must replace her eyes with buttons freaks me out much more than when the Abominable Snowman terrorized Rudolph. Children will go all Goth or Emo soon enough without entertaining them with this kind of horror and loneliness; as Joker asked: “Why so serious? “