In preparation for the upcoming Oscars, I picked up Exit Through the Gift Shop, nominated for Documentary (Feature). The film features Thierry Guetta, a French immigrant now living in L.A. Thierry is obsessed with filming. Anything that can be filmed, he films. When he discovers that his cousin is a street artist going by the name Space Invader, Thierry begins filming Space Invader's installations. Soon, Thierry expands to other street artists,
Thirst is the latest film from Chan-wook Park of Vengeance Trilogy fame (Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Oldboy, Lady Vengeance). It tells the story of a priest whose life is changed when he becomes a vampire. In the strictest sense, it is a vampire love story. However, it is a Chan-wook Park vampire love story, which means it's delightfully twisted, darkly humorous, fantastically violent, and bizarrely erotic. Yes, I do love my adverbs. If you can't overstate something, why even state it. That's what I always say.
Brick (2006) is a film that no matter how well you describe it, it still kind of sounds like a tacky idea and it easily could have been. A hard-boiled noir style detective film set in a modern-day high school? Hmm. But let me assure you that great care was taken with the specifics of the film that make this setup work surprisingly well. Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Inception, 500 Days of Summer) stars as Brendan, a quiet loner who acts as the gumshoe in this movie. He's lost contact with an ex-girlfriend at school who was straying into the world of drug trafficking and wants to make sure she's okay. When she turns up dead, he begins a quest for answers through the underground world of popular kids, the drama vamps and the super-smart geeks.
See? Still sounds a little tacky doesn't it? What saves the film from collapsing under the ridiculous setup is the script and the performances. The characters play the roles like they're actually in a 1940's detective film complete with rapid-fire speech and archaic slang that takes a little effort to follow. All the film noir tropes are here: the smart detective who knows how to take a punch, the bombshell who can't be trusted, the menacing kingpin and his muscle-bound henchman. This is a film that doesn't insult the viewer's intelligence and succeeds by playing the whole thing straight with nary a wink to suggest that the situations are taking place in an out-of-context environment. The plot becomes convoluted as double-crossing and lies start to twist the narrative.
This is certainly no "Disney's High School Detective" sort of film. The violence and drug content makes it clearly intended for an adult audience. It's a smart, classy and surprisingly emotional film that succeeds despite its inability to be described in a satisfying way. Definitely recommended.
After receiving recommendations from a number of friends for the TV show The Big Bang Theory, I decided it was finally time to check it out. I sat down to watch a couple of episodes of the first season and ended up watching six back to back. The show, a half hour comedy, features physicists, roommates, and super geniuses Sheldon and Leonard. Settled comfortably into nerddom, their lives are interrupted with the arrival of a new neighbor, a blond waitress named Penny. Leonard, the more social of the two, is immediately interested, but Sheldon is taken aback and does not welcome Penny's intrusion into his ordered existence. Also featuring engineer friends Howard (ultimate nerd and wannabe ladies' man) and Raj (unable to even talk to women), The Big Bang Theory is hilarious. For its over-the-top but still believable characters and laugh out loud situations (such as when all four guys end up dressing as The Flash for Halloween), I highly recommend this show.
English-language adaptations of foreign films are rarely any good and one of my least favorite phenomenons. The magic of the original usually gets lost. On the other hand, foreign-language remakes of US films? Kind of fantastic, if you ignore the recent Zhang Yimou remake of Blood Simple. Granted I only know of one other than that, but it is excellent enough to prove the rule. Jacques Audiard's The Beat That My Heart Skipped updates the forgotten Harvey Keitel film Fingers with genius results.
Audiard's follow-up to that bit of awesome is the fantastically tense A Prophet, which features the best performance since Jeremy Renner last appeared on screen.