Friday, March 11, 2011

New Stuff, Finally

The Adjustment Bureau

George Nolfi’s directorial debut, “The Adjustment Bureau”, is an involving and slightly loopy love story that works itself out through the enormous chemistry between Matt Damon and the lovely Emily Blunt. Essentially a tale about the choice between free will and the more darker-themed tones of a matrix-like web of higher authority, the film never misses a beat. Emily Blunt, who I’ve admired for several films now, lights up with the screen with every appearance and its on the interaction between her and Matt Damon that the film wins the viewer over. Basically, this is a sci-fi story with heart. When things get downright other worldly at the end, I was pulling for Blunt and Damon. But the real star here is the Philip K. Dick story that “The Adjustment Bureau” is based upon. Dick continues to provide Hollywood with a wealth of ideas based on his intelligently progressive short stories and “The Adjustment Bureau” (adapted by ex-screenwriter Nofli himself) retains the verve of science fiction while maintaining an emotional core that doesn’t feel out of place in the slate of good modern love stories. A very nice way to start out my early movie-going year.

Hall Pass

Maybe I should have waited to write the above line before succumbing to the slight urge to see the latest Farrelly Brothers movie, “Hall Pass”. I would say their career is long beyond the apex of “There’s Something About Mary”, or does that film simply live in my memory for its groundbreaking use of gross/shock humor in the mid to late 90’s? Either way, they try to regain their comedic maestro crown again with more shock humor, including penis jokes, frontal male nudity and a sneezing scene that could give the hair gel scene a run for its money. The problem… none of it even made me snicker. It all feels like the film is trying way too hard to push the limits, which seems to be the fault of so many comedies today. Owen Wilson, Jason Sudeikis, Jenna Fisher and the incredibly funny Christina Applegate seem wasted as the married couples taking a breather from each other in order to reclaim their golden days of being single. The most touching moments in this film have to do with the realizations that everyone is passed their prime, especially when the guys’ first night out on the town ends up as a gorge-fest on food at the local Applebees… something we can all relate to. Less relatable is the idea that a golden beauty like Nicky Whelan would be attracted to Owen Wilson… or maybe even that Applegate would have married a guy like Sudeikis? I’m analyzing “Hall Pass” more than it deserves. Pretty awful.

Cold Weather

Aaron Katz, whose previous features “Quiet City” and “Dance Party USA’ where introspective additions to the DIY movement of current independent filmmaking, ups the ante a bit with a low-fi thriller of sorts in “Cold Weather”. Cris Lankeneau is Doug, a Portland, Oregon native stuck in a dead end job with an affection for Sherlock Holmes novels. When his ex-girlfriend visits town and promptly disappears, Doug enlists the help of his sister (Trieste Kelly Dunn) and friend Carlo (Raoul Castillo) to investigate the matter. Katz’s interest here resides less in a tidy resolution to the mystery aspects of the film, which makes it a defiantly proper “mumble core” movie in which atmosphere and awkward silence is more of a preoccupation than narrative cohesiveness. “Cold Weather” is a challenging film, none more so than the fact that Katz so eloquently builds up momentum in its thriller aspect only to disappoint with an anti-climactic finale that has one scratching their heads. I’m all for oblique endings (see “No Country For Old Men”), but “Cold Weather” leaves one with very little to savor after its abrupt ending.

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