October 12, 2010

Fall Break Roundup

New York City. It never sleeps. The subways smell. It's always crowded. I love it! So much energy, so much culture, it's mind boggling! I had a very busy weekend, a lot of which was spent catching up with old friends, but, the film blogger/entertainment junkie in me needed to be fed, so, Monday (Columbus Day) was spent at the theatre, taking in some films that have since eluded me thanks to my almost rural living situation at Bard. Since I have three films to write about, I'm just going to do it all here, rather than separate reviews for each one. See? I'm consolidating! You know you love it!

But first, another furry. This is a hedgehog!

Fine! More like a prickly, but it's cute, so screw you!

First on my list was The Town. My whole dorm went on a trip into Red Hook to see this as a group to which I couldn't attend (thanks Hatter). They all seemed to like it enough, although I was getting vague hints of lukewarm appreciation in their voices when they talked about it that night. It could have also just been the fatigue due to the fact that they had to walk 3 miles back to campus because they missed the shuttle, but, well, I've said too much. A dorm mate asked me to see it so he could read what I wrote up on it, and me, always the sucker for new traffic, was more than happy to oblige.

So, how do I feel about The Town? Eh.

Don't get me wrong. The Town is still pretty good. It has a decent plot, ok characters, and plenty of urban action to keep the antsy teenage boy happy. But the story, which involves a bank robber trying to leave his life of crime behind him while the FBI closes in, is cliched as all holy hell; the characters are passable, but don't go far beyond the typical archetypes of the genre; and the action is exhilarating at first, but gets old really quickly!

Performances are alright. Ben Affleck is passable, as is Jon Hamm. Rebecca Hall and Jeremy Renner both do fantastic jobs, but they are the only people I can say that about. Given the genre that this film belongs to though, the acting is a lot better than what we usually come to expect.

The Town is just alright. It will probably generate some Oscar buzz, but won't go much farther than that. It's a Heat clone, and while it stands up as its own as a film, when compared to the masterpiece it is so shamelessly trying to ape, it falls flat!

Also, the title really sucks!

Edit: I'm changing my tune. I have since watched the Extended Cut of The Town, and I am pleased to report that it is a far superior film to the one shown in theaters. All the characters are much more fleshed out, and the acting is better because of it. Jon Hamm's FBI agent isn't just a dick for no reason; he's a dick because he's fed up with the rampant crime in the city. Affleck's character is much more conflicted, and, as such, much more likable. There's one scene that really turned it around for me. Right after he is outed as a crook to his girlfriend, Affleck's Doug goes to an abandoned bus, proceed to snort some some drugs. He then proceeds to unload his gun into his reflection that he sees in the mirror. It's an incredibly powerful moment that made it clear to me that Affleck had a great film made, and was forced to make cuts in the final hour. It's still not as good as Heat, or Gone Baby Gone, for that matter, but I am still now highly recommending it.



Next was Let Me In. Ok, I'll admit, I still haven't seen Let The Right One In, but I will soon, if only because I want to see the film that this gem is based off of!

A meek, bullied little boy by the name of Owen befriends his new next door neighbor, a girl named Abby. It's clear there's something off about Abby, but Owen doesn't care, as he has finally found a friend, and soon begins to fall for her. The thing is, Abby is a vampire. Uh-oh!

Owen and Abby are played by Kodi Scott-Mcphee of The Road and Chloe Moretz of Kick-Ass, respectively. Let me get this out of the way right now. The Academy had better get over their usual thing of not nominating minors and bestow some recognition on these two because they are spectacular! Smit-Mcphee is great as the lonely soul looking for someone to help him, but he is outdone by Moretz in every scene. She is astounding as this tiny bloodsucker, firmly cementing her place as, in my opinion, the best child actor working today! Richard Jenkins and Elias Koteas are there too, and are also very good!

Matt Reeves, who you may know as the bloke behind Cloverfield, is a smart little man. Normally, American remakes of foreign films tend to do away with subtlety and subtext in favor of more crowd pleasing shenanigans, but Reeves is clearly having none of that. Let Me In is wonderfully nuanced, perfectly paced, and downright chilling. It stabs at you, forcing you to feel something for the two kids. Reeves doesn't skimp on the blood either; this is a gory little film. But, the blood isn't there to appease all the people who think Saw is the end all be all of horror. Reeves is a director of class, and has made a movie that shows it.

I can't believe I'm about to say this, but Let Me In is the best movie I've seen so far this year! Sorry Inception, you had a good run, but this one soundly beat you! The Academy probably won't give it the attention it so clearly deserves, as it is a horror movie, and they will be wrong, and I will continue to send them hate mail. I don't know what's wrong with me, putting a horror movie at the top of my list, but I do know this. Let Me In is REALLY! FUCKING! GOOD!

On A Whole New Level!!!


Last up? Never Let Me Go. This was one was recommended to me by Hatter during our recording of the Matineecast when I singled out Andrew Garfield's performance in The Social Network. He's also in this one, along with two of the best current young British actresses working today. How does this one hold up to the brilliance that was Let Me In or the slightly above average The Town? It's not as good as Let Me In, but a whole hell of a lot better than The Town.

Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy all grew up together at Hailsham, a school for "special" children. As they mature and start to develop feelings for each other, the start to cope with the harsh reality that they must inhabit. See, in this dystopian world, disease is a thing of the past, but at a terrible cost. People are cloned, and these clones act as donors of vital organs when the time comes. Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy are just three of these clones.

First off, Andrew Garfield. My prediction stands. He will win Best Supporting Actor. Only thing is, now, I can't decide for which film, because he's just as good here, if not better, than he was in The Social Network. I'm amazed at his ability to embody a character and convey emotion with the smallest of facial ticks and eye movements. His character's confusion is so clearly apparent that it is almost overwhelming!

Carey Mulligan and Keira Knightly, as Kathy and Ruth respectively, are just as good as we've come to expect them to be. Mulligan only further proves that she should have gotten that Best Actress oscar last year, and Knightly adds yet another strong performance to her already impressive resume of quietly devastating performances.

Director Mark Romanek (One Hour Photo) and writer Alex Garland (28 Days Later...) have crafted a dark, but beautiful little film. At times painfully slow, what makes Never Let Me Go work is how it stays focused on something small, the relationships between these three characters, in the context of this huge idea. Garland's script is very sharp, and Romanek's direction is pitch perfect. Aesthetically, Never Let Me Go is in a league of its own. If anything, this is a gorgeous film to look at!

It's not perfect, but it is still mighty impressive. Boasting strong acting from Mulligan and Knightly, and incredibly powerful work from Garfield, Never Let Me Go is just the film for you if you are looking for something quiet! It's pretty damn good, but it's missing that certain something that would make it great.


Doh, I almost forgot! I have one more thing to write about! God, how I could I not remember that? It was so good! Jeez, I'm a turkey! Alright, anyway...

It's New York City, and since you are reading the words of an aspiring actor, I think you can figure out where this is going. Of course I was going to see a show. Since I go crazy for musicals on Broadway, I decided to indulge in prime seats for a Saturday matinee (Don't worry. I did student rush. Much cheaper that way. And front row! A dancer almost kicked me in the face. AWESOME!!). The show in question? Memphis, this year's Tony award winner for Best Musical.

Memphis concerns a white DJ named Huey Calhoun, who looks past racial boundaries and radically plays Black R&B on an all white radio station. Though his superiors are initially angry, the young, white population of Memphis is hooked on the music Huey is playing, giving the African-American community a chance to step up and strutt their stuff. Along the way, Huey falls for a black singer by the name of Felicia, who, thanks to him, quickly climbs the ladder to stardom.

Ok, it's not the best plot in the books, but it is oddly engrossing, despite the cliched nature of it. What hammers it home is the performances by Chad Kimball and Montego Glover as Huey and Felicia. Glover is awesome as Felicia, showing great range whilst giving us a taste of her fantastic voice, but she is completely overshadowed by Kimball, who is sensational as Huey. As the friend I saw this with so eloquently put it, "He is the perfect example of how to get into character". His character is funny, sweet, heartbreaking, and infuriating. He has a great voice, and never once winks at the audience in that sort of, "Hey, this is a musical, so it's over the top, hehehehehe" sort of way.

The music and lyrics, both written by David Bryan of Bon Jovi, are also spectacular. Though it doesn't hold up to the brilliant music of Hair, Spring Awakening, or Rent in my eyes, it is still a great example of how classic styles of popular music can be translated to a Broadway stage. There are some really fantastic songs here. The finale in particular will be stuck in your head for days to come after you walk out of the theatre.

Memphis won that Tony for a reason. It's the best damn musical I've seen in a good while! Seriously strong performances, great music, inspired dancing, awesome energy! Gah, I wish I could see it again!


Whew! That was fun! Three movies. One show. Good break. Back to work I guess. Oh well. See you next time!


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