So. Many. Releases! If this is terse, don’t take it personally.
+ "Proof": It’s possible this stodgy-looking Miramax play-adaptation was made just for Anthony Lane to review. He utterly enjoys himself with all kinds of silliness (he calls Anthony Hopkins‘ character "a math wizard of Dumbledore
proportions"). A particularly worthy selection:
Claire [Hope Davis] flies in from New York, where, unlike
Catherine [Gwyneth Paltrow], she has (boo!) a job, and (hiss!) a fiancÃ©, and (avaunt
thee, Satan!) nice clothes. She despairs of her lank-haired, wonky
sibling, and they soon lock antlers over the vexed question of jojoba
conditioner. Claire can’t even get the patient to eat. "Have a banana,"
she says, becoming the first person to utter that line since Louis
Prima said it to Mowgli in "The Jungle Book." Unlike King Louie,
however, Claire does not follow up her offer with a sprightly rendition
of "I Wanna Be Like You," although you can’t help praying that she
would. This movie needs all the swingers it can get.
Stephanie Zacharek and Dennis Lim both compare the film’s subject matter (math) to it’s creakily mechanical structure and plotting. Manohla Dargis takes issues with the main character: "A martyr to her own choices, Catherine…demands our pity, our attention, our indulgence, our love, while giving little in return but her narcissism."
+ "Corpse Bride": The clear critical hit of the week, Tim Burton‘s return to stop-motion animation is beloved by all. Stephanie Zacharek, Manohla Dargis and Michael Atkinson all find it variations of "exuberant" and "warm": Zacharek particularly gets teary-eyed over the film’s old-school craftsmanship and loveliness, while Dargis is pleased to see Burton’s return to gothy form ("it suggests, despite some recent evidence, that he is not yet ready to abandon his own dark kingdom") and Atkinson points out that, culturally, it’s an unexpected "humble slice of Old World folklore." Matt Zoller Seitz is also fond of the film, though less giddy: "I can’t hold up the movie as an example of Burton’s best."
Exiting a press screening a while back, however, I overheard an
otherwise mild-mannered audience member growl, "Another fucking
American suburban teen-angst film." Snip off the expletive and you’ve
got a perfectly fair nutshell of the endearing and well-acted "Thumbsucker," and you can throw in much of whatever’s left of the
Sundance-Amerindie project too ("The Chumscrubber" and "Me and You and
Everyone We Know" also premiered this year at Park City).
Despite its overt Sundanciness, she’s fond of Mike Mills‘ debut, as is A. O. Scott, who finds it well acted and nicely restrained, a film that "manages to show how calamitous and out of control (and also how thrilling) growing up odd and ordinary can be, without wallowing in its hero’s occasional self-pity or condescending to him." David Edelstein, on the other hand, feels that Mills, despite drawing great performances out of his actors, kills most of the jokes that were in the novel the film’s based on.
+ "HellBent": This low-budget horror film about a group of young, hot, gay men who are stalked and slayed (preferably shirtless) by a menacing killer on the streets of West Hollywood claims to be "The first ever GAY Slasher film!!!", a point that we, while no experts, would debate, on the dubious merits of last year’s "Make a Wish," which seemed to play at every LGBT festival in the country, and centered around a woman who invites all of her exes (female) out for a camping trip, provoking much bickering, making out, and mysterious dying. Does that one not count? And is this such a debate-worthy claim to begin with? At this week’s Reverse Shot review trinity at indieWIRE, Michael Koresky points out that "serial killer films have been chockablock with homosexual psychotics from day one," but that "HellBent" is rare in its gay-friendliness, and ultimately good-natured fun. His fellow reviewers Brad Westcott and Suzanne Scott dub it "derivative, predictable, and well, just bad" and "disappointing," respectively. Laura Kern at the New York Times sees it more as a cultural artifact: it "widens the scope a bit by bringing gay cinema one step closer to the mainstream." Jorge Morales at the Village Voice is far from impressed: "I’ve seen spookier reruns of Paul Lynde as center square."
+ "Everything is Illuminated": One thing everyone can agree on: the music gets way old way fast. David Edelstein (who otherwise thinks the film shows some promise, but is too cutesy and falters at the end): "That lusty klezmer soundtrack made me smile for about half an hourâ€”until I realized that it was ironing out the dissonances, killing the unease we ought to feel in this deceptively verdant landscape. Then I began to wish it were hunting season on klezmer bands." Michael Atkinson (who finds the film "serviceable"): [Director Liev] Schreiber relies
on relentless soundtrack oompah-pah to make the jokes seem like
jokesâ€”until the sniffly climax." Stephanie Zacharek (who thinks that "Schreiber leaves the whimsy faucet dripping for far too long," but likes the last third of the film): "Schreiber overuses some particularly annoying Eastern European oompah music to signal us to the allegedly hilarious absurdity of certain narrative twists, not trusting us to find the humor in this story without musical signposts." A. O. Scott thinks the film spins its wheels a lot but never gets further than announcing its themes, and, less charitably, says that it "suggests that even the darkest page of history can be bathed in a glow of consoling, self-congratulatory sentiment." Hah! And Ella Taylor loved the book, loves the film.
Our own review is here: we actually walked out feeling relatively benign about the film, and disliked it more and more as we thought about it. Eugene Hutz is fabulous, though (there’s a little Q & A with him here on IFC News).