Tuesday, September 14, 2010

TIFF Capsules: Let Me In, Tamara Drewe, The Illusionist and Stone.

Normally my friend txtcritic who must remain anonymous just, well, texts me. Usually in the form of pithy sentence long reviews or moviegoing observations. But this time he sent capsules of his Toronto experience thus far. Enjoy.
"The Illusionist" shifts downgear from the infectious exuberance of "Triplets of Bellevile" to a more melancholy, low-key thing. It's largely lovely and endearing, but leaves one with a lot more to admire than to get caught up or involved in (though many others seem to be ringing the "masterpiece" bells). The film's incremental snowballing cynicism will ultimately leave you either profoundly sad or oddly cold/disengaged. I'm somewhat between the two, but I'd like another viewing. B

Leigh, Manville, Ruth Sheen & Jim Broadbent @ TIFF

"Another Year" belongs in Leigh's upper-tier. Lesley Manville gets the showy role. At first, I was ready to cry 'overhyped' but her character subtly shifts and slowly grows more downtrodden in such a realistic way that it will make some uncomfortable with recognition. As a whole, the movie's consistently absorbing and lovely in character detail, but Manville's performance is what makes it a heartbreaker. A-
Consensus definitely places Lesley Manville as an Oscar nominee. We already know that Oscar voters respond to the women in Mike Leigh pictures. But will it be a lead or supporting campaign? That probably depends on how the studio feels about her winning chances in either category. I'll be seeing this picture in a couple of weeks. I loved Manville & Broadbent's chemistry together in Topsy Turvy (1999) and though they're not a couple this time I hope they have plentiful scenes together.

Dominic Cooper and Gemma Arterton at the Tamara Drewe premiere to your left. About Stephen Frears latest....
Based on the graphic novel by Posy Simmonds, "Tamara Drewe" constantly alternates between amusing and irritating. It's devoid of substance and aggressively quirky, while never being less than watchable. Certainly a change of pace for Stephen Frears, but makes you wonder why he decided to make this movie. Tamara (Gemma Arterton) is an empty vessel who barely registers as a character and the only one who gives a performance of any depth or complexity is Tamsin Greig as a cuckolded wife. B-/C+

Though it's to be commended for reaching for something beyond the conventional movie the trailers are selling, "Stone" only barely falls just short of Trainwreck designation. It has enough batshit moments to never lose your interest, but it's ultimately the very definition of a "mess"; there's nary a coherent thought in its head. No one seems to have been given much direction, and we're as dumbfounded as how we should feel about their characters as they seem to be. De Niro shows early signs that this will be his first inspired performance in years but then loses his way, and I never could quite get a handle on what Edward Norton or Milla Jovovich were doing. D+
Finally, the early buzz on Let Me In is good dashing our hopes that critics would crucify it. Now normally we don't root against pictures we haven't seen but why was it remade in the first place? Read on...
While "Let Me In" remains an 'unnecessary' remake throughout, Matt Reeves has crafted a surprisingly successful, respectful 'cover' version of the beloved "Let the Right One In." Aside from one or two (superb) sequences, and some amped-up suspense and gore, not much new has been added here. What most impresses is how the film avoids pretty much every possible expected "remake" decision where it could have pandered or "broadened" appeal or caved to general American sensibilities. Reeves absolutely nails the tone of the original film, imposes largely the same look (often even paying homage to the original shot compositions), and the perfectly cast chief actors -- Chloe Grace Moretz, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Richard Jenkins, Elias Koteas -- feel just right in their roles. Skeptics, put away your knives. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised. A-
I'm not sure I'll be pleasantly surprised. So far I've read a couple of reviews proclaiming that it's better than the original and several going to lengths to describe how meticulously director Matt Reeves has transferred the visual aesthetics, mood and even the shots of the original. How is a carefully detailed copy ever better than an original? Or at least how does whatever praise it garners seem like more than an interception? Please to explain. Whatever we love about it, must be credited to the original, if what we love was originated there. It's like when some people wanted to give Zach Snyder credit for the visual aesthetics of Watchmen when what he was essentially doing was following the storyboard and character designs provided by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons in graphic novel form.

Kodi Smit-McPhee gets bullied in Let Me In

Sorry, sorry. I know I'm off consensus on this topic. But faithful remakes they make-a me crazeeeeeeeeeee. This is why, ironically, I respected Gus Van Sant's Psycho (1998) so much. See, that widely hated film purposefully billed itself as a recreation... it was, therefore, an honest aesthetic experiment and cinematic exercize rather than a movie made to replace another movie for people who can't bring themselves to read subtitles or watch older films.

Maybe I'll calm down once I've seen it if it's good. Maybe I just don't relish having to watch Chloe Moretz every time a film needs a teenager this coming decade. They're casting her in everything (8-10 projects already on the way) and even if I loved her more, I always enjoy a variety of faces in my moviegoing.

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