29 August 2008

Review: Vicky Christina Barcelona

Genre: Comedy

O, Woody Allen! How long has it been since we've found happiness together? And that it should come so suddenly, so surprisingly?! How grand!
Truly, not since 1994's divine Bullets over Broadway has Mr. Allen delivered a screenplay so bountiful and jaunty as this, his latest, Vicky Christina Barcelona. Quick, quippy, capriciously sardonic in a way that paints classic self-doubting Allen humor in splashes of color and passion as bright and sensual as any of the many artworks and love-scenes that color the film's screen, the work vibrates with its own unique, Iberian vitality that reinvigorates even the tried and tired-growing "confused waif" character that Ms. Johansson seems so stuck on playing - sorry, Scarlett. Of course, Mr. Bardem and Ms. Cruz made no contestable match for her anyway, with their ferociously bidden duo of lovers, snarling indirected but nevertheless ardently: They two tear up the screen, as they tear at each other, and each is so charging to watch, that one cannot help but wonder why Scarlett could not show up herself a bit more, instead of shrinking back into Scoop (2006), her last collaboration with Mr. Allen. One cannot wish for all miracles, I suppose. Rebecca Hall was handy in her first major-film rôle and Patricia Clarkson is always a delight to see pop up in the pictures; the sex was neither gratuitous nor prudish and the voice-over narration a bold risk that pays off cleverly in many a punchline; & the action consistently moves well over the pulsing strumming of guitar chords that adds a rhythmic movement and depth to the work as a whole, as though it were - as it is - actually straining to achieve something more than just mellifluity out of its waxing and waning, undular efforts. As the tip-toeing high notes dance over the ergonomic works of Gaudí, Vicky and Christina search for their perfect fit - and thankfully, Mr. Allen may be a tailor.

Grade: A solid B.

28 August 2008

Review: Brideshead Revisited

Genre: Drama

Brideshead Revisited, the canonical tale about the changing British society of the interbellic period in England, receives its second cinematic treatment this year, in this Andrew-Davies--Jeremy-Brock adaptation of the classic Waugh text. Spooling from two such pens, which have previously urged out the charming Mrs. Brown (1997) and The Last King of Scotland (2006) & the quirky but endearing Bridget Jones's Diary (2001), the tale, one would expect, should be nothing less than the equally charming and endearing play as those that have preceded it - and, in truth, the charm evident in its design does shine through the film in the gifts of some few locations - but, somehow, under the mastering hand of director Julian Jarrold, who previously bedraggled the what-may-have-possibly-been-charming-once Becoming Jane (2007), the film slumps and sloughs & erodes its luxe veneer in a way that is all too intolerable in the mindset and the cadence of the message of the tale. A resultant chock-a-block stew of the "high points" of Mr. Waugh's cherished work - due in large part to a "Chopsticks"-style editing job done by Mr. C. Gill - Brideshead Revisted (2007) fails to live up to the graceful magniloquence that so aptly characterized and described its original edition. Short where it should be decadent, shrifty where it should be smooth, the new film clutches Charles Ryder where it should let him train on, not as a prisoner of his circumstances, but rather as a partner to them. Abating those events and characters that contribute so handily to his mise-en-scène confusions, it does little to implicate Charles in his own actions, but makes him seem rather bedazzled instead by them all and by his surroundings, bedazzled as though stunned and then sent tumbling by the impact through the dazy and harrowing situations that befall him. And, though - true - such a languorous recapitulation of the first edition, that would remend such passivity in the story's filmic design, as that which was provided by the eminent BBC in 1981, is not at 13 hours in length well suited for the work's début on the silver screen and though - true - such a recapitulation may verily moreover lie on the other end of the spectrum, as an adaptation in need of a more aggressive editor; more needed to be done to honorably communicate the fullness of Mr. Ryder's story, in not only its highlights, but its bellows as well.
To compliment the film though, there were two unfaltering redemptions of its origin's beauty: (1) Elmer Ni Mhaoldomhnaigh's gorgeous, embellished-period costumes and (2) Matthew Goode's tempering, high-wire, gentleman's performance that manages to depress the prickly jabs of editing around him enough to draw the viewer in and ask him to forgive and forget the all-too-severous hand that jars him.

Grade: C

12 August 2008

Trailer: Happy-Go-Lucky

Cute: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P97wbtckTEY

and it's by Mike Leigh! Hotness irradiates; I can't wait.