Monday, March 24, 2008
Movie Reviews: ATONEMENT & SOUTHLAND TALES
When Briony Tallis (Saoirse Ronan) was 13 years old, she was witness to a lewd act between her older sister Cecillia (Keira Knightley) and Robbie (James McAvoy), a servant’s son, that ends up sending the boy to jail. Several years later, Briony (Romola Garai) is a young woman who tries to heal the wound the previous incident inflicted on her family.
Cast Keira Knightley, James McAvoy, Romola Garai, Saoirse Ronan, Vanessa Redgrave, Brenda Blethyn (more)
Director(s) Joe Wright
Writer(s) Christopher Hampton
Status On DVD
Release Date Dec. 7, 2007
DVD Release Date March 18, 2008
Running Time 123 minutes
MPAA Rating R - for disturbing war images, language and some sexuality
Joe Wright’s Atonement is what you’d expect from most films from this genre but it does elevate itself above the more traditional entries with its wonderful sense of lyricism and style. Wonderfully shot and scored, Atonement feels more like a movie made in the 40s or 50s. Everything from the look of the film to the manner of speaking feels classical in one sense or another. The film’s first 45 minutes feel like a wonderful F Scott Fitzgerald adaptation which is just a joy to watch. The remainder of the movie feels a bit more contrived and artificial but that’s not to say it’s not enjoyable as well. Keira Knightly and James McAvoy deliver decent performances and are actually better when they aren’t on screen together as they share very little believable chemistry. Saoirse Ronan deservedly received many accolades for her work here and there is a fairly obvious drop off in her character; apparently Briony is the only one who ages in this film, when Romola Garai takes over. Needless to say Saoirse Ronan’s work is excellent and it really drives the film through the first half of the film. While Atonement is a solid piece of cinematic romanticism it lacks any real surprises for the audience. Its climax and the revelation about a major plot point both are designed to come as a surprise and jar the viewer but it just fails to hit the mark. Mainly because both are fairly obvious and lack the emotional punch they were intended to create. For this reason alone, Atonement is enjoyable for what it is but it’s not necessarily the type of movie that will inhabit your mind for very long after you’ve seen it.
Set in an economically and environmentally ravaged Los Angeles on the Fourth of July, 2008, the story features various characters running into one another, including amnesiac actor Boxer Santaros (Dwayne "the Rock" Johnson), porn star Krysta Now (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and cop David Clark (Seann William Scott).
Cast Rock, Seann William Scott, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Nora Dunn, Christopher Lambert, John Larroquette (more)
Director(s) Richard Kelly
Writer(s) Richard Kelly
Status On DVD
Release Date Nov. 14, 2007
DVD Release Date March 18, 2008
MPAA Rating R - for language, violence, sexual material and some drug content
How does a film from a respected cult filmmaker, Richard Kelly (Donnie Darko), get roundly booed at the Cannes Film Festival? I’d wondered about that when I first heard about the reaction to Southland Tales premiere. Kelly sophomore effort couldn’t have been that horrible, this is the man who gave us the wonderfully odd but thoroughly engaging cult favorite Donnie Darko. Having now watched the painfully long, winch inducting, insanely self indulgent Southland Tales it all makes perfect sense. Southland Tales is beyond odd; it’s incoherent and takes itself way too seriously from the start. This satire poses some interesting ideas but the execution is so off and entirely uninteresting that it fails to make any connection what so ever with the audience. Characters are just that characters, none of which ever feel like actual flesh and blood creations, instead everyone is a type nothing more nothing less. The actors do what they can with the incomprehensible mess their given. Dwayne Johnson tries to pass off twiddling his fingers as acting while Sean Williams Scott looks confused throughout, whether it’s intentional or not it’s fitting. Sarah Michelle Gellar probably seems the most comfortable in her role and seems to be the most committed of anyone involved followed closely by John Larroquette who’s also quite good here. One thing this film doesn’t lack is star power, a cavalcade of stars are present here. In addition to Justin Timberlake, who always seems to have something important to say but never actually does, and Mandy Moore we also get a group of SNL alums (Cheri Oteri, Amy Poehler & Jon Lovitz all have supporting roles) and a MadTV alum (Will Sasso) for just for good measure. Drizzled in we also get cameos aplenty throughout from other big name stars. I will give Kelly credit for trying something so incredibly outside of the box, even if it reeks of self love and pretension, and bizarre that it leaves an impression on you after you watch it regardless if you enjoyed it or not. I enjoy movies that test or break conventions but at the same time I believe these types of movies should have some sense of self and some sort of purpose. Southland Tales feels like Kelly’s stream of conscience unabashedly poured out on screen. For me this film fails at being anyone of the million things (satire, romance, fantasy, existential meditation, etc….) it attempts to be. Southland Tales is just too unfocused for my taste so much so that it’s nearly unwatchable.