Mittwoch, 4. Juni 2014

Short takes

"Blended" fits right into Adam Sandler's distinguished filmography, meaning sitcom-ready, pun-heavy dialogues, carried by little sense of storytelling and a lot of non-acting, are again used to fill out extremely unlikely scenarios with varying degrees of distastefulness- all in the name of some harmless, brainless fun. The script is so mechanically engineered you can see every bump in the road miles ahead and the gags are so prevalent the narrative function of film editing becomes obsolete. As a screen presence Drew Barrymore has an inexhaustible supply of charm but that alone can't bring back the good cheer and disarmingly natural dynamic she shared with Sandler in "The Wedding Singer" or "50 First Dates". Here and there you can still get that spark between them for sure, but the majority of the movie is so drowned in cliches and stupidity it's beyond salvage. Some impressive African sets and an omnipresent, overzealous choir provide highlights in this otherwise disappointing reunion directed by Frank Coraci.

"Zeit der Kannibalen (Age of Cannibals)" is a sneaky, snarky little thing that doesn't have much going in, but makes the most out of it on the vital combination of good directing, writing and acting. Revolving around all but three main characters and set entirely in hotel rooms, the film is limited in every sense, but German director Johannes Naber makes smart decisions to afford it contour and urgency while taking full advantage of the sharp words penned by Stefan Weigl to keep a wry mix of tones afloat. The terrific trio of actors, Devid Striesow, Sebastian Blomberg and Katharina Schüttler, brings a believability to their flawed, at times downright despicable roles that makes their greed, cynism, insecurity and hypocrisy fascinating to watch. The confident editing, responsible for the brisk pacing and bold theatricality of the film, as well as the suggestive, wonderfully odd music also score. Sadly the movie's adrenalin-pumped ending is not quite there yet to bring the whole thing home, but by then all the right places have been duly teased.

"Les rencontres d'après minuit (You and the Night)" proves yet again that, in the dissection of sexuality, the French are eons ahead of the rest of us. Their take on the subject can be so advanced, in fact, that it mesmerizes and completely befuddles. This movie, built on the premise of an anonymous sex party, starts off in thunderous horror mode, dives headfirst into high camp, revisits old-school supernatural elements, then ends like a grand, Greek tragedy. Playing with such a variety of styles and genres, it's safe to say gender lines are but the first to be blurred along the way. The result is something so bizarre one can hardly tell if it's the deepest discourse on immortality and the transcendent sadness of the universe or just a total farce. Kudos to writer/director Yann Gonzalez for daring to go there and never settle. Even though this debut work shows obvious room for improvement both narratively and technically, that kind of individuality and artistic courage are reason enough to celebrate.

"A Million Ways to Die in the West" is less a movie than an exercise to cram as many wisecracks into two hours as possible. Turning the classy, nostalgia-laced notion of the western genre on its head for comedic effect is a decent enough idea, but it's probably one more suitable for a stand-up gig than a full-blown cinematic production, as the lack of rhythm, substance and the sheer inconsequentiality of everything portrayed here would make you soon realize. And it's not that authenticity and era-appropriate humor are untouchable golden rules either, but when the characters only talk in one-liners and frat/poop jokes are all there is in the supposed alternate version of the American outback, it gets boring fast. Director/ lead actor Seth MacFarlane seems too fond of himself both in front of and behind the camera, which grates. There's some nice costume work overall, but the production design is subpar for a studio picture and the orchestral music is a poor fit for the rampant shenanigans.

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