Reviews for January 21st, 2011
Directed by Martin Zandvliet.
An emotionally unstable stage actress, Thea Barfoed (Paprika Steen), has yet to overcome her alcoholism and a better divorce from her ex-husband, Christian (Michael Falch), who currently has custody over her two young sons, William (Otto Leonardo Steen Rieks, real-life son of Paprika) and Matthias (Noel Koch-Søfeldt). Thea desperately wants to be happy by find sobriety and gaining custody of William and Matthias to spend precious time with them, but those goals quickly become easier said than done, especially the more that she continues drinks booze. You can sense her anger, frustrations and regrets by hostile way that she behaves towards the people she crosses paths with, namely, her ex-husband, an assistant at work, a salesman at a toy store, and a drunk younger man who flirts with her at a bar. Thea occasionally goes to AA meetings, and channels her anger through her role of Martha and in the stage version of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf?”, but neither mediums seem to help her reach sobriety. Paprika Steen the heart and soul of Applause, gives such a tremendously powerful and engrossing performance that you’ll think you’re watching a behind-the-scenes documentary of an actress. Observing Thea’s many instabilities displayed unflinchingly in front of the camera can be overwhelming at times, but, for the most part, you’ll find it difficult to look away or tune out as if you were watching a car crash. Director/co-writer Martin Zandvliet and co-writer Anders Frithiof August do a terrific job of gradually showing the different details of Thea’s life and her complex personality so that by the time the end credits role, you not only have gotten to know her better as a human being, but you’ll find yourself caring about her as well because deep down inside she has a good heart albeit a very wounded one. At a running time of only 1 hour and 26 minutes, Applause is an engrossing, unflinchingly honest drama that showcases Paprika Steen’s haunting, brave and tour de force performance.
Number of times I checked my watch: 1Released by World Wide Pictures Corporation. Opens at the Village East Cinema.
Evangelion 2.0: You Can (Not) Advance
Directed by Kazuya Tsurumaki and Masayuki.
Shinji Ikari (voice of Spike Spencer) and Rei Ayanami (voice of Brina Palencia) work as EVA pilots who have already defeated their nemesis, ironically named Angels, in past battles. When the Angels re-emerge and threaten mankind with a Third Impact, two new pilots join Shinji and Rei, namely, Asuka Langley (voice of Tiffany Grant) and Mari Illustrious Mikanami (voice of Maaya Sakamoto) in their new battles to restore peace. The plot gets increasingly complex as the dynamics between the four EVA pilots evolve and as the tensions emerge between the STEELE and NERV organizations which cause even more potential problems once the new set of battles with the Angels commence. Shinji and Asuka, for instance, develop a strong physical attraction to one another and often flirt. So, if you’re unfamiliar with the Evangelion series and start with this one, you’ve probably noticed by now that it’s not your typical brainless, action-packed sci-fi adventure because screenwriter Hideaki Anno has written a compelling, imaginative and, for the most part, intelligent story with interesting characters. Moreover, you’ll find a few moments of surprise along the way. Unless you’re an avid fan, though, you might be confused by some of the events that transpire because there’s not much in terms of exposition, so it’s advised that you freshen up on Evangelion 1.0 beforehand. On a positive note, even if you do find yourself perplexed, there’s still plenty of eye candy to be found thanks to co-director Masayuki and Kazuya Tsurumaki’s use of dazzling, colorful animation that’s filled with attention to foreground and background details. The action sequences themselves feel quite exciting, and the soundtrack includes a few well-chosen songs with poetic lyrics. At a running time of 1 hour and 48 minutes Evangelion 2.0: You Can (Not) Advance is an exhilarating adventure that offers compelling characters, a wonderfully imaginative story and dazzling special effects. Newbies might feel slightly perplexed, though.
Number of times I checked my watch: 2Released by FUNination Entertainment. Opens at Big Cinemas Manhattan.
Gabi on the Roof in July
Directed by Lawrence Michael Levinet.
Please check back soon for a full review.
Number of times I checked my watch: 2 Opens at the reRun Gastropub Theater in Brooklyn.
Directed by Im Sang-soo.
Lee Eun-yi (Jeon Do-yeon) accepts a new job as a live-in maid at the luxurious home of Hoon (Lee Jung-jae), his wife, Hae-ra (Seo Woo), and young daughter, Nami (Ahn Seo-hyun). She works under the supervision of the head housekeeper, Cho Byung-sik (Youn Yuh-jung), an unfriendly older woman who’s worked for Hoon’s family for many years. Hae-ra’s stern mother, Mi-hee (Park Ji-young) knows that her daughter has to stay with Hoon in order to maintain her social status, so it’s not surprising when she becomes furious upon learning from Byung-sik that Hoon has been having a sexually-charged affair with Eun-yi. Byung-sik also informs her that Eun-yi is pregnant. The events that ensue after Mi-hee’s confrontation with Eun-yi won’t be spoiled here, but it’s worth noting that you’ll be at the edge of your seat given all the tension. Director/co-writer Im Sang-soo knows how to build suspense gradually and effectively as you anticipate that something tragic will inevitably occur. The opening scene, which shows a maid jumping to her death, serves as a chilling foreshadow that will stay in the back of your mind throughout the remainder of the film. Jeon Do-yeon radiates in a captivating performance as Eun-yi that tackles a wide range of emotions. There’s more to Eun-yi than meets the eye because even though she may appear to be quiet, vulnerable and submissive, there’s a certain rage, toughness and confidence lurking beneath her. On a purely aesthetic level, Sang-soo impresses with the terrific production design, cinematography and meticulous attention to details. The house, fundamentally, becomes a character in itself, and perhaps also as a metaphor for how glossiness, elegance and beauty can seem concurrently so cold, empty and even foreboding the more attentive you become to it. You can also say the same thing for the characters here, with the exception of Nami, because as the film progresses, their actions become increasingly darker in ways that contrast from how they appeared to you and to Eun-yi initially. It's refreshing that Sang-soo trusts your intelligence as a perceptive audience member particularly in the third act that remains both smart and taut. At a running time of 1 hour and 47 minutes, The Housemaid is a chilling, intelligent and atmospheric thriller brimming with suspense, exquisite cinematography and a captivating performance by Jeon Do-yeon.
Number of times I checked my watch: 0Released by IFC Films. Opens at the IFC Center and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas.
Johnny Mad Dog
Directed by Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire.
Please check back soon for a full review.
Number of times I checked my watch: 1Released by IFC Films. Opens at the Anthology Film Archives.
No Strings Attached
Directed by Ivan Reitman.
Adam Franklin (Ashton Kutcher), a TV production assistant, has bumped into his summer camp friend, Emma Kurtzman (Natalie Portman), coincidentally throughout his life, but after one drunken night, he ends up waking up at Emma’s apartment with no recollection of what had transpired that night. Before leaving to her job as a hospital intern, she and Adam have sex and meet up again to have even more sex. Emma makes it clear to him that she doesn’t want a serious relationship; just friends with benefits and lots of meaningless sex sans the traditional post-sex cuddling. As simple as that sounds, their relationship gets complicated when Adam starts falling in love with her---he even goes to the extent of showing up at her workplace to give her balloon. Will Emma end up falling in love with Adam? Will she be able to handle a serious boyfriend for the first time in her life? What might happen if and when she agrees to go on a date with Adam? Had screenwriter Elizabeth Meriwether and director Ivan Reitman focused more on Emma and Adam’s relationship, perhaps the film wouldn’t feel so overstuffed. Instead, Meriwether peppers the story with too many supporting characters and cheap attempts to generate humor without any wit, i.e. Adam’s filthy-talking TV-star dad (Kevin Kline) who’s sleeping with Adam’s ex-girlfriend. In one of the many cringe-inducing moments, he asks Adam if he needs any tips on how to be a good rug muncher. Greta Gerwig adds some panache and comic relief as one of Emma’s roommates. In yet another attempt to generate laughs, there’s Lucy (Lake Bell), Adam’s socially awkward, dorky coworker. The underrated, charismatic Olivia Thirlby briefly shows up as Emma’s soon-to-be-married younger sister. While Adam and Emma have a few scenes that feel genuinely sweet and heartfelt, for the most part, they lack the palpable chemistry that’s essential for any romantic comedy to be truly great. The evolution of Emma’s feeling about Adam during the third act comes across as too rushed and inorganic; it’s as though her transformation merely serves as a plot device to quickly move the story forward. At a running time of 1 hour and 50 minutes (20 minutes above the tolerable running time for a romantic comedy), No Strings Attached is a witless albeit sexy romcom that’s often contrived, sophomoric, overstuffed and low on palpable chemistry. It’s far from a modern-day classic, but Natalie Portman sure does sizzle.
Number of times I checked my watch: 2Released by Paramount Pictures. Opens nationwide.