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Category Archives: 2010 Movies

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Ten Word or Less Review: What Satan does with a day off.

Five people get in an elevator, one of them is Satan.  That’s the plot of Devil.  It’s the kind of ridiculous, silly concept which can work like cinematic gangbusters when put in the right hands.  Nothing is better for creating movie tension than bickering strangers, intense claustrophobia and mounting fear.  What has to worry you though is that this idea comes from the mind of M. Night Shyamalan.  The one time directorial wonder kid now turned poisonous hack, Shyamalan sets off every warning light when anything springs forth from his corrupted noggin.  But Devil shows that maybe when his ideas are directed by others, here by John Dowdle, perhaps the gimmicky nature of his effort can be turned into a worth while effort.

When five seemingly random individuals get on an elevator they aren’t on it long before it stops dead and everything begins to come apart for our trapped dupes.  Lights flicker, they get annoyed with each other, they do nothing to establish trust between themselves, then someone gets bit.  On the other side of the elevator building security, maintenance and police officers scramble to get them out to no avail.  As the somber narrator informs us, there’s little to be done, this elevator will be Satan’s playground for the day.  It seems the hooved one enjoys spending an afternoon torturing the corrupted souls among us.  The people on this elevator have dirty secrets and Beelzebub is going to spend this particular day grinding their spirits into dust, then revel in killing them one by one.  One would feel safe assuming Satan would have bigger fish to fry but we can only speculate that the penultimate evil being of the cosmos must occasionally like to take a day off to appreciate the smaller things.  Like killing assholes in an elevator.

Devil , the first of what is supposed to be a series dubbed The Night Chronicles, was mostly marginalized and shrugged off upon it’s release.  While it is no genre defining, groundbreaking masterpiece, it is a tightly constructed, wound up work of tension.  Shyamalan, here a writer and producer, has wisely put Devil in the hands of another director.  Running a scant 75 minutes, director Dowdle has no fat at all on his story.  It simply starts and goes and doesn’t stop, leaving the audience no time to question the dubious nature of the story.  It gets off to a disorienting beginning as a typical fly over shot of Philadelphia gets turned upside down, literally.  From that cool beginning Devil economically works along to make the audience guess and squirm, doing both reasonably well.  A few characters do a few stupid things, power line and water dumbass, and our folks in the elevator shouldn’t have to be told to take out their phones to use as flashlights, but on the whole nothing back breakingly idiotic ruins the scenario.

As I said, there’s really not a lot to blow a viewer away, but with Shyamalan involved Devil feels like the F student in your classroom suddenly turned in a C+ paper.  Yeah, it is only a C+ paper, but considering the source, you can do nothing but be stupefied by the adequate results.  Maybe M. Night is coming out of the fog which has ruined his reputation, or maybe he just wasn’t involved enough to screw things up.

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Ten Word or Less Review – Evil Santa movie doesn’t live up to hype.

What a damn disappointment.  Rare Exports has one of the greatest setups ever.  Your basic ‘scientists dig up something horrible out of the ice’ routine except it isn’t a demon or monster or acid crapping alien.  IT’S A FUCKING MURDEROUS SANTA CLAUS!  This Finnish flick introduces a mythology of Santa, not as a Coke swilling, rosy cheeked, happy bastard bringing rocking horses and baby dolls to good little boys and girls, but a sadistic tormentor of kids who boils and flays the little ones who don’t do right by Mommy and Daddy.  Sadly, a great concept is all it is.

The movie has this great hook to work with, as well as  a nice look about it and some credible performances, but it stubbornly refuses to go anywhere exciting or devious.  At a scant 80+ minutes the venture feels like nothing more than a prolonged first act which hums in a neutral space from which it has no desire to shift from.  A few creepy moments come to pass but the movie never hits the accelerator.  After a while the appreciative simmer of tension that’s established slowly downshifts into outright boredom.  In an incredible let down Santa Claus Monster never really appears.  Who we think is our evil Santa, a naked, gnarly looking Finnish man with a ratty beard, is actually one of his many elves.  Exports sets what must be a dubious record for the most elderly, naked Finnish men put to film.  Santa, some kind of unseen, horned behemoth, stays locked away on ice for the duration, never to be seen or do anything.  It’s a colossal blunder of storytelling.  Rare Exports builds and builds and then slowly but surely disappoints until its idiotic climax officially ruins the entire endeavour.  The last embers of hope that something astonishing might transpire fade away in a fury of dumbness.

I would remake this movie in a heartbeat, use it’s first 30 minutes and then abandon the rest in favor of the kind of movie the idea is deserving of.  One where evil Santa actually shows up, actually does in the naughty and the nice alike and actually makes it a hellish Christmas for everyone involved.  This film though has no such ambition.  Merry frickin’ Christmas.

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Ten Word or Less Review: Thou smelleth a foul stink in the air.

During the end of the previous millennium Shakespeare had one Hell of an agent working in his corner.  Between 1989 and 2000 many of the Bard’s works saw big screen adaptations.  Othello, Romeo & Juliet,, Henry V, Richard the III (twice), A Midsummer Nights Dream, Love Labors Lost, Hamlet (again twice), Much Ado About Nothing, Taming of the Shrew (as Ten Things I Hate About You), won Best Picture for falling in love and even Shakespeare’s much derided Titus Andronicus made the leap to the screen.  This last one, directed by Julie Taymor and with a title shortened to simply Titus, is of special note.  It was a wildly extravagant exercise in cinematic overindulgence thrust onto the screen by the renowned stage director.  It was a debauchery, it was awesome, it was a loony tunes adaptation and it went seen by almost nobody.  Twas a shame.  Regardless, Taylor now returns to adapt another of Will’s finicky works, The Tempest.  Despite numerous attempts to adapt Tempest to cinema over the past century, there’s one from 1911, 50’s sci-fi classic Forbidden Planet remains the only feature of note anyone outside the art film circuit could probably recall.  Sadly, Taymor’s return to Shakespearean theater is a shoddy endurance test.  Some may point the finger at Taymor and her adaptive skills but I feel that some cause of this inert movie is the source material.

I have no doubt that there are miles upon miles of scholarly papers which hold The Tempest out as one of Shakespeare’s most fascianting works, but from where I’m sitting it feels like a work from a man no longer at the top of his form.  One of Shakespeare’s final plays, The Tempest is a revenge fable with no revenge.  Prospero, now Prospera and played by Helen Mirren, traps those who have conspired against her on her island of banishment at which point she commences to annoy them.  That’s about it.  Titus Andronicus cooked his enemies children into meat pies.  That is an act of revenge.  Also, working to make your hot daughter fall in love with the handsom son of the guy you hate doesn’t feel like retribution.  It doesn’t help that this romance feels completely rote.  These young lovers feel like tedious window dressing.  When it all concludes it feels like a story about a half dozen individuals scheming to all ends but actually doing nothing to one another.  Watching Taymor try to pry life out of this tale feels like so many rusty narrative wheels grinding away like machinery in need of lube.

Taymor has a trademark style that she brings to Tempest in full force: wild costumes, intense, kaleidoscopic visuals, surrealistic imagery, striking art direction.  She pours it all on as much as she can but none of the effort amounts to much.  Her Tempest simply drones on and on as characters maneuver around one another talking up a storm, literally and figuratively, as the visuals flare up around them like so much smoke and mirrors.  One can’t help but to be taken in at times with her delirious imagery, there is a scene with a character morphed into a crow that feels delightfully freakish, but it amounts to a superficial appreciation of pretty pictures.

This Tempest is a shame and shows that Taymor can work only so much magic with the Bard’s more confounding works.  Her directorial efforts since Titus have been similar to this, opulent looking but mundane, so maybe this shouldn’t be a surprise after all.  She turned one of Shakespeare’s most derided dramatic exercises into a gory phantasm of grizzly movie goodness and though it may have been a mess dramatically it was a thrill to watch.  She can’t find a way to infuse that kind of edginess, or even the most basic narrative interest, into The Tempest, but I’m left to wonder if anyone could.  As the author himself once wrote, the play’s the thing.

Two sentence reviews:

Biutiful (2010) – Javier Bardem plays it grim but great in this Barcelona underworld drama about a guy doing some very rough things to make ends meet for his kids before he dies of cancer.  Really solid but keep the rope and razors locked up while you watch it.

The In-Laws (1979) – A cute comedy curio from that brief age of movies when average looking but exceeding talented actors like Peter Falk and Alan Arkin were allowed to headline major movies.  Falk is priceless and fans of 70’s/early 80’s comedy should enjoy it.

In the Mouth of Madness (1995) – One of John Carpenter’s waning works.  His crisp visuals are intact but he desperately misses Kurt Russell by this point and the screenplay falls far short of the ambitious, Lovecraft influenced story he’s aiming for.

Valhalla Rising (2009) – I fell asleep four times watching this movie but dreamt about it everytime I noded off which resulted in an almost halucinatory experience.  If Terrence Malick made Conan the Barbarian it may have played something like this.

Phantom of the Paradise (1974) – Though it beat Rocky Horror to the punch in rock/schlock/horror homage outlandishness by a year, it was quickly surpassed, and rightfully so, by the red lipped cult classic.  Brian DePalma helmed this goofy, glam rock musical which is cheesy/watchable but feels upstaged on most levels by the long reverred and hedonistic antics of Dr. Frank-N-Furter.

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The Mechanic (2011) – I like the idea of an actor out there like Jason Statham.  In an age of digital madness and fierce editing techniques, where even Michael Cera can convincingly kick the ass of a guy twice his size, Statham looks to be the last non-Asian actor who’s paid to show up on screen and deliver a traditional butt kicking the audience can believe in.  He looks like a soccer hooligan who took up acting in between fights outside his favorite pub.  Admiration aside though the simple fact remains he’s made precious few movies worth viewing.  Crank was fun.  The Bank Job was quality.  Some people like his Transporter flicks but I’ve never taken in one in its entirety.  The rest of his resume is scattered bits of trash, some make their dime back, some don’t. Some don’t even see the dark of a multiplex.  This brings us to The Mechanic.

A remake of a Charles Bronson b-movie, Mechanic is a down the line action vehicle with hints of aspiration to be more, but not enough follow through to deliver anything besides your typical weekend programmer.  Director Simon West is no Walter Hill.  He keeps things simple and to the point, not really pushing for anything other than the bare minimum from his cast and story.  It makes for an adequate distraction but not much more.  One day Stratham might work with a director with higher demands.  I think he would be interesting fodder for a Michael Mann film.  But until that day comes the bald headed ass kicker will simply have to role with things and hope a movie worth our effort comes around.

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Bolt (2010) – A co-worker was unusually adamant that I watch this standard issue looking Disney CGI film.  She seemed to be running under the assumption that becasue I put one of the hamsters we have at work in a plastic ball so that it could roll around the branch I would want to watch a movie that features a hamster in a ball as one of its main characters.  She don’t know me that well it seems.  Bolt is nothing awful or impossible to watch but it’s simply another in the endless line of interchangeable CGI kids flicks.  Here the Disney animators try to follow in the footsteps of bigger, brighter and more talented in house brother Pixar by judiciously borrowing certain story beats and character arcs for this story of dog who thinks he’s a superhero.  To make the point, Bolt is basically Buzz Lightyear as a dog.  But though animated to be as cute and cuddley as possible, giving him the voice of John Travolta was a mistake.  Bolt looks like a boundlessly energetic and plucky creature, but having the worn pipes of a middle aged actor come out of his yap ruins the effect.  Again, not horrible and not likely to make one weary or impatient, but pretty much geared to the 10 and under crowd only.

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The Last Airbender (2010) – To watch the continued decline of director M. Night Shyamalan has become akin to watching a someone asphyxiate themself with a belt, except they never actually die, they just keep choking.  Their tongue sticks out a little more, the eyes keep bulging wider and wider, they keep violently twitching again and again, their skin turns shades of purple you didn’t think existed and just when you think it’s over, a full body spasm strikes and the whole horror show starts again from the top.  This is what the one time wonder kid of cinema has become.  If he drifted into ham-fisted self parody with Lady in the Water and The Happening, Last Airbender is Shyamalan with all outward signs of personality and skill completely amputated.  It feels like a movie made by an 8 year old who has been force fed prozac for months on end until lethargic apathy is the only state of mind he can project.

To cover the story and characters would be a waste I can’t bring myself to tackle.  Every single thing about Airbender is so completely wooden, so painfully dull, so utterly directionless and random, so totally lacking in the slightest bit of energy or character or plain freaking sense that its existence as a tentpole, super-budget franchise starter defies all logic.  How anyone green lit Shyamalan’s coma inducing pseudo script is mind boggling and how he was allowed to continue to shoot after day one demonstrates complete recklessness and/or stupidity on the producers behalf.  No half intelligent person would’ve let this go forward unless they had an economic, or perhaps literal, gun to their head.  Character dialogue and action feels so stilted that it’s as if a script was never remotely completed and that everyone is reading this trite for the first time from illegible notes scribbled on a notepad hanging to the side of the camera.  Not one line of dialogue ever need be uttered again.  Even ironically.  The only thing anyone could possibly give a passing approval to are it’s special effects, and in this day and age how is that any kind of accomplishment?  This catastrophic load of movie crap doesn’t even have a decent scene by accident.  It’s as if the movie has been made with the explicit purpose of making people suffer misery and woe for 100 minutes.  The fact that it was seen as the first in a series of movies is even more mortifying.  To make someone watch anymore of this would amount to a crime against humanity.  We’d have to send Shyamalan to the Hague.

The only person I can fathom liking this movie is George Lucas.  Simply because it makes his legendarily lame Star Wars prequels look uniformly excellent by comparison.  If you saw it and gave a nod of approval do yourself a favor and tell no one.  This is an astoundingly terrible motion picture made by a man who’s gotten caught up in a tragic game of one upmanship with himself.  Each time he makes a film he sets the bar as low as reason would dictate it could go, then he finds a way to lower it more.  In this case, a lot more.

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Ten Word or Less Review: Text book example of a train wreck.

The stories of how Jonah Hex fell into the state of utter disrepair and incomprehension must be abundant and fascinating, endlessly more amusing than anything the movie has to offer.  The carcass on the table here is a slapdash 75 minutes of rote, western, comic book crap gutted of story, character and most of its plot.  Never trust a movie which begins with inordinate amounts of expository narration and montages.  As bad as it is and as long as you could spend picking it apart, there’s really only one example of its ineptitude which needs to be pointed out which demonstrates how screwed up this thing is.

When this pointless implosion of a movie reached its end credits, actor Michael Shannon’s name appeared emblazoned across the screen.  While not a house hold name Shannon is an Academy Award nominated actor (Revolutionary Road), stars in HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, and will be reimagining iconic comic book baddie Zod for the next Superman movie.  Josh and I looked at each other almost instantly because we both realized that Shannon had not been in the movie we just watched.  Not a line of dialogue, no scenes, nothing.  An actor being credited for a role not actually in the movie at hand is not uncommon, but it’s usually a small, insignificant supporting role.  Shannon’s name flashed across the screen after Brolin, Fox and Malkovich.  Poking around the deleted scenes we found Shannon’s scene but we’re left to wonder, how do you completely exercise a major, and talented, performer from a film but forget to take his name off the credits?  Such is the sad case of Jonah Hex, a lousy, non-starter comic book hero that joins the sad ranks of The Spirit, Judge Dredd, Catwoman, Electra, Steel and many more in the argument that not every damn comic book character needs a movie.   Especially not one like this.

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Ten Word or Less Review: Good movie you already saw on the nightly news.

Movies which critique and scrutinize the Iraq War and the Bush administration look doomed to fail forever.  There’s an entire genre of movies out there about the subject by now and all are widely seen as failures, if not critically then at least financially.  While these films vary in quality what unites them in their failure is that they’re simply combing over material which has already been analyzed and poured over for years by scores of other pundits in other mediums.  The nightly news dramatized this stuff for us for years and still does at it continues to play out to this day.  At this point there isn’t much left to say which will be revealing or insightful about Bush and his dubious legacy.  Such is the quagmire that Fair Game finds itself in.  In and of itself it’s a quality drama with good actors, tight directing and a screenplay worth being read.  But what it’s about feels less like timely drama and more like a rerun.

Naomi Watts plays Valerie Plame-Wilson, the undercover CIA operative who was exposed as an agent, an act of retaliation by cronies in the Bush Administration, I.E Scooter Libby, Karl Rove and possibly Dick Cheney.  The crime they retaliated against wasn’t even hers, but her husband’s, Joe Wilson.  Wilson was sent to Niger to look for evidence of a sale to Iraq of uranium enriched yellow cake, a vital component in making a nuclear device.  He found no evidence of this sale.  The Bush administration chose to ignore his findings and in a history making speech, George Bush told the world a great big lie.  Wilson then wrote an article calling the administration out as a pack of deceivers out to push a war on the American people based on fabricated evidence.  His wife’s career within the agency was subsequently destroyed when reporter Karl Novak outed her as a spy in a newspaper article about Joe Wilson.  Fair Game rifles through the details of Joe and Valerie’s life as it slowly unravels.  Joe begins to wage an unwinnable war against the White House, but his wife remains silent, unwilling to fight against a monolithic system at the expense of her family.  It’s solid, well made and very watchable.  It’s also old news.

Fair Game stands as a mark of improvement for director Doug Liman.  Liman has been an uneven hand in his 15 years as a helmer.  While his crowning achievement to date was the first Bourne film, or Swingers if you’re into the hip thing, it’s largely overlooked now in the wake of Paul Greengrass’s superior sequels.  After that came the silly Mr. & Mrs. Smith followed up by the wildly juvenile sci-fi piece, JumperFair Game is light years more grounded and grown up.  Free of the trappings of a superstar ego gratification vehicle or special effects romps for tweens, Liman shows he’s a good director of actors and at constructing realistic drama.  Fair Game isn’t showy, condescending or otherwise compromised.

Watts and Penn are the stars here.  I’m not sure Penn is acting so much as using Wilson as a vehicle for his similarly held political beliefs.  He’s a stay at home dad who becomes an unwavering crusader.  His part is the flashier of the two.  He slowly builds up to unhinged outrages at his situation and refuses to back down to pressure from the crypto fascists pulling the strings.  Watts has to hold things closer to the chest.  Palme-Wilson had a thorough understanding of the situation, one that her husband refused to subscribe to, and it created a rift in their marriage.  She wanted to be the quiet soldier who protected her family’s interest, he the outraged citizen David throwing rocks at the White House Goliath.  While the political slandering being fired at them were well documented, Penn and Watts create a believable couple being wrongly ripped apart by outside forces.

Fair Game gets points for being an entirely respectable movie in many regards.  It’s simply unfortunate that it’s based around events which still feel fresh and fairly well known to the world at large.  In another time and another place Fair Game may have found an appreciative audience, something fans of investigative cinema would champion, but in the world we live in too many people already know too many details to grab any lingering headlines.  Movies are too slow a medium to make an impact in this regard and as a consequence fine features like Fair Game wind up in the margins of movie history.

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Ten Word or Less Review: It’s sad when kids die.

The trauma that comes with losing an infant child is unfathomable to most and an experience that few would relish to watch a movie about.  Rabbit Hole bravely tries to portray this expereince by examining a married couple 8 months removed from their tragedy.  Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart are the devistated couple grasping with life after their 4 year old son was accidentially struck by a car . The grim subject matter is directed with taste by John Cameron Mitchell, never suffocating under dourness, but something about Rabbit Hole keeps getting under the skin in the wrong way.

Eckhart and Kidman are Howie and Becca, a couple trying to lift the fog of despair that hangs over their daily lives.  With the immediate pain of lose now subsided, and just a crushing, dull ache in it’s place, they’re starting to deal with their residual, long term grief in different ways.  Howie finds group therapy useful but Becca thinks their fellow parents in lose are righteous, grief junkies.  Becca starts to shed evidence of their son from around the house which angers Howie to no end.  He isn’t ready to let these things go and thinks Becca’s being insensitive in trying to systematically ‘erase’ their son.  Becca though can’t stand the constant reminders which cause her so much pain.  Back and forth they go on their emotional see-saw.  Eckhart and Kidman achieve a convincing dynamic of a struggling couple trying not to completely fall to pieces and the film stands tall on their performances.  While this backbone of the story gets the movie to where it wants to go, it’s too often undermined by occasions that seem emotionally contrived and out of sorts.

Rabbit Hole keeps setting up one uncomfortable and strained situation on top of another and after a while it starts to grate.  Kidman’s character in particular feels like someone who has lost the ability to manage real world relationships as she constantly fails in her dealings with family and strangers.  It’s certainly intentional and built into the character on purpose, but it strains credibility on more than one occasion.  Despondent or not, who could give their dead kid’s clothes to their pregnant sister and not think about how inappropriate and weird it is?  It’s moments like this where Rabbit Hole fails to give its characters enough credit as they blunder obliviously through awkward situations making them even more awkward.  Director John Cameron Mitchell (Hedwig and the Angry Inch) could’ve done with less instances of this kind of insightlessness, it makes his otherwise touching characters flirt with being downright dense in places.  Helping balance out things the other way is an engaging subplot about Becca attempting to befriend the teenager who accidentially killed her son. Newcomer Miles Teller gets some of the best, albeit fleeting, material as a teen struggling to come to grips with the accident he’s at the tragic center of, channeling his angst into a comic book about multiple dimensions entitled Rabbit Hole.

It feels wrong to pick on a movie trying admirably to deal with subject matter as sensitive as this, but I still think there was a less manipulative way to work through the story in some places.  While it’s not perfect it does provide an honest point of view about how the lose of children to parents can be complete in its devestation. Eckhart and Kidman’s couple want desperately to save themselves but their reactions to the experience grow divergent with time and it slowly pulls them apart.  The movie implies their survival as a couple is possible, but guarantees nothing.  In the end it doesn’t say ‘everything will be okay’ so much as it says ‘everything simply will be.’

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Ten Word or Less Review: French?  Animated?  Peculiar?  What went wrong?

Director Sylvian Chomet made The Triplets of Belleville eight years ago and I can still remember scenes, plot, characters and even the ramshackle, patchwork theater I saw it in on 4th St. as well as who I saw it with.  Yo M!  I finished watching his newest effort, The Illusionist, less than three hours ago and it’s already little more than a footnote in my mind.  I found a co-worker’s dramatic recounting of a trip to the dentist more resplendent with adventure than this faux, avant garde animated tedium.  Chomet has made an animated collaboration with French auteur Jacques Tati, the legendary helmer who gave the world Mr. Hulot.  And if you don’t know or care who that is, the director or the character, The Illusionist will be ten times less interesting for you than it was for me.

Tati’s Mr. Hulot is regarded in some misguided circles as a superior, French descendant of Chaplin’s Little Tramp.  But having seen two of Mr. Hulot’s so-called adventures he seems like little more than an oblivious, quiet guy who wonders around and bumps into things.  The Illusionist attempts a loose replication of this persona.  A wordless, down on his luck magician wonders from job to job, eeking out a living in 1959 as Rock & Roll mania stands poised to kill every old art form in its path, his included.  He performs for a Scottish village and the day he departs their company an impressionable girl stows away with him.  He feels compelled to provide for the girl, takes up new jobs to buy her things as she observes and befriends the strange gallery of weirdos who are his neighbors.  She eventually falls for a fellow across the street and he bids her adieu.  That’s it.

Really, that’s it.  The Illusionist is so painfully thin that the exceptional artwork and animation wind up amounting to zilch.  It’s difficult to completely dismiss such a wonderful looking, mostly hand drawn, animated feature in this CGI overloaded age but the invisible story leaves you little choice.  There’s nothing substantial or attention grabbing to make you take notice besides the delicate craft of animation itself.  After 30 minutes or so you’re left with a hopeless wondering of, ‘Should I care about anything happening?’  And the answer is a resounding ‘No.’

Illusionist leaps off the pier of animation ambition and quietly performs an elegant belly flop on the viewer.  There’s nothing at stake, nothing to invest in, nothing to hold on to.  Plenty of critics have extolled the virtues of this cartoon creation and I’m sure they mean well.  But I think in their attempt to champion that which feels like the work of a person and not a corporation they’re missing out on the fact that Illusionist is incredibly slight and almost non-existent as an actual story.  Chomet has a wonderful eye for animated stories and it’s a shame he chose to spend and effort on this hopelessly slight effort from an over-rated voice from the past.

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Ten Word or Less Review: Good doc about one of a kind subject.

The fascianting subject of this documentary is Mark Hogancamp.  Several years ago Mark was beaten within inches of his life outside of a bar by five lowlifes who wanted to stomp him to death because they thought he was gay.  He wasn’t, he just really likes women’s shoes.  Mark lost most of his memory and physical abilites and had to start from scratch at the age of 35.  While he overcame most of the physical effects of the event, it left him with no desire for alcohol as an odd plus, his mental ones took some unforseen turns.

Seeking a way to cope with his anger and sense of lose, Mark built the town of Marwencol, a 1/6th scale WWII camp populated with G.I. Joe’s and Barbie Dolls, each one a stand in for someone in Mark’s life, including himself.  He constructs detailed stories about life in Marwencol with his 1′ avatar the center of attention.  Mark’s stories are sometimes touching, often savage, WWII tales which echo the reality Mark tries to live with.  His friends and family each have little substitutes that inhabit the small, weird world he’s methodically constructed.  In addition to this, Mark positions his figures in precise places and photographs them, accomplishing a bizarre but very sincere form of storytelling. His photo’s are often shining examples of miniature photography.

As a documentary Marwencol is a little unpolished and like Mark’s story itself, there’s no real conclusion to be found. The movie culminates with Mark’s work being put on display in a New York art museum, his feelings about which seem very conflicted. It’s a unique story and despite the rather minor feeling of the filmmaking itself, Marwencol will probably capture the attention of many who watch it.