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richard jenkins Archives - Funerals & Snakes

Review: The Red House, 21 & Over, Liberal Arts and Broken City

By Cinema and Reviews

The Red House posterAlyx Duncan’s The Red House is a lovely example of how ideas that evolve, adjust, transform over time can produce work that is just as coherent and complete as if it arrived fully formed. Originally conceived several years ago as a documentary about her ageing parents who were thinking about leaving the house she grew up in and starting again overseas, her film is now a poetic and impressionistic — as well as fictional — meditation on place and belonging.

In the finished film — unlike real life — Lee (Lee Stuart) follows Jia (Meng Jia Stuart), his wife of 20 years, to Beijing where she has travelled to care for her own frail parents. He packs up the few belongings he is able to take with him from the years of assembled mementos, books and treasures, burning much of what is left over. Voiceover from both characters lets the audience know how difficult this transition is, as well as telling the backstory of an unlikely — and lovely — relationship.

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Review: Reel Brazil festival, Win Win, Shark Night 3D, The Help, The Holy Roller, Friends With Benefits & Upside Down- the Creation Records Story

By Cinema and Reviews

Reel Brazil 2011 posterTo really understand a country you have to go and live there — embed yourself with the people, soak up the culture. If you don’t have the time or inclination for that then the next best thing to is to get stuck in to their commercial cinema. Not the stuff that makes it into major international film festivals like Berlin and Venice, not the stuff that gets nominated for foreign language Academy Awards, but the films that are made to excite and please a local audience. That’s what festivals like Reel Brazil are all about — a week-long portrait of a country via its cinema.

In the late 60s Brazil had a kind of Brazilian Idol television pop competition where brave young artists performed their top song in front of a live audience baying for blood as if they were watching Christians versus lions. But in A Night in 67 we see that year’s competition rise above the boos and jeers to open a new chapter in Brazilian pop music — legendary names like Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso compete to win over the tough crowd and in the process launch massive international careers.

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Review: Iron Man 2, Home by Christmas and Dear John

By Cinema and Reviews

Iron Man 2 posterOh dear, what a disappointment 90% of Iron Man 2 is. Rushed into production after the original became the surprise runaway hit of 2008, relying far too heavily on the deadpan charisma of a coasting Robert Downey Jr. – the first time I’ve ever seen him this disengaged – and with a story that does no more than tread water until the arrival of the inevitable episode 3, IM2 offers very little in the way of character development and not enough action to compensate.

Downey Jr is Tony Stark once again, milking his fame as saviour of the free world while the secret power source in his chaest that fuels Iron Man (and keeps him alive) slowly poisons him from within. Just when he doesn’t need an adversary, along comes a crazy Russian physicist/wrestler named Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke) looking for revenge on the Stark family who stole his father’s research. Vanko’s technology is co-opted by Stark’s greatest business competitor, weapons developer Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell) and between them they attempt to destroy Stark and corner the market in high-tech military gadgetry.

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Review: The American, The Disappearance of Alice Creed, Let Me In, Due Date and Machete

By Cinema and Reviews

I got some feedback on this column the other day. Apparently I “write well” but I “don’t like much”. Perhaps I am a little jaded after four and a half years in these pages but I am pleased to report that this weekend I saw five films on your behalf and enjoyed all of them. Yes, all of them.

The American posterIn the first scene of The American, George Clooney does something so un-Clooney-like that audience members beside me audibly gasped. He plays a hit-man who might be called Jack or Edward but is probably neither.

After narrowly escaping an attempt on his own life he holes up in picturesque Castel del Monte in the mountains of central Italy. As a single-minded professional with no ties, Jack could be the brother of Clooney’s corporate assassin in Up in the Air and like that film it takes unexpected feelings for a beautiful woman to make him realise how empty his life is.

Directed by famous photographer Anton Corbijn (The Joshua Tree etc), every frame of The American is luscious and perfectly composed, Mr. Clooney makes this stuff look easy and if you’re in the market for a quality Euro-art-house Bourne-type thriller then look no further.

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Review: Eat Pray Love, Buried and The Town

By Cinema and Reviews

Eat Pray Love posterEat Pray Love is what they used to call, in the old days, a “women’s picture” and the advertisers who have paid good money to annoy audiences before the film make sure you know it: feminine hygiene products. A chromosomal anomaly on my part means that I’m not in the target market for this film (or the bestselling book that inspired it) but I’ll give it a go. Manfully.

Julia Roberts plays Liz, a phenomenally bad playwright and (supposedly) successful author who has a crisis and ends her (supposedly) unsatisfactory marriage to bewildered and hurt Billy Crudup. Never having lived without a man in her life she goes straight into a relationship with handsome and spiritual young actor James Franco.

Still unhappy, and a source of enormous frustration to her ethnically diverse best friend Viola Davis (Doubt), she uses her share of the Crudup divorce to take a year off and find herself — Italy for the food, India for the guru and Bali for Javier Bardem.

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Recognition for Downey Jr. and Jenkins

By Cinema
Robert Downey Jr. as Kirk Lazarus as Sgt. Osiris in Tropic Thunder

Robert Downey Jr. as Kirk Lazarus as Sgt. Osiris in Tropic Thunder (NY Daily News)

As predicted here back in August, Robert Downey Jr has been nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his fantastic work in Tropic Thunder. He won’t win it, of coure, for the simple reason that actors nominate actors but the entire Academy then votes for the winner. Actors know how amazing that Tropic Thunder performance is — the technical ability, the control, the detail — but when the entire Academy votes sentiment will trump everything and Heath Ledger will romp home. But I stand by my opinion — Downey Jr’s was the best performance I saw last year in anything.

I’m also pleased to see Richard Jenkins get a nod for The Visitor. I was lucky enough to interview him last year for the Capital Times and he was a delight – modest, charming and generous.