When I began writing reviews for the Journal in June 2003, I had no idea how it would go or how long I would keep writing the column. Now, some eight-plus years later, I think it’s time to say farewell to regular reviewing.
By and large, the years reviewing movies have been very enjoyable. If that comment sounds somewhat qualified, it is due primarily to the type of films we get locally, which, clearly, are not the sort I deeply enjoy in general although there have been any number of exceptions. At any rate, things change including me and the Journal. Initially, the column was called “Charlie in Filmland,” and I wrote all the reviews and previews. I used to cover most of the films that opened here. In the beginning, I had fun panning films I didn’t care for, but over the years that aspect just became tedious, no doubt for both myself and readers. Eventually, due to several factors including my frequent travel, the column became Filmland and material was written by a variety of people.
I would like to acknowledge one major influence that led to my reviewing “career,” namely publisher Judy Hodgson who enthusiastically pushed me into this endeavor and who constantly supported the column. Thanks as well to those who were burdened with editing the column, particularly Arts and Culture Editor Bob Doran and staff writer Ryan Burns.
Since coming to Humboldt County back in 1969 to teach at HSU, I came to know a lot of people locally, people who were familiar with my sense of humor and taste in films. As a result, the reviews have been more personal than would be possible in a big city newspaper. One of the joys of the column has been the conversations with people, both strangers and those who know me, about the reviews, conversations that likely would not otherwise have occurred. So many thanks to all who approached me to talk about movies in stores, on the street, or wherever. I hope you will not stop. Perhaps theJournal might even allow me a guest reviewer gig now and again. Meanwhile, I end with the two reviews below.
POINT BLANK. The French thriller Point Blank (no relation to the 1967 Lee Marvin film of the same name), co-written and directed by Fred Cavayé, cuts immediately to the chase -- literally. Without preamble, the film begins with a man, who turns out to be Hugo (Roschdy Zem), being chased by two other men carrying guns. As one of them closes in, the man being chased is suddenly struck by a motorcycle going very fast.
He ends up in a hospital with head injuries and other damage, and when nurse’s aide Samuel (Gilles Lellouche) foils another attempt to kill the man in the hospital, he becomes embroiled in a vast web of corruption and conspiracy that involves the Paris police among others. Thus, like Hitchcock’s protagonist Roger Thornhill (Cary Grant) in North By Northwest, the film follows the innocent ordinary individual who finds himself caught in forces he doesn’t comprehend but must survive.
It is also a woman in danger narrative since Samuel’s pregnant wife Nadia (Elena Anaya) is kidnapped by the bad guys (which actually is almost everyone else in the film) and threatened with death unless Samuel gets Hugo, also a bad guy, out of the hospital so he can be killed.
I can’t remember the last time I felt this tense for almost 90 minutes, and I haven’t seen so much running in a film since Run Lola Run. This is not the slow-paced, philosophical French thriller that is normally distributed here. In fact, the film rarely pauses in its relentless drive to a climax. As with Samuel, the viewer has little time for reflection. Any pause might doom both Samuel and Nadia, and give the viewer too much time for reflection. Samuel discovers that he has virtually no one to turn to for help. As it turns out, though, help sometimes comes from an unlikely source and, occasionally, doing a good turn actually has good consequences.
As Samuel, Lellouche is very believable as an ordinary man whose desperation drives him to perform in extraordinary ways. His performance and the frenetic pace of the film make it easy to overlook some unbelievable scenes. I don’t want to spoil the ending, but viewers may be surprised by how this particular French film concludes.
Point Blank is very effective entertainment. Too bad I was the only person at the screening. Give it a try before it leaves. Rated R. 90m. At the Minor.
ABDUCTION. It is somehow depressingly apt that my last regular review is about this exercise in bland mediocrity. I chose the film because it’s directed by John Singleton whose first film was the fine, if perhaps now dated, Boyz n the Hood. Unfortunately, this teen romance/thriller/Taylor Lautne- tries-to-show-his-abs-are-useful-for-more-than-the-pleasure-of-scopophilia (it’s my last review, I couldn’t resist) film could have come from almost any vaguely competent commercial director.
After an opening featuring a generic high school drinking party, the film momentarily becomes interesting when protagonist Nathan (Lautner) begins to suspect that he was adopted by his supposed parents, played by Jason Isaacs and the wonderful Maria Bello. But soon thereafter, the nasty guys arrive on the scene and the film degenerates into a series of over-the-top action scenes where Lautner gets to exercise his abs, show off his athleticism, and beat up a number of guys who are way bigger than him, all while trying to track down his character’s biological father so he can be reprimanded for abandoning the young Nathan. The romance part of the film involves Nathan and his comely high school neighbor Karen (blandly and predictably played by Lily Collins).
Lautner may be the worst Hollywood actor currently working. He has managed to perfect one look: a steely squint-eyes glower reminiscent of a werewolf trying to stare down a hated vampire. Yet, the film is built solely around his presumed box office appeal. He’s surrounded by good experienced actors (Bello, Isaacs, Alfred Molina, Sigourney Weaver), but the target audience could care less about them and others wisely won’t see the film anyway.
If love means never having to say you’re sorry, then not reviewing means I’ll never have to see crap like this again. PG-13. 106m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.
The Arcata Theatre Lounge is gearing up for Halloween, starting with a sci-fi horror thriller on Friday (1990's campy ground-worm flick Tremors), continuing with David Cronenberg's brilliant and grody 1984 remake of The Fly, and moving into next week with 1991's movie version of The Addams Family. Admission for each film is $5. The first two start at 8 p.m., Addams Family at 6. And on Wednesday, Oct. 6 it's Sci-Fi Pint and Pizza Night with a double bill of House on Haunted Hill (1959) and The Amazing Mr. X (1948). Free with $5 food or drink purchase. Doors at 6 p.m.
50/50. Those are the odds of survival for Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a 27-year-old NPR staffer who gets diagnosed with a rare spinal cancer. With help from his boistrous best bud (Seth Rogen), Adam tries to live with those odds in this dramedy from the director of The Wackness. R. 100m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Minor.
DREAM HOUSE. Daniel Craig, Rachel Weisz and Naomi Watts bring star power to the oldest of old school horror tropes, the haunted house. Adding to the curiosity factor: This sucker is directed by Jim Sheridan (My Left Foot, In America). Curious indeed. PG-13. 110m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.
WHAT'S YOUR NUMBER? High concept alert! Ally Darling (Anna Faris) reads in a magazine that women who've slept with more than 20 dudes are more likely to die alone, so she seeks out her first 20 only to discover that the right man was, uh, Chris Evans. R. 107m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.
THE GUARD. Brendan Gleason plays a punchy Irish cop and Don Cheadle the straighlaced FBI agent assigned to help him investigate an international drug-smiggling ring. Word has it these two brilliant actors offer a master class in odd-couple humor. Sight unseen, this is a Journal pick o' the week. R. 96m. At the Minor.
COLUMBIANA. A girl witnesses her parents' murder and, naturally, become an assassin. Wouldn't you? Rated PG-13. 107m. At Garberville.
CONTAGION. Society is faced with a fast-moving, lethal, airborne epidemic. For Humboldt movie fans: It's kinda like Outbreak. Rated PG-13. 106m. At the Broadway, the Minor, Fortuna and Mill Creek.
DRIVE. Stunt driver by day, getway driver by night, badass throughout. Rated R. 103m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.
DOLPHIN TALE. True story of an injured dolphin saved by a prosthetic tale so that she could star in a ridiculously adorable movie. Rated PG. 113m. At the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.
THE HELP. A racially diverse group of women form an unlikely friendship around a secret writing project in segregated 1960s Mississippi. Rated PG-13. 146m. At the Broadway.
KILLER ELITE. Jason Statham stars in a Jason Statham movie. Bang bang. Rated R. 116m. At the Broadway, Fortuna and Mill Creek.
THE LION KING 3-D. Simba, Pumbaa and Timon ... in 3D! Rated G. 89m. At the Broadway.
MONEYBALL. When assembling your baseball team, don't go with your gut. Rated PG-13. 133m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek
RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES. This is when it all went bad for us humans. Thanks a lot, James Franco. Rated PG-13. 110m. At the Broadway.