Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Review: Heartbeats
4.5 stars (out of 5)
By R. Kurt Osenlund

It's extraordinarily rare to be able to watch someone blossom as a filmmaker while he also matures into an adult. That sounds more than a little condescending, but it's one of the many refreshing, organic joys of the work of Xavier Dolan, the 22-year-old Québécois wunderkind who with two films has exhibited more natural talent than a whole smattering of Hollywood directors. Inevitably (if a bit hastily), he's been likened to Truffaut, who, along with Godard, Wong Kar Wai and Gus Van Sant, has clearly influenced and informed his moviemaking. His youth has also drawn comparisons to Orson Welles, who so famously developed “Citizen Kane” at the tender age of 25. Perhaps the greatest thing about Dolan is he represents a rare and vital link between those who appreciate and emulate the earth-shaking artistry of early masters and those enamored of a culture that's younger, hipper and sexier. He's the necessary bridge over a filmic generation gap. “Heartbeats” (“Les Amours imaginaires”), Dolan's second feature as writer, director, producer and star, is a marked improvement over his first effort, “I Killed My Mother” (“J'ai tué ma mère”), itself enough to make him an instant sensation. His latest is a stirringly confident reflection of artistic and personal growth, and a fetching commentary on the anguish of desire.

Monday, March 21, 2011


Review: Limitless
2.5 stars (out of 5)
By R. Kurt Osenlund

By the time zero-to-hero protag Eddie Morra is seen slurping a dead man's blood off the floor because he's desperate for the performance-enhancer coursing through the stiff's veins, you feel you kinda have to hand it to “Limitless” – no one can accuse this consummately tacky actioner of failing to honor its title. Infectiously and unabashedly gung-ho, it knows scarce few bounds in terms of making the outlandish most of its skyscraping concept, which concerns an illegal wonder drug that allows its user to fire on all cylinders and access every last wrinkle of his or her brain. Directed by Neil Burger (2006's “The Illusionist”) and released through the newly-minted Virgin Produced label, the movie is akin to its leading character: it's driven by pleasure principles and base-level desires, it uses feigned pomp and swagger to effectively woo its audience, and it aggressively burns the candle at both ends. For a film that appears to be in all ways forgettable, it does what it does rather well, and people are going to love it. That, however, is precisely the problem.

Monday, March 14, 2011


Review: Red Riding Hood
2 stars (out of 5)
By R. Kurt Osenlund

One of the very first scenes of “Red Riding Hood” shows a young version of the film's heroine, Valerie (played by wee blonde Megan Charpentier), sneaking into the woods with a boy to capture a white rabbit. It's no “Alice in Wonderland” pursuit – the rabbit, the boy says, could lend its fur to a nice pair of shoes, and with that, little Valerie pulls out a dagger and prepares to slit Peter Cottontail's throat. “Good girls aren't supposed to hunt rabbits or break the rules,” a narrator tells us. You certainly don't need to go fishing through the underbrush to pick up what the people behind this dark update are putting down. In a tacky bit of “Twilight” déjà vu, director Catherine Hardwicke, working from a script by David Leslie Johnson (“Orphan”), once again explores a loss of lily-white innocence and a feral female's rise to womanhood by translating a popular text into rudimentary popcorn entertainment. This time, however, it's hard to imagine even the womanhood-bound core audience being all that entertained.

Monday, March 7, 2011


Review: The Adjustment Bureau
2.5 stars (out of 5)
By R. Kurt Osenlund

At first, it seems the sci-fi thriller “The Adjustment Bureau” puts far too much stock in the precarious notion of love at first sight. Having just lost a race for the U.S. Senate, New York congressman David Morris (Matt Damon) has a fleeting encounter with the pretty and plucky Elise (Emily Blunt) in a hotel bathroom before being told by a bunch of shadowy suits that he's never to see her again. These suits, of course, are dangerous mystery men who control our world's everyday operations, and who threaten to lobotomize David if he reveals their existence or pursues Elise. Why, then, does he continue to follow his heart? Can this Philip K. Dick-based fantasy yarn actually make the romance seem convincing and worth the ominous stakes? The answer, in fact, is yes. Damon and Blunt have a winsome, authentically playful chemistry that makes up for their underwritten association, and David's increasing defiance accounts for a good chunk of his motivation. It's the stakes themselves that don't add up, as writer/director/producer George Nolfi fails to fully realize the rules and the risks of the world he puts on screen. It's not a lack of love that's the problem, it's a lack of commitment.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


Review: Hall Pass
1 star (out of 5)
By R. Kurt Osenlund

For what feels like eons, it's hard to even pinpoint what “Hall Pass” is about. As Rick, a husband and father with car-salesman fashion sense, Owen Wilson is seen having inappropriate conversations with his young daughters, barely dodging the advances of the family's sexy babysitter (Alexandra Daddario) and skirting the simple responsibilities set forth by his genial wife, Maggie (Jenna Fischer). As Fred, Rick's best friend who instantly gives off a vague child-molester vibe, Jason Sudeikis is seen hitting on baristas and discussing the shock of post-marriage masturbation, while his wife, Grace (Christina Applegate), explains to onlookers the science of Fred's infatuation with turning and gawking at every passing lady's trunk of junk. With roughly 20 minutes down the tubes, all that's shown here are the generic, charmless antics of sex-obsessed man-boys caught in the throes of arrested development. And then reality hits: the generic, charmless antics of sex-obsessed man-boys caught in the throes of arrested development is precisely what this movie is about. Bummer.