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"Snow Angels" ***, "Chapter 27" **, & "Teeth" ***

(Here are 3 reviews from my 2007 Sundance Film Festival Diary, originally posted to Harry Knowles ain't it cool news, that opened this past week in Baltimore. Of these three, I'd say don't miss "Teeth".)

“SNOW ANGELS” (***)

Included in the dramatic competition, Director and screenwriter David Gordon Green’s latest is a powerful film about failed relationships. Although the film is relentless and totally depressing in portraying the dynamics of the interactions of the characters, the script and acting are completely mesmerizing. Sam Rockwell (who also stars at Sundance in the psychological thriller “Joshua”-see below) and Kate Beckinsale are both riveting as divorced parents trying to deal with themselves and each other. However, Rockwell is the special standout as he subtly spirals down from a happy-go-lucky dude trying to reconnect with his wife to someone who totally loses control after a series of tragic events. Very realistic and powerful.


“CHAPTER 27 (**)

This premier by director/screenwriter Jarrett Schaefer has teenage heartthrob actor and musician Jared Leto portraying Mark David Chapman, who gained an astounding 70 pounds for the role. He literally hides behind the weight to portray Chapman’s three day stint in New York prior to his assassination of John Lennon. This film lays totally flat as the droll narration by Leto combines with his inane activities to try and explain the human behind the monster as he slowly becomes his idol Holden Caulfield (from J.D. Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye”). Although I’m sure the filmmaker had sincere intentions, I personally found it totally unnecessary and disgusting to immortalize this utterly worthless human being forever in film. One bit of advice: be sure to get plenty of caffeine before you view this one!


“TEETH” (***)

First time director Mitchell Lichtenstein creates a John Waters-like montage: part comedy and part horror story about a virgin teenager (the wonderful Jess Weixler who happened to win a special jury prize for acting) who discovers that her private parts have the capability of “dismembering” the male organ if she is provoked. This one must be seen to be believed and is sure to make the heartiest man squirm for hours! Look for it soon as it has been picked up by Lionsgate.

"Her Life Before Her Eyes" * 1/2

Sunday April 13th, 2008

What a mess! The guest moderator at Cinema Sundays at The Charles mentioned that it was ambiguous. I will add that it is an ambiguous mess!! I was hesitant from the start as the early reviews were verrry mixed (3 out 7 positive at the time on Rotten Tomatoes) but I so loved Vadim Perelman's first film (2003's great "The House Of Sand And Fog"), and was a fan of Evan Rachel Ward ("13"), and Uma is always nice on the eyes. But, ALAS, I should have heeded my initial feelings. The screening wasn't a total $$$ loss: The after discussion was well worth the price of admission. For the first time that I can remember, host, Jonathan Palevsky disagreed with this week's speaker, forensic psychologist Dr. Larry Raifman, as to what the hell the movie was even about! And that was after both of them had just screened it for the second time!! After Jonathan expounded his interpretation, nearly everyone in the crowd wanted to question his "logic". The bottom line question: Was it worth the 90 minutes to even try and figure this one out? Based on a novel by Laura Kasischke, the focus is on 17 year old high schooler Diana (Wood) who is confronted with a Columbine-type gunman in the ladies room with her best friend (a nice turn by Susan Sarandon's daughter, Eva Amurri). She then must choose who lives between the two of them. Flash forward 15 years to an older Diana (Thurman), who has settled into a family with her professor husband and child. It is approaching the 15 year anniversary of the tragedy and we see Diana slowly dissolve into angst and depression as the day approaches. Meanwhile, the story is flashing backwards and forwards throughout as we learn bits and pieces about the developing relationship between wild gal Diana and her goody 2 shoes friend, Maureen, as well as the relationship Diana is having with her family. So, you may be wondering, why all the discussion? That would involve spoilers so all I'll say is that it might have looked great on paper, but the screenplay and it's execution (despite the better than average photography and score by James Horner) is, well, a mess.

"Horton Hears A Who" *** 1/2

Thursday April 3, 2008

Most parents will probably stay away unless they take the kids, but, believe me, this one crosses over the line beautifully and is a delight to behold! Although the film doesn't approach the skill and brilliancy of last year's "Ratatouille", this one is worth seeing for it's wonderful script by Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul as well as the visuals utilizing the computer-animated talents of Chris Wedge's Blue Sky Studios (who gave us "Robots" and "Ice Age"). Add to that the wonderful voice overs by Jim Carrey, Steve Carell, and Carol Burnett (!) who dutifully and expressively tell this Dr. Seuss Tale of Horton the elephant who discovers the community of Whoville-which just so happens to live on a speck of pollen. The fun is in how Horton (Carey) tries to convince his jungle buds that there exists living things even though they can't be seen. Conversely, the mayor of Whoville (Carell) tries to convince the citizens of Whoville that there exists an elephant in the sky. Burnett plays the "evil" kangaroo who tries to organize the jungle animals to destroy the speck before the heresy expounded by Horton goes too far. Daurio and Paul utilize Seuss' poetry throughout the proceedings while the animation in the Whoville universe retains the style and whimsy of the books. The only negative for me was that the animation goes off track at times in the "real" world but, overall, this is great fun for all ages!

"Shine A Light" ****

Tuesday April 1, 2008

Rode over to the glorious art-deco Senator Theater to see Martin Scorcese's latest concert masterpiece. Creator of 1978's critically acclaimed "The Last Waltz" (which documents The Band's last performance at San Fran's Winterland and is considered, in many circles, the greatest concert film ever made), Martin has succeeded once again to produce, what I feel, will be the definitive Rolling Stone concert film. The first 5 minutes or so gives you a glimpse into the chaos that is The Stones as Marty tries to handle the logistics of the venue (New York's famed Beacon Theater in the fall of 2006) and with the group itself in trying to capture the raw energy and exuberance that only Mic and the boys can produce. Captured initially in B&W, you get the feeling that the crew will be flying from the seats of their collective pants trying to get it all right (e.g., Scorsese is practically held clueless until the last minute as to what will be the opening song in order to position his cameras for the right shot). Then, before you know it, the opening strains of "Jumpin' Jack Flash" fill the theater and off you go to experience one of the most impressive rock & roll shows you will ever see-whether it be live or on film. I know. I've seen them live at least 5 times from 1968 until February 2007 (the first and last times at the same venue-The Baltimore Civic Center/Arena). Interspersed are a smattering of mainly archival interview snippets that depict what these old rockin' dudes were like over 35 some years ago. There was some criticism I've read/heard that more recent interviews would have been nice to see and hear. I say, NO WAY! This isn't a interview film. It's a concert film (as Gumby would say) "DAMNIT!" Asked by Dick Cavett in 1972 whether he pictured himself doing this at 60, Jagger answered as quickly as he could, "Yes"! and the next shot is a 63 old Jagger doing his thing. Another criticism I've read/heard: too much Mic. Again, I say hogwash. The Stones ARE Mic Jagger. After 2 hours of watching you won't believe how exhausted you'll be, much less this 63 year old human marvel who moves more now than when he was 20! You get enough of the other guys to know their importance to the whole, but the show is all about Jagger and his mystique. The show includes 3 numbers in which Mic & the boys are joined by Jack White, Christine Aguilera, and Buddy Guy and, particularly the latter 2, don't disappoint or subtract from the mix. When I saw them last year, I said that would be it. I didn't want to see any of them keel over on stage-that I wanted to be certain that I would be left with a pleasant musical memory that would last forever. After seeing this, though, I want to see them again! It is that good!! Special note: Be certain you catch it at a theater well equipped to handle the sound. The Senator, with its state-of-the-art sound system, is the perfect venue that captures the 2 hour vitality that will have you thoroughly entertained-and exhausted!!!