Find Me At Screen Rant

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Let The Right One In (****)


Let The Right One In returns the vampire movie from the stock horror violence and profitable tween sexiness of recent years to its origins of moody dread. Here, the vampire is not romanticized or adrenalized; the toil, logistics, and misery of nocturnal bloodlust is on full display. Yet remove the vampire aspects from the movie and Let The Right One In is a sad, touching, strangely sweet story of Oskar and Eli, two desperately lonely 12 year olds living in bleak, wintry Sweden, who find a genuine connection with each other. The themes of love, loyalty, and sacrifice between the two children, one of whom has been 12 years old for a very long time, are moving and powerful. But the girl Eli is a vampire, who lusts for blood and must feed on the living. Oskar deduces this, sees it all for himself, asks the right questions, and understands. The stripped down, practical effects used for the vampire in Let The Right One In - such as when Eli climbs up the sheer wall of a hospital, leaps onto a victim to feed, and saves Oskar from the bullies trying to kill him at the swimming pool, are far more intriguing and terrifying than all the CGI Hollywood has been able to muster. Let The Right One In also answers the age-old question of why a vampire must be invited inside a home and what happens to her otherwise. Vampire horror aside, the heart of Let The Right One In is the relationship between Oskar and Eli, as he discovers what it means to truly have a friend you love and would do anything for. And Eli? Is she only using Oskar, sinking her fangs into him when he's young, guaranteeing a lifetime of co-dependence and tending to her nocturnal needs? Yes, she is. Though perhaps she does feel affection for Oskar as well. Or is Eli even a she? Perhaps. Though the vampire's heart no longer beats physically, it's still very much alive.

Friday, April 17, 2009

State of Play (***)


Murder, political corruption, and a slick Hollywood attaboy to the dying state of newspapers and print media. State of Play argues strongly in favor of the importance of newspapers - specifically pavement-pounding, truth-seeking reporters - in uncovering conspiracies within circles of power and influence. Even Rachel McAdams's Capitol Hill gossip blogger learns the error of her insubstantial, trolling-for-website-hit ways and becomes a real reporter by the end. Looking like a scruffy, portly lion, Russell Crowe leads a very fine cast including McAdams, Helen Mirren, Robin Wright Penn, Harry Lennix, and Jason Bateman in a scene stealing walk on. (Now I know what a "gay-rage" is.) Ben Affleck returns in front of the camera (against my wishes) as a callow US Congressman who's unconvincingly supposed to be the same age as and the former college roommate of Crowe. Affleck wastes no time in crying during his second scene, preserving his winning record of bursting into tears in his movies intact. The plot is a slightly cracked Mobius strip; the verisimilitude State of Play works so hard for is tarnished by occasional heapings of patented Hollywood bullshit. Aspects of the plot so closely resemble the events of 24 season 7 that I half expected Jack Bauer and Renee Walker to burst into some scenes and start shooting. The use of Washington DC locations was enjoyable. I liked the last shot, with Crowe and McAdams's matching silhouettes walking off together.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Adventureland (***1/2)


Honest, sweet, funny, and raw, Adventureland is a labor of love from writer-director Greg Mottola. Set in 1987, Adventureland is a rare gem of a film about twentysomethings working a dead end summer job in a depressing amusement park in suburban Pittsburgh. The dialogue is careful and clever; the jokes and insights sound familiar and true to the bright, bored and lazy souls who may recognize aspects of themselves in these characters. The pacing is lackadaisical; it invokes a summer of low-paying monotony and tedium, occasionally interrupted by moments of life-changing excitement, with all the confusion that accompanies with those moments. There are bits of sheer cinematic joy, such as the cast watching fireworks together set to Crowded House's "Don't Dream It's Over" and having a blast riding the bumper cars as The Cure's "Just Like Heaven." I enjoyed the sharp, heartfelt dialogue but also how much was said between the characters without verbalizing, thanks to the fine-tuned performances by the stellar young cast, toplined by Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart, supported ably by Ryan Reynolds, SNL's Bill Hader and Kristin Wiig, and Martin Starr from Party Down.  It's wonderful to see Kristen Stewart play a complicated real person and not lusting after a shiny vampire. Eisenberg at first seems like an older Michael Cera impressionist; his character James is a well-read intellectual whose naivete occasionally lends itself to a bit of douchebaggery, but he turns out to be a pretty decent guy overall. I enjoyed the genuine interaction, friendships and relationships between the characters more than the comedy, like the running gag of Eisenberg covering up his boners. The 1987 setting and the killer soundtrack, which was woven organically into the movie, were among the best things about Adventureland.