Quantum of Black Speed Flash Gonzo Truth Strain Boogie Racer

Awards screeners are starting to come in hard & fast now, so here’s a hectic (and almost certainly incomplete) roundup of movies I’ve watched these last few weeks. In order of preference!

My Mother, My Bride, and I/Die Zweite Frau
Another cross-cultural love story from Europe, this time bridging Bavaria and Romania. Erwin Kobarek (Matthias Brandt) picks Irina (Maria Popistasu) out of a catalog, but his mother (Monica Bleibtreu) disapproves. One of my favorites at the Hamptons Film Fest. Hans Steinbichler, 2008. ****

Speed Racer
I’m still kicking myself for missing this in the theater. Delirious, demented, delicious. Andy & Larry Wachowski, 2008. ****

Black Ice/Musta jää
I liked this twisted Finnish thriller in Berlin, and it got even better on second viewing in the Hamptons. Let’s hope it doesn’t just get remade, but also released in the U.S. Petri Kotwica, 2007. ****

Werther
This punk rock adaptation of Goethe’s classic is either a pretentious disaster or wildly romantic triumph. Possibly both. Either way, Hannah Herzsprung is out of this world. HIFF. Uwe Janson, 2008. ***

Dunya & Desie
Movie version of a long-running Dutch TV show about two teenage friends. Dunya (Maryam Hassouni), the daughter of Muslim immigrants, returns to Marocco, and her bubbly friend Desie follows. Thoroughly sweet & enjoyable. HIFF. Dana Nechushtan, 2008. ***

Boogie
Bogdan’s on vacation with his wife and child when he runs into his old buddies who still call him Boogie and insist to take him out on a wild night. Perceptive and unassumingly real, Boogie snuck up on me. More from Danny Kasman. HIFF. Radu Muntean, 2008. ***

Troubled Water/DeUsynlige
This gripping redemption story starring Trine Dyrholm won Best Narrative Feature and the audience award at the Hampton’s Film Fest. Marcy reviews. Erik Poppe, 2008. ***

Nothing But the Truth
Reasonably amusing fun-house mirror version of the Miller/Plame case. Could’ve used more Vera Farmiga — but that’s true of every movie. Rod Lurie, 2008. ***

Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson
I love the man as much as anyone, but the only HST movie I really need to see at this point is The Rum Diaries. Alex Gibney, 2008. ***

The Bad and the Beautiful
Kirk Douglas as selfish Hollywood producer who screws over Lana Turner. Highly entertaining until the wimp-out ending. Vincente Minnelli, 1952. ***

Barocco
Curiously surreal crime/love story starring Isabelle Adjani and Gerard Depardieu in two roles. Andre Techine, 1976. ***

Flash Gordon
Ornella Muti! Mike Hodges, 1980. ***

Quantum of Solace
Seems like I was entertained. The editing blew. That’s all I remember. Marc Foster, 2008. **

Dancers/Dansen
Annika (Trine Dyrholm) falls in love with a rapist. Dyrholm is terrific but the movie pales compared to Der Freie Wille. HIFF. Pernille Fischer Christensen, 2008. **

’77
As a major Star Wars geek, I tried my best to like this sci-fi coming-of-age story. But you know what the man says: there is no try. More from Karina Longworth. HIFF. Patrick Read Johnson, 2007. **

Shadowboxer
So lurid and godawful, we couldn’t stop. Cuba Gooding Jr. bonks Helen Mirren — with a gun! Lee Daniels, 2005. **

The Andromeda Strain
A long time ago, I was sent to bed after the first 15 minutes. Finally finished it. Dull science procedural was not worth the wait. More from Glenn Erickson. Robert Wise, 1971. **

What Just Happend
Rough going, but we held out until Bruce Willis shows up in wooly beard. Barry Levinson, 2008. N/R.

Joshua

joshua2-400.jpg

A thriller about the horrors of parenthood, Joshua takes its cues from the tradition of The Omen, Rosemary’s Baby, and Poltergeist. In a spacious apartment overlooking Central Park, a family celebrates the arrival of their second child. Brad and Abby Cairn (Sam Rockwell and Vera Farmiga) are squabbling with her mother-in-law (Celia Weston) while Uncle Ned (Dallas Roberts) plays a piano duet with nine-year-old Joshua (Jacob Cogan). But when Ned launches into “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” Joshua throws up all over the fancy Fifth Avenue carpet. Projectile vomiting: check.

You see, Joshua prefers the melancholy music of Béla Bartók, and unlike his scruffy, affable dad, he wears his hair in a neat part. To his mother’s distress, he is fond of embalming his teddy bear, and at night he creeps around corners and pops up behind the closing doors of the stainless-steel refrigerator. Spooky children staring down darkened hallways and pressing their noses against TV screens showing static: check.

To build its oppressive atmosphere of dread, Joshua, directed by George Ratliff and written by Ratliff and David Gilbert, relies on borrowed imagery, but snappy dialogue and memorable acting help to update genre cliches to the present. The film offers apt observations about the fears and anxieties of upper-class parents circa 2007, and especially Farmiga (wasted in The Departed) puts a contemporary face on the fearful mother beset by a screaming baby, meddling in-laws, ever-present construction noise, and the alarmingly intelligent first child who appears to threaten her entire adult existence.

I’ll gladly confess that Joshua had me in its grip for most of its running time. The film provides an involving experience while it lasts, but the payoff is less than satisfying. Without spoiling it, all I can say is that Joshua doesn’t resolve so much as simply end, and the story does not hold up to much retrospection. What must have looked like a clever idea on paper turns brittle on screen, and our willing suspension of disbelief goes unrewarded. Little Joshua will never haunt our dreams like Damien or the lost child from Don’t Look Now.

Joshua. George Ratliff, 2007. **

Joshua
is slated for release on July 6. Here’s the trailer:

The Departed

Marty’s Hearty Head Shot Show. Confident entertainment, especially if you like tough talk and cell phones.

The Departed. Martin Scorsese, 2006. **

[tags]film, 2 stars, thriller, cops, guns, murder, martin scorsese, leonardo dicaprio, matt damon, jack nicholson, mark wahlberg, martin sheen, vera farmiga[/tags]