Monday, November 05, 2007

Some Fall New Release DVDs If You Please

Catching up on some new DVDs fresh out of the red Netflix envelope into my DVD player then onto my blog. Let's start with yet another movie I recently regretted missing at the theater:

NO END IN SIGHT (Dir. Charles Ferguson, 2007)

I was not the only one that missed this one in its brief limited release, from what I've heard it played to mostly empty theaters. 

Seems like most are tapped out when it comes to another liberal hatin' on Bush anti-war documentary so folks stayed away in droves. That's a damn shame because this is such a different animal than such staples as FAHRENHEIT 9/11 or WHY WE FIGHT, in that it gives us much more of a precise and sobering overview of the war in Iraq from one horrible decision to the next. 

Campbell Scott's straight narration (some have called it flat but I think it has more gusto than that) lies over the many interviewees that this manifesto is mostly made of. The ones interviewed are so high up in there that it can't be denied - sorting out the good guys from the bad can be quite a game.

I figure Colonel Paul Hughes who was director of strategic policy for the U.S. occupation in 2003 to be one of the good guys; Walter Slocombe (who comes across as a 'dumbfuck' as Natalie Maines would say) - senior advisor for National Security and Defense and head of CPA is, by my guess, one of the bad guys. 

It's funny how the line - "refused to be interviewed for this film" is so dramatically used again and again but not so funny when it pertains to administrator of the CPA L. Paul Bremer (whose 3 central mistakes make up the bulk of this film's crux), Dick Cheney, Condolezza Rice and asshole golden boy Donald Rumsfeld whose glib remarks like "I don't do quagmires" will anger any reasonable human.

Less an ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN than a 'All Satan's Men' this documentary is the definition of 'incendiary.' As a blogger pretending to be a substantial film critic I would say this is a "must see," but as a guy watching this in an apartment sitting on a couch with a cat - I just can't help from tearing up.
MR. BROOKS (Dir. Bruce A Evans, 2007) 

Without a doubt the best Kevin Costner film in ages, yeah I know that's not saying a lot, but hear (or read) me out. Costner plays Earl Brooks, a box company CEO who is in the dark of night a cold calculating serial killer. His murderous impulses are personified to him and us in the presence of Marshall (William Hurt) - an alter ego or better yet -an evil imaginary friend.

After a murder of a young couple in the bed of their townhouse, Mr. Brooks finds himself being blackmailed by a voyeur played by Dane Cook who has compromising photographs (the curtains were left open in the couple's bedroom). Cook though wants to be a killer himself, and wants Mr. Brooks to show him the ropes. This idea scares Brooks but amuses and challenges Marshall so on they go off into the night following a measured, but still convoluted scheme.

Meanwhile Demi Moore (who is far from believable but that may just be my own personal problem with Moore) as a beleaguered police detective suffering through a tortured and costly divorce is on their trail and Costner's daughter (Danielle Panabaker) is home from college under mysterious circumstances so the plot thickens. Maybe some would say it gets too thick, in more than one sense of the word.

I am reminded by the late Pauline Kael, several years after she retired from writing, speaking in a Newsweek interview about a little late '90s dog called THE DEVIL'S ADVOCATE (starring Al Pacino as the devil disguised as a big-time New York lawyer taunting up-start Keano Reeves).

Kael said that that film had a "hambone quality" to it that she enjoyed. I strongly feel the same thing can be said about MR. BROOKS. It has a lot of meticulously plotted psychological edges but they all frame what is essentially pulp - highly entertaining but kitsch all the same. This is what makes it work though, you don't employ Dane Cook if you are not aware of the diciness of your material, so director Evans and screenwriter partner Raynold Gideon (both collaborated on MADE IN HEAVEN, STARMAN, and STAND BY ME) know what they're doing to some degree.

Costner with his charisma in check coupled with Hurt's smug leering sociopath repartee, and a strangely sober yet almost satirical hold on the material makes MR. BROOKS resemble at more times than I'd like to admit a really good movie. Ham-boned as it is.

THE HOAX (Dir. Lasse Hallström , 2006) 
Definitely the best Richard Gere film in like...forever! In this tasty tale of a man who lies his way into a major book deal, Gere hits all the right marks. The man was struggling novelist Clifford Irving, and the lie was that in the early ‘70s, he conducted a book’s worth of interviews with Howard Hughes. Irving boasted that the resulting book would be “the most important book of the twentieth century.”

Hughes had been legendarily reclusive and completely out of the public eye for well over a decade so Irving, and professional partner Richard Suskind, portrayed by the always “on” Alfred Molina, speculate he would not come forward to denounce the fabricated project.

Gere and Molina also figure that Hughes denies everything anyway, so who would believe him. How could they go wrong?

The how is a huge part of the fun as is the amusingly audacious Gere and Molina’s back and forth banter. The cast is “on” as well, including Marcia Gay Harden as Irving’s exasperated wife and Julie Delphy as actress Nina Van Pallandt, who was Irving’s mistress.

THE HOAX takes some truthiness liberties that at times turn towards the surreal. That comes across in the almost cartoonishly pretentious people at MacGraw Hill that Irving pitches to, and the overwhelming sense that we don't know what to believe of what we’re seeing, especially when the supposed hired goons of Hughes’ show up at Irving’s door.

These fantastical touches though are executed in a more successful manner than in George Clooney's CONFESSIONS OF A DANGEROUS MIND - a likewise questionable, yet still engrossing, adaptation of ‘real’ events. Irving is credited as “technical advisor” on this film, but reportedly he disowns it, and has heavily denied its accuracy.

Irving really should get over himself! This may be the best thing he's ever had anything to do with.

More later...


Ellen said...

I didn't enjoy "Mr. Brooks" as much as you did -- mostly I watched it for William Hurt as the world's best evil imaginary friend. I think you're mistaken about the director, though; IMDb says it was directed by Bruce A. Evans, who also wrote the film (along with the screenplay for "Stand By Me").

Dan said...

Thanks Ellen - I've fixed that glaring error. Please feel free to send more corrections in the future.