The Kids Are All Right

Wears its indie badge with pride, for better and for worse.

When dramas about race, sexuality or the Holocaust abound in the autumn months, one’s guard almost immediately goes up. As critics, perhaps we are too trained to root out so-called “Oscar bait”, yet everything about the marketing for The Kids Are All Right had me convinced that it was nothing but. After all, is a warm, pandering statement about how we’re all people not to be defined by mere labels really what we need? That the film, while entirely undeserving of the persistent Oscar buzz it has recieved, makes the central lesbian relationship almost incidental to the family story is a brave move for two reasons; it dares to deviate from an obvious “Queer Cinema” veneer, which may alienate the expected target audience, and resultingly resists the temptation to rest on its laurels as a fluffy, quirky unconventional family pic.

Jules (Julianne Moore) and Nic (Annette Bening) are the aforementioned lesbian couple, living in California with their son, Laser (Josh Hutcherson), and daughter, Joni (Mia Wasikowska). Both Jules and Nic had a child each via a sperm donor, and when Joni turns eighteen, Laser convinces her to contact their biological father, Paul (Mark Ruffalo), a fun, laid-back restauranteur who represents a very different way of life compared to the stricter mode employed by their mothers. Indeed, the kids are all right, and it is the adults – particularly Jules and Nic – who must temper their worries that Paul is going to usurp their carefully-preened family unit. (Continued…)



Saw 3D

Hold on for the nutty climax.

This article is syndicated at Obsessed with Film. View it here.

Finally, the Saw series is over. Safely it can be reported that, with the off-the-rails, batshit crazy, series-capping ending to Saw 3D, an eighth film is incredibly unlikely. The 3D is tepid at best, the acting is risible and the script sucks, but thanks to its loony ending, this is a crowd-pleasing – if otherwise dubious – way to end the series.



Sexy, strange, and sadly not likely to hit cinema screens.

This article is syndicated at Obsessed with Film. View it here.

Gregg Araki’s work on oversexed youths reaches its most intoxicatingly silly in Kaboom, a film which caused a huge murmur at the Cannes Film Festival, and lit the room alight at the London fest, though still has struggled to secure distribution. With its alternative mode and wacky, off-the-wall style, it isn’t especially surprising, but this gleefully messy sci-fi sex comedy deserves better than the bargain bin, straight-to-DVD treatment it may end up facing.



Dorff proves himself a winning leading man.

Sofia Coppola’s winner of 2010’s Venice Golden Lion, Somewhere, begins as obnoxiously as her similarly frustrating (but also very good) Lost in Translation. A stationery shot of a flash car driving around a looping track countless times drags on interminably, garnering a mixture of stone-cold silence and stilted chuckling from the audience at the London Film Festival.

The plentifully long, static shots are staged precisely in the manner that shot Coppola to international acclaim with her 2003 Oscar-winning drama, remarking space and how people choose to fill it, and using this to demonstrate the soul-destroying ennui that wears her characters down within their still confines. Coppola, therefore, gets little points for originality or innovation here – in fact, she takes her technique to almost laughable excess, lingering on two women stripping for a good three-to-four minutes, and similarly fixating on Stephen Dorff’s character performing the seemingly dullest of activities – but she has found for her study a unique setting and a wonderfully understated pairing in the criminally underrated Dorff and Elle Fanning (sister of Dakota). (Continued…)



An intriguing man, no doubt.

Those first intimate glimpses of Motorhead’s frontman Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister in this eponymous doc – depicting  him living in a squalid, messy flat, playing video games on a modestly-sized TV, and cooking potatoes for himself – suggest that Greg Oliver and Wes Orshoski’s intimate, fly-on-the-wall approach to their enigmatic subject will provide a warts-and-all examination of one of metal’s most popular and influential mainstays. That Lemmy too often wanes towards subject idolatory rather than probing reportage suggests that the two inexperienced filmmakers are in slack-jawed awe of scoring this gig with their hero, and it blinds their objective goal to get inside the mysterious frontman’s head.

It would be difficult not to extrapolate some points of interest out of a figure as galvanising as Lemmy, yet given the footage spans approximately two years of coverage, the results here consist largely of various famous talking heads – an extensive bunch admittedly, ranging from Ozzy Osbourne, Alice Cooper, Dave Grohl and Metallica to the more eclectic likes of New Order and Jarvis Cocker – heaping endless praise on his contributions to music, and his legendary stature as a champion drinker and drug user. (Continued…)



Don't let anyone tell you what it is.

Just a few weeks ago, David Fincher’s masterful The Social Network confronted prevalent issues of social media and authenticity with regard to the truth of Facebook’s creation. In a different though no less arresting fashion, Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman’s speculative documentary Catfish, which was a smash hit at Sundance this year, is about a very different kind of truth, of how Facebook and indeed the smoke screen created by the Internet in general can allow grand opportunities for deception. The tale even dares to go further, not only confronting the truth of the story itself, but also whether it is in fact a story at all. Though almost certainly an expertly-woven faux-doc like Joaquin Phoenix’s transfixing I’m Still Here, the directors of Catfish, unlike Casey Affleck, refuse to admit it (though the ambiguity is enough for the Academy not to give it a second look).

Nev Schulman (Yaniv Schulman) has been conversing on Facebook with an eight-year-old child prodigy named Abby, who creates elaborate, brilliant paintings of Nev’s photographs. Nev soon discovers that Abby has an attractive older sister named Megan, and in the pursuit of a relationship with her, his media type brother Ariel and friend Henry document their various online exchanges. However, when some inconsistencies emerge in Megan’s story, the trio decide to travel to Michigan to uncover the truth. (Continued…)


Black Swan

Portman is the reason to watch.

As a self-confessed Darren Aronofsky obsessive (yes, I even loved The Fountain), imagine my discontent when his latest work, the much-hyped psychological ballet thriller Black Swan, bowed as the not only the biggest disappointment at this year’s London Film Festival (thus far), but as one of the year’s most overhyped works. Drawing curious raves from Venice (though my screening in London was met with a far more lukewarm response), Swan is noted as yet another gamble in the director’s daring oeuvre, this time adopting a more studio-friendly, genre-centric style and thematic, yet, inevitably, Aronofsky’s luck – at least temporarily – appears to have run out.

A prestigious New York ballet company is to host a production of Swan Lake, though director Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassell) wants to do things a little differently, and have the innocent White Swan and seductive Black Swan played by the same person. The naive and pristine Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) is Leroy’s first choice, though in order to keep the role, she will have to prove herself capable of playing a sexy tempress, or risk being replaced by her sexier, more confident colleague, Lily (Mila Kunis). With the mounting pressure of not only the production itself, but also the presence of Nina’s overbearing, retired ballerina mother Erica (Barbara Hershey), mounting up, Nina’s reality seems to slowly unravel; is Nina going crazy, or is her paranoia justified? (Continued…)