The House


The Mist

Were The Mist about mist and not monsters, human or otherwise, it might have remained nervy and unsettling, instead of simply icky and unpleasant, for the bulk of its running time. Frank Darabont's elephantine adaptation of a rather slim Stephen King novella, while well-acted and intriguingly shot, loses its footing, like a lot of films that should be fun, when it starts preaching. Not content (or strong enough?) to be a film about cloudy (foggy?) judgments, The Mist carves up the world into discrete factions meant to signify varying moral registers, or approaches to human life. Darabont's film continues his almost-hapless devotion to humanism despite all the supernatural phenomena and religious fervor in the film: the cast's beat-your-brow-with-a-Bible zealots are far scarier than the demonic, slimy, tentacled insect-creatures crawling around them, out in the mist. And in the end, the bad CGI gives way, fully, in a gut-punch reveal to rival 28 Weeks Later as the biggest "Fuck you, stupid world" of the year.

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TAGS: Andre Braugher, frank darabont, laurie holden, marcia gay harden, stephen king, the mist, Thomas Jane, toby jones


The Savages

There's much more wrong than right with The Savages, an off-putting entry in the daddy's-dyin'-who's-got-the-will (the emotion, not the document) genre from Slums of Beverly Hills writer/director Tamara Jenkins. The strained magical-realist prologue, wherein numerous elder residents of the Sun City, Arizona retirement community emerge from behind perfectly trimmed shrubbery (shades of Edward Scissorhands) to the tinkle of a precious, quirk-infused score (for his work here, composer Stephen Trask should be violently beaten upside the head with his marimbas), is the first red-alert warning sign that we're in for a long hour-fifty three. That the sequence concludes with the dementia-afflicted Lenny Savage (Philip Bosco) writing "prick" on the bathroom wall with his own shit only deepens the sinking sensation finally hammered home by the answering machine greeting, crooned by All About Eve's Margo Channing (Bette Davis), which taunts each and every caller to the run-down Manhattan abode of Lenny's daughter Wendy (Laura Linney): "Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night."

Indeed.

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TAGS: laura linney, philip seymour hoffman, Tamara Jenkins, the savages


The Comas

As a freshman, I assumed that if I showed up and diligently scribbled every week for NYU's student paper, the job offers would come rolling in. Silly me: in the meantime, I honed my craft and, after embarking on a shaky semester-long tenure as music editor—during which time my style of cursing the entire room during meetings and awkwardly sweating beneath the eyes of much cooler contributing writers did little to endear me to anyone—conscientiously listened to a number of promos from bands I'd never heard of, convinced that undiscovered gems were mine for the reaping.

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TAGS: battles, mirrored, primal scream, screamadelica, spells, The Clientele, The Comas


Heroes

It was a depressingly mundane hour of Heroes this week, as the show's massive fluctuations of quality week-to-week continued. As usual, it helps which characters you're dealt in a certain episode: for example, there was far too much of the black oil misery twins Maya (Dania Ramirez) and Alejandro (Shalim Ortiz), with barely any sign of Noah Bennet (Jack Coleman) or Hiro Nakamura (Masi Oka). It wasn't just the characters that were wrong with "Truth and Consequences", though. Considering how late in the game things are (next week's episode concludes the second 'volume' of the show and reportedly will serve as a season finale in this strike-shortened year), the various accelerating plots of the season slowed to a depressing crawl, content with providing a little bit of background info and setup for future episodes rather than actually telling a complete story.

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TAGS: Dania Ramirez, heroes, jack coleman, Masi Oka, recap, Sendhil Ramamurthy, shalim ortiz, steven tobolowsky, truth and consequences, zachary quinto


Beowulf

What is Robert Zemeckis up to, anyway? The mostly middling reviews of Beowulf have accused the director of getting wrapped up in a circuitous, self-defeating technological quest: motion-capturing flesh-and-blood actors (first in The Polar Express, now here) and turning them into photo-realistic yet still unreal-looking cartoons, in order to achieve...what? Surely nothing that couldn't be achieved by photographing those same actors and merging them into computer-generated backdrops, just like every other fantasy with a nine-figure budget.

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TAGS: Angelia Jolie, beowulf, brendan gleeson, crispin glover, john malkovich, robert zemeckis, robin wright penn


I'm Not There

Todd Haynes has always struck me as less filmmaker than conceptual artist—a man with grand ideas whose mind works faster than 24 frames per second, the screen never quite able to contain the weight of his brain. He's a man working in the wrong medium, like Tarantino striving to be an actor before thankfully realizing his talent lies elsewhere. Haynes' spirit is simply not conducive to the formal requirements of film. But because Haynes doesn't suck at moviemaking the way Tarantino sucked at acting, he's unaware that he can scale to greater heights. If Haynes can demonstrate this level of artistic quality in his experimental-posing-as-accessible films, just imagine what he could do guest-directing a Wooster Group production, exhibiting at the Whitney Biennial. For Todd Haynes has a masterful eye for lush set design and sharp cinematography, for period costumes and jarring camera angles, all readily on display in I'm Not There, his tribute to the "many lives" of a fellow visionary, the legendary Bob Dylan. Unfortunately, what works for music—or painting or poetry, or any of the abstract arts for that matter—rarely works for the screen. After all, how does one shoot a concept?

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TAGS: bob dylan, cate blanchett, christian bale, heath ledger, I'm Not There, todd haynes


Torchwood

"Out of Time" writer Catherine Tregenna returns with the next chapter in the story of broken-hearted Owen (Burn Gorman). But "Captain Jack Harkness" is not just another story of love gone awry across a rift in time; it gives us a long-overdue glimpse into our Captain Jack's past.

Torchwood continues its obsession with World War II—recall that Doctor Who introduced us to Jack during the Blitz—when Jack (John Barrowman) and dressed-up Tosh (Naoko Mori) stop by an abandoned building to check out reports of old-style music coming from inside. The building, long disused, was once a dance hall; Jack admires the still-intact chandelier in the ballroom. Sharp-eyed fans of Doctor Who will notice the "Vote Saxon" posters plastered on doors and walls, along with "Bad Wolf" graffiti in a stairwell. Considering it was the Bad Wolf that got Jack into his current (immortal) situation, it was a bit odd for him to not even register that graffiti, but this was supposed to be quick. Tosh is on her way to her grandfather's 88th birthday party and doesn't want to be late.

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TAGS: Burn Gorman, captain jack harkness, catherine tregenna, Eve Myles, gareth david-lloyd, louise delamere, matt rippy, Murray Melvin, naoko mori, recap, torchwood


Heroes

It's unfortunate that Heroes is starting to pick up real momentum just as its strike-shortened second season comes to an end. While last week's backstory-heavy "Six Months Ago" was a bit of a dud, the previous episode "Out of Time" and this week's "Cautionary Tales" are tying the season's disparate, aimless threads together rather well, focusing on fewer characters and emphasizing more intimate storytelling. It's a nice change of pace from the disappointingly 'epic' finale of Heroes' first season, although of course it remains to be seen whether this tremendously inconsistent show can maintain this new rash of quality.

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TAGS: bryan fuller, cautionary tales, George Takei, Hayden Panettiere, heroes, jack coleman, Masi Oka, recap


Persona

Bibi Andersson's face hasn't really changed. It has the natural lines of a woman in her seventies, but the wrinkles lie like intricate, soft cobwebs on her cheeks; her bone structure remains intact. Her slightly slanted eyes are wary, even wounded. As she waits to introduce her most famous film at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Ingmar Bergman's Persona, I notice her solid body in grandmotherly clothes, her still blond hair. She's very Swedish, in every sense. When the audience applauds her, Andersson takes a small, theatrical bow, as if to say, "What's the fuss?" The novelist Jonathan Lethem asks her a few questions about working with Bergman, and she starts to talk about him in the present tense, then corrects herself. "I have to remember that he's gone," she says, again, with no fuss, no sentimentality.

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TAGS: bibi andersson, brooklyn academy of music, ingmar bergman, liv ullmann, persona


Friday Night Lights

"Pantherama!" is a perfectly servicable episode of Friday Night Lights, accompanied though it may be by a faint whiff of filler. On DVD, it'll probably seamlessly bridge the episodes fore, and feel kind of like a transitional segment in a long novel, with the pace slowed a bit to let the audience exhale after Chad Clarke's ominous torching of the car last week. And while it's now clear that the saga of Landry/his dad/the killing/etc is going to cover two more episodes, those tired of it can take comfort in the emergence tonight of what I think has the potential to be one of FNL's best-ever story arcs. I'll get to that in due course; for now, lets's go to the videotape.

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TAGS: friday night lights, pantherama, recap







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