Tag Archives: The Savages

New on DVD: The Savages and Be Kind Rewind

The Savages
Estranged siblings Jon and Wendy Savage (Philip Seymour Hoffman and Laura Linney) are forced to care for their aging and increasingly senile father when the woman he lives with dies, leaving him without a home. This is not a particularly exciting proposition to anyone involved – both siblings are playwrights (Jon much more successfully than Wendy, who has yet to get one of her plays produced), and both have based plays around their traumatic (or at least neglected) childhood. Neither has seen their father for years. But they make an effort, settling Dad into a nursing home. Writer/directer Tamara Jenkins treats Dad with a great deal of nuance despite his decidedly supporting role – he’s too far gone into dementia to be able to respond to Wendy’s attempts to pretend everything’s fine, but not so far gone that the hurt doesn’t creep into his face when Jon treats him as though he’s not even there. In addition to the parent-child issues, Wendy’s also dealing with her inability to get produced, to get out of a relationship with a married man, and to overcome her sense of inferiority in comparison with Jon – who is, meanwhile, figuring out what to do about his girlfriend returning Eastern Europe due to visa issues. So many strands of story and so many levels of (broken) relationships could easily lead to a sloppy and depressing film, especially since Jon and Wendy spend so much time angry at each other. But Jenkins holds everything together very well, with a smart screenplay and steady directorial hand bringing out the best that Linney and Hoffman have to offer. Which is quite a lot.
Well Above Average
USA 2007; dir: Tamara Jenkins; starring: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Laura Linney, Philip Bosco
Screened 27 June 2008 on DVD
IMDb | The Frame

Be Kind, Rewind
In a struggling New York-area city stands a dying building. It has been condemned, ready to be taken over by fancy apartment developers unless its owner Mr. Fletcher (Danny Glover) can turn a profit on his VHS rental store to make the necessary repairs. When he takes a research trip to find out how to improve business (leading to some nice jabs at Blockbuster-style megastores), he leaves his adopted son Mike (Mos Def) in charge, warning him to keep his hapless friend Jerry (Jack Black) out of the store. Of course, Jerry doesn’t stay out of the store, and having been temporarily magnetized in an accident (don’t ask), he erases all the tapes. Rather than admit defeat, the pair grab a camera and film short versions of the movies – Ghostbusters, RoboCop, even Driving Miss Daisy – which, incredibly, become more popular than the actual films among patrons soon willing to line up and pay $20 to have their favorite movies “sweded.” Anyone who’s ever made films in their backyard or known people who did will likely be charmed by the town coming together over the process of making and exhibiting homemade films. I was, though I do feel that Gondry’s ideas aren’t quite as good in execution as they are in his head. Thankfully, he does realize his concept much more fully and satisfactorily here than he did in The Science of Sleep. However, once home moviemaking rallies the town, the film just stops abruptly, a move likely to annoy any viewers who aren’t convinced by Gondry’s belief in the power of cinema – any cinema.
Above Average
USA 2008; dir: Michel Gondry; starring: Jack Black, Mos Def, Danny Glover, Melonie Diaz, Mia Farrow
Screened 10 July 2008 on DVD
IMDb | The Frame

Favorite Posters of 2007

I love me some movie posters.  Especially when they’re either a) beautiful enough to stand as art in their own right or b) depict the film they advertise in a particularly apt or innovative way.  Thanks to the Internet Movie Poster Awards site (which is a wonderful resource for posters, award-worthy or no), I’ve been able to look closely at last year’s posters (and previous years, but let’s not push this Year’s Best thing too far–we’re already three months into a new year) and chosen several that I think ought to be recognized.

While narrowing down the choices, I did discover several biases I have–things that generally make me like or dislike a poster.  Floating heads of the stars = bad. Selling the film based only on the stars = bad. Lots of negative space = good. Characters depicted facing away from us or in long shot = good. Hand-drawn, cartoony, or stylized quality = usually good.  Anyway, here are my favorite posters from last year. (And regarding the order, I’ve changed it many many times even since I started writing this post, so I don’t even know if it’s at all accurate to my thoughts anymore.)

#10: Eastern Promises



Eastern Promises is about people who make their living with their hands – fighting and killing, surviving in the Russian mafia.  Highlighting the hands — and the numerous tattoos that identify relationships with specific underworld factions — is perfect, because ultimately what matters in the film is what the characters choose to do with the information they gain.  Plus, focusing on body parts other than the face makes for a much more interesting poster than most.  The only thing that would’ve improved the poster is to have left off the strip of faces on the bottom, which really adds nothing.


#9: 3:10 to Yuma



Biases alert: character facing away from us, stylized look, focus on story (gunslinger waiting for train, seen between his legs).  This was one of my very favorite posters when it came out last year, but I’ve started to cool on it a little bit because I think ultimately, it’s a little too busy.  The grunge styling is cool, but there’s too much of it in too many places, too many flourishes, and the director blurb on the right side is indulgent.  Still, the monochrome coloring and unusual layout make it heaps better than most posters.



#8: Spider-Man 3



Another tendency I have: a strong preference for teaser posters over the final one-sheets.  Regardless of how good Spider-Man 3 turned to be (or not be), this teaser is near perfection.  It’s simple, it’s iconic, and he’s wearing a black suit.  Which I know, I know, is evil, but it’s SO HOT.  The later posters made the conflict between good/red Spider-Man and bad/black Spider-Man more clear, but for pure visual impact, none of them match this one.




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Trailer Watch – Highly Anticipated

Haven’t done a trailer watch for a while. Most of the things I’m most interested in, especially this time of the year, are limited release films, and it feels weird to plug them when they come out when I know that I and most everyone I know won’t be able to see them for at least a few weeks, if then. So it’s sort of weird. But there are some things coming out that I’m super-excited about. Most of these are coming out in the next couple of months.


opens December 5th, limited

CURRENT MOST ANTICIPATED. I want to see it two months ago. Except if I had I couldn’t be enjoying the anticipation so much right now. Ellen Page is one of the best young actresses in Hollywood right now hands down, Michael Cera is adorable, plus Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner. And it’s a total festival darling of exactly the type that I always love. I’m also pleased that screenwriter Diablo Cody is getting as much attention as she is; screenwriters don’t get noticed as much as they should, and she was getting noticed even before the strike. Ooh, and I forgot until I just watched the trailer again–Thank You For Smoking was one of my favorite films last year, so I’m a fan of the director, too.


opens December 7th

After I see Juno, Atonement will become my CURRENT MOST ANTICIPATED. Of course, that won’t last long, since it comes out two days later. Ah well. The book is one of the best I’ve read all year, the cast is great, it’s the same guy that directed Pride and Prejudice a couple of years ago (which quickly became one of my favorite Austen adaptations), and pretty much every review I’ve seen from the festival circuit has been nothing short of glowing. Read the book, folks, then go see the movie. Simple as that.

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