Saturday, May 26, 2007

Naked Souls

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End
The Pirates of the Caribbean series perfectly embodies the term “mindless summer entertainment”. With each consecutive film the plots get more convoluted, and the running time gets longer (seriously, the film did not need to be three hours!). Yet when all is said in done, not much actually happens. When you really think about it, the majority of the characters aren’t even needed at all. So what keep this unstoppable franchise going (a fourth film is already in the works)? The endlessly entertaining performance of Johnny Depp! Jack Sparrow is so entertaining to watch, that the film's many flaws only appear whenever he is not on screen. Luckily this installment wisely uses Geoffrey Rush’s Barbossa and Bill Nighy’s Davy Jones to fill the void at the beginning until Sparrow finally makes his appearance (almost thirty minutes in). Rush and Nighy are the underrated gems of At World's End. Similar to the Ocean’s Eleven franchise, the real fun of the Pirates tales is watching these three talented actors having a blast goofing off. By time you reach the end of At World's End , chances are pretty good that you’ll only remember those three performances. You are not going to really care about: the East Indian Trading Company’s attempt to vanquish the pirate lifestyle; the lame Calypso subplot; the much hyped, and utterly pointless, Keith Richards cameo; Orlando Bloom's Will trying to save his dad Bootstrap Bill, etc… Despite the writer’s best attempts to tie together the paper-thin plots from each film, at the end of the day, At World's End is nothing more than entertaining fluff. Which is exactly what we have come to expect and appreciate in the series.

Little Children
Little Children may be one of the best movies about suburban life ever made. It is easily one of the most entertaining. The “children” in the title refers to Sarah (Kate Winslet) and Brad (Patrick Wilson), to stay at home parents whose lives intersect at the local playground. Both are disappointed by the fact that married life has not turned out the way they each envisioned. Sarah is stuck in a loveless marriage, shackled by the fact that she spends all her time with a daughter that she somewhat resents. Brad on the other hand appears to have it all on the surface. He has an attractive wife, the local women secretly fantasize about him by referring to him as the “Homecoming King”. Yet Brad longs for the carefree days of his youth. Instead of studying for the legal bar exam, he spends his time watching the local teens skateboarding. Sarah and Brad strike up a friendship that will ultimately test their individual desire for change. To say anything more about the plot would be a disservice to the film. I will say that there is a subplot involving a recently released pedophile (Jackie Earle Haley) that impacts several key moments in the film. Many will most likely compare this film to American Beauty, but I found Little Children to be much more bleaker. Yet despite its dark tone, there is a surprising amount of humor in the film. Part of this is due to the wonderful use of narration in the film. Voice-overs in film are a tricky thing, If done wrong it tends to beat you over the head with already obvious symbolism (e.g. The Pursuit of Happyness). Fortunately director Todd Fields avoids this by sparingly using it throughout the film. Ultimately Little Children looks at the choices we make in life. The responsibilities that people often don’t want yet have no other choice but to take ownership of.

Vers Le Sud (Heading South)
Laurent Cantet's Vers Le Sud revolves around three women who frequently vacation on the beaches of Haiti. Ellen (the always wonderful Charlotte Rampling), Brenda (Karen Young), and Sue (Canadian actress Louise Portal) view the trips as a way to reclaim their sexual freedom. They take pleasure in hooking up with the young black men. Brenda even recounts a tale about her first sexual encounter with one of the men (who was 15 at the time) on a previous visit. They marvel at the bodies of the black men on the island. Commenting on the fact that they wouldn’t even considering dating a black man back home in North America. The women even go as far as paying the men, and showering them with gifts, for their services in the bedroom. Ellen makes it clear that she has no problem with this arrangement. The women revel in this attachment free life style. They are constantly being adored without ever having to worry about love complicating things. It is at this point that the film's layers start to unravel. Despite their tough talk, the women ultimately start to fall in love with the men. To make matters worse, Ellen and Brenda fall for the same man. Which ultimately complicates the friendship amongst the women, and threatens to ruin their “perfect situation”. The thing I found most disturbing about the film, was how oblivious the women were to the political climate in Haiti at the time. All they seem to care about is their perfectly sheltered paradise at the resort. The women also never really see the men for what they are either. Ellen and Brenda are so enamored with their stud, Legba (Menothy Cesar); they never realize that he actually hates being a paid "escort". Vers Le Sud is not perfect film but it is an interesting one. The film raises a whole slew of issues (e.g. how we view: women over forty in today’s culture, racism, prostitution, etc…) that will surely lead to lively debates afterwards.

Friday, May 18, 2007

A Dedication to Frank Grimes. R.I.P. Grimey.

Still my favourite Simpsons episode to date. I'll most likely revisit the Season 8 box set this weekend.

Random Song 1: Eve - Tambourine (Myspace)
Random Song 2: The Hidden Cameras - Hump From Bending (buy)

Video: Kelly Rowland - Like This (feat. Eve) (buy). She's right, I honestly "didn't think [she] could bump like this." Boy did she ever prove me wrong. Looks like Rihanna will have a little competition this summer. Bump on Kelly, bump on.

Random Song 3: The Arcade Fire - (Antichrist Television Blues) (buy)
Random Song 4: Handsome Furs - Sing! Captain (buy)

Video: Handsome Furs - Dumb Animals (buy). I first caught wind of the Handsome Furs when they opened for Arcade Fire on Wednesday night. The band consists of Dan Boeckner (Wolf Parade) and his wife Alexei Perry. Personally I think "Dumb Animals" is one of the weaker songs on the album. Regardless, the rest of the album is strong enough for me to recommend them.

Random Song 5: Amanda Blank - Take It Easy(feat. M.I.A) (Myspace)
Random Song 6: M.I.A. - Hit That (Myspace)
Bonus: Spoon - The Ghost Of You Lingers (Myspace)

Video: Lil Mama - Lip Gloss (Myspace). Hmmm could lip gloss be the new bling? Maybe Mini-Missy Elliott, I mean Lil' Mama, is on to can one get it "popping" if the lips are chapped?

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Sunshine, Lollipops, Rainbows...

It's pretty sad that I found this IMac parody more interesting than the majority of Spider-Man 3. Okay, I may be exaggerating a bit, but I still think Spider-Man 3 is a huge mess of a film. There was less crying and cheesy melodrama in the Ya Ya Sisterhood. Anyways, I finally got around to watching United 93, which I have had on DVD for months. If you haven't seen United 93 yet, I highly recommend it. It is one of the best, and most underrated, films to hit theatres last year.

Random 1: Beyonce & Shakira - Beautiful Liar (buy)
Random 2: Interpol - The Heinrich Maneuver
Bonus: Incredible Bongo Band - Apache

Video: Bjork - Earth Intruders (buy)

Random Song 3: Rhymefest - Build Me Up (feat. O.D.B) (buy)
Random Song 4: Justice - D.A.N.C.E.
Bonus: Digital Underground - Humpty Dance (buy)

Video: Radiohead - Just (buy). Classic video I haven't watched in a while.

Random Song 5: Dream Warriors - You Wash Your Face In My Sink (buy)
Random Song 6: The Arctic Monkeys - You Know I'm Know Good (Amy Winehouse cover)
Bonus: Guns N' Roses -Don't Cry

Video: Dragonette - I Get Around (buy).