By Shane Jenkins
August 16, 2007
Dan in Real Life
Q: How do you know when the people responsible for cutting a trailer know they've got a dog on their hands?
A: When they have to insert shots of the cast laughing after the "jokes" to alert you to the fact that this is a "comedy."
Dan in Real Life seems like it's aiming to be one of those comedies with heavy dramatic themes, though more in the vein of Spanglish than Royal Tenenbaums. There's some decent talent behind the scenes, including a co-writer of About a Boy, and it's from the author of What's Eating Gilbert Grape, so I can understand why Steve Carell would be interested in the role - it seems like a natural progression from his acclaimed part in Little Miss Sunshine. But neither the comedic nor the dramatic sides appear to be working if the trailer is any indication. Dane Cook's been given his couple of shots at film and has proven to have all the big-screen charisma of Jimmy Fallon. He should go back to doing what he does best - stealing other people's jokes. Juliette Binoche is so beautiful and luminous that, like Cate Blanchett, she probably shouldn't play mortals. And Carell is doing his usual sad sack bit with some occasional "funny dancing." I hope these filmmakers were not trying to re-capture some of that "Evan Almighty magic."
It's not an easy time to be a Steve Carell fan. D
No Country for Old Men
Joel and Ethan Coen's work over the past few years has been something of a coin toss. O Brother Where Art Thou was their last great film, and that was over five years ago. So, it's good to see that the brothers appear to be back on track with this crime thriller. This trailer has style to burn, with its very Coen-esque camera setups and tracking shots. This looks like terrifying stuff, and if there's any of their trademark humor to be found, it's so black that it almost doesn't register. The Fargo trailer looks like a laff riot by comparison.
This should be the role that finally makes Javier Bardem a recognizable figure on these shores, after years of international acclaim. His "ultimate badass," while appearing a little Uncle Fester-like, is nightmare fodder, and I'm not sure what that air gun thing is, but it's good to have a new entry into the iconography of horror. Kids, get your pretend air gun thing at a Halloween store near you! Scare your friends! A
Be Kind Rewind
So, let's say you ran a video store and all your tapes got erased. What would you do? Probably buy some new ones. That's why you're not Jack Black and Mos Def! In the latest film by Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind director Michel Gondry, Def and Black recreate some of Hollywood's biggest hits to replace their destroyed videotape collection. From Ghostbusters to 2001 to Driving Miss Daisy, these two put on wigs, slap on some cardboard proton packs, and make 20 minute versions that they rent to an increasingly intrigued public.
This trailer is pure, unadulterated joy. I can't think of another movie I'm looking forward to more this year. Mos Def is one of the most likable actors working today, and this looks to be one of those roles where Jack Black can revel in his Jack Black-ness. I didn't love Science of Sleep as much as I was prepared to, but the visuals were an undeniable knockout. So I'm excited that Gondry's follow-up appears to be full of his trademark style, and applied to a somewhat more crowd-pleasing premise. A+
Lars and the Real Girl
Hoo boy, here's a tough sell. An emotionally damaged man begins dating a life-size doll, and his family and friends, on the advice of the family doctor, have to play along and "accept" her. Is this a comedy? A drama? One of those Dan in Real Life hybrids? Even the trailer doesn't seem to know. The music is pretty peppy and quirky, even as characters are yelling at each other. It ends on a laugh line, though it's sort of a small indie film type of chuckle, rather than an outright guffaw.
Regardless of what kind of beast Lars turns out to be, it looks to be lighter than most of the work Ryan Gosling has done previously. It has a good supporting cast, with Patricia Clarkson, Emily Mortimer, and Thumbsucker's Kelli Garner. But I wonder just how far they'll have to stretch this premise to fill out a feature's worth of running time. The trailer sort of sets up a mystery (why is Lars doing this, and what will it take for him to stop), but it's not a compelling enough one to drive an entire story. Strictly from the trailer, this strikes me as material better suited for a short. C
There's a lot of inside-jokiness to overcome here. For one, this incarnation of Sleuth is a remake of the 1972 version, with Michael Caine switching roles. Jude Law takes on the role that Caine originated, and not terribly long after his redux of Caine's Alfie (I hope this doesn't mean Law is going to do a remake of Jaws: The Revenge next). But this is directed by Kenneth Branagh, and, his epically terrible Frankenstein aside, I think he's an underrated director. His Dead Again is a true delight, and the sets and cinematography indicate that he seems to be working in that style again.
The question here is if there is any reason to watch this if you've seen the original (or the Anthony Shaffer play on which both films are based). Branagh and his screenwriter, Nobel Prize-winning playwright Harold Pinter, have dressed the story up in high-tech clothes and striking camera work, but the basics appear to be the same. Young people won't know the story, but are unlikely to be drawn in by the promise of a cat and mouse morality tale starring a 75 year-old. And older people who would be more likely to appreciate the interplay between Caine and Law probably already know how it goes. Overall, I think this looks interesting, but it certainly has its work cut out for it at the box office. B-