Monday, September 30, 2013

Runner, Runner (2013/US)

Julien Faddoul

0 stars

d – Brad Furman
w – Brian Koppelman, David Levien
ph – Mauro Fiore
pd – Charisse Cardenas
m – Christophe Beck
ed – Jeff McEvoy
cos – Sophie De Rakoff

p - Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Davisson Killoran, Brian Koppelman, David Levien, Michael Shamberg, Stacey Sher

Cast: Justin Timberlake, Ben Affleck, Gemma Arterton, Anthony Mackie, Michael Esper, Oliver Cooper, Christian George, Yul Vazquez, John Heard, James Molina

It is common, backyard knowledge to the mainstream computer proprietor that playing online poker is probably not a very good idea. What’s even more eminent is that being cheated out of your money by a computer virus is not particularly captivating to watch. Movies with people who wear ties or high heels and yell at each other in rooms containing giant computer screens have been contaminating the cinematic water supply for about two decades now. This coincides with the arrow of time always pointing in the direction of escalating telecommunications. So, naturally, movies would follow suit.

Despite this, filmmakers have struggled to examine characters sitting in front of computers typing with any sense of cinematic vitality. David Fincher is an exception to this. Brad Furman, unfortunately, is not, and his new film Runner, Runner is about the dullest “online-scam” movie one could imagine. It’s even duller than Middle Men (2010).

Justin Timberlake plays Richie Furst, a Princeton student who is hoodwinked out of his tuition money by playing online poker games. When he ascertains that the site is governed from a secluded island position (in Costa Rica), he goes to confront the site's corrupt and ruthless owner, Ivan Block played by Ben Affleck. For reasons that are beyond trivial, Furst is lured into becoming Ivan's acolyte and right-hand man. Their relationship starts to reach a boiling point and Richie becomes involved with the FBI as an informant of Ivan’s dirty doings.

Mr Furman lacks any kind of oscillation that would make what is essentially a B-Movie script with a lot of long words at all exciting. And to be fair, the screenplay by Brad Koppelman and David Levien (who also produced the film) is not terrible and the first few scenes when Timberlake and Affleck meet hinted at an adventure of interest. But Mr Furman packages the picture with a catalogue of deluxe accommodations and vehicles and computers and yachts and jets and furniture and more computers so that nothing can resonate, least of all the actors. Amongst all the bashes laden with skimpily clothed womenfolk, there is no connotation or nuance that helps at all understand, or even enjoy, what Richie is going and why he would proceed.

The final act of the film’s plot is brazenly absurd but it’s absurd in a way I don’t think I’ve encountered before. Without revealing too much, Richie is required to “turn the tables” on his boss. He discovers how he can do this. However, his overall plan is so stupidly over-elaborate that the amount of time the movie gives him to complete the task is outside of the realm of human capacity. No one, not even a superhero (unless he had super-computer-typing powers) could accomplish what Richie does here. But he does and I was left in hysterics. But what do I know. There sure were a lot of computers and computers can do anything right?

Mr Furman’s previous film The Lincoln Lawyer (2011) also had plausibility problems, but in that film’s case they were easier to get over. The reason Runner, Runner is deprived of that luxury is because the film in question is such a colossal bore that one can’t help but think of the fantastical machinations of the plot just to stay awake. And that is the film’s biggest sin: not that it’s unrealistic, but that it’s unenjoyable.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Crisp Criticism - "The Unspeakable Act", "Call Me Kuchu", "Riddick", "Grown-Ups 2", "The Grandmaster"

Julien Faddoul


The Unspeakable Act ***

A distressed 17-year-old deals with her sexual desires toward her brother.
A small, intimate, superb film with a voice so clear and strong; it hits its target with total precision.

wd – Dan Sallitt
ph – Duraid Munajim
pd – Bridget Rafferty
ed – Dan Sallitt

p – Shari Berman, Jaime Christley, Ania Trzebiatowska

Cast: Tallie Medel, Sky Hirschkron, Aundrea Fares, Kati Schwartz, Caroline Luft

Call Me Kuchu ***

In Uganda, activists work to defeat the legislation of a new law that makes homosexuality punishable by death.
Exceptional, fascinating and deeply affecting documentary on the current Ugandan legislative wars on legally banning homosexuality and the murder of activist David Kato. The filmmakers allow the subjects, both hero and villain, to state their cases with such delicacy and unobtrusiveness that both the beauty and the horror explains itself.

d – Malika Zouhali-Worrall, Katherine Fairfax Wright
ph – Katherine Fairfax Wright
m – Jonathan Mandabach
ed – Katherine Fairfax Wright

p – Malika Zouhali-Worrall


Left for dead on a sun-scorched planet, Riddick finds himself up against an alien race of predators.
More of a reboot than a sequel, with nothing new to offer. Dull and kitschy.

wd – David Twohy   (Based on the Characters Created by Jim Wheat, Ken Wheat)
ph – David Eggby
pd – Joseph C. Nemec
m – Graeme Revell
ed – Tracy Adams
cos – Simonetta Mariano

p – Vin Diesel, Ted Field, Samantha Vincent

Cast: Vin Diesel, Jordi Molla, Matt Nable, Katee Sackhoff, Dave Bautista, Bokeem Woodbine, Rauol Trujillo, Conrad Pla

Grown-Ups 2

Another summer of antics.
A movie that begins with a deer urinating on Sandler's face. Enter at your own peril.

d – Dennis Dugan
w – Fred Wolf, Adam Sandler, Tim Herlihy   (Based on the Characters Created by Fred Wolf, Adam Sandler)
ph – Theo van de Sande
pd – Aaron Osborne
m – Rupert Gregson-Williams
ed – Tom Costain
cos – Ellen Lutter

p – Jack Giarraputo, Adam Sandler

Cast: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade, Salma Hayek, Maya Rudolph, Maria Bello, Nick Swardson, Steve Buscemi, Colin Quinn, Tim Meadows, Jon Lovitz, Shaquille O’Neal, Taylor Lautner

The Grandmaster **

Biopic on martial-arts master Ip Man.
Although it doesn’t rank with its director's best, this is an impeccably made Wuxia film with thrilling fights and excellent performances.

d - Wong Kar-Wai
w - Wong Kar-Wai, Jingzhi Zou, Haofeng Xu
ph - Philippe Le Sourd
pd - William Chang
m - Nathaniel Méchaly, Shigeru Umebayashi
ed - William Chang
cos - William Chang

p - Jacky Pang Yee Wah, Wong Kar-Wai

Cast: Tony Leung, Zhang Ziyi, Song Hye-kyo, Chang Chen, Zhao Benshani, Wang Qingxiang, Zhang Jin