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Friday, November 13, 2009

"The Box"

"The Box" is written and directed by Richard Kelly whose debut feature was the nearly indecipherable, but ceaselessly interesting "Donnie Darko." He followed "Darko" with the equally indecipherable and completely uninteresting "Southland Tales." (To add insult to injury, "Southland" starred The Rock.) With these two films in mind, I was quite confident in my assumption that Kelly's penchant for impenetrable narratives was to blame when he takes the audience on an extended sojourn to what I can only guess was a version of purgatory. To confirm my suspicion that Kelly was unilaterally tacking on extraneous nonsense, I read Richard Matheson's short story and viewed the 1985 "Twilight Zone" episode from which "The Box" takes its inspiration. How right I was. Some of the best-looking scenes in "The Box" have absolutely no business being there. To be fair, not all of Kelly's additions are terrible. There are many apt references to Jean-Paul Satre's play, "No Exit." (I just happened to attend Imago Theatre's inventive production days later.) Kelly should know when to quit, he already had plenty of story to work with, given the tantalizing choice at the center of the film, and a perfect performance by Frank Langella. Instead, Kelly drowns the film in a sea of self-indulgence. Shame on him!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

"The Men Who Stare at Goats"

"The Men Who Stare at Goats" is one of those films which reveal the funniest moments in the trailer, moments like the one that inspired the title. George Clooney stares with hilarious intensity at a goat and manages to stop its heart. By the time that bit rolls around, you start to envy the goat.

It is true that what humor there is in "Men Who Stare at Goats" reminds one of a low-rent Coen Brothers imitation, but even that seems like undeserved praise. Jeff Bridges tries to channel "The Dude" from "The Big Lebowski" in his portrayal of a man trained in New Age techniques, but fails miserably. You'd be much happier renting "Lebowski" or better yet, making the trip downtown to Fox Tower to see the Coen's newest outing, "A Serious Man". Go for the real deal, accept no substitutes, especially one this poor.