Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Boutique, hold the subtitles: Layer Cake and The Girl From Monday

Not a good-looking weekend at the boutique houses, eh?

It's my fault, though, for being such a sci-fi nerd. I think Matthew Vaughn was still slated to direct X-Men 3, and even if he wasn't, I was curious to see the movie that had made Fox so keen on him in the first place. Besides, if his fingerprints were still going to be all over the script, I wondered what that would mean. The verdict: The man has some skills, but this movie is just Yet Another Brit Gangster Movie.

As to The Girl From Monday... It's bad, which is annoying because I'm predisposed to like things with Sabrina Lloyd in them, especially when they include the phrase "sentenced to six years hard labor teaching high school". The bright side is that it let me rant a little on what is and isn't science fiction, which is often a great deal of fun, even if the reasons aren't. I keep hoping for smart sci-fi movies, even as I devour the big action/adventure stuff. I'd like to see someone give Greg Pak some money, to see what he could do with a large canvas.

Next up: 3-D!

Layer Cake

* * (out of four)
Seen 4 June 2005 at Landmark Kendall Square #3 (first-run)

It's not surprising that Daniel Craig's unnamed narrator in Layer Cake wants to get out of the business of drug dealing. After all, he's made his pot, and there's a distressing amount of violence and occupational danger involved, especially when compared to managing the real estate holdings he's invested in. Since there wouldn't be a movie if he peacefully retired to the tropics, he's instead threatened with grievous bodily harm if he doesn't do a crime boss one little favor. From there, things get predictably sticky.

Okay, maybe not entirely predictably; Matthew Vaughn's film has enough twists and turns to keep the audience guessing (or confused). But the way it all happens is familiar by now: Charming but potentially violent guys at the middle level, grey-haired men with purchased respectability to shield their ruthlessness at the top, and idiotic screw-ups at the bottom. Sardonic narration, which in addition to telling the story also gives us the ins and outs of the drug business. Street names that are hard to imagine anyone using in conversation. Quick zooms and rapid-fire cutting, to better fit in about twice as much plot and twice as many characters than a hundred-minute movie really needs.

Read the rest on HBS.

The Girl From Monday

* ¼ (out of four)
Seen 5 June 2005 at the Brattle Theater (Special Engagements)

Being a fan of both science fiction and serious film is incredibly frustrating experience. The Venn diagram has a teeny-tiny sliver of an intersection, and if you're passionate enough to want to see them really done well, you can come off like you don't like anything but Gattaca. But you keep trying, because when the two click, it's fantastic. Unfortunately, you often wind up seeing crud like The Girl From Monday, which is sheer pretentious torture.

It starts with the opening credits, which describe it as "A Science Fiction By Hal Hartley". Which is, I suppose, technically accurate, but a weird thing to speak or write. It's followed with a great big slab of expository narration from main character Jack (Bill Sage), which describes the film's future world. There's a lot of exposition, because Hartley doesn't have the budget to make New York and Jersey City actually look like the future, although the people involved will probably say that that's deliberate, because it's a satire.

Read the rest at HBS.

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