Now in Cinemas: Reviews for March 13, 2008

Now in Cinemas: Reviews for March 13, 2008

Reviews by Jason Pirodsky
for Expats.cz

A stark, haunting biopic, Anton Corbijn´s Control profiles Joy Division singer Ian Curtis, who killed himself at age 23 in 1980, just as the post-punk band was rising to fame. Curtis was anything but the typical punk rocker – timid, clean-cut, good-natured – and Corbijn´s film is anything but a typical troubled-artist biography. What could have been a rough, tragic descent into punk madness a la Sid and Nancy is instead a mosaic of bleak, sterile imagery filmed in a gorgeous black-and-white that recalls the British ‘kitchen sink´ films of the 1960s. When Joy Division recorded their first album in 1979, members of the band were said to be unhappy with clean, atmospheric album that producer Martin Hannett had delivered, which contrasted with their grittier live style; only later did they come to accept it as the band´s definitive sound. Corbijn has realized a similar feat with Curtis´ story here.



Control
Rating:

Directed by Anton Corbijn. Starring Samantha Morton, Sam Riley, Alexandra Maria Lara, Joe Anderson, Toby Kebbell, Craig Parkinson, James Anthony Pearson, Harry Treadaway, Andrew Sheridan, Robert Shelly, Matthew McNulty, Ben Naylor. Written by Matt Greenhalgh, from Deborah Curtis’ autobiography.

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At the core of the film is the relationship between Curtis (played by Sam Riley) and his wife, Deborah (Samantha Morton). The two married while teenagers, and as Joy Division gets popular Curtis´ is torn between life as a husband and father and as a musician who has an affair with a Belgian journalist. Bouts of epilepsy – even, occasionally, on stage – and a variety of medications prescribed to combat them also complicated matters. Most memorable in the film are the intimate details, which usually get lost in most big-picture biographies; scenes of Curtis´ watching the bizarre ending to Werner Herzog´s Strosek shortly before killing himself are especially haunting. Riley is simply incredible as Curtis, capturing the singer perfectly in look and emotion, conveying oceans of solitude, loneliness, and confusion without words. Morton is good but overshadowed in a somewhat thankless role. The other members of Joy Division have little to do, but do feature in some of the most effective scenes; Toby Kebbell and Craig Parkinson, as the band´s manager and promoter, respectively, make the biggest impression among the supporting cast. Film is highlighted by numerous musical sequences, with a generous selection of Joy Division songs accompanied by other punk and post-punk influences of the era; my favorite: an all-too-brief cameo by spoken word artist John Cooper Clarke, performing Evidently Chickentown. Ultimately, Control is deliberately paced, bleak, depressing; not exactly a happy (or even entertaining) film. Like a lot Ingmar Bergman´s films, it´s not something you´ll be in a rush to re-watch; but it is something you´ll be glad to have seen, and a film you´re not likely to forget. Based on the autobiography by Deborah Curtis, who also co-produced.

***

10,000 B.C.
Rating:

Directed by Roland Emmerich. Starring Steven Strait, Camilla Belle, Cliff Curtis, Joel Virgel, Affif Ben Badra, Mo Zinal, Nathanael Baring, Mona Hammond, Marco Khan, narrated by Omar Sharif. Written by Emmerich and Harald Kloser.

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A ridiculous excuse for a blockbuster, Roland Emmerich´s 10,000 B.C. marks a new low for the filmmaker. And that ain´t easy; Independence Day, Godzilla, and The Day After Tomorrow were hardly pillars of American cinema. 10,000 B.C. takes us back, before the time of caveman who spoke in grunts and groans in 80´s films like Quest for Fire and Clan of the Cave Bear and even before campy ’66 favorite One Million Years B.C., back to that magical time where good-lookin´ cavepeople spoke broken contemporary English with quasi-European accents and fought prehistoric monsters (but not reptilian dinosaurs; please, for the historical accuracy.) Meet D´Leh (Steven Strait), aspiring mammoth hunter with a crush on the beautiful, blue-eyed Evolet (Camilla Belle). When an invading force right out of Conan plunders their village and kidnaps Evolet and others, D´Leh leaps into action and begins a long, tedious journey through snow-covered mountains, jungles, and deserts to get her back. On the way, he encounters other tribes – good ones who speak English, and bad ones who speak in *hiss* foreign languages (subtitled for our pleasure) – a pack of wild ostriches(?), and a benevolent sabre-toothed tiger of questionable CGI quality.

By the time we get to ancient Egypt, with wooly mammoths building the pyramids (really) and D´Leh leading a slave revolt, the film has lost all credibility. And yet, what should be an entertaining experience – good for laughs, at least – becomes maddeningly dull. While the screenplay layers preposterous action scenes on top of an even more preposterous story, Emmerich takes everything far too seriously, slogging through every detail of the plot as if we cared, frequently cutting to slow, laborious scenes designed to let the “mythology” seep in. The result is deadening. Cast fails to make any kind of impression; Cliff Curtis manages to create the only three-dimensional character in the film as D´Leh´s mentor Tic´Tic, but Straight is incredibly bland as our hero, and while Belle makes for a good-lookin´ cavewoman, she´s wearing far too much clothing. One yearns for Raquel Welch and her fur bikini. A true bright spot: wildly overdone narration by Omar Sharif, which is delivered with the raw conviction of Seinfeld‘s J. Peterman.


Jason Pirodsky

Hailing from Syracuse, New York, Jason Pirodsky made his way to Prague via Miami and has stuck around, for better and worse, since 2004. A member of the Online Film Critics Society (www.ofcs.org), some of his favorite movies include O Lucky Man!, El Topo, Berlin Alexanderplatz, and Hellzapoppin'. Follow him on Twitter for some (slightly) more concise reviews.

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