Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman are happily married with two kids, Kim and Bob. Colin is a surgeon, whose dead patient’s son Barry Keoghan (also memorably great in Dunkirk this year) has been hanging around, and Colin has been talking with Barry and bringing him gifts out of guilt. Now Barry’s plan accelerates, and when Colin refuses to leave his own family and join Barry and his mom Alicia Silverstone, Barry curses the family, says they will all die unless Colin chooses one to kill. “Do you understand? It’s metaphorical.”

Everyone is going with the flat line-reads and bizarre, unnatural dialogue and behavior of previous Lanthimos movies (“I’d love to know how much painstaking trial-and-error was involved in crafting such magnificently stilted, awkward performances from these accomplished actors,” said Mike D’Angelo on Letterboxd). There’s some slow-motion and soft-focus, and a repeated Danny’s-tricycle-in-Shining tracking shot through corridors, sometimes at normal level, sometimes from Danny POV, and sometimes as if Danny is riding on the ceiling. Tied with the new Lynne Ramsay for screenplay at Cannes.

Three great actors (Nicole, Kirsten, Colin) plus Elle leading the up-and-comers. Colin is an enemy soldier brought to their boarding school for medical help, then as he recovers his strength, things get increasingly tense until he plays an ill-advised trick on Kirsten, and the women murder him with poison mushrooms.

Lovely movie, great twisted fun. I have few deep thoughts, because my post-film reverie was interrupted by the sight of a guy wearing a Battlefield Earth t-shirt – the novel, not the film.

I love when an absurd movie by a foreign filmmaker starring a pile of my favorite current international actors opens in town… and plays the multiplex. Judging from the turnout, they won’t be making that mistake again.

We open with the situation I knew from the trailer: Colin Farrell and acquaintance-turned-rival John C. Reilly are at a hotel where they are given thirty days to find a compatible mate or else they’ll be turned into an animal of their choosing. They go for daily treks in the woods to shoot escaped loners – for each one they bag, they’re given an extension of their hotel stay. In desperation, each man tries to fake compatibility with a woman – Reilly gives himself nosebleeds to get paired with pretty young nosebleed-prone Jessica Barden (because these are the kinds of surface similarities that make successful couples) and Farrell acts heartless to get matched with champion hunter Angeliki Papoulia. After this fails catastrophically and she murders his brother (a dog), he escapes into the woods, later returning to forcibly turn her into an animal (he also murders double-agent maid Ariane Labed, which means he dispatches both stars of Alps).

It’s no better in the woods, as leader Lea Seydoux has even stricter rules against coupling. Unfortunately, during their covert trips to the city (where Seydoux is pretend-paired with Michael Smiley of Kill List), he and his travel companion Rachel Weisz fall in love, and she is blinded as punishment, which leads to a hilarious/horrifying finale (remember the nosebleeds).

Also at the hotel: Peep Show star Olivia Colman as the manager, Ashley Jensen (Extras) as a sad woman who fails to get Farrell to like her, and Ben Whishaw (Cloud Atlas) as the “limping man”. I’ll have to watch again – when listing islands, did someone say “Chevalier”?

M. Singer:

Combined, [the film’s segments] add up to this cautionary tale about the way rigid governments impose their values on their citizens, and how close-minded people try to convince others (and often themselves) that their beliefs are not only the correct ones but the only ones. In the end, that sort of thinking can leave you blind to the truth that happiness can’t be regimented or regulated. And right now, that feels like a pretty timely message.

So, in the straightforward ending, pre-crime dept. head Max Von Sydow murdered precog Samantha Morton’s inconvenient mother and good cop Colin Farrell, while Cruise’s ex-wife springs him from The Attic to bring justice and a happy ending. But an article Katy found says the ending is too idyllic and perhaps Cruise never awoke from The Attic, but actually dreams the last half hour Brazil-style. I love that the movie works either way.

Highlights: creepy doctor Peter Stormare and the following scene with retina-scanning spiders invading his apartment complex, Cruise escaping via auto assembly line, Morton’s freaked-out performance, the still-exciting technology and how most of it is becoming real. Katy is hung up on the mismatched architecture/design styles of all the interiors.

Netflix Streaming has got a bunch more movies I would never pay to rent, but which I might watch for free if I was sick or something. I’m sick today, so here goes.

Prince of Persia (2010, Mike Newell)
I see ropes and swords and Lord of the Rings fire-sculptures, and holy crap is that Ben Kingsley?? Donnie Darko has a fake british accent, and he just let his girlfriend fall into the pit of hell before unleashing a crazy amount of ‘splosions and triggering a muted montage of flashback snippets. Then Donnie, who long ago became less cool than his big sister Maggie Darko, discovers that the movie was just a dream he saw in the handle of his magic dagger. All I remember from the video game is that your little man had a more human-like gait than was usual for video games, and it was incredibly hard to avoid falling into pits. As I type this, Donnie is telling a beardy fellow to “listen to your heart.” So it’s safe to say the movie isn’t much like the game, except when the girl fell into that pit.

The Men Who Stare At Goats (2009, Grant Heslov)
“Larry’s dead,” are the first words I hear… guess I won’t be seeing Kevin Spacey. Still holding out hope for Stephen Root, though. Oh wait, there’s Spacey now, wtf. Directed by an actor who played “guy in big suit” in Bug. There’s an LSD prank then all the army base’s goats and prisoners are set free. I’m not detecting much comedy in this comedy, so I guess it got dark and turned into a drama halfway through. Jeff Bridges and George Clooney escape in a chopper, Ewan provides poignant, anti-corporate-media voiceover, and it ends on a dud of a joke. Glad I didn’t sit through the rest of this.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2009, Niels Oplev)
A pierced punk rock girl (a “rebellious computer hacker” according to the Netflix description) talking with her mama seems sad. Later, some blond woman is talking about being raped by her dad, cue spazzy flashback with bland music. Punk girl visits hospitalized boyfriend, drops off secret financial records, he writes an article causing a mogul to commit suicide, and punk girl steals a lot of money and escapes to a tropical paradise. Whole thing seems anticlimactic and unengaging. But I guess if The Da Vinci Code can be a huge success, so can this. Still, at least Da Vinci had a big ending (the codex is shattered! Amelie is Jesus’s daughter!) to justify all the dreary exposition. This one wasn’t even exciting enough for me to check out the last ten minutes of the sequels.

Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl (2009, Nishimura & Tomomatsu)
Dubbing!! The fakest CGI ever. Oh, this is one of those direct-to-video Japanese teen movies full of awful music where everyone wears school uniforms. It’s not even as good as Tokyo Gore Police (they share a director). “When you gave me that chocolate, I had no idea how you really felt about me” should not be one of the final lines of a movie with this title. Oh, and Vampire Girl decisively wins.

Factotum (2005, Bent Hamer)
Hooray, Lili Taylor! Long takes + poorly furnished rooms = gritty realism. Poor Charlie Bukowski is having money issues and lady issues. Matt Dillon gets life advice from “Old Black Man” (according to the credits) in the unemployment office, finally gets one of his stories published. I don’t find Dillon’s poetic voiceover very compelling. From the dude who made Kitchen Stories.

Ondine (2009, Neil Jordan)
She is telling fisherman Colin Farrell that she’s not a magical water creature, but just a girl who almost drowned while escaping from something or other. Uh oh, some fellows with pistols and strong accents. What is happening? Colin and the girl live, are getting married at the end. Jordan made a bunch of movies that always look somewhat intriguing but not quite essential.

The Day The Earth Stopped (2008, C. Thomas Howell)
If you start watching a movie ten minutes before the closing credits, the hero and villain are always in the middle of some revelatory exposition scene. All movies are the same. Should you really entrust the remake rights of The Day The Earth Stood Still to one of the teen actors from Red Dawn? Earth starts shaking (I’d hardly say it is standing still) and sepia-toned CGI versions of major world monuments (and a ferris wheel) are falling rapidly towards the camera. I was excited that Judd Nelson is in this, but I’d gotten him confused with Judge Reinhold – who is Judd Nelson? There is yelling and guns and terrible camerawork, then something really stupid happens and I guess the aliens don’t destroy Earth. Shame.

2012 (2009, Roland Emmerich)
Here’s a movie that isn’t afraid to let the world end, or to cast Oliver Platt! I don’t see world monuments crumbling, just a big Titanicky iceberg adventure (Roland must’ve had some ice left over from The Day After Tomorrow) with people yelling and swimming through tunnels to close or open portals and machinery. Oh, surviving mankind lives on arks now, and Africa turns out to be the future, or the home of the our civilization or something.

Salt (2010, Phillip Noyce)
Another movie with a third-billed Chiwetel Ejiofor, and more awful camerawork – only this time it’s awful in a big-budget extreme-cutting sense, not the give-an-idiot-a-camera awfulness of The Day The Earth Stopped. Ooh, the president is down. A. Jolie, handcuffed in FBI custody, still manages to kill Liev Schreiber, whoever he is. The backstory exposition comes a couple minutes late in this movie, then noble Chiwetel lets Jolie escape to kill again. From the writer of Equilibrium (and Ultraviolet, yuck) and director of Rabbit Proof Fence (and Sliver).

Red Dragon (2002, Brett Ratner)
Emily Watson is in a super intense burning-house scene, then a big fake explosion knocks down Ed Norton. This movie marked the end of my needing to see everything Norton was in (Keeping the Faith and The Score had already lowered expectations). Ed’s in the William Petersen role (WP’s on a cop show now). After he and Raiff Fiennes shoot each other to death, we see ol’ Hopkins (in the Brian Cox role) writing letters, and oh Ed isn’t dead actually, and it ends with a cheese-headed transition into an early scene from Silence of the Lambs. Doesn’t look bad, really, but as with all Ratner movies it is not to be taken seriously.

This shouldn’t have worked… a typically overstuffed Gilliam fantasy, riddled with CGI, with a lead actor who died in the middle of filming. But if there’s anything Gilliam seems to be great at, it’s dealing creatively with catastrophe, so this came out miles better than the relatively smooth Brothers Grimm (oops, nevermind, research indicates that Grimm was ruined by fights with studios).

No surprise that the cowriter of Baron Munchausen and Brazil is along for the ride, since this is crammed with dreams and costumes, little stories and bizarre images. Parnassus (Christopher Plummer, having a good year with this, Up and The Last Station) is immortal thanks to a deal with devil Tom Waits (his own sinister self plus a little mustache), who will claim Doctor P’s daughter Lily Cole (Rage) when she turns sixteen in a few days. Dr. P and his gang of circus misfits (including a shockingly good Verne Troyer and young Andrew Garfield, star of Boy A and the Red Riding trilogy) kidnap citizens within a magic dream-mirror, and try to make them pursue their ideal selves instead of succumbing to the devil’s lazy temptations. A bet is made, and they race to save enough souls to win back P’s daughter.

Enter Tony (Heath Ledger) as a charismatic con-artist who attracts Tom’s interest as he begins helping the carnies win the bet, modernizing their look and sucking people into the show. He’s a mysterious dude, which makes his shapeshifting into three other immensely likeable actors inside the dreamworld work, both narratively and visually. I didn’t even notice for a while when Johnny Depp replaced him. Way to save the movie there, Terry and gang. The movie tells us and tells us that Tony is a bad guy, a liar who steals from children, but it still came as a shock when he’s killed at the end. Charisma counts for a lot.

With all the negative-nellying I’ve heard about Parnassus, I’m glad to see it’s got a high IMDB rating and a couple oscar nominations. I was especially suspicious of the computer graphics, but they are bright and cartoonish, fake without trying to seem real, and work great in context, shaming Tim Burton’s Willy Wonka flick and Terry’s own Brothers Grimm. I’d already like to see it again… maybe rent the DVD and listen to Gilliam’s commentary when it comes out.

“I hope your midget doesn’t kill himself. Your dream sequence will be fucked.”

Kinda darker than I thought it would be, even knowing it’s about hitmen. Lotta killing of kids, midgets and likeable main characters. Funny dialogue… can’t compare to Hot Fuzz, but what can?

Gleeson and Farrell are hit men hiding out (cuz Farrell accidentally shot a kid while killing a priest), sent to Bruges by boss man Raifffiennes, who it turns out wants Gleeson to kill Farrell. Gleeson decides to let him go and face the consequences, which are death by shooting then falling off a bell tower. A Raifff/Farrell shootout results in four bullets in C.F., one dead dwarf, one Raifff suicide, and a parting shot by Farrell guessing that if hell is like Bruges, he wants to live.

Along the way Farrell meets a pretty girl, wounds her skinhead boyfriend (star of L’Enfant, didn’t recognize him without all the blond), offends the landlady, and befriends the dwarf (rad, it’s the guy who played Howard The Duck). Dwarf is appearing in a local film with lots of dream sequences, Raifff has buncha dialogue about Bruges being a fairy-tale place, there’s some afterlife/purgatory business, and apparently it’s all a homage to Don’t Look Now, which I haven’t seen. Anyway, very enjoyable flick.

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