Friday, May 4, 2012
Friday, May 27, 2011
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Rare Exports: Christmas not just for Kindred Spirits
You better hope you’ve been good this year, especially if you’re spending Christmas in Finland.
Finnish legend claims that Santa Claus lives in the northernmost region of Finland, tucked away in the mountains of Korvatunturi, or Lapland. Where, exactly, is a mystery, but thanks to Finnish Director Jalmari Helander, we’ve got a pretty educated (and, well yes, fictionalized) guess as to how. In his recent Christmas thriller, Rare Exports, he introduces us to this exact small, remote town north of the Arctic Circle filled with infinite snow and mystical reindeers. Here, an American-led team is excavating the local mountain, until they discover mysterious sawdust scraps and a large mass of ice deep within the rock. Tension emerges stemming from moral-based rules that are immediately laid down, but the men are never fully explained the contents deep within the mountain, a secret that’s been buried for many years, and scarier than any of the children (naughty or nice) could imagine. It’s the original Santa Claus. Don’t think for a second that there is a snow-white beard or a red and white coat to go along with the creature that they’re calling by that familiar name. The thing that they’re about to dig up carries images more in line with demons. Think horns, pointy teeth, boiling cauldrons, whips and lashes. Coal should be the least of these kids’ worries.
It’s not a far cry from Finnish folklore of Saint Nicholas that parallels Germanic mythology where Odin was a god of inspired mental activity. He knew when you were angry, enraged, or thinking “naughty” thoughts (clearly the modern song leaves out a few lyrics). He was accompanied by several creatures that kept him informed of what the people in the world were up to… hint hint, like an elf on the shelf. Physically, the similarities get even more oddly comparable. Odin often wore a long beard and a hat. He carried a staff and a cloth sack. Sounding familiar? Both Saint Nick and Odin traveled on flying animals and gave gifts to good children. And although nowadays, the image of Saint Nicholas is kind and warm, his roots suggest more than a creative idea as Helander’s twisted inspiration.
Rare Exports is a distorted fairy tale somewhere between the Coca-Cola Santa and the god of the dead. Somewhere. If you’re ho-hum about watching the same Christmas movie over and over, take your hum bug to a new level and entertain your holiday with the weirdest story you’ll see for a while. It’s creepy and thrilling, outlandish and fantastical, and despite a rushed and cheesy ending, the film stays deep in your thoughts long after your de-trim the tree. The ending seems rushed and ill fitting, but overall special effects make it realistic. Simplicity in plot and execution make it believable and candid. And, as with any good film from The Netherlands, a sense of grotesque and oddity make it something so far removed from our American traditions that it can be anything but ignored. Expect to grip your seat, laugh out loud and raise your eyebrows, but don’t expect to be getting what you want this Christmas.
Friday, November 19, 2010
MUST-SEE: (Roger Michell) If there was ever any doubt that Rachel McAdams was America’s new sweetheart, Morning Glory bids it farewell forever. She plays Becky Fuller, an energetic, hopeful and undeniably adorable new executive producer, taking the reigns of a dying morning show to desperately try and breathe life back into its dysfunctional, yet lovable, TV family. She struggles to balance the stress of work with the threat of losing her reputation, at the same time doing her best to fall in love (with “smokin’” Patrick Wilson, no less). And not only does she run the show, she does it alongside movie powerhouses Diane Keaton and Harrison Ford.
Keaton plays morning show favorite Colleen Peck (Diane Keaton) and her new (disgruntled) co-host, is Harrison Ford playing Mike Pomeroy. Keaton’s Peck does anything she can to stay on top (including practicing a diva attitude) while Ford’s Pomeroy is less than enthusiastic about his new gig and not abashed to show it. Egos collide for a comical moshpit of monosyllabic news bits and cheesy community coverage, everyone fighting the battle of news versus entertainment.
It’s any executive producer’s nightmare—left third in command behind egotistical anchors, but somehow Fuller steers the chaos into something worth saving. McAdams is funny and real, irresistible as the lead and powerful enough to carry this film up and over its conflict, leaving its story melting in our hearts forever. You’ll leave wanting to follow your own dreams, and kick up your heels doing it. Romantic comedy pro Roger Michell pulls out all the stops for this roller coaster ride of cuteness that just escapes a chic flick label and instead takes its place in a long line of soon-to-be classics we’ll be watching again and again.
Friday, August 6, 2010
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
But, alas, many years later... It came on television one rainy afternoon (and, let's be real - this one is always on television), and I settled in for what turned out to be a riveting and unforgettable story. That story is of the real-life Erin Brockovich - a single mom working for a local lawyer to pay off her legal fees from an accident case. Wearing mini skirts and low-cut tops, Brockovich struts through the corporate world, raising highbrows higher than her heels, but somehow making a reputation for herself that stretched beyond those hemlines. Given a menial task by her boss, she uncovers a multi-million dollar case against P&G. Apparently, their plants leaked fatal chemicals into the city's water system, exposing hundreds of families to life threatening diseases that would be carried through generations.
A true David versus Goliath fight, Brockovich claims a right-hand seat to steer the case for the benefit of the people, inspiring her own colleagues to fight for humanity. Its a story of love and loss and keeping your head up... as well as sacrifice and compromise. Brockovich puts it all on the line (family, love, reputation, her job) to reach a hand out to the people of this unfortunate town, proving that you can mix love and business.
I know most of the world has seen this flick, but for the minority out there - I encourage you to put it on your list. It's inspiring and fascinating, both a tremendous performance from Julia Roberts and a well-adapted screenplay. I wish movies were still this unique!
Monday, April 12, 2010
The film tells that story well. The morale is candid and clear and the chemistry between a slew of phenomenal voices (Keener, Gandolfini, O'Hare, Whitaker and Paul Dano) and an intelligent script was entertaining, and in my opinion, the life force behind its success. The film is definitely not for children. It's filled with dark humor and sardonic thematics. It also covers heavy topics, leaving your heart and mind slightly downtrodden and oddly unsettled. I can't say that I am glad I saw it, or that you're missing out if you don't. It didn't leave an impression, other than a slight frown and lost hope. The storybook created a fantastic sense of imagination, both supporting flagrant make-believe and inspiring individuals to hold onto their innocence. The film, however, borders on belittling that theme - reminding us grown-ups that life is happening and that it mostly sucks, no matter where you "go" to escape it. Bottom line, this film was a literal bummer!