Today's reviews include a niche romantic master work, an inventive and violent first effort, and a pretty standard action flick.
Bellflower -Bellflower is a small, quirky indie drama in the tradition of small, quirky nineties indie dramas, quite a different breed of movie from the "independent" films of an age where The Artist sweeps the Independent Spirit Awards backed by Harvey Weinstein. It is the first feature length film for writer/director/star/editor Evan Glodell as well as the other two principal lead actors and I would be lying to say it didn't show a little. The film is raw. Some of the acting (especially Glodell's, who might benefit from being directed by someone else before he tries to direct himself again) is a little stilted, the inflections a little repetitive. It is an admirable first effort, however, with some very impressive moments, that shows a lot of promise for this young filmmaker's future. It is essentially the story of two best friends, obsessed with explosions, fire, and cinema of the post-apocalyptic variety who meet two girls and explore most of mankind's less pleasant tendencies and emotions. It is violent, sexually twisted and one of the earliest examples of the cinematic voice of a generation younger than myself (making me feel as if I'm not cool enough to judge it). The script is probably the film's strongest element, and I can well imagine that people who saw Beavis and Butthead as small children (rather than as already decadent and irreverent college student like myself) might actually turn out a lot like the guys in this movie.
Bellflower is a good, but not great picture that nevertheless demonstrates auteur Glodell's potential and should secure him the opportunity to explore it with greater resources. Available on DVD 3 1/2 of 5 stars
Killer Elite - Let me start out by saying that if I were judging this movie strictly against other action flicks by the standards that are usually prioritized in that genre it would do pretty well. If you just want to see gunfights, explosions, and chase scenes (with bees!) then this film has plenty of those things and they are rendered in a fairly believable manner. You will like it. Stop reading. You'll decide I'm a little bit of a film snob and I'm trying to keep it under wraps.
I was a little let down. I keep wanting Jason Statham to remind us that he is not just an action hero but a good actor. I want him to pick scripts that allow him to do that. I want the great Robert DeNiro to quit texting it in (the next generation of phoning it in), and I want him to pick scripts that inspire him to do so. This was not that script. Saorse Ronan's Hannah was a more compelling action hero and she's a wispy teen-age girl.
Basically, this pic could have benefited from following the advice of its background villains the "Feather Men" and applied a lighter touch. I can't say that I recommend this film unless you are just a big fan of most action flicks. If that IS the case, you could do a lot worse. Available on DVD 2 of 5*
Weekend - Maybe my extremely positive opinion of this movie is influenced by how relevant it is to me personally because I'm gay and it is a gay quasi-romance. However, sticking this film with that genre label and leaving it at that is an extreme disservice to sophomore writer/director Andrew Haigh's fine work. This film tells the story of two men who meet and have an intense affair over the course of one Autumn weekend. In this short course of time, the conversations and experiences that they have illuminate issues of personal identity, tolerance versus acceptance, and how straight society teaches gay people (specifically men) to see themselves. The sex definitely goes beyond kissing (although full frontal nudity is limited to partial glimpses)
and may well be enough to make some straight viewers a little uncomfortable, but this reaction is a big part of the movie thematically and these elements are in no way gratuitous. Rookie stars Tom Cullen and Chris New are both amazing in this film. If you are gay, this film will show you elements of your own life and experiences in a way that is much more realistic than you usually see in a feature film. If you are straight but have gay friends, this movie will help you to understand things about their lives and experiences in a way that will justify calling them such. Like the two men's weekend, the film is greatly enriching and ends too soon.
Still no US DVD release date, but available on Netflix instant play 5 of 5*