Repo Men


Repo Men

Jude Law is knocked for a loop.

(Universal) Jude Law, Forrest Whitaker, Liev Schreiber, Alice Braga, Carice van Houten, Chandler Canterbury, RZA, Joe Pingue, Liza Lapira, Tiffany Espensen, Yvette Nicole Brown, Wayne Ward, Tanya Clarke, Max Turnbull. Directed by Miguel Sapochnik

In the modern capitalist society, if you fail to pay for a purchase it gets repossessed, whether it is a car, a computer or a home. In the future, that also might extend to artificial organs that are keeping you alive.

Remy (Law) is a repo man working for The Union, the worlds largest broker of artificial organs. Prohibitively expensive, generous credit plans are available so that people can purchase a chance at an extended life – at an exorbitant interest rate of course. When people start missing their payments, people like Remy and his best friend Jake (Whitaker) will find you, stun you into unconsciousness with a tazer and remove the artificial organ (which are called “artiforgs”) quickly and efficiently via home surgery. The patient usually doesn’t survive the procedure.

Business is pretty good and Remy is the best there is, a fact that hasn’t gone unnoticed by his boss Frank (Schreiber). However, it is taking a toll on his marriage to Carol (van Houten) who wants him to get a job that involves regular hours so that he might spend more time with their son Peter (Canterbury). A sales job pays much less than repo and as Jake points out, Remy is far more suited to the repo life than to sales which they both regard as weak.

However, after Jake executes a repo in their front yard during a barbecue, she gives Remy an ultimatum; make a change or get out. Remy decides to do one last job, to take the artificial heart from T-Bone (RZA), a producer of soul music that Remy admires. Remy allows him to complete mixing one last song, but when he goes to stop the artificial heart with a faulty defibrillator, the resulting shock about kills him.

He wakes up with a top-of-the-line artificial heart inside of him and is absolutely terrified. There is no way he can continue making payments on the expensive piece of equipment, especially now that the experience of being a client himself has led him to lose his nerve as a repo man, now seeing the clients as human beings with names…and wives. While his own wife has left him, furious that he went on that last job, Remy prepares to go on the run with Beth (Braga), a lounge singer he’s taken under his wing and a girl with more artificial parts than a Chevy. However, in a society where it is impossible to hide from barcode scanners and bioscan devices, how can they possibly beat a system that is so stacked against them?

This is director Sapochnik’s first feature, and as first efforts go, it’s not too bad. The action sequences are nicely directed with a nod towards the Matrix school of stunts and the overall look of the film is gritty and believable. Whitaker and Law have good chemistry in the leads and while Braga is a bit colorless as the romantic interest, she fulfills her function pretty nicely.

There is a lot of blood here. A whole lot of it. You’re gonna feel like you need a shower after jumping elbow deep into this mutha. Those who get squeamish at surgical films are going to be making a bee-line to the bathroom watching this, so my advice to those with weak stomachs is to go in forewarned.

One of the big problems of the movie is the transformation of Remy from repo man to rebel. He goes from being derisive of clients, sneering throughout “a job’s a job” in a thick cockney accent to being heroic. I understand he went through a life-changing trauma (and to be fair, it seems to me that the period in which the change takes place is probably a period of several months to a year, although it seems very quick onscreen) but there’s no transition. One moment he’s vicious and uncaring and the next he’s a saint. That lack of evolution is the biggest drawback to the movie. I think that they could have used an additional ten minutes or so of illustrating the character’s changeover. If you don’t believe his change of heart, you can’t believe the movie.

In all honesty, this is another movie in which the concept is better than the execution. There’s an interesting parable to be had here about public health care I think, and that may have been what the filmmakers were going for all along. Unfortunately, because they made the decision to accentuate the action over the character development, I think the movie ultimately misses the mark. It’s worth seeing, but just barely so.

REASONS TO GO: Decent action, decently photographed, decently acted. An interesting parable for the health care debate.

REASONS TO STAY: Law’s changeover from violent and amoral to caring and concerned is a bit abrupt and unbelievable.

FAMILY VALUES: A good deal of violence and plenty of gore, lots of foul language and a little bit of sexuality – put it all together and it adds up to not for kids!!!

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Jake teases Remy about the title of the book that he writes as being weak, but it’s the actual title of the novel the movie is based on.

HOME OR THEATER: A very mild nod towards the big screen for some of the effects shots, but you could go either way with this one.

FINAL RATING: 6/10

TOMORROW: Stranger Than Fiction

New Releases for the Week of March 19, 2010


The Bounty Hunter

Gerard Butler & Jennifer Aniston wonder why the critics are shooting at them.

THE BOUNTY HUNTER

(Columbia) Gerard Butler, Jennifer Aniston, Jason Sudeikis, Christine Baranski, Dorian Missick, Joel Marsh Garland. Directed by Andy Tennant

Life is good for bounty hunter Milo Boyd. He’s finally getting a few breaks his way after years of being down and out and to top it all off, he gets the assignment of a lifetime – to bring his ex-wife to jail after she skips out on her bail. Nothing could make his heart gladder, until he discovers that she is on the run for her life after blowing the lid off of a murder cover-up and now he’s embroiled in her mess too. Ain’t love grand?

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Rating: PG-13 (for sexual content including suggestive comments, language and some violence)

Diary of a Wimpy Kid

(20th Century Fox) Zachary Gordon, Chloe Moretz, Steve Zahn, Devon Bostick. Of all the dangerous situations that humans can face, there is nothing more deadly, more soul-crushing, more demoralizing than…middle school. At least, that’s the way it seems to Greg Heffley, an imaginative and bright young boy who is trying to navigate the treacherous waters of that institution. This family comedy is based on the first book from the series of illustrated novels by Jeff Kinney.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Rating: PG (for some rude humor and language)

Repo Men

(Universal) Jude Law, Forrest Whitaker, Liev Schreiber, RZA. In the near future, prosthetic organs are widely available…if you an afford them. For those that can’t, there are payment plans but God help you if you miss your payments because the corporate bean counters will send the repo men after you to take back their property, and trust me you won’t find any mercy in them. Not even for one of their own, who finds himself on the run from his own co-workers – including his best friend since childhood who knows him better than anyone. He will have to use all his wits to take down the corporation…before his heart is repossessed.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Rating: R (for strong bloody violence, grisly images, language and some sexuality/nudity)

Saint John of Las Vegas

(IndieVest) Steve Buscemi, Sarah Silverman, Romany Malco, Peter Dinklage. A compulsive gambler escapes the clutches of his disease and finds work as a claims adjustor for an auto insurance company in Albuquerque, salving his demons with lotto scratchers. When he is assigned to accompany the top fraud debunker for the company to investigate a dubious accident near Las Vegas, he sees an opportunity for promotion despite his misgivings about being so close to Sin City once again. With a romance developing into something potentially lasting and an assortment of freaks and geeks to navigate through, this may be a lot more than a tarnished saint could have bargained for.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Rating: R (for language, and some nudity)

New Releases for the Week of March 12, 2010


March 12

Matt Damon finds out from his agent that he lost the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.

THE GREEN ZONE

 

(Universal) Matt Damon, Brendan Gleeson, Greg Kinnear, Amy Ryan, Jason Isaacs, Khalid Abdalla, Said Faraj. Directed by Paul Greengrass

It was the job of Army Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller to find Iraqi weapons of mass destruction during the early days of the occupation of Baghdad. It was also becoming increasingly frustrating and suspicious to him that he was coming up empty on every single occasion. He and his men are being sent to a variety of sites based on the intelligence gathered from a single source, the veracity of which Miller is coming to doubt. Needing answers as to why good men are dying for what appears to be no discernable gain, he stumbles upon a massive conspiracy and cover-up that could change the game for an entire nation.

See the trailer and featurettes here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Rating: R (for violence and language)

Our Family Wedding

(Fox Searchlight) Forrest Whitaker, America Ferrera, Carlos Mencia, Regina King. Two bright young people meet in college, fall in love, graduate and plan to get married. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Not when the two are from two different ethnic groups with egocentric, uber-competitive fathers who want to turn the wedding into personal statements. The old adage is that when you marry someone, you marry their family and this comedy plays into that. Can true love conquer all? Seeing as this was made in Hollywood, I strongly suspect the answer is yes.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Rating: PG-13 (for some sexual content and brief strong language)

Remember Me

(Summit) Robert Pattinson, Pierce Brosnan, Emilie de Ravin, Chris Cooper. A rebellious young New Yorker, estranged from his wealthy father finds himself falling in love unexpectedly with a young woman who has daddy issues of her own. Through their love they find healing where they least expected to find it. Charter members of Team Edward should flock to this one.

See the trailer, featurettes and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Rating: PG-13 (for violence, sexual content, language and smoking)

She’s Out of My League

(DreamWorks) Jay Baruchel, Alice Eve, TJ Miller, Nate Torrence. A mild mannered airport security agent with fair to middling looks finds himself in a relationship with a successful and incredibly beautiful woman who has fallen hard for him. He has to figure out a way to make things work with an alpha male ex-boyfriend out to reclaim her and when everyone, including himself, believes she’s way above his pay grade.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Rating: R (for language and sexual content)                                                    

The Yellow Handkerchief

(Goldwyn) William Hurt, Kristen Stewart, Maria Bello, Eddie Redmayne. A young girl impulsively accepts a ride from a young man and then the two of them pick up an older man who’s hitchhiking. All of them have something in their past that they are or have been running away from. As they take a road trip in post-Katrina Louisiana they find that the path to true freedom often comes at a heavy price.

See the trailer, featurettes and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Rating: PG-13 (for sexual content, some violence, language and thematic elements)

Where the Wild Things Are


Even a Wild Thing needs a chilldown after a wild rumpus.

Even a Wild Thing needs a chilldown after a wild rumpus.

(Warner Brothers) Max Records, Catherine Keener, James Gandolfini (voice), Catherine O’Hara (voice), Forrest Whitaker (voice), Lauren Ambrose (voice), Chris Cooper (voice), Mark Ruffalo, Paul Dano (voice), Pepita Emmerichs. Directed by Spike Jonze

In all of us there is a wild side. It is the side that defies authority, the part of us that breaks the rules and the part of us that acts out when we don’t get what we want. It is the part in us that is closest to the child in us, so it is no surprise that children are more cognizant of their wild thing than we are.

Max (Records) is a young boy being raised by a single mother (Keener) who is too busy working to have the time for him he would like her to have. He doesn’t have many friends, and his sister (Emmerichs) is older, moving into teenager things and having even less time than his mom does.

He has a vivid imagination, turning a snowdrift into an igloo and old toilet paper dispensers into fantastic skyscrapers. However, he has had difficulty adjusting to a life without his dad and when his mom starts dating a new boyfriend (Ruffalo) he has a nuclear meltdown and runs away.

He finds a small boat and navigates it out to see. After a day and a night he arrives at a strange island with a rocky shoreline as dusk is falling. He is attracted by flickering torches and is startled to discover a group of strange, shaggy creatures, one of whom is in the process of destroying their huts. His name is Carol (Gandolfini) and he is distraught because one of their number has left the family. Max reveals himself and Carol takes to him immediately as a kindred spirit.

Not all the others are so welcoming. Judith (O’Hara) is described as a bit of a downer, and that’s accurate enough – she is suspicious of Max and wants to eat him. However, when Max reveals himself to be a king in his own country, the others (even Judith) relents and accept Max as their new king, the Wild Things being without a king at the time. Max declares a wild rumpus and the commotion attracts the attention of KW (Ambrose) who also instantly takes a liking to Max. Max, for his part, has found the family he’s always wanted.

That family also includes Ira (Whitaker), a gentle giant who is in love with Judith and is also nearly as fond of making holes in things; Douglas (Cooper), Carol’s best friend and right hand, Alexander (Dano) who is consistently ignored by the others and the Bull, who mostly communicates in grunts. Max decides to have them build a fort where only the things they want to have happen occur. He gets the idea when Carol shows him his secret spot on the island where he has built a model city out of twigs, complete with canals and figures of his family members.

At first building the fort gives them purpose but as time goes on Max begins to realize that being King of the Wild Things isn’t as easy as it first appeared and that his more aggressive nature was causing some of his new family pain.

There is no doubt that Spike Jonze has an incredible imagination, and he may well have been the perfect choice to bring the classic children’s story by Maurice Sendak to life. Visually, this is very imaginative, unlike any movie you’ve ever seen. The faces of the Wild Things are amazing, CGI representations of the actors who are voicing them given a Wild Thing treatment. These CGI faces are then digitally inserted onto actors wearing oversized costumes, creating a natural movement that no computer could have replicated.

Records is a pretty decent actor as children go in a part that is not a typical kids part. For one thing, Max doesn’t have all the answers – in fact, he has far more questions than answers. He isn’t smarter than the grown-ups around him and he doesn’t save the day. Basically, he’s an unruly boy with emotional issues.

Therein lies my problem with the movie. Max is never accountable for his actions; when he bites his mother, she screams at him that he’s out of control and he screams back that it isn’t his fault. Well, whose fault is it then?

More egregiously, the movie diverges from the book on some key points. Now, while I’m usually fine about movies being different from the books they’re based on, one of the key elements of Where the Wild Things Are (the book) is that it all takes place inside Max’s room, literally inside his head. Here, the Wild Thing Island is literally an island that Max travels to.

The ending of the movie isn’t terribly realistic either. When Max arrives home after (presumably) running away for several days, his mother greets him with dinner and chocolate cake for desert. I don’t know about your mom but mine would have hugged me and then killed me had I run away like that.

This is such a visually arresting movie that it’s worth seeing just on that basis. There are some terrific performances, particularly from Gandolfini who captures the blustery Carol’s mood swings and inner pain. I do have a problem with the movie’s message, which seems to be that it is okay to give in to the Wild Thing inside and there will be no consequences, no repercussions. Lots of kids will be seeing this and get the message that acting out is ok, whether that’s the message the filmmakers (and Sendak) wanted to send or not.

We all have wild things inside of us. It is a part of us, as is the part that is responsible and caring for each other. The Wild Things tend to be the side of us that is selfish and undisciplined, necessary for our creative sides to come out but at the end of the day, merely a component of our psyches. Sendak always meant the Wild Things of his book to be elements of Max’ personality, and they are here as well; the important thing is that the Wild Things are not the Only Things. As for the movie, it’s flawed but I applaud the effort, the imagination and the visual sense. It’s certainly worth your attention.

REASONS TO GO: Jonze amazing visual sense makes this a treat for the imagination. It is, after all, the filmed version of one of the most beloved children’s books of all time.

REASONS TO STAY: The movie veers away from the book in some significant ways. Max is so troubled that at times it’s hard to watch him act out. There are almost no lessons in accountability and the ending is far more of a fantasy than the rest of the movie.

FAMILY VALUES: A little bit of language and violence, as well as some kid-in-jeopardy scenes but all in all suitable for the entire family.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The original songs in the movie were written and performed by Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, who was dating Jonze at the time of the production. They’ve since broken up.

HOME OR THEATER: This should be seen on the big screen, no question.

FINAL RATING: 6/10

TOMORROW: Six Days of Darkness begins!