The Big Bang

Noir, 21st Century-style.

Noir, 21st Century-style.

(2010) Mystery (Anchor Bay) Antonio Banderas, Sienna Guillory, James van der Beek, Snoop Dogg, Autumn Reeser, Sam Elliot, Jimmi Simpson, Thomas Kretschmann, William Fichtner, Robert Maillet, Delroy Lindo, Bill Duke, Rebecca Mader, Robert Ernie Lee, Rachel Handler, Sean Cook, Khanh Doan, Keith MacGeagh, Chandra Bailey. Directed by Tony Krantz

When you think of film noir, you think of hard-bitten detectives in rumpled suits, gorgeous dames in dresses two sizes too tight and big bruising thugs with brass knuckles. You think of soft black and white, foggy back alleys and sleazy private investigator offices. You think of Bogart, Bacall, Mitchum and Greenstreet. You don’t think of Antonio Banderas and neon colored strip clubs.

But they can be noir too. In this celluloid extravaganza Banderas is Ned Cruz, a P.I. from the mean streets of L.A. A Russian boxer named Anton “The Pro” Protopov (Maillet), freshly release from prison after killing a man in the ring, is looking for a girl. Not just any girl though – you can find one on the Internet – but the lovely Lexi Persimmon. You heard me. Anyway, she wrote him a bunch of letters in the slam but gave the galoot no info to go on, no address, no social security, no phone number – not even an e-mail.

There’s also this stash of $40 million in blood diamonds, a waitress named Fay (Reeser) who loves particle physics, a porn director (Dogg) who loves his product a little too much, a kinky movie star (van der Beek) with a dark secret, a cross-dressing nuclear physicist (Simpson), a crazy billionaire (Elliot) obsessed with finding the God particle and willing to re-create the Big Bang in the New Mexico desert to do it and the billionaire’s wife (Guillory) who might be the key to the whole sordid tale. Oh, and did we mention the three brutal cops (Kretschmann, Lindo and Fichtner) chasing down Cruz to find out where the diamonds are?

On paper this really does sound like my kind of movie – something smart but timeless, using the conventions of a noir detective thriller with a touch of sci-fi and a little bit of black humor mixed in. However, references to physics and science doesn’t necessarily a smart film make although this one is pretty clever in places.

Banderas is an engaging star but I didn’t really believe him in the role. Ned Cruz should have been a lot more badass than pretty boy; in some ways I think Danny Trejo might have been more suitable but of course Banderas is the bigger box office draw so from that standpoint I can’t really blame the producers.

The cast is pretty impressive for a low budget thriller with a tiny distributor but not many of them get the kind of screen time that makes for much of an impression. Most are little more than cameos although Elliot seems to be having the most fun playing the kind of character he rarely gets to play while Simpson camps it up nicely. Reeser and Guillory really don’t have much more to do but look pretty which to be fair they do very, very well – but I suspect if their characters had been given a little more fleshing out they would have risen to the challenge as well.

I don’t think the movie achieves everything the filmmakers set out to do, but it is entertaining enough to be worth a look-see. Although I criticized his casting earlier, Banderas at least does an adequate job of playing the tough guy and of course doing the narration which is a noir tradition. While the movie takes a few left turns too many, it nonetheless at least doesn’t disgrace the genre and given that since its heyday many have tried but few have succeeded in giving us a good noir thriller I have to at least admire the attempt.

WHY RENT THIS: A noir thriller involving particle physics – I can’t make this stuff up. Decent cast.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Goes a little bit off into left field occasionally.

FAMILY VALUES: There is some nudity and quite a bit of sexuality (some of it graphic), a bit of foul language and some violence.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: There was an extended sex scene shot that got the film an NC-17 rating that was removed from the film in order to bring it down to an R rating; director Krantz refers to it on the home video commentary track but the scene isn’t included on the Blu-Ray release.



COMPARISON SHOPPING: Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid


NEXT: The Perfect Host


Four-Warned: May 2011

May 2011Every month I’m going to look at every movie on the release schedule and try to assign them a numerical value corresponding to how anxious I am to see it. The lower the number, the more I want to see it. A one means I would walk through hell and high water to see it; a four means there’s no interest whatsoever. The numbers are not arrived at scientifically but they aren’t arbitrary either.
The numbers aren’t a reflection of the artistic merit of any of these films, but merely a reflection of my willingness to go to a movie theater and see it. The top four scores will be gathered as a means of reflecting the movies I’m anticipating the most; you may use that as a guide or not.

Each entry is broken down as follows:

NAME OF FILM (Studio) Genre A brief description of the plot. Release plans: Wide = Everywhere, Limited = In selected markets. RATING A brief comment

Keep in mind that release dates are extremely subject to change, even at this late date.

1. THOR (1.1)
4. PRIEST (1.9)

4. THE BIG BANG (2.2)

RATING SYSTEM: 1) Must-see, 2) Should-see, 3) Perhaps-see, 4) Don’t-see

MAY 6, 2011

AN INVISIBLE SIGN (IFC) Genre: Drama. A child who escapes her father’s illness through numbers becomes a math teacher who helps her students escape their own crises. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Although Jessica Alba wasn’t the casting choice I might have made, the trailer looks very intriguing.
THE BEAVER (Summit) Genre: Drama. A man deep in the clutches of depression uses a beaver hand puppet to help save his family, his career and ultimately himself. Release Strategy: Limited (expands wide May 20). RATING: 2.8 Jodie Foster in the director’s chair is always welcome; Mel Gibson in the lead role might not be for some.
DAYDREAM NATION (Anchor Bay) Genre: Drama. A young girl moves into a small town and gets involved with her teacher and a troubled but sweet classmate. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.2 I’m not sure I liked some of the thematic elements displayed in the trailer.
FORKS OVER KNIVES (Monica Beach Media) Genre: Documentary. Claims that most degenerative diseases can be controlled and even eliminated with diet are examined. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.9 The fable that vegetarianism is healthier for you than a balanced diet just won’t go away.
HARVEST (Monterey Media) Genre: Drama. A patriarch gathers his family together in an idyllic shoreline town. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.5 It’s certainly a talented cast and an interesting premise; trailer wasn’t half bad either.
HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN (Magnet) Genre: Action. A hobo trying to make a better life for himself must take on a criminal gang armed with a shotgun and a lawnmower. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.0 The second movie based on a Grindhouse trailer.
I’M NOT JESUS MOMMY (FilmDemic) Genre: Horror. It is discover that the world’s first cloned child was cloned using DNA from the Shroud of Turin. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.1 Not sure if this is a standard horror movie or a Christian one.
JUMPING THE BROOM (TriStar) Genre: Urban Romantic Comedy. Two families of different socio-economic strata clash at a Martha’s Vineyard wedding. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.2 Trailer very “been there done that.”
LAST NIGHT (Tribeca) Genre: Drama. A couple separated by a husband’s business trip must face romantic temptation. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.2 A very interesting premise but unfortunately, not a cast to match it.
MAKE BELIEVE (Crowd Starter) Genre: Documentary. The film follows six entrants in the World’s Best Teen Magician in Las Vegas. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.4 Could be interesting; might not be.
MOTHER’S DAY (Gigapix) Genre: Horror. A sadistic mom and her bank robbing sons take control at a birthday party held at their former home, terrorizing the new residents. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.9 I don’t think this has anything to do with the 80s slasher film of the same name.
OCTUBRE (OCTOBER) (New Yorker) Genre: Drama. A small-time criminal in Peru is forced to care for a baby and utilizes a prostitute to help him; the three form an unexpected family of sorts. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.1 Sounds a little bit like the South African film Tsotsi.
PASSION PLAY (Image) Genre: Fantasy. A jazz musician on the run from a gangster meets a mysterious winged woman in a carnival. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 A cast that includes Bill Murray, Mickey Rourke and Rhys Ifans has got my vote.
THE SILENT HOUSE (LA CASA MUDA) (IFC Midnight) Genre: Horror. A father and daughter renovating a cottage endure terrifying events. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 Filmed in one continuous shot a la Rope, this is reportedly based on actual events.
SOMETHING BORROWED (Warner Brothers) Genre: Romantic Comedy. The maid of honor winds up sleeping with the groom, who happens to be her old flame – and the bride her best friend. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.4 Ginnifer Goodwin is not one of my favorite actresses but Kate Hudson is.
THERE BE DRAGONS (Goldwyn) Genre: Historical Drama. The story of St. Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer, founder of Opus Dei is presented in a fictionalized form here. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.1 A pro-Catholic look at the man who founded the controversial group that has haunted the dreams of Dan Brown.
THOR (Paramount) Genre: Superhero. The God of Thunder is banished to Asgard for unleashing war, only the war follows him down to Earth. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D). RATING: 1.1 A new Marvel movie – must be May!
THE VINTNER’S LUCK (Panorama) Genre: Fantasy. A French peasant winemaker must choose between an aristocratic Baroness, his wife and a fallen angel. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.0 The trailer has elements of the avant garde and the straightforward both.

MAY 11, 2011

CITY OF LIFE AND DEATH (Kino International) Genre: Drama. A dramatization of the Japanese invasion and subjugation of Nanking prior to World War II. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.7 Haven’t seen the trailer yet but still waiting for the definitive “Rape of Nanking” movie.

MAY 13, 2011

THE BIG BANG (Anchor Bay) Genre: Crime Thriller. A bedraggled L.A. gumshoe investigates a case of stolen diamonds that might turn into the end of the world as we know it. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 Film noir with a modern setting and an impressive cast – I like it.
THE BLEEDING HOUSE (Tribeca) Genre: Horror. A family with a violent secret is infiltrated by a sweet-talking young man out for retribution. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Sounds like a psychological thriller with a haunted house title.
BRIDESMAIDS (Universal) Genre: Comedy. A maid of honor attempts to perform her duties with a group of demented bridesmaids and her best friend. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.1 Judd Apatow tries to do for weddings what he did for pregnancy.
CAMERAMAN: THE LIFE AND WORKS OF JACK CARDIFF (Strand) Genre: Documentary. Cardiff was one of the most influential cinematographers of his era, a career that spanned nine of the first ten decades of motion picture history. Release Strategy: New York City (Opening in Los Angeles June 3). RATING: 2.7 Responsible for some of the most memorable motion pictures in history.
EVERYTHING MUST GO (Roadside Attractions) Genre: Dramedy. After being locked out of his house and his possessions thrown out on the lawn by his wife, a man seeks to sell everything and in doing so find release from his demons. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Will Ferrell stars in a role very different than any other he’s ever played.
THE FIRST GRADER (BBC Films) Genre: True Life Drama. When the new government of Kenya offers free education to all, an 84 year old man decides to take advantage of it with unexpected results. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.8 The trailer looked good and the premise is wonderful – and the BBC made it? I’m there.
GO FOR IT! (Lionsgate) Genre: Urban Dance Drama. A young daughter of Mexican immigrants in Chicago is forced to choose between her family, her boyfriend, her dream of becoming a dancer and her future. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 4.0 Fodder for the “So You Think You Can Dance” crowd.
HESHER (Wrekin Hill) Genre: Dramedy. A long-haired drug-using tattooed anarchist falls in with a grieving family and helps turn their lives around. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.0 Terrific cast (Natalie Portman, Rainn Wilson, Joseph Gordon-Levitt) makes this worth seeking out.
THE HIGH COST OF LIVING (Tribeca) Genre: Drama. When a drug dealer and a pregnant woman’s lives intersect tragically, the drug dealer becomes an unlikely guardian angel until his past begins to catch up with him. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 Decent cast, a fascinating premise and a terrific trailer equals interested.
HOW TO LIVE FOREVER (Variance) Genre: Documentary. Filmmaker Mark Wexler tackles our society’s obsession with aging and how to prevent it. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.8 Looks more like a social commentary than a primer so be warned.
L’AMOUR FOU (First Film) Genre: Documentary. The story of iconic fashion designer Yves St. Laurent as seen through the eyes of his decades-long life partner. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 3.6 I simply don’t care that much about fashion although I’m interested enough in his life story that I might actually see this.
PRIEST (Screen Gems) Genre: Sci-Fi Horror. In a future in which man has won a war with the vampires, a warrior priest discovers that a new army is being built and he must defy the Church to stop it. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D). RATING: 1.9 If it sounds like a graphic novel it’s because it’s based on one.
SKATELAND (Freestyle Releasing) Genre: Drama. Texas teens deal with alcohol, difficult home lives and the closing of their roller rink hangout in the early 80s. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 3.1 Too many films have mined this era lately.
THE TOPP TWINS: UNTOUCHABLE GIRLS (Argot) Genre: Documentary. A look at the world’s only singing, yodeling lesbian twin sisters whose political activism helped change New Zealand’s social landscape. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 3.0 They aren’t well known here in the U.S. so this is certainly a learning opportunity.
TRUE LEGEND (Indomina) Genre: Martial Arts. When his power-made brother returns home from war with a deadly weapon, a man must learn a new way to fight in order to survive. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 One of David Carradine’s last movies, directed by the fight choreographer of The Matrix.

MAY 18, 2011

LOUDER THAN A BOMB (Balcony) Genre: Documentary. Follows six Chicago-area poetry teams as they enter a prestigious poetry slam for teens. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.8 The art form doesn’t really do much for me, although I recognize that there is talent involved here.

MAY 20, 2011

35 AND TICKING (Image) Genre: Romantic Comedy. Four friends come to grips with turning 35 as their biological clocks tick away. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.1 Not a lot of information available about this movie.
BEAUTIFUL BOY (Anchor Bay) Genre: Drama. A family comes to grips with the tragedy of their son shooting up his school before killing himself. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.8 Stars the great Michael Sheen and the trailer is really compelling, by the way.
BLOODWORTH (Goldwyn) Genre: Drama. A country legend must come to grips with his family after having abandoned them 40 years earlier for a life on the road. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 Sounds a little bit too much like Crazy Heart.
THE LION OF JUDAH (Animated Family Films) Genre: Animated Feature. A family film revolving around Biblical themes. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D). RATING: 4.0 Not my cup of tea.
MIDNIGHT IN PARIS (Sony Classics) Genre: Romantic Comedy. A family takes a trip to Paris revolving around business and finds their lives changing because of it. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.6 The latest from director Woody Allen and his first in France.
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES (Disney) Genre: Action. Captain Jack Sparrow seeks the Fountain of Youth with Blackbeard in hot pursuit. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D). RATING: 1.2 New director, new supporting cast but same old Jack.

MAY 26, 2011

THE HANGOVER PART II (Warner Brothers) Genre: Comedy. More lost weekend hi-jinx, this time in Thailand. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.6 One has to wonder if they will be able to capture lightning in a bottle twice.
KUNG FU PANDA 2 (DreamWorks) Genre: Animated Feature. Po and the Furious Five must defend Kung Fu against a terrible weapon that threatens to wipe out their way of life. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D). RATING: 2.3 The first film was one of my favorites to come out of the DreamWorks Animation factory.

MAY 27, 2011

TIED TO A CHAIR (Process Studio Theater) Genre: Comedy. A housewife decides to return to her acting career and is embroiled in a series of increasingly dangerous mishaps. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.7 Quite frankly, the trailer looked amateurish.
THE TREE OF LIFE (Fox Searchlight) Genre: Drama. A man reconciles his relationship with his father over a 50 year timespan as he seeks out the origins of all life. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 The latest from director Terrene Malick stars Brad Pitt and Sean Penn.

The Beaver, Thor, Something Borrowed, Bridesmaids, Priest, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, The Hangover Part II, Kung Fu Panda 2, The Tree of Life