The natural ebb and flow of movie releases catches us again; unlike last week, this week is swollen with films and festivals worth commenting on—not least the After Dark Film Festival, already mentioned in Urban Planner, but we’ll mention it again here for good measure. But suddenly! A capsule review of Passchendaele!
Passchendaele (Paul Gross) – Passchendaele is worthy of note as the most expensive Canadian film ever at a mere $20 million, especially because it really does manage to do a huge amount with the money—that’s barely a quarter of Saving Private Ryan‘s budget, for example. The beginning is completely amazing, with this gritty, brutal war scene where Paul Gross’s character, Sergeant Michael Dunne, is a total badass—only we’re not really supposed to think “awesome!” when watching it. Probably why Gross makes us sit through an unbearable mid-section where Dunne courts—very slowly—a nurse in Calgary, before her (irritating) brother runs off to war forcing him to follow. The strangest thing about the whole section is the amount of extraneous plot (his nurse has a surprising number of skeletons in her closet). The return to the war is welcome and spurs the film on, until Gross loses the plot completely by closing with a bonkers, unexplainable religious metaphor. For such a clearly personal story, it’s surprising that Gross didn’t show more restraint. 2/5
Something else almost certainly made without restraint this week: Max Payne. It’s the latest video game to film adaptation, and we actually rather liked the last game, Max Payne 2 when we played it—well structured (if cliché) story, nice cinematic moments—even though “Max Payne” is one of the stupidest names for a character ever. However, that’s all kind of irrelevant, isn’t it? The movie needs to stand on its own, and by all accounts it doesn’t seem to do too well. NOW‘s Barrett Hooper calls it “painful to watch.”
A character as similarly unreal to us as Max Payne is George Walker Bush; it’s kind of hard to grasp that he’s an actual person. Oliver Stone has clearly done his best to change that with W.; some of the scenes we’ve already checked out of the film really work the “empathy” line hard—poor George struggling in front of the press, etc.—but apparently doesn’t really offer that much detail. “The movie keeps feinting at actual insight,” says Eye‘s Adam Nayman, “but it never coalesces.”
Also out this week: Quarantine, a decent-sounding handheld-camera horror for those who can’t make it to After Dark (based on the apparently way better [Rec], though), Battle in Seattle, The Secret Life of Bees, Happy-Go-Lucky, Flow: For Love of Water, Morning Light, and Sex Drive (the last only worth mentioning because Clark Duke is in it).
In festivals, the ImagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival finished up on Sunday, the Macedonian Film Festival runs across the weekend, and the Planet in Focus Film Festival starts on Wednesday.