IR Film Review: LONG SHOT [Summit/Lionsgate]

The essence of the romantic comedy in many ways has been lost to the deluge of blockbuster comic book films and spectacle. Or the comedy tends to be too high concept or borderline gag related without reverting to the simple set up of traditional boy meets girl, boy loses girl…they realize their mistake and find that common ground for a would-be happy ending. The ironic aspect is that one of the people that does have the pulse on the heart of this aspect is Seth Rogen, mostly known for his stoner comedies. There is an every man quality to Rogen but like “Zach & Miri Make A Porno”, “Neighbors” or “Knocked Up”, it is always a trajectory of the underdog. Despite previous co-stars there was always a sense of perhaps pity in a way or a drum tap to play the joke which he gladly takes which is what makes him such a redeemable lead. “Long Shot” works in many structures because he is not the lead here…Charlize Theron is….

This balances it completely since Charlize knows the role she is playing but still brings her intensity to it without being schmaltzy. One actually feels in many points that she is falling for Rogen’s Fred. The set up and the token Rogen set up that slams him to the floor just so he can crawl his way back to her heart is worn, yet tried and true…and feels natural here. The story feels fairly organic in as much as the situation can be which is part of its charm. What however really feels tender and not forced is the small moments between them, either on a couch watching a movie or hanging out after they almost get bombed…and then in the sequence where they actually do get bombed (a necessary Rogen movie trademark). What comes out of that latter sequences is some of Charlize’s loosest spontaneous performances in years…especially one where she defuses a situation hiding behind a desk.

Letting her hair down so to speak seems incredibly freeing since one can still see the icy brilliance of Theron but, by doing this vulnerable comedy, there shows as usual such a wide range in what she can do. The last time there was that vulnerability in such a large way was “Sweet November” but that film was a inherent tragedy. The best dramatic actors can do comedy brilliantly if given the chance and the right script. Most aren’t seen that way or offered. Theron and Rogen are both producers on the film so it seemed a very conscious choice on both their parts to make this film. Theron tried “Gringo” last year in more of a supporting part for what was inherently a dark subversive comedy. The reason “Long Shot” works in many ways but also has some great laugh-out-loud moments is that it is honest and truthful in what it is and makes no qualms about it. It is undeniably romantic in many ways while still being brutally human which sometimes is the hardest thing to pull off. Of course, these movies are bound to have a little melodrama (as this one does at certain points but it is offset by Rogen’s deprecating lines). But that brief schmaltz is just the price of admittance…and that’s OK.

B

By Tim Wassberg

IR Film Review: PROMETHEUS [20th Century Fox]

The progression of modern science fiction builds its basis on the oft misunderstood “Blade Runner” while the horror genre finds respect through the first “Alien”. Both films were undertakings of an early 30s Ridley Scott attempting to progress a notion of mortality or simply of loss within an unforgiving world which casts aside whatever it pleases.

That is why “Prometheus”, his long awaited return to the genre, is exactly reflective of that personification. While functioning simply as a thriller using ideas of immortality might be attributable and somewhat indulgent, the intonation of what he is saying is personified in his aversion to saying what really might be below the surface.

The functionality of the movie is based in Noomi Rapace’s character (whom she herself calls a “believer”) who convinces a certain company to fund a trip to a distant planet that might be the origin point for the human race. The interesting angle here in terms of topography, landing and literal proportion of the objects involved is that one could see this as the Alien planet. The key is in the details of which they are many and many are misdirects. Damon Lindelof, the writer (also responsible for “Lost” and the “Star Trek” reboot) knows the lore undeniably which concedes his point of misdirection but also essentially let him keep certain elements open.

The proponent of many things also revolves around David, played with almost comedic (say Chaplin) progression by Michael Fassbender. Whether through his fastidious coloring of hair to resemble Peter O’Toole as Sir Lawrence in a well-regarded film or small seemingly strategic ploys of the movie that only the audience sees, the intention is to use what we know of the “Alien” universe to extrapolate motivation. However, also in play is what a new generation will see without the background of those movies. The layers are applicable which is what gives this movie a bit more than one would expect.

That said, there are many theories that can abound and that is what is good about a film like this as well as the viral campaign that preceded its release. What it is also good at doing, unlike many films today, is feel the need to explain everything (which is more an extension of studio-watch guarding than anything else).

Charlize Theron’s character Vickers is of particular interest, specifically in the way she is built and inter-played throughout the film strategically with David and an older elder figure. The clues in the dialogue as well as what is not shown speak to something undeniably connected in who and what her character is. It is one of the nicely created puzzles of the piece. The ship itself as it lands and the maze they enter into are simply a construct for a different story being told.

Because saying any more would ruin much of the re-watch value on the picture, “Prometheus” does accomplish what it set out to do: create a thought provoking diatribe on modern science fiction by the man who redefined it nearly two generations ago. While time will decide this picture’s impact within the pantheon, it shows that time does allow a bit of perspective and, at times, influence on what is said, how it is built and how it is filtered.

A-

Diverse Culture & Simple Thrills: The 2010 Inaugural Aruba International Film Festival – Feature

Crystal clear waters begin to glisten and pulsate against the towering buildings along the crescent coastline. The Atlantic is welcoming to guests and residents of nearly forty cultures. It is a diverse and beautiful island so it is of no surprise that Aruba is hosting its first ever International Film Festival.

When Aruba decided to peruse the notion of a festival, they decided on recruiting Claudio Mazzenga, a charismatic man whom has helped oversee such esteemed festivals as the Venice and Rome Film Festivals. To make a successful festival, the industry veteran knew that the journey would include choosing the right films and most importantly bringing Hollywood with the local community, which similarly minded celebrities, like his long time friend Richard Gere.

During a local open discussion entitled “In Conversation With..” which highlights an artist’s body of work and interaction with the festival, Gere appeared very humble taking in the amount of appreciation the mainly Dutch population had for him. Gere addressed questions about his humanitarian efforts and the daunting challenge of being a first time producer for “Hachiko: A Dog’s Tale”, the Opening Night film. His attendance helped propel the festival in the right direction. Afterwards drinks were poured and bare feet danced as the eagerly awaited film festival showed a strong start.

After experiencing the rich nightlife, the island’s tropical lushness always helps weary travelers rejuvenate for their next experience. The Hyatt Regency Aruba rests on a exclusive part of the island, right where the beach begins to crescent westward. This curve makes the waters calm and generally untouched by weather. The Atlantic Ocean’s color pulsates with blue and greens, and the finely grained sand is a welcome feeling to the skin.

Not to be unmatched, the Hyatt’s elaborate pool area boasted enough amenities such as bar cabanas, poolside dining, a twisting waterside, and sunbathed mermaids that this traveler could hardly decide where to spend many mornings. Lost between the pleasures of each, the sun begins to settle as the festival comes into full swing.

Crowds of Arubans turned up for the nightly red carpet events located at the Paseo Herencia Cinema positioned across from the resorts. Local news and radio personalities hosted the event and constantly switched between English and Spanish. Applause filled the area as festival goers welcomed the cast of “Venezzia,” a love story centered during the country’s involvement in World War II. The island of Aruba related to the story, since the oil used during the war by the Venezuelans were drilled off the coast only a few miles away. The cast included Latin TV star Ruddy Rodriguez, who shared in the belief that a festival in Aruba can help bridge the gap between Hollywood and Latin America. His hope is that the commanding beauty and adventure here will bring visitors, and hopefully will expose them to diverse cultures of the surrounding countries; including Venezuela.

The positive vibe of the locals and incumbent travelers echoed during the film’s screening and continued next door to Mr. Jazz, where moviegoers were treated to luscious mojitos and salsa dancing. The encompassing themed night showed just a taste of how, with each day, the festival would embrace a different aspect of the island; whether it be Island Chic or American influence.

Five miles south of the premiere resort area rests a secluded cove that offers hands-on experience with aquatic life for novice mariners. De Palm Island offers snorkeling through vibrant reefs, thrilling banana boat rides, and a very unique attraction; the Sea Trek underwater walk. New to many weary outsiders the walk utilizes snuba: a variation of scuba diving where a helmet piped to the surface allows one to walk on the ocean floor 25 feet below. Underneath the diver feels a sense of slow-motion weightless as snapper and rainbow fish approach unafraid. The experience takes some getting used to, but with trained divers escorting guests through the maze and simultaneously photographing the whole event in front of real wreckage, this excursion would be a highlight for any thrill enthusiast.

Before returning to the film festival. patrons congregated in the beautiful open air hotel lobby of the Hyatt to embark on a De Palm off-road safari. The first thought inclined that this would be a gentle excursion along the beaches mainly because anyone was allowed to drive. Waivers were signed, and the visitors boarded five yellow and black-striped Land Rovers. What was to followed threw all previous expectations out the window.

After a quick drive over the asphalt jungle of the upscale resort area, the rovers embarked into the rocky desolate desert terrain located on the northern part of the island. The strong easterly winds prevent architects from building alongside the picturesque oceanside vistas, which include natural bridges, veering rock formations, and towering cacti.

The 4 1/2 hour  drive included more turns and bumps that rivaled any American theme park ride, and with the added flavor of the local tour guide that pitched us information with humorous undertones, the eventual consensus among the riders was that this safari was a not-to-miss attraction. The final uphill trek atop a lone mountain peppered with lizards and local goats ended with a much deserved dip in Aruba’s captivating natural pool. Looking at the diversity of Aruba’s terrain one could imagine how it would influence local and international filmmakers to shoot there.

That evening, the festival event is shrouded in black ties and flowing dresses. An orange glow pulsates throughout Paseo Herencia as writer/director Guillermo Arriaga takes the stage. The Oscar lauded writer of “21 Grams” and “Babel” attended to host a screening of “The Burning Plain,” his directorial debut starring Charlize Theron. The film revolves around the themes of regret, escape and infidelity using a non-linear structure that links all three storylines together. As a Mexican writer, Arriaga is no stranger to the clashing of American influence on foreign culture. He seemed very pleased by the the large turnout for a culture as diverse as Aruba.

The final night, marking the end of the first half of the festival, encompasses belly dancers, fine champagne and a rich view of the pristine star filled sky that only an island paradise can offer. An inaugural festival is always a tricky feat to attempt but the eagerness and the sheer exhilaration of all who attended the 1st Annual Aruba International Film Festival show its definitive potential to make it work in the long run.

By Paul Wassberg