April 2010 Reviews
By Shawn McKenzie 4/9/2010
Here are my reviews of the movies that were released in April of 2010. Check back later as the month progresses for more reviews.
When Los Angeles record producer Kim Fowley (Michael Shannon) found 15-year-old rhythm guitar player Joan Jett (Kristen Stewart) at Rodney Bingenheimer’s (Keir O’Donnell) English Disco in 1975…he made rock and roll history. He paired Jett with drummer Sandy West (Stella Maeve), lead guitarist Lita Ford (Scout Taylor-Compton), and bass guitarist Robin Robbins (Alia Shawkat.) Jett was going to be the lead singer when Kim realized that he needed a Brigitte Bardot-looking rocker girl to be the lead singer. He finds Cherie Currie (Dakota Fanning) who had the look he was wanting, so she became the lead singer. They were an all-girl punk band, and since they were all under 18 years old, he thought their “jail bait” status could be a big selling point. It’s not like Cherie had anywhere to go to, with her remarried mom Marie Harmon (Tatum O’Neal) having moved overseas with her new husband Wolfgang (Time Winters) and her father (Brett Cullen) being an alcoholic. Cherie’s fraternal twin sister Marie (Riley Keough), her Aunt Evie (Jill Andre), and her Grandma Oni (Peggy Stewart) were the only people she had for a family, and Marie didn’t like the thought of Cherie going on the road as a rock star, because she would get mixed in with drugs and sex (which she did.) The Runaways go on tour with roadie Scottie (Johnny Lewis) helping them out (and becoming Cherie’s tour sex buddy in the meantime), and they go through several crappy places where there are several people who are hostile to them. Eventually Kim gets them signed to Mercury Records, where they recorded their first hit “Cherry Bomb” and they toured the world. They become huge in Japan, where they are practically as big as The Beatles. While the group was in existence, they partied like their male counterparts, with Jett and Cherie experimenting in lesbianism (Jett more so than Cherie.) I’m a big fan of musical biopics…and it really helps that I like the act they are covering. I’ve been a fan of all of the individual members’ solo careers (at least the ones who stayed in the music business.) I’ve loved the music of Jett (who is the executive producer of the movie) since I was a kid, and I really liked Ford’s ‘80s hair metal stuff (“Kiss Me Deadly,” “Close My Eyes Forever,” etc.) I’d like to say that I like Michael “Micki” Steele’s music (she was the bass guitarist for The Bangles), but she wasn’t portrayed in the movie. Instead of covering the existence of the various bass guitarists that The Runaways had (Steele, Peggy Foster, Jackie Fox, Victory Tischler-Blue, Laurie McAllister…even Jett was the bass player briefly), they created the fictional character “Robin Robbins.” As far as the band The Runaways go…I had heard about them, and I had heard “Cherry Bomb” before…but I didn’t know much more about them until a few years ago (other than knowing that Jett, Ford, and Steele were members, and that actress Cherie Currie was a member as well.) The script, written by music video director Floria Sigismondi (this is her feature film debut), is based on Currie’s memoir, Neon Angel: A Memoir of a Runaway. Casting Stewart and Fanning was genius. Stewart’s general moodiness (probably from playing Twilight’s Bella for so long) was perfect for playing tough girl Jett. Fanning’s “innocence” and her general excellent acting ability made her the perfect “jailbait” for this film. Shannon is creepy anyway (check out his Oscar-nominated performance in 2008’s Revolutionary Road), so he really pulled off the disgusting and abusive Fowley. If this movie had been released in November or December instead of April, I’d say that all three actors could be up for Oscars (the Academy has a short term memory, because they forget about movies that came out in the first half of most years.) If you like punk music, I think that you should pick up the group’s album The Mercury Albums Anthology and Joan Jett & Blackhearts’ Greatest Hits album, and go see this movie. You’ll find yourself rockin’ out to the parking lot!
Married couple Steve (David Duchovny) and Kate (Demi Moore) Jones, along with their perfect kids Jenn (Amber Heard) and Mick (Ben Hollingsworth), seems to be the ultimate American family. The successful Steve drives a sweet car and plays golf very well. The hot-looking housewife Kate wears all the latest styles and goes to the salon of Billy…pronounced “Bill-A” (Chris Williams)…to get her hair done. The equally hot-looking Jenn also wears fashionable clothes and has the newest mobile gadgets…quickly making her one of the most popular girls in school. Handsome Mick also drives a cool car, has a new skateboard that isn’t even on the market yet, and almost immediately gets a girlfriend named Naomi Manson (Christine Evangelista.) It seems like they have the perfect life…but it’s all fake. The Joneses are actually employees of a marketing firm called Life Image…headed by their boss KC (Lauren Hutton)…who pose as the ideal family in order to make everyone jealous and want to have the stuff that they are slyly hawking. Kate is the leader of this “family” who has had been “married” to twelve other Mr. Joneses before. Steve is new to Life Image, after being a used car salesman and a failed golf pro. Jenn is kind of a slut (she hits on her “dad”) and Ben has something about himself that he hides (you’ll have to see the movie to find out.) On a weekly basis, KC shows up to give each of the Joneses a progress report on the things that they were able to sell because of their interaction with the people in the community. It seems to be at least working on next-door neighbors Larry and Summer (Gary Cole and Glenne Headly), who wish that they had the stuff that the Joneses have. While they are all doing well at their jobs…there are problems. Steve finds himself attracted to his “wife,” who is too focused on the job to have any real feelings…and aside from hitting on Steve, Jenn starts sleeping with Alex “The Hammer” Baynor (Robert Pralgo), the husband of neighbor Melanie (Tiffany Morgan.) Their marketing becomes so effective that they start messing with the lives of their neighbors in a way they hadn’t intended. I really didn’t know what to think of the movie at first, other than it was one of the first original comedies I’ve seen in a while. I’ve always been a fan of high-concept comedies because I like to be surprised once and a while. I could say that it is similar to The Truman Show (both are movies where perceived reality is actually fake), but that insults the originality of The Joneses. Every major cast member in the movie did a great job, including Cole and Headly. Moore is coming off the bland Happy Tears, and Duchovny’s last movie was the horrible The X-Files: I Want to Believe. Heard was the girlfriend of the protagonist in the un-scary remake of The Stepfather, and Hollingsworth was a cast member of this season’s first show to be cancelled…the CW’s “The Beautiful Life: TBL.” Even if this movie doesn’t become financially successful, they can at least say that they were in something more entertaining and original than their last craptastic movies/TV shows. Derrick Borte made his feature directorial debut with The Joneses, which he also wrote and produced. Let’s hope that he will come up with something just as original for his second movie. Come on everybody! Don’t you want to be as cool as me by seeing this movie? If not, you’re missing out!
Actor and filmmaker Jacques Perrin co-directed (with Jacques Cluzaud) this French-American nature documentary about the sea life species that live in and around oceans. As Perrin’s son Lancelot peers over the sea (both at the beginning and the end)…sea lions, dolphins, crabs, sharks, spiders, eels, and even sea gulls are documented doing their thing. Pierce Brosnan narrates the movie (in the American version; Perrin does the French version), and it shows animals under the sea, near the sea (a.k.a. the beach), and above the sea (mainly when the sea gulls snatch up the cute baby Loggerhead sea turtles. Where is Miley Cyrus when you need her?) We get to see the dangers of sea animal life…but a nature documentary can’t be made today without preaching about how humans are harming the ocean life by polluting and overfishing. This is the second movie from Disney’s big screen nature documentary label Disneynature, who distributed the movie Earth on Earth Day in 2009. I found Earth dull, but Océans might be even more boring. Earth concentrated on certain animals in sort-of story-like fashion, but this movie just randomly documents various animals just existing. Sure…there is some beautiful photography (including some amazing undersea shots), but this honestly looks like every other nature documentary you could see on PBS, Animal Planet, or the Discovery Channel. If you like those documentaries, or if you liked Earth (or even the Oscar-winning movie March of the Penguins), you might like this movie. Next year’s Earth Day movie, African Cats: Kingdom of Courage, looks cool because it documents a lioness, a leopard, and a cheetah mother surviving on the great plains of Africa. 2009’s and 2010’s Earth Day movies didn’t do much for me though.
Ray Yale (David Roberts) is a construction worker who isn’t happy in his marriage to his wife Martha (Lucy Bell), and so he is having an affair with his next door neighbor Carla Smith (Claire van der Boom), who herself is unhappy with her marriage to low-level mobster Greg “Smithy” Smith (Anthony Hayes.) While Ray is helping to build an upscale resort hotel just outside Sydney and Carla runs a beauty shop, the two try to find a way to run off together. Carla knows that Smithy has a large duffle bag of cash (most likely the booty from an armed robbery) hidden in their home, so she comes up with the idea to burn their house down and make Smithy think that the money went up with it. Ray is hesitant at first, but he goes along with it. He and Carla hire arsonist Billy (Joel Edgerton) to torch the place and make it look like it was caused by faulty Christmas tree lights. During a Christmas celebration, Carla overhears Smithy telling his mom (Maree D’Arcy) to go back to the house to feed his dog. She warns Ray, who in turn tries to call Billy to abort the arson. He calls Billy’s house, but he only gets Billy’s sister Lily (Hanna Mangan-Lawrence), who isn’t able to talk to Billy before he heads out to do the job. Ray’s phone is dying, so he hopes that Lily can stop Billy. She doesn’t end up doing it, and Smithy’s mom dies. Things then go from bad to worse from there. The rest of the movie involves murder, blackmail, and cover-ups. Australian actor/stuntman Nash Edgerton makes his full-length feature debut with this movie after directing several shorts. In fact, before the movie, I was able to watch his latest short called Spider. It was about a couple driving down a city road when she, Jill (Mirrah Foulkes), stops for gas. Her boyfriend Jack (played by the director himself) goes into the convenience store and buys several things that will make her happy (they had been in a fight.) Like the movie, things go downhill from there. The movie itself felt like an homage to the classic 1944 noir movie Double Indemnity. What started out as your average cheating-couple-getting-into-trouble movie turned into something that had twists and turns I didn’t see coming. Nash’s brother Joel (who played Billy) co-wrote the screenplay with co-executive producer Matthew Dabner (based off a story written by Joel), and everyone in the movie are decent in their roles. It’s Joel’s story though…along with Nash’s visual style…that makes this one a winner. When the Edgerton Brothers make their way over to America, I’ll be interested to see what they come up with.
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