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SIFF: Vern on the John C. Reilly flick CRIMINAL plus tons more reviews including GARDEN STATE and more!!!

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with gobs of reviews from the SEATTLE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL, which seems to have been kicking all kinds of ass lately. Below you'll find our man Vern's look at a flick from Clooney and Soderbergh's production company, Section 8, called CRIMINAL. I love me some John C. Reilly and Diego Luna is fast becoming one of my favorite young actors after his groundbreaking performance in Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN and his love-struck puppy dog character in THE TERMINAL... Not that I have seen that yet... ahem... Here's Vern for more on this damn cool sounding flick!

Boys -

I'm sure you'll get more reviews on this one so I'll keep this one short. Also because I'm a chump and haven't ever seen NINE QUEENS, the picture from the land of Argentina which this is a remake of. Anyway CRIMINAL is the americanized version which premiered tonight in Seattle. The movie stars John C. Reilly (who was there) and Diego Luna. It's directed by this guy Greg Jacobs, who was assistant director on an assload of Steve Soderbergh movies, but this is his first as a non-assistant director.

Like I said, I'm too ignorant to tell you how this compares to the original picture, but I'm gonna guess it holds up pretty well. It's a very well made con man picture. Your usual story about one con man taking a young rookie under his wing and showing him the ropes. This time Reilly has graduated from the student role he played in HARD EIGHT and this time he's the teacher, or the yoda in Newsie language. This is a different kind of role for this guy who is so good at playing dumb guys. In person he seems like he's much sharper than he usually plays and he is in this movie too, passing himself off as a business man to pull small cons that build to a larger and more complex one involving counterfeits of rare currency.

Like I was saying just the other day, con man pictures are a genre where you pretty much know what's gonna happen from the beginning. You don't know what all the specific cons are gonna be and you don't always know who ultimately will get fucked over in the end, but you get the basic gyst of it from frame 1. But if it is executed well enough you don't care. It is always enjoyable. And this one is well executed.

Reilly does a great job in the lead, as does Mr. Luna (apparently he is a hunk now, I thought he was a nerd in Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN [or FUCK YOU AND THE HORSE YOU RODE IN ON in english]) as his young student, and Maggie Gylenhaal is in there also as Reilly's sister. Also there is a hotel and in one part they chase a dude through the street. There is a fence that gets climbed. It is the kind of huge action movie that audiences love, in my opinion.

Actually I'm jerkin your chain on that last part, what I like actually is this is the kind of small, down to earth crime movie I've been yearning for lately (although this is a straight con picture and not a tough guy picture. No arms get broken and no teeth get swallowed. But you can't win 'em all). I love Soderbergh's crime movies especially THE LIMEY but also OUT OF SIGHT, and their influence on this one is clear. (Soderbergh and G. Clooney are also executive producers). The Jacobs styles is very natural, lots of hand held camera (but not the kind that makes you puke), all shooting on real locations with people walking around that appear to be real people, not extras. When you see a shot of people on a bus or when there are two dudes standing in the background holding skateboards, it looks like they just happened to be there, not like it was set up for a movie. It is a very L.A. kind of movie, not in the sense that there are dudes with ponytails walking around talking loudly on their cell phone about "blah blah blah ICM very talented blah blah blah," but in the sense that you really get the feel of L.A. in the scenery and the people. Which is probaly the main way this differs from the original, is my guess.

Also the music is bouncy and funky, I was sure it was David Holmes who did OUT OF SIGHT and OCEAN'S 11, but it turned out to be another guy who shall not be named. (Because I don't know his name. Tough luck, bud. But you did well.)

Anyway, enough out of me, but this is a solid crime picture and must see for John C. Reilly fans. I hope Greg Jacobs will keep directing although I'm sure he's good at assisting too. Not that Soderbergh should go around on his own not being assisted, I'm not saying that. I'm just saying this guy is good and shows promise and what not. thanks.


Vern resides here... Enter if you dare!

Now with J-Man's look at BRIGHT YOUNG THINGS, CRIMINAL and GARDEN STATE... I agree 100% with his take on BRIGHT YOUNG THINGS, which I saw at the Santa Barbara Film Festival earlier this year, although he doesn't mention how great Jim Broadbent is in it. He also has a slightly different take on CRIMINAL and a little bit on GARDEN STATE as well! Enjoy!

Bright Young Things

Directorial debut by British comedian Stephen Fry is inconsequential and, I'm afraid, as empty as the people it's about. 1930's London is all about hedonism and coke-snorting debauchery for the privileged.

The press can't get enough. They're always on the lookout for a new scandal, and if the papers are sued for the stories they run, they will simply fabricate new, even more scandalous ones. Anything that sells; whatever can be gotten away with.

Not much has changed. The film is well acted, with playful dialogue to go around. Henry Braham's photography is about the best I've seen since EYES WIDE SHUT; all the period details are in place.

What surprised me is how not one of the characters seems to rise above this material. There's no one to really get on board with -- not Adam (Stephen Campbell Moore), whose constant debt leaves him little to do except finding more creative ways to get himself out. Not Nina (Emily Mortimer), the airhead he wants to marry; a subplot with her being sold back and forth only makes her seem ditzier. And, not Agatha (Fenella Woolgar), who suddenly goes insane for no reason.

Only once does anyone stop to acknowledge his or her vapid existence. Even then, why bother? If you've got the money and connections, why not live it up every chance you get? Not much has changed there, either.


We're conditioned, with movies like MATCHSTICK MEN and HEIST, to second guess everything that happens in CRIMINAL, a remake of the film NINE QUEENS (never saw it). And, the moment Richard (John C. Reilly, at the top of his game) takes up with Rodrigo (Diego Luna), we're on red alert. I have to admit, I saw the ending coming, and it kind of caught me by surprise, anyway. CRIMINAL is breezy and entertaining, just not memorable. The territory is too familiar.

Garden State

Having watched the teaser trailer for Zach Braff's GARDEN STATE an embarassing number of times, I expected the worse. But, the film doesn't disappoint. Weird and a little stilted at times, sure, but there's something to it.

Largeman (Braff) heads home after 9 years to attend his mother's funeral. Everybody recognizes him as that guy who played a retarded quarterback in that movie. He's been on prescription medication forever, and he's kind of a zombie when we first see him. But, along comes this girl to make him re-evaluate his life... yada yada.

The best thing about GARDEN STATE is it's direction. I like the way the images linger. The performances are effective, especially by Braff, whose character's slow snapping-out-of-it process is convincing, and Natalie Portman; their scene in the rain is a thing of beauty. They have a sweet relationship. The film has one too many endings, but I bought it.


Here's a rather more... joyous review of GARDEN STATE. I've had a crush on Natalie Portman for a very, very long time and I hope this movie is everything the below reviewer says it is... That crying scene he mentions is something I can't wait to see. Nothing more heartbreaking than the one or two onscreen cries a year that feel authentic.

Hey guys,

Just got back from the Garden State premiere here at SIFF. You’ve probably run stuff about this flick before, post-Sundance, but thought you’d like a fresh review before the July wide release.

If you’ve seen the hypnotic trailer, you probably already know Garden State is written & directed “Scrubs” actor Zach Braff, and looks damn good. More importantly, you’re probably wise enough not to want to spoil the film for yourself, but want a little reassurance that it’s worth the scratch you’re plunking down for a ticket.

I shudder to give away plot points, but I’m not revealing much with the synopsis. Braff is somber actor Andrew Largeman who returns home from L.A. Throughout the film, he has odd run-ins with his old high school friends (like Peter Saarsgard), his estranged psychiatrist father (Ian Holm), and the beautiful, the charming, the complete goddess that is Natalie Portman, who plays local girl Sam.

In the trailer, there are those quotes from the critics praising Braff’s visual flair, and they’re right on target. What’s unique about Garden State is every character leaves a visual fingerprint on the film. There are little touches that Braff sneaks into frame that are hilarious, and yet, seem like the logical thing each character would do. Look at the certificates on a doctor’s wall, Largeman’s room in L.A., the way Sam’s brother handles their TV, the pool, the school children crossing the street.

Garden State easily could have degenerated into a first-time director’s little playground of visual experimentation, with no real bearing on the plot. Besides avoiding that mistake, Braff constructs a narrative that’s both comical and life-altering to this protagonist. You gradually begin to see Largeman loosen up and start to live his life. The director also peppers his film contemporary indie music like the Postal Service, the Shins and that incredible Frou Frou song at the end that supercharge the moments.

Saarsgard and Portman hit both of their characters out of the park, and the entire supporting cast of high school friends kick ass, especially when it comes to comedy. Everyone has moved on in a sense, but they’re all still immature, envious of each other’s jobs, and/or bored out of their minds.

Garden State probably won’t be the best film you’ll see this year, but it will certainly be the one of the most memorable. We have these review cards here at SIFF, where after the credits roll, you rate a movie 1 to 5, 1 being the lowest. I was about to give the flick a 4, UNTIL, one climactic crying scene with Portman’s character arrived, which came off like it deserved a fucking 7. I will never forget that moment. It was perhaps one of the most genuine glimpses of emotion I’ve ever seen put to celluloid.

Write yourself a post-it and stick in on your monitor: PRE-ORDER GARDEN STATE TICKET.

Oh, and here’s linkage to those trailers to tide yourself over in the meantime.


If you use this, call me Traitor Zaarin.

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