Hey, everyone. ”Moriarty” here. TheNorthlander’s first report from the Stockholm Film Festival was about the press screenings he went to see, but now he’s back with his first full day of reviews from the fest. He’s got interviews coming as well, and a little later tonight, I’ll have another batch of reviews from him. Good stuff all around.
Hey guys, The Northlander here again with the second Stockholm International Film Festival report. Other than the first film, which I caught a press screening of on the 19th, all these are from the first day of the festival. Enjoy. THE ARGENTINE France, Spain, USA Directed by Steven Soderbergh Ok I'm glad as hell that I got to see this one when I did. I had to actually take time off work in the last minute to go to this press screening but hey it's Benicio Del Toro in a new Soderbergh pic so it was worth it. Like you probably know, THE ARGENTINE is the first of two CHE GUEVARA biopics by Soderbergh starring Del Toro - with the second one coming about a month later. Now, I'm always cautious when it comes to two-parters. Lately it's becoming more and more common to chop a long film in half for profit but I've yet to see a case where that actually helped make the movie Better. I think KILL BILL, GRINDHOUSE, and THE MATRIX RELOADED / REVOLUTIONS would all have benefited from being one film instead. Not all of them one film, I mean one-parters as opposed to two-parters. You know what I mean. But with that in mind, I've heard that the CHE films will stand on their own and be independent so hopefully they will be the exception that makes the rule here. After seeing the first part of this, I'm trying to figure out exactly what to think of it. I knew next to nothing about Che Guevara going in, except that he was a revolutionist in Cuba together with Fidel Castro, he was a communist, he's dead now but he's got his face on a whole bunch of T-Shirts for no apparent reason. I think I'm not the only one of my generation who knows very little about the actual man. So, what I was hoping for going in was for some light to be shed on that. Why was he in the revolution? What's this guy's story? I didn't read (or see) THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES when that came out a few years ago, but maybe I should have, or should now. Because unfortunately I still feel kind of like I haven't actually learnt anything about this guy that I didn't already know. This is a screenplay problem I think. We're never really introduced to any of the characters, there's a short scene at a dinner in the beginning but the filmmakers all assume we know who these people are already. I had no clue unfortunately, and while there is some talk about what they feel is wrong with the country, and with South America, it's all dialogue. Since they knew they were going to make two films about this, they COULD have put some of that backstory into the actual film. Let us EXPERIENCE it with them. See it for ourselves. Tha'ts my main beef with this thing. I don't feel included because I wasn't introduced and so I can't relate to Che's struggle. I mean I know what he's fighting for, but it's because I'm told not because I'm shown. So I don't feel it with him. I don't see why he's doing it. Otherwise though, the direction is really great and Benicio as awesome as always. It's a good enough portrait film, but not as good as I wanted it to be unfortunately. And it really pains me to say that. Maybe I'll change my mind after seeing part two. Maybe it takes multiple viewings. Maybe not. Gotta see THE WOLF MAN though when it comes out. Between this project and that, I bet Benicio is having the time of his life working right now. ADULTHOOD UK Directed by Noel Clarke I missed the press screening of this last week, but it had been on the To-See list. Problem was, I had seen two films in a row already at Skandia, the cinema they held the press screenings at, and they showed this and then another straight after so there were four in a row. I had to get some food in my stomach, you know - The Northlander gotta eat - and Skandia is one of those old cinemas that used to be an actual Theater which means the seats are really uncomfortable to say the least. Anywho, I got to see ADULTHOOD today so I guess things worked out anyway. ADULTHOOD is a Brittish indie film about Sam, a former street thug who is released from prison after serving a six year sentence for killing a guy at some party. His mom has disowned him, his little brother is following the same path he is, and on top of that somebody is out for revenge on him for the guy he killed. So, basically, he has to figure out who is after him and put a stop to it but without making the same mistake again. He has every intention of reforming and doesn't want to go back to jail. We also see how he coped in prison through flashbacks. This is a film that has 'AMERICAN HISTORY X in the UK but without the rasism angle' written all over it. It's not as good as AHX though, and the editing is trying a bit too hard to be cool in sort of a TRAINSPOTTING meets Guy Ritchie way, to work with the seriousness of the overall story, but my biggest gripe is that while AMERICAN HISTORY X showed the two sides of Edward Norton's character - both before his prison term and after - ADULTHOOD only shows us Sam after he gets out. That kind of holds this story back as it doesn't give his character room to grow and the contrast is lost on us. We're not even really told what he was like back then, just that he apparently killed some guy without meaning to when smashing a baseball bat across his face. Still though, ADULTHOOD is a better than average street drama with some good performances and all the gripes I have about it feel like mistakes made by a fresh indie director that genuinely has a story to tell so I can definetly recommend it and I'm curious to see Noel Clarke's next directorial effort. It's a good watch. SMART PEOPLE USA Directed by Noam Murro I hadn't actually heard of this, but I see now that it opened way back in the US. It's not out here yet though and a few other countries, so I'll write a few words about it and maybe if you missed its theatrical run you can catch it on DVD if you're in the states. This got marked as a Must-See for me, mostly because of the cast. Dennis Quaid was in it and it was a small scale indie movie (read: 'no computer generated wolves') so it should be at least worth a look, right? That's all I knew going in anyway. And yeah it's definetly worth a look. SMART PEOPLE turned out to be a real gem, it's along the same vein as films like SIDEWAYS and THE STATION AGENT, and with an all star cast including Thomas Haden Church, Ellen Page and Sarah Jessica Parker. Quaid (I mean Dennis, and not that guy from TOTAL RECALL) plays an aging college professor who's boring as hell, albeit with a very high IQ, who can't get over the passing of his wife. He still has all her old clothes in the house, something which his 17-year-old daughter (Ellen Page) finds a bit disturbing. Quaid's adopted brother (Thomas Haden Church) comes back into town to borrow somer more money from him, and when Quaid suffers a head trauma and isn't allowed to drive for six months, his brother decides to move in and turn his and his daughter's lives upside down. Unlike Quaid and his daugher, who's also highly intelligent, (not to mention stuck up) Church is a laid back 'Cosmo Kramer' type slacker, but unlike them he's got real emotional smarts - a way with people - something both Quaid and his daughter lacks. That's really the heart of this film, it's about how dumb intelligent people can actually get when it comes down to the simple things in life. Being a recovered over-thinker myself and having had the misfortune to have known a lot of other over-thinkers, I can really relate to that and it's fun to see a subject like this be approached in this light and funny kind of way. SMART PEOPLE is a great indie dramedy, and you should really check it out when you get the chance. It's a nice feel good movie in every way. See it! Oh yeah - and I've never noticed before I watched this how much Ellen Page looks like Jenny Agutter in AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON. Maybe it was the hair? She should star in the upcoming remake of that - AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN AMERICA. JCVD France Directed by Mabrouk El Mechri Finally got a chance to see this. JCVD is a film I've been wanting to see since I first heard about it a few months ago, and that trailer with Van Damme auditioning to get the role was just brilliant. Back in the day, Van Damme was the man. I was never much into Stallone back in the late 80's / early 90's, I've never ever liked that Seagal guy, Schwarzenegger was cool, but he couldn't kick ass. Van Damme on the other hand could kick some serious ass and him fighting Bolo Yeung is just classic 80's / 90's action.BLOODSPORT, KICKBOXER, DOUBLE IMPACT were what awesome was made of back in the day. When I was 13 I wanted to train either Ninjitsu (because that's what the Turtles did) or Kickboxing (because that's what Van Damme did). I spent over a decade training martial arts, and over the years it's taken me on long travels across the world and it let me meet a lot of interesting people, and although my reason for keeping it up obviously changed pretty soon, Jean Claude Van Damme was a big reason why I started, and so him making movies has had a very big iimpact on my entire life to say the least. Back in the day, he was the man. I think I stopped watching his films around the time he did LEGIONAIRE. The last I saw though was IN HELL, which I got on DVD when it came out because I wrote reviews for this other website back then. He wasn't the man anymore, but he was never bad. Just lackluster. So needless to say, it was good to see the guy again on the big screen. The theater was pretty packed, which was also good to see, but I managed to get a seat anyway. And DAMN that opening was just awesome as hell. It's just a long, long mise-en-scène (that's smart-ass-speak for a long take with no cuts) of Jean Claude kicking and shooting his way through an army of soldiers while ducking, freeing a hostage, changing weapons from guns to rifles to granades to whatever he finds on the ground as he goes. It's well timed with some great koreography, and just beautifully shot. It really sets the tone for something special. The great thing? The film absolutely delivers n the 'something special' part. You might know the story already, there's been a lot of talk about this one; Jean Claude Van Damme plays himself, coming straight from a custody hearing he's losing, his career is going down hill fast (losing jobs to Steven fucking Seagal...) and to top it off, there's a post office robbery in this thing. I don't want to spoil anything else, but if you're at least a little fond of meta humor or Van Damme, you really gotta check this one out. I know I loved it. DEADGIRL USA Directed by Marcel Sarmiento and Gadi Harel (co-director) After the screening of JCVD ended tonight, and I mean RIGHT after, I immediately ran a few blocks from the Grand cinema here in Stockholm, down to the Saga cinema to check out their special Surprise Film screening that they have every year. The film would be unanounced until it started at 10pm, and JCVD ended about five or ten minutes past, but last year they showed AMERICAN GANGSTER at the Surprise Screening so it might be worth running a few blocks I figured. I was wrong. They were showing TWILIGHT, a film that had opened earlier this evening in regular cinemas anyway, and I could have even seen it yesterday at work if I had wanted to. Teen Emo - let's make a new word here: Teemo - is not really my thing, so after ten or so minutes it just felt like I knew where it was going and I just wasn't interested. So I went to the next show on my list instead: DEADGIRL. DEADGIRL is another one I'd head a lot of talk about these past few months. I figured i had to check it out, see what all the fuzz was about. I remember hearing both good and bad things about it, and last year I could have told you the same about THE POUGHKEEPSIE TAPES, a movie I ended up really enjoying actually (me and four other people at last year's BNAT...), so I figured maybe I'd get lucky again. Yeah I was wrong about that too. DEADGIRL is about two 17-year-old complete morons. They decide to go drinking beer in an abandoned nuthouse, as one would, and end up being chased by a dog from hell, who pulls off the second best performance in this film. They hide in some room behind a door that's rusted so shut they had to pry it open to get it up. Behind it, they find a girl who might have been lying tied up to a bed for years and years or maybe just a day or two, and she's alive but not very responsive. What do they do? Well, they want to have sex with her, as one would (?). At least one of them do, the other one doesn't do a helluva lot to stop him though, he just doesn't wanna do it. As the film progresses, more kids from their class go there to have sex with this girl, who they soon find out is unkillable and also kinda bitey. And whenever they take a guy there, to this naked and clearly sick - if not undead - girl, her skin so yellow and shiney you wouldn't wanna be in the same room... every time they bring a guy to her, that guy wants to have sex with her. Because - and I'm guessing here - is that really what guys are like in the minds of these filmmakers? That's pretty offensive. And, I mean, I would have had much less of a problem with this if the movie had actually been good. My issue here is not so much that it's a sick and perverted setup for a film - because the setup itself I think is actually kind of cool, just for being different and original. This movie, if done well with a setup like that, could have been HEATHERS meets EVIL DEAD or something. As it is, DEADGIRL takes itself WAY too seriously and it feels like the filmmakers here actually believe that it's perfectly credible that every 17 year old kid would want to fuck something that looks and probably smells like the Ripley clone 7 from ALIEN RESURRECTION just because he can. To me, this sounds more like a BEAVIS & BUTT-HEAD episode than anything, only Beavis & Butt-Head were never as dumb as these characters are at times. Then there's the dialogue, which is bad enough as it is and the actors kind making it worse, and the fact that they look (and are) about 25 but play 17 years old... This film has got one or two good scenes with some pretty good dark humor, and some forced jump scares, but that's about it. The makeup is REALLY good though, and kudos to Jenny Spain who pulls of a magnificent performance as the dead girl. Not only that, but she does it without clothing, props or a single piece of dialogue. Just her with makeup. Brilliant. I know it sounds like I hated the shit out of DEADGIRL, but don't misunderestimate me. I'm still glad I saw it instead of TWILIGHT. I'll be back soon with a whole bunch of more coverage from the festival. /TheNorthlander