Posted on Sunday February 1, 2009, 15:48 by Damon Wise
After being reminded by JLG87 it occurred to me that, no, I didn't see Black Dynamite (pictured above). I gambled on it being repeated at the end of the festival, but it wasn't. I heard good things about the first 30 minutes, but my spies said that, after that, it drifted a little into pastiche. Still, Sony bought it for North America, and a few UK distributors were looking at it too, last I heard. But thinking about Black Dynamite reminded me of a few other films I saw but didn't write about: mostly, but not solely, because I didn't like them. Interestingly, two of my duds were Iraq movies. The Messenger stars Ben Foster and Woody Harrelson as two soldiers whose job it is to knock on doors and inform the residents of their loved ones' demise. It's an angry, well-played film, but, try as I might (director Oren Moverman co-wrote my beloved I'm Not There), I just couldn't get involved with it, especially when Steve Buscemi made a cameo as a displeased father. It skews very American on this touchy subject, as does Ross Katz's Taking Chance, which stars Kevin Bacon as a soldier charged with taking the body of a fallen Marine back to his hometown for burial. It's all very worthy, based on a true story and all that, but, aside from Bacon's great performance, it felt like a very grim bank commercial. I genuinely feel that America is losing the plot about this war, and while I was watching it I wondered about the whole disparity of the situation. I mean, here's the US hand-wringing about the American (military) lives lost there, but what facilities do the Iraqis have to tell their stories, about the neighbourhoods being destroyed and the civilians caught up in a war they never asked for?
Endgame was another true-life story that I admired but never quite came to terms with. Set in the run-up to the release of Nelson Mandela and the good-riddance of PW Botha in 1990, it struck me as a film that never quite lives up to its noble intentions. Just because an event is world-shaking doesn't mean it's necessarily a great story; as a result, Endgame is a little like Valkyrie, just a very well made procedural, one that flits too much to tell its story through character but doesn't have a massive, sprawling arc that justifies such a fragmented approach. One of the two docs I saw was very interesting in that regard, in that it set itself a very rigid plan: to use only footage from the period it dealt with, being the years 1966 through 1971. Directed by Tom DiCillo, When You're Strange is an absorbing fairground ride through the rise and fall of The Doors, starting with their overnight success and ending with their sudden demise in 1971, when lead singer Jim Morrison pegged it in a bathtub in Paris. It's not perfect by any means, and many carped about the voiceover by DiCillo himself (which may be re-recorded, possibly by someone else, for the release version). However, I found it really recapped an interesting story for the uninitiated while reminding the faithful of what an interesting and unusual band The Doors really were. I liked it!
In the meantime, while I think about it, here's a quick round-up of the things we're likely to see sooner rather than later. I'm posting a link HERE from SpoutBlog, but for UK readers that's more of a rough guide.
* In The Loop is opening the Glasgow Film Festival on February 12, opening wide on April 17, released by Optimum.
* Adventureland is opening across the UK on May 29, released by Disney.
* Moon has been scheduled provisionally by Sony as August, exact date to be confirmed.
* Rudo Y Cursi is opening June 26, released by Optimum.
Things definitely getting a release but so far undated: 500 Days Of Summer, Adam (both Fox Searchlight); An Education, I Love You Phillip Morris (both E1); White Lightnin' (Momentum); Mary & Max (Icon).
Things that are looking very likely to get a release, if only on DVD, but I can't say any more: Dead Snow, When You're Strange, Big River Man.