Thursday, June 5, 2008

A Midsummer Multiplex Dream

Sequels, superheroes and spinoffs rule the cinematic world. What fools we moviegoers be...

As I drift off to sleep during the latest uninspired summer spectacle, let me dream of psychedelic drug trips, bi-sexual Spanish encounters, and Jason Bateman.

If there were five films I dream of seeing this very second -- five films that await me in my moviegoing future and that I long to rescue me from this celluloid slump -- these five would be it:

Enter the Void

(Is there a better image and title to describe the summer movie experience?)

Gaspar Noe, the man behind the jaw-dropping and unforgettable films Irreversible and I Stand Alone is back, ready to scar cinephiles with another disorienting descent into the dark side. Noe explains his latest, Enter the Void, as an enticing blend of dreams and hallucination:

The visions described in the script are inspired partly by the accounts of people who have had near-death experiences, who describe a tunnel of light, seeing their lives flashing past them and ‘astral’ visions, and partly by similar hallucinatory experiences obtained by consuming DMT, the molecule which the brain sometimes secretes at the moment of death and which, in small doses, enables us to dream at night.

The film should sometimes scare the audience, make it cry and, as much as possible, hypnotise it. Twitch

I can't recall seeing a film since Irreversible that's had quite the same shattering effect. Its style, its shock, its complete willingness to lose its audience within minutes of the start time... With Noe taking his talents into the surreal, the realm of the mind, I can only imagine it will be an experience like none other. Will he actually try to top that nine minute rape scene or the nastiest of nasty face smashings?

Noe is the rarest breed of cult filmmaker in that he's able to push all taste barriers and still maintain a level of artistry and technical innovation. Mental trauma might rarely make for great "entertainment," but when the time comes for Noe to install electrodes in theater seats, I'll be front and center.

Broken Embraces
(Los abrazos rotos)

Pedro Almodovar's been on a vicious hot streak, making masterpiece after masterpiece for quite a number of years now. His latest, Broken Embraces, re-teams him with Penelope "she's amazing... when she's in Spanish" Cruz. Her turn in last year's Volver was sexy, subtle and astonishing, so it's all the more exciting to see what direction they'll take with this, their fourth collaboration. Almodovar regulars like Rossy de Palma and Chus Lampreave are also attached to smaller roles, so there's no reason to believe this delirious streak won't continue.

The basic premise remains vague. It's about... you guessed it, a broken embrace. But who needs more details than that? Almodovar says his inspiration for this project "comes from the darkness," and that it's his "most novel-like story to date." That's quite a drool-worthy statement, considering the man's work is always so richly textured and effortlessly evolving. If Pedro were here right now, I'd hug him and I'd never pull away.

Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Two Penelope Cruz movies on one list? I'm as surprised as you are, but then the girl has proven her chops. And technically she's still in Spanish speaking territory so we're in the clear.

I've been on a Woody Allen binge lately, falling in love again with some of his often forgotten classics like Another Woman, Husbands and Wives and Interiors. Simply put, they're AMAZING and the man can make forty-billion Small Time Crooks with those on his resume. Realistically, Woody's reputation doesn't deserve the beating its gotten in recent years. Even his weak films are decidedly better than most, and it was evident with Match Point that he's still got a heavenly gift, it's just waiting to shine on the right project.

Let's hope Vicky Cristina Barcelona is it. I love the idea of Woody Allen trying out new environments (this time Spain... obviously) and, true to his skill set, he seems to be dealing with moral conflicts and sexual mores at their insightful, probing best.

Cruz stars alongside boyfriend Javier Bardem, the amazing Patricia Clarkson, and current Allen muse Scarlett Johansson, in a story of lustful encounters on a Spanish summer holiday. We have the promise of gorgeous sunlit locales and steamy sexual deceit, some even of the bi-sexual variety, just for good measure. Sounds to me like he's on the right track.

I'm hoping the movie's title derived from Woody Allen being SO excited about his idea that those three words in tandem were all he could get out.

The Informers

Bret Easton Ellis and his ever-charming nihilism have served the makings of two sublime cult classics, American Psycho and The Rules of Attraction. The latest adaptation comes in the form of The Informers, based on a collection of randomly linked short stories that Ellis wrote in 1994. The book is a deliciously bleak and funny view of the LA wasteland, with characters as despicable and delightful as those we've come to expect from Ellis. The film version is well on track with a cast ironically culled from the same LA wasteland. Winona Ryder, Billy Bob Thornton, Kim Basinger, Mickey Rourke and Chris Isaak star, and it's also the final film for actor Brad Renfro, who died back in January of a heroine overdose.

Ellis co-wrote the script this time around (with Nicholas Jarecki, a newcomer), which should be interesting since this is his first film adaptation and it's of his own work. The previous film variations have had to take their own unique slant to even attempt capturing the dark tone of his work and they've succeeded remarkably well. Naturally one would assume his own personal touch would be a bonafide plus.

The stories contained here include rock stars, movie executives, child murderers and... vampires? It's a challenging bit of material to be sure, but with just enough cerebral satire to sour anyone who's feeling good about themselves or those around them. Guaranteed.

Arrested Development: The Movie

I'm a total cheat, this one's not even in production yet, but... the rumor mill has been heating up like a Bluth Company Cornballer! Given Michael Cera and Jason Bateman's surging careers, as well as the show's still surging reputation for unabashed brilliance, it's about time we pay another visit to the Bluth family.

If we must suffer movie spinoffs, at least make one that's justifiable. COME ON! How about one based on a now classic series whose life was cut tragically short when people preferred to see D-grade celebrities have a dance off. The silver lining was that Arrested Development never had the chance to decline past anything but perfection. The tragedy was that there wasn't even a hint of that decline. The Fox Network made a huge mistake...

I don't even care to imagine the plot because creator Mitch Hurwitz would come up with something infinitely better, but if he can reassemble the dynamite cast, I have no doubt this would be a comedy for the ages. Considering the building fan anticipation and the lingering studio restraint, the series' title gains even more significance.

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