Friday, August 19, 2011

Griff the Invisible

Maeve Dermody and Ryan Kwanten

It is unusual to see Ryan Kwanten in a role other than Jason Stackhouse in True Blood but its only fair to him as an actor that we let go of the typecasting a bit to see him not only in films with different characters, but in his own country. I understand that Kwanten must want to expand and show his acting abilities. His most recent projects in filmography, which you can count on your finger during the last decade, features him date in two Australian films. In Red Hill, he plays a policeman in a small town who stumbles on to some bad guys with a sordid past. In Griff the Invisible, he plays a nerdy office worker who likes to dress up in a rubber suit and fight crime. 

The character is the complete opposite of Jason Stackhouse, of course. Griff the Invisible evokes the character Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) in Kick Ass who also dreams of being a superhero. However, the dark, brown haired Ryan seems to be swallowed up in this film, and not because we are used to seeing him in a completely different light. Do you know that he is going to play the serial murderer Charles Manson in an upcoming film slated for next year, The Family

Griff the Invisible may have packed the house at the Toronto Film Festival where it had its international debut last September, and no doubt it will attract the same Jason Stackhouse fans here in San Francisco. The problem with the film directed by Leon Ford is the slow pace with a script that seems to go nowhere and though the director really, tries that are only moments of screen entertainment, Most of the office scenes in the film fall flat. One of Griff's friends is Tim (Patrick Brammall) who is attracted to the young scientist Melody (Maeve Dermody). The director will have us believe that like-minded nerds attract one another and so it is just a matter of time until Griff and Melody lock horns. But just as Griff refuses to betray his childhood friend Hoyt in True Blood and act out his attraction to Jessica, he is equally loyal to Tim. Melody fantasizes about Griff and says things like ”You be the rhythm and I’ll be the beat” but Griff sticks to his agenda of rejecting her advances - at least initially. His rubber suit empowers him to a certain degree and he is seen beating up the street thug bad guys. In real life, however, he is unable to pull off his daredevil stunts and he beaten up by co-workers on the street. Maeve Dermody fairs better as Melody who eventually makes her intentions perfectly clear to Tim and Griff - a  good actress. 

The film is billed as a romantic comedy but there is little chemistry between Melody and Griff, even if we are led to believe that the charge between the two of them is so powerful that light bulbs explode or doors melt when they are near. Maybe the film loses something in translation as a popular Aussie film. There is a hollowness that seems almost artistic but Griff the Invisible is just too transparent.
© 2011 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 8/17/11 Movie Magazine International

Thursday, August 18, 2011

One Day

By Moira Sullivan

Jim Sturgess and Anne Hathaway
Lone Scherfig’s One Day is a film that spans 20 years involving two young people who are first friends and then brief lovers and then friends and then lovers and finally spouses. Anne Hathaway plays Emma Morley, a young college student who sees herself as a wallflower when in truth she is dynamic, funny and brilliant. She hooks up with the playful Dexter Mayhew (Jim Sturgess) who goes for all the cute girls that are nowhere close to the charm and depth of Emma. Emma indeed is Dexter’s best friend and she always wants more than he is capable of. In the novel by the same name written by David Nicholls, part of the antagonism between the two is based on class differences. Emma seems reconciled to the fact that she never will make enough money and will have to settle on men that are far less exciting than Dexter. 

Blue Blooded Dexter could have anything he wants but decides against his mother's wishes played by Patricia Clarkson to do something useful. Instead, he goes on an airhead TV show, which works fine while he is young, but in time he is too old to play the part and his life starts to unravel. His good fortune turns into personal disaster. But there is always Emma he can rely on, and they manage to stay in touch through the years. Whereas the physical changes that Emma goes through seem upbeat, Dexter’s changes have a lot to do with gaining or losing hair. Indeed the couple makes a splendid pair, but we can only admire them as spectators. Of course, much is there in the book that the film is based on and one suspects this when there is more to the story than meets the eye.

A film based on a novel is a special breed and yet we have no right to demand that a film be faithful to the original source to be a superior product. Witness the Potter films that never seemed to disappoint fans, but The Golden Compass angered others so that there was only one film made based on the novels of Phillip Pullman. It is hard to make a film that spans two decades, so cars, hairstyles, music and fashion speak the loudest.

Danish director Lone Scherfig who made An Education (2009) has taken on another English property and shows with skill how to tell a moving story with just the right touches. And Anne Hathaway shows once against what a talented actress she is and she pretty much steals every scene she is in.

© 2011 - Moira Sullivan - 8/18/11
Movie Magazine International

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Attack the Block

By Moira Sullivan
Attack the Block screened in June at the Another Hole in the Head Film Festival in San Francisco.  It was a good venue for it, due to its oddball quaintness. In addition, the film was at Comic-Con last month.  Who would have thought that a pack of teens roaming around South London would be in for so much drama after mugging a woman and taking her cell phone? The gang is mostly black, and they all live in the hood of Wyndam Towers. After the holdup, a meteor falls from the sky and hits a VW bug. As Moses (John Boyega), the oldest boy of the pack goes to investigate he is suddenly attacked by a wild creature, which turns out to be an alien. He shoots it dead. From there, a cascade of black furry aliens begin descending to earth. They kill two cops and follow Moses and company around. 
Back in their hood, Biggz (Simon Howard) is chomped on by one of the hairballs, and soon after they run into the girl they mugged, Sam (Jodie Whittaker). They are surprised to see her in their building and claim they never would have mugged her if they knew she lived in the same block. This doesn’t wash with her, but there isn’t time to negotiate this, as the black creatures with luminous green teeth are chomping at the bit and scaling Wyndam Towers like cockroaches.  
Attack the Block, is an intriguing film because it shows how closely connected the gang is and how finely tuned they are with the survival of the pack. There are other characters that flesh out the story such as a corpulent marijuana dealer played by Nick Frost and one of his main customers, the young Brewis (Luke Steadaway). Brewis is able to make sense of the nature of the invasion, despite being in a constant stupor. 
The gang has not escaped the eye of the local young women, including Dimples (Page Mead). These girls are annoyed with how juvenile the gang is but still are ready to standby and lend a hand to the defense plan.This is a bizarre tale about an epidemic that has psychic origins, a visit from outer space that puts into motion a survival plan in which the hood gets closer, cleaner, and wiser. The South London dialect is easy enough to follow with a riveting sound track including a tune by director Joe Cornish.
Attack the Block is also insightful for it shows how quickly the blame is put on the young black teens for the gruesome deaths in the hood and how they fight against this racial profiling in order to save their neighborhood.

© 2011 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 08/03/11
Movie Magazine International