MOVIES: June 05, AU Edition

Woody Allen’s routine is growing old, but Samuel L. Jackson’s still got it
melinda.jpgMelinda and Melinda
Released: May 26, 2005
Rated: M
2 stars

I just don’t get the fuss over Woody Allen. I think the man’s films all suffer from dialogue diarrhea.
The characters just talk and talk and go on and on (and on). And they are always horribly highbrow Manhattanites discoursing over incredibly important topics and appreciating fine music. I can guarantee none of his characters has ever watched Desperate Housewives! If I was invited to a dinner party with people like that I’d probably end up plucking my eye out with a fork.
So keeping that in mind, here’s what I thought of Melinda and Melinda. The story starts across a restaurant table, as two writers debate whether life is essentially comic or tragic. To prove their respective sides they each take a tale about an uninvited guest and put their own spin on it. So for the rest of the film the audience is flipping between the comic version and the tragic version of Melinda’s life. The trouble is the comedy isn’t funny and the tragedy isn’t tragic so it’s easy to get lost. My hint is to follow Melinda’s hairstyle: straight=funny, curly=sad.
Although the script is weak a couple of the performances are strong. Rhada Mitchell is mesmerising as Melinda. She’s in nearly every scene and carries the film with ease. But no matter hard she works at her character it’s distracting when she’s sprouting lines like, ‘The subject of infidelity is completely out of the question. You were correct in your assumption.’ This sounds like Jane Austen, not present-day New York.

Woody Allen didn’t cast himself in this film (be thankful for small mercies) but he did make a strange decision for who would play his usual neurotic lovelorn character: Will Ferrell. And weirdly, the comic actor pulls the role off fabulously. I have always thought Will is amusing but not romantic lead material, but in this film the romantic lead is wracked with insecurities, guilt and jealousy, so it works.
Others were more disappointing: Chloe Sevigny and Amanda Peet simply play themselves again and again.
If you’re a Woody Allen fan ignore me and check it out. If not, I’ll pass you a fork.

CCarter.jpgCoach Carter
Released: May 26, 2005
Rated: M
4 stars

Coach Carter is a clichéd sports flick. But it’s a great clichéd sports flick that is based on a true story. Coach Carter (Samuel L Jackson) inherits a bunch of trash-talking, selfish high school basketballers who end every sentence with ‘dawg’. He makes them sign contracts to maintain their grades and respect each other, then whips them into shape with a kabillion pushups and enforced teamwork. Soon no-one can beat them and the state championships are well within their grasp.
That is, until the teachers reveal half the team is actually failing. So Coach Carter puts a lock on the gym and benches the entire team. The players, school and parents are furious. But Coach won’t budge; he points out young black men are 80 per cent more likely to go to prison than go to college.
Cue inspirational speech and swell motivational music. I know it’s formulaic but I couldn’t help it, I was sitting there grinning and urging them to study so they could make something of themselves…oh and win basketball scholarships…and sort out their off-court relationships…and still win the championship.
Samuel L. Jackson smolders with intensity. He carries the film on his capable shoulders. He’s commanding, powerful and likeable. A strong cast of young actors portrays the players in sad but believable situations.
It’s a true story that rings true. Hooray for clichés.

woodsman.jpgThe Woodsman
Released: May 05, 2005
Rated: M
2 stars

Sometimes I love seeing a movie I’ve heard nothing about. I walk in with no expectations and no idea of plot and let it wash over me. This was not one of those times. The Woodsman is a story of a pedophile. I think with a subject like this I would have liked some warning.
Kevin Bacon plays the lead role of Walter. Even before it’s revealed he’s a child molester Bacon shows his character is uncomfortable in his own skin. He’s withdrawn and living with the stigma of being just released from jail. Imagine how much worse it is when people find out what he did to get twelve years in the slammer. The editing of the movie splices unrelated scenes together making you feel disjointed and uncomfortable. It makes you see things from Walter’s point of view.
The Woodsman follows Walter and watches what happens when he tries to re-enter society. He honestly says he wants to be a “normal” person but at the same time is driven with a deep compulsion.
He gets a job at a timber yard with a bunch of rednecks and as an ex-con the only apartment he can rent is a rundown shoebox that happens to be across the road from a school. Demons follow his every thought.
Although there are other actors in the movie you almost don’t need them. It’s all about Walter and the battle of his will. Bacon is superbly restrained and subtle and acts with all his might in the many silences.
Will he lapse?
Not recommended as a first date movie.