CAPSULE REVIEWS OF "Edison & Leo", "Passchendaele"
Edison and Leo (2008) dir. Neil Burns
Starring: Powers Boothe, Jay Brazeau, Gregory Smith, Carly Pope
RATING (out of ****) ***1/2
By Greg Klymkiw
This whacked-out animated feature swells rapturously with the unbridled lunacy and piss-in-the-pants humour of George Toles's screenplay, which also has healthy dollops of real heart. The very Grim(m) fairy tale is as darkly outrageous, deliciously bawdy as it is genuinely moving in an inspired tale of mad scientist Edison and his intense (to put it mildly) relationship with his son. The movie is replete with clever movie and literary references for groovy eggheads and hipsters, but never do they overwhelm the core of this bittersweet father-son tale which will appeal to pretty much anyone who loves the best work of Tim Burton.
Neil Burns's expressive visual flourishes and a great cast - all in fine voice, especially the wonderful Powers Boothe - remind us once again of just how great Canadian animation can be. Every so often, one is taken with the (Guy) Maddinesque quality of many of the situations and dialogue (Toles writes almost everything Maddin directs), but by the end of this lovely overlooked gem, it becomes apparent just how Tolesian Maddin's work could be regarded.
At 79 minutes, Edison and Leo is a perfect length. In fact, I left the theatre wishing it were longer.
A BIG MOVIE (BY CANUCK STANDARDS) WITH A TINY BRAINPasschendaele (2008) dir. Paul Gross
Starring: Paul Gross, Caroline Dhavernas
RATING (out of ****) *
By Greg Klymkiw
How anyone could suggest with a straight face that Passchendaele is any good at all, renders me agog. I probably had no right to even comment on the movie fully when I staggered out after the first miserable hour at its World Premiere in 2008, but rest assured, I eventually suffered through the entire sewage bath when it opened theatrically to confirm my initial feelings. The full dosage of Paul Gross's directorial followup to his risible Men With Brooms forced me to nail my feet to the floor. I have the scars to prove it. This $20,000,000.00 war film (a bit of an oxymoron in this day and age, anyway - even before going in you know you're in for some bargain basement carnage) is one of the most embarrassing, poorly written, miserably directed excuses for something purporting to be a motion picture that I have ever had the utter displeasure to waste precious hours of my life on. The Dollar-rama Saving Private Ryan opening had a few visceral shocks to be sure (thanks, no doubt to a decent second unit), but once the stiff-jawed leading man (Gross, 'natch) settled his sorry shell-shocked ass back on the homefront, I pretty much had to nail my kneecaps to the seat to stay for entirety of this jaw-droppingly wretched picture.
The paper thin characters/caricatures all deliver mind-numbingly awful dialogue as the contrived story plods interminably along its dreary way - treading heavily into the territory of melodrama of the worst sort. Don't get me wrong - I love war pictures and I especially love war pictures that have both melodrama and sentimentality. That said, there is good melodrama and bad melodrama and there is sentimentality that resonates with the emotional heartache that someone like John Ford was able to master with his eyes sewn shut. Alas, Paul Gross is most certainly not John Ford - Garry Marshall with a severe migraine, perhaps, but not much more than that. Gross directs with the grace of a faulty jackhammer that keeps missing its mark. Perhaps he might have made a good picture if he'd produced and starred in it and let a real writer and director do their respective jobs. Gross is definitely a good actor and the camera loves him, but in this movie he lopes about like some pretty boy Gary Cooper, uttering dialogue that not even Ed Wood would have been capable of writing. In fact, let it be said now that as a writer, Ed Wood was pretty much Clifford Odets compared to Gross. The movie, for all its utter stupidity, reached some kind of nadir when Gross chose to crosscut between graphic descriptions of what shrapnel can do to the human body whilst a loving couple bang each other with youthful abandon. Spielberg did a similar thing in Munich. I applauded Spielberg for the audacity, but couldn't really forgive the stupidity - especially since he had his lead character boinking wifey whilst having flashbacks to violent killings he was not even present to have experienced. I was convinced nobody could have topped such idiocy, but Paul Gross managed to do it. Alas, bereft of Spielberg's panache, which made Munich barely watchable, Gross has little to offer as a director save for complete incompetence. That said, though, I kept wishing Gross had managed to even rise to the level of M.O.W. competence with his direction as I am not fond of the taste of bile. Alas, my wishes fell on deaf ears. Between those deaf ears, however, I assume plenty of air (mostly fetid) reside in the general vicinity.
Burn After Reading (**) Watchable Coen Brothers nonsense with its oh-so groovy post-modernist shtick blending eye-rolling yucks, almost predictable twist and turns (their style is down so pat, that nothing ever really surprises you) and unpredictable and annoyingly groovy brutality. Good performances, though - especially from John Malkovich who hasn't been quite this good in some time. His performance, exploding with truly inspired lunacy, feels far less contrived that the Coens' trademark in-their-sleep approach. - Greg Klymkiw
RocknRolla (***) How much one likes this picture probably depends upon how much one enjoys Guy Ritchie's fancy pants laugh-riot crime pictures. It's up there with Lock Stock and Snatch - maybe even better than both of them combined. In any event, the picture made me laugh quite a bit and I had a hard time NOT keeping my eyes glued to the screen. Good, brutish, nasty, pulpy fun. - Greg Klymkiw