DVD Review Text Reviews

Movie Review: 9 Songs

Remove the live concert footage and the nonessential (I hesitate to call them gratuitous) sex scenes, and 9 Songs ceases to be a movie and becomes a film short.  There’s not a lot of story here.  I can’t even call it a character study, because we barely learn anything about Matt and Lisa, the couple around whose relationship the movie revolves.

9 Songs, written and directed by Michael Winterbottom, is more of a love-affair snapshot, a memory vaguely explained via brief bits of voice-over.  This shouldn’t be taken necessarily as a complaint.  The boy-meets-girl story is one that can survive some extreme paring.  Still, you get the sense that you’re not seeing anything close to the full picture.  And if you’re the kind of person who likes a little conflict in your stories, there is practically none here.

Really, writing about the story is rough.  Matt, played by Kieran O’Brien, is a geologist working on climate studies in the Antarctic.  He fills his hours mulling over Lisa, played by Margo Stilley, an American foreign-exchange student he met at a concert in England.  As the movie progresses, the couple goes to a lot of concerts and has a lot of sex.  We never see them fight.  We barely even see them have conversations.  There is one moment in a strip club that provides some tension, but even that is mild, at best, and then gone.

Part of me wants to write this movie off, call it boring, slow and uninspired.  Move on to bigger and better things.  Pick an easier movie to review.  The other part of me, though, sees something more here.  There’s an honesty to the relationship, a reality that pervades the entire movie that I can’t just discount.

Certainly, it’s not difficult to see where some of that feeling of reality comes from.  All of the concert footage is live.  So are all of the sex scenes.  This is pretty raw, and not for the easily offended.  There is no fade-to-black, or conveniently placed shrubs.  I’ll spare you the details, but know that the movie doesn’t.

There’s more to it than that, though.  The actors pull off a kind of quiet comfort that you expect from a couple who’s been together a while.  And the sex scenes are more than just physically revealing.  A few of them give more insight into Lisa’s character than all of the dialogue combined.  Unfortunately, not all of them do, and most drag on far too long.

Ultimately, I feel like this is a movie that needs to have papers written about it.  Symbolism and hidden truths, philosophy and psychology, lit and art theory.  Throw all that at the movie, but I wouldn’t call it entertainment.  Watch it to see if real sex adds to or detracts from a movie.  Watch it to see if you agree with how much story a narrative can have stripped away.  Watch it with a purpose in mind, because the film doesn’t provide you with one.

Text Reviews Theatrical Review

Theatrical Review: The Informant!

In the early 90s, a transnational corporation ADM (Archer Daniels Midland) was investigated by the FBI into matters of price-fixing around the world (primarily around the use of the amino acid lysine in food production) and all of that came about through one very big whistle-blower by the name of Mark Whitacre, a very big wheel within the company who sees himself as saving the company in the end, but who has way more going on than either ADM or the FBI knows at the start of this…

The Informant! is the latest movie from director Steven Soderbergh (one of my personal favorites) and he’s got something here that’s really unique that takes it’s swings at both corporate greed and personal ambition, all through the eyes of a guy who’s pretty likable, but makes you question him more in just what the hell was he doing? It’s a dark comedy that’s actually pretty briskly paced, but with a lot to chew on still be it’s end. Now when I say “comedy” with this, don’t necessarily expect this to be something that delivers big laughs, but more smiles and chuckle at watching it’s events unfold…

The events themselves are pretty dry, and not necessarily something that you’d think would make for all that a compelling film, but what makes them work on film though are some pretty compelling performances and a really brilliant score from composer Marvin Hamlisch, who handles this just like he did with some movies he did for Woody Allen back in the day.

And the performances are terrific. Matt Damon takes the lead here as Mark Whitacre and no one has ever seen Damon like this in a movie before, his Whitacre is a smart and passioned guy, but as revealed through commentary voiceovers throughout the action, not necessarily as prioritized as he should be. His wife, Ginger, played by Melanie Lynskey (who was the “other” girl in Peter Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures) does a real nice job as being Mark’s support and in some ways the gateway to the paths that he takes here. And it’s really nice to see actor Scott Bakula as FBI agent Brian Shephard, a guy who really wants to do the right thing, but who gets just a little too emotionally involved with his subject in the puruit of this case. With the exception of Damon, this cast isn’t exactly typical for a Soderbergh movie and also includes such people as Joel McHale (best known for E!’s The Soup), comedians Rick Overton and Allen Havey, and yeah… there’s The Smothers Brothers in roles as well.

Now this is based from a book, and I don’t have any idea just how close to the book it is, and right at the start, before the credits even roll, they tell you that they’re monkeying with some of the situations for dramatic effect, and when it ends up being something that’s just this entertaining, that’s fine. It’s a very well done and well made movie with a real top-notch job from Matt Damon and it offers a lot to chew on… very much recommended…