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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Roundup of New Films Released 12 August 2011

I have to admit, with the week's two biggies out of the way, I very almost forgot to do my usual roundup of the rest of the week's films. Anyway, it's a bit late, but here are some thoughts on a couple of films - one good, one, um, not.

Lets start off with the good. Welcome to the Rileys is a fairly typical indie drama that mostly works while it's on but won't leave too much of a lasting impression. The story about a couple reeling from the death of their own child being drawn into the life of a wayward teenage stripper is elegant in its simplicity and it's certainly quite moving in parts but the almost fable-like story doesn't entirely gel with the cinema verite style in which it is filmed. For all of its problems, though, Welcome to the Rileys is a convincing study that allows its three main actors to really bring their A-games to the table. James Gandolfini and Melissa Leo are equally brilliant as parents broken by the loss of their child and the nuances in their performances beautifully highlight the differences between the way the two characters deal with their tragedy. While she shuts down, burying her grief and emotions in every day chores, he wears his emotions of his sleeve, trying unsuccessfully to find the will to carry on with the mundanity of his existence. Kristen Stewart, meanwhile, is no less impressive as she channels her usual mopey uneasiness into a teenage girl caught between the adult world that has forced to grow up before her time and her own childlike immaturity, Welcome to the Rileys is a long way off from being a masterpiece but, as far as character-driven acting showcases go, you could do far, far worse.

Zookeeper, on the other hand, has almost nothing to recommend about it. Kevin James and Rosario Dawson are likeable stars and, though Zookeeper will ultimately register as little more than a blip in the career of the latter, for the former its simply the latest in a long line of awful comedies in which he has appeared. This time, he has teamed up once again with Adam Sandler with whom he appeared in the truly grizzly, hypocritical "gay-friendly" "comedy" I Now Pronounce You Chuck And Larry and, though Zookeeper isn't quite as horrible as their previous film, it still has Sandler's stink all over it. The story involves James' character, the out on his luck zookeeper of the title, trying to win back the love of his ex-girlfriend with the help of the zoo's many animals - who reveal to the sad sack that they have been hiding their ability to talk from humans but are willing to betray their ancient secret just to help the poor slob out. No, really. The results are pretty much what you expect: Zookeeper is monumentally stupid and has that queasy mix of vomit-inducing sentimentality and brain-damaged, juvenile "humour" on which Adam Sandler (this time serving as producer, co-writer and voice of one of the animals) has made his name. It's just abominable - though it is nothing - absolutely NOTHING - in comparison to Sandler's next production, Born To Be a Star. Look forward for that one coming out in a couple of months, apparently.

Film of the week: Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Easily.
Worst of the week: I was very worried that it might be the highly divisive Tree of Life but thanks goodness we have Zookeeper to put even Terence Malick at his most indulgent into context.  

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