Tag: 2005

Movie Review: Tideland (2005)


The upcoming Terry Gilliam blogathon inspired me to revisit his oft-overlooked dark fable Tideland. Based on the book by Mitch Cullin, the film is shown through the eyes of young Jeliza Rose (Jodelle Ferland), who is left alone in an abandoned and isolated Texas farmhouse after her addict parents (Jennifer Tilly and Jeff Bridges) overdose in quick succession. Left with only dirty barbie doll heads for company and antique peanut butter for sustenance, Jeliza Rose sets out exploring the fields surrounding the house, inventing her own complex fantasies to sustain herself. She eventually runs into her strange neighbors- Dell (Janet McTeer), a harsh taxidermist who lost an eye to a bee sting, and Dickens (Brendan Fletcher), her developmentally disabled brother who becomes Jeliza Rose’s new playmate.

The first time I saw this film, it was on my ridiculously tiny, square dorm-room tv, and even then the splendor of its visuals was not lost on me. It is all just so fucking beautiful. Every shot is meticulously planned, from the sepia-tinged rural vistas to the close-up views of the cluttered, dilapidated farmhouse. There is sparse and well-placed use of CG to heighten Jeliza Rose’s fantasy world. Even though the dialogue is a bit scattered and the plot is fairly simple, Tideland injects itself into your subconscious with its dire atmosphere, dark humor, and moral ambiguity. There is a pervasive sense of unease spread thickly over the entire proceedings, giving it the feel of a slow-burn horror movie, though nothing typically “scary” really happens. I can’t even tell you why, but something about this movie terrifies me.

It goes without saying that Jeff Bridges and a nigh-unrecognizable Jennifer Tilly put in excellent, albeit short, performances. Janet McTeer is wonderfully intense and otherworldly as the half-crazed Dell, rockin’ a head-to-toe black get-up like no other. But this movie is wholly and completely Jodelle Ferland’s. She’s amazing- adorable, independent, weird, imaginative, sympathetic, and believable. Jeliza Rose’s fracturing psyche is explored through her doll head friends, with Ferland putting on a range of voices to conduct fake conversations with them all. It’s creepy, sad, and funny all at once.

A lot of people don’t like Tideland. In many ways it is a disturbing, off-putting film, and I’m sure it alienates many of its viewers. Personally I can’t help but always be drawn in by Gilliam’s visual mastery and imagination. His palpable childlike wonder gives this dark tale a strange innocence, while the considerable strengths of its cast lend it a horrific believability.


Pair This Movie With: Shit I feel like I had a good suggestion as I was watching but then, as usual, didn’t write it down. I will instead offer the first thing that comes to mind, which is of course, Return to Oz.

Movie Review: Constantine (2005)

Hey-oh, time for my favorite Keanu Reeves not-so-guilty pleasure movie! Drawing from the Hellblazer comic series (starring a character created by Alan “The Grouch” Moore), Constantine follows John Constantine (Keanu Reeves), an asshole private detective with one foot in hell, rapidly worsening lung disease, and a host of half-breed demons to contend with. When a powerful psychic seemingly commits suicide, her cop sister Angela (Rachel Weisz) teams up with John to uncover a new plot against humanity. It seems the devil’s son is ready to take over his father’s kingdom, threatening to break the delicate balance that’s been maintained between heaven and hell for centuries.

I honestly have no idea why people don’t like this movie. It’s certainly corny and over the top at times, but it is a hell of a lot of fun and really quite visually impressive. I know it isn’t exactly a straight adaptation of the comics (though I’ve only read a couple scattered trades), and that’s understandably a frustrating thing for fans, but as a stand-alone film it’s damned entertaining. The effects are pretty great and I dig a lot of the monsters as well as the dramatic shooting style. Hell is imagined as a dry, gritty wasteland with dulled sounds and lots of wind. A demon manifests itself from scuttling creatures. The devil is pale white while treading black goo behind his bare feet as he walks. It’s just got some interesting ideas.

I love how much of an asshole Keanu gets to be and I love how progressively shitty he looks as he goes about his magical business. I love how over-serious and deep-voiced Rachel Weisz is. I love that Gavin Rossdale is in this movie. I truly adore Tilda Swinton as gender-neutral archangel Gabriel and Peter Stormare as a snarky devil. And Shia LaBeouf is there too. The cast seems to have a lot of fun, aware that the script is somewhat tongue-in-cheek even as it does lean more towards drama (what with all the suicides and apocalypses and whatnot). Constantine is flawed of course, I’m not making any proclamation as to its genuinely badass status, but it’s full of imagination and I always have a fun time watching it.


Pair This Movie With: It depends on your mood. I’d say Night Watch for more otherworldly mystery solving and awesome visuals, or Johnny Mnemonic for even cheesier Keanu Reeves science-fiction.

Movie Review: Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story (2005)

The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman is a reportedly “unfilmable” British novel from the mid-1700’s that Michael Winterbottom decided to adapt. The result is a comedic meta-film that fuses scenes from the book with documentary-like footage of the actors playing themselves while hanging around the set. In Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story, Steve Coogan stars as a version of himself as well as the titular Tristram narrating the novel portions, as well as Tristram’s father Walter.

It seems much of the book’s story takes place before Tristram is even born, with him recounting the experiences of his older family members. Rob Brydon plays himself as well as Tristram’s war veteran uncle Captain Toby, who is sort of the hero of the story. Having never read the book, Coogan believes he is the big star of the film, and as it continues to undergo rewrites, reshoots, and budget issues, he attempts to increase his own role and downplay Brydon’s. At the same time he’s contending with recently becoming a father with girlfriend Jenny (Kelly Macdonald), annoying reporters, a mild fling with assistant Jennie (Naomi Harris), and general career setbacks. It all makes more sense as you’re watching it, I promise.

Tristram Shandy utilizes the film-within-a-film conceit to satirize the presumably typical egos of paranoid actors and the general selling-out that bombards any mainstream movie production. It also offers some genuine insight into how films are made and how actors deal with their high-pressure jobs and family lives. For the most part, though, it’s a collection of silly moments featuring off-the-cuff jokes and naturalistic dialogue populated by comedic fourth-wall-breaking passages from the novel. Unfortunately, because it is put together quite loosely, it does feel clumsy at times and incomplete by the end. Though considering the strange nature of the source material, perhaps that was Winterbottom’s intention.

The film shines in its inclusion of a slew of enjoyable British and Irish actors, with appearances from Stephen Fry, Shirley Henderson (yay!), Jeremy Northam, Mark Williams, Roger Allam, and Dylan Moran (Dylan Moran!). Coogan is clever in his characterization of himself, both exposing a mean streak of narcissism while demonstrating many endearing, sympathetic moments. I loved Rob Brydon as well, who gives off a goofy, slightly annoying but ultimately lovable personality. Oh also, Gillian Anderson shows up for a few scenes, if that’s your thing.

It’s a fun movie that culls together a host of awesome actors and wry humor, wrapped up in a cool, satirical, high-concept premise. It didn’t give me a better idea of what the book’s about, but had me thoroughly entertained despite its narrative meandering.


Pair This Movie With: I’m going with For Your Consideration for another hilarious satirical look behind the scenes of a film production. I feel like not enough people love that movie as much as I do, and they should. Because everyone should agree with me, all the time.

MirrorMask (2005) at 366 Weird Movies

Hey dudes, so I have a new review up at 366 Weird Movies this week focusing on the coming-of-age fantasy MirrorMask, from Sandman collaborators Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean. It’s packed with gorgeous, inventive visuals and great performances, but is somewhat bogged down by a cliche-ridden script and a smooth jazz score that doesn’t fit the action at all. Still worth a watch, though, especially for any Gaiman/Sandman/fantasy fans. Go read my full review!

Movie Review: El Calentito (2005)

The rad video store Hollywood Express had a display for movies with lady rockers towards which I naturally gravitated. It led to several new additions to my netflix queue (yes I feel guilty for not renting right from them), and I kicked off with El Calentito. Set in early-80’s Madrid against a politically turbulent atmosphere that eventually leads to a military coup, the story concerns the trials and tribulations of fictional all-girl punk band Las Siux. Their raw, infectious sound (sort of a clash between Bikini Kill and Shonen Knife) has attracted a label executive, but one of their main members leaves the day before they’re set to meet him.

After accidentally befriending remaining bandmates Carmen (Ruth Díaz) and Leo (Macarena Gómez), naive and sheltered college student Sara (Verónica Sánchez) is convinced into temporarily joining them so they can perform for the exec in 10 days time. She becomes embroiled in their underground world of drugs, hair dye, homosexuality, and that dang rock and roll music, but primarily sets her sights on losing her virginity and opening up onstage.

If you wish The Runaways had a political backdrop, more gay characters, and a lot more boobs, then El Calentito is for you! It’s a really fun little film with great music and likable characters. For the most part it’s a comedy, with your typical coming-of-age tropes of a strict upbringing and anti-virginity quest, but the undercurrent of government tension and exploration of gay and trans lifestyles give it a dramatic note to balance out the wacky antics of the band. The acting is sometimes uneven, but I really enjoyed the characters- especially the adorable punk Leo and the outspoken bar owner Antonia.

It may not offer too many new ideas to the music movie genre, but the film certainly accomplishes what it set out to do. It tells an interesting story about an all-female band that is very in charge of itself and explores some of the alternative 80’s culture, while throwing in some political commentary and historical references. It’s funny and sweet but still able to be taken seriously, and avoids the requisite drug drama. Plus, I dug the music! A celebration of ladies making punk rock! If none of this appeals to you, there really are a number of boobs to be seen. So, there’s that.