Mini Reviews (March 2007)
The Night Listener, Premonition, Find Love, Blades of Glory
The Night Listener (March 5/07)
The Night Listener, based on the book by Armistead Maupin, stars Robin Williams as Gabriel Noone, a successful radio personality who finds himself drawn into a bona fide mystery after befriending a young boy (Rory Culkin) and his protective guardian (Toni Collette). Armed with a streamlined screenplay by Maupin, Terry Anderson, and Patrick Stettner (the latter of whom also directs), the film effectively captures the essence of the novel without slavishly adhering to its every nuance - with the end result an adaptation that's bound to satisfy fans of the source material and neophytes alike. That said, the decision to take the emphasis off of Gabriel's day-to-day existence and place it instead on overtly creepy elements is somewhat jarring, though there's certainly no denying the effectiveness of the film's various suspenseful moments (ie Gabriel's surreptitious visit to a hospital). Williams proves to be perfectly cast and consequently offers up a subtle, thoroughly compelling performance that's deftly matched by the uniformly superb supporting cast (Collette is particularly strong here). Stettner - along with cinematographer Lisa Rinzler - has infused The Night Listener with a stylishly off-kilter sensibility that mirrors the sporadically mysterious storyline, with the end result a tense, refreshingly brisk piece of work.
Premonition (March 15/07)
Surprisingly slow and relentlessly absurd, Premonition stars Sandra Bullock as a housewife who slowly comes to the realization that she's living out her days in random order - a turn of events that leaves the fate of her husband (Julian McMahon) hanging in the balance. Director Mennan Yapo has infused the proceedings with some seriously bland visuals, despite the fact that Bill Kelly's screenplay essentially demands an over-the-top, Brian De Palma-esque sensibility. Far more problematic, however, is Kelly's use of overtly familiar cliches to propel the storyline forward; there are consequently very few plot twists that one can't spot coming a mile away, with the most egregious example of this undoubtedly the laughably predictable finale (which, to make matters worse, is followed by a headscratcher of an epilogue that's clearly been thrown in at the last minute). Bullock is fine and there is admittedly some enjoyment in attempting to unravel the film's few secrets, but Premonition ultimately possesses all the substance and subtlety of a made-for-Lifetime production (all it's missing are Teri Polo and Charles Shaughnessy).
Find Love (March 18/07)
The second effort from writer/director Erica Dunton, Find Love offers up a compelling, distinctly authentic look at the friendship that forms between two lonely strangers. The movie follows a pair of nameless protagonists (played by Christian Camargo and Alexie Gilmore) as they meet in an airport and subsequently try to sort out their feelings for one another over the next 24 hours. Dunton has infused Find Love with an ethereal sense of style that effectively complements her spare screenplay, although there's certainly no denying that the film's lack of plot occasionally becomes more pronounced than one might've liked (ie Dunton's directorial choices are sometimes just a little too experimental for their own good). That said, the palpable chemistry between Camargo and Gilmore goes a long way towards keeping things interesting - with the two actors effortlessly transforming their respective characters into thoroughly fleshed-out figures worth rooting for. Find Love is, ultimately, a touching, downright haunting portrait of loneliness - one that, despite its rough-around-the-edges vibe, is surely a sign of bigger and better things to come for Dunton.
Blades of Glory (March 29/07)
Blades of Glory marks the latest in a seemingly endless line of unremarkable comedies featuring Will Ferrell, following such lackluster efforts as Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Kicking & Screaming, and Bewitched. And although the film does initially hold some promise - how could it not, really, with a supporting cast that includes (among others) Will Arnett, Amy Poehler, Jenna Fischer, and William Fichtner - there's ultimately no overlooking the repetitive and exceedingly uneven vibe that's been hard-wired into the proceedings. The story follows two arch-enemies within the skating world - Ferrell's Chazz Michael Michaels and Jon Heder's Jimmy MacElroy - as they're begrudgingly forced to team up following their total ban from the world of singles skating. As has been the case with most of Ferrell's post-SNL output, Blades of Glory essentially consists of a series of sketches surrounding a high-concept premise - ensuring that, while there are a number of genuinely funny bits here and there, there's simply nothing holding the entire production together. The cast is certainly not at fault; Ferrell delivers a go-for-broke performance that's admittedly quite amusing, while the supporting cast - particularly Arnett and Poehler - generally does a nice job of keeping things interesting throughout (Heder seems to be the only weak link here, as the actor offers up the same schtick he's been relying on since hitting it big with Napoleon Dynamite). But despite the film's few positive attributes, there's just no getting around the feeling that Blades of Glory is essentially a one-note gimmick that's egregiously been padded out to feature length.