Latest Reviews

Entries in Chris Pontius (2)

Wednesday
Dec222010

Somewhere

Sofia Coppola’s movies seem so simple on the surface, but always prove more than meets the eye, with thoughtful subtexts that too many filmgoers seem to miss. As a colleague of mine recently said to me, “Those that say ‘nothing happened’ have completely missed the point.” Her newest movie, Somewhere, is quiet, understated and sublime. Rebounding from the mixed reaction she received from her last picture, Marie Antoinette, Coppola has returned to the glory of her 2003 hit, Lost in Translation. Somewhere is a spiritual successor to that film, in tone and style, and if you liked it, you’ll probably like this.

Stephen Dorff plays our protagonist, Johnny Marco. When we meet him, he seems a loner. He wastes his days away driving his car around and chasing women, just to end up back home alone drinking booze and ordering pole dancers. He has some friends, but he seems disconnected from them. When he finally does get a girl, he ends up falling asleep on top of her before the fun begins. He comes off as a lonely, downtrodden vagabond, never quite sure what he’s going to be doing from day to day, and you begin to feel sorry for him. Then, suddenly, we find out he’s a big Hollywood actor. This sudden flip in perspective is jarring, but in a good way.

The beginning of the film features very little dialogue and you see Johnny at his barest. As an actor, he’s almost always surrounded by a number of people, including fans, agents and paparazzi. He lives a lifestyle where he is never really alone, yet you gain the understanding that he is. Coppola, who also wrote the screenplay, smartly hides his profession so as not to skew how viewers see him.

Eventually, his daughter, Cleo, played by Elle Fanning, comes into the picture, surprising him with a visit while he goes through the motions on a PR tour for his newest film. She’s a bubbly young eleven year old and loves her dad, even though he hasn’t always been around. Her appearance in the picture once again allows us to view Johnny through a different lens. When she arrives, he is clearly happy to see her and not once does he complain to her that he is too busy. In fact, he takes her along with him on his tour and does his best to make time for her.

However, he is not always consistent, which makes him a difficult character to decipher. Sometimes women take priority, like in a scene where he sneaks one into his hotel room while Cleo sleeps, but other times the opposite is true and he blows off women to spend time with her. This inconsistency is okay, however, because that’s how humans work. We don’t always consider our priorities and our urges end up getting the best of us. In regards to human nature, Somewhere is the most realistic movie I’ve seen in quite some time.

Somewhere is a minimalist movie in sight and sound. When possible, Coppola keeps the camera still and she mercifully takes her time in telling the story, as opposed to the kinetic pace of most Hollywood productions. If there’s a performance of, well, anything, you’ll see it in full. You’ll see a complete ice skating rehearsal and not one, but two stripteases to the end. It’s slow moving, but it’s never dull.

Hesitance going into the movie is understandable. It’s not going to be everybody’s cup of tea and the main star, Stephen Dorff, hasn’t done anything interesting since, let’s be honest, 1998’s Blade. But don’t let that stop you. Dorff gives a magnificent performance and makes you wonder why he isn’t hired to star in more major films. Actually, the entire cast is up to the challenge, with the only weak standout being Chris Pontius as Johnny’s best friend, though the fact that he could even remember and recite his lines seems like a minor miracle given the assumption that is he probably on some sort of drug, either for recreation or to curb the pain from his endeavors in the Jackass movies.

There is so much to discuss in Somewhere that I’ve only begun to scratch the surface. It’s a movie that demands repeated viewings because you won’t gather all of its intricacies in one sitting. I know I didn’t. And that, if anything, is what makes this film great.

Somewhere receives 4/5

Friday
Oct152010

Jackass 3D

Writing a review for Jackass 3D is useless. It’s like making a gourmet meal for a dog that eats feces. Just as the dog doesn’t care what his meal tastes like, my opinion of this movie won’t matter to fans of the franchise. But here I am anyway, doing my best to be critical of something that’s virtually critic proof. However, I’m a pretty big fan myself, so I suspect my feelings towards the movie will echo those who are yet to see it and, as sad as it is to say, Jackass 3D is, in all likelihood, the end of the franchise.

It seems that the creative well has run dry in this third film installment of the long running television show made popular by the likes of Johnny Knoxville, Bam Margera, Steve-O, Chris Pontius, Jason “Wee Man” Acuna and the rest of the gang. The ante that was upped in Jackass Number Two has gone back down and the crazy pranksters have resorted to the same old songs and dances they’ve been pulling off for years. Remember the bit in the sequel when Bam was quarantined in a small area with a snake? That happens again here. Do you recall when Johnny gets rammed by a bull? If you don’t, you’ll get to see it in this installment. Multiple times.

One particularly uninspired segment sees Knoxville in full football gear getting tackled by an NFL player. Never mind the fact that coming up with the idea is as simple as tuning into ESPN on a Monday night, but consider that even this boring skit has already been done on one of the previous Jackass television episodes.

As one critic pointed out to me after my screening, this doesn’t really come as a surprise because the Jackass guys have been putting different variations on the same stunts for years. That’s true, but the problem is that those variations have always gone beyond anything they had done before. Take the Number Two skit that placed four of the guys on conjoining seesaws in the middle of a bullring. The idea may have been the same—avoid the oncoming bull for as long as you can before taking a hit—but a game was made out of it. Instead of merely sitting there waiting, there was suspense because you never knew who was going to get it first. Outside of a few instances here, the variations on their old skits are so slight they’re almost inconsequential.

But I suppose the big question, even after all of those complaints, is: did I laugh? I did, but considerably less so due to the rehashed gags. However, the gang’s laughter is infectious and they have a certain camaraderie that is unparalleled in the movie world. There’s no other group of guys I’ve seen on the big screen that seem to have a better time with each other than these fellas, even when they’re getting punched in the head by Bam in a hilarious prank influenced by the Rocky movies. Their genuine friendship seeps through and you’ll find yourself wanting to join in on their shenanigans; that is if you’re crazy.

I could go into how unnecessary the 3D is in this little scatological, homoerotic adventure, but the whole existence of this franchise is unnecessary so it seems frivolous. In fact, everything I’ve said so far is trivial because I’d be willing to bet there isn’t a soul out there waiting for reviews to know whether or not this movie is for them. The audience for this knows who they are and there’s nothing I or any other critic can say to dissuade them from seeing it. Though it is still worth checking out (just barely), there’s no denying the disappointment that is Jackass 3D.

Jackass 3D receives 2.5/5