Rewind Review- Is Anybody There?

I’m not one who enjoys the phrase “sleeper hit” because almost any movie is looking for some bit of success. However, it comes to mind for this movie because I hadn’t heard of it until midway through the week in which I saw it. Even on the independent film scene it seemed to have slipped under the radar.

This film is in a word: beautiful. It is funny in one moment, shocking in another and absolutely heartbreaking the next. It is a movie that searches for the meaning of life without ever being pretentious, and is always being sincere. The meaning is searched for backwards and uniquely. It tells the tale of Edward (Bill Milner), a young boy who lives with his parents in their old folks’ home, and who thus, becomes obsessed with death.

After a chance encounter with Clarence (Michael Caine) Edward finds him in the home. After some head-butting the two grow closer. The one sheet for this film is the kind that will get you nervous with anticipation for Michael Caine’s performance, one critic citing it as “the performance of his career.” Thankfully, this is no lie. We all know Caine can be funny, acerbic and occasionally charming. This performance, however, is magnificent in its arc and power and even the man himself was unable to control his emotion watching this film, and neither was I. He is fantastic.

Caine’s performance alone is not enough to propel this film to the heights it reaches. The film’s young lead Bill Milner proved that the success of last year’s Son of Rambow was most definitely no fluke and this film reveals Milner to be unquestionably the strongest actor of his generation. Here Milner carries much of the film alone, whereas in Rambow he and Poulter played off each other. We see Milner here as a much more complex character: dissatisfied with life, angry, rebellious, confused, hopeful for something better, and yet somehow innocent throughout all this. Holding the screen and making a story that could be morbid funny and sharing the screen with a living legend make his performance nothing short of astonishing.

This film was written as a period piece set in 1987. I wholeheartedly applaud this decision and I think it was made in large part to make the piece more intimate to allow Edward’s quest for answers about the afterlife to be conducted through his own ingenuity most of the time, as opposed to the cold and distant research that the Internet Age would provide.

Many of the frames in this film are absolutely beautiful in terms of depth (looking down hallways, corridors, on a rooftop), the use of obstruction in the foreground (occasionally out of focus) and just the overall mise-en-scène is typically interesting. For example, in a scene where Edward and Clarence are walking and talking – the shot starts on the back of Clarence’s truck with the words “It’s Magic!” dominating the scene and then pans over to find them. Everything is well thought out from lights through the back window of Edward’s mother’s car to the reflections on the windshield.

It is a tender, funny, wonderful film which will likely be branded as coming-of-age which I think would not do it justice. This film can be seen and appreciated by all as it examines the human condition more so than anything else and says some wonderful things about it.


Review- Journey 2: The Mysterious Island

Josh Hutcherson, Luis Guzmán, Vanessa Hudgens and Dwayne Johnson in Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (Warner Bros.)

Perhaps one of the things that works best about Journey 2: The Mysterious Island if that it gives you sort of a non-sequel/quickstart. The concept of the film is introduced quickly and simply and before you know it we’re on the beginning of the quest. It’s a film that knows it’ll be plot-driven so it gets right down to it.

That being said there are a few character and dialogue issues that come into play right away. They don’t rear their ugly heads too often but they do hold the film back a little bit. In the first scene things are going swimmingly and then Sean (Josh Hutcherson) sees longitude and latitude coordinates and doesn’t know what they are though it’s already established he’s a straight-A student. There are also perhaps too many attempts to make certain plot elements seem plausible with lengthy explanations. The elements are well thought out but the dialogue is somewhat clumsy and didactic.

To address the only other bugaboo quickly there’s also the unnecessary complication of gold in this film also, a bit like the latest Chipmunks movie. It’s such and antiquated and tired cinematic motif, and hard to swallow in a life or death situation.

Journey to the Center of the Earth was a precursor to the 3D renaissance and it was very good and took advantage of the technology. This film may not be up to that standard , partially based on other production decisions, but it is good and utilized 3D that’s worth the up-charge for sure.

The cast in this film is quite good and keeps the tone light and fun and makes up for any inadequacies the film may have. Josh Hutcherson is clearly the lead, while he’s always been a great talent, here he really shows he’s already a movie star by carrying an action vehicle with some heavy-hitters. That being said Dwayne Johnson does well here with his usual good delivery of humorous one-liners he also works well with Michael Caine who effortlessly adds a nutty adventurousness to the film. Luis Guzmán, who has been hilarious in countless things gets a much bigger part and stage upon which he can shine.

The movie keeps the laughs consistent, which keeps the tone fitting with the prior installment. This means that this film will earn new fans and please old ones in equal measure.

The CG on screen is better than TV and trailers can really give you a sense of and the action sequences are pretty good. They work especially well with the good 3D.

This is a real fun and funny follow up to the prior film that made it worth the wait.