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Apr 4, 2007

Fletch's Film Review: The Lives of Others; The Last Mimzy; The Lookout; Following

In the past 3 weeks or so, I've seen three films in the theater, all of which start with "The L-," yet that's about all they have in common. Here are some short takes on each (in the order in which I've seen them), plus a video miniview of Christopher Nolan's (Memento, Batman Begins) first feature film:

The Lives of Others
While Pan's Labyrinth got all of the pre-Oscar buzz (and deservedly so), the German film The Lives of Others was the one that walked away with the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award. And the debate is closer than I would have thought. In what makes for a great companion piece to last year's V for Vendetta, Others takes place in mid-80s (East) Berlin, telling the story of a playwright who is under investigation for...well, being suspicious, amongst other things. The whole nine yards of surveillance and stakeout is set up to keep close tabs on him, his girlfriend, his friends, the air that he breathes, and his dog (if he had one). In other words, they think he's up to no good and will stop at nothing to find out what that might be. Chaos, confusion, etc. ensue.

Though Pan's will have a longer shelf life, director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck has made a very good film, and it carries a bit more weight (considering the recency of its history) compared to Guillermo Del Toro's film. It's dark, slowly paced, and intense, even carrying a documentary-like quality to it at times. Dont be afraid of the subtitles - check it out.

Fletch's Film Rating:

"It's in the hole!"

The Last Mimzy
Part E.T., part A.I., and part, well, I can't think of any other films to compare it to that whose titles consist solely of initials - how 'bout part *batteries not included, Mimzy is bound to be somewhat refreshing for those over the age of, say, 12. While it doesn't ignore the children's perspective, it certainly won't leave adults "cuted" out or anything like that. The plot focuses of two children who find a futuristic artifact sent back to the present to SAVE HUMANITY. Along the way, they gain some unique powers and the ability to freak out their parents, babysitters and possibly even the NSA. It's certainly fantasy, and never veers into preachiness, but it certainly has a pro-environmental agenda and some generally good messages for kids of all ages. Timothy Hutton, Joely Richardson, and The Office's Rainn Wilson lend some acting chops to the proceedings.

Fletch's Film Rating:

"You seem a decent fellow. I hate to kill you."

The Lookout
Based on the previews alone, I wasn't all that excited to see The Lookout. It looked kind of like Memento, and kind of like every other (generic) heist movie out there, with its big draw (for me) being star Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who, despite sludging his way through the tiresome Brick, has a bright future ahead of him.

Then I saw that Lookout was written and directed by Out of Sight and Get Shorty writer Scott Frank. Considering my (well documented, at least for Out of Sight; I feel the same way about Get Shorty) affection for those films, I was now looking forward to his latest. Well, your first instincts are always your best - while certainly not terrible, and despite great performances by both Gordon-Levitt and Jeff Daniels (as the "blind Larry Flynt"), The Lookout doesn't really stand out.

Sure, it has some hooks, and the characters are pretty well written considering the genre (outside of the uber-cliched character "Bone"), but the plot, once you get past the Memento-ish theme, is pretty boring. And predictable. And generic.

It's a rental.

Fletch's Film Rating:


Before the aforementioned Memento, Brit Christopher Nolan made the festival circuit in the late 90s with Following, an obsessive story about a bored writer who has taken up following people as his hobby. This (obviously) gets him into trouble, though not exactly the kind of ble you might think. His hobby takes a break as he picks up a newer, more dangerous one and gets mixed up with shady characters and the wrong lady. I'd say more, but don't want to spoil it.

Running at a short 69 minutes, I'd imagine that it barely qualifies as a "feature film" (not sure what the cutoff is between a "short" and a "feature" - I'd guess around 60 minutes). It's obviously a student film, with it's black and white, grainy filmstock, and cheap, cheap production values (few sets, few actors), but the story (and filmmaker's talent) is there. It's not hard to see how Nolan went from this to the similarly filmed Memento, and it's interesting to see the progression.

Fletch's Film Rating:

"You seem a decent fellow. I hate to kill you."

(It's rating is hurt primarily by the factors listed above; it's definitely worth checking out if you like Nolan's later work.)

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