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The Sunset Limited, based on the Cormac McCarthy play (which was cheekily marketed as ‘a novel in dramatic form'(?)), is the train that would’ve ‘X’ed-out suicidal Tommy Lee Jones (‘White’) but for the timely interventions of Samuel Jackson’s blue-collar proselytizer (‘Black’). From his purgatorial apartment, Black indefatigably expounds on the error of White’s ways whilst the latter stands firm in a rut of misanthropy and nihilism before unleashing his own rousing riposte. It’s a self-consciously stagey effort with warmed-over, though compelling, exchanges and a strictly two-tone emotional register. The performances wrest a grandeur from the material by mere dint of screen presence and game commitment. Enjoyable but not particularly memorable.

Limitless has Bradley Cooper shrugging off a stalled literary career and woeful bum hairdo by popping a new drug called NZT-48, which provides the user with ‘100% access’ to one’s brain and, in turn, the keys to quirky, cinema-friendly feats of insight and an end to writer’s block. He also rekindles a lost relationship, masters the stock exchange and ends up being tailed by de rigeur shadowy ciphers. De Niro turns up looking ravaged, disinterested and pre-paid and Cooper is surprisingly excellent, right until he gets a smart new suit and exits loserdom. Despite a few great moments, the whole thing is about an hour too long.

Insidious is, at times, genuinely odd and disquieting but suffers the usual last-third dwindle to nought. A couple (Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson) move to a new house, in which Amityville hokum soon gets underway, centring on their son, bed-ridden after a fall, a drafted-in psychic and two comedy stooges. The jumpy bits exceed what you’d expect from 12A certificate fayre but they‘re not justification enough for this largely derivative 90 minutes.

Finally: Woody. Another film. After the relative relief of the non-disastrous Whatever Works, here’s You Will Meet A Tall, Dark Stranger, which carries an interesting set of performances from a great cast (amongst which there’s further confirmation that Naomi Watts has few peers) but an undeniably pervasive air of pointlessness. Marital strife, age-gap calamities, affairs, unrequited love: standard Woody concerns, infinitely better covered at the top end of his oeuvre. Mark this one for the bottom end or better, scratch it from the records.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. June 28, 2011 at 5:29 pm

    As soon as Limitless pulled that old “we only use 10% of our brains” canard I knew I couldn’t bear to watch it. Such a stupid saying.

    Not a great little group, but then you have had some good hits recently with Le Quattro Volte and Enter the Void.

    Did you catch Archipelago? I haven’t but was curious to hear your thoughts if you had.

  2. June 29, 2011 at 10:18 am

    Yes, and I love the pro-Limitless fanboys and girls that start their defences with, ‘Actually, the whole central concept of Limitless is not that far fetched…’ I mean, it’s a potentially interesting starting point, if you’re David Fincher, say, maybe. Despite its inherent bogusness, you can see something interesting being done with it. And that doesn’t really happen: it’s a kind of casual riff on past cinema autistic-types, an opportunity for a star to hop onto a vehicle with a sequence of grandstanding sequences that’ll make them look cool. At least Cooper doesn’t resort to that hateful ‘mad-genius-tic’ caricaturism that Crowe painfully referenced in A Beautiful Mind, and Hoffman less painfully rendered in Rainman. ‘Never go full retard’ as the man said.

    No, a fairly inauspicious collective to be sure. And Kaboom, really, should’ve been in there. If only I’d spent my time more wisely…

    I haven’t seen Archpelago but would quite like to. Is it an existential dialectic exposition-heavy number (like The Sunset Limited) or nothing of the sort?

  3. July 9, 2011 at 7:29 pm

    I believe Archipelago is one of those films in which middle class people are sort of unhappy without any pressing cause to be so. An English example of what’s generally a French genre.

    They can be very well done though those sorts of films.

    • July 11, 2011 at 8:17 am

      ‘…in which middle class people are sort of unhappy without any pressing cause to be so.’

      Sounds great! (I’m a sucker for such films. And they’re normally French, as you say…)

  4. Mary Gilbert
    July 11, 2011 at 7:57 am

    I saw Meeks Cutoff last night. I know you’re fan of Westerns and I think you’d find it interesting. I thought it was brilliant and I’d like to hear your opinion and perhaps have a discussion about the ending.

    • July 11, 2011 at 8:21 am

      Yes, I can’t wait for it. I’ve fallen a little behind due to fatherhood #2 but will gradually close the gap between myself and a spate of films I should’ve put up here by now…and Max, above, wrote a far better review of the excellent Police, Adjective than I eventually will, so that’s kind of put me off in the best possible way there…

      So I’ll make it a priority and get it on here within days if possible. Also, The Tree Of Life is finally out here! So I’ll get the pair on after Senna, which will go on here later all being well.

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