Reviews: Both an Iranian Woman and Rachel Weisz Rap and Sonny Liston Gets No Budget

April 1, 2009 at 5:24 am Leave a comment

The Glass House

By now, seeing disadvantaged Iranian women on a movie screen is old hat; at least half of the country’s cinema that makes it to America concerns that very topic. (Incidentally, please rent Offside.) It’s not often that you see a more hope-filled, though far more detailed and scary, view, let alone the real deal. Hamid Rahmanian’s doc The Glass House (B) trails around a series of shockingly independent women eking out a living in Tehran on their own, albeit one that involves a hefty amount of struggle with no possible end in sight. One girl is trying to break through in the rap scene; another is flitting from one temporary marriage (a curious Iranian mainstay for those who want the benefits but don’t want to commit) to another; on the very bottom is a young girl who’s in and out of rehab due to the fact that her drug business mom hooked her on drugs at a very early age. Rahmanian mostly trails them, fly-on-the-wall style, with the occasional on-screen clarification, and the result is as moving and harrowing as you’d expect.

Phantom PunchThere are some movies that are so sad, so feeble in how little they achieve at what they set out to do, and so not in need of being kicked when they’re already writhing on the floor in agony, that it’s sometimes best just to leave well alone and walk away. That, in essence, is my review of Phantom Punch (C-), Robert Townsend’s attempt at a standard Sonny Liston biopic on a shoestring budget starring Ving Rhames, who’s sometimes double the age he’s supposed to be playing. Okay, I’ll stop. Let’s just nod politely and move on.

The Brothers Bloom

Though it also played Toronto in the fall, The Brothers Bloom (B), Rian Johnson’s splashy follow-up to his terrific high school noir Brick, was bumped from a Christmas release to this summer. That’s too bad: seeing it after Duplicity robs it of some novelty, namely that both films manage to locate — I’m struggling to find a way to not put this nauseatingly — the heart in the everyone-fucks-eachother genre. Duplicity just happens to do it better — seriously, everyone’s wrong, this movie’s awesome — while in Bloom its novel and fairly moving presentation of the effect con arting has on the soul is rammed down our throat a bit too much. Adrien Brody and Mark Ruffalo play lifelong conmen, with Brody as the sadsack, lovelorn one sick of never being able to trust anyone. Enter new mark Rachel Weisz, an uber-wealthy agoraphobe freak dwelling in Jersey’s only Euro-looking estate whom Brody struggles not to fall for while fleecing. Like Duplicity the mega-twists and caterwauls are mere fronts; there’s an emotional undercurrent that’s unmistakable throughout. Unlike Duplicity, Bloom is a heckuva lot goofier, or more accurately Wes Andersonesque; Weisz “collects” hobbies (accordion playing, chainsaw juggling, rapping) while third wheel Rinku Kikuchi (Babel) only speaks three words, among them “Campari.” But the seriousness tempers the quirk and vice versa. And besides, there’s not a funnier performance in awhile than Weisz’s; dig her lengthy, multipart awkward reaction early on to being told she looks nice.

(By the way, perhaps you’ve noticed everything I’ve seen I’ve awarded no higher than a B. And not only that, but I usually go with the B-/C+ area. Yes, I’ve noticed this, too. And I assure you it’s not me. Okay, maybe a little. But in any case, such middle-of-the-road-ness is a whole lot worse for me than it is for you.)

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