Screened Out: Battling for your soul!

Screened Out: Battling for your soul!

StephenMillerHeadshot_560873495.jpgYouth in Revolt
(Starring Michael Cera, Portia Doubleday, Jean Smart, Steve Bucemi, Fred Willard)
Ah, young love…young, fiery, passionate, stupid love!

Youth in Revolt is a typical teenage comedy, but it’s elevated by its own sense of style and surprise.

Michael Cera (Superbad, Juno) is a geeky teenager looking to lose his virginity; that’s a pretty common movie plot. He finds the “girl of his dreams” (Doubleday) and creates an alternate personality to win her affections. We’ve seen that before, too. What we haven’t seen is schizoid Cera’s alter ego “François,” a Eurotrash sociopath who causes fires and steals cars, wracking up an impressively funny criminal record.

YiR is a good adaptation told with panache. The film is broken into chapters with odd animation. Also, everyone here is achingly brain-damaged about their passions. Divorced mom Smart and dad Buscemi are love’s fools, and even neighbor Willard is a die-hard idiot about his social causes.

Finally, this isn’t just a film about losing your virginity. Even with his penchant for destruction, the mentally unstable and moronic Cera still makes us root for his immature romance. Maybe it’s because we’re all a little stupid when it comes to love.

The Lovely Bones
(Starring Saoirse Ronan, Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Susan Sarandon, Stanley Tucci)
Director Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings series, King Kong) has decided the much-admired book The Lovely Bones is about interesting visuals and not about a family moving through grief and loss. It’s a missed opportunity compliments of an overworked special effects crew.

Ronan (Atonement) is Susie Salmon. At the beginning of the film, we learn she was murdered in 1973 by superbly creepy neighbor Tucci. She was fourteen and her body was hidden. Her parents (Wahlberg, Weisz) endure years of mental torture as Ronan watches from her Technicolor purgatory.

A lot of Jackson’s adaptation is really confusing. No one seems to age. The mother leaves; the mother comes back. There’s this strange girl who can “feel the dead.” Nothing provides a cohesive story arc.

The Lovely Bones possesses some very emotionally affecting moments, but they’re always interrupted by Jackson’s elaborate version of the afterlife. Instead of growing to understand the characters’ emotional struggle over several years, we get piecemeal scenes interrupted by extensive special effects.

The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus
(Starring Christopher Plummer, Heath Ledger, Lily Cole, Johnny Depp, Jude Law, Colin Farrell, Tom Waits)
The mind of director Terry Gilliam (Brazil, The Fisher King) must be an odd place, not unlike the brain of his old decrepit Dr. Parnassus. Both are filled with strange, wonderful, horrible things that possess absolutely no logical basis or moral consistency whatsoever. They also can serious try the patience.

Dr. Parnassus (Plummer) is a thousand-year-old man who constantly gambles with the devil (the very funny Waits). So far, Parnassus has won immortality, magical powers, and a great daughter (Cole). However, one bet goes awry and he’s about to lose his child. Just then, he meets possible salvation in a dying man (Ledger in his last film role, doubled by Depp, Law, and Farrell).

The three other actors cover Ledger’s role in a neat bit of plot trickery. The rest of the visually-overwhelming, strangely plotted movie makes no sense whatsoever. In a story about good versus evil, the doctor himself is deeply morally bereft. Because his central character is not empathetic, Gilliam creates a rich palette, but he can’t make us care.

The Blind Side
(Starring Sandra Bullock, Tim McGraw, Quinton Aaron, Kathy Bates)
This true story has already racked up over $200 million. Obviously, there is a current market for uplifting morality films.

Decorator mom Bullock lives in an upscale Memphis McMansion. When she notices a homeless giant of a kid (Aaron), she takes him in. The fact that he’s black registers, but she still does what she thinks is right. With this saccharine family behind him, the boy became Michael Ober, professional football player.

Bullock is amazing as the bulldozer of a kind heart. She’ll likely see a few nominations.
This biopic pushes its Christianity, but thankfully not too hard. It’s also emotionally affecting, but it feels formulaic; maybe that’s the way it happened. It does seem weird that the family is so calm; no one ever challenges Bullock’s loony Southern character on her obsessive need for “Christian” control.

However, exploration of beliefs is probably not the point of the movie; it’s primarily a feel-good flick. Maybe, it will also move audiences to be a little crazy themselves in the name of what is right and good.

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