Derrick Tseng

Derrick Tseng

Derrick Tseng Quick Links

Film RSS

Joe Review


Very Good

Nicolas Cage gives a rare internalised performance in this atmospheric drama, which has a stronger sense of its location than it does of its story. It's been so long since Cage has been this good that we've almost forgotten that he can do it (see Adaptation or of course Leaving Las Vegas). And he shares the screen beautifully with rising-star Tye Sheridan (Mud) in this strikingly observational tale about second chances.

It's set in the rural South, where Joe (Cage) is an ex-con who has rebuilt his life as a contractor. His big job at the moment is to kill trees on land being developed outside a small town. While Joe is haunted by his past, he is respected by his work crew. His only companions are his faithful dog and a prostitute (Adriene Mishler) who serves as his makeshift girlfriend. Then the 15-year-old Gary (Sheridan) arrives looking for work, and Joe takes him under his wing. Gary's father G-Daawg (Gary Poulter) is a waste-of-space drunk who causes trouble everywhere he goes, leaving the family to live squatting in a falling-down house. Joe can identify with this troubled situation, and Gary needs a real father figure, so the two begin to rely on each other.

This is about as far as the film's narrative goes, apart from a side strand that cranks into gear to push things into a somewhat overwrought final act. This relates to Joe's violent past refusing to fade away, as a local thug (Ronnie Gene Blevins) continually goads Joe to revive a long-simmering feud. Which of course threatens the delicate balance of his positive friendship with Gary. Cage and Sheridan are terrific as the soft-spoken tough-guy mentor and his fiercely determined protege who help put each others' lives into focus. And the surrounding actors are strikingly authentic, especially non-actor Poulter as the relentless loser G-Daawg, a performance made even more poignant with the news that Poulter died while living on the streets shortly after filming finished.

Continue reading: Joe Review

Prince Avalanche Review


Excellent

For this low-key comedy-drama, writer-director David Gordon Green harks back to the quirky charms of his 2003 gem All the Real Girls (rather than the overt silliness of Pineapple Express or The Sitter). This is an astute story about two men who are begrudgingly forced to look at the truth about themselves while isolated from the rest of society. It's a simple idea, beautifully shot and acted.

Set in 1988, the story centres on Alvin (Rudd), who hires his girlfriend's brother Lance (Hirsch) to work with him one summer repairing a rural stretch of Texas highway that was damaged by wildfires. These two guys have nothing in common, but share a tent as they move along the road and work through their private issues. Lance just wants someone to love, and is annoyed that he can't get a girl during weekend trips to town. And Alvin is so devoted to his girlfriend that her break-up letter comes as a deep shock. So now there's nothing really holding these two guys together aside from their pathetic loneliness.

Both Rudd and Hirsch give offhanded, natural performances that play up the comical clashes between them while hinting at much darker issues gurgling beneath the surface. Neither is very good at striking up a conversation, and their awkward interaction is both hilarious and realistically messy. But they don't have many other people to talk to. Although there's a trucker (LeGault) who provides a super-strong homemade hooch, and they have a haunting encounter with a woman (Payne) who lost everything in the fire.

Continue reading: Prince Avalanche Review

Dark Horse Review


Very Good
Solondz takes another hilariously pitch-black exploration of human behaviour with a film populated by excellent actors playing seriously messed-up characters. And it can't help but force us to look at how we interact with people around us.

Even though he's essentially a pampered slacker, Abe (Gelber) exudes confidence, relentlessly going after the depressed Miranda (Blair) despite her hesitance. Living in the shadow of his successful doctor brother (Bartha), Abe works for his father (Walken), but does virtually nothing and resents the fact that his hard-working cousin (Booth) gets the credit. But then Abe feels hard-done by everyone he encounters, creating an arch-rival in Miranda's ex (Mandvi). But at no point does Abe's inner life come close to the reality around him.

Continue reading: Dark Horse Review

Life During Wartime Review


Excellent
Solondz takes a sideways approach to this sequel to his 1998 hit Happiness.

With an all-new cast, it feels almost like a jazz riff, playing with the characters and themes and sending them in new directions. And it's both hilarious and clever.

When she realises that her husband (Williams) hasn't overcome his urge to make obscene phone calls, Joy (Henderson) heads to Florida to see her sister Trish (Janney), who has told everyone that her husband Bill (Hinds) has died. But he's actually in prison for abusing a young boy. Trish is now seeing a nice Jewish man (Lerner) and being a bit too honest with her son Timmy (Snyder).

Continue reading: Life During Wartime Review

Alexandra's Project Review


Excellent
It's his birthday, and a husband returns home from work expecting a not-so-surprising surprise party. But the house is deserted, and all that's left of his wife is a videotape where she and the kids wish him a happy one. The children are sent off to a relative's house and the wife engages in a vivid striptease seduction. But she cuts her act short, beginning instead a one-way monologue to her husband, sifting through the complex issues of their troubled marriage. Clearly, Alexandra's Project is entrenched in the realm of dysfunctional relations and comes up with a novel way of handling it: a psychological thriller told in monologue form, where a husband cannot interact with his wife's "battle of the sexes" speechifying.

Directed by Rolf de Heer, Alexandra's Project is minimalistic and very formal. The actors, after a brief introductory section, have almost no interaction together, and it's basically a one man show as husband Steve (Gary Sweet) attempts to figure out exactly what his wife is going on about, and ultimately where she is. The wife, Alexandra (Helen Buday, whom some may recognize from Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome), starts out simply, discussing their basic problems, but eventually it gets into issues of sexism, fidelity, and ultimately compassion. She does, ultimately, take off her clothes for him, but the effect is strangely unnerving after she's brought up her mastectomy, and the possibility that another person (and not her husband) may be behind the camera watching her undress.

Continue reading: Alexandra's Project Review

Palindromes Review


Terrible
For those coming back for more, Todd Solondz ladles on another hour and 40 minutes of hatred for the world and everyone in it. Devoid of compassion or mercy, Solondz presents the human race as a dead end of losers, cretins, hypocrites, blindly happy idiots, cynical brutes, pigs, liars, manipulators, and pedophiles. They all march to his drum, making their way through the manicured lawns and bland white houses of suburban New Jersey. Lest this be seen as an endorsement of his particular brand of "miserable-ism" cinema, Palindromes is a cinematic experience that makes one feel soul-sick and dead inside. It illuminates nothing about the world other than that it's a Bad Place, and the best thing we can do is sit back in our seats, watch images unfold on the screen, and collectively laugh mockingly at the dire situation these characters are in (and aren't we all).

Imagine hateful movies like Ladder 49, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle as being one kind of deceptive lie about the world. The kind that oversimplifies human beings, pretending we are more beautiful or powerful or good or wholesome than we actually are. Imagine sitcoms that paint a picture of us as having perfect jobs, clothes, houses, and bodies. Those are the kinds of films and media that independent film purportedly rebels against. And Todd Solondz takes it so far in the opposite direction that he paints pictures of the ugly and the lost, then asks us to mock them, and say that there's no hope. Palindromes is just as loathsome as the worst kind of lie Hollywood or television has duped us with, because it's duping us just as much in a different way. It smears us in cinematic dogshit, then says, "Isn't that horrible?"

Continue reading: Palindromes Review

Derrick Tseng

Derrick Tseng Quick Links

Film RSS
Advertisement

Occupation

Filmmaker


Advertisement
Tom Cruise Comes Back From The Dead In 'The Mummy'

Tom Cruise Comes Back From The Dead In 'The Mummy'

New trailer gives a glimpse into this 2017 re-boot.

Advertisement

Derrick Tseng Movies

Joe Movie Review

Joe Movie Review

Nicolas Cage gives a rare internalised performance in this atmospheric drama, which has a stronger...

Prince Avalanche Movie Review

Prince Avalanche Movie Review

For this low-key comedy-drama, writer-director David Gordon Green harks back to the quirky charms of...

Dark Horse Movie Review

Dark Horse Movie Review

Solondz takes another hilariously pitch-black exploration of human behaviour with a film populated by excellent...

Advertisement
Life During Wartime Movie Review

Life During Wartime Movie Review

Solondz takes a sideways approach to this sequel to his 1998 hit Happiness. With an...

Alexandra's Project Movie Review

Alexandra's Project Movie Review

It's his birthday, and a husband returns home from work expecting a not-so-surprising surprise party....

Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.