Rene Bastian

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The Caller Review


Grim
Richard Ledes's cool and haunted neo-noir The Caller at least for half its running time goes down like a smoky Old Fashioned. But as the film winds down, the cocktail turns out to have been mixed with a vat of cheap bourbon.

Frank Langella, in all his icy glory, plays Jimmy Stevens, a meticulous and cultured executive from a nefarious international energy conglomerate called the EN Corporation. The EN Corporation has committed atrocities in South America that Jimmy could not abide, and he has blown the whistle on their corporate evils. But since the corporation has its agents everywhere, Jimmy knows he is doomed and, with a slump of his shoulders and deep sigh, he awaits his impending assassination (in Red Bank, New Jersey no less).

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Jailbait Review


OK
Oh, bummer. Young petty criminal druggie Randy (Michael Pitt) has just run into his state's tough three-strikes-you're-out law, and as the cell door slams behind him, he's looking at a 25-year stretch. The question: how much of it will he have to spend with his cellmate and new best buddy Jake (Stephen Adly Guirgis)?

Jailbait, Brett C. Leonard's tight little two-character film, is claustrophobic and grim, not exactly a kick-back-and-relax kind of movie but one that's worth watching for the nearly wordless performance of Michael Pitt, whose reaction shots never fail to speak volumes.

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Transamerica Review


Grim
From the moment that Felicity Huffman comes on screen in Transamerica, with her rumbling voice and the cloistered manners of a 1950s housewife, it's apparent you're in for something rarely seen before in American film. Playing the transsexual Bree, who is getting ready for the final gender reassignment surgery that will complete her transition to true womanhood, Huffman creates a character who isn't terribly interested in gender politics but just wants to be allowed to live on her own terms. As such, it's a brave and tough piece of acting - a woman playing a man aching to become a woman - that truly breaks barriers. Unfortunately, there's a lousy movie wrapped around her that one must suffer through to see her.

Conceived by writer/director Duncan Tucker as the kind of wacky road movie being churned out by Sundance-grubbing indie studios about 10 years ago, Transamerica has a strong conception of Bree's character but little idea of what to do with it. Living in a small, rundown house and working two jobs to save money, Bree puts all her hopes and dreams into her long-awaited surgery, doing everything she can to convince her therapist (Elizabeth Peña) that she's ready for the change. All that gets put on hold, though, when she finds out that a relationship she had back when she was still living as a man resulted in a child, Toby (Kevin Zegers, hardly up to the task), now a teen runaway calling from a New York jail looking for his dad. Since her therapist won't consent to the surgery until she deals with her past, Bree hops a plane to New York. That's where the road trip comes in.

Continue reading: Transamerica Review

Transamerica Review


Grim
From the moment that Felicity Huffman comes on screen in Transamerica, with her rumbling voice and the cloistered manners of a 1950s housewife, it's apparent you're in for something rarely seen before in American film. Playing the transsexual Bree, who is getting ready for the final gender reassignment surgery that will complete her transition to true womanhood, Huffman creates a character who isn't terribly interested in gender politics but just wants to be allowed to live on her own terms. As such, it's a brave and tough piece of acting - a woman playing a man aching to become a woman - that truly breaks barriers. Unfortunately, there's a lousy movie wrapped around her that one must suffer through to see her.

Conceived by writer/director Duncan Tucker as the kind of wacky road movie being churned out by Sundance-grubbing indie studios about 10 years ago, Transamerica has a strong conception of Bree's character but little idea of what to do with it. Living in a small, rundown house and working two jobs to save money, Bree puts all her hopes and dreams into her long-awaited surgery, doing everything she can to convince her therapist (Elizabeth Peña) that she's ready for the change. All that gets put on hold, though, when she finds out that a relationship she had back when she was still living as a man resulted in a child, Toby (Kevin Zegers, hardly up to the task), now a teen runaway calling from a New York jail looking for his dad. Since her therapist won't consent to the surgery until she deals with her past, Bree hops a plane to New York. That's where the road trip comes in.

Continue reading: Transamerica Review

L.I.E. Review


Grim
Best remembered for his understated performance as Dr. Hannibal Lecter in Michael Mann's forensics thriller Manhunter, Scottish character actor Brian Cox brings something special to every movie he works on. Usually playing a bit role in some studio schlock (he dies halfway through The Long Kiss Goodnight), he's only occasionally given something meaty and substantial to do. If you want to see some brilliant acting, check out his work as a dogged police inspector opposite Frances McDormand in Ken Loach's Hidden Agenda.

Cox plays the role of Big John Harrigan in the disturbing new indie flick L.I.E., which Lot 47 picked up at Sundance when other distributors were scared to budge. Big John feels the love that dares not speak its name, but he expresses it through seeking out adolescents and bringing them back to his pad. What bothered some audience members was the presentation of Big John in an oddly empathetic light. He's an even-tempered, funny, robust old man who actually listens to the kids' problems (as opposed to their parents and friends, both caught up in the high-wire act of their own confused lives.) He'll have sex-for-pay with them only after an elaborate courtship, charming them with temptations from the grown-up world.

Continue reading: L.I.E. Review

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