The verdict: Claustrophobic, old-school horror that borrows from other, superior Stephen King adaptations (and there have been a few!). Cusack's great performance can't quite lift this above mediocrity.
The rating: 5/10
Horror movies generally have rules by which the principal characters should abide in order to avoid getting hacked up, bitten by a vampire, or eaten by zombies. The 'Scream' movie did a good job of exposing some of the self-aware, ironic teen horror flick rules, but fans will have already been aware of the staples of old-school horror. You know, the things you shout at the screen just before the main characters get bumped off.
First, if you hear a scary noise, don't investigate, especially if the noise is coming from a dark place, like a basement or a bathroom. Investigating the noise is the most dangerous thing you can do. Next, if a scary old man tells you to stay away from something, you should stay away from it. Period. Ignoring the advice of the old-timer will likely result in your bloody demise. Finally, stay away from bathroom cabinets with mirrors on the front. Closing these will almost invariably reveal a monster standing behind you. In fact, refer to rule 1, and just steer clear of night-time visits to the bathroom altogether if possible. (Er, not sure if this is great advice.. - Ed)
1408, starring the always likeable John Cusack, eschews the teen slasher ('Scream'), torture porn ('Saw'), and b-movie ('Slither') varieties of horror movie made so popular of late, and instead opts for a more straight-forward format. This is a Stephen King adaptation, and it is derivative of a storyline from one of PCMR's all-time favourite books and movies: 'The Shining'. In the Overlook Hotel, where Jack Torrance went mad and tried to kill his family, there was a room where entry was forbidden. Room 89 I believe it was. Of course, being a kid, Jack's son Danny decides to go into the room and naturally discovers that there are really scary monsters inside. (Duh! That's why you're not supposed to go in there!)
1408 takes that chapter from the Shining and fleshes it out into a story all of its own. John Cusack plays Mike Enslin, a jaded writer who reviews hotels that claim to be haunted. Enslin is disappointed that to date he has not seen any genuine evidence of the afterlife. On his birthday however, he receives an postcard advising him not to enter room 1408 in the Dolphin Hotel, New York. Intrigued, he ignores the advice of the anonymous correspondent, and reserves a night in the room.
Upon checking in at the Dolphin, Enslin is greeted by the hotel manager, played by Samuel L. Jackson. The manager tries to convince Enslin not to stay in the room, and makes quite a case for the room being dangerous, in an uncharacteristically understated performance from Jackson. No-one has ever lasted more than an hour in the room, apparently..
However, this is a horror movie after all, so Cusack good-naturedly ignores the advice, desperate for some evidence of genuinely spooky goings on. And it's not long before scary things start happening, with the audience collectively muttering to themselves "no feckin' way I'd be staying there after what Samuel Jackson just said."
The thing is, Cusack gives a very effective performance in the lead role as the cynic who at first doesn't believe in the existence of ghosts, and who gradually comes to realise the shocking truth that he is trapped in a haunted hotel room, with the two most likely outcomes of the situation being madness or death.
This movie has Stephen King's trademarks all over it. Wholesome popular music is juxtaposed with tense situations to creepy effect - this time it's The Carpenter's 'We've Only Just Begun'. Normal objects, such as a clock radio, or a painting on a wall, are invested with ominous, foreboding personality. The central character is a troubled writer with a difficult family history...
Director Mikael Hafstrom has created a movie of two halves with this one. The first hour is very well realised, with the characters well established, and the purposeful action set in motion at a lovely pace. Cusack and Jackson have a great few scenes together, and Cusack is as watchable as usual, making his first scenes alone in the room as watchable as what came before.
The thing is, the premise is very ambitous. Colin Farrell couldn't make a phone booth all that entertaining, so John Cusack has a tough job here, with only the four walls of a hotel room to work with for around an hour of the movie. His charisma is enough to carry the first half of the film, but when the scary stuff eventually started happening on-screen, my interested waned a little, and the last half an hour in particular really trailed off.
There are a few scares, and one or two genuinely creepy moments, but the denouement didn't quite live up to the anticipation generated in the first hour. It's admirable for its approach, in that it tries to create atmosphere and tension as opposed to horrify with gore, but the premise, while devilish in its simplicity, is a little too light to justify a full-length movie. And when Hafstrom reveals his hand in the last act, it's all a little heavy handed for my liking. Perhaps an episode of 'The Twilight Zone would have served this story a little better.
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
The verdict: Claustrophobic, old-school horror that borrows from other, superior Stephen King adaptations (and there have been a few!). Cusack's great performance can't quite lift this above mediocrity.
Monday, July 16, 2007
The verdict: The first half hour almost hints at likeable characters, a story.. you know... stuff like that, but the admittedly impressive CGI soon takes over. This is not a good movie in disguise.
The rating: 5/10.
I have a confession to make: I went to see 'Armageddon' in the cinema. Please, please, contain your abuse, there were mitigating circumstances... ahem, ok, so it was a date, she wanted to see 'The Unbearable Lightness of Being', I wanted to see something else... so... we compromised and ended up seeing something neither of us wanted to watch... This is when I learned that a true compromise is a situation where both parties lose. Yes folks, with 'Armageddon', Michael Bay certainly taught me a life lesson.
When it came to the build-up to this movie, my brain may have attempted to remind me of my Michael Bay-related lesson, but I was busy with my fingers in my ears, metaphorically going 'la-la-la-la-laaa'. You see, there is definitely the potential for a really good 'Transformers' movie, if a hungry, talented young director, like a Christopher Nolan, a Len Wiseman or the Wachowski brothers (ten years ago) got their hands on it... instead (sigh), Hollywood gave the man who lost them a cool $100 million dollars with 'The Island' his chance for redemption. And the money men might just have made the right choice from their point of view, considering the business this movie has done. Only one week on release in the US, and its already turning a profit.. not bad for a $135 million dollar flick about toy robots.
So, is it actually any good? Well... to be honest, it's bad, but not 'Armageddon' bad. First, in case you missed it: 'Transformers' is a Michael Bay movie. To explain, 'Armageddon' was a movie where Liv Tyler's 'character' consisted mostly of wordlessly staring, yearning towards the sunset, with the American flag billowing in the wind behind her, while a crew of oil riggers, captained by her daddy (Bruce Willis, not that Aerosmith fella) attempted to save the earth from an oncoming meteor... you couldn't make it up, really. 'Armageddon' sucked in an offensive way, but happily, 'Transformers' isn't nearly that bad.
However, as with other Michael Bay movies, little time is wasted with stuff like character, motivation or (pshaw) conversations. Dialogue is first about setting up the initial explosion, then as a device to move characters from one explosion to the next. In terms of characters, if they can't be understood in one sentence, then they're likely to die rather quickly. We are introduced to Sam (Shia LaBoeuf) who wants a car and a girl and Michaela (Megan Fox) who is hot. That's all. Oh, and then there's Captain Lennox (Josh Duhamel) who just wants to finish his tour in the army and get back to his wife and kid, and the minister of Defence (Jon Voight) who needs to control this mess, and maybe leer a bit...
... ok, ok, so you don't watch 'Transformers' for the characters, I get it. Anyway, the two main leads are more than likeable, so, as long as the robots are cool and have cool fights where stuff gets trashed, who cares, right? Well, I'm happy to say the robots are certainly very well done. The special effects in this one are off the scale, really pushing things to another level. I would have a gripe about the leader of the baddies not being in it nearly enough though. He could have had an awful lot more to smash, given the opportunity.
The story though, is just silly, and possibly ripped off from an episode of the transformers kids cartoon (which was made by a toy manufacturer, incidentally). I've just forced myself to delete a sentence describing the storyline of the movie, for risk of spoilers, because it summed up the entire plot in about sixteen words. Two of those words were 'goodies' and 'baddies'.
Ok, so transformers is for kids then? Well, not quite. There is grown up humour in here, of the 'American Pie' variety, and the action is not light enough for young kids who might otherwise be watching 'Shrek the Third'. About forty five minutes of this movie is crammed with nonsensically fast-moving cameras zooming back and forth around giant robots, with human characters flitting about between their feet/wheels/other mechanical parts. The need for this comparitive scale makes many of the scenes featuring the robots quite difficult to follow. In particular, the last battle scenes are totally chaotic and very difficult for a 29-year-old codger like me to follow, my abnormally short attention span notwithstanding.
If it wasn't so silly and chaotic and two-dimensional, the robots might have saved it, but unfortunately, 'Transformers' just isn't a very good film. The action in 'Die Hard 4.0' was completely over the top, but it was packaged brilliantly. Michael Bay is more like a spoiled neighbour kid at Christmas. He's just got all these toys and, unsure which one to show us first, just shoves three of them in our faces, obscuring any clear view we might have otherwise had, and detracting from any potential sense of wonder. Shame really, but hey, don't worry, he'll probably have another shot, 'Transformers 2' can't be too far off.
Sunday, July 15, 2007
The verdict: A grizzled hero and a wiseguy side-kick take on tooled up baddies and some kick-ass action ensues.. Die Hard 4.0 may work from a template, but it does it's thing with gusto. This is a cracking balls-out action movie.
The rating: 7.0 (...what's with the decimal point!? - Ed)
Live Free or Die Hard, or if you're from Europe, 'Die Hard 4.0', sees Bruce Willis take John McClane for another day out against the bad guys. In episodes 1.0 and 3.0, the aforementioned baddies were Germans played by Englishmen. In episode 2.0, the baddies were from a non-existent fictional banana republic. This time, however, beware, because the nerds are coming.
That's right folks, this time Washington has pissed off an IT guy, and he's back to get revenge. This is why it's 4.0 instead of just a regular four in the title: cyber-terrorists, geddit?
So Bruce is given an apparently innocuous mission in the first few minutes of the movie to bring in a young hacker for questioning, a certain Matt Ferrell (Justin Long). The bad guys are after Ferrell too though, and within minutes of McClane showing up, as you would expect, all hell starts breaking loose.
Die Hard 4.0 does everything a good action movie should do with the effortlessness of a grizzled professional, such as McClane is meant to be. From the opening minutes, the action kicks in, and slowly escalates to a truly breathtaking crescendo, with a fair few high notes along the way. This is popcorn action at its finest, with suspension of disbelief occurring involuntarily simply due to the finesse and sure-footedness of the action on screen.
The McClane character is slightly darker than in previous outings, and a little more grizzled than before, if that's possible. He's quieter and more reflective about his role in proceedings, nut he is still every inch the relentless pursuer of the bad guys, and Bruce Willis is excellent in the role. His foil is a necessary assistant, and although their relationship is a variation of the 'frosty-at-first' kind of partnership, Long is a likeable enough kind of smart-ass, with his character also having enough of value to contribute to proceedings. The back-and-forth between the two is entertaining enough, and they are different enough to complement each other quite well. As one character puts it, McClane is 'a timex watch in a digital age', so it makes a certain amount of sense that he would recruit this hacker to help him beat a cyber-terrorist.
The baddie, played by Timothy Olyphant, is believable enough, in that he is a human being, not a caricature of a foreign evil-doer with a generic Mittel-Europaische accent, or a Tony Montana style twang. Olyphant is a bad guy of the American post-9/11 zeitgeist, wishing to highlight America's vulnerability to cyber-terrorists, by disabling the technological infrastructure, and bringing the country to its knees. Then, when his ransom is received, he'll re-activate everything, and maybe install a new security system for an exorbitant fee. Kind of like the scenario where a teenager who programs and 'successfully' releases a virus then gets recruited by an anti-virus company on a six-figure salary. (Damn nerds... - Ed)
This time there is no confinement for McClane to worry about, as he employs all manner of vehicles to make his way from one high speed shoot-out to the next: helicopters, juggernauts and cop cars are all used. When things get personal, and his daughter is kidnapped by the baddies, the stakes are noticeably raised, and the action gets turned up to eleven.
Die Hard 4.0 works from the action-movie template, but does it all so well, that I found there to be a comfortable level of predictability to it, rather than the annoying feeling you know what's going to happen. The action really does take this one to another level though, with the final chase sequence in particular raising the bar so over the top, it'll leave audiences choking on their popcorn all over the world, reminding me of 'True Lies' on more than one occasion.
I would highly recommend 'Die Hard 4.0' as one of those rare movies that does exactly what it promises. It's a balls-out actioner that should cement Willis' credentials as Hollywood's most consistent action star of late. Yabbadabbadoo kemosabe, this one's definitely worth a look.
Thursday, July 12, 2007
The verdict: Moving, didactic, and not as politically divisive as Moore's previus offerings, 'Sicko' is his best work to date.
The rating: 7/10
Michael Moore seems to have an ability to polarise American audiences in a manner few other film-makers can replicate. With his two previous documentaries, Moore called into question certain cultural mores that are almost unuquely American. In 'Bowling for Columbine', the issue of gun control was raised as a possible means of preventing further shootings in American high schools. Moore famously received a rifle as a free gift for opening a bank account in one of the Southern american states... However, gun ownership, and the right to bear arms, is an issue close to the heart of millions of Americans, and Moore did not win many of them over with this movie.
With 'Fahrenheit 9/11', Moore's biggest success to date, the American 'war on terror' was called into question. George W. Bush's actions after September 11th were forensically analysed, and Moore's conclusions were of shady goings-on in Capitol Hill, linking the Bush and Bin Laden families in a real and tangible way. He also famously went to Washington to ask senators in person if they would enlist their sons and daughters in the U.S. army... This type of attack on the president was deemed 'anti-american' by many, and Moore won more enemies with this movie.
With Sicko however, I think Moore may have finally found a subject that does not create two camps of opinion. This time, the operation of the american healthcare system is under fire, and it comes out looking pretty bleak.
Essentially, the American health insurance system is controlled by big companies. They regulate the flow and price of drugs, and actually own hospitals. When you get sick in the U.S., you must contact your insurance company to see if they will pay your claim. However, as Moore points out, the Insurance companies are profit-driven, and the less they pay out in claims, the better return their shareholders receive. An unfortunate by-product of this capitalist dystopia is that sick people requiring medical attention are not receiving it, and dropping dead as a result. Which is a bit of a bitch when you've paid all your premiums each month up until getting sick...
Moore examines the cases of a number of New York firefighters who are still suffering breathing difficulties five years after searching for bodies on 'the pile', where the air was loaded with toxins such as, among others, high quantities of asbestos. Politicians at the time were happy to credit firefighters as the first line of defence against the terrorists, and made $50 million dollars available in funds to cover any potential health problems they may suffer as a result of their efforts. However, the invconvenient truth, as artcuated by New York governr Michael Pataki, is that it is pretty tough for genuine claimants to get access to the funds, as Moore shows in this movie.
As well as the 9/11 workers, Moore shows us case after case of Americans who were refused legitimate claims because of bureaucratic reasons. He contrasts the American system with the NHS in the UK, the French social security system, and of course the Canadians. One failing of Moore's comparisons is that he paints a very rosy picture of the green grass on the other side of the fence, but I suppose relative to the American system, things are far better in all the countries mentioned.
Sicko also has a political message to deliver, and this is articulated by the eminent English former labor MP Tony Benn. There is a point made about the relationship between a people and its government. When the people are healthy and well educated, the power rests with them, because the government is in fear of what the people will do. In the U.S. at the moment, the opposite situation is the norm. University education and healthcare are cripplingly expensive, so people can't afford third level education, and when they get sick, they go bankrupt. Benn makes a point about fear being an excellent means of control, so when people are afraid of their lives, they just keep their heads down and hope for the best, that maybe things will change.
With Sicko, Moore is doing his best to educate about an issue that should not divide his viewers between two opposiing political iodeologies in the same manner as his previous two movies. In the typical Moore style, it is quite heavy-handed, but there are many moving scenes in here, and I reckon it's more balanced, and more watchable than 'Fahrenheit 9/11'.
I guess the question needs to be asked, is it worth seeing in the cinema? Well, I think so. Just because there aren't CGI robots trashing it out on screen doesn't make it a Dvd-only experience! In any case, a movie with a message this strong, delivered so eloquently, deserves to be viewed, so I'll recommend it pretty highly.
The verdict: Subversive, clever and with a knowingly dark sense of humour, the low-budget hand-held style belies is a deceptively good movie.
The rating: 7/10
'Reality tv' tends to provoke strong reactions. Water cooler conversations on the subject can start innocently enough with questions like: 'were you watching that [insert reality show name here] last night?'. The thing is, this question is very likely to be met with sniffy responses such as "Oh, I'll watch 'Most Dangerous Celebrity Tiddlywinks with Ant and Dec' alright, but I just couldn't watch that 'Big Brother' shite... but I do like that 'Celebrity Big Brother'"..
The genuine reality proposed by this so-called 'reality television' is challenged by this movie, a fictional fly on the wall game show in which the contenders must kill each other, and the last one standing is the winner. It's kind of like 'Battle Royale' meets 'The Running Man'. In this game show, contestants are selected at random, armed by anonymous balaclava-clad visitors, and dropped into the 'playing field', a town also apparently chosen at random. Once in the 'game', the objective is simple: kill the other contenders to win.
The movie centers around the story of current champion Dawn, who also happens to be nine months pregnant. Dawn is only a few kills away from being allowed retire as champion contender, but irritatingly, the playing field for what may be her last contest is her home town, somewhere in Hicksville USA, and one of the other contestants randomly happens to be an old flame from high school...
Series 7: The Contenders lampoons the one-upmanship of so-called 'reality television' (a classic term of unspeak by the way), especially when it comes to the desire to shock, to be the most extreme. In this movie, the contestants must murder each other to win, and the fact that we can blithely accept such a concept, perhaps without initially being 100% certain as to whether the show is real or not, puts the audience in an interesting frame of mind. As the movie unfolds, it is loaded with moral dilemmas, and packed with darkly comic moments. Having a heavily pregnant woman as the champion of a show where you need to kill to survive tickled me, and the movie is loaded with wickedly funny moments like this.
Quickly and effortlessly, the movie makes the point that reality television is ominously moving towards a place where audiences can watch a movie like this and genuinely ask 'is this actually a real show?' Just as Chris Morris managed with 'Brass Eye', in this case writer/director Daniel Minahan creates an environment where the audience is enveloped in the trappings of a familiar format, but whereas Brass Eye targeted televised news, 'The Contenders' has its sights set on the Cops-style, cameraman-tracking-real-people shows, the ones that have gravelly-voiced narrators intervening every ten minutes to summarise what has gone before, and give you a tantalising glimpse of the bloody violence soon to come.
As a result, this movie succeeds by pointing out the over-the-top nature of television shows such as this, and their capacity to create unreal, alien situations for its participants, thus distorting what we understand as normal reality. But the success is due to the format in which the message is packaged. I enjoyed this movie because it put its finger on so many of the reasons why I dislike the vast majority of unscripted fly-on-the-wall television shows, while still retaining a tongue-in-cheek style, and never taking itself all that seriously.
When Dawn spoke directly to the cameramen - as she does regularly - and nearly shoots one of them in a chase sequence, I thought of the far darker 'Man Bites Dog', and I have a sneaky feeling that that movie was part of the inspiration for this.
So I have to say, I really enjoyed 'Series Seven: The Contenders'. It's clever, original, genuinely funny and well paced at a running time of just under an hour and a half. Also, the cheekily subversive ending will leave you wanting more.. Series 8 perhaps? Anyway, switch off that 'Big Brother', I recommend you catch this movie instead if you can get your hands on it.
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
The Verdict: Not so incredible. Brainless entertainment for boys.
The rating: 6/10
Ah yes, these days everyone's going green you know. Bruce Banner's case is a bit more literal however, although I'm reliably informed that the original character of 'The Incredible Hulk' was intended to be grey in colour, only for an opportune error at the comic book’s printers…
Growing up, I never read those comics, and my memories of the 'Incredible Hulk' television series are hazy to say the least, but I do remember that, like many of the so-called 'action' tv series of the day, I almost always sat through 25 minutes of boring stuff for the paltry reward of a couple of minutes of action. In this case, the action wasn't Jan Michael Vincent flying Airwolf around the place shooting stuff, or that fella riding Street Hawk around the place shooting stuff, it was Lou Ferrigno going 'graar' and running around the place breaking stuff. What kid couldn't relate to that most simple and appealing of pastimes? However, before the bit where Lou went 'graar', we had 25 minutes of sappy old Dr. Bruce Banner, the human version of 'the Littlest Hobo', travelling from town to town, doing his best to keep a low profile... which is difficult to do when you occasionally turn into a six foot five, four hundred pound green giant in torn shorts.
The movie version of the Hulk is quite similar to the tv series in this way. Watching 'Hulk', we sit through around half an hour of boring preliminaries (character development, dialogue, the usual time-wasting stuff) until Bruce Banner gets struck by lightning or whatever, and then hooray, the Hulk appears. I guess this movie hinges on your impression of the - now CGI - Hulk character, and I thought the film-makers were looking to depict a cartoon Hulk, one that would evoke the comic book and appeal to younger kids, rather than being realistic and possibly a little frightening, like Lou Ferrigno was in the tv show. In parts this effect is successful, but when the hulk character interacts with Jennifer Connelly, for example, there’s no two ways about it, he looks fake. Also, the addition of a reptilian element to the Hulk's DNA has allowed the big green goon to run really fast, but he can also jump great distances and to great heights… Now, this may be faithful to the comic book, but again, the audience will only suspend a certain amount of disbelief before they just laugh, and both the jumping and the high-speed running effects are definitely more laughable than awesome.
So, the Hulk himself was a little disappointing, but what of the rest? Well, the hero, Bruce Banner, is played by Eric Bana, and his lab research assistant is happily played by a certain Jennifer Connelly, so both the leads can certainly be said to have the required pedigree to 'carry' a movie. Also, it's directed by the man responsible for 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon' and 'Brokeback Mountain', none other than Ang Lee himself, so you'd be forgiven for renting it after reading the back of the Dvd case...
The thing is, Eric Bana's character is all about emotional repression, so by definition, he's not going to be acting much when on screen as the boring old doctor. Jennifer Connelly does quite well, but she'd be watchable in 'Eastenders', and she manages to 'react' subtly enough to the green screen – sorry I mean Hulk – with the required dose of compassion and fear when she's called upon. Ang Lee has unsurprisingly crafted a film that is beautiful to look at, and I enjoyed the novel editing style, with all manner of innovative cuts and split-screen effects used to create the panel-style view of the comic book, although this may grate with some viewers a little.
The action sequences, when the Hulk goes mental and starts getting all smashy-smashy, are very well done indeed, which you would expect from a movie that cost no less than $137 million dollars to make. Of particular note are the mutant dogs, the tank-breaking scenes and spitting the warhead (is that a euphemism!? – Ed).
However, given the three writing credits, I have the impression that the script went through a few 'treatments' before it was finished, and the extremely confusing last third of the movie reinforces this suspicion. The climactic 'battle' scene in particular, is just bizarre. Also, the lack of a real nemesis for the Hulk is a glaring omission. Where is his 'Joker', his 'Darth Vader', his... 'Nuclear Man'?
This movie managed to break even at the box office, and 2008 will now see a second attempt at putting Stan Lee's franchise on the big screen. The part of Bruce Banner seems perfect for Edward Norton, considering how little effort he seems willing to make these days – The Illusionist notwithstanding. Directed by the man who helmed the bright and breezy 'Transporter' franchise, and with Stan Winston taking on some of the special effects work, it seems like the mistakes made in this version of the Hulk will hopefully not be repeated in the next.
So, is this 'Hulk' recommended? Well, it's brainless entertainment for boys, but ultimately, and despite the presence of Jennifer Connelly, it's unrewarding. Unless you're a diehard Hulk or Jennifer fan, I’d recommend that if you haven't yet seen it, you should instead hang on for Hulk version 2.0, out next year.
Sunday, July 01, 2007
The verdict: Dreamlike and deceptively feather-light, it is subtle and occasionally hits the marks it aims for, but ultimately this one is soporific and a little self-consciously 'arty' for its own good.
The rating: 5/10
Now, I like a good dose of cinematic pretentiousness as much as the next man. Given half a chance I'll wax semi-coherently about 'Lost In Translation' or 'Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind', unfazed by accusations of being a guardian-reading pinko liberal. I also like to think I'm open-minded enough not to dismiss a movie out of hand just because it is bears the burden of an 'arthouse' label. (So the semi-clad European starlets are just a bonus then? - Ed) Unfortunately though, this occasionally mean I spend a couple of hours watching something forgettable, when I might've been better off down the pub, or some such. Basically what I'm saying is, I do often like movies that could be called 'arty' folks, honest! I just didn't like this one all that much...
Loosely, 'Me and You and Everyone We Know' movie tells the story of Christine (Miranda July), an artist, who meets and falls for a Richard (John Hawkes), a recently separated shoe salesman. Meanwhile, While Richard deals with his ex-wife, and falters through his first meetings with Christine, his two sons are experiencing relationship troubles of their own. 14-year-old Peter is being bullied by two older neighbourhood girls, who in turn are nefariously connected to one of Richard's shoe store colleagues. Meanwhile six-year-old Robby is having an similarly inappropriate relationship over the internet. He gets chatting to someone through instant messaging while in the company of his brother, and they send a lot of nonsense to the mystery messenger, until Robby demands to send a message about poop. Yep, you heard right, poop. He says he wants to swop poop with his special someone, which is really quite cute and innocent when you think about it... but in the context of an internet chat-room, that sort of sentiment is only really going to attract the wrong sort of attention...
The main themes of this movie are the complex and fragile network of human connections that link us to the people we know, and the difficulties we have in employing the various means of communicating with those same people. Relationships can be complicated for all sorts of reasons, and many of those explored in this movie are very much in the difficult category. From the very first scene of the movie, as his wife leaves, Michael's wordless, impotent demonstration to his sons that something important is happening sets the tone. From then on, the characters communicate imperfectly, but they all somehow muddle through.
In a movie with themes such as this, the visual style and mood are very important, and in this respect, this movie has a lot going for it. However, the pace is a little slow, and even at just under ninety minutes, I felt it dragged its heels a little. The music was quite good though, and very much in keeping with the mood of this ephemeral surrealist tale.
The characters, although quite flawed and thoroughly human are unfortunately not all very likeable. The lead characters in particular behaved erratically, and the male lead seemed to parent his kids completely haplesly, and not in a very funny way. Not at all in fact. Also, the entire instant messaging episode just didn't sit right with me. The younger of the two kids is pretty much neglected in this movie, and yet he somehow ends up having magical moments of connection with the outside world. A lovely story of course, but the artist telling it could be accused of having her head up her arse a little bit to be brutally honest.
I don't mean to be too harsh on this film, because it's very much a mood movie, and perhaps a sober Sunday evening wasn't the right time to watch it. Even with that in mind though, and at the risk of being dismissed as a philistine, I wouldn't recommend 'Me and You and Everyone We Know' to anyone except film students, committed art-house fans... or stoners. (Harsh.. I think?! - Ed)