Friday, April 29, 2011

source code

So if you’ve noticed a lack of shouting from me on your Google Reader feed lately, it’s because I’ve been away – to Vancouver, Yellowknife (it’s in Northern Canada, far enough that I got to see the Northern Lights), New York City and Toronto. It was a blast, and yes, I’d love to be on holiday for eternity, but I’m pretty happy with my life (and that includes you, faithful reader) so I’m just as stoked to be home. And you’ll be pleased to know that I didn’t forget my sworn oath to bleat about movies to the sighing masses, and I watched some movies on the plane (Yes Man: perfectly adequate and Zooey Deschanel is a doll; Gulliver’s Travels: funnier than expected though seriously Jack Black is always so reprehensible, am I right?; The Tourist: not actually the worst movie ever, but I picked the twist and Johnny Depp looks like he has a tiny little face next to Angelina) and I even went to see a flick in NYC. Before I go on about the film, let me say that the cinematic experience itself was a bit of a surprise: while I could still have the popcorn there (alert: buttered popcorn never has actual butter) the floor sloped up, not down, which was a bit distracting, and the aisle was in the middle instead of along the sides, which meant instead of sitting in the middle of the row, aka the whole POINT, I had to sit TWO CHAIRS TO THE SIDE. I know, I know. America, right? Totally backwards.

Source Code is the newest movie directed by Duncan Jones, the genius behind mind-bend Moon. In it, Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal, apparently pronounced Jill-en-hall for those who, like me, are perpetually worried about saying it wrong) wakes up on a train to find a beautiful girl named Christina (Michelle Monaghan) having a conversation with him that he doesn’t understand. After stumbling about, angry and confused, the train explodes and he wakes up again—this time strapped in a chamber and understandably freaking out. He is a military pilot, trying to figure out what happened to the crew he last remembers flying with, but Goodwin (Vera Farmiga), the rushed officer on the other end of his audio feed, is in a hurry to get him back on that train. Because someone blew it up, and there is going to be yet another attack, and the only way to fix it is to get into the mind of someone who died on that train, and figure out who planted the bomb. The Source Code is a system that will let you back into the last eight minutes of someone’s life, and Colter is the right person for the job, and now under command to figure out what happened. But as the minutes tick over and he keeps getting blown up and becomes distracted,
by Christina’s loveliness, from his arguably more important task of saving an entire city, he wonders if there’s a way he can change not only the future, but the past, too.

Source Code is just as flat-out great as Moon; it’s the kind of movie you’ll leave feeling glad you’ve been at the cinema. It’s well-shot, beautifully acted, perfectly paced, and an interesting idea, even if you’re like me and your eyes glaze over as soon as science harder than Mentos + Diet Coke = BAM is involved. Despite the fact that Colter has only about fifteen total minutes of conversation with Christina, you want them to shack up. The tension is high not only because the fate of Chicago is in Colter’s hands, but because we—and Colter himself—are kept in the dark about certain aspects of this investigation, so in a panic are the military hoping to catch the bomber in time. Goodwin, and the limping Dr Rutledge (Jeffrey Wright), don’t have time for elaborate exposition, so just as something is unveiled, we’re back on a train with eight minutes left. And finding a bomber on a train full of suspicious people and jerks is just about as hard as you’d imagine.

Now I’d be cautious of reading many reviews for this movie, not just because my opinion is the only important one (which it totally is) but because I actually had a fairly crucial plot point spoilered for me a few weeks ago, which they (I can’t quite remember who) threw so casually into the review I assumed it was known from the start, but it really was not at all. The movie can get quite mind-bending at times, too, as is to be expected once quantum physics get involved, so I could be partially grateful for having that one thing ruined so I knew what was going on for once instead of being too confused to finish my popcorn (a dire situation.) And look, you do have to have a certain level of faith in a movie that doesn’t really explain how you can really get into someone’s mind eight minutes before they die. I understand the concept of parallel universes with different outcomes, but at the end, you may have a few questions the movie didn’t quite answer. But then, you might have not been an English student like me who spent all of Science drawing penises in the margins of her textbook, and maybe it will all be clear. Along with the more physics-based quandaries I had, I also wondered why there was no mention of, you know, actual police work involved in finding out about the bomber. Was this really the only plan the government had? Was no one checking security footage? And the ending needed more sirens. Etc etc. It’s okay though; most movies give me questions that really are only asked by pedantic people like myself, and Source Code left me with a general feel of goodwill so I can’t really criticise it.

Gyllenhaal does a fine job channelling a more Jarhead role than a Prince of Persia one, and Monaghan, despite trying to pass as twenty-eight in this film (she looks amazing, but thirty-five), is as sweet and funny as you could want. The small amount of peripheral characters on the train (college students, comedians, nurses, all who have interactions with Colter over the course of the movie that range from scary to funny) and outside (the military, and Colter’s estranged father) give the movie some extra emotion: more people whose outcomes you care about. Whatever Duncan Jones does next, I’m sure whoever his father is will be proud.

In summary: Exceeds Expectations. A great film, much fun to be had, kind of smart enough to make you feel like your brain is working while blockbustery enough to just be entertaining. I mean, avoid seeing it in America if you possibly can (I personally recommend Hoyts Victoria Gardens, but that’s just me.) It’s so good you should tell your other parallel selves to see it too. Then you can all leave yourself emails discussing it, right? Augh, I broke my brain again.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

comedy festival: capital punishment

When you’re a bit sneezy and sniffly and have perhaps slept a bit too much on a bright clear Saturday, the best thing would be to maybe go for a brisk walk, or make some kind of refreshing salad, or snort coffee, or whatever else it is that normal people do. But of course the best solution to sulky illness is always the same: comedy. A good laugh will cure all ills. There, I just saved you a trip to hospital about that bleeding head injury. But I’m about to cost you twenty dollars per person anyway.

Saturday night at 10:45 saw Chris and I at the Town Hall to see Capital Punishment for the second year running. They’re a group of current/former Canberra locals who spread five acts over one hour and are kind of like when you get the Five Flavours Lifesavers from the milk bar and you’re super excited to get pineapple, raspberry, watermelon and orange, and you think you’ll get the gross cherry one, but then suddenly it’s another watermelon, and you’re all “YES!” and cheer and everyone in the street judges you on your unbridled enthusiasm. Rafe Morris bookends the show, playing an intro song we sadly only caught the audience reaction to through the door (lesson: just pay for parking in the city during the Comedy Festival, because there really is nowhere to put your car apart from on top of those pedestrians who walk out in front of you drunk) and finishing the gig with a trio of love songs that will pull at your heart strings and then cause some sniggering when you realise who he’s really in love with and that perhaps some of his soulful yearnings are more criminal in nature. He’s actually an amazing musician, which did have me sometimes doing that thing during songs where I’m too busy going, “Oooohh, isn’t this lovely-sounding” to actually pay attention to lyrics, which is of course my own fault, and why I can
’t sing along to any songs and should be banned from trying.

Emo Parsonson hails from the bush and is happy to hark back to his childhood for gags, recounting his father’s slightly unkind views towards women, his own current parenting style, and my own personal favourite part, where he compares his new cushy city office job’s OH&S (Occupational Healthy & Safety for the uninitiated) acronym compared to the country, where, as he points out, it stands for “OH....Shit!” (I probably think this is hilarious because I like punning on it too, like yelling “NoH&S!” whenever someone at work picks up too many books or climbs a ladder awkwardly.) Emo has a relaxed, laid-back style, is great at audience interaction, commendable after being hollered at by the woman next to Chris, and despite the causal demeanour occasionally dissolves into fast-paced rants that cause the audience to get a bit unbalanced on their (frighteningly high) seats.

Greg Kimball’s tales of the pressures to have kids once you’re in your thirties (I’m shocked to hear this, I thought it was once you’d had a partner for longer than three months that everyone was on your back about it), and his own experiences as a childcare worker, totally killed me:
declaring he took a group of kids to see Toy Story “or something, I don’t know, I was drunk” and then following it up with a kid’s adventure with her folding cinema seat. It was also good to see someone wrapping up a comedy skit with an educational lesson in health involving fresh chillies and what not to do after using them; there needs to be more attention paid to these important things.

Kale Bogdanovs had arguably the best joke of the night, one that I’ll try hard not to ruin for you but involved a particular Hasbro board game I
’ve always adored. I think he lost about two minutes of his show’s run-time because the audience couldn’t stop giggling for long enough to let him say anything else. Otherwise, he’s an amazingly articulate comedian, not a misplaced word or an “um” in sight (my own public speaking exercises sometimes contain only the word “um”), and his observations of movie ugly ducklings are so astute I almost let out a “hell yeah!” except that there was already someone shouting at all the acts in my aisle and I didn’t want to make everyone evict us.

For something completely different, Dayne Rathbone’s stilted man-child act is so well-perfected that everyone was quietly snickering before he’d even really said anything, his comic timing and beaming awkwardness building the performance in such a way that is caused the kind of laughing that’s so all-encompassing it almost causes you physical pain. As he reads his self-penned book, “A Boy and His Dad”, including a scene acted out with an audience member laughing so hard she could barely read her lines, each page has such an unexpected concept stuck in the middle of an everyday, flatly read sentence that I was afraid I kept spitting on the poor audience member in front of me because I kept sputtering just as I thought I’d composed myself again. Because I don’t learn lessons like
“he was funny just then, perhaps he’ll be funny again?

In Summary: Exceeds Expectations, because even though it was funny last year, I’d forgotten how funny. There were occasional flat moments—I mean, find me a comedian that doesn’t—but within another minute you were chortling/snorting/screeching/whatever-your-laughter-style away again. It’s pretty blue, too, so don’t go taking your eight-year-old to see it, or your eighty-year-old parents, unless you want to spend another night with them shaking their head at you and saying, “I don’t know what I did wrong.” Go buy your tickets here, or send them nude pictures here.