Nov 28, 2013

    Quick takes

    OLDBOY (R21)

    Thriller/104 minutes

    Rating: 3/5

    LOUTISH, self-destructive advertising executive Joe Doucett (Josh Brolin) seems to anger and alienate everyone around him.

    One night, after a bender, he wakes up in a locked hotel room, with no means of escape. Food arrives through a hole in the door and, on the television, he learns that he is wanted for his wife's murder.

    Do not call this a remake, admonishes director Spike Lee. The Korean version from director Park Chan Wook (2003) has a powerful cult following, but Lee's film is not based on it.

    Rather, this work, like Park's, is built on the source Japanese manga written by Garon Tsuchiya, first published in 1997.

    Not having read the manga, I cannot say if Lee's adaptation is faithful, but it does share one trait with adult-oriented Japanese comics. It is jaw-droppingly violent and, in one overlong skin-slicing scene in particular, it veers into gore-horror territory, fully justifying its R21 rating.

    Bullying an audience into a reaction of disgust is easy, and it is alarming that a director as seasoned as Lee cannot tell the difference between cheap shocks and genuine provocation.


    Comedy-drama/86 minutes

    Rating: 1.5/5

    DIABLO Cody exploded onto the scene with her screenplay for indie hit Juno (2007), a self-consciously hip comic drama that showcased her clipped rhythms and love of wordplay.

    Paradise is her debut as auteur - she writes, directs and produces this story of Lamb (Julianne Hough), a girl from a deeply religious Midwest community who, following a tragic accident, takes a personal stand against God and heads to Las Vegas to partake of "drinking, games of chance; the basic abominations".

    That choice of words shows that Cody has not lost her gift for the snappy line, but everything else - the casting of the bland Hough against the overpoweringly hyperkinetic Russell Brand as a kind-hearted bartender who cares for her, to the choppy pacing and repetitiveness of scenes, to the lack of control over the fairy-tale tone - causes this work to crash faster and harder than the plane that almost killed Lamb.