Monday, May 21, 2012

2 brief reviews: Bernie (2012) and Department (2012)


Bernie (2012)
Director - Richard Linklater
104 min; PG-13
Jack Black - Bernie Tiede
Shirley MacLaine - Marjorie Nugent
Matthew McConaughey - Danny Buck

Jack Black is unexpectedly excellent in this dark comedy that tells the true story of a murder in a small Texas town in the 1990s.  As Bernie Tiede, Black effortlessly transforms himself from his typical slapstick caricature actor into one who really understands what it means to become someone else.  In this performance, Black takes on a level similar to what Jim Carey did in several roles when he was attempting to be a little more serious, and it really works here.  To be fair, this is not a serious movie, but it isn't a strict comedy either.  This is told in a partial documentary style but in no way takes on a documentary feel.

Everyone loves Bernie from the minute he movies from Louisiana to Carthage, TX and begins work as the assistant funeral home director.  He puts everything he has into everything he does, and it isn't long before he has his hands on every conceivable project in town, from his job as a mortician to choir and theater director to helping anyone who needs it, Bernie is beloved by the entire community.  That he is surely gay doesn't really factor in at first, but it becomes a very interesting bit of information as things progress. 

Upon consoling the wealthy and elderly widow Marjorie Nugent (played so well by Shirley MacLaine) the seemingly opposite duo takes up a bizarre relationship.  Hated by everyone in town and her entire family, Marjorie begins to treat Bernie with both showering affection emotional abuse, to which Bernie puts up with for better and worse.  When things start to feel very wrong in the small town it is DA Danny Buck (McConaughey) who decides some things need looking into.  The story itself is all the more fascinating because it is true, and you can read the links below to get a better sense of what really happened.

I liked it.

**** out of 5

Interesting articles about the real life events:


Department (2012)
Director - Ram Gopal Varma
141 Min; Unrated

Never heard of it and never would have seen it, but when I got out of seeing Bernie I saw it starting and walked in.  Turns out it is an Indian film subtitled in English and it was nothing I would have ever expected.  I don't know anything about Indian films (Slumdog Millionaire does not count in this context) and when it was over I began reading about it so I could gain some context into what people who do watch these films had to say.

Just from watching the film I can say it was unexpectedly enjoyable and fun, though dull in parts.  I was the only white person in the theater with about 40 people of Indian heritage, and it was interesting to see what parts they laughed at or visibly thought were boring, and when the film had two separate Bollywood dance sequences it was almost like that was the queue for people to go to the restroom, almost like they were built in just for that purpose.  Since I didn't know what I was about to watch, it was awesome when it turned out to be cops and robbers type film, with good and bad cops taking on underground gangs all competing against each other.  What it all turned out to be was a major blood bath film with some comedy mixed in.

While I was sitting in the theater, back left last row away from everyone (not in a trench coat, I swear) I managed to text myself a message because I didn't want to forget a few things.  This is what I wrote myself verbatim:

Slow motion technique overused WAY too much...Tension built up from the score so weird! Sometimes there shouldn't be any tension at all and they try to force it...Gratuitous violence scenes remind me of Machete...pretty cool deaths actually.  Audience appears to know some of these actors in a big way and one was cheered big time when he appeared in a funny costume - reminds me of Tom Cruise in Tropic Thunder in the way that people reacted to it... just a guess.

So yeah... Those were my thoughts and I'm sticking to them.  It was a long movie with a loose plot that was ridiculous and at the end I still don't fully know what happened, but it involved all kinds of back stabbing and dirty politics etc...

If you see this playing at one of those AMC theaters with indie films give it a shot if you're looking for something different.  Apparently it is being panned by people who know about Indian film genre, but coming from someone just looking to try something new I thought it was kind of fun. 

No rating... no idea how to rate it.  See it if you want to give a subtitled film a chance from India.