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IR Film Review: LONG SHOT [Summit/Lionsgate]

The essence of the romantic comedy in many ways has been lost to the deluge of blockbuster comic book films and spectacle. Or the comedy tends to be too high concept or borderline gag related without reverting to the simple set up of traditional boy meets girl, boy loses girl…they realize their mistake and find that common ground for a would-be happy ending. The ironic aspect is that one of the people that does have the pulse on the heart of this aspect is Seth Rogen, mostly known for his stoner comedies. There is an every man quality to Rogen but like “Zach & Miri Make A Porno”, “Neighbors” or “Knocked Up”, it is always a trajectory of the underdog. Despite previous co-stars there was always a sense of perhaps pity in a way or a drum tap to play the joke which he gladly takes. It is what makes him such a redeemable lead. “Long Shot” works in many structures because he is not the lead here…Charlize Theron is….

This balances it completely since Charlize knows the role she is playing but still brings her intensity to it without being schmaltzy. One actually feels in many points that she is falling for Rogen’s Fred. The set up and the token Rogen set up that slams him to the floor just so he can crawl his way back to her heart is worn, yet tried and true…and feels natural here. The story feels fairly organic in as much as the situation can be which is part of its charm. What however really feels tender and not forced is the small moments between them, either on a couch watching a movie or hanging out after they almost get bombed…and then in the sequence where they actually do get bombed (a necessary Rogen movie trademark). What comes out of that latter sequences is some of Charlize’s loosest spontaneous performances in years…especially one where she defuses a situation hiding behind a desk.

Letting her hair down so to speak seems incredibly freeing since one can still see the icy brilliance of Theron but, by doing this vulnerable comedy, there shows as usual such a wide range in what she can do. The last time there was that vulnerability in such a large way was “Sweet November” (but that film was a inherent tragedy). The best dramatic actors can do comedy brilliantly if given the chance and the right script. Most aren’t seen that way or offered those parts. Theron and Rogen are both producers on the film so it seemed a very conscious choice on both their parts to make this film. Theron tried “Gringo” last year in more of a supporting part for what was inherently a dark subversive comedy. The reason “Long Shot” works in many ways but also has some great laugh-out-loud moments is that it is honest and truthful in what it is and makes no qualms about it. It is undeniably romantic in many ways while still being brutally human which sometimes is the hardest thing to pull off. Of course, these movies are bound to have a little melodrama (as this one does at certain points but it is offset by Rogen’s deprecating lines). But that brief schmaltz is just the price of admittance…and that’s OK.

B

By Tim Wassberg

IR Short Takes: MAD MAX – FURY ROAD [Warner Brothers]

IR Film Review: PROMETHEUS [20th Century Fox]

The progression of modern science fiction builds its basis on the oft misunderstood “Blade Runner” while the horror genre finds respect through the first “Alien”. Both films were undertakings of an early 30s Ridley Scott attempting to progress a notion of mortality or simply of loss within an unforgiving world which casts aside whatever it pleases.

That is why “Prometheus”, his long awaited return to the genre, is exactly reflective of that personification. While functioning simply as a thriller using ideas of immortality might be attributable and somewhat indulgent, the intonation of what he is saying is personified in his aversion to saying what really might be below the surface.

The functionality of the movie is based in Noomi Rapace’s character (whom she herself calls a “believer”) who convinces a certain company to fund a trip to a distant planet that might be the origin point for the human race. The interesting angle here in terms of topography, landing and literal proportion of the objects involved is that one could see this as the Alien planet. The key is in the details of which they are many and many are misdirects. Damon Lindelof, the writer (also responsible for “Lost” and the “Star Trek” reboot) knows the lore undeniably which concedes his point of misdirection but also essentially let him keep certain elements open.

The proponent of many things also revolves around David, played with almost comedic (say Chaplin) progression by Michael Fassbender. Whether through his fastidious coloring of hair to resemble Peter O’Toole as Sir Lawrence in a well-regarded film or small seemingly strategic ploys of the movie that only the audience sees, the intention is to use what we know of the “Alien” universe to extrapolate motivation. However, also in play is what a new generation will see without the background of those movies. The layers are applicable which is what gives this movie a bit more than one would expect.

That said, there are many theories that can abound and that is what is good about a film like this as well as the viral campaign that preceded its release. What it is also good at doing, unlike many films today, is feel the need to explain everything (which is more an extension of studio-watch guarding than anything else).

Charlize Theron’s character Vickers is of particular interest, specifically in the way she is built and inter-played throughout the film strategically with David and an older elder figure. The clues in the dialogue as well as what is not shown speak to something undeniably connected in who and what her character is. It is one of the nicely created puzzles of the piece. The ship itself as it lands and the maze they enter into are simply a construct for a different story being told.

Because saying any more would ruin much of the re-watch value on the picture, “Prometheus” does accomplish what it set out to do: create a thought provoking diatribe on modern science fiction by the man who redefined it nearly two generations ago. While time will decide this picture’s impact within the pantheon, it shows that time does allow a bit of perspective and, at times, influence on what is said, how it is built and how it is filtered.

A-

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