The East

The East is an uncomfortable little film; it reminded me of the (superior) Martha Marcy Mae Marlene, not quite in the same league, but interesting and creepy nonetheless.

0T_151_TE_00110

Brit Marling (who co-wrote the film) plays Sarah, a private security operative who goes underground to spy on an eco-terror group called The East. These guys live communally, completely off the grid, emerging only occasionally for the highly public and edge-of-deadly humiliation of big oil / chemical / pharma executives. So you’re dealing with the “will-she-won’t-she be unmasked”, and “will-they-won’t-they be uncovered”, and “will-they-won’t-they actually kill anyone” trifecta, played out amongst people we’ll never really understand. And thus the movie tracks Sarah’s gradual engagement with the group’s philosophy, if not their motives, and her increasing attachment to the group’s enigmatic leader (Alexander Skarsgard – so kind of understandable.) So, although it’s not a consistently brilliant film, it’s queasy-making throughout and well worth a watch. Set in DC, The East actually filmed in Shreveport, Louisiana.

Inception

OK, so you gather I’ve been somewhat excited about Christopher Nolan’s new movie Inception. But does it live up to its hype? Answer: Yes. And no.

Yes, in that it’s a visually astounding piece of art – parts of Paris rolling up and over itself is a stand-out, and the gravity defying-bits you’ve seen in the trailers: mindblowingly awesome. But no, too, in that it’s hard enough for most filmmakers to weave one or two complex parallel plots together, but Nolan attempts five – a dream within a dream within a dream within a dream. Within a dream. Get it? That’s an awful lot to hold together, and to his credit he does just about manage it. But we spend so much time marvelling at the spectacular visuals of set-piece after set-piece, all the while trying to keep track of the intricacies of the plot, that there’s little chance to engage with any of the characters or their emotions. So: wondrous to watch but tedious too, both a masterpiece AND a clunker: how about that for alternate realities?

As for locations, Jerry Garrett again has a lot of interesting stuff, here on the ski resort that’s the penultimate dreamscape…..

The Fortress Mountain ski resort has fallen on hard times, since its use in the 1988 Winter Olympics in nearby Calgary. Alberta’s provincial government closed the resort in 2008 over unpaid taxes and other bills. By 2009, it had degenerated into just exactly the kind of seedy, forelorn, eerie aerie that Mr. Nolan loves to film (remember “Batman Begins”?). Set builders enhanced the area’s cement-gray buildings with an austere fortress of the mind (miniature models of it were what was later blown up)…..

Inception

OK, so clearly there’s not been an awful lot of movie-watching going on, what with the World Cup and all on our very doorstep. Hence another look at what’s coming at us down the pipe. Inception looks awesome.

Mind-shifting thriller. Tick. Ellen Page. Tick. Joseph Gordon Levitt. Tick. Music by Hans Zimmer. Tick. Christopher Nolan directs. Tick tick tick. Oh, I am so looking forward to this one….

Whip It

For a while I thought Roller Derby was a made-up sport, like Dodgeball, or Extreme Ping-Pong. Turns out there really is a competition where girls in short-shorts pummel the hell out of each while skooting round an indoor bike track on rollerskates. Who knew?! And the girls take on such rockin’ names too –  my favourite: Smashley Simpson. All this – the rules, the myths, the bruises – is marvellously evoked in Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut “Whip It!”

“Whip It” (so named after a killer move that’ll get the protagonist four valuable points on the scoreboard) stars the can-do-no-wrong Ellen Page as Bliss, a grunge-leaning teenager unhappily stuck in Bodeen, Texas, with a part-time job in the say-no-more Oink Joint, a postal mom (literally) who’s obsessed with beauty pageants and deportment, and a sweet-n-savvy best friend who’ll be on the first bus out after graduation. One fortuitous day Bliss stumbles upon Roller Derby and her life’s turned upside down. Sweet, funny and laden with friendship, it’s like a coming of age movie, but on wheels.

In spite of the strong Texas location, the production actually filmed in Detroit, no doubt taking advantage of Michigan tax breaks and the fact that warehouse space can be bought for a dollar an acre now there’s a recession.  To support the all-star cast of grrrrl-power, (Kirsten Wiig, Zoe Bell, Eve – awesome!), real roller girls were selected from local Michigan teams such as The Detroit Derby Girls, and The Grand Raggidy Roller Girls.