When a movie falls through the cracks, Prairie Dog catches it in our annual TIFF segment The Lightning Round.
Metallica Through the Never (USA, 2013): Far cry from the documentary Some Kind of Monster (Metallica goes to therapy!), Through the Never is a more proper film about metal’s most preeminent band. A concert movie that doubles as a “Best Of” album, the band plays some of its earlier (some would say hardest) hits. To break with the monotony, Dane DeHaan (Chronicle) is at hand to play a roadie roaming around a post-apocalyptic Vancouver (don’t ask) in search of gasoline. Metallica’s music transcends the arena they are playing and affects the reality of the roadie, who soon finds himself dealing with an executioner straight from James Hetfield’s worst nightmares. Concert films are always a dicey proposition, but this one is watchable, particularly if you are fond of Ulrich, Trujillo, Hammett and the ever surly Hetfield. Three headbanging prairie dogs.
Moebius (Korea, 2013): There is something seriously wrong with Korean filmmaker Kim Ki-Duk. Once a gentle filmmaker (Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring), Kim has gone ballistic, pushing the envelop as far as his imagination goes. His latest, Moebius, had me grimacing through the entire movie. As retaliation for her husband’s extra-marital affair, a crazed woman cuts her teenage son penis and runs away. Feeling guilty, the father also removes his, as an organ donation of sorts. This is just the setup. Soon, other elements come to play, like the father’s former lover, a gang of rapists and allegations that extreme pain can lead to extreme pleasure. It gets bad, really bad. There is artistry to Moebius, but the use of castration and sexual abuse for comedic effect is questionable, to say the least. Three sick puppies.
Philomena (UK, 2013): Judy Dench has reached that point in her career in which she can’t do no wrong. Philomena is a deceiving film, it seems a very traditional flick, but can trigger your righteous indignation like no other. Disgraced public servant Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan, also co-writer) takes on a perfunctory human story for a magazine as a distraction: An Irish woman (Dench) wants to find the son she gave in adoption fifty years ago. It wasn’t her choice. The nuns at the convent where she lived sold a number of kids to Americans for a thousand pounds. The pursuit brings the sweet and simple Philomena out of her shell and cuts through the cynicism that permeates Martin’s existence. Director Stephen Frears brings his usual efficiency to the table and Coogan tones down his haughty persona. The outcome is more powerful than it has any right to be. Spoiler ahead: The Catholic Church comes out poorly. Three and a half celibate prairie dogs (yeah, right).
The Invisible Woman (UK, 2013): Ralph Fiennes sophomore effort as a director is a snooze and a half. It focuses on the latter days Charles Dickens (Fiennes himself) and his infatuation with Nelly, a much, much younger actress (Felicity Jones, Like Crazy). Since Nelly’s family is practically destitute and Dickens is practically a celebrity, the relationship prosper very slowly and for all the wrong reasons. Every motivation in The Invisible Woman is muddled, which makes the proceedings more realistic than similar period pieces. But Fiennes fails to take advantage of the complexities and gets lost in stuffy costumes and stuffier dialogue. Two prairie dogs bored out of their minds.
Tomorrow: From the maker of Shame and Hunger, 12 Years a Slave. After, a comedy. Any comedy.