Audrey the Trainwreck
28-year-old Ron Hogan (Anthony J. Baker) works a mundane office job as an ATM parts purchaser. Nothing extraordinary has happened throughout his life. He hangs out with his friends, drinks with them, and goes on dates with women whom he meets through personal ads on the internet. Thus far, he seems like a very boring person leading an uneventful life, but that’s just on the surface because there’s much more to him than meets the eye. One night while he’s at the bar with friends, someone accidentally strikes him in the back with a dark, sending him to the hospital. That particular event changes the course of his life, perhaps serving as a way for him to wake up from his mundane life. Stacy (Alexi Wasser), a courier, meets him on a lunch date arranged via the internet, and the two of them gradually hit it off. The sparks don’t fly right away, though, because, after all, writer/director Frank V. Ross aims for realism as opposed to than the kind of glossy, contrived, corny romances found in many films nowadays, especially big-budgeted Hollywood ones with A-list stars. Stacy certainly looks attractive, but not in an over-the-top way that would make her seem out of Ron’s league. They’re both lonely, wounded souls in a very alienating, technology-obsessed society, so their connection on an emotional level is both refreshing to them as well as to you, the audience. Anthony J. Baker and Alezi Wasser give charismatic, well-nuanced performances that allow you to see their innate fragility. A truly engrossing drama ought to have a solid, true-to-life screenplay, so, it’s fortunate that Ross has a knack for writing dialogue that sounds organic and believable. His attention to detail is worth noting because it makes the characters more human: Ron shaves often, defecates in one scene, gets out of bed, makes photocopies at work, showers and, in another scene, Stacy can be found mingling with her friends and delivering an envelope to an elderly man. Ross also does an impeccable job of balancing the tender romance and drama with comic relief, i.e. when someone asks if squirrels ever poop or when someone reacts to Ron when he admits that he owns a DVD of Curly Sue. The jazzy musical score helps to enhance and compliment the different tones in such a way that never becomes distracting. Good luck trying to figure out the meaning of the film’s title, though. At a running time of 1 hour and 25 minutes, Audrey the Trainwreck is an unpretentious, genuinely engrossing and funny modern romance brimming with well-nuanced performances, a terrific musical score, and meticulous attention to the details of everyday life.
Countdown to Zero
In English, French and Russian with subtitles. Farewell centers around a true story from the 1980’s about an Russian KGB official, Sergei Gregoriev (Emir Kusturica), who hands over documents with information to an Pierre Froment (Guillaume Canet), an engineer. Little does Pierre know that these documents are actually top-secret and contain highly sensitive information that will set off a chain of events that puts their lives in danger and increasingly aggravates U.S. President Ronald Reagan (Fred Ward) who wants to put an end to the leak as fast as possible and to hunt down potential KGB moles within the CIA. Director/co-writer Christian Carion generates a modicum of intrigue from its intricate, politically-charged plot. The pace occasionally slows down and drags toward the middle, but the last third of the film is quite suspenseful and even a bit thrilling. Strong performances from Kusturica and Canet also help to keep you engaged and immersed, for the most part, into the story.
Life During Wartime
Mugabe and the White African
Evelyn Salt (Angelina Jolie), a CIA agent, interrogates a Russian spy, Orlov (Daniel Olbrychski) who recently defected. He informs her of a sleeper cell of Russian spies each of whom awaits for the assassination of the Russian president who happens to be arriving imminently to attend the Vice President’s funeral held in New York City. After he accuses her of being a Russian spy, she goes on the run while her colleague, Ted Winter (Liev Schreiber) and his boss, Peabody (Chiwetel Ejiofor) try to hunt her down. She wants to save the life of her husband, Mike Krause (August Diehl), who’s now in great danger because of her outing. Screenwriter Kurt Wimmer, responsible for writing last year’s equally preposterous action thriller Law Abiding Citizen, piles one implausible action sequence after another which eventually feels tedious while the thrills gradually wane. There’s a lengthy chase on a highway, a dangerous escape from an apartment building and a scene where Salt disguises as a man. Sure, Angelina Jolie’s sexy looks provide plenty of eye candy, and she certainly seems to have as much fun in her role as Salt as she did playing Lara Croft or Fox in Wanted. However, action fans looking for palpable suspense, thrills and excitement, like what they'll find in Inception, will be disappointed by the unimaginative screenplay that could have used at least some more comic relief and witty lines to balance all of the mundane, mind-numbing, uninspired action scenes. Undemanding, easy-to-please action fans will enjoy Salt on a moderate level, but they’ll still end up underwhelmed and wishing that it were much more intelligent. At a running time of 1 hour and 40 minutes, Salt is devoid of thrills, excitement and cleverness, despite an abundance of slick action sequences and Angelina Jolie’s sizzling physique…errr…performance. For more bang for your buck, go watch Inception instead.
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