Margaret (Fox), the second feature from director / screenwriter / playwright Kenneth Lonergan (following “You Can Count On Me”), was shot in 2005 and caught in a kind of limbo for six years. The details are no long important, but after legal wrangles and creative fights, a 150-minute cut was released in a few cities in 2011, and then it practically disappeared, resurfacing in early 2012 after a long campaign by fans, supporters, and folks like me who never had a chance to see the film on its original release.
It’s a powerful, provocative, ambitious drama set in the shadow of September 11, 2001, a marvelously messy film about the messiness of emotions and people and relationships, especially as they are tested in extreme circumstances. Pre-”True Blood” Anna Paquin is the high school girl Lisa, the privileged daughter of divorced artist parents, clashing with her actress mother (J. Smith-Cameron) and desperately trying to connect with her distant (physically and emotionally) writer father (director Lonergan himself) while dealing a trauma that upends her sense of emotional stability.
Lisa is an amazing character: infuriating, arrogant, anxious, guilt-ridden, vulnerable, aggressive, precocious… a teenager turning young adult, yes, but a fully realized human being who constantly surprises because she contains a multitude of impulses and contradictions that we’re not used to seeing on the screen. Her story is all about flailing for meaning and understanding in a world where she doesn’t even understand herself.
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When we left Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin) at the end of Season Three, the telepathic roadhouse waitress turned vampire paramour of Bon Temps, Louisiana, had been transported to Faerieland, which turns out to be a lot less like a Disney movie than a horror movie. Only a few hours pass for her, but when she returns to Earth in True Blood: The Complete Fourth Season (HBO) it’s a year later. Her vampire lover Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer) is now the king of Mississippi, her sweetly stupid brother Jason is a police deputy (and the hope of new blood for the werepanther community), and a new coven has taken up residence in town with a an unhappy medium (Fiona Shaw) channeling a very powerful spirit pushing them to war with the vampires.
In other words, another lively season in the bayou with the hapless humans and the supernatural creatures who love them / hate them / feed off them. Alcide is in a new pack, Eric (now serving under Bill) is transformed from icy schemer to lovesick teddy bear, and vampire Jessica having a hard time adjusting to domestic life, while other stories include a shapeshifter family conflict, a V-addicted sheriff (when the most responsible member of your police force is Jason Stackhouse, you are in serious trouble), and a very odd baby scaring the bejesus out of Arlene and Terry. As usual, it’s all visualized with a wild mix of weird imagery, nocturnal spookiness, witty characters, and flamboyant splatter humor.
The mix of gothic pulp, supernatural soap opera, overheated melodrama, and steamy R-rated sex and skin is hopelessly addictive, never as smart as its HBO cousins but far more shameless fun. Alan Ball has taken this southern gothic melodrama of vampires in the bayou far from the source material (the novels of Charlaine Harris) and fans have loved his juicy take on the supernatural soap opera so much they have made this show HBO’s top original series and bestselling TV on Disc title.
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True Blood: The Complete Season Three (HBO)
The werewolf nation joins the supernatural ecosystem in the third season of Alan Ball’s sexy southern gothic melodrama of vampires in the bayou, adapted (and expanded) from the novels of Charlaine Harris. But that, of course, is just one of the complications in the rocky love affair between telepathic roadhouse waitress Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin) and soulful vampire Bill Compton (Stephen Moyer) and the small town travails of love and family and lots and lots of buried secrets in Bon Temps churned up in the supernatural conspiracies around them.
The vampire kings and queens are going to war (and their subjects are forced to choose sides), the werewolves (think feral motorcycle gang bruisers next to the aristocratic arrogance of the vampire kingdom) are getting more daring and Sookie’s true heritage (and why the vamps are so interested in her) is starting to get revealed. Meanwhile, the easy-going Sam Merlot, local tavernkeeper and orphan shapeshifter, finds his kin and isn’t too impressed with them.
The mix of gothic pulp, supernatural soap opera, overheated melodrama and steamy R-rated sex and skin is hopelessly addictive, never as smart as its HBO cousins but far more shameless fun.
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Longtime indie producer and sometime screenwriter (“Prozac Nation”) Galt Niederhoffer produces, adapts and directs her novel about seven college friends who come together for a wedding, which brings out unresolved feelings, especially between the maid of honor (Katie Holmes) and the groom (Josh Duhamel), who have a long and complicated history.
There are shenanigans and some emotional fireworks (quite tasteful) over the night between the rehearsal dinner and the wedding, but this isn’t so much a romantic comedy as a lightweight indie ensemble drama that never quite gels. Katie Holmes is a co-producer on the film (one of a couple of dozen, or it seems as the credits roll by) and gets top billing as the jilted girl who still hasn’t come to terms with her former boyfriend and best friend (Anna Paquin) getting hitched. It’s a good role and a fine performance from Holmes, her best since “Pieces of April.”
Continue reading at Videodrone, where there is also an exclusive video clip from the DVD.