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Double D’s Double Feature: Hereafter and The Trotsky DVD

Hey people, what’s up? It’s Dave here again to bring you a few more reviews, this time for Hereafter and The Trotsky on DVD. Also, I am pleased to announce that my reviews have been picked up by yet another site, so go to www.myhollywoodsource.com to check that out! My reign of terror continues! Also, plans for the Double D Does the Movies official podcast are still in motion as well as a few more secretive plans, so stay tuned. It shall come, I promise, but for now enjoy a few more reviews, starting with Hereafter

Hereafter is the latest in Clint Eastwood’s modern repertoire of film, which is shaping up to look pretty good. Even last year’s slightly lacklustre Invictus had a few shimmering moments of brilliance and Eastwood’s other recent works like Mystic River and Gran Torino are nothing short of great. So how does Hereafter shape up compared to the master of cinema’s other recent works? Let’s take a look.

Matt Damon plays George Lonegan, a lonely psychic, who has conversations with people’s dead relatives through connections he forms with them through sense of touch. He’s quit his practice however and works full time at a factory in San Francisco until corporate downsizing threatens his job, possibly the last tether he has to a normal life. The only client he sees is brought to him by his brother, eager to impress one of his constituents. A lack of sleep has led George to take night classes where he meets another lonely soul, in the form of Melanie (Bryce Dallas Howard), who becomes George’s partner at an Italian cooking class he attends. George considers his ability to be more of a curse however, as it has led him to become somewhat of a recluse, hiding away from a society that’s labelled him as a “freak”.

The films doesn’t begin with George’s story however, but with the story of a reporter from Paris named Marie, played by French actress Cecile de France, who is taking a vacation in South-East Asia when a tsunami hits and wipes out the village she is visiting in what is easily Hereafter’s most expensive and exciting scene. She manages to survive, but not before having a near-death experience that allows her to take a special sneak-peak into the afterlife, which leaves her slightly disillusioned when attempting to return to her news-magazine show in France. She decides to take a few months off and focuses on investigating the events of her supernatural experience for a book she plans to publish on a conspiracy to cover up what many believe to be facts about the afterlife.

The third story that Hereafter presents us with is about a young twin from London named Marcus, as he attempts to cope with his brother Jason’s recent death and his mother’s drug addiction, which lands him in foster care. The twins are played interchangeably by British child actors Frankie and George McLaren, who generally nail all but a few awkwardly under-acted scenes. The three stories don’t intertwine until the end and the constant cutting between them can sometimes be a bit tiresome, especially when I was the most interested in Lonegan’s story, but Eastwood does a good job of juggling the plots without letting any one over-empower the other two.

Hereafter received a luke-warm reception at the Toronto International Film Festival this year, so I wasn’t expecting too much. I think I understood why people were disappointed, but that’s not to say that it was warranted. What people need to understand is that Hereafter is a slow movie, but there’s a big difference between a slow movie and a boring movie. A boring movie has characters that you don’t care about in an uninspired setting, doing uninspired things. You can pack a movie with explosions and sex and still make a boring movie. Hereafter was, by this standard, definitely not a boring movie. Its characters are unique and three-dimensional. Its premise is original and the story is personal and effective for the most part. However, I’m not going to apologize for any pacing problems the film has, because it does have plenty of them.

Characters drag their feet so much in this movie that when the climax comes, it hardly feels like a climax at all. In fact, I wouldn’t have known it was a climax at all if the three main characters, who spend the rest of the film in different parts of the world, finally meet up at a book fair in London. Nothing astonishing happens. The characters don’t all discover that they’re dead, but didn’t know it yet. They don’t take an adventurous journey into the hereafter that the film’s title refers to and their meeting doesn’t cause them all to have startling revelations about the nature of the afterlife. Eastwood and writer Peter Morgan (Frost/ Nixon) aren’t using Hereafter to create a film that will startle the audience or even bring it to a grand revelation. In fact, for a film about the supernatural, Hereafter is surprisingly, well, natural. Eastwood focuses his camera on the characters and how the experience of dealing with death and the afterlife has affected them on a personal and emotional level, rather than focusing on the meta-physical ramifications of the events in the film.

It’s this sort of character driven drama that really drives Hereafter, albeit at a remarkably slow rate. It’s not a movie about God. It’s not a movie about ghosts. It’s not a movie about heaven. It’s a movie about people; people who have all been touched in some way by death. Was I expecting more from Hereafter? Yes, I was, but I was still touched by what I saw, just in a different way than I was expecting to be touched. It seems like Eastwood, in his old age, may be dealing with death in his own way, and for Eastwood that means teaching the audience how to embrace life, even if there are no guns or explosions along the way. Perhaps he’s getting a little tired in his old age, but Hereafter, unlike Gran Torino for example, is not a film designed to entertain all audiences. In fact, if anything I’d say this movie was made for old people and I don’t mean that as an insult. It’s a ballsy move considering that the majority of the theatre-going audience in North American is comprised of people aged 5-30. It’s almost safe to say that Eastwood saw a gap in Hollywood’s corporate target and set his sights for it, crafting a film that firmly ignores the needs of younger audience members and instead focuses on the concerns of those in their twilight years; needs like the hope of an afterlife and the belief in true love. It seems like most of Eastwood’s grit is gone, but I don’t really mind. As long as he keeps focusing on strong characterization and all-around good film-making, I’m still happy with whatever the man decides to make.

I give Hereafter a 3.5/5

Next up we’ve got The Trotsky. Here we go with yet another Canadian movie on DVD and what is sometimes a rarity in this great land of ours; a movie that doesn’t suck. The Trotsky stars Jay Baruchel, one of the first Canadian movies the young rising star has made in quite a while and let’s face it, he’s probably the only reason most people are watching this movie and who’s to blame them? Baruchel delivers one of his most heart-felt performances here. I kept thinking the whole time I was watching this how great it would be if Jay played the actual Leon Trotsky. Anyways, I’m getting ahead of myself here.

Baruchel plays Leon Bronstein, a 17-year-old who sincerely believes himself to be the reincarnation of Russian revolutionary leader Leon Trotsky. In fact Bronstein is the actual birth name of the original Leon Trotsky. For those of you who don’t know (including myself before I watched the film), Trotsky was one of the people primarily responsible for the communist revolution in Russia, until he was assassinated later in life with an ice-pick. This is definitely an uncanny choice for a main character in a high school comedy, to be sure. Things get even more uncanny however when Leon meets the love of his life, a 27-year-old recent post-grad named Alexandra (Emily Hampshire). This is uncanny because the real Leon Trotsky also fell in love with and married a woman named Alexandra who was also almost a decade older than him. The only problems are that Alexandra can’t stand Leon and that he’s having a hard time finding a place to stage his revolution. After a failed strike at a clothing plant owned by Leon’s own father (Saul Rubinek) ends up in Leon getting arrested, his father decides to send him to public school for his last year of high school, instead of the private school he’s been paying for thus far. Leon uses this to his advantage to stage a student revolution against the evil Principal Berkhoff (Colm Feore) and his stooge, Mrs. Danvers (Domini Blythe). After eliciting some help from his over-enthusiastic cheer-leader Sister Sarah (Tommie-Amber Pirie) and a reluctant lawyer/ former Communist Party of Canada leader (Michael Murphy), hilarity ensues as Leon begins his revolution for student rights.

Once again, our society is being treated to some more pure John Hughes-esque brilliance and I can’t get enough of it. The difference here is that this movie feels a bit more like Reds or Dr. Zivago then it does The Breakfast Club. Director Jacob Tierny (watch for his funny cameo at the very end of the film) has crafted a film that draws just as much from epic cinema as from high school comedies. Now, I have to say I was wary of The Trotsky at first. For the first ten minutes or so I didn’t really know what to make of the film. I was more confused than amused. This is almost to be expected from a film where the premise is about someone believing that they are the reincarnation of a semi-renowned revolutionist. It can be hard to swallow at first, but I gave this movie a chance. Well, really I had to, since I knew I was going to review the DVD, but it was worth it. The Trotsky is a thoroughly enjoyable and well-made little gem if you give it a chance. It takes a while to get going, but within time you’ll actually care about this crazy little character and the people around him and the crazy little revolution he’s starting. And by my calculations, a movie where I care about the characters, enough to worry about what happens to them is a good movie. The Trotsky delivers lots of fun and, best of all, informative filmmaking to anyone who enjoys a good revolution story, even if it is set in a high school.

I’m not saying that The Trotsky is perfect. The film runs a bit too long and at least ten minutes of unnecessary footage, including a couple of pointless dream scenes could have been easily removed without affecting the plot. Yes, I got your Battleship Potemkin reference, but there’s much more important things going on in this movie. I usually don’t mind a few filler scenes, but when the rest of the movie is actually good then the filler is just a distraction from the wonderful complex relationships that are also present here. Still, I really did enjoy this movie. Honestly, if you get a chance, watch this. Even if you’re not a Jay Baruchel fan, you might be after seeing this film.

Now let’s talk briefly about the DVD itself. I’d say it’s definitely worth a rental, but don’t bother buying this one unless you really like it. The bonus features are OK, but you can probably get through all of them in a half-hour or so after you’re done watching the movie, before bringing it back to Blockbuster. The only exception is the director’s commentary. However, with the exception of a few interesting bits of info on little details I may have missed in the frame, I was mostly just bored by this commentary. It only features the director and his editor and none of the cast members are present, which is too bad. I would have especially loved to have heard Baruchel’s thoughts on the film. It’s not that I hated listening to Tierny talk about the movie. He seems like a really nice guy, but I didn’t pick up on much that I didn’t already know or learn from the other bonus features. There’s also a quick making-of featurette, which does pack in quite a bit of info into its 12 and a half minute run-time. We get to learn about the origins of the project, the cast and how it all came to be. It’s not too long, but it isn’t pointless either, so I’d say that part is definitely worth watching, as are the deleted scenes that they’ve put on, including an alternate opening and ending. There’s also a gag real that really isn’t exceptionally funny and runs a little too long, but hey, we can always use a gag real, so why not?

All in all, I guess I should end with a bit of a warning. What I discovered about The Trotsky is that it isn’t really a comedy. Sure it’s witty, but with the exception of a few scenes, it isn’t immediately funny. In the commentary Tierny describes the film as more of a romance between Leon and his passions. I think I’d have to agree with him there. The Trotsky is a thoroughly entertaining and engaging film, to be sure. It wasn’t what I expected, but it was still very good. In fact I’d say it was even better than I thought it was going to be. For a film with such a strange premise, this movie may be incredibly surreal at times, but in other ways it’s shockingly grounded in reality. I almost wondered why Tierny didn’t make a movie about the actual Leon Trotsky since I know he would have done a great job. I’m sure budgetary constraints had something to do with it. Oh well, maybe next time, but for now this one is definitely worth a peek.

I give The Trotsky a 3/5.

So I guess that’s it for that, stay tuned next time for some more exciting reviews, including something movie related that isn’t actually a movie. You’ll find out what it is next time on Double D Does the Movies! Keep it locked and loaded guys!

I like that, “keep it locked and loaded”, I think that’s going to be my new official sign off. Cool!

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