Sean Penn, James Franco, Josh Brolin, Emile Hirsch, Diego Luna, Alison Pill & Victor Garber.
Written by Dustin Lance Black.
Directed by Gus Van Sant.
As a disillusioned forty year-old, Harvey Milk (Penn) meets the love of his life Scott (Franco) in a New York subway and the two head for San Francisco. Settling on Castro Street in Eureka Valley and somewhat transforming his working-class neighbourhood, Milk soon decides to run for a position on the city council, hoping to bring to light the discrimination at the time of homosexuals across the country. Following the turbulent years of Harvey Milk’s life in San Francisco until his assassination by resentful conservative councilman Dan White (Brolin) in 1984, Milk is a wonderful film full of pathos and humour. Penn is truly extraordinary as the flamboyant yet gracious title character (“Penn-sational!” to quote my buddy Faystar from the ISeeFilms blog), given excellent support from the entire cast blessed with an Oscar-winning script by Dustin Lance Black. With compassion and flair, director Gus Van Sant has fashioned the best film of his career since his breakthrough masterpiece Drugstore Cowboy, utilising his singular style to full effect.
Right At Your Door (2006)
Mary McCormack, Rory Cochrane, Scott Noyd Jr, Max Kasch.
Written & Directed by Chris Gorak.
A dirty bomb explodes one morning in downtown Los Angeles. Listening to the unfolding events on the radio is a frantic Brad (Cochrane), whose wife Lexi (McCormack) set off to work sometime earlier headed for the now blast area. With martial law imposed and electricity and communications down, Brad begins to seal his house with the help of a stranger seeking refuge, as the toxic cloud of ash begins to move into the suburbs. When Lexi appears hours later, sick and screaming to be let inside her own home, Brad is faced with the unconscionable decision to quarantine his wife outside, and wait for help from the authorities which eventually does not seem forthcoming. Lauded at the Sundance Film Festival a few years back, this well-made and acted low-budget film is still lacking the qualities that could have made it great. It never achieves the tension that it would obviously like from a story laden with such possibilities, and retires into a rhythm that borders on stiff. Even with a taut and unexpected final act, Right At Your Door ultimately remains a disappointingly lacklustre experience.
John Cusack, Samuel L Jackson, Mary McCormack, Tony Shalhoub.
Written by Matt Greenburg, Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewski.
Directed by Mikael Hafstrom.
Mike Enslin (Cusack) is a jaded writer of haunted house guides who receives a mysterious postcard warning him not to stay in the infamous room 1408 in the Dolphin Hotel, New York. After being told that the room is perpetually “unavailable”, he enlists the help of his publisher and their attorney and arrangements are made for his stay. Upon arrival, Mike is taken aside by the hotel manager (Jackson) who warns him of the supernatural history of the room (no guest comes out alive!) and implores him to reverse his decision. Thinking the entire scenario is an elaborate ruse Mike soon learns a whole new meaning for the term “late checkout”. Based on a Stephen King short story (always the best choices for the author’s screen adaptations), this well-mounted film benefits from a reliably strong performance from Cusack and some genuine scares. Production design and direction are solid, however, the film loses momentum once it has established its modus operandi and somewhat limps along to its conclusion. Like a hotel room with a great bed but a weak shower, the flaws of 1408 still cannot diminish its enjoyment. Worthwhile.