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Quint takes a look at indie favorite BRICK as well as Harold Ramis' ICE HARVEST!!

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. I saw these two films a little over a week ago in preparation of interviewing the directors of both while they were in town to show them during the film festival.

I have now interviewed both Rian Johnson (BRICK) and the man, the myth, the legend Harold Ramis (ICE HARVEST) and those are each half hour interviews (to be transcribed shortly) that went very well. I have now found some time to sit down and write out reviews for these two flicks after an odd triple feature I had yesterday, which you will hear about very soon. I must be quick with these because starting in about 2 hours I go from Stephen Frears' new movie to the esteemed Doctor Boll's new movie. I wonder which one'll be better?

BRICK

This flick got a lot of steam out of Sundance, many people buzzing about the unique style of writing and direction from newcomer Rian Johnson. BRICK is a pulpy noir-y tale transposed to a modern day high school setting. The film is in color (which was a surprise to me), but the color is washed out, dirty. Like it exists in one of Paul Schrader's universes. There's something very real about it. The dialogue comes out quick and harsh and full of cool, yet it's not an imitation of any classic noir or '50s banter movie.

The story is about a hardcase Brendan (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who is asked for help by an ex-girlfriend. He looks into her precarious situation and ends up digging deep into the not so innocent underbelly of the student body. Every clique has their own nastiness, but I don't want to make it out as something spoofy or ridiculous. As Levitt investigates the first of 3 or 4 big mysteries presented to him through the course of the film he checks all his connections in the rich kids and jocks, drama department, assistant principals, druggies, etc. and realizing they're all connected and have something to hide. But these groups are all character based, not caricature based.

After little time has passed, Levitt's somewhat minor mystery turns into a major one involving a dead body and everybody with a tiny piece of knowledge that Levitt has to find and then piece together for the big picture.

Levitt turns in a first class performance in this film. I'd even go so far as to say that his work in BRICK is one of the best performances I've seen in any film this year. He immediately strikes a sympathetic yet anti-heroic chord. He spits colorful sentences and orders out of his mouth with great ease, keeping them feeling fresh and not just a rehash of classic characters. I haven't seen MYSTERIOUS SKIN, but I heard he turns in a great performance there, too. Levitt may be poised to become the Johnny Depp of the next generation if he keeps this up. We'll see.

Richard Roundtree (SHAFT himself) has a small part in the film, playing an Assistant Principal who is Levitt's connection to/protection from the unseen adults/staff of the story. He's not in the film very much, but he's got a quiet power that is undeniable. He's one of the great ones.

Emilie de Ravin plays the ex-girlfriend who sets the whole story into motion. Most of you will know her as Claire from LOST and her character her has a rather eerie relation to her character on the television show. Since she's the instigator of the mystery, her character is perhaps the most mysterious. She's in very little of the movie, but her presence is felt through out the whole film.

Lukas Haas plays the cane-carrying leader of the drug underworld. Haas is cast totally against type here. He's got a quiet menace about him that is nice compliment to quiet intelligence he usually evokes onscreen. You're never quite sure how much Haas knows or how much he's playing those around him.

This flick really impressed me. It's not 100% perfect. You can feel some of the inexperience sneaking through here or there... nothing tangible for me, nothing specific, but there's a feeling to the film that feels very new, for good or ill. I don't think it's due for release until next Spring, but if you get a chance to see it a fest playing near you, go do it. Highly recommended.

ICE HARVEST

Harold Ramis gets lots of love around this house. I grew up with GHOSTBUSTERS, STRIPES as well as VACATION, GROUNDHOG DAY (which in particular a family favorite) and CADDYSHACK. He acted and wrote the first two and directed the latter three.

That being said, I haven't cared for his recent offerings. I'm not really a fan of the ANALYZE movies, didn't like BEDAZZLED or MULTIPLICITY. So I didn't walk into ICE HARVEST expecting it to be great, but I was hoping it was.

It's not a fantastic movie, but it's definitely his best film since GROUNDHOG DAY. It's much bleaker, much more dark than his past offerings. The story is of a pair of guys that decide to rob a mob dude of about $2 million. The movie opens with them getting the money, in a total white collar crime way, right before Christmas. An ice storm comes in, so they bide their time in this small town. Of course, their crime is caught much earlier than they thought and they end up having to dodge a lug of a hitman and try to figure out how to get out.

The two leads are John Cusack and Billy Bob Thornton who are both doing what they do best. It might have just been the snow and Christmas lights, but it really felt Billy Bob slipped back into his BAD SANTA mode, which is great. I love him in that movie. The bleakness and the black comedy kind of shine John Cusack in a GROSSE POINT BLANK light throughout, although his character in this movie is much more bumbling and less confident.

Oliver Platt... Oliver Platt is hands down one of my favorite actors working today. He's always hilarious even if the movie he's in isn't. He's fantastic in this movie, absolutely at the top of his game. Matter of fact, he's so funny in this movie that if the rest of the flick was godawful I'd still recommend seeing it just for Platt's work in it. He plays Cusack's best friend... who happens to be married to Cusack's ex-wife after stealing her from Cusack... Yet there is no drama about this. Cusack is indifferent and after we meet his ex, we understand why.

The friendship is what makes this movie for me. Platt gets shitfaced and obnoxious to deal with his crummy (yet prosperous) life while Cusack just stays cold to it all. It's a great straight man/loony bastard combo. I want to see a whole series devoted to these two and the adventures they have together.

Randy Quaid also pops up in the movie and is really great, playing a humorous, but really mean character. It's good to see him playing something other than the bumbling idiot (which he does really well, by the way... I'm not knockin' it).

Connie Nielson plays the femme fatale of the story. She's obviously playing all sides and uses her sex appeal to get what she wants. She's a bad person with a great body.

The violence in the film is pretty shocking in contrast to the black comedy. It's harsh and at times graphic. Not stomach turning or anything. There's no Lucio Fulci moments, but it is a tougher movie than you might expect.

The flick comes out at the end of November, so if you feel like a holiday movie with a bit of an edge (a little more in THE REF category than Rudolph) then you won't go wrong with this one.

Okay, I'm off! Be back soon with my thoughts on a couple more, including Round Three with Doctor Boll.

-Quint





Readers Talkback
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  • Oct. 23, 2005, 3:07 p.m. CST

    First

    by SnowMann

    Nice reviews quint. Ice Harvest is at the top of my list. Long live the cusack.

  • Oct. 23, 2005, 3:10 p.m. CST

    Segundo!

    by ChrisPC24

    You never can have enough Ramis.

  • Oct. 23, 2005, 3:16 p.m. CST

    Idiotos!

    by DRilL

  • Oct. 23, 2005, 3:17 p.m. CST

    Harold Ramis

    by mashman1212

    Did a Q and A in Austin last night with Ernie Hudson. T'was cool.

  • Oct. 23, 2005, 3:22 p.m. CST

    Bill Murray

    by keekthesneek

    Remember the good ol' days when You could enjoy bill. What happened to him?

  • Oct. 23, 2005, 3:23 p.m. CST

    Ice Harvest

    by LeckoManiac

    They filmed parts of this movie in the house next door to my friends...so we watched most of this from her window...in particular a few scenes involving cusack and platt fighting in a car outside of the house nad sneaking up to it and so forth...Platt was such a nice guy when we got to meet him he shook hands and was well recieved...Cusack on the other hand was flat out mean to any on lookers and to us as well...maybe he was just having a bad day...but it was disheartening to get the shaft from one of my all time favorite actors

  • Oct. 23, 2005, 3:46 p.m. CST

    What the fuck happened to the plot of ICE HARVEST???

    by where_are_quints_hobbit_set_reports

    The only elements Hollywack kept from the book are Xmas eve and the cold weather, sounds like... Yikes. and FUCK CUSACK. He wrecked "The Grifters," another film version of an excellent crime novel (though of course Thompson is superior to anybody going today), leaving a SUPREMELY AWESOME Angelica Houston performance stranded in a crap eighties cheesefest.

  • Oct. 23, 2005, 4:44 p.m. CST

    wow...its good?

    by s0nicdeathmonkey

    the trailer was AWFUL, even if the music rocked my socks.

  • Oct. 23, 2005, 4:49 p.m. CST

    I'm going to go on record now and say BRICK is going to be i

    by TonyWilson

    I saw 10 minutes of it earlier this year after sundance and it was so good. Chewy dialogue, excellent performances and a superb intelligent plot. Put money on it.

  • Oct. 23, 2005, 4:56 p.m. CST

    My thoughts

    by Josh Town

    Brick sounds awful. Ice Harvest sounds great. Can't wait to hear how bad Uwe Boll's new film is. I want to slip my weiner between Jessica Simpsons boobies (if you happen to read this Jessica, you can trust me, I'm really a classy guy).

  • Oct. 23, 2005, 6:35 p.m. CST

    Sorry, Quint, you tricked me into seeing the utterly worthless D

    by FrankDrebin

    Honestly, the USMC should sue the makers of DOOM for sullying the name "marine" -- the idiots in the movie spray automatic fire everywhere without hitting anything, wade though hip-deep water without checking under the surface, walk over grates without checking underneath, use tiny flashlights to find enemies in a vast complex, get out-manoeuvered by brain-dead zombies, and split up at every opportunity even though there's only 6 of them to begin with. The movie has NOTHING going for it (weak performances, dull dialog, bland production design, useless score, nonexistent cinematography). That wonderful BFG? It's fired twice, both misses. The monsters? You got standard zombies (people in lab coats, shabling around, with strawberry jam smeared on them), guys in obvious rubber suits (all they do is jump out of nowhere and roar, then there's a close-up of someone getting bitten, but it's all hidden by shadows), and then there's the monster from DOOM 3 (but it's during the FPS sequence, so all you see are CGI fangs snapping at you). And the plot? What little there is was swiped from ALIENS and the first RESIDENT EVIL. Heck, it's the same plot as THE CAVE (something is turning people into monsters, the monsters run around in the dark biting people). AICN should have used DOOM as an example of all that's wrong with corporate Hollywood today, but instead helped promote it. If AICN can't see what a hollow mess DOOM is, then it should stick with the news and drop the reviews.

  • Oct. 23, 2005, 6:35 p.m. CST

    doom is doomed at the box office...

    by jig98

    another no-suprise and wallace and gromit continue to do good. that's all.

  • Oct. 23, 2005, 7:50 p.m. CST

    Eric Leighton :The Best Animators

    by nastee_flembot

    I am glad to see that Eric Leighton is working on this. He's the main animator of oogie Boogle in Nightmare. He rocks.

  • Oct. 23, 2005, 8:57 p.m. CST

    Brick is actually very good

    by midgette

    Was semi-dragged to a screening in Chicago, I thought it sounded awful from the blurb in the festival program, but I think that's part of why I ended up enjoying it so much. It takes a premise that should crash and burn and makes it work, really well. Very original. Fun stuff.

  • Oct. 24, 2005, 4:13 a.m. CST

    midgette

    by LeckoManiac

    which screening of Brick did you go to the one on saturday or sunday? I too enjoyed Brick...I went on sunday...couldn't go on saturday because I was at a 24 hour horror movie marathon at the Music Box on Southport

  • Oct. 24, 2005, 5:01 a.m. CST

    JOHN CUSACK: OLD AND BUSTED

    by atleastwebrits

    And "flat out mean" seems an excellent description of his personality.

  • Oct. 24, 2005, 7:30 a.m. CST

    How many times have we seen movies where robbers get caught in a

    by Drunken Rage

    Damn, I'm tired of that plot. I think I'll be missing "Ice Harvest."

  • Oct. 24, 2005, 9:21 a.m. CST

    Hey easy on BEDAZZELED. A great film

    by TheGinger Twit

    Plenty good fun.

  • Oct. 24, 2005, 9:25 a.m. CST

    Tamethecunt

    by TheGinger Twit

    Funny, I just watched Magnolia and Being John Malcavich. Cusack, and your name. Wierd. Really wierd. I gotta lay of this green stuff. What the fuck is going on with that Being john malcavich? huh? fucking wierd arse movie! Harrold Ramis is a champion film maker.

  • Oct. 24, 2005, 12:06 p.m. CST

    Lucio Fulci??? Who other than a plant mentions Lucio Fulci in a

    by Harlequin

    'Nuff said.

  • Oct. 24, 2005, 12:11 p.m. CST

    Brick = Twin Peaks

    by monorail77

    Quint's description of the plot of Brick sure sounded Twin Peak-ish. But the tone sound different. Either way, I'm intrigued. And Ice Harvest looks pretty good too. Trailer looked good.

  • Oct. 24, 2005, 12:14 p.m. CST

    lecko

    by midgette

    Friday night. Why the hell did Austin get Ramis and we didn't? Man lives in Chicago. Dammit.

  • Oct. 25, 2005, 2:30 a.m. CST

    and

    by midgette

    don't really get what Quint's referring to with Brick feeling 'inexperienced.' Felt low budg and indie the way blood simp. or reservoir dogs did, but the filmmaking was totally solid. in my oh so humble opinion.

  • Oct. 25, 2005, 9 p.m. CST

    midgette---good point

    by Thunderballs

    If someone told Quint that this Brick guy already made three movies, but no one saw them, he'd never say the film felt "inexperienced" or whatever. Power of suggestion. If you know it is a filmmaker's first film, automatically you will feel that the direction was somewhat amateurish.