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Weekly Mishmash: October 25-31

Death at a Funeral (2007). One of those movies that has slipped under the radar and gradually built an audience over time. This comedy concerns a British family whose patriarch has died, and the complications that ensue during the man’s funeral service at a country estate. Hilarious, huh? Even though the humor gets a bit too lowbrow and slapsticky at times, this was a very funny movie with an excellent cast. I think a big part of my enjoyment with this movie is the fact that many of the lines sounded funnier when spoken via upper-crust British accents. Droll to the extreme. The premise wouldn’t be nearly as funny with an American cast and setting. Despite this, I hear there is a U.S. remake in the works by Chris Rock, of all people (yuck). Oddly enough, this film’s most notable performer (Alan Tudyck as the drugged out fiancée of the deceased’s niece) is American.
Death Note 2: The Last Name (2006). Our Halloween viewing was this live action version of a popular Japanese manga. The film concerns a mysterious book that allows whoever owns it to write down the names of any person that they wish to die — even specifying the time and cause of death! This was a slickly made film, entertaining for the most part, but there were a lot of elements that could have been done better. Although we’ve seen the first Death Note, this continuation pretty much throws you into the action with little background or explanation of what’s happening. It’s also overly long and drawn out, hobbled by unimaginative deaths (lots of heart attacks, basically) and a host of annoying characters. The guardians of the Death Note books (as uncovered here, there are two) are embodied by menacing, eight foot-tall demons that only the books’ owners can see. Despite their obvious CGI renderings, these characters add a neat dimension to the proceedings.
I’ve Loved You So Long (2007). Excellent French drama about a woman (Kristin Scott Thomas) who returns from a long jail sentence to live with her supportive but emotionally distant sister (Elsa Zylberstein, who looks like a cross between Maggie Gyllenhaal and Catherine Keener). This sounds like a total downer on the surface, but the film is utterly absorbing and Kristin Scott Thomas is amazing as a woman who is so beaten down that she must relearn the simple pleasures of life slowly and gradually (like a child would). All the more astounding is the fact that this is screenwriter Philippe Claudel’s first feature as director.
album_noisettesNoisettes – Wild Young Hearts. Ever hear a song that just immediately grabs you right away? That happened with me a few months back when the Noisettes’ “Never Forget You” came on KCRW one afternoon. It sent me rushing to the iTunes store for a download — then I got the group’s accompanying album, Wild Young Hearts, last week. “Never Forget You” is a perfect hybrid of ’60s Motown and contemporary pop edge, bolstered by the powerful pipes of singer Shingai Shoniwa (who is also the group’s bassist!). While rest of the album doesn’t live up to the gold standard of that standout, throughout the band strikes an agreeable, genre-bending balance of r&b, pop and rock that oughta get me humming through a few days’ work. Consumer note: the U.S. edition of this album omits one track, “So Complicated,” which can easily be downloaded through the illegal file sharing software of your choice (I used Limewire. Take that, record companies.).

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