Two Dramas from Millennium Entertainment
The Paperboy (January 18/13)
An absolute trainwreck of a movie, The Paperboy, which is set during the 1960s, follows an idealistic reporter (Matthew McConaughey's Ward Jansen) as he arrives in Florida to hopefully exonerate a presumed innocent death-row criminal (John Cusack's Hillary Van Wetter) - with the narrative weaving in the exploits of such quirky figures as Nicole Kidman's Charlotte Bless, Zac Efron's Jack Jansen, and David Oyelowo's Yardley Acheman. It's a familiar yet workable premise that's squandered virtually from the word go by Lee Daniels, as the filmmaker, working from a script cowritten with Peter Dexter, uses the setup as a springboard for a series of irrelevant and hopelessly off-the-wall sequences - including the now-notorious scene wherein Kidman's Charlotte happily urinates on Efron's Jack after he's stung by several jellyfish. Daniels' garish directorial sensibilities exacerbates the movie's unwatchable atmosphere on a dismayingly consistent basis, with the ongoing emphasis on film-school-level instances of visual trickery perpetuating The Paperboy's terminally misguided vibe and canceling out its few positive attributes (ie the performances are, to be fair, uniformly effective). It is, as such, not surprising to note that the narrative, for the most part, lurches from one aggressively stupid set-piece to the next (eg Cusack's character barks sexual commands at Charlotte during their first prison visit), with the ensuing lack of momentum transforming the movie into a seriously interminable experience long before it reaches its nigh endless swamp-set climactic stretch. The end result is an almost epically terrible misfire that, one can only hope, marks the nadir of Daniels' already-spotty directorial career, and it's ultimately impossible not to wonder just what drew the impressive cast to this seemingly unfilmable material.
Puncture (January 21/13)
Based on a true story , Puncture follows drug-addicted lawyer Mike Weiss (Chris Evans) as he's drawn into a case involving a retractable safety needle that could have saved the life of a young nurse (Vinessa Shaw's Vicky Rogers) - with Mike's efforts at forcing hospitals to carry said needle complicated by his increasingly crippling dependence on illicit substances. Directors Adam and Mark Kassen have, for the most part, infused Puncture with a terminally generic feel that proves disastrous, with the movie's less-than-engrossing atmosphere perpetuated by a case that's just not terribly interesting. (It doesn't help, either, that the filmmaking siblings have employed an excessively languid pace that highlights the various deficiencies within the spare narrative.) Evans' strong performance is, as a result, unable to make the impact that the Kassens have clearly intended, and there's simply never a point at which the viewer is able to wholeheartedly embrace Mike's struggles in both his professional and personal lives. It's subsequently clear that the film's oddball blending of genres doesn't quite work, as the whole thing is never entirely effective as either a courtroom thriller or a junkie drama - which does, in the end, cement Puncture's place as a sporadically watchable yet wholly uninvolving endeavor that probably does a disservice to the movie's real-life inspiration.