Lotta catching up here. My bad. I hope some readers will have already seen these by following my Twitter, etc., but if not…
Blue Valentine caused some controversy with an initial NC-17 rating that has since been successfully appealed following some heavy Weinstein Company lobbying. But here’s the thing: Unfair stigma aside, this isn’t a film for viewers under 17, not so much because of sexual content, but because it takes some life experience to fully appreciate that which is being depicted herein.
Why does Hollywood insist upon “reinventing” classic literature when faithful adaptations would be far more interesting? We’ve seen Eddie Murphy as a modern Dr. Dolittle, and now Jack Black as a contemporary Gulliver…Hell, maybe Tyler Perry should don a dress for a newer, sassier Mary Poppins. It’d be every bit as irrelevant.
Every year, there is at least one token awards contender that astonishes L.A.-based Academy members by reminding them that country folk and cold weather still exist. Last year it was Frozen River; this year it’s Winter’s Bone. Which is not to diminish either movie in terms of quality, but rather, to imagine that people who live in the environments depicted may not find these kinds of tales especially unique.
Sofia Coppola gives us yet another movie about rich people lounging around opulent surroundings while feeling empty inside. This time, it’s Stephen Dorff as movie star Johnny Marco, staying mostly in Hollywood’s famed Chateau Marmont. As unsympathetic as her characters ought to be, though, damned if the writer-director doesn’t manage to hit on some emotional truths nonetheless.
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The Coen brothers’ adaptation of Charles Portis’ satirical western novel is less faithful to actual plot details than the Henry Hathaway film that starred John Wayne, but it gets the tone exactly right. With their love of irony, eccentric language and region-specific tics, the directors are a perfect match for the source material.
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If you can get past its absurd premise, this return of Jeff Bridges to the inner computer world of light-cycles and deadly neon Frisbees is an eye-candyriffic holiday treat, with a killer soundtrack and 3-D visuals worthy of the huge screen.
THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER
One of the best Narnia books arrives onscreen more significantly altered than its predecessors, and unfortunately, panders a little too much to its perceived audience. It’s still a fun family adventure, but it could have (and should have) been better.
THE WARRIOR’S WAY
It’s unfortunate that Thanksgiving is over already, for this is a giant turkey worth carving. The tale of a ninja who emigrates to an unreal Old West with a rival clan’s baby in tow is a Gigli-level, what-were-they-thinking disaster that may nonetheless find a cult following among lovers of magnificent misfires.
Director Darren Aronofsky’s latest genre-bender may be talked about as awards-bait, but such conversations obscure the fact that Black Swan mostly plays like a full-on horror movie, with more genuinely earned scares than recent releases which wear the genre on their sleeves.
THE NEXT THREE DAYS
When his wife is suddenly arrested and convicted of murder, teacher John Brennan (Russell Crowe) starts planning ways to break her out of jail. So he plans…and plans…and plans some more. Only close to the movie’s end does he actually start putting events in motion, and by then you may have given up on a story that rarely gets straight to the point.
HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 1
Big-budget sequels to kids’ movies don’t get much grimmer than this one, which begins with torture and a scary snake, features the deaths of major characters, constantly reminds us that others are being massacred, and generally has our heroes feeling hopeless about 90 percent of the time.
The visuals are very cool, and plentiful, save for the brothers’ overuse of cheesy slo-mo. For a movie on a $10 million budget, it delivers more and better bangs for the buck than many blockbusters ten times the price. It’s just a shame they couldn’t find actors who deliver equal efficiency. Or script doctors, for that matter.
An unmanned train full of toxic waste is hurtling through the countryside. But fortunately, two railroad workers who look a lot like Malcolm X and the young Captain Kirk are on the case. Director Tony Scott’s almost family-friendly adventure plays like the coolest storyline you ever cooked up as a kid playing with toy trains.
Trapped under a rock in a canyon, Aron Ralston (James Franco) must cut his own arm off to escape certain death. One half-expects a scary puppet on a tricycle to show up and say, “Hello Aron. I want to play a game,” but instead, director and coscreenwriter Danny Boyle opens up his Slumdog Millionaire bag of tricks to jazz up the visuals with flashbacks, premonitions, overly dramatic soundtrack choices and hallucinations.
It isn’t just Muslim fundamentalists who get mocked here; everyone is fair game, from thick-headed police snipers who argue about the difference between a Wookiee and a bear, to government employees and their elaborate, convoluted explanations of rendition. One could compare this to South Park, but at the risk of hyperbole, this may also be the war on terror’s very own Dr. Strangelove. Also like Strangelove, it gets that reality is often so absurd, you don’t have to exaggerate much for humorous effect and that man frequently laughs so as not to cry.
People of opposing political stripes have differing opinions over what went down in the whole Valerie Plame incident. And while Fair Game definitely has a point of view (your first clue should be that it stars Sean Penn), its primary focus is on the effect outside politics can have on a marriage—when to fight back, when to back down for the good of personal harmony are all issues couples face. But when the outside force clamping down is the White House, that’s a whole new level of stress.
Though the Saw movies have been tying themselves in knots trying to continue the saga of a central character who died at the end of part III, you know they’ve just about hit rope’s end in this one when our favorite cancer-stricken, psychotic engineer John “Jigsaw” Kramer (Tobin Bell) gets exactly one good scene