Sunday, July 27, 2008

updating the classics

brideshead revisited--
nice to see Talented, up-and-coming english stars matthew goode (the lookout), ben whishaw (i'm not there), and hayley atwell (cassandra's dream) in such a prominent period showcase. and fun to watch emma thompson Work the kind of grande dame role maggie smith and judi dench have been commanding for years. gorgeous locations and lavish production design highlight this fine adaptation of the classic novel. a sprawling story ripe with complex themes, much was necessarily trimmed to reduce to two hours what once spawned an 11-hr miniseries.
ripe: 3 stars

the dark knight
the principals all do wonderful work, and what a cast. the script is ambitious, perhaps a tad over-reaching (2:32 is one Long superhero movie). the direction is good, the editing at times frenetic. much to say about the record-breaking film, yet the conversation will always come back to heath ledger. his turn as the joker is truly inspired. what could easily have been standard bad-guy schlock instead comes through as depth, complexity, and intelligence. both his pain and his fearlessness are palpable. a real villain for the ages.
heath: 3 stars

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

ah, the silliness

mama mia!--
heaven help you if you're seeing this movie without knowing that it's a musical filled with songs by abba; cuz if you don't know That, you didn't sign up for silliness. for me nearly all of the pleasure of this film comes from watching "serious" actors--meryl streep, pierce brosnan, colin firth, stellan skarsgard--willingly, knowingly look ridiculous, singing & dancing like "real people"--in other words, like amateurs. the vocals from this elite hollywood roster are average at best, the choreography is absurd, and the production values are chintzy. all this, and mama mia! (just like the hit broadway show on which it's based) still proves a good time. lead amanda seyfried has the makings of a real star (just you wait). for further proof, see her work in mean girls, alpha dog, and tv show big love, among others.
silliness: 2 stars

Thursday, July 17, 2008

the average-ness

next week: reviews of the dark knight and mama mia!

hellboy II: the golden army
most obvious and most important is that this is a guillermo del toro project through & through. he wrote and directed, so it comes loaded with his signature flair. his vision is truly singular, and the hellboy universe serves as an apropos playground for all its bizarre manifestations. we're treated to more unique creatures than frequent the star wars cantina, yet sadly they do little to adequately fatten up the lean story. our hero's not the most complex character in the comic pantheon, and not a terrible lot happens in this sequel. fun filmmaking, lightweight product.
obvious: 2 stars

the wackness
i don't consider it a Good thing when a soundtrack is the best aspect of a film. what i recall from every review since this festival fave dropped gave props to the old-school hip-hop flavor, not much else; now i see why. sir ben kingsley's accent is truly scattershot, yet at least his performance feels risky. that's more than can be said of the two youngsters at the heart of the story, or even of the story itself. feels like when the knighted one got involved, this film got the green light that it needed, when really there's just not much to it. not exactly wack, far from dope, more like average.
average: 2 stars

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

high octane summer

wasn't exactly eager to see this one. felt like silly shoot-em-up popcorn fluff to me. and james mcavoy as an assassin? gimme a break. as per usual, his acting here is rich, and he proves up to task for any challenge at hand. angelina, too, is strong as one might expect. stunts, f/x, and camera tricks are laid on Thick, and they look good. even though i'll call the script a weak point, i do appreciate the storytellers' sermon to the sadsacks and couch potatoes of the world about choosing & living the fulfilling life.
tricks: 2 stars

will smith is the undisputed king of the july 4th holiday opening. folks flock to see what he'll bring to each summer blockbuster. here's an extraordinarily cool premise that doesn't measure up to its potential, yet is certainly worthy of both its star and release date. count me as one who likes the "twist" and the ending. dig all three principals too. don't at all, however, like the music supervision (cheesy bad, dated song selections), or, more importantly, the direction. this--any jiggy mid-year romp, really--just strikes me as a bad fit for peter berg. he's prone to heavy-handedness (e.g., the kingdom and friday night lights), and his staple hand-held shots and dramatic close-ups don't fit tonally.
worthy: 2 stars

pixar keeps churning out the charm and raking in the bucks. the animation is spectacular, and the score delightful. (could have done with less hello dolly, though, soundtrack.) not quite as fun or clever, on the whole, as some of their past efforts (could have something to do with less actual dialogue), yet sure to play to all audiences. guaranteed to pick up significant post-season hardware, but i'm predicting early that best picture oscar nom hype is merely that.
charm: 3 stars