Tuesday, September 30, 2008

here they come

oh boy! here it do be a'comin': that snowball of releases which long to be taken seriously. that's not to say that there won't be Plenty of fluff mixed in. but rest assured, fall movie season is legitimately upon us. and the reviews do be a'rollin' out right alongside.

flash of genius--
it's about the guy who invented intermittent windshield wiper blades. yeah, really. it's his story. that's the sell. sounds impossibly boring, right? yet it succeeds. it succeeds with heart and character and patience, and most of all Truth. it doesn't get bogged down in the workshop, or in family matters, or (heaven forbid) in the courtroom. debut helmer marc abraham wisely allows the naturally engaging underdog tale and his veteran actors to work their persistent charms. and you leave feeling good.
succeeds: 3 stars

Thursday, September 18, 2008


the duchess--
everything you expect from a high-brow period costume drama: lush production design, lavish costumes, extravagant sets & seemingly unreal locations, big name actors playing characters stifled by societal convention.... oh yes, and little to no excitement. an impressive film in many ways--even a compelling "true" story--yet i can not recommend it. the action is simply not engaging. keira knightley will get some awards-season play; ralph fiennes, in top form here, even more.
not engaging: 2 stars

rachel getting married
jonathan demme directs this festival piece (nominated for golden lion at venice) that could be a primer for indy filmmakers. handheld cameras, improvised dialogue, mainstream ingenue playing against type, lazy-bad directorial choices--you know the drill. anne hathaway is remarkable (check her last five roles and tell me she's not outstanding) as the messed-up sister of the titular betrothed (impressive rosemarie dewitt). all moves along nicely until an inexplicable 10+min wedding music montage brings the denouement to a screeching halt. remove that useless, obtrusive segment of crap, and it's tight. hathaway makes it right.
primer: 3 stars

* the fall (BONUS dvd review)--
released early this year on a meager 111 screens nationwide, it's unlikely you caught this visual masterwork in theater (heck, even i missed it). writer/director tarsem (the cell) is widely heralded for his vision, oft criticized for his scripting. he nails them both here, crafting an intimate, charming, adventurous/playful, bittersweet fantasy. watch it on blu-ray, and the colors pop like you won't believe. and i'm not exaggerating when i tell you that every single frame of this magical film is a breath-taking stand-alone photograph.
masterwork: 5 stars

Saturday, September 13, 2008

great expectations

burn after reading--
here's one way oscar gold can really pay off: one film removed. the coen brothers' first release since taking home best picture honors for no country for old men is hardly a comparable effort, yet almost certain to do big business. it's clear the cast was eager to be involved with the highly regarded directing duo; star names fill the bill, even in supporting roles. plus the marketing folks know how to push their product, touting celebrity and hardware in one breath (natch). good for all who got to work together, good for the studios and all the money folks. not so good for viewer. dulled into boredom by typical coen character silliness, i found myself Waiting for something truly Funny. then just when i started to laugh...it was over.
marketing: 2 stars

righteous kill
pacino & de niro. that should be enough, right? enough to get me to Go, yes, yet not enough to turn a run-of-the-mill cop thriller script into an exceptional film. all technical aspects were adequately handled, enough charisma on screen to keep folks interested (plus carla gugino looks Hot).... really just an unoriginal story told in predictable fashion.
unoriginal: 2 stars

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

labor pains

labor day is a traditionally brutal holiday for movie-goers. you can count on a bunch of stinkers being dropped in at the multiplex between the summer tentpoles and the fall award hopefuls. best to stick to the art houses for a couple weeks or revisit some of your seasonal popcorn faves.

made enough impact at sundance this year to get picked up for limited release, but wow has it gone quietly. unfairly so. i enjoyed this crafty indy piece, especially the squirrelly second act buildup. casting was a boon: apropos rube woody harrelson, pitch-perfect lead emily mortimer (ever under the radar, quietly becoming one of my favorites), always-accented antagonist ben kingsley.... sufficiently suspenseful and mostly believable, pic presents series of twisted conundrums (relationship drama, anyone?) to keep viewer squirming.
crafty: 3 stars