Tuesday, November 25, 2008

giving thanks

glad i hadn't read any of the books, allowing me to appreciate pic on its own merit. there is much to enjoy here, thanks to exemplary direction by catherine hardwicke (thirteen). she was perfect choice for job, again smoothly connecting to and portraying teen spirit w/o playing down to demo. soundtrack tonally perfect, high marks for casting on all levels (too many noteworthy to list), rare moments of pushed acting, makeup scary bad at points. i get the comparisons to harry potter series; similarly broad appeal. among best of contemporary vampire tales. drama, relatability, action (thrilling), and romance (hot)--recommended for all.
teen spirit: 4 stars

can't stress enough how important it is to assemble right Team to fully realize a Great film. producers dan jinks & bruce cohen (oscar winners, american beauty), director gus van sant (nominated, good will hunting), star sean penn (winner, mystic river) comprise dream team leadership for topical biopic. as a result, one of the best movies of the year. pic sure to be called several times when academy noms are read (expect josh brolin's first nod), boys above likely repeat honorees, penn is a lock. startling feeling our cultural evolution through this lens, crawling from 1978's prop 6 through this month's prop 8, onward & upward....
topical: 5 stars

Monday, November 17, 2008

the style and the fury

quantum of solace--
the reinvention of james bond in casino royale was an across the board success. producers and studios Needed a reboot, daniel craig brought...everything that he brings, film was brilliant, audiences Loved it, record profits were made, all were happy. naturally, expectations are high for this installment, first sequel in franchise history. cue marc forster, a director of subtle and/or intimate fare (finding neverland, monster's ball)--wait, What...? to say that this hire backfired is putting it lightly, although blame for frustrating mess shall not rest solely on captain's shoulders. plot is practically impossible to follow, countless throwaway characters bouncing between innumerable global hot-spots. craig has no arc to play out, so bond feels more automaton than conflicted hero. pic is one long, uber-destructive action sequence that i'd thrill to see, but it's been edited to Death; flow is jarring and incomprehensible. need i go on? let's not continue this direction.
frustrating mess: 1 star

slumdog millionaire--
never met a danny boyle movie i didn't like. this one's based on a novel, and not surprisingly, feels as fresh as director's own brainchild. rich in color, texture, and character, it's a stylistic rags-to-riches fairy tale built on hard-knock, real-world foundation. drags a bit into predictably saccharine territory in act three, yet if you're not completely engaged by then, you've got no pulse. here's a truly universal cinematic experience, one of the more heartfelt films of the year.
universal: 4 stars

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

catching up

took some time to get caught up on a couple films released months ago--one likely award-season contender nearing end of limited run here in l.a., one underground comedy hit finding legs on dvd.

i Really like this script, based on a philip roth novel and deftly adapted by nicholas meyer (the human stain). unflinching dissection of aging masculinity showcases ben kingsley--one of his best performances--with intelligence, charm, and humanity. penelope cruz moves with coy, subtle grace and warmth heretofore undiscovered in english-language work. perhaps aided by spanish compatriot, gifted director isabel coixet, who shows knack for pacing and sensivity to emotion. look for distinction at independent spirit awards.
humanity: 4 stars

* the foot fist way
(BONUS dvd review)--
great porn title is literal translation of true subject matter, tae kwon do. championed by will ferrell & adam mckay, distributed by mtv films, absurdist comedy in their collective spirit. put lead danny mcbride (tropic thunder, pineapple express) on hollywood map. crafty premise for caricature silliness, beyond its star discovery...
nothing special: 2 stars

Friday, November 7, 2008

the elizabeth banks show

three major releases--w. (reviewed oct 27), plus the pair below--in the span of one month. three principal roles, positive buzz for each turn. although you'd have been hard-pressed to recall from where you recognized her prior to this tremendous run, the veteran go-to supporting beauty is suddenly a Major star. these days hollywood truly is elizabeth banks' world, and we're merely living in it.

zack and miri make a porno--
i love the setup, a premise often joked about (perhaps frequently manifest) among struggling hollywood up-and-comers. distinctly a kevin smith film, yet allegedly a romantic comedy first. not as cute or funny, however, as bawdy and simple. too often slow-paced as well--a problem i attribute to writer/director also assuming editing duties. briefly fun to see smith regulars and judd apatow players mix with a couple porn legends.
simple: 1 star

role models--
best effort from creators of wet hot american summer. a nice counter to above. at times base, yet never crass, pic is legitimately clever, well-executed, packed with heart. paul rudd is impeccably droll, seann william scott at his Best, and jane lynch downright Ridiculous. kids, too, are exceptional. one of the funniest films of the year.
exceptional: 4 stars