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I liked this movie a little more than John did, but I agree that ambivalence is a pretty fair expected reaction to the movie.  Most of the literary references went way over my head.  And I thought the last third of the movie fizzled out something fierce.  But I have a little thing for Lauren Ambrose, so that helped.

Frank Langella was fine and all, but nothing earth-shattering, I’d say.  I don’t know if John would agree, but I could see an argument that save for one 45 second scene in the bathroom, he wouldn’t really be getting any buzz at all.

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I guess there’s a reason there aren’t many movies about literary criticism. It’s a very niche audience. And not terribly exciting.

Anyway, I didn’t hate it but I didn’t like it. I wasn’t particularly bored but I didn’t care at all. Frank Langella is getting the buzz for his role. I’m just indifferent. Whatevs.

I really liked A Mighty Heart for what it was, but I sort of think what it was (and what I liked it for) was not the intent. It is a thrilling and engrossing procedural but comes off strangely clinical. For a movie that was meant to showcase Angelina Jolie there’s a surprising lack of emotion.

The story of reporter Daniel Pearl’s kidnapping and execution in Karachi, Pakistan is well known by now. His widow, Mariane, has become an international symbol of love, strength, and tolerance. The film spends little time setting up the relationship; they are saying their final goodbye about 5 minutes in. Much of their love is shown through flashbacks. If there’s one thing that ruins more movies for me than anything else it’s unbelievable relationships. This film goes about halfway in that their relationship is totally believable, but not very well founded so that we don’t have much of an emotional connection to it.

Much of the film follows the hunt for Danny: tracking down leads, tracing IP addresses, interrogating suspects, etc… All this is very good. Despite knowing how the search would end up I was completely engrossed. Mariane plays a surprisingly small role in the middle third of the film. Read the rest of this entry »

When we look back at this year’s Oscar season, Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead may well be the representative movie.  The characters are largely compelling, but placed in a decidedly not upbeat story that falls just a bit short.  The film has received buzz for a nomination is just about every major category save Best Actress, and could receive anywhere from 0-4 nominations.  It also features two actors receiving Oscar buzz for other performances (PSH and Amy Ryan).

Ultimately, I don’t see the Academy bestowing any Oscars on the movie – the right move, in my opinion.  To me, one mark of a great movie is transcending its genre to become relevant to people not fans of that genre.  I don’t feel that’s the case for Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead.  I think it is a botched heist movie with loftier pretensions.  Don’t let the ending fool you. Read the rest of this entry »

Chuck Klosterman once wrote something along the lines of: “It is much harder to explain why you liked something than to explain why you didn’t like something.”  And I’m finding that to ring true as I’m going through the Oscar movies and not only trying to pick out my favorites, but explain why they are the best of the bunch.  Juno will end up being one of my favorite movies of the year, if not my most favorite.  And I’ll try (and probably fail) to express why that is.  But perhaps the simplest thing I can say is that of all the 2007 movies I’ve seen so far, Juno is the only one I’ve felt comfortable and confident recommending, no matter the person asking for the recommendation. Read the rest of this entry »

Yeah, the title of this post is a When In Rome reference.  You wanna make something of it? 

I forgot this movie pretty much as soon as I finished watching it.  I’m writing this recap a few weeks after watching the movie, and I think I can vividly remember maybe five scenes.  One, of course, is the bathroom fight scene.  Which is notable not just for the extent of the nudity, but for the dichotomy of badassitude and sensitivity it bring to the table.  I would not be surprised in the least if they filmed the scene first and then hired a scriptwriter to make up a story around it.  Or at least sold the backers based on the scene.  It will, without a doubt, be one of my favorite movie scenes of the year. Read the rest of this entry »

Ah, finally. I’ve been waiting oh so long to take Brian to task. He writes in his No Country post how “endings aren’t that big a deal to [him].” He then goes on to some tortured math, equating the final Sopranos scene and the closing shots of The Departed to 10% of a movie. Dear oh dear. I think even the argument that each X percent of a movie should be weighted equally is flawed, though I’m not fervently opposed to it.

A somewhat appropriate analogy might be a gymnastics routine. Like the floor exercise, a movie can be filled with Celine Dion songs and flips and never ever leaving the mat (oh, and if you are Brian, 15 year old girls), but if you don’t stick the landing, the judges are going to dock you like crazy. Oh, um, I might be a bit of an Olympics junkie. Read the rest of this entry »

I thought Talk to Me was okay, marked by some good acting work, a couple powerful scenes, and a neat look back into my city’s past.

Don Cheadle got some early awards buzz for his portrayal of Petey Greene, a DC talk show host in the 60s and 70s. Petey is a fast-talking, take-no-crap, calls-’em-like-he-sees-’em, ex-con who talks his way into a radio DJ gig then onto TV and a stand-up career. Chiwetel Ejiofor is Dewey Hughes, the station manager who first gives Petey his break and then acts as his manager. Taraji Henson is Petey’s loud and long suffering girlfriend.

The story follows Petey as a hesitant and petulant rising star while Dewey tries to guide him and keep him in line. It’s a story that’s been told in some form a thousand times before made somewhat unique by Petey’s big personality. There are some interesting components here, particularly looking at race relations. Despite playing soul and Motown and aiming towards a black audience, the station is owned and run by whites. Martin Sheen is the station owner and represents the powerful white man even though he’s probably the most progressive white boss in movie history. There’s also tension between Petey and Huey as Petey thinks Huey acts white. All in all fairly interesting but also fairly forgettable. Read the rest of this entry »

The post title is the name of Edith Piaf’s biggest hit. It means “No, I regret nothing” and if she truly regretted nothing in her life she wasn’t paying close enough attention.

I, however, do not regret seeing this film. Adam thought this was a great performance buried in a bad film. I’m a little more charitable in that I think it’s a great performance in the middle of a flawed but still decent film.

First thing’s first, Marion Cotillard is terrific. This is one of those full-bodied, larger than life, meaty roles and she really throws herself into it. Piaf is something of a tragic figure in that her own flaws inevitably bring her down, but she’s not very sympathetic. The role requires Cotillard to play a mean drunk probably 50% of the film. Piaf is a self-centered, addiction-prone, and just generally mean character but she’s a hell of a performer. Substance abuse, arthritis, and a series of injuries ages her beyond her years so that she looks elderly in her late 40’s (and even then she manages to bark at her nurses). Cotillard plays all but the young child versions of Piaf, from the brazen street singer around 20 who gets her big break, to the top of the French pop scene, and back down to infirmity. She nails it. Even though I understand she does not do her own singing she still knocks the performance scenes out of the park. Piaf was a dynamo under 5 feet and could spellbind an audience of thousands and Cotillard brings that all to the screen. Read the rest of this entry »

I’m Not There is nonsensical, unintelligible, and pretentious. Dylanologists will get a kick out of it but I couldn’t wait to get out of the theater.

On the face of it, I’m Not There has an interesting concept. It’s a Bob Dylan-themed movie, not a biopic, and explores the different stages, versions, and aspects of Dylan’s life. Six actors play six (or is it seven?) different Dylan-like characters, an intriguing technique and one that actually does not fall flat. But nothing particularly interesting happens to the characters. They talk at you. And talk. And talk. In that incomprehensible Dylan style of talk. 140 minutes of that is very hard to take.

Read the rest of this entry »

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