Sunday, September 25, 2005

Proof (**1/2)

Proof is a very good play, but it only makes for a decent movie. Don't get me wrong. The performances are outstanding all around in this one. Gwyneth Paltrow, Jake Gyllenhaal, Hope Davis, and Anthony Hopkins are all stellar. But one can feel them laboring the whole time. This is an actor's showcase. The performances are all hyped up, emotional, and prone to dramatic outbursts. Much of that has to do with the script, which despite director John Madden's attempts to enlarge the scope, is ultimately a chamber piece for the stage. The story is not all that involving blown up on a big screen, and the movie tends to sag after the reveal right before the "intermission." Still, Paltrow should garner some awards consideration, if nothing else.

Corpse Bride (***)

There is much to appreciate about Tim Burton's latest foray into stop motion animation. Like The Nightmare Before Christmas, Corpse Bride is a gorgeous piece of pop art. Even when the story sags, the visuals are marvelous and they keep you enthralled. It's quite a morbid film for the under 10 set, but nothing they couldn't handle. Danny Elfman contributes some memorable songs, and the scenes set in the Land of the Dead are, surprisingly, the lifeblood of the film. I'm a big fan of stop motion animation, and Corpse Bride delivers the goods.

Flightplan (*)

So Jodie Foster. She does a movie every four years. She probably has some of the best scripts in Hollywood coming her way. And yet, this is what she decides to make? Flightplan is ludicrous "entertainment." Coming off the heels of Foster's last film, Panic Room, this is just a rehash of that with some Turbulance, the dumb Ray Liotta goes crazy on a plane flick from '96, thrown in for good measure. From the previews, you expect Foster's missing girl to be a hoax or figment of her imagination. Turns out the movie doesn't go down that predictable path, but the path it does choose is even dumber, and, if possible, less believable. This is a strictly by-the-numbers thriller that has no reason for being. It is a waste of the talent of all involved.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Lord of War (**1/2)

I liked this movie, but I'm not passionate about it. It's an ambitious tale of foreign and domestic gunrunning, and it's shot and edited in the style of Goodfellas. There is an amazing opening credits sequence which traces the life of a bullet, from manufacture to firing. The movie starts off strong for about an hour, and then slowly tends to disinterest you. Nicolas Cage is good, but his character is pretty unlikeable throughout the whole picture, and he doesn't show a lot of emotion on screen. Since his character dominates, as does his voiceover narration, we don't become invested in the highly charged events happening on screen. This could have been a much more powerful film. Instead, it settles for interesting facts, a few nicely filmed moments, and none-too-subtle political statements.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

The Exorcism of Emily Rose (***)

Admirably freaky flick. It gets under your skin in a way no recent "horror" movie has. True, most of the film is a courtroom drama, but even horror movies have their downtime when they're not trying to scare you, and I found this film's downtime in the courtroom to be completely engrossing. It's a tad corny at times what with Laura Linney and Campbell Scott as opposing attorneys objecting up a storm, but that doesn't detract from the downright haunting scare scenes scattered throughout. After seeing this, I doubt you'll ever get back to sleep should you wake up at 3:00 am one day. The director, Scott Derrickson, is a rookie, and this is a fine film. He also co-wrote the script, which is often literate, and does a fine job of balancing both the faith and medical aspects of the story. The film says quite a lot about faith towards the end, but doesn't come across as one-sided or self-serving. This is an interesting film that's based on a true story. I walked out wanting to learn more about the actual case.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

An Unfinished Life (**)

More like "An Inconsequential Film." I think the movie's plot stopped around the one hour mark and then the filmmakers spent another hour just wasting time. Nothing really happens in this film. Nothing original or interesting that is. Robert Redford and Morgan Freeman give good performances, but they're stuck in a completely middle-of-the-road story. Aside from the actors involved, there is nothing in this film that warrants the big screen treatment. It's pleasant enough to watch I guess. But you watch this just knowing that it was intended for something more than a halfhearted early September release. Dare I say Oscar? This film doesn't stand a chance. Jennifer Lopez is horrifically miscast in a thankless role, a kind of leftover Enough-type character who kicks less ass in the end. The funniest scene has to be the big confrontation between Redford and Lopez in the kitchen. J.Lo starts shouting with a Southern accent, which she previously never had. Comic gold. Older folks may like this film because it's unchallenging and unsurprising. Add to that unworthy.

Transporter 2 (**)

I have never seen the first Transporter, and have to admit, that upon seeing the posters and previews for the sequel, I thought: why? Who even saw Transporter 1? It seemed like the most unnecessary sequel since Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous. Turns out that it's exactly what it looked like. The movie is like some stale and warmed over version of Man on Fire, but with the utterly ridiculous action sequences of XXX: State of the Union. That being said this does have the making of a guilty pleasure. One only need look to the climatic scene when Jason Statham, playing the Transporter himself, exits from the cockpit of a plane and tells the main baddie, "Sorry, but this flight's been cancelled." The main baddie then pulls out a gun and replies, "I'm afraid to inform you that you've been cancelled." If you found that funny, this may be for you. I did, and I enjoyed this film on the basest of levels, which I think is all it was aiming for.

Friday, September 02, 2005

The Constant Gardener (**)

A disappointing follow-up to the brilliant City of God for director Fernado Meirelles. This is a thriller that is too "smart" to actually thrill anyone. Pretentious, overly long, and unacceptably slow-paced, I found this to be one uninvolving movie right from the start. The plot is deceptively complex, but it's actually a story that's been told better before. There's a government conspiracy, big pharmaceutical companies involved, and Rachel Weisz plays a mystery woman, whose mystery isn't all that hard to figure out. There's also an ill-advised amount of handheld camera work. Unlike The Bourne Supremacy, which uses the handheld technique to create real excitement, the camera work in The Constant Gardener merely annoys and distracts. Further, some scenes are lit with a green hue for no apparent reason. There's a dinner scene with Ralph Fiennes and Bill Nighy that looks like something out of The Matrix. The critics have been kind to this movie so far. I don't see it. Way overpraised.