Saturday, October 07, 2006

The Last King of Scotland (**)

The Last King of Scotland is a good, but not great, film with a terrific lead performance by Forest Whitaker. As Idi Amin, he has a hell of a character to play, and he just tears into it. Unfortunately for the movie though, he only has a supporting role and isn't in the movie as much as you want him to be. Instead, we're stuck with James McAvoy's young, naive doctor who romances two married women and finds himself in way over his head when he befreinds Amin and serves as his personal physician. The movie breaks down into basic thriller territory towards the end and is a lot more conventional than you'd expect it to be. This is just another in a long line of films that thrill more as an acting showcase than an actual movie.

The Departed (****)

Finally. And I mean that on so many different levels. Finally, there's a film this year that commands attention. The Departed is absolutely unmissable. As pure entertainment, it's a knockout. As Oscar bait, it's entirely deserving of any awards that could be heaped upon it. And as an actor's showcase, it's top notch. DiCaprio, Damon, Wahlberg, Baldwin, Sheen, Nicholson - they're all as good as they've ever been. Personally, I was blown away by DiCaprio. I've always thought he was a good actor, but this is a true adult role for him, and he was utterly convincing in it. His is probably the most complex, difficult role in the film, and he just nails it.
And finally, Scorsese has a film that ranks right up there with Taxi Driver, Goodfellas, and Raging Bull. After Gangs of New York and The Aviator, where it felt like he was trying to win an Oscar, here he's just relaxed and in complete command of his craft. It's a thing of beauty to watch, even when the blood and gunshots to the head reach a fever pitch. This is adult entertainment in the best sense of the word. It's violent and tense, but it's also quite funny at times, with some terrific tough guy dialogue. An instant classic.

The Guardian (**)

I'm enjoying the career renaissance that Kevin Costner is having right now, but I'm not too impressed with his latest flick. The Guardian is cookie-cutter filmmaking. Every scene is cribbed from some other, better, movie - the action sequences, the training sequences, the character's emotional breakdowns, the romances. You've seen it all before in films like Top Gun and An Officer and a Gentleman. But for some, this is probably the movie equivalent of comfort food. It's entertaining enough, though at 2 hrs and 20 minutes, it's a tad long. Ashton Kutcher isn't a good actor, but he does alright here. At times, the movie plays like a recruiting commercial for the Coast Guard, but if you're like me and don't really know too much about how the Coast Guard works, it can be pretty interesting.