Monthly Archives: July 2008

MAN ON WIRE

Man on Wire Movie Review

PG_13, 94 min, 2008

Director: James Marsh
Writer: Philippe Petit (book)
Stars: Philippe Petit, Jean François Heckel, Jean-Louis Blondeau

James Marsh’s Man on Wire is a riveting, inspired and inspiring documentary which tells the remarkable true story of a man who may be completely insane, but who knows what he wants and goes after it with such reckless abandon you can’t help but root for him all the way. Continue reading

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TRANSSIBERIAN

Transsiberian Movie Review

R, 111 min, 2008

Director: Brad Anderson
Writers: Brad Anderson & Will Conroy (written by)
Stars: Woody Harrelson, Emily Mortimer, Ben Kingsley

Brad Anderson’s Transsiberian, a slow-building, tightly-wound, nail-bitingly tense Hitchcockian thriller, is as mountingly unnerving a film as I can recall; a genuinely terrifying sojurn into a modern, international Twilight Zone. Continue reading

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THE DARK KNIGHT

The Dark Knight Movie Review

PG_13, 152 min, 2008

Director: Christopher Nolan
Writers: Jonathan Nolan (screenplay) and Christopher Nolan (screenplay), Christopher Nolan (story) & David S. Goyer (story), Bob Kane (characters)

Stars: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart

Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight is a massive, astonishing crime epic on the level of Heat (1995) and The Departed (2006) that weaves a story with the richness of great fiction. At 152 minutes, it breezes right by while engaging and enveloping us in its tale of larger than life criminals and law enforcers. It is not a superhero movie, but it’s the best of its ilk. It’s not just a Batman story, or a simple black and white tale of good vs. evil, though those are elements involved in the plot. Ultimately, this is a story about the morality and immorality that lie in the gray areas. Continue reading

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TAKE

Charles Oliver’s film is a slow-burning thriller, a gutwrenching drama with a fractured narrative, and a long anticipation in search of catharsis. When it finally does come, the results are somehow profoundly underwhelming. Minnie Driver is Ana, a maid, who is struggling to raise her ADHD-afflicted, behaviorally challenged son Jesse (Bobby Coleman). Ana is married to Marty Nichols (David Denman of TV’s “The Office”), a school teacher who is too preoccupied with work to notice his own family and their issues. As the film opens, Ana is being informed that she must put her son in a special-education class because he is proving too difficult to teach for the class he’s currently in. This is intercut with her long drive through the desert – toward what? Meanwhile, we meet Saul (Jeremy Renner), a troubled gambling addict who works for a storage company and auctions off the contents of lockers to customers to support his habit, which his boss discovers and subsequently fires him for. He is an astonishing loser in just about every sense, and owes $2,000 to a low-life criminal, hence the side-business. Then his car breaks down, gets assigned to steal a Range Rover, is beaten up, finds a gun and decides to rob a convenience store. We also see him awaiting execution in a big white room, having conversations with a prison chaplain, and anticipating – what? All these strands are intercut, and gradually it’s revealed that Ana (sans husband) is traveling to have a conversation with the man before he dies. Eventually, we see how Ana’s path was crossed with Saul’s, and the tragedy that ensued. By that point, we find it increasingly hard to care. The film, written and directed by Charles Oliver, is a directorial debut and as such it shows promise, if not exactly tremendous skill. The events are put together out of chronological order, almost like an Inarritu or Tarantino film, so that we might piece together what happened when by the end of it; it might actually be simpler and easier to follow in the end than it actually appears throughout. What pulls us through are the performances by Driver and Renner, who create two convincing and heartwrenching characters brought together by unforeseen and unplanned circumstances with a tragic twist. Also, the cinematography by Tristan Whitman is quite gritty and beautiful at times, dark and stylish. The film reminded me a bit of Marc Forster’s “Stay” (2005) without the trick ending; everything here appears more or less straight-forward despite the narrative somersaults. As a film, this is first-rate for its budgetary constraints. As a screenplay, there are bigger issues at work.

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ROMAN POLANSKI: WANTED AND DESIRED

Roman Polanski is the brilliant filmmaker of such classics as CHINATOWN and REPULSION and ROSEMARY’S BABY, among others, and now he’s the subject of this chillingly fascinating documentary from HBO about the scandal over his sex with a 13 year old girl in Jack Nicholson’s bachelor pad in the 70s Hollywood Hills. The trial that followed, his flight from America (he didn’t even come back for his Oscar in 2003 for THE PIANIST!), and his subsequent issues in this country have made for a brilliant piece of retrospective journalism.

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GONZO: THE LIFE AND WORK OF DR. HUNTER S. THOMPSON

Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson Movie Review

R, 120 min, 2008

Director: Alex Gibney
Writers: Alex Gibney (screenplay), Hunter S. Thompson (writings)
Stars: Hunter S. Thompson, Johnny Depp, Joe Cairo

Alex Gibney’s Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson is a fascinating, absorbing documentary concerning the life and times of America’s most divisive, ecclectic, insightful, unpredictable and lovably roguish journalist. Continue reading

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KIT KITTREDGE: AN AMERICAN GIRL

Kit Kittredge: An American Girl Movie Review

G, 101 min, 2008

Director: Patricia Rozema
Writers: Ann Peacock (written by), Valerie Tripp (Kit Kittredge stories)
Stars: Abigail Breslin, Stanley Tucci, Joan Cusack

Now here’s a surprise: a film based on a series of stories, which inspired a series of universally popular dolls, and yet it’s intelligent for what it is, and enjoyable for adults as much as (if not more so than) kids. Continue reading

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HANCOCK

Hancock Movie Review

PG_13, 92 min, 2008

Director: Peter Berg
Writers: Vincent Ngo (as Vy Vincent Ngo) and Vince Gilligan (written by)
Stars: Will Smith, Charlize Theron, Jason Bateman

Hancock is a superhero movie for the modern age, set in the real world. What would happen if a superhero, the only one of his kind, was going around, attempting suicidal behavior in public, resentful of his station in life? What would happen if such a person met a benefactor who could change their lot for the better? What if everything that we see was not quite as it seems? Here is a film that explores this idea with relish. Continue reading

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TELL NO ONE

Guillaume Canet’s thriller is a labyrinthine but rivetingly perplexing web into which the audience is pulled and never let go. Alex Beck (Francois Cluzet) and Margot (Marie-Josee Croze) were childhood sweethearts. Now married and living in France, they go away for a quiet weekend at a cabin in the middle of nowhere and are skinny-dipping one night when Margot goes to let the dog out of the house. She never returns and before long Alex is knocked unconcious into the water. Eight years later, Alex is a pediatrician in a Paris hopsital with a tenuous relationship to his sister Anne (Marina Hands) but gets along pretty well with her wife Helene (the British Kristin Scott Thomas, speaking perfect French). One day, Alex receives an anonymous e-mail with a link to a real-time video of a crowded corner of the city – and his wife standing there in the middle of it. Soon, Alex is out to find his wife, who appears to be very much alive, and yet must do so on the run from the police, who through an elaborate frame-up job have come to suspect him in a series of other murders by a mysterious cadre of hired thugs who appear to have been responsible for the apparent murder and disappearance of Margot eight years earlier. There is more – much more in fact, including a mid-level crook whose kid Alex once treated; a high-speed foot chase through the crowded streets of Paris, across an expressway and through the Clignancourt antiques marketplace; the discovery of a shotgun used in another murder that is tied directly to Alex; a strategic tip-off by Alex’s lawyer (Nathalie Baye); the mysterious motives of Margot’s father (Andre Dussolier), an aging detective; the horse races enjoyed by a Senator (Jean Rochefort) and the questionable actions of his son (played by Canet himself). The film, co-written and directed by Guillaume Canet, is adapted from a novel by Harlan Coben. The film is all style and plot, but is utterly fascinating in its application of one of Hitchcock’s old standbys: the Innocent Man Wrongly Accused. As Alex (Cluzet) runs, we feel like we’re running with him, racing against time to discover the truth and prove himself innocent of multiple murders. This is one of the best thrillers of recent years.

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