JANUARY 2007 MOVIE REVIEWS
A VERY LONG ENGAGEMENT (2004) – Audrey Tautou is engaged to a soldier thought dead during World War I. She doesn’t believe it and spends the film trying to track him down. It’s a simple enough story and lot more gory than you might expect. The winning Tautou is a good guide for the trip if you don’t mind the subtitles. You can probably figure the answer to her quest but the actual resolution was little less than Hollywood.
SIMPATICO (1999) – Jeff Bridges and Nick Nolte star in this film based on the Sam Shepherd play about a couple of guys who rose in the horse racing industry in not the most ethical ways. Bridges is now a successful horse breeder and Nolte plays his disheveled persona haunted by the past. Sharon Stone reminds the audience that pretty just gets softer but sexy can oh so often lead to haggard. Those three characters are shown in present day and played by younger actors in many flashbacks. Albert Finney is very good in a smaller role. Shepherd’s frequent device of taking two opposing characters and have them turn into one another is present here for the good or the bad depending on how many times you’ve already seen it done.
WINGS OF DESIRE (1986) – Wim Wenders film set in West Berlin features and angel that slowly realizes that he’d rather be human. Shot mostly in black and white and spoken in German with some really good WWII era footage mixed in. The film offers a quit dreamlike quality that really brings you into the slow action. Peter Falk is featured as himself making a movie during the story.
CITY OF ANGELS (1998) A remake of Wings of Desire. Nick Cage is an Angel living on earth who falls in love with doctor Meg Ryan who is crushed after losing a patient. Despite the generally negative reviews I thought that it captured a decent tone, is visually interesting, and the relationship as it unfolds between the leads is compelling. I wasn’t in love with the resolution, but I think it suffers mostly in comparison to the German original.
+THE QUEEN (2006) – Stephen Frears brings to life an elusive figure with depth, kindness and insight. Helen Mirren is great as the queen and although I cared very little then or now as to how the Royal Family handled Dianna’s death, I enjoyed the politics of the whole affair and sympathized with the Royal Family’s situation. Without taking anything away from Diana who always seemed a caring person, Elizabeth II went through World War II in a time when she couldn’t really be sure that her country would remain in tact. The royal family had the duty of being strong for the nation through their quiet dignity and this Diana reaction must have really been unsettling. How things change. The portrayal of Tony Blair also gives this dish some sauce and it was an enjoyable 2 hours altogether.
CHILDREN OF MEN (2006) – I read a really interesting review of this 1990s novel a few weeks ago that said it was a modern day classic more relevant than BRAVE NEW WORLD. The book was written by PD James, British Baroness and author of many detective novels who decided to write a change of pace story. What if you lived in a society where worldwide infertility meant that no new babies have been born for 18 years? Here you get to find out following hero Clive Owen and stopping by for laughs Michael Caine. It moves swiftly and the nonstandard resolution won it an Oscar nomination for best screenplay.
L’AVVENTURA (1960) – Michelangelo Antonolini’s breakout film that made the Sight and Sound top ten poll in 1962, 1972 and 1982. The plot is simple. Members of the Italian Upper Class take a boating trip, stop at an island, and misplace one of their party. On the surface the story is about their search for the missing member, but as the story goes along she is less and less important to the people than their current mundane pleasures. Similar, I suppose, to Renoir’s RULES OF THE GAME the story of bored affluent people getting through their lives.
LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE (2006) – This is a good enough movie, but I think it’s Best Picture nomination is simply filling the minimum 1 indie film per year quota much like IN THE BEDROOM that has all but been forgotten from movie minds. Greg Kinnear continues to surprise me with the amount of work he gets, here as the father and wannabe motivational leader. I’m also surprised that a casting director thinks that Kinnear would ever marry anyone like Toni Collette. The usually reliable Alan Arkin gets to chew some scenery as does the increasingly likable Steve Carrell. Abagail Breslin as the title character shows herself a decent kid actor. I will probably appreciate the movie more if I ever have kids and/or broken dreams.
THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA (2006) – Based on the book that Trish just read, Meryl Streep plays the title character as an unforgiving fashion magazine editor that seems to have been nominated by virtue of a look here and an emotion there. Or it could be that she’s simply Meryl Streep. Anne Hathaway reprises that thing she does when she begins a movie as the plain girl and is Eliza Doolittled up in short order. I’m surprised that the movie made over $100 million considering that Streep is hardly box office magic and so few people read books while the plot is predictable and so-so inspiring. Maybe it works better for 20ish females or those who have been so in the past. The movie makes gives Streep pathos and ability while showing her harshness as a product of being a female in the tough business world. The book simply made her as a mysterious figure that didn’t seem to be doing any work and yet yielded much power and wrath. The difference seems to be one of comedy (the book) versus melodrama (the movie).
IDIOCRACY (2005) – The notorious Mike Judge film that has sat on the shelf for two years trying to find distribution eventually found home video instead. The follow-up to OFFICE SPACE has a few clever things going for it, namely the future of a society where dimwitted people breed like roaches and smart effective people are always putting it off. Luke Wilson is cast well as the modern day average guy who is frozen for five hundred years only to wake up as the smartest guy on the planet. The shame of the movie is the people in the future are just a little too stupid and Wilson doesn’t get a chance to exploit his genius in a way that might have been fun. Somehow this future society of fools has great technology that seems to trump everything Wilson tries. No explanation as to who created this technology although there is one funny part about how Gatorade replaced water much to the detriment of plant life. It’s a real stinker and the idea done right would have been a classic.