The Official Review Thread of 2007

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Postby HarryGoldfarb » Fri Jun 20, 2008 8:58 pm

My Blueberry Nights
Director: Wong Kar-wai
Cast: Norah Jones, Jude Law, Rachel Weisz, Natalie Portman, David Strathairn and Cat Power.

From what I've read this film actually has polarized both audiences and critics: some people love it and some others either don't care about it or even hate it. Count me on the first group.

This was a nice surprise, didn't know what I was going to find in the end but I must say my expectations were high considering the director's body of work and reputation. And the film lived up to them... First of all, the script was a nice one, I loved the premise that your own disgraces are more bearable when you look other people's. I mean, it is easier for us to put things in perspective when we see some contrast while we are not entirely focussed on our issues. The director did a wonderful job in different aspects: the film always have this sense of intimacy, always feels honest (rather than manipulative) and has this distintive good taste. The imaginery is nice too... I loved (really loved) the camera work. The images are exquisite, for some reasons are filled with such ellegance and at the same time looks so crude, so untreated... As a story teller, Kar-wai also succeeds. The plot is simple, actually told a hundred times before: broken heart, watches the world, get over it, go back to the beginning where you belong... but he does it in a way that I actually cared for this young woman, even though it was like I always knew she should have been all the time with Law instead of travelling around in order for her to find out that... The episodic structure of the film makes sense too: we recover after a lost by steps, we need to achieve each time a new level... the lessons learned might be simple and obvious (some loves are unreturned, we don't know what we have until we loose it and in the end, even is if doesn't look like the right thing to do, we can always trust people) but we need them to remind us who we are...

The cast is good, that's no secret. Strathairn is a great actor, it's a shame he doesn't get the recognition he deserves. Rachel Weiz does a good job too and plus, she can not be hotter than this... man, I couldn't take my eyes off of her! Natalie Portman is good but she did her usual stuff, I mean, she is usually good and this was a proof. Jude Law does what he was asked to do: he is the character we like, the likeable guy, the one we want Norah to be with... He doesn't change her, he's just there and that's nice... it is very easy to like him. And finally Norah Jones. She is not GREAT, but I do so love her... she seems innocent, her problem is not that big, but she is young and nahive and I just cared about her. Her choice as a leading leading might have to do with those qualities: Kar-wai needed an unexperienced actor to portrait that sense of innocence, that lack of confidence, that uncertainty of what's going to happen... She survived an experienced cast and that's her achievement.

The soundtrack was another high point. I loved every minute of it and I went right out of the film to find it and now it's on heavy rotation in my car...

Even if it's not a groundbreaking film, I wish more romantic movies would be made in this way...

Thank god for auteur's cinema.

3 out of 4 stars




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Postby Precious Doll » Sat Jun 14, 2008 5:57 pm

Jindabyne ***Spoilers***

For me the primary problem of Jindabyne is the second last scene. There is no way that white Australians would attend an Aboriginal funeral uninvited, though I had no problem that the Laura Linney character would over step her mark as she was an outsider and therefore had a different perspective on things.

It's a shame that the screenplay was written in a way that revealed the killer at all, because to have kept the killers identify from the audenice as well as the charcters in the film would have added to the simmering relations, incuding mistrust between the two cultures.

Everyone I know who has seen the film has problems with the ending which I suspect has more to do with the lack of resolution but the film did paint itself into a bit of a corner.

I can remember reading a few years ago that Laura Linney & Gabriel Byrne had been cast in the film and I was expecting the worst as casting foreigners, particularly Americans, usually do not work well in Australian films.

I was glad to be proven wrong. Whilst the entire cast were very good Laura Linney stealed the show so to speak. After finally seeing her work in The Savages a couple of weeks ago I feel that she is the best actress of her generation in the English speaking film world.
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Postby dws1982 » Fri May 30, 2008 11:53 pm

Jindabyne

This is 95% an excellent movie that almost torpedoes itself with a near-ruinous final scene.

And of course, no surprise that the second to last scene would've been the perfect one to end the film on, a scene that suggested the possibility of reconciliation between two cultures. When it faded back in, I hoped it was just to play the closing credits over images of the river where the film was set, but no such luck. It featured a character who never should've been shown outside of the first scene (and really could've been left out of it), and who certainly didn't need to be featured anywhere else in the film, especially in the end.

But it's a worthwhile film, with some interesting themes coming out of its take on and expansion of the Archer/Ward plot from Short Cuts (it's adapted from the same short story). The actors are all excellent, especially Linney and Deborra-Lee Furness who plays the best friend role a lot more interestingly than most any other actress would.

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Postby Sabin » Thu May 29, 2008 2:04 am

Hanks is awesome in 'Catch Me If You Can'. Hysterical.
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Postby Mister Tee » Wed May 28, 2008 1:37 pm

flipp525 wrote:
Mister Tee wrote:Hoffman in the late 80s/early 90s -- Happiness, Talented Mr. Ripley, Almost Famous -- was one of the best character actors out there

You mean late 90s/early 00s, right?

Of course.

If I were the White House newsroom, I could scrub the transcript. But I'll leave it up, as tribute to my fallibility.

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Postby flipp525 » Wed May 28, 2008 1:15 pm

Mister Tee wrote:Hoffman in the late 80s/early 90s -- Happiness, Talented Mr. Ripley, Almost Famous -- was one of the best character actors out there

You mean late 90s/early 00s, right?

I agree with you and Sabin that Hoffman's performance is the only reason to give this film the time of day. I also thought that the art direction and costumes were pretty accurate for the early 80's. Hanks' bachelor pad condo looked like my parents' first townhouse, circa 1980.




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Postby Mister Tee » Wed May 28, 2008 1:05 pm

Since Sabin dealt with Charlie Wilson's War below, I'll offer my took-late-to-care opinion here:

The movie was alot like watching cable news election coverage: everything was treated as a lark, most everything emphasized was trivial -- then at the end the filmmakers look at you like they've made some meaningful statement about government. I think Sorkin and Nichols definitely mean to suggest we screwed up by letting Afghanistan go astray post-Soviet departure, with the clear implication that's what gave us bin Laden. But that lets pass the possibility it was our arming of the mujahadeen to begin with that set the deadly events in motion, not just some 11th hour error. And, for the record, I don't find unaccountable low-level government folk and civilians usurping of American foreign policy a particularly hilarious development (any more than I did when Ollie North was involved). The presumption here seems to be that the defeat of Soviet forces was a key development in the end of the Cold War, therefore we can cheer on any means necessary to have brought it about. 1) It's VERY debatable whether that or other aspects were more influential in the collapse of the Soviet empire. 2) Even if it were perfectly true, you're endorsing any jerk with a political agenda's right to finagle the system to get his desired result.

Anyway, I mostly disliked the movie by the end because of this, though I have to say I was carried along a good bit of the way by the entertaining dialogue. I agree with Sabin that Hanks was a dead spot at the movie's center (I liked Hanks so much in the Nothing in Common/Big/Punchline days, but nowadays his performances -- Cast Away excepted -- are utterly bland except for the occasional dopey accent). But Hoffman was sublime. I was with most of the crowd here in disapproving of Hoffman's Oscar for Capote, but I was emphatically not allied with the "in fact, I never liked him" claque. For me, Hoffman in the late 80s/early 90s -- Happiness, Talented Mr. Ripley, Almost Famous -- was one of the best character actors out there, and here he's back in that groove and carries the movie. (I also liked Amy Adams enough, and of course enjoyed seeing Emily Blunt in her undies)

Quickly: I also caught the Golden Compass over the weekend. Generally bland, with a couple of interesting notions (the demons), but also lots of second-hand stuff from Harry Potter ("this girl is the one prophesied") and Star Wars ("I am your mother"). But I did think the design and effects were mostly worthy, and I'm glad even in retrospect that a movie that at least looked pretty triumphed over the ugliness of Transformers for visual effects.

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Postby flipp525 » Mon May 26, 2008 8:42 am

Sabin wrote:Linney is great. I found her almost detrimental in 'The Squid and The Whale' and have since come around a bit. Her dalliances felt a little out-of-character, and I still don't think that she can play a part (outside of 'Kinsey') that Mary-Louise Parker can't do better.

I love Mary-Louise Parker (have followed her career ever since Fried Green Tomatoes in 1991 -- one of her best performances -- and sat through things like Boys on the Side just because she was in it), but there's no way she could've pulled off what Laura Linney does in either Primal Fear or The House of Mirth. I think the above is a bit of an over-statement.




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Postby dws1982 » Sun May 25, 2008 11:56 pm

Damien wrote:
dws1982 wrote:Before the Devil Knows You're Dead The movie as a whole is just an unmitigated disaster from start to finish. Nothing about it makes sense, and on the whole it's just a hateful piece of trash.

Daniel, you are so spot on about this ghastly film. "Hateful" is the perfect word for it. "Hideous" also springs to mind. :)

When you posted about it, you nailed it when you mentioned how there's no believable milieu or sense of characterization, and how it made no sense that the Ethan Hawke character, the son of wealthy business owners, would be such a loser. And it also didn't make sense--small point, I know--that Ethan Hawke's daughter (who was played by a terrible actress, and who said things that no ten year-old would ever say) would live in fairly tough conditions, having to depend on the child support, and having to depend on him to pay for her school trip. The school play scene had already shown that she had involved grandparents; Anybody knows that these grandparents--who are clearly wealthy and involved--would make sure she had anything she needed. And they would've easily been willing to fork over the money for the class trip.

Of course it turned out that the writer didn't have the Hawke and Hoffman characters as brothers originally; this was a Lumet addition, who thought it made the movie more dramatic. Just made it more nonsensical, but it's one thing I won't blame the screenwriter for. (But he has enough to be ashamed of here.)

----
One thing about Steel City: The Netflix sleeve promised a surprise ending, and I was caught off guard by it, although I think you could probably figure it out if you watch the opening scenes closer than I did. However, the official website steams a trailer that reveals the surprise ending, so beware of that if you're actually planning on watching it. And please do. Like I said, it's not perfect, but it deserves a look.




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Postby Damien » Sun May 25, 2008 12:31 am

dws1982 wrote:Before the Devil Knows You're Dead The movie as a whole is just an unmitigated disaster from start to finish. Nothing about it makes sense, and on the whole it's just a hateful piece of trash.

Daniel, you are so spot on about this ghastly film. "Hateful" is the perfect word for it. "Hideous" also springs to mind. :)




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Postby Sabin » Sat May 24, 2008 9:26 pm

I saw 'The Savages' again recently and I think it's a very modest paint-by-numbers hipster/indie film, absolutely nothing revelatory or entirely worthy of the enthusiasm it received; by the same token, I think it paints those numbers very well. I'm far more interested in the sibling dynamic because it gets that so much better than that between them and their father, who largely serves as catalyst for their reconciliation. That being said, it's a great classical catalyst.

SPOILERS...
...
...
...
...that their father dies is bullshit. People don't spiral like that, not in his condition. The stronger piece would end with them continuing to care for him, that he isn't a quick fix, and that Wendy chooses to care for the dog in addition is a sign of her growth as a person. I'm largely fine with their mutual background love interests.

Linney is great. I found her almost detrimental in 'The Squid and The Whale' and have since come around a bit. Her dalliances felt a little out-of-character, and I still don't think that she can play a part (outside of 'Kinsey') that Mary-Louise Parker can't do better. But in 'You Can Count on Me', 'Love Actually', here in 'The Savages', and especially in 'Kinsey', she's fantastic. So is Philip Seymour Hoffman who is unusually gracious. I think the root of her modesty in this film is that his character is by far the most selfish and self-absorbed in his incessant avoidance of Wendy. He has a vain-glorious inner-life that he wants Wendy to have no part of. He's in great form here.

I also rewatched 'Charlie Wilson's War'. It's not a very good movie and the big problem is that Tom Hanks' persona hangs around the film's neck like an albatross. He is a totally asexual actor, eternally-middle-aged. He is not compelling or convincing as a playboy Senator, and because he is supposed to be debonair as only Tom Hanks can (which is to say Gatsby-esque, always on the outside of every situation he initiates, that world behind him he's so spent...I get it. It doesn't work), he has to be matched with somebody as equally unsexual or complicated. Julia Roberts. Natch.

There is a fine movie struggling to get out of 'Charlie Wilson's War' and it fails because these two actors cannot deliver it. Case in point is still Tom Hanks' monologue on the plane with aural golden halo-scoring underneath, completely missing the point that he cherishes the innate corruptibility of politics and the masses.

What works best is Philip Seymour Hoffman who is supposed to be selfish as all fuck in this film. He storms into a room and owns it with that mustache. He can do this in his sleep but it's a great part with great lines and great entrances, and his guttural cadence is note-perfect.
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Postby dws1982 » Sat May 24, 2008 8:05 pm

I've seen a few lately:

Steel City
I think Mister Tee said about Raggedy Man that it was one of those movies where everything was good except the story. Steel City is another one of those movies. Brian Jun, the director, gives a a real authenticity to the low-income, working class world of southern Illinois, and it's clear that he knew exactly what he wanted to make here. Visually, it may not be ambitious, but he's not just plopping a camera down and shooting the actors. Tom Guiry is the lead, but it's really an ensemble piece, and in a year with several great ensembles, this may be the best great. Everyone--from Guiry in Lead, to Clayne Crawford (who I'd never seen in anything before that I can remember) as his brother, America Fererra gives the girlfriend character a lot more depth than most actresses would bother to do, Raymond J. Barry is fantastic as the tough love uncle, and Laurie Metcalf, who has all of about three scenes as Guiry's/Crawford's mother, is just perfect. And John Heard! I hate John Heard. Have since Home Alone. (Granted, I've never seen his supposed career best performance in Cutter's Way.) As the deadbeat dad who walked out on his boys when they were young (and now is trying to atone), he's excellent...just perfect. Unfortunately, all of this is surrounded by a plot involving vehicular manslaughter; this plot is handled well enough, but why did it have to be handled at all?

The Savages
I'm not sure exactly what it is about this that doesn't work, but there's something. I want to say that it should've focused on brother/sister more than father/children, but I hated the subplots involving the married boyfriend and the Polish girlfriend. I don't know. Linney was excellent (probably my choice among the Best Actress nominees) and Bosco was fine. But then there's Hoffman, whom everyone knows I dislike intensely. He's actually very good here--I was stunned at how much I liked; for once he's not a ham and he's not smug, and he actually creates a real, believable character instead of a silly caricature.

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (spoilers)
Unfortunately, all of that good will that he built up with me in The Savages vanished when I watched this a day later. This is the Phillip Seymour Hoffman I hate. (And yes, I agree with Damien: This may be the most repulsive opening shot in film history.) But as bad as he is, he isn't as bad is the movie itself. The movie as a whole is just an unmitigated disaster from start to finish. Nothing about it makes sense, and on the whole it's just a hateful piece of trash. Make it companion viewing with Steel City; they both have crime-centered plots that don't really work. (Steel City's at least makes sense, unlike this one.) But Brian Jun compensates with excellent direction of his ensemble, his creation of a completely authentic world, and with characters who are believable; and they aren't just believable as individuals--they're believable within a context, as members of a larger group (family, town, etc.). There's no similar compensation in Before the Devil Knows You're Dead. None of the characters are believable as individuals, and they certainly aren't believable as members of a family. (It's telling that in the original script, the Hoffman and Hawke characters weren't brothers, but Lumet thought it was more dramatic.)




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Postby dws1982 » Fri May 16, 2008 12:22 am

Very quickly--

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story
Stinks. And John C. Reilly is creeping his way higher and higher up the list of actors I dread seeing cast in anything.

Dans Paris
Is excellent. After the very disturbing and very unpleasant Ma Mere, Christophe Honore shows he's not just a lame provocateur (which I was ready to dismiss him as). I probably wouldn't have bothered with this if I had known he directed, but I'm certainly glad I did. I knew it had Romain Duris and Louis Garrel--probably the two best French actors working in their age range, for my money--so I bumped it to the top of my queue. Easily a highlight of what is shaping up to be a surprisingly excellent year. More to come later; I think I'll watch it again before I send it back.




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Postby anonymous1980 » Sat Apr 26, 2008 6:48 am

THE SAVAGES
Cast: Laura Linney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Philip Bosco, Peter Friedman, Debra Monk, Margo Martindale.
Dir: Tamara Jenkins.

Although it is very well-acted, well-directed and well-written, there's nothing really extraordinary with Tamara Jenkins' latest effort. It tries hard to be both a family drama and a quirky, brainy comedy. But ends up not being really outstanding at both. It was all just...fine. Linney, Hoffman and Bosco make it interesting to watch.

Grade: B-

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Postby Big Magilla » Fri Apr 25, 2008 12:21 am

Savages is good, but the pleasant surprise for me out of the last two week's releases is Lars and the Real Girl, a really sweet movie, not at all what I expected.


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