1/15/2007

‘Children of Men’ One of 2006’s Best Films

Posted in Reviews at 3:59 am by Stephen

Children of Men (2006), directed by Alfonso Cuarón, is a stunning, surprising film about a future world where humans are all infertile. For this review I’m trying something a little different: rather than writing out my review, I’ve recorded it. You can listen to it below, and please let me know if you like this little audio experiment.

 
icon for podpress  Review: Children of Men [9:56m]: Play Now | Play in Popup | Download

1/5/2007

Happyness Falls Short of Potential

Posted in Reviews at 9:54 am by Stephen

An easy mistake for biopics to make is to show the audience what a character does without really letting us know why he does it. Too many character studies based on real people become like the Reader’s Digest version of their lives: we get all the important notes, but we lose a lot of the texture. The Pursuit of Happyness (2006), falls into this trap, giving us the highlights of a fascinating story but leaving us wanting so much more.

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12/18/2006

The Nativity Story

Posted in Reviews at 12:10 pm by Sam

For about the first half hour, my enthusiasm evolved into concern. The Nativity Story, so I hoped, would tell the iconic story of the birth of Jesus in a way that would focus on the emotions of Mary and Joseph as they come to terms with the miraculous news given them by an angel. But when Mary receives the news with rather more stoicism than I would have imagined, I became concerned that the film was missing an opportunity.

As I soon discovered, this was not a weakness but a strength. Gradually, patiently, the film achieves a great power by its quietness — by starting out subdued and building up from there. In retrospect, the characters seem all the more human for meeting the responsibilities God has given them with faithful resolve, rather than engaging in theatrics right out of the gate for the sake of drama.

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12/11/2006

Happy, Happy, Happy Feet

Posted in Reviews at 11:35 am by Sam

It is a rarity that a movie is so joyful. Movies may provoke a wide range of emotions in us. Sorrow is powerful and conspicuous, but it’s a comparatively easy one to pull off. Anger is even easier. Joy is hard. Rarely do movies even attempt it and fewer succeed. When I think of joyful movies, Singin’ In the Rain is at the top of the list, and it’s not by accident that it’s a musical. Music can enhance a mood to a beautiful extreme you can’t get any other way.

Once upon a time, not so very long ago, animated features were predominantly musicals. Titles like Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King inspired joy with their music that they would not have without it. True, animated musicals eventually fell into a bit of a rut, a formula that was wearing out, and a change was in order. Nonetheless, I do not believe it a coincidence that the disappearance of music from animation in the late 1990s coincided so neatly with their decline in popularity. Comedies like The Emperor’s New Groove and Madagascar may be fun, but they don’t make a lasting impression.

Happy Feet turns all that around.

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11/13/2006

“Babel” Not Half As Good As It Thinks It Is

Posted in Reviews at 12:37 am by Stephen

Babel is the latest film in the “vaguely interconnected stories about people that have one broad theme” style that’s become so popular in Hollywood lately. I admit to being predisposed to liking this sort of story, but Babel left me generally cold. While it was well made, it felt emotionally hollow for some reason, and it didn’t resonate with me the way it was clearly intended to. Still, it has a good amount of hype and is a potential contender for some Academy Award nominations. So what’s all the fuss about?

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11/1/2006

Eastwood’s “Flags” a Near Miss

Posted in Reviews at 5:00 am by Stephen

Making war movies has to be hard these days. There was a day when it was socially acceptable — almost even required — for Hollywood to crank out patriotic war movies that glorified combat and heralded our troops as generally good guys fighting for the freedom of their girls back home. Then along came Vietnam and with it films like Apocalypse Now (1979) that portrayed war, the cause, and even servicemen in a decidedly negative light. When he helped resurrect the World War II movie with Saving Private Ryan (1998), Steven Spielberg returned the role of the serviceman to glory but very viscerally pointed out the horrors of combat.

In the last few years, most American war movies have followed a road similar to Spielberg’s so that by now that, too, is charted territory. Clint Eastwood, then, decided to employ a different tactic: his latest film, Flags of Our Fathers, casts a critical eye on the way Americans treated their alleged heroes during WWII, perhaps the most glorified war in our history. He succeeds in parts, but ultimately the script by William Broyles, Jr. and Paul Haggis isn’t quite sharp enough or poignant enough to deliver on the promise of the film’s premise.

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10/23/2006

Spoiler-Free Prestige Review

Posted in Reviews at 12:30 am by Stephen

Way back in Episode 1, Sam and I talked about the works of writer/director Christopher Nolan. His latest film, The Prestige, opened Friday (at #1 in the United States). I caught it Saturday and found it a good, though not quite great, film about obsession and trickery, full of interesting twists and turns. I promise this review won’t spoil a thing, but if you’ve not seen it I caution you about reading other reviews: it’s a tough movie not to spoil.

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10/9/2006

Scorsese Scores with ‘Departed’

Posted in Reviews at 12:01 am by Stephen

How long can you live a lie? What if you’re living a lie for the right reasons? These are the questions asked by The Departed, Martin Scorsese’s new film about traitors on both sides of the law in Boston. A remake of the 2002 film Infernal Affairs, Scorsese effectively transfers the action from Hong Kong to Massachusetts, doing so with the style and sure-handedness that we would expect from one of the world’s top living directors.

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