December 19, 2008

Another Movie Roundup

I've seen a bunch more stuff this week; really, I've already gotten to every major end-of-year picture with the exception of "Revolutionary Road," "The Wrestler" and "Gran Torino." Quick takes on a few of them:

- "Frost/Nixon"- If you're even a little bit of a political junkie you'll be sure to love this one, even if you weren't alive in the '70s. It's Ron Howard's best film in years (he'd made about five clunkers in a row), Peter Morgan's script is a winner all the way through, and both are augmented by excellent performances from Michael Sheen and Frank Langella in the two title roles.

Two odd things: An actual monologue about "the power of the close-up" (in a movie directed by the most close-up-happy major filmmaker working today) and a role for Rebecca Hall as Frost's mistress in which she must've been given few directions other than "look hot." Guess they figured they needed to spice up a film that could've been subtitled "Hours of Two Middle-Aged Men Arguing."

- "Seven Pounds"- It's the year's most manipulative and mawkish film, reuniting the director and star of "The Pursuit of Happyness" in a story for people who didn't think that movie did enough forceful tugging of heart strings. The horrible, horrible script doles out very little information, until we figure out what's going on about halfway through and are left wondering how the movie can go the direction it's going without a huge moral reckoning. And then... nothing. Still not as bad as "Hancock," though. The reviews today have been quite entertaining.

- "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"- Now that's more like it. I fell for this film, big time. Now, it may be nearly two hours long, which is awfully lengthy for a movie based based on a short story. But everything hits on all cylinders: the premise, the story construction, the production design, the CGI, even the score. Pitt and Cate Blanchett are both the best I've ever seen them.

I kept worrying it would run out of steam at the end- especially with an incongruous subplot involving a certain natural disaster- but the ending actually turned out perfectly.

Two more odd things: I spent the whole movie thinking the woman in the framing device was Juliette Binoche, and she was pretty much reprising his "English Patient" role. But actually, I had my peaked-in-1996 actresses wrong- it was Julia Ormond. And in the scenes in which Brad Pitt is made up as an old man, he looks uncannily like David Letterman. I mean, I couldn't not notice it.

- "Synecdoche, New York": There was a lot I loved in this film, but ultimately it got away from writer/director Charlie Kaufman. I agree with whichever critic said he's an unrestrained id who needs to be checked by superego-director like Spike Jonze or Michel Gondry. Still, a very good cast; it's especially great to see Samantha Morton again.

'Synecdoche' is one of those movies that could conceivably be great, you just have to read about ten essays about afterward to understand why. Total nonsense, but still much, much better than "Doubt."

- "Marley and Me"- My #1 goal for the holiday season is to avoid seeing this movie; so far, so good. I mean, I think for the whole first two years it was on the bestseller list I just assumed it was a biography of Bob Marley, by one of this friends.

Posted by Stephen Silver at December 19, 2008 04:48 PM

Just saw Benjamin Button. Beautifully shot and the effects are wonderful but the story was so overrated and predictable. This was not the best movie I've seen all year. I should have gone with my gut and seen Milk tonight and waited for the DVD for Button.

Posted by: A at December 29, 2008 03:25 AM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?