Saturday, January 26, 2008


"Cloverfield" allows us to relive 9/11 in the safety of a movie theater using a never explained Godzilla-like monster to represent terrorism. Real subtle.

This 75 minute exercise in "Blair Witch" camera theatrics uses the shaky video camera POV to make us physically and emotional queasy as we watch downtown New York, once again, reduced to rubble.

The camera follows a small group of friends who are one minute are enjoying themselves at a farewell party, only to be thrust into the carnage as the ridiculous "monster" attacks for no reason.

There is nothing redeemable in this mess except for terrific special effects destroying Manhattan block by block. As good as the effects are, it's hard to admire them as their result is unnerving and disturbing.

There are many famous monster movies prior to 2001 featuring the destruction of New York and they're always fun to watch because you thought nothing like that would really happen. In a post 9/11 world, it's just not fun anymore.

Cassandra's Dream

Shooting "Matchpoint" in England revitalized Woody Allen. It didn't last long however, as "Snoop" was a disappointment and now comes "Cassandra's Dream" another rehash on the consequences of murder.

While we've seen the story before from Woody, he does manage to capture terrific performances by Collin Farrell and Ewan McGregor as brothers Terry and Ian. The brothers find themselves in dire straights and turn to their rich Uncle Howard (always good Tom Wilkinson) for help. The drama turns on his proposal.

Mr. Farrell plays against type as the meeker of the two brothers and it's refreshing to see him in a role like this. His chemistry with Mr. McGregor is excellent and you can easily believe they are brothers caught in tangled web of their own making.

Mr. Allen remains an excellent writer and director. Refreshed by England's change of scenery, he must now turn to a new muse for script inspiration and give us something original.

Monday, January 14, 2008

There Will Be Blood

No doubt about it, this is a magnificent performance by Daniel Day-Lewis. The film centers completely around his character, Daniel Plainview. In fact, Plainview is written as such a vivid force of nature that everyone else in the film barely exists. This is the major flaw in a powerful film about the early days of the oil business.

Paul Dano co-stars as Eli Sunday and his mysterious brother Paul Sunday (a minor character never quite fully explained). Eli is the young preacher who is at odds with Plainview throughout the film. Mr. Dano gives a terrific performance and holds his own in powerful scenes with Mr. Day-Lewis. However, aside from these two, every other character in the film is completely underwritten. Dillion Freasier plays Plainview's young son, HW but even he exists more as a plot device than a fully realized character.

The cinematography is fantastic, beautiful and raw. The first 20 minutes of the film are very unique. Kudos to writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson for such a bold move. Much has been said about the score. It too, is very unique and some will say irritating. While there may be some truth to that, it is very deliberate and fits the film perfectly.

The blood and soul of this film is Mr. Day-Lewis who breathes life to an unforgettable character. But in the end, the film is diminished by his overpowering presence, which just may have been the point.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Best & Worst of 2007

Happy New Year to all. Another film year in the books and my theatrical viewing continues to drop (67 films in theaters this year). More and more I tend to wait for DVD and should really start doing a separate list for that. Anyway, here's my best and worst of 2007.

The Best-

No Country For Old Men- Brilliant film adaptation, perfectly detailed and perfectly acted.

Atonement- Another terrific adaptation with a powerful story and great acting. Haunting.

Sweeny Todd- Still another adaptation, this time from Broadway. Perfectly executed by Tim Burton, Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter.

I'm Not There- With no coherent plot, the film still blows you away with sight, sound, and an amazing performance by Cate Blancett.

The Bourne Ultimatum- This third in a series, improves upon each of it's predecessors and sets a new standard for action films done the old fashioned way without CGI.

Eastern Promises- David Cronenberg shows us a world rarely seen and Viggo Mortensen gives a bravura performance as a Russian mobster in conflict.

3:10 To Yuma
- I'm a sucker for a good western and this remake was terrific. Russell Crowe and Christian Bale shine.

Black Book- Very exciting WWII film based on a true story of a Jewish woman who falls in love with the Nazi commander she is sent to spy on.

Gone, Baby Gone- Ben Affleck gets everything right in his directorial debut. This Boston crime drama about a missing child is right on the money.

Hairspray- And yes, another adaptation. From film to Broadway and now, back to film, this version of Hairspray was fun start to finish. Singing, dancing, social message and John Travolta in drag. Just a good time at the movies.

Honorable mention-


Into The Wild

Talk To Me


Best DVD- Ratatouille- A brilliantly animated film with intelligence, humor, warmth and charm that doesn't dumb down it's audience

The Worst-

Smokin' Aces -waste of talent

Meet The Robinsons- waste of Disney talent

Mr. Bean's Holiday
-waste of time

Go Go Tales- sad waste of Abel Ferrara

Pirates of the Caribbean 3- bloated waste of time

Spiderman 3- bloated waste of what could have been

Margot At The Wedding- self indulgent waste of talent

Nancy Drew- waste unless you were a 12 year old girl.

Alpha Dog- waste of Justin Timberlake

We Own The Night- waste of real potential.

Sweeny Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

This should be sub-titled "There Will Be Blood". Director Tim Burton executes a wonderful screen version of the dark musical with rivers of blood as an extra character. But don't be put off by the excess. It is a terrific film that had me grinning ear to ear, even as Sweeny Todd sliced his victim's throats ear to ear.

Johnny Depp as Sweeny Todd and Helena Bonham Carter as Mrs. Lovett have never been better. They are simply delicious together with a deeply forged chemistry. The majority of dialog in the film is done in song and both Mr. Depp and Ms. Bonham Carter admirably hold their own along with Alan Rickman, Sacha Baron Cohen, and Timothy Spall. The rest of the cast is excellent as well, especially Ed Sanders as Toby Ragg.

The production faithfully recreates a dark, dirty England and Mr. Burton's stylized direction fits the grim tale of revenge perfectly. Despite themes of madness, murder and cannibalism, the film is really a lot of fun to watch. Strip away the violence and it really is a love story that works on many levels.

"Sweeny Todd" is a musical like no other and the film version does it's Broadway ancestors proud.