Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Dark Knight

Dark is not the word. Black would be more like it. While entertaining, this film is very, very, grim. Heath Ledger is brilliant and carries the film, but his untimely death adds an aura of additional darkness to an already bleak tale.

As Batman, Christian Bale continues to prove he's the best choice for the role. He does a terrific job as the tortured cape crusader but is overshadowed by Mr. Ledger. Most of the supporting cast from "Batman Returns" are also back although Maggie Gyllenhaal has replaced Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes and Aaron Eckhart is introduced as DA Harvey Dent. Both welcome additions to the film.

The action sequences are very exciting and well staged. The plot tends to get very thick though and is a bit confusing at times. Was a sequence in Hong Kong really necessary? The themes of the film are very adult and the visuals can be scary for children, especially in a scene where a child is directly in harms way( but makes an amazing recovery in the next scene).

For my money, the top superhero of the summer remains Iron Man.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Mamma Mia

Unless you are an Abba fan, there really is no reason to see this film. It's got some star power (Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Christie Baranski, Julie Waters and Colin Firth) but the flimsy plot collapses under the weight of everything Abba.

It's perfectly entertaining if you don't expect much but upon closer examination, it leaves little to desire. Meryl Streep looks like she's having a blast but she's embarrassing to watch. Pierce Brosnan is always dashing but when he sings, there are lots of unintentional laughs from the audience. The film turns on a plot point that is never satisfied but rather made immaterial. The cinematography is very spotting and it's poorly edited. When in doubt, turn up the music to mask another flaw.

There are some fun production numbers and Ms. Streep does an excellent job on "The Winner Takes It All" but overall, it just doesn't work as well as the Broadway show.One of the biggest charms of the show was audience participation which just doesn't work (although Ms Streep tries hard during the credits) on film.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Hellboy II : The Golden Army

Hellboy II The Golden Army is strictly for the fans. It is a visual treat written and directed by Guillermo del Toro based on the comic character created by Mike Mignola. Ron Perlman returns as Hellboy as does Selma Blair, Doug Jones, and Jeffrey Tambor in all their respective roles from the first film.

This time around the art direction and fantastic creatures are left overs from the imaginative world of "Pan's Labyrinth". The story is silly and rather dull (shoot the giant plant...yawn). The "Golden Army" of the title look interesting enough but in the end, don't pose much of a threat. A good deal of the film looks like it takes place in the Cantina from "Star Wars IV". The best part is the opening moments in the auction house. It goes downhill from there.

The actors try hard but the script brings them down. Still, it all looks pretty cool and will definitely appeal to a young male teen crowd.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Tell No One

Absolutely one of the best films of the year. Run, do not walk if this film is playing in your area. Based on the American novel by Harlan Corban, the film version has been made in France but retains all the twists, turns and suspense of this terrific thriller.

Eight years after Alex is beaten and his wife murdered on their country property, two more bodies are discovered. This sets off a chain of events that lead the police to think Alex may have murdered his wife and Alex to believe his wife may not really be dead at all.

The film works on every level. The direction and editing are superb. The acting is first rate and even the songs and music add and blend perfectly into the story.

The film is an adult rollercoaster ride that will have everyone discussing it long after it's over. I'm telling everyone to see "Tell No One". In French with English subtitles.

Sunday, July 06, 2008


I must admit I had reservations about seeing this and wrote it off as another cute summer kids flick that didn't deserve my time. After reading all the positive reviews, I changed my mind and I'm certainly glad I did.

This film is simply brilliant. The animation is superb. There are times it doesn't even seem animated, especially in the early sequences on a desolate earth thousands of years in the future. The plot starts as a simple boy meets girl story (substitute robots) but soon you come to realize there is a much larger message here.

It is a story that is heartfelt and tender yet filled with gentle laughs and surprising action. What the film has to say about consumerism and ecology is deliberately scary and will go over the heads of small kids. In fact, "Wall-E" really shouldn't be seen by anyone under 10 years old.

"Wall-E" doesn't pander to it's audience and is filled with many stunning sequences. It is a film that adults can appreciate even without bringing the kids.

Friday, July 04, 2008

The Wackness

An Indie favorite from this year's Sundance Festival, "The Wackness" is a snapshot of NYC during the summer of 1994, seen through the eyes of Luke, a teenage drug dealer just trying to get by.

Luke is a white middle class 18 year old trying to find himself in the short time between high school and college. He deals pot for a living and looks for meaning through visits with his shrink, played by Ben Kingsley. Framed by a great rap soundtrack, we follow Luke, played by Josh Peck (all grown up now) through his life pursuing the girl of his dreams, Stephanie, played by Olivia Thirlby.

Mr. Kingsley has lots of fun with the role of Dr. Squires, a shrink who is in dire need of his own analysis, taking pot as payment from Luke's sessions. The film soon turns into a twisted kind of buddy comedy between the two and there are some very funny moments.

This is a fond remembrance to New York when it was both "dope" and "wack" and a heartfelt glimpse of a young man finding himself.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008


Will Smith is a very engaging actor but even he can't save this meandering script. The first half hour of Hancock delivers on the promise of the trailer, a boozy bum of a superhero who doesn't seem to really care about anything. This premise is fresh and there is plenty of action and some good laughs as well. The problem is where the story goes from there.

The plot quickly takes a very strange twist and the film heads down an entirely different road. The tone becomes darker, the comedy is gone and suddenly we have a serious drama unfolding. The last act of the film introduces a ridiculous villain, a less than a spectacular fight scene, and an unlikely hero in a character that up until the end seemed to be in a different movie. The ending just fizzles away like extinguishing a firecracker before it explodes.

Jason Bateman is perfectly cast as the PR man who tries to change Hancock's image but he's basically playing Michael Bluth from "Arrested Development". Charlize Theron overacts because she is a serious actress miscast in a confusing role. Will Smith tries to carry the weight of the film on his shoulders but this time out, it just collapses back on him.

I'm sure this will be a huge audience favorite, easily #1 at the box office's just not that good.