Sunday, January 25, 2009

Paul Blart:Mall Cop

With an opening at #1 for the week, you know it must be January. "Blart" scored based on the popularity of comedian Kevin James in the starring role. Mr. James is a funny physical comedian and the slapstick will appeal to kids but for adults, "Blart" has little to offer. This is usually the case with January openings.

The script is not bad but the direction is flat and much of the material misses the mark. The first half of the film is spent much too long establishing the fact that Blart is a overweight, lovable loser and only comes barely to life when his beloved mall is threatened by a robbery.

Skip this one unless the kids are restless and catch up on some of December's quality films you may have missed.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Revolutionary Road

Sam Mendes directs his wife, Kate Winslet and Leo DiCaprio in this suburban period piece. Reunited after starring together in "Titanic", this serious exploration of a marriage cracking at the seems, couldn't be more different than that box office titan.

The direction is excellent and the cinematography beautiful. The acting is what you'd expect from Mr. DiCaprio and Ms. Winslet. They both give their best to inhabit these characters. Ms. Winslet, in particular, is simply amazing and I'm convinced can do anything at this point in her career. Michael Shannon in a minor role does outstanding work in his scenes and helps bring out DiCaprio's best. What bothers me about the film is the script. Frankly, watching these two unlikeable characters come apart is boring. They have two children who we barely see and for all their scenes together, only a few really crackle with energy.The film also seems to end on four different occasions which is not the best sign for a good script.

The TV show "Madmen" captures the same period and characters better than this film. The complicated marriages in Madmen has much more depth of it's characters and their relationships. Save "Revolutionary Road" for DVD and be glad "Madmen" has been renewed for another season.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


You have to give director Bryan Singer and screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie a lot of credit. They have crafted a very suspenseful film even though you already know the outcome. This is not easy and they really pull it off. You almost expect a different ending to World War II based on this true story.

Tom Cruise plays Col. Claus Von Stauffenberg, a German soldier who believes his country but not Adolf Hitler and along with others plot his assassination. Mr. Cruise is passably in the role but only because there is not much range to the part. The film is well stocked with a fine supporting cast including Kenneth Branagh, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, and Terrance Stamp. Everyone plays Germans but speak in their natural English voices. This is an interesting decision on Mr. Singer's part to not bother with phony accents but rather start the film in German and blend it into English almost as if the audience has a Star Trek universal translator.

Everyone acts with with much pomp and circumstance and Mr. Singer frames the film with a countdown clock reminding us of the building tension. The taut direction and moody music all contribute to the mounting suspense of the operation. You almost expect them to pull it off but of course they don't. Everything leads to an unsatisfying conclusion but watching the plot unfold and learning the aftermath still make for a suspense filled thriller.

Friday, January 02, 2009


A master class in acting. Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, and Viola Davis are all superb in the film adaption of the John Patrick Shanley play, "Doubt".

Mr. Shanley wrote the screenplay and directed the film himself. Unlike "Frost/Nixon", which opened the stage play up quite a bit while still maintaining the intimacy of the conversations, Shanley opts to keep the action pretty much confined to the church and it's adjoining school. The film is powerful but is viewed like a filmed play. We only get a few glimpse's of life beyond the church and school grounds.

The scenes between the principle actors are all volatile and riveting. Ms. Streep is just a wonder taking on the persona of Sister Aloysius, the school principal who accuses Father Flynn of a very inappropriate act with one of the male students. Viola Davis has but one major scene but she too is excellent as the boy's mother in a confrontation with the Sister.

Regardless of your religious background, "Doubt" is a universal story about the ramifications of accusation and the aftermath of all involved.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Best of 2008

(10) Frozen River- Excellent Indy film. Melissa Leo is remarkable in a stripped to the bone, raw performance as a mother forced to do the unthinkable to save her family.
(9) The Reader- Intense drama with unexpected twists capped by an excellent performance by Kate Winslet.
(8) The Visitor- Another excellent Indy film with terrific performances and an emotional punch.
(7) Iron Man- Robert Downey Jr. makes you believe he is Iron Man. The comic book as film, done completely right.
(6) Wall-E- The most amazing animated film ever. The first 20 minutes are sheer poetry and the cautionary tale disguised as a robot’s love story is honest and poignant.
(5) Milk- Sean Penn in a wonderful performance that honors Harvey Milk and what he stood for.
(4) The Wrestler- Mickey Rourke in the comeback of the decade. Powerful, raw and not what you’d expect.
(3) Frost/Nixon- Frank Langella and Michael Sheen dazzle in this recreation of the political equivalent of Rocky.
(2) Slumdog Millionaire- Everything you could want in a film. It transports you to another world and pulls no punches while being extremely entertaining at the same time.
(1) Tell No One- The perfect thriller and perfect film. It works on every level. Direction, acting, plot, cinematography, editing and the music all come together to leave you breathless by the credits.

Honorable mention –

In Bruges- One of the best buddy films in a long time. Dark, yet extremely funny, this tale of two hit men hiding out in a picturesque city is bloody good fun.
The Dark Knight- Heath Ledger steals the film as The Joker but Christian Bale holds his own a s a dark brooding Batman in a very adult comic book movie.

2009 Worst of-

(10) The Spirit- All style and no substance.
(9) Leatherheads- Clooney tries hard but misses in this “screwball” period piece.
(8) Baby Mama- All the good jokes are in the trailer.
(7) Indiana Jones & the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull- A total rehash of every Spielberg/Lucas film ever made. Completely unoriginal and I hate to say it…boring.
(6) Hancock- All over the place. The “Sybil” of movies.
(5) The Day The Earth Stood Still- Cheesy effects including Keanu Reeves acting and boring non-action can’t even be helped by the dynamics of IMAX.
(4) You Don’t Mess With The Zohan- The rudest, crudest, stupidest film Adam Sandler has ever done. Who was the audience for this mess?
(3) Marley & Me- The dog was cute. The film was not.
(2) Righteous Kill- DeNiro and Pacino should be ashamed of themselves.
(1) Cloverfield- What the @*$%&? Gave me a headache.

Dishonorable mention-
The Happening- The word of mouth was so bad, I didn’t even have to see it to tell you it stunk.