Sunday, February 22, 2009
From writer/director Edward Zwick, comes this harrowing true story of a group of Jews that hid in the forests of Poland during WWII. Led by the three Bielski brothers, their numbers swelled to 1200 surviving four years hiding and fighting back again the German army.
The three brothers are played respectively by Daniel Craig, Liv Schreiber, and Jamie Bell. All three are excellent and the story is really remarkable. The film can be difficult to watch as you experience how these people survived but ultimately, it is an uplifting story and a very different kind of portrayal of Jews in a war movie. Rather than play the victims, these people band together for survival and to fight back against their oppressors.
As with most Zwick films, there are overly melodramatic moments and dialogue but overall, "Defiance" is a strong story, well told.
Sunday, February 15, 2009
Brilliant stop motion animation brings Neil Gailman's book to the screen. The film is being shown in 3D at most theaters and it is a visual treat.
The story starts out fairly normal but once Coraline Jones discovers an alternate world hidden behind a wall panel in her new house, things begin to get very weird. It's a cautionary tale of "be careful of what you wish for" and it's beautifully crafted.
Dakota Fanning does the voice work for Coraline and Teri Hatcher provides the voice of her mother. Also lending their vocal talents are Jennifer Saunders, Dawn French, and Ian McShane.
The film doesn't stoop to 3D tricks just for the effect. It does use the technique to add more depth to the animation and is only really playfully used during the end credits.
The film may not be suitable for small children as the story gets progressively weirder and creepier as it goes on. It is a great companion piece for "Nightmare Before Christmas" and "Corpse Bride".
Saturday, February 07, 2009
Co-written and directed by Kelly Reichardt, "Wendy & Lucy" is a simple, yet poignant story of hardship in America today. Michelle Williams stars as Wendy, a young woman down on her luck, traveling through the Pacific Northwest with her dog Lucy.
The film pulls no punches and plays more like a documentary than a drama. Wendy becomes stranded in a small town and her economic situation has huge ramifications for both her and Lucy. At times, dire and hard to watch, there are moments of tenderness and what passes as friendship to give one hope and restore faith in humanity.
Ms. Williams does a remarkable job as Wendy. Everything about her performance is real and very raw. It is an Oscar worthy performance, unfortunately just overshadowed by Melissa Leo in "Frozen River". The two women, respectively, share performances of such depth and realism, it must have been a hard choice for Academy voters to award that last nomination.
Ms. Reichardt provides no easy answers but such is life in this sad and moving story.