Friday, January 21, 2005

Movies opening this week

The Assassination of Richard Nixon (Sean Penn, Naomi Watts, Don Cheadle, dir. Niels Mueller)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
I saw this movie what seems like eons ago, back in the haze of pre-awards season when I was seeing like 4-5 new releases a week. It was probably more like a month and a half ago, but honestly the film was so unimpressive that I have nothing new to say. I wrote the linked review at least two weeks ago, too, so even what I did have to say back then is gone. It's a mediocre movie with a very good performance by Sean Penn; that's all, really. Opened limited Dec. 29; in Las Vegas this week

Hotel Rwanda (Don Cheadle, Sophie Okonedo, Nick Nolte, dir. Terry George)
This is one of those movies that is so well-intentioned that it defies all criticism, and anything negative I might say about it will be viewed by some as grossly insensitive to the Rwandan genocide. But while this is undoubtedly an emotionally affecting film, it's also a phenomenally emotionally manipulative film, tugging on your heartstrings with time-honored tricks as surely as any other melodramatic weepie. As one critic pointed out, how can you watch children getting massacred and not get at least a little choked up? Achieving that effect is not the same as making a good movie. Not that I think this is a bad movie; it's just a very obvious and somewhat heavy-handed one, addressing an important issue in a clumsy way and glossing over its technical blandness by distracting you with little kids in peril. Honestly, I found the film at times quite boring; despite the incredible real danger of the Rwandan genocide, there is no sense of danger to the movie, since you know exactly who will live and who will die, and how everything will work out. Joaquin Phoenix's character notes that Westerners will look at news footage of Rwanda, say "Oh, that's horrible," and go on eating their dinner. The movie, with the way it placates viewers by equating seeing the film with doing something positive about Rwanda, is likely to have the same effect. Opened limited Dec. 22; in Las Vegas this week

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