Saturday, January 29, 2005

Movies opening this week

Hide and Seek (Robert De Niro, Dakota Fanning, Famke Janssen, dir. John Polson)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
I don't really need to add anything about this movie; it's a lame horror movie with a predictable twist ending that still doesn't make much sense given what's come before it. The only thing that makes it notable is the presence of Robert De Niro, who's taken a lot of recent heat for making bad movies. I definitely think his last few films (Meet the Fockers, Shark Tale, Godsend) have been pretty terrible, but I have a co-worker who's a staunch De Niro apologist. He argues that the guy just wants to work, and what's wrong with his taking roles that are offered to him? I certainly understand the idea that De Niro wants to keep acting. As much as some people might like it, he's not obligated to freeze himself in time as Travis Bickle, or Vito Corleone, or any of his famous roles. It was fine when he started to do comedy, too; Meet the Parents and Analyze This were funny enough, if not exactly classics. But he seems to have lost his way here, and he can only make fun of himself so often before his default persona becomes a self-parody. He's now done at least five movies mocking his image (the two Analyze movies, the two Meet movies, and Shark Tale), and it's time to put that to rest. Worse than the comedies are the horror movies like this and Godsend, though, for which there is no excuse. It's hard to imagine a specific joy or challenge he got out of playing these roles. He's got a lot of power and clout, and I'm sure he has the luxury of choosing his roles. If he just wants to act, I guarantee there are tons of young, struggling directors who would kill to have Robert De Niro in their movies. Why not take a small role in an indie film, or even a lead role? Certainly that would be new, working with a young director in a small production over these bloated Hollywood machines he's in now. His future does look a little brighter: The rumored Taxi Driver sequel seems highly dubious to me, but it could turn out well, and at least it wouldn't be hack work. His next directorial project, the CIA history film with Matt Damon, shows definite promise. So maybe these kinds of movies are just bumps in the road, but they don't help his reputation. Wide release

Million Dollar Baby (Clint Eastwood, Hilary Swank, Morgan Freeman, dir. Clint Eastwood)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
I realize I am in a small but vocal minority on this, but I was not impressed with this movie. I didn't hate it - unlike Finding Neverland, which I think is wholly undeserving of the accolades it's received, this has a number of strong points - but I do think it's been wildly overrated and I can't quite understand why. The script is pure cornball until the twist, after which it is quite sentimental and still corny in a more melancholy way. The performances are good, but they're all variations on parts the actors have done before. The look is murky and indistinct, and the whole thing appears to take place in some insular world where no one outside of Frankie's gym really exists. I think if you go into this film not expecting much, you might enjoy it, but the high expectations created by all the glowing reviews and awards mean that a lot of people are going to come away disappointed. Opened limited Dec. 15; in Las Vegas this week

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