Friday, September 16, 2005

Movies opening this week

9 Songs (Kieran O'Brien, Margo Stilley, dir. Michael Winterbottom)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
I saw this back in June at CineVegas and was mildly disappointed. When I first heard of it (which seems like forever ago), I was excited, because it's clearly a movie that's pushing boundaries. But by the time I saw it, it had already gotten so many bad reviews that my expectations were low, and it pretty much met them. Not a terrible movie, but definitely a missed opportunity, I think. Opened limited July 22; in Las Vegas this week

Just Like Heaven (Reese Witherspoon, Mark Ruffalo, Jon Heder, dir. Mark Waters)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
I want to mention something that I touched on only briefly in my review, both because I had limited space and because it spoils a key plot point. So if you plan to see the movie and don't want to know what happens, stop reading here. Okay, so when Reese Witherspoon's character (Elizabeth) first shows up, she appears to be a ghost (i.e., dead). We see her get in a car accident at the beginning of the movie, so we assume she's dead, as does Mark Ruffalo's character (David). About halfway through the movie, they discover that Elizabeth isn't dead; she's in a coma, and her spirit is sort of floating in limbo. Now, to me it seemed fairly obvious that something like this would happen, since you can't very well have the two characters fall in love and live happily ever after if one of them is dead (unless the other one commits suicide to be with his love; that might have made for a more interesting movie). I think, then, that this development is done more for plot expediency than anything else.

However, the story shifts in the last third or so to focus on Elizabeth and David's efforts to stop Elizabeth's sister from pulling the plug on the comatose Elizabeth. A doctor even uses the words "persistent state" to describe what's happening to Elizabeth. David and Elizabeth are frantic to stop the plug-pulling, since although Elizabeth appears unresponsive (and has signed consent forms saying she wants to be taken off life support in this kind of situation), her spirit is, of course, still alive. I don't know when the movie was written (and it's based on a novel) or filmed related to the Terry Schiavo case, but it ends up coming across as an impassioned argument for keeping patients on life support no matter what, since their spirit might just be floating around out there somewhere. The doctor who keeps pushing to take Elizabeth off life support is portrayed as an arrogant asshole, and of course keeping her plugged in is ultimately the right choice, since she eventually wakes up (and they live happily ever after, blah blah blah). Again, I think most of this was done for plot expediency (there needs to be a way for the two to get together, and there needs to be an obstacle keeping them apart in the last part of the film), not to make a political statement, but it's interesting and a little unsettling nonetheless. Wide release

Lord of War (Nicolas Cage, Jared Leto, Bridget Moynahan, Ethan Hawke, dir. Andrew Niccol)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
I really wanted to like this movie more than I did, because I think Andrew Niccol is immensely talented and I want to see him succeed (although I prefer his sci-fi stuff to this more real world-based drama). That said, I think there was a lot to like in this film. The main problem is probably that Niccol had too many ideas, and he tried to cram them all into two hours, strung together with extensive voiceover. I think voiceover gets a bad rap from critics and can be a really effective tool, and it works that way during a lot of this film. But Niccol uses it as a crutch too often, and it gets annoying sometimes. Still, this is a movie that thinks about real issues, has style to burn and features a lot of really sharp writing, so if its main problem is being too ambitious, that's not so bad. Wide release

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