Saturday, October 01, 2005

Movies opening this week

A History of Violence (Viggo Mortensen, Maria Bello, Ed Harris, William Hurt, dir. David Cronenberg)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
I love David Cronenberg, and while it's nice to see him getting all sorts of critical and media attention for this film (which is indeed very, very good), I worry that it'll set him up for failure, since most of his films aren't nearly as straightforward or restrained. Of course, Cronenberg's built a career on being stubborn and contrarian, so if the success of this movie affords him a nice budget to make whatever he wants next, and he goes off and does some non-linear movie about exciting new orifices, it won't exactly be a surprise. And it's not like he's all of a sudden going to sell out, which is a good thing. Most likely, this will be a blip in his career, and he'll go back to making weird, demented movies that almost no one sees. Which is cool with me. Opened limited Sept. 23; wide release this week

Into the Blue (Paul Walker, Jessica Alba, Scott Caan, dir. John Stockwell)
I have to admit, I really liked John Stockwell's last movie, Blue Crush, and had a certain affection for the one he did before that, Crazy/Beautiful, as well. I've actually got his movie Cheaters in my Netflix queue right now. In Blue Crush and Crazy/Beautiful, Stockwell demonstrated a great visual style informed by glossy modern magazine photography and an empathy for young people that transformed sort of stock teen movies into affecting and affectionate stories with great entertainment value. So I found myself in the strange position of looking forward to a thriller starring Paul Walker and Jessica Alba, but it ended up being a disappointment. Stockwell's visual sense is completely intact - the movie looks amazing, and not just the gorgeous scenery of the Bahamas and the hot stars, but also the way he tells the story with color and innovative camera angles. But it just can't overcome the massively stupid script and awful acting. There's an interesting movie in here that would play to Stockwell's strengths, just something casual and fun about young divers/treasure hunters in the Bahamas, and the first 45 minutes or so shows signs of that. But all the thriller stuff is beyond lame, and drags on forever. Scott Caan is incredibly grating and if I heard him say "cheddar" one more time I was going to scream. Stockwell's previous movies really walked a fine line to great success, and this time he's just fallen right off it. Wide release

Serenity (Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Summer Glau, Chiwetel Ejiofor, dir. Joss Whedon)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
I'm glad to see that this is getting good reviews, because while I thoroughly enjoyed it, I was also a fan of Firefly, and it was hard for me to tell if critics who never saw the TV show would like it. I always thought Firefly was kind of overrated by its rabid fans, and the movie grabbed me more than the TV show ever did. It's just a fun space adventure with Whedon's typical sharp dialogue, and I hope it succeeds at the box office because I'd like Whedon to get the chance to keep making movies. Seth Stevenson argues in Slate that Whedon is better suited to TV because he's so good at serial storytelling (which is true, and one reason why he's done well in comics), but given that he's decided to dedicate himself to film for the foreseeable future, it's nice to see that he's off to such a good start. Wide release

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