Saturday, December 03, 2005

Movies opening this week

Aeon Flux (Charlize Theron, Marton Csokas, Jonny Lee Miller, dir. Karyn Kusama)
Given that this was not screened for critics, I expected it to be much worse than it was. Not that it was any good, really, but it certainly wasn't the worst movie I've seen this year (I think that honor still has to go to Monster-in-Law). In a way, this is a movie that was doomed from the start, since there's no way a studio would ever spend millions on a live-action adaptation that was true to the spirit of the original cartoon, with its surreal, nonsensical storylines, bizarre non sequiturs and kinky sex. The problem with the movie is that the filmmakers attempt both to turn it into a straightforward action thriller and to retain some of the quirks of the show, and the two elements do not sit well together at all. Plus, the goal-oriented action plot that they come up with is really half-assed, and have the gall to give Aeon Flux a happy ending. Aeon Flux, who died at the end of her early dialogue-free shorts? No. They should have just made some generic sci-fi action movie without worrying about the cartoon; it's not like it had enough of a following for the name to be so valuable at the box office. There are four Oscar nominees in this movie (Theron, Frances McDormand, Sophie Okonedo, Pete Postlethwaite), two of whom actually won awards, and yet none of them can sell the cardboard dialogue. The action is incoherent, with blatant stunt doubles, and the effects are mediocre. There's a new box set out of the wonderfully incomprehensible cartoon. Check that out instead. Wide release

The Passenger (Jack Nicholson, Maria Schneider, Jenny Runacre, dir. Michelangelo Antonioni)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
I wrote a long piece in Las Vegas Weekly this week about the state of moviegoing here in town, talking about, among other things, the availability of independent and arthouse films on the big screen in Vegas, and this movie is a perfect example of how far things have come in the last few years. We would never have gotten an obscure re-released two-hour-plus film from 1975 in theaters here a little while ago, but this is indeed opening on one screen (and will likely only play for one week, but still, it's progress). As for the movie, although I kind of hated Blowup, I actually thought this was interesting, thought-provoking and even exciting at times. And the penultimate seven-minute shot literally caused me to sit up in my chair and take notice, which is a rare occasion for any part of any movie. That right there is reason enough to see it. Opened limited Oct. 28; in Las Vegas this week

The Squid and the Whale (Jeff Daniels, Jessie Eisenberg, Laura Linney, Owen Kline, dir. Noah Baumbach)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
A friend of mine wonders how I can hate Wes Anderson and still like this movie, which is produced by Anderson and tells a story in some ways similar to The Royal Tenenbaums. Noah Baumbach is also an Anderson compatriot and the co-writer of The Life Aquatic. The thing about my hatred of Wes Anderson, though, is that it has plenty to do with the fact that I think the guy has a lot of talent and is just using it in the wrong way. This is the kind of movie that Anderson might make if he could focus his energies on genuine, realistic characterization instead of overdesigned sets and costumes and annoyingly empty quirks. Not that Baumbach doesn't indulge in Anderson-like tendencies from time to time, but it doesn't detract from the very emotionally affecting story at the core of this film. Opened limited Oct. 5; in Las Vegas this week

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