Saturday, January 07, 2006

Movies opening this week

Breakfast on Pluto (Cillian Murphy, Liam Neeson, Ruth Negga, dir. Neil Jordan)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
I like Jordan's ambition, and I think he's made some really good movies, but this misses the mark. It's obvious that they tried to condense a novel into a two-hour film and weren't exactly sure how to do it. Some of the little magical touches, like the talking birds, were endearing, and it made me wish that Jordan had taken the film in a completely magical realist direction. His combination of whimsy and seriousness didn't work, but if he'd made it even more over the top it might just have succeeded. Opened limited Nov. 16; in Las Vegas this week

Casanova (Heath Ledger, Sienna Miller, Oliver Platt, Jeremy Irons, dir. Lasse Hallstrom)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
For some reason, I had sort of high hopes for this one, even though Hallstrom has been directing snooze-worthy prestige pictures for years now. The early word at Venice was that it was light and fun and not at all like his other films. But it turns out to just be a light-hearted version of those bloated, bloodless dramas. A few funny moments, but overall the strain of hoping for awards and recognition outshines the entertainment value. Opened limited Dec. 25; wide release this week

Hostel (Jay Hernandez, Derek Richardson, Eythor Gudjonsson, dir. Eli Roth)
I liked Roth's Cabin Fever, so I was looking forward to this despite the fact that it wasn't screened for most critics. It starts out seeming like a critique of obnoxious American tourists, with the two sexist, homophobic, xenophobic lead characters engaging in enough lewd and crass behavior that you sort of get excited for their eventual disemboweling. But by the time the torture and murder rolls around, Roth has muddled the message and turned the crass Americans into the people we're supposed to sympathize with, and the movie itself has taken on a tone of xenophobia. Like Cabin Fever, this is a movie about the fear of a foreign culture - in that film it was rural Americans, in this one it's Eastern Europeans. At least Cabin Fever had a certain sly self-awareness about it, but this is played mostly grim and straight, and when some humor does show up toward the end, it's too little, too late. Horror fans might find something to enjoy in the effective and gruesome torture scenes, and Roth gets points for at least attempting social commentary, but this is far too generic to be a worthy follow-up for him. Wide release

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