Friday, March 17, 2006

Movies opening this week

Manderlay (Bryce Dallas Howard, Danny Glover, Isaach de Bankolé, dir. Lars von Trier)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
I found a lot of things about Dogville interesting, and in general I appreciate von Trier's films because he's a misanthropic pessimist, just like me. But Dogville had two things going for it that this movie doesn't have: an excellent anchoring performance by Nicole Kidman, and a universal condemnation of damn near all human behavior. Manderlay is more specific and more direct, and its particularly USA-focused message reveals all of von Trier's logical flaws and biases. Plus Bryce Dallas Howard, as much as she's a promising young actress, just doesn't have the presence to pull off the role of Grace. Von Trier is stepping back from the USA trilogy and doing a comedy next - I'm curious to see how that goes. Opened limited Jan. 27; in Las Vegas this week

V for Vendetta (Natalie Portman, Hugo Weaving, Stephen Rea, John Hurt, dir. James McTeigue)
Although it smooths out some of the edges of the graphic novel by Alan Moore and David Lloyd (which I re-read literally an hour before seeing the movie), this is still a very bold, politically risky film, with a terrorist as its central character. The Wachowski brothers' script sometimes reduces the novel's pro-anarchy, pro-violence slant to a more simplistic good vs. evil dichotomy, but a remarkable number of sequences are taken verbatim from Moore's words. The story of the terrorist V and his sometimes reluctant protege Evey (Portman) fighting against the fascist government of a future Britain is updated to give it resonance to the current political climate, and McTeigue (an assistant on the Matrix films) shoots with a minimum of distracting flashiness. It's not full of bullet-time and kung fu, although there is a smattering of that. It's much more about some fairly radical ideas, even if the ending especially deviates from the source material to offer a little more hope and a little less endorsement of outright anarchy. If all you care about is direct translation of the comic, panel-for-panel, Sin City-style, then you're bound to be let down (and agree with Moore). But if you can forgive some of the simplification and appreciate the way that McTeigue and the Wachowskis capture much of the spirit of the story (as well as some of its most powerful scenes), this is a remarkably rewarding film. Wide release


abd anonymous said...

Since I'm not really up on things, I assumed V is for Vendetta was based on a Sue Grafton novel--which made me wonder why they were starting with "V" and not "A." I wonder if anyone else assumed that.


Josh said...

According to Amazon, Grafton is only up to "S" (which is for "Silence") right now. I guess she'll have to stay away from "vendetta" when she gets to V. Too bad, since you're right that it does sort of sound like one of her titles.