Inside Man (Denzel Washington, Clive Owen, Jodie Foster, Chiwetel Ejiofor, dir. Spike Lee)
Lee delivers the most mainstream film of his career with this slick heist thriller that takes a clever but flawed script and turns it into a fascinating portrait of the melting pot of New York City. I usually hate movies where the camera can’t stop moving, but Lee uses fluid and kinetic camerawork to capture the tension and chaos of a bank robbery, as well as the resentments seething just under the surface of the interactions between people of various races. Along with the sadly underrated 25th Hour, this movie finds Lee becoming the most pointed chronicler of post-9/11 New York. Forget all the 9/11-inspired movies to come - what Lee has done in his two films is not directly respond to the event, but depict the way that life has changed (and the way it's stayed the same) as the backdrop to telling stories that are fascinating on their own.
The cast here is phenomenal – Foster finally proves herself worthy of the comeback she’s attempting – and the direction is assured and precise. The plot sort of falls apart in the last 20 minutes, when everything gets overexplained, only to make it more confusing. Even if the story is lacking, though, the rest of it is pitch-perfect. Wide release
Unknown White Male (documentary, dir. Rupert Murray)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
I think this is one of the best movies of the year so far and an early contender for the best documentary, and I'm bothered by reviewers who seem to be giving it negative reviews based solely on the fact that they think it's a hoax. I don't see how you can simply assume - without concrete evidence - that the movie is fake, and then pan it based primarily on that. Now, I'm not saying that it's not possible that the movie is fabricated, but unless some hard proof is uncovered, it's really unfair to review a movie based on extraneous rumor and speculation rather than the actual content of the film. Of course it's more moving as a true story, but at the same time, as Manohla Dargis notes, even if it's fake it's still quite an affecting and accomplished bit of filmmaking. Opened limited Feb. 24; in Las Vegas this week