Friday, May 19, 2006

Movies opening this week

Brick (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Nora Zehetner, Lukas Haas, dir. Rian Johnson)
I'm still not quite sure what to make of this film. It seems to be a love it or hate it proposition for most critics, but I didn't fall into either camp. I appreciated what Johnson was trying to do, combining the hard-boiled patter and convoluted plotting of old noir detective stories (and making it even more arch and stylized in the process, because he's a lot more self-conscious about what he's doing), and he did it so well that there were many times when I just sat back and appreciated his technical skill. There's a great deadpan humor to a lot of scenes in this film, not just the oft-cited staredown of death in the middle of a kitchen with mom serving orange juice. At the same time, it's hard to figure out what exactly the point of the whole exercise was, since Johnson doesn't really say anything insightful about high school by having teens talk like Bogey in The Maltese Falcon. It's a credit to the actors, especially Gordon-Levitt and Zehetner, that it works at all, since it's really more like one of those movie-making challenges ("The two genres you picked out of a hat are film noir and teen movie...and go!") than it is an organic story with real characters. Opened limited Mar. 31; in Las Vegas this week

The Da Vinci Code (Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou, Ian McKellen, Paul Bettany, dir. Ron Howard)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
I find it tiresome that there's been such exhaustive and impassioned debate about a movie whose plot and execution most closely resemble something like National Treasure. Maybe it's just because I'm a godless heathen and don't understand religion, but I have no interest in the debate over Jesus' divinity, because I find the concept completely irrelevant. To me, this movie (and the book, which I read a couple of days before seeing the movie, and found just as terrible) doesn't inspire me to ponder deep issues about the nature of the world. Even if you're interested in theological debates, this movie reduces all of the complex and ephemeral issues of spirituality to the kind of logic puzzles you find in the backs of magazines at the dentist's office. Now that's profound. Wide release

Over the Hedge (Voices of Bruce Willis, Garry Shandling, Steve Carell, Eugene Levy, dir. Tim Johnson & Karey Kirkpatrick)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
My standards for CG animated films from Dreamworks are so low that I was just glad this didn't give me a headache like Shark Tale or Madagascar. It definitely had the potential to be funnier and more tightly written, but as family films go nowadays, it's one of the better ones. Wide release

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