Friday, December 22, 2006

Movies opening this week

Dreamgirls (Beyoncé Knowles, Jennifer Hudson, Jamie Foxx, Eddie Murphy, dir. Bill Condon)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
I find the critical trend on this movie interesting and sort of disappointing, since I really liked it and it was made out to be this foregone Oscar-winning conclusion before it was released. And normally I find foregone Oscar-winning conclusions rather lacking as films, but I thought this one did exactly what a big, prestigious Hollywood spectacle should do, and entertained me probably more than any other movie out this year on a purely pop level. So while overall the reviews are positive, it saddens me that many of the positive notices are somewhat reserved, and so many of the critics I most respect (Sean Burns, Walter Chaw, A.O. Scott, Ed Gonzalez, Nick Schager) didn't like the movie, or didn't like very much about it. (Thankfully, Scott Foundas knows what I'm talking about.) It's not even that I think all the criticisms are invalid - the music is probably too bland, although I wouldn't say it's unmemorable; I was humming new song "Love You I Do" for days after seeing the film the second time earlier this week. But it does sort of Broadway-ize Motown a bit, and the character development and social commentary can be shallow. But I think Condon's visual style tells the story perfectly, and that those unsubtle elements work exactly as they should in a film that is larger than life. Most successful movie musicals of the last decade or so have been deconstructionist pieces (Dancer in the Dark, Moulin Rouge, South Park), as have many unsuccessful ones, for that matter (The Singing Detective, Idlewild), and this just works on a purely classic, let's-put-on-a-show kind of way. I am virtually never in agreement when audiences erupt into applause during movies, but this time I was right there with them (if not actually, y'know, applauding). Opened limited Dec. 15; wide release on Monday

The Good Shepherd (Matt Damon, Angelina Jolie, William Hurt, John Turturro, dir. Robert De Niro)
I'm sorry, but this movie bored me out of my mind. I was actually quite looking forward to it - the screening was at an inconvenient time and I didn't think I was going to make it, but I finished what I was doing early and rushed over just in time - and by about halfway through I couldn't wait for it to be over. It's nearly three hours long, dry as a bone and dull as reading a textbook. For a movie about espionage, there is very little suspense and almost no action whatsoever, and Damon's character is a complete blank. He's meant to be stoic and unemotional, but he's so detached that he can't possibly hold the movie together, and he's in every scene. There are a lot of good actors in small parts (Alec Baldwin, Joe Pesci, Michael Gambon, Billy Crudup, De Niro himself), but it just comes off like De Niro went through his rolodex and called in a bunch of favors, and those actors don't really bring anything outstanding to their brief appearances. And poor Angelina Jolie comes in like a force of nature at first, like she's going to be the only interesting thing in the movie, and ends up quickly relegated to the clichéd put-upon wife role that anyone could have played. What a waste. Wide release

Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone, Milo Ventimiglia, Antonio Tarver, Burt Young, dir. Sylvester Stallone)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
I got an email today from someone who disagreed with my review but told me it was "one of the better poor reviews" he'd read. I guess that's really all that I can hope for; the people who are going to like this movie are going to like it no matter what, and I'm just never going to connect with what it is that appeals to them about it. Not that I thought it was terrible or offensive or anything, but I did walk out of the theater wondering what exactly the point of it all was. Wide release


Anonymous said...

It's really too bad that The Good Shepherd turned out to be so boring. Admittedly, I have not seen it, but the history of the CIA is not boring in real life, so I can't understand how they managed to make it so bland. I mean, it takes real talent to turn an exciting event in life and make it into a boring movie based on those events. I'll have to see what's up with this one...

And on the Rocky movie, I have not been able to figure out why it was made at all. When I first saw the teaser or trailer I thought to myself, "Really? Are you actually making this movie?" It surely cannot be the money, can it? I just don't get it.

Josh said...

I think for Rocky, it may not be the money (Stallone surely has plenty), but rather the fame and the glory. He's been relegated to straight-to-video action movies for the last few years, and I think he misses the spotlight. Doing another Rocky (and another Rambo) is the easy way for him to put himself back in the public eye, even if it makes him seem desperate (which, presumably, he is).

And The Good Shepherd is definitely a missed opportunity. It's sad that so many talented people can get together to produce something so stale.