Saturday, January 27, 2007

Movies opening this week

Blood and Chocolate (Agnes Bruckner, Hugh Dancy, Olivier Martinez, Bryan Dick, dir. Katja von Garnier)
I had no reason to see this movie - it was screened too late for print reviews, and I am on vacation so I didn't do my weekly radio appearance, either, where they usually like to talk about any horror movie, no matter how lame. And yet I left my house and went to a screening anyway, knowing it would be a bad movie, because I am a sucker for anything about werewolves and/or vampires. Advertised as "from the producers of Underworld," this is, needless to say, a bad movie. It's based on a young-adult novel to which it apparently bears only a passing resemblance (and which sounds like a much more interesting story), and is basically a cheesy Romeo and Juliet riff, with werewolves. The effects are weak, the dialogue is lame and the action is boring, but I admit that there was a bit of light campiness to it, and I sort of had fun. Bruckner was quite good in the little-seen indie Blue Car, and I keep waiting for her to get another role that shows off her talents. This one isn't it. Wide release

Notes on a Scandal (Judi Dench, Cate Blanchett, Bill Nighy, Andrew Simpson, dir. Richard Eyre)
Thanks to its somewhat surprising number of Oscar nominations, this movie is getting renewed attention and a wide release. And...I really have nothing to say about it. It's not just that it's been a month or so since I saw it; this movie just inspired no reaction in me whatsoever. It's reasonably well-acted, and sometimes engaging, but not nearly as nasty or bitingly insightful as it thinks it is. Yet it's also not as calculatedly unpleasant as screenwriter Patrick Marber's last film, Closer. It has moments of devilish charm, mostly when Dench gets down to her most snide and evil. Otherwise, it's entirely forgettable, but it's got enough prestige on the surface to get the Academy to notice; I doubt very many other people will. Opened limited Dec. 27; wide release this week

Smokin' Aces (Ryan Reynolds, Jeremy Piven, Alicia Keys, Ray Liotta, dir. Joe Carnahan)
I guess I should know better than to expect anything different during the dregs of January, but between this and The Hitcher, I feel like I've already seen two of the worst movies of 2007. It's sad that Carnahan stuffed so many stars and so many annoyingly flashy production tricks into such an empty, distasteful, entirely repugnant film after making the gritty and genuine crime drama Narc back in 2002. This is almost the exact opposite of Narc: It's completely over-the-top and bears no resemblance to reality; it's got tons of characters, none of whom are believable; and its action and violence are completely devoid of meaning or effect. Usually I'm all for gratuitous violence, but the violence in this movie is so excessive, so punishing, so cynical and so mean-spirited that I actually felt like Carnahan must hate his characters and his audience to put them through this. The fact that it's treated glibly as fun and humorous is bad enough, but what's even worse is when Carnahan turns on a dime and pulls out the bullshit pathos to try and pull on your heartstrings. The monumentally stupid epilogue is some of the most crass, incoherent and insulting storytelling I've ever seen in a movie, narrated by Andy Garcia in some ridiculous Southern-ish accent, and topped off by Ryan Reynolds shedding tears of regret. What an utter piece of shit. Wide release

Tideland (Jodelle Ferland, Jeff Bridges, Janet McTeer, Brendan Fletcher, dir. Terry Gilliam)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
I never expected this movie to open in Vegas (which is why I wrote about it here back when I first watched it), but thanks to the efforts of the people at CineVegas, it has, and even though my review and most others were bad, I'm glad that something so daring and uncompromising made it here. Other than that, I can't add anything to what I've already written, two different times now. Opened limited Oct. 27; in Las Vegas this week

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