Friday, February 02, 2007

Movies opening this week

The Good German (George Clooney, Cate Blanchett, Tobey Maguire, dir. Steven Soderbergh)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
I had this grand plan to watch this movie again (on an awards screener; I first saw it back in early December) and write an in-depth and insightful review to offer at least one positive voice in the sea of negative criticism for it. However, I didn't find out until Tuesday that this would be opening in Vegas this week, and I didn't have enough time to re-watch or for us to allocate more space in the paper. Plus I was really tired after playing catch-up post-vacation. Thus, this is not the most cogent or insightful review I've ever written, and that's especially frustrating to me because I so wanted to give this movie whatever minuscule boost could come from a positive review by someone as obscure as I am. But I will say again that I do think this is a very good movie, that it's more than just a detached film-school exercise, and that, furthermore, it's quite entertaining. Clooney's character constantly getting beat up, Maguire's gleeful nastiness, Blanchett's cynical bitterness and Marlene Dietrich accent - it's all great fun to watch, and very evocative, and I hope that more people will give it a chance. Opened limited Dec. 15; in Las Vegas this week

The Messengers (Kristen Stewart, Dylan McDermott, Penelope Ann Miller, John Corbett, dir. Danny & Oxide Pang)
I liked the Pangs' breakthrough film, The Eye, at least until it sort of fell into incoherence toward the end. Whatever its faults, though, at least The Eye had a great premise (girl gets ocular transplant, sees horrific images of the life of the previous owner). The Messengers has no premise whatsoever - there's a house, and it's haunted, because something bad that's never really explained happened at some time in the past. A bunch of ghostly figures ripped right out of The Grudge run around and do very little (since this is a PG-13 movie), and all the scares are of your basic loud-noise-following-eerie-quiet variety. Pretty standard by your throwaway horror movie, er, standards, but a disappointment from these guys. Wide release

Old Joy (Daniel London, Will Oldham, dir. Kelly Reichardt)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
I really wanted to like this movie. I truly did. I heard all sorts of good things about it, and it's gotten such a small release that I was excited that it made it to Vegas at all (the screener I got was just a hand-lettered DVD-R). It was probably the one movie announced by the CineVegas people that I was most excited to see. And while I didn't hate it like a fellow local critic did, I was seriously underwhelmed and disappointed. I didn't find any rich subtext or characterization beneath the minimalism, and while some of the images were very pretty, they weren't particularly moving. Opened limited Aug. 25; in Las Vegas this week

Venus (Peter O'Toole, Jodie Whittaker, Leslie Phillips, dir. Roger Michell)
Although one local female critic at the screening I attended was disgusted by this movie, I think its portrait of an aging lech and his inappropriate relationship with the 19-year-old niece of his best friend was honest, touching and funny. Michell doesn't shy away from the creepiness of a guy brazenly lusting after a girl almost 50 years his junior, and he doesn't make this into some gauzy love story, either. The girl gives in to some of her pursuer's advances mostly out of insecurity, and although she learns something valuable from him, that doesn't mean she ends up finding him physically attractive. The fact is, relationships like this are often fraught with icky sexual tension, and to confront it in a sweet and straightforward way is, I think, far more valuable than to pretend it doesn't happen. Opened limited Dec. 21; in Las Vegas this week

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