Friday, June 29, 2007

Movies opening this week

Evening (Claire Danes, Vanessa Redgrave, Toni Collette, Patrick Wilson, Hugh Dancy, dir. Lajos Koltai)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
Usually these failed prestige projects don't start showing up until at least September, but here we have a movie that might as well have just been cut up into Oscar clips (that also would have meant I wouldn't have to spend two hours watching it). In its own way, just as formulaic as a bad summer blockbuster, and just as annoying to watch. Wide release

Live Free or Die Hard (Bruce Willis, Justin Long, Timothy Olyphant, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Maggie Q, dir. Len Wiseman)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
I will out myself as a bad child of the '80s and admit here that I have only a passing familiarity with the Die Hard franchise. I would have educated myself thoroughly had I known more than three hours before the Weekly went to press that I was going to review this movie (yikes), but since I didn't expect to write the review I didn't bother to update my knowledge, which consists of seeing bits and pieces of the first movie on TV over the years, never seeing the second movie, and seeing the third movie when it was released in theaters but not remembering a single thing about it (including whether or not I liked it). I know I should at least see the first movie, which was recently named the greatest action movie of all time by Entertainment Weekly, and I probably will get around to it eventually. Maybe moreso now that I actually enjoyed this latest installment, which is a big dumb action movie but mostly fun to watch. And given the generally dismal quality of this summer's big-ass blockbusters, it's probably the best Hollywood spectacle of the season (just edging out Spider-Man 3). That's not really saying much, but if you're going to go to the theater and catch a summer movie on the big screen, this is the one to see. Wide release

Ratatouille (Voices of Patton Oswalt, Lou Romano, Brad Garrett, Janeane Garofalo, Peter O'Toole, dir. Brad Bird)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
There seems to be an amazing case of critical groupthink when it comes to Pixar movies, or maybe it's that I just don't get it. I thought this was a perfectly entertaining little movie, with some admittedly amazing animation, but the rapturous reviews declaring it the best movie of the year or talking about how it has such depth as to move one to tears are sort of baffling to me. I didn't think it was all that much better than, say, Flushed Away. I don't want to rag on Pixar, because I think they generally put out excellent films (and this is a good one as well), but I wonder if the blind devotion to everything they do has gone a little too far. Wide release

Sicko (documentary, dir. Michael Moore)
Ah, Michael Moore. I am not very politically inclined and thus I sort of dread the release of a new Michael Moore movie, since it's pretty much impossible to talk about his filmmaking as divorced from his politics (as well it should be, really). So I'm not going to get into an in-depth analysis of his arguments and why they do or don't work. I will say that this is probably Moore's film with the strongest basic assumption - that the U.S. healthcare system is screwed up - and that the first third of the film, with its portraits of people who've been screwed over by their insurance companies, is very effective. But when Moore travels to other countries to highlight their universal healthcare systems, his portrayal is so one-sided and rosy that it becomes suspicious. Surely these systems can't be perfect, and by pretending they are Moore does a disservice to his own point of view. He shouldn't be expected to present dissenting opinions on everything he advocates, but to acknowledge the shortcomings of the systems in Canada, Britain, France and especially Cuba would make them seem more real. The movie makes it look like there is a quick fix for our American system, when in reality none of the solutions are quick or infallible. It's sad that Moore is able to take a point this solid and universal and muddy it with his typical gimmickry (the much-publicized trip to Guantanamo Bay to ask for medical care for 9/11 rescue workers) and simplistic fawning (the entire Cuba segment) into something questionable. Wide release

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