Saturday, July 28, 2007

Movies opening this week

Eagle vs. Shark (Loren Horsley, Jemaine Clement, Joel Tobeck, dir. Taika Waititi)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
I saw this movie just before CineVegas (it played as part of the festival), when the studio was pushing it hard for a big publicity blitz. Their buzz-creating effort didn't work for me, though, since I thought the movie was terrible, but they continued to hype it at the festival. Now a month and a half later, overall reviews have been mediocre, and the box office has been weak. It was delayed a week here and has opened without much fanfare, so I guess maybe it didn't play out the way Miramax hoped. The publicity campaign leaned hard on the Napoleon Dynamite comparisons, which I don't think did the movie any favors, but it's not like it really had the potential to become some giant sleeper hit anyway. Opened limited June 15; in Las Vegas this week

No Reservations (Catherine Zeta-Jones, Aaron Eckhart, Abigail Breslin, dir. Scott Hicks)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
I haven't seen the German movie that this is based on, Mostly Martha, but if the remake is as faithful as some reviews suggest, then it was probably already a bland, Hollywood-style romantic comedy even before Hollywood got hold of it. This movie will be forgotten in a month, fodder for Wal-Mart cut-out bins soon after. The bigger question here is whether Abigail Breslin is going to become the new Dakota Fanning - acting cute in boring, mainstream movies - or take on some more interesting roles now that she's got that Oscar nomination behind her. This one is not a particularly auspicious start. Wide release

Rescue Dawn (Christian Bale, Steve Zahn, Jeremy Davies, dir. Werner Herzog)
Having not seen the Herzog documentary (Little Dieter Needs to Fly) that provided the inspiration for this movie, I can't say whether Rescue Dawn is as redundant as some people seem to think it is. It's definitely more straightforward than people might expect from Herzog, but I don't think it's such a Hollywood-ization of the story as to be unrecognizably his. It's more intense and raw than a studio treatment would have been, and if it hits a little hard on the uplift toward the end, I think that's more about Herzog's deep admiration for Dieter Dengler than any sort of audience pandering. Opened limited July 4; in Las Vegas this week

The Simpsons Movie (Voices of Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, dir. David Silverman)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
I was a serious, hardcore Simpsons fan for many years, all through junior high and high school and most of college, but I've been away from the show for so long that sometimes I forget it even exists. In a way I had the same weird nostalgia coming to this movie that I did coming to the Ninja Turtles movie, or that my entire generation seems to have had coming to the Transformers movie. The difference is that I can look back on old Simpsons episodes and still appreciate their quality, and of course also that this is really a continuation of the show rather than a reinvention of the concept like those other two movies were. But at the same time I kept my expectations low because I didn't want nostalgia clouding my judgment, and I know that the show hasn't been very good in years. As the movie first started I was really pleasantly surprised at how funny it was, but it dragged on far too long with a ho-hum plot, a disappointing lack of activities for all the secondary and tertiary characters, and diminished comedic value. Overall I still enjoyed it, and I think that Simpsons fans, whether those still watching the show or those who gave up on it a long time ago, will enjoy it as well, but the time when it could have been brilliant probably passed a number of years ago. Wide release

Sunshine (Cillian Murphy, Chris Evans, Rose Byrne, Michelle Yeoh, dir. Danny Boyle)
This movie pretty much hits everything that I want out of my ideal film, so I've been excited to see it since it was first announced what seems like years ago (and was released in Europe several months ago). Intelligent sci-fi with a horror twist, not an adaptation, a thoughtful, versatile auteurist director, a strong script, a cast of talented character actors - this is seriously my blueprint for the greatest film of all time. So, yeah, my expectations were high, although they were tempered a bit by reviews that warned of a twist that made the movie into a dumb genre exercise and ruined the last act. Prepared for disappointment, I found myself enjoying pretty much the whole thing, although I agree that the reveal of what is behind the disasters faced by the crew of the Icarus II is sort of stupid, and the degeneration into a slasher movie with pretentious metaphysical ramblings at the end was a little disheartening. But up until that point, this is a wonderful-looking and incredibly suspenseful movie, following a crew of astronauts in a hail-Mary mission to restart the dying sun. Boyle creates such roiling, exquisite tension that I think I was literally squirming in my seat during the scene in which two crew members have to finish outside repairs before the ship turns and exposes them to the deadly radiation of the sun. The movie has elements of films like Alien, 2001 and Event Horizon, but it feels like its own unique entity, and even the muddled ending still delivers scares and excitement. Not the greatest film of all time, certainly, but one I'd very much recommend seeing. Opened limited July 20; wide release this week

No comments: