Friday, October 19, 2007

Movies opening this week

30 Days of Night (Josh Hartnett, Melissa George, Danny Huston, Ben Foster, dir. David Slade)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
I have to admit that I have really come to appreciate Josh Hartnett. He's got a limited range, but he's like an old-school contract player in his ability to embody these upstanding square-jawed heroes. It worked well for him in The Black Dahlia, and it works well for him here. A number of reviewers have compared this film to High Noon, and while Hartnett is no Gary Cooper, he does convey that same sense of moral righteousness. The movie as a whole is a little padded, but reading through the graphic novel again before seeing the film I realized how rushed the original story was, so some fleshing-out is warranted. Slade makes a few odd choices - the vampires speaking in their own nonsense language is sort of pointless - but overall does justice to the source material, and the amazing overhead tracking shot of the destruction of the town almost makes the whole movie worth seeing just on its own. Wide release

Gone Baby Gone (Casey Affleck, Michelle Monaghan, Ed Harris, Amy Ryan, Morgan Freeman, dir. Ben Affleck)
I don't generally go for Oscar punditry, but I'll predict right now that if nothing else this movie will get a Best Supporting Actress nomination for Amy Ryan. She's fantastic as the horrible mother of a kidnapped girl in this generally excellent movie, which does a better job of evoking working-class Boston than the last Dennis Lehane adaptation, Mystic River, did. The first hour of this movie is practically flawless, dark and suspenseful and heartbreaking, but then the plot takes a turn and the twists start piling up and the film loses its way a bit. The actors keep it together, though, and the bleak ending ties things together nicely. Affleck has great directorial instincts, aside from a tendency to overuse sweeping helicopter shots, and this is a very promising debut. Wide release

Into the Wild (Emile Hirsch, Marcia Gay Harden, William Hurt, Jena Malone, dir. Sean Penn)
I read Jon Krakauer's book many years ago, and don't remember much about it, but it definitely held my interest better than Penn's adaptation, which has some nice moments but doesn't really add up to much. It looks wonderful - it's a great travelogue, but the canonization of the main character, who I thought was a pretentious ass, annoyed me, and for all the narration and ponderous dialogue, I didn't think it was all that insightful. I think since the book was more of an investigative-reporting piece, it didn't matter that you didn't really understand Chris McCandless - the idea was trying to piece together what happened and what he might have been thinking isolating himself in the wilderness. The movie loses that investigative tone and just says, "Hey, isn't this guy cool?" for two and a half hours. I did enjoy a lot of it, but overall it sort of left me cold. Opened limited Sept. 21; in Las Vegas this week

Things We Lost in the Fire (Halle Berry, Benicio Del Toro, David Duchovny, Alison Lohman, dir. Susanne Bier)
This is a really blatant Oscar bid for Berry and Del Toro, but it's so plodding and obvious that their overwrought emotional scenes just come off as one more prescribed element to tick off the checklist. All of the big, uplifting breakthroughs are telegraphed in glaring ways, and Berry's portrayal of grief and Del Toro's portrayal of drug addiction both feel rote and detached despite their intensity. Bier has a fondness for distracting extreme close-ups and jump cuts that don't add anything to the plot or tone, but their self-conscious artiness is about the only thing separating this from a Hallmark Hall of Fame production. Wide release

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