Saturday, November 10, 2007

Movies opening this week

Deep Water (documentary, dir. Louise Osmond and Jerry Rothwell)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
At least three of my co-workers after hearing me describe this movie or reading my review of it told me what a fascinating story it sounded like, and it really is: The film's best accomplishment is simply letting the story be told, getting it out there in the most direct and compelling way possible. All the attention for documentaries in the last few years has gone to political films, but this movie blows most of those away, finding an amazing story amid a mostly forgotten event and representing it artfully and cinematically. That makes it worth ten Iraq documentaries, in my opinion. Opened limited Aug. 24; in Las Vegas this week

Fred Claus (Vince Vaughn, Paul Giamatti, Miranda Richardson, Kevin Spacey, dir. David Dobkin)
This movie is just a complete mess, with a totally unsuccessful mix of Vaughn's already tired shtick (but way watered down for a PG rating) and heartwarming family bullshit. Vaughn is edging dangerously close to Ben Stiller territory by repeating the same character over and over again, and it's painfully obvious that this movie only exists because Vaughn said to some writer, "What if I played Santa Claus's brother? Go make that a movie." The plot is completely incoherent and riddled with pointless holes, and a waste of a surprising number of talented actors (Giamatti, Richardson, Spacey, Elizabeth Banks, Rachel Weisz, Kathy Bates). The most baffling thing here is the casting of John Michael Higgins, a man of normal height, as the lead elf, basically by using CGI to graft his head onto some poor little person. It's incredibly distracting and unnecessary. Was Peter Dinklage not available? Wide release

Lions for Lambs (Tom Cruise, Meryl Streep, Robert Redford, Derek Luke, Michael Pena, dir. Robert Redford)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
It should come as no surprise that the screenplay for this film started out as a stage play; it basically still is a play, and one of the stagiest movies I've seen in a long time. It's certainly possible to make a movie about people sitting in a room and talking into something interesting, but Redford seems determined to block and shoot the film in the most obvious and least dynamic way possible. That just puts all the focus on the terrible dialogue, which no amount of decent acting (and the acting here is mostly just passable) can save. A lot of critics hated The Kingdom, writer Matthew Michael Carnahan's last film, but even if it was simplistic at least it was exciting and had characters who seemed like real people. This one easily gets a place on my worst movies of the year list. Wide release

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