Friday, January 11, 2008

Movies opening this week

The Orphanage (Belen Rueda, Roger Princep, Fernando Cayo, dir. J.A. Bayona)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
This is the kind of thing I often like, the low-key atmospheric horror movie, but other than a few creepy moments this movie didn't do much for me. It's stitched together from elements of other movies, but that's not even the main problem; the filmmakers just don't do much of anything with those elements. It's fairly staid and inert for a horror movie, with a weird, falsely happy ending that could have been creepy were it not delivered with such inappropriate sappiness. There's a lot that almost works, but not enough for the movie to come together as a whole. Opened limited Dec. 28; wide release this week

Redacted (Rob Devaney, Izzy Diaz, Patrick Carroll, Daniel Stewart Sherman, dir. Brian De Palma)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
Although I was pretty hard on this movie, I do give it credit for trying to do something more than the high-profile Iraq-war dramas have, and I certainly always prefer an ambitious failure to a bland, risk-averse mediocrity. So kudos to De Palma for making the effort, although I'd rather see him back making ludicrous, opulent thrillers, even if few other critics share my love for The Black Dahlia. Opened limited Nov. 16; in Las Vegas this week

Starting Out in the Evening (Frank Langella, Lauren Ambrose, Lili Taylor, Adrian Lester, dir. Andrew Wagner)
I liked Wagner's first film, The Talent Given Us, a lot, and was happy to see it go from its modest origins premiering at CineVegas to a limited theatrical release and critical acclaim. And I was happy that Wagner got the chance to get name actors and a bigger budget for this follow-up. So I'm disappointed that I can't say that I liked this movie as much as his first one, although it does have its strong points. Langella has gotten a lot of praise for his performance, which struck me as a little stiff (although that's part of the character, too), but Ambrose really didn't work for me. She give such a weirdly intense performance that it seemed like she was about to sexually ravage everyone she had a scene with; I actually spent a lot of time wondering if her character was meant to have sexual tension with the female magazine editor played by Jessica Hecht, and if there was some lesbian subtext I was supposed to pick up on. But I think it was just poor acting choices. The relationship between Ambrose's grad student and Langella's aging writer, especially its romantic elements (which were not imagined subtext on my part), never felt real to me, nor the relationship between the writer's daughter and her old flame. Only the parent-child interactions between Langella and Taylor had much spark; the rest was too much overwrought indie preciousness, exactly the kind of thing Wagner avoided in the past. Opened limited Nov. 23; in Las Vegas this week

No comments: