Friday, October 10, 2008

Movies opening this week

Hear me chat about these movies and more with Tony Macklin, film historian and author of Voices From the Set (and fellow curmudgeon), on this week's Josh Bell Hates Everything podcast.

Body of Lies (Leonardo DiCaprio, Russell Crowe, Mark Strong, dir. Ridley Scott)
I think the first hour or so of this movie is fairly effective in its exploration of the dynamic between DiCaprio's on-the-ground CIA agent and Crowe's callous, pragmatic handler back in the U.S. Then once DiCaprio meets the hot Iranian nurse and starts to fall in love, it pretty much devolves into standard thriller nonsense. Strong is also good as the head of the Jordanian intelligence service, and the movie seems genuinely interested in depicting opposing points of view, at least for a little while. But it all kind of falls apart in the last third, and Crowe never quite has enough to do even though his character is potentially interesting. Definitely not as good as it could have been, but more effective in certain ways than a lot of other recent politically conscious narrative films. Wide release

The Duchess (Keira Knightley, Ralph Fiennes, Hayley Atwell, Dominic Cooper, dir. Saul Dibb)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
Knightley is good at the whole period-piece thing, but this is a pretty dull, rote example of it. I generally like soap opera and bodice-ripping, but it seemed like there was a whole political and social story here that barely got told in favor of some tedious melodramatics. Opened limited Sept. 19; in Las Vegas this week

The Express (Rob Brown, Dennis Quaid, Omar Benson Miller, dir. Gary Fleder)
I am not the person to be forgiving to inspirational sports movies, and this is a straight-up by-the-numbers example of the genre. Brown is completely bland as Ernie Davis, the first African-American to win the Hesiman Trophy, the dialogue is one speech after another, the score is pounding and relentless, and the story goes on for far too long after the ostensible climax. Quaid does a nice job as the coach who has to deal with his own underlying racism; at least he has some emotional shades to play. Otherwise, this movie is completely superfluous. Wide release

A Man Named Pearl (documentary, dir. Scott Galloway & Brent Pierson)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
This is another one of those documentaries that there is no need to see on a big screen. It's perfectly likeable, and the subject is interesting, but you'd get just as much out of it watching it on PBS in a few months (gardener Pearl Fryar has already been profiled on PBS), or even on something like Snag Films. It's nice that these movies exist, but theatrical release for them is pretty much unnecessary in the current cinematic landscape. Opened limited July 18; in Las Vegas this week

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