Friday, December 12, 2008

Movies opening this week

The LVW web people have the day off, so the podcast, with Roger Erik Tinch of CineVegas, should be up on Monday.

Dark Streets (Gabriel Mann, Bijou Phillips, Izabella Miko, dir. Rachel Samuels)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
I saw this movie almost six months ago, back at CineVegas, and to be honest I was very tired at the time. I may have briefly dozed off at certain points during the movie. However, it probably didn't hurt, since the best you can say about this movie is that it has a pleasing dreamlike quality. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense as a narrative, but I did like the visual style, the music, the costumes and the set design, enough at least to make it stand out from the deluge of poorly made films that one encounters at a festival. Critics have been pretty brutal, and maybe I would have been less forgiving had I not seen it at a festival, but I think this movie deserves a little better. Limited release

The Day the Earth Stood Still (Keanu Reeves, Jennifer Connelly, Jaden Smith, dir. Scott Derrickson)
I actually liked Derrickson's last movie, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, quite a lot, even though most critics didn't, but this one is a complete failure. It loses the intelligence of the original (whose subject of nuclear disarmament was timely in 1951 but wouldn't really be so now) and replaces it with some so-so special effects and lots of pointless explosions. The message about the environment is vague and noncommittal, and Klaatu's reversal on the point of whether humanity ought to be exterminated is seriously undermotivated. The movie's emotional core ought to come from the connection between Connelly's scientist character and her stepson (Smith), but he comes off mostly as a brat, and I never cared about what happened to them. Connelly gave an excellent and underrated performance in an effects-heavy blockbuster (Ang Lee's Hulk) a few years ago, but here she just coasts (Reeves does play to his strengths as an alien who doesn't understand human behavior, though). Wide release

JCVD (Jean-Claude Van Damme, Francois Damiens, Zinedine Soualem, dir. Mabrouk El Mechri)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
I was a huge Van Damme fan back in middle school, although it's probably been close to 15 years since I actually watched one of his movies. Still, I was looking forward to this being a great movie that perpetrates his redemption, and it's only about half that. Sure, Van Damme does a pretty good job, helped mostly, I think, by the chance to act in his native language for once (after 20 years he still doesn't quite have a grasp on English). And the moments where he talks openly about the things he has to deal with in his life are fascinating. But they're all wrapped up in this thoroughly uninteresting hostage thriller, which is just like the plot of a lame Van Damme movie, and not in a clever way. Watching Van Damme's much-hyped fourth-wall-breaking monologue, I couldn't help think that a documentary about the guy would have been more interesting than this pretentious, hit-and-miss movie. Opened limited November 7; in Las Vegas this week

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