Friday, March 20, 2009

Movies opening this week

(Apologies for the general sparseness of posts lately. Things have been pretty busy with various new and old projects, but I hope for some extra time soon.)

Hear me chat about these movies with Las Vegas Weekly Associate Editor T.R. Witcher in this week's Josh Bell Hates Everything podcast. There will be a video segment this week, also, on Duplicity, but it isn't quite done yet.

The Class (Francois Bégaudeau, Esmérelda Ouertani, Rachel Regulier, Franck Keïta, dir. Laurent Cantet)
This seemed like a potential frontrunner for the foreign-language Oscar this year, although it lost out to Japanese movie Departures. I would have been happy to see it win; it's generally a clear-eyed, unsentimental take on schooling, not shying away from the difficulties inherent in teaching kids who don't want to learn, or don't respect their teachers/institutions, or are just across such an enormous cultural gulf that there's no way to reach them. It also doesn't vilify anyone specifically - the teacher is well-meaning but far from perfect, and makes mistakes; some of the students are bright and dedicated, but still moody and disrespectful; the administrators can be overly bureauratic, but they genuinely want to help. I could have gone for a little more of life outside the school grounds, although I understand why Cantet stays away from it; the teacher especially was a bit too much of an enigma especially given some of his emotional outbursts. Still, overall this movie was very effective, and it makes me curious to see Cantet's other films. Opened limited December 19; in Las Vegas this week

Duplicity (Clive Owen, Julia Roberts, Paul Giamatti, dir. Tony Gilroy)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
I was really excited for this film: a sexy throwback caper movie starring Julia Roberts and Clive Owen, from the guy who made Michael Clayton? Sounds like my favorite thing ever. But while Roberts and Owen have great chemistry, they don't get to show it off nearly enough, and the convoluted plot drags along slowly, and turns out to be sort of beside the point anyway. I still think Gilroy has a lot of talent, and look forward to what he does next, and I was surprised at how happy I was to see Roberts back onscreen (even though I apparently didn't even realize she'd been gone), but this turned out to be a serious disappointment. Wide release

I Love You, Man (Paul Rudd, Jason Segel, Rashida Jones, dir. John Hamburg)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
This is a minor one in the canon of Apatow-adjacent comedies, certainly, but it's a perfectly entertaining way to spend 90 minutes (unfortunately, it's 110 minutes long). I laughed multiple times, and that's enough to excuse the predictable plotting, lack of insight and occasional overly vulgar bits. Rudd and Segel could save nearly anything, as they prove here with help from a formidable lineup of comedy all-stars. Wide release

Knowing (Nicolas Cage, Chandler Canterbury, Rose Byrne, dir. Alex Proyas)
This is being read by some as a religious allegory of sorts, so I expected far more heavy-handed sermonizing than I ultimately got. Really, as my friend pointed out, it's as much a Close Encounters ripoff as anything else, in the end. But all the mystical, weird sci-fi stuff is completely unearned, and also pretty inconsistent with the first half of the movie, which is more of a conspiracy-minded thriller. Neither part works particularly well, thanks to Cage's typically awful acting (which infects the rest of the cast) and a jumble of incoherent plotting, but at least the first half has a couple of cool action sequences, one with a plane crash and another with a truly impressive train derailment. It's not enough to make the movie worthwhile, though, especially as it heads toward the totally nonsensical, New Age-y ending. Angels or aliens, either way it's a complete mess. Wide release

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