Saturday, April 25, 2009

Movies opening this week

Hear me chat about these movies with Michael T. Toole, contributing writer for Turner Classic Movies, on this week's Josh Bell Hates Everything podcast. And check out this week's video segment, on The Soloist.

Earth (documentary, dir. Alastair Fothergill & Mark Linfield)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
I know it's probably mean-spirited to cut down this well-meaning educational film, but I did find it extraordinarily dull, and mostly devoid of anything useful or new. For kids who've never seen anything like this, I suppose it's not bad, and it's more impressive to see these images on a big screen than on a TV (where you can catch similar stuff regularly on Discovery and Animal Planet). But this is still a cursory introduction and a scattershot portrayal of the animal kingdom. Disney seems set on pushing this nature-film brand, so I hope that the teased next outing, Oceans, to be released next year, will have better focus and more in-depth insights. Wide release

Fighting (Channing Tatum, Terrence Howard, Zulay Henao, dir. Dito Montiel)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
I still expect good things from Montiel, whose debut feature, A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, I liked quite a bit. Despite intermittent efforts to do something artistic here, though, this movie certainly doesn't qualify. Howard is apparently angling to be the new Nicolas Cage with his oddball line deliveries, and Tatum gives Paul Walker a run for his money as the least charismatic actor working today. Definitely a waste of somebody's talent. Wide release

Sin Nombre (Paulina Gaitan, Edgar Flores, Kristian Ferrer, dir. Cary Joji Fukunaga)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
So much well-meaning mediocrity this week. This was a big hit at Sundance, and it's not hard to see why: It serious-minded and socially conscious, and sympathetic to poor immigrants. It's also fairly flat and predictable, with a silly melodramatic climax. Not as irritating as a bullshit indie-formula movie like Sunshine Cleaning, but also not worthy of the mountain of praise it's gotten. Opened limited March 20; in Las Vegas this week

The Soloist (Robert Downey Jr., Jamie Foxx, Catherine Keener, dir. Joe Wright)
I keep waiting for Joe Wright to make a transcendentally brilliant movie, because it's clear from his past work that he's a striking visual stylist. The first hour or so of Atonement was a stellar fusion of form and content, even if the movie lost its way in the second half. This movie is just all wrong for Wright, though; it's an inherently small, internal story about the friendship between two very different men, and a writer's frustration at being unable to magically cure the schizophrenic street musician he discovers and befriends. Wright jazzes things up excessively, Foxx gives a mannered, nearly "full retard" performance, and only Downey holds things together with his typical jaded awesomeness. Someone give Wright another period epic or a dense sci-fi thriller or something where his grandiose visions will serve the story. Wide release

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