Friday, October 29, 2004

Movies opening this week

Birth (Nicole Kidman, Cameron Bright, Danny Huston, dir. Jonathan Glazer)
This one appears to be a love-it or hate-it film. My colleague at the Weekly who reviewed it hated it, but I actually found it quite compelling. Nicole Kidman plays a woman whose husband died ten years ago and is only now able to move on, getting engaged to another man (Huston). Just as it seems she's comes to terms with her grief, a little boy (Bright, perhaps the creepiest kid in film today) comes along and claims to be the reincarnation of her dead husband. Wackiness ensues.

Well, not so much wackiness as confusion, anger, hurt and disgust, in varying degrees on the parts of the principal characters. The premise is, indeed, a little tough to swallow, and you have to wonder about the bathtub scene between Kidman and Bright. But this is a really well-made attempt at what might be a questionable idea, and I think it has something interesting to say despite its flaws. Kidman is awesome at convincing the audience of the depths of her grief and love, so much so that she could fall in love with a 10-year-old boy based mostly on faith. Bright, who has cornered the market on creepy-possibly-evil kids with The Butterfly Effect and Godsend, does what he does effectively. The production design and cinematography are perfect, capturing the alienation in clean, cold urban spaces. The film has a lot in common with Rosemary's Baby, not limited to Kidman's haircut. There's the urban isolation, the invasion of the supernatural into a calm everyday life, the reconciliation between the fantastic and the mundane. The ultimate explanation for what's going on is a little disappointing, but this is a film that really explores the sometimes devastating powers of love and grief in a unique way. Wide release

Ray (Jamie Foxx, Kerry Washington, Regina King, dir. Taylor Hackford)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
I really do think Jamie Foxx will get an Oscar for this, unless there's some really exceptional and high-profile acting in something that comes out in the next two months. I'm fine with that, too - he gives a great performance, and really is a good actor. His subdued performance in Collateral might even be better, but it's too low-key for the Oscars, especially when there's a showy performance like this to reward instead. The movie, alas, is very conventional, but I think there are enough positives to recommend it. Wide release

Saw (Cary Elwes, Leigh Whannell, Danny Glover, dir. James Wan)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
I think people are too starved for good horror movies and they're overrating this one. It's a really showy, vapid movie, and its only assets are some decent set-pieces. It'll probably make good money around Halloween, but you're better off renting Seven or Silence of the Lambs and staying home. Wide release

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