Friday, October 31, 2008

Movies opening this week

Hear me chat about these movies with fellow Las Vegas Weekly film critic Matthew Scott Hunter in this week's Josh Bell Hates Everything podcast.

Changeling (Angelina Jolie, John Malkovich, Jeffrey Donovan, dir. Clint Eastwood)
I have mixed feelings about this movie. It's right in line with the sort of movies that Eastwood has been making lately: earnest, serious, socially responsible, kind of old-fashioned. Sometimes that works, but at other times I felt like this was the last part of Million Dollar Baby blown up into a feature. It's full of cut-and-dried, black-and-white morality; the heroes are sickeningly upstanding, and the bad guys are as awful and conniving as possible. Many have said that it seems like a movie not only set in the 1930s, but also that could have been made in the 1930s. And I like movies from the 1930s, but other things about this one are too modern for the throwback tone to completely work. Still, the plot is compelling, because the true story is just so full of weird twists, and some of the individual scenes are strong. Jolie basically just weeps through the entire movie, but even if she tries a little too hard it's not a bad performance. Sticking to the facts means that there's about four endings and 20 superfluous minutes, which left me feeling less than enthused. Overall, though, it's a worthwhile if flawed effort, but probably not one that's going to clean up at the Oscars. Opened limited Oct. 24; wide release this week

RocknRolla (Gerard Butler, Tom Wilkinson, Thandie Newton, Mark Strong, dir. Guy Ritchie)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
Despite his being hailed as the British Tarantino, I never even thought that much of Guy Ritchie when his first couple of movies came out. They were mostly empty flash, although mildly amusing, and clearly represented the full sum of Ritchie's talent. So here he unsuccessfully tries going back to the well, and it's obvious just how little he had to say in the first place. Frankly, I'm more interested in the directorial debut of his soon-to-be-ex-wife Madonna; it'll probably be terrible also, but almost certainly in a more interesting way. Opened limited Oct. 8; wide release this week

Zack and Miri Make a Porno (Seth Rogen, Elizabeth Banks, Craig Robinson, dir. Kevin Smith)
My review in Las Vegas Weekly
Like Guy Ritchie, Kevin Smith is attempting a bit of a return to form here, but he achieves much greater success. This movie isn't as raw as his earliest work, and thus not quite as exciting, but it does strike a decent balance between that indie directness and a more measured Hollywood approach. If nothing else, Smith has finally learned how to shoot unobtrusively; he may not have anything resembling visual style, but at least now his crude anti-style doesn't distract from the story and the dialogue. I'm cautiously optimistic that he may one day be able to make a great movie again. In the meantime, this is entertaining enough. Wide release

No comments: