Review Revue: The Post-Thanksgiving Game of Catch-up!
But, before the reviews... any suggestions on catching up on films the last few months? I fell massively behind and every attempt to catch up has been exhausting. I just feel like I can't do it.
Help this lousy excuse for a blogger, blogarinos!!
Christopher Nolan's elegantly produced, clumsily plotted film aboutrival magicians is a bit of a disappointment. While the cast does finework, especially Christian Bale as always acting harder than he needs,Nolan keeps the film's excitement at the level of an actual magictrick. More than a momentary "how'd they do that" would have preventedthis historical fantasy from just being a so-so film. Furthermore, itsurely exposes the typically clever Nolan as maybe not being as sharpas those who give him credit. A much smarter filmmaker wouldn't havetelegraphed the film's big twist, yet Christopher Nolan does frommiles away. The only question lingering in my mind after the film was-- when does the next Batman film come out?
Perhaps the broadest comedic indictment of American culture in ages, Sacha Baron Cohen's quasi-doc/road movie actually looks at America throughforeign eyes. What Borat sees is an interesting mix of politeness and intolerance, where the unsuspecting players often use their own words to hang themselves. Still Cohen's Andy Kaufman-like gift for playing the straight-faced prankster is what shines through the discomfort and humiliation. He has an uncanny ability to keep character and allow people to reveal themselves on camera. One of the most pointed comedic outbreaks is a bit of physical comedy in the vein of Peter Sellers, where Borat clumsily slips in an antique shop known for its Confederate goods. His ensuing numerous pratfalls are genius, and the gag works at face value while having many, many layers. When was the last time you saw a comedy this smart?
STRANGER THAN FICTION.
Will Ferrell is a character in Emma Thompson's as-yet-uncompleted novel. A true delight, STRANGER THAN FICTION mixes comedy, drama, tragedy, whimsy and romance in a fashion that seems rare these days. With perhaps one cast member too many, director Mark Forrester stumbles towards the finish line, but in its graceful ending moments STRANGER THAN FICTION shines like the best of work of James L. Brooks.
THE CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER.
aka The Curse of the Chrysanthemums.
Truly the year's most gorgeous-looking film. Zhang Yimou's period family drama/historical martial arts epic takes a bit to find itsproper footing. Once the cards are all laid down, though, the fun begins. Boasting terrific lead performances from Chow Yung Fat and Gong Li, CURSE ends with all the plot elements coming together in adevastating family meeting and epic battle that would make Peter Jackson jealous. The film is both a minor triumph and slight disappointment because of the two plot threads being juggled in an uneven manner.
Bond is back. And, better than ever. That's right -- I'm laying itdown right now: Casino Royale is the best Bond film. In order to truly appreciate the toned down, lo-tech Bond that Daniel Craig inhabits, you need to have familiarity with the franchise because many of the revisionist touches would have been cringe-inducing camp in the wrong hands. Instead, CASINO ROYALE is the BATMAN BEGINS of James Bond films-- stripped down, leaner, meaner and slightly more plausible than its predecessors (which isn't hard considering the previous installment featured a villain with diamonds in his face). It meanders a bit towards its end, but the exhausting spectacle of the film's fantastic chases and ludicrous card games needed a bit of a break before a final, extravagent set piece in Venice. Emotional resonnance by the fantastic Craig makes this Bond the most human to in habit the role, even when he is saddled with some really bad dialogue. Also impressive is how the film deals deftly with the current context in which a British secret agent would be needed; again, in order to fully appreciate this watch how clumsily the Brosnan Bond films handle the post-Cold War secret agent. Personally, I can't wait for the next one!