ENJOY THE MOVIES
Traditionally, January is the time of year when studios dump all the films they don't think are going to do very well. With Mad Money, the new film directed by Calle Khouri, I'm not sure they're right. But that doesn't make it a good film. Mad Money follows Bridget Cardigan (Diane Keaton), an upper class housewife who needs to find a job in order to help stave off the impending financial doom caused by her husband being downsized. She starts working for the Federal Reserve Bank in Kansas City, the place where they destroy used money.
What a year it's been…
"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes - and ships - and sealing wax -
of cabbages - and kings."
This past year has been a year of such a variety and differentiation amongst the crop of both Hollywood and independent cinema that there really is no way to actually encompass it all. As my first year back on the reviewing circuit, it was a bit overwhelming to catch the diversity the viewing public is being presented with. Granted, like Theodore Sturgeon said, "90% of everything is crud" and the film industry is no exception. So when something rises to the top, it's only fair to note it, to praise it and hope that the people responsible will take notice and endeavor to repeat it.
This is the season when realism gets thrown out the window in favor of extended metaphor. In the case of Rob Reiner's The Bucket List, that metaphor is about living life to the fullest, no matter what's coming down the pike.
What was Paul Thomas Anderson thinking? In his new movie, There Will Be Blood, the auteur filmmaker is taking a lesser known novel by Upton Sinclair, Oil!, and turning it into a long, boring rumination on… well, that's part of the problem, He never really gets around to making a point. Instead, he chooses to spend almost three hours giving us the life of a disagreeable wildcatter named Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) without ever scratching below the obvious.
Maybe it's just me, but Woody Allen has been slightly obsessed with death recently. Specifically, death with accents. Like his last two films, his newest effort, Cassandra's Dream, concerns the moral and ethical choices we all face at some point in our lives. Namely, how far would you go to get what you want. And it takes place in London.
Why? Why is it that because we get Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts, the proverbial Hollywood Prom King and Queen, in a true story written for the screen by Tinseltown's chess club president Aaron Sorkin, do we think it must be socially important and award worthy? Add in perennial literati favorites director Mike Nichols and Philip Seymour Hoffman and the pedigree for Charlie Wilson's War is impeccable. You might as well send the Oscars now.
It's a mistake to think that The Kite Runner, based on the best-selling book of the same name, is yet another entry in the current trend of setting films in the middle-east in order to give then some sort of social importance. As directed by Marc Forster, The Kite Runner is instead a rumination on friendship, loyalty and redemption which uses the background of Afghanistan to illustrate rather than define those attributes.
Look, I'm not going to sugar coat this. I hated Margot at the Wedding. From the opening, jittery, out-of-focus, poorly lit scenes which scream "I'm an independent movie" to the ending, which is so abrupt the audience is left sitting slack-jawed in their chairs long after the credits have started, this film just does not work. Now, I have nothing against indie films. I don't mind relationship driven dramas or Nicole Kidman and I think Jennifer Jason Leigh is one of the finest actresses of her generation, but the script for this film gives them nothing to work with.
The problem with I Am Legend is that it has no idea what kind of a film it wants to be. This isn't to say it's not enjoyable, just that it's not nearly as good as it could be which is a shame because the source material, a novel by Richard Matheson and 1971's Omega Man, are both well thought out pieces of speculative fiction. Here, though, the film never settles down into a rhythm and ends up leaving the audience unfulfilled.
The cool kids in high school are never as cool in retrospect. When you think back on it, from an adult perspective, they were the odd-balls, the ones who did whatever they wanted, who didn't conform to societal norms. Such is the case with Juno, the title character in the new film directed by Jason Reitman (Thank You For Smoking) and written by Diablo Cody. She's cool because she isn't a cheerleader or a bitch. She's just this odd little girl, named after the queen of the Roman gods, with a step-mom and a half-sister and house phone that looks like a hamburger. In short, she's cool simply because she isn't.
In what seems to be a growing trend, Enchanted is the latest entry into what should soon be called "The Great Fairy Tale Revolution of 07." Like August Rush before it, Enchanted makes no bones about its pretensions. Unlike other tales, though, this one takes its heritage directly from the source, deconstructing the Disney classic paradigm so well that if Disney hadn't put it out, they would have to sue.
Movies based on Stephen King stories are like rivers in the old west. You never know how deep they are or what's waiting just below the surface. Often, they're not very deep, choosing instead to try and slavishly adhere to the printed word. The results range from good (Kubrick's The Shining) to bad (King's version of The Shining). And then there are the Stephen King stories adapted by Frank Darabont. These are in a whole different class and they are very, very good. The Mist, the latest collaboration between these two, easily joins its siblings, The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile, as a film which out shines its source material.