Back in 2007, Samuel L. Jackson starred in a movie called Cleaner, where he played the owner of a business that tidied up the biological mess of crime scenes. He was duped into helping cover up a murder, which kicked into gear the active and interesting plot. While Sunshine Cleaning leverages that same odd-but-curious career track, it's an altogether different film. Not nearly as bright and fresh as the title would leave you to believe, Sunshine Cleaning is an overcast and melancholy film. Despite its grey tones, the film contains a spectrum of color thanks to the performances of Amy Adams, Emily Blunt and Alan Arkin.
There's a poignant phrase that shows up often in Watchmen, simply, "Who watches the Watchmen?" The question has a clear purpose in the story, which is to call attention to the authority enjoyed by the 6-person superhero team. But the same query is surely on the minds of studio execs now that the heralded comic book series has finally made it to the big screen. Who will flock to the theater to watch a two-and-a-half hour journey into an altered '80s reality? And does Watchmen truly deliver? While the film's quality has incited debate, the short answer to this question is that, truly, everyone should watch the Watchmen.
Proving he's not a one-hit badass, Liam Neeson leverages the fisticuffs he picked up as Ra's al Ghul in Batman Begins to beat the sense out of some Algerian thugs who have kidnapped his daughter in Pierre Morel's Taken. Clean-cut and unassuming, Neeson's Bryan Mills is inescapably reminiscent of Matt Damon's Jason Bourne. But anyone hoping for the next sensible spy tale to follow that ground-breaking trilogy should probably continue to hold their breath. Taken is admirably in-your-face, satisfyingly (if not surprisingly) blunt and lensed like the best of them, but it lacks in the nuance and depth that might turn it into a genre mainstay. Nevertheless, Neeson has clearly broken the mold for ass-kicking fathers.
Well before the release of writer/director David Goyer's The Unborn, the Dark Knight-scribe talked of a possible sequel to the dybbuk scare -- an opportunity, he said, to go deeper into the origins of the spirit haunting lead Odette Yustman (Cloverfield). Now that the film has come forth, any idea of continuing the story should be aborted posthaste. With its impaired speech, unusual movements and awkward sense of sexuality, The Unborn is a deformed film unbecoming of Goyer. While his directing background is limited, Goyer has some formidable writing credibility. However, none of that talent is inherited by The Unborn; and despite an intriguing premise, would have been better not to have been born at all.
A wedding is usually one of the hardest passages a couple can expect to weather in a relationship. Having just gone through one myself, I can readily attest. But you don't expect that trial to hold true for best friends -- that is unless said friends plan simultaneous dream weddings at New York City's Plaza Hotel. Such is the premarital pickle confronting Liv (Kate Hudson) and Emma (Anne Hathaway) when wedding planner extraordinaire Marion St. Claire (Candice Bergen) manages to botch the bookings. While the ensuing shenanigans are fun at times, Bride Wars tries to craft meaning out of marzipan, creating a spectacle that is at best a saturated imitation, and through sugary cliché, all around bad for you.
Just in time for the holidays and the New Year comes The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, a delicate, thought-provoking film that is surely going to evoke feelings of thanks and hope. It's not in my nature to be particularly tender, but director David Fincher's adaptation of the F. Scott Fitzgerald's short story will have even the most cynical person sit in optimistic wonderment. Much of the film's intrigue is found in the beautiful dichotomies it richly presents - life can be exceeding short or long, love can be numerous and singular, and the mind and body aren't always the same age. Button is classic storytelling in the finest sense, sprawling in epic scale, complex in feeling, and overflowing in meaning.
As part of the generation of raucous young WWE fans suplexing siblings in the living room, I grew to know professional wrestling pretty well. Later in life, I learned it was even crazier than I originally thought, because so much of it was for show. I won't say that it's fake, because that would be too flippant. In fact, those that participate have real bruises to prove it. In Darren Aronofsky's latest, The Wrestler, Mickey Rourke shows us just how real those wounds are and the physical and emotional toll they take. Rourke's performance is so honest, so intimate and so natural, you nearly feel like you're watching a documentary.
Let's be honest - Keanu Reeves headlining a remake of the 1951 sci-fi classic The Day the Earth Stood Still certainly doesn't sound like the rebirth of a genre archetype. In fact, the mere idea of retreading this territory finds many a fan up in arms. Nevertheless, with its smart casting, savvy CGI and efficient pacing, Scott Derrickson's Day finds a home among other capable productions in its class. Whereas the original focused on violence, Derrickson adopts an environmental approach that neither furthers nor mitigates the source material's intentions. And that's the real accomplishment - carefully carrying the essence of Robert Wise's classic to the finish line without dropping and breaking it into a thousand regrettable pieces.
Clearly defined lines between good and evil are the floorplans for most dramas. Even if we don't discover these boundaries by the end of a film, ultimately knowing these delineations help us process a story much easier. It gives us clarity and closure. But total uncertainty can also prove a cinematic comfort - that is if the characters causing the confusion are as well executed as they are in Doubt. Though not remarkable across the board, John Patrick Shanely's play-turned-film is pound-for-pound the best acted film of 2008, with riveting performances from Meryl Streep, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams and Viola Davis.
There is something that I just love about Bryan Singer's directing - his production values are incredible, but they're never overdone like with Michael Bay, and his editing is always very tight-knit yet well-paced enough to let the story build with finesse. Combine all of that with one of my favorite genres and settings, World War II, and you've got Valkyrie, a film that I optimistically went into and walked out loving. It may not be exactly be flawless, but it's already high up on the list of my favorite WWII films, and that's admittedly a very hard list to get on to. The cast may be the weakest link in the end, but Valkyrie literally had my heart racing from start to finish, even though I already knew what that outcome would be.
I wanted to voice my opinion on this today, because I felt Kevin's review didn't really do the film justice. Let me start off by saying this: Punisher: War Zone is a completely different movie than Thomas Jane's Punisher from 2004. While I did enjoy that film very much, and while Jane did the best he could with the character, I was never sold on him actually being the Punisher. He looked nothing like him, and the movie wasn't as gritty as many comic book fans are typically used to seeing with the character. Enter December 5th, 2008 and a reboot of the franchise just like Louis Leterrier did with the Hulk earlier this year. So how did this Punisher compare to the ones of past? I believe it was a much better film than both.
The Punisher may be a tortured purveyor of justice and a one-man SWAT team, able to spin upside down from a chandelier while firing automatic rifles and taking out dozens of bad guys, but the man-in-black, Frank Castle, is no match for director Lexi Alexander, who has done the improbable - put a bullet right between the eyes of one of Marvel's darker, richer characters. Punisher: War Zone is as bullet-ridden as it is bloody, and as bloody as it is campy. And even though a messy mix of hot metal, plasma and stupid can be fun, any thrill is tempered by knowing that the Punisher storyline is the true victim.