Notes on a Scandal HHHH(1/14)
Breach HHH (3/27)
Paris, je t'aime HHH (5/27)
Sicko HHH (6/30)
El Laberinto del Fauno (Pan’s Labyrinth) HHH (1/24)
La Doublure (The Valet) HHH (5/13)
Music and Lyrics HHH (3/10)
The Good Shepard HH (1/9)
Ratatouille HH (7/15)
28 Weeks Later HH (6/12)
Notes on a Scandal HHHH
Dame Judi Dench turns in another stunning performance as a history teacher who has the goods on an art teacher (Cate Blanchett), who's having an illicit affair with a 15-year old student (Andrew Simpson). Its an interesting twist on the May-December romantic angle. Despite a lackluster conclusion and a pedal to the metal score by Phillip Glass, its a riveting chamber piece. Also starring Bill Nighy as the art teacher's cuckhold husband.
Tightly scripted screenplay be writers Adam Mazer, William Rotko, and Billy Ray about the downfall of CIA turncoat Robert Hanssen (Chris Cooper). A young upstart agent named Eric (Ryan Phillippe) is recruited to shadow Hanssen and report back to his superiors (Laura Linney and Dennis Haysbert). There isn’t a whole lot of cloak and dagger, just a lot of mind games and misunderstandings. Meanwhile Hanssen is painted as an overly devout Catholic and a “sexual deviant”. An odd sort of statement considering there are more serious matters at hand. Whenever Hanssen comes close to discovering the truth its covered nicely by Eric. Meanwhile, Eric’s wife (Caroline Dhavernas) almost figures out the actual mission of her husband. I wasn’t quite sure what accent Dhavernas was doing considering she speaks fluent French, but its not a big distraction. While I would have liked more insight into Hanssen’s motivation, it was left a mystery. Still its a rather entertaining film to watch.
Paris, je t'aime HHH
18 vignettes by 21 directors in this love letter to Paris. Most satisfying is Oliver Schmitz's about a dying immigrant, Alexander Payne's tale of a U.S postal worker on holiday, and Wes Craven's witty story in a cemetery. The ones that didn't work for me were Vincenzo Natali's highly stylized vampire story, and Christopher Doyle's manic romp about a hair care sales representative. Leave it to the Coen Brothers to kick in an odd piece involving an American tourist reading his informative guidebook in the underground metro; which works well as a fish out of water tale. The soundtrack is magnificent.
Writer/director Michael Moore offers a bitter pill about America's health care system. When he’s not touting a rose-colored glasses scenario of socialized medicine in Europe, he’s schlepping some poor 9/11-rescue workers to the mined waters offshore of Guantanamo Bay Naval Base to make a point. While I agree there needs to be reform, the points made in Moore’s TV interviews are not brought up. I wish there were a bit more humor and a little less self-righteousness. Still its worth screening if just enough to write your state representative.
Writer/Director Guillermo del Toro's latest film about fascist Spain during World War II is quite an ambitious project, albeit somewhat overpraised. A little girl (Ivana Buquero) moves in with her pregnant mother (Ariadna Gil) who has married a sadistic captain (Sergi López). To escape the horror of war, the young girl creates a world of fairies and mythical creatures. I did enjoy a bizarre creature known as Pale Man (Doug Jones) who places his eyeballs in the palms of his hands and bites the heads off a couple of annoying fairies known as Cheech and Chong (May they rest in peace). This is more of an allegory as was the weird 1979 film “The Tin Drum”, than actual historical fact. Unfortunately, its overuse of CGI (Computer Graphics Imagery) left me cold and it's overtly Catholic ending was more than I could swallow. Still, for originality it's worth a peek.
Crazy French farce by writer/director Francis Veber. After a failed proposal, a poor valet (Gad Elmaleh) is forced to spend some time with a supermodel (Alice Taglioni) to deceive the wife (Kristin Scott Thomas) of a billionaire (Daniel Auteuil). Also starring Virginie Ledoyen and Danny Boon.
Music and Lyrics HHH
A washed-up 80’s pop star (Hugh Grant) is commissioned to write a song for a hot Mandy Moore-type pop star (played superbly by Haley Bennett). His lyricist (Jason Antoon) is having a mental block, but alas his plant sitter (Drew Barrymore) comes up with the goods. The usual fare of boy meets girls is a lighthearted enjoyable winter fare for those dreary February days. Also starring Brad Garrett and Kristen Johnston while Marc Lawrence directs.
Director/actor Robert De Niro doesn’t know when to cut, in this overly bloated 165-minute tale about the birth of the CIA. When the film isn’t recounting the 1961 failed Bay of Pigs mission, it's going back to the Harvard days of Skull & Bones antics at Harvard in the late 1930’s. This may appear to be a David Leanesque film, but its plodding pace just about tries one’s patience of keeping interest. Much of the acting by Matt Damon is wooden, so there’s really no one to cheer for. While he’s keeping true to God and country, the price he pays is enormous. Also featuring Angelina Jolie, John Tuturro, Tammy Blanchard, Alec Baldwin, Michael Gambon, William Hurt, Joe Pesci, Timothy Hutton, and Lee Pace.
I’m not quite sure what to make of Brad Bird’s latest concoction from Pixar Studios. He mixes rats and cooking in what is supposed to be some sort of uplifting statement of “Don’t Let Anything Get in Your Way” (a weird homage to Dubya’s mantra of invading Iraq perhaps?). A rat (Patton Oswalt) has a passion for haute cuisine when he spies his idol Chef Gusteau/Mass Marketer (Brad Garrett). Suprisingly, the rat winds up in the sewers of Paris (Don’t ask how he got there). Meanwhile after a hyperkinetic ground-level romp in the kitchen, he meets up with a bumbling kitchen worker (Lou Romano). There really isn’t a lovable character in the bunch and its mean-spiritedness takes away what little joy there out of the mix. I’m a bit weary of Pixar’s animation, which resembles a strange amalgam of claymation and 3-D solids modeling. Unfortunately I wished they had kept the whole art direction in the same lovable style as the closing credits. If you find this clip entertaining, you'll enjoy the movie.
Writer/Director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo’s sequel to “28 Days Later” (which I didn’t screen) is a rather stylish thriller that offers little in plot and a lot in jiggly camera movement and exploding squibs. Apparently a biological outbreak has occurred that turns people into raving cannibalistic zombies. Supposedly this outbreak has been suppressed and the population has been given the OK to resettle on The Isle of Dogs in London, UK. Unfortunately an asymptomatic carrier (Catherine McCormack) has been found but is quarantined. Guess what happens? It grows tiresome as use of night vision goggles (first seen in Season 1 of “Survivor” and other gimmicky cinematography get used. The ending makes way for the next sequel (what a surprise!). Also starring Robert Carlyle, Imogen Poots, Macintosh Muggleton and Rose Byrne.
© 2007 David Burnham
Back to Home