Archive for December, 2009

A Showcase for its Starlets

The history behind the new Rob Marshall musical Nine is a full one. It’s based on a 1982 stage musical which was itself an adaptation of an Italian play by Mario Fratti that was inspired by the Frederico Fellini film 8 ½. Despite multiple viewings, 8 ½, a movie many film aficionados consider one of the greatest ever made, has never really worked for me. The new musical, however, is a lot of fun to watch, if only to see some of our most talented female actresses strut their stuff while flexing their golden pipes.

The Young Victoria
A Royal Romance

In 1997, Judi Dench played Queen Victoria, Britain’s longest reigning monarch in history, during her later years, the story revolving around her relationship with manservant John Brown. Now, The Young Victoria features Emily Blunt as the queen during the first years of her reign, including her relationship with husband Prince Albert. What really makes this movie work, though, is the performance by Emily Blunt, who finally gets a starring role after some notable supporting work. Blunt is terrific as the young Victoria. With the title of Queen, it’s easy to forget sometimes that Victoria was also a teenaged girl, and Blunt does an excellent job of balancing the exuberance of the Victoria’s youth with the seriousness of her station.

A Single Man
A Stunning Debut

Although I haven’t really done the research, I’d be willing to bet that the number of fashion industry icons that have gone on to filmmaking careers is somewhat minimal. Nevertheless, that is the leap that Tom Ford has made. The former creative director at Gucci and the creator of his own fashion line first moved into the movie business a year ago, fashioning the wardrobe for James Bond in Quantum of Solace. With A Single Man, Ford moves into the director’s chair and the result is actually quite impressive.

It’s Complicated
An Affair to Remember

Director Nancy Meyers is in the business of making romantic comedies for adults. The youngest of the film’s three leads is 51 years old, yet the film still manages to be more romantic, funnier, and yes, even sexier than many of the films currently out there starring 20-somethings. Of course, it definitely helps when your three elder leads are 15-time Oscar nominee Meryl Streep and 2010 Oscar hosts Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin. I really enjoyed this film, maybe even more so than the previous Nancy Meyers’ romantic comedy for adults, Something’s Gotta Give, to which this movie will endlessly be compared. The movie is full of laughs from start to finish, and all of the characters are entertaining and worth rooting for.

Uncross the Stars
A Trek Worth Taking

“How do you ruin a funeral?” asks the morosely quizzical Troy. The funeral is that of his wife of two years, Corinne, and the incipient squabble is between his theatrically-minded mother and his stereotypically free-spirited aunt, Hilda. Yes—it’s a comedy, in the classic sense. Yes—it’s a tragic romance, in the tradition of star-crossed lovers everywhere. Yes—it’s a feel-good love story offering quietly heartfelt performances from sometime A-listers (like Barbara Hershey and Ron Perlman as local grump Bobby). But it has a mind of its own, too, though it’s not earth-shattering filmmaking. At the very least, it takes its own advice seriously and manages to be a job well done.

The Book of Ruth
No Homer, Babe

If theatrical comfort food is to your taste, then you’ve come to right place with The Book of Ruth, in which distributor Pure Flix presents CCM legend Carman as Boaz, the distant kinsman of Moabite widow Ruth. In addition to the usual stuff, this retelling is about green- and blue-eyed Mary Kay reps who stalk the Holy Land in spotless garb and manicured nails while decrying “a people who slay the innocents”—that is, the multi-deitied but godless Moabites. Just don’t expect too much out of this biblical biopic—just as you don’t expect too much out of a box of Little Debbies, enjoy it as you might.

The Master Plan
Visionary, If Rough

In his feature-length experimental look at the suburban evangelical teen subculture, “fascinated” agnostic director Aron Campisano pulls no punches, but throws no suckers, either. Still, though I found Campisano’s narrative tightrope-walking act engaging and fair, the real strength of this film is the director’s visual style. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a shoe-string budget film that was as visually arresting as The Master Plan. That being said, Campisano’s film is also not really ready for prime time—but this is a great film for other filmmakers to study, and it’s a decent conversation-starter for those interested in talking about the ways in which teens come to—and steer away from—faith.

Did You Hear About the Morgans?
I Wish I Hadn't

Director Marc Lawrence is seemingly trying to create a niche for himself in the romantic comedy genre, almost as if he’s aiming to be the male Nora Ephron. This is now his third film as a director, all of which have been rather straight-forward romantic comedies. Each has starred Hugh Grant and the first two—Two Weeks Notice and Music and Lyrics—were actually quite enjoyable. Unfortunately, Did You Hear About the Morgans? gets lost in a vast landscape void of anything representing a good movie.

An Unparalleled Cinematic Experience

From Terminator to The Abyss, Cameron’s films have always pushed the envelope in terms of their special effects and the reason for the twelve year delay between Titanic and Avatar is that he was waiting for technology to catch up with his vision. It was worth the wait as the director has created a fantastically detailed, photo-realistic world and inhabited it with an equally photo-realistic CGI race of humanoids. It’s a world that is as fantastical as Oz, yet feels as authentic as your own backyard. Avatar may be the most hyped film to hit cinemas since Lord of the Rings debuted, and a lot of people believe that it is destined to fail. Those people obviously haven’t seen the movie yet.

Living In Emergency
Four-Letter-Word-Inducing Intense

As volunteerism is presented in this documentary, you can believe medical mission director Dr. Kiara Lepora when she says, “It’s not about being a good person. It’s not about that at all.” And the film is unflinching in depicting this anti-heroicism. No wonder, we are led to think, these doctors make no apologies for a little bit of pot, a good bit of off-hours booze, and as Lepora puts it “a lot of sex.” The problem is not models of organization or modes of relief or belief: it’s extreme circumstances into which very imperfect, guilt-ridden, and idealistic people are inserted. These are simply the forges which refine human beings, in which both the pure and the puerile become abundantly self-evident.

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