Review: The Assassination of Jesse James

Director Andrew Dominik has done something rather amazing. He’s made a movie about one of the most notorious outlaws in the history of America without showing hardly any of his law-breaking ways. And the fact he’s done it in a compelling, exciting way is a credit to his skill and talent. The film, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, is an atmospheric tour de force, relying heavily on both Dominik’s skill behind the camera and the work of Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck in front of it. Both parts come together beautifully to reveal the first real awards contender of the season. Continue reading “Review: The Assassination of Jesse James”

Revoew: 30 Days of Night

thirty_days_of_nightWhat can I say? I like monster movies! I like films with evil, scary things going bump in the night. I like films that cause girls to grab me, terrified, in the darkness. So let me start by saying the new vampire film 30 Days of Night delivers those things in spades. Sure, it has some problems, but it accomplishes what it sets out to do, and today, I find that a rare thing indeed.

The plot, based on the Dark Horse graphic novel by Ben Templesmith and Steve Niles (who also co-wrote the screenplay), offers a wonderfully original concept and one which should have been thought of years ago. The vampires attack the far northern town of Barrow, Alaska, well above the Arctic Circle, where when the sun goes down for winter, it stays down for a full month. This gives the monsters plenty of time to hunt down their prey. And hunt they do. In the first few days these vampires, led by the beautifully dark-eyed Marlow (Danny Huston), take out most of the town, leaving only a handful of survivors. And, because they can, they do it in full view of God and the camera. Continue reading “Revoew: 30 Days of Night”

Review: The Darjeeling Limited

Darjeeling ltdA few weeks ago, before I saw The Darjeeling Limited, a friend of mine was bemoaning the fact that a film likeResident Evil: Extinction was getting a wide release and a huge promotion while writer-directors like Wes Anderson have to struggle with getting a film made and released. When I saw Anderson’s new film, I think I was beginning to understand why.

Wes Anderson is quite talented. When he first appeared on the scene with Bottle Rocket, he was hailed as the new wunderkind of independent cinema. He held a tight reign on that mantle with the release of Rushmore and then, with The Royal Tenenbaums, cracks started to show. By the time The Life Aquatic came out, only the true believers were still voicing loud support. For the rest of the world, however, the film didn’t work. It became a matter of the fans complaining that if one didn’t like it, one simply didn’t get it. The same, I fear, is true of this latest feature. Continue reading “Review: The Darjeeling Limited”

Review: Gone Baby Gone

Gone baby goneBen Affleck, who won an Oscar as a writer, is once again returning to a spot behind the camera. For Gone Baby Gone, in addition to writing chores which he shares with a former production assistant named Aaron Stockard, he is also picking up the director’s reins and I must say, for this reviewer, I’d rather NOT see him on screen. For me Affleck is better when he’s not seen. Of course this doesn’t mean we go without an Affleck in a leading role, it’s just that this time the job goes to Ben’s younger brother Casey, whom, I suppose, is coming into his own as an actor. Continue reading “Review: Gone Baby Gone”

Review: Into the Wild

into_the_wild_xlgAfter ninety minutes of watching Into The Wild, I fell completely for Christopher McCandless, the 22-year-old who gave away all his money and headed out for a life on the road. It took that long because up until that point in the two-and-a-half hour film I wasn’t quite sure where we were going. Now, going nowhere in a book is okay. That’s what books are, emotional explorations of character and identity. In a film, though, that same exploration can be death. A film, no matter how good the acting (and here, the acting is phenomenal – but I’ll get back to that), is about the action, what the characters are doing. Continue reading “Review: Into the Wild”

Review: Michael Clayton

michael_claytonThere is no doubt George Clooney is one of the best actors of his generation. And when you team him with people like Tilda Swinton, Tom Wilkinson, Sidney Pollack, Ken Howard and Michael O’Keefe, you expect some performance fireworks. Shame they were wasted on Michael Clayton, a by-the-numbers legal thriller which has been done before and done better. Continue reading “Review: Michael Clayton”