Category: 2 stars


Dir. Michael Hoffman
(2009, R, 113 min)
★ ★

I never used to think about it, but the more movies I see from around the world, the more distracting it is when, for instance, a cast of British actors comes together to make a movie about Russian people. Stranger still is when a couple of those actors are American, doing British accents, to play Russian people. It seems that British is the default accent for all Europeans in period films, I suppose because it sounds traditional and refined, but if it is to be performed in the English language, why British accents and not Russian accents? … Read the rest of my review at Culturazzi.org.

Advertisements

Dir. Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck
(2010, PG-13, 91 min)
★ ★

It’s Kind of a Funny Story begins promisingly, with shots on the Brooklyn Bridge at night, where Craig (Keir Gilchrist) abandons his bicycle and prepares to jump. He’s interrupted by his mother (Lauren Graham), father (Jim Gaffigan), and precocious little sister (Dana DeVestern). They express their concern, for the bike and not for him.

Continue reading

Dir. Ben Affleck
(2010, R, 123 min)
★ ★

The Town is a watchable and competently made heist film without much to recommend it for. It’s the second film directed by actor Ben Affleck, whose first film was 2007’s darker and grittier Gone Baby Gone. This film, also set in a noir-ish Boston crime world, is constructed mostly of car chases, shootouts, and cliches — occasionally effective, but on the whole not very satisfying. I kept hoping it would develop into something of greater ambition or higher artistic stakes.

Continue reading

Dominique Thomas and Lola Créton, in 'Bluebeard'

Dir. Catherine Breillat
(2010, Not Rated, 80 min)
★ ★

Catherine Breillat’s Bluebeard is minimal to the point of flatness. Story-wise, I’m not sure what it’s about really. It alternates between France in the 17th Century and the 1950s, where pairs of young sisters are in different ways embroiled in the titular fairy tale. It leads, in an abrupt finale, to a twist of fate, but why is it twisting and what is Breillat’s intent? The sparsity of her style yields little emotional effect — neither wonder nor sympathy nor horror. It hangs on the screen but doesn’t take shape.

Continue reading

Morgan Freeman, in 'Invictus'

Dir. Clint Eastwood
(2009, PG-13, 133 min)
★ ★

The combination of director Clint Eastwood, stars Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon, and subject matter as inherently full of import as the end of South African Apartheid creates high expectations that Invictus falls well under. It would be a disappointment even from a lesser filmmaker; that it comes from the man who made Million Dollar Baby and Letters from Iwo Jima we can only regard with a baffled shrug.

Continue reading

'Women Without Men'

Dir. Shirin Neshat
(2010, Not Rated, 95 min)
★ ★

From its title, you’d immediately expect Women Without Men to be a feminist tract, and that’s what you get — sort of. Set amidst the overthrow of Iran’s democratically elected prime minister Mohammed Mossadegh in the early 1950s, it tells the story of four women, each oppressed by men in some way, and how they find respite. But the film, written and directed by Shirin Neshat from a novel by Shahrnush Parsipur, is structured so loosely that it’s all but formless, unable to draw its disparate characters, stories, and themes together into any kind of cohesive whole. What is the film about? A little bit of everything, and nothing … Read my full review at Culturazzi.org.

Robert Downey Jr., in 'Iron Man'

Dir. Jon Favreau
(2010, PG-13, 124 min)
★ ★

Either I’ve changed since 2008 or Tony Stark has. In the first Iron Man film, I remember being charmed by the billionaire arms manufacturer, a vainglorious man-child who approached superheroism like a playground. But in Iron Man 2 he’s much less charming. His brashness has become shtick. He’s not just making a spectacle of himself, he’s making a spectacle of being a spectacle, self-consciously showing off like it’s a marketing ploy. Step right up and behold Tony Stark’s ego! He wisecracks at Congressional hearings. He recklessly drives his own race car. He jumps out of a plane and lands on stage at his own weapons expo in full regalia, and when he takes off his armor his tuxedo is still well-pressed and his hair still perfectly coifed. “I’m an incorrigible brat, but that’s why you love me,” he seems to tell us. I’m not sure I even like him this time around.

Continue reading

Russell Brand, in 'Get Him to the Greek'

Dir. Nicholas Stoller
(2010, R, 109 min)
★ ★

Get Him to the Greek is the filmic equivalent of a falling-down drunk: it’s fun early on, then loses control, makes an embarrassing spectacle of itself, and leaves us feeling a little tired and sad. Its subject matter might be good material for a serious drama — the storylines and characters skew surprisingly dark — but because it’s aiming for slapstick farce it fails. The emotional scenes work because they allow the film to be reflective about what it’s showing us. The comic scenes mostly don’t, because they’re founded in behavior that is pitiable and grim. It’s the story of a man with a severe substance-abuse problem, but the film didn’t need to emulate one.

Continue reading

Jay Baruchel and Alice Eve, in 'She's Out of My League'

Dir. Jim Field Smith
(2010, R, 104 min)
★ ★

She’s Out of My League is a love story between two appealing leads in a film that made the mistake of hiring a supporting cast. No, that’s unfair to the actors, some of whom I’ve liked in other roles, including Krysten Ritter, from TV’s Breaking Bad and Veronica Mars, here doing bitchy-best-friend duty; and Kyle Bornheimer, who for some reason has become typecast as boorish jerks since his likable performance on the sitcom Worst Week. Even the actors I’m less familiar with it’s hard to fault; they’re shrill because that’s how their characters are written, and that’s how Jim Field Smith, who knows how to make things big and loud but not funny, directs them.

Continue reading

Amanda Seyfried, in 'Chloe'

Dir. Atom Egoyan
(2010, R, 96 min)
★ ★

At first, the title character in Chloe is an intriguing mystery. After an opening scene in which she discusses her profession — the world’s oldest — in voice-over, she meets Catherine Stewart (Julianne Moore), who soon comes to her with an unusual proposition. Catherine suspects her husband, David (Liam Neeson), of infidelity and hires Chloe to entice him. What will he do when presented with an opportunity?

Continue reading