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Thumbnails December 08

by Tony Medley

Changeling (10/10): Angelina Jolie gives an emotional performance portraying with heartbreaking poignancy a woman who loses her son, only to be brutalized by the LAPD, which in the 1920s and 30s was as corrupt as any 1880s frontier town. To his great credit, director Clint Eastwood tells it straight up with little Hollywood falderal, also getting fine performances from Jeffrey Donovan, Jason Butler Harner, John Malkovich, and Amy Ryan. But as good a thriller as this true story is, the star of the movie is the loving recreation of 1928 Los Angeles by Production designer James Murakami, location manager Patrick Mignano, and visual effects supervisor Michael Owens.

Quantum of Solace (9/10): Gone are the sexy style and sophisticated humor of Sean Connery’s James Bond, replaced by wooden Daniel Craig. Craig has the sense of humor of Attila the Hun and so little interest in women his only on-the-mouth kissing scene is excruciatingly clumsy. Judy Dench, back for her fifth unfortunate stint as M, is as humorless as Craig. Not all of the charm has been cast away, however. In a nice touch, director Marc Forster pays homage to “Goldfinger” in a scene near the end of the film, and retains the multiple exotic locations that have been de rigueur in Bond films. This is an entertaining action film; it’s just not James Bond.

High School Musical 3 – Senior Year (7/10): A 21st-Century version of Mickey saying to Judy, “Let’s put on a show!” There is no profanity, no nudity, no gratuitous sex, no bad parents, no terrible teachers, no evil people. This fun-filled movie was not made for the story or for any reason other than lots of delectable singing and dancing.

Pride and Glory (8/10): Director Gavin O’Connor gets terrific performances out of Edward Norton, Colin Farrell, Jon Voight, Noah Emmerich, and Jennifer Ehle which make this tense story of mixed loyalties in an NYPD family compelling, despite a loss of pace whenever the film turns from the cops to the families.

Zack and Miri make a porno (3/10): What is a classy lady like Elizabeth Banks doing in a film full of crude language and common dialogue about body parts, including female lubrication? Her co-star is Seth Rogen, who apparently won’t consider a script unless it has him saying the “f” word at least 50 times in the first ten minutes.  Add  graphic scenes of fornication in gymnastic positions, and it is easy to see why Kevin Smith, who wrote, directed, and edited, has the reputation as the inspiration for the Judd Apatow genre of film that concentrates on juvenile obsessions with foul language, free sex, and genital humor, which is not much to be proud of.

W. (2/10): Director Oliver Stone mounts a malicious attack on George W. Bush that includes a particularly venomous portrayal of Secretary of State Condi Rice by Thandie Newton as a shuffling Mrs. Stepinfetchit. I was surprised Stone didn’t have her say “Yassa, Massa,” sometime during the film. Elizabeth Banks’ performance as Laura Bush is the only saving grace.

Soul Men (2/10): Why is the innocuous “Amos ‘n’ Andy” (which features one of the most delightful, memorable TV characterizations of all time by Tim Moore as Kingfish) condemned to solitary confinement but degrading stuff like this allowed to demean all American blacks with nary a peep nor whimper? Samuel L. Jackson and the late Bernie Mac head a cast that portrays most blacks as crude, lawless buffoons who cannot utter three words in a row without using the “f” or “MF” words. Hollywood needs to produce more uplifting, positive films about blacks, like Denzell Washington’s “The Great Debaters,” and less debasing drivel like this.