Thumbnails May 2008
by Tony Medley
Chaos Theory (10/10):
Ryan Reynolds gives a bravura performance as a control freak whose life
is thrown into chaos when his wife sets his watch back by 10 minutes. At
one point I laughed uncontrollably, but the film also engenders pathos.
Smart People (9/10):
Dennis Quaid and Ellen Page are the smart people who have to deal with
Thomas Haden Church and Sarah Jessica Parker and everyone else who don’t
get it as fast or as succinctly as Dennis and Ellen do. This is an
intuitive, sometimes humorous look at a serious issue, in the style of
“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” although not nearly as acerbic or
Street Kings (9/10):
Screenwriter James Ellroy (“L.A. Confidential”) and director David Ayer
(“Training Day”) clearly are not doing PR for the LAPD. They’ve combined
on this profane, action-packed film, and placed Keanu Reeves in jeopardy
for the entire 107 minutes, despite the efforts of his boss, Forest
Whitaker, to protect him from Internal Affairs Captain Hugh Laurie.
Brilliant cinematography (Gabriel Beristain) of Los Angeles and
fast-paced editing (Jeffrey Ford) are aided by terrific performances,
especially Naomie Harris and Cedric “The Entertainer” Kyles, in support
of Reeves and Whitaker, who are award-quality. Not a pretty picture of
the LAPD, but this kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time.
Priceless (9/10): This
is a hilarious love story the likes of which you’ve probably never seen
before, told in the midst of the world of luxury, high fashion, and
privilege on the French Riviera. Audrey Tatou is the ambitious beauty
using her seductiveness to find and get a rich old man to marry her
while Gad Elmelah is the smitten bartender who falls for her and throws
a monkey wrench into all her plans. In French.
Chiwetel Ejiiofor stands out as a saintly ju-jitsu instructor surrounded
by devious, selfish people (including Tim Allen, in a good non-comedic
performance) who don’t measure up to his standards. Unfortunately, this
is another script by director-writer David Mamet loaded with profane
dialogue that presents an interesting story with a counter-reality
ending that is as disappointing as the way he ended 1997’s “The Spanish
Prisoner.” Despite the tension in his story, just as UCLA basketball
coach Ben Howland needs someone who knows something about offense, Mamet
needs someone who knows how to script a believable dénouement.
Forgetting Sarah Marshall
(6/10): For my money, any movie that starts out with full frontal
male nudity (Jason Segel) and lingers on it has nowhere to go but up.
Not funny enough to qualify as a comedy, it’s just a light romance. The
only laughs are generated by the show-stealing performance of Russell
Brand, the tattooed rocker who replaces the dumped Segel as the
boyfriend of Kristen Bell (the titular Sarah). Even though the Hawaii
locations are beautiful (as is actress Mila Kunis, who comforts Segel),
without Brand the film would be a big dud.
Watching Renée Zellweger look as if she just sucked on a lemon for the
better part of two hours is just one of the many deficiencies in this
yet another ineffectual effort by George Clooney to be Cary Grant.
Miffed because he didn’t get a writer’s credit, Clooney downgraded his
WGA membership. Why anyone would want credit for the wan dialogue
masquerading as repartee is a telling statement about George’s taste and
judgment. But, hey, women tell me he’s sexy.
Deal (3/10): I guess it
is appropriate that this is an MGM picture, because it has the
production values of an MGM B-movie from the 1940s. It starts off with
loud, offputting music, music that continues for far too long. The story
is derivative, the acting and direction clumsy. The first hour is almost
interminable. It’s only saved from my lowest rating by the last 20
minutes. I was looking forward to a good movie about poker. I still am.
88 Minutes (3/10): This
film looks like the cast, writer, and director were selected by passing
out fliers on Hollywood Boulevard.
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