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Thumbnails November 08

by Tony Medley

Eagle Eye (10/10): A thinly veiled attack on The Patriot Act, like most good thrillers this starts out with two ordinary people who suddenly find themselves in terrible danger and they don’t know why or how or what to do. This is just good, old-fashioned filmmaking with two likeable protagonists (Shia LaBouef and Michelle Monaghan) up against a monolithic antagonist. There is constant tension and action, tightly directed by D.J. Caruso, helped immensely by Brian Tyler’s music and Dariusz Wolski’s cinematography.

Eden (9/10): First time director Declan Recks creates a stunningly intuitive study of a young Irish marriage with particular emphasis on the way a young husband’s sexual wanderlust affects his loving but ignored wife, featuring a bravura performance by Eileen Walsh as the wife. (opens November 21).

Flash of Genius (9/10): Ford Motor Company appropriated Bob Kearns’ (Greg Kinnear) invention of the intermittent windshield wiper and basically destroyed Kearns’ life by stonewalling his claims. With fine performances by Kinnear, Laura Graham as his wife, and Alan Alda as his slimy attorney, this movie, good as it is, barely scratches the surface of the pain of the shameful American system of civil justice.

RocknRolla (8/10): Director Michael Richie’s convoluted, but fast paced and high tempo story of London corruption features terrific performances by Gerard Butler, Idris Elba, Karel Roden (a dead ringer for a young Michael York), Toby Kebbell, Thandie Newton, and Tom Wilkinson. But the star is Richie’s quirky filmmaking with unique camera angles and lighting that had me captivated.


Body of Lies (8/10): Despite a Hollywood ending you’ve seen a million times and an unconvincing love interest, this is a well-made, high energy, fast-paced Ridley Scott film loaded with tension with quality performances by Leonardo DiCaprio, Russell Crowe, and Mark Strong.

Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist (7/10): Director Peter Sollett and lead actress Kat Dennings create an entertaining light romantic comedy, despite some unnecessary grossouts apparently to appeal to the teenage intellect, highlighted by a good soundtrack.

What Just Happened (7/10): Director Barry Levinson’s conversion of Art Lipson’s autobiography of his years as a Hollywood Producer presents Robert DeNiro with a chance to do something he can still do well, comedy. Levinson set’s a frenetic pace as DeNiro humorously struggles to get along with his boss, Catherine Keener (in a terrific performance), a feckless agent, John Turturro, one of his former wives, Robin Penn Wright, and Bruce Willis, an unreasonable, ego-inflated star. DeNiro’s most difficult problem, however, is the brightest light in the picture, a drug-addled, over-the-top British director, Michael Wincott, that neither DeNiro nor Keener can control. Hollywood parodies don’t generally get a good reception from audiences, but this is better than most, although not in the class of “Singin’ in the Rain.”

The Express (5/10): Marred by a Hollywood-created racist agenda where it didn't exist, and because this concentrates on Ernie Davis the doomed Syracuse football player, it doesn't capture the man, who is an icon to all who knew him because of his character, not his running ability, and that's the better story. Rob Brown does expertly recreate Davis’s good looks and good guy personality and Dennis Quaid gives a good performance as Syracuse’s hard-driving coach, Ben Schwarzwalder. But the words “based on” here mean that this is largely fiction.