January 2009 Thumbnails
by Tony Medley
Wrestler (9/10): This is not an easy movie
to watch, but what a performance by Mickey Rourke! Director Darren
Aronofsky inserts exploitive scenes like the brutal use of a staple gun on
Rourke and substantial gratuitous nudity by Marisa Tomei when she could
easily have been wearing at least a bikini top without sacrificing
The Reader (9/10): Highlighted
by another great performance by Kate Winslett, this provides a profound
take on German guilt about the Nazi era, buttressed by a bravura
performance by teenager David Kross, who had to learn English and endure
many naked scenes with Winslett for the role, poor guy.
(7/10): Loosely based on record producer Leonard Chess (Adrien Brody)
and the great black rock ‘n’ roll and blues singers he produced, mainly
Muddy Waters (Jeffrey Wright), Chuck Berry (Mos Def), and Etta James (Beyoncé).
Although the actors are all professional singers in their own right, maybe
it’s understandable since Beyoncé is the executive producer, but they all
use their own voices instead of mouthing to the great singers they are
portraying. I’m sorry, but I don’t want to hear Mos Def cover Chuck Berry.
I want to hear the real thing. Beyoncé is a terrific singer, but I want to
hear James herself. I would especially have liked to have heard her
classic hit, “At Last,” sung by her. Worse, this is yet another music
biopic that plays only snippets of great music, instead of playing each
song in its entirety (except for the boss, Beyoncé, who sings all her
songs from start to finish). The film whitewashes Chess from the way he
exploited his charges (as documented in Berry’s
autobiography), especially Waters and Berry,
but despite a disjoined first half, this ultimately enjoyable movie picks
up in the second half.
(7/10): Despite an abysmal display of ignorance, in which a Christian
preacher equates the Immaculate Conception with the virgin birth, and a
horrible trailer that seems intended to drive people away, this is a
surprisingly entertaining movie with funny performances by Reese
Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn and the rest of the exceptional cast.
The story and ending are so ludicrous, defying rational human
behavior, they don't measure up to the award-quality performances, by Amy
Adams, Viola Davis, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Meryl Streep, in that
This isn’t a biopic of assassinated gay San Francisco politician Harvey
Milk, it’s a canonization. The production notes disclaim any even-handed
approach by stating that Milk was “a “friend, lover, unifier, politician,
fighter, icon, inspiration, and hero.” So if you want an accurate,
warts-and-all examination of Milk, this is not the vehicle, despite an
exceptional performance by Sean Penn.
The Day the
Earth Stood Still (0/10): Answers the burning question, just how bad
can a movie be?
Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, Valkyrie and more.