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Thumbnails September 2009

by Tony Medley

The Ugly Truth (10/10): Although Gerard Butler is intended by the two female writers to be so over-the-top outrageous that he’s laughable, most of what he tells the gorgeous (and funny) Katherine Heigl captures how lots of men really react to women. A word of warning; this is an adult movie with adult language and frank discussions of sexual activity. Some could find it offensive. I thought it was hilarious. To women I say, go to the film and laugh at what Butler says, but take notes.

The Time Traveler’s Wife (9/10): Highlighted by terrific, high-chemistry performances by Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana, this is a touching, romantic time-warp romance that engendered some tears (as good romances often do) and stayed with me long after I left the theater.

In The Loop (9/10): A side-splittingly funny farce, despite all the f-bombs.

Flame & Citron (9/10): This realistic tale “based on” the true story of Danish resistance killers of collaborators and Nazis, 23-year-old trigger man Flame (Thure Lindhardt), and his 33-year-old driver, Citron (Mads Mikkelsen) presents the Resistance as the tense, dangerous affair it really was, not as the romantic adventure commonly pictured by Hollywood. Flame’s affair with the inscrutable Ketty Selmer (Stine Stengade, in a mesmerizing, Marlene Dietrich-style, performance), leads both him and Citron to question their actions and whom to trust and whom not.  In Danish and German.

Inglorious Basterds (8/10: Starting with a brilliantly edgy 15-minute segment with SS Col. Christoph Waltz, in a movie-stealing, charmingly sinister performance, questioning a dairy farmer, it eventually morphs into a film with the feel of an old-fashioned WWII movie from the 1940s, which made war seem like fun. Brad Pitt, in particular, plays an unrealistic (but entertaining) Errol Flynn-type who marauds behind the Nazi lines with the greatest of ease. More compelling is Mélanie Laurent as a Jewess operating a theater in Paris, chillingly pursued by dangerous Nazi hero Daniel Brühl. This is an entertaining, surprising, story without much (but not all) of the gore for which director Quentin Tarantino is so well known.

Fragments (7/10): A taut drama with an ensemble cast, headed by Forest Whitaker, multi-storyline drama with a time-trick structure in the style of “Babel” (2006) and “Crash” (2004), this takes a shocking incident, murders at a diner, and interweaves five separate story lines therefrom, showing how the incident affects the people who survived.

Taking Woodstock (7/10):  Edited in the style of the 1971 concert film, this is the story of the setup, focusing on gay designer Elliot Teichbert (Demetri Martin), based on his book.  Intended as a comedy, it’s more interesting than funny. Emile Hirsch, Eugene Levy, and Liev Schreiber give energetic performances as a spaced-out Vietnam veteran, the acquisitive owner of the property where the concert took place, and a cross-dressing ex-Marine, respectively.

Five Minutes of Heaven (5/10): After a gripping first half hour, this drama about the conflict in Northern Ireland slows down considerably anticipating a confrontation between James Nesbitt and his brother’s killer, Liam Neeson, who appears in less than a quarter of the film, despite top billing.

Julie & Julia (4/10): I can’t say this is entirely worthless; a scene at the 1:37 mark between Amy Adams and Mary Lynn Rajskub is entertaining. Meryl Streep’s caricature of Julia Childs (for which she will undoubtedly receive an Oscar® nomination) is more reminiscent of Dan Akroyd’s SNL Julia than Julia’s Julia. Counterbalancing media darling Streep’s parody is Adams who does her best with this weak script and forced story. Unlike Streep, Adams never seems to be “acting.”