(9/10): Denzell Washington
and Ryan Reynolds give wonderful performances, ably backed up by a good
cast that includes Vera Farmiga and Brendan Gleeson. Equally compelling
is the cinematography (Oliver Wood, who also shot the Matt Damon "Jason
Bourne" films, which used similar technique), although the plethora of
shots using cinéma vérité techniques highlighted by hand held cameras
and cuts so quick they might make one dizzy, could be bothersome to some
viewers. The amplified sound and splendid music (Ramin Djawadi), add
immeasurably to the high tension that pervades throughout.
(9/10): Greg Kinnear
sparkles as a sleazebag, devious insurance salesman, aided by
captivating performances by Alan Arkin and Billy Crudup, whose erratic,
tumultuous outbursts are rollicking good fun. This is a fine,
entertaining black comedy that is so well directed and written (with
sister Karen) by Jill Sprecher that one never anticipates what is going
to happen next, except that it's probably not going to turn out too well
Set in New Orleans, Panama, and on a container ship, whose captain (JK
Simmons) is less than friendly towards Mark Wahlberg, who is a reformed
drug runner forced into a shady deal to help his brother-in-law, the
cinematography (Barry Ackroyd) and music (Clinton Shorter) are both
first rate. Directed by Baltasar Kormákur with pace and tension that
never lets up from the opening scene, Wahlberg gives a scintillating
performance, and it's matched by Tim Foster, Giovanni Ribisi, and Kate
Beckinsale. If films are mainly meant as entertainment, this is first
Justice (9/10): This
terrific chase film has everything a good thriller needs, a talented
director (Roger Donaldson), actors giving fine performances (Nicolas
Cage, Guy Pearce, and January Jones), and an inventive script (Robert
Tannen) that doesn't contain plot holes that make you say, "What?".
Opens March 9.
The Mysterious Island IMAX 3D (8/10):
Shot in the best 3D I've seen since the first of the series, this is a
delightful entertainment for children and adults alike. Dwayne Johnson
and Michael Caine give charming performances, but the one who impressed
me the most was Vanessa Hudgens, who wears a tight, scoop-necked tee
shirt and short shorts throughout the film. She was definitely built for
3D. But that's not to depreciate the beautiful colors that are almost
constantly onscreen. Johnson, who has branched out from his normal
action roles occasionally, seems more and more comfortable in a light
comedy like this. He even plays the ukulele and sings. Unfortunately,
when he got rid of his nickname, The Rock, he discarded what had become
his trademark move, raising his one eyebrow. I miss that.
Act of Valor
(4/10): The most
noteworthy aspect of this disappointing film (which has been criticized
for being inappropriate publicity for what is a relatively clandestine
military group) is that all the action scenes, which comprise more than
75% of the movie, were shot with 15 handheld DSLR Canon 5D cameras.
Exacerbating the less than thin story (which avoids apparently silly
things like plot and planning), the acting by real Navy Seals detracts
from the film. The reason actors like Bruce Willis (who played a Navy
Seal in 2003's "Tears of the Sun") get the big bucks is that they can
make one believe they are what they portray.
War (1/10): Lowlighted by
poor casting (Chris Pine, Tom Hardy, and Reese Witherspoon), a humorless
script, ridiculous situations, and McG's hardly Capraesque directing,
this is more evidence that lots of modern filmmakers don't have a clue
how to make a romantic comedy that's romantic or funny.