Friday, October 24, 2008

October's Film Round-Up

I was going to lnclude a picture of Ben Kingsley and Dennis Hopper locking lips in Elegy, but I figured this shot of the luscious and talented Ms. Cruz might generate some sweet, sweet Internet traffic.

Plus, do you know GQ named her one of the 25 sexiest women in film history? I agree, sure, but where was Linda Fiorentino from
The Last Seduction. That was a missed lay-up, if you ask me. Or Ellen Barkin from Sea of Love? Lou Croatto is not pleased right now.

As always, these reviews orginally appeared in
ICON and are reprinted with permission. Much thanks to the very generous Trina Robba. You can now pick up the magazine in Philadelphia. Be sure to say hi to Greenman.

Mister Foe (Dir: David Mackenzie). Starring: Jamie Bell, Sophia Myles, Ciarán Hinds, Claire Forlani, Ewen Bremner, Maurice Roëves. Reeling from his mother's death and his sister's departure, troubled 17-year-old Hallam Foe (Bell) leaves his palatial Scottish country home and heads to the hustle of Edinburgh. Homeless, he spots a young woman (Myles of Art School Confidential) who resembles his mother, and proceeds to follow the unaware doppelgänger everywhere, even setting up his nighttime stakeout in a nearby clock tower. Eventually, Hallam ingratiates himself into the woman's working (and social) life, but that doesn't solve the problems he left behind. Bell, the young star of Billy Elliot, is stellar as the unstable, lovelorn Foe, but the story's co-mingling of brooding voyeurism and coming-of-age woe, though a refreshing concept, never gels like it did in other social misfit romances like Secretary or Chasing Amy. Forlani is excellent (and nearly unrecognizable) in a nice change-of-pace role as Bell's manipulative, sexy stepmom. R

Elegy (Dir: Isabel Coixet). Starring: Ben Kingsley, Penélope Cruz, Dennis Hopper, Patricia Clarkson, Peter Sarsgaard, Deborah Harry. Professor and cultural critic David Kapesh (an outstanding Kingsley) starts a relationship with sultry student Consuela Castillo (Cruz), who is some 30 years his junior and way out of his league. Instead of enjoying the moment, Kapesh lets his self-doubt and his ingrained independence sabotage the relationship, much to the dismay of Consuela, who loves him. Based on Philip Roth's The Dying Animal, Kingsley perfectly captures the virile insecurity of Roth's best characters, and writer/director Coixet examines the dark side of male insecurity with complete confidence and insight. But after about an hour, the movie runs out of ideas, and efforts to jog the proceedings (introducing Sarsgaard as Kapesh's bitter, abandoned son; the death of a major character) don't quite cut it. If nothing else, the movie is worth watching for the excellent performances and its fierce intelligence. And you get to see Kingsley and Hopper kiss. R

America Betrayed (Dir: Leslie Cardé). Narrated by Richard Dreyfuss. With Hurricanes Gustav and Ike still fresh in the public's mind, this documentary is painfully relevant. Cardé proposes that the devastation New Orleans suffered from Hurricane Katrina wasn’t due to the Category 1 storm, but the shoddy construction and inspection of surrounding levees by the United States Army Corps of Engineers. The film is a gut-punch. Thanks to diligent research and loads of interviews with experts and residents, Cardé paints the corps as complacent, corrupt slackers, exactly the group of people you don't want overseeing engineering and environmental matters countrywide. The movie is also a plea to help distraught New Orleans residents, who three years after Katrina's devastation are nowhere close to resuming regular lives. Of all the politically-minded documentaries to come down the pike in recent years, this one, a humane and absolutely devastating piece of cinematic journalism, is a stand-out. NR

Blindness (Dir: Fernando Meirelles). Starring: Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Gael García Bernal, Danny Glover, Alice Braga, Don McKellar. Without warning or provocation, residents of a major city become blind. The government's response is to hoard the afflicted in concentration camps, where filth, neglect, and hopelessness lead to anarchy. Moore plays a woman with sight who dutifully sticks by her optometrist husband (Ruffalo), while García Bernal is the angry young man who declares a monarchy in the camp--with horrifying results. Meirelles (City of God, The Constant Gardener) is a relentless director, one who is unafraid to show the depths of human desperation, and he has an ideal partner in writer/actor McKellar. Working from José Saramago's novel, McKellar complements Meirelles' stark images with an understated script showing the characters' tenderness as they adjust to a world that can't handle the unknown anymore. Moore is terrific as the woman whose devotion as a wife mutates into survival skills. Certainly not a cheery movie, Blindness joins Schindler's List, 21 Grams, and House of Sand and Fog as first-rate movies you only want to see once. R

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