Hustle and Bustle

Entering second-level gloomAfter a couple of relatively quiet weeks, the movies are rolling out again — big-budget studio efforts, and so many awards contenders you’d think there was a major ceremony happening this weekend, instead of the Golden Globes. Here we go, diving in …

The Book of Eli“: Thirty years after the end of the world, along comes Denzel Washington as an ass-kicking holy warrior dedicated to protecting a certain rare tome from anyone who might abuse it — like, say, local tyrant Gary Oldman. The Hughes Brothers’ apocalypse actioner may border on the silly, but it’s considerably more cinematic and engaged than, say, “The Road”.

Crazy Heart“: If you follow the awards chatter, you’ve probably heard quite a lot about Jeff Bridges’ performance as a broken-down, alcoholic country star. He’s pretty great — and so is Maggie Gyllenhaal, as the much younger woman who tempts him to settle down — but the performances are locked in a pretty generic movie. So take that under advisement.

“High Life”: Gary Yates, director of “Seven Times Lucky”, returns with another tonally wobbly tale of small-time crooks looking for that one big score — this time, it’s a bunch of hapless junkies scheming to rob an ATM. (Curiously, that’s the exact same plot as the “Trailer Park Boys” sequel.) Timothy Olyphant is charismatic as ever as the ringleader, but the story never quite gels. Glenn feels much the same way.

The Lovely Bones“: Peter Jackson takes on Alice Sebold’s delicate novel about life, death and the in-between, and loses his ever-lovin’ mind: Apparently, when you’re raped and murdered by a monstrous neighbor, you get to go to Narnia. The most misguided film I’ve seen in a very long time, a disaster of good intentions and terrible choices; it’s a profoundly depressing experience, and not because of the subject matter. It’s a corrective for people who thought “King Kong” was self-indulgent.

“The Memsahib”: Cultures clash and love endures in writer-director-editor Kruti Majmudar’s attempt to ride that “Slumdog Millionaire” juggernaut. I haven’t seen it, but Susan loathed it, and that’s good enough for me.

Police, Adjective“: Corneliu Porumboiu’s remarkable Romanian policier doesn’t contain a single violent act — or even an aggressive gesture — but still plays like a nail-biting thriller, as a good man tries to find a way to do the right thing within a system that’s long since lost sight of what the right thing might be. Simple, terrific stuff.

“The Spy Next Door”: Wow, Jackie Chan got old. Can he even move his face any more? Rad watches so you don’t have to.

The White Ribbon“: Michael Haneke considers the gestation of German fascism in the form of a stern lecture about the persistent rot that runs beneath polite society — and presents this thesis with his traditional suffocating self-importance. For this, he gets the Palme d’Or and a shot at an Oscar, and somehow I’m left feeling responsible.

And that’s the week. You know “Avatar” will crush everything in its path again, but it’s nice to have choices.

5 thoughts on “Hustle and Bustle”

  1. Wasn’t ‘Lovely Bones’ released (or at least slated to be released) last fall?

  2. I was definitely waiting to hear some reviews about The Lovely Bones before thinking about seeing it, so thank you. About her Narnia-like afterlife…what I liked about the book was the view of the afterlife that everyone’s heaven is individual, basically your heaven can contain anything as long as you know what you want there, and, importantly, why. (The only view of the afterlife I’ve liked better was the Japanese movie “Afterlife”.) I take it that this either didn’t come across at all, or that when shown visually it just appeared trite. A shame, but I was disappointed when I saw the trailers.

  3. I always thought that Albert Brooks’ impression of heaven (a place where everyone stays at a nice hotel but some hotels are nicer than others) in ‘Defending Your Life’ was far more profound than he got credit for. Was there a gazebo there as well?

  4. @ Mark — it was always slated for a December release, as far as I know.

    @ Chris — Jackson’s changed a number of things from the book, including Susie’s vision of the “in-between”, which now morphs between a New Zealand tourism billboard and the surrealistic world Homer Simpson entered when he ate the chili pepper of madness. No coyotes, though.

    @ Mike — as “The Dead Zone” taught us, gazebos are strictly for murder victims, not people who die while singing along with show tunes. (That’s an entirely different sort of horror.)

  5. Police, Adjective was the slowest film I’ve ever sat through in my entire life! and not that I haven’t enjoyed some slow moving films in my day.It’s not always a draw back! But this was just ridiculous.Real time non action, seemed longer than real time!The only thing I can say good about it, is that it left me from getting out of my seat.This due to a trance like state that left me thinking….any time something is going to happen. Alas, nothing ever did and I never cared for this loser of a cop and his so-called moral predicament!

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