Movies with Teeth

Josh never did cotton to circus folkOh, come on. I’m allowed the occasional easy slug.

And it’s appropriate this week; in addition to the best vampire movie I’ve seen in years, we’re also getting a solid mystery-thriller and a terrific documentary. We’re also getting two awful, awful Everybody Hurts dramas — the sad legacy of Paul Haggis at work — but that’s the price you pay, I guess.

Also, there’s “The Comebacks”, which didn’t screen for press and which I’ll be seeing later this afternoon.

Gone Baby Gone“: How good is Ben Affleck’s directorial debut? Good enough to make you think Clint Eastwood’s “Mystic River” was the weaker Dennis Lehane adaptation. Terrific performances, excellent sense of community, and a merciless screenplay (by Affleck and Aaron Stockard) add up to one of the year’s strongest dramas. I have yet to write the definitive defense of Affleck the actor — I think he’s a strong performer who made several terrible choices in a row and paid dearly for it — but his filmmaking cred is, at this point, unimpeachable.

My Kid Could Paint That“: Amir Bar-Lev’s documentary is about so much more than a little girl who may be the next Jackson Pollock; as the story of Marla Olmstead evolves, Bar-Lev lets his movie evolve with it, opening it up to one new possibility after another, until he’s somehow dealing with the whole of human consciousness. Sort of. You really have to see it.

Reservation Road“: Terry George, director of the chilling “Hotel Rwanda”, takes a huge step back with this post-“Crash” study of interconnected misery, revolving around two men bonded by the accidental death of a child. Mark Ruffalo and Joaquin Phoenix suffer admirably in the leads, but the script is so mawkish and forced that you simply can’t care.

Things We Lost in the Fire“: Why is it that DreamWorks can’t build itself an awards contender that doesn’t feel needy and desperate? “Things We Lost in the Fire” is this year’s “House of Sand and Fog” — a big, steaming pile of artistic integrity for which no expense was spared. Susanne Bier is so much better than this … or maybe she isn’t. I will write about this at length later this weekend, once the bile has settled.

30 Days of Night“: I had huge problems with David Slade’s last film, “Hard Candy”, but in fairness they were mostly to do with the script. This one’s much better — tighter, bloodier, crueler, and sporting a marvelous monster in the nearly unrecognizable Danny Huston. Slade also acknowledges the debt to Carpenter’s “The Thing” in the first five minutes, and never looks back, which is nice.

“Rendition” also opened today, but I managed to miss that, so Chris reviews it here.