The Invasion Begins

I dunno, this new ending seems kinda sketchyPlease forgive me if posts grow shorter and more terse over the next few weeks; the film festival has come upon us a full week earlier than usual, and we are drowning in screenings.

Add to that all the writing I have to do in an ordinary week, and I am going slightly insane. And speaking of writing, here are my reviews of this week’s theatrical releases:

The Invasion“: I can’t really blame Oliver Hirschbiegel for the mess his movie has become; they’re saying something like 30% of the picture was reshot by other people. But as far as I’m concerned, the seeds of its failure were sown in the decision to replace Jack Finney’s parasitic pods with a viral plague, and then not delivering on the promise of Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig fighting snot monsters. I mean, that’s what we’re paying for.

The Last Legion“: Yes, this ridiculous sword-and-sandal epic feels like it crawled through a wormhole from 1965, but Colin Firth is clearly having a ball as a dutiful Roman soldier, slicing his way through endless Goth hordes and making the occasional goo-goo eyes at Aishwarya Rai. By the end of the movie, you are totally with him on all the adventuring. Why Ben Kingsley decided to repurpose Sean Connery’s “Highlander” hairpiece is still beyond me, however.

Rocket Science“: A teenage stutterer comes of age when he’s asked to join his high-school debating team in this interesting effort from “Spellbound” documentarian Jeffrey Blitz, which features a striking debut from Reece Daniel Thompson, but ultimately cribs too much from the films of Wes Anderson and Jared Hess to really establish its own style. And who thought it needed narration?

The Short Life of Jose Antonio Gutierrez“: Heidi Specogna’s bait-and-switch documentary isn’t really about the first U.S. soldier killed during the invasion of Iraq; it’s more a study of the crushing poverty that drives Latin Americans to flee their own countries in search of a better life to the north, only to find themselves being exploited even further should they survive the journey. Not a bad movie by any means, just one that doesn’t quite succeed on the terms it seems to set for itself.

Superbad“: Now, here’s a movie that succeeds quite magnificently on its own terms — a deliriously raucous, vulgar comedy about two guys trying to get laid in the final weeks of high school. Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s script is a perpetual joke machine; I still smile when I think of McLovin and the cops running red lights. Two solid hours of sharp, hysterical character comedy, with an undercurrent of genuine sweetness that makes up for all the smack-talking. Also, “Undeclared” lust object Carla Gallo contributes the year’s most unsettling cameo.

More screenings today, and a small stack of DVDs for the weekend. I may be some time.