Sometimes you can have all the best people working on your side and still end up with a film that hardly lives up to its promise, or even its title. The idea behind this omnibus creation was to have six of the greatest American documentarians film some of the stories from Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner’s surprise 2005 bestseller which spun quirky number-crunching scenarios into (theoretically) mind-altering ways of looking at the world. The result is too much of a Frankenstein creation to either solidly deliver the book’s thesis or exist as a film in its own right – the differences between Morgan Spurlock and Alex Gibney are just too great to be contained by any one film…
Freakonomics opens tomorrow. You can read the full review at filmcritic.com.
In this promising but stunted delivery from M. Night Shyamalan and the writer of Hard Candy, the prince of darkness comes to “Philadelphia” (Toronto again but who’s checking?), where five people get trapped in an elevator and start turning on each other nearly immediately. In case you missed the point of what’s unfolding, one of the security guards watching it all unfold on the video monitors provides an extended narrated monologue about the morality tales his mother used to tell him about how the devil would roam the earth, looking for people to torment and show the error of your ways. Like most horror films, it’s a morality play of a sort, with a glass skyscraper substituting for the Via Dolorosa…
In the Atlantic City of Boardwalk Empire, it’s easy enough to figure out what’s going on. All you have to do is ask Nucky (Steve Buscemi). What and who he doesn’t know in town aren’t worth knowing. Ostensibly the county treasurer, Nucky appears to be the financial conduit for just about all the business going on in the up-and-coming Eastern seaboard resort town, circa 1920…
premieres tonight on HBO. You can read the full review at PopMatters
Never Let Me Go
At the start of Mark Romanek’s slow-burning, achingly tragic adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel Never Let Me Go, a few lines appear against a sky-blue screen, coolly informing that “the medical breakthroughs” happened in 1952, and that by 1967 average life expectancy had hit 100 years. We see the narrator, Kathy H. (Carey Mulligan), watching with resignation through a window as a man with a shaved head and a large scar is prepped for an operation. She talks about her being part of some special group which most people have incorrect preconceptions: “We aren’t machines. In the end, it wears you down”…
Never Let Me Go is playing in limited release. You can read the full review at PopMatters.
It begins like a spy thriller in the sands of Morocco and ends on a beautifully sun-drenched hillside in Monaco (as more romantic comedies clearly should), while in between happens very little of consequence. But while the paper-thin motivations of all the characters involved in Pascal Chaumeil’s Heartbreaker betray the influence of his TV-heavy resume, the result is also a genuinely pleasing light comedy of the sort that seems harder and harder to come by…
Heartbreaker opens in limited release tomorrow. You can read the full review at Film Journal International.
A Woman, A Gun and A Noodle Shop
Despite the very strenuous efforts of the clowning Yan Ni, playing the philandering and never-named wife to a grumpy and crusty old restaurateur, Zhang Yimou’s remake of the Coen Brothers’ Blood Simple
remains little more than a grating and wholly unnecessary curiosity. Murder and greed and treachery are the coin of the realm here, as before, but Zhang brings little else to the story besides an improved color palette and bad comic timing…
A Woman, A Gun and A Noodle Shop is in limited release now. You can read the full review at filmcritic.com.
Last Train Home
As with everything else, those cheap goods which so much of the world now takes for granted come with a price beyond that listed on the tag. In Lixin Fan’s stunning, hypnotic documentary that price is laid out for all to see in the form of one family permanently ruptured by the inexorable metrics of economy and industry…
Last Train Home
is now playing in (quite) limited release. You can read the full review at filmcritic.com