Monday, December 31, 2007

Holiday Review Roundup

I'll probably have more detailed write-ups of some of these but I wanted to end this posting drought with some quick mentions of the last several things I've seen.

Control is well-shot in anamorphic black and white (man, I wish more movies were shot in this format, it looks so good) and very well-acted, especially by Sam Riley as Ian Curtis, but apart from that I wasn't sure what the point of it all was. Perhaps I needed to know more about Joy Division going in and to already have an appreciation of their music and Curtis's talents, but I didn't, and the movie didn't really seem to be designed to educate an outsider like myself (a few years ago, Michael Winterbottom's 24 Hour Party People left me completely uninvolved too). Take away the music and it's a simple portrait of a young guy who can't cope with professional success and relationship problems and even though Riley does a good job, the story just sort of rambles on without momentum until the obligatory sad ending. Director Anton Corbijn joins the long list of music video directors who are apparently outmatched by the needs of a feature-length narrative. (6/10)

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story isn't a very good movie but it's sporadically funny and it serves the useful purpose of pointing out that, even though they have their virtues, Ray and Walk the Line and their ilk are all kind of full of crap, with their deterministic story arcs and selective amnesia. Unfortunately, Dewey Cox is a one-note character (John C. Reilly's amiable dumb guys are good in small doses, like in Boogie or Talladega Nights, but can't support a whole movie) and Jake Kasdan's directorial abilities are strained to the limit. (5/10)

I'm a Tim Burton fan and while I liked his version of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, I didn't love it. It feels rather impersonal, like Burton trying his best merely to be faithful to Sondheim rather than to make the material his own. The moments where there is a successful synthesis, like the "A Little Priest" or "By the Sea" numbers, shine in comparison to the ones that don't. Depp is fine but Helena Bonham Carter's voice is too weak for the material. Big fan of the throat-slashings and corpses landing on their heads, though. (8/10)

The first fifteen minutes of Juno are annoying as hell, the screenwriting equivalent of a Michael Bay movie - Diablo Cody is insecurely demanding that you be entertained by any means necessary, whether you like it or not, and so tosses in "shut your freakin' gob" and "homeskillet" and the hamburger phone. Thankfully after that point the movie settles down and becomes a fairly skillful crowd-pleasing comedy, which I liked for the most part. It's not particularly deep and it has some plot holes, but I think I liked it marginally better than Knocked Up, if for no other reason than because it actually had an inkling as to how the female mind works. (7/10)

More to come soon and Happy New Year's.


cjKennedy said...

I really liked Sweeney, though I think I know what you're saying about it. I think it was a good exercise for Burton to be chained to a story a little bit. He made it his own (from what I've heard of other versions anyway), but he had to be a little more disciplined.

I say this as a person who has actually liked just about everything Burton has done with the exception of Apes.

cjKennedy said...

Oh and also, the defining difference between Knocked Up and Juno for me was that Knocked Up made me laugh. A purely personal opinion.

erik said...

Not sure what to say about Control having not seen it, but I liked 24 Hour Party People. Having said that, it did help to be familiar with all the Manchester scene characters and love the music of Joy Division and the like. I'm looking forward to seeing Control when I can.

Piper said...

Couldn't agree more on Juno. It's not a deep film. In fact, it could have been deeper, but it felt like Cody and Reitman were too scared to let any true emotion thru. If I hadn't picked up on all the hype surrounding this movie, I probably would have enjoyed it more. But since it has made a lot of top 10 lists, and some of them have it as numero uno, I ended up not really enjoying this movie. It has its moments, but it's certainly not top movie material. It doesn't suck, but that doesn't mean it's great.

Jeff McMahon said...

Juno isn't a bad film, but the best way to describe it in relation to a lot of the other movies out now is that it's simply in a different weight class.

Jeff McMahon said...

Oh, Erik, in your honor I picked up a used $8 Joy Division CD at Amoeba. The only song on it that I recognized from before the movie was "Love Will Tear Us Apart" which part of me still wants to think is a poppy '80s Randy Newman-esque ditty even though I know it isn't.