Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Brief Film Reviews: "Volver", "Babel", "The Devil Wears Prada", "Akeelah and the Bee", and "The Departed"

VOLVER:...(A-)...You can't go wrong see a Pedro Almodovar film. Probably the best director in the world now. 'Volver' is not up to his earlier 'Talk to Her' standard, which was a brilliant film, but 'Volver' is a very fine film. Penelope Cruz is very, very good...truly fine...both as an actress in this film, and, always, as eye-candy. Hard to believe that that with her beauty her character would have to put up with the men in the film she puts up with, but I guess that's what the 'suspension of belief' is all about...but this bit of casting suspension shows some stretch marks. Who cares? It's worth it to see her and her performance.

BABEL:...(C+)...Properly named. The director and the writer tell multiple stories that finally come together (sort of), but in such a depressing way that makes me think they need to go back on Prozac before their next film.

THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA:...(B-)... This is a stylish, if only OK, 'chick flick'...it answers the question: what is a like to be an innocent, young (female) employee/assistant thrown to a female shark-boss (notably, if single noted-ly, played by the always good but generally better Meryl Streep)? Answer: one doesn't need a male boss to suffer extreme harassment. A look at the high-powered fashion world; in a film in which Stanley Tucci gives a fine performance.

THE DEPARTED:...(B)... Martin Scorcese leaves history ("The Gangs of New York"; "The Aviator") and goes back to the streets which he knows better and to the male violence he loves so well. He is an extremely fine and experienced director. He knows the camera and the editing room. He proves it once again. But the story is a bit contrived and dramatically convenient ('moles' within the police department AND the mob)...and the film's tension hangs on who will find out who's secret first? Jack Nicholson, seemingly always over-the-top now-a-days yet perversely fascinating to watch, is in this film over-the-top and perversely fascinating to watch, while the rest of the cast is solid. See it if only to see a group of masterful craftsmen at work.

AKEELAH AND THE BEE:...(B-)...unless you really are addicted to sugar; then (A+++++)...A little girl (Keke Palmer stars, in a wonderful, endearing performance) from South Central LA (Crenshaw Middle School) wins the National Spelling Bee. On the way, she gives the audience an interesting intellectual tour of how to learn to spell, and helps her mother (a very good acting performance by Angela Bassett) and her spelling teacher (Lawrence Fishburne; always solid) find a way to overcome personal tragedy and discover a renewed worth of everyday living. By the end of the film, everyone and everything comes out smelling like roses and wonderful people, including one autocratic, demanding Asian father (a new racial stereotype...just as the film is trying to get rid of another??!!!) Not a speck of dirt on the sidewalks, or in the classroom, or in people's hearts. What not?

Thought: see it on a twin-bill with "Babel". An extreme upper and an extreme downer...a film exec's idea of achieving balanced slate of films, no?


Post a Comment

<< Home