Sunday, March 26, 2006

Coupla Movies

...briefly noted. No full reviews here. One final note re the stars: I don't know why I bother, but I do.... I have changed the value again. Consider ** to be a solid, good film - a "B" - an Ebert "***". Consider even one star to be a passing grade, basically. If I see crappy films I will find more eloquent ways to abuse them than merely depriving them of a star or so. I like having more variation among the better than good films, rather than the less than good films.

Thank You for Smoking ** - funny film about tobacco lobbyist who has a kind of crisis of conscience. What makes it good? - a series of great set pieces, the confidence of the acting, the overall solid writing. What keeps it from being great" - it sags in the middle, quite badly - the obligatory down period is completely botched... and the story in general tends to turn into a series of vignettes. But - it's pretty good, amusing, clever, well written in places, generally a reasonably intelligent mainstream satire - an almost extinct breed.

Don't Come Knocking ** - new Wim Wenders film, starring Sam Shepard, with Jessica Lange, Sarah Polley, Tim Roth and more. Shepherd plays an aging cowboy actor named Howard Spence (we are apparently in an alternative universe where people are still making generic cowboy pictures like they are in fact making bad cop thrillers or dumb horror pictures). One day he leaves the set and heads for his mothers place where he hasn't been in 30 years. She tells him after a day or so of odd back and forth that he has a son in Butte so off he goes. Jessica Lange is the kid's mother - Tom Roth is tracking him for the bond company - Sarah Polley is hauling her mother's ashes around... The film wavers between a kind of contemplative handsomeness, a strange, loose, wit, and some forced comedy. There's also some forced emoting, but it actually comes off. The comedy does not. The whimsy - a bit better. Mirrored cadillacs; Shepard's excessive, rather ridiculous, laconicness; his mother's scrapbook of his failures.... It's odd - more appealing than it has reason to be, I guess, but never quite connecting. But likeable enough in the end.

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