Reviews by Jason Pirodsky
It´s wonderful to watch a sure-handed director work within genre confines; Danny Boyle elevated 28 Days Later well above your average zombie flick, did the same the family film Millions, and does it once again with his sci-fi Sunshine. The premise is simple: the sun is dying and a crew of astronauts are sent to detonate a nuclear bomb to re-ignite it. Similar concepts have been handled in junk food like Armageddon and The Core, but that´s where the similarities end; it´s refreshing to watch what a director like Boyle can do with the material. He doesn´t re-invent the genre, nor does he intend to – instead, he gives us a tight, introspective film that hits all the right notes up until the final reel.
Two-thirds of a fascinating film, a vivid and compelling look at suburban youth culture powered by an overwhelming sense of dread; unfortunately, director Nick Cassavetes lets everything completely derail by the end. Film tells the true story of Jesse James Hollywood (here called Johnny Truelove due to real-life litigations), small time drug dealer who kidnaps and eventually orders the murder of young Nicholas Markowitz (here Zack Mazursky). Young cast is excellent all-around: particularly effective are Anton Yelchin as the unknowing victim, Ben Foster as his strung-out brother, and, surprisingly, Justin Timberlake, portraying a character with startling moral complexity. For ninety minutes, this is masterful storytelling; then the story ends, and the film, incredibly, continues. The split-screen faux-documentary footage that dominates the remainder of the movie, with Bruce Willis and Sharon Stone (in a fat suit no more convincing then Jiminy Glick) as confused parents, threatens to ruin everything and very nearly does; many will find these directorial indulgences unforgivable. Rarely does a film provide the good and bad in such stark contrast, but it´s on grotesque display here. Recommended with reservations.
Perfectly dreadful thriller, strictly late-night cable fare that should have stayed that way but somehow managed to attract a talented cast and director. Halle Berry stars as journalist Rowena, who infiltrates Bruce Willis´ ad agency to solve her friend´s murder. Not out for justice, or anything like that; she just wants a good story. Berry looks nice but is far too bland in the lead, Willis is given nothing to do, and the movie is stillborn right from the start. No sex, no nudity, no violence – it´s like Basic Instinct, edited for TV, and they went and took out all the suspense too. Astonishing fascination with instant messaging is laughable; complete lack of tension generates a prevalence of documentary-like IM chatting sessions that treat the medium as a new and exotic method of communication. Too dull to be offensive, but that doesn´t stop them from trying: the ending is so ridiculous it would have completely sunk an otherwise decent movie; here, we embrace it as a sign that this endurance test is finally over. Poor James Foley, who survived Who´s That Girl to give us an excellent adaptation of Mamet´s Glengarry Glen Ross; it´s been downhill since then, however, and this might be the bottom.
AND: Also opening is Irena Pavlásková´s highly anticipated Bestiář (showtimes | IMDb), from the acclaimed novel by Barbara Nesvadbová. Film is playing with English subtitles at Village Cinemas Andel´s Gold Class; this is the third straight major Czech release, following I Served the King of England and Vratné lahve, to premiere its English-subtitled print solely at VC Andel´s Gold Class, as distributors appear to be trying to eke a couple hundred extra CZK out of the English-speaking community in Prague.