Now in Cinemas: Reviews for June 7, 2007

Now in Cinemas: Reviews for June 7, 2007

Reviews by Jason Pirodsky
for Expats.cz

A hilarious and highly entertaining follow-up to Shaun of the Dead, action-comedy Hot Fuzz re-teams writer-director Edgar Wright with writer-star Simon Pegg and very nearly tops its predecessor. Simultaneously a perfect send-up and loving parody of buddy-cop action films like Bad Boys II and Point Break (both of which are prominently featured), pic hits all the right notes right up to the action-filled climax. Cast is superb, especially Pegg as our wooden hero; he and director Wright also deserve a lot of credit for their script, which is right on target. Keep an eye out for numerous cameos (my favorite: Cate Blanchett) throughout.

Hot Fuzz
Rating:
Directed by Edgar Wright. Starring Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Jim Broadbent, Timothy Dalton, Paddy Considine, Rafe Spall, Edward Woodward, Olivia Colman, Billie Whitelaw, Steve Coogan, Martin Freeman, Bill Nighy, Cate Blanchett. Written by Wright & Pegg.
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Pegg is Sergeant Nicholas Angel, who is taken off the city beat because he´s ‘too good´ and assigned to the peaceful village of Sandford. Here he meets new partner Danny (Nick Frost), and his father, Inspector Frank Butterman (Jim Broadbent), who´s in charge of the local police force. Things seem too peaceful at first, with Danny longing for action and the duo´s biggest case involving a missing swan. But ghastly murder after ghastly murder (with some grandiose, over-the-top bloodletting) soon reveals there´s something rotten in Sandford. Despite the local´s claim that the beheadings, impalements, and stabbings are ‘just accidents´, Nicholas and Danny begin an investigation, with an eye on supermarket tycoon Simon Skinner (Timothy Dalton). To some, the build-up may seem a bit slow, but things are carefully metered out with delicious wit and laugh-out-loud moments, punctuated by the inventive deaths; when things really get going by the end, however, they don´t let up for a second. And yet, the enigmatic, high-octane climax, despite the excitement, is where the film almost lost me; the bloodless gunplay pays appropriate homage to the John Woo action school but pales in comparison to the earlier bloodletting, resulting in a less-than-perfectly-satisfying conclusion. Just shy of a comedic masterpiece but wonderfully entertaining nevertheless.

***

Zodiac
Rating:
Directed by David Fincher. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, Anthony Edwards, Robert Downey Jr., Brian Cox, John Carroll Lynch, Chloë Sevigny, John Getz, Elias Koteas, Dermot Mulroney, Donal Logue, Philip Baker Hall, Adam Goldberg, James LeGros. Written by James Vanderbilt, from the book by Robert Graysmith.
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A gripping, fascinating true-crime story, David Fincher´s Zodiac does for the Zodiac investigation what Stone´s JFK did for the Kennedy assassination and Pakula´s All the President´s Men did for the Watergate scandal. And it´s nearly as good as the aforementioned classics. In the late 1960´s and early 70´s, a serial killer who identified himself as Zodiac terrorized the San Francisco Bay area; not so much due to the number of his victims (5 murders are officially attributed to the killer, though he claimed many more) but because of the taunting, cryptic messages he sent to newspapers and police investigators. Jake Gyllenhaal stars as San Francisco Chronicle cartoonist Robert Graysmith (the film is based on the real-life Graysmith´s book), who follows the Zodiac case from a distance before becoming obsessed with the case and conducting his own investigation. Robert Downey Jr. is Paul Avery, reporter for the Chronicle who becomes directly involved in the case; Mark Ruffalo and Anthony Edwards are San Francisco detectives tracking the killer while hamstrung by police procedure. Entire cast – right down to the smallest roles – is excellent. Period detail is flawless. Director Fincher has restrained himself here, giving us a film that looks and feels both natural and perfect; while some of the his flair is still apparent – notably a couple of impossible overhead helicopter shots and a time-lapse sequence showcasing the construction of the TransAmerica building – it never becomes obtrusive. Completely compelling stuff all the way; engages the viewer every minute of its 2.5 hours. Some may feel unsatisfied due to the lack of resolution here, but it accurately and effectively reflects the still-unsolved real-life case. Only complaint: the use of CGI blood splatter.

***

Because I Said So
Rating:
Directed by Michael Lehmann. Starring Diane Keaton, Mandy Moore, Gabriel Macht, Tom Everett Scott, Lauren Graham, Piper Perabo, Stephen Collins. Written by Karen Leigh Hopkins and Jessie Nelson.
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Stale rom-com gives us layers of lackluster romance and broad comedy during an overlong 100 minutes, managing only to be offensive or embarrassing when it isn´t downright boring. Meddling mother Diane Keaton places an online advert to find Mr. Right for daughter Mandy Moore, screening candidates and conspiring to stage a romance with her man of choice. But will Moore choose Mom´s pick (a creepy Tom Everett Scott) or the warm-hearted musician who thinks mother may not know best? I wonder… Moore is beautiful but bland, playing an underwritten character that does her no favors; costars Lauren Graham and (especially) Piper Perabo are completely wasted as her sisters, while Stephen Collins and Gabriel Macht are good as father-son love interests. Yet it´s Keaton who sinks it all, in a screeching, ditzy performance that could be generously described as nails-on-a-chalkboard; film only briefly comes alive during her unfortunately brief bout with laryngitis. But a once beloved, Oscar-winning actress gifted upon us by Coppola and Woody Allen has now been reduced to broad, stereotypical Dumb Dora roles that younger and less talented performers likely wouldn´t touch. Shame.


Jason Pirodsky

Hailing from Syracuse, New York, Jason Pirodsky made his way to Prague via Miami and has stuck around, for better and worse, since 2004. A member of the Online Film Critics Society (www.ofcs.org), some of his favorite movies include O Lucky Man!, El Topo, Berlin Alexanderplatz, and Hellzapoppin'. Follow him on Twitter for some (slightly) more concise reviews.

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