This is the rare case where I think having the entire film spoiled for me prior to seeing it was actually a good thing. Ever since Cannes, I’d heard explicit reports -- ad nauseam -- of all the “shocking” content, and aghast reactions, on behalf of Lars Von Trier’s latest. It's about a couple’s ... let’s say ‘unconventional’... response to the death of their toddler. While it’s not generally a good thing to have prominent sequences described to you before you see a film, here, having heard all the descriptions of [semi spoilers ahead] scenes involving self-inflicted mutilation, scissors, talking animals, etc. [/end spoilers] allowed me to look beyond the artifice and see the film for its emotional content, and Von Trier’s warped, fascinating ideas. Whether you’ve been spoiled or not, it’s a film that only gets richer upon repeat viewings, and gets more and more interesting the more you discuss it. (B+)on Jennifer's Body
Okay, so clearly I’m alone on this one. I thought this Diablo Cody scripted horror comedy was a lot of fun. It’s not scary in the least but there’s an awful lot of funny dialogue, knowing silliness, good gore (for those who like that stuff) and a soullessness from Megan Fox that's actually appropriate for once. To top it off, the proceedings are imbued with a playfulness that toys with (and subverts) teen movie conventions (including some startlingly upfront sexuality), and is clearly made by someone with a passion for horror films.on Creation
It’s not a great movie but it’s also not a retread. I wish people would back off a bit in regards to attacking Ms. Cody; I get that when an (arguably) not-great screenplay wins an Oscar it’s an affront to film aficionados, but shouldn’t she get some credit purely on the basis of following up an Oscar win with a horror flick, let alone a fairly smart, entertaining one? (B)
There were times during this 100 minute ordeal that I actually started to wish that Charles Darwin (played here by Paul Bettany) had never been born so I wouldn’t have had to sit through this movie inspired by his life. I exaggerate but this is really one slog of a film, more dull and interminable than even a straightforward biopic might have been. Focused almost entirely on (a) Darwin’s decision to publish "The Origin of Species" in the face of his wife’s (Jennifer Connelly) religiosity, and (b) the Darwin's reaction to the death of their child, Creation offers almost nothing of substance about Darwin’s actual ideas, nor the complexities of his character or emotions. It’s mostly just the renowned central figure weeping over his dead daughter and going on numerous doctors’ visits for his long list of ailments. The title is misleading as it seems to imply too much focus on his originally controversial ideas. While this is the kind of tedious, inert historical drama that used to be catnip for the Academy, I can’t see many staying awake all the way through to see anything worth rewarding. (C-)on The Trotsky
At long last, a star vehicle for the gawky Jay Baruchel best known for headlining “Undeclared” and bit parts in Tropic Thunder and Knocked Up. Writer-director Jacob Tierney casts the Canadian native in the role of the Leon, a high school senior who considers himself the reincarnation of the titular figure. Leon seems deadset on fighting every supposed authority figure he can (he stages a hunger strike at his father’s factory in the opening sequence). Mixing Trotsky/Stalin/etcetera in-jokes with broad sweeping Napoleon Dynamite quirk and power to the disenfranchised story beats, the film may have a limited audience (the plethora of Montreal jokes makes it unclear how it would be received outside of Canada). But it’s frequently funny and manages to not drag even though it’s too long (nearly two hours) for its somewhat thin premise. Schneider shows legitimate directorial finesse. (B)on The Informant!
Despite the starring presence of Matt Damon and a heavily-marketed nationwide release by Warner Bros., this supremely entertaining 'based on a true story' project -- the latest from Steven Soderbergh -- is a much odder (and also more delightful) film than I was a expecting, and not simply for playing what is essentially a thriller premise as a jaunty comedy. While it’s more strangely amusing and witty than laugh-out-loud funny, Soderbergh makes a boatload of strange decisions (such as shooting this 90s-set story in a style of a 70s throwback, and utilizing a Marvin Hamlisch score that seems better suited for a Doris Day vehicle) that, almost inexplicably, work perfectly. They all contribute towards creating an experience that may throw some people, but is sure to engender itself as a DVD favorite for those who like their eccentric quirk at a lower volume. The story itself only gets more compelling as it unravels, slowly eking out details that reveal why the filmmaker felt comedy was the more suitable genre for the material. It's all sold by an utterly fantastic performance , at once broad and understated, by Matt Damon. He appears in every scene and he certainly deserves -- and in this weak year, just might get -- an Oscar nomination. (A-)So there you have it. A lot to consider. And that's only about a day's worth of screenings. When he closes his eyes, he's probably still seeing shadows of flickering images.