Saturday, November 10, 2007

Reviewing Unseen Movies

From the moment I saw the first preview for Lions for Lambs, the new Robert Redford joint, I thought it looked pretty bad. Now that it's been released, the nation's critics seem pretty much in agreement with me. But bad movies can at least make for entertaining reviews:
"[A] hopelessly stilted political drama that plays like U.S. News & World Report: The Movie. Redford's latest middlebrow muddle is so hopelessly talky, mannered, stagy, overwritten, and didactic that it's hard to believe Aaron Sorkin isn't somehow involved." - Nathan Rabin

Lions for Lambs appears to have been created by someone who's never seen one of these newfangled contraptions called "movies," or for that matter, witnessed that phenomenon known as "speech." . . . The net effect for the viewer is that of being trapped in an airless room, then escaping it to find yourself in another, and yet another." - Dana Stevens

"There is a long stretch toward the beginning of the film when we're interested, under the delusion that it's going somewhere." - Roger Ebert
And speaking of ill-conceived Tom Cruise movies, the trailer for his upcoming film Valkyrie is now online. For all I know, this will turn out to be a fine film; Bryan Singer is certainly no slouch when it comes to making entertaining movies, and heaven knows that Hollywood needs more lead characters who wear eyepatches. No, my reservations have to do with the accents. The sad truth is that to American audiences, all accents sort of sound alike, and British accents are a useful stand-in for how we think the rest of the world talks. This is the phenomenon that leads to situations like the The Hunt for Red October, where the crew of the Russian submarine is played by actors from almost every European country except for Russia, or the cockney-sounding Latin of Rome. Cast an American, though, and the result is often laughable, like Marlon Brando in Julius Caesar, Tony Curtis in Spartacus, or most of the actors in Amadeus. So while Cruise's castmates Bill Nighy, Terence Stamp, Tom Wilkinson, Kenneth Branagh, or Eddie Izzard may not sound especially German, Cruise will be lucky if people can listen to him and think anything but, "That Nazi sounds just like the kid from Risky Business."

Of course, there are bound to be some good movies coming up. Paul Thomas Anderson's There Will Be Blood looks interesting, judging from the trailer. While it may sound like one of those movies where someone gets tortured for two hours, it's actually a period piece about oil drilling. It's a bit of a departure for the director; among other things, it's his first movie not to have Philip Seymour Hoffman in it. Anderson has yet to make a bad film, though, and Daniel Day-Lewis does so few movies these days that anything he appears in is noteworthy. Plus, the music is by Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead, who succeeds previous Anderson collaborators Michael Penn and Jon Brion; the guy seems to like giving work to musicians without much experience composing for films, and so far it's consistently paid off.

Finally, looking waaaaaay ahead, the AV Club marked their literary week by putting up a great list of books that should be adapted into movies. Several of their picks are projects that have long been stuck in development hell (A Confederacy of Dunces, The Hobbit), while others are more contemporary book club favorites (The Road, Middlesex). The list itself, though, is just the pretext for the predictably numerous user comments. The shameful truth is that I don't really read enough to add to the list, although I did start reading Good Omens recently and thought that it would make a great movie, and the ten-year-old in me would love to see a good adaptation of The Westing Game. If nothing else, this feature will serve to further bloat my already epic to-read list.

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