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Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Brit Report: Mini reviews galore!

The Road: John Hillcoat's adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's post-apocalyptic best-seller is a brave and inspired, even if slightly pedestrian, effort. Hillcoat follows very closely the novel in its slightly episodic but nevertheless endlessly repeating pattern, with very few actual modifications (some exposition in the form of Charlize Theron as the Mother). The movie is superbly acted by Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee as the Father and Boy, respectively, and several big-name actors pop-in in small appearances throughout the movie, with the best cameo being attributed to the great Robert Duvall in an earth-shattering 4-minute turn. However, the movie's (as well as the novel's) lack of plot evolution, along with any lack of characterization or solid ideology, makes the movie effective while it lasts, but ultimately forgettable. Still, it's a worthy addition to the genre with a most naturalistic depiction of what life would be in a post-apocalyptic situation. 7/10

The Wolfman: Yet another Universal horror movie remake, The Wolfman was a troubled production from the start, which is 100% evident in the final product. Part B-movie, part Victorian drama, the movie is unsure which direction to follow. This is not helped by the fact that there is absolutely no chemistry between the four leading actors whatsoever; Benicio Del Toro and Anthony Hopkins especially seem to be playing in totally different movies. The editors are also partly to blame for this, with an introduction that seems like a trailer from a proper movie, ultimately getting rid of all characterizations and racing for the monster's intro. The replacement director, Joe Johnston, is more a visual entertainer than a proper filmmaker and couldn't have been a worse choice for the subject. Still, it's a most enjoyable disaster (even for the wrong reasons) that will perhaps satisfy horror enthusiasts. 6/10

The Lovely Bones: Another troubled production, this movie ultimately is a glorious error made by a director who has absolute creative control, but also no sense of subtlety. The movie starts very strongly, with believable characterizations and situations, but once the famed killing takes place, the script comes to an abrupt halt. In come Peter Jackson's CGI manifestations of an in-between "haven", which seem wrong in visual terms (although some are obviously impressive). Since the main heroine is also in this so-called afterlife, her character development is nonexistent, which makes the movie suffer in its second act. Thankfully, things pick up in the third act, with a brave and ultimately chilling resolution to the killing. The performances are a bit hit-and-miss: Saorise Ronan is superb as the leading character, but unfortunately Mark Wahlberg makes me still wonder why he is picked up by first-class directors. Rachel Weisz fares better given the limited material she has to work with, and Susan Saradon gives an enjoyable turn as the alcoholic grandma. The main problem of the movie though is Stanley Tucci's turn as the killer - it makes me wonder why this (very efficient otherwise) actor was nominated for a Golden Globe and an Oscar for this role. His turn is overly simplistic, full with the necessary receding hairline and big spectacles that all Hollywood-appearing child killers seem to sport. In the case of the Lovely Bones, it seems that less is actually more, and unfortunately PJ opted for much more. 6/10

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