Monday, November 19, 2007

Films of the Weekend - November

Movie name: Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium
Year of release: 2007
Director: Zach Helm
Stars: Dustin Hoffman, Natalie Portman, Jason Bateman, Zach Mills, Ted Ludzik
Genre: Comedy, Fantasy
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 5

"Stranger than Fiction" marked the introduction of screenwriter Zach Helm's talent to a vast audience. The Marc Forster film managed to be intelligent, well directed and boasted a terrific cast. "Mr. Magorium's..." Helm's first screenplay, though filled with potential and again with great actors, ends up feeling forced, contrived and lacking a spark that made Tim Burton's "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" such a delight to see. The film ends up leaving the air of all that it could've been but that it never really reached - much like the character of Dustin Hoffman, that never really makes you believe he's magical. Natalie Portman, a hugely talented actress ends up lost in the midst of a story that could have really flown if in other hands (I'll go out on a limb and say that even Terry Gilliam could have given a really interesting twist on this story).

Movie name: Beowulf
Year of release: 2007
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Stars: Ray Winstone, Anthony Hopkins, Angelina Jolie, Robin Wright Penn, Alison Lohman, Crispin Glover, John Malkovich, Brendan Gleeson
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7

Ever the experimental filmmaker that he is, Robert Zemeckis again pushes the barriers on the animation department (much like he did 20 years ago with the wonderful "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?"), with the action packed "Beowulf". Using the screenplay from Neil Gaiman and Roger Avary, Zemeckis creates a dynamic tale of heroes, monsters and enchanting demons which is relentless and dynamic. Though at points unintentionally comical (Beowulf is always getting naked), the film nonetheless is beautiful to look at, technically flawless and all the actors do a competent job with their voice work.

Movie name: No Country for Old Men
Year of release: 2007
Director: Joel and Ethan Coen
Stars: Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, Tommy Lee Jones, Kelly McDonald, Woody Harrelson, Garrett Dillahunt, Tess Harper, Beth Grant, Barry Corbin, Stephen Root
Genre: Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 8

The new film from the Coen's brothers brings them back to their high quality standards, that had been absent from their previous efforts ("The Ladykillers", "Intolerable Cruelty" and "The Man who Wasn't There"). Adapting the novel from Cormac McCarthy, the Coens have managed to create a tense, perfectly crafted thriller, that boasts terrific performances from all the cast. The story follows Llewelyn Moss a Vietnam veteran that in the dry plains of Texas founds the remains of what was a drug deal gone wrong. Escaping with the money from the deal, Moss is pursued by a deranged psychopath, a weary sheriff and other people interested in the loot. The film boasts award winning performances from Javier Bardem as the icy killer Chigurth, Tommy Lee Jones as the weary and tired sheriff Ed Tom Bell and Josh Brolin as Moss (Brolin has had a really great year with this stellar performance and with smaller parts in "In the Valley of Elah" and also "American Gangster"). The photography from Roger Deakins is also stunning. Definitely a film worth watching.