December 28, 2007

Shorties: RECENTLY REVIEWED IN LEO

JUNO (Starring Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Olivia Thirlby, Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman. Directed by Jason Reitman.) “Juno” is that rare bird, the deftly written art comedy that has a chance to succeed with the “Larry the Cable Guy” audience as well as Wes Anderson fans. It succeeds on all levels because it is has taken great care to protect itself from the life-sucking cynicism that has a stranglehold on comedy today. (Reviewed 12/19; B+) —Shawn HudsonI AM LEGEND (Starring Will Smith, Alice Braga, Dash Mihok and Charlie Tahan. Directed by Francis Lawrence.) A boy and his dog in a quest for mere survival, talking to each other and defending against fearsome enemies. It is a story older than Matheson’s. It goes back at least as far as Jack London. It’s one of those movies that works on a visceral level even as it fails artistically. (Reviewed 12/19; C+) —Paul KopaszIRA & ABBY (Starring Chris Messina, Jennifer Westfeldt, Frances Conroy, Fred Willard, Robert Klein and Judith Light. Directed by Robert Cary.) A charming romantic comedy written by Jennifer Westfeldt (“Kissing Jessica Stein”) and co-produced by local boy Stu Pollard that examines what happens after love at first sight. It puts a nice spin on the issues that creep into all relationships, new and old. (Reviewed 12/12; B+) —Sara HavensTHE GOLDEN COMPASS (Starring Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig, Dakota Blue Richards and Sam Elliott. Directed by Chris Weitz.) Spectacle is about all “Compass” has going for it. But director Paul Weitz (“About a Boy”) is so consumed with infusing every frame with visual wonders that he forgets to actually make them wondrous. As a result, the movie is like last summer’s “Stardust” — it’s both frantic and lifeless. (Reviewed 12/12; D) —Jamie PetersBEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU’RE DEAD (Starring Ethan Hawke, Albert Finney, Marisa Tomei, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Aleksa Palladino. Directed by Sidney Lumet.) Although this film has been acclaimed by critics, what I saw was ham-fisted, over-acted and ridiculous. Hoffman, playing a coked-out, over-extended salaryman, is by far the best thing about the film. Sidney Lumet’s attempts at understated realism come across as just being half-assed. (Reviewed 12/05; 2/5 stars) —Alan Abbott NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN (Starring Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin, Beth Grant and Garret Dillahunt. Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen.) The newest film by the genius Coen Brothers is easily among their best, certainly in the top three. In this well-crafted action/bloody story, there’s a grave and damning indictment of that American type of violence and indeed the American psyche in full. Not since “Fargo” have the Coens married their storytelling to their violent and dark sense of humor with such single-minded precision. (Reviewed 11/21; 4/5 stars) —Paul Kopasz