March 11, 2008

Shorties (Recently Reviewed in LEO)

CITY OF MEN (Starring Douglas Silva, Darlan Cunha, Jonathan Haagensen and Luciano Vidigal. Directed by Paulo Morelli.) “City of Men” was produced by the team behind “City of God,” and both films are concerned with Brazil’s extremes. Much American gangsta films, this film explains the social ills of the ghetto by providing a panoramic view of its economic infrastructure and culture. (Reviewed 3/5; A-) —Alan AbbottPENELOPE (Starring Christina Ricci, Reese Witherspoon, James McAvoy and Catherine O’Hara. Directed by Mark Palansky.) A pocket-sized guide to grrl power as a bloated feature-length movie, this movie binges on life lessons but purges complexity. It fashions itself as a whimsical tale about the importance of self-realization — in order to lift a curse of a pig-snout, the main character must marry a fellow blue-blood. (Reviewed 3/5; C+) —Jamie PetersWELCOME HOME ROSCOE JENKINS (Starring Martin Lawrence, Louis CK, Nicole Ari Parker and James Earl Jones. Directed by Malcolm D. Lee.) Writer-director Malcolm D. Lee wants us to love the movie’s characters as much as he does. But the “quirky” character details and the sex jokes are as recycled as the movie’s plot. (Reviewed 2/13; C) —Jamie PetersYOUTH WITHOUT YOUTH (Starring Tim Roth, Alexandra Maria Lara, Bruno Ganz and Zoltan Butuc. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola.) In Coppola’s first film in 10 years, he chose to adapt (on his own, without studio financing) a book by the notoriously “difficult” Romanian novelist Mircea Eliade. Although the film inhabits the screen awkwardly at times because of its reality-challenged plot, every frame looks as gorgeous as a Gauguin or a Rembrandt. (Reviewed 2/13; B-) —Paul KopaszTHE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY (Starring Mathieu Amalric, Emmanuelle Seigner and Anne Consigny. Directed by Julian Schnabel.) This story about editor Jean-Dominique Bauby is technically accomplished, well acted but overall superficial. I’m sure Bauby’s autobiography provided much greater insights into existence inside a mostly dead body, but very few of them come through in Schnabel’s film. (Reviewed 1/30; B-) —Alan AbbottRAMBO (Starring Sylvester Stallone, Julie Benz, Paul Schulze and Matthew Marsden. Directed by Sylvester Stallone.) “Rambo” boils down things to the essentials that made the ’Nam vet a hit three times over with 1980s audiences: guns, knives and all-’round American ass-kicking. The characters are so far removed from reality that the extreme violence often works on a level of comic detachment. (Reviewed 1/30; B+) —Jamie Peters