Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

MUST-SEE: (Andrew Dominik) Based on the novel by Ron Hansen, The Assassination of Jesse James is a beautiful and emotional film that stretches out the true character of an infamous villain and touches on the unexplainable obsession many had for him. Writer and Director Andrew Dominik gives us both sides of the moral fence, showing us the hearts of James's closest friends, and the tragedies of his worst enemies. The film is quiet and the setting serene, yet a eerie stillness surrounds James, making each moment suspenseful. For two and a half hours, Dominik illustrates Jesse's life. We see him as a family man, a comedian, a friend and a businessman. It is from the depiction of Jesse's biggest fan, Robert Ford, we begin to see the darker side to the outlaw. We see his psychosis unravel and his merciless train robberies that carry a no regrets motto destroying hundreds of lives across the states. He lived anywhere and was known everywhere, but his reputation only struck chords with authority. Dominik does a fantastic job of setting up his audience with the double entendre of Jesse's character. Even after watching, you'll wonder whose side you should be on. No detail is left untouched and no emotion left uncovered. Each character is individualized and carefully executed by successful performances all around. Equally impressive is the breathtaking cinematography and perfectly venacular script. Simply from Casey Affleck's performance of a shrinking coward, with sunken eyes and emaciated frame, only fooling himself with a sharp tongue and a quick fire, will you understand the conflict of heart many experienced in the opinion of James. Ford went from James biggest fan, to his biggest envier, to his assassin. The fame he believed would come for shooting Jesse was no comparison to the attention Jesse's body and reputation received in the aftermath. Thus, we witness the domino of tragedies Jesse created even after his death. Assassination presents us with this family of characters, asks us to watch rather than take sides, and then beautifully delivers a story of heart and mind over action that forces you to reconcile with both your own good and evil. Don't miss seeing this masterpiece. It won't disappoint, and if you can make it through its lengthy screen time, you'll wrestle James and Ford in your heart forever.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Vantage Point

ALMOST: (Pete Travis) What serves as a intriguing and intense preview completely falls short as a feature film. Vantage Point, the story of the assasination of a US President at a Peace Conference in Spain, is a fascinating idea with a poorly executed screenplay. The idea is that the as the President takes the podium, a fatal gunshot and ill-intended bombs send a message to shut down US arrogance and ignorance on the subject of foreign policy. But what seems an act of simple terrorism unfolds as a massive plan to deliver hate and twisted violence to anyone in their way. Vantage Point's hour and a half is filled with plenty of gunshots and bloodshed, but rarely any valuable dialogue or plot development. Characters intertwine, but rarely impress, exept for Dennis Quaid's Thomas Barnes, a veteran bodyguard who serves as the single dynamic character in the film. Forget the phenomenal actors in roles easily forgotten, such as president, William Hurt and bystander Forest Whitaker. Their characters continually raise the question of 'why were they in this movie?' Overall, VP is entertaining. It offers intense action and suspense from an idea that is fascinating. It's downfall is failed execution. As given away by the title, the plot is illustrated from multiple points of view. They all begin from the same moment, which becomes monotonous and boring, and they drag out the movie's intro into what should be the meat of the film. Several times, you'll wish for the story to keep going, but instead prepare to experience stalled suspense, not escalated interest. Don't bother with the arm and leg this one costs to the see on the big screen. It's special effects and empty characters can wait for DVD. Do give Quaid credit for his performance. He is honest and convincing in a role that could have been as equally dull as the rest of the movie if played by someone else.

Night at the Museum

WORTH-IT: (Shawn Levy) Usually Ben Stiller promises a laughable comedy when he appears as the face of a trailer. And when you add other faces, like Owen Wilson and Robin Williams, the comedy becomes more convincing. And finally, with surprise cameos from classics Mickey Rooney and Dick van Dyke, you know the film cannot fail. Night at the Museum is an entertaining, eye popping movie, created to visually please and mentally satisfy a curiosity of imagination many of us left behind at the age of 12. The same adventure that one thought would derive from spending the night in a department store comes to life in a bigger way at the Museum of Natural History. Ben Stiller, a financially desperate single dad, takes on the competitive job as the museum's nightgaurd. Warned by veteran gaurds, Van Dyke and Rooney, Stiller straps on his keys and falshlight, blowing off their aged opinions. But, much to his disbelief, a mysetrious change works its way through the museum's exhibitions. What starts as the disappearance of the T-Rex skeleton quickly turns into an all-out resurrection of historical icons. Faced with now the even bigger job of keeping order among centuries of quarreling civilizations, Stiller must brush up on history, impress his son, and maintain his job all before the sun rises and the hallways revealing nothing of the mystery beneath the museum's glass. Seeing this film is well worth the Saturday/Sunday morning hours it takes to watch. The combination of humor is flawless, the script witty and fresh, and the characters unbelievably charismatic. The tone easily appeals to a wide audience, as the animals and adventures reflect children's dreams and adults' fond memories. Don't skip out on this flick. Without a doubt, you'll laugh and appreciate the wild adventure awaiting you afert the sun goes down.