Reviews of recent DVDs
Recently on DVD
The Hunting Party (D): Richard Gere plays a journalist trekking through Bosnia in search of a war criminal that the U.S. claims it wants to find but doesn't seem to. It's based on a true story, which you can read here. The true story is fascinating and complicated and important. This should pretty much tell you what you need to know about the movie: It was DURING the playing of the DVD that I flipped open my laptop and tracked down and read the Esquire article. That's how much the movie held my attention. Talk about some lazy-ass writing ... the easiest characterizations, the most stereotypical characters, the flattest plot structure. What a waste. I've already written more than this flimsy piece of junk is worth.
The Silent Partner (B): This is a 1978 Canadian movie starring Elliot Gould as a bank teller who gets involved in a robbery that turns out more complicated, and violent, than he expected. Christopher Plummer plays the antagonist. It's kind of funny watching a movie from the late 1970s, because it can't help but be dated. From the way people dress, to this odd way of talking that the actors have (it's not quite the all formal, theatrical way people talked in the movies in the 1950s, but it's more like that than the way they talk in movies now; I'm not explaining this very well, but the acting feels more like ... ACTING, in the Jon Lovitz sense). At any rate, the plot holds up pretty well thirty years later, although it drags on a little longer than maybe is ideal.
The Prestige (A-): This is the other turn-of-the-previous-century magician movie (since I saw The Illusionist first). It's actually a pretty good con movie, about two rival magicians trying to one-up each other's best illusions. One of those movies where you sit back and watch the plot twists pile up, and you can kind of see the next surprise coming, but it's enjoyable anyway. What makes it work so well is the depth it infuses into the world it creates; you really feel like you have a behind-the-curtain glimpses at the take-no-prisoners, reveal-no-secrets world of magic shows in late 19th-century London. I don't even know if this really was a world, but I believe it now. Good stuff.
Mr. Brooks (B): This is a movie about that little cartoon devil that sits on your shoulder and pushes you to embrace the nasty side of life. Kevin Costner is a suburban superdad who has that devil in the form of William Hurt, an imaginary friend from hell who rides around in his back seat and urges Costner to do very bad things to (mostly) random people. Unfortunately for Costner, there is no corresponding little angel riding shotgun. So he's a secret serial killer. This movie's more premise than plot, but it is reasonably enjoyable watching Hurt chew the scenery, especially after he gets his feelings all wounded when Costner doesn't want to kill anyone else.
Gone, Baby, Gone (A): This movie lived up to every hope I had for it. Casey Affleck was excellent, excellent, excellent. Love the way the movie is about place ... something about South Boston really seems to lend itself to that atmospheric kind of movie. And of course the Afflecks have a real affection for that area; it shows here. It's a loving portrayal of a not-that-lovable place. Loved this movie.