Winter Movies: Part 1
Twenty-oh-eight begins with stragglers from aught-seven. Here's the standard quick look...
The first half of I Am Legend is riveting, with Will Smith as the last man alive tearing through the stunningly-rendered abandoned streets of my beloved city, hunting and scavenging for food, tools and entertainments, accompanied as he goes by the last dog alive, the rest of humanity (and canine-anity?) dead for two years, the world trashed, sad, weedy. And then when we first get a glimpse of the undead, rabid, only-come-out-at-night zombies—apparently the only other "survivors" of the plague that wiped out everyone else—twitching in their nest in a blacked-out MePa warehouse? My God, I thought, now THIS is a fun movie. And then, for reasons I won't reveal, the movie's dynamic changes, Smith's ingenious, likable, exceedingly capable Dr. Robert Neville completely changes, all for the much worse, and my enthusiasm and admiration for the film died as swiftly and as terminally as… well, you can guess the simile here.
Debbie and I both loved The Kite Runner, the book, and so approached the movie with more than a little trepidation, especially after several viewings last fall of the bland, feel-good trailer. We were pleasantly surprised, then, by how much we liked director Marc Foster's faithful, even occasionally unsentimental, adaptation for the screen. Of course, Foster has to hurry a bit over several key plot points, and the story's intitial betrayal lacks the gut-busting pain I remember from the novel (though I admit the ending truly soars), but overall this is a satisfying, nicely-played, genuinely emotional drama. Not Top 10 material, but definitely worth a viewing, especially in this no-new-releases, early winter season.
Maybe we were just desperate for some on-screen frivolity to close out the "serious season", but Debbie and I both totally enjoyed P.S. I Love You, the Hilary Swank romantic comedy about a woman whose beloved husband sickens, dies, and then speaks to her from the "grave" in a series of letters, delivered posthumously, all directing her to do things that involve having fun, moving on with her life, finding her true self, etc.. No question, the basic plot mechanics were pretty ridiculous, but Swank turns on the charm (to go with her usual guts), the script is sharp, and the supporting cast, especially Lisa Kudrow and Harry Connick, Jr., steal nearly every scene they're in. If you're in the right mood, you can definitely have some fun—and some tears—with this one.
I knew Sweeney Todd was going to be gory; the Times did compare it to Saw, after all. But what I didn't realize was just how bleak, how classically tragic this story is, the lightest, cutest moment of the entire two hour spiral into hell coming from Helena Bonham Carter crushing cockroaches into her meat pies. The setting is Tim Burton's relentlessly gloomy 19th-century London—where, it seems, bad things happen to all people—the songs are terrific, the singers less so (no one embarrasses themselves, but no one brings down the house, either); Johnny Depp is perfectly cast as the haunted, doomed serial killer. Just don't go in expecting Hairspray.