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In this column we will feature thumbnail reviews by Wayne Case, a veteran of Hollywood's Big Machine who currently works for an independent film company in Los Angeles. Wayne ranks the films on a scale of 1 (bad) to 10 (good). The following are Wayne’s rankings of films for 2008.
27 DRESSES — Rated: 7 1/2
Nothing in the plot is going to surprise any frequent filmgoer but I take satisfaction in having things turn out exactly as I expected and wanted. In romantic comedies, give me a happy ending every time.
Katherine Heigl (Knocked Up, 2007) is probably still best known for her television series, Grey’s Anatomy. Her future in theatrical films is assured since she proves here that she can open a film. I like her but, for me, she’s no Sandra Bullock or Irene Dunn. Not yet, anyway.
I’ve liked James Marsden since I first saw him in X-Men (2000) and the 2002 season of television’s Ally McBeal. My more recent favorites of his are The Notebook (2004), Superman Returns (2006), plus Hairspray and Enchanted in 2007. Finally, this time, he’s the leading man and gets the girl. Slightly scruffy for a change, he’s never looked better. Think of him as a more likable Hugh Grant while following in the wake of the master of the genre, Cary Grant.
As the girls’ father, I enjoyed veteran Brian Kerwin. Likewise, as the Eve Arden sidekick type, Judy Greer shines. Edward Burns is fine as the boss. Malin Ackerman is attractive and fearless as she follows her unpleasant role in The Heartbreak Kid (2007) with another less-than-admirable character here. She definitely needs a change of pace.
Costumes by Catherine Marie Thomas are fabulous. Give this woman an Oscar nomination!
BRIDESHEAD REVISITED — Rated: 9
Regarding BRIDESHEAD REVISITED specifically, I haven’t read the book and haven’t seen the highly regarded television 11 part, 659 minute, 1981 or1982 mini-series, yet anyway. I went to this film knowing nothing about the story that I didn’t learn from the intriguing trailer.
Cinematography, editing, musical scoring, adapted script, directing and production design are all excellent and worthy of award consideration. Casting is perfect and the acting is outstanding. Matthew Goode (CHASING LIBERTY - ‘04, MATCH POINT - ‘05, THE LOOKOUT - ‘07) continues to be one of my top favorites. I was unaware of Hayley Atwell until now but look forward to her future output starting with completed and upcoming THE DUCHESS (‘08). She adds crucial subtext and shading to what could have been an easily forgettable character. I missed Ben Whishaw’s best known past work, PERFUME (‘06). Along with everybody & everything else in I’M NOT THERE (‘07), he failed to impress me in that debacle. Based on his incandescence here, I’ll be renting PERFUME and anxiously awaiting Jane Campion’s BRIGHT STAR (‘09) along with whatever else he does. Two time Oscar winner Emma Thompson is ideal as Lady Marchmain and deserves careful consideration for year end additional award hardware for this vivid portrayal.
CHANGELING — Rated: 9
JUMPER — Rated: 8
Little is explained here but it really doesn’t matter. Just relax and go along for the ride.
Hayden Christensen looks like a movie star and continues to mature as an actor. He seems appropriately relaxed and this character brings to mind those he limed so well in Life as a House (2001) and Shattered Glass (2003). I saw and enjoyed all 92 episodes of television series The O.C. (2003-07), where Rachel Bilson is featured as “Summer.”
It’s a pleasure to see her now on the big screen. She is equally charming, likable and beautiful here. The chemistry between her and Hayden Christensen is strong and rumor has it that the relationship extends into their off-screen lives. Samuel L. Jackson (A Time to Kill, 1996) is effective as the villain of the piece while modeling yet another slightly distracting & questionable hair treatment. Now in his early twenties, Jamie Bell has matured nicely since his terrific early turn as Billy Elliot (2000) and he brings a nice edge to his sidekick character. Diane Lane (Unfaithful, 2002) has very little screen time but makes it count and looks great.
Now in his early forties, USC School of Cinema graduate Doug Liman is one of my favorites among the newer directors. I’m a big fan of his Swingers (1996), Go (1999), The Bourne Identity (2002), and Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005).
All technical credits are top-of-the-heap with a special nod going to cinematographer Barry Peterson. Musician John Powell adds another very effective score to his resume which already includes great work on all three of the Bourne (2002, 2004, 2007) blockbusters.
MADE OF HONOR — Rated: 3
The one and only really good thing about it is the cinematography by two time Oscar nominee, British Tony Pierce-Roberts who has done outstanding work with the Mechant-Ivory Group several times in the past.
I’m a big fan of female lead, Michelle Monaghan (GONE BABY GONE -‘07, TRUCKER -‘08) who looks good and doesn’t embarrass herself in a silly part. She is not identified by name in the trailer and half her face is cut off in the posters/ads. After seeing this film, she should consider herself fortunate that those two decisions were made by the campaign’s brain trust.
During his limited screen time, Oscar wining director Sydney Pollack is his usual crisp and entertaining self. Likewise, Kelly Carlson is good in brief support. She co-stars on one of my favorite television series, NIP/TUCK and it’s nice to see her on the big screen.
I enjoyed ascending Scottish actor, Kevin McKidd who is best know so far for television’s JOURNEYMAN( 07). Attractive and magnetic, he is sure to continue to gain popularity.
And then there’s star Patrick Dempsey. His main claim to fame is the ABC Television mega hit that I’ve never watched, GREY’S ANATOMY (2005 - 2008). I did find him delightful in ENCHANTED (‘07) but not this time. In fact, he is even more obnoxious that the character as written. In short, what a jerk! Of course, he gets the girl in the end but only because he’s the star.
Nothing in British director Paul Weiland’s resume would have made me think of him as a natural choice for directing this very American comedy and I think he did a lousy job. The three credited writers have contributed nothing but garbage in the past so their offerings here shouldn’t surprise anybody. I take serious issue with their numerous cheap shots leveled at both a slightly afflicted (spastic?) basketball playing character and a plus sized bridesmaid. Not funny. Not funny at all.
To add to the misery for me, Elizabeth Hasselbeck, whose day job is to pollute television’s THE VIEW, makes a cameo appearance. Groan.
If you want to see this type material done right, rent the DVD of MY BEST FRIEND’S WEDDING (1997).
MAMMA MIA! — Rated: 8-1/2
RACHEL GETTING MARRIED — Rated: 4-1/2
However, since many RACHEL reviews have been good, maybe he’ll be encouraged to do more large budgeted fictional films soon and my guess is he’ll get them right.
STOP-LOSS — Rated: 9
It is sure to find its way onto my list of Top Favorite Films for 2008.
Direction by Kimberly Peirce (BOYS DON’T CRY -‘99) is vivid and super-charged.
Down to the smallest bit parts, casting and performances are as good as it gets. Especially praise-worthy are leads Ryan Phillippe (FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS -06), Channing Tatum (STEP-UP -‘06), Abbie Cornish (SOMERSAULT - ‘04) & Joseph Gordon-Levitt (THE LOOKOUT -‘07).
Composer John Powell (THE BOURNE Trilogy) delivers another amazing score and cinematography by Oscar winner Chris Menges (THE MISSION -‘86) perfectly matches the material. All other technical elements are exactly right.
I found the last two scenes somewhat confusing and disagree with the main character’s decision if he did what I think he did. Nevertheless, I still love the film and most of what it has to say about an outrageously unfair policy of the current (2008) Bush Administration regarding our troops.
Due to the very serious subject matter, business has not been good.
It won’t last in theatres long but I urge seeking it out quickly or watching for it on DVD when it’s released to video stores.
UNTRACEABLE — Rated: 8
Untraceable is not exceptional and was never intended to be. Nevertheless, I found it very worthwhile. It was shot to good effect on relatively unfamiliar and cleverly selected locations of Portland, Oregon.
VANTAGE POINT — Rated: 4 1/2
Dennis Quaid, Matthew Fox, Sigourney Weaver and William Hurt are all strong casting choices and each is as good as the material allows. It isn’t his fault, but recent Oscar winner Forest Whitaker is unsuccessful in a part that nobody could have made work based on the way it was written and/or edited.
Technical credits are good enough but at the end, it all comes down to a lengthy and superficial car chase that strains credibility.
…more to come.
...more to come!
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