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Film Roundup IV

I Heart Huckabees – 67%

I would be crazy to attempt to explain the plot of this movie. It involves an environmentalist, a firefighter, a large department store, some sort of love quadrangle, a pair of existential detectives and their creepy foreign rival in a great deal of zaniness. I wanted to like the movie because it brought to mind some of the hilarious and artful randomness of the works of Douglas Adams. This is a comedy that often at least seems quite funny, sporting a very enviable cast: Hoffman, Tomlin, Wahlberg, Watts, Law, Schwartzman, et al. But it lacks any real inspiration. I Heart Huckabees makes a lot of noise, and pushes peoples’ faces in the mud, and tackles them, but it all seems calculated to keep you from realizing there’s actually nothing going on under the surface. The philosophizing is still shallow and tired, no matter how eccentrically or manically delivered.

Entrapment – 84%

Sean Connery is a notorious art thief. Catherine Zeta-Jones is an agent deployed by an insurance company to find out whether he’s behind a recent theft . . . only she might have a few ulterior motives of her own for wanting to establish contact with one of the most gifted criminals of the century. Then again, maybe he isn’t all he seems to be either. Entrapment is a rather elaborate heist movie, with a flurry of twists flying in at the end in an attempt to keep the audience guessing. Unfortunately, it only really works because it’s too absurd for us to have thought of. Still, I like it a lot. Connery and Zeta-Jones work great together. It’s fun and exciting and has just about everything a good heist movie ought to, even if it is ultimately undone by trying too hard.

The Ox-Bow Incident – 89%

It’s 12 Angry Men in a Wild West setting in this classic examination of guilt, innocence, and mob justice. Henry Fonda is the voice of reason once again as a lynch mob forms around a group of drifters who might or might not be cattle rustlers, but can one man hope to stand against an angry crowd? The Ox-Bow Incident clocks in at a very short 75 minutes, which is precisely as much time as it needs. The story isn’t as cut-and-dried as you might expect from a ’40s western, and the result is both affecting and satisfying.

Shut Up & Sing – 88%

Of the several free-speech-themed documentaries I’ve seen, this is by far the best. It follows the trials and successes of country-western group the Dixie Chicks after their lead singer, Natalie Maines, bashed President Bush during the lead-up to the Iraq invasion. The group was caught completely off-guard by the negative reaction of what turned out to be a very vocal minority, but refused to back away from their position. The film examines how America really feels about the principles of free speech and weaves the story of the group’s fight for their careers around the rising and falling star of the war in Iraq in a compelling and fascinating way.

The 10th Kingdom – 80%

Fractured fairy tales get the 7-hour miniseries treatment in this Hallmark Channel special that could well have been the inspiration for Disney’s recent Enchanted (though it is in turn influenced by the Disney tradition in its own way). Virginia Lewis and her father Tony live quietly in New York City until one crazy night they find an alternate reality intruding on their lives. Before they know it, they’ve been swept into a struggle to rescue the fairy kingdoms from the rule of an evil sorceress . . . but their ties to this world run deeper than they first realized. It’s reasonably creative and well-done as made-for-TV epic fantasy goes, with plenty of time to come up with clever ideas and develop its characters so that you really care about them. Of course, it has its fair share at least of painfully cheesy material, and it’s not really my sort of thing, but it’s not too bad, all in all.

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~ by Jared on December 11, 2007.

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