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Dec 18, 2008

Fletch's Film Review Blitz: Milk, Nobel Son, The Day the Earth Stood Still and Doubt

Yeah...so I'm four reviews behind. With holiday season here, and a number of potential "sees" coming in the next 10 days, it's high time I catch up.

Let's start with the one I saw longest ago, and the reason I've been sitting on my hands for 3 weeks. I have no idea what to say about Milk. It's expertly made, full of terrific acting, a hip cast, and what appears to be a historically accurate portrayal of an important man in an important time in civil rights and California history, all without seeming to be too much of an angelic portrait of a deceased man. No small feat, though the bigger feat is making a film that features Sean Penn smiling for 90 minutes. A strong film that will likely nestle into the year's top ten right around seven or eight, though it's final fate is yet to be determined.

Overwrought, overthought, overcooked, overacted mess of a family crime caper comedy (and perhaps a few other genres, too) starring Alan Rickman as a sleazeball, Nobel-winning college professor whose son gets kidnapped...by his other son, only the first son didn't know that the guy that kidnapped him was really his brother. Oh what a tangled web we weave when we try to make a clever film an end up with a too-hip-for-its-own-good movie filled with wink-wink quirky characters and set to a never-stopping pulse-pounding soundtrack by legendary DJ Paul Oakenfold. People, club hits do not a soundtrack to every life situation make. The Mini Cooper sequence is pretty good, though, if completely unbelievable.

Here's the best thing I can say about Day: this is the best match of character to actor that Keanu Reeves has ever been involved with. That might sound like an insult, as his Klaatu is practically robotic, but it's not. Unlike so many, I'm not a Keanu hater - I think he's a perfectly adequate actor that's been cursed with an awful yet distinctive voice more than anything else. Still, the man takes advantage of that emotional-void voice here in a way that no one short of Leonard Nimoy could. If only the rest of the film had anything at all to offer its viewers outside of eye-roll-inducing plot points and characters and the exposed, poor acting by Jaden Smith. It might normally sound like a good thing to feel as though you'd just seen two films when walking out of the theater, but that's not the case when the unseen film that you felt like you saw was The Happening. We get it - humans suck. Now shut up and stop insulting our intelligence.

Like Milk, an actors showcase, but this one, adapted by John Patrick Shanley from his own play, feels less like a great film and more like a long episode of Law & Order: Parochial Victims Unit. While the fashion and high glamour looks of The Devil Wears Prada might have gotten Meryl Streep more attention, the better bitch is on display here, as her Sister Aloysius has no such veneer to hide behind, decked out only in habit and bonnet. A tactful handling of a delicate topic (or two), but lacks narrative, leaving you with little to care about other than the awfully big "did he or didn't he" tactic, which you should be able to figure out before the film starts anyhow. Nonetheless, a worthwhile acting clinic.

Grades:
Milk

"It's in the hole!


Nobel Son

"Whatever."


The Day the Earth Stood Still

"I want you to punch me as hard as you can."


Doubt

"You seem a decent fellow. I hate to kill you."


11 people have chosen wisely: on "Fletch's Film Review Blitz: Milk, Nobel Son, The Day the Earth Stood Still and Doubt"

Mrs Fletch said...

MILK: Sean Penn was great, and will probably be expecting an award or two But you didn't even mention James Franco. His part wasn't crazy-huge, but he's the one that made their relationship seem very real.

Between this and Pineapple Express, Mr Franco has proven himself to be more than just another cute face.

Steve said...

You need a new rating categorey for The day the earth stood still...
Crap on a Stick

Jess said...

Fletch, great wrap up! There hasn't been a ton out on any of these as they're not in super wide release (by which I mean they haven't arrived in my podunk town), so I appreciate the quick opinions to help me decide which ones to make the trek to the city to see.

bd79 said...

If nothing else, you deserve a compliment for the "Law & Order: Parochial Victims Unit" line. Well done.

Fletch said...

Mrs. Fletch - Indeed, Franco has had a banner year between Milk and Pineapple alone. I hope to see him get an Oscar nod for Supporting Actor, but I think he might've supported himself into a split. Too bad.

Steve - Crap on a stick is pretty accurate, but I like mine better. :)

Thanks, Jess - give it time - I'm sure you'll get all except Nobel Son, which probably hasn't performed well enough to move past major cities...not like your missing much.

Heh - thanks, BD. It was either that or Law & Order: Pedophile Intent...

Nick said...

Well... I hate to hear that about Nobel Son. It looked so interesting, too. Though we have disagreed on movies before (every now and then), so you never know! :P

Daniel Getahun said...

Go figure. Nobel Son is out of theaters here after 13 days - and that after sitting on a shelf for a year and a half. What a disaster.

Ms☆Go (dcmoviegirl) said...

Aww damn, Doubt wasn't that good?! It was one of my last hopes for an amazing film.

Pfft, I'm just not excited about the Awards' show races this year.

There's nothing I'm really rooting for. Good movies but no GREAT movies.

I'll be checking Milk this week. We'll see how that goes.

Fletch said...

"Pfft, I'm just not excited about the Awards' show races this year. "

I think this about sums it up for me, too. Unless there's just A TON of greats getting dumped into the last couple weeks (er, days) of the year. I'll be really curious to see what the Best Pic noms are.

At this point, I'm guessing:
MILK
DOUBT
FROST/NIXON
THE DARK KNIGHT
SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE

Maybe The Wrestler or Ben Button will slip in...

Farzan said...

Nice mini review. I thought Milk was simply outstanding. I think Sean Penn gave a fantastic performance that should win him the Oscar.

Darren Todd said...

I'm with ya on "Day...Still." I think it sells short on a lot of plot points and visual scenes that are promised and not delivered (big metal dust devil destroys city *yawn*). I saw it with a step-dad that really liked it (as he did the original) so I didn't give it a review to avoid giving it a really bad one that I knew he'd read.
Completely forgettable.