War of the Worlds wasn’t high on my list of movies to see, but my sister had just received it from Netflix and it had been getting good reviews-so I gave it a shot. The special effects were impressive, but the “errant father makes good” subplot and the hackneyed upbeat Hollywood ending sort of made it hard to swallow.
Happy Endings directed by Dan Roos, who made the intelligent and very funny film The Opposite of Sex, was a satisfying ensemble character study. The lead story involves step siblings Mamie (Lisa Kudrow) and Charlie (Steve Coogan) as they try to find happiness in life. There are several subplots involving other characters played by the likes of Tom Arnold, Jason Ritter, Maggie Glyllenhall, Laura Dern among others. The stories are interwoven throughout as the stories and characters converge. The characters are funny, flawed, and realistic. They blindly struggle through life trying to find contentment. There are funny and interesting written asides that appear white on black, which comment on the action and inform the viewers about the fates of the characters. It seems that all of the characters have certain mysteries unto themselves and that like most people their happiness is dependent on other people. The endings are happy, but realistic and unpredictable.
Steve Carrell has proved his comedic mettle in the American version of The Office and furthers his reputation in the entertaining The-40-Year Old Virgin. It’s a good natured film that could have been more sophomoric. It has gotten universally good reviews and is mostly entertaining, however there are a couple of misfires like the musical sequence near the end of the film that seems to have been lifted from the tepid film-The Anchorman.
Pretty Persuasion joins the ranks of biting high school satires like Heathers, Clueless, Election, and Mean Girls as it takes on the culture of celebrity, racism, popularity, entitlement, and a host of other targets. Eve Rachel Wood, who was so impressive in Thirteen is equally good here as the scheming Lolita exploiting everyone around her. There are good supporting roles by Ron Livingston, James Woods, and Jane Krakow.
Purple Butterfly is a film that could have bee great had it been edited differently. As is the intriguing, noir-ish spy film starring the enchanting Ziyi Zhang is a bit of a confusing mess. It is set in Japanese occupied Shanghai before WWII, and Zhang has fallen in love with a Japanese student and then becomes radicalized when her brother is murdered by a Japanese zealot, and gets involved in a game of cat and mouse with her former Japanese lover who returns as a spy for the Japanese. In another plotline a Chinese man is mistaken for a member of the resistance and his lover is killed in an inadvertent shootout. There is a bleak gray tone for the film that suggests a sort of foreboding for the doomed characters. There seems to be a nod to Wong Kar-Wai in its romantic doomed tone, however, it’s incoherence detracts from the overall effect.
Bad Education garnered a lot of praise last year. Most Pedro Almodovar films have something to engage the viewer and this is no exception. And it had a very interesting and complex plot structure that seem to expand as the movie progressed. There were also some inspired performances, especially Gael Garcia Bernal.