Saturday, May 3, 2008

Recent DVD Releases

Click on the title for the original theatrical reviews.

Charlie Wilson’s War
Unfairly lambasted by critics, this wildly entertaining film contains some of the best dialogue this side of The Departed. Aaron Sorkin’s hilarious, thoughtful script is based on a novel which tells the story of Texas Congressman Charlie Wilson (Tom Hanks) who is able to fund the people of Afghanistan with money to fight the Russians in the 1980s. A CIA agent (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and a Houston socialite (Julia Roberts) feature prominently in helping him. There are some scenes that are so expertly crafted and executed, that they need instant repeat viewing. Specifically: Hoffman’s first 2 scenes with Hanks (in his office with the bottle of Scotch and in the park with the weapons expert).(Click below for a PSH lovefest)

Unfortunately, the movie seems to go out of its way to restore some credibility to Dan Rather and take cheap shots at Rudy Giuliani. Near the end, however, it unexpectedly turns up pro-Iraq, nakedly encouraging America to support the rebuilding process. Director Mike Nichols never really finds a specific style, but is smart enough to let the story and script do the heavy lifting and keeps the tone just right. This is easily Hanks’s best performance since Cast Away and Hoffman deserved his Oscar nomination. Will this film find the huge audience it deserves on video and cable? We’ll see. B+

The Savages
Philip Seymour Hoffman’s third great performance of 2007 won him an Independent Spirit Award and Laura Linney received an Oscar nomination, though I’m not sure her character is any different than the one in You Can Count on Me (complete with an affair with a married man). As the brother and sister dealing with a dying father, the duo has great scenes together, but the story never really catches fire, mostly because every character is intentionally flawed or unlikable. And there are lots more confrontations than reconciliations, but some may consider that a good thing. Hoffman is the new master of versatility. His subdued and thoughtful performance is completely different than his hypercharged performance in Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead and his witty, hilarious turn in Charlie Wilson’s War. 2 years after his Oscar win for Capote, he has topped himself 3 times. B

Yes, I get it: Blair Witch meets Godzilla. Blair Witch works better since there were no fake monsters or fake action scenes and it was kinda all in your head. Godzilla (not the crappy Emmerich version) works better because it plays for laughs. In Cloverfield, we get a bunch of vacuous, godless Manhattan assholes failing miserably at comedy, drama, romance, action, sincerity, acting, and credibility. Did I leave anything out? Oh, yes – this movie sucks. D+


priest said...

totally agree on both Charlie Wilson and Cloverfield. I think the first had the bad luck to come out amidst a whole stream of anti-american war films at a time when john q. public wants to be entertained at the cineplex. while this one would have done it, no one knew. hoffman is great, as is hanks, although i felt like he never truly embraced his inner cad, playing wilson as a man who just happened to stumble onto young (and middle-aged rich) girls just wanting to bang him. a little more malkovich from dangerous liaisons would have been nice.

and cloverfield was just bad, although the making-of-special- effects extra is entertaining and worth watching.

cmh said...

Philip Seymour Hoffman is such a great character actor. I watched The Big Lebowski this weekend and he was pretty good in that too, for what his role was.