Capsule Reviews Pt. 1

I have to admit that the recent announcement of the Academy Award nominees caught me unprepared. On the big day I found myself with 15 films to see in 5 weeks if I wanted to comment intelligently on this year’s race. For the first time that I can remember, I had only seen one of the leading actor performances and only two of the Best Picture noms. The last few weeks I’ve been scrambling and I’m now about halfway through the list.

Since I have a day job and other interests, I can’t possibly review all these films in the depth that I usually go into and not fall terribly behind, which I don’t want to do again. So I decided to give them capsule reviews and lump them together. In some cases a paragraph is all a movie warrants; other films I will be regretfully short changing.

The Pursuit of Happyness

This is an ordinary inspirational film that is redeemed by Will Smith’s charisma and talent. It is manipulative in the way that any film with a cute kid has to be, but I really didn’t mind. The theme is basically the same as those seminars your boss makes you attend every year, only this is more entertaining.

The Devil Wears Prada

Meryl Streep’s performance saves this otherwise pedestrian chick flick. I’m not sure that she’s the actual lead in the film, which is what she’s nominated for but who cares? Note to Hollywood: even dressed in a tweed skirt and pullover sweater, Anne Hathaway still looks like a major babe.

Little Miss Sunshine

I was sorry I missed this darkly comic gem about a dysfunctional family on a hellish road trip. The theme here is exactly the opposite as The Pursuit of Happyness. One by one the characters’ dreams are shattered and they have to rely on the dubious support of their relatives. This is one that deserves a whole column.

Monster House

I was disappointed in this dark computer animation tale. It is not nearly as good as it thinks it is, or as some critics have dubbed it. A word of warning: This is for older kids, tweens and up. Keep the toddlers away.

Happy Feet

Kids will enjoy the breathtaking visuals, poppy songs and dances in this cartoon but adults won’t. The controversial environmental message feels tacked on.

Notes on a Scandal

Judi Dench turns in a brilliant performance as an ancient teacher in a British high school. (I know they don’t call them that over there but I don’t have time to research it.) She latches on to the new art teacher, played by Cate Blanchett, in a very creepy way. This is a terrific film.

Letters from Iwo Jima

Clint Eastwood has looked at Iwo Jima from both sides now. This one is the Japanese perspective. The suspense doesn’t come from who’s going to win the battle-we all know that-but which one of these common solders, who are very sympathetically portrayed, will survive the American onslaught and the Japanese cultural predilection for honorable self destruction. This is better than Flags of Our Fathers.

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