Capsule Reviews Pt. 2

I did it. I saw 15 films in 3 weeks to get caught up with the Academy Awards. What’s more is I’m still gainfully employed; my dog has been walked twice every day for the last three weeks and my friends are still speaking to me. The only real sacrifice is that I can’t review these films in more detail.

Little Children

This film features a good, not great performance by Kate Winslet. The real acting fireworks come from Jackie Earle Haley  as a fully realized flasher. In the end, though, the script is too convoluted and the technical elements are marginal.

Volver

Volver is a spirited brightly colored soap opera from Pedro Almodovar. The plot is a little surreal but that’s typical of the director’s work. Penelope Cruz turns in a great performance.

Blood Diamond

This is Edward Zwick’s entry into the tragedy of modern Africa genre. There are sermons here but they are embedded in a rip roaring adventure tale that is well acted and directed. This is a very exciting film.

Venus

Aging libertine Peter O’Toole, plays Maurice Russell, an aging libertine who is determined to make a fool out of himself over a woman one last time. He succeeds brilliantly. O’Toole is the centerpiece here. The rest of the film is merely serviceable.

Pan’s Labyrinth

Guillermo Del Toro takes a good plot with a solid emotional core and mixes it with his unerring visual instincts to create a masterpiece. This is something he’s never been able to achieve in his horror and comic book films. Pan’s Labyrinth is a uniquely intense and moving film.

Half Nelson

Ryan Gosling gives a nuanced and moving portrayal of a middle school teacher struggling with a cocaine addiction while trying to reach a young student on the verge of making serious mistakes. The film is about that dichotomy, in fact there’s a good deal of talk about dialectics, but in the end the script doesn’t really resolve the issue. This is a well acted film, though.

United 93

This is a bare bones story told in a documentary like style. There is no exposition, no characterization, and very little action. The only thing left is men and women in air traffic control towers, military bases, and in the cabin of the titular flight, dealing with this horrific situation. United 93 is one of the most powerful films of 2006

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