Ben Affleck stepped out of the limelight for quite some time before returning to the Hollywood scene with a brief role in Hollywoodland and now behind the camera for Gone Baby Gone. This is his directorial debut and I must say it is a very impressive one. This rather haunting film revolves around a young couple that is asked to help an investigation searching for a missing child in inner city Boston. Ben Affleck's brother, Casey, plays the lead private detective and delivers his second outstanding performance of the year (he's nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Robert Ford). The supporting cast is excellent as well, especially Ed Harris. There are some nice twists in the story and some difficult moral questions raised. This is a film that is affecting in multiple ways and will probably have you questioning your own ideas of what is right and what is wrong. What I do know is, Affleck has shown that he can already pen a great screenplay (he also co-wrote the screenplay here) but now he's shown he can direct a great film as well. Highly recommended.
Last year director Guillermo Del Toro scored a huge hit with the international release of Pan's Labyrinth. The film went on to win acclaim at most of the film festivals and even got a few Oscar nominations including Best Foreign Film. This adult fairy tale is a dark and twisted ride that shows the more horrific side of war painted alongside a child's imagination. The film takes place during the later part of World War II in Spain where a pregnant mother and young child move in with a vicious Spanish captain who is trying to track down and kill the last of the resistance in the area. The young girl is lured by a fairy into a labyrinth near the headquarters and meets a Fawn who has the key to a kingdom long forgot. The young girl faces challenges to enter the kingdom while also dealing with the horrors around her.
Guy Ritchie made quite the name for himself with the comedy capers Snatch and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. He also gave action star Jason Statham his big break. Revolver breaks new cinematic ground for Ritchie but unfortunately it didn't get much attention here in the US and barely made a cinematic release. I saw this film a few years ago and while I admit it does present some challenging and often confusing ideas, it is still a strong film. Ritchie's visual style continues to impress and his knack for stylish wit is plastered all over this one. As of right now this film will only be released as a standard DVD here in the US but anyone with internet access can find this one from Norway on Blu-ray as a region free release.
It is easy for great films to get passed over when they dwell on unpopular subjects. Such is the case with The Kingdom, an exceptional action thriller that has some unsettling political messages. The film follows a FBI team into the kingdom of Saudi Arabia after a bombing takes place in an America oil worker's compound. Things get out of hand though once the team gets on the ground. Director Peter Berg and producer Michael Mann deliver an intense political thriller that reminds me a lot of Mann's directorial efforts in intensity and production. There is a constant sense of tension through most of the film that escalates near the end to almost unsettling levels. The photography is also classic Mann style with tight angles and great character coverage. Despite not being that popular at the box office I really enjoyed this one and would recommend it to any political action fan.
My wife and I decided to give this one a spin the day before Valentine's Day. Advertised as a romantic comedy, we were a bit disappointed with the lack of romance in the film. Sure it has its moments, but this is really a drama about a chef with a hectic life trying to fit her Niece in after losing her Mom in a car accident. This is a rather serious tale and I liked the characters, but I think the ad campaign was a bit misleading and could leave those in the mood for a romantic comedy a bit disappointed. The film does have a good heart though and we both enjoyed it for what it was, a human drama with a sprinkle of warmth and charm.
It seems like we've seen plenty of renditions of Invasion of the Body Snatchers over the years. Some have been quite good while others blend into the B-Movie pile. This one leans more toward the latter, though has its moments. The production style is slick, but most of the actors can't seem to rise about the weak script. The film moves along at a rather slow pace, which doesn't help either. In the end we’re given a premise that doesn't seem to make you care one way or another what happens, and a collection of solid A-list actors phoning it in.