Friday’s Flicks

It’s a strong first weekend at the movie house as three films from talented directors open: Alfonso Cuaron’s Children of Men, Todd Field’s Little Children and Tom Tykwer’s Perfume. Even Richard LaGravenese’s Freedom Writers looks somewhat intriguing.

Elsewhere, stay away from Cedric the Entertainer’s comedy vehicle Code Name: The Cleaner and the animated Happily N’Ever After, both of which look pretty ludicrous, as the reviews below warn.

Opening films (click on grade for review):

Children of Men: A+

Code Name: The Cleaner: F

Freedom Writers: C-

Happily N’Ever After: D

Little Children: A-

Perfume: A

Flick of the Week: Children of Men

Coinciding beautifully with the CityBeat film writers’ top 10 lists in this week’s paper, my No. 1, Children of Men, is the obvious choice. For those too lazy to click on the link, here’s what I said about it: “Gloriously crafted and affectingly acted, Alfonso Cuaron’s warning shot of a thriller takes on the pressing issues of the day — immigration, the environment and globalization in 2027 London — without resorting to either didactic heavy-handedness or detached irony. Don’t listen to those who criticize its ambiguous ideologies; that ambiguity is exactly what the film gets so achingly true about contemporary existence.”

And Clive Owen is perfectly understated as our soul-deadened antihero, an ordinary guy who unwittingly finds civilization’s existence in his hands. Sound hyperbolic? Not so fast: Cuaron’s subtle guidance transcends the narrative’s melodramatic possibilities. (Look for my interview with Cuaron in next week’s issue of CityBeat.)

That other movie with children in its title, Little Children, is also worth checking out. Based on Tom Perotta’s (he co-wrote the script with Field) satirical novel of the same name, this corrosively funny film nails the surreal rhythms of contemporary suburban America as well as any movie in recent memory. Echoes of American Beauty abound (as Steven Rosen notes in his review above), complete with strong performances, deadpan voice-over narration and gloriously choreographed visuals.

Alas, its drawn-out, slightly heavy-handed final third merely make it a very strong follow-up to Field’s similarly denouement-challenged In the Bedroom.

— Jason Gargano

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