Tuesday, March 8, 2011

From the archives: January 2009

Months like this make my job a tremendous pleasure.

As often is the case in California's Sacramento Valley, January is spent catching up with the prestige December films from the previous year, which initially open only in select big-city markets (for Academy Awards consideration) and then later migrate to rest of the country. The best pickings were rich this time out, highlighted by a mesmerizing political drama, yet another solid character study from director/star Clint Eastwood, and a curiously poignant adult fantasy suggested by an obscure F. Scott Fitzgerald short story.

Things weren't all skittles and beer, of course; I was crushed by the way graphic novel genius Frank Miller ruined Will Eisner's iconic comic strip hero, The Spirit, with a thoroughly reprehensible big-screen adaptation. "Disappointment" wasn't anywhere near a strong enough word for my reaction.

Then, too, I wasn't as moved by Revolutionary Road as this drama's critical reception led me to expect; despite strong performances, the characters aren't well conceived, and the result is oddly flat and uninvolving.

An established series of fantasy novels made a lackluster debut on the big screen, pretty much scotching any hopes of sequels; an otherwise earnest WWII saga — based on actual events — succumbed to a "Hollywood approach" that worked against the story's power.

And, rather bewilderingly, we were treated to what felt like only half a movie: an unfinished work-in-progress that utterly wasted the talents of Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson.

Even these misfires, however, are intriguing for the manner in which they don't quite come properly alive.

Step into the Wayback Machine, and check 'em out:

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button



Gran Torino


Last Chance Harvey

New in Town

Revolutionary Road

The Spirit

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