From the Archive — Atonement

Since I recently lobbed a few ill words in the direction of Joe Wright’s latest Best Picture nominee in which the evacuation of Dunkirk figures into the plot, I’ll look back to a far more admiring assessment of an earlier effort from the director. Atonement was also a Best Picture nominee in which the evacuation of Dunkirk figures in the plot. How about that? And ten years ago, because of the same film, little Saoirse Ronan was also getting ready for her first trip to the Oscars.  Atonement is a terrific book, so artfully taking advantage of the storytelling opportunities unique to … Continue reading From the Archive — Atonement

From the Archive: Pride & Prejudice

This was written fairly early in my return to movie reviews, when I was finally figuring out how to make reasonable use out these online tundras. When adapting a Jane Austen novel such as Pride & Prejudice, it must be sorely tempting to try every conceivable trick to make it visually engaging. This sort of period piece from the Approved Canon of Great Literature is especially prone to becoming the sort of staid veddy, veddy English film that Eddie Izzard once identified as “a room with a view with a staircase and a pond type movies.” (“What is it, Sebastian? … Continue reading From the Archive: Pride & Prejudice

Carpenter, Cronenberg, Ford, Truffaut, Wright

Hanna (Joe Wright, 2011). Well, I’ll say this for director Joe Wright: He’s not going to be pinned down. He made his feature debut with a Jane Austen adaptation and followed that with a prestige picture based on a Ian McEwan novel. Then came a fairly drab issues picture largely about the homeless community in Los Angeles. The bank shot away from that reunites him with Atonement Oscar nominee Saoirse Ronan for a bizarre action film about a teenage girl who was raised in isolation to be an unstoppable assassin. The film is balanced awkwardly between stylish action and moody … Continue reading Carpenter, Cronenberg, Ford, Truffaut, Wright

Bunuel, Frankenheimer, Phillips, Wright, Wyler

The Hangover (Todd Phillips, 2009). The premise is great. Four guys go to Las Vegas for a bachelor party. The next morning they wake up from a blackout drunk with the groom-to-be missing, and they have to reconstruct their crazy night from increasingly absurd clues. It’s like Memento reimagined as a ribald comedy. The execution is another matter. The screenwriting team of Jon Lucas and Scott Moore (who saw this turn into a box office sensation just a few weeks after their handiwork resulted in a dreadful-looking bomb) just pile on incident after incident, getting laughs from jolting the audience … Continue reading Bunuel, Frankenheimer, Phillips, Wright, Wyler