The Happy-Go-Lucky Vampire Boy in the Striped Pajamas Drinking MIlk
Cadillac Records: Dan did not sing the film's praises, writing, "Cadillac Records is pretty much the absolute worst possible film that could be made from its premise and source material. Writer-director Darnell Martin ostensibly sets out to tell the story of the people and events involved in the history of Chess Records a blues/R&B label based in Chicago, and specifically its peak in the 1950s. But the story she comes up with is haphazard, ill formed, and all over the road when it comes to pacing, plot, and general direction. The film is more of a jukebox musical than a standard biopic, using songs from the label's various artists often as entire set pieces, but as solid as those performances might be -- and the songs themselves are verifiable classics -- the film itself is an unsalvageable pile of likable but dull characters wandering through a screenplay that offers no reason for their existence but the music they can make."
Happy-Go-Lucky: Lucky, which features the Oscar nominated performance of Sally Hawkins, received a strong review from Phillip, who writes, "[Mike] Leigh paces Happy-Go-Lucky with leisurely, unhurried episodes. He and his actors' famous use of improv help hew close to moments of real human serendipity, of life caught unawares. This is a director who has mastered his game over the course of decades, and he doesn't hurry the film's emotions or tones. Leigh hints that Poppy is struggling against Modernity's oldest crisis, a Dostoyevskyian alienation born of urban rot, but this is essentially a character study and a critique of modern happiness, and a powerful one at that."
Let the Right One In: John was a big fan of Let the Right One In, one of our ten best unseen films of 2008. He writes, "It's difficult to convey the experience of watching Let the Right One In with words. It doesn't traffic in many words itself, for one thing, and those it does use are all Swedish. It would be easier to give a sense of the movie's tone and impact, which has stayed with me for 72 hours and promises to linger for a while longer, by sitting down to perform a haunting piece for cello, or by standing alone with you, silently, during a snowstorm near an abandoned warehouse. Let the Right One In is creepier, and more visually beautiful, than anything else you're likely to see this year. Or next. Directed by Tomas Alfredson and adapted by John Ajvide Lindqvist from his own novel, it could be -- and has been -- called a horror movie, but it's also an exceedingly unusual love story."
Milk: Ted was won over by Sean Penn's Oscar winning performance, even when the movie failed to live up to it. He writes, "Milk epitomizes the way in which a flawed and sometimes frustrating film can nevertheless realize its underlying concept perfectly. Much like Harvey Milk himself, the film occasionally squanders valuable time on annoying distractions, but every time Milk threatens to lose its way, Penn delivers a dazzling bit of dialogue or an astonishingly spot-on gesture to re-focus the narrative. In much the same way Harvey Milk galvanized the gay rights movement despite his own flaws as a man and as a leader, Penn harnesses Milk to his shoulders and carries the film to a great height despite some questionable narrative decisions."
Rachel Getting Married: Dustin wrote, of Pajiba's third best movie of 2008, "Rachel Getting Married, featuring the performance of Anne Hathaway's career, Jonathan Demme took the same approach to the dysfunctional family film that Noah Baumbach has been taking for the last few years, with one great exception that makes Rachel the superior film: Demme's characters, for all their insufferable neuroses, are ultimately likable, sympathetic, and heartbreaking. What appears, initially, as just another film about a broken family marred by tragedy flowers into something real and cathartic and painfully exuberant."
Role Models: Dan was pleased with David Wain's most recent comedy, writing, "David Wain's Role Models is the perfect mix of the absurdist humor that's defined his earlier work like "The State"/"Stella" or Wet Hot American Summer and a broader sensibility that fits more easily into the template of modern buddy comedies. For every dick or boob joke -- and there are many -- there's a sarcastic aside or deadpan punch line that keeps the comedy quicker and more rewarding than something that just goes for the pratfalls. Wain walks the line between big and little with ease, turning out a genuinely and consistently hilarious comedy."
Synecdoche, New York: It pained him to do so, but Brian ultimately gave Synecdoche a pan, writing, "Kaufman is basing his film on this interweaving and complex idea, essentially blending reality and fiction, folding it over and in on itself, until the line isn't just blurred but indistinguishable. The result is a miasma of shiny and sparkly clusterfuck, a bold genetic experiment so ugly and ill-defined, only a just and cruel creator would allow it to suffocate in its' own fetid gloominess. The movie is a puzzle, a near impossible amalgam of random pieces and crazy characters, spanning lifetimes, bridging insane gaps, twisting and turning in the middle of the metaphor so you're not sure whether you were on a roller coaster ride or waiting in line for Portishead tickets. Kaufman's first attempt to direct his own writing is as would be expected: insanely ambitious and challenging, wildly original, and an incredible creative skullfuck. I just wish it were better."
Transporter 3: Prisco offers up this summary, which is as much a review as anything. "It's the same movie as the other two. The Transporter 3 is less of a structured narrative and more of a franchise. Jason Statham has to drive something -- usually a woman -- for a creepy guy who might be a model in international GQ or Esquire. Things go awry, Jason Statham beats up a bunch of multicultural henchmen with an assortment of Home Depot supplies. He has some of the sex with the woman, and then drives really fast in a shiny black car, usually backwards or on two wheels or doing Burnquist darkslides with an Audi. He foils the plot, saves the day, and goes on to collect his reward of more money, the girl, and a much needed vacation. Not that there's anything wrong with that. When you go to McDonalds in another state, province, or country, you know what you're going to get every time. You're not expecting a four star meal. With the Transporters, we don't ask for much other than Jason Statham taking off his shirt, jump-heel kicking a guy in the face and driving really fast while talking in a charming accent. Which he does, so for most of you, this movie will be a rollicking success."