Ridley Scott's exciting new spy thriller BODY OF LIES (***1/2) is not a masterpiece like his earlier war effort BLACK HAWK DOWN, but it's beautifully made, very well written, and features three manly but different performances from Leo DiCaprio, Russell Crowe, and Mark Strong, which all adds up to yet another interesting take on this topical genre that audiences have yet been inclined to pay to see on the big-screen. The film is set to earn less than $15 million at the domestic box office on it's opening weekend, and it was met with 50-50 results by the critics (it has a 53% overall at Rottentomatoes with a 50% cream of the crop). Some people, like the inane Armond White, the too-old-to-be-in print Ken Turan, and the normally reliable A.O. Scott , who was one of the few big-gun critics to rave about last year's similarly themed film THE KINGDOM, have panned the film but other, wiser people like David Denby, Roger Ebert, and Scott Foundas are supporters. I really loved this film. It's like SYRIANA with lots of explosions and action sequences. William Monahan's screenplay operates on multiple levels and involves multiple reversals (all of which add up when you think about it as I have); it's pretty fucking awesome if you ask me. Oh yeah -- lots of shit blows up. And it looks fucking sick thanks to Scott's as-always painterly images, this time in tandem with first time regular cinematographer, Alexander Witt. Witt is an action vet, with an IMDB credit page that is just remarkable; he's been the go-to second unit guy for the last 10 years, and has one or two feature credits as director.) This is a smart, entertaining, and darkly thoughtful piece of spy-fare, and it comes across as a dark older brother to Tony Scott's underrated 2001 picture, SPY GAME. Full review to appear soon.
Tom McCarthy's delightful gem THE VISITOR (****) is one of those little films that's bound to get overlooked at year's end. Richard Jenkins, if there was any God, would get an Oscar nomination -- if not the win -- for his work in this film. A sensitive, timely, and very human screenplay from McCarthy, along with his casual directorial style made this is a first-rate drama. Full review soon.
THE HAPPENING (ZERO STARS) is an unmitigated disaster, easily the worst movie I have seen this year, and probably on the list for worst of the decade. I look forward to trashing this film in an upcoming review, but suffice to say, everything -- and I mean EVERYTHING -- in this film went wrong. Shyamalan can go press his nose to the opening of a jar that's holding his own fart smells for a while; he's truly off his fucking rocker. Mark Whalbergh should be ashamed of himself, as should Zooey Deschanel. They've both been great before, so I am left to assume that it's really Shyamalan who should take the beating. God was this film fucking embarrassing.
I will be seeing BLINDNESS today so more on that later.