Month: September 2008

Eagle Eye (2008), D. J. Caruso, B+

Eagle Eye is so brazenly stupid that I have to just stand up and salute it. It almost feels like the writers (four of em!) got into a daring match – just how long can we keep this up? How ridiculous can we make this without breaking. And then when you get to the end, you realize they wrote the whole thing backward. All they did was take a scenario you’ve heard pitched a thousand times and get you there in the most insane and convoluted way imaginable. And I think it takes great chutzpah to that! Plus – a visual cue from Rollerball and The Man Who Knew Too Much in the same picture?!? Who can...

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Cube (1997), Vincenzo Natali, B

I didn’t see Cube when it came out for one simple, idiotic reason. Pi had just come out. I figured, eh, I’ve seen Pi, I don’t need to see Cube. My brain works this way. I still haven’t seen the documentary Spellbound because I like the Hitchcock film. Anyway, if you are a pessimist you will watch Cube and say, “Boy – the acting sure is shitty, the characters are false and the plotting doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.” If you are an optimist you will say, “For a no budget film out of Canada, this achieves a great deal of tone, is very engaging to watch and somehow manages to be “heavy” without being overburdened by bullshit.” For the most part, I consider myself an...

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Nathalie…(2003), Anne Fontaine, A-

What’s French for “keep it simple, stupid”? A spurned woman hires a call girl to shtup her husband. Is it to spy? To learn how to please him? To live vicariously? Does there have to be just one reason? What happens when friendships are formed? Who is exploiting who? How can a movie with virtually no nudity or onscreen sex be so filthy? And, finally, what’s up with the French? What is going on over there when a guy that looks like Gerard Depardieu (or, as Ann called him, “Le That Guy”) has women throwing themselves at his feet? Jokes aside, see this movie. It is like a tall glass of cold water – simple and with great...

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Standard Operating Procedure (2008), Errol Morris, A-

I did something I almost never do with this movie. I watched it twice in a row. Mostly because Morris’ style made it a little difficult for me to follow the first time. If you, like me, only have a vague knowledge of the major players in the Abu Ghraib story, then you’ll need to see it twice or hit that rewind button. But maybe that is the point (you never know with a trickster like Morris.) Names and acronyms and regulations kinda fly in your face at a confusing rate – leaving you a little dizzy and hoping for order. Orders? “Just following orders” of course, is one of the major themes. We meet the people behind (and from) the Abu Ghraib photos – including her – and they kinda seem like normal people. Standard Operating Procedure is not a 60 Minutes expose on Abu Ghraib. It is a look into the specifics of awfulness (more than once was I reminded of Hannah Arendt’s “Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil”) and, perhaps more importantly for our echo chamber news media culture, a discussion of the importance of the photo or video image and its contexts. Each of the “defendants” have an opportunity to speak for themselves and, frankly, many make a good case. One guy who did a year of prison had nothing to...

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Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008), Nicholas Stoller, C-

Movies are about the suspension of disbelief, but there comes a point where you just can’t take the lazy writing anymore. Forget the myriad coincidences that are essential to the plot, just the unlikely premise that a Froot Loops-eating zhlub has beautiful women throwing themselves at his feet no matter where he goes. Oh – I see – the lead actor is also the screenwriter. I understand now. There are a few decent laughs, mostly from Russell Brand (who they’re making a quasi-sequel about, which is cool) but everything else here is a kind’ve a waste of your...

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Jordan Hoffman is a New York-based writer and film critic working for The Guardian, Vanity Fair, Thrillist, Times of Israel, NY Daily News and elsewhere.

He is the host of ENGAGE: The Official Star Trek Podcast, a member of the New York Film Critics Circle and challenges you to a game of backgammon.

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