Films This Week
Check out the movies playing around town.
With reviews and trailers.
Funny script, Depp's lizard hero, highlight Western spoof 'Rango'
Johnny Depp has always been an experimental character actor trapped in the body of a guy who looks like Johnny Depp. But he finds a way to do an end run around the burden of his own good looks—and unleash his inner clown—in Rango, an abundantly silly and entertaining animated family comedy in which Depp brings voice and life to the film's unorthodox hero, a bulbous-eyed green lizard with big dreams.
'Nora's Will' a lovely tone-poem on love and absolution
Absolution can sometimes be found in the most unusual circumstances. Just ask the characters in Nora's Will, an engrossing, thoroughly engaging little tone poem from Mexican writer-director Mariana Chenillo. Intricate, yet simple in design, and laced with deliciously dry humor, this low-key meditation on love, loss, and family ties also ponders the power of absolution, especially among those who may not realize how badly they need it.
Chenillo's original Spanish title, 5 Dias Sin Nora (5 Days Without Nora) perhaps speaks more to the heart of a film whose central (or at least most dominant) character is dead when the story begins.
Few 'Speech' impediments in store at this year's Oscar
Historical action lacks depth, conviction in 'The Eagle'
It's big and shiny and carved out of bronze. But it's true value is its symbolism, standing for both the glory of the Roman Empire and the brutality of conquest (depending on one's viewpoint). It's the Eagle of the Ninth Legion, the standard carried into battle by a company of Roman Legionnaires who vanished into the murky mists of northern Britain in 120 A.D. And most of the historical action film, The Eagle, is devoted to trying to convince us—without much success—that this object is worth a lot of bloody slaughter.
The film is based on Rosemary Sutcliff's popular 1954 historical young adult novel, “The Eagle of the Ninth.” Its YA origins are evident in the film's straightforward action plot, simplified relationships, and the high degree of palaver about the "honor" of Rome while running riot over the indigenous tribes of Britain—who are (surprise!) inspired to respond with equal savagery. One hopes the reason director Kevin Macdonald and scriptwriter Jeremy Brock (they also collaborated on The Last King of Scotland) are resurrecting this material now is to draw parallels to our modern age of reckless adventuring in foreign lands. But The Eagle never gains the level of complexity that would make its story profound.
Magic vs. reality in Sylvain Chomet's lovely, animated 'Illusionist'
he lovingly hand-drawn animated feature, The Illusionist, is an artifact of another era—in so many ways. The second feature from French animator Syvain Chomet (his first was the nutty-sweet The Triplets of Belleville), it has the look of old-school cel animation, in which every luscious frame is a mini work of art. The milieu it depicts, too, harks back to an earlier time, the waning days of postwar vaudeville, with its plucky variety acts, once-glamorous theaters, and slightly seedy showbiz hotels.
It’s not surprising then that the script was actually written decades ago by the late French film comic Jacques Tati. Although the word "script" can only be loosely applied to the scenario of plot and encounters in a film that is mostly without dialogue. Tati himself was practically a mime, in a series of live-action comedies with the visual gags, balletic precision and timelessness of silent film comedy. There is sound aplenty in The Illusionist —voices, music, laughter, traffic—but very few distinguishable words, which contributes much to the wistful whimsy and charm of Chomet's film.