I've been to a few movies over the past couple of weeks, so I thought I would make a few quick recommendations. Hopefully I can save you some of the pain that I've endured.
GET THEE TO THE THEATRE:
Away We Go: Director Sam Mendes delivers what is easily his best movie since Oscar winner American Beauty. This is kind of an "independent" romantic comedy that stars John Krasinski of The Office and Maya Rudolph of Saturday Night Live. Not everything works -- Allison Janney looks like she thought she was acting in another movie so broad was her characterization -- but the two stars have great chemistry, I don't hate them like I usually end up hating so many characters in their type of situations in this type of movie, and the script by Dave Eggers and Vendala Vida delivers solid, unexpected laughs in just the right situations while providing just enough drama to propel the story.
Harry Potter And The Half Blood Prince: These kids are growing up to be some really good actors, and they have grown as their characters have grown. The chills are there, and this is probably the scariest and most somber of the film bunch, which makes sense as the books darken in tone as the characters age. And really, Alan Rickman as Snape is just some of the most genius casting ever.
IF YOU'VE GOT A FEW HOURS:
Cheri: This film reunites three of the big names involved in Dangerous Liaisons, director Stephen Frears, writer Christopher Hampton, and star Michelle Pfeiffer. This film is nowhere near as good as Dangerous Liaisons, but it's a fun little trifle that stars Pfeiffer as an aging courtesan in France in the years before World War One. Pfeiffer looks better than she has in years, and she also delivers one of her better performances in years. It's not a deep movie. It's a comedy with some dramatic overtones. Still, it's a fun way to pass a few hours if you've nothing better to do.
The Promotion: I have this thing for Sandra Bullock. I can't explain it, but I do like her movies, especially her so-called romantic comedies. The premise is simple: Bullock's a bitch who needs to marry one of her employees or she'll be deported back to Canada. The employee is Ryan Reynolds. The real life irony is that Reynolds is actually the native Canadian and Bullock's really an American. The actors have good chemistry. There's some great scenery -- and I'm just not talking about Sandra Bullock. And Betty White is a pretty damn funny.
Moon: This is an interesting, but finally meaningless little sci-fi film starring the underrated Sam Rockwell and the voice of Kevin Spacey. Rockwell's a miner living on the moon, by himself, serving a three-year stint. Only things begin to go wrong and mysteries start popping up and their are discussions about cloning and personalities, etc. It's got a nice, claustrophobic kind of feel. It's directed by David Bowie's son. Rockwell, as always, is good. Interesting.
STAY FAR, FAR AWAY:
Whatever Works: Someone help me out here. But when is the last time that Woody Allen made a good film. Not just a good comedy, but a good film? The mid-90s, maybe? Anyway, this is one of the worst of the bunch. Larry David is the stand-in for Allen this time out. But instead of a neurotic nebbish, David is a bitter asshole. Evan Rachel Wood pulls off a decent Holly Hunter imitation. And that's about it. This film is just awful.
Public Enemies: Michael Mann takes on John Dillinger. And bores me to tears. Johnny Depp and Christian Bale are wasted. The gun fights aren't that exciting. This is the first time I've ever been bored by one of Mann's movies.
Bruno: First, let me say that I loved Borat. I think it is one of the funniest films of the decade. But this film is just damn awful. In Borat, you didn't get the sense that Sacha Baron Cohen was torturing the people in the film because Borat came across as a well-meaning doofus who just doesn't' know better. But in Bruno, he's a prick -- and not just because his penis makes numerous appearances in the movie. He just comes off as a mean bastard who is trying to destroy every person with whom he comes into contact.
Now some people deserve it, and these parts of the film work -- primarily the parts in Milan and Hollywood. And seriously, Paula Abdul needs to get some new PR people if they actually let her film a scene with Cohen in character. And the PR people and the agent deserve it if they're really this stupid. The parts in the Middle East, where's he trying to broker world peace, are also good. But the rest of the film is him being a mean bastard to a bunch of stupid people who don't know better -- that's another difference from Borat where the people there weren't that stupid and they and Borat just seemed to have cultural differences. It just doesn't work. It's not funny.