All reviews by Loey Lockerby
a while, it looked like the movie western was dead. This adaptation
of Elmore Leonard’s 1953 short story proves that it was merely
comatose, and it’s waking up fast.
Filmed once before, in 1957, 3:10 to Yuma is one of those
gritty, thoughtful westerns that raise moral questions well beyond
the “white hat/black hat” clichés that were popular
for so long. Dan Evans (Christian Bale) is an Arizona rancher whose
land is about to be taken from him after a bad year. Desperate for
cash, he agrees to join a posse escorting outlaw Ben Wade (Russell
Crowe) to a train station, where Wade will be transported to a prison
Naturally, the trip is not an easy one, as Wade’s gang (led
by a terrifically cold-blooded Ben Foster) is close behind, ready
to take any measures necessary to rescue the boss. Wade himself is
a master manipulator, and he finds a perfect target in Evans, who
is filled with self-doubt over his inability to provide for his family
and earn the respect of his son (Logan Lerman). As the final showdown
nears, the two men form a connection that could never be friendship,
but approaches a strange kind of respect.
Director James Mangold (Walk the Line) stays out of the way,
avoiding showy filmmaking techniques in favor of a steady, more traditional
style. The movie drags in places but the impeccable cast enlivens
even those scenes. Alongside the always-reliable Bale and Crowe, and
the scene-stealing Foster, are Peter Fonda, Dallas Roberts and Alan
Tudyk, all of whom inhabit their supporting roles with appropriate
Old West style.
Extras: The usual deleted scenes and director commentary;
one feature on the film’s production, a very short look at westerns
in general, and a slightly longer one on real-life gunslingers. (R)
Boyle is turning out to be one of the world’s most versatile
filmmakers. In the past five years, he has gone from a terrifying
apocalyptic zombie flick (28 Days Later) to a sweet story
about two young brothers (Millions) to this somber science
fiction drama. Next thing you know, he’ll be tackling Shakespeare.
With Sunshine, Boyle is closer in spirit to Stanley Kubrick
and Andrei Tarkovsky, whose classics 2001: A Space Odyssey
and Solaris are obvious influences. Set about 50 years in
the future, Sunshine tracks a group of scientists on a mission
to literally save the world. The sun is dying and a previous attempt
to “re-ignite” it with a massive bomb met with failure.
The crew of the new ship, dubbed “Icarus II,” is the last
hope of humanity. All of the characters know this could be a suicide
mission, and it becomes even more dangerous when a distress signal
is received from the long-missing Icarus I.
Boyle and screenwriter Alex Garland are not interested in creating
a special-effects extravaganza or a pretentious meditation on our
place in the vast universe. Both of those elements are present, but
they are handled with a no-nonsense ease that makes Sunshine
watchable without being dumbed down.
The cast is filled with recognizable character actors, including Cillian
Murphy, Michelle Yeoh and Chris Evans. Their roles aren’t particularly
well fleshed-out, but they come across as real people with legitimate
emotions. The big finale is a bit overwrought, but Boyle is too good
to let it ruin anything. By turns creepy, witty and thought-provoking,
Sunshine is one of the best sci-fi efforts of the last decade.
Extras: Commentaries from Boyle and physicist Dr.
Brian Cox focusing on the film’s production and its science,
respectively; some interesting deleted scenes and choppy making-of
featurettes from the website. Boyle also includes a couple of unrelated
short films, generously using the DVD format to give upcoming directors
a showcase. (R) Rating: 4.
Bynes is one of those cute, polished teen TV stars who has been in
the business so long, she can crank out mediocre comedies in her sleep.
This college-themed update of Snow White is a perfect case
Bynes gets to alternate between slapstick and sincerity as the title
character, the geeky daughter of a plumber (John Schneider) who tries
to pledge the sorority to which her late mother once belonged. Raised
around construction workers, Sydney has no idea how to be the girly-girl
her new “sisters” expect, and she ends up being hounded
out by the evil Rachel Witchburn (Sara Paxton). Sydney finds a home
with the “seven dorks,” campus outcasts who share a rundown
cottage on Greek Row. There is also, of course, the handsome Tyler
Prince (Matt Long), who defies Rachel and her followers by showing
an interest in Sydney.
It all culminates in the expected battle between lovable misfits and
shallow snobs, wherein the nice guys finally fight back against their
oppressors. It’s always nice to see a movie that so openly celebrates
nerd-dom, especially when the head nerd is played by an attractive
young woman with a sizable fan base. The supporting roles are all
played by solid young comic actors, and they seem particularly subtle
when compared to Bynes, who still hasn’t outgrown the hyperactive
mugging that passes for acting among the Nickelodeon/Disney Channel
That’s the problem with the whole movie. Much like its star,
Sydney White is likable, but it tries too hard and accomplishes
Extras: Deleted scenes with introductions by director
Joe Nussbaum (these are actually kind of interesting); several short
behind-the-scenes features; a blooper reel that provides a few laughs.
(PG-13) Rating: 2.5.
the BBC adapts great literature, it usually does so with class and
restraint. Which is nice, but it could potentially suck the life out
of an author like Jane Austen. For all their formality, her novels
are filled with deep feeling and take-no-prisoners satire. You need
an irreverent touch for that.
Fortunately, Persuasion has Adrian Shergold, a veteran TV
director who understands Austen’s work without worshipping it.
Sally Hawkins plays Anne Elliott, the middle daughter in a struggling
aristocratic family. Her vain, status-obsessed father (Anthony Head)
has nearly bankrupted them, and he and Anne’s older sister move
to a smaller house and rent their mansion to an admiral. While Anne
stays with other relatives nearby, she discovers that the admiral’s
brother-in-law is none other than Frederick Wentworth (Rupert Penry-Jones)
with whom she had a romance several years earlier. Her family, concerned
about Frederick’s lack of money, persuaded her to break up with
him, and she is mortified at his renewed presence in her life.
This being Austen, there are many complications and misunderstandings
before Anne and Frederick resolve the situation, and Shergold includes
enough of them to keep the story moving without making it confusing
for novices. Meanwhile, he nails the little things that make Persuasion
such a rich experience. There is humor and heart in this story, but
there’s also an undercurrent of resentment. Austen isn’t
just making fun of pompous idiots — she’s showing how
they can ruin people’s lives.
Hawkins and Penry-Jones beautifully convey their characters’
mix of regret, frustration and repressed passion. This is serious
material, and they don’t flinch from it. Most of the lighter
material comes from the great supporting cast, although they aren’t
just playing comedy, either. This is one of the few Austen adaptations
that can make you chuckle AND cry.
Extras: None, which is unfortunately typical for
PBS/BBC releases (it aired in America on Masterpiece Theatre).
A look at the making of the film would have been nice considering
the quality of the cast and excellent final product. (Unrated) Rating:
Loey Lockerby can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.