Sweet and virtually inoffensive, "Juno" plays as the modern alternative to other 'teen comedies', i.e. treating adult concerns with adult humor. But, while Ellen Page is getting accolades as the lead character in baby-trouble, her presence is the reason why I didn't fully embrace the film. Diablo Cody's script is extremely artificial. I didn't believe for one second that there exists a 16 year old as whip-smart and sarcastic as Juno (and certainly a 16 year old who appreciates bands as obscure as Mott the Hoople and The Melvins) and her razor-sharp reactions continually removed me from the warmth building from the film's plot. Mildly amusing, at best.
Charlie Wilson's War
Definitely one of the best screenplays of the year, written by TV veteran Aaron Sorkin. I should probably pay more attention to his stuff if everything he writes is this witty and intriguing. Not only do actors such as Tom Hanks, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Julia Roberts get to bask in the intelligent delivery of lightning dialogue, but the plot concerning a Texas Congressman's covert dealings to arm the Afghan holy soldiers against invading Soviet forces circa 1981 is probably more pertinent than a majority of the Iraq war films released this year. Director Mike Nichols keeps a light touch on the whole affair, but "Charlie Wilson's War" is still dark, funny and it pulls no punches by indirectly commenting on the screwed-up state of affairs left behind after America wages war in a given country. It's easy to laugh at the film's comedic framework, but there's still a very troubling undertone as stock footage of Afghan warriors shooting down Soviet helicopters plays on the screen; probably alot of the same weapons that are killing American troops over those same mountains today. Hindsight is 20-20.
Todd Robinson's noir pastiche is an up-and-down affair, hitting the nail on the head one moment then splintering the entire wooden board the next. Chock full of A-list stars, "Lonely Hearts" documents the murderous relationship between a couple (Jared Leto, bad hairpiece and all, and sensual and lovely Salma Hayek) as they murder and dispense of wealthy female bodies across the midwest. The cops on the trail, played with earnest by John Travolta, James Gandolfini and Scott Caan, spout the usual lean dialogue and act moody, hardboiled and terse. But, in fact it's the relationship between the cops that works best, especially the heavy cloud of depression that hovers over Travolta's widowed cop persona. "Lonely Hearts" is less believable when it follows the jealous, violent excursions of Leto and Hayek, stirring up some sexual tension (mostly on Hayek's part) but wavering just a bit above camp. This could've been something really good. Still, director Robinson is someone to watch.
In a sold-out theater, you could literally feel the anticipated air sucked out of the place when song burst forth from the lips of Johnny Depp and shipmate Anthony (Jamie Bower). While the film largely succeeds on one's patience with the musical genre, the cast is marvelous and the song's often soar. And the blood is really, really red and director Tim Burton certainly planned alot of mileage out of Sacha Baron Cohen's lower half. It didn't quite live up to the hype for me, though.