Im not going to state too much about The Village, because like me, you deserve to see this movie cold, so dont read too much about it you neednt ever worry that Ill give away any ending points of any movie. I think The Village works well as a cautionary tale about community paranoia, and it also provides a few creep-out moments that will keep you on edge. In the very late 1890s, a group of people have gathered in rural Pennsylvania to participate in a form of communal living, not unlike Elbert Hubbard and his Roycrofters in our own bucolic East Aurora. Strange goings-on unnerve the villagers and after a nasty knifing, one of their own is sent to the far-off town to gather medicine to help the fellow whose been stabbed. The chosen one is a young blind woman. The movie offers chaste romance, and she is smitten with him. The film ending suspense arises from whether or not she will succeed in her quest.
The Village offers breathtakingly beautiful cinematography from Roger Deakins, as well as a simple tale told with stark dialogue. To a person, the acting is magnificent. The cast includes Sigourney Weaver, William Hurt, Cherry Jones, Adrien Brody, Joaquin Phoenix, Celia Weston, Michael Pitt, and as the blind girl, Bryce Dallas Howard, daughter of director Ron. The Village unreels like a short story by Edgar Allan Poe, and it offers simple pleasures that grow every time you think about it.
The Manchurian Candidate is the stand-alone remake of the classic 1962 political thriller from director John Frankenheimer. All of the essential characters are back, albeit with different nuances, but the new film, directed by Jonathan Demme as if he knows hes tampering with art, just doesnt deliver the suspense and power of the first movie. Everythings too reverential; too cautious. In the early version, brainwashing was a shocking tool to control American politics, and North Koreans were the villains. In the well-made but mechanical update, a microchip is implanted in the unsuspecting victims in order for a global corporation to dominate American politics. Its all so boring and familiar. Instead of the Korean War, were wallowing in the Gulf War period. Theres still an assassination plot, a touch of romance, paranoid adversaries, and one of the most delicious female villains ever tossed onto a movie screen. Angela Lansbury was the power-mad mother in the original, but the always top-notch Meryl Streep matches her in venom and intensity. As for Denzel Washingtons military officer who smells a rat, well, Mr. Washington doesnt really breathe much fire into the part. He isnt flippant enough or anti-establishment enough. He sort of bumbles into clues. Frank Sinatra on the other hand (in the first Manchurian Candidate) was edgy and sarcastic. You believed his dread. Liev Schreiber as the possible vice-president and potential assassin is no Laurence Harvey, and thats a bad thing.
The Bourne Supremacy is cinematic proof that Hollywood may never run out of ideas for car chases and car crashes. Forget Robert Ludlums novel; the movie is nothing like it. This frenetic sequel to The Bourne Identity brings back Matt Damon as spy Jason Bourne (a.k.a. David Webb) who has amnesia and is on the run, but really just wants to be left alone. The film is one long demolition derby. Damon is called upon to do little more than shift gears. Joan Allen is the new CIA project boss who just wants him caught. Shes tough-as-nails, but after a while, with the endless jump cuts and constantly circling camera movements, you just want it all to end. The movie has few moments that last longer than a few seconds. The films only asset is the chance to see Moscow and Berlin as youve never seen them. Other than that, theres no supremacy here.
Before Sunset is writer-director Richard Linklaters sequel to his free-form 1995 romance Before Sunrise in which Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke talked and talked and talked and said nothing. Promising to meet nine years later, they do in this new film, and talk and talk and talk and still say nothing. Set in Paris, which looks delightful, the story is badly in need of dramatic tension. Movies like this are only as good as whats being said. From my vantage point, not much is being said. Ms. Delpy has blossomed and brings a bit of substance to the film. Mr. Hawke hasnt blossomed at all; in fact, he looks cadaverous and unhealthy.
I, Robot and Catwoman are two misfires that prove too many special effects slow down the tempo of a film, even an action movie. In both features, everything looks fake. Too many blue-screen FX moments. Neither film is strongly connected to its source material. In fact, I, Robot is only suggested by Isaac Asimovs book. It has something to do with a cop in the future who thinks robots are killing people. Will Smith looks lost as the cop. Catwoman, with Halle Berry looking like a sado-masochistic leather fetish stripper as the title character, has none of the fun or fantasy of its Batman sire.
Napoleon Dynamite is a pathetic waste-of-time, a goofy failed comedy about an unattractive teenage nerd in Idaho. If you want to see an unattractive teenage nerd, just go watch that weird computer guy who was called Mr. Potato Head in Ferris Buellers Day Off. By Michael Calleri ALT Movie Editor
I know that one out of seven arent very good odds, but if youre looking for perfect summer entertainment, thats all I can grant you.
The one movie absolutely worth seeing is The Village, the latest supernatural thriller from M. Night Shyamalan, the fearless filmmaker who is determined to scare you without resorting to excessive blood and gore. Shyamalan is no slasher director; hes got style and delivers movies with substance. The Village is his sixth film, the others being Praying With Anger, Wide Awake, The Sixth Sense (the one that earned him his first bit of major attention), Unbreakable, and Signs. Shyamalan also writes and produces his own work and more power to him.