WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Jennifer Check and Anita "Needy" Lesnicky are lifelong best friends and high school students in tiny Devil's Kettle Minnesota. Needy is the practical bookish counterpart to small-town sexpot cheerleader Jennifer who controls most everyone around her — Needy included — with knowing relish using her hypnotic good looks. After Jennifer and Needy escape a grisly fire at the local dive bar Jennifer is whisked away in a creeper van by the band that was playing there despite Needy's pleas not to. In a "sell your soul for rock and roll"-style move the fame-hungry indie rockers Low Shoulder kill Jennifer in an occult virgin sacrifice ceremony which goes awry because Jennifer isn't one. After being left for dead Jennifer shows up at Needy's house covered in blood spewing black bile and grinning wickedly.
The next day amidst the fire tragedy aftermath Devil's Kettle's star football player is found disemboweled and half-eaten in the woods adjacent to the school. Jennifer of course did it and after the vixen kills a sweet emo boy she confesses to Needy (after a too-brief girl-on-girl makeout session complete with heavy tongue close-ups) that the botched sacrifice turned her into a demon and that she becomes happier and more beautiful — and thus deadlier — after she feasts on the blood of horny high school boys. Needy does some research in the occult section of the high school library and discovers her best friend is indeed a pawn of the devil. Needy warns her boyfriend Chip to watch out for Jennifer and consequently finds herself covered in bile with Chip dead in her arms at the prom because he doesn't. Then she seeks revenge.
WHO'S IN IT?
The ever enjoyable Amanda Seyfried takes the lead as plain jane Needy and Johnny Simmons is her sweet doting boyfriend Chip. Adam Brody doing a spot-on Brandon Flowers impression is the killer front man of Low Shoulder. Amy Sedaris makes a too-brief cameo as Needy's mom and Juno's dad J.K. Simmons is a high school teacher with an unexplained hook for a hand. Megan Fox is in it too.
Diablo Cody's script is smart funny and infinitely more interesting than the typical teen slasher swill. The movie revels in its gory moments without being gratuitous and employs a healthy amount of sex without coming off like it's pandering to horny teens. Rather Jennifer's Body is the perfect template for the incomparably hot Megan Fox to use her looks as a plot-forwarding mechanism. This is a professionally signficant departure from her eye candy turns in the Transformers movies and lets Fox prove that she can actually act. There's no one else in Hollywood right now better suited to this role. Fox's performance is unhinged and charming and she makes good use of all the Diablo Cody-isms ("You need a mani bad. You should find a Chinese chick to buff your situation.") that devil-may-care Jennifer gets to utter. The love/hate best friend relationship is interesting and there's a load of good-girl-gone-wrong catharsis in Seyfried's revenge-fueled rampage. Cody and director Karyn Kusama are adept in skillfully if a bit condescendingly creating a convincing depiction of a small Midwestern town which serves as the perfect ultra-real backdrop for the story.
Cody's unique style adds the perfect quirk factor to what could otherwise be run-of-the-mill cinematic garbage.The Cody-isms however sometimes come off as cloying when they aren't being uttered by Fox. Also hopeful Fox worshippers might be disappointed that the sexually radiant actress despite her character's penchant for using sex to lure her victims doesn't actually bare anything that necessitates the film's R-rating.
With its surprising plot twists a snarky bff vs. bff subplot and Cody's flair for linguistics Jennifer's Body is a smart horror flick for anyone who enjoys jolly gore or Megan Fox in a mini-skirt.
With sparse emotion and very slowly evolving detail writer/director Philippe Claudel’s mood drama reveals long-held secrets and passions simmering under the radar. It’s a family story sparked by the return of a woman Juliette (Kristin Scott Thomas) to her small town after spending 15 years in prison for an unspeakable crime that is not clearly identified. The film opens with a close-up on her face the shell of a burnt-out soul clearly still in a prison within herself. She goes to live with her estranged younger sister Lea (Elsa Zylberstein) who takes her into the home she shares with her husband Luc (Serge Hazanavicius) his father and their two young girls. Initially there is distrust and distance. particularly from Juliette’s parents who disowned her and brought up Lea as if she had no sister. Slowly Juliette attempts to find her way back and is helped by the curiosity of two men: Faure (Frederic Pierrot) a local cop and Michel (Laurent Grevill) who are intrigued by her seemingly mysterious air. Her innate loneliness and bitterness begins to thaw as revelations about her past and family dynamic float to the surface allowing pieces of this intricate puzzle to come together.
Kristin Scott Thomas’ moving and luminous performance has a raw power that is almost indescribable. This transcends acting; it’s life lived. Allowing the camera to linger on her face no makeup in sight is something few actresses would be comfortable with. Scott Thomas seems to have traveled deep into the soul of this lost woman searching for the humanity and sign of life that is hidden from view and never threatening to surface. Although she’s English the star flawlessly plays the role entirely in French but it’s real power is not in the language but in its austere subtlety. There isn’t a false moment and when the time comes for some key revelations her emotional connection with the audience is palpable earning our sympathy unlike any piece of acting seen on screen in years. Reserve her seat now for the Academy Awards. Almost equaling Scott Thomas is Zylberstein as the younger sister reaching out now to make inroads toward a new beginning with the sibling who was taken away from her. Scenes between the two are utterly convincing for their complete lack of pretense. The physical and mental prison that has separated them quietly opens its doors in measured silences. Other actors have their moments especially Grevill who beautifully lets his own curiosity about Juliette define their emerging relationship. Hazanavicius perfectly represents the aloof attitude of many in the small town and his reluctance to let her babysit the kids is telling. Philippe Claudel is a best selling novelist taking his first turn behind the camera. Appropriately his debut film feels like it flows from the pages of one of his books shot in the melancholy rhythms of a novel rather than cinema. His choice to shoot so much in close up is a blessing letting us peer behind sad sunken eyes into the deflated spirit of this drifting human being. What gives his film such immaculate power and grace though is the deliberate sense of mystery he creates never revealing anything about Juliette’s past transgressions until he has to and keeping us on edge throughout as the story builds suspense and secrets come to light. Above all in this tale of two sisters Claudel is celebrating the strength and perseverance of women and their ability to be reborn. Indeed I've Loved You So Long is a small intimate story of forgiveness rebirth and renewal. It’s demanding but ultimately rewarding.
Oscar-winning screenwriter Akiva Goldsman adapts Brown’s bestselling page-turner to the best of his ability adding a few variations of his own but following the general plot of the novel. Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) a professor of iconography and religious art becomes embroiled in a mystery when the highly respected Louvre curator in Paris is found murdered. Before he died he was able to leave Langdon and cryptologist Sophie Neveu (Audrey Tautou) the curator’s granddaughter clues through Da Vinci’s works which eventually lead them on a quest for the Holy Grail itself. Along for the ride is historian Leigh Teabing (Ian McKellen) a Paris detective (Jean Reno) and an albino monk (Paul Bettany) intent on stopping them. But here’s the kicker: one of Da Vinci’s theories is that Mary Magdalene and Jesus Christ were married and had a child thus creating a “sang real” or “royal bloodline” that must be protected destroyed or exposed--depending on which side of the fence you’re on. Ah the stuff great stories are made of. Upon hearing the casting of Da Vinci many of the book’s avid fans rejoiced--it is indeed a stellar line up. But it is probably one of the least compelling performances star Hanks has ever turned in. It’s not his fault really; Langdon is equally as stiff in the book. Same sort of goes for the Sophie character which is a shame for the lovely Tautou (Amelie) who isn’t able to fully utilize her incredibly expressive face here. Both actors could have been more animated but they are really the conduits for the more colorful supporting characters surrounding them. Bettany (Wimbledon) does an admirable job as the baddie a self-flagellating zealot intent on following orders even if the amiable actor is a bit ill-suited as a villain. But it’s McKellen who steals the show as the acerbic but jovial Teabing full of conspiracy theories and revelations about the true meaning of the Grail. The veteran thesp has a lot of information to pass on in the film but does so in a very engaging way. When he finally exits so does the film’s energy. Therein lies the main problem with The Da Vinci Code: Keeping up the momentum. The novel is chockfull of exposition--pages and pages of historical information along with passages about the characters’ pasts. It’s great to read but to watch it unfold on screen could have been an excruciatingly boring experience. Goldsman and Howard have both admitted having trouble adapting the material trying to find ways to make the story more cinematic. But the Oscar-winning Howard has proven himself to be a highly capable director and gives Da Vinci Code the necessary touches interweaving visual re-creations within the narration. Salvatore Totino's glistening cinematography also accentuates the lush sets while Hans Zimmer's score pumps it up. Still at two and a half hours Da Vinci Code drags. It has to--you’ve got all the book’s theories to get out. It's true Brown’s imaginative opus for obvious reasons rocked a few boats when it was first published but it sold millions. It stands to reason the movie will do the same at the box office.