Seven for the holidays
Juno is the feel-good movie of the season.
Like an overactive teenager, Juno starts awkwardly,
but develops character and grows on you.
It’s the story of a high school girl who gets
pregnant and agrees to have her baby adopted when it
is born. Not very promising.
It’s particularly unpromising when the movie opens
with a lot of flippant dialogue and cutesy scenes.
Juno (Ellen Page), the pregnant girl, is a rapid-fire
weapon of wisecracks. Please give us a break, Juno.
After its heavy-breathing opening, Juno settles
into an entertaining, human drama.
The actors calm the movie. And writer Diablo Cody
gets off the pole and calms down.
Characters start as caricatures and are transformed
into human beings. This is especially true of Vanessa
(Jennifer Garner), the wife who has a near-obsession
to have a baby. she bleats, “I was born to be a
She starts as a one-dimensional Yuppie, with an
expensive house, who worries about whether to paint
her baby’s room a custard color. But as the movie
develops, surprisingly so does Vanessa.
Garner and Jason Bateman (who plays her husband)
add verve and credibility to the film. So too do J.K.
Simmons and Allison Janney as Juno’s imperfect but
Michael Cera is his usual decent, unassuming self,
as the boy who impregnates Juno.
Jason Reitman, who directed Thank You for Smoking,
directs his second film. He has an ability to find the
humanity behind the cliche.
But the movie belongs to Ellen Page as the
strong-willed, irrepressible Juno. She brims with
personality and talent. Her timing saves some of the
ripe dialogue she is given. In a role which could
easily vanquish her, Page prevails.
She makes Juno a memorable experience.
Chick flick alert.
I know I’m supposed to care about the intrigue
caused by a bratty child in drawing room England. I
Eighty-eight percent of reviewers (compiled by Rottentomatoes.com)
did. And Atonement probably will get an Oscar
nomination for Best Pic.
I found Atonement a hothouse fantasy.
Atonement has highfalutin style — an impressive
tracking shot of soldiers on a beach. But this is the
sort of film in which the soldiers are artfully posed
and have cosmetic blood artfully placed.
Keira Knightley (Pirates of the Caribbean) and
James McAvoy (The Last King of Scotland) portray the
smitten lovers in this fey adaptation by director Joe
Wright of a novel by Ian McEwan.
Guilt, grief, and yawns abound.
Guys, drop off the Significant One at this chick
flick, and go see No Country for Old Men (a terrific
book made into a terrific movie).
You have been forewarned.
The Bucket List
The Bucket List is little more than a diversion.
With high-powered stars Jack Nicholson and Morgan
Freeman (who both turned 70 in 2007), this geriatric
buddy film should have been scintillating.
But the strained writing by Justin Zachham proves
again that even the best actors can only do so much
with mediocre dialogue.
It’s laden with lines such as, “Everyone is
everyone.” (What the hell does that mean?) And the
pulpy refrain, “Find your Joy.” (It’s in the kitchen
Morgan Freeman should take a break from narration.
This year’s Feast of Love and The Bucket List run the
danger of turning the mellifluous Morgan into a
The Great Debaters
This is the second best thing Oprah is hawking this
She produced the movie, based on actual people and
events, about a debate team at little Wiley College in
Marshall, Texas, in the 1930s.
The Great Debaters is directed by Denzel
Washington. Denzel plays the debate coach who also is
an activist trying to unite workers in the fields.
Denzel is fortunate in finding a youthful clone of
himself in Nick Parker, who plays a young firebrand
debater. Parker has Denzel’s gestures — wiping his
face, scratching his head, rubbing his eyes.
The script by Robert Eisele is intelligent — with
allusions to James Joyce, Langston Hughes, Thoreau, et
The Great Debaters is a stirring, pleasing movie
that stays just this side of hokum.
The Kite Runner
Another disappointing adaptation of a popular
novel. Kites, kites and more kites.
There Will be Blood
There will be boredom and nonsense. This Daniel
Day-Lewis film is an oily mess.
Sweeney Todd: the Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Tim Burton’s slasher musical, with Johnny Depp and
If gallons of blood are on your Christmas list,
this will be a merry nog for you. (See full review in the Dec. 12 issue).