Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Inglourious Basterds

"Inglourious Basterds" is as my friend calls Tarantino films "gratuitous," but it's also an absorbing film on many levels, one of which being how (as has been said very often) Tarantino has his films look and how he shifts between "genres" so effortlessly. Filmed by Robert Richardson ("Kill Bill") with what Ebert calls in his review "the deep, rich colors of 35mm" with set decoration by Sandy Reynolds-Wasco (a Tarantino regular), we have a visually sound film here. This is the building block for something good, and we get that.

The film chronicles "Nazi-occupied France" when very key things are happening within it. An unseen force is literally cutting through the heads of the Germans. These are the eponymous Americans, and their methods are as such due to the fact Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) wants to "be cruel to the Germans." The script by Tarantino (which I read beforehand to get somewhat of an idea of what this movie would be, and it was very helpful) gave more backstory on them, or at least Donny Donowitz (Eli Roth), who rivals the collective methods of the group with some gruesome ones of his own. Germans (at least for a little bit) have a resource of their own in Hans Landa, a Colonel who critics have described as "charming" and who is undoubtedly deplorable. Christoph Waltz has gotten a lot of awards attention, and he's, as another friend said, "very good." As that same friend noted, he sounds at times like he's taken a couple notes from Heath Ledger's book, since when he exclaims "That's a bingo!" (a line endearing to users of Itunes) there's a trace of a Joker there (and in a couple other moments, too). Anyways, I probably should get back to the plot.

As Ebert noted, it's a "big" film, and it's a wide one. As noted in the structure of Ebert's review (with "The Hero, the Nazi, and the Girl"), the film is a wonder of three converging plot strands, and has more to offer than just those. If I had to pick a problem, perhaps it would be with Melanie Laurent and her sort of rushed plots. But then again, that section may have suffered from the "loss of Maggie Cheung's part" (as reported by the Playlist). If I remember correctly from the script, the sections were a little more divided correctly with her in it. But nevertheless, the movie is still good. I was worrying about how the "basement fight scene" and beyond would turn out on screen, since when I read it I was a little underwhelmed. But my friend (who thought the film was "bizarre") acknowledged this scene as "ingenious," and I think I have to agree. It's definitely a visual thing.

What I have to say is this: some have said this is one of the better films of 2009. It's good, and actually very enjoyable (sounds like a macabre thing to say, but yes). I strongly recommend (like myself and others such as the Playlist, who may have given me the idea to read it) reading the script beforehand to get an idea of the film you're seeing (like others on CommonSenseMedia among other places have said, "It's not all about the basterds"). For me, it was like I got to see the film twice. This is how you should "experience it", not through just plot details. B

Yes, the film is "self-indulgent" (my friend and/or a lot of other people said this). So was "A Single Man". So how is this one better? More diverting. As Ebert said, "quixotic delights".

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Up in the Air

Jason Reitman's "Up in the Air" is sort of what I expected it to be, as it split reviews among the heavily faithful and the mildly detracting (who weren't all that scorning after all, save Time Out New York and Salon), but maybe I was expecting it would sail above into what everyone loves to call (especially Owen Gleiberman) that "Cary Grant" thing. George Clooney, who's better playing a fox or a "fixer," acts as Ryan Bingham, who's hired to give people the exit as "the position is no longer available" where they work. As my moviegoing partner noted, Bingham talks up a storm of vacuity as much as Sy Ableman, and he's trained himself not to care that much. He just floats between luxuries given from his "rewards cards" and hates to be at home, rather wanting to be up in the air and traveling (regarding the latter at least I think).

To use a phrase that he slaps down on those he lets go, he receives two "wake-up calls": first from Alex (Vera Farmiga), a similarly on-the-go woman who he falls slowly into love with and who is readily in reviews called "his match," and secondly from Natalie (Anna Kendrick), a new employee at his company who wants to make the company more efficient by relegating the decommissions to video chats. First this puts a dagger in Ryan's step: he was perfectly fine flying around, and he is not impressed with her plans to keep people "at home." But then, as he is told to give her firing skills, I believe he starts to lighten up a little and have more thoughts about his "isolated existence." Relationships progress, and Ryan starts to rethink other things, too, such as his sister's wedding that he would normally just pass by. Clooney's performance in these scenes becomes better and less dry.

My fellow moviegoer said that Clooney was acting flat for a reason, but then again it's pretty bland due to the fact that Clooney is narrating monotone about his travels in a very tongue-in-cheek way. Sure, he's done this before, but thought should be put into the fact that the subject matter in other instances was a little more forgiving. This movie is not awful, but sort of empty and macabre, but I guess that's the point People at my screening were laughing consistently, and not in the DeLillo way. I think I've even read that Walter Kirn's book is a "satire," and if so, perhaps it's better (not to mention that, according to a Film Comment interview, the book is also very different, and Reitman added a lot in the movie). From what I've read and according to IMDB, Reitman intended it to be that way, but decided to change it a little bit. I might have liked it better beforehand, since lame humor is not quite as good as "biting satire." And as the obvious white elephant of "the recession" (which was loved by many critics but derided by Nick's Flick Picks as it was forcedly "'timely' and 'relevant'"), I personally agree with NFP about it being "sketchy," which it definitely was. Non-actors were put into this movie to give it that feeling, and it, I agree with my friend, didn't work, due to the way the clips were spliced in there.

When you take a look at Reitman, his films are not terribly well written (I mean, I still have a bit of affinity for some lines in "Juno," which I actually partially re-watched and don't think is quite as good as before), with pretty obvious and unfunny jokes ("secondhand", as Gabe Toro said). As I said before, people laughed, because this was an "adult comedy" just like "An Education" was (which also brick walls us with a late-game surprise, just like this one). You can be safe here. I'm not the hugest fan of these films, but there are many that are. Another thing I feel the need to point out is the content similarities between this film and Oren Moverman's slightly better "The Messenger." Bingham trains Natalie like Woody Harrelson trains Ben Foster to "stick to the script" while giving out "casualty notifications." It was an altogether more effective movie, even though "losing your job is often equated to dying" (Arthur Miller and my Humanities teacher, among others looking back Joseph McCarthy, say so). In this movie, the whole schtick feels tired (which is cynical, yes, but how else can you feel about the sequencing of, as others have said, "the "calm" ones with the hysterical ones"?).

For the performances, I thought Farmiga and Kendrick (though not perfect and, though another friend prefers Farmiga to Kendrick and where I prefer Kendrick to Farmiga, who with sometimes one is better than the other) were both better than Clooney, who did well despite acting with a bland presence. One could wonder whether if Jason Bateman (who played Ryan's boss) and Clooney had done a "role reversal" the movie would have been better or at least more interesting (Clooney being the obvious filler of such a role, which, as my friends and NFP note, is against type but at the same time fitting). That's what we need here: more interest and less calculation of mileage. C+

Sunday, December 20, 2009


"Avatar" is an extensive, expansive film. Here is James Cameron's most immense movie by far, returning to outside of Earth's parameters again. What he does is create an environment and setting instead of a "backdrop" by focusing in on it. He wants to cover its every expanse, to capture the essence of a beautiful place. And that place is Pandora, where apparently human relations have gone on for a while. They are led by the authority on the subject, Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver), who wants peace among the tribe on Pandora and the humans. Giovanni Ribisi (who was derided by The Playlist, but who actually I thought was funny) wants otherwise, attacking Pandora for a stone that is worth quite a bit. His operations are headed by Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang), who often comments about how Pandora is a lot harsher than human combat.
All of this probably would have run smoothly but for Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), who wasn't supposed to be along for the journey but was a last minute substitute for his deceased scientist brother. Sully is a "warrior" but widely regarded as inept among humans and Na'vi alike. His job for his "side" is gunman on a plane, but he ends up spending a lot more of the time in avatar form as a Na'vi. He excels immediately at being his double. But after he gets chased away during a mission and meets Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), he finds himself struggling at being Na'vi. A good portion of the film is dedicated to his training at the hands of Neytiri, and this is where, if in any places, the film could have been trimmed (as one of my fellow moviegoers said it was a bit long). It felt a little redundant and it made use of animals like that of "Harry Potter." Another of my fellow moviegoers said it had to be this long to portray such a subject, and I think he's right.
"Avatar" has been called a "space epic" and this is most definitely true. It lives up to the term. Cameron builds an amazing landscape, filled with idiosyncratic plants and vicious creatures. It's the anti-"Moon"; while that film was compacted into tight spaces, this film spills out over miles. Not to say that there are not similar motifs among the films. For example, the use of "video logs" (or in "Moon" "video link", as Ebert would say) reminded me of "Sunshine." Also necessary to note and probably noted before (in Ebert's review) is the use of a fictional language, subtitled in papyrus font. This draws obvious comparisons to "Dune," among others. I also thought of Conrad Richter's "The Light in the Forest" and one of my fellow moviegoers brought up that "Avatar" was an Indian captivity narrative, which is true. I should note also that it is better than "District 9," the other science fiction splash this year, the more beloved of the two films. Ebert thinks the same way, and cites the last scenes in "9" causing it to fall into dullness, whereas in "Avatar" everything seems justified. I agree. The films also (noted by an IMDB user I can't find) shared the Indian captivity narrative style "mastery" of foreign tribe/species.
But perhaps the most revolutionary concept is that of the eponymous avatar. My fellow moviegoer noted that this is a metaphor for experiencing the arts. Another good point. It's also somewhat of a comment on both dreams and video games and how we would like to live them both, but alas neither are real. Jake experiences Pandora as a Na'vi so much that he finds his regular life the lesser entity, an interesting flip of sorts. Cameron also uses this as a device for tension, since (unless one participates in a spiritual ritual) a human must be "plugged in" ("The Matrix" reference, not only here, but in the beginning, and I believe this is noted by many, some indirectly as well, like another IMDB user I can't find) for the avatar to have life. And not everyone will respect this time where the human is the avatar, especially when that avatar just beat up the security cameras.
To comment on the screenwriting or the acting (as the Playlist did) would not be helpful, since as my fellow moviegoer said, these things are supposed to sort of be wallpaper to the rest of the movie. But then again, I'm guilty to the same offense. The script and acting did in some ways take away from the enjoyment of the movie for me, but there are some junkies of sci-fi who don't give about those things and are swept away by special effects. In the end, "Avatar" for me is not perfect, but it's engrossing, engaging, not afraid to dish out numerous concepts and "technobabbles" (courtesy of the Angry Video Game Nerd), not slight, and really puts you into an environment. B+

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Proposal

As IMDB user jmbellin noted, "The Proposal" has a good beginning and a contrived ending. It starts off in New York where an editor named Margaret Tate (Sandra Bullock) must go back to Canada. Since she is so high up in the chain of command and also because she doesn't want the reigns to be handed over to slacker Bob Spaulding (Aasif Mandavi), she improvises a proposal to Andrew (Ryan Reynolds, at least at the beginning well-cast), her subordinate, so that she can stay in her place. This is pretty shady business, and draws concern. Anyways, the film mostly takes place in Sitka, Alaska (setting of Michael Chabon's "The Yiddish Policeman's Union") where Andrew's family lives and where Margaret and Andrew are going to share their news.

Basically, since the marriage was such a surprise to Andrew, he does what he can to make things difficult for Margaret on his home territory. At the same time, they must maintain a lie to so many people. Every aspect of their relationship is a fabrication, especially the dramatic retelling of their proposal, which demonstrates their skills as storytellers/editors (Andrew is a fiction writer). The film decides to take a turn for the worse, as it becomes, to quote jmbellin "fairly traditional Hollywood pablum." The whole movie is formidable to this point, which is the mock wedding or something around it, and then goes into a tired routine whose tensions are only annoying blocks of time that add to the film's bulk. Jmbellin also adds that there are "a lot of family characters thrown in," which is true, but the only one I really objected to, and that was Andrew's father, Joe (Craig T. Nelson). This part is sappy and it's not as if we've seen it many a time before (I think critics knew this in spite of themselves, especially Chris Nashawaty). But even then, I still was in favor of the movie and was able to forgive and see the good things of it. After the whole wedding ordeal, not really. I think it could have avoided where it went and pretty easily at that. You've gotten yourself into something good with good potential, so why try to take the easy way out? The characters don't even do this at the end.
Bullock has been loaded even with a Golden Globe nomination for her work in this movie. She's pretty good, but what she does is awkwardly strain for the length of the movie, which can be kind of annoying, but I guess due for what the part calls for. Reynolds can't save the movie at the end, but, as fellow moviegoers and I agree, he's very nice at the beginning. Everyone loves Betty White here, and she and Mary Steenburgen create an affable family background for Andrew. I think that the beginning was a sort of interesting look at how people are able to separate business and love, and perhaps a satire on how much and how little people know each other after a while. It also shows how people act when they are in their own environment versus how the act in other places. I guess if the movie had tried to make these points clearer it would have worked better. I know I'll get heat from the same people who "disliked" my review of "Paper Heart," but here we are. C+

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans

"The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans" has Nicolas Cage playing a screwy policeman who gets smashed on cocaine and other intoxicants very often while conducting business, which leads of course to a lot of inappropriate behavior on the job. He's one who does a whole lot on a case to get information just to go up to the man suspected of it (while illegally giving information) and say that he doesn't give (but this could be yet another ploy, and now that I think of it, probably it is). You get the idea. Without Cage and Werner Herzog, the film would be an incredibly simple police procedural, scripted by a William M. Finklestein, who wrote episodes of "L.A. Law," among others. They are definitely who count here.

Cage brings vigor and immorality to the role. He's actually good, especially in the scenes when he shows how he can be. The articles I've read (in Film Comment and Sight & Sound) cite that the film is humorous, and yes, it can be when Cage lets loose what IMDB calls a "hysterical laugh." Anyways, Cage's Terence McDonagh is stumbling through his lieutenantship as he goes to drastic measures to get to Xzibit's Big Fate, who is the main suspect in a case involving a guy who did some drug selling and his family. McDonagh cannot do anything well, as he messes up with all of his leads, especially Denzel Whitaker's Daryl, who he loses sight of at a casino where he's trying to find his woman Frankie (Eva Mendes). He's incompetent, double-crossing, and altogether dishonorable. That should give you good enough of an idea of what you're getting into.

But then again, according to people I know, it's not nearly as "gritty" as the "Bad Lieutenant" of 1992, with Harvey Keitel as an awful, awful, awful person, who does despicable things. According to the coverage I've read like in (I think) Hollywood Reporter and Rolling Stone , it's very dissimilar in other ways. I just think I should put it out there, but I don't have an opinion to match, as I haven't seen the original. It's the white elephant in the room for most people. I just think this movie, shadowed or not by Abel Ferrara's movie, should be perhaps a little better done. The plot is low-rate for a movie like this, and while not completely underwhelming, at least without too much scope. It's Herzog, it's Cage, meaning it's combined madness. But then again, while not insubstantial (it is a pretty inflicting movie), not quite as much as you might desire (at least of Herzog). C+

Friday, December 11, 2009

Anvil! The Story of Anvil

"Anvil! The Story of Anvil" is about the two founding members of the eponymous band and their struggles to really get back into the popular opinion after their heyday back in the 1980's, when they were on the same bill as Bon Jovi at a festival in Japan. This was their limelight, and they attracted a lot of attention due their onstage methods and other things. They were considered pioneers of hard rock back then, but 12 albums later, when the film sets its focus, they aren't riding as high as before.

We see from a series of dismal concerts that they struggle to fill a room with people. But they still want to record, especially Steve Kudlow. He's never given up his dream, even though it's taken hit after hit, and judging by this film, he never will. Robb Reiner, the drummer, wants it to happen as well, but not with the fervor that Kudlow does. He's always wanted to play the drums, but then again, he also likes to paint. Kudlow is like Jeremy Renner's Sgt. James in "The Hurt Locker": only one environment will suit him. Kudlow is part of a family of businessmen, so clean-cut that with Kudlow's long, flowing hair and informal attitude he doesn't seem to fit in. As noted before, the only place he can really function is the stage.

Now about the technical aspects of the film. I assume from a credit cookie picture that Sasha Gervasi is to Anvil as Anton Corbijn is to Joy Division. In the style of Corbijn's "Control," Gervasi crafts a documentary, which is the correct narrative form for this movie, as the story continues into the present and perhaps beyond. He gets unrestricted access to all of everything that goes on with Anvil. As A.O. Scott says, Gervasi "makes a case and a place for" Anvil, and that's vital, since otherwise Kudlow would just be another dreamer left on his own. It's also perhaps time to see what happens after a band goes downpeak from its highest stage. Since we sort of know this, it's all the more depressing and sort of downbeat a movie.

The documentary for me started out really well but then sort of swirled into doubtfulness. It needed a little more direction. But hey, this was where the mood and information headed. What I'm saying is that Gervasi was on course for a great directorial debut, but what he ended up with was something only good. But it's not a disaster finish (as a matter of fact, the opposite), and "Anvil! The Story of Anvil!" does very well in leading us into territory that at least that I (an alternative rock lover) hadn't gone into. B

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Cove

"The Cove" isn't the best made documentary, but it definitely has its purpose. People for years have tried to get behind the cliffside at Taiji's notorious cove to document to the world the assassinations of dolphins. The techniques are cruel, the set-up is well planned (a with high security), and the butchery is unheard of in Japan and in many other places. Japan is shown here as tricky, trying to bribe third-world countries into helping them legalize the practice of whaling again, and what could they do? But the message here is made clear: we can do something about all this mess.

The leader of this insurgence is Richard O'Barry, former Flipper trainer who grew to love the dolphins and eventually was getting routinely caught trying to let them go. Also is the film's director Louie Psihoyos, who I believe started an organization called OPS or the Oceanic Preservation Society. His inexperience directing is shown here, since the film technically fails to be very stimulating, often sticking to the same techniques again and again and again to convey the story and resorting to the same shots of the same interview subjects. But the subject is enough to propel the film through whatever stretches Psihoyos couldn't, and thus we have an effective film that gets its message across, while conventionally, in a way that would inspire you to help. This is a case like "Food, Inc." where the sheer force of the facts offered bring the film to well-being. Even without the same threats posed as the former film, "The Cove" still manages to paint an frustrating picture of a corrupt Japan that will not stop unless the public makes it. That's exactly what the people behind this film are trying to provoke, and the only way of truly doing this is getting into the cove and showing what goes on there. No one will like what they see.

The fact of this footage (although we know what is coming thus making it slightly underwhelming if you could call it that, I guess due to the build-up to it) makes this film worth seeing. There will be converts from "inactivism" to "activism," to use the words of one of interviewees (perhaps it was O'Barry, but maybe Psihoyos?). Perhaps it's good that the film is being considered for Best Documentary (only since it should be seen, not because I think that it necessarily is a great film or even a great documentary, and this is one of the places to provoke audience viewing); thank God for every opportunity for this information to be passed onwards. It's because a cause needs to be seen not heard of, which is exactly the same reason "Food, Inc." ended up being decent. "The Cove" is good for its content, not for its style (except in a couple of instances), but I guess that's made clear. B

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Soloist

Joe Wright's "The Soloist" adapts a book by Steve Lopez that chronicles his relationship with Nathaniel Anthony Ayers, Jr., who's a multi-musician who went from good talents to being homeless because of his unstable mental state. It has some interesting sequences from inside the mind of Ayers as well as dealing with his love of classical music, but it doesn't really work as it should. While it meanders, there's small moments of beauty, but that's not enough to save the film from its boring stretches among other things.

Robert Downey, Jr. plays Steve Lopez as an easily bored LA Times reporter, hard-drinking (a character trait that occupies all of about 30 seconds), raccoon-pursuing, and writing a column titled "Points West." While walking past a statue of Beethoven, he finds Ayers, who's playing a two-stringed violin, which I believe attracts Lopez's attention. Jamie Foxx plays Ayers in a performance that is good for the same reason I disliked it: even though it's clear that he's mentally unbalanced, it's still depressing to see him not take advantage of what people have and are giving him. But I guess that's talking more of Ayers than Foxx's acting, and speaking less about what he can control and more about what is expected of him. Anyways, I was frustrated, but perhaps that was the effect trying to be projected. What I'm saying is, it's kind of hard to take after a while of Foxx's repeated Lucky-esque mumblings which probably could be attributed to his mental state. But then again, if I were hearing many voices in my head, I probably would be doing the same. But this a review of the film, not an analysis of Ayers' psychology. On the film, I didn't really care for it all that much, especially the sections involving Lopez, which are dry and bland.

The film has some interest, what with the musical sequences as well as some other things, but not enough to keep the viewer fully hooked and not occupied by something else. I don't know really what to say other than that there are much better movies to be seen now instead of this one. Foxx is good in his role, yes, but perhaps there could be a little more other than just him to focus on. As I think other people said, I guess Downey, Jr. is newspapermanish enough for the role (since he was in David Fincher's "Zodiac") and I guess supplies wry humanity, but then again, maybe the movie would have worked better with a different actor. Not to say that he's all bad, but he's just a little boring, and inhibits the film from success. For Wright, think about those music segments and go much farther. What I was expecting was something more music-oriented than what was there. It's not so much the relationship between the two that's interesting, it's the musical aspects. But judging from how Lopez doesn't seem to be paying any attention to any of the musical performances in the film, I think I may be the only one. C+

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Paper Heart

"Paper Heart" captures the feeling of one of those projects, ambitious or whatever, that you can't quite finish. I've had these in terms of videos and the like: you put in time on them, but you just can't get the mileage you need out of a certain idea or plot. That's probably what the fictional representation of Nicholas Jasenovec (Jake M. Johnson) feels as this film starts to wind down. It's hard to capture life on camera, dulling for the person on it and frustrating for the person behind it.

This movie somewhat captures this feeling that I've been describing. It would be different if Charlyne Yi played someone who couldn't feel love who finally developed a relationship with someone played by Michael Cera. It's interesting since you get the whole feeling of the moment, as it is played as real, so you have the difficulties described above coming into play. But that's not all it is. Yi, who finds herself (fictionally or not) without a trace of love in her, goes out to find definitions of love from people scattered throughout the country. For me, what she found felt a little contrived, but I guess these are real stories. The best interview scene for me involved children in Atlanta, which may sound like it will be a groan coming, but think otherwise. I thought it was actually pretty funny. As I said, this is intercut with her relationship with Cera, which looks very predictable when you think about it. This is especially true in the end when the progression of the relationship seems to be accelerated to the point of Yi bemoaning the absence of Cera in her life. Ebert is right: the thing in this movie that is really important and perhaps the X factor for it to be good is Yi, who is endearing and an encouraging interviewer (though, as some IMDB people said, kind of difficult).

The same could not be said for Bill Maher, who takes on the equally gargantuan subject of religion in his film "Religulous." That film could be considered better considering that it's a real documentary and also because the results are (slightly) more interesting. That film also was trying to make somewhat of a point, however heavy-handed. This film is less about its subject than its techniques, at least for me. As self-conscious and "quirky" Yi and Cera are, I guess the conclusion of this film could never have been satisfying (for me or for people on IMDB). But perhaps as I said before maybe it's supposed to be a project too big too finish, but I dunno. A paradox: the movie works because it stars moderately famous Yi and Cera, and because a relationship starts between them on film, but then we sort of know what will happen since it's in a self-contained box of sorts. You know what you're getting, which is charming, but also problematic and obnoxiously "quirky," like Jake Johnson's character. C+

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Messenger

Oren Moverman's "The Messenger" contains pain, and you can see why and yet cannot even believe that Captain Tony Stone (Woody Harrelson) gives the advice to not get personal when telling the "next of kin" that their loved one has died in service. How could you not interact? Yet at the same time, it's something unbearable to see. Stone has calculated this throughout his years, and passes it on to Sgt. Will Montgomery (Ben Foster), who seems like a hardened person when we see him at the start of the film.

But he, as anyone else would besides Stone (who Montgomery calls out as being inhumane), starts to sympathize with the people he is indirectly victimizing, especially Olivia (Samantha Morton, playing a sort of annoyingly unreadable yet very awkward type), who he helps far beyond the dreadful notification. She's the only one whose story we get to hear in great detail (in one relentless shot). All others are given to us in small doses, which are used in the screenplay to make the suffering all the more real. Now that I think about it, the stories are kind of cliche and contrived (of course some happen like this, but it feels old at the cinema), but the sadness is all too real.

The scenes from which the film derives its name and which the film is pretty much based upon are sad, especially the first, which uses a bait technique to gain tension but still provides some pretty devastating moments. You think what's imprinted into the mind of one of these "messengers" and, although not life-threatening, a comparison to the war would be very fitting, while obvious and probably already used in countless reviews of this film. I wasn't wildly excited about seeing this film due to its look on paper, but I guess you can't really transcribe what's here down. You have to show it, since it's human emotion.

The real reason I saw it, like many others, was due to the National Board of Review's award of Best Supporting Actor to Harrelson, which most definitely translates to Oscar nomination (one less spot for Paul Schneider, who prognosticators like EW still count in there, but who really seems to be heading out of the race). Harrelson goes into the role well-cast, as there is a jokey yet serious type needed here, and he delivers in that respect. He does some fine acting here, not in the same range as some others this year, but not bad. He uses his persona, which was truly patented this year with "Zombieland," but I guess does some other things, too. Ben Foster is pretty decent as well, playing a hardened guy who sounds weird when he yells and who really faced some traumatic horrors when on duty. But he's not talented enough to really shoulder the load at the end, where I agreed with my moviegoing companions who said it wasn't up to snuff with the beginning. Another point of one of my fellow moviegoers: too long. 105 minutes is long and hard here. "The Messenger" got and engaged me for long stretches, which is valuable, but not enough. B-