Monday, April 28, 2008

Movie Mon. - The Hoffman Hat-trick

It dawned on me at one point this weekend that three of the five Netflix I had co-starred Philip Seymour Hoffman, and had all come out within a week of each other on DVD.

The Savages: Oscar nominated Indie film (Best screenplay, Best Actress) about a theater professor (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and his aspiring playwright and well-established drama queen sister (Laura Linney) who have their lives disrupted when they have to start taking care of their estranged father, who has been stricken with dementia. Some laugh out loud funny parts here, some incredibly frustrating character decisions there; on the whole, I enjoyed the film, although it dragged a bit in the middle for me.

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead:
Drama about two down-on-their-luck brothers (Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke) who decide to give their fortunes a jumpstart by robbing their parents' jewelry store, only to have things go terribly, terribly wrong. Let me start by saying that if you dislike non-linear storytelling, you'll want to stay away from this one, which jumps back and forth in time from the P.O.V.s of the brothers and their father (Albert Finney). Well done film with good performances, but something about it left me cold.

Charlie Wilson's War:
Film based on the true story of Texas congressman (Tom Hanks) who, along with the aid of a tactless CIA agent (Philp Seymour Hoffman) and the 6th richest woman in Texas (Julia Roberts), spearheaded a campaign to increase the aid given to Afghan freedom fighters in their battle against invading Russians in the 1980s. Great movie, with an excellent script by Aaron Sorkin (he of Sports Night, West Wing, and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip fame) and great performances all around.

The Orphanage:
Well done Spanish horror film about a woman who returns to the orphanage where she grew up with the intentions of turning it into a home for special needs children, only to find that the spirits of the former residents are restless. A solid film I recommend to any fans of the genre who don't mind dealing with subtitles; and, since it relies more on suspense and atmosphere than on blood and guts (although there is at least one major gross-out scene) it might appeal to more than just gore-hounds.

One Missed Call:
Lackluster remake of a Japanese horror film about a ghost that selects targets for its vengeance through cell phone address books. Some good actors associated with this, but a bit of a snoozer. And that creepy CGI baby . . .