A Film Review Blog

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Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Blind Picks from NetFlix: Red Eye

You gotta hand it to Wes Craven--when he puts his mind to it, he makes one hell of a movie. This time around, that movie is "Red Eye," a political thriller/suspense/horror film with a decidedly (and unexpectedly) feminist undercurrent. Red Eye features the wonderful Rachel McAdams as Lisa, a Miami hotel manager with a cheery disposition and a reputation for being supernaturally competent. She's catching a late night flight back to Miami coming home from her grandmother's funeral. In the airport she meets Mr. Rippner (Cillian Murphy), a charming, handsome guy who buys her a drink. Start of a romantic comedy? Well, it is for the first 15 minutes. After their drink, they experience another happy moment of serendipity when they end up sitting next to each other on the airplane. No coincidence, it turns out--he's really an assassin, and she's really in trouble. He threatens to have her father killed if she doesn't change the room reservation of a certain important political figure scheduled to stay in her hotel.

There are a few parts of Red Eye's plot that don't make sense. The finer plot points, however, are incidental. At a lean 85 minutes, this is one masterful piece of filmmaking. Craven manages to convey an intense feeling of claustraphobia during the airplane sequences. The lighting, camera angles, score, editing--it's all perfect. Red Eye is a small film--it won't win any big awards. I believe that it's better to make a small, great film, than a big, lumbering awful one (Oliver Stone, I'm looking at YOU).

I saw Lisa's character as an evolved version of female characters from Craven's earlier films. Early on in Red Eye we see her room--which her father has kept the same since she was a teenager--with her high school cheerleader outfit still hanging in the closet. Yet, the woman we see in the movie is not a frightened teenage girl--she is a decidedly tough, smart and unusually competent for a cinematic heroin. I can't reveal exactly how much ass Rachel McAdams kicks in this movie because it would spoil the plot, but let me just say it had me cheering out loud. Don't you just hate it when the script has lead characters do stupid shit just to keep the plot moving? Fortunately, Lisa is not one of those characters. She behaves in a reasonably intelligent way, so the audience is engrossed and with her all the way.

As for Cillian Murphy...creep the fuck out of me, why don't you! His character is manipulative, condescending, terrifyingly unpredictable. He reminds me of Robert Mitchum's Preacher character from Night of the Hunter.

Bottom Line: You must rent this movie. Now. Why are you still sitting there?!

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Hooray!! The Notorious Bettie Page Looks...Good!

Well, I just saw a ten minute spot about The Notorious Bettie Page, Mary Harron's new film about the pin up queen of the 1950s. I have loved Bettie Page since I was about thirteen, so you can imagine how excited I was when I heard that a movie was being made about her--by Mary Harron, no less, the director of American Psycho and I Shot Andy Warhol. In those films, she proved to have a keen visual eye and a great sense of humor. Then, unfortunately, I saw who was playing Bettie: Gretchen Mol. My heart sank. Gretchen Mol has a couple of problems for this part. First of all, she is not the best actress. She was a little dull to watch in The Thirteenth Floor, painful in Celebrity and unbearable in Rounders. Second problem, she is a little too thin (although this is obviously something that doesn't matter that much if the acting is good). Well, this morning, as I watch the preview, I was very excited to see that Gretchen looks like she has gained a little more acting savvy--and about ten pounds! On the screen, she looks almost exactly like Bettie. It is uncanny. And the film is shot in black and white, which is perfect.

In my perfect world, however, I would have cast....drumroll...the beautiful Jennifer Connelly. Observe:

The film opens April 14th!