Monday, December 17, 2007
"I Am Legend"/"Juno"/"The Great Debaters"
You've heard it before, but here goes anyway: The latest version of Richard Matheson's "I Am Legend" is half a great movie. It's fine for the first hour when it is a lean, two-character piece featuring Will Smith (as possibly the last human survivor on earth) and his character's pet German Shepard, named Sam.
Smith has the kind of effortless chemistry with this lovely dog that's evaded most of his performances opposite humans. For its first 60 minutes or so, "I Am Legend" portrays the best on-screen romantic relationship than any other current film ("Atonement" included).
And, then, quicker than you can say "Old Yeller," the filmmakers kill off Sam and pair Smith with a bad actress (Alice Braga) and a nondescript but essential child actor (Charlie Tahan). Fuzzy decision-making here, because a perfectly good film then nosedives into a stinker.
I've no idea if it was planned or not by Smith, but for its first half, "I Am Legend" works as an effective "anti-Michael Vick flick." I mean, Smith's regard for and kindness to the dog are that inspiring. Given the timing - of the Vick case and this film's production schedule - one has to wonder.
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Every so often a perfectly fine little film is claimed by well-meaning movie critics as a cause celebré and, well, turned into the most overrated movie of the year. Case in point: Jason Reitman's "Juno," a perfectly fine little film - but not much more.
This not a popular opinion. I'm in the minority here but then I've become accustomed to going it alone when it comes to film.
"Juno" is Hollywood latest "unplanned pregnancy" comedy in which abortion is never an option. Right there, the film lost me. But what really had me keeping the film at bay is the abrasive performance of star Ellen Page, who has becvomethe flavor of the month - the latest darling of movie critics.
I don't get it. I found Page - and her trademark brand of sarcasm (already showcased in the repugnant "Hard Candy") - highly resistible.
A friend, a critic whose taste I admire and respect, has waxed poetic about Page: "It's been years since performer and performance so captivated me."
On the other hand, another friend (and critic), who watched "Juno" on a DVD screener, opined: "The kid was such a smart alec I just wanted to slap her after twenty minutes, so I did the next best thing and hit the 'eject' button."
I guess I'm not really alone after all. As they say, misery loves company...
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In the TV ads for Denzel Washington's "The Great Debaters," there's a scene in which Washington grabs a kid by his shoulders and shouts, "I am here to help you take back your righteous mind!"
Exactly what does that mean? Please explain. It sounds good but, from where I sit, that statement just makes no sense at all. What's a "righteous mind" exactly?
(Artwork: Will and Sam carry the first half of "I Am Legend" to perfection - then they bring in a woman and a kid; Ellen Page and Olivia Thirlby in "Juno," Denzel Washington, left, in "The Great Debaters")
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Anyone interested in perusing some 2060 of my film reviews, dating back to 1994, can do so by simply going to RottenTomatoes.Com
Posted by joe baltake at 1:49 PM