Critical Consensus: Night Doesn’t Shine, Rendition Unextraordinary, Gone Baby Gone is Certified Fres

October 20, 2007 at 3:11 pm Leave a comment

This week at the movies we have Alaskan vamps (30 Days of Night, starring Josh Hartnett and Melissa George), imprisoned citizens (Rendition, starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Reese Witherspoon), private eyes (Gone Baby Gone, starring Casey Affleck and Michelle Monaghan), grieving adults (Things We Lost in the Fire, starring Halle Berry and Benicio Del Toro), biblical figures (The Ten Commandments), athletes (The Comebacks), and teen detectives of the supernatural (Sarah Landon and the Paranormal Hour). What do the critics have to say?Many horror films go to great lengths to create a dark atmosphere. 30 Days of Night does them all one better, venturing to a place where it’s night for a month: Barrow, AK, the northernmost point in the U.S. Unfortunately, critics are left cold by this one. Night stars Josh Hartnett and Melissa George as an estranged couple defending their town against a horde of bloodthirsty vampires. Critics say the film has some frightful moments that should please gorehounds, but overall, the film lacks the nuance and sustained tension to really put this kind of genre e

xercise over. At 39 percent on the Tomatometer, Night doesn’t shine.

Hartnett and company check for undead termites.

Reese Witherspoon stars in Rendition as a housewife whose husband is imprisoned and tortured by the U.S. for his suspected involvement with terrorists. Jake Gyllenhaal co-stars as a government employee trying to set him free, with Meryl Streep as a bureaucrat intent on keeping him there. While critics commended the film for exploring the issue of torture within the context of combating terrorism, they say the plot is spread thinly across an abundance of characters and doesn’t give the film the emotional drive it needs, while arriving at an oversimplified conclusion of this very complex subject. At 39 percent, this Rendition is less than extraordinary.

Who needs work when you have Snood?

Ben Affleck has had a rollercoaster career, but critics say his feature directorial debut, Gone Baby Gone, is one of the high points. Treading the same rough Boston streets as Mystic River (also adapted from one of source writer Dennis Lehane’s novels), Gone Baby Gone tells the story of a pair of private eyes (Casey Affleck and Michelle Monaghan) searching for a lost four-year-old, a quest that delves into the dark shadows of the city, from the criminal underworld to corrupt cops. Critics say Baby is grim, but also deliciously noirish and morally complex, featuring standout performances from its leads, as well as Morgan Freeman and Ed Harris. With a score of 89 percent on the Tomatometer, Gone Baby Gone‘s critical reaction should assuage Ben’s depression over the current state of his beloved Red Sox. (Check out this week’s Total Recall, where we examine some of Affleck’s notable cameos).

Affleck ponders another imminent Red Sox defeat.

Susanne Bier, famed in her native Denmark for her dark and complex melodramas, makes her American debut this week with Things We Lost in the Fire. Halle Berry stars as a grieving widow who invites Benicio Del Toro’s character, her husband’s childhood friend and heroin addict, to move in with her and her children. Though it frequently drips into maudlin territory (something Bier avoided with her previous effort, the Certified Fresh After the Wedding), critics recognize it as at least a sincere tearjerker, and an honest and emotionally raw portrayal of two tortured people. At 64 percent, Fire isn’t red-hot but should appease viewers out for a soapy drama.

A therapeutic game of thumb war.

Movie lovers who lack the patience to sit through the The Decalogue are in luck: The Ten Commandments tells the story of Moses in less than an hour and a half, and in animated form, no less. But is it any good? Well, critics are forbidden to bear false witness, and they say it isn’t. The Ten Commandments follows Moses’ journey from infancy to the point where he leads the Chosen People to the Promised Land, and features voice work from the likes of Ben Kingsley and Christian Slater. But critics say the film’s middling animation and lack of nuance make for a dull take on one of the Bible’s most rousing tales. At 20 percent on the Tomatometer, critics say thou shall not enjoy The Ten Commandments.
This week, the folks behind both The Comebacks and Sarah Landon and the Paranormal Hour declined to screen their films for pundits. The Comebacks spoofs inspirational sports movies, while Sarah Landon is about a 17-year-old who discovers spectral activity in her hometown. Our only guess is that it was assumed each film would receive a critical (buzzer) beating, or wouldn’t stand a ghost of a chance with the scribes. (Thank you. I’ll be here all week.) Guess those Tomatometers.

“I’ve got a bad case of athlete’s spoof.”

Also opening this week in limited release: Meeting Resistance, a doc about Iraqi insurgents, is at 100 percent on the Tomatometer; Trigger Man, an indie about a harrowing hunting trip, is at 100 percent; Wristcutters: A Love Story, a dramedy about the afterlife starring Patrick Fugit, is at 71 percent; the Spanish import DarkBlueAlmostBlack, about the familial responsibilities of a young janitor, is at 67 percent; Out of the Blue, a fictional retelling of New Zealand’s largest mass-murder, is at 67 percent; Summer Love, a Polish take on the spaghetti western genre, is at 60 percent; Weirdsville, a wacky tale of stoners and satanic cults, is at 58 percent; The Girl Next Door, a tale of torture beneath the placid façade of 1950s suburbia, is at 58 percent; Reservation Road, a tale of familial grief starring Joaquin Phoenix, Jennifer Connelly, and Mark Ruffalo, is at 37 percent (check out our interview with director Terry George here); and Klimt, starring John Malkovich in a biopic of the great painter, is at 30 percent.

“You have a beard but you’re not the bad guy? That’s weird.”

Finally, props to Bloody Mathias for coming the closest to guessing Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married‘s 48 percent Tomatometer. Try putting a bandage on it, and perhaps then you won’t be bloody, Mathias.

Recent Ben Affleck Movies:
26% — Smokin’ Aces (2007)
38% — Man About Town (2006)
63% — Clerks II (2006)
70% — Hollywoodland (2006)
7% — Surviving Christmas (2004)

Recent Casey Affleck Movies:
73% — The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)
69% — Ocean’s Thirteen (2007)
46% — The Last Kiss (2006)
55% — Lonesome Jim (2006)
55% — Ocean’s Twelve (2004)



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