THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT ***
Lisa Cholodenko’s extremely Californian dramedy has its heart in the right place, but unfortunately, if you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve seen the film. Very happy to take its time, the film ultimately revolves around one event, and it’s hour forty-four running time ends up feeling a lot longer than it is. The exceptional cast – Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson – are all terrific, with Ruffalo playing brilliantly and directly to type as a lovable rogue and Wasikowska proving that she can play American teens far better than most American teens. If the dialogue had a bit more sparkle, you’d be happier to endure the plot-by-numbers; as it is, the film is earnest and honest but surprisingly tame, given all the hype surrounding it.
SPLICE **** There is huge enjoyment in watching this twisted tale of a couple of superstar biologists (Adrian Brody and the intensely appealing Sarah Polley) as they breed, and then raise as their own daughter, a half-human, half-animal (mainly kangaroo) protein-based, lab-gestated experiment. When people do things like that, bad juju tends to go down, but this extremely clever (and surprisingly thought-provoking) re-working of the FRANKENSTEIN trope goes to some extremely interesting (and unsettling) places along the way. Highly recommended.
SALT *** Philip Noyce returns to the big-budget popcorn action movie with total style, seemingly effortlessly trumping his Hollywood hack competitors in the process (particularly whatever committee made KNIGHT AND DAY, the abomination that Tom Cruise picked instead of being in this much finer flic). Angelina Jolie reclaims her crown as The Most Photogenic Movie Star Outside of George Clooney On The Planet With a Nod to Charlize Theron, here starring as Evelyn Salt (hence the silly title), a high-operating CIA agent who must go on the lam when accused of being a “sleeper” double agent for good old bad old enemies The Russkis. While it’s “is-she-or-isn’t-she” plot isn’t as clever as it thinks it is, it is still much smarter than 98% of Hollywood “pure” action movies out there, and Noyce films both the action and Ms. Jolie with total, lingering love.