Cinema News and Reviews for the Rest of Us

Archive for October, 2011

Movies At Home: The Eagle

Uneven Histories

Many who have seen The Eagle claim that it bogs down in the middle, when our Roman legionarie protagonist wanders into the wilds of ancient Scotland searching for the standard of the fabled Ninth Legion that was decimated there twenty years earlier.  But this is where the film is at its best, as it takes advantage of the “journey” phase of its plot to immerse the viewer in an otherworldly land of dense mists, alien peoples, and lost histories.  It’s also where the film can drop away from its clunky script and let the landscape and the period to which it is so faithful take over, as Anthony Dod Mantle’s beautifully foreboding cinematography does more to evoke the response this films seems to be going for than its inferior writing ever could.

Career documentarian Kevin McDonald knows how to shoot a scene and he knows how to give his actors space to breathe (perhaps too much space, given the leads’ limitations), but his best efforts of craft just cannot raise the film above its utterly pedestrian script.  The story, based on the terrific novel Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff, should be much more engrossing than the script allows it to be, and although Channing Tatum isn’t terrible in the lead and puts forth the requisite amount of square-jawed resolve, the onscreen talent just can’t do much with such mediocre material.  Political allusions are far too on-the-nose, later chase scenes lack the visceral impact of the mystery-shrouded wanderings, and the talk frequently comes off wooden and heartless.  It’s a shame, because while there are moments of dark surreality and wonderful evocations of place that recall great films like The New World, this  could be so much more than just a decent period flick exploring a fascinating piece of European history.

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Trailer: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Here’s a new trailer for Tomas Alfredson’s latest, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.  I can promise that I will seek this film out as soon as it is released here in South Florida.  Talk about an elite acting stable…


Moneyball in Action

There is something achingly bittersweet about the ending of Moneyball.  A man grows into himself, groundbreaking approaches are given legitimacy through success, yet those closing lines remind us that Billy Beane never won a World Series.  His Oakland A’s franchise lost even more of their hard-farmed talent and settled into dismal mediocrity once others figured out their game, and Beane himself may soon find himself in the unemployment line.

But Beane’s success is right there in that summary; others figured out and co-opted his game.  He did change the face of the sport, but like so many other true visionaries throughout history, he isn’t the one to reap the major benefits.

This excellent piece in the New York Times’ Sports page explores the way “moneyball” has changed not only the way baseball teams are built(the lower-market Cardinals and and Rangers charge into the World Series while mega-budgeted favorites like the Red Sox and Phillies lie defeated on the roadside), but the entire culture of the sport.