Friday, February 05, 2010

Penny Thoughts: Week of Jan. 29-Feb. 5

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986) ***
Dir. Leonard Nimoy
Starring: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Catherine Hicks, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols, Walter Koenig, George Takei, Mark Lenard

A surprisingly funny entry into the franchise, the fourth “Star Trek” installment adopts the popular eighties (and Trek) device of time travel to produce a genuinely fun adventure for the aging original crew. On top of that, they throw in an animal rights/environmental message in for good measure.

The Hurt Locker (2009) ****
Dir. Kathryn Bigelow
Starring: Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty

The most solid fictional entry into Iraq-based war movies to come yet, director Kathryn Bigelow takes advantage of the screenplay’s very specific subject matter of a team of EOD (Explosive Ordinance Disposal) soldiers to present an intense character study of just what it takes to diffuse bombs for a living. Jermey Renner’s team leader is a detached maverick who hides deep feelings behind his cavalier exterior.

The Walker (2007) ***½
Dir. Paul Schrader
Starring: Woody Harrelson, Kristin Scott Thomas, Lauren Bacall, Moritz Bliebtreu, Lily Tomlin, Ned Beatty, Willem Defoe

A fascinating look inside Washington from not quite the inside. Woody Harrelson is an openly gay companion to the wives of many of Washington’s heavy hitters. He is a “walker,” whose father was a powerful senator. When one of his companions (Kristin Scott Thomas) finds her lover dead, Harrelson is swept up in the murder investigation for trying to conceal her involvement. Director Paul Schrader (“Affliction”) paints a detailed portrait of the Washington power game in this understated thriller.

Lorna’s Silence (2009) ***½
Dir. Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne
Starring: Arta Dobroshi, Jérémie Renier, Fabrizio Rongione, Alban Ukaj

The characters of the Belgian filmmakers the Dardenne Brothers always act so stubbornly real. They are always depicted in extraordinary situations. In the case of “Lorna’s Silence”, Lorna is a bride for hire. She has married a drug addict in order to get her Belgian citizenship and then has already arranged another marriage to a Russian so that he may obtain his citizenship through her. Unfortunately for their plans, the junkie decides to clean up and Lorna begins to like him, making it much harder for her to justify letting her handler give the junkie an overdose to make room for the second marriage. Yes, extraordinary situations, but so stubbornly real.

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