The House of the Devil- 4 stars- I really wanted to give this movie 5 stars, I did, but then I saw it. It's too bad I can't give half stars or this would be a sold 3 ½. It takes anticipation to a whole other level. Unfortunately this movie takes too long to get going. The early 80's look is complete from the opening credits to the lighting to the film stock, but this movie misses the mark in scare factor. The movies it's paying homage to gave the audience more to react to earlier in the film. Can you imagine Nightmare on Elm Street where Freddy doesn't even show up until an hour in? No, you would leave or fall asleep long before the action happens. I do recommend sticking it out and waiting for the craziness to start- once it does... oh brother! I seriously have no idea what was happening at one point (probably because I kept fast forwarding through about 10 minutes of silence). All in all, it's a good experiment and a must for horror fans. If you're on the fence though, I'd just skip it.
New York, I Love You- 3 stars- The follow up to "Paris, Je t'aime" is a competent yet lacking amalgam of shards of New York. The city never really comes into focus, which you imagine it would in an open letter to the city that never sleeps; unfortunately I almost did. The set up is simple: get twelve or so directors to make twelve or so short films set in and about NY. In the French film, each director is given an arrondissement to set their play. The films run the gammet of fact and fiction- lovers, family, vampires- all get their day in the city of lights. In "New York", the segments are edited and blended together at points, the director and his intentions lost to the whims of another director. The vignettes kept intact play very well: Natalie Portman as a Hasidic bride to be and diamond buyer; the mirrored look of her face as she looks at the Indian diamond trader and at her husband. She also directs a short piece that is beautifully shot and touching. Julie Christie and Shia Le Beouf (with a walk through by John Hurt) star as an aging singer contemplating life and death in a lavish hotel. One of my favorite French directors, Yan Attal, directs two vignettes- one with Ethan Hawke and Maggie Q (so-so) and the other with Chris Cooper and Robin Wright Penn (wonderful). Certainly something to check out, but the pacing can get a bit slow. Try "Paris" first, then rent this one if you liked it.
50 Dead Men Walking- 3 stars- Set in Northern Ireland in 1981, this follows the true story of a man playing both sides- loyal to his family and friends (who happen to be involved in the IRA) and his wish for the fighting to end and the Irish to be treated equally within the country. He is recruited by Sir Ben Kingsley to play turn coat. Of course, things go wrong. I had mixed feelings about this movie…. It is very long and slow. Also, it illuminated a side of the story I didn't really know. I'm not as familiar with the modern Northern Irish conflict as I am with the Easter Rebellion and the birth of the IRA (See: "The Wind That Shakes the Barley"). The actors do a fine job, though I had problems with sound and understanding certain accents. I was also excited to see Natalie Press from "My Summer of Love" (see below) in another great role. If this movie had been 2 hours or less, it would have been much better. Unfortunately, they make what is a passionate, violent and compelling story boring and dull.
My Summer of Love- 4 stars- I saw this movie a couple years ago when it came out, but decided to refresh my memory in the wake of the Golden Globes. This was Emily Blunt's first film and it went on to win Best British Film at the BAFTA's. It takes place over one summer in the country as two girls grow up and together. I really liked it: the awkwardness budding sexuality, poverty verses wealth, truth verses fiction, love verse infatuation, god verses the devil. A beautiful movie. Great performances by all.