Friday, January 28, 2011

Quick Takes: Wall Street 2, Buried and Salt

I've been having a remarkable run with Netflix and Redbox in the last few weeks. I saw The Social Network, Inception, Piranha and The Town within days from each other and it's like being at a fun party that never ends. It's my favorite time of the season to rent movies because I'm getting all of the August-to-December releases. The quality is higher (well, I wouldn't lump Piranha in the high-quality category, but it is good popcorn) and the odds of picking a stinker are far and few in between.

The winning streak continued with Buried (2010), a superb thriller starring Ryan Reynolds as a truck driver in Iraq who was abducted and thrown inside of a coffin, buried under the ground. The entire film takes place inside of the coffin as we watch Reynolds use his cell phone to talk his way out of there. If you close your eyes during the entire film, it's like listening a radio show. It's all sound effects and dialogue. But you may as well keep your eyes open since first-time director Rodrigo Cortes ramps up the suspense by effectively using a wide lens and tricky angles. It's a brilliant achievement in filmmaking. 4.5/5

Salt (2010) moves like an old pro. Angelina Jolie, despite what you may think of her, is a movie star and a damned good one. I don't know any other actress who can pull off a role like this one. She plays a CIA agent accused of being a Russian spy. The less you know about the film going in, the more you will enjoy it. The surprises in this film are what makes it stand out. I had the rug swept out from under me at least 3 times during the movie. When I thought I had it figured out, they pulled another bait-and-switch on me. Philip Noyce, an accomplished and effective director for many years, handles this movie with great skill and precision. It's lean, fast-paced and littered with great actors (Liev Schreiber and Chiwetel Ejiofor add gravitas to any film they are in). It's as perfect as you can get in this genre. 4.5/5

And finally, while not a great film by any means, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010) is entertaining... for the most part. I wish the script wasn't so run-of-the-mill and obvious. Oliver Stone used to be a filmmaker that took risks and this film was the safest thing he ever did. Despite the cliches, the film looks good, thanks mostly to its handsome cast of great actors. I'm big fans of Carey Mulligan, Shia LeBeouf, Josh Brolin and Frank Langella. They did what they could with the limitations they had. As for Michael Douglas....well, like Jolie, he's a movie star and a damned good one. 3/5

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