Good books rarely translate into good movies, but director Joe Wright and screenwriter Christopher Hampton manage to retain what made Ian McEwan's Atonement (Universal) special in the first place, while adding something uniquely cinematic. In telling the story of how one bad choice echoes across decades, Wright and Hampton nail McEwan's fascination with misinterpreted gestures, moments that go wrong, and how the mood of a room affects everyone in it. The movie lacks any real transcendent emotion, but Wright's skill at integrating lighting, score, editing, and performance is in a league with Michael Powell and David Lean. How the film looks and moves is almost more important than what it's about
The DVD release of I Am Legend (Warner) includes an alternate ending that hews very slightly closer to that of Richard Matheson's classic book, but it still doesn't rescue the film from its action-movie wallowing in goofy CGI vampire-creatures and interminable, improbable chase scenes. The sleepy first hour, in which Will Smith wanders around a plague-emptied Manhattan, is still the best part
A handful of critics and cultists hailed Southland Tales (Samuel Goldwyn)— Richard Kelly's crazily ambitious follow-up to Donnie Darko—as a gonzo masterpiece, but more often than not, Kelly's epic science-fiction comedy is a confused, unfunny fiasco. Only a few standalone sequences, like Justin Timberlake doing The Killers' "All These Things That I've Done," are worthy of his talent
Three songs from Enchanted (Disney) were up for Best Song Oscars, but they all got shut out. Maybe the Enchanted vote was split three ways, or maybe it's because the songs just don't work outside the bubbly, effervescent, satirical context of the film, in which Amy Adams plays a sickeningly syrupy Disney animated princess booted into the "real" world. It isn't the most biting parody, but it's pleasantly self-aware about its own cuteness and the tropes it's simultaneously embracing and giggling over
The thought of Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels director Guy Ritchie making another gangster movie after the diminishing returns of Snatch isn't a happy one, but the long-shelved, barely released Revolver (Samuel Goldwyn) is much worse than could be imagined. Ritchie keeps the style garish and frenetic, but it's the added layer of impenetrable pretentiousness that leads the film astray; you know you're in trouble when a movie opens with no fewer than three epigrams from the likes of Machiavelli and Julius Caesar.