Director: Lars von Trier
Writer(s): Lars von Trier
Starring: Willem Dafoe, Charlotte Gainsbourg
That Lars von Trier is a film director who creates controversial films is no secret. That Lars von Trier is a film director who tells stories that are raw, in-your-face, disturbing, and exhausting to watch is also no secret. That Lars von Trier attempts to outdo himself with every film he releases is, yet again, no secret. That he's a skilled director, a master at handling his narratives, and a filmmaker whom I regret exists... well, that might be a secret. Antichrist is part-horror, part-psychological analysis, and part-mindfuck. A couple's young son dies from falling out of a window while the couple was having sex, and the mother begins a slow descent into insanity. The husband, a practicing therapist, tries to help her confront her demons (almost literally), and the two escape to a cabin to assist in the wife's recovery. As of this writing, I've seen the first 80 minutes and have watched no more. Perhaps I'll be brave enough to finish my viewing, but I doubt it.
Verdict: I, personally, cannot recommend this movie. I hate the fact that it exists. Other than that, it's up to you.
The Dark Crystal (1982)
Director: Jim Henson, Frank Oz
Writer(s): Jim Henson (story), David Odell
Starring: A bunch of Brian Froud-designed muppets
A cult-ish classic that I've seen many times before, though the last time was probably around 10 years ago. A brilliant and well-conceived fantasy world, brought to life by the magic of Jim Henson and Frank Oz, combined with the cliché-defining era of 80s films, gives us a film that those who grew up it will always cherish. All that stated, though it remains enjoyable, it is certainly a valid argument that the film does not hold up as well as others of its kind (particularly its sister-film, Labrynth). Still, I'm sure I'll be watching it again sometime soon.
Verdict: SEE it. If you haven't, you aren't allowed to claim that you're a "child of the 80s."
The Informant! (2009)
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Writer(s): Scott Z. Burns, Kurt Eichenwald (book)
Starring: Matt Damon, Scott Bakula, Joel McHale
Based upon events that exposed the ADM Company's price-fixing conspiracy in the early 1990s, this is a film that is to be taken seriously, but not taken seriously. It is presented as a true comedy by a director (Soderbergh) who has already done the "big evil corporation" movie as a drama (the great Erin Brockovich). Soderbergh takes what he's already mastered with Erin Brockovich and Traffic, and mixed it the fun of Ocean's Eleven and its sequels. And, strangely enough, it works. Matt Damon, channeling his inner nut-job, has so much fun with his role, it's hard to say anything bad about the film.
Verdict: SEE it. Damon's portrayal rocks.
The Mist (2007)
Director: Frank Darabont
Writer(s): Frank Darabont, Stephen King (novella)
Starring: Thomas Jane, Marcia Gay Harden, Laurie Holden, Andre Braugher
Frank Darabont has given us two outstanding adaptations of King works: The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile, but he falls oh, so short with his third attempt. A more typical King narrative, The Mist is a horror film through and through, with King's usual pop culture analysis of religious and folklore beliefs. Unfortunately, as we all know, King's heyday was over two decades ago. The suspense in The Mist is relegated to bumps in the dark and the horror is nearly destroyed by one-too-many clichés and ridiculously unconvincing computer-animated "monsters." And the "shock ending" seems completely dishonest and more than a little ridiculous.
Verdict: SKIP it. No hat-trick for King-Darabont.
Sherlock Holmes (2009)
Director: Guy Ritchie
Writer(s): Michael Robert Johnson, Anthony Peckham, Simon Kinberg, Lionel Wigram (story), Arthur Conan Doyle (characters)
Starring: Robert Downey, Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, Mark Strong
A long-awaited silver screen return of the world's favorite detective (no, not Batman), Guy Ritchie retools both the mythology of the Arthur Conan Doyle's legacy and the characters of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson themselves. Here, both Holmes and Watson are quasi-action heroes and are presented on relatively equal ground. They are a team, but unique and archetypal, and the result is a film that reintroduces the residents of 221B Baker Street to the masses with a thoroughly enjoyable bang. Downey and Law are perfect, and Mark Strong again makes his presence felt in a supporting role. Where's Moriarty in all of this? Well, while the movie clearly answers that question, you probably won't much care.
Verdict: SEE it. Warner Bros. has a hit franchise in their hands.