This week at the movies, we’ve got declining civilizations ("Apocalypto," directed by Mel Gibson), conflict diamonds ("Blood Diamond," starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Djimon Hounsou and Jennifer Connelly), airport horseplay ("Unaccompanied Minors," starring Wilmer Valderrama), and seasonal love ("The Holiday," starring Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, and Jack Black). What do the critics have to say?
Give Mel Gibson credit: he’s one of the few filmmakers who has enough clout and technical skill to realize his grand visions. But he’s also been criticized for the fact that said visions are often bloody to the extreme. Critics say "Apocalypto" contains the best and worst of Mel’s impulses. The film tells the story of the last days of Mayan civilization through the eyes of a man (played by Rudy Youngblood) attempting to save his family.The pundits say "Apocalypto" is visually remarkable and viscerally compelling, but also note that the copious amounts of gore and shaky historical details mar the film’s overall impact. It currently stands at 70 percent on the Tomatometer.
Is a Hollywood action picture the best vehicle to enact social change? It’s a question that dogs "Blood Diamond," a thriller that takes on the illicit trade of precious stones in destabilized African nations. Set in the midst of civil war in Sierra Leone, "Blood Diamond" is the story of a fisherman (Djimon Hounsou) who discovers a particularly valuable gem, and teams up with a mercenary (Leonardo DiCaprio) to get the rock out of the war torn area. Critics say the film is well crafted and features strong performances, but it ultimately shortchanges its politics by emphasizing the action. At 56 percent on the Tomatometer, "Blood Diamond" doesn’t quite dazzle.
"Though it’s thousands of miles away/Sierra Leone connect to what we go through today."
Sort of a cross between "Home Alone" and "The Terminal," "Unaccompanied Minors" tells the story of a group of kids snowed in at the airport during the holidays; suffice to say that mischief and merriment ensue. Unfortunately, the film arrives in theaters unaccompanied by widespread critical praise, as the pundits feel the film makes the least of its talented cast, and lacks the originality needed to really make the jokes work. At 25 percent on the Tomatometer, this one’s "Minor," indeed.
This is definitely against NSA regulations.
Just in time for the yuletide season, "The Holiday" provides a sugary treat for fans of chick flicks. Perhaps, say critics, a little too sugary. "The Holiday" tells the tale of two women who live on opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean; unlucky in love, they decide to swap houses in order to jump-start their lives. Love ensues. The pundits say the film has undeniable charm and a great cast, but is as predictable and fluffy as the day is long. It currently stands at 50 percent on the Tomatometer.
"’Rainbow in the Dark’ by Dio is my favorite song too!"
Also opening this week in limited release: the Argentine "Family Law," about the trials and tribulations of a father-son relationship, is at 91 percent; "Bergman Island," a feature-length interview with Ingmar Bergman, arguably the world’s greatest living director, is at 83 percent; "Days of Glory," an Algerian World War II film, is at 67 percent; "Off the Black," starring Nick Nolte as an alcoholic baseball umpire, is at 55 percent; and "Inland Empire," David Lynch‘s latest assault on cinematic convention starring Laura Dern, is at 52 percent.
"Inland Empire": When a David Lynch movie becomes a Pat Benatar video.
And finally, props to LimpytheTurtle, who correctly guessed "Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj"’s Tomatometer would be seven percent. Limpy wins a lifetime supply of Turtle Wax. (Ha! I’ll be here all week. Try the veal.)
Mel Gibson-Directed Films:
51% — The Passion of the Christ (2004)
79% — Braveheart (1995)
56% — The Man Without a Face (1993)
Recent Leonardo DiCaprio Films:
92% — The Departed (2006)
89% — The Aviator (2004)
96% — Catch Me If You Can (2002)
77% — Gangs of New York (2002)
18% — The Beach (2000)