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2008-10-30 - 8:48 a.m.


I've seen three movies this week--one theatrical film, one newly released DVD, and one sorta recent-ish DVD release--and all three were notable for various reasons...

In reverse order, the first film is remarkable for upholding all the tenets of my Eddie & the Cruisers Axiom.

21 is, in every possible way, a terrible film. It's got a cheesy Hollywood plot--even though it is based on a "true story" (whose veracity has actually been disputed)--paired with Screenplay 101 characterizations and smarmy performances (in other words, it stars Kevin Spacey), and a horrible, intrusive score that made me think that the Zach Braff school of indie-rock soundtracks may have been a good idea after all.

And yet...! It is totally compelling and satisfying as a popcorn morality tale. It allows viewers to live vicariously through a get-rich-quick Vegas gambling fable, and then delivers us safely home with an ending that makes us feel justified and smug for not actually having lived through it.

The second movie, as mentioned a few days back: Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

This low-key, unhurried comedy capitalizes on the sensibilities and comic talent of the always awesome Jason Segal. He plays a heartbroken guy who, in an effort to move on after being dumped by his TV actress girlfriend (Kristen Bell), accidentally vacations at the same resort as she and her new fatuous rockstar boyfriend (Russell Brand).

The movie, despite some puerile moments, has an unexpectedly compassionate heart. Even the antagonists are portrayed kinda sympathetically, sometimes affectionately, and of all the Judd Apatow-related films (he produced this'un), the women get the best treatment here.

One particularly interesting scene has Segal's ex-girfriend meeting a new girlfriend (Mila Kunis). In a lesser, more typical comedy, the scene would have been played as a catfight. Here, it's played realistically: the women are kind to each other, and self-deprecating, as women tend to be in real life.

This is also the first I've seen of comedian Russell Brand, who is perfect in every scene as the new boyfriend. If there is ever a Marc Bolan bio-pic, this fellow MUST play him.

And the third is Il y a longtemps que je t'aime (in theaters this week), the story of a recently released prisoner and her tentative, unapologetic attempts to fit back into some semblance of a normal life. There are some important plot points that are best revealed as one watches the film, so I shan't spoil.

Kristen Scott Thomas is just amazing here, and the actress who plays her younger sibling--wary but willing to embrace her long-lost sister--also gives a strong performance.

The ending may frustrate some--I thought it was puzzling and a bit of a cop-out--but overall it is a lovely, heartening, unsentimental film.

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