stateofplayKevin MacDonald’s State Of Play, an adaptation of a 2003 BBC miniseries, unfortunately went largely unseen when it was released earlier this year, but deserves a second chance on DVD. It’s a intelligently conceived hybrid of political and journalistic thrillers, focusing on a US Congressman (Ben Affleck) who turns to an old college roommate turned seasoned D.C. reporter (Russell Crowe) after a young female aide dies in an apparent suicide. When it’s revealed that he was having an affair with the aide, and that he suspects it wasn’t a suicide after all but a murder, perhaps connected to his opposition to a defense contractor, the story takes off at a fairly furious pace and doesn’t stop until the final revelations. Crowe, uncharacteristically looking scruffy and unkempt, is terrific here, as is the rest of the supporting cast, including Helen Mirren is his editor and Rachel McAdams as an up and coming reporter who is assigned to help him investigate his friend’s case. Affleck once again proves he’s a fine actor, capable of subtle, modulated performances when he’s given the right material. Jason Bateman also makes a strong impression in a small, but crucial role as a source. State Of Play is not quite a great thriller, as it lacks a strong finish, but it’s very entertaining, very well written and it’s that current rarity in Hollywood theatrical releases: A suspense and action thriller made for adult audiences.

MONKEY RATING: ONE MONKEY

(For a brief explanation of the Monkey Review rating system, click here.)

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aperfectgetawayThe new movie from David Twohy, A Perfect Getaway, is a tidy little mystery that has a simple goal: To generate suspense and thrills and maybe even a couple of scares. The story focuses on a trio of couples (Steve Zahn and Milla Jovovich, Timothy Olyphant and Kiele Sanchez, and Marley Shelton and Chris Hemsworth), who are all making their way along a 11 mile trail to an isolated Hawaiian island beach when they get news that there is a pair of serial killers targeting couples. The movie isn’t exactly Hitchcock, but it will keep audiences on their toes, guessing and guessing again, all the way up to the reveal, which is then carefully accounted for in a sequence that perhaps goes on too long. The final sequence that follows is effectively staged, with at least one good scare. There’s a fair bit of violence, but then it’s a movie about killers, so you have to expect at least some killin’. However, the violence is hardly horror film level. What makes the movie really work, part from Twohy’s clever scripting, are the performances, which are top notch for the most part. Jovovich and Olyphant in particular are good, with Olyphant once again showing he’s one of the most watchable, entertaining actors currently on the rise. A Perfect Getaway may not be a great movie, but it’s great fun for the most part, and isn’t that what summer movies are all about?

MONKEY RATING: TWO EVIL MONKEYS

(For a brief explanation of the Monkey Review rating system, click here.)

MONKEY REVIEW: Moon

July 18, 2009

moonOne of the best movies of the summer is likely to go little seen, at least in comparison to movies about toys and wizards: Moon, directed by Duncan Jones and starring Sam Rockwell, is an intelligent, absorbing mystery/science fiction thriller about a man, two weeks to the end of his contract as the solitary overseer of a lunar base owned by a energy company, who begins to suspect he is not alone. To say much more about the movie would be to ruin it a bit, since the part of the enjoyment of Moon is its careful and deliberately paced storytelling. Its futuristic premise is handled in a manner that recalls Kubrick and Tarkovsky rather than Lucas, and the movie’s focus is on its characters rather than its special effects, the latter of which refreshingly and effectively eschew computer generated ones in favor of practical ones. Moon is a movie of ideas, particularly about our relationships to technology, but also to place, to each other and, perhaps most profoundly, to ourselves. The brunt of the movie is carried on Rockwell’s very capable back, for reasons that will become apparent as the movie progresses, but there’s good, unexpectedly moviing work from Kevin Spacey as the voice of the base’s artificial intelligence, and from Dominique McElligott as his wife on Earth. It stumbles a bit towards the end, but not much. All in all, this is a great story with great performances, adding up to a great movie.

MONKEY RATING: ONE MOON BOUND MONKEY

(For a brief explanation of the Monkey Review rating system, click here.)

MONKEY REVIEW: The Nines

February 16, 2008

Entertaining, fairly absorbing and often eerie indie art film with Ryan Reynolds, Hope Davis, Melissa McCarthy and Elle Fanning starring in three interconnected stories. As long as it remains mysterious, the movie works, but the answers at the end are a bit of a letdown. Nevertheless, the actors make it an easy ride, especially Reynolds, who, like Davis and McCarthy, convincingly plays three separate characters. If he hadn’t been as good as he is here, the movie wouldn’t work nearly as well as it does. Reynolds, despite his tendency to appear in some questionable movies, is actually one of my favorite actors, and he makes this worth seeing, despite the weak end.

MONKEY RATING: TWO MONKEYS

(For a brief explanation of the Monkey Review rating system, click here.)