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Reviews for March 4th, 2011

The Adjustment Bureau

Directed by George Nolfi

Based on the short story ďAdjustment TeamĒ by Philip K. Dick.

      David Norris (Matt Damon), a congressman running for the position of senator in the state of New York, bumps into Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt) in a menís bathroom and quickly hits it off with her before he goes to give an election speech. She inspires him so much within those few minutes that he decides to give an entirely different speech altogether. The next day, he happens to bump into her on a public bus and flirts with her some more before asking for her phone number. A mysterious team, the Adjustment Bureau, does everything in their ability to keep him and from Elise. As it turns out, he only bumped into her for the second time because Harry Mitchell (Anthony Mackie), an agent working for the Bureau, fell asleep on the job. The Bureau kidnaps David to inform them of their master plan and to burn the paper that Elise wrote her number on. If he discloses to anyone about the Bureauís existence, he will lose his all of his memory. Writer/director George Nolfi has woven a premise thatís very intriguing, clever and suspenseful until it loses steam during the underwhelming, anticlimactic and facile third act.

      For most of the second act, The Adjustment Bureau feels like The Bourne Identity all over again as David tries to outrun the agents while trying to find their secret gathering place where their leader would logically be found. The way in which David finds out how to reach that destination, though, proves to be rather contrived and, when it comes to the journey that he takes to go there, itís rather tedious. David and Elise have some palpable romantic chemistry together, though, and itís also worth noting that Matt Damon and Emily Blunt both give lively performances that provide some charisma. If only the filmís momentum werenít ruined by a third act that plays it too safely without any surprises, The Adjustment Bureau would have been consistently through-provoking slice of entertainment. At running time of 1 hour and 39 minutes, itís mostly intriguing, suspenseful and clever until it loses steam during the underwhelming, facile, anticlimactic third act.
Number of times I checked my watch: 2
Opens nationwide.
Released by Universal Pictures.


Directed by Daniel Barnz

Please check back soon for a full review.
Number of times I checked my watch: 3
Opens nationwide.
Released by CBS Films.

The Human Resource Manager

Directed by Eran Riklis

Please check back soon for a full review.
Number of times I checked my watch: 2
Opens at the Lincoln Plaza Cinemas and Landmark Sunshine Cinema.
Released by Film Movement.

I Saw the Devil

Directed by Jee-woon Kim

In Korean with subtitles.

      Choi Min-sik, whom you might recognize as the star of Old Boy, returns to the big screen as Kyung-chul, a ruthless, psychotic, relentlessly malevolent serial killer. He kills his first victim, Ju-yeon, after she asks for help in the middle of the night when her car breaks down. Not only does he kill her, but also torture her and chop her corpse into pieces while her blood drains. She happens to be pregnant and the daughter of a retired police chief. Her fiancť, Soo-hyun (Lee Byung-hun), does everything in he can to hunt the serial killer down and exact revenge on him. Revenge has rarely been so bloody because and long-lasting because Soo-hyun doesnít plan on merely capturing Kyung-chul and turning him into the authorities. First he wants to make him suffer more than his victims had suffered by tormenting him slowly and inflicting pain on him each time. Director Jee-woon Kim creates an eerie atmosphere through the cinematography and set designs while the unflinching blood-and-guts adds a very high gross-out factor and, of course, shock value. Given the nearly 2-and-a-half-hour running time, youíd think there might be at least a few moments that drag, but guess again. Youíll be at the edge of your seat from start to finish.

      Screenwriter Hoon-jung Park knows how to pile on the suspense because he includes surprises at every turn as the cat and mouse chase builds momentum. Choi Min-sik gives such an energetic and convincingly diabolical performance that he can easily be ranked among the classic, memorable villains, i.e. Hannibal Lecter. Itís fascinating to observe the ways in which Soo-hyun torments him psychologically and physically, and the same can be said when the tables turn. Usually plausibility and suspense tend to wane during a thrillerís third act, but, in this case, itís so riveting and clever that youíll feel as though youíre watching a classic a la Seven. At running time of 2 hours and 24 minutes, I Saw the Devil is an intelligent, suspenseful and relentlessly terrifying crime thriller with one of the nastiest villains in the history of cinema.
Number of times I checked my watch: 0
Opens at the IFC Center.
Released by IFC Films.


Directed by Gore Verbinski

      Johnny Depp provides the voice of a pet chameleon who can often be found practicing his acting skills. Little does he know that an unexpected event will land him right smack in the middle of the Mojave Desert in a little town called Dirt where his true acting abilities will come to the test. There, he walks into a bar, and pretends to be the individual who had killed seven brothers with merely one bullet. He chooses to call himself Rango and, soon enough, the townís mayor (voice of Ned Beatty) appoints him as the new sheriff. Rango goes on a quest to get to the bottom of the townís mysterious water depletion. Meanwhile, of course, he has a potential love interest, Beans (voice of Isla Fisher), whom he tries to woo along the way. The smart screenplay by John Logan pays homage to many classic Westerns, such as High Noon, while simultaneously poking fun at the genre. One particularly brilliant scene occurs when Rango meets Clint Eastwood carrying his Oscar medals in the desert. Youíll also find a Mariachi owl band to be a very amusing Greek chorus; if they were overused, theyíd eventually become irritating.

      A truly great animated film ought to have great visuals and a strong story thatís at least somewhat grounded in reality. Rango offers a plot that has no surprising turns of events, and, unfortunately, the 2nd act does start to feel tedious toward the end, but the real surprises can be found among the intricate, clever details that add richness to the film. On a purely aesthetic level, the CGI effects look so impeccable and eye-popping that youíll probably forget that itís the first animated film in recent memory thatís not in 3D. The brilliant visual effects team adds so many details to the charactersí faces that bring out their personalities. Youíll forget that Rango isnít human because heís so effectively anthropomorphized. At a running time of 1 hour and 47 minutes, Rango is amusing and thrilling albeit slightly overlong with dazzling visuals and clever nods to classic Westerns.
Number of times I checked my watch: 1
Opens nationwide.
Released by Paramount Pictures.

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