Posted on 3/18/09 11:58 AM
Edward Zwick's "Defiance" is a toothless historical drama with noble intentions of being epic in its moving and poignant story mechanics, but only succeeds in leaving the spectator in a state of inanition. Naturally, Eduardo Serra creates a memorable landscape in his direction of photography, but this becomes redundant since the movie is character-driven rather than laden in symbolic scenery. This would be all adequate if it were not for the terrible reality that these characters, completely sincere in their manner, are puppets in the flat sensationalist tone of the collective whole. When you have a war movie limited in action and suspense, you better find a group of actors who can convince as outlawed Jews.
Death Defying Acts
Plunged well into the years of middle age with perhaps his most prolific days behind him, Harry Houdini (Guy Pearce) veers towards the impossible presence of his removed origin. It has been thirteen years since the death of his mother and Harry is still in a state of mourning. The trickery of his craft has given him some sense of momentary relief, but the true magic Harry wishes to possess is the power of spiritualism. That is the picture painted of this illusionist in Gillian Armstrong's "Death Defying Acts." Most people are aware that Mr. Houdini was a literal thinker and attacked the world realistically. When one reads about how he survived a dangerous underwater act simply by showing great composure in his breathing flow, we applaud the honesty. He did not believe in real magic and was quick to call the bluff on those professing godly ability. What the movie gets absolutely right is his uncertainty of this certainty: in his claim to have this knowledge, he was closing the door on a pluralist set of beliefs, and possible connection with the person of his origin.
My Best Friend's Girl
In Dane Cook's previous movie, "Good Luck Chuck," he played a man who had been granted the stirring magnetism of single women game for sex, and who threw it all away so he could have just one woman. Now, in his latest leading role, his friends are actually paying him to wine and dine their girlfriends, because they know he can be such a jerk that the date will only contribute towards their own boyfriend material package rising in stock value. This is not a desperate attempt from Tank Turner (Cook) to get off the dole, for he already has a job, and somehow this makes the whole exercise all the more sordid. Tank actually enjoys being cruel, offensive and chauvinistic - and given how frequently his friends have relationship trouble, one wonders whether Tank can actually show a little self-awareness when he is legitimately pursuing his own choice of female companions.
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