The Freshman (Sam Taylor/Fred C. Newmeyer) ***1/2 - I don't think it's QUITE as great as Safety Last! but it's pretty darn great Harold Lloyd film. A college freshman struggles to find popularity and acceptance with the upperclassmen. Harold Lloyd as usual blends a lot of clever gags and physical humor with great filmmaking. There's also a lot of pathos and sweetness in it too. I suspect a lot of college-set comedies and comedy sports movies after this stole a lot ideas from this film.
Ilo-Ilo (Anthony Chen) ***1/2 -
This is Singapore's entry to the Best Foreign Film Oscar race. I think
it deserves to get in. It's a wonderful, deceptively simple little drama
about a Singaporean family who hires a Filipina nanny/maid who forms a
bond with the family's young son. Very loosely autobiographical, the
film is heartfelt and very sweet without being cloying. It has emotional
heft. The quartet of actors all hit the right notes under the very
assured direction of first-time director Anthony Chen, who is really a
talent to keep an eye out on. One of the best films of the year.
Ender's Game (Gavin Hood) *** - I
read the book this film was based on which I really enjoyed but that
was years ago and I barely remember it so I'm not 100% sure how faithful
it is. But based on what I remember, I think they hit everything. I'm
surprised how much I enjoyed this though. The dialogue is borderline
George Lucas/Phantom Menace
terrible but thankfully, the strong cast actually sells it. The first
two acts which SEEM to push a neocon rah-rah-rah view of war was
thankfully salvaged in the end though. The repugnant beliefs of author
Orson Scott Card aside, this film is a solid sci-fi action picture.