7,714 Movies, and Counting

When he was 12, NEWSWEEK's David Ansen started a list of every film he'd seen. No. 1 was 'Cinderella.' The last is—well, that's a long story. In fact, it's the story of his life, and of his generation.

A Cautionary Tale

Ang Lee's opulent new period melodrama is filled with explosive elements that never fully ignite.

Bite-Size Cinema

Three big-name filmmakers are behind three big-budget ad campaigns on TV right now. They gave us 30 seconds of cinema, so our critic David Ansen gives them 30-second reviews: Michel Gondry for Motorola: A slicker, busier version of the cardboard-cutout surrealism of "The Science of Sleep," this French ad for the Razr2 cell phone is terribly hip, but what exactly it's selling (aside from Gondry's style) is unclear. Michael Mann for Nike : Wow. A tactile paean to all-out effort, Mann's mini-action flick is one continuous movement of bone-crushing contact, set to the stirring score of his "Last of the Mohicans." The message: "Leave nothing." Mann obliges. Wes Anderson for AT&T: Where some directors cut, the artifice-loving Anderson likes to move his camera from room to room, going for a living diorama effect. That's what he does in his droll spots for AT&T, showing in one unbroken shot the many worlds a customer visits by phone in a day. Clever.

The Hollywood War Front

Angry filmmakers are gung-ho on Iraq movies, but the war as entertainment is proving to be a tough sell to audiences.

Ansen Reviews 'Into the Wild'

How you respond to Sean Penn's vital, lyrical, unsettling adaptation of Jon Krakauer's nonfiction book—whether you find the idealistic Christopher McCandless's (Emile Hirsch) search for freedom exemplary or self-indulgent (or somewhere in between)—will depend on your own history. McCandless gave up all his worldly possessions, changed his name to Alexander Supertramp and began a solitary cross-country odyssey that ended in wintry Alaska. Penn's eye for landscapes is stunning, and his affection for outsider lifestyles is tangible. Hirsch, who carries the film on his increasingly emaciated shoulders, performs heroically, but there's an edge missing. The ideal casting would have been the young Sean Penn.Wes Anderson ("The Royal Tenenbaums") transports his arch, pristine, melancholic sensibility to India, where three estranged brothers meet after their father's death and hop a train in a quixotic attempt to heal their spiritual wounds. The oldest is the bossy, gung-ho Francis (Owen...

Turning Back The Clock

There was a lot of grumbling last week at the Toronto Film Festival about how this venerable showcase for world cinema has been turned into a launching pad for Hollywood's Oscar campaigns. With the likes of Jodie Foster, Brad Pitt and George Clooney parading down Bloor Street, one could've easily mistaken the festival for an out-of-town Hollywood press junket. But under the glittering surface was a more interesting story. A striking number of the American movies on display were throwbacks to the cinema of the 1960s and '70s, in both subject and style. Just as the ghost of Vietnam hangs over Iraq, the spirit of the social-protest movies of the early '70s can be felt in the myriad films tackling terror in the Middle East—from Paul Haggis's "In the Valley of Elah" to 1960s maestro Brian de Palma's blistering "Redacted," a fictionalized account of the rape and murder of a young Iraqi girl and her family by U.S. soldiers.Some of the movies truly took us back to the 1960s. Julie Taymor's...

Ansen on the Toronto Film Festival

The movies in this year's Toronto Film Festival were collectively like a wayback machine to the obsessions—and the memorable filmmaking—of the '60s and '70s.

The Train To The Plain

James Mangold’s remake of the 1957 Western “3:10 to Yuma” is a decent-enough entertainment, though it’s hardly going to breathe new life to a genre whose demise has been reported for at least 30 years. What this version offers is the chance to watch Russell Crowe and Christian Bale—two of the more charismatic, macho leading men around—duke it out psychologically, while another fine but less well-known intensity artist, Ben Foster, steals whatever scenes are left.Bale plays beleaguered rancher Dan Evans, who’s hobbled by a Civil War injury. Unable to pay his bills, he’s lost the respect of his wife (Gretchen Mol) and 14-year-old son, Will (Logan Lerman), and is about to lose his ranch. Evans glimpses a chance for both money and redemption by signing up to bring the legendary outlaw Ben Wade (Crowe) to the train station in Contention, Ariz., where the 3:10 will take Wade to face justice in Yuma.Crowe’s Wade is everything the struggling rancher isn’t—suave, confident, a master...

Review: 'Rocket Science' Has Big Brain, Bigger Heart

Hal Hefner (Reece Daniel Thompson) is a stutterer. His problem is so severe that he has to practice ordering pizza as he stands in line at his high-school cafeteria—and has to settle for sloppy Joes because he can't get the words out fast enough. Hal would seem to be the least likely candidate in the world to join the school's debate team, yet he's recruited by its alluring, motormouthed star, Ginny Ryerson (Anna Kendrick), to replace her former partner, the legendary Ben Wekselbaum (Nicholas D'Agosto), after he suffers an onstage meltdown at the New Jersey State Finals and drops out of school."Rocket Science" joins a long line of movies about teenage outcasts struggling to find their place in the world; two years ago the prize entry was "Thumbsucker." But this sharp and painfully funny coming-of-age story—a hyperarticulate comedy about an inarticulate boy—manages to avoid just about every cliché of the genre. Each time you fear it's going to go for the obvious, it upends your...

Review: 'Rocket Science' Has Big Brain, Bigger Heart

Hal Hefner (Reece Daniel Thompson) is a stutterer. His problem is so severe that he has to practice ordering pizza as he stands in line at his high-school cafeteria—and has to settle for sloppy Joes because he can't get the words out fast enough. Hal would seem to be the least likely candidate in the world to join the school's debate team, yet he's recruited by its alluring, motormouthed star, Ginny Ryerson (Anna Kendrick), to replace her former partner, the legendary Ben Wekselbaum (Nicholas D'Agosto), after he suffers an onstage meltdown at the New Jersey State Finals and drops out of school."Rocket Science" joins a long line of movies about teenage outcasts struggling to find their place in the world; two years ago the prize entry was "Thumbsucker." But this sharp and painfully funny coming-of-age story—a hyperarticulate comedy about an inarticulate boy—manages to avoid just about every cliché of the genre. Each time you fear it's going to go for the obvious, it upends your...

Deadly Decisions

Lucidly, dramatically and without resorting to partisan rhetoric, Charles Ferguson's not-to-be-missed documentary "No End in Sight" lays out in convincing, appalling detail the disastrous missteps of the U.S. occupation of Iraq. The magnitude of the errors perpetrated by the Bush administration—a lethal combination of ignorance, incompetence, arrogance, bad or nonexistent planning, cronyism and naiveté—can make you weep with anger. We hear about the many jobs in Iraq handed to the sons of Bush campaign donors, and of the young woman, fresh out of college, who is put in charge of managing all traffic in chaotic Baghdad—despite having no experience studying traffic control or speaking Arabic.These examples would almost be funny were they not a microcosm of all the bad edicts that emanated from Washington. Those decisions were made by a small cadre—Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Condoleeza Rice and the president, all of whom declined to be interviewed for the film—that...

'Bourne Ultimatum': Meth for Action Junkies

How fast and furious is the third installment of the Bourne trilogy? Just in the first 15 minutes it charges from a chase in Moscow to CIA headquarters in Langley, Va.; to Turin, Italy; Paris, London and New York City, barely pausing to catch its (or our) breath. The amnesiac assassin Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) is on the run again, closing in on the secret of his identity, outsmarting and outmuscling vast teams of CIA hit men who use every weapon in their arsenal to stop him from discovering the truth about his past.For action junkies, "The Bourne Ultimatum" will be like a hit of pure meth. It's bravura filmmaking in the jittery, handheld, frenetically edited Paul Greengrass style. That visceral, vérité style caught many people by surprise in "The Bourne Supremacy." (They obviously hadn't seen his earlier film about the Irish Troubles, "Bloody Sunday.") But now, after his acclaimed, unnerving "United 93," we know what he can do, and it's momentarily disconcerting to realize that he...

Ansen Looks at Bergman, Antonioni

On the same day, two giants of the cinema gone. For anyone who grew up in the golden age of cinephilia—that remarkable period between the end of the 1950s and the mid ‘70s, when movies held pride of place at the white-hot center of the culture—the passing of Ingmar Bergman, 89, and Michelangelo Antonioni, 94, is the kind of double whammy that slams the door on an era.They will be remembered, however, for the doors of perception they opened. If you were a teenager raised on Hollywood movies, your first encounter with Bergman’s “Wild Strawberries” or “The Seventh Seal” was a life-altering expe­rience, a shocking immersion into Swedish angst, expressionistic dream sequences, daunting symbolism (clocks without hands!) and a brooding black-and-white existentialism that was a slap in the face to the Technicolor optimism of your child­hood fantasies. A few years later (in 1960, to be precise) came Antonioni’s rule-break­ing “L’Avventura,” a mystery without a so­lution, a despairing but...

Review: Don Cheadle Is 'Sensational' in New Film

Don Cheadle has proved time and again that he's an actor of many faces. The only common denominator between his work in "Devil in a Blue Dress," "Boogie Nights," "Ocean's Eleven" and "Hotel Rwanda" is his quicksilver talent. The beauty of his performance in "Talk to Me," playing the streetwise, flamboyantly cocky yet deeply insecure radio DJ Petey Greene, is how many faces he can locate in this one man—often in the same moment. It's a sensational turn, unlike anything he's done.Greene was an ex-con who became a radio icon in Washington, D.C., in the late '60s with his profane, tell-it-like-it-is braggadocio. When the city exploded in the aftermath of Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination, it was Greene's wise on-air improvisations that helped keep the rage in check. Brilliant, alcoholic and self-destructive, Greene is the fascinating subject of Kasi Lemmons's funky, R&B-driven biopic—a vital entertainment that struts confidently between comedy and drama.The equally versatile...

Review: Don Cheadle Is 'Sensational' in New Film

Don Cheadle has proved time and again that he's an actor of many faces. The only common denominator between his work in "Devil in a Blue Dress," "Boogie Nights," "Ocean's Eleven" and "Hotel Rwanda" is his quicksilver talent. The beauty of his performance in "Talk to Me," playing the streetwise, flamboyantly cocky yet deeply insecure radio DJ Petey Greene, is how many faces he can locate in this one man—often in the same moment. It's a sensational turn, unlike anything he's done.Greene was an ex-con who became a radio icon in Washington, D.C., in the late '60s with his profane, tell-it-like-it-is braggadocio. When the city exploded in the aftermath of Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination, it was Greene's wise on-air improvisations that helped keep the rage in check. Brilliant, alcoholic and self-destructive, Greene is the fascinating subject of Kasi Lemmons's funky, R&B-driven biopic—a vital entertainment that struts confidently between comedy and drama.The equally versatile...

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