Gettin' My Review On!
Reign Over Me- Alan Johnson (Don Cheadle) is a successful New York City dentist. His life however is far from perfect. His parents live in his apartment and are not talking to each other, while his marriage to Janeane (Jada Pinkett-Smith) has become so full of routine that dropping his daughter off at a friend's house is like a rare moment of freedom. On top of this he's being threatened with a lawsuit by a mentally deranged patient (Saffron Burrows) who is obsessed with him. However, things are put sharply into perspective for him when he runs into his old college roommate, Charlie Fineman (Adam Sandler). Upon meeting on the street, it takes awhile for Charlie to remember Alan, who desperately wants to help his old friend in any way he can.
Charlie's wife and daughters were on one of the high-jacked planes on September 11. More than five years later, Charlie is still shut down emotionally, avoiding his in-laws or anyone who reminds him of the life that he's lost. He's not reclusive (he goes out to bars to play drums in a local rock band) and is happy to re-connect with Alan because as one character puts it, "You're the one person who doesn't remember Charlie's family." But any mention of his previous life or his family sends him into a fit of blind rage, often directed at Alan.
"Reign Over Me" is written and directed by Mike Binder, and like his previous film (2005's "The Upside of Anger") it is a unique and moving film filled with terrific dialogue and it believably flows between comedy and drama. And as he proved in "Upside," he writes interesting female characters far better than most screenwriters. Every character in this movie, no matter how small has a personality and makes an impact on the world of the film. Ultimately though, this is Alan and Charlie's story. While Charlie struggles to open up to anyone about what he has suffered, Alan struggles to open up to his own wife about their current lives together. Alan needs Charlie too.
"Reign Over Me" clicks the majority of the time, and the rare occasions when it does not are brief. Strong work by all involved. 8.5/10
Shooter- While the new film from Antoine Fuqua ("Training Day") is certainly watchable and has some good explosions, it's also a blatant knock off of everything from "Rambo" to "Commando" to "The Fugitive" to "Unforgiven" (well one particular scene in "Unforgiven" anyway).
Now it has been established in recent years that Mark Wahlberg is pretty B.A. and he certainly is here. Michael Pena ("Crash") also manages to give a worthwhile performance as a young FBI agent who believes that Wahlberg's character, Bob Lee Swagger (yes that's really his name) did not in fact assassinate anyone. You see Swagger is on the run from the EEEEVIL G-men who set him up. They are led by Danny Glover who reaches levels of what Waylan Smithers would call "cartoonish supervillainy." Sadly, Glover's mustache is not long enough for him to actually twirl. Throughout the movie's game of cat-and-mouse with explosions, we also get plenty of unintelligible dialogue (Wahlberg mumbles while Glover reaches new levels of gruffness that only work if your name is Tom Waits). And the makers of "Shooter" decided that they had to make this movie "important." Honestly if I wanted to be beaten over the head with a political message I would turn on the news. There are worse ways to spend a couple of hours, but there are a whole lot of better ones too. 4.5/10
The Namesake- The story of the Ganguli family takes a little while to get going but once it does it becomes a very rewarding experience. We meet Ashoke Ganguli (Irfan Khan) as a young man as he rides the rails. The normally shy Ashoke pulls his head out of his book (Nikolai Gogol's "The Overcoat") long enough to talk to a stranger who encourages him to see the world while he is still young. Mere seconds later Ashoke becomes the sole survivor of a violent crash. Ashoke credits Gogol's book with saving his life. When it comes time to name his first child with his arranged wife Ashima (Tabu) in New York, Ashoke knows the name he wants. As a small child Gogol loves his name, but as he grows up it makes him the butt of constant jokes amongst his American classmates.
Gogol (Kal Penn, atoning for "Epic Movie") is really a typical American kid in many ways, rocking out to Pearl Jam in his room. We see his transformation over the next decade as a man who knows virtually nothing of his Indian heritage to a man who fully embraces it while remaining as American as he ever was.
Mira Nair and Sooni Taraporevala's film from the novel by Jhumpa Lahiri is a very engaging look at a family that anybody could relate to. Most movie dads are either bumbling idiots, snarky disciplinarians, or so nice it hurts. Movie moms tend to be overbearing trainwrecks or too perfect to be believed. Not these ones. As they are written and played by Khan and Tabu we see very realistic parents doing things we could see our own parents doing.
"The Namesake" is a very good film, and it refreshingly tells its story in chronological order, something you don't normally see in this sort of movie anymore. Also, special mention of the makeup work in this film. We really see people age here in a natural looking way. 8/10
Also playing: I Think I Love My Wife- 5/10
Amazing Grace- 8.5/10
Color Me Kubrick- 9/10 (in select theaters and on DVD)