Eugene Weekly : Movies : 2.1.07


This Weeks Movie Reviews:

The Last King of Scotland Directed by Kevin Macdonald. Written by Peter Morgan and Jeremy Brock. Based on the novel by Giles Foden. Music, Alex Heffes. Starring Forest Whitaker, James McAvoy, Kerry Washington, Simon McBurney and Gillian Anderson. Fox Searchlight Pictures, 2006. 121 minutes. R.

Many filmgoers don’t take the whims of Oscar voters seriously — a reasonable notion, doubly so in a year that voters barely recognized such a stellar mainstream film as Children of Men. But to some of us, the annual pomp and circumstance that marks the end of the cinematic year is irresistible. So it’s easy to look a little cynically at The Last King of Scotland, a September release that has only now arrived in Eugene, trailing awards and acclaim for its star, Forest Whitaker. The movie itself, though well-received, is not a contender, which begs an obvious question: Why not? Read more…


Smokin’ Aces Written and directed by Joe Carnahan. Cinematography, Mauro Fiore. Music, Clint Mansell. Starring Ben Affleck, Jason Bateman, Common, Andy Garcia, Alicia Keys, Ray Liotta, Jeremy Piven and Ryan Reynolds. Universal Pictures, 2007. R. 108 minutes.

Widely thrashed as a weak hodgepodge of Quentin Tarantino films, Smokin’ Aces actually borrows from the lesser films that followed in Pulp Fiction’s wake. Tarantino’s 1994 masterpiece established a new subgenre of crime drama, one that explored the lighter, almost mundane side of violent crime via a densely threaded, non-linear plot. Tarantino tapped directly into in Seinfeld-era silliness, giving us ruthless gangsters who weren’t above debating the provenance of “royale with cheese.” Although several films built upon Tarantino’s legacy, no crime film ever exceeded Pulp Fiction for the sheer audacity of its humor, vulnerability and complexity. Smokin’ Aces, as a mere imitation of imitations, has very little (if anything) original to offer. It aspires to the style of Ocean’s Eleven and the complexity of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, but falls short of even Boondock Saints or the forgettable 2 Days in the Valley. It’s a confused and confusing picture. Read more…