Christopher Orr

Flower Power
November 10, 2007

A promising but junior GOP Senator (not the president) is announcing the nation’s bold new military strategy in the war on terrorism. He does so in an exclusive interview with a reporter (not in a televised address or press conference). And the reporter to whom he grants the interview is ideologically hostile to him (not a useful propagandist). We’re a few scant minutes into Lions for Lambs and already it’s offered up more inanity than any politically “serious” movie should ever contemplate.<?xml:namespace prefix = o /> It is, of course, only just getting started.

Don't Mess With The Coens' Texas
November 09, 2007

“In Russia, they got it mapped out so that everyone pulls for everyone else,” explains M. Emmet Walsh in the voiceover that opened the Coen brothers’ first film, Blood Simple. “That’s the theory, anyway. But what I know about is Texas, and down here you’re on your own.” Made for less than two million dollars in 1984, the fierce, meticulous thriller launched not only the Coens’ career, but, to a significant degree, the neo-noir revival and the modern indie movement.

All He Really Needs To Know He Learned In Gracie Mansion
November 06, 2007

To recap: Rudy Giuliani has now argued that his tenure as Mayor of the Universe New York City gives him better foreign policy credentials than Joe Biden, a keener understanding of torture than John McCain, more experience at Ground Zero than the actual recovery workers, and a unique ability to secure the nation's borders against illegal immigrants. At least now his contention that his wife is a bioterror expert thanks to her nursing background seems a little less out of left field. For more TNR, become a fan on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

'American Gangster': Too Familiar
November 03, 2007

If there’s one thing I took away from Ridley Scott’s American Gangster, it’s this: It’s really, really hard to make a fresh, original mob movie. This isn’t to suggest Scott’s film is a bad one: On the contrary, the movie is exceptionally well-made, with a sharp script, meticulous direction, and typically terrific performances from its leads, Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe.

Towering Inferno
November 02, 2007

Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead opens with an unflatteringly naked Andy Hanson (Philip Seymour Hoffman) conjugally conjoined with his far more flatteringly naked wife, Gina (Marisa Tomei). They are in Rio, they are in bed, and they are, for the moment at least, in love. Hearts may not be entertaining June, and an amber moon is nowhere in evidence, but Brazil has nonetheless worked its magic on their unhappy lives and marriage. As Gina elegantly puts it, “I don’t feel like such a fuck-up when I’m here.” Andy assures her that they’ll come back again.

October 25, 2007

“I have only made this letter so long,” Blaise Pascal famously wrote in his Lettres provinciales, “because I have not had time to make it shorter.” The cinematic re-creators of Sleuth--screenwriter Harold Pinter and director Kenneth Branagh--have had 35 years to improve upon Joseph Mankiewicz’s 1972 version and, if nothing else, they have corrected its greatest flaw: length. Mankiewicz’s film ran to nearly two hours and twenty minutes--an absurd duration for a clever but ephemeral drawing-room mystery.

Poorly Rendered
October 22, 2007

Anwar El-Ibrahimi (Omar Metwally) is living the American dream. He went to NYU, found well-paying work as a chemical engineer, married his gorgeous college sweetheart, Isabella Fields (Reese Witherspoon), moved to the <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 />Chicago suburbs, and has one poster-worthy child with another on the way. There are just two problems: First, though he’s lived in the States for 20 years, Anwar was born in Egypt; second, his cell phone has evidently been called on more than one occasion by a terrorist named Rashid.

Kiss Me, Cate
October 08, 2007

We learn a great many things in the opening minutes of Elizabeth: The Golden Age, the sequel to 1998's Elizabeth. The year is 1585. Elizabeth I (Cate Blanchett) is still queen of England, and a Protestant (which, in the film's lexicon, roughly translates to tolerant, open-minded agnostic). Philip II (Jordi Molla) is the king of Spain, and a Catholic (shorthand for violent religious extremist). Philip hates Elizabeth and is plotting to put her Catholic cousin, Mary Stuart (Samantha Morton), on the throne in her place.

Affleck's Redemption
October 08, 2007

Gone Baby Gone begins, simply--if horribly--enough with the taking of a little girl. Four-year-old Amanda McCready is plucked from her bed in Boston's working-class Dorchester neighborhood one night while her mother, Helene (Amy Ryan), is apparently at a neighbor's house watching television. The police undertake a massive hunt for Amanda, but their efforts are not enough for the little girl's aunt (Amy Madigan), who seeks out private eyes Patrick Kenzie (Casey Affleck) and Angie Gennaro (Michelle Monaghan) to help with the investigation.

Not Hot
October 04, 2007

Author's note: The movie The Hottest State, which had a limited opening several weeks ago, was supposed to be released more broadly two weeks ago. A few days before the opening, though, the studio announced that the film was being delayed, and would be released the subsequent week. Early last week, it was again delayed, with a planned opening this Friday. I double-checked with the studio that this date was certain and, when assured it was, finished this review.