The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford
Dullsville and then some. Artfully shot, for sure, but ripping off Malick isn’t as easy as it looks. The voice-over narration, always describing what we already saw, doesn’t create openings but locks the movie down even more than the airless, repetitive scenes between paranoid outlaws. Sam Shepard disappears much too early, and soon thereafter, the drama completely stalls. After thirty minutes, I was begging for Casey Affleck to shoot Brad Pitt in the head already, but there were two more hours to go. Andrew Dominik, 2007. *

3:10 to Yuma
Now, this is how you do a western: engaging, exciting, and steeped in sepia tones. Russell Crowe plays a bandit who has to be brought to justice; Christian Bale is the one-legged stand-up guy to do it. Together with his performances in Rescue Dawn and I’m Not There, Bale is one of my favorite actors this year. James Mangold, 2007. ***

The Bucket List
The trailer for this movie is so hideous, we just had to check it out. Also, we might have been drunk. If Jack Nicholson throwing up in a hospital gown or jumping out of airplanes is your idea of fun, go right ahead. Sanctimonious Morgan Freeman is starting to get on my nerves. Rob Reiner, 2007. *


In Between Days
We had high hopes for this unassuming coming-of-age story about a Korean immigrant. I’m perfectly willing to stomach a slight story, mannered direction, or uncommunicative main characters — but if you heap them on top of each other, I’m probably already asleep. 83% on Rotten Tomatoes. So Yong Kim, 2007. *

The Brave One
Jodie Foster and Terrence Howard have what they call “good chemistry” in this surprisingly gripping tale of New York City revenge. Neil Jordan, 2007. ***

In the Valley of Elah
Worlds better than Crash, but that’s not saying much of anything. Tommy Lee Jones and Charlize Theron try to solve the murder of his son, an AWOL soldier on leave from Iraq. In the process, they discover all sorts of truths about important issues. See Redacted instead. Paul Haggis, 2007. **

Every bit as lovely the second time around. I finally discovered the title in the film, and I have a new favorite line: “Can I bring my mother?” Marcy’s review. John Carney, 2007. ****


No Country for Old Men
Wildly overpraised. Yes, I can see the expert filmmaking here, but all the sumptuous cinematography and vivid attention to detail is lavished on a story full of walking cliches and a lousy third act. On second viewing, the glaring problems with both plot and character — what Marcy called “lack of soul” — are impossible to ignore. Llewelyn’s too foolish to care for, the Coens avert their gaze at the crucial moment, and Bell’s defeatist retread of Marge Gunderson leaves us with a dire moral: “you can’t stop what’s coming.” Oh well then. No Country wastes a lot of hard-boiled effort on a tale that ends with an Old Testament shrug. Joel and Ethan Coen, 2007. **