Sunday, January 6, 2008

Charlie Wilson's War - Movie Review

Charlie Wilson's War (R) 97 minutes B
Assman takes on the Soviet Union
Starring Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, and Ned Beatty

Sometimes I am a little leery of star-studded films like Charlie Wilson's War. Films this top heavy can sometimes be more flash than substance. Starring Oscar winners Julie Roberts, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Tom Hanks, as well as Oscar nominees Ned Beatty and Amy Adams. I feared that this film might be a late season, big budget bore. But I underestimated Oscar winning director Mike Nichols (The Graduate, Primary Colors, Working Girl and Closer), and multiple Emmy winner Aaron Sorkin (screenplay).

Hanks, Roberts and Hoffman work well together as a trio, and although the film lacks edginess, it does do a nice job of balancing comedy and serious drama.

Charlie Wilson's War tells the story of congressman Charlie Wilson, he's living the dream of power, prestige and gettin' booty. It seems that the Texas congressman has been skating by for years until Houston socialite (and friend-with-benefits gal pal) Joanne Herring (Roberts) ropes him into going to Pakistan for her own political reasons.

After seeing the refugee camps in Pakistan and hearing the accounts of Soviet atrocities, Charlie finds inspiration and motivation to actually do some congressional work. With help from Herring and CIA bad-boy Gust Avrakotos (Hoffman), Charlie brings down the Soviet Union and ends the Cold War.

Phillip Seymour Hoffman has had a phenomenal year (Before the Devil Know Your Dead, The Savages) but I predict he will be nominated for an Oscar for his role in this film. Also, kudos to Emily Blunt who gets the "sexiest cameo in film award 2007" for her brief presence in this film, wow!

This film is good... especially for fans of Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts.

Starting Out in the Evening (PG-13) 111 minutes B-
Old Man & Me
Starring Frank Langella, Lauren Ambrose, Lili Taylor, Karl Bury, Anitha Gandhi, Sean T. Krishnan, Jessica Hecht, and Adrian Lester

Heather (Ambrose) has ruby red lips, long red hair, and eyes you can drown in. Poised, beautiful, and smart, she's a heart attack waiting to happen if your Leonard Schiller (Langella). She's also an ambitious and alluring grad student who wants to reintroduce novelist Leonard Schiller to the world.

But Leonard is an old man now, author of 4 out of print novels, and plugging away on his fifth and final novel for the last 10 years. It seems as though Heather might be the inspiration Leonard needs to finish his novel, but is she more trouble then it's worth? Either way, every (old) man needs a thrill.

This film bleeds of longing, and to a certain degree, regret. It also tells the story of Leonard's daughter, 39 year old Ariel (Taylor). Unlucky in love, never married and desperately wanting to have a child, I found the Ariel character very likable and realistic in a vulnerable kind of way. The two plot points with the father and daughter kind of intersects, but nothing here is wrapped up nice and neat like many of the Hollywood films today. Starting Out in the Evening leaves us to interpret and imagine the outcome of these character's lives on our own.

The film is a good chamber drama but probably not for everyone. Fans of May-December romance and Literature drama might find this especially appealing.

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