Moral Complexity in “Eastern Promises”

David Cronenberg seems to get off on showing close-up shots of gruesome things like people getting their faces blown off with a shot-gun (re: A History of Violence). In a world where beheadings make the news at least two or three times a year, showing two separate scenes of people getting their throats slit is unnecessary. That’s one aspect of Cronenberg’s style I could do without. If you don’t like that kind of thing, just close your eyes for the few seconds when it happens, because the rest of the movie is excellent and well-worth watching.

Eastern Promises tells the story of a doctor, Naomi Watts, who delivers a baby from a woman who works in a brothel. The mother dies and the doctor tries to track down the baby’s family and subsequently gets tangled up with the Russian Mafia — and those guys don’t fool around. Viggo Mortensen, as one of the Russian henchmen, has sympathy for her and tells her to go home and forget about it. But she doesn’t. And from there on in it’s, Oh, jesus, what the hell’s going to happen now? I was surprised at the emotional and moral complexity of the film. Eastern Promises is a thriller with a conscience, and the best I’ve seen from Cronenberg.

“Iron Man” is Fun

Iron Man — I enjoyed Iron Man more than any super hero movie that has come out in recent years. It’s well-acted and it tells a good story that doesn’t exist just to show off special effects. Had the producers gone heavy on the CGI, it could have easily slipped into mind-numbing territory like Transformers. Instead, it’s in a league of its own, presenting us with real characters and a compelling origin story that doesn’t feel childish or cartoonish but is still entertaining and full of really cool stuff. (May 4/08)

28 Weeks Later — The sequel to the apocalyptic zombie thriller 28 Days Later. That movie, which fell a little short of being great, scared the crap out of me and is worth watching because it presents such a convincing last-man-on-earth scenario. 28 Weeks Later gives us all-new characters and then brings on “the infected” (or the zombies) in full force. It effectively re-creates the run-for-life elements of the original movie. The ending is stupid, but it’s passable, creepy entertainment. (May 2/08)

Alien vs. Predator: Requiem — Even with some occasionally impressive cinematography, AVPR is unwatchable for anyone with an IQ over zero. It’s not even passable as a B-movie. Thank gods for the fast-forward button. (May 1/08)