“Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead” will take you for a ride

Directed by Sydney Lumet. If you think you have problems or that your family is messed up or that your life hasn’t turned out the way you hoped it would, watch Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead and you’ll be grateful for everything you’ve got. It’s difficult to talk about the plot without giving away the story, but it involves two brothers who plan a heist that goes all wrong. And that’s just the beginning of their troubles. It’s the kind of story that only exists in movies, but the people feel so real, their reactions to the extreme circumstances so genuine, that it works. It’s completely engaging. The entire cast — Philip Seymour Hoffman, Albert Finney and even Ethan Hawke — couldn’t have given better performances. When you see acting on this level, you quickly realise how mediocre most actors are and what a challenging profession it really is. (Marisa Tomei has a major role, but they don’t give her much to do except take off her shirt.) It’s not a happy movie (though I had to laugh at the absurdity of it all from time to time), but it’s so over the top and compelling, it’s difficult to look away.

Note: The movie is much better than the sensationalized take in trailer.

“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)