QUARANTINE: No, I haven’t seen “[REC]” yet, but this U.S. remake (same basic story: “last known video footage” of a news crew, firefighters and residents trapped in a building as an outbreak of weaponized super-rabies is turning everyone into feral cannibalistic crazies) has the stuff. I should preface this by mentioning that I absolutely DETEST “found-footage” movies on basic prinicipal – I regard it as the single most one-note, laziness-encouraging subgenres in all of modern filmmaking. There ARE standouts like Blair Witch and Cloverfield, but the VAST majority of the genre is absolute trash. But “Quarantine,” in a single solitary scene (trust me, you’ll know it when you see it, and if the scene occurs in “[REC]” the praise should apply retroactively) justifies the ENTIRE fucking genre. Seriously. As far as I’m concerned, every single “found footage” movie made thus far from “Cannibal Holocaust” to “Last Broadcast” all the way up to now has been building up to this ONE moment. Bravo.
BODY OF LIES: Poor Leonardo DiCaprio. Just when he was starting to hit the point where he no longer appeared too young to be playing men his own actual age along comes Ridley Scott to drop ANOTHER impossible physical acting job on him: An American spy who can convincingly disguise himself as an Arab terrorist in Iraq. Granted, he’s only asked to do this in one scene, but it strikes a serious false-note in an otherwise pretty damn good War on Terror spy movie. It’s basically a cops vs. feds vs. crooks deal set in the Middle East – DiCaprio is the field agent who immerses himself in the culture and street-level reality of enemy territory to take the fight to Al Qaeda, butting heads with Russell Crowe as the older CIA lifer who’d rather do things via smart-bombs, GPS satellites and his cell phone. Mark Strong gets another big “hey, who THIS now?” supporting part as the Jordanian Intelligence officer who’s help they seek in setting up an anti-terror sting operation. Nothing Earth-shaking, but decent.
THE EXPRESS: True story of Ernie Davis, first black player to recieve the Heisman Trophy. The movie you’re imagining as you read that sentence is the movie you get here, not a single surprise or stylistic shakeup. But it’s a well-worn formula for a reason, and it more or less delivers. Dennis Quaid gets all the big lines as the tough-but-fair coach with a heart of gold. Extra points, at least, for concentrating almost exclusively on the football scenes and their direct external components and not weighing us down with extraneous backstory.