odds and ends

Don’t believe the haters: “Changeling” is a really good, intellectually-satisfying, quietly powerful drama. Working against it mainly are the misleading trailers and title, which both wrongly imply that the film is chiefly a melodrama about Jolie’s character and the “fake” son when in fact that story is just the “human-level” anchor for a multi-level, multi-storyline, multi-character True Crime saga revolving around a hopelessly corrupt police department. It’s not the best thing anyone involved has done, but it all works and you get A LOT of movie for you’re money: It’s at once a missing-child weepie, a women-in-prison thriller, a detective story, a crime saga, a social-activism fable and even partially a pretty grim horror film. It’s unfortunate that “I want MY SON BACK!!!” has become something like this years “I wish I knew how to quit you!!!” when A.) the actual scene, in-context, KILLS and B.) Jolie’s performance otherwise is a marvel of restrained, internalized acting.

“Madagascar 2” is about what you’d expect: Every funny bit from the first movie gets trotted back out to overstay it’s welcome (even the crazy old lady who got into a fight with the lion is back!) and the funny new material… isn’t very funny. It’s not bad, but it’s just a quick paycheck for everyone involved.

“Zack & Miri Make a Porno” is cute and, thankfully, hysterically funny in spots. It’s nice to see Kevin Smith SUCCESSFULLY branch out, though it does seem kind of perfectly appropriate that this newest “break” from his View Askew franchise is largely a story about, yes: a schlubby, bearded slacker who finds direction and fulfillment by shooting a no-budget movie at his workplace starring his buddies. There’s really no antagonist or much tension as to whether or not what we all know will happen will happen, but it’s good-natured. The big revelations are, in order… #1: The new ‘cleaned-up’ Jason Mewes actually CAN act and be engaging as a character that isn’t just a caricature of himself – in fact, he walks off with huge chunks of the film. #2: Brandon Routh? Good at comedy, alarmingly tall – alarming in the sense that you wonder “why didn’t they take advantage of that stature in ‘Superman’ where he always appeared to be of average height?” #3: Justin Long? Yes, he can be more than “a Mac” – he’s fantastic. #4: Real-life porn starlet Katie Morgan? Button-cute, funny as hell, solid comic actress and instantly likable (though those of you who’ve seen her various jokey HBO specials already knew that.) A mainstream comedy film career is hers, if she wants it.

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