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Catch-Up Capsule Reviews for the Week of 12/21/2007:

The Perfect Holiday



Rated PG | 96 mins


     The Perfect Holiday is one of the most clichť, dopey, predictable, and cheaply-made Christmas movies ever released in American theatres, but itís also strangely one of the most likable. The picture functions as a comfort in much the same way that a Hallmark Channel Holiday Special does, so ordinary in its indulgence in the Christmas Spirit that it somehow becomes identifiable in the process. As filmgoers, we may not be able to relate to movies that transport us to the North Pole and there try to woo us with red and green imagery, but we are certainly able to sympathize with the everyday (if cartoonishly-constructed) characters found in The Perfect Holiday. From Gabrielle Unionís lonely divorcee to her three children in need of a real father-figure (their Daddyís a hack of a rapper who only sees them when he needs them to appear in a television interview with him) to the shopping-mall-Santa (Morris Chestnut) who wishes to fit that bill, all of the personalities in the movie certainly gain the viewerís emotional investment. The filmís sometimes-poor acting and shoddy production-values only work to make it more warmly and agreeably inconsequential. Still, one could probably turn on the aforementioned Hallmark Channel and find something just as good as The Perfect Holiday playing; there isnít anything to distinguish it from the rest of the pact. But when the movie makes it to cable itself, Iím sure that it will do just the trick to pleasantly waste two hours (including commercials, that is) of your time.


No Country for Old Men



Rated R | 122 mins


     In my five years as a critic, I have learned that the best films seek deep into oneís conscience, witling away at oneís senses long after one has seen them. It is, in part, my job to come to terms with this: to try to explain the unexplainable, to put said filmsí accomplishments into words. With No Country for Old Men, I am unable to do this. Not since 2003ís Lost in Translation has a motion picture left me so speechless, so eager to cling onto the way that it made me feel rather than to dissect it into wordy pieces. In fact, I canít really say what it is about this film that allows me to respond to it in the way that I do. Sure, I could narrow my admiration for its many accomplishments down to a few surface descriptors: Javier Bardem gives a miraculous performance as Anton Chigurh, quite possibly the most chilling film villain since Hannibal Lecter; the Coen Brothers return to form in the directorís chair, scrapping a musical score and relying on long, masterfully-constructed takes to create atmosphere instead; and cinematographer Roger Deakins gives the whole picture an eerie, dimly-lit vibe that allows it to slowly work its way into the viewerís mind. But even after realizing what I admire most about No Country for Old Men, I still canít put my finger on what exactly allows it to come together in the stunningly affecting way that it does. Maybe itís source-author Cormac McCarthyís command of the American Southwestern setting. Perhaps itís the Coen Brotherís adaptation of McCarthyís challenging language. It could even be Josh Brolinís quietly commanding presence in the lead role of hunted-down-hunter Llewelyn Moss. Even if Iím not sure of the reason, I do know that No Country for Old Men is a masterpiece. Iíve already seen it twice and all I want to do is see it again.


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