CHANGES
This will be my last post for a little bit since I am off tomorrow morning to LA for a week. I’ll be visiting the Heroes backlot again, meeting up with Bryan Fuller on Pushing Daisies and going to see Geoff Johns. Planning for interview trips is a pain in the arse because I have to make sure my iPods are with me, my camera is with me as is my laptop and that everything is charged.
Anyway, Changeling is Clint Eastwood’s latest film as a director (around the 28th film he’s helmed himself, which is pretty staggering) and it’s a period piece set in 1928 about Christine Collins (played by Angelina Jolie), a single mother whose son Walter lives with her. One day, when she goes to work, he disappears. A little while later, the police bring her a child that they claim is her son returned. But she is adamant that this boy is not her flesh and blood and so begins a campaign to discredit her, a campaign that opens up a can of worms that brings down the Los Angeles police department at the time. I am not going to reveal too much as the pleasure of Changeling lies in the twists and turns of its plot. Eastwood is a magnificent director: who else in modern Hollywood would make a Second World war film from the Japanese perspective (Letters From Iwo Jima) or adapt a modern crime classic like Lehane’s Mystic River, investing such emotional power in what could have been a step up from a made-for-TV movie? Changeling, written by J Michael Straczynski (of Babylon 5 fame) is a blistering journey through the heartbreak of Mrs Collins, played superbly by Jolie in what is arguably her only performance of real depth in her career to date, and it also exposes the corruption of the LA police force at the time while making for some truly harrowing viewing as the true fate of her son and others comes to light. Jolie’s vulnerability is sometimes painful to watch and the sympathy you feel for her character is immense. Eastwood is not a director who uses visual trickery or cheap stunts to make his point and Changeling is an understated and elegant look at one of the more shameful moments in the city’s history, based as it is on a true story. John Malkovich is activist Reverend Gustav Briegleb, one of the few characters here who comes out with any dignity and he is such a versatile actor that you would have to look closely to realise that this is the same man that the Coens employed in their Burn After Reading earlier this year. The rest of the cast are less familiar than Jolie and Malkovich and this is one of the film’s strengths. He has picked a cast because they are appropriate to the production rather than being there to attract a certain kind of audience. Eastwood is unique in today’s Hollywood and he should be lauded, as should JMS, for bringing such a work of rare beauty and emotion to the cinema screen, a work that never descends into maudlin sentimentality or manipulation. If Changeling isn’t in the Oscar nominations next year, then there’s something very wrong with the nominating process…


WANTING
Wanted the comic was an amoral and empty concoction of a comic, with Mark Millar turning in an entertaining read that didn’t really stay with you much after you finished. So now we have Wanted the movie, directed by Timur Bekmambetov, Russian director of Night Watch and Day Watch, starring James McAvoy, from Atonement, Morgan Freeman and Angelina Jolie. Wanted deals with the mundane life of one Wesley Gibson (played by McAvoy) who is drawn into a web of intrigue by Angelina Jolie when a man apparently tries to bump him off at a chemist’s and he discovers that he comes from a family of assassins. Sloan, Morgan Freeman, reveals that Gibson is part of a secret society of weavers called The Fraternity, which goes back centuries (Yes it is as stupid as that sounds). But Sloan isn’t being totally straight with Gibson as he pulls him into the assassin’s life under false pretenses. Wanted the film has removed the references to supervillains that ironically was one of the more endearing and distinctive things about the comic series and so it comes across like a dumb action movie with some nice visual flourishes. Bekmambetov, in his first English-language production, directs action pretty impressively but it’s not enough to save it. Jolie looks hot if you like the emaciated look and McAvoy does make the conversion from accounting nebbish to cool assassin with some style but Freeman looks uncomfortable and you’ve seen all of this before done with much more class elsewhere. I can’t really damn Wanted because, at the end of the day, it’s just a stupid summer blockbuster but Iron Man was one of those too and that managed to pull it off with far more intelligence and invention. The film has already collected just over $50m in its opening weekend anyway so it’s done its job. Wanted is loud, fast and stupid…