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Reviews for December 17th, 2008

Nothing But the Truth

Directed by Rod Lurie.

Inspired by true events. Rachel Armstrong (Kate Beckinsale), a political reporter for the Capitol Sun-Times, published an article that reveals the true identity of Erica Van Doren (Vera Farmiga), a CIA agent who has highly sensitive information that the U.S. government’s missile attacks against Venezuela were actually unjustified. When Rachel refuses to name the source who provided her with the information about the CIA agent, a federal prosecutor Dubois (Matt Dillon) steps in and takes her to court, where the judge sentences her to prison. Her attorney (Alan Alda) tries his best to set her free, but the powers of government, including that of Dubois, remain an obstacle for him because they classify her as a threat to the country. Meanwhile, her editor (Angela Bassett) stands by her side, although her husband (David Schwimmer) quickly loses his patience and support for her. Will Rachel stick to her principals and integrity as a journal by not revealing the source or will she cave in to all the mounting pressures? After all, she made a promise to her source that his or her identity will remain undisclosed. Along with a fine ensemble cast, Kate Beckinsale gives a convincingly moving performance that allows you to sympathize with her character and to feel the palpable emotion that she’s going through throughout her ordeal. The scenes in which Rachel confronts Erica to try to level with her, which only makes her more enraged, feels quite compelling to watch. There’s much more to Erica than meets the eye and, fortunately, Vera Farmiga’s terrific performance helps to allow the audience to grasp that complexity. Writer/director Rod Lurie, who also directed Resurrecting the Champ and the sizzling political thriller The Contender, includes a few intriguing moments, such as the courtroom scenes, which will make you think about the way that our so-called justice system works here in America. However, he doesn’t go far enough with the ideas to make you feel like you’re watching a truly provocative drama rather than one that’s just sporadically provocative and slightly contrived.
Number of times I checked my watch: 2.
Released by Yari Film Group. Opens at the Regal E-Walk Stadium 13.

Scott Walker: 30 Century Man

Directed by Stephen Kijak.

This stylish, mildly engaging documentary charts the rise and fall of musical legend Scott Walker, whose real name is Noel Scott Engel. Back in the 1960’s, he joined two other musicians, John Maus and Gary Leeds, to form the Walker Brothers and became their lead singer. Together, they made hit songs such as “The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Any More” and “Make it Easy on Yourself” which made fans go crazy for them. Walker’s career went on a much different path after he split up with the Walker Brothers and made songs on his own. Director Stephen Kijak includes some mildly fascinating interviews with Scott Walker himself as well as his admirers and those whom he had influenced, namely Bono, Radiohead, Jarvis Cocker, Sting and Gavin Friday, among others. He also incorporates some footage of Walker’s concert performances and along with stylish visuals that accompany some of his music that wasn’t filmed. The music that Walker had made later on in his career, as one interviewee keenly observes, can’t be boxed into a specific genre. It’s clear that Walker was an independent musician in the truest sense of those words. He does have some regrets, though, which he intimately discusses about. It would have been interesting, though, to hear more about Walker’s childhood and upbringing in general so that you could get to know him a beyond his musical career. Nonetheless, his music itself seems so hard to describe and complex that it’s somewhat intriguing to hear other’s interpretations of it. Another interpretation of his music is that it’s a delicate balance between moments that sound out of key and moments that don’t. Those unfamiliar with him or, especially, those who don’t like his music, will be only moderately engaged and ultimately underwhelmed. However, avid fans of Scott Walker will be excited to hear his music and to listen to all the interpretations along with Walker’s own candid interpretations and explanations of his music career.
Number of times I checked my watch: 3.
Released by Plexifilm. Opens at the IFC Center.

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