Wow, what happened to the month of February? Oh well. The only thing you need to know about the last few weeks is that Ashes of Time Redux and I've Loved You So Long came out on DVD. You should see them. (In a slight digression: I guess Sony didn't want to capitalize on all the obsessive Wong Kar Wai fans by offering a Blu-Ray for Redux, sending those interested across the Atlantic where Artificial Eye has release a region-free Blu-Ray.)
Moving onward to today:
Happy-Go-Lucky (2008) directed by Mike Leigh
I look forward to watching this one again with my better half who avoids theaters just to spite me. Sally Hawkins deservingly won the Golden Globe for her bubbly yet grounded performance of Poppy, but didn't even get a mention from our fair Oscars. Happy-Go-Lucky defies cynicism just in the same way Leigh's Naked defied optimism.
Let the Right One In (2008) directed by Tomas Alfredson
I would bet my stack of unwatched DVDs that the remake of this tender coming-of-age vampire flick isn't going to be one-tenth as good as the original. This Swedish horror film is certainly Swedish, but it is not all horror. If I had to divvy up the genres into percentages, I would say Let the Right One In is 60% coming-of-age love story, 35% horror, and 5% comedy (for the CGI cats.) Alfredson's film is an instant classic simply because it adds so much to what is something of an old-hat genre, even with Buffy and Twilight. Making a challenging horror film is one thing, but making a challenging vampire horror film seems like an oxymoron. This story about two young outsiders (yes, one is a vampire-like person) is moving and scary and visually stunning. J.J. Abrams and Matt Reeves (the less-than-genius creative team behind Cloverfield) are remaking the film because they are too stupid to come up with their own ideas.
Synecdoche New York (2008) directed by Charlie Kaufman
I had pretty high expectations for Synecdoche, and although I really really liked it, overall it felt flat. The hallmark of Synecdoche is the brilliant moments that unfurl before you, one after another: the downward spiral that starts with Caden's description of pipes to his daughter; Caden's first explanation of his project to the crew; the hilarity of his wife's gimmicky art form; and so on. They all ring so true, but slightly skewed through Kaufman's lens. Even though these bits and pieces don't add up to the triumphant whole that I wanted, perhaps that is Charlie Kaufman's last laugh—nothing is as grand as it seems. A must-see for the creative types.
Shinobi No Mono 3: Resurrection (1963) directed by Kazuo Mori
This is the third in a series of eight period dramas focusing on our hero ninja, Ishikawa Goemon. The series is known for its authenticity, and although I am not learned in the ways of the ninja, I will say the action is pretty compelling. If you are really interested in the series start with the first one, as there is some continuity. (Link above is the trailer for the first in the series.)
Milk (2008) directed by Gus Van Sant
The best part about this movie is Sean Penn's performance (heads above Mickey Rourke), but other than that it is a pretty standard, but well-timed, biopic. Paranoid Park was a better film.
Rachel Getting Married (2008) directed by Jonathan Demme
Okay, let me just get this out of the way: all the people in this movie annoyed the hell out of me, especially Anne Hathaway's character. Now that that is out of the way, this is an interesting movie about recovery and forgiveness...if you like being annoyed.
And finally two that I didn't see, but seem to offer up exactly what you might expect, or not:
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2008) directed by Mark Herman
Cadillac Records (2008) directed by Darnell Martin