Film Friday: ‘Changeling’ & ‘Saw V’

by W. Andrew Powell

Saw V

A scene from Saw V

Opening in select theatres, Clint Eastwood‘s Changeling stars Angelina Jolie as a troubled mother, while Saw V arrives with much more blood and gore. Also out this weekend, Adrien Brody and Mark Ruffalo co-star as conmen in The Brothers Bloom, the beautiful Anne Hathaway plays a therapist in Passengers, Pride and Glory has Edward Norton and Colin Farrell as brothers on the police force, and let’s not forget about Disney’s High School Musical 3: Senior Year.

Oscar-winning director Clint Eastwood is well-known for his edgy dramas, but this week he debuts a film that blurs lines, with a plot that sounds almost like science fiction.

Angelina Jolie stars as Christine Collins, a distraught mother who loses her son, only to have him return weeks later. But Christine believes that the boy who has returned isn’t actually her son, even though he says he is her son, and looks just like him. Begging the police to continue looking for her real son, the authorities try to convince the public that she is delusional, but with the help of a preacher, played by John Malkovich, she will try and convince the city that the police are actually corrupt.

Set in 1920s Los Angeles, Changeling is based on real events surrounding a series of kidnappings and murders. Unlike some of Eastwood’s previous films, which garnered huge critical praise, Changeling has been fraught with mixed reviews that suggest it may not be the director’s usual shoe-in for Oscar glory. A lot of the praise surrounding the film does suggest, though, that Jolie could be up for a nod, if nothing else.

Ed Gonzalez of Slant Magazine seems to sum up the film’s reception rather well. “Changeling announces itself as an autopsy of an expansive body of lies that it never actually performs,” he wrote, “and as such the surprisingly graceless and phony aesthetic is what lingers most.”

Saw V
Saw’s gruesome, bloody franchise continues with the rebirth of Jigsaw and his evil style of murder. This time out, with everyone else already dead, there is only one person left to carry on the Jigsaw murders, and it’s a police detective who wants to hide his new role.

Despite the fact that most rational people hate the Saw films for their brutal style, it’s also inescapably obvious that it’s still a wildly popular horror phenomenon. With new helmer David Hackl on board, there is bound to be some new elements, but “horror porn” is here to stay, and will likely sweep up box office bucks this weekend.

The film stars Tobin Bell, Costas Mandylor, Scott Patterson, and Betsy Russell.

The Brothers Bloom
In this zany comedy, Adrien Brody and Mark Ruffalo star as conmen, and brothers, seeking out one last mark together. Rachel Weisz is the eccentric beauty that the men set their eyes on, but for every great plan comes a few twists along the way, and the brothers will not only have to outsmart their mark, but everyone else along the way.

“As a pair of brothers raised to be topnotch grifters, Adrien Brody and Mark Ruffalo are seldom allowed to play off of each other amid the film’s breathless busyness and adoration for eccentricity,” Robert Koehler wrote for Variety.

Usually I hear a lot about movies before they come to theatres, but I knew very little about this film which stars Anne Hathaway as Claire, a young therapist charged with helping five survivors of a plane crash. Claire’s life is complicated by a relationship that develops with one of the five survivors. Eric, played by Patrick Wilson, is both strange and secretive, but when the other survivors start to disappear, Claire thinks that he may hold the answer to what is happening.

While there were no reviews of the film ahead of release, Passengers looks like an intriguing thriller. Hathaway’s presence in the film gives me faith that it must have an intriguing script, since she seems to have fairly good judgment about her roles, but beyond that, you’ll have to check this one out for yourselves and decide.

Pride and Glory
Call me jaded, but there are just way too many cop dramas out there, and I’m especially tired of the brothers-on-the-force storyline that seems unchanged over the last thirty, or even forty years. Looking at the critical consensus for Pride and Glory, I’d say I’m not alone in that observation either.

Pride and Glory has Edward Norton and Colin Farrell as two brothers facing trouble within their own ranks, with one brother forced to investigate the family when a number of officers are killed on the job.

Jan Stuart of Screen International was far more positive about the film than I could have expected, calling it “A familiar but taut thriller sparked by a quartet of committed lead performances and the visual acrobatics of stealth camera ace Declan Quinn.”

High School Musical 3: Senior Year
And for the teens and tweens this week, Disney debuts the latest High School Musical film, starring Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens as Troy and Gabriella. The two high school seniors will face their last year of school as they prepare for college away from each other. Expect lots more music, dance routines, and all the goodies to keep the younger ones amused.

“Despite its own synthetic, over-processed production values,” Ann Hornaday wrote for the Washington Post, “High School Musical 3 exudes genuine appeal, thanks to director Kenny Ortega’s brilliant choreography and a gifted cast.”

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