Film Friday: ‘I Am Legend’, ‘Juno’

by W. Andrew Powell

I Am Legend
Will Smith in ‘I Am Legend’

This week at a theatre near you, one man fights to survive a world filled with vampires, Alvin and his chipmunk friends bust out some tunes, a teenager deals with her unplanned pregnancy, and a best-selling book gets the big-screen treatment.

I Am Legend
Since Independence Day, Will Smith has become the go-to man for big-budget action films that rely heavily on one character (look no farther than I, Robot or even Men In Black for proof of that). This time around, Smith has a daunting task in the latest adaptation of Richard Matheson‘s book about the last man on earth after an infection claims the population of the world.

Smith is Robert Neville, a scientist who survives a virus that turns everyone into vampire-like mutants who have to hide in the dark. Robert has hope though, since he is somehow immune to the virus he hopes he can use his own blood to find a cure. The only catch for him is that every mutant alive is hunting for his blood, and if they succeed, humanity is lost.

For anyone hoping for something different this month, amidst the usual holiday family fare, I Am Legend is bound to please with action, and a healthy dose of horror. Reviews have been positive, and I particularly liked the way Emanuel Levy summed the film up: “Looking terrific, star Will Smith gives a commanding performance that tries to link two disparate films competing for attention. A stark apocalyptic saga with some existential ideas (first half) and a conventional special-effects zombie flick (second).”

One word of caution however, some critics have called the effects in the later half of the film unimpressive. In particular, don’t expect too much from the appearance of the infected.

Alvin and the Chipmunks
That’s right – it’s the film event you’ve all been waiting for: Alvin and the Chipmunks, the new live-action movie starring Jason Lee as Dave and the voice of Justin Long as Alvin.

Based on the popular 80s cartoon, the story follows the three mini pop stars as they get into trouble and Dave deals with their hijinks.

Kids, especially the younger ones, will eat this movie up, but I’m not sure adults will find it that funny.

Opening in a limited number of cinemas this week:

Director Jason Reitman, who made a name for himself with Thank You for Smoking, debuts his new oddball dramatic comedy about a teenage girl named Juno who gets pregnant with her best friend’s baby. With no intention of becoming a mother, Juno decides to give the baby up once its born to a couple who want a baby.

Canada’s own break-out girl Ellen Page stars as Juno, and the film also stars Michael Cera, J.K. Simmons, Jennifer Garner, and Jason Bateman.

Although Juno is bound to stand very well on its own, thanks to the skills of Reitman, there’s no question that Juno is a star-making role for Page. In Bruce McDonald’s lucid film The Tracey Fragments, Page easily bore the weight of the entire movie, but that seems like just a warm-up for her latest performance that could end up earning the star a few awards.

Reviews have been widely positive, with Carina Chocano of the Los Angeles Times commenting, “Juno is hilarious and sweet-tempered, perceptive and surprisingly grounded. It’s also a gust of fresh air, perspective-wise.”

The Kite Runner
Also opening this week is the film adaptation of Khaled Hosseini‘s reputable novel about a young boy living in Kabul who betrays his best friend. It isn’t until he is an adult that he can deal with the issues of his childhood, and find out the truth about his friend.

While the film is an intense personal drama, it also deals heavily with the political situation surrounding Kabul, and the eventual Taliban rule over the area.

Directed by Marc Forster, who also made Stranger Than Fiction, The Kite Runner has received mixed reviews about how legitimately it shows the Afghanistan. One positive review came from Peter Travers of Rolling Stone who liked the film, saying: “I won’t deny that the film is sometimes rushed, oversimplified and skimpy on the details of Afghan culture that informed the book. But the tale still takes hold.”

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