Happiness is a warm gun

Review by Vives Anunciacion
Inquirer Libre March 5, 2008

Across the Universe
Directed by Julie Taymor
Featuring music by the Beatles
Starring Evan Rachel Wood, Jim Sturgess

Usually, songs for movie musicals are written around the same time the movie is made, but in Across the Universe the songs have existed before the story was written. It’s not a musical about the Beatles, there’s just a lot of Beatles songs along with the simple story. So it’s not surprising if you find yourself singing along with the songs inside the theater.

The entire movie is a series of music videos strung together by a thin narrative called a love story between Brit dock worker Jude (Jim Sturgess, who was probably cast in the role because he sounded like Paul McCartney) who goes to the States in search of his dad, but ends up falling for high school senior sweetheart Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood, who actually sounds good.) Pretty soon the movie is populated by persons with names taken from Beatles songs. Narratively it drags, visually it’s psychedelic (Taymor was responsible for Frida and the Broadway staging of The Lion King.) Real-life superstar rock stars make surprise cameos every now and then, as if to show its young stars how it’s done. Bono, Joe Cocker, Eddie Izzard, to name a few.

At least “Come Together” and watch it for “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” “Let It Be,” “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and “Strawberry Fields Forever.” As the Beatles put it, happiness is a warm gun.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Directed by Andrew Dominik
Based on the novel by Ron Hansen
Starring Brad Pitt, Casey Affleck

“Hudas not pay” is true in this nicely assembled piece of cinema, maybe a little bit overdone on the narration’s prose, but overall it’s a solid piece of character study, with breathtakingly beautiful cinematography by Roger Deakins and great performances from Brad Pitt (as Jesse James) and Casey Affleck (as Robert Ford). Jesse James’ character has been put onscreen many times, this isn’t the first Western to feature the outlaw. This movie is less about how Bob Ford killed Jesse James, but more about why James became probably the first Old West celebrity, and how the 19-year old Ford became the first celebrity stalker.

I’ve heard people complain about how slow the story progresses, but that’s not the fault of bad editing. It’s a deliberate pace for The Assassination, culminating in freeze-frames depicting the last moments of Bob Ford’s life, as if it intends to freeze these two legends of old America in postcard-perfect moments in time. But if this explanation doesn’t convince those with short attention spans, consider these running time calculations: at 160 minutes (or 2 hours and 40 minutes) The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is not too far off Forrest Gump (142 minutes), The Godfather (175 minutes) or JFK (189 minutes) and is far shorter than The Godfather, Part 2 (200 minutes), Lawrence of Arabia (216 minutes), Gone with the Wind (226 minutes) and the entire Lord of the Rings extended edition series (Fellowship, Two Towers and Return of the King combined) at 682 minutes or 11 hours and 22 minutes.

It’s not always about the ending, sometimes it’s how it gets there.

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